Tag Archives: Black Panther

It is done!

There are a few issues today and the first one is not really an issue, unless you are a movie producer and you are up against Infinity war. I just learned that it smashed the Chinese box office on Friday with an additional $76 million, which makes it surpass both Black Panther and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows part 2. It is now the 8th most successful movie on the planet in the All Time Box Office and that is before the global Saturday revenues are known. I expect it to crush the first Avengers Movie and settle (during the week) on the 5th position. It is the fastest ascension of any movie ever. That is big news, so as per ‘today’ 40% of the top 10 movies ever worldwide are Marvel Productions. I think that the Legacy of Stan Lee is very safe for all time; in addition, I reckon that the Russo brothers will be walking around with that feeling of pride and accomplishment for some time to come. This will not be some DC Marvel comparing; this is a comic book victory that spans 3 generations, and perhaps the setting of an old truth that a dreamer with only $0.25 can conquer the world (small reference to Walt Disney there).

We watched for all kinds of reasons and none of us were disappointed, not even those who went to see it with the silent promise that they could see that Chris Hemsworth is merely slightly less than half the size of Peter Dinklage. We are not even at the halfway point yet! The pressure on part 2 will be overwhelming with every weekend we get towards that point of release, especially those who recognised the message in the teaser at the very end.

But our worlds do not merely revolve on Marvel Production (some need chocolates too), and if it was only so good, it is not, The independent gives us mere hours ago (updated) that in Iran the Clerics are shown to be as simple as one could expect. With the quote “Iranian senior cleric Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami said during Friday prayers that Western pressure will backfire, threatening that Israel will pay the price.” The holy system of Islamic Republic will step up its missile capabilities day by day so that Israel, this occupying regime, will become sleepless and the nightmare will constantly haunt it that if it does anything foolish, we will raze Tel Aviv and Haifa to the ground,” the hard-line cleric said. The warshippers chanted: “Death to America,” and “Death to Israel“.”, it is their invitation to War, they thought they were clever with their ‘Syrian‘ missile attack, but they now have the impeding wrath of the State of Israel, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia who has had their fill of the Yemeni Issues, as well as Iran’s commitment to terrorism and Hezbollah and now that both parties know that the rest of the world is willing to united behind Saudi Arabia and Israel, now they need to cry and scream like little children. It is in that setting that I see the mention of “Antonio Guterres, the UN secretary-general, asked for the halt to avoid “a new conflagration” in the region following the most extensive military exchange between Israel and Iran“, Iran did not listen for the longest of times, during the entire Syrian slaughter the UN was merely a lame duck, an expensive voice that was not listened to at all. So why should anyone listen now? So when we see “we will raze Tel Aviv and Haifa to the ground,” the hard-line cleric said. The worshippers chanted: “Death to America,” and “Death to Israel”“, we see a part that they are still in denial of the Houthi situation. Yet now, after the years of their chants, many are sick of the Iranian debacle, option upon option were given, but the two players in charge of Iran, the clerics and the military are soon to be called to put their money where their mouths are and now, the game changes for them, because as far as I see it, they cannot deliver. The fact that I saw the flaw that ends their navy, they will be on an unbalanced setting, they still have plenty of air force and army, but that too falls against the naval settings of what non-Iranians remains in the Persian Gulf and in that setting they have a much larger disadvantage. Iran must rely on the puppets and tools they had and these players are no longer sure of Iran at all. Iran overplayed their hand!

Sinem Cengiz the Turkish political analyst in Arab News gives us: “Turkey will not be taking sides in the crisis as it is already dealing with the effects of the turbulence affecting its other neighbors, Syria and Iraq. So a third neighbor under sanctions will not serve Turkish interests in the region. A nuclear-armed Iran is not in the interest of Turkey either as it would challenge Ankara’s own regional-power position in the Middle East“, she is not wrong, but I personally do not completely agree. You see, Turkey moved itself into a much higher echelon for its own reasons on Kurds and Kurdistan and the setting in Syria remains provocative. Russia wants the middle mediation spot and Iran thinks that they could still push some for certain agreements. Turkey’s actions could push itself into either directly opposing Iran as it wants to soften the setting with European players, or try approach, which was to make Europe more lenient. I do not think either will work, yet with the US in play, they could be pushed into denying certain settings with Iran. Turkey might not want to take sides and for the short term (4-8 weeks) that could be possible, yet both US and the EU want commitments from the Turkish government, but one that is set against Iran (or at least withdraw completely form that setting), it might be one of the few paths remaining to avoid a direct war and in all that, the others want commitments. The path could be delayed when open hostilities against Hezbollah are chosen, because at this point, such actions need to go without any Iranian support, and in that Turkey would be willing to sacrifice Hezbollah for their own needs. Iran will at some point use them as martyrs, which is fine for some as martyrs can no longer hold guns that is the reality of war!

In this we see support from the Courier Mail, who makes mention of ‘Russia reeling in Iran’, which might prevent worse, which is partially true. The issue is not any of the outside players; the issue is that the Iranian clergy and military have been prepping for the longest time. Now they want to move in and look good, yet the starting signal was not given at the right time, so now their entire strategy is falling upon the floor with no one wanting the visibility of picking that trash up. In this CNBC has its own view (at https://www.cnbc.com/2018/05/09/trump-iran-sanctions-give-saudi-arabia-and-russia-more-clout.html). With “Saudi Arabia said it will help meet world oil demand if President Donald Trump’s Iran sanctions create shortfalls, but analysts say it will do so only in conjunction with Russia, and the world may have to get used to higher prices as a result” they are correct, that is indeed the midterm play that we all face, increasing oil prices and the energy companies will try to cash in on this as soon as possible, even as they have been enjoying cheap oil for years. This strategy works for both Saudi Arabia and Russia on several fronts, there will be no opposing party ready or able to pick up that slack. Their only way to prevent worse is the action offered by Israel, If the Syrian president tells Iran to go home, it would relieve tensions. The question becomes if Syria willing to do just that? There are still scores of Russians there and perhaps Turkey has an option to show willingness to increase troops, which works for them on all but one front, Iran will see this as an act of desertion against the Iranian settings. Iran’s actions or responses cannot be predicted as present. Even a Syria has had issues with the Turkish ties towards the Muslim Brotherhood and as such, it might be the best option, but not one President Assad is willing to consider (personal speculation). It is a Gordian knot of complications at best, cutting it might be the best, but that too might not be seen as a solution for any of those players.

So where is the option to remove the pressures? I am not certain if there are any left, the issue is the pressures are coming from Iran and they are not willing to change for the time being.

For desert

The end of this should be something light and frothy, there is nothing lighter and frothy than a good game and in light of the upcoming war, is that such a bad deal? We have seen all kinds of allegations and leaks. Now that we see a few announcements, and now that we have seen a few things that Sony will be bringing, I am now at a loss how Microsoft will get anywhere with the uphill battle they face this year. It seems to me that the upcoming Book of the dead is doing to PS4 what the initial the Last of Us did to the PS3. It was overwhelming. In addition when we see the Last of Us 2, Ghost of Tsushima, Spiderman, Death Stranding and Book of the dead, realising that at least three of these titles will be released in 2018, one is extremely unlikely to come before 2019 (Death Stranding) and one remains an unknown at present, and that is merely the exclusives. Sony has remastered the Spyro trilogy which will entice a new generation and satisfy the ones who played it on the original PlayStation. There are loads more coming, but this is at present what Nintendo and Microsoft are up against, which in light of the results of God of War is not a good thing to be up against. Now that the Sony gamers have heard that the release of Subnautica on PS4 is more and more imminent; an unknown title (to many) that is merely one of the best survival adventures I ever played and original from beginning to end. So in that view, we see that the other brand has a diminishing level of unique games left and that was never a good thing for any console. In my personal view, there is now only one reason why I still have the Xbox One. It is the one game, the game that I revered ever since I got my fingers on the demo that was added to the PC Format disc, al little over 20 years ago. Take a look at the update of the remastered and remade System Shock (at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lKfnTnZuC5E) where you can see the game in progress and even as it is announced to come to PS4, it is for the time being a lot earlier on Xbox One and PC.

The advantage Microsoft once had is now pretty much gone.

Even as some are all about the gifting a game hype, from my personal experience most people have never given me anything correct when it comes to gaming. Now, in some cases it is indeed nice, but most people prefer to go to shop and get a physical copy of the game. We acknowledge that backward compatibility is a nice setting; there is no denying that, yet over the next year do you want to replay a few good games, or play amazing new games? Backward compatibility is nice to have and an asset, no one denies that, yet the setting of no amazing new games is not something you want to rely on. The Verge actually almost nails it with “The Xbox One is the best console if you don’t care about exclusive new games“, I do agree with the setting, but those exclusives that Sony has is just beyond amazing and Microsoft has nothing to counter that, that is the setting that does matter. Nintendo upped the setting even more with the leak of Pokémon Switch coming this year; this will get millions of 3DS players now update to Switch much faster than initially expected. It gets to be interesting when you consider that Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon sold in excess of 7 million copies. With Pokken on Switch (originally a WiiU title) already out and now the new Pokémon’s coming (I expect at least two), we see that Nintendo is upping the score and the pressure on both Microsoft and Sony.

So even as Verge was almost correct, they missed it that the gamers love exclusive titles and the fact that the Sony players are getting the Switch on the side matters as well, apart from them not getting the XB1 on the side. With 26 titles announced by August 2018, the games list is also impacting the other two. Bethesda is giving Wolfenstein 2 a ‘switch’ over in 7 weeks, The Crash Bandicoot fans get to do it all over again on Switch as well and Capcom is breathing life to Streetfighter with a 30th anniversary edition this month on Switch, yes, my prediction that I made a mere two weeks ago is coming to pass, the worst nightmare for Microsoft is coming, Nintendo and Sony have upped their game and as it is less likely that Microsoft can equal that during the E3; by no more than late August will we see the setting whether the total Nintendo Switch sales will surpass Xbox One total sales by Christmas 2018, it is now becoming increasingly likely that Microsoft Xbox One will grace third position in the console race before December 31st 2018. Microsoft will have to produce a miracle by the end of the year and it better be a lot better than there marketing department hiding behind “All Xbox One games and Microsoft Store PC games are now eligible for digital gifting“, because when I look at AC Origin Gold (AU$145) and Shadow of War Gold (AU$158), I wonder if the people know that these games are around 40Gb to download and a 100% larger if you have 4K capabilities. So not only is it a massive download, the fact that these XB1 consoles have no more than 1TB is also a consideration. Nothing on any of this is a ‘pro’ gamer setting, merely a maximum exploitation setting from Microsoft. And that is even before you realise that a new Shadow of War Gold edition (with Steelbook) is a mere AU$99.95 at EB Games, so, do you still think I am kidding when it comes to Microsoft dropping the ball three times over? Are you kidding with downloading a game at a price that is 50% higher than a physical version in the shops?

Like Iran, Microsoft overplayed their hand way too soon and they are also in the venue of not being able to counter what comes. A setting that they should have avoided, in that light we can compare the Microsoft marketeers with the Iranian clerics, they shout from the highest peaks, but without the support of actual product you end up merely irritating people, which is how I personally see this all.

A desert that was a little less light on the bowels, but in all this we see that some games over the next month will be shown to be not up to the fight against reality and consumerism. Because both rely on smooth sailing and those who have never been hit by internet congestion have for the most never ever used the full setting of it. Until very recently, Sydney NBN users had 4 hours a week of congestion, now consider having to fetch your Sex in the city, the latest movie, download games, watch reality (kitchen) TV and focus on the big footy games. So how welcome was that digital download game to the internet welfare of the family in the end?

