Wednesday, September 21, 2016

What is a superhero? - Part II

Two weeks ago, we came to the conclusion that costumes, a secret identity, and powers are not required elements of a superhero.

We also noted that while powers are not required, heroes without powers use fight training, gadgets, and technology as a replacement.  We concluded that while powers are not a necessity, some form of physical advantage is a necessity.  

But if that's all it takes, then there are many hero characters who could be defined as superheroes but aren't.  James Bond for example.

So, what is a superhero?

I have the answer, and it's shockingly simple:

A superhero is a person with some form of physical advantage against their enemies who publicly fights crime.  That's the key!  The part about fighting crime publicly.  Even superheroes who lurk in the shadows have a public reputation.

Secret identities, costumes, powers...  They're great additions to a character, but they don't define the hero.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Watching The Story Unfold

I have a whole blog entry that I should be writing this week...  A continuation of what I was talking about last week.

And I will be continuing.

But not today.

Mostly because I'm in the middle of editing the next episode of Mission Park Street Stories, and I'm in the zone.

The editing zone!

And when the scenes are working, and the story is coming together, it's hard to pause.

So, on that note, I'll be back next week with more interesting things to say.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

What is a superhero? - Part I

What is a superhero?

For the longest time, a superhero was considered to be a costumed adventurer, fighting crime with a wide range of powers, often maintaining a secret identity to keep their hero life and private life separate.

But does a superhero need a costume?  Does a superhero need powers?  Does a superhero need a secret identity?

The surprising answer to all three questions is no.  A superhero needs none of these things.  But if that's the case, then I'm back to where I started.  What is a superhero?

Let's do a little deconstructing...

We'll start with the easy one first.  The secret identity.  Just like capes, many superheroes have them, but many of them don't. Without further explanation, a secret identity is most definitely not a requirement.

Now lets examine the costume.

In comic format, the costume helps to identify the leading character, and serves as a recognized symbol for branding, both in the real world, and in the fictional world where the hero lives.

In film, the costume works in much the same way, but with less need to distinguish the main character from the other characters on screen. Often, the costume is translated in as practical a way as possible, with varying levels of success. The costume is important, but a lack of a costume does not mean a lack of a superhero.

For a long time, costumes on film were heavily modified, or abandoned entirely, to create a more realistic adaptation of a character. I don't advocate dropping the costume, as I am very pro-costume, but it isn't an essential.

Now we'll look at the powers, and here is where I think it starts to get tricky. While most superheroes fight crime with some type of superpower, there are many superheroes who fight crime using gadgets, technology, or advanced intellect.

It would be great to end here, and say that powers are not a necessity, but that would be too easy.

If we examine this in more detail, gadgets and technology, while not technically superpowers, work in exactly the same way.

Gadgets and technology featured in comics are often scientifically far beyond what is possible in the real world. Even something low-tech, like Batman's grappling hook, wouldn't exactly work in a practical way.

For this reason, I'm going to include gadgets and technology as a form of superpower. Looking at it that way, I think it's fair to say that, no, having superpowers isn't a superhero requirement, but the gadgets and technology that powerless superheroes use essentially gives them the same advantage a person with superpowers would have.

As a result, we have to conclude that while powers are not specifically needed, a physical advantage beyond a hero's enemies is. And that's where we can start to define what what exactly a superhero is.

***

There's so much more to talk about, but I have to stop here. Be sure to check back next week for "What is a superhero? Part II"

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

James Bond Movie Ranking - Latest Update

I was recently asked about my James Bond movie rankings, and why I never updated the list after the release of Spectre. Honestly, I just never thought to do it.  But since I was asked, I decided I might as well update the list.

If you want to read my previous entries on the subject, the can be found by following the links below.

Here they are:

Entry 1:  Click here! 

Entry 2:  Click here! 

But to recap, James Bond was a big inspiration for Tessa Faux, so one day I decided to rank the movies. This was before Skyfall was released, and when it was, I did an update to the ranking.

As I've said before, I make a distinction between all Bond movies after Die Another Day, which are part of the new reboot continuity, and as such, I rank them separately.

Here's the updated list with Spectre included in the mix:

1. Skyfall 

Previous Review

For the first time in a long time, this is James Bond as he should be. The classic elements are back. So much, that we’re treated to a Bond very much Pre-Goldeneye, which to me was the start of big changes for the Bond Franchise. 

The ending is pure gold. Seeing Bond step in M’s office, exchanging pleasantries with Moneypenny… Incredible! 

I still don’t understand why the gun barrel is at the end, but I expected it. Maybe this is just going to be how it is for post-reboot Bond. If they keep it like this from now on, it’ll just serve as the distinction between pre-reboot and post-reboot. But knowing Hollywood, next time it’ll be in the beginning for no apparent reason.

Overall, one of the best Bond movies yet. I can’t wait for the next adventure! 

Updated review after seeing Spectre

No real chance, I still think this is a great Bond film. But I called it about the gun barrel. Back at the beginning in Spectre for no reason whatsoever.

2. Casino Royale 

Previous review: 

Okay, this is hard because as a movie, it was good. But as a Bond movie... It's very different. 

The whole vibe is off. There is no Q, no Moneypenny, and very few gadgets. The stunts are less extreme, and Craig plays Bond far more serious than anyone who came before him. He makes Sean Connery look like Roger Moore, and that's saying something. 

