hawkwing_lb: (Default)
How in all the world is it possible for something that should be so ridiculous to be so AMAZINGLY FUN?

Guillermo del Toro must be the answer.

Guillermo del Toro should make all the GIANT FIGHTING THINGS films ever. Science fiction and fantasy film-making? Needs more Guillermo del Toro. He brings beauty and flair and makes the ridiculous sublime. The hideous beauty of the kaiju. The jaegars’ beautiful brutality. Idris Elba, outlined against the sun like the image of some martial saint.

IDRIS ELBA: AVENGING ANGEL.

IDRIS ELBA IS CANCELLING YOUR APOCALYPSE.

I agree with everything Aisha says here at Practically Marzipan. Especially YES YES YES YES YES.

It’s not perfect. But it comes a damn sight closer than most skiffy films I’ve ever seen.

And also: ROBOTS PUNCHING MONSTERS INNA FACE!
hawkwing_lb: (Default)
I am behind on a lot of things. A great lot of things. Some of that is to do with having spent much of the past four days sleeping and playing Dishonored.

Spoilers.

It's an interesting failure, by me: I like stealth games, have ever since I played Metal Gear Solid for the old Playstation, but I like RPGs much better. And at least half my problem with Dishonored is that it would've made a very good RPG. A mixed RPG, like ME2. Some of the decisions made by the greater narrative were obvious from very early on. One Big Twist, that your allies are using you for their own ends and will end up betraying you, was pretty obvious from the get-go. But there's no way to get the drop on them, even if you see it coming, or change the straightforward progression of the narrative.

Choices in-game are limited largely to performing the missions with minimum chaos or maximum bloodshed. This apparently affects endgame outcomes. (Save the child-empress and the city/cause everything to go to hell, it seems are the opposing poles of the outcomes.) For me, it would've been a far more satisfying experience for me as an RPG: interesting story-hook, but I'm not interested in playing through a film, y'know?

The other half of my problem is... I found its choices with regard to gender utterly alienating. You never see your own character's face, and there is no real reason to gender that character. You could write all the incidental dialogue without gendered pronouns.

All of the other characters in the game, with the exception of servants, a dead empress, a child heir, random participants in a masked ball you have to sneak through and a woman who's mainly important to eliminate because she's Top Bad Guy's lover - they're all men. And all white.

Is it really so much to ask, in a game set explicitly in a port city, that they not be ALL SO WHITE? That some of the chief schemers and powerful movers-and-shakers be not ALL SO MALE?

I was pointed at this article from The Mary Sue when I complained about it on Twitter. Said article points out that there is subtle pointing-out of the unfairness/misery/unpleasantness of discriminatory gender roles.

Which is cool, but. I already know all this shit. (And it doesn't explain why Dunwall, the port city of the setting, is so bloody white.) I don't need the social disabilities of my gender (is "social disabilities" too strong? But there do remain bars to success for women that men don't have to surmount in the same ways) in my face in a gaslamp fantasy stealth-assassination game.

And the more I think about it, the more it annoys me.
hawkwing_lb: (Default)
When I finally sat down to watch Dredd on Thursday night, as the culmination of a seven-hour skiffy film marathon with [livejournal.com profile] whitewaveraven - after The Dark Knight Rises and Resident Evil: Retribution - it blew me away. Especially in contrast to Dark Knight, with its hype and massive budget and (intermittent) acclaim.

(Let us not speak of Resident Evil: Retribution. I had not expected much by way of logic or plot from the franchise's fifth installment, but I expected more than we got - and what we got did not even string its action-scenes together with a minimum of coherence. Also, the black guy dies. Pointlessly.)

