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Which Franchises Still Excite, Which Are Played Out?

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hansoloshrug-590x330 or fjb1FWkrth4xNow is the era of the franchise, and it’s all Star Wars’ fault. Seriously. Since Star Wars and its epic merchandising campaign, successful movie franchises have been Hollywood’s billion dollar octuplets: Marvel, DC, Star Trek, Resident Evil, Fast and Furious, Nightmare on Elm Street, etc. Every studio desperately seeks that golden ticket to boundless revenue. To be fair, some of these film franchises have a lot of life left in them, while others could use a little nap—maybe even a permanent one.

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Carry On

Star Wars

I know what many of you are thinking, because I’m thinking it too: the prequels caused a great deal of trepidation for Star Wars fans towards new film projects. Nonetheless, the J.J. Abrams reboot has caused my heart to swell with a new hope for the first time in over a decade. I wait with baited breath for “The Force Awakens” and its potential to reinvigorate the saga. From there, it’s anyone’s guess. But if Disney (and I can’t believe I’m saying this) can actually pull this off, we could be looking at an exciting new chapter in the Star Wars universe. I’m especially intrigued by the concept of standalone films—films like “Rogue One” which has little to do with the Skywalker clan, but exist in the broader Star Wars universe.

Exception: If Jar Jar Binks has anything to do with the new films, I’m out.

Hellraiser

I understand that at least 75 percent of this once innovative series have been utter turkeys, but hear me out. If the rumors are true, and Mr. Barker is exploring a renovated “Hellraiser,” it would definitely pique my interests. After all, it was his twisted vision from the “The Hellbound Heart” (check) that got the ball-gag, er, ball rolling in the first place. Imagine what he has in mind after another couple decades of creative thought and retrospective (after all, isn’t that all creativity sadomasochistic to a degree?). If there’s anyone who can reinvigorate this once-epic and twisted horror series, it’s the man once hailed as the “future of horror.”

Exception: Any sign of a cellphone-head cenobite, Google-glasses cenobite, or Instagram-selfie cenobite, and I walk.

Mad Max

“Beyond The Thunderdome” and its pseudo-religious overtones effectively killed the series. However, 20-plus years later, “Mad Max: Fury Road” has not only revived the story arc, but garnered critical praise for its innovative visual storytelling and unflinching cinematic look at our bleak, not-so-distant future. Similar to what the Star Wars and Poltergeist remakes are attempting, if the Mad Max franchise can hack away the sequel bloat and bring the stories back to their raw action and fun characters, there are a lot of directions that director Miller can explore.

Exception: As much as I enjoy Tina Turner, the Thunderdome must never be revisited.

Ghostbusters

It’s easy to imagine the initial shock of many fans when the casting news was announced: “Lady Ghostbusters?” And while I admit I was somewhat disappointed by the lack of original cast members, the idea of recasting the series with women struck a chord. The more I spin the actors through a mental centrifuge, the more promising it looks: Melissa McCarthy could be a good Ackroyd foil. I could definitely see Kristen Wiig in the Bill Murray spot. Leslie Jones would make a great Harold Ramis stand in (if only Hollywood was that unpredictable). And, Kate McKinnon could fill Ernie Hudson’s shoes nicely (once again, if only…). Assuming the filmmakers don’t forsake too much funny for scary, which would be a waste with this terrific comedic cast, the remake could revamp the Ghostbusters saga.

Exception: Unless the male GB reboot takes place in some mirror universe, seems like too many toes will get stepped on. That, and Channing Tatum isn’t scraggly enough to be a Ghostbuster.

Honorable Mentions: Nightmare on Elm Street (excluding the remake), The Avengers (with more lady Avengers), Justice League (Guillermo Del Toro!), Gremlins (wishful thinking), Wonder Woman (see lady Avengers).

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Take a Bow

Batman

Sorry DC, I know things are going well with “Gotham” after some initial hiccups, but as far as the Caped Crusader’s film career goes, it might be time to hang up the cowl after Christopher Nolan wraps up his series. I’ve always enjoyed the Dark Knight, but most of his best story lines have been run. It will be interesting to see what “Suicide Squad” brings to the table, but Batman himself could use a little cinematic down time. Don’t worry, though, bat-fans. As the second-highest grossing superhero series, it’s likely the Bat won’t be going anywhere.

