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Justice League Trailer

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The first trailer for the upcoming Justice League film is here and first impressions are that director Zack Snyder hasn’t learned anything from his previous divisive entries in the DC cinematic universe.

Whilst there’s definitely an initial thrill to be had when seeing the characters on screen for the first time, especially those that are gracing the big screen for the first time like Jason Momoa’s Aquaman and Ray Fisher’s Cyborg, this is quickly replaced by the realisation that this is seemingly yet another venture into the murky, dark and shadowy world of the Snyderverse, a place where the sun rarely shines, colours are distinctly muted at best and it’s hard to tell what’s going on.

This shouldn’t be confused with the Fincherverse, which whilst somewhat similar doesn’t feature superheroes, unless you’re one of those people that worships Tyler Durden.

To say DC and Warner Bros have a lot riding on Justice League is a distinct understatement, their entire cinematic universe output to date has been leading to Justice League. This is further compounded by their desperate attempt to catch up with rivals Marvel who are so far ahead of them they can barely see them on the horizon.

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There’s definitely some good stuff here, I can see Jason Momoa’s Aquaman stealing the film, but the visual aesthetic seems really at odds with antics of the premier team of superheroes from one of the biggest publishers in American comics. The thing that really stands out is how the character moments seem really good, “What are your superpowers again?” asks Ezra Miller’s Barry Allen for Ben Affleck’s Bruce Wayne to respond “I’m Rich”. There’s a sense (and a hope) that the writing might actually be better and have more warmth and humour to it but the actual glimpses of characters using their powers to fight whatever they’re fighting seem like a dingy depressing cartoon of digital FX nonsense, much like the climax of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.

This shouldn’t be in anyway surprising because why fix something when the box office tells you it isn’t broken, for all the arguments they caused and the mixed critical responses for both Man of Steel and Batman V Superman Dawn Of Justice definitely brought in the big money.

One of the things that does stand out pretty badly is Ray Fisher’s Cyborg, who seems like he could be in a cutscene from a PS3 game.  There’s definitely a sense that Cyborg would’ve looked far better as a digitally enhanced prosthetic suit rather than what seems to be  a digital suit mapped onto Fisher’s body.

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I should emphasise that Dawn of Justice really was pretty awful, the only good thing about it was introducing Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman. Wonder Woman from director Patty Jenkins, set for release in June, looks like the best cinematic offering based on a DC character in years. The difference in aesthetic between Wonder Woman’s latest trailer and this one is quite staggering really.

There’s still little in the way of exactly how the Justice League film will work because it has a lot of pieces to move around, with the Justice League themselves and several other characters in the mix like Amber Heard’s Mera, Connie Nielsen’s Queen Hippolyta, Amy Adams’ Lois Lane and more besides.

One of the things which will really impact on whether Justice League lives up to its potential is how it utilises its numerous characters, if it ends up being just a case of Batman or Superman saving the day then that will be a massive disservice to the other characters.

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2000AD is a potential treasure trove for gamers

News came out of the 40 Years Of Thrill Power Festival that Rebellion, 2000AD’s owner, is opening up some of their properties for development by games companies.  There have been a few licensed games featuring 2000AD’s characters ,mainly Judge Dredd, with the first appearing way back in the late 80’s. More recently Judge Dredd featured in Dredd vs Death and Rogue Trooper, one of 2000AD’s other popular characters, featured in his own game .

Saying the news of Rebellions intention to licence their properties has immense potential is a major understatement.

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One of the most obvious would be a game set in the world of Judge Dredd in the vein of Rocksteady’s Arkham games featuring Batman. This could have endless potential, a vast interesting world even if it’s restricted to Mega City One, and a vast amount of interesting characters and decades of mythology to mine. Judge Dredd has featured in 2000AD since 1977, that’s decades of stories to work from and then there’s the Judge Dredd Megazine which has been in publication since 1990.

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Whilst there will inevitably will be scores of fans that want to play as Dredd himself there could be more potential in players taking the role of a rookie Judge just hitting the streets of the Big Meg. For a start this could open up the ability to choose whether you want to be a male or female Judge even if it has no real impact on the game itself being able to choose the gender of the character you play as is a big deal . This is something that is generally lacking in most games that default to a male character. This would also allow for unlocking skills, equipment and abilities as players progress through the game which would make more sense for a rookie Judge than for a character like Dredd who is a veteran Judge.

