I am a Murderer

[…] went back and forth on actually killing him in this story, saying “I think that it was a tough decision. I really like […] as a character, I’ve had a lot of fun writing him. He’s been big part of my run and I didn’t know that I was going to do that when the run started. It was heartbreaking to do that to […].”

The above quote was taken from an interview about a certain comic that has just been released, one that is courting a lot of controversy and backlash.

I’m not going to go into great detail about that particular comic, one because I disagree with the arc and two because this isn’t really about whether or not a cultural icon is or really isn’t a Nazi. (that should give it away… if it doesn’t, well good. Stay ignorant. You’ll be happier believe me.)

What this is really about is what a writer is and what he/she is capable of.

Writers are heinous criminals. We lie, cheat, steal; we commit adultery, we blow up buildings, send cars careening off cliffs and yes… we kill.

What prompted me to write this… (and what I’m writing about isn’t new, other authors have addressed the subject of the ‘amorality’ of writers) is the sort of nonchalance that the quote giver expresses his ‘heartbreak’ over killing off a character. Now, the author who is quoted may very well have been sincere and choked up when making that statement, I can’t really say for sure. I’m guessing it was just said in a matter-of-fact tone. It was just one of those ‘no big thing’ type statements, one that every writer makes when discussing death in their work. And for all I know, the writer did think long and hard and went back and forth about it, but in the end — went ahead and did it anyway. What troubles me about the this particular “killing” is that, it’s not really their character. The character in question belongs to a comic publishing company and other writers (including the one who invented the character for said comic book company) have spent time, energy and creative talent to bring the character to life.

In one sense, you might ask… ‘what right do you have to kill off another writer’s character?’ And on the heels of that, you might ask – hold up, ‘why are you killing them at all?’

Writer’s kill for one reason. To illicit a response from the reader. That response can vary of course, dependent on the character, their importance, the reader’s emotional connection or indifference to said character and so on and so forth.

But the goal is to get the reader to feel.

Admittedly, Death is the easiest button to push in order to get a response from a reader. A lot of that has to do with how we view death in real life… how much of our lives is spent trying to avoid it, how many of our fellows are scared of it, how much of it takes place around us… and how many times how unexpected it is.

A writer kills because it serves the story.

Of course I had to have Sean Bean die in this post – ’cause reasons

Sometimes this is done with great skill and attention to detail, the writer has skillfully drawn the character so that the reader is affected long after the story is over and done with. The impact resonates.

Other times its ham-handed and ineffective, the reader can see it coming or isn’t invested enough in the character to care one way or the other about the event. It’s treated with a sigh and a shrug and quickly forgotten.

Writers kill because we are human. Death and killing is a part of who we are as a species. Every great story has death in it. A death. Or more than one death. It’s necessary, to be honest, in order to make the stories come to life, to be real. Which is kind of ironic in a way.

There’s that armchair-philosopher maxim that states: Given an infinite universe and infinite time, all things will happen. You could extrapolate that to creative mediums and say that every character in every book or comic or TV show or movie exists in some alt-universe out there, somewhere in the vast unknowable vastness of existence.

Which begs the question… am I pretending to kill a character off? Or am I causing the death of someone, somewhere… out there?

And that for me is a very interesting rabbit hole to jump down into and explore. It brings up question about morality and existence – the should I or shouldn’t I? aspect of just about every decision you make in your life.

In all of literature, how many “lives” have been extinguished in the name of entertaining those of us in the real world? How many have been snuffed out to enrich the life experience of us here in this one who consume the pages their brief time is opened to us?

Writing a death shouldn’t be just some small thing. It’s something that should be given thought too… even the small, nameless and faceless ones that happen to bystanders and those “people” that get caught in a building fire, that are no way involved in the main thread of your story or narrative.

Everyone of those ‘characters’ has a life don’t they?

And that’s something that, in these politically volatile and fractious times, we all forget in heated moments. Everyone has a story, everyone is the lead in their own narrative.

Comb through any thread or topic on your favorite book or comic or film and inevitably you will find statements that causally comment on or dissect the death of a character, and no doubt you will find ones that discuss them in terms that range from dismissive to derision. We treat literary deaths as though they rank on a scale – probably because they do.

What is meaningful in a story is only rated in terms of how it affects the main characters. All others are chaff on the wind. And how does that apply to our real lives?

Do you feel the same about the death of Robin Williams as you do about the death of a relative, or Umberto Eco?

As a writer, I’ve killed a great many characters. And to tell you the truth, some I didn’t even think about. They were side-line entities, there only necessary as a minor moment in a greater scene.

I think that speaks volumes about how we look at life. ‘If it isn’t happening to me, then how important is it really?’

I can’t really say if that’s healthy or not. Life is complicated and filled with so much information and a constant stream of events that we can’t give equal weight to them all. And it’s the same with death I think. Some times its too much to deal with. The weight of it is too much to take. And other times its a simple as turning a page or closing a door.

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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.  🙂

Everything has to be “New”

So, Captain America is actually – and has been all along – a Hydra agent. WTF.

*face palm*

*face palm*

After picking my jaw up off the floor, I began to get really steamed about the reveal. Not because it’s a bad story choice or a giant ‘oh my gosh’ moment – but because – as James Whittbrook points out – it’s a gimmick.

I shouldn’t be shocked, I shouldn’t be upset. But I keep running into this kind of thing, (that thing being “You want new? Try THIS!”) and the reaction that follows. Maybe it’s because of personal circumstances where I’ve been forced over the last decade or so to divest myself of much of the stuff I used to own or because of present economics circumstances I’m just not purchasing or consuming products and items as I did when I was younger.

And yeah, I posted something on my Instagram today about ’embracing change” – but what I’m spending way too much energy and words on right now isn’t about change. It’s about the glut of ‘the new’.

As we continue on at our blistering pace through the seemingly unlimited content of the world wide web, our human peccadillo of wanting more and obsessing over the new has reached an almost laughable state of ridiculousness… to the point where somethings we took as tide and true, are being revamped and re-imagined to their detriment.

You can do your own research on the psychological and societal workings of why we market and consume goods and services… to do so in this little blog post would take up more time than you would want to read.

We’ve been raised in a culture that expects the “New”. We even project it into our visions of dystopian futures – Mad Max: Fury Road? “Shiny and Chrome?”

It’s a concept as old as society, that new is better. Even images of our supposed ‘afterlife’ are painted in images and words as a place that is ‘clean’, ‘bright’, ‘untarnished’.

Because, “New” is better.

Getting back to Cap. When the Marvel Civil War comics came out I will admit I was intrigued, but at the same time, thought it was a cheap and desperate grab at getting fans to buy comics.

And I understand that. The economics and keeping writers and artists employed, the money aspect of keeping a business afloat is entrenched in the need to produce new content.

So many of us creatives and artists wrack our brains and talent day in and day out trying to come up with content. To put stuff out in the world because we need to in order to feel fulfilled but also because we want to entertain and if we’re lucky also gain some compensation for it… and that’s what feels so soulless about this “shocker” concerning Cap.

There’s the part of me that really could give two shits. That’s the part of me that looks at the comics wall at a comic book store and understanding that, well, they gotta get your attention somehow.

Then there’s the part of me that just grinds his teeth at the idea of someone – just as creative as me (if not moreso) and under the gun to produce – makes the decision to make Cap a tool of the very agency he’s been fighting for decades.

You know, for reasons.

They’re perfectly logical reasons, I get that. I just don’t agree with them.

Let’s talk a little bit about apprenticeship. Trust me, it ties in.

Way back in the history of our society we had the concept of apprenticeship – where someone would take years to learn a trade or a craft. The purpose of apprenticeship was not only to teach someone a profession – but to also imbue them with a sense of purpose, appreciation and understanding. That a products worth, or a person’s worth as a tradesman, craftsman or artist was enhanced or valued because of the time and effort that went into their education or its making.

With the rise in population and the advancements of the Industrial Revolution – apprenticeships began to fall away and the gap between a fledgling artist and a Master, to almost disappear entirely.

Now – I’m not telling you that people today don’t work at their craft or that there aren’t good things being produce by people that do not have training or schooling or who haven’t spent 30 years studying and perfecting a technique or craft… what I am saying is the tradition and the appreciation that is gained by an apprenticeship is missing from the consumerist notion of ‘new is better’.

As consumers, we are bored and tired of the tried and true. You wanna know what I think is the greatest threat to the human condition? Boredom.

When you are bored… shit happens. Mistakes happen.

You could argue that a lot of good things are created out of boredom too… there’s always two sides to every issue or opinion. But what I’m asking here is, is the rabid hunger for the “new” truly innovative or is it equally destructive?

Take for example the innovations or “new” take on Batman and Superman in the DCU – the camps are divided on whether or not its value is good or even needed. Marvel has made it’s missteps too, lest you think I’m being a bit biased. Civil War (the comics) for example.

And when you consider that its all driven by $, then the reasoning behind the changes or the audience hunger or the ultimatums of a CEO … then its something to be a bit sad about, and also a bit bit “eh, so what.” about.

Somebody somewhere will buy it, and the cycle will continue.  I keep looking through my internet search history for a movie review video I saw the other day that I wanted to reference to illustrate this point, and if I do come across it again I’ll update the post with it – but the gist of it comes down to the reviewer disliking a film because they “wanted something new”.

I’m not saying ‘new’ is bad. For example – I think V for Vendetta the movie, relates the story and concepts therein better than the graphic novel.

I too enjoy being surprised and delighted upon discovering something, seeing something for the first time, being wowed by special effects and so forth and so on…

And really, when it comes down to it, this little blog post prompted by an ugly gimmick in a comic book is just so much wasted wind. My railing against an insatiable consumer market will be lost to the ether the moment after I hit the ‘publish’ button.

I trust the comics will work out the story and plot to reveal that Cap is still Cap, because in the soap opera world of comics, its just another day at the office.

Tomorrow is another day, and we’ve got to feed the Beast.

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.

inuhmans-daisy

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.

jackkirbypencilsbyinkist

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.

 

 

 

 

 

You’re not hip or cynical, you are just bored

So, a little while ago, I Hate Everything (real name Alex Bolton) posted a video about not caring about superheroes anymore. Be prepared, its a sixteen minute rant about what’s wrong with the genre.

And while there are some good points made in the video, what I got from it was this – its not that IHE hates or doesn’t care about superhero movies – its that he has a very narrow view of what makes a movie good or great. I would also chalk his rant up to a very real disease that all of us suffer from – boredom.

The criticism that the movies are two-hour long advertisements for the next movie is kind of crap, basically because the criteria that the movies should be self-contained and work on their own is a singular view point. And yes, I saw the big disclaimer at the start of the video that glaring displays the “this is my opinion” but that doesn’t automatically grant you a pass or free you from criticism of your criticism.

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There’s a definite air of intellectual arrogance with this type of video/vlog/rant that places IHE squarely in the supervillain category – and I use that term simply because of the subject matter 🙂 It’s the Loki speech: “Enough! You are, all of you are beneath me!”  Escpecially when he refers to those who may comment as

All of us has an opinion about everything – but that doesn’t make it valid. It may be shared by quite a few other people, but its still opinion. I like this, I don’t like that- and it sucks up a lot of energy and time – just take a look at any page on the internet – and you’ll find someone disagreeing with someone about something.

I’d point out to IHE that his problem with superhero movies isn’t the quality (though there have been some crappy ones) but that he is holding them to a standard they will never live up to. The word “great” is used, but what exactly is his criteria for a film deserving a “great” rating?

He says he’s looking at them for how they were written, directed and structured as movies. I can’t find any information about IHE’s education of film-making background and so I don’t know how much he’s studied filmmaking, or the business of movie-making or what it actually takes to create the content that he feels don’t measure up to his standard of what makes a movie ‘great’.

As far as I can tell – it’s just opinion. And his opinion is based on his boredom. He’s bored of superhero movies because a lot of them cover the same ground and tell basically the same story – bad guy(s) threatens city/world/loved ones – good guy(s) do what they need to to stop them… that’s the same story that’s been told since the dawn of time.

He wants things to be self-contained, easy to digest and then – gimmie the next one. It’s the whiny child asking for a piece of candy or a new toy because – they already have the other one. “Entertain Me!”

He points out that the Avengers was the pay off for five previous movies which he claims are forgettable and not worth sitting through a second time. I disagree – but hey, that’s just my opinion. 😛

He claims that of the five, only Iron Man meets his standard. Iron Man is a very good superhero movie. And yes, looking at it from one perspective, it’s self-contained. However, Iron Man was simply the first in Marvel’s attempt to translate their source material into a much larger presentation – and that it seems is lost on IHE.

His insistence that these superhero movies be stand alone, bite-sized nuggets he can devour and forget is entitled, childish and pretentious. His argument that it’s about the balance ignores the fact that these films are part of a tapestry of intertwined stories – but I’m sure I would be shouted down by the ‘they should be self-contained!’ argument…

Also, the assertion that these films are the only ‘blockbuster’ entertainment the studios is offering, just further points up the whiny bored attitude that pervades this video rant/opinion … how sad. Poor IHE. He has nothing to entertain him. Let’s trash someone else’s films because… I’m bored. There’s no real criticism in the vlog/rant, it’s just an excuse to tear something down without providing any real evidence or comparison to what is supposed to be a “great film”.

I do have to disagree with his assertion that the scores for the MCU are crap – they aren’t. Some are much better than others – but just expressing the opinion that they stink is equivalent to farting in a room and then walking out. What exactly is your criteria for good film music, IHE? That you can hum the theme? Seriously…

To refute IHE’s lambasting of the MCU as being bland and boring, I present the Phase Two Restrospective. I doubt it will change minds or even have any sort of impact on thise who dislike the films… but its a well edited bit that highlights the overarching picture of the MCU – and where it’s heading.

While there are some good points made about the BvS: Dawn of Justice film near the end, the rest of the video is simply an long winded diatribe about the films being products and not “art”.

I really don’t think they should be held to that standard. We’ll have to agree to disagree on what makes a film or movie “great” – if whoever you feel is qualified to write, direct and produce these films in order to make them art – ever did make them, they would not be superhero movies.

I’m sorry you feel that all of these superhero movies need to fit your mold of what is good and what isn’t. I’m sorry you are so jaded and cynical at the ripe old age of 22 that you cannot enjoy them and feel it necessary to have wasted our time with your oh so important view point.

I wish I could offer a suggestion about how to best alleviate your boredom.

Maybe taking a walk outsIde once in while?

BvS – Why So Serious?

There’s a moment within the first five minutes or so of BvS: Dawn of Justice that threw me right out of the movie. I found myself trying to get back into it from that point on and succeeding on some level, but not all the way.

Character posters for BvS

Character posters for BvS

My opinion about the film is just my own – it’s just my two cents for what’s it worth. You can agree or disagree – I’m sure there will be lots of supporters and detractors on both sides, so my few words on it will no doubt get lost in the midst of all the others. And that’s fine – that’s why we go to these movies – to enjoy them and then to discuss them.

I think the movie is full of atmosphere and is visually stunning. I think each of the main characters was cast well and did a great job with their respective roles – do I disagree with the portrayal of Luthor? Yes. I’m not sure what they were trying do with the way he comes across… but it just didn’t feel right. He felt more like a Batman villain than a Superman villain.

Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman was great – I’m eagerly looking forward to her ‘origin’ tale in the WW 1-era film  set to hit the big screen next year. She’s not given much to do in the film other than to look stunning in everything she wears, to speak cryptically about Bruce not knowing everything and her ancient history and then conveniently showing up to help fight off the big bad in the last fifteen minutes. But hey – its about frickin’ time this character got her just dues.

wonderwoman

As far as the rest of BvS: DoJ – there are some images that are too cool for words and then there some that are just trademark Zack Snyder and which again take you out of the narrative rather keep you immersed in it. Mr. Snyder is the master of up close and slo-mo — so be prepared. There are some sequences which I wish had been explored more – and there are some choices I found to be jarring and left me scratching my head as to why they were made.

As the next entry into the expanded DC cinematic universe, the ending left me baffled. Truly baffled, as in … well, where do they go from here?

Back to that moment at the top of the film that I mentioned. I’m not going to say what it was because the film has just come out and I don’t want to spoil it for anyone. But I was really hoping I would get sucked into the movie, be caught up in and to really enjoy it… instead I found myself really examining it, making mental note of things and just generally sitting through the whole thing and thinking… “hmmmm.”

To be honest, I wish Snyder had just made a stand alone Batman movie. Ben Affleck’s Bruce Wayne is probably the best yet, and his Bat is a force of nature – frightening and unstoppable. The Bat sequences were the best thing about the film, he was appropriately strategic and tactical – willing to do whatever it takes to win. That warehouse beatdown is some of the best staged and brutal combat we’ve seen in a superhero movie.

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And apparently this Bruce Wayne has prophetic visions(?!) I’m guessing. I know from a writer’s stand point dreams and visions are easy ways to insert motivations and information for the audience… they help propel the story forward if handled in the right way.

But honestly, the Knightmare sequences in the film – again – knocked me out of the narrative. Don’t get me wrong, I thought they were a visual feast, stylish and very cool to watch… but they seemed put there to shoehorn in things that won’t show up for a couple of years – until the Justice League movie, or if at all. They seemed heavy handed and stuffed in. Crammed down our throats to make sure we know that there are other, greater threats out there… and to give us a fear-based reason for the formation of the Justice League.

Somewhere, the Joker is laughing, clapping his hands with glee.

Now, to the best of my knowledge, both the Justice Society and the Justice League were formed for differing reasons. The Justice Society was sort of a heroes club where they could share tales of their exploits and then also to have them work together to take down villains. The Justice League was formed to combat global threats. That’s probably an over simplification – there’s so much history and the fabric of the entire DC universe is wrapped up in these two groups — but my point is – I don’t think they that they were formed out of fear.

JSA

What I got from Snyder’s film – and what we are presented with on a daily basis in our news media – is that we need to be afraid. Always afraid. Because big nasties are coming and there’s nothing we can do to stop it.

Perhaps that’s due to the world we live in – bombings and shootings take place like clockwork nowadays. There are no red capes and shadowy bats to protect us. And even if there were – would we feel any safer?

The more attention you give something – the more power you give to it. Perhaps if we turned our back on those things designed to keep us afraid (Mr. Trump, ISIS, etc. etc. etc.) they would turn and devour themselves. That’s too simple an answer I know – and it’s an idea that many would reject. You have to fight. That’s what we are told… over and over and over again. That’s what life is all about… right?

And I think that’s the thing about the film that just makes it so heavy. Even the heroics we are shown – which aren’t many – are painted in dark and shadow, or fiery explosions and slo-mo. They are super serious and over dramatic. Had they been presented in different lighting or a different speed, maybe they wouldn’t seem so ponderous and bloated.

The movie is bogged down with its own sense of seriousness and importance – its bleak from the get go and never really lets up. The images we are shown are dropped on us with the weight of that giant Superman statue they erected in the center of Metropolis. Everything is dark and shadowy and full of foreboding. Even the most poignant moment – between Kal-El and his mother – takes place at night.

Its as if Snyder was doing everything not to remind people of the daytime destruction of Metropolis and loss of life from Man of Steel. Or maybe they just had to set it during dark hours because of all the CGI with Doomsday…

Bruce Wayne’s paranoia and fear comes across loud and clear in this film, more so in this incarnation than in any other version we’ve been shown.

This version of Bruce Wayne’s/Batman’s almost psychotic leanings aren’t just focused on the criminals and oddballs of Gotham but to the fate of the entire planet – to the point that he predicts the existence of a being (well known in the comics but as of yet not introduced in the cinematic versions of the DCU) with no foreknowledge of it – that symbol burned into the landscape was there just to pander to the fans of the comics, to get them all worked up and excited, but it had no bearing whatsoever on the narrative of the film – it was shown to us in all its apocalyptic glory and then – dismissed, forgotten. It was all for show.

To be fair, of course he would be thinking on a planetary scale because of what the Kryptonians almost did to the planet. But those dream sequences and “visions” really didn’t work for me – he already had enough motivation to go after Superman – “seeing” him as a murdering tyrant in some imagined futuristic apocalypse scenario just seemed gratuitous.

But, Batman is an American and it’s such an American concept to prepare for, gear up for and then rain fire down on anything we see as a threat. Even though we create more violence and danger than we prevent. There’s a sequence in the film that sort of addresses that – and I’m glad they put it in because it really is a nice character moment for Kal-el – its the question we all face – do I take action to prevent tragedy even though that action may in turn cause some tragic event somewhere else?

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There’s a lot to like about BvS: Dawn of Justice.

We finally get to see the Bat and the Son of Krypton on screen together – and Wonder Woman and Aquaman and the Flash. I’d like to talk more about that – but again I can’t go into detail because it would be spoilers for those that haven’t seen it.

There is supposedly an R-rated version being released with the Blu-ray when it arrives later this year, with an extra 20 minutes or so of footage… but I’m not sure it will make it a better film.

And there is lot to ponder about BvS: Dawn of Justice.

I’m not going to say dislike, because I didn’t really dislike it – I just have questions about the choices that were made.

Some people will be happy with all the mayhem and fighting and action – like I said there are some great visuals.

I was pleasantly surprised by how the showdown between Supes and Bats got started – again, not giving away details for those that haven’t seen it.

But the ending left me baffled.

We can discuss that after its been out for a while – when more people have seen it.

I give BvS: Dawn of Justice a 6 out of 10.

It’s loud and big and a lot to swallow – there’s almost too much to it. It’s heavy and oh so serious. The stakes are all the way at the top at the start of the movie and they never really go anywhere after that… it starts at the ceiling and stays there. And it ends on a huh? note.

Maybe that’s just me.

But like I said, there’s that one moment at the top of the film that threw me out and I never really got back into it… we can chat about that later.

I disagree with his characterization - but that's just me

I disagree with his characterization – but that’s just me

“X Vs. Y”

I really think that there’s something wrong with how I think about certain things – and that troubles me because I feel quite disconnected at times from my fellow friends and neighbors in the geek/nerd/fan community.

I was never an athlete in school. I played sports sure, but I was never really truly competitive about it. I was bullied at several points during my school days, but nothing I would call traumatic or that affected me in a bad way – I learned to stand up for myself and on at least two occasions have stood up to someone much bigger and more muscled or capable than myself in the physical department. So on one hand its not surprising to me that I don’t get the whole ‘get in the ring‘ mentality.

But that forces me to ask the questions: Why do I feel that way? Why am I not caught up in this fascination with the whole “X Vs. Y” thing?

Street Fighter 5

Street Fighter 5

I mean, on a basic level I get it. Everything can be broken down into a fight. You can’t get away from conflict in any creative medium – The basic plot of any story can be described as either man vs. man, man vs. society, man vs. nature or man vs.the self. It’s right there in plain black and white – everything can be broken down into a “vs.” situation. And we as a species thrive on it, it thrills us and excites us, compels us to keep moving forward, asking questions, striving to better ourselves…

I’m not questioning the nature of conflict, but, I really don’t get the whole ‘my dad is better than your dad’ aspect of some of the petitions and demands that fans of pop culture endlessly post and proliferate the interwebs with… Hulk vs. Superman! Godzilla vs. Gypsy Danger! Burger King vs. G.I. Joe!

Do I think they are silly? No, not really. Well…

I posted something to my facebook page, a really insightful and intelligent vlog from #DiggingDeeper about the Jurassic Park film franchise entitled Jurassic Park: Finding the Lost World. The gist of the video is that the first sequel to the enormously successful first film is really a  subversive argument against sequels in general – that some things are better when we just get one of them. There’s a lot more to it than that and also a pretty sound (and deserved) drubbing of 2015’s Jurassic World, and I highly recommend watching it. I posted a while back about the news that JW was going to get a sequel, and you can read that here if you like – it contains some of the same things that Digging Deeper brought up in their video, kinda-sorta.

The traffic I got on the post was minimum: a bare handful of likes and only one comment.

It was that comment that prompted me to write this post because it was basically a request for me to share a petition – an “x vs. y” petition. The petition is one that asks for a rematch between the T-Rex and the Spinosaurus as depicted in the 3rd film in the JP franchise – The Lost World.

T-Rex vs. Spinosaurus

T-Rex vs. Spinosaurus

To be honest if I was aware of this in the past I had forgotten about it, but when I saw the comment and followed the link and read the description in the ‘about’ section of the FB page which reads: Let’s show Universal Studios how many fans were devastated (emphasis mine) that Jurassic World ignored the rematch between T Rex and the Spino that we wanted since 2001 – I have to admit I scratched my head and wondered: Is this really a thing? And were people really devastated?

I then followed the link to the Change.org petition = Petition to have a T Rex Spinosaurus rematch in Jurassic World 2 which as of this writing has been active for (as near as I can tell) about two months and has 34 supporters/signers. The Facebook page for the petition has about 4300 likes, so much better than the actual petition itself… but really, why?

Now, I’m not highlighting this petition to poke fun at it … I’m actually genuinely intrigued that it exists. The language of the petition is pretty sophomoric and what it boils down to is a very loud  DEMAND that Universal (the studio I assume that holds the JP film license) address the issue – by creating, filming and presenting to the public – a re-match between two CGI creatures that “accurately” depicts what “should be” the real outcome of the contest – with the T-Rex emerging victorious.

Obviously the owner of the petition is a big fan of the T-Rex and feels slighted that their hero was defeated so shamelessly in JP3 and was cheated of the re-match in the Jurassic World film… but really, in the grand scheme of things, why would we need to see a re-match? Why has energy and passion been dedicated to this?

I see this kind of thing a lot actually, being a part of an entertainment franchise (albeit in a small way), as fans of that franchise are always posting about this ranger vs. that ranger, or asking me at conventions or online the dreaded question: “Who do you think would win in a fight…?”

The question itself bores me; its just a dick measuring contest, another ‘my dad is better than your dad’ throwdown that has… what purpose exactly? Bragging rights? The chance to stand up and shout ‘boo-yah! in yo face!’?

I’m sure this isn’t a new thing, speculation must have taken place in other time periods, right? I have to wonder if the ancient Greeks or Romans sat around at the forum or got into fistfights over whether or not Hercules could take Horus in a fight.

“Look, Herc’s got super-strength, and an impervious lion’s skin!” “Yeah, well, Horus can fly and survived getting hacked to pieces!” I’m fairly certain there’s a papyrus scroll out there with thousands of comments from trolls and haters sniping back and forth about it.

In the end… who cares? If you want Ironman to beat Captain America, he beats him. If you want the Red Zeo Ranger to beat the Aqua Dino Charge Ranger, he beats him. If you want the T-Rex to beat each and every other dinosaur, it does. Because that is what you want to happen. And yeah, I linked to that video in an earlier post, but I think its spot on.

In the end, its ridiculous to argue if this fictitious character is better than that fictitious character because they only exist in out minds.

Our entire history as a species is steeped in struggle, violence and one hero/force/idea triumphing over another. Fighting is everything, as I noted in a previous blog post.

It seems to be the only language that is universal between the peoples of the earth – it’s all either violence/struggle/fighting. You could say, yeah but what about love? Love is a fight of another kind, so it too is very much lumped in with the whole “x vs. y” thing.

Actually the concept of “x vs. y” doesn’t cause me to scratch my head so much as the alarm I feel about the crowd clamoring for such contests. We haven’t evolved too much from those mobs that flocked to gladiatorial fights and howled for blood… so it’s not the contest that I struggle with – its the voracious crowd that makes me take pause.

For me the fighting, the action has to have context… it has to have a why behind it.

Minions vs. Rabbids

Minions vs. Rabbids

It really does seem at times that what people want is just to see is just the action – to see these characters go at it, in long protracted scenes of violence and struggle… bloodied faces, broken bones, staggering and throwing punches until one or both finally collapse in exhaustion – a scene we’ve already seen over and over and over again in cinema and film.

But why? I guess because, while watching the films, we are, for a brief moment, those characters – we inhabit them and so it us up there on screen throwing punches or kicking them off a cliff or taking on six different attackers at once and emerging victorious.

Every time I’m asked who would win or each time I see a fan page holding a contest or pitting one Ranger vs. another Ranger I have to bow out – I honestly don’t think these characters would battle it out, and as a mentor – I can’t see how Zordon would encourage or condone it.

Yeah sure I guess you could manufacture reasons – it’s for training, it keeps them sharp or in a state of preparedness.

I guess the whole thing boils down to one persons opinion or reasoning as to why this one character or creature or idea is better than that one or that or that one.

And perhaps that is reason enough. If you find it enjoyable to list reasons, or debate powers, to howl to the moon that this one is better than that one, great.

But for me, it makes no sense to me to pit these characters against one another – which I talked about at length elsewhere a year ago.  I don’t think its worth the time and energy to think about… or to create a petition demanding you see the proper outcome of a fictitious ‘fight’ because, dammit, it’s just not fair!

I am not a fighter, never have been. I will stand up for myself, but that’s different. I’m just not one to engage in a physical altercation because its just not who I am – WWE or the UFC? Not my thing. Professional Boxing? Not my thing.

And so that’s something that bothers me, quite a bit.

Because it puts a barrier between me and my fellow humans… I’m not that way because I want to be separate from them or to affect the attitude that I’m better than them… in fact I think makes me lesser than them. I’m just not uber-aggressive.

My thinking is this: Hector fought Achilles thousands of years ago. And we keep re-telling that tale over and over – keep putting it up on screen over and over and over – only with new faces, new costumes and different settings.

We do that because… it’s entertaining. And yet it just seems to lose meaning after a while, at least to me. Is it any wonder that blockbuster films have to keep upping the ante when it comes to fights and spectacle just to keep our attention? Because, otherwise… people will boo or walk out or boycott.

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“Gimme my T-Rex fight or I’m going to give you such a pinch!”

I’m going to see Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice when it arrives in theaters in a couple of weeks. And in May I’ll sit through Captain America: Civil War. I’ll sit there and be thrilled or at least entertained by what Zack Snyder and the Russo brothers and their crews have put up on the screen for all of us to consume.

I’ll watch these films because there is a definite why behind the conflict going on in these “x vs. y” stories.  But in the end, I’ll walk out of the theater and ask myself the same question – what’s different? How exactly has this changed things?

And I have to wonder if after it comes out, some fan or other will throw up a petition or post a  demand that the studios and film-makers go back and make changes because “it just didn’t go the way it was supposed to” – well, at least according to them.

To Mask or Not to Mask?

What makes or breaks a superhero TV show? I guess that’s the $1,000,000 question about any IP or entertainment property… but we’ll limit it to the genre posed in the initial question.

The Cape

The Cape

This post was inspired by the news and speculation that due to low ratings, Marvel’s Agent Carter  might not or wouldn’t be picked up for a third season. I have a theory about why that may be the case – so, I’m going to explore it here. And while it isn’t really a ‘superhero’ show per se, Agent Carter is part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe – so, technically it qualifies.

Marvel's Agent Carter

Marvel’s Agent Carter

Superheroes have been on TV almost from its inception. Popular comic book characters that had found a wide audience on radio, inspired studios and property owners to take the next logical step to transfer those properties over to the small screen. DC led the way, with its two most recognizable characters Superman and Batman. and through the following decades we would see other live-action superheroes succeed or fail as they tried to capture the television audiences attention.

In each decade since there have been live-action versions of popular and not so popular superheroes, and thanks to the success of main stream superhero film’s like Spider-man and X-Men, superheroes also found a following on TV in the 2000’s. Smallville was good, but we never got to see Superman, not really. And for most of its run, there were no costumes and capes. And though it had great promise Heroes stumbled and didn’t quite live up to expectations.  But it did pave the way for flashier shows to follow. See what I did there? Flashier? As in The Flash!? Ok, yeah I know…

I like the Agent Carter. I like it not because it’s a Marvel property, I like it for the same reasons I liked the original Wonder Woman pilot/series in the 70’s with Lynda Carter — because it’s a period piece – it’s set sometime other than the post 9/11 world and because of the style, fashion and mores of the day, hearkens back to a supposedly ‘better time’. I like it because it recalls the innocence of the comic books I read growing up – when the characters and stories were seemingly free of cynicism, grim-dark angst and political or psychological underpinnings.

Though of course, it wasn’t a better time – we just perceive it that way – we have the benefit of hindsight and the unconscious notion that because its the past, we understand it better than we do our present circumstances. And yes, of course some of those elements I mentioned above, the same ones that are so highlighted and dominate today’s comics, including gore and adult-oriented fare, were there in some fashion all along in comics – but they weren’t the driving force behind them, like they seem to be for many titles today.

Agent Carter explores the early days of S.H.I.E.L.D. before the arrival of masks and superheroes… kind of. And that is what I theorize is perhaps why it received low ratings this season and may not be picked up for a third.

Fans of comics and superheroes like all the trappings that come with them – the most obvious being: the mask and cape/costume. Agent Carter (and in a round about way, Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.) has no four-color suits and disguises. AoS has the benefit of showcasing more ‘powered’ character’s and so I beleive is keeping its ratings and audience. Sure, you could argue that Peggy’s blue-power suit and red hat are her “costume” – but I think what audiences are looking for, is what the CW’s Arrow and The Flash and CBS’s Supergirl are providing, and as a result are gobbling up the audience shares left and right.

In those shows we get to see the costumes and the masks – those things we read comics for… bold, thrilling captivating images of PWA (people with abilities) who are larger than life.

What I was hoping Agent Carter would provide for us (and what I still think is lacking on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.)  are glimpses and moments with those costumed characters of the MCU and comics who could and should make appearances on those shows.

I’m sure ownership rights, licensing, and any number of other factors, (including SFX budgets) prevent us from seeing the big hitters like the Avengers (and all the character’s from the big screen films) or other multi-powered characters… but still. Would it really be too hard to see them in passing ? You really wouldn’t even need to feature them.

Seeing a news report on a TV screen with grainy footage of either a hero or villain would give fans that momentary thrill of ‘yes! did you see that!’ It would widen the scope of what’s possible… and just reinforce the fan base’s love for the shows and characters.

Can you imagine if at some point during Agent Carter Season One we got to see Namor‘s winged foot step out of the surf and onto the sand near Brighton Beach? Or the fiery trail of the Human Torch streaking across the night sky over Manhattan? Or maybe in Season Two we caught glimpses of The Whizzer stopping a bank robbery or Union Jack taking out Nazi saboteurs?

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Now, there is no evidence to support that Agent Carter’s ratings were low because no costumes or masks make a showing in any of the episodes… I mean, Agent’s of S.H.I.E.L.D. really hasn’t had a costumed hero front and center – yeah, I guess you could say Deathlok and Sif count or even Mockingbird – but they really don’t seem to capture the same ‘heck yeah’ thrill that seeing Arsenal and Black Canary or Deathstroke do on Arrow – or Gorilla Grodd on The Flash? J’onn J’onzz or Red Tornado on Supergirl?

But notice how those character’s from the Arrow and Supergirl shows match more closely the costumes and outfits of their comic book counterparts – while the ones from AoS are more tactical and subdued (except for Sif of course :))?

But, maybe seeing a mask and cape is no guarantee that you’ll capture an audience’s attention. At the very top of this post I included a pic from a short-lived TV series called The Cape.

The show has a cliche, but tried and true comic book premise – a cop takes on the persona of his son’s favorite comic book superhero character to fight crime and to protect his family after being framed and supposedly killed. In execution, it was pretty standard formulaic really and the first several episodes were a a drawn out ‘origin’ combined with character development and scant SFX. The show had some decent stars and characters and plots… but in the end, it fizzled out and disappeared. Why?

Maybe the story got too bogged down or drawn out or maybe there wasn’t enough “super” powers or maybe it was because it was an all new character that wasn’t really based on an established property. I stopped watching after the fifth episode or so because… well, it just wasn’t compelling after a while.

I mean, according to my theory stated above, it should have captured the same vibe and thrill of Arrow or The Flash. It had masks and capes aplenty. But for some reason the elements that came together to create the show, did set it on fire – didn’t glue people to the screen week after week to watch it.

Of course my theory is pure speculation and has no real merit or research to back it up – other than my own observation and supposition.

There’s a lot of hard work that goes into getting a TV show on the air – and keeping it there is something akin to walking a tightrope over a lava pit while balancing two heavy bags, one full of bricks the other full of marbles, all the while pursued by censors, ad execs and newshounds.

Not to mention the vocal detractors who nitpick every detail and post it vlogs, blogs, rants and poisonous tweets… it’s a minefield at best.

Could a cameo by say, Sub-Mariner or Jim Hammond (aka the android Human Torch) have saved Agent Carter or boosted its ratings? We will never know.

The answer to whether or not a superhero show is successful – whether to mask or not to mask – isn’t easily answered, but its a fun topic to think about.

domino

 

Lord of the Jungle

I’m going to reveal something here, that I have mentioned in private conversations but haven’t really revealed online – or if I have I don’t remember where.

I decided at a young age that I was going to write, and a little bit after that, that I wanted to be an actor too. The main reason I wanted to be an actor – was Tarzan.

I really wanted to be Tarzan. Even went as far as decorating my room with weeds and foliage from the back yard… leading to minor insect infestation my parents weren’t too happy about.

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I collected all the Ballantine Book’s paperback versions of each of the Tarzan novels that Edgar Rice Burroughs wrote – the ones with the amazing covers by #NealAdams and #BorisVallejo (Neal’s is above, Boris’s below)
boris_vallejo_21-tarzan_the_magnificent-cover

I read and re-read them, transported to a dark and forbidden continent, and also back in time – to the time when Burroughs was writing them — when most Americans had never set foot on The Dark Continent – to a time when the perception of Africa was more fantastical than real, a place where hidden kingdoms and fabulous riches lay in wait for intrepid explorers and greedy pale-skinned invaders.

Tarzan was one of the first ‘pulp heroes’ – a man of the new century, a demi-god that walked in ranks of others like him: Doc Savage, Conan the Barbarian, and Flash Gordon.

At some point in my early twenties I realized I would never achieve my ‘dream’ of playing Tarzan – I just hadn’t been blessed with the height or the genes to make me the 6’5″, 0% body fat, two-fisted, half-naked, tree-swinging macho man that Tarzan needs to be.

What captivated me about him? I can’t really put my finger on it – maybe it was the TV series with Ron Ely that was running in syndication, or Daktari – another show from the 60’s set in Africa – or maybe it was Henry Mancini’s score to Hatari! a John Wayne film that makes it seem as though the entire continent was in danger of being burned to the ground in a massive brush fire there are so many people smoking in it…

Whatever was the catalyst, at some point I picked up a copy of Tarzan of the Apes and read it. And I was hooked.

The original novel is a true masterpiece of pulp heroics – and its quite dark and bloody – a far cry from the tame versions of the character that have graced film screens and TV sets. A straight adaptation of this book has never been made – and probably never will be… for reasons that escape me.

Tarzan was a staple of Hollywood for a great number of years… and fell out of favor around the same time that Westerns began to decline. Why? There’s a great number of reasons – but a big one, especially for Tarzan – is that he is very much a man of a certain time or era. Tarzan outside of the early 1900’s just doesn’t ring true… a naked white man dispensing justice in Africa? Yeah, not too believable.

But set in that time, with the over-the-top trappings of pulp-adventure? You can’t do much better than John Clayton, Lord Greystoke – Tarzan of the Apes.

The latest incarnation of the character appears in  The Legend of Tarzan which arrives in theaters the summer of 2016 and which stars Alexander Skarsgård as Tarzan and also includes Margot Robbie, Samuel L. Jackson, Christoph Waltz and Djimon Hounsou.

Like almost every other adaptation, they’ll get some things right… and some things wrong. Everyone has their own mind’s-eye view of their favorite heroes – how they look, how they move, etc. This one (and grant you, this is only a teaser and we’ll get more images and longer trailers I’m sure) gets one thing right – at least for the first 20 seconds or so: Africa is front and center. A character. Which it should be.

Africa is a major part of who Tarzan is – its savage and untamed. A mirror of who he truly is. That they seem to get right… however —

There’s far too much CGI in the trailer — both the Mangani and Tarzan himself seem to be rendered in CG for a lot of the jungle scenes — in my mind’s eye, no one has ever really gotten how Tarzan moves right. How he traverses the jungle and landscape is either portrayed in tepid or timid ways (lame shots of him holding a vine and swinging slowly from one side of the screen to the next), or too elastic and too surf-board/rollerskating cartoon craziness. In my mind, its very parkour-like and quite unsustainable for a human being to pull off – apes and monkeys can move through the trees because they are built to – we just don’t have the arm and limb strength to do what they do.

Also, the film is awash in the blue and orange color palette – reasons for which you can read about here and here. Basically to suggest moral associations for characters and places… so darkest Africa is washed in blue to suggest maybe not evil but some place that’s dangerous and deadly.

I haven’t read much about the film, other than it is set in the time when the first novel was, i.e. 1880’s and so it’s a ‘period’ piece and not “modern” per se. This may be a turn off for some, but for me… that’s at least keeping true to the what makes the character work. And that we start off with Lord Greystoke (Tarzan) already “civilized” and living in England – no longer Lord of the Jungle.

If you’ve read the books, you know that Tarzan straddles both the civilized and the savage worlds – is able to transition between the two very easily – because not only is he a brute, but he’s also a brain. He is a meta-man – a more advanced version of us… and if you are familiar with the Wold-Newton Family (as posited by #PhilipJoseFarmer) you’ll be given an insight as to why that may be… but suffice it to say, that Burroughs character is the pinnacle of what each man should be – strong, sufficient and erudite – both beast and gentleman.

So, already we get a different through-line from the novel – not necessarily a bad thing, considering they are showing us Tarzan’s transition in reverse. So by film’s end we will no doubt get the Ape-Man and rather than the English Lord.

Much like a number of other hero movies – superhero or otherwise – Tarzan’s origin story is so well known that there really isn’t a reason to go over it – and yet we see glimpses of it in the trailer – again, not a bad thing, but also not necessarily something we need to see again.

It’s really too early to tell if the film will be better than the last few attempts at making the character interesting again. I’m excited to see the character back on the screen – and hope that its going to be better than others… but I’m also prepared to know that it won’t ever match my expectations.

I still hold out hope that someone somewhere will be brave enough to just take Burroughs novel and make that into a film. I doubt it will ever get made – but, you never know…

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