Film Review | Fantastic Four (2015)

fantastic four movie review 2015 fant4stic josh trank michael m jordan miles teller jamie bell kate mara fox marvel mcu

Hmm.

Okay. So. At the minute, this movie is on something like 9% on Rotten Tomatoes. (Wait, no, I just checked. Actually, it’s 8%.) The general consensus that the movie is “Dull and downbeat, this Fantastic Four proves a woefully misguided attempt to translate a classic comic series without the humor, joy, or colorful thrills that made it great.”

And, so, I thought that was a shame. Because I’ve been defending the movie for ages – whenever someone would complain about the trailer, I’d say that I actually thought it looked quite good (I did) and that it was probably too early to make any pre-judgments (it was). But that obviously became increasingly more difficult to maintain, especially as all the news of the troubled production came out. By the time Miles Teller was making excuses for the movies poor reviews, I’d essentially given up on it.

Thus I decided to go and watch it and basically just mock it. Mean spirited, I guess. But it’s kinda fun to sit and make jokes while watching bad movies – that’s why things like Sharknado exist. I was all set for a pretty awful movie, essentially.

So imagine my surprise when I actually really enjoyed it.

And I do mean I really, really enjoyed it. I thought it was excellent. The body horror angle was something that’s not really been explored before in the recent glut of Superhero movies (at least, not that I can think of) and I found that really interesting – beyond Ben Grimm’s general sort of “gosh it sure does suck to be a rock”, I’d never really thought about how scary and different it would be for these four people. It was an aspect that I genuinely believed worked really well, and I think they did an alright job of giving each character different reactions to it.

Obviously, it was not perfect. It was muddled in places, and I think the resolution was a little rushed. They had quite a few good character moments, I think, but they definitely needed quite a few more – I don’t think Reed and Ben ever really finished their arc, for example, and Sue definitely could have had her role increased. There just needed to be a little bit more to it – it’d have been nice to fill that “one year later” gap, rather than skipping right over it. (Also! At the beginning, when we see them as kids, Ben should have said “I want to be the second man to travel to a different dimension”, and that’s the beginning of their friendship.) You could tell that the actual production had been rushed; I think maybe the script needed another pass (if you never brought anything back, Sue, how did you have that extra dimensional dust?) and I do wonder how the film worked before the final last minute excisions were made.

Certainly, the “One Year Later” cut should have been reworked – given that the body horror aspect is reliant on their reactions to the changes they went through, I think it’s self evident that we needed to see more of their reactions to their powers. The initial fear was was well done, and I didn’t even have that much problem with the way they were shown to feel after the time jump, but I think the movie would have been a lot stronger had we seen the transition from point A to point B.

Overall, though, I think it’d give it, say, a 7/10, maybe? Possibly I could be lead to give it a higher mark, actually. Really, I thought it was that good…

…to the point that I’m actually questioning all the other reviews. Because I can understand hardcore fans of the comics taking issue with the movie – it is a very different angle from which to interpret the source material, and I know that a lot of comic fans wouldn’t be interested in that sort of thing. Equally though, a lot of them would, simply because it’s new and different and often there are merits to that sort of thing. More to the point, I’m surprised that so many casual movie goers and critics are reacting against this – in theory, it’s tailored quite well to them, given that it’s got some key differences to the majority of other superhero movies. It seems directly tailored to combat that idea of super hero movie fatigue that everyone drags out every so often.

Presumably for a lot of people this is their Man of Steel – a movie I totally and utterly hated, because I felt like it was just… well, bad. It didn’t feel like a Superman movie to me. It came across as poorly written and – well, actually, I’d say it matches up to this fairly well: “Dull and downbeat, this Fantastic Four proves a woefully misguided attempt to translate a classic comic series without the humor, joy, or colorful thrills that made it great.” Except, y’know, Man of Steel rather than Fantastic Four.

But I felt like this worked. I mean, my Fantastic Four knowledge is about the same as my Superman knowledge, and I’m probably better acquainted with those characters than I am with Superman. Broadly I felt like they were better served by this film than Superman was by Man of Steel.

Man of Steel, though, was controversial at least. There are enough people on either side of the debate that it’s still going on. But with Fantastic Four, there isn’t even a debate.

All of which is leading me to think that maybe my personal taste is a weird and idiosyncratic thing. (After all, Cars 2 is the only movie I’ve ever enjoyed enough to watch in the cinema twice.)

