MIKE BOCKOVEN

The Wrong Sort of Reality

Feb
22

I was talking to my kid about the death of Antonin Scalia the other day, about the political implications of the Supreme Court and the liklihood of watching her first, protracted political fight about the future of the courts and she asked me this:

“Will the Green Lantern have to step in and appoint someone?”

My kid is 12 but I’m her dad and I tend to rant and when Warner Brothers put out the TV ad for “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” recently, I gave the kid an earful. If you watch the trailer you’ll see Bruce Wayne/Batman/The World’s Greatest Detective spout the One Percent Doctrine, word for word.

Goddamnit.

Aside from how the One Percent Doctrine turned out for our foriegn policy (and that’s not a huge, liberal thing to say. Even those of the neoconservative stripe admit the doctrine might have been a bit overzealous), I have two main reasons hearing Dick Cheney’s words come out of Batman’s mouth caused me to rage a little bit in front of my kid.

  1. The current events co-opted for the film are still part of the public discussion. That is not to say films cannot be overtly political or deal with important and current issues but is a big, stupid, rain filled bombastic Zack Snyder movie with rock monsters and exploding buildings really the place to do it? You could argue it is, I suppose, but you want something very different out of your superhero movie than I do.
  2. Putting the hyper-militaristic language in the mouth of Batman, even if it is for the sake of his motivation to fight Superman, makes him less sympathetic. If Batman is ready to pull out the Batwing and mow someone down because there’s a one percent chance they might commit murder in the future, that’s not a hero, that’s an asshat. Or the Punisher. Take your pic. The point is we can argue whether the One Percent Doctrine works in real foreign policy, but in the superhero genre it gets real stupid real fast (and this is from a guy who read The Punisher for years).
  3. Were you invested in the world Zack Snyder and David Goyer spent considerable time, effort and money to create? Bet’cha aren’t after Ben Afleck throws modern, controversial political theory at you in the middle of his superhero movie!
  4. There are SO MANY OTHER WAYS TO GO! There are, literally, dozens of stories where the World’s Greatest do battle, for any variety of reasons, and none of them bring modern and much argued about political thought overtly into the picture.
  5. Ben Afleck is loud and proud Democrat to the point where he’s considered running for office, so you KNOW he knows what he’s saying. From his perspective, which he’s stated publicly, the Cheney Doctrine was a mistake. He’s handed a script where Batman suddenly tosses out this thing that bascially means “The Intellectual Justification For The Iraq War” and doesn’t blink. Correct me if I’m wrong, but under those circumstances, doesn’t that mean he thinks Batman is not only wrong, but dangerously so?

But overall, the whole thing just seems cheap. I’m a fan of making the audience feel like they’re smart. Aaron Sorkin, Joss Whedon and many others get your brain firing and don’t make it seem cheap. This seems tossed off (which we won’t know until we see the movie, I suppose) and a lousy short cut to give Batman some “real world motivation” whatever that means.

And, if there’s a good script in place that gives clear conflict to the characters, it’s unnecessary. Again, we won’t know until the movie (all two and a half damn hours of it) comes out, but…hoofta. It seems like a misstep in concept and execution. I’d have a lot more faith in the use of the real world political idea had I not already seen Man of Steel, which was a big fat mish mash of tones, at one moment brilliant and the next completely lost on what it wanted to say about Superman.

Maybe I should go a little lighter on the trailer, but you know what they say. If there’s only a one percent chance this could be a massively stupid idea…

So Much For Consistency

Feb
15

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That whole “consistency” thing kind of crashed and burned, didn’t it?

I have excuses. Since December my editor and I have done another pass on my first book, “FantasticLand” which is coming out in October. I’ve seen the cover art and will share it as soon as I can. I finished a second novel, tentatively titled “Pack” that I’m editing and running through my group of friends. I did Christmas. I redid the floor in my living room, got snowed in for three days, went to a bunch of holiday parties. I did stuff, you know? But I didn’t blog.

But I did write. I wrote a lot, actually, knocking off my second 100,000+ word novel and laying the groundwork for a third. I’m in that situation where work on the first book is going sort of slowly (which is totally normal and understandable) and so I dumped some time and energy into the follow up, and I”m glad I did. I’ve now written two books and if I get paid for the second one, which remains to be seen, then I’m an author who has sold two books. That has a nice ring to it. I’m also at a point where I have ideas circling, ready to land. There are so many books I want to write.

But, I didn’t blog.

But I will. Consistency is the goal and being a better writer is the outcome, so I’m told. In the meantime, here are a couple of random book related items, if you’re interested.

-We are working on the cover and the first real hard edit of “FantasticLand” now. The first, sort of soft edit, included some additions that I ended up embracing and liking quite a bit.

-The cover is good in that it would make me pick up the book if I saw it in a display case somewhere. The minute I get to share it, I will.

-I’ve been reading a bunch as well. Over the holiday break I fell in love with Joe Hill (who hasn’t) and knocked out some smaller pulp sort of novels that I’ll talk about later.

-I also finished up some audio books and have some great, big, sloppy ideas for the future.

-Finally, I’m sort of getting antsy, you know? I can’t wait to get “FantasticLand” out there and see how it’s received. I’ve of the opinion that if the reviews are bad but people like the concept, I’m OK with that. I think I had a good idea and whether I executed that is up in the air, but I’m sort of getting antsy for some sort of reaction one way or another.

Also, I’ve got a list of recommendations as long as my arm and my dog continues to be a giant idiot, so there is content out there and I’ll be writing more soon.

Monday Blog (on Tuesday) – Go, Fiction, Go!

Dec
22

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The sports gene is a strong one. It can make you attempt to understand analytics. It can draw hundreds of dollars out of you for parking and hot dogs above the already over inflated price for a ticket. It can turn you in to someone you’re not. I realized this early on in my life as a parent when my youngest daughter asked “is this the team that makes daddy yell?” Yes, that’s the team. Well, one of them.

I had the sports gene implanted at about 8 years old and, in some ways, sports fandom draws out the absolute worst in me. It turns on the animal side of my brain to the point where I’ve secretly rooted for injuries to players because how dare they pick apart our secondary like that. If that guy would just get injured so bad that his leg flew into the stands, we’d have this game in the bag, man.

As a product of age and the fact that every single team I follow sucks with the force of a black hole made of Kardashian sisters, I’m kind of down on sports right now. My interest has waned with a few notable exceptions (eat it, Michigan State!). And, while I’m busy enough to where there’s not a hole in my life because I’m giving up on seasons shortly after they start, there is a bit of an emotional void, some energy that I’m trying to redirect, and I think I’ve found a place for it – long form blockbuster movies.

To answer both your questions, yes, I realize they are very different forms of entertainment and yes, that might be one of the nerdiest things I’ve ever written, but here’s my case for why this seasons stellar crop of blockbuster movies fills the space in my soul where sports used to be:

  • They are communal experiences – Think about football for a second. You gather in a big stadium, you know the players, you have a relationship with the coaches, and you sit, surrounded by “your people”. Your life may be very different from the person next to you but you KNOW you have something in common. Everyone is there for the same reason. Same thing with a long form blockbuster movie. When you see “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” you know the person sitting next to you has seen the other movies and they have a passing investment in how this one turns out. You know their heart races a little faster when the John Williams score kicks in. At the very least, you know they’re sharing an experience with you. That’s powerful stuff (and, in another rant all together, why going to the theater is an important thing to do).
  • It’s baked into our DNA – A glorious little byproduct of our loathsome remake culture is it has strengthened the communal experience in an important way. When you go to a sporting event chances are good that the fans in that setting have a history with the team – they went to games with their parents, they cheered as kids, fandom is, for lack of a more eloquent term, baked into their DNA. I sat next to an older gentleman when I saw “Creed” recently who was damn near sobbing at the end at a particularly powerful moment that brought the past and the present together.
  • We enjoy statistics – This is where “nerd” culture comes in. We care whether or not “The Hunger Games” breaks records in the Chinese market. Yes, we know Fantastic 4 bombed, but how bad did it bomb? Robert Downey Jr. made how much for “Captain America: Civil War” (the answer if $40 million plus points on the back end). There are even versions of talk radio shows dedicated to the minutia of movies that feature cross talk and big personalities and the whole bit. We enjoy the specifics of movies beyond what’s on the screen just like sports fans care about recruiting and analytics.
  • We have strong opinions on the coaches – The parallels between JJ Abrams taking over the Star Wars franchise and a major coach taking over a new program could not be more stark. There’s speculation, opinions when the announcement is made, more speculation, attention paid to the product before game day, more speculation, breathless previews and you get the idea. Directors and coaches also get praise and blame for a product that has literally hundreds of people working on it whether it’s fair or not.
  • Glory awaits – The big reason I don’t miss sports so much right now is blockbuster movies have been really damn good this year. I’ve mentioned “Creed” and “Star Wars” but Marvel continues its unprecedented winning record, the James Bond franchise remains solid and studios seem to understand that quality can lead to bigger returns. Sometimes that means studios are taking chances with franchises and sometimes the pay offs can be amazing. I don’t want to belabor this already belabored point, but take “Creed” as an example. You had a long time winning franchise that had a few missteps, came back to former glory and then hired an upstart new director who took the existing system and updated it for modern audience to glorious result. The story within the story is almost as inspiring as the art itself which…is exactly what sports is about. It’s the stories, the history, the shared experience, the power of the moment that makes for such an amazing experience in both arenas.

 

Plus, my sports teams really, really suck right now and a guy’s gotta do something.