Comics Review: Secret Origins (1973)

 

If the readers of comic books from the DC platform are exhausted and bored of reading about their two signature products, Batman and Superman. If the DC fans are willing to know how the heroism of their favorite superheroes ever began. What made them change their identities and started to fight against crime? If you are confused to understand, after realizing that there is more than one origin story, what exactly is the original story to believe in? Or, if you are new to DC Comics and are enthusiasts to try and read a few origin stories, I have a very excellent suggestion for you.

My fellow DC readers, sixty years ago, the publishers did a favor on the readers of that time and published a one-shot with the title, Secret Origins. This issue had around 85 pages and reprinted original material of the golden-age superheroes. A decade later, the publishers took a better step and ran 7 issues between 1973 and 1974 that had origin stories of many favorite superheroes.

The good thing about these issues is that the original stories have been represented in their original form without any alterations and mentioned the dates of original publishing. So the confusion of following more than one origin story was avoided. Also, the publishers tried to push reading about the stories of some heroes who weren’t as iconic as Justice League‘s most important heroes like Kid Eternity, Vigilante, or The Legion of Super-Heroes. Well obviously, the publishers didn’t cover many figures due to their hands being tight over releasing extremely limited issues but this was the baby step in their history to expect further in the coming decades.

The oldest comics make you know one aspect of the writing that the writers do not intend to stretch a particular episode or a story to some length but find a moment to end the issue instead of giving broad details. But those writers who came up with these iconic characters will always be ahead of all the writers of all eras and ages because they were the creators of our favorite superheroes, they provided them costumes, powers, and reasons to live. And this is one major reason, the readers need to visit these historical pages and get the knowledge of how their favorite superhero was actually written and what was his/her backstory.

By reading the origin stories, there is every chance for the reader to develop an interest in other heroes, their villains, and their worlds. And reading other heroes become necessary because sometimes the readers limit themselves to one hero and read his/her stories in different timelines. But when that hero is involved in a mega story where other heroes get involved, a lack of understanding for the other heroes leads to unattraction. That interest or enthusiasm to read a major story fades. Just for example, if the reader of one hero chooses to read a major storyline like any of the Crisis stories, how will the reader develop that interest for other heroes that he/she has for his/her favorite? Issues like Secret Origins guide the readers to understand those heroes.


REFERENCES

1) Secret Origins Special Giant Issue #1 (June 1961)
2) Secret Origins Issues 1-7 (1973—1974)

FREE DOWNLOADS

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SUPPORTING VIDEO

Secret Origins is about the backstories of superheroes. But if you are interested in understanding the backstory of DC Comics, you may like this.

Film Review: The Batman (2022)

INTRODUCTION

If there is one superhero most of the directors wish to direct, the global audience gets mesmerized, and comic geeks would always love to talk about for hours, it is Batman. The new line of work about Batman and his city was planned back in 2014 when Ben Affleck was writing, directing, and starring as Batman in this very film. Entered Matt Reeves and Ben’s ideas and creativity about the entire project went off. Matt Reeves was a very fitting selection after his artistry behind the Ape trilogy. His vision behind presenting Gotham city and the inspirational elements he was willing to apply in this project plus the casting for the major characters was topping the expectations. I happened to watch The Batman a couple of days ago. So let me try to analyze.

Bruce Wayne is fighting against crime in the city for the past two years. Officer Gordon summons him to scrutinize a crime scene committed by Riddler in which the mystery to catch him is directed only to the Batman. With his involvement comes anger amongst Gotham police as no one trusts him besides Gordon. While trying to discover the next targets on Riddler’s agenda, he meets Selina Kyle a.k.a. Catwoman through crimelords Oswald Cobblepot a.k.a. Penguin, and Carmine Falcone. During all this, Bruce also digs to find answers about his deceased father Thomas Wayne. While the film enters into its final hour, it is a little late for Batman to realize that the entire Gotham city is under major threat.

Matt Reeves opened up to Esquire that his influences for making this film were some 1970s classics like The French Connection, Chinatown, Taxi Driver,  a critically acclaimed comic-book story ‘Batman: year One‘, and rock band Nirvana. This pretty much shows how clear is Matt’s vision. Besides Year One, the film will a lot remind of ‘The Long Halloween storyline. 

