Friday, 14 February 2014

NerdTech in 2014

Frequent visitors to this blog (all four of you) have probably noticed that there's not been a lot going on since November, and that what little has been happening has been happening late. The reason for this, as I'm sure my friends (all two of you) know, is that I am getting married.

It turns out, shockingly, that weddings are a hell of a lot of work. We've barely had any time for ourselves amid all the paper-folding, food-tasting and horrendous arguments about shoes. Any free time we have had we've mainly spent panicking that we were forgetting to do something else. Blogging, let alone going to the cinema, has been out of the question, if only because we haven't had the energy. Like a black-hole, this event is swallowing up every moment of our lives, and nothing can escape its pull.

However, as we approach the event horizon of that black-hole - the terrifying 22nd of March - time itself is beginning to warp and bend. We keep finding extra hours here and there, and we even rediscovered something called a "weekend". With most of the big stuff either out of the way or yet to begin, I can finally sit down and write some of the things I've wanted to write all year. I still don't have time to really do them justice (I am an incredibly slow writer) but hopefully I can get a few of the main ideas across.
So here, without further ado, is a taste of the blogs I might have written if I wasn't so blissfully in love:


Most Interesting Film of 2013

This is something I started last January as a companion piece to my Film of the Year stuff. I gave the award to Prometheus, an insane contradiction of a movie that I haven't stopped thinking about (or loudly deriding) since.
You might think, based on the number of pieces I've written about it, that Man of Steel would be the equivalent film of 2013. And you'd be dead wrong. Being interesting is the one thing Snyder's punchfest can't be accused of - it's just way too boring.

No, the 2013 award actually goes to Star Trek: Into Darkness. I only wrote about this film once, when I gave it a very positive review, but my feelings since then have become a bit more complicated. Its clear, on reflection and certainly on a second viewing, that this film simply doesn't make sense.
There's a bunch of reasons why - ranging from a dumb character reveal that doesn't actually affect the story, to a violent disregard for Star Trek lore and, indeed, science - but the main problem is that there are people in the torpedoes.

There are people in the torpedoes.

Everything that stems from that is just nonsense. Why Khan puts them there is nonsense. Why Marcus puts them on the Enterprise is nonsense. How the Enterprise is supposed to fire them with no fuel-compartment is nonsense. Why everyone expects them to use all seventy-two is nonsense. Why anyone would want them to use all seventy-two is nonsense. It's all nonsense.

But the interesting thing - the reason it gets this award - is that, somehow, Into Darkness still works. The film thunders along at such a pace that you don't notice this stuff at all, and even if you do notice, it doesn't detract from the enjoyment. It's a film with serious problems - deep, core, fundamental problems - yet it plays perfectly, every time. I have no idea how that dichotomy works, or how it's even possible, and that puzzle is what's so interesting!
What is clear is that, while JJ Abrams may have an unhealthy fascination with unopened boxes and incompetent writers, he's a bloody magician of a director.


The Year of the Doctor

2013 was the year I fell out of love with Doctor Who. But, after the excellent anniversary episode, it won me back. After such a rocky year, though, I was very wary that the Christmas episode - not to mention Matt Smith's final appearance - could easily go in either direction.
Happily, The Time of the Doctor was far more in line with November's offering than with the lacklustre series before it. Like the anniversary, I felt it was a fitting end to a particular era and a respectful nod to the history of the programme.
Also like the anniversary, we finally got a few answers about longstanding questions. Not least of which was the actual Question. The explanations of the Silence, both as a species and as a religion, were also pretty damn clever and never felt like the handwaves they probably were.

The only real problem I had (other than Clara continuing to be Clara) was that this episode completely altered a Fixed Point in Time. That's pretty much the cardinal sin of Doctor Who. We'd seen the Doctor's grave on Trenzalore - very very important things had occurred there - and now it never existed. That planet should have been crawling with Time Reapers long before the credits rolled.
But even that, huge bugbear that it is, wasn't enough to bother me when the rest was so good.

