Tagged: Phantom Menace

Marc Alan Fishman: That Moment That Makes You Feel Mortal

We here at ComicMix deal part-in-parcel with the capes and cowls. Super-powered beings who defy conventional laws of science, completing miraculous acts to save humanity from heinous villainy. Most folks on the outside looking in suppose that the fascination with our superheroes stems from the desire for escapism. Faced with our own mortal foibles and faults, we lust for the life that defies those insecurities – with laser vision, super strength, or any number of special skills and powers.

But I’d argue that while there exists that sci-fi appeal where our inner kid seeks out that which is totally cool, it’s those moments on the page (or on screen) where our heroes are most human that we truly find the best part of pulp fiction.

Bruce Wayne was a just a boy enjoying an amazing adventure at the movies with his parents. Depicted at an age where mom and dad were his heroes, we see the glee and unencumbered joy in his innocent face as his family exits the Monarch. Two flashes from the muzzle of a darkened revolver later, and Bruce loses everything. His heroes. His joy. His mentors. His innocence. His world shattered, we watch as he rebuilds himself in the name of justice and vengeance.

No matter what comes afterward – be it countless battles with colorful rogues, surviving devastating Earthquakes, or even accidentally being implicit in the destruction of the Justice League – we ultimately land back at those two shots fired that turned a boy into a lost soul. To change that origin, to remove that moment of mortality is to remove the sympathy that defines the single goal of Batman.

Peter Parker, imbued with the science-defying super-human properties of a spider, is able to become the antithesis to his normal self. A shy and introverted kid is given the power to let his id free. He gallivants to a local wrestling show to use his newfound powers for ill-gotten gains. I’ll spare you the rest; you know it all too well.

With the murder of dear Uncle Ben, Peter adopts the adage with great power comes great responsibility. That lesson, seated at the core of Spider-Man, is the moral nugget that defines the love we have for the character. Beyond all the web-slinging, trash-talking, and Mary Jane saving comes the guilt of a kid whose choices led the biggest loss in his life. That moment, that slip, makes the Amazing Spider-Man mortal.

In any story worth its salt, the conflict that arises must hold with it some connection to humanity. Be it man versus man, versus nature, or even versus himself, we as an audience must connect to something being presented in order to root our potential appreciation. When I think of a bad comic, a bad movie, or a loathsome TV show… more often than not what ultimately drags it down is that disconnect.

Think fondly of Star Wars: A New Hope. The retread of the heroes journey – reimagined as an epic space opera this time around – gives us Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia Organa, and Han Solo as our surrogates. The kid with wanderlust. The leader protecting her people. The asshole just trying to make a buck and live to see tomorrow. Through their eyes and actions, we see mortals with fears and dreams. We travel with them and succeed where they succeed.

Now, think of The Phantom Menace.

For the Star Wars apologists, I won’t deny there were attempts at adding a touch of humanity to the over-glossy under-written prequel. Anakin Skywalker is forced to choose between training with the Jedi or remaining a slave. He leaves his mother behind. Beyond that? Find me some mortal moments amidst the trade negotiations, pod-racing, and droid army fights. Good luck with that. Simply put, devoid of any real reason to care for our would-be Vader and pals… we get a wooden movie with a heart harder to find than on a Tin Man.

To close the loop, it’s this message: That moment that makes you feel mortal that cements my own work in completing The Samurnauts. As our pastiche to the Power Rangers and super sentai series abound, it’s been creating these moments throughout the mini-series that I hope sets us apart from the normally vapid source material from which we draw upon. By giving each of my heroes’ moments of doubt, dread, fear, pain, or suffering, I present to my would-be audience a cast of characters they can relate to. Beyond the wicked-cool immortal monkeys, giant robots, and Photoshopped blaster fire is a story about people trying to overcome their lesser selves. Whether they succeed or fail… so long as I show it on the page, I’m confident of the quality of the end-product.

No paper cuts necessary to see me bleed.

Marc Alan Fishman: Injustice 2 and The Hype Machine

The very first movie trailer debuted in November, 1913. It showed backstage rehearsal footage of an upcoming production of the musical The Pleasure Seekers. The actual play itself debuted the same month.

In contrast, today you can catch the sneak peak to the first look of the first cut of the promotional trailer of any given movie upwards of a full year before the actual film is released. How starved for content is our culture?

Think now, how literally days into pre-production of a given franchise the hype machine starts a’rollin’. When George Lucas and his menagerie sneezed a bit too loud, Entertainment Weekly and any other number of film blogs lit the net on fire. Speculation then is answered by some unseen specter of a source, second-handed, to an iffy-looking kid with a smartphone. And soon enough, Donald Glover is pitching to be young Lando.

Smash cut to the actual release of the story a year later. Smash cut again when Glover is doing his first costume fitting. Maybe he’ll Instagram his name on a garment bag. It’ll be picked up on TMZ, the AP, AICN, and Perez Hilton — if he’s still a thing. You know, just enough to keep the future film top of mind.

Marketing is an art and a science. Hype is the currency. Hype parlays demand into action. Or so marketing companies want to tell you – ask Edgar Wright how Scott Pilgrim turned out for him when you have a chance.

And it’s not just movies that are guilty of this sin. The day I wrote this very article, the teaser to the full trailer for the upcoming Injustice 2 video game crawled across my Facebook feed. And boy howdy, it worked. Before the predictable (but oh-so-glorious) cut scene footage shown over some narration completed, I was furiously calculating the cost to upgrade my Xbox. When the teaser-to-the-trailer ended, the release date in May whizzed across the screen. I looked over at my second browser window – with open tabs at Amazon, eBay, WalMart, and Best Buy – and I stared off into the middle distance in shame.

