Iron Man 3

May. 8th, 2013 07:46 am
alex_beecroft: A blue octopus in an armchair, reading a book (Default)

I don’t really have a lot to say about this. It was well made and entertaining, but it was nothing we haven’t seen before, and I think the attraction is wearing thin.

iron-maiden-poster-iron-man-3

I was uncomfortable with the Mandarin as a villain right up until the point where it was revealed that he wasn’t actually the problem, after which I was a bit mollified but it still left a bad taste in my mouth.  Is it OK to demonise someone if you then go “Haha! It was just a bluff.” Does it reflect badly on the film makers or does it just reflect badly on the film’s villain and thus make him more villainous?

I have to say that the Iron Man films have a remarkable run of creating villains who I don’t feel tempted to sympathize with whatsoever – villains who it’s really easy to both believe in and despise. This is an under-rated talent, IMO. After all, my resistance to heroes is so high that I generally end up cheering on the villains. I even rather liked Red Skull from Captain America. But while I think Ben Kingsley was the best thing in Iron Man 3, I’ve never been tempted to root for an Iron Man villain. Whether this is because Iron Man’s villains are so small-minded, so petty, and so clearly already possessed of everything that any rational person should learn to be content with, or because Tony Stark himself is drawn as a human enough hero to care about, I’m not sure. Maybe it’s both.

Still on the subject of the Mandarin, though, LOL, bless! Ben Kingsley can out charm Tony Stark any day.

Pepper in the suit was a disappointment, but Pepper with amazing fire powers was a pleasant surprise. Rhodey was awesome and I would probably watch a film in which Rhodey and Pepper teamed up to fight crime, with Jarvis as backup. Tony himself, meh. I’ve had enough of him for now. (Which made me quite approving of the ‘Tony hangs up his electromagnet and quits the superhero gig’ ending. Good for him. It was probably about time.)

 


Mirrored from Alex Beecroft - Author of Gay Historical and Fantasy Fiction.

alex_beecroft: A blue octopus in an armchair, reading a book (Default)

I guess the big news is the new Thor trailer

YouTube Preview Image

To which my major reaction is What the hell have they done to Malekith? This is what Malekith looks like in the comics

malekith1

and this is what he looks like in the trailer

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Why? Are they afraid we won’t know he’s evil unless he’s ugly? Concerned they’ll end up with another Loki on their hands with everyone fangirling the wrong bloke? If so, they should put some thought into making Thor himself more interesting, because I generally don’t end up on the side of the villains unless I’ve already dismissed the heroes as not being worth my while.

Which, you know… God, Thor, could you be any more offputting? “Hello Jane, you haven’t seen me for years, you’re coming with me to Asgard and I’m not even going to ask if now is a good time.” “Hello brother, I despise you, come and help me save all the things I love, and when you try to turn the situation to your own advantage, I will kill you.”

I always used to derive the only pleasure I ever got from James Bond films (of the classic Roger Moore era) by hoping that this time the villain would give him the kicking he so richly deserved. It’s pretty much the same for Thor, I live in hope that one day Loki will really show him what humilation means – because the three days he spent with Jane in film 1 was not it.

Thor represents privilege piled upon privilege – white, male, warrior, prince, hero, god. For me, having been born a second class citizen by virtue of my sex, Loki’s struggle to get someone to take him seriously despite being born wrong is much more easily empathized with. There is a vicarious delight in watching him not let the bastards grind him down.

On a happier fandom note, I managed to finally catch two shows I hadn’t managed to see when they were first out – Stargate: Universe, and Once Upon a Time.

I’m surprising myself by loving Stargate Universe. I was on the verge of never watching it again after the first episode I saw (which was the one in which they have to find lime to renew the air-purifiers), but something kept me hooked. I liked the fact that the entire plot of this episode involved such a non-glamourous but vital task. It was refreshingly realistic for space opera. Plus I had an argument with DH over whether Dr. Rush, the rebarbative scientist, was going to end up as a bad guy or not. He was on the side of ‘Rush is obviously going to turn out evil.’ And I was on the side of ‘Nah, people will realize that his apparent cold heartedness is actually only a concern for the big picture, and he and emotion-driven military leader Young will end up working together like Spock and Kirk.’

So far it seems that we were both wrong, which I think is marvelous. Rush and Young have both turned out to be morally ambiguous ruthless gits, and I am very much enjoying the Rush and Young show.

I can’t quite see what all those other people are doing on board, mind you. I suppose there’s Chloe, the damsel in distress, Eli the author self-insert (plump geek boy saves the day on a regular basis?). There’s TJ, the potential love interest for Young and… and there are some other people, who I’m hoping will become relevant later.

