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Fantasy face-off: Lord of the Rings vs Harry Potter

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Today I will be offering my viewpoint on one of the biggest fan wars: the war between the fans of Middle-Earth and Hogwarts. While I’ve addressed this issue previously in my post about geekdom, today I think I need to go deeper and discuss my experiences with both franchises.

harry_potter_and_the_sorcerers_stone_ver5_xlgLOTRTrilogyPoster

I was raised on Harry Potter. I saw the final two films in the cinema and have seen the others multiple times through my childhood. I did read the books, but stopped during Goblet of Fire because they got too long. I have nothing against long books (the final Skulduggery Pleasant book is 605 pages long and I’m making my way through a long Bond book) but Harry Potter got way ahead of itself. I know detail is required, but did I really need to know what every character in the room was thinking at every moment? I did listen to the audiobooks and I think I read Deathly Hallows in full at some point, so I have experienced every book and film of the Potterverse.

Incidentally, I’m not sure if I’m going to watch Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. It doesn’t have any characters from the other films but I may watch it just to add variety to the movies I watch this year. The book is awesome and full of strange creatures, but it’s a supplementary book which is supposed to be one of Harry’s schoolbooks. It’s an encyclopedia on magical creatures in the Potterverse, so it seems bizarre that Hollywood is making a trilogy(!) from it. Adapting The Tales of Beedle the Bard would have been smarter.

But anyway, time to move onto my experience with Middle-Earth. Unlike Harry Potter, I haven’t read the books (I know, I know) and I didn’t watch the films for a while. I think it’s because the idea of 12 hours of interconnected storytelling put me off. However, last year my dad and I finally sat down and watched the trilogy (extended, of course) slowly through about five months, finally finishing Return of the King in October. I haven’t watched the Hobbit films yet, as I’ve heard bad things, but I like the Star Wars prequels so I will probably like the Hobbit films too. My Lord of the Rings experience is much newer than my Potter experience, but I regret not being a fan from the start, as the trilogy is AMAZING. I fully support a Peter Jackson written/directed Doctor Who story and while it may be cliche to say it, the films really have made me want to go to New Zealand and visit Hobbiton and the spectacular landscapes.

So, let’s have Potter vs Frodo, Shelob vs Aragog, Gandalf vs Dumbledore and Voldemort vs Sauron!

The story

The stories in both franchises are quite different. Lord of the Rings is a continuous story about Frodo taking the Ring to Mount Doom while the other characters are embroiled in the war. There’s subplots but the focus of the trilogy is clear. Harry Potter has standalone stories for the first three movies. Then, when Voldemort shows up the story moulds into a really long talking plot which only really picks up during Deathly Hallows. Harry Potter starts magical and child friendly, while Lord of the Rings opens on a war. The two really are different plot wise. Philosopher’s Stone is more accessible than Fellowship of the Ring, as the former is standalone while the latter is the first part of a story. In fact, my first Potter film was Chamber of Secrets.

Another difference in the story is the quality of the parts. Lord of the Rings starts slow and then escalates through the other two films, making it basically one 12 hour movie. As a result, while each film is better than the last, it is only because more stuff happens in each and more themes and character arcs are resolved. The trilogy is consistent in pacing, story and overall quality, even more so than the original Star Wars trilogy, which has three distinct parts which are heavily linked and have a clear superior film.

Harry Potter is very fragmented. Every movie has a beginning, middle and end and the pacing escalates towards the end of each film before dying down again. What made the earlier films to me more interesting was the constant mystery around the events and something was always happening. Nothing was really happening in Order of the Phoenix when concerning the overall plot except for the end. Half Blood Prince had slightly more happening except it still could have been slightly more interesting. This isn’t the film’s fault; the books were even more padded. In my opinion, the best Harry Potter film is the Chamber of Secrets, not just for nostalgic reasons but from a storytelling and entertainment standpoint. In second place is Deathly Hallows Part Two, followed by Prisoner of Azkaban.

However, overall, when it comes to the storytelling as a whole, I think Middle-Earth wins this one, but Potter gets a point for accessibility. I can watch any Potter movie at any time, while the Lord of the Rings have to be watched in order.

So far, 1-1.

Characters

aragornharry potter

 

 

 

 

 

In term of awesome characters, I think Lord of the Rings is stronger. Aragorn is simply an amazing leader and action man, selflessly throwing himself into fights with the strength of a king. He deserved the throne of Gondor. Legolas and Gimli provide many great banter moments and fight scenes, and while I don’t find the central characters Frodo and Sam as interesting as the rest, they are still great characters. And that’s not even getting into Gollum and his brilliance. My favourite character overall has to be Gandalf. He’s just so cool, and is both a capable warrior and contemplative wizard. The characters all evolve and grow through the trilogy, whether it’s by each other or by destiny. Either way, there’s a reason these characters are remembered so well.

However, the Harry Potter characters are also great, if not as awesome. Harry, Ron and Hermione all complement each other well and grow and evolve through the films. Harry, despite being the Chosen One, is a perfectly normal kid who struggles at school, yet he steps up to the challenges of Basilisks, Dementors, dragons and Voldemort. Ron starts off as a humourous yet dim boy who is very cowardly, yet he grows to be an action hero in his own right, while Hermione starts off as an obnoxious and slightly unlikeable character, before being influenced by the others to be more open and fun. The adult characters are all strong, with Snape and Dumbledore providing many of the deeper moments. My favourite Potter character is Hagrid, who is so fun and huggable and awesome. I love him every time he’s on screen, mostly because of his flying motorbike.

Overall though, I feel like the Lord of the Rings nabs this one fair and square. I just like the characters more.

2-1.

The Villains

voldemort witch king

 

 

 

 

Lord of the Rings is special because while Sauron is the main villain of the trilogy, he’s a giant eye who doesn’t do much physically. The active antagonists through the films are Saruman and the Nazgul, led by my favourite Lord of the Rings villain, The Witch King. He’s the Boba Fett of Middle-Earth. Saruman is a great threat through the first two films. At first he seems good, and then he turns on Gandalf and starts amassing the armies. His presence in The Two Towers is great, and it’s a credit to Return of the King that the movie still feels epic without him. His role is taken by the Witch King and Gothmog, the awesome orc general of the armies of Sauron.

What’s great about the films however are the morally grey characters due to the Ring, meaning Sauron’s presence is felt through the trilogy. Boromir gets corrupted by the Ring but sacrifices himself for the rest of the Fellowship. Gollum is literally torn between himself and Smeagol, with one side trying to get the Ring destroyed while the other side trying to murder Frodo and Sam. Even Frodo gets corrupted in Return of the King, which makes Sam saving him from Shelob and carrying him up to Mount Doom so satisfying to watch. There are physical threats in the trilogy, but it’s the internal character conflicts which drive the conflict from an emotional perspective.

In Harry Potter, the threat is obvious: Voldemort. While others like Quirrel, the Basilisk, Dementors, Wormtail and Death Eaters serve as supporting villains, the main villain is clearly Voldemort. Like Sauron, he starts off weak and in the background, but he becomes physical and a genuine menace from Goblet of Fire. As a result, he feels more threatening and real than Sauron, and the flashbacks to his past help flesh him out. It also helps that the Death Eaters are really threatening as well. Like Lord of the Rings, the morally grey characters like Malfoy and Snape give the films more layers with the characters.

I’m really torn here. On one hand, Harry Potter has a brilliant central antagonist, but the conflicts in Lord of the Rings are more character driven and the villains are very impressive and visually great. However, I conclude that, because of the constant threat of Voldemort and being an overall better villain than Sauron, the point goes to Potter.

2-2.

Action

DEATH!battle of hogwarts

 

 

 

 

Lord of the Rings has the best action I’ve ever seen. Helm’s Deep and The Battle of Minas Tirith are simply stunning to behold for their sheer ambition and scope. The build up to the action scenes is incredible. There’s nothing to add here that hasn’t been said except for the fact that the action is simply riveting. Spectacularly filmed and the fact that these characters have been built up and developed means that the fights have meaning.

But, even though I know what franchise will get this point, it’s only fair to look at Harry Potter’s action too. The action isn’t as frequent, but when it happens it’s great. The Battle of Hogwarts is exhilarating and very epic, with nearly every character returning to beat the Death Eaters. There are great set pieces through the movies. Harry versus the Basilisk and Dumbledore versus Voldemort are my two favourite fights in the series.

But let’s be honest, Lord of the Rings wins this fair and square.

3-2

Word building and monsters

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It’s London and the mountains of Scotland versus the mountains of New Zealand. Both worlds are fleshed out and complex. Harry Potter blends the real world with the magical world, so as a result it feels real. The in depth history of spells, items and magical creatures make the story and the world come to life. The world building is superb. Hogwarts feels like an actual school, Gringotts is an actual bank and Diagon Alley feels like one of those places that my mum would love to spend time at.

Middle Earth is arguably even more fleshed out. The books were written as a mythology for Britain, with Middle Earth’s landscape being based on England. The different societies, cities, races and history behind the War is brilliant. I don’t really know anything about the various appendixes in the books, but I can gather that the history of Middle Earth is very comprehensive. Thanks to the real landscapes and practical locations, Middle Earth feels like a place you can visit, which of course you can.

So, what about the creatures? Harry Potter has several brilliant original creatures. My favourites are the Basilisk, Dementors and the Hungarian Horntail. Lord of the Rings has the awesome Oliphants, Shelob and of course the Eagles. The orcs are very effective threats, thanks to the brilliant make up.

However, overall I think that thanks to the use of iconography, real world parallels and fascinating world building, I think the point goes to Potter.

3-3

So, what’s the conclusion? Well, honestly it’s hard to conclude.

My childhood is based partly on Harry Potter. Even now I still think they hold up, with great characters, an immersive world and riveting storytelling. However, on a purely objective level, I think Lord of the Rings is a better story. The story is more focused, once the plot gets going it never stops, the pacing is better (multiple endings aside) and it’s just more entertaining to watch as a whole. Harry Potter dips and dives, with action, then 30 minutes of talking followed by more action, to the point where the films drag a bit. Overall though, they are still great.

So who wins? On a nostalgic level, Harry Potter. But in terms of films I look up to when it comes to quality, it has to be Lord of the Rings. I just find the characters riveting, the action spectacular and the story simple yet filled with strong themes and ideas. Like I said, Harry Potter is amazing, but the world of Middle Earth appeals to me more. In fact, as a whole, the Lord of the Rings trilogy is one of my favourite movies. If I have to choose one, it has to be Return of the King.

However, both franchises represents the apex of fantasy storytelling. Both are in my five favourite film franchises, along with Star Wars, the Marvel Cinematic Universe and James Bond. They both hold a special place in my heart and I will never tire of either of them.

Now, time to book those tickets to New Zealand…

Science fiction- Does the science matter?

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I’ve mentioned many times why I love science fiction as a genre, but the more I think about it the more broad the rules of the genre become. With other franchises, the rules are clear- the spy genre has espionage, the drama genre has real life situations, the musical genre has people spontaneously bursting into song etc etc. With science fiction, the rules are unclear. While the basic idea is that science fiction is using science as a basis to tell stories, many science fiction stalwarts like Star Wars bare little to no resemblance to real science. But does it matter?

In my opinion, absolutely not. I don’t really mind if a story is scientific or not; not because I hate science, but because I’m not watching Star Wars, Doctor Who or any science fiction story to be taught science. I like “hard” sci fi like Jurassic Park too, not because of the science but because of the story. I watch fiction for the story, the science is a framework for the story to be told around.

The problems occur when the science in the universe breaks its own logic. In Doctor Who, I accept time travel and Daleks, and the often inaccurate science doesn’t bother me. A recent example would be Kill the Moon, which apparently has poor science. I didn’t notice that because I was focusing on the (in my opinion not very good) story and the show had previously had bad science (Daleks in Manhattan anyone?) However, when magical fairy trees emerge in In the Forest of the Night without an alien explanation, it annoys me because suddenly there’s magic in the Doctor Who universe, when previously magic was established as being science from another universe, which I can accept.

angry doctor

SCIENCCCCEEE!!!!!

In Jurassic Park, the science is more real. Cloning exists, as did dinosaurs, and Jurassic World explained why the dinosaurs in that movie lacked feathers (they look cooler without them, which is true). However, cloning in real life is hard, and from what I know very few animals have been successfully cloned, and when they have they’ve certainly not been dinosaurs (unfortunately). However, I can accept that within the confines of the fictional story. The Jurassic Park book is more scientific and contains more science mumbo jumbo, but it was streamlined for the film, which I’m grateful for.

rarrggg

Let’s be honest: Rexy is cooler without feathers.

This is ultimately called suspension of disbelief, one of the key factors of good fiction. In a story, the world needs to be compelling enough so that the audience can accept the fantastical elements of the world. Pure fantasy like Lord of the Rings has no rules concerning science; magic, monsters and overpowered elves exist without any semblance to reality. When I explain one of my many geek obsessions to my mum, she struggles to accept the non realistic stuff. I explain that the rules of the fictional universe justifies the non realism. That’s the joy of fiction, where the rules can be whatever the writer wants, as long as the rules are explained well.

So what about sci-fi? Some argue that Star Wars is fantasy, due to the fact that it has nothing in common with real science and the definition of sci fi is fiction which obeys basic science. So why is Star Wars considered a sci fi franchise? The tropes associated with it, like spaceships, robots, aliens and planets? But what established those tropes in the first place? Doctor Who? Star Trek? Something even older? I have no idea, and it’s funny how Star Wars is seen as quintessential sci fi when it’s basically fantasy. I still love it.

Darth_Vader

No midichlorins!

But in the end I don’t think it matters at all. Fiction is fiction, and real science is real science. If there’s bad science in a story, it’s only because it breaks the previous established rules of the universe. Science Fiction should be seen as different from reality, that’s why it’s called fiction. Science in the real world is important, but in the world of science fiction, anything is possible.

The 2015 blockbuster awards

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It’s 2016! There’s so much to look forward to this year movie wise. Civil War, Doctor Strange and Batman Vs Superman are all movies I cannot wait to see. But before that I think it’s time to look back at last year and the blockbuster movies which I saw. 2015 saw a huge variety of blockbusters. There was Marvel, of course, but there was also James Bond, Star Wars and Jurassic Park all returning to the big screen. I enjoyed every movie I saw this year, so I think it’s time for the awards. First up- the movies in the awards are:

  • Avengers: Age of Ultron
  • Jurassic World
  • Ant-Man
  • Spectre
  • Star Wars: The Force Awakens

I will be discussing the movies in detail, so spoilers will commence. Make sure you watch the films before reading this.

And now the awards themselves. First up, which characters truly stuck with me this year?

Best Character Award 

  • The Vision- Avengers: Age of Ultron
  • Kylo Ren- Star Wars: The Force Awakens
  • The T-Rex- Jurassic World

OK, I’m kind of cheating on that last one, as the T-Rex isn’t really a character and only appears for the final fight (more on that later) but my love for dinosaurs allow her on the list. As for the other nominees, Kylo Ren is a very complex villain who made the film come alive. He isn’t an intimidating force like Vader or Dooku, but a person who still has a lot to learn and has problems determining whose side he’s fighting for. With a unique design and potential for future movies. he is my favourite Star Wars villain. However, my award for best character goes to…

Vision_in_Avengers_Age_of_Ultron_poster

Now I haven’t read any Vision comics, and in terms of character I still prefer Captain America and Thor, but because neither of them had as much impact in Age of Ultron, The Vision takes the cake as the coolest character of the year. It was a toss up between him and Hawkeye as my favourite Age of Ultron character, but while Hawkeye was hilarious and provided the film’s biggest laughs, The Vision was a better character overall. He represents the difference between the Avengers and Ultron, being made as Ultron’s ultimate body but without any humanity in it. When he turns to the Avenger’s side, he becomes more human than Ultron and is eventually the one to destroy him completely. Oh yeah, and this shot…

age of awesome

That is the single coolest shot in the whole movie. It gives the comic nerd in me a massive squeal. I hope Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman get their own version in Batman Vs Superman. The Vision was the coolest character of the year, and I am intrigued to see his role in Civil War.

Best action scene

  • T-Rex, Blue and the Mosasaurus versus Indomidus Rex- Jurassic World
  • Ant-Man versus Yellowjacket- Ant-Man
  • The opening- Spectre (if I limit the list to only close combat fights, then Rey versus Kylo Ren and Bond versus Hinx counts)

Every film I saw this year had great action, and while Age of Ultron’s and Force Awaken’s huge scale fights are hugely entertaining, my favourite action scenes are the more unique scenes. Spectre’s opening is typical Bond, complete with explosions, chases and nail biting stunts. If there’s a franchise which can open a film in style, it’s the Bond franchise. The first shot is one take, which is stunning to behold. Ant-Man contains one of my favourite Marvel Cinematic Universe fights, with the miniature train fight and the hilarious results of Ant-Man’s growth gun being incredibly imaginative. It’s basically a parody of all the huge city wide destruction scenes in other superhero movies, with the massive explosions and carnage being reduced to a toy train set.

However, my favourite fight of the year is the fight which ignited my childhood love of dinosaurs. The fight scene at the end of Jurassic World is the most fun I had watching a film fight scene all year. It starts with the raptors, before the T-Rex enters the fight. It’s incredibly fun as well as tense, as the T-Rex (the same one from the original! Squee!) is old and weak and the raptors are not strong enough to fight the Indomidus. But the final squee moment comes when the Mosasaurus leaps from the pool and drags Indomidus down. Just awesome! I know it’s just CGI, but when it’s dinosaurs tearing into each other, I can let it slide.

Best use of Britain

Well, obviously it’s Spectre. With a climax set in London, there was no denying that Bond wins this one. However, Force Awakens and Age of Ultron were both filmed here, hence why we got them early. Doctor Strange will get a nomination next year for the same reasons. OK, this award was a bit silly.

Best blockbuster overall

  • Avengers: Age of Ultron
  • Jurassic World
  • Star Wars: The Force Awakens

So now it comes down to the films I liked the most. Like I said, I really like every film I saw this year. Age of Ultron, Jurassic World and Force Awakens however were the ones I was most satisfied with. Spectre had a few issues (namely a very weak villain) and wasn’t as good as Skyfall and Ant-Man, while fun, wasn’t the strongest Marvel movie (I will do a list in the lead up to Civil War). It comes down to the superheroes, dinosaurs and the Jedi. Age of Ultron is a brilliant blockbuster filled with clever character moments, humour, fan pleasing moments (although “Ultron, we will have words with thee” was sadly missed) and a script which is a lot deeper than it seems. It’s easily the most fun I’ve had watching a film this year. I can still replay it in my head even after 9 months.

Jurassic World is another movie I love. Obviously it isn’t as good as the original, but as a movie I still think it holds up. It continues and expands on the themes of the first movie while using the modern world as a way to put more ideas into the script and offer fresh takes on the whole premise of the franchise. It’s a clever movie filled with great action and cool dinosaurs.

However, the crown for my favourite movie of the year goes to…

star wars

Yeah, it may be predictable, but I truly think The Force Awakens is the best film I saw this year. It continued the story with great new characters, bringing back the old characters and setting up the plot for future movies. Even if it is quite similar to the original movie, I think it was fine as the film needed to draw back fans who were underwhelmed by the prequels (I’m not one of them; I’m one of those strange people who likes Attack of the Clones). There’s enough originality in the characters and universe building here to not make it formulaic and I am intrigued as to where the franchise is going in Episode VIII. It was insanely fun to watch and the prospect of more on the way makes me giddy. This was definitely my favourite film of 2015.

And that concludes the 2015 blockbuster awards! Next year, it’ll be Marvel and DC fighting it out for the prize.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens review

It’s finally here! After 12 months and a bizarre Star Wars marathon (In order- III, II, V, IV VI + Clone Wars Season 1) I have finally seen The Force Awakens! As a Star Wars megafan who has at least liked every Star Wars movie I’ve seen (I still wonder if Phantom Menace is worth my time) my expectations were high, and I was not disappointed.

The plot picks up 30 years after Return of the Jedi and sees the First Order (mega space Nazis) trying to take back the galaxy by hunting down Luke Skywalker, who has vanished. All of this is explained in the opening title crawl. Incidentally, it was so awesome finally being in a cinema and seeing an opening title crawl with the music on full blast.

This movie basically combines the best aspects of both trilogies. It has the character and plot of the original, and the great lightsaber fights and world building of the prequels. It has a very simple plot, like A New Hope, with the emphasis on building the new characters and establishing the story of the new trilogy. I am definitely intrigued about what will happen in Episode VIII.

A great aspect about the franchise as a whole are the villains. Darth Vader, the Emperor, Darth Maul, Count Dooku and General Grievous are all cool in their own way. Kylo Ren continues the bad guy tradition of having a strange gimmicky lightsaber, and in the film his awesome three bladed lightsaber is used in a clever way. He is also a very complex villain, as the film shows that he is morally confused about which side he’s on. I won’t reveal exactly what role he has in relation to the other characters, but there are twists which enhance his character. I also like how he uses his mask to hide the fact that he is not really threatening to look at. Unlike Vader, he hasn’t completed his training yet and he is more emotional, making him a unique villain.

I also really like the action. The space fights are all really well done and like the other films there is a giant monster scene which is appreciated. The lightsaber fight is great, though I won’t reveal exactly who is in the fight or what the context of the fight is. It’s like a combination of the duels from the previous six films. There’s the emotional weight of the duel in Empire Strikes Back and there’s the awesome choreography of Revenge of the Sith. The main action scene is basically the same scenario as the one at the end of A New Hope, which does seem strange. However, because the film needs to reintroduce the universe, I can slightly forgive the repeated story. There are enough differences within the characters and scenarios to make it different and hopefully Episode VIII will have a unique story.The Force Awakens also understands the core of Star Wars- great characters, a simple story and deep meaning within the plot.

Overall this was a hugely entertaining film which could be my favourite this year. In terms of Star Wars movies, I would rank them like this, keeping in my mind I haven’t seen Phantom Menace-

  1. Empire Strikes Back
  2. The Force Awakens
  3. A New Hope
  4. Return of the Jedi
  5. Revenge of the Sith
  6. Attack of the Clones (though I still enjoy it).

I eagerly anticipate the next chapter of the Star Wars saga. If The Force Awakens is any indication, the franchise still has life in it.

Doctor Who Series 9 finale review- Whu?

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So, Series 9. I realise I haven’t done a review since Before the Flood. Truth is, I’ve been too busy to write reviews, but I will have an overview of the series soon. But, with this being the finale, I thought I would review another episode individually.

As usual, major spoilers ahead.

So, Hell Bent. To be honest, none of the finales have been perfectly satisfactory to me. They’ve all had major major problems, and while I loved Death in Heaven, upon reflection there are holes and the plot is a mess. None of the finales have successfully wrapped up the characters and plot in a 100% way, to me anyway. I was hoping that Series 9 would be the first to have a brilliant finale through both parts, especially after Heaven Sent. Uhhh, no. While this episode isn’t the worst finale, it is still an underwhelming episode to a very consistent series.

