Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Bits Journal #19

This week's bits…

Disney will not be showing up at this year's San Diego Comic-Con, which is a real bummer…

Marvel Studios will indeed be there, but no Disney. That means no information on upcoming Walt Disney Animation Studios or Pixar films, unless they announce them the same week to ramp up excitement. I certainly hope we hear or see something…

Screenwriter Roberto Orci is not writing The Amazing Spider-Man 3 and has stated he has no idea of which direction the franchise is heading in. Well, he's off of it because he's a got a bigger project… He's directing and writing the third Star Trek film, he apparently went through hoops to land the directing gig.

Well, it's possible my prediction may come true. With Drew Goddard leaving Marvel Studios' Daredevil TV series to direct The Sinister Six, which was supposed to begin filming in January, The Amazing Spider-Man 3 won't be Sony's 2016 Spidey release. Also, the rumors of Sony pushing the film back. Sinister Six first in 2016, then Amazing Spider-Man 3 in 2018. Makes sense, been predicting this for a while… Seems like it's going to come true. Oh, and no Venom movie.

Speaking of this current Spider-Man film series, Badass Digest got some meaty details on an early script for the The Amazing Spider-Man 2. I have to say, it's miles better than the film that eventually got released…

The differences are all very notable…

The film takes place a year after Peter and Gwen's high school graduation, so now we actually follow their college life. As the article points out, it would've made the Gwen-going-to-Oxford drama seem stronger. In the film, it was just so out-of-the-blue, as if they needed conflict… Because they apparently didn't have enough going on! This script seemed to put Peter and Gwen's relationship at the forefront, which would've - in my eyes - made it better. Their relationship was praised in the finished film, but I felt it was just sort of there. Again, a result of 5-10 different plots and forced set-up stuff battling for screen time.

Mary Jane's role was a bit prominent too, she's a new neighbor, has a thing for Peter Parker and is also a big fan of Spider-Man. Badass Digest notes that Spider-Man shows up at her house to tell her abusive father off. Another interesting note, before the Electro/Goblin battle at the power grid, MJ visits and asks Gwen how to get a guy like Peter instead of douchebags, Gwen says "date a nerd"… Nice set up for what could've happened in a third one, that is if MJ will indeed appear (played by Shailene Woodley or not) in the third film… If one is even made. Also, Gwen was supposed to tell Parker to not give up before her death. That's one idea I wouldn't have kept. For all the problems I had with the film, Gwen's death was filmed and handled well. Having her say something to Peter after her back breaks would've just been cheesy and it wouldn't sucked a lot of the punch out.

You know who else was supposed to appear? J. Jonah Jameson! In person! The Daily Bugle was also in it quite a bit (Spidey and Electro crash through it during their first showdown), also the Rhino was only going to be a brief cameo… Yes, that's right. He wasn't involved in the opening sequence's truck chase, nor did this script have a stupid scene where a "brave" kid stands up to him. Seriously, that was such a stupid ending scene… I do wonder though, if he just cameos, does this mean the early script didn't even have Harry sending Gustav Fiers to OsCorp to help him put together a team of baddies?

Speaking of baddies, how were the villains handled in this version? I think they were handled better…

First off, Electro indeed has a mother and even she treats him like he's nothing. Electro's rampage isn't fueled by a stupid misunderstanding, but rather his mother getting a "big payout" from OsCorp after his accident/apparent death. Much, much better than the out-of-the-blue and perhaps offensive way things were ultimately handled in the film.

This scene most likely would've been in it, too.

Also a shocker, Peter doesn't refuse to give his blood to a dying Harry Osborn. See, I feel this works because it kind of makes Gwen's death Peter's fault, making the ending even darker in a way. Not that makes me wonder, did Peter not have Gwen stay put before the final battle in this script? Because that was also very stupid and it lead to that tacky "this is my choice!" scene. Wouldn't it have been better if Peter asked Gwen, "Want to help me stop them?" They made a great team in the first film, so Peter webbing Gwen's hand to the car hood just seemed so out of character… And it was, again, dumb.

Dr. Kafka, as a lot of us know, was originally a female and Electro escapes Ravencroft himself. He later teams up with Harry, who visits his father's grave. This perhaps implies that the attack on OsCorp was indeed longer, as rumors imply. (i.e. the scene in the trailer with Goblin and Felicia Hardy.) The attack was apparently just because Harry wanted to get back at OsCorp for framing him from Electro's accident, and to also grant Electro access to the power grid that he himself laid out. The Goblin suit was not locked away in the OsCorp tower in this version of the script, Harry found it at his father's boathouse. Much, much better.

Oh, and speaking of Harry getting fired for the Electro incident, remember Dr. Ratha from the first film?

