Star Trek Discovery – Not Your Parents’ Star Trek

I was recently off work for a couple of days and decided to check out Crave (since I’m paying for it) to find something to soak up my time while off work. As I scrolled through the list of Crave’s available shows, one thing stuck out to me, Star Trek Discovery. I will say this first and foremost, I am not a Trek fan. I liked the reboot movies with Chris Pine and Co., but I was always more of a Star Wars/Stargate fan; which apparently means you can’t like the Trek?

Anyways, I loaded up the first episode and I was actually blown away at the production quality of the show. I have seen episodes of every Star Trek show in existence, my grandmother was a fan of anything Sci-fi as is my mother. So I have seen the odd episode here and there but it just never tickled my fancy. But Discovery is one of those high quality shows that has fewer episodes to really make their limited budget work, and boy does it.

COSTUMES

Most people are familiar with the Star Trek Unitards that were made famous with the original series and the sequel series’. While most of the main cast always had a two piece uniform, any supporting members of Starfleet normally sported a rather form fitting one piece. With this new series all members of the USS Discovery sport sleek and updated two piece uniforms that are distinguished by their colours and bands on the sleeves and shoulders. For example, our main character, Michael Burnham, is a science team member after she was dishonourably discharged from Star Fleet. Her uniform is the standard dark navy blue of the others, but instead of gold on her sleeves and shoulder she has silver to signify her occupation as scientific.

First Officer Saru, Doctor Culber & Chief Engineer Stamets

The main villains for the first season (and I presume subsequent seasons) are the Klingon race, but these are the not the Klingons made famous by The Next Generation or Deep Space Nine. These Klingons resemble the brief view of Klingons we got in the feature film Star Trek Into Darkness. Normally Klingons have brownish skin with very pronounced facial ridges. The Klingons in Discovery vary in colour from deep black to white and their facial structure looks much different, (I’ll touch on that later in the make-up section) their clothing is also much different. In the older series Klingons wore armour exclusively to signify their readiness for battle at all times, the armour was always a black or dark grey in colour. Discovery has moved away from the stark colours and have shown the Klingons in deep reds, whites, golds, blacks, and greys.

THE TIMELINE

As I said before I am not a fan of Star Trek and most of my knowledge comes from hearing people discuss it, the movies, or the passing episodes I’ve seen. Discovery takes place after Star Trek: Enterprise and roughly 10 years before the Original Series. In one episode First Officer Saru pulls up a list of notable Starfleet captains and it lists both Johnathan Archer ( Captain of the Enterprise in Star Trek Enterprise) and Christopher Pike (Captain who recruits James Kirk into Starfleet). This series sets up and explains how the Klingon race went from a fractured house state governed by 24 distinct houses to the Empire encountered in the later series’.

USS Discovery

While the technology they display is similar to other shows, the weapons of the Discovery and the crew are where the slight differences lie. The Discovery only has 4 phaser banks that fire in small bursts as opposed to the long blasts from The Next Generation, and the phaser rifles and handguns are more bulky and less refined than their ‘future’ counterparts.

MAKE-UP

The make-up for this show is leaps and bounds better than any other sci-fi show I have ever seen, it’s closer to movie level make up than for a standard television serial . I understand that at the time of their production all of the Star Trek shows used state of the art make-up and visual effects, but this show just sits above the rest. First Officer Saru is a Kelpien, a race designed specifically for this show; he is played by the amazing Doug Jones who has made his entire career by working under heavy prosthetics to bring his characters to life. The Kelpiens look like a cross between a fish and a gazelle. They have long legs and arms but their face is very much asymmetrical and and standard looking. Apparently able to sense the ‘coming of death’ most other species view Kelpiens as cowards.

Klingons

The Klingons for this show look VERY different from the original source material. The prothetics that the actors wear give them a large nasal cavity with a large crown and pointed egg shaped head. As I said before the Klingons come in all different colours and their armour is much different too. Traditionally the Klingons look like regular people with dark brown skin and facial ridges, these Klingons are much beefier and stand roughly six feet tall at the shortest one seen (as of episode 9).

CGI & SPECIAL EFFECTS

Binary Star System in Star Trek Discovery

The CGI for this show is better than some of the feature films I’ve seen. It’s a very visually stunning show with expansive backdrops and uses practical effects whenever possible. In the first two episodes, the story takes place in a binary star system. This provides a very stunning backdrop for the entirety of the two episode arc before we are placed firmly in the Discovery for the remainder of the episodes. Even being set firmly in the inside of a ship, there is a lot of moments where CGI was used perfectly in conjunction with actual prothetics. In the third episode, the crew finds their sister ship, the USS Glenn, and in an attempt to discover why it went dark, board it. Without revealing anything, the CGI and practical effects used to generate the creepy atmosphere is spot on.

CAST

Main cast of Discovery

The cast for this show is exceptional. There’s no one person that I dislike, which is rare. Normally there’s always that one member of the cast that makes you question why they’re there, but not this crew. Each member serves a very unique and important purpose. The cast is as follows:

Sonequa Martin-Green as Michael Burnham: A one time mutineer set to serve a life sentence in a Federation jail. She is mysteriously conscripted by Captain Gabriel Lorca to serve on his ship the USS Discovery.

Doug Jones as Saru: The first and only Kelpien member of Starfleet. He serves as the First Officer on the USS Discovery. His character is comparable to Spock and Data from the Original Series and The Next Generation respectively.

Jason Isaacs as Captain Gabriel Lorca: Captain of the USS Discovery and a brilliant military tactician. He is willing to use any means necessary to win the war against the Klingons so that Starfleet may continue its primary directive, exploration.

Shazad Latif as Lt. Ash Tyler: A Starfleet member held and tortured in a Klingon prison, he helped Captain Lorca escape and as restitution Lorca named him his Head of Security.

Anthony Rapp as Paul Stamets: Chief Engineer aboard the USS Discovery. His invention of a Spore Drive that allows for blink travel could end the war with the Klingons in favour of the Federation.

Mary Wiseman as Sylvia Tilly: A Cadet in her final year of training she was assigned to the Discovery under Stamets with Burnham as her roommate. She is optimistic about everything and wants to have her own command one day.

OVERALL

As I’ve said numerous times in this post, I’m not a Trek fan and never really was, but this show has changed my outlook. I have heard lots of conflicting reviews of the show and what I believe it boils down to is this: If you liked Star Trek before this show, then you’re not a fan; but, if you weren’t a fan and see this show, you’ll like it. I’ve spoken to some people regarding their ideas of the show and that seems to be the die hard consensus I’ve come up with. I spoke to one fan who said that he didn’t like it because it had become “too flashy” to be called Star Trek. Star Trek was always about the stories and acting not so much about the shiny sets and the perfect CGI battles. I can both agree and disagree with that statement because I think that while classic Trek was like that, it was because they didn’t really have a choice. With the advent of new animation techniques and CGI that can be used in everyday shows, I think the flashy space shows are only going to get more flashy in the future.

The show is pretty good from what I’ve seen so far, I’m only on episode 9, but it has grabbed my attention after only a few episodes which is good right? Normally I like to give shows at least 7 episodes for them to grab my attention. I find that 7 episodes is enough that you get rid of all the “mandatory” introductions of characters and into some plot. There are plenty of shows out there that lots of people love that I just couldn’t get into (Breaking Bad and Dexter for example), but Discovery is something every sci-fi fan can get behind. It has action, plot, aliens, and some pretty amazing backdrops that help to deliver a modern and stylistic approach to the decades old franchise. I give it a solid 8/10! Give it a shot, you might just find yourself engrossed in this new fantastic show as much as I am.

Battle of the Binary Stars
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The Witcher – Netflix’s Next Big Endeavour

I decided to include not only Halo, but all video games in the opening post for each month. While I focused on Halo for the past three installments, this time, I decided to focus on a game that has a series coming to Netflix, The Witcher. The Witcher is an epic fantasy saga that was based off the books written by Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski. The first book of the series titled Sword of Destiny was written in 1992 and gained a cult following. Since the release of Sword of Destiny, there have been 7 more novels added to the series with the latest one coming in 2013. The novels were originally written in Polish and have since been translated into over 15 different languages, including English. The main character of the series is named Geralt of Rivia, a Witcher. In the novels, a Witcher is a monster hunter that along with some mutagen body modifications, has been trained from a young age to combat monsters. Geralt is a member of the School of Wolves but several other Witcher Schools exist in the universe.

SETTING

The saga of the Witcher takes place on the continent, the name of the continent is never given but the various kingdoms and cities all have been named. Several thousand years before the series starts, the Elves sailed across the sea and settled the continent. With the continent already being home to the dwarves and gnomes, a racial war broke out between the dwarves and elves; with both sides eventually calling a truce and settling in different regions. The elves settled in the plains and forests, the dwarves settled in the hills and mountains and gnomes took the spaces that were left, mainly coastal areas. Roughly 500 years before the first book, humans sailed across the sea and decided to settle on the continent. When humanity arrived, as per usual, they started a war against the indigenous populations and emerged victorious. With the elves, dwarves and gnomes now classified as second class citizens, they live in small ghettos in the shadows on the great cities that the humans built. While the cities are relatively safe for habitation most of the wilderness still remains unclaimed with various beasts and factions residing there.  After a magical event known as the “Conjunction of the Spheres” various supernatural beasts (werewolves, vampires, etc) arrived on the continent and began cutting a bloody path through the wilderness.

Gwent_art_Charge_of_the_Nauzicaa

While the humans defeated the other races to become the dominant species, they were unable to stay united in their beliefs. In the centuries leading up to the start of the series, the southern regions of the continent have come under the control of the Nilfgaard Empire, while the Northern regions have united as the Northern Kingdoms. They went to war in a brutal and bloody conflict that cost millions of lives and accomplished nothing, which is where the first book picks up, immediately following the end of the first war.

CHARACTERS

GERALT – The Main Character for the saga is Geralt of Rivia. Geralt is a human male that was taken when he was born by the “Law of Surprise” which dictates that if someone cannot pay for the witcher’s services, that witcher may take something the debtor does not know they have. This law was what allowed for the witcher who performed the service for the parents of Geralt, to claim their first born child as his payment, making Geralt a witcher candidate. Forcing his parents to take him, as a new born baby, to Kaer Morhen to be trained as a witcher. As he grew up at Kaer Morhen (the witcher school for the Order of the Wolf) Geralt exhibited skills beyond his age which allowed him to take the trial of grasses early. The trial of grasses is a procedure during which the recruits are exposed to mutagens and procedures to enhance their senses to allow them to become full witchers. This trial is not without its risks, as roughly 25 – 40% of recruits can perish from these mutations. Geralt took to the mutations so well, that additional mutagens were used giving him near superhuman abilities. As a result of his mutations, his skin pigment was destroyed as was the pigment in his hair which caused his skin to become very pale and his hair to go white, earning him the nickname “The White Wolf”.

Geralt

YENNEFER OF VENGERBERG – A powerful Sorceress and the “true love” of Geralt’s life. She was born in the kingdom of Aedirn, which was one of the most heavily human colonized areas of the continent. Due to her aptitude in magical arts, she was the youngest member of the Brotherhood of Sorcerers  and was eventually courted for membership by the Lodge of Sorceresses as well. She was the magical advisor to king Demavand III and the surrogate mother to Ciri. She was known for wearing black and white garments and using Lavender as her signature fragrance. Like all sorceresses and magic users, she was born sterile, and thus was never able to have children of her own, hence why she took such a liking to Ciri and helped raise her as her surrogate mother.  She participated in several major battles and helped to bring Geralt’s memory back to him after he lost it following his apparent death.

CIRILLA FIONA ELEN RIANNON (CIRI) – Is a powerful Witcheress and the surrogate daughter of Geralt and Yennefer. Having been given to Geralt by the Law of Surprise, Ciri never really knew her parents as they were killed at sea by a storm. She was raised by her grandmother and uncle on Skellige and in Cintra for the first few years of her life. Ciri is of Elder Blood descent which allows her for some impressive abilities of travelling through time and across different planes of existence at will. Having been raised at Kaer Morhen by Geralt and Yennefer as their surrogate daughter, she developed a strong bond with the Witcher and the Sorceress. She is constantly pursued by nefarious enemies for both her Elder Blood abilities and her inheritance to the throne of Cintra. Ciri is one of the main characters in the Witcher III : The Wild Hunt game as well as in the book series.

TRISS MERIGOLD – A Powerful Sorceress and constant ally of Geralt and Yennefer throughout the games and the novels. She was born in the land of Temeria and became an extremely powerful sorceress before meeting Geralt and Yennefer. She lived at Kaer Morhen with Geralt, Yennefer and Ciri acting as an older sister to Ciri through her formative years. Along with being a gifted Sorceress she was also a talented healer and carried quite a few healing potions on her person to help others in need. She was the one responsible for stopping several of the hormonal mutagens used on the Witchers from being applied to Ciri, thus saving some of her secondary gender traits. Triss was in love with Geralt even though he never reciprocated the feeling, him being in love with Yennefer and all.

