Episode 90: The Gobots of the Munsters

The Overthinkers tackle movie gimmicks, 3D, and Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland.

Matthew Wrather hosts with Matthew Belinkie, Peter Fenzel, Josh McNeil and John Perich—several of them, for the first time, in one room—to overthink movie gimmicks, 3D, Alice in Wonderland, aspect ratios, backstory, and rebooting the universe.

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16 Comments on “Episode 90: The Gobots of the Munsters”

  1. Oolf #

    This was underthinking the movie, really bad.


  2. RiderIon #

    I used to play the Marvel and DC CCG called Versus and one of the cards was called Special Delivery. It featured the answer to your question of what happens when the Unstoppable Force meets the Immovable Object. The Earth underneath the Blob moves.


  3. Bob #

    I literally LOL’d when I heard the ‘Gobots of the Munsters’ phrase.

    My Tim Burton thoughts – I would rather see him do something original, I think that is where he shines the most. But if he decides to do the Addams Family, I would like to see his view. I wish more people ‘Burtoned’ movies.

    Burtoned – v. To take a previously filmed movie and wash it over like you were on an LSD trip.


  4. Edvamp #

    I am surprised at some of the examples missed for the question at the beginning:

    Actor dies before movie released – You mention Bruce Lee but forget his son, Brandon Lee who died on the set of the Crow.

    Pointless female in action movie – Erika Eleniak’s stripper character in the original Under Siege.

    Re: Comic book characters. The screwing with Wolverine started long before the movie. Wolverine has had his mind erased and re-programmed more than any other character in history. As he changed writers and editors they would keep adding more and more crap to his story so that if they wanted to change it again they would just pop in a false memory. It wasn’t until Weapon X and Origin that had any real history on him years before the movie.

    As for the Joker’s ‘origins’ in Dark Knight, that was also from the comics, as Joker himself does not remember his actual origins, so he prefers it to be multiple choice.

    In Juggernaut vs Blob I agree with Rider in that the Blob attaches himself to the ground at his feet, so the Juggernaut would simply move the Blob and the earth underneath him. Why? Cos he’s the Juggernaut, bitch.


  5. Gab #

    Useless Women in Action Movies: No matter how much you hate it (and I don’t, btw), the third _Die Hard_ movie didn’t stoop that low.

    @EdVamp: I’m going to have to contest your comment a bit with regards to Wolverine and The Joker. For both characters, every time a new author was making a story that could or would include origins, they gave it their own spin an take- which we agree on. But, even just looking at the Wiki page for the Joker, for example, while it says he himself may not remember precisely what happened, it’s also understood in the world each author creates that others around him *do* remember- that he fell into a big vat of something and was mutated a bit by it (in the comics, various television series and animated movies, and the original Burton film- Nolan’s is the exception). I’m not saying you’re *wrong*, per say, though, just that there is a bit more to it than just the Joker himself’s own memories. You’re right about Wolverine being tossed around, too, but I’d add there that while Weapon X may seem to have given a good foundation for him, give it time and another author will come up with something new- that’s just kind of how the world of comic books seem to operate, at least in my observations. Granted, I haven’t read every single comic evar, but still, the most known and appreciated characters get re-vamped the most; and Wolverine and Batman are at the top of the list (which is interesting and kind of cool, since the former is DC and the latter is Marvel). (Tell me you’v seen videos on YouTube by ItsJustSomeRandomGuy…?) And I’m not saying that to sound cynical- a “difinitive” text to give him and origin myth isn’t necessary.

