Here is the latest trailer from 20th Century Fox for the fifth and latest installment in the X-Men franchise. Set in the future, this movie is essentially a sequel that bridges with the prequel First Class, with the X-Men’s future selves teaming up with their past selves in order to prevent an all-out war between mutants and humanity that will lead to a big ol’ apocalyptic clusterf#$@! It’s a novel idea, and one which allows the cast to incorporate both the old cast with the new.
This includes Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, and Sir Ian McKellen reprising their roles as Wolverine, Professor Xavier and Magneto in the future; and James McAvoy, Jennifer Lawrence, and Michael Fassbender playing Xavier, Mystique and Magneto in the past. New to the cast is Peter Dinklage (of Game of Thrones fame), who plays the character of Bolivar Task, the new villain for this movie. But as usual, the top billing appears to be going to Jackman and Wolverine… again!
Even though I don’t much care for prequels, one of the things that was nice about X-Men First Class was the fact that it wasn’t all about that guy, as opposed to the other five movies in the franchise. I mean, there are other characters in this series, right? And as expected, the movie is set to be released just in time for the summer blockbuster season – on May 23rd, 2014. Enjoy the trailer, it’s really quite action-packed:
With 2013 now in full swing and summer not that far off, it’s once again time to announce all the remakes, relaunches and sequels that Hollywood has in the works. And much like last year, it seems the majority of the industry’s money is being placed on some safe bets. In other words, instead of investing in new and exciting projects, they are banking on previous successes and old favorites that are sure to cash in.
Oh Hollywood! Do you remember when it was exactly that you lost your passion for cinema and became a tired, old hack? I guess it’s not your fault, what with all the money that goes into generating these movies and all the money that comes out. Money! Screws up everything. And we the public are probably to blame too. If we didn’t lap your shit up, you’d stop slopping it us wouldn’t you?
But this isn’t a thought essay on the merits of marketing to the lowest common denominator or the ethics of mass consumption. Here’s some of what Hollywood and their affiliates have in store for us for the year of 2013. Surprisingly, not all of it sucks!
Carrie: The original movie adaptation of Stephen King’s classic tale of alienation, teen judgement and psychotic, telekinetic revenge was… well, a classic! So why do we need a remake? Is there any possible reason other than wanting to cash in on the fame of the original? Or could it be they simply want to take advantage of updated special effects for the sake of the bloody prom night scene? Originally due to come out in March, the movie has been pushed back to October to coincide with Halloween. Good call there!
Catching Fire: For fans of the Hunger Games, this return to the popular Suzanne Collins series promises to be big, bold and profitable. In this installment, Katniss Everdeen (once again played by Jennifer Lawrence) is on a Victory Tour of Panem and realizes that her win with Peeta has triggered a series of rebellions. Photos from the shoot have begun to leak, and the movie is slated for release in November. Probably won’t suck and I am interesting in seeing it, just as soon as I actually read the second book.
Fantastic Four: Once again, Hollywood is making a reboot just a few short years after a previous adaptation was already launched. They did the same with Spider Man last year and this time around, its Fantastic Four. Josh Trank, director of Chronicle, is rumored to be man who will be directing, and there are hints that the remake will look and feel somewhat like Alien. No news yet on who is being contemplated to play the lead roles, but rest assured, the remake will be splashy and a likely draw.
GI Joe: Retaliation: After seeing its release pushed back a year in order to incorporate 3D, the sequel to the first G.I. Joe movie is slated to be released this May. In addition to starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Bruce Willis is also making an appearance as a character that seems no different than John McClain or Church from The Expendables. No telling why the studio felt it was necessary for the movie to be shot in 3D considering all the action and big names, but I would imagine it’s because they didn’t have a lot of faith in these things alone.