My response to The Dark Knight Rises is, essentially: WHY SHOULD I CARE ABOUT BRUCE WAYNE'S MANPAIN? Or Alfred's, or, for that matter, Det. John Blake's. Visually, thematically, in character and artistic terms, it's incoherent: it doesn't know what it wants to be when it grows up. There are some visually striking scenes and excellent point-counterpoint of noise and silence, but at one and the same time it is trying to be too clever and not nearly clever enough. And Christian Bale is not strong enough, in terms of presence, to sell a descent-into-torment-and-triumphant-return - especially not when Dark Knight doesn't know whether or not it's about PEOPLE OF GOOD WILL (read: cops) TAKING BACK THE CITY, or a single masked avenger's crusade against another, worse, masked avenger. It does not develop character, is what I'm saying - in fact, the only character who has a discernible arc is Anne Hathaway's Selina Kyle/Catwoman. Hathaway does brilliantly with the part - her rueful expression, half-defiant, half-apologetic, as she tells Bale's Batman she's deliberately led him into a trap to save herself is entirely marvellous - but the film doesn't actually give much to Kyle/Catwoman. Her arc takes place in the background, the overlooked places: the cat burglar who wants to leave her record behind her and start fresh, unwillingly persuaded first to assist Bane and his gang of psychopaths and then to assist Bruce Wayne/Batman to stop the GIANT NUCLEAR BOMB...

...I'd watch a film of the events of The Dark Knight Rises from the perspective of Hathaway's Kyle. It might be a much more interesting, less ultimately predictable affair.

(So our takeaway: pointless manpain and fascist/ubermensch ideals? DO NOT WANT, sez I.)

But Dredd. Dredd knows it's a film set in a fascist dystopia. Dredd is an SFnal shoot-em-up, but also - as [livejournal.com profile] glvalentine said back in September - a study in bleakness. It doesn't present a contrast between law, as personified by the Judges, and chaos in the form of criminals: under the surface slick of words, there is no contrast. Just two competing systems of power-maintenance-through-terror, meeting through the middle ground of violence.

Stylistically gorgeous, pared-down, excellent in its characterisation of its women - it doesn't quite pass the Bechdel test but it's far more feminist that Dark Knight, which does, and gives its women much more room - it has a coherent core. It's dystopic and everyone in the film knows it, but it also has empathy for every single one of its characters: even for Kay, the unrepentant drug-dealing murdering sexually violent henchman of Ma-Ma - to me, it seems the film characterises him as having made himself into the hardest, nastiest bastard he can be, because otherwise he'd be victim, not victimiser. (On the other hand, the fact that he's the only person of colour with any depth of characterisation at all is rather disappointing.)

Lena Headey is brilliant as Ma-Ma, world-weary druglord, and so is Olivia Thirlby as Anderson, the rookie Judge that Karl Urban's Dredd has for her assessment - her last chance to make it as a Judge - when they get trapped in Ma-Ma's locked-down super-slum. Thirlby's character has the shiny idealism scraped off in the course of the ever-mounting body-count... but retains enough to say, bitterly, on letting one criminal - coerced into his crimes - go: "Maybe that's the one difference I will make."

Anyway. A film I really enjoyed. One out of three ain't bad, right?

PS: I've never read the comics for either Batman or Dredd. So there's that.




Congratulations to the many souls mentioned in the Locus 2012 Recommended Reading List - although with no love for Range of Ghosts or Adaptation or Some Others I Could Mention? I think it to be... incomplete. (And bloody hell, Larry Niven is still writing things? I was... rather under the impression he had been deceased.)
hawkwing_lb: (Default)
Battleship: not a good film, but a ridiculously awesome one.

I realise this is something of a contradiction in terms. Bear with me.

To be honest, one could skip the first ten or twenty minutes of the film and lose very little by it. Introductory material: our protagonist, Alex Hopper, is a screwup with an ego who'll do anything to impress a girl, and whose brother inveigles him into joining the US Navy. Meanwhile, scientists are sending out signals to a newly-discovered planet in the Goldilocks zone. Fastforward a few years, and Hopper's ship is on maneuvers with an international flotilla, and the signals have caused aliens to come investigate/invade (because Hollywood signals travel faster than the speed of light, as always).

Cue explosions, and a ridiculously entertaining amount of BOOM ALIENS EXPLODING SHIPS ALIENS BOOM.

I could live without the framing of the (blond, skinny, civilian) love interest as a collection of bodyparts whose father's permission is required for marriage. (Although she does get a small moment of awesome all her own.) But apart from that there is an un-sexualised female Navy PO (played by Rihanna) who fires the big guns. She appears to be the only lady in the Navy, judging by the film! But, still. It is nice to have a lady making things go BOOM.

This is basically space opera on the Pacific Ocean. There is character development (in small amounts) and a plot arc: solid tension, unprepossessing dialogue that occasionally breaks out into half-decent banter, and several CROWNING MOMENTS OF SPLODEY AWESOME.

Ahem. Sorry. Got carried away there.

The battleship of the title? Comes into play. Best over-the-mantlepiece battleship ever.

The last five minutes of the film are terrible and saccharine and my god we are here for the SPLODEY BITS not the sentiment people! MORE SPLODEY BITS!

It hit a bunch of my narrative kinks: do-or-die (do-and-die) bravery, last stands, nick-of-time reversals, splodey bits, a woman with a big gun.

In conclusion: REALLY GOOD SPLODEY BITS.
hawkwing_lb: (Default)
My review of Assassin's Code by Jonathan Maberry is live over at Tor.com.
hawkwing_lb: (DA 2 scaring the piss)
Apparently, I have a limited amount of focus for things involving words at a time. So I've been watching a lot of dubiously-acquired television.

As a result of this, I can tell you that Numb3rs is fairly shitty television, The Borgias is seriously kinky but bloody well shot (and Jeremy Irons remains mesmerising), Fairly Legal is moderately entertaining for something that really annoys me, Body of Proof contains a large and appealing amount of feminism for what amounts to a buddy-cop show about the Philadelphia ME's office, and Scott and Bailey may be the best British cop series yet. (Women! Older women! Some of whom are arseholes! Doing their jobs - and can I just say, I love the fact they suit up properly at crime scenes.)

And Marple is capable of really annoying me, when I want to like it a lot.

Someday, someone is going to make a period/fantasy drama as pretty and well-scripted as the pilot episode of The Borgias, and it will have women with swords as well as gowns, and some of them will be older women, and some of them will not be so pinkish white.

I may not be alive to see it, but one day it'll happen.
hawkwing_lb: (DA2 isabela facepalm)
Books 2012: 37-49


37-40. Jack Campbell, The Lost Fleet: Courageous, Valiant, Relentless and Victorious. Orbit, 2010 and 2011. (First published USA, 2007-2010.)

The third through sixth and final books of Campbell's Lost Fleet series, these continue to follow Captain John Geary as he deals with conflict within and without his fleet, on its long, hard journey home. Solid space opera/milSF, well worth the price of entry.


41-43. Jack Campbell as John G. Hemry, Stark's War, Stark's Command, and Stark's Crusade. Orbit, 2011.

The first books Campbell/Hemry sold. This trilogy follows Sergeant Ethan Stark, fighting within a corrupt and inefficient US military on the moon, as he mutinies and leads his troops in a fight against all comers. Solid milSF, as long as you don't think too hard about the logistics. Very entertaining.


44-46. Jack Campbell as John G. Hemry, JAG in Space: A Just Determination, Burden of Proof and Rule of Evidence. Orbit, 2010 and 2011.

First three volumes of a four book series that follows Paul Sinclair, a junior officer in a peacetime US space navy, as he matures as a junior officer and as his duties as legal officer bring him in repeated contact with the military judiciary. Entertaining, as procedurals go.


47. David Weber, War Maid's Choice. Baen, 2012. ARC.

A Bahzall book. I would really like it if Weber rediscovered how to write. There's the bones of a good story in here, but far too much godly faffing around, and for a book called War Maid's Choice, the titular war maid doesn't get nearly enough to do.


48. Suzanne Johnson, Royal Street. Tor, 2012. ARC.

Not particularly good urban fantasy set in New Orleans immediately post-Katrina. Longer review hopefully forthcoming from Tor.com at some point.


49. Gemma Files, Rope of Thorns. Chizine, 2011.

Files can write. In Rope of Thorns, the occasionally baroque and overwritten prose of A Book of Tongues has matured into something leaner and more pointed. Thorns is leaner and sharper all around: better written, better paced, more wrenchingly tense.

Tongues was good. Thorns is better.

Chess Pargeter, now a hex and a god, is crossing Arizona towards a showdown with his former lover Reverend Rook and Rook's goddess-wife at the city they have raised in the desert. Pargeter is accompanied by the former Pinkerton Ed Murry, now Pargeter's lover, and Yancey Colder, a girl whose character develops in very interesting ways. Pargeter's steps are also dogged by his and the goddess's Brother-Enemy, Allen Pinkerton and Doctor Ashbury, who have combined magic and science, and a dead Sheriff made of salt.

