Wednesday, February 17, 2010

[Novel Review] The Ruins of Gorlan (Ranger's Apprentice, #1)

I picked this up mainly because the cover is suggesting that it's some sort of dark fantasy novel. The mysterious cloaked guy in it made me even more intrigued with it.

I saw it on sale, so I bought it at once. The sequel was also for sale, but I decided not to buy that one as well because it has been sort of my rule to not buy sequels unless I've read their preceding books. So I didn't.

Thank goodness I made the right decision. The first book was a failure.

The Ruins of Gorlan (Ranger's Apprentice, #1)
by John Flanagan
He had always wanted to be a warrior. The Rangers, with their dark cloaks and shadowy ways, made him nervous. The villagers believe the Rangers practice magic that makes them invisible to ordinary people. And now fifteen year-old Will, always small for his age, has been chosen as a Ranger's apprentice. What he doesn't realize yet is that the Rangers are the protectors of the kingdom. Highly trained in the skills of battle and surveillance, they fight the battles before the battles reach the people. And as Will is about to learn, there is a large battle brewing. The exiled Morgarath, Lord of the Mountains of Rain and Night, is gathering his forces for an attack on the kingdom. This time, he will not be denied . . .
Well, it was indeed a dark fantasy novel. Or rather it tries hard to be one. The only dark elements here are the main villains . . . but they don't seem as threatening as how the novel tries so hard to make them seem. After all, it didn't take too many chapters to defeat those creatures. We haven't heard much about the mastermind around the end either. The introduction of the cast, the training days and the moments with the little fights and stuff took more chapters than the actual adventure. And that's what made the novel so freakin' boring.

It's slow-paced, I get it. There's totally nothing wrong with that. But detailing almost everything that was done during the training (or what happened during their school life), and mentioning how each particular training had enhanced a particular skill is just a waste of sentences and paragraphs. The book didn't only waste its pages on that. For some reason it also loves to emphasize on how freakin' talented the main character and his friends are. They are all the best on what they're good at (e.g. the girl who loves to cook is so freakin' good that even the palace chef admired her greatly. And of course, she's better than the other cooks. Of course.)

And of course, the main character is freakin' exceptional and special. Yes, there's this little twist of him excelling in something different from what he thought he wanted. But after discovering it, he turns out to be a natural. And yeah, even though he was new to the spy thing, he managed to rescue a friend, who's supposed to be the fighter between them, and he also managed to save important people and the whole kingdom in fact. He's the hero. It's all him. All him. The amateur was better than those characters who are supposedly the more talented and experienced one. But the main character has to receive all the glory in this adventure. He has to be as great as possible. Oh that's so terrific....

Ah, another character complain. One of the main characters is supposed to be a knight prodigy since he's a natural on the swordfights and all. However, he couldn't handle the three big bullies, because it was three-against-one. But if it's one-on-one he won't have a problem in dealing with them . . . even if he's very badly injured. And he's considered a prodigy . . . riiiiight. But as if it's always one-on-one in real battle. The real skillful warrior can handle a number of weaklings with no sweat. This is a fantasy adventure novel after all. They fight monsters so puny enemies shouldn't have been a problem. *sighs* I acknowledge that author's attempt to make an extremely talented character not to be as perfect as he seems . . . . but the result was a failure.

If characterization is already horrible, the development on the relationships isn't anything better. Especially the romance, because it just happened for the sake of the leading character having a love interest. It went as far as a kiss at that moment but before that, they didn't interact much . . . nor do we see them having a special connection/interaction except for the fact that they've been friends longer than the others.*bangs head on the wall* The interesting bond perhaps is between the main character and his master/teacher. The master seemed cold or indifferent at first but as days go by they slowly warm up to each other. It was a cute development. However, at times it creeps me out when the main character becomes overjoyed when he sees his master smile. I know it's because his master rarely shows emotions and he likes the guy being proud of him . . . but still . . . to be THAT happy everytime it happens . . . for some reason it makes me have wild imaginations . . ..

The only thing, or person rather, that I actually appreciated is the apprentice before the main character, whose name I forgot (starts with a "G" if I remember correctly). He only get to do something cool very briefly . . .he even failed in it. The "rule" of the main character always being better has to be followed. Ugh. Well, anyway, what I liked about him was that he was fun. He's the one who jokes a bit (the other jokes try to be cool but are actually lame. But this guy is indeed lame, and that's what made him funny for me). So in other words, he didn't bore me, unlike the rest of the cast . . . who are all uninteresting. *yawns*.

Overall, it was extremely boring. I was absolutely not pleased on its strategy in wasting pages. It fails in suspense and plot twists as well, because they're so expected and some are delayed on purpose though the answer's already so obvious. The characterizations and character/relationship development gave me the most headaches. Even if it had the friendship love that I adore so much . . . but the best friend pair in this one is so dull to me. I'm so disappointed that this book is just your typical fantasy adventure novel . . . and it wasn't as interesting as it seemed to me.

