Category Archives: science fiction

One Last Thought on Comic Book Grimdark…

My wife read over my last post about recent comic book movies and thought it wrong of me not to link this:

 

 

So there you have it.

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Why the Lego Movie is a Better Matrix Film Than the Matrix

Our six-year-old daughter took me to see The Lego Movie a few weeks ago. My takeaway: this is what the Matrix trilogy should have been.

Read on only if you don’t mind spoilers of both films.

My parents went with our daughter the first go-around seeing the movie and, having not seen The Matrix, totally didn’t realize the The Lego Movie is more or less a spoof thereof. It blatantly and hilariously borrows from The Matrix: from its “chosen one” plot to its philosophical premise–the world as we know it is a facade. Here’s how the Wachowski siblings could’ve done it better.

1. The Lego Movie knows its place in the world 

Yup. It’s a movie about Legos. Produced by the company that creates Legos. With the intent of selling you Legos. Should we pretend that the Matrix trilogy didn’t try really hard to sell us video games? The Lego Movie never pretends to be something it’s not and its wry self-aware humor makes its blue pill a little easier to swallow. Yes, The Matrix offers a few chuckles. It’s also got a hell of a lot of plot holes as well as a premise that doesn’t make a lot of sense in spite of (or because of?) its Platonic cred. We can give The Lego Movie a pass on its plot holes because it presents its comedy front and center. If a movie wants to sell you “big ideas” it’s best not to shout, “THIS MOVIE IS ABOUT BIG IDEAS” upfront.

One of my favorite movies of all time is Big Fish. It’s absolutely hilarious and its final scenes left me bawling uncontrollably. I almost never cry during movies. The poignancy snuck up on me. Yoon Ha Lee writes some of the best short space opera around. She describes herself as a writer aiming to “assassinate the reader.

“The thing is that I don’t want the reader to see the short sharp point clearly from the beginning, but I want it to make sense afterward as the angle of attack.”

Sorry, Matrix. You broadcasted it a mile away and the point was not all that sharp. Lego Movie? I never saw it coming. And for the record, I sniffled just a little.

On the subject of philosophy…

2. The Matrix is morally bankrupt

Cracked says it best. Also here.

The “heroes” of The Matrix would have us believe that confronting a life of deceit is an inherent good that justifies any means. Call me crazy. I feel like they need to support that theorem a little better. Also, I’m not sure what’s more disturbing–the callousness with which the “good guys” kill people they purport to want to save and so readily call them “the enemy” or the fact that after all of that, the movie trilogy has an out-of-left field “we can live in peace” ending.

Seriously?

3. The Lego Movie handles its philosophical dilemma with more nuance

Neo is the Chosen One. “Chosen One” narratives are problematic as all hell. They’re about the elite and able saving the masses through arbitrary means at the discretion of the storyteller. They tell us little about the world or the human condition. You could say there’s something Christlike about Neo’s sacrifice at the trilogy’s end. If Christ had an uzi.

Alongside The Lego Movie‘s purpose of, you know, selling us all more Legos, is a message that manages to be naive, audacious, and heartwarming at once. There’s something beautiful about the way it resolves its own “Chosen One” story. There’s worth and uniqueness in all of us. Even the “bad guy.”

Corny? Sure. At least it makes sense in the context of the film.

So those are my two cents. If you still don’t believe me, consider this–The Lego Movie earned a higher score on Rotten Tomatoes than The Matrix. This blog is strictly my opinion. But Rotten Tomatoes? That’s science.

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Christmas Reflections

Our six-year-old daughter on our way home from a family Christmas gathering:

“Daddy, imagine if Darth Vader gave you a Christmas present. And imagine if his eight tiny reindeer pulled a Death Star.”

When it comes to good parenting, the proof is in the pudding.

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William Shakespeare’s Star Wars (Verily, a New Hope)

Back in high school, I was a Star Wars superfan.

I’ve mentioned before that I grew up in a Star Trek household, but when it came time for the inevitable “Trek vs. Wars” debate, I always took up the Lucasfilm gauntlet. Why? The fantasy and mythology resonated with me in my youth. Return of the Jedi is one of the first films I clearly remember watching in theaters. Also, I could smile and nod, but never completely bought Star Trek’s utopian underpinnings. Star Wars’ Force seemed far more “real” to me.

Oh yeah. And laser swords. Star Wars won the “rule of cool” award hands down even if I didn’t know there was such a rule as a teenager.

