Neil Gaiman

Journey to the West Movie

I don't want to let myself get too excited about this, but Journey to the West may be made into a new movie with Neil Gaiman writing, Del Toro directing, and James Cameron advising... maybe on FX?

 

Journey to the West is the iconic Chinese story of the monkey king, Son Wukong, and his many adventures.  Most of us are at least familiar with the story through its adaptation into the original Dragonball.

 

I fell in love with the story when a Korean friend of mine introduced me to it when I was in middle school.  My friends and I used to sit around and listen to him recounting the story.   

Should this movie happen, YAY, if not, it is only a matter of time until someone makes it.

(via Blastr)

Ultimate Fantasies – the Golden Age

The new Ultimate Fantasies sequence (Orion) gave me a good excuse to explore the Golden Age of Fantasy. Some of these titles I had already read – albeit as a boy – and others I had come to by proxy, as in the case of Conan, familiar with the character through comic books and film. There is, of course, the Fantasy Masterworks Series, which includes these eight volumes in the Ultimate Fantasies sequence. Nevertheless, arranged chronologically, the Ultimate Fantasies sequence presents an excellent overview of the genre and a basic map of its evolution. An interesting consequence of this journey was a deeper understanding of influence in fiction. From the outset, I could read between the fairy-dusted pages of Lud-in-the-Mist and see the seeds of other novels, whether these seeds were intentional, actual or not. Bilbo Baggins appears to have had a ruddy-cheeked forebear in Nathaniel Chanticleer, the pot bellied, daydreaming mayor of Lud. The fairy fruit smugglers upset Mayor Chanticleer’s everyday world in an anarchic manner I’d not encountered since An Unexpected Party. And in Lud, it seems, are the ripples that later touched such magical tales as Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange and Neil Gaiman’s Stardust.

Moving into the 1930’s and beyond, Robert E.Howard’s Conan comes swinging his sword out of Cimmeria and into the pulps, giving birth to a different kind of Fantasy, the savagery of the Hyborian Age. As mentioned, I came to these stories backwards, through a tattered collection of Marvel Comics, L.Sprague de Camp novels, Schwarzenegger’s oafish screen rendition (which, as it happens, bears little in common with the fictional character) until finally coming to drink from the source. One of Lovecraft’s regular pen pals, when Robert E.Howard writes of the Old Gods beyond the stars, whose remnants haunt the primitive lands of Zamora, Koth, and Shem, the influence of Howard the Elder is clear. Lovecraft describes the Conan tales as ‘pure adventure yarns’, and he wasn’t wrong. My imagination roamed free through guileless forests, climbed bejewelled towers to carry out unsophisticated robberies and face magicians in unaffected conflicts.  In hindsight, time has lent Conan a darker edge. My eyebrow lifted more than once over the apparent racism

peppered in the narrative. In The Vale of Lost Women (not published in Howard’s lifetime), there is an unashamed reference to ‘black sluts’. At one point, Conan even remarks, 'I am not such a dog as to leave a white woman in the clutches of a black man’. I’m aware that Howard has faced such criticism before, but to my mind these stories remain classic, and as misguided products of their age, perhaps we should not judge them too harshly. Robert E.Howard committed suicide aged 30 and the world and the genre lost a gem.

1954 saw the publication of Poul Anderson’s The Broken Sword. In retrospect, the tale seems almost wilfully naïve. A sweeping epic that draws heavily from Norse myth in a more direct fashion than Lord of the Rings, Anderson captured the flavour of those myths with energetic narrative and lyrical prose. Faery changeling Skafloc, embroiled in a long war between the elves and trolls, seeks to remake the cursed sword Tyrfing, despite warnings of tragedy to come. In that tragedy, there appears to be a stark prototype of Michael Moorcock’s Stormbringer – a blade that must draw blood whenever it is drawn, that screams and sings and will one day turn upon its wielder. Moorcock nods at The Broken Sword as an influence, but Anderson’s novel lacks the cosmic scope and depth of emotion of the Elric tales, and it seems to me that Moorcock merely enhanced the idea. From the vantage point of this progressive age of Steampunk, New Weird and Dark Fantasy, I found it interesting to come across clichés before they had become so, and in light of that, I very much enjoyed The Broken Sword.

