Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Evremonde and Advent Children: Fanservice for Two

There's something alluring about fanfiction...since the birth of the novel, people have been unsatisfied with the ends afforded their favourite characters, writing them new endings, and putting them in new situations altogether. It's been a week flavoured with fanservice for me. I read the 600 page epic Evremonde--a "sequel" to Tale of Two Cities, and got to see Final Fantasy Advent Children. Because they have like nothing to do with eachother other than that both are complete fanservice (only really appealing to people who were rabid fans of the original) and because I once told someone that I could compare anything to Tale of Two Cities (he dared me to compare TOTC to Woody Allen's What's Up Pussycat. I hope this is close enough!) I'm going to review Evremonde and Advent Children *TOGETHER*. Here we go!
As an adolescent, I spent a really embarrassing amount of time composing epilogues to Charles Dickens' Tale of Two
Cities in my head. The picture taped to the inside of my locker in 7th grade was a self-drawn fanart of Sydney Carton. In retrospect, I think this was my teen angst, which didn't get expressed in rebelliousness (or pyromania).
Naturally, I was really psyched when
I accidentally found a book called "Evremonde" on Amazon. The book is a continuation of Tale of Two Cities, which takes place after Charles and Lucy escape the French Revolution at the expense of Sydney Carton's life. They have a son whose name is Sydney, after their late friend, and a second daughter, who becomes part of their family as a condition to their escape from the port of Le Sable. The book deals with the fear of discovery which plagues the family as it becomes apparent that individual grudges against the Evremonde family have outlived the Revolution (and Mme Defarge, who is curiously absent from this tale.)
Similarly, Advent Children deals with the trials which face the characters of Final Fantasy VII after the destruction of the city of Midgar. Tifa has returned to her erstwhile occupation as a barmaid at the 7th Heaven bar, but she has taken Barrett's Daughter Marylena under her wing. Cloud is now a mercenary, terrorized with guilt over the death of the enchantress Aerith. A gang of strangely familiar looking silver haired men has risen to power and threatens to resurrect someone who bears a really, really nasty grudge against Cloud...(and you know who THAT is).
Advent Children has some plotting and characterization issues. You get the feeling that if the Silver-Haired gangsters weren't the living incarnations of Jenova, they'd be hanging out at Hot Topic. They're really just a bunch of whinny momma's boys. And as far as the development of other characters goes, there really isn't any, so I'm not going to dwell on it. You get to see all your favourite characters and some of your not so favourite ones. In HIGH RESOLUTION!!!
That's good enough for me! The plot itself was...er....NOT epic. There were a lot of intriguing and important plotlines that just kind of petered out, making the villains pretty much look stupid and ineffective. Why are the heroes even bothering?
Unlike Advent Children, Evremonde is excellently plotted. It is all beleivable and the characters are very good extrapolations of the characters in Dickens. Lucie Manette is still the demure golden thread, holding her family together, but she has developed through her hardships. I must give Ms. Mayer credit here. Lucie is far more interesting in Evremonde than she ever was in Tale of Two Cities. She's compassionate, but made tough through her trials. In
Evremonde, it's Lucie, not Charles who wears the pants. It's Lucie who has the strength to patch the family back together after the Revolution.
Come to think of it, Charles didn't wear the pants in the original, either. He's still the well-intentioned dumbass that he was in Dickens. His relationship with Lucie, and the wedge that Carton has driven into their marriage is dealt with masterfully. I would have liked to see more development of the new characters in Evremonde. Sydney has been well developed, but at times, his actions appear too extreme for the personality which has been created for him. The love interest of the novel, Little Lucy's suitor, Manfred, is sadly pretty flat. You don't get a lot of sympathy for his character, which is too bad.
It's obvious that the author, Diana Mayer is a good writer. Where she gets bogged down is in trying to emulate Dickens' prose. Pages are spent describing an event which would have taken minutes, and while some of the philosophical musings are reminiscent in tone to the beautiful musings which make the original a classic, they tend to be too obvious
and trite. Evremonde is self published through iUniverse, and would be made 100 times better through editing. The book would be far more powerful if Ms. Mayer could write in her own style instead of trying and failing to imitate Dickens.
One of the criticisms that I heard about Advent Children was that the action scenes obliterated any consistent narration of the plot. It's true that the action is sometimes sickeningly fast-paced, but it's fairly easy to follow provided that you keep the following in mind: coloured hair == good. Silver hair == bad. Physics == irrelevant and coloured hair+silver hair == beatdown. As fun as the beatdown is to watch, it's not a great substitute for, as I mentioned above, neatly tying off loose ends. I can't help but think Square has grossly underestimated the attention span and intelligence
of the audience for this movie. We did, afterall, wait for about 7 years between the movie and the game. I want to see a little more than hot androgynous guys in tight outfits beating the snot out of eachother with crazy transformable sword-gun-chucks.
Although, Damn! Those guys were HOTTT! Especially with giant swords....
Evremonde is at its very best when it deals with each family member's grief over the death of Sydney Carton, and mixture of reverence and revulsion, guilt and thankfulness for his suicide. The scenes dealing with this subject are raw and delicate. The parts of the plotline wherein Sydney must come to grips with his unique past and his nationality are beautifully executed.
In short, Evremonde is a diamond in the rough. The characters are well fleshed out, and the narrative has moments of brilliance. I really hope that Ms. Mayer eventually finds an editor and gets this book republished. It would definitely be worth it. Hell, I've even pondered offering to help edit it even though I'm always crazy busy. If you loved Tale of Two Cities, you must read it anyway!
Advent Children is pure eyecandy. The movie's plot isn't the epic that you want it to be -- that the game was. But the really awesome animation and the pretty-boy beatdown make the movie incredibly entertaining. Especially the final battle, wherein you giant-sword fight your arch-nemesis with a metal cover of the Jenova theme blaring in the background as you fall through the sky amidst flying debris. It *RAWKS*.

And, lest you think Evremonde was totally devoid of similar asskicking, I leave you with this quote from Evremonde. [SPOILER] Sydney, battling towards Paris at the conclusion of the Napoleonic wars confronts a French military messenger who has caused about 400 pages of chaos in the life of his family. The messenger begs for his life:
"He [the messenger] therefore watched the same [Sydney] raise his rifle--having been asked by him, since he had such strong opinions on the matter of what Frenchmen might or might not do to one another, whether he had any further opinions on what the son of a Shrewsbury drunk and a London whore, as well might or might not do to a Frenchman--and when he came to no answer, whether from his astonishment or his inability to understand the question, he was shot once through the head and fell dead beside the wounded prisoner."

No comments: