After reading Watchmen many years ago, I became disillusioned with comic books. I didn't think anything else could achieve the power and intensity that Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons achieved in that magnum opus. Every comic I attempted became cluttered, confusing and by the end utterly inane. Superheroes don't mean anything to me any more, I've moved beyond the hero and villain archetypes and craved more dimensional characters, complex narratives and most of all--resonance.
I wish I hadn't watched the film before discovering the Scott Pilgrim books because now I'll have to watch it again, with the realisation of its hollowness and failure. I mean, it all seems so incomplete.
The past few posts were little thought-pieces on the books I've been reading, but then I came up to Scott Pilgrim and decided to hold off posting until I've compiled all the things I needed for a lengthy, in-depth review of the film. Firstly, I'll say the books were brilliant, and contained everything I wanted in reading a comic. I fear that instead of restoring my faith in the comic format it has repelled me even more from the medium, unless anyone can recommend me any other good ones to read.
Secondly, I'll say now that I'm not sure if I'm ready to take on the task of the Scott Pilgrim vs The World film post. To give an idea, here is the outline of what I have planned:
Why the film is a failure: Marketing, as an adaptation, and as a film.
Why I love the film still: A summary of art and pop culture of its time, it's technical achievements, and etc.
A history of art in film, leading up to SPvTW:
(each film mentioned will belong in its own post with a link to it, that I will post beforehand, and an explanation of how they apply to SPvTW).
-Modern Art--Expressionism: Cabinet of Caligari
-Modern Art--Surrealism: Un Chien Andalou
-Contemporary Art--Post-modernism: Contempt
-Contemporary Art--Pop Art/Comic Books: Hulk and Sin City
-Video Games: Super Mario Brothers, Mortal Kombat and Doom
A study of the film's interior logic, regarding absurdist humour, comic-book aesthetics, video-game logic and character point of view.
Character analyses: Scott Pilgrim, Ramona Flowers and Gideon Graves.
And then down in the comments section I'll do a scene-by-scene analysis, including commentary on the shots, technical points, references, comparisons to the books and whatever else pops into my head. So, you know, I'm thinking big, and maybe biting off more than I can chew with this one. Anyway...
Breakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut Jr.
I decided to read this one because I found out about its film adaptation, and thought "just for fun" I would compare the two. Oh boy...
The book is brilliant, amazing, as expected of anything by Vonnegut. It is a great pre-curser to Timequake, pretty much in the same liberal, anti-establishment style but not quite as much of a messy mindfuck on the structural front. I can't resist an excerpt, although I warn that it is a bit of a spoiler. From the start I was wondering what was with all the digressions and the multiple strands of character threads interweaving in and out of the plot. After a while I became desensitised to it and accepted whatever came. Then Vonnegut, about two thirds into the book, explains exactly what he was doing all along, suddenly and brilliantly illuminating everything written before it:
►I had no respect whatsoever for the creative works of either the painter or the novelist. I thought Karabekian with his meaningless pictures had entered into a conspiracy with millionaires to make the poor people feel stupid. I thought Beatrice Keedsler had joined hands with other old-fashioned storytellers to make people believe that life had leading characters, minor characters, significant details, insignificant details, that had lessons to be learned, tests to be passed, and a beginning, a middle, and an end.
As I approached my fiftieth birthday, I had become more and more enraged and mystified by the idiot decisions made by my countrymen. And then I had come suddenly to pity them, for I understood how innocent and natural it was for them to behave so abominably, and with such abominable results: They were doing their best to live like people invented in story books. This was the reason Americans shot each other so often: It was a convenient literary device for ending short stories and books.
Why were so many Americans treated by their government as though their lives were as disposable as paper facial tissues? Because that was the way authors customarily treated bit-part players in their made-up tales.
And so on.
Once I understood what was making America such a dangerous, unhappy nation of people who had nothing to do with real life, I resolved to shun storytelling. I would write about life. Every person would be exactly as important as any other. All facts would also be given equal weightiness. Nothing would be left out. Let others bring order to chaos. I would bring chaos to order, instead, which I think I have done.
If all writers would do that, then perhaps citizens not in the literary trades will understand that there is no order in the world around us, that we must adapt ourselves to the requirements of chaos instead.
It is hard to adapt to chaos, but it can be done. I am living proof of that: It can be done.
Then I watched the film, which was made in 1999. I felt like I was watching a bunch of children trying to make their parents and peers laugh, but trying too hard, and harder and harder. It was an awkward mess, and as far as an adaptation goes, it just about sucked out everything that was good about the story. All that was left out, left in, invented and re-invented of the story, none of it mattered, because it was just a bad film, which I felt so sorry to see. But considering the comparisons, in its own way the film ended up falling opposite of everything Vonnegut intended to express. The film has no value, skip it.
Immediately after I watched Slaughterhouse Five, made in 1972, also based off a great Vonnegut novel, perhaps considered his best. Like Breakfast of Champions, the film doesn't hold a candle to the book, understandably, it couldn't possibly achieve the wonderful little literary devices that made the book so great. But it was a great film, beautiful, subtle, complex, emotional, innovative, intelligent and entertaining. It should be seen, whether you've read the book or not.
I am doing two things at once. I'm playing My Japanese Coach on the DS, even though I'm only semi-dedicated and more concerned about finishing it, I'm learning a fair bit. I'm even learning a bit of Kanji! Understanding how the vowels and adjectives work are a pain, I kind of skimmed over them but at least know it's all there if I ever feel more dedicated.
Whenever I'm taking a break from learning Japanese, I'm reading through King Lear by William Shakespear. I got through the first act, tried to summarise it in my head, then re-read over a few parts, then realised I'll have to start again. Also, I don't know how he wrote his plays to be so long...
I don't know if I'll finish King Lear, but I have a whole line of other books on my reading list, and even more on my to-buy list. Authors include H.G. Wells, Aldous Huxley, Jules Verne, John Wyndham and Yevgeny Zamyatin. The classics.