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Thor: Ragnarok review

Of all the comic book movies coming out this year, Thor: Ragnarok was easily the one I was anticipating the most. Yes, a LEGO Batman movie, Hugh Jackman’s last performance as Wolverine, the return of the Guardians of the Galaxy, a movie about Wonder Woman, Spider-Man in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the Justice League on screen was all very exciting (and good, although we don’t know about Justice League. Hope it’s good seeing how awesome Wonder Woman was) but honestly, having my favourite Avenger return after eight movies since The Dark World and a minimal role in Age of Ultron was enough for me to count down the days until October 24th. My hype for this movie even overshadowed my hype for The Last Jedi and equal only to that of Doctor Who and Skulduggery Pleasant. Long story short, this movie was already in my good books from the second it was announced.

And then the Hulk was going to appear. In a loose adaptation of Planet Hulk. Then Doctor Strange was going to appear. Then the trailers came out.

OK, I wanted this movie now.

So, did the movie live up to my Hulk-sized expectations? Yes, yes and yes. Thor: Ragnarok is easily one of the MCU’s best movies, purely because it embraces the comics in such a firm way that it literally is a 60’s comic book brought to life. The last time I had this much fun at a cinema was the first Guardians of the Galaxy, and I consider this movie to be even better than that one, which is already one of Marvel’s best.

Without spoiling too much (the movie still isn’t out in America), the plot, as you probably gathered from the trailers, revolves around Thor having to reclaim Asgard from the clutches of Hela, the goddess of death. His travels lead him to re encountering the Hulk, now a gladiator on a distant planet following his departure from Earth. Together, and with the help of a bounty hunter known as Valkyrie as well as Loki, Thor and Hulk build a team to take back Asgard. It’s a really simple plot and very easy to follow, however it’s still compelling thanks to the characters and action throughout. This movie is not bound by the other movies in the series and can be enjoyed as a standalone. It’s very different from the first two Thor movies yet still finishes his franchise in an incredibly satisfying manner.

The best (and funniest) aspect of the movie is Thor and the various dynamics he has with various characters. His interactions with Loki (I won’t reveal how the ending of The Dark World is resolved) are just as hilarious and complex as ever and despite the constant humour there is still room for some heartfelt conversations. Their relationship really is one of the best in the whole MCU. Loki is just as delightfully wicked and sarcastic as ever and he remains one of the highlights of any movie he’s in.

Then there’s the dynamic with the Hulk which builds upon the character’s previous appearances. I can’t discuss his arc too much without delving into spoilers but I honestly think that this is the best portrayal of the Hulk yet. His appearance makes this movie so much more fun as superheroes working together will never not be cool. I love the juxtaposition of Thor and Hulk’s roles in the first Thor movie and this one- in Thor, Thor was a fish out of water adjusting to Earth. In this film Hulk, or rather Bruce Banner, serves as the fish out of water in Thor’s very alien world. I can’t wait to see these two again in Infinity War.

There are a whole load of new characters and they’re all great. The standout character to me was Korg, an enslaved gladiator who looks like a giant rock monster yet sounds like a soft spoken New Zealander (in fact he’s played by the film’s director, Taika Waititi.) The contrast between his appearance and his voice is hilarious and his personality is incredibly upbeat and fun. I hope he returns for future movies. The other standout character was Valkyrie, who steals every scene she’s in. It’s hard to discuss her arc without spoilers but suffice to say it’s very satisfying. Another character who ended up being surprisingly great was Skurge the Executioner. You wouldn’t think a minor character would have a well rounded arc, but he does and it’s great. Doctor Strange’s appearance in the film is great, but he has a very minor role to play. It is great how the characters can just cross over and this bodes well for the future.

The final main character is the villain, Hela. Marvel have been on a good track record with villains recently with Ego and Vulture both being fantastic. Hela is certainly better than Malekith but at the same time is a step down from the two recent ones. The main problem is that she is off screen for vast amounts of the movie as the story unfolds elsewhere and whilst her backstory is compelling there isn’t much done with it. That said, she’s still a great villain who poses a genuine threat to the heroes. In a movie this entertaining, the villain honestly isn’t the most important aspect. A minor villain who steals the show is the hilariously camp Grandmaster, who runs the gladiator arena Thor finds himself in. Every second he is on screen is utter hilarity. Just watch and see for yourself as he is one of the funniest characters.

The action in this movie is incredible and honestly feels like a comic book come to life. The colour pallate is completely insane and is very unique. Not even the Guardians of the Galaxy movies are this insane. The jokes come thick and fast and this is easily one of the funniest Marvel movies. As a result it may not be for everyone but for anyone who is concerned about how serious this movie is I can say without spoiling that the MCU has been changed in a major way and that the path for Infinity War has been set. I cannot wait.

All in all, I highly recommend Thor: Ragnarok. It’s easy to get into without needing context for the other Marvel movies, although it does help. It’s a non stop thrill ride that never stops having fun whilst continuing both the stories of Thor and the wider Marvel universe. For a Marvel and Thor fan, this movie was an absolute blast and anyone who loves Marvel will almost certainly have a good time.

