Batman vs Superman vs Star Wars

Vader-vs-Batman2The new Star Wars trailer was released yesterday. In addition, we had a bootlegged version of the Batman v. Superman trailer leaked.

Now, I won’t pass final judgement on the Batman v. Superman trailer until I can see it in high definition as it was originally intended. The sound and picture quality of the phone-taped version is relatively poor.

Nonetheless, I know how watching these trailers made me feel.

Star Wars left me excited, full of wonder and desire. B v. S left me still unsure if this was a film worthy of my time.

In thinking about why I had such a different reaction, I’ve come to this conclusion…

Star Wars felt like a movie made by people who loved the source material and wished to be true to its spirit. Not only was this evident in how the trailer was put together, and the designs which look like natural evolutions of the old films, it was also the call outs to fans. Using Luke’s voice as the first we hear evoked obvious emotions. And the ending… “We’re home.” Gawd, the feels! All the right notes, just enough flashy visuals, but leaning more on emotive visuals and sounds (music and voice).

The Batman vs. Superman trailer feels like a movie made by people intent on forcing their own creative vision on classic characters. Odd, seeing how much the imagery owes to Frank Miller’s Dark Knight Returns, but I couldn’t shake the feeling these weren’t my Superman or Batman. There is nothing wrong with putting a personal stamp on things, but I felt no respect or love for the source material.

Of course, this could be because Warner Brothers seems intent on making their superheroes the “Dark and Gritty” ones to stand apart from Marvel. So blame may rest with the studio.

But I want to feel the love. Star Wars made me believe. If episode seven as a whole movie can capture just two-thirds of the feelings I had watching the trailer, it will be a worthy successor to the original series.

Batman v. Superman, well, I hope my feelings will be partially dispelled by watching the trailer in high-def with decent sound. But I don’t have high hopes.

Misgivings aside, seeing the huge response to these trailers, it feels like a wonderful time to be a genre fan (geek, fanboy, whatever you want to call me/yourself).

PS the image above is a still from a video on Machina Prime’s YouTube channel called, appropriately, Batman vs. Darth Vader

Are Marvel Comics Preparing the Way for New Actors?

thor-001The big news that a woman will soon be wielding Thor’s hammer got me thinking…

Not too long ago, Chris Evans, current Captain America in the Marvel Film Universe, revealed his intention to leave the role after his six film contract was done. That’s not all. Robert Downey Jr. is done with Marvel after Avengers 2 & 3. Chris Hemsworth has the same number left as Chris Evans.

Now, Marvel has said they aren’t really into reboots. In fact, Kevin Feige, who heads Marvel Studios, says he has a rough timeline going to 2028 for the Marvel movies. So either we won’t see these roles again, or they have to be recast.

But what if the comic books, those wonderful beacons of light which guided these movies to success in the first place, showed the way? What if they found a fan friendly way to have someone else take on these roles. There would be no need to have fans be disoriented by a “new” Tony Stark, they would just be shown someone new in the armor. Thor wouldn’t be a new person, we’d see the hammer being handed over. In essence, the comics could forge a new path for these characters with new people occupying the role long before the movies catch up and require new casting.

So we now have two of the three roles recast in the comics. Steve Rogers will soon be replaced as Captain America. And now the news this week that Thor will also be replaced. If, in the next year, these changes stand and we have a new Iron Man, I’d say this is a done deal. After all, we probably have at least three to four years before Avengers 3. If that’s the case, Marvel comics have four years to get comic fans happy with the new versions of these characters. Then it’s just up to Marvel movies to make it happen.

Maybe like a massive throw down with Thanos wielding the Infinity Gauntlet would cause some of our heroes to bow out of their current roles and hand the power to someone else? Is it just a coincidence that the three big players all have their contracts ending with Avengers 3?

I haven’t seen anyone say this. Maybe because they’re all too busy freaking out about Thor being a woman. I say, meh. The character design actually looks pretty cool, and it could provide material for some amazing new arcs, especially if the new Thor isn’t Asgardian.

So what do you think? Is this just more comic reshuffling to build hype, or part of a larger plan to aid the movie universe down the road?

