Friday, April 1, 2011

Emails #25: Tempering the Steel

RICK: I had this shot in my head where Cap and Red Skull are fighting on the wing on a German biplane...

Okay, this has no budget. So live a little.

BEN: Wow, now that's going back to early cinema! I think the unfortunate thing with the first Spider-Man film was that Spidey and Gobby didn't actually have many scenes together. Gobs asks Spidey to join forces? Why? Is he Darth Vader? They (sorta) try to convey that time has passed and they've had time to build a rapport, but it's pretty flimsy. Not to mention, when Spidey finally does a little trash talk, it's the climax and isn't supported in the rest of the film. Anyhow, with that in mind I'd want to have enough motivation for Skull to really hate Cap-- I mean, it has to be personal. That would likely mean that Cap has to humiliate him. Real good. Creating a real conflict between two foes is really tough in a origin film since they probably won't have too many scenes together-- you have to spend time on the hero especially since Skull didn't have anything to do with Cap's creation. Skull is Cap's right of passage. Cap defeats him in WWII, but just. And Skull makes him pay by killing Bucky. Essentially, Cap thinks that he's an adult now, but nope. He's not a man until he defeats the guilt. And Skull.

I am starting to wonder if maybe we aren't trying too hard. There was a very simple movie called Time After Time. HG Wells creates a time machine and chases Jack the Ripper through to the present day. Catch me if you can!

Isn't it humiliating enough that Red Skull is on the losing side of the War?

Cap and Red Skull need to be fully painted before their last fight at the end of WWII. Red Skull will already have been humiliated by this time. His hatred must be personal and rooted in the past. I say play on the vanity angle. Red Skull needs to believe that he alone is the superman, the beginning of a new master race. Cap gives him his scarred face. That is why Red Skull hates him so much. He can never be perfect now! Cap must pay! I hate to have this start to sound like the Jack Nicholson "Joker." Who made who? When Cap and the Red Skull face off, Red Skull must have all the motivation required to propel him through the decades to get his revenge. When they are reanimated in the present, Red Skull wants to pick up where he left off and settle old scores.

Audiences don't need hyper realism to be sold on a story. The story itself must be strong enough to draw the viewer before the film makers toy with camera angles, lighting and sound effects. Just what does this story, THIS movie have to say?

The American values of liberty and justice for all as embodied in our constitutional form of government are strong and eternal.

Lets not get too gimmicky. Plenty of time for that later. If there are legitimate reasons, then by all means. I guess there are enough loose plot threads floating around to do a Cristo installation. The extra suits, code names, shields, battle cries, appearances of Gambit and Wolverine, even the tag a long Bucky are all distracting elements from the main artery of story which is that a seventeen year old kid who can't pass a physical gets a chance to be powerful and go to war at a time when his country needs him. The country doesn't need Bucky or the black suit or the boomarang shield. This kid wants to go to war and he gets his wish. This might as well have been Tom Hanks wishing to go into combat instead of being BIG. Of course Tom Hanks DID go into combat in one of the greatest war movies ever told.

Why does Steve Rogers want to go to war? What drives him and pushes him beyond physical endurance? When he becomes Cap, what has changed? What is it that is different? When compared to a normal person's life, living in desperation to achieve and dream, what is it about Steve Rogers that marks him for success? Why do the gods smile on him? What is he searching for in his life? What is his mission? What does he have to accomplish? What grail? What quest?

I think like any young man Steve is looking for himself, his place in the world and, most especially, to do his part. As a mythic hero that's pretty much his stage in life. He needs his initiation into manhood. That's what this film is really about-- the tempering of the steel. He starts out idealistic and gets beaten down. In the end, the ideals that survive are the real ones.

Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.
-Winston Churchill

The world must be made safe for democracy. Its peace must be planted upon the tested foundations of political liberty.
-Woodrow Wilson



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  2. Re: the comment about Spider-Man III having too many supervillains. That's one of the reasons why Batman & Robin sucked. I suspect the push is on with comic book movies to have as many characters crammed in to sell toys to the kids.

    Imagine a Cap movie with the Red Skull, Modok, Baron Zemo, and five other villains thrown in. No time for character development, just a lot of fighting for screen time. And that's what it would end up being: just a lot of fighting. The key word is action -- as in action figure.

  3. Unfortunately, making films and making money are often considered one and the same. Action figures, board games, video games, bed sheets, Halloween costumes, action play sets, watches, skateboards, decoder rings... Ben and I often have talks about the cart coming before the horse. When merchandising is tied so heavily into the profit stream of a movie, concessions are made, sometimes lots of concessions. Sometimes these concessions swallow the purpose of the movie whole and the rush to make a buck making movies is really the rush to make any buck and any movie. You don't see Clint Eastwood directing Transformers do you? It might be kinda cool though...

    Too many characters can spoil the narrative of a film. Large ensemble casts require keenly balanced writing and directing which is in short supply. When writing a screenplay, the advice is always to consolidate rather than spread out the characters. Does Spiderman III have too many villains? Both Ben and I think so. There becomes no dramatic tension, no peril, no consequence and no payoff for the story.

    Another thing to keep an eye on is that Spiderman is licensed to Sony Pictures. Marvel is not making these movies. Same with the FF and Daredevil. Different studios have the film rights. They want to maximize THEIR profits so putting in extra characters and taking a slice or toy and T-shirt sales is in their interest. Both Fantastic Four and Daredevil are getting reboots (while the iron is hot). Spidey and X-men have "high school" versions coming out NOT from Marvel Studios.

    It is a crazy world we live in.