Tag Archive: disney


Zootopia: Was It Timing or Was It Luck?

Animated films are planned out at least couple years in advance. There is the initial idea, the pitch meeting, various explorations into the viability of the story and so on. At some point, everything is greenlit and the animators go to work. It’s a long process. That begs the question, did the people behind Zootopia know how relevant their story was going to be in an election year, or was it an amazing coincidence? View full article »

Guardians of the Galaxy, Comics, Movies and a new Cosmology

Guardians of the Galaxy Title Card

By now most everyone has seen Guardians of the Galaxy. It’s grossed over 400 million worldwide and deservedly so. It’s an excellent film with a great cast that entertains on its own while at the same time setting up future installments. Reviews are readily available all over the web, but not many have touched on an interesting aspect of the film; how Guardians of the Galaxy sets the foundation of a pseudo cosmology and the combined role that comics and film have played in it.

Spoilers

In order to discuss the ideas in the article, it’s necessary to go over characters and events in the film. Because of this, we hope you’ve seen the film, don’t intend on seeing the film, or don’t care if you’ve read spoilers prior to seeing the film. You have been warned! Now, let’s begin…

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Parallels to Ancient Myth

It’s not clear if the filmmakers knew what they were doing or not, but anyone with more than a passing knowledge of mythology will be able to see archetypes in the film’s characters linking them to the mythologies of past cultures. The parallels are crude, but they are there.

Rocket Raccoon in CuffsRocket, for example, roughly mirrors the Greek god Hephaestus. Hephaestus was a brilliant diety, responsible for many (if not all) of the inventions of the Greek gods. Despite this, however, he was a cripple, and was ridiculed widely by the very deities whom he invented for. Rocket Raccoon parallels this. Although he is not crippled physically, he is looked down upon because he is an “inferior lifeform” and suffers massive emotional damage due to repeated trauma from experimentation. Yet, despite this he is a technological genius, able to construct any weapon or device provided he has enough junk lying around to play with. It is because of his brilliance that the other protagonists must rely on just to move the story forward.

Peter Quill in JailRocket’s compatriot, Peter Quill, also has crude parallels to Greek mythology. A common theme in Greek myth is the hero who is cast out into the world as a child and is rescued by some family. The hero is then raised without true knowledge of who he is and where he comes from. In Quill’s case, he is abducted by a group of mercenaries called the Ravagers. Although they have been paid to deliver Quill from his home on Earth to his true father among the stars, they decide to keep him and raise him as one of their own. Like Perseus of Greek myth, however, Quill is more than what he seems, being only half human. Unknown to anyone until a critical moment, Peter Quill has qualities that enable him to do things that only he would be capable of doing. This corresponds nicely with Perseus, whose mother was a human, but whose father was Zeus, king of the Greek gods.

KnowhereThe similarities extend beyond just the main characters. In the film the Guardians find themselves traveling to Knowhere, a planet-sized rotting decapitated head of a Celestial. Here, in this massive skull, people work to pull out valuable materials to sell on the black market. This bears a loose similarity to Gaia from Greek myth or perhaps Uke Mochi, the Japanese goddess of food. When visited by the god Tsukuyomi, she prepared a meal by spitting out fish, vomiting out a forest with wild game and finally coughin up a bowl of rice. Disgusted, Tsukuyomi killed Uke Mochi, but her body continued to produce food in the form of millet, rice and beans. It’s also worth noting that, as the decapitated head of Celestial, Knowhere is loosely connected to Judeo-Christian myth as well. The Celestials are a race of “Space Gods”; gigantic armored humanoids who tinker with the genetics of lesser life forms. They are responsible for almost all the humanoid species in the Marvel Comics universe, which matches well to Creation mythology.

