Monday, November 3, 2008

Comic Domination

A bit of media round-up for a potentially pre-apocalyptic election eve, since lots of comic book-inspired movies and TV shows are in the news this week.

First, Ain’t It Cool News has managed to get ahold of some on-set pictures of the new Sherlock Holmes adaptation starring Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law. Defamer also has a cool picture of Downey in flight. But Monsters and Critics takes the cake with this sizzling report that begins with, “Robert Downey Jr. set his crotch on fire while shooting his new film.” Which is possibly the best lede I have ever read. I’m really excited for this movie. I always liked the idea of Holmes more than the adaptations I’ve seen, and I’m hoping this new one will change that.

Second, Marvel recently announced they would be replacing Terrence Howard with Don Cheadle as Colonel James “Rhodey” Rhodes for Iron Man 2 and the Avengers movie that will follow Iron Man 2 and will (hopefully) pay off that Samuel L. Jackson cameo in the post-credits of Iron Man. Iron Man’s core fanbase reacted, well, about as well as you’d expect. This news came as a bit of surprise to most of the non-fanboy industry as well, because when your movie grosses over $300 million, you usually try not to mess with the winning formula in the sequels. Remember how well that worked for New Coke? This affects more than who Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark will snark at on-screen for two and a half hours, as the Rhodey character will logically take on more importance in the ensuing movies, assuming they follow the comics, where Rhodes dons his own metal suit to become Iron Man’s sidekick War Machine. Marvel, being a movie studio, didn’t come right out and explain their decision, though a few interesting reports have surfaced. Of course, there is no good reason for getting fired when you’re the one on the receiving end of the pink slip, so I doubt anything’s gonna make Howard feel better when the trailers for Iron Man 2, The Avengers, and maybe even War Machine start rolling out in the next few years. The latter movie would be my pick for the reason behind the cast change, though. Howard was good in Iron Man, certainly, but he was on the bland side and didn’t rise to the great heights of Downey, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Jeff Bridges, which was fine for the first movie because all you really had to do in that movie was not completely suck and those other three could carry you. But with a potential spin-off franchise in the works, it makes sense to get someone with a little more oomph. Is Cheadle the man for the job? I don’t know. My first reaction was “Really? Hm...” But I’ve since been unable to think of anyone else I could see more in the role, so I suppose it’s worth waiting to see how this shakes out.

Terrence Howard isn’t the only one out of a job. NBC axed the two top Heroes producers, Jeph Loeb and Jesse Alexander, who had been with the show since its earlier, happier days of cultural relevance. E! managed to dig up some dirt and found an interesting place to point fingers:

"Someone had to take the fall." This is what a reliable inside source on Heroes tells me of the firings of Loeb and Alexander. "NBC is not happy with the current status of the show, and there had to be a visual and tangible change in the course of action."

The final blow came from last week's Entertainment Weekly cover, which I'm told was reported on under the ruse of a promotional story for the series. The surprise—a cover story pointing out Heroes' third-season flaws and fan discontent—did not go over well with higher-ups.

Oh, silly execs, you can’t trust journalists! (Except me, because I always weenie out of going in for the kill on my stories, which is why I stick with puff pieces whenever possible. I’d rather forfeit a Pulitzer than be universally reviled. Because I am a weenie.) Seriously, your show is floundering, bleeding audience members and getting slammed by critics, and you think Entertainment Weekly, one of the few pop culture-based media outlets to weave actual hard-nosed pieces in among the usual softball stories, is gonna write a little hot air piece for you?

At any rate, I’m sure the higher-ups think this movie will reinvigorate the failing show, but I see it more like writing DOOM! on the wall. I finally watched the first few episodes of Heroes this season, and I was struck by overwhelming apathy. I just don’t care anymore. It’s not awful, it’s not even all that different from the first season, I just...can’t bring myself to care anymore. I suspect the show was always fated to have a great first season then fizzle out. Maybe it should have been a really cool movie trilogy instead of a television show.

There are some more great-sounding comic book movies on the horizon. SciFi.com reports that David Lindsay-Abaire, the playwright responsible for some amazing plays like Fuddy Meers, Kimberly Akimbo, and the Pulitzer-winning Rabbit Hole, is in negotiations to write Spider-Man 4. After the sticky mess that was Spider-Man 3, this is a welcome bit of good news. I was lucky enough to have Mr. Lindsay-Abaire speak to my playwriting class last year, where he proved himself to be very thoughtful about the nature of human interactions and confronting one’s own fears. It gives me hope for a more character-driven Spidey movie with crackling dialogue and imaginative plot...not unlike Lindsay-Abaire’s plays.

Finally, Variety says that Sam Mendes will be directing a feature version of the comic book Preacher. Though I won’t get my hopes up until the cameras start rolling, considering a television series was in development by HBO until it suddenly wasn’t and this isn’t the first time a feature adaptation has tried to get off the ground, if this does in fact materialize it will be great news for both comic and movie fans. The Preacher series is fantastic, rife with wit and moral dilemmas, and I can’t wait to see who would be cast as the alcoholic Irish vampire Cassidy, as well as erstwhile-hitwoman-slash-love-interest Tulip O’Hare and of course the Preacher himself, Jesse Custer, who is accidentally possessed by the offspring of a demon and an angel and might have more power than God himself who, by the way, is missing. Of course, when I think “comic book movie”, the first name that comes to mind isn’t exactly Sam Mendes, who is better known for his thoughtful meditations and closet of Oscar hardware, but he might be just the person to lend more gravitas to a genre that, even after The Dark Knight’s success, is still marginalized by the industry if not audiences.

7 comments:

Erica said...

At least Jeph Loeb has his job as one of DC Comics' top writers.

But seriously, firing writers doesn't always make your sucky show better. Yes, I just went on the internet to say that Heroes is sucky and that's why it went off my TV list.

I never gave Preacher a try, but I have linger Garth Ennis-related issues given his run on Midnighter.

smd said...

Heroes is off my active watch list, meaning I'll catch up on Hulu if the mood strikes but I'm not exactly feeling pangs at its absence in my life. Onto bigger and better, Loeb.

And you should give Preacher a try. It has a really interesting story. In fact, I never finished reading the series, I should get back on that. I just wish graphic novels were cheaper.

Sex Mahoney for President said...

Graphic novels are cheaper if you download them for free on the internet.

I didn't like the Preacher ending the first time I read it, but I took a long break between volumes 1-4 and 5-9. When I read the whole thing all the way through, I was blown away.

As much as I would like to see it adapted for the screen, I would much rather that a watered down, pussified, Hollywood version never saw the light of day. I had hope for the HBO adaptation.

Heroes is ridiculous. I still watch it, but I don't know for how much longer. Still, it's nice to see a superhero show with good production values. I would hate to see it turn into Dragon Wars on the Sci-fi channel.

Sex Mahoney for President

smd said...

I really need to finish reading Preacher. My teacher loaned me the first GN and I loved it, but every time I went to take the rest out from the library, 2 and 3 were missing and I'm a stickler for reading things in order. I should try this downloading thing of which you speak. But yeah, I did have hope for the HBO Preacher, I thought it could be balls-out like Carnivale (before HBO cancelled it), I do worry that a feature might shy away from the religious stuff. I'm gonna reserve judgement until casting's announced, that can make or break the project.

And that's the problem with Heroes, I want to enjoy it because it's a well-produced sci-fi show on a major network in primetime, it's awesome that it even exists and has lasted this long. But ever since season 2 it's just left me cold. After every episode I go, "I should have enjoyed that more than I did."

Sex Mahoney for President said...

Step 1. Get utorrent
Step 2. download Preacher torrent at btjunkie.org
Step 3. Laugh maniacally at copyright enforcing drones and their ineffective lawsuits.

smd said...

Well, I worry less about lawsuits now that I'm no longer on school servers (the RIAA/MPAA hardcore targeted my school, probably 'cause we were like #2 in illegal downloading, last year they were handing out lawsuits like a pedophile handing out candy from a white van), nowadays I just worry about viruses. But I assume hackers are too busy encoding viruses into torrents of High School Musical 3 to bother with comics.

Sex Mahoney for President said...

I have never had a problem with viruses. Torrent users are quick to comment on an infected file. The whole thing is 99% safe, which is actually safer than a condom, unless you're using the condom to keep the bacteria on your keyboard from getting on your fingers, in which case, that's 100% crazy.