Friday, October 26, 2012

Where Are You Going Mr. Iron Man?

Thematically, where is Iron Man at? The first film was about Tony Stark losing it all then building Iron Man to reclaim his life and then company. The second film was about Tony Stark on the verge of losing it all but reinvents his technology, saving his life and keeping his company. The trailer for the third seems to promise that Tony Stark will lose it all before inventing a new Iron Man suit to regain his place in the world.

TheMandarin… The villain for the third film. He’s a Chinese caricature with ten rings of power he found from a crashed space ship. Oh, the aliens looked like Dragons which doesn’t further reek of gross stereotyping. He’s mad at the world. I’ll give him credit for, after years of presumably getting his rings ripped from his fingers, inserting them into his spin. It looks fucking sick.

How does he fit in at all with any of Iron Man’s thematic territory? Tony Stark describes himself as a futurist. For all his high technology, the man is grounded with a human perspective. His character is an exploration of what uses mankind makes of its technology and how it will choose to evolve with that technology. Thus the view of the Iron Man suit as a weapons platform is a critique of mankind’s weaponization of all its tools and obsession with kill potential. As a hero, the enemies Iron Man fights embody the problems mankind faces as the power it gains from tech grants it incredible and far-reaching abilities. Iron Man will never be the hero who “patrols” some city streets to ferret out muggers. He’s much more “big picture”.

The only area where Tony Stark and Mandarin intersect is that both are very powerful individuals. I get Marvel is making a push to unify all their heroes, create a single coherent world, and apparently hate aliens as ugly, simple, interlopers. But this throwback to the golden age of comics is deeply uninteresting. Given the commanding presence comic movies are getting, why is Marvel wasting this space by showing the world that comics haven’t aged since the 60s? Or is this a reaction to the space carved out by Batman? In place of being grounded, dark, with character focused arcs Mavel is opting for the silly, colorful, “guess who the new badguy is!?” type of nonsense. Remember when Batman Forever, Spider-Man 3, and X-Men 3 ran comic movies into the ground? What bugs me is the first Iron Man film successfully rebooted into fertile conceptual space. It’s like Marvel is pissed at their own success.

And can an Iron Man movie move beyond a rehash of his origin? What does the Man of Tomorrow fight against? How does he change the world? What will the world look like with tech that transforms people into demi-gods? Iron Man is, at least the only one I can think of, the sole hero who could grapple with any questions of where humanity will go and what it will look like. Batman is too obsessed with his own issues to ever give a shit about anything beyond Gotham. Every other hero is a reaction to current problems. They’re the ones who patrol around. Because they don’t have anything better to do. Really, how disgustingly ineffectual is it to wander around a city hoping to happen upon a clear crime?

I’m sad all this beautiful potential is being squandered. Robert Downey Jr. is going to carry the film regardless. He is Tony Stark. I just wish the owners of these wonderful ideas actually knew what they had. 

Image Copywrite Marvel

Monday, October 1, 2012

The Blinding Knife Review

So I’m about here:
The Blinding Knife was light and fluffy fantasy that took its magic system too seriously.

What a disappointment. The Blinding Knife reversed every single thing I liked about Weeks’s writing. Yeah, my expectations were high. Plus I felt I was doing Weeks a favor by forgiving his slides into melodrama. So there’s betrayal mixed in this. Here is where Mr. Weeks swerved off course, in my estimation.

The Villains were way too safe. The chief two, Andross Guile and The Color Prince, both feel like the exact same character to begin with. There’s just so much effort put into buffing their reputations that their weak actions seem even more pathetic. You can’t keep saying “these guys are meticulous planners who have been scheming years!” then have a 15 year old fat kid come in stupid and half-cocked, yet still beat every challenge and not have them look like idiots. It seems like they want to fail. Never mind the motivation of each boils down to “the author needs me to do it”, all they end up accomplishing is making the heroes look kinda good for a minute.

