This year has already proved to be a huge boon for nostalgia geeks, with the releases of Voltron Legendary Defender & Stranger Things as well as the impending releases of Final Fantasy XV & Pokemon Sun/Moon but there is one release that overshadows them all.
Star Wars: Rogue One.
Indeed, the hype is strong with this one but, despite rumours of major rewrites to make the film “more fun & family friendly”, Rogue One stands out because it is the first major cinematic side story in the Star Wars universe (those Ewok films don’t count!) & indicates a shifting in tone for the franchise as a whole to looking at the wider universe & the characters within.
From what we have seen of the film so far, it plays out more like classic war films such as The Dirty Dozen or Westerns like The Magnificent Seven (which also has a remake due out soon) where a team must come together in order to achieve a seemingly impossible task.
Like the prequels (which still suck!) the end point is known because it leads directly into Star Wars: A New Hope but the path is still unknown & that is what gets people excited.
Went to the Midnight pre-release of the latest Magic the Gathering expansion, Eldritch Moon, last night (the 15th of July) & tested out my new camcorder. I combined it with my mini-tripod, which is why the angle is awful.
Video is also a bit NSFW due to all the swearing in.
Like an insane amount of swearing. More than I usually do.
Edit: posted a better version of the video.
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More videos to come in the coming weeks too.
The annual E3 gaming show is once again upon with it’s usual bombast, hype & leaks. I usually avoid most of the reporting around E3 related stuff because it tends to be your typical hype-train fuelled by pre-rendered cinematic trailers, short teasers & really really awkward presentations.
Yet something happened with this year’s expo, where each company listened to the complaints of their consumers & gave live demonstrations of their games to much rapturous applause (for some demos at least).
I tend not to care for most company’s announcement but I tend to like what Nintendo does.
This year it appears that they broke all expectations when they showed this. The gameplay trailer for the long awaited Zelda Wii U game.
This is a whole new direction for the long running franchise, that gives the player almost absolute freedom to explore -which includes being able to climb the landscape & monsters. It also introduces the ability to sneak up upon both prey & enemies. From the trailer & hands on from various gaming websites it appears that Link (for once actually coming pre-named) has to hunt & eat to regain health & get status boosts.
The freedom to explore leads to being able to tackle which ever dungeon you want when you can access -which appears to be through a magical book. This new gimmick also extends to using the book to create blocks to climb upon so you can solve puzzles as well as create objects to drop on enemies to reduce their number before ambushing.
Being a Wii U title, it comes with Amiibo connections, which goes back to the Wolf Link figure that was released with Twilight Princess. As seen in the video below.
The game is still set to be released next year & supposedly will also be the launch title for Nintendo’s mystery new console, currently referred to as the NX.
How this will impact the end product & it’s reception is al for speculation.
In my very unhumble opinion Nintendo should release the game in time for Christmas & give the Wii U one last great hurrah.
Regardless of which system it will be dominant on, the game remains utterly beautiful to look upon. It’s vast living landscapes & reactive AI might reinvigorate many Sandbox games but, again, it’s only speculation of a very, very invested fan.
Nothing really more to say except that I wanted to show the trailer & make a quick post before the next article goes up.
Warning: Here There Be Spoilers!
Episode 7 of Game of Thrones’ 6th series –entitled The Broken Man– saw the return of fan favourite/hated Sandor “The Hound’ Clegane (played excellently as always by Rory McCann). The Hound hadn’t been seen since the end of series 4, when he was left to die by Arya after his devastating duel with Brienne of Tarth . His ultimate fate was left up in the air (in the TV series, he very much died in the book), with many fans clamouring for his return. So, apropos of nothing, the Hound suddenly returns so late into series 6.
What is odd is how his reappearance both felt natural and jarring.
Natural, in that the story of him being rescued by Ian McShane’s Brother Ray (a huge waste of a great actor, especially since he doesn’t even utter the word cocksucker once!) & contemplating his own violent nature and the possibility of redemption. The form of the Hound’s arc is perfect for the character, in that he finds himself rescued by a man who shows him both respect & kindness –two things that have been utterly anathema to the Hounds existence– but finds himself drawn back to his inclinations towards killing. He is given a place in a religious community who both fear & accept him, he works labour which suits his temperament but he is ill at ease with a life of peace –acting like Damocles waiting for the sword to finally drop.
