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Contents April 2017

Issue 284



KONG: SKULL ISLAND “Miyazaki and Pokémon were reference points”

THE LEGO BATMAN MOVIE “He’s somebody we all aspire to be”



With his first (very) big-screen appearance for 12 years imminent, we check out the creation of the new blockbuster.


Run for the hills! It’s a rundown of the scariest movie monsters!


We celebrate the Galaxy’s Greatest Comic’s birthday by remembering its origins.


Are things going to get brighter for the gang? Surely!




82 SS-GB

A tribute to the Star Wars actress who died in December.

The former Hitman star is going on an unusual diet…


One of the world’s top superheroes is back on the big screen – and looking fab.

A wall becomes a movie! See you how they’re doing it.

A preview of the new show about Britain under Nazi rule.

86 VERONICA ROTh The Divergent author tells us about her brand new book.

88 LIFE ON MARS Back to the ’70s/’00s.


“I dispute the fact it’s wildly different this season”







Sussing out the new Brit movie about the pregnancy from hell. We check out the trailer for Ridley Scott’s return to Alien universe.



Your verdict on Rogue One, plus lots more lively sci-fi chat.


Deadpool 2 is coming, you jerks – here’s what you want.

The SFX verdict on the film that’s sent Matt Damon to China.

It’s looking rather like the movie with all the gifts too.



A great movie. But is it now a great, puke-filled TV series?



VE Schwab says mind your magic.


sUBsCriBe TO sfx! Check out p42 for details

Bradley Beaulieu discusses The Complete Book Of Swords by Fred Saberhagen.


Try our quiz on drugs. No, we mean the quiz is about drugs!


Ian Berriman gives Gort from The Day The Earth Stood Still a big hug. april 2017 | sfx magazine |


The Ed Zone April 2017

Issue 284

Rants & Raves inside the sfx hive mind

nick setchfield FEAtuREs EDitoR

RAves My festive tV highlight was Inside No 9’s “the Devil of Christmas” – a brilliant ’70s pastiche with a killer twist. Also enjoyed the Doctor Who special: fun, the right level of sweet, and not too Christmassy. Enjoyed Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency – not Adams for purists, but lots of fun.

RAves Excited by the promo shots for The Defenders. there’s a proper buzz in seeing them together. RiP Reading Carrie Fisher’s The Princess Diarist was a strange experience after the news of her passing – but its honesty and humour felt all the sharper.

ian berriman REViEws EDitoR

josh winning nEws EDitoR

RAves Had a cool time at twickenham studios watching the filming of a particularly SFXy episode of Black Mirror. Decided to rewatch all of Buffy. Loving it so far! Getting through season one is the tricky bit… this guy made a synthesiser out of a toy Dalek: Daleksynth! i want one!

RAves Darth Vader in Rogue One gave me full-body chills. Loved his sassy strut. Got a sneak peek at new retro horror The Love Witch and completely fell under its spell. More on that next issue. RAnts A Charmed reboot without Holly Marie Combs? sacrilege!

russell lewin PRoDuCtion EDitoR

jonathan coates ARt EDitoR

RAves My favourite sci-fi flick of 2016 ended up being, surprisingly, Passengers. Great, original, story probing the human condition, top actors, amazing visuals. in fact it was everything Rogue One wasn’t, with its dull dialogue, weak cast and leads, hardly any Vader. the Force has gone back to sleep.

RAves Finally got round to watching the latest Ghostbusters and loved it. there’s definitely space in the world for two sets of Ghostbusters. Hope a cameo-free sequel will be in production soon. Inside No 9 – the most original thing on tV all Christmas. RAnts Fantastic Beasts. Meh!

cliff newman ARt EDitoR

will salmon sPECiALs EDitoR

RAves Rogue One was everything i hoped it would be, and may even break into my Star Wars top three. i loved the look, feel and ’taches. it’s the film i’d been waiting for since Jedi. i also enjoyed A Monster Calls, it was equal parts fairytale and grief support group... A box of tissues to hand was a must.

RAves the Inside No 9 Christmas special was the best thing on tV for months. i spoke to horror legend barbara Crampton for Horrorville about one of my fave new horrors, Beyond The Gates. RAnts Have become addicted to Gotham, even though it’s terrible.

rhian drinkwater sub EDitoR

nicky gotobed DEsiGnER

RAves slightly late catching up, but the big DC tV crossover was lots of fun. Finished ben Aaronovitch’s The Hanging Tree – the PC Grant books really are one of my favourite series of novels. RAnts Fell asleep during Christmas Doctor Who, and still haven’t got round to watching it properly.

RAnts bit late to the miniseries party but saw Ascension on netflix over the holidays, loved it and great to see sexy number six doing her thing again in space. Looking forward to John Wick! RAnts Fractured ribs and no Star Wars for me over Christmas and new Year so not a happy bunny.

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Twitter @SFXmagazine


as King Kong the world’s first blockbuster icon? Sure, by the time he took up residence the top of the Empire State Building in 1933 Frankenstein, Dracula and the Mummy had already hit the big screen, but Kong existed on a different scale, literally and figuratively – a star who transcended movies to become absorbed into popular culture. So this month we celebrate the great ape’s return in style: as well as speaking to Tom Hiddleston, Brie Larson, Samuel L Jackson and director Jordan Vogt-Roberts about the rebooted Kong: Skull Island (p44), we look back at the 20 greatest city-trampling monsters in genre history (p52). On a smaller scale (because everything’s on a smaller scale than Kong, right?), we chat with the director of The Lego Batman Movie about having fun with the Dark Knight, ask The Walking Dead executive producer Gale Anne Hurd if the second half of season seven will be a little more cheery than the first, and find out why The Great Wall has taken Matt Damon to China. We also look back at the life of the wonderful Carrie Fisher, who sadly passed away after our last, Star Wars-themed issue went to press (p58). Kong is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to massive sci-fi in 2017 – subscribe to SFX now to make sure you don’t get left behind. See p42 for details.

rich’s portrait by olly curtis

richard edwards EDitoR

See me on page 64

Richard Edwards, Editor @RichDEdwards april 2017 | sfx magazine |


neWs //// intervieWs //// insight //// shopping!

edited by Josh Winning

April 2017

Director exclusive

Just kidding Writer, director and star Alice Lowe talks carrying a bloodthirsty baby in genre splicer Prevenge... there can’t be many – if any – directors who have helmed a movie while seven months pregnant. Well, until now. Alice Lowe, who shot to fame as the murdering caravan enthusiast Tina in Ben Wheatley’s Sightseers, is back with her directorial debut, Prevenge. Writing, directing and starring, Lowe’s pregnancy with her daughter Della Moon wasn’t so much a hindrance as an inspiration. She plays Ruth, a woman who embarks on a homicidal rampage under the belief that her unborn baby is guiding her. “I was inspired by things like Taxi Driver,” says Lowe, perched


14 WE’ll bE

15 IT’S a KInD

Chad Stahelski talks guns and gadgets in John Wick 2.

Si Spurrier talks comic series Power  Of The Dark Crystal.

Fantasy author Jen Williams introduces The  Ninth Rain.


ThRa FOR yOu

OF magIC

April 2017 | sfx mAgAzine |


April 2017

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Alice Lowe previously appeared in C4’s spoof horror series Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace.

What I really wanted to do was play with the audience expectation on a sofa at the Venice Film Festival, with her daughter sleeping in the background. “I really felt like there are a lot of films about men’s existential angst and films about maverick loners who are wandering by themselves… you don’t get as many female characters like this. And so that was part of the inspiration – someone who is trapped in their own agonising little world, which is their mind really.” Taxi Driver, Martin Scorsese’s hymn to urban alienation, might be an acknowledged reference but Prevenge also nods to such psychological horror classics as Adrian Lyne’s Jacob’s Ladder and Roman Polanski’s Rosemary’s Baby. Despite being best known for British comedy, appearing in things like Edgar Wright’s Hot Fuzz and The World’s End, the Coventry-born Lowe’s own “touchstones” range from Dario Argento to Stanley Kubrick and Andrzej Zuławski, who made Possession with Isabelle Adjani. It’s why Prevenge is markedly different to Lowe’s earlier work, providing a nightmarish spin on postnatal depression and the way pregnant mothers are often condescended to in today’s society. “To me, it’s a bit more of a grownup character, a bit more serious,” she says. “I’m not particularly funny as that character. I say a few things that are quite funny… but I think she’s a much darker and more brooding character… there’s deep, heavy dark stuff around it that I’m really proud of. I wanted to be able to pursue deeper themes in a way.” While there are some comparisons to the bloodlust Tina feels in Sightseers, Lowe strikes a balance between fantasy and reality. An early scene sees Ruth visit a specialist pet shop, where the creepy owner gets his comeuppance in the most brutal manner. Whether it’s tarantulas in glass cases or the castration that is later administered to one luckless male victim, Lowe taps into primal fears. “I’ve not really thought of it in that way but it is quite phobic,” she admits. She begins to warm to the theme. “It is about fear. For me, it was a film about my fear of becoming a mother. Of giving birth. That sense of losing your identity and losing your freedom.” Taking pregnancy to its logical extreme, it’s also about invasion and infection. “What I really wanted to do is play with the audience expectation,” Lowe says. “You’re much more likely to expect that the woman is

10 | sfx mAgAzine | April 2017

Friday nights in Exeter were getting weird. going to be the victim so I wanted to flip that on its head, so that really audiences feel like the ground beneath their feet is very, very shaky.” Remarkably, Lowe wrote the script in just a couple of weeks – while she was in her second trimester. “I was in this euphoric [state],” she says, “where I went, ‘I can do everything! I can write a book! I can make a film!’ You almost have these hyper-endorphins. It’s something nature does brilliantly. So I was like, ‘Yeah, I can do everything!’ For better or worse, I committed to it.” Within a few weeks, she was on-set calling the shots. “If I had a complicated pregnancy, I wouldn’t have done it. But as it was, I felt fantastic.” Of course, there was a stunt co-ordinator on set to ensure safety and Lowe had a stunt double “wearing a prosthetic bump”, but more often than not, she was the one in the frame, which meant figuring out a way to make the grisly murders – of which there are several – look convincing. “Literally, the way that I’m interested in filmmaking is doing everything in camera,” she explains. “So really you’re trying to think logistically: ‘How do I show myself punching someone or stabbing someone and sell that without showing too much?’” While the 39-year-old Lowe might be a first-time director, her experience on other films meant she knew exactly how to shoot Prevenge on a tight 11-day schedule. “In the morning we’d do a murder, so get that out the way, and that would be all the tricky stuff,” she laughs matter-of-factly. Now she’s got the bug, she wants to direct again. “Film-wise, I’d like to take that Coen Brothers route – you can make a comedy if you want, but nobody is going to stop you making a thriller or something dark. That would be the aim really – to have that freedom.” Prevenge opens on 10 February.

Doctors recommend women refrain from boxing and other fist fights while pregnant.

April 2017

Midwife crisis

Cradle to grave.

Actress Jo Hartley delivers us from evil…

How would you describe Prevenge? I think it’s like a little dysfunctional gem. It’s got an amazing message behind it. It’s quite deep and profound in places. Although it doesn’t take itself too seriously, it’s about a woman having a nervous breakdown. It’s really sad. So I’d just call it a cheeky little gem. Alice compared it more to Jacob’s Ladder, but I’ve not seen that for 20 years. To me, it was a bit of a Travis Bickle-Taxi Driver revenge thriller.

you play tHe midwife. How would you describe Her? She’s like the Clarence character in It’s A Wonderful Life. The voice of conscience, the angel, the presence that Ruth goes to for some clarity. She’s the only one she doesn’t murder! Yes, my character brings a bit of light relief but she does genuinely care for her. She’s not trying to be patronising in any way. She’s trying to give her hope and guidance. She’s trying to work out what’s going on with this woman.

alice was Heavily pregnant during tHe sHoot. How did tHat work? She seemed like she was blossoming, actually. She was driven and excited by that energy and that power that comes from within you. She did push herself, but not in a dangerous way, and she was in her element basically. She said she got this new-found energy from somewhere.

audiences best know you from This is england. but How did you get started? I was acting when I was a kid. My dad died when I was 17 and I went away travelling and I decided to go to Japan and become an air hostess – I did that for five years. But I did acting classes in London… I always wanted to train but I never really had the money. Then I started to do guerrilla films and short movies.

That sinking feeling when you realise it’s 4.05pm...

Rex (1)

wHat’s next for you? I’m filming Bliss for Sky Atlantic. Stephen Mangan, Heather Graham and myself are the three main characters, and Stephen plays a bigamist. It’s pretty dark, though it is a comedy. It’s created by David Cross, who was in Arrested Development.

April 2017 | sfx mAgAzine |


Red Alert April 2017


Chad Stahelski started as a stunt performer, and doubled for Brandon Lee on The Crow following the actor’s accidental death.

When in Rome…


gOing UnDergrOUnD

Director Chad Stahelski wants John Wick: Chapter 2 to be a modern myth Hitman thriller John Wick slipped onto screens beneath SFX’s radar. Nothing about the 2014 revenge caper resembled science fiction at first glance. But when Keanu Reeves’s Wick pays for entry to the Continental hotel with gold coins, it’s clear something fantastical – at the very least alternate world – is happening. An assassins’ guild operating in New York’s underworld with its own lingo, code and currency? The 2017 sequel just appeared on Red Alert’s hit list.

Chapter 2 introduces Keanu Reeves’ Matrix co-star Laurence Fishburne.

12 | sfx magazine | april 2017

“I studied a lot of Greek mythology in college,” explains director Chad Stahelski. “I was a big Tolkien fan too, and I was also into King Arthur mythology in general. [Co-director] David Leitch and I thought, ‘Why don’t we do this like a modern-day myth?’ The Continental would be like Hades. And there’ll be different gatekeepers, everyone’s a god that takes care of a different service. We broke the script down to iconic things: gold coins, talismans. The guns obviously become swords. The suits become armour.” An otherworldliness seeps into the set design as well. The latest trailer for Chapter 2 shows an “Accounts Payable” department using typewriters, antique switchboards and rubber stamps to process hitman contracts. “Ah, the old telephone operators,” chuckles Stahelski. “A plug-and-play analogue system: that way you can’t be tracked or traced! Smart. But it also makes the Continental and its practices feel centuries old.” We can look forward to more exploration in the second instalment. “You can go two ways with a sequel. You can basically remake the first movie. The other way to do it is like Alien and Aliens,” Stahelski theorises. “Instead of making Alien again, James Cameron made a continuation, a standalone that expands the universe. Here we expand our world so you see

it’s not only in New York; the Continental is in all major cities. We threw in some new people. People who handle the underworld, handle the coins. Tailors, bankers, pawnbrokers. There’s just more to see!” New York was such a part of the character of John Wick that you have to wonder if relocating the action proved to be a huge conundrum. “No. I think Rome was easier!” says Stahelski. “Everybody over there is wearing suits. It’s got an old world style to it already. The etiquette is different. If anything, it instantly gives our world a lot more history and folklore. We go to the opera and into the catacombs. There’s a lot of roots to the story.” To enhance the classical setting, the music was specially composed around the battles with gunshots providing the percussion. “It’s got to be fun,” laughs Stahelski, aware of all the moving parts in these choreographed setpieces. “You want to push yourself. ‘I want to do a rock opera in Italy and do a whole gun fight through it. I want to go to a 2,000-yearold catacomb and shoot the shit out of it. All put to music. And so long it takes an actor who can remember more than 10 moves.’ It’s a challenge!” John Wick Chapter 2 opens on Friday 17 February.

Red Alert April 2017


aerial assaUlt SCI-FI TV ROUND UP

REX (1)

House of mirrors.







The films have an otherworldly vibe…


We broke the script down to iconic things: gold coins, talismans

Charmed is being remade by The CW. The new series will be set in the 1970s and isn’t expected to feature any of the original show’s cast. Twin Peaks season three will debut on Showtime in the US with a two-hour premiere on 21 May. We’ll get 18 hours of weirdness in total. The CW has renewed all four of its DC shows (The Flash, Arrow, Legends Of Tomorrow and Supergirl) for new seasons. The Good Place showrunner Michael Schur says he has “some idea of what I could do” in season two. Season three of The Man In The High Castle will partly be a prequel, depicting the destruction of Washington DC. The length of Game Of Thrones’ final season is still TBC. “I’ll take as many as they want to do,” says HBO suit Casey Bloys. Fox TV CEO Gary Newman says not to expect new X-Files episodes before autumn 2018.

e fa

m ou s

p e o pl e a

an re f


Anne Rice

THE VAMPIRE CHRONICLES AUTHOR TALKS US THROUGH HER PERSONAL FAVOURITES Favourite SF/fantasy film? It’s really hard to say as it changes from time to time. I grew up viewing movies as serious art, loving foreign directors and great American directors – Fellini, Antonioni, Truffaut, Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorsese, Woody Allen, and so forth and so on. But Forbidden Planet is an all-time favourite, that’s for sure. And I also love This Island Earth. These are really old movies, but absolute classics. Favourite SF/fantasy TV? Actually, I love a lot of what is happening now. I have only admiration for Game Of Thrones, and I very much enjoy some of the new series that are out at the moment that involve artificial intelligence. I’m fascinated by the idea of the sensitive and morally conscious android so I’m always looking for a new TV series that deals with that concept. For example, I loved the remake of Battlestar Galactica. Favourite SF/fantasy books? I was influenced early on in my career by the stories of Richard Matheson. I loved him very much. I have enjoyed the realms of Stephenie Meyer and Charlaine Harris too, and the films and TV series based on their novels. I actually read a lot of different kinds of fiction. Anne Rice’s latest book, Prince Lestat And The Realms Of Atlantis, is out now from Chatto & Windus.

daredevil’s vincent D’onofrio is a big Guardians fan. april 2017 | sfx magazine |


Red Alert April 2017


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A movie sequel to The Dark Crystal is still in pre-production under the watch of Lisa Henson.

5 things you need to know about...

the power of the Dark crystal Simon Spurrier on bringing the Dark Crystal sequel to comics...

movie, the two main characters, Jen and Kira, are now ruling over thra and “at the end of their lives”, but have grown increasingly complacent. “at the end of The Dark Crystal, they were told, ‘make your world in the light of the crystal,’ and that is what they did,” says spurrier. “but then along comes this girl called thurma, who is a fireling, which is a race of elemental flame creatures that live inside the planet. the fires that her people live in are going out, and the only way that they can be restored is if she can take a slice of the crystal to the centre of the planet to reignite the flames.”

tHere are otHer famIlIar faces


played by frank oz and voiced by billie Whitelaw in The Dark Crystal, wise sage aughra – best known for her ability to pluck her own eyeball out – also plays a significant role, which spurrier describes as “occasionally popping up to explain stuff in a way that allows things to progress”.

tHe artWorK Won’t emulate froud


While brian froud did some design work for the movie sequel, artists Kelly and nichole matthews are not beholden to what he did. “they’re not emulating brian froud’s style, as that would be a real mistake,” says spurrier. “boom! found these girls who do this incredible, intricate, cell-shaded style that makes it much more accessible to the comics world and finds a different sort of fantastical wonder from what would have been presented by somebody doing a pale imitation of froud.”

tHIs Isn’t a tradItIonal quest saga


It’s based on an unused movIe scrIpt


seven years ago david odell, annette duffy and craig pearce wrote a movie follow-up to Jim Henson’s 1982 classic titled The Power Of The Dark Crystal. While the movie sequel remains stuck in development limbo, writer simon spurrier took the trio’s script and added his own touches, enhancing the “quest elements” of the story, for this 12-issue comic run. “there’s a kind of narrative backbone that could be truncated or expanded

14 | sfx magazine | april 2017

as the creative whim takes me,” he says. “It’s a joy to go, ‘this is what needs to happen,’ and then I can put my own spin on some of those things but more importantly there’s a whole bunch of other stuff that can just be flights of fancy.”

Jen and KIra are bacK


set a century after the conclusion of the first

spurrier was determined to steer clear of any fantasy stereotypes with the series. “a lot of it is cut from a kind of epic high fantasy cloth, which works really nicely in comics,” he says. “but that kind of stuff should always be seen through the lens of unblinkered, wondrous eyes, so I’ve eschewed going too far into ‘empires crashing’ territory because that isn’t The Dark Crystal at all. Instead, I’ve focused on the intimate journeys of a handful of hopefully quite likeable – and in one case extremely unlikeable – characters.” The Power of the Dark Crystal #1 is published by Boom! Studios on 15 February.

April 2017


The first draft of The Ninth Rain took 10 months to write. “I have a rough plan for the whole trilogy,” says Williams.

Who needs colour comic strips anyway?


Scarlet traceS

Lauren Beukes goes from Zoo City to Strontium Dog’s Durham Red in 2000 AD’s 40th Birthday Prog With 2000 AD Monthly one of the few comics she could find in her native Johannesburg, Lauren Beukes grew up reading the Galaxy’s Greatest Comic. Three decades later, The Shining Girls author and writing partner Dale Halvorsen have penned a seven-page story featuring Johnny Alpha’s bloodsucking fellow SD Agent, Durham Red, for 2000 AD’s 40th Birthday issue, which is drawn by long-time Strontium Dog artist Carlos Ezquerra. “I love Durham Red’s moral ambiguity,” Beukes tells Red Alert. “2000 AD always had interesting nuanced politics, and Strontium Dog always felt like a perfect metaphor for the craziness of growing up under apartheid. I love the banter between her and Johnny and the sexual tension and the complexity of their relationship.” With Halvorsen describing it as “a heist tale”, “The Judas Strain” plays to Durham’s darker side. “It’s about what she does best,” teases Beukes. “Which is being cold-blooded and bloodthirsty.” Apart from Judge Dredd, Sláine, Ro-Busters and Zombo, the 40th Birthday Prog sees Robbie Morrison and Simon Fraser reunite on the first Nikolai Dante story since the series ended in 2012. “If we were going to run a Dante story, I thought I’d go to the original creators,” says 2000 AD editor Matt Smith. “It’s classic Dante, which is set during his prime as a swashbuckling rogue and member of the Romanov Dynasty.” Durham Red is published by 2000 AD this month.


life’s A witch

A storm’s brewing in The Ninth Rain, the new fantasy epic from author Jen Williams...

When bestselling author Jen Williams began writing her new fantasy novel The Ninth Rain, she scrawled the words “SEX DEATH MEMORY BLOOD” on a Post-it and stuck it by her desk. “That makes it sound like I was planning a really epic heavy metal album,” she jokes, “but those things are central to the series in many ways.” That won’t come as a surprise to fans of Williams’ unputdownable Copper Cat Trilogy, which blasted onto the fantasy scene in 2014 with The Copper Promise. After scooping numerous top-dollar nominations and having been lauded as a saviour of the “epic fantasy” genre (“21st century fantasy at its best,” wrote SFX), Williams was understandably nervous about moving on – especially as Headline commissioned her new trilogy before she’d even completed the first 160,000-word book. “It is nerve-wracking to walk away from a world you are familiar with,” she admits. “I’d also grown very attached to the characters, and starting a new series felt like saying goodbye all over again. Having said that, I’m always keen to explore new worlds.”

The world we discover in The Ninth Rain – the first entry in The Winnowing Flame Trilogy – is a place of magic where so-called Fell-Witches are able to summon “winnowfire” by draining energy from plants, animals and people. “Fell-Witches are feared and hated,” explains Williams. One such witch is Noon, a prison escapee whose path crosses with Lady Vincenza “Vintage” de Grazon and her bodyguard Tormalin the Oathless, who are attempting to solve the mystery of the Jure’lia, a monstrous force that has invaded their world. Citing Robin Hobb and Naomi Novik as inspirations, Williams promises The Ninth Rain will contain her trademark snarky dialogue in what is a “different, slightly darker trilogy”. “In the Copper Cat books I was playing with sword and sorcery tropes,” she reveals, “while with the Winnowing Flame I wanted to build a bigger, more complicated world, and the fallout from that is perhaps more devastating.” And, we’re sure, just as gripping as anything Williams has written before. The Ninth Rain is published by Headline on Thursday 23 February. April 2017 | sfx mAgAzine |


Red Alert April 2017


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Marion’s previous jobs: heating installer; security guard; visitation supervisor for foster children.

aerial assaUlt SCI-FI TV ROUND UP


DeatH WarmeD Up

Nicholas Hoult and Teresa Palmer in the 2013 film of Warm Bodies.

Isaac Marion returns to the world of Warm Bodies

16 | sfx magazine | april 2017

intent. That seems to be the norm for public relations.” The book’s been in the works a long time, but Marion reckons that the “regressive mentality” of groups like Axiom means readers may find it feels keenly up-to-date. “A lot of stuff I wrote has turned out to be disturbingly timely!” he laughs. “I wouldn’t go so far as to say it’s a political satire, but the ideas it attacks are very much in power right now. There’s an approach to life that’s always existed, but is now front and centre of the world stage. I read certain sections and was like, ‘I can’t believe it was four years ago I wrote this, because it feels like it’s happening now…’” The Burning World is released by Vintage on 9 February, and is reviewed on page 112.


“I cAN’T belIeve IN THe THIN, GossAMeR TIGHTRope of THe NoN-ReAlITy of THe sITuATIoN of THe supeRHeRo.” Don’t expect Ridley scott to show up at the next comic-book movie.

© REX (!)

Back in 2010, author Isaac Marion’s Warm Bodies showed us a post-apocalyptic world through the eyes of “R”, a nameless zombie inexplicably recovering his humanity – and finding love. Now he’s continuing the story. The Burning World opens two months after its predecessor ended, with storm clouds on the horizon for R and human partner Julie… “R’s past life is the central conflict,” Marion explains, “because he’s remembering it against his will. He wants to stay a blank slate, but that’s not how it works; as the dead start to recover their humanity they inevitably start remembering who they used to be. In R’s case, when that starts to happen he wants to put the brakes on it, because his past self is very problematic…” There are ruthless new antagonists to deal with too: the Axiom Group, corporate types with a chilling line in euphemism, who remain immaculately polite even when torturing you. “They’re a hybrid of all the authority structures we know: part business, part government, part military,” Marion says. “They were inspired by customer service lines: there’s a very distinctive way they talk, where the meaning of the sentence is softened and circumvented with all these polite modifiers that bury the actual

The first season of The Lost Boys will be about “two brothers and how tempted they are to fall in with vampires” says showrunner Rob Thomas. Supernatural, aka the show that can’t be killed, has been renewed for a 13th season. Spooky. Constantine is being resurrected for an animated series, with Matt Ryan returning to voice the titular demon hunter. It’ll premiere on online platform The CW Seed. Barry and Kara will “find themselves at pivotal crossroads” during the Supergirl/ Flash musical crossover, says EP Andrew Kreisberg. American Horror Story regulars Sarah Paulson and Evan Peters will return for the show’s seventh season, which will include many characters from Freakshow. Legion could be the start of an entire X-Men franchise on FX. Creator Noah Hawley promises the show “redefines the genre in a new way”.

Red Alert April 2017


Much of iBoy was shot on location in London’s East End estate Petticoat Square.

actor exclusive

mixed signals

© Alex lee Johnson

Superheroes just got serious. We hit the London streets to meet iBoy…

Marvel may be dominating the superhero market at the moment, but if you’re after something a little grungier, look no further than Netflix original film iBoy. With its unassuming teen hero and gritty London setting, it puts a tough-talking spin on superstories. “We’ve taken that concept of a young man in the city with powers down a darker, more psychological route,” says 21-year-old star Bill Milner (right), who plays phonetapping champion Tom. “We really question what it’s like for someone so young to be in such a powerful position.” Adapted from Kevin Brooks’ 2010 novel by director Adam Randall, iBoy sees Tom acquire the ability to telepathically access the internet – and hence any tech-y device in the world – when fragments of his phone get lodged in his brain after a gang-related fight. This being London, Tom’s ascent from gawky nobody to unconventional cyber-champ involves him tackling estate-dwelling bullies and insidious drug barons. “It was intense,” Milner admits of filming on location in early 2016. “It was five weeks, and by the end of the story it gets quite physical, but it was all worth it. I like running off that fast-paced energy. Every day was so exciting. It was like, ‘Oh, we’re blowing this up and setting this on fire!’ Tom’s somewhat unassuming, but through the film you see his descent into quite a dark world.” It was a different experience to Milner’s last superhero gig – in 2011 he played a young Magneto in X-Men: First Class. “Working on something like X-Men, I was a relatively small part in a huge production,” Milner reveals. “It was an amazing experience and I learned a hell of a lot, but it’s very different from making films like iBoy where you literally know everyone, and everyone’s really deeply invested in what you’re making.” That includes Maisie Williams, taking a break from Westeros to appear as Tom’s friend Lucy. “She had no idea how much of a fan of Game Of Thrones I was!” Milner laughs. “When we got Maisie involved, it felt like, ‘God, this is gonna be great, people are gonna take notice.’ It’s really lovely to see how excited and proud she is of this.” With the origins story out of the way, though, could iBoy become Netflix’s next big superhero franchise alongside Jessica Jones and Daredevil? “The film ends, but where can he go now?” Milner muses. “You could have the character sit his exams, cheat by knowing all the answers, and become a huge banker… It is quite scary the possibilities.” iBoy is available on Netflix now and is reviewed on page 109. april 2017 | sfx magazine |


April 2017

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Robertson on Butterfield: “I was impressed with his work ethic. I was like, ‘Oh god, he’s really got it together!’”


Double Trouble

School’s out forever in Paul Cornell’s haunting new novel Chalk

For my character, she never really believes she’ll ever meet Gardner for real.” Playing a regular teen who has a seriously close encounter, Tulsa is a different kind of role to the one the 26-year-old played in Tomorrowland. “Tomorrowland was eight months of travelling and we spent days on one scene,” she reveals. “There were a lot of technical aspects to Tomorrowland, lots of innovative ways of shooting, and I had a bigger part playing with all the sci-fi world elements.” She laughs. “On The Space Between Us it was more, ‘We’re done, let’s go, let’s go!'” Revealing that she got to do some zero-gravity scenes for the film (“that was more difficult than you would imagine!”), Robertson admits that The Space Between Us appealed to her soft spot for science fiction. “Sometimes, with other genres you get really locked in,” she says, “but there is something in sci-fi I find attractive – perhaps because it’s a little more out there.” Like a boy on Mars, you might say...

Describing Chalk as his “most important book”, Paul Cornell reveals it’s his most personal novel to date. Set in the 1980s, it centres around Wiltshire teenager Andrew Waggoner, who manifests a malevolent doppelganger after a horrific encounter with some school bullies. But although he draws on his own formative experiences, Cornell insists that it is not purely autobiographical. “I hope that the story is universal,” he tells Red Alert. “I don’t want people thinking, ‘This is Paul.’ I want them to think, ‘This is me,’ when they read it. The hero does share a lot in common with me, and certainly the dates and location are right, but everything else should be left up to the reader.” Emulating the dark fantasy of his Shadow Police series and Witches Of Lychford novellas, Chalk “comes from the same place” as Cornell’s work on Doctor Who. “I started writing Doctor Who fan fiction as a child," he says. “In Chalk, I’m writing about a young boy who is a massive Doctor Who fan, and he actually goes to the Longleat Doctor Who exhibition at one point.” Cornell has resolved to no longer work on licensed properties, though, and Chalk represents the bold new direction he intends to take. “This book is at the centre of what I do,” he says. “I really want it to count, as it’s the first step on the road to writing stuff that is all me.”

The Space Between Us opens on 10 February.

Chalk is published by on 21 March.


spaced out

Love means never having to say you’re in need of gravity.

Teen worlds collide in The Space Between Us, a sci-fi drama with heart. And hormones...

“‘Sci-fi romance’ is a pretty good way to describe it,” Britt Robertson tells Red Alert of The Space Between Us. “The first half of the movie is trying to figure out who this guy, Gardner, is. Early on, my character just thinks he’s a weirdo who doesn’t know much about the world. Then she realises, ‘I think this guy really is from Mars!’” Yep, it’s a case of “The Teen Who Fell To Earth” in this genre-splicer from director Peter Chelsom. Part coming-of-ager, part sci-fi, part romantic drama, it sees youngster Gardner (Asa Butterfield) striking up an online friendship with high-schooler Tulsa (Robertson). Her location: Earth. His? Uh, Mars. Far from being a frilly-gilled extraterrestrial, though, he’s a human raised on a Martian colony. When he decides to reconnect with his roots by visiting our less-red world for the first time, he also gets to find out if sparks will fly with Tulsa. “They’re these two misfits who haven’t really found anyone,” Robertson reveals. “They rely on each other to get through the day, they have each other to lean on, but there’s no real...

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FreezeFrame April 2017


Top trailers dissected

Ridley Scott is planning two further Alien movies after Alien: Covenant.

alien: Covenant


19 May 2017

In space everybody can hear you scream...

Bloody prints on a space station floor hint something nefarious is afoot as screams echo down a dark corridor.

This’ll be the guy doing the screaming – probably because his spine’s spurting blood. Yes, this time we’ve got “back-bursters”.

Meanwhile, Michael Fassbender is back, this time playing both android David and Walter, an assistant aboard the spaceship Covenant.

Speaking of, there’s the titular ship, a colony vessel bound for a lush planet on the other side of the known galaxy.

Here the crew will meet David and, presumably, Dr Shaw (Noomi Rapace). The world looks too hospitable to be Aliens’ LV-426.

As Walter leads the crew out, they discover an idyllic (if soggy) environment. But are these pods innocuous, or could they be deadly?

This shot of an airborne spore suggests the latter, especially as the spore makes short work of slipping into a crew member’s ear.

“You sure about this?” Daniels (Katherine Waterston) asks her captain (Billy Crudup). “We don’t know what the fuck’s out there.”

We recognise this ship, though. Prometheus revealed they were manned by the Engineers; could this be their home planet?

We’re definitely in Alien territory as the captain of Covenant stumbles across a Xeno egg and appears to fall victim to a facehugger.

Explosions aplenty suggest that Daniels will end up stranded as nasties close in. A glimpse of her in a space-suit hints she’s Ripley-esque.

And here’s what we’ve all been waiting for – a full-grown Xenomorph making its first movie appearance since Aliens Vs Predator: Requiem.

The Buzz Josh Prometheus was a dud, but Ridley Scott seems to have listened to the fans – this looks like an Alien movie proper: Xenos, androids, white-knuckle peril. I’m (chest)bursting with excitement.

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Jayne Fool me once, eh, Ridley? I’m afraid after Prometheus I have no goodwill left for Covenant (though I’m happy Fassbender is back). But... nope. I won’t be fooled again.

Rich This feels much more Alien than Prometheus, and I suspect that’s a deliberate marketing ploy. The teaser borders on over-familiarity, but I’m cautiously excited.

nick The original Alien had the shock of the new – this feels like a tease for a jukebox musical of the franchise’s greatest clichés. Hoping for something more inventive than a soft reboot.

Red Alert April 2017


Monsters Unleashed was originally a black and white magazine published by Marvel in 1973.




MIKE EDMONDS Logray in Star Wars: Episode VI – Return Of The Jedi


fAntAstic BeAsties


Actor Mike edmonds portrayed one of the titular time-travelling dwarfs in Time Bandits, appeared in other cult ’80s fantasies like Flash Gordon and Legend, and was Little Ron in Maid Marian And Her Merry Men. After embodying an Ugnaught in The Empire Strikes Back, he was cast as memorable “medicine man” ewok Logray in Return Of The Jedi. A recent documentary on his career, Under The Radar, reveals some intriguing behind-the-scenes insights (he also had fun operating Jabba the hutt’s tail!). we spoke to edmonds about his role in that galaxy far, far away…

You’ll find all Marvel’s monstrous mammoths in new crossover Monsters Unleashed…

rEx (1)

Would you like to play the role again? I don’t think they’d want a 73-yearold Ewok who would have to be carried around in a sedan chair. If I didn’t have all my current ailments and was strong enough and more agile I’d absolutely play the part again. What would Logray be doing now? It was over 30 years ago so I think loggers would probably have cleared all the forest by now, so if he was still going he’d no doubt be working in a fast food outlet. Did you get any set souvenirs? Everything was top secret and tightly controlled, so you couldn’t take anything. I did keep my call sheets and have an early film poster with Revenge Of The Jedi on it, which I asked Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and the rest of the cast to sign. What would it say on Logray’s gravestone? Gone but not fur-gotten!