So, to sum up. Fantastic Four had a lot of genuinely very interesting ideas in play, and I think it needs to get a lot more credit for those ideas than it has so far. It was not perfect, and I think had it had a longer development time, then it would likely have come out as an overall stronger movie. As it is, though, I enjoyed it a lot, and it deserves a far better reputation than it has.

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Doctor Who Book Review: The Witch Hunters

doctor who first doctor witch hunters steve lyons review history collection cover hd

As part of the new History Collection series, the BBC has reprinted one of the old first Doctor PDAs – The Witch Hunters, featuring the original TARDIS crew arriving in Salem, 1692, at the time of the infamous witch trials.

The Salem Witch Trials is, actually, a period of history I’m relatively familiar with – or at least, I’m familiar with The Crucible, having spent probably too much time studying it over the past two years. It was pretty weird, then, to see characters like Abigail Williams and John Proctor and Rebecca Nurse interacting with Susan, Ian, and the Doctor. (Obviously, I know that they were real people, but having treated them as essentially fictionalised versions of themselves for so long, there’s something of a disconnect for me.)

I think the novel works quite well, actually, in terms of the way it’s structured, and how each character is used. The role given to Susan stood out to me; it made a lot of sense to have her play off against the other girls her own age, particularly with the exploration of Susan’s own developing psychic abilities. Rebecca Nurse and the Doctor also had a rather interesting plotline, with a resolution that put me somewhat in mind of Vincent and the Doctor.

(Actually, I tell you what it really reminded me of in places – this story I wrote, also with Ian, Barbara, Susan and the Doctor, in a timey-wimey historical adventure.  Obvious similarities – historical with the original TARDIS crew with a changing of time aspect, but also both I and Steve Lyons alluded to a previous event wherein the Doctor learned the hard way about changing time, and gave Susan similar ish plot beats about how she’d feel if Ian/Barbara left. The main difference is that in my story, they succeed in changing time, as opposed to being unable to in The Witchhunters.)

All in all, then, I’d actually quite strongly recommend this book. You might not get the same level of enjoyment out of it as I did if you don’t have the same background understanding of The Crucible, but there’s still a lot to like – it’s a very well written historical with the original TARDIS crew, after all.

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TV Trailer Thoughts | Gotham Season 2

gotham season 2 jim gordon harvey bullock penguin oswald fox batman trailer reaction hd

So, new trailer for Gotham!

I didn’t actually talk that much about Gotham on the blog, despite the fact I was actually watching it each week. I quite enjoyed it, for what it was – obviously, it wasn’t perfect, and it was quite rocky in places, but I’m typically willing to forgive a lot when the show is in its first season. It had a largely interesting overarching plot, even if sometimes the individual episodes were lacking; Gordon and Bullock were also pretty good leads, I thought. (Plus, it was nice to watch it as a sort-of prequel to Arrow and The Flash, taking place in the 90s before those other shows began. I have thought of two or three different ways to set up a crossover on there, so, if the CW or Fox is reading, call me.)

So, anyway, I’ll definitely be watching the next series of Gotham. But looking at this trailer, I worry that it’s going to exemplify most of the issues I had with the previous series.

It’s been pointed out by a lot of people already, but it’s still worth a mention – it’s a little odd to position this show as a Batman prequel, yet still depict a set of villains who would, presumably, be fighting Batman later on. It throws up some weird questions about the age of them, for one thing, but actually does something that is much more likely to be a problem for the show long term – we, the audience, know that Jim Gordon is forever fighting a losing battle.

Gordon is never going to win. He’s never going to defeat the bad guys. Even if he sorts out the mob, the masked lunatics will take over. This is essentially always going to be a show about one man making a futile gesture. He’s staring into the abyss, trying not to be swallowed by it, but he can never ever combat it.

That suggests, to me, that we’re going to end up with a worryingly pessimistic and bleak show, that doesn’t really have a legs as a longrunner – I’m not sure if we’ll ever see a fourth season of Gotham, because there’s only so many times we can see our protagonist lose completely.

(Unless, of course, they make a big departure from the canon. Which doesn’t actually bother me, to be honest [I think the best ending for a Fantastic Four trilogy of movies is them being cured of their powers] but often these comic based properties live or die based on the reception of their fans [see again Fantastic Four]. So, who knows with that one.)

