Sport: An athletic activity requiring skill or physical prowess and often of a competitive nature..
Athlete: A person trained or gifted in exercises or contests involving physical agility, stamina, or strength…
eSport: …a form of competition that is facilitated by electronic systems…between professional players.
What makes a game more than just a game? What takes a few kids kicking a ball down a field or a ragtag group of people pitching and hitting a baseball and makes it into a sport? Is it the history, that something is just as American as apple pie, that over one hundred colleges and universities offer scholarships for a sport that has become a ritual on Saturday’s in the Fall; or is it simply a competition between two individuals or teams built on the back of countless hours of training, practice and honing of muscle memory?
On February 20th of 2017, Rick Fox, the owner of Team Echo Fox wrote an article for The Player’s Tribune talking about his jump into the realm of eSports. Talking about the how and the why, he had this to say about the talents that represented his team: “Our team treats our players the same as if they were professional athletes, because that’s what they are. We monitor all aspects of their training and preparation, all the way down to their nutrition, fitness and sleep. We supply them with the best coaches in the industry and offer them a state-of-the-art training facility. We do that because, quite simply, it’s what’s required in order to compete for championships.” This article was done just a few short weeks after Echo Fox leapt from their world within League of Legends as well as DOTA and into signing top flight talent in the Fighting Game Community. For Rick Fox, people like Froggen, Justin Wong, Tokido and Sonic Fox aren’t just kids or young adults playing a game, these are athletes much like himself that he is bringing under one banner to bring home trophies.
Now I’m quite sure there are people who read the above quote and brush it off, thinking that someone who has invested money into the eSports scene maybe should say something to that degree, that of course Mr. Fox has to say these guys and girls are athletes and prop them up as legitimate. To a degree these people would be right, I mean, if I were going to talk about my company and its place within a growing arena, I’d want to talk from a position of power, from a standpoint that makes others want to invest not only in my company but if not that, to invest into the arena and in turn, bring others that want to funnel more money and influence into the scene. To a different point however, this isn’t a stance that is new for Mr. Fox, because back on June 24th of 2014, while appearing on The View, he responded to the disbelief of his fellow hosts by asserting that those who partake in eSports are in fact, legitimate athletes.
Let’s step away from this for a moment, shall we? Let’s focus on the sort of why, the flip that was switched in which this article had to be written. In a recent podcast, the topic of eSports was broached and while there was mention of how a University was offering scholarships for gaming and this was met with subtle laughter and incredulity that playing a game was any sort of sport at all. So above, we have a quote from a man who is not only a team owner but a former NBA champion talking about his team of athletes and what his brand does to help them succeed. There is also the founder of Robert Morris University’s team, Christian Mattock who tells KMOV in St. Louis that his team practices for “…20 hours a week along with studying film and team building exercises…on top of ~30 matches played a season..” This is just for a game like League of Legends, this doesn’t even delve into the nature of practice that high level members of the FGC partake in. Watching hours and hours of VODs of other players or characters in order to learn a match up, the days spent in training mode figuring out the precise amount of damage a combo can generate from multiple set-ups or even the grinding sessions of playing another high level player in a series of matches before a tournament to tighten up muscle memory and visual cues for when to use which attack at what time.
Yet, if it isn’t the practice and training that make something a sport, is it the physicality of it? Is it the stamina and endurance one needs to compete at a championship level? If so, that’s present in eSports just the same as any other sport. Golf tournaments generally take place over a weekend, in which from the large group of entrants, people are paired off into smaller groups and play through the course while each day, a cut line is put in place that sets a bar for who will and who won’t make it from lower group play into upper group play. In this sport, there is no inherent competition between the Golfers, there isn’t Sergio Garcia out on the green using a 5 Iron to try and block Jason Day’s shot, it’s simply each man playing against the course, with the goal to perform better than anyone else that day and / or weekend.
The general point, of trying to perform better than anyone else during a day / weekend is the same in any tournament within eSports. From the thousands that enter a tournament like Final Round, EVO, LCS or The International, they are paired down into groups of players within a pool, trying to advance to Sunday and claim victory in the end. The only difference is that they are in direct competition with their opponent, be it battling for territory on a 2D map in Street Fighter, pushing creeps down the lane in League or taking advantage of a timely kill and pushing for Fire Giant in Smite, these players and teams have to be not only mentally on point to know when to go for the kill, but have the physical stamina and fortitude to perform at a high level for hours on end, day in and day out, all the while as spectators in the crowd chant and jeer, at times mere inches away from them.
Maybe though…just maybe it isn’t a sport unless there’s money involved, right? That’s the difference between a group of people playing football out in the park on a Saturday and those that play in a stadium on Sunday, no? Now while “traditional” sports due take in an obscene amount of money year after year, while franchises like Manchester United, the Dallas Cowboys, the New York Yankees are worth billions of dollars and their players are millionaires, that isn’t to say there isn’t money in eSports and that some of the top tier players aren’t hurting for cash. Names like Faker, KnuckleDu, Daigo Umehara and the Grandfather of ‘em all, Fata1ity have raked in hundreds of thousands to millions in career winnings. The money might not be the same currently, but it was the same for sports like Football, Basketball and Baseball in their growing days, so to look at the level of money as a reason for why eSports aren’t legitimate is a fallacy.
So we have practice, we have physicality and we have money all found in the growing eSports scene. The only thing that differentiates the traditional and “non-traditional” sports is a closing generational gap to decide on what is and isn’t a sport. eSports like League of Legends and Street Fighter V have aired on ESPN multiple times in the past year and have no sign of not being included in the “World Wide Leader’s” programming for the near future. So maybe it’s time to sit back and take a look not just at the wide selection of offerings found within eSports but to look inside one’s self and understand that sports are ever changing and to get in on a team like Fnatic, eUnited, Echo Fox, Team Solo Mid or Dignitas before you’re seen as a bandwagon fan.
When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways.
--1 Corinthians 13:11
Is ignorance truly bliss? Is not knowing just how bad something has gotten, or seeing the truth in the light of day really a blessing? Is it better to just turn a blind eye to what’s happening or is it best to look forward, stare headlong into the abyss and keep a stiff upper lip? Not the type of questions you’d thought you’d see on a site like this, right? The fact of the matter is though, it’s coming time to have to answer those questions, to start to look not only at the current landscape of things going on, but inward and assess if this is such a life we all want to live.
I remember when I first got a Nintendo. The nights staying up late with my Father and Uncle, playing Mario, playing Duck Hunt; how for a short moment in time a little grey and black box brought joy into my home and gave myself and my Father something to connect over instead of fight about. Those moments didn’t last but they did begin a point in my life where I had something to look forward to after school or when waking up on the weekend. Typing in the Konami code at the beginning of Contra, humming along to horrible 8bit tunes of WWF stars or wishing how beast of a team it’d be if I could have Bo Jackson and QB Eagles on the same offense. These moments are more than twenty years removed but still feel new, still feel like they happened just yesterday. It’s these moments I hang on to when around this time of year, the deluge of news and reports and leaks starts to flood my Facebook and Twitter about what’s being done to turn around Call of Duty, or how this will finally be the year that Nintendo gets back to being the force they used to be or just how this is quite literally, the best and strongest release of games in years.
I’m thirty-three years old and with every e3 that comes, there’s a battle that takes place within me. Now, I’m pretty sure this is the same battle that most of y’all reading this have…the want for e3 to mean something this year, the desire for EA or Sony or whomever to kindle the magic that’s lied dormant for far too long and transport you back to being a giddy fanboy/fangirl and throw your wallet’s at the screen as trailer after trailer entices you to believe just one more time, to give them one last chance and for some of y’all out there, to think that maybe it’s okay to give GameStop your business and pre-order that new game amidst the barrage of questions about your PowerUp account or if you’d really like that disc protection plan.
The thing is, just as you’re about to do all that, you start feeling that nagging ball of regret forming in your stomach. You remember that just last year you rushed out to reserve Call of Duty, you squealed when news about the Switch came out, how you couldn’t find your credit card quick enough to pre-purchase that super hyper turbo deluxe version of the new IP coming out just because it was new and shiny and full of wonder. So you sit, and you keep watching but instead of giving it your full attention, you start playing some game on your phone or open up another tab and putz around on Facebook or wherever and listen to the presentation with a subdued interest, a smirk or scoff here and there as yet another promise you know won’t be fulfilled gets thrown out just like the tons of other buzzwords that’ve been thrown about all day.
At some point you decide to say “Fuck it, I’m just going to play a game..” and yeah, you do. It’s fun for a few minutes, maybe even a couple of hours but soon enough, you start to sit there and realize that you aren’t playing it because it’s fun or that it’s transporting you to some uncharted world that holds you in the palm of its hand; you’re playing it because it’s what you do. The exact moment you realize that, you feel that pit of regret grow into something that no one ever truly knows how to deal with. Jadedness.
You’ve lived long enough to fully understand what people meant by “There’s nothing new under the Sun” and for so long, you brushed them off, talked about how they were just too old to understand what it meant to be a Gamer these days, that they just weren’t cool or hip and that time had passed them by. Yet, there you sit on your couch or bed, looking through the pile of games or scrolling through your library and seeing how each tile, each box art used to fill you with life, make you excited to spend a weekend grinding out the multiplayer but now, you feel apathetic to it all, trying to figure out something to play and realizing that you just don’t want to play anything because honestly, what’s left to do in that game? Even if it isn’t unbeaten, even if there’s still trophies and achievements to unlock, the drive to play it just isn’t there anymore.
So, what do you do? The drastic measure? Pack it all up, go sell it or trade it in somewhere? The half-measure? Keep it around as a media device, playing a game ever so often as the fancy strikes, still weary of what each developer or publisher has to say about the magnitude of game and how it’s changed so much; or do you do what every generation has done and will continue to do? Blissful ignorance is only ignorance if you blindly give in and look away from all the crap that’s been shoveled your way for years, if you don’t learn from the past and continue to throw money into a burning fire pit just because something is promised to be better. It’s okay to have an inner-child, to get excited over a remake of a classic game or jump for joy because your favorite producer is making a game for the first time in years. So maybe when growing up, it’s okay to keep a few of those childish things and hold onto them against the dying of the light because without that light, what would we have?
Just like your nine year old neighbor, your one weird co-worker and your aunt Mildred – I am currently obsessed with Pokémon Go. The game from Niantic that has people walking in the actual out of doors to capture pocket monsters, battle in gyms and basically compete to be the very best. Y’know, like no one ever was? It is a “free” game with pay options (you can buy more digital Pokeballs, lucky eggs or incense in the shop for your very real dollars) that you play on your cell phone. I am actually really excited to be part of such a big culture phenomenon right on the cusp. And there is really nothing quite like playing Pokémon in any form – it fuels my desire to obsessively amass a collection, doubly fun if the thing you are gathering are cute.