Man of Steel: News of the Superman remake has already been making waves, and considering the writing team, cast, and the trailers that have been released, it seems that this movie might actually be firing on all cylinders. Still, one has to wonder why the franchise needed to be repitched so soon after the last repitch, which took place back in the summer of 2007 with Superman Returns. Wasn’t that movie decent enough, and didn’t it drop all kinds of hints that there was more to come? But of course, some projects run out of steam and you have to start over fresh. And this is one relaunch that I will actually be seeing and (fingers crossed) enjoying thoroughly!
Smurfs 2: Yeah, you read that right. It seems we can all look forward to a sequel to the original adaptation of that children’s cartoon that for some reason aired in summer of 2011. I mean there’s nostalgic appeal and then there’s this! What going on, Hollywood. Did some call for a retro free-for-all? Neil Patrick Harris will be reprising his role from the first, no doubt because he’s contractually obligated to! Oh, and its being shot in 3D, which of course means the studio has a lot of faith in it 😉
Thor: The Dark World: Building on the success of the first movie, as well as the Avengers and all the other Marvel comics adaptations of late, this sequel sees Thor facing off against some “Dark Elves”, led by Christopher Eccleston (Doctor Who, 28 Days Later, Shallow Grave, The Others). Rumor has it that this movie will be directed by Game of Thrones veteran Alan Taylor, who’s apparently bringing some of the same realism he brought to that series to Asgard. Will that include blood, guts, and plentiful nudity? Guess things got a little darker and dirtier since the first one!
The Wolverine: The third prequel in the X-Men franchise, this one once again focuses on Wolverine. Going with a storyline which is big with the fans of the original comic, this movie tells the story of how Wolverine went to Japan to learn the ways of the Samurai. Hugh Jackman will be reprising his role as the title character, and seems to have undergone some kind of surgical procedure to remove every ounce of fat for the role! Seriously, Hugh, I hope that’s photoshop because you don’t so much look buff as scary!
And that’s some of what the great filmakers of LA LA land plan to subject us to. Do you ever sit back and wonder just how many starving children could be fed with all the money that goes into financing these projects? Of course, I can’t criticize too much since I’ve already admitted that I’m planning to attend more than one. And what’s more, there are a few projects coming out which do seem exciting, original, or just plain overdue. But that’s another post!
Earlier today, my wife and I started having a conversation. It was one of those moments where an idea pops into your head, totally irrelevant and unimportant, but fun nonetheless. I asked her, if she could be a superhero and have her choice of three superhero abilities, what would they be. Come to think of it, it doesn’t seem that irrelevant does it? I mean, let’s face it. We’ve all dreamed about being superheroes at one time or another, haven’t we? To have superhuman abilities that would allow us to fight crime, save the world, or just beat people up and make us feel big.
So based on the assumption that there are other people out there who think like I do and have actually dedicated some thought to this question, I have prepared the following list. The goal here is to pick the three abilities that you think would make an ideal, well-rounded, or at least interesting superhero. Remember, you only get three, so choose wisely (and please note that the following list is merely the product of superheroes that I can recall and is by no means complete):
Ability to Fly
Advanced Technology (i.e. Ironman suit)
Alien Technology (i.e. Green Lantern)
Babel Ear (understand any language)
Elemental Control (weather)
Energy Emission (i.e. shoot energy from your body)
Godhood (i.e. Thor, Loki)
Guns (i.e. Punisher)
High-tech vehicles (i.e. Batmobile, Batjet, etc)
Inertia (i.e. Juggernaut)
Invisible means of conveyance
Mad Fighting Skills
Multiplication (ability to make many of you)
Suggestion (i.e. mind control)
Transmutation (shape shifting)
Good! Now that you’ve selected your three abilities, it’s time to pick a name. What monicker best represents your hero, your abilities, and your particular manifesto. Is it truth, justice and the American Way (holy cliche, Batman!), fighting crime and protecting the citizens of your city (now that’s Batman!), or terrorizing the piddly folk and making them piss your pants at the sheer sight of your face (that sounds like the Joker)? Once again, be sure to choose wisely. The right kind of name can make your career, the wrong kind of name can make you a pariah!
