Two adaptations announced this week are raising eyebrows and possibly blood pressures among potential audiences.
First, the BBC announced that it has teamed up with Netflix to produce a four-part Watership Down mini-series. The goal is to introduce the story to a new audience while toning back the “brutal images”. While the movie did have some shots that featured blood, most of the violence was done with discretion shots. However, the mini-series will be using CGI to make the rabbits more life-like, which may make any violence shown more hard-hitting. The animation of the 1978 movie allowed for a separation of reality and fiction, something the new computer animation may blur. With the four one-hour parts, the new mini-series may be able to delve further into the original novel than the ninety minute adaptation did.
The second adaptation is a sequel to Disney’s Mary Poppins. The 1964 movie, which was itself based on a story by PL Travers, was one of the most popular films of its year. While Travers did write eight books featuring Mary Poppins, she wasn’t enamoured with Walt Disney’s adaptation, as seen in the fictionalized account, Saving Mr. Banks. Disney’s sequel, titled Mary Poppins Returns, will follow up with the Banks children as grown ups,
There is a difference between the Watership Down remake and the Mary Poppins sequel. The BBC is expanding the run time available, allowing them to take in more of the original novel. The Watership Down mini-series is also using modern techniques to add realism, while the 1978 movie was done in a rush by an inexperienced writer, director, and producer*. The Mary Poppins sequel feels more like an attempt to cash in on a known name. Granted, the working relationship between Disney and Travers was poor, which may prevent the studio from using an of her other books, but Mary Poppins won five Academy Awards and is still popular. Disney is also working to ensure the movie is a success, including casting Lin-Manuel Miranda, creator of Hamilton. Time will tell if the sequel is accepted by audiences.
* To be fair to Martin Rosen, he learned quickly and was able to produce a quality work limited by its length.
Technology is constantly changing, updating and upgrading as new techniques are discovered. As has been mentioned before, new technology has been the motivation behind remakes and adaptations. The advent of computer animation has made some expensive or time-consuming effects of the past easier to do today. Stop-motion animation has given way to CG animation. Practical effects, though, still exist. It can be easier to film a practical effect and enhance it with CG than to start from scratch with computer animation. That said, the use of CG animation can sometimes lose the charm of a work. The temptation to tinker can be great, but too much tinkering can lose the audience. It’s a fine line.
In 1964, Gerry and Sylvia Anderson, the minds behind Supermarionation, created Thunderbirds. The series featured the Tracy family and International Rescue, an organization dedicated to helping people in danger. Jeff Tracy, the family patriarch, funded the organization and its vehicles, piloted by his five sons. Aiding the Tracies were Kyrano, his daughter Tin-Tin, the engineer, Brains, and International Rescue’s London Agent, Lady Penelope and her butler, Parker. Together, International Rescue performed daring rescues and battled the nefarious Hood.
The Thunderbirds themselves were the stars. Each vehicle had a dedicated purpose. Thunderbird 1, piloted by Scott Tracy, was a hypersonic rocket plane, capable of reaching any place on Earth quickly. Thunderbird 2, piloted by Virgil, was the heavy lifter, ferrying rescue equipment and modular pods where needed. Thunderbird 3, piloted by Alan, was a re-usable rocket used for space rescue. Thunderbird 4, piloted by Gordon, was a submarine, typically carried by Thunderbird 2 to where it’s needed. Thunderbird 5, manned by John, was a space station used for monitoring communications for calls for help. Lady Penelope had FAB-1, a pink six-wheeled Rolls-Royce as kitted out as anything 007 would drive.
The series was filmed using Supermarionation, using marionettes as the cast, with the sets built to scale. For close-ups of hands, real hands were used, allowing characters to manipulate objects as needed. The special effects were scaled down for the miniatures in use, looking very much like effects used in films. Thunderbirds ran for thirty-two episodes, each running, with ads, for an hour, and has been referenced by other works, including Reboot. Thunderbirds has been remade a few times, including the anime Thunderbirds 2086 and the 2004 live action movie. A new CG series, Thunderbirds Are Go is the latest adaptation.
Thunderbirds Are Go first aired in ITV in April 2015. The series brings back International Rescue, updating the show’s concept to reflect the changes in technology since Thunderbirds first aired. The two-part pilot episode, “Ring of Fire”, introduces the characters to a new audience while showing what each Thunderbird can do. There have been some changes; Jeff Tracy has gone missing, leaving Grandma Tracy as the head of the household. Brains is now Indian, and his stutter is less pronounced. Tin-Tin is now Kayo and the head of security for International Rescue, but her family secret is still kept. The vehicles have been updated as well, though still recognizable. FAB-1 reflects today’s car stylings, but still has the gadgets to keep Lady Penelope safe. Thunderbird 5 shows the greatest change in design, reflecting developments in space stations and featuring a rotating ring to simulate gravity and a stationary control area that lets John float around while monitoring communications. The Thunderbirds, though, aren’t CG; instead, they are miniatures, as are the sets. The mix isn’t jarring; the use of both CG and miniatures harkens back to the use of marionettes and models in the original.
“Ring of Fire” starts with a runaway hot air balloon caught in a storm, its passengers, a father and his son, calling for help. Out of the storm clouds, Thunderbird 2 appears, matching course with balloon. Virgin comes up topside and helps the son into Thunderbird 2. Before he can get the father, though, a gust of wind up ends the balloon. Virgil calls John up in Thunderbird 5 to get the father’s vector, and has Thunderbird 2 dive to get beneath. He’s able to grab the father and bring him inside before reaching the ground. Meanwhile, Thunderbird 3, with Alan and Kayo, are working on correcting the orbit of a satellite, allowing John to relax while watching his favourite TV series*.
After a breather, International Rescue gets a call from an undersea lab that has suffered damage after a seaquake. Virgil and Gordon respond with Thunderbirds 2 and 4. While approaching the lab, Gordon discovers the source of the quakes, a device that creates the seismic disruption. Worse, several more quakes occur, caused by similar devices. Lady Penelope and Parker investigate and find a warehouse with a note and a button. On pushing the button, a mysterious figure hijacks the airwaves and makes his demands; the Hood will end the quakes upon being given the Thunderbirds. International Rescue ignores the demands. With the sealab’s scientists rescued, IR work on finding the Hood. Alan and Kayo head to the satellite to try to track the Hood’s location. On the ground, Scott and Virgil rush to Taiwan to prevent a solar reflector, misaligned because of the quakes, from frying Taipei when the sun rises. Alan and Kayo discover the frequency the Hood is using, allowing Brains to trace the villain’s signal. Kayo performs a high-altitude, low-opening, or HALO, jump from Thunderbird 3 to land at the Hood’s hideout. The Hood summons his men to deal with Kayo, but she also has backup, having alerted the Global Defense Force to the Hood’s location.
The production team is making an effort to be faithful to the original’s feel while still updating the series for modern sensibilities. There are nods to the original Thunderbirds, including the episode “Fireflash”, a remake of the first original episode, “Trapped in the Sky”. Both episodes feature a supersonic jet that is in trouble and needs the assistance of International Rescue to land safely. The sealab from “Ring of Fire” resembles a damaged Eagle from Anderon’s live action series, Space: 1999. The series even has David Graham returning in the role of Parker. Thunderbirds Are Go runs thirty minutes, including ads, or half as long as the original, but the writing is kept tight, not letting up on the tension until the rescue is complete.
Thunderbirds Are Go makes use of new technology, but doesn’t let it take over the core of the series. There are changes, mostly to reflect the realities of today, but the heart of Thunderbirds has been kept.
* The show John watches is Stingray, another Supermarionation series, with a clip of the opening credits being shown. In a clever touch, the slip is shown in reverse to the audience, meaning that John is watching it the correct way.
Last week, Lost in Translation looked at the problems Jem and the Holograms live action adaptation had at the box office. The same week that Jem was pulled from theatres, Mark Wahlberg announced that he would be involved with a remake of The Six Million Dollar Man, Today, a look at what such an adaptation needs to beware of.