©Boris Vallejo

The innocence of these early stories starts to give way under the wit of Fritz Leiber. Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser first appeared in 1939 and their published adventures span five decades. A favourite of my youth, revisiting Lankhmar, The City of Seven Score Thousand Smokes, was nothing less than a thrill. Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser were as vivid as I remembered them, their boldness and bravado unchanged. Not to mention their dry humour and sarcasm. Leiber adopted a literary approach in crafting his stories, an approach that seems fresh even by today’s standards. He remains credited with single-handedly creating Sword and Sorcery, the first – but far from the last – offshoot of the modern genre. Fantasy was changing, keeping pace with more cynical times, and the mythically based tales of yore made way for those of a less haughty flavour. In the verbal sparring of the red haired barbarian and scrawny wizard thief, there is still a terrific touch of maturity. When

Moorcock claimed that Leiber is ‘still the greatest writer of us all’, I felt inclined to agree with him.

With Elric, Amber and Lyonesse still to come, the Ultimate Fantasies sequence is a treat, whether read in chronological order or not. I have emerged from these books with a deeper understanding of the genre I love, but have also been tremendously inspired. These stories are the seeds which encouraged me to write, and for that, I will always be grateful.

Vive le Fantasy!

JB

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SF News Bites: Doctor Who By Neil Gaiman, Spider-Woman Enlists With Avengers

The current TARDIS seen at BBC TV Centre and t... Image via Wikipedia

Doctor Who By Neil Gaiman

Neil Gaiman is penning an episode for Steven Moffat's Doctor Who.  The episode is to air early in Season Six.

-- it's quite possible that I might have written an episode. And if I had, it would originally have been called, 'The House of Nothing,' but it definitely isn't called that any more."

That rocks!  I can’t wait to watch the episode.

What do you think the episode could be about with the working title The House of Nothing?

(via DoorQ)

Spider-Woman Enlists With Avengers

Spider-Woman: Marvel announced she will be joining the Avengers team when the comic re-launches as part of their new Heroic Age line up of comics.

(via SciFiPulse)

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Vampire Kisses Manga

The Vampire Kisses series by Ellen Schreiber has been a staple of the YA horror community for quite some time and now, you can read it in manga form.  Though I have not read the books in this series, the manga can stand on it's own as a work of art. vkVampire Kisses #1: Blood Relatives is a cute, teenage romance about an adorable goth girl named Raven and her gorgeous vampire boyfriend.  Raven reminds me of a young Death from Neil Gaiman's Sandman comics.  They added just a dash of chibi to make you forget you are reading an American produced manga.  The art, by REM, is gothic and modern with a beauty all it's own that will have any gloom cookie loving it from cover to the last scene.

This is the first successful book adaptation turned manga I have seen.  The art is well done, the story is edited well, and it accomplishes what it is meant to, which is encourage you to read the book series.  I can say confidently that this team "gets it" and I give them credit because not many trying to break into the manga market do.

We manga fans have come to expect extras in the back and we are not to be disappointed here.  They have included some cool behind the scenes sketches of all the characters.  I adore the goth-loli-punk sketches of Kat.

My only complaint with this little book is that it is too short.  It is a measly 98 pages while most mangas run 150-200.  Considering the novel this manga represents is on the slim size, I suppose they didn't want to stray from the series format and make it larger.  I am, however, hopeful for an all-encompassing omnibus of these mangas like TokyoPop did with the Princess Ai series.

I have high hopes for this series to continue in like style.  If you're looking to move from traditional manga into book-inspired manga, this is a great way to start.

