October 8, 2014
GOTHAM: "Selina Klye," or "That Kid Maimed That Guy"
Before I discuss the second episode of GOTHAM, lets hear it for Lili Taylor and Frank Whaley for their thankless job as tonight's crazed kidnapping villains. This season, I'll be running a bracket of which guest actors did not deserve to be stuck on this murky show, with random judging criteria that will be wildly inconsistent with the previous week's criteria. It seems like the most fitting way to be inspired by what GOTHAM has given us so far.
This week, we'll judge the guest stars by which Batmen they've acted alongside in the past. Whaley acted alongside the most maligned Batmen, Val Kilmer, in Oliver Stone's THE DOORS, while Taylor's appearance in Michael Mann's PUBLIC ENEMIES put her alongside both Christian Bale and Marion Cotillard. While Whaley has a strong second-tier comic co-star pedigree with Kevin Spacey in SWIMMING WITH SHARKS, Jennifer Connelly in THE ROCKETEER and Jack Nicholson in HOFFA, Taylor wins this tier by having starred in BROOKLYN'S FINEST with James Rhodes, Blade and The Kingpin, but also the sheer virtue of THE HAUNTING giving her the Ra's and Talia al Ghul slam dunk.
Too much? That's sort of what I'm feeling with the sheer number of characters getting thrown at us with this show.
Of the twelve major characters we've met thus far on GOTHAM, Robin Lord Taylor's Oswald Cobblepot arguably has the most compelling story arc. How misguided that prospect is doesn't reveal itself until a late-episode reveal in which he attempts to extort a ransom by threatening to claw out his hostage's eyes. He doesn't, but thankfully, just moments before, a twelve-year-old girl did just that to a random henchman who had helped kidnap her.
Such is the problem I'm having with GOTHAM. The pick-and-choose mining of the Batman mythos that producer Bruno Heller and crew have employed thus far has been amazingly bi-polar. Not only does the young Selina Kyle (sorry, "Cat", as she demands to be called) horrifically maim someone, she also threatens to falsely accuse one of the city's only clean cops of inappropriately touching her. Actions like this would be fine from an adult seen-it-all, out-for-herself Kyle, but positioning her as one of the only sympathetically noble characters makes me wonder how much darker the show can go.
Kyle's actions only reinforce the initial problems GOTHAM exhibited in its pilot: Kyle's and Bruce Wayne's youth betray what the story dictates they become: young Bruce is being directly influenced by James Gordon, rather than finding the resolve in his isolation and from Alfred Pennyworth's upbringing; Kyle has nowhere to go for her character to make sense. If she gets darker, she's not going to be the burglar/slightly roguish character as she's been more popularly portrayed since the Dini/Timm animated series. If she has a stable adolescence, there's no need for Catwoman to even exist.
The show's portrayal of Bruce Wayne is even more troublesome. The path they're on now, there's no way Gordon will not be directly implicit in Bruce becoming Batman. At that point, the hero of this series will have failed both his city and child he's been hamhandedly shoved into mentoring.
Bruce and Alfred don't seem to be going anywhere, alleviating the early fan complaints of having a Batman show with no Batman, but contributing to the overcrowded nature of this series. We have nearly fourteen main characters, with a needless scene of the Major Crimes Unit investigating Cobblepot's disappearance. Worse, Gordon's fiancee is an unfortunate stand-in of a character for what should be a different version of the Bullock we have: if Bullock was portrayed as more of a Jack Vincennes-inspired-by-Ed-Exely's-determination instead of a too-broken stooge, the show wouldn't have to clumsily add exposition in needless at-home scenes.
Stooge may be too nice: Gordon is written as either too honest for or too stupid for his own good. A day ago, in the show's timeline, mafia boss Fish Mooney directly struck him and sent him to his execution; today, he and Bullock are back in her lair asking for advice with a mass child kidnapping case that would be easy to label as Saw Babies if not for the complete lack of reason behind the plot in the first place being an undeserved insult to the Saw series.
One of the show's downfalls is the number of stories that it can pull inspiration from, with nearly 75 years worth of Batman lore at the producer's disposal. Why then, do we have a newly-created character in Fish Mooney stoking the flames of a gangwar with long-established mob boss Carmine Falcone? Mooney and Falcone discuss Boss Maroni and have a heavy talk about family, when either Maroni or Falcone's own children could be slotted in Mooney's place. Why go to the trouble of even establishing Maroni? In that respect, familiarity seems to be the show's biggest enemy and primary weapon: why have Cobblepot's mother needlessly correct the family's surname if they're also going to hammer in young Selina's 'Cat' identity?
GOTHAM, it seems, is a lot like the city itself: perched on a tremendously precarious ledge with small signs of light on the horizon.
April 16, 2014
Paper: Superior Spider-Man 31
It should surprise no one that, on the eve of Sony's release of "Amazing Spider-Man 2", Marvel Comics is winding down their "Superior Spider-Man" series and putting Peter Parker (mind and body) back in the heart of the Marvel Universe with a relaunched "Amazing Spider-Man" title.
What is surprising* is how this 30-plus issue run starring Doctor Octopus's mind in Peter Parker's body, shepherded by writer Dan Slott, has been the perfect avenue to spotlight what makes Peter Parker a hero. As Doc Ock weaved through Spider-Man's rogues gallery and Peter Parker's social circles, Slott gave a master class on power and responsibility, greatly heightening the former for the web-slinger while showing how essential it is to live up to the latter.
Slott displays his love and understanding of Spider-Man and his world in a way that few writers have. From the great small moment where the Green Goblin realizes something in Spider-Man has fundamentally changed to the way Spidey's extended supporting cast simply accepts the ludicrous and mindbending ordeal he's gone through over the last eighteen months, Slott's resolution resets the playing field while treasuring the fifty year history that got him here.
Unfortunately, while some of that recent history seemed to go on a bit too long (what's up, Spider-Slayers?) the final 'Goblin Nation' arc wraps up neatly but too abruptly. The mystery of the revitalized, empire-building Green Goblin has been heightening since before the first issue of "Superior" and will clearly have ramifications for the new "Amazing" title, but it feels like a missed opportunity to wrap that bow on the final issue of this title. Perhaps the feeling of and incomplete story wouldn't be there if "Superior" had been issues 701-732 of "Amazing Spider-Man", but Marvel's trend of relaunching titles with different creative teams sort of robs this ongoing arc a place in the pantheon or great "Amazing Spider-Man" runs.
Luckily, Slott will remain the writer on the relaunched "Amazing" title, so of the "Superior" branding scared you away, it's the perfect time to swing back in to Spidey's world.
We'll probably need all the good we can get after that movie comes out in May.
(*What isn't surprising is the knee-jerk reaction many fans had towards this Ock-in-Peter's-body arc. As i said above, I feel if this series hadn't been a separate book and was instead intrenched in the "Amazing Spider-Man" title, a lot of 'old man yelling at clouds' situations wouldn't have had to have been endured on countless message boards. I urge anyone who calls themselves a Spider-Man fan to read this series and say that it doesn't wholeheartedly respect the legacy of Spider-Man.)
March 26, 2014
"I wish I'd have been here last year. I could've seen Paul Walker before he died."
That sentiment, overheard in a hotel registration line on Sunday evening, exemplifies how similar the crowds are at Comic-Con International and CinemaCon, the annual convention of NATO, the National Association of Theatre Owners.
Stargazing has always been a part of the annual Las Vegas trade show ever since it was known as ShoWest. Like Comic-Con International, ShoWest eventually grew too large for it's own good. In 2010, NATO rebranded the event and restructured to become non-profit and better serve the industry and not the atmosphere around it. Still, the overwhelming sentiment still seems to be the actors and actresses in attendance and not the technology on display.
While tech demos of laser projection, immersive sound and 4D technology will be taking place all week, those almost take a back seat to the glamour and glitz of the daily studio presentations. Like Comic-Con's Hall H, most eyes and ears will be on the Caesar's Palace Colosseum, where each major studio will be previewing their upcoming features, along with exclusive clips and Q&As with talent from both sides of the camera. Smaller programs, like Thursdays planned panel discussing open standards in next-gen sound systems like Dolby's Atmos and Barco's Auro, will most likely be lost in the shuffle.
Box office prognosticators will surely be paying attention to reactions from this year's trio of full screenings: last year, buzz following The Heat helped propel that movie's box office, while the tepid response to Pain & Gain also carried over to underwhelming receipts. This year's gauntlet, between Disney's Million Dollar Arm, Lions Gate's Draft Day, and Universal's Neighbors, might be decided weeks before they even hit theaters.
Breaking news seems up in the air at this point. Last year's 'exclusive footage' from Star Trek Into Darkness had been screened for media outlets weeks before, while Warner Bros. Pacific Rim clip, which got an underwhelming response from theater owners, had already been shown to a huge ovation at 2013's WonderCon. This year's CinemaCon is taking place a month earlier than last year's, so attendees might have some surprises, but anyone expecting major Star Wars or Superman/Batman announcements may be in for a disappointment.
It's important to remember, though, that this is first and foremost an industry confab and not a press event for early scoopage. This is still a business, as this Sony invitation clearly says about their upcoming movies- uh, I'm sorry, upcoming 'product'.