And so another of the items on the world’s “This will never happen” list can be crossed off. Sony and Marvel Studios have come to an accord on the use of Spider-Man in proper Marvel films, and of other Marvel characters in upcoming Spider-movies.
While this initially sounds like a stellar win, I can see a number of ways that it won’t live up to the expectations of the fans.
Marvel hasn’t “gotten Spider-Man back” – This is very much a “two guys with half the map” scenario. A great deal of cooperation will have to occur between the companies, with permitted uses and appearances strictly defined. It seems much like the partnership between the various studios in the Lord of the Rings / Hobbit franchise, each hanging on to their piece for dear life to score a taste of that sweet profit stream.
According to the announcement, Sony and Marvel will cast a new Spider-Man after Andrew Garfield starred in the last two films, “The Amazing Spider-Man” and “The Amazing Spider-Man 2.” Tobey Maguire played Peter Parker in the previous three installments for Sony.
Sony will continue to distribute, finance, own and have final creative control of the Spider-Man pics. They’ll work with Marvel, owned by Disney, on how to weave Spider-Man’s character into Marvel’s upcoming superhero films, which includes the popular franchise “The Avengers.”
The Interview is a movie doomed to collapse under the weight of all the external nonsense forced upon it. It is not a movie worth being called an act of war. It is not a movie worthy of being the standard bearer for free speech against real or imagined tyranny. It’s not a movie worth the total public embarrassment of Sony Pictures. It’s just a stupid comedy. I don’t even mean “stupid” pejoratively here, it is in the same grand tradition of stupid comedies that has brought us movies like There’s Something About Mary and Caddyshack. Both movies I like a great deal, neither of them worth an international incident.
When it’s on, The Interview is quite funny. The bit with Eminem that I saw all over Facebook this weekend is my favorite so it’s a shame that that’s in the first ten minutes of the film. Otherwise the film hits on more joke attempts than it misses. Seth Rogen and James Franco have an undeniable comedic chemistry and it’s just fun to watch them bounce of each other. Randall Park is outstanding playing Kim Jong-Un, as is his Veep co-star Timothy Simons in a terribly small part. It’s also important to recognize Diana Bang who is fantastically funny as the leading lady in this film, a part that often doesn’t get a ton of space under the Apatow-Rogen film umbrella but Bang is electric and hopefully gets to do bigger and better things in comedy going forward.
The entire movie is dragged down to mediocre by a poor second act. After the first round of North Korean hijinks, the movie grinds to a halt as the characters slowly get in to their positions or the finale. This leads to a seemingly endless number of scenes of conversations that move the plot along at a glacial pace while not being particularly funny. It’s inexcusable. Add this to the frequent book-report-esque need to put in North Korea facts and statistics and there’s a lot of drag pulling down what might have been a better movie set in a fictional country.
I appreciate that Rogen, along with his directing partner Evan Goldberg, are continuing to be ambitious with their visuals. It would be very easy (and probably profoundly more profitable) for them to continue making Superbad knockoffs until they all died when their houses collapsed from carrying too much money, but much like This is the End there’s a lot going on here. Sure, they’re taking advantage of the fact that no one has any idea if North Korea looks like the outskirts of Vancouver but there are some real sets here and an honest-to-goodness war at the end. When you compare it to the costless dreck that you get from Adam Sandler or the Twilight movies and it’s just so nice to see people take a simple guaranteed paycheck and make a movie that’s actually interesting to look at on a screen. This sounds like an incredibly backhanded compliment but it’s becoming less and less common.
Just because it’s that time of year – and you know what I’m talking about and don’t pretend you don’t – don’t for one second think that I’ve become some sentimental goo brain and if you do think that come over here and I’ll make you a damp spot on the rug. Or at least give you a stern look. (Or at least consider giving you a stern look at some future date, maybe in an alternate universe.)
But despite my loud and proud misanthropy, there are a few things, as we creep past the solstice, that make me believe that there’s really no reason to be ashamed of my species. Leading the list this week, if there were a list, would be the comic book community’s response to Norm Breyfogle’s misfortune. Norm, who I’ve long considered a storytelling artist, suffered what seems to have been a bad stroke that left his drawing hand disabled. I wondered how his colleagues would respond. Splendidly, is how. Within 24 hours, the comics folk had raised over $20,000 and flooded the emails with offers of help and messages of support. Norm has a long way to go – months of therapy and sundry other problems to be solved – but at least his fellow storytellers have given him a start.
Then there was the movie brouhaha. As most of you surely know, cyberterrorists threatened nine-eleven type action against any exhibitor who showed The Interview, a comedy about an assassination plot directed at North Korea’s national big cheese, Kim Jung Un. At first, all parties caved, including the flick’s producer, Sony. Ah, but now the happy ending. At virtually the last minute, over 200 smallish, independent theaters got exhibition rights and showed the picture over the weekend. And it was made available for streaming on three Internet venues.
