Tridaptation: Y: The Last Man

Y The Last Man
The Source Material

Today marks the inauguration of a brand new column here at Pop Modern, “Tridaptation.” It gives us three writers the chance to not just react to pop culture content, but also to dabble in role-play and wish-fulfillment. Every time this column rolls around, we’ll all focus on a common source material that we love dearly and outline how we’d adapt it to another medium. This week we’re taking a look at Brian K. Vaughn’s Y: The Last Man, a graphic novel series which focuses on what the world would look like if all men on the planet but one suddenly died. Stick with us as each of us takes a crack at turning this epic into a feature length film.

The Adaptations

Allen

Director: Rian Johnson
 
Writer: Joss Whedon
 
Main Cast: Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Yorick Brown (I’d actually prefer a relative unknown actor for this role, but JGL could play the character perfectly), Danai Gurira as Agent 355, Rinko Kikuchi as Dr. Mann.
 
Plot: So, here’s my issue with Y: The Last Man as a film adaptation: it’s composed almost entirely of characters traveling and meeting different people. Because of this, it would work perfectly as a TV series, with each season covering a volume of the comics, or branching out and taking the ideas further. Keep the Dr. Mann/355/Yorick/Amp relationship at the center, absolutely keep Altar and her crazy backstory, and for the love of God, just shoot that final scene exactly as it is in the comic. It could be one of the greatest adventure shows of all time, rivaling Lost with an intricate mystery behind it all, and a story that is actually about the characters from the start.
Pitch: If you tied my hands up and absolutely had to make into a film, stick to the first few issues or so. If you’re in it for the long haul, whoever writes/directs the picture needs to realize that years and years are passing by that aren’t covered in the comics. And most importantly, realize that Yorick was never and can never be a schlubby nerd learning to talk to girls and be a man. This is why I didn’t choose Jay Baruchel or someone younger for the character; Yorick has sexual experience, a gorgeous girlfriend, and decent people skills. The most interesting part of his character is his death wish and inability to lead well and make decisions, not his awkwardness. Levitt can play young, and Whedon can punch up the dialogue with the right amount of humor. Johnson knows how to shoot both action and quiet conversation, so I think this combo would make a perfect Y: The Last Man something, be it TV or film. I just want it to happen so badly, I’ll take anyone competent at this point. Nobody would choose anyone but Gurira for 355 if they’d seen her on The Walking Dead: those characters line up almost perfectly. And Kikuchi as Mann is not only culturally accurate, but I’d also really like to see the young actress get a chance to stretch her acting chops with two other strong presences for such a long journey.
James
Director: Christopher NolanWriter: Jonathan Nolan

Main Cast:  James McAvoy as Yorick, Jennifer Lawrence as Beth, Rashida Jones as Agent 13, & Ampersand as that one monkey from Pirates of the Caribbean

Plot: The plot would involve the main story points of the books, with only minor glimpses at the external plots. The “other Beth” and the astronauts would probably be cut in order to make time for the series. I think the movie could do a Batmanesque trilogy to really capture the series, as one movie might be a little too rushed for the exploration of the themes. We can have character development and still try and keep the last scene, ala Stanley Kubrik.

Pitch: The Nolans know how to work with comic books. Christopher is known for taking independent movie concepts, and turning them into great blockbusters. He and Jonathan could write a killer adaptation of Y:the Last Man, and make a really cool adaptation of the source material. Nolan is also known for humor within dark movies, which is really what Y:the Last Man is: a combination of terrible events with funny interludes.

James McAvoy would be a great Yorick, as he has the right balance of cool guy and loser, which would play into the movie. Plus he isn’t the most beautiful movie actor, which makes him more suitable for the role. Jennifer Lawrence would be a great Beth, as an unexpected non-heroine role would be a revelation for most of the audience. The character is supposed to be somewhat air-headed, which I think Jennifer could play quite well.  Rashida Jones is radically under-appreciated, but I think she could make a great Agent 13, as she proved that she could play a decent action star, even in the movie Wanted.