I enjoyed this book a hell of a lot. (Hopefully I can convince someone to let me review the forthcoming third volume, and spare my pocketbook - but if not, I am going to be reading Tree of Bones anyway.)
hawkwing_lb: (DA 2 scaring the piss)
Operation See The Hunger Games accomplished. (I negotiated for my ticket in Greek and everything.)

That was a good film, despite the cinema sticking a bloody intermission in the middle of it. I'm impressed with the translation of the novel to the big screen: it feels very faithful. The first part of the film, up until the start of the titular Games proper, hits the emotional beats incredibly well, as does the dénouement. The Games themselves are well-paced and well shot, but I think the director backed off from some of the emotional ugliness there - the beats fell off, but I'm not quite sure I can put my finger on why.

Jennifer Lawrence has turned in a fantastic, nuanced performance. The only other things I've seen her in are Winter's Bone (quietly, understatedly, wrenchingly brilliant) and the hot mess that was X-Men First Class, which despite excellent performances from her and Fassbender and the other guy never quite managed to cohere into anything good.

Also, if anyone, oh, for example, wanted to gift me with the soundtrack for my birthday or something? I liked that soundtrack. I mean, a little overblown at points, but pretty decent.

Go see the film. It's pretty damn good. And has women! Who talk to each other!




Tomorrow I will have other things to say. About things like books, and Rizzoli & Isles and other suchlike matters. Until soon!
hawkwing_lb: (DA 2 scaring the piss)
Post-jujutsu, pre-journey home, status of me: I hurt.

But either the class wasn't as tough as normal, or I'm finally growing some fitness back, because it didn't leave me in a soggy heap on the floor.

Also, there is a post by me about a TV show up at Tor. Don't say I never did nothing for you.
hawkwing_lb: (Aveline is not amused)
My first real internet slapfight. It feels like a coming-of-age. Or perhaps a baptism by fire.

The comments at SH have broken 125. I never expected a response of this magnitude, but since it's occurred, I think it's worth a moment's consideration. (Also, I am procrastinating on my conference paper.) Out of the response a number of interesting questions have arisen, which may be roughly grouped into two opposing views of legitimacy.

The first group raises the following questions:

1. Who may "legitimately" review what sorts of books?

2. Whether passion, hyperbole, and angry rhetoric invalidate legitimate critique.


This latter argument is most often referred to as the tone argument (Why you gotta be so angry, baby?) and followers of various race- and feminism-related internet discussions will recall its frequent use is as a silencing and/or derailing technique - the discussion is often derailed into considerations of tone and politeness alone, rather than addressing the substance of the argument. Too, adherents of the tone argument frequently question the legitimacy of the anger/passion itself, denying that there may be a long-running pattern which gives both rise and reason to it.

The first group's questions are not, I think, critical. But the second group's ones trouble me.

The second group asks this:

1. Whether some books are more inherently "worthy" of critical review than others.

2. What constitutes such a book?

3. (Implied.) And why?


This is a question SFF as a genre and a community should, perhaps, consider asking. Books by men are reviewed more frequently than books by women; reviews and "buzz" affect what's considered for awards, and what's brought onto the horizon of people's attention. Criticism also serves a purpose in pointing out problematic trends in entertainment: the acceptance of social privilege, for example, as a normal and unmarked state troubles me about the books I read - not while I'm reading them, but after, when I cast my mind back. (Too, the marginalisation of female agency is a large part of why I can't wholeheartedly enjoy some of the epic fantasy (and other high fantasy) that I read; and the prevalence - the normalisation - of violence, particularly sexual violence, in the grim/dark mode irritates me excessively.)




I've collected a few links for posterity.

Comments at SH

Fantasy Book Critic

The OF Blog

The Hysterical Hamster

towersofgrey

ETA: Google Alerts has, somewhat tardily, brought me more links:

http://wisb.blogspot.com/2012/01/bad-bully-reviewer-manifesto-or-why.html

http://adrianfaulkner.com/2012/01/14/dear-genre-bullying-reviews-are-very-uncomely/

http://iansales.com/2012/01/16/how-to-write-a-good-review/

http://requireshate.wordpress.com/2012/01/16/calm-the-fuck-down-fanficyasfftie-in-fiction-is-not-serious-business/

http://chamberfour.com/2012/01/17/the-weeks-best-book-reviews-11712/

http://fozmeadows.wordpress.com/2012/01/19/criticism-in-sff-and-ya/#comments

http://pauljessup.com/2012/01/17/strange-horizons-and-the-tear-down-of-a-terrible-book/

http://corabuhlert.com/2012/01/21/gender-and-review-bias-2012-edition/

http://corabuhlert.com/2012/01/22/more-on-the-reviews-dust-up/

http://garethrees.org/2012/01/28/critics/
hawkwing_lb: (Aveline is not amused)
Rules for reviewing, Opposite World edition:

1. Reviews must be "objective."

2. Never use passionate rhetoric.

3. Never mention the author's treatment of female characters.

4. Never mention the author's ability, or lack thereof, to construct a sentence.

5. Probably best to just quote the flap copy and say "Eeee."

6. All negative reviews are personal attacks upon the author and everyone who likes their work.





I'm venting, at least a little. The comments on the review over at SH are pretty much the first time I've had shit-talking directed at me personally over the internet (what can I say, I've been relatively sheltered) and it's been an interesting learning experience. (One of the commenters scored a sexist/abusive bingo right out of handbook.) (Also, wow, anti-intellectualism.) (But most of them are, I suspect, just feeling judged by the fact that someone else thinks that a thing which they like is crap. As someone who still holds a tendre for a couple of books by Terry Goodkind and an avid reader of some really really problematic (and sometimes downright bad) books, I can sympathise.)

Thing is, for me? I get as much or more out of a negative review (by someone else) than I do out of a positive one. Article-sized negative reviews frequently go into more depth, so I can see exactly what I may or may not like about the work - and they're frequently more entertaining.

I mean, mostly I'm reading article-sized reviews of films. These days I get my book recommendations in the form of a blog paragraph or line from people whose tastes I know often align with mine (I think the last book I bought as a result of an actual review was Suzanne McLeod's urban fantasy, which I found rather meh, in the final estimation. Or take the case of The Steel Remains, which I ended up loving but which was getting such good press from reviewers whose tastes don't align with mine I thought I'd hate it to pieces, and only read it out of guilt at ignoring a gift sitting months on my shelf), or in the form of direct recommendations after asking people. But the point is, I think, comparable.

Anyway. Venting done.
hawkwing_lb: (Bear CM weep for the entire world)
My review of Michael J. Sullivan's excrable Theft of Swords is up at SH.
hawkwing_lb: (Default)
Books 2010: 103

non-fiction

103. R.A. Tomlinson, Epidauros, London, Granada, 1983.

This is a short overview of the sanctuary complex at Epidauros. By short, I mean very short: less than one hundred pages. It is divided into two parts: an "Introduction" (a little more than a third of the book) which sketches and briefly analysises the history of the excavation of the site and the publication of the various excavations, particularly the excavations of P. Kavvadias at the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century.

The second part is "Monuments" and comprises a description of the archaeological remains, and a - necessarily brief - discussion of their functions where these are disputed. The minutiae of archaeological description is relieved by a selection of plans and black and white photographs. Useful for those interested in Asklepios and Apollo in his local form of Apollo Meleatas, but not exactly riveting otherwise.




A book a day. So far. This is progress.


hawkwing_lb: (Default)
Books 2010: 103

non-fiction

103. R.A. Tomlinson, Epidauros, London, Granada, 1983.

This is a short overview of the sanctuary complex at Epidauros. By short, I mean very short: less than one hundred pages. It is divided into two parts: an "Introduction" (a little more than a third of the book) which sketches and briefly analysises the history of the excavation of the site and the publication of the various excavations, particularly the excavations of P. Kavvadias at the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century.

The second part is "Monuments" and comprises a description of the archaeological remains, and a - necessarily brief - discussion of their functions where these are disputed. The minutiae of archaeological description is relieved by a selection of plans and black and white photographs. Useful for those interested in Asklepios and Apollo in his local form of Apollo Meleatas, but not exactly riveting otherwise.