CHARACTERS

Let me first talk about the characterization of Batman in length. Robert Pattinson as Batman had mixed responses when his selection was announced. He is not the same vampire and has improved a lot in his performances as well as picking films. This character has always been judged as Batman but not Bruce because the audience is unlucky to not have watched much of Bruce Wayne as a Gothamite who is loyal to his city and a philanthropist who is generous for welfare. Only a few minutes are given to this side as the film centers around the dark knight who fights crime usually at night. So once again, Bruce’s heroism was limited just like in the previous films about Batman. There was certainly a reflection of the good side of Bruce in the memorial scene; but if you notice Robert Pattinson’s Bruce Wayne, this rich guy doesn’t really look so dedicated to the city as he has always been in the comics or previous films. He takes crimefighting very personally as an act of revenge after the murder of his parents. This is confirmed in the beginning phase when Bruce doesn’t show any interest in his company’s financial affairs when Alfred tries to convince and he responds what he is doing (at night) is his family’s legacy.

Plus Bruce as a person in this film looks more natural in characterizing this antihero than in any of the enactions before. Robert Pattinson’s Bruce is more lost and sadist than any portrayals. He has a lot of rage with killer instincts and is about to beat some crook to almost death. This man is weird, he doesn’t portray an ideal rich playboy but is more of a thinker whose emotions have shattered away while trying to bring justice into this crazy city.

So when I say that this Batman is fighting crime for only two years in the city, that still counts as a rookie. And his two years of buildup as the phenomenal combatant still are not through to the physical challenges. He gets punches pretty quickly. Gets visibly exhausted like one in a bar when he wants to see Penguin. A major surprise to the audience is that this Batman is afraid of heights. Yes, he also fails in his heroics like when he tries to land after flying from the top of the Gotham Central Police Department (GCPD) tower. All this makes this Batman very realistic to the period Matt Reeves has set for Gotham.

Zoë Kravitz as Catwoman didn’t appeal to me as much as Selina Kyle. I felt if Catwoman was some forced character that was tried to fit into the mystery. Not that much was focused on Selina Kyle but was connected with Carmine Falcone that also looked pretty nonsensical. John Turturro as Falcone was a superb choice but the problem with the character is that the minutes on him are the least to focus on because he is always a sub-supporting character. Imagine Penguin being his chief lieutenant had more screen minutes than Falcone.

I am not sure why Colin Farrell was selected for Penguin with so many prosthetics and makeup done on the actor to look like Penguin. No doubt he did a fine job and he is holding a lot of promises for future films. Jeffrey Wright as officer Gordon has to be the worst character in the film. No, this is not about race swapping, Jeffrey is a quality actor and I am okay with his being Gordon. The problem is the characterization. In the entire film, he looked so dumb and desperate for solutions. I felt Gordon was clueless without Batman and had no guts to solve some of the mysteries himself. I was expecting a very strict and hardcore Gordon who has some hold even if he is just an officer because this is how James Gordon is.

Andy Serkis as Alfred did a fair job although it was a short role. The character doesn’t remind me of any comics storyline but fair enough as the film is very much based on Matt Reeves’ vision. The comics version of Alfred has never been portrayed in the films.

Paul Dano has been a very underrated actor throughout his career and he deserved a role that will make him remembered by the mainstream audience. He needed this push. When his name was announced for the film’s main antagonist Riddler, I had this feeling that this is a very serious and intelligent choice. Because Riddler has always been taken for fun. This time the director made sure that Riddler will now have the fun. This is a remarkable psychotic portrayal of Riddler and marvelous execution. I was fully sold on what I watched. The threat he imposed on Gotham and tested Batman’s heroism was genuine.

