Monday, January 5, 2009

2008 In Review

Strange Horizons has just published its year in review piece, to which I contributed my two cents. On the whole, I see English-language SF right now as being in a place where the print stuff is technically competent but not conceptually revolutionary, and television SF and fantasy is slowing down after the rush that began in the 1990s, while film has just had a slow year (superhero films apart).

You can check out my comment (along with everyone else's) by following the link. Having been limited to a mere 250 words there (along with everyone else, so that as a round-up it is more satisfying when read in its entirety than when any one piece is glanced at), I thought I would add some thoughts that didn't quite make it in.

• From a nostalgia standpoint, I can't help being struck by the fact that in 2008, exactly as in 1989, a Batman film performed above expectations to take the number one spot at the North American box office, while an Indiana Jones sequel took the number two spot. (Particularly notable about the two films: the flawless conception of the Joker as a Jungian Trickster/Shadow figure; and the skillful transport of Indy to the '50s.)
• Not only were superhero-themed films numerous this year, but they were also hugely successful, critically as well as commercially. Not only was Batman #1 this year both in the U.S. and globally, but two of the others in the top ten as of the year's end (the original creation Hancock and Marvel's first ever independent feature Iron Man), and a total of five of the top thirteen global earners (there was also Wanted and The Incredible Hulk) were also movies of this type.
• While Iron Man outgrossed it, and seems to have won the wider adulation, I preferred The Incredible Hulk. Not only was it a lot more fun to watch, but fans of the comic book finally have what all the other TV shows and films that came before it did not deliver: a screen presentation faithful to the source material.
• While Stargate: SG-1 came to a close in 2007, two straight-to-DVD films satisfactorily wrapped up the story in 2008, The Ark of Truth and Continuum. Of the two, I enjoyed Continuum more, but that is at least partly due to the Goa'uld being more interesting villains than the Ori.
• "You maniacs! You blew it up!" is what I half-expected Admiral Adama to say (while pounding his fist on the ground) when he arrived on Earth in the season finale for Battlestar Galactica. As a quick Google search revealed, I was far from the only one who thought so.
Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles was a better show than I (or it seems, anyone else) expected, but due to sharply falling ratings since its spring premiere its survival is very uncertain. Ditto for most of the other genre shows on television, so that I am no longer the only one expecting the recent rush of SF-themed TV to come to a close.
• Harry Turtledove's The Man With The Iron Heart is far from being his best (it's relatively slow-moving, it may be that he's done the alternate World War II thing one too many times, and its theme makes it predictable), but still worth noting for its approach to commenting on the Iraq War: offering an alternate history of the post-war occupation of Germany, so dubiously used as an argument on behalf of the 2003 invasion.

Some things I missed, but which got a fair amount of acclaim: Wall-E and Hellboy 2, Iain Banks's new "Culture" novel, Matter. A few other things I missed, but which I hope to catch soon: The Spirit, The Sleep Dealer, and the return of Tripping the Rift.

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