So I went to see Catching Fire on opening night with a group of friends. I’m tagging this write-up as “midnight showing” even though it was technically an 8 pm showing; most movies don’t really wait to premiere at midnight anymore, and although part of me thinks that’s a little sad, another part of me is getting old and appreciates not having to stay up so late. It was a good premiere; I wasn’t able to organize and prepare as much as I did for the first film, but we dressed up in Capitol fashion and the movie itself was, in my opinion, better than the first.
The thing about shows that start before midnight is there isn’t as much waiting-in-line time to fill, so I kinda over-prepared and we didn’t end up doing all the activities I had planned, but that’s alright since a lot of them didn’t take much effort. (For example, if we needed to kill time I thought we could play a version of the “telephone” game were you start with a phrase and whisper it from one person to another to see if it ends up the same at the end, but call it “mockingjay,” and use phrases like “Peeta has hot cross buns.”)
We did play the game that I spent the most time preparing for, which was Arena Trivia. Everyone playing was a Tribute in the Trivia Arena and started with a perfect 20 health. When it was their turn, they spun a wheel to see how lethal of a “weapon” question they would be able to wield against an opponent; easy questions were a knife and would only take five health points away if the Tribute they selected to aim the question at got it wrong, but harder questions were a machete (minus 10 health if missed) or near-deadly trident (minus 15). Tributes could form allies by helping someone else answer a question if they wished, but, in the end, there could only be one victor. The wheel also had a small wedge labeled “a gift from your sponsor”; if Tributes landed on that section when it was their turn, they could draw a healing card instead of a question that would give them back a portion of the health they had lost. (Most of the healing cards would only restore 5 health, but there were a couple 10s and 15s in there too). It worked really well, (except maybe I should have made some of the questions easier), and I’m pretty dang proud of how well themed it was. I think it’s totally marketable.
This Arena Trivia spin-wheel was made from a Twister game’s. The different levels of questions were printed on different colored paper and separated into pouches based on difficulty.
Each Tribute had one of these health bars to keep track of how close to “death” they were. They had to put a sticker on 5-point sections depending on how hard of a question they missed, but if they got a gift from a sponsor, they could cover a colored sticker with a white one to regain health.
Sugar cube prize bags that I handed out at the Catching Fire premiere. Other prizes included Catching Fire magnets and a grand prize of the soundtrack CD.
I really have very few negative things to say about the movie itself at all, which is pretty amazing given my tendency to be very nit-picky and critical. It stayed very close to the book with a surprising amount of dialogue coming verbatim from the pages Suzanne Collins wrote. The things that were skipped or condensed didn’t really alter any of the action or character development, (like Katniss figuring out what the spile is right away, and realizing what Wiress meant by “tick tock” faster, leaving out the bread drop communications and the prolonged healing from the poison fog scars, leaving out Bonnie and Twill because it was established through the visualization of the Victory Tour that there was an uprising and that Katniss was an inspiration to people, etc.), and like the first movie the elements in the film that were not found in the book added wonderful insight and depth to the story, (like President Snow’s granddaughter idolizing Katniss–that was genius! And I’m so glad we got to actually see the painting of Rue that Peeta did for the Gamemakers, to “hold them accountable, if only for a moment…for killing that little girl” as he says in the book, instead of just hearing about it.)
They even included a tiny visual reference to one of my favorite characters from the first film, Seneca Crane(‘s beard). When Katniss hung the dummy labeled with his name for her evaluation, she painted his signature swirly beard on it’s chin! I remember this being a common idea among the fandom after the first film, that oh, wouldn’t it be great if they really show her hang the Seneca dummy in the second film and they include the beard? To see it actually transpire that way on screen felt almost like it was a bit of an inside joke for the die-hard fans, whether or not they intended it that way. Speaking of amazing visuals, that mockingjay dress was spectacular. Even though I had seen most of that scene already in the trailer, I was blown away by how incredible it looked. Whereas Katniss’ flaming dress at the interview scene in the first film is a bit pathetic and too-obviously CGI, this time around I literally could not have imagined it better.
So far the only criticisms I can come up with are:
Prim’s “Katniss! Katniss! Katniss!” screaming at the Reaping is too shrill, but really, I thought that last movie too. Maybe that’s just the actress’s voice.
The music in some scenes was too exactly similar (or exactly the same?) to the score in the first film. It’s fine to reuse/recycle themes, but in a couple places it sounded 100% the same, like the Tribute Parade, (which is maybe understandable if they basically use the Panem national anthem for that every year), and the Victory Ball at the Capitol, (which really didn’t seem to match the music beat for dramatic beat effectively).
In the Arena, they establish that there is no fresh water source except for the trees, but then when Katniss, Peeta, and Finnick are leeching the poison from their bodies they are in what appears to be a freshwater pool, not the saltwater at the beach. I understand the change since it allows for the monkey attack to happen sooner, but it’s an inconsistency.
This isn’t really a criticism, more of a funny observance–why does Peeta stand up in the middle of his living room to watch TV? (When they are watching President Snow announce the Quarter Quell). Is it one of the tricks they tried to make us think he’s taller than Josh Hutcherson really is?
But really, almost everything was perfect. Effie was perfect, with her shallow growth and her gold hair! Finnick was lovely! Mags broke my heart with her warmth and sacrifice! Beetee melted my heart with his nerd-speak! Prim impressed me with her calm taking-charge to tend Gale. Plutarch Heavensbee, Haymitch, Cinna, (*sob* Cinna!) and Johanna were great. The whole thing was just spot-on! Peeta was still not as good as book-Peeta, but he was much improved over the last film’s bastardization of his character, and really all I can think about Peeta-wise right now is this. (Warning: that last link is a spoiler if you haven’t read Mockingjay yet).
I’ll definitely be going to see Catching Fire again. But now my movie-party-planning focus has to switch gears for The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. It’s only a few weeks away!
I have become so disillusioned with this series. I was really into it at first, and I wanted it to become huge partly because I was so “in” from the beginning, but the sequel books didn’t really live up to the promise of the first installment, and although I didn’t hate the last book, (Allegiant), it wasn’t exactly as good as I had been hoping.
Meanwhile, I can’t get excited about this movie adaptation. Everything about the way they’ve marketed it so far screams “conformity to stereotypical Hollywood tropes and generic YA action movie themes that are the SAME as so many other things!”, which is so ironic given that they’ve simplified the storyline into “Tris is the hero because she’s DIFFERENT!” Like, look at this poster:
Really, guys? Really?
