August 2012 Archives
August 28, 2012
The third and final part of Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy really does feel like the final act: it's epic, the stakes are raised and there's resolution. And it's long. However I enjoyed the length. Usually when a film reaches two and a half hours I've had enough, but with Dark Knight Rises it provided space to develop the story. The film in itself reminded me of a major story arc of a comic, which you can then see as part of an even bigger arc of the three films. I liked that size, the daring to be epic, the sort of stuff that major comic arcs do well. The film escalates the problems for our heroes, in huge jumps, until the entirety of Gotham is subsumed by the terror. Nolan shows an apocalyptic version of Gotham, even worse than we saw in The Dark Knight, with some nice cinematic flair. I really enjoyed how the disaster and problems were ratched up and up.
I also enjoyed Bane as a villain, being familiar with him from the comic (in fact I read the novelisation of Knight Fall) I hoped that he would be a match for Batman, not the comic sidekick of his previous film incarnation. And he did, a perfect contrast to the psychotic Joker, Bane was scary for other reasons, for being deliberate, and planning, and having a cause, as opposed to the Joker's crazy death wish chaos. Not that Bane is better than The Joker or vice-versa, they are different, illuminating different parts of Batman.
Catwoman also appears in this film, although not mentioned by that name, only as Selina Kyle, and Anne Hathaway plays it brilliantly as a smart, driven woman striving to look after herself in any way possible. She makes Batman look clunky and stoney, showing that there's another way to cope with troubles than to withdraw into your (superhero costumed) self.
There's action and fights and gadgets but story. Batman as we've come to expect.
My only negative about the film was the very end, presumably tacked on by studio execs and in direct contrast to how Nolan handled the ending in Inception. But ignoring that I thoroughly enjoyed The Dark Knight Rises, and in fact the entirety of Nolan's Batman trilogy. Hopefully he'll make a Science Fiction film soon.
August 24, 2012
August 15, 2012
I read The Dream Archipelago by Christopher Priest whilst on holiday on the Croatian coastline, near Dubrovnik. I mention that because there was an large amount of resonance with the stories and the location I read it in, whilst reading I could look up and see islands off the coastline, see boats and yachts travelling between them, see the walled city of Dubrovnik which only twenty years ago was under siege. It was a deliberate decision to wait to read it until I was in that location and it was the right one, not only did I get to read it in a few days (I was on holiday, yay! etc.) but the atmosphere of my location really sparked my thought and let me feel a part of the stories.
Here's the review I wrote in my notebook immediately after finishing The Dream Archipelago: Odd, ambiguous, sexual. At times unsatisfying. Layered with meaning. Evocative prose. Less complete than The Islanders? Reminded me of Vermillion Sands by JG Ballard.
I'll try and elaborate, but that micro-review really does sum up my thoughts quite accurately.
The book is an anthology of stories set in The Dream Archipelago, the same setting as the recent novel The Islanders, a world with thousands of islands around its waist trying to remain neutral whilst the two mainland powers fight an everlasting war. The Dream Archipelago suffers from having read The Islanders first, whereas the stories in The Islanders were linked in subtle and wonderful ways, the stories in The Dream Archipelago share only the world and the history not the same narrative threads. Most of the stories were written in 1978 and published in various magazines, a couple were published later, which explains why. (I was reading the latest, expanded and revised edition published by Gollancz.) In many ways The Islanders takes what The Dream Archipelago was and makes it better and more complete.
I found the stories in The Dream Archipelago surprisingly sexual. Lots of sex, lots of sexual tension. I found the ending of many of the stories unsatisfying, leaving unresolved questions and a feeling as if the story had just lost interest and given up. However throughout the writing is great, extremely evocative, with layers and layers of meaning to peel away or puzzle over.
Many of the stories are about outsiders coming to the islands and misunderstanding the cultural differences, or struggling to come to terms with those cultural differences. The islands and their inhabitants remain very much a mystery, nothing is spelt out in black and white, lots is inferred and deliberately ambiguous. The result may be frustrating if you're not in the right mood but you have to give yourself into it and go with the stories flow.
If you're after a straight ahead Science Fiction thriller this isn't the book for you, if you're after wonderfully evocative and ambiguous tales of cultural clashes however, you're in luck, read this then The Islanders.
It's looking like fun...