Posts Tagged ‘Comics’

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Watched Lately: X-Men: First Class…And The Outlook Of Superhero Movies

June 4, 2011

Once upon a time, I used to write about the new movies I’ve seen on this blog, especially when it comes to comic book adaptations. They’re sort of an…esoteric interest of mine. I’d make an effort to get out to the theater, bribe my husband who doesn’t give a whit about comics with cookies so he’ll come along with me, and we’d watch whatever superhero/antihero that comes to life that week on the big screen.

Anyway, it’s been a while since I’ve written about those, and there are a couple reasons for that. One, there has been an explosion of comic book films coming out of Hollywood lately, and let’s face it — so much of it is just utter crap. I’ve had to get picky with my money and time (not to mention that I tire of baking cookies) so depending on the movie, sometimes I’ll just pass if it’s an adaptation of a title from DC, Image, or an independent publisher. However — I will always watch anything based on a Marvel title, no exceptions. Too much of a Marvel fangirl; so much that I’ll take both the good and the bad.

So when I first heard about X-Men: First Class, I just knew I had to watch it. Come on, not only is it Marvel, it’s also the X-Men.

But I was wary. At first, I thought it was going to be a complete reboot of the movie franchise — mirroring the idea of the X-Men: First Class limited comic series. When I found out that it was actually a “fifth installment” and a loose prequel to the existing X-Men films, I was disappointed. I wasn’t a big fan of the first couple of movies to begin with even though they were both highly acclaimed, though I believe it’s safe to say the third one was universally despised, and I’m still trying to forget that that travesty of a Wolverine spin-off ever even happened.

To Marvel Studio’s credit, they’ve been putting out more great stuff than bad for the last few years. Still, I’ve always felt there was something missing. There’s more to a good movie than just high production values — sometimes, even the most excellent of special effects, the flashiest of costumes, and the creamiest of the crop actors can only take you so far. I’ve always felt that most comic book movies today lack a good story, and by that, I mean a story that’s both memorable and meaningful.

I certainly don’t mean to go on a rant but then I’m sure some of my comics friends are already familiar with this particular gripe of mine. Take the Iron Man flicks, for example. Love the character, awesome movies, but ask me if I remember any specifics from them right now, and I’d be hard-pressed to tell you (like, in the second one…something about a Stark Expo, War Machine, and Mickey Rourke looking like ten miles of bad road with electric whips?) Same deal with the recent Thor. Hey, great movie, but again, I don’t know how much of it will stick with me in another couple years. They’re all just so run-of-the-mill and formulaic. Sometimes I think Chris Nolan is the only guy with any original ideas left.

Plus, a movie titled “First Class” but without the original team of Professor X, Cyclops, Marvel Girl, Iceman, Angel and Beast just feels…I don’t know, wrong.

Still, after watching it last night, I’m forced to eat my words. Because I liked it. A lot. I liked it so much, I’m actually here on my blog, extolling and writing a post about a comic book movie again. A rather long one too.

Ironically, the fact it was set in the same “universe” as the other movies (albeit loosely) was actually one of the reasons that made it appeal to me so much. Yes, There are a lot of new faces, seemingly a result of the movie producers taking a handful of random yet familiar names from the comics, trying to hammer these poor mutants into the plot and making them fit — that said, continuity is a little wonky and in many situations you can completely disregard the canon. But a few of the core characters return, and it is partly because you know what will happen, or that you know exactly whom will ally with whom, that was what made this movie so engaging for me to watch.

X-Men: First Class isn’t perfect, but it was much more than I expected. Despite some cliches and a few downright cheesetastic moments, I was surprised at how intense it was, given some of the simplistic themes it had to work with. Kudos to whoever did the music for the soundtrack, but a lot of it also had to do with the story’s pacing. It took its time to unfold and define the key players, clearly laying out their motivations every step of the way, so that when they finally acted upon them it didn’t feel like their personalities were changing on a dime. Also, set before a historical back-drop with real-world conflicts, X-Men: First Class felt like a more eloquent movie than its predecessors.

Superhero movies can’t afford to be typical anymore; if the audiences are anything like me, they’ll need a lot more to be impressed these days. Picking some random name from a hero’s rogue’s gallery, labeling them “the main bad guy” and throw in some action, rinse and repeat — that all used to be fine, but just isn’t going to cut it anymore. But I suppose if they had to choose a villain for this movie, they made the right choice in Sebastian Shaw, leader of the Hellfire Club. From William Stryker to Cassandra Nova to Apocalypse, there have been some excellent villains in the X-Men line-up throughout the years, but I’ve always thought Shaw was one of the creepiest. They captured that nicely in the movie, and my hat’s off to Kevin Bacon, who played him.

For me, the highlight had to be the Charles Xavier/Professor X and Erik Lensherr/Magneto relationship. Arguably, it was the whole point of the movie, but I thought it illustrated their story of friendship-turned-animosity and bromance/frenemy dynamic perfectly. As they say in the books — two men, two sides of the same coin. Both actors performed admirably, but I felt it was Michael Fassbender who stole the show with his incredible portrayal of Erik.

While some elements of the superhero genre have remained the same, so much more has evolved (no pun intended!) such as plot lines becoming more complex and the focus on emotion as much as action. I’m going to remember the story of X-Men: First Class for a long time, which is more than I can say for a lot of movies as of late, not just comic book adaptations. I guess if they must continue making X-Men films…at least I like the new direction in which things are going.

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SWTOR: Friday Grab Bag

June 3, 2011

Quite a lot of Star Wars: The Old Republic updates to cover today, not just from the game site but from all around the net, which is something of a surprise considering how close we are coming up on E3. Granted, nothing earth-shattering, but I had expected things to get a little quiet. Or is this a sign of things moving forward, since by all accounts SWTOR is still on track for a 2011 release?

Advanced Class Page Update

First from swtor.com, the webpage for Advanced Classes has been overhauled so you can see their information laid out nicely without digging through all the regular class pages. You can view how a particular class “branches”, as well as the various skill-sets that become available as you level. A bunch of passive class abilities can be gleaned from this update, but otherwise it’s purely an improvement to the official site. Still, it’s much more informational than what we had before, and just look at all the pretty colors now!

New Lost Suns Comic

Another comic that will tie into the story line of SWTOR, taking place at the same time as the start of the game. The first issue of “The Lost Suns” will be available from next Wednesday, this time not as an e-comic, so I’m going to have to make the trek to my neighborhood comic book store.

I think this is going to be a good one. Written by the same writer who did the “Blood of the Empire” (which I enjoyed a lot), “The Lost Suns” will star Theron Shan as a Republic spy sent on a mission to discover secrets of the Sith Empire. Yep, another Shan. Glad to see Bastila’s line has been so prolific. Theron, however, is apparently the estranged son of the Grand Master Jedi Satele Shan — but he himself is not a Jedi. From the moment “a secret son” was translated from the Aurebesh found on Satele’s biography page, the identity of this young man had been shrouded in mystery, making me wonder if the title of the comic is also meant to be a clever play on words.

Ah, the delicious mystery — this is why I love comic and book tie-ins. The Q&A also states that Theron’s story will have profound repercussions on the plots in the game, along with “about a hundred pages’ worth of aliens, outfits, spaceships, and landscapes based on game content”. Sounds good, though I would probably pick this one up even if it had zip to do with SWTOR. I can never turn down a good Star Wars comic after all.

SWTOR at E3

E3 is right around the corner. This new article pretty much lays out what to expect — sneak previews of an encounter with the Eternity Vault on the planet of Belsavis, the struggle to dethrone a usurper on Alderaan, and a battle with Sandpeople and more on Tattooine.

Signs also point to the possibility of a new cinematic trailer, just like the last couple of years. If you get the swtor.com newsletter, you might have noticed an image at the bottom of the email teasing something happening on the site June 6:

If the image looks familiar, that’s because we’ve already seen snippets of it from the novel trailer for “Deceived“. As Jaramukhti has already pointed out months ago, that seemed like a hell of a lot of work just for a book trailer, no? His hopes that the footage will turn out to be the making of a new cinematic may pan out after all. Me, I’m hoping it will be a release date trailer! Too optimistic, maybe?

MMORPG.com Interview

A pretty comprehensive interview with Georg Zoeller on the subject of Advanced Classes, going over the system and looking more closely at specific abilities and details of the classes. I think the reason why there’s so much information on these ACs is that they’re really trying to emphasize the point that it’s really more like 8 classes per faction rather than the 4 — each branch will have its own story, the AC choice will not be optional, and as far as I know, once you make the decision you can’t take it back.

EA Launches Origin

EA debuts Origin today, their new direct-to-consumer gaming platform for gamers to purchase and download EA games and other content. They’re clearly gunning for services like Steam with this, which is both bad and good I guess, since I do all my digital game purchases through Steam exclusively at the moment, but buying stuff like DLC and other content for Mass Effect, Dragon Age etc. and keeping it all together could be easier with Origin.

