It’s a fact. Undisputed. If you’re the best you have an umbrella.
Mycroft Holmes… Stylish Umbrella
Gotham city’s perfidious Penguin…Awesome Umbrella
You know when you’re a Kingsman, you have a…Badass Umbrella
The Seventh Doctor and Missy….Cool Umbrellas. The Umbrellas are cool.
Mary Poppins…talking Umbrella. Wickedly Smashing.
My name is Matthew Konerth, and I also have an umbrella. Does that mean I’m stylish, awesome, badass, cool, and wickedly smashing?
Of course. I mean, why not?
Believe it or not, there are official requirements to be a ‘Disney Princess’ in the ‘Disney Canon’. Originally it was for a character with a primary role in a successful Disney Movie (sorry Atlantis’s Kida), who is human or becomes human, (sorry Lion King’s Nala), and is royal or marries royal by the end of the film.
Then Mulan came out. She never marries royal, so she wasn’t a Disney Princess. But support for this character was so overwhelming Disney added a loophole. If the character performed an awesome heroic deed in the movie, they could be added to the official roster.
This Disney Princess trivia is proudly presented by a twenty four year old male.
But perhaps we should take another look at Mulan and her film (we can ignore the direct to video sequel, which remains as ghastly as ever). When released, critics were divided, and as I ask friends who grew up with the movie, they either seem to love it or not get it at all. So after a rewatch for the first time in a few years, how does it hold up today, especially when compared to other Disney films of the era?
1 The Great Stone Dragon in the Room
So Mulan has been criticized for its portrayal of Chinese culture. The opening scenes in particular seems to mish-mash Japanese, Chinese, and Korean traditions willy-nilly, And though not nearly as infamous as Pochantos for this, it is a problem with the film. Personally I’m just glad Disney was smart enough to make the villains to Huns, who aren’t around anymore, instead of the Mongols (looking at you Great Wall. And you, ghastly direct to video sequel)
But there’s little I can add to that conversation. I don’t really know enough about that time period and culture to make any arguments about it, only to pick up on a few things here and there (cough cough geishas). Much smarter people than I have already talked about this and hopefully will continue to.
Secondly, I want to compare this film to other Disney Renaissance films, and the sad fact is with the (possible?) exception of Lion King, pretty much every film cannibalizes a culture. Pochanotos with the Pamunkey and colonial history, Aladdin with Islam, and the Middle East, even Hercules with Ancient Greek society and myth. And you can argue it’s a kid’s flick, shouldn’t matter, or maybe it does. But that’s not what I want to talk about here.
2 Shen-Yu, aka Malice and Mystery
The leader of the Huns and villain of the film, Shen-Yu, is not remembered as one of the great Disney villains. He isn’t a fast-talking Hades, melodramatic Scar, foolish Radcliffe, or brash egocentric Gaston.
He’s just menace, rage, and unstoppable force. Shen-Yu is a terrifying brutal murderer and little else. This makes him a fantastic antagonist for a war movie, but a risky decision for a Disney movie.
If I had to compare him to another Disney villain I’d bring up Frollo, with two key differences. One, Frollo shows some regret for his actions, while Shen-Yu has none, and two, Shen-Yu is much more of a threat than Frollo ever was.
The only real characterization we get for him is that Shen-Yu goes after what he perceives as challenges to his person, such as the Great Wall or the Chinese Army, and will continue to pursue his goals to the point of madness.
Usually such a thin character would detract from the story, but I think here it adds to the mystery of our villain. And I truly believe Mulan would be a much weaker film without him, or with a less threatening but funny villain like Ratclffe in his place.
3 Mulan, aka suck it Belle!
The first time we see Mulan she is finding a way to cheat at her upcoming matchmaking ceremony, and then promptly tricks her dog (which she names Little Brother, in possibly the most heartbreaking moment of the film) into doing her chores for her. When she arrives in town, her mother, grandmother and several, um, beauticians? fuss over her looks, but Mulan pays attention to different things.
She sees two men playing Chinese Chess, and makes a great move neither of the men see changing the game.
She sees a child bullying another child by taking her doll, so Mulan grabs the doll and returns it.
I love these subtle moments, which so clearly define Mulan’s character as she struggles to find it herself. We get a long solo about it in a moment, one of the movie’s more popular songs. But just in a few moments through Mulan’s actions we see she is a rulebreaker with a good heart who is really intelligent, more so than many around her.
After messing up with the matchmaker big time (That’s Miriam Margoyles, aka Professor Sprout in the Harry Potter movies, as the matchmaker), her ailing father is called into war. There’s a quiet but insanely powerful dinner sequence where we learn that the whole family knows Mulan’s father is going to die, and everyone but Mulan has accepted it.
So in one of the best moments of the film, she decides to go in her father’s place, knowing full well she probably won’t return alive.
Compare for a moment to Belle from Beauty and the Beast, because these two characters have similar openings but, at least in my opinion, come out looking very different. In Beauty and the Beast, the whole town sings about how odd Belle is, but the only thing we see her do that the town doesn’t is read books, and turn down Gaston, I suppose. She never does anything to prove she’s using the knowledge she’s gaining from reading. After her father is captured Belle does manage to negotiate his release in exchange for her enslavement, similar to Mulan’s situation. But while Belle plays the whole situation as a helpless victim, Mulan takes charge of the situation as much as she can, which makes her much easier to root for.