DANDELION – Also known by his birth name of Julian Alfred Pankratz, was a bard, poet, minstrel and close friend of Geralt. Not much is known of Dandelion’s past, except that he was of noble birth and that he started into poetry at age 19 thanks to his infatuation with Countess de Stael. He was educated at Oxenfurt University where he eventually became a professor. He taught for just over a year before deciding to put some miles on his soul by travelling and playing for the people. Within several months he was known as one of the best minstrels in the Northern Kingdoms with his most famous ballad, The Lion Cub of Cintra, being requested frequently.  He met Geralt in the small town of Upper Posada where Geralt was dealing with a particularly mischievous Sylvan (Goat man).  Since their first encounter Geralt and Dandelion have become close friends and allies.

THE SHOW

In early of 2017, it was announced that Netflix had picked up the rights to make a Witcher show based on the original works of Andrzej Sapkowski. Lauren Schmidt Hissrich was named showrunner for her previous work on Daredevil and The Defenders Netflix series. The show will take place over 13 episodes, each an hour and length and tell the tale of Geralt the monster Hunter as he makes a name for himself on the continent amidst a war.

Netflix

I started playing the Witcher game series with the second installment, Assassin of Kings, and as someone who has never played a game of that scope before, I was blown away. CD Projekt Red really delivered something wholly unique with that installment, at least to me. I was never a fan of the Final Fantasy games so having a game that took place over 4 different discs was a pretty daunting task for me. I thoroughly enjoyed the game even if i wasn’t that good at it. I found myself waiting expectantly for the next game which turned out to be Witcher III: Wild Hunt. I pre-ordered Wild Hunt and the day it downloaded on to my Xbox I sunk probably 8 hours into the story. Coming off a gap of several years without playing a Witcher game, I was a little rusty at first and died numerous times before I finally got the hang of the combat system. The story for the show is said to be wholly original but take heavy influences from both the original novels and the games themselves.

While originally Sapkowski was attached to act as creative consultant for the project, in early of 2018 he denied any involvement whatsoever with the series. The Witcher saga has been made into a film and mini series in Poland already, taking on the title of The Hexer. While Sapkowski was not a fan of with adaptation, it was met with some commercial success in the home country. This will mark the first time that a Witcher series has been attempted by someone outside of Poland and will also serve as a beginning to an ongoing series for Netflix.

Netflix has had some very recent hits and misses when it comes to their original content. Some of it is very spot on, Daredevil, Stranger Things and Orange is the New Black being prime examples; while some is a hard miss with Iron Fist (which I still enjoyed), Disjointed and Friends From College sitting firmly in that category. While not every show can be a perfect adaptation, there are several examples of shows taking some liberties with the source material while still remaining faithful to the fan base, Castlevania, Lost in Space and Daredevil are perfect examples of this. I’m hoping that the Witcher is going to the the latter and open as a great show a la Game of Thrones, while still retaining the magic that separates it from other high fantasy stories. Warring kings and mythical beasts is nothing new for a show or even movie, but doing it well is something that several studios have struggled with. HBO has made sure to lock in a spot in history with Game of Thrones but other shows like Camelot, Merlin and Vikings, while still good, don’t have the same effect.

I’m hoping the Witcher series will provide us with a much needed surrogate to the ever successful Game of Thrones (which ends next year), while remaining as its own entity that will hold it’s own spot as one of the great shows to come from the streaming service.

The Last Wish

An Impossible Expectation – Living Up To The Legacy

This week, I decided to focus on something that I have noticed with the newest press regarding upcoming seasons and movies based on comic media; the impossible task of living up to the legacy. With the explosion of the MCU beginning in 2008, comic book movies have become the best thing a studio can do to make money; however, it is not without its risks. While Marvel studios seem to have found the formula to make successful movies, other studios like DC Entertainment and Fox studios are more hit or miss. Don’t get me wrong they have some great hits, Deadpool and Wonder Woman are awesome and huge steps for the superhero genre if not movies as a whole. We got the first widely successful female led movie with Wonder Woman, Logan and Deadpool showed us R rated movies can still make buck, and now Black Panther has rallied the entire world behind the fictional nation of Wakanda. But for all the bluster that these movies and shows can provide… the one thing they can never do, is live up to the legacy of the characters.

Batman

Let’s take Batman for instance, how many Batman movies have there been? Including the movie from the 60’s TV show starring the late Adam West, there have been 9 live action Batman films; and all 9 of these films have done different takes on the character without nailing the source material 100%. I commend each actor for taking the role and making it their own, but nobody has been able to fully capture the essence of the character, and nobody ever will.

Batman was first introduced in Detective Comics #27  from March 1939, that’s almost 80 years of stories and character development. Now I’m not saying that anyone trying to take the role should quit, I’m saying the opposite, I think the more people that take the role on we can get a clearer glimpse into the character of Batman. With West, we got the silly, gadget driven Batman, Keaton gave us the dark and Gothic protector, Kilmer gave us the investigative defender, Clooney gave us the campy playboy, Bale gave us the tortured and driven knight, and Affleck gave us the brutal and vicious brawler. Each actor has made the role their own by taking a piece of the vast history of the character and putting their own spin on it.  While it can get tiresome as a fan to constantly have a new person taking on the role instead of sticking with one person, it is necessary. In the animated universe, no matter what, Kevin Conroy is the voice of Batman. Jason O’Mara delivers a great spin with the new DCAU films, but nobody can compare to Conroy’s iconic voice. The same thing can be said about the Joker. Anybody who tries to do that in an animated setting will always be compared to Mark Hamill while any live action interpretation will always be compared to the late Heath Ledger.

Batfamily

Just in Batman’s history alone, we have over 5 Robins, only 1 of which has made it to the live action screen, multiple failures on the part of the Bat, his own death and resurrection, and his rehabilitation following his greatest defeat. None of the stories we have received so far in film format have focused on any of these aspects. We may FINALLY be getting the story of Jason Todd’s murder, which is arguably Batman’s greatest failure, but that happened in A Death in the Family from December of 1988. It took 29 years for his death to finally be mentioned in a DC live action film and even then, it was only done in passing. I am of course referring to the Robin suit on display in the Batcave spray painted with the words “Hahaha Joke’s on you Batman”; as well as, the mention of Harley Quinn being an accomplice in the murder of Robin in Suicide Squad. The suit is something that not many people would notice or even get the reference if you were not familiar with the source material. While the mention in Suicide Squad is so quick, if you blink you’ll miss it. While the live action films have been lacking in expanding the Batman mythos and history, the animated films have stepped up.

The modern DCAU (DC Animated Universe) took heavy influence from the New 52 run of DC Comics, while some of the classic stories and films took inspiration from the modern age of DC. We have seen Damian (Batman’s biological son) as Robin, Jason Todd as Robin and Red Hood, Dick as Nightwing, and the introduction of Batwoman and Batwing. For obvious reasons the animated movies can do more than a big budget movie can, and they can do it for much cheaper too. But Batman isn’t the only hero that this has been done with.

Spiderman-1994-spiderman-the-animated-series-1994-29730956-333-250

Spider-Man is the most popular Marvel hero worldwide and one of my personal favourites. He has been a Marvel mainstay since his first introduction in Amazing Fantasy #15 in August of 1962. Since his introduction into Marvel, he has had 3 live action film adaptations as well as a whole slew of animated television shows and by slew I mean 9 animated shows. All of his shows have done a solid attempt at bringing his history to the forefront. The best one, in my opinion, is the Spider-Man animated series that ran in the early 90’s. It introduced a lot of kids to the great universe Spider-Man had created while doing crossovers with other heroes as well, most notably the X-Men. This is another example where the animated features have done far more to honour the legacy of Spider-Man than the movies ever did.

The first slew of movies were directed by Sam Raimi and starred Tobey McGuire as Peter Parker/Spider-Man. The first of Raimi’s Spider-Man films were released in 2002 to a warm reception. Introducing Norman Osborn/Green Goblin with a stellar performance by Willem Dafoe (we’ll just forget the power ranger costume…), then Alfred Molina as Otto Octavius/Doc Ock is Spider-Man 2, and finally the abysmal Spider-Man 3 with New Goblin, scrawny Venom and a great performance by Thomas Haden Church as Flint Marko/Sandman. The first two movies were well received but by the third the studio (Sony) decided to meddle and forced Raimi to include Venom into the plot. With the failure of the third film, Spider-Man was put on ice until 2012 when Sony rebooted the franchise with the Amazing Spider-Man.

Spider-MAn

Spying the success of the MCU, Sony tried to build an entire universe based off of Spider-Man. The first movie was okay, it was a fresh take and brought Peter back into high school. The second one was terrible, it was too long and destroyed the Green Goblin as a character. The one thing that the second movie did get right was the death of Gwen Stacy. Paying direct homage to Amazing Spider-Man #121, it was a near scene for scene remake of the iconic moment in Spider-Man’s history; right down to the costume choice being a direct recreation of the clothing worn by Gwen in the comic.