This poster makes me absolutely rage. WHAT IS THIS BUTT POSE AND CAN WE STOP MAKING IT A THING THAT WOMEN DO IN ACTION MOVIE POSTERS PLEASE!???!! And other than the birds and the Ferris wheel in the background, what about this poster is actually specific to this story as opposed to almost anything else? (Hint: nothing). Then there are the character posters that apparently you don’t get if your character is not in the Dauntless faction because they’re all about “guys, look tattooooos! Doesn’t this make our movie look badass (and one-dimensional?!) Never mind that the original story was partially about struggling with multiple virtues and which one if any should be most highly valued; TATTOOOOOOS!”
So now we have our first official trailer, and it has done nothing to lift my curmudgeonly spirits about this movie:
Theo James is definitely too old to be playing Four. His American accent is not consistent. Shailene Woodley as Abnegation Tris is wearing TOO MUCH MAKE-UP! Yes I know it’s a movie but they didn’t have to go overboard obvious with the mascara and eyeliner before she’s even transferred to Dauntless. I still don’t like the over-stylization of Four’s back tattoos.
OKAY FINE, I will not be a 100% Negative Nancy, there are some good moments in this trailer. Like when the Dauntless jump joyously off the train at 0:28, and the fear landscape drowning scene from 0:46-0:55, (although in this cut it looks like it’s the aptitude test), Tris jumping off the roof at 1:15, Four’s intense stare in the knife-throwing scene at 1:39.
If anything, the disappointing path the Divergent movie marketing has taken just makes me more impressed with Catching Fire which has been consistently killing it. Well, internet, am I the only Initiate not jazzed about this trailer? What did you think of it?
A new trailer was released today for X-Men: Days of Future Past. The first thing I noticed was that the music sounded familiar, and it only took a minute to confirm my suspicions (and boost my music-recognizing-ego); it’s totally the same song that was used for the Star Trek Into Darkness trailer. It’s a different arrangement and the music in the second halves of the trailers diverge after both have a moment where the music stops completely for a line of significant dialogue to land by itself (“Patience isn’t my strong suit” at 1:24 for X-Men:DoFP and “You think you’re safe…you are not” at 1:04 for STID), but it’s definitely the same song. Compare:
I like the vocals the in the STID version, but I think I have to give the edge overall to the music in X-Men:DoFP, because the last part of STID‘s music is just “BWAAAAM! BWAAAAM! BWAAAAM!”, but X-Men:DoFP‘s is a lot more musical, if admittedly generic. What do you think–which trailer uses the music better?
With every new piece of news, image, or interview related to the upcoming Divergent film adaptation of the book by Veronica Roth, I feel I’ve become more and more disillusioned with the whole thing. I haven’t been blogging about it much, because it feels mean and unproductive to post public rants about all the things that annoy me about the lead actress, but I assure you I’ve paid attention to the set photos, tweets, tumbls, everything. For a while I worried that maybe I was getting too old to appreciate the Young Adult genre anymore, but my excitement over the Catching Fire trailer and my enjoyment of the Mortal Instruments movie stilled those fears. I don’t think it’s me; I think this adaptation is subpar. Watch the trailer for yourself:
Well, first of all, even though I was originally excited about his casting, Theo James is too old to play Four. And it’s totally apparent in this trailer. In an interview at Comic-Con, Shailene Woodley reportedly said:
Theo James who plays the love interest in my film is 28, in the book his character is 18, but in the movie we’re making him about 24/25. He’s kind of ageless in a way. And even though in the book Tris is about 16, we never allude to the fact that she’s that young.
I am not okay with this. I don’t see how it will be possible not to “allude” to Tris’s age when the choosing ceremony that starts off the plot happens when citizens are 16. If they’re deciding Four is 24, he’s 8 years older than her and a creepy pervert for getting into a relationship with her, as opposed to book-Four who is only a year or two older than Tris. I don’t want to watch a man with giant muscle-arms punch people and kiss a young girl. I wanted to watch two teenagers, tougher than their bodies appeared, face difficult decisions and get butterflies when their hands touched.
Second, Tris is wearing way too much make-up. I suppose they’re projecting Christina’s makeover to last for the entirety of Tris’s Dauntless days, but the scene at the end where she looks up with eyes rimmed in black irritated me because Abnegation-born Tris just wouldn’t smear that stuff on to go to a training session. But I’ve seen nothing from this movie so far about Tris being Abnegation-born other than “she wears frumpy gray clothes and a bun at the beginning!” It’s too intent on selling me Tris as a badass Dauntless to remember she has aptitude for multiple factions and that’s why she’s Divergent in the first place.
Thirdly, why did they feel the need to embellish Four’s back tattoos with these totally unnecessary and meaningless bands on the sides? Is it because the costume designer wanted an extra outlet for their personal creativity? Is it because movie makers insist on visualizing characters differently from how they’re described in the books so that no pre-existing fanart or cosplay will be legitimized and fans will be more inclined to just buy the official replica merchandise they’ll be sure to market soon? (That’s what it feels like.) I just don’t see any reason for all that extra ink. Each of Four and Tris’s tattoos in the book are chosen with significance; they’re not in it for the body art. And what would have been so difficult about doing it like the book said, and like the fanart bellow illustrates?
Tris runs her fingers down Four’s faction symbol back tattoos in the Divergent trailer.
Four’s tattoos, by tumblr user chrysalisgrey (formerly ice-ridden).
I’m not making these grievances up out of thin air; I feel like they’re legitimate concerns. But the reason these flaws are so frustrating to me is that I really connected with the book. I identified with Tris, as someone who grew up in a very conservatively-dressing, emphasis-on-serving-others household but never felt like I was naturally good at the selflessness I was supposed to be enacting. When Tris self-consciously noted, taking off her jacket before her jump into the Dauntless hole, that it was the first time anyone had seen her in anything as revealing as her tight t-shirt, I vividly remembered the first times I wore a spaghetti strap shirt or a two piece swimsuit, in college after I had moved out and my parents couldn’t enforce their dress code anymore.