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The main story could feature numerous characters Dredd and Judge Anderson are just the most obvious. Optional side missions could feature characters like Chopper and PJ Maybe. Beyond that there could be DLC for the Cursed Earth, East Meg One, Hondo City. There’s immense potential just in a Judge Dredd game and that’s just one character and world out of many that 2000AD/Rebellion owns.

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Other pretty obvious ideas for use of licenses would be Slaine as an RPG in the vein of Skyrim, Rogue Trooper as a third person shooter for the current generation and less likely but just as merit worthy would be using Durham Red as the basis for a Mass Effect style game set in the far future. These are just a handful of the characters Rebellion currently owns and the most obvious gaming adaptations using previous games as blueprints,  all that’s needed is a good developer that doesn’t churn them out as a half arsed cash in.

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Hoshino – A Star Wars Story

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I’ve never been a massive Star Wars fan. That’s the kind of statement that’s treated like the black speech of Mordor by many. Whilst I’ll happily watch it when it’s inevitably on TV over the Christmas period I wasn’t one of the people rushing out to see The Force Awakens. When I did see it I wasn’t overly impressed. Having said that Rogue One looks considerably better on every level.

Then I stumbled upon Hoshino, a short film from director/producer/editor Stephen Vitale and writer Eric Carrasco. Hoshino tells the story of blind Jedi Ko Hoshino ,played by Anna Akanna, and her tutor Master Jaan-Xu played by Tim McKernan.

What really caught my eye about Vitale’s film was not only its polished production values and impressive looking FX work but its story. Hoshino takes the idea of the blind samurai, something most notably found in Japan’s Zatoichi films and then later in Western culture like American Zatoichi remake Blind Fury, Dare Devil’s Stick and even in long running beat ’em up game series Mortal Kombat’s Kenshi, and applies it to Star Wars in a brilliant way.

Despite a running time of just several minutes Hoshino works on various levels but especially as a tale of strength in the face of adversity. Also we should be in an age where a Jedi being a woman, a woman who isn’t white at that, shouldn’t be a notable thing but we’re not there culturally so it matters.

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Exploring the new frontier

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HBO’s latest big venture Westworld arrived recently. Based on the 70’s film written and directed by Michael Crichton (and featuring Yul Brynner in a memorable role as a robot cowboy gone haywire).

Westworld was in the media spotlight long before its first episode aired after a contract for extras was highlighted for being rather creepy now it’s in the spotlight again with stars defending things seen in the premiere episode.

Set at some point in the future Westworld is a vast theme park of sorts which represents an Old West town and the surrounding area. The park is populated by incredibly lifelike robots/synthetic beings called Hosts. Westworld is the creation of Dr Robert Ford (Anthony Hopkins). The series introduces various characters, some are people that work for Westworld in some capacity like Bernard Lowe (Jeffrey Wright) one of the technicians that works on the Hosts that populate the park, some are Hosts like Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood), Maeve (Thandie Newton) and Teddy (James Marsden), whilst others are patrons of the park like The Man in Black (Ed Harris) and his polar opposite William (Jimmi Simpson). These are just some of the characters that feature.

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Visitors ,called Guests, are free to live out any desire they have with no judgement or consequence. The Hosts exist to accommodate their desires, whether this is being a brutal sadistic murderer, a violent rapist or something else. The Hosts though have no memory of what they are subjected to due to being wiped, monitored and recalibrated as necessary by the the parks technicians. Also Hosts generally speaking can’t harm Guest ,though they might attempt to, because their guns don’t fire real bullets. This enables Guests to engage in the thrill of a gun fight with no risk of real injury.

The various Hosts in the park are all playing a part in numerous overlapping looping narratives which the Guests can take part in. Once the narrative loop comes to an end it restarts with the Hosts involved completely oblivious to having done the same thing numerous times.

