The Of War Journal

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How “Gotham” Could Be the New Batman TV Show We Deserve…

…if not the Batman TV show we need. Or, I need. But Fox’s Gotham doesn’t have to suck as much (heh, suck, bats, heh) as it looks like it very easily could. We won’t know anything until tomorrow night, when the pilot airs at 8pm (check your local listings) but until then we (I) can still hope for a show that looks a little something like one that…

Doesn’t Focus on Baby Bruce Wayne

It’s totally fine that a adolescent Bruce is in the show, after all, he is the victim to and only witness of a crime and so would naturally be involved in any police investigation. Jim Gordon taking a personal interest in the boy during and after that investigation makes sense too, as that’s just the man’s nature. Alfred’s sometime-ex-paramilitary experience could be fun to explore as it pertains to justice vs. vengeance against the elder Waynes’ murder, as well. But let’s not give Li’l Bruce major plots or extended arcs where he gets as much screen time as the adults in the cast, and not just because child actors are generally not great performers but because demystifying Batman too much is folly.

The most important thing that happens to Bruce Wayne as a child is the murder of his parents, which has been thoroughly explored, and then we generally skip ahead 10-15 years when he’s training to become a vigilante crime fighter. So, Batman is basically Jesus. And, while it could be fun to see a nineteen year-old savior traveling the world and learning the tricks of his future trade, watching a thirteen year-old pre-Batman grieving and getting into schoolyard fights, or not eating dinner or doing his homework just isn’t something anybody wants to see. Let us learn from George Lucas’s example: Don’t Anakinize the Goddamn Batman.

Does Focus on Gordon and the GCPD

Thankfully, all the trailers are making this outcome pretty likely. I would be very interested in seeing the interior lives of both the future Commissioner Gordon and his cynical partner Bullock, not least of all because Donal Logue is perfectly cast in that role and letting him Hank Dalworth it up could be glorious to watch. Obviously we’ll see them solving crimes and always just out of reach of catching the biggest criminals, but I hope we see how that pressure affects Gordon’s marital and extra-marital affairs — various writers have found plenty of time for this in the comics, as well as being home from war  — and Bullock’s lack of sobriety and temptations toward corruption. The tension between them should be felt in every episode, until they’re ultimately the only people either trust in the entire city.

Gordon’s wife and possible dalliance have been cast but we haven’t really seen anything of them in the marketing campaign, which leads me to believe they’re going to be deep background characters when they should be full-on supporting players. The show might be sustainable as pure case of the week, but it would be a lot less engaging in the long run, I think, but we’ll get to that. If the women are barely more than props rather than well-developed characters making choices in their own story (seen in detail or not), it will be a lost opportunity. Especially in the case of Barbara Not-Batgirl Gordon, who has always gotten the short end of the characterization stick and, as Barbara Batgirl Gordon’s mother, deserves better.

Doesn’t Get Too Cutesy with the Villain Origins

Unfortunately, this is something the trailers are making appear to be a tragic inevitability. Seeing Oswald Cobblepot before he proudly takes the name of The Penguin and becomes a powerful crime boss has the potential to be very entertaining. Seeing Selina Kyle as a possible peer of Baby Bruce, maybe someone else curious about his parents’ murder who exists much closer to that life than the cops, could add some dramatic foreshadowing to the types of stories we know these two crazy kids will get up to in the future. And I really hope we see a young Harvey Dent, just out of law school. But finding any excuse to throw in The Riddler or Poison Ivy or all of Batman’s Rogues Gallery every episode, or every few, just muddles the continuity waters for fans and casuals alike. We don’t need to see all the villains before they’re super, because they aren’t all interesting even when they’re super. But do find a way to squeeze the Ventriloquist in there, that episode just screams Emmy-bait.

Another mistake would be to throw in a slew of references to the Joker, like constantly revealing red(hood) herrings as suspects for the true identity of Batman’s arch nemesis. And definitely do not play coy with the Joker being the real killer of Thomas and Martha Wayne. For starters, Tim Burton already did that. But it’s also just a terrible idea. The point of Batman isn’t monsters creating monsters, he isn’t Frankenstein and his Monster or Dr. Jekyl’s Hyde,  it’s that of a hero not succumbing to fear and rebelling against the evil and corruption of their society. Again, like Jesus. The devil didn’t make Jesus into a martyr and a savior, the Romans and the Pharisees did that. The devil did tempt Jesus, but that was covered in The Dark Knight. So, no killing Jokes!

