The Problem with DC Movies

“Once you crack the script, everything else follows.” — Ridley Scott, writer/producer/director of TV & film

If you have read many of my TV and movie reviews here over the years, you’ve probably noticed my frustration with… well, a lot of things. But, one refrain is that I’m not sure who to blame for a disappointing show: the writer(s) for a poorly developed story and/or character(s), the actor(s) for not doing a good job in the role(s), or the director for failing to elicit good performances or to realize the best vision for the material (or some such thing). Or, perhaps a combination?

Another issue has to do with proper casting. For instance, I had serious doubts about Daniel Craig as James Bond, as well as Ben Affleck playing Batman. But, in the end, I was pleasantly surprised on both counts. Just don’t get me started on Benedict Cumberbatch as Khan…. A related issue is when beloved characters are “tweaked” too much, imho, from the source material and/or the writer(s) demonstrate that they really don’t understand the character or his/her appeal.

A few weeks back, someone (“LKJSlain”) in one of the pop-culture Facebook groups I frequent posted some insightful observations of her own on this subject. I believe the original subject matter was the now-confirmed casting of Robert Pattinson as Bruce Wayne in Matt Reeves’ upcoming The Batman reboot. (I have been reminded that he is much more than just “that guy from Twilight“, so I am cautiously optimistic.) LKJSlain shared her thoughts not just on Pattinson but on DC-based movies in general and on Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker. She was nice enough to let me share the post with my readers….

*cracks knuckles*

Okay…

Here are my general thoughts (like anyone cared)… BY AND LARGE most people have absolutely despised the newer DC movies. NOW- there are some people who really enjoyed them, sure, and movies like Wonder Woman (minus the villain, which wasn’t terrible, but was WEIRD) and Shazam (which, IMO was MOSTLY incredible, minus a bump or two and an odd occasional problem with pacing) but the other films (Suicide Squad, Aquaman, BatmanVSSuperman, Man of Steel-) were not “necessarily” TERRIBLE but they had some really weird glaring errors that not only miffed the fans, but caused a lot of people who love the comic book genre and superhero / comic book films to just be left scratching their heads… – “Why did they go THIS direction?” “Why did THIS happen?” “WHAT THE HECK Batman wouldn’t DO that…” “Superman is acting strange…” “Mus…tache…” etc…

This combination of what I will call “oddities” makes for some really BIZARRE movies… I have my opinions about WHY (And a youtuber who I love named TheCosmonautVarietyHour has an EXCELLENT video that represents everything that I’d say here- it’s a 25 min -plus- long video that’s called “The Problem with DC’S Heroes” – watch it, it explains the problem perfectly, I can’t post it here because he cusses a lot…)

But here’s the deal… The problems are not the actors… the PROBLEMS are the movies themselves…

RobPat might be INCREDIBLE portraying Batman, [but] it’s not going to matter if the Batman he portrays is written terribly and leaves the audience with a sense of confusion / head scratching more than, “Heck yes, that’s the Batman that I know and love!”

I’ll use the JOKER movie as an example.

Joaquin Phoenix can act. HE … CAN… ACT… But do you know what I DON’T want to see? A movie that makes me feel EMPATHETIC towards the Joker… -_- (again, these are the things that are WELL explained in the video I mentioned above…) As a writer, it always miffs me SO MUCH with these movies because I always feel (pardon my hubris) that I could have written a BETTER Joker story.

TO ME this movie “JOKER” is CRYING for the audience to “feel sorry” for and thus “understand” the Joker… I DON’T WANT TO UNDERSTAND THE JOKER! That’s why he’s such an awesome character, he’s one of the few villains that encompasses and represents TOTAL chaos, anarchy, and a sense of “WHY?” It makes for a GREAT villain, and part of the greatness of that villain IS the mystery. If you REMOVE the mystery, it’s not the same character and after that, the audience will ALWAYS say, “Oh, well…his horrible past…” etc… -_- NO!

(SIDENOTEDONTGETMEWRONGIMSTILLGOINGTOSEETHISMOVIEBECAUSEILOVEHIMAND
ITHINKTHEMOVIEITSELFMIGHTBEOKAYANDITLLDEFINITELYBEINTERESTINGIFNOTHINGELSE
OKAY…)

My point being- one of the reasons that people roll their eyes with these choices is NOT the actors themselves, but trying to picture THESE actors in the modern DC films… *cringe*…

Regarding her initial comments, I can’t comment re Aquaman or Shazam!, since I haven’t seen them, yet. As for the rest, yeah, I’m pretty much in agreement. In regards to Phoenix as Joker, I mentioned in another post that I would (eventually) check out that film. I couldn’t quite put my finger on why I was a bit “iffy” on it, but I think LKJSlain comes pretty close. I am perhaps more accepting of some origin for the character. But, the never-fully-answered question of “How did this guy get so screwed up?!” is indeed part of the appeal. We certainly don’t want a sob-story to make us empathize (sympathize?) with the Joker. He is the embodiment of chaotic evil, a capricious homicidal maniac with a clown fetish, and Batman’s arch-est of archenemies. That’s all.

Bottom line is that, while Phoenix will no doubt give a marvelous performance, this is not the Joker we’ve been looking for. (Nor is that Jared Leto version from Suicide Squad.) It’s like DC / Warner Bros don’t even understand their own characters, and they have only themselves to blame for their cinematic failures.

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Review of Star Trek: Discovery, Season 2

“Sometimes, in war, the terrible choice is the only choice.” — Vice Adm. Cornwell

Late as usual, but I “needed” to add my 2 cents re Season 2. So,…

SPOILER! SPOILER! SPOILER! SPOILER! SPOILER! SPOILER! SPOILER! SPOILER! SPOILER!

