Jokerside Top 10 Posts of the Year: 2015

Jokerside best posts 2015

The results are in – which posts from the Jokerside were the most read in 2015? From dystopia to horror to platformers to clowns, there was something for everyone…

  1. Waterworld at 20: We need to Parley about Mariner (July 2015)

The Mariner sinks - Waterworld at 20One of the single shots from the Dystopia series, there was no way Jokerside could ignore the 20th anniversary of Waterworld. A huge reaching addition to big budget future-set blockbusters, it’s as much of a dramatic disaster as it is a flop. It made money and has lots to teach modern disaster cinema. Still notorious 20 years on, it’s impossible to overlook the sparing desolation, the beautiful filming, solid retro effects and fine sense of humour in what’s proved to be quite the influential film. Jokerside came to praise…

“Waterworld may never escape its reputation, but it’s never going to disappear. There’s a dash of Snake Pliskin, a helluva lot of Max but essentially it’s a pirate film. Eight years later Pirates of the Caribbean would pull a neat trick on the two Kevs, taking set-pieces and settings from Waterworld while hitting many of the narrative beats of Prince of Thieves. And that’s a real anomaly at the pirate box office, a very successful one. As dystopia has risen again to remind us that it’s still around sunken cities and post-apocalyptic action will continue to grace the big screen.

And really, for all the criticism, let’s not forget that the three Universal Studios are still running Waterworld attractions to this day. And inventive side-effect from an inventive film. Never forget Waterworld’s last line: “It’s more than that” – and so it is.” Read more

If you liked that in 2015: Stay tuned this winter as the Dystopia Series draws to a halt on The Planet of the Apes. Ka-boom…

  1. Doctor Who: Silence – Fooling you twice the same way (Whovember #11 Alpha) (March 2015)

The Eleventh Doctor and the Silence that must fallA surge into the top ten for just one of the Eleventh Doctor retrospectives. The New Series restructure has pushed the Tenth, Eleventh and Twelfth Doctors near the top of the pile in terms of stories. While the Doctor’s 51st birthday saw Jokerside revisit the Tenth Doctor’s tendency to meet historical celebrities.

The Eleventh Doctor’s tortured and twisted tales demanded a three apart retrospective as Jokerside took on the nefarious overlapping plots of the Silence. Quite possibly the biggest mixed bag in Doctor Who. The first part took a look at the prolonged plans of the Silents that didn’t involve their memory averse high priests the Silents. The summary, mid-way through makes it sound all rather exciting, while capturing some flaws that were never solved…

“Of course the something that abducted the TARDIS and blew it up, destroying the universe in the process, isn’t uncovered. The Silence, whatever it is, is still out there. But this Doctor, like his successor, are in no great rush to find out what could have easily accomplished this horror show. Narratively this is a far stronger force than the Pandorica Alliance; the greatest threat he’s ever faced. But then again, it’s a whole new universe and there’s an Egyptian Goddess lose on the Orient Express that’s far more appealing (or possibly not, as it’s contradicted by Series Eight). The Silence are off the hook and would need a Plan B, if they could possibly realise they failed what with it being a wholly new universe and everything… Fortunately, that night aboard the TARDIS, the Doctor’s companions are providing the Silence with just such a second chance…” Read more

If you liked that in 2015: Stay tuned for Jokerside’s customary celebration of Doctor Who in November 2016. And first, this March we’ll be taking a look at the episode that saw showrunner Steven Moffat make Who history…

  1. Super Mario Bros. the Movie! Dystopia hits the Mushroom Kingdom (September 2015)

Super Mario Bros at 30 - MarioAnother one-shot in the series of Dystopia, the 30th anniversary of gaming icon Super Mario’s first solo adventure was the perfect time to revisit his sole Hollywood outing. Another film mired by, it was unfortunate to kick-start videogame big screen adaptations. It’s flawed certainly, but the creativity and ambition behind a film that’s almost never shown and fairly difficult to get hold of should trigger mass-reappraisal. At the very least it remains a vivid lesson.

