Sunday, 25 September 2011

Took a blustery walk along the beach

Took a blustery walk along Balmedie Beach this afternoon. Sand dunes, hazy sunshine and a fair bit of wind.

Balmedie Beach, looking south towards Aberdeen

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Book Review: Gods of Manhattan by Al Ewing



I have finally caught up with all the books in the Pax Britannia (PB) series!
Gods of Manhattan is Al Ewings second entry into the series, and as with his other PB book, it owes little if nothing to the Steampunk genre. I know Ewing likes to push the boundary's of Steampunk, but seriously, the only hints Steampunk in this novel are a few "bolt-on" surface details that could just as easily be removed without affecting the book in any way! That is not to say that this isn't a good book, I really enjoyed it, but I think it would probably have received a lot more of an audience if it had been aimed at a Pulp market instead of Steampunk!
El Sombra, Ewing's first Pax Britannia book played out like a psychotic Zorro novel, drawing much from the Pulp genre and adding in a large helping of Weird War II. For more on El Sombra read my review.
This second book, Gods of Manhattan, immerses itself even deeper into the Pulp genre. Featuring a trio of masked vigilantes and super heroes, all competing to rid Manhattan of it's criminal elements, the story pays homage and owes many debts to the Pulp stories of the 1930's.
El Sombra, makes his return having left his Mexican home (see Ewing's first PB novel, El Sombra), he has taken to the road in his search for vengence against the Nazis. Although now that he has arrived in New York the brutal slaying of his targets is not well received!
The Blood Spider is a masked vigilante very much in the style of The Shadow, or probably even more so the original Spider, possibly with a little of Alan Moore's Watchmen character Rorschach thrown in. Gunning down criminals wherever he finds them.
Finally we have Doc Thunder. Clearly based on Doc Savage, but given the superpowers of the original Superman (virtually indestructible, can leap tall buildings in a single bound etc.).
Doc Thunder's primary adversary Lars Lomax, "The Most Dangerous Man in the World", also brings us back to the Superman analogy. He is basically Lex Luthor (lets face it, the initials gave it away), he has a history of trying to bring down Doc Thunder, has committed countless crimes and keeps returning from the dead, after being "killed" when his previous plans are foiled. He even has a bald head...
A lot of the supporting characters are also very familiar to pulp readers. Thunder's sidekick Monk Olsen takes the place of Doc Savage's team of assistants, even resembling Monk Mayfair in name and appearance. There is also an eternal princess who hails from a lost jungle civilization, various disgruntled cops and a whole league of defeated super-villains that are mentioned in passing.
The plot itself revolves around an apparent Nazi organisation and it's scheming to bring down America. There are plots within plots, twists and turns all the way through. Early in the book the reader is led into sympathizing with all three of the main characters as they pursue each other, and the shadowy villains, around the streets of Manhattan. However, it soon becomes clear that more is going on than simply the clash of egos between the three vigilantes.
Although they are poles apart from Jonathan Green's PB books, Ewing's two entries into the series are both well worth reading. Gods of Manhattan is a very well written book and gripped me from beginning to end. Just don't expect it to bare any resemblance to the other Pax Britannia books, in style, content or tone!
As I said at the beginning, this brings me up to date with the Pax Britannia series. However I have just discovered that the first part of Jonathan Green’s new PB book Time’s Arrow will be available in October as an Ebook. So please check back soon and I will review it in due course…












Friday, 26 August 2011

Movie Review: Conan The Barbarian 3D

I went to see Conan The Barbarian 3D on Wednesday evening (the official opening night here in the UK). I actually saw the 2D version as I really don’t get the fascination with wearing a second pair of glasses over my normal ones for two hours, just to get a headache while watching a film.

There has been a lot said about the film, from Robert E. Howard fans and from other sources, so it was with some trepidation, and quite low expectations that my two pals and I ventured into the cinema.

Conan_poster_Conan

Now, before I start I would like to state that yes I am an REH fan and I would have liked to see a blue eyed Conan, whether it be achieved by contact lenses or by digital post processing. However, I am not going to loose sleep over it and I quite understand the compromises and alterations that have to be made when translating an eighty year old series of short stories into a modern movie. Add to that the necessary influences coming from the comic incarnation of the character and also the 1982 movie (we don't mention Conan The Destroyer), which personally, I enjoy watching quite regularly.

Firstly I would like to give my overall impressions of the film.

Visually, it looked very good, capturing a gritty fantasy world, although still based in some kind of reality, and so it evoked Howard’s Hyborian Age fairly well. Clearly the style of cinematography owed a lot to films like 300, with the dark, slightly over-exposed look.

As is fashionable with action films at the moment the action kicked off right from the beginning and didn’t let up from then on. I tend to think that this style often means that characters are very much left undeveloped, and this was very much the case here. All of the other characters were left very much as two dimensional archetypes with no real investigation of their personalities or motives, beyond the obvious one, revenge, that was central to the plot. Now OK, this is a Sword and Sorcery movie that is based on a comic book character (it is based on the comic book version of Conan much more than it is based on the the Howard original), so clearly depth of character could easily be seen as unnecessary, and to some extent I can see that most of the characters don’t need much depth, after all  the typical evil sorcerer in any Fantasy or Sword and Sorcery story is fairly two dimensional anyway. However, I do feel that they could have opened up Conan’s character a little more, showing his lighter and darker sides, his wit and intelligence as well as the brutal way that he can deal with his enemies. Maybe exploring his career as a thief a little more, or at least hinting at it more than the one reference to Tower of the Elephant! In this respect I do feel that the 1982 movie possibly has the edge here as it certainly explored Conan’s character in more depth, even if he wasn’t as dark a character as I would have liked.

Conan_poster_Khalar-Zym

Jason Momoa does a good job of filling the barbarians boots. He is certainly a more fitting Conan than Arnold Schwarzenegger was in the 1982 film (back when that one was released, I remember, I was surprised that at the very least they hadn’t dyed his hair black). Given a chance to develop the character further, I think that Momoa could bring some real depth to the part, and certainly manages to bring a real Frazetta like image to the character. We will have to wait and see if there will be any chance of a further instalment. As for the other actors and actresses. They all played there parts with suitable style and enthusiasm. Stephen Lang was fine as Khalar Zym, maybe not having quite the gravitas of James Earl Jones, but still injecting the role with plenty of evil menace.

Conan_poster_Tamara

As for the actresses, unfortunately there wasn’t much of a role for Rachel Nichols, who ended up as more of a plot point than as an essential character in the film. On the other hand, Rose McGowan almost stole the show at time with her psychotic witch, Marique, and even with her bizarre hairstyle managed to pull off a very sexy, if terrifyingly warped character.

Rose-McGowan-conan-babeStephen-Lang-and-Rose-McGowan-in-Conan-The-Barbarian-2011-Movie-Image1-600x398

Other than that, Ron Perlman was up to his usual standard in his rather short (not unexpectedly so) appearance as Conan’s father, and Leo Howard was excellent as the the youthful Conan putting some real animal ferocity into the role.

All in all I enjoyed Conan The Barbarian, but as much as I preferred Jason Momoa in the title role, I tend to think that the 1982 film still has the edge, at least for me!

When comparing it to recent films, I would say that I preferred Conan to Clash of the Titans, but I think as far as REH related movies go I probably preferred Solomon Kane. I hope that Conan The Barbarian does well enough to lead to a sequel, as I feel that now that they have the “origins story” out of the way they could possibly draw a little more from Howard in a new film and get more depth into the whole thing. However I fear, that like Solomon Kane this movie will not lead to any proposed sequels coming along. Still you never know, after all, I hear that they are making a sequel to Clash of the Titans

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Pulp Zen! has split into two distinct blogs!

As I said in my last post, I have decided to reassess my blog and refocus it.

This has led to my splitting Pulp Zen! into to separate blogs, Iron Mammoth’s Studio and Iron Mammoth’s R&R (this blog).

Iron Mammoth’s Studio will focus exclusively on model making, figure sculpture and wargaming. Offering tutorials, tips and tricks for figure sculptors and model makers and also model making materials and tools product reviews. It will also feature postings on the developments in my wargaming hobby, such as 15mm sci-fi and 28mm retro sci-fi and where-ever my wargaming interests may wander…

IMS is where my main focus will be centred! I want to concentrate on developing a resource that model makers and figure sculptor will find useful and refer to on a regular basis.

However, I also enjoy reviewing books and movies and I find that generally those posts are the ones that attract traffic to the blog. So rather than abandon that side altogether I thought it would be better to create a separate blog, Iron Mammoth’s R&R.

Iron Mammoth’s R&R will feature everything else that has normally been found on Pulp Zen! Movie, TV and book reviews, general Sci-fi and Pulp related articles, anything else that my geek mind happens to settle on…

Over the next few days and weeks both blogs will be settling into their new roles. This may well mean some minor design changes happening, also there may be a few hiccups along the way (I am having trouble transferring the Google Friend Connect ”Following system” from Pulp Zen over to Iron Mammoth’s Studio, for a start). I wanted to move IMS to it’s own blog page rather than simply use the Pulp-Zen blog, as I want it to build into the future and have it’s own identity. This is why I have moved it to http://ironmammoth.blogspot.com/. Pulp-Zen! has always been associated with Pulp, Sci-Fi and reviews so it seemed natural to leave IMR&R in that slot.

Oh and of course IMR&R will also feature your regular dose of space babes as well Winking smile

Space-Girl-pinup by http://www.eamonart.com/

Monday, 22 August 2011

Where am I going with this blog?


That is a question that I have been asking myself over the past couple of months.

I could get the random visitor numbers up by doing a lot more movie reviews and that type of post. Feature more photos of attractive actresses (and actors) as they seem to pull in the hits as well. That would increase the basic number of people visiting my blog, but just how many of those visitors actually read the posts that are important to me, i.e the wargaming,  model making and figure sculpting articles?
Many of the random hits seem to come from Google image searches (again the attractive actresses), and from using Google Image search myself, I know that many of those visitors wont even be looking at the page that the image is on, they simple click on to the image and then head back to Google for their next image search. Taking the random visits at face value seems to be a good way to mislead myself on the popularity of my blog...

I want this blog to attract visitors who are actually interested in model making (mainly for wargaming), figure sculpting and wargaming (mainly sci-fi, 28mm pulp sci-fi, 15mm sci-fi and possibly 6mm sci-fi if I ever get around to painting any up).

So, with that in mind I am looking at doing a little redesign work on the layout, and content of the blog. I will concentrate the content on the core areas. I will occasionally drop in some less focused postings, but only if I can justify them against one of the core areas in some way. I will also include some eye candy postings from time to time as we all need a little light relief occasionally. BUT this blog will be more focused and cover the core areas in more depth om now on.


To reflect this I am going to re-brand the the blog. I will probably keep the pulp-zen blogger URL, but the main name will become something more in tune with the central themes for the blog, i.e. model making and figure sculpture with a sci-fi wargamers bias. I haven't chosen the new name yet (any suggestions greatfully received)...

This is going to be musch less of a personal ramble of a blog and much more of an instructional kind of thing.
I may even open it up to other regular contributors.

So, if you have actually stuck around to read all of this post, you will hopefully have enjoyed some of what I have done here in the past. If so, please let me know what you have liked and what you would like to see more of!

Just to lighten the mood of this rather heavy piece. Here is Jane Fonda to remind us what sci-fi should should really be about...


And here is a kit of her, just to keep things on topic...



Sunday, 31 July 2011

Book Review: El Sombra by Al Ewing

el_sombra_250x384

El Sombra is set in the same alternate steampunk world as Jonathan Green’s Ulysses Quicksilver books, however, it has a very different feel to it. Using a movie analogy, if Green’s books share something in common with Hammer Horror gothic style movies, then Al Ewing’s entry into the Pax Britannia series feels more like a Quentin Tarantino film. El Sombra is hard, brutal, dirty and often downright mean!

Set in a small Mexican village that is overrun by a Nazi invasion force. The story revolves around the psychological experiment that the Nazis are conducting in the town, which has been turned into a labour camp, and the endeavours of a lone freedom fighter who singlehandedly stands up against them.

The story reads like a Zorro adventure, with the lone vigilante, El Sombre, going up against the all powerful overlords. Initially with minor encounters with the odd guard here and there, but very soon escalating to an all out (one man) war with all of the German forces in the area.

It goes through the standard ups and downs that are typically found in this type of story. Initial victories, and then, inevitably, El Sombre is captured and tortured. The torture sequences that are scattered throughout the book verge on torture porn, being exceedingly explicit and also fairly sanguine!  El Sombre’s escape from captivity and subsequent battles are handled quite stylishly, although his near superhuman acrobatics are sometimes a little hard to believe.

Ewing’s writing style generally carries the story along at a nice fast pace, and doesn’t really drag at any point. However, he does have a habit of giving each Nazi encountered by El Sombre a deep and often twisted back story, that to be honest is near to pointless. Some of these pieces stretch on for a page or two and you know that at the end El Sombre is going to despatch them without batting an eyelid. Although some of these back stories are quite entertaining, they are far too regular and go on far too long, especially when they occur right in the middle of a fight scene!

So, generally another good read. El Sombre is very different in style to Ewing’s running mate in the Pax Britannia series, which may catch some readers off guard, however, on it’s own merits an interesting steampunk novel, with some large Weird War Two input as well. Certainly worth a read.

As has become familiar with the Pax Britannia books, the book doesn’t finish at the end of Ewing’s novel. Tucked in after the novel is another 50 page Ulysses Quicksilver novelette from Jonathan Green, Fruiting Bodies. This is another excellent read, with Ulysses taking on a strange case in the dark and twisted streets of Green’s steampunk London. This time encountering a series of bodies that have been infected by a virulent and very deadly fungus. The plot soon thickens and builds to the inevitably heart stopping finale!   There are overtones of Invasion of the Body Snatchers about it, but with a very steampunk vibe as well.

So, all in all, El Sombre is another excellent addition to the Pax Britannia series. The novel is certainly different in feel to Green’s books, but it is still an excellent read and I am looking forward to reading Al Ewing’s second book in the series, Gods of Manhattan. Look out for a review of that one in a few weeks time.

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Banff Medieval Festival - Schiltron Demostration

Practicing a Schiltron

Over the weekend we took a trip up to Banff, around an hour north of Aberdeen, we’d been up to Macduff Marine Aquarium on the previous weekend (well worth a visit if your in the North East of Scotland), and seen a couple of posters advertising Banff Medieval Festival. I have never been to a re-enactment before so I was interested to see what it was all about.

Banff Castle is basically a smallish stately home (certainly not what I would consider a castle), the grounds are not large either, so I new this was not going to be on the scale of some of the American Renaissance Fayres, or even some of the bigger events put on across the UK. The event was put on by The Historic Saltire Society, and even with such a small event, they put on a really interesting show.

As it was there were around a dozen tents, the the occupants of each showing off various things from calligraphy, weaving and butter churning to smithing arrowheads, making armour and even demonstrating a few musical instruments.

My son tries his hand at butter churning! 

Both my sons were showing a severe lack of interest in any of this until the older one was handed a falchion and then given a two handed sword to try out!

Braveheart?

Now that his interest was rising we awaited a display of the Schiltron (Scheltrum…), which turned out to be a well rehearsed demonstration, that not only educated everyone about this fighting formation, but was also very entertaining.

I recorded most of the demonstration with my compact camera. It was a very cold and windy July day, so excuse the poor sound quality. I think anyone interested in the workings of the medieval battlefield will find it worthwhile watching all the way through…

Part one explains the basics of the formation.

Part two demonstrates a schiltron repelling an attack.

Unfortunately, as it was such a cold day, we were reluctant to hang around for some of the other demonstrations. If we see more of these events coming along, I think we will certainly make an effort to attend them, in future.

Friday, 15 July 2011

History, the Future and where I am going...

I am just back from my summer trip south, taking my wife and sons to visit the rest of the family (which accounts for my lack of posting for the last couple of weeks).
I am back, revitalised and raring to go. I have plenty of half finished projects that I am now keen to bring to fruition, and also so plans for other projects that I think might be of interest to some of my readers.

However, I have also spent a little time reviewing the direction of the blog and how the content has been received. There has been a steady rise in visitor stats for the blog over the past year, thank you all for that, page loads for May 2011 reached nearly 13000, more that double the previous months total, and although they have tailed off a little since then, it has greatly energised my interest in maintaining the blog.

I have spent quite some time looking over the stats to understand what makes a popular post and then also trying to relate that to my aims for future posts and for my target audience (primarily sci-fi wargamers). The most popular posts on the blog in general seem to be the film and TV reviews( Sanctuary, the Conan movies, The Lost Future etc.). These seem to attract the most random hits from search engines, but I fear that they don't generate many returning visits. (i.e. people searching for reviews of The Lost Future). A lot of these page loads also come in the form of Google Image searches, and are clearly just people looking for photos of their favourite movie stars, I have no problem with that (I put the photos in mainly to attract new visitors), but it doesn't really help the blogs regular readership to grow, as most of these hits don't even load the actual blog pages, just the image they are searching for. While I enjoy writing these "media" articles, and I hope some of my regular readership gets something out of them, I don't know if they are growing the blog in the audience genres that I really want it to grow.

It doesn't take much to work out why these pictures are popular, but it is a shame that they don't attract more returning visitors.


After the "media" based blog posts, the next most popular posts seem to be the tutorials and information based items on model making and figure sculpting. In particular the laser cutting articles have generated quite a bit of interest. This is the area that I am most happy with. From the statistical results it shows that I have struck a cord with most of those articles and therefore I am happy to continue with more of the same.

Beyond that, I am still planning on running the usual mix of occasional book reviews, figure reviews, wargaming articles and artwork postings. Over the past couple of months I was regularly posting under the "Eye Candy" name, artwork, sculptures and pulp covers. I felt that the three-a-week schedule, although attracting some comments and reasonable traffic, got a little opressive. So although I will continue to post "Eye Candy", they will be a little more random. It wont be three-times-a-week, it may not even be once-a-week. It will more likely simply be when I find something I really feel deserves a wider audience.

This one is obvious Eye Candy!
If anyone has any suggestions on the direction I could take with the blog, or indeed any comments on what they like or dislike about what has come before, that would be greatly appreciated!

Monday, 27 June 2011

Monday Eye Candy: Dime Detective Magazine, October 1944

Dime Detective Oct 1944

You just have to love this cover! A detective pulp that manages to get a giant octopus onto the cover… total class. I mean, if it had been a horror pulp, a sci-fi pulp or even one of the 60’s “Men’s Adventure” style magazine that would no big surprise, but to get a “sea monster” onto the cover of a crime pulp that really takes some doing!


Monday Eye Candy is Pulp themed, offering beautiful artwork to inspire and amuse!

Wednesday Eye Candy is sculptural, offering some of my favourite figure sculpts and models!

Friday Eye Candy features painting and visual images that capture the imagination and offer inspiration!

Friday, 24 June 2011

Friday Eye Candy: Industry Wins by Michael Lee-Graham


 This pair of painting by Michael Lee-Graham caught my eye the other day while I was searching for some steampunk style landscape paintings. Now as it goes neither of the them is actually steampunk. However, the is no denying the sheer power that Michael has managed to instil in these paintings.

Created with quite a limited palette, they capture the feel of an industrial landscape, choking with smog, pollution and over production.


To see some of Michael Lee-Grahams work have a look at his Deviant Art Gallery.

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Conan The Barbarian TV Spot and various posters etc...

I missed these when they came out. So just to fill in the gaps!

TV Spot





Conan The Barbarian Movie Posters







There is also a second motion poster, but I haven't worked out how to insert it into the page, so you can see it over at the excellent (if unofficial) Conan: The Movie Blog.

Finally, if you have a fairly fast connection, a visit to the official website is certainly worthwhile.

Monday, 20 June 2011

Friday, 17 June 2011

Book Review: Anno Frankenstein by Jonathan Green

Anno Frankenstein

I really thought that Jonathan Green couldn’t possibly top his last two Pax Britannia novels, Blood Royal which took the steampunk down a gothic horror path and then Dark Side which combined a Noir detective story with H.G. Wells First Men on the Moon. However, Anno Frankenstein takes us to a whole new level.

Green likes to take this series in different directions, touching various familiar genres with each new book. With Anno Frankenstein he takes us full speed into classic Weird World War II. The steampunk aspects are pushed into the background. They are still there, the tanks are steam powered and there is a flying machine that uses Cavorite to help it get off the ground, but the general feel of this book is that of a 1960s World War Two movie that has somehow gotten mixed up with a selection of classic Hammer Horror monsters. We have a vampire, a werewolf, Dr. Jekyll/Mr Hyde and a whole corps of Frankenstein’s monsters all mixed in with Winston Churchill, stiff upper lipped British secret agents, evil SS and Gestapo bad guys, oh and a team of perky young burlesque dancers who are actually a British infiltration team working behind enemy lines.

Anno Frankenstein takes place around 50 years before Ulysses Quicksilver’s previous adventures, during the “Second Great War”. The first half of the book follows the daring adventures of Ulysses’ father Hercules Quicksilver as he attempts to bring down a Nazi plot to create a whole corps of Prometheans (Frankenstein’s monsters), making his way across Europe and into Germany where he has to break into Castle Frankenstein (it is explained why it is in Germany, and not as Mary Shelley wrote it, in Switzerland). At this point we are reunited with Ulysses Quicksilver, who followed the bad guy from the last book, Daniel Dashwood, through his time machine and back into 1943. We end up with a couple of huge fights with Nazis, Prometheans, vampires, werewolves and everyone else ripping into each other as they attempt to stop the new Nazi super weapon laying waste to the British Automaton forces lined up at the frontline at Amiens.

The tension that builds over the length of the novel leads wonderfully through to the big finale, even with Green’s small injections of humour, references to Star Trek, The Incredible Hulk, The Six Million Dollar Man and Quantum Leap all stick in my mind, without ruining the pace at all.

As a wargamer who is just starting to get into the steampunk gaming genre there is plenty here to inspire! Airships and (without spoiling it) other flying machines, the German Jotun class steam tank and heavy “AT-ST” like walkers. The British forces lined up at Amiens with their land-battleships, tamed pterosaurs, ten thousand strong automaton army and the general riding into battle on a steam-elephant.

Iron Mammoth Design Logo - At the mention of a steam elephant I could help but put in my business logo could I! Yes it's a mammoth and not an elephant, but you get the point.... Thanks go to Colin McNeil for the logo by the way.

I think I can safely say this book has finally inspired me to seriously get back into figure sculpting. It has given me so many ideas for steampunk style figures and no-one else makes them yet, so I guess I am going to have to do it myself, after all, there are many excellent characters in the Pax Britannia stories, they really need to be realised as miniatures…

Anyway, back to Anno Frankenstein. If you’re picky about your steampunk, you may find it moves to far out of the genre for you, but if you want a rollicking good adventure and you like the Weird War genre, you are going to love this book!

I hope Green returns to the Weird War setting for some of his future Quicksilver stories, he is clearly right at home writing in this genre. If he doesn’t want to tie Ulysses down to the Weird War setting, a spin off series with Hercules Quicksilver or the Monstrous Regiment (i.e. the burlesque dancing infiltration squad) would suit me down to the ground.

Jonathan, if you read this post, please hurry up with the next book, you’ve left so many teaser threads left open from recent books that I really can’t wait too long...

Anyway in the mean time, now that I have caught up with Green’s Pax Britannia books I am going to read Al Ewing’s two entries into the series. So look out for my reviews of El Sombre and Gods of Manhattan over the next few weeks.

Friday Eye Candy: Steampunk Octopus by Alex Broeckel

SteamPunk_Octopus_by_raybender

I have just finished reading Jonathan Green’s new novel Anno Frankenstein (see my next blog post) and so I am in a real Steampunk kind of a mood…

This painting Steampunk Octopus by Alex Broeckel really fits the bill, pure steampunk, epic scale and plenty of action!

Some of Alex’s other work outside of the steampunk genre is also excellent. Here are a few examples…

arsenal_explorer_by_raybender-d32f8hoStrange_Island_by_raybenderunfinished_base_by_raybender-d37s13jWelcome_home_by_raybender

For more work by Alex Broeckel have a look at his Deviant Art Gallery or his website at www.alexbroeckel.com.


Monday Eye Candy is Pulp themed, offering beautiful artwork to inspire and amuse!

Wednesday Eye Candy is sculptural, offering some of my favourite figure sculpts and models!

Friday Eye Candy features painting and visual images that capture the imagination and offer inspiration!

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Review: Game of Thrones and Camelot –The Rise of Mature Fantasy on TV…

I have been watching the new HBO adaption of George R.R. Martin’s epic fantasy series Game of Thrones (GoT) over the past seven or eight weeks and last Saturday evening I watched the first episode of Camelot.

Game of ThronesCamelot

Both very different series with their own unique feel, and to a certain extent scale as well. However, they both share common ground in being the first serious attempts to bring fantasy (or, in my mind, more accurately Sword and Sorcery) to an adult audience. Certainly we have seen other attempts, with shows like Legend of the Seeker, which unfortunately fell somewhat short of it’s initial success (although I must admit I do have a certain urge to pick up the two seasons on DVD and see if it improved after I stopped watching it half way through season one).

Legend-of-the-seeker-posterLayout 1

Getting back to Game of Thrones and Camelot, so far (I have only seen the first double episode of Camelot), Game of Thrones seems to be standing up much better. The plot works well and the strong visual elements and language (both violence and sexual in nature), seem to fit better with it all. In Camelot, certainly as far as the sex and language go, they feel tacked on, unnecessary and somewhat superfluous (although I must admit I had no objections to Eva Green disrobing at the end of the episode).

Eva GreenCamelot-Eva-Green-2eva-green-7

I should state at this point that I have not read George R.R. Martin’s books, and haven’t read any “epic fantasy” novels in over 20 years – I have read and re-read all of David Gemmell’s books, but they are not what I would consider “epic” fantasy. I also dip into my Robert E. Howard collection fairly regularly, but again not “epic” fantasy. I think you get the point, I am not a fan of epic fantasy, what finally killed the genre for me was reading The Mallorian by David Eddings, a complete re-hash of his previous series, The Belgariad. Other than Gemmell and REH, I don’t read any fantasy and very little sword and sorcery any more. However, when it comes to TV and film one has to take ones genre shots where-ever one can get them, so my viewing habits are a little more broad. As far as my inclinations go towards Camelot, I have always loved the Arthurian legends and will generally watch any adaptions of them that come along. For many years John Boorman’s Excalibur was in my top three favourite movies (although a recent watching did show up quite a few flaws that I hadn’t spotted before), I also have the Sam Neill Merlin DVDs and have been watching the less than startling BBC Merlin TV show. I even quite liked the movie King Arthur, which was basically only ruined by the subtitle “The Untold True Story”!

John Boorman's ExcaliburMerlin

King ArthurBBC Merlin

So now you know where I stand as a viewer approaching Game of Thrones and Camelot. Game of Thrones is developing into a well rounded and strongly paced series.  The cast is excellent, the acting and dialogue not too OTT, the design is wonderful and the whole look of the show is fairly sumptuous. Comparisons are bound to be made with the Lord of The Rings movies and I am sure that the success of that LOTR movies heavily influenced the funding and green-lighting of this show, however to my mind, Game of Thrones (and Camelot) bares much more comparison to HBOs previous series Rome. The influences’ seem quite obvious. Taken at a surface level both Rome, Game of Thrones, and now Camelot have much in common, political intrigue, some extremely dirty and violent fights and fairly strong sexual content.

Game of Thrones Trailer

The cast of Game of Thrones seems to have hit the mark pretty much right across the board. Sean Bean (who in recent years seems to have landed more roles as the villain than the hero) fills the role of Ned Stark with troubled dignity and carries off the turmoil that an honest and noble lord feels when asked to negotiate his way through court politics and intrigue. Other cast members, including Lena Headley, Mark Addy, Emilia Clarke and Jason Momoa all fulfil their roles with straight forward elegance and feeling. It is possible to empathise with all of the characters at one point or another, even the series major antagonists.

Game of Thrones - Sean Bean as Ned StarkLena Headley in Game of ThronesGame of Thrones - Mark AddyGame of Thrones - Emilia Clarke in one of her more exposed scenes!Game of Thrones - Jason MomoaGame of Thrones

The violence in GoT is at time brutal, but it is all in keeping with the nature of civil war, and indeed medieval warfare in general. The sex also seems to fit, it is a part of the way of life within the world created by Martin (at least I assume it features in the books as well). As far as “fantasy” elements go, in GoT they are quite thin on the ground, at least in the episodes that have aired in the UK so far. There have been a few sightings of the White Walkers, half wraith / half yeti like beings that will probably have more screen time in later episodes. There are some dragon eggs and skulls dotted around, that could simply be taken as sculptures and ornaments. As far as I can tell there has been only one use of magic. All of this, I am sure, helps keep an audience who possibly doesn’t like “fantasy”, just about hanging on to the show.

Camelot has not caught my affection quite as much as GoT yet! I am left fairly unhappy by the casting. Joseph Fiennes portrayal of Merlin is certainly a different take on the character than has been seen before, which is not necessarily a bad thing, however he comes over as very cold and without many charismatic traits. For a character that is so central to the story this does not attract me to the show.

CamelotCamelot - Joseph Fiennes as Merlin

Jamie Campbell Bower’s King Arthur, so far has also not particularly clicked with me, although that may change as his character matures and he develops his kingly persona.

Jamie Campbell Bower in CamelotArthur pulls the sword from the stone!

To be honest the three characters that really worked for me in this opening episode were Eva Green’s Morgan, James Purefoy’s King Lot and Sean Pertwee’s Sir Ector. Bit of a spoiler here, as two of them don’t survive the end of this episode it doesn’t bode to well for the rest of the series. Eva Green as Morgan, is supremely evil, communing with some dark spirits (only seen so far as shadows in the mist). James Purefoy manages to inject quite a likeable character into King Lot, who generally should have been seen as a nasty piece of work. Sean Pertwee as the noble knight Sir Ector was clearly destined to die early on, well it is Sean Pertwee, when do his characters ever survive to the end of a movie (it is pretty much a drinking game now – at what point in the show will Sean Pertwee’s character die)!

Arthur and MorganCamelot - Eva Green as MorganJames Purefoy as King LotCamelot - Morgan and King Lot, Eva Green and James PurefoySean Pertwee out acts Jamie Campbell Bower

 

In the final battle of the show when King Lot faces off against Sir Ector, in a scene that was clearly paying homage to John Boorman’s Excalibur, the impaled Sir Ector pulls himself along King Lot’s spear and so is able to stab King Lot with his dagger. A dramatic scene made all the more poignant by the deaths of two of the best characters in the episode.

Excalibur - Final Battle - Arthur Mordred Percival 1981

It is probably a little unfair to compare Camelot’s opening shot against Game of Thrones with it’s fully developed story arc that seems to be approaching some sort of conclusion, and I must say that I will be sticking with Camelot for the time being. However, it is only due to it’s being one of the few fantasy shows on TV at the moment. If it doesn’t catch my interest soon I will probably drop it!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...