Wednesday, 16 July 2008

3D - The creature that wouldn't die

Journey to the Center (sic) of the Earth is in cinemas now. In a (very) limited number of those it can be viewed in the wonder of stereoscopic 3D. The new system is called RealD and this is the first film using the system to be released in the UK.

3D is a gimmick that first showed up with the hysterical reaction that the film studios had to the possibilities of television. How were they to fight the menace of the box in the corner that could entertain people without all that effort of getting out of the chair, travelling miles in the car, queueing for tickets and having someone coming out of the previous showing spoiling it all by saying 'isn't it a shame she dies at the end?'

Back then the studios tried everything; making screens bigger, making films bigger, making popcorn buckets bigger. There was a plethora of ideas to set cinema apart from the upstart cathode ray tube. My favourite remains smellovision, but along with that scratch'n'sniff sensation there was 3D.

3D came and went. Then, in the early 80s it came and went again. And now it's back again with the advent of RealD and we're told that it never looked better.

The thing about 3D was never that the technology was a problem. Sure you had to wear those bloody silly glasses, but that was all part of the fun. The problem has always been in the films that it was used in. They were only rarely any good and almost never were able to resist the impulse to throw stuff at the audience.

Two of the best 3D movies ever made were It Came From Outer Space and The Creature From the Black Lagoon. Both of these were exploitation sci fi movies and both were shot in 3D, but neither of them got hung up on the medium and just used it to tell compelling stories. Sadly, this is not the common experience. Even the latest 3D extravaganza hasn't learned the lesson and insists on having Brendan Fraser's spit, dinosaur snot and who knows what else being hurled at the undeserving audience.

If 3D is ever to get out of the shadow of its gimmicky legacy and become a legitimate tool of filmmaking then this kind of juvenility will have to be disposed of. If it can't then RealD will go the way of many other such systems before it.

Tuesday, 1 July 2008

Are genre adaptations wanted

WANTED was a comic book story in which an ordinary bloke learned that he had superhuman powers that turned him into an superhero type working for a 'fraternity' set up to keep humanity on an even keel.

Timur Bekmambetov's film version of the story has jettisoned all of the superhero costumery stuff and turned the 'fraternity' into a group of assassins, but kept all the superhuman ability stuff, making the hero capable of curling bullets in flight, shooting other bullets out of the air, running fast and lots of other cool stuff.

No doubt the fans of the comic book will scream loud that the changes have ruined the source work.

Thing is, everything is subject to change in being made into a movie. History, for heaven sake, can't survive in the face of Hollywood's search for a story, so it's unlikely that mere comic books are going to fare better. Spider-Man had a number of changes made to it and still stayed true to the spirit and became one of the best-loved superhero films ever. The Lord of the Rings trilogy is regarded as a masterpiece of literary to film adaptation, but again takes a lot of liberties along the way.

The spirit of the thing is important, not the letter of it. Did it really matter than Constantine in the film was American and dark haired instead of British and blonde? If the spirit is lost then the name means nothing, but if the spirit is there then the details are unimportant.

We the fans get a little too caught up in the details of the shows, books, films and comics that we love and take it a little too personally when adaptations change details here and there.

Whatever you think of the fidelity of Bekmambetov's version of the Wanted comic book, it's a bonkers, action fest fun ride.

Where have all the TV shows gone?

It's all coming to an end.

Not the world, though that may be true, but the recent golden age of genre television that was vying for our television watching time. Only three weeks ago we were glued to Chuck on a Monday night, Reaper and Bionic Woman on Tuesday, Heroes and Sarah Connor on Thursdays, Doctor Who on Saturdays followed soon afterwards by Pushing Daisies and Supernatural rounding off the week on Sunday night. And this was before we got into the satellite likes of Lost and Jericho.

Now, though it's all almost over. The only one still showing at the moment is Doctor Who and the season finale for that is this weekend.

So, where are all the replacements?

If you've got Sky you are no doubt revelling in the ongoing adventures of Battlestar Galactica and dreading being forced to follow the less interesting adventures of Flash Gordon on Sci Fi.

It's all the fault of that pesky writers' strike you know. All of the season's genre shows got cut short and all have come to an end at the same time with nothing else coming out of production to replace them for a while now that they're back to sharpening their pencils.

This doesn't mean that there's nothing sci fi to watch if you're happy watching older stuff (ITV4 and E4 are the places to be for retro TV sci fi), but it looks like the wait for anything new is going to be awhile.