A book a day. So far. This is progress.


hawkwing_lb: (Prentiss disguised in Arthur's hall)
This is easily one of the sharpest, smartest, and most ambiguous television series I've seen in years.

Andrew Buchan plays John Mercer, a former special forces soldier who spends five years in prison for murder. His early release is arranged by Lenny Douglas (Peter Mullan), a former police officer who now runs an extra-judicial task force aimed at combating organised crime. Mercer's continued freedom is contingent on his role as this group's hitman.

Jody Latham turns in a sharp performance as Calum, a cheeky chap who does 'this and that' for Lenny. His main interests are drugs, girls and music, but over the course of the six episodes we see an increasingly complex damaged young man underneath. Tamzin Outhwaite as Rose, a former copper who departed the force in scandal, gives an uncomfortably well-realised and complex portrayal.

Mercer's increasingly complicated and ambiguous relationship with both Rose and Lenny and the job they're doing is the heart of the thing. His relationship with his sister (Liz White) and her children is his sole tie to a normal life, and Mercer becomes less and less comfortable with the nature of his work and all the things Lenny holds back, especially after his encounter with Lenny's former hitman, now an uncontrollable spree murderer.

The series is an argument about the justifiability of vigilanteism, and flawed people doing morally questionable things in the conviction that they're necessary. It's beautifully shot and lit - one of the producers on the 'Making Of' DVD extra said that they were trying for an atmosphere of 'poetic realism', and that's actually a pretty apt description - and it doesn't take the easy way out of the hard questions.

Apparently, it's coming back for a second series. I hope it manages to keep up the tightrope-walk of ambiguity, complexity, and self-awareness while still keeping its characters both sympathetic and real: I have high hopes it might just manage to pull it off.

It's truly excellent television, and I seriously recommend it.
hawkwing_lb: (Prentiss disguised in Arthur's hall)
This is easily one of the sharpest, smartest, and most ambiguous television series I've seen in years.

Andrew Buchan plays John Mercer, a former special forces soldier who spends five years in prison for murder. His early release is arranged by Lenny Douglas (Peter Mullan), a former police officer who now runs an extra-judicial task force aimed at combating organised crime. Mercer's continued freedom is contingent on his role as this group's hitman.

Jody Latham turns in a sharp performance as Calum, a cheeky chap who does 'this and that' for Lenny. His main interests are drugs, girls and music, but over the course of the six episodes we see an increasingly complex damaged young man underneath. Tamzin Outhwaite as Rose, a former copper who departed the force in scandal, gives an uncomfortably well-realised and complex portrayal.

Mercer's increasingly complicated and ambiguous relationship with both Rose and Lenny and the job they're doing is the heart of the thing. His relationship with his sister (Liz White) and her children is his sole tie to a normal life, and Mercer becomes less and less comfortable with the nature of his work and all the things Lenny holds back, especially after his encounter with Lenny's former hitman, now an uncontrollable spree murderer.

The series is an argument about the justifiability of vigilanteism, and flawed people doing morally questionable things in the conviction that they're necessary. It's beautifully shot and lit - one of the producers on the 'Making Of' DVD extra said that they were trying for an atmosphere of 'poetic realism', and that's actually a pretty apt description - and it doesn't take the easy way out of the hard questions.

Apparently, it's coming back for a second series. I hope it manages to keep up the tightrope-walk of ambiguity, complexity, and self-awareness while still keeping its characters both sympathetic and real: I have high hopes it might just manage to pull it off.

It's truly excellent television, and I seriously recommend it.
hawkwing_lb: (Criminal Minds JJ what you had to do)
The problem of "Merlin" is not that it mangles Arthurian myth: many retellings have taken liberties as great. The problem is not that its plots are predictable, for television is frequently predictable; nor is the problem that its language and register are jarringly anachronistic: this is fantasy, after all, and not very tightly historically located fantasy at that.

