Around The Margin – The Answers to Geek’s Most Frequently Asked Questions.

by: The Nerds Across the Margin

“Being a geek is all about being honest about what you enjoy and not being afraid to demonstrate that affection. It means never having to play it cool about how much you like something. It is basically a license to emote on a somewhat childish level rather than behave like a supposed adult. Being a geek is extremely liberating.”

-Simon Pegg

We understand that this piece is not for everyone. But it is for those who want the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, regarding some of the most pressing issues that nerds (fanboys, geeks….call them what you will) deliberate on the daily. What the voices of Across the Margin have done here (is what we always have done…”turn death into a fighting chance to live”) is attempt to get to the bottom of the whitest of white people problems – nerdy controversies. From comic books to blockbusters, from Spielberg to JJ Abrams, from Luke to Anakin, few stones are left unturned in the search for answers. Brace yourself…..Across the Margin has gone to plaid…..

1. What responsibility do filmmakers have when it comes to adapting a beloved comic book to the big screen? Who has done it best? Worst?

CMT: In my mind it all comes down to humanizing the Superhero which I must say a lot of the times means keeping it dark. Deviating from that darkness can get you into big trouble and can alienate your viewing audience. Take the 90’s Batman franchise for example. Tim Burton set a high bar with Batman and Batman Returns in ‘89 and ‘92. Strong acting from veterans Keaton, Basinger, Nicholson, Walken, Pfifer and Devito helped to drive home that anti-hero theme. Then Schumacher took over and turned Batman into a family-friendly, campy experience; totally derailing the momentum and good-will that Burton had built up with the previous two films. Nolan’s reboot went back to Burton’s original themes of darkness and realism, thus allowing us all to do what we had been wanting to do from the beginning: CARE about Bruce Wayne and his alter ego Batman.

Rau: I can’t argue with any of that. I think the Batman franchise has definitely been overall the most well produced comic adaptation. I will however say that, even while I personally have never been a Superman guy, the original Superman movies were pretty ridiculous. Christopher Reeves and Gene Hackman were incredible casting choices and really embody those characters almost perfectly.

MCS: When we speak of the film adaptations I do believe the filmmaker has an obligation in some ways – first to the author (to portray his vision in a respectful way), second to the fan (these are the people that pay the bills at the end of the day), and lastly to the franchise. That is, it takes decades to lay the foundation, the back-story, of a great hero and only one bad movie to really put a stink on the whole thing. I think it is in the filmmaker’s (the studio driving the picture as well) benefit to stick to the script as much as possible as this keeps the fanboys happy and everyone else will be a satisfied customer as long as the product is good. I am speaking in general terms as I think we all know who has nailed it: Nolan, Snyder (Both X-Men and Watchmen), Donner, and Burton…and who has shit the bed: Schumacher.

CMT: The genre is littered with the bones of movies that got it wrong: Green Lantern, Daredevil, Ang Lee’s The Hulk, Catwoman (ugh!), League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (an insult to Alan Moore, the Philip K. Dick of graphic novels), Elektra, and Ghost Rider, to name more than a few. I’m insulted that some of my favorite superhero’s growing up have had their reputations sullied by these no talent ass clowns.

MCS: “Chill Out” – Mr. Freeze (Batman and Robin, 1997)

Fresh: Sin City was a bold endeavor. Robert Rodriquez’s vision was not to adapt but to translate, recreating shots in the movie panel for panel and transferring the dialogue to the script verbatim. He even went so far as to take on Frank Miller as a co-director. Regardless what you may think of the movie, it was a very disciplined adaptation with an incredible cast.

MCS: I am glad you brought that up. A remarkable film and the finest example of attempting pure translation there is.

CMT: As Mikey so well pointed out…know your obligations and stick to the established cannon. Humanize the superhero so we can relate and we’ll be eating it up with a shovel. Punish him/her. Take away what it is that makes them human and let us think that all is lost. That they can’t possibly go on. Can never win. And then blow the doors off the fuckin’ movie! Have them dig deep and find the strength that they never even existed. Have them throw caution to the wind and rise up against the crush of evil. Deviating from these age old tenements of storytelling is a one-way ticket to being Bantha fodder.

2. More annoying: Young Luke or Young Anakin? (A question that opens the door to discuss George Lucas’s prequels to the mighty, original, and perfect, trilogy – and prequels in general…..)

CMT: It all comes down to motivation. They are both equally annoying in their own right but when you properly weigh the circumstances you can clearly see a frontrunner. Luke was young and brash, insolent but not disrespectful and had a far-away look in his eyes like he knew he was destined for something greater. But in an effort to protect Luke from repeating his fathers mistakes, his Uncle Owen chose to stifle his dreams. So Luke lashes out whenever the small victories that he could attain for himself, which made life somewhat less intolerable for him, where taken away. Totally understandable. Case in point: Luke’s uncle has just acquired R2-D2 and C3P0 from the Jawa’s. Luke had plans to meet-up with some of his friends but this was spoiled by Owen wanting Luke to clean the droids before supper to which Luke responds “But I was going to go into Tosche Station to pick-up some spare power converters!” Annoying times a million. But I understand him. I know where he’s coming from. This wasn’t said out of selfishness or disrespect but out of frustration. Going to Tosche Station and horsing around with Biggs is important to Luke. It reinforces in him the feeling that he’s alive and strokes his adventuresome spirit. I can’t say the same for Young Anakin Skywalker, but I’ll wait to see how my fellow esteemed Nerds feel before I weigh in.