All your favourite Marvel heroes… plus some serious bad guys.

after the bitterly divisive Civil War 2, writer Cullen Bunn is promising something “100 per cent chaotic” for Marvel’s next crossover. Pitting the likes of the Avengers, X-Men and Inhumans against a cataclysmic cabal of creatures, Monsters Unleashed will have some serious consequences. “The stakes are high, because if the heroes fail, the world is toast,” says Bunn, who will be teaming up with a revolving team of artists including Steve McNiven, Leinil Yu and Adam Kubert. “There will be lasting ramifications for the Marvel landscape, which is what tends to happen when hundreds of gargantuan monsters lay waste to their surroundings.” Along with classic Marvel monsters such as Fin Fang Foom, Devil Dinosaur and Goom, the five-issue series will also feature appearances from some lesser-known behemoths. “There are so many great old monsters in this story,

and my goal is that they will become major players in the Marvel Universe from this day forward,” says Bunn, who refuses to divulge too many details about the sinister Leviathans, who initially bring all the monsters together. “There is a primeval power that is drawing the monsters to Earth,” he teases. “This power is a mystery, and we’re going to be revealing a couple of new characters, who are both tied into this event in very different ways.” However, Bunn does confirm that monsterhunter Elsa Bloodstone plays a crucial part. “She uncovers an ancient legend about an otherworldly force, but she only knows a small part of the truth,” he explains. “The truth, as we’ll find, can be traced back thousands of years and is marked with dozens of destroyed worlds.” Monsters Unleashed is out now from Marvel Comics. April 2017 | sfx mAgAzine |


Event Horizon April 2017

Conventions, shows and beyond

Worlds of Wonder

Get ready for a sci-fi summer at the Barbican with the launch of uberexhibit Into The Unknown… “Science fiction is responsible for some of the world’s most iconic film, music, literature and art,”  Date says Swiss historian and writer Patrick Gyger,  3 Jun-1 Sep 2017 explaining why he’s curating an ambitious, treat-packed,  three-month sci-fi season at the Barbican this summer  location Barbican Centre, celebrating the finest genre work of the past 200 years. London A festival-style exhibition, Into The Unknown: A Journey Through Science Fiction kicks off in June and has something  special for book fans, movie nuts and  comic lovers alike. “From 19th century  cabinets of curiosities to cyberpunk,  Into The Unknown takes a fresh and,  at times, subversive look at the new  territories, lost worlds, cosmic  possibilities and virtual universes that  traverse the broadest parameters of  human imagination and yet are often  instantly relatable,” says Gyger. The exhibition will feature work  that’s never been shown in the UK,  including over 200 books (some of  them original manuscripts) from  around the globe. Standouts include  Arthur C Clarke’s Rendezvous With Explore the classics of Rama, and Ursula K Le Guin’s Left Hand Of Darkness. Particularly exciting  early SF cinema, including 1927’s Metropolis. is the Extraordinary Voyages exhibit in  the Curve gallery, which features  iconic Ray Harryhausen models, concept art from One Million Years BC, film props  from Jurassic Park and Godzilla, original manuscripts and much more besides. Meanwhile, top VFX workers contribute original projects to Space Odysseys, with  Territory Studio (which worked on The Martian) producing a new interactive  commission, while the gallery of aliens includes heads, masks, skulls, models and  props from films including Close Encounters Of The Third Kind and Aliens. As if that wasn’t enough, the  festival will also launch the first  ever Barbican Outdoor Cinema in  the Sculpture Court. Over the  August bank holiday, there’ll be  screenings of films that tap into  the themes of Into The Unknown,  including – naturally – Stanley  Kubrick’s seminal 2001: A Space Odyssey. We can’t wait. 

Check out an open-air screening of 2001: A Space Odyssey this August.

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Date 11 Feb 2017 location Hotel Novotel, Hammersmith

Galaxy crest 2000 AD celebrates its  40th anniversary in  mega (city) style...

And it doesn’t look a day over 21… The  galaxy’s greatest  comic is turning 40 this year  and, to celebrate, 2000 AD is  throwing a one-day megaevent for fans and comic  contributors alike – the  culmination of a series of  nationwide events all held  in the long-running  comic’s honour. Described as an “immersive  live extravaganza”, the  2000 AD Forty Years Of ThrillPower Festival will feature a  dazzling array of comic talent  old and new. Special guests  include 2000 AD regulars  (deep breath) Pat Mills, John  Wagner, Carlos Ezquerra,  Alan Grant, Dave Gibbons,  Mike McMahon, Steve  Yeowell, Rob Williams,  Si Spurrier, Al Ewing,  Sean Phillips, Duncan  Fegredo and Simon Bisley. When you’re not catching  up with those greats, though,  you can look forward to  prestige events, original  programming, world  exclusive merchandise and  one-of-a-kind spectacles.  And, we’re sure, more than  a few chaps dressed up as  Dredd. Bitchin’.

SF Ball

3-5 Feb A weekend packed  with guests at the  Grand Harbour  Hotel, Southampton,  including Gates  McFadden, Chris  Barrie and Roger  Ashton-Griffiths. www.sfbevents. com

london Film Convention

4 Feb Held at Central Hall  in Westminster,  this is a must-go for  fans – especially  those of Annette  Whiteley, who  makes her first ever  con appearance. www.londonfilm

Capital SCi-Fi Con 2017

18-19 Feb Described as “by  the fans for the  fans”, this  Edinburgh con  features a host of  cult guests and all  profits go to charity.

SCi-Fi Weekender

30 Mar-2 Apr Now in its eighth  “cycle”, the North  Wales con has  something for all  fans, from movie  screenings, comic  workshops and  book readings to  Q&A sessions. www.scifi

dimenSion Jump

7-9 Apr The Official Red Dwarf Fan Club  lay on a sci-fi  extravaganza at the  Crowne Plaza Hotel  in Nottingham,  with Chris Barrie,  Hattie Hayridge  and Robert  Llewellyn  attending. www.dimension

April 2017

Subscribe at The VHS store used in Beyond The Gates is a real location in Hollywood, beloved by the likes of Quentin Tarantino.

We’re guessing the murderer is the creepy lady, in the graveyard, with a knife of some kind.


Be unkind, rewind Director Jackson Stewart tells us about his retro-flavoured horror Beyond The Gates…

Remember Atmosfear? It was a boardgame that pitted ’80s kids against a horror host seen on a video tape that you watched while playing. Known as Nightmare in the States, it was one of a host of such VHS games, titles that served as key inspirations for new movie Beyond The Gates. “I got my hands on all the games I could,” says first-time feature director Jackson Stewart of his ’90s-set shocker. “I looked at all of the Nightmare titles. We checked out the Star Trek game, RoboCop, Wayne’s World… There’s a ton out there. It’s a fascinating little universe.” In the film, brothers Gordon and John are clearing out their missing father’s old VHS rental store when they discover Beyond The Gates – a mysterious game that, when played with Gordon’s girlfriend Margot, opens up the doors to another reality. “For a really long time I’d wanted to do a Phantasm-like movie. Something that would touch on a brotherly dynamic and maybe do some dimensional hopping,” says Stewart. “I really wanted it to

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look like a spooky version of Cluedo. I wanted the board to feel like it was designed by Edward Gorey and the video component to look like Mario Bava’s Black Sunday.” For the crucial video sequences, Stewart called on horror legend Barbara Crampton who plays the beautiful, if sinister, face of the game. “It was surreal. There’s a certain point on set that I was thinking, ‘This is so weird. I’m here with this person who’s in Re‑Animator…’ She’s involved as a producer on the movie too and has a lot of smart ideas about story and dialogue.” The film was a big hit at the most recent FrightFest, where it met with rave reviews. “It was so weird talking to people and hearing them say, ‘I thought Beyond The Gates was good,’ and they had no idea I was connected to the movie. It was really thrilling, just a total delight.” Beyond The Gates is out on DVD on 20 February.

new author



What’s your protagonist like? Clay Cooper is loyal, dependable, a touch sardonic, and selflessly brave. Although his “mission” is to help rescue his best friend’s daughter, his true goal is to return home to his wife and child, then never go anywhere again. Like if Samwise Gamgee was a stone-cold killer. Which part of the world-building did you most enjoy? The setting’s an allegory for the golden age of classic rock, so the best part was listening to the epic, rambling albums of that era’s greatest bands and drawing inspiration from them. What’s the secret of a good battle scene? Rather than over-describing every cut and feint, get the reader into the character’s head. Not only does this afford direct insight into the battle as it unfolds, but it makes the fight seem organic instead of orchestrated. How did you find your agent? [Author] Sebastien de Castell sat at one of my tables. He was kind enough to meet me for coffee shortly after and discuss the publishing process, and when an agent I was going back and forth with passed, he offered to give it a read and pass it on to his agent. I have a copy of Traitor’s Blade that he signed “a down-payment on a copy of your first novel”, so I’m excited to be able to repay that gift! Kings Of The Wyld is published by Orbit on 23 February.

ImageBank April 2017


Where pictures are greater than words

Mute was originally meant to be Duncan Jones’s directorial debut.

Don’t sPeak After detouring into fantasy with Warcraft, Duncan Jones returns to sci-fi with his Netflix original film Mute – and these are the first pics from the semi-sequel to Moon, showing off Paul Rudd as a wisecracking American surgeon and Alexander Skarsgård as a mute attempting to track down his girlfriend Naadirah (Seyneb Saleh). Described as a sci-fi noir, the film’s near-future Berlin definitely has a Blade Runner vibe to it. Mute launches on Netflix later this year.

Beast Buy Just in case your horde of Harry Potter memorabilia’s starting to look a little dated, Bloomsbury is releasing a brand new collectable version of Newt Scamander’s Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them. Illustrated by Tomislav Tomic, it’s got a snazzy cover by Jonny Duddle and a shiny new foreword from JK Rowling herself. Even better, proceeds from the book will go to Comic Relief and charity Lumos. Fantastic Beasts is published in hardback by Bloomsbury on 14 March 2017.

Planet thor!

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Oh look, it’s that Thor chap, finally gracing us with his presence after sitting out Captain America: Civil War. Seems he’s been busy hanging out with director Taika Waititi shooting Thor: Ragnarok – or at least that’s what this first shot from the threequel reveals. And according to an official plot drop, Ragnarok will see Thor (Chris Hemsworth) battling Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) in a gladiatorial contest before he attempts to prevent Hela (Cate Blanchett) destroying the universe. Hurrah! Thor: Ragnarok opens on 27 October.

Red Alert April 2017


Kristen Stewart previously worked with Assayas on Clouds Of Sils Maria.

The ones in the sale are never in your size, though.

news warp

HigH-speed facts Carrie Fisher won’t be digitally recreated in Star Wars: Episode IX. Lucasfilm said: “We cherish her memory… and will always strive to honour everything she gave to Star Wars.” Neil Gaiman and Val McDermid are among the contributors for Terry Pratchett: Back In Black, set to air on BBC Two later this year. Pratchett’s words will be read by Paul Kaye. The Doctor Strange Blu-ray will include Team Thor: Part 2, the second comedy skit featuring Chris Hemsworth’s Asgardian. Cult Of Chucky, the seventh Child’s Play film, will be released on home ent in time for Halloween. Frank Grillo won’t reprise his role as Crossbones for Marvel any time soon. “I’d rather just not do it,” he said. William Peter Blatty, author and screenwriter of The Exorcist, has died aged 89. The Losers director Sylvain White will helm supernatural horror Slenderman. Radio 4 are adapting Isaac Asimov’s I, Robot. Hear it starting Monday 6 February, with an omnibus edition on Saturday 11 February.

director exclusive

giving up the ghost

French auteur Olivier Assayas on Personal Shopper, his Parisian supernatural shocker…

When is a ghost story not a conventional genre movie? Maybe when it’s Olivier Assayas’s Personal Shopper. Set in Paris, Kristen Stewart’s Maureen speeds around the city collecting designer outfits for her starlet boss Kyra. But in her spare time? A part-time medium still suffering from the death of her twin brother, she haunts old buildings waiting for a sign from her sibling. “This film is a character study,” says Assayas, who started the project after his Chicago crime thriller Idol’s Eye collapsed one day before shooting. Yet the director admits “genre is key” when it came to creating specific textures relating to Maureen, “to her anxieties, to her fears, to her loneliness or the violence of whatever she’s going through.” If you’re imagining that everything Maureen sees is in her head, think again. Though it shifts into thriller territory, Personal Shopper doesn’t hold back on the paranormal activity. “I really wanted to find the texture, the nature of the vision that mediums have when they actually believe in the communication with another world,” he says. Assayas was inspired by 19th century “spirit” photography which set out to capture spiritual entities on film. “It looks very naive to us but it’s also kind of scary, disturbing and beautiful,” he says, claiming his CGI ghost is very true to such images. Now 62, Assayas does not come across as a man troubled by demons. “I have not seen

ghosts but I have been living with ghosts,” he says. “I’ve been having conversations with the departed – my parents are present with me every single day or friends who are close to me. They are still around. They float around. That’s what ghosts are about really.” If anything, on Personal Shopper he was troubled by more everyday things. Like the elongated scene when Maureen is on the Eurostar and sending texts back and forth with an unknown (and possibly other-worldly) texter. “It was incredibly difficult. I completely underestimated it and it plagued our shoot,” Assayas sighs. “Movies take a life of themselves – this one even more so,” he adds. “This one was much more complex than I ever imagined. The visual effects, the scenes where Maureen’s on her own, they have a complex inner logic which is defined by the way Kristen approached it. She really needed to feel things – even when she’s in the haunted house. She needed to feel something was going on around her.” While the film split viewers when it premiered in Cannes – boos and five-star reviews – Assayas simply shrugs. “Honestly… when you make movies, you hope everyone will like them. But at the same time, you don’t make movies to be consensual. That’s never been my way of functioning.” One thing it’s not worth being haunted by is the critics. Personal Shopper opens on 17 March. april 2017 | sfx magazine |


April 2017

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Nick Setchfield’s

development hell

Your monthly glimpse into Hollywood’s hoped-for future

Hyde and seek! JEKYLL

Get set for yet another take on Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic tale of split personality. Although this take, technically, is another take on Steven Moffat’s take on Robert Louis Stevenson’s take. See how easily these things multiply? It’s enough to make you stop swigging mysterious beakers of chemicals. Zombieland’s Ruben

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Fleischer will direct Jekyll for Lionsgate, adapting Moffat’s 2007 BBC One series of the same name. That version starred James Nesbitt as a modern-day descendant of Henry Jekyll, unlocking his raging inner id. Marvel star Chris Evans will play the title role this time around – and if anyone can convince us he’s two entirely distinct personalities then it’s the man who gave big-screen life to

both noble Captain America and the cocky Human Torch. We’d add that Russell Crowe is also playing Jekyll in Universal’s new slate of monster movies but that would only confuse matters.


Infinity’s a mighty big place. And

it’s getting ever bigger. Two more additions to the sprawling cast of the cosmically-inclined third Avengers movie: teen Wallcrawler Tom Holland recently confirmed that he’ll be joining the fray as Spider-Man and Zoe Saldana, alias Gamora from Guardians, says she’s in too – even though the incorrigibly clandestine Marvel hasn’t let her glom the script yet. “I don’t know when

April 2017

Illustration by Paul Cemmick

gotHam-a-go-go? BATMAN

Given the industrial amount of humming and hawing coming from Ben Affleck you’d be forgiven for thinking that his solo Batman film exists in a state of quantum uncertainty. Is it on? Is it off? Is it both at once when no one’s looking? Well, cool your Bat-jets. We need to cut him some slack, it seems. “I keep getting ‘Where’s the fucking Batman?’” he says. “And I’m like, ‘Whoa, I’m working! Give me a second!’” Affleck recently stated he’ll bail if the script isn’t up to par (as he’s co-writing it that could be an interesting conversation in the mirror). Now he says that the project is “good and going” – and word is it may even start filming this summer. Or it may not. “I’m a real believer in not reverse engineering projects to meet a window or a date,” he tells The New York Times. “I’m not in any hurry to jam a mediocre film down the pipe.” Psychologists call this ReverseSchumacher Syndrome.

merCenary deals! DEADPOOL 2

So what can we expect from the merc with a sequel? 100% free range Deadpool, it seems. “It’ll be a solo movie,” co-screenwriter Rhett Reese tells Deadline. “It’ll be populated with a lot of characters but it is still Deadpool’s movie, this next one. We’re pushing forward very hard. I think by every account we will shoot it this year, and we’re on our multiple draft now. It’s taken different twists and turns, but it’s really coalescing, and we’re very, very excited.” The spotlight may stay on Deadpool for the next movie but star Ryan Reynolds is itching to team with Hugh

I’m not in any hurry also to jam a burning mediocre film down the pipe Margot Robbie reteaming with David Ayer on Gotham City Sirens… Rob Liefeld’s Extreme Universe comics coming to the screen… Russell Crowe joining Stephen King adap Revival… Sylvain White directing a Slender Man movie… Will Smith in talks for Tim Burton’s live-action Dumbo… Joe Carnahan’s finished the Uncharted script for Sony… Daniel Wu joining the Tomb Raider reboot… Trevante Rhodes and Keegan-Michael Key onboard for Shane Black’s The Predator… Denis Villeneuve in the frame to direct Dune for Legendary Entertainment… Dick Van Dyke confirmed for Mary Poppins Returns… Paramount prepping SF tale Origin, produced by Jerry Bruckheimer… Naruto creator Masashi Kishimoto involved with live-action version… Patrick Wilson is the villain in Aquaman… Zoe Saldana joining the voice cast of My Little Pony… Michael Giacchino scoring Jurassic World 2… Phylicia Rashad joining Black Panther for Marvel… Rupert Wyatt helming Captive State…

Jackman’s Wolverine – even though Jackman’s vowed that Logan will be the last time he pops his claws on screen. “I have no idea if I can change his mind,” Reynolds admits. “It’s the audience: I would exclusively exploit that relationship to get Hugh back for another one.” What, you’re going to crowdsource Jackman’s fee with Kickstarter?

got woody! HAN SOLO

Sounds like the young Han Solo may be getting his own Haymitch. Woody Harrelson has just signed on for 2018’s Star Wars spin-off. “I’m a mentor to Han but I’m also a bit of a criminal,” reveals the Hunger Games star. “I don’t think I should say much more than that because the Force is not allowing me.” Donald Glover, meanwhile, is looking forward to channelling his inner Billy Dee as a young Lando Calrissian. “Lando’s a big deal to me,” he shares with USA Today. “It was literally the first toy I ever got. When you have something that’s kind of iconic, where people pay attention to it, it’s hard because you want to live up to the expectation. But all you can do is live up to your own. And Star Wars is really high. I really just want to have fun.” We’re already imagining a breathless, Rogue One-style final five minutes, revealing the thrilling, untold events leading up to Han walking into the Mos Eisley cantina and buying a drink.

REX (1)

they’re gonna let me read it,” she tells MTV News. Game Of Thrones star Peter Dinklage is being eyed for a key role and filming will reportedly take place in Glasgow, Edinburgh and the Highlands. Get your bonny tights on, Captain Scotland, your moment may have arrived…

next generation x! THE NEW MUTANTS

The next expansion of the X-universe is suddenly looking

ambitious. Filmmaker Josh Boone says his upcoming adaptation of the classic ’80s comic book is just the first strike in a brand new three-film franchise. “We had loved this X-Men spin-off, The New Mutants,” he tells Creative Screenwriting. “We had loved Bill Sienkiewicz’s run with Chris Claremont that had [dream-haunting villain] Demon Bear. It was really dark, interesting, and different from the typical X-Men stories that we had read.” And it was Boone, it transpires, who pitched it to the studio. “After I made The Fault In Our Stars, we made Fox a comic book. It walked them through a trilogy of New Mutant films that would build on each other. [We] took all the images we had loved from the series and strung them together to show them the movie we wanted to do.” Fox still won’t officially confirm a cast tipped to include Anya Taylor-Joy, Maisie Williams and James McAvoy but filming is expected to begin in Canada this May.

return of tHe Jedi! STAR WARS EPISODE VIII

Director Rian Johnson has escaped the Force chokehold of the Lucasfilm publicity machine to spill some details on Episode VIII. The relationship between Luke and Rey will be “a large part of the movie”, he reveals, confirming that the Jedi master will help the young Forcesensitive discover her abilities. “Part of what she’s dealing with is the realisation that she has this power and this gift. She’s taking her first step to coming to terms with this thing inside her that she never knew was there and is just starting to reveal its potential.” Johnson also confirms that the movie will pick up directly after the end of The Force Awakens: “I don’t want to skip ahead two years. I want to see the very next moment of what happens.” Prepare yourselves for the shortest opening crawl in Star Wars history. “It is one minute later. Luke Skywalker is still giving a meaningful look. Rey has blinked. Is that rain in the air?” april 2017 | sfx magazine |


SFX hailing FrequencieS open!

Your views on the month’s big issue


this month’s communications monitor RICHARD EDWARDS, EDITOR

Star Wars was the dominant force in the mailsphere this month – inevitably you wanted to tell us what you thought about the wonderful Rogue One, and then there was your reaction to the incredibly sad news about the death of Carrie Fisher. You also loved/hated (delete as appropriate) the Doctor Who Christmas special, had issues with DC’s recent TV crossover episodes, and recognised Elidor. We love to hear from you, so drop us a line using one of the contact devices listed opposite, and your wisdom could appear right here.

30 | sfx magazine | april 2017

Mark Howe, Facebook I’ve had to adjust my top three. Rogue One now just sneaks into third after Empire and Star Wars. Whereas The Force Awakens was a new Star Wars film that felt like an old one, this was a modern Star Wars film that looked like an old one. Martin Horne, email It’s interesting as a more mature reader who remembers the excitement around the very first film as a seven-year-old, that when Tarkin suddenly appears in Rogue One, the little boy in me jumped for joy! Ian Salsbury, Facebook Remember when Disney bought Star Wars and everyone was worried they’d “Disneyfy” it, making it all soft and cuddly, with Vader wearing Mickey Mouse ears? Couldn’t have been more wrong!

His final appearance on the big screen?

Rob Perry, Facebook I thought it was superb. Surprised at how grim it managed to be while still feeling like Star Wars. K-2SO steals the movie with some much-needed humour and Vader has never been scarier or more badass than in his final scene. My one gripe is the Uncanny Valley-fuelled nightmare that is Tarkin. His character within the story was excellently served, but... THAT FACE!!! Olive Elephant, GamesRadar+ I know there are die-hard Star Wars fans who are moaning about Darth being “too mobile” compared to the A New Hope iteration, which in the timeline is literally days later. But you cannot deny the last sequence with Vader kicking ass is what the whole franchise has been calling out for, for 33 years! SFX I think we now know why Vader is feared across the galaxy – though he needs to work on his one-liners. James Kinsley, email For all that Empire is held up as “the dark one”, it still belonged in that same universe of magic and wonder. That Star

Firstcontact april 2017

get in touch! Email • Facebook Twitter @SFXmagazine, #SFXcontact • Post SFX, quay house, The ambury, Bath, Ba1 1ua

This was a modern Star Wars film that looked like an old one Wars is a fantasy tale in sci-fi clothing is no mystic insight, but it took me a while to realise, and a second viewing to confirm, that that was what I was missing in Rogue One. Don’t get me wrong, Rogue One is a great movie, I enjoyed it a lot. But it reaches new levels of gritty. That skirmish in Jedha feels real, looks real-world familiar. The film even has actual weather, for goodness’ sake. This really is the adult Star Wars movie that us adult Star Wars fans have been wanting. But it comes at a price. I can’t help being a little bit sad that there’s a small boy inside me who’s just realised after 40 years that his childhood is finally, actually over. The most glorious Medium Atomic Weight As I finally finished my princess of them all. last tub of Xmas choccies, my mind turned to Star Wars. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed The Force Awakens and Rogue One, but as much as the thought of a new Wars film every year fills me with pure chocolatey joy, already the sugar sickness is Look out for starting to kick in. I love the the next SFX franchise, but a movie every Hot Topic at year is starting to feel like too much. The build-up, the hype, the speculation, debate, trailer-watching and spoilerdodging are a huge part of the fun of waiting for a film, and now we only have 11 months to fit all that in. Why suffer the guilty shame of scoffing all the strawberry creams in one sitting, when rationing the truffles keeps us happy and healthy. I’m now wishing for at least two years between films. Star Trek and Bond have the right idea. SFX Not going to agree with you there, Mr Weight. So far, a new Star Wars movie every year is proving to be the perfect Christmas present!

#DOCTOR WHO AT XMAS Michelle Pamela Kyle, Facebook

#REMEMBERING CARRIE FISHER Chloe, email Last year saw many great people taken from us, and I was heartbroken to hear that Carrie Fisher was one of them. She shone as Princess Leia and it was great to see her take on that role again in The Force Awakens. In interviews and panel shows she always seemed down to earth and she had a great sense of humour. She will be sadly missed by many and she will be remembered always. Keith Tudor, email I was shocked and saddened by the death of Carrie Fisher. She was Princess Leia to so many, and as such represented a strong and independent character. The gasps in the audience at the end of Rogue One showed how fondly her character is thought of, and that comes from Carrie’s wonderful performance throughout the franchise. She will be deeply mourned and incredibly missed. SFX Such sad news over the Christmas season. She was one of sci-fi cinema’s greatest icons, and will always be remembered.

“The Return Of Doctor Mysterio” was an utter disaster. Constant talk, talk, talk, sleep-inducing friggin’ talk. A far cry from the blockbuster days of killer Christmas trees, crashing Titanics, giant spider queens and the dude off of Rita, Sue And Bob Too gloriously camping it up. Martin Wells, Facebook Worst Christmas special and probably one of the worst Doctor Whos ever made. It was seriously bad. Very boring, awful lame plot stolen from Superman, no excitement, no Xmas magic, rubbish characters and very slow. I barely got through it without switching off. The only good thing about it was Matt Lucas. Trevor James, Facebook Absolute disaster. Poor plot, poor dialogue, total lack of character development. Watch this utter drivel, then go and watch a classic Doctor Who story – such as “The Robots Of Death” or “Genesis Of The Daleks” – and you’ll want to do nothing but cry! The whole bloody production team need to be booted. Doctor Who should now be only shown at Christmas as it’s become a pantomime. Palvinder Padda, Facebook It was barely okay. Clearly meant as a homage to superhero movies that used to be made before they became self-aware. This was an episode that should have been made 15 years ago. Robert William Graham, Facebook

Good fun. A nice, light homage to Superman. I get the feeling that we haven’t seen the last of superhero the Ghost, and Matt Lucas was a pleasant surprise as

Did he save your Christmas Day? Or not?

april 2017 | sfx magazine |


Firstcontact april 2017

I was surprised at how much I loved Matt Lucas

Were you asleep or cheering by this point? Nardole, more likeable and funny than he was in “The Husbands Of River Song”. Steve Bowman-Finch, Facebook Best Christmas special so far. Mainly because it didn’t force Christmas into the plot! Capaldi was brilliant (stay forever please) and Matt Lucas... well hadn’t expected him to be so good (shades of Catherine Tate’s return). Great supporting cast. This bodes well for 2017. Roll on the new series! Darren Carnall, Facebook It was lovely, and I was surprised at how much I loved Matt Lucas’s character this time around. It was fun getting a superhero tale but through the eyes of the Doctor Who universe. SFX If there’s one certainty at Christmas, it’s that fandom will unite as one behind the latest Who festive special... Or not.

#CREEPING DEATH Neil Hickman, email I’m sure I’m not alone among comic readers, scoffing at viewers moaning about the slow pace of The Walking Dead TV series. In eight episodes this season, they’ve covered about three trades’ worth of stories or about 14 issues. (I draw the line at trying to to read this series monthly – felt like they were in the prison for a life sentence even in the trades...) If they wrap up All Out War this season, you could see zombieremains haute couture fans the

32 | sfx magazine | april 2017

Whisperers being in the next. Slow indeed! Folks don’t seem to realise that if it’s all balls-to-thewall zombie mashing and beloved character deaths every week, it becomes meaningless. SFX Yeah, but do the slow bits have to be quite so slow? Maybe they could jazz it up with the odd dance routine?

#BUSTED Mark Furniss, email I have just read your Blu-ray/DVD review on Ghostbusters. How can you justify four stars? This is a film that should never have been made, it offers nothing new at all. I wished that I had taken the advice of the “internet moaners” as you call them. I will never watch this pile of crap again, whereas I will continue to watch the original again and again. SFX Er, I can justify four stars because I liked it a lot – a shame you didn’t, but each to their own. Despite what the “internet moaners” claimed, though, I bet Ghostbusters MkII didn’t ruin your childhood?

#CROSSOVER TRAFFIC Shaun Wild, Facebook Really

enjoyed the Supergirl/Flash/ Arrow/Legends Of Tomorrow

crossover. However, after the utter shite of the first season of Legends (I’m still amazed it got renewed), I have refused to watch any of the second season. So imagine my surprise when Sarah lectured Barry about not messing with timelines! That’s literally what they do every episode – and still did the same thing in their crossover episode! You’d have thought the writers would have had someone else, literally anyone else, other than a cast member of Legends, have those lines. Stephen McAfee, email I love shared universes but Legends Of Tomorrow isn’t in the same league as The Flash and Arrow so it’s a big ask for fans to watch all three for crossover events. SFX On top of everything else on telly, keeping up with DC TV-verse shows is quite a mission. Maybe it isn’t so much a question of whether they could do another crossover as whether they SHOULD?

#THE ESSENTIAL SELECTION? Ilona, email I think you should have called your recent special magazine not “Essential Sci-Fi TV” (SFX 282) but “Essential Anglo-American Sci-Fi TV”. Not one of

the series mentioned in there is from a country other than the US or Great Britain. It seems that no other countries ever made any sci-fi TV series who had any influence at all. I am no expert, but without much thinking one series popped into my head: Raumpatrouille Orion. This was a cult series in ’60s Germany. It would have just been great if you had at least tried to include some series from other countries. SFX You make a good point, though one of the aims of the supplement was to celebrate shows that had had a major cultural impact. Unfortunately, Brit and US broadcasters haven’t traditionally been brilliant at bringing non-English language drama to TV – though that is gradually improving thanks to BBC Four and Channel 4 – so overseas shows will obviously find it harder to make such a splash here in Blighty. Let us know which shows should be a more international list, though...

#RETURN OF THE LLAMA The Llama God, email Apologies for not sending so many letters last year. It’s nothing personal, 2016 was the year that I decided to properly throw myself into politics, and try to actually actively stop the dystopian futures that we’ve all read about from happening. I can’t say I’ve succeeded at the moment, but you know, now I’ve started I’m not going to stop trying. Because, after all, the message from all those things that your magazine writes about is that humanity can be better. And since a large chunk of humanity seems to have forgotten that message right now, it’s not really the time to sit by and wait for someone else to fix things… But that said, I am still loving

ISSUE 284 | APRIL 2017

Future Publishing Ltd Quay House, The Ambury, Bath, BA1 1UA Email Web


and reading your mag. Keep up your good work. SFX Welcome back, Llama! And good luck. We’re all counting on you.

#WE ALSO HEARD FROM Barry Metcalfe, email In SFX 283 Amanda asked about a show she remembered from the ’90s in which kids hid magical objects disguised as junk in their attic. This sounds to me like the BBC’s adaptation of Alan Garner’s Manchester-set fantasy Elidor. It starred a young, pre Hear’Say Suzanne Shaw, and was notable for changing the ending so that the kids had to personally sacrifice the unicorn Findhorn and heal the rift between our world and the magical realm of Elidor, which caused a lot of controversy at the time. SFX Good spot, Barry! Thanks also to fellow Elidor-spotters Nick Dale and Simon Bonney, who pointed out that it’s not available on DVD, but can be watched via the Beeb’s online store. Andy, email Big thanks to both SFX and David Burton (an SFXpert for sure) [SFX 282] for helping me rediscover my long lost childhood movie memory – I’m now the proud owner of Celia on DVD and am delighted to find it’s still really rather good! Will Ellis, email A quick note to say my subscription issue of SFX 283 has just dropped through the letterbox, complete with spookily prescient cover of what is now a very fitting tribute to Carrie Fisher. Neil Howard, Facebook For a future Doctor Who why not pilfer The Wizard Of Oz? Dorothy-the return of Ace; K9 as Toto; Cyberman as Tin Man; Sean Pertwee as the Scarecrow; and a Leonine/Thrail as the Cowardly Lion! They could meet the Doctor as the Wizard! Lewis Cameron, email Long-time reader, first-time emailer... In your recent issue celebrating 40 years of Star Wars in the timeline at the bottom of each page you forgot to mention the release of Star Wars Battlefront on the PlayStation 4. SFX But at least we found space for Caravan Of Courage: An Ewok Adventure, eh?

PoWErEd bY

Editor Richard Edwards, Art Editor Jonathan Coates, Art Editor (Film Group) Cliff Newman, Production Editor Russell Lewin, Features Editor Nick Setchfield, Reviews Editor Ian Berriman, News Editor Josh Winning, US Editor (East Coast) Tara Bennett, US Editor (West Coast) Joseph McCabe,


Your sci-fi memorabilia valued by the experts from auctioneers vectis

Sam Ashurst, Bradley Beaulieu, Louise Blain, Dave Bradley, Saxon Bullock, Paul Cemmick, Nick Chen, Nicola Clarke, Sarah Dobbs, Penny Dreadful, Rhian Drinkwater, Rosie Fletcher, Paul Garner, Dave Golder, Nicky Gotobed, Jamie Graham, Ben Griffin, Stephen Jewell, Matthew Looker, Miriam McDonald, James Mottram, Jayne Nelson, Jonathan Norton, Oliver Pfeiffer, Eddie Robson, Bridie Roman, VE Schwab, Calum Waddell, David West, James White, Jonathan Wright Thanks to Fiona Corlett

FilM GrouP, london

Phil McMullen says: “Back when Tom Baker was promoting his autobiography, he did a mini-tour of some bookshops. Some were given this lovely stand-up to put in their windows to promote it. They were all supposed to be thrown out, not given to customers, but I obviously smiled and asked politely enough. I have never seen another one of these around, so I think it’s quite rare. I have also had it signed by the man himself.” KATHY TAYLOR OF VECTIS SAYS: A standee is a life-size cardboard cut-out, usually of a celebrity or character from a TV or film production. Although this Tom Baker piece is quite rare (his autobiography, Who On Earth Is Tom Baker? was published in 1997 by HarperCollins), it probably will not be worth much more than £50-70 at auction, though there is potential to make more on the day. (It’s difficult to estimate a value when there are very few of these in existence!) It is always a good idea to keep a written and/or photographic account of a personal signing, as this will go along with the signed article and adds authenticity and interest for future generations. If you’ve got a piece of memorabilia you’d like us to feature, send us a photo of your item with a few words about what it means to you, to sfx@futurenet. com, using the subject line Cash In The AT-AT.

Editor-in-Chief Jane Crowther Art Editor Mike Brennan Reviews Editor Matthew Leyland Features Editor Matt Maytum News Editor Jordan Farley Operations Editor Andrew Westbrook Entertainment Editor (GamesRadar+) Lauren O’Callaghan Cover photography Kong: Skull Island © Warner Bros Ent; The Lego Batman Movie © Warner Bros Ent; The Great Wall © Universal Pictures; Prevenge © Studio Canal; The Walking Dead © Frank Ockenfels 3/AMC; Carrie Fisher courtesy Star Wars © Lucasfilm Ltd Photography Olly Curtis

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subsCribE to sFX Phone our UK hotline on 0844 848 2852 International +44 (0)1604 251 045 Online enquiries Email

this issuE Was brouGht to You bY Visiting cinema built on the site of the multi-storey car park in Get Carter, war memorials dated 1914-1919, Opium (the bar), Manchester By The Sea, the highs and lows of Sherlock, personalised Star Wars story book (thanks mum!) Future is an award-winning international media group and leading digital business. We reach more than 49 million international consumers a month and create world-class content and advertising solutions for passionate consumers online, on tablet & smartphone and in print. Future plc is a public company quoted on the London Stock Exchange (symbol: FUTR).

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“It’s difficult to choose between drugs and Satan”

april 2017 | sfx magazine |


FirstContact April 2017

DeaDpool 2


How should the Merc with the Mouth follow up last year’s salacious superhero smash?

W h at you W see in u pc a nt to o mov ies a n ming d tv

Wolverine Hugh Jackman

your top 5 requests

Illustration by Paul Garner

MaxiMuM effort needed, twentieth Century fox. here’s what our readers want next froM the foul-Mouthed, fourth wall-breaking Masked ManiaC MoRe X-Men


In the first film, when Deadpool ran into just Colossus and negasonic Teenage Warhead he quipped that “It’s almost like the studio couldn’t afford another X-Man,” and you would indeed like Fox to splash out on more. X-23 got mentioned, but XBox717 whet the appetite with his call, “I want a Magneto and Deadpool fight scene.”

MoRe X CHRoMosoMes


There are a fair few females in the Deadpool comic universe, and you’d like to see more of them on screen. “After playing the Deadpool game, I’d like to see some interaction with Lady Death at some point,” says @shaun1neo, while red coathanger calls for, “Rose Leslie as siryn, Ruby Rose as Domino – siryn vs Domino! And bring back negasonic Teenage Warhead.”

Don’T IgnoRe WoLveRIne


Hugh Jackman may have declared that the upcoming Logan will be the last time he sharpens his claws to play Wolverine, but

that didn’t stop several of you demanding that he go mano a mano with Wade Wilson. “Wolverine would be awesome, if only for a cameo,” said neil tex hickman.



Compared to the extravagant likes of X-Men: Apocalypse, Deadpool was a more humble, smaller-scale beast, with no bombastic climax that put the planet at risk. Most of you would like this to also be the case with the sequel: “Ryan Reynolds is right not to want to make it bigger scale – the first one’s scale was just right (but it never looked cheap),” says sam samuels.



The first movie was considerably swearier, naughtier and more violent than your average superhero multiplexer, but some of you want them to ramp this up even more. “I want to see more edginess, more sex and violence. I mean, come on modern Hollywood, this is your chance to get off your puritanical fence for once,” says d-toxxx.


And that’s not all they want... Medium Atomic Weight We got as far as the front door last time, so with the increased budget I’d like a full-frontal invasion of the X-Men Mansion, followed by some full-frontal nudity in Professor X’s bedroom. Andrew Taylor Timeboss Blade played by Tom Murphy Less never-ending quips; animated scenes. James Gray Wolverine played by Hugh Jackman. Falk4Johan Cable! And just more f**king Deadpool! Andrei Vasile I want to see the Dead Presidents. Wayne de Zwart He goes to unsheath his sword, but a giant wobbling dildo is in his hand instead.

34 | sfx magazine | april 2017

Ivious My SFX wish is more X-23 and Wolverine features. Red Coathanger Same scale is the way to go, although I’d pump any extra budget into some quality effects to bring Slayback to life as the main antagonist. NO Stephen Lang; Michael Biehn or Dolph Lundgren as Cable all the way. PatioFred X-23 and Wolverine fighting Apocalypse would have been epic. Charlie Keen I want to laugh like a drain. Judedudemude Chimpanzees. Azae42 More of the same good Deadpool. Lucy Samson I can’t imagine the second one will have the impact of the first, but I reckon so long as

Rose Leslie they keep the edgy humour it’ll be just as much fun. DaNovaPlaya Spider-Man. He makes everything better. shaun1neo This may sound bad, but I liked Wade Wilson’s action scene in X-Men Origins: Wolverine when he’s deflecting bullets with his swords. Azhar Sahota Have some sly references to how bad Green Lantern was. I’m surprised there weren’t any in the first one. [What about the quip about green, animated suits? – Ed] Ann Bains Continue to make it different from all the other superhero movies. Because, let’s face it, other superhero movies are getting pretty boring.


Fantastic Beasts 2 and the punisher Next issue we want your demands for the sequel to JK Rowling’s latest hit, while in SFX 286 we’re going superhero crazy again for the upcoming Netflix series. See for details.

FirstContact April 2017

Your dreAm CAst caBle Dolph Lundgren

domino Ruby Rose

deadpool Ryan Reynolds

april 2017 | sfx magazine |



SPLIT UNIVERSES In 2016 the highest grossing horror movie was  The Conjuring 2 , the second part of a franchise that’s already developing into an expanded universe with  Annabelle 2  coming this year and a scary nun spin-off in the works. Not surprising then that shared universes seem to be replacing the multiple sequel model that was big in the ’80s. Next to “pull an Avengers” is going to be M Night Shyamalan. If you haven’t seen  Split  yet avert your eyes – here be spoilers. Still here? Okay, so a post-credit sequence indicates that Split exists in the same world as Unbreakable and implies that Split’s villain and Unbreakable’s Mr Glass might actually meet in a mental institute. Holy horror superheroes! Shyamalan might have made some bad career choices along the way but this is a bold move, crossing worlds and genres. Seems to be that Night’s heroes and villains won’t be spandexed mutants but people with their own agendas whose powers come from the mind. And for now I’m totally on board.

Terrifying tampons, evil emails and a bold new expanded universe James McAvoy in Split – now part of a shared universe?

PERIOD PAINS There’s a bit in  The Love Witch  (excellent, out 10 March) which alludes to the fact that most men have never seen a used tampon. For something which is such a consistent part of women’s lives it’s an odd concept that it would be so alien to chaps. And what better place to explore the alien than horror? Available to watch for free now on Vimeo is  Tampoon , a very likeable short directed by Jeanne Jo about a sentient feminine hygiene product out for revenge on its host’s knobhead boyfriend. It’s basically Teeth with a tampon, though it does a great job of showing the gross, unnatural side to certain female beauty rituals. For more great tampon horror check out  Excision . Bloody great.

LONG-LIVING DOLL Still beating the multi-part franchise drum, however, is the Child’s Play series. Part 7,  Cult Of Chucky , went into production this month. If we disregard remakes and TV spin-offs this must be one of the only franchises from the ’80s that is still going – it’s been 29 years since the original Good Guy doll turned bad, and Chucky is still voiced by Brad Dourif. The next instalment follows the surprisingly decent Curse Of Chucky. Dirk Gently’s Fiona Dourif (Brad’s daughter) is the institutionalised protagonist who believes she’s responsible for the murder of her family (she’s not). But when a Good Guy doll appears in the institute and the body count starts to rise she might have to think twice. Don Mancini is directing, with co-star Jennifer Tilly also back on the scene. I’m hoping it’ll have the same blend of cheeky/ creepy that made Curse really work.

The killer doll is back in Cult Of Chucky.

THE TERROR OF TECH Long have I been bemoaning the poor curation on streaming services such as Netflix – there’s lots of good stuff on there, but they make damn sure it’s impossible to find or

36 | sfx magazine | april 2017

identify. Amazon Prime is no better. Despite carrying indie gems like  Nina Forever ,  Rubber ,  It Follows  and  A Girl Walks Home  Alone At Night  they’re buried away with the dubious pleasures of  Killbillies  and  Fertilize  The Blaspheming Bombshell . One title that caught my eye was  The Attachment , just for how incredibly boring it sounds. Apparently it’s a rather generic satanic horror, but in my mind it’s a fab new J-horror about a cursed email attachment containing a virus… of evil! The Attachment’s expanded universe would include Out Of Office, about a haunted OOO reply, and Autosig (similar), to be followed by the truly terrifying Mail Merge, where someone gets merged with some mail. Or something. Get Hideo Nakata on the blower!

The Attachment: sadly not about killer email.

Dreadful things to do Frightfest comes to Glasgow on Thursday 23 to Saturday 25 February, packed with screenings and guests. This year it has the UK premieres of A Cure For Wellness and Patient Zero (with Matt Smith) and a sneak peek of Dominic Brunt’s Attack Of  The Adult Babies! Head to for tickets and a full line-up.

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Freespeak Opinion

where writers and opinions collide


spells are great but should be used with caution, says VE Schwab


Stardust’s Lamia: good at spelling.

“ThRouGh MAGIC we LeARn The TRuTh AbouT ouR ChARACTeRs”

agic in books can be a dangerous thing. The greatest risk of introducing magic into a story is that it comes without natural caveats. It is up to the writer to give it shape, law, limitation. Used poorly, magic becomes a kind of cheat, a carte blanche used to make anything possible, and in so doing undermine everything, from the stakes to the fabric of the world they’ve made. For what is a world without rules, without some kind of inherent order? And what is magic if not the opposite, the lawless, the chaotic, the unbound? Even assuming a set of stalwart rules, a well-thought-out world, and a naturalistic approach, there’s still the hurdle of magic itself, the fact that its own potential is rather boundless. Yes, magic in books can be a dangerous thing. But used well – not as the fictional equivalent of the “Why? Because” argument – it has the potential to be arguably the most malleable tool in a fantasy writer’s arsenal. Not only can it help define the world, but its true narrative strength lies in a simple but vital contrast. Magic may be limitless, but those who wield it are not. So often in the discussion of magic, we overlook the obvious fact that, in almost all cases, it requires a vessel – magician, mage, sorcerer, witch, wizard, spellworker – whatever you’d like to call them. And the most delightful thing about people is that they’re full of flaws. There are no perfect vessels in this or any world (and if you try to write one, I promise, they will be boring). No, people are chipped, broken, brimming with their own ideas and their own motives, their own weaknesses and strengths, and the magically-inclined are no different. Here we find the natural and varying boundaries of magic, not by imposing any on its raw state, but simply by putting it in the hands of people. By leashing it to flawed minds, harnessing it inside vessels capable of good and evil, selfishness and grace, the full spectrum of human need and desire and will. Magic corrupts and enables, hinders and empowers, changes in volume and strength depending on the mental, physical, and moral faculties of its host. But one way or another, it is contained. Magic requires a counterbalance, and it finds the perfect foil in its magicians. Readers and writers erroneously assume that the greatest utility of magic lies in its limitless potential, while in truth, it lies in its limitations. That is to say, in the ways in which magic is transformed by its interaction with characters, the ways in which they shape – either by nature or by choice – its powers to their own designs, their own desires, and their own limits. Writers alone may be bounded only by their own imaginations, but characters – like all people – are bounded by their own bodies, their own minds, and those boundaries apply to the magic they endeavour to possess. And just as a weak mind bends under pressure, it is safe to assume it will bend under power, under magic. Perhaps it cannot support much of either, or perhaps it is overwhelmed by both. The interactions between magic and magician are not – should not – be uniform or predictable, but as varied as the characters themselves. For it is through that interaction of magic and magician that we learn the fundamental truth about our characters. It is in that limited manifestation of magic that we gain insight into the nature of those capable – or incapable – of wielding it.

A Conjuring Of Light by VE Schwab is out on 21 February from Titan Books.

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book club Celebrating ClassiC sF & Fantasy novels


THE COMPLETE BOOK OF SWORDS by Fred Saberhagen, 1983-4 Bradley Beaulieu celebrates a saga where the swords are the stars The Complete Book Of Swords by Fred Saberhagen is, on its surface, a story about the Twelve Swords of Power, a set of weapons crafted by the god Vulcan with the help of one mortal servant. The swords are forged from sky metal, and are imbued with the qualities of man: their fears and hopes, their joys and anger, qualities passed in varying degrees to each of the weapons when tempered in their sweat and blood. When Vulcan gives his faithful servant one of the swords, Townsaver, a sword that can stand against any enemy, it begins a winding journey in which each of the swords’ abilities are revealed. Swords of unimaginable power – indeed, swords that could topple kingdoms – now roam the land. There is Farslayer, a sword that, when thrown into the air, unerringly seeks the heart of the one named by the wielder, becoming lost to its previous owner in the process. Stonecutter can cut through mountains or tear down castle walls. Coinspinner brings luck to its bearer, but only for as long as the sword itself chooses. And Shieldbreaker can destroy any weapon brought against it, including other swords of power. The introduction of these swords represents a paradigm shift in the world, which is a great part of the fun of this series. They became equalisers of a sort. The nobility are fearful. And rightfully so! Could Farslayer not be sent against them at any moment? Could Sightblinder not lead their greatest enemy to stand before them without them realising it until the sword is driven through their breast? For a time, all is thrown into chaos as knowledge of the swords spreads. What

follows is a delicious upsetting of the power structure, creating a mad scramble by lord and peasant alike to gain control of as many swords as possible. Even the gods quake, for Vulcan imbued the swords with the power to slay gods and mortals both. If you enjoy The Complete Book Of Swords, a gateway is opened. The trilogy tells a complete arc, but leaves many unanswered questions about the swords that remain. Enter Saberhagen’s subsequent The Book Of Lost

Like this? Try these! tHieves’ WorlD by robert asPrin (1978)

the opening volume in a series of shared-world anthologies, set in a city of outlaws and adventurers in a world of war and wizardry, a place where gods struggle for primacy.

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tHe blaCK CoMPany by glen CooK (1984)

the story of a fabled company of mercenaries who take up with soulcatcher, one of the ten Who Were taken, and lady, a powerful wizard from an evil empire.

Swords, a series in which each new volume reveals the fate of a specific sword after the primary conflict has ended. Throughout both series, hints are given about the nature of the gods and even the world itself. There is a buried history hinted at but never quite seen. Saberhagen was a man who lived through World War II and the Red Scare that followed, later serving in the US Armed Forces during the Korean War, and like many writers of his age, the wars and the years of unrest he lived to see found their way into his writing. While The Complete Book Of Swords is a fantasy-first story, it eventually becomes clear that it has science fictional underpinnings. Ardneh, the supreme being in the world of Swords, is in fact an artificial consciousness left over from a time of great technological advancement. Its true name is ARDNEH (Automatic Restoration Director – National Executive Headquarters), and the story of how it saved humanity from nearly assured nuclear destruction, a time known as the Change, is detailed in a third part, Empire Of The East. The heart of the series, however, is the swords. Their tale is fun, exciting and everchanging, a twist on the typical high fantasy story of its day. Trust me. Just try the first. I’m willing to lay odds you’ll gobble up the rest. Blood Upon The Sand, the second book in Bradley Beaulieu’s Song Of The Shattered Sands series, is published on 9 February.

NEXT ISSUE in our next book Club (in SFX 285, on sale 1 March), Alex Verus series author benedict Jacka looks back on the late richard adams’ classic rabbit tale Watership Down. Whether you’ve never read it before or fancy giving it another go, this is your chance to peruse it before a top writer gives his verdict.

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kong: skull island

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kong: skull island

april 2017 | sfx magazine |


kong: skull island

Star Tom Hiddleston and director Jordan Vogt-Roberts discuss the storming of Skull Island.

The original 1933 fantasy epic is part fairytale, part cautionary fable – and the quintessential giant monster movie, inspiring countless storytellers, some of whom have created their own versions of the Eighth Wonder of the World. Dino De Laurentiis put the great ape in a metaphor for corporate greed in 1976, while Peter Jackson brought him back to his Depression-era roots – albeit with cutting-edge digital effects – in his 2005 reimagining. Now Kong finds himself at the centre of the shared universe Legendary Entertainment began with 2015’s Godzilla, building towards the creature-on-creature slamdown of 2020’s Godzilla Vs Kong. But director Jordan Vogt-Roberts tells SFX he’s careful not to get ahead of himself with

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Yep, they’re definitely on Skull Island… Kong: Skull Island, a film that gives audiences the biggest version of the beloved beast yet seen in an English-language movie. “The King Kong Vs Godzilla Kong,” he says, referring to the 1962 Japanese production, “there’s not technically a size given to him. But if you were to take scale cues, technically that Kong would be bigger.”

Vogt-Roberts’s attention to such geeky details helped land him the job of helming a film that could do for monster movies what Marvel did for superhero films. It even borrows three of

Marvel’s stars: Tom Hiddleston and future Captain Marvel Brie Larson – as a former soldier and a war photographer, respectively – and Samuel L Jackson as US Army Lt Colonel Packard, on a mission to explore Kong’s lethal South Seas home in the ’Nam-era ’70s. “It’s interesting,” explains Vogt-Roberts of the challenge in making a film that stands on its own while building a bigger cinematic universe. “A lot of the press right now has run with the idea that Kong is only big because of his need to fight Godzilla in a future movie. That’s actually completely false. Because one of the first things that I wanted to do was make him bipedal and make him big. If you stand in

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kong: skull island

You shot this film in Vietnam, Hawaii and Australia. How did that ground the production? There was this palpable sense among every member of the cast that to be in a Kong film was such a privilege, and to be in these locations. Because there’s something very timeless about the myth of Kong, and the idea of mankind going into undiscovered countries, going into the jungle and being humbled by the power of nature as represented by Kong. Jordan [Vogt-roberts] chose three exquisite locations on the planet where nature is at its most beautiful and terrifying. These were places of natural beauty and also danger. We just felt so lucky to be there.

One of the first things I wanted to do was make him bipedal and make him big

Does your character butt heads with Samuel L Jackson’s over their feelings towards Kong? They both have different experiences, military experiences. I play Conrad, who’s a British SAS tracker, someone whose skill set is in the recovery of lost soldiers in jungle warfare. Packard is the colonel of a brigade who’s been serving. They’re bonded at the beginning by the fact that they agree you never leave a man behind. Packard is proud that he’s come out of the conflict in Vietnam with all his men. They get an easy job – a fact-finding mapping mission in the South Pacific – and he loses half his men, because of the appearance of this terrifying creature; and he’s hellbent on vengeance. In that moment, he can’t see the big picture – which is we just have to let it be and get off the island alive. It’s an interesting human tension that these two experienced soldiers have different interpretations of how best to deal with the situation.

…or could it be Skeleton Island…

rex (1)

front of a 25-foot gorilla you’re gonna think, ‘That’s a really big gorilla.’ If you stand in front of a 100-foot-tall bipedal ape with a sense of nobility to it, I want your brain to say, ‘The only way I reconcile this is to say that’s a god. That’s something primordial that’s bigger than me. That’s something I can’t possibly understand. I am being confronted directly with myth. I’m looking at myth.’ So what does your brain do? How do you react? How do you pivot? How do you respond? How do you move forward? There are obvious franchise connections in terms of where his size goes and what that does, but for me the size has nothing to do with that. It’s purely about the human perception of

What was your relationship with Kong before making this movie? I’ve always loved Kong. I find the myth of some kind of lonely god or an alpha predator alone at the top of the food chain… Kind of like Loki? [Laughs] I don’t know if he’d describe himself in those terms. He’s certainly not as powerful. I think Kong would squash Loki in a second… Kong has always seemed to be a noble creature in my mind. Kong lives in the natural domain of dangerous jungle, and in every story somehow humans arrogantly enter that domain without permission and do what they want. You can’t help but empathise with Kong, that he can’t do anything about it. I think we still need that. We like to think we’re at the pinnacle of human history and our technological advances are evolving our supremacy over all the other animals of the earth. But we still need to be humbled by the power of the natural world. I was in Australia doing Thor: Ragnarok and I had a house in Queensland and I could run along the beach, and I saw humpback whales. every time I saw them I felt smaller, that out there were these enormous intelligent creatures. We all feel this profound need for that.

april 2017 | sfx magazine |


kong: skull island

looking in awe at something bigger than us. Because a big part of the movie is about how this universe is bigger than us.” To that end, Vogt-Roberts was intent on populating his Skull Island with creatures not seen in previous Kong movies. “The first mandate for me was ‘No dinosaurs’,” he tells SFX. “Jurassic World owns that as far as I’m concerned, and Peter Jackson’s version did such a great job with that V-Rex fight. So I don’t want to retread on that at all. Then it was, ‘Okay, how do we create a new set of creatures that feel like if Kong is the god of his domain then these are the individual gods of their domains?’ Miyazaki and Princess Mononoke and in a weird way Pokémon were odd reference points. Because I wanted these things to have a spirituality to them and an essence to them, and I wanted all of them to simultaneously be gorgeous and terrifying.”

“There’s a pacifism at play in the movie with a lot of these creatures,” continues Vogt-Roberts. “With what is bad, what is good, what is going to hurt you and not, what makes you terrified. So it was a long design process of trying to find things that didn’t feel like you’d seen them in another movie. That didn’t feel like they belonged on a dinosaur island or some fantasy universe, and also felt iconic. I wanted all of them to feel majestic and have the same sense of wonder. So it was a long process until we hit on the Miyazaki of it all – to find these things that felt spiritual and that aren’t just gigantism, but that all have a different conceit to them. Because the way in which the creatures reveal themselves and the way in which they exist in their domains is specific to the environments.”

The first mandate for me was ‘No dinosaurs’. Jurassic World owns that Of course, there are other creatures on the island too.

showdown to the newly opened World Trade Center. Meanwhile fleapit rumpo merchant Robin Askwith cops a load of Queen Kong and gets the attention of De Laurentiis’s lawyers.

King Kong is released, the creation of producer and showman Merian C Cooper. With a working title of The Beast, it’s inspired by the book Explorations And Adventures In Equatorial Africa, which described a giant gorilla as a “hellish dream creature”. Fast-tracked, lighter-hearted sequel The Son Of Kong returns to Skull Island, introducing a sweet-natured albino gorilla nicknamed “Little Kong”.

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Japan’s Toho Studios licence the great ape for kaiju-on-kaiju brawl-fest King Kong Vs Godzilla. This Kong lives on Faro Island and is powered, bogglingly, by electricity. Oi, Attenborough, what’s that about? Kong gets the toon treatment in The King Kong Show. He’s a friendlier, more heroic ape, saving the world from monsters, robots and crazed boffins. Toho release King Kong Escapes,

pitting the furry monarch against the merciless metal paws of Mechani-Kong, his remotecontrolled robot double. Italian schlock-mogul Dino De Laurentiis remakes King Kong, updating the Empire State

Dino delivers tardy sequel King Kong Lives, revealing the great ape has been in a decade-long coma after his tumble from the towers. California’s Universal Studios theme park opens the King Kong Encounter ride, complete with noxious blasts of “banana breath” ™. Kong: The Animated Series stars the clone of the original planeswatter. Two direct-to-DVD movies follow a few years later: Kong: King Of Atlantis and Kong: Return To The Jungle.

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kong: skull island He’s really nice except when he gets riled.

Your character is a war photographer… She is very much in it and on the front. She’s all about getting the shot, and is self-described as an “anti-war” photographer. She’s interested in telling the truth, which is why going on this mission is so important to her; because she’s not afraid to be part of this mission. every character in this movie that’s going on this mission is searching for glory, wanting to be noticed, to have their time. Then it’s not until they’re actually on the island that they realise, “Oh, there’s actually no such thing as glory in this space. We are in nature. There’s just survival. There’s nothing beyond that.”

The local tribe don’t give their visitors the warmest of welcomes.

Chinese actress Tian Jing plays the gun-toting San. Peter Jackson’s King Kong is an ambitious, dazzling remake, reimagining its primate protagonist as a scarred, greying silverback (Megaprimatus Kong, don’cha know). Original Kong star Fay Wray declines a cameo. A King Kong musical is staged in Melbourne, with music by

sometime Bowie collaborator Marius De Vries. At 20 feet high, Kong himself is the biggest puppet ever created for a stage production. Netflix animated series Kong: King Of The Apes relocates the Skull Island sovereign to 2050, battling an evil genius with a battalion of cyber-dinosaurs.

Is she changed by what she sees on Skull Island? She learns a lot about what it means to be a hero, and what it means to be a journalist. Where do we draw the line? It’s a really interesting question now, in a world where there’s just so much information happening. It poses these questions of when is it enough, or when can we just let something be. Why does it need to be exploited anymore? What does it prove to take another beautiful thing down? What’s it like starring opposite Kong? I really love Kong a lot. I love his gentleness and his expression and his passion, and that he is actually a very kind, gentle character unless provoked, which is a beautiful thing. It’s not like we’re dealing with this monster who’s a giant terror. He’s actually a good king. Just don’t mess with him!

april 2017 | sfx magazine |


kong: skull island The film’s set in the 1970s, so don’t expect any of that swish internet stuff.

While building his menagerie, Vogt-Roberts was also keen on making audiences sympathise with its king. “You and I can sit here as people and put on whatever masks we have and present our image to the world; and at the end of the day there’s a person inside of us that we often feel is misunderstood or misinterpreted. The core of Kong to some degree is the tragedy of this misunderstood creature. That element as a whole is just something very relatable to everyone, regardless of how self-aware they are about their life. That element about Kong in particular is one of the reasons that the first film is still a fantastic piece of storytelling. So for us it was just important to tee off of those ideas that made it great. Then do something new with it, to play within that mythos but not retread on it exactly.”

As an example, Vogt-Roberts tells us Kong: Skull Island’s heroine won’t echo such screamy predecessors as Fay Wray. “I think people will be very impressed by the lack of tropes that Tom and Brie fall into. She is not a damsel in distress. She is not the beauty to the beast necessarily. There are elements of that within the film, but that is not the story we’re telling. They have a trajectory together and people will be very impressed by what it is and what it isn’t. “But,” he laughs, “people will be very happy that Brie in particular is not constantly in need of saving.”

Hang on, some of these tree trunks ain’t tree trunks…

Kong: Skull Island opens on 10 March.

KING KONG (1933)






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KING KONG (1976)


KING KONG LIVES (1986) 60ft

KING KONG (2005) 25ft

KONG: SKULL ISLAND (2017) 100ft

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kong: skull island

Will there be a Vietnam vibe to the movie?

What kind of a man is Packard? He’s an army lifer, who’s probably been in Vietnam since it started. When we find him in the film the war’s ending and for him there’s a bit of disappointment in the fact that we’re abandoning the effort, and he’s kind of not accepting the fact that maybe we lost the war. He’s not happy about that. He’s happy that his guys survived it and are going home. Then he gets a call to take these scientists to this island, and he’s kind of happy for one more mission, to be with his guys. They get to the island and they get attacked, his men start dying, and he essentially becomes Captain Ahab chasing the white whale – trying to avenge the deaths of his men.

Roaring into his seventh big-screen appearance.

Were you a fan of King Kong? Oh, totally. That’s like a kid’s dream. You get to run away from something big and hairy and scary, and try and defeat it. That’s part of what Colonel Packard believes – no matter how big or scary or whatever this thing is, we’re men. We’ve held dominion on this planet since we showed up. So there’s gotta be a way to kill this thing.

Concept art for the villagers’ boat.

How different is this movie from the Kong movies we’ve seen before? I’m in it [laughs]! I don’t know… He’s bigger! That was always the question on set, “How big is it?” or “Where is it?” or “How high up should we be looking?” That was the most important thing on set, that no matter what we did the gorilla looked great. From what I can see, he looks pretty great.

april 2017 | sfx magazine |



Who’s the baddest big beast of all?

Stephen Kelly gives us the ultimate creature countdown...


Red dWaRf 1992

The giant squid is almost a genre in itself, with 1954’s 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea being its most notable example. But for something a bit more recent we turn to one of Red Dwarf’s best episodes, “Back To Reality”. It’s where we’re introduced to the despair squid, a giant sea creature whose ink causes predators to kill themselves through hallucinations designed to depress. In the Red Dwarf crew’s case, it was that for the last four years they had actually been playing Red Dwarf: The Total Immersion Video Game.

docToR Who 2008

Doctor Who doesn’t usually go in for giant, city-destroying monsters. There’s Kroll, of course. And the Weeping Angel Statue of Liberty. But for proper “stomping on your house, squashing your family of five” terror, you need the CyberKing: the Cybermen’s huge, Iron Giant-style bipedal robot, usually used to lead planetary invasions, upgrading populations en masse. In 2008 Christmas special “The Next Doctor” it rises out of the Thames to rampage all over Victorian London. Just like the history books told us.

The loRd of The Rings: The felloWship of The Ring 2001

A growl in the darkness; a flicker of light, growing brighter and brighter. We feel the Balrog before we see it; we feel its creeping approach, its ability to scatter an army of Orcs out of sheer fear. We know: something horrifying is coming. Of course, most monsters couldn’t possibly live up to those expectations, but the Balrog does a wizard job. Who needs to be 100ft tall when you’re literally made out of fire?

The BloB 1958

The Blob is exactly what The Blob sounds like: a film about a blob. And in 1958, that was more than enough for a feature length drive-in classic. The Blob, or “alien amoeba”, lands in a rural Pennsylvanian town after a meteor crash, and enjoys eating people and upsetting a pre-Great Escape Steve McQueen. Thankfully, the Blob hates the cold, and is frozen and shipped off to the Arctic. When global warming kicks in that’s going to be one hell of a sequel.

ReTuRn of The Jedi 1983

Jabba the Hutt was never going to have a dog – how would he walk it? Instead he prefers the 16ft, Gamorrean-eating Rancor, who he feeds unsuspecting enemies/employees/enslaved Twi’lek dancers to via a trap door. It is terrifying, obviously – a huge, grotesque beast who could pick you up with ease – and a remarkable feat of rod-operated puppetry, matte paintings and rotoscoping. No wonder that topless guy cries when it dies.

AprIL 2017 | Sfx mAgAzIne |



The goodies 1971

Monsters come in many forms, and sometimes that form is an adorable kitten walking across a model London. It’s Kitten Kong, of course! This notable episode from ’70s British comedy The Goodies employed the wonderfully naff storyline of a cat who’s eaten some growth mixture, and turned into a giant Kong-esque moggie terrifying the streets, destroying St Paul’s Cathedral and killing newsman Michael Aspel. The original Grumpy Cat.

The call of cThulhu 2005

HP Lovecraft’s Cthulhu is perhaps the most famous giant monster in the whole of literature. Yet the tentacled god of the deep has only ever been done justice once on screen – in 2005 indie silent film The Call Of Cthulhu. Directed by Andrew Leman, and distributed by the HP Lovecraft Historical Society, it’s a chilly and authentic homage to the 1920s films of Lovecraft’s era, with Cthulhu himself cutting a terrifying presence in black-and-white.

gameRa: The gianT monsTeR 1965

Them! 1954

Giant flying turtle Gamera made his debut in the aptly named Gamera: The Giant Monster in 1965. Coming in the wake of the kaiju craze in Japan, he was originally intended to rival Godzilla, but soon became an icon in his own right; signifying, like Mothra, the shift from Japan viewing kaijus as atomic terrors to protectors, friends and allies of the human race. Just take 1970’s Gamera Vs Jiger, where the turtle must team up with a group of children to fight a massive iguana. It’s wild.

cloveRfield 2008

The atomic age informed monster movies both in Japan and America. A classic example of the latter was the giant killer ants of Them!, who sparked the “big bug” movie trend of the ’50s. Mutated from the first atomic bomb test, the insects make up for years and years of being trodden on in style, marching through the New Mexico desert before chomping down on Los Angeles. A Bug’s Life, it is not.

Mystery has always been more exciting than reality, which is why – despite being an enormous, meticulously designed monster, with a huge backstory, and reasons for why it does what it does – the best thing about the Cloverfield monster is that we barely see it at all. Instead, its power lies in stolen glances; the chaos and destruction happening off camera. For the imagination can construct monsters far more terrifying than anything you could ever dread to see.

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TRemoRs 1990

A throwback to the big bug films of the ’50s, this 1990 thriller introduced us to the giant, man-eating earthworms dubbed “Graboids”. Although owing a debt to the slippery cousins of Dune, the Graboids were an impressive achievement in practical effects; especially their tongues, which are also worm-like creatures in themselves. Aggressive and beautifully realised, they proved the perfect threat, capable of popping up any time, anywhere.

aTTack on TiTan 2013

Japanese anime Attack On Titan takes place in a world where mankind must survive against grotesque, naked, people-eating giants: Titans. The Titans themselves are a cruel, misshapen take on human anatomy, with each one special in their own creepy way. But then there’s also the way they act: giant man-babies bouncing around the world with child-like glee; pulling off heads, snapping bones and flinging people around like ragdolls.

moThRa 1961

In the wake of Godzilla in 1954, most kaiju monsters were typified as weapons of mass destruction; an attitude informed by the atomic bombings of Japan a decade earlier. Yet Mothra, literally a giant moth, introduced the concept of the good monster, one who would fight to protect humanity against the likes of Godzilla, who she did indeed fight in a 1964 film. Not that they stayed enemies for long, eventually teaming up to protect Japan against even greater threats.

20 million miles To eaRTh 1957

This ’50s drive-in classic brought us the “Ymir”, a dinosaur-esque alien that crash-lands on Earth and grows huge thanks to our oxygen atmosphere. Although only initially interested in eating sulphur, human intervention gradually angers the Ymir, and sends the shrieking 25ft tall, three-clawed creature on a rampage through Rome. All he wanted was to see the Colosseum.

The hosT 2006

This satirical Korean film is about how toxin dumping in a Seoul harbour give birth to a large, ferocious fish-monster; a swipe at the US military dumping a large amount of formaldehyde down the drain in 2000. The monster itself is not only fast, savage and ruthless, but looks terrifying in a way most kaijus don’t, with its dark, slippery look going on to inspire movies such as Cloverfield and Pacific Rim. Not to mention putting everyone off their sea food. AprIL 2017 | Sfx mAgAzIne |



The BeasT fRom 20,000 faThoms 1953 Ray Harryhausen, the stop-motion whiz who created the Ymir, got his big break with the Rhedosaurus, a gigantic, four-legged frozen dinosaur who’s discovered frozen in ice in the Arctic Circle. Naturally, he’s thawed out; and naturally, he escapes to wreak havoc. Not only was Rhedosaurus a wonderful design, but he was also one of the first examples of Dynamation, Harryhausen’s patented technique to blend stop-motion models more naturally with their live-acton surroundings. The effect was dynamite.

godzilla 1954

The enduring power of Godzilla has seen the beast take both Japanese and Western cinema as its stomping ground for over five decades now. Designed as a prehistoric sea monster exposed to radiation, Godzilla’s first film appearance was in 1954, and was originally conceived to be an allegorical comment on the nuclear bombings of Japan at the end of World War II. Godzilla quickly became a cultural icon, and has appeared in 29 films since his movie debut, a hit so big it inspired its own genre, kaiju eiga (Japanese monster movies), and also made villains such as Biollante and Mechagodzilla stars.

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JuRassic paRk 1993 ghosTBusTeRs 1984 Devised by Dan Aykroyd under the logic that “everything can be turned black and become evil”, the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man was a dark twist on the giant monster, its terror coming not from giant tentacles or sharp teeth, but the perversion of something innocent and ordinary. Hence Stay Puft having since become one of the most iconic aspects of the Ghostbusters franchise.

king kong 1933

First introduced in the 1933 classic, King Kong became one of the most legendary movie icons of all time, the image of the giant ape scaling the Empire State Building remaining one of cinema’s most enduring moments. He was the creation of Merian C Cooper, whose childhood fascination with gorillas would marry the groundbreaking effects of Willis O’Brien, the stop-motion animator behind 1925’s The Lost World. The innovative use of stop-motion animation, matte painting, rear projection and miniatures were a thrilling combination at the time. Not even beauty could ever truly kill this beast.

Technically, the Tyrannosaurus Rex is not a monster – it’s an extinct animal – but try telling that to someone running for their life (in heels or otherwise). Yet beyond sheer prehistoric terror, the T-Rex was also a technical marvel; a combination of groundbreaking animatronics and CGI that not only wowed audiences, but ushered in a new era of digital effects-led cinema. As Steven Spielberg says himself, it’s “the star of the movie”.

carrie fisher

C a r rie Fisher –


Fighting fame, her demons or the Empire, Carrie Fisher led a life that was brave and extraordinary. Nick Setchfield pays tribute to the late Star Wars icon 58 | sfx magazine | april 2017

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carrie fisher

princess april 2017 | sfx magazine |


youNg talENt

Star Wars came for her in 1975, and would never let her go. At 19 she had a lone credit on her showreel – a sexually forward Californian teen in Shampoo – and had gone to London to perfect her craft at the Central School of Speech and Drama. She passed on her first chance to audition, not wanting to miss school. “George [Lucas]’s concept of the princess was an independent, strong one,” remembered veteran casting director Dianne Crittenden.

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As a toddler, with her mother, Singin’ In The Rain star Debbie Reynolds.

Reunited with her Star Wars colleagues in 2005.

Learning from one of the greats, Peter Cushing.

I fell asleep one day on the set and dreamed about half-robots, halfpeople ‘What?’” she recalled. “I haven’t had a chance to absorb the madness.” This was a vertiginous new tier of fame, beyond even her parents’ stardom – Eddie Fisher never became a Pez dispenser or a pillowcase – and Fisher couldn’t shake the feeling Star Wars had “tricked” her into celebrity. She shared the experience with her similarly dazed co-stars (“It was like we were in a garage band together that somehow hit it huge,” Mark Hamill remembers).

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getty (4)

When Luke Skywalker first catches sight of her, she’s a hologram. “Help me, Obi-Wan Kenobi,” she implores, nothing more than a flickering electric angel. “You’re my only hope.” It’s a line so famous you almost don’t hear the words anymore. She’s just as unreal, just as unearthly, in the closing seconds of Rogue One. She turns to camera, serene and supernaturally young, the decades smoothed away by the ILM render farm. But there’s something amiss with this freaky digital madonna, something missing from this premature ghost. A spark, a spirit. Something fearless, messy, hilarious, haywire and human. Everything that gave life to Princess Leia Organa of Alderaan. Everything that was Carrie Fisher. She was born into fame, the daughter of film star Debbie Reynolds and pop idol Eddie Fisher. “I’m a product of Hollywood inbreeding,” she recalled, with characteristic self-awareness. “When two celebrities mate, something like me is the result.” Her parents divorced when she was two, sending the tabloid gossip machine into overdrive. The spotlight remained relentless. Fisher’s childhood was lit by the twin glare of pap flashbulbs and soundstage Klieg lamps but she escaped Tinseltown’s unreality with unrealities of her own choosing. “I hid in books,” she said. “I really liked the way everything worked out, to some extent or other, in a book.” She read everything from Archie comics to Dostoevsky, Dickens to Dorothy Parker. “I was just in love with words and they saved me from a lot of stuff. Books were my first drug. They took me away from everything and I would just consume them.” She nailed down her own inner worlds, too, writing poems and journals, rehearsing her ultimate career as the author of spiky, blackly witty dissections of Hollywood life.

“Someone who was capable of leading her people, as opposed to some fragile fairytale kind of princess.” Lucas saw thousands of potential Leias, casting alongside fellow “movie brat” director Brian De Palma, searching for supporting actors for his Stephen King adaptation Carrie. “I was not intimidated by either of them,” said Fisher, who tested in Los Angeles on 30 December 1975, the day Mark Hamill tried out for the role of Luke. “I was sort of fearless. I didn’t feel any desperation about my career, but I did want that job.” Perhaps Fisher recognised another imaginative bolthole in Lucas’s insanely detailed universe. “I wanted to be involved in all of it, with Wookiees, with the monsters in the cantina. I was caught by my mother and some of my family rehearsing it in my underwear. I would come out of the bathroom and say ‘General Kenobi!’” De Palma, crushingly, told her teen star Jodie Foster was the inside favourite. Terri Nunn was another rumoured frontrunner. But while casting director Crittenden thought Fisher was “formidable”, Lucas saw a quality Nunn didn’t possess: “If [Carrie] played a tough person, somehow underneath it you knew that she really had a warm heart.” With a weekly salary of $850 she was conscripted into the Rebellion. “I was at a surreal age, on a surreal set,” remembered Fisher, years later. The equally surreal hairstyle was one of 30 the filmmakers tried on her. Lucas called it “a kind of Southwestern Pancho Villa woman revolutionary look”; Fisher hated it regardless. She could never quite lose herself in this galaxy far, far away. “I always felt as if I were a girl who was being led into this $10,000,000 boy’s toy,” she told Playboy in 1983. The disconnect between hyperspace-jumping make-believe and the plywood-and-tea-break reality of Elstree Studios was acute. “I watched my planet blow up as a blackboard with a circle drawn on it – and a bored Englishman holding it up.” Confronting Peter Cushing as the sinister Grand Moff Tarkin was a challenge too. “I had to say, ‘I recognised your foul stench…’ but the man smelled like linen and lavender.” While she was thrown by Lucas’s blunt, distant manner on set – she called it “black and white direction”; “Act more like a princess, stand up straight” – the shy young director was one of the first to spot her talent as a storyteller. When Sir Alec Guinness was struggling with the character of Obi-Wan Kenobi Lucas asked Fisher to write him a short story, helping the veteran actor find his inner Jedi master. Maybe she wrote the very first piece of Star Wars spin-off fiction… Star Wars opened on 25 May 1977. Like Alderaan, Carrie Fisher’s world exploded. “I used to drive by and look at the lines and think

carrie fisher

Marquand on Return Of The Jedi, a film that was by all accounts a dispiriting experience for her. Leia’s slave girl outfit may have been Lucas’s tribute to the spicy, pseudo-Arabian imagery of the early SF pulps but Fisher was unconvinced, dismissing it as “what supermodels will eventually wear in the seventh ring of hell.” Slaying nefarious uber-slug Jabba the Hutt was much more fulfilling: “They asked me on the day if I wanted to have a stunt double kill Jabba. No! That’s the best time I ever had as an actor. And the only reason to go into acting is if you can kill a giant monster.” It’s a classic Fisher line, winking behind the words, lancing the absurdity of her world. It’s a trait she traded on after Star Wars, penning the barbed, semi-autobiographical novel Postcards From The Edge in 1987. More books followed, some strictly confessional, each of them exposing her vulnerability as much as her quickfire smarts.

FIFth ColumNISt

Cuddling up with her favourite Wookiee. “We didn’t know how to be famous,” Fisher admitted. “We toured on a massive junket, and in every town we went straight from doing press to whatever amusement park was available. I can still see Harrison hanging upside down in a Ferris wheel monkey cage in Seattle, in his talk show suit and tie. Harrison was very dignified. Needless to say, we attracted a lot of attention.” It’s hard to imagine a more perfect metaphor for the hurricane madness of it all. This universe crept inside her. “You know, I remember falling asleep one day on the set and dreaming about half-robots, half-people,” she said in 1980. “You’re hanging around the set for three or four months and you’re going to lunch with midgets and giants every day; eventually it permeates the brain. So I had these violent nightmares, dreams where you keep trying to impose your reality and you can’t. It gets you crazy.”

By The Empire Strikes Back Fisher and Ford were partying with the Rolling Stones (they filmed their arrival on Cloud City the morning after, and Fisher always maintained you could see the rock and roll comedown in their eyes). But she was diligent in her spare time, too, taking herself to London arthouse cinemas to study how silent film actors used their faces in close-up. She knew Star Wars was all about the power of the visual. But still she was frustrated when director Irvin Kershner excluded her from dialogue discussions with Ford. “I possibly didn’t give her the time I should have,” Kershner confessed, decades later, “but I didn’t want to mess with her instincts because she seemed to be an intuitive actress. And she would get into a scene remarkably well, so I decided to leave her alone and give her as little instruction as possible. I think it worked – her performance was wonderful.” Fisher also clashed with director Richard

Fisher was honest to the point of selflaceration, turning her battles with substance abuse, depression and bipolar disorder into writing that was sly and warm and ultimately uplifting. “I do believe you’re only as sick as your secrets,” she argued. “If that’s true, I’m just really healthy.” She felt like a fifth columnist against the forces of glamour and celebrity, a saboteur on the Hollywood homefront, keeping a droll distance from the fame machine while living inside it. “I am a spy in the house of me,” she declared. Fisher kept acting – her natural sass stole 1989’s When Harry Met Sally – and found work as a script doctor, making uncredited fixes on everything from The Wedding Singer to the Star Wars prequels. She collaborated with Lucas again in 1993, writing the Mata Hari episode of The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles. When she returned in 2015’s The Force Awakens it was on her own terms. Her tripwire wit made her a gloriously off-brand presence on the promo circuit – Leia’s latest hairstyle? A “baboon ass” – and she parried ungallant comments about her older appearance with trademark moxie. But Fisher was clearly fond of that galaxy far, far away, for all that she wielded irony like a Force-master. And she loved the capable, irascible, independent princess to the end, recognising that she changed the rules of movies. You’ll find the legacy of her alter ego in the new generation of Star Wars heroes, the fearless Rey, the gutsy Jyn Erso. “I got to be the only girl in an all-boy fantasy, and it’s a great role for women,” Fisher once said. “She’s a very proactive character and gets the job done. So if you’re going to get typecast as something, that might as well be it for me.” april 2017 | sfx magazine |


Close Encounters face to face with the biggest stars

TIMOTHY OLYPHANT The Santa Clarita Diet is dark, delicious and deadly... Words by Nick Setchfield /// Photography by Steve Schofield

This show has such a dark, peculiar premise. What appealed to you about the script when you got it? In addition to the fact that it was a dark, peculiar premise [laughs]? From the first couple of pages in I found it to be just wonderfully funny and entertaining. And as it went on, in the best way, in the best possible way, I kept asking myself, “What the fuck is this?” It was hilarious, and it was bizarre, and it was so simple. I found it oddly and wonderfully relatable. It didn’t feel forced. By the time I put it down I thought, “Oh, I get it. It’s about a marriage!” My only question was, “What happens next?” Is your taste in comedy usually that black? I tend to like a little edge to things. I like a little violence in my comedy. My favourite comedic performances tend to be a little scary and my favourite dramatic performances tend to be a little funny. If I can find that contradiction, I’m in. At the risk of sounding obnoxious or pretentious or whatever adjective you think here, I don’t think of drama and comedy as any different. I really don’t. Is it a challenge to set the tone of the show? Some of this stuff could so easily be bleak and repulsive. How do you navigate that line? The best way to do it is to tread lightly. The writing does all the work for you.

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You imagine Joel’s going to be the gravitational centre of normality in this show. But he’s not, is he? From Joel’s perspective it’s about a guy who’s just trying to keep the marriage together. He’s trying to protect and provide for his family, and in this case it just might involve killing people. But until he finds a better solution he’s really committed! He’s committed to making this thing work. And the water just keeps rising around him. It’s one of my favourite things about the show – this guy’s just barely keeping his nose above the water. Is he normal? No. But it’s not normal circumstances, either. I think he’s a normal guy in some very unusual circumstances. You get to work with some grisly prosthetics. There’s one scene where you’re interacting with a bloodied torso in a bathtub. Are you good with that sort of thing? [Laughs] When I watched that scene back, weeks later, I was really shocked by how repulsive and disturbing that torso was. And I remember thinking, “Why am I having this reaction now?” I mean, I shot the scene, I was there, I was staring at it and talking to it and connecting to it… When you’re in the scene you’re really trying to connect to this person, even though the person is obviously deceased. And then later, as a viewer, you see what the guy’s talking to in a new light and you think oh my god… When you’re working, for some reason it doesn’t translate the same way. There was something in the show that reminded us of Bewitched, some distant DNA that the two shows shared. I’ll take that as a compliment. I like that show. One of the things that I like about our show is that it feels inherently old fashioned. It’s a bizarre, wonderful mix of something oddly contemporary and refreshingly unexpected and yet very, very familiar. It keeps walking up to this line where you feel like it’s going to cross it and do a whole other thing but the behaviour of the characters continues to live, in the most wonderful way, in a sitcom world. That’s where they seem to live. There was a show that Victor [Fresco, showrunner] actually worked on, way back when, called ALF, and whenever anyone asks me what I’m up to I say I’m basically doing ALF. That’s what we’re making here. Which is a similar kind of thing as Bewitched, right? Joel says his favourite song in the world is “Ice Ice Baby”. Where do you stand on that one? I like the song that song is based on [laughs]! He’s on to something! That Queen tune is pretty awesome.

Biodata Occupation Actor Born 20 May 1968 From honolulu, hawaii Greatest Hits Deadwood, Justified, Hitman, Live Free Or Die Hard, Scream 2, The Office Random Fact olyphant is a direct descendant of 19th century railroad tycoon cornelius vanderbilt.

Santa Clarita Diet is on Netflix from 3 February.

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© Steve Schofield/contour by Getty


ody parts in a kitchen blender. Eviscerated intestines piled on the bathroom floor. A butchered torso dumped in the tub. Welcome to Santa Clarita Diet, an everyday tale of suburban cannibalism and quite possibly the world’s first true sick-com. “Netflix are like the greatest neglectful parent you’ve ever had,” laughs star Timothy Olyphant, clearly still amazed by the show’s unchecked spree of bad taste. As affable, weed-smoking Californian realtor Joel Hammond he’s plunged into a bloody and murderous new lifestyle when his wife Sheila (Drew Barrymore) discovers a sudden, uncontrollable craving for human flesh. There, naturally, goes the neighbourhood. And a not inconsiderable number of neighbours. “Netflix said, ‘Here you go, kids – here’s some money and you guys go and make your little series and let us know when it’s done. So we go off in our little sandbox, with our toys, and we do our thing!”

close encounters timothy olyphant


april 2017 | sfx magazine |


THe legO BaTman mOVie

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THe legO BaTman mOVie


BLOCKS Director Chris McKay tells Richard Edwards about building Gotham piece by piece for

The Lego BaTman movie


e’s used Shark Repellent Bat Spray. He’s brooded like there was no tomorrow. He’s had a city-destroying barney with Superman. He’s even worn a suit with rubber nipples. And now, in his tenth headlining movie (previously one West, two Keaton, one Kilmer, one Clooney, three Bale, one Affleck) he’s trying something new: he’s about four centimetres tall, has a strangely cylindrical head, and his points of articulation are somewhat limited... The breakout star of the hilarious, surprisingly subversive The Lego Movie is getting a movie of his own, as Gotham City gets rebuilt in the moulded form of Denmark’s most famous export. “The Lego Batman character was a lot of fun and as The Lego Movie took off, we thought we should do a movie centred on him,” explains Chris McKay, the Lego Movie co-director who’s got the gig solo for the Dark Knight-focused follow-up. “There’s such a rich history associated with the character. He’s both heroic and tragic, he’s somebody we all sort of aspire to be, and yet absurd in his basic premise. And he’s been so flexible over the years, with so many different iterations, from a dark comic book character to a silly TV show, to somewhere in-between with the Tim Burton movies. He just seemed like a great character to play with.” “Play” being the operative world. As in the first Lego Movie, the CG animation is designed to look like it could have been made in stop-motion with real Lego bricks (live-action would be impractical given the scale and limited flexibility of the medium). But even though the characters have roughly the same limitations as a Lego minifig, this movie is aiming to push the boundaries. “On the first movie we tried to do it like it’s a little kid animating it, and tried to keep it as simple as possible,” says McKay. “Here we wanted to push that a little more and try for more complicated things. We wanted this to be a bigger world – we wanted Wayne Manor to be huge, we wanted the Batcave to be huge, we wanted Gotham City to be huge, we wanted the action moments and setpieces to be big. Batman movies are not small movies, they’re opera, the palette spans the world – and the universe, depending on which story you’re talking about. We got really ambitious and having seen that we could do it on the first movie, we wanted to really go for it.”

character flaws

Anyone who’s seen The Lego Movie will know that this particular Bruce Wayne is damaged (plastic) goods. He’s arrogant, needy and doesn’t play well with others – yet there’s something about him that makes you want to hang out with him. Maybe it’s the billionaire lifestyle and those wonderful toys... april 2017 | sfx magazine |


THe legO BaTman mOVie

Batman’s ego is completely overblown but you can also see that there is something fragile inside “It’s what they do with movies like Arthur,” says McKay. “If it wasn’t for Dudley Moore’s charm, you would hate that person, they would be a terrible human being. I think it’s the same with Batman. His ego and self-esteem are completely overblown but you can also see that there is something fragile inside. He’s just doing something to overcompensate. It’s a classic bully story – the reason why this kid acts like that is because something bad happened to him. There’s a lot of pain going on and he hides it; that’s his defence mechanism. We get to have fun with that.”

tricky rights

McKay says that despite the potentially tricky scenario of working with intellectual property owned by both DC Comics and Lego – and possibly other companies too; he’s tightlipped about what crossover cameos we might see – there was a surprising amount of freedom to play around in the universes. Indeed, we even see in the trailer that Robin’s colourful threads were inspired by an old Batsuit design known as “Reggae Man” – something SFX doesn’t remember from any of the comics, TV shows and movies we’ve seen in the past. It definitely wasn’t in the Christopher Nolan trilogy. “You did your research! It’s not canon!” McKay laughs. “I worked with [DC’s Chief Creative Officer] Geoff Johns on Robot Chicken and he’s always game to have fun with it. DC was ultimately very cooperative and they knew this was kind of an offshoot of their stuff. I’m a comic book fan and I wanted to take things from the old-school comics, the animated series, the Adam West show, the Burton/ Schumacher movies and Nolan, whether it’s a character or a reference or a situation or a line of dialogue. It is a parody, but it’s also a loving homage. We made this for people who love Batman and movies like this as much as I do. We’re having fun with it because these things are inherently funny and ridiculous. “And there’s a lot of things ready-made to parody,” he continues, “because the central premise of the character is of someone who dresses up at night and thinks they can fight crime better than the police. And it seems to get worse, because even with Batman who’s been fighting crime for 78 years, Gotham City never changes. There are always

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How will Zach Galifianakis’s Joker shape up to the rest?

more and more costumed bad guys coming out of the woodwork.” Batman arguably has the finest rogues’ gallery of all the comic book A-listers, and plenty will be coming out to play in their Lego forms, with Riddler, Penguin, Harley Quinn, Scarecrow, Mr Freeze, Man-Bat, Catwoman and Poison Ivy all set to appear. But, of course, it’s the Caped Crusader’s best fiend the Joker (voiced by The Hangover’s Zach Galifianakis) who’ll be taking up most of Bats’ time. “The other performances of the Joker are about being big and loud – and not in a bad way, I like them,” says McKay. “I’m a huge fan

of Heath Ledger’s performance, Jack Nicholson’s really funny, Cesar Romero’s crazy, and there’s also Mark Hamill on the animated stuff. But the thing Zach responded to is the idea of vulnerability, and the idea that the Joker wants Batman to pay attention to him. There’s this big brother/little brother thing going on, and we play with the romantic idea of that defining the relationship. He’s like, ‘I’m not your greatest enemy? Come on!’ ‘No, you’re not my greatest enemy, I fight lots of guys, I fight Bane, I fight Scarecrow, I fight Riddler, sometimes I fight Superman.’ Looking for that kind of approval was something we really

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THe legO BaTman mOVie

Robin (Michael Cera) and Batman (Will Arnett): still crimefighting after all these years. Everyone wants a look at the new Batmobile.

gravitated towards. What’s great about our Joker is he’s always unpredictable, but at the same time you feel his vulnerability on the surface. That seemed a great way into the story.” And with two comedic forces of nature going head to head in the real-life forms of Arnett and Galifianakis, McKay decided the best thing to do was simply put them in a room together and let them rip. “I would be crazy not just to let these guys go [and do their own thing],” says the director. “I have the best seat in the house to watch really funny people riffing on things. Most, if not

It’s Ralph Fiennes’s turn to be faithful butler Alfred.

all, of our best stuff came from those sessions where I put Zach and Will in a room together – we put boom mikes over them, and let them run around and interact with each other. These guys are not just voice actors, they’re used to working off other people, improvising. They just brought so much fun and pathos to the characters, it was remarkable.” Yet for all his usual sparring with the Joker and the rest, McKay believes that Batman’s main adversary in The Lego Batman Movie is one the Dark Knight hasn’t taken on before – at least not by name. “His greatest enemy is the fact that he’s pushed people away,” he explains. “It’s in the vein of Jerry Maguire, About A Boy and The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou, movies about people who are very good at what they do and have made their own world, but they’re isolated, and don’t have close relationships. It seemed like it would be a fun thing to play with Batman, where he’s now confronted with having to deal with people, and confronting his final fear: wanting to be part of a family.” Luckily there are at least a few minifigs on Batman’s side: new police commissioner Barbara Gordon (Rosario Dawson), Boy Wonder Robin (Arnett’s Arrested Development co-star Michael Cera) and, of course, the ever-present Alfred Pennyworth. Ralph Fiennes follows Alan Napier, Michael Gough, Michael Caine, Jeremy Irons and Sean Pertwee as the latest Brit thesp to play Batman’s butler, and McKay says the Grand Budapest Hotel star really got stuck into the role. “I couldn’t have asked for a better, more fun person,” he says. “You never know when you’re casting someone who’s mostly known for drama what they’e going to do, but obviously after The Grand Budapest Hotel and Hail, Caesar! we knew he’s a very funny guy. He was so game to play when we asked him do to all sorts of stuff. “So in the movie we don’t do gunshots – I had all the actors do ‘pew pew’ noises like little kids. We did one take with Ralph and it was really perfect, but he was like, ‘Hey, do you mind if I do another?’ He went off on this whole thing where he does machine guns, aircraft stuff, a whole series of crazy sound effects. It was amazing and he was laughing by the end of it. He said he’d just finished Richard III, which is probably very demanding and exhausting, and he comes here to do this thing which is just fun and silly. It was just all the joy of acting wrapped up in a 24-hour period, I think. He had a blast, and also Alfred’s a big part of the emotional core of the movie, his relationship with Batman is really sweet. I can’t say enough good things about Ralph!” The Lego Batman Movie opens on 10 February. april 2017 | sfx magazine |


40 years of 2000 ad

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40 years of 2000 ad

Forty years ago, 2000 AD made comics history when it first touched down on newsagents’ shelves. Stephen Jewell talks to the people behind the thrill power revolution

t sounds incredible now but in the mid 1970s science fiction was seen as being way past its sell-by-date by the British comics industry. But when then-IPC staffer Kelvin Gosnell read an Evening Standard article about an upcoming film called Star Wars, he sensed that the genre still held some potential. Pat Mills – who had channelled the movie blockbusters of the day for the launch of brutal boys’ weekly Action in 1975 – was tasked by IPC Editorial Director John Sanders with putting together a new weekly comic, one that was given the apparently far-sighted title of 2000 AD. “Science fiction was seen to have run out of road in comics, and readers were often, at that time, actually hostile to it,” Mills tells SFX. “Many of them would complain that they were stupid stories. They wanted reality, so a lot of readers preferred the gritty realism of Action stories like Hook Jaw.” Recognising that “there was a risk in creating a sci-fi comic”, Mills was given an entire year to assemble 2000 AD’s opening line-up, a luxury compared to the mere six weeks he was afforded on Action. “There were numerous routes it could have taken and some of them would have been wrong, and would have led to 2000 AD failing,” says Mills, who also learnt other valuable lessons from Action, which had been sanitised and eventually cancelled after an outcry over its overly violent content. “I learnt that if we featured hard-hitting social commentary in a present-day context, such as football violence, there would be trouble with the media. But if we made it science fiction, we could usually get away with it.” As he recalls in his recent memoir The Mighty One, former 2000 AD editor Steve april 2017 | sfx magazine |


40 years of 2000 ad

MacManus believes that the Galaxy’s Greatest Comic succeeded because it was more concerned with the grounded scenarios of speculative fiction than the fantastical settings of hard science fiction. “It was a bold move to consider releasing a title that might be labelled science fiction, and it all comes back to Kelvin’s appraisal of Star Wars as being ‘space opera’,” MacManus tells SFX. “Pat immersed himself in science fiction books before coming to the conclusion that to follow that path in a narrow-minded way would restrict his ability to create and commission heroes with an immediate impact. For the readers, the notion of the year 2000 AD was science fiction itself, so they didn’t need any more than that to understand where the title was coming from.”

With its extended development period, Mills was able to mould 2000 AD’s initial salvo of stories into shape. “All that’s needed is time to step back and assess things,” he says. “But often that’s in short supply on comics, so to have a year meant that I could go through more than one version of various stories and see which ones were the winners.” The translucent Visible Man was amongst the strips that didn’t make the first cut (he eventually debuted in Prog 47). Others, notably Judge Dredd – who resembled a pirate when MacManus noticed some early artwork on Mills’s desk at the IPC offices – would undergo some radical changes. “The board of directors hated Visible Man and said it was ‘disgusting’, so I couldn’t have got that into Prog 1,” says Mills. “As for Judge Dredd, he started out as an occult detective but John Wagner felt that the

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Stirring memories of going into 1970s newsagents yet?

occult didn’t fit a science fiction comic, so I dropped it. As it was going spare, John asked if he could have the title and, of course, I was happy to pass it on.” Having penned the Dirty Harry-esque One-Eyed Jack in Valiant, John Wagner was the

perfect choice to helm a future cop story, while Spanish artist Carlos Ezquerra was asked to design Judge Dredd’s distinctive look. But after a disagreement, Wagner departed IPC, prompting Mills to pass Dredd on to a succession of different writers, including Kelvin

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40 years of 2000 ad

The unsung talent behind the debut of Dredd While he wrote some MACH One and early Tharg’s Future Shocks, Peter Harris’s most lasting contribution to 2000 AD was the inaugural Judge Dredd story for artist Mike McMahon. “Peter’s story was the one that established the world, which really deserves recognition,” says Mills. “I wanted a story that firmly established everything, as I had a potentially great character that needed a great artist and a great story for its introduction to the readers. John Wagner and Carlos Ezquerra had left the strip, so what Harris and McMahon did was just what I was looking for.” Having sent out detailed briefing sheets, Mills wasn’t happy with the results. “Then Peter’s episode arrived out of the blue, and he clearly understood what I was after. The elements Peter came up with have all been echoed many times since. He set up the idea of the Judges, as previously there was just one judge, along with the Lawmaster driving on remote, the road through the Empire State Building, and the mutants. Above all, he established Dredd as a hero and introduced some strong emotion. So we added a satirical ending, and it was there.”

Gosnell, Malcolm Shaw and Charles Herring. “Dredd was hard work, perhaps the hardest of all because it went through endless versions, some by John, some by me and finally a version by Peter Harris, until I finally felt that the character and story was right,” says Mills, of the five-pager that debuted in Prog 2. “That was the first Dredd story and it defined not only the character but also the world of Mega-City One and the Judge system.” Showing the pursuit of judge killer Whitey, Harris’s story was illustrated by Mike McMahon, much to the annoyance of Ezquerra,

who quit in protest at not being allowed to draw the first published Judge Dredd episode. “McMahon’s work was excellent, but it wasn’t always accepted by the publisher, which meant that some of it had to be sneaked into the comic,” admits Mills. “Dredd’s potential was obvious, so I spent more time on it, which meant that I couldn’t always spend as much time on the other stories as I would have liked.” After difficult experiences on Action, Mills wrote all of Prog 1’s five stories himself before handing over Invasion!’s near-future vision of a Britain occupied by Volgan forces to Gerry Finley-Day. Ken Armstrong was assigned time-travelling dinosaur epic Flesh. “With Invasion!, I had to let that go more or less wherever the writer wanted it to go,” Mills says. “It was okay, and was popular enough, but there was a potential, a tone and a style in the story that I wasn’t able to explore until I wrote Savage decades later. Similarly, I would have liked to have spent more time on Flesh april 2017 | sfx magazine |


40 years of 2000 ad

Comic creators pick their 2000 AD highlights

but I was too busy with other projects. Again, no one seemed to get it, and in the end, I also returned to Flesh years later to fulfil its potential.” Introducing the future sport of Aeroball, Harlem Heroes took its cue not only from Norman Jewison’s 1975 film Rollerball but also Action’s Death Game 1999 – later rechristened Spinball – with which it shared a writer in the prolific Tom Tully. “There was a big problem, as Aeroball was written in the first episode as a death game, but the board wouldn’t accept that after what had happened on Action,” explains Mills. “So without the savagery of Rollerball, the story lacked something, which I compensated for by getting Tom Tully to repeat Death Game 1999’s brilliant cyborg Al Rico in the form of Artie Gruber. Artie raised the popularity of the story, but the toned-down nature of Harlem Heroes never worked.”

Resurrected from the long defunct Eagle and allocated the prestigious colour centrespread – where he would remain until Prog 46 when he moved to the front cover – Dan Dare was intended to be 2000 AD’s flagship character. “Including Dan Dare was purely my decision, because I thought it would boost sales, and it did exactly that,” admits Mills. “But if I cancelled it, it wouldn’t have affected the comic going ahead. It was popular, but not as popular as I wanted it to be because the costume and physical look of Dan Dare wasn’t right.” At first, Dare was eclipsed by The Six Million Dollar Man-inspired MACH One. But despite

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topping the reader rankings early on, “compupunctured” super-agent John Probe quickly ran out of steam. “MACH One was tough to write because I was asking for the equivalent of a novel in a single episode. That sounds crazy but it worked for the readers as they got all the thrills of a novel, such as MACH One skiing down an avalanche, but without all the slow boring bits like characterisation and chat scenes.” Marking the return of John Wagner and spanning Progs 9 to 17, Judge Dredd’s first extended storyline “The Robot Wars” eventually saw Ol’ Stoney Face ascend to 2000 AD’s top spot. “‘The Robot Wars’ was a huge and defining success, and it was the groundbreaking quality of John’s writing that made it so, coupled with some excellent McMahon art,” says Mills. “John really excelled himself.” But Mills himself wouldn’t stick around for much longer, stepping down as editor with Prog 16 and leaving 2000 AD in Gosnell’s capable hands. “My job was to create comics, set them up, and move on,” says Mills. “So I was paid to make 2000 AD a success and I had enough time to make it possible.” Unlike the short-lived likes of Starlord and Tornado, which were later folded into 2000 AD, Mills is not surprised that the Galaxy’s Greatest Comic is still going strong today. “I actually raised concerns about the title 2000 AD and said to the publisher, ‘What happens when we reach the millennium?’” he laughs. “He looked at me like I was being terribly naive, as he thought 2000 AD would be long dead by then.”

I came to 2000 AD via Starlord, so I missed out on some of the classic stories, but the story that still sticks in my head is The Day The Law Died with Judge Cal. Mike McMahon’s art was always the best and, for me, he was the comic at the time.

Like many readers back in the early years of the comic, I was blown away by Brian Bolland’s Judge Death art, and the string of stories he did around that time like “The Forever Crimes”. But Mike McMahon was an artist of great influence on me from the first time I saw his work in Prog 2. “The Burger Wars”, “Block Mania” and many others stand out, and I also love his beautiful Sláine series.

I got into 2000 AD around 1980 when “The Judge Child” was in its midchapters, and that period still represents the heyday for me. Strontium Dog was just getting into its stride, and there was the adaptation of Harry Harrison’s The Stainless Steel Rat. But if I had to go for a single strip, it’d be Halo Jones, which was far outside the 2000 AD mainstream, but extraordinary and unique. Like a lot of Alan Moore’s work at the time, it wears its influences on its sleeve – in this case, Cordwainer Smith – but it’s still its own thing, and really ambitious in its storytelling and emotional range.

After a half season of torment and tyranny,

The Walking DeaD


was a looong year for fans of The Walking Dead. The show entered era of Negan. the yet: d its darkest perio ed Big After running afoul of the long-teas in the gan) Mor Dean ey Jeffr by Bad (played Rick show’s season six cliffhanger finale, own Grimes and his friends lost two of their e’s – Abraham and Glenn – to the brut Lucille, in barbed-wire-bedecked baseball bat, urite favo fan e whil iere, season seven’s prem entire first Daryl was made his prisoner for the ivors to half of the season. Negan put the surv ender their work for him, forcing them to surr s– food, weapons, ammo – even mattresse while continuing to torture them both ately, Rick physically and psychologically. Ultim to fight ed vow and l Dary and co reunited with

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sees the light… Joseph McCabe talks to producer Gale Anne Hurd the sadistic leader of the Saviors. But can fans hold out any hope for their heroes when they’re outnumbered by Negan’s army? It’s an issue we discuss with The Walking Dead’s Gale Anne Hurd when we speak with her about the show’s return this month. As usual, the executive producer plays her cards close to the chest. “I know it’s tough to ask me a question I can answer,” she laughs, chatting via phone from Mexico (where she’s on the set of The Walking Dead’s sister show Fear The Walking Dead). Andrew Lincoln, tasked with conveying Rick’s despair for so much of this year, has said the former lawman will again become a man of action in the second half of season seven. Rick’s return to form may have been slow in coming, but Hurd says that’s only natural given his recent experiences.

the walking dead

april 2017 | sfx magazine |


the walking dead

“I think it’s important to realise,” she begins, “that the whole point of each episode is to illuminate character; and not to tell the same story over and over again. So obviously when significant characters are lost, especially people like Glenn who have had such an impact on the other characters – when you consider that the very first voice Rick heard when he was in that tank in the pilot was Glenn’s, over the walkie-talkie calling him ‘dumbass’ – you need time to see the characters process what has happened. We’ve seen Rick give up command before. In the third season we saw him become a farmer. We also saw how, in order to save Carl, he had to bite a man’s throat. I actually dispute the fact that it’s wildly different [this season]. I think that the show has an ebb and a flow, but it all comes back to character, and what it is that they’ve experienced. It’s a character-driven show as opposed to a plot-driven show.”

growing pains

Most viewers identify with the protagonists of their favourite shows. In the case of The Walking Dead’s seventh season, Hurd believes many fans may have felt their heroes’ pain as they never have before. “Yeah, absolutely. And you know what? I like when people say they feel pain or they feel anger or they feel renewed. Because that means they’re connecting with the characters, and that’s what we want. We want people to feel something, and not just watch it like it’s your standard procedural where there’s [closure] at the end of each episode and we move on and tell a totally different story in the next episode… Everything is very carefully building to what launches in 7B, in which they’re fed up and

Rick Grimes returns to fighting form in the second half of the season.

