ReRead: Myth Adventures One Graphic Novel

Image Source: https://www.amazon.com/Myth-Adventures-One-Robert-Asprin/dp/0898654149

So, today through Friday, I will be in orientation for the upcoming Fall semester (all of the Graduate Teaching Assistants are required to do Orientation every year). It generally lasts all morning and all afternoon with a break for lunch, so I thought I’d just catch on Mini-Reviews and Re-Reads to have a little fun with the blog for the rest of the week. These entries will be shorter and a lot more “fun” since I’ll be tied up pretty much all morning and afternoon for the next few days.

Funny Fantasy

Myth by Robert Asprin is a late 70s/early 80s phenomenon where writers took the uber-popular fantasy tropes of “First Wave” Fantasy Writers (such as Tolkien, Lewis, and the like) and “Second Wave” Fantasy Writers (such as Terry Brooks, David Eddings, and the like) and parodied and/or satirized the tropes in the Fantasy field up to that point. While the Myth series was fairly popular in this sub-genre for a while as was Pierce Anthony’s fantasy series based on puns, Xanth, it was really Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series that grabbed the lion’s share of attention for the “funny fantasy” genre which has only seemed to abate in the past few years to the best of my knowledge–for a time Discworld was as popular as was “Epic” (Doorstopper) Fantasy.

Myth Adventures One

In addition to prose books, the “funny fantasy” genre also branched out into the realm of graphic novels and comic books. Myth Adventures One is an early graphic novel (1985) that collected issues 1-4 of the Myth Adventures comic. I found this graphic novel in a Friends of the Library Booksale several years ago, and I really liked the story, even though “funny fantasy” isn’t a sub-genre that I read regularly–although I do enjoy the Discworld novels that I own. I’d only read a couple Robert Asprin titles before getting this one (a Thieves’ World anthology that he co-edited with Lynn Abbey), but I do like Asprin’s writing. It’s very much in the vein of Shrek (way before their was a Shrek), but still, it is that very broad humor that would appeal to kids–very into visual gags.

Do You Like Cartoony Art?

If you do, then you’ll love Phil Foglio’s artwork. Me, well, there’s some things that I love about the artwork and something’s that I dislike. I love the exaggerated facial expressions–many times the comedy is sold by the expression on the face alone. However, a lot of times, the body/figure is also exaggerated, and this often results in the character looking out of proportion or (more commonly) posed in anatomically impossible positions that draw me out of the story. Even in the cover, it looks like the main character is a giant, but the cover image is meant to convey that the main character is flying, but the sense of perspective is off, so much of your enjoyment of the story is going to come from how much you like (or can tolerate) Foglio’s art.

Overall Grade: B (85 out of 100)

There’s nothing really wrong with the story (it’s a bit complicated to follow which is why I didn’t provide a plot synopsis, but ultimately follows the trials and tribulations of a magician and his apprentice). The art, again, depends on how much you like Foglio’s cartoony artwork (think Loony Toons level of abstraction). I liked it better on the first read rather than this reread, so the humor is something may only work when it’s fresh, but I still enjoyed it.

Have a great day everyone!

Sidney


Please consider supporting these fine small press publishers where my work has appeared:




  • The Independent  (Sci-Fi Short-Story)–
    3rd Draft of 3 Drafts 
    Drafting Section 1 (of 3)
    Mythic Mag. Deadline = January 31, 2020
  • I, Mage (Fantasy Short Story)
    Pre-Production Phase (Planning)
    Pre-Writing on Rough Draft & Character Sketch
    Mythic Mag. Deadline = July 31, 2020
  • Current Longer Work-in-Progress: Ship of Shadows Graphic Novel 
    (Sci-Fi) Issue # 2, Currently on Script Page 32
    Personal Deadline = September 30, 2019
  • HawkeMoon (upcoming) = Edits turned in to editor 5/31/19

Advertisements

12 Monkeys (Mini-Review) — Some spoilers

Bruce Willis with a bald head and a red light shining from one eye.
Image Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/12_Monkeys

So, I watched 12 Monkeys over the weekend (the movie, not the TV show–although I will take a look at it one of these days now that I’ve seen the movie). I will do a mini-review, but there will be some spoilers that I simply can’t avoid–you can’t talk about the movie without talking about it in terms of its ultimate narrative structure (which, once presented, is a “spoiler”). I will leave the major spoiler points to the end, so if you don’t want to be spoiled be sure not to read to the end of the post. Unfortunately, I can’t guard against a search engines picking up the words in the spoiler section, so you have been warned.

