Tag Archives: Thor

Should SF Be More Optimistic?

A panel at Chicon 7 discussed whether science fiction has become too pessimistic. Dystopian dramas such as The Road, The Walking Dead, and I Am Legend seem to dominate today’s market. Is this a reflection of current societal woes, or a more widespread sense of doom towards the future by writers and producers? What part do readers and audiences play in contributing to the popularity of these darker stories?

My feeling is that modern science fiction is no more or less optimistic than it has ever been. Classics such as Metropolis, Dr. Strangelove, and Blade Runner have often painted cautionary pictures of the future, warning us of what might be, not what will be. I would argue that dystopian SF is generally more thought-provoking than utopian SF. The best literature relies on conflict to propel characters to change and grow. Utopian societies are often bland and uninteresting.

Things like Buck Rogers and Star Trek are loved by millions for their optimistic visions of technological innovation and political harmony, but even they have conflict to drive their stories. They are often criticized for their naïvety, too.

Taking a look at this year’s Hugo Award nominees, I see optimistic stories far outnumbering the dystopias. Among the novels, Deadline is really the only dystopia, and even it has an underlying optimism that says society will learn to deal with a zombie apocalypse with new medical testing and security technologies. Among the dramatic presentations, Game of Thrones could possibly be considered a pessimistic fantasy universe, and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows certainly has some very dark moments before the forces of good spectacularly triumph over the forces of evil.

Last year saw pessimistic films such as Rise of the Planet of the Apes and Contagion, but they were more than countered by generally optimistic offerings such as Source Code, Captain America, X-Men: First Class, Super 8, Thor, Cowboys and Aliens, and Paul.

Science fiction TV has been dominated for several years by Doctor Who, the ultimate in optimism. Battlestar Galactica was certainly dark, but depicted the eventual triumph of humans. I think one reason Terra Nova failed was that audiences were not attracted to a world where running away from a dystopian society was encouraged rather than staying and working to improve it. Meanwhile, shows like Eureka, Alphas, and Warehouse 13 continue to offer lighthearted SF adventure.

To me, no matter how dark or depressing a science fiction story is, there is a fundamental optimism inherent in all science fiction. After all, science fiction (at least the majority that’s set in the future) imagines that there will be a future for mankind. You can’t get much more optimistic than that!

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Thor & Loki: Blood Brothers

Thor & Loki: Blood Brothers (2011)
Written by Robert Rodi; art by Esad Ribic; directed by Mark Cowart and Joel Gibbs.

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Thor & Loki: Blood Brothers is a four episode motion comic from Marvel Knights Animation that is based on the 2004 miniseries Loki. It is essentially a character study of Loki (David Blair); Thor (Daniel Thorn) spends the vast majority of the running time as a mute prisoner, with only a few brief flashbacks.

The story opens as Loki is celebrating his takeover of Asgard, with Thor, Odin (Joe Teiger), Sif (Elizabeth Diennet), and Baldar (James Hampshire) in chains. Loki soon learns that ruling an empire is not all it’s cracked up to be. He must mediate in what seems like every petty squabble in the land, and his allies in the rebellion begin to demand payment on his promises used to secure their cooperation.

All of this comes off as a cheap Shakespearian tragedy, with Loki brooding and plotting but not really doing anything. As such, it is aimed at adults more interested in political machinations than teenagers more interested in action.

The artwork is the best part of the production. There is a real sense of dimensionality, and the character designs are quite detailed. Loki is portrayed as an old man with missing teeth and lined face. The Asgard warriors are musclebound and the females are full-figured, to say the least. The superb backgrounds fill the screen with beauty. However, the limited animation detracts from the overall effect with its jerky movements and static compositions.

Each episode is about 20 minutes of story, so I’m not sure why the producers opted to break it into four parts. It would flow better as an uninterrupted movie.

The ending is unsatisfactory. Completely unsurprising spoiler–Thor escapes and wreaks retribution on Loki. We don’t see what happens to several principal characters or the fallout of Loki’s villainy.

Thor fans will undoubtedly want to see this production because it adds some interesting layers to Loki’s personality and his relationship with Thor, but I can’t recommend it for anyone else. The limited animation, lack of action, and lack of a satisfactory payoff makes this a dull morality play.