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When there are still Persian rugs and grandfather clocks, how bad can things really be? they’re not gonna take it any more and they’re going to rise up. They were not prepared to do that immediately. Some of them were, obviously – some were ready to immediately take on the Saviors – but we saw what happened when they went in unprepared. That’s how they got into this situation in the first place, losing Abraham and Glenn. It was because they underestimated Negan and his power.” The Walking Dead has long reflected the zeitgeist. But with so many people feeling defeated in the wake of the recent US presidential election (and the resulting rise to power of Donald Trump), the first half of season seven may have veered a little too close to reality – despite Negan’s introduction occurring several years ago in creator Robert Kirkman’s Walking Dead comic book. “Not everything obviously is in the comic books,” says Hurd, “but I think you could perhaps say that maybe Robert Kirkman is clairvoyant… It’s going back a few years, long before we were anticipating any kind of election. But the

idea of demagogues, especially charismatic ones, has been around a long, long time. I think that’s the other thing… That’s why the casting of Negan was so important. It is such a difficult character to pull off, and I simply cannot imagine anyone other than Jeffrey Dean Morgan being able to do it right. He’s someone that you love to hate.” Few characters on The Walking Dead have suffered as much this year as Daryl Dixon. But even after being tormented and then tempted by Negan, the bowman refused to pledge his allegiance. Hurd tells us Daryl is still haunted by the deaths of his friends. “There’s no question he’s been changed. He feels guilt. You’re damned if you do and you’re damned if you don’t in the world of Negan. If you do nothing people die and if you do something people die. So when Daryl rose up

the walking dead

tyrants r us

after Abraham was killed, and Negan then killed Glenn… Negan may very well have always intended to kill Glenn. That doesn’t change the fact that Daryl is feeling that guilt. Daryl may be bloodied but he’s not broken. He wouldn’t say that he was Negan [to pledge allegiance]… There’s no question I think that he feels an obligation to try to make things right, even though that won’t bring back Glenn.” As for which new regular characters will join the show in the back half of this season, Hurd is again tight-lipped. “All I can say is it’s a bigger world out there,” she says, indicating the new colonies of survivors introduced in 2016. “Once again, there’s a lot that’s from the comic book and there’s a lot that’s not.”

king of the jungle

Of all the new characters introduced so far this year, the theatrical King Ezekiel (played by Khary Payton), leader of the Kingdom, has emerged as a favourite, due in no small part to his pet tiger Shiva. Yet in the footage we’ve seen so far from the show’s return, Ezekiel is reluctant to ally himself with Rick and co against Negan. “Ezekiel,” says Hurd, “from what we’ve seen he’s someone who wants to protect, as any great leader would, the people in his Kingdom. And at times that they may mean not

protecting other people. He has Sure, Negan’s nasty, but no more to judge whether or not it’s so than genre demagogues worthwhile. But even if the who preceded him… groups were to collaborate, can they still defeat Negan? the wicked witch of the west I think in Ezekiel’s mind L Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard Of Oz and the jury’s still out. But the timeless film musical it spawned owe their obviously there’s success in part to one of the most iconic baddies dissension within ever, feared by Munchkins and flying monkeys alike. his own ranks.” Ming the Merciless One survivor who Pathetic Earthlings… Flash Gordon’s arch-enemy has received aid from predates almost every space conqueror you can name. Ezekiel is Carol, Though he originated in Alex Raymond’s 1934 who’s also changed comic strip, Max von Sydow’s 1980 film portrayal over the last year, due is one for the ages. to the number of lives darkseid she’s taken to protect Comic book legend Jack Kirby addressed the dearth her friends. Now of galaxy-threatening villains in the DC Universe by living alone on the creating the Anti-Life Equation-seeking supreme ruler of the planet Apokalips. outskirts of the Kingdom, the once eMperor palpatine coolly efficient warrior is He may not be as infamous as his right-hand refusing to kill any more. man Darth Vader, but the original Star Wars But how long can she avoid trilogy’s agent of the Dark Side was as powerful as the Death Star he commissioned. taking up arms? “Carol, like Daryl, feels like iMMortan joe she’s got a lot of blood on her George Miller’s Mad Max films have hands. At this point her feeling is offered their share of postapocalyptic dictators, but Fury that the best thing to do is not to care Road’s satanic warlord takes too deeply. Not to invest in other people. the chrome-plated And to try to exist on her own. She’s killed cake. people – obviously some Saviors – because she was forced to. It This new cover of hermit… Everyone’s doing a lot of soul was them or her. But “YMCA” had a definite that doesn’t lessen the searching right now. And some of them downbeat tone. obviously don’t even know what’s happened.” pain, the fact that they Since Negan is the biggest threat The Walking deserved it. That’s not Dead’s heroes have yet faced, fans might be who she was. She’s also thinking about the wondering what’s next for Rick if he somehow manages to defeat the sadist. Given the show’s world to which she’s nature, more heartache is sure to follow. So contributing, with how does Hurd hope to avoid repetition? resorting to violence. “That’s the wonderful thing about having the And I think she’s underlying comic book, that is going as strong obviously still haunted by what happened with as ever so many issues in. I’m very much looking forward to reading the new issue that Sophia, with Lizzie, has just come out. With the strength of the with Mika, with what comic book and the ability to tell even different happened to Carl… I stories – because you’ve got characters like think she still thinks Daryl who don’t exist in the comic book and about the world that we’ve got characters that are alive in our show she’s contributing to that are dead in the comic book and vice versa creating. I don’t think that she knows what her – we can keep it not only compelling but also continue to surprise the loyal readers of the role in that is right now. comic book. Once again it’s all based on So better to just be a character. It’s based on what happens to the people that we care about and how it affects those who love them. “The great thing,” she concludes, “is it affects people at home as much as it affects the characters on the screen.”

It all comes back to character, and what it is that they’ve experienced

The Walking Dead returns to Fox on 13 February. april 2017 | sfx magazine |


the great wall

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the great wall


CHINA SYNDROME East collides with West in monster-battling myth-fest The GreaT Wall. Stephen Kelly discovers the truth behind the legends...

few days before SFX’s chat with Zhang Yimou, director of fantasy epic The Great Wall, we’re invited to watch 16 minutes of footage at Universal’s office in London. It’s a small screening room, private and empty – save for us and an unsmiling security guard, standing at the back to monitor piracy. The Great Wall of China was built over 2,000 years ago by Qin Shi Huangdi, the first emperor of China, in order to protect his borders from nomadic hordes in the north; now made up of countries like Mongolia and Siberia. Yimou’s film puts forward a different theory, however: that the Great Wall of China was built to withstand monsters; specifically the Taotie, huge, green mythical beasts of pure greed, who attack the wall every 60 years. Our footage picks up in the middle of such an attack: an april 2017 | sfx magazine |


the great wall

We had over 1,000 crew members from 30 different countries on the film immense sea of green horror, breaking against the wall like a wave; and a Song dynasty army – soldiers capable of super-human feats – struggling to hold them back. Without giving too much away, it’s a huge, striking sequence: a carnival of chaos; of bungee-jumping warriors and great balls of fire; of beating drums and dazzling colour. It’s Helm’s Deep meets Mad Max meets Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Matt Damon is in there somewhere too. The footage finishes, the lights come up, and silence falls. It’s eventually broken by someone at the back. “Fucking hell,” says the security guard.


It may look like overblown CGI spectacle, but The Great Wall stands out for two reasons. The first is that it’s a co-production between Hollywood and China; a relatively new model that – through superior visual effects, a Hollywood star, and loopholes in Chinese law – hopes to bring the two countries together. (More on this later, but for now it’s worth noting that The Great Wall was developed by Legendary CEO Thomas Tull, who conceived the idea with World War Z writer Max Brooks.) The second is Zhang Yimou, one of China’s greatest visionaries; a director known for his breathtaking cinematography, for his rich use of colour, for his exploration of Chinese culture through films like Hero and Raise The Red Lantern. Not Hollywood-style blockbusters. “At first [Legendary] were worried that this might not be the kind of movie that I would make,” laughs Yimou, who is speaking to SFX through a translator. “But I was looking for something that is unique. The Great Wall’s been in China for thousands of years and we never had this idea of fighting monsters on it. And once I read the script I thought it had a lot of space for development.” That control is clear to see. The army, for example, are divided into different divisions, each with their own designated colour. Columns of gold, blocks of blue, rows of red. Compared to his previous use of colour, it’s a bit more Power Rangers than Hero (“it should be very exciting for kids”), but it’s interesting nonetheless; a bombastic monster movie told through an arthouse lens. It’s an entirely new challenge for Yimou. How did he find it?

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In China, Matt Damon is the least famous one here. “It is indeed challenging because when you make a genre picture you have to fulfil all the things fans come to expect in a genre film, while adding all the insightful meaning that had existed in my previous films. I’d also never done movies with this many visual effects. There were 1,500 visual effects shots and we spent around 15 months on the effects. However, it wasn’t too difficult because of my cinematography background. I actually found it new and exciting. It’s something I’d never been in before. It energised me.” Being a US-China production, The Great Wall shares the stars of East and West. From Asia, you’ve got the likes of Wang Junkai as Emperor Renzong of Song; Jing Tian as army commander Lin Mae, Andy Lau as strategist Wang, and Chinese pop megastar Lu Han as a struggling soldier. To the West: Willem Dafoe as Ballad, a prisoner of the Chinese; and Pedro Pascal and Matt Damon, playing two foreign mercenaries who’ve arrived in China to steal the secret of gunpowder. “Matt is an actor that I have long-admired,” says Yimou. “I’ve wanted to work with him for a while now. Four years ago when I did The Flowers Of War, I originally approached Matt Damon to play the lead role, but he wasn’t available... It was so exciting to work with him. Also, because the film is in English and there’s a lot of English dialogue and I don’t speak English, Matt was a lot of help on set. He’s able

to give me so many different choices, and sometimes when the English dialogue is not very good, or could be better, he was able to help me. Of course he’s an Oscar winner himself in screenwriting.” Such a clash of cultures, however, does not come without complications. For a start, there’s the language barrier, which required “70 to 80” translators to break through. “It was an international crew,” explains Yimou. “We had over 1,000 crew members from 30 different countries. It felt almost like a nation on our own. We needed half as much more time just to communicate with each other, but the people I selected were all filmmakers. We had the common language of filmmaking.” And then there are more complex cultural issues, such as the controversy that greeted Matt Damon’s casting from Asian-Americans, who felt that Hollywood was – yet again – whitewashing the history of the Far East. “I feel that it’s a big misunderstanding,” says Yimou. “The story is about foreign mercenaries who come to China and they get caught in a battle between the Chinese and the monsters. It’s about East and West working together. We didn’t add any Western elements just to placate the West. The idea of a white actor being a saviour of a foreign nation: that’s old-style movie making. This is to claw that back. Asian-Americans can misunderstand that because that’s what they’ve come to expect

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the great wall

from Hollywood. But that’s not this kind of movie. In a couple of weeks, the movie is going to come out in China. And the Chinese audience are very sensitive to these kind of things. They don’t like it when Westerners come in and save them from danger. They don’t like when they feel their roles have been given away to foreigners. I have a lot of confidence they won’t see any of that in this movie.”


It would be naive to think that The Great Wall is being made entirety in the spirit of world peace and harmony. Over the past decade,

China has become a lucrative market for Western films; thanks, mostly, to the growth of China’s middle class, which has created a boom for its entertainment industry. This feeds back into Hollywood. The Chinese market, for example, helped Transformers: Age Of Extinction to $1.1 billion worldwide, while it practically saved the likes of Warcraft (which earned five times more in China than it did in America) from box office annihilation. There’s even talk of China’s 2017 box office revenue surpassing that of the US, making China the largest film market in the world. But there’s a catch. For China only allows 34 foreign films into the country every year, and to qualify, those films have to pass through the government’s censorship agency, to ensure that they promote communist values. Leaving aside the mind-scorching irony of America promoting communist values, this has led to some cynical pandering from Hollywood. Looper changed one of its locations from Paris to Shanghai; Skyfall removed scenes of James Bond killing Chinese henchmen; Transformers: Age Of Extinction overloaded itself with Chinese product placement; Iron Man 3 added four minutes of China-based footage to its Chinese cut; Doctor Strange made the Ancient One “Celtic” instead of Tibetan, for fear of upsetting the Chinese government. The Great Wall, however, represents a new model: one where Hollywood and China work together to not only bypass the quota, but tell a story that appeals naturally to China, rather than pandering to it. As Yimou says: “The Great Wall is very different from all the past Hollywood films that were trying to win over Chinese audiences by adding what I would call, ‘seasoning’ of Chinese culture. It’s a co-production where we have mutual understanding. It’s the best of both worlds, of both cultures. It’s going to change the way China looks at Hollywood movies. It’s a movie made between China and Hollywood for the entire world.” The Great Wall opens on 17 February.

bEYOND THE gREAT WALL Five classic Chinese fantasy movies THE bRIDE WITH WHITE HAIR

This 1993 fantasy-romance stars Brigitte Lin as an orphan raised by wolves who is taken in by an evil cult. Crammed with elaborate fight sequences and gothic gore, think Romeo And Juliet with martial arts.


A Chinese Ghost Story tells the tale of a shy debt collector who seeks to save the soul of a mysterious spirit. Released in 1987, the film was so well received it ignited a surge of popularity for folklore ghost films in Hong Kong.


Directed by “China’s Spielberg” Tsui Hark, this supernatural fantasy epic was an early attempt to combine traditional Hong Kong action cinema with Western special effects in 1983. Yuen Biao stars as a soldier who enters a world of demons.


Journey To The West: Conquering The Demons stormed the Chinese box office back in 2013, with its loose comedic adaptation of the classic novel of the same name. Kung Fu Hustle director Stephen Chow helms this oddball tale of a village terrorised by monsters.


You might even be able to see these special effects from space.

Inspired by The Little Mermaid, Stephen Chow’s fantasy comedy about the romance between a playboy businessman and a mermaid was met with critical acclaim in 2016. The mermaid is now, of course, a bad-ass assassin.

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Winston ChurChill is dead, exeCuted by firing squad in berlin.

The whereabouts of George VI are unknown – though the whisper on the street has it that the King has been imprisoned in the Tower of London. A puppet Prime Minister is in place. And the red, white and black of the swastika flutters in the damp, grey skies above the Palace of Westminster. Britain has been defeated, the bulldog put on a very short leash. This is the world of SS-GB, a 1978 alternate history novel written by Len Deighton, best known for his espionage thrillers featuring spy Harry Palmer – most famously The Ipcress File. The book was sparked when Deighton shared a late-night drink with his editor and a fellow writer. As the three sifted through photos to illustrate Fighter, Deighton’s 1977 history of the Battle of Britain, his editor remarked, “No one knows what might have happened had we lost…” Deighton knew better, having read some of the plans for the Nazi occupation, and was inspired: “After this conversation, I sought out the official German publications and began wondering if Britain under German rule would make a book.” Now Deighton’s novel has been adapted into a prestige five-part miniseries for BBC One. The product of Sid Gentle Films, the production company behind ITV hit The

april 2017 | sfx magazine |



Durrells, it marks the TV debut of Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, co-writers of every Bond film since The World Is Not Enough. You may be thinking that all this sounds very much like another drama currently running – Netflix’s The Man In The High Castle – but there’s one key difference. Whereas Philip K Dick’s novel was set 15 years after victory for the Axis Powers, this Nazi noir unfolds just nine months after British command signed the instrument of surrender, with conflict still rumbling on in the north. “The world we’re creating is a continuation of life in an altered Britain,” producer Patrick Schweitzer explains, “where another country won the war and has taken control of day-today life, and it was very much in our minds to try and show those subtle shifts that would take place to normal life. We wanted to be as accurate as possible with everything that we portray. I think in that way we’re not creating a fantasy; it’s not a sort of futuristic land.”

Sam Riley plays concerned detective Douglas Archer. Location shooting and authentic props give real verisimilitude.

“The Nazis have won the war! But let’s have another cup of tea.”


When Deighton started work on the book, he was faced with a problem: how could you create a protagonist who had the knowledge and authority necessary to drive the narrative, but was also a sympathetic character? The solution: centring the story on Douglas Archer, a member of Scotland Yard’s murder squad. Sam Riley plays the dapperly-dressed detective who becomes entangled in political machinations whether he likes it or not. “We follow Archer as he goes to investigate a murder that’s happened in Shepherd Market,” Schweitzer says, setting the scene. “As he’s investigating we start to realise that there’s

something amiss, because the man’s body has certain scars on it... A high-ranking SS officer, Dr Huth, comes over and is very interested in this murder. Then there are a series of complicated issues that surface around why this person has been murdered, and a resistance movement that is in play to try and win back control of our country.” The cast includes other familiar faces, including Superman Returns’ Lois Lane, Kate Bosworth, and Game Of Thrones’ James Cosmo. “Kate plays Barbara Barga,” Schweitzer says, “an American journalist who comes to Britain

to cover the story of occupied London; that also provides a love story angle for Archer. And James plays Harry Woods, who’s his righthand-man in the police force.” In the figure of Archer, who remains dedicated to his job through a firm belief in law and order, the story embodies all manner of questions about the ethics of life under occupation. Strictly speaking he’s a collaborator, but then he has little choice – and he’s also willing to turn a blind eye to the resistance, where he can. “Archer has to tread a careful path, working

ACHTUNG BLIGHTY This low-budget labour of love began shooting in 1956 but wasn’t completed until 1963. Centring on a nurse who’s shocked to discover that the medical corps she works for is carrying out forced euthanasia, it features the views of real-life National Socialists, as well as sequences of stormtroopers marching in front of Big Ben.

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In this three-part BBC serial from 1978, Kenneth More plays the ageing creator of a soap of the same name, set during the Nazis’ 1940 invasion. When the screenwriter discovers that his mistress, a star of the show, is both Jewish and a member of the underground resistance, his loyalties are put to the test…

Team America meets Dad’s Army in this satirical puppet pic, in which the Nazis invade by drilling a tunnel underneath the English Channel, emerging in Trafalgar Square. Ewan McGregor provides the voice of the young farm worker who rallies the resistance and regroups behind Hadrian’s Wall.

James Herbert’s 1996 novel is set in a dystopian London where only the 3% of the population with AB negative type blood survived after Hitler loaded V2 rockets with a deadly virus. It follows an American pilot pursued by Blackshirts who want to pinch his plasma to save their leader, Lord Hubble, via a blood transfusion.


This is still an incredibly raw story to tell. Survivors are still around

to Nazi rule,” Schweitzer explains, “and that’s very much the story that we try and show – how difficult it is to live in this world. You have to be so aware of your own personal safety in order to stay alive, especially working alongside the Nazis – you have to be very mindful of their behaviour and the control that they have on your everyday activities. And we try to show how that filters down to everyday life, and how it’s affecting individuals on the street.” The mystery of who shot the dead man (and why he has strangely sunburnt arms…) leads from a pokey flat above an antiques shop to a detention camp in Devon, via private drinking clubs and a high-society do in Portman Square. It also takes in some of London’s tourist sights… “We have a scene set on the Mall where a plane lands,” Schweitzer says, “and we were able to put a Spitfire in front of Buckingham Palace and film in the real environment. We were also able to use Highgate Cemetery – part of the story revolves around Karl Marx’s grave. It was incredibly important to present an authentic London. So I hope that comes across: that this is a story set in the heart of London, and that that’s where we filmed it.” Even now, over 70 years since the war ended, the production team were keenly aware that filming a series like this requires a greater degree of sensitivity than your average historical drama.

“This is still an incredibly raw story to tell, as there are still survivors around who lived through that brutality. So we made sure that anyone in German uniform was covered up in public, and we didn’t put swastikas up in any public areas.” One of the most interesting aspects of Deighton’s book – which reflects not only his conversations with Germans who fought in the war, but also with a writer friend who had a senior administrative role, post-war, in occupied Berlin – is that the German forces are not some monolithic force. They’re riddled with factionalism, with the SS and the army vying for power, and all manner of competing private agendas. “Nothing is straightforward,” Schweitzer says. “Even within the SS there are different values, and there are people with their own personal desires that drive what they want to get out of their role. I hope that we show that these people were also individuals, with their own battles. When a regime is in power and you’re forced to join an army, your personal values might be very different to what you have to do in order to survive. And I think that applies to the Germans as well as to the way we portray our British residents having to live through occupation.” In director Philipp Kadelbach, who won an international Emmy for German WWII miniseries Generation War, Schweitzer found someone not only experienced with creating an

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authentic-feeling ’40s setting, but one with vital insight into the pool of German acting talent. “We have some amazing German actors,” Schweitzer says. “Rainer Bock plays General Kellerman, who’s Archer’s direct superior within Scotland Yard, while Lars Eidinger plays Dr Huth, and has brought an incredible realism to that character. We didn’t want them to be stereotypical Nazis, and I think we were able to put together a cast that gave a very real sense of the human side behind everyone’s story. I think the best acting allows you to see the person who is doing the job. And as terrifying as the SS and the Nazis were, I think the way that those characters come to life will keep people very much engaged with the story.”


That sense of engagement may be further strengthened by the fact that SS-GB will arrive on our TV screens feeling rather more topical than it did when it was green-lit. Only the day before we spoke to Schweitzer, the Home Secretary was moved to outlaw a National Socialist group under the terrorism laws – the first time such an organisation has been proscribed. And in the last year there’s been a pervasive feeling that far-right ideology is gaining a foothold in the mainstream. Schweitzer – himself the son of a half-Jewish father who grew up in Berlin, and came to Britain in 1945 – certainly hopes that as well as telling a rattling yarn through the form of a police procedural, SS-GB might make viewers consider that the democracy we enjoy today is built on foundations more fragile than we might think. “There’s been a shift of reality in the world,” he observes. “We’re living through another time of change. It’s not at all as radical or as brutal as the Third Reich – it would be too extreme to believe that – but things start in small ways. Certain stories get forgotten, and the war now feels very much like part of history, whereas my parents’ generation lived through it. It’s sometimes good to have a reminder that stability is something we should never take for granted. I think it will, hopefully, as a drama, make us think a bit more about the possible outcomes of political decisions.” SS-GB airs on BBC One later this month. april 2017 | sfx magazine |



the sfx author interview

To Book


The Divergent creator talks her new novel and headspinning success Words by Jonathan Wright /// Photography by Ricardo DeAratanha

new directions

The novel that was taking shape during this process, the first volume in a duology, is a departure for Roth in that it has strong elements of space opera and it’s far less claustrophobic than her Divergent books. “It’s about a young man who, with his brother, is kidnapped and taken to an enemy country,” Roth says. “It’s a country he’s been told his whole life is full of these brutal, single-minded people. Despite his violent introduction to that society, he learns that they’re far more complicated than he was ever taught.” Here, the young man in question, Akos, meets Cyra, who’s related to the local dictator. She shows him that people are as “complicated” as history. “He finds a certain amount of belonging [in his new situation], which is very confusing for him because it feels like a betrayal of his home,” says Roth. Already, Roth concedes, the themes of family dynamics and “finding togetherness, even when you’re supposed to be enemies” are beginning to recur in her books. Not that this bothers her. A couple of years back, she says, she heard a keynote speech from a writer (“I don’t remember who it was”) arguing that all novelists have subjects that fascinate them. “Mine is definitely about belonging versus individuality, the tension there, and navigating that,” she says. “I don’t know why, that’s just the story that’s in my mind, so I’ll just go with it.” As to how she first began accessing this meta-theme, Roth traces this to her childhood. Her mother “refused to tolerate… complaining of boredom”. The house was filled

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with games and things to do, including a book-making kit. “You wrote in all the pages and then you’d decorate the cover and you’d send it out to this company and they’d bind it for you,” she remembers. “That was the first time it ever occurred to me that I could write a story myself.” Then there was Harry Potter. Roth laughs at the idea that she always talks about the boy wizard during interviews – and for the record we also discuss the “weird cultural appropriation” and “mystical, expansive, scientific but still fantastical universe” of Frank Herbert’s Dune – but it’s clear JK Rowling’s work was hugely important to her. She was 11 when she first found the novels, and grew up with them. “They’re incredibly rich and detailed, and they help people escape, and they’re whimsical and fun, and then they also get serious,” she says. “They meet all of your psychological needs in reading at the same time, and I really think they’re brilliant.” At university, Roth took creative writing courses focused on adult fiction, but already she had begun to write YA fiction. Even as an early book was being rejected by, as Roth remembers it, 35 agents, Divergent took shape. Its multimillion-selling success was boggling to its creator. “I think in some ways I was more ready to fail and fail and fail again than I was to actually succeed,” she says.

keeping grounded

Biodata Occupation novelist Born 19 august 1988 From new york Greatest Hits the Divergent books sold 6.7m copies in 2013 alone. as well as the main trilogy, there was a fourth volume, Four: A Divergent Collection, which gathered together short stories set in the universe. Random Fact Roth works out by kickboxing. “i have a bag in my basement and gloves and hand wraps and all those things,” she says.

In a similar vein, the idea of a movie of her work “was bewildering, mostly because I really didn’t think it would happen”. Throughout the adaptation process, her film rights manager, producer Pouya Shahbazian, told her not to get carried away. Only on the way to the premiere, she says, did they allow themselves to celebrate. On the future of the film franchise, uncertain in the light of the comparative box office failure of Allegiant and talk of a switch to TV, she says only: “It’s a little bit of a confusing situation, but I guess we’ll have to wait and see.” Meantime, as Carve The Mark makes its way into the world, has Roth ever thought about writing for an older audience? Not as yet. In part, this is because she likes the way her young readers have a “free and wonderful enthusiasm” in the way they read and connect so strongly with characters – even if that does mean receiving tweets that are crying face emojis. “It’s pretty wonderful to be honest,” she says. “Even if they’re sad, at least they’re feeling things. To write something someone engages with and feels something about is pretty special.” Carve The Mark is out now from HarperCollins.

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los angeles times/getty (1)


ometimes, it seems best to keep things secret. When she began writing her new novel, Carve The Mark, Veronica Roth didn’t even tell her publisher that she was on to something until comparatively late in the day. “I’ve gotten good at shutting out the outside world, I think,” she says. “You have to because if you spend all your time thinking about how people are going to react to a story, then you really don’t take any risks.” You can understand why Roth was so reluctant to share. Her dystopian Divergent YA trilogy, of which more later, represents one of those rags-to-riches publishing success stories that authors dream about but which occur only rarely. The first volume, Divergent, was published in 2011, a year after Roth left Northwestern University. The film of the book, a huge hit, followed in 2014. Against such a career backdrop, her secrecy was in part a way of deflecting pressure, of keeping her new project “safe”.

brought to book veronica roth


april 2017 | sfx magazine |


d the sf an d in h e b y r the stor sy of yesteryea f a n ta

2 006 -2 00


We’re havin’ hoops! Robert Fairclough takes an inside look at the ’70s lawman beating up the wrong guy... rom Mark Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee In King Arthur’s Court to the Hot Tub Time Machine films, marooning characters from one era in another, usually more primitive one has been a popular staple of science fiction, fantasy and comedy. In 1992, The Comic Strip spoof Detectives On The Edge Of A Nervous Breakdown went the other way: “Shouting George of The Weeney” – a spoof of womanising, fist-throwing, alcohol-fuelled Flying Squad Inspector Jack Regan (John Thaw) from The Sweeney, 1975-78) – was brought out of retirement, the show relishing stranding him in a 1990s London lacking derelict warehouses, car chases and shouting. Eight years later, three TV professionals descended on Blackpool for a Sweeney-esque, boozy weekend of chip suppers to brainstorm ideas for new television dramas. “Tony Jordan, Ashley Pharaoh and myself were sent away by [the production company] Kudos,” writer

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Matthew Graham tells SFX. “We realised that we were all a bit bored with police shows. Tony had done a series called City Central, which was a fairly traditional cop show… Inspector Morse and A Touch Of Frost were really good, but they weren’t naturally our thing. As a result, we all agreed The Sweeney was great and said, ‘Let’s do that!’ “We started developing a Sweeney-style series and then, of course, after a while, you realise all the things you love about The Sweeney don’t feel very comfortable in a modern television climate – you know, ‘Get yer bra on, love, you’re nicked!’ At that point, we thought, ‘Let’s make it a time travel show, take someone from our time and put them back [in the 1970s],’ which was our get-out-of-jail-free card. We could then have all the sexism and the homophobia and all the other stuff that was going to make people feel uncomfortable, because we’d have our cop, Detective Inspector Sam Tyler, roll his eyes, be us and say, ‘You’re a dinosaur.’ It was called Ford Granada back

time machine life on mars

april 2017 | sfx magazine |


time machine life on mars

then,” a reference to Jack Regan’s favoured mode of transport. The eventual title of the show that premiered in January 2006 is explained by Sam listening to the 1971 David Bowie track “Life On Mars?” on his iPod, being injured in an accident then waking up in 1973 Manchester, with the same song still playing on a car stereo. The song title neatly becomes a metaphor for how Sam feels, in a line of dialogue repeated at the beginning of every episode: “It’s like I’ve landed on a different planet.” Was he mad, back in time or in a coma? Seven million dedicated viewers tuned in every week to find out.

“They struggled to find a director for Life On Mars, because no one quite understood what it was,” says Bharat Nalluri, a film director with an established track record in Hollywood who had been instrumental in Spooks and Hustle, Kudos’s two previous successes for the BBC. “When I first read it, I said, ‘This is amazing. It’s either gonna be absolute pants, or it’s going to be a work of genius.’ It wasn’t a cop show, it wasn’t a time travel show, it wasn’t a comedy – what the hell was it? That’s why it had such a long development and other directors had

The Gene Genie quickly became a phenomenon The first signs of the DCI’s popularity were a series of Radio Times covers and two “making of” books; The Rules Of Modern Policing: 1973 Edition, “by DCI Hunt”, was also published in October 2007. Over that Christmas on the eve of Ashes To Ashes, there was a short story in the Daily Mail, followed by adverts on London buses promoting the new series. In 2010, Gene’s image was being used by both Tory and Labour election campaigns. Four original Life On Mars novels were released in 2013, with such endearing titles as Bullets, Blood And Blue Stratos and Get Cartwright.

Radio Times did an interior mock-up of a ’70s cover.

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Fact: this actor once did an SFX Couch Potato.

Sam Tyler (John Simm) with “amazing” Annie Cartwright (Liz White). struggled with it. What I call the ‘tonal tightrope’ was really complicated. “Everyone talks about The Sweeney as the base reference, but I looked at movies. I made people watch Get Carter [1971], the Michael Caine gangster film set in Newcastle. Get Carter’s actually very funny in many ways, but the tone of the humour is actually very real. Caine brings a reality to this kind of surreal world and that’s what I wanted to capture. “Adam Suschitzky was the Director of Photography,” Nullari continues. “We did Spooks and Hustle together. He comes from a line of DOPs – his father Peter works for David Cronenberg – and one of the reasons I had him on Life On Mars was because his grandfather, Wolfgang Suschitzky, shot Get Carter. We did loads of research through that link; he went and talked to his grandfather and worked out how they made it. If you look at the series, a lot of the windows have hard light coming through where you can’t see the source, and that’s all from Get Carter. “I said to our brilliant production designer Brian Sykes, ‘I want to be inside Sam Tyler’s head. In his head, he can’t see into the distance, there are

Sam goes to meet his mum (Joanne Frogatt). no parallel lines, everything goes off in the wrong direction.’ If you look at the CID office, the desks go one way, the lights go one way and the walls go another.” Towards the end of the series, when Sam is offered a way home under the guidance of DCI Frank Morgan (Ralph Brown), following Nalluri’s reasoning all the desks in the CID office are seen in ordered rows. The lead roles of Sam and Detective Chief Inspector Gene Hunt were first offered to Robert Carlyle and Ray Winstone respectively, but both declined. When filming began, it wasn’t long before the director knew that the bullish DCI, as eventually portrayed by Philip Glenister, would take on a life of his own. “The first scene we shot with him was where he meets Sam and drags him into his room. Gene punches him and has that great line, ‘I’m havin’ hoops.’ As soon as I heard him say that I thought, ‘The writers are going to love this guy!’ The reason I wanted Philip was because I’d seen him in a superb thriller with John Simm called State Of Play. He did a brilliant audition and owned Gene from day one. “John was perfect, too. He’s a real guy, he’s not a superhero. Whenever he arrives on screen, people just believe in him: he’s from Manchester, he’s got that everyman quality and he’s a brilliant actor. People don’t realise it, but he was in every single scene. The way Life On

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time machine life on mars

Beer: what fuelled ’70s cops.

Gene Hunt and his nemesis DCI Litton “tactfully” deal with a hostage situation.

Mars was constructed, that world couldn’t exist without Sam in it. It was very tough for John because of that, but luckily the whole cast were great – Liz White as WPC Annie Cartwright was amazing.” For all its gleeful embrace of the ’70s, Life On Mars didn’t flinch from examining the unpleasant aspects of the decade such as football violence, police corruption and, particularly, sexism and racism. “I was given a paragraph on what they wanted in the way of ‘an IRA story’,” explains Julie Rutterford, the only female writer to work on the series. “Matthew and Ashley weren’t afraid to make a point: if you were Irish in 1973 and being interrogated by somebody like Gene Hunt, the reality of it wasn’t good. Being from Ireland and living on mainland Britain was a scary time back then. That sign they used to put in windows: ‘No Irish, no blacks, no dogs’ – that’s within our lifetime. The racism was so overt.” Well into filming the second series, the production team were dealt an unexpected blow by their leading man. “Originally the plan

was to do three seasons,” reveals Graham, “but John was tired, his wife was expecting or had just had a baby, he was away a lot filming, so I think there was some family pressure to find something closer to home. He came to us and said, ‘I don’t want to do a third series, you’ll have to write me out,’ and we said, ‘If we write you out, we don’t have a show!’ Graham’s resolution was bold and controversial. “Effectively, it’s pro-suicide. That was a real issue with the BBC, Sam jumping off the roof. They’d always been completely supportive of what we were doing and they had confidence in us, because the show was a success already, but there were a few raised eyebrows and a few emails back and forth saying, ‘Let’s have a conversation about this.’ I said to them, ‘The way you have to see it is, he’s not killing himself, he’s going back through a portal. We’ll play it as an upbeat thing; we won’t have him crying and wailing and throwing himself off, he’s leaping off that building because he’s going through a magic door back to where he wants to be.’ It’s a tricky

one; there were conversations at high levels about whether or not we could do it.” Ten years on, Life On Mars remains a unique mixture of early ’70s nostalgia, social history, cheerfully non-PC policing, existentialism, memorably named villains – Dicky Fingers, Big Bird, Toolbox – great tunes and a Ford Granada. It’s easy to see why, with a winning formula established, the BBC wanted to carry on with the Sam-free sequel Ashes To Ashes, but Life On Mars is the series that retains the unpredictable freshness and anarchic edge. As Rutterford observes, in Gene Hunt, Glenister and the production team also created a British institution: “Gene’s bravado, his physicality, his wading-in first before thinking… Somewhere, deep down, I think he actually had a very good heart. He was an honourable man doing what was seen, by some people, as a dishonourable job.” “I think Life On Mars pushed people to think about doing stuff that wasn’t particularly being accepted,” offers Nalluri in conclusion. “Go right down that line, and you come up with something like Black Mirror today. Nine o’clock on a Monday night is a great slot, and I think we got that because we’d had successes with Spooks and Hustle. The audience was expecting something different, and when we went out everyone got onside. It’s one of the favourite things that I’ve done and one of the few things I’ve done that I can still watch.”

The series was remade in three countries In the USA, Sam dreams about space exploration. In the Spanish and Russian versions, he wakes up under the countries’ post-Fascist and active Communist regimes. “The first episode of the Russian series is very good and the Spanish one is too,” says Nalluri. “I was asked to direct the American version but I didn’t really want to go there, as I thought we’d nailed it in England. They did the pilot twice in America – they shot it once and it was set in Los Angeles; that was shelved, then it was made again in New York with a new cast.”

La Chica De Ayer, the show’s Spanish incarnation.

april 2017 | sfx magazine |


April 2017

cinemA 94

home entertAinment 98

books 110

edited by Ian Berriman

comics 116

gAmes & stuff 118

collectAbles 120


the girl with All the gifts

this issue

62 reviews

You wouldn’t like her when she’s Hungry




Matt Damon gets caught up in a China crisis in this historical adventure.

rAtings explAined




NORSE MYTHOLOGY Neil Gaiman reshapes ancient tales of gods into a “novelistic arc”.

Is Netflix’s take on the YA series Lemony or a lemon?




terrible April 2017 | sfx mAgAzine |



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“We are gathered here today…”

THe greaT Wall

Singing from the same Song sheet released 24 February

12a | 103 minutes Director Zhang yimou Cast Matt damon, Tian Jing, Willem dafoe, Pedro Pascal, andy lau, eddie Peng

“East is East and West is West and never the twain shall meet” said one Rudyard Kipling. Watching The Great Wall, you are tempted to agree with the old imperialist-minded author. The initial controversy surrounding this epic monster mash regarded Matt Damon playing an American mercenary who somehow finds himself slap-bang in the middle of the Northern Song Dynasty (so some time between 960 and 1279). However, the problems with this beautiful-looking – but largely humourless and surprisingly stern – adventure opus go far beyond the presence of three Caucasian “heroes” (Damon is joined by Game Of Thrones star Pedro Pascal as his partner in theft and fighting, along with Willem Dafoe). First of all, there’s the seriously ropey CGI. In a movie dependent on the recurring spectacle of a

The Red Arrows: the early years.

