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Thursday, June 26, 2014

Adaptations and Quality, Part 2

Last week, I wrote about adaptations and how faithfulness is second to quality. Since then, I’ve been thinking about my stance more and more. Which is good; part of the reason I write about these things is to reflect on my opinions and see if they hold up.

And in reflection, I feel like I might draw the line somewhere. I mean, it would be one thing to change the origin of a character to better fit in different take on an adapted universe. For Christopher Nolan’s Batman films; the more fantastic elements of Batman are gone (a super-drug that grants strength? Or a hole in the ground that resurrects people?). Or, see last week’s Iron Man example; gone is the traditional Mandarin, with ten magic space rings that don’t particularly fit in to the Marvel Cinematic Universe (not even getting into the unfortunate racial implications of the character, since he started as something of a stereotype).

But we have to draw the line somewhere, right? It might be unlikely, but let’s pose a hypothetical: since I’m a Spider-Man fan, let’s say Sony decides to scrap the Amazing movies and move in a totally new direction. Gone is the awkward-yet-well-meaning teen inventor Peter Parker; in his place is a violent gun-wielding 30-year-old vigilante defecting from a gang known as “The Spiders” who intends to clean up their crime ring.

Now, let’s ignore how bad that idea sounds (to be fair, that took me all of two minutes to come up with) and pretend that it becomes an actually good movie. Like I said, it’s always important to make a good movie first and an adaptation second. I stand by that; if you’re going to go through the trouble of creating anything, you might as well make it something good.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Adaptations, Comic Book Movies, and Quality, as Seen in Iron Man 3 Versus X-Men 3

We just passed the one-year mark on the release of Iron Man 3, and it’s still generating strong opinions on the internet. IGN just ran this (spoiler-laden) interview with one of the film’s stars, Guy Pearce, about the major change to the Iron Man mythos the film made.

If you’ve seen the film, I probably don’t have to tell you this, but just on the off-chance that I do: in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the Mandarin, classic Iron Man foe for decades, doesn’t exist. Well, technically, he does; he’s just, a fictional character drawn up by Pearce’s Aldrich Killian to use as a front for his terrorist schemes.

I actually loved this plot twist. It genuinely surprised me, something that I can’t say about many adaptations where I know the plot (to some extent) going in. What I haven’t loved is the reaction that the twist has inspired. By which I mean: it’s almost impossible to have a serious conversation about how good of a comic book movie Iron Man 3 is, and for reasons that I think are ridiculous. The two big ones that I see are: 1) Tony didn’t spend enough time in the Iron Man suit, and 2) the film “ruined” the Mandarin.

I just can’t take these complaints seriously, because they just didn’t affect the quality of the movie in any tangible way for me. However, to some, it apparently “ruined the movie”, and I just can’t comprehend this.

Monday, June 16, 2014

The Edge of Tomorrow, Deus Ex Machinas, and Death (Spoilers)

I’m still not totally positive what all I’m going to cover, subject-wise, with Out of Left Field, but I’ve been seeing movies lately, so it looks like we’re getting another movie post.

I saw Edge of Tomorrow this past weekend, and it reminded me a lot of Pacific Rim from last year. And I mean that in the best way, as I really liked Pacific Rim; both are rather dark yet exhilarating war films about alien foes with specials powers (time travel versus being absolutely ginormous) wishing to conquer earth, and the humans who match that power to fight them off. Or, you could go with the Groundhog Day if Punxsutawney was the site of first contact with hostile aliens. Either works.

But one thing I want to focus on was the ending. Despite the rather dark tone of the film, the ending seems especially “Hollywood”-esque. For those who haven’t seen it and don’t mind spoilers:

Saturday, June 7, 2014

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 Is...Amazingly Confusing (Spoilers)

I finally broke down and saw Amazing Spider-Man 2. I had been avoiding it due to negative press and low expectations, but in the end, my huge love of Spider-Man as a character won out. I have to say that I was almost pleasantly surprised.

And then it broke down exactly how and when I expected it to. The best way to summarize my thoughts on the matter are this: it feels like almost one and a half Spider-Man movies crammed into a single one, with several failed attempts to make it into a single cohesive story.

Let me start with the good things, but let me throw out that I am a huge Spider-Man fan, so maybe I’m overselling the good things in a failed attempt to like the movie more. First, the main cast is great. I love Andrew Garfield as both Peter Parker and Spider-Man. I feel like he gets some flack for his Peter, but I actually very much enjoy it. Garfield and Emma Stone make for a compelling couple; I actually felt like they were a couple (which, I know they are in real life, but it translates well to film, which isn’t always a given). Stone’s Gwen Stacy is a refreshing take on the character; she feels defined, like she’s more than just “the love interest”, and I much prefer her over the original trilogy’s Kristen Dunst. New members Dane DeHaan and Jamie Foxx make solid additions. DeHaan’s Harry Osborn connects well with Peter, and please note that I am only referencing his performance as Harry and not certain alter-egos. Meanwhile, Foxx brings something new to the super villain role, and his Max Dillon is uncomfortable to watch in a good way, oozing uncomfortableness.

Marc Webb (I love that someone named Marc Webb directs Spider-Man films) is also solid. I’ve never seen his (500) Days of Summer, but seeing his romantic Peter-Gwen scenes very much makes me want to; the man seems to have a way with Romantic Comedies. Let me put it this way: Marvel Studios has said that their goal with the Avengers is for each superhero to explore fully different genres to keep the genre from becoming stale (you know, Iron Man 3 was a buddy cop movie, Captain America 2 is a political espionage/thriller, etc.). I wish they had the rights to Spider-Man so that they could have Webb direct a Spider-Man movie that is one part superhero movie and one part romantic comedy (preferably starring Garfield and Stone, but really, I would just be interested in seeing what he turns out with a little more freedom). Most of the other stuff is good too, particularly the soundtrack; it definitely added to the film.

Also, this actually feels like a Spider-Man movie. The action is so fluid, Spider-Man quips while swinging through the city, and everything is wonderful. And let me even add that I am much less critical of the choice of subplots than most. I always love seeing other artists’ take on established characters; if Webb et al choose to explore Peter’s parents, more power to them if they do it well. I can’t say it doesn’t makes sense on some level, and as long as it seems justified on some level, why not? If they want to make it so that his dad worked on the Super Spider formula? Again, sure, fine. I am first and foremost concerned with a good story, and I think you can make those ideas part of a good Spider-Man story. The characters and ideas are still recognizable, and as long as that’s okay, I grant a lot of leeway in the narrative.

Good, all the positives are out of the way, so I can now precede into rant.