Storm of Swords Preview

As usual, if you don’t want the plot spoiled, begone.

At this weekend’s San Diego Comic Con they announced a slew of new casting for Game of Thrones Season 3. What’s important is not just what was said but also what wasn’t said. So far, every single press release about the next season has highlighted Olenna Redwyne, aka the Queen of Thorns. Olenna is the mother of Mace Tyrell, the lord of House Tyrell and the grandmother to Margery Tyrell They hired a major actress to play her. This seems to indicate they’ll be substantially bumping her character’s screentime. I really hope this is the case, but I don’t think it will be. This is mostly because the main thing cut out of season 2 was iconic dialogue. Again I’m referring to the FANTASTIC “She Slapped Him” scene between Tyrion and Cersei. The reason they should and will give her a bigger part is because her character gets a shitload of cool lines and none of them take place in expensive sets. But that doesn’t translate to getting the great stuff from the book.

I would venture that some of Season 3’s best scenes will be between the two Tyrell women and Sansa. But the problem with that is that I guarantee we’ll lose all the backstory supporting those scenes. Backstory has been the greatest casualty of this series and Storm of Swords features it in spades. Jaime reveals to us exactly how and why he killed Aerys and his pyromancers to prevent them from destroying King’s Landing. And Littlefinger discusses how carefully Lady Olenna questioned him about Joffrey’s nature when he proposed the marriage. He lied to her while his men spread the truth about Joffrey’s vileness to her agents.

Speaking of cutting iconic dialogue, there is no reason to cut a single word from the scene where Tyrion tells his father that he saved the city and Casterly Rock is his by right. Tywin tells him never. Cutting that scene would be complete betrayal.

So who hasn’t been mentioned in any of these castings? Obviously, the Red Viper. Arguably the most popular new character in Storm of Swords. The younger brother of the Lord of House Martell, despised by the Tyrells, who believes Tywin Lannister had Gregor Clegane rape his sister, kill her, and her children because she was married to Rhaegar instead of Cersei. No one has spoken a word of this character leading me to think they’re probably going to hold off until Season 4 to introduce him. Which would imply Joffrey’s wedding will also be in season 4. But what then will be the plot in season 3? In all likelihood, the Red Wedding will be the climax of season 3. I’m not sure how far they’ll get in Jon’s story arc. My guess is they’ll get to the Wall, not over it.

Also, never forget the budget strings. This show’s budget is TIGHT and you could really see it in season 2’s recycled sets. The battle of Castle Black and Dany the Conqueror will probably be in two seasons. Fortunately, Martin wrote the battles of Yunkai and Mereen offscreen. Don’t expect the writers to show them for the hell of it. This brings me to another question, they haven’t announced an actor for Daario Naharis either. This leads me to think we’ll get Astapor in season 3, the other two in season 4.

Prometheus Review

Having just returned from Prometheus first let me give you the short version.  It’s bad.  I did not enjoy the movie.  And it’s bad in the most disappointing way possible because you have the ingredients for a good movie.  Idris Elba, Noomi Rapace, Chalize Theron, these people have all done good work.  But the characters keep doing things no sane person, much less a scientist going to a new planet would do.

The crew of this ship is 17 people.  I realize that might be what’s needed for a ship this size on a scientific mission, but from my perspective, it’s too many characters to work with.  I don’t remember any of these characters’ names.  But years later, everyone remembers Bowski, Vasquez, and Apone.  You spend time with maybe half the crew.  Where the hell is everybody?  Some of them die, but nowhere near the full 17.

I realized we were in trouble with the basic setup.  Multiple ancient civilizations all have a recurring image of a star system that, according to our satellites, as a sun and the potential for life.  Based on this, our heroes take off into the black.  You know the movie’s got a problem when the premise was already used in Aliens vs. Predator.  But I was willing to give them a pass on that.  Consider it a warning sign.

So after some obvious foreshadowing about Charlize Theron living in a lifeboat and the atmosphere, the ship settles outside a dome like structure.  Could be natural, but it looks like manufactured natural.  No sweep of the planet for a larger settlement of any kind?  Whatever.  I still have hope.

We go into the dome where the landing party (7 people, leaving 4 on the bridge, 6 presumed redshirts onboard) discovers the dome has breathable oxygen.  A more cynical person would say this is so they don’t have to act through their helmets.  Whatever, Clarke’s Third Law.  A less cynical person would worry about a scientist who after a trillion dollar expedition two years out into space gleefully removes his helmet to test the breathable air.  I really get that acting through the helmets wasn’t an option.  But the premise is just so flimsy and naked.

One character I liked (for a minute) was Sean Harris as the Geologist, Fifield.  It was nice to see a scientist doing science-ey things.

At the discovery of Dead Space Jockeys, Fifield and his buddy decide they’ve done their job, discovered life, now they’re leaving.  A few minutes later, we’re told there’s a storm coming and the team needs to get back to the ship.  Upon arriving, we find out that Fifield and his buddy aren’t back.  Cut back to them, they’re lost.  This is where the movie lost me.  They got lost.  No flares, no bread crumbs, no way of finding their way back other than winging it?  In Aliens, Ellen Ripley remembered to bring flares to find her way out and she was running into an exploding facility to rescue someone with twenty minutes on the clock.

The big flaw here is the lack of radio contact and oversight this crew has with each other.  After five minutes, Sean Harris doesn’t radio in and say, hey where’s the fucking door?  We’re told it takes the landing team 15 minutes to get from where they are in the pyramid (yes it’s a pyramid, another holdover from AVP) and in that time no one checks on Sean Harris?

Sean Harris has these cool little orbs that float around and map the pyramid.  They write themselves into a corner with these because the bridge of the ship has this gorgeous map of the entire pyramid and the landing party shows up on this in real time with cameras showing feeds to the bridge.  No one tells them they’re going the wrong way, no one walks them out.  But they do get stuck in the pyramid while the storm is going.  Two people cut off on an alien world, and no one’s minding the radio to tell them it’s going to be okay?  No one is monitoring their feed?  Idris Elba goes to get laid, he doesn’t say, hey I’m leaving the bridge, SOMEONE ELSE HAS TO WATCH THE BRIDGE.  You have a crew of 15 on board, WHERE IS EVERYONE??  So they die.  One guy gets hit with a facehugger precursor, I don’t know what the fuck happens to Sean Harris.  He comes back later to kill all the redshirts as some kind of berserker zombie.  No explanation given.

We also see holograms of the Space Jockeys trying to run into the rooms with big human heads.  Why were the Space Jockeys trying to get into those rooms?  What were they running from?  I ask because what they could have been running from (Facehugger precursors) were in the rooms they were running to.  And what purpose did these rooms serve?  Backup cargo holds?

So later for no apparent reason, David the Android poisons Holloway with whatever the black gunk is coming out of the cylinders littering the pyramid.  This gives him a fatal illness which Charlize Theron kills him for rather than letting him on the ship.  In the original Alien, Ripley states the quarantine procedure very calmly.  She’s a Space Trucker.  In this movie, a crew of scientists cannot WAIT to bring the sick man on board the ship.  No one is concerned that the entire crew may have been exposed.  Least of all David the Android who gave him the thing (I think it’s a parasite) in the first place.

At this time, David sees to Noomi Rapace, our Ripley surrogate, Dr. Elizabeth Shaw.  They believe her contaminated with something.  David confirms she has some kind of embryo in her uterus passed on by Dr. Holloway the previous night.  After pushing two people out of the way, she runs to the Auto-Surgeon Machine to get it out.  At no point does she see anyone who tries to stop her.  Charlize Theron isn’t sitting in her office.  No one even notices afterward that she’s cut open her stomach to rip something out of her uterus despite the massive staples.

In a bit of foreshadowing, the Auto-Surgeon apparently is calibrated only to work with men.  Why…?  I realize it’s to foreshadow that Guy Pearce in old person makeup is on the ship.  But you’re saying they built ONLY 12 of these extremely expensive tubes for automatic surgery and they only work with one sex?  I know why they made only 12, apparently they can’t administer anything beyond local anesthetic as evidenced by Noomi Rapace repeatedly shooting up with painkillers before surgery.  Someone asked the machine to take out a tumor and screamed to death.

When she comes to, Idris Elba (in a horrific southern accent of some kind; why can’t he just be British?) informs Noomi Rapace of the plot.  The Space Jockeys made the Aliens (presumably these guys and the Xenomorphs) as biological weapons and this is their weapons depot.  How does he know that?  It comes out of nowhere and it’s the final nail in this movie’s coffin.  The pilot, a man stated to have no interest in the mission beyond flying the ship, has figured out everything before the mission’s primary scientist figured things out.

Still, Guy Pearce in old makeup wants to meet the Space Jockeys, who it’s revealed are humans in really good shape.  Apparently the Space Jockeys are dicks.  Not that they say this.  Presumably they want to fly their ship of alien precursors to Earth to kill everyone.  Why is never explained.