The fact is, these days products are bought and sold long before they are ever completed. Pilot season in TV land churns out show after show. Only those with enough hype to garner attention from advertisers ever see the light of day. And even then, if the hype train doesn’t keep chugging down the tracks, the show flies off the rails leaving hundreds of actors and production crew scrambling to do it all again. Maybe with a different script next time.

But who am I to judge? My company’s Kickstarter campaign – itself a bit of a hype machine if you think hard on it – was essentially drumming interest up in a project we’d still not completed inking before we were promoting the crap out of the finished product. Smash cut to over a year later, and only now am I flatting one-half of the book while I finish other pages as they drizzle in. And while I’d be tempted to share my half-completed work on our Facebook page, I’ve relegated it to our “seen by at least four people weekly” Facebook Live show.

The broad question is: When have we reached the event horizon? I think we’re already there. With the ubiquitous nature of technology allowing us to capture content being created live as it’s being fretted over, marketing and promotion is half-button push away. In a world where virality is as important at times as the actual quality of the product, hype is now deeply rooted into the very fabric of creation.

And because of it, Wing Commander made nearly half its lifetime gross its opening weekend. It was a bomb of a film and a financial failure. But it had The Phantom Menace trailer attached to it. We all know how that hype played out.

Joe Corallo: Isn’t It Midnight?

Letsallgotothelobby

This past Thursday I went with my columnist of choice, Molly, to take in all that Captain America: Civil War had to offer. There were thrills, chills, and carefully crafted and choreographed spills. Molly and I also went and saw Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice the day they came out. Well, technically those were all the day before they came out. The official release dates for all those movies was the Friday of the week. So how come they were in theaters the day before?

Because we don’t have midnight movie premieres anymore.

Personally, I think that sucks. For years, going to a midnight release was exciting for me. Sure, it often led to a miserable Friday at work, but it was worth it. Waiting on a line with lots of fans, the chatting with strangers about the shared love of Star Wars, Batman, Lord of the Rings, or any number of other movie franchises deemed worthy enough by the studios to share with the masses just a little early. Being looked at as a fountain of knowledge by your family, friends and coworkers who want to see the movie in question over the opening weekend, but not at midnight because they let silly things like their lives, obligations and work ethic get in the way. Yeah, let’s see where that gets them.

One of the first midnight releases I had the chance to go see was Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith. It was a great experience waiting outside on a thankfully nice night and chatting with friends about the movie for a couple of hours (you have to get there early if you want a good seat, after all). People decked out in Star Wars shirts and other paraphernalia, wielding lightsabers, with some even in full out cosplay. It was like being at a mini comic con. And luckily for us it wasn’t the worst Star wars movie, which we all know is Star Wars: Attack of the Clones.

Now that I think about it, my first may have been Spider-Man 2. Fellow columnist Art Tebbel made it a point that we go to a theater in Manhattan that had a professional Spider-Man on hand. I’m pretty sure we sat in the balcony section too. And it turned out that was the best Spider-Man film to date so we lucked out.

I didn’t think of this until I already started writing this week’s column, but I should also encourage all of you reading this to please check out Art Tebbel’s reviews here at ComicMix, Box Office Democracy. He spent two years going to the theater to watch the highest grossing film every week, even if it was the same movie for weeks on end. Art did this and somehow still enjoys movies and has some respect for humanity. And as someone who Art once made stop everything he was doing to go see Anchorman with him because it was that good, I can’t recommend him enough.

So why don’t movie distributors want me to have fun anymore? There are a few reasons why. One of which was the mass shooting in Aurora, Colorado during the midnight premiere of Dark Knight Rises which was in fact the last midnight premiere I had seen. During the early days after this shooting it was often cited as the main reason and linked to security concerns. However, we have now had so many mass shootings since then that it’s more or less been forgotten, but that’s a sad story for another time.

And as for security, I’ve yet to be patted down or go through a metal detector at theaters in midtown Manhattan, so I would find the security reasoning hard to believe. Hell, I’ve successfully snuck in candy and soda into the theater with a 100% success rate since the Aurora mass shooting.

The more likely answer follows Occam’s razor, which is to say money. Yup, you read that right. Shocking, I know. While the studios may like the photo ops, press hits and extra cash a midnight release can bring in, the cost of operations falls on the theaters themselves. Paying for staff to not only stay open later, but to have even more staff on hand for crowd management is a lot.

And over the years more and more movies were falling into the category of midnight premiere fodder, just adding more and more to the cost of operations. What started midnight releases big time in the mainstream with movies like Star Wars: The Phantom Menace trickled down to even the Bourne franchise and when is the last time you encountered a diehard Bourne fan that you could equate to a diehard Star Wars fan in terms of knowledge, dedication, and passion to fandom? Okay, maybe the Fast and Furious franchise you could, but that’s why I didn’t use that as an example before.

It’s natural that movie theaters would want to roll back on this, and plenty of movie theaters still offer midnight B-movie screenings at least in big cities. That’s how I recently met Matt Hannon of Samurai Cop fame as he went out and toured the sequel the end of last year.

And despite what we keep hearing about Hollywood blockbuster after Hollywood blockbuster breaking records every year, particularly comic book movies, Hollywood is an erratic place revenue wise. While 2015 had an impressive cash haul, 2014 did not. Prior to that, 2011 was a bad year for Hollywood, seeing a half a billion dollar drop in domestic ticket sales despite higher prices. Those were the numbers the industry had going into Dark Knight Rises in 2012, so the idea of this being more about profits by screening movies earlier on Thursdays, where more average movie goers will come out and the theaters themselves don’t necessarily have to staff up and keep staff out later, rather than it being related to people’s safety seems to make the most sense.

But hey, that kind of logic works for the gun industry, so why can’t it work for Hollywood?