The remake, The Six Billion Dollar Man, appears to be working from the TV series. However, The Six Million Dollar Man was an adaptation itself, based on book Cyborg by Martin Caidan. Will the remake acknowledge the original work is still a question. Another catch is the forty years since the original TV series aired. Time is seldom gentle as it progresses. Can The Six Billion Dollar Man update the series without losing what made the original popular?
Technology may not be a problem. Computers are far smaller and far more powerful now than in the mid-Seventies. Thanks to the silicon chip and advances in miniaturization, computers no longer need to take up an entire floor and can fit inside an artificial limb with space leftover. Steve Austin’s bionic arm, legs, and eye are still beyond current commercial technology, but advances available today in artificial limbs now allow for fine motor control. Small cameras are available to all, with infrared available at low extra cost. Web cameras are built into many computing devices, like laptops, tablets, and cameras. Putting a military version of commercially available camera types into an artificial eye isn’t far-fetched.
The real problem, seen with every adaptation, is getting the feel right. Jem and the Holograms failed there by going for a generic plot with no connection to the characters. The Six Billion Dollar Man needs to acknowledge the feel of the original, even as it tries to be its own work. The problem there is the Seventies. Steve Austin didn’t just deal with rogue agents. He went up against robots with his capabilities, against terrorism in ersatz versions of Northern Ireland, South America, and the Middle East, against psychics and mind readers, and against aliens. The Seventies explored ideas that never panned out and are seen as bizarre today.
Compounding the issue of the Seventies is the change in how stories are told. This was also seen in the remake of The Mechanic, which went from a character study with a deliberate pace to an action movie without changing the plot. The Seventies saw longer shots, almost foreign to today’s near-constant cuts through editing. Yet, for some effects, the camera may have to linger.
Another issue that could cause problems is the change of tone seen in adapted works, eschewing the tone of the original in favour of a darker, grittier story that sometimes misses the point. The Caidin novels had Austin as a super secret agent, sent in where regular agents wouldn’t succeed. The TV series followed that idea, but with a lighter touch. The Six Billion Dollar Man could fall back to the Caidin novels or even just the first pilot movie. The Six Million Dollar Man saw a shift in tone between the first of the TV movies and the actual series. Colonel Austin stopped using weapons during the series, but does use grenades in the pilot.
The passage of time may be of help to The Six Billion Dollar Man. The series ended almost forty years ago and is no longer in syndication. While the TV series has been released on DVD, not everyone in the audience will have a copy. This will allow the remake movie to recreate the general feel of the series – a bionic man working as a top agent for an agency – without necessarily getting all the details correct. The main elements, the bionic sound effects, can be used to create a genuine feel, even if some details get changed.
The goal of Wahlberg’s remake should be to blend the sensitivies of both today and the Seventies without either treating the source material as a source of jokes or to go down the dark and gritty road without having some of the TV series’ levity. Both have a place in The Six Billion Dollar Man.
Short round up this month. Just a few of note.
Absolutely Fabulous movie coming.
AbFab is returning. Jennifer Saunders, creator and star of the original show, has confirmed that a movie will be filmed this summer, once a budget has been set. Saunders has said that the movie will bring back the main characters, including Joanna Lumley’s Patsy.
Steven Spielberg and SyFy Channel to bring Brave New World to the small screen.
Aldous Huxley’s dystopia Brave New World is being adapted by Spielberg for SyFy as a miniseries. Huxley’s novel looked at a future Earth where consumerism won the day, leading to a sterile world except for areas that refused to conform.
The Rock to play Jack Burton.
John Carpenter’s Big Trouble in Little China will be remade with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson in the Kurt Russell role. Ashley Miller and Zack Stentz, who wrote X-Men: First Class, will write the script. Johnson wants to bring in John Carpenter, the director of the original, on the film.
Alphanumeric! ReBoot reboot confirmed.
Corus Entertainment is set to reboot the 90s CG-animated cartoon, ReBoot, with a full twenty-six episodes. The original series, the first one to use CG, lasted four seasons, with the last being comprised of two made-for-TV movies. The series ended on a cliffhanger, with the virus Megabyte having taken over Mainframe. The new series, ReBoot: The Guardian Core, is set to pick up with four sprites defending their system with the help of the VERA, the last of the original Guardians.
Speaking of the 90s, The Powerpuff Girls are returning, too.
Once again, the day will be saved! The Powerpuff Girls are returning to Cartoon Network, with new voices and new producers. The reboot will be prodiuced by Nick Jennings, of Adventure Time, and Bob Boyle, of Wow! Wow! Wubbzy! Tom Kenny will return as the Narrator and the Mayor.
The Adaptation Fix-It Shop is open again. The Shop looks at adaptations that have major problems and tries to rebuild the concept. Previously, the Fix-It Shop rejiggered the 1998 Godzilla as a action/comedy monster hunting flick and separated the two movies trying to get out from Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun Li.
Today, I delve back into Dungeons & Dragons.
The first inclination is to drop a meteor swarm* on it and call it a day.
The first inclination, while satisfying, is wrong. While Dungeons & Dragons had many problems. Its 2005 direct-to-video sequel, Dungeons & Dragons: Wrath of the Dragon God, was a far better movie and a far better adaptation, just lacking the effects budget the first movie had. The sequel works as a template on how to fix the the original. There’s also the issue of the original movie having decent set pieces that just didn’t work with all the others.
Let’s get some of the problems out of the way. Role-playing games add an extra twist to adapting that most media doesn’t, as mentioned before. While most novels, comics, TV series, and even video games have a plot, RPGs leave that up to the players. Characters are the same; in an RPG, the players create them. Settings may or may not be included, depending on the game. Dungeons & Dragons, in most editions, has The World of Greyhawk as a default setting, but with little information beyond names like Drawmij, Mordenkainen, and Zagyg. Other settings were produced and sold, and Dungeon Masters (DMs) were given world-building tips, much like Way with Worlds, to help create their own. That leaves game mechanics, which did appear in the movie.
Wrath of the Dragon God showed that it is possible to do a D&D movie. Wrath had a lower budget, but made up for it with more attention to game elements and easing those elements into the narrative. The sequel created its own setting and characters, using ideas presented in the Third Edition core rulebooks, and building on them for the plot. Wrath is proof of concept; a D&D movie can be made that isn’t bad.
With the above in mind, what can be done to repair the Dungeons & Dragons movie? The core plot is about five adventurers who band together to stop an evil wizard from overthrowing the queen. It’s a good plot, one not used too much lately in movies. The devil’s in the details, though. In a D&D game, evil wizards capable of succeeding in overthrowing a monarch tend to be capable of tossing fireballs without breaking a sweat. While a group of adventurers can defeat a much higher level opponent if they team up and work together, an evil wizard should be portrayed as smart enough to have lieutenants, henchmen, and minions in between him and any resistance. In the movie, the villain was powerful enough to command dragons and beholders, one of either can be a difficult foe for a group of adventurers.
It could be that the plot needs far more time to resolve properly than a movie can provide. Stopping anyone from taking over a kingdom can be a full campaign spread over several months of play. The same thing happened with the Dragonlance animated film; a ninety minute animated movie wasn’t enough to cover a novel. Even with the expanded DVDs of the Lord of the Rings movies, a lot had to be left out just to get the story told. Epic fantasy just doesn’t fit in a tidy 90-120 minute time slot. Three ways around the problem; the first, look at going to television. TV allows for 13-20 45-minute chunks of time, providing far more time to properly tell a story. The anime Record of Lodoss War lasted thirteen episodes, each one being 25 minutes long, and it was based on an RPG campaign.
Second method involves multiple movies. There’s a risk inherent to the approach; if the first movie isn’t a draw, the story ends incomplete. This seems to be the fate** of The Mortal Instruments. The City of Bones underperformed at the box office. leading to the sequel to be first pushed back and then cancelled, leaving the story unfinished. The goal for the repaired Dungeons & Dragons, under this workaround, is to keep the production costs down without looking cheap to maximize the box office returns. It will be a balancing act to keep the effects looking good while still not breaking the budget.
