Friday, April 22, 2011

When Men Looked Like Frogs and Donkeys like Hobbits' Scrotums

Sometimes you know something is going to happen and when the announcement comes it does little to change your initial beliefs. When I hated reading almost every moment of the last 3 Dark Tower books, I knew that it would be made into a TV series or trio of feature films. It wasn't prior warning or believing speculative gossip, it was pure and simply a period when Stephen King's laundry list had Harvey Kietel and Rob Lowe written all over it.

The announcement that it's going to be a film and more - see http://www.denofgeek.com/movies/854126/10_things_we_want_to_see_in_the_dark_tower_adaptation.html for some fan wank nonsense, makes me wonder if there might be a 'reverse Golden Compass' effect. This being the opposite of what happened when I saw the film adaptation of Philip Pullman's book. Perhaps the Dark Tower will suddenly become understandable, intelligible and good!

Actually, that link does a good job of spelling out - unintentionally, of course - the content of an article I've continually rewritten and continually failed to do anything with: why is the Dark Tower such a bad book when it started off so good?

This isn't going to be that article either, but the author of the article on Den of Geek suggests removing every single element of the book from the film that had die hard aficionados like me wanting to beat King to death with his own spine. The article at that link actually takes a story that ends up being a bad travelogue; hacks out all the naff bits and then exposes that there isn't actually much of a story to start with and something that isn't in any way consistent. Sad bastards would argue that because King himself was rewriting the series because of his accident ... and then you'd want to start beating your own face to a pulp.

The producers of the potential Dark Tower TV series/film trilogy need to take notice of this article; it removes the majority of crap things the series had. It leaves, essentially, the story of a gunslinger and his four companions - 3 human and one bumbler - and how they got together and wandered across an ever changing landscape. The American idea of a fantasy novel appears to be inextricably linked to getting to A from B. The first - The Wizard of Oz - was about a journey and it seems that like Tolkien's Lord of the Rings it has to be about getting somewhere from somewhere else. Maybe Stephen King should write proper travelogues; he writes fantasy ones badly, perhaps if he had facts to deal with he could use that descriptive ability to excellent use again?

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Game of Thrones and the lesser hyped Camelot are the epitome of fan wank. I cannot believe that apart from the slight flirtation with adult fantasy back in the 1980s, it has taken TV producers this long to realise that sword, sorcery and SEX sell. Have a fantasy TV series, throw in some bad language, a few decapitations and loads of tits and clunge and you have a guaranteed solid gold success. Spartacus paved the way and while Game of Thrones and Camelot have a fair amount of the 'supernatural', these are essentially period dramas, but in a time when accuracy can be substituted with hip dialogue and everyone having sex had really good teeth.

As for Game of Thrones and whether it's a winner or not. Well, it got renewed for a second season about 3 hours after the 1st episode aired; but I think HBO (and probably Sky) had already committed to at least 3 series otherwise it would have cost them far too much money. GoT has one real credibility problem (other than it's a fantasy story) and that is Sean Bean - he works in the first LotR film, but only just, but in this, especially as everyone talks like they've jus' bin recruited from some whippet racing meet in Donny, 'appen; he just seems like Sean Bean being a gruff Sean Bean. That said, it is better than Camelot, despite only being a week in; that suffers from being slightly twee and has the curse of Joseph Ffiennes - who was in Flarsh Forwards or whatever it was called. Camelot, however, has far sexier women who get their kit off even faster than they did in GoT. Every body has perfect teeth - orthodontists are obviously very advanced in these fantasy worlds...

Did I like it?

Now, that's a far more interesting question. I'm always on the look out for new series to get excited about and to be honest one episode is not enough to sway me one or the other; but I wasn't terribly impressed and found some of the characters positively annoying. But, I'm not keen on Camelot either and while I have the Spartacus series to watch as well and I'm so eager to do that I haven't bothered burning them to disc since I downloaded then - 6 weeks ago.

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Apparently, vampires are now old hat and Sci-Fi is the in thing. That could be why V was cancelled (or it could be that it was just a big pile of camp pooh).

The BBC have a history of making SF; but more often than not we associate BBC SF with the 1970s and wobbly cardboard sets. At some point, the young generations will look at BBC SF and say, "Well, it was better than ITV cgi."

Doctor Who came back and I'm struggling to see why Steven Moffatt is heralded as an Andrew Lloyd Webber to Russell T Davies' Ernie Wise. DW is all about style and nothing about substance. It's the showcase for BBC special effects and sometimes they forget everything for the chance to have guppies swimming round lamp posts in a neo-Victorian setting.

I love DW, but last night's episode made as much sense as giving Graham Norton a horny female prostitute. I appreciate it was meant to be confusing (clever), but even though it didn't make sense, it definitely didn't make sense. The press have been saying that when this two-part story finishes Internet chat rooms and forums will be debating the subtext for years to come. I'm thinking that from what we've learned so far about River Song that she'd be a little perturbed for still being in prison since she no longer kills the Doctor - unless, fiendishly, this person in the space suit is actually Song. But since the incarnation we're stuck with is in prison already then she should remember when and where she killed him. Plus, what was that bullshit she was spouting to Rory about every time she sees him before they actually meet - it sounded like it came straight out of Audrey Niffenegger's The Time Traveller's Wife or a retarded baboon. What was that crap about the Doctor knowing her less and less every time she meets her and then saying how weird it is to have him meet her when she was younger and know everything about her. I don't think it was well thought out and if it was simplified for a younger audience then I hope they cottoned on to what was being said.

The other bit of gossip that was flying around is that the BBC has said that one of the four will die; well as the Doctor has already died, I think that might be a red herring or just a mean trick. Evidence from looking at all the trailers for this first half of the series indicates that Rory will die. Why? Well, he died 4 times in the last series but always came back - this might be the time he doesn't come back, and I dunno, Arthur Darvill in the title sequence? Hmm... That sets off all kinds of alarm bells. Plus he appears least in the clips for the series. It could be River Song - she's baggage that is becoming increasingly tough to like. All this 'spoilers' business is bogging down stories that have to have her in them. It might even by Amy Pond - it could be that any of the main supporting characters appearances in the trailers were lifted from just these two episodes. But it'll probably be the Doctor. Which, of course, will ask the question that if the Doctor who dies is over 1100 years old and is a much older version of the Doctor, then Matt Smith must have signed on for the duration and there aint gonna be another transformation...

Don't get me wrong; I enjoy DW even when it makes no sense at all; but I have suffered (but not in silence) at critics knocking Davies' DW for making no sense; but at least you could write off his crap plots with the excuse that he was writing ostensibly for kids. Moffatt also is, but he dresses DW up like an expensive US prime time series, yet it suffers from the same disease as Davies' - it's flimsy in story now rather than sets.

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I'm currently reading Joe Hill's Horns. Hill is Stephen King's son ( I hope he wasn't Christened Joe King) and has all the energy and power that his father's books lost when he became an institution rather than a writer. I feel as though I want to describe it as Nu-Horror, because it has a youthfulness about it that his father's work has never had, but it also pushes all the right buttons. They both paint good pictures of their protagonists, but while Hill has none of the prosaic abilities of his dad, you get just as good a picture through his jerky prose and slightly disconnected feel. Nu-Horror... yeah, I like that.

5 comments:

  1. There is a reason for the whippetishness of Game of Thrones, as it's supposed to be a retelling of the Wars of the Roses.

    I quite liked it, aside from a couple of details, and this is someone who -- unlike apparently everyone else in the world -- hated the novels.

    I'm sure Jay's already told you this, but the "somebody dies!" thing in Doctor Who was for this first episode, so yes, it was the Doctor. On a related note, my theory is that the astronaut is the Doctor himself, but River would be the obvious choice.

    That bit about the Doctor knowing her less and less is a reference back to her first appearance, when the Doctor didn't know who she was. The basic idea is that they're moving through time in opposite directions -- although the chronology has got a bit mixed up here and there -- so when she first appeared she had a lifetime of experiences with the Doctor, and presumably some future story will have him give her his sonic screwdriver -- fnar -- and pack her off to her death, before visiting her in her youth, and from her perspective, for the first time.

    As for Dark Tower: The Movie, I don't think I care, as I also hated the last few books, although probably for different reasons to yourself.

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  2. Tell me your reasons for hating DT; I'm interested.

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  3. Righto. I liked it when King was writing an American equivalent of Lord of the Rings, a sprawling epic fantasy, but swapping the European mediaeval trappings for mythic Americana. That I enjoyed.

    When he started to pull in elements from all over the Kingverse, the comics fan in my liked that sense of continuity, although I did worry that King was losing focus and straying away from his initial idea.

    Then somewhere around Wolves of the Calla it started being about the Kingverse rather than about Roland and his quest. It was nice to see Callahan again, but it seemed a bit irrelevant.

    Then we got to the end and it seemed as if King had lost complete control of the whole thing. He starts putting himself in the story, and the tale as a whole seems to be about not even the Kingverse as a fictional place, but more about King and his books, and then devolves into some cack-handed platitude about the power of stories or something.

    I was also a bit disappointed with the way Flagg and the Crimson King were despatched; it seemed as if he was afraid that a proper barnstorming final battle would be too predictable or twee and instead went for something more ironic.

    Essentially, my problem with it as a series is that it starts off as one thing -- an epic fantasy -- becomes something else -- an epic cross-dimensional continuity indulgence -- then ends up as something else again -- a pile of shite -- when I was quite happy with what it started out as.

    As with the final non-battle, I get the feeling that when he was in his twenties he thought a big fantasy doorstop novel would be a great idea, but when he got into his fifties -- and I suspect the accident had more than a little to do with it -- he decided that such a story would be juvenile and cheesy, so started trying to be clever with it, but somewhere along the line forgot to tell a story.

    That's more or less it.

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  4. Actually K, that just about sums it up for me and quite succinctly. I often get bogged down in massive sprawling essays about why I hate the DT so much, but you do it much better than me!

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  5. I think it helps that I'm not a loyal fan; outside of the DT sequence, I've only read a handful of his books, so I may have less baggage when discussing the "core" series.

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