MCS: “It’s not impossible. I used to bulls-eye womp rats in my T-16 back home, they’re not much bigger than two meters.”

Rau: I hope young Anakin eats 3 double cheeseburgers a day, is Orca fat, has a coke problem and is tormented daily by bullies. Luke was kind of a penis sometimes and occasionally acted like a shit. But you know…his dad was Darth Vader so I cut him some slack on his personal issues.

MCS: Anakin of course. But I like this topic as Luke’s youthful behavior is hardly discussed or clowned on (neither is C3-PO being the Jar Jar of the real trilogy….too far?). But that is clearly because Luke’s story is a brilliant coming of age tale. A story of a young farm-boy who yearns for something else in his heart, and eventually becomes a great Jedi. On the other hand, it actually pains me that the depiction of the transformation of a young boy into one of the most iconic villains of all time was handled so clumsily. My goodness what it could have been. Rather than recounting the events, and really digging into the core of the feelings that would cause such potential to turn to the Dark Side it felt as if I were watching an after-school special on teenage angst and rebellion gone wrong.

Fresh: Anakin. What really gets me is that in his case it actually took two actors to get it wrong. I cut Hayden Christiansen some slack because of George Lucas’ awful dialogue, but my God what a little bitch the greatest Jedi who ever lived was.

MCS: Nothing is better than Watto telling that little fuck whats what (I am actually the biggest Phantom Menace apologist I know. I actually like it. It felt and feels like Star Wars to me. The begging is awesome – Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi doing their thing – and at the end they have the battles going on multiple fronts like A New Hope and Return. But I clearly understand all hate).

CMT: Hands down it’s Young Anakin. And Doug’s comment that both actors couldn’t adequately play the part illustrates just how terrible the writing was for this character. George Lucas should be ashamed of himself for making us accept this as part of the Star Wars cannon but I guess it’s hard for him to care about any of that when he’s Scrooge McDucking his money filled swimming pool. And there’s one particular line that I revere above all others and will fight anyone to the death if they try to defend it in my presence and it is this: “If Obi-wan saw me doing this, he would be very grumpy”. Grumpy? GRUMPY!!! When I heard that little ditty vomited from Young Anakin’s mouth for the first time in the theater I felt like someone had punched me in the face. From that point on I lost all faith that this character would be anything other than a soulless unmotivated reaction machine lacking any depth of character. Fuck Anakin…

3. DC or Marvel?

MCS: I can’t help but looking at DC and Marvel as two teams (heads up…sports analogy incoming!!!!), each with very capable play-makers. DC is top heavy squad – meaning that they have a couple superstars and then a bunch of role players (Miami Heat 2012). Batman and Superman are the strongest one two punch in the game, the type of guys you can build a team around. Throw Wonder Woman, Green lantern, Aquaman, and Cyborg around those two and you got a shot at a title. But Marvel, on the other hand, is deep. From top to bottom they are loaded! All the X-Men combined with all the Avengers is enough to wear any team down. Spider Man doesn’t even have to come off the bench.

MCS: This analogy works for the films that come out of both camps too. The DC films, in my opinion, are the strongest overall. Watchmen, Nolan and Burton’s Batmans, and Superman 1 and 2 are the cream of the crop of superhero films. Doesn’t get much better. But Marvel has a larger library of good films. Not great by any means – but pretty damn good. The X-Men franchise, in paper or film, is something I am quite fond of. I think they touch upon deeper topics of social rejection and racism than most people give it credit for.

Fresh: It’s hard for me to vote against any camp that Batman is in. And the reason that he has been my superhero of choice for years on end has nothing to do with the dark tone of the novels and films (which I obviously fucking love)…..but the fact that he is human. He is able to fight crime with the big boys with the largest disadvantage a superhero could be shackled with: Humanity. DC.

CMT: For me college was the perfect venue for this discussion. Many a late night was spent holed up in dorm rooms, the scent of tree in the air, a girl around your arm, and the taste of beer on your lips, discussing this very topic into early morning hours. It was where I solidified my views and announced to the world that I was of legion Marvel. The DC Universe is rife with near-invincible/immortal characters like Superman, Green Lantern, Wonderwoman, Ra’s al Gul, Doomsday, etc. that seem to me to just take the fun out of it. What’s the point in showing up to battle these characters if you can never truly beat them? On the other hand (and this goes back to my point made in Question #1), Marvel has characters that are bit more down to earth, rife with character flaws and a lot more mortal. I can get behind that because it makes me think that I’m just an errant Gamma ray or a mutant spider bite away from becoming the worlds next defender.

