Female

Who knew that, in this day and age, a woman could cause so much controversy. When Marvel announced that Thor was now going to be a woman Twitter and the internet at large spent the next three days discussing how this was a complete travesty and it was going to ruin the character. As usual, the internet went a little bit overboard in its reaction to a simple gender change. This is not an abomination of the character. At worst it is a publicity stunt; at best it is a genuine attempt at Marvel to move away from male centric and dominated characters and stories in order to provide a more well rounded and appealing landscape for their comic books.

The latter seems more likely than the former. Marvel editor Wil Moss stated “The new Thor continues Marvel’s proud tradition of strong female characters like Captain Marvel, Storm, Black Widow and more. And this new Thor isn’t a temporary female substitute – she’s now the one and only Thor, and she is worthy!” There is a sense that this is being done with female readers in mind and that is no bad thing. Comic books have long been seen as the domain of men, with women being busty and slim in order to appeal to male sensibilities. It is reasonable then to accept that including more well-rounded and interesting female characters will draw female readers and provide worthwhile role models.

Marvel Comic's Thor takes on a controversial female form in the upcoming Comic Book series Avengers NOW!

Thunder and lightning have never looked so cool.

A lot of comic book fans are peeved to say the least. They feel that by changing Thor in order to appeal to a specific demographic that Marvel is derailing the character. I might agree if there weren’t an element of mystery to the new character’s identity and origins. It’s not like Thor just woke up one day with breasts, although that in of itself might make an intriguing one-shot. No, this is a completely separate character. One that just happens to have picked up the hammer and taken up the mantle of being the god of thunder while the original is on leave. This is not just about an aesthetic change; it is about telling a story.

Still, that potential for storytelling isn’t enough for some people who decry the fact that Marvel are ruining Norse mythology by turning Thor into a woman. Last time that I checked though, there was nothing in Norse mythology about the god of thunder teaming up with a patriotic super solider with a shield and a businessman with robotic armour in order to fight crime and galactic evil. While they are certainly messing with the source material, Thor has long deviated from that origin. And honestly, if Marvel has mutants who can nigh rewrite existence and a radiation afflicted scientist who becomes a large, green brute when angry, why can’t the the god of thunder be a woman? It boggles the mind that to some people the former two are accepted with gusto and the latter is to be ridiculed.

Many supporters have also noted that this is not the strangest character to ever hold the mantle of Thor. I put up a picture on Twitter referencing the brief time that Wonder Woman held Mjolnir during the 90’s crossover series DC Vs. Marvel Comics. One of the most referenced changes, however, was the time that Thor was transformed into a frog by Loki. And if we can be accepting of Thor as a frog, why can’t we at least give a female version the benefit of the doubt? Even if it appears like a cheap trick to lure in female readers, accept it for the story-telling potential because, man or woman, aren’t entertaining and interesting stories the reason that we read comic books?

Marvel unveil concept art for The Avengers 2: Age of Ultron at the 2014 San Diego Comic Con.

Could we see any of these comic book changes translate to the big screen?

Hot off the heels of the announcement that a woman is taking over the role of Thor, fans also got the announcements that Sam Wilson, AKA Falcon, would be taking over the role of Captain America from Steve Rogers and that, similar to the recent Superior Spider-Man storyline, a tough to root for Tony Stark as Superior Ironman would be joining the Avengers. Both of these storylines stirred up additional controversy, although possibly least of all was Superior Ironman. Tony Stark has always been a deeply flawed character despite being a genius at both business and science and was even an enemy of some of the Avengers in the Civil War storyline. That he could go to some dark places isn’t surprising but it could make for a fairly interesting story.

No it was the black guy becoming Captain America that got people riled up, though it is probably the same people who were up in arms about Thor being a woman now. Of course we know the storyline reason for this one, at least in part. Steve Rogers’ super soldier serum is failing him and so his genetics have aged rapidly and his buddy Sam Wilson takes over the role. This isn’t the first time the Captain America costume has been worn by someone else; Bucky Barnes played the role when Rogers was thought to be dead. To me, this suggests Marvel aren’t just looking for cheap ways to lure in readers. Instead, they honestly want to diversify their characters in a very real and potent way. And, as I said on twitter, I wouldn’t mind if this carried over to the movies.

