Make Mine Marvel!

 

Posted: 11 April 2014

Captain America: The Winter Soldier: everything a movie blockbuster should be
Captain America: The Winter Soldier: everything a movie blockbuster should be

“Marvel was pioneering new methods of comics storytelling and characterization, addressing more serious issues and in the process keeping and attracting readers in their teens and beyond” – Peter Sanderson.

Having watched Captain America: The Winter Soldier the other night which, in this case, thoroughly deserves the overused tag: “awesome,” the whole phenomenon of comicbook movies has proved its worth, and looks set to be the most bankable genre of all time. A tremendous amalgam of superhero action and the twists and intrigue of a political thriller, The Winter Soldier showcases all that should be big and spectacular about the modern blockbuster.  

It cannot go unmentioned that Marvel comicbooks greatly inpiring my own writing. The standard of scripts was engrossing. Even now, skip through a certain classic and the descriptions and dialogue still look superbly crafted.

The Avengers movie (2012) not only invigorated the Marvel franchise, it practically blew every other blockbuster out of the park. Having grossed $623.4 million in the US and $1.5 billion worldwide, it has become the third highest-grossing movie of all time. Only had one Avengers comic, and that was just to get scenes with The Vision (my personal fave Avenger) the “synthozoid” who can alter his own density to walk through walls, and spoke some of the more poignant dialogue of any comicbook.

Stan Lee: Creator of the best comics
Stan Lee: Creator of the best comics

“You know, I guess one person can make a difference. Enough said” – Stan Lee.

The one aspect which Bradscribe loves about the Marvel movies is the numerous cameos by Stan Lee, the mastermind behind Marvel Comics. His best appearance must surely be in Hulk (2003) in which he appears as a security guard talking with a colleague played by Lou Ferrigno, who played the green giant in the original TV series; if only the rest of this dull movie had been as good as this charming moment…

Back in 1980/1981, the heyday of my avid comic accumulation period, whenever given the opportunity to peruse the latest copies on the newsstands, there was a tendency to select a different title every time; if the cover carried the epithet: “Stan Lee Presents” it was sure to be a winner.

It is estimated that more than 8,000 characters exist within the Marvel Universe alone. Thus, there is an unlimited trove of possibilities for Marvel Studios to dominate the multiplexes for the foreseeable future. An enlightening prospect considering that Marvel had filed for bankruptcy in 1994! Moreover, when Disney snapped up Marvel Entertainment in 2010, the former’s stock price tumbled; Sony Pictures owned the film rights for Spider-Man while Fox controlled the X-Men. When a big-budget production of Captain America was mooted, it seemed nobody believed that the success of Iron Man could be repeated…

The original X-Men stories were reprinted from 1986 onwards: my best homework!
The original X-Men stories were reprinted from 1986 onwards: my best homework!

..Stan Lee had this huge breakthrough of two-dimensional characters. So, they dress up in costumes and do good, but they’ve got a bad heart. Or a bad leg. I actually did think for a long while that having a bad leg was an actual character trait” – Alan Moore.  

The comicbook which excited me the most was The Uncanny X-Men. During 1987/1988, a friend’s overflowing comic collection spurred the second wave of my comix-fix. Classic X-Men (which began in 1986)reprinted the hard-to-obtain earlier editions from the 70s. In addition to Chris Claremont’s writing, brilliantly realised by John Byrne’s artwork, it was amazing to learn the frustrations and complications suffered by mutantkind. X2 (2003) remains my personal favourite Marvel movie, perhaps coming closest to transferring the tight script and catchy characterization from comic pages to the big screen.

Like Iron Man and the Hulk, Thor was a co-creation of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. Just a few issues of The Mighty Thor comic inspired me to peruse Norse mythology, and expand the scope for creating my own historical fiction. Even at such a tender age, the “peculiar” way in which the Thunder God spoke enthralled me.

