…Well, I’ve got some catching up to do, don’t I? Sorry about that. I got a temp job for a few week and my free time has been limited so for the next week, I’m gonna give you three reviews of Marvel. We’re gonna start with Doctor Strange but first, a little lesson in Multiverse Theory.
As you probably may or may not know, we are in the middle of a golden age of sorts of geek films: films either based on comic books or other geek related material such as sci fi books and fantasy novels (also video games but those are all shit so moving on) or just an increase in genre films in general. This particular golden age began with the beginning of the Marvel Cinematic Universe back in 2008 with the release of Iron Man, but also with the release of Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight which brought a lot of attention to the comic book genre (I guess I could also add The Incredible Hulk in here as it also came out that year, but most people, including the MCU for the most part, seem to have forgotten that that film existed or they keep mistaking it for the Ang Lee film which came out five years prior). However, there were films setting the groundwork for this era since the nineties with the anime boom in North America ushering in a new generation of nerdom for a new age. Films like Akira and Ghost in the Shell helped bring in other anime to America like Dragon Ball Z, Sailor Moon, and Yu Yu Hakusho.
This boom created higher standards for geek movies. Is it any wonder that around the time the previously mentioned anime were coming out in America, films like The Matrix (confirmed by the directors to be inspired by their love of anime like Ghost in the Shell) and Blade were being released? While DC didn’t put out anything memorable until the mid 2000s after the failure of Batman and Robin, Marvel was starting to hit its stride, laying the foundation for the MCU with trilogies like Blade and Sam Raimi’s Spider Man still holding up today (The X-Men franchise being hit or miss depending on who you ask).
However we are also in the midst of another age of film, one that’s been present since around the mid 2000s: The Era of Reboots and Remakes. Every year has, at bare minimum, 2-3 remakes of past (often better made) works (whether that be film or TV) much to the detriment of the original’s fans. On rare occasion, these remakes can be great like Dredd, but often times they’re a poorly made cash grab to capitalise on the original’s popularity like Total Recall or any slasher movie remake ever made (see 1998’s Psycho for example). Best case scenario, often or not, you’ll get 2016 Ghostbusters or 1976 King Kong (Yeah, you forgot that existed, didn’t you?): Not as good as the original, but okay in their own right. Just look at this upcoming year. 2017 is set for 13 films that can be considered remakes, not counting adaptations of things that hadn’t been adapted before.
So, why am I bringing all this up? Well, while remakes are annoying (Mainly because it means people are taking the easy route and not making something new), they never really bothered me as much as they do others. Why? Because they don’t affect the original. How can they? They’re not the same universe.
HOW THE HELL HAVE WE BEEN LIVING THIS GEEK GOLDEN AGE AND WE HAVEN’T ACCEPTED MULTIVERSE THEORY YET?!
Let me explain: each aspect of a franchise is its own universe. These are usually split into TV and movies (though not always) vs everything else. Video games, for example, are usually their own universe same as books or comics. This also applies for different incarnations of the series such as Fullmetal Alchemist and FMA: Brotherhood (which is basically just a more complete adaptation of the manga). Conversely, anime films are usually long episodes of the series that don’t fit into continuity like Trigun: Badlands Rumble with some exception.
Let’s take a look at one of the more famous multiverses: Star Wars. Years ago, while not completely taken as canon, it was generally agreed that everything (the books, TV shows, movies, video games, etc) generally all took place in the same universe. Then Disney took almost all of that and said they were no longer canon. Now the only things in continuity from pre-2014 were the movies and The Clone Wars (Not the 2003 animated series). Now, that’s fine for introducing new fans and not having them bogged down by decades of continuity. It’s why 2005 Doctor Who is more a revival/ jumping on point than remake and anything but the show and 1996 movie is pretty much left up to people’s own opinions in terms of continuity (though the Big Finish audio dramas were later confirmed to be canon via Paul McGann’s Doctor). However, that left Star Wars fans betrayed because that meant that everything they cared about didn’t happen. Well, yes it did. It was just in a different timeline.
Star Wars may be more like DC’s long forgotten Hypertime than Multiverse. Basically, time is like a river branching off into other directions and sometimes these branches can intersect with the ‘main’ timeline and become part of continuity again like when Grand Admiral Thrawn, a popular character from the books, was added back into the ‘main timeline’ through Star Wars Rebels. Simple as that. The events still happened, just on their own timeline. This doesn’t mean things like the Thrawn Trilogy or Knights of The Old Republic didn’t happen. It just means you get to pick which diverging timelines you want to dip into. Afterall, I read Doctor Who books and I know they’re not canon. Still makes them enjoyable. Just means there’s more to experience.
How about we look at Pokémon? The games have their own universe, same with the various different manga, the anime (you can kinda squeeze the movies in sometimes), and the OVA series. How about Ghost in the Shell? That’s a big one. We got the manga (never fully adapted), the original movie and its sequel Innocence, the Stand Alone Complex series and its movie Solid State Society, the Arise series, and now we got the Scarlet Johansen film coming out next year. Each is their own separate universe (The video games follow whichever series was out at the time). They don’t make the others not exist. They don’t affect the others. Just as this new film won’t affect the other incarnations. It may be good. It may suck. It doesn’t matter because the Ghost in the Shell franchise is so much bigger than one live action movie made by stupid Americans. It’s only one timeline. There are four others. Just like there are multiple live action versions of Spider-Man to chose from. Tom Holland doesn’t suddenly make Tobey Maguire not exist just like Drake Bell or Neil Patrick Harris in the cartoons didn’t make him not exist. He’s still there. Go watch him!
When asked in a 2001 interview once about his books being ruined by the film adaptations, Alan Moore said this: “I suppose that the way I keep all that straight in my head is by keeping this kind of detachment, and by realizing that the film and the book are very different entities. Apparently, someone asked Raymond Chandler once what he thought of Hollywood ruining all of his books. And he took them into his study and pointed up to the shelf where they all were, and he said, “Look, they’re there. They’re fine. They’re okay.” That’s the attitude I have to take. The film hasn’t ruined my book.” He’s right. V For Vendetta the movie is very different from the comic. That doesn’t mean that either is worse for it. The MCU is less an adaptation of the Marvel comics then it is a cherry picking of the best elements from all of Marvel’s universes, specifically the main and Ultimate universes. Bucky works better in a modern film as Cap’s best friend than as his young ward. That doesn’t mean either is bad or one makes the other worse. They’re just different timelines same as the cartoons.
Honestly, at the end of the day remakes and reboots are usually just a way to see more of your favourite characters. At least in anime. In other versions, we know they’re a cash grab anyway so just ignore them. Your favourite film/ show is still there and it’s not going anywhere. Use the relaunch as an opportunity to revisit an old favourite and remind yourself why you like it so much. Now, if the remake is of something that wasn’t that great to begin with like Judge Dredd, go and watch the hell out of it. Who know, it might have taken a crappy movie and made it amazing. For live action adaptations of anime…well you have to take them as they come. After all, for as terrible as Dragon Ball Evolution was, Speed Racer was good. It just depends on how much the people creating it care about the material and presenting it either faithfully or with an understanding of its message or themes like The Shining. The folks at Marvel Studios care about presenting their characters faithfully to the comics or at least getting their spirit right. Warner Bros. does not. But we still have some good films that came out of DC, most of them animated. Go watch that timeline.
Though personally, I prefer my time to be wibbly wobbly. But that’s just me.
Now, I got three Marvel reviews to get done by Wednesday and a review of Fantastic Beasts I’m releasing after I see it tomorrow night. Don’t worry, the Doctor Strange review is on the way and if you’ve been waiting for my review (Why would you do that?), SPOILERS: It’s good. Go watch it.
But first, I still have another ¾ of a season of Assassination Classroom to go!
(Photo via DC Comics)