Geekly World News – February 25, 2016

Welcome back to Geekly World News, our round-up of all the biggest news from the world of comics, video games, movies, and more. Today we have the latest on DC Comics, the HTC Vive VR headset, and Pacific Rim 2.

Big changes are coming to DC Comics starting in May. Comic Book Resources has an interview with DC Chief Creative Officer Geoff Johns detailing the company’s goals for their upcoming “Rebirth” event. There’s a lot to unpack here, so for now I’ll just focus on a few particular points that caught my eye. First of all, while DC has stated emphatically that it is not a reboot, they are going to be bringing back certain element’s of the DC universe’s history that were lost in the 2011 “New 52” reboot/relaunch. Johns says, “It’s in the same vein as “Green Lantern: Rebirth” and “The Flash: Rebirth.” Some things alter and change, but it’s more character-driven, and it’s also more about revealing secrets and mysteries within the DC Universe about “Flashpoint” and The New 52 that are part of a bigger tapestry.” It sounds to me like rather than pressing the ‘reset’ button again, Rebirth will recontextualize the changes that the New 52 made so that they can reintroduce pieces of DC history that were thought to have been erased. dcrebirthSpeaking in broader terms, he also says, “It’s an echo of the past, but looking to the future. That’s what I want to do with this. There’s got to be an umbilical cord that goes all the way back to “Action Comics” #1, that connects the whole DC Universe.” While the rest of the line will be relaunched with new #1’s, Action Comics and Detective Comics will return to their original numbering at #957 and #934, respectively, about which Johns says, “that alone, even though it seems small, I think it’s a huge symbol of what we’re trying to do.” He also says that, “This is definitely for comic book readers more than it is for casual readers, just like “Green Lantern: Rebirth,” but that doesn’t mean it’s exclusive of them.” Personally, I started reading DC comics with Green Lantern: Rebirth, and the story itself was good enough that rather than be discouraged by all of the history going over my head, I simply wanted to learn more about this world. For DC to pull off a similar feat with this upcoming event, it will all come down to the strength of the creative teams and their work. I’m cautiously optimistic at this point, but the proof will be in the pudding.

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NEW FEATURE!!!! Vince talks game-to-movie adaptations in Cutscenes to Silver Screens.Today, it’s Shadow of the Colossus!

 All The Colossi

The idea that video games can be effectively turned into films is one met with skepticism. With the list of game adaptations including such critical darlings as Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li, Prince of Persia, and Silent Hill, it’s not surprising that people give the stink eye to any possibility of a videogame movie being any good.

Like any other adaptation, the differences in story structure (and the demands placed on the audience) make it difficult for the themes and emotional experiences to translate. Despite this, I think that there are tons of games that, placed in the right creative hands, could make a great cinematic experience. In Cutscenes to Silver Screens, I’ll be breaking down some of my favorite titles to see if there’s any adaptive potential to be mined. As always, I’d love to hear what you guys have to say, so feel free to comment or suggest games you think would be great on the silver screen. For now though, here we go!

Shadow of the Colossus

Director: Nicholas Winding Refn (Bronson, Valhalla Rising, Drive)
Writer: Guillermo Del Toro
Visual Director: Guillermo Del Toro
Producer(s): Coen Bros.

Characters

  • Wander – Paul Dano (There Will Be Blood, Ruby Sparks, Looper)

Shadow of the Colossus seems like an odd pick right off the bat. A game where a good chunk of the plot consists of placid, silent exploration of a barren land doesn’t seem to exactly make for riveting cinema. The long stretches of quiet contemplation contrasted with the earth-shattering scale of the Colossi fights makes SotC look like a filmmaker’s nightmare. It also epitomizes one of the problems with adapting a game to the screen: the solitude of the main character. In absence of any supporting cast to interact with, pressure gets put on the writer to fabricate aspects of the story out of thin air in order to both provide some form of impetus for a character arc, as well as to make it fit better within the typical three-act structure of most screenplays.

Those who have seen Drive will know that Nick Winding Refn has a knack for capitalizing on onscreen silence to fill the auditory void with tension and emotion. Just because characters aren’t speaking doesn’t necessarily mean that they aren’t saying anything, and by making use of skillful visual storytelling, those undertones can be earth-shakingly profound. The same could be said for just about anything within the world that the camera places its lens upon, and if there’s any director I associate with breathtaking visual storytelling, it’s Guillermo Del Toro. In the original game, the minimal dialog there is gets largely used for exposition; to point the player in the direction where they might find their next foe. Del Toro has come under fire for the weakness of his scripts, or at least the ones written in English (understandably, not his first language). The scarcity of dialogue win SotC works to his strengths, as even making the movie in Spanish could actually benefit the overall quality of the film. Whether Wander speaks in the gibberish language of the original or Del Toro’s native tongue makes no difference here. Del Toro also has a great sense of pacing and maintaining thematic arcs in his scripts, and for a story where so much of it is subtext, that skill is indispensable.

Guillermo Del Toro's visual prowess is unquestioned, and is a great match for Refn's use of silence as negative space.

Guillermo Del Toro’s visual prowess is unquestioned, and is a great match for Refn’s use of silence as negative space.

Speaking of subtext; another challenge of SotC is the largely implicit nature of its story. The player is never explicitly told, “Hey, dude. These colossi never did anything to you, so by killing them, you’re kind of an asshole. Oh, also, you’re killing the world. So… thanks for that. Douche.” They’re given a series of increasingly direct hints to that fact, but regardless, Team Ico respected its audience enough to allow them to figure it out on their own. No Country for Old Men is a movie with a similar philosophy (whatever misgivings I have about the ending) and that’s why I think the Coen Bros would be a great selection to produce a SotC movie. Some mistakenly minimize the role of the producer, but having a good one can mean the difference between having or not having a significant degree of creative autonomy from meddling studio execs. Given the frequently offbeat and odd nature of their films, the Coens have a solid track record of maintaining their creative voice; again, another indispensable skill.

In trying to dispense with forced, expository dialogue, Wander could discover the legend of the Colossi in (for example) a short prologue before the main story begins. Strategic use of the prologue and a late title card could work well to convey a significant amount of information without eating up precious runtime. Placing this background at the beginning of the movie also gives a chance to show how #GIRLFRIEND_NAME died. Establishing significant enough audience empathy with Wander to justify his dogged determination to bring his lover back from the dead at any cost is essential , and if I’m honest, is an aspect I never felt was handled well in the game. In the game, the quest to revive #GIRLFRIEND_NAME comes off as a plot vehicle to get us to the point where we can stab giant monsters with a sword. The use of the prologue in this way also highlights another advantage to Refn and Del Toro’s visual skill: its economy. It takes a great deal less time to tell a story in images than in words.  I’m the first to admit I have a bunch of problems with Winding Refn’s Valhalla Rising, but its visual style is breathtaking. The rough hewn grays of its mountainous, Nordic terrain bears striking similarity to the landscape in SotC.

valhalla rising mountainsoc landscape
In the game, Wander is essentially a cipher for the player, absent of defining characteristics. This won’t do for a movie, and Paul Dano has not only played a mute character to great effect in Little Miss Sunshine, but he’s also shown in movies like There Will Be Blood and Ruby Sparks that he has the acting chops to pull off being the protagonist in what is essentially a one-man show.
Paul Dano: man of many faces. All of them vaguely marshmallowy.

Paul Dano: man of many faces. All of them vaguely marshmallowy.

This returns us to the problem of isolation. Aside from the monks who eventually arrive to give Wander a stern talking-to, there aren’t any other people. At all. This is a sticking point, but not an impassable one. Agro, Wander’s noble steed, it also his sole, stalwart companion, and given a strong enough script, I genuinely believe that the relationship between the two could carry a movie. Sam Rockwell and Kevin Spacey in Moon pulled it off, as did Will Smith and his loyal pooch in I Am Legend. For those skeptical that one could characterize a horse with the same skill brought to the “boy and his dog” movie sub-genre, I’d like to remind you that one of 2013’s Oscar nominees was War Horse: a movie where the horse was an undoubtedly sympathetic, fully-developed main character.

A final point worth mentioning is the plot. Though the main impetus and progression is set out by the source material, the specifics of the movie’s progression need to be filled with more significance if they’re to make a compelling narrative of Wander’s dogmatic quest, and the growing dread with which the consequences of his actions begin to dawn upon him. Given the gigantic nature of the world, “discovery” and “exploration” seem like strong through-lines to build the movie around. The discovery of the implications that coming with slaying the Colossi, the discovery of the world itself, and the inner discovery of the man whom Wander is becoming via his actions. There is a ton of meaning to mine here (if there wasn’t, I doubt that SotC would have become such a timeless classic), but it takes a steady hand and a skillful eye to harness these titans into a moving cinematic experience.