Talking about sexy Star Wars costumes got me thinking… Sure, all those ladies costumes were downright sexy, but they don’t ME a lot of good (not beyond staring at them for hours on end, anyway!) So I began to ask myself, what should I go as for Halloween this year? That past two years I’ve been doing this Wolverine costume, which was pretty boss the first year I unveiled it! I had a leather jacket, blue jeans and did some wood claws that I would hold between my fingers. The real challenge, however, was in sculpting my hair to look like Wolverine’s horned crown. Check it out:
This is me snarling and bearing my claws at the bar. And below is me threatening our friend Jerry as my sister-in-laws dog Dogie tries to intervene (such a good dog!)
However, the costume has gotten a little tired after two years in a row. So I was wondering… what to do this year? There are a couple possibilities, some tried and some entirely new. For instance, given my total non-shortage of tank tops and outdoor gear, I was thinking I could go as Riddick this year. Not a difficult costume to pull off; already got a set of goggles, and would just need to shave my head.
And speaking of shaving my head, that calls to mind another possible costume! Ever since TDKR came out, I’ve been dying to do a rendition of Bane. The Joker was a little labor intensive and really didn’t seem doable back when TDK came out. But this year, I think I just might be able to find everything I need to pull of this latest, brawny villain! I already got a line on where I could get a mask just like his, and for cheap too! The rest of the costume is pretty simple and can be slapped together from a vest, a tank and some work pants easily enough.
Of course, I know what people are thinking. “Matt, you couldn’t possibly pull of these guys, you don’t have the upper body musculature!” …You’ve got some attitude buster! Besides, it’s Halloween, and if girls can go out as totally sexualized versions of droids, nurses, vampires and werewolves, I can pull off Bane or Riddick. You just watch me!
Also, if anyone’s got any ideas for themselves, feel free to let me know what they are. I’m thinking I might like to do a post about some of the best themed costumes that people have ever pulled off. I’m mainly interested in outfits from fantasy and sci-fi, mainly because they are the most fun and hilarious! At least, that’s what Comic Con and the Big Bang Theory have taught me.
You know how Hollywood will announce an upcoming movie, and will usually precede any trailers by releasing special info like who’s attached to direct and who will be starring in it? Believe it or not, there’s actually an interesting selection process that leads up to this. Yeah, I was surprised too. Given what I’ve learned from Entourage and Hollywood’s many movies about itself, I would have thought that the whole process was done behind closed doors, and involved a bunch of sleazy executives, some martinis and many, many lines of coke!
But according to a recent article from Blastr, the process is a bit more complicated. It seems that prospective directors are also expected to make pitches to the producers, and often do so in the form of videos. When The Hunger Games was first being conceived, that’s precisely what prospective director Kevin Tancharoen did. Tancharoen is relatively new to Hollywood, the man behind the 2009 remake of Fame and the guy who has been on the radar of the sci-fi fan universe ever since he released a test film for the proposed Mortal Kombat: Rebirth film.
The trailer featured below is the mashup he created to show to the producers. It features footage from numerous movies, including Harry Potter, Serenity, Gladiator, Ultra Violet, X-Men, 300, Lord of the Rings, and a slew of other science fiction and action films. In the background you hear key lines of dialogue featured from the original novel, giving a sense of context and direction to the montage. Having watched it, I can tell you that it’s not bad, provided you don’t mind that not a single scene is original! Of course, Tanchareon didn’t get the job. But there’s still the sequel to think of…
Which reminds me, I’m due to review the movie they did make. I finally got around to watching it, and I think it would be nice to do a blow by blow comparison between it and the original novel. Expect it soon!
As Smith said that ambiguous sequel known as Matrix: Reloaded, “More!” And what better way to start this latest list off than with an example from that franchise…
Starting off today’s list is the Armored Personnel Unit (or APU) from the Matrix trilogy. Making it’s first appearance in Matrix: Reloaded, it’s real c0ntribution came in Revolutions when every single unit in existence was used in the defense of Zion.
