Friday, February 26, 2021

How Produce Spider-Man In Visual Media

How Produce Spider-Man In Visual Media

With Captain America: Civil War we saw yet another incarnation of Spider-Man on the big screen. While the character was enjoyable and fans are hopeful this will be a version we like because Marvel has their cinematic hand in the cookie jar, Sony still has a big say in the character.  It’s been difficult finding exact details of how the character can be used by both studios. The basic summation is Marvel does what they want with the character and Sony does what they want.  The worlds are connected in the Marvel Cinematic universe but Marvel has little say in Sony’s films.  Another report has it that Marvel is running the show and Sony is collecting the checks.  I doubt Sony would take such a hands off approach to one of their biggest franchise characters.

The potential for Marvel’s lack of input into how Sony is creating their movies and Spidey character is what’s scary.  Marvel has proven to run their universe of stories fairly well.  Sony has failed with the character of Spider-Man in 3 out of the last 5 non Marvel Studio affiliated films.  Since the Sony/Marvel deal is on the rocks, perhaps Sony will take a different approach with the character instead of another attempt at a blockbuster movie and unique movie universe.

With this reboot of the character in Marvel, are we forced to witness another death of Uncle Ben?  Thankfully no, Marvel/Sony didn't subject us to that, but they might do flashbacks someday.  Much like the never ending cycle of seeing Batman’s parents murdered in visual media.  Additionally, every time Spider-Man is retooled in movies, TV, and even the freaking comics they restart him back at high school.  The appeal of Spider-Man’s comic book isn’t that he was forever in high school, it was that he graduated and went onto college, then completed college and became a graduate student, etc.  Peter Parker/Spider-Man gradually attained life events.   This resonated with fans, as they grew so did the character.  Constantly rebooting him in high school is a disservice to Stan Lee and his idea of an evolving character.  Even DC comics jumped in on the idea comic characters aged.  In the 1980s Dick Grayson, the original Robin finally ditched the sidekick persona to become Nightwing. 

A film studio missing the fan appeal of the character is nothing new.  They are thinking audiences want to watch films starring 30 year olds playing 15 year olds and it's just the price we pay to avoid Hollywood child labor laws.  His constant reboot as a high school student can be waived away as a plot point as long as the story is interesting.  There is also hope that the character will evolve and he’ll eventually go to college. 

The Spider-Man films have proven people like the character but all his stories need to be personal ones.  His rogues gallery is pretty decent but none of them are epic world changing battles for humanity.  So all Spidey is left with is personal vendettas with each villain. It worked well for the Raimi Spider-Man, we were willing to digest it again for Spider-Man 2, but once they recycled it again in Spider-Man 3 with each villain (Venom his professional photography rival, Sandman the real dude that killed uncle Ben, and Green Goblin 2 his former best friend) having a personal vendetta against Parker it became too much. 

Spider-Man needs to be a TV show (preferably on Netflix or HBO).  Spider-Man was made for the small screen.  Peter Parker’s story is long and winding and needs to be told gradually.  His rotating relationships with family and friends is so robust they are wasted on a 120 minute film.  His rogues gallery has such depth but a film script does not have time to do any of these villains justice.  

So how would a Spider-Man TV show work?  Well for starters just steal the Buffy the Vampire Slayer format.  Each season should be one main villain that Spidey must face.  He can interact with smaller villains episode to episode but the focus needs to be an overall season long story arc.  Don’t stretch out any villain past one season because then you drift into character stagnation.  Each episode should be character driven, much like season 3 – 7 of Star Trek the Next Generation.  Buffy did the same thing but I want to reference other shows where this format works too. 

So what we have is a Spider-Man show where his main villain for the season is The Green Goblin. We can have episodes devoted to Normal Osborne, Harry Osborne, their relationship as father and son, the relationship with Peter, Peter’s life with Aunt May, juggling school, work, etc.  Take the best stories from the comics and translate those to the small screen.  Peter Parker is a regular dude who gets superpowers; he’s not made for epic battles.  He’s meant to juggle petty crooks like the Rhino while trying to pass his chemistry midterm. 

The first season shouldn’t even have Spider-Man.  It should be about a 17 year old Peter Parker getting his powers and using them to make quick bucks.  Don’t make him too young because it’s a story about growing into adulthood.  It should culminate into a two part season finale where Uncle Ben gets killed and Parker stops being selfish and starts helping people.  So you get to meet Uncle Ben and love him like a TV dad should be loved and dreading the day he’s violently killed.  The films' always made Uncle Ben likable but you’re constantly waiting for him to get capped so we can get to the web slinging fun.  An entire season devoted to a teenager on the fence of becoming a huge douche or really awesome kid is story worth watching for 10 episodes but not more than that. 

Season 2 is how about what type of superhero he should be.  How will he honor the death of his uncle?  Season 3 is figure out how to have a relationship and be spider-man with Gwen Stacy.  Then at the beginning of Season 4 we kill Gwen Stacy and he starts a rebound romance with Mary-Jane Watson.  