Party Like Its 1995

So, Twelve Monkeys is a movie that I’ve wanted to watch for a while. I’ve heard about it spoken in reverence in the sci-fi community as some sort of harbinger of where sci-fi was heading. And in some ways that was true–this is an older movie after all. However, this is one that never came to streaming and when it originally released, I remember it being just as DVD was hitting and the prices were fairly high.

Not What I Was Expecting

This movie wasn’t quite was I expecting. I was expecting a sci-fi neo-noir futuristic thriller/mystery about the finding of a plague. While there are elements of this in the movie, it isn’t the primary focus. This one has a “concept” (more below) that it adheres to and a narrative structure that was fairly unique (for the time). I have to say that, honestly, I was a little disappointed by it as there have been many, many imitators that I’ve seen over the years, and that has blunted my enjoyment of the movie, as well.

Spoiler Warning–The End

Okay, so this is your final warning, STOP READING NOW if you want to stay unspoiled on the movie.

—————————————————————————————————————

Okay, here goes: this is the movie that popularized a certain type of time travel story, “the bootstrap paradox” story. Okay, what is a bootstrap paradox–literally, it is a time travel story that is both self-fulfilling and has no antecedent. When we enter the story, the plague has already happened, and then we see the way the plague happens when we go back in time with the protagonists. However, the idea of the plague was brought back to the past and that’s how the it gets started (this is simplified). So the plague is started by going back into the past (don’t go back to the past, no plague–no antecedent) and as it plays out, it happens just as the protagonist “remembers” it (self-fulfilling). Why am I spoiling this movie to talk about the end? Because it set the stage for the multitude of “time travel” stories and “boot strap” stories that permeated the landscape for (at least) 10 years after this movie released. Now I understand why there were so many movies that featured this time travel arc. This movie is influential in the genre, that only “ended” with Bruce Willis in another time travel film, Looper. However, in between 12 Monkeys and Looper, there were a ton of time travel/psuedo time travel films released (you can find me talking about them in a post from a few years ago: https://sidneyblaylockjr.wordpress.com/2015/03/22/where-you-end-is-not-where-you-begin-time-travel-in-movies/

12 Monkeys is where all these movies got their ideas/start, so it is a “referential” movie in the field of science fiction (time travel films) and has influenced films for over a decade.

Overall Grade: C

I might have rated this higher had I seen it earlier. However, so many later movies that I watched “stole” (paid homage/or more kindly, thought they could do the idea even better) that much of the movie’s uniqueness had already been worn through. It also doesn’t help that I’d already read many of the concepts in Sci-Fi novels even before the movie originally released. Generally speaking, its Short-stories–>Novels/Graphic Novels–>Film in terms of progression for Sci-Fi ideas. Want to be on the cutting edge, read sci-fi mags and anthologies, want to see the idea propagated to a mass audience, wait for the film. This is one that, at its time, might have made more of an impression (as it did to the countless filmmakers of successive time travel stories, but now, if you seen any of the recent time stories of the last 10 years, Source Code, Deja Vu, etc., then you have a pretty good idea of where the story is headed.

Robin Hood (2018) Mini Review (No Spoilers)

Robin Hood and Azeem stare out into the distance as arrows fall around them on cloudy black night with orange fire at their backs.
Image Source: https://www.irishtimes.com/culture/film/blame-game-of-thrones-for-the-useless-new-robin-hood-movie-1.3705686

I hate to do negative reviews for movies. Yes, yes, I know there are lot of people, both in print and in video (YouTube and where ever else) who love to savage a movie (I assume because it shows how “elite” they are in film and their eruditeness), but I’m not one of them. I recognize that a film is the result of a lot of hard work by individuals coming together to collaborate on a creative endeavor. Robin Hood (2018), was one of those movies, however, that simply did not come together based on the quality of the writing and choices made by the director.

