Optimistic, Though Threats Lingers

Fresh off the presses, or should I say, permanent marker.

I’m still working the kinks out of my morning creative routine, trying to find something that feels natural, feeds my creativity, is easily repeatable, and is something I actually want to do. Maybe a daily blackout poem would be a good addition to the mix?

As usual, thanks to Austin Kleon for the intro to this particularly type of poetry.

A poet must not avert his eyes

During my initial foray into the world of professional wrestling, my father took me to see the Big Boss Man take on Hulk Hogan. This was back when Hulkamania was running wild, Boss Man was the evil Cobb County prison guard, and the Portland Civic Center was still called the Portland Civic Center.

Looking back through the haze of nostalgia, it was a very big deal to me at the time. I had posters of Bret “The Hitman” Hart, the painted face tag team Demolition, and a couple others hanging on my bedroom walls. I watched wrestling shows on TV and thrilled to the banter between Gorilla Monsoon and Jesse “The Body” Ventura at ringside. Seeing these giants of sports entertainment in person was amazing.

In reality, it was your average late-80’s WWF house show. Hercules defeated Bad News Brown, Greg “The Hammer” Valentine defeated Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart, King Haku defeated Jim Powers, The Bushwackers beat the Rougeau Brothers, WWF Women’s Champion Rockin’ Robin defeated Sensational Sherri, the Red Rooster took down the Brooklyn Brawler, and Paul Roma beat “Iron” Mike Sharpe.

That main event that sparkled so brightly in my memory? Hulk won over Boss Man via a count out. Not exactly a finish to write home about.

Which all leads me to say… Werner Herzog is an interesting guy. Along with being a renegade auteur filmmaker, he also enjoys some Wrestlemania as well. I’m guessing that he’s referring to WWF/WWE, but you can never quite tell with a guy like Herzog.

The idea of professional wrestling as this spectacle that a lot of highbrow artists would look down upon but which actually can be superior to some more “enlightened” forms of entertainment is something I can agree with. It’s an amazing form that combines acting, spectacle, drama, and superior athletic ability. Sure, it’s gaudy and gauche and insane. But it’s also a good laugh, fun to watch, and occasionally transcendent in its athletic achievement.

Wrestling faded from my interest by the time high school rolled around, but made a surprise resurgence for me in college. This was at the height of WWF’s “Attitude Era” with stars like “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, the Undertaker, the Rock, Triple H, and many more. I was back in, then just as suddenly a few years later, I was back out.

Third time is the charm I suppose, because now I have new podcast out where Tim and I recap last month’s WWE Survivor Series. It was the second wrestling show I’d watched in about 20 years. And you know what? It was a lot of fun. Bright lights, explosions, acting (both good and bad), over-the-top characters (both good and bad), and athleticism that I sometimes couldn’t believe.

In other words, not a bad way to spend a Sunday night.

Is There Something On My Face?

After my post about All You Need Is Kill the other day, it only seemed appropriate last night to give Edge Of Tomorrow another watch for a little compare and contrast action to see if my preference for the movie over the book would hold up.

Overall, it did. To me, a movie is the superior way to tell this story. The repetition of the same sequence comes across better and does the job more quickly than it can be done in print – there’s less heavy lifting to convey the point. As a bonus, it also allows for some moments of humor that don’t come across in the book as well for me – Cage getting taken out by the truck on the battlefield and then on the base before correcting his timing. Let’s the pressure off just enough while also communicating the repetitive nature of his situation.

More than that, the change in the main character comes across much better visually than in the book. The accumulation of all those reps through the day begin to hang on Cage like an extra layer of grime and the look in his eyes changes from the salesman at the beginning of the flick to the hardened veteran by the end. Maybe other people got that from the book, but it works better for me visually.

Then there’s all the things that were changed from book to movie… which is just about everything. I like the idea of Cage being the marketing guy who is brought low rather than just another recruit – it makes the journey that much more significant. Having the story focus on a single battle that has higher stakes works much better for me. Giving the Mimics an intelligence beyond that of a an engineered virus and adding the idea of the Omega worked better for me as well because it gave the story some kind of closure – a single goal as opposed to “we just gotta kill em all everywhere”.

Oddly enough, some of the negatives from the movie were also present in the book. The explanation of the Mimics on Earth was never that well explained, but then again, I didn’t feel it was really that good in the book either. Bill Paxton’s SergeantFarell always seemed one-dimensional to me and I wished there’d been more of him, but reading the book and seeing a failed attempt at fleshing that character out made me realize that it makes sense for him to be exactly who he is in the movie. The ending of the movie felt a little too cute sometimes, but the book’s ending was so lackluster that I really enjoyed the ending of the movie.

So, to sum up, if you thought the movie was okay… maybe try reading the book. It’ll make you appreciate the movie some more.

All You Need Is A Good Movie Adaptation

It’s rare that I enjoy a movie more than the book. After all, taking all the details of a well-written novel and compressing them into about ninety minutes is a nearly impossible task. And that’s before taking into account the mechanisms that work really well in print which don’t translate at all into motion pictures. Throw in that the special effects inside your head are always a bit more vivid than the screen and it’s a recipe for disaster.

As with anything in life, there are always exceptions. And I ran into one this past weekend.

I was in search of coffee and something to pass the time with while waiting for my daughter’s ballet performance Friday afternoon. On a whim, I picked up Hiroshi Sakurazaka’s book All You Need Is Kill, which is the source for the Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt movie Edge of Tomorrow. Over the next two days, I devoured the book and realized about two thirds of the way through that there was no way, barring a last-minute save by the author, that I was going to like the book better than the movie.

Thinking it over, I think it’s similar to why I prefer John McTiernan’s version of The Hunt For Red October more than Tom Clancy’s book. The movie leaves out a bunch of stuff that might be interesting to the hardcore audience but that, if not outright boring, would be not as interesting to the general public. An author certainly has to worry about losing his audience, but I tend to think that readers are more patient by nature than a watcher. That’s not to say superior, it just has to do with the initial buy in. Someone going to a movie is setting aside a couple hours to be entertained and then can get on with their life. Someone picking up a novel is making a much longer commitment. Every minute on screen is precious whereas pages come a little cheaper.

There’s also the matter of inner monologue and dodgy dialogue between characters. The thoughts of a character can be incredibly valuable and inform the reader about who that person is… or they can show just how thin the character really is. Same with dialogue between characters that makes a reader roll their eyes. It happens in both mediums, but I think readers will forgive a bit more just because of the investment.

Overall, I thought the book was good and the concept was really good, but it just works better as a movie. Some of the ways that they showed the main character’s progress throughout the day was illustrated so much better on the screen than the page. Also, there was a clarity to the goal that felt lacking in the book – even when the main character succeeds, I wasn’t totally sure why. The movie had a resolution to it whereas the book says “and then we kept going”.

Maybe it has to do with seeing the movie first. Reading the book, I couldn’t help hear the sergeant speaking in Bill Paxton’s deep Kentucky accent because the book never fleshed out the character enough to make me think any differently. It also doesn’t hurt that I think Tom Cruise was perfect for the role – he pulls off the smarmy jerk that you still want to root for really well.

Which is sort of what I want from this kind of story anyways. Give me a couple interesting characters, some decent spectacle, and hang it all on an interesting premise. It’s not the book’s fault that it should’ve been a movie the whole time I guess.