Saturday, March 29, 2014

Video Game Series With Complex Timelines

To be updated with more examples as I can think of them.
Dates are Anno Domini/Common Era unless otherwise noted.

THE LEGEND OF ZELDA 

Skyward Sword
The Minish Cap
Four Swords
Ocarina of Time - Split into three timelines after this (A, B, C)
B) Majora's Mask
A) A Link to the Past, B) Twilight Princess, C) The Wind Waker
A) Oracle of Ages & Oracle of Seasons, C) Phantom Hourglass
A) Link's Awakening
A) A Link Between Worlds, B) Four Swords Adventures, C) Spirit Tracks
A) The Legend of Zelda
A) The Adventure of Link

METROID
2075 CC (Cosmic Calendar) - Metroid/Metroid: Zero Mission
2076 - Metroid Prime
2076 - Metroid Prime: Hunters
2077 - Metroid Prime 2: Echoes
2078 - Metroid Prime 3: Corruption
2079 - Metroid II: The Return of Samus
2079 - Super Metroid
2080 - Metroid: Other M
2081 - Metroid: Fusion
 

CASTLEVANIA
1094 - Castlevania: Lament of Innocence
1450 - Castlevania Legends
1476 - Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse
1479 - Castlevania: Curse of Darkness
1576 - Castlevania: The Adventure
1591 - Castlevania II: Belmont's Revenge
1691 - Castlevania/Vampire Killer/Haunted Castle/Super Castlevania IV/Castlevania Chronicles
1698 - Castlevania II: Simon's Quest
1748 - Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance
1792 - Castlevania: Rondo of Blood/Castlevania: Dracula X/Castlevania: The Dracula X Chronicles
1797 - Castlevania: Symphony of the Night
180X - Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia
1830 - Castlevania: Circle of the Moon
1844 - Castlevania: Legacy of Darkness
1852 - Castlevania 64
1897 - Bram Stoker's Dracula
1917 - Castlevania: Bloodlines
1944 - Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin
2035 - Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow
2036 - Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow
-- The (POS) "Lords of Shadow" games take place in a new, rebooted continuity--

1047 - Castlevania: Lords of Shadow
1073-1103 - Castlevania: Lords of Shadow - Mirror of Fate
2057 - Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2

METAL GEAR
1964 - Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater/Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence
1970 - Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops
1974 - Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker
1975 - Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes
1984 - Metal Gear Solic V: The Phantom Pain
1995 - Metal Gear
1998 - Snake's Revenge
1999 - Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake
2002 - Metal Gear: Ghost Babel
2005 - Metal Gear Solid/Metal Gear Solid: Integral/Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes
2009 - Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty/Metal Gear Solid 2: Substance
2014 - Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots
2016 - Metal Gear Acid
2017 - Metal Gear Acid 2
2018 - Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance

ASSASSIN'S CREED

The framing story of Desmond Miles takes place entirely between September and December 2012.
1190 - Assassin's Creed: Altair's Chronicles
1191 - Assassin's Creed
1192 - Assassin's Creed: Bloodlines
1476-1499 - Assassin's Creed II
1499-1507 - Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood
1511-1512 (1190-1257) - Assassin's Creed: Revelations
1712-1725 - Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag
1753-1783 - Assassin's Creed III
1765-1777 - Assassin's Creed: Liberation

Monday, February 10, 2014

Ridley Scott's "1492: Conquest of Paradise" -- Historical Notes: Accuracy vs Storyteling

In crafting an historical drama, a filmmaker walks a very fine line. By following history too closely, a filmmaker risks alienating an audience with incomprehensible period details or boring them with a story that features no real structure and is simply an account of events. But, if the filmmaker strays from history too far in the dramatization, then it begs the question of why tell a historical film at all, and also disrespects the peoples and cultures represented in the work. 

On the one side of that spectrum we may find films such as Tora Tora Tora, which excellently depicts the attack on Pearl Harbor in 11941 HE with near documentary accuracy, but lacks a strong narrative focus that allows the audience to care about what they are seeing on a level beyond the intellectual. On the other, we may find a film like Braveheart, which is more like a remake of Spartacus set in Scotland than a story with any resemblance to that of William Wallace and his rebellion (11297-11305). 

It is with these truths in mind of the precarious balance between historical accuracy and narrative efficacy in dramatic storytelling that we must view Ridley Scott's 11992 film 1492: Conquest of Paradise. A big budget Hollywood telling of the voyages of Christopher Columbus to the Bahamas, it is a film that was clearly executed with much care to historical accuracy, has excellent production values and cast, carries the standard excellent visual flair of a Ridley Scott film, a superb score from Vangelis, and is without a doubt the best Christopher Columbus film ever made. And yet...

The historical character of Christopher Columbus, or Christoffa Corombo as he was born in 11450 in the Republic of Zêna (Genoa), is a highly problematic one. Columbus has long been regarded as a national hero of the United States of America, venerated for discovering the American continent and also proving that the Earth was round in the process. This tale is commonly told in US primary schools, and Columbus Day is celebrated on October 12.
Yet the true historical Columbus is very far from the mythical one. For one thing, he did not "discover" America, as of course there were many native peoples all ready living there, having crossed over from Asia from the Bering Strait some 15,000-20,000 years ago. For another, he was not even the first European to have done so, Norse seaman having founded colonies in Greenland and Newfoundland as early as 10986. He was not even the first European of his time to reach the mainland -- the continent of America having been discovered by Amerigo Vespucci a few years later (hence the name). And finally, the idea that he proved the Earth round to a superstitious culture which believed it to be flat is a myth invented by Washington Irving in his fanciful 11828 biography of Columbus. 

But most problematic is perhaps not the voyage of discovery itself, but Columbus' governorship of the island colony he called Hispaniola thereafter. Columbus was, by all accounts, a tyrant, guilty of slavery, murder, torture, mutilation, and genocide on a scale that disgusted even his contemporaries in Spain.

So, if one is to do a movie about Columbus, how to approach such things? Previous films about the explorer, such as 11949's Christopher Columbus, embraced the patriotic myth and showed the Genoese navigator as a charming swashbuckling adventurer. In addition to Ridley Scott's 1492, two other films were released in the 500th anniversary year of his voyage - Christopher Columbus: The Discovery by John Glen and The Magic Voyage, a German animated film.

The Discovery embraces the myth of Columbus, and is also in all respects, just a very bad movie -- featuring a performance by Marlon Brando as Grand Inqusitor Tomás de Torquemada so phoned in that Roger Ebert said he wished he could "hang up". The Magic Voyage is a terrible piece of claptrap, the worst kind of "children's entertainment" which turns Columbus into a kind of goofy comic character "suitable" for children.

So how does 1492 approach it's central character? The film is by far and away the best of any on it's topic in terms of quality, and even in terms of history it stands head and shoulders above the others. But Scott made the decision that he wanted to portray Columbus heroically - a tragic hero yes, one capable of human faults, but still as a hero. This makes sense from a narrative point of view, but becomes increasingly problematic in terms of historical accuracy as the story goes on - you're left with three choices: glorifying Columbus' actions as governor, whitewashing to one degree or another, or ignoring them altogether.

Scott wants to romanticize Columbus, because he wants to tell the story of a dreamer, of a man who defied the conventions of his society to achieve something more, something thought impossible. Although he may not realize it, what Scott wants to do is tell a Randian story, with a Randian hero: that is, a hero who is smart, capable, and achieves something new despite the opposition of the world he lives in. 

