The Fandom Menace

There’s this theory going around the internet – isn’t there always a theory going around the internet? – and it’s been around for a while. Of course, I am just now picking up on it, along with many other people, due to the uptick in a certain fandom based on an upcoming, highly-anticipated, and amazing-looking sequel.

I’m going to talk about it, but only as part of the overall point of this entry. Promise you won’t go away because of the certain name you see below and I swear I’ll make the rest of this article worth your while.




The big theory is that Jar Jar Binks is a Sith Lord – the real Phantom Menace titular to Episode I.

Lest you think this is some laughable fan theory made up to grant significance to what is viewed as one of the worst Star Wars characters of all time, I compel you to look at the evidence for yourself.

I’ll wait here while you check it out. You really should before we go any further.

Welcome to mind blow land. I’m not going to present the entire theory here, that’s why I posted the link. Please, seriously, click through and check it out. It’s important to the next few paragraphs but I suppose not the entire article as a whole.

Now, some of you may view this with a skeptic’s eye, as I originally did. Some of you may even say, “Lucas isn’t that smart,” but I would persuade you to think of your qualifier for that. Most of you feel betrayed by Lucas BECAUSE of Jar Jar Binks and his stupidity. But what if – WHAT IF – all of this was true and Jar Jar’s presence was justified by making him the most powerful Sith Lord in the universe? How would George Lucas look to you then? How would you feel knowing that the buyer’s remorse you felt for your midnight Phantom Menace tickets resulted in what could have been the most amazing reveal in all of film history?

None of us would have seen it coming. If I could wax hypothetical on the theory for just another paragraph or three, I would like to posit some quick ways this would have changed everything about the prequels. For the better. Maybe for the amazing.

Count Dooku was the shoehorn replacement for Darth Jar Jar in spots. I think the reveal would have happened at the end of Attack of the Clones. Instead of battling Count Dooku, the Jedi would have had an epic lightsaber battle with Darth Jar Jar who would instantly drop the stupid Gungan accent and suddenly be quite smooth and intellectual. He and Anakin would have some words with “Little Ani’s” heart being broken after realizing his childhood friend was a Sith Lord all along. They fight, Jar Jar gains the upper hand – maybe even says some words to convince Anakin to come to the Dark Side – and he is the one who cuts off Anakin’s arm. Then we get the Yoda vs. Jar Jar fight which would have been an epic achievement in CGI (maybe, probably, maybe not?).

This would be a much clearer influence for Anakin’s fall to the Dark Side than Palpatine blah-blahing some old story about Darth Plagueis the Wise and his ability to resurrect and retain life. Hell, Jar Jar himself could have been Darth Plagueis the Wise. My personal theory is that Jar Jar may have even been Jedi Master Saifo-Dias who supposedly ordered the Clone Army from Kamino. I’m probably wrong there, but, if Jar Jar is a missing and high-ranking Force adept on either side of the coin (or both), he could fill many holes that exist in the legends by being that “unseen” character.

Either way, Anakin’s betrayal by Jar Jar at the end of Attack of the Clones would have been brutal but his old, innocent friend seducing him to the Dark Side would have been much more interesting. Jar Jar always approved of the love between Padme and Anakin. He would be very understanding and accepting (and greedy) regarding their prophecy fulfilling children. I couldn’t even imagine the after-effects of the whole ordeal. Would they have killed Jar Jar by the end of Revenge of the Sith or would he have escaped, leaving us to wonder where he was during the events of the Rebellion? We’ll never know.

We will never know. That is the most important takeaway from this theory – we will never and can never know what exactly Lucas had in mind. Even if he confesses – which I would advise him to do immediately – that the Darth Jar Jar theory is real, we will never get to see those movies. We will never get to hear that story. Why? Because we all dropped the ball. Hard.

The reason I made you promise to stay with me at the beginning of the post was that mentioning the name Jar Jar Binks is nearly guaranteed to shut people off immediately. You think of his stupid face, his bumbling, and his meesa-yousa bullshit and you immediately want to change the channel. We ALL hated Jar Jar. We hated him so hard and so publically that articles were written about it. Hate mail was sent to Lucas because of it. The pressure of the fanbase purely hating on this character made Lucas change his plans, as evidenced in tweets and interviews.

We killed Darth Jar Jar with the unbridled hate of the collective internet before Lucas had a chance to perpetrate the end of his scheme. We were tainted by the “Greedo shot first” incident and thought he was completely off his rocker. Jar Jar put us all over the edge and made us lose faith. Lucas became a joke and, ultimately, sold to Disney because he knew that no one would ever trust him to make a good Star Wars movie again. That’s not to say that The Force Awakens doesn’t look amazing, but I digress.

Fandom banded together and pressured a creator so hard that he ditched an entire master plan for fear that people would boycott any movie which would assign an important role to a character as conceivably ridiculous as Jar Jar. I remember before Attack of the Clones came out, there were rumors that Jar Jar would become a Jedi or something like that and I remember pounding my fist on a bar and cursing Lucas’ name if he made it true. Little did I know that almost fifteen years later I would be sitting here looking back at that me as part of the problem.