MCS: I would love to meet this “girl around your arm” that would sit through this debate. My type of lady.

Rau: I do agree with Shields about the Batman and love the sports analogy. And even though one of my all time favorite comics is Lobo, who is DC, all in all I’d say the Reverend Chris Thompson speaks the truth about Marvel heroes. They are as a whole much deeper, with Batman being the main exception.

Rau: I think Spiderman has a deep moral issue similar to Batmans as per what he owes society and what society owes him. Sometimes it gets lost in all the humor where Batman is basically Clint Eastwood. This has served Batman well. The Incredible Hulk’s ‘flaw’ might be my favorite though as it is such a great metaphor for the anger we all fight to control; the beast inside. It’s like Marvel heroes are often just parts of ourselves we struggle with.

Rau: I have a hard time taking Superman seriously. Is it just me?

CMT: It’s not just you Master Rau…Superman’s only major weakness is his inherent goodness which oftentimes strains credulity.

MCS: I too agree. Superman’s weakness, to me, is that he is a pretty boy that I cannot relate to on any level.

Fresh: I think the Punisher needs a reboot. With a Nolan caliber writer/director team, he could be the Marvel hero who appeals to adults more than kids. He has no powers and no scruples when it comes to slaughtering bad guys. This puts him in at odds with almost every other superhero and gives him a complexity of depth that is worthy of Bruce Wayne or Peter Parker. Hollywood has yet to get it right. The Dolph Lungdren version is actually the best of the three.

Rau: Gerard Butler for Punisher 2013.

4. Michael Bay – Hero or Villain?

Fresh: Villain. As a kid my favorite part of an action movie was the leading up to a major explosion. Michael Bay has desensitized me to explosions to such a degree I sometimes feel as if I’ve blown a fuse in the part of my brain that was once entertained by visually stunning infernos. His over-utilization of CGI in his fast paced scenes has done permanent damage to my eyes and has on occasion threatened to give me seizures.

MCS: I think that I may have been the fool expecting Transformers to be something, to rekindle the love I had for Prime and the gang. What did I expect from the man who gave us The Island? I just had hope. With today’s technology you can do anything (case and point…Jackson’s Lord of the Rings Trilogy). There is a good Transformers movie…it’s called Transformers: The Movie. It was animated and created a long time ago. For the record, and I know this goes against the point we all agree on here, I think the CGI in Dark Side of the Moon makes it worth watching.

CMT: Villain to the extreme! His over-dependence on CGI, fast-edits and dizzying special effects all point to a man who lacks the depth and understanding of what makes a true cinematic experience. Over and over again I’ve left his movies in a state of mild disorientation impinging on nausea. I feel like he’s the guy who decided that when a planet or space station blows up there is supposed to me some kind of ring explosion associated with it? What is that some kind of angular momentum effect or inverse black hole? I mean I’m all for suspending belief if I want to exist in this genre but fuuuck that.

MCS: I find the Michael Bay question to be very polarizing. You either love his work or absolutely hate it. I know a few people that put him on the highest of pedestals for what he has done for computer generated images, action sequences, and fun in general. These are popcorn summer films so it is hard to take it too serious. But it is clear he goes way over the top. I heard he has plan for the Ninja Turtles that will stir the pot a little bit as well.

Rau: I have an extremely large Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles collection. I was too old to collect Ninja Turtles at the time but I thought they were so cool and fun that I rocked them anyway. I hope for the sake of the world that there is kids out there who discover bad ass new toys, movies, comics, and games that inspire them well past their adulthood. I hope they don’t get punished by their peers for being nerds. I for the most part kept my nerd well under wrap so I could try and hang out with the cool kids. Now I say….Fuck the cool kids. Nerds will always be the Masters of the Universe.

Rau: Michael Bay: single-handedly ruining magical things since the beginning of time.

5. Kirk or Picard?

MCS: This debate gets tricky as it usually simply comes down to each generation (pun intended) preferring it’s own captain. Which makes perfect sense. And, true to form, I am a Picard guy but not simply because TNG graced the small screen as I was growing up. The way I like to look at it is who would you rather follow into battle. Both are incredible, gutsy strategist……but I will take logic over bravado every time. I prefer a thinking man, an educated and well read man. I would rather go to war with a man who I believed has thoroughly examined the situation from all angles rather than a man following a hunch or a gut feeling. Of course let us not forget that both men reigned over the Enterprise during different eras. They had to be the way they were at the time. In Kirk’s era The Federation had few friends – they often had to shoot first and ask questions later. Picard’s era was an era of diplomacy, a skill he was proficient at. I would go to war with both, of course, but my first choice in who would lead me in is the man who enjoy a cup of Earl Grey tea after we are victorious.

Rau: I think Picard was a better captain for similar reasons. He just always seemed super efficient and I was never worried about outrageous outbursts of emotion from him that may jeopardize the mission. The Borg episodes of The Next Generation are my favorite Star Trek episodes ever. Also Patrick Stewart plays himself better than almost anyone. I do think the Kirk/Spock dynamic made the original Star Trek great though and it is the foundation that helped launch a 50 year franchise.

