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Captain America: Civil War review- The squeeing is strong in this one

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Wow. That is all. Just wow. Captain America: Civil War is in my opinion a brilliant, brilliant movie which is easily the best Marvel Studios movie and up there with the best comic book movies along with Spider-Man 2, The Dark Knight, X-Men: Days of Future Past and Civil War’s predecessor The Winter Soldier. I was blown away by this movie, as it got everything I wanted from it and more. I will keep this spoiler free, so it’s safe to read if you haven’t seen it yet (it’s weird how here in the UK we got Captain AMERICA a week before the US. If there’s ever a Captain Britain movie, the US should get it first). I won’t reveal anything that hasn’t been revealed in trailers.

united we stand

The main plotline revolves around a dispute between the remaining Avengers about whether they should be controlled by the United Nations, who have created the Sokovia Accords, or whether it’s better to remain free from control. Iron Man, feeling guilt over Ultron, decides to sign the Sokovia Accords along with Black Widow, War Machine and the Vision, while Captain America, not being able to trust authority after SHIELD’s takeover by HYDRA, decides not to. Things get more complicated when the Winter Soldier reappears with both the Black Panther and a mysterious figure tracking him down. I won’t get into details, but it’s amazing how everything fits into place.

While I liked Age of Ultron a lot, one problem with it was how some characters felt pushed to the side, Thor in particular. In Civil War, every character feels important, whether it’s for the plot, advancing their individual arcs or just there for comic relief, which is needed in this film. The tone is overall more lighthearted than Winter Soldier, thanks to the presence of Spider-Man and Ant-Man, but at the same time it’s the most mature and compelling film in the MCU. A character driven plot has only really happened in Iron Man 3, and Civil War takes a similar look at the psychological effects of being a superhero.

My favourite character this time around was Black Panther, without a doubt. While Spider-Man was brilliant (more on him later) Black Panther felt much more crucial to the story. The way his character ties in with the rest of the story was really well done, and he is just such a cool character. He moves and talks in a unique manner, has his own fighting style and the soundtrack momentarily switches to an African vibe whenever he enters. I cannot wait to see his solo movie. Black Panther is such a unique character in the comics and it’s great that the MCU has done justice to him. The trailers show him being on Team Iron Man, but in the movie he’s more complex than that.

black panther

The action is incredible. There’s fistfights like in The Winter Soldier and there’s also an epic chase scene involving Bucky, Black Panther, Captain America, Falcon and the German police. The main fight however is the fanboy pleasing airport fight which felt like a comic book come to life. The stakes are real, the characters all have motivations for fighting and it’s just brilliantly handled in every way. Spider-Man and Ant-Man steal the show, with the two characters providing the funny moments and some of the standout scenes in the fight. The dynamics in the fights are great, with nearly everybody fighting everybody else. The build up is fantastic, as the characters try to talk before hitting each other. And of course there’s an epic group shot for each side.

So what about Spider-Man? I’m a huge fan of the original Spider-Man from the older movies but I have to admit this one was just as awesome. His mannerisms are right, his quips are on point and he blends into the action brilliantly. Unlike Black Panther, Spider-Man isn’t vital to the story, but he doesn’t feel forced. His world was set up well and just seeing Spider-Man fighting Captain America along with Iron Man just made the Marvel fan in me squee in delight. While I can’t say he’s my favourite version so far, hopefully Spider-Man: Homecoming will change my mind.

spider man yay

But where this movie really works is the character interactions and the realistic motivations and conflicts. The villain of the film is hard to talk about without spoilers, but he isn’t a throwaway Marvel villain like Malekith, Ronan or Yellowjacket. His plot works and he is actually quite complex and ties into the film’s themes. The conflicts within the protagonists are even more compelling. Captain America and Iron Man have had a complex relationship since meeting, and here both characters are pushed to the extreme. Age of Ultron has affected them both, while themes from Iron Man 3 and The Winter Soldier are revisited. It’s such a layered movie which is so much more rewarding if you’ve been following the MCU like I have. The plot is complex but not confusing and there are plenty of twists and turns that make the film ridiculously engaging and more importantly, fun.