The first episode, and indeed the series as a whole, has more than a little in common with Charlie Brooker’s acclaimed series Black Mirror given that it deals with the darker uses of technology and how they impact people and society, Dolores’ story is a prime example. Dolores is part of a narrative loop involving Teddy but The Man in Black it turns out has been taking part in this loop for years. Each time it culminates in Teddy being killed in some way by The Man in Black and Dolores being brutalised and raped by him, the screaming Dolores being dragged off by her hair into a barn before the door slams ominously shut behind her.

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Only Dolores isn’t being brutally raped in the context of the world presented here because Dolores isn’t a person with rights or bodily autonomy. Dolores is a thing. A synthetic person subject to the whims of the parks Guests. The problem with this is the presentation to the viewers at home is exactly the same because Hosts by definition look exactly like real people. This is basically rape by proxy. More than that it suffers from familiar problems that usually arise when sexual assault or rape features in a TV show, deferred consequence for the transgressor to build dramatic tension and deliver catharsis at a later date and glossing over the aftermath for the victim.

The first episode ,which focusses primarily on Dolores’ loop, ends with her naked in the technicians lab (for some unexplained reason Hosts are always naked in the lab when taken for diagnostic maintenance) looking glassy eyed into the camera as engineers question her in a diagnostic mode. This visual is powerful because the viewer has the burden of knowledge of what Dolores has been subjected to repeatedly even if she doesn’t and the Westworld employees are completely indifferent to the suffering.

The long play for Westworld is the Hosts through something in their latest software update (possibly intentional on Ford’s part) is leading them to actually gain full awareness remembering all the horrific things they’ve been subjected to by the Guests over the years via flashbacks and dream like hallucinatory episodes. Dolores it’s revealed is the oldest of the Hosts in the park and is it seems being set up as the leader of the Hosts rebellion against their human oppressors, whilst Maeve, who in episode 2 “wakes up” whilst in the lab, is set to play a big part too.

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Whilst this undeniably fertile ground for an interesting multi-layered character drama it’s yet another example of relying on the well worn plot device of women’s sexual assault, rape and trauma being utilised as a catalyst for revenge and empowerment. This was the basis of I Spit on Your Grave back in 1978 and I’m sure it wasn’t the first example. You can’t help but think writers seem to not know how to write empowered women in TV drama without their empowerment being the by product of some man’s malevolent transgression.

The idea that Westworld employees are seperated into different departments, with animosity between the workers of different departments, is prime for exploration as one of the most looming questions about Westworld is how does the place function? Does it have opening hours like a normal theme park? How many departments are there? How do they repair the Hosts damaged by Guests? Are there any animals besides the synthetic horses? Why would anybody take their children to Westworld? Why are there no child Hosts? How do the visitors function outside of the park where they have to revert to behaving in a normal civilised manner? How do the people that work at Westworld function in the real world? Those are just a handful of questions Westworld prompts.

A big part of Westworld is the idea that the only difference between modern, or in this case future, society and the savage primordial past is the thin veneer of civilisation, something which can be stripped away easily given the right circumstance. Swedish series Akta Manniskor explored the same themes regarding technology, A.I and the impact it has on society in a much more grounded manner, the series was remade in English as Humans which changed the story and some characters.

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Surgeon X

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Surgeon X from Image Comics is notable for several reasons, a big one being it marks the return of Karen Berger, founder and long time editor of DC’s Vertigo imprint, to comics after leaving DC several years ago. Another is that it’s probably the most meticulously researched comic to ever hit the shelves with a list of assorted medical professionals, scientists and learned types being thanked for their assistance in the credits.

Surgeon X is written by veteran TV producer/director Sara Kenney making her comics debut, a near future sci-fi horror about a Britain (and world) wracked by a medical crisis and in a state of political turmoil. Kenney’s comics debut came about after striking up a rapport with Berger via LinkedIn and in the process demonstrating that LinkedIn is responsible for at least one good thing in its existence.

London, 2036, and Antibiotics are largely ineffective due to humanity’s developed resistance and now rationed and reserved for the lucky few causing millions of deaths every year. Jim Powell of The Lionheart Party, a far right political party, is up for election as Mayor of London. Rosa Scott is a renegade surgeon and with the help of her brother Lewis, her sister Martha and Martha’s husband Jacob , sets out to help those in need utilising her medical skills and blackmarket medicine.

