Sunday, January 25, 2015

A Good Feeling About This

Regular readers of this blog would be forgiven from assuming that I neither read nor watched anything of interest for most of 2014. This is of course untrue, so the next few posts will probably be "catch-ups" of a sort.

But first, I'd like to point out that about a month ago we saw the appearance of a long-awaited Star Wars-related video - no, I'm not talking about the first The Force Awakens trailer, but rather fan-film studio Bat in the Sun's Super Power Beat Down Episode 14, "Batman Vs. Darth Vader". And man, but it was worth the wait:

Once the sheer geeky joy of seeing Batman lightsaber-dueling with Darth Vader had subsided somewhat, I was able to appreciate some of the finer details of the film. While the production values of Bat in the Sun's productions have always been high, this one really raises the bar - yes, in terms of overall special effects and set and costume design (all of which are spot on), but also in the little details, like Batman's nose bleeding after his abortive attempt to breathe in space.

Although the final result of the battle was dictated by popular vote*, I was also impressed by the writing of the piece. While it would have been nice to get some hint of the (allegedly plotted out) events that got Superman trapped on the Death Star - giving Batman the opportunity to use the "That's no moon" line was a nice bonus to picking that setting, by the way -  in the first place, once the Bat-wing** docks things flow fairly logically, given a Batman with some idea of Darth Vader's capabilities. Sneaking a lightsaber (presumably Obi-Wan's, which would imply that this whole fracas takes place during the Yavin 4 briefing scenes from A New Hope) from Vader's armory was an especially good idea, though it might just be because it leads to this reveal:

"I underestimate nothing!"
Anyway, it's plain to see that this is a fan-film, in the best sense of the word - if the creative teams working on The Force Awakens and Batman V. Superman show as much obvious care for the settings and characters as Bat in the Sun has, then in terms of fan response they should have nothing to worry about.

*Not that that will stop BitS from releasing an alternate ending next month. 

**Never before has this alternate term for Batman's aircraft been more apt.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Atomic Robo Goes Full Digital

In some stunning news from Tesladyne Island earlier this week, the writers of the Atomic Robo comic announced that as of 2015, the comic will be transitioning from a traditional by-the-issue publishing model to a three-times-a-week webcomic. This means, among other things, that the entire 54-issue run of the comic thus far will be free to read - eventually, their plan is to release one issue a week until they catch up, starting today - and then continuing with the new stuff. Which, cleverly, they now have over a year to come up with, though as today was the expected release date for the Volume 9 trade it probably would have been about that long anyway.

Anyway, it looks like it's going to be an interesting year, to say the least, for Atomic Robo fans as things roll out. But there are still unanswered questions - such as, how long will the "Free Comics" page remain in its current form? Will the new paradigm work as well as the creators hope it will? Will it include the Real Science Adventures spin-off? Will Dr. Dinosaur ever top his first two appearances?

The answer to that last one is, "No".

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Where's My Flying Car?

Or even a hoverboard?
Except perhaps the jetpack, nothing quite says "retro-futurism" like the flying car. Probably the most famous is, of course, Doc Brown's DeLorean time machine from the end of Back to the Future. In Part II, we see that the source if this technology is the year 2015, when hover-tech is built into practically everything. With 2015 now less than a year away, the odds of this particular vision of the future seems increasingly remote.

In the real world, of course, there are a myriad of reasons for this. Gravity manipulation, if even possible, is still years away, and while more mundane versions of flying cars have been developed, they still run into the problem of being much harder to use than the traditional auto.

In fiction, of course, things can get much more interesting. For example, in Captain America: The First Avenger we see Howard Stark showing off a car retrofitted with "Stark Gravitic Reversion Technology", a feat all the more impressive for being achieved in 1943.

True, it doesn't last very long, but the technology seems well-developed enough to become widespread in fairly short order. That it doesn't can, I think, be explained by this later development:

Clearly, "Gravitic Reversion" is one of the things that S.H.E.I.L.D has been keeping under wraps for all these years - Lola is, I understand, based on a 1962 model Corvette, although of course the hover-conversion could have taken place at any point subsequently. Of particular interest, to me anyway, is that Lola's transition process looks and sounds a lot like the DeLorean's. It's very tempting to conflate the two, and having hover-tech be suppressed by S.H.E.I.L.D for much of the development period explains how it becomes so widespread so soon after it becomes public.

