News Blast: Alita – Battle Angel

News Blast: Alita – Battle Angel

source: 20th Century Fox

Gunnm (or Battle Angel Alita, stateside) is a manga and anime with a cult following, deep history, and a rocky path to big-screen adaptation. The manga was written and drawn by Yukito Kishiro over the course of five years and nine volumes. Early in its run, it was adapted into an Original Video Animation (OVA) comprised of two half-hour, stand-alone episodes (based on the first two manga volumes) that were sold together on VHS, initially. In the states, the OVA (retitled to simply Battle Angel) had a large audience due to its emotional story and cyberpunk stylings, and gathered enough of a reputation to attract the interest of James Cameron, who eventually bought the film rights.

James Cameron, who had professed his enjoyment of the manga, was originally set to direct the film adaptation, but he has since left the dusty, rusted future of Battle Angel for the literally greener pastures of Avatar‘s Pandora. In his absence, the directing duties shifted to action auteur, Robert Rodriguez. After years of speculation and anticipation, a trailer has been released:

From the looks of the trailer, a lot of work has been done to keep the visuals true to the look of the manga and OVA, and the plot summary from the film’s website also seems to be holding to the basic story found in the first two volumes:

Set several centuries in the future, the abandoned Alita (Rosa Salazar) is found in the scrapyard of Iron City by Ido (Christoph Waltz), a compassionate cyber-doctor who takes the unconscious cyborg Alita to his clinic. When Alita awakens she has no memory of who she is, nor does she have any recognition of the world she finds herself in. Everything is new to Alita, every experience a first. As she learns to navigate her new life and the treacherous streets of Iron City, Ido tries to shield Alita from her mysterious past while her street-smart new friend, Hugo (Keean Johnson), offers instead to help trigger her memories. A growing affection develops between the two until deadly forces come after Alita and threaten her newfound relationships. It is then that Alita discovers she has extraordinary fighting abilities that could be used to save the friends and family she’s grown to love. Determined to uncover the truth behind her origin, Alita sets out on a journey that will lead her to take on the injustices of this dark, corrupt world, and discover that one young woman can change the world in which she lives.

Disregarding the nearly twenty year wait since the film rights were purchased where the fan anticipation has done nothing but build, the now-titled Alita: Battle Angel has another hill to climb given the context into which it will be released. Western adaptations of manga/anime doesn’t have a deep history, but, when it does happen, it tends to not do well. However, the most recent attempt, 2017’s Ghost in the Shell, was a cultural disaster as much as it was a box office stumble. Surely, with that still weighing heavy on the minds of fans and producers alike, it seems likely that Alita will be met with severe skepticism.

Ido has his rocket hammer, so Dan is happy. Source: 20th Century Fox.

Optimistically, it has some elements that work for it that actively worked against Ghost in the Shell. For one, all iterations of Battle Angel take place in a far future United States; so, aside from the general appropriation of a story originally written and drawn by a Japanese artist, the wide-scope white-washing that occurred in Ghost in the Shell seems avoidable in this case. In the small scale, the father-figure character from the manga and OVA, Daisuke Ido, has had Austrian-German actor, Chrisoph Waltz, cast in the live-action adaptation; the character has been renamed Dyson Ido, so the criticism can’t be wholly avoided. Second, translated editions of the manga and the OVA have been widely out of print for awhile, so Battle Angel doesn’t have as much presence in the cultural zeitgeist as Ghost in the Shell had with its classic manga, multiple movies and television shows. If anything, because of this, Alita: Battle Angel seems to be in a good position to be released without much fear of controversy.

The manga was brought back into print in English by Kodansha Comics in May of 2017, but it still remains to be seen if the long out of print OVA will see a new release, either on Blu-Ray or on digital services. A re-release seems likely as a marketing move to raise anticipation for the film’s release.

While fan reaction to the trailer has yet to be aggregated here, it’s clear that Rodriguez and his team are making interesting choices that could go either way with fans of Battle Angel and sci-fi movie fans in general. There is the digital deformation of actress Rosa Salazar to make her appear closer to how Alita (or Gally, in Japan) looks in her original representation. Whether this technique is applied to other characters––both main and incidental––throughout the remainder of the movie may be the line between acceptance or rejection of this choice by fans. As mentioned previously, the westernization of Ido by casting Waltz in the role could lead to controversy, but that remains to be seen. Canonically, his character is less tied to the cultural origins of his name in the story and more to the mysterious Zalem (in Japan, or Tiphares in the States; Battle Angel is a veritable totem for how wacky things can get when translating texts for the sake of localization), a city occupied by the wealthy and entitled that ominously floats above Scrapyard, where Battle Angel‘s story takes place. Therefore, Ido’s race-change may be a non-issue, at least within the context of the story.