Surgeon X is something that suffers from trying to explain what it’s about in a few sentences, it’s a story that features myriad elements besides the unfolding and engrossing human drama featuring the Scott family. There’s social commentary, political commentary and a history of Antibiotics and why they’re so vital to humanity making up the landscape of Kenney’s impressive debut. A debut made all the more impressive by art team John Watkiss and James Devlin who conjure up a future Britain that’s recognisable and relatable but also nightmarishly different, that’s not forgetting letterer Jared K Fletcher.

More than that though the nightmarish scenario that’s depicted in Surgeon X isn’t some far fetched sci-fi concept it’s informed by very real science, which is why there’s so many learned types featuring in the credits. The most disturbing thing is when Kenney says when working on the story for Surgeon X medical professionals told her “You’re not being extreme enough in your vision at all”.

Surgeon X also has its own app which features  “animations, documentaries and other exclusive content” to quote writer Kenney.

For more on Surgeon X check out the official website.

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For the Emperor

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Games Workshop’s Warhammer 40,000 ,or 40K to fans, has always been an interesting fictional world, the setting for a tabletop war game created in the late 80’s, it’s become far more than that in the years since with other tabletop games, numerous computer games and books also set in the dystopian dark future.

The “grim dark” setting has humanity scattered across the galaxy in the far future of the 41st millenium, the Imperium of Man, a brutal theocratic regime which worships the immortal God-Emperor of mankind. Space Marines ,genetically engineered soldiers, are the Imperium’s elite soldiers fighting in a perpetual war with various other races across the galaxy as the Imperium teeters on the brink of collapse due to its own internal schisms.

These schisms are the result of the Emperor being betrayed by his most trusted son Warmaster Horus in what is referred to as the Horus Heresy, a galaxy spanning bitter civil war in 31st millenium. This war which lasted for several years,  resulting in the deaths of countless millions across numerous planets, culminated in the death of Warmaster Horus but not before he mortally injured the Emperor, leading him to his internment in the Golden Throne for eternity.

Although it should be noted that in the grim far future of the 41st millenium there’s a notable and distinct gender disparity in the armies of the 40K game and setting, this is something that’s been the subject of debate in articles like this one over the years. The table top game itself is somewhat notorious for being perceived as a boys club, something almost impenetrable and even hostile in its gender disparity as one girl fan explains here.

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Despite the aforementioned problems the setting of 40K would make for a great film. The reality of course being that it would never happen, any 40K film would require a budget in blockbuster territory which isn’t going to happen, until it did. Kind of.

Ultramarines appeared in 2010 an animated film set in the 40K world, this was everything fans had been waiting for. Only it wasn’t. Despite its impressive voice cast ,featuring Sean Pertwee and John Hurt amongst others, its animation was underwhelming and smacked of budget constraints. Fans hopefully, gleefully (and somewhat unrealistically) expecting a feature length 40K film in the vein of the Dawn of War II trailer which appeared in 2009 were rather disappointed with the results to say the least. Although it did have its moments where it rose above its failings like John Hurt’s Chaplin shouting “BURN HERETICS!” in a skirmish

Then an interesting thing happened, Erasmus Brosdau Senior 3D Artist, and later Art Director at Crytek started a blog featuring 3D models of ships and other things from the 40K universe. The project snowballed and Brosdau over time was joined by a small talented team all working away in their spare time. A trailer named “The Lord Inquisitor” appeared sometime later and promptly blew everyone away, selling the 40K universe and teasing a story in little over 2 minutes with better looking animation than seen in the Ultramarines film.

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The Inquisition is probably one of the most interesting things in the whole 40K setting, in simple terms they are the secret police of the Imperium and work outside the hierarchy of the Imperium. The Eisenhorn trilogy by writer Dan Abnett is an acclaimed fan favourite story about Inquisitor Gregor Eisenhorn and remains a high point for 40K fiction over 10 years after its initial publication.

Flash forward a few years and another teaser trailer appeared named “Grey Knights” focussing on a different faction of the space marines to equal acclaim. One of the interesting and impressive things is Brosdau and his team have managed to produce such good offerings with nothing other than time invested in a labour of love.