In conclusion, Civil War is to me the new Marvel highpoint. Everything worked, and it has set a high bar for the rest of Phase 3. My new most anticipated movie from Marvel is Black Panther, with Thor: Ragnarok and Doctor Strange close behind. I hope the rest of the MCU sticks to the tone established by Civil War- dark and mature, yet still fun and entertaining.

My 5 favourite MCU movies

Age of Ultron review

Why the Doctor Who companion is important

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Finally! After months of waiting for news, the announcement all Whovians have been waiting for is here. The new companion has not been revealed yet- but will today. This is of course a good time to discuss the role of the companion in the show. While I’ve discussed the companion before, here I will explain why the role of the companion is so important and why the new companion needs to work. Here are three pointers for the new companion-

Relatability

Let’s talk about the previous companion- Clara. One of the reasons I never really connected with her during her tenure was that she didn’t feel real. She became too overpowered, completely ruining relatability towards her. Now of course I won’t fully relate with Clara- she’s a female teacher, I’m a teenage boy, but the point still stands. Rose, Martha, Donna, Amy and Rory all felt real. They had real lives and real flaws and behaved like real people. I’m a huge fan of Donna because she felt so relatable. If someone was travelling in time and space, chances are that they’ll act like Donna. I would.

I rewatched the Bells of Saint John today and while I like the episode, I noticed a fatal flaw in it- Clara wasn’t the focus. She isn’t introduced until five minutes in the episode and she barely has any impact on the story. She gets captured twice and the focus is on the mystery surrounding Clara and the whole wi-fi plot. The other companion introduction stories- Rose, Smith and Jones, Partners in Crime and the Eleventh Hour all introduced the companion almost immediately, with the plot being driven around them. In short, we the audience need to feel like the companion is a real person before they meet the Doctor.

Now the new series does a much better job of introducing companions in their first episode than the classic series did. Sometimes a companion would just stumble in at the tail end of the story and then do nothing for the next story. Yet there’s a lot more variety in the classic series companions- there’s modern day (for the time) people like Sarah Jane, Ian and Barbara, yet there’s also savages (Leela) robot dogs (K9), Scottish Highlanders (Jamie), Time Lords (Romana, Susan) and aliens (Nyssa, Adric). In the new series, only Jack and River are truly unique.

Relatability does not mean 21st century Earth. A good character is relatable to everyone, no matter where they’re from. Star Wars has relatable characters- Luke and Rey both strive to travel and do good, Han Solo is cocky and always has a smart remark and Kylo Ren is torn between good and evil. Relatable character traits can apply to any character no matter what genre they’re in or what species they are. I know there needs to be an audience surrogate, someone who the audience can relate to, but they do not need to be from Earth. And if they are from Earth, make them different and make them a strong, fleshed out character who anyone can relate to. Also, if they’re a teenager, don’t make them a walking sterotype. I know what a teenage acts like.

No mystery, make them normal

Amy and Clara had both had mysteries surrounding them, and while it worked for Amy (man I love Series 5) with Clara it devalued her character. I want a companion who has a normal life, with no hint of a mystery. I really don’t like this trend in the new series of the companions being so powerful. Rose fairy dusts a Dalek armada to death (urgh), Donna became a hybrid (A HYBRID!) and destroys a Dalek empire and Clara is there at every victory the Doctor ever had. Martha’s victory was normal and human, and Amy, while still a mystery, was still pretty normal. Let’s have the companion travel for the joy of it, and save the day through wit, skill and cunning and not a prophecy or deus ex machina. Sarah Jane did not need the Bad Wolf to talk the Doctor out of genocide. Ace did not need the DoctorDonna to beat a Dalek with a baseball bat. They were normal people who proved to be strong characters through their actions, not by chance. I know Ace had a mystery surrounding her, but she was still a character first.