Pokémon is fun and a great way to increase your steps (shout out to people with a Fitbit!) but Pokémon has also sparked some interesting conversations for me with people not familiar with the franchise. It seems everyone is hearing about the app because of its extensive coverage and use but may not be familiar with the game itself or even, dare I say the Pokémon franchise. It is the conversations sparked by this confusion in particular that gave me pause and made me want to examine this theme – the idea of the Resident Expert.
Anyone can be a Resident Expert. For instance, I have a close friend who explains sports to me. I rarely have a need to look into sports because I myself don’t partake but it comes up from time to time and I know that my friend is my Resident Expert – a person I can turn to and ask in the Judgement Free Zone when I don’t understand baseball stuff. But at some point in our lives we are all the Resident Expert and this happens a lot I believe when you are part of nerd fandom. There is something strange and inaccessible about nerd fandom to outsiders and often people don’t see themselves as “part of it.” The idea that people who aren’t nerds “just don’t get it” permeates both sides of the fence. But there comes times when nerdy hobbies come out of the deep to mystify the “normals” like some kind of pocket protector wearing Loch Ness Monster – and it is in these situations that the Resident Expert is sought out and asked “Yea, but what IS Pokémon GO”
I was asked this question several times over the past few weeks. In particular once by my mother, who has a very basic idea of phone games, and once by my superior at my work who wanted help promoting the fact that their location is a gym. During both these times it was hard to even begin explaining. My mother, who knew what Pokémon was didn’t have a wide grasp on phone gaming (especially those featuring in-app purchasing) so there was time spent explaining to her the usage of data and how to make sure she didn’t accidently spend 1,000 real world dollars before I could even touch on how to catch and raise the level of Pokémon. At my part time job the issue was they weren’t sure what Pokémon were or how they would just “show up” in the business. They weren’t sure how to tell people where to find them and how to get more. In both these situations I was the Resident Expert these people sought out in their life because they
knew I was “nerdy” and could probably answer their questions regarding this current cultural phenomenon.
As we you may know from answering questions like this in the past there is no real easy answer. Often as in the examples above the person asking has no foundation from which to build and you may soon find yourself having to establish things like what a poke-man is or why you would want to catch one and how. And you may passionately launch into an explanation only to have the person gradually descend in to glassy-eyed boredom muttering “riiiight” as they walk away never to return, possibly soiled against your favorite franchise forever. I admit this can be trying, especially if you are frequently the target of these questions. I mean, they can certainly google the answer but there is really nothing quite like asking someone who is knowledgeable and passionate about a subject. Keep in mind that, for the most part, being seeing as the Resident Expert is a compliment, people see you as being knowledgeable and trust you to explain without (too much) judgement. My best advice when these situations occur is to treat people with patience and kindness. If they are truly interested offer to show them the ropes. Being welcoming has long been the way of the nerd and as stewards of nerdom we should treat this as an honor.
Just like Resident Experts, Pokémon Go has really opened doors between the nerd fandom and people not normally into nerd hobbies. As much as there are harrowing tales circulating the internet about the dangers of information sharing and robberies there are just as many beautiful stories of a game that closes gaps on generations, race and gender. Of friendships formed on the fly as the same rare Pokémon are hunted. It has always been a beautiful thing about the nerd community that you are easily scooped up and feel welcome. Pokémon Go is simply a more visible and more popular manifestation of this mentality- that of inclusion. So I say if you are given the opportunity to be a Resident Expert, especially with Pokémon Go, accept the challenge and lead more people to the promised land of nerdom. And maybe catch a little Pokémon on the path.
2016. On this day, I’m befuddled as to why our nation, our world and everything in it is so ass backwards. We’ve lived through wars, we’ve lived through crises of unimaginable proportions. Yet and still, we can’t get along. We can’t see or hear each other without race, religion, gender, or sexual orientation being seen first. Why is that? Why do these barriers always exist to take us backwards as it relates to how we view each other?
My Pop was a great man. Very stately, very genuine. He was a quiet giant, he didn’t speak a lot. But when he did speak, his words would come at you like a tsunami. You would feel his impact and sometimes destruction, dependent on the topic and his honesty with you.
Please bear with me, as I take you on a journey as to where our world can go if we just open our eyes.
As a young man, I was once pulled over in Shaker Heights, Ohio by a policeman. At the time, I had a ’78 Chevy Camaro with a 305 engine and a busted carburetor. To keep my car going, I had to drive with one foot on the gas and one on the brake. Driving down a residential street, I pulled up to a stop sign. As I’m pulling up, I have to keep my foot slightly on the gas, while braking at the same time. After my stop, I immediately take my foot off the brake and my car moves forward again. After making a right at the next stop sign, police lights go off behind me. Keep in mind, this is the first time I’ve had an encounter with the police. Here’s the exchange –
Officer: (approaching car with a flash light). License please. Do you know why I’m pulling you over?
Me: No officer.
Officer: You ran a stop sign a block back.
Me: (relieved, because IF I DID, I have a valid excuse). Well sir, I need a new carburetor and in order to keep my car going, I have to drive with one foot on the gas and one on the brake. If I ran that stop sign, I apologize for not coming to a complete stop. I didn’t mean it.
Officer: (with flashlight directly in my eyes and a very threatening tone). Well if your car is fucked up, you shouldn’t be driving it in Shaker Heights!!
Me: (shocked, anger steadily building) EXCUSE ME?!?
Officer: You heard what the fuck I said!! Don’t drive your fucking car through this neighborhood!!!
To those of you who don’t know, Shaker Heights, Ohio is an affluent suburb of Cleveland, Ohio. I worked for a grocery store in the area and was on my way home.
I was very upset and angered, to tears almost. I sat there, fuming, thinking of what lawyer I could call, all kinds of thoughts were going through my head to get back at this stupid cop. As an 18 year old Black man, I kept hearing the stories of people who I knew who had negative reactions with policemen and thought none of these things could happen to me. Why? Because I was raised in an authoritative, but respectful household. I was taught to respect those older and in positions of authority, to defer to them because that was the natural order of things. The officer returned with a ticket, and I left very slowly and carefully, crossing the border back into Cleveland.
Flash forward - This is the image that hit me a couple of days ago, an image that I think represents where our world could potentially go.
You know what I see? I see an answer to opening that policeman’s mind. I see a way to open the eyes of people who are different from you and me. Difference in the fact that we can all come to understand that we aren’t all that much different at all. We’re human with the same warm blood that runs through our bodies.
Marvel, DC, and other comic book giants have been bringing diversity and inclusiveness to the industry for decades. I’m not solely focusing on race, I’m focusing on differences. Many of our favorite heroes battled other heroes, or villains, only to discover that they were more the same than different.
However, in recent years, Marvel’s voice has really gotten much louder regarding diverse characters. Putting it simply, Marvel gets it. They get that our world has changed and they are leading the forefront, they are a change agent in the game of making the world more tolerant to people who are different. They are building a world that could potentially be the world that we live in accepting inclusiveness of all, regardless of any difference we may have.
What are we all afraid of? Why can’t we learn to see each other for who we are and not what we represent? My Pop taught me the greatest lesson regarding these thoughts.
Infuriated after receiving my ticket, I walked in the house; stoically, I told my Pop and Ma what happened. My Pop, who was raised in the Deep South during the Jim Crow era, listened to me ramble for about five minutes. I wanted to go to court to challenge it. Pop chuckled, and calmly told me to just pay the ticket. Incredulous and defiant, I said ‘no way! I’m going to beat this! He can’t talk to me this way!’ Pop went on to explain to me that I wasn’t going to win in court, I’d end up paying more for losing, and stop being a brat. Then he explained to me that as a Black man, I was going to be stopped by the police again. And when it happens, he told me to talk in calm, non-threatening tones, and always say ‘yes sir/ma’am.’ ALWAYS. I thought it was ludicrous, but guess what? He was right. And, I also walked away from tickets by following my Pop’s advice. I wish others had been given this advice. Or, if they followed the same advice, they were greeted by officers who had had their eyes opened to the people who were different from them. The outcomes could have been completely different.
Pop’s greatest lesson to me wasn’t about dealing with police. It was about dealing with people, as Marvel has so eloquently covered in recent years. Pop taught me that in his years of dealing with racial strife, he learned that it’s not about the color of your skin. He learned that the key to dealing with others is the ability to respect one another REGARDLESS of skin color. As long as you respect one another, you should be able to exist together. Respecting the fact that someone is different from you and humbling yourself so you can learn from them is a key to overcoming the divisiveness that plagues our world on a daily basis.
Marvel is taking this a few steps forward because they are broadcasting a view that is globally appealing. Opening our eyes is the only way that we can get over this malaise that plagues our world on a daily basis.
If Marvel’s eyes are open, why can’t we open ours?
Thousands of fans file in to the Staples Center on a Saturday in October. People have come from all over to cheer on their favorite team, some bringing signs, some even wearing official team gear. The hardcore, they’ve gone the extra mile and dressed up as their favorite champion. No, I’m not talking about people wearing Kobe Bryant jerseys or CP3 shirts. Hell, there wasn’t even an NBA game being played that weekend. No, what brought all these people to Los Angeles wasn’t the Mamba but Riot’s League of Legends World Championships. Teams from across the globe were flown in and put on stage for not just the thousands in attendance but for the hundreds of thousands that were watching via Twitch.TV either in the comfort of their own home, a movie theatre or even their local bar. The paradigm of what is and isn’t a sport has changed in the past decade and while there are still those that look on with disgust or can’t seem to wrap their heads around saying someone sitting in a computer chair, clicking away at a keyboard and mouse is an athlete, the times, they are a changin.
Since that moment in 2013, there’s been a groundswell of support for eSports not just from the youth finding it easier to associate with names like Faker, Trixtank, Daigo, Dendi and who some would say is the OG eSports star, Fatal1ty, but even companies like Coca-Cola, ESPN, TBS and Red Bull are taking notice. Yes, kids still go out to the basketball court and put up shots like Steph, they run with the rock like Foster and pitch like Kershaw, but what about when they go in? Those same kids are trying to recreate “Moment 37”, they’re frantically peeking around corners on Dust or looking to set up a gank on the enemy mid-laner. The kids that understand they can’t be traditional athlete are gravitating to games like Smite, League of Legends, CS:GO, Street Fighter and putting in the same kind of training regimen that the aforementioned stars use to make sure they are in top condition. Whether you want to acknowledge it or not, the “non-traditional” athlete is becoming the norm for the younger generation.