“The terrible tone issues don’t affect Super Mario Bros. cult status, but they do lessen the chance of a brightening reappraisal. Hollywood’s infatuation with videogames comes not just from their inherent merchandising, but also their in-built audience and huge money earning (as well as surely a wary glimpse at its parallel and media rival). Few chances to merge the two have managed to fulfil the potential and that sadly started here. Ultimately Super Mario Bros. manages to do a disservice to itself and the game franchise while being immensely watchable and on occasion visually stunning. Its greatest injustice is that such a glorious adventure ended with the opposite legacy: two decades later an increasing raft of videogame adaptations are now expected to fail, following standard formulas with the need to break ground being felt less and less.” Read more

If you liked that in 2015: Stay tuned for Jokerside’s widening look at videogames – particularly a special glimpse at James Bond on consoles coming soon…
Read more…

Star Wars: The Force Unleashed – A Canon Divided

Star Wars Force Unleashed Stormtrooper

As Star Wars The Force Awakens bursts the Big Screen, a look at one of Star Wars greatest moments that’s been force pushed out of history… The Force Unleashed.

* Includes spoilers for The Force Unleashed, not so much The Force Awakens *

IT WAS JUST BEFORE HALLOWEEN 2012 THAT STAR WARS PHASE TWO STARTED. Disney had seized control of the Senate, undermined the Jedi order and taken control of Lucasfilm and Star Wars. With the ominous suggestion that the franchise was underexploited, plans were sown for a future that few had suspected. And frankly, many who had, dreaded.

But when George Lucas said at the time, “It’s now time for me to pass Star Wars on to a new generation of film-makers,” he really meant it. Three years on, the first Star Wars film in ten years ready and poised to break records as it kicks off a new trilogy sparked by three different hot property directors. And filming is already under way on the first Star Wars anthology film, Rogue One, taking a punt at providing a proper prequel to the original Episode 4. But it wasn’t all positive for creativity as far reaching surgical cuts were made to give the future of the franchise absolute freedom. It took just over a year for Disney to issue their own Order 66 against Star War’s expanded universe and wipe the canon clean.

The search for canonicity

The strained emergence of what one of entertainment’s largest brands led to confusion from the outset…

Canonicity is a hotly disputed topic in fan bases, especially around genre properties. Even under strict control, the issue can get murky across divergent media. The rule of all official material being canonical quickly gives way to caveats that it’s only canonical if it doesn’t contradict a more important and compelling part of the canon.

As it stands, the current core of canonical Star Wars is formed by the six film sequence, with the notable addition of the well regarded Clone Wars cartoon series joining new animated series Rebels as part of lore. The expanded universe of novels comics, videogames and animated series is now branded (relegated) under Star Wars Legends. The decks cleared, all future created content across multi-media will be officially canonical forming Disney’s next great shared universe. And on the basis of Star Wars The Force Awakens, signs are very good indeed.

But now there’s no room on the timeline for Star Wars Holiday Special or Droids. No imperial cargo decks reserved for Knights of the Old Republic or shooting galleries where Shadows of the Empire or Dark Forces can hang out.

Disney’s move was a shrewd, ruthless and necessary one. After all, the strained emergence of what would become one of entertainment’s largest brands led to confusion from the outset. Alan Dean Foster’s 1978 Star Wars: Splinter of the Mind’s Eye was a prose sequel to the original Star Wars film, intended to be filmed as a low budget follow-on should the original film’s box office not have come up to scratch. History records that Star Wars set the box office alight, instantly enabling a high budget sequel in The Empire Strikes Back and the writing off of Mind’s Eye. But still, it lingered until it met Disney’s scythe. While not contradictory, there’s an uneasy link between those duelling sequels, even considering Mind Eye’s distinctive and iconic front cover. Disney has now shredded this very early tension, along with the vast majority of expanded universe stories that followed. Those books and storylines that followed the original trilogy, many of which spun out to explain the events that took place after Return of the Jedi were complicated and mainly the preserve of completists rather than the ticket buying mainstream that inspired Disney’s purchase. Although all were signed off by Lucasfilm, that didn’t guarantee their canonicity for what will always primarily be a film based franchise and Disney have proved it. The instant impact of this decision has been thousands of column inches dredging the irony that some elements of the ever-tweaked film run remain canon. Yes, gungans, Darth Vader being called “Ani”… But aside from reducing the many volumes of Star Wars universe encyclopaedia, the real cost has been the relegation of some of the franchise’s greatest moments. In particular The Force Unleashed – quite possibly the highlight of 21st century Star Wars.
Read more…

