Odds & Ends: Trekking into Justice

When I’m pressed for time to write at length, I will occasionally gather together compilations of recent news stories that might be of interest to this blog. I encourage our readers to discuss further in the Comments.

The Man Who Shot ‘Annie Hall’

Found at: Los Angeles Times

Gordon Willis, the legendary cinematographer of such classics as ‘The Godfather’ and ‘Manhattan’, passed away earlier this week at the age of 82. Fellow cinematography great Conrad Hall once dubbed Willis the “Prince of Darkness” for his unparalleled sculpting of light and shadow. The power of his images is frequently startling.

The most insighful appreciation of Willis’ work I’ve found is this article at L’Etoile Magazine. (Don’t worry, it’s in English.) The piece runs a little long, but is well worth a read for anyone interested in the art of motion picture photography and how critical it is to the storytelling of a film.

A perfectionist known to clash with both directors and actors while setting up his shots, Willis was also never shy about speaking his mind, as he did in this rant about the Blu-ray transfer of ‘All the President’s Men’:

“[The Blu-ray version of All the President’s Men is] all fucked up. All the medium tones [are wrong] and contrast is way higher than it oughta be. It’s overloaded. All they had to do was use the most recent DVD as a reference, because that’s fine. They probably think they’ll get [me] in there and it’ll turn into a problem, but it’s definitely a problem when they don’t. They don’t get it. They get on those fucking dials … it’s a disease. Their idea for a Blu-ray is to make it for guys who are watching football.”

Sadly, the problems he describes with revisionist tinkering afflict far too many Blu-ray releases of catalog titles.

Paramount Shrugs Shoulders and Gives Up on ‘Star Trek’

Found at: Variety

When the powerhouse team of screenwriters Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman decided to split up a few weeks ago to pursue separate projects, it was reported that Orci had been lobbying intensely to direct the next ‘Star Trek’ movie. The very notion of that seemed like such an obviously terrible idea that I had trouble believing Paramount would give it even a moment’s consideration.

Sadly, the studio later confirmed that Orci has been hired to helm the sequel. Not only is he responsible for writing such flagrantly awful garbage as ‘Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen’, Orci has no experience at all in directing. Nothing. Zero. Not even a short film or a TV episode or a music video or a commercial. How the hell was this guy put in charge of a big-budget science fiction tentpole production? What is Paramount thinking?

To date, I’ve seen every ‘Star Trek’ film in a theater with the exception of ‘Insurrection’, which I caught later on DVD and didn’t feel that I’d missed much. Perhaps it’s premature to already cast judgment, but I expect that I may skip this one as well.

Although I hold little hope for the film, ‘Star Trek’ is no stranger to disasters (like ‘Insurrection’ or ‘The Final Frontier’), and I’m sure will rebound eventually. My suggestion to the studio: Let Orci wrap up this little trilogy of movies set in the alternate Abramsverse timeline, and then return to the original franchise continuity with a whole new cast and storyline set a century or more after the events of ‘The Next Generation’. I think I have a pretty good idea for how to neatly tie everything together in a very short prologue scene. Seriously, call me.

Don’t See ‘Godzilla’ in 3D, Says Man Who Made ‘Godzilla’ in 3D

Found at: Rope of Silicon

This summer’s monster blockbuster reboot of ‘Godzilla’ is playing at IMAX 3D theaters around the world. Yet the film’s own cinematographer, Seamus McGarvey, thinks that 3D sucks and encourages fans to watch the movie in good old-fashioned 2D. In a recent interview, the DP (who also shot ‘The Avengers’, which was likewise converted to 3D in post-production) laments the studio pressure to make every movie 3D. He calls it a gimmick, and says, “As a cinematographer I absolutely despise it.”

I guess that explains why so many viewers have complained about being unimpressed with the film’s extremely conservative use of three-dimensional depth.

