(Week 24: June 9 – 15)
Given that I managed to write chapter one of the new novel in a single week (well, the unreadable first draft of chapter one, at least), it’s a bit frustrating—though not surprising—that work on chapter two has now run into a second week. If I’m honest, it was far more of a surprise to me that chapter one came out so quickly and so fully.
That said, the word counts are pretty good: I’m averaging between 400-500 words each morning, so it’s likely more to be the case that the chapters are ending up longer than I’d expected, rather than my writing pace going more slowly.
I wrapped up the TV series of Chernobyl early this week and, just like everyone says, it’s a stunning achievement. I’m particularly impressed by the contrast between the very undramatic way that the show is presented, and the intense, gripping drama that it depicts. Writer Craig Mazin very rightly understood that the mere facts of the story were dramatic enough and needed no embellishment. That’s not to suggest that Mazin didn’t do an absolutely incredible job here: the creative decisions that were made (including the few dramatic licenses that were taken) and the manner in which the story was told have contributed towards this being one of the best TV productions of the last twenty years.
I also have to compliment the incredible performances that Jared Harris and Stellan Skarsgard deliver; while they’re by no means the only characters, and almost everyone shines here, they are the two who lead us through most of the narrative.
On Friday I was finally able to watch Us and find out what everyone else had been talking about. I can’t discuss too much without potentially spoiling things, but it’s an excellent and very clever horror film that I will find myself pondering for a long time after this first viewing.
On Saturday, the Elderbeast and I enjoyed one of our increasingly rare Movie Nights. In an inspired choice, the Elderbeast decided we would watch Casino Royale (the Daniel Craig one, not the David Niven one). I’ve been wanting to watch this a second time for years and it was just as good—probably better—on this second outing.
Key things that jumped out at me: the black and white opening—while clearly not set in the sixties, there’s a retro feel to these scenes that harks back to the series’ origins; the stripped down origin—while we meet M and Craig’s Bond starts off the film by receiving his 007 ranking, there are relatively few of the other hallmarks of the series here (they turn up in Skyfall, of course); the character—this is the best way of summing up what makes this film work, it’s not a movie that’s setting out to be the next big James Bond blockbuster, rather it’s a film about James Bond as a character that also happens to deliver some awesome action set pieces.
On Sunday we started watching The Tick, which I really want to love but am struggling to fully embrace as of the first few episodes. We’ll see how this one goes.
This week I listened to the new Audible adaptation of William Gibson’s rejected Alien III screenplay. I then went and read the Dark Horse comic adaption (as I was keen to see the visualisation). The scripts for both, unsurprisingly, were near identical so I’ll discuss them as a single story.
Firstly, I’m not surprised this version of Alien III didn’t make it to the screen. It’s got some interesting things going on, but I would describe the story as a bit thin: there’s not enough meat on the bones. The business between two opposing political factions is interesting, but proves confusing in parts (it might be the audio adaptation in particular, but it’s sometimes hard to keep track of which character is on which side).
It’s a nice touch that Bishop, Hicks and Newt are retained as central character. However, Hicks is barely even a character in this adaptation—he’s little more than a grunt. Meanwhile, Newt hangs around only to be safely removed from proceedings about halfway through. You can start to see why they were eventually excised from the final movie—controversial as that decision was—given the risk of either wasting the characters or simply repeating their roles from Aliens.
The story revolves around alien hybrids—in some scenes human characters literally morph into aliens. One the one hand this is a reasonably interesting extension of the current mythology, and adds a ‘Thing-like’ aura of paranoia to proceedings. On the other hand, I can’t help but think this would have looked completely ridiculous on screen.
As a final note, the audiobook brings back Lance Henriksen and Michael Biehn in their original roles (as Bishop and Hicks) which is a nice touch. However, Lance Henriksen sounds oooooold. I mean, it’s over 30 years since Aliens came, so it’s forgivable that he’s aged a bit.