Recent Pop Culture News That Should've Happened A Decade Ago
Because my job involves diving into pop culture and making Michael Keaton references, every day I wade up to my neck into a pool of entertainment news. There, I splash around a little bit until my bosses tell me that it's time for adult swim. And for the most part, I like what I see -- although that's no surprise, considering that 90 percent of modern entertainment news is about Chris Evans' facial hair. There are worse lives.
That said, every once in a while, I see a news story that would sound really, really extraordinary if it had shown up around a decade or two ago. Some ideas would just be better if they had been followed through on during Clinton's first term. For instance ...
Frank Miller Is Writing Superman: Year One
By the time Frank Miller wrote The Dark Knight Returns and Batman: Year One in the mid-'80s, the Caped Crusader was already in the middle of a slow transition away from the colorful, outlandish stories of the '50s and '60s. Gone were issues of Detective Comics emblazoned with things like "BUT I CAN'T VAPORIZE THE BATCAVE, ROBIN. ALFRED IS ON THE MOON!" In their place were grittier stories featuring a Batman who was equally at home taking down vicious mob bosses as he was making out with Ra's al Ghul's hot daughter. But Frank Miller figured that this evolution wasn't moving fast enough, so he put on a pair of grim, dark spurs and kicked the BatHorse as hard as he could, sending it racing into the next era.
The Dark Knight Returns and Batman: Year One are great, great Batman stories. And the former is also a decent Superman story. In it, the Man of Steel is a pawn of the government, working for a Ronald Reagan caricature and generally being the biggest fucking buzzkill, especially when it comes to Batman's whole "Return to Gotham and beat up most of the population" solution. But he's also a Superman who retains some of his glory and a bit of his humanity, and if you've only read Dark Knight Returns, you might get the sense that Miller enjoys the character. And if he'd written Superman: Year One right after that, I would've cried because it's just so beautiful, you guys.
Of course, that delusion goes away immediately if you creep outside of the pages of Dark Knight Returns and read anything else that Miller has written with Superman. In the Miller world, every woman is a prostitute, whatever Batman says is immediately added to 1 Corinthians, and Superman is a mighty buffoon. You could lead him into a pit of lava if you put a sign that said "America Inside" in front of it. And he's wrong about everything. He can't be forced to grasp concepts more complex than "Fly directly into that tank" until Batman beats them into him. Batman is Miller's raging hard-on, something that he refuses to call his doctor about as he swings it through the fabric of the comics industry. Superman, on the other hand, is a Miller armpit fart.
"You ever hear the one about how Superman is, like, soooo dumb?" Pfbbbt. Pfbbbt. Pfbbbt.
"Yes, Frank," the party guests sigh. "Several times."
That's why the news of Frank Miller writing a Superman: Year One in 2017 causes such a deafening groan across the landscape of DC Comics. Because if most of his prior Superman work is any indication, it won't be nuanced and ceaselessly engaging like Batman: Year One; it will be a repeat of the same joke that Miller has been telling us for 20 years.
"Why did the chicken cross the road?" Miller asks.
"I don't know, Frank," you say as you head out the door. "Why?"
"Because Superman is, like, soooo dumb. HA HA HA." PFBBBT. PFBBBT. PFBBBT.
TNT Wants To Reboot Tales From The Crypt
Tales From The Crypt was a confusing part of my childhood and is an integral part of my adulthood. I was young when the show originally premiered. Being unable to grasp its wit or sense of ironic justice, all I could discern was an opening in which a corpse screamed at me, followed by 20 minutes of people being terrible to each other. But after I rediscovered the show in college, and shortly after discovered how well it pairs with vodka, it became a staple of my life. It's everything I need out of a TV show. Sure, Game Of Thrones and Breaking Bad are good, but Breaking Bad doesn't have an episode where Don Rickles reveals that he has a little carnivorous symbiote brother attached to his wrist. Game, set, match, Bryan Cranston.
However, I can't imagine Tales From The Crypt working in any other time period. It came out at the tail end of the '80s horror boom, serving almost as a eulogy for the glory days of comedy horror films like Night Of The Creeps, Return Of The Living Dead and Re-Animator. It winks at the audience plenty, but that winking is part of its lifeblood, rather than a last-ditch effort to prove its relevance. This is in direct contrast to things like Sharknado or American Horror Story, which flip back and forth between straightforward horror and blushing irony so often that they succeed in neither territory. They seem to have been created under the impression that modern audiences don't enjoy anything for any length of time, so they won't either.
So when TNT announced that they were eyeing a Tales From The Crypt reboot, I was very hesitant. A revival of the show just after HBO dumped it would've been great. I would love to exist in a world where you have to buy Tales From The Crypt in 20-volume box sets. But aside from a modern reboot probably lacking all of the glorious practical special effects, do I really want a Tales From The Crypt in a time period in which most horror comedies seem to be competing in an unannounced "Inspire the Most Hashtags" competition? Do I really want to hear the Crypt Keeper make jokes about YouTube -- ahem, Boo-Tube? Well, now that I've written it down, I kind of do.
James Cameron And Ridley Scott Are Considering New Terminator And Alien Films
Putting time between an original movie and its sequel doesn't always make the sequel feel special, but it certainly doesn't hurt. Aliens came out seven years after Alien. Terminator 2 also came out seven years after Terminator. That almost seems ludicrous in an age in which blockbusters come out nonstop because filmmakers have already planned out the entire universe before they even get the first film in the can. Even if you don't remember the exact stories, putting seven years between your movies at least guarantees that you'll see them in different phases of your life. Young-And-Full-Of-Hope Chuck saw Terminator. Divorced-With-Two-Kids-And-Voted-For-Mike-Dukakis Chuck saw Terminator 2.
Also, when James Cameron made his two Terminator films and Aliens, and when Ridley Scott made Alien, they weren't the Hollywood monoliths they are today. Cameron had not yet devoted his life to creating Avatar sequels no one is excited for. Scott had not yet made Exodus: Gods And Kings -- a film that was seemingly invented just so he could live out his fever dream of seeing Christian Bale wear copious eyeliner while he frowned in a chariot. They were new, hungry directors with something to prove, rather than titans that sit above Los Angeles with endless budgets. "A movie where Mark Wahlberg plays Genghis Khan? I would like to do that one, yes. Feed me grapes while I prepare the budget. Keep it under $200 million? My dear boy. I don't take a shit for anything less than YOUR LIFE."
In a meeting that I imagine began with him plunging his thumbs into the eyes of the CEO of Twentieth Century Fox, Scott confirmed that he could be down with making at least six more Alien movies. A few months later, Cameron talked about the possibility of a new Terminator trilogy, presumably broadcasting from the bottom of the ocean where he was filming his new documentary James Cameron Presents: Look At All Them Goddamn Sharks. Both of these are questionable ideas, and both adhere to the new Hollywood standard of "We make a lot of them, or at least make one with the goal of making a universe full of them."
This isn't totally a knock on Cameron and Scott's directing abilities. They can still make good movies when they feel like it. But I'd be way happier about getting more Alien and Terminator movies when it was all Scott and Cameron had -- when they had to make great movies, because otherwise they might not get the chance to make any more movies at all. Six Alien films isn't a terrible idea because I'm sick of shared universes or sequels; six Alien movies is a terrible idea because I don't think Ridley Scott has the passion in him to make six more good Alien movies.
There's Gonna Be A New Spawn Movie
When Spawn first came out, it was like that kid in class who cursed before everyone else. What are his secrets? How does anyone GET. THAT. COOL? The story of a reincarnated veteran who uses his special powers to eviscerate evil people was edgy and dark, and if you brought an issue to school, kids knelt at your feet to get a chance to peek into it. In my elementary school, it was the same kid who brought a copy of Mortal Kombat 4 to the playground. He couldn't plug that shit into the mulch and play it, but he could hold it above our heads. He had surpassed us. We were but children. Thorne was something more. Something deadlier.
Now, though, most popular comics have gone through their "edgy and dark" stage. One of Spider-Man's most notable villains is Carnage, an antagonist built around the question "What if we made Venom more kill-y?" Batman stabbed a dude to a wall in his last movie and I assume just left him there. That's some Michael Myers shit. Cops walked into that building and reported "All things seem normal, except for the fact that, at one point in the brawl, Batman apparently took the time to knife a dude so hard that he became part of the architecture."
A Spawn reboot movie would be awesome in the early 2000s. Watching the original Spawn movie was like calling heresy on my interest in superheroes. It was a message to anyone who watched it that maybe you should try soccer or needlepoint, because this cape and mask shit ain't working out. Something to clean my palate soon after that, to show me that there was still good in the world and that we weren't doomed to live on a planet where the only Spawn movie was the first Spawn movie, would've been nice.
But now that we have Batman movies like the one I described and a Punisher TV show and a Venom/Carnage movie coming out, a Spawn movie feels a little unnecessary. I'm sure it will be a bit more horror-tinged, but in order to stand out, it's going to be forced to out-Batman Batman. SPAWN is only really effective when everyone around him looks like your church youth group leader in comparison.
J.K. Rowling Is Publishing Two New Harry Potter Books
Cracked has written before about J.K. Rowling using the Harry Potter series to become the new Disney, and I totally get the comparison. What started as a book series turned into a mega movie series, which then led to an amusement park and a social media site and a cornucopia of other things. Now J.K. Rowling runs an empire that she is only partially attached to.
And because she is only sort of the queen of her kingdom, there are many things being released that she probably has very little to do with. I'm sure that she signs off on all of the major stuff that's released about Harry Potter so that no one fills the books with tidbits like "Did you know that Dumbledore had NINE HANDS?" or "Underneath his layers of awkwardness, Ron Weasley was a very talented boy and a malignant racist." But these new books are basically encyclopedias. They're reference guides for stuff that Rowling wrote herself. But it's hard to fit "J.K. ROWLING IS PUBLISHING TWO HARRY POTTER BOOKS!!! (WELL, ACTUALLY, THEY'RE MORE LIKE EXTENDED GLOSSARIES, BUT THIS ONE HAS THAT BIRD THING YOU LIKE SO MUCH ON IT, SO IT'S COOL.)" into your average entertainment news headline. It's also kind of a bummer.
I'm not going to diss Rowling as an artist who wants to profit from her creations. I'm not a huge fan of Harry Potter, but I have friends who are, and I've seen the ways that Harry Potter has inspired them and brought them together. And if they want to buy Harry Potter encyclopedias, more power to them. There are way worse things to be interested in, like heroin or murder or that show Californication.
However, that doesn't change the fact that news of Rowling releasing two new Harry Potter books would have way more gravitas in, like, 2004. The complete story is finished (for now). Every book to come until Rowling decides to let us in a little more on Harry's midlife crisis will have the theme of "Remember that Harry Potter thing? It was pretty cool. Here are some nice pictures."
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