Also! Another tentative one. I’m not so keen on the idea of showing one explicit Joker. The only villain I’m not so keen on appearing on the show is the Joker, because he feels specifically and explicitly like someone tied very closely to Batman, not Jim Gordon. That was also why I liked their suggested idea of depicting lots of different potential Jokers across the series, but they appear to have abandoned that fairly quick – I can only think of two characters other than Jerome who might have been Jerome, and they didn’t receive anywhere near the level of focus Jerome did in his own episode. It’s a shame, but not the end of the world, because the Jerome character is still a pretty good one, if a tad underwhelming.

Still. Despite all that, I do have confidence that Gotham can give us a second series that surpasses it’s first. Looking forward to watching it on… well, whenever the UK airdate ends up being.

On Hitman: Agent 47, movie trailers, and spoilers

hitman agent 47 movie trailer spoilers why ruin film zachary quinto review aleksander bach skip woods rupert friend hannah ware

So, I was at the cinema yesterday, and I saw the trailer for this film. ‘Tis based on a video game, but I must confess, I’d never actually heard of it before. I’m not really big on video games, to be honest. Really not particularly good at them. Often lose. (I’ve gotten quite good at Tetris, though.)

Anyway, though, the trailer for this film came up, and it looked pretty good to me. Not necessarily the sort of thing I’d watch in the cinema, but if ever it was on TV, I’d probably look into it – action movies about hypercompetent people tend to have potential, I think, and from the trailer it looked cool enough. I quite liked the opening scene, and Zachary Quinto was in it, who’s an actor I typically tend to like. So, yeah, that alone was enough to pique my interest.

But! The trailer then continued, and imparted some more information about the plot to me. And I found that quite interesting, actually. Because up until that point, it looked like our Agent 47 fellow could be broadly termed as the bad guy, and Zachary Quinto as the good guy. Except that’s not the case – there’s a twist!

Quinto is in fact a government agent type with nefarious schemes, and Agent 47 is trying to stop him. The woman it seems like he’s trying to kill isn’t an innocent woman, but is in fact another Agent (number 46?) who was raised with him and just doesn’t remember. Something like that.

It surprised me, though, and it really made me think about the current debate about spoilers in movie trailers. This is, obviously, the sort of thing that will probably be framed as a twist in the actual movie. Which makes sense – the person you thought was the bad guy is infact the good guy, and indeed vice versa. It makes sense for that to be a twist. And yet, here it is, laid to bare.

Which is an odd thing, I think. I mean, it;s not impossible to create a trailer without that reveal – because, look, they actually have. When I was searching for the link to the above trailer, I found this other one, which preserves the twist, and offers a level of set up that could still intrigue someone. Perhaps the studio weren’t particularly confident in the trailer as it was?

A comparison that sort of jumps out at me is Marvel movies, particularly The Winter Soldier. Here’s the trailer for that one. Interestingly, none of the three major twists are present in the trailer. Well, I say interestingly, I mean appropriately. Even the one that isn’t really a twist, and would have been spoiled fairly frequently beforehand, given that it actually comes from the comics – the identity of the Winter Soldier, that is.

I mean, I jumped to that comparison because, arguably, they’re in the same place as adaptations – someone is going to know the plot, and indeed how it ends, before they see the film. The Winter Soldier maybe wasn’t the best example given that it didn’t adapt a specific story – maybe a book is more accurate? Books feel a little too high profile, though, and I assume this particular film is going to reach a far wider audience than the video game did.

This is a little rambling, I suppose, given that I don’t actually have an new or interesting insights – I can’t explain exactly why Fox decided to put the reveal in the trailer, nor do I have any argument beyond “spoilers in trailers are bad”. I mean, I have a bit of a case-by-case view of spoilers – a lot of the time, knowing the ending doesn’t matter, because it’s how they get from A to B where the story is. I kinda feel, though, that in the case of this particular spoiler, it’s revealed far more than necessary – I’m a lot less likely to watch this movie, now, because I think I can more or less guess the plot with a fair degree of accuracy, and action scenes aren’t always the most interesting things on their own anyway.

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On Young Justice, comic books, and the merits of adaptations

young justice end game wallpaper hd wally west miss martian robin superboy connor kent cartoon dc outsiders

So, I happened to catch an episode of Young Justice the other morning, which is a DC cartoon, in case you were unaware, and it made me realise why I actually enjoy adaptations – movies, TV shows, cartoons – ahead of the actual comic books.