The Scripting “Steals” All the Fun

So, it looks like Robin Hood (2018) was trying to go for an anachronistic tale in the vein of A Knight’s Tale, starring the late Heath Ledger. Now, for as fondly as that film is received currently, there are still a lot of problems with it that I will discuss in the next section. For this section, the quality of writing of the script simply was not there (for me) and really worked against the story. Yes, the second major area that I’m studying while working on my PhD is film, but I will say this: I’m still learning about film (probably will be for the rest of my life, but that’s okay). I don’t know every film nor do I have ALL of the historical movements down (yet–though I’ve bought a book that should help–more on this in a future post). However, even I could see quite a few reference points for the script. Telling your audience that this “isn’t the Robin Hood you know” still doesn’t alleviate the need for you as a writer to craft a believable tale. Credibility went out the window when there’s a “machine gun” like ballista/crossbow that pins down Locksley’s “squad” at the beginning of the movie (well, honestly it was gone with the anachronistic “draft notice” that Locksley was sent within the first 5 minutes of the movie, but that’s just piling on). This beginning part has shades of any recent war movie that’s come out in the last few years. One review referenced The Hurt Locker, while I saw shades of Black Hawk Down as well. Once Robin is back and becomes “The Hood,” I saw (way too many) parallels with The Mask of Zorro (especially in terms of story construction) down to the concept of a “mine.” One of the “carriage chase scenes,” even seemed shot like the motorcycle chase scene from Skyfall. I looked up the writer, while there are two listed in for the screenplay, I chose the one who was also listed for the “story” as that one is the one who has usually come up with the story and “pitched” it to Hollywood (usually through an agent, but possibly himself or through some 3rd party). However, I could find very little for this writer online, so I”ll be very dubious should I see his name listed on a future film.

Anachronism “Robs” the Movie’s Realism

So, in addition to the poor screenwriting of Robin Hood (2018), the choice to lean into it through anachronism pretty much sealed its fate. Anachronism rarely works well except in a comedic sense, such as Robin Hood: Men in Tights. Since that movie is a comedy, we know we’re supposed to laugh when we see an anachronistic element. The problem with anachronism (especially in Robin Hood 2018) is it ignores realism and tries to be “relevant” and “edgy” by telling a contemporary story in a contemporary way with contemporary elements mixed in with historical elements. I would argue that the only reason it worked in A Knight’s Tale is that the technique hadn’t been used in so long outside of comedy and it had a fairly likable protagonist in Heath Ledger. Also, it’s source material wasn’t as obvious as it pulled a bit from The Canterbury Tales and it did not (pay “homage”) to scenes/plots from other movies. However, as I recall, the original reviews weren’t always great. Even now, the Rotten Tomatoes score for it is 58% (79% for audience) and that’s with time coming to “mellow out” some of the film’s detractors. Robin Hood (2018)’s Rotten Tomato score is (as of this writing) if 15% (41% for the audience). Simply put–if you’re going to be anachronistic–it would probably be better just to create a “contemporary” version of the story, however contrived. At least, this way you’d get to tell the “contemporary” story you wanted without all the “historical” bits getting in the way.

Overall Score: F (59 or below)

This is the first movie on the blog that I’ve ever given this score. The only other movie I would have scored this low (for strictly artistic reasons–and not for political reasons) would have been Happy Feet. “Political reasons” just means my own personal ethos in life–there are films that I don’t agree with in message, content, and whatnot, but I’m cognizant to realize that my ethos works for me and not for everyone else, so even though I didn’t enjoy the movie, I’m mature enough to see the “qualities” of those movies.) Unfortunately, this isn’t the case with Robin Hood (2018). I was taken out of the story from the very beginning and even the set pieces seemed derivative. Again, I hate to throw this movie “under the bus” as it were, as many people worked on it and the actors do a fine job. However, the script was simply too derivative and the anachronisms too pervasive for me to enjoy and get invested in the movie’s world or story.

Sidney

Please consider supporting these fine small press publishers where my work has appeared:




  • The Independent  (Sci-Fi Short-Story)–
    3rd Draft of 3 Drafts 
    Drafting Section 1 (of 3)
    Mythic Mag. Deadline = July 31, 2019
  • I, Mage (Fantasy Short Story)
    Pre-Production Phase (Planning)
    Pre-Writing on Rough Draft & Character Sketch
    Mythic Mag. Deadline = January 31, 2020
  • Current Longer Work-in-Progress: Ship of Shadows Graphic Novel 
    (Sci-Fi) Issue # 2, Currently on Script Page 32
    Personal Deadline = September 30, 2019
  • HawkeMoon (upcoming) = Edits turned in to editor 5/31/19

Assassin’s Creed Origins: Finished and Mini-Review

A picture of Bayek with a white hood, shield, and bow standing in front of a golden wall of Egyptian Hieroglyphs.
Image Source: https://www.forbes.com/sites/insertcoin/2017/10/28/ten-things-i-wish-i-knew-when-i-started-assassins-creed-origins/#65554fcb6eb8

While these mini-reviews for finished video games (recent) that I’ve finished never do all that well (in terms of people reading them), I still enjoy writing them because my goal for most of my games is to finish them (i.e., to see the credits roll), then reviewing/explaining the good and bad things about them is a fun way to recap my experience with the game and to reflect on why I felt the game was fun, effective, etc. (or why not). This game review is for Assassin’s Creed Origins which tells the “origin” story of the Assassin’s Guild. I actually like the formation of “the good, the bad, and the ugly,” so that’s what I’ll use for this review.

