Wonder Woman (2017) – votum separatum

wonder-woman

There’s been a lot of talk about Wonder Woman, very favorable reviews (one of them, by Piotrek, on this blog), fan hype and critical acclaim. The movie’s heyday is already past, with Justice League on screen and other superhero movies crowding the benches. So why do I come back to it now?

Well, probably partly because I’ve been recently reading Moses Finley’s seminal work, The World of Odysseus – very highly recommended to anyone interested in ancient Greece. And partly because the movie sits like a thorn in my side, its popularity and acclaim, when confronted with its painfully stereotypical message, truly baffling.

Wonder Woman has been hailed as the first superhero movie with a woman as a lead. This is surely something laudable? After all, thanks to this movie we’ve read about subversive feminism and whatnots, discussed chainmail bikinis as a source of empowerment or subjugation, depending on one’s stance, and so on. Even Gloria Steinem took a stand, saying the film was very good, although noting at the same time that she “may be desperate – […] just happy that the Amazons had wild hair”. It’s been called the best of DCU movies so far, and while it in itself is not a big feat, it definitely forces comparison to other movies. It all seems highly beneficial to a summer flick which on its own is rather mediocre. We’ve all probably heard the voice of reason, saying, “it’s not perfect, but better this than nothing”, “it’s a step in right direction”, “I’ve seen worse”.

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Thor: Ragnarok (2017)

Critics Consensus: Exciting, funny, and above all fun, Thor: Ragnarok is a colorful cosmic adventure that sets a new standard for its franchise — and the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Piotrek: This from Rotten Tomatoes, where the movie got 93% freshness rating from critics and 90% from the audience. Points are slightly lower, with 7,5/10 from critics and 4,3/5 from regular movie-goers. On imdb it’s 8,2/10. From sites and reviewers I follow, not a single one disappointed voice. See Angry Joe and his crew, their enthusiasm is contagious. Just as everybody, they describe T:R as non stop fun, great comedy, a new direction for both Thor and Hulk. Also as two hours of fan-service. And I agree, but I’m not as sure it’s good fan-service as they are. Or, to be more clear, it might be very good fan-service, but for me it’s not enough for a 10/10 rating. I’ve enjoyed the movie, I’ve laughed a lot, several scenes are superb – arena duel, some of the fight sequences (one using this!), Dr Strange’s cameo, Gatling-shooting Valkyrie… and more.

I couldn’t fully enjoy the movie though, and it’s Ola’s fault. I’m not talking about the scathing review I’ve heard before I had the chance to go to the cinema, but several collected comic book she made me read, with storylines that supposedly inspired T:R.

Ola: Thank you! To keep things simple, cinematic adaptations of their source material generally can be judged based on faithfulness/originality, which gives us three basic categories: 1) faithful to the original, keeping its spirit (if not the whole content) intact despite the difference in medium – Watchers are a good example of this case, 2) better than original, expanding the material in ways unique to the new medium and/or times it had been adapted in –  I know my choice will be controversial, but Guardians seem a nice enough example here, or 3) worse – for whatever reason cannibalizing/trivializing/creating serious misconceptions about the original. Thor: Ragnarok falls firmly into this last category.

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Justin Cronin, The City of Mirrors (2016)

Cronin City of Mirrors

And so we arrive at the final chapter of the story originated in The Passage. I enjoyed the first installment, was disheartened by the second… And the third was my first DNF in years – actually, the first since Rothfuss’ The Name of the Wind, the review of which can be found here.

As I am an (almost) compulsive reader, DNF-ing a book is a big deal. I usually try to finish even those books which I don’t enjoy – there are plenty of examples of such instances on the blog, for example here and here, and here… DNF is a big thing for me. It’s sort of a final, irrevocable verdict, an emperor’s finger pointed down, the sword falling and lions waiting. DNF-ing a novel means for me that the work in question possessed no redeeming quality, no point of access, and that I considered reading it a total waste of time.

romans booingJean –Léon Gérôme Pollice Verso (Thumbs Down) , 1872

So now it’s time to explain why the conclusion to a trilogy which has begun with such a promise was a complete letdown.