In the book, I loved the idea of asking what the value of virtues like honesty versus bravery or harmony is. As I’ve written previously, I loved the straightforward way that Tris and Four’s relationship develops. I loved the Dauntless manifesto’s assertions that “We believe in ordinary acts of bravery, in the courage that drives one person to stand up for another.” and “We do not believe that we should be allowed to stand idly by.” I loved that Four embraced the value of all faction virtues. I loved that Four said “I have a theory that selflessness and bravery aren’t all that different.” I loved that sacrificing oneself for another was a repeated theme. I loved that Tris chose to get a tattoo of not only her chosen Dauntless but also her family heritage Abengation symbol, to recognize the value in where she came from, to acknowledge that while it wasn’t her choice to live within that strict code, she didn’t reject it entirely. I felt I could relate to that, too.
I don’t see any of what I liked about the book in this trailer. I see an attempt to market this as an ACTION MOVIE with FIGHTING and GUNS and DANGER OF BEING KILLED. Yes, it’s true that in the book, Jeanine is attempting to eliminate all Divergents, that others exposed as Divergent have been killed, and that if Tris’s condition is revealed she would be targeted as well. But that’s not what the story is about. At least not to me.
The best thing about the trailer is Kate Winselt’s villain (Jeanine Matthews), and that role is clearly being fleshed out more than it exists in Tris’s narration. But Four is too old. Tris is too defiant. (And ugh, this is nit-picking because I know this language use is common, so it’s fine, whatever, but it’s really irritating that she spits out “don’t try and define me!” instead of “don’t try to define me!”).
Ugh. I don’t know. Maybe I am really just an old curmudgeon these days. What do you think?
**This post contains spoilers for The Maze Runner**
The Maze Runner is being adapted to film. It will be interesting to see how the slang is handled on-screen.
When I read James Dashner’s The Maze Runner, there was pretty much only one element that I actually liked; the Glader slang. (Things I didn’t like included the tediously slow (and ultimately unsatisfactory) reveal of answers, the near-complete lack of character development, the inconsistency of the main character’s attitudes towards other characters (like “go away Chuck you’re so annoying!”-”Chuck you’re my new and only friend!”-”gah Chuck stop talking you’re so annoying!”), the way Thomas pats himself on the back for feeling the most basic empathy for his fellow human beings (“…he realized he was worried about the girl. Concerned for her welfare. As if he knew her.” Like you couldn’t be “concerned” for somebody who’s been in a coma for days? And then this part: “Thomas, concerned for Alby despite his recent ill-tempered ways…”, oh how big of you to be “concerned” when you find a person lying unconscious with a bloody gash on their head, “despite” the fact they’ve been moody or rude in the last 24 hours), the insistence to tell instead of show, things being brought up only to be dropped completely and forgotten later on (like the flag Thomas sees when he first enters the Glade but can’t make out it’s pattern because there’s no wind, and it’s never mentioned again, or the dog named Bark that follows him around for his tour of Slop duty but then is never mentioned again, not even when they’re holing up to fight against invading Grievers, which, wouldn’t a dog bark it’s head off and/or charge beasts attacking its masters?), the fact that when the situation is explained it still makes little to no sense, and the lack of female characters–especially when it’s revealed that the kids sent to the Glade were chosen because they “have above-average intelligence,” and I’m supposed to be okay with this representation of the smartest kids, humanity’s last hope, being all male?! What a bunch of klunk!)
But back to the topic at hand–when Thomas arrives in the Glade, his memories freshly wiped, he quickly learns that the residents of his new ‘home’ sprinkle their speech with their own unique slang, which he must learn in order to fit in. This is, of course one of the purposes of slang or jargon or “shibboleths”; to identify members of a social group, or to confer insider status to those “cool enough” to know the terminology and be able to use it correctly. If you don’t know the terminology at all, you’re a total outsider. If you know the terms but stumble finding acceptable contexts to use them in, you’re pretty clearly linguistically marked to those in the know as someone trying to fit in. Someone new. Someone who maybe hasn’t really earned their place in the group or carved out an identity yet. Someone like Thomas. The linguistic markers of social status might be even more important in a setting like the Glade, where there is very little to go on otherwise. For survival purposes, everyone is forced to share labor, food, and sleeping areas, nobody has access to ‘cool’ clothes or accessories, nobody can remember if they had famous parents or tournament trophies or straight As or a girlfriend before the Glade. Everyone has to start over finding a new social footing by navigating the new slang terms.
The real reason for the Glader slang, of course, is so that the characters can curse in a manner that won’t be objectionable for a young audience to read. So it’s kind of disappointing, because the Glade-specific language conventions could have been more complex and interesting, and designed by the author in a way to give more insight to the community, but we’ll just have to be content with what we’ve got.
I suppose that Grievers, Creators, Greenie, Sloppers, Runners, Keepers, Builders, Bricknicks, Baggers, Track-hoes, Slicers, and Med-jacks all count as Glader slang, but they’re pretty self-explanatory (if largely unnecessary), so I’m just going to focus on defining by examples “shank”, “klunk”, “shuck”, and “good that.” Thomas hesitantly uses the latter phrase during an exchange with his assigned buddy, where he also explicitly references the fact that he’s unfamiliar with the terminology. (I’m labeling this excerpt and all others to be included in this post,as well as including page numbers which are from the version with ISBN 978-0-375-89377-3).
(1) “You’ll learn a lot in the next couple of days, start getting used to things. Good that?”
“Um, yeah, good that, I guess. Where’d all these weird words and phrases come from, anyway?” It seemed like they’d taken some other language and melded it with his own.
Chuck flopped back down with a heavy flump. “I don’t know–I’ve only been here a month, remember?” -p. 34
Thomas’ observation isn’t very linguistically astute–come on, dude, it’s a handful of terms, not a melding of two phonetic, syntactic, morphological etc. systems, or “languages”. Acquiring Glader slang is a simple matter of observing the examples provided throughout the book.
This term appears to be just a general term for “person”. It’s derogatory, (the neutral term for “person” is Glader and just refers to the fact that’s where they all live), but can be endearing, such as in (3). Perhaps most interestingly, Newt uses it in (9) to refer to the Creators, so it can apparently be used to refer to entities outside the Maze as well. (Go ahead and call each other shanks, Maze Runner fans!) Also interesting to note is the exchange in (7), which highlights the fact that Thomas is still acquiring Glade-speak, both in his pause before and over-emphasis of the term “shank” and in Newt’s response of laughing and referring to him as a “Greenie”. There’s also an example of “shank” in (15), under the section for “shuck”.
