apocalypse

Should I read The Walking Dead?

TWD 2

Before the TV show, there was a comic book series.

This is a difficult review for me to write, partly because the scope of the series is so vast (up to episode 119 and ongoing), and partly because I don’t want to reveal any spoilers, and partly because I haven’t watched the TV series. I’ve been putting it off for a while now. 

I’m not an insanely loyal fan who’s been following the series from issue #1. I eventually picked it up a few months ago at the insistent recommendation of Victor, who said it was unputdownable. He even bought me a Surface so that I could read it.

Unboxing the Surface RT 2. :)

Unboxing the Surface RT 2. :)

(The purported consensus between the two of us is that I can use the tablet for reading other graphic novels, manga, PDFs, e-books, browsing the web, star-gazing, etc…but I am pretty sure the real reason was The Walking Dead.)

Neither am I a dedicated zombie enthusiast. I’ve always had a fascination for the zombie myth, but apart from enjoying a couple of zombie movies here and there (28 Weeks Later, Zombieland…) and dressing up as a zombie doctor for Halloween 2013, I’ve never really had a chance to delve into the zombie popculturedom. TWD seemed like a great place to start.

Not my best day.

Not my best day.

The thing about TWD, as you probably have heard, is that it’s less about the zombies themselves than about how humans respond and behave in an apocalypse sort of scenario. Suddenly thrown into a world where survivors are the exception, where you have to roam the country with a weapon at your side to look for food, where you can die at any time, anywhere, humanity’s bleakest and most animalistic instincts emerge. Survivors draw together with tribal loyalty, go to fierce and violent ends to protect their loved ones and become accustomed to callous acts. Children are shaped by this new, unsympathetic reality.

In a way, TWD is a social experiment. My mind drew parallels with The Lord of the Flies. Over time, it emerges that the most sinister enemy is not the ‘walking dead’, but fellow man.

TWD

It’s a gory comic, though slightly meliorated by the black and white schematic. Writer and creator Robert Kirkman frequently uses graphic violence, shock tactics and disgust to keep the reader on the edge of her seat, sometimes more than is tasteful/necessary. Few issues are taboo. TWD does seek to explore every possible nuance and consequence of a zombie apocalypse and, for the most part, I think this is done well. We meet complex characters and cringe at the painful decisions they have to make. We feel their fears and pleasures.

So, should you read it? Yes, if you want a zombie story with lots of hacking of brains and action and fights. Also yes if you want a story about human relationship and psyche in hardship, with believable character development. No, if you get attached to characters easily. And no if you are looking for something that will lift your mood. It’s not a happy world!

OK. Hope I didn’t spoil anything major! Is it worth tackling the TV series next? Anyone?

TWD 3

Movie review: Melancholia

Last Sunday afternoon, after a jam-packed weekend, I curled up in my lounge room with a cup of tea and a packet of Grain Waves, and popped a DVD on.

If you didn’t guess from the name, Melancholia isn’t a very cheery movie. Try not to feature it during a first date, a slumber party or family fun night. I can guarantee you will finish this movie feeling more glum than you started off.

Melancholia has two main themes. It is about depression. It is also an apocalyptic film. The movie is divided into two parts, the first half named after Justine (Kirsten Dunst) and the second after her sister, Claire (Charlotte Gainsbourg).

In the first half, Justine and her new husband, Michael (Alexander Skarsgard) arrive at their wedding reception: a lavish, dusk-to-dawn dinner affair held in the mansion of Claire and her rather rich husband John (Kiefer Sutherland).

The beautiful landscape of the mansion is a poignant backdrop for the tragic and subtle events that unfold.

As the dinner progresses, we see the cracks form in Justine’s demeanor. Claire and John struggle to hold the family and the party together, and Justine wills herself to be happy, but her deep melancholy is a terrifying, irresistible internal force.

In the second half, Justine, who is now suffering from severe depression, has come to live with her sister. The movie follows the different responses of Claire, Justine, John and Claire’s son as a previously hidden planet, Melancholia, swings close to Earth’s atmosphere in a celestial phenomenon known as a fly-by. John’s excitement contrasts with Claire’s barely concealed anxiety, which then highlights Justine’s growing calmness in the face of impending annihilation.

Director Lars Von Trier said his inspiration for the film stemmed from a bout of depression he had experienced. He wanted to show that depressed people remain calm under intensely stressful circumstances.

Dunst and Gainsbourg’s performances shine through the screen–the sisters are played with subtlety and depth. The crumbling of Justine’s outward happiness is particularly painful to watch, as she fights a losing battle against her deteriorating state of mind. Gainsbourg is believable as the responsible, increasingly anxious sister.

Despite the beauty of Melancholia’s landscape, It is a somewhat difficult film to watch. The most visually stunning moments of the film are the opening montage–a series of artistically compelling scenes in extreme slo-mo, played to the haunting dissonance of Richard Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde–as well as the final scenes of the planet Melancholia hanging over the Earth.

On a final note, at 130 minutes long, it’s a hefty watch. Not a movie for everyone, but worth a sitting if you’re after something beautiful, poignant and subtle.