CMT: I was born in ‘77 (the year fried peanut butter, banana and bacon sandwiches finally took Elvis from us) and by that point Star Trek: The Original Series had been off the air for almost a decade. I had no campy, retro 60’s Kirk to fall asleep to while I sipped upon milk, to cultivate my young baby mind and school me on how to be an interstellar gigolo. But what I did have was something far more exciting and grander awaiting me…. a decade of Star Trek Motion Pictures (‘79-‘91) which overlapped nicely with Star Trek: The Next Generation (‘87-‘94). Coming from a home where you watched Star Trek or you got the hell out I felt like I had been born into a perfect storm. A torch rife with adventure-portraying itself as a Gulliver’s Travels of the stars-was being handed from one generation to another and I was perfectly positioned to experience it. I soaked it up. At times I found myself wishing Jean-Luc would show some bravado, knock that trombone outta’ No. 2’s hand and tell the crew that yes, shit is fucked right now but you know what? I don’t give a fuck and we’re gonna crash this ship right into the center of that goddam sun if we have to and maybe take a few Klingons with us. I also more often than not found myself wishing Kirk would tone down the courageous and confident douche-bag schtick and check that door for heat before he kicked it in (Backdraft reference anyone?). It all comes down to personalities for me as it’s a toss-up in terms of who kicked more intergalactic ass/peddled more goodwill. Their personalities are polar opposites better suited in one person (Capt. James Luc Kirkard?) than divided but if I had to go with one it’d be the inventor of the Picard Maneuver: Jean-Luc “Make it so” Picard. I’m just a sucker for the intellectual side of space adventure. Leave the ass-kicking to the Colonial Marines.

MCS: It seems we are on the same wavelength. But I would like to make one thing perfectly clear…..Kirk was no idiot. He wore his big swinging dick on his sleeve, yes. But he thought his way out and through some sticky situations. There was one way, and one way only to defeat the Kobayashi Maru test and, although possibly unethical, he found that one way. That is just one example. But I garner to wager that in a match of wits, or a debate, Jean-Luc pulls it out. Following this line of reasoning, that the type of captain I would most confidentially stand behind is a thinking mans man, James T. wouldn’t even be my second choice. I would follow William Adama into the darkest of nights.

CMT: “So say we all!”

6. Where does The Terminator franchise stand now? The Alien franchise? Did they both jump the shark with sub-par sequels? And additionally: What franchise (besides Punisher as we spoke of) do you want to see resurrected, re-tooled, or re-imagined?

Fresh: Alien has a prequel of sorts coming out shortly. We shall see. There is no hope for the Terminator franchise. James Cameron himself couldn’t save it at this point. Is Darren Aronofsky still planning a Robocop reboot?

MCS: I think Prometheus looks sound, but of course we will find out soon. Alien 3 and 4 were sad representations of the franchise. Winona Rider took that film, put it on the back of her bike, and jumped it right over the shark herself.

MCS: Terminator is a tough pill to swallow. I didn’t hate 3 as much as most of the faithful (trust me I understand their hate) because at the end it left the series in a spot that you could have gone so many incredible places. The bomb has dropped. Now what? McG had it all in the palm of his hand and what he did with it was so unsatisfying. Terminator is such a classic story. Man vs machine with time-travel weaved in smoothly. Deep themes are touched upon, themes of fate, destiny, and hope. I love the first two so very much, the first being nothing more than an independent film launching the career of a legend and the second being one of the most fulfilling sequels and blockbusters ever. Just this past week I was walking through a movie theater and the Terminator theme song coming from a video game actually gave me chills. I kid you not. Those films really got me like that. But, alas, they fucked it up.

MCS: Darren is out of the new Robocop. He is working on writing and then directing a film about Noah’s Ark. The scale of the film is supposedly going to be pretty intense.

MCS: From the previews I am feeling the Total Recall reboot.

CMT: I cant wait for the Total Recall reboot. At the least it means that Wal-Mart might carry a Kuato costume for me next year just in time for Halloween and at the most it means I might actually (maybe) respect Colin Farrell as an actor.

Fresh: I would like to see an all Japanese Godzilla reboot that essentially has a restraining order against Hollywood. Tokyo would get stomped once again, but not in a gratuitous Michael Bay way.

Rau: Godzilla could be really really cool. Is there any way we could get Trent Reznor and Rob Zombie to do the soundtrack together, or is that too Hollywood?

Rau: Also I wouldn’t mind a new He-Man if they made it really gritty somehow. And reboot the GI Joe reboot. I want like some old school shit for my GI Joe movie. I really disliked the way that was done. It needs to be about the big group, which I think Avengers and X-Men have done well. It should be one part war movie and one part group super hero movie. I’m not sure what the last one was. It just seemed like a an action movie about some guys who worked for the government. I think they totally missed the whole point in that movie.

