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The Avengers – movie phenomena of the year

April 30, 2012 2 comments

Apparently, if I hadn’t gone to see the The Avengers 1 this weekend, the geek police would have turned up at my door and taken away my geek card and nerd privileges. Or something. It’s mostly pointless to pretend to review what is rapidly turning out to not only the box office smash of the year, but the younger generations equivalent of Star Wars. 2

Go see it, if not to prevent people from endlessly telling you to go and see it. If you’re a comic-book fan you’ll emit little squeals of nerdy delight, if you like big budget hero movies, you’ll love it. The rest of you will find the performances engaging, the wit sharp, the heroes pretty and the plot doing its best to not get in the way of the fun.

More interestingly, the The Avengers shows that the super-hero movie has finally reached the point where it can not only emulate the more intricate elements of the comic book format, it can excel it. Namely, the idea that you can set multiple stories in the same place. This isn’t particularly news, recurring characters have been a feature of films in the past, but this is the first time that the concept of a shared world, spread across multiple movies, has taken centre stage.

Avengers. Assembling. Never seen in Ikea.

Audiences have proven that they can ‘buy into’ a coherent world and setting, in this case the Marvel Universe. Remember, The Avengers is not just set in the same world that the Thor, Captain America and Iron Man movies were set in, it also (technically), exists in the same place that Ghost Rider and Blade exist. In theory, any of these characters could turn up in a movie with each other, and though it’s unlikely that Marvel will produce a romantic comedy featuring Spider Man’s Flash Thompson and Patty ‘Hellcat’ Walker3, it’s more possible than it was last year. Moreover, other franchises will now try the same trick. I expect to see Batman taking on Superman sometime soon. 4

The other thing it means is that comic-book geeks are now mainstream. But then they always were; The Avengers (and their corporate rivals, The Justice League) are modern versions of god-like pantheons, a repetition of the stories of heroism that we’ve been telling in different ways since we could tell stories. It’s just this time, when we tell, they are explosions.


1: Apparently it’s actually “Marvel’s Avengers Assemble”, presumably to distance it from the 1998 movie “The Avengers” that completely misunderstood the classic TV series of the same name. Personally, I’ve always found comparing the British Avengers (a super-spy TV show with incredibly weird moments) with the American Avengers (a super-hero comic book with incredibly weird moments) a nice study in the differences of cultures. Also, the British Avengers actually have stuff they want to avenge, but that’s a different rant.

2: My generation’s Star Wars was Empire Strikes Back. Pity today’s adolescents, their big Hollywood movie was The Phantom Menace.

3: Patsy Walker is an interesting example of the weird adaptability of the Marvel Universe. She began life as a character in ‘teen romance’ comics, and was eventually re-imagined as Hellcat, a kick ass crime-fighter in tight spandex. Imagine if you will, a version of Sleepless in Seattle where Meg Ryan suddenly becomes a deadly assassin, beats up Tom Hanks and then goes on to save the world from shape shifting alien monsters. I’d watch that movie.

4: Of course, a lot of TV is connected to other TV. At least according to the Tommy Westphall Hypothesis, which isn’t the name of a rock band, it’s an odd little idea that much of American TV is a child’s dream.

Categories: Comic Books, Geek, Movies Tags:

Rockets, Rayguns and Really Nice Tea

April 23, 2012 Leave a comment

As you may have gathered, I ran a larp event sometime ago. It went well, apparently.

Rather than try and explain it, we’ve thrown together a video that combines photos of the event alongside one of the games easter eggs; an audio tape detailing a disastrous mission to mars. Enjoy.

Categories: Games, Geek

House

April 16, 2012 3 comments

A small amount of fuss has been generated recently by the announcement of Elementary, an unauthorised American remake of the BBC show Sherlock. This confused me greatly, as there’s already been an extremely successful version of the Arthur Conan Doyle’s hero, updated for a modern audience. It’s called House.

Powered mostly through the performance of Hugh Laurie1, House follows the exploits of a damaged yet brilliant doctor, whose genius sets him apart from the common man. His ego and arrogance is such that he must constantly seek challenges and solve medical cases, as to avoid doing so means that he would go quite insane and be driven to self-destruction. He is aided in this by an equally brilliant, but empathic companion, a Doctor Wilson. House and Wilson team up every episode to fight obscure illness and disease.

Well, that was the idea, anyway, and in earlier seasons, that’s what we got; the adventures of a damaged, cruel yet brilliant soul, an engaging and interesting puzzle to solve (though rather than a complex crime, it being a medical show, it was a complex illness) and a supporting cast designed to generate conflict, high-light the ethical side of medicine and generally allow us to enjoy Laurie’s full tilt performance of a dangerous yet brilliant lunatic.

Grumpy Doctor Adventures

House began brilliantly, but whereas British shows have a habit of finishing when the creative team have ran out of things to say, American shows are more likely to keep running until public interest wanes and the money runs out2. This is a problem, as they are only so many interesting medical stories that you can make fit into a crime-style story. At its heart, House is a detective story with a biological twist; the criminal may have always been some obscure illness3, but the crime was always interesting.

As the series progressed, however, it became formulaic; it was no longer about the good detective fighting the human condition, but instead, the broken curmudgeon fighting the world. This worked for a while, pretty much on the weight of Laurie’s acting, but what we have now is a better than average medical drama, rather than a brilliant detective show in a white coat.

House is reportedly in it’s last season, and I am personally hoping that the show ends with the grumpy git fighting the elemental force of cancer in a sword duel over a waterfall. I suspect I’ll be disappointed.

1: The talented one from eighties gag-show, Fry and Laurie.
2: That the BBC can do short-run, brilliant shows is one of the many reasons that you shouldn’t whine too much about your license fee. That and the fact that it irks Rupert Murdoch.
3: But never Lupus, which is a devastating illness and alas, is nothing to do with werewolves.

Categories: TV