I’m thinking of funny end scenes after the credits that have no real bearing on the plot, but sure would make me smile. I don’t need teasers; I don’t mind endings like the one after Guardians of the Galaxy. So, in no particular order:
1) Howard the Duck pouring martinis for Iron Man and Rocket Raccoon.
2) Iron Man and Rocket drunkenly arguing about the best way to improve the Iron Man armor, then doing so, drunkenly, and then sobering up and realizing that their great ideas weren’t so great.
3) Captain America and Star-lord discussing who’s most hopelessly out of touch with modern times.
4) Drax and Thor in an arm-wrestling contest.
5) Captain Marvel and Drax in an arm-wrestling contest.
6) Iron Man arguing with Dr. Strange that there’s no such thing as magic.
7) Dr. Strange arguing with Thor that the realm of Asgard is actually magic.
8) Black Widow, Gamora, and Captain Marvel going on a girls’ night out, which ends with them thwarting some kind of crime-in-progress.
9) Any scenario in which Cosmo the Space Dog reveals he’s sentient and telepathic. The comic hijinks are endless.
10) Any scene with Agent Carter and Jarvis and/or Howard Stark (actually I’d like to see that anyway; I am mega-crushing on Agent Carter).
We’ll see if any of the creative team think like me, or think of something better. And yes, I am totally psyched to see “Avengers 2” even if Hank Pym didn’t create Ultron. Truly, these are the halcyon days of superhero movies (for Marvel Studios anyway).
Disclaimer – I’m not a fan of this show. That said, I’m going to try to be fair in my criticism.
Originally this show was pitched as a police procedural with Jim Gordon before Batman appeared on the scene. I liked that concept and I was interested in it. Then the pilot starts with the death of Bruce Wayne’s parents (with a bonus appearance by L’il Catwoman). That was when I realized this was not going to be a police procedural with Jim Gordon in his quest to try to keep some semblance of justice in a corrupt city. The show was a prequel series. Oh dear.
Before I delve into that, there are a couple of other things about the show that don’t work for me. One is the tonal whiplash between silly and serious. The other is that I think the show is just too dark. Yes, I know this is about Gotham City and that it is a wretched hive of scum and villainy. I know it’s supposed to be dark but it comes across as dark for the sake of dark, which is one of my constant complaints of comic book based media. For example, I would have no problem with L’il Catwoman scratching an attacker across the face and blinding him. That’s appropriately dark. But gouging his eyeballs out? That’s just too much and not just from the gore factor but also because a scratch is a quick counter-attack but gouging would require a sustained counter-attack which does not seem to me to be in the character of Catwoman. Also, chomper logic. Why isn’t L’il Batman seeing a therapist? Why isn’t L’il Batman in school? I mean, there are a lot of schools and he is very rich so it’s not as though the school he was in is the only option. How is L’il Poison Ivy going to become a botantist having at this point never attended school? But I digress…
Prequels are very difficult to pull off for a variety of reasons, some of which I’ve discussed before. And herein lies the main problem I have with Gotham – it pretty much does everything a good prequel should not do.
As I’ve said before, the purpose of a prequel is answer this question – How did Character X become Y? Y could refer to an emotional state, or a change of personality, or so on and so forth. The trick of making this work is ensuring the prequel focuses on the right characters and also does not get bogged down with too many references to the original. I will also add that a prequel must make sure the stakes are high which is also tricky because which characters survive and certain events are already foregone conclusions.
And here we have Gotham which is a prequel series (more or less) to Chris Nolan’s Batman movies.
1) The prequel(s) did not answer the right question(s).
2) The prequel(s) answered the wrong question(s).
3) The prequel(s) put in so many references to the main trilogy they became distracting and the universe became too constricted.
4) The events of the prequel(s) actually diminish one or more aspects of the original movie(s).
5) The prequel can’t generate drama because too many elements are already predestined by the original.
1) To me, the right question is, “How did Gotham City become such a cesspool of lawlessness and corruption that a costumed vigilante was its only hope for redemption?” A related question to that is, “Why is Gotham City so full of weirdos?” Because it is. Seriously. These questions are kind of being answered, but are unfortunately not the focus.
