Gamebook store

Monday, 27 May 2013

Small is beautiful

I'm beginning to think that if you want a worthwhile movie, you have to go small. No shit, Sherlock, you may say, but I am quite a fan of Hollywood blockbusters - the kind of movie where you sit front and centre and let the experience take you like Dark Phoenix consuming the D'Bari. Yet after two very noisy, soulless CGI-fests (Iron MacGuyver 3 and Star Trek Into Dreariness) it was a relief to catch up with a little gem of a movie in the form of Richard Ayoade's Submarine, based on Joe Dunthorne's novel of the same name.

By the way, a couple of other indie movies I'd recommend for inventiveness, depth and heart are Duncan Jones's Moon and Toa Fraser's Dean Spanley. Though, just to prove I haven't gone all arthouse just yet, I also enjoyed Joseph Kosinski's Oblivion - proper chilling SF that is, with scary aliens and battle robots too, and not much change out of £120 million. Bryan Singer's Jack the Giant Slayer also managed to be big and clever at the same time, mainly by having its abundant humour derive from character, thereby not undermining the sense of threat when the story needs to turn serious. (Dr Who could learn a lot from that.)

But enough of the Barry Norman stuff - back to Submarine. I've mentioned Joe Dunthorne's work before, but this seems like a good time to revisit it, seeing as we've been chatting about whether interactive literature can break out of its old dungeon bash origins and earn a place alongside real fiction. Mr Dunthorne started out writing computer text adventures - or so he claims with tongue in cheek - and has tried his hand at writing an interesting kind of gamebook, You Are Happy. There are no dwarves or ten-foot corridors.


  1. Yes, I liked “Moon”. I think the lesson of the varied examples you give is that, despite what the executives of the big studios apparently think, there is no formula for making a good film other than to tell a good story on screen, by whatever method that can be achieved (and even then, it may still only correlate loosely with box-office success). Sometimes studio interference can all but destroy a film, as in the case of “Alien 3”; and yet one of my favourite films is the (admittedly very obscure) “Dust Devil”, which somehow works beautifully even though it’s clear from Richard Stanley’s director’s commentary on the DVD that to say the production was chaotic would be an understatement.

    As for “You Are Happy”: maybe that’s a new, ultra-niche format, the “branching-path short story”. Maybe it also demonstrates a way of focusing the reader’s attention on the text: the choices have consequences but don’t “feel” important because there’s no strong sense of the story being goal-oriented (no treasure-chest at paragraph 400), even though each path (presumably; I haven’t traced along all of them) has some sort of resolved ending.

    1. I fear that the trend now will be for movies that are built around spectacle rather than story. Both Iron Man 3 and Star Trek Into Darkness don't seem to expect the the viewer to question why characters are acting as they do - "Hey, it's meant to be fun, it makes for a cool scene, don't rock the boat." Well, sorry, but I don't think that's good enough. It's a basic failure of the writer's craft to create stories that don't make sense.

      Hence my agreement with much of what Ricky Young had to say about Moff Who. ( for those who don't follow me or Graham on Twitter.)

      Dust Devil - I haven't seen that, but will add it to the metaphorically teetering pile of movies I have booked on Lovefilm.