As for Matt Smith's big ending, which I've heard quite a few people complain about, I thought it was pretty spot on. I would have loved it even more, though, if they'd been ballsy enough to end it with the explosion. If that shoe had been Capaldi's, as we all thought it was going to be, it could have been almost as perfect as Eccleston's farewell (I don't think they're ever going to top that). But I understand that we needed our last moments to be with Smith as he was during the series, not buried under Prometheus makeup - and at least it wasn't as obnoxious as all the fanservice bollocks we got with Tennant.
Speaking of the makeup, I've heard a lot of complaints that the defeat of the Daleks was anticlimactic - that it was just an old man yelling at the sky. Well, yes, that's exactly what it was. That's exactly what it always is. The Doctor is, and always has been, just an old man shouting defiantly at the stars.
That's exactly what Doctor Who is about; and that's why I love it.


DreamWorks' Daddy-Issues

Over Christmas, I saw Kung Fu Panda 2 for the second time, and came to a shocking revelation about DreamWorks Animation:

Shrek is a film about an ogre breaking free of fairytale convention to rescue a princess and defeat a prince. Shrek 2 is about Fiona's parents.
Madagascar is a film about the institutionalisation of zoo animals, and how unsuited they are to their natural habitat. Madagascar 2 is about Alex's parents.
Kung Fu Panda is a film about a group of lost souls, who all just happen to be kung fu masters, coming to accept themselves in different ways. Kung Fu Panda 2 is about Po's parents.
How to Train your Dragon is a film about one single friendship leading to peace and understanding between two eternally warring races. I'll give you one guess what How to Train your Dragon 2 is about.

Mr Katzenberg, sir? I think you may need help. It's obvious that you have some deep-seated issues regarding your parents, and I worry that this hangup is doing more damage than good; both to you and to your films. With Kung Fu Panda 3 looking like it will also focus on Po's parents, I urge you to speak with somebody. With time and counselling, perhaps you can escape from this repetitive (and frankly lazy) storytelling cul-de-sac.


Sherlock and the Mystery of the Missing Mysteries

Now, this is where things get interesting.
I didn't like series three of Sherlock very much, and I wanted to write a piece explaining why. The thing is that, unlike the other stuff I've mentioned, I actually did write this one. I just didn't write it here.

In a shocking twist of fate, I have been assimilated into the Hex Dimension; the same sinister hivemind that consumed my brother and a bunch of my friends. I put up a fight for a while, but the offer of a larger audience - of more people to shout my grumpy opinions at - eventually won me over and I quietly succumbed to the beast.
So when I finally did write about Sherlock, and what bothered me about this latest series, I did so at Hex Dimension.

Read it here!


Onwards and Upwards

You've probably noticed that my stuff tends to ramble and meander and generally go on for too long. This is a particular problem with the wedding swallowing up all my time, but it's an issue all on its own, too. Hex Dimension has a tight framework of style-guides and word-limits which, frankly, is something I probably need in my writing, and certainly need right now. Not to mention that it just feels great to be part of a bigger, busier, more vibrant site.
As a result, I'm hoping to keep writing for Hex. I'm working on a couple of pieces about gaming (something I've never really written about on this blog) and I'll be reviewing The Lego Movie in a few days (squee!).

That doesn't mean this blog is ending, though. While I'll be posting short opinion pieces and reviews to Hex, anything that's too long or too ranty or simply too personal will still be posted here on NerdTech. On top of that, Mangaphobia will not be going anywhere (I'll be writing about Death Note after the wedding) and I'll endeavour to post a link to anything I write elsewhere.

In the meantime, though, all the action is over at Hex Dimension. The site has a great new look, a great team of writers, and tonnes of stuff on comics, games, TV, books, and any and all things nerdy. I'm enjoying it there and I hope you will too!

Come and join us!