Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Saving STAR TREK from Fragmentation

There is a concept called "fragmentation." I first learned it when I read an opinion piece on why Apple's iOS was a stronger brand and better for developers than Google's Android. The idea was that since there were only a few devices and form factors at the time, customers would have an easier time adopting the devices/brand and developers would have fewer variables to worry about compared to the myriad models supporting Android. Put simply, the Android experience was more fragmented. Apple having a single, coherent look, quality level, and general feature set for all iOS devices gave Apple the upper hand.

I am reminded of this kind of thing when I look at Warner Brother's handling of DC Comics properties (I wrote about this in my last Pete Saves (Hollywood)) and also when I look at what Paramount and CBS are doing with STAR TREK.

Break it down for me, Pete!

Originally, STAR TREK had just one timeline, that weaved together the adventures of Captains Archer, Pike, Kirk, Picard, Sisco, Janeway, and others into a single, cohesive, story universe.  Despite a few big continuity issues that only really matter to the Trekkiest of Trekkies (ex: Khan wasn't ruling the Earth when Janeway went back in time to 1996) this worked pretty well. 

Then, what were originally assumed to be the movie remakes came along.  However, they turned out to take place in an alternate reality from the original "Prime" timeline but in the same story universe. This was not a remake, after all, but alternate versions of the original timeline's characters and stories. Which is confusing to me and I am a geek.

I love Trek but when Khan Noonian Singh, originally played twice by a Latino actor and portrayed as a Middle Easterner was recast for the remake movies with a white man as a white (?) Khan Noonian Singh (same name! #wth??) I was pretty perplexed. And that was just one of many changes that seemed big enough to lose the heart of the original series but nonetheless created something people enjoyed.

Finally, the announcement of the new STAR TREK show for TV declared a two things that raised more than a few eyebrows. First, that it will only be available via CBS's for-pay streaming service.  Second, it will take place before STAR TREK ENTERPRISE in the Prime timeline but involves none of the characters or ships we know and love.  I guess the idea here is for STAR TREK DISCOVERY to do a kind of STAR TREK VOYAGER but set it back in time, rather than in the future of the TNG era stories.  I guess this is fine, but putting it in the Prime universe just seems confusing since STAR TREK ENTERPRISE already did the prequel thing. 

But that part where STAR TREK DISCOVERY will only be available via the CBS streaming service? What the heck is that about?

I honestly don't know.  It makes limited sense in today's media world to force people to pay for a whole new service just to watch a single show.  What's worse is that everyone already pays for Netflix, Hulu, and an Internet connection.  Now we're expected to pay for the CBS service, too?

Good luck with that, guys!

What would YOU do, tough guy Pete?

For starters, I'd give the STAR TREK DISCOVERY away for free on the Internet.  However, I'd make sure that the writing was good and that I had a complete line-up of great merchandise and license tie-ins to make me tons of money from anywhere but the show.  The show would be a loss leader, but, assuming it's a good show, I'd be making tons of off selling the thing people still don't mind paying for: merch.

But how do you guarantee the show will be good?

Well, I'd do that, as I said, by making sure the story is good by doing this:

I'd make the show about how the world in TOS (The Original Series) came to be that world.  Why does the technology look so different than it does on every other show?  Why does it look so different from our own tech?  I'd answer these questions by telling the story of the war that nearly destroyed humanity and set the stage for the future.  I'd show how Khan rose to power with the help of someone not previously mentioned by anyone in the Prime timeline and I'd start the story toward the end of Khan's reign and the war to end said reign as it causes the descent of humankind into ruin...

..from which humanity does rise again.  This is where the story for STAR TREK DISCOVERY should really begin.

We see how the future becomes, not touch screens and iPod starship designs, but rough around the edges nuts and bolts machines with a DIY vibe that slowly mixes with a new kind of future tech.  A tech that would be invented with new minds and new ideas and new discoveries not made until after the fall of humanity. This will eventually explain why TOS looks so different from the future we expected but eventually got on TNG (The Next Generation).