Yet it is a jarring return because it does not have a natural fit within the narrative.
Narratively it comes as a break in the current tension of the story. Beginning episode 7 in a way to purposely confuse the viewer, make them wonder why they are watching the scene of harmony & construction –two things that mesh against the usually themes of the show. Whilst the viewer has gotten to wonder about this tonal schism, they are shown the scarred form of the returned villain/anti-hero but not in any role or form they are used to.
This is an intentional jarring of expectations & visual setting yet it unfortunately breaks the established flow of the narrative.
It has no basic place within the current season’s arc; coming with the feel of being placed in as a breach to fit in other sudden shifts in the narrative direction.
Personal conjecture has it that since it showed the return of the Brotherhood Without Banners –who until this point had not been seen since the 3rd series– it is purposed to unite the Hound, Brienne (who is currently on her way to the Riverlands to recruit the Black Fish to fight for Sansa Stark) & Jamie Lannister in capture by the Brotherhood so Lady Stoneheart, née the resurrected Catelyn Stark, can have her revenge on all who betrayed her or served her enemies. Which is combining how characters are last seen within the books A Feast For Crows & A Dance of Dragons. This plays into bringing the Frays back into the fold & having Jamie, whose character arc was skewed with weird trips to Dorne & conflict with the High Sparrow, go to Riverrun to aid the Fray’s in their failed siege (which also brings the other fan favourite Bronn back to our screens),
In this writer’s very (very) unhumble opinion, bringing a character as looming in the minds of the television adaption as the Hound carries the odour of pandering.
Whilst it does fit that he could have survived his fight with Brienne and fall from the cliff, his arc should have been more naturally ended. Serving as a point of evolution of Arya as she chooses not to kill him because she both respected & hated him. This possible forced merging of divergent storylines & character arcs.
Yet the Hound is unneeded for such a resolution.
He has served his narrative purpose but his fate was left ambiguous. This meant that many fans & viewers could wedge their desires for his return into the conversations around the show. After the relatively poor reception of the 5th season, one could speculate that the show’s forerunners have been saving a return of such a divisive character within the fan community for a point that will garner maximum interest as the 6th series steams towards its conclusion. Thus making the Hound’s return both pandering & exploitative.
With the show’s forerunner recent announcing that they want to end the show in 2018 with the 8th series, possibly making seasons 7 & 8 shorter in the amount of episodes for each, one can see why they would be in a rush to draw in elements of the books (both written & forthcoming) to see the entirety of the story reach a satisfactory conclusion. Yet to bring in unnecessary threads, be in the return of the Hound or strange asides to fill in character happenings, chokes the already ongoing story as well as breaks the view of the narrative. Many viewers have complained on social media about how Arya’s arc with the Faceless Men drags on to nowhere –partly because of how different it is from the books but mainly because it feels boring in how its told– & this is something that could have easily been repaired if the showrunners had actually spent time on solidifying character arcs & the overall plot instead of shifting things to suddenly pander to viewers’ supposed expectation.
Which brings this writer onto what they consider the most extreme & vexing of Game of Thrones’ pandering: replacing proper storylines & scenes with pointless female nudity.
Cast your mind back to the events of episode 7. Do you remember the suddenly interlude with Yara & Theon Greyjoy as they with their band of reavers partied it up in what may have been Barvos (it was never made clear to this writer where they were). They were at a brothel, so naturally this meant there had to be lots & lots of naked women around & Yara had to be transformed into either bisexual or a lesbian (neither of which are an issue if they have always been a constant of the character before that moment).
Now, do you recall what the scene was actually about? What purpose it had in the greater narrative scheme or even what Yara & Theon spoke about?
If not it was probably because you were distracted by Yara sucking on some whore’s tits.
Game of Thrones & HBO in general have built reputations for themselves as providers of adult content. Unfortunately, in the US ‘adult content’ tends to mean tits & violence.
Something that garnered Game of Thrones a lot of mainstream attention is that it did not shy away from either yet once that genie was released from the bottle, HBO could no longer tone it down. They had to keep pushing such angles because that is how they viewed audience expectations of the show –that they only watched it because titties would somehow be involved.
Now, this is not a prudish complaint.
There is nothing wrong with nudity in media but it has to serve a narrative point.
One can go on about how it can be seen as either empowerment & life saving or if it is entirely exploitative & vulgar yet that is not the crux of this writer’s vexation.
The issue at hand is how the insertion of scenes dedicated entirely to sex & nudity take away from important character scenes & story arcs. It is like the story is proceeding at an excellent pace, hitting all the right points for audience engagement, when it all screeches to a halt to grab our collective heads & say “hey look! Here some titties! Maybe some arse or bush! LOOK AT IT! LOOK AT MATURE WE ARE!!! All done? Good. Now back to the plot”.
This writer cannot be burdened by writing out every example in every episode & ever series yet the ones that stand out the greatest are Podrick’s visit to Little Finger’s brothel to lose his virginity as well as the pirate Salladhor Saan telling jokes in the bath to two prostitutes. Neither of these scenes served any narrative purpose. They were meant for ahem titillation & breaking of heavy tones that may or may not drag down an episode. Yet they have no function that could not have been fulfilled in other ways that did not have nudity as their centrepieces.
Yet this supposed obsession with associating nudity with maturity can only reach so far before it simply does become blatant pandering & exploitation of audience so socially starved of the normality of sex & nudity that they come to believe that any expression of it is a healthy taboo that one can indulge in with a sense of collective joyous guilt (which is also how shite like Fifty Shades of Grey become a brief zeitgeist but that’s an article for another day). One can endlessly argue that the over moralising of nudity & sex is something so profoundly toxic to social discourse that it overflows into & corrupts so many other aspects of society yet that wavers from this writer’s point.
The complaint remains that the majority of nudity within Games of Thrones is superfluous at best & distracting at worst.
It all remains within the contention that over pandering to fan demands/expectations can lead to a creative deathspiral for creative work because you, as a creative entity, are no longer controlling where your work goes but eternally responding to the whims of a vocal but very fickle few.
Maybe there will be a grand pay-off with the Hound’s return. Maybe it all threads together vital pieces of the story & direct us towards a glorious end. Yet his reappearance does not speak of confidence within the current format of the show. That the individual pieces have the strength to stand upon their merits & there is a wanting of faith in how both the season & show may conclude.
Yet this writer does find Rory McCann layered portrayal of the Hound enjoyable, given an emotional depth rare to how such a violent & unforgiving character is usually depicted upon our screens. So there is some measure of assurance that the Hound’s return is a portent for a strong series ending rather than a horrid death-flails of a program the showrunners & writers are losing faith in.
Truly we live in a cross-media Golden Age, where anything from any medium can find new life and wider fandom in a different format.
Basically, if it can be adapted from a comic or a book or a video game or someone’s stupid Twitter Feed it can be transformed into a television show or movie.
The zenith of this are the television adaptions of A Song of Ice and Fire (renamed A Game of Thrones after the first book in the still running series) & The Walking Dead as well Marvel & DC’s various superhero cross-media “events”.
Unfortunately this means that with so many adaptations filling so many screens, the quality & which parts of the narratives they choice to follow as well as which characters they may change or cut various from production to production. More often than not fans of the original medium are angry &/or disappointed that they favourite scene, character or story arc has been either cut or changed beyond all recognition. After sci-fi series The Expanse had run its first season I was going to write an article about how the show completely race-washed, turning minor characters white for no other reason then TV producers prefer white people on screen because they perceive their audience to still be almost all white. I shit-canned the article because of crippling mental health issues but the arguments stayed with me.
When an adaptation diverts or completely diverges from its source material, it often creates a schism in the fan base. With the source material purists on one side decrying the changes as they wrest their shirts and beat their manboobs and the new/adaptation fans being blessed in their supposed ignorance of what they are missing out whilst being deprived of the original greatness (from the view of the members of 1st camp).