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horde of snarling, sharp-toothed, four-legged beasties called the Taotie, this is quite a formidable flaw. Yes, they leap towards the screen in 3D, blow up brilliantly and tear a number of Mandarinspeaking extras to bits, but do we ever believe in them? No more than we do the thinly-rendered threats of Sharknado. Secondly, and most glaringly, there’s the fact that no mainland Chinese film gets produced without official government approval. This means quite a bit of underlying propaganda. For instance, when Pascal’s character discovers the Sino forces he murmurs, “Look at this army – I have never seen anything like it!” And this is one of the more subtle examples. Experienced Chinaphiles will quickly pick up on every nuance… and after about 45 minutes it becomes even more of a distraction than the cartoon critters hell-bent on consuming the cast. Finally, anyone wondering if Damon feels out of place should be aware this is a script based around the fallacy that the Great Wall was built to keep invaders out. In actual fact it was built to keep the population in. So, in other words,

if you want to get historically picky, then Jason Bourne goes to China is the least of your worries. Matt Damon handles himself well here, even if you do get the impression that he’s been played as a bit of a fool by the producers. Portraying an old hand in gunboat diplomacy, he comes a cropper to the well-organised Song Dynasty army and, after being captured by glamorous female Commander (Tian Jing), finds himself seduced by their selfless nationalism. Damon’s mercenary also discovers a blossoming chemistry with Tian’s character but, perhaps

Feels little more than an endless lesson in Beijing 101 down to cultural sensitivities, is denied even a solitary snog, making the numerous sexual subtleties totally pointless. This might be the least rewarding date movie of recent years.


Sci-fi and fantasy’s most memorable bricks and mortar


O ver 300 miles long, 200 metres high and made of ice, the imaginatively titled “Wall” was built to keep the White Walkers out. The cracking views from the top are a bonus.


T he world is under attack from alien kaiju. There are two ways to save it: giant fighting robots or a massive wall around the Pacific. Kevin McCloud would be impressed, but we prefer the robots.


W hoever built the milehigh wall around the Glade was probably overcompensating for something – but since the maze outside is packed with killer Grievers, we’re glad they made the effort.


With Damon’s character explaining that powerful men cannot avoid taking all of the spoils – and the ravaging hordes described as representing “greed” – it soon feels as if The Great Wall is little more than an endless lesson in Beijing 101. Western individualism is showcased as the worst sin imaginable; the white man’s search for gunpowder is portrayed as the root of all evil (shades of the later Opium Wars), and Confucian obedience is upheld as part of every man and woman’s patriotic duty. By the midway mark you might even find yourself rooting

for the animated ogres – although you’d be forgiven for wondering if even they want to swallow any of this cod-philosophising. Nonetheless, as the pace picks up there are some popcorn pleasures to be experienced here. The battles are well staged by Zhang Yimou, whose previous credits include House Of Flying Daggers, and old-school fans of Hong Kong action cinema will doubtlessly enjoy seeing superstar actor Andy Lau coming into conflict with Damon. Dodgy digital trickery aside, there is at least one superb jump scare, there

are plenty of multiplex-friendly explosions, and the various munchings and maulings are executed with aplomb. As the conclusion arrives, the overriding message might well be that East-West relations are at their best when a peaceful common ground is sustained. Given the rabble-rousing of the Trump White House towards China, that could well prove more prophetic than it currently sounds… Calum Waddell

I f you’re going to name your village “Wall”, you ought to have a pretty good one – but this dry stone boundary between our world and the magical realm is remarkably easy to get through.


T he US government builds a giant wall across the border with Mexico to keep aliens out. We’re not sure Donald Trump realises this is supposed to be science fiction.

Before his death in June 2015, James Horner (Wrath Of Khan, Aliens) was originally contracted to write the score.

april 2017 | sfx magazine |



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In the family slay released 10 February

15 | 87 minutes Director alice lowe Cast alice lowe, Kate dickie, Jo Hartley, Tom davis

Alice Lowe was seven and a half months pregnant when she shot this directorial debut, in which Ruth (Lowe), a heavily pregnant widow, embarks on a waddling rampage of revenge coaxed by the homicidal instructions of her unborn child. Sharing DNA with Ben Wheatley’s Sightseers (which Lowe co-wrote and starred in) Prevenge blends grisly horror and bilious comedy, low-key social realism and carefully modulated fantasy. A genre film with thrills, chills and voluminous blood spills, it nonetheless has serious things to say about antenatal depression,

The tenpin bowling alley staff found their thief.

and dares to challenge audience perceptions at every turn – be it by subverting society’s notion of the radiant mum-to-be, making Ruth such an unsympathetic character (initially at least), or by steering towards a feminist agenda only to swerve in another direction. Shot in just 11 days, Prevenge makes use of unfamiliar Cardiff locations, a heightened atmosphere and a sometimes scuzzy, sometimes woozy palette to replicate the pinballing hormones and amplified emotions of pregnancy. A welcome addition to the male-dominated demonic pregnancy sub-genre, it surely marks the birth of a promising directorial career for Lowe… who, it should be noted, enjoyed a happy pregnancy. Jamie Graham During a home visit, Lowe’s midwife saw a poster of Dario Argento’s Opera on the wall: “I thought she’d call social services…”

UnDerWOrlD: BlOOD Wars Lame Of Thrones released OuT NOW!

15 | 91 minutes Director anna Foerster Cast Kate beckinsale, Tobias Menzies, lara Pulver, Theo James

Watching an Underworld film is like taking part in a memory experiment. You know the ones: they ask you to look around the room for red stuff, then tell you to shut your eyes and describe all the blue stuff and, because you were looking for red stuff, you can’t remember a single blue thing? Then you open your eyes, and it turns out there’s loads of blue stuff, like, everywhere. In the context of this franchise, Kate Beckinsale in a spandex

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catsuit shooting top-heavy CGI dogs is the red stuff, and any semblance of plot is the blue stuff. Even someone who finished watching every instalment an hour ago would struggle to tell you what happens in them. Still, don’t panic: Blood Wars feels your pain, and manages to fit four films’ worth of clips into a three-minute “previously on” montage, then doesn’t ask you to remember anything past “Selene has a daughter and doesn’t know where she is”. Don’t worry if you can’t remember that though, because 95% of this script is exposition, the other 5% grunts. We follow Selene as she’s pursued by vampires for her magic blood, and by werewolves for her

As cheese shops went, it had a lot of guns. magic daughter. The werewolves are led by Marius, a Lycan blood-junkie, with the evil vampires headed up by Semira, who thinks she’s playing Cersei Lannister. We can understand her confusion, as this film has an outpost in the north protected by a giant ice wall, a female ruler who refuses to respect her council, and Charles Dance titting about in a

castle. But it’s not all Game Of Thrones rip-offs: Blood Wars also features Divergent star Theo James, playing every single scene like he’s just stubbed his toe. Oh yes, these films are forgettable alright, and when it comes to this one, maybe that’s for the best. Sam Ashurst Tobias Menzes (Marius) prepared for his role as a Lycan by going to London Zoo and observing some African dogs.

Reviews Jaws’s second cousin was much cheerier. “Let us pray for an end to the power cut.”

THE BYE BYE MAN Make it go away! released OUT NOW!

15 | 96 minutes Director stacy Title Cast douglas smith, lucien laviscount, Cressida Bonas

The sommelier was a little intense.

assassin’s CreeD

Cloak and stagger released OUT NOW!

12a | 115 minutes Director Justin Kurzel Cast Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard, Jeremy Irons, Brendan Gleeson

If you were hoping that Assassin’s Creed would buck the trend and become the first great videogame-to-film adaptation, bad news. This one doesn’t fall into the “good” category either, because while it’s certainly not catastrophically awful, it’s extremely disappointing given the talent involved. Borrowing the basic concept (as a secret conflict rages between Templars and Assassins for the free will of the world, technology’s used to explore the genetic memory of one slightly unwilling subject, to explore the past and locate a McGuffin known as the Apple of Eden), the film spins its own story. Michael Fassbender’s Callum Lynch is a convict recruited because one of his ancestors was an Assassin in Spain during the Spanish Inquisition and… Look, if you know the games, you’re already aware; if not, there

are lengthy exposition dumps by the likes of Marion Cotillard and Jeremy Irons to explain the basics. It’s there that the fault lies: the script is a mishmash of explanations, conspiracy mythology and dour proclamations about the nature of humanity that squeezes the life out of everything else. Which is a shame, because director Justin Kurzel does his best to infuse excitement into the scenes set in the past, blending smoky atmosphere, parkour and practical stunts for some fun setpieces, all accessed by hooking Fassbender up to the Animus, a giant robot arm that would give the aliens from Toy Story wet dreams. The cast generally throw themselves into it (even if Irons occasionally appears to be staring at an off-screen counter tallying his fee), but despite the clear attempt at franchise building, Assassin’s Creed seems doomed to be added to the list of interesting but failed attempts to translate gameplay excitement to the big screen. James White The stuntwork includes one of the highest free falls by a stuntman in 35 years, with Damien Walters dropping 125 feet.

It’s somewhat ironic that this anaemic, incompetent horror centres on a bogeyman reliant on people spreading his name, given the poor word of mouth it’s sure to inspire. It starts promisingly enough, with an intriguing ’60s flashback in which a man guns down friends and family. Sadly, we then cut to the present day, to follow three characterless college kids who’ve moved into a spooky old house. After discovering the Bye Bye Man’s name scribbled in a drawer, soon they’re seeing things that aren’t there – and vice versa... Sadly, this scar-faced, hooded bogeyman is no Freddy or Candyman – your average Buffy episode has creepier creations – and the fact that no one bothered to devise a backstory for him seems lackadaisical. There’s one decent jump scare, when the BBM makes his first appearance. After that about the only entertainment on offer is snorting at each fresh absurdity in the script: the idea that a spree killer’s widow would casually sell on furniture with his insane scribblings on, for example – or that a guy would turn up at his brother’s house, hear a gunshot, and assume he’s dead without even checking. Long before the credits finally roll, you’ll be desperate to go bye bye. Ian Berriman The film was inspired by a chapter in The President’s Vampire, a Fortean book of “strange but true” tales.


PG | 105 minutes

Titled with thudding literalism, Monster Trucks shows what would happen if a creature living miles below the Earth’s crust got propelled to the surface by an oil company’s drilling, then hid inside a monster truck. Seriously. That’s it. Helping the blobby visitor get back home is teenager Tripp (Lucas Till), but who cares? The only good thing about this shallow nonsense is the effects, as the gloopy, tentacled creature is adorable – not to mention more realistic than anything else in the script. Jayne Nelson

also out

Four more releases to tell you about, none of which screened before our deadline. On 3 February, Milla Jovovich’s Alice returns in RESIDENT EVIL: THE FINAL CHAPTER (we can hope…). The same day brings the revival of the Ring series: RINGS sees long-haired lass Samara’s cursed video leaping online. The Lego Movie’s stand-out character spins off on 10 February in THE LEGO BATMAN MOVIE. Finally, pack some tissues for THE SPACE BETWEEN US, in which a lad from Mars visits Earth, and wins the heart of a fair maiden with his adorable reactions to stuff like horses and rain. Bless.

april 2017 | sfx magazine |



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the girl With all the gifts

Not fungis to be with released OUT NOW!

2016 | 15 | Blu-ray/dVd/download Director Colm McCarthy Cast sennia Nanua, Gemma arterton, Paddy Considine, Glenn Close, anamaria Marinca, dominique Tipper

It never ceases to amaze how a well-worn template can be revitalised by putting a couple of clever twists on it. Hitting on the right changes to make is the tricky bit, of course – along with doing justice to the way all their implications unfold. Lucifer creator Mike Carey makes it look like child’s play with this post-apocalyptic zombie drama. The film has its roots in a short story Carey penned for a 2012 anthology co-edited by Charlaine Harris. Realising its potential, Carey opened it out into both a novel and a screenplay. Twist one: here, the zombifying infection is fungal – inspired by a real-life fungus that afflicts ants in the rainforests. This gives the film’s ravenous “Hungries” an unusual mouldy-faced look. Their behaviour is also different: they hunt mainly by scent, something cleverly thought through by

The bird chose its poo targets carefully.

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having military characters issued with a gel that masks their smell. Undisturbed, the Hungries stand still. Cue powerfully eerie scenes as our heroes move slowly and steadily through their midst, as if taking part in a musical statues flashmob – a deadly one, because if they do sniff you out they’re on you in a flash. The Hungry attack scenes are ferocious, making effective use of Steadicam, but have a pleasing clarity; the desire to create a sense of scale never swamps your sense of who is under threat. Twist two: make your main character a child. This is one of those films whose success rests squarely on one person’s shoulders, and here she’s a 12-year-old girl. We meet Melanie (Sennia Nanua) in a military bunker. Strapped into a chair, routinely insulted, fed on live worms, she remains remarkably cheery and polite. Only when we see the throat-ripping violence she’s capable of do we understand why she’s viewed with such hatred and fear. It’s an incredibly challenging part, and young Nanua is a revelation, capably projecting both terrifying savagery and

It was the only way they could get anyone to watch the Richard Curtis film. adorable sweetness; watching the cloistered Melanie’s wonder as she encounters everyday items like cat flaps, fridge magnets and Velcro is an utter delight. Melanie is special – she could be the key to the salvation of the human race, leading to a quest for a place of safety. This journey takes us into yet more familiar fictional territory: the city reclaimed by nature. A Hollywood blockbuster would probably have squandered millions on CGI and massive set builds. This British indie production achieves far more effective results by good old-

It creates a truly immersive, believable world fashioned location scouting. Utilising the likes of a derelict shopping centre in Stoke-on-Trent and an abandoned hospital in Dudley, it creates a truly immersive, believable world.

Reviews mind


COLM McCARTHY Director, The Girl With All The Gifts

Did the idea of a world reclaimed by nature particularly appeal? Even before having read Mike Carey’s short story, I had this idea about doing a post-apocalyptic film that would use derelict spaces. As a child, I used to go and play in derelict houses. I loved being in a room where maybe a family had lived, but now there was a tree growing through the floorboards.

Not everything about the film quite lands. One might question some of the logic: if Melanie’s been raised merely as a test subject, why is her language so impeccable, and how come she’s so well socialised? For a time, the journey starts to seem a little aimless. And an encounter with some feral children might inspire sniggers. But none of this is of any great significance set against the film’s ravishing ruin-porn, or the captivating brilliance of Nanua’s immaculate, authentic-feeling performance – both of which may leave you hungry for a sequel.

Extras Disappointing. All you get is a Making Of (21 minutes), bundled with the materials it was pieced together from – 20 minutes of behind-the-scenes “B-roll”, plus the full versions of eight interviews (85 minutes) with cast and crew. That Making Of sees cast and crew discussing all the topics you’d expect, such as the casting, the conceptual and visual inspiration for the Hungries, and the locations. Some quirky snatches of behindthe-scenes footage make it worth watching: Sennia Nanua and her double dancing; a Hungry extra knitting in-between takes; Glenn

Close petting a rat. We also get to see Mike Carey being made-up for his cameo as a Hungry (keep ’em peeled during the aboveground scenes at the military base – he’s one of the Hungries shaking the perimeter fence), and the joy of Close’s zombie-nut sister-in-law at achieving a lifelong ambition by doing likewise. Cute… but it doesn’t make up for the absence of a commentary, deleted scenes and so on. Bah. Ian Berriman The Hungries’ teeth-snapping was inspired by the way cats’ chatter as they watch prey they can’t reach through a window.

So how did you create that aesthetic? We hit upon Pripyat, outside Chernobyl. We sent a drone unit. It was relatively cheap. There are shots of Chernobyl that have our actors, shot in Birmingham, combined into them. There are a lot of visual effects elements – 558 shots – but most of them you can’t tell are visual effects. The derelict hospital is a stunning location too. The location manager phoned me up and said, “I’ve found this place, the most messed-up hospital I’ve ever been in!” It would have been beyond our budgetary limitations to create that kind of look – corridor after corridor of peeling wallpaper and ivy coming through the windows. The film is so much bigger than what people normally do on a movie that costs less than £5 million.Jamie Graham

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Barry the aroused extra disgraced himself.


2017 | sVOd Creator daniel Handler Cast Neil Patrick Harris, Patrick Warburton, Malina Weissman NETFLIX A Series Of Unfortunate Events exploded onto the world of children’s fiction in 1999. Written by the mysterious Lemony Snicket (the nom de plume of Daniel Handler), they were soon adapted into a Jim Carrey movie... but that didn’t do well at the box office. With the final book (fittingly, the 13th) hitting shelves way back in 2006, it seemed as though

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Snicket’s story was done – so why the need for a TV series today? Well, Netflix were looking for a flagship show to lure in family viewers, and Barry Sonnenfeld – who left the movie project, citing budget concerns – was still itching to make his own version of the saga. “Netflix has given me a lot of money to basically do whatever I want,” he said upon taking on this series... and boy, was it worth it. Filled with gothic melodrama and meta fourth-wall-breaking, this is the story of three orphans trying to fend off the moneygrabbing advances of the sinister Count Olaf (Neil Patrick Harris).

It’s part Dickensian drama, part steampunk fantasy and part Hollywood musical. While some of the shenanigans are childishly Scooby-Doo in tone, there’s a pleasing “adult” arc-plot involving a secret society, while the Baudelaire kids – including a fantastic baby who must have been

Every penny spent is right there on screen

The Baudelaires try to convince someone that Count Olaf is bad/is in disguise, and nobody believes them. Baby Sunny chews something. Violet needs to think, so ties her hair up in a ribbon. Poe has a coughing fit. It’s obvious that Violet’s holding a model version of baby Sunny. You see the mysterious eye symbol. Someone explains to the Baudelaires what a word means, and they already know.

a nightmare to work with (she’s in almost every scene!) – are superbly deadpan. The dialogue is funny, and Patrick Warburton’s appearances as narrator Snicket channel everything from Mad Men’s Don Draper to David Attenborough. Sure, like the books, the repetitive story can drag. It gets tedious when, over and again, adults fall for Olaf’s disguises. Harris’s over-the-top Count also riffs on Carrey’s big-screen version, although he’s still a scream. But in the show’s favour are superb performances and the kind of production design that would make Tim Burton drool: every penny spent on the show is right there on the screen, and there were clearly a lot of them. It’s big, it’s bold, it’s occasionally disturbing but, most of all, it’s fun. For everyone except the unfortunate Baudelaires, of course. Jayne Nelson This season covers books 1-4. There’ll be two more; Netflix are hurrying to film them before the kids grow up.

Reviews BeYOnD THe gATes Video Killed The Bro Duo’s Pa released 13 February (download)/20 February (dVd)

2017 | 18 | dVd/download Director Jackson stewart Cast Graham skipper, Chase Williamson, brea Grant, Matt Mercer

Wait a minute, that’s just one gate (singular). We feel robbed!


Though not set in the ’80s, Beyond The Gates is a loving homage to the era of films like The Gate, The Beyond and From Beyond. It centres on two estranged brothers who come together to tidy up the affairs of their missing father, owner of a video rental store. Discovering that the last thing he watched was the VHS from a video boardgame called Beyond The Gates, they follow suit… and find themselves challenged to deliver four keys in order to “cross over” and save their dad’s soul. Re-Animator star

Barbara Crampton plays the game’s Elvira-ish host, uncannily responding to their actions from the TV screen. It’s a shame that the brothers’ quest takes them no further than their old family home, and the various gruesome deaths don’t have quite the impact they could. The game’s mythology also feels like it could have been more fully fleshed-out. But the convincingly awkward relationship between the strait-laced Gordon and his waster sibling John provides a solid foundation. And ’80s horror-hounds will be tickled by the bloody exploding heads and use of sinister purple lighting. A slight effort, but one with considerable charm. Extras None. Ian Berriman Initially Crampton was just a producer/ financier; the hostess role was recast after another actress didn’t work out.

The mould on the ceiling was definitely getting worse.

Djinn and bear it released OuT NOW!

2016 | 15 | dVd Director babak anvari Cast Narges rashidi, avin Manshadi, bobby Naderi, ray Haratian

There are socially worthy reasons to applaud the emergence of films like Under The Shadow, to do with the representation of different cultures – but you don’t even need to touch upon those to explain why it’s A Good Thing. This chiller stands out because it’s set in Tehran in 1988, during the Iran-Iraq War (so Persian language, English subtitles). Shideh and her daughter Dorsa live in fear of a missile strike on their building. But that becomes a secondary issue when the atmosphere of fear and anxiety attracts the attentions of a djinn. These malevolent spirits “mark” you by taking a

possession, and Dorsa’s favourite doll has gone AWOL… It’s not the most innovative horror film ever made: there are echoes of J-horrors like Dark Water, as well as Roman Polanski’s psychological thrillers. With its mysterious footsteps, sinister ceiling cracks and soundtrack of ominous throbs, there’s plenty that’ll feel familiar to horror fans, but the fact that it all plays out against the backdrop of Iran’s Cultural Revolution and draws upon Middle-Eastern folklore makes everything feel quite fresh. Initially, as we follow Shideh’s struggles with authority and anguish when her husband’s sent to the frontline, Under The Shadow feels like a domestic drama. This grounding in reality not only provides a window onto a culture most Western viewers will be unfamiliar with, but really pays off

once the spooky stuff starts. The setting also provides explanations for the awkward questions such haunting tales usually inspire. Why not just leave? In this context, not so easy: when Shideh does run out into the street she’s arrested for wearing Western dress. Featuring strong performances, effective jump scares, and an atmosphere of slowly ratcheting

dread, Under The Skin is a textbook example of why the diversification of horror cinema is in the interests of everyone, because it presents Western audiences with characters and stories we haven’t seen a hundred times before. Extras None. Ian Berriman Because of the censorship and restrictions that filming in Iran would have entailed, shooting actually took place in Jordan.

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miss peregrine’s home for peCUliar ChilDren The Kids Are All Fright released OUT NOW!

2016 | 12 | 4K Blu-ray/Blu-ray 3d/ Blu-ray/dVd Director Tim Burton Cast eva Green, asa Butterfield, ella Purnell, samuel l Jackson, Chris O’dowd

With Apocalypse turning out to be a bloated, ponderous mess, it was left to Tim Burton to make the best X-Men movie of 2016 – and his own most satisfying film in years. Author Ransom Riggs’s tale of

uniquely gifted children always felt like it would be ideal territory for the man behind Beetlejuice and Edward Scissorhands, and so it proves to be. Yet while in many ways Miss Peregrine’s is quintessential Burton, the film feels less constrained by the self-consciously offbeat weirdness that has almost become a cliché in his most recent outings. Indeed, the trademark gothic imagery, steampunky production design and nods to Frankenstein’s monster actually feel fresh in this beautifully realised world.

Sadly, Karl’s novelty balloon popped six seconds later.

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It helps that Jane Goldman’s tight, witty script never loses sight of where it’s going, as the ideas-packed story moves from modern-day Florida to ’40s Wales, and outsider teen Jake (Asa Butterfield) tries to find out if his grandfather’s stories about Miss Peregrine (Eva Green) and her titular school are true. The kids – inspired by old black-and-white photos Riggs found – are all brilliant, whether lighter than air, pyrokinetic or possessing monster jaws on the back of their heads, while Samuel L Jackson’s Barron and his white-eyed Wights make for a fun, macabre threat. It’s good to have Burton back.

“Alas, poor Yorick… you silly dead git.”

SEEDING OF AHongGHOST Kong spewey released OUT NOW!

1983 | 18 | Blu-ray & dVd (dual format) Director Kuen Yeung Cast Norman Chu, Phillip Ko, Maria Jo, Yung Wang

Extras On the DVD, Burton, Goldman, Riggs, and various other cast and crew turn up for does-the-basics Making Of “The Peculiar Story” (13 minutes), along with locations featurette “Map Of Days” (18 minutes) – the latter is notable for American contributors’ efforts to get their heads around the concept of Blackpool. “[The town] has a certain haunted quality,” says executive producer Derek Frey. There’s also a gallery, trailers and a Florence + The Machine music video. Blu-ray viewers get a couple of extra featurettes: “The Peculiars” (65 minutes) takes an in-depth look at each of the gifted kids, while “Hollows & Ex-Hollows” is a rather more whistlestop profile of the movie’s baddies. Richard Edwards

This none-more-weird Shaw Brothers production is an extreme example of the exploitation cinema coming out of Hong Kong in the ’80s. When a taxi driver’s wife is raped and killed by thugs (in an uncompromising sequence that must have given the BBFC pause) the man calls in a master of the black arts. The magician then curses the two thugs, and the results are, well, quite something. Toilets explode, brains are eaten, there’s a naked exorcism and a man gets a giant matchstick rammed up his bottom. Then later on, really insane things happen... Massively graphic in its nudity and gore, this is juicy, crazy stuff that’s oddly likeable (sorry, we’re sickos). Pacing issues, along with some confusion as to what genre the film actually believes it belongs to, throw it off balance, but fans of obscure misadventures in sleaze should lap it up. Extras An informed commentary by filmmaker Bey Logan, plus featurette “Hong Kong Horror” (20 minutes) – basically a talking head with SFX contributor Calum Waddell, who tells all about Hong Kong and its splatter movie industry. Russell Lewin

Samuel L Jackson’s character, Barron, is named after a memorable bus driver Ransom Riggs had in the eighth grade.

Maria Jo, who plays the murdered wife – and gets naked on numerous occasions – was a former Miss Korea.

Burton made the best X-Men movie of 2016


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We are the flesh The depths of depravity released 13 February

2016 | 18 | blu-ray/dVd Director emiliano rocha Minter Cast Noe Hernandez, Maria evoli, diego Gamaliel, Maria Cid

This year’s chess championships had a big budget cut.

Rather than reading the following review you might be better off checking out the BBFC’s website to get the lowdown on this extraordinarily twisted and explicit movie. Its 215 words on We Are The Flesh detail some of the taboo-smashing goings-on, and are quite a read (example: “Scenes of strong sex include a brother and sister being manipulated into sleeping together. There are explicit images of oral sex, intercourse, masturbation and ejaculation”). And there’s a lot more than that. In fact, you might want to read the BBFC treatise instead of watching

the film; to say it’s not for everyone is the understatement of 2017. The plot, such as it is, sees two youngsters taking refuge with the sort of guy you might normally see eating food out of dustbins and shouting. The three then go through bizarre shared experiences (fantasy elements creep in), all in one small, dark, airless lair. Sounds like an ordeal doesn’t it? In part. And yet… there is quality here. There is some intelligence. Accomplished visuals ensure that it’s not too dingy, and it’s confident and bracingly different. But what on earth does it all mean? Extras Four interviews with the director and stars; a “video essay” by a critic; two short films by the same director; gallery; trailer; collector’s booklet. Russell Lewin Initially, the director wanted his two stars to be a real brother and sister, but eventually he decided it was too much…

The “We Hate Red” group got angrier.

“Want to join our crochet club?”

The fake panda wasn’t arousing Chi Chi.

Pat’s summer holiday got even worse.





released OuT NOW!

2001 | 15 | blu-ray & dVd (dual format)

On a terraformed Mars, cops and crims team up to fight off miners possessed by Martian spirits – a premise John Carpenter’s career nadir takes 48 minutes to set up. It’s painfully over-extended, with messy action and characters too witless to grasp that killing the possessed means someone else is possessed. We’re even denied Carpenter’s one-finger synths, bludgeoned by Anthrax riffs. Tiresomely macho. Extras Commentary, three featurettes, concept art, JC interview, trailer. Ian Berriman Blu-Ray deBut

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released OuT NOW!

1997 | 18 | blu-ray & dVd (dual format)

Or John Carpenter’s Vampires, if you want to be pedantic. Made after the director’s success rate nosedived, this unscary action-horror sees an angry James Woods hunting “modern” vampires (crosses don’t work etc) across dusty New Mexico vistas. Full of clichéd dialogue and noisy violence, it’s like a tiresome, overlong spin on Kathryn Bigelow’s Near Dark. Extras Commentary, Making Of, director interview, isolated score, booklet. Russell Lewin Blu-Ray deBut

released 6 February

2016 | 15 | VOd/download

released 20 February

2016 | 15 | blu-ray/dVd/download

In a Midwestern town, student John (Max Records) suspects that an old resident (Christopher Lloyd) is a killer. The truth is much stranger… Little here is especially original, and it’s a tad stretched out, but director Billy O’Brien creates a restrained, mature film strong on atmosphere and sense of place. You can almost feel the Minnesota snowflakes landing on your cheeks. Extras Test footage, deleted scenes, a gallery. The Blu-ray adds a featurette. Russell Lewin

Be warned: this occulttinged offering is borderline horror at best. Like The Wicker Man, it places an outsider in the remote Scottish countryside – here it’s an American woman who discovers a rune-marked corpse buried in a field in the Shetland Islands, part of a local conspiracy with its roots in pagan tradition. But while The Wicker Man traded on an unsettling sense of folk horror, Sacrifice delivers only a tepid sense of dread, content to play out like a drab ITV murder mystery. Nick Setchfield







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ET was delicious.

SANTA CLARITA DIET Killingly funny released 3 February

2017 | sVOd Creator Victor Fresco Cast drew barrymore, Timothy Olyphant, liv Hewson, skyler Gisondo

NETFLIX So how do you like your comedy served? A little on the black side? Best leave it on the grill a little longer, then. Bad taste can never be hurried. And do fill your side plate. There’s a fine selection of fingers, eyeballs and entrails. Why not garnish with blood, but be careful – that stuff tends to squirt. If your sense of humour has cannibalistic tendencies – or simply skews toward the homicidal – then Santa Clarita Diet is a delectably sick dish. The

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creation of Victor Fresco, who gave us satirical fourth wallbreaker Better Off Ted, this Netflix Original is a murderous romp in the sun-kissed vacuum of a Californian suburb. Far from the eyes of a network, it’s free to serial kill, F-bomb, sex gag and generally push the boundaries of simple human decency to breaking point. Technically it’s another entry in the zom-com genre, one more riff on the comic possibilities of undead brain-munchers, just like iZombie or Shaun Of The Dead. Fresco reins in the more outré horror elements, though – fleshcraving Sheila Hammond (Drew Barrymore) may lose a toe by episode eight but that’s about the extent of her bodily disintegration. There’s no shambling or

putrefaction here, just the darkest of whimsy: body parts bagged in the freezer, messy slayings of irritating neighbours. Farce with a body count. You imagine Hitchcock would have approved. It’s slyly written and well cast. Barrymore remains ridiculously endearing even as she’s snacking on a dismembered foot. As Joel, her hubby, Timothy Olyphant wears a rictus grin, his eyes betraying the clear desperation of a pothead who realises there’s not nearly enough weed in the world (“We’re realtors,” he keeps saying, like a mantra against the madness). And the support is strong too, particularly Liv Hewson as worldly daughter Abby, the fixed point of sanity in her parents’ increasingly crazed lives.

Someone upchucks volcanic amounts of vomit, decorating the room Slimer-style. A member of the cast winds up in a Tupperware box. Sheila munches on a body part (two swigs if it’s a limb). A half-forgotten ’70s or ’80s pop song plays over the end credits. Joel smokes some of his secret stash. Ramona the store assistant steals a scene with her zen weirdness. There’s a geeky gag on Eric’s t-shirt (Leave Pluto Alone is our fave).

The ten-part run loses something in the home stretch, focusing on the science behind Sheila’s transformation at the expense of some of the original supporting cast. This plot thread goes nowhere and you end up missing the neighbourhood ensemble of the early episodes (although in fairness some of these neighbours are in freezer bags by this point…). Yes, it’s grisly and tasteless, and maybe a deeply weird metaphor for the female midlife crisis, but for all its post-millennial boundary-breaking there’s something strangely old-fashioned about Santa Clarita Diet. With its flustered, despairing husband and more-than-human wife, its mix of the domestic and the fantastic, it’s almost a 21st century Bewitched. Just don’t wiggle your nose. Drew Barrymore will bite it off. Delicious with mustard, we hear. Eat up! Nick Setchfield The leads are both veterans of a classic ’90s horror franchise: Barrymore was in Scream while Olyphant was in Scream 2.

Reviews Strictly’s outdoor spin-off needed work.

Seconds later: blood everywhere.

THE 9TH LIFE OF LOUIS DRAX Unlucky kid tells tall tale

TROLLHUNTERS Season One DreamWorks does Del Toro

released 6 February

released OuT NOW!

2016 | 15 | dVd Director alexandre aja Cast Jamie dornan, sarah Gadon, aaron Paul, aiden longworth

What a peculiar little film this is. Is it aimed at kids? You’d think so, given that it’s narrated by a young boy from his hospital bed. Its tone is dreamlike, with fairytale elements. It’s about family, with Louis musing about his parents. He even talks to a mysterious wooden monster (not a patch on A Monster Calls’ walking tree). And yet the grown-ups use the “F” word, have sex and do horrible things – implying that this is actually a movie for adults. You could argue that Liz Jensen’s book has been adapted into a film that’s homaging the feel of a psychological child-centric horror masterpiece like Pan’s Labyrinth, but it’s missed that mark by a mile. It begins with a comatose Louis explaining how he came to fall off a cliff, but it’s hard to feel empathy, because he’s an utter sod; it takes an age to warm to him. Luckily his mum is fascinating (Sarah Gadon never fails to light up a movie) and Aaron Paul, as Louis’s dad, provides the real emotional core. But as the film meanders towards its twist-filled finale, your mind may wander too. Extras A pointless twominute Making Of. Jayne Nelson Aiden Longworth (Louis) also played Mulder and Scully’s son, William, for fantasy sequences in the X-Files revival.

The blind leading the blinds.

nighttime sessions. As the tale gets weirder and weirder, so her experiences affect the group she’s gathered around her. It all begins so well, especially when Jason Isaacs is introduced as one of the creepiest creeps you’ll have seen on TV in a long while. The first few episodes are full of storytelling fireworks, great acting and fascinating mysteries. It looks set to become a classic. Then it becomes clear what’s going on and suddenly all that mystery feels more like metaphysical smoke and mirrors to disguise some cheesy old sci-fi concepts. Worse still, the series finishes with a storytelling trick that’s not cryptic or “open to interpretation”, just a handy excuse for not having to make sense. Meanwhile, initially interesting characters barely develop and central themes are left unexplored. Oh, and it has synchronised voguing, in silly scenes that you just know ended with the director calling cut just before the cast collapsed in giggles. File under “wasted potential”. Dave Golder

Netflix In a career move as unexpected as Norman Bates becoming a pantomime dame, Guillermo del Toro is now making children’s TV. Anybody expecting him to give kids nightmares will be surprised, though. Trollhunters (based on his book of the same name) is a colourful, heartwarming, action-packed comedyadventure romp in 26 CGanimated parts. Teenager Jim Lake Jr becomes the first human Trollhunter, helping to protect the good trolls who live in secret beneath the town of Arcadia from an increasing number of evil trolls. All the while he has to balance his Trollhunter duties with schoolwork, a girlfriend and supporting his overworked single mum. Originality is not the show’s strong point, but inventive action, detailed worldbuilding and hugely fun (and impeccably voiced) characters are. Trollhunters has a quirky energy and an endless cast of wonderfully odd creatures. And the serialised storytelling and subtle gags (there’s a gnome called Chompsky) also make it ideal for grown-up kids to binge-watch. Jonathan Norton

As preparation, Marling wore a blindfold for hours at a time, re-learning how to cook an omelette or use the subway.

Guillermo del Toro voices Toby’s dentist in episode two, Mario Muelas. “Muelas” is Spanish for molars!

THe Oa Season One

She Can See Clearly Now released OuT NOW!

2016 | sVOd Creators Zal batmanglij, brit Marling Cast brit Marling, Jason Isaacs, Patrick Gibson, Phyllis smith Netflix For three episodes, Netflix’s latest journey into oddness, The OA, is an absorbing, constantly surprising delight that defies all expectations and delivers some wonderful fantasy images. Then the quality nosedives, as the enchantingly weird becomes the worryingly ludicrous, until the series crash-lands with an ending that’s aiming for “enigmatic” but which is actually just a huge fantasy cliché in fancy clothes. It’s a difficult series to summarise, as the beauty of the first few episodes is the way they keep twisting and turning into a new show completely. The basic set-up is that Prairie, a once-blind woman, returns to her parents after having been missing for seven years, with her eyesight now working. She’s annoyingly vague about where she’s been, but collects together a motley bunch of kids – and a teacher – to whom she reveals her story in a series of

2016 | sVOd Creators Guillermo del Toro, daniel Kraus Cast anton yelchin, Kelsey Grammer, lexi Medrano

april 2017 | sfx magazine |



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HOme enTerTainmenT


Less Fritz, more glitz released steelBook edition OUT NOW! regular edition 13 March

2001 | PG | Blu-ray & dVd (dual format) Director rintaro Cast Yuka Imoto, Kei Kobayashi, Kôki Okada, Tarô Ishida BLU-RAY DEBUT At the risk of inspiring massed weary tutting from anime fans at the ignorance of the gaijin, it’s worth pointing out that this is not a remake of Fritz Lang’s landmark 1927 sci-fi movie. However, that silent classic did influence the 1949 manga on which this film is based, written by Astro Boy creator Osamu Tezuka, and its impact is evident. Made by celebrated anime studio Madhouse, from a script by Akira manga creator Katsuhiro Otomo, Metropolis was a big deal on its original release. It certainly

Another Saturday, another visit to the hairdressers.

looks stunning. The characters may be a little cartoony (perhaps unwisely referencing Tezuka’s retro Astro Boy style among the sci-fi setting) but the backdrops are often breathtaking and there’s a wonderfully quirky jazz soundtrack. Sadly the characters are uniformly bland, and the plot – a human revolution against robots – is thin and lifeless. But as a travelogue of a visually fascinating future city, it’s a luminescent spectacle that’s crying out to be seen on Blu-ray. Extras A Japanese Making Of with English subtitles (33 minutes); subtitled interviews with director Rintaro and scriptwriter Otomo (eight minutes); two scenes showing the development of the animation; two trailers. Dave Golder Police superintendent Notarlin’s name is a nod to the slang term “notarin”, meaning “lacking brain matter”.

THe man in THe HigH CasTle Season Two

Untied States Of America released OUT NOW!

2016 | 15 | sVOd Creator Frank spotnitz Cast alexa davalos, rupert evans, rufus sewell, luke Kleintank AmAzon Delving further into the misery of a ’60s America carved up between the Nazis and the Japanese following an Axis victory in World War II, season two of this Philip K Dick-inspired show sees practically all the main characters take a step further towards the dark side – even the villains. This has the odd, but intriguing, effect of making season one’s rather

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bland heroes way more interesting and the baddies more sympathetic. You almost feel dirty rooting for Rufus Sewell’s sadistic Nazi officer when he starts taking decisions that go against his regime’s ideals, while the revolutionaries prove to be as ruthless and heartless as the forces they’re fighting against. This second run goes in a number of surprising directions – some good, some not so. It takes ages for Japanese trade minister Tagomi to do anything about the jawdropping ability for dimension jumping that he displayed in the season one finale. Juliana quickly meets the Man in the High Castle,

Terry stored an amazing amount of water in his trousers. and he’s a real letdown; she then asks for asylum from the Nazis. Meanwhile Joe learns something shocking from his past that leads him to the heart of power. For much of the season things are rather listless – it’s elegant, exquisitely acted and punctuated with wonderfully dark moments, but painfully slow, often repetitive and apparently directionless. Then

with episode nine, it all makes sense with a shocking, explosive and genuinely unpredictable series of events that cascade all the way through to the last few moments of the finale. This show isn’t an easy watch, but ultimately it pays off the effort. Dave Golder Amazingly, “Atlantropa” – a giant hydroelectric dam across the Strait of Gibraltar – was a genuine Nazi plan in the ’30s.

Reviews round up Sadly his battery was flat yet again.

IBOY Net gains released OUT NOW!

2017 | sVOd Director adam randall Cast Bill Milner, Maisie Williams, Miranda richardson, rory Kinnear NETFLIX If you’ve ever wondered what a British version of Spider-Man might look like, this Netflix original movie could hold the answer. Though it’s embedded in London’s urban sprawl, complete with grimy tower blocks and drug-peddling gangs, its teen hero Tom (Bill Milner) shares more than a little underdog DNA with New York’s friendly neighbourhood Webslinger, as he struggles to control powers he acquires in the wake of a traumatic incident. Whereas Peter Parker’s teething problems were played for laughs by Stan Lee, Sam Raimi and Marc Webb, Tom’s sudden ability to telepathically tap into mobile devices and the internet is tackled with MCU-esque grit by director Adam Randall. Milner (Young Magneto in X-Men: First Class) is a likeably conflicted lead, carrying the coming-of-age angst with ease, and he’s ably supported by Maisie Williams, who excels at both comedy and tragedy as his friend Lucy. While iBoy lacks big setpieces and a compelling villain in its first hour, its focus on groundlevel drama gives it an edge in this now well-worn genre. With its slick visuals and rough-andready approach, it often feels like a compelling mix of Misfits and Marvel. Josh Winning

Director Randall’s early credits include ads for Sainsbury’s and Nescafe, and a Home Office anti-fraud campaign.


“What do you mean you would have preferred the Ice Warriors?”

THe reTUrn Of DOCTOr mYsTeriO

Faster than a speeding TARDIS released OUT NOW!

2016 | 12 | Blu-ray/dVd Director ed Bazalgette Cast Peter Capaldi, Justin Chatwin, Charity Wakefield, Matt lucas

The twelfth Doctor Who Christmas special riffs on an altogether more recent seasonal tradition: the comic book blockbuster, those shiny, megabudget Marvel and DC movies that prop up the holiday TV schedules. Steven Moffat’s script teases the superhero myth rather than outright skewering it, affectionately playing with comic book clichés. While the Ghost and Lucy are amusing Superman and Lois surrogates the risk of playing with such stock archetypes is that they never quite convince as characters in their own right, for all that Justin Chatwin and Charity Wakefield bring charm and spark to their roles. Sometimes it feels like the TARDIS has materialised

in a sketch show take on superheroes rather than a genuine comic book world. It’s certainly extraordinarily ballsy for the BBC to go up against Marvel’s million dollar effects blow-outs, and for every so-so flying sequence there’s a moment that delivers genuine wow: the Doctor and young Grant on a skyscraper spire, Manhattan falling away behind them; the climactic shot of Grant holding up a spaceship with a single hand and a shrug of a smile. But with Doctor Who spectacle’s an incidental pleasure. It’s never been about the budget. Charm, imagination and wit: these are the show’s superpowers. Extras Featurette “The Doctor: A New Kind Of Hero” (seven minutes), and behind-the-scenes show Doctor Who Extra (25 minutes). Nick Setchfield The Ghost’s costume takes inspiration from the classic Art Deco stylings of New York City, particularly the chest symbol.

AGENTS OF SHIELD SEASON THREE (out now, Blu-ray/DVD) introduces Ghost Rider to our intrepid team of agents as they battle, er, a bunch of ghosts. There’s the usual mixture of snarky humour and impressive TV-budget action, although – fiery head aside – you do wish Gabriel Luna had brought the tormented Robbie Reyes a little more pizzazz than puppy eyes and a leather jacket. Oh well. The likes of Justin Timberlake voice the crazy-haired critters of DreamWorks toy-license animation TROLLS (13 February, Blu-ray/DVD), whose happy-go-lucky existence is threatened by ogre-like beasts who want to eat ’em. The colour scheme might make you worry you’re having an acid flashback; the ’80s pop covers and “happiness comes from within” message might also make you feel a bit pukey. South Korean box office smash THE WAILING (out now, DVD) is not for the easily confused. Following a cop whose rural village life is shaken up when locals start killing their nearest and dearest, it features colourful exorcism ritual sequences and is intriguingly ambiguous, but by the end you may feel there’s been one rug-pull too many. Finally, 1996’s BORDELLO OF BLOOD (out now, Blu-ray) – spun off from anthology TV show Tales From The Crypt – is about as sophisticated as you’d expect. Comedian Dennis Miller is pretty tiresome as the wisecracking PI whose missing person search leads to a vampire brothel. Expect boobies, juvenile humour and gory action – including a holy water super-soaker massacre.

april 2017 | sfx magazine |



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norse mYTHologY

Getting back on the Norse released 7 February

277 pages | Hardback/ebook Author Neil Gaiman Publisher bloomsbury

This is not a book about Norse mythology, or influenced by Norse mythology – it is Norse mythology retold by Neil Gaiman. And the ancient tales are very much retold, not reinterpreted. He hasn’t transplanted them to another time or place, or spun them differently, or told them from one character’s perspective. He’s just told the tales again, with rewarding results. In his introduction, Gaiman talks about how these stories have influenced him, after Marvel’s Thor stories led him to investigate the originals. Not only has he written these characters into several of his works, more generally he has written many stories featuring ensemble casts of gods, or godlike beings, who often have a superheroic aspect to them and who tussle among themselves, some of whom take themselves more seriously than others.

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Possibly you can divide everything Gaiman has written into two categories: Norse mythology and Alice In Wonderland. That’s beyond the remit of this review, but it would be interesting to try. Norse Mythology presents 15 stories of Thor, Loki, Odin and the rest, organised in a chronological cycle. The short form has always suited Gaiman – over the long haul, his plotting has a tendency to go awry – and he doesn’t over-elaborate. Another writer might have tried to process these tales into more modern prose, given the characters longer dialogue scenes, showed us more of their inner lives to make them more three-dimensional. Gaiman, however, adopts a tone closer to the oral storytellers with whom

Gaiman is ideal to present these stories

these stories originated. Just as they would have glossed over the bits between the big beats of a story, so does he, and he also addresses the reader directly when it seems appropriate. This approach avoids a number of difficulties – a lot of myths and fairytales are wonderful stories which don’t hold together well if you try to present the characters as real people. They were originally made for an audience that wouldn’t have judged them on those terms, and they work best if you keep things broad. And given the age of these stories, they sometimes have obvious plots – for example, in “The Death Of Balder”, the eponymous god is made immune to weapons made from wood, except they don’t bother with mistletoe because surely nothing made of mistletoe could kill someone. Guess what happens next! You can either try to alter the story so this unfolds more subtly, or you can keep it as is and rattle on with the plot. These stories have influenced Gaiman so much that his style plugs into them easily, making him the ideal person to present these stories for a contemporary audience. He approaches the stories with a lightness of touch (or at least he does until the last couple, which get pretty bleak) and there’s humour throughout. The characters may be broadly sketched but they come across strongly. Loki (who Gaiman has used before, in The Sandman and American Gods) is the most fun, being charming, capricious, devious and clever – but he’s not always as clever as he thinks he is, and Gaiman uses him effectively as both villain and clown. Although Norse Mythology is being marketed at adults, it’s suitable for all ages, really – the brevity of the stories (the longest is 25 pages) and the directness of the storytelling mean a confident 10-year-old could handle it. If you’re old enough to watch a Thor film, and you want to be able to talk about this stuff in more depth, this book is an ideal starting point. Eddie Robson Elements of some of these stories, notably “The Master Builder”, appear in Gaiman’s 2008 kids’ book Odd And The Frost Giants.

THE EDGE OF EVERYTHING X hits the spot released 9 February

368 pages | Paperback/ebook Author Jeff Giles Publisher bloomsbury

One minute you’re an ordinary teenager named Zoe reluctantly babysitting her little brother during a blizzard; the next you’re being attacked by a murderous drifter, before being rescued by a badass and incredibly hot young guy you name “X”, who turns out to be from another realm where his job is to hunt down and kill bad guys. And naturally you fall madly in love with each other, but are not allowed to live in the same world. It’s happened to us all... Clichéd star-crossed lovers they may be, but Zoe and X also sparkle with life (although nobody sparkles as much as Zoe’s brother Jonah, whose every line sounds like a real kid said it), and their plight ends up being just as much psychological as it is romantic (Zoe is mourning her dead father; X is frequently tortured by his past). As well as penning some bloody witty dialogue, Jeff Giles nails the inner workings of the female teenage mind, and provides lots of nasty stuff in a hell-realm – some feat. Pacy, funny and weird, The Edge Of Everything may be slow to start but by the end you’ll be gagging for more. Good thing that it’s the first in a series, then! Jayne Nelson Jeff Giles covered the filming of The Return Of The King for Newsweek, and ended up playing a Rohan soldier.

Reviews CARAVAL It’s only a game


released OUT NOW!

402 pages | Hardback/ebook Author stephanie Garber Publisher Hodder & stoughton

Running away to the circus is a pretty old trope. But Caraval isn’t a story of bored children wanting a life in the spotlight, but instead a tale of two sisters, abandoned by their mother and abused by their father, seeking a taste of glamour and fantasy far away from the island on which they grew up. Caraval itself isn’t your typical funfair or carnival either, but instead a world of magic and secrets where no one is as they seem, a game played across five nights with clues to follow and a prize to be won – if you can tell fact from fiction. Scarlett Dragna and her sister Donatella are dazzled by the possibilities of Caraval, and the allure of Legend, its mysterious, elusive master, but the practical Scarlett is more cautious than her impulsive sister – and when Tella disappears and it transpires that the purpose of the game is to find her, it doesn’t calm Scarlett’s fears. Caraval is a world of secrets, and unfortunately within the book these mysteries too often cross the line from alluringly enigmatic to simply frustrating. Occasional bursts of revelations plus a building love story keep the pages turning, but too much reliance on a world of half-truths and hidden identities prevents it from fully engaging. Rhian Drinkwater Garber says she wanted the world to feel “like a Baz Luhrmann movie and a Florence + The Machine song.”

released 2 FebrUary

CArVe THe mArK

Divergent author diverges... a bit released OUT NOW!

528 pages | Hardback/ebook Author Veronica roth Publisher HarperCollins

It’s hard to pick up the first in a new series from Veronica Roth without feeling a twinge of awkwardness for her. While her Divergent books sold big-time, the Shailene Woodley-starring movie series suffered from such dwindling box office that the final film was downgraded to (oh, the shame!) a forthcoming TV movie. Despite that, there’s now a spin-off TV show in the works, so it’s not all bad news – and we can also happily report that her new labour of love isn’t bad at all. That said... It certainly doesn’t stray far from Roth’s previous work. Nor does it steer clear of similar Young Adult dystopian fiction such as The Hunger Games (there are even arena fights, for pity’s sake). But if you can get past these familiarities, you can certainly find a lot to enjoy. In a universe permeated by a “current” ( just think the Force – again, original this ain’t), humans get special “currentgifts” as they get older. Everyone’s different; some are even oracles who see the future. For Cyra, sister to a cruel

dictator, her unlucky gift is to be in endless pain. Thankfully her evil sibling captures and enslaves an oracle’s brother, Akos, whose gift is to interrupt the current: and so Cyra’s pain stops whenever he touches her skin. Naturally these circumstances – him having to hold her hand a lot – don’t result in them falling in love, because that would be a terrible cliché. Except of course they do. The pair then team up with a bunch of renegades to form a rebellion, which, admittedly, gets a little tedious towards the end. Yet around all this Roth has built a pleasing sci-fi format which features spaceships, alien worlds and diverse cultures. The more you read, the more interesting it becomes: you even find yourself fascinated by one world’s flowers. So, while the characters move from emotional trope to emotional trope with predictable inevitability, the freshness of its setting makes Carve The Mark more than the sum of its parts, resulting in a thoughtful and intelligent piece of world-building. It should be fun finding out where the series heads to in the future. Jayne Nelson Ascendant is due this year, with a series to follow. Woodley says she’s “not necessarily interested” in starring in the latter.

288 pages | Paperback/download Author brett savory Publisher angry robot

How much mystery is too much? Weird fiction often emphasises ambiguity over explanations, and while this can result in chilling, impactful stories, it also has the potential to backfire. A case in point is A Perfect Machine, a bizarre blend of sci-fi, horror, crime thriller and ghost story that delivers a bounty of head-scratching enigmas it refuses to explain. The story follows Henry Kyllo, a member of a secret society whose members are forced into carrying out ritual hunts, and whose violent acts are hidden from the everyday world by mysterious, memorydistorting forces. It’s all in aid of eventually reaching “ascension” – and when Henry himself ascends, transforming into a monstrous, metalencrusted cyborg, his whole life is suddenly under threat. The book starts promisingly and Brett Savory has a vivid prose style, along with a good eye for striking images, but despite building to a chillingly apocalyptic ending, the story fails to cohere. While there are interesting ideas, the thin characters and lack of any explanation leave A Perfect Machine as a frustrating and perplexing mood piece more likely to leave you bewildered than beguiled. Saxon Bullock Savory got the name “Eggy” at school when an American football landed on his head and briefly spun there.

April 2017 | sfx mAgAzine |



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THE NINTH RAIN A very fine Vintage released 23 February

THe bUrning WorlD Who R You?

released 9 February

500 pages | Paperback/ebook Author Isaac Marion Publisher Vintage

Funny how success can alter your plans. Back in 2011, when Warm Bodies author Isaac Marion was talking about not wanting to be pigeonholed as a genre author, you’d have put good money on him never writing a zombie novel again. Evidently the positive reaction from readers (and, perhaps, the small matter of a movie adaptation) led to second thoughts, though. We’re glad. Five years in the making, this first of two full-length follow-ups continues the story of R, the zombie who miraculously found his humanity flooding back, and his girlfriend Julie. Twice the size of its predecessor, it has a sprawling scope, with the couple’s rather meandering itinerary taking in Minnesota, Pittsburgh and New York. But of equal significance is the mental terrain it explores, with R, whose former life was previously a mystery, gradually remembering his identity. It’s not good news… The novel’s failing might be over-reaching in trying to encompass not just the here and now and R’s backstory, but also the

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travels of an unknown zombie boy, as well as recurring, rather baffling sections which express the voice of a mysterious “WE” – an undead collective consciousness, perhaps? The spirit of Gaia? It also kinda defies belief that we encounter not one but two relatives along the way: the post-apocalypse is clearly a very small world. That said, it remains a hugely entertaining adventure. The revelations about R’s past are fascinating, as are new villains Axiom, ruthless suits who express themselves in the perversely courteous doublespeak of corporate bullshit. There are new hints of a righteous anger, too: when the entertainingly outspoken Julie rails against “the alpha who gets to the top by puffing and bluffing… one loud asshole shouting over everyone”, it’s not difficult to work out who the author might have had in mind... And while this is an action-packed ride, featuring everything from a bombing and a plane crash to a hurricane, Marion’s prose retains its poetic edge, as he crafts the sort of beautifully-formed similes that you’ll want to mentally squirrel away for future use. Ian Berriman This may be the first SF&F novel in which Trump’s border wall exists. Canada built one too, to keep Americans out!

WINTERSONG Into The Labyrinth released 7 February

544 pages | Paperback/ebook Author Jen Williams Publisher Headline

412 pages | Paperback/ebook Author s Jae-Jones Publisher Titan books

There’s so much plot packed into the pages of The Ninth Rain that it cannot be explained briefly. It follows Lady Vincenza “Vintage” de Grazon, a very wealthy eccentric adventurer; her hired muscle Tormalin, an Eboran (think elf/vampire/sexy Witcher) who’s turned away from his crumbling society in favour of wine and women; and Noon, an escaped witch whose powers are… explosive. Together they’re searching for answers to the invasions that plague their world, devastating the landscape and slaughtering the people. But that only scratches the surface of this fast-paced, thrilling book. Vintage is a sheer delight. How often do you read about the exploits of an eccentric middle-aged scholar/ adventurer/vineyard owner? She’s witty, fiery and brimming with life, as though she might jump out of the page and tell you to “calm down darling”. In fact, all of Williams’s characters, even the ones you don’t like, are filled with a sense of vitality – their dialogue, their quirks, each feel so very real. There’s so much to praise about The Ninth Rain: the worldbuilding is top-notch, the plot is gripping and the characters just get better and better. A sublime read.

A stolen sibling, a goblin king, and a plain-feeling older sister having to put her dreams on hold to protect her family… there are echoes of Labyrinth in this debut even before the sensual, overwhelming goblin ball. But this is a novel that draws on many inspirations, from German folklore to opera, erotica and fairytales – though not altogether successfully. Elisabeth has never been able to put herself first, cleaning, sweeping and serving in her parents’ inn while looking after her beautiful younger sister Käthe and brother Josef, a musical prodigy. But when she was a child, she played in a woodland grove with a boy who was Der Erlkönig, the king of the goblins, who asked her to marry him. And now the goblin king has returned to take a bride… There are some grand inspirations here, but unfortunately the novel itself falls flat. Every emotion is oh so keenly felt, while poor pacing means you never quite feel the arc of the story. And the “romance” at the heart of the tale, in which a coerced bride is constantly rejected and berated for having the temerity to grow up, but still always loves the good man inside her tormented husband, can’t help but leave a sour taste in the mouth. Rhian Drinkwater

Bridie Roman Williams co-founded London’s Super Relaxed Fantasy Club, who meet once a month. See @SRFantasyclub for info.

The working title for Wintersong was 50 Shades Of Labyrinth – it was originally written for NaNoWriMo in 2013.

GILDED CAGE Fight The Power released OUT NOW!

UBO Murder In Mind released 9 FeBrUary

304 pages | Paperback/ebook Author Vic James Publisher Pan Books

288 pages | Paperback/ebook Author steve rasnic Tem Publisher solaris

Having garnered over 300,000 “reads” on selfpublishing site Wattpad, Vic James’s debut novel – first in a trilogy – arrives with some fanfare from its traditional publisher. A shame, then, that it mostly turns out to be Yet Another YA Dystopia. In an alternate England, an aristocratic elite wields implacable magic (the Skill) while everyone else has been forced, for generations, to give up 10 years of their lives to slave labour. James provides some magnificently clumsy infodumping on how all this came about, although not, alas, how it actually works. Still, the mechanics can be safely ignored, as they’re essentially irrelevant to the plot. This, of course, concerns teenagers being arbitrarily oppressed, fighting the system, and having illicit crushes: Luke gets mixed up with revolutionaries in an industrial prison camp, while his sister Abi works as a secretary at magical Downton Abbey. If you stick with it, you’ll encounter some neat touches and a few plot twists that, even if they aren’t very well set up, are certainly deliciously devious. When James stops trying to explain things, this is an enjoyably preposterous confection of arch politicking and junior anarchism. Nic Clarke

He may be a horror writer, but you don’t look for traditional scares in the work of Steve Rasnic Tem. Across his novels and his hundreds of published stories, Tem’s fiction has leaned into the weirder, more lyrical side of the horror genre, and it’s a style that’s in full force in Ubo, his latest mind-scrambling tale. A blend of horror and science fiction, it’s the story of a man called Daniel who finds himself taken from his normal life and imprisoned in an apocalyptic realm known only as Ubo. Here, intelligent insects force him and his fellow prisoners to re-experience the lives of different killers from history, from Jack the Ripper to Heinrich Himmler, and Tem uses this concept to examine humanity’s capacity for violence. There’s sharp prose and powerful imagery on display here, along with an experimental tone that’s often reminiscent of authors like Harlan Ellison and Ray Bradbury, but the end result is a novel that’s more gruelling than intriguing. The characterisation isn’t compelling enough to anchor the lengthy digressions and the bizarre structure, making this a book that’s strictly for the hardiest devotees of weird fiction. Saxon Bullock

Vic James’s “lightbulb moment” for the book came while talking to billionaires as producer of The Super-Rich And Us.

You can find more of Tem’s strange fiction in his recent short story collection Out Of The Dark.


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reissues Our pick of the paperbacks this month: Joe Abercrombie collection SHARP ENDS , 9 February, ( Gollancz). It’s not the best place to start if you’re a newcomer to the grimdark author’s work, mind; you’ll get the most out of these 13 action-packed tales (over half of which have been published before) if you know the characters from his First Law novels. We said: “For those who’ve taken a good sniff of this gritty universe it’s a perfect blood-stained buffet. It adds detail and depth to many of the novels’ supporting cast, and serves up vignettes spiced with Abercrombie’s trademark humour.” Ian Irvine’s latest, THE SUMMON STONE , 16 ( February, Orbit), takes place midway through his Three Worlds fantasy cycle. It brings back husband-and-wife heroes Karan and Llian, whose daughter is suffering nightmare visions of a race of brutal otherworld invaders, for some reason hellbent on killing her… We said: “Though the writing feels far from literary, this is an above-average epic fantasy.” Finally, William Shatner pays tribute to his late co-star in LEONARD , out now, ( Sidgwick & Jackson). Trekkers will be familiar with most of the anecdotes, and the co-writer should have fixed some basic errors. But the Shat’s sardonic wit keeps you reading. We said: “There’s no doubt this is a sincere attempt to honour Nimoy’s memory... but one wonders if a more fitting way to do so might be to donate the cover price to a cancer charity.”

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PLANET OF THE APES Tales from THe forbiDDen zone Monkey magic

THe lasT DaYs of neW paris

The Art Of War released 23 February

224 pages | Hardback/ebook Author China Miéville Publisher Picador

Ironically, surrealism has become a term to describe things that are ordinary: moments of deja vu, brief misapprehensions of the world that quickly right themselves, and Hollywood movies that strive self-consciously to be peculiar. Yet surrealism’s (for want of a better term) leader, writer and anti-fascist André Breton, insisted surrealism was a revolutionary movement. We mention this because China Miéville’s new novella is, at one level, an attempt to make us see how unsettling surrealistic art can be when it’s not filtered through over-familiarity with lobster telephones. He does this by imagining an “S-Blast”, an explosion of surrealistic energy, hitting Paris during World War II. Fast forward to 1950, and the French capital is a city where “manifs”, surrealistic artworks made real, roam. In this timeline, the Nazis have tried to seal off Paris. In a narrative that jumps between 1941 and 1950, Miéville

both offers up a primer on surrealism – notably in a positively didactic series of textual notes and in characters either real or based on real people – and explores the strange landscape he’s created. The most reliable figure we encounter in a book where many we meet turn out to be slippery is resistance fighter Thibaut, a Parisian moving through a city that’s been a nightmare for close to a decade and who wants out. Thematically, Thibaut’s status as both fighter and longtime adherent of surrealism is important because, as so often with Miéville, politics are central to Last Days, as he pits an “exquisite corpse” against Hitler’s dreary watercolours; the playful and collective against the uptight and authoritarian; good, with certain caveats, against evil. That you really want to know which side will win says much about the quality of a necessarily strange and uncompromising book that reminds us that the old weird of surrealism still has the power to shock if we remember to look at it with fresh eyes. Jonathan Wright Next from Miéville: October: The Story Of The Russian Revolution, his take on the momentous events of 1917. It’s due in May.

released OuT NOW!

424 pages | Paperback/ebook Editors rich Handley, Jim beard Publisher Titan books

The Forbidden Zone was a key location in the original Planet Of The Apes movies – a radiation-soaked wasteland deadly to apes and humans alike, populated by mutants. It’s huge – covering desert, sea and cityscapes – making it just about big enough to encompass the riches contained within this excellent collection. Hanging out with a young Cornelius, expanding the mythology of the live-action TV series, and exploring “what if?” scenarios, Tales is a true treasure trove for every Apes addict. Newcomers may not want to make this their first franchise experience, mind. Stuffed with in-jokes, it’ll be a head-scratcher for anyone who doesn’t know their Urko from their elbow. However, for fans it’s essential. Highlights include John Jackson Miller’s sideways glance at the events of Escape, “Murderers’ Row”; Jonathan Maberry’s political allegory “Banana Republic”; and Andrew EC Gaska’s animated series expander “The Unknown Ape”. But every one of these 16 stories is worth exploring. Time to pack your hazmat suit – this is one expedition into the Forbidden Zone you should definitely take. Sam Ashurst These are the first licensed Apes shorts since the British annuals of ’75/’76/’77, based on the live-action TV series.

Reviews also out

DR POTTER’S MEDICINE SHOW Hit the road, quack released 2 February

320 pages | Paperback/ebook Author eric scott Fischl Publisher angry robot

Alchemists, carnies, patent medicines… At first glance, Dr Potter’s Medicine Show seems to be the stuff of pulp. Sickly Victorian patent medicine seller – and actual doctor – Alexander Potter is no more the focus of the story than he is the person who runs the show. He, strongman Oliver, opium-addicted fortune-teller Ah Fan, entertainer/prostitute Mercy and all the others are in thrall to the brutal Lyman. It’s the show as a whole that’s the subject of the story, not any one protagonist. And while the characters are introduced fairly quickly at the beginning, leading you to expect a cavalcade of new faces, only three threads intertwine. There’s the story of the show; the story of Lyman’s employer, alchemist Dr Morrison Hedwith; and that of Josiah McDaniel, seeking to avenge his wife, who took the patent medicine sold by Potter but produced by Hedwith. The story is simple, and slow, but the characters are vividly realised, leading you to feel as sympathetic towards some as you are horrified by others, and Eric Scott Fischl isn’t afraid to be brutal with his creations. The ingredients may seem pulpy, but Fischl has turned them into gold. Miriam McDonald Fischl recommends these novels in a similar vein: Geek Love, The Night Circus and Carter Beats The Devil.

DeATH’s misTress

Repeat offence released OuT NOW!

512 pages | Hardback/ebook Author Terry Goodkind Publisher Head Of Zeus

Although it’s the start of a new series, you might wish you’d read Terry Goodkind’s other tomes before you tackle Death’s Mistress, for no other reason than that it might, maybe, make you care about Sorceress Nicci and her companion Wizard Nathan (yes, they’re referred to like that throughout) – both recurring characters from Goodkind’s Sword Of Truth books. But if you decide to actually do so then good luck to you – judging by this it’ll be a painful slog. Nicci and Nathan are on a quest, one foretold many aeons ago, to save the world, restore Nathan to his full strength, and spread the good word about Richard Rahl’s dominion over all things. You won’t soon forget that either, because you’ll be reminded about it on almost

Many characters are flat and irritating

every damn page. Goodkind has the habit of browbeating you with the same information over and over, repeating phrases and the previous events of the plot so that, presumably, he fills pages. There are small rays of light poking through a dense canopy of boring. You may start to feel a little twinge of something for Nicci. The other characters, however, are flat, bordering on downright irritating (with the exception of a Sand Panther who has no dialogue), which might just be due to them repeating the same things over and over. No matter how many times you repeat something, it doesn’t become interesting. The world itself is probably the most appealing part. Even if you haven’t read the other volumes set in Goodkind’s creation you’ll still soon have a handle on how it works and its history, largely thanks to the narrator’s repetition of the same few details and stories. If you feel this has been a repetitive review, imagine enduring 512 pages of rephrased and rehashed dialogue and narration; that’ll tell you all you need to know about Death’s Mistress. Bridie Roman

Once again, those pesky publishers have printed more product than we could conceivably cover. Fans of Gavin Smith should be aware that he has a new military SF series, The Bastard Legion; THE HANGMAN’S DAUGHTER (out now, Gollancz) has arrived in ebook form way ahead of the paperback release (October). Kim Newman has a new short story collection: ANNO DRACULA 1899 (out now, Titan) brings together 21 tales featuring the likes of Jekyll & Hyde, the Invisible Man and Frankenstein’s Monster. There’s a second volume in Adrian Tchaikovsky’s epic fantasy series, Echoes Of The Fall. THE BEAR AND THE SERPENT (9 February, Macmillan) continues the story of Maniye, child of two different clans of shapeshifters. We rather liked book one, The Tiger And The Wolf, awarding it , and calling it “an engaging, enjoyable story”. Alwyn Hamilton’s YA trilogy Rebel Of The Sands has also hit book two, with TRAITOR TO THE THRONE (2 February, Faber & Faber). Expect another mash-up of Westerns and Arabian Nights-style tales of sultans and Djinn. We gave , book one describing it as “an exhilarating, entertaining journey”. Finally, there’s a new edition of industry survey 100 MANGA ARTISTS (out now, TASCHEN). Revised and updated, it has bios, bibliographies and lashings of art from greats like Osamu Tezuka and Katsuhiro Otomo.

Published back in November: Goodkind’s Nest, a thriller about a woman who can identify killers by looking into their eyes.

April 2017 | sfx mAgAzine |



Get sci-fi news, reviews and features at comics

JUsTice leagUe Vs sUiciDe sQUaD Boomerangs V Superman released OUT NOW! Publisher dC Comics Writer Joshua Williamson Artists ardian syaf, Mark Morales, Tony daniel, Jason Fabok

Hard though it may be for some film fans to credit, the Justice League was the world’s first super-team, debuting three years before the Avengers. Despite that head start, the JL still hasn’t quite hit the big screen, and haven’t suffered the indignity of seeing the Suicide Squad saturate cinemas before them. Similarly, DC has had to watch as Marvel didn’t just dominate cinemas, but issues 1-3

comic stores as well, savvily linking up their comic properties with their movie licences. With Rebirth, DC is finally doing the same thing – the current Suicide Squad comic looks like the cinematic version, complete with Harley Quinn dye-job, and the Justice League line-up mostly matches the movie. Synergy (not the Wildstorm universe character) has come to DC, and their profits are growing accordingly. All of which has combined to create this: Justice League Vs Suicide Squad, a no-brainer crossover, a film franchise waiting to happen, and officially the first major event of the Rebirth rebrand.

It starts simply, with the Squad sent by Amanda Waller on a typically vague mission to a remote island paradise. In line-up terms it’s the movie gang, with the addition of Killer Frost (who gets some of this book’s best moments). Then the Justice League gets wind of Waller’s wiles and swoops in to stop the Squad. Meanwhile, an old foe is putting together his own supergroup of villains… In plot terms, it’s not exactly Watchmen, and suspension of disbelief puts such a strain on the

Moments of poetry in among the chaos concept that you need the strength of Superman to bear it. There’s no getting away from it: if this was a real-world situation, no number of baseball bats, guns, boomerangs or sets of crocodile teeth would stop even one of the League. Still, the art is sharp, the dialogue is snappy, and the blockbuster battles are so much fun you’ll be distracted enough not to care. And there are moments of poetry in among the chaos, whether it’s Superman’s reaction to the identity of the book’s real villain, or Killer Frost describing her “Metropolis moment”. It won’t change the world – it probably won’t even be collectable – but in terms of popcorn entertainment, comics don’t get much more fun/ridiculous/ cynical. Sam Ashurst

What, no city to totally level?

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Grant Morrison’s first JLA issues and Geoff Johns’s JSA run both inspired Joshua Williamson as he was conceiving the story.

Are they eyeing the DC superteams?

CHAMPIONS No time for losers... released OUT NOW! Publisher Marvel Writer Mark Waid Artist Humberto ramos issues 1-4 Time for another all-new revival of a longforgotten superhero comic – in this case, a ’70s team-up title that’s now a showcase for the younger generation of Marvel heroes. Champions is aiming to be brash, upbeat superhero entertainment, and so far it’s delivered four largely selfcontained issues of engaging comic-book fun. The set-up is that in the traumatic aftermath of recent Marvel event Civil War II, various young heroes like Nova, Ms Marvel and “Ultimate” Spider-Man Miles Morales have become disillusioned with the Avengers. Convinced there’s a better way to do things, they team together as the Champions, and are soon tackling problems and battling bad guys across the world. Mark Waid is an old hand at pulling off lively superhero sagas, and these opening issues set up an entertaining team dynamic and provide plenty of globe-trotting action. The attempts to tackle serious political issues are a little clumsy at times, but it’s hard to fault the well-meaning positivity and optimism at the comic’s core, and Rodney Ramos’s art brings vibrant energy to every page. Overall, Champions is shaping up to be a highly likeable addition to the current Marvel line-up. Saxon Bullock

Waid drew up a list of “bad names” for the comic in case Marvel couldn’t sort out a trademark dispute over the title.


