Tuesday, March 29, 2016

This Movie is Rated F For Fun

So I had a discussion regarding superhero movies in the wake of a certain superhero movie, and the subject of fun came into my head. A lot, and I mean, A LOT of the criticisms (mostly by moviegoers) leveled against that certain superhero movie claim that one of the reason it failed was that it wasn't fun.

I was about to claim the same thing, but thought about this wonderful article. To be sure, it was a thought-provoking piece. Should superhero movies be fun to watch? Certainly fun would be inherent in the genre, isn't it? 

None of these comics were "fun" in the normal sense: Watchman, The Killing Joke, Supergod, The Walking Dead, the later Daredevil runs...I could go on. And yet all of these are good ideas for movies and TV shows (and some are there already).

Fun should not be the only metric for a superhero movie (or indeed, any movie). Granted, a big reason for going to the movies is escapism (because real life is boring AND it sucks).  Superhero movies have escapism built into it's DNA almost by default. But that doesn't mean these movies also can't be dramatic (The Dark Knight), thought-provoking (Winter Soldier) or emotional (parts of Batman v Superman).

A better metric is whether the movie was either an enjoyable experience or a boring slog? Because if there's one sin a movie (or any media) should not commit, it's that it should not be boring. 

And in my opinion, that the only metric that counts. 

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Best Comment Ever This Week (March 27, 2016)

This comment was made by Eight-Bit Hero, concerning the beginning of the Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice movie:

Dear Literally Anyone Who Ever Makes A Batman Film In The Future,

We DO NOT need you to re-tell Batman's "origin story" ever again. Seriously, even if, somehow, somebody is seeing your film without ever having heard of Batman before (right?), you do not need to show us Bruce's parents getting murdered in the street for a fourth (fifth? sixth? I lost count) time. Let them look it up. Convey Bruce's motivations in some other more meaningful way. 



(all bold text is the author's emphasis, not mine.)

Marvel once again proves why they are better than Warner Bros. at this whole storytelling thing, by announcing last year that Spider-Man will NOT get an origin story in his next reboot. 

How refreshing.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Turn ON Your Brain

The embargoes have been lifted and the early reviews for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice are in the wild. But I will not comment on those. What I will talk about is a comment said about one particular review. This was said by ReburnsABurningReturns:

I feel like people are watching these movies for all the wrong reasons. Like, turn off your fucking brain and enjoy the superhuman slugfest for what it is, and then turn your brain back on afterwards. 

Or don't. (Cruising) through your day off in brain free (mode) is far more relaxing than worrying about being "cultured" or having complex social interactions with the most horrifically overrated thing on the planet, other people. 

( ) = edited by me for clarity

This reminded me of an article posted by Matt Singer called Stop Telling Me To Turn My Brain Off During Movies. For me, the most relevant portion of the article is this:

"Turn off your brain" is less of a defense of a movie than admission of incredibly low standards for entertainment. Why ask so little from something you paid to watch? It's odd that in an age where people complain so ferociously that movies are so much worse now than they used to be, that some of those same people would turn around and defend those same inferior products with the excuse "Eh, it's fine as long as you don't think for even a moment about anything passing in front of your eyes." When that's all you require from Hollywood, why is it shocking when they churn out nothing but garbage?

THIS is why Hollywood turns out crap movies. If the movie audience "turns off their brains" while watching a poorly-made movie and say they like it, then that's all Hollywood will continue to make. 

How can people like ReburnsABurningReturns fail to understand this simple concept?

Now to be fair, there probably is a percentage of people who will accept and enjoy any piece of bad media that is shown to them. And if they enjoy that media, then more power to them. I wish them well. 

But if they turn around and say to me that I should turn off my brain while watching that piece of bad media, then I have the right to call them out on that clearly wrong statement. Because my life is far too short to waste it on bad movies, books, TV shows, etc. And I will never "turn off my brain" to enjoy them. I will keep my brain on for good media, though. 

So keep your brain on, fellow nerds!