Literally every key moment later in the film is Mulan using her brain, or her selfless courage. She retrieves the arrow in base camp by being cleverer than everyone else, thereby gaining respect. She defeats the Hun army and saves China by figuring out how to cause an avalanche. She returns to the Imperial City, putting her self back in danger, when she learns Shen-Yu survives. She uses her wits to get her friends to cross-dress when Shen-Yu barricades the palace, surmising correctly that no one would suspect women of being dangerous. She has the chance to flee to safety but stays to save the Commander from Shen-Yu. She quickly figures out how to bait Shen-Yu away from the Commander. And finally, she comes up with a new fight move to disarm him.
4–The Cricket, the Grandma, The Horse, and Mushu, aka Nothing’s Perfect
To nitpick a bit, the film had to many comic side characters that added nothing to the plot. Although I liked the cricket, Grandma, and Mulan’s horse, I feel we didn’t need all of them. And let’s be honest. They were really there to sell toys.
Just to be clear though, I loved Shen-Yu’s falcon.
Mushu, well, Mushu’s a little more complicated. I like the character, I like the idea behind it all. And remember this was back when Eddie Murphy was still capable of being funny when he tried.
The problem was Mushu’s plot arc is very selfish. He’s in this movie for himself and only himself, until possibly the end where he goes into danger to help Mulan with no selfish gain to be had. I wouldn’t mind that per se, except about forty five minutes into the movie Mushu forges war orders sending the troops to the front.
It works out perfect in the movie, but even my six year old self was smart enough to catch onto the problem. What if it hadn’t worked out so perfect? Mushu had no idea what he was doing. He could have send thousands of men to their deaths, or worse, doomed all of China, so he can have his job back.
And what’s worse, there’s about a thousand other ways they could have written that scene. The Commander’s father requests they join them. The Commander doesn’t get blocked by weird blue hat secretary guy. (You know who I mean). And others!
(For more on Mushu’s mistakes, see the ghastly sequel where they make Mushu the villain! Or don’t. Because it’s ghastly)
“It’s like a nuclear weapon that grants wishes.”
Have you ever wondered if Tolkien’s orcs are just normal people under the yoke of an evil master, and given the right circumstances could be just like you or me? (Insert clever Shadow of Mordor reference here)
Well, the answer is no. Orcs are pure evil, because Tolkien’s world is a world of black and white with little to no in between.
And speaking of pure evil, do you wanna talk about Bright?
So you remember the massive battle between orcs, elves, and men? The orcs chose to side with the dark lord, and elves and men chose light? Remember that? It was in Siberia, about 20 CE, give or take.
So now orcs are lower class society in modern day LA, elves “run the world and shop”, and humans are around the middle. It is a rather hamfisted racial commentary, except it seems rather offensive to compare any minority to…um…orcs.
Orcish culture ranges from heavy metal love songs, taking lots of melatonin for a good night’s sleep, blooding clan politics, lifting cars, being bad as basketball, learning elvish in high school, and genuinely being inconsistent.
Elves pretty much just shop. Except when they’re being lame villians, but we’ll get to get to that.
So the movie opens with an orc buying a burrito for Will Smith, then another orc shooting Will Smith with a shotgun.
But it’s a dream. (My personal least favorite start to a movie.) And Will Smith (he’s got a name, but we’ll all just call him Will Smith), he’s got to kill a fairy that in his birdseed. Because fairies are like raccoons…or something…in this world? Bringing about the other most cringeworthy line of this movie:
“Fairy lives don’t matter today.”
Will Smith’s new partner is an orc, and Will Smith is just coming back to the force after being shot in the burrito incident that was a dream-but really a flashback-or both maybe-in the beginning. Some of the only interesting parts of the movie is here, where he trying to teach his daughter that orcs aren’t dumb or less than human, but clearly has prejudice/hates his new partner and is embarrassed when Jakoby (the orc) shows up at his house to give him a ride. He defends Jakoby to other policemen, who are overtly scheming to throw Jakoby off the force, but constantly snaps at Jakoby when they’re alone.
Neither the police nor the orc clans really want Jakoby in the force. The police don’t trust him, and the orcs think he’s a traitor for working with humans. Jakoby, for his part, isn’t trying to enact sweeping social change: he just wanted to be a cop since he was a kid. He’s a dreamer, and more than a little naive. Jakoby’s story of the day Will Smith was shot has let some to believe he let a fellow orc escape, and the evidence seems to point that way, despite Jakoby’s insistence he did his best to capture the shooter but was overpowered. This leads to an investigation from internal affairs.
This is not an uninteresting setup, and as Will Smith drives Jakoby past the police force brutalizing a gang of orcs and barked that Jakoby needed to decide if he was a cop first or an orc, I began to think this movie might actually be really good.
It is not. It sucks.
Because when the police force finds a magic wand (that’s “a nuclear weapon that grants wishes”, or I don’t know…the worst McGuffin for a cop film ever…) The cops turn dirty. They tell Will Smith this is the perfect time to kill Jakoby and take the wand for themselves. When Will Smith leaves the room, they decide to kill him too, because apparently they all saw After Earth.
But Will Smith shoots all the cops he’s been working with for years (seems logical to me?) and he and Jakoby run off to the protect the wand from Latino gangsters, who are in this movie now. In their car is Tikka, an Elf who only speaks elvish and has a child’s mind for some reason. But Jakoby can talk to her because his high school taught him two years of Elvish.
So now the Feds are after the Magic Wand, as are all the gangsters, and the Orcs, and our villian, who has decided to arrive to this movie fashionably late at the one hour mark. Her name is Lileah, and she is eye candy for the teen boys. That is all.
