What's Left to See in 2013?
Being based on a comic book, it seems, is no longer the sole qualification for being referred to as a “CBM” or making the news on this website. What does seem to fit the bill is some sort of action-adventure, usually science-fiction or fantasy, film that has a certain degree of mainstream hype due to being based on some sort of popular material marketable to the comic book crowd. By that reckoning, we have had six thus far in 2013:
We have four more hyped adventure films this year. Let’s take a look and see what’s worth shelling out your hard earned money for, and what's not.
Feb. 14: A Good Day to Die Hard
Mar. 29: G.I. Joe: Retaliation
May 03: Iron Man 3
May 17: Star Trek into Darkness
Jun. 14: Man of Steel
Jul. 26: The Wolverine
And now for what has to be said: 2013 has been an absolutely abysmal year for CBMs. In my personal opinion, of those six above films, o less than every single one was bad. But we have four left. Will the year be salvaged? What’s going to be worth seeing, and what’s not? Let’s take a look.
Nov. 01: Ender's Game
Directed by Gavin Hood
Screenplay by Gavin Hood
Produced by Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman, Gigi Pritzker, Linda McDonagh, Robert Chartoff, Lynn Hendee, & Ed Ulbrich
Starring Asa Butterfield, Harrison Ford, Ben Kingsley, Hailee Steinfeld, Abigail Breslin, & Viola Davis
Music by Steve Jablonsky
Cinematography by Donald M. McAlpine
Edited by Zach Staenburg & Lee Smith
For many years now, I've been hearing about this legendary book, "Ender's Game," how great and amazing it is and how it's such a major piece of science fiction canon. With the advent of the film upon us, I took the opportunity to go check the book out from the library and finally read it. While I'm not jumping off walls about how much it changed my life, and while I even take issues with aspects of the narrative, I can definitely say that it is an extremely intelligent book with real things to say. And I'm sad to say that the film looks like it is defiling that.
The book, of course, is largely about lost innocence. The character of Ender is only a child, but has every ounce of childhood purity taken from him, being plunged into a grueling, violent, and lonely life by the commanding officers Battle School.
In the book, Ender gradually ages from ages six to eleven. This puts a real damper on Peter Jackson's claim that "anything you can imagine can be put on film." There's simply no way to pull that off in a live-action film. So the natural step to take is to condense the timeline of the book, and put him at an age somewhere in there, like ten, right? Well, the filmmakers here thought that it would be a good idea to age him up to fifteen. And this alone completely convinces me that they have no idea what they're doing.
When it comes to adaptations, fans can really split hairs over unimportant changes. I've noted that even seemingly big changes can be all right, as long as they are done to better tell the story in a new medium. For instance, when Zack Snyder changed the ending of Watchmen, it seemed like a fairly big deal. Yet people were surprisingly un-upset, because it did not affect what was really important to the story. It did not affect the soul.
And that's what's wrong with this movie. Hollywood seems to have completely missed the point. The story of Ender's Game is not about a teenager. It is about a small child. I'm sure that a fifteen year old being put through these things is still disagreeable. But it's not even anywhere near the same as a six year old, and it is not the story that Card told.
As if that wasn't enough, from what I've seen it seems as if they are turning the character of Petra from the book into a love interest for Ender. It’s as if they felt they hadn't made clear to the audience just how completely they missed the point. They had to exacerbate it further by having the character fall in love.
I expected better from producers Robert Orci and Alex Kurtzman. The narrative and stylistic problems with the first two Transformers films, great as they are, I accredited to Michael Bay, while I noted that the basic story and characterizations were actually very well handled, as they were in the incredible Star Trek, which they also wrote. That film is actually a class-A example of Hollywood writers adapting a source material and getting it incredibly, miraculously, uncannily, right. With that under their belt as writers, and a reputation for really truly listening to the fans, I don't understand how they could have turned around and produced something that gets it so unbearably wrong.
Nov. 08: Thor: The Dark World
Directed by Alan Taylor
Story by Don Payne & Robert Rodat
Screenplay by Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeeley, & Christopher L. Yost
Produced by Kevin Feige
Starring Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddleston, Christopher Eccleston, Anthony Hopkins, Rene Russo, Stellan Skarsgård, Kat Dennings, Jaime Alexander, Ray Stevenson, Zachary Levi, Tadanobu Asano, Idris Elba, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Alice Krige, Chris O’Dowd, & Stan Lee
Music by Brian Tyler
Cinematography by Kramer Morgenthau
Edited by Dan Lebental & Wyatt Smith
I'm honestly quite excited for Thor: The Dark World and I expect it to be quite a good film. It has every potential of being the major bright spot of 2013.
Making a sequel is a fascinating endeavor. It has to be just the right kind of story to move the characters along from the journey that was started in the first film. There's a reason the second film tends to be darker than its predecessor. Now that we've gotten to know the characters, and the path they need to take, it's time that they were thrown through the ringer. 2011’s Thor was very much only a first step, with plenty of room for sequels, and I'm glad to say that I think the people behind this film have a fairly firm grasp on what the next chapter of the story should be.
