I finally saw Iron Man 3. Better late than never, right?
I’m actually not so sure.
The movie wasn’t bad, but it definitely wasn’t good. I really liked the original Iron Man, and felt that Robert Downey, Jr. had really nailed the character of Tony Stark. Iron Man 2 was a bit of a disappointment, but Mickey Rourke’s performance was a redeeming factor. Iron Man 3, however, had no comparable standout performances.
I don’t mean to detract from Ben Kingsley’s acting abilities; indeed, he did an admirable job. Similarly, I cannot fault Guy Pearce in his portrayal of Aldrich Killian.
Rather, I place the blame on the characters themselves.
While I admittedly am not intimately familiar with the comic book series, I know enough about the franchise to have been very interested in seeing The Mandarin introduced as Tony Stark’s latest nemesis.
The Mandarin, as depicted in Iron Man 3, is a total dud. To say the character lacked depth is a massive understatement. The buildup of mystery and menace the movie endeavors to enshroud him in is deliberately and intentionally sacrificed as a major plot device, yet the result of that sacrifice is the revelation of a far lesser menace.
It is clearly supposed to be a surprise twist (I am trying to avoid spoilers), yet the only surprise seems to be “hey, guess what? The situation is not nearly as interesting as you thought it was. Bet you never saw that coming!” Yay?
The other major character introduced is Aldrich Killian. He’s intended to be a brilliant mind in his own right, and the very beginning of the movie clearly shows that the character is supposed to be a foil, and potential antagonist, to the flamboyant genius and showmanship of Tony Stark. However, the character turns out to be remarkably one-dimensional, and his motivations and overall role turn out to be decidedly generic.
The titular character also lacks the depth seen in the previous titles. Clearly there is intent to add depth, by highlighting Tony Stark’s insecurities and emotional sensitivities, yet it seems that either the true character-building elements were largely cut from the final production, or what exists was tacked on as an afterthought.
Within the first 20 minutes of the movie, it is established that Tony is having some residual problems from the events at the end of The Avengers. These problems crop up a couple of times during the movie, yet are never actually resolved in a meaningful way. Instead, it’s just “stuff he’s dealing with”, and doesn’t really accomplish anything towards adding depth to the character.
Indeed, it feels like it may be tacked on strictly to provide some links to The Avengers, which appears to be a common theme in Marvel Studios’ recent titles. It seems like they are trying to bring the same breadth and depth to the Marvel Universe on screen that the comics enjoy. However, instead of meaningful cross-over appearances and side stories that play integral parts of individual story arcs, as seen in many of the printed titles, they are peppering the movies with just enough references for someone who has seen the other films to say “oh, yeah… I know what they’re talking about.”
Unfortunately, this also means that those who have not seen the other films will just find the references confusing or uninteresting.
The movie itself does have some redeeming qualities. In particular, we are treated to lots of explosions, and some eye-catching special effects. The confrontation at the conclusion of the movie attempts to incorporate some of these special effects in a meaningful way into the plot, but it doesn’t really make up for a somewhat anticlimactic battle.
The basic plot, however, is somewhat interesting, and we do see some interesting characters along the way. Harley Keener, played by Ty Simpkins, was perhaps the standout of the movie, and I found the scenes with him better than most of the dialogues with the more prominent characters.
The fight scenes were well-coordinated, and the abilities of the protagonists are both eye-catching and distinctive.
All in all, I found the movie to be a significant disappointment. It failed to achieve the appeal of the preceding entries in the series, and certainly fell far short of the bar set by The Avengers.
Easter Monday was a rainy day in Canada. As a result my kids were suffering from boredom. So we checked the local theater schedule. They convinced me and my wife to take them to The Croods. As the kids chose the movie, I wasn’t expecting too much from it and I certainly wasn’t expecting to write a review about it. However, the movie ended up being a nice trip to an amazing fantasy world, so I thought I’d share my thoughts about it.
Some technical specifications that may have affected my viewing experience: My kids barely understand English so we watched version with the French translation. I will not review anything related to the voice acting. As my dear wife cannot support a 3D movie without being sick, we chose the 2D version of the movie. So I cannot say a word about the 3d effects in the movie. Finally, I ended up eating quite a bit of popcorn on account of having had a light dinner earlier in the evening.
As far as the story goes, I was expecting some kind of hybrid between Brave and Ice Age. We have all seen this: a teenage girl gets rebellious in a prehistoric landscape, sprinkled with action and jokes, nothing new under the sun. But I was pleasantly surprised. This is mostly a story about fatherhood. Yeah, there’s a rebellious girl and a love story, but that is secondary. The main story is really about a father who would do anything to protect his family and has to let his big girl grow up. But enough about the plot, All you need to know is that it was interesting enough, fun enough, and touching enough to be a decent family movie. My kids liked it and I wasn’t bothered by it during the viewing.