In such a lengthy film, I felt there was a lot of space to fit at least three characters in the film. One was Gordon’s daughter Barbara who will become Batgirl. With so much screentime of showing up together, Gordon could have introduced Batman to his young girl. The other is Ted Grant a.k.a. Wildcat who taught Catwoman boxing and streetfighting in one of the storylines in Catwoman’s comics. Wildcat also holds the distinction to be one of the few comic characters who trained Batman. And the third is Leslie Thompkins, the doctor who helped raise Bruce Wayne when he lost his parents. Leslie has been a motherly figure to Bruce in comics and was also a close friend to his father Thomas. When Batman was digging for answers in the middle of the film about his father, he could have asked for Leslie’s assistance or just met her for a few minutes.

SCENES

Bruce Wayne’s commentary in the beginning and ending drives me towards the comics. Both scenes of his commentary shots on some catchy scenes were like many first pages of the storylines where a major character or the writer addresses the intro to give a particular start to a comic book. The lines narrated by Bruce are so comics-oriented.

I am thankful to Matt Reeves for breaking the tradition of dramatizing the murder of the Waynes. This scene is so popular that those viewers who do not follow superhero films know about Batman’s tragic childhood story. Instead, this incident was used in the news bulletin that looked more appropriate to proceed with the story in the current timeline.

In the beginning, a group of thugs attacks a man and they have all painted their faces like Joker. Whereas Joker’s cameo happens when the film is finishing. So the portrayal of street gangs indicates that Joker terrorized the city and influenced the gangs to adopt his cult. Batman put him in the cage and perhaps dropped down some criminal activities. One of the guys in the gang is Jay Lycurgo who incidentally also stars in other Gothamverse, Titans as Tim Drake. Interestingly, he is the odd one in that gang with half makeup. So is he inspired by Two-Face? Does Two-Face already exist?

One of my favorite scenes in the film is the public memorial of Mayor Mitchell. The direction is master class, and Robert gives a thoughtful performance. If anyone observes this memorial scene, Bruce was silent all that time besides the two words he uttered in question to the lady running for mayor, “I’m Sorry?”. He observed the memorial from top to bottom, left to right, every possible important person or a thing he could have checked in for clues. And then a noise breaks out indicating a possible terror attack from far a distance panicking everyone in the memorial. The next half a minute you watch after the breaking of the exterior noise is what Matt deserves applause for. How magnificently a terror attack was picturized! Notice everyone who reacted to the noise. Every single attendee reacted naturally, no one showed a sign that this was some scene to act. This is the director’s determination I am much impressed with. He wanted every single extra to behave naturally to the threat. This was the most perfect terror scene I have watched in years, if not decades.

One of the things I really liked about the film was that Batman and Riddler, the main antagonist, had only one encounter in the entire 176 minutes. And the hype lived up to it. It was intense and mad. But one of the heavy surprises was Riddler saying his name in a stretch. So does he know that Bruce is Batman? Yes, he knows. Riddler is a smart guy making his crime mysteries the hardest to solve. So it will be a piece of cake for Riddler to figure out who is behind the mask. Plus, Riddler was looking straight at Bruce in the memorial. No? Why would he do that? Of course, he knows who Batman is.

In the comics storyline ‘Batman: Hush‘, Riddler correctly guessed about this. The audience may feel as if that’s a plothole. Why would Riddler not expose the real identity to the world? Because if he exposes him, who will he play the riddling game with? Where lies the beauty of guessing if Riddler exposes him? The plothole is, how come no one listened to the conversation between them in GCPD and found out that Batman is Bruce Wayne?

In one of the last scenes of the film, Batman saves some lives and it is quite cogent when he rescues one of the Gothamites on the stretcher and she in all trauma holds his arm while Bruce narrates in the background that vengeance will not change the past, he has to become more and people need hope. Perhaps Bruce realized at the moment when one of Riddler’s followers called himself a vengeance, that his being vengeance is not helping and giving a wrong influence. He has to make alterations to his gloomy despair to bring optimism to living in this city.

Although the film didn’t allow the viewers to get thrilled with the most anticipating face-off. But the deleted scene after the film’s release gave the viewers a glimpse of the clown prince of crime and Batman’s biggest archenemy Joker played by Barry Keoghan. With Keoghan’s selection comes a heavy responsibility on the shoulders of both Matt and this 29-year-old talented Irish actor to play one of the most challenging roles in Hollywood. He surely is the first actor to become Joker in a film who is not a well-established actor. By that, I mean he, as an actor, is not there where Joker actors like Jack Nicholson, Heath Ledger, Jared Leto, and Joaquin Phoenix have reached and decorated their names and careers. Incidentally, each of them has won an Oscar in their lifetime.