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Preparing for Ragnarok: The Thor-athon

Thor: Ragnarok is almost here (in the UK anyway) and to say I’m excited is putting it mildly. My favourite Avenger teaming up with the Hulk and Doctor Strange? Sign me up! Add on top of that the amazing trailers and great reviews and my excitement levels for this movie has hit peak levels. What better time than to reflect on the God of Thunder’s previous movie outings?

Let’s start by discussing one of my favourite Marvel movies, the first Thor. I feel like I’m in a minority here but I still consider this to be an outstanding movie and easily the best origin movie for Marvel. The best part about this movie is the intense character work at play- it almost feels like a Shakespeare story (although given the fact that Kenneth Branagh directed this movie I think that was intentional).

Thor goes through major character development. He starts the movie off as an arrogant prince who believes himself to be superior to others and acts rashly to impress Odin. Then, when he is banished he believes all he needs to do to get back to Asgard is to reclaim his hammer. This is not what needs to happen however, as he realises he needs to learn humility and defeat in order to return. It is so satisfying seeing this character development, which turns Thor into the more well rounded and fun character present in the Avengers movies.

The other fantastic character is Loki, who is still the best MCU villain by far. He is such a complex character who despite his selfish actions is easy to sympathise with and relate to. All he wanted was the same level of respect as Thor, however the way he sought that attention was wrong. He’s the kind of character we don’t get enough of in comic book movies- villains who don’t want world domination or the destruction of the universe. Personal stakes are sometimes so much more compelling than huge stakes, and that’s ultimately what Thor is about. The story is a simple story of brotherhood and family drama yet it’s shrouded in a familiar comic book tone, meaning this movie can appeal to anyone.

What an amazing scene this is. Tom Hiddleston is a fantastic actor and I think he’d be a great Bond.

Are there flaws with the first Thor film? I suppose the Earth characters are not as fleshed out or interesting as the Asgardians, despite there being really funny scenes on Earth, such as this-

The problem is that the romance between Thor and Jane isn’t the greatest subplot in the world and the portions on Earth tend to drag more than the Asgard scenes. It’s all worth it however for when the two stories combine and Thor returns to Asgard to battle Loki. In a fantastic final scene, Thor breaks the rainbow bridge to save Jotunheim but he is unable to return to Earth and reunite with Jane. He makes the sacrifice for the greater good of Asgard, becoming the hero he always wanted to be. The stage is set brilliantly for The Avengers.

Our next trip to Asgard is often called the weakest Marvel movie and I both agree and disagree. On the one hand, Thor: The Dark World is one of the simpler Marvel movies with many flaws that I’ll go into and it lacks the emotion and character of the first film. That said, it’s still very entertaining and a great popcorn film that acts as a very good refresher between the character driven Iron Man 3 and the game changing Captain America: The Winter Soldier, if you’re watching the MCU in order.

Let’s start with the biggest negative here- Malekith. Marvel had Christopher Eccleston, an actual Doctor, playing the main villain and he’s completely wasted. He has no motivation, hardly speaks, is barely in the movie and is generally a wasted villain. This is a problem with other villains such as Ronan the Accuser but he had a very strong screen presence and was a genuine threat even if his character was a bit thin. Malekith on the other hand is just dull, especially compared to his charismatic comic book version. If Christopher Eccleston’s commitments to this film was the main reason he couldn’t do the Doctor Who 50th anniversary, then it’s a real shame that his role in Thor was so lacklustre (at least we got John Hurt in Doctor Who, so it’s really a two sided coin).

OK, onto the good stuff, as I do think there’s a lot of good in this movie that makes me ultimately enjoy it. The best thing about this movie is the humorous yet complex dynamic between Thor and Loki. Loki is a very interesting character in this movie as he isn’t the villain yet still does not have the best intentions, as the ending shows. He is forced to work with Thor and despite their antagonism he clearly still respects Thor. Their Asgard escape is my favourite part of the film, as it has both of them working together and frequently butting heads in hilarious ways-

The plot is actually very clever and despite Malekith being a weak villain, the Dark Elves as a collective are very cool. The siege of Asgard is very fun, being kicked off by an awesome scene of Heimdall taking down a Dark Elf ship and ending with the death of Frigga. This portion of the film truly embraces the comic book nonsense of Marvel and is a joy to behold. One thing I love about this movie is how quick paced and action packed it is yet it still has time for quiet character moments such as the conversation between Thor and Loki after their mum’s death-

The third act of the movie is fantastic. After escaping Asgard, Thor, Loki and Jane arrive in Iceland- sorry, The Dark World- and Loki seemingly dies. This was a great misdirection and a genius way to up the stakes of the movie. The battle for the Aether then reaches London and the Dark Elves invade Greenwich, forcing Thor to take the Tube-

He should just be glad it wasn’t rush hour. Trust me, that is not something you want to be stuck in. I don’t live in London but I have been caught in Tube rush hour a few times when I’ve been there and I fully sympathise with the people who have to commute every day.

After a great duel across dimensions, taking in Jotunheim, the Gherkin and the Dark World, the MCU’s weakest villain is defeated and regenerates into David Tennant (not really). There isn’t really much to discuss in terms of themes when it comes to this film as it is just a bit of fun, so I can see why people dislike it, but I still really enjoy it. It is one of the weaker MCU films, but considering how good they usually are that’s still an indication of a fun film.

Overall, whilst I do understand why some people find the Thor movies to be among the weaker movies made by Marvel Studios, I don’t really agree. The first movie is in my top five favourite MCU movies and the second is still very fun. I cannot wait for Ragnarok (I’m watching it on opening day, so I expect a full cinema) and given that it is currently critically acclaimed I can assume that the Thor franchise will end on a high.

The Nightmare Before Christmas review and why it’s awesome

Well, if you can’t beat them, join them. After years trying to physically combat Halloween I thought- why not just join in the fun? Everyone spends this month gushing about their favourite horror movies and whilst I’m not a horror movie fan, I am a fan of the awesome, holiday blending classic The Nightmare Before Christmas. What better time than to look back on one of my favourite movies? December? Probably, but October is as good as time as any. I mean, it’s always a good time to watch the Nightmare Before Christmas, but October and December are the best. I know it’s only the 4th of October and we have a while before Halloween but that hasn’t stopped the shops so it won’t stop me (although it seems to me Halloween is dying a slow and painful death in this country, which is great. Perhaps we could focus on a non-stupid holiday). Anyway, let’s dive straight into this-

The main reason why I like this movie? The songs. Rather than use them randomly, The Nightmare Before Christmas uses the songs to build a unique world. One of the reasons I’m not a huge Disney fan (I am aware that this movie is technically a Disney movie but I digress) is that the songs just seem pointless and tacked onto pre-established stories that didn’t have singing in them. The Nightmare Before Christmas is an original universe telling an original story and it uses songs as part of that universe. That’s how to make a musical I like. And with brilliant songs such as This Is Halloween, Jack’s Lament and The Oogie Boogie Song, which is my favourite, the singing and music just makes this movie what it is.

The world is so well detailed. Halloweentown feels like a real place full of really fun and interesting characters such as the Mayor with the rotating happy/sad face, the trio of consecutively smaller people who hide in each other’s hats, the vampires, the ooze guy and my personal favourite, the big tree with skeletons on him. None of these characters are fleshed out or given backstories but they don’t need to be- this really is a movie where you just enjoy the ride rather than try and look too deeply into anything. The whole idea of multiple holidays co-existing is also too cool for words and I would love to see the other holidays team up with the residents of Halloweentown and battle Oogie Boogie, Krampus and other holiday villains. However, at the same time I’m glad there haven’t been any sequels to this movie and how it exits on its own. The attention to detail and minor details such as a spider being the Mayor’s tie is amazing.

Jack Skellington is a great protagonist and I love the simplicity of his story. He tries to do the best but messes up, so he moves on and learns from his mistakes to try and be a better person. Sometimes that’s all a character needs. He is also one of the coolest looking characters ever, and between him and Skulduggery Pleasant I think I really like skeletal characters. I will admit that the romance “arc” between Jack and Sally comes out of nowhere and the two characters barely know each other until the end. It’s a pretty out of nowhere ending. It’s almost like Disney forced Tim Burton (who didn’t direct it despite his name being on the movie) and Henry Sellick (who directed this movie and the equally awesome Coraline) to include a romance. Incidentally, despite producing the movie Disney found the movie too dark to release it under the mainstream Disney banner, instead releasing it under Touchstone Pictures. However, they have brought the film into their mainstream banner due to the popularity it has gotten. This now means Nightmare Before Christmas is officially a Disney movie, and not in a Marvel or Star Wars sense- I mean a proper sense. Well, I guess that’s two Disney movies I like (this and the first Pirates of the Caribbean).

The Christmas elements are so well integrated into the film. It shifts from a creepy Halloween movie to a full on Christmas film for a few scenes before merging the two brilliantly. I adore the use of colours in this film, with the Halloween scenes being lit in grey and blacks whilst the Christmas scenes are all about bright reds and greens, perfectly contrasting each other. Even the music switches, with the sombre violins and moody sounds switching to cheery bells and trumpets. Making Christmas perfectly combines the two worlds in one of the film’s best sequences-

The stop motion involved is nothing short of breathtaking. The movie was made over 20 years ago yet it still looks perfect, with the stop motion animation truly making the movie unique and fun to look at. The style is perfect for the offbeat tone that the movie is channeling and I honestly couldn’t imagine this movie working with conventional animation, 2D or 3D. The film took two years to animate but it was ultimately worth it as the movie still holds up even now. It makes me wonder why stop motion animation isn’t more popular when this movie essentially showed the world it could work. This film is also a reminder that just because the movie is half about a holiday I don’t like and is in a genre I don’t like doesn’t mean I won’t like it. A good movie can come from anywhere and be about anything, as long as it’s good.

Overall, I still love this movie after all these years. It really was the first movie I remember really liking and rewatching again and again on DVD, to the extent where I think I watched it every day at one point. Despite the fact it isn’t very deep or thought provoking, The Nightmare Before Christmas is a fantastic Halloween and Christmas movie that I recommend everbody watches no matter their age. It certainly made an impact on me. So this Halloween, watch The Nightmare Before Christmas and get immersed in the greatest non-Futurama musical ever.

