The Dark Tower (2017)

Adaptations walk a hard line. On one side, they have the long-time fans of the source material, anxious to see what characters and plot points are cased aside and changed. While simultaneously creating something appealing to the public. Appeasing both the ravenous fans, and blockbuster devoted public, in an attempt to make back their money, and win the summer box office.

Adapting Stephen King’s work to the big screen, is nothing new. Starting with Brian De Palma’s Carrie in 1976, up to The Dark Tower, Gerald’s Game and the remake of It in 2017. Many have been exposed to the work of King, without ever picking up a single brick sized novel. King’s storytelling, and worlds have become well known and treasured to many, through multiple mediums. While many of his stories, such as The Shining, Christine, and The Green Mile are all celebrated works, none are more praised than the world and legacy of The Dark Tower series.The-dark-tower-movie-

Born of seven original books in the series, followed by an eighth in 2012, and a series of prequel comics, written by Robin Furth and Peter David, with stunning art by Jae Lee. The Dark Tower is a celebrated series, mixing the genres of dark fantasy, science fantasy, horror and westerns. King has described the series as his magnum opus.  With legions of devoted fans to the series, the thought of a big screen adaptation is both exciting, and nerve racking.

When adapting such an expansive and well-loved work, it may well be best to take a more lenient approach to adaptation. Carrying the tone and spirit. Conveying what captured the original fans attention. An example of this can be seen with the two adaptations of The Shining. The Stanley Kubrick adaptation is highly praised, and adored the world over. However, it breaks away heavily from the source material, only carrying the soul and characters through to the end. Years later, an adaptation was created as a two-part series, that stayed as faithful to the source material as it could. This version is universally panned for its extended and unnecessarily excessive dialogue, and poor attempts at horror. The Dark Tower is in no way a completely faithful adaptation. Instead, it takes its cues from the Kubrick version of The Shining, and takes the characters and spirit in a somewhat different direction.The_Dark_Tower.0

The film takes place in two worlds. In modern day New York, and the post-apocalyptic wasteland that is home to the Gunslinger. In our world, the film follows the young Jake Chambers, as night after night, he experiences dreams of another world. A world where children are strapped into a machine, their screams combine, energy bursting out of a machine. A dark tower suffering damage. Faceless men. A Man in Black, and a Gunslinger roaming the desert. The more the dreams happen, the stronger the earthquakes that hit New York. As his mother and stepfather attempt to send him away to get help, he finds himself pursued by the faceless men of his dreams. Finding an old house he sees in his dreams, he is transported to the world he has been dreaming of, and the Gunslinger. Roland Deschain of Gilead.

Ultimately, The Dark Tower is a thoroughly enjoyable film in its own right. From it’s opening moments, it sucks you in, and keeps your attention throughout. Something that’s rarely seen lately. Acted well throughout, with the obvious stand outs of Idris Elba as Roland, and Matthew McConaughey as the Man in Black. Though the young Tom Taylor does a fine job of emoting in the role of Jake, a demanding role, that he carries well. Idris Elba plays Roland as a warn and scarred man. One who has clearly been burdened by his past, carrying the weight of being the last of the Gunslingers. McConaughey’s Man in Black comes off at times as a 12a version of Jessica Jones’s Killgrave. Especially when giving commands to random strangers in the street. However, the character is still engaging, and makes for a compelling and truly threatening villain. Together, with a memorable, and strong supporting cast. They greatly anchor the film.

Enjoyable throughout, and highly engaging, with numerous Easter intertextual references. The Dark Tower takes the dense and expansive world King created, and provides a thrilling and satisfying film.

 

(Above is the opinion of the writer solely. Everyone is entitle to their own opinion, this is just mine.)

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Serial Experiments Lain and McLuhan’s Global Village

Serial Experiments Lain is a series that begs to be interpreted. Premiering in 1998, Lain is a slow paced, and surreal series that many describe as ‘ahead of its time’. Written by Chiaki J. Konaka, the series acts as a look at our relationship with the internet, and Konaka’s prediction of what the 21st century will look like. Many celebrate the series for how forward thinking it is. Incorporating themes of reality, identity, and communication, while exploring computer history, conspiracy theories, and computer history. While it’s plot comes off as complex, given it’s slow pacing, unusual imagery, cyberpunk styling, and synth/electro-pop soundtrack, the series has gathered itself a cult following. With many dedicating their time, to unravelling the meaning of Lain.

coalgirls_serial_experiments_lain_04_1008x720_blu-ray_flac_260d7cf9-mkv_snapshot_03-14_2011-08-17_06-45-39The series follows Lain, a shy young girl with an inability to communicate with her peers. When a classmate commits suicide, she learns of a mysterious email going around the class from the deceased girl. Having no knowledge of computers, barley checking her emails, she finds herself driven by curiosity. She goes home and finds the email waiting on her barely used PC. Reading it, she finds herself having a conversation with the deceased girl. She tells Lain that while her body maybe dead, she still lives online in the Wired. Asking Lain why doesn’t she join her. Be free in the net. From here, the series becomes Lain’s journey exploring the net, watching the lines between reality and the Wired blur, and finding her place in both.

It’s clear, even from a cursory look at the series, Konaka had his eyes firmly set on the evolution of computers and technology. The series features multiple references to Apple. It’s slogan being “Close the world, Open the nExt”, referencing the NeXT company. It’s ‘to be continued’ slates at the end of episodes, featured a blue and red Be, reminiscent of the logo for Be Inc. The robotic voice heard throughout the series, uses Apple’s Synth Speech synthesiser, specifically the ‘Whisper’ setting. As well as the appearance of Lain’s first computer in the series, resembling a red version of Apple’s Twentieth Anniversary Macintosh. Episode 9, “Protocol”, explores throughout the episode the history of computers. Detailing figures, projects and devices such as Vannevar Bush, Ted Nelson, Project Xanadu, and the Memex. Serial Experiments Lain is certainly a well-researched, and thought-provoking series.

What’s interesting, is how well the series can be used to explain and explore Marshall McLuhan’s theory of the Global Village. Spoken about in both the books, The Gutenberg Galaxy: The Making of Typographic Man (1962) and Understanding Media (1964), the Global Village comes out of McLuhan’s teachings about media always extending one part of ourselves. For example, a car extends our legs, and television extends our eyes, ears and sense of touch. With the Internet, or at least McLuhan’s prediction of the internet, he describes a system that extends our central nervous system. Creating a Global Village, populated by everyone. A way for us to stretch our consciousness across the planet to communicate with others. This can be seen not only with the deceased classmate, but also with how Lain and others appear while online. The random appearances of online entities in the real world, further blur the line. Questioning how far consciousness can be spread, as well as the boundaries of the physical and digital worlds.

Lain-002-20160202Throughout the series, the humming of electricity from telephone wires, reverberates through the screen. Reminding us of the Internet’s consistent presence. Essentially buzzing all around us every moment of the day. If our consciousness is extended through this Global Village, and its existence is all around us. Then the story and strange occurrences within Serial Experiments Lain, could very well be possibilities at some point. If we could truly expand our consciousness, as McLuhan says, to the point that we could leave our physical bodies. Then, wouldn’t the opposite also be a possibility? Expanding something from the internet, to affect the real world.

This is certainly not the first time McLuhan’s work has been touched on in popular culture. A notable, and highly relevant example in this situation, is David Cronenberg’s Videodrome in 1983. The digital prophet within the films plot, Brian O’Blivion, parallels McLuhan not only in appearance, but in his teaching.

While Serial Experiments Lain spends a large amount of time explaining the history of computers and the internet. Predicting the likes of Anonymous with ‘The Knights’, and even touching on conspiracy theories. Konaka seems to have hidden far more academic influences within his work than it initially seemed. Turning what could have been a largely forgotten, and somewhat uncomfortable series. Into a highly relevant, and teachable show, that is still being spoken about and examined almost 20 years later.

Deconstruction without reference – Watchmen and Neon Genesis Evangelion

In any medium or genre, there are titans. Stories and creators that are looked upon as the very best examples of what that medium or genre can be. When a genre or medium has been around for a while, it’s natural to find works and creators that start to question why it exists. Why do we read and follow superhero comics? Why do we watch and enjoy giant mech anime?