So everyone wants the Magic Wand because it grants PHENOMENAL COSMIC POWER to whoever wields it…if you’re the magical being called a Bright. If you’re not a Bright, and you touch the wand, it incinerates you. Oh, and what’s the only way to figure out if you’re a Bright? To touch a magic wand (not a euphemism, I mean that literally).
Seems a good system to me.
The next hour of the movie is just action sequences because now everyone in the city wants the Magic Wand. It’s really repetitive and the plot stands still. I’m not sure what everyone plans to do with the Wand (It’s postulated only about one in a million humans are Brights, and it’s supposed to be a big twist in the end when Will Smith turns out to be one, so seems a bit of a risk everyone’s taking by trying to use this wand.)
Anyway, Tikka decides she’s done with subtitles, so she can speak English now. Apparently she and Lileah are sisters, and Lileah is a servant of the Dark Lord and…
Wait…The Dark Lord?
That’s what we’re going with?
The Dark Lord?
You know what…I can’t. This movie is too bad. It broke me. I’m stopping now. You really want to find out the rest? Watch it. You will never get those two hours back.
I need to scrub my brain and watch Happy! to recover. Now that’s a fantasy/buddy cop story done right.
I’m going to be hard on this movie, but that’s because I love fantasy, fantasy movies, and there’s a really good movie in here somewhere. I haven’t read the Dark Tower books (Shame on me. Shame!) but even with no knowledge of the source material it was clear that there was a lot of cool ideas in this movie (and talented actors) buried under a bad script.
The movie starts in a suburban backyard-esque setting where preteens are swinging, giggling, and playing pattycake. (I loved to play pattycake when I was 12! I’ll play it now! Cake with me!)
Sirens blare, and the children all report to this weird room where rat faced people lock them into chair, torture them, and blast their physic powers into THE DARK TOWER.
The children seem okay with this.
I know that theoretically they’re under a spell or something, but the acting doesn’t match that at all. They’re not zombie-children, they’re giggly at first, then they look nervous when rat-people arrive, then they’re afraid when they’re in the chair. So if they have emotions, why don’t they resist? Or scream or bite or cry? Why do they just look mildly scared, like I do every time I see Akiva Goldsman listed in the credits? Little details like this all throughout the movie really bothered me.
So this is all just a dream of our protagonist, Jake Chambers. (So that’s, what, the first rule of how not to open a movie already broken?) He’s had lots of them, and started to draw pictures of the people he’s seen (like the Gunslinger, and the Man in Black). He believes they are real. His parents believe he’s dangerously insane to the point they welcome medical intervention from strangers.
But why? What has the kid done? He thinks his dreams are real. That’s not healthy, but everyone around him plays it like he’s dangerously unstable. That’s a bit of a leap, isn’t it? Also he has a friend who does nothing and is pointless and has the most grating fake accent since Harlequin.
The Melissa Rauch version.
Anyway, Jake has another dream, and we finally! get to see the Gunslinger and Man in Black. Idris Elba is perfect as the Gunslinger, grizzled, weary, rugged-and brings a ton of gravitas to every moment he has on screen.
Matthew McConnaughey as…The Man in Black…um…I don’t think it’s his fault.
It’s weird. I thought Interstellar was a great movie but hated Matthew McConnaughey’s performance in it. The Dark Tower is not a good movie but here he turns in a good performance…for the horribly written character he was given. Someone told him to be the most cheesy, generic, over the top villian we’ve ever seen, and Matthew McConnaughey said sure and tried to sell that guy a Lincoln.
I had no problem with the performance. It was fun, and would have been the perfect level of despicable villiany for Pirates of the Carribbean or a Marvel movie. (Note: I love Pirates and some Marvel movies. My point is performance must match tone)
The real problem is The Man in Black was just terribly, terribly, written.
What’s his Motivation? Origins? Abilities? Weaknesses? Desires? Strengths?
None of this is explained in the movie. The closest we see is Gunslinger explaining the Man in Black’s goal, but we never learn why that’s so important to him. Is it just evil gotta evil or is there something more?
I’m still not sure if the Man in Black is a human, or a force, or a demon. I SHOULD KNOW THIS! He’s said to be a wizard, but seems to lead a demonic army and wants to unleash and rule demons. If he’s Satan or some evil force why does he hold grudges like a human? He has a human name, that sounds important, why don’t you tell me something about that? If he’s a demon why can he be killed by stupid bullets but if he’s a man why does he lead demons?
NONE OF THIS MAKES ANY SENSE!
The rat people come for Jason. He runs to a house he saw in his dream. At the house the floor attacks him and he screams like a really, really bad actor. Jason eventually escapes the homicidal floor and activates a portal to take him to Midworld.
Nope, that’s not Middle-Earth. Nope, that’s not Midgard. Nothing cool’s in this movie.
In between this we are shown more scenes of the Man in Black doing things that make no sense. First he hits on one of his rat people with a pretty human mask, like evil sorcerers do, then learns Jake Chambers might be a powerful enough pyschic to destroy the Dark Tower for once and for all.
AKA, the Chosen One. God Damn you Akiva Goldsman.
I mean sure, the kids he’s got now will destroy the Dark Tower soon, but this kid will do it faster! Let’s focus everything on getting him! We are, by the way, never given any hint of an explanation how the magic and highly advanced technology in this movie sync up, something that REALLY bothered me.
So Man in Black goes hunting for Jake and just does random mean things…furthering my theory that the Man in Black was just a botched first draft for the Purple Man.