Monday, March 14, 2016

Shaka, When The Walls Fell (DC Comics)

DC Comics will print comics based on Hanna Barbera properties. To be fair, I actually like parts of this idea. To see some of my favorites (Space Ghost, Birdman, Galaxy Trio, The Impossibles) get the comic book treatment is a good thing. Some of these properties are a good fit for comics and in fact some of them have been in comics before. 

But I worry about whether they will be handled correctly. We have been given almost no information, and what little information there is has been in pictures done by various comic book artists. And if you want proof of how badly they may be handled, let's take a look at what they have planned for Scooby-Doo:

Scooby-Doo? Where are you? Because I don't see you here!

Since I don't have any other info, I can only go by the picture presented to me. And I have a few questions:

Are the gang ghostbusters now? Because in another picture Fred's guns suck a monster into what I guess is his proton pack?

Was Daphne ever in the military? Because she seems to be wearing purple khaki fatigues. 

Does Hipster Shaggy have a mystical tattoo on his left arm?  Does he do bullshit shaman magic now, pulling material components out of his man purse of holding? 

Velma is flying a drone. That's ok. What's not ok is the way she's drawn. From the perspective of the picture, she is in front of all the other humans. She should be at least as large as the others, but instead she's smaller. If you compare the length of her body to everybody else's, she looks WAY shorter. Either the perspective is wrong, or she's a midget. So which is it? Yes, she was shorter than the others in the original cartoon, but not a midget.

Scooby Doo is wearing an eyepiece which has the ability to shoot out what appears to be bubble emojis. Does that mean he no longer talks? He can only make his feelings known by bubble emojis?

Ruh-roh Raggy!

Of course, I'm looking at this picture out of context. There may be reasons for these changes. There may even be good reasons for these changes. And I'm not saying the comics should be a slave to the source material. The Big Hero 6 movie made changes to almost all the characters across the board. But those changes were made in order to tell a good story. Also, at least 90% of that movie audience never heard of the original comic, so it was easier to justify those changes. And even though I knew and owned the original comics this movie came from, I didn't mind the changes. The movie was very good and I enjoyed it.

But thanks to syndication, reboots and various TV movies, almost 90% of the potential audience of these comics HAVE heard of Scooby-Doo. If you make too many changes to the core characters without any justification, you risk alienating your audience. I know I'm confused by  all these changes; and I don't even like Scooby-Doo all that much. 

So I'm not liking where all this is going. But who knows? The comics may be good. They may even be great. But DC Comics is not putting it's best foot forward with these properties. 

Monday, March 7, 2016

The Possible (Fictional) Future of Content Creators [UPDATE]

Youtube has responded to the #WTFU movement. It's the usual PR and doublespeak expected from a corporation. I will take it at face value and assume they are on top of this problem, but I won't be surprised if nothing gets done. So far there is no incentive for them to do so (one good incentive is that there is actually a rival for youtube, but there is none). Does this sound cynical? Yes. So, youtube, the ball is in your court. Prove me wrong. Surprise me by actually doing something about your Content ID problem.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Shaka, When The Walls Fell (Venom Movie)

Sony wants to do a Venom movie. There is nothing wrong with the idea of doing this movie. While I don't think this is a bad idea, there are indications that this idea will be badly executed.

For one thing, the same producers that were behind the bad Amazing  Spider-Man movies will be attached to this movie. Remember, those movies made so little money Marvel had to step in to make him awesome again (just how awesome we will all get a chance to see this year in Captain America: Civil War).

For another, Venom will apparently be divorced from the Spider-Man franchise. So, Venom will just be some guy with an alien parasite as a costume, instead of either Peter Parker's journalist rival Eddie Brock or Peter's former bully Flash Thompson? Both those guys are attached to the Spider-Man mythos, and are integral to Venom's origin and motivations (both the costume and the people in them). Given Hollywood's recent terrible record with origin stories I'm willing to bet Venom's will be this: a lightning strike will spill unknown chemicals onto Dr. John Generic Smith while he's wearing his black pajama onesie, endowing the costume with intelligence. That equals boring.

They are also planning a franchise around him. He is a one-note psychotic villain with Spider-Man's powers. He's going to look and sound like grimdark Spider-Man. That equals double boring. There's no franchise to build around him.

Fortunately for me, Venom was never a compelling character, so I don't particularly care if this movie will be good or not. But for every bad movie like this that gets made, there a good movie NOT getting made. That depresses me.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

The Possible (Fictional) Future of Content Creators

The latest trend on YouTube is #WTFU (Where’s The Fair Use?). This refers to the content bots on youtube flagging videos created by content providers despite the fact that all the flagged videos follow the guidelines of the Fair Use doctrine.

Better people than I have explained what's going on here. These people have also explained how the content bots hurt the content providers’ business model. I am not here to add to any of those conversations. What I will do is try to show how this may have affected content creators living in the fictional world of Star Trek
in the 24th century. I can already hear the cries of Wait, WHAT? Yes, I’m about to postulate how youtube’s draconian measures may have already affected a fictional future.

Has anyone else noticed the lack of content creators in the world of Star Trek? Because I sure have. Think about this. They have the holodeck, which has the potential to be the greatest content creator ever, but very few people actually create good, original content with it. Most people in the Star Trek universe use the holodeck to experience content already made. Let’s name the few content creators in Star Trek:

Reginald Barclay – He made at least two holographic works (the garden in which the Enterprise crew is depicted differently, to say the least; and he helped Alexander create a depiction of the Ancient West).

Felix – Doctor Bashir’s friend who also created two holodeck programs (Vic Fontaine’s Lounge, and the Secret Agent program in which Bashir is a super spy).

The Voyager Crew – They took a holonovel (Insurrection Alpha) originally created by Lieutenant Tuvok and expanded on the story, each crewmember putting their own spin on the story.

The Doctor (Voyager) – He created a holonovel (Photons Be Free) about the struggles of a holographic doctor on a fictional starship (obviously based on his experiences on Voyager, which paints the rest of the crew in an unfavorable light).

Various authors of children’s holonovels and Quark’s holosuite programs.

Notice how all of the above holographic programs are original works. Almost all other holodeck programs depicted in Star Trek (and there are many) are either adapted from other works (Macbeth, Sherlock Holmes, Captain Proton, Dixon Hill, etc.), training programs, games, or various people, places, and things.

You would think that given access to the holodeck, almost everyone on board these starships and space stations would be creating tons of imaginative, original content. But we are never shown this. I postulate that the punishing of today’s content creators by youtube have crushed creativity and the imaginative spirit to such a degree that there would be fewer and fewer independent content creators over the centuries (and the possible future conflicts of the Star Trek future, such as the Post-Atomic Horror, and the wars with the Klingons and Romulans would not help matters). In fact, notice how, other than research papers, very few Star Trek characters (major or minor) have published or otherwise distributed original works such as books, art, music, etc.

But there is hope. By the time Star Trek: TNG started, holodecks were only just starting to become widely used.  By the time Voyager ended, holographic technology has been around for 15 years. The Federation may look forward to the biggest burst of creative output in history, thanks in part to the popularity of The Doctor’s holonovel “Photons Be Free” (in the Voyager episode "Author, Author"). A lot of sentient beings throughout the Federation may be thinking “if a hologram can create a popular holonovel, why can’t I?” Remember, youtube was created in 2006. Look at what it’s become in 10 years.

Aside: note how "Author, Author" is the only episode, that I recall, that indirectly addresses artists' (which I extrapolate to include content creators') rights to their works, and how and when it should be distributed.  

I know that all of the above is absolute, total head-canon. I merely present this as an extrapolation. But I also present this as a cautionary tale to everyone who is involved in punishing content creators. Also as a plea to content creators to never give up the fight for fair use, and as a message to everyone else who is even mildly interested in this issue to learn more about the Fair Use doctrine, and persuade lawmakers to strengthen and uphold the doctrine.