How to Improve Spider-Man 3 (2007)

“I like being bad. It makes me happy.” — Eddie Brock / Venom

Remember last November when I posted some ideas from a Facebook acquaintance, Martin Glynn, about how to improve the 2011 Green Lantern movie? Well, a couple years later he came up with a few ideas for revamping Spider-Man 3, too.

Now, in my opinion, SM3 had some pluses. It had a lot of familiar names in the cast, which made it fun from that standpoint. The best casting coups were J.K. Simmons as ‘J. Jonah Jameson’ and Rosemary Harris as ‘Aunt May Parker’. But, the writers/producers tried to put too much, too many villains (Venom, Sandman, Goblin) in all at once; and, we got the emo-Peter-with-attitude, which was just silly. Much as I like Topher Grace, Thomas Haden Church, and James Franco, they just didn’t fit their characters. (Seriously, Brock/Venom and Marko/Sandman need to be much bigger dudes, for one thing.) Then there were the Peter/MJ issues.

Like I said, they tried to cram too much in. Martin agrees, saying there was “way too much, leaving the movie horribly cluttered and unfocused. But what’s worse is that we didn’t get the story that we really wanted, a solid conclusion for the relationship arc between Peter and Harry. The most important part of the movie for us seemed to be the least important for the writers and director.”

Martin would salvage some of the earliest parts of the movie, showing Peter trying unsuccessfully to talk with Harry, as well as revealing the arrival of the Venom symbiote. He would have Peter proposing to MJ, which she accepts, but then our hero has to run off to investigate a building fire.

“When he arrives, he discovers that it was an abandoned building, and Harry is there waiting for him. They fight, in a similar way in the movie (that scene was actually pretty good), but the fight ends with Harry being victorious, and Peter having to escape through the sewers. It is in the sewers that the symbiote attaches to him.

He returns home, tired, with the symbiote covering him as he sleeps. When he awakes, he has the black suit (which should be smoother IMO). He eventually shows it to MJ, but instead of being impressed by it, she is concerned. So Peter promises to take it to Dr. Connors, and he does so. Connors promises to look into it, and tells Peter [to] stay away from it until he gets a chance. Peter agrees…

And then immediately after we get a montage of him using it to fight crime; and having a lot of fun doing it too. This then leads to Peter bringing in pictures of the new suit to JJ. He has a conniption over it. This leads to the introduction of Eddy Brock, and the reward that JJ offers for evidence of Spiderman breaking the law.

Peter comes home to MJ, and they have a talk about the black suit, and MJ’s career, and simply enjoy each others’ company. Eventually [the subject of] Harry comes up, and MJ suggests that maybe she’ll be able to talk to him. Peter thinks this is a bad idea, and they go to bed. In the morning, MJ gets up, and leaves a note telling Peter that she is off to talk [to] Harry. Harry sees this through a camera that he has apparently been using to spy on them.

Harry then leaves his own note, or gives Pete a message in some manner, that he has taken MJ to some location. Peter goes there to save her, yelling at Harry for involving MJ in their disagreement. They have a second fight. This time, Peter is much more aggressive, due to the suit beginning to have an effect on him. During the fight, Brock shows up to try and take a picture and Spiderman destroys his camera, infuriating him.

Eventually Peter wins the fight, and Harry reveals that MJ isn’t actually there, and that he never took her to begin with. Peter tells Harry that he’s crossed a line. So far he has not wanted to fight Harry because they are friends, but next time Harry attacks him, he will not hold back.”

From there, Martin has MJ confronting Harry, then later arguing with Peter. Peter’s behavior gets continually more uncharacteristic and, um, “off”….

“We then turn to a montage of Peter turning evil. Not emo, but actually wicked. The idea of an emo Peter actually kind of works for me since it would make sense that Peter doesn’t really know how to be bad. But still, what we have in the film was executed poorly (especially that very uncomfortable dance scene), but I don’t have any better ideas here. Perhaps it simply could have been done better. But the basic idea, with Connors commenting on the symbiote in the background, makes logical sense to me, and I think it could be done well. Be we should see him fighting more violently, flirting with other women, and acting like a jerk.”

Yeah, it’s like the director (and/or writers) didn’t know how to make Peter “bad” (i.e., other than acting like a jerk). Just weird. (And weird that they couldn’t do better.) Anyway, Martin then has Peter becoming more erratic and paranoid, including the trope of him arriving at Harry’s place just after MJ convinces him to try to reach Peter. Of course, paranoid Pete (with the symbiote’s help) reads it all wrong, thinks they’re plotting against him, fights Harry and nearly kills him.

Brock / Venom

“Peter then goes to the church, where we get the famous church scene, complete with Brock getting the symbiote….”

This, of course, leads into Venom ruining Spider-Man’s reputation and generally causing havoc. But, I’ll stop now.

Not bad. It definitely simplifies things without Sandman in the mix, and events seem to move along more smoothly. There are a couple issues that Martin left alone or kept sort of vague, because he didn’t really have solutions worked out for them. Fair enough. Overall, though, a decent effort at constructing a better version of Spider-Man 3. Alas, it will never be….

You can read Martin’s full treatment here.

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Advice for the Aspiring Evil Overlord

“Attention all Evil Overlord List Aspirants: Contrary to popular belief, taking over the universe is not as easy as it would first appear…. As soon [Peter] is able to respond in a timely manner — or until he becomes unquestioned lord and master of all things, whichever comes first — the list will not be updated and no new suggestions will be considered. He would sincerely apologize for this inconvenience, were it in character for an Evil Overlord to do so.” — nameless henchman (on behalf of Supreme Lord Peter Anspach)

Over twenty years ago, a fellow by the name of Peter Anspach compiled a list (with the help of fellow fans online) of “classic blunders” committed by villains in shows like “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine”, “Hercules”, “Xena”, “Conan”, James Bond movies, et al. (Go here for the full story.) You may have seen some of them around the inter-webs. I offer his official Top 100 list below for your enjoyment:

Being an Evil Overlord seems to be a good career choice. It pays well, there are all sorts of perks and you can set your own hours. However every Evil Overlord I’ve read about in books or seen in movies invariably gets overthrown and destroyed in the end. I’ve noticed that no matter whether they are barbarian lords, deranged wizards, mad scientists or alien invaders, they always seem to make the same basic mistakes every single time. With that in mind, allow me to present…