Magellan

Director: Colin Trevorrow

Writer: Brian K. Vaughn
Main Cast: Andrew Garfield as Yorick Brown, Nicole Beharie as Agent 355, and Rinko Kikuchi as Dr. Allison MannPlot: Open in medias res on the group’s confrontation aboard their train to the Midwest. Tell the events of the first days of the plague and Yorick’s escape from Washington D.C. in flashbacks. Keep everything limited to Yorick’s perspective, finding another way to establish the Israeli stuff. From there, pick the most interesting vignettes to tell (the male astronauts arc, Yorick killing someone for the first time, the Japan arc, and maybe one or two more sequences depending on time constraints).
.
Pitch: As my cohorts here have pointed out, Y: The Last Man would be tricky to adapt into a single film. It’s a series and a concept that begs detailed exploration. Admittedly, the property isn’t nearly popular enough to sustain a series of films, but it would thrive on television (even as a Netflix series or something like that). Still, let’s pretend for a minute (as we’ve already been pretending for several minutes) that we have to stick to feature length. That means the plot is going to have to be truncated to the vignettes that matter most to the overarching plot. Luckily, Y: The Last Man is built to be modular in that way. It’s best to start somewhere in the story where all the characters are together already so as to not waste time in exposition, letting the D.C. and Boston arcs get filled in with dialogue and flashbacks.
As for the cast, I think we here at Pop Modern are all agreed that you need an everyman who plays dopey and charismatic equally well. Ideally every role would be filled in by relative unknowns, but if we’re aiming for a rising star then Andrew Garfield would be perfect. The other two roles were a little harder for me to fill, since there really aren’t enough African-American or Asian-American women working in the industry right now. Still, Beharie and Kikuchi have respectable resumes and would do well. In terms of the writing-directing team, I figure Vaughn may be the best to re-frame his story. He doesn’t even have to script it, necessarily, just offer a plot outline. I picked Trevorrow as director for his work on Safety Not Guaranteed,  a movie which has a similar tonal blend to Y. Plus, the guy’s directing Jurassic World, so he has to have something going for him.
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Silver Screen, Silver Tongue: Wayne’s World is Lackadaisical

Wayne's WorldBy Magellan

About the Film

Year: 1992
Cast: Mike Meyers, Dana Carvey, Rob Lowe, Tia Carrere
Director: Penelope Spheeris
Rotten Tomatoes: 85%

About the Word

Definition: lack·a·dai·si·cal  [lak-uh-dey-zi-kuhl] adj. – without interest, vigor, or determination; listless; lethargic

The Review

I tend to skew fairly positive with this column, to the point where I annoy myself at times at how easily I fall into the trap of blindly praising a film for its obvious merits. In a way, I think that’s because it’s simply more fun to be positive, to find things to love in the world rather than critique.

The word “lackadaisical,” then, could portend a sea-change for Silver Screen, Silver Tongue, given its neutral-to-negative connotation. One could use the word as an indictment against Wayne’s World, a movie which glorifies the slacker mentality to an unhealthy degree. And, certainly, there were times watching this movie (revisiting it after several years) when I was underwhelmed by it, to the point that I could have easily scoffed and called the whole effort “lazy.” Many of the jokes are meaningless sight gags or references (the random room full of training men in the donut shop and the Terminator cop who pulls Wayne over, to name only two of many) that do nothing to advance the plot or investigate the characters. What few female characters presented here are either “Babraham Lincoln”s or “psycho hose beast”s. Rob Lowe’s character from the first scene of the movie to the last is nothing but pure, snake-oil evil.

And yet, I love Wayne’s World, so I’m going to steer this review towards a Mega Happy Ending (or a Scooby Doo Ending, depending on how things go). After all, this is an SNL spin-off from 1992. If I wanted meaningful storytelling or nuance, I came to the wrong place. So really, to call this film lackadaisical would seem to miss the point: that it’s just a comedy movie meant to tide you over for an hour and a half and squeeze out a couple of laughs. Then, why do I insist on using that word? Why do I insist on condensing this film down to one word that roughly translates to “lazy?”

