Hannibal: What do you see?

The Spectatorial

Sight is the key to appreciating the design behind Bryan Fuller’s three seasons of Hannibal. Television is first and foremost a visual medium, and no show makes better use of it.

The first two seasons of Hannibal take place before the events described in the famous novels by Thomas Harris, with the third season leading into an incredible adaption of his first Hannibal novel, Red Dragon. What starts off as a killer-of-the-week cop drama slowly becomes a bloody, insane, near supernaturally charged love story between its two lead characters. Hugh Dancy stars as Will Graham, a man who can empathize perfectly with anybody and whose sense of self and reality is shaky at the best of times. Opposite Will is his psychiatrist, Dr. Hannibal Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen), who enjoys philosophizing about God, eroding Will’s conception of the world, and elaborately cooking, serving, and eating people (in meals that…

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Ex_Machina – I am become Death

The Spectatorial

Somewhere in the wilderness of Alaska there is a house, and inside that house are four people. At least one of these people is not human, but a robot. Over the course of a single week, the occupants must determine if this robot is a living, thinking thing, or just an illusion of consciousness.

This is the barest plot description possible of Alex Garland’s Ex_Machina, a film with an incredibly tight cast including only four actors (only three of whom have speaking roles) who appear in only a single setting throughout the film. The film is not only entertaining, tense, intelligent, and beautifully shot, but it might also just be the best philosophical movie about robots since Blade Runner.

In the not so distant future, Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson) is an employee of Bluebook, the biggest and most powerful internet search engine in the world. When Caleb wins a…

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The Flash Season One: “Run, Barry, Run!”

The Spectatorial

the flash photo

“Life is locomotion… If you’re not moving, you’re not living.”

So begins the famous motto of the comic book hero the Flash, and when adopting the story of Barry Allen for the small screen, it’s clear that this motto was taken to heart. With apparently no fear that it will run out of stories, The Flash ran through its first season at breakneck speed.

When Barry Allen was a little boy in Central City, he saw his mother, Nora (Michelle Harrison), be murdered in a yellow ball of light, and his father Henry (John Wesley Shipp) was charged with her murder. Barry goes to live with his parent’s friend, police detective Joe West (the amazing Jesse L. Martin), and Joe’s daughter Iris West (Candice Patton).

Fifteen years later, a bunch of scientists at a place called S.T.A.R. Labs blow up something called a particle accelerator, Barry gets struck by lightning…

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Almost Human: Synthetic Soul

The Spectatorial

ah-poster-sized Image from yvrshoots.com

Created by J. H. Wyman and J. J. Abrahams, Almost Human was a science fiction television show that lasted only one season on Fox—because if there is one thing Fox knows how to do, it’s cancel great sci-fi hits before their time.

The premise is as follows: In 2048, the uncontrollable evolution of science and technology has caused crime rates to rise an astounding 400%. To combat this, the overwhelmed police force has implemented a new policy that pairs every human police officer with a combat-model android.

The series follows John Kennex (Karl Urban), a police detective who lost his leg in battle and who wakes up from a coma to a world where having a robot partner is now mandatory. Extremely distrustful of robotics, including his own cybernetic leg, Kennex is first partnered with a standard issue logic-based MX robot, but after it annoys him, he

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Sandman : Handful of Dust

The Spectatorial

sandman shushes me Image from empireonline.com

When a young Neil Gaiman first approached Vertigo comics about The Sandman, he was pitching a simple revival of the 70s series of the same name by Joe Simon and Jack “The King” Kirby. But DC editor Karen Berger insisted that while they keep the name, Gaiman should create a new character.

And thank goodness he did, for otherwise the world would have been robbed of something beautiful. Running from 1989 to 1996, for a total 75 issues collected in 10 volumes, The Sandman managed to create its very own expansive self-contained mythology.

The original artists Mike Dringenberg and Sam Kieth fashioned the title character after Gaiman himself. The Sandman, also known as Morpheus or Dream, and by many other names, carries with him an aura of inhumanity. While early issues exist in the DC comic universe with appearances by The Martian Manhunter and John Constantine…

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God Bless You, Mr. Vonnegut

The Spectatorial

slaughterhouse cover (2) Image from amazon.com

“Billy Pilgrim has become unstuck in time.”

These are the words that begin Kurt Vonnegut’s great 1969 novel Slaughterhouse-Five, also known as The Children’s Crusade: A Duty-Dance with Death. This is not Vonnegut’s only work of science fiction; indeed, it is not even his only good one. But of all his novels, Slaughterhouse-Five has perhaps best stood the test of time.

This is a book about a man named Billy Pilgrim, a soldier in World War II, who is time-traveling up and down his own personal timeline, from his childhood to his old age and his time as an optometrist; from being a soldier in the Second World War to his kidnapping by aliens. But even with all this mayhem of time travel and aliens, Slaughterhouse-Five never loses sight of what it is truly about: the firebombing of the city of Dresden in WWII.

Vonnegut…

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Imagine Magic! In Defense of Fantasy Literature

The Spectatorial

“I like nonsense, it wakes up the brain cells. Fantasy is a necessary ingredient in living.”

― Dr. Seuss

Fantasy has been a part of the literary tradition since literature began.

In fact, the case could be made that fantasy was the first literature of ancient culture. From Jewish folklore thousands of years old to the Greek epics of Homer such as the Odyssey and Roman tales like Virgil’s Aeneid, the first stories of literature were about the fantastical. They were about magic, and monsters, and mad heroes going on impossible journeys.

These stories are taught in schools and are respected as great classics. So when did some people begin to lose respect for the fantastic? At what point did people decide to relegate fantasy to the fringes of literature under the classification “genre fiction”?

Today the fantastical dominates both the big and small screens. Fantasy is everywhere, and…

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Without Fear: The Devil in Depression

The Spectatorial

just put this one first cause it looks neat, daredevil by david mack Art by Dave Mack

Superheroes have struggles and conflict. Their stories need this. Without conflict, they wouldn’t have any reason to wear spandex and go jumping off rooftops. But not all conflicts have to be outlandishly dressed villains. The Marvel character Matt Murdock/Daredevil has his share of foes (mostly ninjas). Matt’s crusade against Wilson Fisk, the criminal Kingpin of New York, and the other villains who invade his ninja-filled home in Hell’s Kitchen is fantastic, and his representation of disability as a blind superhero (albeit with some fun powers) makes for some fun adventures. But this is not all of what makes this character so great.

Daredevil struggles with depression. This is a comic book character who has openly confessed to struggling with clinical depression; this is a comic book that has treated depression as a mental illness and has portrayed it realistically.

It didn’t start out that way. In his…

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No Capes! An Introduction to Comics and Graphic Novels of the Non-Superhero Variety

The Spectatorial

If you’ve read my previous articles for TheSpectatorial, you may have picked up on the fact that I like comic books. I think the graphic novel is a fantastic vehicle with which to tell or devour stories. But there is one thing that prevents a lot of people from being sucked into this great medium: capes. There is an idea that comic books are about superheroes, and superhero stories might not be for everyone. That’s okay! I’m here to tell you that there are entire worlds of books out there for you to explore! There are literary graphic novels! Independent, creator-owned comics! And they’re great.

The literary/alternative graphic novel is not exactly new, and whether you know it or not, has been seeping into the public conscious for years. If you haven’t come across the books themselves, then you have almost certainly come into contact with their small/big…

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Reach for the Stars! Or in Defence of Science Fiction Literature

The Spectatorial

“I rejoice in accepting it for, and sharing it with, all the writers who’ve been excluded from literature for so long—my fellow authors of fantasy and science fiction, writers of the imagination, who for fifty years have watched the beautiful rewards go to the so-called realists.”

Ursula K. Le Guin

These were a few of the words spoken by long-time science fiction and fantasy writer Ursula K. Le Guin upon accepting the National Book Foundation’s Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters.

It was a throwaway opening to an acceptance speech that was ultimately about the battle of art and literature against consumerism and capitalism. It was an admirable, moving speech. But what truly struck me was this opening line.

I saw it as a rallying cry, a summons to battle against those who would deny the importance of science fiction as literature. Because the sad truth is, those people…

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