Assessing the Casting of ABC’s Inhumans

Inhumans Royal Family

Don’t know about you, but I haven’t heard/read all that much about this upcoming series. I mentioned several facts that came out earlier in a post last November. Recently, though, there have been a few cast announcements and a couple of on-set pics from where they are shooting the show in Hawaii.

I’ve liked the Inhumans since I first read about them in “Fantastic Four” comics back in the 1970s. They had an interesting and isolated culture, cool powers & appearances, and an on-again/off-again, quasi-frenemy sort of relationship with our heroes (sort of like Namor has). I especially liked the core group of the Royal Family, which fortunately look to be central to the new show. So, of course, I want to see live-action versions that are faithful adaptations from the source material. With that in mind, I decided to take a look at the actors who will be portraying these beloved characters. Here are my 2 cents…

Anson Mount as Black Bolt: I am not familiar with Mount (6′,b.1973). He has appeared in episodes of series I watched (e.g., “Smallville”, “CSI: Miami”, “Lost”, “Dollhouse”), but nothing stands out in my memory about him. He has been a regular in other series, most recently starring in the drama/western “Hell on Wheels”, but I am unfamiliar with them, unfortunately. Physically, though, Mount appears to be a pretty solid choice, both in face and build. Having looked at some photos, he often appears to have an intense and/or weary look, which should work well for the silent, burdened King of the Inhumans.

Serinda Swan as Medusa: The lovely Miss Swan (5’7″,b.1984) is quite a bit shorter than the comics version of Queen Medusa (5’11”). But, I think she has both the beauty (and curves) and physicality to do right by the role. You may remember her as the sorcerous Zatanna on “Smallville”, which I thought was terrific casting! She has also been on “Supernatural”, “Breakout Kings”, “The Tomorrow People”, “Chicago Fire”, “Graceland”. I don’t know that she has ever had to stretch her acting skills much, so I hope she can get a handle on the Queen of the Inhumans. I assume they will need to do her mass of prehensile hair via CGI, so it shouldn’t be a problem coloring it red.

Ken Leung as Karnak: The first time I remember taking note of Leung (5’7″,b.1970) was with his role in “Lost”. Of course, he has also been in such genre fare as Rush Hour, Spy Game, Saw, X-Men: The Last Stand, “Person of Interest”, “Zero Hour”, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, et al. He is the exact height that Marvel’s wiki lists for Karnak, and I think the martial-artist character is supposed to look like an Asian human. (He’s also supposed to have an unusually large cranium. I wonder if they’ll use CGI, prosthetic, or ignore that particular characteristic. Same question re the body tattoos the character acquired in later years.) Leung will need to portray a much more physical, analytical, and self-assured character than he usually does, but he may be able to pull it off.

Eme Ikwuakor as Gorgon: I don’t believe I am familiar with Ikwuakor (6’3″,b.1984), though he has had small roles in “Castle”, “Hawaii Five-O”, “Extant”, “Colony”, “NCIS: Los Angeles” and appeared in a few movies (e.g. Ink). The comics version of Gorgon is Caucasian-looking but often with dusky complexion; so, if they’re going to make one of the characters black, Gorgon makes the most sense. (Note: “Black Bolt” is a shortening of “Blackagar Boltagon”, plus that character usually wears a black costume.) Ikwuakor isn’t as tall (6’7″) or bulky as Gorgon is usually made to be, but he is fairly tall and muscular. Maybe he’ll bulk up even more for the part? I hope he does a good job, since this could be a breakout role for him.

Mike Moh as Triton: As an Asian with martial arts expertise, Moh (5’9″,b.1983) would have been a good choice for Triton’s younger brother, Karnak. But, maybe his muscular-yet-lithe “swimmer’s body” was what they really wanted for the scaly, aquatic Triton. His genre credits include “Kamen Rider: Dragon Knight”, “Supah Ninjas”, “Castle”, “Street Fighter: Assassin’s Fist”, “Street Fighter: Resurrection”, as well as the non-genre “Empire”. Who knows, maybe he’ll really “own” this part. I wonder how long he can hold his breath….

Isabelle Cornish as Crystal: This role calls for an attractive, young blonde woman about 5’6″ or so, and that’s what they found in Cornish (5’8.5″,b.1994). She doesn’t have near the resume of her sister, Abbie, nor has she been in any genre stuff. But, she was in several episodes of a couple of Australian dramas: “Home and Away” and “Puberty Blues”. I’m rooting for Cornish to make her mark with this role. It may seem like a small thing, but I just hope they make her hair the strawberry blonde color that Crystal is known for having. (That said, I realize that red-headed comic characters tend to end up as brunettes on TV. Grr! At least keep her blonde, OK?)

Iwan Rheon as Maximus: Rheon (5’8″,b.1985) is the guy who played the sadistic bastard Ramsay Bolton on “Game of Thrones”. Other than being shorter (5’8″) than the comics version (5’11”) and thus a little shorter than I’d prefer, he is perhaps the most perfect casting for Black Bolt’s scheming younger brother, Maximus the Mad, as I can think of. We already know Rheon can play a great, psychotic villain. Though also a ruthless prince trying to gain power, Maximus is a very different character in a very different situation. I just hope Rheon has the talent to keep them quite separate in both his and the audience’s minds. (Come to think of it, Maximus is quite Loki-like, and Tom Hiddleston might make a good candidate for him, as well.)

Lockjaw stand-in on Inhumans set

‘Lockjaw’ as Lockjaw: From the leaked tweet-pic (seen here, sort of), it looks like the most beloved Inhuman character, the huge, teleporting canine named ‘Lockjaw’, will be handled with CGI. Makes sense to me! I certainly wouldn’t want to be the casting director tasked with finding a real, live dog that size (let alone who can act), ‘cuz they don’t exist.

Well, that’s that. I wish I was more knowledgeable about some of these actors, so I could make better guesses about their suitability talent-wise. But, I guess we’ll see soon enough, come September. Here’s hopin’ that ABC/Disney puts out a quality mini-series that Inhumans fans can enjoy!

Oh, and here’s a CBR article you might like, too!: “Inhumans: 15 Things We Want From The TV Show”

Bat-News

There was a small flurry of Batman-related news over the past month or so, so I thought I’d make a few comments….

“Gotham”

We have a new Ra’s al Ghul to look forward to, this time in “Gotham”. As you’ll remember, in the Nolan/Bale film trilogy, the character was played by Ken Watanabe and then Liam Neeson. More recently, Matt Nable played the quasi-immortal master assassin in several episodes of “Arrow”. While I respect the talent of all three actors, I felt those versions were… unsatisfactory. Part of it is the writers’ fault, of course, but none of them quite captured the essence of the character for me.

Siddig in GoT

The latest interpretation of the Demon’s Head will be portrayed by Alexander Siddig (5’11.75″,b.1965), most well-known for his role as Dr. Julian Bashir on “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine”. (Siddig has, of course, been in many other genre productions, including Kingdom of Heaven, “24”, “Primeval”, “Game of Thrones”, etc.) This is an intriguing choice. He (a Sudanese native) is much closer in ethnicity to Ra’s al Ghul (an Egyptian) than any of the previous actors, and he has played villainous characters before. On the other hand, I’m not sure he has the proper bearing (if that’s the right term) to portray this character correctly. While projecting a certain nobility/regalness, Ra’s is also a very physical person — martial artist / swordsman and often seen bare-chested. So, if they are planning on him displaying much physicality, Siddig had better be physically fit and properly trained.

We shall see. I just hope that they get the other visual aspects right this time, too — from the sometimes Wolverine-like hair & whiskers to his distinctive style of clothes (i.e., sort of a mix of Dr. Jekyll, Doctor Strange, and Doctor Doom).

The Batman

Among the latest news about the solo The Batman movie is that Ben Affleck may be trying to bail (no pun intended) on the role, apparently due to frustrations with Batman vs. Superman‘s reviews, development hassles, and pain-in-the-butt fans. As per Johnny Brayson at Outer Places,

“[S]ources claim that Affleck and Warner Bros. are currently in talks that would see him exit the role, and though he reportedly would like to leave before The Batman, the studio is apparently trying to convince him to stay on for the standalone movie before he takes his leave.”

Assuming any of this is true, you have to wonder if it’s a play for more money.

I know that some people are still very anti-Batfleck and would love to see him leave the franchise. I was skeptical but actually appreciated his performance in BvS and would like him to stay awhile. He is already in Justice League this November, and I would prefer to see continuity with him in The Batman (2018?) and the Justice League sequel (2019). After that, though, I would like to see a reboot with a younger Bruce/Batman. (I’m putting some story ideas together, which I will post in a few weeks/months.)

The other news on this front is that Affleck abdicated the director’s chair and a replacement has been named: Matt Reeves (Cloverfield, Planet of the Apes franchise).

Nightwing

Among the better fan-made film shorts and web-series about superheroes is “Nightwing: The Series” (2014, 5 episodes). I only caught one or two episodes, but I thought they were pretty decent and had good fight choreography. There is also a new “The Nightwing” mini-series being filmed by another group this year. Fans of the Nightwing character who have been holding out hope for a feature film, though, may finally be getting their wish.

Just a couple weeks ago, Warner Brothers announced that they are now planning a live-action Nightwing film! It will be directed by Chris McKay (The Lego Batman Movie, “Robot Chicken”), with screenplay by Bill Dubuque (The Accountant, The Judge). Since this is just barely getting underway, little is known. An adult Dick Grayson / Nightwing would fit with Affleck’s 40-something Bruce Wayne / Batman, but we don’t yet know if there will be an effort to connect the two.

We do know, however, that McKay’s take on the character will probably be a bit lighter, less gritty than Batman, especially the Batfleck version. As he said in a recent podcast,

“Dick Grayson didn’t come from [privilege]. Dick Grayson came from a circus family. Essentially people who aren’t rich and they are self-made. They’re entertainers. They’re gymnasts. They’re people who live hand-to-mouth and that’s something that informs him and his attitude.

He’s a fascinating guy to me, because he had all the same things happen to him [as Bruce had]…. [Y]et he remains still a brutal fighter but he’s not a playboy, he loves people dearly. Those things are why I like Dick Grayson, why I like the idea of Nightwing as a movie.”

That sounds good to me and in line with the way Grayson is usually portrayed in the comics.

Ideally, I would like to see the evolution of Dick Grayson from young, newbie-hero Robin to independent Nightwing over several years. (This would be part of those ideas I’m developing.) But, if the powers-that-be are already planning a solo film, I have a feeling that I won’t get my wish. There just isn’t time to develop the character. I’m guessing it won’t be out until 2020 or later, but whether tied to Batfleck or independent, we may not know for a while. Wherever in the current DCEU timeline it takes place, I just hope (as usual) that the writers/producers respect and draw directly from the source material. Please, comic gods, let it be a faithful and fun ride!

Top 5 Cancelled TV Series That I Miss

hulk-sadNow, this is a tough one. There are so many great TV series — even just limiting to sci-fi/fantasy and action/adventure — that have been cancelled, whether after a pretty good run or axed before they could gain an audience or much momentum. I’m sure we’ve all experienced on multiple occasions when we started getting into a new show, only to have it get cancelled. Sometimes, you wonder if it’s even worth trying a new show for fear it’ll just get the axe after a season or less (e.g., “Almost Human”, “The Event”). On the other hand, there are series that air for several years, and even if they suffer a bit in quality towards the end, you’re still sorry to see them go (e.g., “Stargate SG-1”, “Fringe”).

As you can imagine, then, my list of potentials for this post is a long one. But, in my effort to keep it manageable (and not attempt a Top 20+), I decided to focus on those series that aired roughly between the years 2000 and 2010. So, imagine, if you will, that it is circa 2012, and I am daydreaming about some of my favorite shows of the past decade that are no longer on the air (unless you count reruns in syndication, of course). Can I narrow it down to 5 favorites? Well, in no particular order, …

1) Let’s begin with “24” (2001-2010). As Stephen King once said, it was “a genuine New Thing Under the Sun, not really a serial at all, but the world’s first überseries.” The ticking countdown clock, the “events happen in real time” pacing, the dire threats by all manner of terrorists and other “bad actors”, the controversial torture and other moral dilemmas that our heroes — Jack Bauer in particular — both inflicted and endured, etc. It all made for an engrossing drama with healthy helpings of heart-pounding action. While it is true that our hero was less heroic in the last few seasons, and certainly more weighed down by personal loss and a clouded moral compass, than he was during the first few seasons, I still missed the show. I was hoping for a fresh resumption of the story. We got it in 2014’s “24: Live Another Day”. But, it only lasted 12 episodes and left many unanswered questions re the futures of our beloved characters — especially Jack and Chloe.

Little did we know that the show would indeed get a new start, namely with the current “24: Legacy”. I have already written about this, expressing my disappointment that neither Jack nor (presumably) Chloe nor almost any of the other familiar faces will be in this incarnation. But, I have enjoyed the first 3 episodes — the 4th having aired earlier this week — and am hoping that it continues to build in intensity with the twists-n-turns, betrayals and manipulations, that its predecessor was known for.

prison-break-poster2) “Prison Break” (2005-2009) was another favorite I liked during the same period. I thought the characters, main plot, various subplots, etc., were all very enjoyable. And the characters were all cast perfectly — from the Scofield/Burrows brothers to the super-creepy “T-Bag”. Watching Michael’s plan to break out with his brother (and a few tagalongs) unfold, despite setback after setback, was a lot of fun to watch. After beatings, fires, riots, deals, and betrayals, they managed to do it, but being on the run came with its own set of problems, of course. The shortened 3rd season had Michael back in prison, this time without inside knowledge and a pre-planned escape. On the plus side, we saw him improvising and relying on his wits and intellect, which are when the character shined brightest. Season 4 saw Michael reunited with many of the others and on a very different mission, ending with the TV movie, “Prison Break: The Final Break”.

I confess, I am one of those who was disappointed with the way the series ended. Not that it wasn’t realistic. But, it was just… unsatisfying. And that’s why I was thrilled when I found out a couple years ago that “Prison Break: Sequel” was in production, with nearly all of the original cast returning — even at least one who was thought to be dead. Yessss! You better believe I am looking forward to its debut this April.

3) I could not do a post like this without including everyone’s favorite space-Western, the short-lived “Firefly” (2002-2003). For a show only given 14 episodes to leave its mark, it has an unexpectedly large and dedicated following — “Browncoats”, as many of them prefer to be called. And everyone has their favorites — from the brave and dashing Captain Mal to the enigmatic and unstable River Tam. Our renegade crew of “heroes” did their best to survive in an often hostile ‘verse, taking risky transport jobs and (mostly) evading criminals and authorities alike — always with liberal doses of humor and romantic adventure. It was so different from any other series (that I can think of, anyway) and executed so well, that I still don’t understand why it was given the axe only part way through its first season.

It was great to get the Serenity movie (2005), which picked up with the crew of the eponymous ship and a few plot threads left hanging from the series. The movie was fairly satisfying, yet sad on more than one level. (Fans know what I’m talking about.) So, it’s not surprising that fans have been talking for years and asking about the possibility of “Firefly” returning to TV or possibly another movie. Rumors abound. Would any of the cast be up for it, 12+ years after the movie? A couple of them have expressed interest, but most have moved on and/or feel that it would be a bad idea to try to recapture the magic. Fox has recently indicated that they might be interested in reviving it somehow, but only if creator Joss Whedon was “fully on board for the project.” However, Whedon is a very busy guy, plus he has stated repeatedly that he has no intention of returning to the world of “Firefly”/Serenity.

What about a reboot with new cast? Much of the show’s popularity with the fans was the terrific casting of, and chemistry between, the various characters. It would be nearly impossible to find that again. No, except for maybe a sequel movie with the original cast, I think it’s best to just leave it alone. We’ll have to be satisfied with repeated viewing of our “Firefly” DVDs. (Sniff!)

4) I loved “Alias”! I really did. How could you go wrong with a cute girl — excuse me, smart and attractive young woman — as a tough-yet-vulnerable student-cum-superspy? Jennifer Garner’s “Sydney Bristow” was a younger, prettier, less cynical, American version of James Bond. Sort of. The show may have involved globe-hopping superspies fighting evil organizations, but it wasn’t a Bond ripoff. Bristow was a different sort of character, and she was surrounded by a supporting cast of very interesting and talented individuals — both the actors and the characters they played. (Incidentally, in case you weren’t aware, Victor Garber (“Legends of Tomorrow”) played Sydney’s dad and Gina Torres (“Firefly”, “Suits”) had a recurring role as a rival operative. Many other stars and soon-to-be stars appeared on the show, and Bradley Cooper’s “Will Tippin” was arguably his first major (breakout?) role.)

alias_poster58The plots were quite entertaining, whether they involved internal “politics” or field missions, shoot-outs with rival agencies or chasing down mysterious, archaeological artifacts. Viewers got to watch Sydney dress up and play all sorts of different undercover roles, using superspy tech, doing superspy stuff, and generally kicking butt and taking names. She was a strong, independent woman, yet one who was equally at home (if not moreso) just chilling out alone or with friends as she was sneaking into a secure location and fighting off armed baddies. In retrospect, the show had elements of not just James Bond but Jack Bauer, Indiana Jones, and, umm… Kim Possible! And I still miss it!

I haven’t heard of any plans to revive the show/character, but I’d certainly be in favor of it. Even a mini-series or just a TV movie. Garner still looks great, and I’d bet most of her former co-stars do, too. Well, assuming that never happens, I’m gonna have to hunt down those “Alias” DVDs….

5) Finally, “Star Trek”. Not any particular ST series. I just miss having a new Star Trek to look forward to every week. Reruns are fine. (Though, I admit I haven’t watched any for a few years.) But, the end of the last Star Trek TV series (which, unlike some people, I mostly enjoyed), “Enterprise”, seemed kind of sudden and, again, unsatisfying. I was glad to see the Star Trek reboot in theaters, even though they turned out to be somewhat disappointing — a subject for another post. But, the franchise really needs to have a presence on the small-screen. After all, from 1987 to 2005, we fans had nearly 20 years of almost continuous Star Trek, spanning 4 live-action series, sometimes two at once. We were spoiled! Now, it has been almost 12 years with no new Star Trek on TV.

But, as you all know, that is about to change. Starting this May, “Star Trek: Discovery” will air on CBS All Access. All fandom holds its collective breath, hopeful yet wary, to see if the latest attempt to renew this incomparable franchise will live up to expectations and fill that hole in our entertainment schedules. (Not to mention, give us plenty of new characters to talk about and merchandise to buy.) Fingers crossed…

So, with three out of five wished-for series here or on their way, I count myself pretty lucky! Whodathunkit just 5 years ago? What about you? Any old shows you’ve been jonesing for, wishing there was a new season on the way? Let us know below…

P.S.  Just for the heck of it, here are five more (and more recent) cancelled shows that I would love to see resurrected from the TV graveyard: “Almost Human” (2013-2014), “Covert Affairs” (2010-2014), “Revolution” (2012-2014), “Fringe” (2008-2013), and Leverage (2008-2012).

Why Does Ash Ketchum Catch So Much Grief?

Longtime readers know that there are certain fandoms that I don’t know or belong to, so I don’t write about them. But, I occasionally enlist a friend who is into them to write a guest post. Evan Minton, for instance, has already written about Bleach and Pokemon. It’s been almost a year since we’ve heard from him, so I asked him if he had anything anime/manga-like on his mind. He did. This time, Evan has a few thoughts to share regarding various complaints he has heard about Pokemon’s Ash Ketchum character. Whether or not you have observed a similar trend, you might find his analysis of interest. (Btw, if any of those Pokemon names are misspelled, it’s all on Evan, ‘cuz I ain’t got a clue!) 🙂


Why I Think Most Of The Ash Ketchum Hate Is Unjustified

by Evan Minton

thumbnail_assshhhhhhAsh Ketchum is the 10 year old protagonist of the long running Pokemon anime series. On the morning that Ash was to see Professor Oak to get his starter Pokemon, he overslept and frantically ran to Oak’s lab, not even changing out of his pajamas, to see if there were any Pokemon left. Alas, Bulbasaur, Charmander, and Squirtle were all given to new trainers prior to Ash’s arrival. There was one left, but Professor Oak was reluctant to give it to him because it was unruly. This Pokemon was Pikachu. Ash finally gained Pikachu’s trust after protecting him from a flock of angry Spearow, and they’ve been best friends ever since. Ash has traveled 6 regions, collecting the 8 badges from each of them to get into the region’s league.

Ever since generation 5, I’ve seen Ash receive a lot of hate from Pokemon fans. People simply don’t like him. When you ask them why they hate Ash so much, these are usually the reasons they’ll give you:

“Ash Never Improves”

One reason Ash haters give to justify their hate is that Ash never gets better. He’s still at the same skill level that he was back in the first season. Given how long he’s been traveling and battling, you would have expected him to have improved by now, but he hasn’t. Or at least that’s what the Ash haters say. The fact is, this just simply isn’t true. Since February of 2016, I’ve been re-watching the entire anime series in commemoration of Pokemon’s 20th Anniversary. So far, I’m in the Black and White series. I was astonished to find just how many mistakes Ash was making throughout his Kanto journey. When he first started, it seemed like he was making a mistake every 5 seconds. From not waking up on time to get his starter Pokemon to trying to capture Pidgeotto without battling it first, Ash was making all sorts of errors. I was surprised by this, because Ash doesn’t make that many mistakes like those in more recent seasons. Often times, he’ll help new trainers accompanying him like May or Dawn with things like their first Pokemon capture or their first trainer battle.

Moreover, if you look at all of Ash’s League losses, you can see how much he’s improved. Ash made it into the top 16 of the Kanto League, the top 8 of the Johto League, the top 8 in the Hoenn League, the top 4 in the Sinnoh League, top 8 in Unova, and the runner up in the Kalos League. Ash went from being in the top 16 to the top 8 to the top 4 to being the runner up! Does that not sound like improvement to you? Now, the reason why he was farther from the championship in Unova than he was in Sinnoh is probably due to the fact that he scarcely evolved his Pokemon during that arc, whereas he fully evolved the majority of his Pokemon in the Sinnoh arc. This is a nice segue to my next point….

“Ash Never Evolves His Pokemon”

Unlike the last complaint, this objection isn’t completely unjustified. A lot of Ash’s Pokemon should have evolved but haven’t (e.g., Squirtle, Totodile, Gible, Buisel, etc.) and several of them evolved once but didn’t evolve to their final form (e.g., Bayleef, Quilava, Pignite, Boldore). However, two things need to be considered: for one, some of Ash’s Pokemon explicitly objected to evolving (e.g., Pikachu and Bulbasaur) and Ash simply respected their wishes. He would be a jerk if he forced Pikachu to become a Raichu or Bulbasaur to become an Ivysaur, then a Venusaur, against their will. Secondly: one could argue that the Pokemon Ash has evolved and evolved fully outnumber the ones he didn’t evolve.

1: Caterpie -> Metapod -> Butterfree
2: Charmander -> Charmeleon -> Charizard
3: Krabby -> Kingler
4: Mankey -> Primeape
5: Pidgeotto -> Pidgeot
6: Treecko -> Grovyle -> Sceptile
7: Tailow -> Swellow
8: Snorunt -> Glalie
9: Phanpy -> Donphan
10: Turtwig -> Grotle -> Torterra
11: Chimchar -> Monferno -> Infernape
12: Starly -> Staravia -> Staraptor
13: Gligar -> Gliscor
14: Sandile -> Krokorok -> Krookodile
15: Pidove -> Tranquill -> Unfezant
16: Sewaddle -> Swadloon -> Leavanny
17: Froakie -> Frogadier -> Greninja
18: Fletchling -> Flechinder -> Talonflame
19: Noibat -> Noivern
20: Goomy -> Sliggoo -> Goodra

That’s a lot of evolved Pokemon! Ash certainly evolves many of his Pokemon, many of them have evolved all the way, some of them have evolved only partially. But, the ones who have evolved far outnumber the ones that haven’t.

league-losses“Ash Was Stupid For Leaving His Charizard At Charicific Valley”

So, back in the Johto arc, Ash came across a valley full of Charizard run by a woman named Liza. Ash’s Charizard challenged one of the (much larger) Charizards there and got its butt kicked. Ash left his Charizard there to train because of how much his Charizard enjoyed spending time there, and because it was one of the weakest ones there. Ash decided to leave it in the valley so it could train. Fans of Pokemon still rake him over the coals about this. But what exactly is the big deal? It’s not like Ash released Charizard or anything. Ash called upon Charizard several times since then to use in battles such as when he battled in the Johto League or when he took on Noland at the Battle Factory (during the Battle Frontier arc). Whenever Ash wanted to battle with Charizard, Liza would send him over. By the end of Ash’s Unova journey, Charizard was done with his training and came back to Ash for good.

Since Ash didn’t release or abandon Charizard, I don’t see why this is such a big deal. What Ash did in the anime isn’t much different than what some players do in the games. Players can leave one of their Pokemon at The Day Care to level up while they travel around the region. Once it levels up sufficiently, they go back and get it. That’s very similar to what Ash did with his Charizard.

“Ash Never Stopped Team Rocket For Good”

When people bash Ash (Hey! That rhymes!), they will often compare him to Red and say that Red is so much better than Ash. Who is Red? Red is the protagonist character that the players of the original Kanto games play as. Ash was actually based on Red. You could say Ash is Red’s anime counterpart. However, Ash and Red lead slightly different lives within their respective canons. Red won the Pokemon League on his first try, dismantled Team Rocket’s organization, and completed the Pokedex for Professor Oak. Ash has done none of that. Team Rocket is still around in Ash’s universe, and he keeps having to deal with the same two grunts (Jessie and James) over and over and over again.

However, although Ash never shut down the Team Rocket organization, Ash did stop Team Magma and Aqua from destroying the world through Groudon and Kyogre’s powers. He did stop Team Galactic from using Dialga and Palkia to destroy the universe and make another one ruled by Cyrus (the Team Galactic leader). He also made Team Plasma split up for good. And while I haven’t seen the XYZ season yet, I’ll bet he stopped Team Flare as well. So, when it comes to dismantling evil organizations, Ash beats Red 5 to 1!

“Ash Releases His Best Pokemon”

Okay, I’ll give the haters this one. I do loathe the fact that Ash has released several of his Pokemon into the wild. Although in his defense, there’s usually a morally sufficient reason behind it. In Butterfree’s case, Ash wanted his Butterfree to be happy starting a family with a female Butterfree after they crossed the sea. It was the mating season for the Butterfree and a lot of other trainers were releasing their Butterfree to do the same thing. Ash would have been selfish if he had refused to let Butterfree go. In Lapras’ case, Ash had already decided to release it as soon as they located its family. The only reason he had Lapras with him during his Orange Islands journey was so he could reunite his Lapras with its family, though Lapras was certainly a big help to him during his Orange League gym battles. At the time of writing this, I have sadly found out that Ash released his Greninja as well. It was a spoiler because again, as I said, I’m a whole season behind due to the fact that I’ve been rewatching the entire series from season 1, episode 1, to the present (I’m even watching the movies). I don’t know why Ash released his Greninja, but he has a track record of not letting his Pokemon go for no good reason. I’m very sad to find out that he released his Greninja because he was indeed one of Ash’s best Pokemon. Moreover, they had a strong bond, not nearly as strong as the one he shares with Pikachu, but it was every bit as strong as the bond he has with his Charizard and Infernape. That’s why they were able to use Greninja’s Battle Bond ability.

ash-and-all-his-pokemonConclusion

I could go on, but I’ll stop here for the sake of brevity. I do think some of the criticism lodged towards Ash is justified, but the vast majority of it is just nonsense. Truth be told, I think the real reason people hate Ash is just because he keeps losing Pokemon League battles. I’ll admit, I’m annoyed at that as well. It’s been 20 seasons since he vowed to become “The greatest Pokemon Master of all time!” and the farthest he’s ever gotten to achieving that goal is becoming the runner up of the Kalos League. However, that isn’t enough reason for me to hate him.

I wish the anime writers would replace Ash just like the haters do, but this isn’t because I hate Ash, but because I like him. I like Ash. I want to see him succeed in becoming League Champion. If that means having to replace him as protagonist in the season that proceeds, so be it! If the anime writers think people won’t watch the show if it doesn’t have Ash and Pikachu in it, they are sorely mistaken! Many people loved Pokemon Origins and the fans were more excited about Pokemon Generation (a mini series of short animated clips recapping moments from the video game series) than they were the upcoming Sun and Moon series. If they made a full time anime like origins, the ratings wouldn’t suffer one bit. On the other hand, I would be a little sad to see Ash and Pikachu go, since they’ve been the main characters for so long, but I’d be more thrilled at seeing him FINALLY achieve his dream.

Final conclusion: Ash may not be “the very best like no one ever was” yet, but it’s unwarranted to say that “he sucks”. Let’s just say you don’t become runner up of a major Pokemon League tournament by sucking.

Yeah! Give poor Ash a break, guys!

Goodbye, Princess Leia!

“I don’t know where you get your delusions, laser brain.”  — Princess Leia Organa to Han Solo

princess-leia-in-action-by-alex-ross

R.I.P. Carrie Fisher

Pop-culture Icon, Sci-fi Legend, and Hero to many who struggle with addiction and depression.

Thanks for the memories, the humor, and the (often brutal) honesty!

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Merry Christmas 2016!

“After Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of King Herod, wise men from the east arrived unexpectedly in Jerusalem, saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him.” … After hearing the king, they went on their way. And there it was — the star they had seen in the east! It led them until it came and stopped above the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed beyond measure.”  — Matthew 2:1-2,9-10 (HCSB)

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Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah!

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If I Could Have a Superpower…

Have you ever wished you had superpowers?

Silly question. If you are reading this blog, chances are that at some point — whether in childhood or earlier today or anytime in between — you thought it would be awesome to have some superhuman ability. Superspeed like the Flash, or telepathy like Professor X, or X-ray vision like Superman/girl could all come in handy in the course of your day, whether at school or work or home or… just about anywhere. Of course, if you’re like me, you’ve also imagined patrolling your city/town/neighborhood, maybe while wearing a cool costume/uniform, using your powers for good (hopefully).

little-superheroesSuperhero geek that I am, I was thinking about this again the other day and decided to come up with my personal “Top 5” wished-for superpowers. Not some god-like abilities of destructive power or matter-energy manipulation, but more “average” powers with some sensible limitations. I also avoided things like martial arts and detective skills, since those are abilities that normal humans can gain on their own. A couple of them were easy, but the rest required a bit more thought. Here’s what I came up with:

1) Superstrength: Ever since I started reading superhero comics and watching shows like “The Six Million Dollar Man”, I wanted to be superstrong. I just thought it would be so cool to have the sort of physical strength that could not just beat up bad guys but benchpress large vehicles, rip trees out of the ground, and dig/punch my way through a mountain to save the damsel in distress — or trapped miners. Whichever. Such dreams are not uncommon for skinny, nerdy, unpopular kids like myself. (Ever wanted to teach a bully a lesson?) I’d still like to have superstrength, of course, assuming I could control it and that I wasn’t built like too much of a freak. Twisting crowbars into pretzels and stopping a speeding truck in its tracks are always impressive demonstrations, not to mention intimidating to criminals of various sorts. Yep. This is my #1 wished-for superpower.

2) Invulnerability (aka Superhuman Durability): This particular “power” often accompanies superstrength, sometimes in a rationally connected way (e.g., unusually dense organic tissues) or just ‘cuz the creator thought it would be cool/helpful. But, the two abilities don’t necessarily go together. Obviously, my preference would be to have both. On the other hand, it might be interesting to have some sort of power that granted me a measure of invulnerability — say, from bullets, knives, explosives, etc. — but without any enhanced strength. This could come in the form of an energy field surrounding my body that kicked in within nanoseconds of any ballistic type of threat. (Of course, in this instance, I’d still be vulnerable to slow, up-close attacks.) This ability would come in quite useful for search-n-rescue work, and it would minimize my budget for band-aids and stitches. (An acceptable alternative would be superhuman regenerative abilities.)

3) Flight: Right up there with superstrength, I’ve always thought it would be very cool to be able to personally fly, especially unaided by technology. Used to have actual dreams where I did, though sometimes it was more like “leap(ing) over buildings in a single bound.” Along with the actual flight ability, I would prefer to have other anatomical alterations that allow me to breathe at high speeds and altitudes, and it would be nice if I didn’t need to wear goggles to protect my eyes. Yeah, zipping around through the skies would be pretty sweet! But, as a superhero/adventurer, I would need some other abilities and/or technology to be truly effective. Also, I wouldn’t want to be limited to just moving at a few miles per hour. The faster, the better! And, speaking of fast…

04_11_superheroes_1000x10554) Superspeed: Who wouldn’t want to be able to outrace a train… or a speeding bullet (ave. 1700 mph)… or even approach the speed of light itself? Of course, along with the ability to run (or fly) at such speeds comes associated enhancements like superfast reflexes and a brain that processes information many times faster than normal. Think how many people you could save, how many crimes you could stop, how productive you could be! That’s why it is sometimes frustrating to watch “The Flash” on TV; the writers don’t take creative advantage of the character’s full abilities. (But, I don’t want to get off on a tangent about the show.) As with superstrength, it might take a little while to learn to control the speed powers and adjust to living an otherwise “normal” life, especially if my body’s natural state was no longer in sync with the rest of the world. But, if Barry Allen and Wally West can figure it out….

I’m torn between the next two, so I’m calling it a tie for #5:

5) Shapeshifting: Some people might prefer to have super-stretchy powers like Mr. Fantastic or Plastic Man, since they can often “morph” into different, complex shapes. But, I would prefer something along the lines of what Martian Manhunter does. Namely, he can alter his body’s shape and features to mimic just about any person or creature, ranging in size from a fly to “enormous sizes comparable to skyscrapers”. MM is also quite adept at imitating the behavior and mannerisms of those he mimics. (I haven’t figured out how he alters his clothing, too.) This ability would prove quite useful, particularly in detective work and in going undercover, not to mention avoiding cops, press, bad guys trying to hunt me down, etc. I imagine shapeshifting could be a lot of fun at parties, too.

5) Telekinesis: A very literal example of “mind over matter”… the ability to lift, push, pull, and otherwise manipulate matter — solid, liquid, gas, maybe even plasma — via conscious, directed thought. Regardless of how one might explain such an ability, I’m sure you would agree that it would be very cool to have it. Someone once said, “Criminals are a superstitious, cowardly lot.” I think I could scare a few into thinking they were encountering a ghost or demon or something. On the other hand, it might be more satisfying to simply batter them with heavy objects while maintaining a safe distance. Either way, telekinetic abilities would be quite useful on many occasions, whether foiling the plans of a criminal overlord or pranking some jerk who used two parking spots for his sports car.

Any one of these would be amazing to have, but multiple powers would, of course, be fantastic! Not sure I’d want to risk an “origin story”, though. Unless you’re “born that way”, those can be rather painful. I’d also prefer to continue looking human, thankyouverymuch.

What about you? If you had a choice to gain one or more superhuman abilities, what would they be?

24 Quotes About “24”

“You are gonna tell me what I want to know. It’s just a question of how much you want it to hurt.”  — Jack Bauer, Season 5

secretsof24Last Christmas (2015), I received a copy of the book Secrets of 24: The Unauthorized Guide to the Political & Moral Issues Behind TV’s Most Riveting Drama as a gift. (Note: It was published prior to the debut of Season 7.) It’s a great choice for me, since it mixes the subjects of my two blogs. I haven’t yet worked it into my reading schedule, but I was recently skimming it and got an idea for a blogpost. This one, in fact.

Interspersed throughout the book’s text — which includes articles by and interviews with various journalists, writers, actors, experts of different kinds, etc. — are little sidebars, “quick takes on the facts, humor, and breadth of voices and ideas generated by ’24′”. So, I have chosen 24 of my favorites to share with you. A few are funny or merely informative, but most give insight into the show, the central character of Jack Bauer, and their influence by and on American culture. Hope you like…

“We do want democratic process, but we also want justice. And the show allows us to have both, and that’s why we love it.”  — David Heyman, terrorism scholar, Center for Strategic and International Studies

Among the boldface names who are fans of the show: Dave Barry, Dick Cheney, Bill Clinton, Jim Cramer, Billy Crystal, Tony Danza, Trent Dilfer, Geena Davis, Bill Gates, Laura Ingraham, Stephen King, Rush Limbaugh, John McCain, Jim McMahon, Donald Rumsfeld, Seal, Barbra Streisand, Clarence Thomas, and Tina Turner.

“We always had the idea of this King Lear story, of Jack being the prodigal son, the guy who was his father’s favorite but turned against his dad, and the less favorite son took over the empire. In some ways, you get to see that his family is his destiny.”  — ’24’ executive producer Howard Gordon on the plan to give Jack Bauer “genetic responsibility for a lot of the misery by association” in Season six, when he duels with both his brother and his father

“An America that looks to Bauer rather than Batman is an altered nation indeed.”  — Ezra Klein, blogger and writing fellow, The American Prospect

o  Jack Bauer has been to Mars. That’s why there’s no life on Mars.
o  Superman wears Jack Bauer pajamas.
o  How many CTU special agents does it take to change a lightbulb? Twenty. Nineteen to set up a perimeter, while Jack Bauer tortures the lightbulb into revealing the whereabouts of the socket. [Ed. Note: I think the better answer is, of course, twenty-four.]
— sampling of Internet humor about ’24’

“The show reflects where we are in the culture at this moment in time. Every generation has it. There’s social transformation going now in the way we see the world, domestic policy, foreign policy, domestic intelligence, and foreign intelligence. All these things are becoming blurred, as are the questions that we have to face on morality. And the show does a really great job of trying to put those questions on a personal level for all of us. We’re all Jack Bauer in our hearts.”  — David Heyman, terrorism scholar, Center for Strategic and International Studies

“I have fallen in love with another man. For the past five months we have been meeting in a dark room every Sunday night, while the children are tucked up in bed and my husband snores upstairs. It is crazy because I know he would love him too, but he lacks the stamina that this relationship requires. So it’s just me… and Jack Bauer…. His sense of duty is unbreakable. His idea of a hot date is to bundle you into the boot of a mercenary’s car and he is more interested in speed-dialing the office than sex. Yet there is a vulnerability about Jack where women are concerned. Tenderness even. He would lay down his life to get you home safely and maybe, just maybe, this time you could make him stay.”  — Sheila McClennan, The Guardian (UK)

24-seasons-1-6“Characters that push things over the limit are interesting characters. It’s very natural to create a character like that in the world of terrorism because there are so many difficult moral, ethical and legal dilemmas, political dilemmas, that constantly arise. You want a character that’s over the edge a little.”  — Robert Cochran, co-creator, ’24’

“When men watch Tony Soprano and Jack Bauer they enter into a contract with the characters. They watch and savor the brutality but recognize how pathetic these heroes are. Guys watch TV shows such as ‘The Sopranos’ and ’24’ and see all the horror, humiliations and complications of being male. Tony Soprano and Jack Bauer are not role models to emulate. They are case studies to brood upon. They are a warning. Every man knows that.”  — John Doyle, Globe and Mail (Toronto)

According to co-creator Joel Surnow, the first few episodes of ’24’ were heavily influenced by the movies Three Days of the Condor, La Femme Nikita, and The Day of the Jackal. But these episodes were “in the can” before 9/11. Afterward, and in fact for every season after the first, Surnow says the plots were influenced by “real events.”

“While we don’t try to represent any kind of real truth — obviously 24 hours in the format makes it impossible — we try to, I think, present an essential truth, or an essential problem. So when Jack Bauer tortures, it’s in a compressed reality… We try to compress these arguments and these issues and dramatize them in obviously very unreal ways, but hopefully in dramatic and compelling ways. And that’s really ultimately our master… making a compelling, ‘adrenalized’ TV show.”  — Howard Gordon, executive producer of ’24’

“’24’ dispenses with the politically correct evasions that pervade prime time episodic television…. It identifies the terrorist enemy without flinching and lets the good guys fight to win — without apologies.”  — Christian Toto, The Washington Times

“In this age of terror and worldwide insecurity, ’24’ created the illusion of an all-American superagent on whose watch the bad guys, whether Muslims or Russians or shady white men, would inevitably blow off their sorry behinds. It was political comfort food.”  — Andrea Peyser, the New York Post

“’24’ was well into production when the terrorist attacks on September 11 happened. The effect on the show was that Fox’s legal department reviewed the first few episodes and made us recut the sequence where the 747 blows up at 36,000 feet (11,000m). Fox did not want to show the actual plane exploding in the air. It also meant that an extensive aerial sequence which was to have been shot by a second unit downtown was shut down and we had to substitute Glendale for downtown.”  — Jon Cassar, director and producer of ’24’

Over six seasons, the enemies depicted on ’24’ have included mercenaries, Serbian nationalists, Arab terrorists, American oil executives, Mexican drug lords, corrupt British businessmen, the Chinese, pseudo-Chechen terrorists, a vast right-wing conspiracy based in the White House, more Arab terrorists, rogue Russian officials, and, of course, Jack Bauer’s own father and brother.

Season 3 cast

Season 3 cast

By inflicting beatings, injections, and the electric shock delivered by a taser gun during an episode in Season 2, the show earned the Parents’ Television Council’s Least Family-Friendly Program citation for the week. The PTC also calculates that out of the 624 instances of torture on TV from 2002 to 2005, ’24’ accounted for more than 67 such scenes, making it no. 1 in torture depictions.

Former president Bill Clinton has said he is a big fan of ’24’, even though the show is run by “an über right-wing guy” (referring to Joel Surnow). He thinks the show is fair in making both Democrats and Republicans look equally evil.

“Bauer keeps fighting, of course, but for people, not politics. “24”‘s ideology — Jack Bauerism, if you will — is not so much in between left and right as it is outside them, impatient with both ACLU niceties and Bushian moral absolutes.”  — James Poniewozik, Time magazine

“What the show tries to do is capture an emotional and psychological reality of living in a world where terrorism is a threat. If you are looking to us for realistic advice on how to fight terrorism, we’re all in real trouble.”  — Robert Cochran, co-creator, writer, and producer of ’24’

“The show may even work as a kind of inoculation, jolting us with a little dose of manageable terrorism or nuclear threat or biological warfare as a balm to our deeper, unspoken anxieties.”  — Charles McGrath, the New York Times

“You don’t need to watch ’24’ as a kind of primer on moral philosophy, but you probably should.”  — Brian M. Carney, the Wall Street Journal

“On ’24’, there are a few very good people, a few very bad ones, and in between a lot of question marks who can upend the plot (and the political analogies). That may be the biggest lesson of ’24’ in the Iraq era: don’t stubbornly hang on to your preconceptions when the facts on the ground change.”  — Time magazine

“I would agree that ’24’ is a genuine New Thing Under the Sun, not really a serial at all, but the world’s first überseries.”  — Stephen King, best-selling novelist and ’24’ fan

“We certainly can’t say with any certainty that cyberterrorism doesn’t exist, and can’t say it didn’t occur… but there is little doubt in my mind that, years from now, this will be a primary method of attack, a primary theater of operations, if you will.”  — Amit Yoran, vice president of managed security services operations, Symantec Corporation

And,… I’ll leave you with a bonus quote (not in a sidebar) from Leslie Hope, who played Teri Bauer in Season 1:

“I may be having the best time of my life…. Kiefer is gracious and generous, has the patience of a saint, is a good listener, and his butt looks awesome in his Wranglers!”

I think I’m gonna move this book up a few notches in my to-read list. Now that I’m in the mood for it, I may have to add the show to my re-watch (again) list, too….

Bits-n-Pieces II

To be honest, I wasn’t able to focus on a regular post this week. So, as I’ve done on a couple past occasions, I’m going to make relatively brief comments on a handful of recent genre announcements & developments….

Small Screen

star-trek-discovery-1920Item #1: A few things have developed re the upcoming ‘Star Trek: Discovery’ series since I last blogged about it in August, but even then I didn’t comment on everything we knew. For example, producer Bryan Fuller had said that the show’s primary protagonist will be a female Lt. Commander (a la Majel Barrett’s “Number One” in the original TOS pilot). There will be more “diversity” in the ship’s crew, particularly in terms of one or more LGBT characters. I’m not thrilled about this, though I’m not surprised for a number of reasons — e.g., the “progressive” nature of the franchise, Hollywood’s push for LGBT characters, Fuller is a part of that community, etc. He also indicated that they will push the Star Trek boundaries by possibly having a bit of nudity and more profanity. I’m not thrilled with this, either. I guess they can get away with it, since it won’t be on network TV; but, it also flies in the face of one “rule” Paramount/CBS has always had about keeping all Star Trek productions — including fan-made — “family friendly”. If they do proceed with this, I hope it is quite limited. Fortunately, Fuller did say,

“Star Trek’s not necessarily a universe where I want to hear a lot of profanity, either.”

In September, it was announced that STDisc’s debut was being pushed from January to May 2017. I had mixed feelings about this, but I’m not mad; if they need the extra time to make a great show, they should take it. Then Variety broke the story that Fuller had stepped down as showrunner, due to scheduling conflicts. Gretchen Berg and Aaron Harberts (and Alex Kurtzman?) stepped up as co-showrunners, while Fuller remained as executive producer. This caused a lot of hubbub re the show’s direction, but Fuller remains the chief architect.

“Fuller has penned the first two scripts for “Discovery” and has hammered out the broader story arc and mythology for the new “Trek” realm.” — Variety

Given his intentions, I obviously have mixed feelings about this. (I like his idea of making it less episodic and having a multi-episode story arc, and I’m intrigued with the concept of making the ship’s captain merely a supporting player.) It was also indicated that Romulans may be the primary villains in the series, and that would seem to work for the era in which it will be taking place (i.e., 10 years prior to ST:TOS).

Item #2: Just a couple days ago, Marvel announced that it is teaming up with Disney|ABC Television Group and IMAX to develop a “Marvel’s The Inhumans” TV series. It will actually debut the first two episodes in IMAX theaters in September 2017. (That’s fast!) Not only is IMAX co-financing the project, but the IMAX cameras/tech will provide enhanced imagery and visual effects. Cool! Oh,… after the debut in theaters, the full 8 episodes will show on ABC starting in the Fall, “with additional exclusive content that can only be seen on the network.” Very cool!

1173129-inhumansThis show will not be connected to “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” and the Marvel Cinematic Universe. (This likely also means there will not be an Inhumans movie connected to the MCU.) So, the “inhuman” characters we have seen in the S.H.I.E.L.D. series will not be involved in this one. In fact, the new show will be centered on the Inhumans’ Royal Family that fans know from the comics and animated series (see pic).

I was always a fan of the Inhumans, with their unique society and ties to the Fantastic Four and X-Men (and the Kree race, of course). I look forward to seeing the city of Attilan and its odd denizens. If they do this right, I will be a very happy camper! (I feel a multi-part fan-casting coming on….)

Item #3: Another very recent announcement came from HBO — namely, there are official talks with author/creator George R.R. Martin about a “Game of Thrones” prequel show to follow the fan-favorite series. No details, as yet. As per HBO programming president Casey Bloys,

“[I]t’s still kind of preliminary ongoing talks. There are [time periods within GoT history] we are exploring, but I wouldn’t point to any one and say, ‘This is what we’re going to do.’”

Big Screen

Item #4: OK, part of this has been known for a few months, but stick with me…. For quite awhile, there was some question about whether or not we would see a new Batman solo movie or a proper sequel to Man of Steel. Now, the answer to both is “Yes!” Actually, it was back in Spring of this year (2016) that we found out Ben Affleck would be co-writing (with DC Entertainment CCO Geoff Johns) and starring in a Batman solo movie. Affleck was determined to complete a script he was happy with before he would begin filming. He also said he wanted to create an original story, borrowing familiar things from the comics, and that he wants to showcase Batman’s detective skills. (Amen to that!)

In the Summer it was confirmed that Affleck would be directing, and the tentative title is “The Batman”. More recently, Joe Manganiello signed on to play Deathstroke — presumably the main villain. The film is currently scheduled for release in Oct. 2018.

As for the Man of Steel 2, in August 2015 we got conflicting reports that George Miller would be directing and that the film was on “permanent hold”. But, a year later TheWrap announced that a Man of Steel sequel was finally in active development at Warner Bros. and “a top priority for the studio”. Henry Cavill’s agent, Dany Garcia, confirmed this in an interview with Newsweek in September, saying:

“[Cavill and I have] been in a five-month period of time where he’s re-strategizing, acquiring property [for his production company Promethean], he’s filming [Justice League] now, he’s in development for the Superman standalone… he’s beginning to expand that world.”

Man of Steel 2 likely won’t arrive in theaters until late 2019.

I have to say, I am psyched for both of these. Yes, I know: “It’s Batfleck!”… “Man of Steel and DvJ were too dark!”… “They changed too much stuff.”… yada, yada. I have already explained in previous posts that I share some of these concerns and also why I’m OK with other aspects. My hope is that the respective creative teams will respect the fans’ input and address those “problems” in the new films. For example, I am fine with a darker, more violent and cynical Batman at this stage in his career. But, I want the Superman film to have a more positive, brighter tone, both visually and thematically speaking.

negasonic-teenage-warhead-ego-the-living-planetItem #5: Only a couple days ago, it was reported that Marvel and Fox had worked out a “backroom deal” to trade characters. Well, not “trade” exactly, and this actually happened a couple years ago….

You may or may not remember — I always get this stuff confused — that 20th Century Fox owns the cinematic rights to all things X-Men related (including Deadpool), among other things, while Marvel Studios owns the cinematic rights to Guardians of the Galaxy and Avengers. While developing Deadpool, the writers decided they really wanted the Negasonic Teenage Warhead character — or, at least, a differently-powered character with that name — but Marvel owned it. Marvel agreed to it but on the condition that they get to use Ego, the Living Planet, (owned by Fox) in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2. Thus, the deal was struck.

This is big, because it shows that these two studios, who don’t always get along, can negotiate agreements to trade/loan characters to each other. All it takes is a mutually beneficial trade, and (hopefully) everybody — including the fans — wins. I hope this is a sign of things to come, so that other beloved characters can show up cross-studios, as it were.

Item #6: Finally, speaking of Deadpool… You probably already know that a sequel is already in pre-production and scheduled for a March 2, 2018, release. (Of course, first they need to replace the now-departed director, Tim Miller.) It is rumored to co-star Rich Sands as Nathan Summers / Cable. But, the studio is so confident in the franchise that it has already greenlit Deadpool 3. This one is rumored to include some version of the mutant team known as X-Force. (No idea what this means for Jeff Wadlow’s planned X-Force movie. Could be a jumping off point, I suppose.) Could be great news for Deadpool and X-Force fans!

Fin.

Notes on Fantastic Four (2015)

Yes, I finally got around to watching last year’s disappointing reboot of the Fantastic Four. So, I put together a brief review in the form of a few notes, much like I’ve done in the past. I’ll try not to give away any major plot points or character-specific stuff….

As with its 2005 predecessor, the acting was fine (though not great) for what they had to work with, which was a so-so (definitely not great) story & script. Unfortunately, that meant that the characters were relatively dull, too.

Fantastic_Four_2015_poster1) Reed Richards — I don’t know. Miles Tellar is a good enough actor, but he didn’t quite look the part. He played “science nerd” OK, I guess. On the other hand, Reed seemed to be just a tad bit too socially well-adjusted. I always thought he was more socially awkward, especially in his earlier years, often distracted by scientific problems/projects. My guess is he would likely be diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome. (Just my take on it, of course.) Even without that consideration, some of his behavior was a little different than I think it should have been. Nothing major, though.

2) Susan Storm — Given that they were going with the brainier, scientist version of Sue (a la “Ultimate” universe), she was fine. I would have preferred a different look for her, though — like, maybe, Julianne Hough. I am guessing she was supposed to be roughly the same age as Reed (~18-20yo?), though she may have been a little older. The romantic interest between Sue and Reed was just barely hinted at, though mostly one-sided by him. Same goes for Doom’s interest in Sue. Sue’s relationship with her adoptive brother didn’t seem very close; or, maybe they just aren’t an emotionally demonstrative family.

3) Johnny Storm — Would have liked to see Johnny involved in more “adrenaline rush” activities and exhibiting more playfulness, which are essential parts of his personality. (This was a detail that the 2005/2007 films got right.) It was also a little odd to see him working with the team on the final teleportation device. (I think this may have been the case in the Ultimate version, too. Can’t remember for sure.) Given his interest in fast cars, I guess it does make sense that he had some skills in mechanics and/or engineering. To stay in keeping with the comics, it should have been made clear that he was a few years younger than Sue.

4) Ben Grimm — He may have been athletic, but he was way too small. Why couldn’t they get someone who was about 6′ or so and looked more like a stereotypical, beefy jock? His childhood/family life fits the character, though it would have been nice to hear a reference to Yancey Street and the gang. As for his “Thing” form, I liked it OK, though I prefer the classic, more “rounded” and heavy-browed version (as in the previous big-screen incarnation). This one reminded me of the Stone Men (aka Kronans) of the planet Ria. Also, his voice needed to be deeper — rumbly, even — to go along with the massive form.

5) Victor von Doom — They got this character all wrong, yet again. In appearance (pre- and post-transformation) and sound (no accent) and attitude (cocky, but not imperious) and abilities (some sort of freaky psychokinesis?), he still was not the iconic figure from the comics. Why?! Why is this so hard to do? Or, alternatively, why do the powers-that-be shy away from portraying him on screen the way he has always been written? Surely, there must be some 30-or-younger actor from Eastern Europe who could pull this off. Say,… Dawid Ogrodnik. On the plus side, at least he wasn’t some disillusioned computer hacker named Vic Domashev, as had been the rumor.

6) Dr. Franklin Storm — The comics don’t give him a lot of characterization, other than being a brilliant scientist who cares immensely for his children. He doesn’t often spend time with them or show affection in other ways, being very focused on administering the scientific think-tank at the Baxter Building. From what we saw and heard, this version of Storm is pretty much on target with that, though perhaps a little more attentive.

OK, now for a few more general comments about the film…

Fantastic_Four_(2015_film)_poster_0071) Given that Reed seemed to join the Baxter Foundation after high school, I am guessing he was about 17-18 years old. (Though, you’d think a brain like him would’ve skipped a couple grades.) Possibly more like 19-20yo, if he took some college in between times. Ben and Sue would’ve been roughly the same, Johnny even younger (16?), though Victor was probably a couple years older. However, all of the actors looked to be a few years older than those ages,… which they actually are, of course.

2) I recognized a couple early scenes adapted from Ultimate Fantastic Four, but they didn’t feel quite right. Lighting too dark; Baxter Institute looked/felt too “normal”.

3) Without giving anything away,… I’m not sure how I feel about the events that followed the accident. They didn’t follow either the original or Ultimate versions. The antagonism against Reed just felt… wrong.

4) There was no mention of “unstable molecules” (that I recall) in the post-accident uniforms’ composition. Plus, Reed was wearing something else, yet it stretched when he did. What’s up with that? If there is a sequel, will they reveal that he discovered something that allows uniforms to “cooperate” with their powers.

5) The fact that Dr. Storm and Johnny were not Caucasian was fine, of course, and the brief mention of Sue being adopted resolved that question.

6) I thought the special F/X were pretty good, despite that being one of the facets the film got criticized for. Maybe I would change my mind upon a second viewing, when I had time to see them again?

7) The fights were rather lacking. I assume the original, one-by-one attacks on Doom in the finale were meant to show they couldn’t beat him on their own — which Reed stated explicitly a couple minutes later. (A bit on-the-nose, if you ask me.) But, then the coordinated effort, especially Ben’s haymaker, was telegraphed so obviously that Doom deserves to get beat for still falling for it.

Overall, a fairly interesting variation on the FF origin story, but not quite satisfying. Too dark, for one thing, both visually and in tone. (Might’ve worked a little better as a graphic novel.) Familiar characters weren’t left familiar enough to feel like the “friends” fans were expecting. Or, at least, not this fan. Still,… it didn’t suck as much as some of the reviews (when it came out) led me to believe.

736784-namor3What can we expect going forward? Well, at one point, it looked like Fox and Marvel had worked out an agreement that put the Fantastic Four, Silver Surfer, Dr. Doom, and Galactus back under control of The House of Ideas (i.e., in this case, Marvel Studios). But, more recent reporting indicates that Fox still has the rights and may try for a FF sequel or reboot around 2020. Of course, that could be inaccurate or could change in the future. One interesting piece of related news is that the rights to Namor, the Sub-Mariner, are back with Marvel Studios. (Yet another imperious foreigner with a thing for Sue!) If Marvel also regained control of the FF, they could introduce Namor and the Atlanteans as the villain. He/they could return as an ally in a sequel down the road. This could be really cool, if done right and, of course, faithful to the source material. Keepin’ my fingers crossed….

P.S.  I really need to fan-cast the FF!