The Top 100 Things I’d Do
If I Ever Became An Evil Overlord

  1. My Legions of Terror will have helmets with clear plexiglass visors, not face-concealing ones.
  2. My ventilation ducts will be too small to crawl through.
  3. My noble half-brother whose throne I usurped will be killed, not kept anonymously imprisoned in a forgotten cell of my dungeon.
  4. Shooting is not too good for my enemies.
  5. The artifact which is the source of my power will not be kept on the Mountain of Despair beyond the River of Fire guarded by the Dragons of Eternity. It will be in my safe-deposit box. The same applies to the object which is my one weakness.
  6. I will not gloat over my enemies’ predicament before killing them.
  7. When I’ve captured my adversary and he says, “Look, before you kill me, will you at least tell me what this is all about?” I’ll say, “No.” and shoot him. No, on second thought I’ll shoot him then say “No.”
  8. After I kidnap the beautiful princess, we will be married immediately in a quiet civil ceremony, not a lavish spectacle in three weeks’ time during which the final phase of my plan will be carried out.
  9. I will not include a self-destruct mechanism unless absolutely necessary. If it is necessary, it will not be a large red button labelled “Danger: Do Not Push”. The big red button marked “Do Not Push” will instead trigger a spray of bullets on anyone stupid enough to disregard it. Similarly, the ON/OFF switch will not clearly be labelled as such.
  10. I will not interrogate my enemies in the inner sanctum — a small hotel well outside my borders will work just as well.
  11. I will be secure in my superiority. Therefore, I will feel no need to prove it by leaving clues in the form of riddles or leaving my weaker enemies alive to show they pose no threat.
  12. One of my advisors will be an average five-year-old child. Any flaws in my plan that he is able to spot will be corrected before implementation.
  13. All slain enemies will be cremated, or at least have several rounds of ammunition emptied into them, not left for dead at the bottom of the cliff. The announcement of their deaths, as well as any accompanying celebration, will be deferred until after the aforementioned disposal.
  14. The hero is not entitled to a last kiss, a last cigarette, or any other form of last request.
  15. I will never employ any device with a digital countdown. If I find that such a device is absolutely unavoidable, I will set it to activate when the counter reaches 117 and the hero is just putting his plan into operation.
  16. I will never utter the sentence “But before I kill you, there’s just one thing I want to know.”
  17. When I employ people as advisors, I will occasionally listen to their advice.
  18. I will not have a son. Although his laughably under-planned attempt to usurp power would easily fail, it would provide a fatal distraction at a crucial point in time.
  19. I will not have a daughter. She would be as beautiful as she was evil, but one look at the hero’s rugged countenance and she’d betray her own father.
  20. Despite its proven stress-relieving effect, I will not indulge in maniacal laughter. When so occupied, it’s too easy to miss unexpected developments that a more attentive individual could adjust to accordingly.
  21. I will hire a talented fashion designer to create original uniforms for my Legions of Terror, as opposed to some cheap knock-offs that make them look like Nazi stormtroopers, Roman footsoldiers, or savage Mongol hordes. All were eventually defeated and I want my troops to have a more positive mind-set.
  22. No matter how tempted I am with the prospect of unlimited power, I will not consume any energy field bigger than my head.
  23. I will keep a special cache of low-tech weapons and train my troops in their use. That way — even if the heroes manage to neutralize my power generator and/or render the standard-issue energy weapons useless — my troops will not be overrun by a handful of savages armed with spears and rocks.
  24. I will maintain a realistic assessment of my strengths and weaknesses. Even though this takes some of the fun out of the job, at least I will never utter the line “No, this cannot be! I AM INVINCIBLE!!!” (After that, death is usually instantaneous.)
  25. No matter how well it would perform, I will never construct any sort of machinery which is completely indestructible except for one small and virtually inaccessible vulnerable spot.
  26. No matter how attractive certain members of the rebellion are, there is probably someone just as attractive who is not desperate to kill me. Therefore, I will think twice before ordering a prisoner sent to my bedchamber.
  27. I will never build only one of anything important. All important systems will have redundant control panels and power supplies. For the same reason I will always carry at least two fully loaded weapons at all times.
  28. My pet monster will be kept in a secure cage from which it cannot escape and into which I could not accidentally stumble.
  29. I will dress in bright and cheery colors, and so throw my enemies into confusion.
  30. All bumbling conjurers, clumsy squires, no-talent bards, and cowardly thieves in the land will be preemptively put to death. My foes will surely give up and abandon their quest if they have no source of comic relief.
  31. All naive, busty tavern wenches in my realm will be replaced with surly, world-weary waitresses who will provide no unexpected reinforcement and/or romantic subplot for the hero or his sidekick.
  32. I will not fly into a rage and kill a messenger who brings me bad news just to illustrate how evil I really am. Good messengers are hard to come by.
  33. I won’t require high-ranking female members of my organization to wear a stainless-steel bustier. Morale is better with a more casual dress-code. Similarly, outfits made entirely from black leather will be reserved for formal occasions.
  34. I will not turn into a snake. It never helps.
  35. I will not grow a goatee. In the old days they made you look diabolic. Now they just make you look like a disaffected member of Generation X.
  36. I will not imprison members of the same party in the same cell block, let alone the same cell. If they are important prisoners, I will keep the only key to the cell door on my person instead of handing out copies to every bottom-rung guard in the prison.
  37. If my trusted lieutenant tells me my Legions of Terror are losing a battle, I will believe him. After all, he’s my trusted lieutenant.
  38. If an enemy I have just killed has a younger sibling or offspring anywhere, I will find them and have them killed immediately, instead of waiting for them to grow up harboring feelings of vengeance towards me in my old age.
  39. If I absolutely must ride into battle, I will certainly not ride at the forefront of my Legions of Terror, nor will I seek out my opposite number among his army.
  40. I will be neither chivalrous nor sporting. If I have an unstoppable superweapon, I will use it as early and as often as possible instead of keeping it in reserve.
  41. Once my power is secure, I will destroy all those pesky time-travel devices.
  42. When I capture the hero, I will make sure I also get his dog, monkey, ferret, or whatever sickeningly cute little animal capable of untying ropes and filching keys happens to follow him around.
  43. I will maintain a healthy amount of skepticism when I capture the beautiful rebel and she claims she is attracted to my power and good looks and will gladly betray her companions if I just let her in on my plans.
  44. I will only employ bounty hunters who work for money. Those who work for the pleasure of the hunt tend to do dumb things like even the odds to give the other guy a sporting chance.
  45. I will make sure I have a clear understanding of who is responsible for what in my organization. For example, if my general screws up I will not draw my weapon, point it at him, say “And here is the price for failure,” then suddenly turn and kill some random underling.
  46. If an advisor says to me “My liege, he is but one man. What can one man possibly do?”, I will reply “This.” and kill the advisor.
  47. If I learn that a callow youth has begun a quest to destroy me, I will slay him while he is still a callow youth instead of waiting for him to mature.
  48. I will treat any beast which I control through magic or technology with respect and kindness. Thus if the control is ever broken, it will not immediately come after me for revenge.
  49. If I learn the whereabouts of the one artifact which can destroy me, I will not send all my troops out to seize it. Instead I will send them out to seize something else and quietly put a Want-Ad in the local paper.
  50. My main computers will have their own special operating system that will be completely incompatible with standard IBM and Macintosh powerbooks.
  51. If one of my dungeon guards begins expressing concern over the conditions in the beautiful princess’ cell, I will immediately transfer him to a less people-oriented position.
  52. I will hire a team of board-certified architects and surveyors to examine my castle and inform me of any secret passages and abandoned tunnels that I might not know about.
  53. If the beautiful princess that I capture says “I’ll never marry you! Never, do you hear me, NEVER!!!”, I will say “Oh well” and kill her.
  54. I will not strike a bargain with a demonic being then attempt to double-cross it simply because I feel like being contrary.
  55. The deformed mutants and odd-ball psychotics will have their place in my Legions of Terror. However before I send them out on important covert missions that require tact and subtlety, I will first see if there is anyone else equally qualified who would attract less attention.
  56. My Legions of Terror will be trained in basic marksmanship. Any who cannot learn to hit a man-sized target at 10 meters will be used for target practice.
  57. Before employing any captured artifacts or machinery, I will carefully read the owner’s manual.
  58. If it becomes necessary to escape, I will never stop to pose dramatically and toss off a one-liner.
  59. I will never build a sentient computer smarter than I am.
  60. My five-year-old child advisor will also be asked to decipher any code I am thinking of using. If he breaks the code in under 30 seconds, it will not be used. Note: this also applies to passwords.
  61. If my advisors ask “Why are you risking everything on such a mad scheme?”, I will not proceed until I have a response that satisfies them.
  62. I will design fortress hallways with no alcoves or protruding structural supports which intruders could use for cover in a firefight.
  63. Bulk trash will be disposed of in incinerators, not compactors. And they will be kept hot, with none of that nonsense about flames going through accessible tunnels at predictable intervals.
  64. I will see a competent psychiatrist and get cured of all extremely unusual phobias and bizarre compulsive habits which could prove to be a disadvantage.
  65. If I must have computer systems with publically available terminals, the maps they display of my complex will have a room clearly marked as the Main Control Room. That room will be the Execution Chamber. The actual main control room will be marked as Sewage Overflow Containment.
  66. My security keypad will actually be a fingerprint scanner. Anyone who watches someone press a sequence of buttons or dusts the pad for fingerprints then subsequently tries to enter by repeating that sequence will trigger the alarm system.
  67. No matter how many shorts we have in the system, my guards will be instructed to treat every surveillance camera malfunction as a full-scale emergency.
  68. I will spare someone who saved my life sometime in the past. This is only reasonable as it encourages others to do so. However, the offer is good one time only. If they want me to spare them again, they’d better save my life again.
  69. All midwives will be banned from the realm. All babies will be delivered at state-approved hospitals. Orphans will be placed in foster-homes, not abandoned in the woods to be raised by creatures of the wild.
  70. When my guards split up to search for intruders, they will always travel in groups of at least two. They will be trained so that if one of them disappears mysteriously while on patrol, the other will immediately initiate an alert and call for backup, instead of quizzically peering around a corner.
  71. If I decide to test a lieutenant’s loyalty and see if he/she should be made a trusted lieutenant, I will have a crack squad of marksmen standing by in case the answer is no.
  72. If all the heroes are standing together around a strange device and begin to taunt me, I will pull out a conventional weapon instead of using my unstoppable superweapon on them.
  73. I will not agree to let the heroes go free if they win a rigged contest, even though my advisors assure me it is impossible for them to win.
  74. When I create a multimedia presentation of my plan designed so that my five-year-old advisor can easily understand the details, I will not label the disk “Project Overlord” and leave it lying on top of my desk.
  75. I will instruct my Legions of Terror to attack the hero en masse, instead of standing around waiting while members break off and attack one or two at a time.
  76. If the hero runs up to my roof, I will not run up after him and struggle with him in an attempt to push him over the edge. I will also not engage him at the edge of a cliff. (In the middle of a rope-bridge over a river of molten lava is not even worth considering.)
  77. If I have a fit of temporary insanity and decide to give the hero the chance to reject a job as my trusted lieutentant, I will retain enough sanity to wait until my current trusted lieutenant is out of earshot before making the offer.
  78. I will not tell my Legions of Terror “And he must be taken alive!” The command will be “And try to take him alive if it is reasonably practical.”
  79. If my doomsday device happens to come with a reverse switch, as soon as it has been employed it will be melted down and made into limited-edition commemorative coins.
  80. If my weakest troops fail to eliminate a hero, I will send out my best troops instead of wasting time with progressively stronger ones as he gets closer and closer to my fortress.
  81. If I am fighting with the hero atop a moving platform, have disarmed him, and am about to finish him off and he glances behind me and drops flat, I too will drop flat instead of quizzically turning around to find out what he saw.
  82. I will not shoot at any of my enemies if they are standing in front of the crucial support beam to a heavy, dangerous, unbalanced structure.
  83. If I’m eating dinner with the hero, put poison in his goblet, then have to leave the table for any reason, I will order new drinks for both of us instead of trying to decide whether or not to switch with him.
  84. I will not have captives of one sex guarded by members of the opposite sex.
  85. I will not use any plan in which the final step is horribly complicated, e.g. “Align the 12 Stones of Power on the sacred altar then activate the medallion at the moment of total eclipse.” Instead it will be more along the lines of “Push the button.”
  86. I will make sure that my doomsday device is up to code and properly grounded.
  87. My vats of hazardous chemicals will be covered when not in use. Also, I will not construct walkways above them.
  88. If a group of henchmen fail miserably at a task, I will not berate them for incompetence then send the same group out to try the task again.
  89. After I captures the hero’s superweapon, I will not immediately disband my legions and relax my guard because I believe whoever holds the weapon is unstoppable. After all, the hero held the weapon and I took it from him.
  90. I will not design my Main Control Room so that every workstation is facing away from the door.
  91. I will not ignore the messenger that stumbles in exhausted and obviously agitated until my personal grooming or current entertainment is finished. It might actually be important.
  92. If I ever talk to the hero on the phone, I will not taunt him. Instead I will say this his dogged perseverance has given me new insight on the futility of my evil ways and that if he leaves me alone for a few months of quiet contemplation I will likely return to the path of righteousness. (Heroes are incredibly gullible in this regard.)
  93. If I decide to hold a double execution of the hero and an underling who failed or betrayed me, I will see to it that the hero is scheduled to go first.
  94. When arresting prisoners, my guards will not allow them to stop and grab a useless trinket of purely sentimental value.
  95. My dungeon will have its own qualified medical staff complete with bodyguards. That way if a prisoner becomes sick and his cellmate tells the guard it’s an emergency, the guard will fetch a trauma team instead of opening up the cell for a look.
  96. My door mechanisms will be designed so that blasting the control panel on the outside seals the door and blasting the control panel on the inside opens the door, not vice versa.
  97. My dungeon cells will not be furnished with objects that contain reflective surfaces or anything that can be unravelled.
  98. If an attractive young couple enters my realm, I will carefully monitor their activities. If I find they are happy and affectionate, I will ignore them. However if circumstance have forced them together against their will and they spend all their time bickering and criticizing each other except during the intermittent occasions when they are saving each others’ lives at which point there are hints of sexual tension, I will immediately order their execution.
  99. Any data file of crucial importance will be padded to 1.45Mb in size.
  100. Finally, to keep my subjects permanently locked in a mindless trance, I will provide each of them with free unlimited Internet access.

