Disney has wasted no time and getting to work with the Star Wars Franchise now that they have acquired the rights to it. On the heels of the announcement that JJ Abrahams will be directing Star Wars Episode VII it was announced that they would also be producing standalone films set in the Star Wars Universe looking at individual characters. The official announcement includes the news that the first set of these will be movies focusing on Yoda, Boba Fett, and Han Solo.
A first glance a lot of fans are going “this is a blatant money grab”, and on some level this is almost certainly true. After all the goal of most Disney movies is to make money. The unspoken addition to this is “a side movie will suck.”
On that last one I disagree, at least with it being a given. After all they are really just following a business plan that is already working for them. Specifically this looks a lot like the model of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
With Marvel you have individual movies; Captain America, Iron Man 1 and 2, Thor, and The Incredible Hulk. These movies all lead to one big movie; The Avengers. Now they are back to the individual films; Iron Man 3, Thor 2, Captain America 2, and Guardians of the Galaxy, collectively known as Phase 2. These will lead to Avengers 2. After that Disney and Marvel have already announced Ant Man and Dr. Strange for Phase 3 with a rumored Hulk movie.
The advantage of this model is that the individual movies can introduce back story and concepts that feed into the big movie freeing that movie to pick up and run with them.
With as extensive a universe as Star Wars has built over the last several years there is no reason that the some plan could not work for them as well.
And don’t tell me there is no interest in explorer more of that universe. Just look at how well the novels, comic books, and video games have sold, and many of them do not even feature the original main characters.
Right off the top of my head I can see a lot of opportunity in this idea. You make movies featuring characters like Yoda, Boba Fett, and maybe some newer characters like Han and Leia’s kids, or members of the new Jedi order. You set the stage for episode VII by dropping clues in these individual films. The buzz builds until you have the release of Episode VII. On top of that you can almost certainly lure a lot of top talent to these side films, especially with the knowledge that they do not have the pressue of making the flagship film.
Is it a gamble? Sure, but at least it is following an already proven model. And I for one would be really excited to see where they take it.
This does raise another question. What other franchises could benefit from this way of making a film series? Imagine if they had done this with League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.
The summer superhero movie season has come to an end. We have seen the release of the Avengers, The Amazing Spider-Man, and The Dark Knight Rises. So how do these movies stack up against each other?
Let’s take a look.
First off, how do I, as a long time comic book and movie fan feel about each one and compare them?
Cutting to the chase here is how I personally rank them
The Dark Knight Rises
The Amazing Spider-man
When thinking about this ranking I used a simple model of rewatchablity (which I think we can agree should be a word.). This should be true of any Superhero movie ranking, how often do I want to watch it. I saw both Iron Man and The Dark Knight twice in theaters and have watched the DVDs repeatedly. I saw Green Lantern once but have not unwrapped the DVD my wife bought on sale.
With The Amazing Spider-Man I saw it once in the theater, and I do not think I will be buying it when the home release comes out. For the Dark Knight Rises, I saw it once, and I will be buying it when it is released. I saw the Avengers twice at the theater, would go again if they release the extended cut next month as they have hinted at and will buy it and watch it on September 25th. So from a “do I want to watch it again point of view” the ranking is really clear.
But the big question is why do I feel that way? What makes one Superhero movie better than another?
With Avengers it is simple enough. That movie spoke to the little boy in me whose imagination was set free by reading the comic books he bought at the corner drug store. It was a close to the four color experience as I have ever seen in live action, and the anticipation was built up over 5 previous movies. I fully plan to set aside a day in the near future, start with Iron Man at breakfast and watch all 6 Marvel films in one day. I still smile when I see pictures from the Avengers on-line.
The Dark Knight Rises works on a more mature level. It is a satisfying wrap up to the Nolen Dark Knight trilogy. But in the end it is not as good a movie as the Dark Knight. The Joker raised that movie from being simply very good, to being great. I doubt I will do a marathon of this series however. I also think that The Dark Knight Rises works extremely well as an intelligent action movie, but not as well as a superhero movie.
So what left the Amazing Spider-man holding the short straw? I certainly enjoyed watching it. I even felt it did some things better than the Raimi series, such as the more complex relationship Peter Parker has with Flash Thompson. The problem is that it doesn’t feel fresh. Spider-Man 3 came out five years ago. I know that Sony has to make a new Spider-Man film every so often to retain the film rights, but I doubt that time frame is five years (I looked but could not find the exact time frame). So when I was watching the origin portion of the film I was comparing it in my head to how the original Spider-man handled it.
But even without that I felt that in the end it was a good superhero movie, but not a great one. I smiled during it, but I never clapped or cheered like I did during the other two movies. So I can recommend seeing it, but I have no desire to go out and do so again myself.
So there is how I see it. Next year we get Iron Man 3, Thor: the Dark World, Man of Steel, and The Wolverine. It will be interesting to see how they stack up.
Misogyny is a word that has been thrown around a lot lately in the geek community. A lot has been written on the subject of misogyny in geek culture recently. It would almost seem redundant to write another piece on the subject. And yes I realize I am a guy writing about this, but here is why it is needed, because there cannot be enough voices speaking out about it. In fact with so much misogynistic speech going on in geek culture right now, to not speak out on it would be an act of moral cowardice.
I’m about to go into some specifics now so if you are reading this and the subject of various ways women can be attacked are triggers for you it would be best to be prepared.
So why are we seeing so much misogynism now. Well I don’t think it is a recent development. I don’t think a bunch of guys went “Oh man, the women are getting uppity; I better act like an entitled prick to put them in their place.” It’s always been there, but a couple of things have made it more visible .One is the internet. People can communicate online more easily and rapidly then they use to. Add to that the anonymous nature of online communication and you have people who feel they can get away with things they would never have dared in the past. That’s the bad news, the good news is that people are not shutting up and taking it as much now. These two combine to create the greater visibility.
Of course why it happens in the first place is no secret. From the start the collections of interests and hobbies that compose geek culture have been traditionally male dominated. And not just any males, these are usually the guys that were not part of the popular crowd in high school. Add a tendency for those with already poor social skills to be drawn to fandom and you have your stereotype of the geek.
And now you have to look at how women are traditionally portrayed in comics, science fiction and fantasy. You have the damsel in distress, who waits for the manly hero to save her, or you have the kick ass female who makes up for poor character development with skimpy over-sexualized attire.
Here is a great example; this is the cover for the upcoming issue #0 of Catwoman
Notice how you can see her face, breasts, and butt all in the same shot. For that to be possible her spine would need to be made of rubber. In fact rubber spine is fairly common in female superheroes.
So your average woman looking at this is not going to feel welcome in most geek settings. This has led to women in fandom historically being treated as rare as a unicorn.
Of course these days you have women who are making their mark in fandom. And here is the seed of the misogyny. The guys have had it as their special corner and now the ladies are showing up and expecting to be treated as people. A lot of guys do not know how to deal with this and feel threatened, and when people feel threatened they often go on the attack.
In the end the misogyny is all about power. The guys employing it want to make the women do what they want and are using what they perceive as the best tools to do it.
No better example exists than Anita Sarkeesian and her Kickstarter campaign to fund her web video series “Tropes vs. Women” which looks at how females are portrayed in video games. Since this is certainly going to look at the sexist way a lot of games treat women (We’re looking at you Duke Nukem) a backlash arose against Sarkeesian and took on a very ugly misogynistic tone. Beyond sexually harassing messages on line people have made pictures of her being raped by video game characters and one person even went so far as to make an online game where you can beat her up.
Clearly the goal was to shut her down, but the good news is that it has had the opposite effect. Her Kickstarter goal was $6,000. At this point she has now made over $100,000 and is looking to expand the scope of the series. Rather than make her shut up, the attack has given her an even better chance to speak and brought supporters out in droves.
This is a part of the story that seems to keep coming up again and again. The use of misogyny to make women shut up is being met with defiance and a refusal to be backed down. It is by no means easy. I’m sure Anita Sarkeesian has had many low moments during this.
