This past Friday I went to see the children’s movie “Frankenweenie.” “Frankenweenie” is the latest cinematic effort by Tim Burton and is kind of a mix of science fiction and fantasy. As such, it comes complete with the dark, somber ambience Burton has developed a reputation for, though, not so horribly dark and terrifying that it would frighten children. It’s a well-developed film with an engaging storyline and fun characters. Perfect for a Halloween outing.
At the center of the story is the young Victor Frankenstein, a brilliant scientist-in-training attending Junior High or so (I guess that makes him about 13 years old). He’s something of an introvert whose only true friend is his pet dog, Sparky. His parents, however, want him to be more sociable and get him involved in a baseball team. This, however, leads to tragedy: At one of Victor’s games there is a horrible accident and Sparky is killed. Victor is depressed for a long time until he gets the idea—inspired by his science class at school—to try to bring his dog back to life. He succeeds, but is unable to keep that success a secret, and the resulting chaos that breaks loose is enough to make your head spin. But it is great fun to watch, as a whole bevy of monster pets break loose and wreak havoc on the small town Victor Frankenstein calls home.
Overall, I found this movie entertaining and worth watching. It is typical Tim Burton: dark and gloomy, but like I said, not so much it’ll scar children. At least, I don’t think so. I do, however, have several complaints about the movie. The first is so minor I’m not even sure I want to complain about it. Basically, a certain young girl in the film performs divination via cat poo. If her cat poos out the first letter in your name in his litter box that means something “big” is going to happen to you. I just wonder if the only way to entertain children is to act childish ourselves. I mean, really? Cat poo? Must we? My next complaint concerns the wrap up of the film at the end (Spoiler Alert). The once-dead dog, Sparky, is killed again at the end of the movie and, with the blessings of the parents, Victor Frankenstein brings the animal back to life yet again. I know kid’s movies are supposed to have “happy endings,” but I’m not sure it is a good idea to implant in them the notion that bringing their pet back to life is the way to go. They (the film-makers) had an opportunity to let the animal go and let him rest in peace, but they brought him back again. Not sure that was a good idea. My final complaint concerns some of the kid’s science experiments in the film and this is, by far, my most significant complaint. There was a lot of manipulating of electricity throughout the film, an unsuccessful attempt to fly off a housetop, and other experiments of questionable safety being performed by young teen-agers for the movie’s audience of children. Maybe I’m being over-protective, but I don’t think that was very wise to include in the movie. Do we really want someone’s kid to think it’s a good idea to fly a kite during a lightning storm? Anyway, you can see where I’m going. I don’t know how Tim Burton could have made the movie without these things, but I’ve noticed in a lot of the children’s movies of recent years that the writers tend to forget who their primary audience is.
Still, it was a good movie and I enjoyed it. I’ll give it four stars.
Today I’m doing a bit extra (this is the third post today—make sure you check out the others). As part of their Scary October series, we’re running a promotion at the Mywithershins blog. Basically, Mywithershins is running a series of posts based on frightful October—all things related to vampires, zombies, witches, and what have you. We’ve posted a blurb and an excerpt from my novel Drasmyr at the blog. So make sure you check out Mywithershins and show them your support.
All right, I was in a silly, childish mood the other day and I went to see “Hotel Transylvania.” It’s an animated kid’s movie. I have to say, I enjoy children’s movies—now that I’m an adult and I don’t care what other people think when I go see a children’s movie (unlike when I was a teenager and wouldn’t be caught dead watching such a flick)…. I think that particular transformation started in college when I saw Aladdin for the first time and thought, “Hey, that’s a pretty good story.”
Anyway, Hotel Transvylvania. It tells the story of Count Dracula (I don’t believe it: I saw a listing of the cast on-line and Dracula was played by Adam Sandler… my mind is just trying to register that; I totally didn’t recognize his voice!), his daughter, Mavis, and her human love interest, Jonathan. Besides Sandler, there are a number of other relatively big names in the film like Kevin James, Steve Buscemi, and John Lovitz among others. Basically, Dracula has had some bad experiences dealing with humans. So, he’s set up a hotel in the middle of nowhere where he, his daughter, and all the other monsters of the world can retreat to for safety and peace. He’s started a whole business on the basis that humans are bad and lead only to terrible things. He’s raised his daughter, Mavis, in the confines of the castle; she’s basically never seen the outside world or had any interaction with any humans at all. He’s raised her and taught her one basic rule: humans are terrible and must be avoided at all costs.
But it is now Mavis’ 118th birthday and she, like any other vampire of such an age (I guess), wants to see the world and experience new things. She’s feeling a little cramped in the castle. And in keeping with the typical teen-parent conflict common in movies, Dracula is intent on keeping his daughter safe at home; he’s also throwing a birthday party for her. All the other monsters of the world are invited: Frankenstein, the werewolf, skeletons, zombies, and more. However, this year there is an uninvited party-crasher: the human, Jonathan, who wanders into the castle on this most momentous of nights. He meets Mavey and the inevitable happens: Jonathan and Mavey hit it off and all sorts of chaos breaks loose.
Criticisms: well, there is some crude humor in the film (flatulence and nose-picking related), and there’s that whole vampire-human relationship thing which is just odd if you really think about it. But this is a kid’s movie, and you’re not supposed to think too deeply about a kid’s movie. Overall, I found it thoroughly enjoyable and worth the hour and a half of time spent watching it.
I’ll give it four stars out of five.
In the interest of furthering human understanding on such an important topic, and in an extension of my previous Fantasy Monster Fights, most notably of the Vampire vs. the Werewolf, we must contemplate the result of a fight between a dragon and… well, anything else. Perhaps I display my biases here, but to me, a dragon is the ultimate killing machine. Or at least, it should be. I have always loved dragons. In my early childhood, I was a great fan of dinosaurs, and this naturally evolved into a love of dragons. Dragons rule! Hence, the name of my website: “A Toast to Dragons.”
Anyway, back to the discussion. What makes dragons so formidable? Well, I think good ol’ Smaug from J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Hobbit” said it best: “My armour is like tenfold shields, my teeth are swords, my claws spears, the shock of my tail a thunderbolt, my wings a hurricane, and my breath death!” Truly, a devastating array of attributes. And if we go further, and draw from the AD&D tradition, dragons are also capable of spell-use. As if they needed it. What could possibly stand before one?
A vampire? I think not. A full blast of flaming breath would reduce one to dusty ash. A werewolf? Him neither. The dragon has the size and strength to rip him apart with ease. A zombie? Heck, I’ll give you fifty zombies; nay, a hundred, and I’ll still vote with the dragon. Oh, I forgot to mention that dragons can fly. So, it could be a thousand zombies, and as long as they were land-bound (which zombies generally are), they wouldn’t stand a chance. The dragon would just fly above them, and breathe fire, incinerating them in large swathes until all were gone. To be honest, the only creatures that I think would give a dragon trouble, or might actually beat a dragon, would be a demon. Like… like… Lubrochius, the Eater of Souls (hah! I had to get a plug in for my book somewhere! J ) And if you are pitting them against demons, you could just as easily pit them against an angel or a god. But that’s really stretching the monster resource bag. I mean, really? Must we reach into the afterlife to find a sufficiently powerful foe to contend with?
No, dragons are the apex predators. They are just too big, too strong, too well-protected, and too-capable with their breath and spells. Oh, again with the AD&D tradition, there’s also things like generating fear and such. But that doesn’t seem to be so much a magical ability, as it is the preponderance of common sense that overtakes a victim once he sees a dragon. It’s a dragon! Run for your lives!
And so, the dragon is and always shall be the undisputed ruler of all fantasy worlds. In my humble opinion, that is.
I haven’t done a completely ridiculous post in quite some time (excepting, of course, on my recent blog tour), so I figure I’m overdue. So, here goes.
The question of the ages. You are condemned to live the rest of your life as a monster, but you are given a choice: you can be a vampire, a werewolf, or a zombie. What is your decision?
For myself, I’m going with the werewolf primarily because that is the one where you retain the most of your humanity. I mean, a zombie, really? All you have to look forward to is shambling around the countryside, rotting from the inside out, or from the outside in, and looking to feast on brains. Your intellectual capacity is reduced to virtually zero, and you’ve come to accept monosyllabic grunts and groans as the pinnacle of communication. No reading philosophy for you! A step up from that is the vampire. Here, well, you’re dead. According to most traditions, you are incinerated by sunlight so it’s the nightlife for you. You sleep in coffins, and drink human blood. Gone are the days of feasting on hot chicken wings and beer; nope, just blood. Day in. Day out. Although you do have some funky powers, and you have retained your remarkable intellect, you also suffer from a variety of weaknesses, like the previously mentioned sunlight. But also, you can’t enter a building unless invited. You can’t cross running water. You are repelled by holy objects. And most importantly of all: you stink. No matter where you go or what you do, whenever you set up house, you are haunted by that ever-present, hideous odor of the undead. The stuff of rotting corpses and graves. A small price to pay for immortality perhaps, but not an easy one.
Compare the above, to the werewolf. Once a month (okay, maybe three evenings a month, one on either side of the full moon, if we are generous), you transform into a hideous beast and roam the countryside looking for someone to rip to shreds. You have little memory of these events, let alone control. The rest of the time, you are basically a human, often with extraordinary strength and keen senses. You can go around in sunlight; you don’t rot; and you don’t stink… although you might have a bad case of fleas. Some traditions hold that you are immortal; others, that you will die in your own time.
For myself, immortality does have something of an allure; I could learn a lot in limitless time, but eventually, I think, I’d get bored.
I think all three of the above constitute curses. Vampires and werewolves are usually associated with losing your soul… not so sure about zombies. If God is understanding and lets you into heaven after your zombie body is destroyed, then perhaps that’s the way to go. But ignoring afterlife concerns, I’m sticking with the werewolf.