Incidentally, this isn’t an endorsement of Halloween after my long war against it. I still think it’s highly pointless but if you have to do something for it, watching an awesome movie would be a pretty good way to spend an evening. Like I said though, any day’s a good day for The Nightmare Before Christmas.

3 reasons why Logan deserves Oscar consideration

It’s September, so the agonisingly painful Oscar season begins. This is the time of the year when movies which no-one has seen suddenly get called the “best movie of the year” and the past 8 months of movies get ignored. Although let’s be honest, this year has been pretty poor for blockbuster movies so I can actually sympathise with Acadamy voters getting fatigued by endless remakes, sequels and reboots no one asked for. That said, there is one movie, released just before the summer, that really does deserve Oscar consideration- Logan.

And I’m not alone in this, as 20th Century Fox have already sent the DVD out for consideration to Acadamy Award voters. Does it deserve award recognition? Definitely. Here’s three reasons why-

  1. People will pay attention to the Oscars

I’ve said this before, but the truth is no one cares about the Oscars anymore unless they’re directly linked with them or film buffs, like me. The general public don’t care what film wins due to the films being mostly inaccessible and unappealing to a general public. Here in the UK we don’t get the majority of Oscar movies until January/February the following year! How is that supposed to represent the best in film in the 21st century? The only times people pay attention is when something like Return of the King, Mad Max or Inception get recognised. The absolute best way for the Academy to make up for this year’s disastrous Oscars is to finally recognise the genre that’s been dominating cinemas- the superhero/comic book genre. What comic book movie more than any other deserves award recognition this year? I think you know the answer, and it’s not Captain Underpants. Nominating Logan, a movie that has been adored by both critics and fans (a rarity for Oscar winning movies) will make people go “Oh, there’s that movie I really liked- I’m going to watch the Academy Awards to see if it wins”.

2. It will act as a consolidation for the failure to acknowledge superhero movies in the past

If Logan is nominated for Best Picture, or (wishful thinking) win, then the Academy will gain serious credentials for actually remembering good movies do exist outside of their incredibly limited bubble of biopics and three hour long Swedish black and white movies with Greek subtitles. The superhero genre has been majorly snubbed by the Oscars. Heath Ledger won a posthumous Best Supporting Actor for the Dark Knight, Spider-Man 2 won Best Visual Effects and Suicide Squad (surprisingly) won Best Makeup this year. That’s the only three I can think of, and only one was for a major award. The Dark Knight wasn’t even nominated for Best Picture, which led to a massive backlash and made the Academy double the movies eligible for Best Picture from 5 to 10, something they have conveniently forgotten every year since. I’m not saying the Avengers or Wonder Woman is the kind of movie that wins Best Picture but Logan is, and ignoring yet another mature, critically acclaimed comic book property when they quite literally have no excuse considering how many they can nominate will prove once and for all that the Academy Award voters are out of touch with modern viewers and unable to look past the source material of a property. A comic book movie (I’m not saying superhero because the movie really isn’t a typical superhero movie) getting major credentials could be seen as the Academy acknowledging the genre as a whole, and the strengths it has. Think of a hypothetical Logan win as a win for all comic book movies, Marvel or DC. One of the finest examples of the genre, scooping the most prestigious award in the film industry and flying the flag high for the future of the genre.

3. It’s a great movie and isn’t that what the Oscars are supposed to be honouring?

Keep in mind that I’m not just doing this post because I want to see a comic book movie win Best Picture. I understand that most movies like Guardians of the Galaxy aren’t going to win Oscars- I would like a separate blockbuster category for the typical superhero blockbuster. Logan however has been genuinely hyped as the first superhero (again, that term is used loosely) movie that could sweep the board in terms of major awards, and it deserves it. It’s not just a great comic book movie, it’s just a great movie. The story is incredibly engaging and well told, the themes addressed are very dark and compelling and it’s a brilliant ending to Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine. This is a fantastic movie even without the comic book label. The Oscars are supposed to be honouring the best movies of the year regardless of genre. Now’s the time to actually uphold what the award is for. A comic book movie like Logan doesn’t happen every year, and this is the closest movie since the Dark Knight to break the mold of “superhero movies are dumb” mentality (a dumb, dumb mentality in itself). I cannot wait to see if this movie does smash through all the awards and breaks that mentality once and for all.

Is this all wishful thinking? I hope not, as Fox clearly think the Academy will consider it. At the very least I expect a Best Actor nomination for Hugh Jackman, who has been playing Wolverine in various movies across 17 years. That’s dedication. We’ll find out if the Academy have changed their mind on comic book movies early next year.

A trip to Chichester- Cathedral number 7

Yesterday I continued my crusade of going to every British cathedral as I stated here. This time, it was a trip to Chichester and the cathedral there.

Chichester is another one of those UK cities which is about the size of a small town yet has historical significance due to the cathedral. It’s about an hour away from Hampshire and much like Winchester the city is very compact and old. It’s very easy to get to the centre from the train station and the cathedral is impossible to miss.