That is what I think is really annoying most fans. Rather than seeing the storytelling potential of these changes what they see is a publicity stunt to herald the coming of The Avengers: Age of Ultron. That’s what is putting the bad taste in their mouth. And I agree. I just don’t see why we can’t have our cake and eat it. Sometimes life imitates art but most of the time art imitates life. If there is going to be a big event that might get a few people to think “wow, that’s pretty cool, I wonder what the comic books are like” then why shouldn’t Marvel create diverse, interesting characters and stories that will keep readers coming back long after they’ve picked up that first issue? The film franchise has been challenge to the comic books to up their game. I’d say Marvel Comics have met the challenge and more.

Formed

A rare Friday blog post this week. That is because this week I am participating in the #IndieBooksBeSeen challenge to post a review for an author that doesn’t have many reviews. So this week I’ve chosen to review ‘Forms of Love’ by Luca Rossi. This is a science fiction short story which can be found in Rossi’s short story collection, Galactic Energies. If that kind of thing interests you then head on over to Amazon and pick up a copy. While you’re there, you might also want to take a gander at his full length novel, The Branches of Time.

If you do follow that link to the Galactic Energies then you might be thinking, ‘hey, this already has a lot of reviews’ and that is true. The collection does have about seventy reviews but as far as I am aware there are no reviews for the individual stories, at least not for the English versions. Honestly, individual reviews for short stories can be a lot more telling than a review of an collection which can often end up as ‘I liked this one for x reason. I disliked this story for y reason.’ So, in the interest of being as helpful and thorough as possible, I’m just going to be reviewing this one short story.

Promotional poster for Luca Rossi's short story collection, Galactic Energies.

‘Forms of Love’ is just one of nine stories available in Galactic Energies.

‘Forms of Love’ is the story of the law enforcer chasing a criminal through space. The Captain of the ship has been chasing the rogue thief through space for years, aided by his second in command. But their target is no normal criminal; she is a shape-shifter and has used this ability to elude the police. However, by blocking off her means of refueling and replenishing supplies, they manage to capture her. This is where the short story begins. As a premise, it is sound. Short stories often need to established a lot in a small amount of words and this works. We know who to root for and who to keep an eye on.

What first struck me about ‘Forms of Love’ was the crisp, clean writing. Flourishes of prose is prevalent in science fiction and fantasy writing but Luca Rossi thankfully avoids being overly descriptive or making use of laboured metaphors to put his point across. Reading ‘Forms of Love’ comes very easy as the simple, unencumbered writing conveys information without complication. The dialogue too is tight and clear, lacking any attempt at vocal tics or regional dialect. Some readers might find that unrealistic but I prefer it this way. The use of these, while understandable, can usually end up being distracting and draw the reader away from the story. By not indulging in characterisation of the speech, Rossi keeps the focus squarely on the story and what is being said, rather than how it is being said.

The writing can come across as rather detached at times however. The main character, Captain Ian Bascos, relates events of his own life as if he were reading from a newspaper. There is little sense of fondness for his life and yet his life before he began tracking the mutant Ipsia was a successful one. This lack of emotion is most notable when Ian reminisces about his ex-girlfriend, Alessandra, who Ipsia takes the shape of once she had been captured. He describes her as being his only love but doesn’t give any information as what he loved about her or vice versa. It’s just “we loved each other, my career took off, she left me”. It is especially confusing because he later states that he wanted to be a police officer because his father was one, so Alessandra must have known of the career he was working towards. Unless he did hide it from her, in which case, was it really love?

An alternative, Italian cover for Luca Rossi's short story, The Forms of Love.

Luca Rossi was nominated one of the top ten Italian indie writers by WIRED.

Part of the problem is that much of the information is conveyed in passing. The old ‘show, don’t tell’ maxim is not an absolute; sometimes, especially in short stories, it is pertinent to tell the reader trivial information. Showing too much in one scene can come across as bloated and unfocused, regardless of the type of story. I understand why Rossi tells us information rather than show it, but in some aspects, it leaves the writing and the plot disjointed. For instance, Captain Bascos notices that his relationship with Eianus is becoming stilted and they aren’t communicating. This is a fine assessment but it lacks any real impact. Any conversation the reader sees between the two prior to Ipsia’s capture is mostly formal. The closest the two characters come to anything like friendship or companionship are Eianus’ last words to Bascos, urging him to the complete the mission. Just a couple more conversations between those two characters could have made the change of Ipsia’s presence all the more palatable to the reader.