I really like the characters and the concepts from DC and Marvel – the Flash, Green Lantern, Superman, Batman, Captain America, Iron Man, Ant-Man and so on and so forth – but I’m not all that sold on comics as a medium. They’re really too expensive, given the fact they don’t tell complete stories, and the time I’d spend reading them doesn’t really justify the price. On top of that, you’ve got a fairly messy continuity, full of retcons and reboots, and a method of storytelling that means you’re never exactly going to see any permanent, long lasting change or growth. Beyond the occasional collected edition, I’ve never really collected comics, and I doubt I ever will.

With the adaptations, though, none of those constraints apply. The characters and concepts can be taken and reimagined, readjusted, and reapplied, all to create a new story. There’s one consistent storyline, and the characters can grow and change and develop throughout.

The MCU movies have never adapted a specific comic in the way you might adapt a book, but there’s clear inspiration and influence from a lot of different storylines, which I think has been to its advantage. The Flash has created its own continuity, it’s own version of different characters, ones we can see in new stories each week. Young Justice did much the same, as have all the cartoons, each one offering something new – taking the entirety of the DC universe, and weaving it together in such a way that you see each character and concept complement each other.

Now, that’s not to say that comics, as a medium, are lesser than the adaptations they spawn; there are things you can do in comics that you couldn’t on TV, and vice versa. You should, of course, always remember where these things originate, after all.

But, personally, I think there are real, definable benefits to the way you can tell stories in the adaptations rather than the comics themselves.

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5 Things I want to see from The Flash Season 2

the flash 5 things I want to see from season 2 music meister rogues iris west candice patton grant gustin reverse flash tom cavanagh

So, I’ve noticed a fair few of these lists going around, and I figured I’d join in, for a bit of fun. I really enjoyed the last series of The Flash, but that’s not to say I don’t have a few things in mind that could be nice additions…

5). New heroes and villains

the flash arrow superhero fight club villains rogues captain cold malcolm merlyn reverse flash ras al ghul heatwave

One of the really nice things about The Flash was the incremental build up of more heroes and villains – Wentworth Miller was a particular highlight, I’ve got to say, as was Andy Mientus as Pied Piper. (Fun fact: At one stage, he was considered for the role of Barry Allen).

Anyway, it’d be great to see a few more characters from the comics turning up, both to expand the Rogues gallery (one great thing about the Rogues is that they provide a group of villains for Barry to face all at once; it goes some way towards explaining why super speed isn’t quite enough to solve every problem), as well as to see more heroes.

This one, actually, it looks like I might get – if you’ve been following the casting announcements, you can see we’ve got Hawkman, Wally West, Jay Garrick, Atom Smasher, Lewis Snart, and so on and so forth. Shaping up to be a pretty great series!

4). A musical episode

batman music meister neil patrick harris black canary the flash supergirl musical episode

I know, I know, it’s a little cliche. But hear me out: the Buffy musical episode worked really, really well.

That’s actually the extent of the argument, I suppose, but it’s also worth noting that quite a few of the cast have done stints on Broadway, and Grant Gustin was on Glee, so quite a few of them do have the skill to sing…

Besides, in a series of 24 episodes, it’s more or less inevitable that some of them would end up being filler, freak-of-the-week episodes. Why not use one of those episodes for something a little more memorable? (With Neil Patrick Harris as the Music Meister, no less…) 

3). The return of Eobard Thawne

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I wrote a little bit about this a while ago, actually.  Tom Cavanagh as Harrison Wells, Eobard Thawne, and the Reverse Flash was, consistently, one of the highlights of each episode. He’s an excellent actor, and I’m really looking forward to seeing him return – hopefully not just as Harrison Wells, or an alternate universe version of any of his previous roles.

The relationship between Barry and Wells has really provided the backbone of the show thus far, and I think there’s still a huge amount left to be explored, as I described in the above link.

(In fact, I will admit I’m a little worried about Zoom, who appears to be the main villain for this series. Whilst his identity seems obvious from the outset, I do worry he might end up being too similar to the Reverse Flash, and lead to the whole thing feeling a tad repetitive. But, then again, I can already think of a couple of ways in which they’d make it distinct, so maybe that’s a non issue)

2). Increased interaction between Joe and Iris

the flash joe west iris west jesse l martin candice patton grant gustin cw

Barry and Joe’s relationship was one that was particularly well fleshed out throughout the series; the pair of them had a huge number of scenes together, and you got to see their relationship in a number of different lights. You’ve got them joking around together, giving each other advice, supporting each other, and, indeed, demonstrating their bond with each other.