Anspach had several suggestions that didn’t make it onto the final list, and he keeps those in a couple “dungeons” (linked to at the bottom of his web-page).

**This Evil Overlord List is Copyright 1996-1997 by Peter Anspach. If you enjoy it, feel free to pass it along or post it anywhere, provided that (1) it is not altered in any way, and (2) this copyright notice is attached.**

The Invisible Plan

“rooted in horror, with no restrictions of budget, tone, or rating” — Variety

If you remember back to early 2017, there was some excitement about the “Dark Universe”, in which Universal Pictures had plans to revive several of their classic monsters — Frankenstein’s Monster, the Wolf Man, Mr. Hyde, Creature from the Black Lagoon, etc. — for modern audiences and in an interconnected, “shared universe”. Several big name stars were already signing on, and many fans were happily anticipating a resurgence in that particular subgenre of Horror. The Universal Monsters were back!

Then, the first DU movie, Tom Cruise’s The Mummy, came out that June to disappointing reviews and (domestic) returns, and Universal had some serious re-thinkin’ to do about the DU’s future. November 2017 saw the franchise’s “architects”, Alex Kurtzman and Chris Morgan, back out of their contracts. Bride of Frankenstein had been in pre-production (for a Feb. 2019 release date), but those efforts were put on hold… until Jan. 2018, when a new production team was reportedly being assembled. However, as of a year later, no new release date has been announced nor a replacement for Angelina Jolie in the title role. (Javier Bardem is still listed as “Frankenstein’s Monster”, though.) Other projects were delayed, as well, while Universal reassessed their plans and reconfigured their team.

