The Greatest American Heroine?

Y’know, when I heard that the newest version of Doctor Who was going to be female, I had a somewhat mixed reaction. On the one hand, it seemed like a bold step, given the character’s long history as a male, and you know how I hate to mess with well-established characters. On the other hand, I don’t know enough about the Doctor to know if his/her/its species — he’s not exactly human, right? — can change genders or have no real gender or… something. So, maybe such a change isn’t unheard of for them. (This is science fiction, after all.) Also, I am a little bit familiar with the actress who will portray the new Doctor — Jodie Whittaker (“Broadchurch”, “The Assets”) — and I’m sure she’ll do a bang-up job. In the end, though, since I’m not a Whovian and thus not emotionally invested in the show or character, I don’t really care all that much, to be honest.

But, this is a different story. “This” being the announcement that the reboot-in-development for “The Greatest American Hero” will feature a female protagonist. Plus, other changes.

“I am open to there being less goofiness and a bit more seriousness, but keep the main elements that made the original successful. OK?” — me, previous post about the reboot

You may remember that I wrote about a planned reboot 3 years ago, wherein I expressed my affection for the original show from the early 1980s and my “cautious optimism” for the reboot. Not much was known (or decided) at the time, but it did sound like the producers were going for something pretty similar in both setting and tone to the original. Aside from wondering why they decided to rename the central character “Isaac”, this was welcome news.

The latest news, however, has me quite concerned….

The first issue is that the main character will now be female. Please, don’t assume I’m sexist or something when I say that I’m not crazy about this idea. It’s just that I generally don’t like drastic changes to established characters, even for reboots or “re-imaginings”. However, I have to admit that the original creators decided to go that way back in the day. The original series was canceled by ABC, and the last-filmed episode was not aired (though it did eventually air in 1986 and is included in the DVD set). Here’s the Wiki summary for that episode, which introduced Mary Ellen Stuart as “Holly Hathaway”, the new G.A.H. (see pic below):

“The aliens tell Ralph to find a suitable replacement for himself when his secret identity is revealed to the world. Much to Bill’s disgust he selects a woman to be his successor.”

It was supposed to be a backdoor pilot for NBC’s planned takeover of the property and spinning off “The Greatest American Heroine”. But, plans fell through.

Stuart in the super-suit (1983)

If 20th Century TV (who own the rights) had gone with this passing-of-the-torch (or “red PJ’s”) idea, keeping a similar tone & format as the original but with a female protagonist, I think I could have gotten on board. But, writer/producers Rachna Fuchbom and Nahnatchka Khan (Fresh Off the Boat), whose Fierce Baby production company will co-produce with ABC Studios, have decided to go a very different direction. (Mandy Summers and Tawnia McKiernan will also be executive producers.)

The new lead will be “Meera”, a 30-year-old Indian-American from Cleveland who “specializes in drinking tequila and singing karaoke. Great skills in the social realm, sure, but not exactly heroic.” Then, of course, aliens give her a super-suit and, presumably, hilarity and awkwardness ensue. Also,

“It will be a single-camera half hour project, and while it is going to have some of the comedic tones of its predecessor, it will also differentiate itself in some big ways.”

I’m not entirely sure if those “big ways” refer only to the “Meera” character or if there’s more, but I am concerned that this will be a complete screw-up of a great, fun concept. Where’s the “odd couple” pairing with a by-the-book agent? Plus, it sounds more like a sitcom than anything. On the other hand, we don’t really know all that many details, and there hasn’t been any casting, yet. It might actually work, I suppose. Let’s just say, I’m not holding my breath on this one.

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Review of The Defenders (Netflix)

“It’s been a long week.” — Jessica Jones, “The Defenders”

The much(?)-anticipated “The Defenders” mini-series has finally been released, capping off the first four Marvel/Netflix series. I finished watching it a few days ago, so I have a few thoughts to share….

You probably figured I’d put out some sort of review, right? Regular readers already know how I feel about the actors and these versions of the characters from my earlier reviews, so I won’t say too much on that front. (Too many to link to here; just do a search on “Netflix” or go to the Reviews page linked above.) I assume most people who are interested in the show have already watched it, but I’m adding a Spoiler Alert, anyway.

SPOILER ALERT!! SPOILER ALERT!! SPOILER ALERT!! SPOILER ALERT!! SPOILER ALERT!!

Let’s start with… I liked the opening/closing credits music. It reminded me of a cross between those for Daredevil and Iron Fist.

I also really appreciated the getting-to-know-each-other scene at the Chinese restaurant, after our heroes survived their first team-up. It was reminiscent — probably intentionally so — of the shawarma shop scene at the end of Avengers.

Our heroes all remained very much in character. Luke Cage and Jessica Jones did their usual strong-guy/gal thing, smashing, slamming, punching, and kicking the crap out of The Hand’s lackeys. Nothin’ pretty. Luke also got to play “human shield” on occasion. (I think he actually enjoys it, despite the costs to his wardrobe.) Once he was on board, Matt Murdock / Daredevil re-confirmed that he’s the best fighter of all of them, in my opinion. However, he also takes some chances — specifically, re Elektra — that put himself and others in danger. Of course, the writers can make even foolish decisions turn out to be the “right” ones in the end.

Each of these three, at some point along the way, had their doubts about taking on The Hand, preferring to stay out of the “war” or just not ready to go “all the way”. But, they realized the threat that The Hand represented to the people of New York (and likely beyond), and they stepped up. They knew they might not survive, but they were the city’s only real chance. That’s what makes them heroes.

I would really love to see Daredevil pair up with Cage. That could be an awesome partnership. (Cage and Rand, not so much.)

Not surprisingly, I thought Danny Rand / Iron Fist was quite disappointing. Without the chi-powered fist, his fighting skills are still mediocre — clumsy-looking, even. Good thing The Hand seems to only have mediocre-level soldiers, rather than the ninja-assassins from the comics. (Elektra aside, of course.) He also continued with the part-petulant child, part-stranger-in-a-strange-land bit, while never understanding why people aren’t impressed by his “I am the immortal Iron Fist” claims, followed by tales of dragons and mystical cities. Sheesh! Either give it a rest, or at least show off the “fist” a bit earlier.

Colleen Wing’s presence mostly made up for that of her boyfriend. She’s attractive, passionate, willing to do what needs to be done, and brings some much-needed skill with bladed weapons to the good-guy side. She seems to start many fights by charging at her opponents, which doesn’t seem too smart to me, particularly when it’s a superior fighter like Bakuto. Then again, it’s not like she’s gonna surprise him/them, especially beginning from several feet away. Maybe the head-on approach is best, just to get the fight underway?

Some of the best acting in this series was in scenes with the Colleen and Claire characters, especially the one where Colleen briefly broke down in tears. Well done, Miss Henwick.