    And about comic origin stories, but more directly related to the podcast: The notion that there is a fanbase unwilling to accept something completely divergent is probably pretty sound, but I’d argue that a lot of the media comic characters get revamped in are similar to movies and that it doesn’t necessarily come ONLY from a desire for profit. A graphic novel, like _The Dark Knight Returns_, or an animated feature film (like, say, _Mask of the Phantasm_) also needs its own story because its intent is to be capable of standing alone (and those two examples each had very different spins on how Bruce became the Batman, the only similar thread being that his parents were murdered- how and when he found the cave and bats, even his first night as a vigilante- those are all different). I’d say a serial comic has the same flexibility in each individual issue, but it has the added leeway given in its serial nature, as if every edition has the POTENTIAL but not NECESSITY of an origin. I think of it kind of like movies based off of television series, but I include novelizations and such in the category, I suppose: if there was going to be a _Monk_ movie, they’d probably open with some sequence about Trudy being murdered, a thread present but not necessarily explicitly stated in every episode, to explain to the audience why Monk is so OCD in the first place, so that people unexposed to the show but going to see the movie have a reason for his motivation. Novels based on pre-existing worlds and such do the same thing. And I’d argue it doesn’t necessarily come out of a lack of completeness on the part of the intended audience, but perhaps from a love of the character or universe the author is dappling into. A comic publisher I met at a convention once said that every “generation” is a Golden Age of Comics because fans can take what they like from previous “spins” and “interpretations” and ignore the stuff they don’t like- so everyday fans can just have their own preferred mythos in their mind, while authors (who are never NOT fans- which is a big reason why the profit thing doesn’t jive 100% with me) can put it to paper and get it published (if they’re talented/lucky enough). I think there is a lot of merit to that, and I think it has a lot to do with why so many variant origin stories develop in the comic book world; and it may have to do with why so many remakes on screen do it, too.

    Also, look at the bajillion retellings of old legends and myths, like, say, the Arthurian legends, or Robin Hood. Shoot, even Peter Pan has been revamped in novel series AND on film before. I think those come from the same place, a love of the legend and story with a personal spin or take.

    Now, this doesn’t explain why movies and books that *aren’t* remakes or re-imaginations or whatever do the heavy-handed origin stories. No. I realize that. I’m just saying I think there’s at least a possibility of a distinction. So perhaps Tim Burton is like a comic book fan in the sense that he has a love for those stories and has a vision of how he personally would tell them, so he does it.

    Okay, sorry, that was probably much, much longer than necessary. Why? NEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEERD!!!

    I’d prefer ‘helm’ over ‘helmet’ because it sounds more pretentious, but I’d much rather have a cloak. Why? NEEEEEEEEEEEEERD!!! ;p


  6. RiderIon #

    @Gab I think one of the major problems with American comic industry is the fact that fans can have their own personal canon. Legion of Super Heroes from DC is a perfect example of this as there are a lot of Legion fans but with 4 seperate contuinities based on writer and when they were published. This makes a new Legion of Super Heroes monthly a huge hassle as you immediately alienate a large portion of your audience because it does not conform to those readers’ personal mythos. Green Lantern has a similiar division in fanbase in regards to Hal Jordan and Kyle Rayner. Marvel isn’t immune to this either as Spider-Man and Iron Man have undergone similiar fanbase divisions over mythos.

    However, I don’t think that it’s the only fault with the American comics (and media in general) when it comes to popular characters (super heroes in particular). Another major problem is how characters have become brands that have to be constantly in the public eye and have to constantly renewed via reimaginings and reboots to introduce a new generations to the product. Spider-Man will never go away until he stops making Marvel money. Hell, super heroes die all the time only to return when it’s profitable (and usually dramatic) to do so.


  7. Sylvia #

    re: Alice

    The Jabberwocky is voiced by Christopher Lee and is therefore awesome. Sub-par? How dare you.

    And I wouln’t really say the movie is littered with homages to past Burton films so much as it’s littered with homages to the original source material.

    As a whole? Eh…it was all right. I could have done without the Mad Hatter’s dance.


  8. Gab #

    @Riderlon: “I think one of the major problems with American comic industry is the fact that fans can have their own personal canon.”

    I’d argue that’s what makes it kind of awesome, in the sense that fans can have their own preferred “version” but still relate to each other, come together, bond over the shared love of the essence or idea of the character. (Again, Golden Age of Comics.) And if it sparks debate, that’s cool too- it’s nerdtastic to bicker over which actor played this character best or which graphic novel or edition was best, etc. And I’d still push (to touch on some of the rest of your comment) that even if the companies themselves want the money, the people they get to do the artwork, write the stories, etc., are still fans and thus going to treat whatever they contribute to the public as a labor of love, not a profit-seeking device. There may be some cynicism involved in the background, but the people directly involved, the ones leaving their fingerprints, really care- even when the final product sucks.

