She started out as the girl Tony Stark called on to take out the trash, but Pepper Potts has grown into one of the driving forces behind the “Iron Man” movie franchise. In the first installment, which made more than $98 million in its opening weekend, Gwyneth Paltrow played the character as strong, but still a little unsure of herself.
If you haven’t heard about it, odds are you’ve been living under a rock or you just haven’t been paying attention (or you don’t watch TV). Syfy’s obnoxiously promoted new show, Defiance, is finally just around the corner. The post-apocalyptic series premieres this Monday, April 15, at 9/8c, and Syfy is really banking on this being a success. They’ve been advertising out the wazoo on their sister networks, including USA, and slipping promotions into some of their already popular shows, like Face/Off. If Defiance doesn’t take off, it’s not for lack of network support.
The series is set in the future after an alien race came to Earth to escape their own planet’s destruction. A war erupts, as it’s want to do, since humans are not known for their ability to share. Well, during the war, a cataclysmic event terraforms the planet, turning it into something barely recognizable. Fast forward a bit, and we have the city of Defiance – once St. Louis – a city of diversity, populated by humans as well as different alien species, where the inhabitants struggle to protect their home from invaders as well as just get along with each other.
What makes Defiance so unique, however, is the show’s integration with the gaming culture. Other shows have had games based on their premise, but Defiance creators, Rockne S. O’Bannon (Farscape), Michael Taylor (Battlestar Gallactica), and Kevin Murphy (Caprica), hope to incorporate events from the game into the actual show, to make the show into “the first interconnected video game and television series”! Defiance: The Game, developed by Trion Worlds, launched a couple weeks ago to give players a sneak peak into the world of Defiance. The game is set in post-war San Francisco, but players get to interact with characters from the show, and events from the game and what players do “will actually cross over into and continue further in the television episode” says Nathan Richardsson, Trion’s vice-president of development and executive producer of Defiance: The Game.
The game is an open-world shooter, in which you can play solo or with up to four players. BUT there are also dynamic events called “Arkfalls,” where pieces of alien ships fall to Earth, and players have to work together in teams to battle a large enemy to reach the resources and technology left in the ship. All of these events, and how players respond to them, will eventually effect the television series. The first season is already relatively set, such is the nature of television production, but Richardsson has said, “when we are done with all the crossover events with each episode of Season 1, what happens between Season 1 and Season 2 is driven by events in the game and that affects what happens in the next season of the show.” So viewers/players will actually help to create the future of Defiance, which is pretty cool…assuming everything works out. Syfy seems optimistic though, with all the promoting and already planning season 2.
I’m not really into gaming, so while I’m impressed by the concept and think it’s really neat to give viewers such an impact in a television series, I probably won’t be on Defiance: The Game, but I am curious to watch the show and see where it goes. It seems all the promoting has gotten to me, and I will be watching the premier on Monday, hopefully with a lot of other people as well. You don’t have to be a gamer to enjoy good sci-fi storytelling.
Is it just me, or has television caught the spinoff sickness? This year and plans for future seasons seem riddled with prequels and spinoffs. There was Private Practice spawned from Grey’s Anatomy (yes, I think spawned is an appropriate word there). The Vampire Diaries writers are working on an Originals spinoff that will air its backdoor pilot April 25. Chicago Fire is also in discussions for a spin-off. And let’s not even go into all the CSI and Law and Order versions that are out there. Then there are all the prequels that have sprouted this season, some successful (Bates Motel), some not so much (The Carrie Diaries, Hannibal – granted, it’s a bit early to tell for The Silence of the Lambs prequel, but the numbers aren’t looking great, and last I heard the adolescent Sex and the City was on the bubble for renewal, so maybe unsuccessful is a strong word…maybe). HBO is even considering the possibility of a prequel for Game of Thrones. (Don’t get too excited; they’re just planning ahead for if/when they catch up with the books).
But what I’m excited for is the spinoff for Once Upon a Time, currently in production, called Once Upon a Time in Wonderland, which is set in – where else – Wonderland, and follows Alice on her adventures. Admittedly, I wasn’t pleased when the original Once incorporated Wonderland into their canon, not because it wasn’t done well, but because it’s not a fairy tale, and there are so many genuine fairy tales out there that I just wish they had stayed away from literature, as much as I do truly love literature. (The same goes for Mulan and Peter Pan – as much as I love Colin O’Donoghue as Hook – and, even though the storyline was meant for me, Frankenstein.) Of course, none of this has ever stopped me from watching and loving the show. But having a spin off in Wonderland; that’s all fine and dandy for me. I’ll set all my clocks, so I won’t be late (for this very important date)…Well, I will when there’s an actual release date. Right now the series is in the rabbit hole, awaiting an official greenlight.
The development for the magical spinoff has been very hush hush, as Eddie Kitsis and Adam Horowitz have been keeping their plans tight to their chests. But we do know a bit of casting and some of the premise. Kitsis and Horowitz have suggested that they want the show to be a type of ‘mini’ series (American Horror Story style), with 13 episodes that can stand alone, set in both pre- and post- curse Wonderland, I’m assuming similar to how Once formats things, with flashbacks, though that’s purely speculation. The lead role of Alice will be played by Sophie Lowe, who falls in love with the mysterious Cyrus (Peter Gadiot). Other casting includes Michael Socha (BBC’s Being Human) as the Knave of Hearts, Emma Rigby as the Red Queen, and Paul Reubens (Pee-Wee Herman…) as the voice of the White Rabbit. No good news yet if Sebastian Stan (Once‘s Hatter) will be able to return for this series, but conflicting schedules are proving very problematic, making it unlikely.
Production for the project began April 7, directed by Ralph Hemecker, which is phenomenal news. Hemecker directed both of the Wonderland episodes of Once, as well as “The Miller’s Daughter”, which is very high on most lists of best Once episodes. I think, with all the popularity of Once, and the craze of fans speculating about casting and plot ideas for the show, Once Upon a Time in Wonderland is a shoo in for getting picked up. ABC would have to be crazy not to follow this rabbit into the magical land where huge audiences live.
BBC America, once a network whose sole purpose was to air British content in the U.S. of A, has started growing into its own recently, producing scripted original content. It all started with the period police drama Copper, which is coming back for its second season in June. Then the network co-produced The Hour with BBC proper.
Now BBC America has three new series to add to its belt, including a contemporary adaptation of The Three Musketeers simply titled The Musketeers (starring Peter Capaldi – Torchwood, The Hour), a zombie series In the Flesh, and a 7-part mini series based on Susanna Clarke’s 2004 bestseller Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell. Clarke’s Hugo-Award-winning novel, set in Napoleonic-ish Britain, follows two wizards who are bringing magic back to the England.
Sci-Fi and fantasy have proven a solid match for the network, so the Jonathan Strange project seems very promising. The series will be written by Peter Harness and directed by Toby Haynes (whose filmography includes Doctor Who and Sherlock!), and BBC America will be co-producing with BBC and Cuba Pictures. The adaptation will join BBC America’s Supernatural Saturday lineup, which is already home to Doctor Who and Orphan Black, another BBC America sci-fi original starring Tatiana Maslany as several characters who discover that they are clones and someone is trying to kill them. Orphan Black premiered a couple weeks ago, and so far I’m loving it. So keep them coming, BBC America. There isn’t enough quality television these days.
In global news, Indian filmmakers have decided to jump on the zombie craze that is sweeping the world like a plague – but a good plague, as far as I’m concerned. In an attempt to attract younger audiences, Bollywood is producing its first three Hindi zombie films: Rise of the Zombie (directed by Luke Kenny and Devaki Singh) was released April 5, Go Goa Gone, a zombie comedy – “zom-com” if you will – to be released in May, and then Rock the Shaadi later this year. Rock the Shaadi will be accompanied by a graphic novel.
Rise of the Zombie is the first in a planned trilogy. Director Kenny, who also stars in the film as a wildlife photographer who becomes one of the living dead, is excited for the new direction of Bollywood, saying, “We’ve been wanting to make something like this within the Hindi film industry setup, and we realized that within the horror film genre, nobody has ever touched the zombie genre.” Indeed, the few horror films Bollywood has done in the past have featured ghosts and the afterlife, both of which are common in Hindu mythology. India doesn’t have a tradition of zombie folklore, so the filmmakers have faced the challenge of educating Indian audiences about the zombie concept – though younger audiences versed in Hollywood films should be quick to jump on board. The filmmakers have also tried to give the film international appeal and make the movie as realistic as possible despite a limited budget. After all, they’re hoping that this exploration of the undead will bring a spark of life back into the fading art of Bollywood – only a bit of a pun intended – and Kenny is optimistic: “My producers and I realize that there is a market there for films that are in this genre, and that market will only grow.”
The two later films are also hoping this genre will catch on in India. Go Goa Gone features Saif Ali Khan, one of Bollywood’s biggest stars, as a faux-Russian zombie hunter. The trailer has reached 2.3 million hits since March (and I have to say, despite the language barrier for some of it, it looks quite amazing). Hopefully, these zombie flicks will be the perfect present for Indian cinema as it celebrates 100 years of filmmaking.
This weekend marked the opening for the slasher horror flick, Evil Dead, which I’m surprised to say did quite well, taking out the competition to earn the #1 spot for the weekend with $26 million (including Thursday night’s numbers). This is already a victory for the horror film, which was produced for a mere $17 million, though I’m not sure the film should count on holding these high numbers. Its earnings were already very frontloaded, which probably means it has already hit its core market of horror fans.
Evil Dead is a remake of Sam Raimi’s 1981 classic of the same name, about a group of campers who inadvertently release body-possessing spirits, and gory mayhem ensues. The original starred the legendary Bruce Campbell, as well as Ellen Sandweiss and Betsy Baker. The film had a meager beginning, with Raimi scrounging for $90,000 to produce it, and it has become one of the largest cult horror films ever. It spawned a trilogy with the release of Evil Dead II and Army of Darkness, and launched Raimi’s and Campbell’s careers – both of whom produced this remake.
Raimi may have lent his hand to this new release, but the campy style that defined the original Evil Dead is nowhere to be found in the remake. These campers, who don’t even share the names of their original counterparts, I noticed on imdb.com, must face the terror of over-the-top realism. It’s all straight-faced, gruesome carnage. I admit, I haven’t seen it yet, but a friend of mine described the style of the film as “uber realistic violence that lingers in your face.” Some people might go for that, and the reviews aren’t terrible. It’s currently sitting at 64% on Rotten Tomatoes (versus the 98% the original has). Do you think the remake could ever be as good as the original?
Bates Motel ̶ and thus Psycho ̶ got me thinking about those movies with twists so surprising and genius that they’ve become part of our pop culture; movies with endings so enduring that even if you haven’t seen the films, you know how they end.
I’ve never been a huge fan of prequels. Watching stories I already pretty much know or investing in characters I know will end up in horrible conditions – which let’s face it, most prequels deal with tragic characters – just doesn’t do anything for me. That being said, I have really been looking forward to A&E’s new series Bates Motel, which airs Monday nights.