Exception: If someone puts together the definitive cast and script for Frank Miller’s “The Dark Knight Returns.”

Friday the 13th

Don’t get me wrong. I love a little hack and slash, T ’n A-laden, gory fun once in a while. The trouble with this long in the tooth horror series is it just doesn’t have much steam left in it. Now I’ll admit, I’d love to see the 13th film in the series made properly with a good budget, practical effects, and a massive body count. However, even since the remake, which made good use of Jared Padalecki, the franchise is still tricking off the same pony. And yes, of course it still makes money. That’s why they’re still squeezing the moisture out of this horror rock. But the time has come to say goodnight to Jason Voorhees—at least until they figure out how to send him to medieval times.

Exception: Assuming someone can whip up a good script, I’d personally reattach the IV for “Freddy vs. Jason vs. Ash.” No foolin’.

Star Trek

Hold your knee-jerk reactions, Trekkers. This isn’t a Star Wars vs. Star Trek thing at all. I was as excited and curious as everyone else when the J.J. Abrams’ rechristening was announced. In all honesty, I really enjoyed the alternate “Star Trek” universe. However, as was evident with both the first film and “Into Darkness,” the new Star Trek films are really more popcorn entertainment—more like “Star Wars.” For me, what made the series a cut above the rest was its thought-provoking nature. Perhaps action is what the series needs to survive in the 21st (or 23rd) Century. Yet, as enjoyable as the alternate universe is (and yes, I caught the sociopolitical message behind Khan), they’ve lost some of the intellectual edge which made the Star Trek great. That and I don’t want to see a sequel where the whales have become Romulan agents hell-bent on destroying the Earth or some goofy crap like that.

Exception: Bring the series back to its brainy roots without losing the action, and you’ve got a deal.

Fast and Furious

Of course, I’d be the first to admit I’m not a racing fan. Watching things go around in circles or in straight lines was always akin to nap time for me. Still, I can certainly appreciate car culture and the adrenaline rush of speed and danger (for the driver). Of course, without Paul Walker, the series probably should end as such, but we all know how relatively little class Hollywood has when there’s money to be made. Studio execs are also really good at making the same film over and over again. How they manage to do this seven times in a row and continue to do brisk business is a shocker (oh wait, that doesn’t surprise me at all). Whether or not the studio had another couple of these street racing gems lined up or not, with respect to Walker and to general sensibilities, it’s time to put this franchise to bed.

Exception: If they filmed a sequel that further explored the obvious homoeroticism within the series–now that would be a whole different series.

Honorable Mentions: X-Men (they saved the future and the past—we’re all good now), Halloween (see Friday the 13th), Scary Movie (dead horse), James Bond (gritty realism can’t save you now, Mr. Bond. Well, actually it did, but…), Superman, Silent Hill, Twilight (please, in the name of all that’s not sucky).

With a Creative Writing degree in one hand and an endless curiosity in the other, Andy dabbles in many creative fields. He's published blog posts, articles, hotel copy, fiction, and poetry professionally. Currently he dwells in Austin, TX, with his brilliant and understanding fiancee, Kim.

Gaming

Ten million people play The First Descendant in its first week

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The free-to-play shooter The First Descendant has gotten a lot of attention in its first week. The game’s publisher, Nexon, says that 10 million people have already tried it out.

Insider Gaming pointed out that since there is no cost up front, it’s still too early to tell how many of those players will stick around, but it’s still a big number for a new IP. On Steam alone, it peaked at 264,860 concurrents right after launch and has still managed to break 200,000 in the last 24 hours, so it looks like a lot of people are still really into the game.

It was a “mindless and repetitive grind,” and we gave The First Descendant a 3/10 in our review. Of course, that’s just one opinion; other experts have had different ones. Most people, though, say that the game’s annoying free-to-play model is the worst thing about it.

Are you one of the millions of people who played The First Descendant last week? Are you going to come back for more? Leave a comment below and let us know.