When news of a major movie production was finally confirmed, this fan became anxious. How would they treat the Thor-talk?! The result (2011) was agreeable; appreciated the choice of director and the presence of Anthony Hopkins as Odin, but as usual, any gravitas it could have achieved was submerged under a deluge of frenetic fights, CGI tomfoolery and… Thor just didn’t sound right.   

Never mind, Captain America is turning out to be a major franchise; who knows, it might be big and cool enough to entice kids off computer games and back to comicbooks!  

 

 

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No Wizard, No Way! Why Oz Sucks

Posted: 4 April 2014.

I can't take this...
I can’t take this…

“It’s a movie that speaks of Hollywood’s unacknowledged fascination with the exotic, the mad, the unreal” – Peter Bradshaw.

The Wizard of Oz (1939) is regarded universally as one of the most endearing and best-loved movie classics of all time. Based on the fantasy adventure by L. Frank Baum, this musical adaptation was a major hit for MGM and has become the most beloved family film of all time.

Nuts…

This movie critic seemingly stands alone in finding it the most ludicrous overblown tosh, quite aware that the Blogosphere’s collective ire will be well and truly shaken, and brought down upon him. So what is it about this “beloved classic” that disagrees with me so?

Quite frankly, the whole caboodle just comes across as too treacly for me, always has – so sweet it makes me feel nauseous. Judy Garland, and her three cohorts, are quite annoying, the wicked witch is too much of a caricature; the flying monkeys (give me a break!) and the munchkins will forever live in infamy – “drunken midgets swinging from the rafters” stated one source. And goodness, one just cannot tolerate those songs!

All of you may scoff at me, but it should be said that my father shared my disapproval, and actually would have had much harsher words to say against this truly abominable spectacle.  

Please, don't let me see her face again!
Please no, not the ruby slippers! 

“My main gripes: the second hour is rather draggy… You can’t help but notice… the visible wires and painted backdrops” – Michael J. Legeros. 

On the last day before Christmas hols at junior school, the teachers thought it would be nice to treat the kids to a lovely movie. Star Wars? Would have been too obvious. Raiders? That would have been too cool!

Nope, someone actually considered subjecting us to The Wizard. Suddenly, my worst fears were realised: stuck in the middle of a packed hall, made to watch this celluloid hell-package. Having had the easy choice of switching off the TV when it first lurched into my life, there seemed to be no chance of escape this time! Those accursed monochrome moments in Kansas compelled me to take drastic action.

With a great disturbance swelling within me, this poor bunny turned to the boy next to him, and struck up a banal conversation. The plan worked – an eagle-eyed teacher spotted my incessant yakking and called me out. As if zapped by an electric charge in my seat, this lil bunny sprang to his feet and fritted away into the nearest classroom. The teachers obviously believed they were dispensing punishment, no doubt pitying my “foolish” lack of judgment; on the contrary, heh heh, Bradscribe cites this happy release, and tremendous relief, as one of his finest scholastic achievements.

What the hell - if I state that she gave me nightmares, will it support my case?
What the hell – if I state that she gave me nightmares, will it support my case?

“I’ll get you, my pretty, and your little dog too!” – The Wicked Witch of the West. 

So, has the pain subsided as the years have flown by? Heck no, this film irritated me at the tender age of seven; now, older enough to understand the horrors of this world… yep, it still disturbs me. After years of stress-relief and meditation, nothing can prepare me to sit through this. What made MGM think that making this tosh would be a good idea, even in 1939?

Let me get this straight: a teenage girl kills the first person she meets, then tags along with three strangers to kill again… and you mean to tell me this is the perfect kids movie?!

In support of my attestation that the whole spectacle was unsightly, research shows that The Scarecrow (Ray Bolger), Cowardly Lion (Bert Lahr) and Tin Man (Jack Haley) were deemed too frightening and, during filming, had to take their lunch to their dressing rooms as their costumes scared the living daylights out of the other canteen users.

“We’re off  to see the Wizard, the wonderful Wizard of Oz,” indeed. Fine, you can go and watch by all means but my instincts tell me to forever give it as wide a berth as poss.

