Category: Film

Motion pictures from high art to schlock…

Marvel: Are Franchises Electric… Where did it all go Wrong for the Amazing Spider-Man?

Whatever happened to the Amazing Spiderman?

Whatever happened to the Amazing Spiderman?

Was it the adjective? A bit over the top? It worked on paper…

Moving on to The Amazing Spider-Man 2. After The Amazing Spider-Man took over $750 million in 2012, it seemed that Sony’s top superhero franchise was back on track, even if not raking in quite as much as it had a decade before. Still, it was closer to the comics, was well kitted out in front and behind the camera and there was a city full of enemies to be explored… So, the inevitable sequel was just the tip of the iceberg. Or so it seemed.  It wasn’t a great start when the inimitable James Horner didn’t return to score a film he later described as “terrible”’… And it was all going so well, wasn’t it?

On with The Amazing Spider-Man 2 – the swift end to Spidey’s last blockbuster life before he joins his friends in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

THE WRITING WAS ON THE WALL AFTER THE FIRST FILM. SPIDER-MAN ON FILM WAS NOW AS CONSUMED WITH TRAGEDY AS HE WAS ON PAPER. And a particular bell was tolling for Gwen Stacy. Jokerside previously took kindly to The Amazing Spider-Man (TAS), the first part of the Andrew Garfield starring Spidey franchise that came to an abrupt end this winter thanks to behind the scenes studio deals. Certainly, that film was too quick to re-spin the origin, and it was too bogged down by coincidence and a terribly bland villain with a very retro-plot. But… It was just about saved by excellent cast and crew. It was a beautifully and confidently shot film, but its release was unlucky, or silly, to coincide with the first Avengers film and the last of the Dark Knight trilogy. It featured a wonderful score by the late James Horner, while the chemistry between Garfield and the constantly impressing Emma Stone was a real highlight, elevating it beyond the gigantic Sam Raimi trilogy of ten years before as it left silly love triangle stuff to Superman films. Still, amid its quest for a convoluted background plot, it was clear TAS didn’t quite know whether to ignore or embrace its illustrious predecessor.

Amid all of that, TAS may have been lucky to fall just $70 million or so behind the nearest Raimi film. It was still considered, in whispered tones, a bit of a disappointment, but there was never a question of stalling the franchise. And when the sequel emerged two years later, the battleground of the superhero film had moved on still further. Now Spidey studio Sony couldn’t have anything other than the Marvel Cinematic Universe in its sights…

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014)

Looking at the four colour page, it’s been mooted that only Spider-Man’s gallery of rogues can rival Batman’s. New York houses a huge and festering pile of madness for the web slinging one to crack jokes at. And while it’s not ostensibly as dark as in Gotham, it’s tinged with tragedy. And while Batman’s foes often take their lead from the world of fairy-tale and literature to deal melodrama, so Spider-Man’s often combine science with some kind of animal symbolism and human drama. You only have to take a look at the fan-baitingly cool scenes deep in the vaults of Oscorp Tower late on in this film to see that. The waiting tentacles of Doc Ock, the wings of the Vulture… They’re instantly recognisable.

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Escape Back to the Planet of the Apes: Tim Burton’s Missing Link

Tim Burton's Planet of the Apes 2001

Tim Burton's Planet of the Apes 2001

The second part of Jokerside’s trip back to The Planet of the Apes shifts even further sideways. After five films, a television series and an animated television series the Plane of the Apes saga looked to have burnt itself out on the big and small screens by the mid-1970s. But you can’t keep good dystopia down. And plans for a reboot that began in the late 1980s came to fruition at the start of the 21st century…

Less a reboot, more a reimagining, in hindsight Tim Burton’s Planet of the Apes served to add even more texture to a science fiction sprawl across multiple parallel realities. It may stand alone, but 14 years on, does it stand tall? *If you care about spoiling this or any other Apes film you may not want to read on just yet.*

EVERY SO OFTEN A CREATIVE PROPERTY FINDS ITSELF STAMPED WITH A FAMILIAR LABEL, ONE THAT MAKE’S SELECT FILM FANS SLAP THEIR HEADS WITH BLUNT SCISSORS: A TIM BURTON DREAM PROJECT. It’s a surprisingly broad label, or ‘dream label’, that says more about the creator than the subject. Perhaps it’s something quirky, eccentric, gothic, long forgotten or that urgently needs a ‘Hollywood update’. It may well have a Grimmish quality of child-like amazement and horror. Easily accommodating Johnny Depp helps, and of course, it can’t have been picked up by Terry Gilliam already. It’s a regular sentence in Hollywood notices, but one that broadly ignores the fact that Burton’s best work comes from properties that are either very well known (Sleepy Hollow, Batman) or fresh and twisted takes from multiple sources (Beetlejuice, Edward Scissorhands). Other times, it all goes a little wrong.  Whether it’s the work of Lewis Carroll, Roald Dahl or yes, Pierre Boulles… A decade on from his brilliant Batman two-parter Apes proved once again that big budget studio ambition isn’t always the best partner to Tim Burton dream projects.