Hydraulically operated, the APU was run by a single operator who sat in a central cage and operated everything through a series of hand controls and leg straps, much like the Cargo Loader from Aliens.
It’s weaponry consisted of two 30mm cannons which are mounted on the arms. Loading these weapons required the assistance of an ammo carrier who would feed the ammo boxes into the back with the assistance of the APU’s crane. Due to its flexible reach, a single APU could defend itself from multiple Sentries without much difficulty.
During the battle for Zion, some 350 APU’s took part in the defense. Unfortunately, they faced overwhelming odds and all were lost. Though some were still functional even after their pilots died, their systems were rendered inoperative after the Hammer arrived on scene and detonated its EMP device.
This next example comes once again from the manga and anime world of Full Metal Panic. Officially, the name “Arm Slave” is short for Armored Mobile Master-Slave System, referring to their coordinated unidirectional control system. Basically, this means that a single pilot would be controlling multiple suits, either from inside a command mecha or from a remote location.
Built by the US in the fictional FMP universe, these powered suits went on to become the mainstay in every western army, giving new meaning to the term “mechanized infantry”. However, these mecha were featured chiefly as the weapons of Amalgam and Mithril, organizations to whom the main characters were members.
In the course of the story, every state produced its own variations of the Arm Slave and the design went through several generations. Beginning as smaller variants powered by internal combustion engines, the later models would feature cold fusion reactors and electroactive polymer muscles, making them faster, more mobile, and capable of much better performance. In terms of weapons, the Arm Slave is limited only to what it can carry, making many different configurations possible.
These include, but are not limited to, two 12.7 mm chain guns, two XM18 wire guns, a single 40, 57, or 70 mm smooth-bore cannon, a single missile launcher, or hand to hand weapons such as the M1108 anti-tank dagger or the GRAW-2 Monomolecular cutter. And given its raw power and strength, it can also attack with its bare hands and just bash things to death. Good to have options!
AT-ST: The other famous walker from the original Star Wars universe! Designated as the All Terrain Scout Transport, the AT-ST was a bipedal walker that was created by the Republic for use in the Clone Wars, but saw more extensive service with the Empire during the Galactic Civil War.
Appearing in both Empire and Jedi, the scout walker was basically the reconnaissance version of the AT-AT, often serving in a support capacity during major assaults. However, in situations where the terrain was more dense and difficulty to navigate, as was the case with Endor, the AT-ST was considered more favorable. Hence why the Imperial garrison chose to deploy several in the field while keeping their AT-AT closer to the shield generator station itself.
In terms of armaments, the AT-ST carried a twin-blaster cannon on the front of its module, along with a light twin blaster and a concussion grenade launcher mounted one either side. While relatively fast and able to negotiate Endor’s heavily wooded terrain, its bipedal configuration and relatively thin armor made it vulnerable to the Ewok’s log traps.
Two were destroyed in this way, while another was commandeered by Chewi and two Ewoks and used to destroy a fourth. Without any walker remaining to provide cover, the garrison was quickly routed and all their speeders destroyed. Not a very good record of service, being beaten by furry wooded creatures and their flying logs!
Back to the good ol’ universe of Warhammer 40k with another installment! And this time around, boy did we bring out the heavy hitters! Here we have the Dreadnought, a heavy cybernetic mecha that is similar in concept to the Dragoon and Immortal from Starcraft.
Basically, whenever a Space Marine is mortally wounded in combat, they can have their remains transferred into one of these behemoths so they can keep on fighting. Entombed within the unit ceramite skin, the pilot controls the Dreadnought through a series of neural links from a command “sarcophagus”.
As a heavy mech, the Dreadnought’s primary function is that of infantry support. Its weaponry can take many different configurations, but often involves laser or gatling cannons mounted in the arms, missile launchers embedded in the shoulders, and additional launchers or cannons mounted over the head. Smaller weapons are generally mounted under the upper body for point-defense against lighter infantry as well.
Enhanced Powered Armor: This next example comes from the F.E.A.R. gaming universe. Known as EPA’s, these bad boys are the latest generation of powered armor to come from this universe and are by far the biggest and baddest of the bunch!
Much like its predecessor, the Elite Powered Armor, the Enhanced was designed for combat against both infantry and vehicles. For these purposes, it is armed with two GAU-19/A heavy rotary machine guns, one on each arm. In addition, it has three sets of rocket launchers, mounted in the shoulders and above the right arm, that launch homing missiles.
For strictly defense and maintenance purposes, the EPA also has an automatic repair system which activates when the unit is heavily damaged and a new shielding system. Although it does not have the ability to engage in melee attacks with its hands, it is still capable of generating powerful stomp attacks with its feet that send powerful shockwaves in all directions. Because of their power and obvious expense, these units are rarely encountered in the game, and only ever at the end of a level.
Gun X Sword: Back to the world of anime, this time for a robot that puts the swash in swashbuckling! Officially known as “Dann of Thursday”, this mecha comes from the anime of the same name and was the personal powered armor of Van, the show’s main protagonist.
Built to resemble its user, who is also tall and lanky, this mecha is unique amongst its peers in that it has no ranged weapons. All its capabilities revolve around its central blade, which while in compact form, causes the mech to resemble a giant sword. When in humanoid form, this blade can be wielded as a single sword, or broken down for use as two.
In additi0n, Dann has also has an electromagnetic shield which protects it from ranged attacks. This allows van to close ranks with enemy mechs and eviscerate them with his blades. But by far, the Dann’s greatest feature is its ability to heal its pilot once they enter the cockpit. Pretty handy when you need to recover from some wounds, or just shrug off a hangover!
Iron Giant: There’s something to be said about a gentle giant, even if he is 40 feet tall and made out of solid metal. Taken from the 1999 Disney movie of the same name, the Iron Giant is distinguished amongst its peers here in that it is not only an alien machine, but a sentient one. As such, it is as much at home on a list of AI’s as it is giant robots.
Apparently, this robot was meant for first contact purposes, possessing the ability to learn and boasting some rather impressive defensive protocols. When activated, these weapons are capable of evaporating tanks, aircraft and entire platoons of infantry. However, as was demonstrated, these only become active when the robot is threatened, or he becomes angry.
And few things make an Iron Giant more angry than threatening his best friend in the world, which in this case was the little boy Hogarth Hughes. In addition to seeing past his massive metal frame, Hogarth taught him how to understand English and acted as his guide to the confusing world of humans.
Above all, the Iron Giant demonstrated a tremendous capacity for emotion. Aside from anger, he also demonstrated love, attachment and empathy. This last aspect was demonstrated when he chose to sacrifice himself rather than bring destruction down on the town of Rockwell (obvious allusion to Roswell). Having learnt that a nuclear missile was heading for him, he chose to fly away to intercept it rather than let it destroy everything and everyone around him. So sad when gentle giants are misunderstood!
Nova (Black Hawk):
Back to Battltech, once again for an Omnimech that is the workhorse of the Clans that employ it. Known as the Nova by its inventors, it also bears the name of Black Hawk by the Inner Sphere who captured one and began producing their own variants of it.
Designed initially for infantry support, the Nova was unique in that it was built with hardpoints which allowed infantry soldiers to easily mount and dismount. As such, the Nova could function as a mech and a sort of battle taxi, ferrying infantry into battle alongside it.
In terms of armaments, the Nova was again unique in that it could be armed exclusively with energy weapons, 12 of them to be exact. However, in other configurations, it could be outfitted with machine guns, autocannons, gauss rifles, or even a sword. These would be mounted almost entirely on its arms, but also in two large clusters around the head.