Does Do Stories that the Movies Will Never Do

That last line was a reference to a Batman story I hope the show runners of Gotham never do, unless there’s a dramatic changing of gears in the series latter years. But I do think there’s plenty of potential for Batman stories from the comics without a Batman operating in the TV version of his hometown. Imagine a fourth season based around Jeph Loeb’s and Tim Sale’s The Long Halloween, where a mysterious figure commits crimes once a month on holidays and both the cops and criminals of Gotham are trying to catch them. (No spoilers here, but the reveal could easily be one of the biggest twists in TV history.) Or extrapolate on just the Gordon parts of Batman Year One, with Flass replacing Bullock due to some other plot point, as the episodic through line of a whole season, getting Jim his first big promotion at the end. Hell, any storylines from the GCPD series would be welcome, modulating the bad guys as necessary for this period in the city’s history.

What I really want to see for this first season, though, is a thorough, yearlong investigation into the Wayne Killer. The triggerman doesn’t have to be Joe Chill, like in the Nolan movies and traditionally in the comics, and he or she doesn’t have to be hidden behind a criminal conspiracy just as an excuse to drag the case out that long (see True Detective and The Killing for two ways that can be done), but the manhunt for the creator of Batman is worth a complex, twisty discovery. Naturally, crime doesn’t sleep or stop in Gotham, so Gordon and Bullock will occasionally get sidetracked in their investigation, but everything should always circle back around to chasing that one murderer. Finally catching them in the season finale might be a little too obvious, but it might also be very satisfying.

and Does Make Sara Paxton Flamebird

The Innkeepers, Cheap Thrills, and Aquamarine actress has already been cast as Bette Kane, who in the comics is either the original Bat-Girl or Batwoman’s cousin/sidekick Flamebird. The show definitely got a coup in getting Paxton but time will tell whether she’s in another project that wastes her talents. I mean, come on, if nothing else can be taken from this Tumbl, hopefully Fox can make this happen:

Filed under gotham fox gotham batman

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Four Reasons ABC Needs to Renew The Quest for A Second Adventure

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Spoilers if you’ve never seen or read or played a piece of narrative fantasy art. If you haven’t seen The Quest, the full season is on Hulu now. Obviously, I recommend it. Also, be sure to check out the great interviews with the actors and the Paladins over at Geek Initiative.

That cliffhanger, tho!

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All season long it seemed too obvious that the Grand Vizier was going to betray our Paladins and Everealm, so when he finally revealed his treachery in the finale it was a little underwhelming. I kept expecting Crio, the Paladins’ guide to the three Fates, to be the actual big reveal. That didn’t happen. And yet, there was a post-credits sequence wherein the imprisoned Grand Vizier is freed by a mysterious person or person, who seemed to be expected Dun dun da-dunnn! Come on, ABC. Don’t leave a brother hanging.

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Everealm

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Not so much the mythology or the history or the politics of the fictional kingdom, but the choice of location (a real castle in Austria) and the people who populate it, up to and including the peasants and the monsters. Whether with speaking roles or without, it’s the total commitment of everyone involved to full immersion that really helped make The Quest unique in reality television. Other shows have had similar set-ups — Whodunnit’s drawing room murder mystery theater or The Mole’s active and encouraged sabotage — but none have really brought to life with such clarity of vision their basic conceits. Everealm, while kind of chintzy in a late 20th Century fantasy TV show vein, is essentially realized in three dimensions. Paladins can break bread with their Queen and slay demonic forces, and it all really happens. So to speak.