All that being said, after almost twenty years of being in development hell, it is refreshing and curious to see a property surface from the mire, at the very least. We’ll have to wait until July to see how much of the mud has stuck.

Episode 149 – We Are Not Here

Episode 149 – We Are Not Here

WEEK IN GEEK: A Week In Geek extravaganza as both Andrew and D. discuss their respective forays in to Justice League-adjacent ventures as Andrew watches all four episodes of the CW’s “Crisis on Earth X” four-show crossover while Dan watches Justice League and they discuss––at length––what each interpretation does well and what could be done better.

RELATED EPISODES:

INFO:

For all intents and purposes, that was an episode recap.

FEATURED MUSIC:

-“Stayin’ in Black” by Wax Audio

News Blast: Marvel Announces Scripted Podcast with “Wolverine: The Long Night”

News Blast: Marvel Announces Scripted Podcast with “Wolverine: The Long Night”

source: Marvel.com

Marvel announced yesterday that it would be tapping into the dramatic podcast medium––citing popular true crime NPR podcasts, Serial and S-Town, as specific inspirations––using one of its most iconic superhero characters, Logan (as Wolverine), set to debut in the spring.

According to the press release, the 10-episode series, titled Wolverine: The Long Night, will be a crime narrative with Logan (voiced by British actor, Richard Armitage, most recently known for his role as Thorin in The Hobbit films) not as the protagonist but as the focus of a criminal investigation by a pair of detectives:

It follows agents Sally Pierce (Celia Keenan-Bolger) and Tad Marshall (Ato Essandoh) as they arrive in the fictional town of Burns, Alaska, to investigate a series of murders and quickly discover the town lives in fear of a serial killer. The agents team up with deputy Bobby Reid (Andrew Keenan-Bolger) to investigate their main suspect, Logan (Richard Armitage). Their search leads them on a fox hunt through the mysterious and corrupt town.

The podcast series will be a timed exclusive to users of the podcast aggregator and broadcaster, Stitcher, but only to those who subscribe to its premium services, and then only until fall 2018, after which it will be widely distributed. It’s an interesting and rather safe experiment with the debut being locked behind a paywall, but it will undoubtedly bring new listeners (and new premium subscribers) to the already prominent podcast-streaming website. In theory, if The Long Night does not perform well, then at least it died in front of a relatively small and curated audience.

British actor, Richard Armitage, is set to voice Logan in the podcast. Source: BBC

The teaming with Stitcher pulls some interest as it will undoubtedly guide a lot of fan attention toward the service, a service which has been under scrutiny about its business practices before. But since the deal is about timed exclusivity and doesn’t seem to be a production partnership, skeptical podcast fans need only to wait six months to listen using their preferred services. It is interesting that rabid fans won’t be able to simply download the episodes directly from Marvel at the outset, which possibly speaks to the fact that Marvel may be hedging their confidence until they see its success.

The prospect of an audio dramatized version of comic book characters isn’t wholly new––characters such Superman and the noir hero The Shadow were staple radio plays back during the medium’s heyday––but the podcast angle is new and seemingly novel. However, podcast-based audio drama is in a veritable renaissance currently, and this move is a logical, albeit a relatively safe, step. Disregarding the commercial availability of audio dramas through companies like Big Finish, fictional podcast dramas have had many iterations and successes through the years, with productions like The Thrilling Adventure Hour, Homecoming, and Welcome to Night Vale having been around for awhile to varying degrees of popularity (with Welcome to Night Vale being the standout from this list).

