Sunday, July 22, 2012

The Amazing Spiderman

The Amazing Spiderman:
Finally 100% Toby McGuire Free
But Still All That Angst....

About 12 years ago, the film industry went through what we like to call the first comic book movie boom, where in, as you can guess, almost every movie was based on a comic book; The Fantastic Four, Hellboy, From Hell, The Punisher, X-Men, Batman Begins, Superman Returns, you get the idea, all came out around the same time, and though Superman Returns is generally assumed to be the worst of the entire batch, many could argue that among the other worst was Sam Rami's Spiderman trilogy, a sort of half reinvention of Spiderman and half "eh, lets a wacky wallwalker at a wall and see what happens?" film adaption of Marvel Comic's beloved Spiderman, and though some people might not have an issue with such things as the very weak villain presence in those films, there are twice as many who just need to say "organic webshooters" to spark a nerd fight so epicly large, the younger nerds shall someday LARP it. The trilogy got progressively worse, much like with the X-Men films of the same era, and eventually their third and final one was a dud so painful its best forgotten it was even made, the fans were pissed off, and marvel was pissed off they allowed something of theirs to be treated worse then a non-Batman DC Comics character. This lead to two things; the announcement that Marvel Comics was founding Marvel Studios, to produce their own movies and allow their charactes to go in the film directions they wanted them to go, and eventually, after proving that a reboot can solve most of your issues with a film franchise, as proven with X-Men: First Class, it all lead to this, The Amazing Spiderman.

The Amazing Spiderman, once again tells us the story of young Peter Parker who was bitten by a radioactive spider and thats bite gave him the powers of a spider, instead of, you know, cancer. This time around though they don't just explain it as a field trip to a science museum to see how an atom smasher works, they imply that Peter's parents, who really, unless you ignore the horrible clone saga that was the 1990s Spiderman comic books, they never really explained much of, just that they were dead and they were brilliant scientists, and they also change afew other key elements, how his Uncle Ben dies, and how he goes about creating the Spiderman persona in general, I must admit though, I like being able to have Ben Parker around for abit longer, much like how in Captain America: The First Avenger we had Bucky Barnes around for half the film instead of Bucky being "Captain America's sidekick who died", Ben Parker was always just "Spiderman's uncle who died because he refused to do the right thing and help someone that was mean to him" and really just lived on in the belief Spiderman lived by "With great power comes great responsibility", and though each hero does need characters like this to instil their place as a hero, over the years they tend to become hollow and plastic, allowing Ben to be in almost half of the film makes him someone we all feel for even though we know how he will end up, it was a great move, also casting Martin Sheen as Ben Parker and Sally Field as May Parker was a brilliant idea. The movie also changes up the origin, stating that Peter's parents worked with Dr. Curt Conners, long time Spiderman supporting cast member and sometimes villain known as The Lizard, and that they were all working on a way to make the human body able to heal terminal illnesses internally and grow back lost limbs, much like Conners himself, who is missing half an arm, claiming that the spider who bit Peter was mutated through radioactivity through Conners research and study he did with Peter's parents, and it simply got loose when Peter accidentally opened a container the spider was in, thus kind of in a round about way implying that Peter's parents indirectly created him. The film also uses this to sort of "dark mirror" the process by having Peter, using an algorithm that he discovered in his father's research papers, inadvertently create The Lizard, even though it was Conners, who while trying to prove he deserved to keep his job, injected himself with the serum they'd created before testing it on lab animals properly, and in true Spiderman sense, Peter blames himself, even though he doesn't realize that Conners sped things up with out him, after all, it wouldn't be Spiderman with out the angst buried just under the jovial and comedic surface.

