Mighty Michael Jan Friedman has created a wonderful new shared world: Phenomenons: Every Human Creature. He’s funding it on Kickstarter, and it includes a bunch of great authors getting together to do a great new take on superheroes:
Okay, having spent eleven paragraphs trashing this bloated mess of a movie, let me at least say what I unreservedly loved about it, and it was a major cause of why Whedon has (justifiably) been vilified: Victor Stone is the absolute heart and soul of this movie. We actually see his mother, and she’s a person (a damn cool one, in fact), not just an unseen figure who was fridged. And Stone’s journey through the film, and his relationship with his father, is much stronger and more powerful here than it was in the theatrical release, in which Cyborg was barely a character. Whedon’s history with characters of color is not great, and we have it writ large here, as he completely trashed the Black guy’s story arc for no compellingly good reason. (Leaving it in would have made the theatrical version so much better…)
There are three aspects of this movie that show up its major difficulties, consisting of the two best things about it and the absolute worst thing about it.
The two best are both related to one very important aspect of Diana’s character: she is a hero. This is reemphasized by the lesson that Antiope teaches her in the flashback at the top of the movie. She isn’t just a warrior, she’s a hero. Too often Hollywood superhero movies forget the second half of that word, but it’s very much a part of Diana. This is best seen in two distinct places: in the White House fight scene, where she takes great pains not to inflict major harm on the Secret Service agents who have been assigned to Lord pretty much against their will, and then in the end where it’s not might that wins the day but an appeal to humanity and compassion. (It’s not particularly realistic that everyone recants their wishes, but the metaphor and message are important enough and satisfying enough from a story perspective that I’m willing to forgive it.)
But then we have the fact that Steve Trevor’s ghost takes over some random dude’s body and life and nobody ever comments on it! Diana’s wish has, for all intents and purposes ended this guy—who never even gets a name—and she never once expresses a micron of concern for him. This is, frankly, despicable behavior, especially given that Diana and Trevor sleep together, so she’s now also raped this person. The actions are appalling enough on their own terms, but to have it be this character in particular is a disastrous misreading of who Diana/Wonder Woman is not just in her previous movie, but in the rest of this one.
Occasionally, Boone remembers that he’s doing a movie about teens, like when Illyana spikes Reyes’s tea so they can play, or when they sneak up to the attic. But mostly it’s a horror piece, and to drive it home, Boone and Lee have changed every character’s origin just enough to add murder to it. Sam didn’t just blast out of a coal mine, he killed his father and several other miners while doing it. Roberto didn’t just manifest his powers (which now include extreme heat, unlike his comics counterpart) in front of a bunch of people, he killed his girlfriend while doing so. Rahne wasn’t just condemned by her priest, but she killed the priest, too. And the demon bear is apparently a manifestation of Dani’s fear, and it destroyed her home.
It’s fascinating to look at the changes made from the source material, especially because both had the same writer. Some changes are for the better: the movie adds that Copley’s wife died of ALS, a particularly brutal, debilitating disease, thus providing him with a more solid and more noble motive for betraying the team to Merrick. Others are not improvements: Freeman is a woman of many talents in the comic, but that’s toned down in the movie, going so far as to not make her fluent in Pashto as she was in the comic, instead relying on a translator. And others are neutral: in the comic, Andy is a drunk, smokes a ton, has a metric buttload of casual sex, and struggles with modern technology, where Theron’s Andy does none of those things.
The biggest change, though, is that Andy has become mortal, which did not happen in the comics. It certainly raises the stakes of the climactic fight, as Andy, unlike the others, can be hurt. I’m wondering if this was a trap door for Theron in case she didn’t want to keep playing the role once she got into her 50s (she turned 45 this year).
ICYMI: I did a Q&A with Joe Crowe and Gary Mitchel, the evil geniuses who run the American Sci-Fi Classics Track at Dragon Con, about superhero movies. We covered a wide range of topics, and also had some technical issues, as my computer crashed in mid-panel and it took me a few minutes to get back in. Sigh.
Anyhow, it was a tremendously fun conversation. Check it out!
This coming Wednesday, the 11th of November at 9pm Easter, I’ll be doing one of the Dragon Con American Sci-Fi Classics Track’s quarantine panels, specifically a Q&A about superhero movies. It’ll be live on the Classics Track’s YouTube channel (and also on Facebook and Streamyard).
If you have any questions about superhero movies you’re just dying to hear me answer, you can post it as a reply to this blog entry, or just come join the show Wednesday….
Continuing my week-long reading of my 2015 Heroes Reborn novella “Save the Cheerleader, Destroy the World,” which bridges the gap between the end of season four of the 2006 series Heroes and the start of the 2015 miniseries Heroes Reborn from the POV of Claire Bennet. In Part 4, Claire must try to escape from Lamarck’s clutches — especially after Peter Petrelli’s rescue attempt fails…..
Continuing my week-long reading of my 2015 Heroes Reborn novella “Save the Cheerleader, Destroy the World,” which bridges the gap between the end of season four of the 2006 series Heroes and the start of the 2015 miniseries Heroes Reborn from the POV of Claire Bennet. In Part 3, lines are drawn between human and Evo as the Evo Registration Act is revised and the so-called “Petrelli Movement” condemns it — to tragic consequences.