Fresh: Why does the shit from our generation have to be about the kids? It’s ours. We grew up with it and we should have adult interpretations of these stories.

MCS: I hear you Doug. If I was making the film I would aim it right for the hearts of the people who are emotionally attached to it. The type of people who sit around and talk about ‘The Viper’ episode or still watch, from time to time, the 1984 miniseries entitled “The Revenge of Cobra” (I probably shouldn’t admit that). Why wouldn’t you try to please an establish audience first instead of trying to make a new one…..odds are you will make a new audience anyways as kids would love it too.

MCS: I do not know where this fits in, possibly doesn’t, but since the question did speak of franchises that I would like to see resurrected I must add…..I was a huge Nintendo nerd as a kid. Spent more days in my basement completing video games twice over than I would like to admit. Obsessed for years on end. Things got weird. By the time an issue of Nintendo Power hit my mailbox I was way ahead of any of the tricks or tips it beheld. So, as I got a little older I always yearned for film adaptations of some of my favorite games. I always thought Metroid would be a home run, Contra too. Also: Spy Hunter, Ninja Gaiden, Castlevania, and Rush N Attack (I sweated Konami hard obviously).

Rau: OH man! Now we are talking. Imagine how cool the first Metroid movie would be if you didn’t find out Samus was a smoking hot chick until the end. I’m not sure how they could pull that off but it might be super cool. I just watched the Double Dragon movie last week. It’s a hard jump to make I think. Gamers are rabid. And pleasing them is not easy. Or maybe it’s just most game to movie jumps aren’t done well. I’d love to see Contra. Also I’d be into Golgo 13, Excite Bike, Ikari Warriors, Mega Man, and of course Legend Of Zelda.

Rau: I’d like to cast Christain Bale as Simon Belmont in Castlevania. They totally dropped the ball not making that during the recent vampire craze.

MCS: Sam Worthington!

6. Avatar: Sci-fi classic or a heaping load of James Cameron’s politically charged punditry?

Rau: Did the world really need another movie about western culture fucking up an indigenous one via colonialism only to be saved by a white guy who has become enlightened? I mean the first half of this scenario could basically be described as the last few hundred years and the second half is basically like “oh don’t worry, we know we really fucked up, but if we can somehow create a superhero we will fix you”. Sadly in the real world we can’t. I wish the blue girl would have just killed him soon as she found out he was “western”. I mean wouldn’t you have? Anyway, I think James Cameron is a pretty cool dude, with the submarines and meteors and all but this movie screams “white man’s burden” to me. And on top of that it’s basically FernGully with a colonial twist. I could see if I was 13 this movie might have been cool, but I’d rather watch a movie where we see the “western culture’ fuck up the indigenous culture and then see the people suffer immensely but finally take pieces of the colonizing culture, mix them with their own, and form a totally new culture that makes music like we’ve never heard before, literature like we’ve never read, and is bottomless well deep. So yeah, i’m still waiting for them to make that movie about Fela Kuti. In the meantime I’m assuming the white guy in black(or blue) face will save me.

MCS: I love Avatar. There, I said it. I know this isn’t necessarily a cool response but I never had time for cool (obviously – this thread exposes that clear as day). I felt like much of the backlash that I witnessed in my circle of friends was some ‘too cool for school attitude’. Avatar was making loot hand over first. And I think this was unsettling to some. Everyone seemingly enjoying this ridiculous tale of giant smurfs caused some to feel the need to go against that grain – to rail against its heavy handed environmental message or its absurd scientific implausibility. It, too me, seemed like the type of backlash that an indie band gets when it goes big. That type of backlash is juvenile at best. Whats good is good, no matter how popular something may be (Avatar banked….meaning many enjoyed it enough to see it more than once, myself included. It broke a ridiculous amount of records financially. And, like Jay Z said “Men lie, Woman lie – Numbers don’t”). Avatar was one of the most visually stunning pieces of art (damn, I went there!) that I have ever witnessed. My jaw was on the floor and I only picked it up to protect it as I was concerned cinders and ashes would land upon and burn it when the hometree met its demise (what an amazing spectacle of the possibilities of 3d that was!). The political overtones were heavy yes (and reading in to them enough to be offended seems to me to be a waste of time – I don’t care about Cameron’s political agenda – I want to get lost in his fantasy world for a couple hours), but easily overlooked and dismissed with a film that entertaining and visually stunning.

CMT: What can be said about Avatar that hasn’t already been said about Jesus? The film won three Oscar’s for Cinematography, Visual Effects and Art Direction and the director James Cameron invented a whole new form of motion capture filming technology just to make the movie. Plus it became the first movie to gross over 2 billion dollars and he’s planning on releasing 2 more over the next few years. I found the movie to be a pure, uncut and unadulterated visual Utopia. Give me a classic adventure story mixed with journeys of self-discovery and themes of modern space-faring imperialism and I’m hooked. Of course you could argue that this is a thinly veiled Dances with Wolves or Enemy Mine, where the hero becomes sympathetic to the enemy he was fighting against. But when you put that argument up against the backdrop of the massive world Cameron created for us on Pandora any dissent is crushed by the beauty and conscious of the film. I see this movie as a modern cautionary tale cleverly disguised behind an imaginative and absorbing story. For those of you who say that this movie had a predictable and obvious story line I would argue that that is exactly what makes it work. Dare I mention that Star Wars also has an obvious narrative yet we hold it in such high regards?