So Idris Elba crashes Prometheus into the Space Jockey ship to prevent Earth’s destruction.  The Space Jockey ship crashes.  Noomi Rapace moves four feet to the left and dodges the falling spaceship.  Charlize Theron keeps running in a straight line and is crushed to death.  This is very stupid.  Noomi Rapace finds an axe for some reason gets the Space Jockey into the room with the auto-surgeon where the parasite it took out of her is now a massive vagina monster.  She collects David the Androids head, they find a different Space Jockey Ship, and go to find more Space Jockeys to ask them why they’re dicks.  After this, a familiar looking precursor xenomorph pops out of the Space Jockey.

The movie is gorgeous and I wanted to like the performances.  That’s the best I can do for you.  It just wasn’t very good.  I wanted to like it, but the characters made stupid choices and I lost interest.  It felt like they were trying to do too much.  The Alien movies, despite the hours of time they spent working on the sexual imagery (on full display here) are pretty basic.  People we like are trapped in a confined space with something that wants to kill them, they try to survive.  That’s it.  This movie fails to follow that basic but effective formula that served the franchise very well the first two movies.

Clash of Kings Retrospective

Obviously I’m talking about the story.  If you’re going to get uppity about spoilers, kindly depart or don’t complain.

So I was looking over my hope and fears for Clash of Kings.  I hope they don’t screw up this, I hope this character isn’t annoying.  These were the fears of an apocalyptic doomsayer.  Not that they were wrong, but they were wrong in an oddly specific way, like describing the outline of an empty puzzle.  I foresaw doom in various supporting characters.  Wow this is necessary for the story but this is annoying as hell.  Most of these fears turned out to be groundless.  Not because they were done well, but because what I worried about simply wasn’t included in the show.

As a fan, this did have a tendency to drive me nuts during the show.  I could never justify cutting the “She Slapped Him” scene, I’m still angry about that one.  But it drove me just as crazy the first season.  All in all the show still holds up well.  This season, much more than the first, existed in vignettes.  Characters talk to each other between plot points waiting for things to move along until they eventually do.

These talky moments could be mistaken for fan fiction.  They’re moments between moments presented in the book.  Conversations that occur between the book’s plot points.  Tywin and Arya, Robb and Not-Jeyne, everything Littlefinger did.  This is going to get me in trouble if anyone actually read this, but this season felt low-budget.  I know it’s not a low-budget show.  But the repeated use of small, enclosed sets and complete absence of as a many supporting characters as possible made it feel cheap compared to something which feels expensive such as Boardwalk Empire with its vintage clothing, massive sets, and too many gangsters to remember.

Onto the story, I’ll be more specific as I sift through my DVR for repeated viewings.  The showrunners wisely seem to have realized that Jon and Dany’s storylines are not exactly the book’s most compelling.  Beyond the Wall, there’s a lot of shots of twenty people walking or standing on hills.  I would say the most interesting scene here from a kind of meta standpoint is when Sam discovers the cache of obsidian, which is a setup for his later nickname, Sam the Slayer.  It’s interesting because that’s the threshold for what’s included, subplot wise.  The Reeds and Edmure Tully are absent, as are the Brave Companions, Ramsay Bolton, who have larger roles throughout Clash of Kings, whatever they may get in the season finale.  You really get the sense that Qarth was included because it had to be.  Storm of Swords is Dany’s great moment.  In order to get there, we all have to wade through Qarth.

Far and away the best storyline of the season belonged to Theon Greyjoy.  I feared they had not earned his face-heel turn into a villain.  However, they played up his negative relationship with his family and it worked really well.  This probably the only storyline that benefited from the added scenes.  Those scenes with him and Balon Greyjoy were probably the best in the entire season, followed closely by anything with the awesome Charles Dance as Tywin.  Tyrion’s scenes were great.  But, he gets roughly half of the book.  Clash of Kings is Tyrion’s time to shine.  I wish he’d gotten more time, but to get the time I’d like they’d need to do a proper 24 episode season as the Seven intended or even 12 episodes like Boardwalk Empire.

After next week I’ll be able to post an updated version of my hopes and fears for Storm of Swords.  I have no hope that they’ll actually show Dany conquering the three cities.  Even the book doesn’t include the war for the last two, although a generous dragon budget for Astapor would be nice.  My opinion, season 3 should end with Astapor and the Red Wedding.

Predictions

Oh boy another Walking Dead tonight! I wonder what’s going to happen…

Maybe Shane will be a hardass and say someone is slowing the group down, Then Rick will hold his at an angle while saying on what they have to do while Dale exasperatedly comments on the morality of the situation. Then Andrea will ask to be forgiven, Glenn stutters, Maggie says fuck off, and Carl says something you normally wouldn’t expect a child to say.

Hmm…