At the end of the day though, I expect most people are reading this story for the relationship between Bascos and Ipsia. I’m sure that’s not a spoiler as Ipsia taking Alessandra’s form is an omen of where the story is going. Even there though, the story feels restrained and it doesn’t read as well as one might hope. The aforementioned lack of information about Bascos’ relationship with the real Ipsia, leaves the budding romance between the captain and Ipsia as completely carnal. Even then it’s described with statements such as ‘we live in our dream of love’ which actually tells me nothing about what the characters are doing.

Don’t get me wrong, I did like ‘Forms of Love’. I just feel that Rossi could maybe done a little more with it because the story had a lot of potential. I was expecting a twist of some kind, possibly involving the Federation of Worlds, but it just kind of ended. Maybe I’ve read too many mystery and thriller novels. At any rate, if you like cleanly written and tightly focused sci-fi romance stories, give ‘Forms of Love’ a chance and you might just find yourself enjoying it.

Face

The WWE World Heavyweight Champion should be the most interesting competitor in the wrestling at that moment in time. That doesn’t always mean the highest selling wrestler or the most talented performer. There are a lot of talented wrestlers out there that a solid fan-base but they never really get the momentum to really take off. Part of that might be down to the writing and the booking of the shows which might fail to give certain wrestlers the right circumstances to succeed but some of it is also down to the competitors themselves. There’s a lot to be said about taking the opportunities that you’re given and making a name for yourself by just doing it well.

Being the WWE World Heavyweight Champion is about being the face of the company; the one that most securely and completely represents what that company is about at that time. They should be at the forefront of the biggest storylines, battling with the baddest villains and just in general being someone that the company can point to as the guy that incorporates the direction that the company is going. In light of that description, can we really say that John Cena is the best choice to be WWE World Heavyweight Champion?

A lot of people might point to Daniel Bryan as the best choice to be the champion because he did signify a changing of the guard of sorts. It’s not like the veterans were being put out to pasture but he overcame Triple H, Randy Orton and Batista to become WWE World Heavyweight Champion and he did it on the same night that The Undertaker’s undefeated streak was broken. I’m not saying that those too events were intended to coincide but there was an atmosphere in the air that felt like this was a new direction for the WWE.

John Cena is the current WWE World Heavyweight Champion.

John Cena is a money maker but is he really the face of the WWE?

Actually, it is unfair to hold Bryan up as the standard of the champion for a new generation of WWE superstars and fans. Until CM Punk went M.I.A. the plan for Bryan was a mid-card grudge match with Sheamus, if the dirt sheets are to be believed. If that was the case then we might never have gotten the title reign that we did because, if you didn’t know, Brock Lesnar is coming back at the SummerSlam pay per view and he’s gunning straight for those WWE World Heavyweight championship belts. Let’s say Batista wins the title at Wrestlemania to the fanfare that the WWE had hoped for. Best case scenario, Batista drops the belts to Bryan at Extreme Rules, and Bryan either loses them to Cena at Battleground or Lesnar at SummerSlam. Worst case, Batista carries them all the way to SummerSlam.

Let that sink in. In the original plans, Bryan’s best chance at seeing a sniff of those titles was as a transitional champion. But life sometimes works in our advantage and as much as I am a massive fan of CM Punk, him walking out was probably the best thing that could have happened to the WWE. It caused them to reassess the situation and gave Bryan the opportunity to take the character to the next level. It’s simply disappointing that reality also ended up injuring Bryan. Right now it’s looking like he won’t be back for a year. So WWE needed a champion to fill the void. And that champion should have been the performer who was in the most high profile stories and in the top hyped matches. For the past few months, that criteria hasn’t fitted John Cena.

The most interesting and compelling product that WWE have at the moment by far is The Authority. From their B+ player antics to the smarmy way that they talk to employees, The Authority has made themselves as devious and annoying as possible. Viewers can’t help but hate them as they actively hold down fan favorites such as Daniel Bryan and The Shield. Standing up to them instantly makes even the most vile characters likeable, as evidenced by Vickie Guerrero, and aligning with them can create a loathsome heel, which it did to Seth Rollins. Nothing else in the WWE causes such a reaction on a constant basis. And it entices the audience to keep watching, to see what terrible trickery The Authority will get up to next and for those rare moments of comeuppance.