The Good

The characters are really well done in this story and when I say characters, I really mean the main characters, Bayak and his wife Aya, and the other main protagonists in the story. They are from Egypt and their coloring indicates they are of African Descent. As they work towards self-determination (although it is through violence, using assassinations to accomplish their goals), I would still argue that this could be seen (in a less restrictive canon) as an Afrofuturistic text. This, however, is not central to the storyline; at heart, this is a revenge tale, pure and simple along with the ramifications of what happens to love and life when a “bad thing” happens. I also like the fact that the narrative is fairly strong and kept me interested throughout the story. The graphics were also well done along with the gameplay systems. I only ran into sporadic instances of glitches and I don’t think it ever froze on me, although it did push my Playstation Pro fairly hard and made the system rev up as if it were an airplane engine on idle.

The Bad

So, much of the bad will feature into “The Ugly” section as well, so I won’t go too deeply into it here, but length is a definite problem. Simply put, it was too long and took too long to complete. Also, the fact that some story elements are gated off by level, meaning that one needs to “grind” (there’s that word again) and do side quests to build up his or her level in order to tackle ever increasingly difficult story elements. Thanks to “training” open world games (like the InFamous series), I’ve learned that it is a good idea to do a good mix of side quests before going back to the main/story quests, but here it is required. Unless you are within at least a two to three levels of your opponent, the difficulty of the encounter will be close to impossible, especially early in the game. The side missions are of varying quality, but you’ll need to complete them in order to advance, no matter how you feel about them. You just have to hope that you don’t get too many average ones (esp. in a row).

The Ugly

This game is subject to Ubification and/or “Ubisoft Bloat.” Like most recent entries of the Assassin’s Creed franchise, there’s simply too much in terms of “map clutter.” The game litters the map with a ridiculous amount of content for you to engage with, and to be honest, most of it is simply “clutter.” Ubisoft wants you to engage with it as a “games as service.” They don’t want you selling the game back to used game/used book stores, they do want you buying their DLC and interacting with their in-game store, and they really want you putting time into the game world for this reason. Now, to be fair, you can do everything you need to without spending additional money (well, except for the additional story missions unless you get the Season Pass or whichever “Super-Deluxe” edition that includes the season pass. There’s simply too much clutter and things to do. I will probably work on it periodically (just to earn the “Platinum” trophy since the requirements aren’t too onerous this time), but this game wants to be the only game you play for 6-8 months, whether or not the content is actually compelling enough to support it.

Overall: B (85)

I liked this a great deal–they just need to do something that Ubisoft never will: they need to shorten the game and tighten its focus. While I don’t mind that they’ve turned it more into an action rpg rather than a strict stealth game (I actually like action rpg as a genre more than I like the stealth game genre), there’s just too much “padding” and “clutter” to make the game artificially long and artificially extend the game’s shelf life so that one can’t trade it in quickly and there are more opportunities to sell (either overtly or implied) more content to the game player. This game could have received an A had it treated game players as actual players and not consumers and tuned the experience accordingly.

Sidney

Please consider supporting these fine small press publishers where my work has appeared:




  • The Independent  (Sci-Fi Short-Story)–
    3rd Draft of 3 Drafts 
    Drafting Section 1 (of 3)
    Mythic Mag. Deadline = July 31, 2019
  • I, Mage (Fantasy Short Story)
    Pre-Production Phase (Planning)
    Pre-Writing on Rough Draft & Character Sketch
    Mythic Mag. Deadline = January 31, 2020
  • Current Longer Work-in-Progress: Ship of Shadows Graphic Novel 
    (Sci-Fi) Issue # 2, Currently on Script Page 32
    Personal Deadline = September 30, 2019
  • HawkeMoon (upcoming) = Edits turned in to editor 5/31/19

Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse (Mini-Movie Review–No Spoilers)

Spider-Man (Miles Morales) Movie Poster with him swinging in his iconic black and red Spider costume across Brooklyn New York.
Image Source: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt4633694/

Wow! Just wow! So I told a GTA collegue who works in the Writing Center on Friday that I was trying to expand my Film knowledge by watching films that were outside of my normal Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Superhero genres and that I was going to try to find a nice, innocuous Romantic Comedy (Rom-Com) to watch–I actually had one in mind–the one with Sandra Bullock & Ryan Reynolds (The Proposal–sorry, had to Google the name) which I’ve watched some, but not all before. However, I forgot that Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse (Spiderverse) released this weekend on Netflix, so I watched that instead (sorry for the unintentional lie there!). This movie is SO good.

