Friday, August 01, 2014

Hell Hath No Fury Like A Road Scorned: SDCC Wrap-Up

Sorry, can you repeat that? Afraid I couldn't hear you over my six-foot erection that the new MAD MAX trailer gave me.

Word is that this flick didn't have an actual script, too; Miller found someone to craft super detailed storyboards, and then let his actors ad-lib as they went. This little bit of info collaborates well with the suggestion that there are no villages, no jungles and no Domes of Thunder, just Tom Hardy in the middle of the desert being chased by mutants in souped up trucks for 2 hours. I'm trying not to get too excited, but fuck it - I haven't had a boner over a trailer this hard since Pacific Rim.

I mean, yeah, other stuff happened at SDCC - like THE BEST VEGETA TOY EVER - but who gives a damn after seeing this?

Mad Max 2, commonly known as The Road Warrior in these United States, is the undisputed champ of 1980s transformative action cinema. It was an old fashioned cowboys and indians movie trumped up on cold war hysteria to create the single most explosive road movie ever imagined. The entirety of the "Post Nuke" action wave that would erupt through the decade all trace their steps back to this film, a speculate piece of nihilism that asks what'd happen to the basic concept of human decency without a society left to enforce it; a true masterpiece of cobbling familiar ideas and concepts back into a nearly unrecognizable whole, and one of the single greatest mulch-tiered "fuck you" twist endings I've ever witnessed.

I've always been frustrated by Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome, who's two act structure really belittles its own potential greatness. The first third or so in Bartertown are fantastic, an increasingly surreal and bizarre apocalyptic fantasy that pushes the Western aesthetic of the previous film back to a Medieval Fantasy with neon lighting, but once they cut Gibson loose for sparing Master Blaster and he's rescued by the tribe of naked Aboriginal kids... ugh. It's the Mad Max equivalent to the Ewoks, plain and simple. I suppose there's a cultural significance that may be lost on me as a Yank, paying homage to the natives who'd be more likely than anyone to shrug off a nuclear holocaust and Western-centric societal breakdown, but it just felt too goofy to hold my attention, beautifully shot or not. It's almost like George Miller had somehow changed the channel from Richard Stanley's Hardware to Dustin Hoffman chewing scenery in Hook half-way through, and figured nobody else would notice. I should, I suppose, give this film a second chance... but goddamn it, did they really think Tina Turner was the ideal final boss for any movie, much less a franchise who's last maniacal baddie was a jacked-up and BDSM themed prototype of Jason Vorhees?

You could put a stop to all of this...
Remember, the safe word is "melon farmer"!

Mind you, it's been nearly 30 years since Miller's final Mad Max film, and in the meantime he's made everything from supernatural romantic comedies to 3D movies about dancing penguins. Yeah, go figure. So what are the odds that the 70 year old man who'll forever be best known for infecting America with a love for Mel Gibson that'd make us all feel shitty in retrospect? Beats the hell out of me. All I know is every frame of that stuff up at the top - over the top color grading aside, perhaps - looks seriously bad assed. I've had mixed feelings about this project for a while now, but if the film can deliver even a sliver of the over the top desert-fucking action that we see up top, I'm in. Balls deep in. God, I haven't wanted to somehow put my penis inside a trailer this badly since Pacific Rim.

Also of note, Shout Factory has announced that they're doing a Special Edition of the original 1979 Mad Max, which is more of a bikers-run-amok character piece than a balls-out action movie like the sequels. I like the movie for what it is, but it's a little limp, even compared to the swing-and-a-miss that is Beyond Thunderdome. I'm sure Shout Factory could include a substantial boost in bonus features, but short of Gibson and Miller showing up for a  commentary, I'm not sure how much excitement I can drum up personally.

Since San Diego ComiCon is now over and I don't care quite hard enough about any other projects announced to devote a whole post to them, let's mention the other stuff now and move on:

* BATMAN V SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE *snicker* showed off a teaser of Ben Afleck wearing the Frank Miller designed "power armor" from The Dark Knight Returns, and the results are... kind of sweet, actually. Consider me cautiously optimistic, and praying this is a marked improvement over Man of Steel, which - for all intents and purposes - is clearly the starting point for DC to try and emulate Marvel Studios' business model of FILM ALL THOSE CAPED ASSHOLES, NOW.

And since I don't think I've ever really clarified this, I stand by Zack Snyder being an incredibly talented director who's good at doing a very specific kind of sensory overload movie*, and think he was the best choice standing for both 300 and Watchmen, both of which helped legitimize doing comic-book movies in a very literal and very R-rated way that's pretty far outside of the stuff that both Chris Nolan and the Marvel Universe have tried to thus far accomplish. I'd argue that Sin City was an experiment to prove that a film like 300 could work, but the fact that it could literally be cut up into 30 minute chunks and replayed in any order does, in some ways, undermine the notion that it should have been a single feature film in the first place.

Putting Snyder at the helm of a Superman origin story was bound to disappoint a lot of people because little things like "human empathy" and "hope" aren't really his bag; nihilism, violence and over the top set pieces that shatter entire cities like an Hollywood version of Dragon Ball Z are kind of what he's good at, and as such Man of Steel delivered exactly what I wanted to see, but did so in the mold of trying to be something Snyder was neither capable, nor interested, in delivering. Parts of that movie are fucking great, and not all of the bright spots are dark in tone, but there's a lot of stuff that either wasn't properly realized, or just felt crammed in to make the movie feel "bigger" - a thematic Katamari of cloning and multiple father figures and the film raising moral questions it doesn't seem willing to answer, likely because this - much like Richard Donner's far more human take - was always meant to be one half of a bigger story. This is a movie where removing Lois Lane entirely would have made things better, not worse, and that kinda' sums up what a mess it is.

Sadly, the far bigger problem is David Goyer, that asshole that Chris Nolan convinced the world should be writing the screenplay for all DC comic movies... but, that's another story. for another day. Snyder's hit or miss, but his track record is still more of the former than the latter. So far the only thing David Goyer's given us worth a single wet fart is The Dark Knight - and even THAT has the same overly complicated nonsensical bullshit that goes nowhere!

I'll trail off here before I get into what an uninspired nothing Bryan Singer is as a director, but I've got other things to do that completely ruin my standing with comic-movie nerds everywhere...

* Wonder Woman's iconic look is so recognizable in her costume featured in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice oh my God how is that the real fucking title... that Mrs. Kentai peeked over my shoulder and asked "Wait, are they remaking Xena?" And yes, that was a shitty comparison for them to dredge up, intentional or not; Lucy Lawless wasn't exactly a body builder, but that lady still looked like she could take a punch and then give it right back. Gadot looks more like a model than a fighter, and while I kinda' got over that with Milla Jolovich in the half-dozen or so Resident Evil movies, at least her schtick is mostly doing backflips and then unloading automatic weapons on slow-moving monsters. Who'd have guessed that, with time and a misguided attempt to appeal to Western tastes, the RE games would actually become dumber than the movies?

The dull colors and distinct lack of respect to the original design aesthetic would have pissed me off, if only in principle - this is, after all, the closest thing to realizing American Mythology to the masses, and seeing it done with so little fealty to the concepts that drive how inherently silly comic book heroes inherently are has always been a personal turn-off. Look, I couldn't realistically give two shits about The Amazing Spider Man 2, but that doesn't mean that Homeless Dr. Manhattan doesn't piss me off from a purely visual sense. Jamie Foxx got a hell of a paycheck for putting up with that stupid shit, and it's sad because it didn't have to be that conceptually bankrupt.

But then I watched the internet collectively snark about how the wedge heeled boots are totally sexist and impractical - and that same general urge to punch the world for trashing unique footwear flooded back, same as it did when I saw the same conversation about Samus Aran's rocket heels. Those Athenian boots are bitchin', fools, and now I kind of want to champion this dull bronzed shit just so people who lack appreciation for fantasy footwear can get a nice kick in the ego.

I'm all for practicality in design when it comes to "serious" Science Fiction or Realist Fantasy - your Game of Thrones and your Alien and so on, but when said character is an Athenian Goddess who can fly teaming up with a bunch of GMO beefcakes in spandex pants, trip-inducing and capes and vision-limiting cowls... yeah. Not quite as fussed about her center of balance at that point. But that's just me.

* Gareth Edwards' GODZILLA reboot is getting a sequel, and having proven that he's better at making money than Toho themselves are, they're now courting the rights to use Rodan, Mothra and King Ghidorah. Nothing's set in stone yet, and it seems unlikely that we'd get one film with three(!) flying monsters at once, but the fact that they're interested in rebooting more of Toho's heavy hitters is still pretty exciting. For all the things the Godzilla film could have been, it did feel like the barren ground to build a sprawling franchise on top of, and the fact that they're announcing three massive icons of the kaiju world suggests they're going to go for broke as quickly as possible from here on out. Every second to feature Godzilla, the M.U.T.O, Ken Watanabe and Bryan Cranston was pure gold in the Legendary Pictures' Reboot, but everything with Aaron Taylor-Johnson was a boring, foot dragging mess, so the more kaiju the sequel gets, the better it'll inevitably be.