The WWE SummerSlam promotional poster for 2014 advertises John Cena verses Brock Lesnar.

Can John Cena overcome the Beast Incarnate again at the so far unannounced SummerSlam main event?

Now I’m not saying to give the title to Triple H or Stephanie McMahon. They aren’t active competitors. However, there is a natural choice. In fact it makes very little sense that they would have a ladder match for the title where their preferred champion only has a one in eight shot. I’m no fan of Randy Orton, I find him to be dull both in the ring and on the microphone, but he would have made the most sense. The Authority could have simply handed him the title and really he does have the most claim. He was champion before Bryan and was never pinned to lose the belts. Of course, that would require some consistency in WWE writing.

Looking outside of The Authority for a moment and pretending that Roman Reigns isn’t ready for a title reign, the only other major storyline in the WWE is Bray Wyatt and ironically that seems to have lost a lot of steam recently specifically because of the losses that Wyatt has suffered at the hands of John Cena. Wyatt is now two weeks deep in to a feud with Chris Jericho which I’m hotly anticipating. If that hadn’t of happened, Wyatt winning the belts would have slotted more naturally into an antagonist role of the Authority than John Cena currently is. I mean, if Bryan doesn’t look like a champion, can you imagine what the McMahon-Helmsley faction reborn would have made of Bray?

All of this came to me as I watched the most recent episode of WWE Raw and realised that John Cena, the WWE World Heavyweight Champion, felt like an afterthought. Sure, he had a match with Rollins and some interactions with Reigns but Roman Reigns is the star here and Cena and Ambrose are his allies against The Authority. There’s something wrong when your top champion is playing second fiddle to the top feud. But guess why he’s champion? Because he rakes in the money, and after the recent financial revelations, WWE are all about the money. So that’s annoying. It’s also annoying that Brock Lesnar is on the horizon and we can see exactly where this is going. Beyond that though, things could be interesting…

Joke

The big news coming out of the past couple of weeks is that some guy called Scoot McNairy has landed a role in the upcoming DC Comics film, Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice. Nothing official has been announced as of yet about what part he will have but word from the rumour mill is that Scoot has been hired to play Batman’s most famous arch-nemesis, The Joker. Rumours being what they are you can’t take them too seriously until they are confirmed and hopefully this turns out to be false. McNairy playing the Joker seems ludicrous to me and probably not for the reasons that everyone might be thinking.

Let me be clear, this is not Heath Ledger nostalgia. There are a lot of fans out there who will say that Heath Ledger played the Joker better than any one ever will and casting anyone else in the role is asking for a disaster. While I do believe that the late Heath Ledger did a fantastic job as manic foil to Batman in The Dark Knight I also think that it is unreasonable to expect the Joker to never appear in a Batman film ever again. Batman has an enormous rogues gallery to choose from so there are plenty of villains the movies could explore without ever touching on the Joker again, such as Killer Croc, Black Mask or perhaps a version of Bane that doesn’t wind up being someone’s errand boy. But at the end of the day, the Joker is so ingrained in the Batman mythology that as soon as Batman’s name crops up the Joker’s is sure to follow.

Henry Cavill reprises his role as DC Comics' Superman in the upcoming superhero film by Warner Brothers, Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice.

With so many new characters, will Superman see any further character development at all?

So if McNairy is cast as the Joker I could easily understand why they would want to. It’s not the choice of actor that makes me believe it is a bad idea, despite calling him ‘some guy’ in the opening paragraph to this article. I do think he is unproven though. McNairy has been around since the early 2000’s and hasn’t done anything of note. He’s been a few big movies but the actor himself has rarely stood out. His biggest role is probably that of Monsters, Gareth Edwards’ previous foray into science fiction monster movies prior to this summer’sGodzilla blockbuster. Ledger at least had an award winning performance in Brokeback Mountain under his belt before taking on the Joker role. No matter who they cast though, not everyone will be pleased because every person has their own opinion on who should play the Joker role. Some might go more famout, like Leonardo DiCaprio, but I’d actually go the opposite route and just suggest someone even more unknown. The best actor to play the Joker is sitting out there, waiting for the part.

