The Force Awakens, and the End of the Star Wars Cannon

On October 30, 2012, George Lucas announced he was selling Lucasfilm to Disney for over $4 billion.  Many fans, unhappy with Lucas’s recent management of the franchise, met the news with relief and excitement.  The prequels were always going to hang over his head.

Shortly after the acquisition, Disney announced they were continuing the core film series (no surprise).  They also declared the Expanded Universe was no longer considered cannon (meaning part of the official Star Wars story) in any way.  For those not in the know, the Expanded Universe encompassed all the licensed books, comic books, and games set in the Star Wars Universe.  This was met with outrage by fans of said books, comic books, and games, but, frankly, the Expanded Universe stories were never cannon.  Lucas had made that clear many times.  Fans of the EU derided Disney keeping things like Jar Jar Binks, but disregarding the cool stuff they’d invested in.  The thing is, determining cannon has nothing to do with quality.  Trust me, I would rather read Heir to the Empire five times in a row than sit through The Phantom Menace again, but only The Phantom Menace counts.

Disney shortly announced a new series of books, comic books, games, spin-off movies, and TV show (Rebels) that would be part of the Star Wars cannon.  If they produced a book about what happened between Episodes V and VI, it was something that officially happened.

This has been more or less accepted by fans of the series, including those who felt their love of the Expanded Universe had been dismissed.  The thing is, none of it is cannon since Lucas parted with the property, including the main films.

Now, Lucas was never the sole author of Star Wars.  Film is a collaborative medium, after all, and even the films he wrote and directed himself (Episodes I-IV) had input from others.  That said, he was the final decision maker on the six original films (and the Clone Wars TV series), and nothing went into those movies without his thumbs-up.  He may not have been the sole author, but he was the final decision maker on what was and wasn’t going to be the characters’ stories.

Fast-forward to pre-production on Episode VII (The Force Awakens).  Lucas had given the new creative team his outline for the film, but they decided to go with another approach and tossed it aside.  Now they were well within their rights to do this.  Lucas sold the property to Disney without any requirement to use his outline.  Also, Abrams and company were probably correct in determining that Lucas’s story wasn’t the best direction for the series.  The ramification of this decision, though, was that the new films will now be in the same category as the Expanded Universe.

Imagine thirty years from now, Disney has a crisis and has to sell Lucasfilm to another company.  That company announces they have Lucas’s outline for Episodes VII-IX, which they’ll use to make new films.  Also, all the Disney supplementary works will be set aside, like the EU, and they’ll be putting out their own spin-off films, comics, TV shows, etc.  Since they’re working from Lucas’s notes, they’ll declare their Episodes VII-IX will be the real entries in the core film series, unlike Disney’s.

But that won’t be ironclad either.  Lucas’s original outline for The Empire Strikes Back involved Luke finding his father and sister in exile.  During the pre-production process, the whole thing was simplified into making Darth Vader Luke’s father and writing the sister out (before making her Leia for the third film).  Those changes were made while he worked on the script with others.  The filmmakers of the hypothetical films would still have to hammer their own scripts out, probably making similar changes without Lucas’s sign off (I’m assuming he’ll be gone).  That would be enough to claim that they’re not totally in-cannon either.

At the end of the day, the rock-solid, cannon story of Star Wars will be Episodes I-VI and the Clone Wars TV show.  Everything else will be elements future owners of the property can use or ignore based on their own plans.  It doesn’t matter how good or bad Disney’s material is.  We may all have a great time watching it, but it’s all fan fiction from this point forward.

 

Don’t forget:  My book, Gina Beale: Into the Fire, is on Kindle now and can be purchased HERE.  It’s a great read, but only if you like great reads.

 

 

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Snowpiercer – About That Ending

I checked out Snowpiercer on VOD last week.  It’s great when something turns out to be just as entertaining as you hoped it would be.  It reminded me how exciting watching Terry Gilliam movies used to be.

 

My only hesitation about seeing the movie had to do with its concept, as I’m tired of heavy-handed science fiction allegories about a dystopian world where a privileged oligarchy makes the masses live in squalor.  Joon-ho Bong (along with co-writer Kelly Masterson) has crafted a movie, though, that works beyond the clichés that bog down lesser efforts (I’m looking at you, Elysium).

 

The difference is in the film’s characters.  The story Curtis (Chris Evans) tells about when they first arrived on the train packs way more of a punch than the generic story arcs from characters in similar movies.  The guy’s come a long way since his days wisecracking as Johnny Storm.

 

One of the biggest topics of conversation has been the ending and what would happen immediately afterward.

 

***BIG SPOILERS AHEAD***

 

So we have two characters who have survived the horrific crash.  There may be others, but we don’t see them and can’t assume.  They see a polar bear walking around and the movie ends.

 

If you go online and check out discussions, a lot of folks point out that a) two people isn’t enough to keep the human race going and b) there’s no way a polar bear would even still be alive, as they need to eat things too.

 

It reminds me of a bit I remember from many years ago, when a comedian was talking about watching the Gilligan’s Island Harlem Globetrotters movie with a friend.  The Globetrotters are playing a charity basketball game for the island’s orphans against evil basketball robots, programmed to defeat them.  Gilligan comes into the game and his friend says, “Yeah, right.  Like they’d put Gilligan in.”  The comedian’s reply: “So you were buying everything up until that point?”

 

In Snowpiercer, the last members of the human race are living on a fast-moving train with tracks that never degrade in horrible environmental conditions, sides of beef materialize out of nowhere, enough bugs exist to become an endless supply of protein bars, and, wait a minute, why do they even have to be on a train in the first place?

 

And yet, after buying all this through the whole movie, a good number of viewers are questioning whether the hopeful ending is actually bleak.  Sorry, but it is a hopeful ending, because Snowpiercer is a metaphorical film from top to bottom.  The focus is on what it represents, not how well it would hold up in reality.

 

As I noted before about The Dark Knight Rises, how well we accept a metaphorical story depends on how emotionally invested we are in the characters and storyline.  If we’re into it, we roll with plot and logic holes.  If we don’t care, they stick out like a sore thumb.  I cared about the people in Snowpiercer, so none of the questions I asked above matter.  It’s also why most people questioning the logic of the movie are only flummoxed by the end.  Things have concluded and for the first time, you’re not caught up in what’s going to happen next.  Your brain now has room to think, logically, through what you’re seeing.  I did it for a moment before catching myself.

 

So it doesn’t matter if the bear would just kill them, or if the bear shouldn’t even be there.  Curtis has rejected the false (yet convincing) choice Willford gave him.  He’s chosen humanity over the machine.  All that’s left are the next generation, freed from their parent’s mistakes, on a planet where life is returning.

Spider-man and the Curse of Adulthood

Every story has a beginning, middle, and end.  It’s an obvious statement to make, but it’s the bane of most creators working on popular characters today.  With exceptions like Harry Potter, most iconic characters in western culture, from Homer Simpson, to James Bond, and Superman, have stories that never end.  If they ended, really ended, that would mean the end of some very lucrative franchises.  As a result, those characters stay stuck on the part of their story Joseph Campbell referred to as the “Road of Trials,” where the hero faces a long series of confrontations from a variety of enemies.  When that gets old, they reboot and start over from the beginning.

This continuous publication has been particularly tough on Spider-man.  Marvel has been struggling for years to keep his story engaging, from magically erasing his marriage to having Dr. Octopus take over his body.  Movies and animated TV shows keep rebooting him to a teenager, but the comics’ story is part of the larger Marvel continuity.  You can’t take Peter Parker back to a kid without dragging the whole universe with him.

Every character goes through ruts, but Spider-man’s ruts outnumber his peaks by a large margin.  A truly great Spider-man story is rare.  Think about it: what is Spidey’s equivalent to The Dark Knight Returns or All Star Superman or even The Winter Soldier?  I’d argue the 616 Spider-man hasn’t had much in the way of truly great stories since maybe the Gerry Conway era.

Spider-man is, without a doubt, one of the great fictional characters of the last one-hundred years.  Some would argue he’s the greatest comic book character of all time.  So what is it that keeps him from knocking it out of the park?

The key to understanding any superhero is understanding what their story is about.  Superman’s story is about the ideals of Twentieth Century America.  Batman is about a man of privilege getting a cold dose of reality, and then using his privilege to help his city, no matter what the cost to himself.

Spider-man has a shorter shelf life because his story is about growing up.  In his teenage years, he gets a surprise dose of power (puberty), pays the price for wielding it recklessly (which of us didn’t hurt someone in our teen years?), and then tries to find a balance between being responsible and happy.  Once he becomes a successful adult, the story is over.  So, Spider-man’s problem isn’t that he’s stuck on the Road of Trials.  His story ended and the books just kept going.

So when does he become a successful adult?  When he gets the girl.  The girl in this case being Mary Jane Watson.  Yes, he’ll continue to have problems, because becoming an adult isn’t about not having problems.  It’s about finding a balance between what he must do and what he wants to do.  Mary Jane is an independently successful, smart, and assertive woman who will be his rock when he’s at his weakest.  It’s the ultimate happiness for Peter.  The end.