I gobbled up every Expanded Universe story I could get my hands on. Tales of the Jedi. Dark Empire. Pretty much every novel from Heir to the Empire to the Black Fleet Crisis. I even bought the RPG sourcebooks even though I didn’t actually play the RPG. I poured over the vehicle schematics; the Alliance and Imperial military hierarchy; the alien races.

After a couple of years, I burned out on it all. It annoyed me when I found contradictory diagrams of the Millennium Falcon’s layout. It bugged the snot out of me when I felt the core characters were out of character. I still love Star Wars, but my passion for the series is more smolder than raging fire.

That’s where I was when I approached Ian Douescher’s William Shakepeare’s Star Wars. It was a gift from my wife. If she weren’t as big a geek as me, we would have problems.

Darth Vader and my shadow

Darth Vader and my shadow

At first glance, it struck me as too much of a gimmick. I never jumped on the Pride and Prejudice and Zombies bandwagon.  Then I actually read this lovely book and decided it’s got to be one of the greatest feats of Star Wars fandom ever accomplished.

First off, hardly any action or dialogue is omitted. It’s Star Wars, in iambic pentameter. With authentic Shakesearean archaisms. With terse stage directions and a chorus describing all of the action. Seriously. My favorite stage direction:

Enter PRINCESS LEIA, in beam projected by R2-D2.

And we mustn’t forget asides and soliloquys:

HAN [to Luke]: I say, what a charming girl thou here hast found!

Either I shall destroy her or, perhaps,

I may in time begin to like the wench!

LUKE [aside]: Nay, executioner or lover, both

Are far too great a role for thee to play.

The book provides a few diversions into camp and parody. In a way, not unlike its source. In one groanable passage, Luke Skywalker gazes upon his helmet and laments, “Alas, poor stormtrooper.” There’s also a clever “who shot first” diversion in Mos Eisley. But for the most part, the book plays it straight, to its own benefit. And truthfully (verily?) its shockingly Shakespearean.  The transition is remarkably sharp.  Han Solo’s one-liners translate into surprisingly eloquent verse, as in here, aboard the Millennium Falcon:

A pilgrim, truly said! For I have gone

From galaxy to galaxy and more,

Yet never hath this faithful worshipper

Found aught to recommend that strange belief–

A singe Force that binds the universe.

True ’tis, no power mystical controls

Han Solo’ yet unfinish’d destiny.

And so I preach the one and only faith:

My simple, merry tricks are all my gods,

And nonsense is the only testament.

I worship at the shrine of my own will.

I haven’t read much Shakespeare since my English major days and this book reminded me of all sorts of stylistic quirks I’d forgotten. Rhyming verse to conclude scenes? Check. The ubiquitous chorus? Check. Expository asides that totally state the obvious? Yes, I’m looking at you Obi-Wan. And furthermore, the book’s iambic pentameter is really solid–using some of Shakespeare’s cheats (abbreviating words and fusing lines of dialogue) to make it work.

And now I’ll write the rest of this review,

In ‘glorious’ iambic pentameter.

Iambic pentam’ter.

Iambic…

See, that shit’s hard.

Beyond mimicking Shakespeare’s style, however, there really is something Shakespearean about this undertaking. Shakespeare wrote in a time when originality was not highly prized. Before becoming plays, his stories existed in legend, lore, or the zeitgeist. He didn’t invent Hamlet. He didn’t invent Romeo and Juliet. But he made them popular. It was okay to be derivative as long as one was entertainining.

Critics of Star Wars could always, fairly, argue its sci-fi setting is inconsequential. It doesn’t do anything with its plot you couldn’t do as a western or fantasy epic. I have a feeling Shakespeare would have shrugged at that criticism (after, you know, puzzling out what “sci-fi” actually is).

Lately, I’ve noticed a flood of Star Wars properties, whether Origami Yoda or Vader’s Little Princess. As a popular culture, we seem to be putting more value than ever in the nostalgic and derivative. That was Shakespeare’s forte. Hell, if Star Wars were around during the reign of Elizabeth he probably would have written his own version of the story.

But then, if you ask me, Goffrey Chaucer’s Star Wars would have been so much cooler. More ironic, more sublime, and more metamodern. Shakespeare’s fine and all. Just a tad overrated.

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Thoughts on Joss Whedon

Is this what they mean by “mansplaining?”

The other day, Joss Whedon tried a little verbal jujutsu in his dissection of the word, “feminist.”