At this point, I expect you’re all wondering what the problem could actually be. The actor isn’t an major miscast and a Joker return is acceptable, so where’s the issue? The issue lies in what has been the problem with Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice ever since they announced the inclusion of Batman into a Superman film; there are just too many people in this movie. The cast list already touts the likes of Jeremy Irons, Gal Gadot, Jason Momoa and pretty much the entire cast of Man of Steel reprising their roles. With each actor added roster the existing cast members lose precious character development.

Perhaps what is most concerning is that the film already has a main villain in Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor. Eisenberg wouldn’t have been my first pick to play Luthor but he will do well in role so long as they stick to highlighting his mental fortitude. So could we see a Luthor/Joker team up to take on Superman and Batman? Not likely. Luthor’s plan would probably involving killing the Bat and the Joker wouldn’t take too kindly to that. Furthermore, the Joker is notoriously unpredictable which I really doubt Luthor would that kind of loose cannon to mess up his scheme. Outside of the story, filming already began before McNairy was cast, which makes a team up even more doubtful. McNairy’s role may be significant but due to the late casting, it won’t take up a large portion of the film.

Ben Affleck takes up the mantle of Batman in the upcoming Warner Bros. superhero film, Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice.

Gloomy and sombre appears to be the thematic tone once again.

Of course, he may not be the Joker at all. Given how illogical it is to involve another big villain in the movie at this late stage, it would be preferable for McNairy to have a different role. The biggest possibilities are The Green Lantern and The Flash. I feel that The Flash is more probable, mostly due to the previous Green Lantern film bombing so bad that they won’t want to remind people of that travesty. The Flash will also feature in an upcoming TV series in October, so casting McNairy as The Flash could easily play off the publicity of that.

Given how many other superheroes are in this movie, McNairy’s presence in Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice needs to be Thanos type nod to the scene. Otherwise, this will be a cluster of superheroes, none of which are really getting any kind of development. Aside from Ben Affleck and Henry Cavill as the title heroes, Gal Gadot will appear as Wonder Woman, Victor Stone will play Cyborg, Jason Momoa might be Aquaman and then we have McNairy in his role. I get that the ‘Dawn of Justice’ subtitle means this is certainly going to be a prelude to the Justice League but there are just far too many characters being thrown into this pot without thought or preparation.

While I’d like to say that this will all come together on screen the fact that they are adding major characters such as the Joker or The Flash this late into production makes me dubious. The film felt like a cash grab when Batman was added. It seemed bloated when Wonder Woman was announced. Now, with each additional cast member, the movie is looking more and more like overkill. Rather than developing their characters, Warner Bros are shoving all they have into one movie. I will genuinely be surprised if this isn’t the most underwhelming film of 2016.

True

If there is one thing that a writer needs to be able to do, whether it is in literature, television or films, it is kill their characters. It is fine if the creator doesn’t want to kill their beloved creation, in fact I suspect that the only character any author really wants to write out is the villain, but it must be done. Especially in large ensemble casts. When you have a large group of characters in a storyline over a long period of time and none of them die it devalues the threat. The Walking Dead recognises this and has a noticeably high death count.

Of course there are some formats where it isn’t suitable to kill characters off. Literature for young kids might deal with death in a kind of soothing, abstract manner of comfort but it would be horrific for Fluffy the bunny to begin slaughtering his friends like he just walked into a slasher film. Can you imagine In The Night Garden if Upsy Daisy had a mental break and started saying ‘pip pip onk onk’ to all her friends? It might liven up the show for adults but it would traumatise children. So in some cases it might be acceptable to safe guard your characters. This isn’t about those cases.

For example, consider True Blood. Fair warning, I’m going to talk about the most recent episode so if you haven’t seen it but plan to then maybe come back later. Don’t worry, I’ll wait. Anyway, in the premiere episode of what will be True Blood’s final season, long standing character Tara Thornton was killed. Tara’s actor, Rutina Wesley, has gone on record saying“I think somebody had to go. To have a main character right off the bat go, that’s gonna bring everybody into the show”. In many ways, I agree with her. I just think it should have happened sooner.

Anna Paquin cries blood as Sookie Stackhouse in the True Blood Season Seven promotional poster.

In True Blood’s seventh season, Sookie comes out as a mutant.

It’s not that I have anything against Tara, although she’s far from my favourite character on the show. The character however had increasingly less to do on the show. Her personal story always seemed to have little to do with the main plot and making her a vampire in the first episode of season five did nothing to rectify the problem. Instead, her storyline became whatever Pam was doing. Perhaps that’s what bothers me more about Tara’s death. They already tried to use her death as a shock and revived her just to do it again two years later.

