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The Morning After: May 7, 2012

Welcome to The Morning After, where I share with you what I've seen over the past week either in film or television. On the film side, if I have written a full length review already, I will post a link to that review. Otherwise, I'll give a brief snippet of my thoughts on the film with a full review to follow at some point later. For television shows, seasons and what not, I'll post individual comments here about each of them as I see fit.

So, here is what I watched this past week:

The Avengers


The film's four protagonists have each found a set up in a unique and interesting film, eliminating nearly all need for character development in the big screen teaming of Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), The Incredible Hulk (now played by Mark Ruffalo), Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and Captain America (Chris Evans). Yet, director Joss Whedon still manages to build those archetypes with the skill of an experienced storyteller.

Teaming to defeat Thor's brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) who's threatening to unleash holy hell on earth and become its greatest ruler using a mystical trans-dimensional device that will allow him to pull a massive army through space and time to destroy earth's inhabitants. The only problem is that the four super-powered Avengers have vast clashing personalities to deal with. Until they can learn to set aside their differences, earth's fate will rest precariously in the balance and Loki, the god of chaos knows this all too well.

Whedon spent years on television where he honed his craft as a director and although the little-seen Serenity, a big-screen adaptation of his ill-fated television series Firefly only developed a minor cult following, here he had the opportunity to share his uncommon blend of popular excitement with character development and complex plot elements to create a fantastic big screen super hero adaptation, one of the best yet made.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Swedish)


Before writing my full-length reviews for the David Fincher version, I wanted to see how the Swedish original handled the material. And since I've completed the novel as well, I can firmly say that the Fincher version is the overall better adaptation, but the Swedish version has its charms.

The film is about a disgraced journalist (Michael Nyqvist) hired to write the family chronicle of a wealthy industrialist family whose patriarch has an ulterior motive: investigate the disappearance and likely murder of his niece Harriet who vanished 40 years before. Unlike Fincher's version, director Niels Arden Oplev drops the family history aspect entirely and focuses solely on the murder investigation. The differences are quite vast, but both have charms that should engage an audience to root for the protagonists.

One of the scenes that carries over for all three films is the one in which Lisbeth Salander (here played by Noomi Rapace) threatens her government-appointed guardian with the video tape she made of him raping her. This scene plays out similarly, but feels more organic in Oplev's version. Also, while Fincher takes some liberties with the novel's more tedious aspects, Oplev does something similar, but eliminates nearly all hints of sexuality for Blomkvist. In the book, he gets involved not only with his publisher, but with one of the members of the Vanger clan as well as Salander. Oplev dropped both the Vanger and publisher affairs leaving only the confusing dynamic between him and Salander.

As Oplev's film came first, it's hard not to appreciate all the elements it tried to blend in and how it successfully managed to tie certain elements to the book and sequels without feeling obvious. Fincher makes Dragon Tattoo an almost too-stand-alone product.

My Week with Marilyn


This is the full-length review for this film.

Click here to read the review

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  1. What you say makes sense. I don’t refute the logic of it. But I believe it’s an anomaly that doesn’t represent the whole. A film made when it shouldn’t have been. Record-breaking Amazon DVD sales. Minor cult followings don’t make show get re-produced with Michio Kaku and replayed on Science Channel. I’ll say it plainly: You’re right; your logic is sound. But there must be other factors involved in the box office data point when you take the whole…whole into account.

    • Firefly may have had a minor fanbase when it played on TV. It may have had a minor following when it opened. But I’m pretty sure that the fanbase has grown substantially since Serenity opened in theaters. Serenity opened more people’s eyes to the world of Firefly, who have had several years to catch up on the show and grow to love it. This is an unbiased opinion from someone who has never seen Firefly and only marginally enjoyed Serenity and I did not pay to see it in a theater; I caught it on DVD the following year. Would we base the popularity of Batman by how much the Adam West Batman movie made at the box office in 1966? Or would we consider Tim Burton and Christopher Nolan’s Batman films? Arguing is fun!

  2. These results don’t mesh with your belief in the size and interest of the fanbase, therefore you seem to be discounting it entirely. I’m harping on this one issue because I think everything you’ve argued should have resulted in a much larger take at the box office, but it didn’t, which leads me to believe that the fanbase isn’t nearly as large as you seem to be suggesting it is. If there truly were a major cult following of the film, or even a modest one, then there is absolutely no reason $25 million should have been the maximum the film made at the box office.

  3. Who’s asking whether Firefly will be brought back? Fans or press? Of course fans are going to press the issue and a vocal minority can make it seem like there’s a larger following than there is. Were you in attendance of these con panels. Can you point to statistics of how many attended each of these panels compared to other panels held at the same conventions? And how many of those fans cross-over to other groups and panels? Are these people attending the panel to attend the panel or are they devoted fans of the series?