What is interesting in this movie, from a fantasy stand point, is the world they created for it, especially the fauna. Most of the species you could see in the movie are some kind of hybrid between two or more modern day species. Mix an elephant with a mouse or an elephant with a giraffe. Combine a leopard with a bear and an owl. That’s just a small sample of the incredible animals the caveman family encounters on their trip. It’s where this movie shines. Instead of dragging us into another world of silly talking dinosaurs; it creates an original and exotic world that stands on its own. It is what amazed my inner child and surprised me more than once. These inclusions give the movie a unique artistic signature and literally steal the show by the end.
Finally, I would recommend the The Croods as a family movie outing, kids will be happy and, what proud parent would not do this for his offspring? Especially if it involves eating popcorn.
After two unsuccessful attempts to attend it earlier this summer, I finally went to the Star Wars Identities Exhibition in Montreal.
This exposition is presented as a exploration of what forges a person’s identity and uses the different characters of Star Wars to represent this. It’s divided into sections that explore these factors, and in each section, you build your character by responding to questions relative to your character’s identity. The first choice you make is the species of your character. From there you choose genes, parents, a culture, mentors, friends, events, an occupation, a personality, and values. From these choices you build an identity, and this experience is meant to give visitors some insight into how identity is formed. I was very skeptical about this part of the exposition. If it were about some historic figures, instead of the fictional Star Wars universe, it might have been more interesting to me. Maybe if George Lucas had a Ph.D in Psychology and had made sure his characters were built to reflect the latest scientific research on the subject of identity, I could have better understood the connection. So, while some others visitors around me seemed to enjoy the character identity building, I wasn’t really interested in that part of the exhibition. I did design my own hero and I watched most of the videos on the subjects which were scattered all over the exhibition, but I skipped some in the end. It was not that boring and I would probably have watched all of them if I had had more time. However, there were so many other things I wanted to see. Anyway, it was a good decision, because after two hours of exhaustive examinations of the other areas the clerks had to kick me out of the showroom because they were closing.
So, the quest to identity yourself as a Star Wars character is not why you should visit this exposition. The real reason to go is to see the impressive collection of original artifacts. Being in the same room with all these objects is something a Star Wars fan should not miss.
First, you can see at least one costume for each of the main characters. The Jedi Knight outfits are a bit redundant, but Amidala’s dress is beautiful. The real treasures are the Stormtroopers, Bobba Fett, C-3P0, and Darth Vader. All are worth a lengthy examination. And Chewbacca! You have to stand in front of his fur costume how realize how tall and impressive he is!
I was also quite impressed by the various artworks. They are meant show the progression of the characters identity when they were designed. My favorite was one showing Han Solo as a bearded lightsaber wielder. How awesome it would have been if Han had sliced first!
Additionally, there are many other props, like the ominous Meson Taloscope (Midi-chlorian analyzer), a carbonite frozen Han Solo, and Anakin’s full size pod-racer. But the things I found the most impressive were the starships and the starfighter models. The details on those! I would still be staring at them and discovering new features, if I hadn’t eventually been kicked out.
I really enjoyed my visit to the Star Wars Identities Exhibition and recommend it to every Star Wars fan. I will probably forget about all the identities theories, but will forever remember leaning toward an incredibly detailed Imperial Star Destroyer.
You may check out some of the photos I took during my visit. bitmask also visited the exposition last April, and you can see his photos here. If you want to see the exhibition with your own eyes, the show will be in Montreal until September 16, 2012. It will be in Edmonton, Canada, from October 27, 2012, to April 1, 2013. Note that this exposition is quite popular and I had to buy my tickets a day in advance to finally see it.
Some of the regulars of the Scifi.StackExchange main chat room (Mos Eisley) got together to enjoy (and mock) some Star Trek. The first episode we watched was And The Children Shall Lead, which is considered one of the worst episodes from the original series.
Star Trek TOS – And The Children Shall Lead.
The other episode we watched that evening was Space Seed, which Netflix incorrectly classifies as a prequel to the Wrath of Khan. That is like saying Batman Begins is a prequel to The Dark Knight. Stay tuned (the correct frequency is 7) to your inter-webs to catch the transcript from that episode.
Here is a preview: “Khaaaaaannnnnnnnnnnn!” (Not actually in that episode.)