Which leads to now, the 8 minute prologue to The Lord Inquisitor hit the internet on 28 August and has so far racked up over 900,000 views, gaining widespread acclaim from 40K fans who have been waiting decades for something of this calibre.

For more on The Lord Inquisitor go here.

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Suicide Squad

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After the turgid mess that was Dawn of Justice, the last offering from DC/Warner which was widely divisive, Suicide Squad couldn’t fail to be better but is seemingly no less divisive. This film has been subject to an unavoidable marketing campaign and the now standard endless amount of opinion articles pulling it apart and putting it back together again even before the film had even been released in cinemas. After being unsurprisingly torn to shreds by critics (which it should be said are proven time and time again to have pretty much zero influence on Box Office, Exhibit A the Transformers franchise) resulting in a 26% percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes   someone somewhere apparently outraged at such hubris (although it may have been a joke)  started a petition to get Rotten Tomatoes taken down, despite the fact it’s actually owned by Warner Bros, the studio bankrolling Suicide Squad, because internet.

Suicide Squad from David Ayer ,the man behind Training Day and Fury, could’ve been a hard edged tour de force, a take on Robert Aldritch’s The Dirty Dozen with super villains. Conceptually it’s a no brainer – in a world of metahumans Government agent Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) assembles a deniable and expendable black ops team. A team made up of unhinged  deadly  villains to go on deadly missions no one else can deal with and coerced into service by the threat of immediate death by explosive implants and the promise of time off their sentences for services rendered.

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Only it doesn’t really live up to The Dirty Dozen idea. I expect this is likely due to Ayer being caught in the vice like grip of a studio still desperately playing catch up with their competitor rather than concentrating on actually making good films.  A studio that is still utterly clueless when it comes to tone having just delivered a dark dirge of a film featuring one of the most optimistic hopeful characters in the history comics superheroes. Paradoxically they’re now delivering a much lighter film, shot through with a variety of recognisable songs, centred on a cast made up of mentally unhinged villains, which really makes no sense at all but somehow it works.

According to various sources David Ayer’s film suffered from reshoots after test screenings, and numerous scenes were left on the cutting room floor. This combined with a scattershot editing approach that re-ordered scenes and the narrative. According to Ayer the original cut ran at around 3 hours, the theatrical cut is just over 2 hours. That’s a pretty big difference. Some have said that Suicide Squad seems like it’s been thrown into a woodchipper the resulting film being incoherently messy but, and it likely seems like false praise, this is the best of the recent cinematic offerings set in DC’s world, not amazing , but definitely not the absolute car crash many are calling it.

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The internal logic of the films premise doesn’t really work in the context that Waller lays it out . The idea that the Suicide Squad , a team which is largely made up of characters which don’t actually have powers, would be a match for  General Zod for example , is a bit ridiculous but then the comic the film is based on suffers from much the same problem.

Interestingly Suicide Squad seems to subvert the action film norm, namely the women here are generally kicking ass and the men are mainly in the thrall of their emotions. Viola Davis as Amanda Waller utterly nails it and reveals herself to be one of the coldest most villainous characters in the whole film which is interesting. Meanwhile Cara Delevingne’s June Moone/Enchantress is the most powerful character to feature in a DC film yet, she’s integral to the film and gets some pretty cool visuals even if somewhat predictably things descend into CGI overload by the conclusion. Which is seemingly a standard for comic book superhero films by this point and doesn’t seem to be changing anytime soon.

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The main problem Suicide Squad suffers from is having to introduce so many characters in one film, which is really a catch 22 situation, either spend half the running time on introductory scenes setting up characters with backstories and thereby leaving no room for any actual story or plot  or just omit half of the introductions to make way for the story even though half the characters haven’t been fleshed out and this film kind of does both .

So the likes of Jai Courtney’s Captain Boomerang is basically just there for a few comedic beats that don’t really work, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje seems a little wasted as Killer Croc, a character who barely gets any lines at all and is seemingly just there to look menacing (which he does so kudos for the prosthetic approach) and there’s Karen Fukuhara’s Katana who is basically there to balance out the cast a little more, appearing out of nowhere some way into the proceedings for no real reason but she definitely seems like a cool character.

