Author Archives: David Sandford Ward
A few months ago, we were all hit with the news that Disney had acquired Lucasfilm for a staggering $4.05 billion, which, in an unbelievable act of altruism, George Lucas will be donating to charity. While jokes and memes hit the Internet within minutes of the announcement, as well as superficial complaints, it quickly became apparent that this acquisition was likely going to be a good thing. Yes, while Disney is responsible for a colossal amount of trite and repulsive shorts, films, and merchandise, it is also the owner of Pixar, Marvel Entertainment, and The Jim Henson Workshop. None of these staples of modern pop culture suffered from the change in ownership; in all cases, its creators kept total control of their visions and properties and made, arguably, the best feature films any company had ever produced after the change.
And then, the news yesterday: 2015 will bring us Star Wars VII directed by JJ Abrams, which is possibly the biggest and most exciting bit of Geek News to hit the Internet since the announcement that Joss Whedon was handling Marvel’s The Avengers. I, for one, welcome our new Jedi Master.
Blu-Ray, 20th Century Fox
The Art of Prometheus
A quick flip through, and scanning of, Titan’s recently published book Prometheus: The Art of the Film reveals Ridley Scott is a great lover of design. Leaving aside, for the moment, his amazing visions of the future in his earlier science-fiction films, consider, for a moment, the aesthetics, design cohesion, and appearance of Rome in Gladiator, the middle-ages in Kingdom of Heaven and Robin Hood, the worlds of the Armed Forces in Black Hawk Down and GI Jane (on the latter – we are speaking only of design here!), and the urban claustrophobia of Hannibal and American Gangster. The man has an interest in, and a love for, every detail in all of his films. While this likely causes more than its fair share of consternation and frustration amongst his collaborators, the end result is always a thing worthy of attention. Even if the designs are loosely based on actual historicity or reality, there is an internal cohesion and relevance that makes his filmic worlds at once believable within their own frames of reference and also beautiful and wondrous. The book, like the film that it describes and illuminates, is a thing of beauty.
Neil Marshall’s second film, The Descent, despite its allusions to genre-films from the past thirty years as wide-ranging as Deliverance to The Thing, defies convention and brings its viewers to what is at once the most primal and terrifying of fears and yet an entirely new understanding of horror films.
The plot, like one of its major influences, Deliverance, is straightforward: a group of friends go off on an outdoor adventure and end up at the brinks of hell and madness. Specifically, after a horrible tragedy that ensued a year prior, namely the death of the family of the main character, Sarah, she and her group of friends go spelunking in deepest, darkest Appalachia and everything goes wrong. To start, they’re in a cave no one, or where they think no one, has ever been; it’s unmapped and completely new territory. No one knows where they are, and should they go missing, no one will know where to find them. The cave, or at least one tunnel, collapses, leaving them stranded in the dark (after quite possibly one of the most harrowing and claustrophobic scenes ever caught on film); they wander briefly through a few caverns to find an untold millennia-old cave painting depicting the mountain and two cave entrances. So there’s a way out. Hope. Well, that’s where the hope ends, unfortunately.
Superheroes are a ridiculous bunch, but damn it, they’re entertaining. Where else can you find a bunch of grown men and women running around in some of the most ridiculous outfits you have ever seen (most of which would cause the judge of the most outlandish and bizarre drag-show you’ve ever thought of stand up and leave the room, giggling) rescuing us mere mortals from the enslavement of some slime-beast/alien/horde/robot/equally-hilariously-dressed-supervillain-whose-only-distinguishing-features-are-a-goatee-and-differently-coloured-codpiece? But, man, the explosions.
A Clockwork Orange: I won’t bother summarizing the plot. If you haven’t seen this magnificent film by Stanley Kubrick (or read the less-than-magnificent-but-still-pretty-good novel by Anthony Burgess), stop reading this column right now and head to your local video store/shop/torrent site, get a copy, sit down with a glass of whisky, and dedicate two hours to absolute brilliance and jaw-dropping horror. Seen it? Good. Now we can continue.