All images pulled from TrekCore
Three representatives from Stack Exchange (Abby, Katey and myself (Brett)) traveled to Charlotte, North Carolina this past weekend to participate in HeroesCon. HeroesCon has a reputation for being one of the friendliest and most fun comic conventions in the United States. We were pleased to find out that the reputation was an understatement! The creators in attendance were all super psyched to be there and the floor was gently packed with enthusiastic and outgoing fans of all ages and fandoms. Even Saturday, usually the biggest day of any convention, managed to feel vibrant, crowded and alive without approaching the mosh-pit levels of closeness that the bigger conventions lean towards.
Stack Exchange’s adventure in Charlotte began on the Thursday night before the convention with a SciFi.SE-sponsored pre-party held at local comics shop, Spandex City. This event saw the debut of the now-infamous Stack Exchange Spinning Wheel. How infamous is it? I’ll be getting to that in a bit, but if you went to HeroesCon, odds are you saw (and probably spun) the wheel. While some of the store’s regulars enjoyed some righteous barbecue (from Charlotte’s own Lancaster’s BBQ), the Stack crew asked people questions from our site about their favorite science fiction and fantasy franchises. Game of Thrones? Harry Potter? Legend of Korra? Batman? Questions about all of these and many more were asked that night and throughout the weekend. An answer (note that we did not say right answer) allowed the participant to spin the wheel and win a prize. There was a healthy assortment of SciFi.SE bags, shirts and stickers there for all the winners; some lucky people even won 3-day passes to HeroesCon and comics. Spandex City was super generous with their time and space and we were incredibly thankful for that. The pre-party event went over well thanks to Spandex City’s great environment. If you’re in the Charlotte area, do yourself a favor and check them out! You can watch a video about the event here.
The big event itself started on Friday and lasted until Sunday. We expected that our table, located at the far end of the convention center floor on the edge of the artists’ space, would get some foot traffic. We really expected to spend the entire weekend shooting video content for our YouTube channel (StackHQ) with one person left behind to work the spinning wheel. That…didn’t exactly happen. Little did we know, but people love spinning wheels. And I don’t mean a passive love, I mean an all-consuming and incredibly active love. The kind of love that leads to repeat visits and waiting in long lines. Because we had long lines. For the better part of two days.
HeroesCon was our test run into exhibiting at a convention, so we didn’t quite prepare for the massive crowds we received. We had to ration our t-shirts and bags so as to not run out on Friday, although by Sunday all the t-shirts were gone. The same was true for the stock of comics we brought to give out alongside our stickers. Three trips had to be made to the show floor to find more comics for the prize wheel. Thankfully that wasn’t a big problem, although getting receipts from vendors at a comic convention proved more entertaining than I could have predicted. We did learn a few things from working the wheel nonstop for two days:
- People love spinning wheels (this cannot be reiterated enough)
- Regardless of the answer given, the spinning wheel is a fun introduction to our site that leads to many smiles and much swag
- Give away most of the bags and shirts on Friday so that people will be using them all weekend long; by Sunday we became known as the “bag people” because of the high number of our bags on the show floor
- It takes 3 people to man the booth; 2 to ask questions and 1 to wrangle the wheel’s line
- People care way more about trivia than swag, although swag is super awesome too; people came back multiple times JUST to be asked more questions
- Ask kids softball questions and be super awesome to them; they have parents attached to them who will probably like the site if the site’s representatives make their kids happy
- We need some banners: one that clearly states that the table is a SciFi.SE jam, and another that features a call to action about the spinning wheel (“Can you answer our questions?!” or something)
Since we didn’t get a chance to leave the table for the first two days of the con, we decided to shut down the spinning wheel and make video content our main priority for Sunday. My main goal with HeroesCon was to create video content that could live on the internet forever and reach a wider audience due to having informative content with creators that people care about. The success of the spinning wheel got a bit in the way of that, and led us to learn a few facts about creating video content at a convention:
- Try to bring enough people to a convention so that 2-3 can work the table and another 2-3 can hit the floor to get video content. If only 2-3 people can go to a con, set up a spinning wheel schedule so that all 3 days are relatively equal parts table-sitting and video production.
- Schedule interviews ahead of time! I had gotten permission from a few comic creators before the con to interview them, but the fluidity of our agreed-upon time led us to spinning a wheel for two days straight. Approaching all your people on Sunday? Not the best idea.
- Don’t bank on Sunday. Creators are tired by the last day of the con!
- Joe Quinones & Maris Wicks: In this interview, we asked the interviewees what their favorite sci-fi or fantasy property was and then centered the interview around discussing that question.