The same sort of thing happened to J.K. Rowling when info leaked that, after the Battle of Hogwarts and the defeat of Voldemort, Harry would become a squib due to the loss of his connection to the Dark Lord. Fans and forums went apeshit and caused J.K. to bow to pressure and “fix” the ending.

That’s really where all this talk was going.

Fandom has a huge influence on the way modern creators craft a story. This is a pure and important fact and, perhaps, a peril of being a storyteller in the internet era. The power of internet fandom can topple dynasties in hours if they disagree with something happening on a given show or in a movie or in a book series. Fandom can become militant. Fandom can tear down worlds. Fandom can hold stories for ransom.

As a storyteller and a universe builder, my question is this – Is this the right thing to do? Should an author/filmmaker/showrunner bow immediately to the pressure of the fans? How does this compromise story elements? How much should this change the overall plot or goal?

I am not speaking out about fandom in general as I am part of it. I have written (in my head if not in word files hidden deep within my vault) the way I thought Lost and Harry Potter should have ended. I am vocal about how I think things should progress in shows (which ultimately don’t materialize). I have my own ideas of how things should go if I would write them. I am deep in the fandom of certain things but I have learned in my old age to trust in the writers for the most part. Not that they are always right, but as fandom, we should respect that it is their story to tell.

There have been moments during reading/watching where I have angrily shaken my fist or been outwardly vocal or even cried due to a plot turn or a character death or a stupidly implausible whatever. There have been characters in things that I really wanted to die who make it all the way to the end and vice versa. That is part of the emotion of the narrative.

Nothing can ever satisfy everyone within a fandom. There will always be some hate for certain characters/events/situations/places but in the end, the creator of that story should stand firm and not bow to the demands of the fandom. The fandom should respect the source material, even if it’s not created yet.

On the other side, some fan service is ok, but never at the expense of the narrative. Bowing to fan pressure to the narrative is the reason Jango Fett was the source of the Clone Army – because people just couldn’t get enough of Boba that there just HAD to be a way to shoe-horn in someone in Mandelorian armor flying Slave I and generally being an overall badass. I know I keep going with the Star Wars references but the way the fandom influenced the prequels is, in my opinion, why they were so awful. Lucas put out the Phantom Menace and we all (myself included) hated it. We railed so hard against it that he took all of our suggestions into account when proceeding to Episodes II and III and those turned out to be garbage to the point of being completely disavowed by sections of general nerdity.

If you need a more contemporary example, think about the phrase “if Daryl dies, we riot,” and tell me that doesn’t influence a certain group of showrunners.

As an author, I have to tell you – trust us. We have a plan. Even if you don’t think we do, we totally do. We have this stuff lined up. We know the direction things need to go. We have already decided who lives and who dies and we’re very sorry if that somehow puts out your favorite character but that is the story we are telling. Sometimes these things are unavoidable. By all means, if a character is killed off, you can always push for a prequel. Or an alternate universe. But, let that character stay dead if the author says they’re dead. There are enough Jean Greys out there.

And, if you don’t like the way things are going, be cool and wait it out. Let things unfold without the backlash. If we had, we would have Darth Jar Jar. And it would have been amazing.

Have an opinion on this topic? Feel free to voice it in the comments. I’m interested in fandom’s opinion on this. Also, if you’re interested in joining the Unlucky Seven fandom, let me know. I want one so bad.

Keep fighting the good fight.

—end transmission—

Decoding the Age of Ultron (SDCC Recap Part Two)

On the opposite side of the coin from my previous post, Marvel added some revelations of their own to the SDCC mix, not the least of which was a bald Amy Pond (Karen Gillian) surprising everyone in the middle of her panel by revealing her always gorgeous ginger locks had been cleanly removed for her role as Nebula in the upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy. What is it with departed Doctor Who actors suddenly shaving their heads? Anyway…

In what will likely be the most speculative announcement coming out of Con from the movie side of the Big M was the title of the 2015 Avengers sequel.

The Avengers: Age of Ultron

Those of us familiar with the current comics may clearly recognize this title as identical to the latest in a long running line of books dedicated to post-apocalyptic alternate universe scenarios in which one specific villain has accomplished their goals of world domination. Somehow, I doubt that this title would hook-up with anything remotely related to the current Age of Ultron now reaching its zenith on a comic store shelf near you.

While Ultron is probably the most classic villain of the Avengers as a team and while I have no doubt that the Avengers vs. Ultron would play incredibly well on screen, I have some reservations about this overly obvious mission statement which I will now list for you here.

1. WTF happened to Thanos and my Infinity Gauntlet Movie???

Putting Ultron’s name in the title gives most Marvel fanboys (like myself) a general plot outline, none of which involves anything that was teased at the end of the first Avengers. Ultron, for those of you who spent your youth outside and not buried up to your nose in comic books, is a sentient, ultra-intelligent, and practically indestructible robot. Nothing in that sentence is at all related to Thanos or any other greater cosmic threat. As I just said, this battle will play well for the screen and will likely make for an awesome movie, but at a highly reduced scale to the Infinity Gauntlet movie that has been dangled in front of us ever since the Gauntlet itself went on display at SDCC in 2011 in the official Marvel area (next to Cap’s shield, Thor’s Hammer, and a set of Iron Man armor). They’re holding filet mignon under our noses then feeding us hamburger on this one.