(2) “It’s a long story, shank,” -p. 8
(3) “Chuck’ll be a good fit for ya,” Newt said. “Wee little fat shank, but nice sap when all’s said and done. Stay here, I’ll be back.”
(4) “Beetle blade,” the boy said, pointing to the top of the tree. “Won’t hurt ya unless you’re stupid enough to touch one of them.” He paused. “Shank.” He didn’t sound comfortable saying the last word, as if he hadn’t quite grasped the slang of the Glade. -p. 13
(5) “This shank probably klunked his pants when he heard old Benny baby scream like a girl. Need a new diaper, shuck-face?” -p. 17
(6) Thomas shook his head. “Don’t be sorry. The…shank deserved it, and I don’t even know what a shank is. That was awesome.” He felt much better. -p. 33
(7) “Well, it’s kind of stupid to send me to a place where nothing makes sense and not answer my questions.” Thomas paused, surprised at himself. “Shank,” he added, throwing all the sarcasm he could into the syllable.
Newt broke out into a laugh, but quickly cut it off. “I like you, Greenie. Now shut it and let me show ya something.” -p. 37
(8) Thomas looked at Newt sharply, hurt by the rebuke. “You think I do things to impress you shanks? Please. All I care about is getting out of here.” -p. 260
(9) Newt shook his head back and forth, staring at the ground. Then he looked up, took in the other Keepers. “The Creators–those shanks did this to us, not Tommy and Teresa. The Creators. And they’ll be sorry.” -p.309
Chuck provides a clear definition and an etymology for this term in (12). The usage in (10) is weird, (he’s a poo? Not “piece of klunk/poo”? Maybe klunk is a count noun, even though poo is a mass noun?), and I think the construction is kind of forced because the author wanted to overwhelm Thomas (and readers) with as much slang as possible when the Box door opens. Also, note in (13) another explicit reference to Thomas’ acquisition of Glader slang.
(10) “I told ya, shuck-face,” a shrill voice responded. “He’s a klunk, so he’ll be a Slopper–no doubt about it.” The kid giggled like he’d just said the funniest thing in history. -p. 6
(11) “Whacker, if we told you everything, you’d die on the spot, right after you klunked your pants. Baggers’d drag you off, and you ain’t no good to us then, are ya?” -p. 10
(12) “We live here, this is it. Better than living in a pile of klunk.” He squinted, maybe anticipating Thomas’s question. “Klunk‘s another word for poo. Poo makes a klunk sound when it falls in our pee pots.” -p. 15
(13) The second hour was spent actually working with the farm animals–feeding, cleaning, fixing a fence, scraping up klunk. Klunk. Thomas found himself using the Glader terms more and more. -p.78
I think this was the most inconsistent of the Glader slang terms introduced in the book; it most often appears as the insult “shuck-face” (in examples (5) and (10) above as well as several below,) or the expletive “shuck it,” but in examples (23) and (24) it used as an adverb and verb participle, respectively. It seems obvious what real-world English expletive it’s substituting for, which is why it’s so weird that on page 334 Minho uses “freaking”, another PG derivative of the same real-world expletive, where presumably “shucking” would have been acceptable, especially judging by the example in (23). Minho’s utterance that Alby “freaking sacrificed himself for us–” is the only instance of “freaking” in the entire book, and seems out of place.
The construction in (14) is another unusual example like the one in (10), and it also appears in the same scene of Thomas’ entry to the Glade. I don’t know why it doesn’t just say “shucking neck” instead of bare “shuck”, but there aren’t any examples (that I noticed) of “shucking” as an adverb.
(14) “Look at the Greenbean,” a scratchy voice said; Thomas couldn’t see who it came from. “Gonna break his shuck neck checkin’ out the new digs.” -p. 5
(15) “Shuck it,” Alby said, rubbing his eyes. “Ain’t no way to start these conversations, you get me? We don’t kill shanks like you here, I promise. Just try and avoid being killed, survive, whatever.” -p. 9
(16) “Pipe it, shuck-face,” Alby grunted, pulling Newt down to sit next to him. -p. 9
(17) “Shuck it,” he said. “Can’t the bloody Med-jacks handle that boy for ten minutes without needin’ my help?” -p. 12
(18) “The Changing!” Gally shouted from below. “Look forward to it, shuck-face!” -p. 19
(19) “I’m gonna kill you, shuck-face!” Gally yelled, but Chuck was already off the box and running toward the open Glade. -p. 31
(20) Newt let out a long sigh. “Shuck it. But that’s not really what has me buggin’.” p. 107
(21) “You don’t understand, shuck-face! You don’t know anything, and you’re just making it worse by trying to have hope! We’re dead, you hear me? Dead!” -p.117
(22) Thomas rolled his eyes. “She’s not my girlfriend, shuck-face.”
“Wow,” Chuck said. “You’re already using Alby’s dirty words.” -p.281
(23) “She’s right, Chuck–you saved us, man! I told you we needed you!” Thomas scrambled to his feet and joined the other two in a group hug, almost delirious. “Chuck’s a shucking hero!” -p. 347
(24) The sense of normalcy was almost overwhelming. Too good to be true. Minho said it best on entering their new world: “I’ve been shucked and gone to heaven.” -p. 368
See also example (1) from above. This was my favorite, because it’s clearly a new construction whose correct use is crucial in ingratiating oneself with the Glade hierarchy, but it’s not actually new words. It signals agreement or consent. I never saw it used as a blanket positive, like somebody eating one of Frypan’s meals and declaring it “good that!”, which would have been fun, but then we’re not really given much non-plot-centric dialogue.
(25) Thomas fumed, wanted to punch somebody. But he simply said, “Yeah.”
“Good that,” Alby said. -p. 10
(26) “If I can convince those shanks–and that’s a big if–the best time to go would be at night. We can hope that a lot of the Grievers might be out and about in the Maze–not in that Hole of theirs.”
“Good that.” Thomas agreed with him–he just hoped Newt could convince the Keepers. -p.317
I wasn’t paying much attention to instances of “slinthead” while I read, so I don’t know if I am missing some, but it appears to be an insult. As for “slim”, I don’t remember seeing it anywhere except as an order to Thomas from Alby when he first arrives in the Glade (27).