Sadly, this list of upcoming monster-mash fodder is clearly missing Jet Jaguar the Ultraman Knock-off, Ebirah the giant fuck'n Shrimp and Hedorah the Smog Monster, so my inner eight year old isn't quite as satisfied as he could be.

Also, for fuck's take, if you bring Kick-Ass back for that, I'm going to figure out what Twitter is just to bitch about it. Fuck that guy. I mean he's young and stupid, it's probably not his fault, but he was so, fucking, dull in this. I know three out of four "authentic" kaiju movie heroes are boring as fuck, but even Ferris friggin' Bueller sucked less than this in the '98 atrocity. The fact that there's anything I can say the Emerich movie did better than this is a core problem.

* Marvel may be a lot of things these days, but cowardly sure ain't one of them. Despite having lost fan favorite director Edgar Wright for his proposed ANT-MAN movie and haven't shot a single frame of it, yet they're plowing ahead to finish this production train-wreck in 12 months anyway. The balls that took are nothing short of beach sized, and I guess this'll help settle whether or not the mere presence of their logo will make a massive fortune, or if the people behind the films - you know, the actual directors - still matter in the minds of the public. I know Wright was the only thing making Ant-Man interesting to me, but will the rest of the world just bitch incessantly about its existence and then pay to see it anyway, same way they do every three years when Michael Bay breaks out the latest Transformers flick? Well... Probably. Marquee Value is still a thing, and it's unfortunate that the concept can slaughter a great film like Dredd 3D, while simultaneously ensuring that everything that doesn't warrant or  need a sequel will get one.

Also, sequel to Guardians of the Galaxy despite them not having seen the box-office numbers. I keep expecting a premise this weird to fail, but I'm increasingly convinced that we've slipped into an alternate dimension where nerds really do rule the world, and if so, the movie about a raccoon packing an automatic laser rifle may well be the most successful Pop-Scifi film since Luc Besson decided to rip off his favorite issues of Heavy Metal and not pay Moebius for it. Somehow, I'm fine with that. I'm seeing it tomorrow, because there's literally no argument you can use to put me off of seeing a movie that features Michael Rooker as a blue alien with an orange mohawk. One could probably argue that Guardians of the Galaxy being an absurdist experiment was already a risky move, but at least director James Gunn has a unique and respected voice in absurdist films to begin with. Again, cautious optimism. I have little doubt I'll like the movie, but if it's a commercial success on par with the rest of Marvel's output, that means we really have hit a turning point as a public... and that's interesting, if nothing else.

* Fox decided to make DEADPOOL a lackey in their unwatchable Wolverine: Origins movie, since they own his likeness but weren't convinced a fourth-wall breaking murderous mercenary would be a safe bet on his own at the box office. Ryan Reynolds pitched an R-rated version of Deadpool to Fox via an 8 minute promo reel, two minutes of which was "leaked" immediately following SDCC. First Blur Media was all excited about it and grateful that "Hackers" had found a way to get it... then they immediately shut the fuck up about it, with only Deadpool creator Rob Liefield having not redacted something akin to excitement that the world got to see this in any form. (If you don't think the HD version was leaked by Fox themselves as some viral stunt to gauge interest in the concept, please, put down the lead paint chips.) Fox put this project on the back burner circa 2011, and Reynolds made the somehow even more unwatchable Green Lantern flick with Warner Brothers in the meantime. Once that atrocity blew over, nobody wanted Reynolds to be a superhero soon after, so instead he made R.I.P.D., which was a shitty ghost-themed remake of Men in Black nobody asked for. Nobody wanted the official sequels, either. Seriously... stop making more Men in Black movies.

This is the butterfly effect in action explaining why we can't have nice things. Because that leaked promo was goddamn awesome. Go find it on YouTube before Fox pretends to be upset about it and takes it down for the 30th time.

* Fuck, I'm bored of this already but I need to mention this: Maisie "Arya Stark" Williams in THE LAST OF US: THE MOVIE? Eh... whatever. She's adorable and more talented than I consistently expect her to be, don't get me wrong, but unless you have a 15 year old clone of Ellen Paige in cold storage and are able to wrap George Clooney's face around Josh Brolin's talent, this movie's just not going to get where it needs to be to work as a 2 hour film with the same visceral impact the interactive version already has. That game is a milestone, "best ever" or not, and I have my doubts that removing the interactive elements forcing you to go through the trauma of the story first-hand will do anything but harm the moral ambiguity element from imprinting on the viewer. Watching it, without being "forced" to go through some of those shocking motions yourself, will likely leave a lot of people who don't play games why everyone flipped their shit over what's, basically, a cross-country roadtrip version of 28 Days Later.

Also, they're already talking about re-writing the game's perfect ending? Wow. They haven't even cast the male lead and already we can tell this is going to be a train wreck.