Monday, 20 February 2012

The Monday Miscellany | Alcatraz, Mass Effect: Invasion, War Horse

For a more formal introduction to The Monday Miscellany, feel free to click here.

Truth be told, there's not really so much to tell. The Monday Miscellany is basically a space for you and me and we to talk about things that I either can't summon a thousand words' worth of stuff and nonsense to say about, or are so very far outside the purview of a blog at least ostensibly about speculative fiction that I'd have a right cheek trying to pass said off as such on anything more than an occasional basis. 

What more do you need to know?

Let's get this show on the road!


With Lost fast receding in my mind's eye, and Fringe essentially on death's door - more's the pity - it feels a lot like the heyday of J. J. Abrams-produced projects on television is over. Or almost is. I mean, who even remembers Undercovers? How about Person of Interest?

Actually, that's terribly disingenuous of me: the only reason I don't remember Person of Interest is because I haven't the time to see a single episode yet... how has it been?

I'm certainly keen to sit down with a fat batch of Person of Interest episodes whenever the opportunity to do so next presents itself, but for some reason, Abrams' other new series this season grabbed me immediately.

What does that say about me, I wonder?

In any event, four episodes in, I've found Alcatraz to be a fun but deeply uneven experience. The premise is only so-so, the impressive cast has been incredibly disappointing to date, and there's no question that the uneasy balance it attempts to strike between its serial and its procedural elements is working against the series on every level; in the attempt to serve both masters, and both audiences, Alcatraz could very well end up disappointing everybody. It will if it keeps on like this.

But for now, I'm staying optimistic. Abrams' brainbabies often take a little while to find their feet - Fringe was no different, and these days it's one of the shows I most look forward to watching - so though Alcatraz could certainly have started out stronger, the thing to remember here is potential. And Alcatraz has potential written all over it.

I have my reservations, then - the escapee-of-the-week formula needs attention stat! - but I'm pleased to hear that enough viewers are tuning in week in and week out to keep Alcatraz on the air for the time being. Fingers firmly crossed the showrunners can work out the weak links in their cast and writing staff before folks on our side of the divide lose interest.

Meanwhile, in an attempt to get myself good and excited for Mass Effect 3 - because we're only weeks out from it now, and I feel nothing so much as nervous - I read all four issues of Mass Effect: Invasion, the latest miniseries out of Dark Horse.

Now I'm not entirely averse to them, but I don't make a habit of buying into tie-ins. What sold me on this series, as opposed to all the others I ignore, was, as ever, the talent involved in its gestation and creation. For those of you who don't know, Mac Walters is the lead writer of the games proper, and with his name right there on the front cover of all four issues, well... I couldn't not give Mass Effect: Invasion a shot.

Alas: lies. Fibs. Willful subliminal salesmanship.

Mass Effect: Invasion is not, as it transpires, written by Mac Walters at all. Some other guy scripted it based on an idea of his - about an all-out attack on the space station Aria T'Loak runs out by the mysterious Omega 4 Relay, masterminded by none other than The Illusive Man - and this other guy (Knights of the Old Republic writer John Jackson Miller) just doesn't do the universe justice. His prose is awkward and verbose, and there's some truly dreadful dialogue.

Tell you what, though: Mass Effect: Invasion looks pretty pretty, if quite conventional, thanks to Omar Francia -- another Star Wars import. So there's that. Sadly decent art can't save a poor story, so even if you're in the same position as I found myself - looking to get psyched about Mass Effect 3 - I'd advise you to steer clear of this silliness, lest you come out as bereft of enthusiasm for the actual game as I.

Last but not least for this inaugural edition of the Monday Miscellany, I thought - what with Oscar fever gripping the globe... or not - that now would be the time to catch up on a couple of Best Picture candidates. So last week I sat down with Steven Spielberg's latest family-friendly affair.

War Horse is based on the early 80s classic of the same name, of course, about the life and times of Joey, a thoroughbred through and through. I've never read the Michael Morpugo, however, so I can't speak to the quality of this movie as an adaptation, but as a film in its own right, it's beautiful but unbelievably bloated, and unfortunately, in terms of pacing and moreover passion, it's as flat as the day's last pancake.

Perhaps I'd have looked more kindly on War Horse were it not for John Williams' obvious and utterly uninspired score - which I would add lifts liberally from Star Trek, of all things - and the casting of some of the younger actors, in particular Celine Buckens as Emilie, with her dreadful parody of a French accent et al. Perhaps... but probably not. 

It's a shame, because the talent's certainly there, on camera and off. War Horse could have been Black Beauty for a new generation, but I'm afraid it's a far cry, and why the Academy have nominated it for Best Picture over the likes of Drive and the finest of all the Harry Potter films would be a mystery if we didn't already know the Academy was and will always be an assortment of snobs.

In all fairness I wouldn't take back the nearly three hours it took to see War Horse through, but I wouldn't want to suffer through them again either. It's not a terrible film, this... I'd even say it's worth a watch if you want to run your heart through the ringer a bit - to keep it on its toes, you know - but when that's the nicest thing you can think to say about one of the nine Best Picture nominees, something fishy is afoot.

So Alcatraz: yay. Mass Effect Invasion: nay. And as to War Horse? Well, you may. But don't expect anything special.

1 comment:

  1. Mac Walters is only the lead of ME2 and ME3. The first game had Drew Karpyshyn on lead (he also wrote the first three novels).

    The franchise took a downturn after Karpyshyn moved to BioWare Austin for TOR.