‘The Dark Tower’: A Lesson In Failed Potential From Stephen King

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The Dark Tower series was a real push and pull with me, where the adventure and philosophical side of Stephen King waged war and made a series that just never amounted to the potential he set forth in the first few books, and entirely at his own fault. It’s clear early on that Stephen King sets out to make his own version of an adventurous Clint Eastwood western story tinged with his usual haunts of supernatural and horror elements. It gets off to a raucous start in the second and third books (I’m throwing away the first because although it’s good, it’s largely just set up and almost its own thing), with high adventure and thrills with the perfect balance of fantasy and mystery that puts this western world on edge. But, then as is so often the case with King, he starts to beat over the head his philosophical themes and his ideas get a bit much, all in the face of grinding this series to a halt.

My theory is that King knew a lot of the story he wanted to tell for the entire series arc, but he blew so much of that wad in the second and third books that he had to bring everything to a standstill and stretch over four more books just to fill out this “epic, long” series he wanted to make. That’s one of my biggest problems with King is that he seems to make long books just for the sake of long books. Yes, sure, hearing about Roland’s backstory was interesting and a pretty crucial part of the story, but to screech everything to a halt the way he did after the freight train of the previous two novels was baffling to me, and something that he would never recover from. The first two books include a cool device where Roland could teleport himself in another body in a different world and control it and a literal freight train that holds them hostage over riddles, while the fourth and fifth books are largely just relegated to backstory campfire tales.

From Under The Dome, 11/22/63 and The Stand among others there’s just so much beyond the meat and potatoes that King leaves in that once it reaches a certain level it just becomes excessive where even a scapegoat of “character development” no longer holds much credence. It was just frustrating to me how great the second and third books were and how much they pushed forward all this great momentum that was building up to a great adventure story only to get railroaded by these two books. It just becomes pages and pages of introspective talking and mulling around until the literal last 50 pages or so when something finally happens and then everything turns out all well and good except for the tiny bit of cliffhanger to get you to the next book.

I don’t know why King thinks this is a good strategy, where sure it’s world-building and filling in some blanks, but the excessiveness and dragging on of it for hundreds of pages when the same end could’ve been met in a way shorter form. He actually could’ve provided some interest in the main story that made you want to flip to the next page instead of knowing you’re in fo r another flashback story that really does nothing except highlight that King has very little story to actually cover all these book he intends to write, because as you know he has to write long and numerous books for some reason instead of consolidating them into fewer, more tense and engaging novels, but that’s just me.

The sixth book was a step above the last two books because it actually starts pushing towards a conclusion. The inclusion of Stephen King himself as a character is something I respect on one hand because of how weird and audacious it is in this sort of story, but on another I would’ve liked to see the story played more straight and stick to its own weird world without bringing this whole new totally different element to these stories that now make it something else completely. Building off this it’s quite clear a lot of the problems in storytelling and momentum come from King having no clue how these books would end when he first started and when he came to tackle the series years later he obviously had vastly different ideas on how this story would go. One wonders what they would’ve looked like if he wrote them all in his 1980s mindset.

At the end of the final book Stephen King preaches how the enjoyment in a story is all in the journey, not the end, largely in the defence that of course he would write a lackluster ending to this never-ending story. In truth, I thought the ending was fine and wasn’t that cheap, but in regards to his comment of the pleasure being in the journey, that was the exact problem for me in the series. At a point it seemed he had no intentions of pushing the main story along and blatantly obvious that he had no clue really where the story was going, so I could never commit faithfully to the story. I think this final installment does a pretty good job of wrapping things up and building towards an ending that was suitable for all its characters, even if there was a little more to be desired. It worked within the confines that King left himself to work with.

Ultimately, I left the series with a sense of disappointment and largely mixed to negative feelings. There was a ton of potential to the series, and while I did love the second and third books, the rest never lived up to what those books seemingly promised. King lost that thread and treaded water for a couple books before going into the absurd and taking things a bit far past the edge than seemed warranted. King always has interesting concepts and ideas, but what I’ve read of his so far seems to always fall a few strokes away from actual greatness and leaves a muddled wake instead.

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‘Suicide Squad’: Review

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For a movie that suffers in literally every aspect it might be kind of weird to say, but the chief overshadowing problem of Suicide Squad is that everybody is just trying too damn hard. Every aspect of this film is just lambasted in trying to make everything so “cool” and “different” that is just becomes so muddled that none of it work. One of the biggest problems for me was the dialogue, this movie is literally written seemingly in the hopes of making every line stand out as some kind of meme-y flip on standard dialogue. Nobody just talks normally with basic word choices and phrases (that’s not a bad thing!), nope, every line has to be flipped into some cutesy little saying because this movie needs to remind you at every second how “edgy” and against the grain they are. None of it works and it backfires amazingly. This is the through line of the entire film.

The plot suffers from the same thing, it’s actually pretty simple at the base of things, but because this movie can’t do anything straight it makes it into a confusing mess that never really makes sense. An archeologist gets possessed by a witch after touching some funky idol, then said witch flips on everybody, holds the city hostage and unleashes a bunch of monsters. That’s it, I mean the story doesn’t mean anything, because the whole point of this movie is just to watch the “Suicide Squad” do crazy shit, crack one-liners and kill people.

The most amazing thing about the plot of the movie is the whole acquiring and purpose of the “Suicide Squad” in the first place. Alright, so, get a load of this, the government wants to assemble a group of metahumans to protect against other metahumans and superheroes in case any of them go bad, so of course they decide to pick a bunch of criminals??? It’s never outlined why they decided to pick criminals, people who would have no reason to want to help the government (besides sentences reductions that are minimal), is there not other “good” superheroes you could’ve rounded up. And not only that, it’s not like they train these dudes or let them in on anything, god forbid they plan for these people and set out plans. Nope, when shit goes down they just break them out of their jail cells throw them into the wild and go “save us, guys!” and then wonder why everything goes to shit. The greatest example of this is why the hell is Harley Quinn in this group, she has no special powers or anything like Deadshot’s amazing aim or El Diablo’s fire or Killer Croc’s strength, nope, she’s just a crazy girl with a baseball bat. It makes zero sense why they would field a legit crazy person with no discernible “superhero” advantages when literally any basic human solider would’ve been a better option. She literally becomes one of the major downfalls and distractions of the group with her all Joker business. Viola Davis is terrible at her job, basically, is what this paragraph is getting at.

This, also, might be the most on-the-nose movie I’ve seen in recent memory, especially when it comes to its cliched jukebox of a soundtrack. Right from the outset its song after song that seems like it was placed in the film after someone googled “what are the most popular rock songs that have been done to death in movies over the last 50 years” and just compiled them all in one place. You got The Rolling Stones, AC/DC, CCR Black Sabbath, The White Stripes, Queen etc. etc. that all come in places that just blatantly seem like the director screaming at you “Hey! Isn’t this sooo cool and badass, like, the lyrics and song titles completely fit what’s going on on screen!” It’s hilarious and I could foresee a dangerous drinking game where you take a shot each time an on-the-nose classic rock choice pops up.

Let’s wrap up and talk about the performances for a minute, which, yep, were pretty uniformly bad. Actually, let’s start with the good, Will Smith was fantastic in this, without a doubt. I don’t know if it was that Will Smith was doing such a great job or that everybody else was so terrible, or both, but it was so painfully clear watching him in this that he was actually trying and so much so that he seemed like he was in a completely different movie. Margot Robbie was even worse than I expected as Harley Quinn to the point where I physically cringed whenever she came on the screen, especially with her one-liners in her horrible accent that always featured a second or two pause at the end like she was waiting for the audience’s laughing reaction that never came. Jared Leto as the Joker is another prime example in this movie of trying to hard and coming out on the opposite end of making this crazy person seem so try hard that he wasn’t even scary or “crazy,” just laughable in what he thought that meant. I’m a big Joel Kinnaman fan, but unfortunately try as he might the script and what he was asked to do didn’t really do him any favours and he suffered under the might of it. Jai Courtney has my favourite performance, not because he was good or anything, but because he literally plays a stereotype of an Australian complete with a boomerang weapon and rampant alcoholism and even greater than that his character literally contributes nothing to the movie in plot, character or worthwhile comedic way.

I’m a gigantic David Ayer fan and have love everything he’s ever done, but dude ripped off all the chains and delivered this over-saturated mess that plays like your 13-year-old brother’s favourite video game. It’s actually kind of amazing that this film of this magnitude fails on so many levels where eventually it just becomes a snowball effect with everything latching on and just building in how bad it is with everything coming together in a giant mess that was telegraphed from the opening frames of the movie. The greatest strength of this movie is Will Smith acting and portraying a real person amidst the chaos of all this pageantry, it’s just too bad that everything else was more concerned with the flash and pomp of creating a cool-looking 2 minute video game trailer than an actual movie with purpose and motivation.

WCW Monday Nitro/PPVS: 1995

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I’m finally watching WCW and I could not be more excited for my eventual descent into madness. Since Nitro started in September of 1995, this post is going to be pretty short and basically just my brief, random thoughts about my introduction to actually watching WCW. I’m just going to outline the PPVs quickly, since that follows the majorly storylines and then just tack on random thoughts at the end.

The first PPV is Fall Brawl where the heavyweights of the company (literally and figuratively), Hulk Hogan, Randy Savage, Lex Luger and Sting, take on literally the biggest four geeks you can think of compared to those guys in Kamala, The Zodiac, The Shark and Meng. Literally my first WCW PPV and that being the main event is the most WCW thing ever, it’s amazing. Even in the WarGames stipulation, which doesn’t do anything for me, it was amazingly lackluster. Really just a means to an end to jumpstart the Hogan/Giant feud with the Giant interrupting at the end.

Halloween Havoc has another of the most amazing WCW things ever, and in theory I’m a newbie to all this, where Hulk Hogan and Giant face off in monster truck battle, as in they actually ram actual monster trucks against each other for five minutes before their wrestling match. They of course scrap afterwards which leads Giant to follow off the dang building and plummet to his untimely death. Except that doesn’t happen and he just shows up on time for his match later in the show with no explanation of how he recovered and looking no worse for wear. This company is amazing.

World War 3 has a 60-Man battle royal that encompasses three rings because goddamn does this company love gimmick matches. This was the biggest cluster I’ve ever seen where you literally could not focus on anything. They had a split screen showing all three rings, including separate commentary, but it only really made the whole thing that much more confusing. Randy Savage won for some reason.

Starrcade was pretty cool because of the whole Americans vs. Japanese world cup thing, where giving us Jushin Liger vs. Chris Benoit as an opener pretty much is tantamount for nothing ever being able to top that. It’s also crazy to see Tenzan wrestle here in 1995 as me in 2016 is watching him in what probably will be his last G1 tournament. He’s so young then! The Ric Flair vs. Sting vs. Lex Luger match was entertaining, and especially because it got Flair the title later which is all I ever want to see.

Chris Benoit, Eddie Guerrero, Dean Malenko and Brian Pillman are so awesome in their own similar and unique ways and I could watch them all day and am so looking forward to their actual good matches among the terribleness that often surrounds it all.

Disco Inferno is the greatest gimmick ever because it’s dated as hell in 2016 and even in 1995 it was dated as hell.

I love watching Ric Flair on my TV screen no matter what he is doing. His promos are the best and him just being a heel all the way through is the greatest.

I’m relatively unfamiliar with actually seeing Lex Luger and his character, body, matches and all that and oh my god it’s so apparent right from the jump that he just doesn’t have IT to be the star that people thought he could be. Obviously, he has the insane body, but his mic skills and work in the ring is just so subpar. He’s just the most bland dude who always seems bored and like his mind is always half somewhere else.

Hulk Hogan is John Cena and John Cena is Hulk Hogan where dude will be main eventing one week and then he’ll just disappear off TV for a couple weeks then reappear like nothing happened. I can’t stand Hogan, but it’s entertaining watching him through all this.

I’m well on my way into 1996 now as I write one, so hopefully I’ll have more to say for that write-up, whenever I finish it, and hopefully I remember to take notes.