Friday, September 24, 2010

The Key to the Fantastic Four Re-Boot

First, I have no idea who will deign to spend their good time reading this. If you are here, I will do my best to give you an entertaining view or an enlightening view of heroic fantasy - and how incredible it is to find it in the Christian faith as a real expectation.

I have a very personal view that the Bible contains almost every kind of story or tale that needs to be told and that by studying it, you could at the very least create a new piece of fiction for this generation, and they would 'oooohhh' and 'ahhhhh' and still have no clue that they were just getting an old tale re-vamped for the modern age.

So it follows that if I want to say "This is how we should re-boot the Fantastic Four" I am going to be doing some allegory or parallel from the life of David or Samson or Abraham or Jesus, etc. - right?

Not precisely - we get to mix and match too. Jealousy and hatred are as old as the story of Cain and Abel, King Saul and King David, the Pharisees and Jesus.

So maybe I should say all the archetypes and dramatic motives are there in the Bible.

The first thing to do is separate the story into 3 parts and reveal what the stakes are - what would gained or lost should our heroes succeed/fail: world, family, money, scientific advancement, reaching the stars, etc.

First, as Mark Waid has pointed out, the Fantastic Four is about family. Reed Richards is married to Susan Storm, and his best friend, Ben Grimm is their pilot. Johnny Storm, Susan's younger brother is a brash mechanical genius before they all become one fantastically empowered fighting unit who spends much of their time fighting Victor Von Doom.

Secondly, it should start as all great heroic tales with a great loss and something precious being destroyed. That precious thing is the friendship of Victor and Reed. As Victor goes further and further emotionally into the Darkness after his Big Error, Reed finds hope and [at least some] redemption in his love and friendship with his crew for his Big Error.

Thirdly, it should start when there was some hope that Victor would be a good kid and we need to make the audience weep for the villain even as we support the hero. [ Following images respectfully stolen from http://slaymonstrobot.blogspot.com/2009/09/marvel-1964-week-fantastic-four-annual.html. Go visit a cool blog! ]

By the way, I think Victor Von Doom was the dark reflection of Tony Stark or Reed Richards, and when Jack Kirby and Stan Lee created him, they were facing down the barrel of the Cold War with European dictators popping up as puppets of the Soviet regime. So this will start as a social-political theme and get more personal.

Victor Comes to America, Land of the Free
1) Reed Richards becomes roommates with fellow physics/electronic engineering major Victor "von Damme" - he survived the Bosnia-Herzegovina bloodshed as a child, though his mother died as a gypsy and a witch. His father, a more educated man who had fallen in love with her wild ways, took the boy into universities and tried to get him away from the superstition of his clan. War broke out and with the threat of racial cleansing, his father ran for his life. He was able to send Victor to America under the care of Boris, but died soon after. His homeland Latveria was re-formed as hostilities ceased, and he entered MIT.

2) With both losses, Victor stays isolated, unwilling to share his grief or pain with anyone else - who could possibly understand? Enter kind Reed Richards and Susan Storm. Sue Storm is a compassionate woman and deeply respects Reed, who's her senior by ten years. Reed is also a bit of a father figure to Johnny her little brother, and they try hard to get Victor out of the labs and dorm room and have SOME fun.

3) Reed ends up befriending another sour-puss named Ben Grimm, who's an astronaut wanna-be. Reed's theories on accomplishing FTL travel intrigue the gruff pilot - and after defending Reed from some local toughs, they become fast friends. "You ever need a pilot, buddy, let me know!"

Doom Is Unimpressed
4) Victor sees the brightest minds of the Marvel universe at MIT: Tony Stark, Henry Pym and Bruce Banner, and each one fails to impress him in one way or another. But Richards, he begins to respect. He is open to ANY suggestion and will think it through. When his father dies and his personal effects are returned - along with his mother's 'special diary' of witchcraft, he begins to see a possibility of merging scientific method with sympathetic magic at the quantum level. "Are not quarks 'magical'?" muses von Doom.

5) Eagerly, he explains it to his buddy Reed and no one else: Victor dreams of escaping the boundaries of space-time for exploration, possibly even to set his mother free from hell. With the proper equipment, Victor can even unravel the mysteries of quantum foam, including hidden dimensions and tap into their power source. "Think Richards! We could learn the very secrets of creation!"

