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….

Upcoming, Live-Action Superhero Series Round-up, part 2

Continuing from last week, wherein we looked at various confirmed, possible, and merely rumored Netflix series that will/would join the four Marvel adaptations so far, this week we’ll review several more superhero shows being developed at other networks. Most of them also happen to be based on Marvel properties, but not all….

Disney/ABC

o I’ve already blogged about the “Inhumans” mini-series coming out this Fall (here and here). As previously mentioned, it will focus on the Inhumans’ Royal Family (as seen in the comics) and will not be connected to “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” and the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I have mixed feelings about the casting choices — e.g., Serinda Swan as ‘Medusa’ looks rather disappointing in the pic I saw — but I’m hopeful that the overall story and production will make it worth watching.

Fox

‘The Gifted’

o As we now know, the mysterious “X-men related” show that was being developed over at Fox is called “The Gifted”. The basic premise is that a suburban American couple discovers “their children possess mutant powers. Forced to go on the run from a hostile government, the family joins up with an underground network of mutants and must fight to survive.” This appears to be a new concept and not based on any particular Marvel mutant-themed comics, but there will be a few familiar characters (e.g., ‘Polaris’, ‘Blink’, ‘Thunderbird’). The creative team / producers include many familiar names, too — e.g., Bryan Singer, Jeph Loeb, Lauren Shuler Donner, Simon Kinberg, Jim Chory, and Matt Nix. My interest is piqued! (No premiere date but possibly late-2017.)

Hulu

o Based on another popular Marvel comic book series, “Runaways” is about a group of teenagers who discover that their parents are the members of a secret cabal of supervillains. As if there wasn’t enough to be angsty about…. These kids discover that they have unusual skills and abilities of their own and decide to foil their parents’ evil plans. As you might have guessed, the parents do not appreciate the interference, and the kids end up on the run, so to speak. Thus the title. I remember reading several issues of this series when it came out years ago and enjoyed it. I really hope they do a decent job with this adaptation. At least the cast looks good…. (Premieres sometime in 2018.)

Freeform (formerly ABC Family)

o “Cloak & Dagger”: “Two teenagers [Tandy Bowen and Tyrone Johnson] from very different backgrounds find themselves burdened and awakened to newly acquired superpowers while falling in love.” To be honest, I never really got into these characters much. I remember reading a few stories with them — maybe the initial, limited series and a few guest-starring appearances in other titles. But, they never really got me excited. Still, it’s an interesting concept, and I know their fans have been talking for some time about the possibility of these characters arriving either on the small- or big-screen. Well, it’s finally happening, so for their sakes, I hope this is a satisfying live-action adaptation. (Premieres early/winter 2018.)

o Not much is known about the “(Marvel’s) New Warriors” series being developed for Freeform, except that it will be a half-hour action-comedy and apparently features ‘Squirrel Girl’. Now, since debuting in the ’90s, this team has gone through a few different rosters. But, it has always been (mostly) serious, despite the silliness of Speedball, and the ridiculous Squirrel Girl has never before been part of any incarnation of the team. This series “is about six young people with powers living and working together. With powers and abilities on the opposite end of the spectrum of The Avengers, the New Warriors want to make a difference in the world… even if the world isn’t ready.” The team will be led by SG, whose “most important trait is that she has faith in people and teaches them to believe in themselves.” Not the way I’d have gone with this property, but I guess…. (No premiere date but probably 2018.)

You might be wondering if there will be any crossover between the two Freeform series. Well, probably not. As per Karey Burke, Freeform’s Vice President of Programming, “If you know these two properties, they’re not particularly connected. There are many degrees of separation with where they fall in the Marvel universe. But anything is possible with Marvel. Their tones are so wildly different. Cloak is this angst-filled, achingly beautiful, heartfelt romantic drama. And Squirrel Girl is a balls-out comedy.”

CW

‘Black Lightning’

o DC’s latest — fifth, or sixth if you count “iZombie” — entre on The CW will be “Black Lightning”, starring Cress Williams in the title role. The incredibly busy and talented Greg Berlanti is one of the executive producers, along with his producing partner Sarah Schechter. Husband-and-wife team Salim and Mara Brock Akil are writing, with Salim also directing at least the pilot. The show tells the story of Jefferson Pierce, a long-retired superhero who gets pulled back into the biz, when his daughters (who I think also have powers) get involved in some heavy stuff. The trailer I saw looked pretty good, so here’s hopin’…. (Premieres either this October or early 2018.)

???

o The one we know the least about is “Quantum & Woody”, based on a Valiant title by the same name. (I loved the original but haven’t read the new one.) It was a quirky, clever series with fun characters: adopted, adult brothers — one black, one white; one serious, one goofy — who gain superpowers and (naturally) become costumed adventurers. This past March it was announced that the Russo Brothers (“Community”, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Captain America: Civil War) would develop the property as a TV series, once they wrap The Avengers: Infinity War. Other executive producers include Andrew Barrer and Gabriel Ferrari (Ant-Man), who are currently working on Ant-Man and The Wasp. Sounds like a great creative team! But, correctly casting the title characters — with the “odd couple” vibe and repartee from the comics — will be crucial to the show’s success. (No premiere date.)

o Just before going to press, I discovered that DC’s live-action “Titans” series has not only been revived but will begin shooting in September. Apparently, I missed the announcement back in April that it was moving forward, after all. Beside the shoot-date, we also now know that Berlanti (along with Geoff Johns and Akiva Goldsman) is co-developing this one, too, and it will be “part of a brand new digital service from DC Entertainment and Warner Bros.” Does this mean it won’t air on a regular TV or cable channel? I dunno. Regardless, I hope they do the team justice. Teen justice! <<ahem!>> (Likely premieres sometime in 2018.)

I don’t know about you, but I think there is a *lot* to look forward to over the next couple years, and that’s just from this particular subset of our beloved sci-fi/fantasy and action/adventure genres. Even if only half of these series catch on, I’ll be happy. (Assuming I have a chance to watch them, that is.)

Goodbye, Ol’ Chum!

He wasn’t the first on-screen Batman, nor the richest, nor the muscley-est, nor many other things. But, Adam West was perhaps the “funnest” and certainly the most inspirational for my generation. Of course, his show was well into syndication by the time I was old enough to watch. But, campy as it was, it was a favorite of this young superhero/comics fan. From all accounts, he was a really nice guy and fun to work with, too.

 

 

 

 

Thanks for the memories, Caped Crusader!

 

 

 

Upcoming, Live-Action Superhero Series Round-up, part 1

I’ve said it before, but superhero genre fans are truly blessed these days. In addition to the the many live-action adaptations on the big screen, we have more leather- and spandex-clad heroes with special powers and skills on TV now than ever before — from DC’s various series on regular TV (“Arrow”, “The Flash”, “Legends of Tomorrow”, & “Supergirl” on CW; “Gotham” on Fox (no costume-wearing heroes in this last one, though)); Marvel’s “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” on ABC and “Legion” on FX; and, Marvel’s Netflix-original shows (“Daredevil”, “Jessica Jones”, “Luke Cage”, “Iron Fist”). I suppose I should throw in DC’s “Preacher” (AMC), though I don’t care for the concept and would hardly call him a hero. (Same goes for “Lucifer”.)

There were also the late, lamented “Agent Carter” by Marvel and “Constantine” by DC, both of which had loyal fan followings but still got canceled. And, of course, there have been a few that were talked about a lot but fell through — e.g., DC’s “Teen Titans”/”Blackbirds” and Marvel’s “Mockingbird”/”Marvel’s Most Wanted”.

But, there are more on the way…. Over the past couple years or so, several other comic book adaptations have been rumored, discussed, planned, and in many cases gone into production. I thought we’d take a quick look at each of them — those I am aware of, at least. (Given that I’m a bit pressed for time, though, I’m splitting the “round-up” between this week and next. Hope you don’t mind.) Let’s begin with…

Netflix

o “The Defenders”: Anyone paying attention is aware that the heroes from the first four Netflix shows have always been intended to co-star in a mini-series as Marvel’s best ever non-team, “The Defenders”. I don’t think this particular line-up has ever seen print, but anything to get our heroes fighting together and likely among themselves in time-honored Marvel tradition. It debuts this August 18th.

o “The Punisher”: The popular, gun-toting anti-hero was so popular in his appearance in Season 2 of “Daredevil” that the powers-that-be decided a spin-off show was in order. I believe I’m on record as being in favor of this, as long as they do right by the character. Last I read, this one’s scheduled for release in Nov. 2017.

o More?: A little over a year ago, rumors began that Netflix was planning to add to their stable of Marvel-based series. Specifically, Moviecreedlive reported, “Our sources have revealed that Blade, Ghost Rider, and Moon Knight are lined-up to join Netflix.” These all make sense, given the darker, street-level tone of their other series. However, I haven’t heard/read anything more about this, other than the discussions of MK replacing Iron Fist, when the latter was having trouble getting some direction. (No comment.) Of course, “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” has since introduced a version of Ghost Rider, so I don’t know how that might affect Netflix’s plans. Since Marvel has been keeping its Netflix properties independent from other shows & films, it might not matter at all. Personally, I’d love to see the original Ghost Rider, with host Johnny Blaze, brought to Netflix.

