Three ways to fix a very rusty IRON FIST

Remember when Marvel could do no wrong?

Back in the day, they made a movie about an intergalactic gang of misfits that included a cyborg raccoon, a green alien woman and a living tree that only said, “I am Groot.” And they turned that trash into treasure.

IRON FIST is one of the first mistakes Marvel has made, which is crazy considering the number of movies and TV shows they’ve produced.

Now that THE DEFENDERS has all four of these characters teaming up, and Season 2 of IRON FIST has a new showrunner, there is hope that the show will improve.

Having watched every episode of the other three Netflix originals—DAREDEVIL, JESSICA JONES and LUKE CAGE—it’s pretty easy to see where those shows went very right and Danny Rand, the homeless billionaire, went very wrong.

Fix Number 1: A new intro

The intros for the other three shows are interesting and set the mood, while this intro simply annoys you with bad CGI and makes skipping ahead the default choice.

DAREDEVIL has an intro that reminds me an awfully lot of WESTWORLD, so much so that I wondered if the same people did it.

LUKE CAGE starts off every episode with images of Harlem and history broadcast on his unbreakable skin, and I don’t skip it despite having seen it a zillion times.

JESSICA JONES puts you in a noir mood with her intro, and though it’s not quite as good as the blind ninja’s or Luke’s, it doesn’t completely annoy you.

IRON FIST just has a bad intro. Here, watch this for ten seconds and you’ll get annoyed. Is the main character some kind of shapeshifting oil beast?

Give us an intro that’s interesting and different. WESTWORLD has such a beautiful and genius intro that I’ve rewatched again and again.

Fix Number 2: Make us want to be the Iron Fist

Regardless of your age or gender, part of the joy of reading a novel or watching a movie is living vicariously through the eyes of the great protagonist. You admire them, and wonder what it would be like to be them.

With the other three Netflix shows, it’s clear that Daredevil, Jessica Jones and Luke Cage are interesting and special people. It’d would be fun to walk in their shoes for a day, and it’s a pleasure to be there, watching, even when they go through the worst possible troubles.

All three of those characters are good in very different ways.

  • Daredevil is intelligent and driven.
  • Jessica Jones is sarcastic and tough.
  • Luke Cage is calm, strong and determined.

I don’t think anyone wants to be Danny Rand / Iron Fist, and that’s really a function of the writing, not the acting.

Fix Number 3: Stop making Danny Rand act like a fool

In episode after episode, Danny makes stupid decisions that hurt other people. And yes, that’s despite the best of intentions.

The first season is more of a tragedy than anything else, with Danny’s hubris leading to terrible things. In just about every critical situation, the great Iron Fist makes choices that any other superhero would avoid.

  • Telling everyone—from homeless men on the street to villains—his secret identity. He may as well wear a sign. Every other superhero with a brain works incredibly hard to protect this vital secret, because failing to do so always, always leads to trouble and death. Danny has no clue.
  • Being a taker instead of a helper. There’s a good reason why most superheroes default to tackling problems by themselves. They don’t want to get civilians involved and hurt, and it’s safer when friends and loved ones don’t know their secret identity. Danny constantly, constantly asks for help, often from strangers or villains. He’s not self-reliant at all, which is one of the primary traits of heroes.
  • Creepy stalker behavior. Early in the series, he breaks into Joy’s house and refuses to go away when Colleen Wing clearly and repeatedly tells him to scoot. And this is a pattern. While other heroes break into places to collect clues and skedaddle, Danny does it like he’s dropping by to visit and is shocked when people treat him like a burglar.
  • No discipline. There’s an episode where Danny says he’s spent a lifetime learning to control his emotions, which made me guffaw, because every episode, he shows zero control over his emotions.
  • Can’t plan for the future. Danny simply bumbles through problems. He never has a plan aside from, “Let’s break into a place and either ask for help or beat people up.” Then he’s confused and angry when that non-plan goes south.
  • Falling into every trap. Danny Rand believes every word that anyone says to him, whether it’s from the mouths of a random stranger or a villain who just tried to kill him ten minutes ago. Even when a villain invites him to an obvious trap, he goes straight into it.

All of this makes Danny seem more like a goofy, tragic side character than a hero. You could see him as a troubled sidekick for a smart hero who figures out ways to control and harness the human wrecking ball.