To purchase Vampire Kisses #1: Blood Relatives on Amazon, click here:

Coraline Toys At Carl's Jr.

A great treat for all of us Coraline fans!  Right now at Carl's Jr., you can get these four toys in their kid's meals:

  1. Coraline's Key: Plastic key with what they call an I.D. insert which is basically a pog. key
  2. Magic Mirror: A mirror box with a puzzle inside. mirror
  3. Tic Tac Toe: Which includes a paper mat showing the characters and plastic game pieces that look like buttons. tictactoe
  4. War Of The Worlds: (My personal favorite.) A card game with characters on each card. cards

To find out more information about the toys, locations, and more Coraline goodies such as free Coraline wallpapers, go to: http://www.carlscoolkids.com/

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Theater or Renter: February 2009

Theater or Renter: February 2009 includes Five SF movies Coraline, Fanboys, Push, Friday the 13th, Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li.  Will we watch? Will we rent? or do we even care? Watch the trailers. Rate the Trailer. Then share with us your comments: does the movie, it’s trailer and buzz make you want to watch it in the theater, rent it, or not interested at all, and why?

Coraline:

coraline Watch The Trailer here in the P:S HQ, Coraline Teaser, and Coraline and Neil Gaiman fun for the day!

Release Date:  February 6, 2009

Listed as:  stop motion, horror

Studio:  Focus Features

Director:  Henry Selick

Produced by: Mary Sandell, Claire Jennings

Written by:  Neil Gaiman (novel), Henry Selick

Stars: Dakota Fanning, Teri Hatcher, John Hodgman, Ian McShane, Keith David, Jennifer Saunders, Dawn French

The Plot / Story: A young girl, Coraline unlocks a mysterious door in her new home and enters into a parallel reality, a fantastical and thrilling imitation of her own dull life. In this world, Coraline finds a new version of her real mother and father, her off-kilter neighbors, Miss Forcible, Miss Spink and Mr. Bobinsky, and the Cat.  The only difference is that they all possess big, black buttons for eyes (All except for the Cat). When Coraline's Other Parents confront her during her birthday night, they tell Coraline that if she wants to stay in this Parallel universe, she must change her eyes into black buttons as well. When Coraline is given them in a small box, she hesitates and has mixed feelings on which universe to choose permanently. However, this other world soon begins to unravel and Coraline, along with her real parents, become prisoners to her Other Mother and must count on her resourcefulness, determination, and bravery to get back home. (Wikipedia) (The Official Site)

Fanboys:

fanboys [very limited release]

Watch The Trailer here in the P:S HQ

Release Date: February 6, 2009

Listed as:  Adventure, Comedy, Fandom

Studio: The Weinstein Company

Director: Kyle Newman

Produced by: Dana Brunetti, Kevin Spacey, Matthew Pernicaro, Evan Astrowsky, Kevin Mann

Written by: Story: Ernest Cline, Dan Pulick, Screenplay: Ernest Cline, Adam F. Goldberg

Stars: Jay Baruchel, Dan Fogler, Sam Huntington, Chris Marquette, Kristen Bell

The Plot / Story: It's 1998 and Star Wars fanboys across the globe eagerly await the release of Episode 1.  But for Eric, Linus, Hutch and Windows the term "fanboy" is more than just a title, it's a badge of honor.  Spurred by impatience and an undying loyalty to their cause, these former high school friends reunite to undertake the road trip of their fan-tasies.  Traveling West across the country to visit their Mecca George lucas' Skywalker Ranch.  The plan is to break in, steal the film and stake their claim as the first fanboys in history to watch it.  But to secure their place in the fanboy hall of fame, they'll have to contend with bizarre bikers, a crazy pimp, a deranged group of trekkies and the quiet intensity of William Shatner. (Wikipedia) (The Official Site)

Push:

Push Watch The Trailer here in the P:S HQ

Release Date: February 6, 2009

Listed as:  Sci-Fi, Thriller

Studio: Summit Entertainment

Director: Paul McGuigan

Produced by:

Written by: David Bourla

Stars: Chris Evans, Dakota Fanning, Camilla Belle, Djimon Hounsou

The Plot / Story: A group of young American expatriates with telekinetic, telepathic, and clairvoyant abilities, hiding from a clandestine U.S. government agency referred to as "Division." They try to find the only woman that ever escaped from "Division". She is their only key to finding out how to escape the agency. They must also use their different talents and band together for a final job enabling them to escape the agency forever. (Wikipedia) (The Official Site)

Friday the 13th:

friday_13_2009 Watch The Trailer here in the P:S HQ

Release Date: February 13, 2009

Listed as:  Horror

Studio: New Line Cinema

Director: Marcus Nispel

Produced by: Michael Bay, Andrew Form, Brad Fuller

Written by:  Screenplay: Damian Shannon, Mark Swift, Story: Damian Shannon, Mark Swift, Mark Wheaton, Characters by: Victor Miller, Ron Kurz

Stars: Derek Mears, Jared Padalecki, Danielle Panabaker, Amanda Righetti, Travis Van Winkle, Aaron Yoo

The Plot / Story: Searching for his missing sister, Clay heads up to the eerie woods of legendary Crystal Lake where he stumbles on the creaky remains of rotting old cabins that lie in wait behind moss-covered trees. And that's not the only thing hiding under the brush. Against the advice of police and cautions from the locals, Clay pursues what few leads he has with the help of a young woman he meets among a group of college kids up for an all—thrills weekend. But they are about to find much more than they bargained for. Little do they know, they've entered the domain of one of the most terrifying specters in American film history - the infamous killer who haunts Crystal Lake armed with a razor-sharp machete…Jason Voorhees.  This is a remake of the original Friday The 13th from 1980  (Wikipedia) (The Official Site)

Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li:

Legend_of_chun_li Watch The Trailer here in the P:S HQ

Release Date: February 27, 2009

Listed as:  Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi, Thriller

Studio: 20th Century Fox

Director: Andrzej Bartkowiak

Produced by: Patrick Aiello, Ashok Amritraj

Written by: Justin Marks

Stars: Kristin Kreuk, Neal McDonough, Chris Klein, Michael Clarke Duncan, Taboo, Robin Shou, Moon Bloodgood

The Plot / Story: The story follows Chun-Li's quest for justice.  (Wikipedia) (The Official Site)


Netflix, Inc.Netflix lets you rent, watch and return DVDs from home - Try free for 2 weeks

  	 Fandango - We've Got Your Movie Tickets!Don't wait. Guarantee your seat before you go and  avoid a sold out show. Skip the box office lines and buy movie tickets at Fandango.com.

Coraline and Neil Gaiman fun for the day!

The is a funny promotional video for the movie Coraline.  It features Neil Gaiman in his downstairs library talking about buttons and Koumpounophobia.

This video made me laugh so much.  It’s a brilliant piece of fun promotion and thanks to Neil for my word of the day: Koumpounophobia.  By the way Koumpounophobia is so uncommon I did not find it on Merriam Websters site nor on Wikipedi.

(via Neil Gaiman)


Netflix, Inc.Netflix lets you rent, watch and return DVDs from home - Try free for 2 weeks

  	 Fandango - We've Got Your Movie Tickets!Don't wait. Guarantee your seat before you go and  avoid a sold out show. Skip the box office lines and buy movie tickets at Fandango.com.

Death, Manga Style

Neil Gaimans character Death is back!  The awesome chick with excellent gloom cookie fashion sense, sporting an ankh necklace, and funky eye makeup is re-imagined in:deathDeath, At Death’s Door by Jill Thompson

This American-style manga is loads of fun for any Sandman fan.

In the first few pages, we see Death and her siblings arguing as they always do. Delirium appears in chibi form, while Desire reminds me of the old Archie and Jughead comics. Dream looks like a cartoon vampire. Deciding to travel to Hell to find his lost love, Nada, Dream causes all the inhabitants of Hell to wind up in Death’s apartment.