Well, it is now being reported that Jason Blum’s Blumhouse Productions (Upgrade, The Purge, Paranormal Activity) has been contracted by Universal to produce a reboot of The Invisible Man. Blumhouse are known for putting out successful, budget-friendly horror films. After the financial drubbing that Universal took with The Mummy, I can understand why they liked Blumhouse’s reputation.

This movie was originally tentatively set for release sometime in 2020, starring Johnny Depp in the lead. Then, writer Ed Solomon dropped out back in Jan. 2018 amid the “Dark Universe” shake-up. Now, much to the disappointment of Depp’s fans, it looks like he is no longer attached to the project, either. The good news, though, is that Blumhouse is giving a lot of attention to the IM reboot, and they already have Leigh Whannell (Saw, Insidious) lined up as director.

Blum, Rains (1933), & Whannell

Universal took the opportunity presented by The Invisible Man announcement to elaborate a bit on their new vision for the Universal Monsters franchise. From the Hollywood Reporter,

“Universal is now charting a new course, and The Invisible Man is not being developed with the expectation of it being part of a larger universe. The studio is also open to other classic monsters being developed by filmmakers seeking to make movies not connected to a larger universe.

“Throughout cinematic history, Universal’s classic monsters have been reinvented through the prism of each new filmmaker who brought these characters to life,” the studio’s president of production Peter Cramer said Monday in a statement. “We are excited to take a more individualized approach for their return to screen, shepherded by creators who have stories they are passionate to tell with them.””

As per Cinemablend,

“This news doesn’t necessarily mean that The Invisible Man will be the next Universal Monsters movie to go into production, as other pitches are reportedly circulating for different characters.”

Furthermore, Depp may still appear in some capacity in one or more of the other UM movies in development. Also, Blumhouse may be given control of additional UM projects, though I don’t know if such decisions will wait until The Invisible Man has been released or not.

So, no more interconnected “Dark Universe”. I had been intrigued by the idea, but I know this will be a relief for some fans. It also appears that the DU concept of mixing in some classic suspense and action/adventure with these films has been left behind. As I wrote before, that aspect had also appealed to me, since I’m not a huge horror fan. But, that’s Hollywood. Given Blumhouse’s track record, maybe pure horror is the better direction to go. I just hope they don’t go over the top (a la Eli Roth).

Marvel’s ‘Master of Kung Fu’: Coming to a Theater Near You

Long-time readers of this blog might remember a two-part series I did in September 2015 titled, “7 Marvel Properties that Should Be on TV”. In Part 1, I suggested Shang-Chi as a character with potential:

Shang-Chi in Bruce Lee-inspired ‘jumper’ costume

Shang-Chi: Created in the wake of Bruce Lee’s death, the “Master of Kung Fu” has the dubious distinction of being the son of criminal mastermind/sorcerer Fu Manchu, who trained him as an assassin. He has connections to the Avengers, Heroes for Hire, and the British intelligence community, as he has worked as both spy and adventurer/crimefighter. But, all he really wants to do is live the simple life of a fisherman. I think these and other characteristics make him different enough from Danny Rand (aka Iron Fist) to justify a second show centered on a martial artist. I see it having elements of the old “Kung Fu” series, where our hero wanders all over the globe (e.g., Hong Kong, England, USA), reluctantly either finding himself encountering injustice that needs to be addressed or being contacted & persuaded by other heroes and intelligence agencies to lend them his particular skills and knowledge. With the right vision, writing, and casting, I think such a series could be both charming and action-packed — sort of like Bruce Lee.”

Well, I don’t know if a Shang-Chi TV series will ever happen, but it looks like a big-screen movie just might.

This was first reported by Deadline in early December 2018 and confirmed in a tweet by Disney’s President of Marketing, Asad Ayaz. The project is only in the early stages, of course, so no talent has yet been attached, but they’re “fast-tracking” it to be a Phase Four tentpole. Screenwriter Dave Callaham (The Expendables, Godzilla, Wonder Woman 1984), who is Chinese-American, has been hired to write the script. In keeping with their “diversity” mandate, Marvel Studios is also looking for a director of Asian (or part-Asian) descent to take the helm. And, of course, the star will need to be, as well. Marvel hopes to follow the cross-cultural success of Black Panther by “introduc[ing] a new hero who blends Asian and Asian American themes, crafted by Asian and Asian American filmmakers.”

Observes Sean Gerber at marvelstudionews.com,

“For most of his time in comics, Shang-Chi has not had super powers in the traditional sense, but his mastery of martial arts makes him as formidable as most Marvel heroes. Technically, he’s not enhanced. Effectively, however, he kind of is.

There has been an occasion where there were several Shang-Chi duplicates due to an Origin Bomb, but that does not necessarily mean Shang-Chi can or will be able to duplicate himself in the MCU. My guess is he won’t.”

I wouldn’t be surprised if the Fu Manchu connection was dropped, too, given that 1) the character was created 100+ years ago by British pulp novelist Sax Rohmer as a “Yellow Peril” stereotype, 2) the original stories had elements of Western racism, and 3) Marvel would need to re-acquire the rights to the character. Of course, possible workarounds include 1) referencing Fu Manchu without including him in the plot, 2) including the character while scrubbing all stereotypes and hints of racism, or 3) simply making Shang-Chi’s father a nefarious villain with another name (or no name mentioned), as they’ve done in the comics. Frankly, I’m not sure which I prefer. (I do think the fear of stereotypes can be overblown, though.)

Shang-Chi in classic costume (w/ Fu Manchu in background)

Speaking of stereotypes, Deadline‘s Mike Fleming Jr notes:

“The script will modernize the hero to avoid stereotypes that many comic characters of that era were saddled with.”

As it turns out, this isn’t the first time the character has been talked up for some live, on-screen action. Back in the mid- to late-1980s, the late Bruce Lee’s son Brandon was an up-and-coming actor. Brandon and his mother, Linda, met with Stan Lee (no relation) to discuss the possibility of Brandon playing a Marvel character. The Hands of Shang-Chi: Master of Kung Fu comic series had ended its 10-year run in 1983, but the character was a favorite of Stan the Man, and he thought Brandon could bring him to life on screen.

Margaret Loesch, former President & CEO of Marvel Productions, recalled:

“Stan had great hope [for Brandon]. He thought Brandon would be a future star.

They talked about the kinds of comics that Stan had done, and he mentioned that comic. Stan had great belief that those movies and TV shows based on those types of characters could be very popular. I can’t remember what happened, I think maybe we felt out the networks and they weren’t interested because of the violence.”

It would have been fitting for Brandon Lee to have been cast in that role, especially given that his father was its inspiration. Alas, it was not meant to be.

In the years since, Shang-Chi has had a number of guest appearances and (co-)starred in various comics mini-series, one-shots, and short stories. He even shucked the old, traditional duds for something more “modern”. But, he never regained the popularity he once had during the martial arts-obsessed 1970s. Who knows? Maybe this new movie will launch a resurgence in martial arts fare here in the West. I, for one, am looking forward to it.

Fan-Cast: Juggernaut

“I’m the Juggernaut! Ain’t nothin’ — ain’t nobody — can beat me!” — Juggernaut

Who in the world could play Marvel’s Juggernaut (aka Cain Marko) character on-screen? That was the question I posed myself. Of course, to do the musclebound, hulking supervillain justice (pun intended), he really needs to be done with CGI — like they have done with other huge characters (e.g., Colossus, Hulk). But, if… if a live-action movie or TV series was being made, and it was decided to go with a Juggernaut of more human dimensions, yet bigger than we saw in X-Men: The Last Stand, who might fit the bill?

First, though, some semi-obligatory background on ol’ Juggsy…

Juggernaut

At least a couple other people briefly held the title and powers of the Juggernaut in recent years, but the primary “avatar” has always been Cain Marko. Marko was a troubled child, abused by his alcoholic father, who also favored his stepson, Charles Xavier, over Cain. Naturally, Marko was jealous and bullied the younger Charles. Xavier’s emerging telepathic powers allowed him to accidentally experience Marko’s pain and anguish, giving him a measure of sympathy for the boy. Sharon Xavier-Marko died “of a broken heart”, and Dr. Kurt Marko died after saving the boys from a lab fire. Xavier eventually went on to athletic and scholastic success, as well as secretly mastering his telepathic talent, while Marko stayed in the Xavier mansion and nursed his bitter soul. Marko later went into the military, became a mercenary, and befriended the mutant known as Black Tom Cassidy — truly a bad influence.

Marko and Xavier served together briefly in Korea, where they encountered a cave with the lost secret Temple of Cyttorak, a powerful mystical entity. Marko grabbed a glowing “ruby” from the lap of an idol and read the inscription (which he “saw” in English): “Whosoever touches this gem shall possess the power of the Crimson Bands of Cyttorak. Henceforth, you who read these words shall become forevermore a human juggernaut.” Marko was physically transformed into a huge, superhuman being. Just then, explosions outside caused a cave-in; Xavier escaped, while Marko was buried alive. Xavier thought his step-brother died, but Marko’s mystically-granted enhancements allowed him to survive and eventually dig his way out.

Thanks to bonding with the Crimson Gem of Cyttorak, Marko gained a number of superhuman abilities. He has “limitless” strength, stamina, and (with his personal force field active) nigh-invulnerability to any forms of physical injury. He is immune to all toxins, poisons, and disease. Should he somehow be injured, his superfast, regenerative healing factor will kick in. His mystically-powered helmet protects him from even the most powerful telepaths, e.g., Xavier. There are a couple more perks, but even the Class 100+ strength alone makes him one of the most physically powerful beings on Earth (or most places, I’d imagine). Plus, as the Avatar of Cyttorak, he is the embodiment of irresistible force, such that “[o]nce he begins to advance in a certain direction, it is virtually impossible to halt his movement.”

Juggernaut vs. WW Hulk

Years after the Korea incident, Marko went to the U.S., intent on killing his step-brother, who by then had founded his School for Gifted Youngsters. Now calling himself the ‘Juggernaut’, Marko would have defeated Xavier and his X-Men if not for the assistance of the Human Torch. Marko was kept comatose for awhile but later escaped with the help of criminals known as the Factor Three. Thus began his long and complicated history with the superhero and supervillain communities.

Either alone or partnered with Black Tom (and sometimes the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants), Marko has battled many heroes and caused a lot of death and destruction. (He would later be exonerated for much of it.) He has often contended with Xavier and the X-Men, of course, but also fought the New Warriors, X-Force, Spider-Man, a couple versions of the Hulk, Thor, and additional Avengers. On the other hand, there have been times when he fought on the side of good, too. He aided Dr. Strange on more than one occasion and has spent some time working with the X-Men. He briefly wielded the power of Captain Universe and also joined the Thunderbolts for a spell. Much of his “hero” time was while he was partially depowered, but an enchanted Asgardian hammer transformed Marko into Kuurth, Breaker of Stone. Colossus (who became Juggernaut for a minute) later tricked Cyttorak into returning the power to Marko — but even bigger and stronger.

Marko isn’t stupid, exactly, but neither is he the brightest bulb. He has been deceived or manipulated by heroes and villains alike. Clearly, he is a complex individual dealing with conflicting values and loyalties and a lot of emotional baggage. Certainly, he is often furious, greedy, cruel, jealous, selfish, stubborn, etc., and he often lets his fists do the talking. Alternately, he has occasionally demonstrated repentance, sorrow, kindness, and joy.

That’s the basics of who the man is, what he can do, and (without too much detail) what he has done.

Now, since we are casting for a live-action, (mostly) non-CGI Cain Marko / Juggernaut, we need someone of truly unusual size. None of this barely-over-6-feet-Vinnie-Jones-in-a-fake-torso-muscle-suit stuff, like we got in X-Men: The Last Stand. (Sorry, Vinnie.) Marvel’s wiki puts him at roughly Hulk-size (9’5″ and 1900 lbs), but I believe this is the result of the aforementioned “return to power” later in his career. Prior to that, the hugely muscled Marko was originally listed at 6’10” and 900 lbs. (Not exactly a lightweight.) While we aren’t going to get quite the mass, we can indeed find a few very tall — say, over 6’6″ — and very muscular fellas to consider. Age-wise, it depends on when in X-Men history the story takes place, but he should probably be somewhere in his 30s or 40s.

There are a few wrestlers and strongman competitors that come to mind, of course. One that I considered was Kevin Nash (6’10”,b.1959) (The Punisher, John Wick), who might’ve had potential a couple decades ago, but he’s too old for the part now. Another was Rob Archer (6’6″,b.1975) (“Lost Girl”, Ant-Man and the Wasp), who first came to my attention as the various BioMan clones in “Defiance”. He definitely has the build for it, but even at six-and-a-half feet tall and ~285 lbs., he’s a tad small for Marko/Juggernaut. So, I had to move on and kick it up a notch. Here are my final 3…

Nathan Jones in Fearless

The first time I started contemplating casting Juggernaut years ago, I’m pretty sure Nathan Jones (6’11”,b.1969) was the first guy that sprang to mind. The Australian strongman-turned-wrestler’s huge, muscular physique was perfect for the role. I remember him initially from Troy, but he has also appeared in Fearless, The Condemned, the 2011 Conan the Barbarian remake, and 2015’s Mad Max: Fury Road, among others. The main drawback with Jones is his age (i.e., turning 50 this year). But, he is still in good shape and playing more movie roles. Also, Juggernaut would probably not be written as a very complicated character. It’s the monstrous, unstoppable supervillain we’re looking for, and Jones has got that part down pat.

Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson

Another professional strongman whose name I just have to throw into the ring is Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson (6’9″,b.1988) of Iceland. Beyond strongman competitions and documentaries, Björnsson is mostly known for his turn as Gregor ‘The Mountain’ Clegane in “Game of Thrones”. I don’t remember him speaking any dialogue, do you? I’m not even sure he knows English, but that can be remedied. Anyway, he has also squeezed in a couple movie roles this past year: Kickboxer: Retaliation and Operation Ragnarok. As a powerlifter, he doesn’t have quite the bodybuilder physique of either of our other contenders, but he is quite the imposing figure. Björnsson would make a fearsome Juggernaut.

 

Martyn Ford

Martyn Ford (6’8″,b.1982) is one of my more recent finds and reminds me quite a bit of Jones. This 320 pound bodybuilder/fitness star/trainer added acting to his resume in 2016, beginning with appearances in “Of Kings and Prophets” (as Goliath) and Boyka: Undisputed (as a fighter named ‘Koshmar’, aka ‘the Nightmare’ (see pic)), which I recently watched. Subsequent roles included Kingsman: The Golden Circle, Accident Man, Redcon-1, Robin Hood: The Rebellion, et al. Like Jones, he has already played a number of brutal warriors/fighters and should have no problem playing a brute like Cain Marko, aka ‘Juggernaut’.

 

As indicated earlier, I doubt the Marko/Juggernaut character would be written with too much depth, and dialogue might actually be kept to a minimum. So, I don’t see why any of the above three gentlemen, limited though their acting skills may be, couldn’t thrill viewing audiences with an on-screen, live-action Juggernaut portrayal.

