Is It Magic Or Just Special Effects #review #book #film

As a child of a time when you could see the strings on the Thunderbird models – not that I did – I thought nothing of the stilted way Scott Tracey walked (our postman, Mr Pejorative walked with the same staccato gait, in his case the result of an unharmonious interaction between his hip and a .303 bullet somewhere near Arnhem in late 1944). Consequently I’m a sucker for all special effects. I think it’s because my ability to suspend my rational belief in how the world really works is laudably enhanced – I mean if you lived inside my imagination, the notion that small people live behind my skirting boards is nothing but a sine qua non.

Thus seeing the original Star Wars film once again is always an experience. A good one and not one full of the  clunky gear changes and unexpected detours. Unlike driving an Austin Allegro

(easily the worst car ever built in the 20th Century and even the much maligned Trabant

doesn’t run it close – though I suppose neither of them could fairly be described as ‘running’ anything anywhere, their movements being more akin to limping like a rusty-springed Zeberdee)

….where was I? Oh yes, Star Wars.

I enjoy Star Wars. And to have as an early birthday treat a trip to see a Big Screen version at the Royal Albert Hall with the John Williams score played live by the London Symphony Orchestra, well that was always going to be special.

The music, if you listen to it rather than let it wash over you, seems to be there, always. There are few longueurs when the score disappears. It was easy not to realise it was live too, so good was the timing. And the RAH has such fantastic acoustics that just listening would be treat enough.

But I watched. And I was stunned by the quality of the special effects. There was no CGI then, no computer animation or enhancements. It was models but to this aged and untrained eye it didn’t suffer in comparison to the modern.

Now, ok, there were some bits that showed their age – 1977 I think – like the computers they used in the rebel fighter planes which were more reminiscent of those original ping-pong games we got so excited about. They were blurred and simplistic. A bit like my rose tinged nostalgia or should that be neuralgia?

But at least they weren’t as crap as some of the acting. Mark Hamill was dire. I didn’t remember that. In his last role in the recent Star Wars offering, he was a decent actor. Back then he had three expressions – fearful, angry and, erm angry. Now, ok, that’s two more than Ryan Gosling, I know, but he doesn’t have Gosling’s shallow good looks to compensate.

The bit that really stood out though was added in the 1990s – a sequence between Harrison Ford (whose acting was somewhere above adequate) and Jabba the Hutt. In it Hutt slimes alongside Hans Solo and rubs against him as he whispers murderous entreaties in his shell-like. Ok, there’ll have been some green screen involved but the overlaying was pretty seamless.

And I realised how good it was three days later when I went to see Fantastic Beasts (The Crimes of Grindelwald).

This is the latest in the fertile franchise that is the Potter World, now into a millennium of prequelling and it has been largely panned by the critics.

If you are a Potterhead then you’ll go. And I doubt you’ll be disappointed. The plot is a curate’s egg. It starts complex, tangles itself with enough twists and theories to make explaining quantum mechanics in pidgen vulcan a doddle yet unpicks itself with the alacrity of a teenager’s nose and ends up being very enjoyable. And I say that even though Jonny Depp features in it. I mean if ever there was an actor capable of mumble-bumming a movie into the siding of straight-to-Netflix it is he. But he’s not as bad as you expect, rather like pro-biotic yoghurts.

In this offering Newt Thingy, Eddie Redmanye, acting as if in a Health and Safety film warning that using magic to explode things means you really should wear safety goggles, had close up and personal cuddle-time with a Chinese water dragon. Which instantly took me back to Jabba and Hans. Seamless but no more so than Star Wars. Or maybe it’s these old eyes still incapable of seeing the strings.

PS while on the subject of magic I was recently put onto the Rivers Of London series by Ben Aaronovitch.

Ok it’s been going since 2011 but bear with me, I’m slow. I’ve been listing via Audible which is a laudible (ha, soz, couldn’t resist) addition to my consumption of literature. These are full of Potterseque magic but in a modern setting involving the Met Police and some realistic London settings. Centring on the adventures of trainee constable Peter Grant and his colleague Tracey May they work well as crime thrillers. But add in the magic, the warring King and Queen of the Thames, goblins, fae people, trolls and the usual cast of London lowlife they are excellent. If you enjoyed Potter but want it with more coffee and less acne then this is for you. It’s funny too. Just saying.

About TanGental

My name is Geoff Le Pard. Once I was a lawyer; now I am a writer. I've published several books: a four book series following Harry Spittle as he grows from hapless student to hapless partner in a London law firm; four others in different genres; a book of poetry; four anthologies of short fiction; and a memoir of my mother. I have several more in the pipeline. I have been blogging regularly since 2014, on topic as diverse as: poetry based on famous poems; memories from my life; my garden; my dog; a whole variety of short fiction; my attempts at baking and food; travel and the consequent disasters; theatre, film and book reviews; and the occasional thought piece. Mostly it is whatever takes my fancy. I avoid politics, mostly, and religion, always. I don't mean to upset anyone but if I do, well, sorry and I suggest you go elsewhere. These are my thoughts and no one else is to blame. If you want to nab anything I post, please acknowledge where it came from.
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17 Responses to Is It Magic Or Just Special Effects #review #book #film

  1. gordon759 says:

    Rivers of London sounds a bit like Neverwhere, have you read it?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’d love to see a movie with a real life orchestra playing – any movie would do! My youngest worked her way through all the Star War movies (and the entire Doctor Who repertoire) while waiting for her broken leg to heal and has been trying to convince me I need to see them all – just for the cinematic history thing and the uprise of CGI you understand. I watched the video, it was most enjoyable. Was it just an ad for the books or does it mean they are making the books into a TV series? I’d watch it.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. JT Twissel says:

    I remember when I first saw Stars Wars – it was like traveling to a different universe.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. trifflepudling says:

    That book cover is fab and drew me right in! Read the bit available online and ordered immediately – thanks!
    Best part of Star Wars is the music (sacrilege to some, I know!). I only ever saw the one film (somehow twice), though. I don’t normally go for John Williams music, a bit samey, but that opening theme and then the piece from Schindler’s List are superb.
    ps Remember the Morris Marina? My parents had one and it felt like being in a boat, aptly named.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Widdershins says:

    Thanks for the recommendation … our local library (in Canada no less) has it! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Please review everything. 😀


  7. Charli Mills says:

    To see a symphonic version of Star Wars would be amazing! I always appreciated the musical score. This has to be one of the funniests (and acurate) movie reviews I’ve read: “The plot is a curate’s egg. It starts complex, tangles itself with enough twists and theories to make explaining quantum mechanics in pidgen vulcan a doddle yet unpicks itself with the alacrity of a teenager’s nose and ends up being very enjoyable.” Ha, ha! But, alas, I’m head of Potterhead Clan so we loved every bit of the movie. Rivers of London — ooh, thanks for the introduction. Looks a fun gritty read.


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