Dennis O’Neil: Synergy
To the best of my knowledge, it was only done once before, and that was in 1912, when audiences were treated to a simultaneous telling of one story in two media, film and print. What Happened to Mary (a statement, not a question) was a serialized movie, the kind that was shown in sections, or chapters, stretched over many weeks, the better to lure customers back to find out what happened next. While what was happening to Mary was appearing on local screens, the a prose version of the same story was running, serialized, in McClure’s Magazine.
Voila! Synergy, 102 years ago!
My Mary information is sketchy at best, and so I don’t know if the stunt did whatever its perpetrators wanted it to do. Was it successful? (A question, not a statement.) I can’t say, but I’d guess not, if only because it doesn’t seem to have been repeated, anywhere, any time.
Until now, that is. The increasingly vast, Disney-nurtured entertainment enterprise that is Marvel, has given us both Captain America: The Winter Soldier, which has earned $476 million so far, and it is a long way from the finish line, and an episode in the television series Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. that tells another part of the same story. They did it right: you can see either the movie or the video alone, without even knowing of the existence of the other, and get full value. But see them both and you experience a much fuller version of the story.
The job must have required some thought and effort and the professional yarn spinner in me would like to know exactly what the procedure was. Outlines? Flow charts? Computer programs? What? Or, oh my gosh, did the writers keep it all in their heads? Or did the glitches get edited out post-production?
Some mixture of all the above?
The only complaint I have applies only to the movie and its a complaint I’ve offered before. Hey, guys, ever hear that less is more? There are so many explosions and other noisy events, and the climactic battles goes on for so long, that sitting there in the dark theater I grew a little weary. Bang bang and more bang, beyond whatever narrative use could be gotten from all that flash and clash
I wonder: do the creators of superhero movies feel that the explosions are what the audience expects in an era where the ka-blooies of video games may be helping to shape our sensibilities? Do they think that the folk in the seats expect rackety pyrotechnics in massive doses? Or even demand them? And if so, are they right? I hope not.
The noise level on the S.H.I.E.L.D. episode was quite reasonable, possibly because television drama has a more modest gunpowder budget than motion pictures. Score one for the tube.
So, was the experiment a success? For me, it was, and I’d be happy too see something like it again. Only maybe a little more quiet?