2. WTF happened to Hank Pym?

Dr. Henry Pym – AKA Ant-Man, Giant-Man, Yellowjacket, and Goliath among others – is the creator (more like Father) of Ultron in the comics, not to mention a founding member of the Avengers. One would assume that as goes Ultron, so goes Hank Pym. The problem is that, in the Avengers Panel, it was revealed that Ultron would be created without Pym’s influence due to the fact that he has not yet been established in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I know that as far back as 2010, when the Avengers movie was still a fanboy’s sick fantasy on the verge of becoming tangible, it was announced that Edgar Wright (of Shaun of the Dead and Scott Pilgrim fame) would be helming the Ant-Man movie as a precursor to the Avengers (along side Iron Man 2, Thor, and Captain America).
This film has been largely up in the air. Rumor had it that the comedic vibe with which Wright approached the initial screenplay wasn’t jiving with the studio’s long-term vision for the universe and would make Dr. Pym seem out of place if suddenly pressed in with the more “serious” cast of characters. Two complete re-writes later and Wright’s Ant-Man is now slated for a post-Avengers 2 release. In my opinion, this kinda puts the cart before the horse as far as comic book canon is concerned and takes away the creator/creation relationship which made Ultron a more interesting machine of mass distruction. I’m sure Joss H. Whedon knows what he’s doing by taking this step and he’ll likely come up with a good end around, but it runs the risk of decreasing Hank Pym’s character. Ultron was simultaneously his greatest achievement and his biggest failure. On that note…

3. Ultron is supposed to be Hank Pym’s biggest failure. Who does that fall to now?

The reason Hank Pym is essential Ultron’s creator is that Ultron’s artificial intelligence is based on Pym’s own thought patterns. Ultron shows the dark side of Pym’s genius, making both of them more sympathetic characters. It also adds that faint glimmer of humanity to Ultron even if it was in the form of jealousy and cruelty. It foreshadowed the eventual reveal that Pym was a wife-beating scumbag, but that’s a story for another time and could be another reason they wanted to leave Pym out. I mean, Stark’s an alcoholic, but at least he’s not a domestic abuser. Kinda hard to justify that sort of behind-the-scenes action in a superhero movie and still have you rooting for him.
The most likely choice of main characters the creation of Ultron (and its subsequent brain patterns) would fall to would be one Mr. Tony Stark. We’ve already seen the capabilities of his AI-tech thanks to Iron Man 3 (house party protocol!) and we know he’s capable of creating robots with personality (the dunce-cap lab-bot). If he’s serious about quitting as Iron Man, Ultron might be his next step.

Oh crap, guys, I think I just figured out the whole plot of Avengers 2 right there.

4. Screw the rest of this list, I just figured out the plot of Avengers: Age of Ultron.

Tony quits being Iron Man, but the Avengers still want him. Since Pepper doesn’t want him putting his life on the line anymore and Tony seems to want to concentrate more on their relationship, he has to figure out another solution.
Operating the armor remotely (as seen many times in IM3) won’t cut it because Pepper will be up his ass to stop playing superhero. He’ll feel obligated to do something about it and will create Ultron, implanting that robot with his personality as a guide for its AI. At first, it will seem the perfect replacement for Tony and Iron Man on the team, but it will quickly fall to the dark side, likely by realizing that its father has it better than it does (a la Hank Pym) and not enjoying being referred to as “it” just as I’ve done for the last paragraph.
Ultron then goes rogue and will need a helper. He creates The Vision (as he did in the comics, and as is rumored to be played by Vin Diesel) but this backfires on him as he creates another being similar to himself, with the capacity for all human emotions, and the Vision grows compassionate toward humanity eventually siding with the Avengers in the final battle and surviving the ultimate destruction of his creator.
Tony will also feel obligated to get back into the armor after his creation goes crazy and either him or the Vision will land the final blow on Ultron.

Maybe in Avengers 3 we’ll finally get that Infinity Gauntlet movie.

Remember you heard this here in 2015, kids. I would love to be right this far in advance.

Keep fighting the good fight.

—end transmission—

The Holes in the Cape (SDCC Recap Part One)

In case you missed it, this weekend was San Diego Comic Con. Chances are, if you’re reading my blog, you’re overly aware of this.

I’m going to take this week (hopefully more than one entry) to discuss items arising from SDCC, albeit a bit late. I would go on about how I usually enjoy letting things simmer for a while before injecting my opinion but I’d be lying. I was actually on vacation (not at SDCC) this weekend and I am also exceedingly lazy. That being said, there are more than a few interesting things which have sprung from SDCC and are worthy of words from me. Let’s begin.

DC/Warner Bros. have announced that the sequel to this summer’s fair success, Man of Steel, will be the long sought-after Batman/Superman movie. Whether this means that Will Smith’s I Am Legend is actually going to happen prior to release in 2015 remains to be seen.