In general, too, everything comes too easy for Kip Guile, the Hero. In all of the Brent Week’s other books, even the first book of this series, the hero had to pay a high price for anything they wanted. Now this kid can’t even fuck up without getting what he wanted. How does it make sense to build Kip as the Fat Kid who Can’t Do Anything Right then have him run for days, learn an incredible complex game in a month (and beat a master of said game), beat other kids who have been training their whole lives as fighters casually, and still able to summon impossible magic to bail himself out of any situation with no training in it? There are more Outs then possible problems.  It made all of the action of the book tedious. I got more invested in the relationships of characters as a consequence. Looking for something dynamic. Even there though, everybody loves the heroes. Everything is forgiven. Say something stupid? Turns out it was funny, charming, and makes everyone like you more. Girl pissed at you for 16 years? Your mom will talk to her for 10 minutes and it’ll be all better.

The magic system was more than adequately explained in the first book. There was a chapter where a character went through an actual lesson plan. It was just block paragraphs treating this shit as real. I guess Weeks got some criticism on that as there are great pains put into covering any instance of new magic in the book. That pain was transferred to the reader. History and possible uses and whatever the rest of the whole fucking world thinks of people who use it and how it affects people who use it and ties to old gods… Jesus H the whole “dialogue” about the invisible color (I forget the name and a quick Google search yields nothing. Starts with a P) was a chore to get through. A disposable character was brought in to say “this shit is super mysterious and maybe super deadly. Don’t tell anyone about it because this book is dry as fuck”. I’m pretty sure that quote is verbatim but I don’t know the page number. So in the end, I got pages of teasing about something that doesn’t matter.

The “ending” was complete shit. On every single level an ending exists on, this one festered on the bottom most plane with a stink that’ll stay with you for a few days. First off, the “final battle” is a joke. Gaven kills one of these “gods” a few days earlier, single-handedly. Now he’s got an army and it’s more exciting? AT LEAST KIP DOESN’T FALL ON THE GUY WITH AN ALL-POWER ARTIFACT HE CONVIENTLY GOT. Reals? The badguys can be beat by the hero tripping? The author has the gall to drag out this pedestrian battle then throw a whole mess of shit in at the end then end the book like that was a clever cliff-hanger. Cliff-hangers are cheap tricks used by cheap authors. Every single chapter ended with some “but oh no!” that never turned out to be a serious problem. I just feel like the book stopped. Even with the threads that terminated in this book, there was no closure on them. More forgotten.

There are characters that are just distractions, filler. Namely Teia and Gunner. Ok, Teia is a slave for about three weeks before Kip miraculously bails her out in a wild fit of luck so any sympathy and potential for hidden conflict is obliterated quickly. Her power color is largely seen as useless and Weeks spends a great deal of time attempting to justify her inclusion in anything. In vain. Again, soft obstacles are placed in front of her that suspiciously conform to an easy test of abilities she already has. I couldn’t even describe her personality. I don’t think she has one. Gunner is author over-indulgence. Weeks is channeling Melville’s Moby-Dick. Every. Single. Passage. With Gunner was teeth-gnashing frustrating to get through. The idea is fun! He talks to a make-believe (or not) sea Goddess as though they are two old friends who hate each other. But the writing made me violently angry it was so bad. Now he’s gonna be a main character in the next book! Yay! I’m not fucking reading it now.

The parts I did like, and there were enough to keep me going despite all this other stuff I’ve been writing about, all of that gets murdered in this book. Gavin. Ya know, the whole entire actually interesting aspect to this series is killed for no reason. Well, Ok, I mean because Dazen is running out of time!! That’s horseshit. Dazen dealing with his brother was some item on a bucket list. That’s flimsy. Can I get a character that has more motivation than “the author told me to”? But really, story potential is jettisoned for no explained / good reason. That’s tantamount to a felony at least. JANIS BORIG! You made exploring the history of this world a fun, highly engaging, read! So… get killed before a fraction of your potential is used? Though she did lift heavily from Harry Potter. What with legendary magical artifacts (including invisible cloaks) and living other people’s lives in a dream-like manner, and being super powerful but living in some house where anybody could find her. But whatever! Fun is fun and she was that. The lack of context given to her death was insulting to anyone who invested at all in her character (me).

I rolled into this book ready to love it but Brent Weeks worked really hard to convince me not to. Tough to know how much I should hold this against Weeks. He’s still 5 for 6. But in all those other stories, he rubbed hard against disaster (with such unimaginative core stories) , so has he succumbed to bad instincts?