As Fancy As It Looks: Furious 7


I’ve now seen both Furious 7 and Age of Ultron.  I like both of these movies, but I think I might actually like Furious 7 more. To be fair, my expectations were so startlingly low when I walked into Furious 7 that the movie had nowhere to go but up; even so, this supremely goofy movie successfully hit me in the feels when I hadn’t expected it, and I like that.  It hit me in the feels partly for reasons outside of the movie itself, but it didn’t really matter in the end.  It was still good.

On the topic of my low expectations, it seems that I’d forgotten what I learned with the previous movie in the series, 6 Fast 6 Furious, or whatever it was called.  It turns out that I really enjoy the speed and enthusiasm of this fast-car soap-opera-with-guns.  I still have some significant problems with it, from the omnipresent male gaze to the inconsistent outcomes of characters’ consistently dangerous shenanigans, but … somehow I still found it highly entertaining.  Maybe I’ll be able to explain. Continue reading


Tombs=Raided, Hearts=Won; Tomb Raider Rocks


I don’t usually wish that I paid more for a game.  But I liked Tomb Raider so much that I almost wish I hadn’t bought it on sale.  I want the people who made it to know how much I liked it, and I want them to put as much high-quality work into making the next one as they put into making this one.  Because there’s a next one.  I mean, even if I didn’t know that Rise of the Tomb Raider is coming, I wouldn’t have any real doubts (except, I suppose, if the studios involved fell apart or lost the rights, which would be terrible).  The end of Tomb Raider left it clear that Lara is nowhere near finished with being the awesome badass which she’s become, and that makes me very happy.  Watching the announcement trailer for the new game has reduced me to a quivering pile of enthusiasm.

Why am I so happy about all this?  Tomb Raider is a brilliant game, and does things with story-telling that remind me why games are such a fascinating medium in the first place.  It’s an adventure novel with audience participation, a new entry in a genre that I love, and it evades the problematic trappings that spoil so many other adventure stories for me.

Ok, spoil is a strong word.  I love adventure stories enough to enjoy them despite their frequent problems, but being able to enjoy one that isn’t so inherently problematic is a breath of fresh air.  It doesn’t hurt that this particular story is extremely well written, with characters who feel like real people, and who share history with each other that seems fitting and unforced.  It’s a little bit like someone crossed Tintin with Indiana Jones, turned the tone dial to ‘gritty and a bit bloodthirsty,’ and then put you through the Bildungsroman of Lara Croft as she goes from untested and unconfident archaeologist to self-assured and competent survivor and adventurer, hellbent on keeping herself and her friends alive.  Wait, no, that’s almost exactly what it’s like.  It’s glorious.

Look, you don’t have to take my word for it.  You can play the game yourself.  But if you want to read more of my thoughts on the topic, including the few reservations I have, please be my guest:  Continue reading

The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn



I finally watched the “new” Tintin movie.  I’m obviously biased, given that I grew up reading the Tintin books and loved them uncritically for many years, but… I thought the movie was magnificent.  There’s something spectacularly fun about the pulp adventures of Tintin, and the movie delivers the essence of that in spades.  The story is still problematic when it comes to representation, as there’re no main characters who aren’t white males, but the movie also manages to remain faithful to its source material without engaging the more racist undertones which can be found in some of the original works.

And when I say faithful to the source material, I really do mean that it’s basically all there.  The movie is a composite (plus a little something new to serve as glue) of several Tintin stories, and there are scenes which have been pulled frame for frame from the originals.  There are even references to prominent features of unused story lines, often featured as props (like the red jeep from Land of Black Gold).  The only thing that I really missed was Snowy’s constant private cynical narration, though his stunning and dogged competence was in fine form.

As I’d expected it to be, the movie was action-packed and full of nonstop excitement, accurately recreating my memories of the stories that I’d so loved as a child.  But it was able to do things which had been impossible for the original comics, with gorgeous transitions that reinforced the hallucinatory exposition of my favorite drunk, Captain Haddock.  I’m not sure that I’ve ever seen a better realized set of scene shifts, and they were made all the more possible through the excellent CGI used for the film.  There’s just something about watching the world ripple and change, transforming a landscape of sand dunes into monstrously high seas; Haddock’s impossible descriptions of his ancestor’s exploits become all the more wonderful as they are shown through his imaginatively drunken state.

Speaking of the CGI, I have to say that they really hit the nail on the head.  They managed to keep things cartoonish enough that they felt palpably unreal, while still being realistic enough to feel believable, relatable in much the same way that the comics themselves felt when I was young.  I’m really happy with how the movie felt, and I’m glad that there’s talk of making another.

So, I liked this movie a great deal and I would happily watch it again.  It doesn’t solve all the problems of the source material, but it does a good job of avoiding the source material’s larger blunders while capitalizing on its strengths.  The characterizations felt true to form, and the alterations made to the original material never felt like they were unfaithful or detracted in any way from the originals.  If you ever liked reading Tintin, my guess is that you’d like watching this movie.  If you didn’t like reading Tintin, I really can’t help you with that (and you may or may not like this movie, who knows).

p.s. Sorry to cut this one short, I have to go facilitate a hero’s journey by pretending to be an evil dean intent on shutting down Simmons’ MA in Children’s Lit and MFA in Writing for Children.