It’s a bit of a shame, then, that this wasn’t so much the case with Joe and Iris, particular when Iris’ character wasn’t always best served by the narrative. Understandably (if not correctly) Iris shared far more scenes with Barry and Eddie, so as to develop the love triangle aspect – it would have been nice, however, if her own relationship with Joe had been developed alongside and contrasted with that of Joe and Barry. Especially after a season in which much of her role was defined by what she didn’t know, and by the other characters lying to her, it’d be great to see the ramifications of this explored in a little more detail, and seeing Iris with more independence.

I’d like to see more of Iris in general, actually, acting on her own, with the S.T.A.R Labs crew, and with her own supporting cast (Linda Park, Kyle Rayner, and Wally West) based at the Central City Gazette. Iris should be written, essentially, as the sort of character who could carry her own show; if it wasn’t for Barry Allen, we’d be seeing a show about Iris West, journalist extraordinaire, finding her feet in an entirely changed world. An Iris-centric episode or two wouldn’t go amiss either – you could do Turn Left, Blink, or even Love & Monsters style episodes with relative ease.

1). A distinct journey

the flash star labs danielle panabaker carlos valdez harrison wells season 2 season 5 cw greg berlanti

I actually had this down as “the same sense of fun”, at first, but then I realised we were almost guaranteed to have that, so I decided to go for something a little bit different – which, admittedly, we did still get in season one.

Now, the structure of most American television – 20+ episodes per season – means that you often end up with filler episodes, or freak-of-the-week plots. Done-in-one runarounds where everything is solved by the end of the episode, and nothing has really changed for the characters by the roll of the credits. I don’t think this format should be eschewed completely, because there is actually something quite satisfying about seeing a full story each week, and because freak-of-the-week stories can be used to provide some useful character development by seeing reactions to different stimuli (I always thought House did this well, showing the team’s different reactions to the patients and their personal lives), but…

Something I liked about season one of The Flash is that it can be broken down, more or less, into phases. You’ve got Barry finding out about his powers, then finding out about the Reverse Flash, looking for the Reverse Flash, dealing with Firestorm, discovering the identity of the Reverse Flash, and eventually fighting against him.

Each “bloc” or “phase” changes the situation for the characters, and forces them to do things in a new way – like, for example, when they can no longer rely on S.T.A.R labs, because they know Doctor Wells can’t be trusted. That was an aspect I felt worked quite well.

Essentially, I want an arc across the season, keeping things fresh, and never quite letting anything be settled for too long; it can really help to push the characters in new directions, and make sure the show is in a properly different place by the end of the season.

So! What do you think?

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Doctor Who: no new series in 2016?

doctor who peter capaldi shh 2016 series 9 private eye rumour steven moffat chris chibnall

Have you heard the latest Private Eye rumours? 

The BBC doesn’t want Moffat to leave Doctor Who or Sherlock, apparently, so to give him a slightly more humane and manageable schedule, Doctor Who in 2016 will be a series of specials, a la 2009. Which is interesting. There’s all sorts of other things floating around really – Moffat is booked in until 2020, apparently, and also the only person the BBC would want to replace him is Chibnall, presumably off of the back of Broadchurch, except Chibnall isn’t interested, so Moffat stays. (That is really just speculation, for the record. And not on my part, either; just rumours that hav been floating around)

Which is… well, a lot of that sounds a bit far fetched (if it’s true, I’m fairly surprised that Gatiss didn’t even get a look in) but I can believe the 2016 specials thing. Which… ehh, I’m not too fussed. I can see them taking the opportunity to try and play around with the format a little bit – maybe it’d be a Children of Earth style five day event, or maybe they’d have five 75 minute episodes or something. It could work, to treat Doctor Who as more of an event like that – especially since everything since Day of the Doctor has been done with one eye on a cinema screening! The only major worry is that it’d essentially limit the amount of time we’d have with Peter Capaldi. If he only does three years, and one of them is a set of specials… or, if they transition to the new format, maybe the schedule would be less gruelling, and he’d be willing to stay for longer?

