1st impressions: Preacher & issues with over adaptation

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Truly we live in a cross-media Golden Age, where anything from any medium can find new life and wider fandom in a different format.

Basically, if it can be adapted from a comic or a book or a video game or someone’s stupid Twitter Feed it can be transformed into a television show or movie.

The zenith of this are the television adaptions of A Song of Ice and Fire (renamed A Game of Thrones after the first book in the still running series) & The Walking Dead as well Marvel & DC’s various superhero cross-media “events”.

Unfortunately this means that with so many adaptations filling so many screens, the quality & which parts of the narratives they choice to follow as well as which characters they may change or cut various from production to production. More often than not fans of the original medium are angry &/or disappointed that they favourite scene, character or story arc has been either cut or changed beyond all recognition. After sci-fi series The Expanse had run its first season I was going to write an article about how the show completely race-washed, turning minor characters white for no other reason then TV producers prefer white people on screen because they perceive their audience to still be almost all white. I shit-canned the article because of crippling mental health issues but the arguments stayed with me.

When an adaptation diverts or completely diverges from its source material, it often creates a schism in the fan base. With the source material purists on one side decrying the changes as they wrest their shirts and beat their manboobs and the new/adaptation fans being blessed in their supposed ignorance of what they are missing out whilst being deprived of the original greatness (from the view of the members of 1st camp).

Yet there are many reasons for altering material within an adaptation that go beyond mere culturally ingrained racism. These have to go with keeping costs down, having to fit things within time/broadcast restraints as well as basic ignorance of the people doing the adapting. These harsh practicalities often mean that sections of the audience are left lamenting what they may never see or what never was yet they are crucial to how an adaptation is both produced and viewed by a wider audience. Obviously there are issues with not including important material from the source but if the adaptation is handled well, all that is cut or changed is not truly missed.

This brings us onto AMC’s last comicbook adaptation (the other being the widely popular The Walking Dead), Preacher.

Preacher was a seminal work from writer Garth Ennis and artist Steve Dillion as part of DC’s “mature” publication line, Vertigo, made (in)famous by how far Ennis was willing to push the idea of the grotesque, violence and the absurd (three trademarks of Ennis’ work). There had been previous adaptations in the works over the years, some even making into pre-production phases, but it wasn’t until 2013 when Hollywood uber nerd (and stoner) Seth Rogen had teamed up with AMC to produce a pilot of a series. Cut to 3 years later & the results are finally on our screen.

The short of it is, that the story surrounding Preacher is about titular preacher, Jesse Custer, being possessed by an entity called Genesis, the infantile product of breeding between a devil and an angel, that has escaped from a furious God, granting Jesse the ability to verbally command almost anyone around him to do, literally, what he says. This power bring him into conflict with forces divine and mundane who either want it for themselves or wish to see it destroyed. So he travels the US with his arsekicking ex-girlfriend, Tulip, & charming rogue-cum-scumbag Irish vampire, Cassidy.

Rogen & his writing/producing partners Even Goldberg and Sam Catlin obviously have a lot of love for the original comic but does not mean that they are not willing to make changes where they feel they are necessary or interesting.

The greatest toxic stain on any adaptation or franchise are those directors & writers who both adhere vehemently to the source material yet make drastic changes which make no thematic or narrative sense for the sake of a shiny visual or action scene. Zach Snyder is fundamentally the king for doing such things, so it is refreshing to see how Preacher’s creative team have handled their changes to the source.

One thing that riled a lot fans up was the casting of Ruth Negga (known mainly for being Raina in Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD), born of Ethiopian and Irish parents, as Tulip in a case of what some net-dwellers called “reverse whitewashing”. Some people genuinely can’t handle a known character being turned from white into another race yet have no qualms about it going the other way (this is why I term to be examples of Cultural Paradigm & Cutural Privilege). Yet in complaining they fail to see how well Negga captures the essence of Tulip, in her brutal creativity, capacity for violence yet her utterly caring nature. The scene in which we are introduced to her is kept lighthearted in how she teaches two small children how to make a bazooka out of household items, metal toy soldiers & cornshine but never denies that she’s a force to be reckoned with. Negga’s ownership of the character is impressive, even down to how she gets her Texan regional drawl, but never once does she feel like she has been changed for a misguided sense of tokenism.

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Original vs. TV version: let the race debate begin!

In fact, it is how much the actors who play the central characters inhabit their roles which makes Preacher such an impressive adaptation.