- Question in Conference Room B with Dean Trippe: This is pretty much the same as what we did with Maris and Joe, except with all of the fun dressings of our web series. Plus the more conversational nature of QiCRB allows the conversation to go in different places. This isn’t just a question-answer interview, it’s a discussion.
- Kelly Sue DeConnick: This is the main type of interview I want to do. I want to find the writers and ask them questions about the work they have created. Kelly Sue DeConnick is about to take over writing Ms. Marvel (now Captain Marvel), so who better to ask the one Ms. Marvel question on the site? Stack Exchange prides itself on getting expert-level answers, and in sci-fi and fantasy it doesn’t get more expert than the writers themselves.
By the end of the show we made a lot of new friends, came up with a lot of ideas to improve our future con presence, gave a few hundred people hands-on, in-depth experience with SciFi.SE, and created internet content that can be shared and enjoyed until the internet cracks in half. It was a lot of fun! For more photos from HeroesCon, visit the SciFi.SE Facebook page, or keep an eye on our Flickr.
Thanks to Dean Trippe, The Nerdy Show and Flame On! podcasts, Scott C., Kelly Sue DeConnick, Joe Quinones, Maris Wicks, Spandex City, Whitney Cogar and HeroesCon for a great weekend. See you next year!
All the movies:
- Magically gifted children age at an extremely inconsistent rate. (They aged 6 magic years in 10 human years).
- All the students immediately outgrew their wizarding robes after the second year, the robes will rarely be seen again.
- Harry Potter is the only one who gets into trouble for using magic outside of Hogwarts.
- 16-year-old Voldemort looks nothing like 17-year-old Voldemort (or 11-year-old Voldemort for that matter). If George Lucas had been involved this would have been fixed by the third release of the DVDs.
- Most of Griffindor (a house based on bravery) is comprised of students too afraid of their own shadows to be of much use half of the time.
- The “good enough” mentality is just as strong in the magical community.
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone:
- The Sorting is not conducted in alphabetical order – what kind of system is that? Oh, and you’ll never see another Sorting.
- It is okay for teachers to play favorites, particularly Heads of Households.
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets:
- Children get injured constantly at Hogwarts and no one raises an eyebrow, but as soon as a few students get temporarily petrified, the future of this 1000-year-old institution is in jeopardy.
- Sometimes the students age in reverse order.
- Hagrid’s home (and really all of Hogwarts) is ridiculously overrun with spiders, at least until it no longer serves as a plot device.
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban:
- I don’t know what Dumbledore was doing during Harry’s second summer break, but he must have been hitting the gym or something. He started the third year looking like an entirely new man.
- Malfoy is the only student to get injured for which there appears to be consequences to the staff and other involved parties.
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire:
- For some reason everyone decided that 70s long hair was cool. The girls, the guys, everyone.
- Harry only uses magic four times (in a movie about wizards).
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix:
- Despite the looming threat of Voldemort’s return, everyone managed to find a barber shop over the fourth year summer break.
- Harry is a rage-oholic who likes his rage-ohol shouted at, not stirred.
Harry Potter and the Half-blood Prince:
- Harry has apparently become homeless and now lives in a dirty subway tunnel.
- All of Harry Potter’s problems from the previous movie would have been solved if they just looked in his memories.
- The Slug Club sounds even worse when spoken aloud.
- Any fool could look at 11-year-old Voldemort and know he was going to grow up to be a mass murderer.
- They should be brewing gallons of “Liquid Luck.”
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows 1 & 2:
- Harry doesn’t like other people taking risks for his sake. He’d rather let Voldemort just win already.
- Despite being free for 5 years, Dobby continues to wear the same tattered rags. His only addition is a pair of shoes. Yeah, that’s all you needed Dobby.
- The Weasley’s rebuilt The Burrow to look exactly like the old one did. That means their shabby house is by choice and not by circumstance.
- Every wizard’s house is apparently located in the middle of some huge empty field (except Snape’s).
- Even though people Disapparate together (holding hands) they rarely Apparate near each other.
- Harry is a wizard who never seems to think of magic as a solution to a problem. He’d rather jump into a freezing pool of ice water than cast a spell to warm the water first.
- Everyone is from Godric’s Hollow (which Harry didn’t know). It is apparently the source of all wizarding families.
- Gringott’s is probably not where you want to bank anymore, because they lost roughly 100% of their staff as a result of Harry’s break-in.
- Based on the number of people who died on that bridge, there can’t be all that many wizards left.
