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Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Editorial: Best Trailers of SDCC 2017 (or the ones we liked the most, anyway)

Editorial: Best Trailers of SDCC 2017
(or the ones we liked the most, anyway).

Justice League.

I absolutely shouldn't be excited for Justice League. Snyder is a provably bad director and it will definitely be a total mess.

But, man, I really am. I'm happy to see more Wonder Woman, and the Flash, Aquaman, and Cyborg all look like a lot of fun. I'm even happy to see Affleck's Batman back, since he's definitely not the worst Batman we've ever had (Christian Bale's Batman takes that title). Steppenwolf is a pretty obscure villain, but I like seeing films give obscure villains a bigger profile.

Most of all, though, it just looks like fun. I'm not expecting it to be a particularly deep film, but I am expecting it to be an enjoyable romp, which is really all I need from a superhero film.

Once Upon A Time.

Oh, man. This is going to be a mess.

The new series of Once Upon A Time -- focusing on a grown up Henry as the main character, but confirmed to at least include Regina, Gold, and Hook (although Jennifer Morrison, and by extension Emma, seems to have left for greener pastures) -- is apparently offering a new curse, a new tone, many new characters, and the reveal that there is an infinite number of parallel fairytale universes, each with their own fairytale casts.

Because that's definitely what this show needs: Infinitely recursive versions of all of its characters, taking an already tangled and overly convoluted show and elevating it to Type-Moon levels of bizarro world complexity.

Time will tell if this series will be fun to watch, but obviously it's not going to be good -- it will, at the very most, be entertainingly terrible.

The Flash, Supergirl, and Legends of Tomorrow.

These three (sans Arrow, which just wasn't very good, and Black Lightning, which was really just a trailer for the entire rest of the Arrowverse) are getting lumped together as one item, not just because they're all part of the same strand of shows, but also because they're all very similar.

Each one seems to be drawing footage mostly from their first few episodes, and determinedly not giving much away about the plots of their respective series, instead focusing on the character fallout from the bombshells at the end of their previous series -- Barry joining the Speed Force, Mon-El leaving (please don't let him return), and the Legends breaking time (which doesn't seem to be affecting any other series).

The emphasis in each one is different: Supergirl is focusing primarily on Kara's pain, The Flash on getting Barry back (with it left unclear if they do in that first episode or if Wally's going to don the suit), while Legends is basically all hijinks, but they're all fun to watch, and they all set us up pretty well for when those shows return in October.

Star Trek: Discovery.

Words cannot describe how excited I am for Star Trek: Discovery, and the new trailer at SDCC, which gives us some pretty hefty plot details involving Klingons, a mysterious alien inside a sarcophagus, and Harcourt Fenton Mudd (seemingly), has only made me more excited.

In many ways, the aesthetic and tone of the series seem to be a pretty drastic departure from the norm for Star Trek, but I'm pretty okay with that, to be honest, especially as it looks like it should be amazing, with a great cast, a great plot, and some really stunning production values.

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Fate/Apocrypha E4: Price of Life, Redemption of Death

Episode 4
Price of Life, Redemption of Death.

Hello, naughty children, it's time to discuss stakes, and how they create conflict in a story. Specifically, it's time to discuss how Fate/Apocrypha has no stakes, even four episodes -- nearly a fifth -- in.

Usually, a piece of fiction establishes stakes by endearing the audience to a character or several and then either threatening their status quo, or giving them a difficult to achieve goal (or both). Different things achieve this in different ways: A horror might single out just a small number of people in its cast as audience surrogates, but then create stakes through tricks of atmosphere to make the audience themselves feel under threat ('I hope the characters are successful because I'll see something unpleasant if they aren't,'); a series like Game of Thrones endears us to a small group of characters -- the Starks and Daenerys -- and then uses them to expand its roster of characters the audience is invested in, allowing it to spread the action over a greater number of viewpoints while maintaining stakes; a more focused show like Doctor Who will typically focus the stakes on what the companion has to lose or gain in each individual episode.

Fate/Apocrypha hits a crucial moment in this fourth episode as it has its first death, when Siegfried, the Saber of Black, sacrifices himself to save someone else. A character dying tests how invested your audience is in the stakes of your story, because in order to get the most out of a character death, and truly yank on your audience's heartstrings, you need them to be invested in the character dying, the characters close to the dying character, and the stakes of the story and how they'll be affected by that character death.

Fate/Apocrypha fails on all three counts.

Monday, 24 July 2017

Game of Thrones S7E2: Stormborn

Game of Thrones
Series 7, Episode 2

This episode could probably just as easily have been called 'people discuss forming and/or not forming alliances,' because honestly, alliances and people pondering them really are the bread and butter of this episode. People considering alliances, people struggling with alliances they have, people breaking alliances, pirate attacks, people forming informal alliances, and people encountering alliances and failing to form alliances with those alliances.