Unfortunately, production of this model soon ceased after a unit was captured by Inner Sphere forces and duplicates fashioned. Believing that their mech design had been compromised, the Clans began to focus on other models to serve as their omnimechs of choice.
Sentinels: This example is kind of obvious, surprised I didn’t think of it sooner. While I was never much of a fan of the comics, I did see a few episodes of the animated show, and these things certainly made an appearance! As a potential shout out, they were also featured in the movie X-Men: The Last Stand, appearing in the Danger Room as a simulation.
In the comic books and animated series, however, these massive robots made several appearances and were quite important to the overall story. Designed for hunting mutants, the Sentinels went through several different models. However, the most common were three stories tall, capable of flight, employed energy weapons, and had advanced sensors which could detect mutants.
In addition, their programming ran from the semi-intelligent, involving advanced tactical thinking and decision-making skills, to the fully self-aware. But of course, these were few in number, usually designed for the sole purpose of commanding other Sentinels (such as the Master Mold). Many Sentinels were designed to be capable of learning from their engagements, adjusting strategies to deal with mutants of varying ability.
Often serving as the antagonists in the X-Men universe, these robots were nothing if not a prime example of terrifying gigantism! Can’t believe I didn’t think of them sooner!
VF-0 Pheonix: And last, but certainly not least, we return to the Macross universe for another example of an over-sized mecha! In this case, we have what’s known as a variable fighter, which is basically a mecha that is capable of transforming from an aircraft to a humanoid form.
As part of Earth’s plan to counter a Zentraedi invasion, the Pheonix was a merger of fighter designs with Overtechnology. Composed of titanium/carbon composite, space metal alloy and SWAG energy converting armor, this mecha is capable of operating in space, upper atmospheres, lower atmospheres and even underwater. It’s clipped wing air design also ensures a great deal of maneuverability when in flight mode.
In terms of armaments, the Pheonix prefers energy weapons to autocannons due to a lack of internal storage space. As a result, it comes equipped with either one VF-0A/D or two VF-0S fixed Mauler laser cannons, and multiple micro-missile launchers mounted in the shoulders and chest. In flight mode, it is also capable of carrying a GPU-9 35 mm gatling gun pod and up to twelve air to air or air to ground missiles or guided munitions.
The Pheonix also comes with the added feature of being able to carry reactive armor for added protection. In fighter mode, it has two seats, one for the pilot and one for a radar engineer, similar to the F-14 Tomcat. And like most variable fighters, it can also deploy in GERWALK mode (or Ground Effective Reinforcement of Winged Armament with Locomotive Knee-joint ), a sort of half-fighter, half humanoid configuration which allows for ground assaults and quick take off.
Looking back, I’ve noticed a sort of thread running through some of the posts I’ve made. And in truth, this thing was quite influential when it came to what inspired me to write science fiction in the first place. It began with the infamous Star Wars prequels, the movies which ruined what used to be a very influential and nostalgic franchise. It was then reinforced by the odious Dune prequels, which tarnished the legacy that inspired me to write science fiction in the first place. Since then, I’ve noticed these same elements at work in any prequel I’ve chanced upon and the lessons only seem to get more concrete.
While I’m no expert on the fine art of writing, be it science fiction or anything other genre, by the time I started doing it I was pretty clear on what I wanted to create. Basically, I wanted to write something I would enjoy, something that emulated the greats I had come to know and admire. But when it came to what I DIDN’T want to do, I found prequels summed up a lot of it succinctly (especially the aforementioned examples). I’m sure I mentioned as much in previous posts, but today, I thought I might speak to these things specifically; outline why prequels can – and often do – suck!
1. No Surprises:
Whether it was the Star Wars prequels, X Men Origins: Wolverine, the Legends of Dune series, or anything else prequel-oriented, there was one undeniable problem they all had in common: we already knew what was going to happen. By stories end, we know that the characters are going to become whatever it is they were in the original story, and we know who’s going to live and who’s going to die. In some cases, we even know how, so there really are no surprises. The only real purpose of a prequel is to fill in the background, explain HOW things happened and how the characters and story we are familiar with came to be.