 

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A Marvel Time

So we heard the news, we read the stories and they are all beyond what most expected it to be. Not only is Black Panther in 9th position at present, it is still on the course to get to 8th position within 2 weeks, surpassing Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part 2. It is unlikely to catch up with his brother on 7th (Age of Ultron), which now implies that within the coming week 4 Marvel movies will be set in the register of the 10 most successful movies of all time. These are The Avengers, Age of Ultron, Black Panther and upcoming racing to number 4 or higher is Avengers: Infinity War. some of the players saw this coming (I was one of them), yet I was late to the party, merely because I never looked at some of the other numbers, for me it is and will remain the joy of watching a movie on the screen, preferably the big silver one. I expected this to some extent, as I mentioned it in my blog ‘the successful and the less so‘ last week, still seeing that the movie made a global $1,166,407,350 in 10 days is still hard-core awesome. And Netflix is picking up on it, and has been for some time. You see there is a good, an evil and a dangerous side to all this. When we consider the ones in Netflix Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Marvel’s Agent Carter, Marvel’s Inhumans, Marvel’s Daredevil, Marvel’s Jessica Jones, Marvel’s Luke Cage, Marvel’s Iron Fist, Marvel’s The Defenders, Marvel’s The Punisher, Marvel’s Runaways and Marvel’s Cloak & Dagger they might think it is all good and dandy, but the danger is that there will be too much Marvel on the retina’s and they will learn the one lesson that Paramount learned too late with Star Trek, too much of it is also not a good thing. I accept that like comic books I never read them all. I was nuts about Batman and the X-Man, and my youthful best friend was all about the Avengers and the Fantastic Four, so on Saturday we read the ones we bought and quickly exchanged them on Sunday to give back on Monday, a ritual that went on for years because as younger people our budgets were limited. The fact that we can let ourselves go on Netflix like a teenager who ‘accidently’ gets locked in the pastry shop all night long has several issues which we will not go into. The evil side (yes it is), is not how the approach is made, it is how it is translated to the screen, the fact that the social roles of Tandy Bowen and Tyrone Johnson are reversed, because in this day and age it would fit either way, but the darkness of the original comic books is lost when we see “acquire superpowers while forming a romantic relationship“, the actuality is lost, because in the actual story it was not some “superhero love story”, they were captured and experimented on to make drugs more efficient in creating addiction, the experiment went wrong and they acquired superpowers, they were set together in a deep bond because of the rage and violence, drawn together as they needed to rely on one another. That darkness that was the appeal for many who loved the comic and it all got a little more interesting as police detective Brigid O’Reilly became Mayhem. So we have a switched setting, that darkness gone and I am uncertain that ‘watering down’ American issues is any way to get anything done, that darkness held an appeal, that appeal is now lost. The danger is also escalating as more series take a ‘lighter’ setting to the visualised darkness that some readers embraced and watering down remains a bad thing.

We acknowledge what Marvel has achieved and we are in awe and in desperate need to view of what comes next, but by saying that, we need to see that some of the darker parts have their own appeal, it was voiced many times with Logan (2017), the darker side was well captured and it was widely regarded as the best Wolverine movie of the lot, Wolverine basically left on a high and that should have been comprehended by those in charge of the Marvel IP.

I believe that to some extent, the Rotten Tomatoes score seem to indicate my version of deviation from the comic books when we see the Punisher with a mere 62%, yet as I am extremely unaware with the some of the comic books, I cannot explain Iron Fist (18%) and the Inhumans (10%), I am willing to wager that the oddity of the Inhumans is more like the Guardians of the Galaxy (little exposure to either comic book), yet the movie got it just right, whilst the Inhumans on the TV series might have (speculative) faltered there.

I reckon that we all have our guesses on that; I am merely telling you that my guess will be as good as yours. It is actually a shifting situation, as the fans got introduced that the Marvel series are moving to Disney, there is a side of me thinking that this is a bad move, not that they move to Disney, but that they move away from Netflix, you see, Netflix has massive momentum and Marvel alone cannot create that momentum for Disney overnight. They need to realise that they are poisoning their own well, they are setting the stage where they decrease momentum. Netflix has 118 million paying viewers, there is definitely space for a second channel and by the time Disney resets its brand to ‘include’ the mature watchers, they will optionally have lost 3 years and many millions, so whilst we see nearly a dozen series take hit after hit on amount of viewers, how do you think the future for all these productions are set? It is not merely the advertisers who take a back gander in all this, whomever is making that decision at Disney needs to realise that they are undersigning close to $200 million loss for longer than a short term, so by the time the momentum is back on the road half a billion is gone, with almost no option to recapture that, do they not realise that?