Cmdr. Michael Burnham

“The People”

I may have mentioned it before, but the stoic Burnham character reminds me a lot of Martin-Green’s ‘Sasha’ character on “The Walking Dead”. It has made me wonder how much range she has in her acting. Of course, since Burnham was raised on Vulcan since the age of 12 or so, it makes sense that she would have much of that emotional discipline ingrained in her. But, as revealed this season, Burnham has a lot of rage and other things bottled up inside. We got to see her deal with many personal issues — e.g., Saru nearly dying, awkward reunion with Tyler and concern over his joining Section 31, worrying about Spock (first AWOL, then non-communicative), awkward reunion once Spock regained control of his faculties, awkward reunion with her long-thought-dead mother (played wonderfully by the talented Sonja Sohn), seeing her mother sucked back into the future, seeing a friend sacrifice herself, prepping to defeat Control via a one-way trip to the far future, etc.

Burnham went through an emotional roller-coaster this season, and it showed. She raged, cried in grief and frustration, cried with joy and relief, and, yes, she even smiled a couple times. Martin-Green is an attractive woman with a beautiful smile, and I wish we got to see more of it. The main thing, though, is that Burnham is growing into a more complex, self-assured, and more-rounded character, and we’re there to witness it. (Now, if only we could figure out why this woman is connected to so many important people and events….)

I gotta say, though, it sucks to be Tyler, too. I’m not just referring to all that guilt, shame, etc., from his Klingon spy days, either. One former girlfriend, with whom he just (secretly) had a baby, is now Chancellor of the Klingon High Council, and his mere presence at her side causes her all sorts of problems. So, not only is the baby sent off to an isolated monastery, but Tyler takes the blame for a failed coup (by someone else) and is banished from the Empire. His more recent former girlfriend is very conflicted about seeing him again, especially given his Klingon/family problems, and she hates his new job. He reluctantly accepts assignment aboard Discovery (as a quasi-spy), but no one trusts him, and they eventually accuse him of sabotage. Sheesh! Of course, he eventually is cleared and acquits himself honorably. Oh, and he gets stabbed in the gut by a rogue A.I. along the way, too.

But, honestly, I’m sorta bored with the character. I’m wondering if it isn’t time — no pun intended — to write him off the show. (At the very least, give his hair and beard a trim!) Of course, now Tyler is in charge of Section 31, but he is stuck back in 2257. So, assuming Season 3 doesn’t have a parallel storyline in that era, problem solved. I suspect we may see him in the Georgiou-led spinoff, though.

L’Rell and Tyler

About those Klingons… So, L’Rell now has hair, as do some others. I believe it was explained that only the religious caste/sect had the custom of shaving their heads. Same goes for those funky, spikey outfits we saw the Klingons wearing on the Sarcophagus ship in Season 1. It was a religious thing. In her new position, she doesn’t have to abide by those rules. Makes sense. But, we still have the more serious problem of the much different appearance of the Disco-Klingons vs. previous representations. I maintain that the best way to address this would be to establish that there are two (or more?) races native to Qo’noS. The ones we are familiar with from STIII/TNG/etc. are from Houses we have not yet seen on STDisc. At some point before the show goes off the air, we should see (or, at least, hear about) those other Houses rising to power over the current ones. Perhaps the STDisc Houses could even be a) destroyed via battle or disease; b) banished far, far away; c) rendered sterile; or, d) transported far elsewhen via time crystal.

OK, back to the characters…

Tilly is always a delight to watch, and she didn’t disappoint this season. I really liked the “evolution” of Saru’s character, too. (Glad I saw the Star Trek Short that introduced us to his family and culture, as well as the one where Po and Tilly met.) While the B-storyline with Culber’s return was somewhat interesting, I’ve never cared for the character and would be happy to see him written off. (Though, perhaps we could see more of Dr. Pollard?) I didn’t mind Stamets as much this season, perhaps partially ‘cuz he was less central to the main plot. His relationship struggles don’t appeal to me, either. I wouldn’t be disappointed if they wrote him off, though the crew will probably need him to control the spore drive in the 32nd century. After that, he should transfer or retire, as the character has been contemplating, and be replaced by a real engineer (i.e., Reno).

I never really liked the morally ambiguous Leland, so his death didn’t bother me at all. Georgiou, on the other hand, is always entertaining, as you never know quite how much to trust her. Yet, she does seem to genuinely care for Burnham. Michelle Yeoh must have a fun time playing her. While I wouldn’t say I loved the Vice Adm. Cornwell character, she was a good ally and died an honorable death. She will be missed.

I’ll mention the rest of the main bridge crew later….

As for new/”new” characters, Cmdr. Nhan (Rachael Ancheril) seemed to remain in the background most of the time, like the writers weren’t quite sure what to do with her. She did, however, prove herself a stand-up gal in the end, ready to make the hard choices, including risking her own life (like any good officer). I wonder if she and Number One were friends…. Number One was played ably by Rebecca Romijn, and it’s too bad we only really got to see her in action (sort of) in the finale. Jett Reno (Tig Notaro) reminds me of Harry Dean Stanton of Alien fame. Scrappy little guy… Anyway, I like the Reno character, and the Discovery needs a regular engineer (as opposed to an astromycologist) in the lineup.

Spock and Pike

I have to admit, after seeing Anson Mount in the abysmal “Inhumans” mini-series, I wasn’t sure about his casting for ‘Captain Christopher Pike’. Turns out, I had nothing to be afraid of. He was perfect for the part! He played Pike as somewhat Kirk-like — e.g., his sense of humor — but also different enough to be… Pike. He was a great Captain, loyal and appreciative of his crew, a good tactician, willing to sacrifice himself, etc. I think the decision to temporarily give him command of Discovery worked quite well for the story and, afaik, didn’t interfere with canon. Count me among those who would like to see another series centered on Pike, Spock, and the Enterprise.

Given that Spock is… Spock, and I’ve been a fan since the mid-70s, I can’t help but be critical of anyone other than Leonard Nimoy attempting to portray him. But, of course, no one is going to look, sound, or act exactly like the original. So, with that said, I think Ethan Peck ended up doing a terrific job. We got to see Spock at an even earlier place in his personal development than ever before (setting aside previous glimpses into his childhood in “Star Trek: The Animated Series”, that is). We didn’t see him grinning and outwardly exuberant as in “The Cage”/”The Menagerie”, but we did see him struggling with strong emotions. Much of that was due to the aforementioned reunion with his foster sister, from whom he has been estranged for a couple decades.

It was most gratifying to witness the healing process, though, once the true cause of the estrangement was revealed. In particular, it became apparent how much Spock and Michael love and respect each other, as well as how much he depended on her to help him find the “balance” between logic and emotion (despite their long estrangement). In truth, Michael helped to shape Spock into the character fans have known and loved for 50+ years. Her final piece of advice to him was a gift that long-time fans know will lead to his strong friendship with James Kirk — and, arguably, Leonard McCoy. Excellent! Also, finally seeing a clean-shaven Spock in science-blue, on the bridge of the Enterprise, makes me want a Pike/Spock-led spinoff to happen even more.

“The Story”

Some have complained about the writing in Season 2 (as they did for Season 1), calling it “hokey” or full of “massive plot holes” or whatever. Personally, I think the writing was pretty darn good, and the complainers are setting too high a standard. Taking the season as a whole, yes, it might have been a little uneven. There were occasional plot holes and things that, upon further reflection, didn’t make sense. (For example, in the last episode, how the heck did that one bulkhead so greatly reduce the projected damage to the saucer-section and also completely protect Pike, who was practically at the center of the blast?) Is it annoying? Frustrating? Definitely. But, that is true for any series I can think of, including such standouts as “The Sopranos” and “Babylon 5”. And, yes, that includes every other ST series, as well. (I think I said as much in my Season 1 review, too.)

I will say that, just as when Discovery went to the “Mirror” universe in Season 1, I was surprised they used time travel in Season 2. On the one hand, it seems like the writers/producers feel a need to return to familiar (and popular) territory. Why? On the other hand, many fans find this comforting, cheering for connections to the old favorites. Plus, the writers gave us decent stories that expanded our knowledge (“Mirror” universe; Empress Georgiou) and introduced new methods/tech (time-suit; time crystals). Of course, the whole idea of using Captain Pike, Number One, and (eventually) Spock from the Enterprise could be seen as a similar tactic, and one that worked incredibly well. (Fans loved it, including me!)

One thing that has sort of irked me is that the show has not been more focused on the “lower ranks”, as it had originally been billed. (Or, at least, that was the impression I had.) In actuality, we have another triumvirate, with Cmdr. Burnham as the focus but followed closely by Cmdr. Saru and the revolving captains (i.e., Georgiou, Lorca, Pike). In a way, this is too bad, because I thought the new approach could give an interesting perspective. To be fair, we have at least gotten to know Stamets and Tilly pretty well. I’d like to know more about Owosekun (aka “Owo”), Detmer, Rhys, and Bryce, though. (R.I.P., Airiam, we hardly knew ye.) I haven’t read anything about it, but I’m guessing that the writers/producers just decided that the old formula (with a little variation) worked better. And, tbh, that’s probably true. However, showrunner Alex Kurtzman has confirmed, “We’re going to be using all of them much, much more.”

One of the best episodes this season was #8 (‘If Memory Serves’), which brought Spock and Pike back into contact with Vina and the Talosians. (Another nice tie-in to ST:TOS.) Episode #11 (‘Perpetual Infinity’) was also an excellent episode with great performances by Martin-Green and Sohn in particular. (Fun Fact:  In the flashback, Burnham’s biological father was played by Kenric Green, real-life husband of Sonequa Martin-Green.) And I definitely have to include the season finale (‘Such Sweet Sorrow’) — particularly the second Part — in my list of top episodes. This was great Trek and great writing in general.

That finale finally gave us the solution we needed for why the Spore Drive was never used in other ST series. If Starfleet takes Spock’s recommendation, all records of Discovery and her crew will be erased and talk of them banned within Starfleet, so I guess that’s supposed to answer why Spock (and maybe Sarek) never mentioned Burnham before. (Or, would that be, later?) But, conspiracies and associated cover-ups are less likely to work the more people that are involved, so I don’t quite buy it. Plus, any Starfleet-wide ban wouldn’t hold sway over Klingons, Kelpians, Queen Po (love her!), Amanda, or anyone else Discovery encountered while it was in service. Details, details…

The Discovery‘s travel 950 years into the future sets up Season 3 for a very different situation to deal with, though one similar to when they jumped to the “Mirror” universe in Season 1. It will put them beyond even the period that “Crewman” Daniels (“Enterprise”) came from. Will Discovery be able to wipe out the Sphere data with advanced tech? Will they get in trouble for violating the Temporal Accords? Will they jump into the middle of another war or the aftermath of one? Will they ever return to the mid-23rd century? And, where/when is Dr. Gabrielle Burnham? We certainly don’t have any answers, and Kurtzman ain’t talkin’. But, you can bet, despite my complaints about the series, I eagerly await the (continued) adventure!

P.S. Saru gets my vote for who assumes the captain’s chair. Burnham, naturally, should double as Chief Science Officer and First Officer, as her brother will on the Enterprise in a few years. 🙂

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.

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.

Darth Jar Jar?

“Meesa thinkin’ this be crazy-crazy!” — JJB?

Boy, I’m really out of the loop on this Star-Wars-theory stuff. I mean, I know I’m not the die-hard fan some of you are. But, I’m a little surprised that I don’t recall hearing this one before. I was flipping through a copy of The World According to Star Wars by Cass Sunstein, when I came across this bit of trivia:

“Here’s an especially bold, and bizarrely credible, exercise in dot connection, which went viral in late 2015: Jar Jar Binks is a Sith Lord. (‘Search your feelings, you know it to be true.’) According to Reddit user Lumpawaroo, Jar Jar ‘was not, as many people assume, just an unwitting political tool manipulated by Palpatine — rather, he and Palpatine were likely in collaboration from the beginning, and it’s entirely possible that Palpatine was a subordinate underling to Binks throughout both trilogies.’

In the prequels, Lucas’s original plan was to give Jar Jar Binks a prominent role in all three movies, akin to that of Yoda. He acts like a fool, a joker, an idiot, but he knows just what he’s doing. Crazy like a fox, he’s the brain behind the scenes. He is playing the Jedi like a violin. According to this account, Lucas had to abandon his plan because so many people hated Jar Jar, couldn’t stand his presence, and depicted him as a product of racism.

True, all this sounds crazy, but Lumpawaroo elaborated the theory with such care, diligence, energy, and obsessiveness that it actually made a kind of sense. One result was a website dedicated to the idea, darthjarjar.com. Is it right? Lucas had to issue a public denial to prevent this account from getting real momentum.

Now he would deny it, wouldn’t he?”

My initial reaction was to laugh at the idea. But, as I read and re-read the hypothesis and thought about it some more, I actually liked it. This would have been a great twist — right up there with Vader’s revelation in Empire! If they’d been able to capitalize on it, with at least the better part of one film having Darth Jar Jar displaying his “true face” and revealing his masterfully evil machinations, it would have cast the character in a whole different light and neutralized much of the hatred for the character. (Lucas: “I am altering the tale. Pray I don’t alter it any further….”) Heck, he may have even become a fan-favorite villain on jar… er, on par with Vader and Maul!

P.S. You should definitely check out the website. They’ve had a lot of fun running with the idea, creating appropriate graphics, writing “Darth Jar Jar Tales”, additional SW theories, etc.

The Hero Within

I’ve got an original fiction idea for you this week. Haven’t done one of these in several months. This one was sufficiently developed that it might work as a “pitch” for either a novel or a TV series. Well, maybe I’ll let you be the judge of that….

“The Hero Within”
(or, possibly something else, ‘cuz I’m not totally sold on this title)

Subject #1: Rich, cultured, and very physically fit man in penthouse suite discussing the day with his valet and joking good-naturedly. Remarks are made about certain “extracurricular activities” and long term plans and “making a difference” and such, but nothing specific. The impression, of course, is that he is a mega-wealthy, playboy type who fights crime in his spare time.

Subject #2: Unkempt man wakes up nearly naked on the couch in his messy dump of an apartment, empty beer bottles and leftover food strewn about. Turning off the TV, he talks to himself while stumbling about the place, obviously hungover and cranky as he gets ready for work (or perhaps to go looking for work). What little we “hear” is laced with expletives and alternates between self-pity and anger/frustration over events in his life (e.g., divorce, bankruptcy of a business and not being able to hold a job since, etc.). As he leaves, yelling at the neighbor’s noisy dog, he mutters to himself about “fixing things” and “making things right”. The assumption, of course, is that he is either an average joe with a streak of bad luck or possibly a small-time criminal who is planning a crime (probably a heist), which he thinks will solve his problems.

Revelations: The reality of it is that Subject #2 was indeed a wealthy businessman at one time, but he let other matters distract him, which allowed Subject #1 to engineer a hostile takeover. Those “other matters” were his obsession with fighting crime — secretly, of course — as a masked adventurer (a la Green Hornet). Having a lot of personal capital tied up in his “extracurricular activities”, he soon went through personal bankruptcy, which then led to his divorce. Between that and the takeover of his business, he also no longer has access to the properties which housed (or had secret tunnels which led to) his crimefighting HQ and related stores of weapons and technology. What he doesn’t realize, yet, is that the unscrupulous Subject #1 discovered these secret locations and equipment and has begun (subtly and small-scale, so far) to use them for nefarious purposes — i.e., to illegally increase his wealth and power, from straightforward theft and back-alley assault to industrial espionage, corporate blackmail, and shady business deals. As soon as Subject #2 discovers what #1 is up to, he will take it personally and make it his mission to stop #1. Meanwhile, #2 just needs to stop drinking and figure out how to get his life back on track….

The revelations about who these two characters actually are/were and how they got to this particular stage in their personal and professional lives might occur within, say, a pilot episode of a TV series or the opening chapter or two of a novel. Subsequent developments — e.g., #1’s creative uses for the “hero tech” he now has, one or more personal confrontations between the two, #2’s other activities as he gets his life together while fighting inner demons, #2 adopting a new adventuring persona and becoming a gadfly in #1’s plans, etc. — would be spread over the course of one or more seasons or books. The story might be played either totally serious or with a strong mix of humor — and, here, I’m thinking #2 would be someone like Bruce Willis as ‘John McClane’ in the Die Hard movies. Similar vibe, anyway.

End of pitch.

* All ideas copyright Christopher Harris, 2013-2018.

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’…

Review of Star Trek: Discovery

“We come in peace, that’s why we’re here. Isn’t that the whole idea of Starfleet?” — Comm. Michael Burnham

With all the heated rhetoric and division within fandom over “Star Trek: Discovery”, I wasn’t sure I wanted to weigh in. Plus, I’m sort of torn about it myself. But, ultimately, I thought I might find it cathartic to force myself to put my thoughts down. Besides, it’s just my opinion, and it isn’t worth any less than anyone else’s, so why not?

SPOILER! SPOILER! SPOILER! SPOILER! SPOILER! SPOILER! SPOILER! SPOILER! SPOILER!

I did an earlier review of the pilot episodes, essentially the prologue to the rest of the season. If you haven’t already read it, you might want to jump over and do that now, since this is sort of a “sequel” review, and there are a couple things addressed there that I won’t touch on here.

USS Discovery

I have to admit, they pulled off a couple of twists that I didn’t see coming. Take Captain Lorca, for instance. He definitely had an independent streak, and I wasn’t entirely surprised to see him dodge, if not outright disobey, his orders in order to carry out his agenda. I chalked this up to “realism” (in his mind, at least) and a bit more aggressive nature. But, of course, I had no idea what that agenda truly entailed until towards the end. I remember some fans commenting about him being mean, evil, even speculating that he was from the “Mirror” universe. Even after that scene when he held a phaser on Cornwell, I was more willing to give him the benefit of the doubt, since he was overstressed and suffering from a form of PTSD. (She still should have thrown him in the brig.) Maybe I’m obtuse, or maybe I just didn’t want to see it, but I didn’t. And they — i.e., those other viewers — were right. (I was suspicious re the eye-sensitivity thing, though.) Still, I’m a bit disappointed to see Mirror Lorca go, ‘cuz he was an interesting character.

I was a little surprised that they went to the “Mirror” universe so soon, though. Were they — i.e., the writers/producers — so nervous about the show being able to establish itself on its own that they felt they needed to (re-)introduce a fan-favorite place/situation? Have to say, I enjoyed it, and it may indeed have helped. Also, bringing back Georgiou the way they did was very intriguing. I assume she will pop up on occasion in subsequent seasons, and I’m fine with that.

On the other hand, the changes to the Terran Empire’s fashion choices was a bit irritating. I commented on the Klingon and Starfleet uniforms in my earlier review. Regarding Starfleet, this article made some valid points about changes in uniform styles both in previous ST series and in real life military, so I suppose it makes sense that even the vaunted Terran Empire can fall victim to fashion trends.

Btw, my favorite Mirror version of the Discovery crew was young Captain “Killy”. I have to assume the real “Killy” is as deadly as she is ambitious, so she killed her way up the hierarchy very quickly. The TE uniform and straight blonde hair were quite flattering for “our” Cadet Tilly. I enjoy watching the brilliant-but-unsure “prime” Tilly — sweet girl — and appreciated seeing her grow a bit this season.

The other twist that both amazed and frustrated me was the fact that Ash Tyler was, in fact, Klingon. Not only that, he was Voq, the albino follower of T’Kuvma seen back in the pilot 2-parter. Some fans predicted this, but I refused to accept it. And, in a sense, I still refuse. I don’t care how they explained it, it’s too far a stretch for me to believe that Klingons would be capable of this level of sophisticated surgery and genetic manipulation. (Actually, I don’t buy the entire procedure being possible for any race, but, hey, this is science fiction, after all.) The explanations by L’Rell and Dr. Culber seemed to conflict somewhat. But, near as I can figure, L’Rell not only made Voq anatomically human (and a match for the captured Lt. Tyler) but somehow transformed his DNA, too. (That’s the kicker for me.) Then, she essentially copied Tyler’s consciousness and overlaid it onto Voq/new-Tyler’s mind, while programming the Voq personality to take control at the proper time. (Except, it didn’t quite go as planned.) This new body somehow showed no signs of the physical trauma of being remade, even at the genetic level? C’mon!! Frankly, it would have been more believable for L’Rell to have simply cloned Tyler and “inserted” a copy of Voq’s mind/memories to stay in the background and take control when required. Heck, if Voq was hellbent on punishing himself, he could’ve had his brain transplanted into a Tyler clone.

Voq / “Tyler”

That said, the Tyler/Voq character not only gave us an idea how fanatical his faction was, but it also had a lasting impact on Burnham and her own growth as a character. (Plus, although Tyler/Voq is no longer part of Starfleet, they left it open for him to appear in later episodes, which could prove interesting.) I was glad to see Burnham evolve as a character. How could she not from all that she experienced personally and professionally? We even got to see a little more emotion from her. (Not much, though. Not sure if that is due to the writing/character or the acting.) In the end, it appeared that she was able to forgive herself, or at least come to terms with what happened in the past, and accept reinstatement into Starfleet with rank returned.

Saru seems to have grown as a character, too. He is more confident in himself, less ready to run, which must take great willpower. His friendship with and trust in Burnham seems to have been restored, as well. This development also pleases me. (Did that sound slightly imperious?)

I didn’t like Stamets from the get-go. He was arrogant and abrasive. But,… as the season progressed, I became a bit more sympathetic to his situation — i.e., frustrations with his pet project and the fact it was co-opted by Starfleet. Stamets himself even seemed to soften just a bit through the various events, not least of which was the tragic loss of his partner, Dr. Culber. Hopefully, the character will continue to be more likable in the future.

I also hope we get to spend more time with and learn more about Detmer, Airiam, Owosekun, Rees, and Bryce — i.e., the rest of Discovery‘s recurring bridge crew — next season. That would be in line with the way the show was advertised as not focusing on senior officers, after all.

Of those major characters who were killed off (or, at least, one version of them was) in season 1, I am most disappointed about Rekha Sharma’s Commander Landry. Sharma has an impressive genre resume, including stints on “Smallville”, “Battlestar Galactica”, “V”, and “The 100”. I was looking forward to getting to know Discovery‘s small-but-dangerous (and somewhat abrasive) Security Chief, seeing what makes her tick, watching her interactions with the rest of the crew, etc. Alas, ’twas not to be.

