Author: Scott Delahunt


Posted on by Scott Delahunt

Marvel Comics’ has an eclectic team with the Avengers. Brought together because of the threat of Kang the Conqueror, six heroes pulled together to defeat the villain. Hulk was the first to leave, but not the last. Of the original team, Captain America was the last to remain as Iron Man, Thor, Giant Man, and Wasp all left for various reasons. Replacing them were the Scarlet Witch, Quicksilver, and Hawkeye, all three of whom were once on the wrong side of the law. Siblings Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver were part of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. Hawkeye, however, began his career as a plain criminal.

Clint Barton grew up as a carny. He grew up hard of hearing thanks to abuse from his father. In the carnival, Clint was trained by the villainous Swordsman to be a criminal. Clint took to archery, using trick arrows. However, he did turn his life around and impressed Cap enough to be invited to become an Avenger. When Cap left the team, Hawkeye stepped up to become its leader.

In his time as a superhero, Clint has taken on many names besides Hawkeye, including Goliath and Ronin. He is the utility infielder of the Avengers, capable of taking on any role needed, including leadership. Hawkeye started up a West Coast branch of the Avengers, consisting of his then-wife Mockingbird, Vision, the Scarlet Witch, Iron Man, Wonder Man, Tigra, and Hank Pym as a reservist. The team broke up, being replaced by Force Works, but eventually, even that disbanded and Hawkeye returned to being an Avenger.

After the Civil War, the Avengers at one point disappeared and were presumed dead. A group of teenagers with similar abilities, at least superficially, stepped up to take on the role of the missing heroes. Among them was Kate Bishop. Like Clint, Kate had no powers but had dedicated her life to being the best archer she could. When the team broke into the remains of Avengers Mansion, Kate grabbed some gear for herself, including Hawkeye’s bow and Mockingbird’s escrima sticks. The Young Avengers also had to deal with Kang the Conqueror, and managed to defeat the threat much like the original team.

It turned out that the Avengers weren’t dead. Clint found out about Kate and, as Ronin, tested her, then gave her a card with a date, time, and location. The pair teamed up to infiltrate a black market auction and managed to rob the robbers who were robbing the auction where the heads of several major Marvel crime organizations were attending. This act gets Clint and Kate on the wrong side of the Russian mob, notable for their track suits and their vocabulary mostly limited to, “bro.” In a fight against the track suits, one throws a dog into traffic, which did not sit well at all with Clint. He defeated the mob and took the dog to the vet, where he had to fight off the Russians again.

The 2012 Hawkeye series tells the tale of what happens to Clint, Kate, the dog, the Russians, the organized crime gangs, and how Clint learns that he doesn’t have to prove to anyone, including himself, that he belongs on the Avengers. Kate uses her skills to infiltrate Madame Masque’s organization, earning the wrath of the Contessa and of the local police. With help, Clint and Kate defeat the mob that says “Bro”, but are left with being targeted by the collective ire of Marvel’s criminal underworld.

During the lead up to Christmas of 2021, Disney+ aired Hawkeye, a six-part series featuring Clint Barton and Kate Bishop. Jeremy Renner reprises his role as Clint, having first played the character in the 2011 film, Thor, though uncredited, then again in the 2012 Avengers. Hailee Steinfield, who starred in Bumblebee and voiced Spider-Gwen in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, is Kate Bishop. The rest of the cast includes Linda Cardellini as Clint’s wife Laura, Vera Farmiga as Kate’s mother Eleanor, Tony Dalton as Eleanor’s fiancĂ© Jack Duquesne, Alaqua Cox as Maya, Fra Free as Kazi, and Florence Pugh as Yelena.

The series begins in 2012 during the Chitauri invasion of New York City, a young Kate (played by Clara Stack), is in her parents’ home in Manhattan, not far from the fighting. Figures whiz by the windows, catching young Kate’s attention. Once she figures out what is happening, she runs downstairs, only to have a wall destroyed in front of her. As she stares at the battle, a Chitauri sees her and flies towards her. In the background, though, Hawkeye notices and leaps off the the building he’s on and fires an arrow to destroy the alien’s flying cycle. Kate notices who just saved her life.

In the years since, Kate pushed herself physically, winning archery and martial arts competitions. She wanted to be as good as her personal hero, Hawkeye. Kate gets volunteered by her mother to help at a charity. Not one to leave well enough alone and suspicious of her mother’s fiancĂ©, she follows Jack down to the basement and discovers a black market auction. On offer, items removed from Avengers Mansion. A third party, the Tracksuit Mafia, aka the Russians who say “Bro,” attack. Meanwhile, Clint, is trying to have a good Christmas with his family, though Rogers: The Musical isn’t helping. He hears about the fighting, packs his kids into a cab, then rushes to find out what’s going on. At the core of the fight are three items, a watch and the sword and costume of Ronin, a hero known in criminal circles for killing gang members.

The Tracksuit Mafia manage to get the watch. Jack picks up Ronin’s sword, far cheaper than bidding on it, and Kate uses Ronin’s costume to hide her own identity. Clint sees the costume and goes after the new Ronin, only to be surprised that she’s a fan of his. He sends his kids on home ahead of him to deal with the new situation, with the goal of getting home before Christmas. He and Kate investigate, running into Maya and her Tracksuit Mafia, Yelena who has a beef against Clint over her sister Natasha, and a group of boffer LARPers.

