(I Also Write Children's Books!)

Monday, March 18, 2019

Alita Good, Egil Bad

I haven't seen Captain Marvel yet, and part of me was like 'Maybe I should wait', then I was like 'You dufus, you haven't posted in forever, stop lollygagging.'

So, a couple of quick reviews while I wait for preorders of A Rag Doll's Guide To Here And There to go up on Amazon.

Alita:  Battle Angel, the movie.  I loved it.  Do you like robots?  Do you like seeing three hundred year old teenage girls kick ass?  Do you like seeing them kick a LOT of ass?  Alita delivers these things by the truckload.  It doesn't deliver much else, but it never claimed to.  Not that the acting or characterizations are in any way bad, it's just unashamedly an action movie.

It did have some interesting details worth commenting on.  In particular, I was struck by the nude scenes.  Twice Alita wanders around naked, but there's nothing to see.  Her cyborg bodies are less anatomically correct than a dress-up doll, only female in general outline.  It's an interesting choice to desexualize her that way, particularly given that the comic does not shy away from fanservice.  But those scenes are a different kind of fanservice, because the bodies are drop-dead gorgeous in a nonsexual sense.  If you like humanoid robots as an aesthetic, the jointing and scrollwork on Alita's first body in that scene are worth it by themselves.

As a fan of the books, I strongly approve that the movie covers the first volume while clearly leaving a segue for the second.  I'm not sure how I feel about the different role of Desty Nova or revealing Alita's identity early.  They work, at least.

I wish she did more actual martial arts.  Every time she did, I wanted to leap out of my seat cheering.

Okay, the other thing.

I like going back and reading old stuff, source material, that kind of thing.

I read Egil's Saga, one of the major Icelandic viking sagas.  Very important.  Very influential.  Semi-historical.

I do not recommend it.

Man, where to even begin?  It's not awful.  The first 25% is tedious, because there's a huge build up section where you're walked through the preceding two or three generations of Egil's ancestors, and how they really don't get along with Harald, the King of Norway.

Then Egil is born, and Egil... is the damnedest story hero I have ever read.  Egil is an awful person.  Egil's hobby is murder.  Not killing people in battle, although he sure does plenty of that and is good at it.  At the age of seven, Egil loses a ball game and gets beaten up, goes and gets a halberd, and chops the bigger kid's head in half.  This is a pattern for the rest of his life, where if Egil doesn't get what he wants, Egil murders (illegally) the person who refused him, and a varying amount of bystanders.  Lose a law suit?  Kill people.  Lose another law suit?  Kill people.  Given bad beer  Kill people.  Steal from some folks?  Not good enough without going back and killing people.

The biggest argument for reading Egil's Saga is if you like watching a train wreck unfold.  Egil is terrible from beginning to end, so much so that it was my major source of entertainment reading.

The saga is also a gigantic advertisement for Iceland.  Norway sucks, Iceland is wonderful, that's the consistent message.  Everybody should move from Norway to Iceland and get rich.  Long, elaborate descriptions of places to fish, hunt whales, gather eggs, gather berries, on and on and on, and free land!  And no horrible King of Norway!

No discussion of any Viking literature is complete without checking how it treats women.  Man, Viking literature is all OVER the place on that.  It's like everything I read comes from a different culture, which might well be true.  Whoever wrote the Saga of Egil liked women even less than Saxo Grammaticus.  Women are objects in Egil's Saga.  They are treated pretty much like boats, mentioned mostly when one is especially beautiful and traded between men.  Only two women get speaking roles.  One is a random earl's daughter whose role in the story is to be the girl Egil loses his virginity with.  Her speaking part consists of objecting to being paired up with a 13 year old boy at a wild party, then being really impressed by how many people he's murdered.

The second woman with a speaking role is Gunnhildr, known in other sagas as the Mother of Queens.  She is played as the villain in this book, over and over trying to convince her husband (Or more accurately 'owner', since she's a captive, not a wife) King Eric to kill Egil.  This struck me as hilarious, because Egil is so awful a person.  She's obviously, 100% right.  He is trouble on the hoof and is going to keep on murdering people until he's gotten rid of.  The saga players her as the villain, but in a real sense she's the heroine and the smartest person around.

Okay, I'm done now.

1 comment:

  1. Alita: Battle Angel is vastly under-rated. Robert Rodriguez did a hell of a job getting the spirit of the manga right. I just can't stand the fact that the press seen determine to talk the movie down. At first they wrote that the movie need to make $300 million to break even. Once the movie shot past that mark, it became $400 million to make money. Once the movie went past that, it suddenly 'need' $500 million to make profit. Reminds me a lot of what happened to Justice League.