Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Universal Comics Movieverse 11


11: The Rest of the Movies

The creation of a shared cinematic universe is very new. The idea of standard old super-hero sequels go back to the Christopher Reeve Superman films, but the idea that the sequels should form some sort of coherent ‘arc’ for the character is also pretty new. Movies – outside of the James Bond franchise – have real problems with iconic characters. Robin Laws defines Iconic as the heroes who change the lives of the people around them while they don’t substantially change. Bond is a great example in that in each movie Bond is, well Bond and there’s little to no change to his character and techniques.

(They broke this rule with the Daniel Craig films to date, in which they flet the need to do an origin story to get Bond to being Bond over 3 films; one wonders what they’ll do next, other stand start over again. But I digress.)

Movies, as we discussed earlier, have their love of origin stories because of their strong through lines and obvious character growth. Unfortunately a lot of comic book heroes are iconic, and there isn’t a ton of room for what screenwriters consider to be character growth before they stop being who they should be. As Christopher Nolan explored in his Batman films one of the ways for Bruce Wayne – who spent his life training to be one specific thing – to meaningfully change is to stop being Batman. So he does, bot at the start of Dark Knight Rises and at the end, but I don’t want to see Bruce Wayne not be Batman. But Hollywood has no interest in the other changes Bruce Wayne might make. While we making games that should feel like movies that doesn’t mean we have wear those same blinkers when it comes to our sequels. Those blinkers include
·         The hero loses his powers (or control of same) in the second act and has to recover/relearn how to use them – i.e. rerun the origin story.
·         The hero has a new romantic interest (and the old one has vanished) so we can rerun the romantic subplot.

I had started talking about the need for trilogy plotting but decided against it as the math just isn’t there. Therefore I caution you against thinking that way, but will probably example things out like that anyway.

The cinematic universe conceit means that after we get through the next cycle of solo movies we have another team up film, but as long as we have the same connective ideas we established earlier (and perhaps add new ones) the films don’t have to have very strong links to each other or to the next team up. It’s much more important that the underlying Power Metaphor, Universe Origin and tone from the core hero’s first movie stay in place. The first two help link the shared universe together, but the last keeps the hero’s own continuity and style intact. Here are your check points for the sequels
·         Any supporting cast that can return should return
·         If people don’t have PCs; consider taking a secondary hero from the team up film, or creating a new secondary hero.
·         Continue any emotional arcs from the first film – love stories should advance, rivalries should deepen, etc…
·         If a secondary hero with powers similar to the main hero is introduced we might want to have their origin story.
·         Mine the original publication history for one or maybe two bad guys. If you go with two consider having one planner and one tough guy, or figure out how the villains might also be at odds.
Again, examples would help

Captain Nostalgia II

Now is the time to bring in 6E as an agent of the Ad Astras, and Nostalgia has a supporting cast of pretty capable people with similar powers (he, Buzz & 6E) in terms of the willpower, combat training and (for Nostlagia and 6E) the physical advantages, so the Frequency rules are important. Since the Ad Astras are worldwide organization we should take advantage of that. Hollywood would love to have the inherently optimistic Ad Astras actually have a rotten core as the villain but that runs absolutely against the Nostalgia tone. I think that Ralph Crabtree was the villain in the Conflagration and he had ties to Ad Astras, so we kinda did that already. So any tension should be about the Ad Astra repurposing of the Uberjaager training to make 6E but that’s just a character bit and not the core of the plot.

My idea for the plot therefore is the Ad Astras fighting a world wide conspiracy that is something of their opposite number, trying to control scientific advancement and restrain human development (something like the Four from planetary). That lets us start with a murder mystery in the first act (this is captain Nostalgia, after all) that turns into a round the world thriller. All we need now is the fourth PC, and Dave asked to bring in Adam Prime, a Universal Comics character who is an albino gorilla who mastered a universal sign language and served as a G-Man in the 1930’s. His origin started with a murder mystery, and his odd science background works with the Ad Astras. This movie will probably end up feeling like a later era James Bond film.

