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Late last year, the internet broke in half when Disney not only announced that they bought Star Wars, but that they are making more movies.

Today, the internet went nuts again when they finally announced the new director….J.J. Abrams.

jjabrams

Excitement and fear was had by fanboys (as there usually is) but I have ask…what EXACTLY are we excited/fearing for?

Because with all the talk I’ve personally had of more movies (who’s going to direct them, will the original cast come back) surprisingly the least brought up subject that comes up is; what the hell are these movies going to be?

When Star Wars first came out, no one suspected anything with this film. What a difference that was comepared to the expectations and anticipation for the first prequel.

With the prequels, we as fans had a basic idea of where these films could go. We knew we were going to meet Darth Vader before he turned, we knew we were going to see Obi-Wan at his Jedi fighting prime, we knew we were going to meet Luke and Leia’s mom etc. We could speculate all day long what these movies were going to be because we knew where they had to end…they had to end with setting up the status quo for Star Wars: A New Hope.

But these new movies? What are they? Sure, we can come up with our OWN  ideas of where they can go. We can look at the expanded universe novels and comics for possible direction (thought I wouldn’t count on them using ANYTHING from those…)

But the reality is….NONE OF US (outside of the Disney and the new films creative team) have any clue what these movies will be.

The Empire is destroyed. Anakins dramatic arc was fulfilled. Luke has his approval from his ghostly mentors. There isn’t any OBVIOUS place to go from this point on.

….but that does make it exciting doesn’t it?

You know what that affords us? Surprise, something that Star Wars hasn’t had in a LONG time.

The expectations of where the Prequels should/and didn’t go don’t hinder these new films.

They literally can go where they want, and that’s a reason to be both excited and afraid.

So, why do we want these new movies to be good? Anyone can argue that we don’t need them. We COULD just watch the old ones again(plus-minus the prequels/remastered versions/ewok blinking versions….your choice.) BUT, why do we still hope for the best and want these movies to work?

The same reason we wanted Episode I to be good a long long time ago; we want to be excited for the newold.

Newold? That’s what I’m calling this  trend of reboots/or returning of old franchises. The Daniel Craig Bond series, the Nolan Batman films, Tron Legacy, the new Die Hards, Rambo and the 2005-now Doctor Who fall in this category. To me it means we want what we know from the series, but just done differently enough to be fresh.

Also, look at where all those franchise have in common. All these franchises fell apart in some fashion. They became stale in someway or became forgotten. They needed someone to come in, swoop in, dust it off, and remind us why we liked it the first place.

I know that’s what I felt J.J. Abrams did with his Star Trek reboot.

Not gonna lie, I’m an Abrams fan. I will defend Mission: Impossible III. I thoroughly enjoyed Abrams take on Spielberg movies (Super 8). I think the pilot to LOST is one of the best TV pilots I’ve ever seen. And man… I LOOOOOVED his Star Trek film.

Abrams is a right fit, and I think he specializes in Newold movies.

Star Wars needs that person to give it a new shine. That’s why I’m IN LOVE with the new Stars Wars comic that just came out.

StarWars1cover

I think it does great newold. It uses the old, classic versions the characters but adds new and differently elements to them. It gives us new dramatic angles to the characters that we never got to see. It also gives us plenty of elements that make Star Wars…well…Star Wars.

So…now we play the waiting game. I personally kinda hope that Disney/Lucasfilms will let Abrams usual secretive style promotion that he’s been known to do. Like I said before, I want to be surprise and Abrams understands that I want that.(I.E. Who IS the villain in Star Trek Into Darkness)

All I can say to Abrams is…good luck. If he though making the Star Trek fans happy  was going to be hard, I’m pretty damn sure he knows that  the Star Wars fans are going to be MUCH worse. To many fans, Abrams is the key to fixing their childhood…which is extreme, but I know they exist.

I’ve personally learned to not be like that. All I want is a fun, adventure filled movie. I want the character interaction to be engaging. I want the score to be rousing. I want the action to be exciting. I want it to be funny. I want the characters to know the stakes and to get emotionally hurt sometimes.

It isn’t that hard for Abrams. In my eyes, he’s pulled it off before. I’m not asking for the second coming, I just want it to be fun.

Just be fun. No pressure. Just be fun, because that all Star Wars ever was in the end.

star-wars-universe

And if the new movie is terrible?…hey….we’ve been through it before….

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I love superheroes as far back as I could remember.

Before I could read, I watched a lot of  superheroes cartoon/movies/tv show. That was how I was introduced to them. Lord knows how many times I used to rent this Hulk cartoon on VHS when I was a kid…

I’d watch any version of superheroes. That crap live action Spider-Man show from the ’70’s? I’d a seen it all. That bad Captain America movie?

I’d rented it a dozen times…knowing that it wasn’t that good.

Hell I even own a bootleg copy of the Fantastic Four movie in the early ’90s…

And when I FINALLY started reading comics, oh boy, did it get worse.

But, why? Why do I love this genre so much?

There is the big question right? We’ve been fans for so long, you take for granted that loving superheroes is part of the DNA of our fan culture.

For me, the answer isn’t so easy. It’s not just one reason, it DOZENS of reasons. First you get drawn to the costumes and powers. A power fantasy of looking cool, and having abilities we all wish we had. Then the battles! Screw guns and regular fisticuffs,  nothing gets more epic then seeing Superman fight someone like the Hulk and witness something awe inspiring.

Then, it’s knowing that the superheroes in these stories are doing this to save US. They don’t have the luxury of having a simple day, they have to fight to ensure that everyone else can  survive to have to those days. It’s that superheroes have this incredible self sacrifice that is inspiring, and it makes you want everyone else in the world to have that same ideal.

That’s why I keep reading and watching superhero tales.

I’m inspired to watch heroism at it’s finest, and to see some kick ass throw downs.

That’s part of the reason why I loved last years Captain America: The First Avenger so much. It’s about a man who, even before he got the powers, was a great man who wanted to do what’s right. Plus, he looked cool throwing that shield.

So, you can imagine that watching a film like The Avengers is only going to make me giddy.

The Avengers isn’t just one of the best superhero films ever made, it’s also the first film that truly nails the the blending of comic book storytelling with filmmaking.

The movies opening is a great example of that. The way that writer/director Joss Whedon wrote, shot and his editorial decisions dictated a  tone and pace that is very much a comic book style of story telling. With out spoiling anything, the way the opening scenes uses a narration that overlaps with simple images feels like reading a comics page. It evokes the pacing of seeing a single panel and reading a word box narration.

The action feels the same way.  Let me tell ya, this film will ruin every other Alien Invasion scene in movies for me from this point on (looking at you BATTLESHIP). Its not just enough to see the destruction, I now really want to see some heroes fly in and and fight back. Which brings me to the fights. Oh man, the fights. The one on one battles between the heroes, the sequence on the Hellicarrier and of course the epic finale 20-30 minutes are just breathtaking. Impacts, hits, punches, laser blasts, everything  is seen clear and crisp. Whedon knows exactly when to speed up the action,  and when to slow down. It’s these moments where it felt most like looking a splash page in a comic, or looking a dynamic fight sequence in a 3 page battle. It wasn’t just great action filmmaking, it’s true superhero comic action on screen.

As a Joss Whedon fan going back as far as 1997 , watching this film felt like Whedon’s graduated. He brought it his all, and for the first time, regular audiences can finally “get” Joss’s sensibilities. I guess it needed to be in a context that they where comfortable with, and after watching the Marvel Studio films for the last five years, audiences where ready.  They just needed to enjoy the story that Whedon fashioned. As Whedon fans, we knew he was not only going to bring in the action, but also the story, characters, humor and the drama. Glad the rest of the world can finally see what we always knew.

It’s been forever seen I’ve seen a true crowd-pleaser,  and every time I’ve seen it ( 3 times as of this writing) the audience is there with the film. It’s the kind of filmmaking that audiences love going to the movies as a big group for. The big laughs and the huge applause from the audience is the kind of magic that makes going to a movie theater fun.  It’s the feeling that audiences got when they first saw Stars Wars and Raiders of the Lost Arc for the first time. (Note: Before you go crazy, I’m not saying The Avengers is THAT great, but the elated joy and entertainment the audience got after leaving the theater was just as close.)

But it isn’t just the spectacle that the audiences are eating up in this film, it’s the characters too.  The film is full of great character interaction, great work from the cast from the previous films, and (of course) Whedon’s script getting every single character right. Of course Cap’s ideals and Tony’s ego will clash, but it’s going to be fun to see them learn how to get along. Thor feels responsible for Loki’s action,  yet no matter how crazy his brother gets, he loves him and wants him back home. Black Widow being insanely scared of the Hulk. Tony and Banner being friends because  of their amazing scientific minds.  Agent Caulson’s admiration of Captain America. Hawkeye’s relationship with Black Widow, and the history they share. It’s just a ton of fun seeing this group together. The fact that we take our time seeing this group interact, means when this moment happens in the film….