In the first Amazing Spider-Man, he was originally supposed to be killed by The Lizard, but the scene (pictured above) was cut in order for him to show up in the sequel as the guy who gets Harry fired… But then his character mysteriously got the boot, Donald Menken (who was played by Colm Feore) was his replacement. Ratha would've been better, considering that he was a slimy fellow in the first film. Him getting Harry fired over the Electro incident would've built on his character, and it's just a lot more interesting. Menken just seemed like a stock replacement more than anything, and an unnecessary new character.

The most shocking omission of all was a major twist that would've made for a much, much more satisfying ending… Peter's father Richard Parker turns out to be alive and has watched his son go from what he used to be to becoming Spider-Man. He tells Peter that classic line, "With great power comes great responsibility." Far better than a kid trying to stand up to a guy in a freakin' mech suit with guns, or heck, New Yorkers watching the scene of the crime as if it were entertainment.

In short, either the script was hacked by Avi Arad or one of the writers forced his own ideas into it (*cough*Roberto Orci*cough*), though I lean on the former. It was Arad who had Sam Raimi shoehorn Venom into Spider-Man 3, which was supposed to be about returning menace Harry Osborn/New Goblin, and two new villains teaming up: Sandman and Vulture. Raimi's original idea for Spider-Man 3 arguably would been a lot better, but no, Arad had to interfere and what we got was a film where a great antagonist was handled so poorly.

So I believe he probably did the same. He saw the decent script and figured he could do it again. Arad must think of moviegoers and comic book fans as idiots. Throwing in dozens of characters, plots and set-ups doesn't make us think, "Wow, this movie is going to have all these characters! I'm there!" We want good stories with all these characters, not the characters appearing just for the hell of it. Focus on the story, don't cram in so many characters and ideas!

History repeated itself, and it's why The Amazing Spider-Man is now a mess. I doubt it's salvageable at this point, though I'd be shocked if The Sinister Six and The Amazing Spider-Man 3 not only do damage control, but are actually solid films. Basically, I'm not ruling things out, but I fear Amazing Spider-Man 3 will essentially be what the canned Spider-Man 4 would've been. An even bigger clustercuss than Spider-Man 3.

Now I wonder, will the Blu-ray contain several scenes that were in this script? I hope we get a good chunk of stuff, that way someone can make a good fan-edit.

Moving on, the dragons will be hitting China

It'll be hitting theaters there on August 14th, which is good because the film needs a boost at the international box office. The first film did not open in China, so who knows how this film will fare. Despicable Me wasn't released in China, but its sequel was and it made a strong $52 million. Dragon 2 ought to fare well there, considering DreamWorks' success with China lately.

Right now it's sitting at $153 million domestically, which isn't terrible but it is significantly below its predecessor. Over the past two weekends, it's gained some traction though $200 million sadly seems out of question. Worldwide, it's at $350 million, so the budget has already been doubled and then some. It is indeed a hit for DreamWorks, and it will pass the big four-oh-oh sooner or later. It still has to open in Germany, South Korea, Spain and Italy. Most of Europe got it earlier this month, so I'd say give it time.

Does it hit $500 million by any chance? What do you think?

And now perhaps the best news of the day… Criterion is releasing an animated film on Blu-ray soon!

What film is it, you may ask?

Yes, that's right. The 1978 British animated classic, Watership Down! Apparently it's only up for pre-order on iTunes and will hit August 5th. Of course, a Blu-ray should be hitting as well.

Watership Down is a perfect choice too, being a rather experimental and not-so-family-friendly animated film that's actually mature (and you know, not made for teenagers who think violent or edgy automatically means "adult"), and is also not all that well-known in the US. I do know it was a big hit in the UK back when it came out, and it's generally well-known over there (it got a TV series in 1999 and they just recently got a Blu-ray of the film), but here? I only hear about it from people who saw it as children and recall being terrified of it. I'm hoping the new release contains bonus features we didn't see on the US DVDs, and perhaps new ones.

That all being said, Criterion is the perfect home for this film and director Martin Rosen's second and last animated film, The Plague Dogs. That 1982 film is also prime Criterion material because like a lot of other animated films that are begging for that treatment, it was either more for adults or was cut up. The Plague Dogs, a 103-minute film in the UK, was cut down to 86 minutes for the limited US release that went nowhere. A pretty graphic scene got snipped, along with various other scenes while a lot of graphic moments were still kept - not sure what the intention was, supposedly it was an attempt to make it family-friendly but it still got a PG-13 and still had some bloody violence. A final line of dialogue was also removed to make the ending less ambiguous. Not an easy film to watch, no matter which version you watch, especially if you're an animal lover. It's no feel-good adventure story, it's a very dark film and one that I recommended with caveats.

(Also, a bit of trivia here: Brad Bird was an animator on this film.)

The UK cut has been available in its home country and Australia for years, but with a Criterion Watership Down coming, it's possible that the original will get a US release.

But more importantly, does this new release imply that Criterion will release more animated films in the future? I sure hope so. First Fantastic Mr. Fox (though that probably got a release because it's a Wes Anderson film), now this… What's next? Tons of historically important, experimental animated features are just waiting for the Criterion treatment…

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