    See, I don’t get the logic of declaring the box office performance of Serenity unrepresentative of the breadth of fan following for Firefly. A ticket to Serenity would have cost something around $6.50 at the time, yet you’re using the frenzy of conventions where tickets range in upwards of $20 or $50 dollars as a defining value. If they are that rabid, then why would they not put down a measly $6.50 to see the film? And multiple times at that? If they are so passionate, then why did they not go see Serenity? You seem to discount it out of hand saying it shouldn’t be the only measure. Ok, it shouldn’t be the only measure, but I question your logic of disproportionately weighing other factors. As The Avengers proved, there was a desire to see the franchise on the big screen from both fans and non-fans alike. If you’re saying that the fanbase had the power to push the studio to make a film, why did they not turn out for it. Once you can answer the reason fans didn’t turn out for the movie, then perhaps I can accept some of your other arguments.

    Serenity had an 82% fresh rating from Rotten Tomatoes with a 74 at MetaCritic (that’s compared to 69 for The Avengers) and a 7.9 average rating at IMDb. All of these factors, added to your argument that the fanbase is clamoring for more, should have meant a box office result far more impressive than a small $10 million opening with a final tally of $25 million. District 9, a film with no fan following, opened to $37 million. There is an audience for science fiction out there. So, that’s not a valid argument about why the film failed to muster more interest at the box office.

  4. “You are part of the cult, therefore your arguments must be taken with a grain of salt.”

    That’s not condescending at all. :P A person can’t speak objectively about something they’re involved it? I could say since you’re all about movies and films and film stats, that bias skews your objectivity toward measuring X through that lens and thus your dismissal of everything that’s not related to box office receipts must be taken with a grain of salt.

    I’m a Firefly fan, yes. But I have always used a criteria of determining fan-base based on the whole of a franchise’s presence and have never weighted box office with an overlarge importance.

    “You seem to believe that because there’s a large presence on the internet that it means there’s a major cult following and I disagree.”

    Yes and no. Today, most every franchise fan, regardless of whether it’s Firefly or Buffy or Twilight or Jane Austen, is going make their presence felt on the Internet in some way. Whether it’s sales of merch on Amazon, sales of merch on ThinkGeek or Jinx.com or Snorgtees.com or anywhere else books/movies/clothes/toys/whatever are sold; whether it’s the number of podcasts devoted to the franchise; Internet presence is a big part of ANY fan base these days and can’t be discounted.

    But, as I’ve already said but you seem to have forgotten, that’s NOT my only criteria. I also mentioned successful comic book lines, number of SF/F con panels that still discuss Firefly, the fact that interviews with Joss and cast frequently make some mention of asking if Firefly can come back.

    All of these things: box office, Amazon DVD record-breaking, split-off media (e.g.: comics, books, role-playing games), Internet presence, con presence (panels, guests, people still dressing in costume), etc. all go in to determining MY opinion of what level of (cult) following a thing has.

    “And if you disagree with the logic that a large fan following should result in a large box office, then I don’t see any point in arguing further.”

    Son, I already gave 2 previous separate openings for our agreeing to disagree and drop it. :) No, I don’t agree with the opinion that large fan following HAS to translate into large box office. By and large, yes, there is generally a direct causal link, sure! But there are certainly other factors that determine how fanbase affects box office.

    Conversely, would you say, because Avengers broke box office records, that MUST mean the fans of hero comics books must be proportionately large?

    Even if it’s true (and I’ll grant it’s MOSTLY true) that large fanbase translates into large box office, that alone is STILL not a lone and primary indicator of the status of major/minor cult following. Sure, it is if you’re criteria or measurement is indeed just or primarily box office sales, which is evidently the case for you. But I reject that movie sales are the only or even primary measure of the term major vs. minor cult following.

    Now, more importantly, Batman versus Iron Man? At one time I would have said Batman, hands down. But Bob Downey Jr. has convinced me that Stark’s neurosis would be less of a hindrance than Wayne’s psychosis. And the suit simply has more firepower Batman couldn’t withstand.

  5. You are part of the cult, therefore your arguments must be taken with a grain of salt. 4,000 people can make it look like there’s 40 million interesting in a subject. That doesn’t mean there are 40 million interested in it. You seem to believe that because there’s a large presence on the internet that it means there’s a major cult following and I disagree. If that were the case, the film would have done better box office. Do you not agree? If a cult following has say 40 million members, should not all of them turn out in droves to see a film based on their cult property. By that simple rationale, Firefly did not have nearly as large a cult following as you claim it to have. And if you disagree with the logic that a large fan following should result in a large box office, then I don’t see any point in arguing further.

