Posts tagged brisk pace
Have you ever reached the end of a book and felt completely confused about what happened? Maybe you had a hard time with one of those “classics” filled with symbolism that you were forced to read in school. I’m not talking about tomes like that though. Have you ever been totally befuddled by a modern, run-of-the-mill novel? If you still answered “No,” you’re lucky, because I can’t say the same after finishing Danie Ware’s sci-fi/fantasy tale “Ecko Rising.”
I can normally handle science fiction literature, but I’m not used to fantasy. At first I thought my inexperience with the genre is why I didn’t get “Ecko Rising.” However as a fairly intelligent person capable of processing complex concepts daily, that rationale didn’t make sense to me. I also wondered if I struggled because Ware’s novel is the first in an intended series. Perhaps I needed to read another one to grasp her yarn? That couldn’t be it either, since I’ve gone through other multi-volume story arcs and still understood the first book. After much thought, I deduced that the reason why I couldn’t comprehend “Ecko Rising” is that it’s just not well-written.
Ware herself is not a bad writer. I know that seems contradictory for me to say, so I’ll explain. She proves her talent with a creative premise, vivid prose, and a fast-paced narrative. Although she doesn’t explain many of the specialized terms that exist in her unique worlds, which is why “Ecko Rising” is confusing as heck. Characters in her story speak in bizarre dialects with weird slang and jargon that doesn’t get defined. Ware starts using these terms expecting you to somehow pick up their meaning based on their context, something that isn’t easy. A map at the front of the book gives you some frame of reference on places at least, but it doesn’t help that much.
Ware’s story focuses on Ecko, some sort of bionically enhanced assassin living in London. His gadgets allow him super strength, speed, and stealth that make him a force to be reckoned with. While on a mission, he blacks out and wakes up in a mysterious world with no technology, strange characters, monsters, and magic. As dark forces descend upon this peaceful land, it seems like Ecko is the only one who can save it. Is he dreaming? Is this place a virtual reality test for Ecko set up for someone’s amusement? Or scariest of all, is it real?
A testimonial on the back cover for “Ecko Rising” describes it as “The Matrix meets Game of Thrones…” which I think is a fairly accurate comparison. There’s this constant mind game going on with Ecko and the reader about whether his environment is a computer simulation just like “The Matrix.” And the fantasy elements combined with Ware’s multiple simultaneous storylines and intense sex scenes feel very much like “Game of Thrones.” Most of the erotic portions are titillating, however I could have done without the book’s messed up rape passage.
Ware’s locations that she constructs for “Ecko Rising” are fascinating places to inhabit, brought to life by descriptive language that is quite colorful, even if it has a tendency to be a bit repetitive. She always keeps the action moving at a brisk pace, intertwining several perspectives at the same time, which makes it easy to get through this 500-plus page novel. Unfortunately if you’re like me, you’ll reach the end, wondering what it was all about and why you stuck around.
My latest round of reviews features my thoughts on “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” and “Anna Karenina.”
Beasts of the Southern Wild
“Beasts of the Southern Wild” is another film from 2012 that earned tons of acclaim before I had a chance to see it. After I finally watched it, I understood why people enjoyed it; I just didn’t feel the same level of attachment. It deserves props however for being one of the most original tales I’ve seen in recent memory.
The movie is narrated by Hushpuppy (Quvenzhané Wallis), a precocious girl with a vivid imagination, who lives with her terminally-ill father Wink (Dwight Henry), in a fictional section the Louisiana bayou called The Bathtub. Although residents of The Bathtub live in poverty, they are rich in spirit. Children like Hushpuppy are taught in school that the only thing that matters is day-to-day survival. These teachings are put to use when a brutal hurricane tears through the area. A few people, including Wink and Hushpuppy have nowhere to go, so they attempt to stick it out on flooded terrain. Even after they’re forcibly evacuated by the government to a shelter, everyone escapes and runs back to their homes in The Bathtub.
With his first feature, writer/director Benh Zeitlin crafts a beautiful looking film that celebrates the grandeur of the movie’s Louisiana settings. He also gets you to realize a certain bizarre splendor in squalor of The Bathtub, something you don’t expect. Zeitlin’s excellent directing extends into the moving performances he coaxes out of untrained actors like Wallis and Henry. Wallis was only six-years-old when the film was shot, yet she performs complex narration and shows a wide range of emotions. Additionally Henry’s Wink is incredibly layered, and remarkably sympathetic; a delicate balance between a cruel, irresponsible father, and a loving one, doing the best that he can.
“Beasts of the Southern Wild” kept my attention, although ultimately I found its narration and daydreams about prehistoric creatures too abstract to fully engage me. Plus at times, the poverty shown in the film and the tragedies that befall its characters made me incredibly depressed. On the flip side, this misfortune helps to reveal strong statements about survival and the human spirit. While I liked these aspects about endurance and determination, I didn’t love this movie enough to want to watch it again.
My Grade: B
I’m not easily confused when it comes to movies, so if there’s one like Joe Wright’s “Anna Karenina” that quickly befuddles me, that’s a problem. For the first 10-15 minutes of Wright’s film, I had absolutely no idea what was going on. I didn’t want to blame the picture right away though. My first suspicion was that I was lost because I never read the Tolstoy classic that Wright’s film adapts. But then I realized there surely would be other people watching it in the same situation, and that the movie needed to clue us in somehow. That’s when I came to the conclusion that Wright’s method of storytelling was keeping me from processing everything properly.
“Anna Karenina” starts off at such a brisk pace that it barely allows you time for one scene to sink in before it jumps to the next. As a result, it’s difficult to figure out who the characters are and how they relate to one another. After a few minutes you start to grasp the major players and their motivations, however you never really feel a chance to connect with them because you’re primarily focused on the film’s main visual conceit happening around them. Wright blends cinematic elements with those of theater, setting the story up as a pseudo play, using a stage to frame much of the action. In the beginning he leans very heavily on this trick. Every scene appears to be a single shot, strung together as set pieces around the characters shift to create new surroundings. It’s actually pretty cool for the first few minutes, but it doesn’t take long for it to grow old.
Unfortunately “Anna Karenina” is one of those movies where style trumps substance. Wright seems most concerned about creating a vibrant period piece with elaborate set pieces, grand costumes, and detailed choreography. While all the spectacle is fascinating, it distracts you from the story, the characters, and the performances of the actors. How were the performances? I don’t even remember. Even love scenes which should be intimate, steamy conversation with the viewer take on a ridiculous quality with all of Wright’s odd camera spinning and random shots of body parts. If I can’t tell what parts belong to each character, you’re doing it all wrong. Mr. Wright, you lost me at hello with “Anna Karenina.”
My Grade: C