Multimodality

I’ve been consuming surprisingly many pieces work in the original and an adapted format recently. Here’s the reviews.

Lucifer – the Comic

lucifer_comic

The comic picks up the character of Lucifer from Neil Gaiman’s Sandman comics and tells his story. The story plots his course rebelling against God in modern times. It starts by Lucifer leaving hell, since he doesn’t care about being his father’s puppet anymore.

I picked up the comic, because of Neil Gaiman and Sandman. There are definitely influences here, but Lucifer never flies in the same league. The ideas are not as surprising, the plots are not as devious, the characters are not as juicy.

The one point, where Lucifer can stand tall next to Sandman, is the art. Sandman suffered from slightly lackluster art for the first few trade paperback collection, but Lucifer has high quality on that front from the start.

This is a nice comic regardless. Again the flaws seem prominent only, because the point of comparison is so high. If you are interested in plays on the pop culture Christian mythology, this one certainly offers something new.

  • Title: Lucifer
  • Author: Mike Carey
  • Year: 2000-2006
  • Finished in: 25th Dec 2017
  • 3/5

Lucifer seasons 1 & 2 – the Series

lucifer_series

I picked up on the series, because some people, who were high on the comic, kept recommending it to me. It is supposedly based on the comic, the premise is certainly the same – Lucifer is done with being God’s puppet and leaves hell to strike out on his own in Los Angeles. There the similarities end. In the series we follow Lucifer through a path of self discovery as he fights crime as a consultant for the police. The fighting against God bit is restricted to occasional outbursts against his controlling dad.

The series could be interesting from this starting point, but execution lacks. Lucifer is a narcissistic and egoistic caricature built for cheap gags and nothing more. The individual episodes never offer anything interesting and the overall story arcs are inane and boring.

I should’ve quit after a couple of episodes, but it took me a couple of episodes into season 3, before I finally gave up. It’s like Buffy without the charisma and serious topics – what you have left is the case of the week.

  • Finished on: 17th Feb 2019
  • 1/5

Gone Girl [2014]  – the Film

gone_girl

The story of Nick (Ben Affleck) and Amy Dunne (Rosamund Pike). They are a seemingly perfect couple – stylish, witty, beautiful, smart – but that is only a carefully constructed surface. Nick is out of a job and living on Amy’s trust fund money and he is having an affair, and Amy has just gone missing. The film follows the investigation into Amy’s disappearance. The story slowly reveals various secrets – the marriage hasn’t been happy in a long time, Nick is having an affair, Amy staged her own disappearance to look like Nick murdered her, she did it as revenge for the affair…

David Fincher is not at his best, but this is still guaranteed Fincher quality. The film is, if nothing else, rigorous. It reveals everything bit by bit, always grabbing the viewer’s interest back just, when it looks like the plot is not going anywhere. There are two major twists – one was revealed above, that Amy is still alive and hasn’t actually been kidnapped, and a second one in the end. Neither is being hidden too much and especially the latter one is clear long before it actually happens, but the interesting bit with the twists is not themselves, but the reasons behind them and what happens next.

There’s nothing wrong here, but there is nothing exceptionally right either. Fincher goes into Michael Haneke territory here, with the calculated control, but he lags far behind with the uninteresting mise-en-scéne. He used to be one of the more interesting directors coming out of the US, but it seems that Hollywood has gotten to him and although parts of his style is still visible, his ideas have been replaced by Hollywood design by committee scripts.

  • Director: David Fincher
  • Watched on: 8th Sep 2018
  • Watched at: Home (Sub)
  • 2.5/5

Gone Girl – the Novel

gone_girl_novel

The film seemed like there was unrealized potential just below the surface, so I picked up the novel to see, if that potential was lost in translation. Long story short: it wasn’t.

The novel reads like a film script from the start, and it reads like a script written for David Fincher. Maybe the goal was Michael Haneke, but it falls short. Nevertheless, reading the novel or seeing the film is enough, no need to do both, since the film is an almost exact replica of the novel. Towards the ends a few details have been moved around and changed a bit, but anything essential is neither lost nor gained. My rating for the novel is slightly less than for the film, since the novel attempts to be a film script and loses something of the possibilities of the novel format due to that.

  • Title: Gone Girl
  • Author: Gillian Flynn
  • Year: 2012
  • Finished in: 19th Oct 2018
  • 2/5

Under the Skin – the Novel

under_the_skin_novel

The film was one of the most pleasant and surprising experiences I’ve ever had with films. I knew practically nothing about it going to the screening, and it completely blew me away. Definitely one of the best films of the millennium, maybe even the best. It horrified me to no end, without being a horror film, and it told of something essential in the human nature, that I hadn’t realized or experienced in quite this way ever before.

I didn’t realize, at the time, that it was a novel adaptation. When I did, I had to pick up the novel to see, if I could find another similar experience. Nope, nothing of the sort found here. The film takes only the premise from the novel, but heavily adapts pretty much everything. Not sure, if from necessity, since the budget was practically non-existent, or if it just sparked some ideas that were better than what the novel contains.