The Man in Black’s hodgepodge powers include: Telling a man to stop breathing (which always causes him to collapse, not shoot his gun, and die in ten seconds as opposed to five minutes). Making a girl eating ice cream hate her mommy. Catching bullets except when he can’t. Making fire and doing nothing with it. Posing. Drawling speech of no known accent. Driving Lincolns. Having two of his minions kill each other and random onlookers enjoy it (the last of which was actually pretty evil and reminded me of Kilgrave). But yeah…he’s mostly a wimp.
So Jake Chambers teleports through a portal to Midworld and finds the gunslinger. The gunslinger discovers Jake Chambers has a connection to the Man in Black, but before you can say ‘a demon attacks’…a demon attacks.
It’s a pretty wimpy demon. Design is very generic, and Gunslinger kills it pretty handily. I’m not sure an army of these could get past the US military, to be honest, let alone take over the multiverse.
There were some nice references to Pennywise in this scene, which just served to remind me of a much better Stephen King movie I could be watching.
So they make their way to a village to find a seer, who coincidentally is the only Asian in town. Racist? Maybe? Shrug…Gunslinger commandeers the villager’s portal to travel to Earth to travel back to Midworld (kind of weird logic, but roll with it) to kill the Man in Black. The town is unhappy with this because they think this will give away their position to the Man in Black’s rat-people, but Gunslinger says fuck you I’m a Gunslinger do it.
Then the rat people attack, just like the Gunslinger said. They go all ninja on this town’s ass. And I have to give this movie credit for being the cinematic debut of Clan Eshin.
If you understood that reference, and don’t live in the UK, congrats. I award you 2 Nerdy Points!
And about an hour into the movie, we finally get to see some real gunslinging. The townsfolk tell the Gunslinger and Jake to flee through the portal, and that they can handle the rat people. (Between you and me, I assume they were all slaughtered)
But never mind the extras. We flee back to Earth! And say what you want about fish out of water humor, Elba’s deadban reactions to twitter and pain meds are much needed comic relief at this point.
But when the Man in Black finally kidnaps Jake, only the Gunslinger can save him. He shoots his way through the Man in Black’s horde to rescue the boy and save the Dark Tower until only the Man in Black stands in his way. But oh no! The Man in Black can catch bullets! What are we to do?
So the Gunslinger finally kills the Man in Black by doing,..this. Except with bullets.
It is possibly the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever seen in cinema. And I liked Dead Mean Tell No Tales!
Ahh…Wonder Woman…that blockbuster movie where a strong and powerful woman and the soldier she loves must race against time to save the war. I am of course speaking of Dr. Poison and General Ludendorff.
Welcome once again to deliciously vile villains with Rumple, the part of the show where Rumplestiltskin comes out and talks about deliciously vile villains.
Hello dearies! In interest of both furthering evil and good acting (god knows I’m the only one even trying on my show anymore), I’d like to take a moment and talk about Dr. Poison, the oft-overlooked element of the new Wonder Woman movie.
As a charismatic British villain myself, I can say with some certainty that this film’s charismatic British villain sucked-especially at convincing us he was threatening. Or Greek. Also, his plan to kill millions by signing a peace treaty…not the best. In fact I’d say it’s rather ludicrous.
Which brings us to Dr. Poison. She had very little screen time, but manages to be an extremely interesting character nonetheless.
Her implied relationship with the General, her reserved and quiet demeanor, the way her eyes light up when she sees her horrendous gas murdering people…The facemask not only serves as a chilling prop, but reminds us that she was shunned from society for having a facial disfigurement, which was (and still kind of is, honestly) common.
She seems somewhat interested in Steve Trevor’s offer until his attention is diverted by the beautiful Wonder Woman. Is this because she is not interested in shallow men, or did she think Trevor was perhaps interested in her and is disappointed?
Because nothing is overtly known about Dr. Poison besides her genius, everything we guess about the villain is illustrated through the actress’s performance. Which makes for a much more compelling character than…sigh…this dearie.
Nope. Nope Nope Nope.
Imagine a world where the Great Library of Alexandria survived, and decided to hoard their knowledge by keeping every book in the world to themselves. It is now present day and illegal to own a book, and technology in this demented world has fallen centuries behind due to this strange and omnipowerful Library’s machinations.
Of course, if you ever want to read a book, you can always get one from the library for free. And everyone has ipads for some reason.
This is a good way to look at Ink And Bone by Rachel Caine, the first in a YA series that has some really neat ideas but is undercut by other parts (like the plot. And the ipads).
To be fair I haven’t read YA in some time. On the other hand, this book has sent me squarely back to adult fantasy. While not bad per say, it just felt undercooked. Let’s start with the good.
This book kind of served as the reversal of my opinion of Wonder Woman, in that I loved the beginning and ending of Ink and Bone but hated the middle. The first chapter or two is really amazing, and got me hyped for the story. It shows our protagonist smuggling books for his criminal mastermind father. Remember, it’s illegal to own a book in this world, and all technology has been slowed by this by several centuries. We see the different tactics the street urchins use to distract the Library’s guards, statues come to life and chase him, it’s a neat scene.
Then when the protagonist finally reaches his delivery, the man pays up but begins ripping up the book and eating it. These men are called inklickers in the story, and Rachel Caine goes out of the way to describe what a perverse thing it is, especially in a world with so few books.
It’s a really neat idea, and the first chapter sets this traumatizing event up as a defining moment for our protagonist. Is this inklicker our villian? Will the protagonist have to bring him down? Or will the powerlessness felt by the protagonist as a child, watching the book destroyed in such a pervese way, affect him somehow?