Included is an excerpt:

Ist in it’s meaning is also a problem for me. Because you can’t be born an ist. It’s not natural… So feminist includes the idea that believing men and women to be equal, believing all people to be people, is not a natural state. That we don’t emerge assuming that everybody in the human race is a human, that the idea of equality is just an idea that’s imposed on us. That we are indoctrinated with it, that it’s an agenda……My problem with feminist is not the word. It’s the question. “Are you now, or have you ever been, a feminist?” The great Katy Perry once said—I’m paraphrasing—”I’m not a feminist but I like it when women are strong.”…Don’t know why she feels the need to say the first part, but listening to the word and thinking about it, I realize I do understand. This question that lies before us is one that should lie behind us. The word is problematic for me because there’s another word that we’re missing…

…When you say racist, you are saying that is a negative thing. That is a line that we have crossed. Anything on the side of that line is shameful, is on the wrong side of history. And that is a line that we have crossed in terms of gender but we don’t have the word for it…

…I start thinking about the fact that we have this word when we’re thinking about race that says we have evolved beyond something and we don’t really have this word for gender. Now you could argue sexism, but I’d say that’s a little specific. People feel removed from sexism. ‘I’m not a sexist, but I’m not a feminist.’ They think there’s this fuzzy middle ground. There’s no fuzzy middle ground. You either believe that women are people or you don’t. It’s that simple…

Genderist. I would like this word to become the new racist. I would like a word that says there was a shameful past before we realized that all people were created equal. And we are past that. And every evolved human being who is intelligent and educated and compassionate and to say I don’t believe that is unacceptable. And Katy Perry won’t say, “I’m not a feminist but I like strong women,” she’ll say, “I’m not a genderist but sometimes I like to dress up pretty.” And that’ll be fine.

This is how we understand society. The word racism didn’t end racism, it contextualized it in a way that we still haven’t done with this issue. Does that mean that this will end the problem? Yes, definitely, we’ve done it.

So while I think I see what he’s getting at… okay, I actually don’t. Did he just 1) make up his own word to take the place of “sexist?” And 2) did he just say that we’re “past” it?

Joss Whedon’s always occupied a peculiar place in pop culture–a white, heterosexual cis-male who has been closely aligned with feminism over the years. A lot has been said about whether or not the title “feminist” really fits for him.

He writes swashbuckling stories with larger than life characters and I’m glad he gives women a space to be larger than life and swashbuckling. Some of his stuff can get pretty problematic though. First and foremost, most of his “strong” women are exceptional. What you won’t see in a lot of in his stories are women who are… well… ordinary. And I don’t mean that in a derogatory way. I mean it in a “Free to Be You and Me” kind of way. You don’t see a lot of women who are not the Chosen One. Not science experiments. Not following male ideals of heroism. Traditionally feminine in a way that doesn’t hyper-emphasize their sexuality. Cracked has a great, albeit tongue in cheek, breakdown of Joss Whedon’s female archetypes.

What you don’t see are a lot of female lawyers and judges and doctors and police officers and politicians and… you get the idea. In fact, his worlds tend to be depressingly patriarchal. Runaways is one of my favorite Marvel Comics. During his run on the series, the characters travel back in time to 1907 Manhattan where they meet 12-year-old Klara Prast: a physically and sexually abused child bride. A mutant, she travels back to the future with them, becoming a regular (and emotionally stunted) character and Whedon’s contribution to the series. It was hard not to feel crawly reading that arc. Whedon writes a lot of “powerful women,” but not a lot of women with real power.

Others have written more nuanced critiques of his remarks on sexism. Excuse me. “genderism.” I’m not trying to condemn the man and his creations. Any work of fiction’s going to be problematic to someone, sometime, somehow. In fact, I quite liked Buffy and Firefly. His works tend to be pulpy and entertaining. But are they feminist? Joss Whedon himself seems to be saying we should stop calling them that from now on.

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Politics as Usual

The other day, I took a little time to catch up with Ursula Le Guin’s blog. I’m often a little surprised by her eagerness to embrace political topics. But then, to those familiar with her works, her political views seem unlikely to surprise. That got me to thinking–she is by no means strictly a writer of speculative fiction, but it is the genre for which she is best known. Is speculative fiction more political than some other genres?

Let me be clear–I don’t think think any narrative is apolitical. This goes beyond fiction. A friend’s father used to work for Voice of America. His father, he said, objected to frequent assertions that Voice of America is a political instrument of the United States government. He argued journalists for Voice of America’s passions generally lie not with U.S. interests, but with earnest, free speech. “Their only bias is that people be happy and well fed.” I believe and respect that. But it is a bias. Not all worldwide media outlets would give a snot about whether or not all people are happy and well-fed.