My favourite Clara moments are the little moments, like when she confronts the Half Faced Man, beats the Boneless by using their own powers, distracts the Cybermen using her wit and tricking Bonnie using logic. These are all actions done by Clara that feels natural and doesn’t overpower the character, instead making her character stronger. That’s why I loved her departure in Face the Raven- it was sad, but also showed her selflessness and willingness to accept her fate. Then Hell Bent came along and completely devalued the point of her character arc to make her an overpowered being again.

The new companion needs to prove herself. She needs a defining moment where she saves the day or tricks the monster, but it needs to be natural. No mystery, no prophecy and no overpowering. Just a character who travels because it’s fun and who learns and grows through the course of the series.

Who else is ridiculously excited? I’m obviously not going to watch Match of the Day just to find out, but it’s the Internet so I’ll know soon enough. Where will the show go after this? I’m hoping the new companion can bring some magic and mystery into the show again, as we can experience the Whoniverse through new eyes.

My Cornish holiday

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This week, I had a holiday in Cornwall. It was a great and unique experience which I really enjoyed. Cornwall is a very interesting place with some complex history linking back to the Celts, and I loved learning about it and experiencing Cornish life.

We stayed in a B&B near Par, a small village near the largest town, St Austell. On the first evening, the village seemed pretty lifeless and quite deserted, with no nightlife to speak of. This was probably because it was early evening when we arrived. We never spent much time in Par, as we went to other towns around Cornwall. Read the rest of this entry

Thoughts on Batman vs Superman

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When it comes to comic book companies, it may seem like I prefer Marvel (which is true on the movie front) but in reality I prefer DC. I own more DC comics, I find the characters more interesting and the world more diverse. My anticipation for this movie was quite high. I know the trailers made it look dark and gloomy (which is not the tone of most DC comics, excluding Batman) but I loved what the film was going for and where the cinematic universe was heading. I watched the film wearing my Batman shirt and expecting a good time. Due to the negative reviews I was quite anxious, but I ended up quite liking it. There is a lot to work on in terms of making this cinematic universe better, but as an introduction to most of the Justice League it’s a decent set up.

I’ll do things slightly different from my usual reviews. I’m going to look at the good points and bad points separately, before looking at where the cinematic universe could go and how to improve. Let’s call the good portion Yay, and the bad will be Nay. Let’s look at the good first, and there will be spoilers ahead-

Read the rest of this entry

My 5 favourite MCU movies

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Yes, I know Batman Vs Superman has come out this week, but seeing how there’s not much to talk about in regard to the DC Cinematic Universe, I’ve decided to talk Marvel again. Now, I love DC and I prefer it overall, and The Dark Knight is a really really awesome movie. But honestly, while I love the look of Batman and Wonder Woman in Batman vs Superman, I can’t really look forward to the movie as much as Civil War, as I know nothing about the conflict happening in BvS from a character level, while Iron Man and Captain America are established characters, so the conflict is organic. Also, Black Panther.

So now I’ve decided to talk my favourite films from Marvel Studios, having seen all twelve movies-

  • Thor

thor

I called this one of my favourite movies a while back (a list which I need to severely update) and while I don’t think it’s the best movie ever (that would be Return of the King) or my favourite MCU movie (that’s coming up) I still really really like this movie a lot. I love Asgard and I love all the creatures, from the frost beasts to the Destroyer. My favourite aspect of the movie is the simultaneous character growth of Thor and Loki. While Thor is learning humility, Loki is falling apart as his plan to gain Odin’s trust is failing. Loki is easily the best villain in the MCU and he steals every scene he’s in. While there isn’t much action, the character growth of this movie stops it from being boring.

As for The Dark World, while it’s hilarious and very entertaining, it really isn’t as complex as the first film. The action is better and the use of London is awesome, but the villain is weak (one does not simply waste the Doctor as a villain) and the script hasn’t got much substance. I’m hoping Thor: Ragnarok can combine the action of The Dark World with the character building and themes of the first film.