I feel bad for liking a show where there aren’t any main female characters at all, and the real interest of the thing is watching the power struggle between the man of science and the military man. But it’s done so well, and I care about both of them so much that I can’t really mind. (Seriously, Thor, you need some nuance, like these two.)

Once Upon a Time, I’ve only watched one episode of this, and while it was pleasant and surprising to watch a questing party comprised entirely of women set out to battle a female villain, what was with the relentless focus on family? The whole “OMG, I’m barren, it’s the worst thing in the world. I’m so ashamed, I can’t tell anyone.” “Never mind, we can fix it by magic if I, an older and therefore expendable woman, sacrifice myself for the purpose.” “Huzzah, now my life is worthwhile!” really bugged me. I felt embarrassed and apologetic on behalf of women everywhere who either can’t have or don’t want children.

And you know, it would be really nice if some of this plethora of female characters was interested in something other than their family. So far only the evil queen is interested in anything outside her home, and she’s evil… So I don’t think this is quite as progressive as it maybe thinks it is.

At any rate, I won’t be watching again. I’m going back to watch Young and Rush dither over whether to kill each other or not, while trying to get around the fact that a small community of people on a knife edge of survival would really be much better served if they learned to work together.


Mirrored from Alex Beecroft - Author of Gay Historical and Fantasy Fiction.

alex_beecroft: A blue octopus in an armchair, reading a book (Default)

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

Unlike most people, I’m not a Peter Jackson fan. While I was as wowed and delighted by The Fellowship of the Rings movie as anyone, the travesty that was The Two Towers disenchanted me to such an extent that not even the largely-better-but-still-wrong Return of the King managed to rescue. I’m a purist, I freely admit it, and the thought of someone so tone-deaf to Tolkien’s worldview making three films based on the wonderful but slight story of The Hobbit made my skin crawl.

That didn’t stop me from going to see it, of course!

I made my low fat Slimming World crisps, smuggled them in in lieu of popcorn, and settled in with low expectations, imagining I was in for some beautiful pictures, a plot that mostly resembled that of the book I loved, and a moral slant that would have had the professor spitting acid. As it was the third that was most unforgivable to me in the LotR films, I was very happy to find that in The Hobbit I got the first two only.

The visuals are beautiful, there’s no doubt about that. I’d never imagined the city under the mountain to be so large and so properly-kingdomy. To tell the truth I’d imagined it as a great big hole in the ground, so I was pleasantly surprised to have my own thoughts much improved on. It was also nice to have the dwarves feature in a heroic epic. They are rather sidelined in the Silmarillion and in LotR, and it only seems fair to adapt The Hobbit into a similar tale from the dwarves’ POV.

I was pleasantly surprised by how little was made up, as opposed to being filled in and expanded on from the appendices to LotR. What was made up tended to irk me. The whole ‘lets give Thorin a named enemy among the orcs to heighten the tension, give him more motivation than simple survival, and provide him with a heroic arc’ thing, for example, annoyed me by being so… textbook cliche storytelling.

The same thing went for the invented “let’s give Bilbo an arc where he’s desperate to prove himself to Thorin,” thing, which struck me as rather undignified for a mature 50 year old gentlehobbit. Also, despite feeling glad to have a dwarven epic, I didn’t like the whole Thorin is a heeero, Look how heroic he is! Everyone’s overawed by his heroism, dudes, you should be too! thing. There’s nothing more likely to put me off someone than bludgeoning me over the head with scenes of everyone admiring him. CoughCanwesayMarySueCough. And I know from having read the book that Thorin is nothing of the sort, Bilbo is the hero of this story. Thorin is just a warrior. The two terms are not synonymous.

I found the way the film shifted tones from silly to epic and back to silly a little jarring. The book starts with silly and works up to epic so gradually you hardly notice the tone changing, but the movie tries to have both together and I’m not sure if it works. Particularly with Radagast. I also found the interminable chase and fight sequences as boring as I found the chase and fight sequences in Indiana Jones – which may be more of a personal preference thing than a legitimate critique. Possibly other people find those scenes more gripping.

On the positive side, Bilbo was perfect, and Balin was a wonderful surprise. Such a nice old lad. Fili and Kili were very engaging too, and I liked Bofur. I recognise Dwalin and Bombur, but I admit I can’t really pick any of the others out of a lineup by name. A bit more characterisation and a bit less “orcs talking like standard fantasy film badguys in subtitles” would have been good.

I sound very negative, don’t I? And I guess I came out feeling relieved it wasn’t any worse rather than overjoyed by how wonderful it was. But it really could have been worse, and it was nice to see Rivendell again. The White Council was as ineffective as I’d always imagined, and Thranduil on his battle-stag promises good things to come, so on the whole, I’m happier than I thought I would be, and looking forward to the next.


Mirrored from Alex Beecroft - Author of Gay Historical and Fantasy Fiction.

alex_beecroft: A blue octopus in an armchair, reading a book (Default)

This is not a review of the new Spiderman film because I don’t have an awful lot to say about it. I went to see it yesterday with the kids, and we all enjoyed it (verging on ‘enjoyed it very much’.)

450px-Gen_Con_Indy_2008_-_costumes_171

I certainly enjoyed it more on the whole than The Avengers. That is, while I loved The Avengers immoderately for the first three quarters, I came out of it bitterly disappointed in the end. Partly I think this was because there had been enough time spent on the characterisation in Spiderman for me to really care about what happened to the characters. And a 17 year old can get away with being emotionally constipated and unable to express himself far better than the more grown up heroes. Also because the end of the film made sense in the context of the rest of it. The build up was good, the climax fitted it, and the whole thing reinforced the film’s theme of there being something noble in everyone, which is a theme that I like to see.

What I like about Spidey (as opposed to Batman) is that he’s light on the angst and the manpain. Batman, frankly, takes itself far too seriously. I don’t want my superhero films to be ‘realistic’ – where ‘realistic’ means ‘believes that everything is shit.’ I want my superhero films to defy that, to dare to have hope. This version of Spiderman’s origin story didn’t quite escape the canon angst, but at least there were some moments early on that made me laugh, and a genuinely heartwarming moment later (with the cranes) that made me think ‘yes, humanity is worth saving, so there!’

I didn’t come out with a buzz and an urge to write fanfic, which is my test for a top quality film, but I did enjoy it more than most things I’ve watched recently. Hm, I think for me that makes it good but not great.

Do I want to go and see The Dark Knight Rises? I’m not sure. Because of the ‘realism,’ Batman is often too nasty for me. I like Nolan, I like Tom Hardy and Joseph Gordon Levitt, but I don’t like the nihilism. I don’t think it’s really realistic at all, though like all ideas it forms human reality around it. I may pass and watch it on DVD later.


Mirrored from Alex Beecroft - Author of Gay Historical and Fantasy Fiction.

alex_beecroft: A blue octopus in an armchair, reading a book (Default)

I went to see The Avengers on Saturday. Being a massive fan of the Iron Man, Thor and Captain America movies, and a long-term reader of The Mighty Thor comics (though I’ve switched allegiance now that Loki has his own series) I had EPIC FEELS about this one. I’d been looking forward to it at fever pitch for months.

Marvel Avengers Assemble - Loki

Which makes me rather sad to report that I don’t know what I think, now that I’ve seen it. I’m having a moment of cognitive dissonance here, because I enjoyed it thoroughly for about 90% of the way, and then in the last 10% I found myself getting more and more disenchanted until by the very end I came out feeling profoundly disappointed. I simultaneously thought it was awesome, and hated it.

I’ve spent all day today trying to figure out why.

Recap of the plot and spoilers everywhere below:


Read the rest of this entry » )

Mirrored from Alex Beecroft - Author of Gay Historical and Fantasy Fiction.

alex_beecroft: A blue octopus in an armchair, reading a book (Default)

What a great year it’s been so far for films I wanted to see!  I can’t remember another year like it.  But perhaps I’m getting jaded as a result, because I went into X-Men: First Class with high hopes and found it very … meh.

Part of this may be that I’m still obsessing over my newly kindled Thor fannishness.  It’s funny, I could see that First Class was a better film than Thor – it had character arcs and important issues and slicker special effects and better fight scenes.  But, deary me, it was so very worthy with its earnest examination of social and self-acceptance issues that it seemed to forget to have any fun.

In that, I’m sure it’s quite realistic for a super-hero film, and maybe the realism is why I didn’t like it very much. 

It was nice to see some new mutants, and Banshee’s appearance caused me to lose a 5p bet I’d had with my daughter a couple of years ago.  (I maintained that you will never see any red-headed heroes, red hair usually being reserved for villains.)  Banshee wasn’t exactly the hero of the film, and his hair was more auburn than ginger, but it was close enough.  It still doesn’t count as a great step forward for inclusivity, though, when set beside the fact that the one black character was there to be canon-fodder, and all the female mutants were on the ‘wrong’ side.  (You can see why they would be, mind you.  That’s the side I’d have chosen too in the circumstances.)