It goes beyond the fact that Wayne and Garth are slacker supermen, the likes of which hadn’t been seen to such dazzling effect since Bill & Ted had their excellent adventure. It goes beyond the fact that the “Fight the Man” message is so overwrought and cheesy. It goes beyond the fact that our protagonists can just speak into camera or learn Cantonese whenever they need to in order to drive the plot. The beauty of Wayne’s World is that it makes no effort to put on airs; it makes no effort to be something that it’s not. It does so little to separate itself from the slang, the music, and the social mindsets of its time that in so doing it becomes timeless. It becomes a loving, immaculate capsule of everything that was suburban 1992.

From the very first scene, Wayne’s World takes a firm stance (or whatever you call the opposite of firm stance that still makes a point) in its timeliness. We open on a couple lying in bed, watching TV, flipping through commercials. They pass by everything you would expect: an ad for an arcade with Sonic the Hedgehog playing in the background, an ad for Chia Pets, and an ad for the ubiquitous Clapper. Immediately after these, the woman on the bed flips to Wayne’s World, the show within the movie, with a look of utter glee. Here the film is planting itself firmly in the canon of early-90s culture. Hell, they even make a reference to a Grey Poupon mustard commercial within the first act.

Perhaps it isn’t much of a stretch or even much of a headstrong move, since by this time people were well-aware of the SNL sketches and were quoting them left and right. The catchphrases that cycle throughout Wayne’s World (“Chyeah,” “No Way! Way!”, and of course “Schwing!”) had already permeated the parlance of the time. This movie is nothing but an affirmation of that.

I feel like I still haven’t communicated what I’m trying to get at here: this movie is “lackadaisical” in that it opens with a pre-existing reputation for its characters. It has brought in an audience which is already familiar with who they will be dealing with, and then proceeds to give the audience those exact characters, unchanged, throughout the movie. It doesn’t expect the audience to criticize it for this move, or even care. It’s a hell of a triumph, to string people along through a largely pointless joke-fest like this and still be regarded as a time-honored classic. That’s the subversive beauty of Wayne’s World: decrying, on its surface, artistic bankruptcy and corporate monotony, while itself being nothing more than a repackaging of old jokes and an extension of the entertainment juggernaut that is SNL.

Am I giving Wayne’s World too much credit? Of course I am. Like I said, it’s more fun to see the beauty and the positive in things. Some people may view this film as lazy and trite, but I view it as lackadaisical. It’s possessed of a sort of laziness that belies mental acuity. It’s the kind of laziness that isn’t these performers’ (at least, not Dana Carvey’s) ground state. If you still don’t buy what I’m selling here, let me sum it up in two quotes from Garth and two from “Bohemian Rhapsody.”

I’ll start with Garth. He offers two great moments of wisdom in this film, the first being at the beginning when Wayne is looking in on a guitar he wants to buy. Garth proclaims “Stop torturing yourself, man, you’ll never afford it! Live in the now!” That may seem vapid on paper, but it’s the emotional heart of the movie. It’s the reason everything is so stuck in its time. That quote epitomizes how Wayne’s World manages to turn the tragic flaw of many great films (looking dated) into its cardinal virtue.

Another one from Garth, which requires you to hear his tone, is when he and Wayne are lying on the hood of the car at the airport and he says “Sometimes I wish I could boldly go where no man’s gone before, but I’ll probably stay in Aurora.” Mind you, there isn’t a lick of sadness or defeat in that statement. Instead, it’s a pitch-perfect representation of suburban contentedness, the kind of blissful ignorance that petrifies song upstart intellectuals and drives them to the metropolis. Here, though, that fatalist fear of being stuck in a rut is humanized in the form of our protagonists. We’re shown that knowing who you are and not bothering to change can be a beautiful thing.

I promised a little Queen, and I’ll deliver. Now, most people may just think of the headbanging “Bohemian Rhapsody” scene as a fun moment that doesn’t have much substance. For me, though, that moment is the true introduction of the film’s thesis. By invoking the innocence and enthusiasm of its main characters, Wayne’s World takes the tragedy of “Bohemian Rhapsody” and reinterprets it, turning it into a ballad for the slacker, a glorification of being of the time and in the moment, and refusing to go above and beyond for any reason. Much like this article, it is a moment that pushes aside the negative in an almost comical search for positivity. The two lines that stuck out to me the most were when Mercury sings “Easy come, easy go,” and “Nothing really matters to me.” In the song proper, both of these moments are profoundly sad and defeatist, but when Wayne and Garth sing them with bright eyes and wide smiles, you can’t help but feel happy to just not give a damn about anything.

As the credits roll, Wayne and Garth reappear on screen, and Wayne says “Well, that’s all the time we had for our movie. We hope you found it entertaining, whimsical and yet relevant, with an underlying revisionist conceit that belied the films emotional attachments to the subject matter,” to which Garth responds “I just hoped you didn’t think it sucked.” There’s really no better way to say it than that. Wayne’s World is lackadaisical.

Monday Match-Ups: Sauron vs. Darth Sidious

Lawn Bowling

The Setup:

We’ve all had the lunchtime conversations about despotism in fantasy lands. Who would win the fight, Sauron or Darth Sidious? We at Pop-Modern are the trendsetting few who think further ahead. Sure, it would be fun to see the devastation of the planet known as Middle Earth by a re-rebuilt Death Star (note: Abrams- you can take this idea to the bank, just put as in the credits), but wouldn’t it be more exciting to watch these despots battle for title of lawn bowling? That’s what we explore here today in the never before explored lawn bowling duel between Sauron, Dark Lord, and Darth Sidious, Lord of the Sith.

 

The Contenders:

Sauron: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sauron

Darth Sidious: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Darth_Sidious

 

The Verdicts:

Allen: It doesn’t get more Anglican than lawn bowling. Similar to shuffleboard, it’s all about getting as close as possible to your target using a thrown, weighted ball. Now let’s take a look at our challengers. Sauron, the titular Lord of the Rings, has identity issues. Once a human for many years, he eventually abandoned his human form and took up the infamous Eye of Sauron form that he presents himself as in Tolkien’s epic novels. He can possess people probably, he can most likely, I dunno, squint really hard and move mountains, and, most importantly, he can roll a mean seven-ten split. His bowling skills were only elucidated in specific editions of The Silmarillion, but hitting pins does not a good lawn bowler make. Sidious also changed forms throughout his time as the Skywalker’s “creepy uncle who also wants to make us commit genocide” role, cliche as it is. His power is influence over anything else, despite what those damn video games will tell you about “Force Lightning” and “Force Choke” and “Improved Bonus to Lightsaber Crits”. With lawn bowling being a team sport, Sidious has got the motivation and pep to get his fellow bowlers on point. If we’re assuming this is human Sauron, all he can do is raise an undead army and command them to take over some land or something. Oh, and did I mention that Sidious can just use the damn Force to weigh the ball down right next to the jack? Oh, I didn’t? Oh, I’m sorry. I couldn’t you over the sound of Midichlorians not existing.\