Other examples include the recent incident where a writer for the gaming website Destructoid, Ryan Perez, went on an extremely sexist rant against Felicia Day, and the very recent incident of comedian Daniel Tosh joking that it would be funny if a female who called him out on making a rape joke were gang raped right then and there.
Perez did apologize and is no longer with Destructoid. The back lash against Tosh was so strong that he had to issue an apology less than a day after the story broke. But in both cases it feels a lot like both apologies were more prompted by “we got caught” then “we are truly sorry”. Also a lot of people came out in support of Perez and Tosh saying they should not have been called out in the first place.
Moving away from the power struggle itself for a moment, one of the big laments of people in the comic book and gaming industries is the desire to bring in more female consumers. However while they say this they still put out the objectifying material to appeal to the male demographic.
It doesn’t help that in most of the geek industries that not only are the customer base primarily male, but so are the creators. Let’s face it most men are not sure how to write or present women.
Here is an example. Here is how the Black Widow poster for Iron Man 2 looked
Now here is the Black Widow poster for the Avengers.
So it is the same actress, the same character and the same basic costume. But one looks like she is posing for a Maxim cover and the other looks like she is about to kick your ass. So what is the difference? It think it is that the Avengers is directed and written by Joss Whedon and he likes to present strong women that are actually empowered.
While we are on the subject of the Avengers I should note that a lot of reporters would tend to ask Scarlett Johansson questions that were the verbal equivalent of male gaze. One reporter asked if she wore underwear under her costume and she asked if he would ask her male co-stars the same question. The best thing to come out of that was the fact she would not put up with that crap.
As I said earlier, in the comic book industry a constant effort is put forth to bring in more female readers. However you just need to look at that image of Catwoman again to see the problem there. Another hurdle is the phenomenon known as women in refrigerators. For those not familiar with the term it comes from a story line where a new Green Lantern, Kyle Rayner, was chosen. Kyle had a girlfriend Alex DeWitt. 6 issues after she was introduced Alex is murdered and her body stuffed into a refrigerator for Kyle to find. This is what sparks him to take being a superhero seriously.
Writer Gail Simone cited this as a prime example of writers in comics using the murder or abuse of a female character to propel the story of a male character. She maintains a site called Women in Refrigerators listing the significant examples of this trope. It also has a listing of responses it has gotten. Want to take a guess at the tone many of them take?
Another view on this is more personal. My sister* and I use to both work at Wizards of the Coast. During that time we both would be sent to conventions to work the booth. It amazed me that amount of guys who thought she was just a “booth babe” and didn’t know what she was talking about. For the record she is just as much a gamer and con geek as I am and most definitely knows what she is talking about. In fact go check out her site and tell me if you think she knows nothing.
The point of this is that the geek culture has a bad habit of objectifying women. The end result is that you do not see them as people, and this can make it way too easy to treat them horribly.
So how do we fight this? The first thing is easy to say, but hard to do. Speak up about it. When you see someone make misogynistic comments you call them on it. Even if dozens of people jump on you, you need to speak up. The peer pressure can get really bad. People feel a sense of entitlement when they make these comments and no one wants it pointed out that they are on the wrong side of the issue. But this is not an issue with two valid sides, misogynism is wrong, period. If Anita Sarkeesian can handle the crap being hurdled at her, you can stand a few flame posts.
The next part is even harder. You need to take a long hard look at your own comments, especially you guys. The misogynistic attitudes are cultural and it can get so indoctrinated that you can fall into it without realizing it. I know I have caught myself more than once. We have to make sure that we are not part of the problem. The best advice I can give is take your brain with you. Think before you comment. Remember that the people you are dealing with online, at a convention, or at a comic book shop are in fact real people with feelings that can be hurt.
If you want to read another site that covers this really well I would like to point you to Geek Girls Rule. This is a site that covers geek culture from a female perspective. As you can imagine they have covered this subject more than once and have received more than their fair share of grief for it. But they know what they are talking about.