  • Iron Man 3

iron man 3

I loved the first Iron Man, but in my mind, Iron Man 3 is slightly better. It’s funnier, more action-packed and does an excellent job of wrapping up the themes of the trilogy. Using the fragile nature of the suits is a great visual metaphor for Tony Stark’s instability after the Avengers and how he is determined to protect the Earth at all costs, yet his state of mind makes him unable to focus clearly on building the Iron Man suits. The action is also great, with the skydiving sequence in the middle of the film being one of my favourite action scenes in the MCU.

I also enjoy the fact that Tony’s detective skills come into play here. While I know Iron Man is barely in the movie, the point of the movie was that it’s not the suits who define Iron Man- Tony Stark is Iron Man, suit or no suit. The suit is just a way to protect himself from harm and a way to hide his fears and emotional turmoil.

As for the controversial twist concerning the Mandarin, it didn’t bother me. Maybe it’s because I don’t read Iron Man comics but also because my knowledge of the Mandarin character from the comics is that he is kind of bland, a one dimensional bad guy for Iron Man to fight. I loved the modern retelling of the character- a figurehead used by Killian to install fear and panic, similar to the way Tony uses the suits to install hope. This was far better than just another physical tough guy.

  • Guardians of the Galaxy

guardians of the galaxy

If my knowledge of Iron Man from the comics isn’t great, my knowledge of Guardians of the Galaxy is even worse. No one had heard of these characters before this movie, and it shows that Marvel Studios can do anything. While DC have only just started making a Wonder Woman solo movie and insist on making their movies all dark, moody and with no jokes (which works for Batman but not Superman), Marvel make a movie about a talking raccoon and a tree who is able to have emotion despite only saying one sentence through most of the movie.

This movie is just so fun and imaginative. The characters aren’t heroes- they’re conmen, bandits and criminals. However, one thing binds them together- they need to stop Ronan from using one of the Infinity Gems to destroy Xandar. The characters are all well developed and very likeable, despite not being heroes. My favourite character is of course Groot, who manages to be one of the most profound characters. His interactions with the rest of the characters are very funny, with Rocket being the sarcastic, witty counterpart to Groot’s loveable persona. I actually find Ronan to be quite a good villain. He’s not Loki, but he is still a threat, unlike Malekith.

Not to mention, the film is so funny, yet very thematically rich. The whole movie is about letting go of the past and looking to the future, with the characters all filling in that common theme. I simply cannot wait for the second movie and how this team will link in with the Avengers.

  • Avengers: Age of Ultron

all of me versus all of you

Yes, this movie has flaws. Thor is pushed to the side, Ultron could have been more like his harsh robotic comic book counterpart and there is a lot of set up for future movies. But ultimately, I find this movie more entertaining and thematically fufilling than the first film. I like the Avengers a lot, but it is ultimately set up for the other movies, albeit really entertaining set up. Age of Ultron needs no set up- most characters have been introduced and the dynamics are established, meaning the story can be told without needing as much exposition.

I really liked Black Widow, Hulk and Hawkeye in this film. I’m not a big Hulk fan, but watching the Hulkbuster fight him was a huge nerd moment, and the Hulk did get some much needed development in this film, as did Black Widow and Hawkeye. Hawkeye in particular became one of my favourite Marvel characters, with his quips, awesome costume and sense of humour really helping to even the tone. All the characters, except for Thor, were used well, which is surprising seeing how many characters there are.

This movie is all about legacy and how people will remember the Avengers. At the end of the first film, they were seen as heroes. At the end of Age of Ultron, they are seen as a more powerful and dangerous threat to the world, which is something I’m sure Civil War will expand upon. Incidentally, I’m Team Cap. I know Iron Man has Black Panther, Vision and Spider-Man, but I just prefer Captain America. It’s great that both sides are portrayed equally.

  • Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Captain_America_The_Winter_Soldier

My favourite Marvel Studios movie is the most serious, action packed and complex one yet, with a tone I hope Civil War will have. I love the banter of the Avengers, but the gritty espionage thriller is suitable for Captain America. Before this movie, I didn’t care for the character much, and I watched the movie out of interest to see if I would like him. Turns out I did like him- a lot. He is now one of my favourite Marvel heroes.

Aside from the amazing action, the best part of this movie is the subtext. Captain America is a propaganda symbol stuck in a world with conspiracy, violence and a lack of a strong icon. Now he is forced to confront a system he used to trust which is now turning on him, as well as literally fighting the past in the form of his former friend, now the Winter Soldier. Like Iron Man 3, Captain America doesn’t suit up much, but when he does, it’s fantastic.

Everything about this movie works. The villains are great and the fact that SHIELD was infiltrated by HYDRA means it makes perfect sense for Captain America to be against being controlled in Civil War. I love how Cap and Black Widow team up and how there’s no romance between them. It also has the best Stan Lee cameo ever.

So those are my five favourite Marvel Studios movies. I cannot wait for Civil War or Doctor Strange, and with Spider-Man, Black Panther and Captain Marvel joining the ranks of the Avengers as well, I yearn for more of this universe and the brilliant characters it has created.

My Belgium history trip – Ypres and chocolate

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This weekend I got back from a school trip to Ypres in Belgium. It was a very tiring two days but it was well worth it to explore a different country and culture. I was there for a history trip to look at the history of Ypres and its importance in WWI. It was a very insightful trip into how the war’s legacy has affected the country.

The first trip was to Tyne Cot Cemetery, the largest Commonwealth cemetery in the world. Literally hundreds of graves from British, Canadian, Australian and New Zealand soldiers were there, with different countries marking the graves differently. Hundreds more names were on the walls. The whole area is massive and it truly shows the scale of the fighting and how many people died.

Tyne Cot

Tyne Cot Cemetery Memorial

Tyne Cot cemetery

Tyne Cot cemetery

Another highlight of the trip was the gigantic Menin Gate in the centre of Ypres. This was unveiled in 1927 and a daily service of remembrance takes place there every single night. The Gate also has a giant garden of sorts to the side where there are even more names on the side. The inside of the gate is full of names of people who were missing in battle or unidentified after the war. We attended the service of remembrance and there were hundreds of people there. It’s astonishing how the ceremony has survived since the 20s and it truly shows how much the war affected Belgium.

Menin Gate

Menin Gate

Menin Gate

Menin Gate

Menin Gate garden

The Menin Gate Garden

Menin gates names

Hundreds of names on the wall

The following day we went to a chocolate shop, so naturally I was eager to get a hold of a lot of it. I got two bags of marzipan, two white chocolate bars (white chocolate is the best, no question) and a bag of marshmallows. Belgium chocolate is out of this world, in fact Belgian food is great all round. I had a pancake and a hot dog for lunch, both of which were excellent. For dinner on the first night I had chicken, which was delicious and very filling.

The In Flanders Fields museum was very informative and engaging. It told the whole story of Belgium’s involvement in the war, from before 1914 to the aftermath. There were hundreds of items from British, French, German and American soldiers and items from the battlefield. There was also an interactive wristband which contained a story about someone linked with the war. The museum is huge and has lots of information and models.

In Flanders Field museum, Belgium.

In Flanders Fields Museum, Belgium.

Flanders Fields museum

Outside the museum

The final part of the trip was exploring a real life trench. It was very muddy but I had good boots so fortunately I didn’t get muddy. It must have been chaotic in the trenches during the fighting, and I’m glad the weather was decent when I walked in the trench!

Walking in the trenches

Walking in the trenches

Trenches

Trenches

Overall, this was a fantastic trip. I loved visiting Belgium (and a bit of France) and seeing the history behind the war was eye-opening. It improved my awareness of the war, and I’m now more aware of the global impact of the war. While seeing lots of Australian graves, I was reminded of the exhibits which I saw last summer in the Western Australian Museum in Perth. Many Australians died in the war and the graves in Tyne Cot showed respect to them and the whole Commonwealth.

I can’t wait for my history trip to Berlin next year.

Southampton SeaCity Museum

This half term I went to Southampton and the SeaCity Museum. The museum is mostly about the Titanic, but there are other areas worth visiting. I’ve been to the museum twice now, and there were new things I noticed the second time I went there. So here I’m going to go through why the SeaCity Museum is worth a visit.

SeaCity Museum Southampton location Read the rest of this entry

The 3 book series which inspire me

I’m an avid reader. Sure, I read comic books a lot, but I do read normal books as well. I have three main book series which I adore, and they may be different from other people’s. As I’ve stated before, while I love Harry Potter as a film franchise, the books didn’t really grip me as much, and I haven’t read other obvious books like Lord of the Rings (though as stated before I love the movies) or Narnia. My love of books is small but still an important part to my entertainment. Here are the three book franchises which I love the most and still think are great:

  • Alex Rider

alex rider

I’m a huge spy guy and honestly, I don’t think I would have become a Bond fan if I wasn’t introduced to the spy genre through Alex Rider. The books are about a teenage boy who gets hired by MI6 to be their top agent. It sounds cheesy, but the plots and action are very mature, with all the great spy tropes- travelling the world, insane plots, evil monologues, crazy gadgets and riveting action. Most of the books could pass off as Bond plots, and the use of a teenage lead adds more layers to the books, as Alex is struggling between being a reluctant spy and trying to have a normal life. The books get really, really dark at points, which is good. My favourite book in the series is Scorpia Rising, the epic finale to the series, excluding the Yassen spin off.

My dad read the first few books to me when I was young, and as I was older I read the later ones by myself. This really was the first book franchise I got truly inspired by.

  • Percy Jackson

percy jackson

My love of Greek mythology stems from this awesome series. Percy Jackson is about a teenage boy (you can see why I related to these books) who finds out that the world is full of mythical monsters and that he is the son of Poseidon, God of the Sea. Much like Harry Potter, there is an ongoing arc through the books, which is slowly woven through each one, with each book standing on its own. This is also the only series I love where I’ve met the author, Rick Riordan, where I got my favourite book, The Titan’s Curse, signed. I dunno why it’s my favourite, probably because of the manticore. I love manticores.

The way the Greek myths are tied into the real world is really clever and I love the use of the monsters and the gods. The world is complex and it’s such an original idea. This series was my Harry Potter- the books which I read in school and discussed with my friends about. I’m currently starting reading Magnus Chase, which is set in the same universe except it has the Norse Gods instead.

  • Skulduggery Pleasant

skull dude

Ah yes, my favourite book series. I’ve mentioned this in the past, but now it’s time to properly explain my love for this series, which spans from a Year 6 classroom to an Australian hotel room. The books are about Stephanie, a young girl who becomes the sidekick to the most awesome character ever conceived- Skulduggery Pleasant, a witty, magical, powerful detective. Oh, and he’s a skeleton. Together, the two fight many threats, including necromancers, gods, vampires, ghosts and Spring Heeled Jack. There’s more, but that would be spoiling.

The nine books are some of the most entertaining storytelling I’ve experienced. They are fast paced, with mystery, humour and action being thrown it at every turn. Even the longer books flow because of the constant shifts in the narrative- whether it’s a twist, an action scene or a character driven scene. There’s always something going on, which makes the books easy to read and makes it easy to be immersed in the world. The books also don’t follow Harry Potter’s mistake of getting progressively more depressing as the books go on, with the books maintaining their witty charm through all nine books.

This is one of my all time favourite franchises, along with Doctor Who, Lord of the Rings and comic books. I would honestly go as far to say they are part of my childhood, and I was truly upset when I finished the final book. I aim to be Skulduggery for World Book Day this year, and the inevitable film will have me there opening night. Though I know what I’m looking for in an adaptation- no romance, unnecessary grittiness or pointless changes to the book. For casting, David Tennant or Benedict Cumberbatch as Skulduggery. If the film sucks, I will be vocal about it. Very vocal.

So those are the book series which I enjoy the most. One day, I aim to write a series which can match the likes of them.

 

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.

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