Magellan: For this puzzler of a Monday Match-Up (would we have it any other way?) I’m going to make three key assumptions: First, I’m going to go ahead and say that “lawn bowling” is synonymous with “bocce,” if only because “bocce” is much more fun to say and sounds like the kind of game that two diabolical, older entities would play together. Second, I’m assuming that, however much it goes against character logic and the general rules of war (or lack thereof) that govern the Dark Side, Sidious has agreed not to employ the Force to give himself an advantage. That’s the only way we can make this contest fair, since any game that relies solely on physics would be irreparably broken by so much as a well-timed wrist-flick from the chubbiest Youngling, even with one of those glorified colanders they call training helmets on their head. Third, I’m taking it as given that Sauron isn’t manifesting as a fifty-foot fiery cat eye, but rather as the armored dude from the beginning of Fellowship. And therein lies the crux of my argument. Sure, Sauron has the strength and the precision to make some great shots at the pallino (another fun “bocce”-related word), but he just doesn’t have the maneuverability necessary to make some of the tricky finesse shots that will send Sidious over the top. You’ve got to admit, even with the pounds of skin that constituted Sidious’s eye brow region, he always looked nothing if not comfortable. He probably wasn’t even wearing anything under that robe.

Jim: The interesting thing about this scenario seems to be the issue of whether Sauron is a fiery eye, or a somewhat less immolated death king. I for one choose to believe that Sauron couldn’t bowl as such, as one eye would severely lack any kind of depth perception. Instead, I think that the contenders are an old politician, and a healthy, immortal death angel. Let’s face the facts. Politicians don’t make the best sportsmen. We’ve all seen Barack Obama playing basketball, and it is rumored that he only ran for president after the WNBA kicked him out due to his “uninteresting ball –play”. Could Sidious really do all that much better in bowling? Sure the death star probably has a bowling arena, but judging from the hunch in his step, Sidious wouldn’t even be able to pick up a 10 pound ball without seeing his local Twilek chiropractor. Besides, what with ruling over a galactic empire, Sidious hasn’t had much down time since he looked slightly less wrinkly. Sauron on the other hand looks stronger than Sidious’s brow furrows. Sure, his precision might have been dulled by using a gigantic mace for years, but what with lugging around a set of armor for millennia, and bench-pressing Oliphants, he could just throw boulders down the lane and crush people. Magic ring or not, this fallen angel looks like he’s fallen into the history books. Sauron wins lawn bowling, no contest.

 

The Results:

 

Darth Sidious wins 2-1

 

In a radical turn of events, the wrinkly old politician wins again. Nobody could have seen that coming since the 2000 presidential election. Political Comedy. Join us next time for some more cutting edge fan fiction.

 

 

Flix Fix: The Generality of Genres

In bruges

by James

When I was trying to recommend the film In Bruges to my brother, I came across some problems. The conversation ran something like this: “Jake,” (my brother’s name is Jake) “you should really check out this film. It’s like a dark comedy, but it isn’t really a funny movie, and it has some action parts, but it really isn’t an action movie, and there is some drama, but it isn’t like a real dramatic movie. Umm. It’s about Bruges. No really, you should check it out.”

When I try to talk about a film, the first thing that comes to mind is the genre. Inevitably, the first words out of my mouth are “It’s a horror movie,” or “It’s an action movie.” The human mind naturally categorizes things into a collection. The easiest way to describe something new is to start with something old. Only after the category is established does the explanation come out. “It’s a horror movie, but the serial killer is a puppet.” “It’s an adventure movie, but the main character is actually a cyborg dog. How awesome is that?” For the most part, these films are easily categorized. Hollywood knows what the markets are looking for, and tend to produce to the specifications. People want comedies? Give them a wacky setup, and send Kevin James in. People want a horror movie? Send in the teenagers and give somebody a knife and a mask. Most movies fit into this category, but from time to time, there comes a movie that doesn’t really fit into this mold.

Some of the most innovative movies are the ones that lack the boundaries imposed by genres. Adaptation, my favorite movie, is an example of a movie whose value increases due to its lack of restrictions. Adaptation is a movie about a man trying to adapt a screenplay. There is comedy, but the movie isn’t a comedy. There is drama, but the movie isn’t a drama. There is crime, but the movie is not a crime movie. The idea behind the movie is simple, but the writing by Charlie Kauffman brings out a complex look at the nature of change in many different forms. If it was forced into having more drama, or more crime, or comedy, the tone of the movie would change substantially. The focus would no longer rest on the ideas that the movie tries to convey, but instead the attention would be drawn away by the tropes of the genre.

I’m not saying that movies that are easily classified are bad. I enjoy watching comedies and action movies. However, the movies that stay with me are movies that contain ideas. Oftentimes, movies are so filled with tropes that there is little time for innovation. Was Lockout a fun movie? Of course it was, but I will never remember the movie as more than what it was: an action movie set in space.

Of course there will always be conventional Hollywood standbys. People will watch, and people will enjoy. Those are tried and true classic methods, and there is no reason to change it. But when I am looking for a movie to really speak to me, I’ll be looking for the film that nobody can describe.

Monday Match-Ups: Gandalf vs. Magneto

Magneeto-Gandalf

The Setup

Ian McKellen is a wonderfully diverse actor. His most famous roles include Gandalf, and Magneto, radically different characters. One is a grey haired wizard with mystical powers, while the other is a grey haired mutant with mystical powers. But what if these two characters were to battle each other in the field of battle? And by field of battle of course we mean chess.

The Contenders

Gandalf: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gandalf
Magneto: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magneto_(comics)

The Verdicts

Allen: There’s something inherently cerebral about a good game of chess. When both players are at the top of their game, and are able to predict each other’s moves several steps ahead, chess is incredible to watch. With two intellectual giants like Gandfalf (we’re assuming this is Gandalf the White right now) and The Brotherhood of Mutants’ leader Magneto, we need to decide how much their powers are allowed to interfere in the game. If it’s just a pure mental battle, Magneto has to take the win. I mean, the guy had to wear a metal helmet just to keep his thoughts from being psychically probed for info. You know there’s something special up there if that’s the case. Gandalf has the heart and soul, and he’s clearly a clever wizard, but chess isn’t about keeping your little hobbit friends alive in danger and defeating monsters. It’s a mental game, and nobody has the fortitude and mental alacrity that it takes to crush their opponent in chess like Max Eisenhart. Put that in your pipe and smoke it, Wizard Dude! BROTHERHOOD FOR LIFE!

Magellan: You’d think that a match-up which takes two incredibly powerful beings (a wizard and a super-powered mutant) and puts them in a situation where their awesome abilities mean absolute jack would be boring. But, such is not the case when talking about a Monday Match-Up. After all, while both of these men have stunning powers that could destroy a mere man in seconds, they also are both extremely mentally capable, with Gandalf nicely falling into the role of the wizened wizard sage, and Magneto as a charismatic intellectual and crusader for minority rights. This is not a simple decision to make, as both men have their advantages and strategic know-how. Magneto, for sure, is a leader of men (or mutants, I suppose), and we’ve seen him play chess numerous times onscreen before, so we know that he’s skilled at the game itself. However, and this goes against all my mutant-loving, X-Men fanboy instincts, Gandalf’s encounter with Balrog shows that he knows how to make a well-timed sacrifice and come back much stronger. So, despite Magneto’s superior experience with the game, I think Gandalf is enough of a wildcard strategy-wise to tip the scales.

James: When it comes down to it, chess is a game about taking definitive actions. Every move must be carefully plan, and all options measured and weighed. Gandalf just doesn’t have the edge in this. Sure, he is a wise wizard, but while he is manipulative, he doesn’t plan very well. Magneto is a mutant who is well versed in manipulation, and his plans are only foiled by an entire team of mutants getting lucky. The man is a master tactician who clearly enjoys playing chess against one of the greatest telepaths on earth. So why does he still win? Simple.  Magneto is a super mutant who plays chess like a master.  And in any case, if he uses the metal chessboard that he did in X-Men : The Last Stand, he can just swap the pieces while Gandalf isn’t looking. He isn’t above that.  Dirty rotten mutants.

The Results

Magneto wins 2-1

In the epic game of the century, two fictional characters drew the crowd of the century. The stakes were high, but in the end only one wizened character remained. Now Ian McKellen can go back to doing what he does best: hanging out with Patrick Stewart.