Batman > Superman

Found at: The Verge

Zack Snyder’s upcoming sequel to ‘Man of Steel’ finally has an official title: ‘Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice’. This is awkward in several respects. First off, it’s a mouthful, and “Dawn of Justice” makes it sound like a copycat of any number of recent generic sequels, prequels or reboots. It might as well be ‘Dawn of the Rise of the Planet of the Dark Justice World into Darkness’. Wouldn’t “Batman vs. Superman” say everything that needs to be said? I suppose the “Justice” part is meant to indicate that this is a precursor to the eventual ‘Justice League’ follow-up, but still, it just sounds stupid.

Next, using a “v.” rather than “vs.” suggests that this is a lawsuit between two claimants, not a battle. Is the movie going to be a courtroom drama in which DC heroes sue each other over trademark infringement? How exciting!

Most importantly, placing Batman’s name first in the title gives him top billing in a movie that’s ostensibly a Superman sequel with a guest appearance by Batman. Further, it implies that Batman is the hero and Superman is the villain. What are these two fighting about anyway?

Refresh my memory: Was the name “Superman” even actually used in ‘Man of Steel’? Wouldn’t this sequel be better called ‘Man of Steel vs. The Dark Knight’?

12 comments

  1. T.J. Kats

    “Most importantly, placing Batman’s name first in the title gives him top billing in a movie that’s ostensibly a Superman sequel with a guest appearance by Batman.”

    I just see it as alphabetical but can see how it can be taken the other way.

    “Further, it implies that Batman is the hero and Superman is the villain. What are these two fighting about anyway?”

    I’m not a comic expert but if it’s taken from the storyline I had seen talked about when the movie was first announced then I think yes Superman is the “villain” for lack of a better term.

    “Refresh my memory: Was the name “Superman” even actually used in ‘Man of Steel’?”

    Lois calls him that once but I don’t remember if it’s mentioned other than that.

    “Wouldn’t this sequel be better called ‘Man of Steel vs. The Dark Knight’?”

    Probably.

  2. Chris B

    As someone who read comics growing up I could never understand why they would name team-up issues with a “V” or “VS” in the middle. As you said it sounds like the two heroes are fighting each other, it’s stupid, it makes no fucking sense.

    As for the rest of the title, I think it’s made more awkward as “Batman: Dawn of Justice”. Why is the Batman part even needed? Who the hell won’t know Batman is in the movie?, itll be the most anticipated blockbuster of the whole year. If anything, it should just be called “Dawn of Justice” short, sweet and to the point.
    Plus, the previous superman movie (Man of Steel) was only 3 words as well with the middle being “of”. So it would tie the two films together in terms of title at least.

    Honestly, what the hell is wrong with executives that make these decisions, the nerds need to revolt.

    • Josh Zyber
      Author

      Putting the names Batman and Superman in the title is purely a marketing decision to ensure that viewers are aware of the franchise branding. Warner Bros. actually gave Christopher Nolan grief when he wanted to call his second Batman movie ‘The Dark Knight’. He had to convince them that viewers would understand that it was a Batman movie without explicitly saying “Batman” in the title. When that worked, they conceded that they could get away with ‘Man of Steel’ as well. But I guess ‘Dawn of Justice’ on its own was considered going too far.

      What they forget is that the James Bond franchise has successfully thrived through 23 movies without ever branding the titles of its movies. Fans have understood that titles like ‘Quantum of Solace’ and ‘Skyfall’ are James Bond movies even without needing to put ‘James Bond’ in the title. If that franchise weren’t produced independently by EON Productions, I have no doubt that the suits at MGM would have tried to brand the movies ‘James Bond: Quantum of Solace’ and ‘James Bond: Skyfall’, much as Paramount recently did with its ‘Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit’.

  3. Chris B

    Haha yeah, I remember hearing the title “Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit” and actually cringing. It’s like they’re trying to name movies to sound so badass it’s actually having the opposite effect. The best titles (much like a lot of things) are minimalist: “Heat”, “Blade Runner”, “Sorcerer”, “Bullit” “Blow Out” Not a full sentance and then some.

    Like do we really need to know Jack Ryan is a “Shadow Recruit”? Whatever the hell that is.

  4. Drew

    There are a couple of mentions of “Superman” (none are prominent) in ‘Man of Steel’. I think they come from someone in the military, and Jimmy, if I’m not mistaken.

    That doesn’t change the fact that this title is absolutely horrid. It couldn’t suck more balls, if it tried.

    Everything about this entire production seems half-assed, ill-advised, and intended to turn fans off. Are we certain that Disney/Marvel didn’t plant Snyder inside DC, in order to effectively destroy the two biggest properties in the comic book universe?

    Perhaps Marvel’s plan is to make DC so desperate to attain the same level of success, that DC decides to pay Marvel to run their Cinematic division. Good Lord, I certainly hope so! Warner Brothers/DC’s incompetence is staggering! How in the he’ll have they been so utterly incapable of doing anything right with their biggest properties? Can you imagine how huge Wonder Woman would be, if handled by Marvel? How about Cyborg? (Think of what Marvel did for Iron Man. Iron Man was completely irrelevant, just ten years ago. You’re telling me that they couldn’t have done the same thing for Cyborg?) Consider Green Lantern, and the endless potential of that property. Imagine what Disney/Marvel would have done with it? Now think about the undisputed two biggest properties in the comic book universe. Think about ‘Marvel’s The Avengers’ as DC’s Justice League. DC’s ineptitude is positively crushing!

  5. Timcharger

    Josh: “I guess that explains why so many viewers have complained about being unimpressed with the film’s extremely conservative use of three-dimensional depth.”
    Where did you find this reaction? Sources?
    My Google-machine tells me there are very favorable 3D reviews.

    Reading the link: “Found at: Rope of Silicon”, Seamus McGarvey
    sounds like a grumpy, slow, old man. Sounded more like someone
    who was is set in his ways and didn’t adapt well to new technology.

    Let me cite him from that article you linked:
    “I think it’s very much a marketing gimmick. I saw “Gravity” last night, and I thought for the first time that it made really good use of that. “Hugo” looked pretty good in 3D as well.”

    Let me translate:
    I will make a bold claim-
    -it’s a marketing gimmick.
    I will contradict my bold claim with my next sentence-
    -Gravity was the 1st time 3D worked really good.
    I will again contradict my bold claim and expose a further contradiction I made-
    -Hugo was pretty good, too (so Gravity wasn’t the 1st time 3D worked).

    Basically, he just speaks with hyperbole without understanding what words
    really mean.

    “As a cinematographer I absolutely despise it… I really hope it goes away.”

    As a rational thinking being, I absolutely despise people who speak jibberish,
    and hope they go away.

    • Josh Zyber
      Author

      Tim, the point is that McGarvey was the man hired to shoot the movie, and he didn’t want it to be in 3D. The studio imposed the 3D conversion on him against his wishes. This is very likely happening to many other productions as well. The artists who make the films have little to no say in what happens to those films.

      FYI, McGarvey is 47-years-old. Hardly a “grumpy, slow, old man.”

      • Timcharger

        Well he sure sounds like a slow grumpy old man.

        McGarvey isn’t being hired to shoot an indie period piece.
        This is Godzilla. He shouldn’t take the job then. Josh, you
        write like this an absurd notion that the studio would want
        a giant summer, monster movie be filmed in 3D. Is that a
        shock to you?! It’s absurd that McGarvey didn’t know this
        from day 1.

        Other cinematographers clearly are able to shoot in native
        3D. McGarvey wants 3D to go away, because it reveals his
        deficiencies.

      • Timcharger

        “The studio imposed the 3D conversion on him against his wishes.”

        This is more accurate:
        It always was the studio’s wish to have Godzilla in 3D (and he must
        have known that from day 1). Because he (not him alone) couldn’t
        deliver the film in native 3D, the studio was forced to go the 3D
        conversion route.

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