Is it just me, or has there been a lot of headlines coming from the geekier side of Hollywood lately?
Between all of the fanboy-friendly films hitting theaters and the kickoff of convention season with one of the year's first big shows, WonderCon, there's been no shortage of material in the news cycle for anyone interested in superhero and sci-fi fare. That's why this week's column is a two-parter of sorts, offering up some food for thought on a pair of big stories: the possibility of a Farscape movie and the likelihood of Spider-Man crossing over into other superhero franchises.
Both of these stories have generated quite a bit of buzz since they hit the Net, and they're continuing to do so offline, too – and for good reason.
During WonderCon, Farscape creator Rockne O'Bannon confirmed development of a movie based on the criminally underappreciated sci-fi series that was abruptly canceled in 2003 after four seasons. While the series received a nice send-off in a subsequent three-hour miniseries, fans have been clamoring for more outer space adventure with displaced human astronaut John Crichton (Ben Browder) and his motley crew for just over a decade now – and O'Bannon's comments seem to indicate that they might finally get it.
So what's the big deal if you're not a Farscape fan? Look no further than the involvement of series coproducer Brian Henson (who also directed the miniseries) and his team at Jim Henson Productions for your answer.
When Farscape kicked off its run in 1999, computer-generated effects had already become the standard for just about any project involving alien species and outer space environments. However, the Farscape team at Jim Henson Productions proved that in the right hands, practical effects can still pack an emotional – and very realistic – punch on the screen, and the series' use of animatronic supporting characters and unique makeup and prosthetics eventually earned the series an Emmy nomination for “Outstanding Visual Effects.”
That's why it's easy to see the appeal – and importance – of a Farscape movie (and all the Jim Henson Productions magic that comes with it) in the current climate of frequently overwrought digital effects and CG-reliant cinema fare. Given the series' under-the-radar status and how long it's been since it concluded, I'm not going to hold my breath waiting for the Farscape movie to come together, but I will keep hope alive that it eventually happens – if only to receive another reminder that great practical effects can still be a beautiful thing.
And at the risk of seeming a bit curmudgeonly, I can't help thinking that a more traditional approach might be best when it comes to Spider-Man's big-screen interaction with the greater Marvel universe, too.
Recent interviews with the producers of The Amazing Spider-Man 2 and the news that an X-Men: Days of Future Past teaser will be featured in a postcredits sequence after Spidey's next adventure have prompted quite a bit of speculation regarding the famous wall-crawler's ability to swing into other franchises. Thankfully (in my opinion), the suggestion has met resistance thus far, seemingly closing the door on a Spidey crossovers with the Avengers or Charles Xavier's mutants.
It might seem silly to shy way from a high-profile crossover at a time when The Avengers proved it could be done (and done well) and the Man of Steel sequel aims to raise the bar even higher by bringing Superman and Batman together – but I can't help thinking that Spider-Man is a solo act, and he should stay that way.
That's not to say that Spider-Man isn't a team player, of course. What I'm getting at here is what legions of Spider fans already know: that Peter Parker's most compelling adventures tend to happen when the world is against him.
Over the last five decades, nerdy superhero Peter Parker has experienced countless highs and lows, and he's had to deal with all manner of setbacks and victories when it comes to life, love, death, friendship and everything else that makes life such a crazy roller-coaster – and that's not even counting the trials of tribulations of his costumed life. And for the most part, the burden of his troubles has always been one he's shouldered on his own. Heck, a large part of the character's appeal has always been that angsty obsession with personal responsibility that the death of his Uncle Ben inspired, and it's been one of the most important elements for any iteration of the character – whether in print or on the screen – to convey.
And it's precisely that lone-wolf mentality that makes him such an impossible fit for the worlds of the Avengers or X-Men. Where the tone of the Avengers in the Marvel movie-verse is all bright colors, bombastic heroism and certainty of action, the tone of Spider-Man's big-screen universe is one of a reluctant savior who hides his gut-wrenching guilt behind an endless stream of snark. Similarly, where the X-Men franchise extolls the virtues of family and community uniting against prejudice, Spider-Man is a hero who intentionally flies solo – or swings, in this case – in order to protect his loved ones. The cross he chooses to bear is a big part of what makes him Spider-Man.
As any longtime fan knows, Spider-Man's history has seen its share of reboots on the page and the screen, and the decision to roll back his continuity has often followed a period in which Peter Parker's life has reached some level of happiness and stability. From the comic book relaunch that annulled his marriage to the big-screen reboot that followed Tobey Maguire's iteration of the character forgiving his uncle's killer and reuniting with Mary Jane Watson, the people guiding Spider-Man's life have repeatedly come to the same conclusion: Spider-Man is at his best when he's on his own.
That's why it's difficult for me to picture a merged universe for Spider-Man and any of Marvel's other big-screen heroes – no matter which studio they call home. I've had a fair share of complaints about some studios' choices regarding their stable of superheroes, but when it comes to keeping Peter Parker a solo act on the big screen, that's one decision I can't agree with enough.
Question of the Week: Which television series would you like to see get its own movie?
Rick Marshall is an award-winning writer and editor whose work can be found at Movies.com, as well as MTV News, Fandango, Digital Trends, IFC.com, Newsarama, and various other online, print, and on-air news outlets. He's been called a “Professional Geek” by ABC News and Spike TV, and his personal blog can be found at MindPollution.org. You can find him on Twitter as @RickMarshall.
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