6) Richards sees the cynical Victor begin to express hope for the first time - but 'such a hope'! He tries to reason with him, especially on this space-time formula that could rend their local environment uncontrollably. "It would be the equivalent of a runaway nuclear reactor, Victor - only it would be dismantling our universe! It's a great idea - brilliant even - but if this theoretical constant is not what you are guessing - if you've made one error..." "Doom NEVER makes errors, Richards!" Angered at Richard's wisdom, he moves out of the dorm the next day.

7) For weeks, no one knows where to find Victor - at the last moment, Richards does - in an old sub-basement of the particle physics lab. - and sees the portal grow, get unstable and BLOW UP in Victor's face. Victor flees civilization, going where no man can find him or see him.

8) "Science has failed me!" growls the angry young man. "I will now seek my answers elsewhere!" in weeks he's traveled from Eastern Europe to Northern India and from there to Tibet.

9) He learns self-control and mastery over his body and delves into magic whole-heartedly. [As a small joke, one monk says to another 'This white man is TWICE as angry as the LAST one.' 'I agree, my son.' Turns to another monk - "Brother Lotus, what was HIS name?' 'Wain. Broos Wain.' ;)]

10) With his wealth, Doom makes himself a suit of hi-tech body armor so he can return to Latveria. Sick of the hounding his family has received at their hands for generations, Doom plans and executes a full coupe using robotic soldiers.

Now the tyrant, Victor christens himself "Doctor Doom" and announces that Latveria is a sovereign nation unto itself.



We'll pick up from there next time...

Saturday, September 4, 2010

What Christopher Nolan Should Do for Batman 3, A Fan's Prayer

I am not a fanboy.

I am a Fan MAN.

And that means I know what good writing and good characterization has done for super hero films, making them as emotionally powerful on screen as they were in our little minds and hearts way back in the day when comics were still sold for twenty-cents at Seven-Eleven Stores.

There is a reason Superman the Movie will never be topped and there is a reason the Fantastic Four movie sucked all kinds of eggs. The first was written by men who were going to tell us a mythical story and fable that touched all our hearts and minds but the second was corporate gang bang with no emotional depth whatsoever. Someone listened WAY too long to the Marketing Department on THAT piece of trash -and to the dumb little fanboys - who also ruined Spider-Man 3 with their childish demands for Venom.

Avi Arad should be ashamed of himself.

They ARE re-booting Fantastic Four, thank God, and I will tell you what they need to get IT right in the next blog [hint: Dr. Doom's origin is the key, NOT the FF's].

As for re-booting Spider-Man? STOOOO-PIDDD. Raimi was and is still the Man. But let's move on, shall we?

OK, we all agree that Christopher Nolan has rescued the Batman franchise from stupidity and campiness in just TWO movies, right? I mean, NOTHING is further from the 60's camp than The Dark Knight, right? Right.

It's because he's not here to make a 'Batman' film but a film about a man who refuses to lay down and let evil rule him. Lots of hard-working artists worked on this film, and it shows. [They were merely following wisely in the footsteps of Denny O'Neil and Neal Adams who gave us back the World's Greatest Detective in the early 70's...]

I'm listening to the TDK SOUNDTRACK for the 28th time, and I tell you kids, next to John William's epic score for The Empire Strikes Back and Superman, no one comes close to nailing pathos, heroism and nerve wracking tension. Just an A+ piece of music. Sweet Lord Almighty, it makes the Batman Begins soundtrack sound like a warm-up.

Let us say that there are artists who can draw, and artists who can create, and then there are artists who just slap your face into the dirt, walk over you and make you gasp for air. It's like discovering Michael Golden all over again. Nolan is to film what Golden was to comics back in the day. Seriously.

Now all that gushing out of the way, I've got to speak my peace and put my ideas out for Batman 3 BEFORE it happens, so everyone can be praying hard that Nolan does something EVEN MORE WONDERFUL after creating lightning in a bottle with TDK.

First, do keep in mind Nolan wants to end his Batman arc here. No Batman 4 for him. So Batman 3 must either be a huge tragedy or a terrific legacy, cause the 'Nolan Tales of the Bat', she be ending. And we have established, "you either die a hero, or you end up a villain."

