Monday, December 10, 2007

Hoopla! - Episode 46: Johnny To Rocks My World!!!

Hello and welcome to Hoopla!

Well, I don't know about you out there in reader-land, but I'm a mighty happy camper at the moment... I just finished the second draft of my dissertation proposal and am HOPING that it will be well-received and that I can get on with the whole dissertation thing...

I am very glad to be finished with this draft, as it has been a constant cactus in my eye for about two months now.


I saw an EXCELLENT movie a few nights ago, with the not-revealing-very-much-at-all-about-the-plot title Exiled.

Let me say, first of all, that writer/director Johnny To is clearly influenced by (and infatuated with) the movies of Sergio Leone (The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, A Fistful of Dollars, etc.). Like the movies of Leone, Exiled is about super-cool guys with guns who speak very little but who have their own sense of honor and morality... life is cheap but the loyalty of friendships is sacred.

That sort of thing.

One possible point of criticism is that the female characters are actually pretty secondary and somewhat two-dimensional... although I have to say that didn't really bother me in this case. I was trying to figure out why and I think it's because this isn't so much a case of barely-disguised mysogyny, as in most comics currently being published, but more a case of purely iconic characters.

Really, pretty much everyone is two-dimensional in this movie and an attempt to create a fully developed character of either gender in this movie would have seemed really out of place. So, you could accuse it of being sexist, I suppose, but I don't think that criticism really applies here. Again, think The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly... there were no strong female characters in that movie either... it's a very macho kind of world that's being portrayed... but it seems rather inappropriate to accuse it of sexism.

Anyway, that's my two cents about that...

Exiled radiates the kind of super-cool vibe that Quentin Tarantino managed to achieve in Reservoir Dogs but never re-captured... it's clever and it's fun, in a mindlessly violent sort of way, and several of the images will stay with you long after the movie is over.

If you'd like to see an excellent trailer that clearly establishes the mood without giving away any vital information, check out this link.

As for comics...

I recently read a whole bunch of new comics that I'll hopefully be reviewing soon, but let me just say this and get it out of the way so that we can never think about it again... Angel: After the Fall was a huge disappointment.

Angel: After the Fall is set shortly after the final episode of the Angel TV series, which I pretty much loved (the final season of it, anyway). I was pretty optimistic about this title because the recent Buffy, the Vampire Slayer series has been pretty much outstanding and also because the same team that's writing and illustrating Angel: After the Fall just recently finished a related limited series, Spike: Shadow Puppets, which I very much enjoyed.

So, my expectations were pretty high...

The first big problem I had with this comic was that I could barely tell who was who... the art seemed really muddled and several of the character looked nothing like their TV counterparts. For example, there's a scene where Connor and two women suddenly appear. I kind of suspected that Connor was Connor, but wasn't sure until someone referred to him by name. One of the women was that werewolf woman from Season Five and I had absolutely no clue who she was until someone mentioned that she's a werewolf... that kind of narrowed down the list.

I still have no clue who the second woman is supposed to be, but I'm assuming that I'm supposed to know.

Also, this was a case of throwing too much stuff at the reader all at once... Given that this story takes place a while after the end of the TV series, it would have been nice to just sort of stick with one or two characters and learn, through them, what's happened in the meantime. Instead, we've got Connor and his two lady-friends, not-quite-Wesley, Angel, and then a pointless scene with Gunn that added absolutely nothing.

Ultimately, it was unclear what I was supposed to be getting from this issue... I understand that Los Angeles has been turned into a hell dimension, yes, but I don't understand why Angel is back at Wolfram and Hart, what the deal is with Wesley (although, in all fairness, I think that particular element of the story is supposed to be unclear), or why Angel wasn't supposed to kill the one demon-y thing. We're told that he shouldn't because then other demons will appear to fill the power vacuum (it's the old "don't kill the Kingpin" argument), but does that really make any sense at all? They're demons. How would a different set of demons be worse?

Given that the entire city is now a hell-dimension, what delicate balance is being preserved by Angel not pissing off the leaders of the demons? And why, if he has had an uneasy truce with them for the past several weeks, did he suddenly change his mind at the end of this issue? It was clear that something happened to change his mind, but I sure didn't understand what it was. I didn't understand why he would have agreed to a truce in the first place and I didn't understand why he decided to end it at that particular moment.

I didn't understand anything, really. Or care.

This comic needed at least one quiet, mellow moment to let the reader connect with what was happening... By way of comparison, the first issue of the Buffy, the Vampire Slayer series had that scene with Buffy talking with giant-Dawn in front of their fort... it was intriguing, but it was also... quiet. In fact, the fact that it was so quiet was a big part of what made it so intriguing.

There's something inherently uninteresting in non-stop demon-fighting and flames and swords and jumping around and... and...


Well, you get my point.

Anyway, I need to get back to my life for a little bit... but I'm hoping to post many, many reviews in the near future... of course, my having said that pretty much guarantees it won't happen, now, but if worse comes to worse, I can always post my 50 page dissertation proposal.

And what larks then, eh, Pip?

- Paul

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