This isn’t just a problem with Tara. It is an issue that has always plagued True Blood. Season seven boasts a total of twenty-one main cast members or twenty if you subtract Tara due to her most recent death. Compare that to Heroes which began with a cast of twelve regulars, half of which were dead by the end of the first season. Nine of True Blood’s twenty one cast were main characters in the first season, another three are guest stars who were promoted and one was a main star who got demoted and then raised back to main for the final season. That means that thirteen of the twenty one have been around since the first season and survived threats from the Fellowship of the Sun, The Authority and Russell Edgington. It really just makes those villains and antagonists look incompetent.

Characters have died in True Blood but they’re always seasonal or side characters that don’t have much impact on the overall story. Perhaps the biggest deaths in True Blood’s seven seasons have been Tommy Mickens and Terry Bellefleur. Neither death was part of the main story though. Tommy was beaten to death by werewolves and Terry arranged his own assassination due to being unable to live with his own actions during the the time he served in the military. Tommy’s death crosses over slightly with Alcide’s involvement with werewolves whilst Terry’s wife Arlene uses a vampire to glamour her husband. Outside of those two incidents, neither death nor the surrounding storyline has much to do with anything else going on in Bon Temps.

Rutina Wesley plays vampire Tara Thornton in HBO's True Blood.

Expect Sookie to go all bad wolf and resurrect her.

Not every death has to be by the villain and it is important for character’s to have their own issues and problems within the wider world. I get that. But for True Blood’s biggest kills to both be from personal issues says something about level of threat. Wesley’s suggestion that Tara’s death will bring people into the show is right. It instantly makes the vampires that killed her appear to be a threat. Previous seasons had some interesting antagonists but the fact that the same bunch of characters who went in came out again makes them look weak. Furthermore, I’m not sure that these infected vampires deserve to look stronger than Sookie’s previous adversaries.

As important as the personal storylines are, the larger story arcs should cause the characters to put aside their issues to deal with the life-threatening danger. In Lost, each character had their own problems but island wide events would impact everyone. If the seasonal big bad doesn’t affect more than a few characters they come across as very ineffectual. Again, I agree with Rutina’s sentiment but this should have been happening in seasons two and three. It has taken seven seasons for the True Blood writers to understand that death increases the stakes.

Yet, I may be speaking too soon. While all signs point to Tara being dead the audience was denied a visual of the character meeting the true death. Rutina talking about the character’s death would seem to cement it but it was only two years ago that True Blood pulled the same stunt with the same character. Deceiving the viewer by using a death for shock value rather than meaning and then revealing that they are still alive is a great way to annoy a lot of fans. Of course, with this being the last season, perhaps they’re feeling brave enough to actually kill off more of their core cast. Just please let Eric live. Please?

Medium

Another season of Game of Thrones has come and gone. As usual fans will be talking about the finale until the next season begins. Season 4 in particular has felt more action packed than previous seasons, having stuffed the purple wedding, Tyrion’s trial by combat, the Wildling attack on the Wall and Tyrion’s exit strategy into ten episodes. Red Wedding not withstanding, season three felt lacklustre and underwhelming, a sentiment I expressed in my review of the season premiere. Thankfully, season four came across much stronger and was far more entertaining and I do believe it was because there were new, interesting characters and more events that engaged the audience.

However, if any viewer had read George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series, they would have known all of the key points and shocking reveals. For some they might feel that knowing what is to come ruins the surprise and makes the series less entertaining but for my part I’ve never experienced adaptations that way. Reading about something and actually seeing it happen with actors and sets and effects are two separate experiences for me. Take, for instance, the battle between Oberyn Martell and ‘The Mountain’ Gregor Clegane. That was a special scene even in the novels and it really highlighted Oberyn’s martial skill. It was also interesting because in the novels there seems to be some debate about the advantages of armour. Both Bronn and Oberyn make use of their superior speed against armoured foes whereas Ser Jorah Mormont proves the effectiveness of armour against the Dothraki in the first A Song of Ice and Fire novel.

Pedro Pascal and Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson as Oberyn Martell and Gregor Clegane act out Tyrion Lannister's trial by combat in the Game of Thrones season 4 episode, 'The Mountain and The Viper'.

Mountain climbing can be such a headache.