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Sir Ansgar

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Initially, I couldn’t get over how much the Paladins’ trainer, mentor, and general looked like Patrick Muldoon — an actor you may know from such ‘90s projects wherein he wooed a blonde Adonis’s brunette girlfriend away from them as Saved by the Bell and Starship Troopers. And the character himself, like the Vizier, seemed a little too generic for the genre. But as the knight grew to appreciate his charges, the actor’s performance became much more nuanced and endearing. I don’t know about Everealm itself, but Sir Ansgar absolutely deserved to get one of competitor Bonnie’s songs.

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Heroes vs. Villains

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In most reality competition shows, players are encouraged or outright told to lie, cheat, and steal their way to victory. Producers seem to have taken the wrong lessons from Survivor and the Real World vs. Road Rules challenges, to imagine competitive purity as the freedom to do whatever it takes to win with morality and ethics as crutches rather than noble pursuits. So, the free market capitalistic ideals of the most extreme libertarians run amok. The Quest is different.

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Challenges were often centered around the Paladins needing to commit a heroic act in order to win — like finding a cure to save the poisoned Queen, or freeing oneself from captivity so that you can free your fellow competitors. NPC’s, to use the roleplaying game parlance of our time, always remind the players to think about what being a “hero” is supposed to mean, lecturing them on the proper qualities. The winner of Everealm is even called The One True Hero. Not a champion, a hero. The show absolutely leaves room for the Paladins to act as conniving as they please, as there seemed to be no rules against it. But the one player who tried that style of play was eventually banished with zero remorse. The Quest, then, is special. It appeals to our better natures, and asks that we promote the best of us not the worst.

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That’s worth at least one more epic tale, isn’t it?

Filed under the quest abc the quest army thequestarmy season two

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Star Wars: The Lightsaber Cut

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Or; All You Need is Love Kill A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, The Revenge of the Sith, and The Return of the Jedi

Have you heard of the Machete Order? No, it has nothing to do with Robert Roriguez’s killer Danny Trejo franchise, it’s a Star Wars thing. A noble soul took it upon himself to find a reason to justify watching any of George Lucas’ prequel trilogy, especially in a kind of marathon setting. The basic idea is genuinely ingenious — start with Episode IV, proceed to Episode V, then flashback to Episode II before watching Episode III and finishing with Episode VI. (Yes, it’s masturbatory.) It’s reminiscent of the flashback structure in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon but at almost triple the length. And therein lies the rub.

I tried to follow the Machete Order. I watched A New Hope. I watched Empire Strikes Back. I didn’t watch Attack of the Clones. I just couldn’t. The ending of Empire is so strong that I couldn’t imagine watching two whole movies before getting to the conclusion of the story. But I decided that to stick with Ang Lee’s storytelling style and watched Revenge of the Sith before moving on to Return of the Jedi. To my surprise, this turned out to be a whole lot more fun than I expected. The energy from Empire boils over into the immediacy of Sith’s opening crawl — WAR! — which leads directly to a legitimately exciting space battle, even if it relies so heavily on CGI. As long you as know this chapter of the story is kind of silly despite its grimdarkness, and not at all a standalone narrative, Sith works as an mostly entertaining info dump.

But, to be fair, I eventually did force myself to do the Machete Order. Booze and the misary-loves-company of a friend definitely helped trudging through all four hours and forty-two minutes of the only prequels you “need” to see. It’s better than watching all six movies in any order that requires all three prequels in a row, but it isn’t at all necessary. Having seen this much Star Wars very recently, I can really only come to one conclusion: just watch the original trilogy, in order. It isn’t Star Destroyer science.

That said, I can’t not recommend throwing Episode III in between Episodes V and VI, because I really didn’t hate it. Not even a little. If you have young children who haven’t yet been seduced by the dark side, but want them to be hip enough to understand what the other kids might be jiving about on the playground, then this viewing order may just save their social lives.

I call it the Lightsaber Cut, because I’m not that clever and I’m capable of owning up to that.

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If you’re interested, what follows is a list of everything that Episodes IV and V tell us about the past and then what Episode III actually shows us. It’s shockingly coherent in canonical terms, and very few of the references to Episodes I and II are so vague or without context that they make no sense at all. Whether it convinces you that Sith might be worth watching, that’s beside the point, I just think it’s interesting.

Read more …

Filed under star wars star wars machete order machete order star wars lightsaber cut lightsaber cut