The first part of this review of the new movie Thor: The Dark World is unusual and short simply because there are so many surprises and I don’t want to give anything away. (I saved the spoilers for the end, so if you want to be surprised, don’t read below the spoiler alert!) I saw . . .
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Here’s a 1969 Spider-Man film, perhaps the earliest ever, produced by writer Donald F. Glut. Glut later penned the bestselling novelization of Empire Strikes Back along with many other books, comic books, screenplays, and cartoon and children’s TV scripts. This film was shot during his days as an amateur filmmaker associated with Forrest J Ackerman’s Famous Monsters of Filmland, and was one of a series of superhero adaptations Glut made, including Captain Marvel, Superman, the Human Torch, the Spirit, Spy Smasher, Batman, Rocket Man, and Atom Man. Posted on YouTube, the film appears to come from a 2-DVD set of Glut’s amateur films called I Was A Teenage Moviemaker released by Epoch Cinema in 2006. For more about Glut, visit his official website at http://www.donaldfglut.com/.
I notice that Dr. Lightning seems to combine aspects of Doctor Doom with Electro and others.
The first part of this review of the new movie Thor: The Dark World is unusual and short simply because there are so many surprises and I don’t want to give anything away. (I saved the spoilers for the end, so if you want to be surprised, don’t read below the spoiler alert!) I saw the movie at an IMAX 3D theatre.
Simply, if you liked the first Thor movie and The Avengers, as I did, you will like the second Thor movie. It is not outstandingly different; it has most of the same characters doing much of the same things. This is NOT the Stan Lee and Jack Kirby version of Thor, this is the Walt Simonson’s Thor, right down to the “super-villain”, Malekith.
from Journey into Mystery 88 page 2
What holds the movie together is not the plot: the alignment of the universe that occurs every 5,000 years (called the Convergence) causes havoc on the various aligned worlds. Because of this convergence, of all people, Jane Foster, contracts the “Aether”, which is basically a magic substance that gives her great powers but will eventually kill her. Bad guy Malekith wants the Aether and the power that goes with it, and therefore wants Jane.
The best part of the movie is the cast. In order to save Jane and the universe, Thor must team up with Loki to go into the realm of Makekith. This is the highlight of the movie. Chris Hemsworth (Thor) teams with Tom Hiddleston (Loki) and their performances are just wonderful. We are supposed to hate Loki, yet here, again, Hiddleston makes the character multi-layered and compelling to watch. We may “boo” and “hiss” at Loki, but we also, at various parts, feel real sympathy for him.
Loki by Jack Kirby
We see less of the Warriors Three, Sif and Odin in this movie and more of Thor’s mom played by Rene Russo. We also see Frigga’s complex relationship with Loki. I know from reading the comics that Thor will wind up with Sif, not Jane Foster, and that rivalry is shown but not developed because of a real life occurrence. The beautiful Jaimie Alexander injured her back on the set and was out, recovering, for a month, which, I suspect, cut down on her screen time.
The movie was beautiful to watch but the 3D was a total distraction. Watch it in a regular theatre. And stay until the very end of the credits, there are two extras that are buried in them, one at the very end. By the way, there is a lot of “Dark” out there: Thor: The Dark World, Star Trek (Into the Dark), Spider-Man (Turn Off the Dark) and Batman (The Dark Knight). We need flashlights!
It does bother me that death is not fatal in comics these days and now in the movies. In a great, heroic, scene we see Loki die. This was sad for two reasons: he was shown being heroic and the fact that Hiddleston was so important to these movies. But we later learn that this is not the case when he impersonates Odin. But where is Odin? Frigga, Thor’s mother dies, but why is her death seemingly permanent? The Collector, introduced in Avengers #28 (1966) is featured during the closing credits presenting another mystery. He really has no role in this movie. But like Thanos in the Avengers movie, Marvel feels that they need to open up story arcs rather than close them at the end of these movies.
This movie is misnamed. It takes place in Outer Space and should be called Lack of Gravity!
Simply, this is the most interesting and compelling visual storytelling I have seen since 2001: A Space Odyssey. This movie is nothing like 2001, except for the fact that dialogue is not an essential part of the movie and its visual design tells the story. Quest for Fire was bit liked that too.
The movie opens with a nearly 20 minute uninterrupted, incredibly beautiful, carefully detailed, sequence of astronauts, including George Clooney and Sandra Bullock, orbiting the Earth and conducting a spacewalk. Everything you need to know about the characters, the plot and the setting is filled in here. This scene alone should win the film a dozen Oscars.
Then all mayhem breaks loose.
That’s it from me; I won’t tell you the rest. You gotta see this movie! I saw it in IMAX surround sound with 3D and you should too. It draws you in and keeps you involved. And the movie knows when to stop, it’s only 90 minutes.
George Clooney playing an astronaut on his last mission, is perfect for this role. He is likable and you root for him from the beginning. Sandra Bullock lucks out and gets a role where she can be taken seriously and she effectively stretches into this role. Literally at times.
I was not at all surprised to discover that Marvel’s Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. fell 30% in the ratings. I am disappointed that I didn’t post this last week and therefore would look very smart for predicting this. They made so many mistakes in their presentation that I knew this would not remain a hit. And when Samuel L. Jackson appeared in the second episode, I was crushed, I knew that unless thing was changed, the show would continue to tumble in the ratings.
First, they overpromoted this and nothing could live up to the hype. It would have been good promotion for a movie, a one shot, where you could sit down, once, and watch and get good ratings, but no weekly TV show could live up to this. It’s not the Avengers movie, nor can it be.
But the biggest mistake is the general format. Agent Coulson, played by Mark Gregg, heads an unknown Government agency that tracks down criminals. He leads a young cast who fight among themselves, but we know will ban together, when necessary and crack the case. Each young member is quirky in their own way. They use over the top, modern technology that certainly is imaginative and impressive.
You see, what they gave us was a “remake” of the most successful show on TV and S.H.I.E.L.D.’s competition: NCIS…with a little bit of X-Files thrown in.
On NCIS, TV’s highest rated show, it’s Mark Harmon who leads a group of younger agents who are very much like the S.H.I.E.L.D. team. You have the beautiful woman who can beat people up (Cote de Pablo); you have the young computer genius that uses “modern” technology. He uses it in a way no one understands but is able to get instant results and he never really tells us how (Sean Murray). Pauley Perrette’s Abby would fit perfectly into S.H.I.E.L.D. She plays a strange, but very lovable, Goth-influenced scientist who miraculously uses technology to track down all sorts of things that solve cases. NCIS uses familiar tech in an unusual ways, S.H.I.E.L.D. uses unfamiliar tech in usual ways.
Of course there is David McCallum, my favorite Man from U.N.C.L.E. Ironically, this is the series that S.H.I.E.L.D., the original comic book, was based on. Here, McCallum plays a doctor and he too has a young assistant.
Oh, while NCIS is not a “secret” crime fighting organization, but most people never heard of them until the TV show went on the air. Of course they are also known by their initials.
To get the “younger” TV viewers, the audience that advertisers pay the most to get, S.H.I.E.L.D. seemed to clone most of the NCIS format and just put in ridiculously younger people. Sean Murray was about 25 years old when he “joined” NCIS as a junior agent, fresh out of college and with a complete high-tech education. There was no need for a leap of faith by the viewer that he knew technology, but needed to learn how to be an agent and that was part of the storytelling.
The new S.H.I.E.L.D. agents are not old enough to be experienced nor educated enough to handle their assignments. There is a tremendous leap of faith here. On NCIS there is a nice mixture, with the older agents teaching the younger ones. On S.H.I.E.L.D., Coulson, for some reason, will be the teacher of an entire group, not just a few individuals. Yet they will be relied upon to solve planet threatening problems.
It also appears that on S.H.I.E.L.D. there is going to be long drawn out story arcs, not so much individual, standalone episodes. This means if you don’t hook viewers in early they are not going to be on the train for a long ride, and 1/3 of them got off last week. As with the X-Factor part, of course, many of the threats will be of a sci-fi nature and their plot points will not be fully resolved.
So why did they put a clone on against the original?
I don’t know. But if the ratings continue to drop, and they will, there will be some changes made to cast, the stories and the scheduling. And they better do it quick.
Originally, Nick Fury was head of S.H.I.E.L.D., now, Agent Coulson was in charge. At the conclusion of the second episode, Coulson argues with his superior, Nick Fury, and he is threatened. This is so is common in every cop show. So it took only two episodes for the storyline and “banter” to fall into traditional TV formula, just one that uses high-tech.
Believe or not the best “avenue” for S.H.I.E.L.D. would have been more in the vein of Star Trek, or Battlestar Galactica, than NCIS. Both of those shows had their “daily” lives take place on a starship, S.H.I.E.L.D. would have taken placed on the Helicarrier, which would also be more in line with the comic. There would have been nothing like in on TV. Also, the stories would have been a bit more science fiction, which would have been closer to the movies.
On one hand that may have been too expensive, on the other hand the Helicarrier and such are already built or created by computer and would not have to have been done from scratch.
ABC’s “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” took a tumble Tuesday in its second week, losing about a third of its young-adult audience and finishing behind CBS’ tough “NCIS” in key demos.
Looking at the numbers, “NCIS” (3.4 rating/11 share in adults 18-49, 19.3 million viewers overall) retained nearly all of its season premiere audience as auds were glued to the episode in which Cote de Pablo’s character exited. In the same hour, “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” (3.1/10 in 18-49, 8.4 million viewers overall) was down a little more than 30% from its premiere and placed third in its tough hour in 18-49 and 25-54.
Superhero comics were a product of the Great Depression era and their popularity had waned by the early 1950s. Only characters from the DC Universe–Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman–remained on the newsstands, with Batman on his last legs.
The original Captain America, published by Timely Comics (now Marvel), was cancelled in 1950. He was brought back for a handful of issues in 1954, but then went under again.
Spurred by the success of DC’s Justice League, Marvel re-entered the super-hero field in 1961 with the Fantastic Four. Then Marvel introduced most of the heroes we know today, including Iron man, The Hulk, Ant-Man, and Thor. In 1963 the new heroes were combined into a group called the Avengers, and with issue #4 re-introduced Captain America. As he did with the Fantastic Four’s Human Torch, Stan Lee, writer and editor, erased the blackboard of previous continuity and treated Cap as a new, not established character. Marvel’s new Captain America had his past redone. Yes, he had been given the super solider serum, but unlike Timely’s original model, this Cap would not make it to 1950. While saving the world in 1944, the story goes, he was caught in an explosion over the ocean and frozen in a Capisicle for 20 years, then found and defrosted by the Avengers in 1963.
The complete story of these events are best told by Roy Thomas and John Buscema in Avengers #56, 1966.
Since only 20 years had gone by, Cap was able to reunite with old friends, including Nick Fury and his former girlfriend, Peggy Carter. Peggy, now two decades older, thought that Cap was long-dead. Soon Cap would meet her sister, Sharon Carter, a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent and a romance began. This begins in Tales of Suspense #7 in 1966, and Sharon would be known for years only as SHIELD Agent 13. (Remember when Barbara Feldon was known only as Agent 99?) Sharon’s resemblance to her sister is so great it causes Steve Rogers to reminisce about the woman he met and lost during WWII (Peggy). She was then a French resistance fighter who got amnesia, ending their brief romance.
Not always a regular in the comic, during the first few years Sharon is usually the very strong damsel in distress, sent out on various SHIELD missions (against MODOK, Batrok, the Red Skull etc.) with Cap invariably turning up to rescue her.
It takes until 1973, in issue 161, for the relationship between Sharon and Peggy to be more fully explained.
50 years later:
There is a newer Marvel Universe and it is on our movie screens. To make Cap current, the story has him frozen for 70 years and waking up in the year 2011. Although aging in comics is a funny and inconsistent concept, Cap’s WWII buddies and girlfriend would be too old to be the supporting characters they once were. Samuel L. Jackson is the new Nick Fury. This Fury was not around in 1940 and Marvel cements him firmly in their current universe.
So whatever happened to Peggy Carter? Marvel answers that in a new 15 minute film on the Iron Man III disc.
In the 15 minute short, director Luis Esposito fills us in. It’s 1945, one year after Captain America has disappeared and WWII is over. Peggy Carter, played by Haley Atwell, is working for a top secret government spy agency, but only doing menial work and being treated very badly. When the “guys’ all go out for drinks, she is not invited. And good thing too! Alone in the dark office, she is handed an important mission designed for three or four people, but she goes it alone (and without permission).
After her success, Howard Stark (sitting next to Dum Dum Dugan, played by Neal McDonough) invites her to help run his new organization: SHIELD!
This is a fun, inexpensive, 15 minute short with no special effects. While there is nothing surprising in the plot here, the whole thing works because of Hayley Atwell. She is just terrific. In the Captain America movie her character was often a bit restrained by the storyline, but on her own she does a memorable and wonderful job. And it finds a proper place for a great Marvel character that could have been lost in time.
If Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD takes off, there is a rumor that this could be turned into a series.
The picture and sound are perfect; both get a 5 on a 1 to 5 rating. The 3D effects were okay, nothing special. This was obviously not made to be a 3D movie.
The DVD extras show how the airplane sequence was done. To my surprise it was NOT mostly computer generated effects, but they actually had people jumping out of the airplane. This was done by the same person who did it in the opening of the movie Moonraker, 30 years ago!
The gag real is short and barely okay, but you can see that the actors knew they were doing a gag reel.
The deleted scenes actually show a storyline that was left out and is great fun to watch.
A 10 minute behind the scenes look at the movie.
There is an interesting commentary that strays a bit from the customary ‘here is how we did this scene’ and talks about the concepts of the movie.
I write these reviews not for the casual fan, but for the comic book enthusiasts who probably have seen all the previous movies and want to know not just how good this movie may be but how it stacks up to the previous editions of the characters, including the ones in the comics.
I write these first paragraphs a few days before Man of Steel opens to express my expectations for the movie. I have seen all of Superman’s live-action movies, from his first two serials in the 1940s, Superman vs. The Mole Men which served as the pilot of the TV show in 1951, to the five Christopher Reeve movies (if you include Superman II The Donner Edition) and the awful Superman Returns (as a stalker).
I have viewed so many of the live-action (and animated) Kryptonian sequences explaining how and why Superman came to Earth in both the movies and the TV shows, including Lois and Clark and Smallville. I loved so much of the 1978 movie: the casting, the story, the effects and the attitude. I guess I could have done without the Otis character and would have preferred a stronger Lois Lane, but I would give that movie 3.5 stars out of 4. I know now that for the theatrical release of Superman II, they fired the director, Richard Donner, who had shot more than half of it concurrently with Superman, and made the second movie sillier with less impact. I gave that 2.5 stars. Just a few years ago, Warner’s released Superman II The Donner Edition, a wonderful 3.5 star movie that continues in tone and substance where the first one left off.
Superman and Superman II display Kal-El’s Kryptonian origins, the Phantom Zone and General Zod. Are we going to get anything new in Man of Steel? Will there be any originality in Man of Steel?
“This is no fantasy… no careless product of wild imagination” are Jor-El’s first words in the 1978 movie and you can see that this is where Man of Steel wants to be. And, as a comic book fan, for the most part it surprises me and succeeds.
As a comic book reader I have to adjust to the fact that there will always be a new Superman, and not the one I grew up with, not my 1960s comic book Superman. He will no longer fight for “truth, justice and the American way.” Thankfully, I can always find my Superman in the DVD’s of the TV show, the Blue-Rays of the Reeve movies and in those old comic books.
On a comic book scale of one to four stars, I give this movie 3 stars. For people not interested in comics, it’s probably closer to 2.5. This is a very different Superman, devoid of bright colors, humor and joy, which is replaced by action, violence and uninsightful dialogue. The movie is dark; even the skies are cloudy throughout the movie.
This is certainly not the Krypton of 1978. Instead it is a darker work, not made of crystal. Not just Superman’s father, Jor-El, knows that the planet will blow up, the entire population knows. In his earlier incarnations, Jor-El (here played well by Russell Crowe) argued with the elders of Krypton. Now his main antagonist is General Zod, played superbly and creepily by Michael Shannon.
To be honest, I would not have minded if a Superman movie opened with a rocket landing on Earth, dispensing with all of the Kryptonian backstory. Until the 1978 movie, Clark knew little of his past, other than he came from Krypton in a rocket. Now the TV shows and movies keep giving us a longer and longer backstory. Once again Jor-El interacts with his son as if he were still alive. Death in comics and in comic book movies is no longer fatal.
I did find that the 1980 Superman II movie did influence this production in several ways. In both movies, General Zod and his crew survive Krypton’s explosion by being placed into the Phantom Zone. Jor El has a long afterlife, being able to talk to his son long after he (Jor-El) dies. In Superman II, a woman named Ursa and a big guy called Non are Zod’s allies and they fight Superman in Metropolis. Here, Faoura-Ul (AntjeTraue) and a masked nameless guy have basically the same role. Kevin Costner as Pa Kent tells young Clark, as Glenn Ford did, “You were put here for a reason.” However, here Clark Kent has a harder time finding that reason than Jeff East (young Clark Kent) did in the 1978 flick.
Here and in the TV show Smallville, Lois does NOT meet Clark for the first time at the Daily Planet as she had in virtually every other version.
The movie intends on building a new foundation for ongoing stories and does its best to get in the major plot points and introduce the characters. Here, for me, is the biggest failure of the 2.5-hour movie. Characters, including Perry White (Laurence Fishburne), Colonel Nathan Hardy (Christopher Meloni), Lana Lang, and Pete Ross are not given enough screen time or decent dialogue to develop their characters. Their characters are basically replaceable and not integral to the story. One assumes that they will be developed in the probable sequels yet to come. I understand many people complained that in Superman Returns there was not enough action. Here the fight scenes go on forever and there is too much of that.
Henry Cavill plays his super-straight, humorless character well. He looks like Superman and in some scenes, he looks like Christopher Reeve. The character is played a little too straight, a little too insecure for me, but by the end of the movie I was getting used to it. Amy Adams is just always good. She quickly becomes Superman’s protector and partner and it doesn’t take her 50 years to catch onto his identity. Yet, again, I wish more of her personality came through. The same can be said for the perfectly cast General Zod, Michael Shannon. Better dialogue would have helped. Yet I enjoyed it when he explained his motivations for trying to kill all life on Earth.
The John Williams score of the first movie (and adapted for the next few) was wonderful. It was at times dramatic, at times poetic, and gave us the perfect theme, the perfect opening march to the movie. Not so here. The music by Hans Zimmer was just loud and constant. I really wanted to shut it off at points. It’s true that he had no opening sequences, or for that matter slower sequences, like John Williams did, but he had opportunities that he missed.
I saw the movie in Imax and we deliberately went to the non 3D showing. This movie was primarily shot with a bumpy hand held camera and not in 3D. The 3D was added later. I am not thrilled with wearing the glasses and the post production 3D effects are not always great, so we just went to the big-screen showing.
But once again, the sound was overwhelmingly loud.
The theatre was about three-quarters filled for the afternoon show. There seemed to ba a bigger crowd for the late afternoon showing.
There was no Superboy in this Smallville, Kansas. We know it is Smallville because of the signs on the buses, water towers and Sears store. In flashbacks that featured Pa Kent (Kevin Costner) and Ma Kent (Diane Lane) we see the growth of the alien boy into the man of steel. There a few changes here too. Ma Kent does not make his costume; it is given to him by Jor-El. And, in a major flaw of the movie, Pa Kent tells Clark that he might have to let people die rather than reveal his identity. This is not the Pa Kent I knew, or wanted to know, and a major shift in the character.
There is now a “Marvelization” of the DC characters. While this started on Smallville, it gets deeper here. On Smallville, Pa Kent dies, Clark thinks, because of something he unintentionally does. And Clark, like Peter Parker after the death of his uncle, is tormented by it. Here, in a ridiculous and unneeded scene, Clark does something INTENTIONALLY that causes the death of Pa Kent. This is just wrong and a very bad fit for the movie. It becomes unreal and, frankly, the whole set up of that sequence makes NO sense whatsoever.
There was a Marvel Comics, Spider-Man influence in Batman Begins also. Young Bruce feels guilt about the death of his parents because they left the theater because of him and then were killed by a burglar.
As the super-beings destroy the city, the crowds appear and disappear on a regular basis. Also, we know in New York that it took 13 years to rebuild the World Trade center. Here, the damage is far more extensive, but I bet it will be repaired by the next movie.
Oh, before I forget: There were a few trucks that had “Lexcorp” signs on them, but there was no sign of Luthor in the movie.
As the buildings collapse, thousands of people must have died. We saw what that looked like on September 11, 2001. Here there are no bodies, no injuries, and we are relieved when one young girl is rescued. As in the Watchmen, thousands die and there are NO repercussions and no sadness.
You see, my Superman never would have done what Henry Cavill’s Superman does at the end of this movie, but shouldn’t have. The George Reeve’s Superman did it once and the early Superman did it a few times.
This is not my Superman. But he’ll have to do until the next one comes along.
Update: Major Spoiler Alert
Screenwriter David S. Goyer discusses the end of Man of Steel
One of the lessons that Chris and I learned from Batman was that if you’re going to revitalize an iconic figure like that, you have to be prepared to slay some sacred cows and you have to be prepared to weather the slings and arrows of some people. You have to respect the canon, but constantly question the canon. If you don’t reinvent these characters — and they are constantly being reinvented in the comic books — then they become stagnant and they cease being relevant. We were feeling — and I think a lot of people were feeling — that Superman was ceasing to be relevant.
Killing Zod was a big thing and that was something that Chris Nolan originally said there’s no way you can do this. That was a change. Originally, Zod got sucked into the Phantom Zone along with the others. I just felt it was unsatisfying and so did Zack. We started questioning and talked to some of the people at DC Comics and said, “Do you think there’s ever a way that Superman would kill someone.” At first they said, “No way. No way.” We said, “But what if he didn’t have a choice?” Originally, Chris didn’t even want to let us try to write it. Zack and I said, “We think we can figure out a way that you’ll buy it.” I came up with this idea of the heat vision and these people about to die. I wrote the scene and I gave it to Chris and he said, “OK, you convinced me. I buy it.”
I think it makes some people feel uncomfortable; other people say, “Right on.” That was the point. Hopefully what we’ve done with the end of the film is we’ve gotten people–the mainstream audience, not the geek audience–to question [the character]. Hopefully we’ve redefined Superman.
Last Tuesday the Second Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a federal judge’s copyright renewal dispute decision favoring Marvel against Ghost Rider writer Gary Friedrich, the Hollywood Reporter reported (see original article for link to full ruling).
Friedrich scripted the first issue of Marvel’s Western Ghost Rider character in 1967 before freelancing the first superhero Ghost Rider story that appeared in Marvel Spotlight #5 in 1972. In 1976 Congress introduced copyright law revisions that went into effect on January 1, 1978, at which point Friedrich signed a new agreement with Marvel regarding the rights to the character, worded to address the copyright law changes.
The original strip was canceled in 1983. The character was revived in a new incarnation in 1990. Subsquently Friedrich began disputing Roy Thomas’ account of the origin of the character. Ghost Rider’s emultation of stunt biker Evel Knievel resembled a villain called the Stunt-Master Thomas had introduced in Daredevil #64 in 1970. Thomas’ recollection was also that the character’s flaming skull was conceived by Mike Ploog rather than Friedrich. Friedrich insists he designed the flaming skull, while Ploog doesn’t remember.
When Friedrich heard in 2004 that the first Ghost Rider movie was in production, he challenged Marvel’s ownership of the character. The film was released in 2007 to a moderate box office reception. In 2011 federal judge Katherine Forrest ruled that Friedrich’s 1978 agreement granted “to Marvel forever all rights of any kind and nature in and to the Work”. Last Tuesday’s decision by Second Circuit Court of Appeals judge Denny Chin overturns this on the grounds that the wording of the 1978 agreement is “ambiguous” and needs further investigation at trial. The ambiguity stems from the wording’s focus on the work-for-hire terms of the agreement, which emphasizes Friedrich’s freelancer status while working for Marvel, but does not explictly address the issue of copyright renewal, which was another aspect of copyright law affected by the 1976 changes.
Despite the overturning of the decision, Chin’s decision includes language that suggests further review will merely clarify Marvel’s ownership of the character rather than siding with Friedrich. Chin commented, “When construed in Marvel’s favor, the record reveals that Friedrich had nothing more than an uncopyrightable idea for a motorcycle-riding character when he presented it to Marvel because he had not yet fixed the idea into a tangible medium.” Chin found it likely that a jury could reasonably conclude Friedrich and other Ghost Rider creators were working for Marvel under a work-for-hire agreement. However, this will ultimately be decided in trial.
First and foremost, the Shadow was NOT always Lamont Cranston. In the original stories published by Street and Smith, Cranston was another person, a rich playboy type whose identity the Shadow stole, or occasionally borrowed. Cranston didn’t like this, but went along with it because the Shadow scared him.
So when this comic book movie opens, we see Lamont Cranston in Asia, a bad person, a murderer, about to be set straight by a Mystic Asian Master, we know that this movie will NOT be following the books closely.
The pulp publications of the Shadow started in 1930, eight years before Superman and the other super-heroes took over comic books. The Shadow had the power to cloud men’s minds and makes himself seem invisible. The Shadow quickly became a radio show and voices, such as Orson Welles are still remembered saying such things as “The Shadow Knows.”
The Shadow #182 (September 15, 1939) introduced Shiwan Khan, the Golden Master, the villain featured in the 1994 Shadow movie
This is a “comic book movie.” While the Shadow does have a Comic Book and comic strip history, I do NOT use that term as a good thing. Comic books do have a logic all their own: people look good in silly, impractical costumes, that have powers no one else have, people don’t recognize them if they wear glasses and so on. Yet, movies such as Superman and Spider-Man have made that work and we can have fun. Too often, Hollywood and their writers just take the costume, the setting and the powers and leave out the characterization and other elements that make a hero interesting. And they give it to writers who seem to know nothing of the character. That happens here.
This is a bad, uninvolving movie. It cannot make up its mind what kind of movie it is. At one point it is a fantastic surreal movie that might have absorbed the viewer. At other times it tries to come off as a comic take of the Shadow legend. At other times it attends to be serious and have a certain morality about it which it never truly is achieves.
It has an interesting cast that it completely wastes. Ian McKellen, Gandalf from the Lord of the Rings movies and Magneto from the X-Men, could have had an important role here. But this part is written so badly that he never is allowed to fully get into the role. Jonathan Winters is also in the movie along with Peter Boyle and Tim Curry, which would mean that you would either have a very funny take on the Shadow and they could do that, or a very serious one, they could do that too. But their characters are never developed and their talents are never used. Alec Baldwin perhaps does his best here to try to give a three dimensional performance. But the writing fails and the character never seems real or consistent.
The villain of this movie is an ancient evil Asian named Khan. As with all the immortal bad guys when they come back to life they immediately know how to live in the modern world around them. And Khan knows everything there is to know about the Shadow.
The bi-weekly Shadow stories were mostly written by Walter Gibson under the pen name of Maxwell Grant. “Partners in Peril” was the first story for pitch hitter Theodore Tinsley.
A Batman mention here is relevant because it wasn’t for the Batman movie in 1989 there would not have been a Shadow movie in 1994. Copying Batman, thee producers of this movie obviously lifted its art deco look and used New York. At times it worked and it times it didn’t.
Will Murray points out in his introductory essays on the Shadow, published in new reprints, that Batman was very much influenced by the Shadow. In fact Bill Finger, the original writer on Batman said “I was very much influenced by the Shadow and Doc Savage, the Phantom and things of that sort. We explain Batman’s potential. My idea was to have Batman be a combination of Douglas Fairbanks, Sherlock Holmes, The Shadow and Doc Savage as well.”
Will reminds us that Batman once carried a 45 automatic. He quotes Finger saying.” I had Batman use a gun to shoot a villain and I was called on the carpet by my editor. We didn’t think anything was wrong with Batman carry a gun because the Shadow used one.
The Shadow came from an era before superheroes weren’t depicted shooting guns, as shown here
In Detective Comics #29 Batman scaled a building using a pair of suction gloves and kneepads identical to a raid the Shadow had been using since 1932. Finger admitted that Batman’s utility belt was modeled after a mini pocketed yellow gadget belt that Doc Savage started wearing in 1937. Murray writes that The Shadows greatest impact on Finger was never been revealed recently. Bill Finger said, “My first script was a takeoff of a Shadow Story.” That story was “Partners in Peril” as the blueprint for Batman. It contains many of the same scenes and characters, but with different names.
The Shadow meets Batman in Batman #253
Will Murray writes this just for us!
Back in the day, I spent two wild weeks observing the filming of The Shadow film starring Alec Baldwin. Not that I was invited on the set every day of those two weeks. No, for some strange reason, whenever Baldwin was in full Shadow cloak and makeup, I was instructed to stay off the Paramount lot. Still, I spent many hours seated beside director Russell Mulchahy, taking notes.
I had been sent to cover the filming for Starlog magazine, which was doing the official licensed Shadow film. One of my chief recollections was watching them do take after take of the throne room sequence, where the beryllium sphere broke loose. They shot it three ways, straight, comical and somewhere in between. This explains the uneven tone of the project. When they cut it, they used whatever take worked best, regardless of the overarching mood that should have kept the proceedings mysterious.
I knew Walter Gibson, who created The Shadow, pretty well, and while I was sorry that he never lived to see this movie, part of me is glad he was spared the indignities to which his immortal Dark Avenger was subjected.
Sadly, with the Shadow being invisible you could have a lot of fun with the soundtrack having a disembodied voice all over the place. But they don’t here. Once again you can see that the movie was set up to be first in the series perhaps. But they almost use that is an excuse not to fully develop any of the characters. This movie was mostly dull.
I give the movie a 4.5 on a one to five scale for its video and a 4.25 for the audio.
This show should first be judged from the perspective of the era it came from. Our government has always controlled our paths of free speech. That is, the Post Office stopped many magazines from being distributed and the FCC really stopped major issues of the 1950s, 60s, and 70s from being discussed on TV and radio. While every network had censors, they were only there because the FCC came down hard on networks for showing things they didn’t want to be shown or discussed. You may be too young to remember things like “The Fairness Doctrine” and “Equal Time” laws, but they were in place so that the government’s side of the issues was ALWAYS presented. And the government “punished” the networks, economically if they did not conform. So TV shows were pasteurized, it was hard to get things that related to war, politics, and social issues through.
Everyone wants to be first, so QB III and Rich Man, Poor Man are often proclaimed to be the first mini-series for TV. This totally ignores that in the 1960s and into the 1970s, TV often had summer replacement shows. One of those shows was The Prisoner, made in England, and first aired here on CBS in the summer of 1968, as I recall. It was like nothing I had ever seen.
So here is the first secret:
You have to watch this series twice, and it helps if you watch it in order, not the jumbled way it was put on TV. You see, the show seems to be a mystery and when you begin looking for clues and then you miss the bigger picture.
The show is “WAY OUT” and it tells you that in its introduction. (Look for that sign on the door). A “nameless” government agent, played by Patrick McGoohan, resigns his post in anger and is kidnapped and placed in the Village…a strange place where people are given numbers and not names, but everyone there seems to have been at one time or another associated with the government–or a government, you may not know which one. This was the era of the Cold War, of a divided Europe.
Who was Number 6? Was he John Drake?
We don’t use this term anymore, but it was popular in the 1950s, especially in MAD Magazine. McGoohan’s character, Number 6, was a “non-conformist.” He was someone who didn’t seem to care what other people thought of him and went his own way. Back then it was often implied that you were selfish and not “part of the group.” As if there was something wrong with individuality. Today, we don’t think that way (but we really act that way).
John Drake was also played by Patrick McGoohan. He was a NATO agent in a TV show called Danger Man, that aired from 1960-1962. This 30-minute show (available on DVD) was a great influnce to the Bond movies which followed, in plot, in devices and in casting. After the Bond movies become popular, they brought back the show in 1964, renamed it Secret Agent, and made it an hour long.
One other thing: Drake was no longer a NATO agent; he no longer was connected, in any way, to America. The Vietnam War and political scandals from all over the world were eroding people’s trust in government, something that continues to this day. But why did it start then? In my opinion, it’s when media, mostly TV and radio, got into everyone’s home, whether you bought a newspaper or not. Again though, the Vietnam War changed how the world saw America and how America saw itself.
From Gil Kane’s pencils for Marvel’s unpublished adaptation of The Prisoner
So here is the second secret:
His character was absolutely based on John Drake, but unless they wanted to pay the creators of Danger Man residuals they could not use his name. So they didn’t and it added to the fun. There was no political or storytelling motivation here, it was all about money. For some reason this take up a lot of people’s time. The other part is that this was a surreal show, a fantasy, not the realistic show like Danger Man. By the way, several episodes of the Danger man were filmed in the Welsh resort of Portmeirion, which served as the village. And, in several episodes actors from the first series showed up in the village and Christopher Benjamin even appears as the same character.
Jack Kirby art for Marvel’s The Prisoner adaptation
The final secret:
The show is not a mystery, it’s not a whodunit.
The show is about asking questions, not answering them. If you are looking for answers you will not find them here. Which is why the show holds up after all these years.
The world had turned since WW II and things were not as clear as they once were.
The show on education, for example, asked whether people were learning and processing information or just memorizing facts. It didn’t answer the question.
In the end, where the differing political groups so very different?
Why does every new leader promise to be different, but turns out to be nearly the same, answering to the same people?
And why do we seem to wind up where we started from?
It’s not a mystery; there is no secret at the end, because there is no real end. The joke about The Prisoner is that the big picture may be smaller than you thought it would be.
The acting is great, the show has great drama and great humor and even great music. It looks better on Blu-ray than it ever did, but it was still a British show filmed (which means the colors are a bit off, it always raining there). So it gets 3.5 (out of 5) for both sound and picture.
But 5 stars for the show.
PS: Notice that I didn’t try to explain too much about the setting, the plots or the characters. It would take too much time, everything here is unique. If this review isn’t clear enough, or perhaps a bit confusing, then I succeeded.
Here is the best order for watching the episodes:
“Dance of the Dead”
“The Chimes of Big Ben”
“Free for All”
“The Schizoid Man”
“A. B. & C.”
“A Change of Mind”
“Do Not Forsake Me, Oh My Darling”
“It’s Your Funeral”
“The Girl Who Was Death”
“Many Happy Returns”
“Living in Harmony”
“Hammer into Anvil”
“Once Upon a Time”
“Dance of the Dead” should be the second show. It explains a lot.
I saw Star Trek Into Darkness on Friday, Imax 3-D and did enjoy the movie. For Trekkies this is at least a three out of four star movie. For me, though, this movie was a tremendous disappointment and I can see why it is NOT meeting expectations of the studio. And it is probably J.J. Abrams fault. Frankly, he just played it safe.
The big screen Imax was great, but the 3-D, once again was not essential and only occasionally added to the movie.
If you are new to Star Trek, this movie will not pull you in. If you are a fan, you might find it familiar and comfortable, but the reality is nothing here is new. Frankly, they just rewrote an episode of Star Trek entitled “Space Seed” and worked in the major plot points and themes from Star Trek II, II, and IV. In fact they even borrowed part of the dialogue from those movies. But I am glad they borrowed Leonard Nimoy, it is always wonderful to see him back.
You may not realize this, but there was a “political” slant to the plot and casting to this movie. The fact is Star Trek movies do well in America but not in the foreign markets. So they hired an Englishman, Benedict Cumberbatch, for the villain. They also had back to back action, less talking and less relationships, believing that would sell better overseas. Also, this movie is back to back action, less time on the bridge.
While Zoe Saldana as Uhura and Karl Urbane as Bones have bigger roles than most of the supporting cast, they are still two dimensional and not fully develop characters. The crew, Chekov, Sulu and Mr. Scott come off to me as imitations, if not parodies of the originals. They are very disposable characters. Chris Pine as Kirk is either a bit overwhelmed by the part or was playing the role to appear such, he was made captain in the last movie, but seems to first be getting his footing now. Zachary Quinto is the more dominant player here. (More in the spoiler alert.) In fact, as with the original Spock, he is often given the punch line to most scenes. In enjoyed it when Leonard Nimoy, in a cameo as the original Mr. Spock, tell him what he is supposed to logically do and then tell him what he really has to do!
I certainly don’t mind when references are made to previous pictures, even though this is supposed to be a remaking of a world that no longer exists. For example, there is a constant reference to wearing a red shirt, which used to mean instant death in the TV show! They also introduce a beautiful Carol Marcus, who we all know will have a romantic interlude with Kirk. . .and his child!
MAJOR SPOILER ALERT!
DON’T tell me this was an original motion picture.
This was a major disappointment. They didn’t just rework the aforementioned episode and movies, they even used the same dialogue, and all they did was often reverse the roles between Spock and Kirk. For example, it is Kirk who dies, not Spock.
And any viewer of the original series knew that the villain was going to be Khan. It’s not that they just gave hints; they were redoing major parts of the original episode.
If you recall in Star Trek II, after Khan damages the ship, Spock saves the day but ends his own life. Kirk speaks to him through the glass surrounding the radiation field. The first thing a dying Spock says is, “The ship. Out of danger?”
Here, a dying Kirk asks Spock, through the same glass barrier, “How’s the ship?” Spock replies, “Out of danger.”
In Star Trek II, Spock is put into a Photon Torpedo and he later comes back to life. Did you notice that in this movie they even put Kirk into a similar torpedo until they can bring him back to life? Or, as in in Star Trek III Scotty mucks up the engine room of a federation vehicle pursuing the Enterprise?
There was a modern day Star Trek message about the military-industrial complex that fit well into the story telling. Newcomers may have been confused, properly, about who the real villains here often were. But we knew that Khan was always going to be the bad guy, so had they given us a new villain, it might have had us going too. But they did not.
Again, Trekkies will be very comfortable with this movie. But at any time did you really think any of the starring and supporting crew of the Enterprise was in real danger? Even when Kirk died? You might have been curious, but never concerned.