Superhero Fatigue – My Issues with Comic Book Films

Ever since I was young I have been a huge fan of comics and in particular superheroes. I remember watching the first Sam Raimi Spiderman film when I was four and being instantly taken in by the wacky characters and outrageous action. It was from there that I picked up the 90’s animated series and found myself hooked on superheroes. I watched through the X-Men and Silver Surfer TV series, and then discovered the DC Universe through Batman the Animated Series. All of these characters resonated with me in some way that, at the time, I didn’t understand, and from there it was only a matter of time before I read my first comic books. Since then I have dabbled with many different comics over a whole range of genres, but the ones that stick with me the most are still the superheroes.

Over the past ten years the film industry has seen a rush of Superhero films, and as a comic fan I should be euphoric to see my childhood memories come to life on screen, and I was for a time. But in the years after the highs of films such as The Avengers and Dark Knight I have heard a lot of talk of superhero fatigue, and to be honest I can see where they’re coming from.

Dozens of Superhero films seem to be coming out each year, and each of them is trying to do something new, but most of the time they just end up being more of the same. Every few months I’m overjoyed to hear that one of my favourite comic heroes or villains is being put to screen but I often leave the cinema feeling a bit let down. And it’s not always necessarily because they are bad films, in fact many of them could still be called great films, it’s because of several reoccurring issues that no comic film seems to be able to avoid entirely.

Many people dislike these films just because they are sick of seeing superheros or because of the repetition of franchise films coming out twice a year, and I can definitely see that – in fact, I would probably be in the same mindset had I not been such a fan as a child – but that’s not the reason I feel the way I do. I love the idea of jumping into a film the same way comic issues do; expanding on these characters without viewers having to sit through an origin story every time. It’s the fact that nearly every time we go to see these movies we are bombarded with the same tired tropes we’ve come to expect from the genre.

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And that brings me to my first and biggest issue with superhero films of late: the action. It’s something that all superhero films focus on exclusively, but only a small few of them pull off with success. What I believe any action scene needs to keep all but the most mindless of viewers invested is motivation, tension, and emotion. But since the mid 90’s so few films have been able to capture any of the facets that make up a good action scene, and it’s gotten to the point where films just don’t seem to try anymore.

I can’t begin to explain how frustrating it is every time I watch one of these movies to be enjoying myself for a good percentage of the film up until about the last forty minutes as it derails into yet another mindless CGI mess. The hero suits up, they meet with the villain atop a green-screen tower or ruined city, and hundreds of emotionless animated sandbags throw themselves at the hero until eventually the villain runs out of ragdolls and anticlimactically fights them one on one. Or alternatively: the hero suits up, they meet with the villain, and he or she transforms and/or calls upon a giant CGI monster and the hero bashes their head against it for fifteen minutes until someone comes up with a plan to defeat it that ends up having certain ramifications that don’t end up making a major impact on the plot anyway.

A good superhero action scene should be the climax of everything the film has been building up to for the last two odd hours. It should conclude character arcs appropriately and give a sense of closure afterwards while still being entertaining and compelling. We should struggle with the heroes, worry for them, and empathise with what they’re going through. Simply pitting them against seemly impossible odds doesn’t work when we know they’re going to win. We’ve seen it dozens of times so there’s no tension or sense of satisfaction when it comes to a close.

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The next problem I’d like talk about is something the Marvel cinematic universe seems to struggle with a lot (though other brands are still responsible for this), and that’s the villains. Since superhero comics began, villains have always been a major part of the genre. They are the antithesis of everything the superhero stands for, or a contrast; showing what might have happened had the hero gone down a different road. And while villains may have started off somewhat trivial in the early days of comics, they have since become a staple of the genre, and something that is very important to get right.