Judi Dench returns as M despite the fact we've gone ahead with a full reboot, and her presences is overpowering. It's like the Adventures of James Bond and his stern boss M who constantly berates him. And did you notice that there weren't any beautiful shadow girls in the opening credits? What is up with that? 

The classic gun barrel opening is also modified, and it's the first in the entire "official" series to break standard opening formula. I didn't like that, but I gave it a pass because it was a reboot. I was optimistic that it would return in the next movie... But we'll get to that next. 

Updated review after seeing Skyfall

Much of how I felt before is the same.  After seeing Skyfall, it’s easier to explain Judi Dench’s return as M, as in the post-reboot Bond universe, she is his first boss.  In a way, she isn't the same character she played during the Brosnan era.  As for the gun barrel, I'm just working on the premise that this is the way it is going to be post-reboot.

Updated review after seeing Spectre

No change.

3.  Spectre

I was hoping that this film would be far better than it was.  An okay bond movie, and the gun barrel is back in the beginning...  But why!?!  After getting used to it at the end, and settling on the thinking that post-reboot Bond would always have it at the end, it's at the beginning again!?!

I won't dwell on that.  Like I said, it is an okay Bond movie, but nothing about it really stands out as exceptional.  A weaker entry in Daniel Craig's mixed bag of films.

3. Quantum of Solace 

Previous review: 

Bad on so many levels. This could be the only official Bond movie that I don't like. Terrible camera work that looks more like Bourne than Bond. Horrible plot, and no fun. A direct sequel to Casino Royale, and an utter train wreck. Still no Q and still no Moneypenny, but a giant heap of boring old Judi Dench as stern, un-fun M giving it to Bond. I can't say enough bad things about this film. 

But the biggest offence and worst thing about this movie? No traditional Bond opening with the gun barrel. I let it slide in Casino Royale, but this is unacceptable! It's like they were doing their best not to make Bond movie. And no, putting the gun graphics at the end doesn't make up for not having it at the beginning. 

Updated review after seeing Skyfall 

Not much has changed.  Even after Skyfall, I still find this to be a terrible Bond movie. I’m willing to let the lack of gun barrel go, because my new thinking is that it will now always be at the end, but I still like it better at the beginning.  

Updated review after seeing Spectre

This move still sucks.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

My Favorite Quote About Superheroes

One of my favorite quotes about superheroes comes from Les Daniels.

He was talking about Superman, and the quote comes from his comprehensive book - Superman: The Complete History. The quote reads: "It's a bizarre story, about a strange visitor from another world, but at its heart it's a very human story too, about the dream of having power, and the hope of knowing love."

Though Daniels was talking about Superman, I believe this quote can be applied to most superhero characters... Minus the "strange visitor" part. 

The most important element is at the end: "The dream of having power, and the hope of knowing love." To me, that pretty much sums up what superheroes are all about. 

I find it an optimistic quote because the most compelling part of the superhero story can be achieved in the real world. It's about finding impossible strength in whatever you decide to do in life, and finding that amazing person to share it with.

So, yes, it is possible to be a real-life superhero!

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

More Details About The New MPSS Costumes

Recently, I wrote about the new costumes that we'll be seeing in an upcoming episode of Mission Park Street Stories. Episode 4 to be specific.

After an involved design process, the costumes are ready, and they look incredible!

We'll be holding a cast photoshoot in the coming weeks, and after that, I'll be posting some pictures of the finished costumes right here on the PWC Blog, so you'll get a chance to see them before the show is released.

I think you'll like what you see because the costumes have a very stylish street-look, but retain a completely superhero vibe that is uniquely Mission Park Street Stories!

I'd tell you more, but If I do, it might spoil the reveal!

Monday, August 8, 2016

The Superhero Genre

It wasn't always this way, but in recent years, "the superhero movie" has become a specific genre of filmmaking. Sometimes people refer to these movies as "comic book movies," but comics have a wide range of genres, which includes superhero adventure stories, so "superhero movie" seems like a more accurate description.

I touched upon the concept of the superhero genre last week, but today I want to dig a little deeper. The superhero movie is unique.  It ties together elements of action, sci-fi, fantasy, and romance. It's also operatic in nature, with larger than life heroes and villains, and readily identifiable costumes.

What makes the Superhero genre so captivating is the precise balance of action, sci-fi, fantasy, and romance. Too much action, and the fantastical nature of the genre disappears. The movie becomes "just another action flick." To much sci-fi, and the movie becomes mired down in the technical details, without exploring the wonder. Too much fantasy, and the superhero story loses it's sci-fi roots, becomes less realistic, and less relatable. Too much romance, and the action diminishes.

It is precisely this reason why superhero stories are so hard for even the seasoned writer to craft.  It takes a special love of the genre to pen a truly exceptional superhero adventure. Everyone has their own interpretations of various characters and stories, and oftentimes, people prefer a higher level of one of the four elements of the superhero genre.  They either want more action, more sci-fi, more fantasy, or more romance.

When a writer is charged with the task of penning the next great superhero adventure, they don't always recognize that the balance of action, sci-fi, fantasy, and romance has to be equal. They favor one element more than the others, and it throws the balance of the story off.

Bad superhero movies forget what they are, and push a specific genre of film on screen.  Good superhero movies balance the action, sci-fi, fantasy, and romance together seamlessly.