And no one is insensitive to the Marvel Universe, most of us have been exposed (beyond the comic books) through animation series, TV series and other means of exposure like video games and we all know it works, yet in that light being extra careful, not brazenly blunt is the way to go for a long term setting with a fickle viewing audience, because DC is just one step behind. They had several fumbles and whilst the relaunch series started their successes with Smallville (2001-2011), they still have the same issues that Marvel has. I believe that Constantine showed part of that flaw. It has the goods, yet in my personal view was not willing to be dark enough, it is a view that Europeans and former Europeans share and in all that it is an important side, because they are 50% of Netflix at present and they represented 61% of the Avengers: Infinity War revenue (actually the non-Americans are that), but a massive part is Europe and in the equation of revenue that is a lot more important than the producers realise. You see Cate Blanchett, Hugh Jackman, Chris Hemsworth, Benedict Cumberbatch and Tom Hiddlestone are not just excellent actors, they are non-American actors and that ‘non’ part is equally important. Europeans seems to be identifying themselves easier to these actors which is becoming more and more of a factor. And that is nothing negative on the quality of any of the American actors, which is of the highest quality. So as we realise that non-American parts are increasingly important, why is the embrace of the story so often too deeply soaked in American ‘value setting‘? It is not merely that a person like Mark Wahlberg was in Boogie Nights, he was awesome as an actor, it was merely the setting and directness of Boogie Nights that captured the global heart, the fact that this movie was American in origin was even more astounding. That is the captured emotion Marvel (DC also) needs and I believe from my side that going deeply dark on some of the series will not be negative, most will see it as a refreshing side to a comic book universe that has many colours. I believe that in that regard Witchblade was made too early, it merely got through 2 seasons, like the Darkness (also a Top Cow production) it was deeply dark and as special effects could not match the comic books (it pretty much can today) as well as the need to be dark as hell (pun intended) showed over 20 years a setting embraced by many readers and mostly appreciative of the amazing illustrations. Marvel still has a few option (they have loads actually), yet the setting of a darker presence they have the series Moon Knight, which ultimately led to the Secret Avengers (how secret can a comic book actually get?). Even as it started with the inclusion of Captain America, Black Widow, Ant Man and War Machine, it would also give us temporary people that have been in several comics like the Avengers and Thor (Valkyrie), X-Man (Beast) and New Warriors (Nova), Moon Knight, even as you might have seen him in a comic or two with Spiderman, remains unknown to a much larger audience. It would also grace presence from Hawkeye (played presently by Jeremy Renner) and Venom (agent Venom), the Flash Thompson version. So not only are a few characters darker, the interaction might allow for a level of darkness, or perhaps better stated ‘living via less legally accepted values’ to interact with the greater good. It is a part that Civil war scratched on, yet as we know that it had been in the central side of many comic books for the longest of times (the DC Azrael series as well as Knightfall), the acceptance that we have that by the book never gets us anywhere and going overboard to the extremely other side is also accepted as ‘existing’, those who are in denial of that existence, please look up ‘mercenary’, ‘Blackwater’ and ‘Aegis Defence Services’, so there is that to consider. We are already seeing the reality of certain places and the issues they provide and solve (and create). So part of Moon knight is already fraught with examples that go back to the Congo and as present as Syria (some Russian corporation), the absence of that darkness is in the end not a good thing, things become ‘too vanilla’ is perhaps not the right tone, but when we consider the near impossible achievement that Avengers: Infinity War created, we need to see that staying on that exact course is not achievable as it started with almost a dozen other movies (3 Iron Man, 3 Thor, 3 Captain America, 2 Guardians of the Galaxy, 1 Dr Strange, 1 Black Panther and several Spiderman’s), so that foundation was well designed and part of the creation of the hype, but pulling that off again might not be possible to that degree. Now it becomes a melting pot of settings between light and dark, good and wrong, evil and optional.

Philosophically we could speculate that we are shaped as people through the interaction of extremes, so ignoring the other side, or perhaps trivialising it through caricature characters like MODOK (Mechanized Organism Designed Only for Killing), we can giggle on it in the comic books in an obsolete episode (read: one off), yet when it becomes the main boss in a TV series, the people will change channels to watch the late news pretty quickly. I believe that making Constantine much darker, by adding these options and by not making Cloak and Dagger some love story, momentum could have been gained. There are plenty more opportunities there, yet I feel that the overall package might at some point become lesser. I feel that the evidence shown in the movie Watchman, the darkness that Rorschach represented was perfect, overall the exposed darker side was what made the movie an absolute gem and of course there was no lack of evil when we saw a blonde version of Matthew Goode playing Ozymandias (nyuk, nyuk, nyuk).

So if that one side of Marvel can get addressed they will optionally be having an even bigger marvellous time than they are already having. there is larger premise to my consideration, we see this over the ages as Marvel has had its share of ‘darker’ characters, it is seen in Spider Woman, who is originally set as “In her first appearance, Spider-Woman was to be an actual spider evolved into a human as imagined by writer/co-creator Goodwin. Her debut was shortly followed by a four-issue story arc in Marvel Two-in-One in which Wolfman presented a different origin retcon as he felt her original origin was too implausible for mid-1970s readers“, it was the sales of Marvel Spotlight#32 that took it to a new level. Even now as we see gene splicing, we see the setting of adding to the human gene, yet the setting of adding human sides to the other gene is still a little far-fetched, yet in 40 years we have gone from ‘too implausible’ to merely ‘implausible’, so there is progress. In all this we have the presented setting like the movie Ex Machina, Kirk Langstrom (man bat character from Batman), Venom, my favourite Alex Mercer from the Prototype series and last but not least the original X-man Beast both the Kelsey Grammer and the Nicholas Hoult edition. There is a league of settings that Marvel (as well as DC) already offered and it seems they are stepped over (read: partially ignored), not merely in one part as they weren’t as successful as the Asgardian characters or the billionaires Bruce Wayne and Tony Stark, we can debate that all day, but the American setting is getting more and more ‘wrong’ ((less accepted might be a better term), implying that darker series will be a lot better received that most American producers can fathom, I merely need to point at the success of American Gods to make that point.

So let’s see that we can all have a marvellous time between now and 2020 (when the Infinity War hype passes), because after that we still want to go to the movies, watch Blu-ray and Netflix (those who have not passed away by then that is).

Was that dark enough? Have a fun day today!

