23 June, 2013

Dance, Dance, Dance: A Review of Dancer

Can I say that I'm a espionage thriller connesuer without sounding like an asshole?

What's that? Other people can, but not me? I gotcha. That's fair.

Who is Jake Ellis? is a fantastic book. It feels like the hybrid of a 1970's spy movie with the kind of USA TV show you would watch because you're too drunk to get off of the couch. It's pure entertainment wrapped in a high concept that manages to work. Instead of feeling like a gimick, it feels like a new kind of spy thriller. Dancer is what happens when that high concept fails.

In a way it should be a slam dunk. The doppleganger is a class film noir trope. Considering that this story takes place in Europe, that sort of connection with German expressionism and France's post-war fascination with the American genre films they missed out on, you have a very smart set of texts to play around with. Then you layer on something like Metal Gear Solid, which includes the same kind of plot device to get moving, Dancer should be an excellent. You look at all this and you think "Hey, this should be good, this should work."

And then it doesn't.

It doesn't work because I don't care. I won't go into what the concept is supposed to be as removing the surprise might smother what little life this story has in it. But it doesn't work because it's a silly idea, the reason this story doesn't work is that the plot and the characters are paper thin. So, while all of this action is going down and then there's the silly high concept waving to you in the background, reminding you of just how silly this entire story is. It's a refrain that I've been hearing a lot lately. In a way it's good to see that comic book

Oh, no, wait, it's the opposite of that.

Speaking of characters, though  the villain doesn't work and if the villain doesn't work in a story like this, then it's bad news for the reader. Bad news indeed.

Bond had Goldfinger and Jaws. Bourne had Chris Cooper and Brian Cox. What you got here? Some kind of half-assed Khan Noom Singh (or is this a half-assed Hannibal Lector)? Come now, really? It doesn't work in the same way that the rest of the book doesn't work. It never quite comes together, never quite gets out of first gear.
Then there's the ending, which without sounding like a smartass, is the best thing in the book, but it's exactly the same as every single one of the Bourne movies and, it's 2013, do we really need to be biting Bourne's style? Why would you ever want to draw comparison to those movies?

Dancer simply shows how great of a book Who is Jake Ellis? was and what a nice surprise that was. While the art works quite well, the story drags it down. It also reminds us that the best way to bite Jason Bourne's style is to make a fantastic movie. But not every story can be Casino Royale, can it?

Now, if you'll excuse me, I want to post this because it uses the word "dance" in it--