* All ideas copyright Christopher Harris, 2013-2019.

Happy Hulkin’ Christmas!

I’m gonna turn over the final post of the year to my alter-ego. He’s a little late/”slow”, but it’s kinda hard to say ‘No’ to the big guy. So, here he is…

Hulk wanted to do Christmas blog and show some of Hulk’s favorite Christmas pictures. First, Hulk do selfie…

OK, now Hulk tell story. Hulk meets Santa…

Then, Santa goes on potty break and leaves Hulk to sit in chair and give presents. But, some kids dressed like Hulk’s friends come and tell Hulk Hulk is not Santa. Of course, not! Stup… um, Hulk means, silly kids! Hulk is always Hulk!

Later, Santa asks Hulk to visit little girl on roof. Santa says little girl wants to give something to Hulk. (Hulk wonders how little girl got up there, but Hulk forgot to ask…) Little girl is big fan of Hulk and got Hulk a present. <<sniff!>> Now, little girl is Hulk’s fave-rit!

Here is picture (by egobus) of Hulk with Avengers at party. Hulk looks like tree with star on top.

This gives Black Widow idea, so… SpiderWee made this picture after Black Widow “decorated” Hulk like Christmas tree… (Hulk pretended not to like it, but Hulk liked spending time with Widow.)

No Hulk in last picture. Hulk just likes Santa with baby Jesus…

OK, Hulk done now. Hulk hungry. Does Hulk smell beans…?

Whew! Have to admit, that could have gone much worse. Alright, folks, have a belated but…

Happy Hulkin’ Christmas!!!

 

DC’s New TV Series in 2019

A few members of Doom Patrol

DC Comics has managed to produce an impressive number of popular, live-action TV series based on their superhero properties in recent years. These include “Arrow”, “The Flash”, “Supergirl”, “Legends of Tomorrow”, “Gotham”, “iZombie”, “Black Lightning”, and the most recent hit, “Titans”. (I haven’t checked out that last one, yet, as of this writing.) The only one I know for sure that is planning to end in the near future is “Gotham”, which debuts its 5th and final season this January. Meanwhile, though, DC has a few more tentatively scheduled to debut in 2019, and those are what I wanted to briefly review this week.

I already mentioned the “Batwoman” and “Stargirl” series in my “Girl Power!, part 1 of 2” post a couple months ago. The former will be spun off from the recent ‘Elseworlds’ crossover event in Flash/Arrow/Supergirl. It will star Ruby Rose as Kate Kane, Bruce Wayne’s (very lesbian) cousin who takes over Wayne Enterprises in Wayne’s absence, while also protecting Gotham in the guise of ‘Batwoman’. I thought she did OK in her ‘Elseworlds’ appearance, but I certainly hope the new series forces Rose to expand her acting range beyond the stoic-tough-chick bit.

From the way the “Stargirl” series is developing, I wonder if it should be called “Stargirl and the Justice Society”. In addition to Brec Bassinger in the title role, the JSA is going to include Joel McHale (Starman), Henry Thomas (Doctor Mid-Nite), Lou Ferrigno Jr. (Hourman), et al. I like the JSA but was never a huge fan. But, I’m curious to see what they do with these characters. (A few more details and links re the “Batwoman” and “Stargirl” series can be found in the above-linked post.)

Another re-imagining, “Doom Patrol” is set to spin off in February, after a few of the characters guest-starred in an episode of “Titans”. This is a quirky group of misfits with weird powers and a lot of psychological baggage. Or, as the DC press release put it:

“The Doom Patrol’s members each suffered horrible accidents that gave them superhuman abilities — but also left them scarred and disfigured. Traumatized and downtrodden, the team found purpose through The Chief, who brought them together to investigate the weirdest phenomena in existence — and to protect Earth from what they find. Part support group, part Super Hero team, the Doom Patrol is a band of super-powered freaks who fight for a world that wants nothing to do with them.”

Sounds like fun! There is the danger, of course, of it getting quite campy/silly. But, with smart writing and decent performances, it could be a great series!

Notables that have signed on include Timothy Dalton (The Chief), Brendan Fraser (Robotman), Matt Bomer (Negative Man), and Alan Tudyk (Mr. Nobody). No surprise, the show is being executive produced by Greg Berlanti and Geoff Johns.

Swamp Thing

Speaking of weird, “Swamp Thing” is coming to our screens, as well:

“Based on the DC Comics characters created by Len Wein and Bernie Wrightson, the one-hour drama series would follow CDC researcher Abby Arcane, who returns to her childhood home of Houma, Louisiana, in order to investigate a deadly swamp-borne virus. She develops a surprising bond with scientist Alec Holland, only to have him tragically taken from her. But as powerful forces descend on Houma, intent on exploiting the swamp’s mysterious properties for their own purposes, Abby will discover that the swamp holds mystical secrets, and the potential love of her life may not be dead after all.”

The character first came to TV in a series (following two movies) starring Dick Durrock (1990-93). I never got into this character, either in print or on TV — just not my cup of bog water. But, it does look like it’s got some big names behind it. For example, Jennifer Beals, Ian Ziering, Virginia Madsen, and Will Patton will all have roles, with the monster himself being played by Derek Mears. Then there is Mark Verheiden as one of the writer / exec producers, and James Wan and his Atomic Monster Productions cohorts will also be producing. Len Wiseman will direct the pilot (and maybe more). Could be a decent series, so I’ll probably give it a look at some point.

Last but not least, we have CBS’s in-development “Secret Six” series. To be honest, I am unfamiliar with this team. But, from what I read, there have been a few incarnations in the comics, with members including second- and third-tier characters, as well as first-tier (e.g., Lex Luthor, Penguin, Bane). The one constant is that membership always consists of six diverse individuals, gathered and directed by the mysterious ‘Mockingbird’, who may or may not be one of the “field team”. As per the Variety article,

“The project, which has received a pilot production commitment at the network, follows six morally ambiguous strangers, each with their own unique specialties and secret pasts. They are brought together by an enigmatic figure who blackmails them into working as a team to expose the corruption of the corporate and political elite….

Rick Muirragui will write and executive produce, with Bill Lawrence and Jeff Ingold executive producing via Doozer Productions. Warner Bros. Television, where Doozer is under an overall deal, will produce.”

As far as I can tell, no actors have signed on, yet.

If I had to guess, I doubt they’ll have any of the first-tier characters in the line-up, but I could be wrong. Either way, I’m not sure how I feel about this project. The basic idea doesn’t thrill me, but I suppose it could be good if executed well. Muirragui has been writing/producing “Suits”, one of my favorite dramas, for years. If the writing is as sharp for “Secret Six” as it is for “Suits”, it could be a surprise hit!

And that brings us to the end… WAIT, no, there’s one more….

Metropolis by Kerem Gogus

“Metropolis” is being developed for a 2019 debut, too! Along with “Titans” and “Doom Patrol”, this makes three live-action series Warner Bros. is creating for the DC digital service. Not to be confused with SyFy’s “Krypton” series that already aired, this will be another Superman prequel.

“Metropolis will follow Lois Lane and Lex Luthor as they investigate the world of fringe science and expose the city’s dark and bizarre secrets…. [I]t promises to show us a wondrous and awe-inspiring City of Tomorrow, before the emergence of Superman, and establish much of the Man of Steel’s world leading up to his arrival.”

Still in the early stages, apparently, there are no actors attached, as yet. “Gotham”‘s John Stephens and Danny Cannon will also executive produce “Metropolis”, with Cannon directing the first episode from a teleplay by Stephens — story by both Cannon and Stephens.