Rau: I think part of the reason I disliked Avatar so much is because I actually had a lot of people tell me I was going to love it and I believed them. When I get over hyped I generally get let down. This even happened with the latest Batman movies for me. That being said, I stand by everything I said about the movie. I do think it was entertaining. I just don’t think it was special. In sticking with your music analogy, there is nothing indie about this movie. It’s more like U2. But I do get that analogy regardless. Take Beach House for instance. I’m not a huge fan. I do think they have some great songs, but for the most part I find them average and nothing particularly new. Some people think they are amazing and the second coming. I don’t have beef with the members of Beach House. I think it’s awesome they are getting paid for doing something they love. But maybe I don’t get all of the love for them because I personally don’t’ find their music all that captivating compared to other new music. I guess this is how I feel about Avatar beyond what I said regarding it being fucked up on some levels.

MCS: I think Beach House is a great band. My current favorite track by them, or any band really, is Myth.

MCS: Not for one second did I imply that there is anything indie about one of the most expensive films ever made. The analogy was in reference to the type of backlash, not the product. I think managing expectations is a personal issue and I always think its a shame when people belittle something that is indeed special because they went into something expecting to feel a certain way.

Rau: I think that’s fair. And I love the Batman movies after watching them again. I watched Avatar three times and although I think it’s visually stunning. I just personally thought the plot wasn’t good.

MCS: A very fair assessment as well.

8. Is J.J. Abrams the next Steven Spielberg?

CMT: Does the fact that they both teamed up for Super 8 signify that Spielberg has passed the torch on to JJ? Spielberg captured our hearts and our minds growing up with ET, Jaws, Close Encounters, Indiana Jones, Gremlins, Poltergeist, Goonies, etc, etc, etc. but has Abrams done a good job of keeping the story going? He’s done Alias, Lost, Fringe, Armageddon, MI III & Ghost Protocol, Cloverfield, Star Trek (and an upcoming sequel), and Super 8. He may just be getting started….

Rau: Lost jumped the ship. I can never forgive that. That show could have been great if it was two seasons shorter in my opinion. Instead the last couple seasons made me suicidal. This is a good discussion; but what has Abrams done that completely rocked everyone? Lost is probably the closest and it has some huge flaws, While I actually dug Cloverfield and Star Trek, and they weren’t on par with anything like ET, Jaws, Gremlins, Goonies, Indiana Jones, etc…

Rau: I want Spielberg 2.0 instead he’s maybe like Spielberg light. I mean all things considered is the gap between Abrams and Spielberg any smaller than the gap between Abrams and Joss Whedon.

CMT: It should be taken into account thats it’s a million times harder to get a movie/tv show made these days. The landscape is miles away from what it was in Spielberg’s time. I loved Whedon’s work with Firefly and have been a fan ever since.

MCS: JJ Abrams couldn’t hold Spielberg’s dick when he takes a piss. He has made some amazing flicks (Star Trek, Super 8) but that’s it. The rest of his material is all television production credits that doesn’t impress me……especially when we are talking about the guy who brought us fucking classics such as Jaws, Raiders of the Lost Ark, ET, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Empire of the Sun, Jurassic Park, Minority Report, Saving Private Ryan, Amistad, Catch me if you can, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and War of the Worlds (those are films he directed personally….not just produced). The other dude brought us what – Cloverfield.

MCS: I don’t think we should even mention them in the same sentence ever again.

Rau: I think it would be like comparing Tiger Woods to like Rory McElroy or something. Like the kids got a lot of game, but we can’t even have the conversation yet until he has like 5 or 6 majors. I fucking hate golf. Just couldn’t think of a better analogy.

MCS: Joss Weldon has a long way to go as well obviously. I liked Avengers a whole bunch but it was still way too campy. Chris Nolan should teach a class on how to make super hero movies to all other directors. Zach Snyder can guest lecture from time to time as Watchmen was the real deal too.

Fresh: Marvel movies are way too campy.

