Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Comic Book: the Movie

Year 9, Day 214 - 8/2/17 - Movie #2,703

BEFORE: Well, Geek Week is finally here, and if you haven't heard of Geek Week, that's probably only because I made it up myself about a month ago, when I saw all the nerd-related documentaries that are available on Netflix, and then I figured out a way to link them all (ok, most of them) together just before I left for Comic-Con.  Now, technically Geek Week should take place during Comic-Con, but since I'm always away that week, it's been rescheduled for the earliest time that I could link to it.
This one's not on Netflix, I'm starting off by watching this one on iTunes, and the Netflix films kick off tomorrow.

I got back from San Diego just over a week ago, and now that I've had some time to relax and get over my PTSDSD (short for post-traumatic San Diego stress disorder, by the way) I'm finally able to talk about how it went.  (Hint: it wasn't all good...).   I'll get around to that in a few days, I think.

For now, Debi Derryberry carries over from "Norm of the North", and I think a couple other people known for being voice-over actors do as well.  Mark Hamill directed this, and he's famous for his voice-over work also, as the Joker in many of the Batman animated shows.

THE PLOT: The relationship between Hollywood and comic book culture is lambasted in this mockumentary as a beloved heroic character is wrung through the studio system.

AFTER: I do have a connection to this film, which was apparently filmed at the San Diego Comic-Con in 2002, and that might have been the first year I worked a booth there - though I would have been really naive about the whole thing back then, I probably didn't know my way around or how to get anything done, I was just a rookie.  (Fifteen or so years later, I'm considered a veteran, and I think if you add up all my days there I've now lived in San Diego for about 2 1/2 months.) But a couple of years later, let's say maybe 2004 or 2005, Mark Hamill was there with a booth, promoting this film and its release on DVD - and his booth wasn't far from ours, I could glance over and see the man who played Luke Skywalker!  This was a year or so after I started my autograph collection, and since he was promoting this film, he wasn't signing Star Wars autographs that year, so I think I bought a signed photo of him from Official Pix the next year for about $70.  But he did pose with both Billy Dee Williams and Irvin Kershner for a photo, and I was nearby with a camera - unfortunately, I was just learning how to use a digital camera that year, so I have the blurriest copy possible of this once-in-a-lifetime moment.  Hey, that's Comic-Con for you.

By my count, I've met at least 8 of the other actors and comics creators that appear in this film, mostly at various comic-con, and because of who my boss is.  Tom Kenny used to stop by our booth pretty regularly, and so did Matt Groening.  I got my photo taken with Ray Harryhausen one time, he was appearing in the booth next to ours and I couldn't pass up that opportunity.  Through collecting autographs I've met so many Star Wars actors, like the three that make cameos here, and I used to go to the old Marvel stockholder meetings, so I met Stan Lee several times and got him to sign my stock reports (which were printed up like comic books).  And Lloyd Kaufman is another friend of my boss, this year and last year I was on the same plane as him, coming back to New York.  These are the happy accidents that I hope I will remember from my time at Comic-Con, and not how much work it is for me to plan the event, ship all our merchandise there, set up the booth and basically spend most of 4 days waiting on customers, before shipping everything back and getting jet-lagged for the second time in a week.

What's interesting to me is to see a visual record of what the event looked like back in '02.  The carpet was white, not blue, for example, and the aisle marker numbers looked completely different - but also it looks like people could walk around quite easily, there weren't crowds teeming down every aisle.  But maybe they filmed this on a Thursday morning, one of the few quiet times.  Still, they mentioned that the attendance back then was 50,000-60,000, which means that since then, the attendance has doubled, the event's footprint has probably tripled, and the importance increased by a factor of ten.
Also, back in 2002, it's worth noting that a celebrity such as Mark Hamill could walk through the aisles, filming something, and not get mobbed by fanboys every three steps.  (Admittedly, he was in character, with a beard and wig on, but still...) These days, celebrities don't hit the show floor unless they're in disguise or surrounded by a team of bodyguards.  

The film, right, the film - it turns out to be a mockumentary (remember that trend?) about one man's devotion to a comic-book character from the 1940's called Commander Courage, and how upset he is that the character has been rebooted as more of a secret agent, and the book is now titled "Codename: Courage", with Hollywood planning a movie based on the re-boot and not the original.  I feel your pain, fictional fan of the older, simpler comic books.  But comics do need to change with the times, and attract the younger audience, so as much as I hate re-boots, I still understand why they take place.  Fighting against a comic publisher or a movie studio that's changing a famous character around will get you exactly nowhere (like my complaints about "Spider-Man: Homecoming"...) and in fact if you don't like the direction that a superhero comic or movie is taking, I think the easier way to change things would be to get a job at that publisher or movie studio, and work your way up to being the executive in charge.  OK, so it might take a couple of decades, but someone's got to be in charge of character development and continuity, right?

This is all fairly tongue-in-cheek - Kevin Smith's interview, for example, makes reference to the giant mechanical spider that producer Jon Peters wanted him to work into his "Superman" sequel script, which ended up in the film "Wild Wild West" instead.  But this also means, unfortunately, that there's nothing for me to take seriously here, even if I take "Commander Courage" as a thinly-veiled Captain America, he's not real, he's not even fictional, he's just made up for this mockumentary, so nothing really matters in the end.  I mean, I guess it's all one big metaphor for how Hollywood treats its characters and creators, and it shows how much some fans care about this issue, but even then it never really gets around to making a coherent point.  Don Swan is a lovable loser who manages to make everything worse when he gets involved, and manages to sabotage the movie studio's plans, both accidentally and on purpose, but that seems like a very small victory for the little guy, and it may even come at the cost of the greater fan-base, who probably want to see the character evolve and change.

Also starring Mark Hamill (last seen in "Kingsman: The Secret Service"), Donna D'Errico, Billy West (last heard in "Pixels"), Roger Rose (last seen in "The Five Heartbeats"), Jess Harnell (also carrying over from "Norm of the North"), Lori Alan, Daran Norris, Tom Kenny (last heard in "Sing"), James Arnold Taylor (last heard in "Rogue One"), Jill Talley, Kevin Michael Richardson (last heard in "Strange Magic"), Stan Lee (last seen in "Spider-Man: Homecoming"), Kevin Smith (last seen in "The Death of "Superman Lives": What Happened?"), with cameos from Gary Anthony Williams (last heard in "Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Part 2"), Sid Caesar (last seen in "The Cheap Detective"), Jonathan Winters (last seen in "The Flintstones"), Bruce Campbell (last seen in "Oz the Great and Powerful"), Matt Groening, Phil Morris, Chase Masterson, Ray Harryhausen, Gary Owens (last heard in "The Prisoner of Second Avenue"), J.J. Abrams (last seen in "Regarding Henry"), Peter David, Paul Dini, Mark Evanier, Bill Mumy, Bruce Timm, Ron Perlman (last seen in "The Island of Dr. Moreau"), Mike Mignola, Peter Mayhew (last seen in "Star Wars: The Force Awakens"), David Prowse (last seen in "The People vs. George Lucas"), Jeremy Bulloch (last seen in "Octopussy"), Hugh Hefner (last heard in "Hop"), Lloyd Kaufman (last heard in "A Liar's Autobiography"), Maurice LaMarche (last heard in "Zootopia"), and the voices of Jim Cummings (last heard in "The Secret Life of Pets"), Tara Strong (ditto).

RATING: 4 out of 10 Overstreet guides

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