This particular announcement brings the DC/Warner Bros. machine to an interesting intersection. With Christian Bale’s divorce from the Batman franchise and Christopher Nolan’s tenuous (at best) involvement in the ongoing construction of the DC Movie Universe, will the flavor of Henry Cavill’s opposite number be retained or will we see another wholesale change for the Caped Crusader before the (thankfully pushed back) Justice League movie in 2017?

During the panel, it was revealed that my favorite line in the history of comics will be included in Batman/Superman:

“I want you to remember, Clark… in all the years to come… in your most private moments… I want you to remember my hand at your throat… I want you to remember… the one man who beat you.”

This, of course, uttered by Bruce himself as he has a crushing spiky boot wedged firmly on the throat of the Man of Steel in Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns. Gives me goose bumps just thinking about it.

The panel would later go on to admit that the movie will be based partly on the World’s Finest comics (hopefully modern era and not Golden Age) and the aforementioned Frank Miller source material. They made it clear that this will not be a straight up adaptation of DKR, but will certainly borrow heavily from the plot elements including that famous line. Certainly, it won’t be about the grim future of the DCU and an octogenarian Batman beating the living piss out of a Supes who is past his prime. They are planning to use this movie to start setting the table for Justice League, after all.

This brings me to my second point: It’s wonderful to see DC finally jumping on the continuity train even if it is a few stations behind Marvel. If you’re going to plan an epic like Justice League, you have to take your cues from Joss Whedon and the Avengers. You must first build a solitary universe which houses all of these heroes before simply jamming them into the same story. I’ve been over and over this regarding the film aspirations of both major comic houses, but it’s true. This will be the first movie which unites two DC properties and establishes a proper and stable universe. That is, if they do it right.

While Man of Steel was a good mildly-gritty reboot of the Superman franchise (barring Lois showing exactly how easy it could be to connect Kal-El to John and Martha Kent), we have to examine what this means for the Nolan Bat-verse and what, if any, implications this movie has on the state of that particular Gotham City and its denizens. Do Man of Steel’s Smallville and Metropolis exist in the same universe or will we so soon be force-fed a new image of Gotham?
It would have to be Gotham that changes, not Metropolis, as they’ve confirmed Henry Cavill under the big red S for the duration. This means that the Man of Steel universe is THE DC movie universe.

This is where we run into some serious problems.

As far as the Nolan-verse is concerned, Bruce Wayne’s time under the cowl is over. As of The Dark Knight Rises we see him go so far as to pass the torch to one Detective Robin “John” Blake. Without going into the screaming inconsistencies there, the best parts of any Batman/Superman story come from the diametrically opposed identities of Bruce and Clark – Bruce was given all the money and had to work for his power; Clark was given insane amounts of power and had to work for his money. This goes along with the fact that Bruce’s inner darkness and Clark’s outer light lead to two very different rhythms with the same melody. Their methodical differences and their backgrounds give them that tete-a-tete which makes friendship, let alone outright partnership, difficult. The draw here is two heroes who can’t completely work together. If you leave John Blake as a n00b with a cape, you run the risk of losing that awesome dynamic.

This means that they’re going to have to either bring back Nolan-verse Bruce Wayne (with a different actor unless they can somehow convince Bale), meaning that the Nolan-verse takes place in the same continuity, or establish a whole new Batman movie continuity which can connect properly with the Man of Steel/Justice League universe.

Negating the Nolan-verse would be a foolish and too-soon move, so it would seem that DC’s back is against the wall on this one. Don’t think for a second they won’t wipe the continuity and start a-fresh for the sake of the Justice League. They know a Superman/Batman movie will empty wallets (mine included) regardless of which Batman you throw into the mix. They also know that Justice League will likely explode at the box office considering that two out of DC’s main trinity (Bats, Supes, Wonder Woman) have enjoyed very recent success.

Bats/Supes aside, moving the Justice League movie back to 2017 (as opposed to their knee-jerk reaction of 2015 to compete with Avengers 2) as well as the announcement of a Flash solo movie in 2016 shows that they’re attempting to move in the right direction. This is just me being optimistic as they announced the Flash during the Batman/Superman panel which indicates that it’ll tie in directly to the Justice League. This is no guarantee that we won’t get another Green Lantern.

Also, seriously, Wonder Woman needs her own flick before this whole thing goes down. I know it’s apparently Hollywood poison, but it should get done. You can’t back off when it comes to one of the members of DC’s Holy Trinity just because it’s a girl and you don’t think girl heroes sell tickets.

Really, everything I’m talking about here won’t prevent myself or any other fan from seeing any of these movies on opening weekend. It’s just a matter of principle. If they’re going to go the full-nine with this, it should be done right and with respect to the most recent successes. DC needs to do what it should have done since its main competition came into existence: figure out what Marvel has done right and DO THAT THING.

The dots should have been lined up from the beginning. It should not be a struggle to connect them all.

Keep fighting the good fight.

—end transmission—

Spoils of War

It has happened to us all at one time or another.

You’re out at night and your DVR is running. By the time you get home, the latest episode of one of your favorite shows has been recorded and is waiting for the mere touch of a button in order to play. Maybe it’s late. Maybe you have other stuff to do. One way or another, maybe you don’t get to watch it until the next day.
Regardless of when you watch it, you will likely sit down in front of your computer or use your phone to browse Facebook or Twitter or your other social network of choice before you get the chance.