As for where we go from here, this site is still going to be about celebrating geek culture and I will be going back to the fun stuff soon enough, but I am also pretty sure the we will be covering this again at some point in the future.
In the end I would rather say that I am part of the solution rather than part of the problem.
And if you feel the need to flame me for saying this, bring it.
*(We aren’t actually blood relatives. I may get around to explaining the nature of that relationship someday. I call her father dad and he refers to me as son, so it’s good enough for us)
This week DC entertainment announced that they have hired Will Beall to write a script for a Justice League movie. There are also rumblings of trying to get a new Wonder Woman movie going again, as well as Lobo and Suicide Squad movies. This really isn’t surprising. I imagine that with the Avengers currently sitting as the third highest grossing movie of all time that there is a lot of pressure to get the DC properties steaming along.
I can only imagine what DC entertainment president Diane Nelson has to deal with right now. The success of not just the Avengers, but the entire Marvel Cinema Universe highlights how much the DC properties not about Batman have struggled. The DC characters are very powerful and prominent intellectual properties, yet they have not be able to gain any traction.
I think the problem isn’t a hard one to figure out. It’s DC entertainment’s parent company, Warner Brothers.
Last August I looked at the Green Lantern movie in comparison to Captain America. Captain America was a movie that reveled in its comic book roots and yet remembered that it had to be an enthralling action movie for the general audience. Rather than dumb down the character for mass consumption Marvel made sure to build up Steve Rogers so that the movie going public would love him as much as the longtime fans.
Green Lantern by comparison was a stock summer block buster that had a generic action movie plot and Ryan Reynolds playing a character much like he has in most movies he has been in. In other words Warner Brothers was playing it safe. I have a feeling that the production of the movie was very influenced by focus groups.
The end result was a hit of Marvel and an underperformer for DC.
The point I am getting at is that Warner Brothers isn’t playing to the strengths of the DC properties. Marvel has made six movies that know full well they are action hero fantasies and instead of trying to bring their heroes into the real world they are trying to create a believable version of their superhero universe. Disney bought Marvel part way through this and made the wise decision to leave them alone as the plan is working.
Warner Brothers on the other hand does not seem to trust that the audience will embrace a theatric version of the DC universe. The words that keep getting thrown around are “Dark”, “Gritty”, and “Mature”. That works great for Batman as Christopher Nolan has shown, but not so much for Superman, or Wonder Woman.
If you don’t believe me on that point I suggest track down a copy of the recent Wonder Woman pilot. Instead of the strong but compassionate hero she was created to be, Wonder Woman was portrayed as a grim badass who would torture a bed ridden mook for information and straight up kill a security guard who got in her way. Basically she was unsympathetic and the show was terrible.
Not to say that this approach won’t work for all heroes, for example Green Arrow. There is a new Green Arrow series coming this fall that looks pretty good. It is going the darker route, but Green Arrow being a non-powered hero like Batman can make that work. But even this one seems to be victim to focus group shenanigans. The show and the hero in it are just being called Arrow. Apparently due to the failure of Green Lantern the word green is now taboo in a superhero name.
I have an idea that I would like to suggest to Warner Brothers. Bring on Bruce Timm for your film efforts. Timm was the driving force behind the DC animated universe that gave us Batman the animated series, Superman the animated series and Justice League unlimited. These were great and comic and non-comic fans alike loved them. Let Bruce write up some script treatments and whatever you do WB, do not let a focus group anywhere near them.
Sometimes when writing an article things just don’t come out the way you want.
I’ve tried three times to write about the Avengers movie. In the end what stymied me was that with it’s phenomenal success. Everyone has written about it, about the effect it will have on future Marvel movies, future comic book based movies and the careers of the creative people involved.
If you are reading this blog I am going to assume you have seen the Avengers, are going to see the Avengers, or ended up here by mistake.
So this is not going to be a review of the Avengers.
This is going to be a personal examination of how I felt watching the Avengers.
As I am sure I have stated before I grew up reading comics. As far back as I can remember my dad would read me comic books at bed time. He used comics to teach me to read. So I have been literally reading comic books all my life.