This post made possible by a grant from SciFi.StackExchange. That isn’t just a plug at the end of a PBS show, it’s the truth. Something like a ba-jillion years ago (Nov 15th 2011) I was one of the recipients of the Complete Collection of Harry Potter on DVD. I chose DVD because a) I didn’t have a BluRay, and b) I am not forward looking. I received this grant on the promise to help promote Harry Potter questions and answers on the site. Thanks to my contributions (and maybe others, I’m not keeping track) as of the writing of this post Harry Potter is the #1 tag on SciFi.StackExchange.
When I was a kid, I regularly read Whizzer & Chips and Buster and occasionally read of the Disney comics, but I never got into the DC/Marvel worlds – probably because they were too expensive and I was quite happy with books. Over the years I occasionally flicked through a comic, and I was vaguely aware of the major storylines, but never a regular comic reader. Over the last month, I’ve tried out the comic world. more »
It’s the new year, which means the winter breaks for TV shows are coming to an end, and the mid-season shows are starting up. Here’s a quick rundown on what new science fiction and fantasy shows will be premiering in the US this mid-season. For a reminder of which shows started back in the fall, be sure to check out our post from last fall. more »
The Dark Mirror and Blade of Fortriu are the first two books in Juliet Marillier’s Bridei Chronicles. In The Dark Mirror we see the rise to kingship of Bridei, a 6th Century Pict as well as his relationship with Tuala, his half-human foster-sister, and in Blade of Fortriu two of the minor characters from Mirror, Ana and Faolan take center stage in a story that mostly develops their own backgrounds and futures, with one of Bridei’s significant battles forming a secondary backdrop story.
These stories are based on real historical characters (e.g. Bridei I of the Picts), with more overt magic than stories like Stewarts’s Merlin stories, but still maintaining a generally realistic feel. This is a form of historical fiction that I particularly enjoy, although not knowing much about the history of the Picts the relationship to real history mostly passed me by.
The central characters of The Dark Mirror are compelling enough that I enjoyed the novel, although the outcome is never really in doubt to the reader, and of little doubt to most of the characters too. The story never truly captivated me, however, and felt slightly rushed at times, moving quickly from age to age. The quirky cast of characters that educate Bridei as a child were all interesting, but none very fleshed out (I got the impression that they might be recognisable characters from Pictish history, but I wasn’t able to verify this).
I expected more of Bridei (especially given the name of the series) and Tuala in Blade of Fortriu, although Marillier’s sequels often leave behind the central characters of the previous stories. Bridei and Tuala do feature, but are decidedly minor characters. I found the story of Ana and Faolan less interesting, with Ana’s development particularly dull (although the characters note how much she has changed, I didn’t see much change at all), and Faolan’s background less interesting than Mirror suggested it might be.
A love triangle features strongly in Blade; I don’t have any objection to this trope in general, but it wasn’t well done here. Other than his magical nature and exceptional good looks, there was nothing appealing about Ana’s other beau, even though it was obvious throughout that she would end up with him, rather than Faolan. Perhaps there’s some sort of redemption and superior love waiting for Faolan in a later book (the end of the story suggests that he might feature centrally in a later novel in the series), but I was rather unsatisfied that he came out of the triangle so poorly.
I’d recommend reading The Dark Mirror, at least – it works well as a standalone novel – and would recommend Blade of Fortriu to anyone that enjoyed Mirror. However, if you’re new to Marillier, I’d suggest starting with the superior Wolfskin/Foxmask or the Sevenwaters novels.
The Movies StackExchange site is now available to the public. If you’ve got questions that need answering by a film expert, then this is a good place to ask.
There don’t seem to be many sci-fi or fantasy movie questions yet, but if you’re particularly interested in or expert in film, then you might want to keep an eye on the questions there (if you’ve got an account on our site with at least 200 reputation, then if you associate the two accounts – you’ll be prompted to do this if you use the same OpenID – then you’ll start off there with 101 reputation).
If you’ve got a question about a science fiction or fantasy movie, where do you ask that question, now that there’s both sites? Consider who you would like an answer from: an expert in science fiction / fantasy, or an expert in movies in general; different types of questions will suit each site. Some questions will be perfectly acceptable on both sites, and in those cases it’s up to the asker to decide where they’d like to ask (in general questions won’t be migrated between the sites, and duplicates may exist on both sites, as long as they are not exact duplicates). You should definitely not post the same question on both sites, however.
Also, don’t forget that there’s a similar site for the written word, Literature, where there continue to be a reasonable number of science-fiction and fantasy literature questions, aimed more at a literature audience than a sci-fi/fantasy one.