I’m resurrecting a dead feature! In White Noise I collate a playlist of all the songs that I find myself playing on repeat – I’m bringing it back with a more detailed written explanation of the songs, and less of an emo-wankfest vibe. As always a link to the full playlist can be found here.
(Authors Note: This idea comes from a Masters application that I never submitted. It is more of an outline of my argument – I plan on returning at a later date a much more detailed long form approach. I’m particularly keen to see how the idea holds up when the new series is released at the end of this month)
Is there a single show as significant in the canon of English-language televisual drama as David Lynch’s Twin Peaks? A quarter of a century since the release of the feature length Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me, the cult series remains relevant within popular culture. It speaks wonders that, despite being born 4 years after the initial run of the show ended in the UK, I have unable to escape references to it in both my social and academic lives; in many ways the “un-missable” event that was Twin Peaks is up there with “who shot JR” and the grunge musical revolution as one of media events through which the 90s is defined. Similarly many outlets are looking towards the release of the third series at the end of this month as the significant cultural event of 2017.
But what is it about Lynch’s work that has allowed it to maintain its relevancy for so long? Whilst there are many reasonable and compelling answers to that question – the writing and score are fantastic for example – I take the view that it comes back to the form and tone of the text. Twin Peaks is a very deliberate piece of post-modern art, and in my opinion it’s enduring legacy stems not only from the post-modern nature of the narrative but how the text exists as a cultural cornerstone in it’s own right within a post-modern world.
(This piece of writing started life as a review of Guardian’s of the Galaxy Vol. 2, but in trying to articulate exactly how I felt about the film I felt like many of the narrative failings are symptomatic across all of Marvel’s newest releases. It contains full spoilers for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2)
In my opinion, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is a disappointingly mediocre film. There are numerous failings throughout on a technical level. The cinematography is awful, constantly framed to make the most of the 3D technology but instead sidelines the action and takes you out of the filmic world. Avatar came out eight years ago, stereoscopic 3D is no longer new and this clumsy camera work no longer defensible. Similarly attention has to be drawn to the VFX. Whilst all of the practical effects and set building are consistently brilliant, there are numerous times where I felt that the CGI work lets everything down. This is particularly true of Ego, both the planet and the character played by Kurt Russell; being a celestial compromised entirely of blue light, Ego is almost entirely computer animated, but numerous times I was taken out of the narrative because I felt like the VFX work looked a little janky. I walked out of the cinema this afternoon thinking Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 already looked a little dated and I don’t imagine it will hold up to much scrutiny over time.
Structurally everything the film manages to do well is undone elsewhere within the text. For example, Baby Groot is a wonderful comic character that undercuts the tone through his adorable naivete; it is a marked change from his character in the previous film and it manages to get a laugh every time he appears on screen. The same can not be said of the other comedic foil, Drax, where the humour is not only forced but it built upon the exact same “social awkwardness” from the original film. This joke doesn’t really have legs and therefore just comes across as a lazy rehashing of the previous film. This follows through into the writing – every line of snappy, funny dialogue gets lost when the ultimate moral of the film (it’s a treatise on fatherhood) is so heavy-handed. All deftness in the dialogue is truly lost when Starlord monologues the exact lesson the film is trying to impart. Also particularly grating is the way ’70s references are shoe-horned into the film. In the original they were genuinely funny, and fitted within the narrative as a way for Peter Quill to understand his fantastical surroundings. In GotGv.2 David Hasslehoff appears as himself, for little reason than “just ’cause” – the film takes what made the original so memorable and then fully jumps the shark.
But perhaps the biggest structural problem I had with Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is something I’ve noticed across all of Marvel’s most recent releases – I just didn’t care about the villains.