Still, I can’t help but wonder if there’s something about sci-fi and fantasy that sets it apart and I wonder if that something has to do with “world building.” Whether you’re talking the slightly sci-fi (let’s say, Atlas Shrugged) to the hard sci-fi (Let’s say, Star Trek) the “speculative” nature of spec fic inevitably involves some sort of deconstructing and reconstructing of setting. Even if it’s as simple as “Capitalists are smart enough to invent a perpetual motion machine and everyone else is not.” Yes, world building occurs even in supposedly naturalistic fiction, but at its heart, a work of speculative fiction tends to be a “what if..?” story. Good, bad, or ugly, the answer to “what if…?” is always, “whatever the author damn well wants.” We all carry underlying thoughts and assumptions about the way the world works. Those come to the fore in sci-fi and fantasy.

Politicization is, in my opinion inevitable in the process of creating meaning for things. But I feel like in some ways that political dimension you can find in speculative fiction is part of its allure. It gives you something to believe in. Something to point to and say, “see!”

I grew up loving Trek, in a household that loved Trek, but as I grow older I become more and more suspicious of its politics. More and more, I feel like there’s something disingenuous about the United Federation of Planets–an intergalactic coalition based out of San Francisco and led by socialist anglophones. Through its eyes, alien cultures come across as somehow less enlightened and easy to caricaturize. The Original Series was practically built around episodes devoted to Kirk and crew convincing foreign cultures how screwed up they’ve been. The Next Generation isn’t much better in some ways…

Still, it’s effective. It’s hard for me not to like Trek’s fundamental message of human actualization on some level, even if on another level I think it’s a total crock of shit. That’s powerful storytelling. As skeptical as I am, just queue up Alexander Courage’s fanfare and I’m ready to drink the Kool-Aid.

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Airing Out the Closet

Spoilers ahead for mid-nineties TV shows. You have been warned.

By the end of middle school, I’d hit a couple of Star Trek conventions with my parents. They were both long-time fans of science fiction. I’m not going to go so far as to suggest a literary genre has inherent political stripes. After all, the novel most entwined with Tea Party politics is ostensibly science fiction. I think it’s fair to say there’s a certain progress streak in a lot of science fiction, including Trek that’s always resonated with my family. The appearances of DOMA and Prop. 8 in the U.S. Supreme Court this past week remind me of how perceptions have changed just within the past ten years. The court decision will be important in some ways, but in others, almost incidental. The fact of the matter is, today the majority of Americans support marriage equality. I don’t normally pay much attention to what Rush Limbaugh says–except when it’s, “We’ve lost.

So it looks like, come what may, Americans will almost inevitably be able to marry a person of the same sex sometime, somehow. This is a big deal.

So looking back, how did our favorite futurists do?

Star Trek is like many others in that LGBT characters were either absent or… well… metaphorical.

There’s a blog by Adam McGovern at TOR about representations of sexual minorities in science Fiction. McGovern writes,

Star Trek producer Rick Berman used to answer gay and gay-positive fans’ calls for more representation of sexual difference in that franchise by saying the creative team would rather provoke thought by dealing with the issue metaphorically, and it wasn’t just a matter of “having two men or two women in [the Enterprise lounge] holding hands”;

A later episode of Star Trek’s Deep Space Nine depicts a taboo relationship between main character, Jadzia Dax and a former flame. Both characters are women, but that’s not why the relationship is taboo. It’s taboo because their race, the Trill, a symbiotic species, are forbidden from revisiting relationships from their past. It’s silly and arbitrary and that’s kind of the point. Almost beautifully, the fact that they’re both women is never even made an issue.

Of course in the end, it doesn’t work out. It can’t. Society just isn’t ready. Hm.

We establish that same-sex relationships are theoretically possible in the world of Star Trek, but they just aren’t depicted–this from a franchise that brought America one of its first interracial kisses. What’s problematic in the case of Trek is this–forget tokenism. Most Americans know someone who is LGBT. At the very least, how many people haven’t at least seen a same-sex couple holding hands somewhere?

How many crowd scenes are there in the history of Trek?

