A little video experiment, talking about Akira, and the cycle of adaptation.
A little video experiment, talking about Akira, and the cycle of adaptation.
Director: Matthew Vaughn
Starring: Taron Egerton (Eggsy), Mark Strong (Merlin), Colin Firth (Harry Hart), Julianne Moore (Poppy) and Elton John
Release Date: 20th September 2017
In 2014, we were treated to the magnificent fun that was, Kingsman: The Secret Service. Based on the comic by Mark Millar, and Dave Gibbons. Director Matthew Vaughn, brought us an over the top action comedy, of the likes that we haven’t seen since Edgar Wright’s Hot Fuzz. Full to the brim with over the top violence, extremely likable characters, and a self-aware style that one the hearts of viewers. With the announcement of a sequel, fans were eager to revisit the world of the Kingsman, and see what adventures were next for Galahad, Lancelot, and Merlin. With the release of Kingsman: The Golden Circle, fans have just one question. Does it live up to the original?
In short, no. But not for lack of trying.
Picking up some time after the first film. Eggsy continues as Agent Galahad of the Kingsman. Living with his girlfriend, and trying to impress her parents, he comes back to find the Kingsman destroyed, the shop devastated, and everything he knows in ruins. Attacked by assailants, and alongside Merlin, they find themselves traveling to Kentucky, USA. Seeking out The Statesman, their American cousins. When a plot is revealed by reclusive megalomaniac to kill drug users worldwide, the Statesman and Kingsman team up to save people they care for, and their own interests.
The success of The Secret Service, was unprecedent. A perfect mix of action, comedy, characters and violence. It’s hard to pin down what it was that made us sit up and pay attention. With that in mind, it’s easy to see why The Golden Circle takes a very safe route with its plot. Banking heavily on the most memorable scenes of the original, and that our love for Eggsy, Roxy and Merlin would see the audience through. Add on the inclusion of a fan favourite, thought dead, that was sadly spoiled by marketing. A fact that even the director, Matthew Vaughn, takes great issue with. The Golden Circle comes off as a good knock off of the original. Not as good, but a decent effort at replicating, not continuing. Something that is hard to dismiss when watching the two, one after the other.
It’s hard to top the plot and villain of the original film, though not impossible. But upon meeting, or rather ‘meat-ing’, Julianne Moore’s Poppy, we hope for someone as interesting as Samuel L. Jackson’s Valentine. Instead, we find an almost generic psychopath, with a touch of Martha Stewart thrown in. While Julianne Moore is a fantastic actress in her own right, and she plays her role well, the character doesn’t live up to what we expect from a Kingsman sequel.
In The Golden Circle, death means little. It comes quick and early to those we care for, only to be disregarded by the half way point, with the introduction of the Statesman, and the return of Harry Hart. While both are valid plot points, having both together in the same film cheapens the experience.
With the introduction of The Statesman, we get a whole new crop of characters set to help Eggsy. Heavily publicised was the addition to Channing Tatum to the cast as Agent Tequila. While Tatum’s appeal may split with audience, given his usual demographic. You will be pleased to know that his overall appearance is brief, while still getting in a dose of fan service for those anxious to see him.
While the film carries on with a similar tone of humour, it does little to top the first. Attempting to top the shock and humour of the original’s final pre-credits scene, with an honestly uncomfortable, almost sex scene. The violence and action scenes continue to amaze; however, they feel strung together. Like your wishing the plot would just hurry up and get to the next great fight scene. Certainly memorable, but far from the draw of the original.
While certainly not a bad film, it’s hard for it to stand with the original. Enjoyable, fun and action packed, with plenty of fan service. But falls short of its older brother.
(Above is the opinion of the writer solely. Everyone is entitle to their own opinion, this is just mine.)
Director: Adam Wingard
Starring: Nat Wolff (Light Turner), Lakeith Stanfield (L), Margaret Qualley (Mia Sutton), Willem Dafoe (Ryuk)
Release Date: August 25th, 2017
American adaptations of manga and anime, have been far more miss than hit. This year saw the atrocious Ghost in the Shell. 2009 gave us the frustrating Dragonball Evolution, and it feels like every year, we are threatened with an Americanised Akira. It’s frustrating to understand why an adaptation just hasn’t worked yet. Sure, it’s easy to blame it on a cultural difference, but at their core, the anime being adapted have still managed to make a cultural jump in the first place.
While arguably in development since 2007, in April of 2016, it was announced that Netflix would be releasing a live action adaptation of Death Note. Written by Tsugumi Ohba, and illustrated by Takeshi Obata, Death Note was a psychological thriller, with a touch of dark fantasy, originally published by Weekly Shonen Jump, between December 2003, and May of 2006. Death Note tells the story of Light Yagami, an over achieving high school student, from a loving family. The son of a police detective. During class one day, he spots a mysterious book fall from the sky. The Death Note. Upon retrieving the book, Light discovers a list of rules written inside, stating that “The Human whose name is written in this note shall die”. Finding it a sick joke at first, especially when reading through the rest of the rules. Light finds himself compelled to try it at least once. Flipping to the news, Light finds a school being taken hostage. Upon writing the criminal’s name, Light learns that the book is indeed real. Discovering the books origin, as a tool of the Death God, Ryuk. Light vows to use the book to bring justice to the world, with the Ryuk by his side, anxious to see what a human would do with that power. When his killings start to become recognised, the series becomes a cat and mouse game between Light, now known as the serial killer ‘Kira’, and the world’s greatest detective, L.
From its original manga run, the series has been adapted to a beloved anime series, four Japanese live action films, and a tie-in miniseries. So, when Netflix announced that the American film was finished, and being released in 2017, it seemed reasonable to ask why. However, come August 25th, 2017. It was released upon us, to mostly negative reviews.
Going into this new film, it’s worth saying that, I have no experience with the anime. My introduction to the series was the original manga, before diving into the first three live action films from Japan. Death Note (2006), Death Note 2: The Last Name (2006), and L: Change the World (2008). Then reading the two novels, Death Note L: Change the World, and Death Note Another Note: The Los Angeles BB Murder Cases. When it came to an American version of the series, I wasn’t expecting something completely faithful. In fact, I would be disappointed to get the same exact story again. What mattered to me was that it was able to live in the world the source material created. It didn’t need to stay faithful to every beat of the original story, but it had to be faithful to the tone and heart.
So, after finally watching the Netflix Death Note film, what did I find. Exactly what I expected. A bad version of the original story. Granted, I found several changes I genuinely liked, but at the end, it was still an imitation of a story we’ve already seen at its heart.
The original character of Light, is very Japanese at his core. He is a product of a Japanese culture. The need to work hard and succeed engrained in him from a young age, and it explains so much of his character. Outside of that, Light also lives in a justice heavy society. In Japan, there justice system is pretty strict. If you find yourself in a Japanese court of law, if you are accused of a crime, you have a roughly 95% chance, of being found guilty. When you take a character like Light, and place him as an American teen, you will not have the same character. However, this could have been compensated for. Instead, we got a character that better resembled Misa. In an interesting twist, the films version of Misa, renamed Mia, is a better Light, than the one we got. This does give us a twist on the original story, that would have been fascinating to see developed. However, the film suffered by not taking its own direction.
A note of praise I can give to the film, is its horror elements, and the portrayal of Ryuk. In the latter half of the film, we get this sequence set in an abandoned mansion. The director’s background in horror films, pays off completely, with the ambient and creepy tone that works extremely well. With Ryuk, he is kept perfectly in the shadows, giving off the truly creepy and other worldly tone he needs. While he was shown in full view in the Japanese live action films to a decent effect, he works wonderfully here. Especially when voiced by the equally creepy William Defo.
Overall, the film is just ok. Works as a background film, but not something to be revisited, or held to the same standard as the manga. Worth a watch, if you are curious, but don’t expect to be pleased. Die-hard fans especially, will find plenty to hate with this film.
(Above is the opinion of the writer solely. Everyone is entitle to their own opinion, this is just mine.)
On September 10th, 2017. We lost a beloved and respected member of the comic book community. Writer, and editor, Len Wein.
Co-creator of Swamp Thing with Bernie Wrightson for DC, and Wolverine with John Romita Sr. for Marvel. As well as serving as an editor for Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons with Watchmen. It’s hard to deny his impact on the industry. Having left his mark on characters such as Batman, Spider-man, Superman and the Hulk, Len leaves behind a legacy that should never be forgotten. The man who began the restructure of the X-Men in 1970s, along with Chris Claremont and Dave Cockrum, many children of the 80s and 90s have him to thank for those days of running around the playground, putting themselves in the shoes of Nightcrawler, Storm, Colossus, and of course, Wolverine.
Len Wein on Wolverine:
In 2009, X-Men alumni and comic book legend, Chris Claremont, had this to say of Len’s work on X-Men:
“The history of modern comics would be incredibly different if you took Len Wein’s contributions out of the mix. The fact he doesn’t get credit for it half the time is disgraceful. We owe a lot of what we are – certainly on the X-Men – to Len and to Dave Cockrum”.
Many comic book legends have taken to Social Media in the past 24 hours, sharing stories and words of kindness for the legend. Showing support to his family, and keeping his legacy alive. Len was known for his stories. His characters, and his ability to work seamlessly with both DC and Marvel. But above all, especially looking at all the comments from the people who knew him well. His kindness.
Rest in Peace, good sir. May your legacy live on.