In the novel, we follow some… thing, that appears close to human at first. She goes around in her near broken down car picking up hitchhiking men for some sinister purpose. This is as far as the similarities between the film and the novel go. I’m not going to reveal more about the film, since it is an exceptional piece of work that heavily relies on not knowing anything about it beforehand. The novel goes on to slowly reveal, that the protagonist is not actually human and that the men she picks up, end up as fodder for the aliens. The aliens are a species that lives mostly underground, but the elite of that species have developed a taste for human meat, so some of the species have to go above-ground and hunt for this valuable food stuff. The protagonist has gone through extensive surgical procedures to appear more human. The novel proceed to delve into this alien culture and the ethical justification for the hunting of humans.

Unfortunately after the first third of the novel, it loses any tension. Too much is revealed and the alien culture and the characters drawing from it are just not interesting. Their differences are too big that the presumable tense ethical dilemmas seem like badly drawn caricatures and fail to touch on the reader’s emotions.

  • Title: Under the Skin
  • Author: Michel Faber
  • Year: 2000
  • Finished in: 16th Sep 2018
  • 1.5/5

Altered Carbon season 1 – the Series

altered_carbon_series

There’s never too much high quality cyberpunk / post human sci-fi in the world. This is a pretty run of the mill neo noir story of a detective going after a complicated case. We get all the trappings of both noir detective stories and cyberpunk sci-fi – it is the execution, where this excels.

Sci-fi these days tends to be self indulgent presentation of mind-tickling ideas, but no emotional connection – a tour of “hey, look how neat the future could be” moments, where the characters and story are just an excuse to go on the tour. That’s interesting in itself, but without interesting characters and plot, the whole falls quite flat.

Film noir on the other hand, has always been about strong characters and sort of fantasy – the viewer needs to buy into the characters acting the way they do, but after that one required step taken by the audience, the fantasy pretty much automatically provides emotionally gripping stories.

The combination seems like a match made in heaven. This is by far not the first time the combination has been made, so no points for originality. This also does not rise above the combination to produce singularly spectacular art, so no points for that either. It is just a really well executed version of this with good characters, good plot, nice ideas, and good enough production team to execute all of it well down to the last detail. The result is an excellent piece of entertainment.

  • Finished on: 24th Aug 2018
  • 3.5/5

Altered Carbon – the Novel

altered_carbon_novel

Similarly to the Gone Girl novel and film, the novel and adapted TV series are very close to each other. Differently from the Gone Girl case, the novel doesn’t attempt to be a script, and here both the novel and series are actually entertaining in themselves instead of being slightly interesting film school exercises in plot control.

Not much new to say, except that Morgan has a way with words that pulls you in, like a good novel should. Despite having seen the series before reading the novel, the novel evokes new images and atmospheres. Not high art, but very good execution.

  • Title: Altered Carbon
  • Author: Richard K. Morgan
  • Year: 2002
  • Finished in: 17th Mar 2019
  • 3.5/5
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Trigger Warning

trigger_warning

Neil Gaiman tells us about the things that lurk in the back of our minds. Those simple unseen things, often frightening, that are there, but mostly left undisturbed. Often those things are quite small – like modern day versions of the old folk tales about why the tip of the tail of the fox is white and stuff like that. That stuff tends to be quite small, so the short story format fits him well.

This is a collection of those mostly quite enchanting and mostly quite harmless stories. They are ideas and suggestions. Parts of some worlds unseen and only glimpsed by even Gaiman. They are usually very twisted in one way or another, but they also bear a sort of fairy tale quality that keeps the darkness at an arm’s length so as not to be too dangerous.

I gobbled down the small snacks offered by the book quite fast (by my current reading standards, which are very slow). I enjoyed all of the stories. Some more, some less. Not a single one was strictly a master piece, but neither was any of them bad. An endearing piece of writing despite containing basically horror stories.

  • Title: Trigger Warning
  • Author: Neil Gaiman 
  • Year: 2015
  • Finished in: 17th Jul 2017
  • 3.5/5

Coraline

coraline

I noticed the book, while at the library with my family and added it to the stack of books we were picking up for our kid.

This is a novella about Coraline, whose parents don’t really pay too much attention to her until finally one day they disappear. Coraline suspects the weird door at the end of the unused room in their apartment. She enters the door to find a weird and twisted version of her own world with an other mother that tries to lure Coraline into staying in the other world.

The translation unfortunately sucks monkey balls. There’s several phrases that are lazily translated into language that just doesn’t fit into Finnish. Although the story pulled me in quickly, the translation kicked my out a few dozen times during the novella. This is a reason I prefer original language versions of books, if I just am fluent in the original language.

As mentioned, the story did pull me in, but due to the format and the target audience, it is quite simple. A fun and light read, but nothing too special.

  • Title: Coraline
  • Author: Neil Gaiman
  • Year: 2002
  • Finnish title: Coraline varjojen talossa
  • Translation by: Mika Kivimäki
  • Finished in: Feb 2017
  • 3/5