Of what I have watched in that brief clip, I believe Barry’s version has to be the most horrifying (and for weak-hearted viewers the most terrifying) Joker ever presented in the film. Since Heath Ledger’s Joker, every time a new Joker has shown up in either film or television format, the character has looked more deranged and psychotic which is actually challenging and thoughtful to test up to what extent can Joke be dramatized to madness. And how much insanity can an actor prevail?

With plentiful scars, a very few hairy portions on the burnt head, bloody hands with broken fingernails, this Joker looks like a subject of severe self-torture after all hell broke on his personal tragic life. And the voice is very similar to Heath’s Joker. He also looks to gain some emotional control with skeptical remote insanity. Observe his polite response to Batman when he reads the file. It was a smart move to shoot this scene as blurry towards Joker and reveal the facial disgust later. I predict this is going to be the most intelligent Joker ever to surface in films. And if he really makes a partnership with Riddler as depicted, Gotham shall not be ready for this merciless showdown. So, really excited to watch him in the sequel.

MUSIC

Great ideas do not muddle. The use of Nirvana’s track ‘Something In The Way‘ in ‘The Batman’ was apt. It was played twice, in the beginning, and in one of the last scenes. We don’t often listen to the same track more than once in a film. So why did Matt Reeves give this much importance to the track in the film? This has something to do with the elements of rock, rage, dominance, sadism, and revenge. These elements, besides rock, are common in both Batman and Nirvana. More than rock, Batman has been more about the symphony and his city Jazz and Blues. Batman’s commentary and the song’s lyrics also match the dark fate of the city. There is the line in the song “And the animals I’ve trapped have all become my pets”. This pretty much suits Batman’s personal trophies from his crimefighting where animals like crocodile, penguin, cat, bat, and a few more are his pets.

After Hans Zimmer blessed our ears with one of the most beloved music scores for Christopher Nolan‘s The Dark Knight trilogy, it is a multitude of challenges for any composer to come close to Hans and give a score for the Batman films as memorable as that work. Matt’s frequent collaborator Michael Giacchino tried his best and made a decent attempt. Let me halt comparing and talk about Batman’s new theme. Many Star War fans around the world are in for a treat to get mesmerized by this theme because that is an obvious reminder of one of the most iconic Star Wars themes, Imperial March. Imperial March associates with Darth Vader and with that wrath comes a piece of music that represents the rage of hellfire. If Giacchino actually took the inspiration from a theme about one of the most iconic supervillains to apply to one of the most iconic superheroes, he certainly deserves praise. This Batman theme sounds more broken and vexated, some buildup of a nightmare on the criminals appalled by the Dark Knight.

ISSUES

As explained above, from my point of view, most of the characters didn’t do justice besides Batman and Riddler. Besides, the role of GCPD was below par portrayal like any action film that doesn’t will to give some prominence to their crime-fighting. GCPD looked extremely compromised and clueless, and so was Gordon. Maybe the theory is that GCPD would have gone so dysfunctional all this time that the city got destroyed by so much corruption. But still, GCPD and Gordon were not good enough in the film.

Gordon summons Batman to solve the crime scene. This was the first time Batman was directly involved in GCPD’s case. I am more unreluctant to understand how Batman and GCPD fought crime before this for two years. If Gordon believed in Batman, how were they fighting crime in that period? Was there no bigger threat or major villain who showed up two years before Riddler?

The film in the middle was dead meat. The screenplay consumed a lot of time in searching for the clues and trying to identify if Thomas Wayne was a bad politician or if he was framed for death.

‘The Batman’, as a whole, has a more television show feel than a film. The editing of the film makes you think if four or five episodes have been attached together and shaped into a film. Due to this reason, the cinematic feel of watching The Batman is dingy. The making of this film does support the classic filmmaking element of neo-noir and there is no doubt about Matt Reeves’ direction for the film has been exceptional and innovative.

I am not convinced with the final phase of the film after Batman understands the threat Gotham is imposed. The writing of this phase looked flat. It was just another action-packed phase like any superhero film with not much extraordinary effort in writing. Bombing the city, lookalike henchmen terrorizing, predictable action scenes, etc. I felt a quality of writing was fading before and after the bombing.

QUESTIONS

Barry Keoghan in a cameo appearance shows up as the clown prince of crime and Batman’s biggest archenemy, Joker. After the release of the film, Matt Reeves releases a deleted scene of around five minutes of Batman’s interrogation with Joker. I am not sure why was this decided by the makers to remove this scene from the final cut. This scene held a lot of importance and would have worked in the middle of the film while Batman tries to catch Riddler. It is an open secret that Joker will show up in any of the future Batman films. It is impossible to complete Batverse without him. So it is illogical to delete this scene. And if the director wished to keep the audience thrilled by Joker’s existence in the last phase, why release the deleted scene then?

Will Riddler return? I think he will. But I feel technically his time is up and should stay imprisoned in the Arkham Asylum and let Matt Reeves let him pass the torch to Joker and other future villains. Riddler’s mission failed and hence, makes no reason to bring him back but rather focus on other bad guys. There are so many who deserves their time in this Batverse. If the plan is for a trilogy which is highly likely, then the villains will be limited to the most popular ones.

Catwoman leaves Gotham in the final scene. That is another technical conclusion of the character, just like Riddler. And there are many ladies to become Bruce/Batman’s love interest. This Batverse can work on introducing the photographer/reporter Vicki Vale and develop a love affair with Bruce like in the comics. She was the closest of all the Gotham characters to theorize that Bruce could be Batman. If Matt Reeves consider Talia, that will lead to all new dimensions and start a story towards Ra’s al Ghul. Jezebel Jet can also play the part of a woman who plotted to destroy him while secretly working for the Black Glove in ‘Batman R.I.P.‘ storyline. or maybe it is time to introduce Kathy Kane a.k.a. Batwoman in this universe and we watch both Bat man and woman fight the crime in their costumes. Is bringing a heroine in Batman films really important? Depends on the writer/director that how he pushes his script in the continuity. But Bruce has been a playboy so there is a certainty. It will also be wise if no more woman enters his life as Robert Pattinson’s Bruce maintains a dark emotional journey.

Mayor Mitchell was killed at the start and his kid showed up a couple of times. Why? The Batman looks at him and surely remembers his time. So who is he? Is this boy Robin? It is quite exhilarating that in the first instance, the boy looked at Batman at the crime scene and the next time, he looked at Bruce Wayne in the memorial. Such a dramatic touch!

It is quite a touch of framing a kid into theorizing a solid future of crimefighting. The origin story of Robin aside, it will be quite an interesting idea to buy for the sequel where the boy gets picked by Bruce and pays for his well-being. And in the third Batman film, Bruce begins to train him which leads to joining him as a crime partner. I would love to see that happen.

But in this theory, the problem is the boy’s age. He is too young to become the boy wonder. That is the other case if the timeline jumps in the sequel.

CONCLUSION

‘The Batman’ holds technical brilliance in dialogues, cinematography, writing, and direction. The film holds a lot of promises for continuity. The characters that didn’t live up to the expectations can get developed in the sequels. The Batman broke a lot of traditions like not bringing back Batman’s hoarse voice, not dramatizing the murder of Bruce’s parents, dismantling Bruce’s close-to-perfect rich personality, and applying a lot of realism.

The film’s cinematic accomplishment is that most of the audience is not willing to take down Matt Reeves’ imagining of Gotham and understanding of Batman and argue that The Dark Knight Trilogy did better. That trilogy has earned the respect of all the noble courts of comics. This film scales itself from that respect and distinguishes itself from the acceptable aesthetics of Batman’s world. It is a promising trilogy to the hype with new and fresh expectations. Perhaps, another memorable trilogy about Batman is surfacing in the coming years to earn new respect. Time will tell.