“Metropolis will likely have a considerably different tone than Gotham. Superman’s villains are also more powerful, cosmic and rooted in science fiction than Batman’s, so one can only imagine there will be much less emphasis on street level gangsters and crime families in this forward-thinking city.”

Color me intrigued! This one, I’ll definitely be looking forward to….

Star Trek Ship and Crew Idea: USS Briscoe

Roughly six months ago, I shared a Starfleet ship and crew I developed, the USS Providence. I don’t write fan-fiction or play Star Trek games of any sort, so this is the only way for me to “use” and share them with anyone else. (If you want to use either ship/crew in a game, contact me.) I have another one to share with you this week. It’s a smaller ship than the last one, so the primary crew are fewer. As with the Providence, the timeframe I have in mind is the 2380s on Earth (i.e., post-Star Trek: Nemesis.)

USS Briscoe
— Note: This ship is primarily assigned militarily-oriented missions, including offense, defense, intelligence-gathering, and rescue missions. The ship itself needed to be smaller than a Galaxy-class cruiser, yet fast, highly maneuverable, and very well-armed. The Akira-class seemed to be a good fit. As per Memory Alpha: “The Akira-class design incorporated a multitude of tactical systems, including at least three Phaser arrays, and housed numerous Photon torpedo launchers along the port and starboard sides of the ventral primary hull, at least one launcher forward of the deflector, and several located on the aft weapons pod.” It’s a design that hasn’t been used a lot on-screen, and I think it’s an interesting variation on the saucer-and-nacelles standard.

The original name was going to be Armstrong, until I realized that ST canon already had an alternate reality 23rd-century Federation vessel (NCC-1769) with that name, as well as a 24th-century vessel (NCC-57537), though neither was an Akira-class. I then decided to switch it to Briscoe, named after Adm. Robert P. Briscoe, who commanded two ships, a destroyer squadron, and an amphibious group during World War II. He later served as Commander-in-Chief, Allied Forces Southern Europe, from 1956 to 1959.

Captain Sten Crai (hybrid male w/ (dark-skinned) Vulcan mother and Betazoid father)
— 6’2″, 180 lbs, 94 std years
— generally stoic both on- & off-duty, but “lets his hair down” a little bit when socializing with his senior officers
— a student of military history and an acknowledged expert in that of Earth, early Vulcan, Romulan, Klingon, Andorian, and a couple lesser-known stellar empires of the past
— has been in Starfleet for 50+ years, serving on 15 ships (5 as captain), 3 starbases, & 1 orbiting scientific research station (as Security Chief)
— immediately previous assignment (for 8 std years) was the U.S.S. Byrd, an exploratory vessel destroyed while Crai was conducting planetside negotiations
— inherited empathic and telepathic abilities are alternately a boon and a curse

First Officer – see Astrogator

Science Officer, Lt. Commander Lynn Marcus-Sterling (Human female)
— Anglo-Scottish and African descent; 5’6″, 130 lbs, 29 std years
— great-great-great-granddaughter of James T. Kirk (from brief marriage of David Marcus prior to events of STII:TWoK)
— specializes in biochemistry and collaborated w/ Dr. van der Drake on a Starfleet project prior to their assignment to the Briscoe
— hobbies are studying comparative religions and collecting trinkets from every town, city, and planet she visits

CMO / Counselor, (Lt. Commander) Dr. Martin van der Drake (Human male)
— of Dutch descent; 5’10”, 170 lbs, 43 std years
— constantly fighting his own elitist sensibilities stemming from privileged upbringing (i.e., his father inherited “old money” from a “noble” family)
— never married, the only woman he ever loved died of exposure to a biotoxin shortly after they were engaged
— secretly envies Malus for his “second chance” opportunity to “remake” himself
— enjoys painting (mostly landscapes) & sculpting (abstracts)

Cardassian male in Starfleet uniform (from STO wiki)

Security Chief / Tactical Officer, Lt. Malus (Cardassian male)
— 6’2.5″, 190 lbs, 35 std years
— defected from Obsidian Order & renounced Cardassian philosophies & methods
— though he has assimilated fairly well into both Federation society and Starfleet since defecting 4 years ago, he still has difficulty at times, and his secretive manner doesn’t help when it comes to trusting or being trusted by others
— constant tension/distrust of Major Jalen, though mutual respect for the Captain helps them maintain discipline
— has considered getting reconstructive surgery to at least soften his Cardassian features, but he always decides against it; plus his appearance (and experience) allows him to move fairly freely among other Cardassians for gathering intel, etc.
— this is his first Starfleet ship assignment, after having gone through extensive “debriefing”, an accelerated Starfleet training, and initial assignments on Vulcan and Alpha Centauri IV

Chief Engineer, Lt. Thor Ericssen (Human male)
— 6’5″, 270 lbs, 31 std years
— very patient w/ engines, but sometimes quick-tempered in personal relationships
— was orphaned as a small child, became a “troubled” youth, but straightened out after semi-voluntarily entering Starfleet Academy
— enjoys bodybuilding/weight-training and has an affinity for off-road land vehicles
— with an assist from a friend who specializes in robotics, he designed and built a miniature version of himself (~2 feet tall), which he can control via a VR-like interface, allowing him to access places prohibited by his large, muscular frame
— his fiancee works at a bookstore on Earth

Astrogator, Commander Selim Mustafa Ortac (Human male)
— of Turkish descent; 6′, 195 lbs, 40 std years
— barrel-chested w/ baritone voice; enjoys all aspects of life with exuberance and is often known to wax philosophical
— a pretty good chef, too
— this is his 2nd assignment as F.O.; the 1st ended badly 2 years ago during a top-secret mission on the USS Tarkanian, after which he spent 3 weeks in the hospital and 6 weeks in psychiatric therapy; he is uncharacteristically guarded about this topic and rarely discusses it, even with his closest companions

Helmsman, Lt. Lanei Mitchell (Human female)
— of Trinidadian descent; 5’5″, 125 lbs, 26 std years
— excellent pilot, but her dream assignment is doing astrophysics research on an exploratory vessel
— the oldest of 6 children and the first in her family to serve in Starfleet, of which they are all quite proud
— enjoys singing, most any style (but Klingon opera)
— normally has a more “mainstream” North American accent, but when her emotions are high, she lapses into the Trinidadian accent of her youth

Commander of Marine Forces, Major Jalen Tirv (Bajoran male)
— 5’11”, 165 lbs, 32 std years
— bionic arm, ear, and heart replace those irreparably in battle w/ Cardassians
— constant tension/distrust of Malus, though mutual respect for the Captain helps them maintain discipline
— all of his interests are military related, from martial arts & weapons-training to field tactics to civil engineering to the latest in mobile medical gear & emergency medical treatments
— has a brother who belongs to a Bajoran religious order and a sister who serves in the Bajoran government, the two of whom have a very strained relationship, and Jalen often finds himself in the very odd (for him) position of playing peacemaker

* All ideas copyright Christopher Harris, 2013-2019.

That’s Narnia Business

“Narnia is one of those rare properties that spans multiple generations and geographies. We cannot wait to get started on the multiple productions we hope to undertake.” — Mark Gordon, President and Chief Content Officer of Film, Television and Digital of Entertainment One (aka eOne)

The rumors began a few months ago, before being confirmed in early October. In a move sure to please many C.S. Lewis fans while simultaneously giving others a case of anxiety, Netflix announced that they had indeed acquired the keys to Narnia.

