Category Archives: Film

Sandworms and Sequels

W00t! I finally get to credit yet another completed sci-fi novel reading to my name: Frank Herbert’s masterful Dune. Since the spring semester started up in January I’ve maintained a steady pace of reading before, after, and between classes. By the time spring break started, I was on my last 50 pages, so with all the extra time, I was able to finish!DUne

Here are my thoughts:

Unlike the many Michael Crichton novels I’ve read and re-read, Dune started off rather boring. This most likely contributed to my inability to get into it the first couple of times I tried reading it. My favorite books are the ones that I absolutely cannot put down once I start them*, and Dune simply did not fit into that category. Nonetheless, it is still a worthy addition to any reading list, despite its minor flaws, which I will briefly discuss.

After the book began to pick up pace about a fourth of the way in, it steadily began to snowball toward climax. An explosive ending steadily became inevitable, with all the major subplots hurtling uncontrollably toward each other. What irritated me most was how the ending seemed rushed – as if Herbert intentionally left several loose ends untied as fuel for the subsequent sequels. He spent chapters upon chapters at the beginning (the aforementioned “boring” part) weaving an intricate plot web with which to spend the rest of the book untangling.

Most authors separate the climax and resolution by starting a new chapter. This is the formula I am accustomed to and expect to see when reading a novel, since it aids in my mental organization and processing of the plot. The fact that Dune’s climax and resolution are found in the same chapter is probably the source of my irritation – that and the fact that the resolution is only, like, two pages. A two-page ending hardly seems adequate enough to finish off 300 other pages of dense, well-written narrative.

I just wasn’t left with a substantial sense of closure. Like the end of Matrix: Revolutions (don’t even get me started on the wasted potential of the Matrix story line), I could tell an ending was supposed to be there, but it just didn’t seem meaty enough for me.

Some free advice to both novelists and screenwriters: I don’t care if you are planning to do a sequel, finish what you’ve started and if it is truly deserving of a sequel, you’ll find a way to write it. It’s not necessary to leave huge holes at the end of your story just in case you need to plug a sequel into them later. I swear I get so sick of how every movie anymore has to be the start of a trilogy. Someone in some office is probably saying, “Yeah that’s a great script, but cut out the detailed ending. If this one makes it big we’ll make two more of ’em!” Exhibit A: Super Mario Brothers. Yes, the movie was pretty goofy at times (to be honest, I think that’s part of its charm), but it probably wouldn’t have sucked quite as much if it hadn’t been designed with a sequel in mind.

Ugh, I went off on a little tirade there. Don’t let my ranting dissuade you from picking up Dune if you’ve been considering it. One of the reasons I and so many others enjoy reading sci-fi novels is because of their power to whisk readers away to worlds that are limited only by the authors’ imaginations. Dune does not by any means suffer from lack of imagination. Anyone whose creative energies are so abundant that they spill over into appendices and glossaries certainly deserves any awards or critical acclaim they receive.

As if I could ever aspire to do better…

Next on the list? Orwell’s 1984.

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*It has never taken me more than three days to read a Crichton novel cover-to-cover. I finished Prey seven hours after I started it, stopping only for snacks and bathroom breaks.

Finding A Hero for All of Us

I somehow managed to free up an evening tonight to see Jet Li’s Hero (released in China in 2002 as Ying xiong). Let me just say: Wow. I haven’t gotten around to seeing any of his previous movies, but if Hero is a testament to their quality, I’m seriously considering checking them out. I was absolutely amazed at how well the film blended intricate fight choreography with an emotional storyline. It’s not to often that you find an action movie with a plot of any substantial depth.Ying xiong Wallpaper 6

The only thing that might turn some people off are the subtitles. There are some people who find it hard to enjoy movies with subtitles. They find the dialogue difficult to follow because of the tension created between reading the subtitles and watching the visuals. I don’t seem to have too much of a problem with it, probably since I’ve watched so much subtitled Japanese anime. Still, there are those who would rather have English dialogue dubbed over the film.

The debate over “Dubbed vs. Subbed” is a sensitive one, as any discerning aficianado of foreign film is well aware. I actually prefer subtitles since, being the purist that I usually am, I feel that the language used in a film is part of its essence. It just seems to me that English-speaking voice actors sitting in a recording studio just can’t come close emulating the emotions that screen actors (good ones, at least) actually feel. It’s as if something is taken away, like a color from a painting.

This is why I can admire talented voice actors more than screen actors. I would imagine that it’s much easier to get into character when you’re standing on a set and in costume than when sitting in a sound-proof booth.

Overall I can say that Hero is well-deserved of all the good reviews it has gotten. Highly recommended.

And of course I can’t finish this post without a reminder to you all that Sunday is Talk Like a Pirate Day! ARRRRR!!!! Leave it to Brandon to get me started on something like this… :D

Making Connections

When digging into any recently published science fiction novel, it’s not uncommon to notice subtle (or not so subtle) references to older, “classic” sci-fi authors and characters. Many contemporary authors like to pay homage to those who’ve inspired them by cleverly naming characters or places after them – either directly or subtly by using anagrams. Most often, when a character or place is named in such a fashion, there’s a certain irony to be found – an “inside joke,” if you will, that can only be understood if you recognize the reference. I wish I could provide a concrete example, but bear with me, you’ll soon see this evidenced, though not restricted to the scope of literature.

My personal library (if it could even be called such) isn’t comprehensive by any means, but I have read my share of science fiction novels. Not surprisingly, nearly every one of them contains references to other works. I’m not certain when exactly it was, but at some point in time I finally decided that no longer wanted to be left out of the loop – I wanted understand the ironic implications. Hence, I began to take an interest in classic sci-fi novels.

I began by picking up Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World and Frank Herbert’s Dune with every intention of reading them quickly. I managed reading two chapters into each and didn’t pick them up again.

Here it is sometime later and I’ve began again on Huxley. It’s been two days and I just started chapter 8. Now where am I going with this, you may ask? For some reason, right around chapter 4, with the introduction of a main character named “Lenina”, the movie Demolition Man crept out of my subconcious. If you ever sat through it, you’ll remember that DM was set in a “utopian” future, where society has been sterilized, crime and suffering are non-existent, and everyone is generally happy. If this sounds all too familiar, it’s because it is the same setting found in BNW, and more recently, the movie Equilibrium (highly recommended flick, BTW). Anyway, in DM, the name of the character played by Sandra Bullock was none other that “Lenina Huxley.”

I can just hear the stunned gasps of realization already. I’m certain many of you recognized the reference immediately when you first watched the movie, but please remember I’m working backwards here, so I’m quite proud of myself for making the connection. Yes, I know I’m certainly not the first to do it. In fact, while writing this I clicked the IMDb link to DM and sure enough there’s a trivia section explaining it all. Man do I feel dumb now, but since I’ve already put this much effort into the post I might as well make it.

It’s satisfying to see that my labors are already bearing fruit, and I haven’t even finished my first novel. So far I’m really enoying BNW. Perhaps I’ll post a reaction when I finish it.

Also, does anyone have any suggestions for good classic sci-fi? After Dune I’ll probably move to Douglas Adams’ The Ultimate Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy or George Orwell’s 1984, but I’m going to need a lot more to keep me going.