(27) “Just slim yourself nice and calm.” -p. 6
(28) “And stay away from me, you little slinthead.” -p. 19
(29) “Ain’t you got a job, slinthead?” Alby asked. “Lots of sloppin’ to do?” -p.41
I am curious to know whether the slang persists in the sequel, The Kill Order, since by the end of The Maze Runner the main characters have escaped the maze and are in a different setting surrounded by strangers. It would be my guess that Glader slang would become even more important in this situation, as a way for the boys to self-identify as a cohesive group when their circumstances no longer reflect it so obviously. On the other hand, some of the boys might drop the slang or pick up/invent new slang as a way to reject having the identity of test-subject Glader forced upon them, or as a way to try to gain access to a new social group, if they decide they identify with their “rescuers”, or with WICKED. Either way, though, I don’t think I’m actually curious enough to read the second book.
A few months ago I read Tiger Lily, a book by Jodi Lynn Anderson that offers a new perspective on the Peter Pan story, narrated by nearly-literal fly-on-the-wall Tinker Bell. I gave it four out of five stars, but as much as I enjoyed it I will always prefer the mythology of J. M. Barrie’s original work to the alternative, more realistic universe that this story offered. There are still faeries and mermaids, but Peter and the Lost Boys don’t really fly. Wendy arrives by ship instead of flying, and is portrayed (unfairly, in my mind) in a negative light, almost a complete ditz instead of a creative story-teller who wants to mother everybody but is also brave in the face of pirates. Peter is 16, feels conflict, remembers betrayals, and doesn’t still have his baby teeth. People in Neverland age, but not uniformly. As Tink describes in the first chapter,
You never could tell when someone would stop growing old in Neverland. For Tik Tok, it had been after wrinkles had walked long deep tracks across his face, but for many people, it was much younger. Some people said it occurred when the most important thing that would ever happen to you triggered something inside that stopped you from moving forward, but Tik Tok thought that was superstition. All anyone knew was that you came to an age and you stayed there, until one day some accident or battle with the dangers of the island claimed you. Therefore sometimes daughters grew older than mothers, and granchildren became older than grandparents, and age was just a trait, like the color of your hair, or the amount of freckles on your skin.
As we learn in the prologue, Tiger Lily stops aging sometime around age 15, which is her age throughout the majority of this story and throughout the beginning and end of her relationship with Peter Pan. Tinker Bell prefers to theorize this tragically ended first love experience that was the most significant thing to happen in Tiger Lily’s life.
I don’t know Tiger Lily stopped growing older; I can’t pinpoint the moment. But I do know I never saw her visibly age beyond the days when she was with Peter. I like to think her growing stopped the day they were on the plateau, watching the horses. Sometimes I can almost convince myself that on the ridge that night, I actually heard her bones grinding to a halt, her skin pause, because that simple day was the most important thing that would ever happen to her. Just an afternoon, when nothing amazing occurred, except that she felt completely happy and completely at home.
This fixation on a young romance as all-important was one of the things that I most disliked about this book. Not that I don’t understand the point–when my first boyfriend dumped me just after I turned 16, I developed disordered eating as a coping mechanism that persisted until I went to counseling for it in college. So, I get it. I get that those first experiences play a major role in shaping who you become. It’s just, I don’t think it’s the romance itself that’s as important as how you deal with the aftermath, and even then it may not be as significant as how you navigate other situations.
For example, in the case of Tiger Lily, I submit that realizing she let down Tik Tok by not being around to prevent the tribe from siding with Philip in pressuring the shaman to cut his long hair and throw out his dresses may have had a greater impact on a young girl deciding what kind of person she wants to be than some make-out sessions with a flirtatious woodland scamp. Maybe Tiger Lily stopped aging when she tried to nurse Tik Tok back to health, and told him she was sorry. Maybe it was when she decided to chop her own hair in solidarity with the wrongs done to her adopted father and elicited help from Pine Sap in driving out the Englishmen.
Or, if the halting of her aging really was connected to Peter Pan, then I think it should be when she has a change of heart and risks her life to rescue the stranded Peter and Wendy from drowning in the lagoon, fighting mermaids to the death to give her rival and the boy she stole a chance to live, after having played a part in condemning them to die. Because she’s realized that maybe it isn’t Wendy’s fault, and that as much as he hurt her she doesn’t really want Peter dead. That’s a significant step of maturity that shouldn’t be possible if she had stopped growing older weeks before, a moment of agony in her heart that I think is more powerful than a moment of happiness shared with Peter. The human heart tends to grow more through pain than pleasure, and character is built from choices of action, not experiences of emotion.
What do you think? Do you agree with Tinker Bell’s assessment that Tiger Lily stopped aging when she was happy with Peter Pan, or do you think it was one of the moments of defining action that I’ve mentioned above? Let me know in the comments.
I saw Sofia Coppola’s The Bling Ring last night, and I loved it. It captures a based-on-real-events drama that, in the director’s words, “is so contemporary, it’s really a story that could only happen today.”
I thought it was both funny and a sad a cultural condemnation, but only because it so brazenly exposed the obsession with superficial values that most of us are implicit in encouraging. .
What I loved most were the insights through the little things; details like ringleader Rebecca wobbling in her heels when she’s walking away from casually robbing unlocked cars on the street. And the collage of celebrity pictures cut from magazines that were plastered all over a wall in her room.
I did think it was a little strange (or maybe sad is a better word) that the kids kept referring to gossip blog dlisted.com to find out when celebrities were out of town; I mean, I find it sad that they could be avid readers of dlisted.com, which is written with a very snarky tone towards celebrities, continually mocking them, and not have that attitude alter their idolization of the stars. Are they just too dumb to realize it’s negative attention, or do they crave and envy the attention to so much they don’t care? I suspect it’s some of both. After all, their idol Paris Hilton’s house is decorated seemingly entirely with pictures of herself. And when they go out clubbing, they seemed only interested in posing for selfie after selfie. I wish I had been keeping a tally of how many pictures they took of themselves.
Nicki complains that Marc is “stressing me out” when he’s worried about security footage of their exploits being on the news. Because none of them seem capable of processing how their actions might affect anyone else or their own futures, and nothing is more important in this moment than that Nicki not feel the burden of stress.