Alex: a morally empty young man whose leisure activities include opiate-laced lactose, theft, battery, bloodletting, and rape. Like Frank Castle, the subject of my previous post, the man is a sociopath. He lives outside our laws and levels of moral behaviour because he considers himself above them; he is a law and force unto himself, and he revels in his self-imposed position. He’s not psychotic: he doesn’t break into fits of uncontrolled rage or mania; everything is cold, calculated, and considered. He’s fully aware of his actions; he simply doesn’t care.
As far as the Marvel universe is concerned, I think there are few characters as mad as The Punisher. Sure, we’re led to believe that Frank Castle was pushed over the edge when his daughter, son, and wife were slain in a mob hit gone wrong, but the truth is, Frank Castle is a killer and always has been. He just happens to be on our “side”, which lends him an air of acceptability when we read about his exploits. The man, however, is an utter sociopath. He cares for nothing but the kill.
As madness goes, this is a sad one. When Andy asked me to put forth some suggestions for those in popular culture whom I found interesting and stark-raving mad, the first person who came to mind was the pixie-ish River Tam.
For those who don’t know the cult favourite science-fiction western Firefly (and its later feature-length film, Serenity), River Tam is the genius and psychotic sister of Serenity’s doctor, Simon Tam. Simon risked his life and destroyed his standing in society, as well as divorcing himself entirely from his family, in order to save his sister from the clutches of a corrupt and monstrously bureaucratic government. She was supposed to be at a school for the gifted; she was supposed to be safe; everything was supposed to be wonderful for the young woman’s future.
Apparently “supposed to” means nothing in the universe of Firefly. Instead of being sent to a school for gifted children, River is instead experimented on time and time again because she displays some psychic ability. Read the rest of this entry
I can’t help but think of The Pogues’ fantastic ballad “Fairytale of New York” when I think of Jesse Custer and Tulip O’Hare, two of the heroes from Garth Ennis’s and Steve Dillon’s masterful and landmark series, Preacher. I also think it’s apt that one of the major issues surrounding their relationship and love for one another is titled “Build My Dreams Around You.”
Preacher covers a number of themes, ranging from racism, faith, camaraderie, addiction, betrayal, and family, but one of the strongest elements in this epic series is straight-out love. Jesse and Tulip’s relationship is crucial to the entire run and informs almost everything that happens between these two characters.
They love each other deeply, and while both are fraught with imperfections and mistakes, their love is one of the few things that continues to find itself coming back full circle. I’ve never actually felt a love story to tug on my heartstrings as it does in Preacher (Hellblazer is a close second, but it’s hard to be sympathetic to John Constantine). Readers care for Tulip and Jesse. They want them to be happy.
Every time something bad happens to either of them (and for those of you in that tiny minority who have not read this amazing series, we’re talking about a lot of horrible things), we hope beyond hope that they’re going to survive the pitfalls thrown at them.
They’re typical of Garth Ennis’s characters: a strong, no-nonsense woman with a penchant for violence and a brutally honest man with a unflappable sense of honour. Their merits prompt faults (more often through Jesse, who’s heart is very much in the right place, but does he ever make mistakes…), but these complexities to their relationship and their stories add even more depth to the plot.
I can’t say enough good things about these two; they are my favourite comic-book couple of all time. Every time I read Preacher, they make me smile. Oh, and for those of you who haven’t read the series, I promise you your heart will jump into your throat at the end of one of the issues in the second storyline, Until the End of the World. It seems that nothing can stop these two. Not god, bullets, angels, ghosts, nuclear explosions, pious lunatics, vampires, inbred yokels, serial killers, or mutilation. What scares and drives them the most crazy is each other.
Writing this, I now want to start Preacher again. I won’t lie, I’m a Jesse/Tulip-shiper. We all have our fan-boy moments.