The Chronicles of Narnia

The streaming service “signed a multi-year deal with the C.S. Lewis Company to produce multiple movies and television shows based on ‘The Chronicles of Narnia’…. Mark Gordon, Douglas Gresham, and Vincent Sieber will executive produce the new films and produce all upcoming shows.” It is also notable that this is the first time the rights to all seven books of the ‘Chronicles’ have been held by one company.

We really don’t have many details at this point. For example, it isn’t clear if all productions will be straight adaptations of the books, or if they have license to mine the source material to create peripheral stories and characters. Nothing has been said, afaik, about the degree to which the Christian allegorical elements will be retained from the novels. There has also been no news about a certain film project already underway….

Long-time readers of this blog might remember a post from Sep. 2016, in which I reported the planned reboot of the Narnia film franchise, beginning with The Silver Chair. As per Jax Motes over at ScienceFiction.com:

“Last year, Joe Johnson was announced to be directing and he stated that he expected to begin filming in late 2018. It’s unknown if that is still the case, but the Mark Gordon Company [now fully owned by eOne] is still attached, and has already spent a great deal of time and money developing ‘The Silver Chair’. Therefore, it might be smart to keep things going as they stand, rather than retooling everything.”

As usual, I am cautiously optimistic about such deals. What gives me some encouragement is the fact that The C.S. Lewis Company is still involved in these projects, as is Lewis’ stepson and co-owner of the Lewis Estate, Douglas Gresham. Gresham had the following to say about the Netflix deal:

“It is wonderful to know that folks from all over are looking forward to seeing more of Narnia, and that the advances in production and distribution technology have made it possible for us to make Narnian adventures come to life all over the world. Netflix seems to be the very best medium with which to achieve this aim, and I am looking forward to working with them towards this goal.”

I hope that all concerned treat these properties with care and respect for their creator. Do “Jack” proud, guys!

How to Improve the Green Lantern (2011) Movie

“In brightest day, in blackest night,
No evil shall escape my sight!
Let those who worship evil’s might
Beware my power, Green Lantern’s light!”
— Hal Jordan / many current Lanterns

The Green Lantern movie starring Ryan Reynolds is generally considered to be one of the weakest entries in the rash of comics-adapted superhero movies from the past couple decades. Would you agree?

Frankly, it has been awhile, and I don’t remember too much about it. I know I didn’t think it sucked as much as some people did, but it was rather disappointing. Still, the casting of Mark Strong as ‘Sinestro’ and Temuera Morrison as ‘Abin Sur’ were pretty good. (There may have been others.) But many folks (like me) couldn’t quite buy Ryan Reynolds as the ‘Hal Jordan / Green Lantern’ of comics lore. (‘Deadpool’, on the other hand, he seems to have been born to play.) Other complaints, as I recall, were about the story and the special F/X (especially re Hal’s GL costume).

Earlier this year, I made the Facebook acquaintance of a fella named Martin Glynn, with whom I have several mutual FB friends. In chatting with him, I discovered he is a comics fan. Furthermore, a few years ago he spent quite a bit of time thinking about how he would have made the Green Lantern movie. (Not that he’s in the film biz; he’s just a fan like you and me.) In fact, he has two lengthy posts on his blog about it, noting specific changes and laying out two alternative ways of modifying the plot and select scenes. Here is a sampling…

Alternate 1

“Probably the simpler modification you can make is to keep the whole movie on Earth. The audience only needs to understand the ring as much as Hal does, and if Hal only knows what it can do, then that is all the audience needs to know as well. This story would be a story of an ordinary man who suddenly has a large amount of power fall into his lap. This would parallel very well with Hammond who would find himself in the same situation. The plot will go like this:

Cold open with Green Lantern Abin Sur. He is in a transport ship, and is reporting to some kind of superior about a sample that he is bringing back to some place called “Oa”. A close up with the camera demonstrates that this sample is contained within some kind of heavily protected canister. In his report he mentions how the events on some planet were caused by a kind of substance. Also, it appears that this substance was introduced from off-world, and that the culprit is…

Suddenly his ship is attacked without warning. Due to his need to protect the sample, he attempts to fight the foe from inside of the ship. However the precision of the attack causes him to lose control, and he attempts to escape by activating his engine (or an escape pod. Doesn’t really matter as long as he is protecting the canister). Opening credits.

Peter Sarsgaard as Hector Hammond

Cut to Hal waking up. The scene introducing Hal can be left pretty much unchanged, even up until he crashes the plane. The only changes is that A) Hal isn’t fired at the end, B) no Daddy issues, and C) Hector Hammond is accompanying his father as his assistant (also Hammond does not know either Hal or Carol). We can also get some scenes of General Hammond being verbally abusive toward his son for the sake of establishing the character. They can also have a conversation on their way back to the car, to further establish their relationship. Afterwards, Hal goes to the bar, and Carol meets up with him. They have a conversation/argument about what happened, and about their former relationship, basically like the bar scene in the movie with better dialogue. Carol leaves and Hal returns to his drink saying something about wanting things to be different.

Now we cut to Abin Sur crashing at the coast….”

Personally, I’d probably go with a near-complete rewrite of the movie, including making the ‘Hal Jordan’ character closer to the more serious and squared-away former military man of the comics. But, for Martin’s purposes, these are some good tweaks. I really like the idea of focusing on Hal and Hector as newbies-wielding-vast-power and leaving the Corps out of it (until the very end). Check out the rest of this revamp idea here.

Alternate 2

“[W]hat if we are not just interesting in the Green Lantern character, but really do want to see a movie about the Green Lantern Corps? Is that movie possible?

I think it is, and we can do it with some of the same principles. For instance, simplification would still be necessary. Perhaps even more necessary since there would be more things that we have to introduce this time around.

Another principle is one central villain. This is a bit more difficult thought, especially if we want to save Sinestro for a later film to make his betrayal more real (and I think we do want to do that). Parallax is too much of an epic villain and simply inappropriate for a first movie. Hector Hammond is also difficult if this is going to be a Corps focused movie since he is an Earth based villain. This leaves none of the villains that were in the movie, so we either have to go into the comics for a different villain, or try to make one of these work.

However, to try and stay with the theme of the project here, I do think that there is something we can do with an Earth based villain like Hector Hammond. It will also help introduce a theme that I think is really interesting.

So what is jist of this movie? First of all, we need to de-emphasize the Earth based characters. This would have to reduce Tommy down to basically a cameo, and reduce Carol down to more of a witness of things on Earth, but not a main character.

But the theme of the movie would be loyalty. Think about this for a second: Hal Jordan is from a planet that has yet to have any experience with extra-terrestrial life. Then he is suddenly whisked away from this planet by some military organization that wants to recruit him. He is no sense of loyalty to this organization, and would have difficulty deciding to risk his life for this group. Additionally, if he had to choose between Earth and the Corps, what would he choose?

I personally love this theme a lot more than the common themes of power/responsibility (that I suggested last week) or fear/courage (which the actual movie used). Indeed I can only think of one other movie that has explored this theme, and that is The Last Star-fighter. I don’t think we should use that movie exactly, but we can definitely use that movie as a sign that this film can work, especially since all of the obstacles a Green Lantern movie faced, that movie faced as well….”

My preference would be to stick to a very Earth-centric first movie with an inexperienced Hal, then introduce an additional Corps member or three in a sequel to fill Hal in on their mandate and to help train him, then have Hal and the audience finally visit Oa and the Green Lantern Corps in a third film. But, Martin does have some pretty good ideas for his version — e.g., loyalty theme; more realistic, extended training; etc. (Go here for the full blogpost.) It will be interesting to see what direction DC/Warner Bros. decide to go with for the planned Green Lantern Corps (2020) reboot.