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.


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)

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)

I don’t know that I ever posted about seeing Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows just before Christmas. I ranted about it on Yahoo groups instead. Basically I thought it was fun, with some lovely explosions and much to recommend it to lovers of big guns, but I felt it would have been much improved if it hadn’t been sold as Sherlock Holmes, because they have taken away almost everything that makes Holmes Holmes and Watson Watson.

I should hurry to clarify that it’s not that I don’t believe Holmes and Watson could handle themselves in a fight. Of course they could. Holmes bending a fire-poker into a circle as a demonstration of strength is one of the lasting impressions I have of the stories, and I remember that he was trained in some (possibly made up) form of martial arts. But he rarely had to use either of these things, because the stories were about his ability to solve crimes by intelligence, observation and the deductive method. None of which was really in evidence in the film.

It’s not so much the overwhelming action-heroness that makes me feel film!Holmes is OOC, though. It’s mainly that book!Holmes was neither a slob nor a flirt. Possibly film!Holmes is both of these in order to appear manly for an American audience which is already inclined to find Englishmen effeminate. But if that’s so you wouldn’t expect the film makers to then put him into a dress.

Or perhaps they only felt they could get away with putting him into a dress if it was played for laughs? I have to say that I found the whole “LOL! Holmes is in a dress and he and Watson look like they’re having sex in a train carriage, the fangirls will love this!” episode acutely annoying.  For crying out loud, this is 2012. Subtext that you then go out of your way to disprove is no longer daring. You want to suggest they might be gay, go ahead and actually make it text. Deal with it like it’s a real thing and not a joke. Otherwise you look like you’re sniggering behind your hand at something that isn’t funny. Why is a man in a dress funny? Why is it a joke that Holmes and Watson could actually be a couple? It isn’t, and it annoys me no end to see it treated that way.

The film also pissed me off in the matter of Irene Adler. I didn’t like the fact that she was made out to be (a) Holmes’ girlfriend and (b) a damsel in distress in the first film, but I didn’t like even more her being treated as disposable in the second film and replaceable by another typical, cloned spunky female sidekick. She was special, damn it. A Victorian author wrote her as a female character who out-clevered Sherlock Holmes and who Holmes admired and maybe even revered for her brain. How is it that a Victorian author can have more respect for his female characters than a modern film maker? That’s rather sad.

TL/DR – I enjoyed the film as a semi-steampunk romp with original characters, but disliked it intensely as a representation of Sherlock Holmes.

Fortunately, my ruffled feathers were almost immediately soothed by the new series of the BBC’s Sherlock.

I’d been worried about this, because I’d been told that they were doing Irene Adler as well, and teaser trailers had been seen that implied she and Sherlock were in some kind of sexual relationship. I should come clean and say that I have always, always seen Sherlock Holmes as someone who was simply not interested in sex at all. My position on the “is he with Watson, or is he with Irene Adler” question is “No.” And that’s always been very important to me (possibly for reasons related to my “things I realised during 2011” post.)  In my mind, if done right, Sherlock Holmes is not a sexual being, and I was all prepared to be sad and disappointed by this episode if they had dropped the ball and decided that he couldn’t be a real man without shagging someone.

But they didn’t, thank God. Instead they did an almost perfect blend of genuine intellectual fascination, a tiny bit of maybe, possibly romantic interest and a great deal of the same thing he did when he met Watson – showing off in order to dazzle an appreciative audience. Of course she fascinates and attracts him on a mental level, so does Moriarty – they’re dangerous and clever and a fun challenge, and they stop him getting bored.

I didn’t particularly like her being in love with him. Canonically, she’s deeply in love with someone else when they meet. Which is only sensible, because Holmes is not the right kind of person to be in love with. (Poor Molly from the hospital. But on the other hand, grow some self-respect, girl, and stop setting yourself up for this.) OTOH, Irene Adler is a sexual being and Sherlock’s got all the same qualities of intellectual fascination and is quite attractive, so I don’t mind that too much. (But what? Didn’t she say she was gay? Does that mean we’re supposed to accept that he’s just so gorgeous that even lesbians fall for him? Hm… I don’t see it, myself.)