…it’s earned, and it never fails to give me goosebumps every time I see it in the film.

Going back to that “comic book” feeling, the moment that made me truly realize I’m watching an “AVENGERS” movie is the moment when Captain America faces off with Loki. Seeing Cap talk Loki down and fighting him made my brain go “Oh wow….it’s really happening. This movie really exist!” Why? Because this is the first cross over moment in the film. When the main bad guy from one movie is facing down the main good guy from another.  It would be like if Hans Gruber from DIE HARD is facing Rambo. It only got better when Iron Man flew in!

Ah, and Loki. After the Thor movie, I declared that Loki was the best Marvel studios villain by far. It wasn’t just Tom Hiddleston’s wonderful nuanced performance, but it was the fact that Loki had a strong motivation. His reasons for turning on his family and his fellow gods just made all the sense you when you find out about his backstory. I love were we find him in AVENGERS. I love how much more twisted he got. I love that he actually has a pretty solid plan and for the most part , it’s working…but as Agent Coulson said, Loki’s one weakness is that he has no conviction. Having Loki being too arrogant is a great way to give another layer to the bad guy.

I also loved how Nick Fury was used. Sam Jackson must of had a blast making this, because he wasn’t just used to be a badass (which he was) but he was the one character that had faith for this group. I loved that Fury had to fight for the idea of this group.

Can I also say thank you to Joss for giving me back the real Black Widow? The sexy assistant/ass kicker in Iron Man 2 was ok, but I would like to thank Whedon for giving me back a Natasha that speaks Russian, has a black past, and giving Scarlett Johansson more to do. Whedon gave us a much more rounded character this time, and I thank you.

Is there something I’m missing?…..

Ah…of course….HULK smash.

Ruffalo had a lot to prove here. The poor guy had to come into this film pleasing a group of people still hurt that Ed Norton isn’t coming back (Eric Bana who?). Thankfully, Ruffalo was spot on. I loved his nervous gestures, his sarcastic tone and his “keep to himself” nature. Whedon gave him a lot to do, and when we find out how dark Banners past gets, it’s surprisingly tough.  Also, this movie Hulk is flat out the BEST LOOKING Hulk from any of the movies. Never feeling like he’s made of rubber or plastic like the previous movie Hulks, he’s got a great design, and when he starts fighting (oh the nerdgasam I got when Hulk started fighting Thor…) it’s so damn entertaining.  I also think it’s pretty safe to say that the Hulk STOLE THE SHOW for a lot of people, and for good reason.

Are their issues I have the film? Small ones, to be sure, hell, some are nitpicks. I wished Hawkeye wasn’t in the “state” that he was in for most of the movie since he’s the one member of the cast that I felt we haven’t got a true sense of his character (though in defense of that, he do get little bits here and there that I like.) The plot is too simple and generic, and there are plenty of moments of “well, isn’t THAT convenient”  in the movie. But, WHO CARES! Say the plots to Raiders of the Lost Arc, Star Wars, Die Hard, Jaws, E.T. and many others and they all have their fair amount of issues…but why do we love those movies? The characters, the humor, the earnest drama, and fun.

For me, this was the comic book superhero film I’ve dreamed of seeing since I was a kid. Look back at the videos I posted in the beginning of this review.  See how far we’ve come?

That’s why I kept watching those bad Marvel movies as a kid. It was “enough” till the day they finally got it right.

After watching The Avengers, I wish I can tell the kid 7 year old version of me…dude….they FINALLY did it. And man, your going to LOVE it.

He then will be heartbroken to find out he has to wait 21 years to see it, but….still, I thik it’s well worth the wait.

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Dear M. Night Shyamalan,

Should I call you M. Night? Mr. Shyamalan? Night? or just M.?

Well, however you want me to address you, I want to talk to you about your recent film. “The Last Airbender”.

Now I know, I know, you got enough shit on about this movie, so I’m not going to talk about what everyone else is talking about.

I’m not going to talk about the casting issues of casting Caucasians in roles that should have gone to asian actors.

I’m not  going to talk about how the script and directing was shoddy and that the acting was bad.

I’m not even going to talk about the stilted dialogue.

I mean, don’t get me wrong….they’re RIGHT … but that’s not what I want to talk to you about.