OsCorp, though promising, was
rejected for consideration.
For obvious reasons.
Of course, when they did decide to release it S.H.E.I.L.D probably still wouldn't want to admit they'd been suppressing it, so the release would probably be done through an intermediary. About a month ago there was a flurry of interest surrounding HUVrTech, which purported to be a company that had indeed developed a Back to the Future-esque hoverboard. Of course it turned out to be a prank, though one a lot of people seem to have believed (in retrospect they should have waited until today to announce it . . . then again, they probably wouldn't have had as many people believe it if they had), but their announcement - coming December 2014! - is pretty much how I would expect things to go if a shadowy conspiracy was in charge of technological development.

For now, though, flying cars and anti-gravity skateboards remain the stuff of fiction, looking forward to the day when we really aren't going to need roads.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Welcome News

A month or so ago, it was announced that Win Scott Eckert, author of the Crossover Universe Timeline books I was so enthusiastic about a couple years back, is handing off that project to one Sean Levin, who will be producing a third and fourth volume of that work.

As if that wasn't enough, yesterday the two of them - well, mostly Levin - began a new blog to chronicle the further development of the Crossover Universe. This quite exciting, and I look forward to following the progress of this new project.

Soon to be replaced with four different covers.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Where Someone Has Gone Before

Look, I'm not one of the sorts of  Star Trek fans who felt betrayed or insulted by 2009's Star Trek taking the focus into a new timeline. Nor am I terribly convinced by arguments that boil down to "it has too much action to be a proper Star Trek story". And truthfully, I have very few problems with Star Trek Into Darkness as a whole - but the problems I do have a pretty central to the film.

They're also pretty spoilery, so if you haven't seen it yet you probably want to take care of that before venturing below the cut.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

A League Of Its Own

It's rather hard to believe, but today is the tenth anniversary of the release of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen film, based on the Alan Moore comic of the same name. I never got a chance to see it in the theater, unfortunately (though I really wanted to), but once I acquired a DVD copy it quickly became one of my favorite movies, right up there with the Back to the Future and Indiana Jones films.

Sadly, the world in general does not appear to share my enthusiasm. I tend to attribute this to rampant Alan Moore fandom - he famously doesn't get on well with adaptations of his work, and LXG admittedly took rather a few more liberties than an adaptation can typically support.

But in this case, however, I think the changes work quite well. Certainly they don't distract from making the movie enjoyable to watch, in itself, and one of the chief delights of cameo- and reference-spotting remain intact.

Indeed, I credit The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen with helping to form my current interest in crossovers and shared universes, most notably the Wold Newton Universe (to which the League is tangentially related).

Anyway. I've always enjoyed the movie, and was quite disappointed a few years later when LXG2: War of the Worlds failed to materialize. Almost unbelievably, it seems that the concept might still have a chance - there are some early reports that Fox is developing the League as a television show. Details at this time are sketchy - not even to determine whether this is a reboot or a continuation of the film continuity - but I'm hopeful that whatever comes from he project will be at least as enjoyable as the movie is to me.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The Avengers, and Other Marvelous Things

So yes, this is old news, but The Avengers is amazing. It takes everything that was good about the previous half-dozen Marvel Cinematic Universe movies, and concentrates it down into two-and-a-half hours of what may be the best superhero movie to date.

If I had to pick one word to sum up the film, I think I would choose balanced. There are several ways that this is relevant - in terms of spectacle vs. plot, for example, the movie manages to excel at the former without it being (as is too often the case) at the expense of the latter. Also applicable is the way the film balanced the hitherto unprecedented - so far as I'm aware - team-up of heroes who previously carried four individual franchises, a feat made even more extraordinary by its success. Each one got some time in the spotlight, simultaneously continuing their stories from previous outings and emerging ready to slip back into solo-dom with minimal disruption.

Iron Man, having had around 100% more prior movie time than almost any of his team-mates, seemed to me to be the most static in terms of development, though his introduction would certainly seem to indicate his relationship with Pepper has developed from what I remember. There was also that nifty armor upgrade, which makes a nice midpoint between the backpack-armor we saw in Iron Man 2 and Iron Man 3's rumored nano-tech-armor. Finally, he did have a bit of a character arc in his response to Captain America's remarks about sacrifice, and I really liked the way he insisted on interacting with Dr. Banner as a fellow scientist rather than a potential Hulk.