I admit that this book isn't that horrible. but it's nowhere near great at all. Maybe the succeeding books have improved, but I don't want to take the risk. There are many other interesting books in my to-read list.

If you just want to read a YA fantasy adventure novel, this isn't a bad choice. But if you want something different and exciting, pick a different one for this will just disappoint, in my opinion. Novels are meant to save an avid reader from boredom, not make them bored and sleepy.

D (DAMN HORRIBLE! What a complete waste of time!)
It really wasn't that horrible but it's so boring and typical . . . definitely a waste of time. I regret reading it.
2 Hearts ---> DISLIKE
It was disappointing, but nothing particularly annoyed the hell out of me.

Monday, February 15, 2010

[First Sighting] Shutter Island

I've heard about this movie since last year, but I thought it was just a simple horror movie. But when I saw its trailer for the first time when I watched the Lightning Thief movie, my jaw dropped.

It was so . . . thrilling.

The year is 1954 (so in a way it's historical, my type), U.S. Marshal Teddy Daniels and his new partner, Chuck Aule, (cop partners! Sweet! And this also means action! Gun action! Yay!) have come to Shutter Island, (people in a secluded/isolated area for crime-related reasons have their own cultural and behavioral pucularities . . . interesting) home of Ashecliffe Hospital for the Criminally Insane (I am highly interested in stories about criminals and psychiatry stuff~ Yaaay!), to investigate the disappearance of a patient (detective investigation!!! Oh how much more is this gonna please me?). Multiple murderess Rachel Solando (a female murderer! You don't encounter that often in movies) is loose somewhere on this remote and barren island, despite having been kept in a locked cell under constant surveillance (That's so mysterious~). As a killer hurricane bears relentlessly down on them, a strange case takes on even darker (darker . . . I love that), more sinister shades(I love creepy stuff!)—with hints of radical experimentation, horrifying surgeries, (I love creepy stuff! Though tortures and medical experiments horrify me the most . . . then this means good horror material for me then. Sweet~) and lethal countermoves made in the cause of a covert shadow war. No one is going to escape Shutter Island unscathed (now it's some sort of an escape adventure and a survival game! Awesome!), because nothing at Ashecliffe Hospital is remotely what it seems (I'm curious of what that phrase meant~).

I fell in love with the trailer! I want to see this so badly!!!! I think some people have already seen it, and the earliest official release date that I've seen is later this month. Sadly, in my country it won't be released in theaters until April . . . guuuuhh . . . this wait is horrifying. And no, I don't want to watch an awesome movie through streaming or through those cheap DVD's. It has to be seen on full screen. But that wait . . .what torture . . .

But recently I found out that it's actually based on a novel! And I see it being successful and highly praised by critics. Oh goodie! Makes me want to read the book soon! I'm so hunting for it on Friday.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

[Movie Review] Percy Jackson and the Olympians - The Lightning Thief

I had enjoyed the first book of the Percy Jackson & the Olympians series. Naturally, the movie was something I would look forward to. I was supposed to be watching it with some of my college friends on its showing date, but I wasn't sure if our plans would push through. It did, but I didn't know. So I only managed to watch it after making my mother accompany me the following day.

The movie turned out to be . . . quite a disappointment.

STUDIO: 20th Century Fox
DIRECTOR: Chris Columbus
STARRING: Logan Lerman, Pierce Brosnan, Uma Thurman, Sean Bean, Catherine Keener, Rosario Dawson, Steve Coogan, Kevin McKidd
It's the 21st century, but the gods of Mount Olympus and assorted monsters have walked out of the pages of high school student Percy Jackson's Greek mythology texts and into his life. And they're not happy: Zeus' lightning bolt has been stolen, and Percy is the prime suspect. Even more troubling is the sudden disappearance of Percy's mother. As Percy adapts to his newly discovered status as a demi-god (his father is Poseidon), he finds himself caught between the battling titans of Mt. Olympus. He and his friends embark on a cross-country adventure to catch the true lightning thief, save Percy's mom, and unravel a mystery more powerful than the gods themselves.
It didn't meet my expectations. Okay, let me make this clear: I'm not the "book-versions-are-always-better-than-movie-adaptations" type of person; but in this case, the book was a hell lot better, story-wise.

I don't mind if the movie writers don't include some events from the book, or if they add or change things that happened. I find it necessary because books are movies are really very different materials. But to ruin the story is just . . . unforgivable.