This puts the character’s writers in a pickle.  In order to keep the story going, it has to become about something else.  If it becomes about something else, it’s not the classic dynamic Spidey fans are looking for.  As a result, the stories tip too heavily towards soap-opera style plots, where superficial threats drive the action.  Only a handful (maybe Kraven’s Last Hunt or The Death of Jean DeWolff) have any emotional punch.

Yes, the McFarlane/Larsen era proved a sales boom, but that had more to do with the book’s visuals and EXTREME (!!!) villains.  Superior Spider-man was also popular, but that was Otto’s story, not Peter’s.  The most highly regarded book about Peter from the last twenty years seems to be Ultimate Spider-man, because it could set the clock back.

I’d even argue that Spider-man 3’s Achilles heel wasn’t too many villains or the part where he turned “evil,” but that Spider-man 2 brought the story to its natural conclusion.  There was nothing left to say.

So what is Marvel to do?  Sure, they can undo Peter and MJ’s marriage, but that’s a temporary, and gimmicky, Band-Aid.  In order to continue Peter’s story, you have to change the theme, and that means moving the character in a direction a lot of fans aren’t comfortable with.

J. Michael Straczynski came the closest to doing this.  He was broadening the scope of what it meant to be Spider-man and challenging the character’s assumptions.  I love when he tells the story of how he learned “With great power comes great responsibility,” the response he gets is, “And then what?”  I’m frustrated to this day that his run crashed and burned before reaching its potential.  It could’ve opened the character up to new worlds of possibility.

As it is, I feel sorry for any writer taking on the book now.  Spidey fans are still asking for Marvel to do something brand new with the character, as long as they don’t change anything.  That is a heavy cross for any creator to bear.

POST NOTE:  I have ideas if anyone from Marvel is interested.  Just saying.

FIXED IT: The Dark Knight Rises

Today, I’m putting out the first of what I hope to be a series of posts called FIXED IT.  I’ll be going through movies I think could’ve hit the mark, but didn’t quite get there.  These won’t be terrible movies, at least in their concept, but ones that somehow lost their way. 

 

When it comes to “fixing” movies, I tend to focus on blockbusters (or movies that wanted to be).  It’s more fun to tinker with something that came off an assembly line than with a smaller, more personal piece of work.  We’ll start with The Dark Knight Rises, directed by Christopher Nolan, with a screenplay by Christopher and Jonathan Nolan, from a story by Christopher Nolan and David S. Goyer.  It, of course, features Batman, created by Bob Kane and Bill Finger.

 

I should also mention this is meant for someone with good knowledge of the film.  This post is long enough without a recap.

 

The Diagnosis

There’s a lot of hate out there for this movie, but I enjoy it, warts and all.  It’s just those warts bother me a whole lot less than other people.  Also, I hear a lot of complaining about the movie’s plot holes, but I don’t so much care about them.  Why don’t I care?  Because of a rule I call BHFB or “Because He’s F***ing Batman.” 

 

How did Bruce Wayne get from the prison to Gotham with no resources at his disposal?  BHFB

How did he get into the city?  BHFB

How is he walking on ice other people fell through?  BHFB

How did he make a gasoline trail from said ice, up the bridge, and into some sort of pyrotechnic bat-symbol?  BHFB

 

Here’s the deal, though: BHFB only works when you’re emotionally invested in the story.  That’s the main difference between The Dark Knight Rises and The Dark Knight.  Some of the Joker’s plans make no logistical sense, but that doesn’t bug us so much because it’s a more enjoyable movie.

 

The problem isn’t the plot holes.  The problem is that the first hour or so is too dull, muddles the film’s themes, and takes us out of the story.  If you fix some fundamental problems with that section, the rest of the movie works much better.

 

So what are those problems?  Actually, there’s one really big one.  If they’d avoided that mistake they could’ve a) made things more entertaining and b) given the movie room to fine tune its other issues. 

 

Batman should NOT have quit.

 

Let’s go back to the end of The Dark Knight.  Harvey Dent has become Two Face and murdered several people.  Batman tells Gordon to say he did it, so Dent could remain a symbol of hope for the city.  Harvey was really an empty suit, who couldn’t handle the personal cost of saving Gotham.  Batman has lost the same thing Dent has, but will keep going and let himself be hated for the sake of the city. 

 

And then he goes home and gives up.