Will Smith’s Deadshot is as charismatic as expected veering more into anti-hero rather than being an outright villainous sociopath and he takes centre stage (along with Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn) whilst butting heads with Joel Kinnaman’s Rick Flag who is playing scout leader to the squad.  One of the real surprises is Jay Hernandez as El Diablo who gets some of the best scenes in the film and goes from “who’s he?” obscurity to actually being a major part of the story.

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Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn, a character widely derided for being there for no reason other than being a sexy lamp, actually impresses with her quirky unhinged mannerisms and one of the best comic to screen portrayals in a DC film yet. Her character has been singled out by many as being masturbatory fodder for horny teenagers because no woman would ever willingly wear such an outfit. Turns out Harley’s outfit was one of several potential looks and this one was actually decided by Robbie herself and costume designer Kate Hawley based on a photo of Blondie singer Debbie Harry in the 70’s and also inspired by the characters look in the more recent Suicide Squad comic. One of the key traits of Harley’s character is not really caring about what people think, which seems to have gone over a lot of people’s heads when it comes to her outfit, especially the scene where she picks it out.

Robbie’s dynamic with Jared Leto’s Joker, a wild eyed blinged out Mobster, actually works well largely omitting the inherently abusive element of their relationship rather than glorifying it and making them seem more like a real couple, albeit a twisted one. One of the things that seems to be confusing people is the Joker, and equally Batman, not being major characters in this film, despite it being pretty obvious that they aren’t supposed to be because this isn’t their story or their film. They feature mainly in flashbacks because this is a film set in a shared universe and this establishes that fact and it works brilliantly.

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One of the best scenes in the whole film is in the third act when the weary group end up basically giving Flag the finger and going into a bar and just talking over drinks and it’s a glimpse into how this film could’ve been a lot better because it’s a moment that slows everything down and goes for real  characterisation which adds a lot to most of the characters and makes you wish it didn’t come so late.

There are a lot of darker themes that could’ve featured in Suicide Squad, Rick Flag and Deadshot essentially being the same despite Flag’s moral grandstanding, Killer Croc essentially becoming a monster because that’s what people expected him to be , etc, but they’re never really explored. This is reminiscent of Dawn of Justice which basically dodged all the darker themes. There’s a sense that this film could’ve had much harder edges in line with Ayer’s previous work but they’ve probaly been sanded off by the studio .

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God of War?

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So the long gestating and rumoured return of God of War has finally been officially revealed at this years E3, although as was probably intended it’s left everyone with plenty of questions.

The lengthy game play demo reintroduces Kratos ,the Spartan turned demi-god, who has featured in seven games across various platforms, as older, sporting a beard (looking a bit like a ripped Mandy Patinkin), and most interestingly having a young son.

God of War is a critically acclaimed best selling franchise,  although equally it definitely wasn’t without its problems which I can see more clearly looking back. The first game started off with Kratos determined to kill himself by leaping off a cliff, a broken man crippled with grief and guilt. As the narrative unfolded the reason why was revealed, Kratos had murdered his daughter and wife whilst under the influence of Ares, whom Kratos had pledged to serve in exchange for the power to defeat a barbarian horde earlier. Whilst there was definitely some pathos embedded in the story, it was never particularly nuanced and played out like id The Game, a violent, gory and misogynistic quest for vengeance. Women in God of War rarely served a function other than being lust objects or dying horribly, sometimes both.

With all that in mind it remains to be seen where this new God of War will go narratively, this seems like an older and wiser Kratos trying to put his tortured past of slaughtering gods and men behind him, with an obvious reference point being Clint Eastwood’s Bill Munny in Unforgiven.

This new God of War seems to have dialled down on the gorefest of its earlier entries, whilst seemingly being influenced by the critically acclaimed The Last of Us (which is not only developer Naughty Dog’s best game to date but arguably one of the best games period) with gameplay switching between Kratos himself and his son as the story unfolds.  An important factor  will be how the mother of Kratos’ son features in this game, previously women haven’t really been served that well narratively speaking and if the mother in question gets “fridged” it will really show up how little the game has matured narratively.