My favorite part is when Delirium walks in on Death as she is trying to baby sit all the displaced souls. Death is covered with bodies. In true Delirium style, she says, “Aren’t you hot wearing all those people?”

This is a fun, sometimes silly, look at our favorite Endless siblings. In the back is a great Death bio, a sketchbook area with more Death pictures, and a synopsis of the complete ten volume Sandman graphic novel library.

Death, At Death’s Door by Jill Thompson is available at Amazon. Click the Amazon portal on this page to support dashPunk.

Guillermo del Toro dreams Doc Strange?

docstrange After bringing Hellboy to life in the brilliant film, and getting his name in the running for every exciting film project in the next couple years: The Hobbit, At the Mountains of Madness, and Frankenstein, now Guillermo del Toro has said that he wants to direct a Doc Strange flick, and that he has been talking to Neil Gaiman about writing the script. This is my darkest dream come true. I know it is only a rumor, and that his is nothing but wishful thinking on his part, but I cannot imagine a better match to bring Doc Strange to the Big Screen. I hope the stars align and we see this flick come to life.

(via SciFi Scanner)

Voting for American Gods

On Feburary 9th the pole opened to elect one of Neil Gaiman's books that would be given away for free. The titles to choose from were: American Gods, Anansi Boys, Coraline, Fragile Things, M is for Magic, Neverwhere, Smoke & Mirrors, Stardust. It was Neil Gaiman's blogs 7th birthday and he wanted to do something fun so he worked it out with his publisher Harper Collins that he could put up one of his books for free for at least a month. Go Neil... thank you for helping to open the eyes of those traditional publishing houses. I like it when the publishers get woken up to the greater world of promotions especially when it is over a more scary tactic like giving free book copies. With the help of established writers smoothing the path then the little known writers and new writers will have a greater chance of getting a green light on promotional ideas like giving away a book copy. Neil asked his fans:

"What I want you to do is think -- not about which of the books below is your favourite, but if you were giving one away to a friend who had never read anything of mine, what would it be? Where would you want them to start?"

Instead of just choosing the title himself, Neil put it up for vote for one week on his blog. This was also a great choice because some times the artist is too close to their projects to see exactly how it is interacting in the wild. Just ask the guys over at KISS, they thought that Beth was a B-side throwaway song and once in the wild it went on to become as extremely popular title.417QGN93XKL._SL210_

After 26,400 votes, American Gods won with 28% of the vote.

He was suprised that the fans made that choice and said:

"I don't think I would have put up American Gods as a first choice for free book myself -- mostly because a) it's really long and b) it divides people. As far as I can tell, for every five people who read it, one loves it utterly, two or three like it to varying degrees, and one hates it, cannot see the point to it and needs convincing that it's a novel at all."

But he was thrilled over the process and will still go with the choice because as he put it that is democracy.

Neil Gaiman will post the links to get a copy of the free book latter when those details are available.

(via Neil Gaiman)

Stardust best fantasy tale since The Princess Bride

51pu-9 TnSL._SL210_ Tristan Thorne is a humble shop boy from a small English town. He has a problem because he found his true love Victoria Forrester only she was being courted by Humphrey the town hunk.

Tristan fianlly gets Victoria to enjoy a romantic dinner under the starlight only to find that Humphrey was willing to travel to another town to get her an engagement ring for her birthday. After watching a falling star Tristan makes a deal with Victoria that she will marry him if he gets her the falling star and returns to her by her birthday which is within one week. The problem is that the star fell on the other side of the Wall which divides England and the magical world of stormhold.

The rest of the tale is an adventure fairy tale following Tristan as he races to get to the fallen star and return before the week is up. He also has to survive while the evil witches and the Kings murderous sons also pursue the fallen star in hopes of cutting out it's heart for eternal life.

