Archive for September, 2015

Heroes Reborn Reviews… Reborn

Posted: September 30, 2015 in Reviews
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Back in 2006, a friend of mine asked me to review Heroes for his new website. I was a comic book guy, so I guess he figured I was the right man for the job. He bought me the season pass online, so I figured, what the hell? I think I only reviewed all of season I and half of season II, so I guess I wasn’t the right man for the job, after all. However, my reviews did gain some traction when someone on a Heroes message board found them, and was pleased that I posited that Heroes fans needed a name. There were X-Philes and Whovians, so why not Helixers? Unfortunately, I later found out what Helixer means in the Urban Dictionary. Not quite the same, but perhaps fitting.

Anyway, even with my reviews (or perhaps because of them), the show started to lose steam due to the writer’s strike, and eventually went down swinging, eking out four seasons before getting the ax. I wish I still had my reviews, because I don’t remember much about what I said, but I do recall thinking that the show had a lot of potential, but needed to be a little grittier. Maybe it got some teeth in the last couple seasons, but I stopped watching during season II and never really looked back.

Which brings us to this new show, Heroes Reborn, a continuation of the story sans most of the major characters. I watched it last week, and found myself asking several questions, like, “Can this show survive during what is now being called the ‘Golden Age’ of television?” and “Will it hold up now that we have all these other ‘nerdy’ shows like Arrow, Flash, and Agents of Shield?” And, the most important question, “Two hour premiere? Jesus.”

The first episode details what has been happening in the time since the original series ended. Apparently, Claire Bennet, the cheerleader played by Hayden Panettierre who had fast-healing powers, “outed” all the Evos (the new name for people with powers), and everything was awesome, until they decided to stage an Evos/Normal-folk Summit in Odessa, TX, where the Primatech lab that used to experiment on Evos was located, and someone blew the whole place up in a 9/11-style terrorist attack. Not only does this serve as a nice jumping-on point for the new series, but a convenient way to explain the deaths of most of the original characters in one fell-swoop, since they probably weren’t getting stars like Hayden Panettierre back.

Yeah, sorry. I'm busy.

Yeah, sorry. I’m busy.

Claire’s father, Noah (a.k.a. Horn-Rimmed Glasses), one of the few returning vets and who, in my opinion, was the heart and soul of the original, is haunted by that day, but has trouble remembering what exactly happened. He does some digging, and connects with old pal The Haitian, who gives him back his HRG’s and then inexplicably tries to strangle him. Noah fights back and The Haitian is killed in the struggle (so another original bites the dust.) With his dying breath, The Haitian reveals that it was Noah who put the hit out on himself if he ever came looking for answers. This is obviously quite vexing, so Noah continues to dig, and with the help of annoying conspiracy theorist Quentin Frady, returns to the scene of the bombing to find that the underground labs that he used to work in are still active, except that everyone who works there was very-recently shot up by Evo-hating radicals. Noah seems a little non-plussed by the shootings, and instead of helping his dying co-worker, he asks how he can find an Evo named Molly, who has the ability to locate anyone no matter where they are. Noah is a real cuddler.

Meanwhile, Evos are being persecuted all over the country since the bombing, and hapless high school Evo, Tommy, is trying and failing to get the hell out of there. Besides being whupped on by the school bully, Tommy is also being hunted by two nefarious evil-doers who, for reasons as-yet unexplained, want to kill all the “freaks.” When they threaten to shoot the girl Tommy is sweet on in front of him, he teleports them to a weird room, which is just a “place he thinks about when he gets scared,” which just happens to be the underground Primatech lab. They escape, and end up shooting all the dead people that Noah found whilst he was casing the Primatech lab. See, the room was a place that Tommy was taken as a child to be poked and prodded by Primatech scientists when he was discovered to have his weird powers. So it all connects. Sort of.

There are other disparate stories that I am sure will connects eventually. There is a sort of Underground Railroad in East L.A. where Evos can go to get safe passage out of the country. There is an Evo who uses his powers to win at the Craps table, which is pretty much the best use of powers that I can imagine, and he is being cased by Molly, the same Evo that Noah is tracking down. There is a very weird storyline where this girl in Japan can immerse herself in a video game to try and rescue her father. There was a masked Lucha Libre-style Evo who thought he could use his powers to help people like Spider-Man, which would have been a cool idea if they hadn’t killed him off. I am certain it will all be tied together somehow, and we will eventually find out who wants all the Evos dead and why, and it will all be wrapped up with a nice bow on it, but that’s a lot going on for one episode. The real question is; will it matter?