You see, you had a job, as a filmmaker, to adapt something for a feature film based on an existing property, to take and leave things for the adaptation.

Not just that, but to also find a way to let in new audiences who never seen the show to understand the vast mythology that the show clearly has.

So, it became very clear to me that within the first few minutes of the film, you failed to do all of that.

First, lets look at the shows opening sequence, the intro that opened every episode in at least Season 1.

http://www.gametrailers.com/user-movie/avatar-the-last-air-bender/20247

Ok, so in 45 seconds, that did the job of  setting up the landscape,setting up the threat, the magic abilities, the type of culture that exist in this world AND sets up the title character pretty perfectly.

Even before I finally sat down to watch the show, when I caught the intro while channel surfing, I knew that was enough information for me to pretty much get it. Also, it was done pretty entertainingly as well.

So, what did you do wrong in the film’s opening?

Well, yes, you did show the different nations, using the same visuals as this…

But just like the video I just linked here there was no narration over it in your film.

You just started the movie with that.  Those are the films first images.

Do you know how confusing that could be for people who have never seen the show? These random images that have no meaning to an audience that just walked in?

Then you had the laziness of having the films mythology being explained in a long text/narration.(ala Star Wars)

This started this whole “Tell instead of Show” issue that you seemed to developed while writing this film.

Think back on the Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings films. Remember how Fellowship of the Ring started? While there is narration, it gave us visuals to match the narration so we start having visual touchstones for the film. Shots of the Middle Earth maps, images of the Kings, the elves, the ring etc. It had a dense and rich mythology, but they never forgot that film is a visual medium and found a way to tell us all of that information without feeling like it’s info dumping.

So how did the shows 45 second intro do a superior job of doing that compared to what felt like the 5 minutes it took for you to explain it in the feature film?

You made it boring and you wrote an intro text that overcomplicated the story.

Look, I’m not saying do it just like the show, but you could have done it far more exciting than the way you presented it the film.

And that’s sort of how the whole film feels like.

Some fans proclaim you don’t love the show, hence the film sucked, I disagree.

To me, it’s obvious that you DO love the show, you love the show so much that you didn’t know what to cut out because you wanted to include everything . Proof of that is this video here (you can jump to 04:18 mark in the video to hear what I’m talking about)…..

Maybe you should have listen to the creators?

What you should have done was looked at the whole first season, and really buckle down and go “Whats the most important story I need to tell for the first film?” Well, maybe you did, but you certainly didn’t have the restraint to know what to get rid and to create new scenes to tell the same story.

I hate to use Lord of the Rings again as an example, but why do you think that Peter Jackson never included the Tom Bombadil stuff in the film? Because in the end, for a FILM, it wasn’t needed.

Want an example of something you didn’t need?

Personally, you should have held off of the Earthbenders in the first film.The way you rushed the Earthbenders slave storyline is nearly laughable. For the first film it should have been ONLY about waterbending.

The most important thing about adapting any martial like The Last Airbender is that you don’t have to be exact, just get the spirit and the tone right.

Great example of a character that you didn’t get the spirit and the tone right was the treatment of Appa.

Appa, to put it bluntly, is Chewbacca, except that you can ride him…and that he can fly. BUT, it was an actual character, a protector of Aang and the gang…a big love able pet.

What you did to Appa was made him into the Millenium Falcon. It’s just this thing they fly on. They show no real attachment to him. They didn’t look they cared about Appa, so I didn’t care for Appa. (Note: Now that I think about it, Millenium Falcon might not be an apt comparison because even Han Solo showed more love to the ship then the kids did to Appa in the movie…)

That was supposed to be your job M. Night. Not to be super faithful to the show, but to make us care, and get to know the characters.

You got too distracted by the special effects, the giant sets, the big action scenes, and the large cast, that you forgot  about the characters and the story, elements that you used to be pretty good at.

One of my favorite recent quotes is from David Lynch.

“Focus on the donut, not the hole.”

So M. Night (was that what we agreed I was going to call you?) you forgot the donut so much, you just became a hole…and for some fans of Airbender, an A-Hole.

 Good luck sir, because your going to need to figure out how to become a good storyteller again.

sincerely,

Justin

P.S. Seriously….white actors as the leads? I mean this shot…

The two white kids in a CROWD of  black-haired, dark skinned Inuit people and not ONCE you didn’t think, “That looks kind of silly”.

You didn’t?

Oh M. Night, we seriously don’t see eye to eye anymore….

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