“Dune” (Sci-Fi miniseries)

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Last week, I made clear my opinion of David Lynch’s Dune. That remains the only version of Dune ever released in theaters. However, in 2000, the Sci-Fi Channel released a TV miniseries adaptation of Dune. Fortunately, it’s not bad. The screenplay actually resembles Frank Herbert’s novel and manages to balance political intrigue with action. The show’s problems are mostly technical, particularly the acting and special effects.

Continue reading ““Dune” (Sci-Fi miniseries)”

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“Dune” (1984 film)

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I admit I’m not a fan David Lynch’s adaptation of Dune. I have many problems with the film, but the biggest is that it completely misses the point of the novel. Dune is not a hero’s journey. It’s not simply a grimdark Star Wars. Rather, it’s a story about the dangers of charismatic leadership and the interplay between political and religious power. In the movie, we don’t get to her Paul’s internal struggle, much less any hint that his jihad might have negative repercussions for the future. Indeed, in the final scene from the film, rain pours down as if to bless Paul’s victory.    Continue reading ““Dune” (1984 film)”

“Dune” by Frank Herbert

tumblr_neeagzmJuY1tpdqt1o8_500Over 50 years after its initial publication, Dune remains one of the most exotic sci-fi epics ever written. Set some 20,000 years in the future, it portrays a future that resembles the Middle Ages more than Star Trek. The galaxy is ruled by an emperor, along with several powerful feudal houses, the Space Guild corporate monopoly over space travel, and the Bene Gesserit religious order, all locked in an uneasy balance of power. Dune itself chronicles the struggle for the planet Arrakis, source of the crucial “spice” drug, as well as the rise of a new politico-religious leader, Paul Atreides. Of course, for many, the stars of the book are the giant sandworms, huge creatures hundreds of meters long the are both revered and feared by the local Fremen people. Continue reading ““Dune” by Frank Herbert”

Dune Marathon!

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Dune… Frank Herbert’s epic space opera is one of my favorite works of fiction. This summer, I’ll be rereading the saga as I do research for a paper I’m writing about the politics in Dune. I plan to present the paper in late June at the Mythgard Academy’s Mythmoot V conference. If you’ve never read these books or it’s been a while, feel free to join me in this reread.

The Spice must flow!

The “Alien” Female

615Jt--UndL._SL1024_On May 3, I’ll be joining the Mythgard Movie Club to talk about Ridley Scott’s classic sci-fi movie Alien. Here I share my thoughts on what the film means to me, especially when it comes to gender representation in cinema…

During the past few years, female fans have become increasingly vocal in their disappointment over the lack of female protagonists in science fiction and fantasy. To be honest, I initially found this somewhat puzzling – not because I didn’t want female action heroes, but because I thought we already had them. When I was growing up, the biggest pop culture franchises featured characters like Princess Leia and Sarah Connor, while Dana Scully, Xena, and Buffy dominated on the small screen. My favorite sci-fi action hero was (and still is) Ellen Ripley.  Continue reading “The “Alien” Female”

“The Shape of Water” by Daniel Krauss

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Most science fiction and fantasy movies nowadays get a tie-in novelization. Often, these adaptations reincorporate scenes that were deleted from the final cut of the film (as Jason Fry’s The Last Jedi recently did). They can also let readers peer into a character’s private thoughts, something notoriously difficult to do on screen (see David Lynch’s Dune adaptation). The Shape of Water novel by Daniel Kraus is something rarer and altogether more interesting. According to io9, Kraus pitched the story to Guillermo del Toro several years ago. Although Del Toro’s film The Shape of Water came out first, they agreed that each would tell their own version of the story through their respective mediums. In other words, Kraus’ book is not simply an adaptation of the film, but a unique and original telling of that story. Continue reading ““The Shape of Water” by Daniel Krauss”

“Overneath” by Peter S. Beagle

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I’ve been a fan of Peter S. Beagle’s work ever since I read The Last Unicorn, a cheerfully bittersweet examination of life and fairy tales. I also enjoyed In Calabria, Beagle’s more recent take on unicorns. However, aside from a short sequel to The Last Unicorn, I hadn’t read any of Beagle’s shorter fiction. Overneath is a collection Beagle’s short stories, some previously published and some new to this volume. It’s a great introduction to Beagle’s fiction. Continue reading ““Overneath” by Peter S. Beagle”

“The Shape of Water”

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Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water is the first science fiction film ever to win an Oscar for Best Picture. This alone makes it worthy of a place in the annals of sci-fi. It’s also a great example of what makes del Toro such a fascinating filmmaker and storyteller. Like many geniuses, del Toro has an ability to look at the ordinary and see something extraordinary. His films often take familiar story tropes and make them feel fresh again. In The Shape of Water, Elisa (Sally Hawkins), a janitor at a government lab in Baltimore, falls in love with a humanoid fish-creature (Doug Jones). In one sense, this is simply a twist on the classic “odd-couple romance” story, like Beauty & the Beast or The Frog Prince. However, del Toro does several things to make the story feel completely unlike anything that’s come before. Continue reading ““The Shape of Water””

“The Last Jedi” by Jason Fry

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Jason Fry’s novelization of The Last Jedi is a retelling of Rian Johnson’s film, with a greater emphasis on the characters and less humor. Like most novelizations, the book sticks pretty close to the story we saw on screen back in December. However, Fry gets to spend time inside the characters’ heads, shedding light on how the characters viewed certain events.

This technique provides quite a bit of insight into Luke Skywalker. In The Last Jedi, Luke is a bitter old man, a far cry from the optimistic youth we saw in the Original Trilogy. I enjoyed this take on the character, but also felt the film should have done more to explain Luke’s arc between the films. Fry’s novelization offers a few tantalizing hints. One early sequence in the book hints that Luke yearns for a more normal life. He comes to regret not only his infamous encounter with Ben Solo, but also other life decisions. Seeing Luke doubt not just that one moment but a whole lifetime helps explain his radical transformation since Return of the Jedi. Continue reading ““The Last Jedi” by Jason Fry”

Star Trek Discovery

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As some of you know, I’m a huge Star Trek fan. It was probably my first big fandom. So you might be wondering why I haven’t been reviewing Star Trek Discovery. Well, the truth is I’ve found the show to be an disappointing mess. It flouts the liberal humanism and optimistic spirit of Star Trek in favor of modern TV grimdark conventions. The show is filled with plot twists that seem more designed to shock audiences than to open interesting new story possibilities. Frankly, I don’t really have much to say that hasn’t already been said about this show. This LA Times Review of Books explains many of the problems.

Like many Trek fans, I’ve waited years for Star Trek to return to TV. It’s too bad the end product wasn’t worth the wait.