Reviews of Gray Lensman (1939) and related work

Gray Lensman (1939Text)

E. E. Smith (writer).

Read in 2016.

Based on a 1939–1940 serial, this is the fourth entry in a larger series. Read, cursively, in the 1951 collected edition.

Transparently a power fantasy of record proportions, with surprisingly flat characters, pervasive sexism and very little science, e.g. no relativistic physics. The effectively flawless super-genius superhero protagonist berates himself for having to do the dirty deeds that readers want to see—the mining sequence is the high point—while his entire organization remains purely moral-dualist and capitalist, right down to lowering taxes whenever they can. The moments of imagination and actually clever plotting are few and far between. The writing itself is never beautiful.

References here: The City and the Stars (1956), Citizen of the Galaxy (1957), Have Space Suit—Will Travel (1958), Lensman (1984).

text fiction

Lensman (1984Moving picture, 107 minutes)

Hirokawa Kazuyuki (director), Kawajiri Yoshiaki (director).

Seen in 2013.

I saw the second (Streamline) English dub, and rewatched it cursively in 2016 after reading Gray Lensman (1939).

Some good graphical tentpole sequences and a whole lot of nonsense. The influence of Star Wars (1977) is apparent in the loose adaptation of E. E. Smith’s serials. The hero, Kinnison, merges Luke Skywalker (backwater planet, doomed parent with hidden past) and the books’ Clarissa Macdougal (a feisty redhead, though less of a smart aleck here than in Harmony Gold’s version; both are unlike Smith’s grimly dutiful Kinnison), while the film version of Macdougal wears her hair in one of Leia’s two buns and seems to be modelled on Carrie Fisher. I also perceive an influence from Urusei Yatsura (1981): Van Buskirk and Bill the DJ, in particular, exhibit the same types of easily animated physical comedy. There are lots of dumpy-looking “generic” humanoid alien species, designed with little more seriousness than Wizards (1977), but Worsel looks cool, and the icky organic design of the Boskone fleets is a pretty good illustration of Smith’s moralistic writing. The 3D CGI looks even worse than The Last Starfighter (1984), and there is thankfully less of it.

References here: Pushing Ice (2005).

moving picture adaptation animation Japanese production fiction