Unfortunately, the historical Columbus was not really that kind of man, and so Scott must shift historical facts in order to portray him as one. Whether this makes 1492 a bad movie or not depends on how far along the earlier discussed scale it falls. To a certain extent, shifting facts to make a better story is expected of any historical drama - but in a case of Christoffa Corombo, it becomes very, very problematic if shifted too far.

After watching the movie, I am not sure how to judge it. While at times it becomes cartoonish and melodramatic, it is for the most part very effective, very realistic feeling, and very entertaining. One feels this is the best picture we may ever have of these momentous events on film. And yet, it strays further and further from the facts as it goes on. 

So, I have decided to herein chronicle the historical inaccuracies as I found them watching the movie, along with any necessary notes, to let anyone who reads them and watches the movie decide for themselves if Scott went too far in altering the facts. I still think that if one is to watch a Columbus movie, 1492 is the most worthwhile pick -- but if one watches the movie and reads these notes, then at least it's possible to get an idea of the whole story.

It must be noted, before I begin, that I am no historian. I have had a lifelong interest in history, my aunt is an historian, and I took a couple of history courses in university, but in fact I consider myself a filmmaker. That puts me more on Scott's side than against it in terms of occupational bias. I understand the need to alter and adapt to create a better narrative. I have made no distinction between "nitpicking", ie. minor historical errors that do not effect story, and notes of major inaccuracies and falsehoods. And I will also fully admit that almost all of the historical facts I am about to note came from Wikipedia. That means that maybe I am not entirely accurate either, but it also means that nothing of what I'm noting is obscure trivia, but pretty commonly agreed upon and widely known facts.

