Author: Arthur Martinez-Tebbel

Box Office Democracy: “300: Rise of an Empire”

300: Rise of an Empire is a movie that made me doubt my own sanity.  I watched that movie and wondered if I had completely imagined the ending of the original movie and, for that matter, the graphic novel it was based on.  I distinctly remembered that story closing with a mass of people being told the story of the brave 300 and how their sacrifice inspired the Greeks to band together and now they would fight the Persians and now their victory was assured.  I had to run to YouTube to find this clip to assure myself that that is how the movie ended.  It’s too bad no one involved with 300: Rise of an Empire bothered to do 40 seconds of searching because they could have avoided completely negating their entire first movie.

300: Rise of an Empire takes place before, during, and after the original film and tells a highly fictionalized version of the Battle of Salamis (for example, in the real battle the light from the sun was not exclusively orange and grey).  Themistocles (Sullivan Stapleton) is leading a rag tag band of a Greek navy against the unbeatable Persian navy led by Greek-born warmonger Artemisia (Eva Green).  While leading the war Themistocles must also help Calisto (Jack O’Connell), the son of his friend Scyllas (Callan Mulvey) become a man and a soldier, a process achieved mostly through meaningful glances that seem to constantly threaten to turn this movie into another kind of Greek affair.

The Greek navy happens to be hopelessly outnumbered in this battle much like the Spartan army to the south but these soldiers, who are called out as being poets and sculptors before the fighting begin, handle themselves just as well as the Spartans do in the first movie dispatching dozens of Persian sailors for every casualty.  It kind of weakens the greatness of the fantastic Spartan army if it turns out that any Greek of the streets with a spear and a shield could have performed about as well.  There’s also the moment when Themistocles and his men find out that the 300 have fallen and rather than be inspired to unite as one Greece like they showed at the end of the first film it inspires everyone to want to give up and have many long conversations about how hopeless they are.  It’s a rare movie that can make me feel bad for trampling over the plot points of its predecessor when I didn’t even like that movie in the first place.

You might have noticed something about all those names in parentheses in the preceding paragraphs, they all play Greeks and they’re all remarkably pale English, Scottish, New Zealanders, Australian, or French people.  It’s whitewashing and it’s offensive, the only dark-skinned people in this movie are on the Persian side and they’re overwhelmingly incompetent or cowards.  Even Xerxes is retconned in to being the pawn of Artemisia and her anti-Greek ambition.  Artemisia is the palest person in this movie, which stretches credulity to the breaking point as they portray her as a Greek-born slave turned Persian admiral.  None of those activities seem like they would be conducive to avoiding the sun.

The worst thing about 300: Rise of an Empire is that it’s going to be used to defend Zack Snyder.   He must be something more than the only person fighting Michael Bay for a seat at the musical chairs of the world’s worst directors if he can leave a franchise and see the quality plummet like this.  Maybe there is some measure of artistry in all that slow motion if someone copying the technique can make it look so much worse.

‘Watchmen’ Lawsuit Explained for You

‘Watchmen’ Lawsuit Explained for You

In a story that has had more twists and turns than the graphic novel it’s based on, the legal battle over the movie rights to Watchmen is in the final stretch.  Gary Allen Feess, a federal judge, set a trial date of January 6th for the copyright suit between 20th Century Fox and Warner Brothers.  The date is two months before the film’s scheduled release.

The comics readers, wary of anyone attempting to adapt Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ seminal graphic novel, was set ablaze once they saw the trailer in front of The Dark Knight.  Unfortunately shortly after the trailer was released the fate of the film was almost immediately put in doubt when a federal judge’s ruling allowed Fox to seek to block the release.  Fox claims that the film infringes on their rights stemming from their attempt to adapt the acclaimed graphic novel in the early ’90s.

They key to this story legally is the concept of "turnaround".  When a studio abandons a property they put it into turnaround, basically saying that another studio can take the property and develop it but they have to compensate the original studio for development costs plus interest. 


NYCC: Neil Gaiman – Bringing Fans Together For CBLDF

NYCC: Neil Gaiman – Bringing Fans Together For CBLDF

I’ve been fortunate to see Neil Gaiman read many times over the years.  He does an amazing job and it adds to his work if you can hear his voice narrating in your head.  This year Reed Exhibitions added “Ultimate Experiences” to their lineup, events with separate tickets that allow access to superstar creators.  Gaiman’s event was a benefit for the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund.

The program was kicked off with an introduction by actor Bill Hader, who credited much of his success in entertainment to Gaiman’s work — from the quasi-mystical presence of Gaiman’s work while he was auditioning for Saturday Night Live to the conversation about Sandman he had with Seth Rogen that led to him being cast in Superbad. [By the way, if Mr. Rogen is reading this, I’ve slept in Gaiman’s basement and would love to appear in your next film.]

Gaiman began the reading by announcing that all charges against Gordon Lee had been dropped, ending the almost four-year legal battle. He then read some older work, including a piece that had been out of his regular rotation for 10 years and “The Day the Saucers Landed."

Gaiman also provided an excellent Q&A session, telling funny anecdotes including his childhood plan to become a writer by kidnapping writers and having them write for him. He also revealed stories such as his entrance into being a comics reader and rounded out the event by helping a pair of readers get dates. (One of the questions during the session asked if he could get the number of a girl dressed as Delirium.)  The show closed with a reading of the third chapter of his new book, The Graveyard Book, the first time this chapter has ever been read.

The real treat about the reading was that I was able to peer-pressure a friend of mine who was not a Gaiman fan into attending.  He was put off by the legions of adoring fans, mostly girls, who lavish hyperbole-laden praise upon Mr. Gaiman.  However, we assured him the money was going to a good cause and that it would not be excruciatingly boring.  He came out of the reading ready to buy Good Omens and American Gods — such is the power of hearing Gaiman read.

X-Men strand Gen Y

Getting a hologram card of Wolverine in a pack of the first series of Marvel Universe Trading Cards is one of my fondest childhood memories. I was five. I showed almost all the guys in my class. Unfortunately, if this kindergartener had been inspired to buy the Wolverine comic around that time it would have been tough sledding: in that story Wolverine learns his memories are a result of brain implants. The next arc ended with Wolverine promising a man that he would return to remove a part of his body every year until nothing remained.

Comics were convincing themselves that they were for adults, and that adults required mature, violent stories. But no one told the licensing people whose job it was to pump children’s playthings into the market. I think this is why there are so few of my contemporaries reading comics. As children, we had to claw our way into the medium despite its best efforts to keep us at arms length, the better to succeed as a medium for teenagers and adults.