Honestly, had this Post been published on Tuesday, none of you would have taken it seriously…

and not a moment too soon...
and not a moment too soon…

Normal blogging service will be resumed shortly.

The Reverence of Cathedrals

Posted: 31 March 2014

The Octagon, Ely Cathedral, one of the most awesome sights
The Octagon, Ely Cathedral, one of the most awesome sights

“What has proved most unexpected… is that the public has supported cathedrals both as places of a new sort of collective worship and as great art” – Simon Jenkins.

Frustrated with a dip in the quality and consistency of my writing, last year, while staying in the UK, Bradscribe took a soul-searching and belief-building Places To See Before You Die Tour up north to visit a number of cathedrals. It had been a journey envisaged for some time, but it seemed like one of those grand expeditions which would not materialise.

For a long time, cathedrals have held a reserved place in my mind, heart and soul… and in my writing.

Sometimes at the writing desk, when concentration on my fiction drifts, a quick and easy ploy to reinvigorate the word flow involves having one or more of my characters stumble into a cathedral. Nothing like attempting to describe these architectural wonders and how they excite the senses! There is also the possibility of working on a radical new History of Cathedrals…   

Not a religious person by any means, yet this writer has, nevertheless, been drawn to these magnificent buildings. At a time when church attendances are dwindling, and the tenets of religion have seemingly lost their relevance, cathedrals continue to inspire and enthral.

Worcester Cthedral stands majestically beside the river Severn
Worcester Cathedral stands majestically beside the river Severn

“I went and looked at one of these cathedrals one day, and I was blown away by it. It occurred to me… that the story of the building of a cathedral could be a great popular novel” – Ken Follett.

In July last year, carried away on the wings of instinct, Bradscribe ordered a coach ticket to Worcester. For ages, in too many glossy photos, its cathedral had taunted me with its jaw-dropping majesty, standing tall and resplendent next to the river Severn.

At last, this writer found himself on a path that runs alongside that river! Being miles away from home, in a strange town, did not matter. Unbelievably, it was a warm and gorgeous evening. The cathedral did not disappoint; it met every expectation. The conditions were just right; inspiration crept forth. Slipping out the old notebook which has travelled with me from one side of the world to the other, frantic reams of life-affirming and ebullient scribblings were made!

The interior of Lincoln Cathedral
The interior of Lincoln Cathedral

“Lincoln today still has more magnificence than any other English cathedral… It’s towered mass occupies the entire crown of its hill, and soars easily above… the old streets that twist and climb about it” – Batsford & Fry (1934).  

Always thought Lincoln Cathedral too remote to be reached. Indeed, access could only be gained via an indirect coach route, but it is one of the most illustrious buildings in the country, so later that same week, Bradscribe was thrilled to experience it.

Both its impressive west front with its three towers: “exquisite in proportion as in texture,” and the sheer elongated scale of the opulently-decorated nave: “one of spaciousness and restrained dignity” were absolutely awe-inspiring. Hours were gleefully spent ambling through its transepts and aisles, formulating the mental images that will linger with me forever.

The magnificent Ely Cathedral
The magnificent Ely Cathedral

The last leg of my tour took me to the enchanting town of Ely, another of those magical classics of medieval monumental architecture.

Talk about last but not least! This cathedral, one of the most revered in England, proved to be just as amazing as the others mentioned above. In some aspects, Ely Cathedral surpasses them. Certainly, such features as the intricately decorated long ceiling of the nave and the charming 14th century Lady Chapel are particularly notable. Yet it is the Octagon, a mighty complex structural achievement over the crossing (where the north and south transepts join the nave), which stands unreservedly as my favourite feature of Medieval engineering. Can’t remember how long it took, just sitting under it, staring with incredulous wonder. This feature alone was worth the arduous coach and train journeys that week.

Ultimately, the urge to visit these edifices of awesomeness, hitherto only gawped at in guidebooks, was greatly justified. My frustrations had dissipated; my motivation restored. Truly, these stupendous monuments are a testament to the fantastic and opulent heritage which England should strive to preserve.

Long may they continue to offer boundless inspiration to my writing.