The series takes its cues from the 2012 Hawkeye series. However, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has long gone in its own direction. Clint Barton is a former SHIELD agent, not a former carny. The Avengers have not died or gone into hiding. There are no Young Avengers. So some things do need to change. That said, the 2021 series still has elements that appeared in the comic. The Tracksuit Mafia, the Russians who say, “Bro,” are a main threat. Clint and Kate wind up sharing the “Hawkeye” moniker. The car chase in the third episode does feature four cars chasing Clint and Kate and a 1972 cherry red Challenger. However, it’s Kate firing the arrows, but she does still complain about Clint not labelling what each one is.

Both Clint and Kate have a character arc. His is to come to grips with his past, both being Ronin and the loss of Natasha Romanov. Kate learns that her family has secrets that need to be brought out to the light of day. Both learn how to work together, much to the Russian mob’s dismay.

The series also makes the best use of Christmas music since Die Hard. Traditional Christmas music and more modern classics like “Linus & Lucy” and “You’re a Mean One, Mr., Grinch” act at times to set the scene and other times to create a mood whiplash to drive home what happened.

While not a one-to-one adaptation of the 2012 comic series, the 2021 Hawkeye series keeps to the tone of the original, a mix of humour, action, and drama, with the main characters, Kate and Clint, recognizable. The credits use a similar art style to the covers of the 2012 comics. It’s not a perfect adaptation, but with the MCU going its own way, it comes close. As a series on its own merits, it is worth watching.

And if you watch the series, don’t turn off the credits at the end of the sixth and final episode. There is a mid-credits sequence worth watching for its audacity.

Posted on by Scott Delahunt

Due to a change in shift at my day job, Lost in Translation is taking this week off. See you next week! And stay tuned for some announcements.

Posted on by Scott Delahunt

The acquisition of Lucasfilm and the Star Wars franchise by Disney has led to solid TV series on Disney+. The Mandalorian set a standard that would be difficult for future series, such as Ahsoka and Kenobi to reach. The Book of Boba Fett was the first to face that challenge.

Boba Fett, the character, was first meant to appear in A New Hope as Jabba’s bodyguard, but the scene was cut for the initial 1977 release. The scene did get restored for the enhanced release, with a CGI Jabba superiposed over the human version. Fett’s first appearance was in the Star Wars Holiday Special in an animated segment. The bounty hunter’s first non-disavowed appearance was in The Empire Strikes Back, with Jeremy Bulloch playing the role. Fett didn’t have many speaking lines, but was a presence on screen. Fett returned in Return of the Jedi and met his match in the first Jedi trained since the end of the Clone Wars and his allies. Fett wound up rocketing into the belly of the Sarlacc, where he would be digested for a thousand years.

The prequel movies introduced Fett’s father, Jango. Jango Fett made his initial appearance in Attack of the Clones, being the base that the Kamoans used to create the Republic’s Clone Army. Jango and the clones were all portrayed by Temeura Morrison, with young Boba being played by Daniel Logan. Jango is able to fight a lone Jedi, Obi-Wan Kenobi, to a draw, but gets his head cut off by Mace Windu. Young Boba inherits Jango’s armour and gains a hatred against the Jedi.

The Book of Boba Fett begins with a flashback as Fett escapes the belly of the Sarlacc, an unknown amount of time after the end of Return of the Jedi. Exhausted after digging his way out of the Sarlacc and the sands of Tatooine, he is easy prey for Jawas who scavenge his armour. Left to die, Fett is discovered by Tuskan Raiders and taken prisoner, where he is held. In his present, Fett has his armour, as per the second season of The Mandalorian, and has taken over Jabba’s palace. His move to become the daimyo of the criminal syndicates in Mos Espa is opposed but three gangs that Jabba had under control. Worse, the mayor of the city, Mok Shaiz, is under the control of one of the gangs, the Pykes.

The series unfolds splitting screen time between Fett’s recovery and acceptance by the Tuskan Raiders and his moves to become the sole crime boss. He makes a deal with two Hutts, the Twins, to keep them away from Jabba’s former territory, and starts building up his own team. He already has Fennec Shand, former assassin, and through some deal making, recruits the Mos Espa street gang, the Mods, so called because they are into replacing body parts with cybernetics. Fett’s goal is to go straight, stop putting his life on the line for a fistful of credits. That puts him up against the other syndicates.

Fett’s main problem is that he is a bounty hunter, not a crime lord. He has contacts, but not the experience. He is more direct than his rivals and willing to give up a source of income, like spice, if it gets what he wants. While Shand questions the approach, Fett’s experiences, including his time with the Sand People, have shown him the benefits of working with others. It’s how the clones were trained during the Clone Wars, but Fett learned it naturally instead of through learning programs.

The series is part space western, part crime drama. Temeura Morrison returns to play Boba Fett. He has spent years portraying different versions of Jango Fett since Attack of the Clones. During the run of The Clone Wars, he played all the clones, giving them each a different feel. The audience could tell the difference between Rex, Commander Cody, and Fives. The only clone of Jango he hasn’t played is Boba. In each role, clone and Boba Fett alike, he brings out the humanity of the character. The Fett of the series turns out to be good with animals, which comes to play in the final episode of the season.

Casting, as always, is key. While Morrison carries the series as the title character, the supporting cast build the setting, giving it a sense of realism. David Pasquesi as Shaiz’s majordomo is fun to watch and Ming-Na Wen’s Fennec Shand represents what Fett was. Bringing back characters from The Mandalorian who live on Tatooine made sense; they add to the idea that the Galaxy Far Far Away is larger with multiple stories happening all at once.

One drawback from the series is the potential for continuity lockout, a term normally applied to comics from Marvel and DC. Continuity lockout occurs when there is a reference to an event in another title from some time before, with the audience potentially not able to catch up. There were a couple of episodes focused more on the Mandalorian than on Fett which allowed for audiences to catch up on popular characters but may cause issues in a future season of the Mando’s series. There are some surprising casting decisions, too, though not unwelcome. Jennifer Beals plays Gars Fwip, owner of Sanctuary, a casino. Danny Trejo plays the Rancor keeper, who cares for his charge.