I loved Irene Adler as a character – I thought the dominatrix thing was a good way to update the whole element of sexual scandal (because, like it or not, if a young female royal was found to be visiting a professional domme there would be a scandal, even nowadays.)  She was such a powerful presence physically as well as mentally and it was lovely to see her make mincemeat of Sherlock both ways. She needs her own series.

I rather resented the fact that they changed the end to allow him to end up triumphing over and finally rescuing her. That didn’t happen in the book. (See above about Victorian authors and sad things.)

I also really loved the perplexed reactions of everyone around Sherlock as they all tried to figure out how this relationship worked and what it meant, using models that just didn’t fit. In the story, Watson sounds puzzled and slightly disbelieving about the way Sherlock is not interested in women but nevertheless regards Irene as THE woman, and the same disconnect was wonderfully shown here.

Other things that made me squee – Sherlock’s reaction to Mrs. Hudson being manhandled by the CIA man. Defenestration was too good for him. Mrs. Hudson also continues to be unexpectedly awesome in a frail old lady way. The Flight of the Dead. Mycroft being all BAMF!big-brotherly. Sherlock in a sheet being infantile in return. That brief moment where Sherlock and Mycroft reassure each other that there’s nothing wrong with being cold bastards set slightly apart from the rest of the human race. Low Tar sympathy for short term relationships. John, who could have been overshadowed this episode, somehow managing to be even more awesome (and awesomely put-upon) than usual.

And I like the fact that everyone assumes John and Sherlock are a couple. Of course they do – they look like a couple, they behave like a couple, so naturally everyone assumes they are together. No sniggering or subtext required, even if it does exasperate John, who is blithely unaware that he’s in the closest thing Sherlock will ever have to an intimate relationship. (Though John’s newly-ex-girlfriend clearly knows the score.)

TL/DR – there were some things I wasn’t sure of, but on the whole it was delightful. Funny, insightful, clever and right. I can’t wait for the next episode.

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

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

It’s probably some kind of blasphemy to group those two together, but on the other hand I had exactly the same reaction to both of them; they did not bore me but they did not wow me either.

I wasn’t familiar with the Green Lantern comics, though I admit to a prejudice on the grounds that I’ve never thought DC comics were as good as Marvel.  (I must be one of the few people in the world who didn’t like the Spiderman films that the critics seem to regard as classics.)  Seriously, DC, why do you go in for such wisecracking whiny brats as your heroes?  This was another of the same sort.  It’s probably meant to be endearing, or something, but I just wanted to punch the git through much of the story.  OTOH, the world building and the special effects saved the day, and really the ability to give your imagination physical form is one of the cooler superpowers.

I’ve got to admit that the Harry Potter films lost me at the same place that the books lost me – I was interested up to Prisoner of Azkaban, and then I got bored.  I had to go and see the final one as it was a major event in my childrens’ lives – they’d grown up with HP and now it was over.  But I didn’t go in really caring about any of it, and the film didn’t make me care.  I’ve already forgotten most of what happened, and I thought it was a shame that such a long event, so important to so many people, should have ended on such a note of mere adequacy.  I wanted it to go out on a note of excitement and awe/satisfaction rather than with a shrug.

The problem might be me, mind you, as I haven’t even watched the first episode of the new Torchwood – no Ianto, no interest.  I like the look of Captain America, though, which I feel a little embarrassed about, due to the whole ridiculous jingoistic nationalism of the concept.  But Hugo Weaving always makes a fantastic villain, and the high-tech WW2 setting could be fun, and I guiltily admit that I kind of like the shield.  Also I’m gearing up for the Avengers and I want to get the background in first.

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:

Read the rest of this entry » ).

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)

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