Monday, 15 August 2016

“Let’s make some choices.” (or “It doesn’t really matter does it!”)

Not too long ago Simon Pegg was quoted (or mis-quoted) as saying something along the lines of wanting to “retire from geekdom”. Granted he was pretty much talking about growing up rather than lording over the things we loved as children (superheroes and such).
However I’m starting to see his point, but not for the same reasons.
2016 has been a bad year for geek culture. It’s been pretty bad for a lot of other reasons as well to be honest, but I haven’t go the patience to write a Chilcot report. So let’s focus on the geeks.
We suck. It’s not all our fault. In a lot of cases the stuff we wanted to see sucked, but it’s how we’re reacting that is making the city of Geektropolis a terrible place to live.

Years ago there was a sleepy little village called Geekton. It was small, only had a few permanent residents, but a hand full of visitors. It struggled to strive, being overshadowed by it’s sister city – erm, Jocktopia? Real Life City?  It’s not the best, but let’s go with Real Life City, mainly so we can talk about the Adult-hood later. All you need to know is there’s a place to go other than Geekton.
Anyway, people used to laugh when you visited Geekton. You needed thick skin to go there, and that’s if you told people what you were doing.
But then something happened. Business in Geekton started to boom. People were visiting and staying. They were investing, expanding the small quiet village into the massive place it is now. Over the last few years Geekton has become Geektropolis.
Real Life City on the other hand still exists. Business continues as usual, investment has gone down a little. It will always survive, but at the moment it’s coasting. The Adult-hood is still a scary place to be though. Basically it’s just a little bit dull. Whereas next door, Geektropolis is booming. It’s like Vegas on acid, or one of those sayings. So more people are moving over.
However there’s one thing missing from Geektropolis. One thing that the settlers forgot to establish when they invited all their friends in to play. Tired of being looked down on for what they enjoyed, they decided that anyone living in Geektropolis would have a voice. You don’t need to shy away from your likes and dislikes here. This isn’t Real Life City where you have to be careful what you say in case someone calls you ignorant, or gets you fired, or punched in the face. No, in Geektroplis, say whatever you want to, you deserve your say.
And that’s the problem.

Most of this is actually covered in this article – but it’s my launching off point.


So why is having a voice a problem? Isn’t free speech a good thing?

In theory it is, unless you’re going to be a dick about it. As Buckaroo Banzai said “Don't be mean; we don't have to be mean, cuz, remember, no matter where you go, there you are.”


There have been several films released this year that have not been received with the open arms that the makers expected or would have liked. I’m going to discuss a few here to given my opinion. You don’t have to agree, it’s just my opinion.

Ghostbusters (2016)
The worst thing about this film was that it makes us have to quote a year next to the title to distinguish whether we’re talking about Ghostbusters (1984) or Ghostbusters (2016).

This film got a lot of flak. A hell of a lot of it was undeserved. Apparently a lot of people out there don’t like females and they needed to tell people about it. This wasn’t even really an issue. The main problem with this film was the fact it was a remake, in a slew of remakes. It was generally agreed that the weaker parts of the film were the references to the original Ghostbusters (1984). If they’d just made a sequel I think it may have fared better. It would also have helped if it was funnier.

I still enjoyed it, and there is a lot in there to like, and technically if it keeps the brand alive, gathering more fans, that’s a good thing. However I found the main problem with the film is that you couldn’t talk about it without mentioning the shit-storm that surrounded it and the people using their voices.

However in this case, it’s not just the fans using their voices but also the film makers. There were a few interviews with the cast and director where they made a few snide comments about the Geeks who were complaining. The problem with this is they don’t help the matter. We all know the best response to a bully is to ignore them. Even in the film, a key theme is about the protagonist, Erin Gilbert, being was teased as a girl because she saw a ghost, and how we all need to learn to accept each other rather than pointing and laughing.

Surely the filmmakers should have taken this to heart and possibly used it to promote the film. Why is this an issue? Well, it’s not, the mouthy geeks were not helping things, and were far from being right. The fact is though that they got a rise out of the filmmakers which most likely gave them boost. Their voice was heard. We should have just ignored them all, then we would all agree that the film could have been better, the jokes funnier etc and that Kate McKinnon’s Holtzman was the best thing about it. Rather than jumping on one of the band wagons of either side’s arguments. At the end of the day all that matters is whether you enjoyed the film.