The third approach is to cut through the backstory and start in media res. The evil wizard is making his move and the adventurers have to act and act now! Details can be filled in as flashbacks and the Seven Samurai-like gathering of the heroes avoided or truncated. The key events are the discovery of the plot, the investigation into how the plot will be enacted, and the stopping of the plot and the wizard. The heroes have a time limit.
While a TV series may be the best approach, to properly fix the movie would be to keep the format***. Multiple movies aren’t a guarantee; unlike Harry Potter or The Hunger Games, Dungeons & Dragons isn’t based on a series of bestselling books. Even Star Wars was filmed to be a stand-alone work if it didn’t do well. That leaves option three, cutting out or cutting down unnecessary events and trimming the gathering of the heroes. The goal, now, is to get something that feels both epic in nature and still personal. To elevated, and the audience doesn’t have a character to follow. Too close, and the saving of the kingdom becomes overwhelming.
The wizard’s plot to take over the kingdom needs a bit of work. Summoning a flight of evil dragons is epic, but one dragon could turn the heroes into cinders without effort. Controlling one is enough and keeps the menace of both the dragon and the wizard intact. A quest to retrieve a means to call a good dragon to counter the wizard’s will allow the dungeon half of the title to appear. The wizard’s motive is power and riches, something the kingdom has in plenty.
Now that the villain’s plot is more or less set, a way to stop or at least neutralize him is in place, it’s time to get the heroes going. Two rogues, a mage apprentice, a dwarf fighter, and an elf ranger discover the scheme and work together to recover the MacGuffin of Good Dragon Summoning before the evil wizard can overthrow the queen. Let’s use a plot point from the original movie, the apprentice discovers that her mentor is part of the evil scheme. Instead of discovering this after stopping two half-competent thieves, she does this and then discovers them looting the lab. This gives her leverage; help her stop the evil wizard or be turned over to her mentor. The rogues, being greedy but decent people, help because while the kingdom, a magocracy, benefits only wizards with non-magical types on the edge of society, having an evil wizard in charge is a change for the worse.
A mage and two rogues aren’t an effective combat force. Earlier editions of D&D saw magic-users who could die if their cat familiar played too rough. Rogues do their best fighting when their opponents can’t see them. The group takes stock and heads to the best place to find someone who is good in a fight, a seedy tavern. “You all meet in a tavern” is a cliché, but works to get players together fast. By choosing a dive where brawls are known to occur nightly, the group can invoke the cliché without engaging it. They’re looking for the last man standing, who turns out to be the dwarf fighter. They explain what’s happening, tell the dwarf there will be lots of fighting, and work out the next step, which is to somehow summon a good dragon. The dwarf knows someone, a ranger, and leads the group to the elf. At this point, the group is as connected as it can get, and time’s wasting.
The dungeon is the location where each character can show off their abilities, though this needs to be subtle. It’s also a chance to bring in some classic monsters that wouldn’t necessarily fit into the plot, though the choices need to be careful. As tempting as it is to toss in a rust monster to scare the dwarf fighter, the creature can look a little silly. The rust monster was based off a toy that Gary Gygax used as a miniature. But, if the rust monster can be brought in and made fearsome, it is iconic to the game and easier to avoid or defeat than a beholder.
The MacGuffin of Good Dragon Summoning now in their hands, the heroes rush back to the capital, but dark clouds loom overhead. The wizard finishes controlling his dragon and sends it out to wreak havoc on the city. The heroes must now use the MacGuffin to call a good dragon while fighting off the wizard’s lieutenants and minions. It’s close, but the good dragon arrives and attacks the evil one. The heroes slip into the city as the wizard closes in on the queen, leading to the final fight. Pyrotechnics go off as the heroes battle the villain while the dragons fight in the background, reflecting the fortune of the heroes. Ultimately, the heroes win, the kingdom is saved, and triumphant music plays.
Plot aside, that leaves the effects, another point of failure. By reducing the number of dragons, that should give the effects team both the time and money to focus on just two instead of two flocks. The dungeon can be built on a set instead of on location, unless a decent catacomb can be found for less. Some set pieces from the original are lost, including the Thieves’ Guild maze, which was a high point of the film. That maze, though, just duplicates the dungeon, and can be let go. The final battle needs to reflect spells that are in the game, and the mage apprentice should run out of spells or be down to utility types like light or mage hand.
Will the above work? It depends on the cast, crew, and budget. Wrath of the Dragon God did show that a D&D movie is possible, provided that the plot can handle the effects budget available. A less ambitious plot could help, as could reducing the time spent on subplots that lead nowhere.
Next week, the June news round up.
* Ninth level magic-user spell that summons a meteor shower on an area that used to have opponents in it.
** A TV series, Shadowhunters, is in the works, however.
*** Besides, D&D has already had a TV series, albeit animated.
Five friends take a vacation in an abandoned, isolated cabin in the woods, only to find themselves at the mercy of the supernatural. A simple premise, but loaded with potential. Sam Raimi’s 1981 film, The Evil Dead, began there, then grew with two sequels, Evil Dead II and Army of Darkness, plus comics and video games, and kicked off careers for not just him but Bruce Campbell and Robert Tapert.
The Evil Dead has five Michigan State students, Ash Williams, his girlfriend Linda, his sister Cheryl, their friend Scotty, and Scotty’s girlfriend Shelly, on spring break. They decide on an isolated cabin in the hills of Tennessee*, but the journey there isn’t uneventful. After a near-collision with another motorist in the downpour, the group barely gets across a bridge before it collapses.
At the cabin, things keep getting odd. Cheryl, while trying to draw a clock, draws a demonic face, her hand and arm possessed at the time. She dismisses what she did as just her imagination playing tricks after the long drive and near death encounters on the road. In the main room, though, a trapdoor flies open. Ash and Scotty go down to investigate and find a book, the Book of the Dead, with unusual bindings and a tape recording. The recording is gibberish to them, but is an incantation to summon evil spirits. Upstairs, a tree crashes through a window, causing Cheryl to become hysterical and leave to her room.
Cheryl, though, hears voices from outside. She goes out to look, only to be attacked, held, and assaulted by trees. Cheryl escapes, but no one believes her story. Trees don’t move like that. Ash, though, does agree to take her back to town. The only bridge connecting the cabin to the rest of the world is gone, trapping everyone.
The demons go to work. They first possess Cheryl, making her warn the others that they’re doomed, then having her stab Linda with a pencil. Cheryl gets locked up, but Shelly is the next to be possessed. Shelly attacks Scotty, who defends himself with an axe. He buries Shelly’s dismembered body, then, still shaken, goes out to find another way to escape the cabin.
When Scotty returns, Linda has been possessed, though she never tried to attack Ash. Scotty has found another way out, but falls unconscious before he could say what it is. Linda and Cheryl convince Ash they’re not posessed, but he doesn’t fall for the trick. Cheryl remains locked up in the cellar and Ash locks Linda out of the cabin. As he tends to Scotty’s injuries, Linda gets back in the cabin and attacks with a ceremonial dagger. Ash turns the tables and stabs Linda. He buries Linda, but isn’t able to dismember her as Scotty did to Shelly. The demon possessing Linda takes advantage and bursts out of the grave. Ash decapitates the possessed Linda with a shovel.
Back at the cabin, Cheryl has escaped the cellar and Scotty is now possessed. Ash finds a shotgun and wounds Cheryl, but needs to reload afterwards. He locks himself in the cellar to look for more shotgun shells. The walls seep blood and voices call to Ash. Cheryl and Scotty break through the door. Ash spies the Book of the Dead and throws it into the flames. Cheryl and Scotty fall apart. Ash returns upstairs as dawn breaks. The final shot is a from the view of an unseen evil being rushing through the woods and leaping at Ash.
The Evil Dead was a low budget horror movie by a first-time feature film director. Raimi kept the production at the isolated cabin, adding more problems as shooting went on. All the effects are practical, with workarounds made to make up for the lack of expensive equipment. Dolly zooms**, the shots where the focus pulls in on an actor while pulling the camera away, were done using a long piece of wood covered with Vaseline because proper dolly cameras weren’t available. The movie became a cult hit despite getting an initial X rating from the amount of violence and gore and, as mentioned above, spawned sequels and a musical.