This problem is made exponentially worse when actual side characters like Colleen, Claire, Harold, Joy and even Ward—Ward!—make clever decisions that seem more heroic and interesting.

At one point, Danny says, “I’m sorry” and Ward replies, “Danny, you’re a cancer.” And I cheered, because it was the truth.

In every tough situation, audiences instinctively think, “What would an average person like me do?” They compare the choice the hero makes to what other heroes or villains would do. The best stories surprise us with choices we haven’t even considered.

Every time Danny faces a tough situation, I groan and compare his choice (always bad) to what Batman, Daredevil, James Bond and a hundred other heroes would do. We all have that repository of stories and characters. Even the villains we know and love, like Hannibal Lecter and Darth Vader, would make different and more interesting choices than Danny Rand.

Because what Danny chooses is never a surprise. As a character, he’s an overgrown child, which people keep telling him. Which is a shame. The actors are fine, the cinematography works and the tie-ins to the other shoes are nice.

For the audience, there’s no surprise. We know what Danny will do, and we know the outcome will be bad. The only question is, “What side character or villain will save Danny from the mess he creates this time?”

Here’s to hoping Season 2 fixes these three flaws and gives the world an IRON FIST who doesn’t keep bumbling his way through New York City and, instead, starts acting like a hero instead of a cross between Homer Simpson and The Greatest American Hero.

The Hoff massacres HOOKED ON A FEELING

The ingredients to this do not bode well:

  1. A well-known, slightly annoying song even when it’s played correctly in trailers for GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY
  2. David Hasselhoff
  3. Some director who just discovered green screen effects and has spent all weekend teaching himself Adobe Premiere Pro

And yes, when you mix it all together, it looks and tastes like a dumpster fire.

A love of cheesiness and a lack of singing chops hasn’t stopped the Hoff from having an actual singing career in Germany.

No one understands how or why this has happened. Rock on, Deutschland.

Bonus: a live version with backup dancers who were not paid nearly enough money to participate.

Leaked script for JUSTICE LEAGUE

ACT 1, opening scene: BRUCE WAYNE drives up in a classic black car to a black tie event. He opens the passenger door for a leggy model in Little Black Dresses and Zack Snyder makes sure the sky is an appropriately grim shade of black. In the middle of the charity ball, as Bruce is giving a speech, he notices a flash in the sky and makes an excuse to leave and investigate.

Opening scene: BRUCE WAYNE drives up in a classic black car to a black tie event. He opens the passenger door for a leggy model in Little Black Dresses and Zack Snyder makes sure the sky is an appropriately grim shade of black. In the middle of the charity ball, as Bruce is giving a speech, he notices a flash in the sky and makes an excuse to leave and investigate.

BATMAN rolls up to an industrial part of Gotham where all is not right. An alien war machine nearly kills him.

Over at Arkham Asylum, LEX LUTHOR won’t tell COMMISSIONER GORDON or BATMAN what he knows about the alien war machines. He simply gloats and says they aren’t ready for the invincible army that’s coming, though he will make popcorn and watch from his prison cell. LUTHOR does reveal the invasion of alien war machines is not being sent by the Purple Man Who Does Not Like To Stand, because that villain only attacks Earths populated by Marvel superheroes.

On the rooftop, WONDER WOMAN arrives to tell BATMAN they can’t fight this war alone, and without SUPERMAN, they won’t last ten minutes, and this movie has another 105 minutes to go, so that won’t do at all. This is war. They need an army.

In a montage, a series of would-be heroes are approached by BRUCE WAYNE and reject his suicide mission.

One exception is a pebble-faced man in a hoodie, who says if they both snagged their other costume, they’d bring a total of four superheroes to this fight. BRUCE WAYNE tells the man, “This is D.C.–we don’t do irony.”

Meanwhile, the alien robot army pauses to consolidate its grip on North Dakota for some reason, instead of taking over the world already.

 

ACT 2

BRUCE WAYNE wears steampunk goggles to brave the cold of GREENLAND, which is not green at all, to get his butt kicked by AQUAMAN in a bar.

AQUAMAN refuses the call to adventure and says this isn’t the proper way of doing things. He’ll wait for his own solo movie before joining any ensemble as a sidekick.

FLASH eagerly joins up because he’s this movie’s dorky version of Peter Parker, nerding out about being allowed to hang with a billionaire playboy with a cave full of armor and technology.

The growing crew finds CYBORG fighting off a gang of alien robot warriors. CYBORG interfaces with a dying alien robot to uncover the truth: they’re scouts for DARKSEID, a villain whose superpower is that you’ve never heard of him.

Alien robot warriors grow bored in North Dakota and descend upon the village bar where AQUAMAN is scowling while he drinks his mead, which spurs him into wearing a costume that, sadly, looks better than the Batsuit we’ve been looking at for three different movies.

 

ACT 3

Wave after wave of CGI alien robots flit through the sky and swarm the ground.

AQUAMAN leaves the fight for some made-up reason so he can sulk before coming back again. CYBORG seems to get taken down by a horde of alien robots and BATMAN gets trapped in a cave, which is as close to ironic as D.C. dares.

Meanwhile, WONDER WOMAN looks amazing in slow-mo as she destroys legions of glowing alien robots, because slow-mo is her motif, if you haven’t seen the trailers for her movie yet. But it’s a losing battle. No daughter of Zeus can single-handedly win this kind of war.

It takes a son of Krypton to help out, so SUPERMAN rises from his real grave, not the fake one in D.C., to fly around in a black suit which also looks better than the weird, short-eared Batsuit we’ve been looking at for three movies.

BATMAN finally escapes the cave and CYBORG reveals that he interfaced with another alien robot to learn the location of their secret server farm, and that they’re not using https yet.

WONDER WOMAN, BATMAN, AQUAMAN, FLASH and CYBORG pile into the Batplane to do battle, but only after BATMAN finally puts on an armored Batsuit that actually looks like it was designed for, I don’t know, fighting. SUPERMAN flies solo, because he’s still getting over being dead.

Even more endless waves of alien robots fly into battle to get smashed into glowing bits until we get a glimpse of DARKSEID, a special giant clump of dark, glowing CGI with an impossibly deep, gravelly voice based on Christian Bale’s growl in THE DARK KNIGHT, and yes, this is daringly ironic for D.C.

DARKSEID throws around the heroes until he gets bored. Nothing they do hurts him.

Finally, SUPERMAN gets tired of puny punches. He picks up DARKSEID and flies him into space, past our sun, past another sun and finally into a black hole, though when he flies back CYBORG reports that this alone won’t kill the villain. DARKSEID is still communicating with his network with a 2400 baud moden. He’ll return, stronger than before.

A bloody BATMAN picks himself off the floor to say, “We’ll be ready.”

You’ll stay to watch the credits. They will be long. At the end, there will be no post-credit scene, making you remember this isn’t a Marvel movie, though the plot of AVENGERS: INFINITY CRISIS I and II will be roughly the same thing–big bad guy leads alien invastion–with the exception that IRON MAN, THOR, CAPTAIN AMERICA and the Hulk only beat the villain by sacrificing themselves and becoming trapped in another dimension or timeline at the end of the second movie, because their contracts are all up.

 

What Thor was doing during CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR

thor during civil war

I like it, I love it, I want some more of it. So why does this short bit with zero special effects work so well?

Let’s take it apart.

Comedy is incredibly hard. Even the pro’s at Saturday Night Live fail more often than succeed. The tough part of a short skit like this is variety.

Saturday Night Live and other skit shows tend to find one joke that does work, then beat it to death, making a five-minute skit feel like five hours.

The other path–multiple jokes that may or may not work–is much harder to pull off.

You won’t know if it works while writing or rehearsing it, and unless you film in front of a live audience, you won’t get feedback until you put that short film out there for the world to embrace or trash.

This bit about Thor works because they don’t rely on a single, repetitive joke. They had the guts to try a ton of different jokes, big or small, and to include little details that reward multiple viewings. Continue reading “What Thor was doing during CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR”

Top 7 ways SUICIDE SQUAD went epically wrong—and could have gone right

suicide squad cast

Marvel and DC have taken comic books for kids and turned them into an unstoppable machine, designed to entertain the masses while making massive profits.

When all the pieces fit together, it’s memorable and magical.

When they don’t, as in SUICIDE SQUAD, everybody notices. (Warning: this is packed full of spoilers.)

It’s like making chocolate chip cookies: Marvel and DC have well-known, well-liked ingredients that people have loved consuming for decades.

Mix it up, put them in the oven and serve them warm and hot. People are going to eat them. It’s not rocket science.

HOWEVER: your average person has eaten a lot of chocolate chip cookies, and seen a ton of these comic-book movies. They’ll know, right away, if Marvel burns the whole batch or DC forgets to add any chocolate chips at all.

Continue reading “Top 7 ways SUICIDE SQUAD went epically wrong—and could have gone right”

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What you need to know before seeing AVENGERS 2: AGE OF ULTRON

Unless you live in an ice cave, you know that AVENGERS 2 opens on May 1.

When it does open, all your friends will go see it, then ask what you thought about it, and What This Movie Means for the next 10 Marvel movies. Those films will feature Thor, Iron Man, Loki, and 16 other characters, and they will make $18 billion dollars.

Let’s get you educated on the whole Marvel shebang, then talk about why Marvel, against all odds, has taken over movie theaters for the next century.

Before you spend $42 on Imax tickets, 5800 calories worth of popcorn with fake butter drizzled on it and 72 ounces of Diet Coke, watch this video to refresh your knowledge of all things Marvel:

And now I’ll get serious for a moment.

Why have the Marvel movies rocked the box office so hard? Continue reading

Top 3 reasons why the new, extended trailer for AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON rocks so hard

1) It’s funny, and not in a forced way, like a Saturday Night Live skit that repeats the same joke seventeen times.

The actors seem natural and relaxed.

2) The director lets this scene play out.

Today, that’s rare, with directors eager to bust out the CGI and blow up more stuff that only exists as pixels on giant servers.

Josh Whedon figures he has enough excitement packed into the movie and gives us a long, funny breather. Which is wonderful, because not rushing the payoff for this scene makes is far more powerful.

3) That payoff is amazing, and a completely different emotion than how the scene started.

Ultron showing up like this is not only a surprise, but a shock, and his lines are simply perfect. Unsettling and dark and wonderful.

Well done, Josh the Whedon, well done. A far better trailer than the usual Michael Bay explosion-fest that’s required of every big-budget action movie.

 

Top 11 posts about the Big Screen and Such, Because Top 10 Lists are Common and therefore Boring:

The Red Pen of Doom dissects every Batman movie IN HISTORY

Top 5 reasons EDGE OF TOMORROW works — and why it redeems Tom the Cruise

THE WOLVERINE proves Writing Law #1 – Less is More

Seattle superheroes challenged by supervillain Rex Velvet

Hollywood: Sidekicks do NOT need their own stupid sidekicks

Seven movie clichés that must be NUKED FROM ORBIT

MAN OF STEEL and the Invincible Hero Problem

STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS: Why it works

Big, Beautiful Movies with Sad, Stupid Endings

THE AVENGERS + THE BREAKFAST CLUB = AWESOMESAUCE

Like Godzilla in Tokyo, PACIFIC RIM smashes all expectations

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This is Guy Bergstrom the writer, not the Guy Bergstrom in Stockholm or the guy in Minnesota who sells real estate or whatever. Separate guys. Kthxbai.
Guy Bergstrom. Photo by Suhyoon Cho.

Reformed journalist. Scribbler of speeches and whatnot. Represented by Jill Marr of the Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency.

Many Bothans died to bring us this teaser for STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS

STAR WARS THE FORCE AWAKENS teaser

Long ago, in a galaxy named after a candy bar for some reason, I felt a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced–because the Mouse had bought the entire Star Wars franchise.

Everybody who grew up on the original Star Wars movies felt this pain.

I prepared myself for Disney princesses with cute neon pink lightsabers, then endless straight-to-video sequels and prequels that would make STAR WARS: THE PHANTOM MENACE look like THE GODFATHER. (Related: Why new STAR WARS movies by Disney are an achy breaky big mistakey)

However: this was before they announced that JJ Abrams would direct the first new movie.

Also: Disney also owns Marvel now, and Marvel is on an insanely successful roll.

 

All of the Marvel movies since IRON MAN have rocked. I figured the Captain America ones would stink, since it would be easy to make those corny and uber-patriotic, but they nailed both of them. WINTER SOLDIER is darker than dark. Loved it. On the other hand, FOX studios proves you can take a great character and great actor and absolutely blow the thing with two horrible Wolverine movies.

Marvel can’t do wrong. And now JJ Abrams, after rebooting Star Trek into awesomesauce, looks like he’s doing the same thing with Star Wars.

The only way this trailer could look and feel better is if the new Sith uses his wicked lightsaber to make a clean break with the Lucas prequels by slicing Jar-Jar Binks in half.