That’s the basic idea.  Spend time cultivating each character in Peter’s life and then add drama that screws it up.  Flash Thompson goes from being a bully to one of Peter’s close friends in the comic.  A story of how friendships change is fun.  The films never moved Flash past stereotypical bully.  Some of it’s bad writing.  Most of it’s because they just don’t have the time to do the character justice.  That makes for boring storytelling. 

Parker doesn’t need a team, in fact the entire show can be about how he’s not managing the crime fighting well because he has no team.  All other superhero shows have some central crime fighting hub where team Arrow, Buffy, CSI gather and plan how they are going to fight each episodes big bad.  With Spider-Man you can toss that gimmick out the window.  He uses his regular Parker genius brain to solve the problems on his own or through inadvertent and coincidentally topical life advice from Aunt May or Robbie Roberson.  People like smart leading characters.  Jason Borne always used his wits in the films to survive and it’s the more fun aspects of the films.  Spidey films lack the depth to probe Parker’s genius. 

Daredevil has proven not all comic characters should be on the big screen but can excel on the small screen.  Spider-Man doesn’t deal with the world ending stuff Captain America might deal with.  Spidey’s issues are localized to NYC and typically deal with local thugs.  Spider-Man’s real appeal is in his personal relationships.  To really explore the different characters in Spider-Man’s life it would take a TV show multiple seasons to do them justice. 

Looking at the cartoons; Spider-Man the Animated series and Spectacular Spider Man.  Both those shows delved into each character in spidey’s life.  They had solid stories that created three dimensional characters.  The ongoing failure of the Disney Cartoon Ultimate Spider-Man does not have any devotion to character.  It’s just one giant toy add meets a bugs bunny cartoon.  It’s targeted at a younger demographic that will buy toys.  It’s completely understandable that a cartoon is made to generate toys and marketing but it’s sad that the content of story suffers. In the 90s there were shows like Batman the Animated Series, X-Men, and Gargoyles that told solid stories that 10 year olds and adults could enjoy, that would sell toys but also not talk down to kids.  The new breed of cartoons talks down to its audience.  Ultimate Spider-man is the prime example. 

So while it can be said that Spider-Man belongs on the small screen it has to be done the right way.  If they produce a Spider-Man show that’s like Smallville it would be an insult to the character.  While Smallville was fun and lasted 10 seasons, the teenage melodrama was painful, the “my life’s so hard” whining of Clark Kent was enough to make the audience root for Lex Luthor.  The Spider-Man TV show really needs to base its entire concept off Buffy/Angel.  Ahh you know what?  Screw this Buffy/Angel were perfect let’s just rewatch those shows. 

Written by
Joseph Ammendolea
“I Like To Play With Toys” Productions®

Friday, February 19, 2021

20th Anniversary of Photograph

38 years ago Def Leppard released the song Photograph but more importantly 20 years ago Joseph Ammendolea created a music video for the song in his high school TV/Film class.  

He didn't have a script or even a basic outline written down.  He just went off an idea in his head and hoped his friends would trust him.  His friends had no clue what the hell he was doing and spent most of the time goofing off.   It's a miracle a coherent story could be gleamed from.  

The video would garner him an A+.  He was the first and only student in the class to figure out how to "perfectly" time dubbed music to the rest of the video.  

Here's the video and its blooper reel dating back to 2001.  

Friday, February 12, 2021

The Best DC Cinematic Universe Film To-Date: Equals a Mediocre Film

The Best DC Cinematic Universe Film To-Date: Equals a Mediocre Film

Today we’re talking about Wonder Woman (2017), a film that has garnered lots of money and positive critical acclaimed.  The former being the true test of success for box office standards has all but guaranteed more DC films.  This is a problem for the superhero film genre.  While Marvel is making quality action films that are worth watching, DC is competing by making horrible films in an effort to kill the genre.  It’s the only logical explanation. 
From the 70s to the 90s DC was the only major comic book publisher to churn out films.  Once Marvel got into the game with the concept of a unified film universe it was the biggest gamble ever.  A gamble that’s paid off huge and is currently reshaping the blockbuster film genre.   

DC is now trying to capitalize on the hard work of Marvel by making their own film universe.  Something they could have done decades ago...Unfortunately for fans DC has no clue how to do such a  thing.  They hire people to make films with no understanding of the characters or any idea on how to make a film.  DC translates Batman Begins success as being a dark gritty story to, every comic book movie must be dark and gritty.  Batman is a dark character hence the darkness.  Superman is a hopeful character, but DC fills it with despair. 

Then we have Wonder Woman (WW), a film they’ve been trying to get off the ground since the mid 2000s when Josh Whedon was slated to write and direct.  Eventually the mega success of the Avengers forced DC’s hand into producing content but they forgot it needed to be quality. 
The Wonder Woman film is supposed to be about woman empowerment but she just runs around nagging people for the first half of the story.  It finally steps on a theme worth its weight in gold but quickly abandons it for “almost awesome” action that never quite measures up.  The film’s story is a giant puzzle where most of the pieces fit but there are sections that still need work.

The film opens with Diana Prince getting a package from Bruce Wayne then we flash back to her childhood.  We learn a bunch of exposition and a clear misdirect that is a plot twist we can see from outer-space.  Diana lives on an island full of beautiful women warriors then Steve Trevor crashes on the island and she saves his life.  Some mild action ensures, he asks for help fighting in World War I, she agrees.  Off we go to our story.  Most of this opening could have been seriously cut down.  There was way too much character development with no real payoff. 
When she finally heads off on her adventure to kill Aries the God of War we’re inundated with a love story that is forced into just about every DC comic film.  Marvel does not do this in every film, but it’s DC’s go to plot point and sends the deeper meaning that women need men to define them (even empowered women).

He's Batman, not James Bond

While in “Man’s World” Wonder Woman states her mission a few hundred times, some jokes ensue, we get another mile long obvious plot twist thrown at us in the guise of who Aries really is.   One of the better moments in her endless nagging was when she told a general of the British Army where to stick it.  Perhaps more generals need to be reminded of the lives they are responsible for.  That moment gave me some hope the film might evolve into something of substance. 
Steve Trevor, Wonder Woman, and some riff raff friends meet up, talk about WW's endless beauty then take a journey to the war zone.  From there we witness the PG-13 version of the horrors of war.  The pressure builds, or at least tries to build to the point where when we finally see WW sport her full on armor and a fight we’re supposed to be moved by.  And the film almost succeeds, almost. 
The team is stuck in a trench (trench warfare was a big deal in World War 1) as women, children, and soldiers are  dying.  Wonder Woman wants to end the fighting but Steve Trevor is like no stick to the mission.  The mission he doesn’t even believe in, he’s only taking her there at WW's insistence, as part of the deal for her to take him off the island.  Therefore WW getting a speech to complete a mission she wanted to go on by a guy who didn’t want to go in the first place.  Trevor’s character through the entire story is the equivalent of J. R.  Smith’s basketball career.  You want to like him, you root for him, but what they hell is he doing at any given point? Wonder Woman ignores the "don’t go out there" orders, leads a charge in slow-motion, bleak dull color, and stops the "bad guys."  It was almost moving and touched upon a theme of women breaking off on their own against men’s oppression (war is oppressive) and winning the day, this is a great theme, though it gets lost in the inconsistent action of the no man’s land battle.  The action picks up immensely  when she invades the town and frees the civilians.
After the big sequence the film doesn't tread back to the women empowerment angle.  It gears toward the love story again.  A by the numbers film motif that is wasting everyone’s time and slows down the plot.
Whedon would have hit the right plot points...

When the film finally gets back into progressing the story it’s just all par for the course action and those predictable plots twists.  Like the mighty God killer weapon created was WW all along and not the armor she brought with her.  Aries is actually the man pushing for peace and not the evil German making deadly gas.  The film skipped another potentially wonderful theme when WW killed the evil german dude and mankind was still fighting.  Steve Trevor give her a solid speech that mankind is weak and needs to be saved from themselves yada yada yada which would have been a wonderful summary of mankind and a brilliant direction to take our hero who chooses to strive for peace in spite of that.  But of course Aries does show up and a lackluster battle between Gods ensue.  But the male costar of the story cannot be outdone so he must find a way to get in on the action and save countless lives.  If the genders were reversed Lois Lane can just standby on the sidelines while the hero fights the good fight. But with Wonder Woman, Steve Trevor has to save the world in his own way.  We should probably be thankful he didn’t find a way to help her defeat the God Aries and his life saving action was a separate battle altogether. 

The bad guy is defeated and the film concludes and I’m sitting in the theater bored out of my mind.  Behind me is a row of teenage girls justifiably giggling through the campier plot points of the film.  My main regret what is likely their first exposure (in my brain anyhow) to an empowered female character and the superhero genre, is that of a mediocre comic flick, that garnered positive reviews because it’s the least shitty DC cinematic universe film.  It in no way measures up to any of the Marvel films.  And if we’re looking at comic films, the standard should be Marvel’s films.  Above standard are the Christopher Nolan Batman films. 
Why does this film fail? Because it has no follow through with its themes.  They are all shallow and poorly explored.  It hits a point but fails to follow-up.  The action has moments but nothing unique or even something by the book that’s executed in an enjoyable way.  The giant lightning God fight at the end was bland.  The characters lacked depth, Trevor’s character was whatever the film needed him to be in the moment.  Wonder Woman was a tough as nails fighter but was irritating when things didn’t go the way she wanted.  It wasn’t empowering it was annoying. 

DC films take word for word dialogue from the comics but they never lift from the DCAU which is the best adaptation of DC in visual media.

Written by
Joseph Ammendolea
“I Like To Play With Toys” Productions®

Friday, February 5, 2021

We''ll be Posting Regularly Again Soon

Hey Folks, 

Sorry we haven't updated in a few months.  We got a little distracted with life but will be back in the swing of this starting next week.  Thanks for your patience.