Raimi and Campbell had wanted to remake the movie over the years, but the idea was on hold in 2009. In 2011, though, Campbell revealed during a Reddit AskMeAnything that there was a script for a remake, one that blew him away. While not directed by Raimi, he chose Fede Alvarez to direct the 2013 Evil Dead, making the movie his feature film debut. Alvarez and Rodo Sayagues co-wrote the script, which was then cleaned up by Diablo Cody to fix the dialogue.
Evil Dead starts with a young woman being kidnapped by two men in the woods and taken to a cabin. She recovers to find herself chained to a post and held in place by barbed wire. Along with the men who kidnapped her is her father, who is trying to tell her its for her own good, and an old witch who is ordering the father to pour gasoline on the woman. The woman pleads to be let go, but as her begging falls on deaf ears, the demon possessing her starts berating her father. He sets his daughter on fire, then shoots her.
Years later, five college-aged friends arrive at the cabin. David and his girlfriend Natalie, along with their friends Eric and Olivia, who is a nurse, have gathered to make sure that David’s sister Mia kicks her heroin habit cold turkey. The isolated nature of the cabin should ensure that Mia isn’t able to obtain more drugs or run off. As the group settles in, Mia smells something off, like something died. Olivia dismisses it as withdrawal symptoms, but Grandpa, David and Mia’s dog, also smells something coming from under a throw rug. The group removes the rug to find a trapdoor and bloodstains leading to it.
The group investigates, finding corpses of animals, a shotgun, and a book wrapped in plastic and bound with barbed wire. They take the book and shotgun back upstairs. Eric, either through curiosity or because the book called to him, removes the barbed wire to start reading. The book, Naturom Demonto or Book of the Dead, is filled with writing and illustrations, along with warnings to not read further. The illustrations are of either demons or their human victims. One page has been heavily scribbled out, but Eric makes an impression to get the original words, which he reads aloud.
Mia senses the awakening of an ancient evil. She tries to get the group to leave, but, again, Olivia dismisses it all as withdrawal symptoms. Mia grabs her car keys and leaves anyway. On the road, she sees a girl in ragged clothes too late to brake. Mia swerves instead, sending her car off the road and into the swamp. The girl reappears, following Mia. Mia runs off into the woods, but is caught on a thorn bush. While it first appears that Mia was just unlucky, the vines grab on to her, holding her in place for the girl. The girl shoots black ooze from her mouth. The ooze writhes along the ground and up Mia’s legs.
David and Olivia have followed Mia, finding her car off the road. They search for her and do find her in shock with a number scratches and thorns. Back at the cabin, Mia tries to warn the group, who, once again, passes off her babblings as withdrawal symptoms. Mia withdraws. David, working outside, finds a trail of blood that leads to his now mortally wounded dog. He storms back in, looking for his sister, who is off taking a shower. In the shower, Mia is fully clothed and turns up the heat. David breaks through the door as second degree burns appear on Mia. Eric recognizes the scene from the Book and finally speaks up about it. David takes Mia with him in his Jeep to get his sister medical attention, but the only way in and out has been washed away, forcing him to return to the cabin.
Back with the others, Mia’s possession goes full-demon as she picks up the shotgun and shoots her brother. David dodges enough so that only his arm is hit. Mia then tells the group, in a voice that isn’t hers, that all five will die, then passes out. Olivia tries to retrieve the shotgun, but Mia recovers and overpowers the nurse, covering her in a vomit of blood. The group manages to push Mia into the cellar and lock her away. Olivia heads to the bathroom to clean up. She sees a distorted view of herself in the mirror just before it explodes. Outside the bathroom, Eric hears an unsettling sound. He heads into the room to see Olivia, now also possessed, cutting her cheek with one of the mirror shards. She sees him and attacks with everything she has, mirror shard and hypodermic needle. Eric fends her off long enough to pick up a heavy piece of porcelain to bludgeon her.
As David tends to Eric’s wounds, Eric explains that everything that has happened is in the Book. The extra notes tell of how to cleanse the evil from the possessed, including dismemberment, live burial, or burning. The Book also tells of how the Taker of Souls needs five souls in order to release the Abomination. Mia and Olivia were just the first two.
The possessed Mia is working on the third. Natalie hears Mia crying in the cellar, confused about what happened to her. She opens the cellar to talk, and discovers that Mia is still possessed. Mia bites Natalie’s hand, but Natalie escapes. In the kitchen, Natalie discovers that her hand is moving of its own accord. Scared that she’s getting possessed and hearing Mia’s maniacal laughter, Natalie does the one thing she can think of to stop the infection – she severs her arm with an electric knife.
David and Eric arrive as Natalie’s arm falls to the floor. They wrap up the stump, then try to work out how to stop Mia. David is unwilling to just kill his sister. During the debate, Natalie picks up the nail gun and attacks the two men. Eric takes most of the nails, and distracts Natalie long enough for David to get the shotgun. David shoots his girlfriend’s remaining arm off.
David pulls Eric outside, along with the gasoline can. The plan is to burn the cabin with Mia inside, but she begins singing a lullaby that their mother sang to them. David’s Plan B is to bury his sister alive. He returns inside and into the cellar, but is surprised by Mia. Mia is surprised by Eric, who knocks her out but is fatally wounded by her box cutter. David carries Mia out to the shallow grave. He gives her a sedative, then buries her. Mia wakes up and taunts him with every shovelful of dirt he adds. With Mia completely buried, he waits several moments, then digs her back up. Mia is dead, but David has built a makeshift defibrillator using items in the cabin. It works, and Mia is herself again.
David returns to the cabin to get the keys for his Jeep. He’s attacked by Eric, who is possessed. David realizes that he can’t survive his neck wound, so gives Mia the keys and pushes her out of the cabin. With just him and Eric inside, David grabs the shotgun and takes aim at the gas can. The fireball kills both him and and the re-animated Eric.
Outside, Mia stares in horror at what happened. As she stands watching the flames, a rain of blood starts. Five have died, and Mia’s clinical death counts. The Abomination awakens. Mia tries to run, but the Abomination keeps up, calling her name in a harsh whisper. Mia realizes she can’t keep running and looks for a way to fight back. Her eyes fall on the chainsaw. It takes a number of attempts to get it started, all while keeping away from the Abomination. It is only while hiding under the Jeep that Mia gets the chainsaw started. She cuts the Abomination’s legs out from under it. Mia can’t get away from the Jeep fast enough, though. The Abomination topples the vehicle on its side, trapping one of Mia’s arms under it.
Horror movies are difficult to remake. Fans of the original have certain expectations, but a shot-for-shot remake means all the twists and scares are known. With an cult classic like The Evil Dead, there are elements that are needed in a remake to keep the feel. Evil Dead managed to keep those elements while still being fresh. The original used camera tricks like dolly zooms and long, low, fast shots through the woods while still being in a cramped environment. Those same tricks return, adding to the oddness of the cabin. Changing the names of the victims also helps. Ash Williams would be expected to survive in a remake. No Ash, no foreknowledge of who, if anyone, survives.
Some things, though, shouldn’t be changed. The trap door, the Book, the chainsaw, the rape-trees, all were key in the original and all return in some form. For an added bonus, Sam Raimi’s 1973 Oldsmobile Delta 88*** returns, as an abandoned car at the cabin. Everything that made The Evil Dead the horror classic it is returns in Evil Dead. Helping to keep that feel are the producers, Sam Raimi, Bruce Campbell, and Robert Tapert, all resposible for the original. Raimi may not be at the helm, but he chose Fede Alvarez. Alvarez delivered a movie that uses the techniques of the original to deliver the chills of the original while still being its own film.
The end result is that Evil Dead is The Evil Dead with a better budget but a tighter film.
* Production filmed in an isolated cabin near Morrison, Tennesee, adding a touch of cinéma verité to the movie. Raimi was known to be happy when his actors bled.
** Also known as Vertigo shots, after the Alfred Hitchcock movie.
*** The Delta 88 has appeared in every movie and series that Sam Raimi has worked on, including Spider-Man as the car Peter’s uncle drove and even in an episode of Xena: Warrior Princess.
Television in the Eighties saw a shift in tone occur in police procedurals and investigation series. While individual series had their darker moments and character focus, the trend wasn’t picked up by competing shows. Two series did lay the groundwork, though. Hawaii Five-O, 1968-1980, showed that a police procedural can get involved in a longer plot, specifically, McGarrett’s quest to bring down Wo Fat. The Rockford Files, 1974-1980, had a balance between Jim Rockford’s work and home life and included the conflicts between the two. From that start, shows like Magnum, P.I., 1980-1988, The A-Team, 1983-1987, and Miami Vice, 1984-1990, expanded what stories could be told. Magnum started as a detective series, but, as the seasons progressed, delved deeper into the title character’s background in Naval Intelligence during the Viet Nam War. The A-Team started as light action-adventure, but had four Viet Nam vets and later got into how that war had changed them. Miami Vice grew beyond the concept of “MTV Cops”* and, again, went into the relationships between the characters. Vice also provided a stylized approach to violence, using music to set the mood of the scene.
In 1985, a new drama debuted on CBS. The Equalizer, starring Edward Woodward as Robert McCall, combined elements from three different genres – espionage, detective, and vigilante. McCall, a former agent with “The Company”**, advertised his services in the classified ads section of the newspaper; “Got a problem? Odds against you? Call the Equalizer.” Each week, McCall would use his unique skill set to deal with problems that law wouldn’t or couldn’t be involved in. The Equalizer’s background was never stated outright, though as the series progressed, McCall’s past returned to haunt him. The series’ approach to violence also broke new ground. Instead of being stylized, as seen in Miami Vice, or over-the-top, as in The A-Team, The Equalizer saw violence that was intense and personal to a degree that hadn’t been seen on television before.
Part of the change in how violence was portrayed came from a looser hold on what was allowed on television. The Eighties saw cable television expand, with new channels available for a low, low cost. Premium channels cost more, but added to the variety available. With specialty channels catering to specific interests, such as MTV showing music videos and only music videos, viewers weren’t limited to watching what the major networks aired. Prior to cable, ABC, CBS, and NBC all set their programming to maximize audience size. Controversy would drive away part of the potential viewers to the competition, so programming was aimed at the lowest common denominator. The advent of cable meant that the networks had to lure viewers back. Old staples fell away as the Big Three revamped their lineups. Since they couldn’t use some elements that cable channels had available, such as gratuitous nudity, the networks had to get creative in other areas. Thus, Miami Vice‘s marriage of police drama and music video and The Equalizer‘s use of intense, personal, and implied violence. The show may not have shown much, but it allowed the viewers’ imagination to fill in the gaps.
The Equalizer ran until 1989. Edward Woodward suffered a heart attack in 1987, forcing him to reduce his workload as he recovered. The show won an Edgar Award for Best Television Episode Teleplay in 1987 for the “The Cup”, where McCall helps Mickey Kostmeyer, his assistant through the series, protect his brother, a priest who had heard a confession about an assassination by a KGB agent.
In 2014, Denzel Washington starred in a remake movie, also called The Equalizer. Washington plays Robert McCall, who appears to have an unremarkable life, spending time at night at a 24-hour diner and working at a hardware store during the day. A widower, he spends his free time reading the 100 books that everyone should read, since his late wife had been doing the same, passing away before she could finish the last three books on the list. At the diner, he befriends a young Russian woman, Adena, played by Chloë Grace Moritz, who works as a prostitute. She shares her dreams with McCall, who tells her that all she needs to do is change her world. McCall also has friends at work, including Ralphie, played by Johnny Skourtis, a clerk who wants to become a security guard at the store with McCall’s help. Some of his co-workers wonder what he did before, believing he may have worked in finance. McCall says that he was a Pip, as in Gladys Knight and the Pips.
When Adena’s pimps put her in the hospital, McCall discovers where there office is and pays them a visit. He offers $9800 in cash to buy Adena’s freedom. The Russian mobsters just laugh at him. McCall starts to leave, then locks the office’s entrance. The next thirty seconds sees McCall demonstrating why the enforcers should have taken the money. The five mobsters are killed, with the lead enforcer shot in the neck and able to watch the action before he dies.
Viewers who aren’t familiar with the original series may suspect that McCall is far more than he appears. An older gentleman who works at a hardware store, spends his free time reading classic novels, and lives in a small apartment should not have $9800 in cash, nor should he understand Russian, nor should he be able to kill five Russian mobster half his age. Yet, McCall did. Not much later, there’s an armed robbery at the hardware store. McCall approaches the cash where the robbery is happening, aware of what’s going on. He notes a few details of the thief, including the skull head on the robber’s hoodie zipper, similar to the skulls in the mobsters’ office, and the gang tattoos. When the robber demands the cashier’s ring, one that belonged to her late mother, McCall appears ready to take action but is stopped when he sees a family with young children enter. Instead, he has the cashier give over her ring, then follows the thief to get the license plate of his car. The scene ends with McCall picking up a sledgehammer from the racks. The next day, the cashier opens her drawer and sees her mother’s ring. McCall is then seen wiping down a sledgehammer before returning it to the rack.
The Russian mob isn’t happy with the loss of their gangsters. The five men killed weren’t just pimps; they were senior members of the mob’s organization in Boston. Vladimir Pushkin, played by Vladimir Kulich, the head of the gang, sends an investigator, Teddy, played by Marton Csokas, an ex-Spetsnaz soldier who’s capability for violence isn’t tempered by civility. Teddy is a blunt instrument, who doesn’t care about anything except finding the men who killed the senior gangsters. His investigation leads him to McCall, who appears to be a plain American. Teddy’s instincts, though, tell him that everything about McCall is wrong.
Pushkin’s mob has its fingers in many pies, including protection rackets and police corruption. That combination is why Ralphie leaves the hardware store despite his hard work to qualify for the guard exams; his mother’s restaurant was burned down after she was unable to pay a pair of corrupt cops. McCall tracks Ralphie down to find out why he left so suddenly and notices the scorch marks at the restaurant. He finds the corrupt cops, records them on their rounds, and forces them to return the money extorted.
After another confrontation with Teddy, McCall gets photos of the enforcer and takes them to friends who are also former agents. The friends pass along all the information they have on Teddy, including his real name and his background. McCall takes the information and starts a one-man war against the Russian mob. His first stop is with one of the corrupt cops, Frank Masters, played by David Harbour. McCall forces Masters to take him to Pushkin’s money laundering operation, which he then shuts down, paying the Chinese women sorting and bagging the money before they leave then calling in the FBI. Masters gives up his escape plans to McCall, which include a USB memory stick filled with who was being paid off by the mob and for how much. The FBI receives a copy of the data through an anonymous tip. The second stop for McCall is to destroy one of Pushkin’s ships filled with valuable cargo, along with the pumping station used to fill the tanker.
With the hit to the mob’s income, Pushkin gets insistant that the man responsible be found and killed. Teddy brings in his own people, but loses one before they can even get started. McCall meets with Teddy, bringing the broken glasses of the Russian’s own man with him. The point of the conversation is to give Teddy and the mob the choice of shutting down operations and leaving peacefully. Teddy scoffs and refuses. McCall shrugs and walks away.
Teddy has done his homework, finding where McCall works. He has men take the store employees hostage during closing then calls McCall. McCall now has a choice; show up in twenty-nine minutes at Teddy’s location or his friends and co-workers will be killed in thirty. Teddy tracks McCall’s movement by using the GPS on the the American’s phone. The bus the signal is on approaches the Russian’s location. Teddy has a sniper ready to shoot McCall on the bus, except the bus is empty. Teddy was tracking the phone, but the phone rode alone.
McCall, instead, is at the hardware store. The Russians have the employees in a back room. Teddy gives the order to kill one, but Gladys Knight and the Pips starts playing over the store’s intercom. One of the mobsters forces Ralphie to take him to the security office. McCall is ready and kills the mobster. In the back room, the radio crackles and a Russian voice asks for assistance. The other mobster is dealt with as quickly as the first. McCall tells Ralphie to get the employees out the back, then gets ready for Teddy’s arrival.