On the other hand, a different report around the same time said that Marvel/Netflix were next developing series for She-Hulk, Cloak & Dagger, Bullseye, and Elektra. The odd one out here seems to be She-Hulk. Not only do they already have one show about lawyers — Shulkie is also an attorney named Jennifer Walters — and two characters with super-strength, but the character doesn’t really fit the dark-n-gritty tone of the other shows. Plus, they’d need a decent CGI budget. The other three make more sense, though I haven’t read/seen anything more about Bullseye or Elektra. Most likely, it was an April Fool’s joke, anyway, since the article was published 4/1/2016. However, I’ll talk more about Cloak & Dagger in a minute — or, rather, in Part 2.

Finally, the possible Netflix show that makes the most sense to me would be the one rumored to spin off the Misty Knight character from “Luke Cage”. Ideally (for me), she would get her bionic arm and team up with Colleen Wing (from “Iron Fist”) to form “Knightwing Restorations”. (They could use that as a title, or “Daughters of the Dragon”.) It has been confirmed that Knight & Wing will both show up in “The Defenders”, so maybe it will set up events that lead to a spin-off then. Unfortunately, there has been no further news on this front, either.

That’s it for now. Continued next week…

Welcome to the Dark Universe

“Uuuuuhhhhhnnnnn….!!”  — the Mummy (before its morning coffee)

Are/were you a big fan of Dracula, Frankenstein’s monster, the Wolf Man, etc.? In case you hadn’t heard, they’re making a comeback!

Universal Pictures had decades of success with its popular movies about these characters and others, beginning (I believe) with 1925’s The Phantom of the Opera and into the 1930s, 1940s, & 1950s. Of course, there were plenty of sequels, “foreign” versions, and the most popular characters got remakes in subsequent decades. I wouldn’t say I was a huge fan — I tended to prefer the giant and/or alien creature type of “monster” — but I think I did watch a few of the 1960s and 1970s remakes as a kid.

Classic Universal Monsters

I enjoyed the Mummy movies of recent years with Brendan Fraser, but I wasn’t sure if I was ready for the new Mummy reboot with Tom Cruise. (Fortunately, he isn’t playing the titular character.) Making the mummy female is an interesting twist, though, and now that I’ve seen the trailers, I’ll probably watch the movie at some point. What is more interesting to me, however, is that this movie (debuting in a couple weeks) is set to kick off a revival of the Universal Monsters, and they will all be part of a shared film universe — a “Dark Universe”. (Not to be confused with DC’s “Justice League Dark” nor with the space show at the Hayden Planetarium.) As Deadline‘s Mike Fleming noted,

“[T]his will be the first time that the studio has formalized an approach to these classic characters in a cohesive, connected way rather than as a series of stand-alone projects by disparate filmmaking teams.”

The concept for this shared universe appears to have taken form around 2012/2013. It wasn’t until July 2014, though, that Universal announced they had signed Alex Kurtzman and Chris Morgan to spearhead development of the classic movie monsters within a single, interconnected world. They will also, “work closely with production, marketing, promotions and consumer product to support the revival, [as well as] reevaluate projects which have preexisting attachments, and bring it under one cohesive strategy.”

In addition to Kurtzman and Morgan, they have been soliciting scripts and working with what has been called a “brain trust” of talented writers, including Noah Hawley, Aaron Guzikowski, Ed Solomon, Dan Mazeau, Jay Basu, David Koepp, and Christopher McQuarrie. There will also be a musical theme for the franchise composed by genre-favorite Danny Elfman, which will debut with The Mummy.

“When I got the opportunity to compose a theme for the Dark Universe logo,” said Elfman, “of course I jumped at it. What could be more fun than connecting to this world that has always been so deeply imbedded in my psyche? I tried to find something that was new but still had some connections with the past — the origins — at least in a subtle way.”

Many horror fans have been waiting a long time for something like this. The newly-dubbed “Dark Universe” will combine horror with other genres, though action-adventure seems to be predominant. For horror fans concerned about this decision, Kurtzman assures:

“I promise you there will be horror in these movies. It is our life goal to make a horror movie. The tricky part is actually how you combine horror with either adventure or suspense or action and be true to all the genres together.” (Screencrush)

The films will be modern-day reimaginings of the old stories & creatures, though I wouldn’t be surprised if there were prologue scenes of earlier eras. There will, however, be touches of the Victorian Era, because the link that connects the films will be a secret, multi-national organization called “Prodigium”, which is housed in a Victorian-looking HQ. According to this site, Prodigium “recognize, examine, contain, and destroy evil.”

“Prodigium protects the public from knowledge of the evil that exists just beyond the thin membrane of civilized society… and will go to any length to contain it.”

As I mentioned, Tom Cruise stars in The Mummy as adventurer Nick Morton. Rising star Sofia Boutella (Kingsman: The Secret Service, Star Trek Beyond) is Ahmanet / The Mummy, and Russell Crowe plays Dr. Henry Jekyll, the director of Prodigium, so he’ll probably show up in other DU movies, as well. Other big stars who have already signed on for upcoming films include Johnny Depp, who will play Dr. Jack Griffin / The Invisible Man, and Javier Bardem as Frankenstein’s monster. It is not yet known when Bardem will first show up, since a Frankenstein movie is not yet scheduled.

In a somewhat odd move, the next DU film on the docket is Bride of Frankenstein, directed by Academy Award® winner Bill Condon (Gods and Monsters) and currently scheduled for a Feb. 2019 release. Creature from the Black Lagoon (2019?), Invisible Man (2020?), Van Helsing, and Wolf Man are in development. I am assuming that a Frankenstein movie is also planned, and possibly Phantom of the Opera, Hunchback of Notre Dame, and Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde, though the last one wasn’t originally a Universal property. The noticeable absence is that of Dracula. Apparently, there was talk of Dracula Untold (2014) being linked into the DU via reshoots and an ending scene that hinted at a shared universe. However, according to the new Wikipedia article,

“In December 2016, Kurtzman confirmed in an interview with Collider that Dracula Untold would not be part of the universe’s continuity canon. Featurette videos released by Universal Pictures for The Mummy have however confirmed the existence of vampires, alluding to Count Dracula.”

What about crossovers, you may ask? After all, there were a few such instances in the old films where two or three of the “monsters” fought and/or teamed up. Of course, those usually involved comedy duo Abbott & Costello…. Well, the focus for now is on standalone installments. But, as Kurtzman explained:

“[W]e have a *lot* of ideas…. We’re not necessarily going to do ‘The Avengers.’ There might be reasons for this character and that character to come together, because the story tells us that’s what the story wants. The story is what drives the choice. And if down the line, there’s a big reason to bring them together, then great. But I promise, we’re not starting there.”

That’s what we know, for now. There have been many takes on these characters over the past near-century, with Dracula and Frankenstein getting perhaps the most attention — one or more new productions for each every decade. So, maybe some people are tired of them. As for me, I don’t watch many of them, so I guess I’m ready for something new, and this shared universe may be what it takes to get me interested again. I was never big into the horror genre — one, I don’t scare easily, and two, I get impatient with the suspense aspect. (Hurry up, already! <<fast-forward>>) So, I suppose the action-adventure flavor will help keep the attention of people like me. I have mixed feelings about having such big stars involved, but I suppose that will help draw the crowds, which is where the big money comes from, which in turn leads to more movies. I can live with that. Besides, that’s a pretty talented bunch they’ve got, so far, which is very encouraging.

What do you think? Excited? Couldn’t care less? Let us know below if you have any thoughts on Universal’s “Dark Universe” news….

Fan-Cast: James Bond, part 3: Miss Moneypenny

“Flattery will get you nowhere… but don’t stop trying.”  — Miss Moneypenny, Dr. No

As promised, I continue fan-casting James Bond’s closest associates this week with the ever-loyal Miss Moneypenny.

Miss Moneypenny

Moneypenny is the private secretary and assistant to “M”, head of MI-6, and holds the rank of Lieutenant in the Royal Navy (actually, the Women’s Royal Naval Service until it was integrated into the Royal Navy in 1993). The latest version even did a bit of fieldwork before deciding she was better suited to administrative duties. As with “M”, the character’s creation appears to have been inspired by a mix of various real-life acquaintances/associates of creator Ian Fleming — from Kathleen Pettigrew (personal assistant to Stewart Menzies, the actual head of MI-6 from 1939-1952) to Joan Howe (Fleming’s own secretary at The Times in the 1950s, who typed the original Casino Royale manuscript).