CMT: You know I agree with all you fellas have to say. But I can’t say that I don’t lay awake at night thinking/worrying (seriously, I worry) that the next generation of writers/directors to inspire our youth and boggle my mind with original visual eye-candy is lacking. Once we get beyond this comic-book/graphic novel adaption craze and push into the ether beyond what is left? Spielberg killed it in my youth with ORIGINAL stories told from the heart. Nolan’s bringing it with ‘The Dark Knight’…..everyone agrees. Zack Snyder turned Frank Millers 300 and Alan Moore’s Watchman into a live action version of the graphic novels I loved to read. Plus I give him credit for tackling the superman reboot and potentially getting involved with an adaptation of Bradbury’s The Illustrated Man. Much respect to Favreau for bringing us a thrilling Iron Man trilogy and making Tony Stark a household name again. Whedon did a great job balancing out the super-egos of the super-team Avengers but I agree with the campy vibe permeating the movie. Joe Johnston’s take on Captain America: The First Avenger had a pleasantly retro vibe with a ton of pulpy action that suited me quite well. But who’s bringing me original content? I’m nominating Abrams because at least he’s writing/direction things that haven’t been done before. Super 8, Cloverfield are original stories birthed from his own mind. Sure you can argue his Star Trek movie was just regurgitated Trekiness but at least he took it into an alternate timeline so that he could create a whole new world. In my mind that screams creativity. I know he’s only got a few “small wins” under his belt and no Tiger Woods major (thanks Tommy) but at least he’s coming up with fresh content. We need more of that and can anyone tell me who else has a solid track record of doing this? Am I completely alone in this thought?

MCS: I appreciate your hope. Without hope we have very little. But that is all it is right now. He does have a chance as the story has yet to be told but we are a long way from a transfer of power. This is embarrassing to admit but it proves my point, a little too well and close to home. But after ‘The Sixth Sense’ and ‘Unbreakable’ came out I remember having a very drunken conversation where I was loudly declaring that M. Night could be the next Hitchcock. I know it sounds straight-jacket-immediately insane, but the tricks and techniques he was using to tell original stories and to play with the audience seemed masterful. Then ‘The Happening’ happened and well, you know. Judging on potential is hard.

MCS: And I wouldn’t lose too much sleep. There is a lot of talent out there. ‘There is another’.

9. A current controversy – Benedict Cumberland as Khan in Star Trek 12 ( A discussion of casting)

MCS: Casting is a serious issue and taken as so by fanboys when it comes to who is playing their favorite heroes. Who you cast, for any role, can literally make or break a flick. I think casting directors are such a crucial piece to a film-making team that they should get more attention and acclaim (when due). I should know the name of the person(s) responsible. I mean, who perfectly casted Lord of the Rings? Do I have Jackson to thank solely? Who casted Gene as Lex? Pearlman as Hellboy? Stewart as X? Outside of the box thinking such as Craig as Bond or Garfield as Parker (looks like it could work, we will see soon)? Who even casted True Romance, A Bridge to far, or The Outsiders? I should know these peoples names as their foresight is invaluable to the success of the role, the film, and the franchise.

MCS: As for this particular case it does appear that they are dropping the ball on this one as they are not addressing to its full capability the racial ambiguity involved in who actually Khan is. Here is a good article to read on the subject that dives into the subject way deeper and comprehensive than I am willing to.

Rau: That was a great article. Benicio would have been awesome I think. It’s funny they mention him in an article about race and casting and don’t mention the racial ambiguity you speak of. Casting is such an interesting topic because while on one hand we know how important it is by seeing perfectly cast movies shine and conversely poorly cast movies forever fail; at the same time can never actually prove what we believe to be true because we never get to see the movies cast as we would like them to be cast. We have had three large names attached to The Hulk. Eric Bana’s version didn’t work and when I heard Edward Norton was in and I thought, great, this will be awesome and Tim Roth will be an amazing villain. I thought it was bleh at best. And then Mark Ruffalo steps in and mixes the perfect amount of self-deprecation, satire, and weirdness, and turns out to be hands down the best Hulk. But how much of that is writing and how much of that is casting? There is so many variables, and how often are we given a chance to see three different actors in the same role? Rarely. And then even when we do, it’s not truly the same role, how much is writing, chemistry, set, etc, etc, etc. Casting is extremely important. It’s just not quantifiable. And while I’m not sure anything could have saved the Stars Wars prequels I think someone like Christian Bale has single-handedly made some decent movies good, and some good movies great.

MCS: I just wish he could have saved Terminator: Salvation.

Rau: You know I almost mentioned that because that movie definitely fell flat in my eyes. I always wonder if the reason he flipped out on the T: Salvation set was because he knew the movie wasn’t good.

MCS: “Ohhhhhh gooooood for youuuuuuu!!!!”

Fresh: I’m sure T Salvation had him remembering Reign of Fire, a movie he made when his career was uncertain. We know now that he had nothing to worry about.

CMT: Three things make for a great movie: Story, director and cast. We’ve already discussed directors and to some extent we’ve weighed in on the stories. But when you get down to it the actors are the visual and emotional legacy of the film. There’s no escaping the impact they have on a movies reception and to deny their influence in your movie is a death sentence. Countless times I’ve seen previews for movies that I was so excited for only to be let down by a wrongly cast role.