In another series, that probably wouldn't work that well, but Game of Thrones has its particular structure and way of pacing: Politicking (interspersed with small fights) leading up to big battles leading to a changed status quo leading to more politicking and so on and so forth, and the fun of watching comes in large part from seeing who teams up with who and how different agendas and failings within specific alliances cause those team-ups to start breaking down. Its slowest series have often been its slowest because they've lacked those elements.

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

No Post Today.

Hey, guys, just a quick note to say there'll be neither a post today nor a Let's Play part.

I don't know quite when we'll be back, but I'm going to aim for Monday for blog posts at the absolute latest, and tomorrow for Let's Plays.

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Fate/Apocrypha E3: The First Steps of Fate

Episode 3
The First Steps of Fate.

Joy of joys, stuff actually happens in this episode! A moderate amount of stuff, at the very least, which is more than can be said for the first two episodes. Having been almost ready to start considering dropping this series altogether, actually having action and plot progression and conflict was a welcome relief.

Picking up some time after the second episode, this episode sees the Black Faction thrown into crisis when one of Avicebron's homunculi uses magic to escape his tank, being taken in by Astolfo and Chiron, who realise the homunculi only has three years to live at the very most. Meanwhile, Jeanne, the Ruler servant tasked with overseeing the war, arrives in Trifas, only to immediately be attacked by Lancer of Red, acting on Shirou's orders, resulting in a battle between Lancer of Red and Siegfried, the Saber of Black. Meanwhile, the Black Faction Masters discuss with their Servants what it is they want to wish for.

Monday, 17 July 2017

Game of Thrones S7E1: Dragonstone

Game of Thrones
Series 7, Episode 1

So, after a longer wait than usual (for a shorter than usual series, weighing in at seven episodes compared to the usual ten, although the last two will apparently be longer than normal to partly make up for this), Game of Thrones, still far and away one of the most popular shows on television, has returned.

When the last series ended, we were looking at four monarchs due to clash against each other: Cersei, now queen after Tommen's suicide, ruling from King's Landing; Daenerys on her way to Westeros with Tyrion and Varys at her side, Tyrell and Dornish support, and an army of Dothraki; Jon as King in the North, ruling out of Westeros; and the Night King leading the White Walkers and the dead to assault or otherwise cross the wall. This episode is, unsurprisingly, mostly clash-free, being focused more on setting up the world state and setting the stakes for episodes to follow, but it does so with aplomb.

Saturday, 15 July 2017

What We're Watching 15/7/17

What We're Watching

Jikan no Shihaisha.

I picked up Jikan no Shihaisha on a whim a few days after its first episode aired, and was astounded to see exactly how much its first episode was, in essence, Fullmetal Alchemist's first episode, except with 'time' instead of 'alchemy.' It was almost uncanny how much the two were alike: Two brothers arrive in a strange town and encounter a young woman who lives there and is unhappy with her lot in life in large part due to the death of a loved one. While defeating the evil that resides in the town, the two brothers reveal that they were also driven to make the same mistakes as the young woman at one point, resulting in a loss of identity for the younger of the two.

It's the exact same story. What is it about this season of anime and poor imitations of much better shows?

So, I'd settled in for however-many episodes of Fullmetal Timechemist when the second episode came along and, surprisingly gratifyingly, managed to mix up the formula somewhat, shifting the focus onto the idea that the brothers' dead mother(/wife, since one of the brothers is actually the family's father who's been de-ageing slowly and losing his memories) may actually be alive, and introducing a mysterious new character into the mix.

The animation isn't getting any better, though, and Victo is still wearing his coat like an idiot. So there is that.

The Mist.

Well, after the kind of long break that can only be had by foolishly releasing your first three episodes on the same day and then waiting weeks for the fourth, The Mist, an adaptation of the Stephen King book of the same name, has returned.

I can't figure out if I enjoy The Mist, which does sometimes manage to be genuinely scary and atmospheric, or if I hate it, because every single plot twist is telegraphed so largely that people on the International Space Station can see them. I know that everyone in the church is going to die or be converted to Mrs. Raven's weird moth cult; I know the demisexual dude raped his friend and then blamed the football guy; I know that the shady military group who've never been directly seen yet inadvertently caused the mist in the process of trying to study it.

The Mist is only going to be eight episodes long, and honestly I think any more and it would outstay its welcome, which is why I'm going to be so annoyed when this series ends on a cliffhanger to rope us in for a slightly longer second series.

Dark Matter.

Dark Matter is currently going from strength to strength, with the seventh episode of its third series being another surprisingly strong outing from a space opera that was always a lot of fun but has also always slid back and forth along the quality scale.

We're now halfway through the third series, or thereabouts, and while there are plenty of balls up in the air -- Ryo Ishida and Zairon; Ferrous Corp and the corporate war; Three's dead-and-now-AIed wife who he possibly may have killed; and the Android's strange vision of the future, part of which has already come to pass -- the series is dealing with its many plot threads with surprising confidence, leaving me hopeful that, at the very least, we're going to be seeing conclusions to two or three of those four storylines this series.