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Dominic Cooper (who is known for playing Howard Stark in Marvel films & TV series) plays Jesse Custer & you would swear that he was a native Texan with how well he performs the accent. There is no trace of English civility within him, replaced with a broken scene of Americanism that’s a fettered mix of faith & violence. Within the first scenes you know that Jesse is a man who is running away from something, whilst trying to do his best but not his hardest for the small & exceedingly backwards/redneck community to which he has returned after a long, unexplained absence. Cooper plays Jesse as a man seething with an underlying sense of helpless & rage, trying not to fall back into old habits but struggling with keeping the moral high ground against people without any sense of shame or even human decency to their fellow man.
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He’s joined by Joe Gilgun as the Irish vampire Cassidy, portraying him, ironically enough, as full of life. Cassidy is the embodiment of hedonism & self destructive behaviour all cloaked within the guise of roguish charm, to which Gilgun plays up with utter aplomb. His accent is flawless, especially reflecting the speed in which Irish people can talk when they’re spinning up a tale. Gilgun plays Cassidy as a man without a plan but confident that he can get out of any situation he finds himself stuck in through a combination of disarming charm, ingenuity & extreme violence -as depicted in his fight scene on a private jet. His involvement with and meeting of Jesse is a little tenuous but plays off well as Cassidy sees Jesse as both a kindred spirit & a source of entertainment who can provide him with shelter from the sun & whomever he’s happened to have pissed off.

The strong trinity of Negga, Cooper and Gilgun pushes the pilot episode through despite how it changes so much from the original comics, such as introducing the character of Eugene Root way earlier than he should’ve been but the young actor Ian Colletti portrays what would otherwise be a pathetic character as one nuanced with hope, shame & fragility at how he is perceived by those around him.

This is a series that I have good hopes for, especially by the impact made by the first episode.

The episode itself exists to set up basic context with the three lead characters without flooding the viewer with an over abundance of background information, played out against an invisible force from deep space (as seen in an incredible retro sci-fi B film opening) that is possessing & destroying high ranking members of the global religious community (including a Russian high priest of the Church of Satan & Tom Cruise delivering a Scientology sermon). The focus is primarily on Jesse as he struggles & fails to be the moral centre for a highly immoral community, constantly beset by members of his congregation, like mother issue swamped Ted, & their personal issues. This is reflected in how a young boy asks Jesse is hurt his dad because he beats up his mum, with Jesse laying out how things escalated when resorting to violence but fully knowing that the other authorities in town will do nothing to prevent the abuse & that often violence is the only answer to a bad situation. This is constantly brought up in how other characters, such as the sheriff & Tulip, bring up his past & bad reputation within the town -mainly by referring to how he is no longer acting like he used to. It’s all brought to a head by Tulip’s return to recruit Jesse into what one would assume to be a major crime & Cassidy crashing out of the sky only to stumble into a bar where Jesse drinks away his emotional pain.

The episode as a whole does not take itself too seriously but does not disrespect the audience or actors by playing up serious scenes or ideas by being silly, self conscious or giving any knowing winks of fan service. It plays with comicbook convention & loose scene/time transitions as well the hyper-realised violence &  yet does not over play the jokes. This is seen from the opening scene of an African minister exploding over his congregation you are well aware that this will be a show that indulges, like the original comic, in the grotesquity & absurd idea of violence without flashing up nudity ever 20 minutes (which is Game of Thrones greatest failing, replacing drama with tits & now cock). There is even a lack of foul language, despite the gory violence, which is a little surprising but well done in its own way.

This is so refreshing when we are caught in such a glut of cross-media adaptations, where things are being turned into movies or TV shows before their even published or dragged out or transformed beyond recognition of the original. Preacher touches the high watermarks of other series like Game of Thrones or Marvel’s work with Netflix where it keeps largely faithful to the source but isn’t afraid to venture out when new ideas are needed.

Time will basically tell if a wider audience will be willing to adopt another comicbook adaptation for the small screen -especially one from the 90’s before a large section of the audience weren’t alt-pop culture consumers. If the actors & production team keep up with what they provided in the pilot & stick to the spirit of the comics then it will be easily adored by others. Yet if they decide to swerve away from the cores of the characters & narrative, especially what sets both apart from other series out there, then it will more than likely be dropped quicker than a sci-fi series on Fox.

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ZOMG! Hyped over this announcement! Monsutā Musume no Iru Nichijō (Everyday Life with Monster Girls) anime coming soon.

1st manga cover of Monsutā Musume no Iru Nichijō

Even though it does epitomises everything that I can’t stand about Japanese media -in terms of hypersexualisation, harem comedies & the enforcement of gender roles- I can’t helped but adore he manga Monsutā Musume no Iru Nichijō because it takes such clichéd tropes & subverts them by making all the female characters into cute monsters, vying for the affection of a constantly put upon nice guy, in the form of Kimihito.

The manga is surprisingly sweet & funny, despite all the nudity & adult situations (you can tell that the mangaka Okayado started off making porn -monster girl porn!), so was stoked to find out today that there will be an anime adaptation coming in July.