Part of the drawback comes from Dave Filoni’s love of continuity and characters from previous works in the franchise. Some appearances are just Easter eggs, little things for longer term fans to realize, like having Camie and Fixer, Luke’s friends from an earlier draft of A New Hope who appeared in the radio drama, appear in a seedy bar with speeder bike gangers. Some, like Cad Bane, a recurring bounty hunter character from The Clone Wars series, bring a history that is implied but not explained. For now, this isn’t a problem as The Mandalorian and The Clone Wars are both available on Disney+. The potential for continuity lockout to exist in the future is there.

Overall, the series invites audiences to keep watching. Between the flashbacks with Fett recovering amongst the Tusken Raiders and finding a new sense of purpose to his attempts to go straight and be a productive member of society on a planet where everything is fighting against him doing so, the series presents a story that engages the audience, drawing them in and rooting for a bounty hunter who was previously an antagonist for the heroes of the movies. Temuera Morrison’s Boba Fett is a complicated character, fighting his old desires and reputation to be accepted.

Posted on by Scott Delahunt

This time out, a slightly different take on adaptations. Instead of looking at a specific work being adapted, today’s post will examine how a work can use modern sensibilities to adapt past cultural events into a form that can be understood by a modern audience. For this, Lost in Translation will examine the 2001 film, A Knight’s Tale, starring Heath Ledger as William Thatcher aka Sir Ulrik von Lichtenstein, Rufus Sewell as Count Adhemar, Mark Addy as Roland, Alan Tudyk as Wat, Shannyn Sossamon as Jocelyn, Laura Fraser as Kate, and Paul Bettany as the Fourteenth Century writer Geoffrey Chaucer.

The movie opens as William, Roland, and Wat try to wake up Sir Ector (Nick Brimble), only to discover that the knight is no more. Sir Ector managed to get to the finals of the jousting competition with one last tilt. If Sir Ector does not ride, the three men would go hungry. William decides to ride in Sir Ector’s place, taking advantage of the knight’s helm to hide his face.

William wins. He gets an idea – his dream was always to become a knight. If he takes Sir Ector’s place in the tournament circuit, he could get recognized while his compatriots can get wealth beyond their wildest dreams. It takes some persuasion, but Wat and Roland agree and the three start William’s training.

On the road to the next tournament, the three run into a man so down on his luck he doesn’t have a stitch of clothes to his name. Chaucer has a small gambling problem, and the people he owes money to took his clothes as a partial payment. Chaucer points out that the tournament requires participant to produce their patents of nobility, proof that they are of noble blood. Fortunately, Chaucer just happens to know how to create a patent.

At the tournament, after presenting the patent of nobility for one Ulrik von Lichenstein, William chooses his events, the melee and the joust. Both events take a toll on his armour, and no blacksmith is going to do the work without payment up front. Even Kate, a widow who has taken over her husband’s smithy, refuses William, but he challenges her and gets his armour repaired. William wins the melee. He does well in the joust, showing both honour and mercy to an injured Thomas Colville, who has never withdrawn from a tilt. However, William also meets Adhemar, a French count who rides with the Free Company. Both have caught the eye of Jocelyn, the daughter of a noble, and Adhemar does not like to lose.

William’s prize from winning the melee lets him pay off Chaucer’s gambling debts, the repairs to his armour, and has some left to improve his equipment. Kate joins the crew, providing both the ability to fix and make armour and a feminine insight to William in his quest for romance. Adhemar, though, is recalled to duty in southern France, meaning William’s goal to be the best in joust will go unfulfilled.

The troup continues on the tournament circuit with William not feeling like he’s deserved his position despite winning at each one. News of William’s success reaches the Free Company. Adhemar can’t make it to the Paris tournament, but he is available for the World Championships in London. The Count has a spy follow William around in London, discovering the rookie sensation’s secret. Exposed as a commoner, William is placed in the stocks. It is Sir Thomas Coville, or as it is confirmed, Edward, the Black Prince of England, who steps forward. He has seen William on the jousting tilts, and praises his honour and mercy, then knights William himself.

At the stadium, the finals come down to Adhemar against William, refined skill tempered with hate versus raw talent. Adhemar gets two strikes to none fast, and has a rigged lance to boot. The lance penetrates William’s armour to the point he can’t breathe in it, and the blow numbs his arm to the point he can’t hold his lance. While Chaucer distracts the crowd and delays the next tilt, William ditches his armour and has Wat lash the lance on to his arm. Still, William has a task in front of him – he has to unhorse or kill Adhemar to win.

A Knight’s Tale, while tagged as Action, Adventure, and Romance on Netflix, is a sports movie at heart. The beats follow movies such as Major League as the action takes place over a season. Instead of a season schedule, knights went on a tournament circuit. tournaments started as a way for knights and other nobles to keep their skills in warfare and battle. Events at a tournament included archery, the grand melee, and jousting, where the winner of the joust was also declared the winner of the tourney. Naturally, crowds would come out to watch and cheer on their favourites. Not much has changed with modern sports, where crowds come out to cheer on their favourite rich men performing specialized skills.

The first joust of the movie is introduced with the crowd being pumped. Obviously, Queen didn’t exist in the Fourteenth Century, but the crowd getting excited over the finals isn’t hard to imagine. The film uses “We Will Rock You” because of the song’s use today to get crowds pumped up. The song’s drum beat is easy to do and once started, easy for people to join in. The surviving records that show who won the different events don’t include audience reactions, but that’s the same for today’s sports pages. At one point in the film, there is a vendor walking around selling meat on a stick and hot wine, not much different from hot dogs and beer today.