The cathedral was founded in 1057 and was the second one built for Chichester, the first one being built in 681. It is the only medieval English cathedral which can be seen from the coastline and the entire population of Chichester can fit inside it. It is full of modern art and bizarre artwork, which I found quite interesting. My favourite part of the cathedral was a section which had a giant picture of all the English kings and queens up until Charles I. Some of them such as Richard III and William the Conqueror had vanished. I was told by a guide that no one knows how the pictures vanished- they could have been destroyed when the spire collapsed in 1861 or they could have been shot out by Roundheads during the Civil War. Edward VI’s portrait was used as target practice, which is a bit unfair I say. If any king deserved it, it was King John.

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Skulduggery Pleasant: Resurrection review

Yeah, I was gonna review this the week it came out but… stuff happened. Annoying GCSE sized stuff. Well, now I have the time, let’s dive into the latest entry of the awesome Skulduggery Pleasant series. A warning that there will be spoilers, but seeing how you’ve probably all read it by now it doesn’t matter. In short, read the book. But you know that already.

The book takes place five years after The Dying of the Light. Roarhaven has become a giant, fully functioning society and Skulduggery is still solving mysteries and crime. Valkyrie has gone into hiding to make up for her actions as Darquesse and everything seems to be fine. Until a group of fanatics led by a mysterious masked figure called Lethe appear and form an “anti-Sanctuary” to rise up against the mortals, who they see as inferior. This forces Skuldggery and Valkyrie back together.

There are many new elements and characters in this book. The most important new character is Omen Darkly, a schoolboy who is not the Chosen One. The Chosen One is his brother (I love this aspect of Derek Landy’s writing. He’s constantly subverting cliches.) Omen is just a normal kid who happens to be the exact person Skulduggery and Valkyrie need for their investigations. He’s a great character and serves as a strong new protagonist, although the focus is of course on the two main characters.

Skulduggery is one of my all time favourite characters, and I am happy to report that Resurrection is a great showing for him. He’s still just as snarky and deadpan as ever, but his experiences over the past books have made him more moral and grounded. A very shocking event happens in the book, when Skulduggery is turned evil by one of the protagonists. In any other series this would have been very brief, but Skulduggery is working for the villains for quite a while. It’s nail bitingly tense whenever he meets Valkyrie, as you’re never too sure whether he’s still evil or turned good. The nature of his character means you cannot tell. Funnily enough I read this the same week Doctor Who aired The Lie of the Land, where the Doctor had also (supposedly) turned evil. Imagine my disappointment when he hadn’t. Obviously Skulduggery is back to normal by the end but the brilliant thing about him is that he’s never been a true hero, so his turning in this book raises questions of his Lord Vile days.

Another positive of this book is how the world has changed. Every character has changed- Valkyrie is no longer a teenage girl, she’s a young woman who still gets visions of Darquesse. China Sorrows is now the Supreme Mage and Tanith is nowhere to be seen. The entire universe of Skulduggery has shifted dramatically, and the tone of the book has too. It’s still funny and action packed, but it’s darker, more character based and more introspective. It’s easily the darkest book of the series but it’s still distinctly the same series that gave us “The sparrow flies south for winter”.

My favourite part of the book is how the other characters have to work around Skulduggery’s new alliance with the villains. The stakes are raised considerably and the book alternates between the heroes desperately trying to figure out how to stop the anti-Sanctuary and Skulduggery working with the villains to resurrect Abyssina, a powerful sorcerer who they believe will lead sorcerers to supremacy over humans. The story is epic and spans many characters. There’s even a subplot dedicated to the American President, who just so happens to be an egotistical billionaire who believes himself to be superior to everyone else. I don’t think I need to comment any further.

The ending of the book is open ended and leaves many unanswered questions, which I assume will be answered in future books. I would be reading them anyway, but leaving the book on a mild cliffhanger means that the consequences of this book will be far reaching. This is a staple of the series, and it’s why I believe a Sherlock-esque TV show of three movie length episodes per series will be the best way to adapt Skulduggery Pleasant, as the episodic format of each book is clear. This book was one of my most anticipated pop culture events of the year, and it did not disappoint. If you’re a fan, you’ve read it already. If you haven’t, start from the beginning and immerse yourself in the brilliant world of Skulduggery Pleasant.

 

 

 

Every British cathedral… that I’ve been to

The UK is a weird place. There are cities in this country that are about the size of a small town and large city sized towns which are not cities. Why is this? Well, city status in the UK relies on a few things. It helps if there’s a big cathedral in the area. There are many cathedral cities in the country- some are in big cities, others in small ones. I’ve only been to 6, but I hope to one day visit more- in particular, Canterbury Cathedral, where Thomas Beckett was assassinated in 1120 after disputes with Henry II and Leicester Cathedral, where Richard III is buried. But for now, here are the cathedrals I’ve visited-

  • Winchester

This cathedral is about 15 minutes away from where I live. I have been to Winchester countless times and the cathedral is one of the most impressive aspects of the city. The city is historically important as it was the capital of Wessex, one of the ancient kingdoms of what’s now known as England. King Alfred ruled Wessex from Winchester and his statue is still in the city. Winchester Cathedral is one of the largest in Europe, with the longest nave in Europe and it’s the burial place of Jane Austen. It also contains the bones of King William II, who was shot and killed in the New Forest and who was taken to Winchester Cathedral but never buried. There’s so much history behind the cathedral and it’s a very impressive sight, and I’m not just saying that out of bias. Next to the cathedral is Wolvesey Castle, a ruined castle which was the sight of a battle in the 12th century between Stephen and Matilda during the Anarchy.