And there it is.

“I can’t believe (character) died!!!” or “OMG, (character) did (horribly unpredictable thing)!”

Right at the top of your feed. As unavoidable as death. Staring you right in the face. You’ll try to will yourself not to read it the minute you realize what it’s about, but you’ve already seen and cannot unsee.

You’ve been spoiled.

This has been especially prevalent over the past few seasons with shows like Walking Dead and Game of Thrones, where character deaths and crazy twists could be lurking around any corner and may surprise you even if you are a student of the source material.

Even though we live in the DVR/On-Demand era with most of our favorite shows at our fingertips, some of them available immediately after their original airing, social media has helped to keep these late-views to a minimum. It has also increased the availability for discussion of said shows thereby generating groups who will actually physically get together to watch a show or even do an online hangout so that commentary can be made while the show is actually being viewed.

I believe that these first-run viewings and their associated discussion groups, live or virtual, have come about due to the prevalence of spoilers popping up in full public view on a consistent basis. In essence, Facebook, Twitter, and the like are contributing to Nielsen numbers and are making it easier for networks to continue to track ratings with fair accuracy without as heavy demand on adjusted numbers for recorded or downloaded episodes.

More people are making sure to watch their favorite shows in real-time because it provides for a more pure experience. Once an episode is aired and in the zeitgeist, it becomes almost palpable. Even though you may not see any spoilers posted, you realize that the information is out there and is close enough for you to touch. People will reference it. People will discuss it off-hand. It may happen in person – you may overhear someone discussing it – but, it is most likely you will see something referenced on social media or in a meme or in a meme posted on social media which will reveal a detail that you would have preferred to get from the source.

This is also attributable to the current trend of serial television. Yes, I realize that most television has always been serialized but when you look back on the 80s and 90s, you realize that shows back then could usually be taken as independent episodes. You didn’t need to know the backstory to realize what was happening. Some shows running multiple seasons in the modern era don’t even bother to name the characters out loud, even in the season openers, because they expect that the viewer base is a returning one and will know the story up to that point. We rarely even see flashbacks anymore, unless you’re seeing something in season four that you may not remember from season one.

Even sitcoms are following the recipe of continuity more heavily than they have in the past. Most sitcoms in the past could be watched at face value no matter where you came into the series. Kids may get older, neighbors may move away, the main characters may switch jobs or even locations, but not many of them had story arcs or characterization deeper than the surface. Roseanne is an example of a prototypical serial comedy as there were story arcs with building tension and sometimes even a big reveal. It did this better than any other sitcom on the air at a time when most big twists in a comedy were advertised with the prefix “A Very Special Episode of…” This was usually when a main character, typically a child, was caught using drugs or joining the army or dying or another reason I can’t think of that could be used to escort a rapidly aging child star off the show because their appeal was down.

Then there are sitcoms such as 30 Rock and Big Bang Theory which, while easily digestible in a single serving, are much more satisfying when you come for the entire meal. Something always looms in the background and is usually brought to the fore in a one-hour season finale. Spoilers can ruin the final punchline just as easily as the big cliffhanger.

Television’s initial fears about the prevalence of downloading and how DVR can affect ratings should be largely allayed by the egregious amount of spoilerific material permeating social media (and even legit media, if they show is big enough).

Sundays are a very busy television day and, if I don’t get the chance to watch one of the two or three shows airing at the same time that very night, I know that at least one of my Facebook friends is going to blow any potential surprises I may have received watching it live. I am at the point where I will begin ignoring or deleting those who must constantly spoil.

I am declaring a moratorium of three days. No spoilers, no discussion on social media for three days after any given episode has aired. At that point, if you didn’t see it, it’s your own fault. There are a number of avenues available for you to watch an episode within three days (unless you’re on vacation away from the internet, as I have been before). After that, blab about who died or who killed who or whatever insane twist as much as you want. You have my permission.

Spoilers, for me, are incentive to absorb things as soon as possible. Movies, video games, television, books… I feel that if I’m not first to the finish, it will be inevitably ruined by some schlub who blabs about it on the internet. I’m sure that my particular brand of paranoia helps contribute, at least a bit, to first-air ratings and opening weekend box office totals and so on. It’s a marketing tactic we, as social media addicts, have brought upon ourselves. It is a very beneficial side-effect of internet assholes, at least to Big Entertainment, and gives me and those like-minded a reason to do it right away rather than put it off.

Oh, and in case you didn’t hear: Vader is Luke’s father, Bruce Willis is a ghost, “Would you kindly?” is a trigger phrase, and Dumbledore dies at the end of Book 6.

Keep fighting the good fight.

—end transmission—

Bidula’s Last Word – The King’s Speech

I’m not sure that I’ve ever reviewed a movie which would be considered “serious” within this blog. I may have done it somewhere else along the lines, but I think I’ve been catering mostly to the geek crowd (myself included) with the films on which I clue you in. All you have to do is look at the state of this place. If I displayed the tag cloud on the sidebar, Batman would probably show up the largest. I think the only movie I’ve ever reviewed on here that’s been nominated for an Oscar was Inglorious Basterds and, even then, Tarantino gets a pass.

