Archive for the ‘Film’ Category

I planned to outline and put together a comprehensive and long review of Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey; however, it isn’t going to happen. Too damn busy with other things. So what follows are some short(-ish) and haphazard observations about the film.

Two things to get out of the way first:

1. I consider Tolkien’s The Hobbit one of the most influential books on my development as a reader. My father (a fantasy and SF guy) read it to me when I was 6-7; and I read it myself at 8 (and again a few years later, and again, and a few more times adding up to 7 or 8 total). Having reread it last month, however, I have few romantic, nostalgic illusions about it overall. It is, in a number of ways, a flawed book, and it doesn’t engage me anywhere near as much as an adult as it did when I was much younger. I’m still a fan, though. I would venture that those who grew up as kids loving the Harry Potter books (which I read the first 3 installments of before deciding not to go further) will feel similarly rereading those books ten or twenty years down the road.

2. What is below the cut will contain so-called spoilers of the film and all of the novel (not just the section the film covers).

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Okay, so I have to admit this looks like a solid remake/revisioning of the first film, with some budget behind it.  Gore-pornish, sure, but I assume you know what you are getting into with this title and history. The annoying thing thus far is how many people are saying it is “wrong” based on comparing it to events in Evil Dead 2 like the two originals are exactly the same.


Thoughts?

The initial trailer for the film adaptation (and I use this term loosely) of Max Brooks’ 2006 novel World War Z premiered last week. I’ll get to my take on it in a minute, but the most noticeable and interesting thing about the trailer’s release was the amount of negative backlash toward it from fans of the book. From what I saw on twitter, comments on the trailer’s youtube, and elsewhere, the level of discontent from fans was (is?) at levels I think of as usually reserved for older, or at least more, I dunno, “canonical” books and characters (Beowulf and certain adaptations of Alan Moore come immediately to mind).  Not that some genre fans don’t get all uppity about even the slightest changes made when their beloved, recent texts are translated to film, and often understandably so, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen the level of ongoing hatred toward a film that, to be honest, looks like it could be quite good.

As someone who spends a lot of time reading and thinking about science fiction, post-apocalyptic stories, horror, and the like, and who is a fan of said genres, I understand being nitpicky about changes made and pointing out why they make sense or don’t. I am also a huge fan of Brooks’ novel, and have taught it in a college Intro to Fiction course with great success. I’m sympathetic to gripes about changes, but the people condemning the film entirely are going too far in a way that makes them look like foolish Star Wars dorks. Here’s why: There’s absolutely NO WAY you could create a faithful film adaptation of this book (as Arleigh over at Through the Shattered Lens rightly notes, this faithful version would need to be done as a serial on [cable] TV). It’s just not possible. Additionally, since the film began production and info about it started being leaked, fans of the novel who were paying attention have known about certain changes and should probably be resigned to a very different story than the one they loved.

So, to my mind, the bulk of loudmouth, purist fans trashing a film they haven’t seen are engaging in a kind self-important rhetoric without any real function beyond proving that they read it first and are “better” genre fans than those who are willing to say they’ll see the film with an open mind and may even like it.  They posture that they won’t even watch it but will spend hours online telling everyone else why it will be so awful.  They’re kind of like the kid back in school who knew everything about Star Wars or Harry Potter or whatever and who lived for being a genre pedant who talked down to you and ruined it for everyone else.  Such behavior is reactionary and dumb and fundamentally anti-fun.

That said, I would argue that the film version of World War Z, so far as the trailer lets on,does deviate significantly enough from the novel that it would be right, or at least in better faith, to retitle it something else with a sub-title explaining “inspired by Max Brooks’ World War Z” (an argument I’d also make, though more emphatically, for the poorly titled, Will Smith vehicle I am Legend).  Or, even better, let it slip into more fictional territory and say: “Based on the true accounts of the zombie war as told in Max Brooks’ World War Z.” To nitpick a bit, the title actually was already apparently changed to omit the subtitle “An Oral History of the Zombie War.” And I’m actually surprised that Brooks didn’t push for something like this given that the entire structure of the storytelling (ie, the multivocal, Studs Terkel-inspired, interview format) seems to have been replaced or sidelined in favor of a pretty standard action, hero’s p.o.v. format.  That and retaining the title as “new” for the possibility of doing it in the novel’s style via a serialized, episodic TV format down the road.  But I guess WWZ is a catchy title, so I won’t let this usage ruin my potential for enjoying the film they are actually making.

So, here’s the trailer.  A few thoughts on it vis-a-vis the novel after the cut:

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The Future of Batman Films

Posted: September 27, 2012 in Comics, Film
Tags: , ,

The always engaging blogger known as trashfilmguru has spent way too much a lot of time thinking about what would make for a great post-Christopher Nolan incarnation of Batman on film.  These musings are, at the moment, 10 posts long.  I have no idea where he(?) finds the time.

While I haven’t finished the entire series, and I suspect there will be some points where I’ll disagree, I highly recommend any Batman fans out there check these posts out.  They’re smart and the author is well-read on the world’s greatest detective.

You can find the first post here: “Which Way Forward for the Batman Movie Franchise? Take One.”

Each of the subsequent posts can be found by viewing the author archive (unfortunately in order of newest first, so scroll to the bottom) HERE.

batsblackmirror

I was just clued in to this provocative video by the good people over at The Teeming Brain. I rarely watch short films anymore, but this makes me think I should reconsider that decision. Definitely watch the video BEFORE you read their commentary . . . I’m not offering any analysis here, but would be interested in people’s reactions.

The Frisky came up with this provocative Venn diagram:

Of those on their list . . .

I’d move Blade Runner, Fight Club, and Stand by Me over to “both.”  The source material for all three of those are solid, and the print versions do differ significantly enough from the films that reading them would enhance your thinking about the films.

I’d also shift Blindness to “both.”  The film is a lot better than most give it credit for.

I’d probably move Harry Potter from “both” over to “see the movie(s)” (though I’m sure hardcore Potter fans will have my head).

I am Legend, while I totally agree that the movie with that title was weak, is a film worth watching if you’ve read the book (especially with the original, better ending that they changed for theatrical release).  I think fans of the book should also see the two earlier adaptations

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My review  of The Dark Knight Rises (minor to moderate spoilers therein) is up over at Modern Primate.  Chris rightly held off on publishing it due to what happened in Aurora, but I did write it immediately after seeing the film on Friday and still feeling the initial shock of the whole situation.  I posted some thoughts on that and the inevitable, irresponsible media coverage in my last entry here.

So, I’m still thinking about those who died, were wounded, or lost loved ones, and I’m very unhappy with the way the media is turning the shooter into a role model for future spree murderers and seeking to profit off tragedy.  Despite all this, I do still want to discuss specifics about the film itself, as separate as possible from the killings.

Spoilers abound below the cut

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I had an awesome streak of reading excellent books and seeing pretty good films for a couple months.  Which is, in part, why the last few weeks have been pretty disappointing in these same departments.  Each of the following are things I had high hopes for but didn’t end up feeling very satisfied with, written up pretty briefly and without major plot spoilers.

Among Others – Jo Walton

This book has won or been nominated for a ton of major fantasy and science fiction awards, and I’ve seen a lot of glowing reviews online.  I went in pretty much blind, assuming by the hype that it would be, at least, something I’d feel I should have read.  After finishing it, however, I have to say I’m pretty unimpressed and found it mostly forgettable and mediocre.

Among Others is told from the first-person, diary-style point-of-view of Morwenna (Mor), a Welsh teenager who sees fairies and is convinced in the reality of magic.   Mor also happens to be disabled, which seems to be a thing in YA lit recently (I don’t have anything insightful to add on this, but I’m sure it is  worth thinking about).  The novel uses the frame of the boarding house story and focuses on typical teenage themes, albeit in the framework of a world with hidden magic going on (from the protagonist’s p.o.v. anyway).

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[As a brief sidenote before I get any snarky comment about it:  I’m aware there is debate, especially in feminist theory circles, about the phrase “strong female characters” and the mere flipping of gender roles and denial of femininity and all that.  That’s all fine and good for grad seminar or the like, but I’m looking at this through the eyes of a father who wants to continually expand his daughter’s experiences of what girls can be like.  So, yeah, strong female characters it is.]

Modern Primate just published my article on Disney/Pixar’s Brave, which you can read here if so inclined.  It is less of a generic film review than a response to a few overly positive reviewers who seem to be falling over themselves to congratulate Disney for finally creating a princess character who isn’t stereotypically girlish and driven by desire for romance and marriage.  Sure, the film has this element, which is a huge deviation from past Disney princesses, and Merida is certainly a strong, non-traditional character in a lot of ways.  Despite this, the film is very conservative overall in how gender roles, patriarchy, and parent-child relationships are portrayed.

One of the things I took note of that I think bears more consideration is the portrayal of Princess Merida’s father, King Fergus, and what that means for how the film may or may not challenge traditional gender norms.  I wrote:

In the close of the film’s action, King Fergus is shown embracing his beloved wife and daughter as the patriarch whose role has not really changed throughout the film’s crises.  There is little new understanding between father and daughter or husband and wife because Fergus is a mere caricature.  Because of the way the story’s world is set up, and the lack of development of Fergus, very little of importance can change due to Merida’s rebellion, recklessness, and bravery.  While she may indeed be a strong female lead character, her story ends as a lesson in traditional values.

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goddamn mutants, drokk it!

This is too brief for an actual posting, but I’m headed out for a camping excursion in the morning and need to rep this trailer now or I’d never get back to it.

I just saw the trailer for the new Judge Dredd film.  It looks 1000 times better than that travesty/crapfest with Stallone starring as Dredd.  Dredd is one of the most iconic characters of 80s comics/science fiction, but he is also problematic as many “heroes” of that era are.  This seems to capture that and the dystopian setting of 2000 AD . . . and Karl Urban is well-cast.  I am excited; this is a great year for comic book movies.

Play this in the background, then watch this trailer on mute for maximum effect: