The current rule about Hollywood is, if it was popular, it will get remade. Even if it took time to be popular, it will get remade. With syndication, TV series can pick up an audience far larger than the during the original run; Star Trek gained its following that way. Some series will have influence beyond even the syndicated audiences. Gilligan’s Island is such a series. A mention of a, “three hour tour,” conjures the image of a long detour. Indeed, Star Trek: The Next Generation paid homage with the phrase in “Night Terrors”, with the dedication plaque of the USS Brattain, a ship lost in a rift with all hands reading, “… a three hour tour, a three hour tour.”
Gilligan’s Island ran from 1964 until 1967 on CBS and followed the antics of seven Castaways, with Bob Denver as Gilligan, Alan Hale Jr as the Skipper, Jim Backus as millionaire Thurston Howell III, Natalie Schafer as Lovey Howell, Tina Louise as actress Ginger Grant, Russell Johnson as the Professor, and Dawn Wells as farm girl Mary-Ann. The opening theme, “The Ballad of Gilligan’s Island“, explained the situation, five tourists go out on the S.S. Minnow, but they miss the storm warning, leading to the ship being tossed off course and on to a deserted island.
Cut off from civilization, the Castaways have to make do with what they have, which includes leaves, bamboo, and coconuts. They build huts, work out ways to be creative with what food there is, and survive. One thing that does come up, and to quote “Weird Al” Yankovic’s lyric in “Isle Thing” about the Professor, “If he’s so fly then tell me why he couldn’t build a lousy raft.” One of the first season black & white episodes had the Professor come up with a super glue to repair the Minnow. Gilligan causes delays through being Gilligan, preventing the launching of the Minnow long enough that the glue starts failing. Given that the Castaways are stranded in the Pacific Ocean, a raft wouldn’t be as safe as the Minnow.and wouldn’t have the instruments the boat would have.
Ratings were still in their infancy during the run of Gillgan’s Island. The show had a following, but the network wasn’t pasrt of it. The series ended after three seasons with Castaways still on the uncharted desert isle. Gilligan’s Island entered second run syndication, being used to fill time in the afternoons between when school let out and the six o’clock news. WIth the increased audience, some of who couldn’t tell that the series was scripted, the US Coast Guard received many requests to rescue the Castaways.
The increased audience thanks to syndicate led to three sequels. The first, Rescue from Gilligan’s Island, airing in 1978, saw the Castaways rescued. However, they have problems reintegrating in with society because of how much things have changed since they were first lost. The TV movie ends with the the Castaways taking a cruise and winding up back on the same deserted island. The second sequel, 1979’s The Castaways on Gilligan’s Island, saw the Castaways rescued again. This time, Mr. Howell turns the island into a resort with the other Castaways as silent partners. The third, 1981’s The Harlem Globetrotters on Gilligan’s Island, took advantage of the popularity of the basketball team to bring them to the resort while a nefarious plot occurred.
Oddly, there hasn’t been a reboot of the series. As pointed out here at Lost in Translation, it takes about a generation, twenty to thirty years, for a remake or reboot to come about. Gilligan’s Island went off the air in 1967, and the last TV movie aired in 1981. Sherwood Schwartz had an idea for a reboot in 2008 starring Michael Cena as Gilligan and Beyoncé as Ginger, which would fit into that generation gap. However, nothing really came about from that speculation.
Netflix, though, was considering in February 2022 a remake. The new series is planned to be computer animated, with a group of castaways ending up on a deserted island on what should have been a three hour tour. If set in the same era as the original series, there shouldn’t be much trouble translating the concept over to an animated media. After all, there were animated Gilligan series from Filmation in the Seventies with most of the original cast.
But, if the series is brought to today, then there are some problems. There has been a huge change since 1967, the proliferation of personal electronics such as smartphones. If people were wondering why the Professor couldn’t build a raft in the original series, the new series will need to address why he can’t rig a radio to tag a satellite with the Castaways’ location. The electronics the original Minnow may have had – a radio, possibly radar – pales compared to what is commercially available today. Weather forecasting has improved, though accuracy is still good to three days out.
The twenty-four hour news cycle is another factor to keep in mind. A chartered cruise with a renowned CEO and his wife and a promising young actress going missing is going to get the paparazzi out and getting in the way of rescuers. Mind, that could make for a plot for an episode, where a paparazzo discovers the Castaways, takes their photos, then releases the photos without telling anyone to protect his cash source. Time will pass while the Castaways are lost.
One thing to avoid is turning Gilligan into the load. In the original, yes, he screwed up a few possible rescues. However, he also saved the Castaways a number of times. The audience should like Gilligan, not want to toss him into the lagoon tied to the Minnow‘s anchor. It’ll take a deft hand to make sure that Gilligan isn’t just a dead weight. The island is named after him; he should be front and centre.
Storytelling has changed since the series first aired. The Castaways were painted in broad strokes, with the opening theme more or less identifying their roles – boat skipper, first mate, millionaire, actress, teacher, and farm girl. Any backstory revealed came up because of the plot of an episode. Today, audiences are more sophisticated; a backstory for each character will be needed. The original starts the action after the storm. A new series may need to start as the Castaways first board the Minnow.
The new series should also have an ending in mind. The Castaways can’t be stranded yet again. It took eleven years for a made for TV movie got them home, albeit briefly. The original was cancelled quietly by the network, before a fourth season could be announced. Today, and given that Netflix is streaming the series instead of dealing with the whims of ratings, the series should have a proper ending for its final season.
Finally, the remake needs to avoid being a grittier version. If people want a gritty series about castaways, there’s Lost. Gilligan’s Island was escapism comedy, with everyday and weird science devices made from bamboo and coconuts. Ignoring this may turn the audience off, and the series has gained a large number of viewers thanks to syndication and streaming. Ignoring the audience’s expectations can break an adaptation.
As mentioned last week, Lost in Translation is moving soon. Details will appear on the Facebook page as they become known.
Lost in Translation has big news! With Steve, the review’s host, about to make changes to the Seventh Sanctum, Lost in Translation is moving to a new home. This was always the plan; get Lost in Translation established, then strike out on its own, like a baby bird leaving the next. Details to come, but expect the move in the coming weeks.
As it stands, I am working out the name space, something easy for people to remember and easy to type. I have hosting lined up. There is no time frame, but I’m hoping to get this done in the next two weeks if possible, with the migration of old articles over to take a little longer afterwards. Once that is done, I can set up collections, such as the Bond Project and the year-end round ups, to make it easy for people to find articles.
Thank you all for reading over the years. I never thought I’d have been writing reviews of adaptations for ten years and I never expected to not run out of works to review. And a big thank you to Steve for allowing me to develop the reviews on his site.
Fast food is a competitive industry. Advertising in the industry isn’t to let people know the companies exist; the average person can name a number of fast food restaurants off the top of their head. The goal of the advertising is to get people talking and possibly wanting fast food in the moment. Product placement is always a possibility, though it may backfire as shown with *Mac and Me*[https://psychodrivein.com/lost-in-translation-276-remaking-mystery-science-theater-3000-the-gauntlet/].
Along the way, some marketing execs figured that the best way to reach a target audience was to provide what that audience likes. The catch is to keep the cost of access negligible. The results include three X-Box and X-Box 360 video games featuring the Burger King, Wendy’s tabletop RPG[https://psychodrivein.com/lost-in-translation-313-feast-of-legends/], Arby’s anime-inspired Twitter account, and a KFC dating sim. Burger King was the only one of that list to charge, and even then, it was under $4.00, far below the average price of a new X-Box/X-Box 360 in 2006. The rest are at no cost to the target audience.
KFC began from humble roots in 1930, as Harland Sanders served fried chicken alongside country ham and steak at the Sanders’ Cafe in Corbin, Kentucky, across from a gas station where he began with just the ham and steak for truckers. Sanders started using a pressure cooker to seal in his secret recipe of eleven herbs and spices[https://twitter.com/kfc/following]. Sanders’ Cafe was included in a 1935 road-food guide. Original Recipe, as the blend of herbs and spices used today are known, was perfected in 1940. The success of Sanders’ fried chicken led to him receiving the honorary title of Colonel from the Governor of Kentucky in 1950, leading Sanders to wear the white suit and black bow tie he became known for.
The first franchise was created in 1952 in South Salt Lake, Utah. When a highway bypassed Corbin in 1955, Sanders’ Cafe shut down due to a lack of travellers. Colonel Sanders sold the property and travelled across the US to sell more franchises, gaining the name Kentucky Fried Chicken in the process. Sanders became the face of the franchise until, even appearing in ads until his death in 1980. Afterwards, an animated Colonel Sanders was introduced in 1998 as a mascot for the brand. As much as Colonel Sanders had issues with how the brand was handled after he sold it off, he is still even today a part of it, with his likeness on boxes and barrels, one of the rare fast food mascots based on a real person.
As new generations are born and grow up, new ways to get their attention are needed. Dating sims originated in their current form in Japan in 1992 and made in-roads to North America riding with waves of anime series. The goal of a dating sim is to romance one or more potential match ups. The games tend to take time as the player works magic on the preferred romantic partner. What better way to promote a brand than by having players try to romance Colonel Sanders?
Have players romance a sexy Colonel Sanders.
KFC commissioned Psyop to create a dating sim, *I Love You, Colonel Saunders! A Finger Lickin’ Good Dating Simulator*[https://store.steampowered.com/app/1121910/I_Love_You_Colonel_Sanders_A_Finger_Lickin_Good_Dating_Simulator/]. The game was released in 2019 and available for free on Steam. The player is a student at the University of Cooking School: Academy of Learning, a prestigious school where the top chefs learn and compete. Naturally, there are rivals, including Aeshleigh, who has an extra letter in her name just because, her right-hand man Van Van the Man Man. They have a definite Team Rocket[https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ib084tzN8H0] vibe. Van Van even shows a *JoJo`s Bizarre Adventure* influence
Fortunately, the player has their best friend, Miriam, who wants to become the foremost tiny food chef, in their corner. On the sidelines are Pop, Clank, and a student, with Spinkles, aka Professor Dog, teaching the three-day trimester. Rounding out the cast is, of course, sexy Colonel Harland Sanders. The game plays quickly, taking about an hour to complete a play-through. There are unexpected twists and challenges, but the game’s goal is brand identification. Naturally, KFC’s menu gets mentioned.
The designers could have just created a generic dating sim and used the likeness of the Colonel, but *I Love You, Colonel Sanders* took a few extra steps. The game is over the top, revelling in audacity. Underneath the audacity, though, are facts about KFC and its founder. The real Harland Sanders had a full life, and the game just scratches the surface, but the details are there if the romance is successful.
Psyop put in an effort to portray the game’s Col. Sanders accurately. The real Harland Sanders was passionate about his fried chicken, complaining when PepsiCo and, later, Yum bought the company, to the point where he still had control over franchises in Canada. The game’s version is as passionate, exaggerated a little but still coming from the same place. The character’s appearance reflected the white suit and black string tie Sanders wore he was granted his honorary title. The two herbs and spices that are revealed but still redacted are the two Sanders admitted to. The game has a heart, and that heart is Colonel Sanders.
First, apologies for the extended break. This past month has been a month. The weather went to extremes, record lows to record highs, then a derecho almost stopped me this week, with massive power outages through the region. But, everything is up and running, so the research is done, finally.
Lost in Translation has discussed Marvel Comics’ recent successes with both theatrical and streamed releases. Prior to Disney setting up Disney+ and using the streaming service as an exclusive route for Marvel series, adaptations of various titles had to go to broadcast television. Granted, Disney owns the ABC network and its affiliate, ABC Family, now called Freeform, but broadcast television runs on different rules than Internet streaming. Ratings matter in the broadcast world. Low ratings, and a TV series will get axed by the network. Television also has a lower budget than theatrical releases. Superheroes, by their nature, are effect heavy. However, some powers can be done through practical effects, which can be less expensive than CGI.
One of the pre-Disney+ Marvel TV offerings was based on the comic, Cloak & Dagger. Created by Bill Mantlo and Ed Hannigan for the March 1982 issue of Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man, the duo made several guest appearances in the Spider-titles before getting their own limited series in 1983. The limited series led to a a regular bimonthly series in 1985. That series was then combined with Doctor Strange and re titled Strange Tales. The title then split back into bimonthlies nineteen issues later, with Cloak and Dagger moving into The Mutant Misadventures of Cloak & Dagger, lasting another nineteen issues before cancellation. The characters, though, still had graphic novels and made appearances in other titles, including Runaways
In the comics, Cloak, Tyrone Johnson, and Dagger, Tandy Bowen, were teen-aged runaways. Tandy came from Shaker Heights, the daughter of a supermodel who was more concerned about her career than her kid. Tyrone ran from Boston after witnessing a cop killing Ty’s friend. The two wind up in New York City, meeting after Tyrone stops a thief from stealing Tandy’s purse. They get picked up by a criminal gang as part of a round up of runaways to be used as guinea pigs. Only Tandy and Tyrone survive, their latent mutant abilities triggered by the synthetic drug. With their new powers, they become Cloak and Dagger, and fight the War on Drugs on the streets, targeting drug dealers and those who would prey on the weak.
Tyrone’s power is to be a portal into the Darkforce, a semi-sentient force that drains the Living Light out of others. Cloak can command the Darkforce within him to reach out and pull targets within him, where the Darkforce can drain the victim. It takes an effort for Cloak to evict the target out of him; as part of his mutant abilities, he no longer needs to eat food. Instead, he relies on the Living Light of others. Tandy is the embodiment of the Living Light, capable of throwing light daggers that can shock and even purify the system of a target. Dagger can also use the Living Light to heal others. Being a source of the Living Light, she is one of the few who can safely travel within Cloak without harm.
The duo take up residence in the Holy Ghost Church, located in Hell’s Kitchen in NYC, having been granted sanctuary by Father Francis Delgado. There is some tension between Cloak and Dagger, with Tyrone feeling like he is taking from Tandy by feeding off her Living Light. However, without a way to bleed off the Living Light, Dagger can get heady and detached. Dagger needs Cloak as much as he needs her.
In 2018, Freeform began airing Cloak & Dagger with Aubrey Joseph and Olivia Holt as the duo, and Maceo Smedley III and Rachel Ryals as their younger selves. The beginning of the series uses some of the ideas of Tyrone and Tandy’s background, with Tandy being picked up from ballet class by her father and Tyrone following his older brother Billy (Marcus Clay). the young Tandy and Ty didn’t realize that their lives would entwine that night, but circumstances change. Tandy’s father Nathan (Andy Dylan) is driving while on the phone trying to get details about a problem on a Roxxon Oil rig. Tyrone steals an object that Billy’s friends were considering, not realizing that his brother had convinced his friends to skip it.
Nathan, unable to multitask, winds up swerving across lanes over a bridge, and into the path of a truck. He over corrects, sending his car into the Gulf. Billy tries to return the stolen goods only to be shot by Detective James Connors (JD Evermore), who is in uniform. Tyrone, seeing that Connors isn’t going to stop and one dead Black youth, runs away and jumps off the docks into the Gulf. Both and in the water when the Roxxon rig explodes. Tyrone winds up near the Bowens’ car and, through both his and Tandy’s nascent powers, rescuues the girt. They wind up on the beach where they are found by rescuers.
The two meet up again in their late teens. Tyrone’s parents, Otis (Miles Mussenden) and Adina (Gloria Reuben), have worked hard to get where they are and have Ty in a private school. Tandy’s home life has fallen apart after her father’s death, with her mother falling apart and Tandy turning to crime with her boyfriend, Liam Walsh (Carl Lundstedt). They don’t recognize each other, but their powers return.
As the first season unfolds, Tandy and Ty get embroiled in multiple conspiracies. The first conspiracy involves the New Orleans Police Department. The official word on Billy’s death was of drowning, that Connors wasn’t even on the force. A detective who transferred from Harlem, Brigid O’Reilly (Emma Lahana), notices that Connors seems off, and is willing to listen to Tyrone about Billy’s death.
Tandy, however, gets involved in the scandal that resulted in the death of her father. While she is slow to get going, when she meets her mother’s latest boyfriend, Greg (Gary Weeks), a lawyer looking into Nathan’s death. Greg is close to a breakthrough, leading to an assassin being sent to kill him and destroy his files. What the hitman didn’t know was that Tandy had copies. There was a survivor of the rig explosion, Ivan Ness (Tim Kang), who could help, except he is catatonic. Tandy and Tyrone combine their powers to go into Ivan’s memories, where he is stuck in a time loop.
Despite Tandy getting caught up in the loop, the pair figure out how to end the loop so that Ivan can breakout of his memory. The rig and the new pipeline to access a new source of energy were subject to budget cuts, all initiated by the project head against the advice of Roxxon’s experts. The result is a leak of the energy source, the Terrors who infect humans. With the pipeline failing, the Terrors are released on an unsuspecting population, leaving Cloak and Dagger to end the problem.
At the same time, the police, under orders from Connors, is out to arrest Tyrone. Connors catches up to the duo once the Terrors are dealt with. The corrupt cop thinks he has Tyrone where he wants him, but Ty has one new trick to use. Tyrone winds up pulling Connors within him.
At the end of the season, Tandy has reconciled with her mother. Tyrone has left home, not because of his parents but to keep them safe from police reprisals. He moves into the Holy Ghost Church, taking over residence from Tandy. The two are closer than at the beginning and understand that their powers work best when they are together.
There are some obvious changes from the source. The series is set in New Orleans, not New York. The War on Drugs is downplayed, and not a factor in Tandy and Tyrone gaining their powers. Like science fiction, superheroes reflect the era they’re from. Spider-Man and the X-Men are a product of worries of nuclear power and the proliferation of nuclear weapons. Cloak & Dagger fought the War on Drugs, often with more nuance than law enforcement and politicians. Today, though, the main issues in the US are the environment and law enforcement killing Black men. The Deepwater Horizon explosion and susbsequent oil spill occurred in 2010 and is still causing environmental issues, with the cause being, “traced to a series of identifiable mistakes made by BP, Haliburton, and Transocean that reveal such systematic failures in risk management that they place in doubt the safety culture of the entire industry[,]” as per the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling. Corporate mismanagement plus political corruption, the issues of today all in one disaster.
Marvel’s go-to for corrupt or short-sighted corporations is Roxxon, and the depiction of corporate internal politics and cost-cutting for the sake of bonuses is on the nose. Recommendations by engineers get ignored over trying to get a larger bonus. In the real world, buildings collapse and oil rigs explode. In Cloak & Dagger, unspeakable horrors are released. The damage is done.
Tyrone and Tandy don’t have their costumes from the comic, but the first season is an extended origins story. Tyrone does use a cloak that his brother made, but when that gets tatttered, her switches to a hoodie. The cloak motif through the series is filled by hoodies and even lighting, with Tyrone weaing black more often as the series progresses. Tandy doesn’t have her leotard, but as her character arc develops, she wears white more often, to the point where she is wearing a white tank top for the fight to stop the Terrors.
Being an origins story, the series does take liberties, but the comics didn’t go into details about who Tyrone and Tandy were before running away. There’s room to explore who they were and how that affects who they become. They pair aren’t really Cloak and Dagger until they team up to deal with the Terrors, accepting their powers and each other as partners.
Cloak & Dagger isn’t a perfect adaptation. Details were changed to fit today’s concerns. However, the series goes into detail and shows Tyrone and Tandy becoming superheroes, something that the comics glossed over to get to the action. The series is a coming-of-age story with superheroes, a teen drama with superheroes, and works as such.
Due to the weather this past week, no review is available today. My apologies.
Work more or less interfered with having enough consecutive hours for watching the planned series. Lost in Translation will return next week.
The planned review turned out to be a movie I’ve already reviewed. Instead of rewriting the review, it’s easier to link to the 1999 remake of The Mummy. A new review will be posted next week.
This week, a bit of an experiment. Some time back, Lost in Translation reviewed the 2019 Amazon adaptation of the Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett novel, Good Omens. It’s a book I’ve enjoyed and have read many times. Given that, I decided to try something new and read along wit the 2014 BBC Radio 4 dramatisation of the novel.
Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch was first published in 1990 and was a comedy about Revelations and Armageddon. The cast includes angels, demons, the Antichrist, humans, and the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, though the focus is on several groups. The first group is the angel Aziraphale and the demon Crowley, both of whom have been on Earth since its creation on October 21st, 4004BC. The next key group are the descendants of Agnes Nutter, the latest being Anathema Device. The third group is the Them, one of Tadfield’s two pre-teen gangs, consisting of Adam, the Antichrist, and his friends, Pepper, Brian, and Wensleydale. Then there’s the Witchfinder Army, consisting of Witchfinder Sergeant Shadwell and new recruit, Witchfinder Private Newt Pulsifer, with Madame Tracy, Shadwell’s neighbour. Finally, there’s the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, Death, War, Famine, and Pollution, with the Four Bikers of the Apocalypse, Big Ted, Greaser, Pigbog, and Scuzz. On the sidelines, a host of angels and demons who wait for the Final Battle.
The story covers the final days of the Earth as the forces of Heaven and Hell amass and Aziraphale and Crowley try to find the Antichrist, who they lost. The core idea is, what if the Antichrist was raised to be human incarnate? What if the Antichrist grew up without divine or infernal influence? The novel also takes a humourous look at serious topics, like the environment, nuclear power, the nature of power, and raising children. The means of highlighting these issues is to parody several sources, including The Exorcist, New Age beliefs, the Books of Genesis and Revelations, beliefs of the Seventeenth Century, among others.
In 2014, with the popularity of the novel and the authors, BBC Radio 4 produced the radio dramatisation of Good Omens. It aired from December 22-27, six episodes total, featuring a full cast. The series starred Mark Heap as Aziraphale, Peter Serafinowicz as Crowley, Jim Norton as Death, Adam Thomas Wright as Adam, Josie Lawrence as Agnes Nutter, Charlotte Richie as Anathema Device, Colin Morgan as Newton PulsiferClive Russell as Sgt. Shadwell, and Julia Deakin as Madame Tracy.
The experiment with the dramatisation was to try to follow along with the novel. The idea was to see what was dropped, what was re-written for the new medium, and what was changed. What wasn’t expected was the changing of when scenes occurred in the narrative. What works in text doesn’t always work in radio. Case in point, the use of footnotes, extensively used in Good Omens, giving extra details about a situation. It’s easy enough to add a footnote at the bottom of a page. For radio or television, the information needs to come out in a different way, such as dialogue.
As an adaptation, the dramatisation uses most of the novel. Unlike the Amazon mini-series, the dramatisation gets into what the Apocalyptic Horsepersons were doing before being summoned. War is a war correspondent known for being at the spark of a new conflict. Famine runs a chain of fast food restaurants with no nutritional value, which isn’t unusual, and is launching a new food substitute called FOOD™ that has zero calories. Pollution spends his time at formerly pristine nature sites. Death has never left, and appears at a diner playing a trivia game until he gets stumped on when Elvis Presley died. “I NEVER LAID A FINGER ON HIM.”
The Four Bikers of the Apocalypse remain in the dramatisation. Cut from the Amazon series due to time limits and cast size, the Four who aren’t in Revelations do show up, as adding extra voices and then killing them off in a rain of fish on the the M25 Sound effects on radio are less expensive than full visual special effects on screen. Likewise, Elvis is in the dramatisation, working as a short order cook, thus why Death couldn’t answer when he died. Gone are anything that is purely visual; while anything that can be done using dialogue or sound effects could be kept. That means the trees in Brazil undergoing a rapid growth and Hastur devouring an outbound telemarketing centre were dropped.
The dramatisation did start jumping around in the book in episodes three and four. It doesn’t hurt the story, though. The scenes aren’t critical; changing the order they appear doesn’t affect the overall plot. Moving the introduction of the Apocalyptic Horsepersons to just before they ride together means they’re fresh in audience’s minds. Other scenes are more informational, providing details without advancing the plot. Once everything is set in motion, the scenes follow what is written in the book, though some scenes are in parallel with others. The dramatisation then returns to the order in the novel for the climax as all the different groups come together in the US Air Force base outside Tadfield.
The experiment didn’t play out as expected, but a dramatisation isn’t an audio book. A repeat of the experiment will have to be tried with a proper audio book to see if one can work to prepare for a review. Radio dramas have their own requirements that may not map ideally to an audio book, but they both depend on the audio component.
As an adaptation, the dramatisation works. Some scenes are lost, but more of the novel is kept in the radio drama than in the Amazon series. Both do manage to capture the core of Good Omens, balancing the nature of the end of the world with the right amount of humour. It’s not an audio book, but the BBC Radio 4 dramatisation is worth a listen.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe has had huge successes since the release of Iron Man in 2008. With two exceptions, this success came while using B-list characters. The exceptions are Captain America, mostly known through being a patriotic superhero, and the Incredible Hulk, thanks to the 1978 TV series starring Bill Bixby and Lou Ferrigno. Thanks to some questionable deals made to keep the company afloat in the past, Marvel Studios didn’t have access to some better known characters like Spider-Man and the X-Men, both of whom had a number of animated series.
How did Marvel start dominating? As mentioned, Iron Man, while a member of the Avengers, wasn’t a well known character outside comic fandom. Tony Stark also has numerous flaws, like many Marvel heroes. He’s a hero despite the flaws. Marvel Studios did the one thing that could get positive attention – casting Robert Downey, Jr. Downey was ideal casting; he and Stark share a problem with addiction. At the time of casting, Downey had gotten through his addiction and recovered, a journey that Stark has troubles with in the comics. Downey took to the role, providing a human side to Stark, despite the flaws.
Casting continued in the same vein for the rest of the films leading up to The Avengers in 2012. The leads and supporting of the movies leading up to the 2012 film all fit the roles cast. Even in the following phases and into the TV series, the casting remained strong. Casting choices might be debatable at times, but the roles have been filled well. Casting, though, isn’t the only part of the success.
Casting is just the surface. Another element helping in Marvel’s success on the silver screen is the types of stories told. The Marvel movies aren’t just superhero films. They’ve been another genre with superheroes added. Iron Man was a techno-thriller with superheroes. Captain America: The First Avenger was a war movie with superheroes. It’s sequel, Captain America and the Winter Soldier was a political thriller with superheroes. Guardians of the Galaxy was a space opera with superheroes. Ant Man was a heist movie with superheroes. The stories are wide ranging. Only the Avengers titled films – The Avengers, Avengers: Age of Ultron, Avengers: Infinity War, and Avengers: Endgame – are pure superhero films. They are also the major crossovers, where all the characters appear onscreen together. This isn’t quite a parallel to the comics where crossovers affect every title and Iron Man can appear in his own title, Avengers, and guest star in a Spider-Man title all in the same month. It is close enough, but the crossover is self-contained except for some plot points being set up in the movies leading up to the instalment.
The mix of genres lets each Marvel movie look and feel different, even if the same beats are being used. Captain America had a different tone compared to Ant Man. If someone doesn’t like the genre of film, there’s still the draw of superheroes, or the choice of skipping in favour of a preferred genre. The additional genres gives audiences something else to look forward to, and be able to follow the plot even when the superheroics go off the beaten path.
This mix carries over to the Disney+ series. Wandavision uses classic sitcoms to tell its story. Hawkeye is essentially a Hallmark Christmas special with superheroes. The current series, Moon Knight begins as a horror series. There’s more to the series than superheroic battles; the fights are icing to a multi-layered cake.
The use of B-listers is another facet of Marvel’s success. As mentioned above, with the exception of the Hulk and Captain America, Marvel Studio’s success has come despite the use of lesser known characters. However, since they are lesser known, that gives the cast, crew, writers, and directors a free hand to explore the characters and the setting and put a new twist in without worrying about canon. Moon Knight is the ultimate blank slate here; the character has had a number of different origins that at times conflicted that the TV series can pick and choose details and not worry about getting anything wrong.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe has been dominating the box office since the release of Iron Man. The secret to Marvel’s success is to have interesting, flawed characters in well written works where the story melds another genre with superheroics. While there are rumblings that the general public is getting tired of superheroics, audiences still go out to watch Marvel’s cinematic works, in part because the films aren’t just about superheroes being superheroes.
The Star Wars franchise and Dave Filoni in particular have had a number of successful animated series. Beginning with Star Wars: The Clone Wars and continuing through Star Wars: Rebels, the animated series fill in gaps between films. There is a large gap in the Star Wars timeline between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope, one that has some unanswered questions.
In 2021, Filoni added another animated series to the Galaxy Far, Far Away, Star Wars: The Bad Batch, featuring a squad of clone troopers after the end of the Clone Wars. Dee Bradley Baker returns as the voices of all the clones, including the titular Bad Batch, Hunter, Tech, Crosshair, Wrecker, and Echo. Michelle Ang joins the Batch as Omega. Supporting the Batch are Gewndoline Yeo as Nala Se, Rhea Perlman as Cid, with Noshir Dalal as Vice-Admiral Rampart, Corey Burton as Cad Bane, and Ming-Na Wen as Fennec Shand[https://psychodrivein.com/lost-in-translation-408-the-book-of-boba-fett/].
