“Veronica Mars”

Veronica Mars was one of those television shows that I adored and so, of course, was canceled far too soon. Though, it did get three seasons of wavering quality and increasingly diminished ratings before the axe fell, so it doesn’t top my personal list of tragic cancellations. But it is one of the very few to be revived via a feature film, which would have been a news story even without the record-breaking Kickstarter campaign that helped make it a reality.

Movie poster

I won’t mince words: this movie is pure fan service. That’s not a bad thing, since I’m a fan, but I really don’t think it would be nearly as enjoyable a film if I weren’t. Basically, it plays like an episode of the show that is a bit longer and peppered with inside references. All of which is awesome for the Marshmallows and will go completely over the heads of anyone note familiar with the show. In fact, I’m pretty sure I missed a lot since in the interest of instant gratification I didn’t bother waiting to rewatch the entire series before delving into the film.

The story picks up nine years after the show ended. Veronica has moved about as far as she can from her life as a private detective in Neptune and is interviewing for a corporate law firm in Manhattan. But conveniently her ten-year class reunion is coming up and it takes the span of about two weeks for her to toss that New York life down the drain and be, well, Veronica. Oh, and Logan being (wrongly) accused of murder. Because that’s never happened before. It’s actually the speed with which things happen and the convenient nature of the events that I find to be the only real negative for this movie. It’s a negative that I can easily forgive as a fan, though, because it all is a means to get on screen the things that fans of the show want to see.

Anyway, the story itself centers around Veronica trying to sleuth out the facts in a murder that Logan is accused of. It’s a pretty good mystery and one that easily could have been stretched through a season of the show. Condensed down to a feature film running time means that it does seem a bit rushed, though, I didn’t find it sacrificed any legitimacy. Of course, I admit I was more interested in just seeing all the cast embodying their old characters to be too focused on tight storytelling or plausible suspense. I was impressed, to the point of distraction, with how much of the cast was crammed into the film and with only one character having to be recast, too. I stayed away from most of the news announcements to stay as spoiler-free as possible, but had I paid attention back then I would have been truly baffled how and if all the pieces would mesh.

It would have been needless, though, because in the end it’s not so much Neptune High’s class reunion as it is one for the viewer. And rather than awkwardly mingling with so-called friends trying to piece together the hierarchy everyone’s lives have fallen into, you just get to sit back and see a remixed version of all the old favorites. There’s far too many things to list out here because they really are spread throughout the entire film. But if there’s some aspect you truly enjoy about the show, there’s almost positively an homage to it somewhere in there. I could gush on about it endlessly.

A must-see for any fan of the show, but then you’ve probably already seen it. If you aren’t a fan, I definitely suggest watching the show first because (a.) it’s a good one1 and (b.) you’ll enjoy this film so much more. Otherwise, it’s probably not going to feel worth the price of admission or a rental.

  1. At the time of this writing, DVDs and digital copies are on sale, too.

Not at SDCC :_;

One of these years I’ll brave the ginormous crowds of the San Diego Convention Center for Comic-Con. This was not that year and even if it was supposed to be I have stupid jury duty. [I just hit something in the post edit screen that made the whole screen dim except for this text. Neat, but have no clue how I did it.]

Anyway, since I’m buried under all the work that I didn’t get to during the week and likely won’t get to next week I’m just going to link to the Firefly panel because you should see it and make with the happy:

Also, there’s the press conference. And Morena had an interview with The Huffington Post and made a video. Good times.

EDIT: Gina Torres on not being at the 10th anniversary panel. She might be more sad about not being able to attend than everyone else; I’m really not sure.

“The Last Airbender”

I spent a good portion of Monday in a heated discussion about joining a group of friends to watch The Last Airbender. Having already sat through the film one time too many I was doing a good job of refusing . . . and then I must have had a temporary break with reality because somehow I spent that evening in what we all affectionately refer to as a Theater!1 Since I’m a giver, I figure I’ll share my pain via a review.