Nope. There is no payoff. The book hardly ever even mentions this event again.
The other moment comes much later in the book, when the protagonist (now a young teen) and other students are brought against their will to evacuate books from the Great Library’s branch in Wales. In this alternate history Wales is fighting England for independence, and a besieged city is about to be sacked, endangering thousands of precious books.
These chapters are GREAT. If the book was written like this, I’d love it. Tense, dark, brooding complex-one of the best part is the ‘impartial’ students who have come to evacuate the books are from both England and Wales, and have a stake in the war but have to ignore it. The desperation of the besieged townspeople-who begin rioting when they learn books are being saved but not them-it’s dark, heavy and all around great stuff.
If only the rest of the book was this good.
Most of the book is taken up by the protagonist’s attempt to get into the Great Library as a student. His smuggler father figures a man on the inside will get him better access to steal/smuggle books, but the protagonist is wrestling with a new loyalty to the Library itself.
This is boring. And worse, generic.
The main source of tension for most of the book is the protagonist has to be in the top five or something of students out of thirty, or he’d be sent home. This might work if I believed for a second the book would actually go in that direction. The student’s tests are generic, predictable, and make me wish I was reading Harry Potter, one of the few books that makes the actual mechanics of school interesting and believable.
And then there are all the generic subplots-rich bully, new friend, love interest, demanding teacher, teacher with a dark past, love interest with a dark past, terrorist activity in between schoolwork-
Alright, that last one was pretty neat. Which is why the book glossed over it and gave me more schoolwork. See my point about undercutting itself?
The Ink-lickingly Terrible
The Ipads. The bloody Ipads.
So it’s illegal to ‘own’ a book in this world, right? That’s because only the Library is allowed to hold physical copies. But anyone can…stream?…a book onto their…Kindle Fires?
In the book, they’re called Blanks, and any book of the Library can appear on them, through some strange Alchemy process that felt very out of place in an otherwise grounded reality.
This creates problems.
Problem #1 In a world that hasn’t invented automobiles yet, literally everyone has their own Kindle. This is distracting. They become such a major part of the plot I almost thought this was some bizaare product placement of some kind.
Problem #2 Rachel Caine had to make up a strange Alchemy magic system to explain how the blanks worked. Making up a magic system for the Blanks to work makes no sense, as it’s specified this is an alternative version of our Earth and the magic system is never used for anything else. (There is some reasoning given to this in the book, but it just gets more and more convoluted and difficult to understand. I honestly had no clue by the end of the book how anything worked)
Problem #3 Why create a world where no one can own books, but everyone can own Blanks? Kind of undercuts the tension, doesn’t it? There is mention that knowledge is being censored through Blanks, but still…who takes over the world and then gives it back?
Ink and Bone by Rachel Caine is the first of the Great Library Series.
I give it 5 out of 10 Umbrellas in the Fog!
Imagine the Dark Lord Voldemort creeping into Harry Potter’s house, all those years ago. Harry Potter’s just a baby, but Voldemort needs to kill him because of the prophecy. His parents desperately rush to defend him…Voldemort sneers and whips out his wand…
James Potter yells, “Expelliarmus!”
Voldemort loses his wand, is captured, then killed by the Ministry. But Sirius Black kills Lily and James Potter, because he’s evil now for some reason. So Harry Potter grows up in a brothel, and becomes a ruggedly good-looking pimp with a heart of gold.
This is not a slash Harry Potter fanfiction (probably). This is the opening to the new King Arthur movie. I tell no lies.
I must not tell lies I must not tell lies I must not tell lies I must not tell lies…
So this movie about King Arthur and Camelot opens with a bunch of Mumakil-sized elephants laying siege to a British castle. The evil mage Mordred, who has apparently used the medieval version of Fed-ex to get these elephants into Britain, controls them through evil mage powers. It looks like the defenders of this castle will lose, until King Uther Pendragon decides to Legolas his way up the elephant (Legolas is a verb now, I decree it) to the howdah where Mordred is hiding. Then Uther stabs Mordred in the heart, the elephants run wild, and the battle is won.
Thus far 2 minutes have passed, and a) One of the Arthur Legend’s best characters and one of the most iconic villains of all time is dead, b) He died like a bitch, c) Elephants. In England. d) Even Lord of the Rings knew the King had to be protected. King Theoden fought with an honor guard around him at all times, and when he was wounded at Helm’s Deep he was rushed out immediately King Uther is jumping on elephants like no one cares if he died. He’s got knights, they should be risking the’re lives and he should be making royal decisions. I know that’s a nitpick, but there’s just much wrong here!
Through some bad exposition and worse editing, we find out the King’s brother Vortigen’s is a) shifty, b) through a sort of exchange student program, trained with Mordred and the other mages who they just defeated, and c) is quite possibly in the closet. To be clear, Jude Law’s preening, weirdly flamboyant performance as the villain was one of my favorite parts and few tolerable performances of this movie. Given better script, better direction, and better editing, it could’ve really worked, although Vortigen has always seemed more like a secondary antagonist compared to someone like, oh I don’t know, Mordred, or Morgan Le Fay. (We never see the dark enchantress either, by the way, and Merlin is just barely mentioned, but never actually shows up. I know this movie was supposed to set up a series of six, and they could’ve brought them in late, but give me something…)
So Vortigen’s forces take over the castle, Uther fights this black knight, Vortigen kills his, wife? sister? daughter? unnamed female plot object and Arthur escapes down the river in a basket baby Moses style. This may seem confusing, and that’s because it was. Mostly due to the editing. The editing in this movie was horrendous, worst I’ve ever seen. And it was worst here, where it switched not only from shot to shot but from scene to scene but location to location I had no idea what was going on. I even began counting to see how long each shout would last, and for a full five minutes while Vortigen stormed the castle, nine out of ten shots lasted less then a second, and none over three. It was maddening, because some great action was happening, but I couldn’t see any of it over the editing.