Aeaea II

Aeaea needs a large new supporting cast, but we can keep Aldebaron. Someone asks to play Glenda, Fairy Princess and that pretty much nails down the villain as being evil Faerie. However the GM wanted to do something with the cold war soviet villains. Solution – Potemkin Villager is now working for Baba Yaga. Finally we can introduce a new love interest since Karnak is gone and not coming back.

First act is some stuff with Aldebaron and Aeaea dealing with routine magical issues that bring them in contact with whoever Aeaea’s new love interest is as well as Glenda. The first act will pull them all together fighting some magical event that is being orchestrated by Potemkin Villager, who is as creepy as we can make him, and who is a cat’s-paw for Baba Yaga, who is aiming for Russian dominance of the bay area’s high magic zone, in part to fight an even bigger threat. If the Nostalgia movies are world spanning mysteries the Aeaea movies are tinged with horror; the inclusion of a magic shoe girl will not change that.

Phoenix: Red Sky Diary

Phoenix’s key supporting cast member, Freddie, is still around, and the player asks to tap into the story arc of Amanda hitting it big in the music scene, becoming the new guitarist and back up vocalist for the band Red Sky Diary. This moves her out of the struggling NYC scene and into the worldwide music glitterati, and Freddie’s job expands to helping her keep her head (yeah, good plan) in the new environment. The other two supporting cast members can be the other band members, one of whom is a romantic interest and the other one is a secret villain, said secret villain is a conflagration victim who happens to show up in the cities that RSD is playing.

I kind of like the idea of the origin story for this movie being the member of the band slowly undergoing a bodily metamorphosis into Chimera, and since Chimera is a shape-shifter we can easily have a fake out villain. Phoenix isn’t really a detective hero so we can string this out long enough. This one feels a little weak, but that’s somewhat common for the second movie….

Doc Toltec II: True Nurse Adventures

Since Ralph Crabtree became the villain and Dr. Robinson died we’re now at the status quo for Doc and Nurse Betty. The other two PCs are a police officer who had been at best a secondary character in the original book an Bill Jackson, who is now a tech guy as he is in the TV show. The movie takes things down from the cosmic level to have Doc Toltec fighting organized crime in Chicago. There’s a war going on between the old school mobs and ONI, who have taken on something of a Tong aspect but with their weird high tech magic. At the end ONI are just a bigger threat and the third act should be Toltec teaming up with the mob to defeat them, and then arrange a sting to capture the core mobsters as well, cleaning up the city in one fell swoop.

In this three way war we see the rise of one particular mobster, Johnny Deuce, who has the hots for Nurse Betty (and come on, who doesn’t?). We could also set things up where Deuce is the 4th player character. In any event the movie should end with Deuce in charge of the remaining Chicago mobs and set things up for the next fim.

Crossover II

And it’s time for the next big crossover movie. The villain in this one is ONI, who are revealed as being the agents of the Chilean Mandrinate, villains from the Aeaea book originally who have been populating the Doc Toltec movies and staying in the background in Aeaea. The Mandrinate’s big plan is to steal one of the existing time machines (ideally Doc Toltec’s time platform, but it could be from Ad Astra) to go back to their own founding and uplift themselves. This means midway through the movie the Mandrinate become vastly, staggeringly more powerful as they have 600+ years of technological and magical advancement as well as improving their own bodies with stolen 23rd Nazi eugenics techniques. Plus they suddenly unveil a colony on Venus and unleash an army. Ideally at the end of the film Phoenix makes a sacrifice play that makes it look like she’s dead but in fact she’s thrown to a new arm of the galaxy.

Captain Nostalgia III

Eztra-Diimensional Nazis appear!

Aeaea III

Mandrinate Clean Up, I expect. I really don’t want to have the HIV demon come back.

Phoenix: Map of Stars

It’s the “other side of the galaxy, getting home” arc

Doc Toltec III

Doc and Johnny Deuce fight Vampires!