Claire’s how-did-I-get-myself-into-this reflections and lines were welcome as usual. She really is the heart of the (non-)team, and not just because she is the acquaintance that they all had in common. She also probably surprises no one more than herself that she is still in the thick of it and, well, not dead, yet. Like Colleen said, Claire’s a hero, too.

It was nice to see Malcolm, Trish, Karen, and Foggy, too, and to find out what they were up to since we last saw them. There wasn’t much for them to do in this story but hide out. But, it made sense in the plot to have them involved, since they were the closest associates of our heroes. However, it still seems odd to have them essentially camp out in the police station, when the cops never really understood what The Hand was or how dangerous they were.

Misty Knight… yowza! (Ahem, sorry.) The lovely Detective Knight returns! Yay! (“Detective Knight” sounds like a twist on a certain Distinguished Competition’s pointy-eared vigilante, doesn’t it?) She continues to be frustrated by our heroes, but she comes through in the end and supports, even aids, them. Yay, again! She pays a dear price for it, though, since she (finally) loses her arm. Triple-yay! That’s right, I’m glad she lost her arm, ‘cuz that means she will probably, eventually, get a super-strong bionic arm, just like in the comics. (I have a feeling her benefactor will be Rand, though, instead of Stark.) Then, she just needs to become a P.I. and partner with Colleen Wing, and I’ll be a happy man. (Especially if they get their own series!)

It sort of makes sense that Stick would be the one to unite — however reluctantly — our heroes. Or, at least, try to keep them together after that initial big fight. (Btw, since we already know these Netflix shows take place in the same world as the films, it would have made sense to have someone say something like, “Why not tell those Avengers guys? Let them HANDle it!” OK, maybe without the pun.) I’m a little surprised that they killed him off, but not real disappointed. For one, he was getting annoying; for two, with The Hand out of commission (thankfully, at least for now), there’s little reason for Stick to show up, and this should help our heroes — well, Matt, anyway… and Elektra — move on.

I hate to say it, but Sigourney Weaver looked… old. But, then I realized she’s 67, so she’s allowed to have a few wrinkles and such. Don’t know that I would have thought of her as a villain for this series. But, as the Alexandra character was written, she was a decent choice. We suspected they would bring Bakuto back, as well as the ever-present and deceptively powerful Madame Gao. The other two new Hand leaders — Murakami and Sowande — seemed formidable at first. But, the latter was too easily defeated, and the former was ultimately not that impressive.

I have mixed feelings about the whole Elektra thing. I mean, we already knew she was being resurrected by The Hand, so she’d probably be involved in another series storyline. And, it makes sense the way it was done and why. I think. Her betrayal of Alexandra was a surprise, which made for a nice plot twist. However, I don’t understand why she suddenly became so cold, amoral, etc. I guess it had something to do with her soul being affected (seared? tainted? infected?) by her brief time on “the other side”. I don’t remember hearing a good explanation for her behavior, but maybe I just missed it or didn’t put the pieces together.

If Elektra survived and if she eventually returns (though hopefully not for awhile), I hope she becomes more the assassin-for-hire that comic readers are familiar with. One with a damaged, yet still present, moral compass and ethical code.

The overall plot wasn’t bad, though it seemed to take a little while to get moving. Definitely room for improvement here and there, which might have been do-able if they had another episode or two to work with. Or, maybe fewer episodes would have forced them to tighten it up and get to the good stuff sooner. For the most part, though, the four heroes’ individual stories came together fairly well. It all flowed OK (though the earlier episodes were a bit rocky), and there was some good character development. (Even Rand.) Most of the interaction between our heroes was good, too, and I appreciated the occasional doses of humor.

Open questions: Why didn’t the NYPD file a report? Why wouldn’t they charge our heroes with terrorism? I’m not saying there isn’t a plausible way around it, with Jeri Hogarth (and Foggy, of course) coming to their aid. (Even “The Defenders” sometimes need a legal defense of their own, right?) But, the “wrap-up” at the end seemed too easy.

Overall grade: When feeling generous, I’m tempted to give “The Defenders” a solid ‘B’. Other days, I might go as low as a ‘C’. So, let’s split the difference and go with a ‘C+/B-‘.

Should Marvel Make a Hulk Movie with Ruffalo?

“Hulk not think. HULK SMASH!” — Hulk

Several weeks ago, Michael Hollan at CBR.com wrote a piece titled “Hulked Out: 15 Reasons Marvel Should Not Make A Hulk Movie”. His analysis was interesting, but I took issue with some of his reasoning. I decided to jot down my thoughts on each point, which I share below. Just providing the “titles” for each of Hollan’s reasons, however, wouldn’t adequately explain them, and I didn’t want to reproduce his entire article. So, you should probably open up his article in another tab or window and toggle back and forth. You could even split-screen, sorta like having a split personality….

Ruffalo as Banner

15) Interesting point, but I don’t think it flies. For one, the character’s (characters’?) inspiration, Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde, did fine back in the day, both as a book and on-screen, as have other properties with a split-personality character. Second, while not all Hulk comics are equally well-done, many do manage this balance well. It’s just a matter of the having the right story.

14) Just because some of his best fights so far have arguably been those against other heroes (and Loki), that doesn’t mean it must be the case. (The one against Abomination wasn’t bad, btw.) For goodness sake, as soon as someone writes/films a great fight scene against an interesting villain (or villainous army, like the Chitauri in Avengers), this “reason” goes away.

13) This is somewhat valid. Hulk doesn’t have a Kryptonite equivalent. But, there are other ways to out-think or otherwise counter him. Also, it might be cool to have him somewhat reduced in strength for at least part of a solo film, then come back to “normal” (or, maybe, “Hulk-average”?) at the end.

12) The so-called “prequel-itis” is indeed the curse of having such a tightly-linked cinematic universe, especially with guest-stars and crossovers. But, the “lack of true tension” brought up by Hollan is not insurmountable, especially if there are other beloved characters in danger that are more likely than our hero to be injured or killed.

11) Let’s just say that I would not be averse to a Hulk film with either the Joe Fixit persona or the “intellectual scientist” persona. Eventually. But not for the first (or second?) solo film, and (at this rate) probably not with Ruffalo.

10) Fair point, but it seems like a cop-out as an excuse for not having a solo film. Other characters’ films should stand on their own without guest stars.

9) I think there is a concern re the amount of time already “lost” for getting a Ruffalo-Hulk solo film out, but this ain’t it. Sure, Marvel is introducing many other great, popular characters on-screen, but that’s no reason to think that it’s too late for the Hulk, one of Marvel’s most popular and foundational characters, to share in the fun.

8) The reasons the romance with Black Widow didn’t work were a) afaik, there was no basis for it in the source material; b) there was no build-up in Age of Ultron or preceding movies; and, c) there was an abrupt end to it after that awkward scene at Clint’s house. In other words, it came out of nowhere, seemed an odd pairing from the get-go, and suddenly fizzled. This poorly executed attempt should not be taken to indicate that the tragic elements of Hulk’s story won’t work on-screen. They are integral to the character and just need to be handled more… deftly. (And I don’t mean there should be another romance.) Also, I like the comedy, but that should not be an emphasis for a Hulk solo movie.