I laughed at lot throughout the movie, mainly at vapid or unbelievably self-centered dialogue from Emma Watson’s character Nicki. The actress has talked about how she prepared for the accent partly by watching hours of reality television, and I noticed an awful lot of vocal fry in her lines, which is totally on-point. I thought she pretty much nailed the accent, except in some of the scenes when she was speaking very quietly her natural accent peeked through a little bit. Like when her mom asks if she got a new dress at the dinner table and she makes up an answer to cover for the fact that it’s stolen, she drops the -r in “my manager”. But overall she was very good. My favorite lines by her included “Your butt looks awesome,” “Let’s go to Paris’s, I wanna rob,” “You’re stressing me out”, and everything in her statement to the press outside the courtroom (“I wanna lead a country one day for all I know”) and in her Vanity Fair interview scene, (“Mom! Shut up! It’s MY interview!”)
But despite all that laughter, I also found much of the film to be incredibly sad, like Marc confessing his constant worry that he wasn’t attractive enough to be liked. “I know I’m not ugly but I never saw myself as an A-list-looking guy.” I just wanted to tell him “oh, honey, almost nobody has genes that good, don’t make that the standard you compare yourself to!” It’s the same heartache from chasing unattainable body-image standards that so many young girls feel trying to look like the photoshopped-into-impossibilities images in magazines.
And in the scene where they break into Lindsey Lohan’s house, and the camera lingers on Rebecca spritzing herself with LiLo’s perfume and admiring herself in the star’s mirror while her eyes fill with tears and Marc’s voice-over states that this was her highlight, all I could think was how utterly sad and pathetic it was that the moment that made her happiest was pretending to be somebody else. She was an amoral, selfish a-hole, but I still felt bad for her, the emptiness of her dreams, and the futility of trying to adopt an identity that isn’t yours instead of just accepting and being yourself, in that moment.
The scene where Sam flippantly handles the gun that they find under Brian Austin Green and Megan Fox’s bed made me incredibly uncomfortable, because she seems to have absolutely no concept of how dangerous it is, that the instrument she’s holding could permanently maim her friends with the slightest slip, or even kill them. And she just thinks the fact that Marc is bothered with this realization is funny. It’s a pretty perfect metaphor for the reckless behavior the Bling Ring kids exhibit throughout the film, with no thought to the possibility of consequences.
And I love that the last shot is a fresh-from-truncated-jail-sentence Nicki, on a talk show, looking straight at the camera and shamelessly self-promoting her website. She has apparently learned nothing. But hopefully the audience has.
But let’s start with the positives: the background is fantastic. A dystopic Chicago skyline, just like the American book covers have featured. I’m glad that Four is included and it isn’t just narrator Tris, the way Katniss appeared solo in EW’s first look at The Hunger Games. Thank goodness Tris isn’t portrayed wearing nail polish, because she wouldn’t. It’s good that the title word is featured boldy, and I like that the font and color remind me of the way it appears on the book cover. And the text on the left promises we’re about to get more pictures from the set, which will be great.
However. I hate the total lack of connection between Four and Tris in this pose. Did they even take this picture together, or where they photoshopped into the same frame?! They have Tris, whose casting I’m still iffy about, giving us a steely stare in an effort to convince us she’s so tough and Dauntless but they deprive us of Four’s eyes which, lets face it, is what we really want to see. And not only is he looking away from the camera, he’s looking away from Tris! There’s nothing about their body language that hints they’re going to be a couple, except the fact that they’re on a magazine cover together. This glimpse of Four is basically the same as the one other picture revealed so far, except we see a piece of his Dauntless logo back tattoo curling up around his neck on both sides instead of just one. This is the best view we’ve gotten so far of Tris’s raven tattoos, and while I think they’re okay I’m disappointed at the direction they’re flying. She gets the ravens to commemorate the family members she leaves behind when she chooses the Dauntless faction, along her collarbone because it’s close to her heart. I can’t remember if the text specifics the direction of their flight or not, but I always imagined them going towards her heart, not away from it. Flying away from her heart makes the whole thing sadder and more pessimistic, like they’re getting further away from her even as she tries to hold them close. I realize that’s an extremely nit-picky criticism, but while I’m at it, Four’s hair looks like it’s thinning on top. And speaking of hair, why does it look like Tris is wearing a wig? Was her hairline photoshopped to be a little too perfect? And I don’t like her pants. Why do movies always feel the need to make costumes different from regular clothes, when the setting doesn’t require it? I guess costume designers need something to do. But the Dauntless initiates don’t walk around with knives in their over-pocketed pants. And these pants are almost gray, but she should be wearing all black. So the shirt is the wrong color too.
In conclusion, I am a curmudgeonly old fan of the young adult genre and I will never be satisfied. Unless maybe one of the photos inside the magazine is a really awesome one of Four; then I might forget all the negatives and swoon over its perfect capturing of his good looks plus self-determined resolve plus sensitivity. No pressure, Theo James.
There are some more pictures up now on EW’s website, but I’m not really feeling any more optimistic about them. The one I’m including below has got to be the derp-iest running ever from both of them.
Furthermore, one of the scan of the inside pages of the magazine circulating on tumblr shows that EW has chosen to caption an image from the scene where Tris is molested and nearly killed as “FRENEMIES: Excelling at Dauntless training can be dangerous, as Tris learns when her fellow initiates become jealous and attack her.” As I vehemently pointed out in a post on tumblr that has over 100 notes of agreement, “frenemy” is a completely inappropriate word to use to describe a scene where three people, two of them antagonists against Tris from day one, make a pre-meditated attempt to throw her over a bridge to her death. And grope her chest while she’s dangling over the bridge. This does not fall under the definition of “frenemy.”
Worst, most tone-deaf moment in Divergent movie marketing so far.
Finally, my instinct about the direction of the bird tattoos was correct. While it’s not really a huge deal, I don’t see what they’ve gained by changing it. It had more meaning as written, and pretty much all the fanart I’ve reblogged on divergentfanart has drawn the bird tattoos flying the way they’re described in the book:
But I understand now what Tori said about her tattoos representing a fear she overcame–a reminder of where she was, as well as a reminder of where she is now. Maybe there is a way to honor my old life as I embrace my new one.
“Yes,” I say. “Three of these flying birds.”
I touche my collarbone, marking the path of their flight–toward my heart. One for each member of the family I left behind.