And I never thought I would get to see a movie like the Avengers.
As I was growing up, any translation of comic book heroes to live action were lack luster at best. The 70’s and 80’s had several Marvel heroes on TV, Spider-man, Hulk, Captain America and Doctor Strange. Of all of them Spider-man was the closest to making the character I grew up with.
Really the first two Superman movies were the gold standard for years.
And getting multiple heroes together in one movie, forget it.
There was one attempt in the in 1979. It was Legends of the Superheroes. It started Adam West as Batman. I think right there you can guess how bad it was.
In 1997 there was an attempt to make a Justice League TV show. It was an adaptation of the Giffen and DeMatteis run, which was already humorous. They cast David Ogden Stiers as the Martian Manhunter. Here is the result.
So I pretty much gave up on a cool team up happening.
Then Marvel decided to start making movies.
The moment Nick Fury showed up post credits in Iron Man a sense of excitement started. Could they really pull it off?
And as we have seen, the answer is yes.
As Nash Bozard of Radio Dead Air (an online show you should be watching) put it, it was the best possible Avengers movie that could be made.
Watching it I realized that I had been waiting my whole life for this movie. It was true to the characters, it had action, it had story, and it had heart.
The bar has been raised and I for one cannot wait to see where we go from here.
Sorry I missed last Saturday’s posting. A combination of illness and the article I was working on not coming out the way I hoped led to that happening. I am working on a post for tomorrow.
I’m still working on the move to the www.fanboynewsnetwork.com domain. I am waiting on one last element to be finished before I make the move. Once the move is completed I will get to work on setting up the Podcast.
Starting with tomorrow’s post I will be adding a rating system to any reviews. I will be using an A through F grading system with A+ being an all time classic, C being enjoyable, but flawed, and F being please do not waste your time with the tripe.
Finally I will not be getting a chance to see Avengers until tomorrow night. I will review it, but it will be a special mid-week post.
At New York Comic Con the big buzz was about next year’s Avengers movie. Several of the stars were there to promote the film.
During an interview Tom Hiddleston who plays Loki was talking about being the main villain against all the heroes. Specifically he talked about going up against all eight heroes.
Wait a minute is that right? Let’s check.
First we have the heroes that have had their own movies. That gives us Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, and the Hulk. Ok that puts us at four.
Now let’s look at the heroes who appeared in other movies. Now we add Black Widow and Hawkeye. This brings us up to six.
If I leave Nick Fury off of this list Samuel L. Jackson will probably track me down and kick my ass. This brings us to seven.
So who is Avenger number eight?
I guess the first question is simply is there an eighth Avenger or did Hiddleston just count wrong. He says it a couple of times so for the sake of argument let’s assume he was right and there are eight.
So again who is number eight?
My first thought was that it would be someone we have already met. This led me directly to War Machine from Iron Man 2. A quick check of IMDB shot this down. Don Cheadle is not listed in the Avengers cast nor is anyone else listed as playing James Rhodes. You also have none of Thor’s fellow Asgardians listed so they are out.
Maybe he is counting someone in the cast who is not normally considered an Avenger. Maybe he is referring to Agent Coulson. Coulson has appeared in Both Iron Man movies and was a significant character in Thor. Marvel has also built him up by making short features featuring him. He has become a fan favorite. In fact since director Joss Whedon has a habit of killing fan favorite characters there is already a save Agent Coulson campaign going to ensure his survival for future marvel movies.
The problem with it being Coulson is while he is a cool character, he is not s superhero, and is not played in a way that suggests he is an Avenger.
There is one other possibility. Joss Whedon loves to sneak one over on fans. Do a misdirection to make fans think one thing and then spring a surprise. Maybe there is another character from the comics hidden in there that we have not seen yet.
Maybe there is a scientist working for shield named Hank Pym. Near the end of the movie he uses an experimental process to grow in size and become Giant Man. Or Maybe they will sneak in the Wasp. Both were founding Avengers in the comics.