Team Echo Fox. Catchy name huh? Know who owns it? Rick Fox. Yeah, that Rick Fox. Former NBA Champion, former Mr. Vanessa Williams, Chick Deagan. Echo Fox has teams not only in League but CS:GO, Smash Brothers Melee and just recently Street Fighter V. Why does he own a team? His son kept talking to him about League of Legends and being the decent father he is, started watching it and began to notice that these kids playing for six to seven figures had the same drive, same determination, same killer mentality he had while he was playing professional basketball. Pretty soon he buys a team, re-brands it and almost instantly brings a new set of eyes onto eSports. Know who else invests in a team? Shaq, A-Rod and Jimmy Rollins. All three have invested into NRG eSports which has teams in League and CS:GO. With all of this going on, are any of us surprised about TBS beginning to air professional Counter Strike? Should we still be wondering why ESPN has devoted time to Heroes of the Storm or DOTA2? Hell, the Mandalay Bay Arena, home to UFC and major boxing events will be used as the home of the Evolution Fighting Championships finals.
So why now? Why is it that everyone is starting to pay attention to the kid sitting in his custom made computer chair, wearing his Gunnar glasses as he yells out phrases at less than one percent of the population would actually understand? A large part of it is money…these athletes are starting to make six figures a year just from competition alone due to the popularity of the games they play. Smite, League, DOTA, Street Fighter, all of these games have given out six figure pay outs over the past year and when you can consistently do that, companies start to take notice. What they take notice of as well is the fact that the age range of those competing and the age of the fans seems to fall in the oh so coveted 18-34 demographic. You know, the one that television companies like to prattle on about when hyping up a new show or to say they’re cooler and hipper and more with-it than the competition because the younger audience pays attention to them? Yeah, those same people are traveling across the World not just to compete for prize money but to take in the spectacle of hype that surrounds these tournaments. So it shouldn’t be a surprise that at League events you see ads from Coca-Cola, at Street Fighter events you’re seeing Red Bull. These companies have always marketed to the younger crowd, but now they have a tangible thing to attach themselves to. Instead of an ideal, instead of just saying “Hey, you’re young, you’re awesome. All the cool kids drink and wear this!”, they can say “Do you like League? You need the quick pick-up to get through Day Two of the tournament? Well drink this!”
This year alone, there will be four games (League of Legends, DOTA2, CS:GO and SMITE) that though the course of their season will pay out over a million dollars in prize money. In December, a single person will walk away with over a hundred thousand dollars thanks to being the best in Street Fighter V. That is life changing money, that is money that pays for college, that pays for a down payment on a home, money that clears debt in one fell swoop. It was said before that only suckers work a nine to five, that real money is made via hustle, via following your own path and blocking out what the “establishment” has set out for you to do. No longer can we sit from the sideline and say that these are kids playing a game and that they should focus on real life. This is real life, whether or not we want to accept it. The digital athlete is here to stay and sooner or later we’re going to be talking more about teams like Paradigm, EnvyUs, Team Solo Mid and eGr than about the Yankees, Patriots or Warriors.
A quick recap. In Part One, I began discussing DC’s weird and goofy approach to showcasing their heroes on the big and small screen. Superman Returns could have been the continuation of Smallville but DC went in another direction. And then Marvel began making some moves….
Now, Marvel wasn’t completely off the hook during this period of time. They hadn’t found their formula yet. The formula that DC ALREADY had in front of them. I always will believe that Marvel lucked up with their decision to make Iron Man a feature film, debuting in 2008. Since they didn’t own the rights to Spiderman, X-Men, Fantastic Four, and other characters, they made the decision to do something with characters at their disposal. Iron Man debuted and was a critical hit. And then it happened, at the end of Iron Man I - the epilogue after the credits rolled….
“I am Iron Man. You think you’re the only super hero in the world? Mr. Stark, you’ve become part of a bigger universe. You just don’t know it yet.” – Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), Iron Man 2008
How prophetic of a statement was that? Nick Fury’s surprise appearance to introduce the Avengers Initiative basically served as the foundation of everything we know as the MCU today.
But I digress….
Looking at things in reverse, the popularity of Smallville on the small screen could have been a catalyst to build the DCEU into the thing that Marvel is today. So Superman Returns sucked and a couple of years later Marvel took over ruling the box office and has never looked back. Marvel is building an all-encompassing world, with crossovers galore. It’s not perfect, but the possibility of Marvel characters crossing over from film, TV, internet shorts, and streaming movie services keeps the fans coming back. As Montago frequently says, ‘This is a GREAT time to be a comic book fan!’
Batman v. Superman was good, but could have been soooooooo much better if the DCEU didn’t decide that they wanted to make an attempt to catch up with the MCU. They will deny it, but it was VERY evident in this film. There are a few disappointments in this movie that I covered in the Fans on Patrol podcast (#81 Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice). I’d like to explore a few of these in more detail, as well as my thoughts on DC’s plan for future movie and television shows.
The Frick-Fracking Trailer Epidemic
Hollywood, are you listening? The trailer epidemic permeating our world is helping to spoil movie expectations. The Doomsday reveal wasn’t wise on DC’s part. Because as soon as that was shown in the trailer, comic book fans all over the world knew the Death of Superman storyline would be incorporated somehow. I remember talking to a few people after the trailer premiered. I said, ‘they’re going to kill Superman.’ Almost everyone that I talked to didn’t believe Hollywood would make that move. But I felt that DC was going to pull out the big guns in an attempt to carve out their niche of the comic book movie world dominated and obliterated by the MCU. It would have been nice to have that play out in the movie as the big reveal. However, I get it. I really do. In this 24 hours a day news cycle sped up to 200,000 hours a day news cycle gassed by social media, it would have been very hard to keep this under wraps. Even Michael Shannon was cornered and had all his words dissected when there was a rumor that he was in the movie. So I believe that DC was backed into a corner and had to include Doomsday in the trailer. I still don’t like it. Star Wars: A Force Awaken did an excellent job with their trailers without revealing what was going to happen in the movie. I think DC could have done a better job with this.
Stoooopid Reason for Batman and Superman to Fight
Okay, if somebody told me I had to go and beat somebody else up or they were going to kill my Ma (rest in heaven Ma!), I’d go and beat that person senseless too. However, the way that this was handled was kinda weak to me. Superman tried to reason with Batman at first, but then he went at him like he forgot that he was trying to reason with him! I mean, C’MON MAN!!! And Batman’s motivation was that Superman could take over the world. Duuuuhhhhh, yeah! And pull your head off of your body if you miss hitting him with a Kryptonite Cloud! What the hell was Batman thinking? He had a good plan to spear him with the Kryptonite Trident, but that was an awful big risk. The idea of both of them in an epic fight came from the Dark Knight Returns storyline, which had an excellent buildup to the two of them duking it out. This felt rushed and an attempt to capitalize on the fact that we had Superman and Batman on a movie screen at the same time. And Wonder Woman isn’t a foot soldier. Her role should have been more meaningful. Great to see the DC Holy Trinity on the big screen for the first time, but…….stoooopid DC……
The Idea to Keep the DC Movie and Television Universes Separated
When it was announced that a Justice League movie was going to be made, fanboys and fangirls were ecstatic. I assumed that Grant Gustin was a shoo-in to play the Flash on the big screen. He is EXCELLENT as Barry Allen on the Flash television show. But wait…..there are creative license issues with the networks, scheduling issues, executives want to do their own thing on the big and small screens, blah, blah, blah!!! The issue is that, yes, DC has done a great job with their small screen shows such as the Flash, Arrow, Supergirl, and Legends of Tomorrow. They are very popular, well-written and exciting shows. Why not link those worlds on the big and small screens? Marvel is doing this, however, not as direct as most people would like. But the idea that Daredevil can show up in an Avengers movie as a possibility helps to keep people engaged in his show on Netflix. Or, the possibility of the Black Panther showing up on the Agents of Shield is within the realm of probability. These may or may not happen, but it keeps people engaged in ONE actor portraying the SAME character in ANY medium covered in the MCU. Yes, it should have been done. I’m not entirely sure it was considered, but continuity is a good thing in the comic book universe. From what we saw in the movie, Ezra Miller as Barry Allen? Grant, get a protest going man!!!
I WILL ALWAYS LOVE DC AND WILL BE THERE ON OPENING NIGHT FOR ALL OF THEIR MOVIES
Make no bones about it, Superman IS THEEEEEEEE reason why all of this exists. Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster are legends because Superman is the quintessential comic book hero of all-time. He’s a gift and a curse. Since he’s basically indestructible with one fatal weakness, a good man with a good heart…..you can only do so many things to make him interesting. When the Death of Superman storyline occurred, it was done to jolt the masses into becoming interested in Superman again. So this current trajectory ushered in by Zach Synder and his crew is designed to bring another fresh approach to the Man of Steel and the rest of the DC cinematic universe. I’ve heard many criticize this new portrayal of Superman by Henry Cavill, but I actually like it. I just have issues and concerns with how these stories will be told moving forward. But, I am going to be there when each movie premieres. My expectation is that the story telling is going to get better. I’m exercising patience, but will let others know my opinion – hating and loving whatever it is.
So, there you have it. The point to all of this is I don’t want to see DC sacrifice quality in an attempt to ‘catch up’ to Marvel. Fact is, they won’t. It shouldn’t even be a race. There are enough characters, storylines, and worlds to explore for the next few decades for everybody involved. DC is just beginning, and, creating enjoyable spectacles for everyone should continue to be their focus. I DO have faith in them…..what about you?
Before I said I would write about romance comics I would have said “I’m not a fan.” But after thinking about it I had a realization. For a majority of my comic reading life I read nothing but shoujo romance comics. I have read tons of them. I’m not just a fan-I’m an aficionado! I guess my initial denial of the fandom was due to thinking of manga and American comics as separate things. Despite all my years of reading romance manga I have never indulged in an American romance comic aside from Archie. So, like any great comic enthusiast I set out to find some for this piece.
I’ll admit I had to Google. I wasn’t sure what exactly qualified as a romance comic in America. One that came highly recommended was Jeff Lemire’s sci-fi romance Trillium. Lemire’s book tells the tale of two worlds thrown together under terrible circumstances. Nika is from the future where the human race is nearly extinct due to a virus called the Caul. She inadvertently travels back in time and meets William. Their love story blooms and their interactions may hold the answer to fixing humanity’s future.
There is a big difference between Trillium and the romance manga I had read up until now. Trillium has real dangers that threaten not only the blossoming romance, but the very futures of our characters. In most of the romances that I had read the threats to characters could be as mild as unrequited love and as severe as bullying; but for the most part the entire human race was not in danger. The stakes here make the reading very vibrant. You are not only rooting for a love story you are rooting for the survival of our race.
Unlike a lot of romance manga Trillium focuses on the other aspects of its story for a large portion of time. It is not purely about love; it’s about time traveling, the wonder of space time and the politics of war. Yes these are ingredients to the love Nika and William share but the components share equal parts with the romance. In manga the focus of the plot outside the romance is in direct relation to how the romance is affected by the external conflicts. Here the romance is very important but seems to be organically grown of the circumstances of the story. The two plots grow and feed off each other.