But with recent superhero films, most viewers likely won’t even remember the villain more than a day after leaving the cinema. And while sometimes, maybe every couple of years, you may get a genuinely compelling villain, for every Loki or Joker is a dozen Malekiths. The reason that Superhero films can’t seem to do villains right is largely because they don’t have the time. They want to spend as much time as they can developing their heroes which is fair enough, the heroes are where these films excel (the clue’s in the name). But if they don’t have the time for fleshing out their villains then they can’t spend so much time building them up. I remember going to see Guardians of the Galaxy for the first time and being incredibly excited to see Ronan the Accuser. And they spent so much time in the beginning trying to build up this character, but for the rest of the film he was just… there, and despite how overpowered he was, he wasn’t really given any back story other than: “Justice” and “death to the Novacorps!” So in the end when the heroes finally went up against him there was no real pay off on his side of things.

But then you have the villain outings that were successful. Take Magneto in the original X-Men trilogy; as many problems as I have with those films I have to admit that they did their villain really well. He wasn’t as faithful to the comics as I would have liked him to be, but they took time to give him believable motives, and the fact that he was included in all three films meant people had time to at least see where he was coming from, and it’s because of this that he is still well remembered this long after the film’s initial release. And then of course you have the television outings such as Jessica Jones and Green Arrow. Sure, some of these series often suffer from the avoidable “monster of the week” trope, but every series has its central villain, such as Jessica Jones’ Killgrave or Green Arrow’s Deathstroke, and it’s this calibre of antagonist that should set the bar for comic book films. Take the time to make people fear or hate or even feel for your villains, but if you don’t have time for that in one film then keep them around for the next one, as long as you still give some sense of closure to your first film. But don’t expect people to fear your villain just because you gave them an infinity stone.

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And lastly is the issue of referencing or foreshadowing for later films. Since Marvel did this whole cinematic universe thing, everyone else seems to be trying to mimic it, with DC now attempting one, 20th Century Fox with X-Men and Deadpool, and even Sony wanted to do one solely with Spiderman. However, the reason Marvel was successful with this in the first place was precisely because they took their time. It took them four years and five films to get all of the Avengers together in one movie, taking time in each film to slowly craft the idea of a shared universe. But with a film like Batman V Superman, where it’s the second film in the DCCU line up, and already has Superman, Batman, and Wonderwoman as well as several references to Aquaman, the Flash, and Cyborg, it’s just too much to cram into one movie.

And although I liked the way Marvel handled references in the beginning, nowadays most of their films are filled to the brim with teasers, nods or Easter eggs despite often having multiple post-credit scenes. This bugs me even more when these films often have so many plot holes, and so much room for expansion, that it really ends up taking away from my opinion of the final product. So many scenes dedicated to promoting future movies ends up subtracting from your current one.

So please Marvel and DC; take your time. Stop rushing your villains, and put some heart in your action scenes. Stop relying so much on CGI and explosions to keep viewers entertained and have some confidence that your audience won’t be put off by a bit of good filmmaking.

 

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Character Analysis – Theon Greyjoy

“I’m not him, I’m not the turncloak, he died at Winterfell. My name is Reek, it rhymes with freak.”

A Song of Ice and Fire is famous for its characters. It’s a story rich with political intrigue and dark fantasy, but at its heart it’s a story about people. And today I’d like to talk about probably the single most misunderstood and frankly, human character in the entire series: Theon Greyjoy.

Theon is the youngest son of Balon Greyjoy and the heir to the Iron Islands. Before the events of the books his father leads a rebellion against the throne and declares the Iron Islands’ independence. The rebellion is quickly quelled by King Robert and Lord Stark, and Theon’s older brothers are killed in the process. Eddard Stark takes a young Theon Greyjoy as his ward to ensure the Islands’ loyalty.

Amongst the Starks, Theon is expected to love his new family. He instantly makes friends with Robb with whom he forms a brotherly bond. He teases the young Stark girls and sees himself as a mentor to Bran as any older sibling might do given their new state of supposed authority. But he knows deep down that they are not his real family and that Eddard would not hesitate to kill him should his father attempt another rebellion.

As he grows older he becomes bitter and struggles to find his place. He constantly feuds with Jon Snow to earn the Starks’ approval. He hides his insecurities behind a thick wall of arrogance, but the only place where he can truly feel strong is at a whorehouse.

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When the War of the Five Kings begins, Robb Stark ignites a rebellion against the child king Joffrey to avenge the death of his father, and Theon pledges his allegiance to the newly dubbed king in the north. He becomes Robb’s most trusted soldier as well as his closest friend. Before long, the Starks capture Jaime Lannister and Theon convinces Robb to let him go to The Iron Islands to ask for Lord Balon’s support against King Joffrey.