    But this gets into the debate of where the line is and/or should be drawn between studio and, well, everybody else, pretty much- and when, too. (For example, how can we _really_ tell who left those fingerprints: the exec or the director, and should it matter?) Take actors, for example: A person that never picked up a comic book could portray their character AWESOMELY for the paycheck, while a person that was a devotee my be AWFUL- but at the same time, a non-fan could kill it while a fan could canonize it- so when do you blame versus exult? This conflict goes for anybody involved: writers, directors, any of the “creative forces” involved in a movie- a movie just has more layers, since it’s such a different form of media from a comic or (graphic) novel you can hold in your hands. Those are probably too tangential, though, and I’ve pontificated enough this round (and I’m about to be late for work), so I’ll let them alone.


  9. Dan #

    So.. much… well… actually…

    To be fair, I think it’s great you talked about the details of movie making like Cinerama, IMAX, etc.

    But as a former projectionist, and someone who’s still a bit of a nerd about such things:

    James Dean was still alive when “Rebel Without a Cause” was released. He died before the release of his third and final film, “Giant.”

    “The Wild Bunch” was not filmed in Cinerama. In fact, only one feature length movie, “How The West Was Won,” was EVER filmed using three camera Cinerama. (“This Is Cinerama” was filmed using the process, but doesn’t exactly tell a story.)

    Pete had Cinemascope exactly right – you put a lens on a 35mm camera that squeezes a wider 2.3:1 picture onto a 4:3 frame of flim, producing a “squeezed” image. The projector then uses a corresponding lens to open it back up.

    What happened with a few movies, such as “Mad World” is that the movie was filmed in 70mm, which has an UNSQUEEZED ratio of 2:1, but with an added anamorphic lens, producing a final ratio of 2.86:1, very similar to Cinerama’s 2.89:1. As such, it was possible to show something with a similar immersive feel, without the incredible technical headaches of the three projector system.

    “The Wild Bunch”, as far as I can determine, was neither. It was just plain ‘ol Cinemascope. Incidentally, if you go see a movie in a theater today, you still have about a 50/50 chance of seeing it in standard 1.85:1, or in cinemascope 2.3:1. Nobody actually TALKS about Cinemascope as a selling point any more, but projectionists still refer to “scope” and “flat” lenses. Oddly enough, the standard widescreen ratio in Europe for a long time was 1.66:1, and the better grade of movie theaters (read, almost NONE any more) will have separate lenses and masks for that as well.

    My favorite film gimmick has to be “Sensurround”, a process developed for the 1974 movie “Earthquake.” The process used a 1,500 watt amplifier to pump subsonic vibrations into the theater at 120 decibels (about the same as a jet taking off), simulating the experience of an Earthquake. It actually cracked the plaster in Grauman’s Chinese Theater during testing. The process was only used for three other films, including “Battlestar Galactica.”

    While we’re talking about Cinerama, I should also mention the only porn film ever made in 70mm, “Panorama Blue.” The film includes a sequence parodying the roller coaster scene in “This is Cinerama,” where the actors get it on in a roller coaster car in front of a bluescreen showing a roller coaster ride. I’ve only ever seen the trailer for Panorama Blue (apparently only one print was ever struck), but the trailer is hilarious.

    The film’s tagline? “The Mightiest Adult Film Ever Made!”


  10. Dan #

    To clarify my previous comment (I should proofread before I submit), the reason you have a 50/50 chance of seeing a movie in flat or scope is not some caprice of the theater, but because movies are still filmed using both aspect ratios. The choice is left up to the director and cinematographer, but in general, comedies and melodramas lean toward flat, while action films and period dramas are more likely to be in scope.


  11. Matthew Wrather #

    You can’t imagine how pleased I am that we have a projectionist in our audience. Dan, will you come on some future episode and geek out about movie format trivia?

    Also, now that I’ve talked out of my ass for a whole podcast, I figured I’d do some research on the Cinerama format, beginning with this Wikipedia article, which I recommend, which explains the difference between 3-strip Cinerama and the format’s later 70mm descendants, which used anamorphic lenses. I think everybody should read it.

    Anamorphic” is the general name for the squeezing/unsqueezing process Dan outlines above, the most well-known example being CinemaScope—which has a fascinating history of getting progressively narrower to accommodate magnetic and optical sound—which eventually gave way to better, lighter, easier formats developed by Panavision, whose logo includes boxes depicting 4:3 academy ratio, 1.85:1 standard US widescreen, and 2.35 anamorphic).

    Here’s a really good overview: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anamorphic_format

    Anyway. I thought I’d share the last half our of my Wikipedia search. But it’s all moot anyway since more and more commercial films are being shot in some digital format. In 40 years, people will be looking back at our movies talking about codecs or the size of the CCD or something.


