Saturday, May 21, 2005
So let me talk about his most famous role. By the time the Batman series debuted in 1967, The Riddler was a minor and mostly forgotten villain in the Batman rogue's gallery. He hadn't appeared in a story in something like 15 years...so using him in the very first episode could be seen as something of a surprise. The Riddler's schtick had largely been given over to the Joker, after that character, in the aftermath of the Comics Code, had metamorphosed from psychotic murderer to "Clown Prince of Crime".
But Gorshin's portrayal of the Riddler succeeded in reviving him. In fact, I'd argue that Gorshin is tied for best portrayal of a classic villain coming out of the Batman TV show. (He's tied with Julie Newmar as Catwoman, of course.) It wasn't just the twitchy, manic nature of the persona, either--the laugh and the grin. It was the sense of malevolence that played under all that. Gorshin knew when to turn off the clown act, narrow the eyes and smile with menace, not mirth. Of all the recurring Batman villains, Gorshin's Riddler was the one you truly believed was a bad guy.
Jim Carrey, in Batman Forever, almost makes it work, too. But he doesn't know when to stop being over the top...and so his Riddler comes off as a second-rate version of the Joker, instead of a menace all his own.
Tuesday, May 17, 2005
Anyway, seems Warren Beatty who produced, directed and starred in the (better-than-its-reviews) big-budget feature film version 15 years ago, is now taking Tribune Media Services to court over the rights to make a sequel.
It's a short AP article, so here's the whole thing:
Beatty Sues for Rights to Dick Tracy
By RYAN PEARSON
.c The Associated Press
LOS ANGELES (AP) - Dick Tracy isn't on his way - at least not to movie theaters any time soon. Warren Beatty wants to make a new movie featuring the comic book detective but has been thwarted by Tribune Media Services, which claims control over Tracy's character.
Beatty, in response, has sued the Chicago-based company for $30 million, saying Tribune violated a complex agreement regarding the Tracy rights.
Under the 1985 agreement, Beatty took control of the Tracy character from Tribune but was required to give it back at the company's request under several conditions and following a two-year notification process.
Beatty gave the rights to The Walt Disney Co. and in 1990 starred in and produced ``Dick Tracy'' for Disney. The film, which featured Tracy's catch phrase ``I'm on my way,'' made more than $100 million.
In 2002, according to Beatty's lawsuit filed Friday in Superior Court, Tribune took back control of Tracy and notified Disney - but not through the process outlined in the agreement.
Disney rejected Tribune's claim and gave Beatty back most of the rights this month, his attorney Bertram Fields said Monday.
Beatty is now ready to make another film and ``has a very good idea'' for the story but has been held back by Tribune's claim, Fields said.
Fields said Beatty's original agreement with Tribune was negotiated specifically to allow the 68-year-old actor a chance to make another Tracy film.
``It was very carefully done and they just ignored it,'' he said. ``The Tribune is a big, powerful company and they think they can just run roughshod over people. They picked the wrong guy.''
Steve Tippie, vice president of marketing and licensing for Tribune Media Services, said he had not yet seen the lawsuit and could not comment.
Worst thing about this is that the lawsuit will probably keep the Tracy property in litigation for years...and by the time it's settled, no one will care about making another movie of the character, with or without Beatty.
I haven't read any of these, but if you're a Who fan, you might check them out.
George Lucas certainly was aware of Kirby's work to some extent...but I suspect he was far more familiar with the King's Golden-Age and '50s material than with Doctor Doom or Darkseid. (Lucas, after all, is in his early 60s and his peak comics-reading years would have been when he was somewhere between 9 and 15--putting them at roughly 1951 to 1957.)
Furthermore, since Lucas has clearly established his debt to the old movie serials and Japanese cinema, Darth Vader's costuming can be explained by both. The mask and cape motif was a frequent villain's gear in serials...particularly those dealing in the "red herring" plot, where the villian is a masked man who might be one of three or four seemingly harmless characters. And the particular style of Vader's mask and helmet have far more to do with Japanese armor than with anything either Doom or Darkseid ever wore.
Oh--and the heroic son who is the offspring of the great villain? If you think Kirby was the first to come up with that one, you need to get out a little more.
Tuesday, May 03, 2005
Case in point: Episode VII: Revenge of the Writers
In the article, the SF writers complain that Lucas's saga isn't really SF, at least certainly not representative of the science-fiction being turned out in print today.
And, as I note, maybe that's the problem. I stopped reading modern SF when it became clear to me that nobody writing in the genre has a hopeful outlook for the future any longer. Everything's dark and distopian. Nobody's writing about the joys of spaceflight and exploration, about the ways in which technology can make our world better not worse.
"That's the past of science fiction you're talking about," said Richard K. Morgan, the British cyberpunk-noir writer whose most recent novel is "Market Forces."
That kind of cute, sunny woodsiness [eg, Ewoks] seems particularly out of place in current science fiction. For as sci-fi has turned inward, it has also turned darker. "It's a rather quieter and more disturbing kind of science fiction," Mr. Morgan said.
"Star Wars" can hardly be called quiet or disturbing. But there is a film, made around the same time as "The Empire Strikes Back," that does fit that description: "Blade Runner." Many people, including Mr. Morgan, consider the film, directed by Ridley Scott, to be one of the best sci-fi movies ever made, because it was as much about what's inside as what's outside. It, not "Star Wars," was truly ahead of its time.
"You've got the gun battles and all that stuff," Mr. Morgan said, "but the movie is very much about internal factors, like robots yearning to be humans."
"And even now, 20 years later, it still looks like the future," he added. "That's a neat trick."
I once complained that it was mistake when DC Comics assigned Keith Giffen, a self-proclaimed technophobe who didn't even own a computer, to write and draw the previously sunny future of The Legion of Super-Heroes. He promptly turned the United Planets of the 30th Century into a political and ecological disaster zone. No surprise.
Over the past quarter-century, prose SF writers have done the same with the once attractive futures envisioned by Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein, and others. And they wonder why the general public prefers George Lucas's vision?
The problem I see here? What does Avi Arad, who comes from the old Toy Biz, know about making movies? Yeah, I know he's had producer credits on the Marvel-based films of the past few years, but that was a contractual thing--he never really had anything to do with the things a real producer does: choosing directors, casting, setting budgets. At least, that's how I understand it.
I think the key to this agreement is in this paragraph--Marvel feels it got burned by the deals with Fox and Sony over X-Men and Spider-Man, respectively, in which it got only a small piece of any revenue that could be tied to the movie versions of those characters. So, now it gets everything and Paramount gets only fees.
Marvel expects that producing its own slate of films will permit it to obtain greater participation in all revenue streams related to its films and the opportunity to begin building its own film library. The finance structure will also allow Marvel to receive a producer fee for each film and retain all merchandising revenues. Paramount will receive a distribution fee for each film it distributes and will retain worldwide distribution rights in sequels to the films covered under the agreement.
What's Paramount getting? Good question. I suspect, with that sequel rights clause in there, it's getting a shot at some direct-to-video stuff that might follow, as well as maybe some possible programming for its burgeoning TV networks (CBS, UPN, MTV, Nickelodeon, etc.)