Tag: space

Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2: Review

Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2: Review

What a spectacular film – you know it’s going to be good when the opening credits are making you laugh and cry with joy, but I’ll not spoil the reason why. I find it’s always a very difficult thing to pull off a sequel that matches the quality of the original film, but Volume 2 is an exception if ever I have seen one. It’s easily good enough to warrant seeing in cinemas, and Marvel does a wonderful job of keeping things fresh.

Volume 2 has a very different storyline in comparison to the first Guardians film, even ignoring the difference because the second is not a origin story. Volume 2 feels, in a way, much more contained with the action and dialogue to one place than the first film ever did. Ultimately, it’s still a film about ‘saving the Galaxy’, as Rocket is happy to remind us, but it is not in a way that you would expect when the film begins.

One thing that did remain similar through Volume 2 was the music; the same way it played such an important role in the first film, the music was still as important and the song choices do not disappoint. In fact, I think the music in this film is potentially even more important; it is directly spoken about and though I knew less of the songs this time around, the choices were still exactly what were necessary for the situation and what was happening on screen. I will definitely be buying the second album.

The plot was varied and sometimes had odd timings for the way things played out, including the choices made to cut scenes and move to action that was happening elsewhere. A couple of times I was put off by them; questions would be asked which would be left unanswered by a cut to another scene – the exposition for the asked question would come later, but would happen in a completely different setting and lose the continuity. Saying that, there were strong performances from all cast members and I enjoyed the character development for them all, especially being able to learn more about Drax and his past, Yondu and Nebula. Baby Groot though – oh, Baby Groot! The adorable little wood-creature makes this film what it is, and I cried several times because of the adorable tiny tree.

I was interested to see if Volume 2 could continue to be as comic as the first film – and for the most part, it succeeded. I laughed out loud at points, but it also occasionally fell short of the mark. This film was more serious than the first at points and I think they didn’t always manage to find the right balance between the more sombre moments and the comic relief. Overall, though, Volume 2 manages to capture the same light hearted spirit that I love about the Guardians of the Galaxy, without selling out on any of the action or serious character development.

Guardians of the Galaxy, Volume 2 is a heartfelt, wonderful film. Hilarious at points, I think I must have worked my way through seven different emotions whilst watching it. It’s entertaining, has great editing and writing as well as amazing back drops – but more than that, it does what any decent sequel should do for a film: it builds. Volume 2 builds and develops all the great things we loved about Guardians of the Galaxy, showing off the character’s different roles and personalities, and makes us hungry for more. Verdict: 9/10

Carve the Mark: Review

Carve the Mark: Review

Carve the Mark is the first in a new young adult duology by the author of the Divergent series, Veronika Roth. In it, expect new characters, new worlds, and a full sense of creating an entirely new galaxy that is both forwards and backwards in time in comparison to our own world – it’s a nice, easy world builder which focuses more on character and plot development than building the new galaxy, but that’s what I would expect from a young adult book.

The book focuses on two main protagonists, Akos and Cyra, switching between a first person narrative for Cyra and a third person omnipresent narrative when we read Akos’ chapters. They are two unlikely foes who, through circumstance and ‘Currentgifts’ (read it, I don’t want to give that away) are thrown together and eventually come to depend on each other, forming a friendship. Again, I can’t really go into too many details regarding their relationship because I try my hardest to do spoiler free reviews, but I’ll just say: it’s a young adult novel. What do you expect happens?

This is part of the reason why I didn’t always find their relationship believable – it was sometimes too good to be true, and sometimes a bit like good luck, or a dias ex machina. I’m not sure how deep into more character development the second in the series will delve, but there were moments of good development and understanding thrown in amongst the cliches, so I’m willing to give it a chance. The one thing I strongly hope Roth stays away from is that idea of a ‘strong’ female protagonist, which I felt Cyra occasionally falling into – I want more than that.

Carve the Mark, unfortunately, has had some fall out over the fact that Cyra is seen to suffer from ‘chronic pain’, and over a potentially racist outlook – see this link for more details – but from Roth’s acknowledgements I can see she has at least tried to do some research (at least into the chronic pain element). Also see this link about ‘sensitivity readers’, which I think is a great idea and Roth maybe should have had one read over Carve the Mark before it was released, considering the amount of controversy that ended up surrounding it as a story.

Personally, I did not notice the racial stereotypes and undertones; I would never dismiss the people who did, and having read into it I can understand their frustrations and agree if PoC (or anyone, really) have problems with this book after reading the descriptions of characters. However, when reading it, I didn’t personally notice those things – maybe it was because of my privilege, and if so I apologise, but I was more interested in the characters’ personalities and the choices they made. I loved the Shotet people (Cyra’s people). I thought Akos’ people, the Thuve, were slow and boring. So it didn’t seem to me as the “white hero vs. dark enemy”… it was just young people, a band of renegades, against one tyrant – one man, Cyra’s brother – the king. Maybe I’m just naive.

I didn’t see the issues in discussing chronic pain as a ‘gift’, probably because I have never had that issue personally but again, I can see why people who do suffer from the medical condition would have been outraged by Roth’s easy dismissal of it. However, I do still believe in fiction – Carve the Mark is supposed to be a world builder, and I would have thought that we could hope to give authors the benefit the doubt when they’re creating whole worlds, that they might not have realised if they are being insensitive? Again, probably why we need sensitivity readers – but how far can we go before it’s too much? A Series of Ice and Fire (Game of Thrones) is a world builder full of rape, murder, incest, slavery – the list goes on. Why does this not get the same level of criticism? Just because it is an adult novel?