I was beginning to think that American romance comics and romance manga really were separated by a very definitive line. They seemed so different in tone and style. But then I came across a comic book released by independent publisher Rosy Press called Fresh Romance that has changed my mind.
Fresh Romance is a collection of three romance stories. School Spirit by writer Kate Leth and artist Arielle Jovellanos tells the story of two couples and their tribulations. Ruined written by Sarah Vaughn and drawn by Sarah Winifred Searle is a Regency style drama about an unwanted marriage. The last story, The Ruby Equation with writer Sarah Kuhn and artist Sally Jane Thompson, is about a magical girl who can make people fall in love. I know what you’re thinking: school uniforms, period pieces and magical girls? A manga reader’s paradise! Truly I did feel very at home here. While reading I felt waves of nostalgia washing over me.
The stories are great fun with plots fully focused on the sparkling sensations of amore. There are not, so far in my reading, anything that distracts from this concentration. While each book clearly has a distinct plot it is clear, that much like romance manga, the main drive of the story is the romance unlike Trillium.
The art in each of the three stories is also much more familiar to a manga reader. While they are definitely not manga style (no big eyes or distinctly angular faces) there is a fresh and vibrant look that feels very buoyant. Those feelings are often represented in manga, which is mostly black and white. Here the colors and lovely soft drawing give the stories their fun bubblegum feeling.
These books were very different from each other and in turn had differences from the romance comics I had read previously. Yet, reading these comics inspired me to see romance in other places. After all, could we categorize different comics as romance if they feature a love story? There is almost always an arc that features a romantic relationship in a comic book. Perhaps it just depends on how you’re reading them.
More importantly I was able to stretch my reading muscles. It was nice to discover two new books and find that I liked them. Far from being the person who denied being a romance fan at the beginning I realize I am a hardcore romance fan. I like the romantic parts of comics and I like it even better if it is the core focus as it is in Fresh Romance. So I have also learned something about myself. Reading comics allows us to step into a different world and by doing so we can see the realities of ourselves.
Who said comics weren’t educational?
Comic book fans can be generally grouped into two categories: DC fans or Marvel fans. There really isn’t an in-between. There is typically a preference for one or the other. I think I’ve made it clear that I have always preferred Marvel over DC. Not going to rehash why, so let’s jump right to it….
Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice.
DC – WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING?!?!?!?
Let me back up and begin again….
I liked Man of Steel (the movie) a lot. When I heard about plans for this movie, I was hopefully intrigued. John Byrne changed Superman with his epic Man of Steel run for DC Comics.
Byrne did a good job of ‘humanizing’ Superman. He made him less powerful without sacrificing too much power. Up to that point, Superman for all intents and purposes had no weaknesses, other than the effects of Kryptonite. So Byrne’s version redid his origin and gave more credence to Krypton and the challenges associated with growing up Superman/Clark Kent.
I figured that Man of Steel (movie) would capture much of the same spirit of the Man of Steel comic. It did figuratively and was a relative success.
That’s when DC apparently decided to go for the gusto…..
In the midst of this, Marvel was already six or seven years into their run with the success of their movies. Next, they began developing television series that would exist in the same world of the movies. Whoooooaaaaa….unprecedented indeed!
Everyone knew that it was matter of time before DC would begin planting the seeds to a movie universe similar to Marvel. I mean, both really have copied each other in terms of characters created. Naturally, this business model would transfer to the big screen.
With the success of Man of Steel, DCEU officially began the fast track of staking their claim in the billion dollar super hero movie genre. Within months it was decided that Batman would appear in the Man of Steel sequel. Cool. Then it was decided that Wonder Woman would be in it too. Awesomeness! The DC Holy Trinity on the big screen together for the first time EVER! Potential galore….
In the midst of this (again), Marvel was still setting box office records. Captain America –The Winter Soldier, BOOM CHING-CHING! Guardians of the Galaxy, a super duper box office smash?!? BOOM CHING-CHING! What say you?!? Avengers: Age of Ultron was gearing up to make more money than its predecessor. Would Ant-Man top Guardians of the Galaxy as an out-of-the-blue money grabber?
I think the good folks over at DCEU went into some type of hysteria because the next thing you know, it was established that the now titled Batman v. Superman – Dawn of Justice movie would serve as a precursor to a Justice League movie. Sounded logical, sorta. They were going to make the Justice League movie before making solo movies featuring other heroes. Okay, I can work with that, they weren’t following Marvel’s formula verbatim. Here’s where things started to get a little cloudy for me.
Going back to when DC announced that Superman Returns was going to hit the big screen in 2006, there was excitement around it. During this period of time, Smallville had earned a ton of respect as a great vehicle exploring Superman’s early years, growing into adulthood. Smallville debuted in 2001 so they had a good amount of source material to build from. In my head, I was thinking that it would be a great idea to continue that world on the big screen with Tom Welling and his cast mates making that big transition.
Those doh-doh brains with their idiotic contracts and creative movie and television licensing idiosyncrasies decided or couldn’t conceive that this strategy could have been a catalyst for an epic story arch expanding various genres for at least a decade. At that time, they had over 60 years of history to build a world so rich and rewarding that…that…they decided that this wasn’t an option and the TV show and movie would be different.
Such was the case with the Chris Nolan’s excellent Batman movie trilogy. Again, separate from everything else.
Sigh. What. The. Hell.
To Be Continued….
As an avid comic book collector years ago, I was always drawn to stories that were different. Stories that defied the regular good guy, patriotic tone set forth in comics like Superman, Captain America, etc. Stories that were a little heavier, had a moralistic and mortal feel to them. Stories that sometimes hovered in the supernatural, tales that were so far off the beaten path.
Marvel and DC have both had comic book series that followed this format. Both created graphic novels on popular characters that introduced darker themes. The artwork and writings were adult-themed and pretty suggestive. Back in the day, graphic novels were sold behind the counter in comic book stores and you had to show ID to purchase them.
As society began loosening reigns in terms of content portrayed through several forms of print and visual media, it became a mantra of ‘how bold can we get’? R-rated movies began ushering in higher levels of violence and sensuality. On Dynasty, Alexis Colby (Joan Collins) called Krystle Carrington (Linda Evans) a ‘bitch’ on national TV (or was it the other way around?) in the late 80s. Everything became more liberal in terms of pushing censoring buttons. I think that this was also a natural progression in terms of comic books and the evolution continued in this entertainment forum.
So it’s no coincidence that this trend has transferred to both the big and small screens. Marvel’s deal with Netflix allows for more adult-themed content. They have more liberties than you’ll see on regular television, but they’re not over the top with it. Both Daredevil and Jessica Jones were great series. The themes were darker than what we’ve seen on the big screen, but there was a need for the griminess. You had to be at the level of where they were, in terms of their feelings and surroundings. We were pulled into their worlds and it worked very well. Power Man, Iron Fist, and the Defenders will stay grounded in this world on Netflix. A decision hasn’t been made regarding when and if their world will cross with the world depicted on the big screen. They exist in the same universe, but Marvel has done a good job keeping them separate.
Deadpool will be the first Marvel movie with an R-Rating, but it won’t be the last. If you’ve read the Deadpool comics, you know you’re going to get a mix of violence and humor….especially violence. The audience will broaden slightly, with children under the age of 17 trying to sneak in to see this movie. Although Deadpool will exist outside the MCU, it’s still going to be a major draw. He’s very popular and connected to the X-Men cinematic universe.
DC is operating slightly different. On the big screen, DC Universe is ‘behind’ MCU in terms of the world they are creating. Man of Steel was DC’s first offering of this universe they are introducing. They have created a pretty heavy slate of movies to be released in this universe over the next several years. DC’s movies overall seem to be a little darker than Marvel’s movies. Suicide Squad is DC’s foray into some heavier movie content. Man of Steel was pretty serious and Batman v. Superman isn’t going to be holding any punches either.
However, on the small screen, they seem to have an advantage over Marvel…..with a caveat. The universes portrayed on the big and small screen are different! The movies will cast entirely different actors than what and who is portrayed on television. The current DC television line up with the Flash, Arrow, and Legends of Tomorrow is very good. The Flash is a very well written comic book adaption with a stellar cast. It’s almost a crime that Grant Gustin and his co-stars won’t get an opportunity to bring their Flash stories to the big screen. And, it might seem confusing to new fans as to what’s going on. Origin stories will be adapted, but I doubt they’ll deviate too far from each other. DC is taking a gamble by doing this and they have a good reason for it. Cinemablend.com published an article by Adam Holmes titled ‘Why DC Thinks Separating The Movies From The TV Shows is Better.’ Originally, it looked like DC was taking advantage of the ‘mulitverse’ concept that is very popular in comics. But that idea is presently not in play:
At Variety’s Entertainment and Technology Summit, president of DC Entertainment Diane Nelson noted that their move to keep the movies and TV shows apart has offered "maximum creative flexibility," and pointed out that connecting everything together would negatively affect the stories creators and producers are trying to tell. In her words:
‘[The focus on a single universe of characters with connected storylines] could end up handcuffing our creators into trying to work with the same storyline or force them to hold back characters or introduce certain characters. Ultimately it hinders the ability for someone like (showrunner) Bruno Heller to come in and create ‘Gotham.’
While it would be nice and tidy to have everything under one giant umbrella, DC is allowing their television and cinematic worlds to be separate. In my mind, it gives the showrunners freedom with characters without worrying if the same character shows up on another television show or the big screen.
*****SPOILER ALERT***** If you have not watched The Flash, Season 2, Episode 13 titled ‘Welcome to Earth-2, YOU NEED TO STOP READING NOW!!
You can never say never in the world of comics. It was recently announced that the Flash and Supergirl will have a crossover event. This is a big deal, as executive producers of both shows - Greg Berlanti and Andrew Kreisberg – are like big nerds and fans at the same time. The crossover event is pretty common between Flash and Arrow, but this is going to be the first big event with major heroes crossing over major networks. And, on the Flash, they’ve already opened the multiverse concept and it is a strong storyline that could play out for years to come. So, it was great to see what the Flash and Supergirl showrunners have planned for us. Wow! The multiverse concept is going to be explored and expanded!
On the latest episode of The Flash, as Barry, Cisco, and Dr. Wells were making their way to Earth-2, alternate universes were displayed in the time vortex. One of the biggest reveals that we saw was the image of Supergirl pop up! So, we can infer that this is a completely different universe and this makes it easier for them to do a story together. If they were in the same universe or Earth, they would have already bumped into or heard about each other, right? This is great because these producers get it! Why sugarcoat stuff, give us the real superheroes, the real stories and stop operating in the shadows. This is unprecedented and exciting, making me want more and more. And you want to know what’s EVEN MORE INTRIGUING????