Needless to say, The King’s Speech isn’t typically the type of film reviewed by yours truly, but I’ll try to nerd it up as best I can to keep the philistines from falling asleep.

Whenever Geoffrey Rush’s name appears on a bill, I find myself interested.
Though it helps that he played my favorite character in the Pirates franchise, he is, Barbossa aside, an amazing actor. Ever see The Life and Death of Peter Sellers? Quills? You totally should. If you thought you kinda liked Geoffrey Rush, those movies will make you love him. He’s on a short list of actors whose movies I will always put at the top of my list to see (along with Bill Nighy and Christoph Waltz).
He just earned a (well deserved) Best Supporting Actor nod for his role as Lionel Logue in The King’s Speech, playing a speech pathologist tasked with correcting the stammer of “Berty”, the future King George VI.

The story itself, at it’s base level, isn’t all that unfamiliar to movie-goers and geeks alike; unconventional teacher meets reluctant/resistant student. At first, there is much friction between the two. The student wants to learn, but is not content with the unconventional means of the teacher. They start making breakthroughs and growing closer but, eventually, a disagreement divides them. Since they’re from different worlds, they simply go back to what they were doing before they met, but it all seems hollow because they’ve become so close. One apologizes and the teacher continues with his task. In the end, the student accomplishes a pinnacle to which he was aspiring. This exact story won Daniel LaRusso a big ass trophy and won Matt Damon and Ben Afffleck an Oscar. How ‘bout them apples?

The future monarch and student in this story is portrayed by Best Actor Nominee Colin Firth (who has a recognizable face, but unfortunately, no geek cred to his name unless you could Love, Actually, but that’s more of a movie-lovers-movie than the typical geek fest), who does an incredible job at making a Royal, typically someone who is above the common man in every way, a very sad and ultimately pitiable character. You can feel his pain with every stammered syllable and can carve the tension like a turkey when he’s standing before a microphone (in the infancy of radio) literally choking up half words and leaving minutes of horrible dead air. I felt his fear.

The cast is bolstered by the inclusion of Best Supporting Actress Nominee Helena Bonham-Carter (that’s Bellatrix LeStrange, the Queen of Hearts, the Corpse Bride, Mrs. Lovett from Sweeny Todd, and Marla from Fight Club, for all you nerds. Jesus, see a Burton movie, she’s in like every one within the last ten years…) as Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon (eventual Queen Mum) who shows a sort of affection for her husband not usually seen between members of the Royal Family, at least not in public. She stands behind him as a strong woman trying to help her husband cope with the rigors of his public office while dealing with his malady.
The movie offers us what appears as a peek behind the curtain of the Princely (then Kingly) lifestyle, showing that a Royal, even with all the pomp, circumstance, breeding, and training, is still, at his core, a family man trying to do right by his Father. Though, as Berty describes it in one scene, “This isn’t a family, it’s a firm.”
We get to see the anxiety, the love, and the emotion inside the head which will inexorably be burdened by the crown of the outgoing British Empire.

Also in what is a key role but essentially a cameo, Michael Gambon (Yep. Dumbledore.) appears as the slowly departing King George V. He portrays the monarch regally in public but a taskmaster and King-maker when it comes to his relationships with his children.

The second awesome cameo comes about halfway through the movie. A silhouette, obviously that of Winston Churchill, appears at a party. We see his back as he discusses something by a window with the future Queen Mum. I thought, briefly, that they may leave Churchill as a background character since the focus was mainly on George VI. Maybe not even show Churchill’s face or mention his name, just leave the viewer to assume Churchill.
As the conversation went on, one could tell that the voice was practiced. The Churchill impression was fairly well done. Then, they swing the camera around and show you that, just like Prisoner of Azkaban, it was Wormtail the whole time! That’s right, Peter Pettigrew, known in real life as Timothy Spall, gets to take a swing at playing Sir Winston as he was in the months leading up to the start of World War II. I chuckled when I heard Michael Gambon’s voice, but I think I busted a great big “HA!” when I realized it was Timothy Spall.
Also, Guy Pierce (formerly of banging Madonna, Memento, and LA Confidential. Ok, not much geek there, but he was banging Madonna when she was less held together by botox, string, and the will of Satan) plays flightly older brother and first King after George V’s departure, Edward VIII. He provides the perfect opposite to Firth’s George VI, showing the egotistical and vapid side of Royalty to the contrast of Berty’s dedication to public service.

All cameos and clichés aside, there is certainly a reason this movie received the most (12!) Oscar nods. I’m willing to go as far as saying this might be the best movie I’ve seen personally this year. I believe this should be the front runner for any acting awards, best picture, and best screenplay easily. Last year, I called Christoph Waltz for Best Supporting. This year, it’s Geoffrey Rush and, like last year, I will consider it highway-effing-robbery if he doesn’t get it.

