Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Into Every Generation...

By now, every blogger on the internet has had their say about the new Buffy movie Warner Bros are planning, which will reboot the franchise and features absolutely no involvement from Joss Whedon. In particular, I recommend you read my friend Kirsty's thoughts on it here: http://winskillfull-explains.blogspot.com/2009/05/staking-cash-cow.html

I also recommend you read the words of Master Whedon himself here: http://uk.eonline.com/uberblog/watch_with_kristin/b212644_joss_whedon_reacts_buffy_movie_news_i.html

But what about my thoughts on the subject. They matter, right? Oh. Well. You're getting them anyway.

Warner Bros, this is an awful, awful idea, for a number of reasons. Let's go into them, shall we?

1. No one, absolutely no one, understands the character and world of Buffy like Joss Whedon and the team of superb writers who helped him craft seven of the finest seasons of television in the history of entertainment.

Hush. The Body. Once More With Feeling. Conversations With Dead People. The list of fantastic episodes goes on and on. Sure, Joss may be busy with the Avengers right now, but get him on as a producer, ask Jane Espenson, or Marti Noxon, or Douglas Petrie to write it. That would work fine. Who do we have instead? Whit Anderson. Yeah, I don't know either. One second. *checks IMDB* Oh, right, she "acted" in Yes Man and Zombie Strippers. Yeah, those are the credentials required. Now, in fairness, Anderson could be an excellent writer. I don't know. But some of her comments don't inspire confidence. In the same paragraph, she claims Buffy is timeless and says it's time to update it. If something's timeless, surely it doesn't need updating? She also claims she gets it because she was the same age as Buffy when she was watching it. So were a lot of other people, love. Doesn't mean they know it better than Whedon.

2. This has been tried before, numerous times, and rarely with success. How many reboots do you know which have done well? Let's look at one of the worst examples of a previous reboot as an example.

Back in the late nineties, Marvel decided to reboot Spider-Man. While they would eventually find success with this with Ultimate Spider-Man (the exception which proves the rule), their first attempt was the disastrous Spider-Man: Chapter One. For thirteen issues, writer/artist John Byrne retold stories which had been done thirty years earlier, and about three hundred times better, by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko. The results were so poor that these days, the readers and Marvel both would prefer to pretend it just never happened. The original Spider-Man stories, like Buffy, are timeless. Yes, there's a very nineteen-sixties sensibility in the way the stories are told, but if you read them, they more than hold up today. In trying to update something which doesn't need updating in the first place, you can only ruin it. This is why things like Ultimate Spider-Man, or J.J. Abrams Star Trek reboot, don't try and tell the same story again, but use the same characters and situations to tell completely new stories. Now, maybe that's what Whit Anderson will be doing with Buffy. But, that brings us on to the next point.

3. Yes, Buffy fans would like more Buffy. And they're already getting it.

Okay, it's not the movie we would all like, but let's be honest now, that's never going to happen. Instead, Whedon has transplanted his universe to the world of comics. Dark Horse have been publishing Buffy Season Eight for a few years now, with Whedon overseeing the whole thing and writing some of the issues himself. He's also brought in some of the shows writers, like Jane Espenson and Drew Goddard, as well as some of the best writers working in comics today, such as Brian K. Vaughan and Brad Meltzer, to pen storyarcs. It's not exactly the same as the show. The fact that there is no budget to restrict them, just the imagination of the talented artists who draw the comic, does mean that they can do pretty much anything they like (flying cars, a giant robot rampaging through Tokyo, some rather immense godlike creatures and Dawn as a centaur are among the sights we'd never have seen on screen), and this has lead, at times, to the writers (Joss included) possibly overindulging themselves, but it's still a worthy follow up to the TV show. Season eight is drawing to a close soon, but season nine has already been confirmed. With Buffy continuing in comic form, under the guiding hand of her creator, is there really any need for a new version from someone else?

4. Warner Bros don't care about Buffy. They just want money.

Obviously, we all know that, but the proof, if it were needed, comes when you consider this fact: Warner Bros cancelled Buffy at the end of season five. In order to keep going, Buffy had to move to the UPN network. Warner Bros then cancelled Buffy spin off Angel after its fifth season. There was no saving Angel, unfortunately, which was axeded to make way for a remake of sixties vampire show Dark Shadows. A show which never got passed the pilot stage. When Warner Bros later commissioned Supernatural, a show I do admittedly like, they might as well have been saying "Oh shit oh shit oh shit we cancelled Angel why did we do that". And now, suddenly, they want to make Buffy again? They've seen how well season eight's been doing in comics. They've seen the DVD sales. It's about nothing but the cash.

Despite all of our protests, this is happening. Nothing we can do about that at this point. However, on the off chance that any studio execs are reading this (and I haven't offended them too much), I have the following suggestions for them which would make this a good thing.

1. Wait until after Avengers is done, and get Joss involved.

2. Change the setting in a way that no one really expects. Ooh, here's an idea. Set it in space. And get rid of all the monsters and demons.

3. How about, instead of a high school girl, Buffy is a man. A rogueish man who was on the losing side of a war, and now captains a space ship, taking whatever jobs he can to feed his Scooby Gang, or crew. You know who should play him? That nice Nathan Fillion fella.

4. Instead of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, I would like to suggest an alternative title: Serenity 2.

I think that would be a winner. Make it happen studio execs, and I'll call off the mercenaries.

In Brightest Day, In Blackest Night...

By now, if you're reading this particular blog, chances are you've seen the Green Lantern movie trailer. I've watched it a few times now, and thought it only right that I chime in with my two cents, given he's one of my favourite characters. The thing is, the more I watch it, the less I like it, and it's not down to any one story element or character issue that the trailer raises, but rather, the look of the film.

Now, I'm not one of those who thinks that effects are the be all and end all of a movie. Far from it. I can quite happily sit through a film with only average effects if the storyline keeps me hooked. Or a shit film with shit effects if it's one of those shit films which is also AWESOME!!!! But I digress. The problem is, the effects in Green Lantern, as they are right now, look awful. The alien characters, many of whom could've been done as prosthetics, seem to have been augmented with CGI, and it looks wrong. I understand the need for Kilowog to be a CGI creation. I mean, look at him.

But why do it with Abin Sur or Sinestro when some pink face paint would work just as well?

It doesn't make sense. The ring effects also look wrong, though I understand that's harder to nail down as everyone will have a different idea about how these should look in action. That said, the Justice League cartoon got it pretty right, so maybe the production team should look here for inspiration?

The worst part though is the costume. When the initial pictures were released, it looked bad. We knew all along the Green Lantern uniform was going to be a CGI creation. For some reason. And the pictures didn't inspire confidence. I chose to give it the benefit of the doubt though. Perhaps, in motion, it might look quite good? It doesn't. I get what they're trying to do. The uniform is a creation of the ring, so they've tried to make it look like it's made of energy. But it's really not working. The Green Lantern uniform is, for my money, one of the best superhero costumes out there. To see it ruined like this, creating one of the worst looking superhero costumes on film since the Batsuit gained nipples... It doesn't bode well.

What I will defend, however, is Ryan Reynold's portrayal of Hal Jordan. A lot of people are complaining that he's playing him as too cocky and light hearted, but ya know what, Hal Jordan is cocky and light hearted! He's a devil may care test pilot with a huge streak of arrogance running through him. There have been comparisons with the Iron Man film, with some people saying that this is the tone the producers are going for. Ignoring the tone of the films themselves, it's actually quite apt to compare Hal Jordan with Tony Stark. Hal may not have Tony's millions, and was never as big a prick as Stark was when he started out, but he does share Stark's immense levels of self belief and eye for the ladies. Hal has mellowed in recent years in the comics (which, given events, is only natural), but as far as the trailer shows us, Ryan Reynolds performance is pretty perfect for the younger, inexperienced and, importantly, fearless Hal Jordan who first became Green Lantern.

The trailer hasn't shown us much of the villains to judge their performances, or given away a huge amount of the storyline, so we don't have much to go on, but to be honest, I'm a little worried about this. The aforementioned tone, yes, does seem to have been influenced by Iron Man, which, despite the character similarities, just won't work for Green Lantern. And those effects... They need to be cleaned up if they want people to believe them. They have time to do so, but I can't help but think it's not going to be enough.

Fingers crossed, this will all turn out okay. The involvement of Geoff Johns, who has written some of the best Green Lantern comics ever, is reason to think they might pull this off, as is the fact that it's directed by Martin Campbell, who so successfully revitalised Bond in Casino Royale. But for now, we're just going to have to wait and see whether the Green Lantern film is cinemas Brightest Day, or its Blackest Night.

Sunday, 14 November 2010

I Am A Writer

Earlier on today, I was told I'm not a writer. This surprised me, because I've been writing for a long time now. Scripts, prose, comics, blogs, even the odd poem. The point was then clarified. "You're not a writer, you're a dude who writes, and writes well." While I appreciate the compliment, it still didn't ring true with me. I asked what the difference was. The answer given was as follows:- "For one, the grand total of books of writings of yours published by a major publisher is...?"

Ah, so to be a writer, you have to be published by a major publisher, or at least getting paid to write. Otherwise, you're just someone who writes.

No. Wrong. I may not get paid to do it at the moment, but I am definitely a writer. Now, I'll be honest, there are a lot of people out there who claim to be writers, but aren't. A lot of people who label themselves writers only write the occasional blog, maybe once a month, in which most of the words they use more closely resemble a random number spat out by a calculator, and end every sentence with the non-word "LOLZ". These people, despite their claims, are not writers.

So what does make a writer? Well, it's probably subjective, and I bet you'd get a different answer from any writer you asked. For me though, it boils down to a few key points. First of all, commitment. A writer lives and breathes writing. When they're not writing, they want to be writing. Sometimes it's hard, yes. When you're not getting paid to write, and also have to work a nine to five job, finding the time to write, or even the will, can be tough. But a true writer will do it. I try and find some time to write every day. Even if I only get ten minutes of writing time, I make sure I've written something every day. Sure, the next day I may delete everything I've written the previous day, but I still did it. I still wrote. If you can't be bothered to put the effort in, then you're not a writer.

Another key point is a basic grasp of the language you choose to write in. In my case, that would be English. I'm not saying I don't make mistakes. I do. I get the spelling and the grammar wrong, I choose the wrong words, I write shit that sometimes just doesn't make sense. But I don't stick numbers in words. I don't use that most dreaded of things, text speak. There are so many bloggers out there whose blogs I just can't read because their butchery of the English language, which can be quite beautiful at times, is so absolute as to render the entire thing nonsensical. If you can't use language, you're not a writer. A writer needs to be understood by readers.

And there's the other main point of my argument. Why is someone who isn't getting paid to write not a writer, but someone who reads without getting paid to do it is a reader? Likewise, I play computer games a lot. I don't get paid for it. I am a gamer. My sister's fiance, Chris, plays the drums. He doesn't get paid to do it. He's still a drummer. I can go on, though I don't think I need to. If all of those are true, then why is it not true of writing?

There is a difference between being a writer and being a paid writer, but the thing they both have in common is that they are both writers. I've been fortunate to speak to some very good writers in my time, who have been paid to write, as well as knowing others who have done the same. There are plenty of writers out there who get paid to do it, who are happy to give advice to the rest of us. Neil Gaiman, Peter David and Stephen King are all known to give advice to the people they meet who tell them they're writers, and who try to help them out. They don't turn around and say "Have you been published? Because if you haven't, you're not a writer."

It's actually the words of Orson Scott Card which spring to mind now. If you meet him and tell him you're a writer, he will always respond by asking "Are you?" If you respond hesitantly, mumble about not being published or have any reaction other than "Yes, I am", then you're not a writer, so I suppose it's also a mental thing.

It's not about being published though, it's about writing. I write. So, am I a writer?

Yes. I am.