The series begins with Order 66, the extermination of the Jedi, being given. Clone Force 99, the Bad Batch themselves, have been called in to reinforce a Jedi Knight, her padawan, and clone infantry against a phalanx of battle droids backed by tanks. The newcomers take a different approach in dealing with the clankers, first dropping a boulder on them, then using non-standard tactics within the midst of the droids. When Order 66 is broadcast, the regular clones turn on the Jedi Knight and her padawan, but Clone Force 99 is unaffected. The Jedi Knight falls, but the padawan escapes, with Hunter following. The chase goes deeper into the forest and ends at a cliff overlooking a river. Hunter tries to reassure the padawan, but Crosshair is following the Order. The padawan escapes.
Clone Force 99 is composed of clones who were mutated in embryo This mutation interferes with the inhibitor chip all clones have to ensure loyalty and programming. The exception is Echo, who suffered injuries in an explosion resulting in replacement of body parts with cybernetic equivalents with additional slicing gear built in. When they return to Kamino, they meet Omega, a young girl who is being mentored by the Kaminoan scientist and creator of the clones, Nala Se.
Omega takes a shine to the Batch, especially Hunter. She also has her own secret; she, too, is a clone of Jango Fett, one with pure DNA, the only other clone to have that other than Boba Fett. Omega also gets along well Wrecker, who has a child-like approach to life. Echo and Tech take time to warm up to the girl, but Hunter takes her in like a daughter.
The change over from Republic to Empire brings into question the worth of having a clone army versus recruited and drafted troops. The latter are cheaper, but require training, while the clones start with experience and keep their edge through additional training and actual wartime experience. Admiral Tarkin is leaning towards draftees; financially cheaper and just as easy to control.
Clone Force 99 escapes Kamino with Omega but without Crosshair. Crosshair reported Hunter’s failure to execute Order 66. As Crosshair remarks, “A good soldier follows orders.” In his eyes, Hunter has stopped being a good soldier. Hunter’s view is that he and Clone Force 99 are loyal to the Republic, not the Empire. As the Batch tries to make a post-war living, they discover just how bad things are getting already under the Empire’s rule. Mandatory citizen codes, travel restrictions, the loss of freedoms, nothing that Hunter believed he was fighting for as part of the Republic’s army.
After running into Captain Rex, the Batch realizes that their inhibitor chips need to be removed. Wrecker’s activates after a head injury, and he barely fights the programming before getting it out. To help make ends meet afterwards, the Batch takes on jobs from Cid, a cantina owner who has shady contacts. She provides a cut of the profits, and takes a liking to the team. This give the Batch a chance to figure out what they want to do and what is important.
The Bad Batch shows that the animation team has improved their skills greatly since the original animated Clone Wars movie. The movement is more fluid, with a few scenes photo-realistic, thanks to the focus on a clone or a stormtrooper inside a building. The writing keeps the action going, with the audience sympathy on the side of Clone Force 99. Dee Bradley Baker spends a lot of screen time talking to himself, and he manages to make each clone recognizable.
The series does answer some questions about what happened to the clones after the war. It also answers the question about the Kaminoans and their ability to create clones. The design of equipment shows the beginning of the change to what was seen in A New Hope. There are a few plot points being set up for Rebels and even The Book of Boba Fett. There’s room for more after the end of the first season, with the Empire growing in might.
The Bad Batch also shows what the Empire’s senior military officers think about the clones. Crosshair’s repetition of “Good soldiers follow orders,” isn’t much different from the battle droids’ “What can you do? Orders are orders.” The clones are disposable. The programming allows for wartime atrocities. Good soldiers follow lawful orders. They don’t shell hospitals or shoot unarmed civilians. However, Imperial stormtroopers aren’t much better. They’re not necessarily programmed; some are True Believers.
The Bad Batch acts as the closing chapter of the Republic, showing what happens after Revenge of the Sith. There is a lot going on, and the series delivers. For an animated series on Disney+, The Bad Batch explores weighty topics and while the series can tiptoe gingerly around some of the ideas, it doesn’t paint a rosy picture of clones living out the rest of their lives in a retirement home. Ultimately, it shows that, while the decision makers wouldn’t agree, the clones aren’t disposable. The series continues the feel from the end of The Clone Wars, with the Empire rising and setting up for Rebels and A New Hope.