No more reviews

I know that I only did one but I am fully aware that reviews are not my forte.  I have been quite lax in updating recently and hope to get back to it soon but I have been busy with other things including finally working on getting some poems published in literary journals.  I always say that I’ll get back to more consistent updates yet seem to always fall short.  Here’s hoping, though no guarantees.

Building The World X

Of what we saw through
Though we wished not to do
Of my own first affair
How I proved that I care
Of what she let go
Freeing hatred to show
Of the start of the best
And his very first test
-Oh Halcyon Muses nine-
For your version I simply haven’t the time
Greatest praise he will always receive
But only because I now may deceive
I wish no glory for how I was changed
How, from Hera, I was ever estranged
So I shall sing only of the facts
The truth of secrecy, plotting, and pacts

We’ll Be Saved, One Of These Days, By That Hero, That Alceides

Oh my gran is too clever by half
Well would she scheme on my uncle’s behalf

Without a doubt she could our reign end
Could us all to Tartaros send

So I thought to in Future look
To see if she something mistook

Alas! she’d us for certain defeat
Destined, I seemed, to lose my true seat

I became more desperate, could see now way out
Me, myself, I began then to doubt

But I found one ray of hope, one distant star
A chance of success flung far afar

There could be a mortal who’d more than the rest
In all that he did he’d by far be the best

Only with him would we then win
That greatest of men with the strongest of kin

For he must be my child, must be my own
Thus my morals must sink like a stone

So I went to Hera who by then was my wife
For I wished our marriage to be all free from strife

I told her how we surely were doomed
How over our future Gaia’s plan 

“But there is a solution” I said “which I may have found
Which will have results oh so profound

“There is a women to be, Alcmene by name
Who can bear a mortal not quite the same

“Her son Alceides – though not quite a god -
Unlike most humans would not be as flawed

“His power’s immense, his future unpaved
Only through him can all us be saved

“But alas! my seed does she need
And to do so my love must be freed

“So give your accent, you need to, you must
I ask for I wish not to kill your dear trust”

My wife just sat, stared off for a while
No matter the time, she could not muster smile

Her permission she did eventually speak
Though she is quite she hardly is meek

“My husband” she did say then to me
“I do not like that this has to be

“And while it’s true I’ve no other choice
I will not cheer, stand up and rejoice”

But both of us knew how all this would end
How it would our togetherness rend

So sadly we did what had to be done
My love was now open tied to no one

Still though I did not wish to run ‘way from her
Desire for Alcmene she then had to spur

Thus using her strength and skill in disguise
She dissembled us both in all others eyes

Amphitryon was I – Alcmene was she
Together we readied for what had to be

Together we slept so I could do what I must
So for Alcmene I would have husbands’ lust

So still Amphitryon her only true love
I came down to Thebes, down from above

For saccing was he each Taphian isle
So still would he be gone for a while

I went then to her, claimed I’d returned
Said that I for only her yearned

So we went and laid down in their bed
As though I were to her truly wed

What I planted in her was not left to Chance
I was very precise in our lovemaking dance

I took the essence of those greatest of men
To make the best who ever has been

Gilgamesh the king from out in the east
Beowulf who slew that dragon, that beast

I combined their being along with my own
And soon our hope’s start I had in her sown

But her true husband returned the next day
And he too with Alcmene did lay

So two children were born at the very same time
One Amphitryon’s – one surely mine

But he wished to know which was his true
Just as all men seem always to do

In the dead of the night he played a cruel trick
To be honest he was a bit of a dick

He slipped two snakes into their room
It could have easily been our only hope’s doom

Iphacles cried aloud in his bed
And from the snakes he quickly had fled

But the other, Alceides who was truly my son
Proved the hero that he’d later become

Although just a babe he stood on two feet
And the venomous threat did easily beat

He grabbed the snakes, one in each arm
Strangled them both ‘fore they did any harm

So did start our hero and savior
But for Hera it was no kind of favour

For as soon as it could my love it did wander
Forcing Leto to on a choice ponder

Immortals: A Few Steps From Brilliant

Tarsem Singh is an interesting movie maker.  In some respects he could almost be considered a genius but in many, many others he is very flawed.  I doubt that anyone would argue that The Cell or Mirror Mirror are pillars of cinematic achievement.  He is, however, supremely talented at creating striking and vibrant images through set design, costuming, and, in particular, cinematography.  Even his worst films have some sort of visual appeal despite their overall lack of value.

