I haven’t posted in a while, because I’ve been buried under work. I certainly don’t lack for contracts to fill my spare time, but I’ve also been busy preparing my house for a kitchen remodel; I’m significantly handicapped, so that’s even more trouble than it might otherwise sound. I just haven’t had the energy for blogging.
However, today is Marvel Day. No, really; it’s not just that it’s when Captain America: Civil War is out in theaters, it’s also the day that I seem to have seen several MCU movies over the years. Not just the weekend, but the day, May 6th. Not sure how that’s happened, but it’s what my Facebook memory feed shows today. The coincidence gets eyebrow-raising with the fact that I didn’t even realize this when I’d made the decision to take today off.
But taking the day off also means that I have the time to write up my thoughts on this movie — spoiler-free, I might add. Continue reading
It’s no secret that I have a love-hate relationship with Agents of SHIELD, a show I had high hopes for which turned into something I abandoned, continued with again because of a friend’s insistence, and then would have abandoned again if it weren’t for how it gives me stuff to blog about. (When I remember to update the blog, that is.)
I rarely try to suck up every single bit of information about shows that I can. Part of it is because I don’t have a regular TV-watching schedule, and so sometimes I wind up taking in several episodes at a time and would prefer to avoid spoilers. Sometimes I just don’t care. Sometimes it’s just that I’d rather take it in as the story itself, as it was meant to be viewed. It’s somewhat of a treat for me to do that, actually; well, if it’s a good story, that is. I honestly should write a blog post on an editor’s perspective of stories both published and in draft form, but suffice for now to say that it’s hard to not feel like I’m working.
With Agents of SHIELD, even when it stopped sucking, I was still working. Even when it was good enough that I could enjoy it, it was still short of something I could sit back and enjoy on its own, without being an editor the whole way through. That’s probably why I wrote so many articles about Agents, but not about Flash or Arrow.
Last night, the season premiere of Agents aired, and I enjoyed myself. I had to remember to pause to take notes every so often. Last season, I cautiously opined that this was starting to live up to the hype when the show was first announced; now, it is the show that they announced. And apparently all they had to do was say “Hey, X-Men is a cool story.”
Oops, I need one of those spoiler banners before I say stuff like that, right? It’s been all summer. I’m rusty.
If you haven’t seen it already, Netflix released a teaser for Jessica Jones over the weekend. It is a thing of beauty.
As my friend and fellow blogger (over at The Catholic Geeks) Andy Hauge observed, it sums up the tone of the show perfectly. Continue reading
In my review of Ant-Man, I mentioned how the movie couldn’t make up its mind as to whether it was a caper film or a superhero origin story. I laid out the reasons why those two types of stories are, if not incompatible, then at least problematic to mix together. I also mentioned I might do a post on how I might have adjusted the movie if, for some strange reason, they came asking for my advice.
So how would I have done the movie differently?
This is actually a more dangerous question than it might appear. I’m a prose editor. I’m a pretty good one. I’m also pretty good at analysis, developmental/structural rewriting, and closing plot holes. None of that means that I’m good at scriptwriting. Visual media is a very different ballgame. I know just enough about the differences to talk about them, and not enough to actually put them into practice. I’m a professional editor, but I’m an armchair amateur when it comes to script-doctoring. I know my limits and I’m not going to pretend that expertise in one form of fiction extends to another.
So, disclaimers aside, here’s my armchair amateur opinion about what I’d have done if I’d been asked to give a developmental edit (also called structural editing) on the film.
Sadly, I haven’t had much time for blogging lately (at least about writing); but I can’t pass up a review of Ant-Man. Particularly since so many of you enjoy me writing about the Marvel franchise.
I went to see Ant-Man last night at the Alamo Drafthouse, because who can pass up the chance to watch superhero films while eating fried mozzarella and hot wings, washed down with an alcoholic root beer? All movie theaters should be restaurant theaters.
Anyway, it was a good experience. The service was prompt and good as always, and the movie was decent. Yes, decent; not incredible, not outstanding. Decent.
As I said before, I expected this movie to disappoint me by comparison to the others. On a scale of Marvel films, this is the third-worst, beating out Thor: The Dark World and Incredible Hulk, though Dark World had better visuals. That may sound disappointing, but remember what I said before: a bad Marvel movie is, so far, better than an average movie.
In my review of Avengers: Age of Ultron, I said that I had some speculations that I decided to cut and turn into a separate blog post. It isn’t just about predicting future plots, but there’s some of that too.
We all know that the Marvel Cinematic Universe has been a blowout success. Even the shaky installments (we’ll ignore Agents of SHIELD season one for right now) have been “bad” only in comparison to the top material. It’s also been successful at introducing these long-beloved characters to new audiences who may have known nothing about them or their stories. That’s impressive all on its own, considering the depth of the Marvel Comics storylines, many of which go back half a century now.
It started with Iron Man, which updated Tony Stark’s story to fit a modern audience’s expectation. A great deal of the success comes from Robert Downey Jr., of course. He’s the Tom Baker of not just the role, but the whole universe; and one of the best things about it is that he’s also aware of how close he came to outright disaster due to drugs and other self-destructive behavior, and I firmly believe that this fuels the way he throws himself into the role. Not only does he know what it’s like to completely doubt yourself, but he clearly sees each day as part of a second chance on life. Continue reading
Was there any doubt that Avengers: Age of Ultron would be a fun movie? Was there any doubt that the existing fanbase would love it? Was there any doubt that the movie would be a hit success? No, indeed. The only doubt was how good it would be on a scale of 6 to 11.
Rest your doubts. It’s at least a 10.9.
Note: This is not a spoiler-free review. However, unless you’ve been avoiding the trailers, you’re safe until you come to the big spoiler graphic. After that, you’ve been warned.
Superhero stories have traditionally been plot-driven. Things happen in a particular way to have a particular end, and that’s the only important thing. We all know how annoying that can be. Sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s horrible. However, the MCU has mostly stayed true to character-driven stories. There have certainly been ones where plot mattered more (Thor: The Dark World and Agents of SHIELD season one come to mind), and others where character and plot intertwined to the point where you don’t care that a story had to go this way to set up something later, because the characters still had their day (Guardians of the Galaxy and Captain America: The Winter Soldier).
Of course, character-driven stories aren’t automatically better, because character without consistent plot is unsatisfying. Think of Iron Man 3, which was a fantastic movie from the perspective of Tony Stark’s character development, and rather sucky for the rest.
The first Avengers movie remained a shining example of a character-driven story, as Ross explained earlier this week. My biggest worry about Age of Ultron was that it might not live up to that standard. In point of fact, I think Age of Ultron actually exceeds its predecessor in that regard. While the movie actually lacks a little of the stand-up-and-cheer of the first, Age of Ultron is now a new go-to example for true character-driven stories. Continue reading
I’m just going to toss them all together today. It’s a superhero gumbo! Or a salad, if you prefer leafy things.
There’s a reason why I’m doing that. Well, two reasons. The one that has nothing to do with laziness is that Arrow, The Flash, and Agents of SHIELD all had a few things in common this week. They all dealt with stakes that have less to do with saving the world, and everything to do with their own humanity.
It’s necessary to up the stakes for a serial story, since if your characters always deal with the same problems then everything is boring. (Or it’s an American soap opera. Or a political election cycle. Or both. Hey, I live just outside DC; you can’t tell me it’s not like a soap based on The Godfather or something.) On the other hand, if you’re constantly upping the external challenges, then your character quickly becomes so powerful that threats start becoming rather ridiculous. That’s even more important if you’re like Superman and you wind up leveling Manhattan in your origin story.
I don’t care if you call it “Metropolis.” Who thought that an audience would find a climax involving massive buildings collapsing in New York City to be endearing? I mean, other than Zach Snyder. Anyone? Anyone? Beuller?
The best way to solve that issue is through exploring human bonds between characters (even if some of them might not be human). As I said yesterday in my post on superhero prose, it’s important to never lose sight of human wants, needs, desires, things that an audience can understand. A massive battle is fun (well, in fiction), but it will never carry the same weight as the betrayal of a loved one. Done right, and the audience can feel a punch in the gut too.
However, from here on out, hic sunt mortiferis. That’s Latin for “If you haven’t seen this week’s superhero shows, you might want to check back later.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: This guest blog is brought to you by my good friend and former college roomie, Ross Windsor (yes, a distant relation of those other Windsors, but they never invite him for tea). To whet the appetite for the premiere of Avengers: Age of Ultron this weekend, he has a few words to say about the first Avengers movie from the perspective of a movie buff and filmmaker.
I suppose I should start by giving a *SPOILERS* warning, but if you haven’t seen The Avengers yet: STOP. Back away from your computer, go buy the movie, and watch it. Twice.
Marvel Studios faced the relatively unique challenge of bringing together four major heroes from previous film titles, along with lesser (though still important) characters from those films, while making The Avengers stand on its own as a movie. Of the six Avengers, all had made their first appearances in one of the five preceding movies. In order for The Avengers to appeal to moviegoers who had not seen all or even any of the previous films, director Joss Whedon had to introduce every character as if for the first time. And due to the number of major characters, these introductions had to be brief enough to not bog down the story, yet compelling enough to grab the audience’s interest immediately. This sort of quick introduction is a fantastic and necessary technique for short films, but serves well in feature-length films as well, particularly one like The Avengers. Continue reading