It occurs to me that I’m actually okay with all of this, bar a few worries for Moffat – it’s good to give him a more human schedule, but honestly, I always assumed that if it came down to it, he’d choose Sherlock. That seems like the obvious choice – he’s always been keenly aware of the fact that Doctor Who existed before him, and actively wants it to exist after him.

(I find it ironic, actually, that there was talk about just ending Doctor Who with The End of Time? The Powers that Be were unconvinced it could work with Moffat and Smith. Which is understandable, I suppose – they hadn’t brought back Doctor Who, they’d brought back RTD’s Doctor Who. So transitioning to Moffat’s Who was a risk. Now, of course, it’s reached a point where seemingly transitioning away from Moffat’s Who is a risk – because all the work he’s done to allow the show to stand on its own legs makes him seem irreplaceable!)

But, anyway, that’s why he went on to do so much promotion, and try to really make the show take off in America, and things like that. Because he was trying to ensure the show could survive after him. And now, I suppose, he’s shot himself in the foot, because they think it can’t survive without him!)

Ultimately though… I’m actually optimistic about this. Because this going to give Doctor Who a chance to shake up its format a little bit, and maybe come back with something a little newer, a little fresher, and a little more innovative.

Isn’t that what Doctor Who is all about?

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Film Trailer Thoughts | Deadpool (2016)

deadpool trailer reaction marvel ryan reynolds david leitch tim miller

Hmm okay.

I don’t actually exactly know why I’m posting about this, because apart from being thinly connected to superheroes, this isn’t really a movie I’d typically be interested in. Never really been into Deadpool, but I’m aware of the basic concept. Not exactly a fan of the humour on display, nor one for overly violent films. Maybe everything I’m about to say now is going to be based on a total misunderstanding of the character, or just my tastes not really intersecting with what the character is.

Basically, though, it doesn’t look very good to me. Schlocky violence, whilst not my thing, is pretty easily justified, but it’s the jokes that stood out more to me. As I understand it, Deadpool is meant to be a fairly funny character, and part of the humour comes from meta references. And, you know, fine – that sort of “not green or animated” joke is probably the sort of thing I am the target for, given that I’ll understand it, and I’m already broadly inclined to like self referential humour. The worry was, though, that they’re simply setting themselves up for a pretty niche market, because if the film gets bogged down in that sort of thing, it’s not going to be accessible for many people.

I guess… essentially it’s meant to be a comedic deconstruction of comic book movies, with added violence, but the comedy comes from self referential humour and puerile sex jokes. That seems to be it, then.

But it’s probably unfair of me to just judge it by the trailer like that though. This isn’t the plot trailer, it’s the “introduce people to the character” trailer. (Though, you know, involved nerd jokes, violence and sex references seems to be the extent of the character as is set up…) It’s almost certain there’s going to be more going on in the rest of the film, obviously.

This is probably a film that is going to be really well recieved by a specific audience (Deadpool fans), have an okay ish reception from everyone else, and probably make back it’s money, but not enough to be considered majorly profitable.

Still, I could be wrong. And here’s hoping I am – it’s always nice to have more good movies.

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A few idiosyncratic observations from my Great American Adventure

america boston massachussetts

I have spent this previous week in the American city of Boston! (Not, as I learned, the American state of Boston. Boston is the city, and Massachusetts is the State.) ‘Twas an enjoyable trip, in fact, and I have decided to blog about it, in the classic format of… a list.

  • It’s really, really hot over there. Like, gosh. That was something I struggled with.
  • Huge amounts of flags, aren’t there? I counted approximately 220 while I was over there. Never seen that many Union flags here. Come to think of it, actually, I saw more Union flags over there than I have across several years here. (Union rather Union Jack because it wasn’t flying at sea)
  • Airport security was surprisingly strict. I got a pat down search on my way out of the UK, and that was a bit out of the norm for me – then in America they took fingerprints and mugshots. That was a bit of a shock.
  • The street signs have a red-light hand to say ‘don’t walk’, which i find acceptable – but the sign to walk was a white-light man, rather than a green one like in the UK. This is probably the most inconsequential of all my observations, but I prefer green, to be honest.
  • So many Starbucks’. I was expecting the predominant chain store to be something like McDonald’s (I went there; they did not ask if I wanted it supersized), but no, it was Starbucks, followed by Dunkin Donuts. (Krispy Kreme is still superior)
  • Lots of parks! All these lovely great big open green spaces. If it wasn’t so hot, I might have been more inclined to spend time in those green spaces. Still, it was nice to sit on the benches and look at all the statues. (Why are there so many statues?)
  • I went to MIT, and also to Harvard. Harvard had nicer grounds, but MIT is probably a better tourist attraction, because you can actually go in it and look around the college.
  • There was also, rather wonderfully, free performances of King Lear in Boston Common. They’re doing those until the 9th, so if anyone here is in Boston, give that a look. Make sure you sit near the front though, it’s quite difficult to follow if you’re far away.
  • On books, the covers don’t reach the end of the page. That was weird and irritating.

All in all, though, ‘twas a nice place.

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Book Review | Elementary: The Ghost Line (by Adam Christopher)

elementary the ghost line adam christopher book review blood and ink season 1 lucy liu johnny lee miller sherlock holmes

I really love Elementary. So, when I found out that there was an Elementary tie-in novel, I bought it pretty much straight away. I think maybe there was about 5 minutes between reading about it on reddit (“Cover for second Elementary tie in novel… wait… that means there’s a first…”) and then opening up my amazon account and placing an order.

Cut to several weeks later, and I’ve finally managed to start reading The Ghost Line, by Adam Christopher. I finished it yesterday, in fact, and it’s a very, very good book. Here’s the synopsis:

A summons to a bullet-riddled body in a Hell’s Kitchen apartment marks the start of a new case for consulting detectives Sherlock Holmes and Joan Watson. The victim is a subway train driver with a hidden stash of money and a strange Colombian connection, but why would someone kill him and leave a fortune behind?

The search for the truth will lead the sleuths deep into the hidden underground tunnels beneath New York City, where answers — and more bodies — may well await them…

It is, perhaps, a bit of an odd sounding idea – a tie-in novel based on a TV show that is based on a character who originally comes from a series of novels. I did at first wonder if maybe this would be structured as though it were a Conan Doyle novel – first person from Watson’s perspective – but it is in fact, quite rightly, Elementary to a tee.

The Ghost Line genuinely feels like an episode of Elementary we never saw; it follows all the structural cues of the episodes, with the pre-titles murder, an unceremonious wake up from Sherlock, and a simple homicide that leads to a much larger plot. The portrayals of all the characters are dead on (Gregson, Bell, and Alfredo all appear), but I feel the need to single out Sherlock and Joan, because the writing here absolutely matches the performance of Jonny Lee Miller and Lucy Liu. You can genuinely hear them saying the dialogue throughout – I would go as far as to say that of all the tie-in fiction I’ve read (which is a not inconsiderable amount, with Doctor Who, Star Trek, Star Wars, Primeval amongst them) that Adam Christopher captured the characters he was writing better than anyone else. Or I got a very strange case of Elementary specific tinnitus while I was reading the book.

Something I particularly enjoyed was a focus on Watson’s, rather than Holmes’, deductions. Often it’s difficult to get Sherlock’s deductions right (even Conan Doyle had trouble!) and although we do see a few of those here, much of the deductions come from Watson – something I really enjoyed, because it fits in with Elementary’s general theme of Watson learning to become a consulting detective, and indeed becoming one. It’s great stuff.

There’s plenty of references to the Conan Doyle novels throughout – there’s Sherlock shooting, rather than stabbing, a pig to conduct an experiment, as well as a reappearance of the Blue Carbuncle itself. It also builds on some things that have already been established in Elementary, like Sherlock’s interest in the tunnels beneath London, and the fact that Sherlock has already been involved in the recovery of the Blue Carbuncle before. It is very clear, throughout, that Adam Christopher really loves Elementary.

(Rather fantastically, there’s also references to Batman, and to Doctor Who. I shan’t point them out, because part of the fun was spotting them, but I will say that I was genuinely pretty surprised by one of the most obscure Doctor Who references I’ve ever seen; Sherlock appears to have worked for a particular organisation who were part of the Virgin New Adventures! [And also Time Flight, I’ve since learned] That’s so obscure I was tempted to write it off as me picking up on things that weren’t there, but Adam Christopher is a fan, so…)

All in all, then, this is a fantastic book. There’s very strong prose throughout, an inventive plot, wonderfully drawn characters, and I learned quite a lot about the tunnels beneath New York.

I’d definitely recommend this for fans of Elementary, and I’m really looking forward to the next novel, Blood and Ink.

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