Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Raven Absorbs Media #1 -- Indigo Springs, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, and the Little Mermaid 2

So I keep not writing. Which is bad. So in the effort to write, and also to convince myself that I'm "doing something" with my time, I'm going to try to write short reviews of media I'm consuming. Without further ado...

Indigo Springs (2009) 

[9/10]

Indigo Springs by A. M. Dellamonica is a Young Adult Urban Fantasy novel in that emerging subgenre of "post-apocalyptic" with a unique mythology and surprisingly engaging characters. I picked the book because of the striking cover art, but it turned out to be quite the find. It involves a group of three 20-somethings named Astrid, Sahara, and Jack, sharing a house in sleepy small-town America, when suddenly they discover that magic is a real thing and they seem to be the only ones who can create new magical charms. 
          Naturally our three protagonists aren't the most emotionally stable people and despite initial attempts to keep it small and discreet, the love triangle/friendship hits some speedbumps, magic is unleashed, and large-scale (ie: "apocolyptic") disruptions occur in North American society. Sahara has turned into a sort of magical ecoterrorist who continues to evade the authorities, and the novel begins with Astrid in a secure military base being interviewed by the narrator. By jumping between the past and present the reader gets to learn about magic both through the semi-experienced narrator, Will, and the then-inexperienced Astrid. Alternating between two different times seems to be a fairly common tool when beginning a post-apocalyptic series, but it does allow the story to begin with a bit more excitement and flows perfectly fine here. 
          The magic system is interesting and cohesive, and the whole mythology is surprisingly well explained while still leaving the reader curious for more details. Given that it is Young Adult Urban Fantasy, a large portion of the narrative does focus on the relationships between the main characters and their relatives, but Indigo Springs keeps the balance between setting, plot, and character development absolutely perfect.
          Overall an excellent book, although you have to have at least some interest in both the topics of "young people with complicated relationships" and "magic users and the people that hate them". The sequel exists, and I'll have to look into getting that sooner or later.

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998)

[7/10] 

I'd gotten into Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas with nothing more than "It has Johnny Depp and it's about someone on drugs in Vegas," and I feel like I was not at all prepared for this movie. I will go ahead and admit that I haven't read the book, and I'm not certain at this point if I really care to. This movie is without any argument "interesting", "unique", and "potentially meaningless."
          In brief summary, a journalist and his lawyer travel to Las Vegas to cover a race, but both take such a staggering amount and variety of drugs that the whole weekend trip becomes an almost unconnected sequence of events and decisions that range between the hilarity of watching a drunk friend make an ass of himself and the horror of watching a drunk friend threaten somebody's life with a large knife.    
          The oddest thing to me is that even though it's set 40 years ago I had absolutely no sense that this was anything but the present. Somehow I had no problem unconsciously brushing aside the absence of cellphones, the absurdly clunky cassette player, or the frequent references to Vietnam and the anti-war movement. The uniquely American depravity of the protagonists seems timeless, and the idea that the events of the film could be (and potentially are) recreated in 2014 doesn't garner any second thought. 
          I had originally thought that the film was just a meaningless string of intoxicated hijinx, but the apparent absence of substance gives the film a timeless ability to critique North American culture. I'm left wanting to call it meaningful exactly because of its apparent lack of meaning, some strange nihilistic mirror with which to evaluate ourselves. 
          I doubt I'll ever rewatch this, although I would tell everyone to see it at least once.


The Little Mermaid II: Return to the Sea (2000)

[3/10] 

I want to open by saying that I also watched the Little Mermaid (the original), and I loved it. It's simple but cute, and even though it's a child's film with some pretty questionable lessons about love, it's still plenty entertaining. This sequel can best be summed up by one line near the beginning when the villainess suddenly appears, and Sebastian cries out, "Oh no! It's Ursula's crazy sister!"
          Contrived and unnecessary. We don't learn anything new, we get the same message of "The seaweed is always greener/In somebody else's lake", but this time instead of being a mermaid who wants to live on land, we have Ariel's daughter who is a human who wants to see the sea! And Sebastian is "responsible" for her and just as incapable of actually stopping her from doing what she wants anyways. 
          I'm reminded that Sebastian was apparently an incredibly renowned conductor Seaside, and his musical brilliance is being squelched by the merpeople in favour of babysitting. Sure, he gets opportunities to corral loose critters into singing love songs and such, but he used to create symphonies for fucking Triton, King of the Seas. By appointing him to a guardianship Ariel and Triton surely know he is incapable of actually enforcing, the loss to submarine culture is literally immeasurable .
          As Sebastian so beautifully highlighted, the villainess Morgana is a pale shadow of her sister, and the character keeps referencing this herself. Her whole motivation is being better than her sister Ursula (who was incredible as an antogonist and often generated more sympathy than any of the heroes), and her minions lack any character beyond "irritating and useless" or "barely useful and devoid of personality", depending upon whether we're talking about her shark Undertow or the rays Cloak and Dagger (which has nothing on the beautifully named eels of the previous film, Flotsam and Jetsam).
          Watch the original. Pretend this doesn't exist.