Let’s talk about Gallifrey first. The big twist of Heaven Sent was the return of Gallifrey, a story arc which had been built up from the very first series. I was hyped to see the Doctor return to Gallifrey and it really didn’t add much to the story. The Doctor arrived, moped for a bit and then used the Time Lords to rescue Clara. Not only is this stupid, as the Doctor would never really do something like that (why didn’t he do it with Adric if this whole “freezing heartbeat” business is allowed?), but it also robs the Time Lords of any power. If the whole reason for Gallifrey returning was so Clara could not die (more on that later) then what was the point of making such a big deal out of it? It was a huge waste of Gallifrey.

So, Clara’s not dead. Well, she is, but not really. She’s flying around in an American diner for a million years before she faced the raven. Urgh. In my opinion, the episode fell apart the instant Clara was rescued. But, I remained positive as this episode could have established the themes in Heaven Sent about letting go of Clara.

So, here’s a what-could-have-been: the Doctor rescues her, but through the episode Clara is determined for the Doctor to let her go. In the end, with the universe at stake and the Time Lords ready to destroy the Doctor, he lets Clara return to Trap Street and she dies. He ends the series furious at the Time Lords but optimistic and ready for new adventures.

Except that’s not what happened. Instead, the Doctor left in a 60’s Tardis and the rest of the story is spent talking in the Tardis. There’s already been three talky episodes this series, we didn’t need another one. Why this doesn’t work is because the themes being discussed betray the themes of the series. This series is all about consequences and choice, and Clara’s death in Face the Raven was the pinnacle of the emotional arc of the series. Here, the episode ends with no consequence. Clara still has to die, but she has any time she wants, and the Doctor has no memory of Clara or what he went through emotionally. The Doctor, for some reason, thinks the memory wipe is the best option, but unlike Journey’s End, Clara’s life wasn’t at stake. Why was the memory wipe in the episode? The conflict should have been about the Doctor letting go of Clara and the Time Lords ripping the universe apart to try and threaten the Doctor.

So let’s talk about the memory wipe. As I’ve mentioned, the mind wipe was really poorly executed. Now the Doctor has no remorse or guilt over the events of the series, which means Series 10 will either have a guitar playing, rocking Doctor with no character growth for no reason or a snarly, angry Doctor for no reason. This is really annoying, but thankfully the new companion should shake up the show in a new way.

The final big problem is the plot and the resolution to the Hybrid arc. The Hybrid should have been a physical threat, and through Heaven Sent the Doctor was protecting the secret, and it was even the reason why he fled Gallifrey. With all that hype, the reveal that the Hybrid was the Doctor and Clara together was incredibly underwhelming. As a result, the episode had no threat and the plot wasn’t that engaging.

So overall, this episode wasn’t the best. It certainly wasn’t the finale that I was expecting, but it didn’t make me want to stop watching the show. I’m just really annoyed that the series ended on a low. At least the Christmas special looks fun and Series 10 will hopefully bring a new direction to the show.

My Star Wars overview

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It’s December! While this month has lots of cool things happening (Doctor Who finale! Christmas) perhaps the most exciting is the new Star Wars movie. While I’ve talked about two of my three favourite geek things in detail (Doctor Who and comic books) I haven’t discussed Star Wars much. So with The Force Awakens coming out soon, I thought it was time to discuss the greatest sci-fi film franchise of all time.

My Star Wars experience began when I was very young, after I watched Revenge of the Sith. Yes, I watched a prequel first. I also watched the animated Clone Wars show and basically watched that and Ben 10 for the whole weekends. Now, I’ve seen all the films (except for Phantom Menace) and I love all of them. Yes, even the Prequels. So let’s discuss them first-

star wars prequels

Now, as I’ve stated before, I am aware of the Prequel’s flaws. I know they’re stupid, full of plot holes and compared to the other films they really don’t stand up. But that doesn’t mean I hate them. Easily the best thing about the Prequels was the added mythos and story which were added to the franchise. Attack of the Clones launched into the Clone Wars, which made the whole Star Wars universe feel so much bigger and more epic. The Jedi and Sith backstories were expanded upon and there were so many cool characters.

Mace Windu, Jango Fett, Darth Maul, Count Dooku, General Grevious, Plo Koon and Kit Fitsu are just some of the characters which are just awesome. The Prequels breathed more life into the universe, with more alien planets, more alien races, more Jedi and more Sith.

But that’s just what the Prequels created. What about the films themselves? Well, I haven’t seen Phantom Menace, so I can’t have an opinion. If general consensus is to believed however, I’m not missing much. I do know about the lightsaber fight and after watching it, it is amazing. But I have seen the other two. I find Attack of the Clones to be a fun movie, especially at the end. The whole ending is just so cool to watch, with hundreds of Jedi Knights, Yoda versus Count Dooku (I know Yoda having a lightsaber kind of defeats the purpose of him, but I still find it acceptable) and the awesomness of Jango Fett. The rest of the movie is… OK. Anakin’s journey is kind of well done, with his mother’s death being the trigger which turns him into Darth Vader. But all the stuff revolving around him and Padme drags and I wish the film focused on Obi-Wan and the plot about the clones. That stuff is great.

Count Dooku is a great villain but he isn’t in the film enough. Jango Fett however is a constant threat, and I find him cooler than Boba Fett, as Jango does more. I know the plot has holes and it is very convoluted, but I find it engaging and the film ends with a great and dark note, as the galaxy is at war. So overall, I’m not saying Attack of the Clones is a good Star Wars movie, but I still enjoy watching it.

Revenge of the Sith is the first Star Wars film I saw, so of course I’ll defend it. However, I think even now it is a great film. It’s darker, more character driven and less stupid than Attack of the Clones. I love the whole idea of the Emperor corrupting Anakin from the inside and the way the film connects with the original films is very clever. Meanwhile, Obi-Wan continues to be awesome, and his fight with General Grievous is very entertaining.