The Four (Primary) Moneypennys

Moneypenny is incredibly attracted to — perhaps I should say infatuated/smitten with? — the dashing and roguish Agent 007, often daydreaming about marrying him or, at the very least, enjoying an illicit tryst. Knowing that this will likely never happen, she has (mostly) resigned herself to playful flirting with Bond. She is smart, efficient, and quite loyal.

Lois Maxwell played the role for all Connery and Moore films, as well as Lazenby’s one film. (The only exception was 1983’s non-official Never Say Never Again, in which Pamela Salem filled in.) Caroline Bliss was Dalton’s Moneypenny in 1987 and 1989, with the conveniently-named Samantha Bond taking over for Brosnan’s run. Craig’s first two films had no Moneypenny, but Naomie Harris has had the role since 2012’s Skyfall, which also gave her the first name “Eve”. I am not aware of any physical description given for the character, but the movie versions have obviously varied a bit. What does seem fairly consistent is that she is slim, attractive, and her age is roughly that of Bond, give or take. Over the years, the actresses ranged in age from mid-30s to late-50s, as did the Bond actors (though Moore was a bit older).

For the next reboot, I’d like to see Bond and Moneypenny continue to be about the same age: early- to mid-30s, though a slightly older Moneypenny would be OK. I would also like to keep a bit of sexual tension and Moneypenny’s unrequited feelings, which were barely there in Fleming’s original novels but have become identified with the character in the movies and later novels. To that end, attractive 30-something actresses are naturally my focus here.

Let me begin by saying that there are a couple Americans who I considered: Alison Brie (5’3″,b.1982) and Emma Stone (5’6″,b.1988). They would each bring different qualities to the role, and I thought they might do a good job. Assuming we want to stick with someone from the UK, though, I considered Emma Watson (5’5″,b.1990). However, she may be a bit too young (barely 30 by the time a reboot might shoot), and I’m not sure how well she’d fit the role. On the other hand, I thought Hayley Atwell (5’7″,b.1982) would be a fun choice. The reason I ultimately rejected her is that I’d rather see her as a “Bond girl”, in particular as an agent of some sort, so she can show off her “Agent Carter” moves.

Which brings me to my three preferred candidates for Miss Moneypenny…

Sienna Miller (Photo by Carlos Alvarez/Getty Images)

First choice: Sienna Miller (5’5″,b.1981). You might remember her from “Keen Eddie”, Layer Cake (w/ Daniel Craig), Stardust, G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, American Sniper, or the recent The Lost City of Z. The British-American former model seems to have the right mix of prettiness and spunkiness (like Harris) that makes for a fun and interesting Moneypenny.

Keira Knightley

Next up: Miller’s close friend (and co-star in The Edge of Love), Keira Knightley (5’7″,b.1985). If you somehow don’t remember, Knightley has appeared in Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace, The Hole, several Pirates of the Caribbean films, King Arthur, The Jacket, Domino, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, Everest, etc. Like Miller, Knightley is a very attractive and talented actress who could have a lot of fun with this relatively small, supporting role.

Honeysuckle Weeks

My third choice is less known, a tad older, and more “cute” than “pretty”, IMO. Honeysuckle Weeks (5’7″,b.1979) came to my attention as the driver/aide to Detective Foyle in “Foyle’s War”, so this casting would be especially appropriate(?) if Michael Kitchen (who played Foyle) became the next M. She was also in various British mysteries, as well as Red Mercury, “The Bill”, The Wicker Tree, “Inspector Lewis”, and “The Five”. I can definitely see her as Moneypenny.

That about does it. Have ideas of your own for Moneypenny? Let us know in the comments! I think I’ll take a break for now, but I’ll take a stab at fan-casting ‘Q’ and Felix Leiter in the coming weeks/months.

* All ideas copyright Christopher Harris, 2013-2017.

Fan-Cast: James Bond, part 2: M

“Go to hell with ‘dignity’. I’ll leave when the job’s done.”  — M, Skyfall

A little over a month ago, I did some fan-casting for legendary British intelligence officer, James Bond, aka Agent 007. I promised to eventually follow up with casting suggestions for Bond’s closest associates. So, assuming another reboot when Daniel Craig leaves the franchise in a few years, this week I’d like to take a shot at finding a new “M”. (I was going to do “Miss Moneypenny”, too, but I decided they each needed a separate post.)