  • Truro

Image by Steve Parker via Flickr

I visited this cathedral during my trip to Cornwall last year. It is one of the only cathedrals in the UK to have three spires and the first Bishop of Truro became Archbishop of Canterbury. When it was completed in 1910, it was the first cathedral to be built on new ground since Salisbury. The organ of the cathedral is often considered one of the best in the country. Truro itself is a very small, but interesting city. It’s the southermost city in the country and has a wide variety of shops and attractions. It’s got a great museum detailing the history of Cornwall. I recommend visiting Cornwall as it is a very interesting area of the country.

  • Salisbury

Another very large and very important cathedral, with the tallest spire in the UK and the largest cloister. It also has one of the four remaining copies of the original Magna Carta from 1215. The cathedral has been around since 1258 and has historical importance. When I visited there a few days ago, I learnt that the cathedral was built on marshland and the water from the marsh can be reached with a stick in a hole in the cathedral. The Magna Carta is one of the most important documents in the world, as it has been called the foundation of democracy. It was written by the barons of the country to control King John, who they believed had gone out of control. It was signed in 1215 in Runneymede (which I visited earlier this year) and some of the clauses of Magna Carta still exist, such as the freedom of the City of London (different from London. It’s complicated) and the right for anyone to have a free and fair trial. The copy of the Magna Carta is held in the Chapter House of Salisbury Cathedral.

  • St Paul’s

You all know this one. One of London’s most famous landmarks, St Paul’s is an icon of Britain and survived the Blitz. It has been around for over 300 years and even to this day buildings in London have to be built so the view of St Paul’s isn’t blocked. The original St Paul’s was destroyed in 1666 during the Great Fire of London and got rebuilt with the iconic dome structure afterwards by Christopher Wren. One of the most famous parts of St Paul’s is the Whispering Gallery, where any noise made against the wall can be heard at any other point around the gallery. If you visit London, visit St Paul’s Cathedral as it is well worth a visit. Doctor Who fans like myself will obviously recognise St Paul’s as the location of two Cybermen invasions in 1968 and 2014.

  • Sheffield

Image by Andreas Mortonus via Flickr

I went to Sheffield very recently as part of my holiday to the Peak District. My first taste of Yorkshire was very good and I thoroughly enjoyed my visit there. The modern cathedral is a combination of many different time periods, with the oldest part being from the 13th century. The cathedral was large and very interesting and the city itself was very different to what I expected. It went through a major regeneration so there are lots of incredibly new areas and pieces of modern art. The Winter Garden, which is full of plants all around the world, was a highlight. There was also an indoor market that reminded me of the Fremantle markets in Australia. In conclusion, this was a great day trip, and the cathedral was a prominent part of that.

  • Lichfield

Image by Mark Ellam via Flickr

We visited Lichfield on the way back from the Peak District. We needed somewhere to stop and rest so Lichfield it was. This is another cathedral city where the city itself is very small, much like Winchester. The cathedral is huge and looks awesome. There’s statues of various kings and bishops on the ledges of the building and it’s the only cathedral built in medieval times with three spires. During the English Civil War, the cathedral was heavily damaged by several sieges on both sides, which resulted in the stained glass, roof and spires being destroyed. A major restoration project took place in the 19th century to rebuild the cathedral. The buildings around the cathedral are known as the Cathedral Close and are some of the most complete in the country. This trip was a pleasant surprise.

That’s only 6 cathedrals compared to the many, many cathedrals scattered around the country. Most of these cathedrals are ancient and stand as a reminder of the history of the country. I love visiting new places and exploring the history of this country through cathedrals and other areas is always a highlight of trips.

Attention Whovians! Let’s all calm down about a female Doctor

Well, something happened in the Whoniverse recently. No, I’m not talking about the Christmas Special trailer (which looks awesome, although I am worried that Bill’s return will be another Hell Bent). In fact, I’m referring to this-

Yes, we have a female Doctor, played by Jodie Whittaker. What do I think? I’m fine with the Doctor being a woman and it’ll be interesting to see Chris Chibnall’s vision of the show. However, this isn’t what this post is about. This is going to be about the fandom and how we all need to calm down.

Read the rest of this entry

Thirteenth Doctor: Should the Doctor be female?

EDIT 17th of July 2017

Yup, called it. So, let’s remember all cast our minds back to February where this innocent blog post was just frantic speculation.

 

Yeah, it’s time to talk about that elephant in the room.

vastra

Well, Peter Capaldi has left the TARDIS, after what only seems like a few days. While there’s a time and place to discuss the Twelfth Doctor (when he leaves this Christmas I’ll be doing a massive post on my views on his era as a whole, which will be interesting considering he followed my favourite Doctor), right now the question on everyone’s lips is: Who is the Thirteenth Doctor?

This then leads into the largest talking point: after 53 years of white males, is it time for a woman?

Now, speaking as a male Whovian who has grown up with three Doctors, experienced all of them and loves this show, I can safely say that I, personally, would not mind a female Doctor, BUT at the same time I don’t particularly care either way. As long as the character remains the same lovable Time Lord, the Doctor can be male or female, black or white. For me, it matters about the writing and whether or not I’ll like the Thirteenth (I don’t know who I’d cast, but as a Benedict Cumberbatch fan the thought of him as the Doctor is glorious. Hugh Laurie and Rowan Atkinson would also be fantastic).

So, there are two main talking points here. First, let’s look at whether the Doctor can change gender in the context of the show and second, whether it’ll be good for the show.

  1. CAN the Doctor be a woman?

missy

In the context of the show, yes. The show has slowly been building towards the idea of a female Doctor for years since Steven Moffat took over. In fact, one of Matt Smith’s first lines after regeneration was “I’m a girl!”. In the brilliant story The Doctor’s Wife, the Doctor’s friend the Corsair was established to have changed gender and in the Night of the Doctor, Paul McGann was given the choice “Man or woman”. Even Hell Bent, which I usually avoid talking about for fear of hitting something in anger, set this up with the General regenerating from a white man into a black woman.

And of course, there’s Missy. She is the main point of argument that people use when saying that a female Doctor would work. Missy is my favourite Master, but that’s got nothing to do with her gender. I love her for reasons I’ll dive into when she returns in Series 10. Her inclusion in the series has been warmly received by most fans and this once again shows that it’s not about the character’s gender, it’s about the writing. The Master is a character that is 45 years old and predominantly male (he was designed to be Moriarty to the Doctor’s Sherlock) but Missy shows that a male character can be changed into a female and still be the same character. Before Missy, I wasn’t sure about a female Doctor, but I’m now firmly supportive of one.

2. SHOULD the Doctor be a woman?

By this, I mean is it right for the show to do it now? Once again, I say, why not?

The Doctor isn’t like Sherlock Holmes or James Bond, The Doctor’s an alien whose species, as mentioned above, has no set gender. Yes, James Bond has changed actor, but Bond is a very masculine character defined by male sterotypes and tropes. Sherlock has gone through countless iterations but the character is still a male figure. The Doctor, on the other hand, is a time travelling alien with a magic police box who travels through time and space fighting monsters. He may be a male, but nothing about the character is specifically male. His humanity, his sense of justice, his humour, his code of conduct has nothing to do with his gender. As long as a female incarnation sticks with those ideals, go for it.

But will it be good for the show? Now, contrary to what the tabloids are saying the show is not dying. Peter Capaldi may not have been as loved by the public as David Tennant or Matt Smith (I really hope the BBC haven’t done what they did to Colin Baker on Capaldi), but the show is watched by millions worldwide and is critically adored. However, it has slipped past the public consciousness in recent times. Could a female Doctor be so discussed and so shocking that people will be interested in the show and check it out? Journey’s End received over 13 million viewers because people couldn’t stop talking about the surprise regeneration. A female Doctor could bring in a new audience and interest, and provided she’s good could keep that audience.

As for whether it’s right, of course it is. Pop culture is gradually shifting to be more equal. The Force Awakens, one of the biggest movies of the decade, has a female lead, as does Rogue One. There’s a Wonder Woman movie this year and a Captain Marvel movie in two years. There was an all female Ghostbusters (although that was pretty controversial to put it mildly). Female heroes are popping up more and more, so while it’s not necessary, a female Doctor would keep with modern pop culture.

Another criticism against a female Doctor is the fact that the boys watching will lose their role model. Well, I grew up watching The Sarah Jane Adventures and didn’t feel alienated, so I fail to see how having a different gender will make a portion of the audience completely lose faith in the show. Besides, lots of girls watch the show. Wouldn’t you say it’s time they had a role model they could be in the playground? I don’t think they want to be stuck playing the companion all the time. Speaking of companions, having a female Doctor doesn’t mean we have to lose Bill. All we need is a male companion to balance things out (I can’t be the only one who prefers multiple companions). Then, when Bill leaves we can have the traditional dynamic of male/female, just reversed.

So overall, this debate needs to be looked at fairly on both sides. I can see why someone would be against it, but for me I can’t see why it would ruin the show. I hope I’ve addressed both why a female Doctor can work and why it may/almost certainly will happen. Again, I’m not asking for one as a necessity. However, I have a strong hunch that we will have a female, or at least someone who isn’t a white male, for the Thirteenth Doctor and I feel like this needs addressing.

 

The Harry Potter question: Can too much of a franchise be bad?

Hey there fellow Britishfolk (or is it Britons?) Did you know it’s 20 years since the first Harry Potter book was published?

If you didn’t, I don’t know how you’ve managed to avoid every bookshop in the country showing massive signs with another brand new version of Philosopher’s Stone and the signs saying something like “20 years of Harry Potter!”

Now, on the surface this isn’t too bad. It’s a famous franchise which is celebrating a milestone. Here in Hampshire there’s a lot of promotion about it 200 years since Jane Austen died in Winchester. Star Wars recently celebrated 40 years this May and Doctor Who and James Bond had their half century celebrations in 2013 and 2012. So, why I am singling out Harry Potter, which keep in mind I do like a lot?

Why? Because we literally went through this “Pottermania” last year. Thanks to The Cursed Child and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, 2016 saw a massive Potter resurgence (well, bigger than usual. Pottermania never really dies in Britain). So, we’re doing it again this year? I know it’s 20 years and that’s worth celebrating, but wouldn’t this year be a better year to release the script/play/book/whatever Cursed Child is and also release the first in what Warner Brothers are saying will be the first of five (FIVE!?) movies only tangentially linked with Harry Potter? Ah, but then we wouldn’t get two years worth of merchandising. How much merchandising is there? Well, not only can you buy the original Fantastic Beasts book (which isn’t actually a story), you can also buy the movie, the screenplay of the movie and the reprinted version of the original book.

Voldemort has just learnt his three year old edition of Philosopher’s Stone is now outdated and he has to buy another one.

It would be hypocritical of me to complain about new editions of Harry Potter without acknowledging that yes, there have been new editions of Skulduggery Pleasant released this year due to the release of Resurrection (which was awesome). My editions are mostly second edition. However, compare the amount of editions Skulduggery Pleasant has to the amount of editions Harry Potter has. Obviously Harry Potter is a much bigger franchise and is older, but there isn’t a picture book version of the first two Skulduggery books is there? Or a play made for money which was published as a book for further money which was released nine years after the story ended? Resurrection was released three years after The Dying of the Light with Derek Landy stating he had clear plans for Phase Two, which makes sense if you’ve read the books. I don’t think JK Rowling had plans for a Harry Potter Phase Two, hence why the “untold eighth story” came nine years after Deathly Hallows was published in the same year a spin off movie was released. Do you know why I don’t think she had plans for a Phase Two? Because Harry Potter is about a boy wizard who goes to school and stays there for seven years whilst stopping the rise of Voldemort. Seven years, seven books. You make another book not about Harry Potter at school or stopping Voldemort, I’m sorry, it’s not Harry Potter.

Incidentally, I’d like to know if there’s any Skulduggerymania in Ireland the same way there’s Pottermania here. You know, giant banners and a section of a bookshop dedicated to nothing but it?

I understand a multi billion pound franchise needs merchandise. Trust me, I think the same thing about some of the Star Wars merchandise as I do Harry Potter merchandise. But even then, George Lucas always had a nine movie plan, hence the new trilogy. Trust me, I will start saying what I’m saying here about Star Wars if there’s movies made after Episode 9. Are Rogue One and the upcoming Anthology movies ways to make more money of a recognisable franchise? Yes, they are. However, Rogue One bridged the gap between Episode III and IV, adding to both movies and was clearly linked to Star Wars by having the plot be about how the Rebel Alliance got the plans to the Death Star. In short, it’s made to make the other films better.

Fantastic Beasts is set a hundred years before the events of Harry Potter and has characters not even mentioned in the movies with a plot that has nothing to do with the movies. It’s like if Disney made a movie about Qui-Gon Jinn’s aunt and her adventures fighting a wampa, who hasn’t got anything to do with Star Wars. Guess what? Neither does Newt Scamander to Harry Potter. I know the movies will link with the Harry Potter movies eventually, but do we need FIVE movies to do it? Again, if Disney make five movies about Qui-Gon’s aunt, I’ll start saying the same things I’m saying here.

Whaddya mean there’s FOUR more on the way!?

I honestly feel like the franchise is being milked. It’s been six years since the last movie and ten since the last book. Suddenly there’s a mass resurgence of merchandise and new material after it’s stopped being relevant. Again, Star Wars was planned as nine movies and designed as an anthology series, and Skulduggery Pleasant only ended three years ago, meaning the new book this year just felt like a delayed sequel. Other great franchises such as Doctor Who, James Bond and comic book universes can constantly get renewed and changed. Harry Potter is one franchise with one story. I don’t care about what happens before or after- Harry Potter is about Harry Potter.

I just feel like enough is enough. I love the books, I love the movies. I didn’t grow up with them since 1997 for obvious reasons that I wasn’t born but they’ve been a constant part of my childhood since around 2006 and I have fond memories of them. I’m just getting annoyed at the constant new material and attempts to make more out of seven books and eight movies. I mean, JK Rowling’s richer than the Queen, I don’t think she needs more money and I feel like she’s stuck on what made her famous. If this doesn’t stop, Harry Potter will just become another franchise people will grow tired of. I’m getting tired of it, and I’m British, so if I say I’m tired of Harry Potter I’ll be exiled. Indeed, it’s the law to have at least one copy of a Harry Potter book in every house in Britain, next to the tea set and the complete Monty Python, as decreed by Benedict Cumberbatch.

Only joking about all that, our laws aren’t that dumb.

It has to be at least two copies.