Movies & TV Shows

The Amazing Spider-Man 2: an exercise in writing

asm-1

POSSIBLY SPOILERS FOR AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2 AHEAD!

Hey, remember back in high school when you had to hand in assignments for your literature class? You know, the ones requiring you to write your own short story, following the “rules of writing” you had been discussing in class for the last three weeks? And remember how you would get your short story back, with a remark of the teacher saying: “good overall story, but a piss-poor ending that made me angry enough to shout at strangers in the street”?

No? That never happened to you? Well, it might have happened to the writers of The Amazing Spider-Man back in 2012. Not in their literature class, but after hearing the opinions the audience had about The Amazing Spider-Man, director Mark Webb probably realized his writers needed some more time to up their skills and let them go. Had the new writers for the screenplay handed their work over to a literature teacher, he had probably told them that The Amazing Spider-Man 2 had a grandiose ending full of possibilities for sequels, but still had asked them to re-write the script. Why? Because the first eighty percent of it are boring, uninspired and just awkward.

(more…)

Why the Lego Movie is pure genius

the-lego-movie-stills

When it comes to movies, I’m a really, really critical kind of viewer. The moment the credits start rolling, I start to analyze every tiny bit of a flick, stating out loud whether it worked or didn’t. I comment every casting choice, every piece of scenery and every special effect, no matter how tiny or trivial. When a movie sucks, I’m the first to voice my opinion and give you a dozen reasons why I’m right. I don’t care we’ve changed the topic fifteen minutes ago, you need to know why this was a waste of moving pictures and I will be heard!

When The Lego Movie started rolling, I was prepared to write some piece about how Hollywood turned my fond childhood memories into a mediocre animation movie. Sure, the internet had told me that the movie was pure awesomeness, but what do some peasants on message boards know? How could their opinion be more valid than my own, being the important and brilliant part-time blogger that I am?

Well, turns out that, for once, I could believe the blaring of the sheep. Even better, the praise sung for The Lego Movie is not in proportion to the brilliance of the movie, and here you will find out why!

BE WARNED: HERE BE SPOILERS!

(more…)

Immersion – how to make me drown in a fictional world

Jewel over at Healing the Masses posted a great article about immersion in MMO’s, and that post alone is to blame for my sudden need to share my opinion on the topic of immersion. Immersion…the word alone sounds like it is a science in itself. Quite frankly, that is the case. Being capable of having someone utterly consumed by a world that is not real (at least not in most definitions of the word) is both a scientific and artistic feat, and that is probably why so much media fails at it. Still, I feel like the foundation for an immersive experience is not too complicated, and that’s why I want to share with you how any kind of videogame, TV show, movie or book can have me drown in the world it creates.

(more…)

Why Hemlock Grove leaves me confused

So, Netflix. Who hasn’t heard of it? About a month ago, it finally came to the Netherlands, and being the movie and TV show lover that I am, I fetched me a free month and started browsing the collection. I decided to start with a Netflix original show, and I was about to dive into the popular Orange Is The New Black. However, before I could start that show featuring Donna and her nude chest, I stumbled across another Netflix production. One based on a book. One that had a badass show poster: Hemlock Grove.

(more…)

Legend of Korra Book Two Premiere: what worked and what did not

korra season 2 episode 1 2

WARNING: THIS POST HAS MASTERED ALL FOUR STYLES OF SPOILER-BENDING!

Being treated to not just one but two episodes at the start of a new season is somewhat standard procedure these days, but it still surprised me when Nick decided to give us that extra bit of material last Friday. Nevertheless, I’m here to talk about the opening episodes of season two of Legend of Korra. Previously, I wrote about my wishes for this season, and I’m glad to see that at least two things of my wish list have been adressed already. Still, I can’t just sing praise about the first chapters of the new book, so I’ll be telling you what worked and didn’t work so far (at least from my point of view).

(more…)

My wishes for the next season of Legend of Korra

korra

Friday is September 13. Friday the 13th…hmm, usually, that means bad things are gonna happen. It’s a day where you’re supposed to evade black cats, ladders and other bad omens. This year, though, it can’t be that bad, since it will be the day the second season (or “book”) of Legend of Korra will air on Nickelodeon!

I’m a big fan of everything related to Avatar, so you can imagine I’m hyped for the start of the new season. However, the first season had some issues. Minor issues, to be honest, but issues nonetheless. That’s why I’m giving you my top three wishes for Legend of Korra: Book Two – Spirits.