Movie poster

Let’s set the record straight: this is a terrible movie. If you’re a fan of Avatar: The Last Airbender you are likely to be reduced to tears at some point during the two hour run. And if you aren’t a fan of ATLA, I suggest you do everything in your power to erase any knowledge you have gained of this film. Instead devote that brainpower to familiarizing yourself with the cartoon series because it’s several kinds of awesome.

So what makes this such a terrible film exactly? Well, the most prominent issues seem to stem from Shyamalan’s desire to make the film more realistic than the animated source material. The most obnoxious of these changes is that the pronunciation of most character names are different. This is first noticed during the narrated scroll not thirty seconds into the movie and is ever present throughout the entire run. Whether or not this change is actually a more correct form of Asian language translation is moot — and in at least one instance the change is incorrect — because as far as I’m concerned the source material is what set the standard and those are the names I associate with the characters. This new pronunciation just seems odd and wrong and every time I would hear someone’s name it was a jarring experience that took me completely out of the story.

Other elements that I associate with the cartoon are missing or changed with about the same success. The nations lack their defining differences in style of dress, though the costumes were nicely made. Also the visual cue of the distinct colors was neglected, but probably it would have just been done badly anyway so I might be splitting hairs. And really any of these alterations could be forgiven if the actors were capable of bringing the characters to life.

I admit it, this was not a well written script. I honestly think Shyamalan should have let his daughter write the screenplay. Or he should be blaming her for the atrocity it was. I don’t know. But it’s undeniably some pretty lackluster writing. So, the actors didn’t really have a lot to work with. Of course, one of the major debates about this film was the casting. Rather than look for ethnic actors to fill the roles of the racially diverse world of ATLA the filmmakers defended their predominately white casting choices by stating they were the best ones to fill those roles. Based on the high caliber of acting that was displayed in this film, I can only assume that every other actor in the whole of the world got lost on their way the casting calls. Really, it’s that bad.

Ignoring the acting and the writing, I still found the characterization to be very odd. No one relates to their cartoon counterpart in any significant way. If the names had actually been changed — and not just pronounced weirdly — I could have spent time playing a guessing game with some debatable accuracy and that would have been five minutes of entertainment otherwise absent!

The film completely breaks down for me when it comes to the action scenes. The animated series is very noteworthy for its unique style and choreography — and as good as those are I think they’ve only gotten better with the sequel The Legend of Korra, by the way. So, Shyamalan decided to not hire the martial artist who designed the movements for the elemental bending. Instead, everyone just kind of flails around . . . and then randomly some special effect happens like a boulder slowly floating by or a ball of water forms in the air. There’s no connection between the movements and the elemental effect and so it quite literally plays on screen as if the two are basically independent of one another and just coincidentally happen around the same time. Which is even more baffling because apparently just being in close proximity to an element you have affinity for will cause some reaction. (A bit of mythology that is unique to this film and not at all present in the cartoon.) Moreover, the action scenes are completely the opposite of dynamic. There’s no peril or excitement and most of the time the characters seemed to be fighting in the most random and illogical way possible.

Of course, that almost makes sense from a characterization standpoint because pretty much everything else they are doing seems random and illogical. For example, Aang is being hunted by the Fire Nation and yet a montage sequence shows Team Avatar hanging posters throughout their travels announcing his return. There’s some vague exposition given over this, but it’s shoehorned in, as is most all of the exposition that is info-dumped throughout the two hours. There’s an obscene amount of talking about nothing in this film. None of which is clarifying information if you aren’t already familiar with the source material — and if you are it’s still incredibly boring and confusing. And this is only compounded by how the movie itself is edited together; scenes don’t flow together and often it feels like there’s huge chunks that were taken out that really needed to be there.

The fact is this movie has so much wrong with it and is truly so bad that writing about it is actively depressing me to the point I’ve literally run out of drive to keep typing. Coming from me, that really is saying something.

