Vaults & Vagabonds


A Field in England (Ben Wheatley, 2013)

Director Ben Wheatley has done some pretty interesting and unique movies, and A Field in England is no exception. Set sometime during the English Civil War (1642 – 1651) the film follows a ragtag group of deserters, low-lives and mysterious figures that eat some magic mushrooms and trip out in a field.

A Field in England Poster

The story is somewhat simple, although a bit confusing as some of the character's actions is not explained very well, and it all gets enhanced by the trippy mushroom-eating and the introduction of hallucinatory, almost magical elements. Sometimes it feels more like a filmed play than a real movie, and the clichéd, although entertaining, characters combined with the stilted dialogue, only further the surrealism of the story. The pure black and white images signifies both ART, DIY and PUNK like nothing else these days, and A Field in England is no exception – it should be irritating as it seems calculated, but it is also difficult imagining the movie in any other way.

Some might call A Field in England an empty movie, that it isn't really about anything. There is also an uncharming manliness to it all, much throat-grabbing, bragging and bravado that seems a little misplaced considering the men's situation. It could be about the effects of war, like shell shock or PTSD. It could be about freeing the mind from the horrors of war and quite possibly real life. It could even be about something essentially British, but it is hard for me to fathom what. Even so, it is not easily forgotten as it has some undeniably freaky qualities.

Grim, grisly and visceral Wheatley's A Field in England is a unique movie experience that comes across as both seemingly amateurish and hypnotic, and ultimately a pretty weird movie that doesn't inspire repeated viewings.

#movie #review #benwheatley #afieldinengland

Ms. Marvel Vol. 2 by G. Willow Wilson

While the first volume of the collected editions of G. Willow Wilson's new muslim, and very cool superhero Ms. Marvel was excellent in every way, this second collection of the comic series takes Kamala Khan's story further with some major Marvel Universe event happening in the background and suffers for it.

Ms. Marvel Vol. 2

Ms. Marvel was fresh breath of air, and the origin story took me back to childhood experience with superhero comics, most notably my introduction to Spider-Man. What I believe I sometimes miss from modern superhero comics is a believable insight into the characters real life, and how the superhero and weird stuff makes this life both difficult and messed up. Ms. Marvel hit it on the head from the start, and it continues quite well in this second collection. In this story Kamala even have to cope with love, and she discovers that her secret identity might not be so secret as she believes. She even gets to meet, and fight alongside her hero Captain Marvel.

Where the collection fails as a whole and coherent story is that I really don't care for the Marvel event happening in the background. I want to follow Kamala as she deals with boys, love, family and even the Inhumans, while trying to hide from her admittedly charming family. Instead too much of the story gets eaten by an event that really don't get any explanation. I believe that these collections should work as a single story, and I get annoyed when important stuff don't get an explanation or the collected story don't get a satisfying ending. Neither happens here and I felt left out. I don't want to buy into other comics and other stories to understand what I'm reading at the moment. This is not particular to Ms. Marvel Vol. 2, but to most output from the large comics publishers, but I want to believe that Kamala Khan deserved something more, if not better.

#comics #review #msmarvel #marvel #gwillowwilson #superheroes

Spin by Robert Charles Wilson

The first book in the Spin Saga Trilogy by Robert Charles Wilson is a fantastic science fiction novel with a grandiose theme, yet with totally human, and actually humanistic, characters. Spin won the Hugo-award for best novel in 2006.

Spin cover

The novel follows two storylines involving the three same characters in different times in their lives. The first tells the tale of the two siblings Jason and Diane Lawton through the eyes of their best friend Tyler Dupree. As they grow up their different personalities forms and without knowing it they will all in their own way play an important part in the things to come.

Jason is a brilliant kid with father issues. Diane is highly sensitive and spiritual. Tyler is the more normal of the three, but still quite intelligent and determined. Also he “secretly” loves Diane.

One fateful night a mysterious and unfathomable alien race encapsulates Earth in a “membrane” (named Spin) effectively shutting Earth off from the rest of the universe. The aliens quickly get named the Hypotheticals. It is also soon discovered that time itself works quite differently inside the membrane from the outside and suddenly life and indeed the whole human race seems doomed. Jason gets to work on a solution. Diane joins a doomsday cult. Tyler becomes a doctor.

The second storyline jumps into the future with Jason obviously dead and Tyler and Diane on the run in an Asian country. Tyler has injected himself with some kind of drug/cure which is somehow connected to the Spin, and the government is closing in on them.

Spin is that rare science fiction book that successfully combines huge ideas of space, time, terraforming and the weirdness of science with humanistic themes and believable characters. I liked it a lot, even though it was slow going sometimes, and had pretty liberal ways of describing the science behind the huge ideas.

I struggled a bit with how Wilson describes the females in the story. While the males are determined, set for destiny and brilliant, sometimes unscrupulous, but mostly in the right, the females are failing mothers, drunks, spiritual and religious, and always dependent on a male. Also I find that, even though the characters are believable humans, the language used to describe their relationships felt somewhat simple compared to the science and the spiritual stuff. Sometimes I felt as I was reading a YA novel with some extreme science and tech added on for good measure.

All in all though these things are not consistent and there are some good exceptions to my main gripes with the novel. It is a solid story that, despite its lack of action, got an interesting theme. I notice that the the next books in the trilogy looks to be a bit different and I will therefor probably view this as a stand alone novel with an open ending.

#review #sciencefiction #novel #spin #robertcharleswilson