Thursday, January 20, 2011

and the world is like an apple whirling silently in space

Champions Online, in their continuing quest to kill off all income streams to their company, is reactivating their lifetime account sale from January 25th to February 4th. Granted, even once the game goes free-to-play, lifetime account holders still get some killer perks, but that's not the main point.

The 'standard' MMO subscription fee hovers around $15; some are more, some are less, but that's on average. (Of morbid amusement: that's the baseline set by World of WarCraft, which is why that's the industry average.) Since that's also Champion's subscription cost, what lifetime users get for their $239.99 (remember the 20% discount for this 'special' sale; the "average" cost for their lifetime membership level is $300) is support and updates for the life of the game, plus the perks, a sidekick, a couple costume variations (mentioned below), some titles, and eight character slots. the same amount of character slots regular monthly subscribers get.

Don't get me wrong, for the consumer who has this kind of green to burn at will, this isn't the worst thing--on the consumer end of things. For that, they throw together some cool gear, fancy colors for a forum title when you post how much you hate the game going free-to-play, a couple Art Deco-style costumes (which seem to be largely retreads in two different color variations using the helmet design from The Rocketeer) which are only available to lifetime subscribers, some special accessories only available to people who pay in general, and a few other toys and trinkets. (In fact, based on what I've been reading putting this entry together, it's even a possibility that this offer includes eight additional costume slots instead of simply 'eight slots, just like the monthly subscribers'; the language is inconclusive.)

But overall? The one-time (and now even discounted!) rate means that for the price of fifteen months of game time, the consumer now gets all of the game for "free"--past that hefty start-up fee, of course. No monthly subscription fees, and the updates keep on coming until you get tired of Champions--or until Star Trek: Online gets fully funded and Cryptic puts away the knights-in-tights for space rangers on the starry seas. (Which, admittedly, is the other major reason they could be doing this now, with the advent of DC Universe Online: sell a ton of 'lifetime' subscriptions for quick funding cash, then keep the game free-to-play until Star Trek gets off the ground...obviously, as a full-subscription service...whereupon Champion folds like a cheap table. Because in all seriousness: when your superhero MMO comes in fourth in a three-game list? It's time to step up their game or get out of it, and I don't think they have the wit to step it up.)

On to other things. I am sure I cemented many peoples' dislike of me with the previous Fabfree fracas, but I am beyond pleased to note that both the bloggers in question brought their A game this week--Stolan with a delightfully devilish entry, and Khalania with a beautiful entry on a (granted, FAR from free) group that has some lovely skins as a joining gift. Negative or not, I think they're both off on better footing.

I don't hate the blog, I never did. But that's an argument for another blog entry...if it ever needs one.

Christopher Nolan and the gang behind 'Dark Knight Rising', or whatever it's called this week, have finally announced their choices for Catwoman and Bane, two pivotal characters in Batman's story arc. And I like both actors in question, it's not that, but...okay, here's the thing.

I'm trying to make the mental switch from this to this in my head,'s just not working. Hells, this, even. Or this version of Selina Kyle. Or screw it, even Julie Newmar to dig up the retro vibe. I mean, I like Anne Hathaway--she's cute, she's funny, and she's developing into an actress to watch.

But in that outfit? I don't think she can pull it off. (Or, well, even put it on.)

And Tom Hardy? Tom Hardy as Bane. This is BANE we're talking about here. Massive steroid-enhanced luchador from hell, quite possibly stronger than God while amped up on Venom, his addiction of choice. And sure, yeah, a lot can be done with creative costuming and CGI, but...I just don't think he can pull it off, either.

Which brings us to what Marvel's doing in the next X-Men feature, X-Men: First Class. And...Emma Frost. And January Jones.

In 1980, writers Chris Claremont and John Byrne wanted to do a clever take on some English history and the traditional good-vs.-evil trope. What they came up with was a trippy little homage to the dark side of telepathic ability. What if someone could talk to you, mind to mind, and they didn't have your best interests at heart? What if they wanted to corrupt you? What if they were good at it? And what if they managed to convince you, dream by dream, that those dreams weren't just inventions of your subconscious but slices of a remembered past life?

This was the fertile ground that Emma Frost, White Queen of the Hellions and co-conspirator (along with Mastermind) to pervert Jean Gray into the Black Queen (a superior, contemptuous, sneeringly evil telepath in matching black corset and stockings, naturally, to match Emma's own revealing attire), purported leader of the reborn Hellfire Club, was dropped into.

Don't get me wrong. It was the eighties. That set of issues was known for some really bizarre art, cheesecake over pointed storytelling, and it was a clear dodge around the whole modern-day superhero motifs that The Uncanny X-Men were known for. It was Claremont's and Byrne's way to get to tell a horror story--that just happened to feature the X-Men. Win-win all around, because as the story unfolded, it turned out the fans loved Emma Frost. And she's been a subject of action figures, posters, fan art and comics storylines ever since.