How Did Captain America Become the Most Pivotal Character in the Marvel Film Universe?

shield_of_captain_america-HDI’ve always been more of a Marvel fan.

In terms of Comics, Batman was the only DC character whose monthly issues I purchased regularly. On the other hand, I had numerous Marvel titles including the heavies, X-Men & Spiderman.

I never got into Captain America. To be honest, I always assumed he could never exist outside American patriotism. Since I wasn’t American, I wasn’t overly interested.

The first Captain American film was a surprise. An engaging every-man’s tale, it had all the things a movie needs to be decent; good directing, excellent casting, and a strong script. I admit it, I ate humble pie. Captain America’s tale was more than just American breast beating. It was a tale about a man who wanted to do the right thing, and when the opportunity came, he did the right thing.

Still, despite Marvel’s above average batting score on films, I had to wonder if Captain 1 had been a fluke.

Thor 2 dispelled some of those fears. After all, Thor seemed like even more of an unlikely film franchise, and I enjoyed both movies.

When the trailers for Captain America: The Winter Soldier came out, I was excited. It looked thrilling, an action feast.

What I didn’t expect was it would prove to be the biggest game changer for the entire Marvel Film Universe. What I didn’t expect was a strong script that featured some amazing character moments and even elevated secondary character, Black Widow, to feature character material.

I don’t want to spoil it, though I suppose most fans have seen it already, but now that I see how this played out, it’s so obvious Captain America was the only character on screen who could’ve told this story. Only Cap, with his patriotism, fight for the truth attitude, could possibly make this work. It also helps that of the current Marvel roster, Cap is the most human. He lives on the government dime, he’s stuck in his past while trying to figure out his future. He’s strong, fearless, and a master using a shield, but take that away, he’s very human. Stark without the suit is still brilliant and wealthy, Banner can’t exorcise the Hulk, and Thor is…well, a demigod. Captain America is a man with principles, and while his abilities allowed for some stunning action and fight sequences, he still bled, he still bruised, and he still felt every betrayal.

Some reviews have compared this film to the espionage films from the Seventies. They’re not wrong. Despite the action sequences, which were stunning, this movie had a lot of exposition, a lot of plot and twists. And funny enough, it actually did what many amazing Indie comics have, and continue to do, which is act as social commentary. Captain America has a message, and it’s timely. It made me think about our world and current society. It gave me pause, because its ideas weren’t all that implausible.

Unlike  Thor 2 and Iron Man 3, this film didn’t feel like a stopover while waiting for Avengers 2. It felt vital and refreshing. It left the Marvel films, and especially the TV show Agents of SHIELD, in a different, and thrilling, place.

Comic Book movies have often fell into a paint-by-numbers rut. Hero meets girl, girl (and world) get in trouble, hero saves both, teaser for the next film, The End.

Captain American didn’t do that. It broke a few of those conventions. And I’m going to spoil this… MINOR SPOILER… Cap doesn’t end up with Black Widow. Which I thought for sure they would angle for. I mean, every DC movie would have. But Winter Soldier manages to avoid it plausibly.

Yes, I loved this movie. Because it was everything I would want a movie to be, comic book based or not.

The Marvel Universe has been greatly altered, and it all hinged on Captain America. It’s awesome.

And my humble pie continues to be delicious.

JR

Lego Stop Motion Video – Thor vs. Loki

In the name of sharing all that is cool I discover on the internet, I present this Lego video.

It’s a short stop motion video created using Lego pieces that features a battle between Thor and Loki. Add some impressive camera work, a dash of special effects, and some choice sound bites, and you have an amazing video. Enjoy!

 

Two Commercials That Evoke More Emotion Than Hollywood Films

I love movies. That said, most fail to make a considerable emotional impact outside of “That was cool!”

So imagine my surprise when I see two ads from Thailand that make me feel all welly-in-the-eyes.

The first has seen some considerable sharing on Facebook. The second I saw because someone posted it in the comments of the first. Both are inspirational, both deliver messages about how we should live and what truly matters in life. And sadly, they’re both trying to sell us something. But ignore that. Just watch the actual content and stop it before the real commercially bit at the end. I love these. And it shows you don’t need a long time to impact your audience emotionally, you just need to be honest and speak from your heart.

Author Intention or Audience Intervention?

Last week I saw the movie Sucker Punch.

The movie focuses on Babydoll, a girl committed to an asylum when she accidentally kills her sister.

Once in the asylum, Babydoll’s evil stepfather pays off an orderly to have the girl lobotomized. Babydoll, knowing her time is short, devises a plan to escape.

The thing about Sucker Punch is that it tells the majority of Babydoll’s experiences in the asylum in dreamlike sequences that are like fevered geek-boy fantasies. Dragons, zombies, killer robots and more all become obstacles Babydoll and her friends must overcome in gaining items needed for escape. Add into the mix a group of attractive young girls dressed scantily with guns, and well, you can see the demographic this one is gunning for.

My wife and I both enjoyed it. Yes, we are those kind of geeks.

We started talking about the film and the various imagined worlds Babydoll & co. encountered. At one point I said to my wife, and yes this is the point of this post, “Do you think he really meant it to be that deep, or are we just putting our own ideas into it?”

The question that still lingers in my mind is, did the writer intend for us to interpret things the way we did, or are we seeing those themes and ideas because we brought them to the movie ourselves?

How much control should writers exert over the audience experience? How clear should we make our thematic intentions?

When your audience completes the tale you’ve written, do you want them to think a specific way, or do you want to leave it open for numerous interpretations?

Sometimes this can work. When a story has enough layers, enough emotional power, leaving room for audience interpretation makes the story more personal for each person that experiences it.

Years ago, an anime called Neon Genesis Evangelion caught my attention. Evangelion left so much open for debate and interpretation that even today, more than a decade after it’s run completed, people still debate various plot and philosophy points. It’s given the work a staying power that is rare in our consume and toss society.

But does it always work? Well, let’s look at Sucker Punch. Fact is, this movie has the world pretty divided. Some see it as having a deeper psychological message about trying to overcome feeling owned and trapped. Other people see it as a pointless story that exists only to satisfy an orgasmic display of anime and video game inspired imagery. Even those who recommend Sucker Punch do it more for the visual appeal as opposed to the story.

Simple fact is, Sucker Punch doesn’t have enough meat to allow the audience a deep level of participation. It’s too easy to see the film as exploitation as opposed to being a statement against it. It’s far too easy to walk away with no message at all.

So how do you do it? How do you strike a chord that unites the audience, yet leaves them enough room to make the story their own?

I think the trick is balance. First of all, you need a good hook. This should be clear, no room for interpretation.

Take Inception.

What’s the hook? Crooks break into people’s dreams to steal information.

It’s clear, no one is going to debate that their interpretation is any different.

But as Inception continues, it starts to throw ideas out that ask more of us. The deeper we go, the more the film allows multiple interpretations, but only a handful.

For instance, the ending presents us with a simple is he or isn’t he? type conundrum. The writer has still controlled our experience. He knows we will walk out thinking one of two things. There is room for personal thought, yet it’s still been controlled and manipulated.

When I watch Inception, I know the writer intends to leave us hanging. I know he intends to leave us slightly disoriented and questioning. But one reason it still worked was that it made perfect sense in context of the story we had watched. Either possibility was plausible.

In Sucker Punch, Babydoll’s delusions, while being visually engaging, leave us wondering where the imagery came from. How does a girl in what appears to be the 1950s or 60s have visions of giant samurai or killer robots? Instead of fitting in with the story, it takes us away from it. Instead of Babydoll’s experiences informing her delusions, it is the author who is informing the visuals. This robs the film of a genuine voice of its own.

But I liked it, so I start peeling at the nasty rind to find the juicy orange inside. I see the movie how I would’ve written it. I have no idea if I see things for the reason the author meant, because I haven’t been given enough clues for guidance. I am intervening into the film as opposed to following the author’s intentions. And I’m doing it to justify my enjoyment of the movie.

Here’s what I’ve learned;

  • You can leave some things open for interpretation, but they must be informed by the story
  • You can’t just throw things in because you think they’re cool & expect the audience to buy it
  • You need to exert control over situations where multiple interpretations present themselves.
  • You should know the majority, if not all, of the ways people will view the story and its themes.
  • Don’t allow the audience to question your intentions. Mean everything you do.