If either the movies or television shows begin to suck, guess what? They can easily begin combining ALL of these separate universes into each other. But we’re going to have to relax on this idea because it might be further down the line, if it happens at all. Can you imagine – or do you want to imagine – a massive television storyline that crossed over Gotham, Arrow, Flash, Supergirl and Legends of Tomorrow? Legends of Tomorrow has introduced the time travel aspect, so yes, they can travel to Gotham in the future and run into Batman. Ok, I’m getting waaaaaaay ahead of myself.
My point is, we’re in for some unprecedented storytelling for years to come. The MCU is solid on the movie front and DC Entertainment TV is breaking new ground on the small screen. I think it’s okay to dream big with both because we haven’t even talked about the ultimate big screen matchup…..
The Marvel Universe versus the DC Universe…….Who said that dreams don’t come true? Stay tuned…..
Greetings! I’d first like to start 2016 out by saying…THANK YOU!! Thank you to the many people who have commented on the blogs that I have contributed to Fans on Patrol. I love to write, I have passion around many different things. This blog has given me an opportunity to share my thoughts with you regarding my passion for comics and movies. I love everything that Fans on Patrol represents and to have an outlet like this to express myself….it is very humbling. So your responses and comments, keep ‘em coming! And please, if you don’t agree with something I’ve written or feel the need to correct something that YOU KNOW for a shadow of a doubt that is wrong – let a brother know! I make mistakes, I’m not above reproach and I like to get it right. So again, thank you for your kind words and responses to the blogs. And with that, let’s get the show on the road.
2016 is shaping up to be another banner year in the comic book movie genre. I want to focus on some of the big name Marvel and DC movies coming out this year. I’ll quote the general synopsis of each movie and then my thoughts on what I believe each movie will bring to the table. Both Marvel and DC have upped their games and I think 2016 is going to be explosive!
Deadpool (Feb. 12)
Gifted with accelerated healing powers and a twisted sense of humor, mercenary Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds) adopts the alter ego Deadpool and hunts down the man who nearly destroyed his life.
This is Marvel’s first R-Rated feature and they picked a good character for this adult-themed movie. There have been some violently, savage Marvel characters – Sabertooth and Wolverine have had some crazy battles captured in the comics. Deadpool is almost on a different level. He’s a mercenary who jokes around while chopping off somebody’s head! He has a calculated, sarcastic while deadly demeanor as he does his business. I expect his tendencies that have been captured in the comics to transfer to the big screen. Expect a lot of foul language and blood, as only Deadpool knows how to deliver. It’s going to be a successful film, hopefully leading to a movie incarnation of Cable somewhere down the line.
“Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice” (March 25)
Mankind faces a new threat as Batman (Ben Affleck) embarks on a personal vendetta against Superman (Henry Cavill).
This will be the first time that Batman and Superman will share the big screen together, so this is going to be epic – quite possibly the biggest superhero movie of 2016. I like the premise of this movie – the damage caused by Superman’s battle with General Zod and his army in Man of Steel has had devastating, global consequences. A more matured Bruce Wayne/Batman has a different take on Krypton’s favorite son as he sees him as an out of control alien who could literally destroy the planet. So expect Batman to try to take Superman down with his brain because that’s what he’s good at. Lex Luthor’s attempt to control Superman is normal. His use of Zod’s DNA to create his own Superman is going to help bring the DC Trinity of Wonder Woman, Superman, and Batman together to eventually form the Justice League with Aquaman, Flash, and other DC legends in the near future. I think there is going to be a lot a destruction (again) in this movie. But fans like me are excited because it’s about dang gone time that DC creates something big that rivals Marvel. And you can’t go wrong putting DC’s superstars together to face off against each other first and then fighting together.
Captain America: Civil War (May 6)
A feud between Captain America (Chris Evans) and Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) leaves the Avengers in turmoil.
This highly anticipated movie comes at a time when comic book movies are trying to change the game up a little bit. Like Batman v. Superman, this movie will feature iconic heroes fighting an ideological battle against each other that turns into a pretty physical brawl. Heroes fighting each other? Sounds like a good story to me. I read the Civil War story, so this movie is going to be quite different (thanks to Marvel not owning the rights to certain characters – get your ish together Marvel!). It’ll be smaller in terms of characters involved, but just as high in emotion. Both sides have a point so it’s going to be interesting to see how this all plays out. Black Panther will make his debut and I expect nothing less that greatness from him. And Spiderman joins the MCU! That alone will be worth the price of admission!
X-Men: Apocalypse” (May 27)
Worshiped as a god since the dawn of civilization, the immortal Apocalypse (Oscar Isaac) becomes the first and most powerful mutant. Awakening after thousands of years, he recruits the disheartened Magneto (Michael Fassbender) and other mutants to create a new world
order. As the fate of the Earth hangs in the balance, Professor X (James McAvoy) and Raven (Jennifer Lawrence) lead a team of young X-Men to stop their seemingly invincible nemesis from destroying mankind.
Man, what would the X-Men movies have been like if Bryan Singer never left the franchise? X-Men: The Last Stand was garbage to me because they tarnished and whitewashed the greatest X-Men story of all time in my opinion – The Dark Phoenix saga. X-Men: First Stand was very good. Mr. Singer seems to have a good pulse on the X-Men and I expect this movie to do well. Not many people know about Apocalpyse, so I’m not sure how the audience is going to respond. Apocalypse - En Sabah Nur - the First Mutant, is an ideological mutant hell bent on making mutants the master race. By far, he will be the most intense and intelligent villain this X-Men team will face. And, he’ll be enhancing the powers of his Four Horsemen….some of the photos of Magneto with his enhanced powers are downright scary!
Suicide Squad (August 5th)
A secret government agency recruits imprisoned supervillains to execute dangerous black ops missions in exchange for clemency.
DC looks like it will have another hit on their hands with Suicide Squad. This is a supervillain super team with some very popular DC characters. Brought together to fight off a threat in exchange for freedom or reduced sentences, expect nothing but backstabbing, destruction and witty banter. Harley Quinn has become one of the most beloved villains in the shadow of the Joker. I expect electric sparks to fly between both of them when their together. And let’s be real….Jared Leto’s portrayal of the Joker is the selling point behind this film. Expect a physically intimidating, more calculated and deadly version this time around. Batman’s cameo is worth noting, but this movie is going to have the Joker’s shadow all over it, making a compelling case for him to show up in the next Batman movie.
Doctor Strange (November 6th)
After his career is destroyed, a brilliant but arrogant surgeon gets a new lease on life when a sorcerer takes him under his wing and trains him to defend the world against evil.
I have to admit, I haven’t been a strong follower of Dr. Strange. Back in the day, he was a member of the Defenders comics which included off and on members like the Hulk, Namor, Nighthawk, Hellcat, and many more. I LOVED that 70-80s version of that team. I think this movie will be semi-origin, semi-fast tracking him into the MCU universe heavy on magic and mysticism. There’s going to be a lot of trippy stuff going on in this movie. The fact that they cast Benedict Cumberbatch (Dr. Strange), Chiwetel Ejiofor (Baron Mordo), Tilda Swinton (The Ancient One), and Rachel McAdams (unknown – rumored to be Clea, but that’s been shot down) means Marvel is bringing in a top notch cast to lead credence to this movie and beyond. Now, here’s the interesting thing. The fact that the MCU is building towards the big showdown with Thanos in the Infinity War probably means that Dr. Strange is going to give us a foray into this cosmic world. So I can see the linkage and the fascination with his character portending of interstellar things to come.
There you have it, my thoughts on what’s going to happen in 2016. These movies are going to continue to grow and I am super excited about what’s to come. I have heard discussion about who is better, DC or Marvel? In my opinion, there shouldn’t be a comparison because they are both strong, quality super-duper franchises. So let’s sit back, put the feet up, grab your popcorn, and let’s enjoy the ride!
The incremental maturation of Quentin Tarantino as a filmmaker (more on that later) has perhaps come half circle in his western whodunit film The Hateful Eight, set against the wintry backdrop of the Wyoming frontier. The rich dialogue employed by Tarantino is brilliant, while the non-linear timeline provides a master stroke to the movie. One would simply be hard-pressed to find another filmmaker with the penchant for blending the triumvirate thematic conceits of over-the-top violence, effective cinematography, and profound dialogue, into a resplendent cinematic jewel. If we were to set aside for the moment the incessant “N-bombs” that were dropped throughout the film, this is topnotch filmmaking. With this in mind, this review is divided into two constituent parts. In the first, we celebrate Quentin Tarantino’s artistic genius and substantive cinematic oeuvres. In the second, we examine the filmmaker’s arrogance through the prism of racial insensitivity, ultimately leaving the reader with the seminal decision on whether to patronize or skip the movie.
In the opening scene of the movie, a stagecoach driven by O.B. (James Parks) hurtles through the Wyoming expanse with its passengers, bounty hunter John “The Hangman” Ruth (Kurt Russell) and his recalcitrant prisoner Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh), before being waylaid by Civil War combatants Major Marquis Warren (Samuel L. Jackson) and Chris Mannix (Walton Goggins). By all accounts, Marquis Warren is a skilled bounty hunter as well, tested and hardened by the strife of civil war. Mannix, for his part, boasts to anyone who will listen that he is the future sheriff of the town of Red Rock. Determined to outrun the blizzard that gives chase, the four passengers and driver speed toward the town of Red Rock where Daisy is to be hanged for the crime of murder. Before reaching their final destination, the five of them take up refuge at the mountaintop stagecoach stopover Minnie’s Haberdashery. This is the point in the movie where Tarantino exercises his mastery over the aforementioned thematic elements, namely, over-the-top violence and profound dialogue.
One of my all-time favorite movies is Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner starring Sidney Poitier because a large segment of the movie takes place inside a single structure; where superb dialogue is the primary conceit used to advance the story line. The Hateful Eight is on a par with this film, where most of the action takes place within a single room. There are few writer-directors who can captivate an audience like Tarantino does in this film; and it is his gift of dialogue that invites us in, makes us recline in our seats in sheer delight, and ultimately beckons us to lean forward with anticipation for what happens next. The director’s use of exquisite dialogue to ratchet up the tension and suspense is a unique convention and one that places Tarantino into a category all to himself.
Inside Minnie’s Haberdashery, we are introduced to four other seedy characters with questionable motivations. Bob (Demian Bichir) is a Mexican who claims to be running the haberdashery in Minnie’s absence; Oswaldo Mobray (Tim Roth), an Englishman who claims to be the new hangman of Red Rock; former Confederate general Sandy Smithers (Bruce Dern); and the stoic cowboy Joe Gage (Michael Madsen). As the ensemble of nine guests settles in for the night, alliances will be tested and others forged, along with the unraveling of their true identities and concealed intentions. The tension between our protagonists is palpable, building toward an explosive crescendo of violence. Once the cartridges have been spent, blood has been splattered (as only Tarantino can do it), and the gore factor in full effect, who will be left standing?
At first blush, this film may appear to be a thematic retread of some of Tarantino’s previous work. It absolutely is not; and it would be fool hearted to assign this moniker to it. This isn’t Samuel L. Jackson’s character Jules Winnfield moralizing in Pulp Fiction or just about any line Christoph Waltz delivers in a Tarantino film. The dialogue in those movies simply pales in comparison to what we’re treated to in The Hateful Eight. The exquisite dialogue is self-sustaining and pervasive throughout this movie. The case cannot be made for his previous work. This film also marks the evolution of a man as a pure filmmaker and the devolution of the same man as a socially irresponsible filmmaker (yes, this is the concept of cognitive dissonance). Having espoused this, we have reached the point in the review where effusive praise for Quentin Tarantino’s work is supplanted by well-deserved criticism for his callous use of the word “nigger.” In an alternate universe, this film could be playing under the title of The Distasteful Eight.
From my perspective, this film has been tarnished by Tarantino’s gratuitous and liberal use of the “N-word,” distracting moviegoers from an otherwise cinematic masterpiece. Tarantino has become a cogent and powerful force in Hollywood. It appears that he has become too powerful. It is as Lord Acton lamented, “Power corrupts and absolute power tends to corrupt absolutely.” We have witnessed his racial insensitivity in other films such as Reservoir Dogs and Django Unchained. By incessantly using the word nigger in his films, Tarantino has demonstrated a reckless propensity to sour the national mood (at least amongst some African Americans). When the use of the N-word no longer provides context or advances the story, its use becomes deliberate and intentional, showing blatant disregard for the human condition of African Americans.
While we are not a monolithic people, it would appear that we need to stand in solidarity until the filmmaker changes his ways, starting with you Samuel L. Jackson! Samuel L. Jackson is reportedly worth over 200 million dollars, so it’s not like he needs the money. While I’m not one to have my hands in another man’s pockets, I do believe it’s time for Samuel L. Jackson to Do the Right Thing (y’all see what I did there, right?). In fact, the onus is upon both Jackson and Tarantino to do the right thing. Tarantino’s unique and artistic approach to filmmaking will still be preserved, even without the incessant use of the N-word; he’s simply an extraordinary talent who deserves to have his work appraised without the N-word controversy enveloping it. By the way, did I mention that Samuel L. Jackson is worth over 200 million dollars? He has surpassed his N-word quotient. He should not utter the N-word in a digital format ever again.
As a moviegoer, you will need to decide what your personal “N-word quotient” is prior to viewing this movie. Here’s a very simple formula to ascertain what that number is: take the number of times you hear the N- word in the first ten minutes and divide it by…. Who am I freaking kidding? There is no formula! You will just need to balance your love for cinema against the verbal onslaught of hearing the word. Ultimately, some basic questions will need to be answered. Will Quentin Tarantino stop using the N-word in his films? Is Samuel L. Jackson going to be the first prominent African American actor to refuse a role in his movie until he does? Do moviegoers even care about the topic? These questions – and many others – will be answered in the next episode of Soap. Wipe that perplexed look from your faces, please. That’s a reference to a 1970s sitcom. What’s that? You just want me to stick to the review? Okay, fine! I am pretty sure that there are some of you out there in “Movie Review Land” scratching your heads because you don’t see what the big deal is with the whole Tarantino-N-word dynamic. You’re probably also advocating for black people to stop being so sensitive because it’s just a word. For those who believe African Americans should merely get over it and move on, I have one simple rebuttal for you Inglorious Basterds, “N-word, please!!!”
In the weeks leading up to Ronda Rousey’s devastating knockout loss at the hands (and foot!) of Holly Holm, the so-called UFC superstar’s display of raw emotion, albeit insufferable, is ultimately what made us care about the fight outcome in the first place. As it were, I suppose this construct is true for most human interactions; hold on to this sentiment because we will juxtapose it against a plot line flaw in the movie Creed. Ryan Coogler’s Creed is, for all intents and purposes, the seventh installment in the Rocky franchise. While this cinematic offering is stunning, replete with well-choreographed fight scenes and stellar acting by its protagonists Michael B. Jordan (Adonis Johnson) and Sylvester Stallone (Rocky Balboa), it never really resonated with me on an emotional level. Although the canines in the movie house were quick to bark out their emotions when fetching master’s slippers and newspaper in exchange for a pat on the head, I’m a cat, and one needs to earn these tears and heart. Stupid dog!
Adonis Johnson or Donnie to his closest friends I suppose (if he has any because the movie sure doesn’t make it clear) is the illegitimate child of Apollo Creed. Longing to spurn his white-collar job, the Creed name and Los Angeles opulence, “Boy Creed” makes his way to Philadelphia to make a name for himself in the boxing world. Who needs the Creed name to make it in the boxing game when one’s meteoric rise is inevitable (more on that in a moment)? No longer taking club-level fights in a seedy locale in Tijuana, Mexico, Adonis persuades Rocky to become his trainer. The two forge an inextricable bond on their way to a title fight for the Light Heavyweight Championship of the World. The duo’s complicated and symbiotic relationship is on full display in this movie, where Adonis needs the insight of a tested and grizzled trainer to negotiate the pitfalls of professional prizefighting and Rocky clearly needs the millennial to school him in the ways of modern technology. Yes, the “Cloud” (you’ll need to watch the movie to fully understand). Okay, that last jab (pun intended) really undermines the relationship the two of them share. It’s much deeper than that. Besides, whenever Rocky is part of any relationship you always have a puncher’s chance (okay I’m done!).
In the second half of the movie, we’re introduced to Adonis’ love-interest Bianca (Tessa Thompson) and this is where things really began to bog down for me. The onscreen chemistry between the pair seemed fabricated and forced. This screen time could have been put to better use by addressing some minor plot line flaws like Donnie’s ascent to the light heavyweight championship bout, despite having no real boxing profile. Please don’t tell me getting knocked out by Danny ‘Stuntman’ Wheeler (Andre Ward) or an epic fight with Leo ‘The Lion’ Sporino (Gabe Rosario) smooths things over. Perhaps I shouldn’t maintain an address in Realville; or perhaps you should. The point that I am laboring to make is….why bother? Let’s simply move on! Wait a minute, I’m no quitter! If you want to create an epic film as opposed to a “good not great” film, these subtle nuances matter. Now back to this whole relationship thing: Is it really a relationship if Bianca is willing to jettison her love affair with Adonis over the fact that he chose
not to reveal that Apollo Creed was his father? This is a plot point for a less sophisticated movie. In fact, I find this theatrical conceit toilsome and cheap. This movie simply deserves better. “Yo Bianca! You deserve better, too!”
In today’s professional fight game culture, a rising star’s handlers protect their charges by ginning up interest before a title fight, which is typically slow and sustained. During the pre-fight press conference for the Light Heavyweight Championship of the World, the titleholder Pretty Ricky Conlan (Tony Bellew) laments the point when he facetiously labels Adonis an “overnight success.” Moreover, HBO boxing analyst Max Kellerman pointedly asks about young Adonis, “Can he fight?” Excuse me? I know it’s only a movie, but shouldn’t we already have the answer by the time he climbs into the ring with the champ? These lazy plot lines are formulaic, making it difficult for this cinematic purist to feign emotion that was not earned. A very good friend of mine confessed that he was nearly brought to tears on four separate occasions while watching Creed because he was rapt with emotion. I was nearly moved to tears for diametrically opposing reasons. My near-tears were due to ennui, not emotion.
The one thing that made the previous Rocky franchise so universally popular was that these movies grappled with our hearts, placing them in an arm bar, trying to force us to tap out. Fortunately, we never relented because the emotion is what made us care for the characters, plot lines and storytelling. It would be socially irresponsible of me to tell anyone to skip this movie, yet I’m compelled to issue this caveat to readers: If you’re looking to watch a movie ripe with emotion, you may need to tamp down your expectations because this is not the film; instead, watch Southpaw starring Jake Gyllenhaal for an evening with your emotions.
Having espoused this, the dichotomous narrative of the film left me torn between good cop and bad cop. On the one hand, the pugilistic formula employed by Coogler (breathtaking fight sequences, authentic boxing gym settings, and the use of real-life boxers and commentators) helped this film earn its place as a true successor to the Rocky franchise. On the other hand, two hours and twelve minutes are more than enough time to cast a spell over the audience, connecting each moviegoer with the dramatic underpinnings he or she so richly deserves. This movie failed to do this and, as a result, failed to re-connect fans with any substantive emotion which was a staple of the bygone Rocky movie era. Perhaps if Sly Stallone had worked on the screenplay, the movie would have achieved the emotional depth for which I was pining.
This movie works stylistically and has some very good elements. It is indeed a worthwhile endeavor. The cinematography is brilliant; the fight scenes are staged masterfully; and the acting and direction are top-notch. If it sounds as though I did not enjoy the movie, one reading this review would be misrepresenting my words. Had it only taken care to provide the requisite dramatic appeal we have come to expect from a Rocky (let’s not go there, please) movie, it would have truly been spectacular. Now, what about the lead-in to this review with the Ronda Rousey commentary? It’s simple. Raw emotion makes us care about the characters, plot and storytelling in movies. If the director fails to engage moviegoers by immersing them in the emotion of the film, the result can be quite literally sad commentary. It is your prerogative to disagree with me and, perhaps most will, but I did not find an emotional connection with this Creed film; and trust me, I tried! I wanted so badly to be a part of the celebration but it never materialized. Here’s a point on which we all can agree: Many are calling this film a redemption story, and I certainly agree! The redemptive value for me is the fact that young Adonis Creed did not win the Light Heavyweight Championship of the World; had he actually won, I would have stood and yelled at the screen, “Cut me, Mick!”
If the next two blockbuster superhero movies are any indication, there is about to be a major discussion surrounding the super hero dynamic traipsing the across the world. Let’s dig into my theory a little bit more.
Comics, movies, TV shows, etc. have rarely dealt with the issue of the mass destruction epidemic from many of these battles between heroes and villains. Back in the day, you’d read a comic book battle between the Hulk and The Thing bashing each other around in the middle of a city. The Thing would hit the Hulk, the force knocking the Hulk through three buildings and into a bus. The Hulk would pick up the bus and slap the Thing into a water tower which would fall over into another building. This would go on and on until they stopped for whatever reason. They’d make up, go find the culprit that made them fight, and destroy whatever was around them until they won. Case closed. Then, Spiderman would fight the Green Goblin – in the same city, in the same general location within 10-15 miles, causing destruction and mayhem all over again. Incredibly, whatever was damaged before has been rebuilt. The magic of comics in the 60s and 70s!
Well, over time comic book writers started to realize that this wasn’t very realistic. So little by little, they started addressing issues of destruction all over the place. In the late 80s, we saw a comic book series called Damage Control created -
Damage Control’s job was to essentially assess and clean up the mess levied by these super battles that destroyed property (and lives!). In the early days, they were funded by Tony Stark and Wilson Fisk. If you saw Daredevil on Netflix, you saw that one of Wilson Fisk’s funding streams was cleaning up after the battle in New York featured in The Avengers movie. And, the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D TV show dealt with cleanup efforts and Damage Control did work through S.H.I.E.L.D. as well. So it has been slowly addressed over the years and now we’re about to see it take center stage in both Captain America: Civil War and Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice. What impact does this destruction have? Who gave super heroes the right to do what they do so freely? Should there be governmental regulations in place to protect the common person?
The issues look to be much deeper in both movies. Beyond the trillions of dollars of destruction that seem to hit the Marvel movies, a much more humanistic, governmental goal seems to be in play. During the Civil War run in the comics, the Superhero Registration Act caused a major divide between many of Earth’s greatest heroes, opposing factions lead by Tony Stark and Steve Rogers. The story played out very well in the comics because you could see the point of both sides very clearly – who was right and who was wrong? Both had valid points, both wanted the best for humanity. Civil liberties be damned if it means a safer way to monitor the events of the world, said the Iron Man side. Civil liberties are a privilege and we need to work together to come up with a common goal, said the Captain America side. Both were right, but Captain America’s side didn’t seem to come up with a good solution – other than to stay hidden and attack when they had a chance to take down the Iron Man team. I think that this storyline will be the driving force behind the third Captain America movie minus the plethora of super heroes from the comics. It should make for a good story with a smaller cast of characters, but the two principal characters will square off as they duke it out.
Over at DC, the driving force between Batman and Superman seems to be similar. Superman looks to have become a world darling, and trying to take down criminals and people defiant to order. Batman, on the other hand, has always operated a few twinges outside of what the law requires. Like Superman, he wants to stop the criminal element but usually tries to do it undercover with minimal intervention – or damage to property or life. In the upcoming movie, I think Wayne Enterprises is going to be playing the Damage Control role. It seems that Bruce Wayne/Batman’s driving motivation is this unchecked dude flying around with unlimited power doing whatever the hell he feels is appropriate to solving international problems. That power is corruptible and dangerous, in Batman’s eyes. This puts them both on a collision course.
The beauty of this story is that everything at this point is all new to Superman, but Batman will have been there and done that. So I expect some of the same ideologies from both, trying to find a common ground to stop serious international and galactic threats.
At the heart of both Marvel and DC universes on full display in 2015 is the vicious toll these acts of destruction are taking. In reality, we hear about the casualties of war more than we see the actual effects of mass annihilation. To see people who have actually been severely hurt or worse is not something that is broadcast freely.
This is at the core of what these movies will probably address, to a degree. The line that’s hard for these heroes to walk is how do you protect people when the bad guys don’t give a crap? The bad dudes will purposely bomb a building so that it falls and the super hero has to make a choice – continue chasing bad guy or allow hundreds of people to get hurt? Regardless, Damage Control is going to be called.
In my opinion, it’s virtually impossible to have a clear cut answer. The Fans on Patrol posse talked about some of these issues in the latest podcast Creed #64. In this week’s Crisis on Infinite podcast, the following question was presented – If you could live in any fictional universe, which universe would you live in without powers and why? I’ll let you listen to their responses (which are pretty dope!), but the fear of being collateral damage due to a fight between a Superman and Doomsday was apparent! Especially if you couldn’t protect yourself from exploding gas tankers or five miles of ground collapsing around you. It’s real people!
I like the fact that both films/universes seem to be addressing the issues that are sprinkled with realism in 2015. There isn’t a fail proof solution so it’s going to be a fight to determine – what’s right and what’s wrong.
On the Enter Zoom episode of The Flash this week, we find our hero facing off against his nemesis from Earth 2. Jay Garrick, Harrison Wells, and a host of other Earth 2 migrants have been warning Barry and his crew that Zoom is a serious and dangerous adversary. Heck, Jay Garrick put his tail between his legs and ran after Barry said that he was going to take on Zoom. Garrison Wells’ motive became clear during this episode, as he’s trying to defeat Zoom so he can save his daughter. Barry’s motive was one of pure ignorance – he felt that he had the goods to take on Zoom and defeat him. Brazen in his belief, he confronted Zoom and……well, right now he can’t feel his legs. What the hell does that tell you?
When comic books hit the mainstream almost 80 years ago, there were many things going on in our great nation. The Great Depression. High unemployment. The United States, slowly drawn into World War II. Hope was fleeing fast, people needed diversions. And two of the greatest storytellers in comic book history had a vision.
When Action Comics #1 hit newsstands in 1938, it set the stage for a genre that serves as a foundation to the colossal superhero phenomenon that exists today. Yes, there were comic book characters created before Superman. Superman’s impact served as the greatest superhero representation at that time. Did Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster know that this comic book was going to be a blueprint used for iconic comic book sagas 77 years later? Absolutely not! BUT, they had to create something that allowed us to escape into a world not grounded in the swirling changes of our country and world. Our country, our people, our family and friends – they needed a beacon of hope. Why not create someone who embodied the good side of humanity, a person of integrity and resolve that persevered through the worst of times? Superman was created for that purpose. There are many stories written as to why Siegel and Shuster birthed Superman. The link between all of these stories indicates that Superman represented optimism for an ailing America – for truth and justice.
This brings me back to these great stories rolling around our cosmos in 2015. The superhero dynamic has shifted since Action Comics #1 burst onto the scene. The ‘good guy/bad guy’ core has remained the same for all intents and purposes. But many of the stories today have added certain vulnerabilities to our heroes, to seep them in realism of the times. Ignorance is bliss for new superheroes to the game and this is illustrated perfectly in this latest episode of The Flash.
Barry blindly believes that, with his S.T.A.R. lab team, he can defeat Zoom. His team seems to be hesitant but Barry is the one with powers – damn them all! His cockiness leads to his back being snapped and Zoom hovering over him in defeat.
Zoom, holding the Flash by his neck, boldly showcases him to his family and friends as a broken hero, a broken man that they put much trust and admiration in. Barry’s ego is ultimately going to be affected. This ultimately sets up the remainder of this season. Of course Zoom is going to be defeated. But the path to get there is going to be filled with pain, emotional crisis, betrayals, feelings of alienation – you get the picture. Everything WE may experience on a day-to-day basis. Just because you’re a president, police officer, judge, priest, garbage man……it doesn’t matter. Under all those layers, we are human. That’s what these tales constantly tell us. We can overcome ANY obstacle if we try harder. Don’t give up.
As I talked about in my previous blog (Montago – hyperlink on ‘blog’ please J), this is a great time to watch these stories parade in front of our screens. These stories have been tastefully told, blending old and new fans, updating stories for this era. I really enjoy the writing on The Flash. I mean, Barry’s young, energetic, and dumb about life. He has Joe West, who has been a rock in Barry’s life. Barry loves those people who are close to him and will do anything for them. His cockiness is his weakness. But Joe and others are always there to brush him off, talk to him, and then send him out in the world again. Experience has proven to be the best teacher for Barry. I expect him to evolve even further – as a man and superhero – as his story continues to be told. Barry overcame what happened to him last year during his standoff with Reverse Flash. We are going to see the maturation of what it means to be a hero, again showing what a beacon of hope looks like in 2015.
A new and probably final Star Wars: A Force Awakens trailer debuted on Monday, October 19th during halftime of the Monday Night Football game between the Giants and Eagles. Like many, I waited, impatiently, for the trailer to grace my television set. And when it did…..
….it didn’t disappoint. I mean, really….it did not disappoint.
Sure, we wanted to see more. December 18th is an eternity from today and that movie is probably is going to be the biggest movie of the year, surpassing Avengers: Age of Ultron. Like everyone else (well, us comic book and movie geeks), I rewound and watched the trailer several times before going to bed last night. One lasting image stood out in my mind which makes me super-duper excited for this this movie. Luke Skywalker. I believe Luke is going to be the central plot point in this movie. Knowing JJ Abrams history for secrecy just screams that he has big plans for him. Let’s do a quick recap to illustrate my point….
In Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi – in the climactic final battle scene on the Death Star, Emperor Palpatine is fueling Luke’s rage by telling him that the Rebels have no chance as he prepares to Death Star to annihilate them. The Emperor senses that Luke is more powerful than Anakin/Darth Vader and wants to control him. If the Emperor swayed Luke to the Dark Side, it would have dramatically shifted the balance of power in the galaxy, ultimately crushing the Rebels and ensuring intergalactic, multi-universal domination. When Vader begins talking about finding and controlling Leia, Luke loses it and the Dark Side begins to control him. He essentially beats the living snot out of Vader, the Dark Side becoming more and more dominant. And then, he does the unthinkable. He stops and retreats back into Jedi mode, pissing the Emperor off. The Emperor attacks Luke with Dark Side Force lightening, trying to kill him. Luke calls out, ‘father, please help me!’ Vader, in his last redeeming move, picks up the Emperor and throws him to hell. He reverts back to Anakin, mask off, and dies in Luke’s arms.
The key thing to all of this is Luke’s rage and ability to control it…at that point of the story. Anakin exhibited the same type of misguided rage that led him down the path to Vader. No matter what, Luke has that bugaboo gene in his spirit. He’s probably been living in isolation for the last 30 years for fear of it unleashing, thus turning him into Turbo Max Darth Vader. The fact that the mysterious Kylo Ren has been identified as one of the main villains fuels the fact that Luke Skywalker’s dance with the Dark Side is far from over. Although it hasn’t been confirmed, I believe there is a definitive link between Kylo and Luke.
Could Kylo be the son of Hans and Leia? Did Vader have another offspring with a Jabba the Hunt dancer at Mos Eisley Cantina while locked up in that suit? Could the Emperor have created a clone using Anakin’s DNA? Did Luke sire Kylo with one of Leia’s good friends from Princess School who mysteriously showed up at the dance on Endor? The Ewoks were hiding her in a tree somewhere to surprise everyone. Did Luke work off some Jedi Love and make out with her before disappearing? Hmmmmm…..
All of these questions lead to the dynamic behind the missing Luke Skywalker – from the trailers. I’ve been following JJ Abrams long enough to know that he’s a master of deception, redirect, and hiding information. From Lost, to Cloverfield, to Fringe, to Super 8….the list goes on. This guy is good at keeping the details SECRET! I bet when he signed the contract to produce the Star Wars movies, he had to sign something stating that he would release a trailer or two! He doesn’t let anything get out that he doesn’t want out. And, usually when he hides something and it pops out in the movie or TV show, you get goosebumps because you didn’t see it coming! That’s the JJ Abrams trademark. And I love it! That’s the way it should be. Don’t tell us nuthin’, let us experience it in the theaters!
This is why I believe Luke Skywalker is going to be the biggest surprise in this movie. JJ Abrams is keeping it close to the vest. The closer, the bigger the surprise. Now, here’s my take on Luke, if I were writing the story.
Soon after the big party on Endors celebrating the Rebel Alliance victory and soon after Luke sees the Jedi Super Posse in spirit form, he takes off to finish off the training that Yodi had begun with him. He met some Jedi along the way, some good and some bad. However, Luke is STILL troubled by his anger issues. He has also come to grips with the fact that he is probably the most powerful Jedi to every grace the cosmos. He has learned and mastered powers never seen by Jedi. Luke is Top Dawg. However, the anger issue is unresolved. Although Luke is in control of his powers, he is still insecure when it comes to his purpose. This makes Luke very dangerous. Teetering between good and evil.
This is a dynamic that I would explore if I were writing the story. If you look at the level of anger reached by Anakin when he was succumbing to the Dark Side….
…..and the anger that Luke displayed when he was crushing Vader…….
I mean, how can he keep that in check? Luke is about to wreak havoc y’all!
This is all speculative, but I bet this movie explodes as THE best Star Wars movie in the series. I highly doubt JJ Abrams is going to disappoint. He turned down the offer initially to direct, but obviously something brought him back. I bet it was the Luke Skywalker dynamic.
I’d like to know your take and let me know how stupid this sounds. Feel free to write back with your Luke theories. Thanks for your time!
Crisis of the Infinite Earths.
This is when that world changed, DC took strong steps to bring some of the same energy that Marvel had, in my opinion. Marvel stories had always been grounded in a sense of realism to the world. They used ‘real world’ cities, monuments, and stories. DC’s world was a world of optimism, with an occasional baddie popping up here and there.
The ‘Crisis’ storyline was DC’s attempt to rewrite DC without disregarding their history. I thought that they did an excellent job. And subsequent DC titles after that paved the way for many of the stories that you see today. John Byrne’s Man of Steel incarnation of Superman brought some vulnerability to America’s #1 Boy Scout. He now grunted and shuddered when he lifted a 200 ton train. Frank Miller’s Dark Knight served as the impetus for today’s Batman. Batman was forever changed, and made more popular that Superman, when Frank Miller did this epic series. DC made similar changes to other popular comic book characters to modernize them with realism, trying to match Marvel’s stronghold in that regard.
This brings me back to my first sentence…..This is a good time to be a comic book fan. Old and new.
Technology has finally caught up to the comic book action so eloquently covered by writers and artists throughout comic book history. Sure, we were super hyped when Bill Bixby transformed into Lou Ferrigno a.k.a. The Hulk in the late 70s. George Reeves as Superman, Adam West as Batman. And Linda Carter as Wonder Woman…..whew, I had dreams about that woman. But I digress….
When Christopher Reeve first showed up on the screen as Superman, we were mystified and excited. Superman II is still in my top five of all-time favorite comic book movies. Everything looked real, the emotion was real. KNEEL BEFORD ZOD!! Whooooaaaa.
And then, Tim Burton’s Batman…..I still don’t think we give Michael Keaton enough props for his run as Batman. Frank Miller helped influence this manifestation of Batman on the screen and he didn’t disappoint.
Throughout all this time, there were various superheroes brought to the small screen – and sometimes much smaller screens that they didn’t even last long. Fantastic Four, weird looking version of Daredevil, Punisher, etc. This had a lot to do with publishing and ownership rights to various characters. Marvel’s financial troubles were well documented as they had to sell off rights to many characters in order to survive.
The 2000s were when things begin to really kick into high gear. Technology, a rabid comic book fan base, and some solid storytelling did Marvel, Sony, Fox, and Universal well. Spiderman exploded on the scene at the perfect time. And the X-Men movies were pretty good. Fantastic Four was okay to me, I didn’t like the second movie. How can you have Silver Surfer, mention Galactus’ name, and show him as a cloud in space? This foretold what was going to happen to the Fantastic Four in the future….
DC was trying to keep pace – in my opinion – with the advances that Marvel was making on the big screen. They missed with Superman Returns, which sent that franchise back almost 10 years. But they hit big with Chris Nolan’s Batman trilogy. That’s when the next evolution in comic book movies became stronger….getting A-List actors for key roles in movies.
When I heard about Marvel casting Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark, I remember believing that this was a coup for Marvel. Why? Well, Robert Downey Jr. had his struggles that were well documented through the years. He is also a very gifted actor, one of my favorites. Have you seen Less Than Zero? Great movie and he killed that role as Julian. So the casting was perfect because I thought that he would play well into the narcissistic, impulsive, and insecure life of Tony Stark. Tony Stark, although not covered in the movies, struggled with alcohol abuse. It got bad for Tony as James ‘Rhodey’ Rhodes had to don the suit in his absence for a while. So I believe that Robert would convey the Tony that I had in my brain and he hasn’t disappointed.
Marvel’s financial issues, although horrible to go through at the time, were probably what made them the strong company (with Disney’s backing) that they are today. Because they have crafted out a vision or path that doesn’t have any limits, in my opinion. I disagree with Steven Spielberg statement in an AP interview where he said….
‘We were around when the Western died and there will be a time when the superhero movie goes the way of the Western. It doesn't mean there won't be another occasion where the Western comes back and the superhero movie someday returns. Of course, right now the superhero movie is alive and thriving. I'm only saying that these cycles have a finite time in popular culture. There will come a day when the mythological stories are supplanted by some other genre that possibly some young filmmaker is just thinking about discovering for all of us.’
The reason that I disagree is that there are a great number of stories left to be told in the comic book world – by both DC and Marvel. Consider this – the current three Marvel phases of films are culled from stories spanning 30 plus years. When Thanos’ ugly mug eloquently graced the screen in the post credits of the first Avengers movie, my eyes almost popped out of my head. It was a great gamble by Marvel that paid off. By forecasting the presence of Thanos, Marvel has basically guaranteed that they were going to tell these stories their way, no filtering, and going for the gusto. Many people were asking me ‘Who is Thanos?’ I’ve told people that the word villain doesn’t even come close to describing him. I said that he is a Mad God who worshipped the embodiment of Death. By bringing in Thanos, it ensured that one of my classic favorites was going to make an appearance – Adam Warlock. That’s why the Guardians of the Galaxy were featured because they are going to more than likely be a gateway to Thanos and his tyrannical quest for universal and Godlike dominance that is going to rock the Marvel universe – on the big and small screen. And this storyline is running through 2019! And it is a very small fraction of stories that Marvel has in its repertoire. Spielberg is crazy and hasn’t read enough comic books.
This is a good time to be a comic book fan. Old and new.
DC, understandably, is trying to emulate what Marvel is doing. They are barely in the game and they are throwing potshots at Marvel as Zach Synder – echoing some of Steven Spielberg’s sentiments, recently said to the Daily Beast…
‘I feel like he’s right. But I feel like Batman and Superman are transcendent of superhero movies in a way, because they’re Batman and Superman. They’re not just, like, the flavour of the week Ant-Man – not to be mean, but whatever it is. What is the next Blank-Man?’
I mean, Zach has somewhat of a point especially regarding Batman and Superman. But c’mon man! There’s enough in this game for everybody. Some stories are great. Some are bad. But at this stage of the game – DC is just starting. I thought Man of Steel was a good movie. I do believe Batman v. Superman is going to be good. I don’t think DC should be trying to compete because this can get in the way of good storytelling. If they are going to be doing this strictly for profit, they stand a chance of sullying their stories. They should make solid movies with a good story arc. There’s enough room for everybody. People are always going to have their preference to what they favor. However, why can’t we like both – equally? I want to see good stories. And I believe if both studios do the right thing, we’re in for something unprecedented as comic book fans old and new.
Thinking back to when I started collecting comics, I was hoping and praying that this day would arrive. That Wolverine’s claws would be perfectly captured on screen (hey, when is he going to go into Berserker mode – go pull up Uncanny X-Men #133 to see Wolverine unhinged. This cover only tells a small part of the story. I think his movies would be R-Rated if they allowed him to go there!)
Marvel and DC are both giving fans what they want and that’s great. I’m a firm believer that their stories will carry on much longer than the Western movie genre. Again, as long as they stick to solid storytelling, the future is very bright to me.
This is a great time to be a comic book fan. Old and new, ‘nuff said…..
This is a good time to be a comic book fan. Old and new.
First, a little perspective is needed. I’m in my 40s and a pretty fun-loving fella. I’m an entertainment sponge – especially as it relates to television and going to the movies.
I have always read comics, but didn’t really become a serious collector until 1983ish. I can’t specifically remember what drove me to become a collector, but Spiderman had always been my favorite character. In terms of superhero groups, hands down, I was an X-Men fanatic. I immediately connected with the X-Men because I saw a correlation between mutant rights and the Civil Rights Movement. Charles Xavier, a.k.a. Professor X, was Martin Luther King Jr. and Erik Lehnsherr a.k.a., Magneto, represented Malcolm X. Now, when Magneto first came on the scene in early X-Men comics, he was a real villain. What I mean by this is that he was a villain in the classic sense of villainy. He was just a bad dude. As time went on, Marvel writers did an excellent job of internalizing what both Magneto and Professor X were pushing for regarding mutant rights. So I was hooked on X-Men comics and began collecting back issues fervently. I’m never going to forget when, in the late 80s, I bought Uncanny X-Men issues 100-103 for $80.00 from a friend who thought he was getting a deal from me. Collectively, those are all worth well over $500.00 now. I think I made out well!
My point is that I became a good student of the comic book game. My collection is pretty big, although I stopped seriously collecting in the early 2000s. I just couldn’t keep up. This is also during the time that the early versions of variant books started to invade the comic book work. You had 17,000 different #1, first print edition comics hitting the shelves. So exclusivity became exhausting to cover. I was used to the old-fashioned way of collecting and I felt that this method eroded the comic book market for some collectors. Well, at least it took collecting to another level.
I’ve spent time discussing Marvel without saying much about DC. Well, what can I say? DC has Superman and Batman. And Wonder Woman. The Justice League. The Flash, Aquaman, Green Lantern, Green Arrow, and others were there too, but weren’t legends like Supes and the Dark Knight. I collected DC also; the aforementioned titles were my favorites. DC, in my opinion, during the 80s was still carrying stories from the past 40 years. They were blah. Then it happened…
writer, proud Texan , Gamer, nerd
Writer, reviewer, and all around podcasting BadAss!
Raafeeq Ali the newest addition to FOP help us welcome him!
K. Lorenzo is New to the FOP pose. Long time comic nerd and fan junky, He's a bit uncomfortable with the mic so he prefers to write.