  1. “Theater!” refers to watching a movie or TV show or whatever simultaneously with others across the Internet. It started in 2002 with me and Ian and a shared love for several of the same animated shows. By the time we’d worked our way through Batman: The Animated Series and the other related DCAU shows that had aired to that point we had coined the phrase. I think it was Ian who first used the word, but I was the one who specified the exclamation point’s necessity lest we confuse it with an actual building or something.

Teen Titans . . . WHOA!

Teen Titans Go!

Apparently somewhere in the world a butterfly flapped its wings and caused the world to shift on its axis because on the heels of my utter disappointment comes an announcement that actually makes me think DC isn’t totally worth giving up faith on: Teen Titans GO! is coming to TV next year! (Coincidentally I just finished a full rewatch of the original series.)

Anyway, must pick my jaw up off the floor and get on with the day. I expect I’ll be humming the theme in expression of my shock and joy.

EDIT: Fixed article link.

Prepare for Disappointment

DCnU Justice League preview image by Jim Lee

So, this was announced. I’m not surprised. It was just a matter of time given The Avengers and how wildly successful it has become. And rightly so.

But it’s the perfect example of how DC continues to do everything wrong that Marvel is doing right. The Avengers was planned for years ahead of time. It was built up with FIVE other movies that managed to be solid in their own right. On the other hand, DC’s given us Green Lantern and that was just . . . terrible. I won’t even get into the Nolan films because I’d probably rupture an artery. I’ve already talked about some of my issues here.

I’m not saying that Marvel is without fault, though, I also don’t follow them as closely. But in general the only venue that DC has consistently out performed them is in animation. Unfortunately, that’s not where the money is, but rather than take stock of what makes their animation superior they’ve continually mishandled their other ventures. And of late even their animation has been pretty lackluster.

I’m pretty sure if this JL film gets off the ground it will be the death of any future DC films. I’ve been a DC Comics fan practically my entire life, so I should be devastated by this realization but frankly I’m almost relieved. I’d like to think it might be just the thing that will put them on a path to making something decent — and perhaps by some miracle it will be. But I look at the current thread of their books lately and I’m so disappointed by what I read that I can’t quite believe even this would be rock bottom enough for them to understand how wrong things have become.

I am not going to bemoan the loss of the DCAU because I’m actually glad it ended on a high note when Justice League/Unlimited was doing well and the stories were pretty strong. Though, it is worth noting that Batman: The Animated Series will likely always be my definitive Batman, and certainly rank amongst my favorite television shows, animated or otherwise. But judging from what’s come from DC since, I really feel that they are truly blind to what actually makes the good things they put out. There have been a dozen DTVs since then and most of them have been pretty middle-of-the-road at best, a few have been downright terrible, and a handful have been something pretty great with Batman: Under the Red Hood likely the best of the bunch. The current animated series on television are no better. Young Justice has a few good points to it — really great action, mostly — but it’s not even up to Justice League at it’s weakest and while the Green Lantern series is easily better than the similarly named film, the best I can really say about it is that it’s boring. If that wasn’t bad enough, there’s a new Batman series on the horizon and it is frightening how awful it looks. Gun-toting Alfred, all I’m saying.

Essentially I feel that DC has lost touch with their characters. The thing that truly boggles my mind is that the DCnU was supposed to be a means to bring all the characters back to their roots. To simplify and streamline the comics and make them more accessible to a new generation. I didn’t support the idea when it was announced because everything I heard about it just boded unwell, but it could have worked. Instead it’s created an even bigger mess of the books and honestly has turned most of my favorite heroes into people I don’t like. Wonder Woman especially has basically turned into exactly the thing she used to stand against; she’s little more than a bitchy killing machine. (Admittedly, I lost my taste for her after Maxwell Lord’s murder, but as terrible as that was things in her book have just gotten more upsetting.) Logically, I get it — the books are selling and comics have always changed with the times. Maybe I’m just nostalgic, like a piece of my childhood is steadily being chipped away. But looking at as an entire entity it just feels, well, wrong.

The movie announcement bothers me mostly because I’m sincerely worried that we won’t just get a horrible film, but it will be a film populated by characters that are no longer recognizable to me. And really, that’s the most disappointing thing of all.