To deconstruct something, is to tear it apart to reveal and expose the subject’s weaknesses. To understand and explore its flaws, inconsistencies, and tropes. To literally take it to pieces. However, what happens when the deconstruction becomes the celebrated work? What impact does the work have, when it’s the first thing recommended to new readers or viewers?

Both Watchmen and Neon Genesis Evangelion are held up as master works of their medium and genre. Watchmen appears on Time Magazine’s Top 100 Best Novels in the English Language. The BBC Culture section, even refers to the series as ‘The Moment Comic Books Grew Up’. Taking apart and examining the superhero genre. Exploring the characters, motives and world, through the lens of a murder mystery. Many regard it as one of the greatest comics ever written. While others, including the books writer, Alan Moore, see it as more than a little overrated. Regardless of the opinion you have on the series, it’s hard to deny its impact, both in and outside the medium. DC Comics have even found themselves leaning back on to the books popularity and world for their storylines “The Button”, and “Doomsday Clock”. Neon Genesis Evangelion holds a similar reputation. Praised as one of the best and most influential anime to come out of the 90’s, let alone of all time. Evangelion is a cult classic, that takes apart the Mecha genre of anime. Exploring what drives the characters, the creation of the giant mechs, the EVA’s in this case, and what it’s like to face the end of the world.

Many ‘must-watch’, and ‘must-read’ articles suggest both of these are top contenders in their fields. Giving multiple reasons for why every fan of both mediums should see them. Many also suggest them as entry level material. This raises the question, what’s the point of a deconstruction, if the audience has no idea what is being deconstructed?

To use Watchmen for a moment. Readers walking into Watchmen for the first time, who have no grasp on the superhero genre of comics, or very little. Will find themselves confronted with the story of a group of apparently former heroes who grew old. When one is killed, the rest take it upon their selves to learn why, as well as dealing with their own everyday lives. However, as Walter Hudsick puts it in ‘Reassembling the Components in the Correct Sequence: Why You Shouldn’t Read Watchmen First’, using Watchmen as an introduction to Superhero comics, is a grave mistake. Watchmen is built on the very history of comics. Its characters are stand ins for specific characters. Dr Manhattan, Nite Owl II, The Comedian, and Ozymandias acting as replacements for The Atom, Blue Beetle, Peacemaker, and Thunderbolt respectively. The world’s history mirroring real world comic book history. Superheroes coming to prominence before a war, thriving through, only to begin to fade in the years after. The in-universe comic of The Black Freighter acting as a stand-in for EC Comics horror line. Even the comics very core as a deconstruction of Superhero literature predates Watchmen’s creation. The likes of Larry Niven’s Man of Steel, Women of Kleenex, Harvey Kurtzman and Wally Wood’s Superduperman!, and Roger Mayer’s Super-Folks, are all sighted as highly influential works in the industry. The influence of Man of Steel, Woman of Kleenex showing itself in the relationship of Dr Manhattan and Silk Spectre II for example. The further you dig into comic history, and the more ingrained you are within it, the more you get from Watchmen.

With Neon Genesis Evangelion, we see a slightly different, but equally valid problem. When it comes to Mecha Anime, that is the focus. The Giant Robot battles. The pilots are children or early teen. One or two of them have family who worked on the project that created the robots. There is massive destruction to cities, and the heroes are praised regardless, because they defeated the big bad that episode. That happens when we take this apart and play it as real? We get broken people. Children told that the world rest on their shoulders, that if they don’t do their job, then everyone they know or love will die. Children struggling with depression, anxiety, and inferiority complexes. Haunted by the deaths caused just to write wrongs. A father who is so focused on his work, that the very child he calls upon to save the world, he has driven away and alienated to the point of cruelty. A world population suffering due to the destruction even the battles cause. Adding to that, Evangelion takes apart even anime wide tropes of the ‘submissive but attractive girl’, and the ‘hot headed and tempremental bomb shell’ with Rei Ayanami and Asuka Langley Soryu respectively. If someone approaches Evangelion, without an understanding of Mecha anime, or even anime tropes, then how are they expected to make sense of it, on top of Evangelion’s already confusing nature?

When approaching a deconstruction, with no understanding of the base. Part of the meaning is loss. The comments the creator is making on the subject, fall on ignorant or deaf ears. While that is never meant as an insult on the audience, it’s worth wondering why we recommend such material before a proper introduction? A new reader approaching the material, can certainly enjoy it, and in many cases, it leads to them discovering the very source material they need. But why is it the first point of call?

