Sunday, May 8, 2011

Dinky Reviews!

Thor (2011).

When I describe myself as an old-school Avengers fan, that isn't to say I've been one for some great length of time (unless six years seems like a lot to you), but instead to suggest that I'm primarily a fan of the old-school (i.e. pre- Brian Michael Bendis) Avengers.

Perhaps a bit of an explanation is in order. To make a relatively long-ish story short(er): My undergraduate thesis was a 36-page mock series bible for a hypothetical Marvel comic book series. I'd recently picked-up about half of the first Secret Wars from a nearby flea market - and I found myself fast becoming fascinated by Kang the Conqueror. I mean, what was this guy like when he wasn't relegated to the shadows of Victor von Doom?

I bought the Kang: Time and Time Again trade-paperback to find out - and I discovered that the eponymous Conqueror is primarily known as an Avengers villain. This led to my purchasing the Council of Cross-Time Kangs storyline from issues 291 to 297 of said team's series - and while I'd eventually go on to use him in my aforementioned academic proposal, I was no longer satisfied with just reading about Kang alone.

No, I was now actively tracking down anything Avengers-related - my wont for ascribing the modifier "old-school" to myself (due to Disassembled having rendered far too many of my beloved characters either functionally irrelevant, or literally deceased) notwithstanding! So what's my opinion of this movie, given that I'm sufficiently familiar with the source material?

In a word: It's awesome.

Seriously - this does a lot to redress my misgivings after the generally lackluster Iron Man 2! Sure, it isn't absolute perfection - Brain Blessed's absence alone is criminal (I would've even accepted John Rhys-Davies as Volstagg, instead of whoever it was that we actually got!) - but it's still by far the best cinematic outing we've seen from a Marvel character since Robert Downey, Jr.'s initial foray into the genre!

What more could you possibly ask for? How about an unexpected big-screen debut from a character who's going to figure more prominently into future films - and the now-obligatory bonus scene after the end credits as well!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Please, Just Hear Me Out...

Game of Thrones (2011).

I've met many fans of author George R. R. Martin's "A Song of Ice and Fire" series over the years. I can count amongst them close friends, personal acquaintances, and even individuals whom I've never met, but have instead merely respected from afar - admiring them for the quality of all the work they have done. However, the rate at which I read straight prose is prohibitively slow - so I awaited this particular adaptation with much anticipation.

As I entered this fictional universe for the first time, my expectations were nothing short of outright loving the experience - and in the very first scene, a great deal of that potential had already seemingly paid off! Was what we just witnessed some form of necromancy... and if not, would there - or, dare I even suggest it, could there - be an alternative explanation forthcoming?

So the show was successful initially - quickly capturing my imagination, because the opportunities therein seemed to be truly endless. Could it possibly be that television audiences were about to receive the actual fantasy that had, for so long, completely eluded former 'fantasy-fiction' programming?

Granted, some dire wolves do eventually emerge further on into the first episode. In and of itself, this isn't so far-fetched - not when one considers that, as an extinct species of their more familiar modern-day descendants, these wolves could conceivably have co-existed with humans in this (albeit fictionalized) era. As for the rest - well, the uninitiated might easily mistake most of it as being part of some unidentified film belonging to the historical epic sub-genre.

Most, that is... but not all.

I've been struggling to find the right words to use - fumbling for the correct things for me to say - even now, as I'm writing this. There is one reoccurring thought, however - a singular idea that I keep mulling about, yet still remain unsure regarding the best method of expressing - so perhaps I should simply just say it: Your opinions really do mean something to me.... in fact, they matter a lot!

Whew - that was more difficult admission than I might have ever guessed! Still, at least I can rest a little easier in the knowledge that you can hopefully better appreciate it when I say the following: I didn't approach Game of Thrones with any negative preconceptions - nor were any overly-judgmental attitudes present on my part.

Instead I must confess that my expectations for the show were actually quite optimistic - in fact, I honestly believed that I'd have given it all due credit by now! So I'm left to ponder whether or not it's even worth it to jeopardize whatsoever positive regard other people have for me - to risk alienating myself from those individuals whom I actually care about - by expressing an opinion that's in any way contradictory to the one which is most commonly believed.

All of which is my way of saying (though it pains me to do so) that I cannot - in good faith, and with a clear conscience - give this program my unreserved recommendation.

And that's because you might as well call it "Rape of Thrones."

It's almost as if, back in the day, George R. R. Martin said to himself: "This Tolkein stuff is pretty good... but you know what it needs? More rape."

Look - I love Alan Moore's "Watchmen" (as a stand-alone entity; I won't be discussing any adaptations or apocrypha herein). It too took a more innocent storytelling tradition - comic books - and infused it with adult content and themes (as well as literary techniques heretofore unseen in said format). But you know what the difference was there?

One word, my friends: "Attempted."

And I understand that rape already had existed in fantasy fiction beforehand, by way of Robert E. Howard's Conan the Barbarian... but then I'd ask that you watch John Milius' film of the same name, and tell me what the difference is.

That's right - they didn't show it.

I honestly did give Game of Thrones two chances to win me over. When the first episode featured a graphic depiction of rape, I thought to myself, "Maybe this was just an anomaly." But no - not fifteen minutes into the second episode, our collective sensibilities are similarly assaulted once again.

I've since heard about further happenings in future episodes... but I don't care that the perpetrator eventually gets his comeuppance (and speaking as we were about Conan: Thanks for ruining Jason Mamoa's entire acting career forever for me, HBO!); nor that his victim somehow inexplicably forgives him.

But watching rape - even of a simulated and fictional variety - is not my idea of entertainment. And it shouldn't be anyone's.