 

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The successful and the less so

What makes success? We have always wondered that question, what makes ‘me’ a success? At times it is the drive that you have within yourself. Sometimes it is propagated through the outside factors like marketing and media. At times there is no control, it is imaging towards third parties and they make sure that you are the popular choice to make. I have been to the movies 3 times in the last two months. One I paid for, the other two was a free double pass that I converted into two tickets. So let’s take a look at the three movies. The first was Black Panther, it was awesome to watch, I was curious because it is one of the Marvel comics I never saw. I played him on Marvel: Ultimate Alliance on the Xbox 360, which was basically a comic book revamp of the legendary game Gauntlet, now with the option to evolve certain powers. Black Panther was unlocked by finding his 5 statues. So I knew that little on Black Panther and I was curious to see him in action (beside the scenes in Captain America: Civil War). It was an awesome movie and it was no surprise to see the movie become the 9th most successful movie on the planet reeling in well over a billion dollars. It is still grossing cash, so there is a chance for the movie to get to 8th place before the end of May (I reckon in 2-3 weeks). The movie has so far made $1,323,739,011. So with a budget of $200,000,000, it made well over a billion, it is making some serious real cash.

The second movie in this is Ready Player One, an absolute diamond by Steven Spielberg. It blew me away! I grew up in the world we see (partially) depicted, so every second I saw more and more references towards gaming, movies and even books. Some were clear references to other games (like JRPG) and some Manga characters I knew existed, but never watched the cartoon, so there were question marks for me in that regard. The movie had that approach that the movie Paul had (a Simon Pegg gem), part of the fun is seeing the references and I am certain that is what I will be doing for days after the Blue Ray and 4K edition is released. So here we have the legendary Steven Spielberg, who was born 36 weeks after the British government nationalised and took control of the Bank of England, after 252 years. It was in 1975 when he completed Jaws, the man became a revered god of cinema. His movies were a direct expectation of awesome film watching and his stature grew even more with the movie Close Encounters of the third kind, the movie that followed Jaws. The list would not stop for decades and he went all out in Ready Player One and it was awesome! He started the Jurassic Park, Jaws and the Indiana Jones franchise; he was involved as a producer/executive producer in so many other successes. So when I went to see Ready Player One (RP1), I expected to see a good movie and I was blown away, it was that perfect. Yet financially it merely made a little over half a billion. It surprised me that it had not caught on to such a degree. As we look at the $523,175,886 it made, we also need to realise that it merely made 25% from domestic US viewing, making it an interesting setting. The entire US culture of gaming and movies is a lot more appealing on the international field. When we consider that the production budget was $150,000,000, we see that the Domestic side does not make it a ‘success’, the international sales did that and it should be seen as a success as well.

Now, as per yesterday I saw the Avengers: Infinity War (my second free ticket), and again I was blown away, watching that movie was ‘perfection’. It was like watching a real life comic book with all the massive fights and superpowers in action. The Stan Lee medium of the now! For a second I was worried that so many super heroes and villains would clutter the screen, but it did not. Like watching a mix of goofy, cool and mental explode all at the same time worked, it made it a symphony of sorts. It gave the width of the Secret Wars (or Infinity Wars) comic books with the action of a level of heroes we have never seen before. It was overwhelming and absolutely amazing, with the mandatory extra scene at the very end that will make the people in the know (when it comes to comic books) go: ‘Are you fucking kidding me?‘ and that is how it felt, part one is a mega spectacle that is merely the introduction to the second part which will now expected to be even more overwhelming than the first part was. I have not felt that was since I had to wait for the second Lord of the rings movie (being a Tolkien fan for decades). Blown away three times in a row!

I expect that Infinity War will bring the profits in on a scale almost never seen before; it should have no issues surpassing Black Panther, upping the ante by a lot. The question is why does it matter? I never cared for how much a movie made, it was good enough that it made a real profit and since when is half a billion not a real profit? More important, both RP1 and Infinity war are extreme examples of excellence, entertainment and awesomeness. So why are we watching the numbers? I never cared for that in the past. I actually started watching that around the Dark Night. For some reason the passing of Heath Ledger, the most amazing Joker ever, made me wish that the Dark night would surpass the billion dollar mark and it did in the end, yet I am not getting any of those coins, so why would I care beside that it was a financial success? You see, why is it about the cash? For a part we know that when it is a success it will give us optionally a sequel, or optionally we will see those actors again, and whilst we know that there will be more marvel movies, Steven Spielberg is all about new and different. So why does it matter, because we know it does, we have seemingly become that Americanised. It is no longer about the art, it is about the return on investment, we set ourselves in that light, we are set upon KPI’s that demand we become a return on investment. When did we lose the need to be that awesome technical support agent, and moved into merely to become the most profitable one? Because being the most profitable one is not a scale of excellence, it is merely the rubber stamp that we are allowed in our workplace the next quarter. It is merely a sliding scale of monetary excellence. So even as we see that Avengers: Infinity War will be heading towards an easy $2 billion, optionally surpassing the present number 3, the 2015 movie Star Wars Ep. VII: The Force Awakens, who made $2,058,662,225 globally, should it not be about being the best and most awesome movie ever made? Because the RP1 results do not support that, even as it was as awesome as a movie could be, it was not heralded as such. Now we can blame that none of us are nerds, you merely have to see the 2.2 billion gamers many of them online, who could all identify the Planet doom scene, splattered with millions of avatars, groups all looking like the Master Sergeant of HALO, to see that we will identify. We will identify many characters and we should realise that they have references to the creative excellence of Atari Interactive, Bandai Namco Entertainment, Bethesda Softworks LLC, Blizzard Entertainment, Capcom , CBS Television Studios, Disney Enterprises, Electronic Arts, Gearbox Software, Hasbro, The Jim Henson Company, Kodansha, Konami Digital Entertainment, Mattel, Microsoft Corporation, Mifune Productions, Mojang AB, Nickelodeon & Viacom Media Networks, Paramount Pictures, Rare Ltd., Sanrio Company, SEGA Holdings Co., Sesame Workshop, Sony Pictures Entertainment and Columbia Pictures, Square Enix Holdings Co., Legend Pictures, Tatsunoko Production, Toho Company Limited, The Topps Company, Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation, Valve Corporation and Wizards of the Coast. This is merely a grasp because there was so much more to see, so many more avatars and characters. A list this large and if you played anything even more than an hour, it is likely to be in the movie. A movie that is a three decade reference to gaming, gamers, movies and the buffs they have. The movie is sheer excellence and I wished everyone had watched it, merely because there is something in there for us to identify with, a mere moment when we were introduced to a moment of awesome, delight and/or amazement. So as we realise that the revenue does not reflect that, I started to wonder why that is.

