Alpha Wolverine

16-Dec-08 10:00 AM by
Filed under Trailers; 1 comment.

DC and Marvel are going gangbusters at adapting their comic book licenses to the silver screen. Of the two, Marvel has had more releases, and also more bombs. Though their debuts of the Spider-Man and X-Men franchises were financial and critical successes, I was less impressed with the third installments. So I'm not quite sure what to make of the upcoming X-Men spinoff that puts Hugh Jackman in the starring role he technically already had in the previous trilogy:

X-Men Origins: Wolverine comes out May 1st, 2009. Will you be in line?

Bored of the Rings

16-Oct-07 1:00 PM by
Filed under Humor; 1 comment.

R. A. Salvatore once opined to me that today's readers grew up predominantly with the visual medium of television. Accustomed to quick action and short narratives, they don't need the amount of detail that J. R. R. Tolkien invested in his novels.

If so, maybe that explains that why I can't bring myself to read Lord of the Rings. Believe me, I've tried, at a variety of points in my life; but no matter how (im)mature I am at the time, I just couldn't get into it. I'm not against the concept, though; like with Shakespeare, I just need the story delivered in another medium.

So combine LotR with comic books, add an acerbic wit, and what do you get? The DM of the Rings, a web comic that uses stills from the live-action films to theorize what LotR would be like played as a Dungeons & Dragons game. Observe as the party is railroaded to key locations:

DM of the Rings #1

Indulge in out-of-character conversations on the slopes of Mt. Cahadras … DM of the Rings #2
DM of the Rings #3 … Dread the coming denizens of the Mines of Moria …

and resolutely defend the residents of Helmsdeep.

DM of the Rings #4

This satirical narrative encompasses the entire film trilogy but focuses on Aragorn's party and their perspective on the second and third films. As a former role-player myself and current fan of the Knights of the Dinner Table comic book, I loved this unique and irreverent take on a classic tale. A couple of marathon sittings will make an enjoyable experience of its 144 strips. When you're done, go behind the scenes in Fear the Boot's interview with the comic's artist, Shamus Young. You may also enjoy Darths & Droids, a similar approach to Star Wars Episode I.

(Tip of the hat to Showbits reader GeneD.)

By Your Powers Combined…

27-Jun-07 3:49 PM by
Filed under Reviews; 2 comments.

My belated report on Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer is that it's a better film than I expected — yet ironically, that may be because I wasn't expecting much.

I've previously written how disappointed I was in the first film, which I saw only a few scant months after watching the canned 1994 flick of the same name. Even now, I'm challenged to keep the two straight — not that it matters, as they were comparable in quality. I was disappointed by the goofy antics of the Fantastic Four, especially after the roller-coaster rides of action and drama that were the first Spider-Man and X-Men films. Since I've specialized in in DC comics, not Marvel, I didn't know any better. Maybe the dynamic duo times two have always been this silly.

This sequel is much the same, with gratuitous acts of wanton stretchiness and laughably bad dialogue. But this time around, I knew what I was getting myself into, so I accepted such comical romps as this film's definition of "fun". Contributing to its entertainment value were that Julian McMahon did a better job as Victor Von Doom than he did in the previous film, though he did seem to be trying too hard to channel Kevin Spacey as Lex Luthor. Laurence Fishburne was wonderfully, stereotypically mysterious and melancholy as the voice of the Silver Surfer. And Stan Lee's cameos, unlike Hitchcock's and King's in their horror films, are getting just too obvious.

Regardless of my perception, Rise of the Silver Surfer actually was superior to its predecessor — the action, characterization, and conflicts were all a bit more complex than before. But this time, it was okay that those elements were not on par with their more successful comic book kin. Let this comic book be comical; for anything more, I have the first two Spider-Man and X-Men.

The Not-So-Marvelous

07-Feb-07 10:26 PM by
Filed under Films; 5 comments.

A week from today marks the four-year anniversary of the release of Daredevil:

It was a Valentine's Day I remember well, having spent it in the theater among fellow lonely geeks. Marvel plans to commemorate this milestone by putting yet another well-known actor into an incongruous superhero role: Nicolas Cage as Ghost Rider.

Frankly, I'm not impressed. Neither Daredevil nor Ghost Rider are the stuff legends are made of, and Marvel's attempts to bring these lesser-known heroes to life have been less than successful. The Punisher? Forgettable. Blade? Eventually despicable. Even better-known heroes, such as The Incredible Hulk and The Fantastic Four, have had their share of theatrical bombs. And if you look at Marvel's intentions for the next three years, you'll see that the opportunity for future failures is staggering: Captain America, Doctor Strange, Nick Fury, Thor… and, of course, sequels to previous critical failures but box office successes.

So what makes for a good translation from pulp comics to silver screen? One would think that putting the characters in the hands of directors who know and love them would ensure they are treated faithfully and with respect — but Bryan Singer defenestrated that notion with his masterful interpretations of both Superman and the X-Men, despite having never read a comic book prior to accepting the assignments.

Is it the original character? Certainly a strong foundation and good writing are essential; both have contributed to Batman, Superman, and Spider-Man becoming cross-culture icons, even before their cinematic adaptations. It's no coincidence that those films (or at least the ones lacking George Clooney and Richard Pryor) have also been well-received by geeks and non-geeks alike.

Does this mean we are to limit ourselves to storied superheroes who have been around for forty to seventy years, dismissing any young, fresh characters? Such a severe restriction would discourage innovation in Hollywood and ultimately hurt all parties involved — especially the audience.

What, then, are useful metrics for predicting a superhero's success? What are fair and accurate expectations when indulging in such films? Can — should — they be held to the same standards as any other cinematic enterprise?