M

The Four Ms

Apparently inspired by various individuals that Ian Fleming knew or was familiar with, M is the Head of the Foreign Intelligence branch of Her Majesty’s Secret Service, i.e., Great Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service (SIS) (aka MI-6). As a member of the 00 Section, Bond reports directly to M. The tradition of the head of MI-6 signing his/her name with a single letter came from the agency’s real-life first director, Captain Sir Mansfield George Smith Cumming, KCMG, CB (1 April 1859 – 14 June 1923), who used to sign “C”. Some, but not all, of those holding the office in the novels and movies have had the initial “M”, but the single-letter title seems to have stuck.

As per Wikipedia, “A naval theme runs throughout Fleming’s description of M and his surroundings, and his character was described by journalist and Bond scholar Ben Macintyre as “every inch the naval martinet”. Macintyre also notes that in his study of Fleming’s work, Kingsley Amis outlined the way Fleming had described M’s voice, being: angry (three times); brutal, cold (seven times); curt, dry (five times); gruff (seven times); stern, testy (five times).” The character often clashes with Bond, while simultaneously trusting the agent’s intel and respecting his end-results. I am not aware of any physical description given for M. Of course, there have been multiple people to hold the office (four in the movies, not sure about the novels), including a woman, so that would all vary, anyway. But, we do know that the sorts of people who are appointed are very smart, accomplished, usually with military experience, and not averse to doing a little field work.

If casting someone in their 70s (by the time a post-Craig film went before the cameras), I can think of three distinguished British actors that could do the role justice. First, there is Jeremy Irons (6’2″,b.1948), known to genre fans for everything from Dead Ringers and Die Hard with a Vengeance to The Man in the Iron Mask, The Time Machine (2002), Eragon, and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Michael Kitchen (5’7″,b.1948) hasn’t done much genre work, though he did appear in Dracula A.D. 1972, “Thriller”, “Tales of the Unexpected”, The Russia House, “The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles”, and he played the recurring ‘Bill Tanner’ character in Goldeneye and The World Is Not Enough. (He came to my attention when he starred in the “Foyle’s War” series of TV movies.) Then, of course, there is the amazing Helen Mirren (5’4″,b.1945). In addition to starring in the various “Prime Suspect” mini-series, Mirren can be seen in “Thriller”, Excalibur, 2010, White Knights, “The Twilight Zone”, National Treasure: Book of Secrets, State of Play, RED & RED 2, with some voice work thrown in.

If I had my druthers, though, I’d like to see someone a little younger in the role, if for no other reason than to increase the odds of their staying with the franchise for several years. So, here are a couple of candidates:

Colin Salmon

Once suggested by Pierce Brosnan to replace him as Bond, Colin Salmon (6’4.5″,b.1962) would be a terrific M! First appearing in “Prime Suspect 2”, Salmon went on to appear in such genre fare as “Tales from the Crypt”, Immortality, Resident Evil, “Dinotopia”, “Keen Eddie”, AVP: Alien vs. Predator, “Hex”, “Doctor Who”, Punisher: War Zone, “Merlin”, “Strike Back”, “MI-5”, “Arrow”, “24: Live Another Day”, etc. And, oh yes, he played M’s Chief of Staff, Charles Robinson, in Tomorrow Never Dies, The World Is Not Enough, and Die Another Day. Salmon is a wonderful actor with a commanding voice and presence. It might even make sense for the Robinson character to be promoted into the M position.

Stephen Dillane

“Game of Thrones” fans know him best as would-be king ‘Stannis Baratheon’. But, Stephen Dillane (6′,b.1957) has been around for awhile and appeared in plenty of other genre productions. These include “The One Game”, “Super Soldier”, Welcome to Sarajevo, Spy Game, King Arthur, Freakdog, 44 Inch Chest, “Eternal Law”, “Hunted” (in which he played the head of a small office of spies), “Secret State”, Zero Dark Thirty, and the current “The Tunnel” series. His characters are often cold, stern, by-the-book types, which fit perfectly with Fleming’s original characterization of M. I think Dillane would be a great choice.

If I was more familiar with British TV and movies, I could probably come up with a couple more. But, those will have to do for now. Comments?

* All ideas copyright Christopher Harris, 2013-2017.