I love these… But surely something’s missing?

I loved ‘Parks and Recreation’, I still do, I shouldn’t refer to it in the past tense as it’s easy enough to pop the episodes back on and enjoy them all over again. It’s a show that developed a brilliant ensemble of characters whose traits and personalities were consistently endearing, being honed and perfected by the cast over the series’ run.

I also like Funko Pop! figures (not as much as my brother-in-law though that’s a story for another day) so, when I saw the following article my heart leapt for joy!

https://www.flickeringmyth.com/2017/06/parks-and-recreation-gets-the-pop-vinyl-treatment-from-funko/

Ron Swanson and Bert Macklin (FBI) in particular are so wonderful and work really well as interesting Pop! figures. However, on second look, something is definitely a little worrying with this collection. Apart from Lil Sebastian, all these Funko Pops are of white characters!

According to IMDb, Tom (Aziz Ansari) was in just one fewer episode than these other characters, and Donna (Retta) just 4 less than him. I do understand they can’t easily create figures for every character, but surely Tom and Donna would be on any fan’s list of lead characters needed to represent the main group of co-workers featured in the show? They played a far bigger part in making it the success it was than Lil’ Sebastian (though he did inspire a few beautiful moments, just Google ‘5000 Candles in the Wind’).

 

To be fair, we would also need a Jerry… and a Gerry… Garry… Larry… Terry… Barry… Dammit, Jerry!

Mid-Week Musings: What famous characters are next to be feminised?

Just browsing what’s available on Netflix this week, something caught my eye, a new show called Van Helsing. While it doesn’t interest me to watch it, I was surprised I hadn’t heard about this adaptation of the famous literary character, so I looked at the description at which point I realised the big ‘new’ angle. The Syfy show is not about Dracula’s famous nemesis, instead, it’s about his descendant Vanessa!

This is not the only example of feminine reworking of (often the descendants of) a classic character. There’s also a show ‘Wynonna Earp’, again, not interesting me to watch it while interesting in its existence. One example that I do watch and actually quite like is Joan Watson in ‘Elementary’ being a reinvention of Sherlock Holmes’ friend John, a change that actually works well as somehow they’ve resisted giving them any romantic complications. The big screen hasn’t avoided this trend either with the most recent and clear example being that the mummy in the new ‘the Mummy’ is now a female mummy.

So who’s next to be reimagined in this way? What folk or literary hero is set to be the next adapted heroine? Surely Vanessa Helsing could team up with Victoria Frankenstein! Possibly breathe new life into some American icons such as Davina Crockett, Jenny Appleseed or Aunty Sam? How about presidential descendants Abi Lincoln or Georgina Washington? Maybe we could enjoy some swashbuckling lady pirates like Blu Beard and Long Jean Silver? Why not reinvent action with Jane Bond?

Is it sounding silly yet? Good!

Can you imagine the response if things were going the other way? What would people say if famous female characters such as Calamity Jane were now Calamity Jake, or if John of Arc saved France from invasion? How about even more modern characters, would anyone want to follow the adventures of a tomb raiding Larry Croft? There would be an outcry and rightly so! Is there a double standard? Should there be? Why?

I don’t know if it’s fully a ‘trend’ yet, though I expect there will be a fair few more instances of this happening in the near future, but as with anything in film and television adaptation, doing something just for the sake of ‘girl power’ is not a good enough reason. Handling these beloved figures should always be careful, with changes made to service conveying the story and a better understanding of the character. If that’s what’s motivating female-led reworkings, then great, if not, hopefully, the quality of these adaptations will speak for themselves and those that don’t do justice to the sources will end swiftly.

Mid-Week Musings: Will we ever see Agent Carter again?

Well, in the form of the solo TV show ‘Marvel’s Agent Carter’, I’m sad to say probably not. However, I wouldn’t write off all chances of seeing Hayley Atwell’s Peggy Carter ever again.

‘Conviction’ abruptly ended with very little objection after only 13 episodes, so it makes cancelling ‘Agent Carter’, a show that was at least if not more successful in terms of average viewer ratings (and definitely more in the case of positive reaction from critics and viewers), seem like a waste. There was the ubiquitous talk of Netflix ‘picking it up’, which didn’t happen, with a few reasons being given and Hayley Atwell being otherwise employed clearly factoring heavily in that decision. So, does her no longer being lead on a network show reinvigorate the rumour mill and breathe a little life back into those hopes?

The best suggestion I have at the moment is that ‘Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ (which I’ll now probably just call ‘S.H.I.E.L.D’ as it’s easier to type though still a hassle with all those periods) could incorporate more history into the upcoming season and cover a little of her back story. This seems the most likely use of the character and all that hinted yet untapped material. With the way the latest season developed, dividing the run with distinct and defined story arcs, another season that does something similar while working S.H.I.E.L.D. history and flashbacks into one-third or half of a season could be fantastic, keeping it well contained and concise, just as the two seasons of ‘Agent Carter’ did.