I’ve been working my way through Babylon 5 and, as much as I love it, I’m struck by how terribly… mid-nineties it can seem. Creator and executive producer, J. Michael Straczynski was quite progressive at the time with regards to depictions of sexual minorities. What stands out is how nonchalant he was about same-sex relationships and marriage (and yes, gay marriage did exist in the B5 universe). Same-sex couples appear to meander around the station and the first couple of seasons are loaded with Commander Ivanova and Psi-corp. operative, Talia Winters subtext.

And now for the mid-nineties part: the episode in which the subtext becomes main text ends with Talia Winters going nuts. She’s dragged off and, as is later implied, killed off-screen.

Talia and Ivanova

On right: Babylon 5’s Mad Woman in the Attic

This happens. And let’s not even talk about lesbians going nuts in media (yes, I’m looking at you, Joss Whedon).

I don’t necessarily fault producers who kill the lesbian with heterosexism in the same way I don’t fault most of them with overt racism in killing the black guy. The black guy and the lesbian are quite often noble, positively-depicted characters. They’re just not the hero or heroine. They tend to be incidental characters: “people-we-kind-of-care-about-but-hell-we’ve-gotta-kill-someone.” In short: marginalized. Andrea Thompson left the show in part due to Talia’s relative lack of screen time. Yes, the show depicts same-sex relationships, but in a peripheral way. And yet, it was something at a time when the rest of American television had nothing.

So here’s the question: will history more harshly judge problematic depictions of sexual minorities or their long stay in the closet?

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Flour, Water, Salt, and Speculative Fiction

As photogenic as I could possibly make it.

As photogenic as I could possibly make it.

I mentioned last post that I took a shot at making demi-baguettes again recently. Baguettes and I haven’t always been BFFs. They never quite turn out like I would hope. Even within the same batch, they turn out differently. This last time, I followed the Bread Baker’s Guild of America 2008 Coupe du Monde formula to the letter–scaled down such that flour in the main formula was 250 grams (disclosure though–I could not find and therefore did not use malted barley powder). The results were good and after having made demi-baguettes periodically for over a decade, I’m still learning nuances to shape and crumb and texture. The more hydrated the dough, the more open and attractive the crumb, but the harder it is to shape and score (65-70% hydration seems to be the sweet spot). I usually add too much water in the initial mixing and too much flour for the shaping. I learned from this last attempt that if the dough is not a little tacky without being too sticky, it is almost impossible to make the finished bread look as it should. This dough used a tiny amount of levain and a lot of poolish to give it that extra kick.

All that to say flour, water, salt, and maybe a little yeast can yield an incredible range of flavors. That’s what I love about baking.

What I love about writing is that arrangements of letters can yield even greater diversity.

I’m a little late to the party, but the Nebula Award Nominees for 2012 are out there. Furthermore, many of them are available to read for free online, including all of the short stories. I can’t help but feel like this is an exciting time to be a reader of speculative fiction.

Robot” by Helena Bell gets props in my book for successful use of the second person.

Ken Liu’s “The Bookmaking Habits of Select Species” defies conventional plot structure and manages to be meta in the process.

I appreciated Aliette de Bodard’s “Immersion” and couldn’t help but think of my own bicultural family through this sci-fi lens. Oh yeah, and more second person!

I found “Fragmentation” by Tom Crosshill beautifully poignant, especially for a story evocative of mobile operating systems.

Maria Dahvana Headley’s “Give Her Honey When You Hear Her Scream” is the only fantasy story in the mix–to me, not very relatable (disclosure–I think “love at first sight” is silly) but so beautifully wrought.

Leah Cypress’ “Nanny’s Day” is a whole different animal–almost plausible–and it resonated with me like none other. I can’t help but feel like it takes the easy way out in the end, but then it goes to a very real, vey uncomfortable place for many readers–myself included.

Cat Rambo’s “Five Ways to Fall in Love on Planet Porcelain” is a fascinating speculative story and gets props in my book for being one of only stories not published in ClarkesWorld or Lightspeed.

I didn’t really read short fiction until not long ago. I always imagined stodgy, contemplative works in the tradition of Chekhov. These nominees make a fascinating study of how tense, tone, plot structure (or lack thereof) interplay–like a simple lean bread, complexity from a simple foundation. My favorites were “Nanny’s Day” and “Give Her Honey.” Curiously, the former is the most realistic of the bunch and the latter: the most out-there. I appreciated their places on different dimensions of pleasurable writing.

So, reader, if you have not read this year’s nominees, you are doing yourself a disservice. Any other thoughts on the the nominees for this year? Favorites?