Maybe My New Favorite Spider-Man Movie?

So, it is liable to be a while before I get to see the latest Spider-Man movie (Spider-Man Far From Home), but so far, I have to say that I think Spiderverse is my new favorite Spider-Man movie. There was a level of spark, creativity, and pluckiness to the new movie that won me over quite a bit. I really liked the way that Miles Morales was portrayed in the movie as a character first and as a character of color secondly. The writers manage to capture the angst of not fitting in the school setting for me in a way that (mostly) eliminated the things that I dislike about the school setting (which are the cringe-worthy awkwardness that usually happens there–although there were two “cringy” scenes still). Like Spider-Man 2, Spiderverse is a reflection on how to be a hero in everyday life. Spider-Man stories are best when one gets a sense that no matter what life throws at our main hero, he’s going to find a way to rise just a little higher to meet the challenge, even if it looks like he’s broken and down for the count.

This Movie is a Love-Letter to Spider-Man Fans!

Seriously, if you have any interest at all in the Spider-Man mythos, lore, and Rogues Gallery of the character’s various incarnations over the years, then this movie is a definite treat! There are little nods and references to all things Spidey all over the place. I saw “toy” Spider-Man motorcycle in the movie (I had the “Spidey-copter” and I need to go back and see if that was referenced — it would blow my mind if it was) and that’s just the beginning. I won’t go into spoilers, but just know that other versions of Spidey’s iconic self and suits do make an appearance in the movie. They even reference some of the classic scenes from the previous Sony movies at the beginning to help set the scene (in a fun way that is almost a referential self-parody). This movie is, while not quite perfect, is still one of the best representations of the Spider-Man mythos that I’ve seen in (and I’ve seen a lot of them starting with Spider-Man from the Electric Company TV series from the 1970s all the way through present). If there has been a representation of Spidey in the past 40 years or so, then I’ve probably seen it (or heard about it) somewhere and this one is fantastic!

Overall Grade: A+

If I was giving it a score, it would easily earn a 97-98 as I feel that it hits pretty much that I want in a Spider-man movie while minimizing the usual crap-tacular school awkwardness that is inherent in the adolescence version of the character. There are a couple of “cringe-inducing” moments still (having to relate to the school — again, without spoiling it, Miles’ early interactions with Gwen, while funny, do still exhibit that cringyness that I don’t enjoy–but it was so brief and so well done that it really didn’t hamper the movie or my enjoyment of the overall movie significantly, which is the reason for such a high rating. If you have Netflix (or even if you don’t but like the character), I would HIGHLY recommend checking this one out. Spiderverse is something special!

Sidney

Please consider supporting these fine small press publishers where my work has appeared:




  • The Independent  (Sci-Fi Short-Story)–
    3rd Draft of 3 Drafts 
    Drafting Section 1 (of 3)
    Mythic Mag. Deadline = July 31, 2019
  • I, Mage (Fantasy Short Story)
    Pre-Production Phase (Planning)
    Pre-Writing on Rough Draft & Character Sketch
    Mythic Mag. Deadline = January 31, 2020
  • Current Longer Work-in-Progress: Ship of Shadows Graphic Novel 
    (Sci-Fi) Issue # 2, Currently on Script Page 32
    Personal Deadline = September 30, 2019
  • HawkeMoon (upcoming) = Edits turned in to editor 5/31/19

Mini-Review: Netflix’s The Dragon Prince (Season 1)

Image Source: https://www.theverge.com/2018/9/7/17826544/the-dragon-prince-review-avatar-last-airbender-netflix

Okay, with the impending release of Season 2, I thought I’d take a moment to come back and talk about my reactions to Season 1 of the show now that I’ve taken I’ve seen the first season all the way through. This will be a shorter entry as I have a packed schedule today, but I’ve been meaning to revisit this series for a while.

Characters

So, one of the main reasons that I didn’t initially like the show was that the main character was just too close to their earlier creation–Sokka from The Avatar: The Last Airbender series. Prince Callum (pictured in the above image on the left) is very much in tone, spirit, and vocal inflection a “spiritual successor” to Sokka. While I like Sokka, I can only take him as a “side” character. As the main character, he grates on me (or at least he did until the 4th or 5th episode). I think they toned down his character and gave him a “specialty” which made him seem more in tune with the other “main” characters and less of a walking “joke.” The other main characters were fine and I didn’t really have any problems with them, but Prince Callum really turned me off at first.