(Okay, maybe more fascination than appeal for Mirror Mirror.) 

When he focuses on his strengths he can produce beautiful and wondrous works.  The Fall used the main plot as little more than a springboard for the surreal, fantastical tales of Roy Walker thus allowing Tarsem to exercise his strengths and is, therefore, leagues better than his other projects.  Immortals had the potential to do the same and, in fact, surpass it as his best work but it ultimately falls short due to several missteps.

It was evident from the beginning of the film that we would not be treated Tarsem’s usual use of a rich, bright pallet which was quite unfortunate.  Not only would it have been a more realistic representation of the use of colour in the ancient world but one can almost feel how uncomfortable he is with the washed out look he ended up using.  I feel as though he would have had more success, even if it was still outside of his comfort zone, if he had stuck to the traditional movie representation of ancient Greece, I.E. all white marble and everything clean and tidy.

(Painting pillars and statues?  Pffft, that’s for suckers.)

He instead ends up borrowing Zack Snyder’s aesthetic from 300.  I do not know if this was his own choice or if it was due to pressure from the producers as it is still the most successful movie based on ancient Greece in recent memory and, in fact, shared producers as Immortals.  A commonality that the commercials were all too eager to point out.  This advertising does make sense though.  Aside from the general look of the film it uses some similar techniques such as highly recognizable variable speed fight scenes, a penchant for ultra violence, and a general disregard for the actual history and mythology.

That last similarity, although, could have been a great strength.  It is clear from the outset that Tarsem has little interest in remaining faithful to the tales, or even characters, of the myths.  Rather, as so much of western culture has been build on Greco-Roman foundations, he simply uses our preconceptions to subtly inform our ideas of the characters.  The plot itself does not have to be strong and the character do not have to be deep for this is meant to be a feast for the eyes, a visual epic.  Where the movie fall apart, however, is not the plotting or the character development but the writing itself.

The basic premise is the King Hyperion of the Heraklion is trying to find the Epirus bow, a fabled weapon, the only thing capable of killing the Gods and Titans.  He is searching for it in order to free the Titans from mount Tartarus in order to disrupt the Olympians’ rule.  This because his family died despite his pleas to the Gods.  This is all set up quite well at the start of the film followed by the introduction of our main protagonist, Theseus.  He does not care about authority and simply does what he views to be right.  He is about as typical as one can get for a Hollywood hero.  He meets then Phaedra and Stavros both of whom are too lifted right out of stock character 101.

The plot progresses exactly how one would expect but we are not here for the plot so I do not hold its simplicity against the movie.  What I do choose to hold against the movie is when it violates its own internal consistency.  If the Epirus bow is the only thing capable of killing gods then why, by the second act, have they started to, apparently successfully, kill each other?  Why does Zeus insist on not interfering with humanity for the sake of instilling belief?  After all, does this not make Hyperion’s quest, though in no way his actions, justified?  Every step of the way the Olympians moral ground is eroded until one is left uncaring about what happens.  The only character I was interested in by the end was Stavros simply because I am a sucker for the jerk with a heart of gold trope.

(I may not be into men, but maybe I could overlook that.)

I was left wondering if the movie would have been better by flattening its characters and plot even further and making itself a dialogue-less film.  Wondering if it would have worked better if it were simply communicated through visuals.  In fact many scenes would not have required much to be changed for this to work and they indeed tended to be the better ones.  The parts of the movie that required larger amounts of conversation tended to drag and either struggled or failed to hold my interest.  By painting the story with broader swaths it could have focused on the artistry of the image.

In many ways it is a movie that is held back by trying to be something it is not.  It tries to be constructed more like a typical Hollywood movie; understandable as no one wants to spend a lot of money on a project that may not appeal to its target demographic.  It tries to match one of the more popular action movie aesthetics; understandable as Tarsem had not made a film in this genre before.  It tries to not be an art house movie; understandable as they do not have any sort of box office draw.  What it is at its heart, and what it could and should have been on its surface, is a vehicle for bloody and enthusiastic larger than life conflicts played out with a unique visual style borrowing heavily from the style of classical and neoclassical art.

(There was a much better illustration of this concept, when Theseus tries to save his mother but I couldn’t find the right still.)

In the end Tarsem’s Immortals is a few steps from brilliance.  If it had stayed true to what it feels it wants to be it would have been a much better movie and an even less successful one.

Side note:  I feel that there are an untold number of gender issues with this movie but that would be a whole different review unto itself.

Next week:  Clash of the Titans (2010 version)