However, like NPR diving head-first into the podcast medium with Serial (it had been podcasting its broadcast shows, but Serial was its first main effort to produce a podcast from scratch), Marvel’s entry into dramatized podcasting could produce a similar effect, especially using one of its most popular, vexing, and mysterious characters. Logan’s past is a game of retcon darts where anything can be added if it’s thrown hard enough at the board. This canonical malleability makes Logan a logical candidate for a short experiment such as this and likely explains (in the only rational way) why Marvel would not use the current Wolverine in the form of Laura Kinney as the star of this series. With Logan as the focus of their first foray into this new medium (which will directly follow his return to the Marvel universe), if The Long Night succeeds it could really raise the visibility of podcast dramas in the eyes of a wider audience just as Serial did for its user base.

Logan hasn’t been seen in comics since the 2014 “Death of Wolverine” storyline, but returned in November 2017 in Marvel Legacy #1. Art by Steve McNiven.

Overall, this seems like a promising project. Written by Ben Percy, a veteran comics writer though one whose résumé is filled with mostly DC credits, it’s emboldening to see this project hire a person already comfortable writing in a serialized format with superhero characters, even if this story will be (and I apologize for using the heavily flogged descriptor) grounded and a bit more subdued. Some may wonder if Fox is involved, but––if I’m correct––this venture doesn’t need any approval nor collaboration with the owners of the film and TV rights to the property. At the time those contracts were signed, new media was probably not part of the deal and, in theory, Fox could do something similar with its filmic version of the characters. As it is, Wolverine: The Long Night is tied to the comic book version of the character rather than extending from the cinematic interpretation. This distinction will surely please the fans yearning for a non-comic book adaptation of the mutants that are separate from version seen from Fox.

The unfolding of this project will be intriguing as it could possibly open up an entire new medium to not only its fans but new fans who may have been unable to fully enjoy other iterations of superheroes, such as those with visual impairments. While audio drama may be viewed as an old or outdated medium, audio books have never been more popular. Even audio book services like Audible are producing original audio book and dramatized content for their subscribers. When looked at critically, audio drama holds a lot of potential in our digital and mobile context. With Marvel dominating the cinematic space and having broke new ground (even if the momentum has waned a bit) in new media with its Netflix shows, that the company is looking at new ways to present its characters to the world outside of traditional media is heartening and, more importantly, smart.

Shortcast 38 – Love is Made for Chicken Noodle

Shortcast 38 – Love is Made for Chicken Noodle

WEEK IN GEEK: While still playing Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, Andrew tries to participate in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) while D. gets excited by the Lovecraftian undertones found in Get Out.

RELATED EPISODES:

LINKS:

INFO:

For all intents and purposes, that was an episode recap.

FEATURED MUSIC:

-“Thunder Busters” by Wax Audio

Shortcast 37 – Rusty Interruptions

Shortcast 37 – Rusty Interruptions

THE FORCE IS…EXPENSIVE?: With the hotly anticipated Star Wars: Battlefront II released recently, with it came a lot of controversy. It stands at the apex of a recent trend toward big-budget titles adopting monetizing tactics more commonly found in free-to-play mobile games, this time in the form of blind boxes aka loot boxes. Andrew and D. dive into this controversy and try to find the middle ground.

LINKS:

INFO:

For all intents and purposes, that was an episode recap.

FEATURED MUSIC:

-“Thunder Busters” by Wax Audio

Shortcast 36 – Caca Fats

Shortcast 36 – Caca Fats

THE STATE OF SUPERHERO CINEMA (AND TV): With so much superheroic media out there right now, and with Marvel, DC, and Fox swinging wildly on both the large and small screens, Andrew and D. Bethel take a look at how things are sorting out, how they’ve changed over the last year or so, and where things might go.

RELATED EPISODES:

LINKS:

INFO:

For all intents and purposes, that was an episode recap.

FEATURED MUSIC:

-“Thunder Busters” by Wax Audio

Shortcast 35 – Legislative Capture

Shortcast 35 – Legislative Capture

WEEK IN GEEK: Andrew gets through the first episode of season 2 of Netflix’s Stranger Things and has LOTS of opinions––not about the show, but about streaming in general. Dan succumbs to weakness and plays the Deadpool video game (while simultaneously playing the much better––but much more intense––Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus).

RELATED EPISODES:

INFO:

For all intents and purposes, that was an episode recap.

FEATURED MUSIC:

-“Thunder Busters” by Wax Audio

Shortcast 34 – Satisfaction Now

Shortcast 34 – Satisfaction Now

WEEK IN GEEK: D. Bethel looks at DC Comics’ retrospective of Jim Lee’s Wildstorm Studios, Wildstorm: A Celebration of 25 Years, and is completely underwhelmed by their effort while Andrew ponders the considerate world-building of Bethesda games as he dives back into The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Special Edition.