7) I acknowledge that there would be difficulties trying to circle back to plot threads from the Norton film. Sort of a damned-if-you-do-and-damned-if-you-don’t situation, assuming the fans care as much as Hollan seems to think. But, destined to fail? Really?

Ruffalo-based Hulk

6) Completely agree. Well,… mostly.

5) “Marvel has to balance the new characters with their popular, established franchises. Unfortunately, Hulk falls into the middle.” Agreed. This does present a problem.

4) The contract issue could indeed be a major hurdle — again, assuming we’re focused on having Ruffalo be the star, which seems to be the way most people are thinking, given his popularity.

3) Funny, but disconnectedness from the rest of the Avengers-verse wasn’t the main complaint I heard/read re Thor: Dark World. Still, it is something to take into consideration. But, I think a good writer should be able to handle it.

2) Both previous Hulk solo outings did indeed involve being on the run and fighting the military, and it’s a shame that neither one did very well at the box office, which apparently tarnishes the idea of having that in another Hulk solo adventure. But, then, that really is a core part of the character’s saga. The comic Hulk spends most of his time trying to get away from “puny men”, and Banner tries to fly under the radar whenever possible. So, even if the military isn’t a major part of the story, his being a bit of a drifter would still make sense for a solo film.

1) Aaaaaand “political correctness” rears its ugly head…. Personally, I think most of the diversity-based complaints are stupid. But, there they are, and Marvel has to deal with them — hopefully in a way that is both empathetic and doesn’t surrender source-material background needlessly. (I also think 8′ tall green goliaths are in a clear minority on Earth, so there ya go!)

Besides, what’s wrong with straight white guys named “Chris”? I am one, after all! 🙂

With as much pushback as I’ve given, you might think I’d be in favor of a Hulk solo movie starring Ruffalo. You would, however, be mistaken. If they can squeeze one in by 2020, then fine. But, I think Marvel’s best bet is to finish up Ruffalo’s stint as Banner after the Infinity War sequel (currently scheduled for a May 2019 release), when Ruffalo will be in his early 50s. After a few years, bring in a new, 30-something actor and do a string of Hulk solo films with few (if any) Avengers cameos. In fact, I have a few ideas for who the new Banner could be and what these films might be about, which I will share… sometime… later.

Fan-Cast: James Bond, part 5: Felix Leiter

“Just what the hell are you trying to do, 007? Start World War III? ” — Felix Leiter (John Terry) in The Living Daylights

Last week I fan-cast “Q”, and I think I did a pretty good job. Now, let’s see if I can propose a few candidates to portray another of James Bond’s sometime-associates, Felix Leiter….

Felix Leiter

The 7 (Major) Leiters

Felix Leiter, as 007 fans know, is an American CIA (later DEA) agent who occasionally works with Bond on certain missions. They are written as friends and peers, though Bond, of course, always takes the lead, whether authorized to or not. Leiter’s role is often fairly small, typically assisting with technology, hardware, muscle, and/or money. After all, it’s the British agent who is the star.

The name originates from a combination of two of Ian Fleming’s friends: Ivar Felix C. Bryce and their mutual friend Thomas Leiter. The Leiter character has been portrayed on-screen by nine different actors, if you include the two versions from non-Eon productions (i.e, Bernie Casey in  Never Say Never Again (1983) and Michael Pate’s British agent, Clarence Leiter, in the first Casino Royale (1954)). But, those in the official Bond films were Jack Lord (1962), Cec Linder (1964), Rik Van Nutter (1965), Norman Burton (1971), David Hedison (1973 & 1989), John Terry (1987), and Jeffrey Wright (2006-2008).

Felix Leiter by George Almond

The Casino Royale novel introduces Leiter as a former U.S. Marine working with NATO’s Joint Intelligence Staff. He is tall, thin, and roughly 35 — so, about the same age as Bond. Also, “a mop of straw-coloured hair lent his face a boyish look which closer examination contradicted”. (Note: The sketch by George Almond appears to be of Leiter after he lost a hand and half a leg in a shark attack and joined the Pinkerton Detective Agency. The incident occurred in the Live and Let Die novel but was delayed until the License to Kill movie. We’ve never seen a post-amputation Leiter on-screen.) Most of the actors to play Leiter have been at least 6′ tall, but the ages have ranged a bit — especially Linder, who was nearly a decade older than Connery in Goldfinger, and Hedison, who was 19 years older than Dalton in License to Kill — as have builds and ethnicities. The better portrayals are described by experts as “swaggering” (Lord), “relaxed and charming” (Van Nutter), and Hedison lent the role an “understated charm” and “genuine chemistry” with Bond.

Given the variety of looks for Leiter in the past, along with the fact that many of the particulars really are inconsequential for this supporting character, I decided not to try to adhere to Fleming’s description of a tall, thin, boyish-looking blonde. However, I did opt to keep him roughly the same age as Bond (i.e., mid-30s to 40ish). I like Ben Foster (5’9″,b.1980) for it, and I think he may be the only actual blonde that I looked at for the role. He’s the right age and general build, but ultimately I decided he was a tad too short and didn’t have quite the right look. Jai Courtney (6’1″,b.1986) has the acting and action chops, but I decided he was a little too young. Similarly, Corey Hawkins (6’3″,b.1988) might have been an interesting choice, plus he’s tall and thin, but he is even younger than Courtney. So, he’s out, too.

My choices?

Gordon-Levitt

Joseph Gordon-Levitt (5’9.25″,b.1981) is my youngest candidate, and he still has a fairly boyish look to him, which certainly works in his favor. On the other hand, he is barely taller than Foster. Still, I think he could do a bang-up job as Leiter. His genre credits include “3rd Rock from the Sun”, “The Outer Limits”, Mysterious Skin, The Lookout, Stop-Loss, Killshot, G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, Inception, The Dark Knight Rises, Looper, Sin City: A Dame to Kill For. I don’t think playing Bond’s CIA counterpart would be too tough for him. Not at all.

Prinze

My oldest candidate, and what some might consider a surprise pick, is Freddie Prinze, Jr. (6′,b.1976). Prinze’s genre roles were in things like I Know What You Did Last Summer, Wing Commander, Scooby-Doo, No Heroics, “24”, “Bones”, et al. He has also done a lot of voice work over the years, including Delgo, a couple “Mass Effect” games, a couple “Dragon Age” games, “Star Wars: Rebels”, and “Robot Chicken”. He’d probably need to dye his graying hair, but playing Leiter in a Bond film or three might be a great way to get the talented Prinze back into movies.