For example, in Star Wars, we know that Anakin becomes Darth Vader, that Palpatine is the villain and will take over the Republic, and that Amidala will give birth to Luke and Leia before dying. There are a host of other details which the more nerdy among us were familiar with as well, and we were all drawn to theaters back in 1999 hoping to see how they played out. But in the end, when all was said and done, I don’t think any of us came away satisfied. Seeing how things happened when you already know what will happen just seems to make for a disappointing experience.
2. Sense of Duty:
Another thing that brings down a prequel is the fact that things MUST be explained. In short, the writer, director, author, etc. has a list of things which need to be covered before the end. These things have to fall within an established framework – i.e. what has already been established by the original story – and cannot contradict or be inconsistent with them. So really, in addition to having a story where there really are no surprises, you also get a story where things have to proceed in an established fashion and often seem heavily contrived. The end result is not what would feel natural based on the story so far but based on what needs to happen for the sake of the original story.
X-Men Origins will suffice as an example here. In this movie, the story had to show where Wolverine came from, how he and his brother (Sabretooth) had their falling out, and how his memory got erased. The result was actually pretty weak, in my opinion. Basically, Colonel Striker shot him in the head with Adamantium bullets, which he knew wouldn’t kill him but would erase his memory. Now, how did he know ahead of time that that would be the effect it would have? Second, why do that instead of lobbing a rocket-propelled grenade at him? Simple, because the story required it. Wolverine is supposed to be an amnesiac in the first movie, so this movie had to show how.
And while were on the subject, why didn’t Wolverine’s girlfriend kill Striker at the end when she had the chance? The woman had suggestive powers and had the man in her grasp, so why not tell him to march off a cliff? Again, because the story demanded it. Striker needed to live to see movie two, so instead she said some fluff about how she’d be no better than him and just told him to take a walk until his feet bled and he fell from exhaustion. I can’t speak for everyone, but personally, I was disappointed.
3. Less Is More
A lot of people insist that when it comes to back stories and background, the less we know, the better. After all, wasn’t Darth Vader scarier before we knew that he was once portrayed by Hayden Christensen? Wasn’t he a lot more menacing before he cried over the loss of Padme? I know for a fact that I’m not alone when I say that the whole “NOOOOOOO!” scene at the end of Revenge of the Sith brought him down in my eyes. What was once a titanic force of badassery was transformed into a whiney, bitchy child through the simple act of fashioning an origins story.
To use a non-prequel example, consider the Batman franchise. In the Tim Burton version, we got to see the Joker’s origin story, but in the Christopher Nolan version, we got nothing. And frankly, wasn’t Ledger’s updated take on the Joker much more scary than Nicholson’s because of it? Sure, his dialogue and acting were spot on at capturing the insanity and terror of the laughing psychotic killer, but wasn’t part of that assured by the fact that we had NO IDEA who he was or where he came from? The origins stories that he told – “wanna know how I got these scars?” – and how they kept changing was part of what made him so effective. As the audience, we wanted to know, how DID he get those scars? Why IS he so crazy? But by denying us this, I think we were kept wanting and we respected the movie more for it.
The same is true of Batman himself. In Burton’s, we got an exact reversal of what happened with the Joker. Aside from the fact that his parents were murdered, apparently by a young Jack Napier (who would go on to become the Joker), we knew nothing about him. Where he got his skills from, his equipment, and how he got started. This served to make him a much more mysterious character which in turn made him more interesting. In Burton’s Batman, he was the focal point whereas the Joker was his nemesis. But in Nolan’s updated version of The Dark Knight, the Joker was undoubtedly the focus while Batman was just the hero trying to stop him. I’d say what he knew – or in this case, didn’t know – about them was central to that.