The Amazing Spiderman also does a good job with modernizing but keeping the core of the relationship between Peter Parker and Gwen Stacy, another key character in Spiderman's mythos. Much like with Ben Parker being "Spiderman's dead uncle" to most, Gwen Stacy is simply "Spiderman's dead girlfriend" and most really only know of her as that, only those who have read the early issues of the comic truly knew of her and her tragic end as a pawn used by Norman Osborne; The Green Goblin to distract Spiderman so he could get away, and though we weren't given Gwen's death in this film thankfully, we instead get to know Gwen, who is played amazingly well by the beautiful Emma Stone, who truly looks like Gwen in the flesh, the hair, the whole miniskirt and knee-socks/knee-boots thing Gwen is known for, the only thing they really changed was her attitude, generally Gwen is written to be this magical wonderfully happy young girl who sees the wonder and beauty and magic in everything, infact in one story she even was seen to be dancing in the mist and rainbows caused by an invasion from Atlantis, but I digress, even with the small change in personality Gwen and Peter's relationship was as spot on as one could hope, even though oddly, he told her his secret identity, in the comics that never actually happened, though her father, a police captain who at first saw Spiderman as a menace, knew who Peter was, and after the two had a talk about why he does what he does, Cap. Stacy became a valuable ally.

So as for the film itself, its plot is pretty basic superhero 101, we meet our hero, we meet those in his life, we see what causes him to become a hero in the first place, he accidentally has a hand in creating a villain and solidifies himself as a hero because he feels he needs to stop said baddie, and along the way he has defining moments of bravery that show he's truly a hero, instead of a drunken asshat like Iron Man. Its not a flashy complicated story, or an amazingly sweeping grand tale of any sort, its your basic punch and kick and let down your girlfriend superheroics that we've all come to know from Spiderman, that doesn't make it a bad thing, but it might be a let down for newcomers to the character and his world, though long time fans will be happy that the movie folds out like a comic book story, they'll also delight in the hilarious cameo by Stan Lee, while regular movie goers will be puzzled by the strange cameo of Chris Rock who last time I know was still famous enough to not have to cameo in a movie to get money, but then again, well, Madagascar 3... so.. yeah, there is that. Comic book fans will also love the length the film makers went to as to include as many iconic spiderman images as possible, including an if you blink you'll miss it actual posing of 1991's Spiderman #1 cover, an image they consider so iconic it was the cover to Spiderman #1 and recolored into the cover to Spiderman #13 as well, a pose i truly didn't see coming till the last second, at which point i squee'd with delight at it, there are many others too, mostly the webswinging poses, but hey, those are the money shots to Spiderman, so don't playahate.

So, the big question, is The Amazing Spiderman worth seeing? Honestly? Why the hell are you still here reading this? Get your ass to a theater, and watch this movie! Sure its got its flaws like any other comic book movie, but thats never gonna change it, thats never gonna make it not worth watching, its just such a great film, seriously you need to get up on this and as soon as you can. Sure some will say its more Peter Parker centric and it needs more Spiderman and his crimefighting banter, but there will be time for that as the series goes on, this was ment to show you how it all came to be, not just another day in the life of. So seriously, go see this as soon as you can, you won't regret it.

But if you aren't 100% convinced yet, here is the trailer to make you love it....



Friday, July 6, 2012

The Almighty Johnsons

The Almighty Johnsons:
The Story Of Norse Gods
Friggin About In New Zealand

These days, everyone in television is trying to do some form of sci fi, oh sure most do the whole vampire/werewolf/zombie route thats so fashionable right now, but every now and then, every now and then a completely new and different idea comes around that shines like an idea so brilliant it just has to work, and more so it just has to work out so well you kind of envy the bastard who actually created it. One of such ideas is the new zealand television series The Almighty Johnsons, the story of norse gods reborn on earth and living among us regular human beings, living among us being reborn over and over in the body of those with the blood of a god with in them, until a prophecy that they all believe in, shall come to pass. 

The Almighty Johnsons tells the story of the Johnson family; Mike, Ty, Anders, Axl, four brothers who live in New Zealand where they, like many other families, keep a secret that is revealed to each of them as they turn 21 years of age, that secret is, they're all reborn norse gods. The story starts on the night before the 21st birthday of the youngest boy Axl, who is completely unaware of his family secret when we start, all he knows is, his brothers and his cousin Olaf are taking him into the woods on his 21st birthday to do some sort of "family tradition", though no one tells him what it is. After bringing him to the deepest part of the local woods, and standing inside a circle made of special stones, Axl is told to hold an old sword above his head and wait for what happens. After afew minutes a powerful lightening strike hits Axl, knocking him flat on his back, as well as knocking his cousin Olaf far away from the circle, Axl has no idea whats just happened to him and as his brothers look for whats happen to Olaf, they decide to tell him the family secret, that they are all the reborn forms of various norse gods, as they look for Olaf they each explain who they are and what their powers they can use are; Mike is the reborn form of Ullr, the god of games and the hunt, Mike can track anyone or anything as long as he can get its scent, and he can never lose a game where is in direct competition with a person or machine. Anders is Bragi; the god of poetry, who can use his words to get anyone to do anything that he wishes, no matter if they don't want to or not. Ty is Höðr; the god of all things cold and dark, his touch can freeze you he can also change the temperature, as well as freeze things. When Axl asks what god he is, and what he can do, they tell him they need to ask Olaf, because he is the family oracle, and is also their grandfather not their cousin, when asked how that is possible, they explain Olaf is Baldr, the god of rebirth and age, and that his power is he doesn't age. The boys find Olaf who is literally smoking in a hole in the ground from being tossed outside the circle, they ask him who Axl is, he simply looks at him and says "Odin" and then passes out. The boys freaking out at this, carry Olaf back to their cars and they all head back to Mike's house, to figure out what this means.

While at Mike's house, as they try and wake Olaf up, they explain more of what they are to Axl; that hundreds of years ago, the norse gods grew tired of the constant demands of humans asking of them and doing things in their name, and that they built a ship and sailed as far away from Asgard and the Norselands as possible, where they could be free to live and be happy, that place ended up being New Zealand, and though they didn't know why, they knew buy Olaf's reaction that Axl is very important, not only to them, but to the rest of their kind as well. Axl ofcourse is confused and doesn't believe any of this, and insists his brothers are messing with him and that its all a trick, even them using their powers were somehow a big trick they're playing on him for his 21st birthday. Later that evening during Axl's birthday party Olaf wakes up and they explain to him what he said, he then tells them of the prophecy surrounding whenever Odin is reborn on earth; he explains that its a rarity and that whenever he is, there is a chance for all of the gods to regain their powers and return to Asgard properly. That all the gods and goddesses that are connected to each other are drawn to each other, and will live out their destinies together, in Odin's case, once he finds his wife, the goddess Frigg, they will break the cycle and return the gods to their rightful place with their full powers and proper rights that go with them, but he also explained that the last time Odin was on earth, he was killed before he could find Frigg, and when he died, not only was his entire family wiped out, but thousands of people along with him, in an earthquake that was listed as New Zealand's worst ever. From this point, they decide, they have no real choice, they have to find Frigg and finish the prophecy.

The series from here follows them as they go about their "Frigg Hunt" as they call it, along the way they encounter hardships and trials and setbacks and false positives, they also encounter other gods and goddesses, who each have their own agendas and wants, some wishing to help in their search and some out to make sure it never happens for their own selfish wants. The series is two seasons in now, and with out going to far into detail (outside of the pilot which I've given the the plot too), it gets more complicated and interesting as it goes, the gods and goddesses become more and more entangled in each others lives and sides become blurred and you never really know who's on who's side, which makes it so much more interesting. What truly stands out though is that the gods and goddesses, they make sense in the real world, like it would make sense that Loki would be a high priced lawyer, or that Thor would be a bat shit crazy goat farmer who hates the life he is living on earth, knowing what he has waiting for him in Asgard, and that the sex related goddesses would be rather slutty, and the god of cold and darkness would work on refrigerator, and that the god of poetry could use his silver tongue to get any woman that he wants, it all makes perfect sense with out having to bend the concept of a real world vs. a sci fi world, and i think thats what gives it its edge, the whole sci fi but you don't know it kind of thing, as well as the fact the hunt for Frigg isn't the only focus, yes its always there and each episode involves it, but you aren't beaten over the head with it like you are with most shows about a quest of some kind, its always drilled into you by each character atleast 3 times an episode, but not here, its there, and you know its there, and it gets mentioned, but its not forced down your throat, which is really the best way to be i think.

So if you wanna try a show thats completely out of the ordinary, and gives you a great new look into the realm of sci fi, or if you're just a fan of mythology and would love to see it played out in a totally new and unique way, give The Almighty Johnson's a try, its really rather good.

here is the season one trailer....