Today I went to see Star Wars: The Force Awakens. And while it was an enjoyable film, full of pretty much exactly the sorts of things a Star Wars film should have – space battles, lightsabre fights, and so on – there were some things that really stood out when I’d had a little time to think about it, which undermined the story quite significantly.
This post contains major spoilers, so if you don’t want the film spoiled, do not read.
Continue reading Fridge logic of Star Wars: The Force Awakens (SPOILER WARNING)
I can’t do this review justice taking my usual no-spoilers stance, so this is a review of Maleficent with spoilers. Or perhaps, to be more accurate, it is a critique of Maleficent. I would imagine that the majority of people who planned to see Maleficent have by now done so (I was rather late to the game about seeing it) but if you haven’t and do plan to see it, be warned that this post is going to be full of spoilers.
On the face of it, Maleficent is exactly the right sort of film for now – a reimaining of a fairy tale, told from the villain’s perspective, while acknowledging that not everything is good vs evil – there are shades of grey in here. Starring Angelina Jolie in the title role, it sought to show a sympathetic side of Maleficent, whose actions in cursing Princess Aurora, though far from pure, were certainly motivated by very human emotions.
Continue reading Movie review: Maleficent (spoilers)
Some of you may be aware that at university I studied Ancient History and Archaeology. I focused on Classical Greece and Herodotus’ Histories ranks amongst my favourite books ever. It’s a rich account of a number of legends and historical events centred around the events of the Second Greco-Persian War, when Xerxes invaded Greece in 480-479BCE.
300: Rise of an Empire, starring Sullivan Stapleton as Themistocles, Eva Green as Artemisia and Lena Headey as Gorgo, is not based upon Herodotus’ Histories. It is based upon the comic Xerxes by Frank Miller – which in turn is presumably meant to be based on the events of the battles of Artemisium and Salamis in Herodotus’ Histories. With the threat of Persian invasion, Themistocles leads the Athenian navy to repel Xerxes’ fleet, led by Artemisia, and seeks assistance from the Spartans, now bereaved of their king Leonidas and led by Queen Gorgo.
Continue reading Review: 300: Rise of an Empire
Following on from An Unexpected Journey, the Desolation of Smaug follows our hero Bilbo, the dwarves and Gandalf as they continue in their quest to defeat Smaug the dragon and reclaim Erebor. This 2 hour 41 minute instalment sees them meet Beorn, a man who turns into a bear, and travel through Mirkwood and Laketown before entering the mountain.
As always, the visuals were stunning. New Zealand’s landscape offers a gorgeous and varied backdrop for chase scenes, and it’s clear that no expense was spared on the built sets and CGI either. Each location felt right for what it was and who built it and lived there; the Laketown set in particular had a very lived-in feel, and the scale of the interior of Erebor was breathtaking. At Dol Guldur, unusual and unsettling camera angles add to the sinister atmosphere.
Continue reading Review: The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
There is a book which I bought in February, when it was released, with the intention of reviewing it shortly afterwards. I didn’t get very far in it. I did, however, make some notes. I thought characterisation was lacking – the reader is told what the characters feel, but it feels shallow, forced, like a stick man with facial expressions drawn on. By comparison, the world was very well developed, and described well. It has a sense of wonder, and some strong visuals.
The author was treating the book like a movie – strong on what would be special effects, but relying on very visual representations of emotions, without giving the characters any depth or subtlety.
Continue reading Your book is not a movie
Oz the Great and Powerful hit cinema screens today. It tells the story of Oscar Diggs (James Franco), a circus magician who, through events reminiscent of those in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, gets transported to the land of Oz where he is assumed to be the wizard and is tasked with defeating the Wicked Witch, before becoming the wizard of Oz later encountered by Dorothy Gale.
The movie is a fitting tribute to the 1939 film adaptation of L Frank Baum’s novel, the Wizard of Oz. It begins in black and white, mimicking the earlier movie starring Judy Garland, and upon reaching the land of Oz not only achieves full colour, but also widens from a 4:3 aspect to widescreen, a nice trick hinted at in the black and white segment by small, brief elements exceeding the 4:3 aspect frame. The colours thereafter have a brightness that similarly reflects those of the 1939 movie; indeed all the visuals make a very obvious nod to the famous predecessor.
Continue reading Review: Oz the Great and Powerful
Vampire movies have been quite popular recently. Well, they’ve always been quite popular. If you only count those with some link to Dracula, there are dozens. Vampires are a staple of horror movies, as well as, increasingly, fantasy action movies, abandoning audience fear in favour of a good villain for the protagonist to fight – or a cool supernatural being for the protagonist to team up with. (Oh, and this is not really a how to article, I just wanted to get as many puns in the title as possible and that’s what I could think of).
Some movies do vampires very well indeed. Some manage well enough. But as with all genres, there are some that are just terrible movies. Just really awful, mind-bogglingly so. And for some reason, I’ve deliberately gone and watched some of these.
Continue reading How Not to Suck: three soulless vampire movies
The Last Airbender, directed by M Night Shyamalan, is a live-action adaptation of the western animated series Avatar: the Last Airbender. It tells the story of Aang, a young boy who was trapped in ice for a hundred years. Aang is the fabled Avatar – capable of learning to manipulate all four elements, air, water, earth and fire, in a world where other “benders” can manipulate one element each. It is his quest to correct the imbalance in the world created by the Fire Nation’s invasion of the EarthKingdom and Water Tribes and destruction of Aang’s people, the Air Nomads.
The movie covers the first series of the animation, in which Aang and his new friends, Katara and Sokka, travel from the Southern Water Tribe where Katara and Sokka live to the Northern Water Tribe so Aang can learn Waterbending, dodging Fire Nation forces including the exiled Prince Zuko who wants to capture Aang to restore his lost honour, and General Zhao, who seeks to destroy the moon spirit in the Northern Water Tribe’s city in order to destroy Waterbending, which draws its powers from the moon. The first series, and the movie, end with a battle in the Northern Water Tribe city between the Waterbending defenders and the Fire Nation fleet.
Time constraints and cuts
The film condenses a lot of story into a short period of time. The first TV series consists of 20 episodes of 22 minutes each – for a total run time of over 7 hours. The movie, by comparison, is 103 minutes, less than a quarter of the length. As such a lot was cut. With some episodes in the series that cutting is entirely welcome. But the harshness of the cuts meant that some of the character of the world – in particular the Earth Kingdom through which the characters travel – is lost.
Continue reading Adaptation Review: The Last Airbender