Apparently I don’t learn lessons particularly well. You see, I was a big fan of the 1981 version of Clash of the Titans, largely because I was 11 years old at the time of its release and therefore right in the prime demographic for such an adventure. My ardor for the film had cooled over the course of 29 years, but I still had some residual affection for it in 2010 when a new version of the film toddled along.
Clash of the Titans (2010) is a movie that has pretty much everything going for it. The film has a huge budget, which the original most assuredly did not have, and all of the most advanced special effects at its disposal. It has the twin acting juggernauts of Liam Neeson as Zeus and Ralph Fiennes as Hades. It’s a slam-dunk, really, and it would take some serious effort to turn that into a failure. Yet somehow the filmmakers managed to do just that, and the movie is about as lifeless and pro forma as you might expect from an unnecessary remake in the 2000s.
Oh sure, Clash of the Titans looked fantastic and Neeson and Fiennes were as good as you could possibly expect, but the film had no life. It didn’t help that star Sam Worthington was apparently directed to be as stolid as possible, thus putting a damper on the spectacular action sequences that called for a more emotive performance. Some have said that Worthington is unable to project genuine emotion onscreen, and I’ll admit that he’s played to a type in most of the films in which I’ve seen him, but he’s also always been in a certain kind of role where that portrayal is called for. So basically it’s up in the air whether it’s Worthington or the parts he’s getting. I could go either way on the issue.
I almost feel embarrassed to admit that I liked Your Highness, given the critical lambasting the movie received. Audiences by and large didn’t care for it, either, and the movie has terrible word-of-mouth. Unsurprisingly it tanked at the theaters. I barely noticed it had come and gone, and if it wasn’t for the movie channels I get on cable, I probably never would have watched the thing at all. As it happens I had the television on just as Your Highness was getting started and found enough amusing stuff in the first ten minutes or so that I decided to record and watch the whole thing.
Let me make one thing clear: Your Highness is not a heartbreaking work of staggering genius, and I don’t make any claims to that effect. Your Highness isn’t even the laugh riot it tries to be, succeeding mostly in eliciting grins and the occasional chuckle for its cleverness. I liked it well enough that I gave it 102 minutes of my life, but it’s highly doubtful I would go back for a second helping. Your Highness is the epitome of throwaway entertainment, and if you’re the sort who demands much more from your movies then this one is most definitely not for you.
Your Highness comes from the minds that brought us Pineapple Express, a stoner action-comedy that people really did seem to like, but which I’ve never even felt the slightest inclination to see for myself. Even based on my amusement with Your Highness I probably wouldn’t seek Pineapple Express out, as it doesn’t seem to be my thing. Though come to think of it, Your Highness isn’t really my thing, either.
Here we are, less than halfway through the epic series, A Song of Ice and Fire, and I’m feeling a little ragged out. My exhaustion wasn’t quite so pronounced as I worked my way through the 1,000+ pages of A Storm of Swords, the third of seven volumes in the series, but I will say that it felt like an accomplishment to turn the final page on this sucker. Though my elation was short-lived, knowing I had two more enormous entries to read through before I could rest. If I’m not being totally clear here, let me say it in so many words: these books are long, folks, and they require a serious investment of time to work their way through. Luckily, with A Storm of Swords at least, that investment is rewarded with a great story.
Those folks who’ve been following the series solely through Game of Thrones, the HBO show, have had it pretty easy up ’til now. A Game of Thrones, the first volume, was a solidly straightforward narrative with a reasonable number of characters and plots to keep track of. This is largely the case with the second book, A Clash of Kings. The relative tightness of the story worked to the show’s advantage, allowing for remarkably faithful adaptations in 10-episode chunks. A Storm of Swords is going to change all of that. In fact, A Storm of Swords is going to be broken into two sets of 10 episodes, filmed over the course of two years. Thinking back on everything that happens between the covers of this volume, I wonder if even that’s going to be enough.
Before I was able to summarize somewhat effectively the happenings of the books I reviewed. That is no longer the case. Even the Wikipedia entry on A Storm of Swords is massive, owing to the complex — and, of course, lengthy — goings on. I’m not even going to try to recap here, which may make this review ironically shorter than the ones I wrote for less hefty tomes.
Those folks who just finished watching the second season of Game of Thrones need no real introduction to the second volume in George RR Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series, A Clash of Kings. After all, the book’s sprawling narrative was pared down to a lean 10-episode storyline that managed to hit all the high points while jettisoning that stuff that wasn’t strictly necessary to keep things rolling forward. While I will not go so far as to say that watching the show precludes the need to read the book, it is possible to watch and then go straight on to the third book, A Storm of Swords, with little need for orientation.
You may recall my review of A Game of Thrones, the first volume in A Song of Ice and Fire. In it I tried to do a decent job of summarizing what went on in the book without venturing into spoiler territory, which was something of a task. I’m in even more difficult straits with this book because so much is going on between the two covers and almost all of it is significant in some way. For a book that’s as long as A Clash of Kings is, it sure doesn’t have much in the way of padding.
I’m going to try and pick my way carefully around some key events from A Game of Thrones as I talk about this one. Suffice it to say that A Game of Thrones ended on a particularly shocking note and set the stage for major conflict in all the lands of Westeros, George RR Martin’s fantasy continent. In the far north the “wildlings,” essentially barbarian clansman, were stirring themselves to war under the banner of the King Beyond the Wall, while in the south a messy succession has resulted in the fragmentation of the once-united Seven Kingdoms into four separate chunks, each with its own king.