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Authors: edited by Andy Cox

Tags: #Science Fiction, #Fantasy, #Jonathan McCalmont, #Greg Kurzawa, #Ansible Link, #David Langford, #Nick Lowe, #Tony Lee, #Jim Burns, #Richard Wagner, #Martin Hanford, #Fiction, #John Grant, #Karl Bunker, #Reviews, #Gareth L. Powell, #Tracie Welser, #Suzanne Palmer

Interzone 251 (21 page)

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Some key refugees from Beattie’s biggest franchise reteam for 
47 RONIN
, a high-risk attempt to establish a Hollywood outpost of Chushingura cinema by supernaturalising the events of Ako 1703 on the stylistic, if hardly the tonal, model of
Pirates of the Caribbean
(from which key franchise personnel have been poached, including costume designer Penny Rose and editor Stuart Baird, himself an occasional director of some note whose credits include
Star Trek: Nemesis
), with a Hossein Amini script and a budget well north of $200m. The latest and most commercially catastrophic casualty of Hollywood’s turbulent courtship of the East Asian market, it’s turned out a surprisingly respectful and often beautifully staged treatment of Japan’s national legend, notwithstanding Keanu Reeves as a preposterous half-blood second lead, a tremendous cast of Japanese screen legends made to perform in halting English, and a radical reconception of the story as driven by Conanesque sorcery. (One credit is for “Lovecraftian samurai”.) The mass-seppuku ending, which for a long time you fear they may be going to bottle out of, is a tricky sell for western audiences, has had to be tempered with the promise of a
Winter’s Tale
-style love beyond death: “My father told me that this world was only a preparation for the next, that all we can hope is to leave it having loved and been loved … I will search for you through a thousand worlds and ten thousand lifetimes until I find you.” It’s a noble undertaking, but hasn’t been able to save the film from re-enacting its heroes’ fate with Universal’s money.

The real truth behind the making of Frankenstein’s monster is vouchsafed by Tom Hiddleston’s vampire Beat in Jim Jarmusch’s 
ONLY LOVERS LEFT ALIVE
: “Byron was a pompous ass, but Mary was delicious.” Jarmusch’s vampires live less like the Cullens than the Burroughses, swinging between Tangier and Detroit in an ever-riskier quest to score uninfected mortal (their term is “zombie”) plasma while the world around them slides into chaos. (“Have the water wars started yet, or is it still just about the oil?”) With his heightened sense of transience, Hiddleston predicts that the present-day Detroit foreseen by Verhoeven is just a step on the road to something more like the Padilha version: “This place will rise again. When the cities of the south will burn, this place will bloom.” For an hour or so nothing much happens: she hangs out with John Hurt’s undead and inexplicably aged Kit Marlowe (who all too predictably owns up to ghosting Shakespeare), he lurks in his home studio making not terribly good guitar drone music that everybody applauds as wonderful and just happens to be made by Jarmusch’s band. But then Mia Wasikowska crashes into their lives from LA (“zombie central”) as the vampire version of the maddening and out-of-control houseguest that alternative living inexorably attracts, and soon their cosily decadent lives have been turned irrevocably arse-up. The zombie-bashing elitism gets increasingly offensive, the dialogue is rather clumsy and on-the-nose, and the historical namedropping all a bit middlebrow and retro, with our heroes booking night flights under the names Stephen Daedalus and Daisy Buchanan, and Hiddleston’s gallery of hero portraits a student bedroom of countercultural heroes. But the cast are lovely, with Hiddleston and Wasikowska particular standouts, and a film that can stop its climax dead for a five-minute live number by Yasmine Hamdan has some of its priorities in the right place.

History is viewed through figures from ancient myth out of the childhood of the world in 
MR PEABODY & SHERMAN
, DreamWorks’ reanimation of the fifty-year-old
Rocky & Bullwinkle
segment series about a supersmart beagle chrononaut who treats his adoptive human son to mildly educational cartoon fun in the original WABAC Machine. None of this means a thing to UK viewers, but it probably doesn’t need to, in what comes out as a bewildering defence of innocent familial zoophily in pitting cartoon
Bill & Ted
hijinks with Cleo, Leo, and a horse’s-buttload of Greeks against the brutal and speciesist social services who simply want to tear families apart for the joy of it. Though there’s a romantic interest for Sherman, the film is primarily interested in the cross-species love of adoptive sons and fathers, particularly in the usual Hollywood absence of anything resembling a mother. But as Leonardo sagely advises, “Children are not machines, Peabody. I know, because I tried to build one. It was creepy.” And so, quite comedically, it proves.

Fathers and sons without sisters and moms are the transcendent destination of 
THE LEGO MOVIE
, the manic entrance of Warners’ new animation arm to the lucrative family market on a tide of intellectual-property hookups between studio, toymaker, and DC. From the Legofied logos to the Wes Anderson credits, nothing about this insane parade of world-hopping set pieces and blink-miss rewind gags stands still long enough to be evaluated for sensemaking. But it’s thought deeply if not coherently about the metaphysics of creative play, as the various Lego themed universes turn out themselves to be interlocking elements in a stratified creation whose upper reality is our own world and whose unseen masters are playing out an eternal unseen family drama over the right to invest our toys with the pretence of life. Amid all the family-certificated “mild fantasy violence and very mild language” (“Darn darn darn darny darn!”), what’s at stake is nothing less than every audience member’s right to fulfil the prophecy, return with the elixir through the cardboard tube of destiny, and “be the most important, most talented, and most interesting person in the universe”. As the earworm says, it’s made but it’s also true: everything is awesome when you’re living a dream.

BOOK: Interzone 251
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