Indiana Jones and the Rebooted Franchise

Reboots.

Sometimes I feel like it’s the only topic of discussion when it comes to movies – which beloved franchise is getting a fresh take and how awful will it be?

Finally, the Great Reboot Monster has come for our good friend Indiana Jones. At least, that’s according to the rumors.

We have yet to visualize how the House of Mouse will handle the fairly-recently acquired Lucasfilm properties, though, it admittedly is not the fear-inducing cringe which would have accompanied any other big production company or, God forbid, Lucas himself.

The Big D likely has the best intentions in mind for the franchise, just as it does for Star Wars. I stress the word “likely” here, however, as we haven’t seen any product just yet. They are continuing to make smart moves with their ownership of Marvel (mostly by just holding the main license and letting the dough flow in based on all the established projects out there) and the Muppets (by allowing more movies to be made and, honestly, another Muppet movie is never a bad thing), so it stands to reason that the Lucasfilms will likely make the cut as well as long as they limit JJ’s lens flare budget on Star Wars VII.

Right now at the top of the rumor pile is the potential replacement of Harrison Ford as Indy and a full-on reboot of the franchise.

The first question we must ask is: “Why not just pass the torch?”

Yes, rumor has it (again…) that the new Star Wars flicks will likely keep the returning characters to minimal roles which will allow for continuity and the movement of the franchise into a newer, younger direction likely aimed at bringing in newer, younger fans whose sinner parents never showed them episodes IV – VI in their original format and deserve to be punished under the full extent of nerd law.

I digress. But, there will be a torch passing moment there.

When Big Dumb George was still in charge of putting his old ideas into a blender to see exactly how long it would take them between the blades until they died, screaming and whirling into an unrecognizable pulp, he shat out Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, which you might remember as the WORST ONE EVER EVER. Remember that one guy in there who used to be famous? That Shy-a-la-something-or-other? His Mutt Williams, aka, Henry Jones III, was rumored (again…) to be the one to pick up in Indy’s footsteps. His character was introduced not only as a way for Harrison’s age to avoid many difficult action sequences by having someone younger do the heavy lifting, but as a way to potentially bridge the gap and give Harrison Ford a more Sean Connery-type Henry Jones Sr. role as the franchise moved forward.

Based on the Kingdom of the Vomit-strewn Toilet Bowl, that would have been a colossal mistake.

Though Mr. Ford would very much like to be involved in Indy V as the hero and though it’s difficult for me to say that I can picture another actor ever being Indy, I have to admit, if we’re going to see another Indy movie, for better or worse, a reboot seems the best course of action.

Mind you, I’m not going back on what I said. I am largely opposed to reboots and remain staunchly so, especially when it comes to a franchise which farted out one horrible last cloud before collapsing and nearly dying in such recent memory (only six years this summer – I remember because I saw it the weekend of my bachelor party). There should be a longer moratorium on rebooting though, I imagine, if this starts moving forward, it’ll likely be a decade since the last once the next comes out and that could potentially be long enough.

There are reasons why it should either be prequels or a reboot. Here they are.

First: the time period. The Indiana Jones movies were always about that capsule of time of pre-WWII when adventure was still a real thing and not just a series of tourist traps; that mystical era when things were still largely undiscovered and the world was a vast and endless unknown. There’s something about that time period which remains special and oozes potential.
Based on Bathroom of the Crystal Bidet, if Harrison retained the role, it would put us into the 60s. Crystal Bumcover showed a post-WWII world where Indy and those like him were becoming their own sort of relics. Indy vs. Nazis always worked. Indy vs. McCarthy Era Russians, not so much. They become the movie’s stand-in for the Nazis after the Third Reich was toppled. If we move into the 60s, how far do we go? Does it wind up being Indy vs. the Vietcong? Indy vs. Hippies? Even with a younger actor to whom the torch could be passed, consecutive movies in the franchise would bring us closer to the modern era and the magic would be lost entirely.

Second: a younger actor playing Indy offers massive potential. If they got someone young enough, they could do Indy adventures prior to Raiders which would not necessarily fall into the “Young Indiana Jones” portion of the playbook. We could see Indy meet Professor Abner Ravenwood and his spunky young daughter Marian. Indy as a student and at the beginning of his career gives us a decade of time from the late 20s until 1935 (the year Temple of Doom takes place which, yes, was chronologically before Raiders). This would, by rights, ignore all stories and whatever might be considered canon as established by “expanded universe”-style novels and comics which is ok by me. I’m sure there’s some pretty big stinkers in there.

Based on that – Third: taking this sort-of-prequel route would allow them to get in a few good flicks while still respecting the continuity of the franchise at large. If Harrison Ford could do the accent, you might even be able to get him to play younger Henry Jones Sr., which would be pretty sick when you think about it. Like, better versions of the opening of Last Crusade, we could see Harrison as Sr. constantly scribbling in the Grail Diary and having long chats with someone playing younger Marcus Brody or something like that.

The person at the top of the current list to play the “new” Indy is Bradley Cooper. I can hear the groans from the peanut gallery, but consider that he would bring the same level of action-comedy and, when necessary, gravitas to the role. That and he already plays off the Indy level of unkempt quite expertly as well as cleaning up nice when required. Easily, I could see him swinging the whip.

In what context, though, remains to be seen.

Unfortunately, it’s not up to peons like you or I to decide the correct direction for Hollywood. All we can do is speculate.

I might consider drafting a screenplay for this were there any potential at all that it could get picked up. If you want to read it, I’ll write it. Let me know.

Keep fighting the good fight.

—end transmission—

100th Post Special – Back to the Beginning

The first blog post I ever wrote was about my disdain for fan fiction.

It was an angry, expletive-laced tirade mainly directed at Harry Potter Slash-Fic (in my opinion, the absolute bottom of the barrel) and moved into more mainstream ideas like the Star Wars “Expanded Universe” (one step up from the bottom of the barrel). Bear in mind, it was over ten years ago that I wrote those words. I would link them here for you now, just for the sake of argument, but I believe livejournal has removed my archive to make room for more mopey emo kids desperately crying out for attention.

Most of my beliefs about fan fiction continue to hold true. Much like the junk in the Pacific Ocean, this sort of tripe floats around on the currents until it arrives at an enormous garbage atoll of a community where it joins with other detritus and becomes part of the large burning reminder of all the horrible writing in the world.

Occasionally some of this flotsam washes ashore. Much of it is still refuse but on rare occasion something of value (or something someone thinks is valuable) is recovered. Some of it is repurposed to fit a new and even more valuable niche, such as the Fifty Shades series being sculpted from Twilight fan-fic (of the worst variety, if there can be a true “worst variety” of Twilight fan-fic) into the screamingly awful bondage and dominance extravaganza targeted specifically at bored housewives and unfulfilled cat ladies and exploiting that market into millions upon millions of dollars in revenue and a forthcoming feature film.

That aside, I have recently come to believe that fan fiction for the sake of personal fantasy fulfillment (interjecting an original Mary Sue-like character into an established universe or engineering settings for impossible and completely out-of-character romantic relationships for example) is the true enemy here; those who secretly wished Snape and Harry were meeting in the dungeons of Hogwarts to engage in late-night “wand battles” or those who write parallel fiction within the same universe where their character with a name and appearance similar to their own – a 5th Year Ravenclaw Animagus Metamorphmagus Auror-in-Training who is attempting to avenge their parents by single-handedly defeating He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named and collecting all the Deathly Hallows before Harry Potter has a chance while balancing romantic relationships between Hermione Granger and Draco Malfoy – are the people from whom we must remain guarded.

Alternate fictional universes have long been a passion of mine. I understand that this largely works in contradiction to my original rant about fan fiction and the sanctity of the creator’s domain, but it’s true and I’ve only recently come to discover my hypocrisy. For as long as I’ve been reading comic books, I’ve been in love with alternate universes. It started with “Days of Future Past” for me and continues right up until now. Multiple tracks of fictional development – Marvel’s What If…? Stories, DC’s Elseworlds series, the big events in regular continuity where something incredible, for better or worse, alters the landscape forever – account for some of my favorite story arcs. It’s as fun as alternate history but even more so because it usually comes with a flashy graphic redesign that will probably result in alternate costume choices in video games (looking at you, Batman Arkham series).

It’s only natural, then, that I would gravitate toward alternate histories of other fictional universes which didn’t involve pre-teen sexual experimentation or downright child molestation by adults who are normally portrayed as authority figures. Something with a decent point of divergence, or even a few, could make something much more interesting and revitalize your passion for that work of fiction.

I am speaking, specifically, of my discovery of Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality.

I’m always a bit slow on the uptake with trends like this, but I understand HPMOR has been around for at least a few years and is an ongoing project, stretching 100+ chapters. I’m just doing my part to get it out to a wider audience.

The idea behind HPMOR is that Harry was raised by his Aunt Petunia and her husband, an Oxford University Professor, to become an intellectual prodigy, gifted well beyond his years in scientific knowledge and the titular rationality. He’s still eleven-years-old when he receives his owl from Hogwarts but his perspective sounds more like that of a frustrated intellectual thirty-something. Being of a scientific mind, he immediately questions the existence of magic and the wizarding community. When this existence is proven to him, he resolves himself to unravel the secrets of magic through science. Like, real science. Like, you could actually learn things from the principals discussed.

Of course, hijinks ensue.

The story is an absolute scream. I have been reading it just as I’ve read any other J.K. Rowling-penned, canon-official Harry Potter book (which means with nearly every spare minute) and, over forty chapters I have so far read, it has not yet lost my attention and has presented a sufficiently twisted track for the hero and has only thus far adhered to the most necessary conventions of that universe and accurately shown the reactions of established characters to this different set of circumstances. I highly recommend it to any Harry Potter fan out there.

Random interjection: The guys as How It Should Have Ended are also, technically, writing alt-universe fanfic and animating it. Mostly, this is done out of parody and, mostly, this is hilarious.

When you think about it, a great deal of comic books written after DC’s Golden Age and Stan Lee’s inception of the Marvel Universe Proper are technically fan fiction in the sense that writing for certain characters has changed hands so many times over the years that the characters involved have passed from the creator’s vision to something of a more public ideal such to the point that almost anyone could write a passable Batman or Spider-Man story arc without much of a problem (in fact, if you’ve read more recent issues of Spider-Man, you’d think that was exactly what was happening). I’m speaking mostly of the older and more mainstream characters, mind you, there are still some creators writing their original books.

On that token, characters introduced by other writers via their piece of the storyline are original characters interjected into the same fictional world. Some of them are the 5th-Year Ravenclaw Mary-Sue train wrecks that I was describing before; good for mostly nothing but a Deus Ex Machina unless they really hit big with the fans in which case their fade into obscurity from the core will take a little longer. Some of them stick around for quite a while. Some of them are even retconned into the mythos and lore to add to their staying power.

But, that’s the world of comic books. Surely literature, even YA, should remain with the original creator, right? My answer has changed from a resounding yes to a slightly hesitant not always.

HPMOR has opened my eyes. It has emerged as a single diamond found deep within a river of sewage. I am sure, with some hard searching that I honestly have no intention of performing, that there are other diamonds down there. I plucked this from the surface due to an obscure reference found somewhere and only dirtied my fingertips just a tad. I will not dive in head first in search of more.

I will, however, give one other fraction of kudo to an interpretation done as an infographic which has been making the Facebook circuit. It states a slightly different grammatical interpolation of the Prophecy which deemed Harry Potter the chosen one and the ultimate fate regarding his destiny. It proved to be an interesting concept and something like my original prediction as to how the series would have ended.

In this case, I am guilty of “predictive” fan fiction. I never wrote down my Harry Potter ending theory (which would have been super badass and cool unless I’m falling into the same trap as every other fanfic writer, in which case, burn me at the stake) but I did write down one I had predicted for the ending of LOST, which wrapped the whole thing up in a nice little bow and didn’t involve a church or any of that BS.

Seeing as I have Potter on the brain and, in a way, to compete with the “mind blowing” change to the ending of Rowling’s beloved story, I may be writing down my version of how Harry Potter should have ended and posting it here within the next short while. I assure you it doesn’t rely on any grammatical oversights and abuts perfectly to the original story, only changing the last few chapters (from the point Harry discovers the Resurrection Stone to the finish) and adding a deal of gravitas where once rested a truly happy ending.

I can’t believe I just confessed I’m going to write a bit of fanfic. I feel dirty.

I have to get it out, though. Now that I feel it’s slightly ok.

And because I can’t let some infographic changing the ending blow people’s minds more than my epic last three chapters.

Keep fighting the good fight.

—end transmission—

Affleck. (Nerd-Terror Alert Level Orange)

If you are not in tune with the nerd-o-sphere, then you probably don’t know that Ben Affleck has been cast as the new Batman for Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel 2.

I spoke recently about my cautious optimism regarding the direction DC was taking with their movie division. This announcement has taken my nerd-terror scale rating on this subject from yellow to orange.

This is one of those announcements which causes the entertainment community of the internet to bubble and boil over in the kind of stubborn arguments which almost always lead to people questioning and thereby insulting the integrity of mothers and people’s sexual preferences as it quickly degrades per the terms of the Laws of the Internet. Controversy will likely be as abundant as it was when Heath Ledger was first cast as the Joker in The Dark Knight.

I’ve upped the alert level from yellow to orange because, on the surface, this seems like a Val Kilmer/George Clooney level move for Batman whereas Affleck does not have the same grit we’ve become accustomed to with Christian Bale’s Batman, at least not on the surface. Not to keep mentioning it, but this was my first thought about Heath Ledger as well and we all know how good (if not tragic) that choice was in the end.

While Affleck’s most recent works have garnished critical praise and while he’s currently riding high on Argo, his acting prowess seems to be dictated strictly through direction. He is a director’s actor and his best efforts have come while he was his own boss. Zack Snyder is a fair to solid bet to get a decent performance out of him, but there are still a few factors which lend heavily toward my doubts about this decision.

First, the obvious: Daredevil. I mean, really. Did you see Daredevil? I did. I paid money to see it. I paid money to see it knowing that Ben’s future wife-to-be Jennifer Garner was playing Elektra with her overly-squared jaw and typically emotionless, robotic, Stepford-esque quality. I went knowing that Michael Clarke Duncan was playing the Kingpin even though his best performance to that point was John Coffe in the Green Mile. Most of the time I can let these factors slide due to typical Hollywood re-imagining and truncation of the plot. I am in the minority of understanding nerds who get that some fan service has to be discarded for the sake of mass digestion when making the transition from comics or books to the big screen. Daredevil, as you know if you have seen it, was more than this. It was an inexcusable train wreck comparable to Ang Lee’s Hulk.

Second: Zack Snyder. Not that I didn’t love 300 and I was even on his side when the debates about Watchmen erupted but by doing such a good job with Man of Steel Zack proved one thing: He is a Superman Person.
Much like cat people and dog people, there are Superman people and Batman people. Typically, never the twain shall meet, moreso in the case of the superheroes than the pets. If you have a friend who is a dog person and you’re a cat person, you’re not going to get into drunken geek screaming matches about who would win in a fight. This happens quite a bit with Superman/Batman people.
If you’ve ever read anything I’ve written, you probably know I fall squarely on the Gotham side of that fence. I feel a twinge of disgust every time I see that big red S emblazoned on someone in whatever manner. I get proud when I see someone rocking the Bat-logo. This is the natural nerd order of things.
Zack Snyder, being a Superman person by trade if not by choice, may not give Batman the respect or care that the character deserves. This may lead into bad direction for Affleck which, as previously mentioned, could make the Batman in Man of Steel 2 back into the horrifying Matt Murdock of Mark Steven Johnson’s cinematic atrocity. I believe it’s against the Geneva Convention to subject someone to watching that movie. I would hate for the same fate to come upon Batman, even if it is truly a Superman movie.

I also have a sneaking suspicion that Affleck is really a Superman person. Bad news, if that’s the case.

Third: It is a Superman movie, after all. Though Bats will likely make up a big part of this movie, especially considering it’s partially based on The Dark Knight Returns, the branding used to the press has been fairly explicit: This is not the Batman/Superman Movie. No matter what the conjoined logo belies, this is Man of Steel 2. That is and has been the logline for this movie since SDCC. To me, that says that the “hate each other but team-up for the greater good in the end” angle may come in underplayed and allow Supes to take up more of the spotlight, it being his movie and all. Be it Affleck, Bale, or even Fillon (as the fans wanted), Bats is likely looking at reduced screen time even in the event of a potential (yet unlikely) note-worthy performance by Ben. The only benefit to this is, if his performance is ass, the limited screen time may do some (SOME) damage control.

I will continue to leave the terror alert at orange until I see a screen test or a trailer. I remain doubtful that this signals anything good for Man of Steel 2 or the Justice League movie afterward (in which, for consistency’s sake, they’d better get Affleck back for better or worse).

DC’s cinematic universe has always been a calamity. They’re good at destroying franchises before their time. For their sake, I hope they can keep it together to the end or else the Justice League movie is going to look as bad as the mid-90s JLA pilot, no matter how many big names they pull in.

Keep fighting the good fight.

—end transmission—

Decoding the Age of Ultron (SDCC Recap Part Two)

On the opposite side of the coin from my previous post, Marvel added some revelations of their own to the SDCC mix, not the least of which was a bald Amy Pond (Karen Gillian) surprising everyone in the middle of her panel by revealing her always gorgeous ginger locks had been cleanly removed for her role as Nebula in the upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy. What is it with departed Doctor Who actors suddenly shaving their heads? Anyway…

In what will likely be the most speculative announcement coming out of Con from the movie side of the Big M was the title of the 2015 Avengers sequel.

The Avengers: Age of Ultron

Those of us familiar with the current comics may clearly recognize this title as identical to the latest in a long running line of books dedicated to post-apocalyptic alternate universe scenarios in which one specific villain has accomplished their goals of world domination. Somehow, I doubt that this title would hook-up with anything remotely related to the current Age of Ultron now reaching its zenith on a comic store shelf near you.

While Ultron is probably the most classic villain of the Avengers as a team and while I have no doubt that the Avengers vs. Ultron would play incredibly well on screen, I have some reservations about this overly obvious mission statement which I will now list for you here.

1. WTF happened to Thanos and my Infinity Gauntlet Movie???

Putting Ultron’s name in the title gives most Marvel fanboys (like myself) a general plot outline, none of which involves anything that was teased at the end of the first Avengers. Ultron, for those of you who spent your youth outside and not buried up to your nose in comic books, is a sentient, ultra-intelligent, and practically indestructible robot. Nothing in that sentence is at all related to Thanos or any other greater cosmic threat. As I just said, this battle will play well for the screen and will likely make for an awesome movie, but at a highly reduced scale to the Infinity Gauntlet movie that has been dangled in front of us ever since the Gauntlet itself went on display at SDCC in 2011 in the official Marvel area (next to Cap’s shield, Thor’s Hammer, and a set of Iron Man armor). They’re holding filet mignon under our noses then feeding us hamburger on this one.

2. WTF happened to Hank Pym?

Dr. Henry Pym – AKA Ant-Man, Giant-Man, Yellowjacket, and Goliath among others – is the creator (more like Father) of Ultron in the comics, not to mention a founding member of the Avengers. One would assume that as goes Ultron, so goes Hank Pym. The problem is that, in the Avengers Panel, it was revealed that Ultron would be created without Pym’s influence due to the fact that he has not yet been established in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I know that as far back as 2010, when the Avengers movie was still a fanboy’s sick fantasy on the verge of becoming tangible, it was announced that Edgar Wright (of Shaun of the Dead and Scott Pilgrim fame) would be helming the Ant-Man movie as a precursor to the Avengers (along side Iron Man 2, Thor, and Captain America).
This film has been largely up in the air. Rumor had it that the comedic vibe with which Wright approached the initial screenplay wasn’t jiving with the studio’s long-term vision for the universe and would make Dr. Pym seem out of place if suddenly pressed in with the more “serious” cast of characters. Two complete re-writes later and Wright’s Ant-Man is now slated for a post-Avengers 2 release. In my opinion, this kinda puts the cart before the horse as far as comic book canon is concerned and takes away the creator/creation relationship which made Ultron a more interesting machine of mass distruction. I’m sure Joss H. Whedon knows what he’s doing by taking this step and he’ll likely come up with a good end around, but it runs the risk of decreasing Hank Pym’s character. Ultron was simultaneously his greatest achievement and his biggest failure. On that note…

3. Ultron is supposed to be Hank Pym’s biggest failure. Who does that fall to now?

The reason Hank Pym is essential Ultron’s creator is that Ultron’s artificial intelligence is based on Pym’s own thought patterns. Ultron shows the dark side of Pym’s genius, making both of them more sympathetic characters. It also adds that faint glimmer of humanity to Ultron even if it was in the form of jealousy and cruelty. It foreshadowed the eventual reveal that Pym was a wife-beating scumbag, but that’s a story for another time and could be another reason they wanted to leave Pym out. I mean, Stark’s an alcoholic, but at least he’s not a domestic abuser. Kinda hard to justify that sort of behind-the-scenes action in a superhero movie and still have you rooting for him.
The most likely choice of main characters the creation of Ultron (and its subsequent brain patterns) would fall to would be one Mr. Tony Stark. We’ve already seen the capabilities of his AI-tech thanks to Iron Man 3 (house party protocol!) and we know he’s capable of creating robots with personality (the dunce-cap lab-bot). If he’s serious about quitting as Iron Man, Ultron might be his next step.

Oh crap, guys, I think I just figured out the whole plot of Avengers 2 right there.

4. Screw the rest of this list, I just figured out the plot of Avengers: Age of Ultron.

Tony quits being Iron Man, but the Avengers still want him. Since Pepper doesn’t want him putting his life on the line anymore and Tony seems to want to concentrate more on their relationship, he has to figure out another solution.
Operating the armor remotely (as seen many times in IM3) won’t cut it because Pepper will be up his ass to stop playing superhero. He’ll feel obligated to do something about it and will create Ultron, implanting that robot with his personality as a guide for its AI. At first, it will seem the perfect replacement for Tony and Iron Man on the team, but it will quickly fall to the dark side, likely by realizing that its father has it better than it does (a la Hank Pym) and not enjoying being referred to as “it” just as I’ve done for the last paragraph.
Ultron then goes rogue and will need a helper. He creates The Vision (as he did in the comics, and as is rumored to be played by Vin Diesel) but this backfires on him as he creates another being similar to himself, with the capacity for all human emotions, and the Vision grows compassionate toward humanity eventually siding with the Avengers in the final battle and surviving the ultimate destruction of his creator.
Tony will also feel obligated to get back into the armor after his creation goes crazy and either him or the Vision will land the final blow on Ultron.

Maybe in Avengers 3 we’ll finally get that Infinity Gauntlet movie.

Remember you heard this here in 2015, kids. I would love to be right this far in advance.

Keep fighting the good fight.

—end transmission—

The Holes in the Cape (SDCC Recap Part One)

In case you missed it, this weekend was San Diego Comic Con. Chances are, if you’re reading my blog, you’re overly aware of this.

I’m going to take this week (hopefully more than one entry) to discuss items arising from SDCC, albeit a bit late. I would go on about how I usually enjoy letting things simmer for a while before injecting my opinion but I’d be lying. I was actually on vacation (not at SDCC) this weekend and I am also exceedingly lazy. That being said, there are more than a few interesting things which have sprung from SDCC and are worthy of words from me. Let’s begin.

DC/Warner Bros. have announced that the sequel to this summer’s fair success, Man of Steel, will be the long sought-after Batman/Superman movie. Whether this means that Will Smith’s I Am Legend is actually going to happen prior to release in 2015 remains to be seen.

This particular announcement brings the DC/Warner Bros. machine to an interesting intersection. With Christian Bale’s divorce from the Batman franchise and Christopher Nolan’s tenuous (at best) involvement in the ongoing construction of the DC Movie Universe, will the flavor of Henry Cavill’s opposite number be retained or will we see another wholesale change for the Caped Crusader before the (thankfully pushed back) Justice League movie in 2017?

During the panel, it was revealed that my favorite line in the history of comics will be included in Batman/Superman:

“I want you to remember, Clark… in all the years to come… in your most private moments… I want you to remember my hand at your throat… I want you to remember… the one man who beat you.”

This, of course, uttered by Bruce himself as he has a crushing spiky boot wedged firmly on the throat of the Man of Steel in Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns. Gives me goose bumps just thinking about it.

The panel would later go on to admit that the movie will be based partly on the World’s Finest comics (hopefully modern era and not Golden Age) and the aforementioned Frank Miller source material. They made it clear that this will not be a straight up adaptation of DKR, but will certainly borrow heavily from the plot elements including that famous line. Certainly, it won’t be about the grim future of the DCU and an octogenarian Batman beating the living piss out of a Supes who is past his prime. They are planning to use this movie to start setting the table for Justice League, after all.

This brings me to my second point: It’s wonderful to see DC finally jumping on the continuity train even if it is a few stations behind Marvel. If you’re going to plan an epic like Justice League, you have to take your cues from Joss Whedon and the Avengers. You must first build a solitary universe which houses all of these heroes before simply jamming them into the same story. I’ve been over and over this regarding the film aspirations of both major comic houses, but it’s true. This will be the first movie which unites two DC properties and establishes a proper and stable universe. That is, if they do it right.

While Man of Steel was a good mildly-gritty reboot of the Superman franchise (barring Lois showing exactly how easy it could be to connect Kal-El to John and Martha Kent), we have to examine what this means for the Nolan Bat-verse and what, if any, implications this movie has on the state of that particular Gotham City and its denizens. Do Man of Steel’s Smallville and Metropolis exist in the same universe or will we so soon be force-fed a new image of Gotham?
It would have to be Gotham that changes, not Metropolis, as they’ve confirmed Henry Cavill under the big red S for the duration. This means that the Man of Steel universe is THE DC movie universe.

This is where we run into some serious problems.

As far as the Nolan-verse is concerned, Bruce Wayne’s time under the cowl is over. As of The Dark Knight Rises we see him go so far as to pass the torch to one Detective Robin “John” Blake. Without going into the screaming inconsistencies there, the best parts of any Batman/Superman story come from the diametrically opposed identities of Bruce and Clark – Bruce was given all the money and had to work for his power; Clark was given insane amounts of power and had to work for his money. This goes along with the fact that Bruce’s inner darkness and Clark’s outer light lead to two very different rhythms with the same melody. Their methodical differences and their backgrounds give them that tete-a-tete which makes friendship, let alone outright partnership, difficult. The draw here is two heroes who can’t completely work together. If you leave John Blake as a n00b with a cape, you run the risk of losing that awesome dynamic.

This means that they’re going to have to either bring back Nolan-verse Bruce Wayne (with a different actor unless they can somehow convince Bale), meaning that the Nolan-verse takes place in the same continuity, or establish a whole new Batman movie continuity which can connect properly with the Man of Steel/Justice League universe.

Negating the Nolan-verse would be a foolish and too-soon move, so it would seem that DC’s back is against the wall on this one. Don’t think for a second they won’t wipe the continuity and start a-fresh for the sake of the Justice League. They know a Superman/Batman movie will empty wallets (mine included) regardless of which Batman you throw into the mix. They also know that Justice League will likely explode at the box office considering that two out of DC’s main trinity (Bats, Supes, Wonder Woman) have enjoyed very recent success.

Bats/Supes aside, moving the Justice League movie back to 2017 (as opposed to their knee-jerk reaction of 2015 to compete with Avengers 2) as well as the announcement of a Flash solo movie in 2016 shows that they’re attempting to move in the right direction. This is just me being optimistic as they announced the Flash during the Batman/Superman panel which indicates that it’ll tie in directly to the Justice League. This is no guarantee that we won’t get another Green Lantern.

Also, seriously, Wonder Woman needs her own flick before this whole thing goes down. I know it’s apparently Hollywood poison, but it should get done. You can’t back off when it comes to one of the members of DC’s Holy Trinity just because it’s a girl and you don’t think girl heroes sell tickets.

Really, everything I’m talking about here won’t prevent myself or any other fan from seeing any of these movies on opening weekend. It’s just a matter of principle. If they’re going to go the full-nine with this, it should be done right and with respect to the most recent successes. DC needs to do what it should have done since its main competition came into existence: figure out what Marvel has done right and DO THAT THING.

The dots should have been lined up from the beginning. It should not be a struggle to connect them all.

Keep fighting the good fight.

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ANUSTART for Television

Netflix has become the absolute mecca for cult television viewing. It has taken niches and carved them out into much larger niches and has allowed the fandom of shows to expand well beyond the expiration date of their network tenure. This is not a newly discovered fact, however, the steps taken by them in recent months has proven once and for all that they herald the death of traditional television.

I am, of course, referring to the resurgence of Arrested Development.

Shows like this, for me, often fly under the radar. Until about two years ago, I had given up on sitcoms. I’d had my fill of bland humor in the nineties and wanted nothing to do with the same old jokes being told by different people on different sets in different ridiculous situations. I was tired of laugh-tracks being cued by the stereotypical lead characters dealing with a problem in the most “wacky” way possible while their sarcastic neighbor/friend made sarcastic comments which may or may not result in a catch phrase being printed on a t-shirt and marketed at Spencer’s or Hot Topic.

Sitcoms were not my friend. Most of them are very poorly written and are dragged out far too long, fading into obscurity before drawing former fans back with some heart-wrenching series finale which promises to be everything like the show you once fell in love with and not at all like the faded over-played tragedy it had become. I think I’ve shown enough of my disdain for one day.

When a good friend of mine recommended Arrested Development, it was prior to talk of the Netflix revival. I had, being a denizen of these fair internets, heard of the show and the plight which its fans suffered due to its abbreviated length. He told me that it would be my kind of humor and he was right. I thoroughly enjoyed it and, as happens with a Netflix revival, devoured the entire show within a week only to find that much to the disbelief of its continually expanding fan base, Netflix itself was involved in producing new episodes.

Shows like Arrested Development, along with other cult shows too numerous to list, are the Netflix cash cow. AD, Firefly, Galactica, every Star Trek series… these, 90% of the time, are why people subscribe. If there’s nothing else to do, you have every episode of these shows that you love on-tap and ready to go.

I realize I’m not telling you anything you didn’t know and I also realize that my blog is not, nor should it be, a Netflix commercial. What I am here to talk about is how Netflix changed the game by grabbing an otherwise discarded network show from the dead zone and resurrected it and how exactly that changes the game.

Network television, known for years to be yellowing their drawers over the encroaching crush of the interwebz, should now loose that fateful turd square into their panties over the fact that Netflix was able to put a show like Arrested Development back together for another season without any backing from the Old Boys Club. If internet-only sitcoms such as The Guild (as well as the rest of the Geek and Sundry lineup) and dramas like The Lizzie Bennet Diaries pulling down cult followings, awards, and millions of views on shoe-string budgets were the death knell for network TV, then Arrested Development Season 4 is the funeral.

YouTube and now, to some extent, outlets like Netflix have made it possible for new ideas to be brought to the fore without running the Hollywood gauntlet. It allowed for shows like FreddieW’s Video Game High School to be created and made public in a wider and more sociable forum. No offense to Freddie and his wonderful product (really, love the show) but if this were pitched to say NBC Universal Comcast Kabletown TGIFridays (or whatever they’re calling themselves now) it would have wound up on one of the backwater niche channels on digital cable that no one ever sees and would have received less views than it did on YouTube or FreddieW’s network, rocketjump.com. It would have also received less exposure. Case-in-point, here I am, talking about this awesome show and I’m able to link you to it directly. If it did wind up on that heretofore unheard of cable network and I mentioned it to you here, you’d still never see it because you’d have to a) determine if your cable provider carries the channel, b) find the channel somewhere in the vast labyrinth of the untouched numbers of the upper-hundreds, c) time it correctly to actually watch the show, and if that weren’t possible, d) condemn it to your DVR until such time as it is either potentially watched (could be months) or discarded in favor of the latest episode of Top Chef.

To clarify, I am not saying that all network television is horrible. I watch many shows on television (some network, mostly cable) and, though indie can be a wonderful thing, it is not the end-all-be-all. It would be impossible for someone to do an adequate Game of Thrones adaptation without the support of a major pay channel. HBO, however, hands over the keys to the kingdom and tells the creative types to lock up when they’re done. They are brave in that they will throw almost anything at the wall for at least one season to see if it sticks. Sometimes you get The Sopranos, sometimes you get Luck, either way it offers more freedom to the creators than the aforementioned Hollywood process, which is why HBO is consistently generating amazing programming. They, too, are making good use of the internet as they will soon (if they don’t already) allow people to subscribe to their HBOGO service; everything they have available on-demand, online, anywhere. First-run episodes of new shows are available as soon as the Eastern time-zone show is over, and they’re telling you that you don’t even need cable to watch it anymore.

Other networks operating on that sort of “take-it-and-run-as-long-as-the-ratings-are-good” philosophy are AMC and FX. Given a slightly longer leash than their network counterparts as far as the content of their programming, they are empowered to make edgier, quirkier, and ultimately more interesting shows that give a glimmer of hope for drama and storytelling within a bottomless abyss of reality shows about pawn shops, storage auctions, and trailer-dwelling creatures who believe they are beyond reproach.

I look forward to the day that channels like these take the Netflix route. They could strike out independently or partner up with a well-known distributor and make the shows they want to make as well as making the shows fans want them to make. I often love to see lists of show ideas that were shot down before being given a chance, especially spinoffs of cult ideas (I would have watched every episode of Starfleet Medical). So much potential was cast aside by fat-cat executives so out of touch with entertainment in general that they think Henry Winkler and Scott Baio are still Fonzie and Chachi hanging out at Arnold’s rather than standing in front of a jury as Bob Loblaw trys to prove that Barry Zuckerkorn can’t reach a doorknob of a schoolyard fence without the alleged use of a step-ladder. Any number of those shows once callously discarded may now face revitalization, provided the licences are available.

Arrested Development and the way it has drawn one fanbase to the internet should have the networks shaking and rethinking their strategy. Indie shows and films on the internet should have them watching their back. Cable networks continuing to expand their influence should make them take notice.

The obituary for traditional television is being written by a man who blue himself and no amount of forget-me-nows can make it go away.

Life is a roofie circle.

Keep fighting the good fight.

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Bidula’s Last Word – Iron Man 3

I liked Iron Man 2. There, I said it. Actually, I did say it before right here.

While it was not superior to its predecessor, it was still a fun romp through comic book land rife with reference and foreshadowing. I consider it a prequel to the rest of the Marvel Movie Universe at large; drawing in SHIELD, teasing Captain America and Thor, and giving birth to everyone’s favorite card-collecting agent, Phil Coulson. I believe it often goes unnoticed that this was the important transition movie that really set the stage for the Avengers.

That said, I realize that Iron Man 2 was and continues to be widely panned. This doesn’t bother me, I stand by my word. This did, however, greatly lower expectations for Iron Man 3 when it hit this weekend. The seemingly global disapproval of Iron Man 2 which arose in the media as the release of Iron Man 3 grew closer was palpable. Before it was even previewed for the media, people were calling it out as iffy. This was partly because the advertised villain – The Mandarin (played by Sir Ben Kingsley) – is something of a campy stereotype in Marvel Comics lore; a Red China throwback who used magical rings to varying effect in his quest for world domination. Standard supervillain junk and not much more.

In fact, the story (without giving too much away) makes the Mandarin mysterious, powerful, and menacing without the ridiculous camp you would think followed the character from even a cursory glance at his Wikipedia page.

Yes, I’m a comic book geek, and yes, I did like Iron Man 2 but Iron Man 3, from a strictly objective viewpoint, was an absolutely incredible film.

The phrase “this movie has everything” is often bandied about carelessly. I am not participating in such bandying by saying that this movie really does have everything. This movie brings the funny as much as it brings the action and suspense. There are some serious laughs to be had which is largely due to Robert Downey Jr.’s always spectacular performance as Tony Stark which, since the first movie, really brought the character to life. Tony Stark had been around long before these movies but I don’t think he truly had a voice in the original Marvel U until RDJ put him out there as a fast-talking, razor-witted, ego-tripping playboy. It was Warren Ellis and the Extremis storyline in 2005 that made the character movie –ready, but it was RDJ putting his stamp on the character that makes Iron Man one of the better books out there at the moment.

This is also because of the sharp writing and direction of this franchise. Though this has changed hands over the course of the trilogy, it has achieved a strange consistency. People seem to know how to write Tony and those around him and make it seamless.

Even though, as you may have seen in the trailers, a veritable army of Iron Man variant suits participate in the movie, this one is more about Tony outside the armor than Tony inside the armor. This is strange when you’re waiting for the post-credits scene and suddenly a wall of names marking the 3D effects crew takes no less than 30 seconds to scroll by, then you realize that, oh yeah, there were 42 armor variants shown in this movie and each one was different.

The story draws from the previously mentioned Warren Ellis Extremis story arc and doesn’t skimp on the details. They took a story from the comics which really brought Iron Man back to being a mainstream player in the Marvel Universe rather than just one of the Avengers, gave it a bit of polish, and pushed it out under the absolute best possible circumstances.

One thing I appreciated was that the fight scenes were actual fight scenes and not the slow-mo-fast-mo junk or shaky-cam cut-fests or special-effects debacles of recent years. They were well played out, well cut, and, unlike most movies involving armor or giant robots (I’m looking at you Michael Bay), you could tell who the combatants were the entire time. Really, some of the most solid classically-shot action sequences I’ve seen in a long, long time.

There were some good callbacks for fans regarding SHIELD and the Avengers movie. Really nice to see that sort of thing in a solo picture and really nice to see the continuity of the universe moving right along. Paramount continues to hit this part of the Avengers franchise spot-on. There are plenty of little easter eggs hidden and I’ll probably need to watch the movie at least one more time before I get them all.

Another easter egg in plain sight was the introduction of the Iron Patriot armor. If you’ve read Marvel Comics within the last few years, you know the significance of that armor and especially the twisted bastard who was wearing it. They don’t go that far (licensing and plot-line surely would not have been kind), but it was still cool to see Norman’s red, white, and blue streaking around and getting into some interesting situations.

The ending corresponds with the rumors around Hollywood that RDJ may want to step out of the suit for good after his contract expires with Avengers 2. I wish that wasn’t the case. Something about him wanting to move on to different roles and not be shoe-horned into the action-movie role forever. The only problem with that is that he IS Tony Stark. Unless he buys it in Avengers 2, it’s not going to be as easy a replacement as Bruce Banner was.

BTW, stick around after the credits for a nice shout out to the Science Bros meme. VERY funny.

Bidula’s Last Word – 9/10

Keep fighting the good fight.

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