Doctor Who Series 9: The Return to Gallifrey and Chekov’s Hybrid

Doctor Who Hell Bent Rassilon
At least there wasn’t a parallel universe…

And so Doctor Who Series Nine found the doctor where no one thought possible, back on his home planet of Gallifrey. But true to form, the culmination of years of seeding and two sublimely produced episodes wasn’t really about the Doctor’s homecoming at all. As the audience might have expected, it was more about the companion and the return to a mysterious one word story arc…

Travelling to end of time itself, inspired by Hell Bent.

“Tell them I know what they did. And I’m on my way”

WITH THE INNOVATIONS AND MODERNISING OF DOCTOR WHO’S NEW SERIES CAME THE ARRIVAL OF THE ‘FINALE’. That just didn’t happen in the old days, when seasons of serials gave you a denouement-full of finale every four to six weeks on average, mostly once a month. It was almost coincidence when a season closed with a classic story – but then, no production team aimed for a sub-standard story, let alone one to end the year. But with the show’s return in 2015, the wise call to adapt the show to the recognised series format meant an inexorable rise to a finale from the start. It was unavoidable, even if it’s seldom presented itself in the same way over the past decade. But in becoming a series, following the standardised particularly developed by American networks, the emphasis, weight and propulsion simply had to fall towards the story that closed each year. This essay series has already looked at the structure and peaks that developed from reconstructing the show around a series format, and how Face the Raven broke expectation. But in a series of predominantly multiple part stories, that episode commenced a three-part finale. And once again, as the integral difference that marks a series out from a soap, they don’t come much heavier than the finale.

Building up

“At the end of everything, one must expect the company of immortals”

But yes, that build-up throughout each series’ 12 or 13 episodes has come in different forms. Since the show’s return, the emphasis has moved from slow series-long build-ups to full and even half-series finales. Under showrunner Russell T Davies, viewers could expect a resolution that pinned less on an arc than hanging references, strung through the series’ seemingly unconnected episodes like jigsaw pieces of missing bees and big, bad wolves, all stemming from light and romping season openers. Under his successor, Steven Moffat, the show’s seen the introduction of high concept first episodes and mid-series finales. Ever more pressure was piled on each year’s conclusion through arcs and interlinked stories of increasing complexity. Although that looked to have reached its peak during the show’s sixth series, that left heavy expectations for the series that followed. And unfortunately, pressure isn’t always the show’s greatest companion.

Sombre times

“Hope is a terrible thing on a scaffold”

There was a shift after the Eleventh Doctor’s second year in charge of the TARDIS key. After the complexity of the sixth series, series finales were more identifiable by their higher concepts and lower keys. Almost as though the glut of The Impossible Astronaut, A Good Man Goes to War, Let’s Kill Hitler and The Wedding of River Song during Series Six and had worn the format thin. In Series Seven, the half-series finale that bade farewell to the Ponds found a sombre piece in The Angels take Manhattan, despite its showbiz name. A half-series later, The Name of the Doctor stole the drooping crown of sober finales. During the build-up to the show’s 50th anniversary spectacular, audiences might not have expected a crawl through a huge graveyard and overgrown TARDIS tomb, hollow serial killers ruining séances, the Great Stupidity or the Eleventh Doctor weeping at his impending doom in suburbia.

And that approach didn’t fall on the Fields of Trenzalore. A year on and it was more of the same in the two-part conclusion of Series Eight. While Dark Water opened with the sudden and rather inexplicable death of Clara’s beau Danny Pink, it followed the Doctor and Clara pursuit to a maybe afterlife, before delving heavily into dark speculation about death and cremation. The extended finale that followed, the joyfully titled, Death in Heaven, wasn’t only miserable in name; a considerable portion of it was spent in a graveyard. It was a far cry from the bombast of previous series finales. While they were always tinged with tragedy and danger (and so they should be, with their frequent wrap parties for major characters) their gloom had never been so overwhelming.  Read more…

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