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High Fantasy for Five-Year-Olds

We bought a copy of Peter S. Beagle’s The Last Unicorn recently. The Rankin / Bass cartoon is one of the first movies I remember watching. Our five-year-old daughter was fascinated by the notion her parents were reading a book about unicorns. We have the cartoon, but I’m afraid it might be a little intense for her yet. Still, she has wanted me to read her excerpts and tell her about the story.

The following contains spoilers.

Daughter: Why is she the last unicorn?

Father: The others were kidnapped by a man named King Haggard.

Daughter: Why did he kidnap them?

Father: Well, he thought they would make him happy.

Daughter: Did they make him happy?

Father: For a while they did.

Daughter: But then they didn’t?

Father: Not really, no.

Daughter: Why?

Father: Well, he tried a lot of things to make him happy.

Daughter: And they didn’t?

Father: No.

Daughter: Why?

Father: Well… Some people have something called clinical depression.

Daughter: What’s that?

Father: That’s when, for some people, no matter what they do, they’re always going to be depressed. Sometimes, only medication can help. But a long time ago, they didn’t have medication. So people just stayed depressed.

Daughter: … Until someone invented medication?

Father: Yes.

Daughter: Did King Haggard get medication?

Father: No. He fell out of a tower.

Daughter: Why?

Father: Because sometimes, people with clinical depression fall out of towers.

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Dirtbag Deus Ex Machina Eagles

The other day while driving to a former job site, I ran into this guy.

baldEagle

Yes, that is an honest-to-God American bald eagle. I got within twenty feet, but my iPhone camera just doesn’t do it justice. I told a friend and former co-worker. He shrugged. “There’s a deer carcass near the woods. He must’ve wanted some.”

It’s easy to forget that as much as we venerate these beautiful animals, they’re kind of dirtbags. I suppose I shouldn’t judge. After all, would you want to subsist on whatever nasty bits hunters leave behind?

We had a huge list of must-see movies this month. Predictably, we were lucky to catch one of them. We didn’t get around to seeing Lincoln. We didn’t get around to seeing Skyfall. We didn’t get around to seeing Flight. But we wouldn’t have dared starting of 2013 without the Hobbit. I went in with neutral expectations and have to say I really liked it.

A little background. It’s not so much that I like Tolkien as it is I frickin’ love Tolkien. Leading up to seeing this film, we bought a copy of the original Rankin/Bass Hobbit from a going-out-of-business rental store for less than $3 (Fear no more the heat o’ the sun, Blockbuster). What sentimental value! By eighth grade I’d read all of his completed works concerning Middle Earth. I liked the Lord of the Rings films well enough, but I don’t love Peter Jackson. I’m of the school of thought that good direction doesn’t make itself obvious. For as much pretty filmmaking went into Jackson’s King Kong, the part that sticks out above all else to me is Jack Black typing “Skull Island” in low frame-rate slow motion.

It helps I went into the film with low expectations. The Hobbit as a trilogy concerned me. All in all, I thought the film hit most of the right notes. I had predicted beforehand Jackson would increase the epic about 50% while decreasing Tolkien’s humor and charm by about 70. I was a little off on the percentages. Ian McKellan’s sentimental Gandolph was a delight, as always. Andy Sirkis’ Gollum was, as before, just the right mix of charming and creepy-as-fuck. Martin Freeman blew the part of our nuanced hero out of the water. Smart casting counts for a lot IMHO. Was the film bloated? Yes, but Jackson at least scaled back on the slow-mo. Was it too long and too special-effecty? Yes. In the Misty Mountains, they probably could have gotten away with killing about 243 fewer goblins. They could have done without both a flashback and a flash-forward prologue. I mean, don’t they explain all of this through dialogue a couple of times over anyway? I don’t fault Jackson for this too much though. I think this is a problem endemic to Hollywood, where economical storytelling is an endanger species. No one really seems to believe in the importance of editors anymore.

I had a few other quibbles, but frankly, for as much as I love Tolkien, they ended up directed at him.

Why didn’t the eagles just drop them off at Lonely Mountain? If I’m not mistaken, in Lord of the Rings, they take Frodo all the way from Mt. Doom to Rivendell. Of course, without the wood elves and spiders, the book would have been a lot less awesome.

Maybe about 30%?

In the end, I suppose we all need a little deus ex machina in our lives from time to time. But thirty-foot eagles? All I can say is I’m glad I haven’t seen that deer carcass. I’m even more glad I never saw the hunter.

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