The dance scene at the first buffet William attends begins with music that sounds traditional. The dance begins as a modified farandole, but to show what the dancing is meant to be, the movie brings in David Bowie’s “Golden Years” and updates the dance moves. The dancing wasn’t meant to be formal and stuffy, but a celebration. Less baller, more disco.

Bettany’s Chaucer is William’s herald, but heralds presented their liege to the noble hosting the tournament. Chaucer in the movie ramps it up a notch, not just reciting William’s, well, Ulrik’s deeds and patent, but brings in the crowd. Athletes will mention the feeling of having the crowd behind them, providing that last extra bit of energy needed. Audiences are there for the entertainment. While the real life Chaucer wasn’t an announcer at a boxing match, there are parallels. He was a writer, and writers do want to gran the audience’s attention. Adhemar’s own herald tries the same thing in the London tournament, not quite getting the enthusiasm but taking a step in that direction.

The final scene can be described as being the bottom of the ninth, two out, home team down by two and needing a three run home run to win. The tension is built up accordingly, coming down to Adhemar and William as the crowd fades out. The fastball versus the power hitter, with one knock back pitch already. The last charge down the tilt builds to the climactic hit.

A Knight’s Tale received some criticism because of the anachronisms. At the box office, it recovered its budget and then some. The Fourteenth Century is now 700 years in the past with all records kept on paper. There is no video of jousts, no reaction shots of audiences, just records of who participated and who won. A Knight’s Tale brings the tournament circuit of the Fourteenth Century to a modern understanding by using modern equivalents, making the concepts involved easier to understand.

On a side note, the music of the pandemic, Bardcore, might have helped. At the same time, “The Golden Years” fit the banquet dance so well, fitting anything else in would be a step backwards.

Posted on by Scott Delahunt

Lost in Translation is taking a week off and will return next week!

Posted on by Scott Delahunt

Lost in Translation has covered BattleTech before, reviewing the animated series and seeing how the setting could be adapted. This time around, it’s a look at how the game’s mechanics can be adapted.

BattleTech, at its core, is a wargame featuring giant robots stomping across the battlefield. The BattleMech is the king of the battlefield, carrying a number of weapons capable of melting a light tank. The game’s draw is having these massive mecha battle each other across a map. To this end, the game comes with a number of pre-made BattleMechs, but there are rules for players to design their own.

The mechanics allow for a range of weapons, including three sizes of lasers, a particle projection cannon, two types of missiles – long and short range – which can come configured in different sizes of launchers. To deal with infantry, there is also machine guns and flamers. In the 31st century, war crimes happen. Each different weapon does a set amount of damage that whittles away the enemy ‘Mech’s armour. Once the armour is breached, the internal structure can be damaged, with components, like arm and leg actuators or weapons and ammo, can be destroyed. Destroying ammunition can potentially destroy the location it’s in. Destroy the head or centre torso of a ‘Mech and it is down for good.

Turns are broken down into phases. Whichever side wins initiative can decide who moves first. Each side then, by initiative, then moves a number of their ‘Mechs, trying to get into a good position. Once all the BattleMechs are done moving, the shooting phase starts. Shooting is considered to be simultaneous, so no ‘Mech takes the effects of weapons lost during the phase. After all the shooting has been done, if two ‘Mechs are close enough, they can try to punch or kick each other. Finally, all the effects of being hit can take effect, with piloting rolls to stay upright and heat management taken care of. If a ‘Mech runs too hot, it can shut down, and even lower amounts of heat can slow a ‘Mech down and make it harder to hit with weapons. The game continues until one side is eliminated, achieves a mission goal, or the players run out of time for the game.

There are tactics and strategies to be considered. Should a light ‘Mech be sent ahead to draw out enemy forces and risk destruction, or should the slower ‘Mechs walk up? Even choosing which BattleMechs to use can make a difference. Sure, there’s an UrbanMech variant, the SuburbanMech, that carries a PPC and is speedy for an Urbie, but it’s still slow and light compared to a Panther, which also carries a PPC but is faster.

With all the moving parts involved, automating it is a natural next step. There have been video games in the past, including the MechWarrior series, but they’ve been focused on putting the player into the cockpit of a BattleMech. Harebrained Schemes’ 2018 release, simply called BattleTech corrects that oversight. Headed up by Jordan Weisman, one of the original creators of the wargame, the video game allows a player to create a lance of ‘Mechs to then take into battle.

The video game has three different modes of game play. The first is the Campaign mode, where the player goes through a storyline involved the fall and restoration of House Amano in the Aurigan Coalition, a minor Periphery nation. The player starts with a mix of medium and light ‘Mechs and can take mercenary contracts while also doing missions for the head of House Amano to restore her rightful place. The second is Career, which is purely a mercenary campaign without the story related missions from the campiagn. The third is Skirmish, which allows a player to take on the AI or play against another player.

In all three modes, the core game play is lance versus lance BattleMech fights. Initiative is decided by Mech size and character piloting skills. In Campaign and Career modes, players can improve the piloting, gunenry, tactical, and guts skills of their unit. With Skirmish, players can choose from a roster of pilots with varying skills. Once the player’s lance has made contact with the enemy, whether AI or player, initiative determines who moves when. Faster ‘Mechs tend to move sooner than heavier, and the piloting skill can affect the score further.

Instead of separating move and shooting into separate phases, each pilot on his or her turn can move then shoot. Manoeuvring becomes key; a ‘Mech’s rear armour tends to be thinner than in front. Cover and movement help in not getting hit by enemy fire. Heat management is still important, and different types of worlds can affect how fast heat is dissipated.