No, the problem of "Merlin" is that it is lazy. It is lazy in its treatment of knighthood and courtly behaviour, and it is lazy in its treatment of women. It is especially lazy in its treatment of women. Morgana and Gwen are cyphers, blank pages whose motivations and desires are opaque to non-existent. They are not active players: occasionally they show a spark of agency, just enough for you to see how little the role is challenging the actor; but mostly they are tokens, existing to be rescued, or competed for, in the context of the homosocial world of Uther's court and the Arthur-Merlin focus. There are no strong, active women in Uther's court: the only women whose agency has impact on the story are the "evil" witches (who I actually find quite sympathetic. Nimue could even be likeable, if she wasn't such a cypher).

(It's telling, too, I think, that the only non-pale characters of note are Morgana's maid, and the blacksmith. Lazy. Why not let the court physician be a foreigner? A Moor, even, and use the medieval stereotype/fascination with Arab medicine. But I forget: all Arabs are terrorists, right? At least on most TV. Certainly they aren't sensible fatherly old men.)

So much for the problems. A half-minute's thought could come up with half a dozen ways to make it more complex and more interesting. (Personally, I think it would have been interesting if instead of being simply Uther's ward, Morgana was also a noble hostage of some kind. Because then even a half-decent writer could insert some emotional complexity.)

And Gwen. It seems all dramatic presentations of Guinevere are doomed to blandness. For gods' sakes, in the romantic tradition the women committed treason for the sake of love. With Arthur's best friend. How can you screw that up? But it seems you can.

Which is not to say I don't like "Merlin". I do. The actors have energy and comic timing and convey a sense that they are having incredible fun. (And Richard Wilson as Gaius can do more with a look than many actors can with a paragraph.) I find it ridiculously entertaining, and I would have fallen head-over-heels in love with it at age ten or twelve.

But that doesn't mean I'm blind to its faults. Which are glaring, and disappointing many.

(Of course, I still want to watch the rest of it.)
hawkwing_lb: (Criminal Minds JJ what you had to do)
The problem of "Merlin" is not that it mangles Arthurian myth: many retellings have taken liberties as great. The problem is not that its plots are predictable, for television is frequently predictable; nor is the problem that its language and register are jarringly anachronistic: this is fantasy, after all, and not very tightly historically located fantasy at that.

No, the problem of "Merlin" is that it is lazy. It is lazy in its treatment of knighthood and courtly behaviour, and it is lazy in its treatment of women. It is especially lazy in its treatment of women. Morgana and Gwen are cyphers, blank pages whose motivations and desires are opaque to non-existent. They are not active players: occasionally they show a spark of agency, just enough for you to see how little the role is challenging the actor; but mostly they are tokens, existing to be rescued, or competed for, in the context of the homosocial world of Uther's court and the Arthur-Merlin focus. There are no strong, active women in Uther's court: the only women whose agency has impact on the story are the "evil" witches (who I actually find quite sympathetic. Nimue could even be likeable, if she wasn't such a cypher).

(It's telling, too, I think, that the only non-pale characters of note are Morgana's maid, and the blacksmith. Lazy. Why not let the court physician be a foreigner? A Moor, even, and use the medieval stereotype/fascination with Arab medicine. But I forget: all Arabs are terrorists, right? At least on most TV. Certainly they aren't sensible fatherly old men.)

So much for the problems. A half-minute's thought could come up with half a dozen ways to make it more complex and more interesting. (Personally, I think it would have been interesting if instead of being simply Uther's ward, Morgana was also a noble hostage of some kind. Because then even a half-decent writer could insert some emotional complexity.)

And Gwen. It seems all dramatic presentations of Guinevere are doomed to blandness. For gods' sakes, in the romantic tradition the women committed treason for the sake of love. With Arthur's best friend. How can you screw that up? But it seems you can.

Which is not to say I don't like "Merlin". I do. The actors have energy and comic timing and convey a sense that they are having incredible fun. (And Richard Wilson as Gaius can do more with a look than many actors can with a paragraph.) I find it ridiculously entertaining, and I would have fallen head-over-heels in love with it at age ten or twelve.

But that doesn't mean I'm blind to its faults. Which are glaring, and disappointing many.

(Of course, I still want to watch the rest of it.)
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The Kingdom.

Verdict: Excellent film. Juicy, does not resort to simple answers, and with plenty of things blowing up.

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