Overall – and to get away from the deep questions – Carve the Mark has a good pace and characters that try to be interesting, but it falls into the usual traps that young adult books seem to fall into all the time. It is not quite as believable as it should be, and the characters are mostly ‘good’ or ‘bad’, without the level of depth that I would have preferred to see to help me understand their view points. However, I still couldn’t put it down and wanted to keep reading, so I guess thats a good thing.

An easy read that focused more on a plot and character creation than the worlds around them, I will continue the series and hope that Roth has learnt from her critics. Verdict: 6/10.

Children of Time: Review

Children of Time: Review

This is, by far, the most complicated world builder I have ever read. Potentially this is because I have only recently begun reading serious science fiction, and even Children of Time, though meticulously detailed, was not heavy on scientific jargon. It focused more on the two halves of the story, even though it spanned what seemed like millennia – seriously, that’s not an over exaggeration. It literally was a story that was told over thousands of years.

Children of Time begins with a terraforming project that ends up creating a world where arachnids (more specifically, jumping spiders) have become conscious and intelligent. Meanwhile, the ‘last hope of Earth’ is leaving our barren planet in search of a new home . Unfortunately, that new home is crawling with giant insects. It should be enough to make your skin crawl, thinking about spiders the size of your leg, but I didn’t find this at all. Half the time, I was rooting for the spiders, finding the world and language they created fascinating.

What transpires, when these two worlds come together, is a very interesting – if a bit long – tale about human nature and how far we are willing to go to survive. Both the humans on the ‘last hope’, a giant space ship, and the spiders, have their own chapters. We are shown how the humans are getting on with their confined spaces, power struggles, and need to find somewhere to call home. We also, on the other hand, see the spiders building their world; their lives, their hierarchies, cities, and finding God and science (the two are not mutually exclusive). I was scared for the spiders, after a while – if the humans tried to come to their terraformed world, their life style could be destroyed. But I also couldn’t bear to think of the human race wiped out entirely. Call it my own survival instinct kicking in, which was a weird thing to feel whilst reading a book.

Children of Time is written by Adrian Tchaikovsky, and is thoroughly, wonderfully descriptive. It is utterly captivating, and he has created worlds that I would have never even thought about, let alone be desperate to know their inner workings. Tchaikovsky has created an incredibly detailed world where the spiders live, and I wouldn’t mind reading a handful of novellas about different parts of the world and how the spiders live their day to day lives.

The only thing that may put readers off is that this is a very long book; I think, in between working full time and actually living, it took me about two weeks to finish it. Sometimes you could feel how long it was, because the action took place over thousands of years as the spiders’ civilisations evolved, but I was never bored. There was always something more to know, or a question I hadn’t thought to ask answered by the author.

Children of Time s touching, human and alien all at once, and imaginative in ways I had never thought about before. This is a great book to read if you’re trying to get into science fiction but are worried about how complicated it can get, as it definitely eases you in and explains everything it needs to. Also, helpful in getting over a fear of spiders? Maybe. Verdict: 9/10.

Passengers: Review

Passengers: Review

(disclaimer: the poster used with this review is ©Columbia Pictures and does not belong to me)

What an interesting concept; Passengers, the ‘love’ story set on a ship hurtling through space. I’ve really been getting into my space-themed science fiction recently. The two ‘passengers’ we see on this giant of a ship are played by Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt, and they are more or less the only actors through out the film, with brief moments of Michael Sheen as a robot and Laurence Fishburne as a crew member. Even though Jim and Aurora (Pratt and Lawrence) are the only two humans we see for most of the screen time, they still manage to hold the story well. It is a credit to both Pratt and Lawrence that they are good enough actors that I did not get bored watching them; their characters were interesting and developed, didn’t slip, and I believed in their plight.

My biggest confusion with Passengers was the plot, but this was partly because the trailer for it was misleading in what the film was actually about. The idea that “there’s a reason they woke up” is quickly twisted, almost within the first 10 minutes of the film, but the reality of the situation carries through, a heavy weight that creates a sense of foreboding, even whilst we see the action and blossoming relationship which seems to be going well. As the audience, it drips with dramatic irony: the high can’t last, but the tension we feel makes us wait with baited breath, all the more interested in what will actually happen at the inevitable reveal.

On the other hand, the ‘threat’ that is hinted out from the beginning of the film isn’t as threatening as it should have been, if we consider its suspicious lead up and the anxiety that the audience feel, watching the various technical glitches get steadily worse. However, it still puts our characters in the kind of danger where I was definitely worried for their safety, even if it could have used a few more ‘thrills’.

The science and technology we watch run the ship, and make it a luxurious environment that Aurora and Jim live in, is great. It’s a good look at a hopeful future, and as a sci-fi fan I did appreciate the various ways that humans might develop the technology to get us into space. It’s a believable future, and even though it was true science fiction, it was still a relatable film full of human needs and emotion, so I think it would sit well with a variety of audiences. Both characters’ backgrounds are well developed and helps the audience understand the way they have become the people they are now, with all their strengths and flaws.

I actually preferred the story that we saw through the film than the ‘other’ plot line that the trailer for Passengers was suggesting. As a personal tangent: it really annoys me when trailers are so different from the the films that they are essentially useless. Isn’t the whole point of the trailer to give us a hint of what the film is about? I was pleasantly surprised by the true plot and action within the film, and cannot fault its cast.

Passengers had strong writing and direction, with a good story to clinch it all together – it is without a doubt, a love story, but with flickers of drama, thriller, and the fact it’s set in space, it is by no means orthodox. An interesting, easy-watch film which was far enough from a traditional romance that it sparked all my other interests; it wasn’t mind blowing, but I’d happily get it on DVD. Verdict: 6/10.