Plot

I actually liked the way the plot unfolded after say the 4th episode. The main characters find something and must return it to its rightful place — in other words, a quest. This was missing in the early episodes. Once they set out and began their quest, things seemed to fall in place for me with the show and I began to look forward to watching it, rather than it being a chore to get through.

The main villain seems a little off, however. He seems to use the best interests of the Empire as his justification, but his actions are at odds, and much of what he does seems like a “power grab.” I can’t tell if the creators are trying to create a “complicated” villain (and just not reaching it, in my opinion), or if they are trying to show the villain’s “two-faced” nature (i.e., the Palpatine/Emperor duality from Star Wars Prequels).

Final Observations

The show has potential–which Netflix seems to have seen as they greenlit a second season of the show. They’ve added a new “main” character–so I’ll be interested to see how that works out in regards to the characters’ dynamics as they go about their quest. They’ve added several side characters, so I’d like to see how they are going to be used over the upcoming semester as well as I kind of like their side characters as much as the main characters–probably not their intention, but they are still varied and fun.

Overall Grade: B

So, due to the earlier part of the season, I would have rated this as a B-, but based on the stellar last half of the season, I’m raising my grade to a solid B. If you can get past the early humdrum episodes, I think there’s a worth fantasy series that is worth checking out. It’s no Avatar: The Last Airbender, but it isn’t that bad as fantasy series go.

Sidney




  • Current Work-in-Progress–February 2019: Project Dog  (Sci-Fi Short-Story – 1st Draft)
  • Current Work-in-Progress: Ship of Shadows (Sci-Fi Graphic Novel – Script, Issue # 2, Currently on Script Page 32)

Annihilation Movie Review (No Spoilers)

Annihilation_(film)
Annihilation Movie Poster.  Image Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Annihilation_(film)

Annihilation is a movie that I’ve wanted to see every since it was released–however, I could tell that, while Sci-Fi, it was not one that falls within my preferred genre of Action Sci-Fi, or Space Opera.  It is generally described as an “idea” Science Fiction movie, meaning that the ideas and concepts are what takes precedence.  In my experience, I find that while there is some character development and some light action, generally speaking, they tend to be on the slower side in terms of narrative flow.  Not complaining, just an observation–unless it is farce, I generally like all types of Sci-Fi.

Alex Garland

So, this movie was directed by Alex Garland, and he has a visually striking style.  The problem is, based on the movie’s narrative, I’m not sure yet whether I find his style to my liking.  I’ve tried several times to watch his other Sci-Fi movie, Ex Machina, but I only have managed to get through about half an hour so far (probably just going to have to watch it in half-hour “spurts”).  However, while I appreciate his style, it was hard going to try to get through the movie.  I knew that if I stopped at any point, I probably would not come back to it and it would be another recent Sci-Fi movie that I abandoned mid-stream (Inception and Looper), so I just plugged on through.  I don’t think Alex Garland’s narrative style works for me . . . his visual style is arresting and very distinctive, but I’m not sure that story-telling-wise, that I like the way the narrative connections come together.

Science Fiction of “Ideas”

Yes, Sci-Fi is a genre of ideas and is driven by great ideas.  The problem is that one should also really focus on characters and characterization and setting.  The problem that occurs is that while their are characters in peril and/or crisis, we are often held at a distance from these characters (especially in Annihilation) and it is hard to form a bond with the characters.  While I’m not the best with names in real life, I’m usually pretty good with character’s names, yet I’m struggling to remember the names of the major characters and I just saw the movie 3 or 4 days ago.  I remember them, what their actors looked like, what occupation/role they fulfilled, but I don’t remember them as characters and I think this is where the movie ultimately failed for me.  Even the ending has a twist (that I won’t spoil) that changes the way the characters might be perceived at the end, but because I didn’t really care about the characters, the ending didn’t work for me because I just didn’t care.  The story, as presented, focused too much on the visual effects and the mystery of the “Shimmer” and not enough on the characterization and why I should care.  Even the mystery of the Shimmer, while sufficiently explained during the course of the film, didn’t lead to a moment of Epiphany for the main character, but was rather presented as simply a random, if extraordinary event, that was ultimately rendered moot by the main character’s actions during the story.  As much as critics dislike The Cloverfield Paradox, I feel that ultimately, while Annihilation is a movie with better special effects and better overall logical storytelling plot points, I find that I enjoyed The Cloverfield Paradox more because I could understand and get behind the characters and their motives.  In Annihilation, there was simply too much distance between the viewers and the characters.y

Overrall Grade: C

For a .99 rental, it was at least worth seeing, but I’m glad that I did not pay full theatrical price to see it.  Too much focus on the visuals and the ideas behind the visuals and not enough on characterization really dampened my enjoyment of the movie.  It also shows some graphic content with the deaths of a couple characters (I guess the director wanted to show the the brutality of the world–but it came off, to me, as unnecessary and exploitative–violence for violence sake and it pulled me out of the narrative when those two scenes occurred.