Number 3: An in-depth exploration of the Spirit World
The Last Airbender did have its share of scenes in the Spirit World, but for a job that involves keeping the balance between both worlds, Aang didn’t wander off that often into this weird land of dreams and illusions. A shame, since I love the entire art and design of it. Luckily, the name of Book Two of Korra’s tale is “Spirits”, so there’s got to be some action in the other world! Considering Korra’s rash and fiery nature, I’m curious to see how she interacts with the spirits, and if we might learn more about the origin of bending and the role the spirits play. It would surely give some depth to the setting, and take the story to another plane of existence.

Number 2: Less love triangle
Don’t get me wrong, I love drama and emotion as much as any other fan of a good story, but the love triangle between Mako, Asami and Korra felt rather annoying to me. It didn’t add that much to the characters, and felt more like the writers thought that it was just necessary to have Korra go through some “girly feelings”. The rushed pacing of the episodes didn’t help here either, and so I felt like the relationship between the three couldn’t receive the time it deserve. So when I say I want to see “less love triangle”, I actually mean “less cheap, boring love triangle without any meaning to the plot”.

Number 1: Comic relief Bolin
Okay, I get it, every show needs a comic relief character. The Last Airbender had Sokka and the animal sidekicks for that, and Legend of Korra is using Bolin. However, there’s a difference between a comic relief character that does something, and one you only have for shits and giggles. Bolin, sadly, belongs to the second category. Once you’re past the first three episodes, Bolin has devolved from a cool, somewhat awkward earth-bender to nothing but the amusing sidekick of the group. I might exaggerate a bit here, but occasionally, I could take Pabu more seriously than Bolin. Either Bolin has some major character development early in the second season, or I really wouldn’t mind if Amon would just blood-bend him out of the show.

So that’s my top three wishes for the upcoming season. You agree? You don’t agree? No matter, leave your comments below and geek out with me when the first episode of Book Two airs coming Friday!

Chin out.

P.S.: Though he didn’t make it into my top three, I hope we see some more of foaming mouth guy. The show would be nowhere without him.

foamy mouth guy avatar

Tywin Lannister and subtle symbolism

tywin lannisterWARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD FOR EVERYTHING RELATED TO GAME OF THRONES!

Game of Thrones is praised for many things: the brilliant casting of roles, the fresh take on an already interesting story, the fantastic locations and more. However, like in many pieces of art, the true brilliance lies in the little details, and George R.R. Martin and the creators of the show have put quite some effort in hiding subtle symbolism throughout the show (which Martin already did in the books), and one of the characters they like to use for that is the always threatening Tywin Lannister, head of house Lannister and all-round badass.

Everyone who has read the books knows that Martin is a sucker for “signs and portents”, mysterious symbolism that foreshadows future events or abstracts current situations. When the Starks find the litter of dire wolf cubs, it’s no coincidence that there’s one for each of them. It’s also no coincidence that Jon receives the albino cub. It’s damn symbolism, linking the Stark children to their dire wolves (some more than others). The books offer a few other examples, but the show is also filled with them. Tywin Lannister is used for two really obvious portents, at least if someone pays attention.

In the first season, during a conversation with Jaime, Tywin is busy skinning a stag. Well, who’s coat-of-arms is the stag? Exactly! And who dies during a hunting “incident”? Precisely! Coincidence? I think not. The great touch in this scene is how careful Tywin empties and skins the animal. He shows the same precision in this craft as he does in politics, a magnificent method to portray his lethal accuracy.

It turns out that Tywin has a thing for the simple things in life, as we see him fishing in this deleted scene from season 3. Next to discovering how vigorous Pycelle actually is, we also see what Tywin was fishing up: trout (at least I think they’re trout). He hands the basket full of fish to Pycelle, ordering him to bring them to the kitchen ’cause he wants them “for supper”. Hm, I heard the Freys also like some trout for supper…

Again, it’s subtle, but that’s what makes it great. I can’t wait to see more of these little hints in future episodes. Also, I can’t wait to see more of Tywin. He’s such a badass!

Martin and the reason for his killing sprees

got jk rowling grr martin georgeHERE BE SPOILERS FOR GAME OF THRONES, BOTH THE SHOW AND THE BOOKS!

The reason to write this post has two origins. First of all, I’ve caught up with the TV show of Game of Thrones, and now I’ve joined the great amount of people who are waiting for the next season. It’s better to be late to a party than to never arrive, right? Second, a comment from the Nerd Maids on my previous post about Game of Thrones has prompted me to share my opinion on the way Martin handles popular characters and death in his works.

