Sunday, 30 December 2007

The Boy Scout and the Military Industrial Complex

Plowed through Marvel's Civil War arc last week and was struck by how sophisticated the story telling is. Unfolding, as it does, across a number of separate comic book series we get a chance to see important events from multiple viewpoints. For all that most of the character's wear tights for a living this spread of viewpoints, coupled with a subtle approach to the issues, lends an air of veracity to the story as events unfold.

Civil War also operates on multiple levels; for example the personality clash at the heart of the story is between Captain America, the 'Boy Scout', a living symbol of honour, liberty and apple pie, and Iron Man, industrialist, inventor and the embodiment of the Military Industrial Complex. Their rivalry is both personal and ideology and both, crucially, are operating from motives so pure you could drink them. Both of them realise that they have made mistakes during the conflict and both pay a terrible personal and moral price for their role in it.

Wednesday, 12 December 2007

I Have No Memory of this Place

Took the Evil Monster Boy to see the Golden Compass on Sunday. Despite some brilliant performances from Kidman, Fanning, Broadbent and the usual British character actor suspects I felt there was something missing. Perhaps it was the poor print (at the usually good Finsbury Park Vue) or the fact that I'd only had two hours sleep but there seemed to be problems with the narrative structure in the first half. Some of the transitions were mishandled, the Lyra in London montage in particular, and the choppy, unnecessarily exposition heavy opening.

The design was impressive, the high standard set by WETA in The Lord of the Rings , has now become the base line for big fantasy blockbusters - even if TV still lags - yes I'm looking at you Doctor Who.

However, the strangest thing for me was how much of the plot I didn't remember from the book. I read Northern Lights in 1998 and ground to a halt halfway through A Subtle Knife a little bit later but I had no memory of the armoured bears (panzerbjorn what a wonderful name). This is strange - for while I'm perfectly capable of forgetting the names of close family members my retention of plot detail borders on the savant.

Since the Evil Monster Boy demanded that I buy the books, on pain of pain, I'm going to reread them and see if they stick this time. I'm sure Kidman's performance as Mrs Coultor will help.

Sunday, 2 December 2007

A Good Murder

Yesterday I got a chance to work on Princess, my completely speculative detective drama series, and finally came up with the thing I've been lacking so far - a good murder.

I think it's easy for industry people to lose sight of how important the central mystery is to a good detective drama. The temptation is always to believe that it's the character of the detective that drives the narrative. Hence the crude attempts to make the crimes 'personal' by killing off relatives, friends and, I'm looking at you Inspector Lynley, the odd girlfriend or fiancé. This represents at best a failure of nerve by the production team and at worse a lack of understanding of the genre they are working in. Look at the classic detectives, Morse, Frost, Holmes and you'll find that they have character traits not character arcs.

Morse was the same grumpy beer drinking, opera loving snob in his last episode as he was in his first. This is because the single most interesting thing about Morse was that he was a police detective, the opera and the expensive education were interesting only because they contrasted with his job. Likewise without their careers in detection Frost would just be an opinionated northerner in a pork-pie hat, Dalgliesh a failed poet and Holmes, well god knows what Holmes would be - dead probably.

A good TV detective is distinctive, charismatic and three dimensional but a writer must never forget that at the heart of every mystery must be a good murder.

A Joy Forever

A thing of beauty is a joy forever;
Marc Platt has delivered a wonderful first draft for the second episode of the second B7 Audio series. This follows on from an equally brilliant first episode by James Swallow leaving me with a tough act to follow for episode three.