 

Bomer

Possibly my favorite (at least, at the moment) is Matt Bomer (5’11.5″,b.1977). He even played a superspy in a few episodes of “Chuck”. Other genre credits include “Tru Calling”, Flightplan, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning, “Traveler”, “White Collar”, In Time, Space Station 76, “American Horror Story”, and The Magnificent Seven remake. He might need to give the role a harder edge than others he has done, but Bomer has the looks, build, and talent to make a great Bond-ish secret agent. Felix Leiter could be right up his alley.

The best choice of the three would probably depend on who is cast as Bond and the potential similarities, differences, and acting chemistry between them.

That’s it for 007 and associates. Maybe someday I’ll try fan-casting some old Bond villains….

* All ideas copyright Christopher Harris, 2013-2017.

Fan-Cast: James Bond, part 4: Q

“Need I remind you, 007, that you have a license to kill, not to break the traffic laws.” — Q (Desmond Llewelyn)

In light of the latest 007 news, it seems appropriate that I continue my efforts from a few weeks ago of fan-casting James Bond’s closest associates. (Of course, I already had this planned and nearly finished before the news broke.) My latest is for the beloved ‘Q’….

Q

The Four (Major) Qs

As you all know, I’m sure, ‘Q’ (short for “Quartermaster”) is the brilliant and innovative engineer who provides Bond (and other agents) with tricked-out sports cars and various weapons and other devices intended to help keep Bond alive and accomplish his missions. In fact, ‘Q’ is the head of Q Branch/Division, MI6’s fictional R&D labs. As per Wikipedia, “Charles Fraser-Smith is widely credited as the inspiration for Q due to the spy gadgets he built for the Special Operations Executive. These were called Q-devices, after the Royal Navy’s World War I Q-ships….”

The character has been portrayed by six men altogether, though only the four pictured here were in official Bond films by Eon Productions: Peter Burton (1962), Desmond Llewelyn (1963-1999), John Cleese (2002), Ben Whishaw (2012-present). Burton played the armourer “Major Boothroyd” in Dr. No, a character Ian Fleming named after Geoffrey Boothroyd, a firearms expert in Glasgow, Scotland, who had given him some suggestions for improving Bond’s firearms. Boothroyd returned in From Russia with Love, this time played by Llewelyn. But, from Goldfinger (1964) forward, the character was referred to as ‘Q’. Llewelyn died in late 1999 and Q’s assistant, ‘R’ (Cleese), got a promotion in Die Another Day (2002). Alas, ‘Q’ was recast along with everyone else for the Craig-era films.

Llewelyn and Brosnan

I am not aware of any physical description given for Boothroyd/’Q’ by Fleming in the original novels, though there may be. However, the point is fairly moot, since (like ‘M’) the title has been held by more than one individual over the years. Most of them have been relatively slender and at least 6′ tall. Whishaw is only 5’9″, though, and also seems to be the only one under 40. The older, “consummate professional” versions of ‘Q’ are typically of mixed feelings toward Bond, recognizing the agent’s successful track record, yet often annoyed by his short attention span and a “playful lack of respect for his equipment”. There is usually a bit of verbal sparring between the two, though usually limited to lighthearted teasing, nothing heated. Despite this, the respect is mutual. The dynamic is somewhat different with the now-younger and less experienced ‘Q’, but Bond recognizes and appreciates the younger man’s skills.

My preference would be to cast someone in their 40s to 60s, though I’m flexible on height and general build. In addition to my final three, there were only two actors that I seriously considered for the role before ruling them out, and they happen to be my oldest and youngest candidates, respectively. Brendan Gleeson (6’2″,b.1955) has, of course, been in many things over the past three decades, including genre productions like Braveheart, Turbulence, Mission: Impossible II, Edge of Tomorrow, and three Harry Potter films. James Corden (5’8″,b.1978), on the other hand, has been acting (e.g., “Jack and the Beanstalk: The Real Story”, Pierrepoint: The Last Hangman, Gulliver’s Travels, “Doctor Who”) for about 20 years but is most known these days as the popular, silly host of “The Late Late Show with James Corden” here in the States. Though they didn’t survive my “Top 3” cut, I still think either Gleeson or Corden could do a wonderful job — Gleeson in particular playing Q as uptight and humorless, whereas Corden would be best playing it rather more eccentric, perhaps even goofy.

I’m going to throw a couple Americans out for your consideration first. I think you’ll see, though, how these “out of the box” choices might be surprisingly good candidates for ‘Q’. The last (and oldest) might be a more traditional choice….

Masi Oka

A certified genius, Masayori “Masi” Oka (5’6″,b.1974) graduated from Brown University with degrees in math and computer science and a minor in theater arts. He appeared in various small roles in TV and film, while working as a CGI artist for Industrial Light & Magic. He became a genre star with his breakout role as Hiro Nakamura in “Heroes” (and later “Heroes Reborn”). Since then, he has become a semi-regular as Dr. Max Bergman on “Hawaii Five-O” (see pic). His quirky performance and straightforward, somewhat wordy explanations of his findings (to the mild annoyance of the other characters) would, I think, work quite well as a version of ‘Q’, too. If he can’t do a passable British accent, they could have fun with his being a “Yank”.

Neil Patrick Harris

Neil Patrick Harris (6′,b.1973) came to prominence as a child actor playing “Doogie Howser, M.D.”. He also did voice work (e.g., “Capitol Critters”) and appeared in genre shows like “Quantum Leap” and “The Outer Limits”. Later genre work includes Starship Troopers, “Joan of Arc”, “Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog” (see pic), and lots more voice work (e.g., “Justice League”, “Spider-Man”). Since his sitcom, “How I Met Your Mother”, ended, he has appeared in Gone Girl, “American Horror Story”, and stars in the new “A Series of Unfortunate Events”. Harris is multi-talented, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he could pull off a good British accent. He could play ‘Q’ as a by-the-book, humorless/sarcastic straight man (pun intended), OR he could play him as a rather fun and eccentric character. Either way, he’d make a great Quartermaster.

Kenneth Branagh

I think the first thing I remember taking note of Kenneth Branagh (5’9.5″,b.1960) in was Dead Again, though I don’t much remember the movie. I was, of course, aware of his work in Henry V, and he went on to do other Shakespearean works, as well. I next saw him in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein with Robert De Niro. Other genre work includes Wild Wild West, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Valkyrie, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, “Wallander”, and the recent Dunkirk. Branagh is another top-notch talent — heck, he could direct the film, too — who could do a terrific job as a semi-comedic foil / ally for Agent 007. He is also old enough to be a quasi-mentor or fatherly figure for our 30-something Bond.

I can’t decide which one I like best. You?

* All ideas copyright Christopher Harris, 2013-2017.

DUST, Code 8, and Miami Vice

Are any of you familiar with DUST? I discovered it the other day, when I came across this short video, based on a Dark Horse comic.

