Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Hollywood Babble On & On #1179: Actors/Interns/Stars/Executives

British actor David Morrissey, best known to American fans as The Governor in The Walking Dead,  recently bemoaned what he calls "intern culture" in British acting, which is cutting off acting opportunities to actors who don't have backgrounds in elite schools and upper class parents able to support them.

Morrissey, like many other actors, fear that the acting profession in Britain is becoming a playground for the upper classes, hindering diversity (which is needed among actors), and denying talented people the opportunity to build a career.

I'll get back to why Morrissey called it "intern culture" in a moment, but first let's look at the causes for this acting crisis in the UK.

For more than a century British actors could get their start, and their work ethic, by doing what is called "Rep" theatre.

Repertory Theatre or "Rep" is where a company of actors perform in multiple plays during a season, doing everything from heavy drama, to light comedies, melodramas and musicals. For most of the twentieth century most British communities, even the smaller ones, could maintain a repertory company, and young actors could make a living, though a meagre one, learning their craft in rep theatre. 

Being "posh" or having degrees from elite universities didn't matter to the rep companies, all that mattered was how good you were on the stage. It was a wonderful meritocracy, and every British actor for the last 100 years, except for Oliver Reed, had done at least some work in repertory theatre.

Sadly, the classic British rep company has been in decline, being attacked by forces both natural and unnatural. Many smaller towns couldn't support the sort of rep companies they used to and they shut down. That's natural.

What's unnatural is what's happening in the bigger towns and major cities. Many of them are capable of supporting rep companies via ticket sales, but there are outside forces, that have nothing to do with the theatre or audiences that are driving them out of business. That outside force are the Russians.

What do the Russians have to do with rep theatres?

Well, every time Putin pisses off the rest of the world Russia's oligarchs start pulling their money out of Russia and putting it into British real estate. Every year for the last decade or more billions upon billions of Russian rubles get converted into British pounds, shillings, guineas, and pence, and that money is used to buy real estate. 

Now unlike most real estate developers who buy property to do something with it, the Russian oligarchs treat the land as if it was a bank account. They let it sit, many times leaving it empty, to keep prices artificially high, so that when they need the cash, they can make a big profit with little effort.

Remember, most live theatres are in prime downtown locations, the areas where prices are literally insane. That means that all but the biggest rep companies can't afford to own or rent theatre space, and young actors can't afford to live in easy access to the theatres on the salaries they're making as waitstaff or doing auditions or as a working rep theatre actor. It's getting so that unless you can start booking at least TV guest roles regularly, you're not going to get anywhere. To get those kinds of roles you need connections that you're not going to get building a resume treading the boards in Rep. Those connections can only be found in the elite schools, and still you need some shillings from Mater and Pater to keep you from being homeless before you make it.

That isn't right. It's limiting the talent pool, and will ultimately hurt the industry in the long run.

Trust me, I've seen it happen, because it's been going on in Hollywood since the 1980s, it's getting worse, and there seems to be no change coming, no matter how much damage it does.

You see, back in the Golden Age, the people who ran Hollywood, used to be constantly on the lookout for people with what used to be called "hustle." That's because studio management can't be taught in a classroom, no matter how much ivy grows on the outside walls. You had to learn on the job by doing, and you had to start that doing on the bottom, usually in the mailroom or as a minion running errands for those higher up in the food chain.

The last movie mogul who worked his way up the ladder like that was Universal's Lew Wasserman. He was spotted as a bright kid with hustle while he was in high school, which led to a job with MCA, who then took over Universal, and he worked his way up to running the whole shebang.

That will never happen again.

Nowadays, to get into the movie business you need to start as an unpaid intern. So instead of the meagre salary of working in the mailroom, you get no salary at all. Also, to get into an internship you need two things: A degree from an elite Ivy League university like Harvard, and some sort of pre-existing connection to the entertainment business.

Hustle doesn't matter: Connections and background do.

It's already showing. Box office is in free fall, and the job market in entertainment, which weathered the Great Depression better, is down 19%.

Instead of Lew Wasserman, you get Jeff Zucker. Zucker got into NBC because of his Harvard credentials, and his family's connection of a bigwig with NBC's parent company. This got him a token run as an assistant to Bob Costas, and from that producer of the Today Show, and President of the network, and CEO of the combined NBC/Universal always managing to finagle a promotion before the effects of his reign of error fully kicked in. Even when his incompetence finally caught up with him, and he was drummed out of NBC-Universal, he still got a job running CNN, and it's coming out almost exactly how you'd expect.

Do we really want that spreading like a virus into other aspects of entertainment?

No.

And let me tell you, getting the government involved to subsidize film and theatre doesn't work. I've seen it first hand, it sounds great at first, but it very quickly becomes even more elitist and clique-centric than even Hollywood at its worst.

Which means we must find some new way to solve these problems, because they're sucking the life out of the entertainment we love.

Friday, 12 September 2014

Hollywood Babble On & On #1178: Orion's Comeback!

MGM has quietly let slip that they're reviving Orion Pictures with the sequel/remake to The Town That Dreaded Sundown, a 1976 film that was loosely based on the Texarkana Moonlight Murders of 1946.

Now Orion's been moribund for quite some time, so you might need a history lesson, now pay attention, because it gets a little complicated.

It all began with United Artists and American International Pictures.

In the 1970s United Artists had become such a major player in Hollywood it was bought by the financial giant TransAmerica Corporation. UA had even taken over the distribution duties for the majorly downsized MGM Pictures.

UA had become so successful, that the people who owned it, financial giant TransAmerica, felt they didn't need the people who were so successful running it anymore, and that they could get cheaper, more corporate compliant, replacements.


Meanwhile, down the street, the last founder of American International Pictures, Samuel Z. Arkoff was looking to retire. So he sold his company AIP to…


...Filmways, a media company that enjoyed a lot of success making television.


By the late 1970s TransAmerica had successfully nudged out the top people at UA. Not content to sit on their laurels they started the first iteration of Orion Pictures Company, but didn't have distribution, so they inked a distribution deal with Warner Brothers.


By the 1980s the situation had changed.


UA was sinking fast thanks to an overpriced Western called Heaven's Gate, and it was taken over by distribution client MGM to form MGM/UA.


Also in trouble was Filmways. A string of comparatively pricey flops, and failed investments by its parent company had hurt them badly. The guys at Orion Pictures sold the films they made with Warner Brothers to Warner Brothers, got some investors together, bought Filmways and it was reborn as…

Orion Pictures Releasing

Now Orion didn't have the immense success the founders had known at United Artists. Where UA had many home runs Orion would score singles and doubles at best, strike out at worst.

It was a rough time to be the plucky little guy of the movie business who made edgy, daring small scale films like the ones that were hits in the 1970s. The major studios were having a renaissance thanks to the rise of the big budget blockbuster franchise, and the edgy, daring, smaller films that dominated the box office of the 1970s had fallen mostly out of fashion with audiences.
Orion's founders either retired, or moved on to other jobs at other companies, and the company changed hands being purchased by TV and radio station owner Metromedia.

Orion's fortunes floundered into the 1990s, despite the success of some films like The Silence Of The Lambs. Eventually Orion declared bankruptcy, and Metromedia then sold it to…

MGM

Yep, the company whose financial problems had caused it to sign a distribution deal with UA, which convinced TransAmerica that they didn't need UA's managers and sparked their ouster and the creation of Orion Pictures now owned Orion Pictures and its film library, which also includes the AIP/Filmways library.

But the saga hasn't ended yet.

MGM had money trouble, lots of money troubles, which led to Sony/Columbia becoming its biggest shareholder, and then its distributor.

So, MGM, which is now in the position Orion was when it started, it restarting Orion.

Which I actually think is a good idea.