I have mixed feelings about Harry Mudd. I liked that we got to see him, but I’m not sure I care for this harder-edged, vengeful, even bloodthirsty version of him. Gotta love a good time-loop story, though.

My comments on the writing will be fairly brief. It was a somewhat mixed bag, perhaps, but nothing near as bad as some critics claim. (In fact, the story improved as the season progressed.) I think some people just look for things to complain about. Were there predictable or confusing plot points? Occasionally. Did characters do or say dumb things? Undoubtedly. Were there better ways to develop and/or resolve some things. Perhaps. None of this is unique to “Star Trek: Discovery” or to any Star Trek series or to any series, period. Give the creators and crew time to find their footing, as it were. Besides, just think how much room for improvement there is! 😉

Of course, though I addressed them in my earlier review, I need to make a few additional comments about the primary canon issues….

The Klingons. What more can be said about the Disco-Klingons? There are elements of the old, familiar Klingons, but so much has changed. From their physical appearance to their fashion sense, these Klingons may as well be a whole new species. Some fans think people like me are complaining too much about this. They say, “Look at the previous changes in Klingon appearance. You accepted those!” Yes, but the distance (so to speak) between the Klingons that debuted in the original “Star Trek” and those that debuted in Star Trek III (1984) (and then used in subsequent TV series) was much shorter than between either of them and the Disco-Klingons. Plus, the prior changes have been explained satisfactorily (in DS9 and ENT, I believe), with the most human-looking version being a brief aberration, so it is series canon. And, while we must admit there are a few inconsistencies from previous series, it is best to stick to established canon whenever possible.

I have played with a few ideas of how to get either of the earlier versions of the Klingons to replace the current Disco-Klingons.

1) 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.

2) Some sort of DNA-rewriting drug or disease could infect the Disco-Klingons, changing them all over a few years to the STIII/TNG version. But, that wouldn’t explain why the one encountered by the NX-01 crew in the ENT pilot had the STIII/TNG look.

3) L’Rell and Tyler/Voq could go back in time several thousands of years, inadvertently cause the annihilation of the Disco-Klingons, and become the “Adam and Eve” of the new Klingon race, which looks like those in STIII/TNG. (I’ll leave it to Klingon historians to figure out how far back they’d have to go. Probably pre-Kahless.)

If nothing like any of these scenarios happens, then the sudden “re-imagining” of the Klingon race was, in my book, not only unnecessary but inexcusable.

In regards to the more advanced look of the ships and other technology, I can understand and accept a certain amount. For example, if they made the Starfleet ships look just a bit updated — say, something like the old Enterprise 1701 refit or 1701-A — and without the low-budget look of the original series, that would probably be acceptable. Keep the general designs and colors, so that everything is recognizable as belonging to the Prime universe. But, making everything look generations more advanced was a mistake, IMO, even if we’re pretty sure tech would actually look closer to that than to something clearly designed in the 1960s.

Similarly, it was a mistake to introduce cloaking technology and hologram communications at a time far earlier than they were introduced in established canon. (I talked about this more in my review of the pilot episodes.) These technologies aren’t limited to just one, experimental ship (see below), since we’ve seen multiple Klingon vessels now use the cloak and both Klingons and Starfleet using the holograms, rather than the (mostly) flatscreen viewers that were standard in all previous ST series. It might be possible to write out further use of cloaking technology (for a few years, anyway), but I don’t think that is feasible with regards to the holograms. If the new series’ creators were so set on using “new” tech, they probably should have set the show further in the future.

Stamets x 2 in mycelial network

As for the paradox of the spore-drive’s existence, I think there is still time to resolve it — if not in Season 2, then in a later one. As has been pointed out elsewhere, Discovery is an experimental ship using an experimental drive technology. There is no need to assume that it will get any further than that. When they were still using the giant tardigrade to navigate, I thought they might abandon the spore tech for ethical reasons. (I.e., “we can’t use it if it means having to effectively enslave these creatures.”) Once Stamets realized he could be the navigator, the situation changed. But, it obviously still has its dangers, not only to Stamets (or whoever else might be hooked into it) but there’s the possibility of damaging the mycelial network and unraveling hyperspace (or something like that). I suspect this will tie into whatever decision is made to cancel use of the spore-drive, especially after Burnham’s rousing speech about the Federation needing to stick to its principles.

About that speech… The “darker” nature of the season’s story arc and a certain amount of ethical ambiguity expressed by the words and actions of certain high-ranking Starfleet officers were among the turn-offs to many long-time Trek fans. I admit, it bothered me, too. But, it appears that that was all part of the writers’ plan, as the characters were brought to a situation of existential threat that forced them — thanks to Burnham’s actions — to take a hard look at what they stood for and what they were willing to do to “win”. In other words, this was a turning point in Federation and Starfleet history that led to the (hopefully) more consistent, honorable, shining example that we know from other ST series.

Of course, as this article reminds us, the people and events of the Star Trek universe — even Federation and Starfleet — have never been flawless or reached the ideals they strive for. Even our heroes are “human”.

Ultimately, I think it would have been fraught with many fewer problems — both in terms of canon violations and audience acceptance — if the producers had opted to go with a non-prequel series. Something concurrent with TNG/DS9/VOY might’ve worked, but I think fans (including me) are/were more than ready to boldly go into the 25th century or beyond. (See a few suggestions here.) The war aspect was another negative point for many (though it wasn’t the first time Star Trek did that), and I think longtime fans would prefer a return to focusing on exploration and first-contact situations. Maybe someday we’ll get it.