First of all Henry Cavill is so hot, amirite? Like, so hot that he’s literally on fire within seconds of appearing on screen. And then later when his mom says “You’re beautiful. We saw that the moment we laid eyes on you,” I was like “yeah you are, and yeah we did!” And at the very end, when puts those glasses on, and smiles at Lois’s “Welcome to the Planet,” he’s literally almost too adorable to stand looking at. I can’t find a picture of that scene online yet, but if you’re reading this you probably already saw the movie and you know what I’m talking about. (Is this a good time to remind everyone that I have a giant Henry Cavill poster from Immortals in my bathroom?)
This boy is on fire.
Amy Adams’ portrayal of Lois Lane was a lot less annoying than the pushy version in the old films, yet still very much retained that assertive-journalist-who’s-not-giving-up on-a-lead vibe. I liked her.
I loved dream-state confrontation between Zod and Superman, when they were at the Kent farm (but not really) and the world-building machine was over the field, and Superman suddenly went from wearing a t-shirt to his suit, and sank into a pile of skulls. The visuals felt very much like something out of the pages of a comic book.
The music was very good, and I’m almost willing to say they’ve recovered from that initial trailer music mishap where they played Gandalf’s death song from The Lord of the Rings. But whyyyyyy is the Man of Steel soundtrack so expensive? I couldn’t afford to buy the whole thing, so I had to choose a couple favorite songs, and I’m not done pouting about the fact that I don’t have the complete soundtrack.
Because I am a huge Battlestar Galactica fan, I was delighted to spot both Alessandro Juliana (Gaeta) and Tahmoh Penikett (Helo) in small speaking roles. Alessandro was one of the military guys, and Tahmoh was one of the leads that Lois questioned to get to Clark.
I loved when he first figured out how to really fly, and then accidentally crashed into a mountain. The joyous tone of that “I can fly!” scene reminded me of one of the best parts of John Carter, when the title character figures out how to take giant leaps in the low gravity without falling on his face. It’s a similar “this is awesome, and fun!” feeling.
It was a tiny moment, but I loved it when the fellow fish-boat worker “saved” Clark from a falling trap, because I thought it was showing a teeny example of how living among humans had fostered his empathy and sense of justice and responsibility: if you see someone in trouble or in danger, you help them.
This is not a like or a dislike, just a curiosity: who came up with the clunky, unimaginative name “world-engine,” and how can I get a list of translations of Zod’s line “Release the world-engine!” when it gets dubbed into other languages? Because I bet there would be some funny ones.
Was it really necessary to spend so much time on Krypton at the beginning? We get it: he’s not from this world. I would have preferred to see more of Clark’s formative years rather than getting them piecemeal through flashbacks the way we did, which maybe there would have been time for if we hadn’t had all that Kryptonian backstory. “Ooh, Jor-El rides a giant dragonfly/dinosaur creature.” Well that doesn’t add to Superman’s storyline at all, so who cares?
Also, why add the extra layer of drama with the “ooh, he’s so different and special because all other Kryptonians have their careers predestined, but he’s going to have to choose.” I mean, it really doesn’t matter what other Kryptonians’ lives were like, because either way Kal-El would still be the only person with superpowers on planet earth, and would still have to choose how he was going to use his powers, whether for good or for evil. The “first natural birth in centuries!”, not that it would matter how he’s born since we’re sending him to a different planet anyway!
Furthermore, all of Jor-El’s platitudes about choice and leading humanity sounded exciting in the trailers, but within the movie they just fell flat. There was a lot of vagueness about leading people to exist in a somehow better state, which I guess Kal-El was supposed to inherently know how to do, or maybe it was because he was reading Plato that time he got bullied at the auto shop? And there was too much talking about how Superman could show humans this better path without any showing the audience what was meant by that, or how he would go about doing it. I mean obviously humans aren’t going to be able to fly and be bulletproof and have x-ray and laser vision, so I have to assume Jor-El meant that he could instill values of fairness and justice and helping protect the disadvantaged and live peacefully and stuff like that. Which Superman spent basically zero time doing in this movie.
And Jor-El’s motivations were all over the place, anyway; first it sounds like he wants to rescue his son from the destruction of their planet, but then it’s “I broke hundreds of years of tradition because CHOICE,” (which, isn’t it ironic that Jor-El CHOSE to have a natural son and then said he wanted his son to be able to make choices for his own life because Jor-El couldn’t…like, didn’t you just?), but then when Clark finds the ship and talks to the memory of his father Jor-El wants him to lead humanity to a better future, but then later he says he wants him to be a bridge between two worlds, but then it’s revealed that he secretly all along wanted him to be the host of an entire potential world with the DNA of all engineered Kryptonians in his cells? WTH?!
I agree with everything in Devin Faraci’s post on Badass Digest about the excessive destruction at the end of the movie. And again, maybe there would have been time for more dramatic development, showing Clark struggle to figure out what the right course of action for his life is, if the whole last third of the movie wasn’t just battles.
I don’t know how I feel about Jonathon Kent’s death…I mean, I guess it was okay, but I wish they would have shown it earlier, so that Clark wandering around like a bum for years and not using his powers at all would make sense. Like if they would have shown him losing his dad because he respected his wishes not to reveal his powers much earlier, and then showed scenes like the one in the bar where he just silently takes the blows from the drunk and doesn’t fight back, which would have felt more intense if we knew “oh, he’s holding back because if he doesn’t it’s like his dad’s death is meaningless and he should have just saved him”.
And when Clark expresses a wish that his dad could have seen what he became, his mom says something like “oh, he did,” and we flashback to kid-Clark in a red makeshift cape it makes no sense. Why would he be dressing up like a superhero if there weren’t any superheros yet?? And anyway the cape is not what Jonathan Kent would have been proud to see, it would be seeing Clark save people. So why not show a flashback to a young Clark helping someone or fighting for justice in some innocuous little incident, and Mr. Kent watching and smiling a half-grin because he knows that his son is on the path to someday fighting for those same values on a global scale?
To sum up, when/if they make a sequel, I would like MORE DRAMATIC CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT, LESS SUPERFLUOUS AND OVER-EXTENDED BATTLE SCENES. Please and Thank you.
If you’ve been reading my blog for a while now, it’s no secret that I am both a proud Kansan and a movie-lover, two qualities which contributed to an analysis of the fictional setting of Looper and which I shall now employ to nerd out about all the Kansas references in the new Superman movie Man of Steel.
Even though the farm grew corn instead of wheat, it felt very Kansan, as did some of the scenes when Superman flies over farmland, and the one where he gets beat up in the muddy parking lot outside “Sullivan’s Truck & Tractor Repair”.