MGM is a brand that's really good at selling old movies, but it doesn't own it's "Golden Age" classics anymore, they belong to Warner Brothers, and the brand struggles to sell new movies outside of the James Bond franchise. Meanwhile Orion is a brand that doesn't have that sort of baggage.

Even at its peak in the 1980s, only hard-core movie buffs really paid attention to it. New moviegoers, like Millennials probably have no idea what it is, or where it came from, and it has the ring of a completely new company without the sort of inane focus group/market research concocted name like the super-lame Fox Atomic.

I wish the new Orion good luck. I missed it when it went belly up, and hope that they can find a successful niche in the fractured media landscape we see today.

Thursday, 11 September 2014

WTF Happened To PG-13

The guy behind Good Bad Flicks put together this video, which is a must see for anyone baffled by the growing dysfunction in the ratings system.

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Hollywood Babble On & On #1177: The Wages of Sin & the Sins of Wages

Do you remember what I like to call the "Self-Fulfilling Idiocy?"




It's when someone in a position of authority thinks they have a problem, one that doesn't really exist, and they think that they have a solution, but this "solution" isn't really a solution and can only create new and real problems that are worse than the imaginary one that got the ball rolling.

In Hollywood these self-fulfilling idiocies tend to gravitate towards money. The studios and networks have always hated the fact that in order to function, and profit, they need to pay people to create the material they need to put on screens. They see it as a problem.

But wages for work are not a problem.

The market has ways to control salaries. A business that pays more than what the market can bear, tends to go bankrupt, and a business that pays less than what the market calls for tends to lose skilled and experienced workers to competitors, quality suffers, they lose customers to their better paying competitors, and eventually go out of business.

Now there are ways to get around the organic ways of the market, and that's through something called COLLUSION.

Collusion is when people who are supposed to be competitors meet and decide to not compete, but instead conspire to find ways that they think will boost their profits. However collusion may sound great in theory, but in practice is often more trouble than it's worth, but I'll get back to that in a minute.

For now I'm going to talk about the most obvious ways companies collude, and that's in the suppression of wages. Right now the WGA is investigating accusations that studios and networks are artificially keeping writer's wages down by forcing writers into bogus writing 'teams.' Meanwhile, the three biggest animation studios in Hollywood, Disney, Dreamworks and Sony have been targeted by a class action lawsuit claiming that the three companies secretly agreed to not use higher wages to lure away their rival's animators.

Now the executives and moguls who came up with those ideas are probably lightly bruised from patting themselves on the back, but they don't see the problems they're creating. They don't see the Self-Fulfilling Idiocy.

You see the problem with artificially manipulating wages down is that while it might boost your bottom line in the short term, it attracts problems in the long term.

First come UNIONS.

You can only push around workers, who you might consider the poor and the desperate, for so long before they start to push back. They form unions, they have strikes, and they get contracts signed and enforced regardless of the market forces.

If that doesn't work, and you game the system past its breaking point, then you get:

POLITICIANS.

Politicians love to present themselves as friends of the working man and woman. But what they really want is to do things that make themselves look electable, and get money to pay for their next campaign.

So if you're a company engaged in collusion that means you have politicians at your door with their hand out twenty-four/seven. If you fail to keep the politicians happy, or Xenu forbid, a party you didn't support gets into power, then you're dealing with…

LEGISLATION.

Legislation is a contract that's imposed upon you by the government that is enforced by a SWAT team arriving at your office and you being perp-walked to the nearest jail.

The problem with legislation is that it's often written by lobbyists, politicians, and lawyers. They don't write business regulations for the benefit of employers or employees, or even with much knowledge of the business they're regulating.  They write legislation for the benefit of themselves. That means if you're an employer in a newly state regulated industry, you have to regularly shell out to lobbyists, politicians, and lawyers to keep those regulations from ruining your business, and putting you in jail.

And that's not counting what happens when you collude to suppress the wages of creative people: THEY DON'T BRING YOU THEIR 'A GAME.'

That means the quality of the material your studio is producing drops. With that so goes viewership. And they wonder why network television is dying, and movie attendance is hitting record lows.

So what's better?

How about letting things like wages for writers and animators be set by the market. That means that, like water, they will find their own level. One that makes the workers happy, the employers happy, and hopefully the audience happy too.

But that requires intelligence and effort, which is seriously lacking in Hollywood.

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Strictly Business: The Slavery & Capitalism Question.

So here's the gist of the story.

A guy writes a book about the history of slavery in North America that looked like this:

The magazine The Economist published a review that looked like this:
The review says the book is one sided presenting the slaves as victims and their enslavers as villains, and both the reviewer and the book's author claimed that slavery played an important contribution to the development of American capitalism. The review sparks much controversy and mockery all over the web, was seen as a defence of slavery, and was promptly pulled.

Now I'm not here to discuss the rights and wrongs of slavery, since it's a big fat wrong, or who is the victims or victimizers, since the answers to those questions are pretty damn obvious to anyone with a minimum of brain power. What I am here to discuss is the misconception that slavery was a positive participant in the development of western capitalism.

That's something you see in everything from academic textbooks to movies and TV shows. So many so-called experts talk about how "American capitalism was built upon the backs of African slaves."

Well, not really.

For the full story, let's look at the Southern USA during the "slave era" that lasted from the first colonies until the end of the US Civil War.

During that time the Southern USA was stagnant in the fields of economic growth, technological innovation, and even population when compared to the "Northern" or "Free" states. There was wealth, and there was lots of it, but it was held almost entirely by a tiny minority of politically connected slave-owning landowners who made up about little more than 1.4% of the population at their biggest. The economy of the region was dedicated almost entirely to serving that tiny minority. Industry, innovation, and immigration avoided the slave states both for the same reason: Slavery.

Industrialists seek a playing field where the odds are not stacked against them by a landed class that requires their back passage be smooched for permission to fart, and it's believed that they can easily undercut your efforts with their so-called "free labour." 

Also, that "free labour" from slaves is limited in its ability based on the ancient maxim: "You get what you pay for." For an industry to grow it needs a workforce that is skilled, understands the technical aspects of its work, conscientious of the quality of their work, and able to see and act on potential for improvement. To get that kind of workforce you need to promise them something and that something is the improvement of quality of life. That improvement may not be in the first or even second generation, but its potential has to be there, and it must come in the form of being paid for work, and the possibility of advancement. 

Slave labour is, for the most part, unskilled. It's really only fit for large scale plantation-economies where everything is built around a single cash crop, and the workforce needs only a few rudimentary skills. 

Why?

Because the slave has no pay and no hope.

The slave will not improve their life by working hard. The best the slave can hope for is to eat and not be beaten. So slaves tend to do the bare minimum it takes to get food and avoid abuse, and that's that.

Innovation also stagnates in slave economies. A classic fable about the issue was Hero of Alexandria. In the first century A.D. he developed the world's first steam engine prototype. According to legend he went to his king and said: "With some more work and research we could probably figure out how to use this principle to power great machines, and that would enable us to to lots of amazing things."

The king looked at the machine and said: "Then what will we do with all our slaves?" All further work was shelved. The King unknowingly understood that getting rid of a reason for slaves, meant that he might have to get rid of slavery, and such a drastic social change threatened his grip on power.

Failure to innovate starts at labour saving devices, because why bother saving on labour when the labour is technically already paid for when you bought the people from the slave dealer. It then spreads throughout the slave owning society until it finds a way out.

In Europe that way out was caused by plague, famine, and outmigration to the New World by many skilled tradespeople. Serfdom had been broken, and a new dynamic had to be found to replace the old one of Lord and Serf. That new dynamic was Employer and Employee, and that simple change revolutionized the world. Suddenly people had income that wasn't dependent on the whims of someone with a crown on their head. A middle class grew out of what used to be just peasants with trades, prosperity grew, and with it came first invention, because you could profit from your ideas, and then came industrialization.

It wasn't a perfect transition. Feudal tendencies are hard to break, many persist to this day and regularly threaten to make a comeback under a host of names and political causes.

Slavery was one of those feudal institutions that needed to be eliminated.

Immigration also stagnated in the slave states, because of the main reason people emigrate in the first place: Life sucks in the homeland.

So imagine that you're an immigrant. You've scrounged together enough for passage to America, you just have to decide which disease addled vessel will take you. There's The Potato Muncher, it's heading for the slums of the northern free states, and your other choice is The Southern Dandy heading for the fertile fields of the American slave-holding South.

Which ship do you take?


Well, the bulk of immigrants would choose to take the Potato Muncher. Sure, it'll dump them into crowded, rat infested slums, but those slums come with the promise that beyond those narrow streets there's a chance at owning your own land, and being your own boss at some time, if not for you, at least for children or grandchildren. 

The Southern Dandy will dump you in a land where all the good property is taken, and no one is interested in letting anyone else having a piece of their own, because they need it to grow the local cash crop that's the only thing going economically, be it cotton, tobacco, or sugar. Got skills, got really good ideas? Sorry, they're not interested, the powers that be in the region have to keep things exactly the way they are or they might have to get off their seersuckered backsides and work at something that might justify their existence.

What did create American capitalism then if not slavery?

To answer that question you must ask yourself: 

What does capitalism want?

Where did it get what it wanted?

The answer to the first question is: To grow. Like a living thing it seeks growth. Growth comes in the form of prosperity, not just for an elite few, but for everyone, because the more that prosper, the bigger and stronger the growth.

Where did it find this growth? In the Northern States. Now they weren't alway "free" but slavery didn't have the stranglehold on the economy that it held in the south. Land ownership was too widespread, and agriculture wasn't based around a narrow field of cash crops picked by unskilled labour. Agriculture in the north was all about food and growing food requires a smaller, but highly skilled workforce.

The key to the North's economy was commerce in a diverse and expanding array of goods and services, and the new fields of mass manufacturing. Both fields required skilled workers who were being paid competitive salaries, because if they weren't being paid they wouldn't be buying the goods they were manufacturing.

As commerce/industry grew in the north, slavery declined, and immigration poured in. The rise of the merchant, the skilled tradesmen and the industrial worker was accompanied by the rise of anti-slavery or abolitionist sentiment, first in the churches, then in the voting booth. Since so much of the wealthy of the North emerged from the tradesmen/industrial working class to become mercantile/industrial owner class, they not only didn't suppress abolitionism, they embraced it.

That's because a true capitalist society, one that is scraping the scales of feudalist attitudes from its eyes, cannot abide slavery. Even if you discount the fact that slavery is an absolute moral wrong, and go by purely icily logical economic factors, it cannot be accepted as a part of doing business.

First, it narrows prosperity in the hands of a politically connected elite who have no interest in growth, innovation, or anything that might involve change that could weaken their grip on political power. It also removed a big chunk of the population from taking part in the economy in three ways:
1. Partially as producers of wealth. As I explained earlier the fact is that slaves will only work as hard as it takes to be fed and avoid abuse, because they have no hope to enjoy the fruits of their labour, and improve their own lives. 
2. Almost entirely as creators of new products and services. If you were a slave with a brilliant idea, would you give it to the guy who would most likely just take it,  have you flogged for making him look bad, and then most likely do nothing with it? No, you wouldn't. Ideas thrive where the creators of their ideas have a chance of profiting from the expression of their ideas.
3. Almost entirely as consumers of goods and services. How much does the average slave shop? Definitely a lot less than a paid skilled worker with even a smidgen of disposable income.
Slavery, even in the cold eyes of the free market, was a vestigial remnant, that had to be eliminated in order for capitalism to grow and evolve.

In conclusion, did slavery create American capitalism?

No, it didn't. 

Despite the fact that some people who could be described as "capitalists" participated in it, the "peculiar institution" of slavery seemed to do everything it could to suppress real capitalism to maintain a comparatively primitive feudal order. A big chunk of American history can be described as a war between the growing forces of capitalism, and the feudal order of slavery.

Can we please let the myth that slavery invented capitalism die now.

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Hollywood Babble On & On #1176: Killing Wolverine Killing Comics

Wolverine, Marvel Comics most popular character is going to die.


They even have a picture showing Wolverine being carted off by the Grim Reaper in the manner of Michelangelo's Pieta:
They dug up their old art-history textbook, so you know they must be serious.

Now here's what I think:

(To be sung to the tune of "MacArthur Park.")

I CALL BULLSHIT

I CALL BULLSHIT

I CALL STACKS AND STACKS OF BULLSHIT

(And scene)

Wolverine's death in the comics is meaningless. It will have zero effect on the movies, and that's what matters these days, and we all know that Marvel has no intention of letting their biggest earner moulder in an inky grave.

As soon as the publicity dies down, and the folks at Marvel realize that it won't make Fox relinquish the rights to the X-Men, they'll make a big announcement that Wolverine will be brought back to life.

Hell, DC couldn't even keep the unpopular character of Jason Todd (aka Robin 2/The Red Hood 2) dead, even though readers voted overwhelmingly to kill him off in a phone-in poll.

Do you really think Marvel is going to let Wolverine stay dead? Because if you do, I have a bridge in Brooklyn I can sell you for a song.

And the people in the industry wonder why it's so hard to get people into superhero comics while superhero movies and TV shows sell like hotcakes.

Well, let's recap some of the reasons:

1. HARD TO GET: When I was a kid we had to walk a little under half a mile to get to the convenience store that carried all kinds of comics, ranging from the Marvel/DC superheroes at 45¢ an issue, to bags of five to seven Gold Key reprints each for $1 a pop.

Today, I have to go about fifty miles to the nearest specialty retailer. I could order things online, but then you lose a lot of the ability to discover new titles and characters you get by browsing an old fashioned spinner rack.

But that's not all...

2. HARD TO GET INTO: Even if you do manage to get comics, if you are not intimately familiar with 75-80 years of continuity, including multiple retcons, you are NOT going to know what the hell is going on. Even DC's mega-retcon "The New 52" like its last mega-retcon "Crisis On Infinite Earths" isn't completely retconning everything since the artists and writers won't give up their favourite bits, and the companies don't want to lose any potential merchandising and movie money from making people wait a little while for a character to develop naturally over time instead of just dumping them fully formed in the middle of everything.

3. SEXY SELLS SKANKY DOESN'T: Hardly a month goes by without someone making a valid complaint against the often anatomically inaccurate and usually ridiculous hyper-sexualization of female characters. The most recent being putting Spider-Woman in an impossible position and changing her costume into a thin coat of paint. 

Comics need kids to read comics to keep the audience alive and growing. However, both kids and parents are repelled by comic art that is just a few millimetres of spandex from looking like full-on pornography, and story lines dwelling on the sex-lives of superheroes often add nothing new to the characters except get in the way of what is their purpose, to give people near-mythological stories of demigods and monsters battling over issues good and evil.

4. CONSTANT SHELL GAMING: Publishers love the publicity they can get by pulling of stunts like killing a major character, or switching their race or gender. They claim that these changes will be permanent, but you know they will never permanently change the mainstream continuity they have decades of stories and dedicated fandom invested in. The whole thing is to just get some attention in the mainstream press, get a 1-week uptick in sales from the curious, who will take a look inside, not understand a damn thing going on, and never buy another comic again.

It's starting to drive people, even comics fans, nuts. Which is why they're not buying comics, but instead go to the superhero movies, who, for the most part, stick with their job of telling fantastical stories of heroism & don't rely on killing off major characters for promotion.

The comics industry needs a major overhaul, not only in what it's selling, but in how the industry is run, and it should be done while there's still an industry to reform.

Monday, 1 September 2014

Hollywood Babble On & On #1175: Naked Photos of Jennifer Lawrence.

Okay, how many of you clicked on this blog because the title promised naked photos of actress Jennifer Lawrence?

Come on, you know who you are.

Raise your free hand.

Well, here's what you wanted nude selfies of Jennifer Lawrence:
The cat's name is Jennifer Lawrence.

Disappointed?

Good.

Why am I scolding you for wanting to see them?

Well, I'm not a prude, I like the female form as much as the next heterosexual male, and I'm quite happy to ogle, and occasionally leer at female beauty, and Jennifer Lawrence is a very beautiful woman.

However, I do believe that there's a lot of wrong going on with the pictures.

Not on the part of Jennifer Lawrence for doing the photos.

That's her business. She can photograph whatever she wants, she's a consenting adult.

What's wrong is for some hacker to just help himself to her most private property and cast it out for all the world to see.

You, not only was it Miss Lawrence's right to take the photos, it's also her right to decide what to do with them, because the photos are her property.

There are those who are saying that there are things that Jennifer Lawrence should have done, or shouldn't have done, but they are all missing the point.

The hacker committed a crime to steal those photos in order to make them public. The hacker who stole the photos and hundreds more like them is the person who did something wrong and should be the object of scorn and derision.

Thus endeth my lecture.

Friday, 29 August 2014

Hollywood Babble On & On #1174: Original Origins


Hollywood loves superhero movies, they make a lot of money.


Hollywood loves reboots, rehashes, and remakes, because they make executives feel safe.

Combine the two, and the Hollywood studios think that they've got a license to print money.

One problem, it's driving fans nuts, because not only are we seeing origin stories, we're seeing the same origin stories over and over again.

Here's a good example...


When Sam Raimi's Spider-Man franchise sputtered out in the overwrought and overcrowded Spider-Man 3, Sony, desperate to keep the franchise in the hands and not back with Marvel/Disney had two options. They could have "James Bonded" it, and just changed the actors and filmmakers and had Spider-Man go off on a new more or less stand-alone adventure, or they could reboot it, with a retelling of the origin story.



They decided to go for the reboot.


Why?

The real reason is that the people running the studio think that simply continuing a successful franchise isn't enough, you have to go and redo a specific story that they know for a fact has succeeded in the past.

However, that's not what they told the public and the filmmakers.

Those people were told that the reboot was necessary to bring about a new creative vision that will take the characters and the franchise in new directions.

But did it?

In the retelling they just seemed to take the elements from the first Sam Raimi film and just shuffled them around like a deck of cards with a few tweaks to create the illusion of depth. They added a storyline about a conspiracy about Peter Parker's dead parents, had Norman and Harry Osborne switch places in the whole Green Goblin storyline, and piled money on the whole thing with two hands.

It seemed to work. The two Amazing Spider-Man films made a lot of money at the global box-office. But there's a catch.

So much was spent on those movies that Sony's margins on them were either paper-thin, or nonexistent. This means they've delayed the third film, and are, no doubt, thinking about rebooting the whole damn origin story all over again.

There's also reports that Fox's reboot of The Fantastic 4 will feature a retelling of their origin story, which was done in the first Fantastic 4 movie.

Oy.

So let's take a moment to consider when and why you should tell a superhero's origin story.

1. IF THE AUDIENCE DOESN'T KNOW IT ALREADY.

Iron Man needed to have his origin story told, because the general audience really didn't know where he came from and why he does what he does. Simple.

However, if his story was fully part of modern folklore and can be recited by a child in a country that doesn't even have comics, then you probably don't need to do it.

But what about Batman Begins?

Batman Begins was technically a reboot of Batman's… beginnings, but unlike Amazing Spider-Man it actually served two purposes.

First, it corrected the error of Tim Burton's Batman that made a pre-Joker Joker the killer of the elder Waynes instead of common street punk Joe Chill. By denying Bruce Wayne vengeance against the person directly responsible for the deaths of his parents, it forces him to act out against crime in general.

Second, it filled in the mechanics of how a young boy survived a terrible trauma to become the ruthless butt-kicking cape-wearing maniac we all know and love today.

2. IF THE ORIGIN CAN'T BE TOLD IN A TWEET.

Let's face it, you can sum up the origins of a lot of superheroes fairly quickly. Superman: Alien gets powers from our sun, Spider-Man: Gets bit by a radioactive spider, loses his beloved uncle. Etc…

So if you can get away with just saying "This happened and that's why they're like this" and just get going with the adventuring. 

3. IF IT HAS SPECIFIC RELATIONSHIP TO THE CHARACTER BEYOND JUST GIVING THEM POWERS.

Right now Marvel is casting their Doctor Strange, and it would probably be a good idea to include his origin story in the film. He's not that well known, and his becoming the Sorcerer Supreme plays a major role in his character's story arc. He starts off as an arrogant neurosurgeon, confident he has mastery over life and death, has an accident, can't do surgery anymore, and his desperate search for a cure leads him into a hidden world of mystery and magic.

That's a pretty involved story, and pretty important to the character. So it can be forgiven for telling his origin story, as long as they only do it ONCE.

Anyway, that's what I think, let me know what you think in the comments.

Monday, 25 August 2014

Hollywood Babble On & On #1173: Palpating Palpatine & Missing Mythbusters...

PALPATING PALPATINE


Since Star Wars 7 is a JJ Abrams production there's naturally lots of rumours spewing all over the internet. The latest is that the Emperor Palpatine, chronologically last seen being tossed to his alleged doom down a shaft in the Death Star by Darth Vader, will be making a comeback as the main villain.


If you remember JJ Abrams' modus operandi he loves to leak rumours about what he's working on, strongly and vehemently deny that those rumours are true, and then, when the picture's released, reveal that the rumours were true all along. (e.g. Star Trek Into Darkness.)

Now while all signs are saying that the rumours are true, I'm hoping it's not true for these reasons.

1. FAN SERVICE OVER STORY: The only reason to bring Palpatine back is because when Abrams takes over a franchise he feels he has to go all in for what he thinks the fans want, most famously with casting fan-favourite actor Benedict Cumberbatch, inappropriately as fan favourite villain Khan.

But here's a question: How many people, fans included, were actually satisfied by the story in Star Trek Into Darkness

Then answer is: Not many.

Fan service characters and casting infects the story, and becomes an excuse to avoid the hard work of creating something new that the audience would find interesting.

2. RENDERS VADER MEANINGLESS: Star Wars and Empire Strikes Back tricked the audience into thinking that it was the story of Luke Skywalker, the revelation that Vader was Luke's father in Empire,  his redemption by tossing Palpatine down the shaft in Return of the Jedi and the story of his fall in the prequel trilogy showed that the saga was really all about Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader.

Bring Palpatine back and Anakin/Darth is no longer the fallen soul being redeemed through suffering and sacrifice, he's just a bump on Palpatine's road of mischief making.

And that's another thing…

3. IT CHEAPENS PALPATINE: Here's JJ Abrams' sales pitch: "We'll bring back Palpatine, he'll be played by another actor, so he'll look different, sound different, and he won't be ruling the Galaxy anymore, but he'll still be bad-ass because the actor will be a lot younger, and we'll use truckloads of CGI."

Anyway, I'd have preferred they create a new threat born from the chaos of a post-Palpatine galaxy, but Hollywood can't resisting rehashing stuff because they know you fans will lap it up like the salivating dogs that you are.

MISSING MYTHBUSTERS

For some reason this is the only pic I could find
The long running blow-shit-up-in-the-name-of-science show Mythbusters is trimming 3/5s of its cast for the next season. They're dropping long running build team Kari Byron, Tory Belleci and Grant Imahara.

The producers and the Discovery Channel say it's to bring the show back to its roots of just having original hosts Jamie Hyneman and Adam Savage, but I don't really buy that.

I suspect they're trying to trim costs, but are doing so at the risk of alienating some of the show's long running fans who literally came of age in the long time those three were on the show.

Crying shame.