The game comes with a wide range of BattleMechs with at least one variant per ‘Mech. It is also possible to modify ‘Mech, exchanging weapons to match a player’s preference. The only limit is the ‘Mech’s tonnage and, in Campaign and Career modes, available budget. A Locust with a PPC is, in theory, possible, but the trade-off may be having paper-thin armour. Not every published BattleMech is in the game. The designers started the storyline in 3025, well before the Clans invaded the Inner Sphere. ‘Mechs are being added with DLC that expands not just the choice of BattleMechs but adding to Campaign and Career modes.

The video game emulates the wargame well, even taking into account changes that the new format requires. The BattleMechs look like they do in the books and as miniatures. Urbies are appropriately slow, and assault ‘Mechs are an absolute monster to take on. The computer does the heavy lifting of tracking expendables and damage and calculating whether a shot hits. What could take a full evening to play with friends takes an hour or so. There is a challenge when playing against the AI, and there is a variety of battlefields to choose. In Campaign and Career modes, the option to change a unit’s colours appears as a desk with minis being painted.

The BattleTech video game achieves what it set out to do, emulate the tabletop wargame, taking care of all the fiddly parts while letting players enjoy stompy robot fun.

Posted on by Scott Delahunt

Lost in Translation has looked at the worst film ever before, trying to work out how to remake Manos: The Hands of Fate. It’d be difficult, in part because the draw now, thanks to Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode that is a fan favourite. Manos, however, is the one film that got Joel, Mr. Mellow himself, angry. It’s not watchable without the efforts of the MST3K crew. Thanks to the MST3K episode, the movie has a cult following, There is now a prequel movie, a sequel movie, even a video game. And, in 2015, a novelization.

Normally, Lost In Translations treats novelizations as tie-ins, part of the franchise and marketing, instead of adaptations. However, there is an almost fifty year gap between the movie and the novel. Plus, the novel won the Scribe Award for Best Adapted Novel in 2016. Who am I to dispute the International Association of Tie-in Writers?

The original film follows the fate of a family, Michael, Margaret, Debbie, and Pepe, on a vacation as they fall into the hands of the Master, his minion Torgo, both serving the dark lord Manos. Things don’t go well for the family at all. And there’s a teen-aged couple trying to find a place to park to make out and a sheriff and his deputy whose sole job seems to be to get the teenagers to move along. All filmed on a 16mm hand-wound camera that could only record thirty-two seconds at a time for the low, low cost of $19 000 (about $163 000 today).

MST3K riffed the movie during the show’s fourth season in 1993, giving Manos a much wider audience, one that would appreciate it, though not in the way the movie makers expected. Interest was renewed, or possibly newed, and Manos tie-ins appeared, leading to Stephen D. Sullivan writing not one but two tie-in novels – Manos: The Hands of Fate, the comedy version, and Manos: The Talons of Fate, the serious horror version. Today’s review will look at the comedic version.

Sullivan’s goal was to keep to the pacing, the awkward edits, and the dialogue of the original. In fact, all the dialogue is straight from the movie. All of it. John Reynolds’ Torgo can be heard while reading the pages. The narrator is another of Manos’ minions, one who is looking in on the Master and his victims. The prose is tongue-in-cheek, and the narrator has a lot of work to fill in some of the gaps, like the nine minute long car ride that begins the film.

Sullivan also calls out the mores of the era, the requirement to be manly and take charge despite being clueless, the requirement to shrink away from danger if a woman. From the scene where Torgo tries to fondle Margaret and she hits him:

Because this is the 1960s, rather than hit Torgo again — *knock ‘im down and keep ‘im down, I say! — Margaret would prefer to be rescued by a man. And since there aren’t any real men around, her husband will do.

Manos: The Hands of Fate, by Stephen D. Sullivan

The narrator is shameless, telling the story and speaking directly to the fourth wall, making references to the film and its limitations. There’s no confusion on who the narrator is rooting for. The prose is light and easy to read, but isn’t fluff. And when things get into a lull, the narrator continues his spiel for Manos.

The novel did have to invent some details. There are only six named characters in the movie and that is including the dog. Sullivan had to provide names for the teen-aged couple, the sheriff and his deputies, the Master’s wives, and the hapless women who arrive at the lodge at the end. His solution was to base the characters’ names off their actors’. It’s a nice nod to see.

While it’s not a difficult bar to clear, the novel is better than the movie. Sullivan provides depth to the characters, even if the character is shallow. He builds sympathy for Torgo, gives a motive for Michael and his bad decisions, even provides some details about Manos. The advantages of the written word is to get into characters’ heads, even Pepe’s, providing an insight that the original movie couldn’t. It is also possible to read the novelization without having seen the movie, though some of the asides wouldn’t make sense.

Stephen D. Sullivan achieves the impossible with his novelization of Manos: The Hands of Fate. He makes the story accessable and readable, a far cry better than the original film.

Posted on by Scott Delahunt

Dr. No
Bond: Sean Connery
Release Date: 1962
Original Story: Dr. No
Publication Date: 1958
Previous Story: From Russia With Love
Next Story: Goldfinger

Villain: Dr. Julius No (Joseph Wiseman)
Heavy: “Three Blind Mice” (Eric Coverly, Charles Edghill, Henry Lopez, all uncredited)
Bond Girls: Honeychile Ryder (Ursula Andress), Sylvia Trench (Eunice Gayson)
Other Notable Characters: M (Bernard Lee), Moneypenny (Lois Maxwell), Quarrel (John Kitzmiller), Major Boothroyd/Armourer (Peter Burton), Strangways, Felix Leiter (Jack Lord), Pleydell-Smith (Louis Blaazer), Professor Dent (Anthony Dawson)

Gadgets: The Dragon, an armoured vehicle armed with a flamethrower

Opening Credits: “The James Bond Theme“, written by Monty Normal, arranged by John Barry, performed by John Barry & Orchestra
Closing Credits: “The James Bond Theme” reprised.

Plot of Original: Strangways, the MI-6 secrtion head for Jamaica, and his secretary disappear. The secretary had started the daily wireless connection to HQ when she is killed, which begins a process of alerting the chain of command up to M. M assigns Bond to what should be a simple investigation, as 007 is still recovering from being poisoned at the end of From Russia With Love. The briefing includes what details M has of Strangways investigation of Crab Key and the death of two Audubon Society members at Dr. Julius No’s private airstrip on the island. Dr. No runs a guano mine.

On arrival in Kingston, Jamaica, Bond begins his investigating. He notices that he is being followed. Things escalate when he receives a basket of poisoned fruit. The Chief Secretary at Governor’s House, Pleydell-Smith, thinks that Bond is overplaying the events. Not to be deterred, Bond finds his friend Quarrel to get more info on Crab Key. They make plans to go to the island and investigate, despite the rumours of a dragon living there.

The trip takes a couple of days, using wind power until near radar detection range, then paddling in, landing on Crab Key in the early evening. The next morning, they’re awaken by a woman singing. Bond see the young woman, nude. collecting shells, and joins in on the song. The woman, Honeychile Rider, is startled. Bond convinces her that he means no harm. She collects her clothes, which is when Bond sees her own boat, complete with sail.

Bond knows that he and Quarrel are expected. Honey normally escapes notice, and is treated as a nuisance by Dr. No’s people. But with Bond, she’s in danger. A patrol boat arrives. Despite the group hiding, they are called out. When nothing happens, a machine gun rakes the beach. The boat’s skipper promises to return with the dogs. It’s a half day before they make good with the threat. Bond has the group hide in the water and wait for the guards to pass.

Undiscovered, Bond presses on. Night falls. In the distance, lights appear. Both Honey and Quarrel call it the dragon. Bond hears the dragon’s engine, and orders Quarrel to try to shoot the driver while he takes out the wheels. The “dragon” is armoured and has a flamethrower for its breath, killing Quarrel with a burst. Bond surrenders and he and Honey are taken prisoner in the back of the “dragon”, an armoured swamp buggy..

Dr. No’s base is luxurious compared to the industrial exterior. Bond and Honey are given time to freshen up and change before being brought to dinner to meet No. As all good Bond villains do, Dr. No gives his life story, knowing that there is nothing either of his guests could do to stop him. After dinner, both are led to their respective death traps. Honey is to be staked out in front of a crab migration. Bond is sent through an obstacle course that Dr. No designed to test the limits of human endurance, ending with a giant squid.

Bond fights through the obstacle course, fighting off the squid at the end with the last of his energy. He gets out of the course and sneaks up to the guano processing/loading docks. With no one looking, he gets to the controls and dumps tons of guano on Dr. No. He then returns to the base to find out where Honey is only to be dropped by her in error. They escape in the “dragon” to return to the boat he hid and return to Kingston.

The novel ends with Bond following on his investigation, making his reports, and then meeting with Honey one last time.

Being the first, there is no cold open. The movie begins with the opening credits, something that changes with From Russia With Love. After the credits, the death of Strangways and his secretary are more-or-less as per the novel. The first change comes with the introduction of Bond. In the novel, Bond was recovering from being poisoned by Rosa Klebb. However, since Dr. No is the first film of what could (and did) become a franchise, the movie went with a different approach. Bond is called back to duty while he is gambling at a casino, making small talk with Sylvia Trench. The scene establishes Bond’s playboy reputation.

The briefing is modified to have Strangways working with the CIA on problems with the American missile program. In between the time of the novel’s publication and the release of movie, the space race reached a moment where NASA sent a man, John Glenn, into orbit in the Friendship 7 capsule. Prior, the missile tests were part of the nuclear escalation of the Cold War. Dr. No is still misdirecting missile launches, but now there are lives at stake at launch.

Dr. No wasn’t explicitly a member of SPECTRE in the novel. The organization’s first appearance in the novels was in Thunderball, published in 1961. However, the organization makes for a good fictional villainous organization, so the movie had Dr. No as a member. Professor Dent also becomes a member and one of Dr. No’s lackeys in the film; in the novel, he was just one of Strangways’ card buddies who ran an analysis for him.

Crab Key’s primary industry changed. Instead of being a guano operation, it became the site of a bauxite mine. The mine was a cover for Dr. No’s base, which was still luxurious. With the change, Dr. No’s death also changed. The movie death is more cinematic and less anticlimactic, with a fight against Bond before being tossed into boiling radioactive water.

The obstacle course was more or less the same, save for the end. Budget precluded a giant squid, which would not have looked great given the era and the low budget. Bond is still pushed to his limit. Honey was staked out, but in front of a water intake instead of crabs. She also needed Bond to recue her instead of freeing herself off-screen.

Felix Leiter makes his first film appearance on the EON continuity. However, Felix was first introduced in Casino Royale and was not in Dr. No. Felix was working with Quarrel in the movie to try to find where Dr. No had his transmitter. Which leads to another change, Quarrel. Bond worked with Quarrel in the novels first in Live and Let Die; the two men picked up the investigation together without needing a third party like Felix.

The attempt to assassinate Bond with the tarantula came from the novel, but the animal of choice there was a large centipede. The change is minor; Bond got to feel the creature crawling up him in both formats, and neither creature survived the scene. The tarantula’s death was hidden behind a bed, so the animal may have survived while its character died.

Dr. No was filmed with a low budget compared to the films that would follow. Bets were hedged; the producer wouldn’t be out much if the film flopped. Dr. No is a quieter book for Bond, a simple investigation that turns deadly. As such, the 007 gadgets the franchise would get known for just aren’t there. Bond uses real world approaches, such as a strand of hair over a closet door to see if his room was searched. The only oddity is Dr. No’s “dragon”, an armoured vehicle with a flamethrower.

The movie acts as an introduction for people not familiar with 007. As such, Bond is shown at full strength. He’s not starting to have the fatalism that his literary version was building since Moonraker. His relationships with the regular supporting and recurring characters had to be established – his flirting with Miss Moneypenny, his deference to M, his professional relationship with Felix. The only character missing is Q, though the Armourer fills in that role.

Even with all the changes above, the plot does follow the novel’s closely. It’s the details that have changed, unlike Moonraker where a new plot was used with the same characters. However, starting with the sixth novel means that when the series goes over prior novels, there’s going to be continuity issues. Quarrel can’t appear in Live and Let Die without somehow explaining how he didn’t die here. But that is for future movie writers to deal with.

For a film that the studio hoped would be successful, casting was key. Several actors had been considering, including Cary Grant, Patrick McGoohan, and Roger Moore, with the latter passed over because he was too young for the role. Casting Sean Connery set the tone for the first five 007 movies, to the point where he is still many people’s favourite Bond.

Posted on by Scott Delahunt

In the past fifteen years, Marvel has made strides with theatrical releases. Iron Man, released 2008, paved the way for a number of movies that are now part of The Avengers Initiative. However, during that time, superheroes on television have been the realm of DC, starting with Arrow in 2012. The Arrowverse, though, was separate from DC’s cinematic universe.

Disney’s acquistion of Marvel in 2009 would become a game changer. Disney has the money to spend to compete. Disney also has the money to buy the competition. The company’s acquisition of Fox and its subsidiaries took two years with the transition ending in 2019. However, before the acquisition, Fox managed to make one of the most comic book movies ever, Deadpool. The other most comic book movie ever is, of course, Scott Pilgrim vs the World, distributed by Universal Pictures. Once Disney had Fox’s assets, could Marvel Studios make a comic book TV series?

Enter Vision and the Scarlet Witch. Both characters have extensive history in the Marvel comics. Wanda Maximoff, the Scarlet Witch, has been both hero and villain. She was once a member of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants under Magneto and later a member of the Avengers and its spin-off team, the Avengers West Coast. In both cases, she was with her twin brother, Pietro, aka Quicksilver. Wanda’s powers, her mutant ability to manipulate probability combined with witchcraft, put her as one of the most powerful characters in the Marvel Universe. The Vision is a synthezoid, a synthetic android with a Solar Gem that provides him sentience. He was built by the villainous sentient robot, Ultron, using the template of the original Human Torch android and was given the goal of destroying the Avengers. The Vision’s powers include superhuman strength and reflexes, a durable body shell, and the ability to control his density from superdense to intangible.

Wanda and Vision met as Avengers, fell in love, and got married, becoming one of the rare superhero couples, though the West Coast Avengers also had Hawkeye and Mockingbird. As a couple, they had two volumes of their own series, Vision and the Scarlet Witch, for a total of 16 issues combined. In the second volume, Wanda became pregnant with twins. However, her happiness didn’t last long. Vision was destroyed and rebuilt, now with chalk white skin and no emotions or memories. Wanda’s twins later started to disappear, leading to a string of nannies at the West Coast Avengers’ compound in California. After consulting with Agatha Harkness, it was determined that Wanda’s children weren’t real, created by her desires and her powers but with no substance when her attention was focused elsewhere.

Team superhero titles are soap operas, really.

All of the above leads to WandaVision, a nine episode series on Disney+ first available September 2021. WandaVision stars Elizabeth Olsen as Wanda, Paul Bettany as Vision, Kathryn Hahn as Agnes, Teyonah Parris as Monica Rambeau, Randall Park as Jimmy Woo, and Kat Dennings as Dr. Darcy Lewis. The first episode begins with the usual Marvel Studios bumper, but at the end, it switches to 1.33:1 aspect ratio instead of widescreen, black & white instead of colour, and mono instead of stereo. The episode itself is homage to sitcoms of the 50s, particularly The Dick van Dyke show, and shows the titular couple trying to live a mundane life in the sleepy town of Westfield. The effects reflect the era; no CGI for Wanda’s magic, just wires.

The second episode brings the show up to the 60s, in the style of Bewitched. However, little things start looking odd for Wanda, such as a red helicopter with a sword logo landing in her front yard. very odd, considering the show was in back and white until the final minutes when colour appeared. The colour remains for the third episode, now in the 70s and in the style of The Brady Bunch. Wanda has television’s fastest pregnancy, giving birth to twins at the end of the episode.

Episode four goes behind the scenes of Wanda’s show, with a look at what’s happening outside Westfield. A barrier surrounds the town in the shape of a hexagon. Agents from both the FBI, including Jimmy Woo, and SWORD, the Sentient Weapon Observation and Response Division, Monica Rambeau’s agency, are trying to figure out what is going on inside the hex. One of the scientists, Dr. Darcy Lewis, examines the wavelengths emitted and finds one worth tapping into. The wavelength requires and older TV, but once it’s on, Darcy is able to watch WandaVision.

Episode five returns into Wanda’s show, this time in the style of Family Ties from the 80s. As the episode title says, it’s, “A Very Special Episode”, with the twins aging up, twice. As with any very special epiusode from the 80s, a tragedy happens, and Wanda has to help her boys cope with the loss. The next episode leads into the 90s, with shows like The Wonder Years, and Wanda starting to notice that things aren’t going as expected. Episode seven leads to the 00s and reality television and the return of Wanda’s brother Pietro, who was killed in Avengers: Age of Ultron. However, Pietro is played by Evan Peters, the Quicksilver of the X-Men films.

The final two episodes pull all the strings together, with the eight episode ending in the reveal of the villain. The final episode has Wanda fighting for not just her life, but the life of the citizens of Westfield, Vision, and her twins, and, ultimately, her own sanity. The entire series is about Wanda and her grief over the loss of the people she loves, her parents, her brother, her husband, and her children, and learning more about her abilities. The sitcom reality she created was based on what she watched to escape reality as a child, and what she watched with Vision as they fell in love. But her fantasy held people prisoner, hurting them unknowingly while she grieved.

WandaVision shows the strengths of streaming. There is no need to add extra episode to suit the requirements of a network series of being a set episode length for twenty-two episodes. Each episode of WandaVision was the length it needed to be, and nine episodes was the right number to have. Without the restrictions, the writers could get everything they needed to get in, including era-appropriate ads, to get the surface plot and the underlying arc all worked in without stretching or squeezing.

Casting is also important. Olsen and Bettany had chemistry as Wanda and Vision. Without that chemistry, WandaVision would not have had the impact it had. The two portrayed the superheroic couple as a couple, with all the quirks couples have. Even as events started turning dark, the love between Wanda and Vision still shone through. The supporting cast was also key, especially in the town of Westfield, where the characters change by the era of the episode.

The plot takes its cue from the pages of both Vision and the Scarlet Witch and West Coast Avengers/Avengers West Coast. WandaVision is a far better approach to the ideas than what appeared in the comics, really. What helped is that the writing staff was all on the same page with WandaVision, while a change of writer from Steve Englehart to John Byrne led to the massive changes in Vision and to Wanda’s twins. Even given the differences from Marvel’s main 616 universe and the cinematic universe, WandaVision is the better story. Wanda has agency and growth. Vision’s fight with his rebuilt version comes down to philosophy and a discussion of the Ship of Theseus.

WandaVision, as an adaptation, has the task of taking a character arc from the late 80s and bringing it over to a cinematic universe that has been going in its own direction for over a decade while still being fresh. The result is a mini-series that has the twists of the comics while still taking advantage of the medium of television, especially its evolution since the 50s, and improving on the orignal ideas as present in the pages of the original comics.

Posted on by Scott Delahunt

Starting from a single film that wasn’t expected by 20th Century Fox to become a blockbuster, Star Wars has become a juggernaut of a franchise. After Disney bought out Lucasfilm, the juggernaut is only getting more powerful. With an ongoing pandemic, streaming has become a strong contender for the entertainment dollar, providing works both old and new to audiences when the audience wants to watch. With the sheer volume of films and animated series, Star Wars is already providing a good number of viewing hours on Disney+. Add in new series like The Mandalorian and the streaming service can generate demand.

One of the new series is Star Wars: Visions. First release September 2021, the series is a non-canonical series of independent stories, each created by a different anime studio. The studios were allowed to create a story in their own vision of the setting. The seven studios produced nine episodes, with two studios providing two eps each. The studios involved are Kamikaze Douga, Studio Colorido, Studio Trigger, Kinema Citrus, Production I.G, , Science SARU, and Geno Studio. There aren’t any clunkers in the series, but there are some stand-outs.

“The Duel”, by Kamikaze Douga, opened the series. The episode is, essentially, Star Wars as done by Akira Kurosawa. Yes, Kurosawa was one of George Lucas’ influences, but “The Duel” takes the elements of *Star *Wars* and combines it with Japan’s Sengoku era, using black and white animation with colour for emphasis. The concept is simple, a ronin warrior protects a village from bandits led by a Sith. The execution is anything but simple, and sets a high bar for the rest of the series.

The next episode, “Tatooine Rhapsody” by Studio Colorido, almost pales in comparison. However, the episode is more personal, and focuses on the magic of friendship and the power of music. Not every story in Star Wars needs the clashing of lightsabers. Music has played a role in the movies, whether as background or as part of a scene. “Tatooine Rhapsody” just adds more music to the setting.

Science SARU’s first episode, “T0-B1″, takes influence from *Astro Boy” and features a young robot boy who wants to become a Jedi Knight and what happens to him and his family when an Inquisitor arrives on the deserted planet T0-B1 calls home. The story shows the difference between wanting to become a Jedi and what it means to be one, with T0-B1 going through growth to discover the difference.

The series takes the elements of the setting as shown through the movies and prior series. Visions leans heavily on the Jedi, but the Jedi fill a role that samurai and ronin do in Japanese cinema. Having episodes featuring wandering Jedi, like “The Village Bride” and “The Elder” fit naturally into the setting. The episodes do play it loose on how a character becomes a Jedi, but the series is meant to allow anime studios to play in the Star Wars sandbox, with adherence to canon a secondary concern, if at all.

That said, the stories do provide new insight into the setting. Many of the episodes can be easily slipped into the canon without notice. Some episodes point out the dangers of the Dark Side, while others show how the Light Side of the Force works conceptually. None of the episodes could be moved to a new setting without massive rewrites; each one takes advantage of the setting to tell its story. Several, like “Tatooine Rhapsody”, “The Ninth Jedi”, “The Village Bride”, and “T0-B1”, could be easily expanded into a series of its own.

Overall, each episode explores Star Wars, playing with concepts and adapting them to both anime and to Japanese culture and history. The series is well worth a watch and provides a new perspective.

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