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Dragon Blade 2015 posterMark was feeling a little down on New Year's and we searched for movies to watch. We both wanted something historical and he hit upon Dragon Blade, a piece of historical fiction (with heavy emphasis on "fiction") that was supposed to portray a clash between the Han Dynasty and Roman Republic on the Silk Road. I remember mentioning this movie to [personal profile] lb_lee a while ago, and it came out in early 2015. With that sexy premise and a star-studded cast of Jackie Chan, John Cusak, Adrien Brody and more, it looked promising in theory. We had both seen the trailer, though, and didn't have very high hopes. Still, we just wanted to see cool battle scenes and turn off the higher brain functions for a while.

The critical brain, however, is not so easily turned off in geeks and ended up making everything gloriously funny. I don't even know where to start. There's the hilariously implausible idea that a branch of the Han military were basically UN Peacekeepers dedicated to keeping the peace on the Silk Road without hurting anyone. (Jackie Chan beating up both sides of a fight to break it up totally counts as hurting in my book, though.) There were the unnecessarily drawn-out fight scenes. There were the huge leaps in the story that left the audience scrambling to fill in the gaps. There were crowds of men screaming in slow-motion about every half hour like they won the Superbowl, while emotional music swelled in the background trying to manipulate the audience into joining in the undeserved emotional moment. It was Hollywood's Greatest Hits put together without any structure or design, making for one of those incoherent movies where you're left wondering at the end what the hell it was all about.

In which I proceed to spoil the entire movie )

Okay, so not everything was funny and some things were just rage-making and the whole thing sucked. Still, there were some spectatular battles and fight choreography as advertised, and plenty of unintentional comedy to laugh at. The production values were high and would have worked in a better put-together movie. This possible glimpse into the future of Chinese blockbusters--the movie did fairly well in China--is both instructuve and disturbing because, as I said, Dragon Blade learned some of Hollywood's lessons very well. The disturbing part is that the lessons don't stop at overdone CGI effects and manipulative swelling music.
ljlee: (Default)
The Dresden Files series by Jim Butcher has been a vice of mine for years. The quality of the books can be uneven, but overall it had a cast of memorable characters set against a vivid backdrop of modern urban fantasy. It was also the basis for one of the most kickass roleplaying games of all time. Overall, I thought it was a solid supernatural mystery whose scope grew increasingly epic as the series went on.

But now that I've read Book 12 of the series, Changes (which has the distinction of being the first purchase on my Kindle app), I don't want to continue with the series anymore. Partly it may be series fatigue, but some of the details of crafting and development bothered me or just left me cold. I have no desire to buy Book 13, Ghost Stories, and probably won't pick the series up again unless I hear something really good about it. The following are the reasons the series lost me.

In which I complain about the writing, don't care about the life of a child, and rant about race and colonialism. The review is spoiler-free, unless you click into the separately marked spoilers. )

In the end the biggest changes, going into the book, were not in the series but in me. I've changed as a writer and reader, and my political views now seem inextricable from the literary. TDF is a good series, I just think I've grown away from it. I wish the books and the characters all success, and look forward to finding other books to love.

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L.J. Lee

June 2016

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