There are those fans and other viewers who have little-to-no respect for the idea of canon and the need to maintain consistency across stories told within a larger framework of people, places, and things. Such people will write me off as perplexing at best, but more probably with some degree of condescension. At the other end of the spectrum are hard-core Trekkies/Trekkers. These are more likely to have, in addition to a healthy respect for established canon, certain parameters of tone and adventure in their mind within with a “real” Star Trek series must operate. I am much more sympathetic to these fans, but I suspect some of them will just shake their heads and wonder how I can call myself a Trekkie/Trekker.

But, I have to call it the way I see it. I for one will continue to watch “Star Trek: Discovery”, because, in my assessment and for my particular sensibilities, the positives still outweigh the negatives. It might not feel or look quite like other Star Trek series (would it be wrong to quote IDIC here?), but it’s still Star Trek, and I’m willing to stick with it — at least, for now.

P.S. I realize that there are other aspects of “Star Trek: Discovery” that were inconsistent with established canon, like the use of the familiar delta symbol, which was supposed to be limited to the Constellation-class ships (or, maybe just Enterprise?) until later adopted for all Starfleet. Much as I like James Frain in the Sarek role, there are a few inconsistencies in his character compared with the older version portrayed by Mark Lenard. There’re also all the questions about inserting another sibling for Spock, which somehow never got mentioned in any other series or movies. Etc. But, I didn’t have the time or energy. You can read more about these issues and others here.

Do These Marvel Superteams Deserve Movies?

“Well, if DC ain’t gonna make us a good Justice League movie any time soon, why not let Marvel take a crack at it.” — Hunter Rasmussen, writing at DailySuperheroes

Love ’em, hate ’em, or in between, we’ve had a lot of comic book characters and teams adapted for TV and film over the past couple decades, and we have plenty more in the offing. But, naturally, we all have some favorite(s) that haven’t made it to live-action, yet. (“Invincible”, anybody?)

I came across an article titled “10 Marvel Superteams Who Deserve Movies” by Hunter Rasmussen at DailySuperheroes. (He purposely excluded “any official Avengers or X-Men teams” in order to simplify things and spotlight lesser-known groups.) I thought I’d give my 2 cents’ worth in response to Rasmussen’s suggestions. So, following his ordering…

10. New Warriors: Rasmussen referred to his favorite version of the team (pre-Civil War) as “incredibly wonderful,… charming and funny”, and he thinks a “straight up comedy” New Warriors film would work best. Much as I liked them back in the day, I’m not so sure this team (in any version) has the popularity to draw crowds to the theater. But, an action-comedy is probably the best bet, imho. Also, remember that Freeform is developing a half-hour action-comedy NW series (starring Squirrel Girl), which will likely debut this year.

Cover art for Exiles, vol. 2, #1

9. Exiles: Hmmm. I enjoyed this comic series, but my initial reaction to making it into a film was negative. However, I am warming up to the idea. The fact that it involves characters from various Marvel realities & timelines traveling from one reality/timeline to another could make for an interesting movie plot and fun action, while also keeping it separate from the main Marvel properties. OK, I’m in!

8. Alpha Flight: I love me some Alpha Flight (especially the original John Byrne incarnation), and I would love to see a faithful adaptation to either small- or big-screen. It would be best to have some link to the X-Men (even if merely referenced in dialogue or some other Easter eggs), as there is in the comics. But, the plot could be something totally unrelated to Wolverine or the other mutants. (Of course, a Logan cameo would be awesome.) Plus, I’m sure our Canadian friends would appreciate seeing their government-sanctioned home team get the live-action treatment.

7. X-Factor Investigations: This comic series was about Jaime Madrox, the Multiple Man, leading a detective agency made up of various X-people not currently on the usual mutant superteams. I read a few issues and agree that it has a lot of promise for adaptation. In fact, a few years ago I mentioned it as a potential live-action, X-Men-related TV series. More recently, it was announced that James Franco would be starring as Madrox in a solo film. Whether or not X-Factor Investigations or any of those characters will be in the film is unknown at this time.

6. MI-13: I had trouble remembering this one, as it has been many years since I read any of the relevant comics. As Rasmussen summarized, “MI-13 is the British equivalent of Alpha Flight… a governmental agency that can call on any and all British superheroes.” Not exactly, but close enough. This opens up many possibilities for characters, plots, and locales to use that are more UK- and Euro-centric. Part superhero team, part intelligence agency, and part paranormal investigations, this organization could indeed be the basis for a cool movie or three.

5. Young Avengers: According to Rasmussen, this doesn’t count as an “official” Avengers team, since it was unsanctioned. Personally, I like most of the characters, and there some good material available for stories. But,… part of the reason it works in the comics is because of the various connections to Marvel’s big name Avengers (e.g., Captain America, Iron Man, Hawkeye), as well as supervillain Kang the Conqueror, which aren’t there in the film universe. I just don’t see how it would work. Maybe in another 10-20 years?

4. Squadron Supreme: I was quite fond of the JLA-like Squadron — originally, the Squadron Sinister — from another Earth in my youth. It had some fun characters (especially the Superman-analog, Hyperion, and the simple-minded Shape) and explored some intriguing ideas (e.g., what if the JLA took over the world?). I haven’t read any newer stuff, but it sounds like not much has changed. As Rasmussen says, “Squadron is about how power corrupts and at what point we should question authority. And, holy heck, would it make a great stand-alone movie. No MCU connections needed. So good.”

3. Thunderbolts: On the one hand, this was an enjoyable series with some cool characters and an interesting, unusual premise — i.e., supervillains masquerading as superheroes, who (mostly) then decide to really go legit. The fact that criminal-turned-hero Hawkeye stepped in to lead them was icing on the cake. I agree with Rasmussen that the members’ internal struggles made for some great character-growth in a fun redemption tale. (I seem to remember later issues veering away from this somewhat.) But, I’m not convinced that it would translate so well to the big-screen without the villains’ histories being established, as they had been for many years in the comics.