9 Superman Stories Everyone Should Read

While not as popular as the caped crusader, Batman. Superman is *THE* quintessential superhero. The first, and greatest. Since his creation in 1938, Superman and his alter ego Clark Kent, have become the cornerstone of pop culture, recognised the world over, and has become the hero of many. But when it comes to comics, I find that people are incredibly reluctant to explore the man of steel’s many, many wonderful stories. Some refer to him as the big blue boy scout, others say that he is completely un-relatable, or even boring, but I assure you, that’s not the case. While it is incredibly tempting to scream at you all to dive straight into the DC Rebirth books for Superman, it seems worth gathering an understanding of the character and his universe, before his days as a father, husband, and protector of the world from the town of Hamilton County.

With his 79 years in comics, here are 9 to get you started, whether you are a diehard comic reader, curious of Superman, or starting from scratch…

Action Comics #1 by Jerry Seigel and Joe Shuster

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Superman’s very first appearance, and a true landmark in history, sometimes it’s best to go back to the beginning. While not highly engaging, and provides only a bare bones story, it is always worth taking a step back and looking at how it all started. While getting your hands on a copy of Action Comics #1 is almost impossible, the story has been collected in multiple books, including Superman: The War Years 1938–1945, and the Superman The Golden Age Omnibus.

Available here: Superman: The Golden Age Vol. 1 (Action Comics (1938-2011))

Superman: American Alien by Max Landis

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Released last year (2016 if you’re reading this in the future, hi future!), and made up of 7 issues, Max Landis’s American Alien explores Clark’s life from a young boy, all the way up to his adult life. The book makes Clark highly relatable, especially in his younger years, and delivers hard on important milestones, such as discovering his powers and the isolation he feels, Clark’s first assignment for the Daily Planet, his first meetings with Lois Lane, Batman, and Lex Luther, establishing himself as a hero, and learning from his mistakes. Strongly written, with a rotation of all-star artists from issue to issue, including Nick Dragotta (East of West), Jae Lee (The Dark Tower: Gunslinger Born), Jock (The Losers), and more. A fantastic, self-contained read.

Available here: Superman: American Alien

Superman: Earth One by J. Michael Straczynski and Shane Davis

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What would it be like if Superman showed up in modern times? Part of DC’s Earth One line up, Superman: Earth One is a wonderful retelling of part of Clark’s origin, set in the modern day, and exploring Clark’s early days in Metropolis, and his decision of what to do with his life. Exploring both the uncertainty of what to do with your life, post high school, as well as wrestling with his decision for what to do with his powers. Superman: Earth One is full of compelling and heartfelt moments written by Straczynski, paired with Davis’s beautiful renderings, it’s a truly fascinating read that sucks you right into the world. While there are three volumes to the story, the first book can be approached as a standalone story, though the decision to continue will gift you a hauntingly beautiful double page spread in the second volume. Truly worth picking up.

Available here: Superman: Earth One

Superman: The Last Son of Krypton by Geoff Johns, Richard Donner and Adam Kubert

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Taking a page from Superman: The Movie, and The Richard Donner cut of Superman II, The Last Son of Krypton tells the story of a Kryptonian pod crash landing on earth, revealing a young boy inside. Adopted by Clark and Lois, and given the name Christopher Kent (a rather lovely nod to the late Christopher Reeve), they start their happy lives, with Clark safe in the knowledge that he is not alone, he is no longer the last of his kind. However, their happy lives are brought to a screeching halt when it is revealed that Christopher is, in fact, the son of one of Superman’s greatest enemies, General Zod. Brilliantly written by Geoff Johns and Richard Donner himself, with stunning art by Adam Kubert, The Last Son of Krypton is a must for fans of the Donner films, and a highly engaging read for everyone else.

Available here: Superman: Last Son of Krypton TP (Superman (DC Comics))

Superman: Secret Identity by Kurt Busiek and Stuart Immomen

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Imagine you lived in the American Mid-West, and in what feels like the ultimate act of cruelty to you, your parents name you Clark Kent and shower you with Superman merchandise. As a result, you’re heavily bullied and can’t stand the sight of Superman. Well, that’s life for the young Clark Kent in Kurt Busiek’s Secret Identity. In a fit of misery one night, and camping on his own, however, he awakes to find he has been given all the powers of Superman. Set in our world, Secret Identity explores what it would be like if Superman truly existed in our world, as well as chronicling his life from a young man, angry at the world for the hand he has been dealt, to a wiser old man, floating above us all as a fatherly figure. A wonderful out of continuity story, that is truly wonderful to behold.

Available here: Superman: Secret Identity – Deluxe Edition

Kingdom Come by Mark Waid and Alex Ross

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Another out of continuity tale, and not essentially a Superman story, but a purely stunning and cinematic experience. Set in a future where Superman and the rest of the Justice League have abandoned their roles as the Earth’s heroes, after the appearance of figures such as Magog, and other metahuman “heroes” who have no problems with killing, including offing The Joker early on in their career. A being known as The Spectre appears to a human minister, Norman McCay, shows him the oncoming apocalypse that is about to break out between the current heroes and the original Justice League, and invites him to help pass judgment on the events to come. Including the threat of nuclear war, and the intense brainwashing of former Justice League member, Billy Batson, aka Captain Marvel (Now known as Shazam!), Kingdom Come is an incredible experience. You do not read Kingdom Come, you live in it. With magnificent painted art by the great Alex Ross, and a story by the wonderful Mark Waid, Kingdom Come is an absolute must.

Available here: Kingdom Come TP New Edition

Superman: For All Seasons by Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale

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From the wonderful team behind Batman: The Long Halloween, and Daredevil: Yellow, Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale turn their sights to the man of steel. Set across four seasons, and narrated by those involved in Clark’s life, namely Johnathan Kent, Lois Lane, Lex Luther, and Lana Lang, For All Seasons may be set in Clark’s early days, but it is not about his origin. The book chronicles how Clark, and Superman, affect the world around him. From his parents, worrying about his life as he leaves home, his co-workers at the Daily Planet, his enemies as he starts to make himself known, and the people he grew up with and left behind. For All Seasons is truly beautiful, and wondrous. As with any Loeb and Sale paring, well worth the read.

Available here: Superman For All Seasons TP (Superman (DC Comics))

Superman: Red Son by Mark Miller and Dave Johnson

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We play the “what if” game again for a moment with Mark Miller’s Superman: Red Son. Superman has always been paired with the phrase, “Truth, Justice, and the American Way.” Emphasis on the “American.” But what if Superman’s rocket never landed in Kansas? What if he landed just outside of Moscow? Red Son flips the Superman mythos on its head and gives us a chilling tale of the communist party right in the hands of the most powerful being on Earth. The book also gives us alternative takes on the rest of the Justice League, with a Wonder Woman who sided with the Russians, as well as a Russian Batman, who seeks to take down the all-mighty dictator. Red Son works as a perfect definition for what Superman stands for, by showing us his complete opposite. Always worth a read, with a final page twist that will make you want to read it all over again.

Available here: Superman: Red Son

All-Star Superman by Grant Morrison and Frank Quietly

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The book a lot of you probably saw coming, but with good reason. Superman has one year left to live, having effectively developed a form of cancer that is slowly killing him. This twelve-issue series focuses on how Clark chooses to spend his final year. Including a touching birthday gift to Lois, seeking an end to his rivalry with Lex and Bizzaro, and everything he feels is needed before he leaves. All-Star Superman is a truly touching read, dealing with the likes of depression and death, but never dwelling on it. A quintessential Superman and a comic book read.

Available here: All Star Superman

After that massive stack, I highly recommend What Ever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow? By Alan Moore and Curt Swan, Superman Birthright by Mark Waid and Leinil Francis Yu, Superman Secret Origin by Geoff Johns and Gary Frank, The Death and Return of Superman Saga by Various, Superman: Lois and Clark by Dan Jurgens and Lee Weeks, and the incredible Rebirth run currently being published by Peter J. Tomasi and Patrick Gleason.

Happy reading Super-fans..!

 

(Above is the opinion of the writer solely. Everyone is entitle to their own opinion, this is just mine. I have not read every Superman story (Unfortunately).)