This is the best epic quest / fantasy tale since The Princess Bride! I give it 10 out of 10, wow! Stardust is pure art* presenting me with a delightful tale suspending me in time and space through it's immaculate reality*. The twists and turns of the story surprised me and even though it had a typical fairy tale ending I was proud for the hero whom I cared about watching him grow in skill and character and actually earning the happy ending.

Tristen is set on an epic quest with only one week to earn the love of his true love by getting the fallen star and return back through the wall. All of the classic elements of a Joseph Campbell's hero's journey were present but Neil Gaiman enhanced the tale with delightful touches to those steps. One instance was when the hero was about to cross the threshold and got denied by the threshold guardian. I mean he got his ass kicked by that old man who demonstrated an unexpected proficiency with that stick, I was in tears from laughing so hard.

Stardust is an expression of pure art bringing me to a suspended moment through a beautiful balance between drama, action, comedy, and tension. There are many films that try to get this balance but many merely push and pull me from one moment to the next taking me on a roller-coaster ride of emotions leaving me feeling drug out and tired at the end of the film. Neil was able to get it so that I laughed often while griping the edge of my seat thrilled by the action and drama of the scene.

Neil uses a delightful sense of dark humor that put such a twisted smile on my face. He just hits you right from the start of the movie with a murder that I could only laugh at because it was delivered with such tong in cheek. Neil has the King disappointed in his sons because they haven't murdered each other yet, desiring only the strongest son to survive and ascend to become the next ruler of Stormhold. As shocking as the kings position was Neil made it seem so natural that a short distance into the film I found myself only laughing when a son would get himself killed, thinking to my self 'well he wasn't kingly material,' like it was some kind of acceptable behavior. Twisted... I love it.

Throughout the movie there is a beautiful exploration of true love. This story line was masterfully woven into the tale and takes the audience all the way to the very last scene where we find out that true love is not conditional and it is eternal.

The artwork, set design, and graphics all lend to the immaculate reality that Stardust is able to forge from the very beginning and maintain through to the credits. For example the wall that separates England from the magical world of Stromhold was short maybe 3 feet tall yet I never once thought to question why everyone passed through the crack in the wall and not just jump over it. Another example would be on the air ship where the crew collects lightening but it seems so natural like any other type of fishing barge that is out the on the ocean.

The special effects were absolutely beautiful. I loved the scene when the evil witch used her magic to create a road side in by having it form from a point in space and expand out until it filled the normal space it should fill. The subtle use of a light effect for Una which made he glow but they did it in such a manner as to make the whole thing seem so natural. Not only well done on the effects but they added to the immaculate reality keeping me pulled into the world Neil created.

With all of this raving I do have to say "Please, Please stop the use of the helocoptor pan shot." I am so sick of seeing a helicopter pan shot of people walking. Why not try something different. If you want to show them walking a long distance then put the camera behind them and focus on a far off distance point in front of them or something else. I was also disappointed when the director let Una ride the unicorn in an un lady like fashion and did not make her ride side saddle.

The plot twists were really well played in Stardust. Neil builds beautifully an expectation, lulls the viewer into a false sense of security and then blows your mind by zigging when you expect the plot to zag. I could sit here and list the many, many instances when this occurs but I don't believe in putting spoilers into reviews and for those readers who have already seen the film then you already know of the moments I am speaking of and you are probably sitting back like me with a big goofy grin on your face as you recall those moments.

In addition to maintaining such a tight immaculate reality with beautiful effects Stardust had some wonderful little touches too like the use of traditional folk magic. Neil surprised me by not turning to the traditional overused and expected forms of divination like the use of the crystal ball, reflecting pool / mirror, seeking an old shaman but instead had two less used forms the main one being the use of intestinal divination. Yes folks, things get eviscerated so that the witches can view their organs to see the future. As gross as this practice is they did a wonderful job with it making it seem so natural and by not showing anything to the audience and thereby avoiding the modern day trap of being grotesque. The other form of divination was the use of rune tossing. All I can say is that there is a beautifully tense scene on a beach that just wowed me.