The Mountain seems less armour-clad in the television show so Oberyn’s tactics aren’t emphasised as much. He moves around quickly and with flourishes in what might be some kind of parallel to Arya’s water dancing techniques but those are just a couple of aspects where the visual representation doesn’t quite match the reader’s imagination. And then there’s the end. You know the bit I’m talking about. The bit where Gregor Clegane confesses his crimes to Oberyn while he crushes the other man’s head. As vividly as Martin depicts that scene in A Storm of Swords, it doesn’t quite match the visceral sight of it playing out in front of you. Hearing Oberyn scream as The Mountain admits to killing and raping his sister moments before his head explodes sends a shiver up your spine in a way that the literature just doesn’t.

So it all comes down to the age old question; which is better the book or the series that it is based on? J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter novels came under the same scrutiny when they were adapted for screen. Some people prefer the books because the characters are given more development whereas the films are basically just setting up action pieces. Others love the films because they bring the world they had only imagined to life and they cut out a lot of unnecessary padding, such as Harry’s constant angsting. Generally it is a matter of taste and both have their pros and cons.

Personally, I prefer the books because it seems that as the longer the books get the weaker the films become because they have to hit a number of big plot points so some critical character development usually gets hurried through or brushed under the rug. That and the Ginny/Harry romance makes more sense in the books. I don’t think the pairing works either way but with the film series it is clear that the studio realised too late that Ginny was an important character outside of The Chamber of Secrets and they had to hurry to salvage something. In many ways, Harry Potter might have benefited from being made into a television series like Game of Thrones. There would have been far less pressure to fit everything from one book into a single film in that regard.

Kathy Bates plays psychotic fan girl Annie Wilkes in the film adaptation of Stephen King's novel, 'Misery'.

Imagine this scene with a blow torch.

Then you have a writer like Stephen King who has a tumultuous relationship with adaptations of his novels. King has stated outright that he doesn’t like Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation of The Shining. Misery as a film is also strangely tamer than the novel. But King’s novels, much like Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series, draw much from their main character’s mind set. Much can be understood of their world from their thoughts and introspection and that is a rather difficult thing to depict on screen. That’s not to say that The Shining or Misery aren’t good films, they are just coming from different angles. You could read one and watch the other and come to two separate and no less valid conclusions based on the content within.

As a writer it is my instinct to always say that the books are better but that’s clearly biased. I want to say that because if books aren’t worth reading if television is better then no one would read my work. Yet, I can also understand why one might choose television and film over literature. While novels utilise all the senses, TV and movies rely on one or two at most. Although, it is no longer true to say that television is a simpler distraction. The golden age of television; The Wire, Mad Men, Breaking Bad, has made it clear that television is not just for those who want a quick fix. It is emotive and potent and sometimes seeing something just makes it feel all the more real.

The truth is that the question of whether books or television and film are better will likely never be answered. It is a matter of taste more than anything. Some people can’t watch television because they get so caught up on the little details and mistakes that is annoys them. Others don’t have the time or attention to sit down and read, so they would rather watch television while they do chores. Yet so long as creativity and imagination are free those that seek either one will never be starved of entertainment.

 

Paradox

2014 will be known, it seems, as the year where superhero films tackle the big stories from their comic book counterparts. Sony’s Amazing Spider-Man has already (spoiler) adapted the iconic Death of Gwen Stacy story from the comic books and in the coming months Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy, their first film not directly tied to the Avengers, will be released. Most recently, Fox adapted the popular ‘Days of Future Past’ storyline to film, bringing together the youthful cast of X-Men: First Class and Brian Singer’s original X-Men for an epic time travel adventure in X-Men: Days of Future Past. Unfortunately, it wasn’t quite as epic as they hoped.

Firstly, before I listing the many flaws that this superhero film had, there are postitive aspects to the film. The acting is solid, especially from James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen. Hugh Jackman does what he does best by sounding gruff and appearing naked in one scene. While Jennifer Lawrence still doesn’t impress with her acting skills there isn’t a terrble lot demanded of her in this sequel, so she comes out the otherside looking good. Speaking of looking good, the action scenes are top notch, especially for this franchise. In particular, Blink was a joy to watch in battle and hopefully they can get her back for a future installment.

