April 5th, 2016
Following Part 1 – in which Joel began discussing Brandon Graham’s Prophet, only to be ambushed by Ewoks – he brings in fellow Kraken Mazin (or to give him his Mindless name, maybemazin), for Part 2 of our guest blog, to discuss all things The Force Awakens, before it comes out on DVD/Blu-Ray next week.
But what’s that got to do with Prophet? you ask with increasing exasperation. And who the hell is Mazin? Well, when he’s not splashing around with the rest of his pod(cast), he is a writer of fiction and non-fiction, including short stories about teeth and islands, and articles on the sins of Jurassic World and what Lost has in common with The Tree of Life; he is also a contributor at the London Graphic Novel Network and various S.M.A.S.H. comics panels.
We last left Joel and Mazin in a sealed box about to duke it out over Star Wars. Let’s hope we remembered to punch in some air-holes…
So Mazin: the subversiveness of Ewoks, and the problems with the old films. What do you reckon?
To start with, count me in the pro-Ewok camp too. Hm, that sounded cooler on the inside. I used to think it was a shame that they couldn’t find enough pituitary cases to do the Wookie forest planet in Return of the Jedi as first planned; had they done, it would’ve at least nixed the film’s teddy-bear gooiness problem. But turns out it didn’t really matter.
Because the Ewoks work.
They do. Just. And yeah part of why they do is because they’re unassuming, not unlike the critters that inspired them in Ursula Le Guin’s ‘The World For Word is Forest’, also furry aliens that no one takes seriously, though in that book they have a complex culture and a talent for bloodletting. But then, ROTJ was U-certificate and stormtrooper-helmet bongos were as far as they could take it. It might have been a bit more interesting though if the Ewoks in the film did have a bit more of the book or the Ewok cartoon, i.e. characters with personalities and a culture. Instead, we’re just left wondering what’s the whole deal with George Lucas and small aliens…
Your idea about the theme of technology versus nature in ROTJ, I don’t totally agree it’s a subversion of the films that came before: you could trace it to The Empire Strikes Back, the cutting between hi-tech spaceship chases, then a little green man in a jungle world teaching our hero White Magic. Or, for that matter, to Luke switching off his targeting computer in A New Hope.
As for A New Hope, you’re right, the first 20 minutes are great: just how much mystery there is, the weirdness. But the last 20 minutes are great too! For me, the film’s problem was always the sag in the middle. And after rewatching, I thought of the simple reason why: the trash-compactor sequence should’ve come after when Obi Wan turns off the tractor beam. That way the action would have kept escalating nicely, right up until Yavin IV. But I still think the final Death Star battle is so pacey, just really well edited and scored. Compare it to how paceless and undramatic the final battle is in The Force Awakens, how the baddie planet in that bursts like a Gü pudding, somehow both more complex a special effect and more boring a one than when JJ Abrams popped Vulcan.
But I thought you loved the new film?
Ahaha. I’ll at least try to think of some of the things in SWFA that I thought were good. (‘SWFA’ sure sounds like a right-wing paramilitary group- dammit! See, it’s hard.)
The characters! They were cool, no?
April 2nd, 2016
Mister Attack: So, Illogical Volume and I concur that High-Rise was excellent. I have to confess to not being familiar with Ballard or Wheatley, but this was pretty much up my alley. (As someone currently spending far too much time painting up a flat of his own, and discovering more and more problems, I can relate. Well, that and living in a classist nightmare of horrible bastards with ‘good’ intentions).
It took me a while to unpack that the satire is at once broad as fuck, but has these layers. It’d be fair to say I was not all in the building at work on Friday, I was off in Royal’s tower. Every bit points to something, although perhaps some of that was the damaged foundations I brought into the cinema with me. Sometimes it’s subtle, as with our protagonist’s namesake not being immediately to hand, and with others it’s screaming from the rafters.
There’s this British sitcom going very wrong feel – like someone should be watching this in the background of The Filth. A comedy of manners, except the manners devolve to the best way to lie in wait to bludgeon the neighbours. Hiddleston plays straight man to a mix of sitcom and soap opera grotesques, trying to act like all this is normal, with his own mania creeping around. A hollow man with a shallow inner life he’s trying to create for real. Except, well, he’s not that straight. Illogical Volume mentioned Brazil as another touching point. He’s not wrong. The conflict of hierarchies and shallow men trying to fill the void with what they think they need is the same, but the farce is played straighter, less panto. The difference is manifest in the likes of Bob Hoskins yelling about tampered ducts for the benefit cheap seats, versus Reece Sheersmith tetchily complaining that people aren’t following the rules about the bin chutes. That said, both movies feature protagonists who are at odds with their surroundings, but Hiddleston’s Laing embraces the new paradigm, whereas Pryce’s Lowry is engaged in defiance by ineffectual escapism.
At the time, we immediately talked about the Garland/Travis Dredd, due to some of the establishing shots, I mentioned World On A Wire as a similar 70′s futurist meltdown, although mostly tonally opposite. At some points High-Rise’s camerawork emphasises a static, clinical detachment, and at others a drunken wooziness that compliments the mental state of the characters. Same with the soundtrack, which is more of an audio landscape to compliment the location. Laing’s poise is only a surface.
December 4th, 2015
In the spirit of The Beast Must Die’s (excellent) contribution to that S.M.A.S.H. event, here are nine statements on movie adaptations:
1. The only good adaptations are the ones that take maximum liberty with the details of their source material. Think of the way Blade Runner strips Philip K. Dick’s novel down to its bare bones then builds a damp, wheezing engine on top.
2. Adaptations that are painstakingly faithful to the surface details of their sources provide a unique opportunity to see the original clearly. Dave Gibbons’ contributions to Watchmen have never been more obvious than they were in the light of that movie, which mimicked the composition of so many of his panels while conveying the weight of none of them.
3. The only good adaptations are the ones that overlap with their source text in a way that creates a separate, overlapping narrative – see, for example, the mix of hyper-fidelity and brutal compression in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World.
4. Different mediums have different strengths and affordances so it makes sense to identify the things that, say, a book does that a movie can’t before trying to turn one into the other. The delicate waltz between Charlie Kaufman and Susan Orlean in Adaptation is proof that this approach can pay off.
5. Becoming overly fixated on the process of adaptation can easily become an excuse not to solve the underlying problems, hence why the “delicate waltz” of Adaptation ends with one dance partner farting a hole clean through his trousers.
6. A memorable performance in an adaptation of a favorite work is a gift to the source material. The wobbly PG camera work might neuter The Hunger Games movies as movies, but Jennifer Lawrence’s performance brings something extra to the Katniss of the books.
7. A memorable performance in an adaptation of a favourite work is a curse to the source material. There are lines in the Scott Pilgrim comics that I cannot read without hearing Michael Cera’s voice now, and this is not always appropriate for the rhythms of Bryan Lee O’Malley’s work.
8. The best thing an adaptation can do is to provide financial security to a working artist. Eddie Campbell and Alan Moore both live in the house that Jack built now, and this alone is enough to justify the Hughes brothers version of From Hell.
9. All adaptations are equally useless.
None of the above should be taken as anything other than an endorsement of our rolling Omni-brand, Lego be praised and all hail The Virgin Money Street of Light™!
You can read more on movie adaptations and Scott Pilgrim vs. The World at the London Graphic Novel Network site, including a very sexy poem about your inevitable doom by the Kraken podcast‘s very own