Secondly, according to rumors, will we have a good 'could exist in the real world' villain - The Riddler. With movies like Silence of the Lambs and Se7en to draw inspiration from, including his own work, Memento, Nolan is going to play HARD with a villain who wants to tease Batman and prove he is his superior, risking lives along the way.

Thirdly, with Rachel dead and Harvey Dent dead/absent, Bruce Wayne will be suffering in an emotional vacuum and social dissonance. He will NEED another love interest and possible 'believer' that supports his war on crime. He will crave a woman who is strong-willed yet able to handle herself.

He will want someone to mentor and inspire, though he may not admit it. Batman has been an inspiration to Gotham City - but what does it inspire them to do, those who NOW want to wear masks? Would it inspire one to DEFY the police [as Batman is an outlaw] and yet another, to try and take justice into his own hand [as Batman has reportedly done].

So two people come in his life to fill these gaps - Catwoman [Frank Miller style from Batman: Year One] and Robin [a teen boy, on the verge of manhood, who saw his parents murdered after they refused to pay protection to the mob.

Or even better... they were killed by the Riddler while performing, as a 'test' of Batman. In the original story Bruce Wayne is merely watching the circus when Grayson's folks are killed. "Question: when does a bird fly? When it leaves its perch. When does a parrot stop talking? When its an ex-parrot. Last, what bird is the most cocky?"

In a Nolan version, Wayne could have figured out the riddle ["A 'cock-robin'], and simply was unable to move fast enough in time to save them. Thus, in guilt, he takes the boy Dick Grayson, i.e. 'Robin' in. Dick lives only a few days at the mansion before he drives off to get revenge. Batman stops him - but promises justice will be done. Great opportunity for some heart-wrenching dialogue, with a semi-masked Robin in his circus tights telling Batman off for failing to protect the innocent. Bruce would know it was because he was getting self-absorbed and makes the boy an offer - that they work together, and he, for his part, will supply the teen with everything he needs to fight crime - past getting justice on his parent's killers.

Grayson agrees and become Robin - but we use a Princess Bride style mask for our swashbuckling teen wonder, and more of a cloak/hood combo perhaps.

Fourthly, the battle here will be mostly on the Batman as a savior of Gotham who wants to leave an enduring legacy. In this vein, we could start the movie with "10 Years Later" to show he's been trying to make an impact; he's winning the battle but he's losing the war.

Fifthly, if Robin does come in, and Batman is 'finished', he can end up taking Batman's mantle - just as he recently did in the books in Batman R.I.P.

We might even see the death of Batman. And if Selina Kyle is a love interest, but somehow was responsible for his downfall, we could end the movie with her meeting Batman's successor - i.e. Dick Grayson and state "You aren't him."

"No."

"You can never be him, you know?"

"I know. But he was a symbol - incorruptible, everlasting. A sign that good men do not need to be afraid of the dark. A warrior who brought hope when there was no hope left."

"Do you hate me - for what happened to him?"

"No - he did what he thought was right. That's what he always did."

Then we CUT HARD to the funeral and graveside. The Riddler cannot resist coming to see Batman dead - for now he knows Bruce Wayne is Batman. He's mingled in the crowd and then - is last to leave, just as it begins to rain. "What do you call a dead billionaire? An ex-Batman!" Hahahahahahahahaahaahahhaa!"

Fifthly, and then, in typical Nolan fashion, we turn the tables in the last 60 seconds of the film. Batman appears ALIVE AND KICKING and beats the living hell out of the Riddler, sending him off to Arkham, fully insane because, as he says, "You were DEAD - and there ain't no coming back!! I killed you!"

Sixthly, its Alfred Pennyworth who steps forward and delivers the punch line. He says to Batman, "It worked like a charm, sir. With Bruce Wayne dead, he could not have expected Batman to appear. He must be wondering if he's gone mad!"

And Batman growls, "I don't wonder. I know."

"You do, sir? And what precisely do you know?"

"I know who I am and who Batman is. And what legacy he can leave behind..."

And as he goes to take off his cowl, we CUT HARD TO...

THE END

Roll credits.




What's the title?

Title: Batman: Legacy, of course.

Here's to Christopher Nolan, Jonathan Nolan, David S. Goyer and everyone who will work on this.

May the Lord give you great wisdom.

Amen.