I have mixed feelings when it comes to Joss Whedon’s work. I definitely liked Firefly and Serenity, especially in the more serious moments, but the dialogue would sometimes feel grating, mainly because most of the characters spoke to one another with a ‘look how witty I am’ style. Granted, a lot of the lines were genuinely funny and clever, but that sort of polished banter (when overused) can come across as self-indulgent and irritating.
The Avengers, on paper, sounds like a tough task for a writer. Iron Man, Captain America, Hulk, Thor, Black Widow and Hawkeye in one movie? There’s also the antagonist, Loki, and the man who gathers the team of protagonists together, Nick Fury. That’s eight critical characters, and most of them carry a lot of history and baggage with them. Throwing them all into one action movie sounds like a recipe for disaster. Somehow, Whedon manages to pull it off. I do think there were areas that could have done with improvement, but when I consider how many characters he had to juggle, he did a surprisingly good job of getting their different personalities and relationships across while keeping the action and momentum flowing.
A few spoilers follow.
Spoilers follow. Don’t read this if you haven’t seen the movie.
How do you make a follow-up to The Dark Knight?
That movie set the bar very high, to say the least. The Joker was an irrepressible force of chaotic energy, and Heath Ledger delivered a perfect, unnerving blend of humour and menace. Harvey Dent’s journey was engaging and emotionally powerful. It was polished and tightly plotted, with a real sense of escalating panic and grimness. It deserved all the praise it received.
[Spoilers for the anime and novel follow.]
I read The Count of Monte Cristo (by Alexandre Dumas) a few years ago. I remember being engrossed in the beginning segment and the misfortune of Edmond Dantès, but my interest slowly faded in the middle of the book (after his escape from prison and return to society), a section that felt like it needed editing and trimming. It took a long time for me to return to the book and finish it. I found that the story eventually picked up once again in the latter part of the book, and my appreciation for the work returned. I didn’t care much for most of the characters, but the Count himself was a memorable, distinctive character — a man who underwent a complete shift in personality in response to the cruelties people inflicted upon him, leading to an obsession with revenge. His suffering at the beginning of the novel is the emotional anchor that pulled me through the rest of the story, and by the end of the book he was still the character that held most of my attention.
Gankutsuou is…very different. Maybe it’s simply because I haven’t read the book in such a long time, but this series seemed to depart from the source material in various significant ways. It’s a very surprising but also rewarding choice; rather than simply transferring the book into an abridged, animated form (as most would probably have done) the creators instead chose a more difficult and interesting route. Perhaps the biggest change is that the Count no longer feels like the main character — that role goes to Albert, a character that didn’t make much of an impression on me in the novel.
Only one season so far, but so much to discuss. Big spoilers follow, so don’t read on unless you’ve watched the first season.
I love Avatar: The Last Airbender. I regard it as one of the most finely crafted series’ I’ve ever come across on television. When I heard that they were making a follow-up called The Legend of Korra I was naturally excited and eager to see how they handled it. I’ve resisted commenting on the series until now, because I wanted to wait until the entire first season was over.
Be warned — some spoilers for the Mass Effect games ahead.
Where to start?
The ending of this game has become so controversial and attracted so much negative attention that it has unfortunately overshadowed what came before it. I’ll put the ending to one side for a moment, because I’ll be coming back to that later.
I recently came across a list of questions about anime on this blog, and decided to give some of ‘em a shot. The list was originally made by Ace Railgun. I haven’t answered all the questions, but I’ve included a fair amount:
Who is your favorite male anime character?
Shinji, from Neon Genesis Evangelion. When I first heard about his character, it completely put me off watching NGE — I heard people continually mocking him for being ‘emo’ and irritating. I also knew that NGE was hugely popular, which made me wary. (Silly and snobbish mentality, I know.) When I finally decided to watch it, however, I fell in love with the series, and I was surprised at just how much I connected to Shinji. Yes, he’s one of the most emotionally damaged, passive and weak protagonists I’ve ever come across…but it’s not irritating at all. It works wonderfully, because it’s so very real and believable.
I’ve heard that the creator of the series, Hideaki Anno, struggled with depression for a long time, and I think this really comes through in Shinji’s characterisation and the troubled, brooding mood of the series as a whole. Sometimes I see other fictional works attempting to portray depressed or broken characters, but it often feels like they simply don’t go far enough — they hold back for whatever reason. Nothing feels held back or restrained with Shinji, though — Anno doesn’t seem afraid of making him too unlikable and losing the sympathy of the audience. There’s very little comedy to soften him and counteract his moroseness. Anno simply portrays a completely insecure, isolated young boy in a very believable, effective manner.
(Title taken from the last episode of the series.)
Now that I’ve finished watching Brotherhood, the more recent adaptation of FMA, it’s interesting to compare it to the original series. They both have different strengths and weaknesses, and they make for very different viewing experiences.
Spoilers follow. If you haven’t finished both series’, then don’t read any further.
(Title is taken from episode 16.)
I don’t watch or read much shonen material these days. As I’ve grown older, I’ve naturally gravitated towards work aimed at an older audience. I don’t mean to imply that quality is dictated by the age group that the work aims at — that would be silly, of course. Still, in the past few years it has become rare for me to come across a shonen work that genuinely interests me. Fullmetal Alchemist, I’m pleased to say, has proven to be one of the exceptions.
I was curious about this series for a while, but after watching two or three episodes I intended to give up on it. I’m not always patient with slow openings, and while I thought the series had potential, it wasn’t really gripping me. I finally decided to give it another chance after seeing people rave about it in posts such as this. Steins;Gate shifted into a completely different gear in the second half of the series, and the build-up at the beginning (which had previously seemed slow to me) became essential to the drama later. I think I’d enjoy those early episodes much more if I went back and rewatched them now.
Its been a slow year, but that’s partly what prompted me to create this blog in the first place — I’m quite glad that I did, as this has become an enjoyable ground for me to collect my senseless rambling and for discussing works with all sorts of people. I hope the new year brings much of the same.
I’m also hoping to see some good books coming out…2011 gave us a new work by Haruki Murakami (1Q84), which I still need to finish. (I really need to stop getting distracted with other things.) Martin also released his long awaited A Dance With Dragons, which unfortunately felt underwhelming to me. Hopefully he can restore the old magic with The Winds of Winter, although I have no idea when that is scheduled to release. (Probably not for two or three years yet.)
I also had the pleasure of discovering Avatar: The Last Airbender, a series that genuinely surprised me with its powerful storytelling. If you still haven’t seen it, you really should.
This year we have:
The Legend of Korra
The Dark Knight Rises
(And Mass Effect 3, in the realm of games.)