Thursday, September 21, 2006

Looking To The Stars - Heroes On Screens, Large and Small

Has Hollywood learned nothing from what comic-book adaptations have worked well and which ones haven’t? I ask this because there’s been a spattering of stories in the news lately that have me wondering.

First up, the latest rumors on the casting of Joss Whedon’s Wonder Woman movie.

Rachel Bilson In The Running For Wonder Woman
Mischa Barton on Wonder Woman wish-list
McPhee Addresses Wonder Woman Rumors

Okay. Three headlines there. Just for the sake of photographic reference, let’s review.

Rachel Bilson – Some woman from The OC

Mischa Barton – Some other woman from The OC

Katharine McPhee – some woman from American Idol

Now, thankfully two of these three rumors have already been defused. In a recent interview, Billson confessed that she hadn’t heard of Joss Whedon and certainly hadn’t been approached about Wonder Woman. And Katharine McPhee said in the above-linked article that she wouldn’t seriously consider such a big part for her first movie. And given those two are the only women of the three who come close to looking ANYTHING like what Wonder Woman should look like, I think we can handily dismiss the mention of Mischa Barton as “Well, actress A from this show is getting press so we need to give Actress B some press too” studio scuttlebutt.

Which is a good thing because NONE of these women should even be in the running. Nobody who is a singer trying to land her first acting role needs to be playing Wonder Woman. Nobody who brings up more hits for her nearly-nude paparazzi pictures than pictures of her acting work on a Google search needs to be playing Wonder Woman. And as cute as Bilson is in the costume, the ability to do a sexy seduction scene should not EVER be a consideration for playing Wonder Woman no matter how good you look.

Additionally, I have to give Bilson negative points for being on an IGN list of Who Should Play Wonder Woman? Anybody who can be mentioned in the same breath with the likes of Jessica Simpson and Lindsay Lohan as a serious by anyone, EVEN the horny half-twits running IGN, should be dismissed without a second glance.

Thankfully, this is all a non-issue. Of much greater concern in this little tidbit of news…

Heath Ledger HATES Comic Book Movies

Now, understand this. I’m not of the opinion that only a brazen fanboy can play a comic book character on the big screen. If that were the case, the idea of having Nicholas Cage play damn near every superhero who had a movie deal in the last ten years might make sense. Most of the best portrayals we’ve had came from actors who WEREN’T big comic fans but did come to know and like the character they were portraying. Tobey Maguire, for instance, had never read a Spider-Man book before Sam Rami came to him about playing Peter Parker.

By contrast, everyone who has ever gone into a comic book movie HATING the concept has, in turn, given a horrible performance. Case in point – Halle Berry as Storm and The Pretend Catwoman. Berry made it no secret that she considered X-Men beneath her and it showed that she didn’t want to be there in every single sequel. And I never saw Catwoman but given what I heard from those who were foolish enough to see it, it was much the same problem – they removed everything about the core of the concept that was likeable and just made something that was…. Bad.

So when I hear Heath Ledger saying things like “"I actually hate comic book movies, like ****ing hate them, they just bore me ****less and they're just dumb.“ or that he’s looking forward to playing Joker “really sinister and it's going to be less about his laugh and his pranks and more about just him being a just a ****ing sinister guy” - well, even with Chris Nolan directing, it’s a worrying sign.

Why? Because Joker, as a character, is the epitome of everything a comic book villain that works. He is over the top. He is colorful. He is unrealistic. And yes, he IS a ****ing sinister guy. But the humor, dark as it is, comes before the death. And Joker without the laugh and the pranks isn’t the Joker.

And on that note, let me just say on a personal level, THIS is not Oliver Queen.

I’ve watched maybe one episode of Smallville all the way through - working night-shift you get to miss a lot of bad TV. But even I know that they said, off the bat, that they were not going to have it become a show full of costumes and that any other superheroes showing up would be very rare, if it happened.

Having now seen these pictures, I wish they had stuck to their guns on that – even if superheroes are suddenly becoming more and more in vogue in the popular media. Because this... this just looks ridiculous.

First of all, sunglasses AND a hood? What’s the point aside from the extra added coolness factor? And as for the rest of it – I’d say that it makes him look like a metrosexual boy-band member but I don’t think any self-respecting gay man or even Lance Bass would ever dream of wearing this monstrosity.

But even bad fashion sense isn’t the biggest crime being committed here. He’s using a compound bow. A freaking compound bow, for crying out loud! And, no I am not complaining about this because in the comics, Oliver Queen has said numerous times that he HATES compound bows and he that would never use a compound bow.

A longbow, certainly. A short recurve bow, absolutely. But stylistically and practically it goes against everything the character stands for to be using something as modern and amateurish as a compound bow.

As an archer, I can attest that recurves offer greater power, smoother draws and a good deal more control to an experienced archer. Compound and composite bows are only used by good-old boys who can’t be bothered to use a real man’s weapon that requires practice and skill. It’s like going duck hunting with an M-16.

Hmmm... been rather a depressing and angry column so far, hasn’t it? And I do so hate to end things on a negative note. Sure wish there was some good news about something comic-book related on the small screen that I could talk about. Something coming out in the week after I’m writing this. Maybe something that would be on TV the night of the day that you’ll likely be reading this.

Oh wait! There IS something like that I can write about.

I know. I know. It’s a pathetic rip-off of Lost and all the big TV critics are saying good things about it, which means that it HAS to suck. It’s going to be the popular, pretty people playing with our toys and screwing things up – just like every other attempt to do a serious drama about people with super powers. It’s either going to be pretentious as hell or hokey as all get out, right?

Don’t you believe it!

Seriously, the first episode (which has been available for those in the know on the Internet for the last week), is not that bad. I think it would have been preferable to air the pilot as the two-hour movie that it was apparently premiered as at ComicCon but... the first hour is not bad and I’m definitely going to check out the second episode. I haven’t decided if it is tape-worthy yet – but it does not suck coming right out of the gate.

The one thing I can say is that, so far, it appears that this show will have a little something for everyone, regardless of what type of comic book hero you like.

Do you like your heroes idealistic in an Elliot S. Maggin style? There’s Peter – a nurse who has dreams of flying and something bigger in life.

Do you like heroes who see their powers as more of a curse than a blessing in the Stan Lee style? There’s Claire – a suicidal cheerleader who cannot die.

How about Frank Miller grim-and-gritty style characters? There’s Isaac – a heroin-addicted artist who paints vivid images of approaching disasters weeks before they happen.

Or maybe you like heroes that aren’t too serious and are even a little silly, like those in a Keith Giffen comic. There’s Hiro – a Japanese cubicle jockey and Trekkie who bores his best friend with crazy stories of his being able to stop time and teleport.

I won’t spoil anything else for you all. There’s spoilers aplenty elsewhere on the web if you want to read about the plot of the pilot beforehand. And if you missed the first episode by the time you do read this, you can watch the first episode here.

All you need to know is that around the world, people are starting to develop abilities that make them more than human. They are being sought, at the moment, by two people – the son of an Indian geneticist whose father predicted an event that would cause a jump in the evolutionary chain and a shadowy man in a suit who apparently has darker designs on what super powers can do for the world.

Honestly, this show has got a pretty high artistic pedigree what with Jim Lee just signed on to do a web-comic based on the show and Tim Sale being the one doing all of Isaac’s paintings. And the buzz from those who have seen the pilot is nothing but positive so far. Heck, the Sci-Fi channel has even picked up the rights to rerun episodes later in the week on Friday nights, which is good if only to prevent further endless reruns of Stargate.

And to elevate the one big fear I’ve been hearing from everyone who is concerned about the quality of the show? It isn’t a Lost rip-off. Stuff actually happens in this first episode and they’re getting to the point of things right away, by all indications. There’s also no mystery just for the sake of being mysterious though there is one plot twist I did not see coming. Mum’s the word on that one though.

Tune in next week. Same Matt time. Same Matt website.

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