Theon had grown up romanticising his ancient homeland and had constructed an idealised picture of his family; upon returning home he expected to be greeted with elaborate trumpets and celebration. He imagined his father embracing his return and crowning him the lord-prince of the isles.

But when he finally does return home he is greeted by a barren rock, jutting out of the sea and when arrives on shore, none of the islanders even know his name. He soon meets his father and sees that he is nothing more then a frail and bitter old man, colder than the seas that surround his great seat. And rather than inheriting his father’s throne, he is offered nothing more than a small ship in which to raid fishing villages.

Balon refuses to join the Starks in rebellion, instead deciding to launch his own against them and Theon is left with two choices: abandon his family and return to his best friend or join them in the fight against Robb. He chooses the former, beginning a series of increasingly bad decisions that would eventually lead to his demise.

Theon’s sole ambition becomes to gain the approval of his unloving father. But he is further humiliated when he is given only a small rabble of islanders to raid the shores of the north, whilst his sister is given a fleet of longships to take castles. Embarrassed by his inadequacy, Theon devises a plan to capture Winterfell for his father, which proves to be a victory for the isles, but it is also the turning point that leads to his downfall.

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Holding Winterfell proves to be difficult, and Theon is quickly loosing respect from his men. He soon meets Reek, a prisoner from Winterfell’s dungeons who offers him council and advice. Before long, the Stark children escape, and after several hunts Theon gives up the search. But Reek has another plan; he suggests that he instead burn two miller’s sons and pass them off as the Starks, a decision that seals Theon’s fate.

Before long Reek is gone and Robb gets word of Theon’s betrayal and sends his lords to besiege Winterfell and capture his brother. Theon regrets what he did and sees that he has already betrayed his real father, but he knows that he has gone too far to turn back now. After he refuses the parley with the northmen, Theon’s fate seems sealed, but he is seemingly saved by another northern family, the Boltons, led by Reek.

Reek reveals himself to be Ramsay Snow; the bastard son of lord Bolton. He kills the Iron Islanders and burns Winterfell to the ground, before capturing Theon. And this is the last we see of Theon, son of Balon, but his story is not done yet.

In A Dance with Dragons we meet another man named Reek, but it is not the same one we’ve seen before. The true identity of this man is in fact Theon Greyjoy; a changed Theon Greyjoy. When we meet him he has been in Ramsay Snow’s dungeons for over a year and has been completely broken. He has been castrated and several of his fingers and toes have been flayed or removed.

Theon is in complete mental disarray and has forced himself to forget his true identity for fear of what Ramsay might do to him if he even utters his true name;is hair has become grey and his skin pale, and he now survives on rats from the dungeons. He becomes Ramsay’s loyal dog, he sleeps in the kennels and uses a rhyme to remember his new name. He suffers through numerous tortures from both Ramsay and himself, before they return to a newly occupied Winterfell.

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There he meets Jeyne Poole, a girl posing as Arya Stark sent to marry Ramsay. After the wedding, Ramsay makes Reek watch and participate in the rape of Jeyne. Upon seeing this girl suffer through the same tortures he once went through, Reek regains some of his former self and the two eventually escape Winterfell together.

Over the course of the books Theon went from insecure bully to ruthless turncloak to broken slave, but the one thing that remained with him throughout the story was his insecurity. His childhood was spent competing for the Starks’ approval, he spent the war trying to gain his father’s approval, and his life in captivity was spent avoid Ramsay’s wrath.

He was never comfortable in his skin; he used whores to make himself feel bigger, and used his wit and arrogance to make himself appear in control. But when he met his father the skin began to peel and after being tortured by Ramsay he was revealed to be nothing more than a child desperately seeking love and attention. And there, he received what he had been searching for.

Ramsay was a cruel master, but in his own horrific way he loved his Reek. He was to Ramsay, what a dog might be to its owner. Under the flayed man’s banner, Theon was punished when he disobeyed, yes. But he was also rewarded when he was loyal.

Despite the highly questionable things he has done in the past, Theon is truly remorseful. Take this passage from Dance with Dragons for instance:

‘Theon found himself wondering if he should say a prayer. Will the old gods hear me if I do? They were not his gods, had never been his gods. He was ironborn, a son of Pyke, his god was the Drowned God of the islands … but Winterfell was long leagues from the sea. It had been a lifetime since any god had heard him. He did not know who he was, or what he was, why he was still alive, why he had ever been born.

“Theon,” a voice seemed to whisper. His head snapped up. “Who said that?” All he could see were the trees and the fog that covered them. The voice had been as faint as rustling leaves, as cold as hate. A god’s voice, or a ghost’s. How many died the day that he took Winterfell? How many more the day he lost it? The day that Theon Greyjoy died, to be reborn as Reek. Reek, Reek, it rhymes with shriek.’

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Theon is not a bad person, despite what many readers and indeed even he would probably have you believe. He may be a weak person, even a stupid person, but deep down he is not the horrible monster so many people believe he is. Theon Greyjoy is a good person that has made bad decisions; Theon Greyjoy is a flawed, easily manipulated person who only really wants to be loved, by anyone who will accept him;

Theon Greyjoy is a human being.

Dark Souls – Can games be art?

Art is something that is very hard to define. Many people have different ideas of what truly makes art… Art. The general consensus is that art is defined by expression. It cannot be forced, it has to come from within, so it could really be anything as long as it is creative and crafted with passion.

There’s been a lot of debate going around recently about whether or not video games can convey art, and in extension if they are in fact a form of art. I’ve heard a lot of opinions and while, up until recently I haven’t had too much time on my hands to play many video games, I have been generally keeping up with video game journalism.

Since the video game medium has emerged there’s always been a level of immaturity amongst developers and a large percentage of games too often don’t treat controversial themes such as sex or violence with much care or dignity. It is due to this and the selective marketing that has been employed since the nineties that people don’t take video games seriously and I can totally understand this.

But I do truly believe that video games can change. In recent years the industry has seen a surge in creatively driven, heavily artistic games. With focused developers that actually want to take players on a journey, and sometimes even teach them a lesson. Often independently developed; games such as Undertale, The Journey and Limbo to name a few. As well as dialogue heavy, narrative games in the AAA market; including Bioshock, The Walking Dead and the Mass Effect series. But today I’d like to talk about a series that doesn’t really slot well in to any of these categories: Dark Souls.

When I first picked up Bloodborne – the newest game from Dark Souls’ creator: Hidetaka Miyazaki – I was instantly hooked. I hadn’t really been able to get into many video games for a while and I rarely could find the time to play them. I found the combat satisfying, which was a first for me in a video game, and the story extremely gripping despite its elusive nature. And after just a few quick weeks glued to the couch (largely because I had been diagnosed with Crohn’s and was attached to a drip) I was finished with the game.

I did some research on the series’ and discovered that the Souls Series which I was yet to have played was supposed to be even better. I bought the games online and, despite their less than stellar graphics, they manage to be some of the most beautiful games I have ever played. And a perfect example of how video games could become one of the most groundbreaking forms of art so far.

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Dark Souls begins by dropping you in the middle of an undead asylum without any information of who you are or what you are supposed to do. All you know is that you are a hollowed: a human who cannot die, but slowly looses their humanity as they continue to exist. The world at first seems bleak and unforgiving but through snippets of dialogue and lore read from the descriptions of items you find across the land you quickly begin to build a picture of the world around you.

This form of subtle story telling works incredibly because unlike other games, it doesn’t shower you with information, and instead lets you make your own interpretation of events, to the point where some people may go through the game without even experiencing the story; it allows players to choose how much lore and backstory they wish to consume.

But the aspects of the game where it truly speaks are in the designs of the creatures and landscapes. Take the first boss for example, let me set the scene. You find yourself lost amongst a dark and twisted forest and come across an opening. Before you is a graveyard and you see a mighty sword standing before an enormous gravestone. You try to inspect the blade but before you can, an enormous wolf appears seemingly guarding the grave. It takes the blade in its mouth and begins attacking you.

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Of course later in the game you can eventually uncover the story behind this wolf and its deceased master but you don’t need to. The game tells you a story whether you want it or not. Looking at this wolf, there is something distinctly sad and lonely about it, even the way it moves and the surrounding landscape evokes emotion in the player and it is this type of storytelling where the game succeeds in being a completely unique type of art, and tells you a compelling and emotional story without even a line of dialogue.

Or in the second game where you come across a ruined city underground; immediately you see a great dragon flying overhead, and as a Dark Souls player you know there is more to this than meets the eye. As you traverse the city you find that all its inhabitants, now undead, are coated in poison and seem to worship the drake.

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You begin to learn of a knight who once laid siege to the city ages past. And when you finally fight the dragon you see the body of that knight laying beside his resting place, he uses several toxic breath attacks and has a large stab wound located near his chest, which, when you piece things together, explains the poison covered enemies from before.

The series has many such encounters and paints a world rich in mystery and lore. But also a very lonely world, largely abandoned by men and clinging to existence. This application of storytelling through visuals is not uncommon in a painting or a sculpture. It is a prominent feature of art, but it is unique in that the player is involved and immersed in the story.

It is a perfect example of how video games, despite their humble and largely immature beginnings have come a long way from a ball bouncing off of a pair of sticks on a computer screen, and why I believe they deserve a place in today’s art scene, in and amongst the great paintings and classic films of the past century.

The Star Wars Saga – A newcomer’s perspective

A bit of background: a week ago I had never seen a Star Wars movie in its entirety. I had seen snippets as a child and I used to play the Lego game, but most of the knowledge I had of the franchise was what I had picked up from that game and from references in popular culture. I tried watching A New Hope a few years ago but I kind of phased out halfway through. I just wasn’t really interested.
But now the new one has come out and everyone is talking about it and telling me I need to see it, so I decided that I’d need to watch the other films first.

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A New Hope/Star Wars: The first film of the trilogy starts out strong with the introduction of C3P0 and R2D2 and the appropriately menacing entrance of Darth Vader, it’s an interesting premise and the text scrawl, while clunky, offers some insight in to the events prior to the film.

The characters (who are now iconic) are generally interesting. C3P0 and R2D2 are fun, they add some humour to the series that doesn’t get too over the top, plus their banter is entertaining to a point. Darth Vader is suitably intimidating, and has become one of the main archetypes for a good villain. Luke is whiny at first and Mark Hamill’s acting is subpar at best but both these things get better as the series goes on. Alec Guinness as Obi-wan Kenobi is one of the series’ better actors along with James Earl Jones and plays the wise enigma role perfectly. Han and Chewy are good; they both have some great moments throughout the trilogy. Leia is a pretty strong character considering the film came out in the seventies. She’s given a lot to do when she finally appears, though like most of the actors/actresses in the film she could be better.

The plot is simple and well rounded; it doesn’t get bogged down in unnecessary subplots and aside from a few plotholes it’s generally unflawed. The first half of the film is definitely the best. There’s a lot going on and it has a good dosage of dialogue, character interaction, action, and comedy. The second half however get’s kind of boring as it’s mostly just the gang running around the Death Star doing covert things before the climactic space battle. The highlight of this half is fo shiz the duel between Obi-wan and Vader, though compared to some of the well choreographed fight scenes of the other films it’s pretty pathetic.

Overall it’s a good film. The story is solid, the practical effects are great even by today’s standards and the characters are lovable; definitely not the best film in the trilogy but still a great film by itself.

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Empire Strikes Back: The second installment starts out on Hoth, with the gang now working for the rebel alliance. It’s got a bit more spectacle than its predecessor and I’ve got to give props to the effects departments for the stop motion animation and puppetry.

The new characters manage to surpass those of the previous film with some of my favourites being introduced. Yoda is the first character we’re introduced to, and he’s since become one of the most loved characters in popular culture. The folks at Jim Henson productions did a great job realising him and Frank Oz is hilarious (His voice is basically just a mixture of Fozzie Bear and Ulgra from Dark Crystal). Bobba Fett is cool and the fact that they don’t really give him any backstory just lends to his presence (I don’t want to think about the prequels just yet). Lando Calrissian is my favourite character of the series (Except perhaps the Gonk Droid but that was just because when I was a kid I used to always play as him in Lego Star Wars and continuously self destruct to piss off my friends), I think it’s the moustache, it’s just awesome… I don’t really have anything else to say about him.

I find the story in this film to be a lot more interesting. There’s some good juicy character development as Luke begins training to become a Jedi, and there are some good twists which everyone already knows about by now. The love triangle between Han, Leia and Luke is a bit ridiculous (and creepy), and it’s also just got some really weirdly written and just plain odd moments. And of course the infamous “I am your father” scene is there; it’s pretty laughable by today’s standards though the Lightsaber duel was expertly choreographed and light years ahead of its predecessor’s counterpart.

In conclusion this film is great and arguably the best film of the trilogy. It builds on what made the first film a classic and the musical score has some great numbers.

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Return of the Jedi: This one starts out much the same as the others in the trilogy, the characters have all grown considerably since we last saw them, and once again the practical effects look better than half the animated bullshit we see nowadays; with Jabba the Hutt and the Rancor beast being the standout puppets.

New characters this time around pack less of a punch, but are still classics in their own right. The aforementioned Jabba, who is appropriately disgusting, is killed off early on in a very satisfying manner. Admiral Akbar features very little in the film but his presence is felt very strongly in the scenes he’s in. Also the line “It’s a trap” is unintentionally hilarious. The Ewoks are annoying and pretty uninspired from a design point of view but one could argue that they are just for children’s comic relief. And lastly the Emperor is menacing, if a little silly.

The plot comes to a well rounded conclusion in this installment. Luke’s journey to become a Jedi knight reaches a conclusion and he now must deal with his conflicted emotions as he prepares to fight his father. The scenes between Luke and Darth Vader are a little contrived, but the general meaning gets across well, and the ending works for the most part. Han and Leia are finally together but for most of the film I didn’t really feel it. This film does suffer some of the same flaws as A New Hope; with the Battle on Endor lasting a little too long for my liking, but luckily this time around the action is separated by more plot and dialogue heavy scenes. The standout moments would be the Sarlac pit execution scene, and Luke verses Vader/The Emperor.

Overall the film is good. It brings the trilogy to a definitive close, and cements the Star Wars name in film history. It does have many flaws that often go unmentioned, but it’s still a classic story and one well told.

As a whole the original Star Wars trilogy is pretty good, though I don’t think it’s quite the definitive sci-fi everyone says it is. Sci-fi has been done better many a time; Douglas Adams, H.G Wells, Frank Herbert and Arthur C. Clarke are all fine examples of people who know sci-fi way better than George Lucas.
But for its characters, story, music and practical effects I’d say it’s earned its place in popular culture

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Phantom Menace: When this film first arrived in cinemas in 1999, fans flocked to the cinemas to see the return of the most popular sci-fi/fantasy franchise of all time, and what they got was a train wreck. The film starts both boring and confusing, and remains this way right up to the end. Within thirty minutes, the film is already littered with racial stereotypes and terrible action sequences.

The characters are a joke; with no real personalities or comprehensible motivations, they just seem to go with whatever helps further the plot at that particular moment and constantly contradict themselves throughout the trilogy. Obi-wan Kenobi is barely featured in this installment and spends the quantity of the film stuck in a spaceship doing absolutely nothing other than second guessing his mentor and looking sweaty. His mentor: Qui-Gon is somewhat interesting at first, but really doesn’t have anything going for him other than the fact that he’s rebellious (once again this is mostly explained through exposition). Jar-Jar Binks is the single most annoying and unnecessary character in cinema. The two Jedi literally bump into him in the beginning and he just tags along for the rest of the film, and then somehow remains a reoccurring character for the remainder of the trilogy. And then we have Anakin Skywalker… Anakin Skywalker. Wow, never has there been a more disappointing character backstory. He is played awfully by Jack Lloyd who sounds like he doesn’t even know his lines and is just reading from a script off screen. His performance is still golden however when compared to his counterpart in the later films but we’ll get into that later. Anakin’s love interest Padmé is kind of creepy considering she’s ten years older than him, and it’s made even more weird when in this film she displays almost a maternal relationship with him. Spoopy. relationships aside, she’s more or less the same as everyone else: bland, directionless and uninteresting. And lastly Darth Maul is probably the best character in the film, but this is mainly because he’s not given any backstory so we’re not really given a chance to hate him.

Plotwise this film is all over the place; the story really doesn’t go anywhere and the whole Trade Federation thing is boring as heck. The film spends too much time in the podrace section and also ruins Darth Vader by turning him into Jesus. The best section of the film is probably the fight between Obi-Wan, Qui-Gon and Darth Maul, though this is mostly due to the soundtrack which makes the fight feel more grand than it actually is. Plus it’s the only scene in the whole trilogy where you get the sense that the characters are in any real danger.

To conclude, this film was laughably bad. It took me three sittings to finish it and it’s over reliance on CGI makes it look like a video game. The characters are bland, the action is tensionless and if I’m honest, it probably belongs in the top three worst films of all time.

 

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Attack of the Clones: Boring is probably the best word to describe this piece of shit. It opens not with an action scene to hook viewers in, but rather with tedious political drama, ‘cause that’s just what viewers want to see.

The characters (some of which featured in the last film but I couldn’t cover them til’ this review because there’s just so many flipping characters in this trilogy) are much the same as the last film. Samuel L. Jackson is unusually weak as Mace Windu considering his standing as an actor. There isn’t really much to his character other than: “I’m another wise, emotionless Jedi, but I have a purple lightsaber so I’m unique.” Frank Oz returns as Yoda but he’s become more of a CGI parody of himself. Spouting out overly Yoderised advice and going mental for the action scenes. Hayden Christensen stars as horny teenager Anakin, and he is somehow even worse than the kid from the first film. Every scene he’s in, he is over the top, unbearably whiny and just plain creepy. Jango and Bobba Fett are disappointing. I could see what they were trying to do with this backstory but it really just made me lose all interest in Bobba Fett. Christopher Lee plays the film’s antagonist: Count Dooku, and even he can’t save the role. He’s introduced an hour and fifteen minutes into the film and is basically just sci-fi Saruman, to the point where one of his lines is basically taken directly out of Fellowship of the Ring but they switch the name Gandalf to Obi-Wan. It’s pretty pathetic on Lucas’ part.

The plot is unbearable. It focuses mainly on Anakin and Padmé’s love story and Obi-Wan investigating the Clones. The love story is laughable, making absolutely no sense what so ever. Padmé goes from understandably feeling uncomfortable, as he stares soullessly into her eyes, saying things like “sorry, m’lady” after she tells him to stop. To being so blindly in love with him, that she responds with, “to be angry is to be human” when he admits to her that he literally just killed a whole town full of men, women and children. Obi-Wan’s story this time round was just so boring that I half fell asleep for most of his scenes. At least the love story offered some laughs in the form of Hayden Christensen’s bad acting. It was so boring that despite me going through his scenes twice since watching the movie to refresh my memory I still cannot tell you what really happened. Because nothing happened, it all just seemed like filler to waste time and make the film a bit longer. There were no stand out scenes in this film; it was all just time wasting and senseless political intrigue.

When all’s said and done, this film isn’t quite as bad as its predecessor, but it’s a lot more boring. George Lucas spends too much time world building and not enough trying to actually create a coherent story.

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Revenge of the Sith: The final film in this trilogy starts out a little more promising than its predecessors. The opening action scene is still a lifeless, hellish pile of Lucas-dung, but it at least offers a little more excitement than the other two films.

There aren’t any changes this time round when it comes to characters and they’re still just as dull as the previous installments’ offerings (and once again a couple of these characters have been shown before). I feel the need to reintroduce Obi-Wan as he seems to have undergone a complete change in personality over the course of the trilogy. He goes from being the dull, emotionless shell he was in the first film, to for some reason spouting out one liners every ten seconds and yelling every line he has. He’s still just as sweaty though. Then there’s Senator “definitely not the emperor” Palpatine, who’s so obviously evil it’s a wonder the Jedi don’t sense it. He’s okay when he’s still a senator, but he over acts every line as the emperor. General Grievous is somewhat interesting, but the four arms thing is a little stupid. Also how does a robot cough? And that’s… really all there is to say about the characters.

The plot finally comes to an end in a less than spectacular fashion. The two main plots are much the same as the last film; Obi-Wan investigates an unseen threat, and Anakin faffs about doing whatever the fuck he wants. Once again nothing really happens in Obi-Wan’s story until the Jedi start being killed off. Anakin’s is just as pointless until the end. Plus he’s so easily manipulated you just want him to turn evil already. In the time that Obi-Wan and Anakin do spend together, they spend the whole time eluding to all the missions they’ve gone on together and it’s kind of cheating, it suggests that they have a strong relationship when in the films we’ve actually seen, they barely speak, and when they do Anakin just whines about Obi-Wan holding him back. The only scene that really stood out for me in this film was when the emperor was telling Anakin about Darth Plagueis. It gave you a look into a part of George Lucas’ universe that’s not just boring political drama and actually would have been an interesting story to see. They could’ve made it a little less obvious that the emperor was the apprentice though.

Overall this film is slightly more bearable than its predecessors. With less political intrigue than Attack of the Clones and less vomit inducing blarg than Phantom Menace.

 

In conclusion the prequel trilogy is one of the worst series of films I have ever seen, with Phantom Menace being one of the worst films I have ever seen. This is the reason I have refused to watch Star Wars all these years.

H.P Lovecraft – True Fear

“The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.”

CthulhuI find that, in recent years, horror in Hollywood has become cheap. I don’t think I’ve met anyone over the age of fifteen who really gets genuinely scared in horror films nowadays, and I feel the reason for this is that they seem to just be making supernatural thrillers, and passing them off as horror.

Directors use tension, jumpscares, and gore to try to get viewers’ blood pumping. And this is all well and good, but horror cannot rely on these things; sure, they can be aspects of it but all they really do is give the viewer a little fright before the film moves on to the next set piece, which usually ends up being more or less the same type of thing.

True terror lies in the build up. The deep lurking feeling that stays with you even after the film is over; the kind that keeps you up at night, making you jump at every shadow; the kind that Lovecraft does best.

Howard Phillips Lovecraft was a horror author working in the early 20th century. He is often described as the father of modern horror, and spawned a whole genre of horror novels known as Lovecraftian horror. But his work didn’t become popular until after his untimely death.

Born in 1890, Lovecraft led a very odd life. His father spent the better half of Lovecraft’s childhood in an asylum suffering from acute psychosis, and his mother was admitted to the same hospital later in his life, where they both died. Lovecraft was mostly homeschooled by his grandfather and was reciting and writing poetry by six. He lived in poverty almost all his life, and published numerous books in Weird Tales magazine before dying of malnutrition in 1937.

His horror often revolved around cosmic entities from the stars and man’s complete irrelevance in the universe. The story often had a protagonist discover something beyond human comprehension and nearly always going insane. You rarely saw much until the very end. It’s a type of horror that makes you feel small and irrelevant, one that stays with you for days after reading.

screen_shot_2014-08-13_at_4.01.51_pmLovecraft’s was of tentacles and cults; a world of indescribable, eldritch things beyond our realm of thought. Cosmic deities slept in alien civilizations in the depths of the ocean waiting to awaken from an age long slumber. And prehistoric horrors lay in the arctic mountains conducting strange experiments. It was a bizarre horror that no one had quite seen at that time, and since his death many other authors have added to the mythos.

There has been many adaptions of Lovecraft’s work, but most have been hit or miss. Relying on his aesthetic but often missing the core elements that defined his books. Though several well received horror films of recent years have borrowed elements of Lovecraftian horror and worked out very well, such as Alien; The Thing; Evil Dead; and Children of the Corn to name a few.

I believe Hollywood would benefit greatly from adding more of these elements to their horror films, people might start taking the genre a little more seriously; these movies might be seen as something more than just predictable and formulaic gore fests. They could become a little more creative, moving their monsters beyond just ghosts, clowns, dolls and demons. And if they do this, I think horror could become something truly great.