Enough about that one. What’s next?

Batman V Superman (and possibly a bit of Suicide Squad)

Ok, this is a big one. Mainly because I really like DC Comics and they struggle bringing their characters to life, but I want to defend BvS a little.

The problem here is in a similar way of trying to talk about Ghostbusters (2016) without mentioning the anger over women in proton packs, it’s hard to talk about BvS and DC’s films without comparing them to Marvel (and I’ll hopefully show how pointless that is). There will be a bit on that, but there will mostly be an explanation as to why I’ve grown to like it. Let me say form the get go, Batman V Superman is far from perfect, but in no what deserved the backlash it received.

I was looking at past releases to see what comic book films were being released and it seems the trouble started in 2008.

In 2008 we had The Dark Knight, Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk and Indiana Jones 4. (But that’s not a comic?!?!? I know, it was an interesting year for blockbusters).

Ok, we need a little background before steaming ahead with this. It’s good to remember that Warner Brother’s own DC. Therefore the only studio making DC films will be WB.  However in the mid-nineties or whenever, Marvel went bust and had to sell off a load of characters. Therefore Marvel’s output has technically been a lot larger than WB as each studio releases their own titles. (Sony had Spiderman, Fox had X-Men etc). As far as WB were concerned they had 2 heavy hitters that had done well in the past Batman and Superman, so why bother spending all their money on more Superheroes when they can just focus on 1 of the heavies every few years. Superman was pretty much run into the ground after the excellent Superman 3 (I’m ignoring Superman 4 and Canon bought the rights) so they pulled out their 2nd heavy hitter Batman in 1989. Then they ran him into the ground with Batman and Robin. Time for Superman to return in Superman Returns. Ohh, maybe not. Let’s go back to Batman with Batman Begins in 2005. Yay – a hit. There was much rejoicing. WB decided to run with this and ordered a sequel so in 2008 we get The Dark Knight – more rejoicing. However, whilst WB were making their single super films, Marvel were gathering money and thinking of the long game and how to make a shared universe. They released Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk in the same year. Iron Man good, Hulk not so much. Before then WB weren’t paying attention and were happy proceed and end the Nolan trilogy. They did try to get a Green Lantern film out, but there was no rejoicing so they focussed on closing the Nolan trilogy with Dark Knight Rises. There was a little less rejoicing, but rejoicing none the less. Marvel’s plans however were now known. Captain America and Thor were released, along with Iron Man 2. They were ready for the game changer, creating a fully shared universe with Avengers. WB suddenly sat up and needed a follow up for Batman, back to the drawing board – Superman. If they could also set it in the same, “realistic” world as Nolan then maybe, just maybe they would have a shared universe. Man of Steel is released as well as Avengers – everything blows up – including lots of buildings. The shared universe wins. Marvel are happy and off they go into Phase 2 with all their money! WB need to sort themselves out. Nolan no longer wants to make Batman films - fair enough, but they have Man of Steel – this becomes their Iron Man. Their planned shared universe will sit on the shoulders of a film that technically should have been part of a previous shared universe. Combine this with WB wanting to speed up the process, bad decisions were being made all and so we end up with BvS. Marvel went out on their own, set themselves up as their own studio for creative control and could make all the decisions (until Disney bought them, now the House of Mouse presumably makes the decisions).

Now I’ll be honest, I made most of that up. It could have gone that way, it could have gone another way. However it seems that if they truly wanted a shared universe form the get go, they should have drawn a line under Man of Steel and started from scratch – maybe from a lesser known character. But everyone knows this, and that forms a lot of their flak. However they made a choice to not do that.

So why is BvS good? Is it because they have the same name as my Mum? No, because they don’t but here’s a man crying which I think pulls it into focus a little better.