The first part of this retrospective took a look at the original auteurs of everything Ape. There was Pierre’s Boulle’s erudite novel from 1963, making ingenious commentary and putting enough ideas on paper to last well over the eight films it’s so far spawned. Five years later came the iconic adaptation under the expert eye of director Franklin J. Schaffner, with the marvellously unpredictable Charlton Heston frying every synapse as the last man; thrown forward in time to get the final proof that his contempt for his own species was spot on. And there was no redemption to be found on screen, especially when the second film continued that storyline to a very finite conclusion: the detonation of the doomsday bomb and the destruction of the world. The franchise would spin on of course, and a look at the conclusion of that cycle, along with the recent highly successful reboot will come next time…

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Marvel: That Extra Limb… Where did it all go wrong for the Amazing Spider-Man?

What went wrong with the Amazing Spiderman?

What went wrong with the Amazing Spiderman?

Was it the adjective? A bit over the top? It worked on paper…

With a not inconsiderable haul of over $1 billion across two films, another of Spider-Man’s cinematic personas bit the dust earlier this year, without even getting in Kraven the Hunter’s sights … And it was all going so well, wasn’t it?

On the day Hollywood lost the great James Horner, composer of first film’s sublime score, it also gained a new Spider-Man in Tom Holland. So, just what happened to that famous spidey-sense? First, building up the Amazing Spider-Man.

NOT RENOWNED FOR HIS RETICENCE, SPIDER-MAN HAD LITTLE SAY IN THE MATTER AS INTANGIBLE CLOUDS FORMED ROUND HIM THAT HE COULDN’T PUNCH OR CATAPULT. Sony’s well publicised struggles combined with box office below the Sam Raimi Spidey films of last decade cast the web slinger in a colder light than ever before. Along with Fox’s X-Men and Fantastic Four, he was isolated against the growing dominance of the Disney run Marvel Cinematic Universe. In the year The Amazing Spider-Man (TAS) debuted the brand new Spider-Man, The Avengers ended Marvels’ Phase One and elevated the series to billion dollar blockbusters. It was a whole different universe to the one Raimi’s Spider-Man emerged to 10 years before. So, it was all the bolder that Sony attempted such a rapid re-origin.

Origin Issues

Cause for disappointment in what could be otherwise considered a major success.

There wasn’t really a precedent for a reboot of that speed, not with those figures involved, so the industry couldn’t help but squint a little. Batman Begins came closest in 2005, bringing a legitimate reboot to the Bat for the first time in 16 years. But then, Batman had two huge advantages: it came three years before Marvel’s plans kicked into gear and; the Dark Knight’s origins had never been fully explored on screen. Still, as subdued as that first film’s $374 million was, its two sequels more than evenly matched the Marvel machine. In comparison, TAS took $750 million, a clear $70 million less than the first of Raimi’s trilogy a decade before. That was cause for disappointment in what could be otherwise considered a major success. In part, it was unlucky too surface at the same time as The Dark Knight trilogy concluded with just over a billion dollars – and become the second best film about New York that summer.

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Escape Back to the Planet of the Apes: Page to Screen

Escape from the Planet of the Apes

Planet of the Apes Part One

Last year Dawn of the Planet of the Apes navigated its change of cast and director to match the critical acclaim and exceed the box office of its predecessor. Already raking in more than the original five film cycle, Fox’s key apocalyptic franchise is clearly back to stay. And Hollywood is richer for it.

In the first of four simian long reads, Jokerside looks to the far future of Pierre Boulle’s original novel and the two Charlton Heston starring adaptations that kicked off one of Hollywood’s major franchises by ending the world…

THE APES ARE BACK. IN SO MANY WAYS THE ARCHETYPAL ACTION FRANCHISE, PLANET OF THE APES IS ALSO ONE OF THE STRANGEST. It’s the first two scenes of 2001 all wrapped up, when it wants to be. It’s humanoids versus humanoids, but not one of them is an invader from outer space. These aren’t machines from the future, but ambassadors from hummanity’s past. Man’s destruction may lie in his own hands, but the winners aren’t built by them; it’s anti-robot to the point of schadenfreude. Not only are apes waiting for man at the end of time, but against all odds, technology in the thrall of the cosmic joker, serves up a man of our contemporary to witness it. It’s one thing that man is destined to destroy himself, but quite another that he’s forced into subjugation, robbed of almost everything, even language, only for a cynical, desperate forefather visit the future to witness it. That just rubs salt in the wounds of our mute, enslaved, distant ancestors. There’s no simple extinction to offer man an easy way out of this universe. The apes are coming and it’s a good thing that Creationists will have stopped reading by now…

Post-apocalyptic action-fiction has never waned since its inception – around about the publication of Mary Shelley’s The Last Man in 1826. And she was no one hit wonder. 189 years later, this year has seen George Miller’s Mad Max bring the genre resoundingly back to the cinema. But a few years ago, Fox’s greatest franchise found a less bombastic way to drag its own brand of dystopian horror back to the big screen. That’s proved a great success. In creating two superb, intelligent and brilliantly produced films during this ‘reboot’ Fox has somehow managed to gross over a billion dollars. It elevates a franchise that burned so brightly through the late 1960s and early 1970s before floundering for three decades – and just about disguising the fact that the Apes films were never riddled with quality as much as they were ambition. Still, on their celluloid attack, the real strength still comes from dipping into the marvellously broad canvas painted by a trinket of a book published in 1963.

Continue reading “Escape Back to the Planet of the Apes: Page to Screen”

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