 

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Geek Culture

The trailer for Gladiator II looks great, but is any of it true? What Did The Experts Say?

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The trailer for Gladiator II by Ridley Scott is now out, and it looks like it will be the best movie ever. If you liked the first movie, you’ll probably love the new one, which has a lot of big names in it and shows epic duels, scary Colosseum battles, and hints of political intrigue. But, as with all Hollywood historical epics, you might wonder how much of what is shown is based on real events and how much is just made up for fun.

When we had questions, we asked the Bad Ancient team what they thought about the fun, the fantasy, and the facts.

What’s the movie about?
The new Gladiator movie picks up 25 years after the first one. Paul Mescal plays Lucius Verus II, the boy from the original story and Lucilla’s son. The trailer starts with him talking about the deadly duel between Emperor Commodus (Joaquin Phoenix) and Maximus Decimus Meridius, a gladiator and fallen general.

It looks like Lucius is living in exile in Numidia, which is in northwest Africa. A few years after this incident, the Roman army captures him and forces him to compete as a gladiator. Lucius wants to overthrow the Roman government and end all forms of slavery, of course.

Later, Lucius fights the made-up General Marcus Acacius (Pedro Pascal), who also seems to have doubts about the Roman Empire’s needless killing. In the trailer, we learn more about characters like Macrinus (Denzel Washington), a power broker who likes gladiators, and Geta and Caracalla, two brother emperors who look cruel and spoiled and are played by Joseph Quinn and Fred Hechinger, respectively.

There are hints of exciting scenes in the trailer, like a gladiator riding a rhino and a fake naval battle in a flooded Colosseum with boats and sharks that eat people. There are also hints of politics and mystery.

A lot of it. It’s fun, but is it really true?

First, what did you think of the trailer?
Dr. Jo Ball (JB), an archaeologist who studies Roman war and conflict: I was really looking forward to seeing the trailer for the new Gladiator II movie, and it did not let me down. It looked like it would be a great visual feast, with hopefully some good history thrown in. I’m especially interested in seeing how Pedro Pascal’s character, Marcus Acacius, fits into the story. From the trailer, he seems to be coming to protest the endless conquests of Rome and the lives it took, and he seems to be getting in trouble for his views. I think this could be an interesting way to connect this to the main gladiator theme.

 

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Alex Sills (AS), a graduate student at the University of Leicester: The sheer spectacle of it looks like it will be even better than the first movie. I can’t wait to see what 24 years of CGI progress can do for a Roman arena. Also, I’m interested to see how the movie handles the fact that the Republic hasn’t been brought back. Maximus gave up his life for that reason in the first movie. Will Lucius finish the job? We know that emperors ruled for hundreds of years, so it’s not likely. However, it will be interesting to see if the political aspect is kept up or dropped in favor of a story about revenge between two people.

This is Dr. Owen Rees (OR), founder and chief editor of Bad Ancient: I love the first Gladiator movie so much that my first thought was, “Why?!?” Why is there a second part? But when I saw the cityscape of Rome on the screen, that reaction went away, and I became interested in what I was seeing. The glory of Rome, the desire for a quiet life away from the center of power, and the idea of “the Republic” are all themes that were introduced in the first movie. I can’t wait to see how they connect these to the second one.

Did anything stand out right away as being right or wrong or not making sense?
JB: Paul Mescal’s Lucius seems to have become a gladiator after being captured during a violent conquest of Numidia in northwest Africa. However, this area had been a part of the Roman world for hundreds of years by the time the movie takes place, and it’s hard to imagine scenes like the ones in the trailer happening during the time of the movie’s setting, when Severus reorganized the region’s government.

Some parts of the dress don’t seem right, like the wristbands that everyone with a sword seems to have to wear! The accents are an interesting mix, but I actually quite like this, as it is a useful reminder that the “Romans” were not a homogenous population but came from an empire that stretched from Britain across Europe, the Near East, and northern Africa—why people would be expected to have the same accents is beyond me (and even if they did, a modern American accent is no less accurate a representation than a classic British one!).

