Monday, September 26, 2011

What it's about...

The Dark Dimension referred to in the name of this blog is pretty nebulous. Initially, I thought it would be a repository for musings and meanderings about the weird and unexplained. But what, exactly, would I talk about?

I'm a fan of science fiction and fantasy, particularly Swords & Sorcery like Robert E. Howard's Conan and his countless imitators. I'm also a comic and roleplaying game fan. Obviously these all would help fit the bill - all of them contain within them things that could be considered "dark."

But what do I mean by "dark dimension"? Or, for that matter, "dark"?

Good questions. So far, I've discussed Buckaroo Banzai and Conan the Barbarian in 3D (though I actually saw it in 2D). But this isn't a movie blog. Exactly. Well, it will be, occasionally. I plan on ruminating on books like Margaret St. Clair's The Shadow People and Leigh Brackett's Eric John Stark stories. But I don't plan on this being a book blog. But it will be, occasionally. I also love scifi and fantasy enough to want to go on and on about them, but this won't be a dedicated scifi/fantasy blog (and if you object to "scifi" being used to describe the genre, I don't think this is the blog for you - scifi/SF/science fiction are all the same thing, and quibbling over what it's called is silly, much like the Trekkie/Trekker distinction. And yeah, I do use really long parentheticals quite a bit). This also isn't a blog that focuses on UFOs and the paranormal, but, you guessed it, it will be at times. And what about the "real" world? What about all the strange and odd and sinister things that are explainable by science? The mad despots of history, the crumbling ruins in Guatemalan jungles, the planets whirling around our Sun and others stars, the theories about parallel universes? Yep, I dig all that stuff, too. The Dark Dimension is a catch-all, a blanket term for everything that keeps you up late at night, for good or ill, whether due to a nightmare or because you read books by flashlight under the covers. It ranges from Dracula to Carl Sagan. It stretches from the deep sky to the shadowy corner in your bedroom. I plan on it being fun, so I won't be dwelling on doom and gloom.

It's just a fun little corner of the internet to talk about weird things.

Next up: The Hunt for the Skinwalker.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Conan the Barbarian in 3D

This summer saw a slate of comic book movies the likes of which we've never seen before. The sheer overall quality outstripped the numbers. Leading the onslaught was Thor, which was fun - I liked it as a comic book movie, a fantasy movie, and a Norse mythology movie. Captain America took a character I'd never had a lot of interest in and made him interesting and fun to watch. Green Lantern...well, I didn't see it. I should have, and it wasn't the negative buzz that kept me away. I just don't go to see a lot of movies.

Then came Conan the Barbarian in 3D. That was the movie I'd been waiting all summer to see. I'm a big fan of Conan, whether it be the original version by Robert E Howard cutting his way out of his pulp home, or the later comic book/comic magazine version that still sees publication today. The moody Cimmerian has remained my favorite fictional character for decades now. That's why I had high hopes for this new movie.

I didn't bother with seeing it in 3D. Most of these movies in 3D now weren't made with it in mind, and had it added in post-production. That's not interesting to me; movies like Avatar, which made the 3D an essential element, and pushed the development of the technology, are what interest me about 3D.

I think it's a shame that Conan the Barbarian did so poorly at the box office. This is the best swords & sorcery movie ever made, as far as I'm concerned. Let's not confuse swords and sorcery with fantasy - SandS is a subgenre of fantasy, that has specific tropes and conventions. It is a grittier, darker, more individualistic genre, unconcerned with saving the world. Thor is comic book fantasy; Clash of the Titans is high fantasy; Lord of the Rings is epic fantasy. Conan is the character that introduced the genre back in 1932, and it's fitting that this recent movie is the best example of that genre on film.

Not that there's much competition for such a distinction. There are few movie examples - well, GOOD movie examples - of true SandS. The first Conan movies, the well-regarded Schwarzenegger film and its sequel (for better or worse), are pretty much the only other ones of any quality. The 1980s saw a slew of almost universally bad S&S movies - fodder like The Barbarians, or even well-loved flicks like Beastmaster, are typical of what the genre has had to endure in cinematic terms. 

It's also baffling that the filmmakers have spent a lot of time and energy bashing each other over the monetary failure of the movie. This rides the crest of negative fan criticism that has washed over the film. I don't understand any of it. I can usually suss out why a film is considered bad even if I like it, but...this one I don't get.

I loved this movie. Jason Momoa IS Conan; he embodies the pantherish speed and hulking physicality of the character that Howard wrote about so long ago. He also projects the magnetism of the character, who was possessed of "gigantic melancholies and gigantic mirth." Conan's physical speed and prowess was rivaled by his mental acuity - he was able to instantly assess, act, and react with the speed of thought, and Momoa shows that part of the character. Momoa looms over the film like Conan loomed over his stories.

Certainly this film is not possessed of a well-honed, clever storyline...but neither is the genre. SandS is a genre of whirling action and straightforward stories, not finely-drawn character studies or meticulously-crafted plots. In this respect, this film is very representative of its genre. Could it have been better? I suppose. Like I said earlier, though, I'm not seeing what is so flawed about this movie, especially in comparison to something like Thor. I loved Thor, but it suffers from many of the same flaws as Conan the Barbarian - a rather silly plot and thin character development. Thor, like Conan, benefits most from fantastic casting of its lead. Yet Thor was a huge success, and Conan a dismal failure. It could be that the S&S genre, always fairly obscure, just doesn't have broad enough appeal. It could be that the horrendous marketing turned off much of the potential audience. It could be that I happened to like a really bad movie and can't really see its flaws.

Regardless, Conan the Barbarian deserved a better fate. I can only hope its international and DVD sales are so good that it rates another chance; Jason Momoa needs to be in another Conan movie.