For some films that would be enough. If the acting is good and the fights are fun, there is usually alot about story and character that be forgiven but X-Men: Days of Future Past stretches that good will beyond breaking point. The story is filled with massive, gaping holes that very distracting unless you’ve never seen an X-Men film ever before. And even then there are logical leaps that might leave a viewer wondering how such a thing was possible.

James McAvoy, Nicholas Hoult and Hugh Jackman reprise their roles as Charles Xavier, Beast and Wolverine in Fox's X-Men: Day's of Future Past.

The least subtle foreshadowing of Professor X ever.

The story goes that in the future, mutants, human carriers of the mutant gene and humans who help mutants are being hunted and killed by sentinels, large humanoid robots that can adapt to use the mutant’s powers against them. This was caused by Mystique’s assassination of Boliver Trask in the early 70’s. Somehow, Kitty Pryde is able to send Wolverine’s consciousness back in time to his younger self so that he can band together a broken and disheveled Charles Xavier with Magneto, who is being kept in a secret prison beneath the pentagon because he assassinated President Kennedy.

Even within that summary there are a number of issues that make it difficult to take the film seriously. Such as, how is Kitty Pryde able to send other people back in time? If Kitty herself was going back in time, as it was in the original comic book, that would make sense because temporal phasing is an extension of spacial phasing. But she herself doesn’t phase, she phases others. The only time others have been shown to be able to phase through anything is when they have been in direct contact with Kitty and in those instances Kitty herself was also phasing. It doesn’t help that the film makes no effort to explain her new ability. She’s simply shown to be able to do it and we are expected to accept it.

Then there’s the sentinel’s themselves. Their power to adopt the powers of mutants is apparently taken from Mystique but that ability is far more inline with Rogue’s skill set than Mystique’s. The reason for that is because originally Rogue was captured and experimented on, not Mystique. Ignoring that Mystique is somehow running around free in the previous X-Men films, it’s a clear sign of lazy writing that once Anna Paquin’s role was reduced to a cameo that they simply exchanged one for another. But that seems fair when you consider that, despite Trask being assassinated in 1973, it took over 30 years for the sentinels to be deployed, even though Trask specifcially mentions having several on hand for whenever the President signs off on the operation. Once again, the film offers no explanation how an assassination causes a war thirty years later.

Peter Dinklage plays villian Boliver Trask in Fox's comic book adaptation of X-Men: Days of Future Past

Answering the question ‘what if Tyrion Lannister grew a mustache?’

Speaking of assassinations, remember I mentioned Magneto killing the President. Apparently he was trying to save JFK because the Kennedy was a mutant too. Why Magneto’s intervention is unsuccessful is again untouched upon, but is also poses a much bigger question. Why was Trask’s murder cause for use of the sentinels and Kennedy’s wasn’t? I can accept that Trask probably hadn’t build the robots in 1963 since they were expensive and designed using ‘space age technology’ but it isn’t like Trask just thought of the idea in 1972. Trask was shown collecting deceased mutants such as Azazel for research so this project had been in the pipeline for a long time. Even if the government knew that Kennedy was a mutant, they kept it secret because they were obviously afraid of them. Or was it just because Trask’s murderer was blue and so obviously inhuman?

There are also a bunch of smaller paradoxes. Quicksilver’s character is one that only appears because Wolverine met him already in his universe but this this time line rewrites that one, this is the first time Wolverine meets Quicksilver…and yet that meeting would be impossible without the information from the future. Similarly, the film seems to credit Xavier’s recovery to Wolverine and Wolverine asks Xavier to find all the X-Men in the future…even though we see from the previous X-Men films that he already did. There is little reason for this except to speed up the recovery so that we can see it on screen but Wolverine’s presense seems so pivitol to Xavier’s recovery that one has to wonder what the cataylst was in the previous time line.

This is why time travel is a bad idea. Unless a time travel story is plotted right, the story becomes confusing. And preferably the time travel should be plotted before the rest of the story is written, not attempted to be slotted in as an after thought. X-Men: Days of Future Past isn’t a bad film in the same sense that X-Men: The Last Stand is a bad film; it is just incredibly frustrating. The acting is solid and there are a lot of fun moments but ultimately X-Men: Days of Future Past fails to surpass X-Men: First Class in terms of story and structure. 

Also please do check out the excerpt from my novel I Plagiarized This Book From Myself that Kacey Vanderkarr so nicely posted on her blogRead My Dang Book. Thanks