Sidney




  • Current Work-in-Progress: The Independent (Sci-Fi Short-Story – 2nd Draft)
  • Current Work-in-Progress: Project Star (Sci-Fi Short-Story -1st Draft)
  • Current Work-in-Progress: Ship of Shadows (Sci-Fi Graphic Novel – Script, Issue #1, Currently on Script Page 28)

 

 

Avengers Infinity War — Mini-Review (No Spoilers)

Avengers-Infinity-War-Trailer-1-44
Image Source: https://www.technobuffalo.com/2018/09/03/avengers-4-where-are-the-avengers/ (Possible Spoilers-tells where everyone ends up AFTER the movie, click at your own risk!)

Not Your Typical Marvel Movie

So, I’m just going to assume that most people who are interested in Marvel movies or comic book movies has already seen this movie, but just in case people haven’t, this is a Marvel movie like no other.  It has been setting up since the very first Avengers film.  It is essentially the entire Marvel universe (with exceptions) in multiple storylines fighting against the “big bad” of the movie, Thanos, to keep him from getting the Infinity Stones (various items that have been teased in Marvel movies like the Tesseract).  However, this movie doesn’t follow the typical Marvel formula because it has multiple heroes in multiple places trying to keep Thanos (or his agents) from getting the stones. While some times wildly inventive, these multiple storylines are also wildly disjointed and make the movie feel more disjointed than it probably should be.

People Keep Dying

For me, I’m just going to come right and say it (don’t worry–no spoilers), people just keep on dying in this movie.  Here’s the thing, deaths in movies are sometimes justified (such as the death that occurs in Star Wars.  Each death of each of the characters (both major and minor–I’m thinking of the Death Star scene and the “Trench Run” scene especially) either propel the movie forward or increase the tension and make us feel that the main character’s lives and mission are in serious peril.  In this movie, characters keep dying, but it doesn’t feel earned.  It feels like the filmmakers wanted to be shocking and provocative.  See, look who can kill, now just wait and watch who we kill next.  While guaranteed to keep you glued to your seats to see who’s dying next, it doesn’t really make for compelling drama, nor does it really engender repeat viewings (I’ve owned the movie for a week now and I’ve not rewatched it once–by this time with the other Avengers and the later Captain America movies (which are essentially Avengers 1.5/Avengers 2.5 movies), I would have rewatched them multiple times by now.

Avengers: Infinity War (part 2)

Next year, we will have the resolution to this story with part 2 of this movie.  I’m pretty sure the “solution” to the movie was sown by “seeds” planted in this movie (pay particular attention to the scene where Stark and Doctor Strange discuss possible outcomes after Strange looks into the future), but it is possible that this is a misdirect by the filmmakers.  Either way, I’m not sure how much “fun” I’m going to have with the second part based on the “bad taste” the first part left in my mouth.  Unfortunately, this isn’t a case of Empire Strikes Back, where the second entry is by necessity darker than the first, but rather one where I feel the filmmakers tried to use shock value to enhance the tension rather than going with heroic and meaningful deaths.  In closing, I also have to say I wasn’t a fan of Thanos’s motivation. Genocide, for any reason (and that includes population control) is still Genocide.  While he was “a bad dude,” there was a surprising amount of sympathy given to the character for this movie that 1) wasn’t earned, 2) other movies featuring him in scenes didn’t show/highlight and 3) wasn’t actually relevant to the character. Sure, you don’t want a scene chewing villain, but in my mind, Thanos lacks the cold, calculated terror of a Darth Vader, who while there is good inside of him, does some personally horrific things to get his motives accomplished.  Thanos is from the newer, Kylo Ren school of villainy, where he has to whine, emote, and act like a petulant child before he can enact his twisted schemes because, by golly, we (the audience) gotta’ feel sorry for the poor slob as he’s only trying to do the “right” thing by his way of thinking.  Oh, boo hoo.  Sorry, I (personally) don’t care for this particular type of villain and it throws me out of the movie every time I encounter one like that (Syndrome from the Incredibles has a similar effect on me).