2) To me, the wrong question is, “How did Character X become Y?” I am danged tired of origin stories, especially ones that have been done well in different media. I get how Bruce Wayne becomes Batman. I don’t need to see a young Bruce moping around the mansion. The original comic way back in the 1930s explained everything an audience needs to know about the psychology of L’il Bruce Wayne. “Okay, so no more Bruce Wayne origins,” I pretend I hear you say, “but what about the rest of the canon characters?” Oddly, for a show that seems to be banking on answering this question, it actually skims over the answer for the most part.
a) L’il Catwoman has already been nicknamed “Cat.”
b) L’il Batman is already a better detective than most of the GCPD.
c) Edward Nygma already talks in riddles.
Basically, Character X is already Y, just a younger version of the character you pretty much already know. That’s not interesting, and leads into the third problem with prequels…
3) And this is where Gotham really goes wrong. This show is almost more than of a shout-out/Easter egg hunt than a coherent drama. I understand that Gotham City is very large; it is an analogue of New York City. I know from a logical standpoint that all the members of Batman’s Rogue’s Gallery could conceivably hail from Gotham City. But everyone knowing each other?
a) Pre-Riddler works for the GCPD.
b) Pre-Joker is in the same circus as the Flying Graysons.
c) The circus with the Flying Graysons is in town.
d) L’il Catwoman witnesses the death of L’il Batman’s parents.
e) L’il Poison Ivy is found by L’il Catwoman and they room together.
f) Hey, look, Harvey Dent!
g) And look, L’il Scarecrow!
h) And so on and so forth.
I think the story would be better served with fewer canon characters or brought them in at a slower pace. This is a lot of canon characters (and I didn’t cover all of them) and this is just the first season. I also think the story would be better served to have some of the characters come from outside of Gotham. It would provide more character (for lack of a better term) for the city, showing it as either a fallen beacon of hope, or a weak, corrupt place just ripe for being overtaken by the unscrupulous. And what drama that may come from character development is being short-circuited by lazy writing. At this point, the answer to, “How did Character X become Y?” seems to be “mommy/daddy issues.”
4) I give Gotham a pass for this one. The mafia power struggles don’t undermine what happens in the “Batman” trilogy. They actually provide a welcome back story when the show devotes enough time to explain what’s going on.
5) But where it builds up the story in some ways, the show is having a hard time creating dramatic stakes. There’s so much that’s already pre-determined that many events are more a question of “when” and not “if.” For example, with the mafia wars, of the bosses jockeying for power, we already know that Fish isn’t going to win, and odds are good she won’t make it out alive either. Her role is interesting in that it builds up the mafia wars, but some dramatic tension is removed just because we the audience already know the ultimate outcome. Jim Gordon isn’t going to clean up Gotham City or else there’s no need for Batman, so his struggles are ultimately futile. Harvey Bullock and Renee Montoya are going to become better cops than they are.
And that, really, is the problem with Gotham – there are too many defined characters with known destinies. The characters aren’t really developed from who they started out as to who they will be; they’re just younger versions of the familiar characters. The show needs room to grow and breathe and tell a story instead of constraining itself and relying on winks and nods to the final incarnations. This, I think, could have been avoided if the show had kept its original premise.
WB/DC Movie Machine – so rumor has it WB/DC is looking to reboot Green Lantern because the last movie wasn’t very good. No one I know was clamoring for a Green Lantern reboot, so I assume this has something to do with the presumed success of the eventual “Justice League” movie. Rumor has it that they’re looking at Chris Pine, who was last seen (by me, because I don’t get out much) portraying the worst captain in the history of Starfleet. Whether or not he’d make a good Hal Jordan isn’t really my issue. My issue is that if WB/DC really wants to distance itself from that CGI flop, why are they rebooting with Hal Jordan? There are three other fairly well-known bearers of the Green Lantern ring for Earth. Why not pick any of those guys and make a clean break?
Also, I suspect WB/DC will attempt to make the reboot “gritty” which, for reasons I have explained elsewhere, was not the problem with the original movie. I also don’t think there’s a particular need to make every movie gritty except Batman, but the studio will probably do so because Batman. At this rate, the “Justice League” movie is shaping up to be the “Justice League of Jerks.”
Disney Movie Machine – apparently Disney has left the job of actually making new movies to its subsidiary companies like Pixar and Marvel Studios and decided the easiest way to make money on its own name is just to re-make its own movies. Hence, a live-action, “Wicked”-inspired “Sleeping Beauty” no one asked for, a live-action “Cinderella” no one asked for, a live-action “The Little Mermaid” in the works no one asked for (although if that’s based of the original story, that will actually be a new movie) and a live-action “Beauty and the Beast” in the works no one asked for. Or potentially Disney isn’t quite that lazy, but has to put something in the theaters while they churn out a sequel to Frozen.
Fox’s Attempt at a Movie Machine – so a trailer for the gritty reboot of Fantastic Four came out recently. Continuing on the theme of the mid-week, this is something I’m also pretty sure no one asked for. The main weakness of the original pair of movies was the lackluster villain. A gritty reboot isn’t going to fix that. And of all the teams in either universes, I think the only team more unsuitable for a gritty reboot than the FF might be the Power Pack (that said, some of their comics are really dark). For crying out loud, the first FF fight was against a giant monster named creatively named “Giganto.”
“Justice League: Unlimited” – the episode pair, “The Once and Future Thing,” is highly entertaining (and I love a good pun; the individual episode titles are great too). I love Green Lantern and Jonah Hex’s reactions to all the weirdness. I also am glad to see Terry and Static again.
You thought I’d forgotten about finishing this, didn’t you? Oh, no, no, my penchant for rambling criticism is not yet satiated. I just got busy with other things, but when I saw that the home edition of “The Battle of Five Armies” was coming out, I figured this was as good a time as any to continue my epic rant on why these movies disappointed me so, so much that I had to split it up into more parts than the actual movie trilogy.
The third of my criteria for storytelling failures is setting. I’m going to discuss the use of special effects in this trilogy and the original. Remember, just because CGI can be used doesn’t mean it should. This is why the video game developers were up more points than the creative team.
1) Middle Zealand – As far as a stand-in for Middle-earth goes, New Zealand is probably the best available. It’s rugged, there aren’t a lot of people, and it’s beautiful. No complaints.
2) Generic Orc Villain – herein starts some of my problems with the use of special effects. I’ve read that there were a lot of practical effects in these movies, but I really noticed the use of CGI. Even though I know the orcs in “LotR” were people in make-up, the fights were made more visceral for me because I knew real people were really fighting each other (and there were real accidents like the one that led to these great moments). The awesome practical make-up effects actually helped immerse me in the story. But Azog and Bolg looked like boss monsters in “The Hobbit: The Video Game.” I have read that Bolg was supposed to be Azog’s son which is why they looked so much alike, but to me it looked like Azog was the base model orc and the special effects tech took the base model, just flattened out the head, blinded an eye, changed the skin color, and stuck some stupid metal plates in the chest and called that “Bolg.” Yeah, that’s a totally different orc… Gollum looked more realistic than the orc villains. The obvious CGI just pulled me out of the movie.
4) CG Menagerie – Smaug was the pinnacle of the special effects work. I know a dragon isn’t real, but Smaug looked real. He did not look like some boss monster in a video game. After a bit of suspension of disbelief because I know dragons aren’t real, I totally bought into Bilbo talking to this monster. Every movement was seamless and exceptional. That was what everything should have looked like. The eagles were fine, I suppose, as far as CG birds go, and so was Beorn. I know not everything can be as awesome as Smaug, but at least the rest of the animals were adequately rendered.
5) Green Screen City – Some parts of New Zealand just do not stand in for Middle-earth, and that’s what green screens are for. Except when they feel like green screens. Rivendell seemed like a green screen to me (even if it turns out it wasn’t) although Erebor came across better to me. And props to the props department for building up Laketown. Overall, adequate, I suppose.