CMT: The part HAS to fit the actor just as much as the actor HAS to fit the cast. Sometimes to my delight you find perfection in the most random of castings. Take John Travolta in Pulp Fiction for instance. Or better yet how about Robin Williams in One Hour Photo (yeah I went there!)? Or try and tell me that you saw Michael J. Foxx killing it in Causalities of War? Because I didn’t…for me he was forever to be typecast as Alex P. Keaton/Marty McFly. And then he shows up in an intense Vietnam-era flick alongside a brash Sean Penn, a young John C. Reiley and an even younger John Leguizamo? Marty showed me his dark side. Goosebumps. But I digress…one casting choice I was sad to see not continued was Kelsey Grammer as The Beast in X-Men:Last Stand. It harks back to the comments made by Tommy about how the casting for the Hulk has been too hot and then too cold and then it finally was just right with Mark Ruffalo. Brent Rattner got it right when he casted Grammer as who else could toe the line between animalocity (is that even a word?) and refinement. His personal tragedies mixed with a history of substance abuse, his big head and his appreciation for shakespeare and the finer things made him a logical choice.

10. Han shot First

MCS: Everyone changes over time. This is a fact. We all have heard of the seven year cycles and such (although the truth is different tissues in the body replace cells at different rates, and some tissues never replace cells). And although some people may never want to change, to grow up, I think your a fool if you don’t yearn for change. That is, if your thinking about things in the same way in your 40’s that your are in your 30’s your a fool. So many opportunities to learn, grow, and expand your mind and thoughts in that decade. But, it is a damn shame that as George Lucas grew older he thought that it was important try to change the identity, the make-up, of possibly the greatest most beloved character in sci-fi history (he gets my vote at least). One of Han’s most defining characteristics is his moral obscurity. He would of course do the right thing when push comes to shove, but he was a cowboy. He would do what it takes to survive and protect those that he loves. Changing the scene changes, in some minor but important ways, the essence of Han Solo himself. Han did not walk out of the Mos Eisley Cantina because Greedo is a bad shot. He walked out because he acted swiftly and shrewdly.

MCS:Nothing is worst than revisionist history. It is a dangerous thing. I am surprised he didn’t alter Empire to have Han equipped with a down sleeping bag to wrap Luke in instead of having to deface that Tauntaun’s carcase.

MCS: The intercom in the detention cell got what was coming to it as well. And it wasn’t even armed.

MCS: Han shot first.

Fresh: George should let the Jedi worry about the moral ambiguities of the dark side of the Force. Greedo pulled a gun on Han Solo with the intention of turning him over to a gangster. Han drew his pistol and put a blaster bolt right in Greedo’s guts. Han shot first.

Rau: To me it shows more about George Lucas than anything. Here was a guy with a dream, who made that dream happen. He then let that dream consume him to the point where it ate all of his other dreams. His original dream wanted to retire on Tatooine but George’s new ego wouldn’t let that happen. It could never leave that Universe. Or that guaranteed money. Video games, and toys, I’m ok with. A new series of movies, which were terribly cast and basically tarnish the legacy of one of the greatest film trilogies of all time, I am not. I have a feeling before the end of his life we might see a Star Wars reboot. Is this out of the question? I fear the dark force is strong.

Rau: Sorry, I totally meant to make a point about how all this was reflected on Lucas’ decision to make Han fire shots in retaliation. Because he has lost all grip on artistic integrity…

CMT: “Somehow when I make the slightest change, everybody thinks it’s the end of the world.” -George Lucas

CMT: Slightest change?? Slightest change!! Are you fucking kidding me dude? Lets cut thorough all the whiny bullshit and get to the point. You are a fucking revisionist, money grubbing charlatan who is profiting endlessly off my unwavering loyalty to you! I cant help it you know that right? You hooked me as a kid with your epic tale of good versus evil set in a fictional galaxy (far, far away) full of knights and emperors and magic. And now you tell me that Han Solo isn’t some cold-blooded killer? That he would NEVER just gun someone down to protect himself? Are you kidding me Lucas? I saw it. He gunned him down! And in cold-blood none the less you fucker! There was no confusion. No need for the VCR to be paused and things explained to me. I saw it dude. He blew him the fuck away! Blam! One shot. Greedo dead. And no whiny little argument about how you couldn’t film it the way you wanted because it all had to be done in close-ups is going to change the fact that Han shot first. I mean you were the fucking DIRECTOR! If you felt the close-ups were confusing then why didn’t you just stop and say: Hey fellas you know what? I know you all think that Han is a cold-blooded killer and all, but he’s not and I really need to do a wide-angle shot here so we can let the audience know because we don’t want them to get the wrong idea about this character. But you didn’t and now you’ve got to sleep in the bed that you made. Oh and move the fuck over some tubby because I like to spoon!

CMT: Han shot first!

IN UNISON: Han Shot First!

Editor’s note: We realize that this installment dealt mainly with cinema (’tis the season I suppose) but we assure any of you who have dared to make it this far that any future installments of Around the Margin, the nerdy variety, will dig deeper and spread it’s wings much wider (i.e.: diving into nerdy literature – comics/graphic novels, sci-fi/fantasy/dystopian fiction, anime, maybe even some similar themed poetry like T.S Elliot’s The Hollow Men).

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