The first official shout-out to the Sunflower State came during a flashback to a young Clark Kent struggling to focus with his hypersensitive and powerful senses in a classroom. The teacher is heard saying “…when Kansas became a territory,” and then directs her attention to the clearly disturbed boy who is freaking out that he can see everyone’s skeletons. “Clark? I asked if you could tell me who first settled Kansas?” she repeats. I absolutely loved this, because Kansas History is actually required 7th grade curriculum in this state. (I guess we can infer that Clark in in junior high in this scene!) I remember learning Kansas history, although when I read through the current curriculum standards just now (to research whether or not it was still required) I don’t remember the answers to all the suggested questions. Still, the introduction to the section on Kansas history says “The course should seek to build a connection or relationship between the student and the state,” and here I am over ten years later blogging about Kansas pride, so it must have been effective.
The second Man of Steel Kansas-specific reference was when Cark’s adopted father revealed the truth of his alien origins, showing him the ship he arrived in and the mysterious command key that was inside. “This was in the chamber with you,” he says. “I took it to a metallurgist at Kansas State. He said whatever metal it’s made of didn’t even exist in the periodic table.” That would be K-State, home of the Wildcats, in Manhattan, KS. It makes sense to me that Mr. Kent would have gone there rather than the other major university, KU, because as a fifth-generation farmer, (a fact he mentions in a later argument with Clark), he likely would have gotten an agriculture degree from K-State, so he would have more ties to and been more familiar with that campus than rival KU’s in Lawrence, KS.
Later, just before Zod takes over all televisions to send his message to the people of earth demanding Kal-El be handed over, Clark is watching a football game between at 12th-ranked KU and an unranked Lousiana Tech. This got the biggest laugh of the whole night from my audience, likely because KU athletics is definitely not known for their excellence in football. Basketball is what the Jayhawk nation is dedicated to and passionate about. As one commenter on a Kansas City Star article that mentioned the Kansas references in Man of Steel put it, “You know it’s a work of fiction because nobody watches KU football games.” It’s been “liked” twice as many times as the comment below it, that asks “I do, does that make me Superman?!!”
There was also a KU shout-out in one of the trailers for the movie, when Clark can be seen wearing a KU t-shirt. That scene must have been edited differently for the movie, because I don’t remember being able to see it in the movie itself.
It’s the tornado scene, though, which deserves its own mention here because when Mr. Kent shouts to “Go for the overpass,” I almost yelled “NO, THAT IS THE WORST PLACE TO GO!” Seriously, therearetonsof resources that will tell you thisisa terribleidea. (**update** Weather officials have responded to this scene specifically, reiterating that you should not seek shelter from a tornado under and overpass.) If you’re out driving on a highway when a tornado strikes, the safest thing to do is get out of the vehicle and lay down in the lowest possible ground you can find, like probably the ditch next to the road. The Kents should have known that. And why were there so many people out on the road anyway? Even if there wasn’t a tornado watch, (in which case most people know not to go out if they don’t have to,) that looked like more cars than you’d normally see on a Kansas Highway that isn’t the intersate…unless maybe it was a holiday weekend?
Anyway, back to Kansas references: when Superman passes out in the Kryptonian ship’s atmospherics and has a dream-state confrontation with Zod, he starts out clad in a Kansas City Royals baseball shirt. Someone in my audience at midnight let out a loud “YESSSSS!” when that shirt appeared, but everybody else only chuckled.
The filmmakers weren’t very subtle with imagery like this one of the giant American flag mural meant to symbolize Kansas being “as American as it gets.”
Finally, towards the end of the film when Superman confronts one of the military leaders about trying to follow him with a spy drone and the officer demands to know how the government can be reassured that he won’t one day betray their interests, the cheeky reply is “I grew up in Kansas, General. About as American as it gets.” That line got a decent laugh from the audience in my theater, but I didn’t really like it. I suppose that in Superman’s defense there isn’t really a good answer to that question, and maybe he was just trying to deflect it with humor. But it makes two assumptions that are neither true nor helpful in the divisive political gridlock this country seems trapped in. The first is that it assumes that the implied Midwestern values are “really” American, and people who live on the coasts or in a blue state are somehow un- or less-than American. Like it or not, the reality is that America ismade up of both liberals and conservatives, that as a collective whole we share more beliefs than we care to admit, and that our system only works when we’re able to work together and find compromises, so stating that a particular area is “more American” than others not only insults those not from the selected area, but it invalidates all other possible perspectives from citizens as “not really American”. Besides, it isn’t even accurate to prescribe the same values on every single Kansan; just like the country at large, we’re a collection of individuals with various opinions and views.
The second assumption is that a person doesn’t change their thinking or values when they grow up. The storyline in Man of Steel established that Clark spent several years wandering the earth outside of Kansas, including working on a fishing boat. That means he would have encountered other ways of life and lines of thinking besides what was accepted as normal in his hometown. That doesn’t mean his convictions would have necessarily changed, but when you see that other people live and think differently than you it changes your perspective on the world. I’m definitely speaking from personal experience, having grown up in a town where “diversity” meant that we had Catholics and Protestants, and then spending years in the liberal cocoon of a university campus, but I think it’s probably a truth about growing up everywhere, that at some point you have to re-examine the assumptions you’ve made and decide whether you still believe them.
What do you think? Am I being over-sensitive about a line that was meant as a joke?
Let me know in the comments if you noticed any other Kansas shout-outs that I missed. There was one other instance that I was afraid was going to become one, but was thankful when it didn’t. It was when Superman was fighting Zod’s female henchman, and she went on a little rant about how Kryptonians were more evolved than humans, so they deserved to take over the planet because “if history has proven anything, it is that evolution always wins.” The subtext is that teaching evolution in Kansas schools has been very controversial, but I was glad the movie didn’t actually make explicit reference to the fact that our state school board elections are national news by having Superman bounce up off the pavement and say something like “Well in Kansas, we’re not so sure about evolution!” I do wonder if there was an earlier version of the script where he did, though, because in the film he actually doesn’t respond verbally to her diatribe at all.
Anyway, I give the movie an A- for having so many great Kansas references, and the only reason it’s not an A+ is the tornado-sheltering-under-the-overpass scene. Maybe I’ll post my thoughts on the movie apart from the Kansas aspect later.