Overall Score: B-/C+

Okay, so I’m being charitable with the B- as there are some very inventive and terrific fight scenes (as usual for the Russo Brothers).  However, some characters do some pretty dumb things (especially for Marvel movies) and I really didn’t care for the way Thanos was sometimes handled/depicted.  It is a spectacle, no doubt, and is pretty much required viewing to stay relevant with popular culture, but as a movie, it isn’t nearly as strong as several other Marvel movies.  I’m not sure where I’m going to place it on the list, but I can give you a preview here: it will not unseat my top 3 Marvel movies currently.  Not slagging on the movie per se, but it just didn’t connect with me. Too much emphasis on cheap, unearned deaths, not enough on true characterization and story pretty much sums up my reaction to it in one sentence.  This is the first Russo Brothers Marvel movie that has been a swing and miss with me.

Mini-Review: Supernova

supernova.jpg
Movie poster: Supernova. Image Source: https://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Film/Supernova

Not Good, Not Terrible

So, I watched this movie a couple of weekends ago, and I wasn’t as disappointed as I thought I was going to be. Yes, I know that is damning with faint praise, but I found my time the in universe of Supernova to be more mindless than mind-numbing. The problem with the movie is simple: too formulaic without real thought behind what makes the characters tick and what is happening in the universe. I recognize this because (I think) this is what do when I write and submit my first drafts. Pretty much everything we need to know is told to via dialogue (exposition) and there is a lot of telling rather than showing. The universe outside the ship barely exists and it only does so when the plot calls for it.

A Walk on the Not So Wild Side

So, what went wrong with this movie. This movie is all about concepts rather than story. For instance, in a twist on Alien and Aliens where people “hypersleep” in the underwear, in order to be titillating, Supernova, says no, in this world everyone sleeps in the nude. Now, they don’t show anything in the movie (at least not what I saw on streaming), but there’s no explanation or rhyme or reason as to why this is necessary (if there was a scene explaining this, it either never made it into the rewrites or was left on the cutting room floor). Way, way too much of the movie is like this: interesting concepts thrown out there and then poorly explained/explored, if explored at all.  It is as if there were three different sci-fi movies happening, but the creators said, “hey, Aliens was marketable, let’s take this jumble and run it through the Aliens template and see if our movie can be successful, too.” Sadly, it just didn’t work.

A Black Eye for Afrofuturism

So, one of the main characters in this story is an African American female. She is intelligent and determined. However, the story continually undermines her agency as it depends upon the main character to “save” her. There are situations in which she “saves” herself, but again, because we have formula, rather than form, there has to be a male hero (who happens to be white in the story, but any male of any race–including African American–would have been just as bad) to save her. As the male is cut from the formulaic “silent, brooding type,” the woman’s role is by far the most interesting and really could have been something special if she had to both save the ship and outwit the antagonist at the same time. This is something that I’m striving for in my own work, and I hope that I will not allow Tana (or any other female character) to be “saved” by males (and vice versa when I write male characters). Supernova needed to pick the most interesting character (the woman) and let her be the hero of the story rather than trying to delegate hero duties between the two main characters.

Overall Grade: D+

This could have been so much better had the creators just trusted their most interesting character and threw her into a situation where she had to battle herself, battle the floundering ship and possessed crew, and the antagonist at the same time. As it stands, it is just a formulaic sci-fi action movie that simply doesn’t explain its world or characters in enough detail to be truly enjoyable.

Sidney

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑

Diana Marin

Fine Art Photography, Poetry, Multimedia art, & Editorials

Luna

Every now and then my head is racing with thoughts so I put pen to paper

Ámaris Wen

The offical site of author and producer Ámaris Wen

Brielle R Campos

With Great Power Comes Great Rhetoric

Ashley O'Melia, Author

A garden of wild thoughts in straight little rows

LAUREGALIE

BOOK REVIEWS

Pauls Pages Too

Extra Content from PaulsPages.com

DragOn Writing

Sci-Fi and Fantasy writer, dreamer and Netflix junkie

The Godly Chic Diaries

BY GRACE THROUGH FAITH

Learning to write

Just your average PhD student using the internet to enhance their CV

The Working Writer

Pro Advice For Freelance Writers

Memoir Of A Writer

perfecting language on paper

the !n(tro)verted yogi

a topsy-turvy life of quietude

unbolt me

the literary asylum

The Nerdy Lion

Lions can wear glasses too

Elan Mudrow

Smidgens

The Solivagant Writer

The world is my playground; the pen, my friend

Learn Fun Facts

An Archive of Curious Facts for the Curious

James Harrington's Blog of Geek and Writing

All Things Writing and Geek, in one neat little blog!

renegade7x

Natalia's space