Writing, Reviewing and Criticism In The Internet Age

Tag: Comic

It’s been a while, or, ‘This sure isn’t a comic…’


Well, hello there blogosphere, it really has been far too long. You’re looking lovely by the way. Have you been doing something different with your hair? I know we haven’t spoken much lately but I’ve been knee-deep in producing a fairly large piece of academic work so sadly things have had to be a little quiet here on the blog. Thankfully though, I’ve gotten myself to the point where I feel comfortable enough to leave the serious work for a little while and jot down a few thoughts here upon an appropriate novel.

Now, I know that the last few blogs have been a little too comic focused for some tastes and whilst this was never meant to be a comics blog in the middle of a heavy work load a comic was often the only thing  even remotely felt like reading. So, have no fear my good and patient reader, the comics will not be appearing here for a little while – there is a big wide adaptive land to explore so it’s time to do something a little more traditionally literary.

Thinking back over the last films I had seen that came from a literary source it took me a little time to come up with one that I felt was different enough to be a break from the whizz bang excitement of the graphic novels. Till I found it. Something deeply melancholic, concerned with the deepest question of what makes us human and wonderfully, bleakly English.

Oh, and it’s a another Keira Knightly film…Ah well…

It’s Never Let Me Go if you haven’t already got there.

Unlike many films that spend years and years in development hell, Kazuo Ishiguro’s novel was published in 2005 and principal photography of the film began in late 2009. Frankly, for the film industry this is nothing short than working at the speed of light. The film was produced with surprisingly little fanfare befitting its (by modern films) low-budget of a paltry $15 million dollars. Then it went and surprised everyone by being really quite good indeed. As usual I’m going to try to be quite coy, this is a film you need to seek out and a book you should beg borrow or steal so if the lack of detail is frustrating, consider this me trying to whet your appetite.

The film follows the lives of a group of school children who grow up in an exclusive English boarding school called Hailsham. Whilst the world of the film is broadly similar to ours the film opens by detailing a medical advancement that now allows people to extend their life span to beyond a hundred years. We’re then introduced to the 28-year-old Kathy H, played by the simply superb Carey Mulligan who recounts the experiences she’s had at the school along with her closest friends Tommy and Ruth – played by the excellent Andrew Garfield and Knightly respectively.

From the outset the film really shows a deft control of perspective and of subtlety; we have the impression that there is something horrible lurking in the background of this world but thanks to the childlike perspective and heart shattering naivety of the characters it remains out of sight. The more developed your own personal sense of awareness with the action the more the characters seem hopelessly ill-equipped to deal with the world. A world, which when the reveal comes, proves to be a place that uses them in some of the cruellest ways imaginable.

Not that these three are played in any way as one-dimensional simpletons, the real pathos the film generates is from the attempt for these characters to behave like real people. Out of the three Ruth probably serves the best example of this; now, it is quite fashionable to slate Knightly as an actress, deriding her as naught but a pretty face but after this film you simply can’t say that she doesn’t have talent. Ruth is, for the vast majority of the film, not a nice person at all. Deliberately she keeps Kathy and Tommy apart as she recognises the emotional depth their relationship has. She pretends to be the most worldly-wise of all the characters from Hailsham but is left shockingly exposed when in the outside world. The films later scenes when she and Kathy are brought back together are the flip side of the film’s opening. Ruth ends up weak and reliant on the character that she so mistreated and yet through it all Ruth never slips into easy characterisation or poor performance.

Andrew Garfield is another one who turns in an incredible performance – I’ll admit I knew very little about him before this but here he proves that he has the acting chops to compare to the best actors working in cinema. Tommy is possibly the saddest of all the three, grappelling with issues of emotional depth and complexity that he  has neither the awareness or the emotional articulation to properly express. The scene where he and Kathy have their chance of happiness dashed brutally by a frail woman in a wheelchair is gripping cinema and the look on Tommy’s face, pleading, hopeful and utterly uncomprehending.

This film is all about Carey Mulligan, described by one of my friends as going to watch her emote for two hours, Never Let Me Go proved her as an actress that could carry an entire film. Heartfelt, morally complex but always a good person Kathy is a character that hold this film together and Mulligan does a simply stellar job. Her air of resignation to the fate that she and the people like her are condemned to, makes the whole thing strangely  calm. The brief moments when we see what actually happens to these people become even more shocking thanks to the air of quiet stoicism that Mulligan brings to the role.