In the end it is all about the performance and everybody loves a good show even swashbuckling, murdering, privateers!

The movie Stardust is available through: Amazon.com UnBoxed, Widescreen DVD, HD DVD, or the Book Stardust written by Neil Gaiman.

The film stars: Adam Buxton as Quintus, Ben Barnes as Young Dunstan Thorne, Charlie Cox as Tristan Thorne, Claire Danes as Yvaine, David Kelly as Guard, David Walliams as Sextus, Henry Cavill as Humphrey Monday, Ian McKellen as Narrator, Jason Flemyng as Primus, Joanna Scanlan as Mormo, Julian Rhind-Tutt as Quartus, Kate Magowan as Una, Mark Heap as Tertius, Mark Strong as Septimus, Mark Williams as Billy, Melanie Hill as Ditchwater Sal, Michelle Pfeiffer as Lamia, Nathaniel Parker as Dunstan Thorne, Peter O'Toole as Lord of Stormhold, Ricky Gervais as Ferdy the Fence, Robert De Niro as Captain Shakespeare, Rupert Everett as Secundus, Sarah Alexander as Empusa, Sienna Miller as Victoria Forrester

*Art: as defined by James Joyce something that neither pushes nor pulls you but merely presents it's self holding you in the moment. As apposed to pornography which he describes as something that drives you either toward or away from it.

*Immaculate Reality: Akira Kurosawa talks about immaculate reality where the story / movie is so self contained that the audience is pulled in and does not question the events because they are natural within the reality crafted by the story / movie.

Beowulf: The Death of a Hero

by Eric

and Brian

It is hard for me to write out my thought on the new animated film, Beowulf, written by Neil Gaiman and Roger Avary. It is loosely based on the epic poem of English legend. Directed by Robert Zemeckis (Polar Express), the movie features an all star cast:

  • Ray Winstone (The Chronicles of Narnia) as Beowulf
  • Anthony Hopkins (Dracula) as Hrothgar
  • Robin Wright Penn (Princess Bride) as Queen Wealtheow
  • Dominic Keating (Star Trek Enterprise) as old Cane
  • Alison Lohman (Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind) as Ursula
  • John Malkovich (The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy) as Unferth
  • Crispin Glover (Back to the Future) as Grendel
  • Brendan Gleeson (Mad-eye Moody from the Harry Potter Films) as Wiglaf
  • Angelina Jolie (Tomb Raider) as Grendel's Mother

Just to name a few. The movie was made with the same motion capture tech that Polar Express was. I suppose I have to stop stalling now.

It was a great film overall, but there are many things that bothered me, but before I delve into them too much, I want to lay a foundation from which to build.

Neil Gaiman and Roger Avary did not write a film adaptation of the epic poem, they reimagined the story. They tried to explain Grendel and his mother's motivations. They are not mere monsters. Grendel is driven mad by the resonating cacophony from Hrothgar's mead hall, attacking the village to silence them. Beowulf is motivated by his desire for glory. In their retelling, the story is no longer a story about sacrifice and glory. This new film version is the a deconstruction of the hero.

Like the Thirteenth Warrior (another retelling of Beowulf), the new story is great on its own, even though it pales in comparison with the original. I thoroughly enjoyed the film, but I have a few things against it.

The Animation Quality

The film strived for an ultra-realism that it simply cannot deliver. While the heights the film reaches are spectacular, it is unable to maintain them for any prolonged period. At times, the film has mismatched levels of quality within the same frame. For example, in the scene between Beowulf and Grendel's Mother, Beowulf is stunningly realistic while Grendel's Mother looks like an amazingly sexy character from Shrek.

At times, the quirks in the animation became distracting. Every time they were on a horse, the animation devolved into a jerky cartoonish caricature of a person riding a horse. I found the inconsistencies to be distracting at times. They often took me out of the story and reminded me that I was watching a movie.