However, the film gets dark the instant Palpatine becomes the Emperor and Anakin becomes Vader. This is where the film becomes great in my opinion, as the character beats from the last film pay off. Are they payed off satisfyingly or in the best way possible? Not really, but at least the film knows what it is and ends the Prequels well. The Anakin/Obi-Wan duel is emotionally charged and very tense. I love this film, not just because it was my first Star Wars film, but because I find it to be a good movie.

So, let’s talk about the films I don’t have to defend, and yes, I do own the unaltered versions-

original star wars

The original Star Wars movie is a very strange one for me. It’s a great movie, mostly because of the fact that it’s the first Star Wars. However, I don’t know if it’s blasphemy to say that I find it kind of dull in places. Obviously because it’s the first film it needs to be slow and establish characters, but the film still drags a lot. The final attack on the Death Star is brilliant and the characters are instantly likeable, but the stuff while they break into the Death Star seems like filler. A movie which is a fair comparison is Fellowship of the Ring, yet that had slightly better pacing and more action. I feel like Star Wars (or, for the sake of not confusing everyone, A New Hope) needed more action and less wandering around. Did we really need that garbage chute scene? That could have been used for more Darth Vader screen time. Anyway, it’s still good overall, and is more than worthy of starting a franchise that just got better.

The Empire Strikes Back is the BEST. MOVIE. EVER! Well, it’s one of them, along with Jurassic Park, Up and Return of the King. Not only is Empire Strikes Back a sequel which surpasses the original in every way, but it’s the only Star Wars film which can stand on its own as a masterpiece. The strong emotional core of the story is about family, friendship and the power of good and evil. While the action is incredible, with the Battle of Hoth, the asteroid chase and the final duel all being the best action sequences in the original trilogy, the story is what makes the film come alive. Yoda is a perfect character, showing that the true nature of the Force is a spirtitual force that is powered by emotion. This is the driving force behing Luke’s character. All the characters are pushed to the extreme and the film is constantly moving from action, story and character without ever being boring.

Another thing Empire does better is make the threat feel real. Darth Vader and the Empire feel like genuine threats in this movie. It just adds to the already high stakes and the fact that the heroes are seperated for most of the film means they can go on their individual character arcs. The Empire clearly wins in this movie, making the heroes feel more vulnerable and more real.

Return of the Jedi is a step down, but that’s only because its predecessor was so amazing. While the emotional values are still there, the film repeats a lot of material from the first film. The Death Star appears again, and with the same design fault (seriously, that is a major plot hole). The whole Jabba plot is cool, and features the great Sarlacc Pit fight, but the Empire plot and the emotional core of Empire Strikes Back doesn’t get expanded on too much. Instead, after Han is rescued, the film slows down when the Ewoks appear and the Storm Troopers show their utter stupidity (which is another problem. These films ain’t perfect) by being defeated by them in a ridiculous fight. All the scenes involving Luke, Darth Vader and the Emperor are incredibly powerful though, which is a contrast with the silly Ewok action. There’s a serious tonal problem in the film. Overall, the film is still a satisfactory conclusion to the series.

And that concludes my mega Star Wars overview. I cannot wait for The Force Awakens, which I’ll be watching in two weeks (I’ve got my tickets already). I will definitely review it and it will hopefully satisfy the Star Wars nerd in me. Will it be as good as Empire Strikes Back? Probably not, but not many things are better anyway.

5 wishes for Doctor Who Series 10

Tonight’s episode of Doctor Who, Face the Raven, is going to be a very important one. At the Doctor Who Festival last week the writers and actors all discussed Face the Raven as a game changer. So naturally, I’m hyped. But one thing is certain; by the end of Series 9, Clara will be gone, almost certainly dead. Series 10 will hopefully see the return of a darker Doctor, one who has lost his companion and who is angry at the universe, which should hopefully change the style of storytelling.

I thought about writing this article after the series had finished, but I thought before tonight’s episode will do, given its importance. Any of the wishes I say here could happen by the end of the series. So here goes, 5 wishes I have for Series 10.

  • An interesting and new companion

face the raven

With Clara leaving, the new companion is of course going to appear soon. Now my hopes for a new companion is for someone completely different from the other New Series companions. Part of the reason I love companions like Romana and Jack are that they are so unique from all the others. I hope the new companion is either a male companion who travels independently with the Doctor (a Second Doctor/Jamie dynamic could be established) or an alien companion. Someone from the Earth’s past could be interesting as well. While I haven’t hated any New Series companion, they are all pretty similar in origins and there are several similarities between them. I love Donna because she was a break from the RTD era mould, so the third companion of the Moffat era should be a break from this era’s mould (a feisty girl with a mystery around them).

Clara’s departure should not impact the new companion either. Part of the problem I have with Series 3 is that the Tenth Doctor just wouldn’t shut up about losing Rose, meaning Martha’s introduction was like “new companion, yeah, but the old one is better”. This is partly why I find the Series 4 dynamic of The Doctor/Donna much more satisfying. I understand that Clara’s departure will be devastating for the Doctor (and the audience) but he shouldn’t be mourning for a whole series. Clara’s introduction worked because the Doctor got over Amy and Rory’s departure and accepted Clara, so the audience automatically did. The companion is the surrogate for the audience, so it is important the Doctor treats them with respect. Yes, Series 10 has to have an angry and upset Doctor, but the new companion needs to be treated as their own character, not just as a replacement for Clara.

  • Bring back more old monsters and have better new ones

zygon

Series 10 needs to be braver when it comes to reviving older monsters. This year, the Zygons returned with a bang after only two appearances (one of which wasn’t focused on them) and Davros returned after seven years. This was much more refreshing than just the Daleks, Cybermen or the Master, although two out of three of them have already appeared. I love the Daleks and the Cybermen, but they need a break to make their appearances have more impact. The show needs to revive older monsters, preferably ones who haven’t appeared for a while.

The Zygons have already been successfully revived, so I think it is time for the Rutans, the Mara, the Ice Warriors or the Autons to have a revival. The Rutans and Mara haven’t appeared in the New Series yet, and they have plenty of potential, while the Ice Warriors and Autons are monsters who have appeared but can be used better than how they were. Cold War was a very rushed re-introduction to the Ice Warriors who deserve a two parter (as I write I’m listening to a Sixth Doctor audio featuring them), and the Autons haven’t been used since 2010, when they are a fascinating threat. On that note, why didn’t Closing Time use them? It’s set in a shop! Even the Sontarans haven’t had a story focused on them since 2008.

More monsters I would like to see include the Terileptils, Sil, the Mandragora Helix, the Fendahl and Omega. If the Macra can re- appear, then I see no reason why he can’t.

omega

Omega versus the Third and Second Doctor. I still have a long way to wait for this story in my viewing marathon but I can’t wait to watch it.

However, Series 10 needs cool new threats as well. In the whole Capaldi era, only the Teller, the Foretold and the Boneless have had a huge impact from Series 8, while Series 9 has lacked an awesome new alien. The ghosts were great, but the Fisher King should have been better than he was, and the other new monsters have barely made an impact. Christopher Eccleston had the Slitheen and the Empty Child, David Tennant had the Ood, Weeping Angels, Judoon and Vashta Nerada, while Matt Smith had the Silence. Capaldi’s era needs a truly iconic and terrifying threat. Series 9 could potentially have the weakest rogues gallery of the revival after Series 7, which barely had villains at all.

  • More focus on story

I have loved the new focus on character and emotion recently, and the idea to make nearly every story a two parter is great. However, often the story gets lost in the muddle. The plot, villains and action of a story is just as important as the character and emotion in my eyes. Stories like Kill the Moon have suffered because it forgot the plot and became a talky episode about killing a moon baby (facepalm) and while the Woman Who Lived was significantly better, the plot still got sidelined to the point where the villain literally exploded for no reason.

Episodes like The Waters of Mars, Mummy on the Orient Express, Vincent and the Doctor and The Satan Pit are all great examples of a story has an equal balance of character drama and emotion and also having a great story and threat. Yes, the Krafygis wasn’t needed in Vincent and the Doctor, but it still functioned in the plot and didn’t feel sidelined, to me at least.

Other examples include The Waters of Mars, which is both a great base under siege story and a powerful character drama while Human Nature is a basic plot made into a story full of strong themes and ideas, with the threat still intact and the story in place.

 

underthelake

Under the Lake is another great example from recent memory with an equal balance of story and character.

In short, the story telling needs to be written alongside the character work, not written separatly and bunched together.

  • The Doctor needs to have a consistent costume
doctor-who-12-doctor-who-series-8-6-reasons-why-it-ll-rule

This awesome promo picture is on my wall and is how I want the Twelfth Doctor to look.

A bit minor, but still an issue I want to address. When Capaldi was introduced, he had that awesome buttoned jacket and plain white shirt. Simple, but effective. So why does it keep changing? I don’t mind costume changes, as Pertwee changed costume all the time, but all his costumes were regal and posh. Capaldi has worn hoodies, boring jumpers and loose white shirts. It doesn’t really scream “Lord of Time” when the main character has a polka dot shirt, hoodie or baggy trousers. Yes, I know Troughton wore baggy trousers but that was in character with his Doctor. Capaldi is a harsh and uncompromising Doctor, so it really doesn’t suit him.

Imagine being a Dalek and confronting the Doctor when he is dressed like this. Not very intimidating, is it?

Thankfully, tonight’s episode has got the Doctor wearing a gorgeous purple velvet coat, similar to his original one.

purple coat

This evokes class and is reminiscent of Pertwee. I love it.

This screams “Lord of Time” and I think he should coordinate between this one and his original coat. It’s a minor point, but I fail to see why the Twelfth Doctor has so many stories where he looks so un-Doctorly. Why is he wearing a baggy white shirt with a pink one underneath when confronting Davros, his archenemy? Into the Dalek, Flatline, Death in Heaven and now Face the Raven have had Twelve at his most regal and impressive, like he should be. Although the First Doctor esque costume in Mummy on the Orient Express was great.

  • Alien worlds

I can’t stress this enough, but I am really tired of Earth in Doctor Who. I understand the budget may not be able to accommodate an alien world every week, but if the Classic Series can have unique worlds and planets every series, then I fail to see why the New Series can’t.

krop tor

Krop Tor from the Impossible Planet is one of my favourite alien worlds in the show.

Capaldi has had two stories fully set on alien planets (Time Heist and The Witch’s Familiar) while Tennant and Smith has had plenty of interesting ones. The Doctor Who universe is so huge and vast, so quite why Earth is always visited baffles me. I won’t even mind a space station or a space ship, but Earth is really getting dull as a story location, especially London. If Earth stories are going to be the norm, then they should be set somewhere like Japan, Australia (the only story ever set there is the Enemy of the World) or Chandler’s Ford to shake things up a bit (OK, maybe not that last place). I understand location filming is expensive, but locations can be mocked up, and for the benefit of an interesting story I want a more diverse set of locations next year away from Earth.

Sydney opera house

I think I speak for all Australian Whovians when I say that a story set there would be awesome, and I’m not even Australian.

So those are my five wishes for Series 10. There are still three weeks to go of Series 9 so some of this may become outdated but I think now is a good time to say what I would like from the show next series.

Oh, and a theme tune change. I want awesome time travelling, not strangled cats. The variation from Before the Flood is what Capaldi’s Doctor needs every week-

Until then, it’s time to Face the Raven…

An ode to geekdom

I’m going to admit it-  this is the Golden Age of Geekdom.

Superhero movies are dominating cinemas and Star Wars is returning. Doctor Who is hitting unprecedented awesomeness (there hasn’t been a single episode this series which I haven’t loved) and whenever Marvel aren’t making smash hits, there’s another movie to appeal to the geeks of society- like Spectre or Jurassic World.

Basically, a geek is a person who is obsessed with something. There are maths geeks, sports geeks and then there are the geeky geeks. These are the geeks who are obsessed with film, TV and pop culture. The geeks who can rattle off every Hogwarts teacher or Jedi Knight and squees when Kate Stewart says “Five rounds rapid” or the Twelfth Doctor admits “Reverse the polarity of the neutron flow” makes no sense. Today’s post will be an ode to the geeks like me who are like that.

Now I’m a geek of many things. I’m a Whovian, a comic nerd (both Marvel and DC), Star Wars fanatic, Bond enthusiast, Harry Potter lover and Middle Earth fan. Because I’m a fan of so much, I don’t find myself involved in fanboy arguments. Here are my responses to some common ones-

Is the New Series of Doctor Who better or is the Classic Series better? I love both the same. Jon Pertwee, Tom Baker, Matt Smith, Peter Capaldi are all the same mad man travelling through time and space.

Are the Star Wars prequels too complicated and talky? Yes, but I still enjoy them and can admit the originals are vastly superior (though admittedly I haven’t watched Phantom Menace). I love both General Grevious and Darth Vader and look forward to The Force Awakens as someone who hasn’t been negatively impacted by the franchise.

Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings? Lord of the Rings is an epic, sprawling adventure with amazing action and story while serving as the world’s best New Zealand tourism advert. Harry Potter’s a more quiet and complex story about a boy wizard while serving as the world’s best British landmark guide. There’s no major comparisons to be made except for the fact they both have wizards and giant spiders in my eyes.

Marvel or DC? Both have fascinating, complex characters and compelling stories to me. DC’s characters are more magical and unique while Marvel’s are more human and relatable. The comics are equal in my eyes, though if we’re talking movies it’s obvious who wins.

Star Wars or Star Trek? Star Wars. Yeah, not offence to Trekkies but I don’t understand this franchise at all. Maybe it’s because I wasn’t raised on it but I can’t see the appeal for it. It’s the only major geek franchise I don’t enjoy. BUT, I’m not hating on it or anybody who likes it because I’m not someone who believes anything I dislike is horrible and the people who like it are dumb. People who act like that make me ashamed to be a geek.

So I’m a geek. Why? I don’t know why really. But being a geek is great to me. It means I can appreciate the amazing fictional universes and I understand what a Dalek, Muggle, lightsaber or Batmobile is. I know what people mean when Mordor, Tatooine or Gotham is mentioned, and I can confuse people by quoting Gandalf, Yoda or the Doctor. Because these things aren’t commonly known and known only to geeks, knowing someone who knows what I’m talking about can instantly identify with me.

So, whether I’m gushing about the awesomeness of Doctor Who Series 9, immersing myself in a comic or counting down the days till The Force Awakens, I am a geek. So much so that today I went to the Doctor Who Festival in London and saw Peter Capaldi in a special talk with the cast. I will probably write about that next.

Geekiness is a thing which can’t be explained. It’s just a special part of me which I am proud of.

Why does no one remember the 5th of November?

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Yes, it’s that time of year again. My annual late October post where I write a cynical post about Halloween (though in my defence last year’s post wasn’t that cynical). But this year I thought I wanted to write about the other significant date around this time – Bonfire Night. While I have written about it before, this time I aim to go in depth and talk about why I believe November the 5th should be remembered this time of year instead of Halloween. Before that, let’s look at things more important than Halloween today.

So with that out of the way, let’s talk about Bonfire Night. Everyone knows the story of Guy Fawkes and the plot to bomb Parliament so I won’t discuss the events in detail. Nowadays the day is celebrated with fireworks and burning guys on a fire. But I don’t think that enough is being done to celebrate the event. Far more is done commercially in Halloween, a “holiday” which has no relevance to British history or culture. Read the rest of this entry

The mystery of my cat

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Cats, along with politicians, are quite possibly the strangest animals to understand on the planet. I say this because my cat, Billy, is a ridiculously strange creature to live with. Yesterday I stood on his paw by accident while trying to move past him. He ran up the stairs quickly while I explained aloud to him what happened.

But, because cats have the exact facial expression all the time, I can’t tell if he was hurt or upset or even acknowledged what I said. He just had that expression all cats have – the somewhat vacant look which always seems like he is judging everything and everyone. Maybe it’s because I read too much Garfield at my grandparent’s house, but now I think all cats are plotting something, and that one day they will take over the world.

Cats are a pile of contradictions. They will follow you until you feed them, then eat the food, before expecting more food straight after. They will sit on anything and anyone, but complain if they are stroked at the wrong time. They possess two key superpowers –

  • Voluntary deafness – Cats have incredibly good hearing most of the time. They can hear food packets being rattled and they can hear people entering the kitchen. However, when being told to leave the food alone, get off the table or being told that they are not getting fed, cats can instantly become deaf and not hear what is being said.
  • Super persistence – Cats will never give up. If they want food, they will follow you until they get it. And because they’re cats and they are naturally cute, they can eventually coax anyone into doing anything. No one can complain about them doing anything. If the cat wants a stroke, he’s getting one. If he wants to sit on people, he’ll do it, and no one can tell him that he can’t.

My cat in particular functions in mysterious ways. He stares at me expecting me to know what he wants. As I’ve said before, because cats have one facial expression, I can’t tell what he wants. Does he want food? Something to scratch? Or is he plotting an evil scheme. He will also run off to a neighbourhood a few miles away without warning. We have to pick him up every now and then.

Billy on table

He is also very bizarre sometimes. He will run around the house randomly for no reason then lie on the stairs as if to say “Oh yeah, the stairs are mine”. If someone walks up the stairs, he’ll try and scratch them away, but it never really works.

But all this aside, cats are definitely awesome. And as strange as he is, Billy is still an important member of the family.

Billy is mystified by my blue-tongued skink, Georgy.

Billy is mystified by my blue-tongued skink, Georgy.

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