Another major plus that separates ‘The Batman’ from all the past films centered around Batman is that this is a detective film. Batman has been a crime fighter all his life but first, he is a detective. Comics have always emphasized his role as a detective more than a crime fighter. The directors in the past usually dramatized the films based on Batman as a crime-fighting superhero. Matt Reeves understood the character precisely and presented his true characterization. And that’s a win for me.

The Batman has room for improvement, there are issues that I addressed above. But I also admit that this is a spectacular start. I want the epic plunge into the cosmos of wholesome brilliance in Batmanship. Hope the bite doesn’t get rotten.

RATINGS: 8.4/10

Film Review: The Eyes of Tammy Faye (2021)

Tammy Faye (Jessica Chastain) and Jim Bakker (Andrew Garfield) discover each other in the college and find the ultimate purpose to live together – spreading the message of God. With time, they become one of America’s biggest showrunners in the history of evangelical television shows. But with immense success comes challenges and personal conflicts that jeopardize their holy rank as America’s most influential and beloved televangelists.

Faye and Bakker led two of the biggest and most popular evangelical television shows, The PTL Club and The 700 Club. The Eyes of Tammy Faye is mostly based on the 2000 documentary with the same name. Most of the sources have been taken from this documentary.

Based on the true story and events, the film guarantees higher historical accuracy. Most of the thick points in the film are correct like Tammy Faye’s permanent makeup, her affair with the record producer Gary Paxton, her segment on penile implants, and interviewing AIDS activist Steve Pieters, etc.

The intensity is built in the middle of the film when Tammy and Jim suffer personal conflicts. I think during all the crises that begin to occur in the middle, the director missed dramatizing Jim Bakker’s affair that shattered their lives and reputation. That was a very critical incident and deserved minutes. The angle of the story bending towards their crisis should have been directed towards the affair.

More than the film’s entire making, average direction, and not-so-tightly-gripped screenwriting, the film earns respect from the audience through spectacular performances by the leading actors, Jessica Chastain and Andrew Garfield. Also, I must not forget to mention the film’s significant plus in brilliant makeup and hairstyling. I have read about Jessica’s makeup that it was prepared to clock around five hours along with prosthetics.

Garfield is in superb form but Jessica recently went on to win the Oscar for Best Actress for this role. She deserves it and I must say that it was really a tough call between her, Kristen, and Kidman for the roles they were nominated for. All the three ladies gave extraordinary performances. But I think Jessica may have won this contest for her incredible performance under very heavy makeup and she also sang some numbers herself. Plus, her portrayal was so spot on. You can clearly listen to the voice of Tammy Faye coming from Jessica’s mouth. If you observe Faye’s real videos on YouTube especially conducting an interview with Steve, you will realize that Jessica gave a very splendid performance.

The winner of two Academy Awards, The Eyes of Tammy Faye is an average drama that should only be watched to see Jessica and Garfield.

Ratings: 6.5/10

TV Review: Our Flag Means Death

In 1717, a wealthy landowner Stede Bonnet (Rhys Darby) withdraws from his rich life and family to become a pirate and find adventure. Stede hires an extremely unfit crew and sails his ship, Revenge. But things do not go as planned as the pirates get attacked by the British naval warships and other pirates. During this bizarre voyage, he meets Blackbeard (Taika Waititi) and soon they become more than good friends.

The first thing I want to break here about this HBO Max show is that Our Flag Means Death is neither a legend nor a fictional tale in the pages of literature. Stede Bonnet, Blackbeard, and a few other characters that showed up like Blackbeard’s second in command Izzy Hands (Con O’Neill) and Calico Jack (Will Arnett) were real people. The period this show is based on is called the Golden Age of Piracy. Whether Stede and Blackbeard developed a relationship or not, I have no knowledge of that.

But more than that, I must acknowledge that someone in 2022 attempted to develop a new idea about comedy. I don’t remember if there was any comedy program based on the centuries-old pirates in ages. Due to an innovative approach, the comical methods looked fresh. I felt as if I was watching something new in the name of comedy.

The continuity after the first couple of episodes goes a little flat and then the audience will surely assume in the middle of the show that due to the limited content that is the survival of the pirates, the show has stretched the story a bit too much. In my opinion, this show could have easily ended its run in six episodes.

Despite Rhys Darby fully centering around the continuity to run its parallels in a good-looking comedy, it is Taika Waititi’s Blackbeard that captivates the audience and holds us to enjoy the presentation. The show’s excellence lies in the technical aspects like make-up and hairstyling, costume, and production designs. A diverse crew of pirates looked pretty unnatural.

I find the conclusion of the first season pretty interesting. In one theory, I can say that there is no need for the second season as the final scenes can be put to a conclusion considering it as a technical and mature end. In another theory, that is also the show’s defense, the script progression has the growth and if the script for the second season is executed well, the audience may find the next chapter intriguing.

I am not sure if Our Flag Means Death has developed a cult or attracted a large audience. For me, it was quite a fresh idea for the comedy and I enjoyed it a lot, especially Taika Waititi as Blackbeard. If the viewers are seeking a comedy show based on a very different situation, try this.

TV Review: Bel-Air

When the news about the reboot of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air broke out, I was not okay with it. Then the first trailer was released; and I felt that the show looks like reimagining the whole plot of the sitcom in a new direction, giving a dramatic approach with a better address. Switching a massive hit sitcom into a comedy-drama needs a lot of courage, commitment with the scriptwriting, and a solemn promise that the show will not disappoint the viewers. After watching the 10-episode first season, I can convincingly inform the readers that Bel-Air, the reboot, absolutely did not disappoint at all.

The reboot became possible after Morgan Cooper released a short fan film on Youtube and Will Smith happened to watch it. It was so compelling that Will personally met Morgan to discuss expanding the film’s vision into a reboot. Both of them became executive producers along with the original line of producers including Benny Medina (the real Will Smith), Quincy Jones (the man who gave birth to Will Smith’s acting career in this sitcom), and Borowitz couple (Andy and Susan, the show creators). Peacock won the bid in competition with Netflix and HBO Max and gave a two-season order.

The new show focuses on the serious elements of all the sub-plots, the characterization of the main characters, and the continuity of the original sitcom. The writers left no space to give a better understanding. One of the best aspects of the show is that the show brilliantly gives a broader detail about all the characters, a decent capacity of screen time to give the characters and story some breathing. The heavy issues get pressing and more push.

Bel-Air visually dramatized most of the lyrics of the sitcom’s popular theme song ‘Yo Home to Bel-Air‘ in the first episode. Uncle Phil (Adrian Holmes) has a stronger personality and is visibly an important figure as a husband, a father, and a lawyer. Will (Jabari Banks)’s daddy issue has been well-taken care of throughout the season. Carlton (Olly Sholotan)’s character without a doubt has the best characterizing, and the behavioral attitudes and personal traits an annoying Carlton should have is all smartly portrayed here. More than half of the season has Will on Carlton’s nerve with an excellent screenplay raising valid questions about the family being more concerned for Will than Carlton all of a sudden. British butler Geoffrey (Jimmy Akingbola) is a definite upgrade from the sitcom who not only manages the domestic affairs of the Bankses but also consults Philips for his DA campaign and holds strong connections with powerful people.

I am thoroughly impressed how Bel-Air does not falter in its continuity. There are so many scenes that address and make the audience spare a thought. There is a scene where Will is shocked and furious watching Carlton enjoying himself with his White friends despite saying the N-word. Then there are a few of Will’s sittings with any of the Banks that are touching. In the middle of the show, there is an entire episode about Will’s best friend Tray (SteVonté Hart) coming to meet with him in the mansion and overexcited with the belief that Will will return and resume his old life. Then sisters Ashley (Akira Akbar) and Hillary (Coco Jones) exchanging a conversation about the former’s love interest was supportive. Although Ashley at 12 having feelings for the same gender looked very forced and even if Bel-Air wanted to address their position about same-sex interests amongst the teenagers, the writers failed to develop the growth of Ashley’s character.

Then there is a surprise for all the sitcom fans when Vivian (Cassandra Freeman) goes for the interview in the Art Council where the interviewers are none other than Daphne Maxwell Reid and Vernee Watson-Johnson, the ladies who played the character of Vivian Banks in the original television show. This scene not only brought three Vivians together but also gives the audience a better vision of understanding the character. Vivian opened her heart while discussing with other Vivians about her life, her importance, and her career choices that looked visually more clever as Vivians of previous existence were all ears listening to the existing Vivian.