 

So we’ve started TDKR by mooting the finale of the last movie.  From there, we get to hang out with mopey Bruce as he putters around before getting back into the game.  Thank god for Catwoman livening things up, but she can only do so much.  The main character is disengaged from the movie and we disengage with him.  Plus, these scenes use valuable screen time that could’ve been used to shore up the movie’s themes.

 

Nolan’s films put a huge emphasis on world-building and theme, sometimes to the detriment of the movie itself (see Inception).  Batman Begins was about overcoming fear to do what’s right.  The Dark Knight was about finding the path between what’s right and what’s necessary, or how you fight something awful without becoming awful yourself, which resonated well in an America dealing with the War on Terror.  It’s also about, as stated before, the personal cost of doing what’s right.  The Dark Knight Rises is about not letting your responsibilities go.  Or is it about how awful Occupy Wall Street was?  Or is it about how our aristocrats need to watch their backs?

 

I’ve read a lot of interviews with Nolan and it seems what he was trying to say if you’re not taking care of the real needs of a society, it can fragment into a class struggle, which someone else can take advantage of to tear everything down.  The elites were awful, so the lower class of society was awful right back, and the result was almost the annihilation of them both.  A secondary theme is how you can’t save things based on lies.  That’s an awesome statement for a tent-pole superhero movie, but they botched the execution.

 

There are several brief references to the city not prospering as advertised, but we don’t actually see any of it, outside of the orphanage’s plight and Selina Kyle’s commentary (not exactly a trustworthy source).  We also see city officials and guys at the stock exchange acting like dicks, but that’s nothing compared to what Bane and “the people” do later on.  This is why TDKR is often interpreted as favorable toward the elite over the rabble. 

 

Also, there’s the whole fact that we want to see Batman in a Batman movie.  Batman Begins was an origin story, so it gets some latitude.  It’s fascinating to watch Bruce become Batman, but frustrating to watch him twiddle his thumbs after that’s happened. 

 

So, how would I fix all this?

 

The Fix

The movie’s first couple scenes unfold as is, because only an idiot would cut out Bane crashing the plane.    

 

We move from here to nighttime Gotham, where Batman is interceding in a crime, only to find it’s a police trap he has to fight his way out of.  As this scene ends, we go to a TV interview of Mike Engel (Anthony Michael Hall) who catches us up on what’s happened.  He’s become a full-on Batman supporter, though he’s treated as a conspiracy nut.  You see, he believes Harvey Dent killed the people Batman’s accused of taking out.  As the host drones on about Harvey being a hero and how turned around Gotham is, Engel corrects him that while organized crime is out of power, neighborhoods are suffering from neglect, schools are underfunded, and street-level crime is up.

 

We shift to the party at Wayne Manor, where Bruce is absent, not because he’s holed up like Howard Hughes, but because he’s out as Batman.  One thing that’s the same is that Bruce Wayne is being viewed as a recluse, but it’s because Batman has swallowed his life.    

 

In the interaction between Commissioner Gordon and officials, he complains about losing police and resources to budget cuts.  He’s blown off, much like he is in the existing movie.  The rest of this scene precedes as is.

 

Bruce comes home in rough shape to find Selina Kyle stealing the pearl necklace (and his fingerprints), and isn’t able to stop her escape.  She takes off with the Senator, just like in the real movie. 

 

We cut to John Blake leaving his apartment to start his day.  He leaves a small bag of groceries in front of one of the apartment doors.  After he’s passed, a woman holding a baby opens the door and picks it up.  We also see other signs of neglect in his building.  John is the movie’s guide to what’s happening to everyone else in Gotham. 

 

We follow him to his meeting with Gordon, with Blake expressing doubt over the Dent story.  Gordon lets slip his frustration that he finally has an uncorrupt force, but it’s being compromised by the city’s big wigs.

 

At the cave, Bruce is investigating Selina, looking far more buff than in the existing film.  The discussion in this version, though, is about Alfred’s concern that Bruce has lost himself in Batman, neglecting his personal life and the good he could be doing as Bruce Wayne. 

 

We keep the scene of Blake tracking the dead teenager back to the orphanage, where we find out that they’ve lost funding from both the city and the Wayne Foundation.  Through his conversation with the kid, we find out that to people on the street, Batman is still a hero. 

 

Selina’s showdown in the bar happens just like in the movie, except that Batman swoops in along with the police.  The police ignore everything else to go after Batman, allowing the bad guys to escape down the sewer.  Gordon follows them and the scene proceeds as is.

 

You know, I don’t know if I buy how John Blake figured out Batman’s identity, but I’m willing to roll with it.  It doesn’t hurt the movie and I like the “start paying attention to the details” line.