AS: No one is without a top! They didn’t wear anything to protect their torsos because that would have been too easy of a fight. Also, Pedro and Paul should have shields with them, since that’s what gladiators did instead of chest armor. It’s cool that the shield could be used offensively, almost like a second weapon. Having both arms in the fight makes it more interesting. Of course, movie stars shouldn’t have to wear helmets that cover their faces, but these guys should be able to show a lot of chest. I’m sure a lot of people in the theater would also not mind…

Is there something wrong with how the two emperors are portrayed?
Basically, Caracalla and Geta are portrayed in a rather odd way. They seem to fit the stereotypes of Nero and Caligula more than they do the real Severans. Also, they stand out because they are so pale. Both brothers were born in Syria and Libya.

In Roman times, there were a lot of people of color. It’s not fair to make emperors with darker skin look lighter. I’m happy to see Denzel Washington in the cast, though, because his character sounds really interesting.

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OR: They look like a cliché of many “bad emperors” rolled into one. It’s interesting that they chose to cast actors who are so pale these days. But we’ll see how their characters are developed when the movie comes out. You can’t judge it based on a few seconds in an ad!

When it was full of water, did the Colosseum ever host battles on the water?
JB: Yes, naumachiae were popular and spectacular shows put on to entertain the people of Rome on special occasions. They were very expensive and hard to set up. Early Roman emperors put on Naumachiae, but until Nero’s time, they didn’t happen in amphitheaters. Instead, they happened on lakes or in specially built basins. The Colosseum was a special place for naumachiae, and one was even held at its opening in 80 AD, during the reign of Titus the Great. But we don’t know how they filled the arena with water for the battle; it was probably done to the lowest level possible so the ships could float!

But Paul Mescal’s character wouldn’t have fought in Naumachiae. The Romans didn’t use trained (read: expensive) gladiators. Instead, they used prisoners of war and criminals who had been sentenced to death. This suggests that very few, if any, were expected to survive. It’s also important to note that the naumachia of Claudius on the Fucine Lake was the only time that people were heard saying, “We who are about to die salute you.” The gladiators didn’t need to say this.

What if gladiators had fought rhinos or sharks instead?
JB: Roman audiences liked new things in their beast shows, and there weren’t many animals that they wouldn’t put in the arena. In fact, it was a big business to get animals for these kinds of shows, and the more exotic the animals, the better. The animals didn’t even have to be very dangerous; as long as they were different, they were included. Giraffes were shown with “classic” wild animals like lions and bears.

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: Gladiators always fought other gladiators. On the other hand, there were people in the arena who fought animals or hunted them. These people were called devas and bestiarii.

Rhinos were shown off in Rome—that much we know. I think Pompey Magnus was the first person to bring one in. One was brought in so that the emperor Commodus (Joaquin Phoenix in the first movie) could kill it himself in the Colosseum. He did this by shooting it with arrows from a platform, so he was never in any danger.

When it comes to sharks, we’re getting into fantasy land. The Romans got very good at catching and moving all kinds of wild animals, especially from Africa. But they couldn’t catch sharks, bring them to Rome, or put them somewhere safe before the Games. But if they had been able to, they would have thought it would have been awesome, so maybe this is dead guys’ movie wish fulfillment.

OR: There were animals in the arena, but the gladiators who fought were not the same ones. We use the word “gladiator” to describe too few of the people the Romans had in the arena.

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Gaming

Raiden, the famous shmup series, will come back as a twin-stick shooter on PS5, PS4, and PC

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Raiden has a long and interesting history as a vertical shooter in arcades. However, the series is going to get a Super Stardust HD makeover, which means it will switch to a twin-stick format. It comes out in Japan on October 31. There’s no word yet on when it will come out in the West, but we wouldn’t be surprised if it did.

A Gematsu translation of the game’s website says that the full version will have an arcade mode with up to six stages. There will also be an “Unlimited” option for people who want to be at the top of the rankings. It sounds like a pretty straightforward package in terms of what’s inside, but we think the action will be what makes it worth it.

There’s a trailer up top that should help you figure out what to expect. There are, however, different versions of Raiden 3, Raiden 4, and Raiden 5 that you can play right now on the PS5 and PS4, if you can’t wait for this game to come out in the West.

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