A brief anti-nerd sentiment: It beats the hell out of me why a movie as shitty as Avatar is anywhere within the same league as this flick. Anyone who thinks Avatar was deserving of Best Picture should paint themselves blue, put on some 3-D glasses, coat themselves in honey, hop on a short-bus to the Amazon, and lay down on an ant hill. All the cat-people do it. It’s a right of passage. That means you should do it too.

Anyway, go see The King’s Speech. Barbossa, Dumbledore, Leonard Shelby, Wormtail, and Bellatrix are in it. Most of them get to put “Acadamy Award Nominated” in front of their name now, so their quotes go up. Be proud of your nerd heroes.

Awesome flick, and my highest rated review of the year so far.

Bidula’s Last Word – 10/10, and I don’t give that rating lightly.

Keep fighting the good fight.

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The Bat, The Cat, and the Breaker: Dissecting “The Dark Knight Rises”

In case you’ve missed the blurbs, it landed smack in the middle of the internet this past Wednesday that Christopher Nolan plans on using Bane and Catwoman in The Dark Knight Rises – the 2012 “conclusion” to the revitalized Batman movie franchise.
Along with the character reveal landed the actors selected for those roles – Tom Hardy and Anne Hathaway, respectively.

Both of these pairs of choices are being received as a relatively mixed bag.

Bane, for those of you unfamiliar with the character, was born and raised in a South American prison. He was subject to a law within a corrupt government which required him to serve a life sentence in place of his father, a revolutionary who ran away from the country when he was convicted of treason.
Through his years of imprisonment, he became a world-class, ass-kicking tough-guy from constantly lifting weights and getting into prison fights as well as a super genius due to his constant study of the prison’s library.
Years later, he becomes “king” of his prison. His rule over the prisoners makes the power-sapped wardens volunteer him for testing of a new drug, Venom. This drug killed all other subjects but, due to his ability to take punishment, Bane gains the benefits without death; drastically increased superhuman strength. This leaves Venom as his only weakness, as his body depends on a dose every twelve hours to keep it from collapsing under the strain of catastrophically fatal withdrawal.
Bane first stepped in to the DC universe as “The Man who Broke the Bat” during the early-90s Knightfall storyline which left Bruce Wayne with a broken back (after Bane cracked him over his knee like a twig) and a psychotic Jean-Paul Valley in a souped-up Batsuit taking over for the injured Dark Knight. Of course, Bruce battles back, rehabs, and takes his city back from Valley who had defeated Bane in Bruce’s absence by separating Bane from his Venom supply (slashing a hose that gave him a constant supply from a pack on his back). Valley beat the living piss out of Bane, but left him alive (because, as Bruce had taught him, Batman should never kill).
Bane went from top-of-the-charts to B-list Villain to, of course, his notable stint as Poison Ivy’s borderline retarded bodyguard in the one big smirch on the Barman franchise’s record: 1997’s Joel Schumacker Debacle Batman and Robin.

This could make for some interesting plot. I wouldn’t doubt if there are shades of the Knightfall story within the script.
Will they change the background to fit Tom Hardy’s overtly British character, or will they make Tom Hardy speak with a British/Spanish/Portuguese accent to fit Bane? Either way, we know that CG will probably be used to create Bane’s ridiculously huge physique. I don’t care how much you people love Tom Hardy, he’s not that big, and no one in the world could ever get that big, I don’t care how much time they’ve been spending with MLB Physicians.

Then comes Anne Hathaway as Catwoman who, in the official WB press release, is referred to as Selena Kyle, in an effort to portray Catwoman as a company cuss word ever since Hally Barry went and shit all over it. Regardless of how the Brothers Warner wish to disguise it, it’s still Catwoman and it may still be a bit too soon to put the multiple Razzie-Award Winning candidate for worst movie of all time behind us. Hell, I read the comics and when someone mentions Catwoman, the first thing I think of is the poster for that movie. Sad, isn’t it?
Most of you will remember Ms. Kyle as she was portrayed in Tim Burton’s Batman Returns; a mousey secretary who is nearly murdered by her corrupt boss for snooping around in his private files, but is mysteriously resurrected by a bunch of alley cats (really?). She then cuts up a vinyl trenchcoat and rough-stiches together the Michelle Pfeiffer costume which dominated the minds of the Male 18-25 bracket (and beyond) for the next few years.
The comic book story is much more confusing yet infinitely more proper for a character often portrayed as the one constant love interest in Bruce Wayne’s life. We’ll cut to the chase and say that it’s not nearly as “supernatural” as Burton made it and Selena was a rather strong woman who fought back against adversity to become one of the best thieves in the world.

The prospect of seeing the lovely Ms. Hathaway don the leather of the Cat (I envision a costume reminiscent, if not dead on, with the latter-day comic book Selena) is something that causes many fanboys to shiver in antici… pation. Strictly on a visual basis, I’d call this a winning proposition.
Still other detractors of Anne’s acting skills thing she’s the wrong one for this job. I’m inclined to disagree. I think she’s got the chops and, more than that, she’s good at being believable, which is what Nolan’s Bat-stories have been about since this all began.

These two characters are looked upon by some as a poor decision for what Nolan swears will be the last entry in the Bat-Franchise which he will direct.