The movie's story overall has become your typical fantasy adventure story with the overused cliches and stereotypes . . . not to mention the plotholes and some events that are just there to waste screentime. Let me specify several of my complains:
  • Why do they love to encourage the youth to break the rules? Yes, Harry Potter does that; but please don't force to include that on Percy's story as well. What is so difficult in making Percy be placed on a quest/mission instead (like what was done in the book)? His reason on wanting to go to the Underworld in the movie was hell pathetic compare to the actual reason he had in the original material.
  • What's with the adventure of collecting pearls to go to a certain location? It was more dangerous and interesting on how things went in the original material: They were on the run and Percy was a wanted criminal. Doing the mission had been more challenging, since they also have to go through the traps and fight monsters along the way.
  • I can understand if they want to make Percy so perfect for having the main character position but that scene . . . oh come on. The part wherein they have to bribe Charon to take them to the Underworld . . . how come Grover was the one who mistakes that mortal money would work on the guy while Percy had the drachma idea? Grover was the one who should know better since Percy is just new to this type of world. Yes, making it Grover to be mistaken is funnier, but if it doesn't match his character background is just so wrong.
  • I don't mind if the characters in the movie are different from what I've imagined they'll be . . . but drastic character changes just ain't goof. How come I don't feel Chiron and Annabeth as intelligent individuals? (Or maybe it's just me) Yes, Percy does the thinking at times, but not all the times. And with Percy, why wasn't he as hilarious as in the book (Or maybe he made me laugh more of because of his narration)? Is there difficulty to make the main character as funny as the comic relief sidekick??? And Poseidon . . . he doesn't act like one of the main gods . . . and the humanity thing added in his character just makes me think that the movie just wants to exaggerate the family drama. *facepalm*
  • Oh please, the mastermind in this movie is so "threatening". It's honestly so vague for a mere character to be such a big threat in the story. In the book he was actually caught, but he had a powerful boss. That's a more convincing villain.
  • How things ended in the movie had been too easy. Things worked out way too simply. The one who had given proof in the original material was from one of the higher gods . . . that is something I find more acceptable for Zeus to see as more convincing than the one from the words of a mere demigod.
  • Zeus' lightning bolt was mentioned as the strongest weapon ever, right? But there was no mention in the movie that how a powerful weapon had been easily stolen by a mere individual from a powerful god (the book gave such. It was simple, but makes sense). Moreover, if it is indeed the most powerful weapon, then the one who's using it should be invincible and its destrutove force is really great (the book mentioned that it's more destructive than an atomic/nuclear bomb), right? But well, Percy and his opponent both had used it in the movie, and it was just like a normal shotgun or something. Most powerful weapon indeed.

Oh there's a lot more to tell, but basically my point is, many of the characterizations seemed so wrong, and the story changes ruined the brilliance of the story in the original material. If the movie writers couldn't come up with something better, they should have just sticked to the book's main plot. I don't see how difficult it would have been . . . Harry Potter had managed that, why can't this one? The main plot was already so good, so why the stupid change?

With how the story went, it doesn't seem like we could be getting a sequel (mastermind revealed, most mysteries "explained", what else to look forward to?). But if there ever will be and the writers will be doing the same horrible job on it, I'd rather not want to have the sequel created. My dreams of seeing the third book (my favorite one) have now shattered.

On the bright side, if you're just after the visuals; I say it was really awesome! The special effects were really cool and the fight scene was awesome. I think they're the scenes really worth watching in the movie. They had been so fantastic!

And despite my complains on many of the story/character changes, I did like some changes. Persephone made an appearance in the movie, and she was a pretty fun character. Grover was the one I had been most proud of. In the book, I see him as useless and pretty lame. I only see him as useful for a couple of times and I only find him excellent when it comes to reading emotions. But other than that, he sucked. But the Grover in the movie was different. He was COOL and HILARIOUS. He's the comic relief sidekick and he did a good job on that in the movie. In other words, I find Grover much mroe likable in the movie.

Another awesome part in the movie is the one with Medusa. I'm not being biased on Uma Thurman . . . but she's really done a good job as Medusa. It had been really fun to watch. And haha, and the comedy scenes that involve her head had been very amusing~

Overall, the movie could have actually been great if it weren't for the horrible work on the story and the characterizations. I'm not saying I know better than those writers . . . but if how things went in the original material had been so much times better than the movie adaptation, then I see the movie adaptation as a FAILURE. I don't recommend this movie if you're after the story, because it's something too typical. Not much is new from it. If I hadn't read the book, I would've labeled it as a "Desperate Harry Potter Wannabe". But since I know that it hasn't been like that in the original material, than I'm not doing so. However, if you're just after the cool visuals and you ahve time to waste, this movie is certainly something enjoyable to watch.

C- (SO-SO! Very average and typical whatever!)
The story and characterizations were horrible and disappointing but the other stuff ain't so bad. It just became an average movie though.
3 Hearts ---> LIKE
Despite my disappointments, I had enjoyed it. And perhaps my love for the original material had avoided me to completely dislike the movie.