“Number 13”

According to its YouTube channel (which I have now subscribed to),

“DUST is the first multi-platform destination for binge watchable sci-fi. We feature science fiction short films and other content from emerging filmmakers with stunning visual effects, captivating plots and complex character explorations. Robots, aliens, space exploration, technology, and human experience are all a part of DUST.”

Sounds pretty cool! In fact, I’ve watched four more and they were all quite interesting and well done. Some very creative and talented filmmakers out there! I just hope I have time to watch more in the future. There’s a website, and you can subscribe to the newsletter and watch the videos from there, if you don’t want to subscribe to the YouTube channel.

I came across another short film, this one by cousins Robbie and Stephen Amell, who I am sure you are familiar with from “Arrow”, “Flash”, and other genre productions. This is a project they put together with a couple friends and got crowdfunded. The setting is “a world where 4% of the population are born with some type of supernatural ability. Instead of being billionaire superheroes, most ‘specials’ live in poverty and resort to crime, forcing the police to become more militarized.”

Follow this link to the short…

Via an Indiegogo campaign, they were able to fund a full-length movie which began production on June 1st, 2017. The movie’s plot involves “Conner Reed (Robbie Amell) [as] a powerful young man who is struggling to pay for his ailing mother’s medical treatment. To earn money, he joins a lucrative criminal world [through] Garrett (Stephen Amell), who works for a drug lord (Greg Bryk).”

They promise “robots, superpowers, and a ton of badass action.” You can find out more about it at code8.com. Current estimated release date won’t be until 2018, possibly that December.

In other news,… it looks like “Miami Vice” may get another reboot, this time on TV. Vin Diesel’s One Race Television production company (working under a deal with Universal TV) has teamed with Chris Morgan Productions to develop the new series for NBC. (Morgan wrote six of the “Fast & Furious” films.) As per Variety,

“Peter Macmanus will write the script, based on the original series. While executive producers haven’t been set, it’s more than likely Macmanus, Morgan, and Diesel will all serve as EPs, along with more staffers from One Race TV and Chris Morgan Prods….”

There have been many reboots in recent years, some good (e.g., “Hawaii Five-O” and “MacGyver” series) and some disappointing (e.g., Miami Vice and The Dukes of Hazard films). And more are on the way (e.g., “S.W.A.T.”). I have mixed feelings about the studios mining so much old material, especially when they rarely retain the quality or charm of the originals. And then they cancel good, new stuff (e.g., “Almost Human”, “A.P.B.”)!

The original “Crockett & Tubbs”

As for this particular effort, I’m not sure we know enough to hazard a guess at what it might be like. On the one hand, having action veterans Diesel and Morgan at the helm is a good sign. On the other hand, the original “Miami Vice” was an iconic, groundbreaking show, with an amazing cast and tone that will be quite difficult to match. I mean, realistically, how can you ever find another Crockett & Tubbs with the chemistry and easy coolness of Don Johnson and Philip Michael Thomas, or equal the quiet steeliness of ‘Lt. Castillo’ as portrayed by Edward James Olmos? Plus, much of the original’s identity is wrapped up in the music, fashion, and zeitgeist of the ’80s, such that I wonder if they’ll need to set the new series in the ’80s, too, just to give it a fighting chance.

At this point, I guess I’ll just say that I am curious and hopeful that they can at least put forth a decent product, even if they can’t quite capture the feel of the original.

P.S.  Here’s a fun article — especially for those of us old enough to remember watching the show — re some “Miami Vice” guest stars: “20 Huge Stars You Didn’t Know Were On Miami Vice”.

P.P.S.  There is a connection between the latter two items, btw. Sung Kang, who you will remember from a few of Diesel’s F&F movies, appears in Code 8.

Transhuman Immortal

[Note: The following was originally published as “Lead, Follow, or Get Out of the Way” on my ‘A View from the Right’ blog, but the source and subject matter fall under “science-fiction” (for now). So, I thought you all might appreciate it, as well.]

This blogpost is probably not about what you think it’s about.

Based on the title — a phrase variously attributed to Thomas Paine, George S. Patton, Laurence J. Peter, and “Anonymous” –, one would most likely think it is about leadership in general, or maybe with a business/entrepreneurship or military emphasis. It’s not. The title is from a chapter in the science-fiction novel Transhuman by Ben Bova, and the subject is about the human lifespan and the potential impact of medical/genetic technology that would greatly increase our longevity. In context, then, the title refers to the scientific and political/economic aspects to such a development, but also the societal changes overall. (I guess there is a business aspect, too, come to think of it.)

Many people like to dream about how great it would be if they lived a couple hundred years or more instead of mere decades — preferably in good health, of course. But, we don’t often think through what the effects on modern society might be. It’s an intriguing topic, and I thought that Bova (via his characters) hit on some interesting points. Not every area that would be affected, of course, but some. I considered trying to summarize it all, but it works much better as played out between the characters. So, I decided to cite (with minor edits) some of the conversation from the book. Hope you find it interesting….


SPOILER! SPOILER! SPOILER! SPOILER! SPOILER!

“Do you realize what you’ve done?” Rossov snarled…. Shaking his head, Rossov said, “I don’t think you understand what you’ve let loose. Curing cancer. All sorts of people living past a hundred. It’s a disaster.”

“It’s a revolution,” said Luke. “What the hell are you so spooled up about? This is the best news the human race has had since… since Watson and Crick unraveled DNA.”

Rossov moaned. “Death rate going down. Lifetimes doubling. That’s a disaster, Abramson! A f_____ disaster!”

Genuinely puzzled, Luke asked, “What the hell are you talking about?”

“You’ve ruined Social Security. We’re already going broke with Medicare. And the whole insurance industry, too. You’ve wrecked the American economy.”

“Bull____.”

Jabbing a finger at Luke, Rossov insisted, “The economy can’t survive having a nation full of centenarians! It’ll break the bank.”

Luke felt growing anger simmering inside him. These chowderheads don’t understand, he realized. They don’t understand anything at all.

He rose slowly to his feet. “You just don’t get it, do you? You can’t stop this. You can’t put a cork in scientific knowledge. What I’ve done is just the tip of the iceberg. We have the knowledge, the power, to transform the human race.”

“And ruin the country.”

Change the country. Change the world.” Luke started to pace across the office, but his ankle flared and he sank back onto his chair. Still, he continued. “We’re going to be able to extend human life spans indefinitely, sooner or later. Prevent genetic diseases like cancer, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s. Stem cell therapies will repair failing hearts, rebuild nerves and any other tissue that’s been damaged, regrow limbs that have been lost –“

“By killing fetuses,” Rossov growled.

Luke waved the thought away. “We don’t need fetal stem cells. We can take stem cells from your own body. Or regress skin cells to become stem cells.”

“I’ve read reports on that,” said Colonel Dennis.