 

I think we can keep the next several scenes as is, though the hospital visit to Gordon would have to be about how Batman has to keep going, as opposed to how he must come back.

 

The ball scene stays the same, except now Selina’s threat has more bite.  I love that she steals his car.  Catwoman really gives this movie the dose of fun it needs.  So does Lucius Fox, so we can keep their scene pretty intact, without the mention of retiring.

 

Alfred and Bruce have their cave meeting, without the robo-brace thing.  Again, Alfred’s speech about how the city needs Bruce more than Batman should have more punch.  We’ve seen that the city is suffering from things Bruce Wayne can help with more than Batman, but then we have Bane.

 

The stock exchange sequence stays the same, with the exception of the cops not being amazed at Batman’s return.  It will be a more intense repeat of what we’ve seen earlier, though Batman is able to control the situation better than before.  The same goes for the rooftop battle and escape with Catwoman.

 

This leads to Alfred’s goodbye, which hinges on the lie about Rachel, so it can stay pretty much intact, with little dialogue tweaks. 

 

From this point forward, the movie stays the same, with a tweak here and there.  One of those would be some shots of regular Gothamites (including the mother and baby from Blake’s building) cowering as Bane’s army takes the streets.  This would make it clear that Gotham’s been taken over by scum and mercenaries, not “the people.”  The movie can’t make its case if we never see them.

 

As I said, this doesn’t clean up the little holes.  Hopefully, the changes I detailed would create an audience that would be more forgiving of them.  This version of the movie would convey its themes better, but also be more entertaining from start to finish. 

 

In Conclusion

TDK and TDKR are both movies that place theme and character over plot.  No matter how “realistic” Nolan tried to make them seem, they’re still superhero movies.  Superhero stories rise and fall on their theme, and how well all the other elements serve it.  When that happens, things like the police coming out from three months underground freshly shaved don’t bother viewers as much.   

 

I have to mention that I love the very end of the movie.  Even with the movie as it stands, Bruce Wayne’s last act before “dying” is to pass the last of his estate to the poorest of Gotham’s people and his Batman resources go to a regular cop.  It’s proof the movie’s heart isn’t with the aristocrats, despite what many people think.  Batman hasn’t just saved the city from Bane, he’s left its future in better hands.  That’s what he does, BHFB.

The Art and the Artist (or Roman Polanski: International Fugitive)

Many years ago, I went to one of my first comic book conventions and met a writer/artist who I’d practically worshipped since I started collecting in the mid-eighties.  It was my first time meeting someone I considered a legend.  It couldn’t have been more of a let-down.  The guy acted like I was wasting his time, shrugged off my compliments, and chided me for not bringing books from his latest series to sign.

I was nineteen and the experience was demoralizing.  How could this guy, who created stories I loved, turn out to be such a tool?  Today, getting very close to forty, I’m grateful for the experience.  It was my first, and best, lesson in separating the work from its creator. 

It’s an idea that makes sense on paper, but can be tough in real life.  If you read a novel that touches you deeply, how can you not want the author to be a great person?  After all, their art is a product of their self-expression.  How can they touch so many people with a book, movie, etc., if they’re shallow in the day-to-day?

Well, it happens.  It’s not unlike the psychologist who guides people to a better state of mind, all while their own life falls apart.  People often don’t make sense on paper, so I worked very hard at keeping my hopes in check going forward.

But does it hit a point where you can’t separate the two?  Take Roman Polanski.  He’s one of the all-time great directors and probably still has the talent to make great movies.  The problem is the whole “him raping a thirteen year-old and fleeing the country after the trial didn’t go his way” thing.  I know he has his defenders, but if some guy down the street did the same thing, no one would feel sorry for him.  I understand the guy was screwed up, but if he’d just done his time this whole thing wouldn’t be as big of a deal. 

There’s a part of me that says it’s still okay to see his movies.  They’re not about raping thirteen year-olds, after all.  Isn’t what goes on in his life a separate issue from the content of his films?  What about Orson Scott Card?  Or even Woody Allen?  Every time I read someone talking about boycotting their work, I see a reply about how their personal opinions or issues have nothing to do with the work itself.

But do certain creators take it to a point where it’s no longer about that separation, but instead about supporting a career of someone you don’t think deserves it? 

I think it does.  I don’t shell out any more money for Roman Polanski films.  I can separate the artist from the art once he’s either turned himself in or shuffled off his mortal coil.  I’ve also decided the same thing for Woody Allen, though that one hurts a lot more.  While his good-to-bad ratio has tilted more towards bad in recent years, he’s still important to me as a creator.  Twenty years ago, his movies opened my brain up about film making as a craft. 