One source told me that gamers do not care, but with 2.2 billion gamers and a fair amount deep into multi-player gaming, I am not able to accept that. I think we do care, we care a lot, we aren’t all into movies, so there is that, but I think that it has something to do with the marketing. Digg (at http://digg.com/2018/spielberg-carls-jr-ready-player-one-feud) gave their view and even as I have not been confronted with it, I am uncertain how it should be perceived. Yet, they are not the only source. Screen rant (at https://screenrant.com/ready-player-one-movie-trailer-marketing-wrong/) gives us “Warner Bros. Have Been Marketing Ready Player One All Wrong”, which shows it all a little better with “all set to a rousing cover of the classic song from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, “Pure Imagination.” It is, in no uncertain terms, a great trailer. Why hasn’t the marketing been like this so far?“, so did marketing create a $400 million plus shortfall? If that is so, I should have been in marketing and take 10% of the optionally delivered $400 million (it would solve a few problems for myself as well). with “Proof of this lies in the second trailer, which, while a significant improvement over the first, lacks the impact it could have had because of the damage done by the initial teaser“, that would be cruel and revealing all at the same time, so the excellence of Steven Spielberg got undone by the marketeers they trusted? That would be a new level of Cruel and it required some extra life option to reset that. It does add up as the trailers of Marvel have been utter perfection in many ways and all of us expecting and seeing Stan Lee, the generalissimo himself in a cameo moment is always good for a laugh and a check-mark to make when watching any Marvel movie. There is no denying this and the fact that the one expected line missing in the first movie is still hopefully made in the second movie. The moment that Iron Man (Robert Downey JR) and/or Dr Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) state (optionally in unison) “No shit, Sherlock!” will certainly give cheers from the audience, that same audience when everyone in the cinema literally cheered when Thor entered the battle scene. People care that much, they are that connected to the movie, and as such I believe that people would be that connected to Ready Player One on near similar levels.

So ask yourself, when does the lack of revenue set the stage for ‘less successful’, it should not, but it does and that is literally a crying shame because Ready Player One is every bit a result of excellence as Black Panther is and Infinity War will prove itself to be. So I believe it should also be financially as successful (just go with it). I accept that my expectation is warped, but should it be? Art and excellence are their own platform, setting this scale to a metric dollar scale is dangerous, I accept that because true excellence is not set in $ signs, it is set in amazement, a currency of its own and we do not always get that currency depicted, it gets depicted less and less which is a shame, because we optionally deny ourselves access to truly great achievements.

That would be a much larger defeat than merely being seen as ‘less successful’.

 

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A flawed generation?

I was browsing the Guardian, more important the movie section. Then a thought came forth. It made me grab back to a Ted presentation, one of the most moving ones from 2006. Sir Ken Robinson treated us to comedy whilst underlining one of the most important issues, or so it should have been, watch it at https://www.ted.com/talks/ken_robinson_says_schools_kill_creativity, it will be the best 17 minutes of your week, so how did I get here?

So, I was browsing articles, some I have already read like (at https://www.theguardian.com/film/2018/feb/05/the-cloverfield-paradox-review) ‘Netflix sequel is a monstrous mess‘. The few quotes that sprung out were: “disparate elements carelessly smashed together“, “most of them largely nonsensical“, and “the underseen ‘Life’ managed to combine thrills and ingenuity“. Yet this is not the only article. The second one is one that I had not looked at before (at https://www.theguardian.com/film/filmblog/2018/feb/05/black-panther-fought-off-a-toxic-ghostbusters-online-campaign-rotten-tomatoes), you see, I have mixed feelings on this movie. The trailer was awesome and I would love to see it, yet unlike the other ‘super heroes’, this is one comic I never read. Not intentionally mind you, you see whilst growing up in The Netherlands, the 70’s gave me some comics, but not all, so some franchises never made it across the Atlantic river. I did see the Black Panther as there was a guest appearance in like ‘Fantastic Four’, but that was pretty much it (besides Captain America Civil War). The other heroes are not a mystery and I had seen at least a few comics from each of them. So my mixed feelings are about not being able to relate it to the comics, so some of the background will be unknown to me. That’s all on that. The article became a larger issue when I saw “this attack was aimed at the most high-profile movie ever to feature a predominantly black cast felt racist” as well as “In an era when culture wars are predominantly fought on social media, this sort of down-voting can seem like an effective guerrilla tactic. Clicking on an angry red face or selecting zero stars is even easier than adding your name to an online petition“. It does not make sense to me to have hatred of a product you are utterly unfamiliar with; it counters art and creativity in almost every way as I personally see it. It goes on with the third article (at https://www.theguardian.com/film/filmblog/2018/feb/13/venom-trailer-tom-hardy-sony-spider-man), where you can read: “In recent years we’ve seen examples of movies that have triumphed at the box office almost entirely on the basis of snazzy advance publicity“, as well as: “fans were more interested in finding out what the new big screen version of Venom looks like than charting the next stage in Hardy’s career-long mission to channel the most eccentric human beings on the planet. And, on that count, they were left profoundly disappointed“. It was at that point that I remembered the Ted Talk with Sir Ken Robinson, the presentation that is still funny and legend after almost 12 years. What is more important that it is actually more to the point as an issue nowadays? When he states “Art, we get educated out of it!” he made a stronger point than even he might have envisioned. I think that this time was recently in the past and many of us have gone to a negative point past that. This could be considered on both side of the isle. The ‘haters‘ who seem to use whatever option they have to be toxic against whatever they want to be against using automated channels to ‘voice‘ it, or to merely spout their discriminatory bias. Yet on the other side, we see flaws too, with “Sony, of course, is facing a very different problem, in that its previous big screen incarnation of Venom was not beloved at all” we actually don’t get to see it, it is merely a reflection of a ‘failed’ movie, yet when you consider that they made $890,871,626 whilst the production costs were set at $258 million, I wonder what they are bitching about, because they took home a nice clean half a billion plus. So what gives? I think that Netflix, HBO and others are making the same mistake I accused Ubisoft of in the last few years. By relying on some business model with forecasting, a model set ‘to not get a failure‘ we are treated to the near impossibility of seeing an actual mind-blowing movie. If you are unwilling to move that could be a failure, you will in addition also miss out on making an exceptional win. It is like the line between genius and insanity, it is a very thin line and walking it is the only way to get something truly exceptional.