4. The Audience’s Imagination Is The Writer’s Greatest Weapon:
I believe it was the famous photographer Duane Michals who said “I believe in the imagination. What I cannot see is infinitely more important than what I can see.” Okay, I Googled that, sue me! But the man had a point, and it applies doubly to movies since they too are a visual medium. What the readers and/or an audience can imagine based on snippets of a story is infinitely more powerful than what they can be shown with a few hundred pages of text or a two hour movie. This is why less is more. By giving the audience less to work with, they have more freedom to imagine and create. If you tell them what happened, detail for detail, then they have nothing except for what you’ve given them.
This, I think, is precisely why prequels are so often a disappointment, at least in my estimation. I’ve always considered myself to be an imaginative person. Given a blank canvas, or one with just a few details, I can create just about anything. And I’m hardly alone in that fact. Imagination is something everyone has – to varying degrees, sure – but it’s part of what makes us human and gives our lives meaning. Being able to express our inner life makes us happy, and there are few things more hurtful and insulting than having someone mock or dismiss that creativity. It’s also one of the cornerstones of a free society, the freedom to create and not be persecuted for it.
So it’s little wonder then why people are drawn to movies where books they’ve read are being adapted to film, or to prequels, where things that have been previously alluded to are acted out. People go to see them because they want to know if it will bear any resemblance to what they themselves imagined. Or, they go because they just want to see what the director’s own vision was. Either way, when you get around to seeing it for yourself, is it not a letdown no matter what? Isn’t that the real reason why people who’ve read the book constantly insist that the movie isn’t as good? That certainly seemed to be the consensus amongst LOTR geeks. And I should know; by The Two Towers, I was one of them! And isn’t that the real reason why the Star Wars prequels sucked as much as they did? We, the fans and audiences are active participants and create out of what we are given. Being told point blank what happened removes half the fun of it!
Some Tips For Writing:
Well, that’s all I got for now. Except to say that if someone is hoping to do a prequel, there are certain tips that I’ve come up with that can help. These are by no means established rules, just the result of my own amateur experience and observations. For one, a writer should take care not to give too much away when writing background. As always, less is more. It’s enough to let the background stay in the background and focus on the story. The more the reader/audience has to work with, the better. That way, when you are writing out the back story, you have much more freedom to work with, and don’t have to worry about staying within boundaries.
Second, a good idea is to write things out ahead of time. When I was thinking up Legacies, I began by writing out an outline for the entire background of the story. I didn’t do this because I was one day planning on writing a whole franchise worth of books, prequels included, but because I just wanted the story to be tight and know where everything fit. But because of that, I was able to pen several short stories that took place before the first novel. Rarely were the main characters and plot lines from that novel the focus of these stories, but they did serve as a solid backdrop which helped to advance things.
But don’t take my word on that, consider Lucas himself. He thought up the entire plot for Star Wars trilogy before making the first movie in the franchise, thus he knew exactly what he wanted to do ahead of time. Sure, he made changes and was forced to adapt along the way, but the end result benefited from this foresight. However, when it came to the prequels, he had only the bare bones to work with, and began writing each movie independently of shooting it. And it certainly showed, didn’t it? Rather than feeling like an ongoing story, each movie was a self-contained tale that was full of duty and contrivances. Nuff said? Plan ahead!
Last, but not least, remember that a story, ANY story, needs to tell its own tale. It cannot be written for the sake of filling in another. Its a bit of a vague point, I know, but a writer’s mentality is important when it comes to the creative process. At no point can you be thinking, “this needs to be explained, that needs to be explained”. It needs to be, “this is a story that needs to be told”. Every character has an interesting back story, and stories are living, organic things. They change over time, grow, and eventually die. Showing how they got to where they were going needs to be interesting and told with sincerity. So forget the duty, focus on the events and what made them interesting. If in the end its not a story that you yourself would enjoy, then don’t tell it! Simple as that…