2. The Sinister “Six”: Rasmussen isn’t referring to any of the original villains that made up this team and which were slated to be in the apparently-shelved Sinister Six film. Rather, he wants to see live-action versions of a relatively new incarnation of the team, as seen in the comic series Superior Foes of Spider-Man (2013). He calls it “the funniest and best written Marvel comic in recent memory.” I have no idea, since I am totally unfamiliar with it. But, in principle, I am less optimistic that a team of D-list supervillains could draw any but the most die-hard Marvel fans.

1. The Runaways: As I’ve mentioned before, I liked this comic series about likable, gifted teens on the run from their supervillain parents. It has definite potential. But, I think the story works better as a regular- or mini-series for the small-screen, rather than as a movie. Much more time to develop characters and plot. Apparently, Marvel agrees with me, since they developed that very series with Hulu, and 9 out of 10 episodes have already aired as of this writing. I haven’t watched it, yet, but I hope to soon. (Probably after Season 1 of “The Gifted” finishes up.)

In summary, then, I think there are various reasons why several teams on Rasmussen’s wishlist wouldn’t work out as movies. But, Exiles, Alpha Flight, MI-13, and Squadron Supreme have the most promise as do-able, live-action adaptations of lesser-known Marvel superteams that need only maintain tangential connections to the rest of Marvel’s cinematic adventures. Is anyone at Marvel/Fox/Disney listening? Helloooooo?

P.S. Incidentally, if you’re wondering what Marvel properties I think would make good TV series, check out “7 Marvel Properties that Should Be on TV (Part 1 of 2)” and “7 Marvel Properties that Should Be on TV (Part 2 of 2)”.

The Director

It has been awhile since I posted one of my “original fiction” ideas. I came across this concept that I’d forgotten about and decided it was fleshed out enough to share. It would really work best as an ongoing series, whether novels, comics, or TV, so that there is time to really develop the characters and watch them connect the dots on the big conspiracy, plus other ideas.

“The Director”

Over the past decade or so, there have been a large number of disparate and seemingly unrelated “events”/incidents — some public, some private; some known to police/feds, some not. They have included various crimes (e.g., arson, burglary, kidnappings & strange disappearances, murder & assassination, fraud, terrorist bombings, etc.), as well as car accidents (some during car chases), a downed plane, and a few accidental deaths. Some of these have been solved, others have not. There have been other things as well, such as people suddenly “going crazy” or discovering documentation that either explicitly implicated someone in a crime (or cover-up of a crime) or was at least suspicious (like a piece of a larger puzzle). There are also links (though not apparent at first) to events in the corporate world — e.g., mergers and takeovers, stock manipulation, corporate espionage, class-action suits, et al. Other than in a couple obvious instances — e.g., insurance fraud and one of the arson cases, and deaths resulting from the downed plane & a couple car accidents –, no one has successfully made any connections between the various incidents. Until now…

A small-time private investigator and his bounty hunter associate encounter some lowlifes that turn out to have information about two other cases — one current and another closed but unsolved — which links all three together. A city police lieutenant has an unusual dream that inspires her to look for links between two seemingly unrelated cases; not only is she successful, but when she relates her discovery to a retired mentor, he remembers something similar about an old case of his that also turns out to be related. A former profiler for the FBI (now teaching criminal psychology at a college) reluctantly helps local police on an unusual case and unintentionally gets involved in something that leads to clues about an old, unsolved case (a child abduction/murder) that has haunted him for years. And then, there are the Men-in-Black (for lack of a better term) who begin to show up, either in the shadows or in a less-than-public confrontation and warning our protagonists to “back off” or slightly more politely “It’s our case and we’ll take it from here.” They always claim to work for one federal agency or another, but the names they give either aren’t in any federal databases or they are so highly classified that not even our heroes’ contacts can get access.

While it would not be revealed until some time into the series, the idea is that these prima facie independent events, spanning roughly 15 years and all over North America (but occasionally elsewhere), are all due to behind-the-scenes machinations of an extremely powerful individual and his/her efforts to cover up some of his/her activities. Obviously wealthy and/or in a position of influence, this person’s ultimate goal is to secretly take control of the U.S. government, while leaving not only the general public but most government officials and law enforcement thinking that everything still functions as normal. S/he has managed to fly under the radar, with very few in government, law enforcement, or the corporate world having an inkling of how much power this person wields. S/he is a master manipulator, who accomplishes his/her goals — from stock fraud to homicide to legislation — by directing actions through various intermediaries, sometimes several levels of them.

Eventually, our heroes discover and/or are contacted by a group calling itself ‘The Network’, who have begun connecting the dots on these cases. Their members include representatives from law enforcement, government officials, business/industry leaders, and various “lesser” members. They are just starting to get a handle on the magnitude of the conspiracy and have hypothesized the existence of ‘The Director’ (as they have dubbed him/her, though ‘Maestro’, ‘Kingpin’, and ‘Big Cheese’ have been suggested, too), though obviously not his/her identity or ultimate motives, and are doing what they can (with limited knowledge, despite their resources) to thwart The Director’s plans and build a legal case. Perhaps a later plot thread would be to see efforts to convince/recruit others into The Network, after we’ve spent some time with the above group.

I see this as an amalgamation of ideas from various comics, movies, TV shows (e.g., X-Files, but less UFO-centric) with elaborate plots and constant new revelations and conspiracies within conspiracies. Feel free to ask questions or make your own suggestions to expand on this concept….

* All ideas copyright Christopher Harris, 2013-2018.