This is also seen in another way, most will not agree, or even be aware, but Ridley Scott is the person ending up making one of the most awesome and most amazing Crusader movies ever made. Kingdom of Heaven is seen as an utter failure to some, but the movie costing $130M still brought in a little over $211M worldwide. That’s still $80M in the pocket, I would instantly sign up for that. So as we see that ‘forecasting models‘ are becoming more and more the daily bacon of our lives, we are not moving towards better profits, we are moving away from exceptional achievements. There was a second reason to mention Kingdom of Heaven, you see, just like the Abyss, the trailers were actually bad, I consider them no reason to watch the movie, but the end result was in both cases spectacular. The dangers of marketing jives and kneejerk reactions to incomplete data, is that the studios seem to be overreacting. If it is not a positive Hype, it will not be a success. We see that danger to Venom, which would be somewhat of a risky choice no matter how you slice it, but in equal measure, the danger could to a much smaller extent also apply to Aquaman. It is a lot smaller, because Jason Momoa rocked it in Justice League, so he has created momentum. Another example will be seen when places like Netflix will grow the comic book Universe and add other characters, like for example Moon Knight, or more apt, as the New Mutants arrives in 2019, will the makers be willing to make Illyana Rasputin (aka Magik) dark enough? That is the question that the viewers/fans face. Even as the moviemakers are now direct enough (John Wick) and sexual tensioned enough (Spartacus, Game of Thrones) to take a leap to the edgy side, but when we see the absence of the edgy sides, was that truly the vision of the maker, or is that the forecasting model on how the prediction on what I regard to be unrealistic data to be setting the stage?

I cannot prove either part in this, but I am hopeful that outdated concepts are moving away further and further (John Wick is a nice example), but is it enough? You see, the more primal anything is, the more it links to our emotions and creativity (I personally believe that they tend to go hand in hand).

When it comes to the superheroes we tend to look at the legend Stan Lee and why not, he showed that creativity drives popularity and profit. The man has been around since 1922 and he was part of the creation of Spider-Man, the Hulk, Doctor Strange, the Fantastic Four, Daredevil, Black Panther, the X-Men, Ant-Man, Iron Man and Thor, representing well over $8 billion in movie revenue. So the larger bulk is all on him. Yet, I also want to see how this creativity is seen by the new makers like David Wohl, Marc Silvestri and Garth Ennis who created the Darkness. Can the dark view of Jackie Estacado, be created in the really dark way? As a videogame it was well received and ended up being an interesting setting, yet how would that work for the big screen? The problem is that the setting is now no more about the art (mainly), it is about the profit. Stan Lee had the benefit that the art stage was powerful enough and proven to be strong enough that most ‘forecasting models’ would remain obsolete, yet that path would be much less considered for anything new and unproven. We have seen How Azrael and Knightfall Batman were well received as comic books, but Azrael and the order of St Dumas, as a movie, or Netflix series, would it even survive if the character and acts were not dark enough? Will the ‘fan’ still embrace it when the forecasting models push the makers into making it into some Disney angora woolen soft product version, would it then instantly flop? I personally hope so!

The Main event

So as we saw some of the franchises evolve for the big screen, there seems to be a tactical and business side, but less of an artsy side to this. It is almost like we can no longer do that proving the point that Sir Ken Robinson made in 2006. As we look at how much coin we can get from a comic book transfer, we see a similar danger that it is merely the reutilisation of something already made, which in this light shows how rare the movie Life is (apart from the fact that Ryan Reynolds can make most movies watchable). Even as it seems to have been down written in reviews, I found it very enjoyable, in addition to that, the work of the other main cast members Jake Gyllenhaal, Rebecca Ferguson and Hiroyuki Sanada was excellent. The issue is not just what is original, but what could make it. To see that distinction, you only need step out of your comfort zone and take a look at the Japanese movie ‘the Audition‘ (there is only the Japanese edition with subtitles), so you can’t be dyslexic for this one, or you need to be fluent in Japanese. That is the nice part of primal sides in any movie. It is the dark and unsettling side. It is easy to get to the primal sides of lust, because sex sells, it tends to do so with the greatest of ease. It is the other side where we are bound through discomfort, where we see exceptional works rise, but these instances are extremely rare which is a shame. In comic book world the fans are hopeful that they will see a good version of the Sandman, but that is still the stuff of ‘questionable future events’. So how can we rely on creativity to bring us an exceptional original movie, that whilst there is growing evidence that creativity is moving out, out of nearly all our lives, how can we move forward? I actually do not know. I have tried my hand at creativity in many ways, but I was never a movie maker, a storyteller (like all others ‘working’ on my first novel, which is currently approaching 60,000 words).