  6. +a

  7. All that is moot IF one defines cult status by more than box office, which is what I established as my criteria early on and I still stick to.

    I’m not disagreeing with you that Star Trek is a major cult franchise, so that box office comparison is a non sequitur.

    You define cult status by box office, and that’s fine. I don’t. And since we have a fundamental difference of how the status is even derived, it’s pointless to argue the evidence we ourselves find compelling but the other dismisses as non-relevant. So, like I said: doomed to be a difference entirely of opinion. :)

    Now if the Death Star was shielded and had a full compliment of Tie Fighters, I don’t think the Enterprise would have much of a chance. Now, if the Enterprise worked together with the Battlestar Galactic, I’d put it 60/40 in their favor.

  8. Adjusted for inflation, rocky horror has an estimated $436 million in box office. Without adjusting, it has cumed $112 million. Would you like to have that debate now? More specifically, my definition of major/minor stems mostly from the outside-of-fan base knowledge of the property. I could ask people of all ages If they knew what Buffy was and I’d get more familiarity from that than firefly. And let me be clear, you are speaking from a fanboy’s perspective making your view of the size of the fan culture skewed. You may feel that fan outcry prompted the film and sure, I can expect that, but $25 million box office shows that the following wasn’t nearly as broad as the studios were led to believe. When the first trek movie was made, it debuted to $82 million and that’s in 1980 dollars. Had it debuted today, that would be $259. Adjusting serenity for inflation brings it to $31.5 million in today’s dollars. From just what has come out this year, that would put it below Tyler Perry’s Good Deeds which was considered a dud. If it were a major cult phenomenon as you said then the turnout to the big screen doesn’t justify that

  9. I don’t think cult major/minor can be quantified solely on box office receipts and number of seasons. If it was, Rocky Horror would HAVE to be a minor cult hit at best. You have to look at the Gestalt of the entire culture the property creates plus lasting fan fervor. Granted, that’s not something that’s objectively measurable, so this conversation is doomed to be a debate on opinions. The Browncoats have in several years created a massive following for this 13-episode show that rivals the Buffy culture despite its many seasons. When you include the fact this “failure” of a series had a film made at all, despite box office, based almost entirely on fan outcry–that alone should propel Firefly to equal status as Buffy (regardless of major/minor demarcation). Add to that the fact that Amazon pre-sales of the DVD blew the record out if the water, the fact that years later you STILL have Whedon and the cast forced to address questions of “will it come back?” everywhere they appear, the continuing strong sales of Firefly merch, and arguably the same number of still die-hard fans as Buffy had/has, there’s no way Firefly can be pegged on a lower scale of cult status than Buffy (regardless of whether they’re major or minor).
    And the Enterprise would TOTALLY take out the Death Star.

  10. Buffy lasted 7 seasons and spawned a successful spinoff. Firefly generated one movie that was a box office flop ($25). I wouldn’t classify Buffy as “major” but it definitely wasn’t minor

  11. Hmm, perhaps, perhaps. I suppose I see what you mean. (Though, if you count Buffy as major cult hit, Firefly more than qualifies. Get rid of Buffy from your examples, and I might validate your distinctions, even though I don’t fully agree with it myself.) :)

  12. Star Trek for one. Buffy for another. Rocky Horror as well. I might have counted star wars as well, but that film was a success before it developed a cult following.

  13. I would imagine if a script needs a doctor, it’s already pretty bad, else why bring one in? I guess a script doctor can only do so much to improve a script that bad. :)

    Yeesh! What in the world qualifies as a major or big-time cult hit? (While still maintaining “cult” status?) By your definition, nothing would. It’s either minor cult hit, or popular hit. Do you have any examples of a big cult hit, more successful and popular than Firefly but still qualifies as cult?

  14. Script doctors don’t exactly have a positive reputation as they tend to create more havoc than they resolve. And any script I’ve seen a film for that a script doctor work on hasnt been that great.

    As to the minor designation, I stuck by that. To me, a major cult following is usually familiar to the public at large. Outside of a niche group, I wouldn’t say mandate familiar with the show or the movie. Power rangers and tmnt also have slavish cult followings like firefly and I’d still consider those minot

  15. Heh, doesn’t hurt his storytelling ability that Whedon was a Hollywood script doctor for many years, either. :) though I must take umbrage at the “minor” cult status assessment of Firefly: cult status that may be, but as cult favorites go, it’s at the very top of the list surpassed only, maybe, by Rocky Horror (which has arguably gone beyond cult status itself.) Minor cult hits don’t get feature films made beyond all reason for it to have been given the chance, don’t have handfulls of podcasts devoted to it, have very successful comics produced continuing the series, continue to have panels discussing the show at cons, etc :)


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