First of all, thank you for commenting and sharing your opinion! You have valid points, and I can understand that killing off popular and cool characters seems counterproductive: readers care about them and use them as a way to interact with the written world, and so their deaths are all the more cruel. Plus, why not end the lives of characters nobody cares about, like the Freys in Game of Thrones? You can tell better stories with the “cool cast” still alive than with those…weirdos. I can relate to that opinion, but let me explain why I can’t agree with it.

You see, I’m also a person who really gets into the characters of a book, a show or a movie. If their story is intriguing and well-written, I’m hooked and reeled in like a fat carp. I’m a fan of good versus of evil, of knowing who I should cheer for or having the possibility of choosing a “team”. If both sides of a conflict have interesting characters, the whole conflict gets even more interesting. If you add an epic climax to it then, something that has been built up for multiple books or episodes, you have found a sure way to please me. However, you have also found the easiest way to please me, by serving me a meal I have eaten so many times the flavor has dulled my senses. If you happen to be George R.R. Martin though, you throw a plate in front of me with food that looks familiar, but with a taste that will overwhelm me.

Alright, enough of the weird culinary metaphors. What I’m trying to say is that Martin dares to cross lines other authors don’t, and all of this “trespassing” of his makes his work all the more interesting. Where other writers are afraid to kill their or their reader’s darlings, Martin will rip them out of his stories in a cruel way to propel the entire plot into a new direction. Sure, one might argue that death is the cheapest way to add drama, but it’s also the most efficient way to add emotion and the chaos it causes. Killing someone is final, it presents the reader and the characters in the story with an event they can’t just ignore. Everyone has to take a stance, and these stances will drive the story into an unexpected direction. Sure, the Red Wedding is bloody and cruel, but it turns the entire War of the Five Kings upside down and makes you, the reader and viewer, re-think your opinion about certain individuals. It keeps you engaged in a cruel, yet effective way.

A result of this murderous tendency Martin shows is that no character is ever safe. Fantasy writers tend to save the “heroes” of the story in that last, dramatic moment, just so that they can save the day, free the kingdom and rule with a gentle hand. Martin doesn’t do the “hero”-thing, and he puts everyone and their mother into permanent danger. Every character in his books can be killed, and you should learn that rather sooner than later. This fear of death is a good thing though, since it will make you care even more for the individuals in the story. Why hope that the hero will make it, when you know that the author is using every trope in the universe to make it so? What use is appreciating the depth of a fictional character, when he cannot be taken from you at any moment by some malicious enemy? This fear you feel, and your wish that your “beloved” character will make it actually strengthen your bond with the story, turning the reading of a simple book into a fantastic emotional rollercoaster ride.

I’m not saying that all fantasy authors should be like Martin. We still need the “classic” novels, where good and evil are clearly separated and where the brave hero gets the girl. However, we also need more writers who raise the stakes and add danger to their stories, having their own beloved creations entering the lion’s den multiple times. They might make it out…or they won’t.

No matter the outcome, you are cheering for your favorites, and you will remember their story. You should not weep for the dozens of characters Martin has killed, but the dozens of new plot hooks their deaths have spawned. Where one story ends, a new one begins. Trust Martin to make them good ones, and you will find out that he does not slaughter for fun, but for crafting an epic masterpiece of a story.

A nice day for a Red Wedding

WARNING: MINOR SPOILERS FOR GAME OF THRONES AHEAD

Gosh! Freaking finally! Though I haven’t seen the last five episodes of this season, judging by the madness in my Facebook and Twitter feed, the Red Wedding has finally happened in Game of Thrones. Damn, am I happy that it has finally happened! Don’t get me wrong, I still want to punch Martin in his round, bouncy belly for killing off a slew of cool characters in a single scene, but I can finally talk with the non-readers about this dramatic event.

It’s a strange thing, to watch the “moving pictures”-version of a book you’ve already read, knowing what doom is waiting around the corner for characters you really like. I have to admit that I’m often the person in the room who hasn’t read the book the movie / show is based on, so it feels nice to be the one who saw all of this coming. On the other hand, I still have to keep my yapper shut about crueler and worse things to come, though one of them is actually quite pleasant…in a morbid way.

I have to give it to Martin though. No other writer I know is capable of making people love an entire family of characters, while also setting them up for their own deaths. Where most writers are very hesitant when it comes to killing of the “loved ones”, Martin is willing to end their literal lives when it makes the story better. Personally, I think that the Red Wedding is a critical dose of spice the third book / season needed, and after I was done crying like a baby, I saluted Martin for the sacrifices he’s willing to make.

Anyway, return to mourning the lives lost during the Red Wedding, but know that George R.R. Martin will surely have another favourite character’s death waiting for you. You have been warned.