This has very little to do with The Interview. Might be a good flick, might not, might be somewhere in between. But what’s important here is that those who championed the movie refused to be bullied. Anyone who’s had extensive dealings with bullies – teachers, let’s have a show of hands – will probably testify that bullies can’t be appeased. You can’t get rid of them by simply meeting their demands. They don’t really what they’re asking for, they want the power that got it for them. Give it to them and they’ll just want more. Under the threats, they’re probably scared and that’s sad and pitiable, but irrelevant. You can feel sorry for a rabid dog, but you still have to stop his attack.
A final note and then I’m gone for the rest of the year: Norm Breyfogle still needs help. There’s a link on the ComicMix home page. Please give him some. Oh, and if any of you even dare to accuse me of being a nice guy…
Sony’s Playstation Network debuted the first trailer for its live-action adaptation of Powers to a packed room at New York Comic Con today.
Based on Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Avon Oeming’s creator-owned comic, Powers is currently in production starring Sharlto Copley as Christian Walker, Susan Heyward as Deena Pilgrim, and Michelle Forbes as Retro Girl, and is slated to debut on the video game console’s new streaming network this fall.
It’s become a growing practice to create a special edition of popular new releases specifically for Sony and Nintendo’s handhelds, more suited to the system’s differing strengths. When Batman: Arkham Origins was released recently, both systems got their own side adventure, obliquely connected to the main game, but unique in features and content. Thanks to the popularity of the series, the handheld game has been expanded and made available for all major systems, console and handheld.
Batman: Arkham Origins Blackgate Deluxe Edition is set three months after the events of Arkham Origins. An explosion at Blackgate prison results in a chaotic takeover of the facility, headed by The Penguin and Black Mask. Things get more serious when it’s learned that the Joker has also joined the incarcerated internecine warfare. The game has some limited free play options – you can battle the three bosses and their associated campaigns in any order, and the end game finale differs based on who you chose to fight last. The movement is largely a 2-D left-to-right progression, with jumps to other angles for certain puzzles and boss fights.
The gameplay is similar enough to the main line of games that it’s easy enough to pick up with little trouble. Enhanced to HD-quality, the game is still based on a design for smaller, slightly less powerful handheld devices, so it’s not as huge and expansive as the primary title. The Deluxe Edition upgrade adds new characters, levels and unlockables – there’s 10 special costumes to seek out, from DC stories like Zero year, the Batman 66 costume, and the Blackest Night costume which makes you impervious to damage.
The game is fun and entertaining in their own right, good for filling the time between DLC releases of the main games. Likely not worth a repurchase if you got the original for the handhelds, but at this price, it’s a good addition to the series, and certainly easier to see on a bigger screen.
Batman: Arkham Origins Blackgate Deluxe Edition is available via download for most console and handheld systems now, including Steam, and coming soon on the WiiU .
Gerry Conway recently posted a provocative story. He starts off discussing the history of creator rights and profit-sharing in the comics industry, and how he (and others) get paid when their creations are used not only in comics, but also on television, in movies and other media.
And then he says this:
“But, like all companies, it’s a business, and its first priority is to reduce costs, increase efficiency, and maximize profits. So tracking which character was created by which writer and artist team thirty or forty years ago isn’t part of their business plan. It’s just too much work, and it requires a dedication and devotion to detail that only one group in the world has in abundant quantities:
“You, the fans.”
I object to this on myriad levels. Here’s a sampling.
• Fans are fantastic, but they do more than enough when they buy the comics, or the movie tickets, or turn on the television. They should not be used as slave (by which I mean unpaid) labor by profit-making companies. That’s because…
• Comics publishers are profit-making companies, not charities. If they want someone to work for them for free, they should get interns, like the rest of corporate America.
• Paying creators a share of the profits generated from their work is not charity. It’s not even a nice gesture (or rather, not primarily a nice gesture). It is the cost of doing business, especially for companies that deal in intellectual properties (or content, as the kids say). Sure, they might save a few bucks by not paying out for a couple of quarters, but over the long haul, they will lose talent to the companies that pay more fairly. Profit-sharing improves the bottom line.
• Most of the work has already been done. It’s really a matter of moments for some aide to an assistant to look up what’s not already covered here.
• Anyone writing a script that uses a really obscure character, either as a springboard for a plot or an Easter egg for fans, already knows the comics well enough to be able to do the research him or herself.
Now, I don’t know anything about Gerry Conway’s personal finances (which are none of my business). He has a terrific résumé, which includes a bunch of high-paying jobs, and I imagine he has a comfortable life, but then, I’m just projecting. However, as he acknowledges, his proposal will benefit scores of other creators, many of whom can really use the money. I’m not faulting him for his idea, just for the execution.
Warners and Disney (and Sony and Universal etc. etc.) are not the only corporations that treat paying out money as some kind of optional, if unpleasant chore. According to this article, some companies are, essentially, making employees pay for the privilege of receiving their salaries.
As comics fans, and as Americans on this Independence Day weekend, when we celebrate liberty and the pursuit of happiness, we need to stand up for the people who make our lives enjoyable. And we need to do it by demanding fairness, not working for free.