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Angus Watson, Clash of Iron (2015)

I’ve reviewed volume one here, now I’m back with a few words on the second one.

22875122More of the same… good, bad and mediocre alike. I’m unimpressed and I won’t stay around for the final one. Maybe the author is better suited for s/f? Or contemporary military thrillers? The plot is not dumb, jokes would be ok if they suited the epoch, but  my immersion was broken every couple of minutes (I listened to the book on Audible), because there is nothing authentically ancient here. Actually, this was a final straw – after thinking about it for some time, I’ve suspended my Audible subscription, instead of going for the third Iron novel. I still have a supply of unread books there, including Bernard Cornwell’s, author as (ok, more) readable as Watson, and historically accurate.

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Justin Cronin, The Twelve (2012)

The Twelve

I haven’t written in a long time – lots and lots of work. Still, I do read, even if swamped with work, so my list of books to be reviewed slowly grows. I completed my read of The Twelve when I was still commuting weekly to Warsaw and had a lot of time to read, and it was a good thing, because otherwise I wouldn’t have finished this book.

But let’s start from the beginning. The Twelve is the second installment in an already finished post-apocalyptic trilogy by Justin Cronin. The review for the first installment, The Passage, can be found here. I enjoyed The Passage quite a bit, enough to jump to the second book as soon as I finished the first. I liked the protagonists of the first novel: mostly Amy and Wolgast, but I was ok also with the latecomers – Peter and Alice, Sarah and Mike, and the rest of the supporting crew.

The second installment shows us a world in a momentary stasis – the first of the Twelve, Babcock, is dead, but the rest of the monstrous serial killer death row inmates is still free to roam the realm of the erstwhile U.S. Worse, the human survivors are not enticed to believe Peter and the rest of his crew that there are other “nodes”, the remaining zero-patients, who are able to control to bloodsucking monstrosities called virals. From the humanity’s point of view getting rid of them would mean much better chance of survival – but humanity has a tendency to look rather to the next day than to the next year, and so the problems of plumbing, food and electricity shortages, and fuel transportation will always be pushed to the fore.

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R. Scott Bakker, The Thousandfold Thought (2006)

Thousandfold_Thought

Long time, no see – vacation time is not inductive to writing, but gives lots of opportunities to read, even in the middle of an Internet-less wilderness :). I usually leave the thickest books for my vacation time, as only then I might be sure of reading them in full, and in reasonable time. For the summertime I also leave those books which I wouldn’t have read any other time – vacation makes me more bullshit-tolerant 😉

And that’s why one of my summer readings this year was the final installment in Bakker’s acclaimed trilogy The Prince of Nothing. I know, I have said before I won’t be reading The Thousandfold Thought anytime soon, too irritated with previous installments to care; while The Darkness That Comes Before was still readable, The Warrior Prophet was just awful. But I like to finish things, and that gutted carcass left on my metaphorical porch, to use the imagery borrowed from Bakker, begged to be cleaned up and buried for good.

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Brandon Sanderson, Elantris (2006)

I’ve recently listened to Elantris, Brandon Sanderson‘s ticket to fame and money, and one of the biggest stand-alones in XXI century genre literature.

Oh boy wasn’t it boring…

This was my first novel by Sanderson. I’ve read a couple of short stories, some reviews, and talked about him with a few friends whose opinions varied from “rather good” to “meh”. It created in my mind a picture of someone who is a solid, if not particularly gifted, craftsman (with unbelievable output, his doorstoppers hit bookshops with astonishing regularity).

Oh, there were final Wheel of Time books that he wrote, no matter how much I try to forget the whole WoT disaster, I have to mention them. Sanderson’s bits were better written and structured than Jordan’s, but no less tedious.

After Elantris… well, actually it confirmed my view of Sanderson as an uninspired craftsman, but I perhaps overestimated my own endurance. There are many flawed books that have something in them that keeps me interested. Some brilliant ideas, amateurishly executed, great protagonist, rising above mediocre prose… Sanderson does not make big mistakes, but neither does he take any risks. And produces fantasy without qualities.

Too harsh. But let me defend that opinion before I admit there were some good parts.

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