So, Arthur grows up on the streets of London in a poor brothel. The whores lovingly adopt him as their child (as medieval whores do) and he grows up as a ripped young man with full abs (as starving children do), who seems to be the brothel’s pimp now. This is told, by the way, through another horribly edited montage, that could have been really interested if any of the 20+ scenes they jammed into it were allowed to breathe.
Feast on that for a moment, lovers of ‘Excalibur’, ‘The Once and Future King’, and BBC’s ‘Merlin’. Arthur’s a pimp now! Cause why not? It’s a Guy Ritchie Film.
Athur is shown encouraging the whores and threatening an abusive Viking(?) patron who didn’t pay up, but…yeah…Arthur’s a pimp. He’s got a ton of bro’s, and his friendship with them is never really explained except…they’re his bros (perhaps put in the movie specifically so he can put them above his hos). BROS! Every Guy Ritchie movie has bros!
And I’ll take a moment here to say I don’t blame director Guy Ritchie for this travesty. Not fully. I’ve seen and enjoyed both of his Sherlock Holmes movies and the Man from Uncle (though the latter was far more style than substance), and understand his best works I haven’t seen yet (Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, Snatch). Though by no means my favorite director, he has a unique style, his movies are always a visual treat, and sequences in this film such as one where Arthur and his BROS! told the story of their morning adventures out of order to a castle guard, are by far the mot entertaining in this film. Fun dialouge, well-shot, just entertaining.
These are the spots where Guy Ritchie was just being Guy Ritchie, and it was fun. He was just horribly miscast to make a King Arthur Movie, and the years of studio interference meant he had to edit way more than usual. This would have been a much better if Guy Ritchie was making a Robin Hood movie, for example (since he loves heists, capers, street chases, etc.) and the Aladdin remake he’s doing next could work for that reason. Maybe. Probably not.
So, anyway, Arthur is chosen by Vortigen’s guards to be tested for the sword. Vortigen has been testing every male of the proper age so that he can find and kill the true heir to the throne, sort of a King Herod’ish, but a tyrant’s gotta do what a tyrant’s gotta do.
Then we see Vortigen preening, brooding, trying on outfits (I’m not joking) then he talks to a three headed Ursula-slime-hentai thing he keeps below the castle (still not joking) who tells him he must build a tower to acquire more magic (wish I was joking). Vortigen’s upset that the Ursula-slime-hentai thing let the river drop to reveal the sword and the stone, which raises all sorts of questions….Why didn’t he swim down and get it before? If he doesn’t want anyone to find it, why is he literally bringing it every male in the kingdom to look at it? Is their any reason I should care anymore?
But Arthur draws the sword out of the stone! And thousand of people see him do this and begin to believe Arthur is the true king because he wielded his father’s sword. This raises more questions…How dumb is Vortigen to set up this scenario where thousands of people are immediately turning against his rule? Why couldn’t he have just dropped the sword and the stone into the ocean? Or locked it in a dungeon? Or thrown it in Mount Doom?
No, instead he tries to discredit Arthur. First his guards capture Arthur, then Vortigen preens in front of Arthur, then his guards capture the whores Arthur works with, and Vortigen says he will kill these sweet, lovely, damsels/ladies of the night unless Arthur tells the whole kingdom he is not the true king.
The whole kingdom just sort of showed up outside the palace while they were talking, naturally. What, do you think the whole kingdom has anything better to do?
So Vortigen makes the whole kingdom bow down to him through dark pagan magic (there’s an Esther/Haman joke here somewhere) and Arthur begins to throw away his birthright to save his whores when Bechdel Test Failure Mage shows up. I call her Bechdel Test Failure Mage because although she is the only female in the move with more than two or three lines (she gets a whole dozen!) she is never given a name. Everyone just sort of calls her ‘Mage’. But she can control animals with her druid-magic, so that’s something. She disrupts the soldier’s horses and sends in ravens until her band of merry men manage to spirit Arthur away.
The last we see of Arthur’s beloved whores they are being run down by Vortigen’s soldiers, so we can just assume they’re dead. Well not really, they show up later…and then they die in that scene…so, you know, pick your poison.
So Mage and her Red Shirts shepherd/forcibly kidnap Arthur to their hideout, where they meet more of the resistance. And these guys get names. You know, because they’re BROS! There’s former knight Sir Percival and rogue archer Gus Van Fat, the latter of which is played with surprising gusto by Aidan Gillian. His snide wisecracks are another of the few tolerable bits about this movie.
Oh, who am I kidding. Aidan Gillian isn’t tolerable. He’s amazing in everything he does.
They tell Arthur everything you already know but he somehow doesn’t. He’s the King’s true heir, he has a destiny, he must defeat Vortigen….
But Arthur can’t control the sword! Where does one go to learn the mystical powers of the ancient and magical blade Excalibur?
The Darklands! Cause why not? That’s where I always go to learn my mystical blades!
This is another very poorly edited scene, that I think might have been really neat if it wasn’t slashed to bits. As it was I still don’t know if the Darklands are part of Bechdel Test Fail Mage’s magic or an actual place. The way the cut it almost looked like a week’s worth of fighting magic animals took place entirely inside Arthur’s head.
And then they reunite with his BROS! Yay! And one of the BROS has a son. I certainly hope that doesn’t lead to anything…heartbreaking…
But never mind that! No time for character development, or emotion, or reason, or breathing, we’ve got to kill Vortigen! Gus Van Fat thinks he can snipe down Vortigen with his bow and arrow in London (called Londinium in the show, but no. Just no.) He has a contact in the palace, who will help them plan an ambush.
She’s Vortigen’s wife? sister? niece? daughter? The movie never specifies. She’s some relative of Vortigen and have cleavage, which according to this movie, is all that matters in a woman. To be fair, it is nice cleavage.
But Vortigen has somehow-figured out this is a trap, and sends out a decoy. The decoy, by the way, figures out he is live bait for an expert archer and remains fairly okay with this. So will Arthur and co. fall for the trap?
No! Pretty much everyone sees through it, and for a moment it seems like they will escape, no harm, no foul. But then Gus Van Fat sees this random guy he hates and shoots him, giving away their position (not joking) But it seems they might not quite be discovered, until Gus van Fat sees a second random guy he hates and shoots him too (still not joking). Then they run through their city, but escape is hard since all the King’s horses and all the King’s men have exploding-arrows (I don’t know…)
Eventually the BROS! and the resistance have to make a last stand in a the best of medieval London’s many kung fu academies (just roll with it). Well, actually they don’t, they could all escape down the sewer, but decide to all die….for some reason. Then the king’s men burst in, and we get our kung fu on, and our shirtless men action on…oh yeah…I remember when this was a movie about King Arthur…
Speaking of, Arthur finally learns how to use the magic sword Excalibur and saves the day with it. Because using Excalibur isn’t like most swords, which involve feinting and parrying, oh no…using Excalibur means sending out a magical shockwave that kills all bad guys for a hundred yards and makes you scream like a super badass.
A super badass.
The they all escape down the sewer, which the could have down a moment ago anyway.
But Arthur is upset! One of his BROS! died while they were escaping, (yes, the one with the young son, how’d you guess?) So he throws away Excalibur and just quits.
But the Lady of the Lake (yes, she’s in this movie now) hands him back the sword out of a clump of mud in the woods. Yes, usually the Lady of the Lake shows up, oh, I don’t know, in a fuckin’ lake, but a patch of mud is good too. During this mud-bonding time, Arthur finally learns the man who killed his father, Uther Pendragon, was-gasp-Vortigen, disguised in black armor.
What a tweest!
But Vortigen’s tower is almost done, and that’ll make him…more magical, or something, so we need to kill him, like stat!
But oh no! Vortigen captures Mage-no-name-lady-person, and another one of Arthur’s BROS! He will only return them alive if Arthur gives back Excalibur and surrenders himself. So he says, yeah, sure, bring on the end credits.
They make the trade, and Arthur surrenders. But Mage is determined to be important in this sexist movie! So gives Arthur a potion that does nothing but make him trip balls (No joke. The movie suddenly takes another weird turn for five minutes before the climax, as Arthur goes on a full on Pink Floyd trip except with Celtic music in the background)
Arthur finally comes down from his mega-high, gets back his sword, kills Vortigen, and a ton of people suddenly show up outside and take back the palace…for some reason.
Then they build the round table and threaten some Vikings. The End.
Hello Dearies! And Welcome to Deliciously Vile villains with Rumple, the part of the blog where Rumplestiltskin talks…about deliciously vile villains.
My, my, we do so seem to love emotionally complex and sympathetic villains these days, don’t we. From Daredevil’s Wilson Fiske to the Mistborn Trilogy’s Lord Ruler (no, really, read the last book) to LITERALLY EVERYONE IN MY SHOW TO THE POINT IT’ S CONTRIVED AND ANNOYING…
Point is, villains lately have been much less Darken Rahl and much more Queen Cersei. And maybe that’s a good thing. But sometimes it’s great to just revel in pure evil (trust me dearies, I know.) The forces of pure darkness can make deliciously vile and terrifying villains when written right, from Heath Ledger’s Joker to the Nothing to the Ctaeth. The last is possibly the most terrifying thing to come out of the Kingkiller Chronicles, including the scary as fuck spider/fungus/demon Scraels.
And who is the Ctaeth, you may ask? It’s a fairy trapped in a tree.
Stay with me, dearies.
The Ctaeth is a creature who is completely omniscient and completely malicious. It can not only see the future…it can see EVERY FUTURE. You heard of that diverging timelines multiverse theory/overused plot device in sci fi? Imagine you saw every diverging timeline. EVER. AND YOU KNEW EXACTLY HOW EVERY ACTION AFFECTED EVERYTHING.
Like knowing exactly how to release a butterfly in South America to eventually cause a twister in Storybrooke. (No worries, we get those a lot). Since you’re a malicious creature that wants to cause a much misery as possible, you would do that. Or you just bring Robin back to the show…prick.
The Ctaeth supposedly is trapped in a tree because no one could kill it. And whenever a human (read…idiot) tries to talk to it, the Ctaeth manages to manipulate him/her just right to cause a plague or a war or other such darkness. That’s right dearies, the Ctaeth is locked up in prison and can still cause a plague just by talking to someone.
Eat your heart out, Hannibal Lector. With some fava beans and a nice chianti.
In the Kingkiller Chronicles we only see the Ctaeth during a few pages. (Out of easily 1800 so far). But this creature is easily one of the most memorable in a book filled with memorable characters. Why? Because it wants to cause suffering on a worldwide scale, and if ANYBODY SO MUCH AS TALKS TO IT, that is exactly what happens.
This is a review of The Invisible Library, a steampunk mystery book by Genieve Cogman.
Irene works for the Library, a shadowy organization in a pocket universe that collects books from different parallel dimensions that the Library deems worthy of preserving from all time.
The story even begins in Indiana Jones fashion, at the end of a former adventure where Irene escapes with a necromancer’s grimoire from Hogwarts-ish boarding school. Oddly enough, though I loved this device in Indiana Jones, this opening adventure is one of the weakest parts of the book (don’t worry, it ends quickly).
Irene returns to the Library through the portal that exists in all actual libraries (clever) and quickly gets whisked away to a suspicious new mission to retrieve a book about Grimm’s fairy tales in a parallel dimension so unstable it has been quarantined, and could collapse at any time.
The way the parallel dimensions are described is one of the coolest parts of the book. Not content with the tired cliche of diverging timelines, the author added the element of chaos, a destructive force that not only creates vampires, cyborgs, and magical fey, but also creates a unstable reality where no one in the world realizes this is abnormal.
Once Irene arrives with a new partner named Kai, the race is on to collect this book before the Library’s enemies, Irene’s nemesis, or the conspiracies of this world get their hands on it. But why does the Library want what is seemingly an ordinary collection of fairy tales so badly?
I feel it is very difficult to create a good steampunk novel, especially when no one has any real idea what the hell ‘steampunk’ actually means. (Do you know? You don’t know. No one knows)
But the greatest strength of this book-the device of ‘chaos’ where both magic and incredibly advanced technology can exist in an otherwise ‘normal’ world with no one realizing the oddities-actually works supremely well.
Not only do we get a dirigible chase scene, giant mechanical centipedes, and even cyborg alligators, which may be as close as Dr. Evil ever gets to his dream, but these naturally co-exist with magic, dragons, and vampires. And it’s awesome.
Two elements that particularly stood out are the dragons and a fey named Lord Silver. The dragons are actually well-done, not the rehashed and unimaginative beasts we see in a lot of fantasy novels. These dragons are inspired more from their Eastern cousins, wise, book-loving and regal, they are the only creatures that can fight ‘chaos’. They look to the Library with more disdain than elves do dwarves, and many of the characters treat them with a mix of respect and terror.
And finally, Lord Silver, who is hands down the best and most entertaining character in the book, and one of the better villains I’ve read recently. He’s a powerful fey, whose personality is a cross between the fey from Jonathon Strange and Mr. Norrell and the MOST MELODRAMATIC MAN YOU WILL EVER MEET. Turns out his power (in addition to shooting lightning and making fireballs) is the ability to exude ‘chaos’ like a pheremone, so that other people around him start to believe his reality. Lord Silver’s reality is that he believes himself the hero of a great story, so anyone too long around him will start falling into the roles he wants them to play-believing themselves to be damsels in distress, or a weak man unable to stop the ‘hero’, Lord Silver .
It’s a really creative premise for a villain, and created an excuse for a flaming villain to actually be sort of threatening; since everyone around him believes this ludicrous character is actually more Conan than pride parade.
The magic of the Library is called the Language, which include the true name for everything ever, an can only be spoken or heard from Librarians. The problem is if you don’t say exactly what you mean, the Language will interpret it literally and cause something wrong to happen. It’s like the pissed off genie of magic systems.
The only real problem here is that the Language has some incredibly complicated laws, restrictions, and caveats, which I am normally fine with, especially since the ‘rules’ of the Language always adhered to. The problem is the ‘rules’ are given to you piecemeal through the book, and only when they become relevant. This makes it appear like the author is making it up as she goes, and is often annoying when a high-speed chase scene has to be slowed down for exposition on how the magic works.
Speaking of exposition and explanation, there is a lot of it here. Now, there is a large and complicated world the author is building, so that exposition I don’t mind at all. The problem is the novel is mostly revolving around the race to get this powerful book and the mystery of where it is/who has it. So in between almost every action scene, the characters discuss what happened with Sherlock Holmes (not really, but he’s clearly inspired by the character. The protagonist notes numerous times how much she loves Sherlock Holmes, how much this detective reminds him of Sherlock Holmes, and how she is attracted to him because of Sherlock Holmes. And her name is Irene, a named she chose herself after the famous femme fatale)
These discussions with the not-Holmes are useful as the protagonists try to figure out the mystery, but waaaaay to long and detailed. The problem is that they give you sooo much information, including things you already know, and other details the readers could probably piece together. It slows down a great narrative.
The only other complaint is a sex proposal literally out of nowhere between Irene and her new apprentice. Not that sexual tension doesn’t have it’s place, and both characters are noted as attractive. But in what dimension does someone get hired, mess up his job for about four hours, then propose sex to his boss and GET OFFENDED WHEN SHE SAYS NO? It’s just very out of place for both of these characters and their development, who end up more mentor/lost boy then sexual partners. And besides a small, misleading clue Irene deducts from her apprentice’s willingness to be naked, it adds nothing to the story.
The Verdict for THE INVISIBLE LIBRARY by Genieve Cogman
8 Umbrellas in the Fog (Out of Ten)
This was a great, really imaginative and really fun book to read. Even many of the foibles are forgiven as they come from author’s own clear passion for books, and Lord Silver is one of my favorite antagonists. There’s a whole lot I didn’t even cover with this review, and all of it awesome (including another badass antagonist and Irene’s rivalry with her nemesis). So give it a read!