Now we have a new Spider-Man with Tom Holland that is included in the MCU. Sony finally admitted they screwed up and struck a deal with Marvel to allow them to use Spider-Man in the MCU.  Tom Holland has been extremely well received and looks to be the new breakout star of the entire MCU.

All these shows and movies have barely even scratched the surface on things that have happened in Spider-Man’s comic run. I will admit that I haven’t watched all the shows, but to my knowledge, the only one to properly introduce Venom and Carnage was the 90’s animated series; which included a large portion of the rogues gallery in various episodes. Again, while each show and film took a piece of the mythos and made it their own, it never quite captured the legacy of the character. Spider-Man is one of the most popular heroes in the world, and the inability to capture the essence of the character is a glaring issue. We’ve gotten the closest thing to a comic accurate Peter Parker with Tom Holland in the MCU, but even then, something feels off… oh right, his 40 something attractive aunt flirting with Tony Stark.

As I said before, all these attempts at bringing the characters to the screen are necessary if we are to eventually be able to pay homage to the legacy they have created. Batman and Spider-Man are just two examples of dozens of characters with histories and legacies that span decades. Fantastic Four, Captain America, Wonder Woman, Superman, Martian Manhunter, Iron Man, and Flash all have rich legacies to pay homage to, and it’s just not feasible to do so with 1 or 2 movies or even a season or two of television.

I am a big stickler for accuracy in comic movies and shows, it doesn’t sit well with me when they change things or mesh story lines together, it irks me quite substantially. That being said, I understand that there is no way these interpretations are ever going to be able to measure up to the expectations in my head from reading the stories, and that’s okay. Fresh spins on characters are part of what has helped to ensure the longevity of comics. Each  new author and artist takes what was laid down before them as a foundation and builds on the character. Sometimes you get great runs, like Frank Miller with the Dark Knight Returns, and sometimes you get terrible interpretations like Rick Remender with his Axis event. Each of these events and runs have worked to establish an ongoing legacy for each character that film studios want to tap into to appeal to the fans, even if they butcher it in their attempt.

Many fans have sour tastes in their mouths from the likes of Ghost Rider 1 & 2, Man of Steel, Affleck’s Daredevil, Steel (ft. Shaq?! come on!!!), and the Schumacher Batmans; but they keep coming back, in hopes the studios get their shit sorted out and deliver something worthy of the legacy of the character. The main point I’m trying to make is, as a fan, don’t sweat it. When it comes to studios making movies or shows off of comics, there is no way in hell they will be able to jam 50+ years of history into 1-3 movies or a couple seasons of an animated show. Give the studios a break and just be happy they’re making an effort at all. It wasn’t so long ago when if someone suggested a movie or even live action TV show based off a superhero you would be met with mocking laughter.

I am not one to quote Superman (ugh..) but this quote perfectly explains what I’m trying to get at.

“You will give the people of Earth an ideal to strive towards. They will race behind you, they will stumble, they will fall. But in time, they will join you in the sun, Kal. In time, you will help them accomplish wonders.”

in the sun

Give it time. If we give it time, I have faith that eventually we will be given wonders.

The Problem With Transitioning Comics To The Big/Small Screens

I wanted to start off the year with a post related to something I have been thinking about for a long time; the problems with bringing comics to the big/small screen.  I will be the first one to admit that sometimes a comic will do better as a TV show or as a movie and vice versa, but there is a fine line about the distinction and I will explain.

WHEN IT WORKS BETTER AS A TV SHOW

Arrow and Flash

We have all seen the success of the CW “Arrowverse” and its related content; conversely, we have seen the success of the Marvel Netflix corner of the MCU. Both of these successful franchises have something in common, they’re grounded.  The CW started dabbling into the superhero genre with Smallville way back in 2001. It was the first widely successful superhero television show and ran for a full 10 seasons. The show centered around Clark Kent as he grew up in Smallville and his eventual move to Metropolis. The thing that made the show likeable was that we watched as Clark grew as a person and as a hero, he started as a young naive kid and ended the series as the Superman the world needed. One thing I will say about the show is that I felt it was about 3 seasons too long, and I know I for one was a little irate that he never flew until the last 5 minutes of the last episode.  I get that the show had budget restrictions but come on! It’s Superman!

Almost exactly a year after Smallville ended, a gritty new superhero drama graced our television screens, and that show was Arrow. Arrow went for a much more dark and gritty approach and knocked it out of the park. I know I was blown away with the show and never missed an episode until the dismal fourth season… ugh. But the show worked as a television serial because of the grounded and character driven plots, not to mention it wasn’t heavy reliant on CGI.  Netflix used this formula to create probably the greatest superhero TV shows to date. Within the Netflix universe you get Daredevil, Punisher, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and Iron Fist; all these heroes are fairly grounded and don’t rely heavy on the crazy storytelling and plots that would require heavy CGI.

The “Arrowverse” has definitely branched out and included some more “out there shows” with the likes of Legends of Tomorrow and Supergirl. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy the crossover episodes but they just don’t fit with the gritty world Arrow created. When the Flash first aired, it actually started by using a backdoor pilot in Arrow, and was an interesting contrast to the dark tone of the show. Much like the title characters of DC comics, Batman and Superman, Arrow and Flash are the exact opposites. Arrow is the dark and brooding drama; whereas Flash is the lighthearted fun serial with lots of bright colours and warm tones.

Runaways

With the sale of Fox to Disney, I am interested to see what will happen to all the new slew of X-Men related content now airing on television. I will not lie, I watched one episode of the Runaways and turned it off halfway through. It just wasn’t engaging and the rarity of a teenager using their powers? I know if I had powers as a teenager or even a dinosaur that responded to my mental commands… I would use that shit every chance I got! X-Men is one franchise that will not work well on TV just because the heroes and story arcs rely on heavy CGI. Badass ninjas and indestructible skin are easy to show on TV, shooting ice and fire from your hands or giant laser beams from your eyes… not so much. For a superhero show to be successful it needs to be grounded and character driven, which sadly most comics are not.

WHEN IT WORKS BETTER AS A MOVIE

CGI and team ups. Enough said.

Big budget movies can obviously have ridiculous amounts of awesome CGI and still pull it off. For the most part… Looking at you Justice League!

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Massive team ups also only work as a movie, unless you devote a solid series to each character first, then they CAN work. They won’t always work, but batting 80% is better than failing every time.

I just find that for the likes of Avengers, X-Men, and Justice League the characters are too big to have them just thrown in or put into a TV show. Smallville tried to put the Justice League and the Justice Society into the series and it worked… sort of. Each member of the their “league” was given at least one episode of introduction prior to the team up. The Justice society was jammed into a 2 episode arc that really only highlighted two, potentially 3 characters.  While the ending to the Justice society arc did give us back Martian Manhunter and gave us Hawkman in a more permanent role, it wasn’t properly executed.

WHAT DOESN’T WORK FROM COMICS IN MOVIES & TV

Okay I will admit that there are some glaring issues with the MCU and the DCEU, everybody with me so far let’s move on…

The MCU is the unstoppable force behind all the modern connected universes, that being said, they tend to change a lot of things so that it will work with their overall narrative. The Infinity Stones are a prime example of Marvel studios changing their lore to work with their overall narrative. We all know there are 6 Infinity Gems (stones in the MCU), each representing a fundamental force that composed the universe. Originally called the Soul Gems until Infinity War when they were renamed the Infinity Gems, Thanos was the first to use all 6 in unison.  The thing that irks me is that they take other artifacts that are important from Marvel comics lore and make them Infinity Stones for the sake of the narrative.  The Tesseract is not the Space Stone, it is in fact closer to the cosmic cube which is responsible for Hydra Cap; Loki’s Scepter is not the Mind stone, and the Eye of Agamotto is not the time stone.

Apart from the renaming and branding of the Infinity Gems, one thing that Marvel does take a liberty with is changing their stories to work with the modern superhero/sci-fi framework, let me explain… Sci-fi stands for Science fiction, everybody knows that, so why do they remove sci-fi aspects from their movies? Let’s look at Age of Ultron