Here’s the PV of it:

It might just be the worst anime ever, more so with all the fan service & hypersexualisation, but I’m already a fan, so am looking forward to seeing what they do with it (& to see how they’ll censor it as well).

all flash, no subtance – Movie Critique: Ender’s Game

Ender's_Game_posterTitle: Ender’s Game
Genre: Sci-fi
Director: Gavin Wood
Studio(s): Chartoff Productions, Taleswapper ,OddLot Entertainment, K/O Paper Products, Digital Domain
Original Release: November 1, 2013
Running time: 114 minutes


 

Synopsis:

Fifty years prior, an alien species called the Formics attacks Earth, killing millions, but the invasion is ended by a commander (Mazer Rackham) who rams his ship into an alien vessel, stopping the rest of their fleet. In response to the attack, humanity trains gifted children to become commanders. Cadet Andrew “Ender” Wiggin draws the attention of Colonel Hyrum Graff and Major Gwen Anderson.


 

Review:

When approaching this film, it is hard to avoid the burden that it bears. Both from being a very popular novel (which I shall critique & condemn later) & the issues that the author Orson Scott Card stirred up with his pathetic rants against homosexuality & civil rights. The irony & hypocrisy of which I shall address in the later book review, so for now we shall focus on this adaptation & the burden that it brings.

Yet this burden is not one I can be bothered to bear, so I shall speak what I believe.

& that is: like the book before it, this film is simple & it is BORING.

There is no other or simpler way to put it really.

The film plays it straight to the source, dazzles with shiny CGI & yet it is boring.

But before we get into all that, there is one thing that I must address.

WHAT THE FUCK IS UP WITH BEN KINGSLEY’S ACCENT IN THIS?!

I love him as an actor but that is honestly the worst New Zealand Maori accent I’ve ever heard!

Why couldn’t they have gotten Temuera Morrison for the role. He would’ve been perfect & he has the blood accent!

No matter. On with the review.

I spent 3 years as part of my under-graduate degree at university specialising in Novel to Film adaptation classes, so it is an area that I know better than most. There is no fault with writer/director Gavin Hood’s use of the source material -for the most part- yet like the novel (which was adapted from an ever evolving short story) it is bare & being bare makes it boring.

The main issue is the brevity with which the story is told & develops.

There is meant to be a deadline point, an urgent need to turn Ender Wiggin from a smart little boy into a military genius but you do not feel the urgency of this need or the force of the threat throughout the entire film. Weeks & months are jumped without notice, so you’d honestly think that the film was taking place over the course of a few days. The sudden shifts in the Battle School point this out, as Ender if pushed up the ranks so quickly that you don’t know why. This could have easily been solved by something as cliched as a date bottom up in one of the corners or a count down timer, so it boggles one as to why they didn’t decide to go with this as a way to clarify chronology.

The other issue within the Battle School is so much time is spent building up to these training battles, explaining the rules & showing us the arena but there are only 2 actually battles within the film. I know that CGI is expensive & they couldn’t keep doing battle scenes because would drag the film out & make it boring for the audience (no slamming of the sloped brows in this writing session). Yet the Battle School was meant to show that Ender is a tactical genius but all we have to go by is being told by Graff & others that Ender is smart & the last great hope for humanity & that’s pretty much it.

That whole point that underscore the entire film really.

Why the acting is for the most part passable, there is no time spent developing characters. Especially Ender’s antagonists within the Battle School, such as Bonzo. All we get from Bonzo is that he is short & because he is short, he is a bully who wants to be obeyed. Every scene he is in, his lack of height & physical unattractiveness (based upon white middle American perceptions) is overplayed yet does not bring in any sense of threat. Some quips are made before his untimely exit about his father yet no previous mention of his father being of rank in the military is mentioned prior to that point.

Much seems cut out from the film, which plays to sloppy continuity editing really.

Many themes & ideas go under developed or ignored.

Especially the titular game that Ender plays in his free time.

In the novel it is his psychological dependence as well as the Deus Ex Machina for the end.

Within the film, we only get the latter without much build up.

I don’t mind that they cut how the whole Peter & Valentine (Ender’s older siblings) subplot because that was all needless political stuff & has no baring at all over Ender’s story arc but if they weren’t going to emphasis Peter’s cruelness & Valentine’s kindness beyond a few token scenes, why not cut them out film entirely?

Well, that would change a lot of character of Ender, so better to have them briefly if not at all but they could’ve done a bit more to show the impact that they had on Ender & how he views the world. Especially his desperate need not to be a homicidal sociopath like Peter, who kills because he can. There needed to be far more embellishment of Ender’s empathy beyond Graff, again, stating that he has it.

So, quick formula to close the review: lack of tension + lack of development + shiny CGI + rushed plot = fairly boring film.

No other way around it, children, it’s a boring film & not really worth your time unless you adore the book (in which case: you’ll hate it & have other issues in your life anyway).

Sneak speak at the new live action Patlabor film

Sneak speak at the new live action Patlabor film

I’m a pretty massive fan of the Patlabor franchise (retrospective on the series coming soon), so am excite to see new & confirmed images of the upcoming live action film.

Whilst so many live action adaptations from anime fail on so many levels, I hope that they get this right. For the Labors if nothing else.

plus the tech in the anime, OVAs & movies are so dated that it’s almost funny & painful to look at them.