Don’t Call it King Arthur

So, Guy Ritchie’s take on the myth/legend of Arthur is out in theaters.

I posted about it few weeks ago on #Facebook… here’s that post:

“King Arthur is primarily a medieval gangster film, and that’s when the movie is at its best.”
And thus the author invalidates the articles title right out of the gate.
**warning – gripe post about something I already griped about. Sue me.**
I’m gonna have see this, the same way I had to see the last Tarzan movie. These are the heroes I spent my childhood with. And these are the heroes that never (almost never) get represented the way I would like them too… I’m not very subjective when it comes to them. So forgive my teeth-gnashing and hair-pulling.
Will this be a well-crafted film? Probably. Will it be King Arthur? No. No it won’t.
Fantasy-based street orphan bests corrupt ruler with the aid of a ‘magic’ sword and prophecies about destiny? Yeah.
But don’t f***ing call it King Arthur.

I also linked to an article from which the quote was taken from, you can read that here: Turns Out King Arthur: Legend of the Sword Is a Lot Better Than Anyone Expected

Having seen the film, I stand by that assessment.

Don’t ****ing call this film King Arthur. As a matter of fact, keep it as far away from the source material as possible. Call it whatever you want, rename the characters to whatever you want, just ****ing remove any reference to the myths and legends of Arthur and his Knights.

The rest of this post is more of the same, so if you are one of those TL/DR types – news flash, I didn’t like it.

Like Zack Snyder, (of 300, Watchmen and BvS fame) Mr. Ritchie is able to paint scenes well. Both men are good, competent directors – and I really kinda wish that it had been Zack Snyder that had been behind the helm of this, rather than Guy Ritchie. I think it would’ve fit better with Mr. Snyder’s style and tone – i mean that as a compliment.

The art direction and cinematography and effects for this film are top notch. In fact they are really well done and consistent… As for the costumes, I have a mixed reaction on those. Sometimes they worked, sometimes they didn’t. Really, looking back on it, having just sat through it… I couldn’t tell if they were going for a Hugo Boss-meets-REI medieval look or for a post-apocalyptic REI-meets-Hugo Boss kind of look. For the most part the costuming worked, it was medieval/ren-faire chic… all leather and sheepskin and woolen cloaks. Oh, and molded plastic armor plating that didn’t really pass for steel or iron or any kind of metal really.

I honestly couldn’t tell you where or when this story was supposed to be taking place – if it was on the continent of Great Britain or on some world a thousand light years away or in some alternate dimension of Earth. The very opening shot of the move has what looks to be a Mayan pyramid in it… or at least a structure that looks an awful lot like a Mayan pyramid. The only time I heard them mention “England” was at the very end. I guess because they had to include that so – once again – they could remind everyone that this was a King Arthur movie.

The performances from the actors were all adequate. It’s an action/adventure/fantasy flick, so there is a lot of scenery chewing but for the most part, the performances rang true. I didn’t really have a fault with any of them… given that they were all kind of stock and recognizable. Again, all the more reason to disavow itself from the legend of Arthur and just give them other names… Just call it The Legend of the Sword, throw in some nods and hints at the source material, and leave it at that… We could’ve relaxed into it, got caught up in the heroic struggle. But nope. Instead the film has to try and make these folks fit into the molds of characters and therefore are stilted and trapped by the parts they are supposed to play in this “legend”.

But I understand why the name of Arthur was tacked on to this film. I understand its probably a rights issue, that the studio(s) probably own said rights and therefore needs to contractually fulfill a ‘once every decade’ resurrection of the King Arthur tale to maintain the rights to the characters… otherwise, some other studio might steal them away and make their own “alternate take” on the legend and so on and so on.

It’s a fairly decent D&D movie actually. It really is. It’s so much better than any D&D film that’s been produced and it maybe should’ve been marketed as such. It’s a above average fantasy film.

It’s just not ****ing King Arthur.

Names we are familiar with are tacked onto side characters and then dismissed because – I don’t know? Pacing maybe? Merlin and Mordred are part of some “race” called Mages that Uther and his brother Vortigern (even though in history and legend they don’t have this relationship) at war with at the start of the film… Merlin is absent from the film and Modred is not Arthur’s progeny as it is stated in the legend… all liberties taken because, well, why not…

Once again – it’s ****ing King Arthur.

Guy Ritchie has made some really good English gangster/street wise criminal movies. As the i09 article points out, that’s when this movie really works (not really, but we’ll let that go). The snappy dialogue and intercut scenes within scenes that both show and tell to accent the snappy dialogue is something he’s done before in films such as Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, Snatch, and RocknRolla. It’s his use of language and slang in those movies that makes them great, that really endears the characters to you and puts you on the streets with them.

It doesn’t really fly in a medieval setting. Charlie Hunnam as Arthur, looks the part… and when he’s not trying to play the whip-smart English street punk – he actually cuts a heroic figure as the ‘born king’.

But did I believe for a second that he was as witty, scheme-oriented, sharp as a tack criminal gang boss? Not for a second. If the film had been primarily about that … it might have made for an interesting period film… In fact, I’d actually really want to see that… but trying to mash in the street-wise stuff in among the quasi-magic, medieval swords and sorcery stuff, just muddied it. The movie doesn’t really know where or when it is… And again, its a D&D game brought to life on the screen.

All of the characters talk as though they are living in the here and now. I can just see a bunch of D&D players sitting around a table and speaking the lines – it’s how we all did when we would play through an adventure or a campaign… snappy, witty off the cuff but not really investing fully into the characters… all of our 21st century knowledge and mannerisms and inside jokes found their way into the mouths of the characters. And the dialogue in this film has that feel and sound. I’m not saying the film needed to be in iambic pentameter, but it gets tiresome to see ‘period’ films tainted with modern speech.

I found myself in a a row with two gentlemen who felt it necessary to whisper and joke throughout the movie. They probably thought the movie was the shit. they laughed at all the right lines, ooooh-ed and ahhh-ed at all the fights, and munched and slurped their popcorn and drinks during the other parts. I wanted to lean over at some point and tell them to keep it down, but as I wasn’t having a good time during the film, I figured, why ruin theirs? They were the target audience for the film – the guys that just wanted to see some dude with a sword fuck shit up.

They could care less about the legend or how it was being portrayed on the screen – and good for them. I wish I could’ve been that entertained. (They were still rude and idiots for jabbering through the movie – and hopefully karma will smack both of them in the head for that at some point down the road.)

The world of the film – as a said – looked very good. The color palette is your standard fantasy/action tint (that orange-blue tint you see all the time) the shot composition, the special effects – really nice… but the “world” they created was unclear and kinda all over the place. They never really nailed for me the ‘how and why’ of the magic elements. The ‘dark lands’ section was such a muddle of quick cuts and transitions that it wasn’t until it was over did the film make it plain that Arthur hadn’t journeyed there except in his head.

The biggest sin for though was the fact that they used the words “myth” and “legend” when referring to Arthur. This meta-fiction type of stuff in films like this irks me a lot because it doesn’t ring true. Arthur only has mythic and legendary status because of the hundreds of years we’ve been telling those stories. The Arthur in this film has not earned that status. 20-25 years of being in hiding is not mythic or legendary.

Daniel Pemberton’s score is, aside from the look and effects, by far the best thing about the film. It crosses several genres, and has a sort of alt-rock meets new age medieval raga flavor. The mouth harp/rough violin/heavy breathing sections are effective in the quick cut frenetic montages of Arthur’s rough childhood and the run through the streets sections. Its percussive, a-tonal kind of exotic and sometimes works and other times it doesn’t. It sounds exactly like the kind of stuff one would want to underscore your D&D game: quasi-modern and trying to sound medieval and kinda succeeding at both… again, just highlighting how muddy the attempt is at retelling this story we’ve all heard or seen before.

I’ve said this before… making films is an amazingly rough, time consuming and soul-crushing business. The people that work on these types of projects deserve all kinds of praise and kudos for creating these wonderful pieces of art and entertainment that get savaged by critics and others. The film is an achievement in the power of cinematic storytelling in that it made it through the system, was written, shot, edited and released into the wild. I give the filmmakers, the actors the producers, the set builders, the costumers, the artists, the extras and everyone involved in it a round of applause – you got work and you did the best with it hat you could.

It just didn’t work for me.

I’m pretty sure that some ten or eleven year old will see it and think its the best thing they’ve ever seen. They will grow up thinking that King Arthur is a superhero and that Excalibur has the power to slow time (yeah, that happens) so that the ten or eleven year old can swing it to cut down his enemies and stand triumphant once all the carnage is done with.

I’m pretty sure at ten or eleven, I would’ve been wowed by that.

But it’s not ****ing King Arthur.

It’s not.

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The Trouble with Giant Monsters

Let them fight.”

Probably the one line in a giant monster movie that sums up what they are all about. And at the same time, it highlights the gigantic flaw with them as a genre.

And even though I’m going to do my best to refrain from revealing anything pertinent about the plot or specific moments about the film Kong: Skull Island, just in case: *SPOILERS* if you have not seen it yet.

Don’t get me wrong. I love giant monsters. I sat wide-eyed with wonder in my formative years, devouring each and every one that was shown on Saturday afternoon TV or on Sci-Fi extravaganzas or Chiller Thriller Theater shows on late late night TV. I begged and pleaded for as many issues of Famous Monsters of Filmland as I could. I’d gleefully stare at the images of King Ghidorah or Rhodan or Gamera or the King of All Monsters – Godzilla.

I sat through the latest giant monster movie to grace U.S. screens today: – Kong: Skull Island.

I saw the original King Kong (1933) some long ago Saturday afternoon in the early 70’s. I sat in the living room in front of our TV and watched the black & white stop motion classic with a mix of horror and fascination. Looking at the film now, you may ask, what on earth did you find about it that evoked horror? It’s a tame film compared to the spectacles we have today. But something about that log rolling scene (when my child-like mind didn’t see stiff dolls falling to their doom but real people) stuck with me. I actually got a sick feeling in my stomach seeing those “bodies” strike the earth. Kong was a force of nature, a killer beast and men were insects he would crush underfoot.

And I’m sure that’s the reaction the filmmakers were hoping for when audiences saw it 40 years earlier. Its the same reaction that modern films aim for as well – the thrilling, voyeuristic depiction of death by monster.

There are a number of similar sequences in Kong: Skull Island, but they didn’t impact me as profoundly as did that log scene from the original. Of course it can’t – I’m much older and much more jaded than when I was nine.

Skull Island takes the premise of the original Kong movie and takes it out of the 30’s and puts it right smack dab in the 70’s. The synchronicity of my exposure to the giant gorilla and the setting for this latest incarnation is not lost on me, but its simply an interesting coincidence. Placing it in the Vietnam era and using the burgeoning reliance on satellites to uncover a ‘mythic’ island in the South Pacific is a twist that isn’t quite new, but the presentation of it is handled well.

The music used to hammer the time period home just seemed cliche and almost cringe-worthy to hear. Its like the producers needed to hammer everyone over the head with ‘its not 2017! It’s 1973! Can’t you tell? That’s Airplane’s “White Rabbit” for crying out loud!’ Give me subtle rather than in my face anytime.

Skull Island suffers not from a lack of amazing looking set pieces – but rather from a tired plot of ‘humans treading into spaces that should best left alone’. Much like the ’33 Kong, the film is about trekking through lethal jungle terrain to reach a point of safety and rescue. Along the way – the filmmakers showcase a number of giant monsters and deadly threats… which are really nothing more than filler to eat up time getting to the showdown between Kong and Man and the other reptilian threat that inhabits the island.

The one plot device I did find very intriguing was the whole “Hollow Earth” angle that the Monarch Organization was hoping to prove or exploit or whatever it is that their end goal is – it’s left vague or unanswered – that contrived end title scene notwithstanding. And by contrived I mean it felt forced and tacked on.

The geek in me likes the shared universe aspect of this. It sets up the inevitable showdown between Kong and Godzilla (a re-match of the 1962 version we all know and love). I would love a found footage type docu-film about Monarch, showing how they tie-in all the monster myths in this cinematic universe. The tag scene at the end implies they got a butt load of info and that the real villain of King Kong vs. Godzilla won’t be either of our two favorite giant monsters… which I look forward too 🙂

The plot of Kong: Skull Island is fairly simple – secret Organization piggybacks on a government funded expedition to an uncharted island to uh… find stuff before the Russians do.

All of the characters are pretty stock and it falls into the same safe pitfalls as any monster movie that deals with a ‘hidden land’ or ‘undiscovered island’.

Right from the start, we are told by one character (Tom Hiddleston as an ex-SAS tracker) that they are all going to die in horrible nasty ways. And then the film proceeds to march to that tune right up until the climax.

None of the characters are either likable (except for maybe John C. Reilly – he’s always a joy to watch) or despicable. John Goodman’s character is just obsessed and Sam L. Jackson isn’t so much a villain as a man who doesn’t know anything other than fighting and has a over-developed American self-righteous ego. He’s not a villain, just an angry military man who can’t believe that an indigenous life-form would dare kill those who intruded on its territory.

There are natives in this film – there always are – and like so many films of this type – they are reduced to mute savages – a wasted plot device there to simply give the main characters a place to discuss exposition before continuing the inevitable death-at-the-hands-of-giant-things mission they are on.

I think there was some confusion on the writing/casting part of the film – the “hero” is split for the most part between the Hiddleston character and another American soldier played with understated ‘aw-shucks’ Alabama goodness by Toby Kebbell. Personally I think they missed the boat and should’ve put Kebbell’s character more at the forefront and ditched the SAS tracker character altogether – but as Hiddleston has more star power, Kebbell’s Sgt. Chapman doesn’t fair well. I will note that the audience gasped at his fate – because the set up for him was handled in a way that made you root for him once things go sideways… but its a cliche cheesy tug at the heart strings kind of character to begin with.

As far as the Monsters… Kong is awesome, if a little bit cardboard. He suffers the same presentation as the human actors in the film – he’s one note and cliche. Now, don’t angry because I’m dissing on the big ape. It’s more about presentation than a comment on the King.

As an American, and growing up in the US watching the kaiju films and identifying them with certain geographic locations – Kong has always been presented as (and is in my mind) an “American” monster. He is associated with the US the same way that baseball and apple pie are… I remember having debates in grade school about who was cooler – Kong or Godzilla, and inevitably someone would always blurt out that “…Kong’s an American that’s why!” Kong is warm-blooded savagery. Godzilla is dragon-like and foreign. But if you want my true feeling – Godzilla is the better kaiju. he is the king in my book, and Kong is simply an over-sized rendition of the Beast from the fairytale – heck they even quote it in the original.

For most of Skull Island they didn’t touch on the human female / giant ape quasi-romance issue – but yet it got shoe-horned into it anyway. And it wasn’t handled in a way that made any real sense – it was just in there because the studios insisted upon it because otherwise audiences would’ve freaked out. Which isn’t true, but try telling that to them.

I liked this Kong better than Peter Jackson’s take. I remember watching it thinking I should be having more fun – and I simply wasn’t. It seemed to over the top and the actress (played by Naomi Watts) just wasn’t likable at all. Her sense of self importance was pretty off putting. And don’t get me started on that ridiculous bug valley scene… sheesh.

I guess I was sitting there watching Kong: Skull Island and wondering – what’s the point of all this? Maybe there doesn’t need to be – I mean, looking back at the first line of this post… its simply that: “Let them fight.”

I mean – what else do you really expect from a giant monster movie? Its an extrapolation of us in the sandbox with our monster toys – there are no deep and meaningful plots. Its simply an excuse to see monsters/animals battle for our amusement.

But as anyone who knows me or who has read other entries I’ve posted on this blog – fighting just to fight is boring to me. I found the reptilian beasts that were Kong’s enemies on the island to be unbelievable. Everything about them screamed “illogical” and I’m sure they were created with a “cool factor” in mind and also because audiences have had their fill of dinosaurs and other prehistoric beasts – so Kong has to fight something giant and terrifying and new! They just seemed like some dumb creature form a D&D Monster Manual. Two legged lizard things with a outer protective skull. Why? Simply to show Kong as a protector, not a savage. It just seemed convenient and forced.

I don’t know what I was expecting from Skull Island. Maybe more of a back story on Kong. Why is he so big? Why does he exist?

Instead what I saw was just groundwork for the films that will supposedly follow up on the Monarch theory that these creatures owned the Earth before us and are going to attempt to take it back.

Skull Island wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t great either. It was just a prequel.

Let’s hope what follows has more to it – but I’m sure what we’ll get is just more fighting.

Chasing Alexander

Everyone knows of or has heard of Alexander. Or Iskandar as he is called in the East.

A bust of Alexander the Great, king of Macedonia, (356 - 323 BC), son of Philip II of Macedon and Queen Olympias, circa 330 BC. The sculpture was found in the Roman Capitol. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

A bust of Alexander the Great, king of Macedonia, (356 – 323 BC), son of Philip II of Macedon and Queen Olympias, circa 330 BC. The sculpture was found in the Roman Capitol. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Alexander was the Macedonian King whose military exploits were the shining example of what human arrogance and achievement can accomplish. Exploits that were emulated for thousands of years after, proof that one man can do wonders. That one man can conquer the world.

Although, conquer is a strong word. Alexander sought to unify the world. To bring it under one ruler and therefore banish the ills that plagued it… which is an over simplification I know. In order to do that, the was a lot of war, blood, death and carnage, and the attempt ended in defeat. Defeat is a strong word to, and may not be entirely accurate. But this post isn’t concerned with an in-depth historically accurate portrait of Alexander.

No, what I really want to write about, to put out there in the blog-o-sphere, are my thoughts on the the 2004 film, Alexander by director Oliver Stone, starring Colin Farrell, Angelina Jolie, Val Kilmer, Jared Leto and Rosario Dawson.alex2004

 

A retrospective/reappraisal of Stone’s original theatrical release was writing by for rogerebert.com in 2014, which you can read here: A REAPPRAISAL OF OLIVER STONE’S “ALEXANDER: THE ULTIMATE CUT”

The film was panned when it was first released and since then it has had a number of re-edits and versions – talked about in the article above and so is now seen as a much better film than when first released. Though it still has flaws.

It’s long and flips back and forth in time, and the battle and action scenes while grand and epic, can be hard to follow at times. Its hard to encompass the idea of Alexander, as Anthony Hopkins explains in the beginning. How do you tell the story of a man who is more legend than reality?

I recently re-watched the film – which is currently streaming on Netflix) and was struck by the words Alexander uses during one of the arguments that Alexander has with he ‘companions’. The debate and discussion comes as they push further and further East, away from their homeland of Greece (Macedonia). The men are weary and trying to understand Alexander’s bid to reach the ‘outer sea’. He wants to sail back round to Africa, travel up the Nile and to Egypt, thus encircling/conquering the known world.

The argument I’m talking about in the film is, essentially, very pertinent to what we are dealing with today, here in the US and around the world. And which seems to be the only thing that matters to our society/culture/species – this never-ending conflict between East and West.

Alexander’s companions are tired, war-weary and beginning to question his motives and leadership. To them, he seems much more enamored of their enemies and to be forgetting who he is. He’s taking on their mode of dress, participating in their customs – he even takes a “barbarian” wife.

The men are naturally upset – because it goes against everything they’ve been raised and taught to believe. The tribes and people to the East are beneath them. They are decadent, overly emotional, savages. As Aristotle (played by Christopher Plummer in the film) tells them: “…the Oriental races are known for their barbarity and slavish devotion to their senses. Excess in all things is the undoing of men. That is why we Greeks are superior, we practice control of our senses. Moderation.”

The movie was released three years after 9/11 and the start of the War on Terror. In one sense, it can be seen as a pro-democracy film. Greece was the birthplace of Democracy after all. So, this film and others, like Zack Snyder’s 300 in 2006 do very much play as a reminder and assertion that the West is, as Aristotle states, superior.

The end of the argument between Alexander and his men ends with the young king furious with his men –

Parmenion: He never lusted for war, Alexander, or enjoyed it so. He consulted his peers in council, among equals! The Macedonian way. He didn’t make decisions based on his personal desires.

Alexander: I’ve taken us further than my father ever dreamed! Old man, we’re in knew worlds.

Cassander: Alexander, be reasonable! Were they ever meant to be our equal? Share our rewards? You remember what Aristotle said. An Asian? What would a wedding vow ever mean to a race that has never kept their word to a Greek?

Alexander: [throws Cassander against the wall] Aristotle be damned!

Hephaistion: Alexander!

Alexander: By Zeus and all the gods, what makes you so much better than them, Cassander? Better than you really are! In you and those like you is this!

Hephaistion: [pleading] Alexander…

Alexander: What disturbs me most is not your lack of respect for my judgment, but your contempt for a world far older than ours!

Of course this is dialogue written for a film. Its not the actual words that passed between Alexander and his men. Its thinking that is modern, said in a modern way. But it captures an aspect of what Alexander was trying to achieve.

And that argument, I think, is what we are still facing and fighting today. We’ve been entrenched in this conflict for thousands of years – West vs. East.

The East in Alexander and in 300 is painted as an alien culture and landscape, they are dark and ugly and cruel. They are ruled by despots and tyrants, made rich on the backs of slaves. They pay men to fight to enrich themselves.

The West on the other hand is light and good and fighting for freedom – the same rhetoric we hear today. Which of these is true? It all depends on where you stand.

Many won’t understand Alexander’s last line in the film scene quoted above. They think and believe as Alexander’s men do, as Aristotle did: that they are superior.

When you listen to the speeches of our leaders listen to the words that are used. Its not so much the people of Ancient Persia we are fighting against now, but ideologies and beliefs which did not exist in Alexander’s time

We not battling not the barbarian hordes, its Radical Islam.

I always am bothered by arguments on the subject that treat it as though this is something new and that can be stamped out. the truth of it – in my own mind – is that the ugly things happening out there right now: immigration bans, terror attacks, the rise of populist leaders, the Left vs. Right bigotry and hatred – stretch much further back than just a very horrible and terrible day in September 16 years ago.

And I think people forget that. I think people only see what is front of them.

Like Alexander’s men… they don’t understand the dream he was trying to achieve. The thing that drove him, the thing he was chasing and what many after him chased as well. What some still chase today.

A unified world.

Many don’t want that in this day and age. The current political climate in America is very much not about unity.

What many see, and what many want is separation and division. Them above the other. They are in the Right and we are in the Wrong.

Its an argument that stretches back millennia… and one that will not have an end in my lifetime.

At the close of the film Anthony Hopkins has the following speech:

Old Ptolemy: The truth is never simple and yet it is. The truth is we did kill him. By silence we consented… because we couldn’t go on. But by Ares, what did we have to look forward to but to be discarded in the end like Cleitus? After all this time, to give away our wealth to Asian sycophants we despised? Mixing the races? Harmony? Oh, he talked of these things. I never believe in his dream. None of us did. That’s the truth of his life. The dreamers exhaust us. They must die before they kill us with their blasted dreams.

Those who dream exhaust those who want things to stay as they are.

And they fight against a dream of unity because they fear they will be lost in it. If we are all the same, how can I be me? How can I be just one?

We the Devouring and Insatiable

So, as a creator (not that I’m great at it, but I try) I keep up with those things that influence my writing and storytelling. I read, watch films and a few non-network TV shows and I spend far too much time reading articles on the web.

There’s been a lot of ink and time spent picking apart/discussing/analyzing various popular shows or entertainment properties, especially since the ascension of geek and nerd culture as the top source for those items that a great many people obsess over – from comics to video games, to superheroes and shows about sentient robots (Westworld), a fantasy world with dragons (GoT) and humans doing despicable things to one another during a world ending event (TWD).

To be honest, there’s so much content being produced its really kind of overwhelming. But I guess that’s the result of years of advertisers and media moguls chasing after the next billion-dollar profit maker – because in the end, profit is all that matters.

anger

But, maybe that’s not the whole issue.

We’ve reached a point in our civilization where we have a great deal of free time due to industrialization and automation and surplus, we are – a lot of the time – bored with life.

I happen to think that the vast majority of us are insatiable when it comes to content and entertainment. We demand it at an insane rate, and devour it so quickly that we feel unsatisfied and letdown or immediately hungry as soon as we finish a book or a show.

Ask yourself how many times you been on your computer, surfing Netflix or clicking through the media guide on your TV or browsing a book shelf or scanning the comic book wall and seeing nothing that interests you… Maybe its not that way for you – maybe you easily hop from one thing to the next and aren’t bored… but have you ever felt overwhelm by the choices presented to you?

Either way, boredom or the feeling that there’s just too much, leads to a sort whining childishness – a pouting demanding sense of privilege entitlement.

Entertainment must and should be provided to us whenever and however we want. One of my favorite comics, Dana Gould, had a great bit where he stops in the middle of his act and kind of deconstructs it – he turns a chair around and with his back to the audience rants and vents about what they (we the audience) EXPECT from a show.

Do a dance, sing a song, smash some fruit! ENTERTAIN ME!”

We are constantly faulting films and shows and comics or *insert product here* for being either bad or unfulfilling. Because our expectations are not met. Advertisers and film studios and publishers tease and promote these products to an absurd degree — to the point where by the time they are released, we expect them to be the NEXT BIG THING – only to walk away from them let down or bummed out.

People will find fault with anything. Its not just the teasing and the ads and the promos that are the problem… If I had to put a finger on it, I’d say that its just simply our demand that we have more that’s the problem.

In this day of instant gratification, content streaming, on-demand programming and one-click purchasing options… we’ve become monsters that consume and devour at a frightening pace.

I just read an article [Comics Should Be Published Weekly]that “demands” the comics industry immediately switch its distribution model from once a month to weekly – simply because asking a reader to follow a story parceled out in increments every month isn’t reasonable. The author cites the example that comics should be created the way TV shows are created, and gives examples of how this has worked in the comics industry… And perhaps he/she has a point.

But what galls me about this is the assertion that entertainment should be shoveled into our hands at an accelerated rate… because WE WANT IT NOW.

Information and content is fed to us, thrown at us, pushed at us at such a speed that we don’t take to digest or appreciate it. We gobble it up, toss it aside and are immediately looking for the next thing.

We don’t appreciate waiting periods of any kind. Ignoring the benefits of pause, of taking time to relish what we have just seen or heard or tasted.

It’s already soured in our mouths and we need something else to wash it away.

More, More, More!

The long, prolonged derangement of the senses that Morrison spoke of , the thirteen channels of shit on the TV to chose from that Floyd sang about — they have become an avalanche – a tidal wave of consumerism that mires us in a swamp of content overload.

I don’t think comics need to be provided to us on a weekly basis.

Rather than demanding that outside forces need to change and alter to fit our will, it’s our expectations that should change.

We need to re-discover our sense of wonder and fun – instead of expecting it to be spoon-fed to us every second of every hour of every day.

50 Years Difference

The Magnificent Seven is 56 years old. 3 years older than me.

It’s very interesting to see the changes and difference between two films telling the same story, fifty years apart.

The original 1960’s version is a timecapsule of sorts… made at the height of Hollywood’s love affair of the Western, before more realistic depictions of the genre would focus on the blood and violence of the American Frontier. The violence and action in it is of the sterile, stylized Hollywood kind: all of it staged and non-threatening. It’s a romantic film really, one that glorifies the hallmarks of the shoot ’em genre: blood that looks more like paint, perfectly round bullet holes, shooting guns out of hands, etc.

The 1960 version (based on Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai) stars  Yul Brynner, Eli Wallach, Steve McQueen, and Horst BuchholzCharles Bronson, Robert Vaughn, James Coburn, and Brad Dexter.

Fifty years ago, the gun was seen as something pure. It was the weapon that won the West, what established America as the land of the Free, home of the Brave.

It didn’t quite carry the stigma it does today, or maybe that’s just me looking back at it through the lens of nostalgia. Guns and violence still happened in 1960’s America… it just didn’t seem to happen as often as it does today.

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From the moment the film starts and Elmer Bernstein’s rousing score fills the speakers, you know you are in for a “feel good” kind of movie. It’s a straightforward good guys vs. bad guys situation and the music lets you know its going to be fun, exciting… something to cheer for.

It’s a throwback to watch it, having just sat through the Antoine Fuqua 2016 re-make with Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke, Vincent D’Onofrio, Lee Byung-hun, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, Martin Sensmeier, Haley Bennett, Luke Grimes, Matt Bomer, and Peter Sarsgaard.

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What strikes you about the original is its bravado – it’s almost naive chivalry and lighthearted tone.

Both films open with the villains first, showing us the rough and ugly side of the West – only, the 2016 version is set in an unnamed territory (somewhere, apparently, a week’s ride from Sacramento) whereas the original is about the hired guns protecting a Mexican village over the border and outside the USA.

The tone is strikingly different in each – the 1960’s version is almost upbeat, the Mexican bandits not all that threatening, except for Eli Wallach who slaps a guy around and then shoots a man dead. The 2016 version is right from the start more dramatic and dangerous, with Sarsgaard’s greedy, land-obsessed Bogue threatening a child, burning the town’s church to the ground and then shooting a man dead.

In the 60’s version you kind of get the impression that (because of the music and the staging) that the stakes and consequences are not really that high. The men that join the Seven are noble knights on a quest – they expect to die in battle, for honor and glory.

The 2016 version however, never really gives you that impression. It can’t. Because those kind of ideals don’t really hold water these days. The men who sign up for the Seven in the modern take are more mercenary, more brutish in a way… they walk into it knowing that they will probably die – but they also will be taking a lot of “bad” guys with them.

Its interesting to note that the subtle, subconscious politics of the 1960 version – that the poor Mexican farmers need to cross the border into America to buy guns and hire more able-bodied fighters to defend their land and homes. The USA was still seen as the savior of the world then, before Vietnam, before Watergate and Irangate, before Iraq and 9/11.

And it’s another (almost embarrassing) re-iteration that only the White Man is capable of taking care of business. All of the hired hands in the 1960 version are White men – except for Horst Buchholz who plays kind of a half Mexican hothead (its not stated outright only implied) whose name is Chico.

The 2016 version of the Seven is more diverse, with the leader being black, and including not only a Texican (“There’s no such thing as a Texican” I think is the line from the script) but a Korean knife-thrower and a Comanche to boot.

Not that it matters in the slightest really – race and nationality don’t really matter when you are putting together a team of gunslingers. What matters is are they good and are they willing to kill.

When we first meet the leader of the gunslingers in the 1960’s version, he’s taking on the job of escorting the body of a dead Indian to a graveyard – its a statement against racism in a kind of backhanded way – seeing as how the white dudes are helping out a dead guy.

The issue of race never really arises in the 2016 version, at least it didn’t seem to for me – the confrontation at the end between Denzel Washington and Peter Sarsgaard didn’t really seem to be a racist one so much as just a bad guy getting his for being a outright sonofbitch and doing nasty things to innocent people back in Kansas. The racism in that exchange isn’t blatant or outright, but it’s there… and I found it very interesting to see how the good guy is black (dressed in black – an homage to Yul Brynner’s character in the original) and the bad guy is white (but also dressed in black) and how it speaks (intentionally or not) to the tensions that are taking place in our streets as I type this.

The reviews for the 2016 remake praise the acting but also point out that it really doesn’t change or innovate much from the original – other than they are fighting to protect a bunch of white farmers from greedy white men, rather than protecting Mexican farmers from a gang of Mexican bandits.

The gun fights and killing in the 2016 version is a bit more brutal than that of the 60’s version (with more explosions of course) but no where near as gory and gut-wrenching as say The Wild Bunch or Rambo.

But the one thing that struck me about the film was the ending.

In the 1960’s version, at the end, the aftermath of the violence and the impact that it has on the villagers is pretty much the same as the townsfolk in the 2016 version. But whereas the 60’s version is more somber and quiet, the 2016 version is a kind of weird celebration with lots of dead guys and townspeople congratulating themselves and the three surviving gunslingers. It just struck me as odd.

And like the 60’s version, there’s still a speech about how the ones who died will be remembered as heroes – but when the music swells and the survivors are riding off in the original, the music sounds out of place. It’s overly heroic, but it doesn’t have the rousing thematic quality of Bernstein’s score – which comes rushing onto the screen when the credits start to roll, which is almost jarring and a blatant reminder that this is a re-make: look, were using the same music here! Clever, huh!?

It was a decent re-make, a more modern take, a more realistic one. But I can’t say its better. I think original did a better job of making the Seven likable and identifiable – more human in a way.

But that’s the trouble with re-makes, I guess. Comparisons are inevitable and its rare when a remake improves on something. Finding the right ingredients is always tricky.

But, go see it for yourself, make your own judgment. It’s not a bad way to spend a couple of hours.

“…a little human compassion…”

Bob Hauk: Plissken, if you get back in that glider and fly back here without the tape or the President, I’ll shoot you down myself! You try to climb out, I’ll burn you off the wall! Do you understand that, Plissken?
Snake Plissken: [beat] A little human compassion.

Probably my favorite moment of Snake’s.

The exchange above, is of course, taken from John Carpenter’s dystopian cult hit Escape from New York, which celebrates it’s 35th Anniversary today, July 10 (it was released on the same date back in 1981.)

Backed by Carpenter’s simple but effective score, one of the top ten anti-heroes in cinematic history took over the imagination mid-summer the year I graduated high school. I remember going to see at the Grand Theater in downtown Paris, Tx. Probably on a Friday or Saturday night, with my friends if I recall correctly. It wasn’t a date movie – it was a guy flick. A good ol’ testosterone neo-noir sci-fi western of sorts… a lone ex-military convict, forced to save the President from Manhattan Prison.

In 1988, the crime rate in the United States rises four hundred percent. The once great city of New York becomes the one maximum security prison for the entire country. A fifty-foot containment wall is erected along the New Jersey shoreline, across the Harlem River, and down along the Brooklyn shoreline. It completely surrounds Manhattan Island. All bridges and waterways are mined. The United States Police Force, like an army, is encamped around the island. There are no guards inside the prison, only prisoners and the worlds they have made. The rules are simple: once you go in, you don't come out.

“In 1988, the crime rate in the United States rises four hundred percent. The once great city of New York becomes the one maximum security prison for the entire country. A fifty-foot containment wall is erected along the New Jersey shoreline, across the Harlem River, and down along the Brooklyn shoreline. It completely surrounds Manhattan Island. All bridges and waterways are mined. The United States Police Force, like an army, is encamped around the island. There are no guards inside the prison, only prisoners and the worlds they have made. The rules are simple: once you go in, you don’t come out.”

A lot of my fellow geeks and nerds would no doubt attest to wanting to be Snake, and might even had affected his tone and mannerisms (which Kurt Russell patterned after Clint Eastwood) in the privacy of their own homes. I myself remember mimicking his voice, trying to match the gruff, whispered tones, trying (and failing) to grow the right scruffy beard and maybe even sliding an patch over one eye.

What really struck me about the film is it’s bleak outlook about the human condition – and it’s assertion that we will, left to our own devices, bring about our own doom.

It’s a stylish, low budget sci-fi pop-corn muncher and it’s also a social commentary – maybe a lot closer about society today than when it came out thirty-five years ago. Back then, it was just a fantasy… today, looking at the mass incarcerations here in the USA and the fascist political rantings happening daily on TV and the internet – not so much.

And in the middle of it there’s this wonderful little human moment – with Snake, alone in a city of criminals and psychos and cannibals, listening as Hauk growls and threatens . And Russel’s response, his line reading isn’t what you’d expect. He doesn’t growl back, he doesn’t spit out a witty one-liner.

He sees the futility of it all. He sees the death of empathy and hope. The cost of one human life – his life – doesn’t stack up against another’s. Compassion is dead.

If you haven’t seen it, shame on you. Find a friend who has a copy – I know you have one who does. Get it, watch it.

Happy 35th, #EscapeFromNewYork

Bob Hauk: You going to kill me, Snake?
Snake Plissken: Not now, I’m too tired.
[pause]
Snake Plissken: Maybe later.

Snake

When Pulp is Plop

I really have high hopes anytime a film or movie is announced that involves characters found in novels and books from the Pulp Era – be it The Shadow, or The Phantom, or Flash Gordon, or Doc Savage – or Tarzan of the Apes.

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Tarzan by Frazetta

I cut my teeth reading that particular type of fiction – or to be more accurate the latest reprint of that type of fiction. They were readily available on the shelf in my local bookstore or in the library and had eye-catching covers that promised thrills, adventure and cliffhangers. I gobbled them up like Skittles.

They may not be the best stories, or even contain the best story-telling. The plots are fantastical, they ignore logic and physics and common sense, they are filled with outrageous stereotypes, blatant racism and sexism. They are, in short, windows into a world we’ve tried to grow away from – as this article in the Guardian (Why the White-Man-in-the-Jungle film won’t die)  does a much better job of illustrating than I am.

In light of the recent shooting deaths of more Black Men by White Cops, the ugly undertones of the Pulp genre seem even more outdated and something to shy away from, something to put behind glass in a museum to look at and wonder… why would anyone act or think that way?

I went to see the latest pulp offering on the silver screen last week, the disappointing The Legend of Tarzan, with Alexander Skarsgard, Margot Robbie and Christoph Waltz.

I’m not going to go into the uncomfortable feelings that you really can’t ignore during certain sequences – the sad thing is, as great of a pulp character as he is, Tarzan just doesn’t work in the modern world. He is a product of his time and sadly, should be left there.

I say that for several reasons.

One being the “White Man Conquers the Jungle” point made in the Guardian article above. It’s not even handled well in this film – it’s almost blotted out under the “Tarzan is the Lord of Animals” theme that is thrust to the front instead.

And I really have to take issue with this aspect that’s pointed up in at least three or four sequences as to be almost laughable. Tarzan was many things in the books, but he was no Animal Man. He didn’t speak with the animals or command them. At least not in my recollection. Perhaps he did, but in my mind – in the version I hold dear – he was as much at odds with the wild beast of the stories as the other humans in the stories.

The continent of Africa was very much a character in the books as the main protagonist was – Africa was a vast undiscovered world, filled with mystery and forgotten things. And the trailers for the film highlight that – which gave me hope going in. Even the opening sequence, the title of which on the film’s soundtrack/score is called “Opar” had me waiting eagerly for the lost kingdom to be a central plot point, to see La, High Priestess of the Lost City of Opar and her brutish Man-Ape consorts… only to be sorely disappointed by the mish-mash that appears on screen. Listen to the track, close your eyes and imagine – thick mists, a high escarpment, thick jungle, an ancient and crumbling city fading into view… only to be shown something that doesn’t even come close.

It has to be a copyright or rights issue that either prevents or is ignored by the studios that pump out these new Tarzan projects every decade or so – make a film or lose the rights, perhaps. That has to be the reason why they just don’t use the damn books to make a film.

Instead they take bits and pieces from the 24 novels and just smash them together into something that kinda looks like Tarzan, kinda feels like Tarzan but in the end… just ain’t Tarzan.

Back to that opening sequence — Belgian troops led by Christoph Waltz as they find the Lost City of Opar (really kind of easily) and then kill a few of the city’s guardians (painted white for some reason) only to then be slaughtered themselves by the ‘superior’ savages led by King Mbonga (the grossly misused Djimon Hounsou) who appears, not as he does in the original Tarzan of the Apes novel, but more like Gato Mgungu one of the Leopard Men from the 18th book in the series.

Hopes dashed in the first five minutes. The rest was just watching other moments from the books played out in ham-handed, seen-this-before manner – so by the end, after the ridiculous stampede and the oh-so-convenient use of a crocodile’s mating call to dispatch Waltz and then have the riverboat explode in a fireball – I just sat there, wondering why I spent money to see this movie.

There were good moments, don’t get me wrong – I really liked the focus on Tarzan’s hands in the early part of the film, how misshapen or malformed they were because of how he was raised – how they gave (either with prosthetic or GGI) his hands this ugly, ape-like shape and power.

The jungle is dark and foreboding.

The music is decent.

But the animals. I don’t think a single one of them was real.

I’m not going to trash the rest of it. It was serviceable. But at the end of the day… It just wasn’t Tarzan.

Reconciling the Inescapable

For the last twenty years or so, I’ve been wrestling with an increasingly hard-line stance, one that proves to be an personal volatile moral quandary. That quandary being of course – the issue of gun violence in America.

I’ve made my stance clear in several other posts – but I’m also an actor and writer and one high profile project I’m involved with deals with some very violent and action-packed sequences that involve guns, gun use and the consequences of that particular type of violence.

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How do I reconcile my stance on the gun issue, when I am actively involved in projects that have them as part of the action and story?

I guess the simple answer is – its just entertainment. I try to look at it the way I look at plays I’ve been involved with… the same way that Shakespeare has weapons and violence as part and parcel of almost all his plays – weapons and the use of them in media is inescapable.

They are constant and ever-present in our lives.

And being an American male, a great part of my childhood and formative years I was presented and instructed – through visual media, playground shenanigans, history lessons, film, TV, books and advertisements that weapons and guns were normal, expected and manly.

If I didn’t like them – then something was wrong.

As a child, it’s easy to be swayed by the allure of weapons and violence. Especially when it comes to play and entertainment. There are no real consequences in those examples. You leave the playground and nothing much has changed — except for maybe feeling tired or worn out from the game… or maybe with a bruise or scrape – the coveted “war wound” you could brag about at school.

You leave the movie theater or turn the TV program off and you go about the rest of your day/night. The gunfights you witness come with a small thrill or rush of excitement – but it’s all just make believe. There aren’t any bloodstains or bodies to sidestep on your way to the lobby or on your way to the kitchen for a snack.

And so, on one hand, when I see the images for the project plastered on my social media, I get excited thinking about the project and the work it will take to bring it to the screen and to our viewing public. I can see that its just entertainment – its not real.

And in the same instant I look at those images and think: am I complicit in the promotion of guns as a solution – complicit in the propaganda that guns are necessary and a good thing?  That line of thinking — as always — is inflamed by the tragic news of yet another mass killing in this country.

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Orlando – 2016 – Pulse Nightclub Massacre

How can I maintain a stance against the use of guns and high-powered military grade weapons – when at the same time I am writing and acting in and promoting a project that involves the same type of violence and gun use?

It’s a very difficult question for me.

Because on one hand, I want to work and I want my work to be seen by fans and the public and hopefully to see it generate more work. On the other it involves something I make an active choice to avoid in my real life.

I went through Army basic and AIT training at Ft. Leonard Woods in Missouri in the 80’s. I learned to disassemble, clean and fire my M-16, as well as several other weapons. I learned how to operate and fire a LAW rocket, how to hold and throw a grenade, even how to load, aim and fire shells from a tank.

When I was working in the game industry I got the chance to get instruction from a retired police officer (who had been involved in the Hollywood Shootout incident) about how to breach and clear rooms for a SWAT game we were working on.

I’ve seen countless movies and TV shows where guns and shootouts occur with such regularity that they are boring – they’ve become something I can walk out of room during because I can already predict how they are going to turn out.

We see, time and again, characters involved in amazingly intense and graphic gun battles emerge no worse for wear… and perhaps that’s the aspect I really get nervous about. Because, as we’ve seen, in reality… things are not so entertaining.

In the end, I can only live my real life the best way I know possible and live my truth and maintain my stance as far as it applies to me.

When it comes to entertainment work – I’ll have to take things on a case by case basis – and wrestle with the notion of possibly turning down a role or a part if it truly seems to go against my personal convictions.

I really do long for that time in my youth when this kind of issue was one I wouldn’t think twice about, one I could easily ignore or dismiss.

When playing the hero or soldier was fun.

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Cinematic Sandboxes

So, after sitting through the last three superhero movies of 2016 (BvS: Dawn of Justice, Captain America: Civil War and X-Men: Apocalypse) and reading screed after screed and post after post from fans and friends and frenemies and strangers, outlining what’s right with them and whats wrong with them, why they aren’t good or what should’ve been done differently, I’ve come to the conclusion that – in general – audiences simply don’t want that much story or character in these types of films.

They want story and character, don’t get me wrong. They just don’t want much of it.

These films – and the material they are based on – are simply extensions of power fantasies about our fear of death. They are also gladiatorial games of a sort, fulfilling a need that pro wrestling or MMA or actual warfare doesn’t.

Superheroes are strong enough or fast enough to meet death head on… they can fight cancer in a way we cannot, and more often than not they are victorious over death. Because bigger than life heroes win.

The way these films are marketed and sold – not the way they are made or told, just to be clear… but the way they are sold, plays up the ‘exciting’  and ‘action-packed’ elements to the point where we get fan trailers or ‘supercuts’  or phrases in articles or reviews that state that the preferred elements audiences want, i.e. ‘…As much as we’d all love to see Hulk kick ass for two hours…’ is simply the punching, the fighting, the explosions and destruction.

Think about it… how many times have you sat in front of a fighting match or a film and muttered “Just get on with it!”? If you say you haven’t… you’re fibbing.

I get that mindset, especially when it comes to entertainment. I grew up with toys and games and stories that glorified combat and fighting. Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots. Risk. Stratego. Chess. As I got older, AD&D and computer games – Doom, Mortal Kombat, Warcraft, Age of Empires.

Working in the video game industry, the best part was being able to work with game engines and toolsets, setting up scenarios and situations and then watching how things played out.

And maybe that’s the next evolutionary step for films of this type.

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In the early 80’s (1981 to be exact) Michael Crichton directed a film starring Albert Finney, James Coburn and Susan Dey … it’s called ‘Looker‘ and watching it now you may think it lame. The gist of the film is that models are committing suicide after they submit to plastic surgery in order to be ‘digitally perfect’. Of course the suicides turn out to be murders because the company that hires the models, alters them and then scans their images into a databank (which they can then use to fit them into whatever commercial or ad or film they want) reneges on it’s “paycheck for life” incentive it uses to get the models to submit to the procedures in the first place.

As our technology advances and CGI and digital body and face scanning becomes more and more lifelike and easier to produce, the idea that an actor could submit themselves to this type of promise and then sit back and collect the rewards seems like a sweet deal. As long as they didn’t kill you off afterwards.

And that could also lead to a type of cinematic sandbox film making.

No need to recast Harrison Ford as Han Solo or Indiana Jones. He’s gonna look the same and so… bring on Star Wars Episodes 10-100, starring all the original cast.

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Imagine if you were able to take Henry Cavill as Superman and Mark Ruffalo as the Hulk and then bend and mold them into whatever shape and position you wanted in order to make your ideal ultimate DC vs. Marvel showdown. You’d have access to the sets and world locations too. So your creations would look just like the films you see in the theater.

And given the vociferous amount of digital ink given to the problems and issues of the three films I mention at the top of the post, would fans and audiences member be happier to have a toybox version of these properties rather than sitting in the dark and passively watching something they have no control over – only to come out the other side disappointed or pissed or grumbling ‘why didn’t they do it this way?”

I prefer the quieter moments in these types of film, moments like the bunker scene from Winter Soldier, where Steve and Natasha confront Zola and learn that Hydra is alive and well and behind EVERYTHING. It has the same thrill as the elevator fight scene, at least for me. It’s tense, revealing and has you on the edge of your seat -the same way the shootout on the Guggenheim from The International does, but without the blood and violence.

I wouldn’t be surprised if at some point in the next twenty years or so, the technology becomes available to allow for this type of product to become cheap enough to find its way into the public’s hand.

But, of course, because of Rule 34, we won’t get two hour fights between The Hulk and Superman.

What you will get — you won’t be able to unsee. So yeah, maybe we shouldn’t get that kind of tech anytime soon.  🙂

Superhero Overload? #CivilWar

Have we reached the height of the superhero property zeitgeist? Will we see a decline or backlash? The jury’s out and others have already been weighing in on this issue for a while now… but after the last two big superheroes movies, I’m starting to wonder.

It’s possible. The prevalence of the superhero genre film/TV series seems to be taking up a fairly decent sized slice of the entertainment pie. And though some think that these types of properties will be around for some time, others have already begun to claim that they will go the way of the western, a genre that once dominated the box office and the TV screen, but which we see only sparingly these days.

Add to this the big divide between those who loved BvS: Dawn of Justice and those who didn’t, plus the now lukewarm early reviews of X-Men: Age of Apocalypse… maybe we are cresting over the edge with the superhero genre films.

I was thinking about this concept – even before  I read news of the Inhumans being removed from Marvel’s film slate, and when I watched BvS; DoJ and also – more recently – while watching Captain America: Civil War.

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The news that The Inhumans film has been removed from the Marvel/Disney film docket may not be an indicator of a ‘audiences getting tired of superheroes’ — and Marvel is perhaps not averting a decline or backlash – but attempting something more akin to lightening the load — but that’s just my faint impression. The way that films get greenlit and released is a process I have little knowledge of, and I can’t even imagine the conversations and headaches that occur in the Marvel movie bullpen when it comes to the schedule that keeps the machine rolling along as it does. It’s no surprise the Inhumans have been removed from the list, as they’ve been dominating the story arc in Marvels Agent’s of S.H.I.E.L.D. TV series.

The Inhumans – at least for me – were always a bit of an strange mix. I knew of the X-men first, and to me at least, the Inhumans just seemed to be a a ‘weird tales’ version of the mutant team. They were the cast offs, the circus freaks and bizarro oddballs. The way they gained their powers, exposure to the Terrigen Mists, always smacked of eccelerated mutation to me – and so, they were mutants. But, we already had the X-Men… so why confuse everyone with this new type of mutant? And they also seemed to have a lot in common with Kirby’s New Gods… but maybe that’s because they were drawn in the same distinctive Kirby style.

Of course, part of me understood it was the comics creators trying to create something new to bolster sales, but already I had my favorites = Captain America, the Avengers, Power-Man and Black Panther, Werewolf-by-Night… and so never really got into the Inhumans.

Plus, at that time, I wasn’t a fan of Kirby’s art… the wide eyes and flat fingers just seemed odd to me, though Kirby drew fantastic landscapes and energy beams galore! As I got older, I grew to appreciate and love his stuff. It’s dynamic and enthralling and even today his panels have a life to them that makes everything seem to leap off the page.

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But I just wasn’t thrilled by the Inhumans. And I haven’t really been able to get into the story line that involves them in the AoS series. Still, they are part of the Marvel canon and I do think – if Inhumans has/have been removed form Marvel’s slate of MCU films, will we see them in the two Infinity War movies? I’m sure we will have an answer soon enough… and if the internet buzz is true, the cast for the Infinity Wars movies is huge, so I think we might… but will we care by then?

But getting back on point, to the question of – ‘are we getting tired of superheroes?’

As Retired General Thaddeua “Thunderbolt” Ross says is the new Captain America: Civil War film –  the world is dealing with (paraphrasing here) “enhanced individuals who routinely ignore sovereign borders and inflict their will wherever they choose and who, frankly, seem unconcerned with what they leave behind.”

It’s kind of like that with these films, characters and so forth – we’re getting so many heroes, who run riot across the screen… are getting so many properties that were once just comics or graphic novels that are being turned into big screen entertainment packages. There’s almost too much to keep up with.

I saw Captain America: Civil War the night before it officially opened. And I got that feeling sitting in the dark watching the film – should we be getting two or more of these films a year?

What did I think of Civil War?

I liked it, but I kept finding myself thinking more about it then actually enjoying it – not that that is a bad thing… but I kept getting that feeling in my stomach that something had shifted.

I’ve been looking forward to it, as Marvel has done a prodigious job as far as creating a cinematic version of the comic books and characters – they’ve been building these story lines and giving us audiences and fans a chance to get to know and love them. So, when the first teaser dropped and we saw Bucky/The Winter Soldier and Cap ganging up on Tony/Iron Man – it was a bit of a sinking feeling in the gut – what?! Cap’s not a bully!

I enjoyed the film, yet I did get that sinking gut feeling a few times and really big near the end.

The only thing I felt should’ve been changed (other than the young RDJ /Tony Stark little bit of creepiness) about the movie was a speech given by Sharon Carter. The words she speaks are words that Cap himself utters in the comics – and I feel he should’ve been the one to speak them – but that’s just my opinion.

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In the end, I guess it’s that hard-headed conviction and code of honor that Cap has that fuels the conflict in the movie, and escalates the issues to the point of physical violence.

Or perhaps its just us as consumers and audience members that fuels it because we just have to have someone fighting someone else – over whatever personal beliefs or tragedies that demand justice/vengeance/retribution whatever label you want to give it. We are conditioned to see conflict and fighting as the  penultimate entertainment. I’m guilty of this as much as anyone. I’ve written stories, been involved in projects were the main thrust of the story involves fighting and violence and all the stuff that goes along with it.

We admire strength and power. It’s hard coded in our DNA – and every story we tell is about struggle or conflict of some sort. But after thousands and thousands of years – what have learned? It seems we’ve only learned to tell the same tale to ourselves over and over and over. Because its fun or because its exciting, or because, we’re bored.

That and we don’t really live long lives, so tales are told for each new generation that say the same things the generation before them learned and that pattern will repeat itself ad infinitum until we do finally reach a stage where human lifespans exceed a hundred and fifty years or so.

When you break down the story of the film, its pretty basic.

To paraphrase the Vision: “Strength incites challenge. Challenge incites conflict. And conflict… breeds catastrophe.”

It’s not good enough to see these people rescuing people from a burning building. Or helping evacuate a flooded town, or aiding the relief effort after an avalanche… yeah, that’s just not exciting enough.

That sinking gut feeling I got when watching this movie bothers me – because I’m supposed to like it. Cap’s a favorite hero/character of mine – I loved Captain America: The Winter Soldier, that was a great film (again, just my opinion).

And I did enjoy the movie – the Spider-Man stuff was amazing – Tom Holland is perfect as Peter Parker. And for the first time, on screen, he really really “feels” like a teenager. The scene between him and RDJ during his “recruitment” was so well done. We should get a Tony and Peter walking around Queens movie.

I loved the banter, I loved Giant Man.

But that final sequence? I was wincing the whole time. I felt dirty and bothered and I guess that’s what I should be feeling. Why didn’t I feel that during BvS? Why didn’t I feel that during any other MCU property, including Daredevil and Jessica Jones – granted JJ made me wince but for other reasons during that final episode.

There’s an odd shift that occurs when you watch a certain type of battle or fight.

If it’s against a true evil villain, or a faceless enemy – you root for the good guys. You cheer for victory. You watch it excited and thrilled.

But here – this was like watching a fight at the family dinner table at Thanksgiving.

The ultimate goal of any film is to illicit an emotional response – to generate thoughts, questions. BvS generated a response, divided people. I’m sure others will feel the same about Civil War – heck the marketing campaign has been built around the question – whose side are you on?

In the end, what I got from the film was that – no one won – everyone lost. #ThereAreNoTeams

I disagreed with a few choices at the end of the movie – but I’ll talk about those in another forum.

I’m still trying to wrestle with my thoughts about the idea – are we getting tired of superheroes?

I don’t know… but I don’t like how my thoughts are leaning.