With S.H.I.E.L.D. set to return for a fifth season, the renewal comes with the news that the show has apparently had the budget cut significantly. This is often a sign that the network wants to kill it off (ostensibly humanely) but tactically reducing quality and viewer numbers to minimise outrage when the axe falls. Personally, I don’t see that as the death knell it seems to be, there’s definitely scope for opportunity.

More spying and less high-flying would continue the progress made by the show in adding depth to characters. There are more than a couple of… well, couples, whose relationships could do with some form of resolution either for better or worse and it seems like the next season will likely bring some of those to fruition. One of the last episodes I saw was brilliant in the way one character, in particular, has been given monumental issues he will have to attempt to deal with, none of which will need special effects or even fancy props to depict and develop.

‘S.H.I.E.L.D.’ is almost certainly going to cut the roster back to barebones a little, tightening the bonds within the key group and realigning themselves with the core values of the Strategic Homeland Intervention and Enforcement Logistics Division. They could stand to lose Robbie Reyes with all the (already tricky to make look good on a budget) flames needed to fully represent his darker side. Working in a little of an already-established and well-loved character in the MCU would by no means work against this development, in fact, I think it would support it greatly. Incorporating a storyline that starts in the early days of the organisation and has some modern ramifications could really put the focus on the story more than visuals, linking back to the central organisation, and Peggy doesn’t need special effects to be awesome.

Maybe I’m just being hopeful but I would like to see two things happen, 1) filling in some of the gaps left in Peggy Carter’s story, and 2) ‘Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D’ continuing to improve as it possibly nears an end. I am sure that these two goals would be achieved by working them together and I just hope someone working on the show has realised it too.

Mid-Week Musings: Lady Doctor or Black Bond?

With two of the most iconic perpetually re-cast roles looking like they are up for grabs, ‘Doctor Who’ for certain and ‘Bond’ for uncertain (as in it’s uncertain what’s going on with Daniel Craig), is it likely that they will change radically in their newest iterations?

Note: When I started drafting this both roles were believed to be in a process of recasting though doubt has been raised this week. I’ll come back to the latest rumours in a bit. 

Lady Doctor
This is canonically stated as possible so can’t be shot down as ‘impossible’ in a series that doesn’t know the meaning of the word. First choice is Olivia Colman who I must say would be wonderful and with ‘Broadchurch’ confirmed as over, she may be open to a new series. However, some of the best ‘Doctors’ have been unexpected castings, unlike Peter Capaldi who everyone knew it was going to be, for example Matt Smith turned out to be fantastic and nobody had heard of him. I think a female ‘Doctor’ is very likely, maybe even more than a non-white ‘Doctor’, yet being an acclaimed actress from the top of almost everybody’s list is not, she’ll be a relative unknown, like most of the companions have been, especially some of the best. I wouldn’t be surprised if the casting agents saw someone for a companion role and realised they were so enigmatic that the lead would suit them better.

The latest rumour is suggesting the Kris Marshall has nabbed the role, which has proven surprisingly well-received online from what I’ve seen so far. However this is unconfirmed and so I wouldn’t count it as a certainty just yet. With the series looking like it may be coming to another elongated hiatus, it’s the perfect time to go out on a shock, either jolting the viewership back to life, or sending a varied run off in noteworthy style, why not surprise us all?

Black Bond
I’ve loved Daniel Craig’s time as James Bond (except Quantum of Solace, nobody loved that) so I’ll be sad to see him go if he does leave the role. Latest rumours suggest he’s returning for at least one more film, but as he’s already the longest running actor in the role it’s inevitable that it’ll pass to someone else in the not too distant future. What’s going against the idea that the next Bond could be Black, most specifically the ever-wonderful Idris Elba, is that I’m saying it, fans are saying it, campaigns are saying it, bookies are saying it, Idris is being ubiquitously asked about it in every single interview. If the Broccoli’s are anything like me, they will want to pull a shock, some measure of surprise in an era of constant leaks and rumours, not something that EVERYONE and their bookie is calling an extreme likelihood. That’s not to say that whoever becomes Bond couldn’t be non-white, that seems brilliantly likely, especially as there are many other British actors whose stars are rising that might get consideration. Move aside perfectly perfect Tom Hiddleston who is the most obvious choice (apparently eschewed according to other rumours), make way for Daniel Kaluuya or Riz Ahmed to take on the famous codename of 007, both of whom are now clearly appearing on radars on the other side of the Atlantic and whose comparative youth would give scope for at least a trilogy of appearances.

I may be miles off base, only time will tell. Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments!

Mid-Week Musings: The Adventures of Super-Sorkin and Wonder-Whedon!