In addition, “digital downloads of Star Wars: The Old Republic will be available exclusively on Origin later this year”. What this means for me, I don’t know. I was always planning on getting a boxed Collector’s Edition, but the idea of no-hassle digital delivery is also very appealing. But what to do, what to do, when both avenues will no doubt offer “exclusives” to tempt me?

More…?

I’ve been keeping an eye on Twitter all morning, and the forecast was calling for scattered SWTOR updates throughout the day from everywhere. There may be more coming, I don’t know, but they’re definitely ramping up for E3 and when next week rolls around I’m sure things will get even more crazy.

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SWTOR: Regrets And Mistakes Of The Great Hyperspace War

February 11, 2011

Today’s Star Wars: The Old Republic update is a new timeline video, chronicling the events of the Great Hyperspace War and the role played by the Sith Lord Naga Sadow.

Okay, so it looks like “Jedi” Master Gnost-Dural has toned down on the blatant rah-rahing over the Sith emperor in this week’s timeline, but say, doesn’t he still sound awfully bitter at the end there? And I could swear there’s almost a tinge of satisfaction when he talks about the Sith return to exact revenge against the Republic. His message was like one big “you guys totally blew it” and subsequently rubbing it in the Republic’s face.

Mark my words, I think there’s something fishy up with this Kel Dor, and he’s going to come out one of these days and make them look like a bunch of fools! God knows the Jedi has seen more moles than a dermatologist’s laser.

In all seriousness though, I have to say I’m getting a bit lost. I have to admit they did less in this timeline than they have in the previous ones in trying to link its contents back to SWTOR. It’s all relevant in that it’s lore, of course, but I can’t help but think if I’m starting to feel a bit lost, how foreign these timelines must all feel to someone just generally interested in the game.

Note we’re going backwards from the time of the game to uncover the root of the conflict between the Republic and the Empire, so in a way it makes sense that the further we get the more things will start to get a little extraneous. And now we’re at about 13 centuries before the signing of the Treaty of Coruscant.

This is treading deep into Tales of the Jedi and other Knights of the Old Republic comics territory. I noticed that a lot of the art in the video, including the costumes of Naga Sadow and others on Korriban are not only beautifully done but also very striking, but these were actually concepts established by comic artists back as early as the 90s.

I think I’m going to have to dig around my graphic novel collection to brush up on the stories again, strengthening my suspicions that the goal of these timelines isn’t necessarily to show players what to expect in the game, but instead it is a means of linking SWTOR to the ideas and stories behind the world of the Old Republic that has already been floating around for years. A way of saying, “Rest assured, folks, we’re going to be doing everything we can to tie SWTOR to the Star Wars mythos!” and “Hey look, there’s more of the Old Republic out there if you want to give money to Dark Horse and check it out!” at the same time, so to speak! šŸ˜›

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Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, Kicks Its Ass

August 17, 2010

In early 2005, a college friend of mine lent me his copy of Scott Pilgrim Vol. 1: Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little Life. Its manga-like cartoony art turned me off at first, but by the halfway point I had grown to appreciate the comic’s fun, uniquely humorous and eccentric style. As a resident of Toronto, I was also delighted to see how so many of the city’s locations and landmarks were either referenced or featured in the comics.

The next year, the same friend invited me along on a trip to the Toronto Comic Art Festival at Old Vic College on our university campus. It was a chance to support our local comic artists and writers, as well as a chance for my friend to meet Bryan Lee O’Malley, the creator of Scott Pilgrim. I had become quite the fan at that point myself, and remember buying the first three volumes of Scott Pilgrim and getting a sketch of Knives Chau from O’Malley at his table. He signed my books and also threw in a copy of sketchbook prints.

Now in the summer of 2010, it was really neat to finally see the Scott Pilgrim comics actualized on the big screen in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. Obviously, being a Toronto-native and a fan of the series, I’m biased and can hardly give an impartialĀ  review, but I personally liked it a lot. Even my husband, coming from a more neutral background, found it entertaining albeit a little different and very strange.

For the most part, the movie’s tone stayed very loyal to the comics, though at the time I had not read Vol. 6 yet, which is latest and final installment that I just bought at the bookstore today. I was impressed at how the team was able to more or less fit the content of all six books into just under two hours, but the side effect was a very fast pace that made the movie feel like it had ADD. Because of this, I have a feeling that people unfamiliar with the series or story will either find Scott Pilgrim vs. the World a) irritating, or b) wonderfully refreshing, depending on your outlook.

Admittedly, a huge part of my enjoyment came from the down-to-earth depictions of the characters and the ability to relate to their situations. Gamer culture, geek culture and general pop culture feature heavily in both the comics and the movie, as well as a generous dose of the urban youth attitude and indie-rock scene that’s so unique to the city of Toronto. I still find it unsettling when I reread the books sometimes and come across parts that make me go, Wow, I actually know people JUST like that. Watching the movie was also a like a nice trip back to my home city. It brought a smile to my face to see signs for Pizza Pizza (my favorite place for pizza at 2am in the morning) or the inside of Lee’s Palace (saw a concert there once) and pretty much every single time I recognized a landmark like Honest Ed’s, Casa Loma or just about any other familiar street corner.

(By the way, Scott’s lament that $2.60 wouldn’t even be enough for the bus is true. Go to hell, Toronto Transit Commission, everyone knows TTC actually stands for “Take The Car/Cab.”)

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Another “Blood Of The Empire” Installment

June 4, 2010

The emo is strong with this one.

Blood of the Empire #4 is the Friday Star Wars: The Old Republic update this week. It seems our protagonist Teneb Kel is a light-sided Sith, what with him giving his alien companion the night off to ogle dancing girls, while opting to sit by himself at the fountain-side all brooding and aloof, feeding the rats. Anyway, the plot thickens, and so ends Act 1: Shades of the Sith.

I love most comics, but I have a preference for Marvel superheroes (and Vertigo anti-heroes) when it comes to my regular titles. I don’t usually pay attention to the video game tie-ins (Wildstorm’s World of Warcraft title being the notable exception) but I gotta say, BotE is a pretty good read, especially for a free online comic. It’s a lot less confusing than Threat of Peace, so don’t let the jumbled nature of that first series put you off of this one.

A pretty light update this week but it was expected, so I can’t say I’m all that disappointed. The community manager also had this to say about ToP and BotE:

While there isn’t a plethora of meta-gaming details in there, there are some story elements you will run across when you play the game and some other morsels of info that some day you’ll go “oooooooh” when you see it in-game.

I thought as much, and it’s why I started reading the web-comicsĀ  — what I didn’t expect was that I would end up digging them so much. And with regards to this week’s update being just a new installment of BotE:

While we can understand some people may be frustrated, I want to say the vast majority of people will forgive us after E3 2010.

Yeah, I am hyped. *Sits back and waits for my mind to be blown in about a week and a half*

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Tony Stark…

May 9, 2010

…Is my favorite douchebag!

I'm still, always have been and always will be, with Team Iron Man.

This week’s Sunday movie — Iron Man 2. My thoughts: I’m in agreeance with Pitrelli — better than the original, probably better than most reviews give it credit for, and hard to believe, but Mickey Rourke somehow manages to look worse in the movie than he does in real life. I felt that him and his “Whiplash” character really stole the show however, even though everyone else did a great job in their roles.

Despite a slow take-off and a somewhat anti-climatic resolution, I have to say it was an entertaining and action-filled experience and definitely more memorable than a lot of the other Marvel superhero movies I’ve seen in recent years. Overall it was a fun way to spend two hours on a rainy Sunday evening. Hope everyone had themselves a good weekend!

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Good Weather = No Gaming and Kick-Ass

April 18, 2010

It was such a beautiful day out today, it didn’t feel right to stay in and play games. I’m just so happy the weather’s getting better, because it’s been a really crappy Canadian winter (seriously, is there any other kind?) and I was getting pretty sick of spending my weekends being cooped up inside. Seeing the sun out today made the outdoors simply irresistible, and so my husband and I spent our day out enjoying the sights and sounds of Toronto on this warm spring day.

We wrapped up our day with a trip to the movie theater tonight, where we ended up watching Kick-Ass, parts of which were filmed right here in the city, so in a way we got to enjoy Toronto onscreen as well. In fact, one scene in the movie was shot right outside the very theater we were sitting in, which made for a pretty surreal experience (ooh, I think I can see my house in that aerial shot!)

I’d been looking forward to this movie, since I’ve read and enjoyed the comic. For those who have also read it, I’m happy to say that the movie is quite different, so it would still be worth watching. I had a pretty good time with it, though I have to say I haven’t seen such ridiculousness and this many bullets fly in a movie since Shoot ‘Em Up. Can’t say I wasn’t thoroughly entertained though, once I threw all notions of reality out the window and just sat back and enjoyed the ride. In about 50 years I’m sure I’ll be looking back at this movie thinking, “Wow, what a loud, stupid waste of time this was!” but until then, I’m not going to feel bad about laughing my ass off.

Anyway, I don’t think I’ve touched my PC all day until now, and I have to say it feels great! I’ve noticed in the past that as the weather gets better, my gaming time tends to go down. Gotta enjoy these nice days whenever they come around, after all. I hope all my fellow gamers also had a fun and geek-tastic weekend.