How will it tie into the apocalyptic ending of God of War III? Who is the mother of Kratos’ son? One theory suggests the son is Ullr, in Norse mythology Ullr is the son of Sif who is the wife of Thor, you know the son of Odin.  The father of Ullr is unknown though due to little being known of Ullr besides being “an excellent archer, hunter, skater, and skier, handsome, warlike, and an especially apt deity to invoke before a duel”. This ofcourse would lead to Thor probably wanting a quiet word with Kratos and Sif.

 Whilst those are important questions,   one of the more pertinent ones is who is this game aimed at?

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For good or ill God of War has always been a mixture of button mashing gory combat and puzzles, whilst it did both of these well and definitely featured some of the best visual moments of a generation, like Cronos crawling out of the desert with Pandora’s Temple on his back , this new God of War seems like a fundamentally different game and this is a big deal.

This is a big deal because it makes me wonder who this game is aimed at because as seen so far this game is pretty much completely different game play wise, whilst the gameplay seen featured some combat, it’s different to that seen previously. This Kratos isn’t wielding the Blades of Chaos, his signature weapon throughout the games, and combat seems very different, it’s only the encounter with a troll that is more reminiscent of games past, although this too omits the floods of gore that would accompany Kratos taking a large enemy down in previous games.

This new God of War in fact seems so different it’s almost as if it could easily be a different game entirely with all new characters, were it not for the fact that God of War is a well established brand IP which will almost guarantee a return. The tricky part is how many God of War fans are going to buy this new take on God of War? Therein lies the problem for any long running franchise, do the same thing repeatedly and it becomes boring and redundant, but change it up too much and it drives away your fan base.

The lack of a number for this entry was a deliberate move on Sony’s Santa Monica Studios part, which further complicates things implying this is a “reboot” for the franchise, in fact Creative Director Cory Barlog in a recent feature stated “Kratos is our through line, our constant through all of it, but otherwise, we’re starting from scratch”, this statement essentially proves my previous point, especially when you factor in that this game will feature Norse mythology rather than the Greek mythology of the earlier games.

The new God of War will appearing at some point in the future, check out the gameplay demo  below.

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Video Essays, KaptainKristian and Batman The Animated Series

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For me Batman The Animated Series was and still is one of the best examples of an animated series.  Although it should be said the 90’s X-Men animated series did a hell of a better job of staying true to the spirit of the comics it was based on compared to Fox’s numerous live action films based on the same thing, even if it was unintentionally amusing at times.  For sheer impact and demonstrating exactly what a character is about the opening sequence of Batman The Animated Series, complete with orchestral theme, is flawless and masterful.  Everything about Batman The Animated Series slotted together perfectly like the pieces of jigsaw, the noir inspired animation style, the more adult tone and writing and the way it made the iconic villains more than just “bad guys” who were on the wrong side of a good versus bad fight. Most of all though it was the amazing voice cast, a voice cast so good that even now years later reading a Batman comic will make me hear Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamil’s voices as Batman /Bruce Wayne and The Joker and let’s not forget introducing Harley Quinn to viewers and later comic readers .

Batman The Animated Series is the subject of the latest video essay by Youtuber KaptainKristian, someone who to me has rapidly become one of the best content creators on the site, producing video essays on the timeless magic of Calvin and Hobbes, the importance of colour and costumes in the X-Men and the craft behind Pixar’s hit films amongst others.

Over the span of just several minutes KaptainKristian explains the appeal, the craft and various other elements behind enduring facets of pop culture in well produced but impressively understated style. There’s a distinct talent for condensing subject matter down to its very core,  perfect for the time short. Watching these video essays will have you going to the bookstore or checking *insert website here* for the complete Calvin and Hobbes if you don’t already have it (because that’s exactly what I did), or looking at Pixar’s films a different way (and checking what you have in your collection) or wondering what the X-Men films would be like if they were actually written and made by people that were passionate about the comics they’re based on or why Batman The Animated Series isn’t on an extras loaded Blu-ray collection which it really deserves rather than being on some streaming service with all the other flotsam and jetsam.

If you like what you see check out KaptainKristian’s Patreon.