The strength of the original show, and any show, really, is how the characters relate and interact. These characters could be sitting in a bar drinking or working to unravel the great mysteries of the universe, but a show is only as good as the characters. Where the original show faltered, I feel, was an over-reliance on figuring out the whole “Save the cheerleader. Save the world” riddle, and what the helix was, and why Hiro had to look like he was squeezing out a baby (or a dump) when he used his powers, and not enough focusing on who these people really were. Hopefully, this time around they will figure that out.

Push!

Push!

One of the other issues I had with the original, and already have with this one, was that some of the plot points were not that original to me, having been an avid comic reader for most of my life. A lot of the ideas seemed to come right of the pages of my favorite comics, particularly the X-Men. They even had a Days of Future Past-like episode in Season II, and this new episode has people hunting the Evos in much the same way mutants were hunted in several classic X-Men stories, like God Loves, Man Kills. The William Stryker character who was the main villain in X-Men 2, and has since appeared in several X-Movies, first appeared in that critically-acclaimed graphic novel. The point is, now that comics are riding a wave of mainstream popularity thanks to hit TV shows and blockbuster movies, I wonder if other people will recognize some of the storylines that Heroes Reborn will try to pass off as original. Back in 2006 when Heroes debuted, there was no Marvel Cinematic Universe, and us nerd-lings were just starting to come out of the closet, so to speak. Now, everyone knows the stories, so Heroes Reborn will have to work that much harder to tell original stories and not resort to tropes. We shall see if the writers are up to the task.

Probably worth watching, anyway.

Probably worth watching, anyway.

Check out the full season of Heroes Reborn on Amazon by clicking here:

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I should begin by saying I never saw any of the previous Mad Max films, so maybe my opinion is uninformed, at best. However, I feel that every movie should stand on its own and not have to rely on its predecessors to be good. Or at least make sense. In this age of re-boots, re-imaginings, adaptations, prequels, sequels, and generally no original ideas at all, I feel like the pat answer to the statement, “That movie sucked,” is almost always, “Well, you should (see the first one, read the book/comic, watch the TV show, see the original, etc.) The only thing I remember hearing about the original Mad Max franchise was from my beloved grandmother, who saw it, oddly enough, told me that Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome was “all about pig-shit.” I was 9 at the time.

Thirty years later, I saw my first Mad Max movie, the much-bally-hooed Mad Max: Fury Road, and it left me with many, many questions. Perhaps the most important one was “What the Hell was up with this guy?”

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It’s Still Rock n’ Roll To Me!

I went in to this movie hearing a lot about what a giant leap it is for feminism or whatever, because Charlize Theron’s character is basically gender-less (or something. That may not be the real reason people were lauding it, but a movie that features a crazy, masked warlord taking several brides and keeping them in chains doesn’t seem to have many other good things to say on the subject of feminism.), so maybe I was expecting something a tad more cerebral. Basically, it is one long, pointless car chase. And I mean “pointless” in the most literal, direct sense. No point at all. And yet, I can’t in all honesty say that I disliked it because I found myself constantly laughing at the sheer absurdity that was taking place before me. This movie is almost literally a live-action version of a child playing with his toys in his backyard. If the child had a weird thing for suspended guitarists.

I have no problem with action movies that are light on story and heavy on destruction. I love Die Hard. I really like Predator. I even have a soft spot in my heart for the John Travolta/Nicholas Cage blow-’em-up-fest Face/Off. But as silly as it was, even Face/Off had a premise: Cop steals criminal’s face to infiltrate his empire. Needing a face, the criminal then steals the cop’s face and infiltrates his wife. Silly as it is, it is at least something to wrap your head around.

Here’s what IMDB wrote for the premise of Fury Road:

“A woman rebels against a tyrannical ruler in post apocalyptic Australia in search for her homeland with the help of a group of female prisoners, a psychotic worshiper, and a drifter named Max.” 

Wow. That actually makes it sound a lot better. I didn’t get most of that out of watching it. I really and truly just got that they drove a long way and then decided to turn around and drive back. And then dumped water on everybody. Spoiler warning.

Of course, the premise of just the premise, and it doesn’t get into the details, like why they spray-painted each other’s mouths silver, or why Max was even there and imprisoned. or who any of these people were and why we should care. But hey, it had some cool-looking cars.

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I saw Fury Road with my friend and his girlfriend, and being a fan of Mad Max movies, she told me that’s just what they are about. When I said that movie was essentially about nothing, she agreed, and said that’s what they are all like. Bless her heart, she loved it  And I envy that. Part of me wishes I could simply immerse myself in a movie for a couple hours and enjoy it. But there’s another part of me. There’s the part that enjoys movies so much that it hurts to see ones that are as bad as this. A cynical part that would find Fury Road appalling if it weren’t so unintentionally hilarious.

But the question that really will keep me up at night: was it “unintentional,” after all?

And what the Hell was up with this guy?

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The world may never know.