And, for those that are dying to know the reference, here is the cover to Elder Scrolls: Arena (all apologies):

RELATED EPISODES:

INFO:

For all intents and purposes, that was an episode recap.

FEATURED MUSIC:

-“Stayin’ in Black” by Wax Audio
-“WildC.A.T.s Theme Song” by Sheree Jaecocke and Gerry Mosby

Episode 148 – Bro-Bro Yo-Yo

Episode 148 – Bro-Bro Yo-Yo

WEEK IN GEEK: Andrew talks about the premier of the new (and final) season of Star Wars: Rebels while D. Bethel talks about Netflix’s new based-on-a-true-story-kind-of David Fincher-led crime drama, Mindhunter.

SPOOKYTOBER: In celebration of the scariest month of the year, Andrew and D. discuss a movie each that really, truly gave them the scaries. Andrew discusses the cult classic, Jacob’s Ladder, while D. discusses the forgotten gothic horror of The Others.

RELATED EPISODES:

INFO:

For all intents and purposes, that was an episode recap.

FEATURED MUSIC:

-“Stayin’ in Black” by Wax Audio

Shortcast 33 – National Character Counts

Shortcast 33 – National Character Counts

WEEK IN GEEK: Andrew plays the expansive new Star Trek board game by Gale Force Nine Games, Star Trek: Ascendancy, while D. gets knee-deep into the sequel to the short-lived, but beloved, comic book series, Battle Chasers. However, the sequel is a video game, not a comic, in Battle Chasers: NightWar by Airship Syndicate. (Full Disclosure: D. was a backer on the Battle Chasers: NightWar Kickstarter campaign.)

And here is the promised narrative summary of the game of Star Trek: Ascendancy that Andrew played, written by Tim Saito:

In the Romulan capital city, on the planet Romulus, Praetor Nat’al looks out across the sea of screaming and crying faces. “Riov Lovok, what happened?”

“It’s the war sir.  I believe we have lost it,” replied Riov Lovok.

“How?  And why are all those people screaming and crying?”

“It’s the parents of the children.  All the parents of ALL the children,” said Lovok as she lowered her head.

“What was done to our children!?”

“It was the Ferengi, sir. They sold a toy to a few of the children last week. The following day they sold more, but at a higher price. Since then, each day the price goes higher and higher and fewer and fewer are available. Something called a Tamagotchi. Now all the children want one and all the parents are desperate. Order is falling away and there are riots in the streets as roving mobs of parents search out the elusive Tamagotchi.”

“The Ferengi?”

“Yes, Preator. Word has come through that the Federation has fallen to the Ferengi as well, to something called a Tickle Me Elmo.”

“We underestimated these Ferengi.”

“Yes. The Cardassians have also submitted their surrender to the Grand Nagus on Ferenginar. They were destroyed by something called a Furby.”

“We will mount an attack. Launch a fleet of ships and attack Ferenginar under cloak. They won’t see it coming and we will take their home world from them!”

“It’s too late,” said Riov Lovok as she pulled her disruptor from its holster. “I was promised TWO Elmos, four Furbys, and five Tamagotchis IF I delivered you to the Ferengi.”

RELATED EPISODES:

  • Episode 40 – “Vowel Movement”: Where Andrew discusses playing the board game, Sons of Anarchy: Men of Mayhem, a previous game made by Gale Force Nine Games. Ironically, Episode 40’s discussion topic is about sequels that come years after the original entry, and this week D. talks about playing Battle Chasers: Nightwar, and ostensible sequel to the comic series that ended in 2001.
  • Episode 128 – “His Curry Name”: Where D. Bethel talks about reading the series rebooting Jim Lee’s ’90s Wildstorm continuity with The Wild Storm by Warren Ellis and Jon Davis-Hunt.

RELEVANT LINKS:

  • News Blast: Star Trek Fan Films: Where Andrew discusses the legal ramifications of CBS/Paramount coming down on the large community of Star Trek fan films.

INFO:

For all intents and purposes, that was an episode recap.

FEATURED MUSIC:

-“Stayin’ in Black” by Wax Audio