How to Make a Comic Book Movie – Part 2


Last week I introduced some characteristics that make up a modern superhero or comic book movie. Winning strategies that you can see used again and again. I focused mainly on the idea of the origin story: something they tend to always go back to, every time they start up with another hero.

So they start with an origin story, and tend to pull it from a comic that includes the origin story… and more. Often with the origin in a flashback, or just as a part. Then, they tend to continue with the stories connected to this origin story – generally by sticking with the same comic writer.

Make enough comics movies, and you could make this one! I used this on http://comparativegeeks.wordpress.com/2013/07/19/rewatching-x-men-the-last-stand/

Make enough comics movies, and you could make this one!
I used this on http://comparativegeeks.wordpress.com/2013/07/19/rewatching-x-men-the-last-stand/

The reason for sticking with one writer makes a lot of sense: there’s decades of character development and history, based on countless writers and ideas of the characters. How do you adapt a character with that much baggage? By picking one vision of the character, and going with that.

However, once established in an origin story, they move on. Generally, these movies aren’t being made to tell us the origin story. They’re being made to have fun with the characters, as tends to happen in sequels. To include more, to tell more of the stories. To do more. To make a franchise, to bring the larger scope of the characters to life. Or, cynically, to make more money. But hey, all of these things are accomplished, so: here’s three more rules of making a comics movie!

Aim for Sequels – or a Franchise

I think it’s safe to say that just about every comic adaptation movie is shooting to make more than one movie. Part of the reason to tap into a known world, a known franchise, to deal with licensing this instead of something new, is that you can expect to be tapping into an existing fan base. This also aligns very neatly with the fact that so many comic adaptation movies are announced well in advance of release – you can already see them lining up for next year!

Of course, it’s easy to look at the big franchises and see this. And really, the success of The Avengers building off of Marvel Phase 1 can help explain why we’re seeing things like Days of Future Past tying together old-and-new X-Men movies, and then spin-off Spider-Man movies like Sinister Six and Venom. And why DC is working hard on finally actually getting a Justice League movie to the big screen. The franchises are only going to grow, until eventually one falters majorly.

Hopefully that’s not for a while.

But heck, look past the big name titles, and in recent years you still have Kick-Ass 2Sin City: A Dame to Kill For, and more. Ghost Rider got a second movie, Blade got 3 movies, and even a movie like Daredevil got an Electra movie spin-off… Meaning I would not at all be surprised to see a Green Lantern 2, an R.I.P.D. 2, or a Hercules 2.

I find it important to note that many of those titles aren’t even directly based on comics! The movies went beyond the simple graphic novel it spun from, like 300: Rise of an Empire, which sounded terrible… maybe it would have helped to have had some source material to work from. But then you take Red 2, and it was great, even though the comic was really only related to the first film.

In short, expect a sequel at least when it comes to a comic adaptation movie. Usually they try to tie up most of the loose-ends and plot-lines in each movie, but still, there’s generally more to come. If done well, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that!

Pick Multiple Villains

It happens so much of the time – a comic-book movie has two villains in it, or a villain and a maybe unrelated bad-guy organization. There’s rarely a team up, though of course Batman Forever exists to make that not true. But look at the movies before and after it: Catwoman and the Penguin in Batman Returns not working together, and Mr. Freeze, Poison Ivy, and Bane, not necessarily as a trio in Batman and Robin.

You have Loki and the Frost Giants in Thor, Loki and the Chitauri in The Avengers, and Loki and Malekith (and friends, like Kurse!) in Thor: The Dark World. You have whole rogues galleries the various Batman and Spider-Man movies, you have Magneto and the Brotherhood and other villains in the various X-Men movies – or say, for The Wolverine you have the Silver Samurai and Viper both.

I could go on with more and more examples, but let’s just look at the exceptions. Generally, when there’s only one villain, it’s an origin story. So you get the Fantastic Four with their origin story and them coming to terms with their powers, and then you fight Dr. Doom. You get the second movie, and now we have Doom, plus the Silver Surfer, and then Galactus. While the later Spider-Man movies have multiple villains, the first one (in both recent iterations) has only one villain. Tim Burton’s Batman just had the Joker, but I mentioned all those villains in the later films.

Sure there are a few outliers, but it seems like extra villains are often thrown in to fill the time that in other movies would be filled with the origin story. You sometimes get villains who really just feel like a throw-away, and are dealt with earlier in the movie, or are a gateway to getting to the “real” villain. Think of poor Sandman in Spider-Man 3: why was he really there? Filler, which is kind of a shame, because Venom could have used more time. Continue reading

Doctor Who Series 8 Episode 3: “Robot of Sherwood” Review

doctorwho_robotofsherwood

by William Hohmeister

Confession: I missed the last 30 seconds or so of “Into the Dalek”, so I didn’t hear Clara say that she didn’t have a rule against soldiers. This lightened my attitude toward her a bit, and made the ending more tolerable, since she clearly feels something about leaving Journey Blue behind.

Robot of Sherwood” is surprisingly good. I expected to dislike it; the Doctor (Peter Capaldi) and Clara (Jenna Louise-Coleman) meet Robin Hood (Errol Flynn) and robots. I don’t like the Robin Hood legend, and robots appear as villains too often in Doctor Who. But this is my favorite episode of series 8 Doctor Who so far. It does pretty much everything right, even the goofy ending.

Clara gets to pick the destination this time, and she insists on Robin Hood (Kevin Costner). The Doctor claims he isn’t real, but lands in 1190 Sherwood Forest. Robin greets the Doctor with an arrow and tries to mug him. The Doctor pulls out a dueling glove and a large spoon.

They duel on a log over a stream and the Doctor knocks Robin into the water with a fancy move. The episode is full of Robin Hood tropes, and the duel means you’re in with Robin’s gang. He takes Clara and the Doctor to his hideout, where Clara joins the ranks of Companions creating history by dubbing Robin’s group the “Merry Men.” She and Robin talk, while the Doctor takes hair, blood, and “other” samples from the Merry Men for testing. The Doctor is convinced Robin is not real, and remains so for most of the episode.

The Sheriff of Nottingham (Ben Miller) and masked Knights kidnap peasants for labor and steal gold from the rest. When a peasant mouths off, the Sheriff kills him with a great pre-mortem one liner: “You’ll live to regret that… Actually, you won’t.” He also sets up the classic trap for Robin Hood (Sean Connery), an archery contest.robot-of-sherwood-doctor-bow

The best scenes in this episode are all silly. When Robin enters the contest, he wins by splitting the Sheriff’s arrow in two. Before he can claim the gold arrow as his prize, the Doctor splits that arrow. He and Robin one-up each other until the Doctor gets exasperated and blows up the target. The Sheriff arrests them, and the knights reveal themselves as robots. The Doctor is smug and glad, and surrenders quickly.

The rivalry between Robin and the Doctor deepens in the dungeon. Clara acts as the moderating voice, but even she gets fed up. A guard picks her as the leader, and takes her away. While she interrogates the Sheriff, Robin and the Doctor try to escape. They knock out the guard, but both try to grab the keys and accidentally kick them away. The Doctor says, “Well, there is a bright side here. Clara didn’t see that.”

Clara is at her best in the interrogation. She leads the Sheriff on without ever becoming as sleazy as he is, and gets his plans, his history, and his motivations. She pretends to have met the robots as well, and the eagerness with which the Sheriff believes her is pathetic. The Sheriff is my favorite villain so far because he is believable. He feels ill-used and lonely, but he’s also a total creep when he hits on Clara. He seems somewhat insane, as he rambles on about a vague plan to conquer England, then “the WORLD!” with the robots’ spaceship.

The Doctor and Robin stumble into that same ship, and the Doctor searches the computer. He finds references to Robin Hood (Tom Riley), and tries to tear him down as a fake. He loathes the idea that Robin might actually exist. The Sheriff finds them, but Robin escapes with Clara as the Doctor is captured again.

sherrifThe Doctor creates a riot with the kidnapped peasants, and nearly breaks out before the Sheriff appears. He claims the Sheriff and Robin are in on the plot together, but the Sheriff points out: “Why would we create an enemy to fight us? What sense would that make? That would be a terrible idea.” Seriously, the Sheriff is super-cool. He baffles the Doctor with common sense. The Doctor is forced to realize he’s wrong about Robin.

Robin and Clara reappear to save the Doctor. The ending has an odd misstep: the Doctor and Clara stand and watch while Robin duels the Sheriff. The episode is paced so well that this really stood out. Robin knocks the Sheriff into the vat of molten gold, but the ship takes off. Without more gold it won’t reach orbit, and the exploding engines will take out half of England!

The gold arrow is so, so goofy, but it fits the episode. I see it as a reaffirmation of heroes doing impossible things. Before leaving, the Doctor and Robin talk about heroes. The Doctor despises heroes and legends. Robin and the Merry Men are both. They fight impossible odds, laugh at death, and show up just in time. Robin says he’s not a hero, but by pretending he inspires others.

This shakes the Doctor up. It’s been a while since we’ve gotten a real character arc, so this is especially welcome. Both Robin and the Doctor started off as similar characters, but with a drastic difference: Robin believes in heroes, the Doctor does not. Robin Hood is impossible to the Doctor. He knows from long experience that silly heroics don’t save the day.Robot_of_Sherwood_RobinHood

The gold arrow saves the day, though, against good sense and gravity. It shows that heroes are rewarded. The scene is ridiculous I think because believing in the Doctor and Robin Hood is ridiculous. The success of the arrow mirrors their own possible success as actual, big damn heroes.

Other things of interest: What is the Doctor writing on the blackboard as the episode begins? It looks similar to his scrawling in “Deep Breath.” And where was Missy? I expected her to pick up the Sheriff. We see his hands, covered in dripping gold, reaching out of the vat. I hope he comes back. Finally, why do only robots believe in the Promised Land?

images © BBC

Weekend Music & Feminist Friday Update


I’d intended to do a recap/restart post of the Feminist Friday discussions at Part Time Monster today, but just didn’t have the time to get it together. In fact, I haven’t even looked at the blogs since Tuesday thanks to a combination of offline obligations and computer problems. I’ll have that post over the weekend because I want to get the discussions going again next Friday, but I have to get through one more day  of work before I can even think about it.

I’ll catch up with all your comments over the weekend, and hopefully next week will be better.

Happy Weekend!