So, follow along with me as I recount the failings, trivial and major, of 1492: Conquest of Paradise.


~~~~


  • We're in trouble from the moment the introductory text begins, wherein Scott claims the Spanish Inquisition persecuted men for "daring to dream" -- the Inqusition didn't really care about scientists or dreamers, it's target was converted Jews and Muslims, and it's goal was the expulsion of those faiths from Spain and the establishment of Catholic hegemony. Columbus didn't "challenge this power" -- he was a devout Catholic and did not come before the Inquisition, and he was not "driven by a sense of destiny". But Scott obviously feels that he must from the beginning set up the idea of Columbus as a heroic outsider to society's norms. 
  • "No man dared to venture" across the western Ocean Sea (as the Atlantic was then called) -- in fact the Europeans of the 11490s knew people had sailed west before. While the Viking expeditions to "Vinland" were not as well known in the mainstream Christian world, the "Island of St. Brendan" was a well known legend since the 9th century of a mythical journey of Catholic monks from Ireland to an island in the Atlantic in 10512.
  • The Myth of the Flat Earth: all educated men (priests, navigators, cartographers, philosophers, etc) knew the Earth was round. Indeed, globes and maps with a round Earth survive from this time period and a spherical Earth was the basis of all martime navigation -- this was known since at least the 4th century BC.
  • It bears mentioning that as Columbus was Genoese, his accent should be more Italian than French, although Genoese has aspects of both. In Genoese his name is Christoffa Corombo, however he signed his name in Latin as Christophorus Columbus - in Italian he is called Cristoforo Colombo, in Portuguese Cristóvão Colombo, and in Spain he was known as Cristóbal Colón. 
  • The movie accurately portrays Columbus' belief that Japan was 3,000 miles west of the Canary Islands. He based this on the writings of Marinus of Tyre (who incorrectly judged the size of the Earth) and Abū al-ʿAbbās Aḥmad ibn Muḥammad ibn Kathīr al-Farghānī or Alfraganus of Baghdad -- but did not realize Alfraganus was using the longer Arabic mile rather than the shorter Roman one. Columbus was less of a visionary navigator than he was an incompetent one. The use of a Muslim source would be problematic to his position, but the movie instead paints the Jewish Ezras as the potential problem -- Columbus took nothing of his theory from Ezras, who was a biblical scribe, not a cartographer.
  • Catholic priests at the Inquisition in Cordoba are shown doing Last Rites in Spanish when all Catholic rites would be in Latin until after 11965.
  • The film tries to make it seem like it is superstition and ignorance that drives the monks of Salamanca to reject Columbus, but in fact they are totally right to laugh at him. I mean, Columbus thought that the distance from Spain to Cipangu (Japan) was 3,000 miles! He maintained until he died the belief that the native peoples of the Bahamas were Indians and that Cuba was a peninsula of China! The monks knew from the writings of Aristotle and Ptolemy that Asia was much farther than that as the Greeks had calculated the circumference of the Earth with great accuracy centuries ago - the issue was more that the felt no European ship of the time could cross such a distance because of issues of supplies and provisions. Not funding such an enterprise was the most rational decision in the world. Columbus landed at the Bahamas not because he was a visionary, but because he got lucky.
  • Columbus calls the Kingdom of China one of the richest in the world, but the name China would not be recorded by westerners until 11516. Columbus would have known it as "Cathay."
  • Columbus' son Diogo (Diego) is portrayed as a priest/monk, but I could find no evidence he ever was one (if he was he definitely must have renounced it by 11500).
  • Martín Alonso Pinzón did not meet Columbus until after his journey was approved by the Crown -- he was an experienced mariner who Columbus promised half the profits to in order to get access to his ships and his men as Christoffa could not otherwise convince any experienced seamen to sail with him.
  • Pinzón did not introduce Columbus to Luis de Santángel. Santángel was Queen Isabella's finance minister and intervened in January 11492 to convince Isabella to fund Columbus otherwise Christoffa was going to take his idea to Charles VIII of France. Santángel and Isabella's treasurer Gabriel Sanchez believed that while it was unlikely that Columbus would return, it was worth the attempt because Spain otherwise had no trade routes to the East thanks to interference from Portugal and the Turks, and the Kingdom badly needed the funds after the costly war to drive the Moors from Spain. The movie vastly glosses over these motivations.
  • Luis would've thought the sack of Granada tragic not for cultural reasons but for financial ones -- the eight month siege had been expensive and its cost was the main reason the Crown of Castile and Aragon had not funded Columbus' voyage earlier. Luis himself was a Jew forced to convert by the Inquistion.
  • In the movie Columbus' demands are rejected by Gabriel Sanchez but Isabella has him called back. In history it was Isabella who rejected and her husband King Ferdinand who called him back. Ferdinand gets totally shafted in this movie, with no lines. 
  • Columbus is depicted as unique in navigating by the stars "as the Moors do", something which none of his men know how to do. In fact celestial navigation had been in use by westerners for over 200 years by this point and its methods widely known. 
  • Columbus states a mistake of one degree would put them off course by 600 leagues, in fact one degree is only 16 leagues.
  • The crew in the movie gets restless when they haven't spotted land after nine weeks. Columbus' first voyage took five weeks. 
  • Pinzón is depicted as worrying about a mutiny among the crew while Columbus is steadfast and confident in their voyage. In fact, the reverse was true. The historical Columbus was somewhat paranoid about people doubting him and turning against him.
  • Columbus promises 10,000 maravedis ($650US today) to the first man to sight land. In fact, this reward had been promised by the Crown, and after Rodrigo de Triana spotted land Columbus claimed he'd already seen it the night before so he could claim the reward. 
  • The first sign of land was a mysterious light spotted the night of 11 October. Land was sighted at 2 am, 12 October, but Scott has it later in the evening, near sunset, with fog enshrouding Guanahani (San Salvador Island) so its reveal can be mysterious and dramatic.
  • The Lucayan people are depicted with long hair, but Columbus recorded in his journal that they kept it cut short, except in the back.
  • In the movie, Columbus' journal of 21 October states that if the natives are to be converted it will be with persuastion, not force, and that they should be treated with honor, respected and that pillaging and rape will be punished.
    Conversely, the real Columbus' journal of 12 October reads "they ought to make skilled servants, for they repeat whatever we tell them" -- Columbus wrote this after discovering that the Lucayans were often attacked by the mainland to be taken as slaves. In the same entry he writes "they can be very easily made Christians, for they seem to have no religion," and noted their lack of advanced metallurgy, writing "I could conquer the whole of them with 50 men, and govern as I pleased." 
  • The Lucayans are shown with gold nose rings and necklaces, and when Columbus inquires of the source of gold they are lead to Cuba. In history it was their gold earrings which piqued his interest and so he took some of them prisoner (this is glossed over by the movie) and headed to Cuba, which he named Juana, on 28 October.
  • Pinzón is shown with syphilis in Cuba, which he will bring back to the Old World and die of, but he is not shown getting it - the only way being by banging the natives.
  • Pinzón is shown landing with Columbus on Hispaniola (Haiti) on 5 December, still sick. In actuality he had disobeyed orders from Columbus and set off on his own on 21 November in search of more plentiful gold,  landing at Hispaniola seperately in the Pinta, while the Niña and the Santa María went on without him.
  • Columbus asks permission of the Taino chieftain Guacanagaríx, cacique of the Marien, to leave 39 men behind to build a fort and stay until he returns. The true reason for this was that on 25 December the Santa María ran aground and was abandoned and the Niña did not have room for all the men.
  • The movie shows all three boats returning, but it was material from the abandoned Santa María that was used to construct the settlement La Navidad.
  • The movie completely ignores Columbus' 16 January encounter with the Ciguayos of the Samana Peninsula who were the only natives to attack the Spanish, killing two of them. As mentioned earlier, it also ignores Pinzón's mutiny, and the reconnection of the Pinta with the Niña on 6 January. Pinzón was furious that Columbus had left 39 men behind, convinced that they would be killed or otherwise die. Columbus threated to hang him for insubordination.
  • The movie also ignores the 25 Taino prisoners Columbus took, of which only six survived the trip back to Spain, although they are shown with him in the Spanish court when he returns, but the question of their consent in coming along is lampshaded.
  • Due to a storm, the Pinta and Niña were seperated, with the Pinta reachng Pelos on 15 March 11493, while the Niña landed at Lisboa (Lisbon) in Portugal. Columbus controversially spent a week with King João II (John II) before carrying on to Spain.
  • Columbus is shown bringing tobacco to the Spanish court - in the form of smoking a TOTALLY MODERN TIGHT ROLLED CIGAR! The tobacco smoked in Hispaniola was smoked in a pipe, and not brought back to Spain until the 11520s. Rodrigo de Jerez brought his habit back to his hometown and was imprisoned by the Inquisition because "only the Devil could give a man the power to exhale smoke through his mouth." Modern cigars would not exist until the 11800s.
  • Columbus describes the religion of the "Indians" in terms of "God and Nature as one" in a very '90s New Age idealistic appropriation of Native culture kind of way -- as noted earlier the historical Columbus felt the Taino had no religion and thus could be easily converted, indeed this was one of the primary rationales of Spanish colonization and exploration -- to spread the word of God.
    In fact, the Taino had a polytheistic religion with two main gods -- Yucahu, god of the crops, and Atabey his mother, goddess of water and fertility. There were also many other minor gods and a fairly developed mythology.
  • Columbus' second voyage is described as comprising 17 ships and 1,500 men. It was 1,200.
  • Columbus' brothers Bertomê and Giacomo (Bartholomew and Diego) are depicted as unwilling to go along and govern with Columbus in Hispaniola, but in fact it was Bertomê the mapmaker who devised with Christoffa the entire West Indies scheme. 
  • Bertomê actually missed the boat on the second voyage and had to go on his own voyage in 11494 to meet Columbus, where he was made governor of Hispaniola in Columbus' absence. Both brothers were in fact fiercely loyal to him, rather than what is portrayed here.
  • Columbus' second voyage returned to Hispaniola on 22 November 11493, but the movie has this as 28 November for some reason.
  • Adrián de Moxica is shown with Columbus landing at the second voyage, but he in fact did not join him until the third voyage.
  • Columbus says "there will be no revenge" for the slaughter of the La Navidad settlement. He states that the Taino outnumbering them 10 to 1 as a reason not to start a war, and that they do not know which tribe to attack, and that they did not come to start a crusade. This is in STARK contrast to the true events, and this is the point where the movie takes a real turn away from history.
    Columbus felt a force of 50 men could conquer all the Taino with no problem. Columbus inquired with his ally Guacanagaríx of the Marien and found him no to blame but rather the chief Caonabo of the Jaragua. Columbus then established a new settlement, La Isabella, and ordered the following as retaliation:
    Every Taino over 14 years old was to deliver a quota of gold to the Spanish settlers every month. If this tribute was not delivered, their hands were to be cut off and they were to be left to bleed to death.
  • Adrián de Moxica is depicted as cartoonishly evil.
  • Nowhere is it mentioned in history that the plans for La Isabella or Santo Domingo (the movie is vague on which settlement this first town is supposed to be) were based on those of Leonardo da Vinci. This is just a goofy historical wink at the audience moment, although it is true da Vinci did draw up plans for an "ideal city" in 1488 (as did many Italian architects of the period), however implementing them in Hispaniola would have been difficult. Also, da Vinci was in Milan when he designed those plans, from 11482-11499, not Firenze (Florence). 
  • Columbus mentions in his journal in the movie that by adapting to the Taino diet "meat is only a memory for us," another of the movie's over-idealizations of native culture. After all, if they don't hunt and don't make war, then why do they have archers who can shoot birds with great accuracy? In actuality the Taino ate many meats: hutias, worms, lizards, turtles, birds, manatees and of course as Islanders they were very skilled fishermen -- although their main staple was the crop cassava.
  • MORE CIGARS!
  • The Spanish are shown collecting the gold quota from the Taino, but the origins of this quota, the mines, etc. are not shown. This is similar to the film's overall strategy -- showing all the bad stuff Columbus did as happening, but not showing him actually doing it -- thus leaving him blameless.
  • Moxica is shown eating watermelon, a fruit native to Africa. No way he brought it with him unless they had refrigerators those ships.
  • Moxica is shown initiating the "chop off their hands" policy and everyone reacts like WTF, including Columbus. As mentioned earlier, this was Columbus' own policy.
  • When Moxica is arrested he says the Spanish have been there for four years, which makes the setting the city of Santo Domingo and also means the second and third voyages of Columbus have been conflated -- the second return to Spain and the third expedition skipped.
    It was during this crucial absence from Hispaniola that most of the anger against Columbus fermented -- Christoffa had left in August of 11494, and against the explicit orders of Isabella took 1,200 of the Taino's rival tribe, the violent Caribs, as slaves to be sold in Spain.
    This was because there was simply not enough riches of gold in the New World, and the voyages needed to be paid for somehow. Slavery of conquered peoples was standard practice for Portuguese explorers, and Columbus assumed it was the same for the Spanish. It was not. 200 of the Carib died on the way back, and Isabella was pissed.
    Because it was illegal to enslave Christians, Columbus made it illegal in Hispaniola to baptize the natives, desite the spread of Christianity being one of the project's intended goals.
  • Columbus was away for many years, returning for his third voyage on 30 May, 11498. He had left Bartholomew in charge, but during this time a man named Francisco Roldan had revolted and founded a rival regime with about half of the Spaniards.
  • The goal of the third voyage was to bring supplies to Hispaniola and to search for the still unfound mainland of Asia -- although Columbus was convinced Juana (Cuba) was a peninsula of Cathay (China). Meanwhile a mission by Amerigo Vespucci had left in May 11497 but had not yet returned -- breaking the previously held monopoly of Columbus.
    Vespucci landed at Coyana and discovered the Amazon River, becoming the first European to visit the mainland continent of America, which bears his name. He would return in October of 11498 and be made chief navigator of Spain in 11508.
  • Meanwhile King Henry VII of England sent the Genoese sailor Zuan Chabotto (John Cabot) to cross the sea as well on 2 May 11497, despite a papal decree that all new lands west of the Azores were claimed for Spain.
    Chabotto made landfall at what is now called Cape Bonavista in Newfoundland on 24 June 11497, returning in August. His second voyage would be lost at sea in 11499.
  • Anyways, Columbus would discover Trinidad and Tobago on 31 July 11498, then explore the coast of South America until 12 August. Since Columbus still firmly believed North America was Asia, he considered South America a new continent, positioning it in his head as being roughly in the position of Australia relative to Asia.
  • He arrived back at Hispaniola on 19 August 11498 to discover the rebellion. Although he initially resolved the situation peaceably, a second revolution was initiated by Adrián de Moxica, who had lead several expeditions for Spain to India in the 11480s. Columbus had Moxica's revolt violently put down, and Moxica was hanged.
  • AND NOW BACK TO WHERE WE LEFT THE MOVIE! In the film, the rebellion is depicted as the natives against Columbus in retribution for Moxica's cruelty, before Moxica uses the fighting and confusion to attack Columbus as well. In reality, it was a revolt of the Spanish settlers who were upset that Columbus had lied to them about the gold and were disgusted by his brutal methods as a governor. That said, Moxica's revolt probably did find plenty of support among the Taino. 
  • Moxica is depicted as committing honourable suicide by jumping off a cliff, when in reality as noted earlier, Columbus had him hanged. The other revolters are shown being strangled until dead, however. 
  • A priest in the film complains that Columbus treats "Christians equally with heathen savages", when as noted earlier the only reason Columbus let them remain heathen savages was so it would be legal to enslave them.
  • Santo Domingo, which the movie has somewhat conflated with La Isabella, is shown being ravaged by a hurricane in a very corny -- like EXTREMELY corny -- "wrath of God" type sequence. While this did happen, it was not until 11502, after Columbus was arrested. The same hurricane killed Francisco de Bobadilla, who has not properly arrived in the story yet. A hurricane did destroy the settlement of La Isabella in 11495, and its failure and abandonment let to the 11498 establishment of Santo Domingo, the first European-built city of the New World.