Teddy arrives at the store. The lights all go out as soon as he and his men are inside, the main doors locking. Teddy and his men are armed, but McCall not only has had time to prepare but knows the layout of the store far better. McCall sets out traps, waiting for one of the Russians to come by before triggering them. Soon, it’s just McCall and Teddy, with Ralphie back to assist.
There were a few changes made between the original TV series and the movie. The location moved from New York City to Boston, though that change was to take advantage of not just shooting locations but the difference in organized crime in the cities. New York City is known for the Mafia, the Five Families with ties to Italy. Boston, however, is more diverse, with Italian, Irish, and Russian mobs. As well, Washington’s McCall is far more integrated with his community. Woodward’s McCall was the outsider who lived in New York but wasn’t a part of day-to-day life. This McCall would be called in to solve a problem. Washington’s McCall was a part of the community, helping friends and co-workers with problems, from getting Ralphie ready to qualify as a security guard to retrieving a co-worker’s special ring. This McCall, like Woodward’s, may have been atoning, but the approach was different. The core of the character, though, was there. A former agent with a skill set that could be used to help those who needed it, and a willingness to get involved.
The movie showed more violence than the TV series did, though that is more from movies having far more leeway, depending on rating, to depict violent acts than television. The tone remained, though, and not all violence was shown. Much more was implied. The armed robber never re-appeared after fleeing the crime scene; all the audience sees is McCall picking up a sledgehammer, the ring in the cashier’s register, and McCall wiping the sledgehammer down before returning it to the racks. Credit for maintaining the feel of the TV series goes to Antoine Fuqua, the director. Fuqua, who broke into movies with The Replacement Killers and worked with Denzel Washington on Training Day, maintained the mix of everyday life and McCall’s past, using the contrast to heighten the mood. The theatrical remake of The Equalizer keeps the tone of the original series while taking advantage of being a movie and modern technology. The Robert McCall of both is easily recognizable, though each version is its own take on the character.
Of note, the movie performed well enough at the box office that Sony has announced a sequel, provided that Fuqua and Washington both have the time in their schedules that mesh with each other.
Next week, the April news round-up.
* Brandon Tartikoff, head of NBC Entertainment, had used the term, “MTV Cops”, wanting a show that included the visual style of a music video, but that concept did not turn into /Miami Vice/. [http://spinoff.comicbookresources.com/2014/08/06/tv-legends-revealed-did-miami-vice-really-begin-as-mtv-cops/]
** The series never specified which intelligence agency and just called it “The Company”, though the implications were that it was the CIA.
Welcome back to the Adaptation Fix-it Shop. The goal: rehabilitate remakes and reboots that, for one reason or another, just didn’t work. This time in the shop, Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun Li.
The Legend of Chun Li is the second Street Fighter movie. The first, Street Fighter: The Movie also had issues, but the delicate balance the movie has between brilliance and inanity makes tinkering with it a difficult proposition. The Legend of Chun Li, though, has the issue of not quite feeling like a Street Fighter movie. There are two separate narratives in the film; one following Chun Li and her search for her father, the other following a pair of Interpol investigators trying to bring down M. Bison’s criminal organization. The separate plot lines do eventually merge late in the running time of the movie, but, until then, they’re in competition with each other for screen time.
The obvious fix is to pull the narratives apart, placing them in their own works away from the other. The Legend of Chun Li is an origin story; taking the focus off Chun Li detracts from the purpose of revealing her background. The Interpol investigation could stand alone without the Street Fighter ties; there is no reason for the main villain to be M. Bison. With the idea of pulling apart the narratives in mind, let’s rebuild The Legend of Chun Li.
One issue that needs to be dealt with early, the mix of martial arts and gun play. When a movie emphasizes martial arts, guns stop being effective, at least when used on the heroes. Likewise, the heroes never touch a gun. Why should they when their body is a far more effective weapon? The Legend of Chun Li mixed the two, adding to the narrative split. Chun Li avoided guns, but the Interpol agents were effective with them. The mix added to the issues the movie had. Another problem, this time stemming from the Interpol investigation, is that the narrative requires the villain be stopped, one way or another. Because Bison is a key character from the video game, he has, or, should have, script immunity, as will any character working for him that appeared in the game. Yet, given the events that happen in the movie, allowing Bison to escape will make the investigators look bad, especially given how close they got to him. Time to fix this.
I’ll start with the Street Fighter elements. It’s Chun Li’s origin story; how she became the character in the video game. The video game had her as a martial artist from China working as an Interpol agent avenging the death of her father. The Legend of Chun Li did have that up until the end, where she turned down the Interpol agents. Even having her father working for M. Bison’s organziation can be kept. Bison, though, is a would-be world conqueror with a criminal organization. It seems to be a step down to become just an land developer with no scruples. Bison should be up there in the same ranks as Blofeld, the Red Skull, and Cobra Commander. Why else would he have the spiffy red uniform? Given that several other characters from the video game also have a bone to pick with Bison, if The Legend of Chun Li is the start of a series of origin movies leading to a final showdown against Shadaloo, then Bison needs to survive the movie.
Now that I have the required elements, time to put things together. The goal of the story is to get Chun Li working for Interpol. Defeating Bison once and for all is out; we need him for another movie if this works. Disrupting one of Bison’s plans is possible, though. Chun Li needs a history with him, even if it happened on a Tuesday. The early part of The Legend of Chun Li, showing her time as a young girl, can be used, if only to show her relationship with her father. Even Bison’s organization kidnapping him can be kept, though having him appear to Chun Li should be avoided. Again, the goal is to get her into Interpol to avenge her father’s death. Chun Li needs to track her father and see him die at Bison’s hand, to make sure her quest for vengeance is personal. Bison, for his part, needs an appropriate scheme. The land flipping in the movie is a start, but it shouldn’t be the end goal. The man has eyes on taking over the world. Getting power over elected and unelected officials is just part of the plan. Replacing them, taking over their country, building up a private army, that’s more world conqueror. The land flipping needs to lead into the bigger scheme, something that Chun Li can disrupt while still letting Bison escape.
The tone is going to be difficult. On one hand, the almost cartoon-ish approach of Street Fighter: The Movie is too light. At the same time, the martial arts involved aren’t that realistic, even if they are based on real arts. The video game characters toss fireballs and perform upside-down flying spin kicks. The movie’s tone has to handle the almost-superheroic powers. This is why I compared Bison to the Red Skull and Cobra Commander; his scheme needs to be achievable but matching the over-the-top-ness of the video game’s martial arts. Buying up land on the cheap is too real. Using that land to hide a mind-control laser is too unreal. There’s a sweet spot somewhere in the middle.
At this point, I have Bison kidnapping Chun Li’s father to use him as part of a nefarious plot, Chun Li learning martial arts to help her track her father’s kidnapper, and Bison executing the father in front of Chun Li. Her father needs to be integral to the scheme; scientist is usually a good role and the specialization can inform the nature of Bison’s plot. At some point, though, Chun Li’s father becomes superfluous and is either killed to prove to Chun Li that Bison means business or is killed out of hand to eliminate a loose end. Either way, Chun Li witnesses the execution. Through this, Chun Li battles waves of Bison’s troops, starting with mooks both singly and en masse before running into on of Bison’s lieutenants. The Legend of Chun Li used Balrog for this role, though Vega got a brief cameo for the sake of a cameo. In either character’s case, the fight must leave whoever appears alive, though unconscious or thrown off a building into a container of pillows are acceptable end conditions. The final battle should involve Chun Li and Bison, with Bison getting away. The appearance of an Interpol team who needs help from Chun Li should be enough to let Bison get into an escape craft; the idea should be that, if the fight wasn’t interrupted, Chun Li could have won. Interpol recruits her, and the movie ends.
The idea is very loose, and The Legend of Chun Li did incorporate most of the above. The difference is that the above outline keeps the focus on Chun Li. Interpol is there solely because the organization needs to recruit her. The agents appear at the end, though hints throughout the new movie can be inserted. Shadowy people on street corners watching Chun Li can reveal themselves at the end when they need to be rescued, for example. The Interpol angle, though, is a subplot, not the main plot.
With the Street Fighter elements taken out, what can be done with the Interpol half of The Legend of Chun Li? The investigation was a decent enough crime drama. With the requirement to be tied into the Street Fighter setting removed, the criminal land developer becomes a decent mastermind. The land flipping makes sense as a plot, something that local police can’t handle because the upper echelons have been bribed or ordered to ignore what is happening. The over-the-top martial arts are gone, allowing the agents to use guns and normal combat techniques in the final assault. The running time of the movie that dealt with Chun Li can now be dedicated to either the investigation or the machinations of the villain. The Interpol agents can come into their own instead of sharing a plot with a licensed character.
The key issue with Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun Li was the tone. The movie just did not have the right field. Part of the problem was keeping Bison as a realistic, though exaggerated, crime lord. Separating Chun Li’s origins and the Interpol subplot allows both to thrive.
Next week, a look at adaptations through the history of film.
The atomic bomb has been used just twice in war, both times on Japan. The destruction the bomb wrought led to nuclear escalation between the US and the USSR, and a permanent change in the Japanese psyche. Post-war atomic testing on uninhabited islands still had fallout. Even now, nuclear energy isn’t trusted fully. In science fiction, atomic radiation leads to mutations. Marvel Comics’ X-Men are specifically called the Children of the Atom. Spider-Man gained his powers from a irradiated arachnid. Going back further, though, leads to the grandfather of atomic changes.
Gojira first hit Japanese movie theatres in 1954 and featured a monster that had been reawakened by nuclear weapons testing. The monster symbolized the destructive potential of nuclear weapons, something Japan had experienced first hand. Although not the first kaiju*, Gojira became the example of what giant monsters, daikaiju are. The movie starts with ships being attacked at sea near Odo Island by an unknown vessel, one that disappears as quick as it appears. The investigators discover that the islanders used to sacrifice girls to a monster called Gojira to appease it. During a storm that wracks the island, more destruction occurs, far worse than accountable by the storm. This time, there is a witness who can identify the cause – Gojira!
An archaeologist discovers large radioactive footprints and a trilobite that is normally found in the depths of the sea. An alarm sounds, and the archaeologist, along with the villagers, run to the hills, only to meet Gojira himself, towering over the island. A short, desperate skirmish breaks out long enough for the villagers to get to safety. Gojira returns to the ocean.
In Tokyo, the findings are given over to a commission. Nuclear explosions are responsible for reawakening and freeing the daikaiju. A discussion about whether to reveal the monster’s existance or not later, the public is informed. The Japanese Self-Defense Force sends ships to drop depth charges. Instead of killing Gojira as planned, the charges merely attract his attention to the ships and Japan. Gojira attacks Tokyo, emerging from Tokyo Bay, leaving a trail of destruction not seen since the Allied bombing of the city. Emergency measures are put in place, including a fence of electrical towers that will give off a 50 000 volt shock when walked through and the evacuation of Tokyo. Gojira returns. The electric fence does little to slow the monster down; Gojira destroys the wires with his atomic breath. Tanks fire but can’t penetrate Gojira’s hide. Once again, Tokyo suffers under the rage of the daikaiju until he leaves in the morning.
However, Tokyo may have a chance at surviving. Daisuke Serizawa has developed the Oxygen Destroyer, a side effect of his research into cleaner energy. The Oxygen Destroyer does exactly what it says on the tin – it destroys oxygen atoms. Anything needing to breathe oxygen is left asphyxiating. Serizawa is well aware of the potential misuse of his invention, though, and is hesitant to use it. Once he sees the extent of Gojira’s destruction, he changes his mind. To be safe, he burns his notes on the Oxygen Destroyer so that they can’t be used to create more. Serizawa is taken by ship to the last known location of Gojira. Finding the monster, Serizawa activates the Oxygen Destroyer, then cuts his own oxygen cable. Both he and Gojira perish.
The implications of Gojira, that the monster is more an unstoppable act of nature caused by nuclear radiation, is woven through the movie. The military is helpless as Gojira rampages through Tokyo. The destruction is immense. Nuclear weapons testing led to Gojira’s reawakening, which in turn led to Tokyo’s destruction.
In 1956, the movie was retitled Godzilla: King of Monsters and brought over to North America. New scenes with Canadian actor Raymond Burr were added to reduce the amount of dubbing needed. Burr played an American reporter who was on the scene when Godzilla first attacked Tokyo, telling the story as a flashback. This Godzilla was then released in Japan in 1957 and was popular like the original.
Despite being an actor in a rubber suit, Godzilla moved like the giant monster he was supposed to be. Part of this came from the sheer mass of the original suit. The added verisimulitude helped win popularity, which led to Toho producing /Godzilla/ movies through to 2004. Along the way, other daikaiju either fought or teamed up with Godzilla, inluding King Kong, King Ghidorah, Mothra, and Mechagodzilla. Godzilla also served as inspiration for other giant monsters, including Gorgo and Gamera. As mentioned, Godzilla wasn’t the first giant monster, but he was the most influential. Few other daikaiju had songs written about them. Over the years, Godzilla became less a danger and more the protector of Earth, defending the planet against would-be destroyers and conquerors, including humans.
In 1992, Tri-Star picked up the rights to Godzilla with an eye on making a trilogy. The first, Godzilla, was released in 1998. It starts much the same as the original, a fish canning ship is attacked by an unknown creature and is found washed ashore, this time in the Atlantic. The US sends the military to investigate, pulling in experts in biology and paleontology, including Nick Tatopoulos. Nick, played by Matthew Broderick, was pulled from his investigation of the effects of radiation on worms in Chernobyl, Ukraine. Meanwhile, Philippe Roaché, a French insurance investigator, is also looking into the attack on the canning ship, ostensibly for purposes of insurance payout. He tracks down a survivor of the attack, who is only able to say one word, “Gojira.”
Early appearances of Godzilla are brief; the most seen of the monster are the spikes along his back. It’s only when Godzilla arrives in New York City that the audience sees him fully. Instead of being an actor in a rubber suit, the new Godzilla is rendered with CGI. Jurassic Park, originally released in 1993, helped make great strides in rendering dinosaurs with CG, and the new Godzilla benefited. However, the new Godzilla was based on iguanas and lizards, creating a new look for the giant monster. Still, New York suffered the same fate Tokyo did in the original Gojira, with massive damage to streets and buildings. And, just like the original, the military was helpless to stop the monster.
As New York is evacuated to New Jersey, Mayor Ebert tries to stay on top of matters, more to help get re-elected than anything else. During the chaos, the military loses sight of Godzilla. As blame gets thrown about, the civilian specialists work out what happened just as an Army recon squad reports that one building they checked had no more floor. Godzilla went underground. Nick comes up with an idea to get the monster back above ground to give the Army another go at him – fish. A large pile of fish is dumped near Times Square and manhole covers removed to let Godzilla smell the bait. The plan works; Godzilla breaks through the street from underneath and goes after the fish, giving time for the squadron of Apache helicopters to move in and attack. The helicopters’ missiles are useless, missing Godzilla and destroying the Chrysler Building instead. The reason – the missiles carried are heat seekers and have nothing to lock on. Being cold-blooded, Godzilla is the same temperature as his surroundings. Switching to miniguns, the Apaches pursue Godzilla through the ruins of mid-town Manhattan. The tall buildings become a maze, and the pilots lose the monster. The monster, however, did not lose the helicopters, and prey becomes predator again. Hemmed in by the towers, the helicopter pilots aren’t able to pull away* from Godzilla and are made a snack. Godzilla disappears again.
Nick makes a few calculations and realizes that the amount of fish from the canning ship, from three fishing ships that disappeared, and from the pile he had the Army make was far more food than needed. He grabs a sample of Godzilla’s blood, then finds an open pharmacy where he buys every pregnancy test available. While in the pharmacy, he runs into an old girlfriend, one who had rejected his marriage proposal. He takes her back to his tent, doubling as a lab, catching up on old times along the way. Nick finds out that his ex works at a TV station, then finds out that Godzilla may very well be pregnant, either about to lay eggs or has just laid them. The biologist runs off to warn the Army of his discovery and to perform proper tests to confirm his results.
With Nick gone, his ex, Audrey, played by Maria Pitillo, takes a tape showing the path Godzilla has taken, including footage of the survivor saying, “Gojira,” to her station. The tape is immediately placed on the air, right as Nick is trying to explain the pregnancy. Nick is kicked off the investigation. As he leaves, he meets Philippe. Nick explains the problem and gets Philippe, played by Jean Reno, on his side. Turns out, Philippe isn’t an insurance investigator; he works for the Direction génèral de la sécurité extérieure, or the French Secret Service. Philippe has been tracking the destruction from French Guyana to New York with an eye on stopping the monster. Nick, Philippe, and Philippe’s small team head into New York to look for the eggs.
Back in New Jersey, the collective armed forces of the US come up with a new plan to kill Godzilla. Once again luring him out, the Air Force directs Godzilla towards the ocean, where two submarines wait. Torpedoes are fired, but Godzilla is not only able to out-swim them, he lures them into one of the subs, destroying it. A second brace of torpedoes is fired and this time, Godzilla is hit. Mayor Ebert hears the news and starts insisting on having the evacuees returned to their homes in Manhattan. Colonel Hicks, played by Kevin Dunn, wants to confirm the death of Godzilla.
Back on the island, Nick and the French spies discover Godzilla’s nest. All of seats in the stands of Madison Square Garden have an egg, each one on the verge of hatching. As the Godzilla-lings emerge, hungry, they go after the fish and anything that smells like fish, including Nick and the French. The group makes the only rational decision possible – to run, blocking the doors to the arena. However, they’re still stuck inside the building. Fortunately, Audrey and her cameraman, Animal, were following him and know where the broadcast room is. Philippe, the sole French survivor of his team, assists in unlocking the door to the broadcast room. Audrey forces a break into the TV station’s live feed, letting the Army know where the offspring are. Nick joins her and explains the problem; Godzilla’s offspring are asexual, born pregnant, and are hungry; basically, they’re less fluffy tribbles.
Colonel Hicks calls for an air strike, giving the survivors inside Madison Square Garden six minutes to escape. It’s close, but they do get out. The baby Godzillas are derstroyed, but Godzilla returns. During the chase, where the heroes have borrowed a taxi to try to outrun a monster that can hit 80mph, Nick gets a message through to Colonel Hicks about Godzilla. A last ditch plan is made; draw out the monster to a bridge so that the Air Force can use missiles without buildings being locked on instead. The first missile strike staggers the monster; the second kills it.
The first half of the movie does a good job recreating the events of the original Gojira. The problem begins when the tone of the movie switches from “giant monster” to “action”. The original Godzilla took extreme efforts to stop; the subsequent films either have Godzilla as an act of nature, impossible to stop, or a protector, one who inflicts a lot of collateral damage. The design of the new Godzilla is closer to Repitilicus and The Beast of 20,000 Fathoms, with a touch of The Giant Gila Monster. Toho, the company that created the Godzilla franchise, has renamed the monster in the movie “Zilla”, but hasn’t completely disavowed the film.
The scene involving Zilla chasing the Apache helicopters had an odd special effects failure. Nothing wrong with Zilla’s CG. New York just looked like it was a model, as did the helicopters. Given the nature of the movie, was it an error or was it deliberate, a callback to the use of a model Tokyo and model military vehicles in Gojira? Given that the rest of the movie didn’t show any problems, the choice seems deliberate.
Godzilla has issues as an adaptation, as pointed out above. The issues, though, do really start after Zilla reaches Manhattan. Until then, it does feel like a proper adaptation of Gojira.
* Apparently, the pilots forgot that they could go in three dimensions, specifically up. The Apache has a service ceiling of about 21 000 feet, much higher than even the tallest building in New York City.
Let’s round up those tidbits and see what’s going on.
NBC drops a house on Emerald City.
NBC’s entry to the 2015-16’s Wizard of Oz lineup has had its plug pulled and water poured on the corpse. Emerald City was going to be The Wizard of Oz as seen through a the lens of A Game of Thrones. Disagreements between NBC and showrunner Josh Friedman launched the suborbital house drop. Friedman will shop Emerald City around.
Chloë Moretz says Kick-Ass 3 dead due to piracy. Screen Rant says, not so fast.
Kick-Ass 2 broke even in the US with overseas markets adding to its total take. Moretz, who played Hit-Girl, believes that piracy was a factor in the low take. Screen Rant counters with a 29% rating at Rotten Tomatoes, a factor that the R-rated movie wasn’t that good to start.
Blade Runner 2 has a script.
Sir Ridley Scott has confirmed that the Blade Runner 2 script is done and will have Harrison Ford back. Filming has not been scheduled; Prometheus 2, with its March 2016 release date, may cause a delay in the filming of Blade Runner 2.
Museum of London and the BFI need help finding Sherlock Holmes.
The 1914 film A Study in Scarlet, the earliest known Sherlock Holmes adaptation, is the second oldest on the BFI‘s Most Wanted list. If found, contact sherlockholmes at bfi.org.uk or use the #FindSherlock tag on Twitter.
The Greatest American Hero getting reboot movie.
The creators of The LEGO Movie are adapting the Stephen J. Cannell series as a TV series on Fox. The original series featured an inner-city school teacher who finds a super suit but loses the instruction manual.
Patrick Warburton to return as The Tick.
Amazon will be making new episodes of the series. Fox had aired nine episodes of the live-action adaptation of the Ben Edlund comic in 2001, with an animated series running on the same network earlier from 1994 to 1997. The Tick – comic, animated, and live-action – was a parody of superheroes.
Stan Lee confirms Black Panther movie.
During a panel at Fan Expo Canada, held in Toronto, Stan Lee let slip that the Black Panther will have a movie. Marvel’s plans are to have a movie with all their heroes.
Casting has begun for Ghost in the Shell live action adaptation.
Margot Robbie, seen in The Wolf of Wall Street has been cast in the American live action adaptation of Ghost in the Shell.
Neil Gaiman’s “Hansel & Gretel” graphic novel to become movie.
Juliet Blake, producer of The Hundred-Foot Journey, has picked up the rights to Gaiman’s as yet unreleased graphic novel retelling “Hansel & Gretel”. The graphic novel should be out in October.
AMC orders companion series to The Walking Dead.
The so far untitled new series will take a look at what’s happening elsewhere during the zombie apocalypse. AMC has released few details beyond that. The Walking Dead also returns for a fifth season this fall.
Warner Bros. has Legion of Superheroes movie in pre-pre-production.
So far, just rumours that a Legion of Superheroes movie is coming, but Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy may have put some fear into Warner. Legion began in 1958 centred on Super-Boy but evolved to stand on its own. The team has appeared in live-action before, being featured in the Smallville episode “Legion”.
Fox to air series based on Neil Gaiman’s take on Lucifer.
Countering NBC’s Constantine, Lucifer will follow the titular devil, based on Gaiman’s work in Sandman and Milton’s Paradise Lost. The fallout from the show should be impressive, especially over at FOX News.
CBS picks up Supergirl series.
The Warner produced Supergirl TV series has been picked up by CBS, allowing the The Eye to join the other broadcast networks in superhero shows. Fox has Gotham, the Batman prequel. NBC has Constantine. CW has the ongoing Arrow and the new kid Flash. ABC is reaping fortune by having the same owner as Marvel – Disney – and both Agents of SHIELD and new series Agent Carter.
Deadpool movie confirmed.
The Merc with the Mouth will finally get the movie people have been wanting. Fox announced that the movie will be released February of 2016. Ryan Reynolds will return to play the character. Filming has not yet started, and the announcement of the Deadpool movie has bumped the Assassin’s Creed movie off Fox’s release schedule completely.
Real Genius being turned into a TV series.
The 80s movie, Real Genius, which starred Val Kilmer, is getting remade as a sitcom. Adam Sandler’s Happy Madison Productions is one of the studios on board with the reboot.