Age of Ultron

Avengers: Age of Ultron is a solid movie, not the best of the MCU but also not the worst. The thing is that Ultron is a recurring villain that the Avengers have never been able to defeat 100%. They always just BARELY beat him and then he shows up again later and better equipped. I understand that they needed to have his origin, growth and death all in one movie, but why choose that story to do? The real Age of Ultron story from the comic of the same name plays out completely differently than the movie. In the comic, Ultron confronts the Avengers and wins. Within the first 20 pages of the event, Ultron has beaten the Avengers.  He establishes a dystopian society which he rules from the future using Vision (his son) as a conduit. In order to win, Wolverine and Sue Storm make a desperate attempt to go back in time and kill Hank Pym the original creator of Ultron before he can develop the genocidal AI. Because time travel never goes the way it’s supposed to, the future ends up being worse with the Avengers being named the Defenders, and a massive war being waged by Tony and his tech/cybernetic empire against Morgan Le Fey and her magic kingdom. Wolverine and Sue Storm decide to go back in time and stop themselves from killing Pym by… killing themselves. This makes them a temporal paradox and because nobody likes that kind of stuff, they convince Pym to install a backdoor program in Ultron’s code before they use Dr. Doom’s time platform to return to their own time, thereby righting the paradox. Wolverine and Sue arrive at the beginning of the story when Ultron first defeats the Avengers. Before Ultron can finish the job, the subroutine installed by Pym in the paradoxal timeline runs causing Ultron to shut down momentarily allowing Thor the time he needs to smash Ultron to pieces.

For obvious reasons they couldn’t use the story because for one… Wolverine and Sue Storm were owned by Fox until several months ago. But this story is a prime example of one key component of comic book fiction that will never transfer well into movie form, time travel.

Time travel is something inherently accepted by the comic community as a regular occurrence in comics. When it occurs it never really throws anyone for the ringer. Most readers just say “oh, this is going to get good” and they continue reading. DC’s Flash is probably the most relevant case with this type of publication. I like the Flash but I don’t get to read a lot of his stories because Batman… and priorities. That being said most of his major events have revolved around him either travelling backwards or forwards in time and mucking something up.  Then he has to fix it before he can come back and grow a little bit as a character each time. Time travel just doesn’t transfer well into a movie, there are some exceptions (Looper), but for the most part it’s a type of Sci-Fi that works best in printed form.

Multiverse

Keeping the train moving on Sci-Fi concepts that work better in print than film, Alternate Realities. It is well established that everything that happens in comics takes place on one earth in the vast array of the multiverse. Both DC and Marvel utilize this concept and generate some pretty great stories with it. DC has made great stories like Crisis on Infinite Earth, Final Crisis, and Infinite Crisis. Marvel uses the multiverse a lot less liberally but still generates some great stories like the Hickman run on Avengers in the MarvelNow! printing, Secret Wars, and Battleworld. Alternate Realities is just something that can be accepted in comics, mainly because of the infinite possibilities and variations on heroes. Not only that but it allows for some possible evil versions of the heroes to come to the forefront as with DC’s Crime Syndicate of Earth-3. When making a film there are certain things that you have to take time to do, one of the big ones is explaining how the physics works in the world you’ve created. If you look at every successful Sci-Fi TV show they all explain how things are possible in their universe, from FTL travel to weapons and even biological life. Films can do this but they have to condense it way down into  a few minutes, which doesn’t allow for a lot of in depth explanation. For this reason most films have avoided the subject of alternate realities unless the entire premise of their plot is based on it, like The One from 2001.

With glaring plot holes abundant in their films, there are still just some things that comic fans will accept without a reason. When Flash was first published he was the “Fastest Man Alive” and nobody needed to know how it was possible. Over decades the story gets a little more clear and complex and now it’s common knowledge among many comic fans how Flash can move as fast as he does. The same can be said for Superman. Way back when Action Comics #1  was released and we saw a man who could lift a car, was bulletproof, and could fly; nobody needed an explanation as to why he could do it. Again, through several decades of continued story telling the picture has become a little clearer to the point where it is crystal.

the-defenders

Movies and TV shows are a great medium to be able to tell comic book stories, and get those who might not be inclined to pick up the latest issue of Flash or Spider-Man interested in the character. Like I’ve said though there are just some things that will never transition well into a movie and a TV show and that’s okay. Alternate Timelines and Alternate Realities are confusing enough for the fans without butchering explanations and leaving giant earth sized plot holes. The second season of the Flash TV show explored the idea of the multiverse but they didn’t let the concept overwhelm the overall narrative of the show. They dabbled into the science but kept the focus on Barry and his team, allowing the viewer to fill in the blanks. For myself and many other this was not an issue when watching the show, but I do know there were several people who stopped watching due to the confusing nature of the season and its jumps from earth to earth.

Movies or TV shows,  it doesn’t matter to me how they do it, as long as they do the story justice and stay away from things that just should be better left on the pages of a comic book.