Then again, Hulkbuster!
Speaking of the Hulk, in some ways he had the most to overcome, with his multiple actors and somewhat uneven prior films. In a lot of ways, however, he was the breakout star of the film - certainly he was responsible for many of the film's most popular moments (such as the punching the first giant robot dragon-fish, and of course his "Puny god" line). Would these moments be enough to carry a solo film? I'm sure we'll find out eventually, but in the meantime I'm looking forward to Hulk and/or Dr. Banner making cameos in his team-mates' movies. I'd like to think, giving him going off with Tony at the end of Avengers, that Iron Man III is the most likely candidate for this, but given the trailers and early reactions to III so far I'm not holding my breath.

Other solo sequels are sounding equally good. Despite the fact that Thor was not really my favorite of the "Phase One" Marvel films, I'm very excited about the direction that the sequel is taking. Of course, part of this is because I somewhat jokingly predicted this back when the first film came out, but hey - Space Elves are cool anytime. Thor's appearance in The Avengers itself was not quite that exciting, unfortunately - his biggest roles, it seemed, were facilitating hero-on-hero brawls and contributing secondary characters, namely Loki and Dr. Selvig. Not that either of those is unimportant, but they just didn't have quite the same focus as some of the other members. It didn't help that Thor was the one who delivered what I thought was the worst line in the movie - though funny, "He's adopted" was a rather out-of-character statement, in more ways than one.

Rounding out the "Big Four" of the team is Captain America whom, more than the others, ended his last solo film on a bit of a cliffhanger. He didn't get a whole lot of a chance to catch his breath and adjust to the 21st century, either, though there are a few signs that such an adjustment is taking place - note his mention of feeling at home on the Helicarrier. More than adjusting to the times, though, we saw Cap adjusting to being part of a different team than he was used to.
This will be important later, as 2014's scheduled film Captain America: The Winter Soldier sounds like it will feature not only the titular Solider (no spoilers, but that title's a giveaway for something we all knew would happen), but also Black Widow and a new hero, the Falcon. How exactly this will shake out remains to be seen, but it can't be harder than Cap learning to work with Tony and Thor (the latter of whom, incidentally, prompted Cap to utter my absolute favorite line in the whole film: "There's only one God, Ma'am, and I'm pretty sure He doesn't dress like that").

For all the appropriateness of Black Widow appearing in Winter Solider, it does seem a shame that it probably means she won't be getting her own movie. Both she and Hawkeye, in fact, managed the jump from "secondary character" to "ensemble lead" quite well, especially considering the latter's post-production introduction into Thor. Spending half the film mind-controlled was perhaps a bit of a heavy-handed way to generate audience sympathy for a relative unknown, but revealing and drawing on a shared past with Natasha made his integration surprisingly easy. And of course the Widow herself had a great second appearance, being an effective Avenger even with a slightly out-of-genre skillset.

Finally, Agent Coulson. From the moment that Joss Whedon was revealed as the film's director, speculation ran rampant that Phil "First Name Is Agent" Coulson wouldn't make it through the film. It was such an obvious ploy that when it actually happened, I was actually a little surprised. That didn't make it any less meaningful, of course, either to the audience or the other characters - it helped that Phil had some great character-building scenes before getting killed, especially the ones opposite Captain America.

Happily, in true comic-book fashion it appears that the Son of Coul has cheated death (exact method unknown, though I lean towards the "Nick Fury exaggerated the extent of his injuries to give the team something to Avenge" theory) and will be taking the lead in a Marvel Cinematic Universe TV show, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D:

Not quite the SHIELD movie I was hoping for, but it has promise. I'm especially intrigued by the idea of the apparently anti-SHIELD organization The Rising Tide. Other details are sketchy at the moment but I'm definitely willing to give this show a try.

In a way, The Avengers was really a transition point not only in the development of the MCU, but the superhero-film industry generally. The effects of showing that such an elaborate project could not only work, but work well, remain to be seen - but in the meanwhile, bring on Phase II!

EDIT: Typically, just a few hours after I posted this another, much longer promo for Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D went up. My interest is not reduced: