How to Improve Spider-Man 3 (2007)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Brock / Venom

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

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

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

You can read Martin’s full treatment here.

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Advice for the Aspiring Evil Overlord

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How to Improve the Green Lantern (2011) Movie

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

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

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

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

Alternate 1

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

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

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

Peter Sarsgaard as Hector Hammond

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

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

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

Alternate 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Excelsior!

“The beauty of Stan Lee’s characters is that they were characters first and superheroes next.” — Jeff Kline, executive producer of the “Men in Black” animated television series

Earlier today, the world lost a legend, when Stan ‘the Man’ Lee died at 95. It’s hard to measure the contribution Lee made to comics and the pop culture entertainment industry. The super-prolific writer, editor, and one-time publisher of Marvel Comics created or co-created innumerable characters over his decades in the biz, including the Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, Hulk, Avengers, X-Men, etc. He was simply a creative powerhouse.

“He revived the industry in the 1960s by offering the costumes and action craved by younger readers while insisting on sophisticated plots, college-level dialogue, satire, science fiction, even philosophy.”

You didn’t have to like all of his creations in order to love Stan. His enthusiasm for the medium, the characters, and the fans was palpable. Indeed, he was still involved right until the end.

But, more than the cameos and executive producer credits for the MCU movies, what I and many long-time fans appreciate most is the comfort and enjoyment that Stan (and the industry he helped to mold) brought into our young lives. Indeed, his inimitable — and often alliterative — writing & speaking style, as well as his trademark shades and taglines, are recognized by “true believers” worldwide. There are and have been many great talents, but Stan the Man was in a class by himself.

You had a good, loooooong run, Stan, but we’ll miss you profoundly. Thanks for everything.

‘Nuff said.

Reacher’s Rules

“If in doubt, drink coffee.” — Jack Reacher

Long-time readers of this blog may remember that I’ve mentioned the ‘Jack Reacher’ character a couple times before — once when I recommended the novels and once when I attempted to fan-cast him. In the former, I mentioned Jack Reacher’s Rules, which Delacorte Press published a few years ago to capitalize on the character’s growing popularity. (There is a later edition without “Jack” in the title, too.) If you aren’t sure who Reacher is, here’s the short version [<<enter Tom Cruise joke here>>]:

“Jack Reacher, of no fixed address, is a former major in the U.S. Military Police. Since leaving the army, the authorities have not been able to locate his whereabouts, although his name mysteriously crops up from time to time in connection with investigations into murders, terrorist threats, and other breaches of the law.”

As I was trying to figure out what to write about this week, I remembered the ‘Rules’ book and thought I’d share a few. But, first, here is part of the book’s Introduction by Lee Child himself:

“Some rules are official. We form clubs and societies and associations and give them procedures and bylaws more complex than those of government bodies. [Well, I don’t know about that….]

Some rules are only semiofficial. Hit on your friend’s best girl? No way. Rat out an accomplice? Not going to happen. Break a strike? You’d rather die.

Some rules are just slogans, consoling and emboldening. Maybe as a kid, your gang — part of your street in part of your city in your country in the big, bewildering world — was, like kids are, told by your parents and teachers to be scared of strangers. No, you said. Strangers should be told to be scared of us.

Jack Reacher has always followed his own rules. He grew up in a fractured way, six months here, three months there, always moving, never stable, never belonging. Then he was a soldier, but too wise to buy into all the nonsense. He obeyed only the rules that made sense to him. Then he was cut loose and became a true outsider, profoundly comfortable with solitude. Does he have a tribe? You bet. He’s human. But in his case he kept on slicing and dicing until he got all the way down to a tribe with just one member — himself. But that tribe still needs rules, to guide, and embolden, and simplify, and reassure.

What follows are some of them.”

[Note: At this point, I’m tempted to get into a discussion about the problems of moral relativism. But, this is neither the time nor place.]

To be fair, these aren’t all “rules to live by”, exactly. Some are more like observations, opinions, warnings, etc. But, you get the idea.

Be Prepared:

o Never count on anything except surprise and unpredictability and danger.

o Ring doorbells with your knuckles or elbows to avoid leaving fingerprints.

o Walk up the edge of stairs to minimize the chances of loud creaks. Stairs squeak at their centers where they’re weakest.

o Go to bed fully clothed so you are always ready for action.

o Climb through a hole feetfirst. If there’s an ax or a bullet waiting, better to take it in the legs than in the head.

Breaking and Entering:

o First thing to do before attacking a lock is to check that it’s not already open. Nothing will make you feel stupider than picking a lock that’s not locked.

o To kick a door down: take a run toward the door, making sure to stay upright, and with your dominant leg kick the area below the doorknob hard, using your sole or your heel.

o For a door with a glass panel, use the sole of your shoe to break a hold in the glass, then reach through to the handle.

Choose Your Weapons:

o Next to a shotgun, a pool cue is the best weapon in a fight.

o A handgun at two hundred feet is the same thing as crossing your fingers and making a wish.

o A chisel plunged into the back of your head is going to seriously ruin your day.

o Rolls of quarters in your fists — good old-fashioned technology.

o “Twelve-gauge lead shots settle most disputes at the first time of asking.”

The Rules of Coffee:

o Nothing’s too urgent for coffee.

o It’s all about the caffeine.

o A good coffee mug is cylindrical in shape, narrow in relation to its height and with a thin lip.

o Ignore the fancy brews and get a tall house blend, black, no cream.

Conquer Your Fear:

o “I’m not scared of anybody… But certainly I preferred it when he was dead.”

o Her: “Why are you going back?” Reacher: “Because they told me not to.”

o “You see something scary, you should stand up and step toward it, not away from it. Instinctively, reflexively, in a raging fury.”

o Turn your fear into aggression.

Fighting:

o Identify the ringleader…. The ringleader is the one who always moves first.

o “Then I cheated. Instead of counting three I headbutted him full in the face.”

o Make the first shot count.

o Never revive a guy who just pulled a gun on you.

o “Attacking me was like pushing open a forbidden door. What waited on the other side was his problem.”

o “You don’t throw my friends out of helicopters and live to tell the tale.”

Food:

o “He had no prejudice against fast food. Better than slow food, for a traveling man.”

o Eat when you can, because you never know when you will next get the chance.

o Always eat a perfect breakfast: pancakes. Egg on the top, bacon on the side, plenty of syrup. And plenty of coffee.

o Before a night of action and stress, go for empty calories, fats, and complex carbohydrates: pizza and soda.

First Aid:

o After a fistfight, the best cure for a sore hand is to wrap it around a cold beer.

o To set your own broken nose, smack yourself firmly in the face with the heel of your hand.

o “Duct tape: the finest field dressing in the world. The Marines once flew me from Lebanon to Germany with nothing but duct tape keeping my lower intestine in.”

Getting Mad:

o Know when to get mad, and know when to count to ten before you get mad.

o “I’ve counted way past ten on this one. Way past.”

o “They mess with me, they answer to me.”

o “I wasn’t angry. I was barely interested. If I had been angry, we’d be cleaning up with a fire hose. As it is, we’re going to need a forklift truck.”

Random and Assorted:

o “Now they broke my toothbrush, I don’t own anything.”

o “Be skeptical but not too skeptical. Too much skepticism leads to paranoia and paralysis.”

o “Dealing with morons… is like teaching Hindu to a beagle.”

o “Suicide bombers give out all kinds of telltale signs. Mostly because they’re nervous. By definition, they’re all first-timers.”

o Most people stick to underwear from their country of origin. It’s a big step putting on foreign underwear, like betrayal or emigration.

o “I don’t need to go hunting them. I already know I’m smarter than an armadillo.”

o “I’m sleeping well… but I think that’s mostly because of the tranquilizers.”

o Four o’clock in the morning is the best time to attack. In the Army they call it KGB time.

o “Carry a spare shirt and pretty soon you’re carrying spare pants. Then you need a suitcase. Next thing you know, you’ve got a house and a car and a savings plan and you’re filling out all kinds of forms.”

o “Reacher made no reply. It was a technique he had perfected half a lifetime ago. Just stand absolutely still, don’t blink, say nothing. Wait for them to run through the possibilities. Wait for them to start worrying.”

o If you’re surrounded, that simplifies your problems.

o Never hit a woman unless she’s trying to kill you.

o “I don’t want to put the world to rights. I just don’t like people who put the world to wrongs.”

That’s enough, but there are plenty more in the ‘Rules’ book — and, of course, scattered throughout the novels.

You know, come to think of it, I haven’t read a Reacher adventure in several months. Time to put one on the top of my reading (or listening) pile….

Superman and the Question of Diversity

As many of you probably remember from news reports last week, Henry Cavill was supposedly out as Superman — i.e., would not be playing ‘The Big Blue Boy Scout’ in the DCEU anymore. This stemmed from an initial report from The Hollywood Reporter, and several other publications took their cue from THR. The reasons given for the decision ranged from Warner Brothers wanting to focus on the new, big-screen Supergirl… to possible conflicts with Cavill’s leading role in Netflix’s “The Witcher”… to contract disputes and power plays, etc. Thus, the original focus of this week’s post was going to be my thoughts on what a big mistake this was, how they could still improve the franchise, etc.

However, it appears that THR jumped the gun on this report, though perhaps they could be forgiven, since it may be that either WB or Cavill’s reps “leaked” the rumor as a negotiation ploy. (For what it’s worth, TMZ called it “an invented conflict.”) Regardless, it wasn’t long before Dany Garcia — Cavill’s manager and Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson’s business partner and ex-wife — tweeted that “the cape is still in his closet.” Warner Bros. followed with their own statement:

“While no decisions have been made regarding any upcoming Superman films, we’ve always had great respect for and a great relationship with Henry Cavill, and that remains unchanged.”

So,… no guarantees re future Superman films (or other appearances) at this time, but Cavill’s not out, yet. I haven’t seen any updates to this so far, which tells me that negotiations are still ongoing. We shall see….

When all this was still up in the air and we thought Cavill had most likely been given the boot already, there were rumors and speculations about who might be on deck to take his place. There were some rather unusual suggestions, I have to say. Remember how some people were pushing for an Asian actor to star in Netflix’s “Iron Fist”, or how many are calling for Idris Elba to be the next James Bond? Well, now there are suggestions of Black (Michael B. Jordan, Idris Elba), Asian (Henry Golding), and Latino (Oscar Isaac) replacements for Superman, among others. Sigh! All fine actors, but c’mon! Should we have a Black Tarzan next? (No, that wouldn’t work, ‘cuz his being white was part of what made the character an outsider in Africa. Besides, that whole “Ape Man” thing would be seen as racist….) Or, how about an Asian Sherlock Holmes? Would that make sense, especially given the era and locales in which the character operated? (Less of an issue for a modern-day take, I suppose. Still…)

Maybe it just doesn’t matter when the icon in question is White. But, remember the accusations of “whitewashing” when Scarlett Johansson was cast as the lead in the live adaptation of Japanese anime Ghost in the Shell? (Of course, the original comic was ambiguous re her ethnicity and showed the ‘ghost’ in various shells. But, it was generally assumed that she was Japanese, and the live film confirmed this, despite her being played by a Caucasian woman.) Or, what about the similar outcry when the upcoming Hellboy reboot originally cast Ed Skrein as the Daimio character, who is clearly Asian in the comic? (Note: Skrein bowed out, and Daniel Dae Kim was given the role.) Now, these aren’t exactly “iconic” characters, but the point is that fans generally prefer that a character’s race/ethnicity be retained when the source material is adapted.

If someone does a remake of Bruce Lee’s Enter the Dragon but casts a White or Latino in the lead, do you think there would be outrage? You betcha! Or, what about a Native American actor as the central character for a Shaft reboot? (I mean, you could even have a lame bow-and-arrow joke about the name “Shaft”.) Yeah, I don’t think that would go over so well in the ‘hood or, you know, with anyone who understands anything about the character. Can you imagine if Marvel had cast a non-Black actor to star as Black Panther?!

My response to this “out-of-the-box creative thinking” to make Superman anything other than a White, heterosexual male? Seriously, just stop it. This forced “diversity” — because Whites have too many cool heroes, or non-Whites can’t relate, or something — is incredibly annoying and just stupid. And don’t cry “racist!” if anyone dares to object, ‘cuz that just won’t fly. This isn’t about race so much as it is staying true to the characters as written, especially when there are many years of canon behind them and most especially when there are specific things about them being a certain race or ethnicity that are integral to the character.

Now, I’m all for heroes (and villains) of various races/ethnicities, as long as they are created as such, well-conceived, and beyond silly stereotypes. Also, as far as Superman goes, I actually like the idea of non-White versions in alternate universes / parallel dimensions. In fact, we’ve seen them in the comics. I would love to see a well-written film plot wherein “our” Superman meets up with a non-White doppelganger, perhaps joining forces to battle a threat to both realities. But, the “primary” Superman should remain Caucasian in appearance. I see no good reason to change the race of a decades-old icon just because… “diversity”.

When Cavill does get replaced as Superman, I truly hope that non-PC, common sense prevails and they are able to re-cast with someone of similar … yes, “iconic” … appearance.

Trek News Dispatch, part 2 of 2

Last week, we started looking at recent Star Trek news, so now we continue….

As for the small screen, we’ve seen a few news updates about season 2 of “Star Trek: Discovery”. For example, we know that Anson Mount will portray the Enterprise’s ‘Capt. Christopher Pike’, who then takes command of Discovery for their next big mission. I wasn’t impressed with him in Marvel’s “Inhumans” mini-series, but my initial impression from the Season 2 trailer is that he’ll do a good job. (Plus, it helps that Mount is a huge fan of TOS, so he has respect for the legacy.) I just hope they don’t write the character as too… jokey. Oh, also, Rebecca Romijn has been cast as ‘Number One’, and I can certainly see her in the role.

Early Spock / Ethan Peck

There has been a bit of controversy over the new ‘Spock’ (whenever he might show up) being “very different” from the character fans are familiar with. As new showrunner Alex Kurtzman explained,

“This is not entirely the Spock who has been formed enough to be the Spock that we know from TOS. There’s a lot of story about who Spock was before he becomes the Spock that is the yin-yang to Kirk. What I’m so excited about is that we have an opportunity to present a version of Spock that’s both totally consistent with the Spock everyone knows but very, very different. And it’s all gonna tie to how we sync up with canon.”

That makes total sense to me. For example, as we saw in “The Cage” / “The Menagerie”, Spock was a bit less… emotionally disciplined at that time.

Kurtzman has also said that we’ll get an explanation for why Spock never mentioned his adopted sister, Michael Burnham, in any previous productions. According to Sonequa Martin-Green, who plays Burnham,

“We’re certainly gonna see Spock and we’re gonna be exploring those family dynamics. We’re gonna see a lot between them.”

I am intrigued and so will withhold judgment, but I look forward to seeing how they do this. (Especially since Spock is currently only scheduled to appear in two episodes. Maybe some will be done with flashbacks of younger versions?) I see that they also just cast Gregory Peck’s grandson, Ethan Peck (The Sorcerer’s Apprentice), as Spock. He looks like a decent choice physically, but I’ve never seen him in anything and can’t give any opinion on his acting.

Another “Discovery” news item involves those pesky, ever-changing Klingons. As per makeup designer Glenn Hetrick:

“As we move into season 2, it has been a while since we have been with our characters. It has been a while since we have seen our Klingon friends. So, everything keeps evolving. The story has evolved. And I can guarantee you this, you are going to be blown away that they have a completely new look, yet again, going into season two.”

I can hear the collective groan and assorted expletives from some of you, but hang on. We’ve been promised that many questions re canon will be addressed, and this is one of those things. Hetrick continues…

“In season two, you are going to see much different designs. You are going to see different houses you haven’t seen before. One of the most important things to us was that at this point in canon, as we head towards the current version of unification, the houses really each grow up on different planets. It is an Empire, it is not just Qo’noS…. We have seen six of the great houses in close up in season one. As we move forward into the next season, I promise that we will continue exploring and unpacking and unfolding that infinitely interesting story of what the Klingon culture looks like on a wider level.”

This is actually in line with my thoughts. In my review of Season 1, I suggested that one way to resolve the Klingon issue was: “Perhaps the Klingon houses we’ve seen represented are one Klingon race, while the STIII/TNG version make up the other houses. Wipe out the former, and the latter can take over.” Sounds like I was on the right track with that one….

Finally, there is the return of Jean-Luc Picard to the prime(?) Star Trek universe. As you may be aware, Kurtzman and his Secret Hideout production company were awarded a 5-year, multi-million dollar deal with CBS TV Studios back in June. Part of Kurtzman’s focus will be to “oversee the development of new Star Trek series, mini-series and other content, including animation.” Since then (and even before), there have been rumors of spinoffs focusing on Captain/Emperor Georgiou, Captain Lorca, Harry Mudd, Khan Noonien Singh, the Vulcans, Starfleet Academy, et al. Perhaps most intriguing was the possibility of bringing Jean-Luc Picard back — with Patrick Stewart returning to the role, of course.

Early reports were that fans would “see Stewart return to Starfleet as Captain Picard…. The report also refers to the project as a ‘reboot,’ leaving it unclear as to whether this project could be a reboot – more likely a continuation – of ‘Star Trek: The Next Generation’.” But, that was rather early in the development, and Stewart hadn’t even officially signed on, yet. Earlier this month (Aug. 2018), though, CBS announced (via Stewart at the 2018 Star Trek Convention in Las Vegas) that a Picard-based show starring Patrick Stewart, who will also exec produce along with Kurtzman, is now official.

One idea I’ve heard tossed around would be to have Picard in charge of Starfleet Academy. Not a bad idea for the character, I suppose, but not if we want to see a Picard-centered series. An academy-based series will likely focus on students. (I hope it isn’t too teen-angsty.) I’ve often thought that Picard might return to his archaeological interests and spend his later years on one or more digs. This could have potential for a series, but nothing I’ve read makes me think they’re considering this. (Otoh, who knows?) I think it is most likely that they will bring Picard back as either an Admiral or an Ambassador, both of which take advantage of his strengths in diplomacy and leadership. Of course, they may need to coax him out of retirement first. Given a compelling storyline, I’m definitely up for that.

The only thing that concerns me at this point is the rumors that CBS/Kurtzman want to wipe out the Prime timeline and merge the Kelvin timeline with the DISC timeline. Depending on how/when they would do it, it could allow for an “alternate” version of Picard (among many other things), too, and I don’t think the fans (including myself) want that. (Remember that mention of ‘reboot’ in the early discussion of a Picard series?) I don’t know how much validity there is to this rumor, though, so I’ll set it aside for now.

CBS TV Studios president David Stapf has stated that they want year-round Trek content on CBS All Access. DISC’s second season won’t debut until January 2019, and Picard’s so-far-untitled series is tentatively due in late 2019. So, while we wait for them and the (up to four) additional series being developed, they have something else to tide fans over.

“CBS All Access will fill the gap in late 2018 Star Trek programming with Star Trek: Short Treks, a series of four 15-minute short films spotlighting characters from Star Trek: Discovery [including one about Harry Mudd and directed by Rainn Wilson]. <Star Trek: Short Treks> will debut in the fall and new installments will release monthly leading into the second season of Star Trek: Discovery.”

Cool!

Trek News Dispatch, part 1 of 2

This week, I wanted to comment briefly on recent news items that affect various different Star Trek eras/universes.

Nichelle Nichols

Allow me to begin with the report on Nichelle Nichols’ health. Nichols, 85, has understandably had her share of health issues, and fans will remember that the much-beloved, original ‘Lt. Uhura’ suffered a mild stroke back in 2015. Fortunately, there was no resulting paralysis. However, it has since been reported that she has been suffering memory loss. (I don’t know if it’s thought to be related.)

Original reports came this past May, when her son, Kyle Johnson, petitioned the court to have conservators appointed to manage Nichols’ health and financial decisions. It seems that her memory issues had allowed “certain individuals [to] unduly exert[] themselves into Ms. Nichols’ life to her detriment.” In conservatorship documents recently obtained by TMZ, Nichols’ doctor, Meena Makhijani, said that the actress does indeed have “moderate progressive dementia.” More specifically, she has “major impairment of her short-term memory and moderate impairment of understanding abstract concepts, sense of time, place and immediate recall.” However, there does not appear to be impairment to her “long-term memory, orientation of her body, comprehension, verbal communication, concentration, recognition of familiar people, as well as ability to reason logically and plan actions.”

This is sad news, as it would be with anyone. But, we can pray that Nichols’ conservators get her the care she needs, and that her family, friends, assistants, etc., work patiently with her as she deals with this condition. And, of course, we fans will continue to love and appreciate the beautiful, classy, sci-fi and cultural icon.

On the movie front, Star Trek 4 in the Kelvin universe is in jeopardy. Even before Star Trek Beyond was released, the powers-that-be announced they had already started developing the next film. Based on an idea by J.J. Abrams, it would involve some way — presumably time-travel — of teaming James Kirk with his late father, George, played briefly by Chris Hemsworth in 2009’s Star Trek. Both actors were reportedly “on board” and had deals in place.

A few months ago, rumors of a Quentin Tarantino-led Trek movie had people wondering if those plans would delay or even replace Star Trek 4. But, that doesn’t seem to be a problem. Rather, recent reports are that Star Trek 4 has hit a wall due to… money. Apparently, salaries for Hemsworth and Chris Pine (aka ‘James Kirk’) had not yet been finalized, and now “talks between the two actors and the companies making the new installment, Paramount Pictures and Skydance Media, have fallen apart, with both sides walking away from the table.”

Hemsworth and Pine

Pine and Hemsworth are big enough stars now that they can command big money. (E.g., Pine got $6 million for Star Trek Beyond.) I don’t begrudge them that. Also, according to reports, they are merely “asking the studios to stick to existing deals. Paramount, according to insiders, contends that Star Trek is not like a Marvel or Star Wars movie and is trying to hold the line on a budget.” So, Paramount was disappointed in the 3rd film’s profits. Fair point, but whose fault was that? Arguably not Pine’s, and certainly not Hemsworth’s.

Like many, I have been somewhat disappointed in the current Trek movies, so I wouldn’t be devastated if Star Trek 4 never happened. On the other hand, it would be a shame, especially since I think it’s at least partially fixable. (No, I don’t think they should recast either of the Kirks — especially the younger.) The more immediate option would be to give the actors more skin in the game, i.e., tying a certain bonus to the film’s profitability (as Pine did for Star Trek Into Darkness) or with a percentage of the take on the backend. The second thing would be to make the movie slightly less dependent on action and F/X and incorporate more of the tone and philosophical elements that the TOS and TNG-based films had. (Unfortunately, the one thing they can’t do is insert several years of the characters/actors working (and playing) together, which I think was a big factor in the success of (most of) those earlier movies.)

To be continued in a few days…

How to Improve Marvel’s Netflix Shows

“There’s always room for improvement.” — various people at various times

I was thinking about Marvel’s Netflix shows the other day and remembered an article about them that I’d seen a couple months ago. The author, Max Farrow, notes:

“[W]e can’t help but admit that 2017 was something of a stumbling block for the superheroes of Netflix. For all the grit and timeliness of The Punisher, several factors ensured that neither The Defenders or Iron Fist managed to inspire that much enthusiasm in fans. How can Marvel and Netflix get their mojo back, then? What can they do to get their superhero shows on track once more?”

He suggests five ways to do just that, so I figured we could look them over, and I’ll add a few reactions and comments of my own….

1) Stop Killing Villains

Farrow lauds the “fleshed out and highly memorable” main villains (especially as compared to some in the movies) and the “titanic talents” (e.g., Ali, Tennant, Weaver) that have portrayed them. But, he finds it somewhat odd and disappointing that at least twice a major villain has been offed part-way through the series.

“[T]his isn’t to say that show execs can’t, or shouldn’t, kill villains off full-stop. Unique and unpredictable storytelling is a fantastic quality in a series. But, having villain number three die midway through a season is precisely why Netflix shouldn’t opt for it again.”

I agree with him. These were strange moves that interrupted the flow of the respective stories. If they can attract such talent for these roles, why kill them off early? (Of course, it’s possible that they may only want to sign on for 5 or 6 episodes, and that would be a shame.)

2) Kick Ass, But More Efficiently

Farrow lays it out:

“The Marvel/Netflix shows may be gritty character studies, but we wouldn’t love them as much without their alleyway (or corridor) brawls. However, it’s been two years since Daredevil and Frank Castle dished out some quite frankly jaw-dropping beatdowns in Daredevil season 2. Aside from several notable moments in The Defenders, there’s been very little in the way of truly electrifying showdowns since. So, why are these kinds of moments becoming scarcer?”

As Farrow acknowledges, “action scenes are expensive and tricky to film.” But, no matter how “real-life” these shows are, they are still about characters with amazing superpowers and fighting skills. People who tune in expect to see these powers/skills used and, hopefully, not only executed well but in ways that seem authentic and make sense.

“From Daredevil’s radar-sense to Jessica Jones’ limited flight, honing on in [sic] these iconic abilities in fight scenes could really make the Marvel/Netflix shows stand out. Moreover, given enough resources and planning time, a great choreographer would be able to turn these prerequisite punch-ups into something truly special.”

Yes, indeed.

3) Planning Makes Perfect

Unlike the (mostly) “efficiently cohesive, detailed world” of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the Netflix shows, according to Farrow, seem to struggle with reminding us of their interconnectedness. In particular, he points to “The Defenders” and its slow ramp to get viewers up to speed on “picking up where each of the solo shows left off” and “a lot of work into maneuvering [the characters] into suitable positions for the story at hand.”

At first, I thought he was being a little hard on the writers/producers regarding efforts to a) show us what our heroes were currently up to and b) orchestrate their eventual “team-up” against their common foes. I mean, that’s a lot to juggle. Plus, more generally, the appearances of ‘Claire Temple’, ‘Karen Page’, and other supporting characters help to remind us of the shared city in the other series. But, after re-reading Farrow’s comments, I have to admit he makes some good observations.

“A bit more pre-planning would be hugely beneficial in this regard. Moreover, it would help any inter-show crossovers to feel more natural, such as in the rumored second season of The Defenders. Plus, it will allow for terrific new stories to be told, which change and shape the wider Marvel/Netflix world.