When I first saw Batman versus Superman I was disappointed – it was grim, long, not very “Yay, Batman!” But then you start to look at in in another light. Sitting at home looking at a pile of different batman comics. They’re all written or drawn by different writers and artists but they are the same characters. At any one time there were issues of Batman, Detective Comics, Batman Beyond etc, all being released simultaneously. Basically what I’m saying is BvS is one iteration of Batman. A lot of the reviews mention something along the lines of him not being “my Batman”. However, there’s a bloody high chance they’ll never make your batman ever again. Adam West could be your Batman, but I doubt we’ll see Batman dance or surfboard again (Except they kin dof did that in Batman and Robin)  So his new Batman kills, is mopey, but most of all is addicted to being Batman. He’s flawed – aren’t we all? Except this flawed hero has an Alfred always telling him to calm down, maybe go out as Bruce Wayne a bit more. On top of that he’s older, tired, had years of being Batman, which means each night he’s going out because of a childhood oath he made to his parents, a childhood oath, meaning that despite his age, he never really grew up.

Then this new kid flies in and moves in literally next door, who can do all this amazing stuff, and most of all, he can go out in the daylight. He isn’t hiding in the shadows and although lots of people still hate him, he’s getting a lot of love – more love than Batman. Grumpy Batman hates this, and the only way to fix it is the only way he knows how – to punch it. Hence they fight. Now in back in Real Life City, this makes no sense. You’d have to talk first etc, but we’re in Geektropolis talking about a man who dresses up as a Bat fighting a Man who flies. Common sense doesn’t exist here. You’re dealing with character so pumped up in their own world that they are threatened by any kind of outside influence. They just had to punch each other.

In another time and place, we also saw Captain America punching Iron Man but their reasons are more clear meaning it’s easier to relate. It’s the difference between fighting for a strong, thought out belief or fighting for the sake of it (on the surface at least).
Anyway as I’ve segwayed, Civil War is good. There are more people fighting but I was a little disappointed that it wasn’t a sole Captain America adventure, rather than Avengers 2.5. My main issue though that is starting to annoy me a little, is that all the Marvel stuff tends to look the same – to have a shared universe I guess it means they all need to look and feel identical. Which means you come out of Civil War and think you’ve seen Avengers. You watch Thor and it could be Iron Man 4. This is something that I think may restrict them in the future, and a worry that eventually they will reboot everything to start again.

A good thing to say about Warner Brothers is at they are making choices. To proceed with a darker Suicide Squad was a bold move. To have a Comic book film with Suicide in the title was a bold choice. The problem here is they continued to make choices when they should have stepped back, trusted in the director to make the right choices and trusted there would be an audience.

So the state of DC, they may not be the best, they may be listening to the wrong people, but still choices are being made in an attempt to make their films stand out; and I think that is a good thing. Just because Zack Snyder’s choices are not mine or yours, doesn’t mean he’s wrong.

So how does all this tie in with the Noise Pollution of Geektropolis? Well, I understand that I’ve been having my say and gone on about how Geeks are being too vocal and expecting their voices to be heard, and rambled on for however many words. But I’ve said my piece now. I’ve started to try and accept the choices made by directors in a hope to enjoy the films a little more. It’s hard to accept a lot of their choices because it’s not what I wanted to see. But you can’t please everyone. It’s one of the first things you need to learn as any kind of artist. If we all liked the same stuff the world would be pretty grey. So someone casts an actor you don’t like as a character you love – see how it goes. It may go well, it may not. Someone remakes a film you loved as a child, it could improve on it, it probably won’t (just my opinion) but see what happens. (I also realise that’s a whole different blog post about remakes and reboots. I think we’d all like to see more originality out there. Someone made Star Wars in the seventies. Surely we should be able to make something as awesome and original now, without just making a new Star Wars? (Once again, my opinion, and I like Star Wars)).


Basically everyone just needs to calm down, take a second to think before you start typing, and ask yourself “Does any of it actually really matter?”


I’ll leave you with a transcript from Spaced that could have replaced this whole essay:

Bilbo Bagshot:
I was like you once. Blond hair. Scraggly little beard. Childlike ears. Full of beans and spunk. I let my principles get in the way sometimes. I punched a bloke in the face once for saying "Hawk the Slayer" was rubbish.

Tim Bisley:
Good for you.

Bilbo Bagshot:
Yeah, thanks. But that's not the point, Tim. The point is I was defending the fantasy genre with terminal intensity, when what I should have said is "Dad, you're right, but let's give Krull a try and we'll discuss it later."