From there we see the Discovery take her first steps into space and eventually help found the UFP which, by the end of the series, establishes the Constitution Class of starship, one of which is called the Enterprise.

Also, a character is established (mentioned briefly earlier) that takes a secret  discovery back in time to the Era of Khan (1996) and gives it to him. This is what allows Khan to rise to power. This time traveling character should be in the series from beginning to the end and is the chronologically first instance of a time traveler in the Prime universe of STAR TREK. Perhaps he dies at the beginning only to be reintroduced in the form of his younger self, or he lives on, simultaneously with his younger self.  Perhaps they are even friends.  Regardless, him going back in time and spawning Khan's rise establishes that he has splintered away from our literal In-Real-Life reality (the one we actually live in) back in 1996.  This means, that we, ourselves, are living in an alternate reality where Khan never rose to power.

Time to wrap this up...

Ultimately, I think this would be a really fun and pretty epic story to tell.  We've never really dealt with this part of history in TREK and I think it would be the strongest choice.  I also think doing it this way strengthens the idea behind a STAR TREK multiverse and makes all new STAR TREK content more easy to grasp, not to mention easier for the fans to get behind.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

GETTING DC COMICS' CHARACTERS BACK ON THEIR LIVE-ACTION FEET

I miss the old "bullet" logo.
In my last "Pete Saves" piece, I wrote about how I would have made BATMAN VS. SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE.  It's a great candidate for my treatment since it really was pretty rough.  Likewise, the live-action world of DC Comics is pretty rough.  While Warner Brothers and DC have made millions off of recent live-action versions of DC Comics properties, it can easily be argued that they could be making even more if the quality of the stories and characters was more toward the level of Marvel's Cinematic Universe.  This is the key to turning things around for Warner's efforts with DC's characters.

Full disclosure, I've always been more of a Marvel Comics guy.  Something about the real life problems of some of their most successful characters appealed to me at a young age--even before I was aware of why it appealed to me.  That said, I still enjoyed DC's books a lot, too.  I found both the darkness of Batman and the optimism of Superman to resonate with me during my teenage years (depending on my hormones, I am guessing). 

There are also some amazing stories told with quite a few DC characters.  I'm not just talking about the obvious ones, like DARK KNIGHT RETURNS or the myriad other BATMAN titles that seem to catch all the attention.  There have been great story tellers across all of the best DC titles for decades.  Finally, we are at a place in both American and pop culture where comic books are big bucks when translated into the live-action world.  The problem lies in how you adapt the stories and the characters so that they both fit their new media and still capture the essence that made everyone fall in love with them in the first place.  That said, there is a structural issue that can have almost as big an influence on quality.

The solution is right under their noses...

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

BATMAN VS. SUPERMAN VS A SIMPLE FIX


The whole point of this movie was undermined by them not having a good reason to go head-to-head with each other.  In my version of this movie, I'd have given them one that was MUCH more persuasive than "Lex is making me do this!"
Now, I could go into how this movie is a mess of crap, interspersed with rock-stupidity, but if you've seen this movie, you already know this.  So, I'll just jump to the part where I explain how I'd do things differently.  I think it's a fairly simple solution, too.  I tried to write something more like my usual thing but there is just so much to say about this film, I had to give up.  So, here we go:

Start over from Scratch... Almost...

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

The New GHOSTBUSTERS isn't going to please everybody, but it should. That's not the takeaway here.

Never have 4 women playing fictional ghost hunters
caused so many losers with no lives to lose their minds.


So, usually, when I write about how I'd have made a film differently, it ends up being a fairly involved explanation.  However, there really isn't that much to fix with the new GHOSTBUSTERS movie.  It works fine and, I'd say, it's probably a tighter origin story than the original film.  Honestly, I laughed my ass off and the fact that women made me laugh my ass off makes it all the more interesting and fun to me.

Of course, I'm not threatened by women in the least, so maybe I'm unique among men.  But I'll get to more of this in a bit.  For now, I'll stick with the film, itself.  So…

WHAT WORKED IN GHOSTBUSTERS

Full disclosure: I am not a big fan of the original GHOSTBUSTERS.  That's not to say I don't like the film--I do.  I'm just not one of those people that praises it endlessly.  I'd rather watch CADDYSHACK or STRIPES.  The point is, this film didn't have to live up to any any preconceived expectations for me.  All it had to do was tell a cohesive story and make me laugh.  Which it did!  The bonus is that the cast are all really funny people who made the film quite fun to watch.  Usually, in American cinema, women aren't allowed to be funny.  So, this was a real treat.

Also, the warm reverence this film holds for the original GHOSTBUSTERS is wonderful.  If only every reboot had this kind of respect for its source material.  It was so great seeing all of this film's nods to what came before.
Obviously, the FX were amazing, but there really is no excuse for them to not be in today's world. 
 WHAT DID NOT WORK IN GHOSTBUSTERS

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Making MIDNIGHT SPECIAL Actually Special

One of the piece of promotional art for MIDNIGHT SPECIAL (2016). OK, first off, telling me a white kid with glowy eyes is "NOT LIKE US." is hilarious because, well, he's a white kid. He's just like us. He's got glowy eyes? So what? Those could be mirrored sunglasses for all we know! Oh and isn't that cute? He's reading a SUPERMAN comic. MICHAEL SHANNON was IN a SUPERMAN movie! And both that film and this one are not so great! :(
From the director of two films you've never heard of (TAKE SHELTER and MUD), comes MIDNIGHT SPECIAL--a film that dares to tell the story of attractive white people who are the parents of a very advanced and equally white young boy who needs to be protected from an evil (?) religious cult.  Starring Michael Shannon, Kirsten Dunst, the guy who played Uncle Owen in one of the STAR WARS prequels, and the guy who played Kylo Ren in a STAR WARS sequel, this film is one of those movies that will make you wonder if anyone read the script before filming began.

Thus ends my audition script for a job writing for Honest Trailers.

What Works in MIDNIGHT SPECIAL

ARG. That first paragraph was filled with the nicest things I could possibly say about that film.  OK, I could add that the cast is great and the effects are fine.  

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

The X-MEN Movies: The Marvel Cinematic Universe's Idiot Older Brother

The first X-MEN movie was more than fans had hoped,
but less than what should have been.  The X-MEN
comic is positively epic. The movies have not been.
THIS POST IS A SPOILER-RICH ENVIRONMENT.  Please do not read further  if you don't want the X-MEN movies spoiled for you.  It's never my goal to ruin movies for people so, I generally try to avoid being any more spoilery than I have to, but when writing about a movie series, it's kind of impossible to avoid all spoilers.  YOU HAVE BEEN SPOILER-WARNED!

Don't get me wrong--I enjoyed the X-MEN movies.  All of them.  Well, almost all of them (COUGHx-menoriginswolverineCOUGH).  I was overjoyed when the first X-MEN got so much right.  I was still disappointed in how much it got wrong, though.  I mean, come on, it's me--I've read the X-MEN comics.  Sometimes I wonder if everyone who made that first X-MEN movie had.  As far as I can tell, all they did was read the X-MEN issue of WHO'S WHO IN THE MARVEL UNIVERSE and then just stuck in the more popular characters.  Which was great, all told.  That was more than I was expecting, to be honest.

What the first X-MEN movie got right.

The plot and dialog for all of the films was pretty good with the films getting better and better as they went (not including the two Wolverine stand alone films which were steps backward in quality, though the one in Japan was the better of the two).  It was nice to see the general dynamic of Magneto versus the X-Men being respected as much as it was.  However, there is one thing they absolutely had to get right in order to capture one of the most interesting and long-running dynamics...

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

The Trouble with Trailers

We all know what trailers are.  When's the last time you saw a really good one, though?  I can't remember.  I'm shocked when I see a trailer that doesn't make me roll my eyes at least once.  Even movies I like have trailers that are stupid.  When I saw TERMINATOR: GENISYS, every single trailer I saw before the film either gave me too much information in the form of spoilers or stupidity, or they gave me not enough information to determine whether or not the movie would be any good at all.  Is there a solution to this problem?  Or is it just really really hard to make a good trailer?