Of course, he could also be innocent, but when the victim herself steps forward to say he did it, I’ll fall on the side of not giving him any more of my money.

It’s not a perfect stance to take.  I buy products all the time that are probably made in conditions I don’t agree with or the money goes to causes I don’t support.  There comes a point, though, where it’s thrown in your face and you can’t ignore it.  It may not be perfect, but you could go insane trying to be right all the time.  If you take a realistic look at life, you know you have to choose your battles.

So I’ve chosen to not support certain artists in the present.  I’ll make the effort to separate them from their work when they can no longer directly benefit from it.  I think that’s as good as I can do for now.

 

By the way, I (and some friends) had dinner with Bruce Campbell about a year after that comic con incident.  The guy was as cool as I’d hoped he’d be.  It was good to know sometimes it can work out that way.  

The Not-So Golden Age of Superhero Movies

There have been many times in my adult life where I’ve longed to go back in time, grab my twelve-year-old self, and bring him to the present day to blow his mind.  “What is it,” you may ask, “that would blow his mind?”  I’m sure he’d be impressed by things like streaming films on Netflix and modern video games but it’s superhero movies that would knock his socks off.

Superman: The Motion Picture came out when I was three years old and Superman II followed a short time later.  From there, it was a long wait until Batman in 1989 (June 23, 1989 to be exact).  Outside those three films, every other superhero movie from my childhood was garbage.  And let’s face it, out of the three I mentioned, I’d only consider the first Superman great.

I still read superhero comics on a weekly basis but it’s impossible to love them as much as when I was a kid.  What I wanted more than anything was to see live action versions of my heroes.  There was something about seeing them as flesh and blood people that was exciting beyond measure.  It’s why I, and many others, tortured myself time and time again with low budget direct to video and made for TV versions of my favorite characters featuring men in cheap spandex engaging in not-very-convincing battles with evil.

So on the week of The Avengers premiere,  a movie the twelve-year-old still inside me can’t believe is actually happening, I thought take a look back at what we had to settle for back in the day.  If, like me, you have a young child who shrugs at the sight of The Incredible Hulk swatting a space ship out of the air, take him through some of these movies and shows.  Maybe then he/she will understand why you’re so excited.

We’ll start with DC’s offerings:

LEGENDS OF THE SUPERHEROES
I missed these two one hour specials as a kid but had heard of them and daydreamed about how awesome they must’ve been.  They were produced by Hanna Barbera to capitalize on the popularity of the Superfriends cartoon series.  Starring almost every member of the Justice League, except Superman, these were shot mostly on one stage, on videotape, with a laugh track.  The first special was a straight (kind of) adventure story featuring a Legion of Doom-style super villain team.  The second was a “hilarious” roast of the heroes with special guests such as Hawkman’s mother and Ghetto Man.  Yes, I said Ghetto Man.

You can check out the intro here.

SHAZAM!
I saw this one on reruns when I was really young and later thought it had been a figment of my imagination.  I was an adult when I discovered that yes, it had been a real show but upon seeing it, I wish it had been a figment.  In the show, Billy Batson and his mentor, named Mentor, traveled around the country righting wrongs.  Unfortunately, these wrongs involved things like stopping a kid from stealing cars with hooligan friends.  Sounds like a pulse pounding adventure!

 
Now those were terrible but at least DC had the old Adam West Batman show, the Wonder Woman show, and the Superman films to hang their hat on.  Back in those days, the words “Marvel Superhero Movie” were synonymous with a steaming pile of horse manure.  It’s true.  I looked it up.

Now Marvel did have The Incredible Hulk to its credit.  The show hasn’t aged gracefully but it’s on par with other shows from its era.  Plus it’s still fun to watch Lou Ferrigno toss around 1970s criminals and hillbillies in slow motion.  The same thing can’t be said of these others:

THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN
From 1977-1979, CBS aired thirteen episodes and a feature-length pilot of a live action Spiderman show.  Now, even as a DC kid Spiderman was all kinds of awesome to me and I flipped my lid when I came across a rerun of this.  The show would float in and out of UHF schedules and I was always keeping my eye out for it.  I guess the idea of a “real” Spiderman was all it took to make me happy because this show is awful.  Spiderman doesn’t talk past the pilot, he shoots unconvincing nylon spider webs, and it’s all so damn boring.  If you ever feel bad about the hours you spent watching Spiderman 3, just watch this and you’ll feel better.

CAPTAIN AMERICA
While the Spiderman show was wrapping up, CBS produced two live action Captain America movies.  These movies are just….I’m not sure how to put it into words.  Making Cap’s costume look good in live action is a tall order but I know you don’t do it by replacing his mask with a bulbous motorcycle helmet.  He looks like a lollipop on a motorcycle.  And, oh, the action!  Thrill to the sight of Captain America fighting…..(wait for it)…..two dogs!

THOR
I mentioned The Incredible Hulk above.  As popular as the show was in its prime, it was cancelled before it could conclude its story.  To rectify this, the cast was reunited in the 80s for three made-for-TV movies.  That was exciting enough but to make it even better, the first two teamed him up with other Marvel superheroes.  The first one, The Incredible Hulk Returns, featured The Mighty Thor!  Well, he was Thor but not so mighty.  They played him as a unlikable jackass who looked more at home in a hair metal band than The Avengers.  Also, not to nit pick but would it have been too much to get him a decent hammer?  I have a hard time not laughing when he throws it at The Hulk.  There aren’t great clips of this out there but here’s one featuring the “showdown” between the two main characters.

DAREDEVIL
Now this is one I was really excited about.  Daredevil had become a favorite character by the time he showed up in the second Hulk movie, The Trial of the Incredible Hulk.  I think one of the biggest issues with this is the costume.  I guess he was supposed to look like a ninja but it looks more like a ninja Halloween costume purchased at Kmart.  Also, if he’s not dressed in a devil costume, why would they even call him Daredevil?  Clips are really hard to find but here’s a video someone made using clips from the movie and the feature film, which stunk in many of its own, unique ways.

CAPTAIN AMERICA (1990)
Most discussions about this movie center on the fact that Cap’s cowl has rubber ears.  Why this instead of just having holes in the side his ears would go through?  Figuring it out would take more brainpower than this awful train wreck deserves.  It was supposed to be released into theaters but the executives couldn’t bring themselves to do it.  What did they expect when they hired Albert Pyun?  The guy directed Cyborg starring Jean-Claude Van Damme.  I thought that movie was awful back when I thought Bloodsport kicked ass.  You can see the trailer here.  Don’t bother with the movie itself.  It’s not even “so bad it’s funny” bad.

FANTASTIC FOUR (1994)
I haven’t seen this movie, so I can’t tell you for sure it’s terrible.  That said, I’m pretty sure it’s awful.  How can I be sure?  Well, it was made for a super low budget by a production company who never intended to actually release it.  Their production rights on the film were set to lapse if they didn’t use them so they slapped this together at the last minute, lying to everyone involved about their intentions.  So, yeah, I’m confident putting it here.  Check out the trailer here.

That gives you an idea of what we had to deal with growing up in that era.  Superhero comics had never been more exciting and we would’ve given anything for the movies to be even half as good.

A Hiccup in the Force

Here’s a little something I wrote to amuse myself…

Jedi Master Danjo Troodoa walks down a tall hallway in the Jedi temple.  He arrives at a large door and before he can press the button next to it, it opens.  He steps in to find Yoda sitting on a round cushion chair, in deep concentration.

Danjo:  Master Yoda.
Yoda:  Master Troodoa.  Expecting you today, I was not.
Danjo:  I’m sorry for coming unannounced.  Do you have a moment?
Yoda:  Always. 

Danjo sits on a cushion across from him.

Yoda:  Troubling you, something is?
Danjo:  Yes.  Ever since the start of the Clone War, I’ve had some concerns.
Yoda:  Speak freely, you can.
Danjo:  Thank you.  Anyway, my concerns mostly revolve around the clone troops.
Yoda:  Performing well, they have been?
Danjo:  It’s not their performance that concerns me.  If I understand things correctly, they were ordered more than ten years ago, correct?
Yoda:  Correct.
Danjo:  And though the Kaminoans believed a Jedi commissioned their creation, it was actually a bounty hunter, right?
Yoda:  Also correct.
Danjo:  We then found out the bounty hunter worked for Count Dooku, who is now a Sith Lord leading the Separatist army.
Yoda:  Known to me, these facts are.
Danjo:  So we’ve placed the entire security of the galaxy into the hands of clone troops created by a Sith lord we’re now fighting.
Yoda:  Yes.
Danjo:  (pause) And you’re okay with this?
Yoda:  I am.
Danjo:  You said I could speak freely, right?
Yoda:  Always, Master Troodoa.
Danjo:  Are you out of your green f****ing head?
Yoda:  Not necessary, this language!
Danjo:  Well, sorry, but I can’t be the only one who sees how screwed up this is.
Yoda:  Making great gains against the Separatists, we are.
Danjo:  Yes, with the army created by their leader.  You haven’t, for one moment, considered the idea we’re being screwed with?
Yoda:  Sensed nothing amiss, have I.
Danjo:  Aren’t the clones created to follow orders without questions?
Yoda:  They are and have.
Danjo:  Then how do we know they haven’t been programmed with secret instructions to, I don’t know, wipe us out the moment their leader sees an opening?

A quiet moment passes.

Danjo:  That hadn’t occurred to you, had it?
Yoda:  Of course it had.
Danjo:  Because when I said it, you looked surprised.
Yoda:  Surprised, I was not.
Danjo:  Then what was that look?
Yoda:  Matter, it does not.
Danjo:  Whatever.  I’m just saying, don’t turn your back to them.
Yoda:  Under advisement, I’ll take this.
Danjo:  That’s all I’m asking.  Maybe by the time they make their move, it won’t be such a big deal anyway.
Yoda:  What is meant by this?
Danjo:  The first batch of clones were complete bad asses.  Have you seen Commander Cody in action?
Yoda:  I have.  Very impressive, he is.
Danjo:  Right but the new ones just arrived and aren’t looking so great.
Yoda:  How so?
Danjo:  To begin with, they can’t hit a target to save their lives.  I was doing a sweep on one of those Outer Rim planets and we ran into a handful of battle droids.  These bozos open fire and hit everything but the droids.  If I wasn’t there with Skywalker, they would’ve been hosed.
Yoda:  That bad, they are?
Danjo:  The only creatures that shoot worse are Tusken Raiders on Tatooine.  Compared to those things, even the troops are precise.  And have you noticed the new ones don’t have the same accent as the first ones?
Yoda:  I had not.
Danjo:  I’m starting to think they lost that bounty hunter’s DNA and used some janitor’s instead.

The door opens again and Mace Windu steps into the room.

Mace:  Am I missing something?
Yoda:  Just sharing some concerns, Master Troodoa was.
Mace:  Is he complaining about the clone army again?.  I told him to stop making this into an issue.
Danjo:  Why am I the only one who understands the problem?
Yoda:  Made your case, you have.  Follow Master Windu’s advice, you should.  One of the greatest Jedi ever, he is.
Mace:  I even have a purple lightsaber.
Danjo:  You know, I’ve always wondered about that.  Is it because you’re the most skilled warrior or an indicator of rank or what?
Mace:  (pause) I have a purple lightsaber.
Danjo:  Great.
Yoda:  Get going, you should.  Anakin Skywalker waits for you to join him on a sweep.
Danjo:  Skywalker again, huh?
Mace:  Is there an issue between you two?
Danjo:  Nothing major.  He just broods all the time and goes on and on about how much power he should have.  It’s irritating.
Mace:  You feel he has issues?
Danjo:  Duh!  The other day I asked him how things turned out with his mother situation and he blew a gasket.
Yoda:  Speak highly of him, Senator Amidala does.
Danjo:  No shock there.  You know how it is with girls like that.
Mace:  I don’t follow.
Danjo:  Oh, come on.  I know we don’t have lady friends but you guys can’t be that dense. 

They stare at him blankly.

 Danjo:  She’s a rich girl who grew up on the straight and narrow.  They’re suckers for bad boys.
Mace:  You think Skywalker is one of these bad boys?
Danjo:  Hell yes.  He’s always pissed off and breaking the rules.  He’s got that angry look except once in a while when he gives that devilish smirk.  A princess like Amidala sees him and thinks “he’s nothing like the guys my parents want me to date.”  A couple years later, everyone else is telling her he’s bad news and she’s all, “you just don’t understand him like I do.”  

They again stare at him blankly.

Danjo:  I know what I’m talking about.
Mace:  We’ve heard your concerns.  If we observe anything to back them up, you’ll be the first to know.
Danjo:  Alright.
Yoda:  Feel down, do not.  These are dark times but the light of a new day will follow.

Danjo rolls his eyes and leaves.

Mace:  He bothers me.
Yoda:  A point, do you think he has?
Mace:  Hey, we’re Jedi Masters.  If anything like that was going on, we would’ve sensed it.
Yoda:  Correct, you are.  Meeting with Palpatine, I am.
Mace:  You’re passing along our secret attack plans for the next campaign?
Yoda:  I am.
Mace:  Good.  This war is finally starting to go in our favor.

Danjo Troodoa was killed by clone troops after Palpatine issued Order 66.  His dying words were, “I frigging knew it.”