Getting back to where we had it

So how can creativity be reintroduced to the people? Well starting to create something, or better start to create anything is always a first step. We tend to replicate, then emulate and after that create. It is these actions that drive movies, TV series and video games forward. For something to be better than a mix of two (like a Pokémon RPG), we need to see it where we create within ourselves. This is how I found an optional new way to sink an Iranian frigate, how I came up with the concept of the Elder Scrolls: Restoration (ES6) and how I got the idea on two different kinds of RPG, as well as a new solution to resolve the NHS issues in more than one nation. Yet, even as the ideas were seemingly easy to grow and adapt; how to get them into reality? I am not a programmer and equally limited in my drawing skills, hence I rely on storytelling.

We see part of this (at https://www.polygon.com/2018/1/31/16952652/david-brevik-it-lurks-below-announcement), where the maker of Diablo is now building something new. Even as it looks familiar and it has elements of Minecraft (or Blockheads), we see the growth of a new approach, just like I saw with Subnautica which is an awesome result to an entirely new approach on survival RPG. Even as David Brevik revamped the 1985 game Gauntlet, and added more famous characters to create ‘Marvel Heroes’, the span between the arcade machine and Marvel Heroes gave it not just a more fresh approach, it gave it a new dimension as you could grow different super powers/skills making the game very replayable. So, even as I came up with this ‘new’ RPG, I did remember my many hours in the 7 cities of gold game on the Amiga and that shaped some of my ideas. Even as some of these games have been forgotten, the Amiga was a leap forward in those days. It had hundreds of games that were innovative (for a system with a mere 64Kb), so the fact that some of these ideas have not been restarted and evolved is simply beyond me. Now, is that new and creative? That is a point of view, by altering and evolving a game, it becomes a different game, by adding to it, the game does not merely becomes bigger, it becomes more. Now even as some games are remastered and as such remain the great games they were (System Shock for example), yet some games were nice on the original system (example Escape from Hell, Masters of Orion, Battle Chess, Covert Action), nowadays, these games would be too small, too limited and too restrictive, no bang for the buck. This is what has forever fuelled my passion for RPG (and sandbox games), the idea and the actions to do what I want, where I want, and at times when I want. Yet, I also believe that there should be inhibitors, just getting every mission, every option makes even an RPG game grinding. With limitations, we make choices, opening some doors, shutting others. It is that part that makes a game replayable and more important, it gives a much longer lifespan to any game you get.

Yet as I see it, the game makers are getting more and more restrictive, it is either making us do a thousand things on the side (AC: Origin), which is still a good game that I enjoyed, or we get into the grinding mode (Monster Hunter), a part in gaming I really do not like. Even as the graphics are amazing, it is the grinding that gets to me (I played the game on the 3DS). In that regard, the makers aren’t really making it easy for us, with Horizon Zero Dawn being a novel exception. In 2018 a new look on Spiderman is keeping us interested, but the actual ‘new’ additions seems to be limited to Sea of thieves, God of War and Vampyr, these seem to be the only games that are actually new and God of War only makes that cut because it is in an entirely new setting with only the playable character remaining the same, whilst the game play has actually change (a lot) from the previous 3, making it basically a new game. So including Monster Hunter there are 5 new games, the others are pretty much franchises (I left PC games out of the consideration).

In the end

Even as it is most visible with games, there is also an issue with movies nowadays. I love to see something really new, I equally enjoy the DC and Marvel movies, but if we take these and the sequels out of the equation, I am saddened to see it boils down to Red Sparrow, Annihilation, and Ready Player One. The rest seems to be either sequel, remakes or an altered version for something we have seen before. That does not make them bad movies, it is merely not really new, which is the issue here, they come through creativity. Isn’t it sad that the innovative list of truly new works is not growing to the degree it is? Now, we can look beyond borders, yet the reality is in my personal view that we have become less and less creative and we are losing out in several ways. Even if we are not game makers, TV producers or movie makers, as an audience we are equally missing out and we need to find a way to repair that flaw. One of the psychology views is: “Creative individuals are remarkable for their ability to adapt to almost any situation and to make do with whatever is at hand to reach their goals. If I had to express in one word what makes their personalities different from others, its complexity. They show tendencies of thought and action that in most people are segregated“. Even as the shrink focusses on complexity, I do not adhere there, I believe that the creative mind becomes ever better in analysing complexity and simplifying it, and reducing complex matters it into something ‘manageable’. It is an ability every person can have, but I believe that as our creativity levels went down, we lost some of that. The ‘business results driven‘ educational world has done this to us. We see the results more and more around us. We are blindly relying on automation and process instead of common sense. I am not stating that we should not adhere to these elements. I merely believe that once an automation or process failed that it will take a lot longer for people to react and that is not a good thing. Westpac saw such a failure only last week. With: “The meteoric rise of automated credit card applications has been called into question after Westpac was forced to refund a total of $11.3 million to credit card customers. The refunds, which worked out as several thousand dollars per customer, were necessary because the bank’s online assessment process had failed to gather enough information about the customers’ financial situation“, when we consider “Corporate watchdog ASIC said the crux of the problem was that Westpac had relied on automated application processes” and “Westpac admitted that customers’ employment status and income may not have been “directly reconfirmed in the credit card credit limit increase application process”” could be seen as optional evidence that a more creative mind would have seen the flawed complexity and beyond that optionally saved their boss 11 million. That is merely my point of view, but I stand firm on our loss of creativity, it is all around me every day. It gives rise that we have become a flawed generation; we lost more than we bargained for. I reckon that the academics will state that this element was a separate question and they were not instructed to focus on that as they designed the education system of the 70’s and 80’s, we can go on that this flawed system is still in place today giving us the danger of a descending line of our creativity and actual new experiences in the arts, a frightening concept to say the least.

 

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