  • Gabriel Sanchez, the Royal treasurer, is shown in the film to turn against Columbus for no real reason. He is shown reporting the colony's various failings to Isabella, and makes a big point of how Columbus forced nobles to work and treated Spaniards and Indians as equals -- when in reality the nobles sat back and had Taino slave labor do all the work. What really horrified Isabella was in fact Columbus' tyranny of the natives -- when she had given him explicit orders to befriend them, to convert them, and not to enslave them.
  • Sanchez is depicted as learning of the failure of Santo Domingo from a discontented priest. In fact, it was from Columbus himself that the Crown learned of the failures in Hispaniola. By October 11499, Columbus was exhausted by recent events and wracked with arthritis and opthalmia. He requested a royal commissioner be sent to assist him, so the Catholic Monarchs setn Francisco de Bobadilla -- depicted here as a judge and a sycophant of Gabriel Sanchez with a grudge against Columbus, in reality a member of the military Order of Calatrava.
  • Bobadilla arrived in August 11500, having been appointed to replace Columbus as governor and investigate accounts of his brutality.
  • Bobadilla disappoints Columbus in the movie by reporting to him of the discovery of the mainland by Amerigo Vespucci "weeks ago". However this had happened in 11497 before the third voyage, and was already known to Columbus by this time. That said, it is true that Columbus was very resentful of Amerigo, accusing him of stealing his legacy and reputation - Columbus had naturally wanted to call the continent of (South) America Columbia, but at least a nation in the region would one day be named after him!
  • The movie then cuts to January 11501 where Columbus is imprisoned in the very German/Disney-esque "Prison Castille". In reality, Columbus was sent back to Cadíz in chain on 1 October 11500, and spent only a month and a half in prison.
  • Bobadilla's investigation had testimony from 23 people, supporters and detractors of Columbus alike, whom all said atrocities took place, such as:
    - Cutting a corn thief's nose and ear's off and selling him into slavery.
    - Parading a woman naked in the streets and cutting her tongue off for implying the Columbus family was of ignoble birth.
    - Parading the dismembered bodies of the slaughtered rebelling natives through the streets to discourage further rebellion.
    - Rape, torture and mutilations.
    - Death and desperation: mothers so starved they could not breastfeed newborns, a massive infant mortality rate, a mining program enforced so that women did not see their husbands for eight months at a time. This and the other deaths caused the birth rate and population to plummet. The real priest in Santo Domingo, Bartoleme de las Casas, estimated the Taino death toll between 11494-11508 at three million.
  • Columbus was not allowed a defense, and he and his brothers were sent to Spain in chains and jailed at Cadíz.
  • In 11501, Columbus' son Fernando is shown as all grown up, maybe 18 at the youngest, while in reality he was only 13 at the time - older brother Diogo is 22.
  • Diogo is depicted all throughout the movie as being against his father's journies, when in reality he succeeded his father as Admiral of the Ocean Sea and Viceroy and was the most adamant fighter for the restoration of his father's titles after he was arrested and disgraced. Fernando went on one voyage (the fourth) and hated it and stayed home to be a scholar. 
  • Columbus asks Isabella to be allowed to return as he as still never seen the mainland, and Isabella says yes so long as he does not take his brothers.  In reality the rationale for the fourth voyage wasn't the mainland, which Amerigo Vespucci had found but that by now had been claimed for Portugal (in April 11500 by Pedro Cabral) -- and Columbus did in fact take Bartholomew and Fernando on the trip. The real rationale for the fourth voyage was to find a passage through to Asia, to Cathay and Cipangu, to the gold and spices and riches that were supposed to be the whole point! The real punishment was that all of the wealth and titles of "Cristóbal Colón" were taken, and he could no longer be governor of any lands.
  • In the scene with his mistress, Columbus claims he does not need riches -- yet he spent the rest of his life, as did his son Diogo, petitioning the Crown to have his title and his 10% of profits restored to him.
  • The film seems to skip Columbus' fourth voyage of 11502-11504, to show Columbus as an "old man" in 11506 -- in reality he was indeed aged to white hair and infirmity by this point due to his many diseases. It is implied in the film that he has lost prestige and legacy to Amerigo Vespucci, which is something that the Columbus family did indeed claim -- but then the Columbus family were a bunch of dicks anyway.
  • A scene where a priest at Salamanca lectures on the geography of the New World seems to confuse Santo Domingo as being a seperate place from Hispaniola, when in fact it is a city on that island.
  • Columbus' fourth voyage, in which he went to Panama and learned from the native population of the Pacific Ocean (and thus the way to China at last), was shipwrecked on Jamaica and denied rescue by the new governor of Hispaniola, impressed the natives by correctly predicting a lunar eclipse and thus convincing them he was a sorceror, then escaped and returned safely to Spain through a hurricane that destroyed ALL his enemies in Santo Domingo --- is only covered in a brief one sentence note at the end.
  • Columbus died in Spain on 20 May 1506, at 54 years old, of chronic arthritis.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

A Blog is Born!: The Debut of "All Jets Ablaze!"

Jeez, this blog is lookin' mighty dusty. 'Fraid I just haven't had much to say or put out here -- I suppose I could throw up a Man of Steel review at the least. I also do plan to continue my Annotated Cinematic Batman series with the Christopher Nolan trilogy, it's just that those movies are so dense and take so much more from the comics that they are a much more intense writing project to embark upon.

However, joining my Golden Age Batman review blog Bat to the Beginning, I am pleased to announce a brand new comics review blog -- All Jets Ablaze!
 

Yes this new review blog will focus on the adventures of IRON MAN, starting from the character's debut in 1963 in the pages of Tales of Suspense! I'm pretty excited about it, so I hope you will be too.

Also, some improvements on the homefront -- so that you can see my other blogs more easily, I've added links to them in the sidebar! Now the whole Ben Rowe blog family is conveniently accessible! Hooray!

Updates and reviews soon, I promise. All three of you reading this. 

Sunday, May 19, 2013

The Annotated Cinematic Batman: BATMAN (1966, Leslie H. Martinson)

Writer: Lorenzo Semple, Jr.
Producer: William Dozier
Director: Leslie H. Martinson
Batman: Adam West

Time indexes refer to the 2008 Special Edition NTSC Region 1 DVD of the film.

00:00:00 -- So, any talk of this film is impossible without a brief discussion of the television series it spawned from. The story starts in 1965, when the 1943 BATMAN serial was re-released. Hugh Hefner started showing the serial at the Playboy Mansion for laughs, where the cheap production values, over-serious narrator and ludicrous cliffhangers got big laughs. Inspired, an ABC executive at one of the parties thought that a campy Batman series in the style of the old serials might just work as television, perhaps recapturing the success of the 1952-58 ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN series on the same network. Producer William Dozier was hired to create the series, but there was one problem: Dozier hated comics. Given a stack of current Batman issues from the "New Look" Batman team of artist Carmine Infantino and editor Julie Schwartz, Dozier decided they were ridiculous and silly and that the only way to do Batman was as a campy parody. The show was designed to work on two levels: comedy for adults and action adventure for children. Originally the plan was for the movie to be produced first, introducing audiences to the characters and allowing the production studio to write off the large expense of creating the sets, props, costumes, etc. to the movie. However, ABC's 1965 season was in a lot of trouble, and so Batman was rushed into production to debut as a "mid-season replacement" on January 12, 1966. The show aired twice a week, Wednesdays and Thursdays, two half-hour segments featuring a ludicrous cliffhanger to cap off night one. The first episode was an adaptation of Batman #171 (May, 1965) and the first season ended up adapting many Silver Age Batman comics of the day. The show was a monster smash, a top ten ratings hit, and a culture sensation, making Batman (whose books had been on the verge on cancellation in 1963), DC's premiere character once more. Batmania had begun. The planned movie was soon greenlit to be shot and premiere during the break between season one and two, to take maximum advantage of the craze.

00:00:05 -- The movie and series were produced by 20th Century Fox. The series aired on ABC, which is now owned by Disney which also owns Marvel Comics. The Batman character is owned by DC Entertainment which is owned by Warner Bros. This tangled mess is why only the movie has so far seen a DVD release, although with DC finally gaining the rights to produce merchandise based on the old show again, perhaps a settlement isn't far
off?

00:00:48 -- To all Batman fans who take themselves too seriously: this movie is a comedy. And it's funny. Unclench and enjoy yourself.

00:00:55 -- I still think these opening credits are awesome. Bizarrely moody for the light-hearted daytime romp about to follow, but still awesome.

00:01:04 -- The BATMAN series turned Adam West (real name William Anderson) into a star overnight, although he was never able to shake the role, experiencing a fate similar to William Shatner on STAR TREK. West had to fight Lyle Waggoner for the part and it was his dry delivery and sense of comic timing that won him the role. Waggoner would go on to play love interest Steve Trevor in the 1970s WONDER WOMAN television series. West has returned to the world of Batman several times since. In addition to voicing the character on the 1977 cartoon THE NEW ADVENTURES OF BATMAN, he played a thinly veiled version of himself in an excellent episode of the 1992 BATMAN animated series, voiced the Mayor of Gotham City in the 2004 cartoon THE BATMAN, and voiced Batman's father Thomas Wayne on 2008's BATMAN: THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD.

00:01:14 -- Burt Ward was an absolute nobody before he was cast -- heck, he wasn't even Burt Ward! Berton Gervis Jr. won the role after Dozier auditioned thousands of young actors, and after he was cast he changed his name to Burt Ward (appropriate given his role as Dick Grayson, Bruce Wayne's youthful ward). The rocket to superstardom was a tough ride for Ward, who reportedly let it go to his head and became a bit of an ass on set. This attitude was responded to by constant pranks on Ward by the crew.

00:01:21 -- On the series Catwoman was played by Julie Newmar, in a deliciously sexy turn. Newmar decided to wear the belt designed for her costume around her hips rather than her waist, inadvertantly inventing a whole new style. When the series began the character of Catwoman hadn't been seen in the comics since 1954, when concerns that she made crime seem "glamourous" led to her being written out of the series after pressure on DC from congressional inquiries into juvenile delinquency. However the television show wasn't bound by such restrictions and brought her in to inject some sex appeal into the Rogues Gallery. She was so popular on the show, that she was back in the comics by late 1966, her costume redesigned to match the television look (albeit in an ugly green instead of a sexy black). Newmar unfortunately couldn't appear in the movie due to a back injury, and so she was replaced by the equally sexy Lee Meriwether.

00:01:26 -- Cesar Romero claims that he never knew or understood why he was cast as The Joker. Known until that point as a "Latin lover" character actor, Romero relished the part but refused to shave off his trademark moustache. So the make-up guys just smeared white facepaint over it until they figured you couldn't see it anymore.

00:01:31 -- Burgess Meredith brought a certain sarcastic, cynical attitude to the Penguin which has persisted in the character to this day, as well as a trademark laugh which Meredith said came from the cough he developed from smoking the Penguin's cigarettes, as he himself was a non-smoker.

00:01:35 -- Before Batman #171, the issue that inspired the pilot episode, the Riddler had not appeared in the comics since 1948. However comedian and impressionist Frank Gorshin's brilliantly manic performance was so popular that it not only made the Riddler one of the show's most popular villains, but shot the character into a permanent spot in the top tier of Batman's rogues gallery, with many comic book appearances during this period.

00:01:51 -- The famous Batman theme was composed by Neil Hefti, however the actual music for the series, including all the specific leitmotifs for the villains, was composed by Nelson Riddle, who also did the music for the movie. This is why these opening credits don't feature any "Nananananananana Batman!"

00:02:27 -- Lorenzo Semple, Jr. wrote the pilot episode of the series as well as many of the series' first season episodes. He understood better than many of the writers the exact mix of camp comedy vs. adventure thrills that needed to go in each story. As the series went on this balance was lost and the show became more and more outright comedy, which eventually killed it.
Bob Kane, credited here, made tons and tons of dough from the Batman series, thanks to the excellent deal he had made with DC when he created the character back in 1939. This meant he could finally "retire" from working on the comic -- in reality while DC had been paying and crediting Bob with every second issue of Batman since 1964 (and every single issue before that), Kane had been contracting out the work to ghost artists since 1948 or so.

00:02:38 -- Leslie H. Martinson had directed an episode of Batman's first season featuring The Penguin. He wasn't the show's most prolific or talented director by far, so I suppose Dozier picked him probably because his schedule was open.

00:02:43 -- The voice of Batman's narrator, credited as Desmond Doomsday, is actually the voice of producer William Dozier himself! Dozier is doing his best impersonation of the narrator from the 1943 serial, Knox Manning.

00:02:53 -- The house portraying Wayne Manor in the film, and series, is located at 280 South San Rafael Avenue in Pasadena, California. The exterior has been redone, so it doesn't look much the same anymore.

00:02:57 -- Alan Napier was the first actor cast for the series, in the role of Alfred the butler. Alfred first appeared in comics in Batman #16 (April/May 1943), but had been killed off in Detective Comics #328 (June 1964) by Bill Finger and Sheldon Moldoff. This had been done to facillitate the introduction of a new character, Dick Grayson's Aunt Harriet Cooper, who then came to stay with Bruce and Dick (although if Dick had a living aunt this whole time why was custody given to Bruce Wayne after the death of his parents?). Aunt Harriet had been introduced in order to dismiss notions of Bruce and Dick being engaged in a pedophilac homosexual relationship, a criticism which had been levelled at the Batman comics since the early 1950s. However, when the 1966 TV series began, they used both Aunt Harriet (played by Madge Blake) and Alfred as well, because Alfred as played by William Austen had been a big part of the comedy in the 1943 serial. The popularity of Alfred on the show lead to the character being revived in the comics in Detective Comics #356 (October, 1966) -- the method of his resurrection being a long, complicated story. Aunt Harriet, unlike Alfred, did not know Bruce and Dick were really Batman and Robin, and thus there was always the danger of her finding out. So essentially she was an Aunt May rip-off for Batman comics.

00:03:15 -- The Bat-cave entrance via Bat-poles activated by a bust of William Shakespeare is an invention of the series. In the comics of the day, the Bat-cave was accessed by an automatic elevator concealed by a secret wall panel.

00:03:24 -- On the highly formulaic series, each episode would begin with a teaser of a crime being committed, the police calling in the Dynamic Duo, Bruce and Dick going down the Bat-poles, the opening credits, and then them hopping into the Batmobile to race off to police headquarters. How they changed into their costumes from one end of the Bat-poles to the other was a mystery... until now!

00:03:50 -- The footage of Batman and Robin running over to the car, hopping in, exchanging dialogue, blasting out of the cave, and heading onto the highway was shot ONCE for the pilot episode and reused for every subsequent episode AND even this movie! Depending on an episode's pacing needs shots could be added or subtracted from the sequence as needed.

00:03:54 -- The famous Batmobile. The version created for this series may still be the most popular iteration of Batman's ride. The Batmobile itself first appeared in Batman #5 (Spring 1941), while the modern design Batmobile that the series based its version on debuted in Batman #164 (June 1964). The car used on the series was designed and built by George Barris. It's a 1955 Lincoln Futura concept car, repainted and refurbished with all kinds of extra details to make it THE Batmobile. There were three Batmobiles built by Barris -- a hero car for close-ups and detail shots, a stunt car, and a touring car for promotional purposes.

00:03:56 -- The red phone Robin's using here is of course the famous Bat-phone, also known as the hotline. The hotline between Batman and Commissioner Gordon first appeared in Batman #164 as part of a campaign of modernizing the ailing Bat-comics called "The New Look". It was adapted for the series, serving as the primary method of contact between Batman and the police. The idea was of course based on the Moscow-Washinton hotline that had been implemented following the Cuban Missile Crisis.

00:04:20 -- The Bat-copter first appeared in Detective Comics #257 (July, 1958), where it was called the Whirly-Bat because Batman comics from 1954-64 are goddawful. The helicopter seen in the film is a Bell 47 provided by the National Helicopter Service for use in the film. The decorative wings on the sides actually reduced the vehicle's lift power by 50%. The Bat-copter is the first of three new vehicles built for the movie, the added expense paying off when they could be utilized by the television series afterwards.

00:02:41 -- As goofy as they look, the costumes worn by Batman and Robin in this film are pretty damn accurate translations of how the characters appeared in the contemporary comics as drawn by Carmine Infantino and Sheldon Moldoff. The yellow oval around the bat on Batman's chest was added in 1964 when the "New Look" Batman comics were launched, because it made the symbol unique enough to be copyrighted.

00:04:52 -- Writer and Batman co-creator Bill Finger based Gotham City on the seedier side of New York, and comics writers often treat Gotham as a New York analogue, even today. In the Silver Age it was popular to give Gotham several direct New York parallels, like Gotham Village as the trendy hippie area instead of Greenwich Village. This trend continued on the show, which had characters like Mayor Lindseed and often parodied New York through Gotham. But in these Bat-copter sequences Gotham transforms from a bustling New York style metropolis to what is quite clearly Hollywood, Los Angeles.

00:05:01 -- The man waving is contemporary health and fitness superstar Jack LaLanne. The series was a popular place for celebrities to guest star or cameo on, and for it's entire run on the air it was considered quite a feat to get on Batman.

00:05:08 -- In the comics of the time from which the series took its inspiration, Batman and Robin had been declared duly deputized agents of the law by Commissioner Gordon, honourary policemen as it were. This despite the fact that they still wore masks and kept their identities secret. Gordon essentially had legalized vigilantism to get things done in Gotham. By the 1960s this had resulted in a Batman who was more like Sherlock Holmes in a cape and cowl than the dark avenging Shadow knock-off he had started as. Adventures in the daytime had become common in the comic and pretty much rote on the TV series.

00:06:15 -- Everything, absolutely everything, on this show is labelled. It's hilariously awesome.

00:08:09 -- Batman has a long and proud history of fighting sharks that does not begin or end with this movie. It started in Batman #4 (Winter 1941) and continues awesomely to this day.

00:08:26 -- Victory is in the preparation folks. Notice that Batman's got a whole line of Oceanic Repellent Bat Sprays, just in case. Getting Batman out of trouble with some ridiculously specific Bat-gadget was, of course, a hallmark of the show.

00:10:31 -- Police Commissioner Gordon was played by Neil Hamilton, characterized on the show as a well meaning if somewhat ineffective official with great enthusiasm for Batman. His right-hand man, Police Chief O'Hara, was created for the television series and is played by Stafford Repp as a bumbling foolish Irish stereotype.

00:12:13 -- Gordon's secretary Bonnie was one of those "often mentioned, never seen" type of characters.

00:12:27 -- The voice of the police computer is also William Dozier. For some reason the file photos of the "super-criminals" are taken with them in full costume standing in Miss Kitka's appartment (a location we'll see in the film later on) And since Lee Meriwether was late joining the cast, her photo is taken in Wayne Manor's living room!

00:13:43 -- Apophenia - noun. The tendency to see meaningful patterns or connections in random or meaningless data.

00:14:43 -- Of course Catwoman's "real name" is Selina Kyle, as established by writer Bill Finger in Batman #62 (December, 1950), but this series played fast and loose with such things.

00:14:50 -- The "United Underwold" group is pretty much the first villain super-group in DC Comics history, predating the Injustice Gang (1974), Secret Society of Supervillains (1976), Legion of Doom (1978) and Injustice League (1989).

00:15:55 -- Frank Gorshin hated wearing the skintight Riddler costume, which was based on the character's comic book look, so he designed himself this stylin' three-piece suit as an alternate look and it was quickly adopted by the comics themselves because it is awesome.

00:15:15 -- The show was famous for shooting scenes in the villain's lair on an extremely canted, or Dutch, angle to represent the villain's twisted view of the world.

00:15:18 -- Catwoman's cat is named Isis in other media, but here it's Hecate. Isis is the Egyptian mother goddess, whereas Hecate is the Greek goddess of witchcraft.

00:15:35 -- See, New York analogue. Instead of the United Nations Headquarters on the East River we get the United World Headquarters on the Gotham East River.

00:16:38 -- See, they've kidnappped Scmidlapp. Clever writers, or lazy writers? You be the judge.

00:20:30 -- The Batboat is our second new vehicle in the movie. While the Batplane had been given the ability to land on water and convert to a speedboat in Batman #4 (Winter 1941), the first official Batboat appeared in Detective Comics #110 (April 1946) provided to the Dynamic Duo by Scotland Yard to help them catch Professor Moriarty because... comics! The boat used here is a refurbished Glastron V-174, and again was built so it could be reused on the television show. Personally, I wonder how the Dynamic Duo keeps it safe, given that they just leave it moored at this random Gotham City dock...

00:18:41 -- The best thing in this movie: The Penguin's personal custom submarine.

00:24:01 -- Batman's Bat-Magnifying Glass has little bat ears.

00:25:29 -- Wouldn't you just take the belts off?

00:26:05 -- If you're a long-time geek of many interests, you find out quickly that the solution to all tech problems in all franchises is always to reverse the polarity. I have no idea if doing so has ever solved any kind of electrical engineering problem in real life.

00:28:09 -- "The nobility of the almost-human porpoise", the cliffhangers in BATMAN were designed as parodies of those in the 1943 serial. Occasionally Batman gets them out with some ludicrous gadget from his belt, but equally as often the escape is some element of silly blind luck or random chance.

00:29:46 -- BATMAN was designed to be a "hip" TV show, meant to play off the pop art movement of Andy Warhol and especially Roy Lichtenstein. The joke of course is that Batman is so square he doesn't realize how silly it all is, while the villains are more or less who you're supposed to cheer for, as they represent the counter-culture. Still, Batman's the hero and even he's not as square and lame as the ultimate target of any hip member of the flower power generation: the military industrial complex.

00:32:10 -- Didn't we already figure out that the four super-criminals were working together? Why are we figuring it out again?

00:34:24 -- The idea that Bruce Wayne heads any kind of corporate entity actually hadn't been introduced into the comics yet. After the death of Alfred, Bruce founded the Alfred Memorial Foundation for charitable purposes and began to be portrayed in his civilian life as a great philanthropist. As the TV show used a living Alfred they adapted this into the charitable Wayne Foundation, and once Alfred was resurrected in the comics it became the Thomas Wayne Memorial Foundation.

00:37:40 -- "The only possible meaning." Holy Bat-apophenia again!

00:38:56 -- Bruce Wayne drinking milk in a brandy snifter, like a boss.

00:40:42 -- A running gag on the series was that putting a bandit mask, like what Robin wears, on anyone renders them completely unrecognizable. Here we see Alan Napier's Alfred wearing one, and wearing his glasses overtop it!!

00:41:24 -- Gotham City has a Benedict Arnold monument!

00:42:23 -- The Bat-Signal had been introduced in the comics in Detective Comics #60 (February, 1942) by Jack Schiff and Bob Kane, and even after the hotline was introduced it continued to be used alongside it due to it's iconic and dramatic appeal. It appeared very infrequently on the TV show, however, which favoured the hotline. One assumes this might be for cost, but every time it appeared it utilized the same two shots of the cops on the roof with the light, and then the signal itself in a foggy night sky. Hilariously, the bat painted on the light and the bat in the sky are completely different in design. Despite it's spartan use on the show, the Signal was present in a different capacity, as it featured in the end credits sequence of every episode.

00:45:34 -- Some people ask of science "where's my jetpack?" I ask "where is my jetpack umbrella?"

00:45:48 -- The Riddler (who doesn't even get his own umbrella and has to ride shotgun!) has a pair of binoculars with a question mark on them. Of course.

00:46:33 -- Of COURSE Bruce Wayne is an Edgar Allen Poe fan.

00:47:15 -- This has bothered me since I was a kid, but why the hell does Joker wear a bandit mask in this movie? Penguin too! They're known felons with no other identity! It's kind've ridiclous.

00:47:25 -- You may wonder why the show's stylistic tradmark of onomatopeia overlays is missing from this fight, but it was a specific style of the series that they only appeared when Batman and Robin fought in costume.

00:49:41 -- That's right, Adam West's Bruce Wayne is way more hardcore than Christian Bale's. One rule? Screw that!

00:50:34 -- Note that Bruce and "Kitka's" feet are never on the bed at the same time, one person always has at least part of their anatomy hanging off it. The Motion Picture Production Code, or "Hays Code" of 1934-1968 forbid an unmarried couple to share a bed onscreen. Television of the time was even more severe, with even married couples often depicted as sleeing in seperate beds.

00:53:49 -- The sound effect for the spring you just heard may also be familiar to you as the sound of the photon torpedoes from the original STAR TREK series, although it's first use was actually as the sound of one of the Martian weapons in the 1953 film version of WAR OF THE WORLDS.

00:57:30 -- I must point out that the plot of this movie involves the villains stealing a water dehydrating/evaporating device off a boat to use in their evil plot and that this is essentially the same plot as in BATMAN BEGINS with the theft of the microwave emitter.

00:59:49 -- The Bat-walk was a very popular traditional element of the series, often accompanied with a cameo from a celebrity sticking their head out a window and talking to the Dynamic Duo. It was of course easily accomplished by simply placing the camera on it's side and then shooting the actors walking across the stage to give the illusion of them walking vertically.

01:03:06 -- This "running" (aha) gag with the bomb is the film's longest and perhaps best known bit. I couldn't help but think of it during the finale of THE DARK KNIGHT RISES.

01:09:19 -- Speaking of Adam West's hardcore-ness, he and Robin totally killed those henchmen.

01:11:32 -- The Batcycle is our third new vehicle. It makes its first appearance here, having never been featured in the comics before. It's a heavily altered 1965 Harley Davidson with side car for Robin. Another Batcycle would be created in season three for Batgirl, and eventually the vehicle would find its way into the comics, movies and animated series on a regular basis.

01:12:52 -- The idea that Riddler is compelled to give his clues, that he can't NOT leave riddles for Batman to solve, was first explored in Batman #179 (March 1966), beginning a trend of psychologically analyzing Batman's villains which has culminated in the Caped Crusader's rogues gallery often dealing with themes of mental sanity in stories such as ARKHAM ASYLUM.

01:16:05 -- Now is as good a time as any to point out that the henchmen Mr. Bluebeard has a literally blue beard.

01:19:26 -- The Japanese delegate here is played by Teru Shimada, best known to Western audiences as Mr. Osato in the James Bond film YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE.

01:31:29 -- Here are those famous onomatopeia captions. Designed, of course, to emulate the similar letterings in comic book fight scenes, the effect became synonymous with the series and therefore with comic books in general. To this day, almost every mainstream news story about comics incorporates them, much to the chagrin of fans, and I'm pretty sure newspapers have run the same "BAM! POW! ZAP! Comics aren't just for kids anymore" story since the mid-80s. In the first season of the show and in the movie the captions were graphic overlays on the action, an expensive process that was abandoned in the second season in favour of cheaper fullscreen title cards.

01:34:23 -- Julie Newmar would return to the role of Catwoman with the start of the second season. However, Lee Meriwether got a consolation prize with a role as recurring Bruce Wayne love interest Lisa Carson, who once famously invited Bruce up to her apartment for an evening of "milk and cookies".

01:36:41 -- I love that they are wearing latex science gloves OVER their costume's gloves. Also Batman wearing his utility belt over top of his apron.

01:44:24 -- Okay, so we've got two "The End" jokes here. "The living end" was an idiom meaning the utmost in any situation, something really extraordinary. The ellipsis followed by the question mark is an old hokey B-movie ending trick suggesting an open ending with the possibilty for a sequel. There was no theatrical sequel to this film of course, and it only grossed $1.7 million box office on it's $1.5 million budget. But the series returned for a second season, utilizing the new toys from the movie. However, the novelty had worn off. The second season failed to crack the Top Thirty in the ratings. The third season moved to one half-hour episode per week, and introduced the new Batgirl character in an attempt to keep up interest, but ratings continued to drop and BATMAN was canceled at the end of its third season, the final episode airing March 14, 1968. A Filmation produced animated series THE ADVENTURES OF BATMAN continued on CBS Saturday mornings until April 1, 1969. West and Ward would return to the roles in the second Filmation animated series THE NEW ADVENTURES OF BATMAN from in 1977. The series would also gain a spiritual follow-up in the Linda Carter WONDER WOMAN series of 1975-79, which initially also aired on ABC before switching to CBS. The show's campy, lighthearted tone would inform popular mainstream opinions on comic books in general and Batman in particular for years, until Frank Miller's THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS and finally Tim Burton's BATMAN feature cemented the idea of a dark, tortured, angsty Batman in the public imagination. In the comics themselves, the cancellation of the TV show lead to the end of Batmania, and the camp craze was over as quickly as it started. With Bob Kane finally gone and the looming 1970s seeing comics by rival Marvel getting more serious, the Batman comics once again fell into dangerously low sales. They were saved by the coming of writer Denny O'Neil and artist Neal Adams, who replaced the square-jawed, daytime, golly-gee adventures of the Silver Age Batman with a darker take inspired by the original Bat-comics of the 30s. Their interpretation became the definitive Batman for many, inspiring comics writers, the Batman movies including those of Christopher Nolan, and the successful 1992 animated series. However, for many in the baby boom generation the one true Batman is still... Adam West.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FdVJWyoncdU

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Star Trek: Nemesis Review

Star Trek: Nemesis 
 

"So, you're a Romulan-aligned villain with a giant black spaceship and a superweapon designed to destroy Earth?"
 

"And at the end of the story your emotionless friend will sacrifice himself to save you from my superweapon, which will explode and destroy me." 
 

"So... was Star Trek XI ripping off us, or Wrath of Khan? Or are we ripping off Wrath of Khan? I'm confused."
 

"Oh man, that's not even the half of it..."
 

"Star Trek XII will be the third TWOK rip off in a row, only Kirk dies instead of Spock!" 
 

 

"Kay man, if you're not going to take this seriously, I'm out." 
 

"Ass. I wonder what being a Batman villain is like."

So, I had a shocking moment watching this. I realized that it's not as bad as I remembered. I think there's a good script in here somewhere. I think that with some re-editing to put some of the deleted scenes back in, restore it more to John Logan's version instead of Stuart Baird's version. But even then, Logan and Baird, as much as they made mistakes, look like freaking geniuses comared to AOKL. And Jerry Goldsmith really pulls his weight with the score. And for the most part the cast really do well with what they have.

There are some nitpicky continuity problems that are really bullshit. Small things that don't destroy the movie but it's like "really guys? Why wasn't anyone paying attention?" Like the Bald Cadet Picard thing, or Beverly saying she knew him at the Academy/His First Command. They're tiny things that are easy fixes -- like explaining Worf and Wesley being there. Easy fixes -- you could say Worf showed up for the wedding in uniform (like ex-military guys do) and then since the whole adventure took place on a detour to going to the other ceremony on Betazed, Worf simply felt obligated to help out. Etc.

And if the deleted scenes had been back in, a lot of stuff would flow better. Like near the end of the movie Worf remarks that the Romulans "fought with honour" which seems really out of character since Worf hates Romulans to an insane degree. But in a deleted scene near the start of the film, Worf warns Picard about dealing with Romulans since they are "without honour", so if that was still in there, all of a sudden you have a character arc instead of a continuity error.

All that aside, at least this movie is trying. Unlike STINO, it has themes that I can identify. I can see what they were going for. And unlike INSURRECTION, the events actually feel significant in the lives of the characters, instead of just a big budget TV episode. Ultimately the film suffers because it can't decide whether it's the last TNG movie or saving things for a sequel, but with the deleted scenes in mind we really get the sense of everyone moving on. Although the Dead Data/B-4 TWOK/TSFS rip off is really on the nose.

But as I said, it's trying. There are real sci-fi themes here, real character stuff, and the space battles feel energetic and dynamic in a way that's exciting after seven years of VOYAGER.The other action scenes aren't as good, I'll admit. That car chase? Ugh. The gun battles in hallways that feel no more exciting than the opening of A NEW HOPE. And the fact that the climax is Picard and Shinzon struggling over a knife? You can feel the execs insisting on more action.

So yeah, NEMESIS isn't perfect, but after the last few years it looks a lot better.

5.5/10

1. STAR TREK: FIRST CONTACT
2. STAR TREK VI: THE UNDISCOVERED COUNTRY
3. STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KHAN
4. STAR TREK IV: THE VOYAGE HOME
5. STAR TREK: THE MOTION PICTURE
6. STAR TREK III: THE SEARCH FOR SPOCK
7. STAR TREK V: THE FINAL FRONTIER
8. STAR TREK: GENERATIONS
9. STAR TREK: NEMESIS
10. STAR TREK: INSURRECTION
11. STAR TREK