Only One Thing Worse Than A Dragon; Americans! – Reign Of Fire

7 12 2016

reign-of-fire (Spyglass Entertainment and Touchstone Pictures - 2002)

For what must be decades now, Movie Directors and Producers have been trying to come up with imaginative new ways to bring about the end of the world. Disaster and Post-Apocalyptic movies as they are known don’t really have much of a definitive start, I mean on the one hand you can consider Planet of the Apes to be a post-apocalyptic film, but ever since the ascension of Computer Generated Imagery, more imaginative films that really depict a sense of the End of the World have come to light. If you were to start from what I consider to be the ultimate disaster movie: Independence Day, the world has been invaded by aliens, had asteroids and meteors thrown at it, had the weather engulf it, had nature attempt to reclaim it, had hordes of zombies march across it and even had Monsters just wanting to smash it. Despite all the different forms of ending the world however, it is somewhat surprising that only one Director has thought about using Dragons.

Reign of Fire Dragon

Released in 2002 by Spyglass Entertainment and Touchstone Pictures Directed by Rob Bowman and produced by Richard D. Zanuck; Reign of Fire is a Post-Apocalyptic Disaster film set in a future England (four years from now) where Dragons have re-awoken and claimed Earth as their own. It’s up to a few survivors (including a bald Matthew McConaughey) to try and reset the balance of the Food Chain.

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In London during the early 2000’s; a young boy called Quinn (Ben Thornton) goes to see his mother Karen (Alice Krige) who is working on a London Underground construction site. While having a quick look into a supposed ‘void’, Quinn awakens a Dragon sleeping in the tunnels. He and his mother try to escape, but his Mother is killed just as the Dragon escapes the tunnels. Through a series of Newspaper clippings, a narrator divulges that soon more dragons appear and are the species responsible for killing the Dinosaurs. It is speculated that the creatures were in hibernation, waiting for the world to replenish itself with food for them to eat. The military responds to the threat, but only help the creatures destroy the earth, and humanity is brought to the edge of Extinction.

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In 2020, the now grown up Quinn (Christian Bale) is leader of a community of survivors in a Northumberland Castle. Although most trust Quinn’s leadership, others are defiant, and a small group of survivors led by Eddie (David Kennedy) want to pick some tomatoes as they are starving, and steal a pickup truck, they are attacked by a Dragon however which leads to the death of two members of Eddie’s family. Quinn with the help of his young ward Jared (Scott Moutter) and good friend Creedy (Gerard Butler) rescue Eddie and the rest of his family as the Dragon sets about reclaiming the ash off the burned field. The following day, community communicator Ajay (Alexander Siddig) and Falconer Barlow (Ned Dennehy) discover that a group of American Marauders are on their way to the castle. The community prepares to defend itself, and Quinn is introduced to the Marauder leader Denton Van Zan (Matthew McConaughey) who claims to be some kind of Dragon Slayer; he also happens to drive a Chieftain Tank. Quinn decides to let them in cautiously and is impressed that they have access to an AgustaWestland AW109 Helicopter piloted by Alex Jensen (Izabella Scorupco). True to his word, Denton Van Zan goes after the Dragon that attacked the castle’s tomato plantation, and with the help of Quinn manages to kill the creature, at a loss of three of his own men.

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Back at the castle, Quinn still has issues as to why a platoon of American soldiers is in Britain. Van Zan and Alex say that all the dragons they have killed are female, and believe there is only one male and that they are going to London to kill it, believing killing it will kill the entire species. They try to enlist Quinn’s help, but he does not want to go back, knowing that his mother was killed there by the Male. Van Zan tries to enlist Quinn’s community by force, but Quinn believes that if they find the male, it will trace them back to the castle. The two of them fight with Van Zan nearly killing Quinn until they are split up. Van Zan and his men head for London, but when they are still 66 miles from there, they are attacked by the male who kills most of Van Zan’s team in mere seconds. Van Zan and Alex survive, but true to Quinn’s word, the Male arrives at the castle and sets it ablaze. Some of the community hides in the basement with the children and Quinn, but as he goes to rescue the others; Creedy is incinerated by another attack from the Male.

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The following morning, Van Zan, Alex and the remainder of his team return to the castle and dig out Quinn and his survivors. Quinn comes up with a plan; to go to London just him, Alex and Van Zan in Alex’s chopper. Remembering what Van Zan said about Magic Hour, the point in which the Dragon’s eyesight is at their weakest, they go in to take out the Male. They arrive into London via the Thames, and find lots of smaller dragons being cannibalized by a much larger starving male. They enter into the underground construction site, where Quinn finds the cage his mother died in, and come out onto the surface, where they launch one final attack on the male. Their plan involves using crossbow heads which carry an explosive head, hoping that if they fire it at the right time, the dragon will detonate it and kill itself. Van Zan attempts this at the top of an old chimney, but the attempt fails, and he is eaten by the dragon as he attempts to go at it with his axe. Quinn and Alex lure the Dragon down to the ground, and after a lengthy staring contest, Quinn fires just at the right time. The arrow flies into the Dragons throat, explodes, breaking the creature’s head clearly off its neck. Sometime later, Quinn and the rest of his community build a radio tower, and receive a signal from France. There has been no dragon sighting for three months, and Quinn makes Jared the new community leader, while he and Alex dedicate themselves to rebuilding.

I really like this film. I remember seeing posters for this film when it first came out, the vivid image of the Houses of Parliament ablaze and a mighty dragon as big as the building high above. Unfortunately I did not get to see it until a VHS release the following year, but ever since seeing it, Reign of Fire has remained one of my most enduring films. I easily count it among my favourites, and even if it’s no longer on any of my Top 10’s, it’s a film I refuse to regret, nor never watch again, as one way or another I will always find a time to watch it again. But why exactly do I like it; well that is a question that is actually very hard to answer as I don’t have much of a definitive reason. You don’t necessarily need a reason to like something, if you come away with a positive and enjoyable feeling that should be fine, but to analyse and review a film, I still need to answer the question as to why I like it.

chieftan-tank

Reign of Fire is pretty unique, I mean how many films are there that involve Dragons taking over the world? Well thinking about it, there are 2: this and Dragon Wars, however the latter does not hold much in comparison to this as that was more an adventure based film (and only actually has one dragon in it), this is more of an action orientated disaster movie. The unique selling point of this film is of course the dragons, but simply putting a Dragon in something doesn’t make it gold. In a recent video, Alan Partridge debated the use of Dragons in Game of Thrones, stating that the beasts were “used to advertise mouthwash in the 80’s”. Simply using dragons in something is not enough. Like all good Movie Monsters, they need to have a purpose, a reason for existence. Now if this was a fantasy adventure movie, they would be like a beast/tyrant that needed defeating. Reign of Fire is a completely different story as it’s not an adventure, nor is it set in the decadent past. The purpose of this movie is to take the world we live in, and bring us down from off our high chairs and to below down on our knees. To do this, we as a race needed humbling, we needed threatening, and in a big way. Yes it could be aliens, it could be weather, but what is more terrifying than not just one giant fire breathing monster, but lots of them. We needed something that was primitive yet deadly, something that could take it all away from us, and in one sweep moving action. Dragons are a perfect fit, as Dragons by folklore accounts are fast flying creatures that can breathe fire. Not only are they hungry beasties, but volatile ones too. So instead of a Tornado laced with Sharks, we got flying fire breathing monsters who want to do nothing more than eat us. Not take over us, enslave us or anything else: just eat us. It’s a simple idea, one that doesn’t require much thought but in turn can still create a lot of depth.

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But this film is called Reign of Fire, not Reign of the Ravenous Flying teeth; so there needs to be devastation, one that works on 2 counts. The first is that these Dragons can breathe fire and set about threatening the human race while also using their breath to set fire to as much as possible. The dragons themselves have been given a very unique biology, and though while they could be seen as being like European Dragons, these have been branded and created as to be the most dangerous, devastating creatures imaginable and come with a back story to boot. They killed off the dinosaurs, and had brought the world to extinction once before, the other key ingredient though is that their breath is not just fire, but Napalm. In turn we have a pretty devastating species on our hand, but as to the rest of the planets devastation, the Dragons did not need to do that on their own. Humanity gave them a hand. It’s the double-edged sword philosophy that while we do have an almighty arsenal at our hands, they are destructive pieces of equipment also and though while could be very useful, we do need to take care as to how and when we use them. So equally the Dragons did bring an end to the world, but with a little help from our great Nuclear Weaponry. Into this we are left with a damaged world. A world crippled under the true devastation of nature’s great secret, and along with this we get further vivid imagery to boot. The film’s setting for the most part is taken in the area of Northumberland where the landscape and skies are nearly completely black. Everywhere is just grey and miserable, no light to awaken the heart, no real sky to inspire, just a depressing reminder of the world the survivors have been left with. But if Northumberland was bad, that’s nothing compared to the state of London (“TAKE THAT SOUTHERNERS”). London is a ruin, it looks melted. You look at the buildings, close up and afar, you see vehicles, the water’s edge, the tunnels, the distance, even iconic buildings, and it all looks Melted black. Some form remains, but not much are left, the world has quite literally burned during the reign of the fire beasts (ha ha).

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It is in this world we have our plucky band of survivalists. Reign of Fire’s cast is a nice pool of talent ranging from some of Hollywood’s most experienced and well known talent, to people you have more than likely not heard or seen of but still deliver fun roles. This film does a good thing of making interesting tertiary as well as somewhat extra cast who create some fun and interesting moments that are while maybe not pivotal to the film’s being, still are quite fun. These range from some of the films more diverse female cast who hardly speak a word. People like Eddie’s family member’s girlfriend, the day care staff to one woman who does not speak at all but is always brandishing a rifle. From there we get the defiant and annoying Eddie who is more of a hindrance than a challenge, who tries to act as someone who is more trying to speak the truth rather than be a villain, to people like Gideon (Terence Maynard) the Archangel who has some great vocal moments, to people like Ajay, Jerry (Gerry O’Brien) and Barlow who do real jobs within the community to help work and service the community, but in general provide some enjoyable if not completely in-depth roles. The same could be said of Alice Krige’s character and Jason (Dessie Gallagher), who while don’t survive act as a good feeder for important plot points, and in the case of Jason, some early comic relief.

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Which brings us neatly round to the film’s main batch of cast. Jared as a character I feel is not implied strongly enough for him to take much of an effect, but it does give Quinn a sense of hope and someone to include, if not executed perfectly. I really do enjoy Gerrard Butler in this film. It was the first time I got to see him in a role of any kind and thought he was a strong personality and also played out the part of being a good friend as well as the sense of reason for Quinn to work with: someone who tries to talk sense into Quinn and acts like a second in command. He is genuinely funny when he wants to, but equally dead serious too and has some brilliant one liners ranging from the funny, to the dead serious. It just feels like a shame that he was not given a much bigger role as he genuinely deserves it and I want to see more of him and Quinn, and only those two. Equally I don’t think Alex was given much of a part neither. She acts like the love interest, but a practical one at that, and who skills impress, but she spends most of the time being very dreary. She is rather glum in every situation and at times can appear to be rather clueless if not in the way and just added for effect. Her pilot skills make her an important part of the film, but from the moment you see her, you want to jump in and tell her to lighten up. It doesn’t make sense about the love interest as it is more or less added before the credits and suggested everywhere else.

Izabella Scorupco

It is pretty weird to see Matthew McConaughey without any hair, and with Muscles, and Tattoos. You see him in films like A Time To Kill or Interstellar and see this blond-haired thin man, not necessarily a muscled, tattooed bald-headed soldier. Matthew McConaughey’s role in this film I find is similar in essence (if not in execution) to that of Robert Shaw in Jaws. He is a man with a history, one who is knowledgeable about killing Dragons and believes in military discipline. He acts like a ‘rogue marine’ and shows off power by driving a tank. He is filled with volatile aggression and feels that force is the only option. On the other hand though he has a lot of compassion, he feels greatly for the loss of his men and does work to try and redeem himself for his actions, even if not completely. When he shows compassion, it’s hard for him to stop that whispered panting he does, as though when he shouts he shows his true self. It’s a hard character to really pin down. It kind of filters into this thing of America believing how good they are. America, believing they are the centre of the world, that they are in charge, and only they are in charge. So speaking as a UK-man it is rather pleasing to see them and Van Zan get their comeuppance in this film, America’s last general believing he is unstoppable only for him to be defeated. McConaughey’s last few moments in this film are pretty good though, as we see him try hard to redeem himself, and see not the soldier, but the true warrior, and who he really was.

Matthew McConaughey Reign of Fire

Christian Bale on the other hand is less can do attitude, more about knowing how to survive. He has a dark past as it was him who unwittingly released the Dragons and whose mother died minutes later. This carries heavy on his conscience and knows he has to work hard to keep others alive, and does this with a passion, even if he comes across as a tyrant. He is the opposite of Van Zan, and has knowledge of the Dragons and what they are capable of. He is looking for hope, but is cautious of false heroes and prophets. He works hard for his community, even going as far as to put on amateur dramatics of the Empire Strikes Back. He has good friendships, and people to rely on, but is brought to logger heads as Van Zan arrives. While Dragons are the main enemy, Van Zan’s arrival stirs up the community in a bad way and has to deal with that. Quinn though is not entirely cautious and will fight his corner.  I do however think a golden opportunity is missed when after the Male attacks, that Quinn does not threaten Van Zan with an Execution. Importantly however it is up to Quinn to save the day. Spurred into action by the death of both his mother and the loss of Creedy by the same creature, Quinn goes to London to carry out the Execution of the male. Christian Bale is an amazing actor, and here plays a character that while is a leader, is still just like you or me, and plays a character that is a representation of what it would be like if you or I were in the same position.

christian bale reign of fire

Reign of Fire of course requires a large depth of special effects. These range from practical effects like fire and vehicle usage, to more computer orientated effects as well as clever set dresses. The main effect is of course the dragons, which are just fabulous. The designs for the dragons look amazing, possibly the best movie dragons in cinema history. The close up points of them eating people looks realistic but also terrifying, and the final scenes when faced with the monolithic male are just impressive, ranging from them staring Quinn in the face to the point of even the creature’s head rolling and rocking off its own neck. But Special Effects aren’t and don’t have to be everything as Reign of Fire is supported by a brilliant soundtrack (composed by Ed Shearmur). The soundtrack is very tense in its nature and the tension really does not disappear from any of its pieces. The theme of the arriving Marauders for instance is of course very tense and does sound very military in its style, but it’s also rather crazy and jumpy, trying to showcase a level of new fear and a lack of understanding in an increasing threatening nature.

This military theme does continue as the army enters the castle compound, showcasing a theme of might and strength, looking like military heroes coming to save the day (even if it’s a little confusing as to why they are here in the first place). Then as the film continues it returns to the silent tension, such as when the convey heads for London, to stark scary moments as the male dragon attacks the castle, back to more action orientated scenes as the helicopter and the trio walk into London, to of course the final preparations before the big battle moments of battle, all drawn together with a nice, gentle but still pretty rocky credits theme: Burn by Mad at Gravity.

While it does have its moments where it could have explored further, and moments where execution lacked: I really like this film. It’s idea, it’s themes, it’s characters, it’s Dragons, it’s effects, it’s music, all of which come together to create a near completely unique experience. Some cast members could have more and less in places, and other bit and bobs could be a tiny bit clearer, but through its ideas of a world dominated by dragons, and humanity brought to the edge of extinction by myth, when brought together create an exceptionally enjoyable film, and one I still love to this day. Its effects and setting are beautiful, its music but more importantly its design are magnificent. It’s not just a Dragon Movie, it is so much more, and does a lot more than most.: it shows the raw destructive power of these creatures and also shows that there could be a lot more truth to myth than the Bayeux Tapestry is letting on. A real classic of its generation that is really worth a watch while at the same time teaches an important lesson which is that: if you are using the London Underground, don’t shine a torch in a ‘Void’.

GENEPOOL





The Day The Waters Went Up And The Lights Went Down

30 11 2016

skerton-bridge

When I was at school learning Geography; the one thing I would constantly hear from all the teachers, is that the first thing you need in order to start a settlement is the close proximity of water. That is a pretty obvious resource, as though while other necessities are also required; without access to water, your little settlement is not necessarily going to last all that long. One thing though my mind ponders after the events of last year though is that; when a settlement does start-up, do they ever consider how dangerous that water source could potentially be? Much like other cities/towns/villagers around the world, Lancaster has a river. Some of the other locations of the world might have small streams, or big wide rivers; Lancaster sort of has a large wide channel for water but normally, if you were to stand on one of the bridges in Lancaster, you would see that the River Lune appears to be pretty small and shallow. It runs through the centre of Lancaster in a wide trench and pretty deep trench; but normally does not even cover the entire patch of land at the bottom. When it does get high really does depend on whether there is an equinox or if there is plenty of rain to feed it, in which case the river can be nearly lapping the street level of St George’s Quay, which is the lowest road next to the river. St George’s Quay itself has been known to struggle with the flooding at times and over the last several decades, numerous plans were drawn up to try and prevent too much, including raising the road, to building the now erected wall along the river. Even when the river is high, if you go stand on Skerton Bridge, it does not look too bad. It can be deep and the channel is wide, but only really looks high if it gets to the Quay. That all changed on December 5th 2015.

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It was a pretty normal Saturday. It was late in the year, and I had spent the day as normal, sitting behind my Laptop on the table. My head was spinning and judging whether or not I should go and see the film Krampus having seen the trailer a few times and my parents were discussing going somewhere. I think my Dad was supposed to be preaching away, I can’t remember where and I think my Mam was debating whether or not to go with him. Sometime later, my Mam was reading off her kindle, and saw a report announcing road closures, and that there was some flooding around the River Lune. Getting a little interested by this I decided to go out and have a look. The night was pretty dark by this time, it was early December, and I had no idea what I was going to see. I just thought the river would be higher than normal, nothing else. Skerton Bridge is no more than maybe 5 minutes’ walk from my house. I walk the same route every Sunday on my way to church which is less than a few seconds away from the north bank of the Lune. When I arrived I walked onto the bridge, and was amazed at what I saw. Now I was not wearing my glasses that day, I don’t require wearing them all the time but they do help. I walked onto the bridge, and looked down on it. I knew it could be high, but I wasn’t expecting the river to be wider too.

River Lune Flood 1

The river was literally bursting its banks, on both sides. On the north side bank, there is a little hill edged into the left hand side of the bridge. It’s a steady hill which allows people the use of a small tunnel under the bridge, allowing them to cross over to the other side without running through moving traffic. Well; the tunnel had water in it. The whole bank in that area was water-logged and level with the river. I have never seen that before. I heard it may have happened once, when I was perhaps 5 years old, I was now beyond my mid-twenties. The bridge was still accessible, but nearly jammed up with traffic. As I continued to walk across the bridge in awe at what I was observing, I saw that the bank on the other side, which is flat and is something of cycle path, that too had water on it, to the same level as the river. It was the same on the other side of the bridge. The little park near Sainsbury’s feeling a patch of water, submerging pathways. I quickly went back home, before popping immediately out again, with my Mam and my Camera. The dark sky did not help me much in taking pictures, but I got some though. Then, I went over to the Millennium Bridge. The Millennium Bridge is a small footbridge which connects the end of Lune Street with the top of the Quay. Knowing how high the river usually got around the Quay, I wanted to go see. I was right, the river was high there too, but more than I thought. I walked across, and could see swells, little whirlpool like effects near the bridge supports building and turning, and on the dip with the Quay side bridge entrance, I could see the river, nearly within finger reach of the bridge’s lowest pathway dip. It was amazing to see, I took photos and a couple of videos that night, though only one video really worked.

That night was something of a mini adventure for me. It was amazing to see the river like that. To see it not just high but bursting its banks. But what happened next was completely unexpected. I was upstairs watching TV when the lights and power went out. A few seconds later they came back on again without a hitch, but then a little while later, they went out again, but like before returned to full power within seconds. The evening was without hitch for maybe an hour or so more, and then they went out again, and they stayed out. My room was dark upstairs, I could not see a thing, and the only light source was a palaver lamp a friend got me for Christmas a year before (just shake it and it lights up). I looked outside onto the street. It wasn’t just our house, the whole street was gone, even the BP Garage was unlit (although one house across the road had Christmas lights lit up and working?). I cautiously and slowly worked my way downstairs, using the palaver lamp as my only torch. When I got downstairs, there was little light other than a few torches lighting the dining room. I went to bed soon after, but being the kind of guy who still needs something of a night-light to sleep, the darkness was hard to sleep in. It was not just a little dark, it was very dark. I was relying on a wind up torch to give me some help, but as I had images from the Krampus trailer in my head, it was hard not to spook myself out, but I still managed to eventually get to sleep.

Krampus (Legendary Pictures - 2015)

The following morning I awoke, needing to grab my bearings, and remember the previous night. I tried the lamp on my bedside table, nothing happened. Expecting the power to have returned during the night, I discovered it was still off. I got up and proceeded downstairs to see what was going on. The power was still turned off, with only battery operated equipment running. But with no power, there was very little information as to what was going on. We were still able to eat some breakfast, before heading out to church. We walked down the street; some roads were covered in water, it was not the case of water coming over the lips of the hills in the area, it was more the case of the sewers overflowing and simply coming up out of the wells in the streets. When we reached the bridge, we discovered two shocks; firstly, the river was still high. I took another video, surprised to see it still high, and it was flowing strong and fast. I have never seen it do that before. It was like a large open air sewer, carrying out everything it could out to sea, in a desperate attempt to keep the balance. That was the first shock. The other was that the bridge was closed. Somehow, as reports suggested, as the winds picked up, a container had blown into the river and hit the only two road bridges in the city. Both Skerton Bridge the Greyhound Bridge and even the Millennium Bridge were inaccessible.

We still went to church and had something of a bible study/prayer meeting, as there was only a few of us. Many people who come to our church were situated on the other side of the river. The only person to come from that side, did so by parking her car next to Carlisle Bridge, then walk across the very tall bridge that it is, and then all the way to church. It was at church though that we finally got some news regarding current issues. Firstly the lack of power was due to the substation flooding. Reports were stating that it should be back on by: Tuesday morning or evening. We also heard about some of the more serious damage caused by the river, as two people attending church at the time, living not far from us, had their house flooded overnight in a big way. Our little meeting adjourned, we went home, with the two people flooded in tow as my Mam made them some Cheese Sandwiches. Mam was pretty skillful with the beef roast bought at Sainsbury’s the previous night as she was able to have some use of the cooker and made some steaks for us to eat too. As the day went on, it became something of a more mundane and quieter Sunday than usual. Without my usual access to my Laptop or Games, I watched Terry Pratchett’s Going Postal on a portable DVD Player until it ran out of power. Mam and I sat in her Fiat Panda for a little bit to listen to The Bay radio in an attempt to find out some news, but the two clowns on the radio weren’t really all that helpful. Instead of presenting helpful and emergency news, they just sort of did a program like BBC Breakfast, getting other views of other people rather than provide the news that was really desired and needed. As evening drew in, the garage across the road opened a small hatch so some people could buy batteries and bits, so I popped across later in the afternoon to get some batteries to power lights and the radio. Apart from that, my Dad sat down with a book, and we all found ways to ride it through.

Sleeping Queens Kings and Queens

Later on I popped out for a little walk, and my senses and caution were tested as I experienced first-hand, what lack of power meant for the neighborhood on a winter’s day. I popped out with my Camera, and the night was beginning to draw in. I could still see some daylight, but it faded fast. I walked down Aldren’s lane, and saw first-hand how bad the flooding got in that area. The water may had gone, but silt remained, you could see though the patch of the wall where it had come through though, revealing a small channel where it could seep through with nothing to stop it. You could even see the level of how far inland the river got, and how high up the buildings it went, as the dark impression was still on the bricks. The whole area must have been like a mini boating pond, and a lot of silt remained on the path and road. I walked on a little bit, and got feelings and reminders of the film I Am Legend, with the dark night coming in, and houses blanketed without power. I decided to return home before it got too dark. By the time I was within reach of home, it was utter black. Not far from my home there is Ryelands Park, lit up by street lights and piercing lights of the city behind. Across the road there is of course the BP garage, and opposite to there is the once great, now nearly non-existent Skerton High School. Even on a dark winter night, you can see things. There is plenty of lighting from near and afar to light up the area. Well, on this Sunday night, none of these could be seen. I could not see the school, I could not see the faint outline of the city or Castle, I could barely see a tree in the park. In a small open space the only light being produced was from that house’s Christmas decorations, and the cars driving by, judging when it was safe to turn at a spot that once had working traffic lights. The evening was not too bad though, my Mam and Brother played some card games with me for an hour. We played Sleeping Queens and Straw, both fun games. My Dad read his book using a book mark light, and while it was cold due to the lack of heating, we still had an OK night. But like the night before, we went to bed a lot earlier than we usually do. Once again, it was dark and spooky, and getting to sleep was hard, but I managed it in the end. To be honest by this time I was feeling excited and was really enjoying some of the more social and quiet aspects of all this, and was looking forward to another quiet day.

River Lune Flood 2

The following day I woke up and tried the light; power was back on. I went downstairs and could see my Mam running around, while my Dad was busy phoning church members to see if they were ok, all the while the TV was on with News as to what was happening with the power. It was both great to see the power was back on, but also sad as it meant I had to go back to my daily routine at the time of having to do 35 hours of job searching, just to receive a tiny supply of money from Universal Credit. Anyway, I allowed myself some time to treat myself. I told everybody on Facebook I was OK with a post, and then to celebrate the return of Electricity, I chose an aptly named song to post on Facebook: The Power by Snap! I also spent some time texting and emailing others just to see if they were ok and let them know that I was ok. I also uploaded my photos and videos onto YouTube and Facebook too.

So life returned to normal? Sort of… Basically, both road bridges and Millennium Bridge were still unopened, and would remain that way until Tuesday. Well they were claiming that they wanted to make sure they were safe after the container collision. So could not really go into town unless I went the long way round, but I stayed in home to do my job search, while also making sure I put my 3DS and the portable DVD player on charge along with a few other pieces of electrical equipment just in case. It turns out that that was a good idea, as though while there was now power, it was announced that they would be turned off again later, which it was. I was able to continue doing stuff on my Laptop now it had some charge in it, but in the end, it was back to doing the other activities of being without power that I had acclimatized myself to doing the last few days: watching Going Postal and playing on the 3DS, until the batteries went out. From Tuesday onwards, it was pretty much back to normal, there were still feelings and rumours of losing power again, while the news debated the real cost and talked about the stronger tragedies of the incident: people losing their homes, possessions, road closures, broken roads and railway bridges. The news was awash with such things, while other people talked about their experiences and also rumours of more power losses to come, but did not happen, although some had to rely on generators for a while, many of which were in large areas for a week or two afterwards, not to mention the roads that needed mending, and the train bridges that needed rebuilding. But for most of us, life returned to normal. I had a dentist appointment on Tuesday, was at Barnardo’s volunteering that afternoon, and on Wednesday was attending a Christmas Party at UCLan.

River Lune Flood 4

The whole event for me personally was a weird one. At first it was surprising and something awe-inspiring; looking at what was usually a docile river turning into the controlling factor of a weekend. Losing power and taking the things in my life for granted, as though while they came back, they were gone, and I had to find other ways to use up my time, to the re-established joy of spending time with my family joy such an event could bring. A river becoming a torrent, several days without basic luxuries, being apart from many, not knowing if they were ok…or if they had knowledge of what was going on here – or if I was in it? Altogether, this event created an aftermath that would see general life return to normal, but creating a shaken experience as now I could really see the raw power of nature and what power and destruction my usually docile home town river was capable of.

River Lune Flood 3

GENEPOOL (One thing I wish I had done though was find a way into town during the night, just to experience how dark it must have been).





I Think The Word PPI Should Be Banned, Who’s With Me?

30 11 2016

Dial Phone

Unless you have no TV, Phone, Email Account, Facebook, Twitter, Video Games Console, Front Door, House, Windows, Friends and Never go outside; then it may be possible that you have never heard of PPI. PPI (of course) stands for Payment Protection Insurance and is according to Wikipedia: “An insurance product that enables consumers to insure repayment of credit if the borrower dies, becomes ill or disabled, loses a job, or faces other circumstances that may prevent them from earning income to service the debt. It is not to be confused with income protection insurance, which is not specific to a debt but covers any income.” Well since about roughly 3 years ago (if not more), rumours spread that banks and loan company’s might have miss-sold it to their customers, and there was an opportunity for those who were miss-sold it to reclaim it. That was great news if you were miss-sold as it meant that you could reclaim money. Being sure is very important in these circumstances, and you would prefer to have a definitive yes or no, and if it was the case that you were miss-sold money and be given the opportunity to have that money returned to you, you would jump on it. On the opposite side of the coin, if you knew for a fact that the answer was originally No to the question “have you ever been miss-sold PPI?” then you would be happy as it would confirm that you have not necessarily lost money either. When it comes down to those who found out the answer was ‘Yes’ however; they needed to be given the opportunity and service to reclaim that money. However for those who found out that the answer was indeed ‘No’, then you would think that they would just be left alone to get on with their lives, not be talked down to by TV Adverts or be phoned round the clock by harassment agents belonging to call centres for 3 flipping years.

ppi-1

Ever since the word PPI made it onto the streets of the UK (if not the world), agencies were set up to try and ‘help’ you get your money back, (possibly for a cut of the returns) if you were one of those people who was genuinely miss-sold PPI, however for those of us who weren’t, we were still included in the seasonal fun of asking if we had. It’s nice to see some inclusion from these agencies for once, but after the number of times they have asked, told them that I hadn’t or that I was not interested, they still keep calling back. Now it is probably down to some kind of automated machine which brings up my house number for some lone drone to then ring me, but after 3+ years of being given the opportunity for any PPI to be refunded, you’d think everyone would have received it by now wouldn’t you? But supposedly the answer is No, and so they continue to ring up and ask to the point where they must be committing Harassment by now. It’s for this reason that I think the word (or at least those 3 letters of the three words in that order that make up those 3 letters in that order) PPI should be banned! These companies have now had plenty of time to find and return the money miss-sold, and now it’s time for this whole affair to end!

TV

Now there is one thing of course that could be a problem if it were to stop, and that is those poor people; who have been employed to ask everyone else, would be unemployed as a result. Alternatively, if they were allowed to spread their wings and be given an opportunity to go find other work, then they would be able to learn and maintain real skills and achieve proper prospects for themselves (more at least than they must be getting right now ). It’s a win for everyone: we stop getting harassed, and people in a slum of a job right now get a chance at far greater work opportunities. We of course still need to give those who may still be waiting (if any by now) to receive their money back, but I think the sooner the better. I was thinking maybe around March 2017. You know, these companies would then be given some time to have a proper hard go at their supposed job, but then come the first second of April 2017, they would have stop outright, and the term PPI would be banned, and any use of it down the phone could see the charging of a hefty fine (if not a Prison Sentence). Then we can get on with our lives and be safe in the knowledge that nobody will call us regarding our current PPI Status or be ruining TV with the use of that word either. Now if it was the case that some people still had money to reclaim, then in that case it should go down to professional investigators whose soul task it would be to do a proper professional audit trail and reward it justly (like the people on Heir Hunters), not harassingly. If by the end of that, there is still money to claim, but no one to claim it, then why not spend it on giving free ice cream to the people of the UK (not those who work at reclaim PPI companies, they don’t deserve it), and then we can get on with our lives. Now I realise of course that I have no real power to ban the letters or word PPI, and it will take some form of petition and act of government to achieve this, but as an idea, do you agree? Alternatively however, we could find other uses for the Letters PPI, maybe some kind of whimsically funny pun on something else, and then if that were to work; every time one of these people phoned up and said PPI, then we could just laugh at the funny lettering, and get some level of Joy from PPI instead? What do you think?

GENEPOOL





If You Could Command Any Star Wars Army…

23 11 2016

Star Wars (Lucasfilm)

I used to like Star Wars, but I digress.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens (LucasFilm - 2015

While riding on the train back home from a Wedding back in August, I asked my Friend Matt the question; if he could command any army in Star Wars, which would it be? It’s a bit of an out there question I know and one that I had in my head for a couple of months preceding that, which in turn developed from a few other questions that I will probably end up writing about in the future (which include but are not limited to such things as who would I pick to be in my ultimate superhero/villain team). Anyway I asked this question. Basically the question is in the circumstances that if you were given the power and choice to lead an entire army from the Star Wars Universe, which would it be?

I remember that his immediate answer was Ewoks. Good choice, as the Ewoks pretty much single handily did defeat the Empire intrusion on the Forest Moon of Endor. Personally that is not my choice, but I can see how that could be a good choice, as not only are they practical, but also very musical, as well as very cuddly. My answer though to the question I am asking, I immediately chose when I originally thought of the question. There are a lot of good armies to choose from (even when sticking just to the films), many of which garner a lot of variety in their arsenal as well as secret weapons that are entirely attributed to them only. But for me, there really is only one obvious choice, one that if put into battle with all the others would simply dominate. They are the one army that suggests anything army like, and have the weaponry and technology to back it up: The Galactic Republic.

galctic-republic-logo

It would be a very short post if I just ended it there, but I feel like I should explain my reasoning and choice, so what follows is a brief but detailed post of why I would choose the Galactic Republic over all the others, and I will do that by stating where their strengths lie by going into the different elements of a Star Wars army and attempt to argue their strengths against those of the other armies.

clone-trooper

Infantry: Infantry/personnel units make the backbone of an army; without Infantry and Personnel there would be no army. No matter the ships, tanks, aerial units, without soldiers and personnel to use them or back them up and maintain them, all you will have is a load of machines that cannot be used. Infantry is the main force of an army, and while Tanks and other vehicles have a lot more firepower and are better armored, they can cost a lot to build and are not as practical as soldiers. Every army in Star Wars has their infantry, ranging from swamp dwelling frogmen, to cuddly teddy bears, to general foot soldiers and even robots. One of the most iconic units in Star Wars is of course the Stormtrooper, and Stormtroopers are a well-equipped fighting force, but given that the universe pretty much belongs to the Empire by the time the Stormtroopers are introduced, they are less infantry, more a peace keeping force. They are a tried and tested as well as disciplined fighting force of course, but they present themselves more as shock troopers rather than infantry, if not more like; well, police officers of the galaxy. They do not suggest themselves as being a fighting force that could work on a large scale battle front, their guns themselves look pretty small, and in the end, they’re probably about as much good as those white fellas from The Hunger Games. Now take the Republic Soldier (or Clone Trooper); the republican army is of course famously built from clones, under a strict regime program that turns them into an equipped and disciplined fighting force the second they step out of the factory. The best way I can describe them is during the Battle of Geonosis. The minute they arrive in the arena, they are perched on the edge of the LAAT gunships, and the second they land they are firing shots at a large fighting force of battle droids. They don’t wait, they know who the enemy is, they know how to attack and they have been well-trained enough to know that now is the time to attack. This is just basic infantry, there are other kinds of units, but as they are just the basic infantry in battle, to go in there, and get to work, plus cause as much damage in less than a minute, only to then join a much bigger fight, suggests a dedicated and effective fighting machine, not one that is unprepared for a larger fight.

clone-troopers

Infantry Specialists: Basic infantry units may be the backbone and largest part of a military fighting force; but every army should work at producing some specialist’s within the infantry division as to be able to deal with specific or certain situations on the battlefield. This can range of course from specialist infantry for certain weather conditions such as the Galactic Empire’s Snow Troopers, but by specialists I mean more in the form of weapon specialists to of course engineers and medics. In terms of weapon specialists, the Republic has shown a great level of degree of weapon specialists throughout their use. Some of these are designated by their role in the army, but unlike most armies in Star Wars, the Republic Army appears to be unique in their use of Snipers. I have never seen the Gungans, Ewoks, Rebel Alliance, Galactic Empire, Confederacy of Independent Systems or even the Trade Federation use Snipers. I like Snipers as it’s the idea of not being seen but picking off enemies from afar. Other unique soldiers in their arsenal include Medics, as most other armies (except maybe Ewoks) seem to work under the idea of if you are injured you are already Dead and it’s not worth bothering with. Two things may appear to be a little small in number of examples, but it’s still more than the others (at least from what I have seen).

clone-commander

Ranks: On the battlefield, much like in other more modern (REAL!) day circumstances, it’s important to have a clue as to what on earth you are meant to be doing. This is where more experienced and well taught soldiers come in to play whose job it is rather to issue commands to the lower downs than fight up front. In the real army these are known as commanders or officers. Now, not all high level commanders are sat behind the army with their feet up, many have to be on the battlefield to direct soldiers in the heat of battle. All armies have ranked commanders, but the Republic better enhances the role of theses soldiers in a very obvious way, one that is actually used in the real world – using colour on uniform to point out who is in charge. It’s not just the Republic who uses this system in Star Wars of course as the Droids of the Trade Federation use a similar system. Now the colour for the most part in both armies is more of a designation as to their role in the army, but even when uniform and colour changes in role, Yellow has always stood out as some form of Commander. This use of colour is actually used in the real world; one example is in the uniforms of the Police in the United Kingdom. During big events, officers use coloured epaulettes to highlight their rank, as it stands out more than symbols. Examples of colour include White for Sergeants and Red for Commanders.

police-sergeant-white-epaulettes

On the battlefield this would be very useful for an army, as if soldiers lose their place and need guidance or even assistance, being able to pin point a commander or someone in a similar position would be a lot easier if it was especially highlighted, rather than going round examining their shoulders.

at-te-in-action

Tanks: Since World War One, Tanks have been an instrumental feature on the battlefields of the world; it’s the same with Star Wars (but as the film suggests it was a long time ago, the question has to be raised as to whether or not the films are set before or after World War One). Tanks play an important role on the battlefield, as they can do things infantry cannot do. They come with far superior forms of firepower, are a lot quicker and more mobile than infantry, can travel great distances, and can attack bigger and more armoured units as well as buildings from afar. Tanks have always been a key role to the battlefields of Star Wars and there are several unique and iconic tanks in the series, ranging from but not limiting to vehicles such as the AAT hover Battle tanks of the Trade Federation to the giant four-legged AT-AT’s of the Galactic Empire. While these vehicles are all well and good, the Republic’s AT-TE is a much more superior vehicle than both of these and more for some very simple reasons. Firstly, while it is a big and possibly sluggish vehicle, because it hugs the ground, it does not fall to the great weakness of the mighty AT-AT. While the AT-AT is a pretty good piece of equipment, due to its set of four legs to walk on carrying a heavy load, it makes the vehicle very unstable, and easy to be tripped up with something as easy as a cable. Once it hits the ground it’s less useful than paper weight. The AT-TE uses six legs, supporting and distributing the weight evenly across itself. Also, it does not fall under this trip up weakness either, as in order for that to work, the cable would need to intertwine and near shackle each leg, and would need to be done quickly. Another major gain for the AT-TE is that it has access to one main Big Gun. While it has access to smaller support guns, using a much bigger gun allows it to use the gun for close up attack but also far off artillery shots too. The gun itself also means it uses one main powerful shot rather than distributing its attack between several guns, and in the use of energy weapons which require fuel and power to use, a big shot would be a lot better than lots of small shots, plus would mean it could be used a lot more than others and would be more energy-efficient in the long run.

at-te

The other advantage though the AT-TE has over its contemporary rivals is that it can be considered as being like what is known as an MBT or Main Battle Tank. During World War Two, lots of different kinds of tanks were made for various purposes and reasons and there was a lot of variety. Since then however it has become apparent that designing lots of Tanks for different purposes is sort of a long-winded strategy and in the end it would be a lot more efficient t design one vehicle that could suit most, if not all purposes than just a few, then support said vehicle with other support vehicles (or even infantry) in that vehicles (short) list of failings. Variations of MBT’s exist of course, but as they are based on a base vehicle, it actually makes designing variations a lot easier. The Galactic Empire utilities a lot of different walker based designs but very few of these are similar, which means, in similar fashion to Germany in WW2, they designed them for different situations in order to create as much power as possible from each vehicle, but in the process spread themselves rather thin. The Republic on the other hand, created a vehicle, and stuck with it. They adapted future designs and included features such as wheels and even made base troop carriers out of them, and in one case a two-legged version and sometimes carry even smaller weapons, but in the end, all variations were based on the same vehicle; one that was the real ground work horse of their arsenal. It’s similar to the UK’s use of the Challenger 2; it’s the base model for variations, but in the end is based on a workable design. In the end the AT-TE would probably be replaced for a more up to date advanced model, but it would still serve the Republic in a long-term purpose for a very long time.

challenger-2-tank

spha-t

Artillery: Artillery is just as important as Tanks, as Artillery delivers greater levels of firepower to bring down much bigger obstacles such as buildings and fortifications. The Republic (as a going theme you may have cottoned on to) is possibly the only ones to show off a degree of artillery usage. The Empire and Trade Federation have only really used a tank’s superior firepower to one shot defences, but have not really experimented with using them to bring down buildings. The Republic however has presented their artillery in the past in the form of the self-propelled SPHA-T; most notably during the battle of Geonosis to bring down the Trade Federation star ships. These vehicles are very big, possibly bigger than AT-TE’s but use a very simple form of artillery to bring down the ships: that being an adjustable arm with a strong energy weapon on the end. Such vehicles are of course very slow, but on show they are very powerful and capable in the role. In comparison, well; no one has actually showed off a viable comparison, which is even weirder considering how basic these vehicles are.

laat

Aerial Vehicles: This being Star Wars, this could probably be put in two different parts, so for now we will consider those on the battlefield, not necessarily for use in non-air space. When it comes to use on the battlefield, aircraft serve mainly the use of transportation in Star Wars. In the real world aircraft are better used for support craft and can be used to bomb enemy positions from afar and more importantly be used for reconnaissance. In Star Wars it appears armies decide to just jump into battle full force with no dedicated planning, so reconnaissance is not really required. In Star Wars, battles take up quite a bit of the screen as well as scene, but in order for anyone to actually get there; they have two options, either walk, or get some Transport. In terms of practicality; the Republic is very practical in their designs. Armies like the Trade Federation use transport vehicles to move troops around, but are susceptible to attack as the troops need unfolding and then turning on. Empire transports such as the Lambda-class T-4a shuttle and it’s larger variants are less than practical also, as while they can disembark from the front, the access is very limited, and only really practical when allowing two people off at a time, but then the ramp is very narrow and can be a bit of a squeeze. For the most part Storm Troopers usually depart from the back, which is protective, but makes them prone to attack from the enemy as they run around and set up, meaning they could be picked off with ease before they fire a single shot. The Low Altitude Assault Transport (LAAT) used by the republic army is a gunship aerial vehicle, which comes packed to the teeth with a variety of advanced weaponry. These range from standard light laser cannons, to focus beams and cluster missiles. It is a powerful and fearsome vehicle in its own right; however it is also a very useful ship for the transporting of infantry across the battlefield. Once again, the battle of Geonosis proves their practicality and efficiency, as the vehicle allowed soldiers to sit off the side of the ship on both sides, fire from the ships openings, and as soon as it landed, could safely and effectively deploy troops into the battlefield. It allowed and carried defensive capabilities, plus carried offensive abilities too, while also providing an effective launch pad for a quick infantry deployment and attack. Much like the AT-TE too, it was such a well-designed vehicle, that it allowed itself to be customized into other varieties including a vehicle carrier which could carry good heavy loads including the likes of the AT-TE.

assault-ship

Ships: As stated in the last section, aerial vehicles provide two purposes in Star Wars, because you could not have a war in the stars if you did not have vehicles that could compete in the stars. So to this end, huge capital ships become an integral part of the arsenal for any Star Wars Army wishing to compete on a Galactic Scale. Now, while the Republic could be considered weak in context – just bear with me for a moment. If this question was simply about star/space ships, I would have chosen the Empire. I love Star Destroyers, and the Galactic Empire has the awesome power of the Executor. However I would not consider the Republic weak in this department, as they have a superb collection of small fighter/bomber craft ranging from Jedi Starfighters, to X-Wing like designed aircraft in the form of the ARC-170 space fighter. But when it comes to Capitol carrier ships, these Acclamator-class Assault ships are well designed as carrier transports, but in the form of space conflicts, they can still bring a level of broadside firepower. Their shape allows them to sort of glide through the stars, and their light size in comparison to others should give them a speed and maneuverability bonus, but if you think about it, a fleet of these things are less like capitol ships, and more like mini sized battleships, and there are entire fleets of them. Just imagine that. Less a capitol/command ships, but more a proper battle ship. In Earth terms it would be like having an entire fleet of Yamato or Iowa Class Battleships, and who doesn’t want that? Yes, they could look a little weaker to the might of the Star Destroyer, but in Firepower, they could still deliver a punishing.

yamato

Well I hope that wasn’t too boring of a read, but I wanted to cover the reasoning of my choice. Anyway the chances of me being given the keys to the Republic Army Arsenal is very slim, probably more like impossible as Star Wars isn’t real, but I suppose it’s just good fun. Anyway, that is why; given the power and choice I would choose to command the Republic Army. Yes, the other armies have their own strengths as well that should (and need to) be considered, but as a good all-rounder, there can’t be any better than the Republic, as for one thing, they are at least consistent in their designs and are a very efficient machine. That is my choice, who would you pick to command?

GENEPOOL





The Entire World Is Waiting For The Power Of Steam – Steamboy

16 11 2016

Steamboy (Sunrise - 2004)

In 2013, animation Director and co-founder of Studio Ghibli; Hayao Miyazaki created a film which he announced was going to be the last before he retired. The film was called The Wind Rises, and it was a film that followed a young man who dreamt of designing the ultimate aircraft, and so the story took us on a history of his young life, career, romantic relation, and a retrospective history of his country, eventually leading the young man to his pivotal moment designing the aircraft of his dreams. There is one slight issue however with the company he works for, being the ones to foot the bills; the only option is to design it to the benefit of a company contract, and at that time in Japan’s history the only contract work for airplane manufacturers (or at least those shown in the film) is to build them for the sake of war. So while the young man does get to design his dream plane, he has to come to the eventual realization of what the plane’s purpose is to be. It is a very interesting idea for a story, looking at great inventors, the things they do; but also what they have to do in order for them to be allowed to build such things!

The Wind Rises (Studio Ghibli - 2013)

Released in 2004 by Toho, produced by Sunrise and Directed by Katsuhiro Otomo; Steamboy is a Steampunk animated action film set in the UK and follows the adventure of a young inventor who has to come to terms with the realities of the world of inventions and of course save the day from threats very close to home. Touted at the time of release as being the most expensive Japanese animated film of all time, Steamboy took 10 years to produce, and is only the second major animated release for Otomo following his milestone film Akira in 1988.

Akira (Toho 1988)

In 1863 in Russian Alaska, inventor Lloyd Steam (Patrick Stewart) and his son Eddie (Alfred Molina) have discovered a pure mineral water, which they believe they can turn into a powerful steam based energy source. During an experiment however, everything goes wrong with Eddie being engulfed in freezing gases, but leaves a strange spherical object being created. Three years later, in Manchester England, great-grandson of Lloyd: Ray Steam (Anna Paquin), a young inventing prodigy receives a strange parcel containing the spherical object plus some designs relating to it. Two men then show up called Alfred (Mark Bramhall) and Jason (David S. Lee) claiming to be from something called the Foundation and who want the ball. Ray refuses to give it to them, and is surprised to see the arrival of his grandfather. Ray makes a run for it, and is eventually chased by a strange steam automotive vehicle, making his escape on his own Monocycle. The chase leads them onto the railway tracks, with the automotive being pushed into a river, and Ray being rescued by Robert Stephenson (Oliver Cotton) and his assistant David (Robin Atkin Downes). Things don’t last long however, as while the train is en route to London, Ray is kidnapped by the Foundation thanks to their Zeppelin.

Ray finds himself in a dining hall, and being introduced to members of the O’Hara Foundation which includes Scarlett O’Hara (Kari Wahlgren), the spoiled granddaughter of the foundation’s chairman, and Archibald Simon (Rick Zieff), a company executive. Ray then meets his father Eddie whose head has been greatly altered by the accident, now with only a few strands of hair and a helmet covering one half of his head, as well as other metal components all along his body. Ray and Scarlett are taken on a tour of the facility dubbed The Steam Castle by Eddie who says he wants to use it to enlighten mankind’s vision of science. Ray is recruited by his father to help finish it off, but when asked to help in assisting to turn off a valve, Ray finds his Grandfather trying to sabotage the whole thing. He tells Ray that the purpose of the castle and the O’Hara’s foundation is to sell weapons to Britain’s enemies at the Great Exhibition the following day and shows Ray evidence of this. The two eventually reach the core of the castle, and pry away a steam ball, one of three used to power the castle, but they are then surrounded. Ray makes an escape but Lloyd is recaptured. Ray manages to run into Robert Stephenson telling him about his father and the steam castle, and hands him the Ball thinking Stephenson can be trusted, but discovers that Stephenson’s motives are near the same; to build an army for the purpose of keeping Britain Great.

s3

At the Great Exhibition, the O’Hara foundation shows off their weapons to generals from around the world, exhibiting their steam-powered soldiers, miniature aircraft and submersible men. At this moment, Stephenson launches an attack on the foundation using his steam battle tanks. With the exhibition now a war zone, Ray steals the ball back from David, and rigs it up to use it as a sort of jet pack. In the foundation’s control room, Eddie, straps himself into the machine and while under powered orders for the castle to launch. The building sheds its skin to show a great behemoth like structure, a big black floating castle, which then engulfs the city of London in a big freeze. The royal navy in vain try to shoot it down, while Stephenson attempts to pull it down with his trains. Ray manages to get on board the castle reuniting with his father and Scarlett, but is too late to stop Lloyd from shooting Eddie. With Eddie having disappeared into the machine, Ray and Scarlett assist Lloyd in getting the castle back over the Thames as the machine is too unstable and likely to explode. At the last-minute, Eddie having deflected the bullet with his metal body decides to lend a hand, revealing Lloyd’s original intention for the Steam Castle: to be used as a giant theme park. Ordered by his family to save Scarlett and leave, Ray makes his way back to the control room, straps on a jet pack and leaves the castle just as it explodes, sparing most of London in the process.

s2

Can a film justify its release if it does not have much of a plot? Steamboy is an interesting film; on the one side it’s very well researched, and is somewhat surprising to see a Japanese animated film set in 19th century England and feature locations such as Manchester and (‘of course’) London, as well as feature great moments of a country’s history such as the Great Exhibition and famous faces like Railway Engineer Robert Stephenson. I am not saying this can’t be done, I am just saying how well and detailed it all is but you would not exactly expect for a film from Japan to be set in this country during that period. Of course, this film does also have big outstanding and unbelievable moments, interesting characters and great themes; much like you would expect from the man who made Akira: or should you? That’s the point though of seeing it isn’t it, or at least most might think so, that because this man-made an iconic film from the 1980’s, one of cinema’s all-time great animated films, that is why we should see it; no other reason right? This film is of course heavily touted for being from Katsuhiro Otomo, the same director of Akira; but is that the reason why we should see this film, or should it be that it’s a happy coincidence, and that this film should really be its own thing. I think that is where this film sort of collapses. There are some good things about this film: It does feature big moments of disbelief, and it features themes and ideas as well as argues the differences between progress and greed as well as the blessings of science, but only a little bit really, as all that gets entrenched in delivering the Akira experience, with big moments, wonders of awe and nothing else really. It has it’s moments, moments of philosophy that intrigue that inspire, and the story develops this a little bit; but possibly under the belief that he had to deliver a 19th century version of Akira rather than explore these ideas and create something that was its own identity, Otomo just sort of skipped all that. Don’t get me wrong, I really like Akira, I would just rather watch Akira rather than something that is not a near carbon copy of it (Force Awakens).

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The film’s characters are a real odd bunch and (international released version) are played by some top-notch quality actors. Much like what was stated above, some characters are minor-ly developed and are actually going in the right direction but are lost in what is a rather convoluted and unused plot. The issue that this film has with its characters is that it’s hard at any one point to actually know who is good and who is bad. Ray Steam is obviously the hero of the story, but it’s just obvious if somewhat boring. The character is nicely set up and has reason to explore and discover as he is lost without his heritage and is in a world that he would rather be doing something else in, but other than that there is no real reason for him. He tries to be brave and do the right thing, he is just not a decent enough character to really get behind or enjoy. Someone like Scarlett is a lot more interesting. She actually develops over the film’s timeline, going from a toffee nosed brat to a proper hero and someone worth rooting for. Yes she starts off in a situation where she is horrid and someone you have no affection for, but as the film develops she becomes a good character, so why she couldn’t be the protagonist is beyond me. That is the thing though with this film, there are two solid female characters, Scarlett and Emma (Paula J. Newman), but Emma gets 3 minutes of fame and is never seen again, but she was interesting compared to Ray who is just useless. The issues with good guy bad guy just continue throughout. Yes, the henchmen are bad, but that is their point and Archibald Simon on the other hand is just a pleasant annoyance who can’t stop talking. Robert Stephenson is nicely done, but it’s sad that someone who should be a sort of helper, a guide or assistance in times of such peril turns out just to be as horrid and bad as the somewhat…..Supposed to be…..villains. His assistant David pretty much covers this role with ease, and it would have been more interesting if David per say was the villain out of the two and was something of a manipulator, and so Stephenson could then be the helper, with a villain by his side that needed defeating. Lloyd is of course a good guy but the story does the right thing of teasing his intentions and asking if he is bad or good, and then reveals his intentions correctly and stays that way, I just don’t think the mad professor look really does him any favours. Eddie meanwhile is of course the big bad villain and is voiced brilliantly, and much like Lloyd is teased into his role, but he just keeps changing his mind. His intentions and motives are there as to why he is who he is, but why would the villain suddenly change sides like that at the end. He should be a boss to fight, a hindrance to overcome, not someone who is like: “Oh well, let me give you a hand!”

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The voice acting works in some of the film’s favour, and boasts acting talent like Patrick Stewart, Anna Paquin and Alfred Molina, but it’s not fully utilised I feel. Scarlett is voiced nicely and actually sounds and feels real, compared to Anna Paquin whom does a good job in a male voice role, but in the form of the voice that most people believe how British people speak. Speaking as a British person, I do not speak like that, I have actually yet to meet someone who does. Both Alfred Molina and Patrick Stewart are British; and they don’t speak like that; and they’re in this film! It becomes near offensive the more it gets touted. Maybe instead of hiring people to create a generic voice that does not actually exist, maybe they should hire British actors to do the job, because then it would be a lot more realistic (and less offensive). When it comes to the voice overs in this film the only ones that really do anything I feel are those of Patrick Stewart and Alfred Molina. Patrick Stewart’s character is not seen much of to truly enjoy, but it’s still good when he is on-screen, although possibly a bit loopy and mad. Alfred Molina though I feel really carries this film. It’s a voice of reason and passion, and although the character struggles to really find his place in this film, the voice over does the character tremendous and enjoyable levels of entertainment and justice. It’s just a shame about everyone else really.

The film does have its recovery sections, it’s not all collapsing. The animation is nicely done and works well to really capture the beauty and spectacle of 19th century England, especially London. The fleet of vessels on the Thames, the beauty of the city’s iconic buildings and structures, to the animated engineering of its own infrastructure. Add to this the machines and contraptions of the story’s fictional contents like the steam-powered soldiers, the monocycle, and of course the mighty Steam Castle in all its forms and you have this well-made world which has added benefits. I do think the animation style and colouring loses a bit in comparison to the film’s contemporise like the recent works of Studio Ghibli for example, but when close up the details are superb. The film’s soundtrack Composed by Steve Jablonsky) is an additional benefit too as it creates mostly sounds and ambiance rather than pieces of music. The music does have its moments of grandeur like the launch of the steam castle or the chase within, to moments of peace too like Ray’s theme, Scarlett’s theme, and of course the music behind the blessings of science monologue. Now while not insinuated within the soundtrack itself, there is one piece of music though that does come out in relation to the film: That of its theme from the trailer: Full Force; the adventure and steam-driven music that creates and encapsulates moments of awe and wonder, but creates a level of seriousness and tension to shine out loudly.  Although the film does tout some of that wonderful adventure but still steam punk driven piece of music here or there, it’s this piece of music which shines out for the film’s soundtrack, even though it is really non-existent, but it’s iconic and memorable enough for you to remember it in conjunction with this film.

Generally it feels like something of a shame altogether, because I was expecting more. Steamboy has its likable moments and bits to enjoy, but the story is so convoluted and makes more room for big moments rather than a properly developed plot. It’s one of those occasions where the trailer delivers more than the film. Steamboy is something of a quick storyteller; it just dashes from one thing to another, not developing nor explaining, creating interesting moments but not diving into them sacrificing its potential in the process for something else, but no reveal as to what. It comes with great voice talent but does not really use it effectively, it has interesting characters in the wrong roles and it has spectacular ideas that are just ignored. On the plus side the animation is delightfully detailed, and has music that has its occasions which are used well. Yes it has its big moments which are nicely done and very creative, but a film like this should be more than that. It should not be living in the shadow of its legendary predecessor and working hard to live up to be like its bigger brother. It should be blossoming like a flower, being independent and making its own path, then and only then can it have a chance to be on an equal footing and be appreciated the same way, rather than just being a clone in a different setting.

GENEPOOL








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