Yet there are many reasons for altering material within an adaptation that go beyond mere culturally ingrained racism. These have to go with keeping costs down, having to fit things within time/broadcast restraints as well as basic ignorance of the people doing the adapting. These harsh practicalities often mean that sections of the audience are left lamenting what they may never see or what never was yet they are crucial to how an adaptation is both produced and viewed by a wider audience. Obviously there are issues with not including important material from the source but if the adaptation is handled well, all that is cut or changed is not truly missed.
This brings us onto AMC’s last comicbook adaptation (the other being the widely popular The Walking Dead), Preacher.
Preacher was a seminal work from writer Garth Ennis and artist Steve Dillion as part of DC’s “mature” publication line, Vertigo, made (in)famous by how far Ennis was willing to push the idea of the grotesque, violence and the absurd (three trademarks of Ennis’ work). There had been previous adaptations in the works over the years, some even making into pre-production phases, but it wasn’t until 2013 when Hollywood uber nerd (and stoner) Seth Rogen had teamed up with AMC to produce a pilot of a series. Cut to 3 years later & the results are finally on our screen.
The short of it is, that the story surrounding Preacher is about titular preacher, Jesse Custer, being possessed by an entity called Genesis, the infantile product of breeding between a devil and an angel, that has escaped from a furious God, granting Jesse the ability to verbally command almost anyone around him to do, literally, what he says. This power bring him into conflict with forces divine and mundane who either want it for themselves or wish to see it destroyed. So he travels the US with his arsekicking ex-girlfriend, Tulip, & charming rogue-cum-scumbag Irish vampire, Cassidy.
Rogen & his writing/producing partners Even Goldberg and Sam Catlin obviously have a lot of love for the original comic but does not mean that they are not willing to make changes where they feel they are necessary or interesting.
The greatest toxic stain on any adaptation or franchise are those directors & writers who both adhere vehemently to the source material yet make drastic changes which make no thematic or narrative sense for the sake of a shiny visual or action scene. Zach Snyder is fundamentally the king for doing such things, so it is refreshing to see how Preacher’s creative team have handled their changes to the source.
One thing that riled a lot fans up was the casting of Ruth Negga (known mainly for being Raina in Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD), born of Ethiopian and Irish parents, as Tulip in a case of what some net-dwellers called “reverse whitewashing”. Some people genuinely can’t handle a known character being turned from white into another race yet have no qualms about it going the other way (this is why I term to be examples of Cultural Paradigm & Cutural Privilege). Yet in complaining they fail to see how well Negga captures the essence of Tulip, in her brutal creativity, capacity for violence yet her utterly caring nature. The scene in which we are introduced to her is kept lighthearted in how she teaches two small children how to make a bazooka out of household items, metal toy soldiers & cornshine but never denies that she’s a force to be reckoned with. Negga’s ownership of the character is impressive, even down to how she gets her Texan regional drawl, but never once does she feel like she has been changed for a misguided sense of tokenism.
In fact, it is how much the actors who play the central characters inhabit their roles which makes Preacher such an impressive adaptation.
Dominic Cooper (who is known for playing Howard Stark in Marvel films & TV series) plays Jesse Custer & you would swear that he was a native Texan with how well he performs the accent. There is no trace of English civility within him, replaced with a broken scene of Americanism that’s a fettered mix of faith & violence. Within the first scenes you know that Jesse is a man who is running away from something, whilst trying to do his best but not his hardest for the small & exceedingly backwards/redneck community to which he has returned after a long, unexplained absence. Cooper plays Jesse as a man seething with an underlying sense of helpless & rage, trying not to fall back into old habits but struggling with keeping the moral high ground against people without any sense of shame or even human decency to their fellow man.
He’s joined by Joe Gilgun as the Irish vampire Cassidy, portraying him, ironically enough, as full of life. Cassidy is the embodiment of hedonism & self destructive behaviour all cloaked within the guise of roguish charm, to which Gilgun plays up with utter aplomb. His accent is flawless, especially reflecting the speed in which Irish people can talk when they’re spinning up a tale. Gilgun plays Cassidy as a man without a plan but confident that he can get out of any situation he finds himself stuck in through a combination of disarming charm, ingenuity & extreme violence -as depicted in his fight scene on a private jet. His involvement with and meeting of Jesse is a little tenuous but plays off well as Cassidy sees Jesse as both a kindred spirit & a source of entertainment who can provide him with shelter from the sun & whomever he’s happened to have pissed off.
The strong trinity of Negga, Cooper and Gilgun pushes the pilot episode through despite how it changes so much from the original comics, such as introducing the character of Eugene Root way earlier than he should’ve been but the young actor Ian Colletti portrays what would otherwise be a pathetic character as one nuanced with hope, shame & fragility at how he is perceived by those around him.
This is a series that I have good hopes for, especially by the impact made by the first episode.
The episode itself exists to set up basic context with the three lead characters without flooding the viewer with an over abundance of background information, played out against an invisible force from deep space (as seen in an incredible retro sci-fi B film opening) that is possessing & destroying high ranking members of the global religious community (including a Russian high priest of the Church of Satan & Tom Cruise delivering a Scientology sermon). The focus is primarily on Jesse as he struggles & fails to be the moral centre for a highly immoral community, constantly beset by members of his congregation, like mother issue swamped Ted, & their personal issues. This is reflected in how a young boy asks Jesse is hurt his dad because he beats up his mum, with Jesse laying out how things escalated when resorting to violence but fully knowing that the other authorities in town will do nothing to prevent the abuse & that often violence is the only answer to a bad situation. This is constantly brought up in how other characters, such as the sheriff & Tulip, bring up his past & bad reputation within the town -mainly by referring to how he is no longer acting like he used to. It’s all brought to a head by Tulip’s return to recruit Jesse into what one would assume to be a major crime & Cassidy crashing out of the sky only to stumble into a bar where Jesse drinks away his emotional pain.
The episode as a whole does not take itself too seriously but does not disrespect the audience or actors by playing up serious scenes or ideas by being silly, self conscious or giving any knowing winks of fan service. It plays with comicbook convention & loose scene/time transitions as well the hyper-realised violence & yet does not over play the jokes. This is seen from the opening scene of an African minister exploding over his congregation you are well aware that this will be a show that indulges, like the original comic, in the grotesquity & absurd idea of violence without flashing up nudity ever 20 minutes (which is Game of Thrones greatest failing, replacing drama with tits & now cock). There is even a lack of foul language, despite the gory violence, which is a little surprising but well done in its own way.
This is so refreshing when we are caught in such a glut of cross-media adaptations, where things are being turned into movies or TV shows before their even published or dragged out or transformed beyond recognition of the original. Preacher touches the high watermarks of other series like Game of Thrones or Marvel’s work with Netflix where it keeps largely faithful to the source but isn’t afraid to venture out when new ideas are needed.
Time will basically tell if a wider audience will be willing to adopt another comicbook adaptation for the small screen -especially one from the 90’s before a large section of the audience weren’t alt-pop culture consumers. If the actors & production team keep up with what they provided in the pilot & stick to the spirit of the comics then it will be easily adored by others. Yet if they decide to swerve away from the cores of the characters & narrative, especially what sets both apart from other series out there, then it will more than likely be dropped quicker than a sci-fi series on Fox.
For the tiny amount of regular readers that I had, you may have noticed that this blog isn’t really updated like it has been previously.
Many reasons for this.
Mainly to do with poor mental health (Bipolar with delusional psychosis -basically a low-end psychopath) & lack of mood & time to watch any series to its end &/or write about it once done.
Other reason is not spending as much time watching anime or other things. Would say I’ve been playing more TCG stuff but that’s hardly the case either.
Anyway, am back to watching & critiquing things & will hopefully have a few catch up pieces posted over the weekend as well as finishing up some half completed retro reviews & other articles that I left on the wayside.
Want to be able to post an article at least once a week at minimum & get back to bulk critiques at the end of each anime season.
No promises but no one has hopes up for such a tiny tiny speck on the internet anyway.