6) Lucas-ing (or, “just because you can with CGI doesn’t mean you should”) – so very much…
a) Magic rabbit sled.
b) Warg chases.
c) Escape from Goblintown level.
d) Escape from Mirkwood level (play as either a dwarf or Legolas/Tauriel!).
e) Lonely Mountain obstacle course level.
f) Elven Super Mario Brothers jumping.
g) Battle of Five Armies turn-based strategy level.
h) Orc boss fights.
7) Cluttered – looking at the posters of the dwarves as I tried to figure out who was who, I noticed that they actually do look quite different. A lot of effort went into the practical make-up effects and costuming to give them different hairstyles, different faces, and different clothes. They also had different accents. But for all that attention to detail, I didn’t realize Bifur had an AXE in his FACE until I saw the “How it Should Have Ended” for the movie. There was always just too much going on to really take in details, or something that should be flippin’ obvious like an AXE in Bifur’s FACE.
In short, the setting failed to live up to the original trilogy. The over-use of CGI (Smaug aside) actually pulled me out of the story instead of immersing me in the story. And that is a pretty big failure.
Allan Quatermain and the Temple of Skulls – Not to be confused with Indiana Jones, any other temples (skulls or otherwise), or really any other Allan Quartermain. This was a film by The Asylum based on the book King Solomon’s Mines and actually filmed in South Africa. I was both bored and confused. Bored because there wasn’t a lot of action or dialogue and confused because most of what did happen didn’t seem to follow a linear progression. What I did learn – trains move very slowly, eight skulls on the floor is enough to consider a temple to be a “temple of skulls,” and the lost treasure of King Solomon was about two days leisurely walk from Allan’s house.
I seriously need to watch better movies over the weekend.
Daredevil – the new Netflix series looks like it’ll be appropriately dark and gritty. Daredevil, is, after all, a poor man’s Batman (in many senses).
Gotham – speaking of Batman… I have a co-worker who likes comics and very much likes this show. I, well, don’t. There’s a lot about it that bothers me, which might be an entry in and of itself at some point. But one of the things I keep coming back to is that since this is supposed to be a story told in a modern era, why why why isn’t L’il Bruce seeing a therapist? I know he said he didn’t want to, but this strikes me as something that’s non-negotiable. Too much chomper logic.
Marvel Legendary – I got the FF expansion pack today. I expected Galactus to be pretty tough, but it turns out the Mole Man is surprisingly difficult to beat. Next I’m going to mix up the sets and pit the FF against Dr. Doom. It seems fitting.
ComicsAlliance – has a costume poll up. I think they could probably expand the selection a bit, but I put in my votes, as I have made it clear I have strong opinions on super-costumes and artistic conventions.
Again, my fevered hamster brain can’t focus on anything long enough for a full-on rant or praise, so please enjoy these tidbits of weirdness.
Frogs – Think Birdemic but made in 1972 and with much higher production values. I think this was meant to be a horror movie, but it wasn’t. The plot, such as it is, is that an eco-reporter gets stranded on a private swamp island owned by a weird, Southern-ish rich family full of terrible people that is under siege by the vengeful fauna and flora. Also, it stars a young Sam Elliott. That is pretty damn surreal by itself because I just sort of assumed he was always the stereotype of a grizzled cowboy. Seeing him young, not gray, not grizzled, and clean-shaven, is just odd. But anyway, despite the title, the frogs don’t kill anyone although I think they were the masterminds. The true weirdness of the movie is that it seems like it was started off as a thriller centering around this broken family and then this “nature’s revenge” horror plot was just tacked on. Sadly, I think Rubber made more sense.
Again, I think this might tell you more about my Saturday nights than I’d like you to know…
Emma Frost – My loathing of this character as a hero is well-documented (my appreciation of this character as a villain is less well-documented), but after doing a bit of a search for my last entry on true love, Marvel comics-style, I read through the current Marvel Wiki page for Emma Frost. I am amazed at the lengths the writers have gone through to shoehorn her into the X-universe as a sympathetic anti-hero through retconning. And also to hook her up with Namor, for some reason. Despite her professing love for Cyclops, saying the words doesn’t make it so. Love is shown in action, not just empty words on a page. And breaking up a marriage you’ve been tasked to help save is NOT love. ARGH! But with the extensive retconning, maybe this is why over 40% of people who voted in that poll selected “true love.”
Spider-man – So apparently Sony realized that while it in many ways started the superhero movie renaissance, it had long since lost the ability to actually make good movies (and primarily because the executives couldn’t stop meddling). So Spider-man shall finally join the MCU and Marvel Studios will have creative control. I am grateful for that. But also rumored is that after Spider-man appears in whatever movie they’ve shoved him into, Sony/Marvel will release a solo movie. And rumors are that it will be yet another origin story. I’m so sick of Peter Parker’s origin story. This will be what, the third reboot in ten years? This is ridiculous. Now, if Miles Morales was going to be Spider-man, I’d be interested in that. I am really not interested in seeing a re-hash of the same old thing.
Star Trek – Last week Leonard Nimoy made that last journey to join those who have gone before. While I know he had a larger body of work than Star Trek, I think it’s fair to say he defined the role of Spock. I related to Spock. Spock was an alien trying to understand these crazy, irrational humans, and as an outcast, nerdy kid, I felt the same way. Spock always had to fight his own crazy, irrational side and I understood that too. And like Spock, eventually I had to come to grips with my perceived otherness and make peace with myself and others. I learned, after too long perhaps, I was not so different from those around me, and that was not a bad thing.
Live long and prosper.
or, “In which I find inspiration from another ComicsAlliance article because I’m having trouble thinking of an original topic.”
Black Panther and Storm – True Love. Although the poll at this time is currently showing “bad romance.” I could go either way, really, since T’challa and Storm were sort of slapped together by a writer and as suddenly sundered when a new writer took over. But he’s a king and she’s a goddess; he represents the triumph of technology and she represents the power of nature. I thought they were a good complement to each other.
Storm and Wolverine – Bad Romance. But that’s because any relationship with Wolverine is a bad romance.
Phoenix and Wolverine – Bad Romance. Again, any relationship Wolverine is a bad romance. Too many women (especially in fiction) go for the broken birds, but some are just too broken. Heck, sometimes Wolverine seems to know he’s too broken.
Phoenix and Cyclops – True Love. Messed up, yes, but really that should be the motto of any X-team: “We are totally messed up.” Later writers retconned that Xavier had always secretly loved the initially underaged Jean Grey and subconsciously pushed his adopted son Cyclops to live out the life he could not have. I never really liked that because it took away a lot of Cyclops’ agency. But even with that, I think that had Marvel’s editor not decided marriage is the devil, the two would still be together. And as everything is getting rebooted for the umpteenth time, and Phoenix is featured in an Avengers book, maybe they’ll find love again. At least until the next reboot…
Cyclops and Emma Frost – Bad Romance. On every conceivable level. Despite extensive retconning intended to make Emma somehow seem sympathetic, she’s a terrible person and a terrible hero. She doesn’t love Cyclops; she only pretends to because it means she defeated her greatest rival Jean Grey. I’m frankly a little worried how many people voted for “true love” because she’s obviously verbally, emotionally, and telepathically abusive. Sometimes a picture is really worth a thousand words, and here are two. And the best way Emma knows to break Cyclops out of his grief is to proposition him on the freshly dug grave of his wife. This is not even close to love.
Namor and Emma Frost – Bad Romance. Emma Frost is a terrible person, and was making out with Namor while still dating Cyclops, and Namor is, well, Namor. Also, his heart belongs to the Invisible Woman. I’m not saying these two wouldn’t get it on, but there’d never be anything between them except a friends-with-benefits relationship minus the friends part because they don’t have friends.
Namor and the Invisible Woman – Bad Romance. Despite the fact that Namor pines for Sue, he’s an arrogant jerk who probably wouldn’t care two figs for her once he won over his prize. Conquest and possession is what Namor is seeking, not companionship as such. Sue, for her part, loves Reed Richards with all her heart even if Reed tends to be too wrapped up in his own head. At best, the two are uneasy allies.
So there you have it; another rant on my take about the relationships of people who don’t really exist. But I think how those relationships are written and perceived says something about the society that writes and perceives them.