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AMC’s Preacher

Preacher written by Garth Ennis, with art from Steve Dillon and covers by Glenn Fabry which were originally published via Vertigo Comics 1995 – 2000. A kentucky fried road trip across America centred around preacher Jesse Custer who has lost his faith , his fiery gun toting ex Tulip and a hard drinking Irish vampire named Cassidy. Custer, the preacher for small Texas town Annville, soon becomes the host for an entity named Genesis (the offspring of an angel and a demon which has escaped from Heaven) which gives him a terrifying new power, The Word, allowing him to make people do whatever he wants. Custer wants answers so sets out to find God. Literally.

The comic became notorious for its black humour, bad taste and general misanthropy and offensiveness, along with its particularly anti-religious story.  Preacher also featured great characters though including one of the best antagonists in American comics in The Saint of Killers and underneath it all it’s an engrossing story about faith or lack thereof, love, friendship and family.

Now after years of being the subject of numerous attempts to turn Preacher into a film or a TV series now AMC (the home of the smash hit The Walking Dead based on the comic by Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard) has actually done the previously thought impossible and made Preacher into a TV series…………………….sort of.

The result of a collaboration between Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg the series features Dominic Cooper as Jesse Custer, Ruth Negga as Tulip and Joseph Gilgun as Cassidy.

Films or TV shows based on source material like a book or comic are a distinctly tricky thing to get right. TV and film is a different medium to prose or comic book panels but at the same time changing too much can alienate the fans you’re trying to win over and also dilute what makes the source material so good in the first place. There’s some extraneous material in the 70+ issues of Preacher, some of which could easily be excised without really effecting the main story and some of it is undeniably dated given it was written 20 or so years ago so changes are inevitable when bringing it to life on screen.

A good example of a TV adaptation is The 100 based on the book series by Kass Morgan. The show takes the core premise but runs with it in an impressive manner quickly jettisoning its cliched teen love triangle subplots for far meatier fare . The recently ending third series of the hit show barely resembling the first due to well written character arcs and narrative.  Less good examples being Lucifer and iZombie (both also based on Vertigo comics) which barely resemble their source material and not in a good way.

AMC’s Preacher seems tonally confused though, as though it’s not really sure what it wants to be.

Gilgun and Negga are excellent as Cassidy and Tulip.  One being introduced in a frenetic bloody fight in a plane 30,000 feet up in the air, whilst the other in an intense claustrophobic  fight in a car ploughing through a cornfield. These scenes could easily be straight out of the comic, they’re well shot, raucous and unafraid to get bloody, especially in Cassidy’s case. Negga’s Tulip in particular stands out as being a feisty, defiantly independent and capable and will likely be winning scores of fans. Where the show stumbles is in how it presents Jesse and his life in Annville.

Cooper’s Jesse doesn’t really get a whole lot to do besides mope around dealing with his parishioners, listening to the mindnumbing minutiae of their lives, and do a little verbal jousting with the local Sheriff Hugo Root (played by W. Earl Brown), a character who has been majorly toned down from the comic where he is a belligerent hard ass racist.  The only thing of note is a bar fight he gets into with the father of a child he tries (but fails) to help. Whilst trying to establish Annville and Custer as a preacher before everything goes crazy is understandable, it’s just not done very well and it really doesn’t make for interesting viewing at all. Especially in contrast to the intensity of the scenes featuring Tulip and Cassidy.  Cooper definitely seems like he might grow into the part but going by the first episode he definitely comes across as the least interesting character of the three which is a bit of a problem since Jesse Custer is supposed to be every bit the badass that Cassidy and Tulip are.

Whilst AMC’s Preacher isn’t as awful as it could’ve been compared to the likes of Lucifer at the same time it’s not exactly great either. There’s a feeling that Rogen and Goldberg may have filed the sharp edges off Ennis’ story a little too much in their endeavour to get the show made. One of the things that really stands out is the way it’s heavily implied that the thing that eventually bonds with Jesse is of alien origin, which would fundamentally change the whole story but explain how they managed to actually get the show greenlit on a network that has a problem with profanity, so Preacher’s outright blasphemous view of religion (especially Christianity) surviving seems highly unlikely but if you take that away you have a completely and utterly different story.

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