Ok, so thus far Aaron Sorkin has only said he has taken some meetings with Marvel and DC, but even the prospect of ‘The Wally West Wing’ or ‘A Few Good Supermen’ (I could go on) has me very excited.

True, they would not be the titles, I was being silly. What’s not silly though is my belief that Sorkin is one of the best screenwriters alive. As one of the biggest issues DC especially has contended with is the quality of the screenplays they’re working with, so the chance of having someone as skilled as Sorkin involved in any way gives me a little hope that the DC Extended Universe movies could get better. I can’t imagine Aaron Sorkin resolving a mortal clash between two diametrically opposed heroes merely by invoking their mum’s name!

I have a sad feeling it’s one of those partnerships that is discussed but never develops to the point of actually getting the film made. Even so, just the knowledge that someone over at Warner Bros has raised the idea of involving a writer of Sorkin’s calibre is the tiniest glimmer of hope in an otherwise increasingly bleak and ever-darkening franchise.

Hark, wait, that’s not all! The other recent development is in the form of a high-level ‘defection’ of sorts. Mr Joss Whedon (he of geekdom fame) has reportedly been signed to make a Batgirl movie for DC.

It’s not entirely fair to call this a defection, as some may know, Whedon once tried to get a ‘Wonder Woman’ reboot going, with Adrianne Palicki in the lead role though it never got past filming a pilot. He’s well-known for bringing strong female characters to the screen, so putting aside the notion that a female protagonist must be directed by a female director, I challenge anyone to come up with a better person for the job.

I love Joss Whedon’s work, so his move from Marvel to DC is in my opinion the most promising hope of a shot in the arm for the DCEU. We have already seen him at work in the big-stakes hero genre, pulling off the mammoth task of ‘The Avengers’ and following up strongly (if not as satisfyingly) with ‘Age of Ultron’. It’s too late to hope he will be brought on as a steadying hand for ‘Justice League’ but as DC’s lineup enters a second stage (not ‘phase’ as Marvel have coined that term) he could be a hugely beneficial influence.

Imagine if both of these prospects came to fruition! That could bring in a new era and palpable shift for the world of comic book movies like no other that’s come before. In this increasingly ‘R-Rated’ phase of the ongoing phenomenon, Sorkin especially could usher in a move towards serious thinking more than serious fighting that would offer a lot for those of us who want the depth and complexity that many of the comics and graphic novels have long offered only to be simplified for screen so they’re more box-office friendly. Studios are now aware that audiences will turn up for these movies not just despite but possibly even because they break from the mainstreamed and family-friendly norms.

Mid-Week Musings: Why this DCEU Sceptic will still queue for the next round of disappointments!

Recently, one of my close comic-loving friends said he was now done with going to see DC movies at the cinema, now he will just wait for them to be released to watch at home. This comes after our joint ventures to see ‘Man of Steel‘ and even a midnight screening of ‘Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice‘ which we entered with confidence and ultimately left deflated.

A few years ago I was let down by ‘Man of Steel‘, considerably so, it had all the potential but eschewed the familiar tone and character so completely that it jarred with me. Yet on release I still went to a midnight screening of ‘BVS: DoJ‘ (with the aforementioned friend) only to be disappointed again, even if I tried very hard to focus of the few positives I could glean from that film. I’ve not been impressed by a recent era DC movie that wasn’t directed by Christopher Nolan, save ‘The Lego Batman Movie’ which I had some issues with but it still managed to better convey the sense of fun that the gloomy live action DC movies recently have completely eschewed.

So why then am planning on going to see ‘Wonder Woman’ and ‘Justice League’ when I expect that I’ll leave the cinema disappointed?

I’m a completist, I know I’ll watch those films eventually, even if I find myself unable to see things like that at the cinema my local Arts Centre often shows them a fair few weeks later, or I’d get the Blu-ray to watch at home. So, if I were to bump into Patty Jenkins or Zack Snyder in the street and say, ‘Hey, your movie was a let down’ they might rightly ask me, ‘did you give it a full chance?’. Rightly, it’s fair to assume that musicians don’t compose songs to be listened to on little speakers in the backs of mobile phones, artists don’t paint huge canvases to be seen on Google image searches and filmmakers don’t direct films to be watched on small screens and with little speakers. True, I’d watch in excellent quality thanks to Blu-ray on a large projector screen with a quality surround sound set up, but still, the primary viewing experience should always be the cinema, so I should give the films a fair chance to impress me in the way they were intended to be seen.

That being said, I’m not going to travel hours to the nearest midnight screenings anymore, DC have knocked that optimism and loyalty from me. Nor am I likely to go opening weekend (unless reviews overwhelmingly impress me), but in the first week or so of their release I’ll give Jenkins and Snyder a fair chance to win me back to loving DCEU movies as I used to and I truly hope they will.

If not, maybe there are unexpected glimmers of hope in the distance… Next week I’ll muse on some of these!