The Man in the High Castle

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Lost Highway
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The Man in the High Castle

#1 Post by Lost Highway » Sun Nov 22, 2015 7:04 am

First, I have not read the Philip K Dick novel, so I don't know how this stacks up. I just read that in terms of characters and plot it's quite different, as like most of Dick's novels it is rather light on plot.

I watched the first four episodes last night after the pilot got a lot of praise but I'm not so sure about the show. The initial impression is good with decent production values and the concept is interesting. I've always enjoyed "Nazis won WWII" alternate universe stories. But as it goes on it becomes clear that it suffers from the same flaws as many genre shows: poor characterisation, bland actors, random plotting which is there to fill up time rather than serve the narrative. Alexa Davalos is fine, but the two male leads make little impact, reminding me of the similarly bland love interests in the Hunger Games films. The plot line with the bounty hunter seems redundant and the scenery chewing actor seems to have wandered in from different sort of show.
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How come delicate Juliana has the physical power to hurl a burly Nazi agent down a waterfall
at the end of episode 2 ? This better be addressed at some point as I found it so unbelievable. During episode 3 I started to have flashbacks to Wayward Pines, probably the worst show I stuck out to the end in a while.

I think this is one of those cases where critics seem so impressed with the relatively original premise for a TV show that they are happy to overlook how ordinary it is in most other respects. Yes, it's very bleak (episode 2 in particular), but is that in itself worth praising ? So far the show hasn't made any points about fascism or totalitarian systems I haven't seen done better elsewhere. That said, the deteriorating relationship between Nazi and Japanese occupiers may develop into something interesting.

I love genre films but when it comes to TV I'm probably more into character driven shows than plot lead ones, and genre generally foregrounds plot. I try out genre shows but rarely stick with them for that reason. The only genre show I've seen recently which has strong enough characterisation that it could measure itself against something like Mad Men or The Sopranos is The Leftovers.

On a side note, the Disney kids flick Big Hero 6 appears to put a more cheerful take on the same universe, which makes that film retroactively creepy.

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feihong
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Re: The Man in the High Castle

#2 Post by feihong » Sun Nov 22, 2015 1:51 pm

I read the book when I was a teenager. I remember it being somewhat different than the standard Philip K. Dick narrative. One of the interesting things about it was that Dick wrote the book using the I Ching as a means of determining where the plot would go next. Looking at the trailer for this I can see the I Ching element referenced, but in the novel it was a key feature, and the characters were compulsively consulting the I Ching throughout.

It seems they've sort of "pumped up" what they presume to be the audience identification characters with bigger roles than they had in the novel. It wasn't a novel that featured very striking characters (the characters in Do Androids Dream Electric Sheep and Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said and even in We Can Build You were much more vivid), as I recall. There was a Japanese administrator that had the most interesting role in the novel, but I'm not sure I see him in the trailer.

The whole patriotism askew angle of the trailer makes sense as a way of selling the concept, but it wasn't a prominent feature of the novel. Dick seemed much more interested in the potency of altered-world narrative. All of Dick's work on the book was focused, as I recall it, on the metatextual elements of the story. The characters accepted the different outcome of the war and had no special attachment to the era before the axis powers.
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The discovery of the novel-within-the-novel, also called The Man in the High Castle, was the major plot point. The novel-within-the-novel delineated a tale of an alternate earth in which the allies won the war. It transpires that this novel-within-the-novel was also written using the I Ching to divine the plot materials, completing a weird loop where the making of the novel and of the novel-within-the-novel each reflect back on the other in an inverted twist.
Alternate realities were already pretty old-hat in the 80s (they used to show up everywhere in the 80s), so I remember this metatextual material being the only source of interest in the novel. That said, it was quite a bit more interesting than the standard Dick novel––which I was reading quite a lot of at the time.

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Roscoe
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Re: The Man in the High Castle

#3 Post by Roscoe » Sun Nov 22, 2015 3:59 pm

In re: Lost Highway's Spoiler Question about an event at the end of Episode 2---
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The character tossing the bad guy over the dam in the second episode was set up in the first episode, when she was shown to be very experienced in martial arts, I believe she was even a black belt.

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Lost Highway
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Re: The Man in the High Castle

#4 Post by Lost Highway » Sun Nov 22, 2015 5:48 pm

Roscoe wrote:In re: Lost Highway's Spoiler Question about an event at the end of Episode 2---
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The character tossing the bad guy over the dam in the second episode was set up in the first episode, when she was shown to be very experienced in martial arts, I believe she was even a black belt.
Yes, you are right, I'd forgotten about that.

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Roscoe
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Re: The Man in the High Castle

#5 Post by Roscoe » Mon Nov 23, 2015 8:11 am

I saw the first couple of episodes and found it efficient at best -- a whole lot of plot point were carefully arranged into manageable one hour chunks. There wasn't any real interest or surprise, though. The whole enterprise seemed, shall we say, rather surprisingly Dick-less.

I had a couple of plot issues:
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[/The attack on Rufus Sewell's car was nicely handled, well done and a surprising, but then I realized that he alone was walking away, with a hostage yet, and considering the carnage and number of flying bullets it seemed pretty unlikely that a bunch of armed shooters could be so totally inept.

And why did the Japanese official allow Frank Frink to just walk away free at the end of the episode -- why not just kill him? It seemed unlikely that he'd just set loose someone with such an ugly actionable grudge against him. spoiler]

George Drooly
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Re: The Man in the High Castle

#6 Post by George Drooly » Mon Nov 23, 2015 8:43 am

Lost Highway wrote:like most of Dick's novels it is rather light on plot
Are you perhaps thinking of another Philip K. Dick?

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