The film's darker nature is made apparent in that the nine realms have been thrown into chaos and war, and Thor is only finally sent back to Earth on a mission, and his reunion with Jane is hardly a peaceful one. So now it is Jane who gets to be the fish out of water, thrown into Thor's world. And she goes with him on a journey throughout the nine realms to defeat an ancient enemy, newly awakened.
The film is truly expanding on what was in the first film, and making for a much bigger, and more epic adventure. Actually, when you think about it, Thor wasn't incredibly huge in scale. Aside from a large action piece in the beginning, it mainly dealt with Thor learning humility on Earth, fighting the Destroyer, and then fighting his brother. The same can be said for the romance, which was only at the infant stages when we left the two characters. So in both senses, there’s a lot of great room for growth in further chapters.
Throughout the first film, we heard talk about the nine realms, and this time we'll be exploring each of them, actually delving far deeper into their history, and sending our heroes on an actual quest, complete with large-scale battles, against a villain of a much grander and historic scale. Add to that, based on what we've seen and heard, it sounds like the film will be emotionally darker and more mature as well, taking the characters to places we haven’t seen them both literally and figuratively.
And, of course, Loki's back, which is good for everyone. The notion of the first film's villain being brought back to aid against a stronger foe is nothing new (see Blade II and X2). However, seeing as how pretty much everyone loves Tom Hiddleston, no one's complaining.
My only real complaint is that the film looks possibly a little bit too removed from it’s predecessor in look and feel. It’s clear that the new director, Alan Taylor, is putting his own touch onto the film’s production and costume design. Even Thor’s facial hair is darker. I just hope the transition doesn’t feel too jarring.
So yeah, overall though, I'm very optimistic and excited about Thor: The Dark World.
Nov. 15: The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
Directed by Francis Lawrence
Screenplay by Simon Beaufoy & Michael Arndt
Produced by Nina Jacobson & Jon Kilik
Starring Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Woody Harrelson, Donald Sutherland, Elizabeth Banks, Stanley Tucci, Lenny Kravitz, Toby Jones, Jeffrey Wright, Amanda Plummer, Sam Claflin, Jena Malone, & Alan Ritchson
Music by James Newton Howard
Cinematography by Jo Willems
Edited by Alan Edward Bell
I have not read "Catching Fire.” I read the first Hunger Games book, and that was enough. This series has gotten massive critical and commercial acclaim, and I can't for the life of me figure out why.
From a simple storytelling point of view, the entire narrative of The Hunger Games, the idea of pitting children against children, with the object being for the main character to murder, or at least, out survive the others, is utter nonsense. Yes, I understand it's the big bad government that's behind all this, and it shows how horrible they are. But that doesn't change nature of the premise.
It's not the violent content I have a problem with, not even that such content involves children. While not for the squeamish, that sort of material is usable as long as the overall objective is laudable. In this case, it's not. One is supposed to be literally rooting for the protagonist to win, and therefore, for the other children to die.
Let me put it this way: The objective of Thor is for Thor to defeat the Dark Elves. The objective of The Hobbit is for Bilbo and the Dwarves to reach the mountain and defeat Smaug. The objective of The Hunger Games is for Katniss to murder other children so she herself may survive.
Your antagonist cannot be other innocents. It doesn't work as a narrative, and is even morally questionable. And given that the sequel apparently repeats the plot of it’s predecessor, with adults doesn’t make it much better.
So yeah, I don't exactly see why this is a series that has escaped controversy, or why it's held in such high regard. But it's one "hype" film I'm not planning on seeing.
Dec. 13: The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
Directed by Peter Jackson
Screenplay by Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh, Phillippa Boyens, & Guillermo Del Toro
Produced by Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh, & Carolyn Cunningham
Starring Martin Freeman, Ian McKellan, Richard Armitage, Orlando Bloom, Evangeline Lilly, Stephen Fry, Luke Owens, Sylvester McCoy, Lee Pace, James Nesbitt, Graham McTavish, Dean O’Gorman, Aidan Turner, Jed Brophy, Adam Brown, Mark Hadlow, & Manu Bennett
Music by Howard Shore
Cinematography by Andrew Lesnie
Edited by Jabez Olssen
I listed "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" as the worst film I saw in 2012. Plenty of people have claimed that expanding this relatively short, simple children’s book into a full-fledged trilogy was a pretty shameless move. And let's face it, they're not wrong.
Jackson took a very short, very simple, and very classic book, and essentially created his own film trilogy, with the scenes from the book contained, but spread out, within it. And the next chapter is more of the same, introducing more original characters and new plot developments that rehash the Lord of the Rings trilogy ("It is not our fight"). It's nothing short of deplorable.
The Hobbit was published over seventy-five years ago. When we finally get a film adaptation, it's more about one man from New Zealand's own story than anything Tolkien wrote. I'm sorry, but I don't feel like paying three movie's worth of my hard-earned money to see that. I would, however, love to see the edited-down version someone may create, once the films are all on video.
So if you haven't been able to tell, Thor: The Dark World is the only film I'm definitely seeing in what remains of the year. It may sound like I'm a total downer, but the truth is, it's just been a bad year. After all, it is a year ending in '13.
Thankfully, however, I have a much more positive outlook for 2014. With so many exciting films on their way out, it seems like we're finally going to be given our due, with a lot of very exciting prospects that I'm very eager to see more of!
2014, you cannot get here soon enough!
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