Turning in his chair to face Rossov squarely, Luke said, “You think we’re going to have a country full of pathetic, creaking old geezers. Well, that’s wrong. Look at me! I’ll be seventy-five in a couple of months, but somatically — physically — I’m like a forty-year-old. And I’m going to stay this way for a long time.”

“That’s the f_____ problem,” Rossov muttered. “Millions of people living to a hundred and more….”

“It’s not a problem,” Luke countered. “We’re entering a new era…. What I’m telling you is that people will be healthy and vigorous all their lives. So they live to be a hundred and fifty, two hundred, so what? They won’t need Social Security or Medicare. They’ll be working, going back to school, starting new careers for themselves.”

Fisk’s eyes narrowed. “They’ll continue to be consumers.”

“Damned right,” said Luke. “They’ll continue to buy cars, homes, take vacation, overseas trips–“

“Have babies,” said the colonel.

“You just don’t understand,” Rossov repeated. “You think your transhumans are going to give up their Social Security benefits, their Medicare, their pensions just because they’re feeling spry and healthy? In your dreams! This is going to destroy the economy.”

“No,” Luke replied. “It’s going to change the economy. And you politicians are going to have to make some real changes to Social Security and Medicare and the rest.”

“Change them? That’s impossible. Political suicide.”

“Then we’re going to have to find political leaders who can make it possible.”

Rossov glared at him.

“Besides,” Luke went on, “this isn’t going to happen all at once. We’ve still got a lot of work to do. You won’t start to see any major effects for another five, ten years.” …

Luke pointed out, “I’m not the only one working in this area. Sure, I’m ahead of all the others, but sooner or later some bright researcher would hit on the same idea. You can’t control everybody. You can’t stop people from thinking, learning.”

Rossov muttered, “And you can’t drop a bombshell like this without dislocating the economy. We’re having a tough enough time keeping Social Security and Medicare properly funded. Now…” He sank his head into his hands.

“Now,” Luke took up, “you’re going to have to get those egomaniacs in Washington to do the jobs they were elected to do. You’ve got at least five years to do it, maybe ten. Instead of trying to stop this transformation, get to work and prepare for it.”

“You’ve never tried to work with the Congress,” Rossov moaned. “You’ve never tried to move the bureaucracy.”

Luke snapped, “Then get out of the way, buster, because the change is coming, whether you like it or not.” …

Rossov looked dubious, but Fisk went on grandly. “Transhumans. It’s exciting. People staying young, vigorous past a hundred. Active.” [To Luke, he said,] “You’re still under contract to me, you know.” … Fisk’s tentative smile widened into a happy grin.

“So you peddle your fountain of youth to the masses,” Rossov growled.

“That’s right,” said Fisk. “And you start getting the government ready for the changes that are coming.” …

“What choice do I have?” Rossov said bleakly.

“No choice at all,” said Luke. “The change is coming. Either you take credit for it and try to lead the country or you’ll get rolled under by it.”

“It’s impossible,” Rossov muttered. “You have no idea how impossible it is.”

Luke shook his head at him. “Listen, pal, you either lead, follow, or get out of the way.”

Rossov isn’t exactly the most sympathetic character in the novel, but I had to chuckle sympathetically at his frustration in this scene. Not only does he need to come around to a new way of thinking, but as the White House’s representative, he needs to get the President on board and then will likely be tasked with getting entrenched politicians, lobbyists, and Washington bureaucrats to wake up to the new reality, too. Poor guy!

This excerpt only briefly touched on matters such as ethics and responsible science. (For example, just because a thing can be done does not mean is should be done.) The book examines some of these questions a bit more but also raises others. There are also the very practical matters of how to implement the life-sustaining treatments going forward, especially since there will be limited supplies, great expense, a variety of reactions by the populace, etc. Quite a complicated mess, both ethically and practically, if you ask me. And figuring out the answers is “way above my pay grade”, though I might return to the topic at some point.

Meantime, give the book a try, whydontcha? It’s a pretty good read — or, listen on audiobook (as I did).

Fan-Casting the Original Predator Movie for Today, part 2

Continuing from last week, let’s finish casting the original Predator movie as if it were being produced today….

“Hawkins”

Bracey

Courtney

Radio operator Rick Hawkins is roughly 6′, give or take, and in good shape but not nearly as brawny as most of the other guys. Shane Black played him as somewhat of a foul-mouthed, comic-reading dork. (But, not *too* dorky.) He held his own for awhile and took out a few guerrillas before being taken out himself by the Predator. Black was in his mid-20s, but there’s no reason we can’t cast someone a few years older. There are probably plenty of actors who would have fun with this role, but for some reason I came up with Jai Courtney (6’1″,b.1986) or Luke Bracey (6′,b.1989). I can definitely see either one of them hamming it up as an annoying, yet very capable, goober.

“Poncho”

Isaac

Bernal

The terrific Richard Chaves played explosives expert Jorge “Poncho” Ramírez in the original Predator. As with Hawkins, he wasn’t nearly as big and muscular as some of the other guys. He had more of a slim and wiry frame and clocked in at 5’10”. With this in mind, I wanted another, non-beefy Latino — under 6′ tall and in his mid- to late-30s — for our “Poncho”. Two talented actors came to mind: Gael García Bernal (5’7″,b.1978) and Oscar Isaac (5’8.5″,b.1979). Bernal can be seen in things like Babel and Salt and Fire, while Isaac is known to genre fans for Star Wars: The Force Awakens and X-Men: Apocalypse. I’d feel comfortable putting “Poncho” in either one’s very capable hands.

“Billy”

Segers

One of the fan-favorite characters from Predator has got to be the Native American tracker, Billy Sole, as portrayed by Sonny Landham. ‘Billy’ was the strong, silent type, who when he did speak revealed a rich bass voice. He knew how to take care of himself, live off the land, etc. All he really needed was a big, sharp knife, and he was good to go. So, when this guy got spooked, you knew you were in trouble! Naturally, we need another tall, beefy Native American, preferably around 40 or so, who can give that similar vibe. No one came to mind, but my research turned up the perfect candidate in Geno Segers (6’3or4″,b.1976). You may have seen Segers in “Banshee” or Bone Tomahawk and noticed that he has the right build and the bass voice, too. I think he’s perfect for the role.

“Anna”

Sellers

Telles

Anna Gonsalves is, of course, the 20-something woman that Dutch’s team rescues & protects, as originally played by Elpidia Carrillo. Keeping Carrillo as the model, we need a cute Latina of slender build. At first, I thought of Alice Braga for the part, though she’s perhaps a little older than I’d prefer. Then I remembered that she already played Isabelle in Predators (2010). (Of course, by casting the original film now, I guess that would put Predators in an alternate timeline.) So, I came up with either Julia Goldani Telles (5’7″,b.1995) (“Nurse Jackie”, “The Affair”) or Rosabell Laurenti Sellers (5’2″,b.1996) (“Mia and me”, “Game of Thrones”), who is actually of Italian descent. Either one works for me.

“The Predator”

DeSantis

The title character is a very imposing creature, quite tall and muscular, with a fearsome visage and arthropod-like external mandibles. (Appearances have changed somewhat from movie to movie, of course.) How tall? Well, certainly the average is taller than the average human. But, the actors portraying Predators on-screen have ranged from 6’2″ (Tom Woodruff Jr. as “Grid” in AVP: Alien vs. Predator) to 7’2.5″ (the late Kevin Peter Hall in Predator and Predator 2). Ian Whyte (7’1″) has played multiple different Predators, even in the same film. The rest were either 6’5″ or 6’7″. They’ve all done great jobs, but I thought it might be nice to get someone totally different in the prosthetics this time.

Singh staring down John Cena

Bjornsson

My first suggestion is John DeSantis (6’9″,b.1977), known for such fare as “A Series of Unfortunate Events”, “Falling Skies”, “Supernatural”, Seventh Son, and many more. He looked quite barrel-chested in “Supernatural” (see pic), but not so much in others. Regardless, he has played many “creatures” over the years, so he should be used to prosthetics and heavy make-up. Next up is Icelandic strongman Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson (6’9″,b.1988), whom we have seen in “Game of Thrones” as Gregor “The Mountain” Clegane. (Although, Ian Whyte had that role before him.) He is a beast and would probably be the most muscular of all to play a Predator. I think he’d make a great foe for Johnson’s “Dutch”. Finally, upping the size factor another notch, I’d like to see the one-and-only Dalip “The Great Khali” Singh (7’1″,b.1972) suit up. Known for his massive upper body and prognathic jaw, this former powerlifter/bodybuilder and wrestler would make an incredibly formidable, alien antagonist for our commando team. (Especially “Dutch”, who has to go hand-to-hand against him!) He’s the oldest of the three, but roughly the same age as Johnson. So, as long as he’s still in shape…. I can’t decide which one I like best!

There ya are, folks! My casting picks for a present-day version of the original Predator! Can you imagine seeing a heavily-armed “Rock”, White, Oparei, Austin, Bracey, Isaac, Segers, and Sellers go up against a technologically-superior hunter the likes of Björnsson or Singh? Here, take my money!

Fan-Casting the Original Predator Movie for Today, part 1

Original *Predator* cast (well, most of them)

I love(d) Predator (1987).

Not only is it one of Ahnold’s best movies (imho), but the John McTiernan-directed flick is a great sci-fi/action thriller, too. You probably knew that there was a new sequel coming out next year, right? The Predator is being co-written and directed by Shane Black, who played the character of ‘Hawkins’ in the original. But, did you also realize that Predator celebrated its 30th anniversary just a couple weeks ago (June 12)?!

In honor of the occasion (though slightly belated), I’d like to offer my suggestions for casting the original — same characters, same plot — as if it were being made today. Of course, it would be extremely difficult to match, let alone surpass, the original cast. They were perfect and just worked so darn well together! But, I think I came up with a really good lineup. You be the judge…

“Dutch”

The star and leader of the ill-fated team of commandos is Major Alan “Dutch” Schaefer. I think we need an actor who is just as big as Arnold Schwarzenegger was — in physical size, fame, and charisma. I considered a couple others (e.g., John Cena), but the obvious choice here seems to be Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson (6’4or5″,b.1972). OK, so he doesn’t look like a “Dutch”, but that can be explained in any number of ways (e.g., mixed heritage, adoption, inside joke) and, frankly, wouldn’t even need to be addressed in the movie. We know he’s got the presence and the talent to play a tough, cigar-chompin’, take-charge military leader, as well as the muscles to give a big ol’ Predator a run for its money.

“Dillon”

Next in line is Dutch’s old comrade-in-arms, Dillon. Originally played by Carl Weathers, he needs to be a large black man, almost as muscular as Dutch and roughly the same age. My pick is Michael Jai White (6’1″,b.1967). He’s an avid martial artist and already quite muscular, though he might want to bulk up a little more for this. In the original movie Schwarzenegger and Weathers were both in their late-30s, but for this one Johnson would be in his mid-40s and White is almost 50, if you can believe it! (Looks younger, though, and still kicks @$$.) White mostly does B-movies and voice work, but he has also been in “Arrow” and “Mortal Kombat: Legacy”. He’d make a formidable CIA liaison and former U.S. Army Colonel George Dillon.

“Mac”

For this character, we need another big black dude, even taller than Dutch or Dillon, and preferably in his 40s (though early 50s might do). As played by the wonderful actor/director Bill Duke, medic Mac Elliot was an intense guy who didn’t say much. I could’ve gone a few different ways with this character, but ultimately I liked British actor Deobia Oparei (6’6″,b.1971) the best. He had a supporting role as Doran Martell’s bodyguard in “Game of Thrones” and as an African warlord in Independence Day: Resurgence; he was also in Doom with Johnson (see pic). He’s tall, beefy, and intimidating. Perfect.

 

“Blain”

Austin

When wrestler Jesse Ventura played Blain “Ain’t got time to bleed.” Cooper, he was only in his mid-30s. I’ve opted to go a bit older for my version, but it shouldn’t make much difference. My three candidates — yeah, I can’t decide — are also big, tough wrestlers. At least two of them have wielded large-caliber ordnance for roles before, too. They are Steve Austin (6’0.75″,b.1964), Bill Goldberg (6’3.5″,b.1966), and Paul “Triple H” Levesque (6’4″,b.1969). I think any of them ought to be able to handle the role of the bubble-gum chewing, hard-rocking gunner.

 

Goldberg

Levesque

OK, I need to cut this one a little bit short, since I’m traveling over the next few days. I’ll finish up next week, including finding someone new to play the title character….

Black Panther Will NOT Be the First Black Superhero Movie

I don’t know about you, but I was quite impressed with the Black Panther in Captain America: Civil War. The trailer for his solo movie looks good, too, so I’m looking forward to it. But, apparently, some are touting this as the first black superhero film, and that’s simply not true. (How quickly they forget!) Someone in a Facebook group I belong to (“Geeks Under Grace Community”) brought this up this past weekend, and a few of us had fun coming up with movies from the past three decades where the lead character was a black superhero. Here’s what we came up with (in chronological order):

ABAR: Black Superman (1977) — OK, no one in our group came up with this one. I’d never heard of it, either, until I did a little extra research for this post. As part of the blaxploitation trend of the times (see Honorable Mentions below), this flick was about “the brothers” fighting against injustice at the hands of racist Whites and crooked politicians. “Upon moving into a bigoted neighborhood, the scientist father of a persecuted black family gives a superpower elixir to a tough bodyguard [played by Tobar Mayo], who thus becomes a superpowered crimefighter.” According to one IMDB reviewer, “The movie is actually racist in that it makes every single white person racist against blacks.” Also, “[Abar’s] powers consist of making a constant ‘swoosh’ noise every time he does something seemingly supernatural, and these things are downright hilarious. [For example, he] sees teenagers getting high and wasting time, so he turns them into college graduates (complete with the outfit!).” Despite all this and some atrocious acting, it’s one of those so-bad-it’s-fun movies (watched in context of the times, of course).

The Meteor Man (1993) — Robert Townsend starred as ‘Jefferson Reed’, a “high school teacher from a troubled inner city Washington D.C. neighborhood [who] becomes a super-powered hero and takes on the gang that has been terrorizing his streets.” Sounds somewhat like “The Greatest American Hero” TV series from the early-’80s. Anyway, this action-comedy wasn’t exactly a big hit critically or otherwise, and it lost money, but I think it does have its fans. (I confess, I never saw it.) Lots of familiar faces in this one, including Eddie Griffin, Marla Gibbs, Robert Guillaume, James Earl Jones, Don Cheadle, Bill Cosby, and Sinbad.

Blankman (1994) — This one sounds even sillier, which is probably why I didn’t watch it, either. As per the synopsis on IMDB, “Darryl is a childlike man with a genius for inventing various gadgets out of junk. When he stumbles on a method to make his clothes bulletproof, he decides to use his skills to be the lowest budgeted superhero of all.” One reviewer said, “How could you not enjoy this movie? It was actually enjoyable to watch Damon Wayans’ character make all these far-out gadgets… some of which look totally outlandish, but actually make sense! Sure, the comedy may be a little too goofy for some, but in the end, it helps.” So, maybe I will check it out… when I’m in a goofy mood.

Spawn (1997) — I liked it! It wasn’t great, mind you. But, as I recall, at least it was fairly faithful to the Image Comics series by Todd McFarlane. (It has been a long time since I’ve seen it, though.) The cast was pretty good — Michael Jai White, John Leguizamo, Martin Sheen, D.B. Sweeney — and the F/X weren’t bad for that era. (Hopefully, they’ll be even better for the upcoming remake.) Its IMDB rating may not be much better than Meteor Man‘s, but it did OK at the box office. It was also the first serious superhero film with a black lead. (Yes, I know Abar was meant to be “serious”, but it was a low-budget, ’70s cheese-fest.)

Steel (1997) — Premiering two weeks after Spawn was this travesty. Starring Shaquille O’Neal, about the only thing this movie retained from the comics was that the main character is a large black man, an engineer, who builds himself a suit of armor to fight bad guys in. Otherwise, it had no connection to Superman and the rest of the DC Universe. As one reviewer put it, “This film is so bad it reaches a certain quality of lousiness only reserved for the very worst of bad ideas. I mean – Shaquille O’Niell (sic) in a steel suit with a super weapon made from the contents of a lost-and-found at the scrap yard? Please!” Not even the talents of Annabeth Gish, Judd Nelson, or Richard Roundtree (the original Shaft!) could save it.

Blade (1998) — NOW we’re talkin’… The tale of the half-vampire/half-mortal slicing and dicing evil vampires in defense of the human race, while fighting his own (un)natural urges, was the real deal. As one fan put it, “[F]inally my prayers have been answered with Blade. This movie pops right out of the pages onto the screen with sheer violence, blood, martial arts, weapons, fire, the good against evil, etc. Yeah sure a lot of action flicks contain all these goodies, and most of them have bombed. But not Blade, the movie was filmed just right, not going overboard, delivering a good length and never a dull moment.” Wesley Snipes’ bad@$$ery was exactly what was called for, and his co-stars were great, too! As usually happens, the sequels (Blade II (2002), Blade: Trinity (2004) weren’t quite as good, though Blade II performed even better than Blade at the box office. I really need to watch this trilogy again….

Catwoman (2004) — “A shy woman, endowed with the speed, reflexes, and senses of a cat, walks a thin line between criminal and hero, even as a detective doggedly pursues her, fascinated by both of her personas.” This film was another incredibly disappointing adaptation of a comic book character… sort of. I mean, yes, there’s the feline-themed criminal/heroine who attracts the particular interest of a detective. Beyond that, she was virtually unrecognizable as the DC Comics character she was supposed to be. Also, as one IMDB reviewer said, “It was poorly acted, predictable, unenthralling, clichéd nonsense. And that was just the first half hour, at which point, for the sake of my brain and stopping it melting with the sheer tedium, I walked out of the cinema…. Utterly abysmal”

Hancock (2008) — This is actually one of my favorite Will Smith films. If you’re unfamiliar, ‘Hancock’ is a powerful superhero “who has become a joke because of his alcoholism and clumsiness. He has also become the most hated man in Los Angeles. Though he has saved many lives, he also destroyed a lot of property, costing the city millions every time he goes into action. When he saves the life of PR expert Ray Embrey from an oncoming train, the executive is thankful and believes he can restore Hancock’s image as a true superhero….” I would modify that to say it was his being a super-jerk (which was connected to the alcoholism) and recklessness (not clumsiness) that made him so hated. This one was a lot of fun! In fact, I just re-watched two trailers for it, and now I’m in the mood to watch it again. (Adding it to my list…)

Honorable Mentions:

The Last Dragon (1985) — The ’70s & ’80s had several movies with black (anti-)hero protagonists. I think it was a subset of the “blaxploitation” (sub)genre. There were private detectives (e.g., Shaft), drug-dealers trying to leave “the life” (e.g., Super Fly), vengeance-seeking former Green Berets (e.g., Slaughter), martial artists (e.g., The Last Dragon, Black Samurai), even a vigilante nurse (e.g., Coffy). But, they weren’t exactly superheroes, so they don’t really qualify here.

Black Cougar (2002) — I never saw this one, which apparently went straight to video. It sounds a bit cheesy to me, but if you’re in the mood….

So, as you can see, 2018’s Black Panther will *not* be the first black superhero film, nor the first one by Marvel (since ‘Blade’ is a Marvel property). It won’t even be the first good superhero film with a black lead. I can’t help but notice, though, that the three best films above (i.e., Spawn, Blade, & Hancock) were about violent anti-heroes with bad attitudes. (Well, at least part of the time.) Is that a commentary on the movie-going public, or about the studios? Or, was it simply that those are characters that writers enjoy writing and actors enjoy acting? Or, maybe it’s just coincidence? Maybe a little of all of that? I dunno…

I’m really glad that Black Panther will get the full Marvel treatment, headlining his own dramatic, big-budget, action-adventure (and non-comedic) movie. Even better is that it will take place in Wakanda, the mysterious African nation that Black Panther (aka King, formerly Prince, T’Challa) now rules. It will be a great opportunity to not only see a much different region of the Earth of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but it will allow audiences to experience the very different cultural environment (including warring tribal factions) from which this particular hero comes.

Hope you enjoyed this little historical review. Did we miss any? Let me know if you come up with another….