I won't go into much of her past history here--she's been retconned so often she needs flash cards to remember her origin story from story arc to story arc--but the general gist when I was reading the comics was that she had joined Magneto's League of Evil Mutants to preserve the rights of mutantkind, and of course, to try and take over the world. She was foundational in raising both Mystique (who later raised Rogue) and raised a pointed strike force on her own to divert power from the X-Men by getting to young mutants first. She had the ability to switch minds with victims, as well as being a powerful projecting telepath, and--at least in some stories--she was frighteningly intelligent, making plans that often didn't see fruit until tens of issues later.

Unfortunately, in one particularly vicious attack during the run of The New Mutants, she was severely injured and all of her trainees were killed, as I recall. This caused her to switch sides when Xavier helped her to heal from the trauma afterwards. Whereupon she set up training academy after training academy to teach and mold young mutant minds (doing essentially the same job, but For Good as opposed to For Evil, I guess).

Okay, so in one sense, yes, Emma Frost is a great set of boobs in a tight corset. Granted. But she is far more than that, and while some of the writers who've been handed her have done her more than glancing disservice, for the most part she has remained a fighting spirit, strong, flexible and smart. And her core is Mutants First; a vast difference from Xavier's (and through him, the X-Men's) diffident committment to protect humankind from disaster.

So, why am I upset that Emma Gray will finally be getting more screen time (as she already appeared in the Wolverine film, if I recall)? Well, part of it really comes down to who's been chosen to play her in the upcoming film. Here's a side by side comparison of January Jones with a model of Emma, and guess what? THE MODEL HAS MORE DEPTH OF CHARACTER.

I don't care how good you look in a corset, girl. Emma Frost is, without even overstating, one of the fivemost intelligent women in comics, ever. And she's still one of the five most compelling characters in X-Men history, hands down. She's been a powerful force for good, for evil, and for muddying of morals throughout her entire run, every book she's been in.

She needs two things: an actress who is smart, funny, sarcastic, cynical, and can at least be made to resemble the Aryan poster child/Ice Goddess that Emma Frost embodies; and an actress that looks really great in lingerie and spandex.

So what's wrong with picking a lingerie and fashion model as the next on-screen embodiment of the White Queen? Exhibit A. Exhibit B. Exhibit C. She's vapid when she slaps the mother in the store; she's vapid when she's supposed to be in a highly aroused state in not one, but two scenes; she's vapid when she's shooting pigeons on the lawn. I have this deep, sick dread of going to the theatre and watching an Emma Frost mobile Barbie doll deliver stilted, quasi-emotional lines with various head tilts to emphasize deep emotion. She's not strong enough for the character. She's not deep enough for the character. And I don't think she's a good enough actress for the character.

Two different movies, two different companies, two different comics book publishers...the very same woefully mismatched actor-to-role assignments. At this rate, who are they picking for the rest of the cast

Oh, wait. We already know. And yep. Deep dread. Deep, deep dread.


Serenity Semple said...

Yeahhh...MMOs are a tricky beast indeed. I know Hina has the lifetime subscription but when he got it, it was only $200 or something? Which I told him he was nuts for getting but meh, his choice. XD Normally I wouldn't put that much into a game but considering the normal subscription fee or perks, may be worth it to me. Granted I LOVE games but there's not many I buy because of how picky I am in the first place. Sooo...if it was a really good game, to me, I might splurge a bit.

I think FabFree has always had the possibility of improving but there's so much work that needs to be much... I don't hate their blog but when I see it on blog feeds I read - I wish I had a way to turn it off? Along with other blogs I don't enjoy - mind you.

I already have a strong dislike for the newish Batman movie, but I don't think that casting for Catwoman was as bad as Hallie B. Tom Hardy as Bane?! =_= Ughhh no thanks. The fact that Marvel is doing more X-Men movies makes me want to scream, I just don't care for them much. Ughhh people liked Emma Frost? I don't know, I liked her as a villan. When they gave her, her own mini series about her 'oh so tragic teenage life'. I gagged, I also gagged when they made her head of the X-Men for awhile and banging Scott(Cyclops). I agree with you on that's a bad set of casting for her role though... I don't know, I just think Marvel movies are not that great on a general comparison (all the movies Marvel has put out).

Emilly Orr said...

Oh, I'm not speaking out against lifetime subscriptions, in general. I'm not even talking against subscriptions--I don't like WoW, but it's not the subscription fee that keeps me from playing, it's the game.

The problem with Champions is that they seem to have this perception that they're second, and there are a couple ways to deal with that. First, of course, is to step up the game and make a serious bid for first place. They're not doing that. Next is to accept the second-in-line position--"We're the other guys", to quote Mystery Men--only they're not doing that, either.

They seem to be taking the position of knowing they're not the front-runners, and inexplicably doing everything they can to push themselves into fourth place. Which, as stated, in a three-man race is...kind of stupid.

I shudder at the casting for the future X-Men and Batman movies. But, to be fair, the glory days of Emma Frost that I best remember was when she was a villain running a school for mutants on her own...and not a snowy harlot boinking Cyclops. Maybe she's been dumbed down for the boob-obsessed masses.