Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Financial Crisis, or: It's the End of the World and So Can We

Greetings, my friends!

Good news and bad news!

Interlude! Consider the following exchange in Final Crisis #4:
SUPERHERO: You seen the new Planet edition yet?

LITTLE KID: It still comes out?

SUPERHERO: They have a printing press in Superman's Fortress of Solitude. [...]

LITTLE KID: When does everything go back to normal?
End Interlude! Good news first! Financial Crisis is an invention of Grant Morrison! Another front on which the forces of Apokolips are hammering away at the Planet Earth! It's all going to be reversed once the man sent to save the Planet Earth from Planet Krypton and his friends will fix things!

Bad news! Crisis will not be over until 2009!

Conclusion! Fourth-Wall-to-Fifth-World Synchronization! Has! Begun!

Heads up and heads down, my friends! Do not succumb to the Anti-Life Equation! Watch out for Black Knights mounted on Dogs of War with Alaskan Apokolipstick chanting nihilistic slogans!

When it starts raining blood and Evil Gods of Destruction begin their descent from the skies - Do. Not. Panic! Remember: All just temporary, imaginary, fictional concepts with no bearing on reality, no more real than communism!

And even if We Can't, there will be another chance in 2012, just as we leave the Fourth World.

So it goes!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Pan's Pipes

A.O. Scott of The New York Times joins the chorus of naysayers on writer J. Michael Straczynski and director Clint Eastwood's feature film Changeling:
The character [of Christine Collins, played by Angelina Jolie], as imagined in J. Michael Straczynski’s script, is as flat as a nickel. Each side is stamped with the likeness of a familiar movie archetype — victim of circumstance on one, crusader against injustice on the other — and Ms. Jolie composes her features and adjusts her voice accordingly when it comes time to flip.
Scott's review criticizes Eastwood and Jolie's work more than it does Straczynski's, to be fair, and he even goes so far as to acknowledge that the basic ingredients for a good film are there in the script.

Overall, though, it's also fair to say that the critical response to Straczynski's major film debut isn't anything to write home about so far, and the reasons ring familiar to anyone who's familiar with his comics or television work.

(Rotten Tomatoes currently shows an average rating of 49% for Changeling.)

Thursday, October 23, 2008

The Straczynski Factor

At Slate, Dana Stevens reviews Changeling, also, like her colleague David Denby, finding more than just a trace of what I consider the most prominent and recurrent flaw in writer J. Michael Straczynski's work:
[...] The Changeling [sic] settles for middlebrow uplift and handsomely conventional melodrama. [...] [The film] doesn't invite the viewer to share in its heroine's disorientation, rage, and grief. Rather, it keeps us at a stately remove, presenting Christine's suffering as a kind of religious tableau.

[...] [L]ike many of Eastwood's late movies, this one takes place in a deeply phony moral universe. How hard is it to like a baby chick better than the hobnailed boot that's stomping on it? As gifted as Angelina Jolie may be, there are only so many different inflections she can give to the monotone refrain, "Please help me find my son." All of Eastwood's rigorous craftsmanship seems wasted on a movie whose message never rises above the bumper-sticker admonition that "mean people suck."
Et cetera, et cetera. Stevens tears apart the roles played by John Malkovich and Angelina Jolie, who, she finds, are horribly miscast, and calls the film "clompingly heavy-handed."

Of course, Stevens seems to attribute the film's shortcomings to its director, Clint Eastwood, and she may well have a point. Eastwood's films - take Million Dollar Baby - have always displayed a tendency towards drippy, one-dimensional moralizing, after all.

So has Straczynski's work, however. I guess Eastwood and Straczynski were made for each other, as far as directing and writing are concerned. It's a shame, really, since both creators can actually be pretty good. By teaming up, it seems, they're bringing out the worst in each other, though.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Spot of Bother

At The New Yorker, film critic David Denby reviews director Clint Eastwood and writer J. Michael Straczynski's Changeling and has an objection that probablt doesn't come as a great surprise to anyone who's familiar with Straczynski's work.
“Changeling” is beautifully wrought, but it has the abiding fault of righteously indignant filmmaking: it congratulates us for feeling what we already feel—in this case, contempt for psychiatry used as coercion and for long-discredited male-chauvinist attitudes.
Between Straczynski's writing in Babylon 5, Rising Stars, Amazing Spider-Man or The Book of Lost Souls, the desire to get on a soapbox and preach to his audience about what's good and just and right is, perhaps, one the most defining threads.

Granted, it's also a crucial part of the appeal of Straczynski's voice - but even so, he's overdoing it a lot of the time. To Straczynski's credit, though, it should be said that the preaching doesn't seem to have as much of a presence in Thor and The Twelve.

Crisis Management

Original Final Crisis artist J.G. Jones has confirmed that he's not going to draw the book's final issue. Instead of Carlos Pacheco, who has been lending a hand starting with this week's Final Crisis #4, however, DC are bringing in a third artist, Doug Mahnke, to draw issue #7. Of course, the book is already off schedule anyway, and even if Final Crisis #7 does come out in February, it's still going to be two months behind.

I find it worth noting that while Marvel were infamously weighing the option of shipping Civil War on time and with multiple artists involved against the option of waiting on Steve McNiven and shipping the book late a couple of years ago, DC are now having it both ways.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Please Don't Tell Wesley Snipes

In The Washington Post's article by Michael Cavna on Marvel's upcoming Black Panther revamp, writer Reginald Hudlin lets fly some faintly baffling sound-bites.
"Honestly, my entire run on the series has been controversial. Which is great," he says. "All the writers I admire are hotly debated online, and I feel like I'm always in great company in that situation. But more importantly, it means that people care about the book."
Really? As I recall, there was a bit of controversy among hardcore fans early on in the run, if you can call it that, because the series was inconsistent with earlier stories and the publisher left it unclear whether it was meant to be part of the "Marvel Universe."

After a few months, though, the controversy stopped, because, as it seems, nobody was reading anymore. Hudlin's last issue of the recently cancelled title, #38, sold an estimated 19,459 units - which is pretty sad, and likely the reason why another relaunch was deemed necessary in the first place. Perhaps Hudlin is referring to his frequent clashes with fans on the Internet or at conventions when he's talking about controversies. In terms of the comics, though, I don't see it.
"Over the course of 40 issues [over three years], we ... really defined the character in a way that hadn't been done before. ... Having done that, you go: "How do we up the stakes?"
Well, tits, evidently.