I too found the animation to be distracting, mainly the eyes. They were trying for a more realistic feel in the eyes of the characters and at times I thought they were bang on, but most of the time everyone had a lazy eye. It distracted from the story. Consistency is the key for best animation. As a fan I don't mind cartoonish animation because if it is a good story I will get lost in the story but if the quality fluctuates throughout the movie then I get pulled out of the experience.

Postmodern Deconstruction of the Hero

In this retelling, Beowulf is not a hero. He is not a blessing to his people, or a the glory of his race. He is a frail flawed non-hero whose own lust and desire nearly destroys his people. Personally, I am getting sick of these postmodern retellings of classic stories to rob them of their heroic virtue.

I might be alone in this, but I like my heroes to be heroic. About two-thirds of the way into the flick, I sort of checked out. The story had rung hollow for me.

At first I was very excited to see Beowulf acting heroic but by the end I felt robbed. Yes people have faults and flaws but why is it so hard today to just have a hero. Someone who is brave and strong, who faces the enemy and stands up for what is right without having to sellout. I felt dirty in the end. It was like watching the tale of the hippy generation all over again. I think another reason why the plight of the hero didn't sit well with me is that I have to live in the real world where those in authority keeps repeating the sins of their past passing down the problems from one generation to another and selling out to the devil for a period of peace. It makes me angry to see a hero act in a similar manner.

Overly Cinematic

My last complaint is that the story bowed heavily to the established conventions for a feature film, which made parts of the film cliche and the end uselessly dramatic. From the moment they first showed the drinking horn, I knew how the film would end. The end lingered for too long so it could hit the expected disaster-release-disaster-release-disaster-release-black moment-release format that all of the screenplay books recommend.

Overall

Beowulf is a challenged and flawed film that meanders about never really finding its narrative or visual voice, but having said that, it is still a film that deserves to be seen, but probably not owned. I recommend that you pop this one onto your Netflix list and watch it when it comes out on DVD.

The Magic is Why I Write

I have been reading one blog post over and over again lately. In Neil Gaiman's Journal, he wrote a wonderful post called "Why write?" celebrating the moment the story comes to life for a writer.

The best thing about writing fiction is that moment where the story catches fire and comes to life on the page, and suddenly it all makes sense and you know what it's about and why you're doing it and what these people are saying and doing, and you get to feel like both the creator and the audience. Everything is suddenly both obvious and surprising ("but of course that's why he was doing that, and that means that...") and it's magic and wonderful and strange (Neil Gaiman's Journal).

Since I have been struggling with a very uncooperative story that hooked me but refused to reveal to me any of its secrets, it used Neil's epiphany as inspiration. I know that moment, but it often hard to get to. I struggled on. I begged each character to reveal something to me about themselves. I wandered through the lonely wastes of Abbey grounds, knowing full well that everything that lived there was hiding from me. Every now and then something would move out of the corner of my eye, but it was gone before I could see what it was.

Then yesterday at about this time one of my characters sat next to me and opened up about is life:

drinking a yummy Pinot grigio, listening to Cradle of Filth, and writing a bio for a vampire. Life is good right now :) (my twitter)

I don't know if it was the research, the Pinot grigio, the music or what it was, but for the first time on Blackwood Abbey, I had that feeling, it made sense. Not all of it, but I could see the world a little clearer. We walked together, this vampire and I for most of the night. He told me his life story, and in so doing, shared with me the world that he lives in.

Pessimism is strong in me, so I did not accept this as a break through. I assumed that the adrenalin from the Tornado warning had mixed with the wine in some unreplicatable convergence, but I was wrong. Today, three more denizens of the Abbey have come to me to share their stories. I can see the world, and the story clearly. I hope the others will come to me tomorrow.

I have felt the magic Neil captured so well. I can only hope that my talents are up to par to wield and maintain the magic that has begun to flow through me.

(from my Amazon Connect Blog)