  12. Dan #

    @Wrather: I’d LOVE to come on the podcast some time. I think I may even have sent you an email about it at some point, but I think the ether bunny may have eaten it.

    On the subject of digital. Sigh. Yes, I know we’re going that way, but the fact is that digital picture quality right now just isn’t as good as film. Some of the archival digital stuff with 4k lines of resolution would work, but theatrical digital makes me wince every time I have to sit through it.

    Easiest way to see the difference? Watch the credits, and look at the diagonals on things like capital “A”s. When I can’t see the pixelation on those any more, I’ll be ready to admit it’s time for digital.

    On the other hand, with fewer and fewer theaters hiring union projectionists these days, it’s at least much harder for the popcorn monkeys they let into the booth to screw up a digital print. The reason people think film is worse than digital is because so many film prints aren’t properly cared for.


  13. Dan #

    Darnit, I never finish my thoughts in one go. The other reason I’d love to come on the podcast? My last name starts with “A”. You should have Belkinkie on that one too. Just to watch Fenzel’s head explode.


  14. Matthew Wrather #

    Sorry, Dan — anyone who has ever submitted an article to OTI will tell you how bad I am at answering email.


  15. Edvamp #

    @Gab, just to clarify, I was mainly referring to pre-Joker origin. Yes, other than The Dark Knight movie, every version of the Joker involves dropping into a vat of ‘something’. The big divergence is his past prior to that: criminal, comedian, original Red Hood, Red Hood stand-in, etc.

    You are right in that new writers can change existing canon, but for right now I would consider The Killing Joke for the Joker and Weapon X for Wolverine to be the primary canon. The Killing Joke in particular is very rooted in DC canon due to the affect on Barbara Gordon becoming Oracle.

    It must be incredibly difficult taking a comic with a 40 or more year history and trying to condense it into a movie or even a tv series. Take the X-Men. There have easily been dozens, if not more, people that have been called X-Men. Multiple monthly titles running nearly continuously for 40 years creates lots of characters and storylines. There is no way the animated series and later films could include one tenth the content of the comics. So someone’s favorite character or story arc would inevitably be done differently or just left out completely.

    I remember an earlier Overthinkingit podcast talking about the concept that you can only ask so much from an audience. You can ask them to accept one leap in logic, asking another would be too much (I forget the exact term, but not willing suspension of disbelief). That podcast made me think of X-Men 3, which introduced Phoenix and Juggernaut. In the comics, Phoenix is an alien entity and Juggernaut is the magical avatar of the god Cyttorak. You’ve gotten the audience to accept mutants in the first two movies, but throwing aliens and magic into the mix would be just too much, so they had to just make Phoenix and Juggernaut mutants.

    Those changes didn’t annoy me so much. The bad writing, plot and story did.

    But you are right, fans will have their preferred mythos and stories in mind (for me it would be comics from the late 80’s into the early 90’s, for example) based on when they were introduced to the material.


  16. Gab #

    Since it keeps coming up, I’m going to put in my two cents about Evans and his double-dipping. I’m fine with it if they’re from different comics and universes that aren’t intended to intersect or come across one another onscreen, but like others have said, if Marvel wants to have crossovers on film, it’s a stupid move. And, frankly, I feel the same about Ryan Reynolds being Green Lantern *and* Deadpool, too- it’s okay if they keep things separate, but if there is supposed to be some sort of merging, it’s completely and utterly foolish.

    I think it’s kind of silly to say that once a person has played one comic character, they shouldn’t be allowed to play any others, though- it’s like saying an actor should only do one film in each genre.

    IMO, of course… Ahem.

    @Edvamp: Agreed on everything, right up to the preference for comic timeframes!

    And about the bad writing in X3… I know I’m not the only one of this belief, but I place a lot of the blame for the crap-tastic writing etc. on all of those cameos by characters from the X-men universe. The writers became so focused on character-dropping that they lost sight of the big picture- forest instead of trees, if you will. Sure, lots of awesome faces showed up, but it rarely, if ever, seemed to show a purpose other than seeing them. And it got in the way of developing important plot-lines/-points and pre-established characters. (Oh, and also, Nightcrawler was just… gone… after all of the work put into him in the second film. That one made me flat-out angry, ahem.)


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