Sure, the shows all feel alike with their similarly grungy Manhattan, but it’s strange how inconsequentially huge events – such as Kingpin’s bombings – are rendered within the context of The Defenders.

It’s even stranger when we consider that all of the characters operate only a few blocks away from each other as well.”

I can’t help but agree with him there, too. This leads into the next gripe/suggestion…

4) Get To Grips With The Wider MCU

When “(Marvel’s) Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” debuted on ABC back in 2013, it was essentially a spin-off that followed the “Battle of New York” seen in the first Avengers film. Agent Phil Coulson was the crossover player (with an appearance or two by Nick Fury), and there have continued to be references to stuff from the films sprinkled about in the TV series. Unfortunately, despite the hopes of the fans, connections between Netflix’s Marvel-based series and the MCU movies have been quite slim, with references even fewer and farther between.

“This hasn’t been hugely detrimental to these shows, though. Moreover, The Punisher barely features any inter-world connections and still manages to tell a rich and compelling story without relying on references. However, it is getting to the point where passing lip-service to iron suits isn’t going to cut it anymore.

At what point in the MCU timeline does Daredevil’s showdown with Fisk take place? A year after The Avengers? No one knows. Plus, the lack of Defenders references from the movies are conspicuous by their absence. Surely S.H.I.E.L.D. would have a use for someone like Matt Murdock?”

Farrow is fair to note the various challenges of things like logistics, varying development times, the “notoriously fractious relationship” between the movie and TV divisions, etc. Still, if the Netflix series are firmly set in the same world as the MCU, and I hope they are, then they really need to make a better effort to make that clear. It would only make sense, and it would further please the fans who value such continuity.

5) Shorten The Series

Farrow contends that the thirteen-episode structure of each season of the Netflix shows — except for the “The Defenders” mini-series, of course — is just a tad too long. I’ll let him explain…

“Regardless of what theme each show is exploring, at their hearts they’re superhero stories, right down to their adrenaline-fuelled needs. That isn’t to say they can’t be deep or cerebral (these shows have frequently proved that it’s possible), but they do need that burgeoning, dramatic tension to keep them chugging along.

Unfortunately, because of their structure, the Marvel/Netflix shows can’t sustain this drive for the time that they’re required to. Even the best of these series are forced to tread water for some period of time, be it the opening episodes of The Punisher or those where Kilgrave’s imprisoned in Jessica Jones. When this happens, the bloat sets in and the show grinds to a halt.

Again, it’s not that we don’t love spending time with characters like Jessica Jones. But if the show around them suffers for it, then something’s got to give. And that something is the series’ length.”

My instinct is to deny it. I mean, I love my superheroes (regardless of how much I complain), so the more episodes the better. Right? But, after briefly reflecting, I have to admit that Farrow is probably right, and I’ve even had similar thoughts. Most (each?) of the Netflix shows could probably have been improved by tightening up the writing/pacing, thereby cutting each season down to 10(?) to 12 episodes each.

I’m tempted to add a point or two of my own, but you all already know my gripes and preferences from the reviews I’ve done on these series. (See ‘Review Posts’ link at top of page.)

So, what do you think? Is Farrow unfair or otherwise “off” in his assessments? Am I an “unfaithful” fan for generally agreeing with him? Is ‘Kilgrave’ overrated, ‘cuz Tennant makes Whovian fangirls swoon? Should I stop asking questions? Just wonderin’…

Y or Y Not

“Nnnooooooooooooooooooooooooo!!!!” — me

It seems that an adaptation of Brian K. Vaughan’s popular, critically-acclaimed, dystopian comic book series, Y: The Last Man (DC/Vertigo), has been in development at FX for some time, and I had no idea. How could that happen?!

Originally (2007), New Line bought the rights and had names like David Goyer and D.J. Caruso attached. Caruso wanted to do a three-film saga (which might’ve worked, imho), but he left the project when New Line insisted on a single film. (Bad idea!) They tried again with another group of names, but that fell through when the rights eventually reverted back to Vaughan in 2014, who didn’t like the direction they were taking. When the FX deal was announced in 2015, they had lined up Color Force’s Nina Jacobson and Brad Simpson to co-adapt/write with Vaughan. (Vaughan had previously worked on “Lost” and “Under the Dome”.)

“All of the men are dead. But one. Y traverses a world of women — exploring gender, race, class and survival.” — FX’s formal description for the series

Now, they’ve got a showrunner (Michael Green), a newly-signed co-showrunner (Aida Mashaka Croal), a director (Melina Matsoukas), and a fresh, new pilot order. Green, Croal, Matsoukas, Jacobson, Simpson, and Vaughan will all be executive producers.

I quite enjoyed the Y: The Last Man comic series, lo, those many years ago. The premise was intriguing, the title character (semi-pro escape artist Yorick Brown) was a lovable goof, and his little, rascally Capuchin buddy (Ampersand) was cute & funny, too. (Note: It is for “mature audiences”, so a few scenes/elements were a bit uncomfortable for me.) It also had decent storylines and supporting characters, and Pia Guerra’s art was terrific — a perfect fit. Terrific, creative cover art, too. So, when I started to read about this live-action version being made for the small screen, my first thought was an enthusiastic, “Cool!”. But, then I remembered “Runaways”….

“Runaways”, if you don’t remember, is another comic series Vaughan created and wrote a few years ago (but for Marvel). It was recently adapted for the small screen and aired on Hulu. I’m just about finished watching the 10-episode run, but I practically have to force myself. If it was an original series, it would be fine. But, I know the source material (having recently re-read the original 18-issue story arc), and the TV series is such a disappointment. I can understand a few minor tweaks, but there are so many alterations to characters — 2 or 3 missing, others new; others with different ages, physical appearances, “origins”, and/or personality changes –, and the plot is barely recognizable beyond the most basic elements. I keep asking myself how Vaughan could let his creation be so… mangled. But, then I came across this statement:

“These changes are fully supported by Vaughan, who serves as a consultant on the TV series…. [Also,]

‘It was important to me that we do something where people can’t go online and read how this ends or what’s going to happen next.'”

I can certainly understand that concern, but I think they went way too far with the changes on “Runaways”. With that in mind, I kept reading about the “Y: The Last Man” adaptation. Unfortunately, it only got worse, based on Vaughan’s Nov. 2017 interview with The Hollywood Reporter:

“I wanted to find someone who loved the source material, but didn’t feel so indebted to it that they would be afraid to change it. When [Michael Green] first pitched his take on it to Nina Jacobson, our producer, and me a long time ago, he came in saying he wanted to do something about toxic masculinity. It felt very relevant, and unfortunately I think it’s only become more relevant with each passing day. His take on it was really brave and very different, but exciting as well. I really admire how audacious he’s been with his translation.”

Michael Green at Comic Con

Groan! And, of course (<eyeroll>), it’s Trump’s fault, as Green explained to THR last July:

“It would have been a very different show, and very different development process, had the election not been as horrifying as it was. I had to put the script down for a couple months and really reassess it tonally, because it became a different creature, it became violent protest. It couldn’t not be political, and I had to embrace it, and I had to find my way in, and I had to find a way to channel my own dismay, disappointment and rage into it, while still keeping it what it is. For a minute there I almost walked away.”

“It couldn’t not be political….” Criminy dutch! What a way to ruin a cool idea by feeding into this hysterical, politically-correct, “toxic masculinity” crap! (Can you tell I’m a bit worked up over this?) Fans like me don’t want Green’s “dismay, disappointment and rage” over a political election. We don’t want “very different” and “audacious”, either. We want to see the source material realized with its original tone. That’s what we loved on the page; that’s what we want on the screen. But, Leftist Hollywood rarely gets that, or cares.

At least there was one thing I can get behind regarding Green’s take on it, and it’s something I think my fellow “Babylon 5” fans can appreciate, too….

“‘Whether it is 60, 70 or 80 episodes, I’m gonna pick a number, and I’m gonna stick to it. And I’m gonna write to it. There’s so many brilliant things in that comic, the two biggest are the premise, and the ending.’ He believes Vaughan’s writing ‘toward an ending that he knew’ made the series more ‘meaningful.’ He calls the set length of the series a ‘pact’ with the audience, adding, ‘It will help them to know that we’re ticking down.'”

Obviously, you can do a “last man on Earth” story without resorting to making it a feminist screed. It has been done before. There may even have been a few anti-male jabs in the comic series, but it wasn’t enough to ruin it for me, especially if they were for light comedic effect. So, this “violent protest” of Green’s — with FX’s and Vaughan’s apparent support — has me worried and quite irked, to say the least. I may watch the pilot out of curiosity, but I’m not sure I’ll be able to stomach it for long, if that’s the tone and direction Green’s gonna twist Y into. Sheesh!