I Am The Television

Note: I was just informed that there is a blog by the name of “The Televisionary.” I did not know this during my cheeky title creation, but out of respect, I have changed the name of this post.

My backlog of unfinished television continues to grow.

At the moment, I’m still half way through the latest seasons of both Game of Thrones and Penny Dreadful. I don’t think I’ve watched a single episode for almost two months now. The last seven episodes of Mad Men also goes untouched. I’m still waiting on Netflix releases for the sixth season of The League and the second season of The 100 although I really want to read the books too. I’m currently surfing through the fourth season of The Wire. And despite interest, I’ve yet to really go past the first season of Orphan Black.

AA_orphanblack_thumbnail_s2_02_webYou know, I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned Orphan Black before. The barely science fiction show focuses on a bunch of clones who have grown up separately from one another, but discover each other and conspire to evade the organization that created them. Clones are one of those “forgotten” tropes of science fiction that the showrunners have picked up, dusted off and made fresh again.

Tatiana Maslany who plays main clone Sarah Manning and the rest of her “sisters” does an absolutely stellar job of wearing characters in a diverse manner. She never gets old, never slips and never fails to convince the audience that despite having the same face, these are all different people. It’s a remarkable performance from just one actress.

Nor am I inclined to get a break from the onslaught of watchable television anytime soon. Marvel’s Jessica Jones is due out sometime this year. And most exciting of all has to be the fact that Jon Bernthal has joined the cast of the second season of Daredevil as one of my favorite characters. Frank Castle, better known as the Punisher.

Three times, three times various studios have tried and failed to execute a movie starring the famed vigilante. Once in 1989 with Dolph Lundgren, again with some success in 2004 with Thomas Jane, and the last in 2008 with Ray Stevenson. Inexplicably, no one could seem to nail the formula down for one of the few major characters in Marvel’s franchise that doesn’t even have any superpowers. No powered armor, no gamma radiation transformations, no healing powers. Just a former marine with the connections, patience and iron will to walk the walk with the worst criminal elements of the underworld.

Untold_Tales_of_Punisher_MAX_Vol_1_4_TextlessPerhaps Castle’s biggest attraction is that while every other characters in Marvel’s line up covers the cheeky and fun, the light and morally sunny, the Punisher sticks to his grimdark corner. His unyielding, stark ethos and calm acceptance of killing constantly putting him at odds with almost every other character. It’s against Castle that every hero’s ethics are measured.

One thing that may have made Frank Castle so hard to portray on the screen is his age. His best representation was in Garth Ennis’ PunisherMAX prints, which stayed true to the source material and kept Castle as a Vietnam veteran. While other Marvel heroes have found ways to retool and restructure their origins from more recent conflicts, to do so with Frank would risk leaving some of his best and most inspired stories behind because of their connection to that desperate war.

Perhaps they’ll try having Nick Fury provide Castle with the Infinity Formula, which prolongs life and solves this issue. While PunisherMAX segregated Castle to his own backyard and away from the greater community, it did establish and maintain a working relationship between the two men. Even in Ennis’ work, there is a premise for the possibility.

To my knowledge, Ennis’ work has yet to be referenced in the current MCU. But when Ennis left the Punisher to work on a new series, Jason Aaron picked up the pen to write a continuation. The first of Aaron’s PunisherMAX collections crafted an origin story for the Kingpin, which seemed a strong inspiration for Vincent D’Onofrio’s character in Daredevil’s first season. If the PunisherMAX prints are influencing their work, Marvel undoubtedly faces the incredibly difficult choice of whether to tap Ennis’ amazing stories for Daredevil or save such tales for later, should the Punisher’s popularity finally prove enough to merit his own series.

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Script Writing…

There are two things that really inspire people artistically. The first occurs when something is incredibly good. You can bring up several directors and comedians on Wikipedia and they’ll have a small section dedicated to other directors, comedians and philosophers who have inspired them to greatness. Fantastic writing charges me to keep trying.

The second is when someone takes something you love and screws it up.

For example, there has yet to be a truly amazing movie about the Punisher for one. Thomas Jane’s The Punisher was probably the most successful of all three (yes three) Punisher films, and yet was not a huge success. It has garnered a cult following and was financially successful, though not a box office smash. The first and third, starring Dolph Lundgren and Ray Stevenson respectively, were not amazing commercially nor critically. The irony is that Garth Ennis produced some incredible source material with the Punisher Max imprint. I own almost all his work on the Punisher and it is applause worthy in its execution.

Born

How good was Ennis? Even the origin story, the stereotyped, boring birth of the hero, rocked. Garth Ennis’ Born took place during the Vietnam war, with Captain Frank Castle leading his men on patrols into the jungles and dealing with military bureaucracy. Instead of life-long lessons in the middle of puberty, we get hard edged tests of morality that Castle already knows his answers to.

It’s incredibly bizarre that someone has taken the time to create a magnificient, powerful character with intriguing stories. And no one has yet to do him justice on the screen.

Of course, the Punisher is not the only character or franchise to get shafted by the Hollywood machine. And for some of these, Hollywood is trying to correct the problem. The recent reboot of Conan did so poorly, they’ve actually asked Schwarzenegger to come back. If they decide to make the new movie about King Conan, it will be interesting to see if Arnie’s experience as the Governor will be relatable on the big screen.

But the most recent failure that has prompted me to say something is Silent Hill: Revelations 3D.

The first movie was alright. It was a horror franchise, which lowers the bar of expectations. But it was reasonably faithful to the source material and visually appealing. The story made some sense. A lot of it was based on the first game, but they were willing to take elements of other titles. It was also financially successful, earning around $97 million out of a cost of $50 mill. 

The most recent movie took the majority of its basis from the third game. And apparently, it has failed the test badly. The critics, who weren’t really impressed with the first one, were not as forgiving the second time. It is not yet a commercial success, although with a price tag of $20 million, it is somewhat likely to at least earn back what it cost.  What’s even more scary is the fact that this movie happened to have some decent acting talent to it, including Carrie Anne-Moss, Sean Bean and Malcolm McDowell.

It is a Halloween miracle that they decided to skip the second game, which so happens to be my favorite. Which means its still open to development. Silent Hill 2 flourishes on the elements that can be better related on the big screen. Character development, dialogue. An intriguing story of guilt and personal demons over the monsters and cults.

So I’ve been thinking about trying my hand at script writing, a different media compared to the short stories and novels I am used too. With the right actor and right script, Silent Hill 2 could smash the video game-movie stereotype over its knee. Done wrong, my soul will be murdered. The cause of death? Cynicism.

The sad fact is, whomever is picked as the director will have more power than the script writer would. And video game inspired movies always tend to attract real bottom-of-the-barrel directors. Uwe Boll and Paul W.S. Anderson for example.

Ideally, a growing number of people are determined to prove that video games are art, and I am among them. The problem is that this definition has failed to be carried to another media. But art is universal, it should be able to be crafted beautifully on the big screen. There must be a way it can transition, and well. Until it can, Roger Ebert is being proved correct in his assertion that games cannot be art.