Thursday, August 14, 2008

the North wind

Now, this bit of review actually got deleted from the publisher's massage board, so I guess it could even be considered controversial!:)

I remember being satisfied with this when I wrote it, and I hope it makes for a nice read.

1. Introduction

Let's try to imagine that North wind is the movie, which will make for a much easier start of the review. Now, North wind the movie is your slightly atypical post-apocalyptic block buster movie, and it just opened in theatres. The story is basically a coming of age tale, set in the backdrop that is much more fantasy than sci-fi.

As a framing device, we're being told the story from a particular point in the future, which makes a framing device whose importance is clear in the epilogue. North Wind the movie doesn't give its main character Pak much to work with, painting him as a classic destiny-obsessed figure, whose idealism does not waver or accept the harsher reality the rest of the characters live in.

That said, most of them are stock characters, playing the roles of strong and ambitious single mother, spiritual wise tutor who steps in for the boy as a father figure, a slightly fazed love-interest, and a ruthless villain whose single redeeming feature conveniently stops being an issue by the end of the second act, just in time for the final confrontation. The less said of the fun-loving drunkard who Pak relies on when he gets to the city of Lost Angeles, the better.

Having said that, the setting is very early established and except for a single characteristic very quickly fades into the background, becoming yet another dark post-apocalyptic city.

As for the rest, there are a few times when a plot point takes the viewer by surprise, especially the ending, but was no doubt agreed upon to differentiate it from many other movies of the same ilk. There's even a tournament Pak enters incognito after he gets in the city, vying to win the chance to play catch up with his long-lost childhood friend, now distressingly in the domain of the evil governor. In the eleventh hour, the writer decides to throw in the obligatory resistance movement, just to raise the stakes for the explosive endgame.

There's not much more that can be said about North Wind the movie, except that there's always a possibility for the sequel. You either like this kind of movie, or you don't, and there's enough of a distinction on the surface, that coupled with a few twists in the story and a healthy dose of special effects, that it can leave it's mark on the jaded audiences, weary from the latest extravaganza that failed to entertain them.

Which is all well and good, but North Wind is a comic-book mini-series, which depending on how you look at that, could change everything.

2. the Mini-series

North Wind was a publishing experiment for Boom! Studios, an independent comic-book company mostly devoted to work on the projects which could be easily adapted into feature films. It also had the distinction of being the first comic-book to be officially distributed for free on MySpace, simultaneously with its release in the more traditional pamphlet format.

It's already optioned as a movie, which might mean nothing in the long run. It's also receiving flattering reviews on the Internet, but most of them are subjective anyway, which are traditionally willing to turn a blind eye towards non-superhero material, in favor of someone actually acting up on the good word and checking out the low-selling stuff too.

This is where things take a turn for the worse. Now, North Wind is by no means a bad comic-book, the writing is crystal clear, approachable, nicely-paced and art is both fitting, serviceable to the story and atmospheric, mostly of the well above-average level. The main problem lies in the basic idea that this is not a comic-book story, but one told in comics because of the inherent pulp thematic connections. The authors don't aim to achieve any particular artistic or entertaining value connected in the comic-book playing field, they are merely just another people trying to find their way to Hollywood by publishing a glorified sales pitch.

Which is not bad for the industry, but still makes the whole thing kind of soulless and interchangeable, particularly today, when the book's competing with many similar projects on the market. And that's where the irony becomes apparent, because even at their worst, comics fare better than retreading the same cliches, sporting your average bland protagonist like the latest CG-fueled movie does. The medium has potential for so much better and more innovative stuff, which has been proved time and time again, both in the mainstream and small press publishing.

Comic creators usually pick a more interesting angle, and find space to tell the story sporting something new and quirky, even when it's clear that they're not dealing with a winner. They try, make the whole thing into an ongoing and change direction, struggle with it, and even after it's ended or cancelled, a lot of questions are still in the air, along with a wealth of story and ideas that can eventually being mined into a solid movie.

North Wind is a comic-book designed from the start not to stray from its point, and thus forced to go through the motions, just to catch it's audience and surprise them when it steers left, at the moment when we all thought it would go right. It's a big action movie, but you are left feeling nobody got to attached to the thing, it was just an exercise in branding something very familiar into the next big thing everyone kids will pay their money to enjoy, and later continue the experience with the obligatory video-game tie-ins.

3. Should you read it?

Now, the only real question is, was the story worth your time and money. And, that depends on the reader – if you're looking to be entertained by a shallow, action-packed movie that hits the ground running and doesn't stop till the big finale, you're in for a fun ride, with some new thrills every once in a while. But, if you're a fan of the medium, and something that is both personal and authentic, you better give this a pass, just like the way you did the last blockbuster that you didn't want anything to do with.

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