The scene with Magneto pulling the submarine out of the water would have been awesome if it had come before the scenes of Magneto doing even more awesome things in the last two pictures.  I did enjoy the final showdown, and thought it was cool that Xavier got to share in that death (nice to see his telepathy has its downsides too.)  I also thought “you killed my mother!” made a nice change – so many heroes are fixated on their fathers to the point where you wonder if they had a second parent at all.

But setting it in the 60s and being faithful to a certain amount of the skeevy sexism of the period meant that quite a lot of it left a bad taste in my mouth.  I remember what that was like, and it was no fun the first time.

Magneto pretty much stole the show, and Xavier came across as such a self-centred dimbo that I wasn’t really able to feel the central ethical tug of the story at all.  Someone more eloquent and likeable should have been on the “humans are not necessarily our enemies” side, particularly if all the evidence of the film was going to be weighed against them.  Perhaps the film makers thought that was obvious, but it wasn’t obvious enough for me, given that every character on the other side had perfectly good reasons to be there.  Someone who was slightly less oblivious of society’s dark side than Charles would have been a better choice for the mouthpiece of the ‘right’ side.  As it was, he failed to convince me to cheer for him – which meant I didn’t enjoy his victory as much as I should have.

So yeah, this is not much of a review because I can’t find much enthusiasm for the film.  I don’t really want realistic politics from my gosh-wow, “isn’t it fun to blow things up in awesome ways” escapist super-hero films.  At least, not this much of it. 

I guess I also feel that there are things too terrible to be used – or at least used like this – as melodramatic backstory to the wish-fulfilment fantasy of being gifted with cool powers that set you outside the normal run of humanity, and the holocaust is one of them.  I don’t know why I feel like that with this film, and didn’t with Magneto’s backstory in the previous ones, but perhaps it’s because those terrible things are that much closer in this one and cast a denser shadow as a result.  Or perhaps it’s because the social outcast/super-hero metaphor breaks down for me when it’s looked at as closely as this – none of these super-powers leave you exactly powerless in the face of human evil, after all.

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alex_beecroft: A blue octopus in an armchair, reading a book (Default)

The first ever novel I wrote and finished (as opposed to abandoning 5 chapters in) was a historical fantasy that featured Loki interfering with the lives of people in two Anglo-Saxon villages, while simultaneously re-telling some of his adventures from the Norse myths.  It was called “Wildfire (in his own words)” and seeing the film has inspired me to dig it out again and see if anything can be done with it.  I’m thinking that if it’s not too awful, it might be fun as a free serial or something.

Anyway, I’m a big Loki fan, though I’ve forgotten a great deal since the days when I knew a lot about him.  (I do know enough to snort and go “he’s Odin’s blood-brother, not his adopted son!”  But actually that leaves him in a very similar place of not quite belonging, so I don’t mind the change.)

I also have a large box in the attic crammed with The Mighty Thor comics, also left over from 20-odd years ago, when a new issue was the highlight of my week.  So there was never any doubt about whether I would go and see the film.  I went as soon as it opened, and saw it in 3D.  Reactions below:

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The Eagle

Apr. 21st, 2011 12:20 pm
alex_beecroft: A blue octopus in an armchair, reading a book (Default)

I went to see The Eagle last night.  I’m fairly certain that I read the book in my youth, but it must have been at least 30 years ago, and the only thing that struck me as familiar in the film was “Roman discovers that his slave is actually a very important person & undergoes a kind of role reversal.”  I didn’t remember the book as having so many fight scenes in it.  It’s all very clouded but I thought it was mostly travelling and conversation – quite tense conversation, true, but not full out warfare.

I’m also uncertain as to whether it was my own imagination that made me expect torcs and round-houses and more of an Asterix the Gaul look for the Celts than a Last of the Mohicans.

Read the rest of this entry » ).
alex_beecroft: A blue octopus in an armchair, reading a book (Default)

First of all, I was summoned to the door this morning and handed a great big box I had not been expecting at all.  And lo! When I opened it, there were my author’s copies of Shining in the Sun in print:

SitS

It’s such a great moment when you can hold your book in your hands.  It never gets old.  And although ebooks may be the wave of the future, they can’t quite give you the sheer feeling that you have written a real book as a print copy can.  It’s also interesting how different the cover looks in real life.  On the screen it’s quite yellow, but in the flesh it’s more of a golden-brown.

Anyway, that’s probably interesting only to me.  What’s interesting to everyone (I imagine) is this cool vlog on YouTube by Peter Jackson.  I had been underwhelmed by the prospects of The Hobbit as directed by him, since I didn’t like what he’d done with The Two Towers or The Return of the King.  But now that underwhelm-ment is turning into anticipation.  I’m sure it’ll be wrong in multiple places, I’m sure it will annoy the Tolkien purist in me, but I still can’t wait:

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