The cult classic Ghost in the Shell, has often found itself the centre of discussion among fans. Its impact and themes. The films significance in the modern landscape. However, it’s hard to find a single work that highlights its importance, as Andrew Osmond’s Ghost in the Shell. An incredibly engaging, and well researched look at not only the cult classic film, but the franchise, and impact it has had through the culture.
Osmond approaches this book with a passion and the intention of allowing even the most novice of Ghost in the Shell viewers the opportunity to enjoy and engage with the books subject. Opening with essentially a first-time viewers perspective of the opening few minutes of the film. Noting the praise and acclaim the film achieved, even early in its life. Osmond expounds on the films infancy, by describing the culture and time to which it is born into. Citing the state of otaku culture and the Aum Shinrikyo terror attacks in Japan, and how the West viewed Anime at the time. Referring to them as ‘Manga movies’, or ‘Japanimation’. This provides a much-needed context for the reader as to why and how Ghost in the Shell gained such significance.
The film is broken down in a digestible manor, so that no reader will feel lost along the way. Osmond comments on the characters and plot points with an attention to detail, significantly towards the film’s central protagonist, Major Motoko Kusanagi.
“For example, after the ‘assassination’ prologue, Ghost’s titles show the creation of Kusanagi’s cyber-body. We see it as an anatomist’s dummy of fake skin and bone, flushed through vats of liquid, clothed in fast-setting flesh. All this suggests a Frankenstein creature, a horror film Other. But as the sequence ends, and Kusanagi is lifted up fully formed, we don’t see some lab-coated Pygmalion admiring his sculpture – ‘She lives!’. Instead, we cut to a close-up of Kusanagi awakening in darkness. We were in her head all along, as she dreamed her body’s creation. She moves the fingers of one hand slightly, as if asking, is this my hand? Is this my body?”
Osmond explores how her femininity and sexuality are put aside. Blurring gender lines, in moments of intense strengths and sacrifice. These discussions extend to comparisons of her counterparts. Such as Trinity in The Matrix franchise, and Black Widow in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This also encompasses the franchises lore, such as the impact and importance or cyber-bodies in the cyberpunk genre.
The book does not limit itself to just the films themes, characters, and impact. But extends to the creative minds that birthed the film and franchise. Discussion of the film’s director, Mamoru Oshii, ranges beyond simply his filmography. Extending to popular consensus, his frequently used themes through his work, and the man himself. His diversity in mediums, interests and personal history. The chapter dedicated to Oshii, reads like a love letter to the forgotten works of a master. Overshadowed by the books subject. With a wonderful look at Oshii’s work on the Patlabor series. The only major subject that feels skipped over, is Oshii’s 1999 film, Jin Roh: The Wolf Brigade. A subject that is likely to merit its own book in a similar vain to this one.
Given how private Masanori Ota presents himself, going as far as to use the pseudonym Masamune Shirow. It’s surprising how well Osmond dives into the franchises original author. Discussing his secluded nature, themes and works. Drawing particular attention to Shirow’s playful and wacky sense of humour, something largely ignored in adaptations. Focus and time is payed to Shirow’s other praised franchise, Appleseed. Highlighting, especially, the difference in publication. Osmond breaks down Shirow’s 350-page manga, in a similar manner to his discussion of the films plot. This is a necessity, given how well and thoroughly he examines the adaptation process. Taking the world and characters Shirow crafted, but injecting Oshii’s own brand of philosophy and themes, and examining how this effects the original material.
Time and attention is given to many important, but largely unsung figures in the films creation. Figures such as character designer, Hiroyuki Okiura. Animation director, Toshihiko Nishibubo, and art director, Hiromasa Ogura. Osmond takes great care in communication the amount of work that went into the films construction. Outlining fine details from Mechanical design, scripting and music. To even the process of dubbing and localisation. Something we rarely see approached and discussed when it comes to Ghost in the Shell.
With absolutely stunning cover art by Chris Malbon, and the loving research of Andrew Osmond. Ghost in the Shell from Arrow Books, is a fantastic look at the cult classic film, and a must read for avid fans, and the curious mind willing to traverse the vast net that is Ghost in the Shell.
History can often be written in a fairly boring, and straight forward manner. This happened, followed by this, leading up to what you already know. Often, it can feel like a text book, forcing you to focus like your studying for a test. Even when the subject is something of interest to us, you can find ourselves feeling bogged down by information that feels flavourless. Almost redundant.
With Sean Howe’s Marvel Comics: The Untold Story, this is never an issue.
When diving into Marvel Comics, we find a delightfully well written book, that comes off as inviting and invigorating as a genuine Marvel comic. Presenting what could be mundane facts and events, as earth shattering moments in history. Culminating in what we know as modern-day Marvel. While it’s tempting to simply focus on the larger figures, such as Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, and Steve Ditko. Howe uses interviews, statistics, reports, articles, and a wonderful writing style, to breathe life into the mythical Marvel Bullpen, while shedding light on the cut-throat industry as a whole.
Covering a pre-World War II industry, right up to modern day Marvel, as part of Disney. It’s hard to find an aspect of Marvel’s history that Sean Howe does not cover.
While set out mostly in chronological order, the use of time skips or jumps in places, work to emphasise the importance of figures or events. Through it, you can gain a greater appreciation for Marvel, as well as feel a slightly different perspective on some of the figures or events. Stories from different time frames, or events within the comics, become stronger, when you begin to understand the reasons behind choices.
While the book may seem intimidating, given its massive size, with almost 500 pages. It’s manner and style make it easy to read, not only with how it’s written, but with the way it sucks you in. Engrossing you within the history of such an important company within the industry.
For those with little time to read, the book is accompanied by a wonderful 18-hour Audio Book that truly immerses you while on the go.
For those curious of Marvel’s fascinating history, or simply want something engaging to read. Sean Howe’s Marvel Comics: The Untold Story is a wonderful read. Truly worthy of your time, and attention.
Available here: Marvel Comics: The Untold Story (P.S.)
One of the most captivating parts of Superman, is his mythology. Granted, his origin bears a striking similarity to biblical and mythological figures. It provides a fascinating background in which to base a truly wonderful superhero. However, a question that may burn in your mind when thinking of it. Why did Jor-el send Superman to Earth specifically? What makes Earth so special? It’s been shown in the comics frequently that there are plenty of other planets capable of supporting life, so why Earth?
In Superman: Birthright, we get a brief glimpse at Jor-El firing the rocket. Running simulations to see if the rocket can even escape Krypton’s destruction. Just as the planet begins to erupt, it seems that an actual target for the rocket is an afterthought. Jor-El runs to the console and quickly selects a planet that seems to have the best chance of letting his infant son live.
“Billions of worlds we know NOTHING about. Merciful Rao, let there be one – Yes. Lit by a yellow star. It’s gravitational pull relatively negligible. If he makes it at all, he’ll stand his best prospects here. Computer, secure COORDINATES.”
Given Jor-El’s rushed state, it’s worth asking. If he had run the calculations sooner, and looked a little longer, would he have found a better option? To unravel this question, let’s use the Drake Equation to see if there is a possibility.
Created by Frank Drake in the 1950s, the Drake Equation was created to help estimate the likely hood of intelligent life existing elsewhere in the universe. At this point in history, no part of the equation has a definitive number, and some are beyond calculation, so right now, we need to use available information, and best guess. The equation proposed looks like this:
N = R* × Fp × ne × Ft × Fi × Fc × L
N represents the number of Intelligent civilizations in the galaxy. R* is the birth rate of suitable stars for life in the Milky Way Galaxy, measured in stars per year. Fp is the fraction of stars with planets. ne represents the number of planets in a star’s habitable zone. Ft for the number of civilizations that have technology and want to make contact. Fi is the fraction of habitable planets were life exists. Fc is planets inhabited by intelligent beings, and L is the average, in years, for an alien civilisation to invent radio, up until their culture is destroyed or disappears.
In this case, we are looking for what N‘s value is. When proposing the equation, Drake used the Earth and what we know of our own solar system as a model. R* has been estimated to be anywhere between 1 and 10. When proposing this, Drake used the middle estimate, so for now, we will use 5. For Fp, Carl Sagan, an American astronomer, believed that most stars had planets. However, the conservative estimate is around 20%, or 1 in 5. With our solar system as a model, then ne equals 1, as Earth is the only habitable planet in our solar system. Again, using Earth as a model, and without any other available data, then Fi, Fe, and Ft are all at 100%. L is the hardest to calculate, as even when using Earth as a model, you can’t find a definitive answer. We are still alive. Hence why we are asking questions. Drake and Sagan estimate that the number maybe anywhere between 100 and 10,00 years. While this gives us an estimate for just our galaxy, the Milky Way is estimated to be 100,00 light years across. In Superman #132, Krypton is stated to be 3 Million light years away from Earth. Within that distance, there are approximately 20 other galaxies. Add in the Drake Equation, and this gives us a possibility of around 2,000 to 200,000 possible planets Jor-El could have sent Superman to, besides Earth.
So, it looks like it was luck that Jor-El chose Earth. Case closed.
However, in 2000, Ward and Brownlee re-evaluated the Drake Equation in their book Rare Earth. They looked back at the estimates previously suggested, and comparing it to data collected in the 50 or so years since its original inception. Their findings force all of those previously established numbers to move to their lower estimate. After re-entering the data, this gives us a maximum number of possible planets from 200,00, to only about 1,000. Condensing this back down to just the Milky Way, this makes it highly likely that Earth is the only planet with intelligent life nearby.
It seems it wasn’t fate that brought the Man of Steel to us. Simply, we were a last resort.