Fickle Fascinations

I like a lot of things.

Month: May, 2013

Highly Illogical: ‘Star Trek Into Darkness’ And the Perils of the Reboot

WARNING: Spoilers for Star Trek Into Darkness.

Seriously, I give away all the plot twists. Go watch the film first.

I would actually recommend you give it a miss but then you won’t read this article.

Let’s be straight here, no messing around. Star Trek Into Darkness is a shambles. The plot is almost entirely incoherent, with character motivations at the mercy of bombastic action scenes. Make no mistake, it is explosions first and character development later (or not at all). Instead of focusing directly on the garbled narrative, we will instead assess the problems of rebooting a franchise so ingrained in popular culture, like Star Trek.

In order to fully elucidate on the failings of this new Star Trek universe, we will compare it to probably the most successful (both financially and critically) reboot of recent times, Christopher Nolan’s, The Dark Knight series. This may not be the most natural or obvious comparison in the world but there are some similarities. Both are helmed by hip, young directors, whose aim was to revive a flatlining, yet still prominent, franchise. Both feature impressive action sequences, yet one is decidedly more thoughtful and mature than the other. The reboot of Star Trek was undoubtedly influenced by the dual-success of Batman Begins and The Dark Knight. Yet unfortunately, as we shall see, it fell hard into one of the main pitfalls of the reboot: indulgent, illogical fan-service.

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How To Write Historical Fiction

inglourious-basterds

‘Inglourious Basterds’.

When it comes to writing a good story there are no definite, concrete ‘RULES YOU MUST OBEY’. If you are a skilled enough writer, you can make even the most hare-brained idea work, convention be damned. Quentin Tarantino’s playfully warped interpretation of World War Two in Inglourious Basterds is a prime example. Yet after assessing the merits and faults of both Spartacus and Vikings, I thought, perhaps brazenly, that it would be interesting to outline some of the common pitfalls of historical fiction.

In this study, we will branch out from television to envelop film in a big, affectionate cuddle (if we like it) or a brutish, rib-cracking bear hug (if we don’t). Without further ado, let us begin.

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The Emergent Stories of XCOM: Enemy Unknown

Spoilers for the first season of Game of Thrones. Yes, really.

XCOM-EU_Sectoids

The old-school sectoid aliens of XCOM: Enemy Unknown.

When I was eight or nine years old, a very lucky friend of mine began playing Final Fantasy VII. When given the option to name his party members, he, probably like most kids, decided to name them after his school-pals. I was lucky enough to be named after the lion-tiger-wolf beast (ligolf?), Red XIII. In hindsight, he clearly didn’t like me that much. If we were best pals, he’d have bestowed my name upon Cloud or Barret. Yet at the time, I felt truly invested in the unfolding story of Strife & Co and begged him to keep me up-to-date with events. Particularly those relating to me. I mean, Red XIII.

It’s amazing what a name can do.

Since then, I’ve played so many games with this feature that it barely makes sense to call it a ‘feature’. Yet recently, one game has made me think about names, nostalgia and the power of emergent story-telling. That game is XCOM: Enemy Unknown.

But first, let me tell you a tale (or two).

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Religion, Raids and Ragnar(ök): Series One of ‘Vikings’

MINOR SPOILERS for Series One of Vikings.

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Ragnar and his crew in ‘Wrath of the Northmen’.

It would be fair to say that not many of us expected much from Vikings. The History Channel is not exactly famed for high quality serialised drama. It’s infinitely more well-known for its laughable insistence that the ancient world’s architectural triumphs are so hard to comprehend they can only be the work of ALIENS! It’s the only rational explanation!

It is with pleasure then, that Vikings ended up being such a welcome surprise. Perhaps it shouldn’t have been quite so unexpectedly enjoyable, as a quick glance behind-the-scenes reveals a creator of considerable pedigree, Michael Hirst. He is of course responsible for Elizabeth, Elizabeth II: The Revenge of the Spanish Armada (sorry, The Golden Age) and most pertinently perhaps, the breakout hit, The Tudors. In these examples, Hirst plays fast-and-loose with history, prioritising narrative-flow above all else. You will find little slavish accuracy here history fans, most ‘facts’ are quickly sacrificed upon his altar of high drama. Yet while they may not be strictly credible in the minutiae of historical detail, they more importantly feel authentic and stay relatively true to the broader historical reality. Indeed, Hirst’s fast-paced and ever-so-slightly blasé approach to history ends up being a perfect fit for the lively world of the Vikings.

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