So I think that I’ve established I think this is a great film, but how does it stack up as an adaptation? Well, really quite excellently. There is one thing that the film does very well that I feel is worth talking about, and brace yourself, because here be the language of English criticism. In academic English nothing annoys more than language used clumsily and it is for this reason that I got hammered by the marker in one of my first undergrad essays for using the word tone to describe what a book was like.

Looking back I can see this is the kind of basic writing error that would make an academic’s head explode with rage, to talk about a book’s tone doesn’t really tell the reader anything of what the book is like but I think with film the tone is an interesting thing to look at. It’s a hard word to try to pin down but the best way I can put it is the sense that a film leaves you with. And this is where I think the film got it absolutely right. The book and the film are extremely similar and the only real adaptive ‘flaws’ are shifts in emphasis from certain elements of the story and a couple of characters that I really liked did get slightly short shrift from the film.

But let me see if I can find the best way to put this, the book Never Let Me Go is a love letter, to an era of humanities lost innocence and a dire warning of the path things could go down if, for one second, we all forget just how much value is inherent in humanity. It’s important, beautiful, full of sadness and tinged with nostalgia and you don’t have to understand the technical elements of narratology to understand that.

This is what the film nails, the photography and cinematography and simply beautiful using landscape and haunting scenery to show the insignificance of human life. The look of the film is wonderfully authentic and the make up gives the characters a lost look in their ever-so-slightly too large costumes.

It’s the details you see, that’s why this is so good. Couple that with an understanding of the source material, a top-notch cast and a story to touch the most stony-hearted of you then this is simply one you cannot miss. Read it, watch it, love it!

Already seen it? Disagree entirely? Think I’ve gotten all of this so wrong? The please join in the conversation in the comment section below.

Nearly at the end of my dissertation so I’m going to be doing my best to try to catch up with the ever-growing list of awesome suggestions that you’ve all given me and I’ll be back to updating more regularly once again. Thanks for reading and keeping the conversation going.



Marvel Month I: An Apology, or, ‘I’m not really a big enough geek for this.’


First off, let me expunge the first reaction you may be having. This isn’t an apology for me beng too busy to update regularly because I’m out doing things that the internet doesn’t approve of; like having friends who aren’t pixels and talking to girls, (joking! A bit…) This post wasn’t even supposed to be an apology – it was intended to be a huge announcement of the first ever theme month.

This was where I was going to be proud to announce the commencement of…MARVEL MONTH! That’s right, a whole month of me assessing the Marvel movies and the source material they came from. A month of superheroics, kick-ass action, bad guys and saving the world. A whole month of geek awesomeness.

And that’s where I hit just a couple of really small snags. The first one came when I was looking for which comic should be the first one to be reviewed. It should have been obvious, it really should have been but all I can say is that I was so grateful for getting past The Da Vinci Code I just wasn’t thinking straight. Then it hit me. The first comic I wanted to read has been going since 1963. That is a really long time. Really – a loooooooooooooong time. So, there’s 49 years of comics to read. I can’t do that, nobody can. Not in a week, where I also need to watch the movie!

Then, I hit upon the obvious and simple solution. I don’t need to read it all, because the people who wrote the movie probably didn’t, and if its been going since 1963 the law of averages says that a big chunck of these comics aren’t going to be worth reading. sorry to be harsh, but that just seems to be the way things are.  If you don’t believe me just try to read some of the Batman that was churned out in the 1960’s and try and tell me seriously that it  meets any definition of the word good.

So, this is where I hit my second snag, and to be honest, this one I don’t see a way through, so here’s why I need to apologise. Again. Here we go…

I am not an expert on comics. I read them for a bit but didn’t have the money or the dedication to keep up the habit. But some people do. Some people must have read every comic, are familiar with the mythology of the comics, the lore, the references, the jokes even. Sorry, but that isn’t me.

Here’s what I can do though, and maybe what I should be doing. I’m going to spend the time looking into each character and find the run that helps shape and define the character and then treat that as the source material. If it isn’t the run you would have chosen or the writer you love then, sorry… But surely the success or failure of the film shouldn’t hinge on me having read Journey into Mystery #92. Maybe I’ll get round to it, but in the meantime this is the best way I’ve found.

The more eagle-eyed and comic loving may have picked up on the one or two clues in this article, the first film in ThePageBoy’s is Thor directed by Kenneth Branagh, after a little research I decided on the jaw dropping run by Walt Simonsen Vol1 #337-382.

Right, I’m off. Got comics to read.



Oh, don’t worry; there will be more jokes in the next column. Promise.