In association with

Or is it the changing room girl?

Come on, you’d scream too.


2000 AD’S GREATEST A scrotnig anniversary

released OUT NOW!

released 8 FebrUarY

Publisher dC/Young animal Writer Cecil Castellucci Artist Marley Zacone

Publisher rebellion Writers/artists Various

DC’s new imprint Young Animal continues its run of attention-grabbing comics with another resurrected title, this one given a gender-flipped twist. Shade, The Changing Man was one of the original ’90s-era Vertigo line-up alongside Doom Patrol and The Sandman, and its deeply trippy, experimental spirit has been revived here by creative team Cecil Castellucci and Marley Zacone. This new series follows Loma, an alien fan of the legendary Rac Shade who hijacks Shade’s name along with his dangerous madness coat, using it to travel to Earth. Here, Loma inhabits the body of comatose teenager Megan Boyer, and has to navigate the world of high school while dealing with Megan’s past as a bullying mean girl. Cranking the weirdness up to impressive levels, the first four issues deliver a blend of teen drama and psychedelic sci-fi that’s charming and trippy in equal measure. Zacone’s imaginative art is always a delight, and while some readers may find the freeform storytelling a little too surreal, the book’s sense of theme and identity is always strongly focused, making this another Young Animal title that’s well worth investigating. Saxon Bullock issues 1-4

Gerard Way (who’s overseeing Young Animal) had the initial idea of Shade possessing a 16-year-old female bully.

JessiCa JOnes

That phone needs upgrading.

Jonesing for more released OUT NOW! Publisher Marvel Writer brian Michael bendis Artist Michael Gaydos issues 1-4 It’s amazing what a little help from Netflix can do. Jessica Jones has gone from being a cult-level Marvel supporting character to starring in her own acclaimed TV series, and now she’s the focus of a new comic from her original creators, writer Brian Michael Bendis and artist Michael Gaydos. Long-time Marvel readers might be thrown by the way that Bendis and Gaydos have reset much of what’s happened to Jessica since she debuted in the 2001-4 comic Alias. This new series begins with Jessica being released from prison for an unknown crime, having split up

An odd and occasionally frustrating return

with Luke Cage and broken all ties with the superhero world. It’s eventually revealed that Jessica has wrecked her life as part of a sting operation to infiltrate a dangerous antisuperhuman group, but Bendis takes four issues to reveal this, giving the series a slightly meandering pace. Still, he does a good job of getting Jessica back to the more familiar hard-boiled character she was in Alias (and the Netflix show), contrasting a gritty noir protagonist with the surreal oddness of the Marvel Universe. Bendis pulls off some great dialogue, and Gaydos’s art is as earthy and stylish as ever, but these opening issues struggle to build momentum, and aren’t helped by the overplayed connections to current post-Civil War II Marvel continuity. The slow-burn tactic may eventually pay off, but right now this new Jessica Jones title is an odd and occasionally frustrating return for such a distinctive character. Saxon Bullock The TV show inspired Bendis to use swear words more sparingly, after hearing that Krysten Ritter never curses.

collection Not quite living up to its title, the idiosyncratic approach taken for this fortieth anniversary collection – asking leading creators to choose their favourite one-offs – leads to some intriguing, if far from definitive results. It unearths some neglected gems, including the subversive metafiction of Kevin O’Neill’s “Tharg And The Intruder!”. Along with Carlos Ezquerra, O’Neill contributes three strips, including “Shok!”, the terrifying tale of a war robot going on the rampage in a Mega City apartment. Despite selecting a story, Mike McMahon is conspicuous by his absence, although fellow Dredd legend Brian Bolland illustrates the chilling “The Forever Crimes”. Given his immense popularity, it’s not surprising that Judge Dredd dominates, but it’s disappointing that Strontium Dog and Nemesis are the only other stalwarts represented. Though they first appeared 15 years apart, “Beyond The Wall” and “The Runner”’s poignant tales of judges pursuing a suspect are too similar when published alongside each other. But you can always luxuriate in some fine artwork. Hopefully Tharg won’t wait another four decades before releasing a second volume. Stephen Jewell

Richard Stanley turned “Shok!” into 1990 film Hardware... but only acknowledged it after 2000 AD sued.

april 2017 | sfx magazine |



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THE WALKING DEAD: A NEW FRONTIER A family affair released OUT NOW! Reviewed on XO Also on Ps4, PC, Mobile Publisher Telltale Games

Kids, they say, change your world. That rule applies in Telltale’s bleak universe, too. As disgraced baseball star Javier García, the rapidly spreading viral outbreak forces you to shift priorities fast and shoulder new burdens just as quickly, making you responsible for two young lives. With our setting shifted to Virginia and the introduction of a cast of original characters, A New Frontier is a fresh start, a jumping-on point for those who’ve yet to experience Telltale’s carousel of emotional pain. The one constant in this eversurprising world is Clementine. Clem’s fate is intertwined with that of Javier, and you actually spend more time playing as him videogame

than as her. His story begins with the death of his grandfather and a scrap with his overbearing brother, David. Flash forward four years and Javier’s predicament has grown complicated. He’s in a car with David’s wife, Kate; his niece Mariana; and his nephew Gabe (a petulant dick). The battered station wagon turned moving fortress is their only defence against a thousand-strong herd of Walkers relentlessly marching their way. Every group of survivors has a plan – for Javi’s clan it is simply to keep rolling. The pacing of the two episodes released so far is consistent with previous seasons. Typically there’s a lull while you poke around a hub of life – a gas station, a makeshift town – using the cursor to interact with people and objects. Then havoc erupts and you use QTEs to dodge, shoot and stab. Periods of inaction are rewarded with

GAmEs & sTuFF

Rewards those who’ve been there from the start action, each earning the other. What has changed is Telltale’s proficiency. This is now a finely honed model, each episode given a carefully judged proportion of tender moments, scintillating setpieces, tough choices and painful cliffhangers. Telltale is now fluent in the language of cinema. It shows, for example, in masterful camerawork during a desperate gun battle, with a backdrop of thick white smoke chugging from a gas grenade. Although it sticks doggedly to a trusted format, A New Frontier has taken a successful first (and second) step into the series’ new season, rewarding those who’ve been there from the start but not requiring you to have been. Barring the punchable Gabe, we’re itching to see more of Javi and co. Ben Griffin There are five episodes in this season, releasing every few weeks. A season pass is £18.99.

Two layers of clothing: a must.

DOCTOR WHO: THE LOST ANGEL Going to America released OUT NOW!

71 minutes | Cd/download Publisher BBC audio

audiobook If there’s one truly iconic new Who baddie, it’s the Weeping Angels. Though they’ve never quite lived up to their debut in “Blink”, these stone predators, moving towards you in sudden, blacked-out bursts, really are terrifying – and now they’re living up to their handle of “The Lonely Assassins”. A mall’s being built in Rickman, New York, but not everyone’s happy about it, or what the construction might unearth. Meanwhile, young photojournalist Alex Yow is looking for her big break, while her brother Brandon has turned up just in time to see a rather threatening statue at her building. Fortunately, there’s a helpful Scottish guy with a glowstick running around… Given that this latest original Twelfth Doctor audiobook is set in the US, it makes sense to have it read by Canadian actor Kerry Shale, but there’s something odd about hearing a show so quintessentially British as Doctor Who narrated with a North American twang. It’s a solid tale, filled with flawed characters and plenty of timey-wimey contortions, but the new companions never quite impress, while accent issues mean that the Doctor never feels like the Doctor.

Rhian Drinkwater This is the first of four linked audios, which will continue Alex and Brandon’s adventures with the Doctor.

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Reviews THe mOOmins Into The Valley released 3 February

28 minutes | Vinyl/Cd/download Label Finders Keepers soundtrack lp For a generation of thirty- to forty-somethings, this collection of 15 cues is liable to transport them back to childhood moments spent gazing at CITV, absorbed in the adventures of author Tove Jansson’s strange, hippopotamus-like creatures. Though the stopmotion series they were applied to (first aired here in 1983) was made in Poland

and based on books from Finland, these tunes emerged from somewhere rather more close to home: the shared house of Graeme Miller and Steve Shill, members of an experimental theatre co-

There’s a sense of humour at work here

operative in Leeds. Utilising a primitive Wasp synthesiser, the same Casio made famous by Trio’s “Da Da Da”, and more traditional instrumentation like piano, ocarina and accordion, they produced an idiosyncratic score that is both eerie and charming. The theme tune is most likely to cause a Proustian rush: somehow both warm and mournful, its burbling wonkiness brings to mind

Why has only one of the birds got wings?

a three-legged dog happily at play. Elsewhere “Hobgoblin’s Hat” combines vaguely Middle-Eastern pipes and what sounds like someone tapping their teeth with a pencil. The drunken waltz that is “Woodland Band” mixes mouth-noise brass and daintilypicked guitar with electronic bird chirrups. And the ambient spookiness of “Comet Shadow” – imagine Brian Eno aping the sound of underwater eruptions – would slot seamlessly into the playlist in a ’90s chill-out room. It’s hard to think of another children’s TV soundtrack that’s so offbeat, or one which – thanks to a fondness for the minor key – is quite so melancholy. But there’s a sense of humour at work here too, joy mingled with the sadness. Guaranteed to put a smile on the face of anyone who grew up captivated by the world of Moominvalley, it’s also essential listening for connoisseurs of post-punk weirdness. Ian Berriman Steve Shill went on to be a TV director, winning an Emmy for Dexter. Recently he’s worked on Supergirl and The Flash.

TOrCHWOOD One: BefOre THe fall For Queen and Country released OuT NOW!

183 minutes | Cd/download Publisher big Finish

audio cd While the recent Torchwood Archive special looked at the far future of the alienchasing Institute, this three-story box set looks to its past. Specifically, it’s a throwback to the Torchwood we saw in David Tennant’s first season of Doctor Who: Londonbased, corporate and run by the glib nationalist Yvonne Hartman (Tracy-Ann Oberman). The first story, Joseph Lidster’s “New Girl”, explores the Institute from the perspective of shy newbie Rachel Allan. It’s light, funny and plays out for the most part as a fairly inconsequential workplace drama, only with the threat of memory wipes rather than printer jams and

redundancies. The workers of Torchwood One, it turns out, are a rather more grounded lot than Captain Jack’s team. That might sound dull, but a whopper of a cliffhanger spins the story off in an entirely unexpected direction. Jenny T Colgan’s “Through The Ruins” and Matt Fitton’s “Uprising” pick up immediately afterwards and play out as

urban conspiracy thrillers, with Yvonne separated from her team and Ianto unsure of who to trust. It’s tense, pacey stuff that deftly explores the Institute’s murky morality and feels quite different to the TV show. That said, the set does suffer from one classic Torchwood problem: the team acting like total ’nanas in the service of the plot. It stretches credulity that no one believes Yvonne when she claims that she’s been framed for murder. Torchwood is meant to be a top secret agency with experience of espionage operations...

Intriguing – stretches the series’ format have they never heard of someone being set up?! Likewise, the villain is prone to moments of baffling incompetency. Still, Before The Fall is an intriguing thriller that stretches the series’ format, while throwing in an astonishing number of deep-level new Who references, from the Royal Hope Hospital to “Journey’s End”’s time lock – if you catch them all you’re probably Russell T Davies. Will Salmon Date for your diaries, Woodies: the first collection of Titan’s new Torchwood comic is due out on 11 April.

april 2017 | sfx magazine |


Get sci-fi news, reviews and features at coLLectabLes


3 1


original screenplay for Aliens which never made it to the screen. Aw, look, it’s giving Ripley a friendly lick with its big, bendy, faintly penis-y probe. Bless. A Vasquez figure is also available.

He said he’d be back, and here he is: the Terminator Ultimate T-800 Police Station Assault 7” figure (FPI price £26.99; product code F3130). He’s extremely well detailed – there are even bullet holes in the back of his jacket. Alongside him: a Terminator 2 Ultimate Action Sarah Connor figure (£19.99; D2345), who, just like her nemesis,

Where does a selfrespecting crime clown stash his ill-gotten gains? Perhaps he slides those sweet, stolen spondoolicks into a stylish Joker pop art wallet (FPI price £13.99; product code F3949). Decorated with vintage images of Batman’s arch nemesis in all his cackling, chalk-skinned glory, it’s a reminder that sometimes crime does pay. It comes in a cool tin, but don’t stick that in your pocket cos you’ll look like a twonk.

Things we’ve been playing with this month 1

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has swappable heads. At these prices it feels a little strange to yank off their bonces, and the long-haired Sarah Connor looks disturbingly like a man in drag. A host of Alien 7” scale action figures here, from waves eight and nine (FPI price £22.99 each; product codes F2118, F2119, F2120, F2121, F3167,


F3168). Series eight is all Alien 3; nine is Aliens-centric. From left to right: an Albino Alien, prisoner Ripley and a Weyland Commando, then grey and brown Dog Aliens flanking Private Frost. All are highly articulated, and the humans come with neat accessories like weapons and goggles. Our fave: the Albino Alien, based on a critter from the


All products are available at 01621 877 222

things to come More goodies on


their way soon

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STORMTROOPER MIRROR Measuring about 40cm across, this wallmountable Star Wars mirror from Paladone is in the shape of a Stormtrooper helmet. The printed detailing means it probably won’t be much good for applying your lippie.


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Two deliciously twisted Nightmare On Elm Street figures here (FPI price £26.99; product codes F3549, F3551), based on the sequels. On the left: a 7” Ultimate Freddy based on Dream Warriors. It comes with a swappable head and claws, and the sinister Puppet Freddy briefly glimpsed in the film. Not pictured (cos, er, we forgot): Krueger’s Chest of Souls (a mass of despairing faces), which you can swap for his jumper front. On the right: an 8” Retro Cloth figure of Freddy in surgical gear, inspired by a bit in Dream Masters. He comes with a bone saw and shades, and you can undo his scrubs to slip on his jumper instead. Neat!


Imagine the deleted scene: “Don’t be too proud of this technological terror you’ve constructed,” Vader says to his minions. “The ability to destroy a planet is insignificant next to the power to open a bottle of pop.” Yes, this Rogue One Death Star bottle opener (FPI price £4.99; product code F4703) makes vanquishing defiant beer bottle lids a doddle. And because it’s on a keyring, nobody need find your lack of a drink-opening solution disturbing ever again.


For 40 years we thought that the late Kenny Baker was inside R2-D2, but now we’ve realised that the astromech droid was more likely full of



product of the month

biscuits. What other explanation could there be for this Star Wars cookie jar (FPI price £23.99; product code F2031), a ceramic recreation of C-3PO’s BFF that houses a big enough void to hold plenty of sweet snacks. Funko may feel no shame at turning every fictional character into a cutesy collectable, but at first glance it appears this Aliens Pop! Vinyl figure of Ellen Ripley (FPI price £9.99; product code F3094) does – we assume those are livid red bruises on her face, but it looks like she’s blushing! Maybe she’s embarrassed that she can’t measure up to their 6”-tall Alien Queen figure (not pictured).


Eta august ExPECt tO Pay


THE JOKER STATUE Brian Bolland’s cover art for Alan Moore’s grim ’80s graphic novel The Killing Joke was the inspiration for this statue. It stands about 35cm high, and comes in a limited edition of 5,000.

aPRiL 2017 | sfx magazine |

Photography by Olly Curtis


TERMINATOR 2 CINEMACHINES Hunter Killers of the aerial and tank varieties are the latest additions to NECA’s range of diecast metal and plastic vehicles. The tank has working treads, while the aerial HK features an articulated cannon. Which is nice.


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IT’S WOSSISNAME! Alan Ruck (Henry Rance) could win six oscars and we’d still be incapable of seeing him as anything but Ferris’s mate Cameron in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.

Possession: not pretty.


REFERENCES The bit in episode ten where a demonicallypossessed character scrapes the walls with their fingernails is pure Freddy Krueger.

THe exOrCisT

The power of Christ: compelling UK Broadcast Syfy, finished US Broadcast Fox, finished Episodes Reviewed 1.01-1.10

Given the hit-to-miss ratio of the Exorcist franchise, admirers of William Friedkin’s classic 1973 horror film can be forgiven for issuing a weary sigh at the idea of a TV series – especially given the mediocre results of recent Omen show Damien. But this ten-episode first run is surprisingly successful. As with Outcast, 2016’s other exorcism show, its makers have had the good sense to realise that while a series like this necessarily involves some holy water-splashing,

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crucifix-waving and Latinbellowing, the whole process is fundamentally, well, a wee bit dull. So as well as detailing how the teenage Casey Rance (Hannah Kasulka) is gradually beguiled by a demon, running in parallel with this is a slow-burning, cleverly seeded conspiracy thread, revolving around a Papal visit to Chicago (the show’s hometown) and a sinister cabal called the Friends of Ascension. As their plan involves grisly murders and organ removal, there are times when the show feels more like Hannibal – nothing to complain about, given the quality of that series.

BEST MOMENT Either the twist ending of episode five or the equally jaw-dropping death in episode eight.

Another similarity with Outcast is that the series has a key role for a maverick priest played by an English actor – only this time not affecting an American accent. Ben Daniels is magnetic as the intense, soul music-loving Father Marcus, and British viewers will love his lingo, littered as it is with phrases like “bugger off”, “knickers in a twist” and “fancy a cuppa?” British slang probably hasn’t been so amusingly up-front in a US fantasy show since James Marsters was spraying the “wanker”s around Buffy and Angel. It’s just a shame they keep sticking him in a silly hat, in a misguided attempt to

NITPICKS Spoilers ahead! So... a bleeding bloke staggering about in a black vest gets to the Pope’s car without arousing suspicion; remains immune to what’s causing everyone else to bleed from the ears; then simply walks away. Er… divine intervention? METH-OD ACTING As part of her preparation for episode six, Hannah Kasulka (Casey) watched videos of meth addicts to see the way they move.

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We reckon the nuns were to blame.

replicate the silhouette of Father Merrin on the classic movie poster. Marcus isn’t the principal protagonist, but he proves more interesting than his Padawan, Father Tomas (Alfonso Herrera), a hunky Hispanic priest who’s dedicated to his impoverished parish, but is struggling with his feelings for an old flame – and who succumbs to the temptation of a bit of how’s-your-Father with remarkable speed. This forbidden love subplot always seems rather crowbarred-in to add a dash of sauce. Another minor irritation is Casey’s age. In The Exorcist, Regan was only 12 years old, which made her sexualised potty mouth doubly disturbing. You lose that when the character looks to be 18 at the very least (indeed, the actress playing her actually turns 29 this year). If you’ve yet to catch up with the series, swerve any spoilers, because this is a show with some, er, head-spinning twists. The most significant of these arrives at the end of episode five, and shifts everything up a gear, causing you to reconsider everything that has gone before. It’s immensely

The story stands perfectly well on its own two feet rewarding for fans of the franchise too – who are also served treats like a well-executed homage to the “spider walk” excised from Friedkin’s original theatrical cut. But you don’t need to be an Ex-phile to enjoy this gritty, atmospheric saga: the story stands perfectly well on its own two feet, the characters are well-drawn, and there are lashings of satisfyingly gruesome freakiness – from crows crashing into windows and self-immolating end-of-the-world preachers to Casey pulling a giant centipede out of her throat like a magician producing the flags of all nations... At the very least, it’s more Exorcist III than Exorcist II: The Heretic. Ian Berriman

Definitely not a remake of The Sting.

best in show

The characters who make TV great


Emily Berrington’s synth is no green-eyed monster in Humans UK Broadcast All 4, available now US Broadcast AMC, February

It would be easy to break down a multitude of Humans’ conscious AI roster to their respective parts – just mind the blue stuff. While season two’s Hester is the epitome of “yes, synths can be bad too”, and DI Karen Voss is a perfect example of an (A?)Identity crisis in motion, it’s Emily Berrington’s Niska whose story has been the most, well, human – even if it doesn’t seem like it at first. Like The Walking Dead, where the shuffling brain-hungry are almost incidental to the true villains of the piece, Humans’ flesh and blood creations are the main problem when it comes to day-to-day living as a synth with feelings. As someone abused by her own creator and forced into brothel work, no one sees this more than Niska who spends two seasons atoning for the murder of an abuser, a crime that, hey, most of us kind of agree with in the first place.

And yet, while repeatedly faced with the prejudices of humanity and that old “evil that men do” adage, Niska wins. The tiny moments of her true character trickling through in season one are too perfect – “Has your hair always been like that?” asks young Sophie as she attempts to teach Niska how to play. “Has your face always been like that?” comes the swift retort. Niska is almost painfully human. She tries. She falls in love with a woman in Berlin who, while we won’t ask how she didn’t know she was sleeping with a synth, sticks around. Against the odds, Niska trusts and puts her fate in the hands of humans to try her for murder as a sentient being. Once again, it’s humanity that fails her and we cheer as she escapes in a fireball when the creatures who created her can’t come to terms with what she is. Don’t like her? That’s your problem, not hers. Louise Blain april 2017 | sfx magazine |


Yep, they’re dangerous, that’s flagged up.

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BEST EPISODE “Bishop” (1.09), set on a plane, features the kind of tension-filled storytelling that will leave you wanting a drink afterwards. You may not want to fly for a while, either.



TRIVIA As Travelers was created by Stargate producer Brad Wright, it’s no surprise to find Stargate alums all over. The finale is directed by Amanda Tapping, for example.

Quantum Leap vs the apocalypse UK Broadcast Netflix, finished US Broadcast Showcase, finished Episodes Reviewed 1.01-1.12

In Quantum Leap, Dr Sam Beckett would leap back in time into strangers’ bodies to help them fix a moment in their lives, then leap out again and they’d return to go on living them. The premise of Travelers, meanwhile, is that the titular time-travellers leap into people just as they’re about to die, overwriting their brains. This doesn’t change history too much (they were going to cark it anyway, right?) and enables the Travelers to use these handy vessels to stop an apocalyptic event that will make the future a very horrible place. It’s a clever premise, and although it inventively riffs on everything from Odyssey 5 to

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Continuum (it’s also shot in Vancouver and features some of the same actors), what makes Travelers so fresh is its cast. Eric McCormack’s self-assured FBI Agent and Traveler team leader is instantly likeable. MacKenzie Porter’s leap into a mentally disabled woman gives her an intriguing storyline – nobody can understand why she can suddenly function. One guy downloads into a heroin addict, which at first seems a little trite and familiar (“He’s going to keep it a secret from the team... yawn...”) until he actually does tell everyone he’s addicted and figures out a way to deal with it. And it goes on; with the exception of a police officer we’re not actually supposed to like (who has to deal with the show’s only dull plotline, as a Traveler

wants to protect her host’s child from him), seldom does a cast grow on you so quickly. The drip-feed of information about their collective future is pleasing, too. Admit it: we’re all tired of seeing grungy, depressing post-apocalyptic societies, like 12 Monkeys’ for example. But Travelers doesn’t show us anything – it wants to keep the future vague, which is a relief. We don’t even find out why they’ve come back in time until episode six: which, annoyingly, fumbles the ball a little by having a character deliver a ton of exposition to explain it. This is a bit of a slow starter, true, but once you’re used to the team we can guarantee you won’t regret spending time with them at all. Dr Beckett would no doubt approve. Jayne Nelson

BEST MOMENT The finale is a masterclass in “WTF?” writing as all hell breaks loose both in the present and in the future. TRIVIA 2 As the show is Canadian, it should be called Travellers. We can only assume they dropped the extra “l” to avoid confusing US audiences. Annoying, isn’t it? IT’S WOSSISNAME! Stargate Universe’s Louis Ferreira snags the season’s best guest-star role in “Hall” (1.04), as the leader of another team of Travelers.

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line up

The month’s most quotable dialogue



“You’re all “I prefer mildwet.” mannered.” Doctor Who, “The Return Of Doctor Mysterio”

A TV season distilled


TrOllHUnTers Welcome to the Hellboy-mouth

ELEANOR TAHANI “What’s this show “It’s Deirdre & again?” Margaret. It ran for 16 years on the BBC. They did nearly 30 episodes!” The Good Place, Episode 1.10 TREVOR

“How much alcohol does it take to black out the previous day?”


“I don’t know, I only use heroin.” Travelers, Episode 1.10


“What better way to celebrate your birthing day than to work on forestalling your dying day?” Trollhunters, Episode 1.09


“Are you going to dump pig’s STEVE blood on my head at the “Not unless prom?” you think that’s hot.” The OA, Episode 1.07

UK Broadcast Netflix, now streaming US Broadcast Netflix, now streaming Episodes Reviewed 1.01-1.26

A nine-eyed troll, BLINKY, walks a wide-eyed teenage boy, JIM, into a vast underground cavern filled with trolls going about their everyday business… BLINKY Welcome to the Troll Market, Trollhunter. JIM Hang on, isn’t this that place from Hellboy 2?

Hellmouth, right? BLINKY No – this is the Troll Market! Look, it has trolls! And market things! JIM And it’s under a nice suburban middleclass American town just like Sunnydale. BLINKY No, not Sunnydale – Arcadia!

BLINKY Well, yes, I do believe Guillermo del Toro shot a movie here once. I hear he was so impressed he wrote a whole children’s book series and TV show about the place.

JIM And my new role – “Troll Hunter” – sounds suspiciously like “Vampire Slayer”.

JIM Well, he didn’t really write it, did he?

JIM And I’m being raised by a single mother, who may as well be called Joyce.

BLINKY I’m not sure I understand, young Jim. Oh, and mind the gnomes. They bite. JIM Ow! What I mean is – this place is basically the

BLINKY Not at all – totally different.

my new mystical role with school work… BLINKY But you’re not a girl. Enter CLAIRE… CLAIRE Well no, because, the only main female character other than Jim’s mum barely has anything to do until episode 11… BLINKY But after that, you are magnificent! CLAIRE But still more of a Faith than a Buffy. As in, secondary. Why couldn’t I be the new Trollhunter? BLINKY Well, positive discrimination hasn’t

reached Troll-kind yet. So, see… not like Buffy The Vampire Slayer at all. JIM One more question. BLINKY Yes? JIM Would you mind saying that once more with feeling? BLINKY I’m not sure I… JIM Hush! BLINKY Ah! Are these what you humans call Easter eggs? Very good, young Jim. Now shut up and slay… erm… hunt some evil trolls. Dave Golder

BLINKY I think you’ll find she’s called Barbara! JIM And I have special powers. And a gang. And I have to juggle

april 2017 | sfx magazine |


Tess has a nap – are the audience doing the same?

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BEST EPISODE “The Swirl” (1.06): the main characters finally get to grips with what’s happening to them, and start using the dreams to their advantage.


falling WaTer

TRIVIA The pilot was penned and co-created by Blake Masters and Henry Bromell, who died in 2013, but retains an honorary producer credit.

What dreams aren’t made of UK Broadcast Amazon Prime Video US Broadcast USA Network, finished Episodes Reviewed 1.01-1.10

Why is there always a cop? It doesn’t matter what high concept tosh a scriptwriter manages to flog to the Hollywood suits, you just know there’s going to be a cop involved. Heroes, check. Sense-8, check. Grimm, check. Continuum, check. Lucifer, check. It’s easy to see why. Cops equal crime, and crime equals an easy excuse to generate drama. So, Falling Water – a high concept show indeed. That high concept being, let’s do a bargainbasement Inception. We’re in shared dreams territory (where they mostly share dreams about empty offices to keep costs down) with a show that has nothing new

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to add to the sub-genre except some irritating sound effects. The three main characters sharing – and eventually communicating through – their dreams are a trendspotter (at least that’s original), a head-of-security-cumin-house-PI (that’s worryingly close to “cop”) and… a cop. Because there’s always a cop. To be honest, the cop is the least of the show’s clichés. Falling Water is a patchwork quilt of millennial TV trends. There’s not one, but two conspiracies – one with a green sneakers-wearing cult, the other with a dodgy firm and its dodgy dealings. There’s the “parallel plots” format, as three apparently separate plots increasingly intersect. There’s the mummy issues trope for two of the main characters. And because the

show’s about dreams we get the whole “is this real or this is an illusion?” shtick over and over and over, not to mention dreams within dreams and that classic: the false wake-up. Which could be fun if done with a bit of pulpy panache, but no; Falling Water wants to be taken seriously and so ends up seriously dull. As it becomes clear what’s going on, you realise all the tricksy storytelling is just smoke and mirrors disguising banal pay-offs. There’s only really enough plot for a first and final episode; pretty much everything in-between is a bad dream, padded out with clumsy visual motifs, unconvincing relationship drama and scenes that only make sense because, well, it’s not real, is it, so what does making sense matter? Dave Golder

IT’S WOSSISNAME! David Ajala (Burton) was recurring character Rate in Beowulf: Return To The Shieldlands, while Lizzie Brocheré (Tess) was Coco Marchand in The Strain. HE SAID IT “I think season two will be, in a way, a surprise,” says producer Blake Masters. Presumably he means a surprise if it happens. BEST MOMENT The opening of “Calling The Vasty Deep” (1.02), which shows another side of a moment from episode one, with the green sneakers cult doing a secret clean-up job.

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spurious a w a r d s

Celebrating the silliest and strangest moments from the month in TV



Rides at Disneyland aren’t quite as much fun in a Nazi-ruled United States in The Man In The High Castle.


Munchkins rage after the Wizard rejects their Yellow Brick Road plans in Emerald City.


Virgin reveals the spacious facilities in its new Super Opulent Class planes [in Falling Water]. Complete with retro music and bath.


The big final twist in the bizarre-fest that is The OA turns out to be that it’s actually been High School Musical all along.

Curtis creates a SBV detector to prove that Felicity’s lying when she claims that she never farts in Arrow.


Now that’s what we call a cat furball in Trollhunters.


Not “Most People Having Sex In A Cubicle” but “Most Montage Sequences In One Episode”, won by Sense8.


Game Of Thrones experiments with a revolutionary performance capture version of the Iron Throne for the final couple of seasons, thanks to Con Man.


Magnus moves into laser tattoo removal in Shadowhunters.


Fiendishly tricky Tetris update revealed in Agents Of SHIELD. April 2017 | sfx mAgAzine |


s e m a ! G d t e s Fir Announc

18 – 19 February Olympia London FEATURING





Blastermind The SFX quiz


Turn on, tune in and drop out with our highly addictive brainteasers! Quizmaster: Ian Berriman, Reviews Editor

question 1 Name the drug that slows users’ perception of time in Dredd.

question 2 Torchwood: Children Of Earth features aliens who use chemicals extracted from human kids as a drug. What is their race known as?

question 3 Which Amazing Spider-Man character was revealed to be addicted to popping pills in 1971 arc “Green Goblin Reborn”?

question 4

question 8

The short story “The New Accelerator” concerns a drug which accelerates all your physiological and cognitive processes. But which famous SF author wrote it?

question 12

question 17

question 6

question 10

question 14

In which Doctor Who story do we discover that the drug Vraxoin is made from the powdered remains of the monstrous Mandrells?

In which Jeff Noon novel do users access a hallucinogenic alternate reality by sucking on coloured feathers?

question 7

question 11

In Frank Herbert’s Dune books, the drug Melange extends lifespan and allows space travellers to navigate foldspace. But what does it do to your pupils?

“All the advantages of Christianity and alcohol; none of their defects…” Name the drug central to Huxley’s Brave New World.

Name the drug-laced milk drink in A Clockwork Orange that “sharpens you up and makes you ready for a bit of the old ultraviolence”.

question 15

question 8 picture question

question 12 picture question

question 16

Name this drug dealer from True Blood ( just his first name will do).

Which TV series’ cast of characters includes this heroinaddicted teenager?

Which superhero discovered that his ward was a drug addict in 1971 tale “Snowbirds Don’t Fly"?

question 13

question 17 picture question

Complete the name of the narcotic that ensures the Jem’Hadar’s loyalty to the Founders in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: Ketracel ______.

Name this dope-smoking duo, created by Kevin Smith.

question 4 picture question Name this very druggy 1991 film.

question 5

How did you do? Squeaky clean or dope fiend?


Cliff Richard

question 18 In which 2011 film does a writer


Bill Clinton

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Cypress Hill

In RoboCop 2, Red Ramrod, Blue Velvet and White Noise are all varieties of what drug?

question 20 Which Enterprise crewmember “had a little too much LDS” back in the ’60s? (Not really!)


Which ’70s TV series features a heroin-like drug derived from telepathic cacti found on the planet Zondar?

question 19

1 Slo-mo 2 The 456 3 Harry Osborn 4 Naked Lunch 5 HG Wells 6 “Nightmare Of Eden” 7 Soma 8 Lafayette Reynolds 9 Blake’s 7 10 Vurt 11 Moloko Plus 12 Fear The Walking Dead 13 White 14 Turns them bright blue 15 Philip K Dick 16 Green Arrow 17 Bluntman and Chronic 18 Limitless 19 Flash 20 Spock

question 9

The drugs Can-D, Chew-Z and Substance D all feature in the works of which SF novelist?

get amazing new mental abilities after taking a smart drug called NZT-48?


Mark Renton


Keith Richards

April 2017 | sfx mAgAzine |



Personal recollections of cherished sci-fi

GORT Ian Berriman, Reviews Editor

Seven-footer Lock Martin was the man suffering inside the foam rubber suit, breathing through the airholes in its chin. Gort may have been incredibly strong, but Martin wasn’t – in director Robert Wise’s words, “He could no more lift up [co-star] Patricia Neal than he could lift up the White House!” So a sequence where Gort has to carry Neal’s character into Klaatu’s spacecraft was cheated using a derrick and some obvious wires, with Martin carrying a lightweight dummy when shot from behind. I say obvious… but none of this was obvious to me when I first saw the film on TV as a kid. Gort was frightening. Sure, he couldn’t sprint, but he didn’t need to – he was indestructible. And his inscrutability made him fascinating – just what was going on inside that impenetrable metal head? Decades later, the close-ups of his visor slowly ascending as he prepares to blast someone into atoms still make the hairs on the back of my neck stand to attention. So you can keep your noughties nano-tech reimagining – there’s only one true Gort. Ian likes to sing the words “Klaatu barada nikto” to the tune of “Una Paloma Blanca”.

Fact Attack! There were two Gort suits – one fastened at the front, one at the back. A fibreglass statue was also used in scenes where the robot was immobile.

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Lock Martin also played a Martian in 1953’s Invaders From Mars – but his role as a sideshow giant was cut from The Incredible Shrinking Man.

The cover of Ringo Starr LP Goodnight Vienna features him as Klaatu. This fed rumours that prog-rockers Klaatu were actually The Beatles.

In the Star Wars universe, Klaatu and Barada are henchmen of Jabba the Hutt (on his sail barge), while the Nikto are a reptilian species.

see you next month!

1 march details on page 41

getty (1)


n set for Duncan Jones’s Mute recently I found myself pondering a question: can a character really make an impression when they have no dialogue? Well, of course they can – my favourite movie robot proves it. The Day The Earth Stood Still (1951) is a slightly bewildering film, when you think about it. Alien visitor Klaatu comes in peace, to encourage us to give up our warlike ways – but does so by threatening to annihilate Earth. His robot Gort is part of a kind of intergalactic police force that punishes any aggressive act. When Klaatu’s shot it’s only the phrase “Klaatu barada nikto” which prevents Gort wiping us out. Anyone who’s ever penned a hot take on how Star Trek’s Federation is actually fascist… these guys got there first. The movie Gort’s very different from his counterpart in “Farewell To The Master”, the short story that inspired it. In print, Gnut is a green, muscular giant with expressive features, who at one point battles a gorilla! On the big screen he became a slow-moving silver dude with mitten hands and giant space pants, whose face is featureless but for the visor that rises whenever he needs to zap a tank with his death-ray. And he never once has to get a big ape in a headlock. Shame.



SFX - April 2017