The whispers of the Johnny Depp Riddler and the Phillip-Seymour Hoffman Penguin had people on pins and needles for official word. While I am among the masses disappointed that neither of these fanboy fantasy castings took place, I can understand how neither character fits with Nolan’s overall vision of a (relatively) more realistic superhero scenario.

The Riddler, Johnny Depp or not, would have made for a more boring “conclusion” to the Nolan Years. A dark, evil, twisted, Johnny Depp Riddler would make the Nolan-verse into Batman vs. Saw. Riddler was all about the thinking-man’s death traps. I’m sure this would have been key and, as I just mentioned, Saw has been doing that for a grating six (SIX!) movies now. There won’t be any surprise twists and the plot will not snake. Batman fights death traps, wins. Batman finds Riddler, fights Riddler, wins. Credits. Sorry, Johnny.

The Penguin, while an extremely interesting character in the DC Universe, didn’t even play out well with a truncated origin story and Danny Devito behind him in Batman Returns. Yeah, the character was grotesque and had some awesome one-liners, but in the end, there were penguin rocket troops. Really, Tim? Really?
Phillip-Seymour Hoffman would do the darker nature of the character justice, but there is hardly enough time to establish him as the organized-crime kingpin that DC made him into via No Man’s Land (which was, truly, the first time the character became interesting since Burgess Meredeth quacked). Though, this is more plausible than the Riddler due to the Nolan-verse’s recent power vacuum in Gotham’s underworld (spoilers: Joker killed ALL THE BOSSES in The Dark Knight. Remember that shit? Yeah, you didn’t, did you?). The Penguin’s modern Mafioso persona would have been able to play right into that spot and fit right in with the “more real” Nolan-verse. Might not have been a bad movie, either. The only issue: Batman has taken on the mafia in the last two movies. Let’s see something different.

Other people have suggested different villains, such as Talia Al-Ghul, Ra’s’ daughter, which would bring a delightful symmetry to the movies, but again, Nolan is not one to repeat. The motives would be the same (burn down humanity), the random thugs would be similar (ninjas), and everything would drive toward an even more romantic story than the one Catwoman will probably bring. Also, Talia was not mentioned in the previous flicks and would almost be a stretch to believability if she suddenly showed up claiming to be the Daughter of the Demon’s Head.

At least one person suggested Black Mask, recent star of Batman RIP, building off of that story line, and exposing Thomas and Martha Wayne as careless sex fiends and social deviants to attempt to draw Bruce out and ruin the legacy of both him and Batman. My response: A wonderful idea for a year-long story arc, a terrible idea for a two-and-a-half hour long movie. Too much premise needs to be established and that leaves too little action.

Another one was Harley Quinn, which would be strictly off-limits due to the Joker association.
If you don’t think the studio is trying to avoid anything to do with the Joker, look at the fact that they killed Harvey Dent in the end of The Dark Knight. Why do that when a)Two-Face is awesome, b) the beginning of The Dark Knight proved that villains can continue to exist in the Nolan-verse (as opposed to being ruthlessly killed off in the Burton/Schumaker-verse) by having Cillian Murphy reprise Scarecrow for three or four minutes of screentime, and c) Aaron Eckhart was willing to do whatever they asked him to get even a bit part as Harvey in the third picture.
The news broke that Eckhart had been told by Nolan that Harvey was dead, even though he fell from a height that may not have killed him. Harvey’s origin was tied directly to the Joker and his presence in the sequel would remind people that the Joker was also left alive, hanging from the penthouse window of a half-constructed building, at the end of the last movie. Kill Harvey, no appearance. Joker’s legacy remains ambiguous, we move on to the next detective story. Bring Harley into the mix and you’re rubbing salted lemon juice into the Chelsea Grin wound Heath Ledger left behind.

Personally, I think Hush would have made an awesome villain, but he’s nothing without the grand conspiracy which surrounded his identity and nothing without the Riddler essentially behind it all. Not to mention the cavalcade of associated villains working, knowingly or not, in sync to make that arc quite possibly one of the best Bat-Stories of all time. It would be an Avengers Movie like feat to get that one up and running (considering that it included Superman as well) and would be a fanboy wet dream. At least for this particular nerd.

Other villains not mentioned would neither be strong enough to carry an entire movie nor would they fit the “no sci-fi” creedo of Nolan’s vision. Poison Ivy, Mr. Freeze, Mad Hatter, Ventriloquist and Scarface, Clayface… none of them would work.

My conclusion is that Nolan has the right idea. A master thief and (essentially) a super genius on performance enhancers come in at slightly more realistic, not to mention action-based, than any of the others. He wants his franchise to go out with the same bang which heralded its arrival. Batman is the world’s greatest detective, but you watch the movies to see Batman whupping whole-sale ass. You read the comics for the mystery and the thrill of the page-turn. It’s this very principal which makes Hush and RIP two of the best story arcs, but not very fit for the silver screen. It’s also the reason that Nolan wants to leave the detective stories to the funny papers.

I’ve kept you long enough while nerding out. If you have any varying opinions, by all means, feel free to debate me. Just know that I have a PhD in Batman and a MFA in Joker Studies.

You’re damn right Joker Studies is a Fine Arts major.

Keep fighting the good fight.

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