Bel-Air holds a strong commitment to the audience especially The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air’s loyalists as the first season progresses with extraordinary writing that develops a lot of faith that the continuity will have a lot of potential to run in the next season. The viewers who are expecting Bel-Air to be as funny as the predecessor will be upset because the vision of Bel-Air is different. The approach is smart and the execution is bold. I liked the sitcom and I appreciate how the makers of this show came up with the idea to reimagine the story with the very same characters with more realism. Try yourself.

TV Review: Malory Towers

Malory Towers is a children’s television show by CBBC and is set in the post-World War in Britain. The show is about Darrell Rivers who is sent to the all-girls boarding school, Malory Towers, where she befriends and struggles to learn life lessons with them. She gets into trouble and faces challenges in maintaining discipline but with a group of good company, she and her friends help out each other and grace their younghood.

As it is obvious by the title, Malory Towers is based on Enid Blyton‘s set of six novels with the same title. Each of the books is based on Darrel’s year of term she attended in the boarding school. Therefore, I assume that the first two seasons that are released are based on the first two books because each of the seasons is based on Darrel’s first and second terms. That also means that the show may progress to complete the remaining books in the next four seasons.

And the show has all the qualities to complete six seasons because of its details about the characters, lush camera work, and very thoughtful structure of episodes each focusing on something interesting about the life of the young girls in Malory Towers, the events that may have been traced from the books. The show is a feel-good coming-of-age light-heart period drama. The writing of the show convincingly depicts the problems the young girls face like anger issues, tolerance, manners, etc.

Programme Name: Malory Towers – TX: n/a – Episode: Malory Towers – ep 1 (No. 1) – Picture Shows: Darrell (ELLA BRIGHT), Sally (SIENNA ARIF-KNIGHTS), Gwen (DANYA GRIVER) – (C) WildBrain/Queen Bert Limited – Photographer: Steve Wilkie

The show covers a lot of thought that develops an interest in a coming-of-age children’s drama like the school’s financial crisis, the loyalty of veteran staff, girls being superstitious and getting afraid of scary expectations, silly pranks, care for the animals, girls trying to impress their parents and willing not to disappoint them at all, competing against other schools, bullying, entomophobia, reading private letters, and a few more. In short, the mood or the enthusiasm of the viewers will not get punctured.

Some episodes flourish well. I liked the episode ‘The Slap’ that was carefully written and very much thought was implied on both Gwendoline and Darrell. Darrell is the central character with temper issues, the reason she was dropped from the previous school. Gwen is the bad news, the troublemaker who is always on Darrell’s nerves. Darrell slaps Gwen and their chemistry gets intense. Gwendoline’s character has been well taken care of as compared to Darrel Rivers. As much as the viewer hates the character, her being jealous, rude, and playing politics makes more sense.

I liked how the girls are distinguished with their teenage traits, some are scared, some are superstitious, some are witty, clever, sweet and some are bad news. But being bad news also gives you a good insider about why such girls switched to this behavioral attitude. Where did this jealousy or hatred come from? The introduction of poor Ellen Wilson made a strong case where she was struggling to adjust with the other girls who belonged to financially better backgrounds. Even the girls had a difficult time understanding Ellen’s situation and were quite a scene when they gift Ellen some leftovers.

I must not forget to mention and praise such an impressive performance by Daniya Griver as Gwendoline Lacey. She convincingly made every single viewer hate the character and made us wish to see her expelled from the school once and for all. Her physical, mental, and emotional portrayal was an accurate definition of a jealous, selfish, and mean girl.

I haven’t read Malory Towers but I expect the show does justice to the original work. I binged the whole show in one go because the direction and the continuity were compelling. I felt that the show had the same vibes as the children’s shows like CBC‘s Anne With An E and I was right about it. Watching this show was a delightful experience and now I will wait for the next season.

For the audience that is willing to show their children a quality drama, I recommend them to show Malory Towers.