Epic Stories from Comics to Film

Thanos on his throneWriting superhero stories on Earth can be problematic and restricting. It’s largely a problem of real-world issues occurring and the need to explain them away in the comic universe. Could the Kennedy assassination have been stopped? What about the 9/11 disaster? What about nuclear proliferation or world hunger? On and on it goes. Space operas become alluring for this reason. After all, no alien race is going to land on Earth in real life and accuse humans of misrepresenting them. This gives room for unrealistic, bombastic and wildly entertaining stories that, over the course of decades, have built up into a nearly complete mythology spanning creation, existence and may ultimately cover end-times as well. In it we see Thanos, the Mad Titan who worships Death, Galactus, the embodiment of evolution who devours those worlds that cannot drive him away. We see the Celestials, who tinker with civilizations and the Watchers who have gone to war to stop them. At the top of the hierarchy is Eternity and Death, cooperative siblings that represent the totality of the Universe and absence of it, respectively. In the midst of this are the humans, Xandarians, the Kree, the Skrull, and a myriad of other mortal civilizations more or less trying to do their thing while these insane deities and demigods rip reality to shreds around them.

In the world of Marvel, this cosmological structure took decades to build by multiple creative teams that came and went over time. What’s more, storytelling standards change between teams. Some will view a comic book story as massive exposition highlighted by images. Some will view it as images with the barest explanation of story. Some will try to create a visual novel. All of this is delivered piecemeal at one issue per month. Reader drop-off can be a big problem. In order to get readers the full story, issues are usually compiled into one volume for easy reading. This is where film comes in.

Marvel has tried over the years to inject their universe into film and television, usually with poor results. It wasn’t until the early 2000s that film versions of the characters really took off, and that was mostly due to the filmmakers themselves. With the acquisition of Marvel by Disney, the formula for a cohesive, complete universe finally took shape. In a way, it might be said that the comics of previous years provided the vision, and the films of today provide the realization. Through the use of film, the stories and characters of the Marvel universe can be refined into one complete cosmology, each story arc or chapter told in a visceral way that comics cannot match. Thus we come to a complete pseudo-cosmology starting from the vision of comics to the completion of modern movies. If Marvel and Disney are able to keep this up, we’ll have a complete detailed universe where gods and demigods battle for control while humans and half-humans battle for survival. Just like the myths and legends of ancient civilizations, but with Celestials, Titans and Infinity Gems instead. It should make for a hell of a ride.

Figuratively speaking, of course.

Star Wars Episode VII may get original cast back

So the rumor mill is putting out the idea that the original Star Wars cast may come back. Star Wars, Episode VII takes place 30 years after Return of the Jedi and will be directed by JJ Abrams. George Lucas, who sold the Star Wars franchise to Disney but retains some creative control, has stated that negotiations with the original cast has taken place. He didn’t say whether or not the negotiations are successful, but it looks like Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill are coming back. Harrison Ford has stated that he doesn’t want to come back unless Han Solo is killed off, so there’s a lot to ponder about for the new film.

Saturday Sequel News

Well it’s Saturday, and what better thing to do on Saturday than discuss sequels? Ha, ha… Well, actually there are plenty of things worth doing Saturday than reading our blog, but lets get to it anyway:

Disney sequels = Good

Bob Iger, CEO of Disney is floating around the idea that the new Star Wars takes place 30 years after Return of the Jedi. That should be interesting. He’s also suggesting that at least some of the leads will be fresh faces mixed with known actors. 30 years almost doesn’t seem long enough. Disney will need to compellingly introduce the new characters while explaining how to move on from the old ones. Harrison Ford was quoted as saying he wouldn’t be in a sequel unless Han Solo was killed off. Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher might not even be able to reprise their roles. Disney has quite a challenge on its hands, but the company is filled with people who can pull it off. Any Star Wars fan is going to want to watch this one.

Iger also announce a sequel to The Incredibles and Cars, both of which did extremely well in the box office. It shouldn’t surprise anyone that follow-ups were in the works.

Ghostbusters sequels = Uh…

Look, I loved Ghostbusters. I even liked the sequel. But a third? I don’t know about this. Ivan Reitman doesn’t want to direct a third one, Bill Murray is flat-out refusing to do another sequel, and Harold Ramis, may he rest in peace, is gone from this world. The only one who seems really enthused is Dan Ackroyd. Really, everyone else on board must be sensing a money grab. In reality, this sounds like a recipe for disaster. As much as I would love a really good Ghostbusters sequel, I think it may be time to think about something else. Well, anyway, shooting begins some time next year, so keep your fingers crossed.