The Two Rhodeys

by Ian Ridley

So, Iron Man 2. A fun, light summer action flick, which I have already had a fannish flailing over here. However, whether you loved it as madly as I did, or were as disappointed as some of my friends, there’s one thing I’m sure we can all agree on. Something unpleasant was up with that Rhodey recast.

First of all, the studio seems to have handled it quite poorly. According to an interview Terrence Howard (Iron Man 1’s Lt. Rhodes) gave to NPR, as reprinted in this article:

“It was the surprise of a lifetime,” he said. “There was no explanation. [The contract] just…up and vanished. I read something in the trades implicating that it was about money or something, but apparently the contracts that we write and sign aren’t worth the paper that they’re printed on, sometimes. Promises aren’t kept, and good faith negotiations aren’t always held up.”

According to an article over here, it seems Rhodes was recast, in large part, to save money, as well as that the studio wasn’t satisfied with Howard’s performance in the role. Of course, it’s their prerogative to recast and renegotiate as they see fit, although one always hopes they’ll approach it in a more civil way than this case seems to have been.

However, the recasting itself aside, there’s an aspect of this which I haven’t seen covered. While it’s probably not a huge issue, I couldn’t help but notice it.

Some curious photoshopping has gone on with our dear Rhodey on the official Iron Man posters. While Don Cheadle (Lt. Rhodes 2.o) is noticeably darker skinned than Howard, the two Rhodeys on the posters appear with almost the same skin tone:

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In comparison, here is how they appear in their respective films:

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It seems to me this is likely a subliminal marketing trick to make you believe this is the same guy you saw in the last film. Filmmakers know that audiences are prone to take recasts of their favorite characters rather hard, as happened with the Clarice recast in Hannibal. Viewers may feel betrayed, sometimes enough to boycott the sequel in question, and this may have been the producers attempt to ease us through the transition.

Now, that’s a little weird, and rather condescending to us as viewers, but, if that were the case, their intention were, if not pure, no worse than naive.

What the creators have failed to take into account, if that were the case, is that any time one alters someone’s skin tone on a computer, there are some racial issues at play. Regardless of whether those designing this poster thought about it at the time, the alteration is unfortunately reminiscent of the But Not Too Black casting approach and more offensive examples of photoshop white washing, such as this Loreal ad featuring Beyonce.

Now, I want to be clear. I’m not accusing anyone at Marvel Studios or Paramount Pictures of racism. After all, if they were somehow against a darker complexion on one of their leading men, why would they have cast Don Cheadle at all? No, all I’m saying is, while their intentions were probably innocent enough, I doubt they considered the larger historical issues they can be brought into play by such an apparently tiny thing as the computerizing altering of an actor’s appearance on a poster.

And perhaps they should’ve.

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Welcome to the Teal and Orange Age

by Ian Ridley

Some of you may have noticed the trend already. Maybe some of you, like me, had noticed something was different in recent films, but couldn’t quite put your finger on it. Well, the other day I was fortunate enough to stumble upon Todd Miro’s excellent blog entry which makes the whole thing clear.

To summarize, ever since Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?, filmmakers have had a revolutionary level of control over the image they were producing, as films were scanned in their entirety into computers. The result: complimentary color theory gone mad. Almost every film these days uses a complimentary palette on every shot, and since almost every shot has people in it, and people are mostly orange, what does the rest of the shot have to be? Teal.

Now, I have a little more sympathy for this trend and those that started it than Miro, who maintains Into The Abyss. For one thing, I find it almost endearing that Hollywood’s reaction to an unprecedented breakthrough in visual technology is exactly the same as my reaction to discovering photoshop. Yes, for years all I did to anything was over-saturate and ramp up the contrast. I’ve also always been a sucker for complimentary colors, especially orange and teal. And the palette actually does work for some movies, though there’s no denying how much it didn’t for Transformers 2. Of course, most things didn’t work for that movie.

However. While the apparently all-powerful Teal And Orange color scheme is not the worst thing ever, there is so much more that could be done with this technology. Hollywood is seriously squandering what could be an amazing breakthrough. There are so many possibilities beyond Teal And Orange, and while I’ve been enjoying the Teal and Orange Age so far, I’m more than ready for us to move into an Age of Untold Visual Possibility, in which filmmakers explore the entire color spectrum, using all kinds of new palettes to best frame their story.

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Don’t Kill Your Television: The Mission Statement

by Ian Ridley

I know you’ve seen them: the bumperstickers, the tshirts. There’s even a website dedicated to ending television’s reign. They’re the reason, when explaining my interests, I always feel the need to explain “I don’t watch TV, I watch TV shows“. Maybe you attach similar addendums to lists of your hobbies, explaining away the shameful way you waste your time. It’s the hip thing to hate TV, even if no one actually, you know, stops watching it to back up their talk of rotting brains and propaganda.

Of course, it’s not as if TV and movies are in any serious danger. Television viewership is at an all-time-high, with the average American watching over four hours a day, and we all know how much money Avatar made. Which brings me to my point: Television is here to stay. Even if everyone agrees that it’s a horrible thing, we also clearly agree that it’s well worth our time and money, or at least, we can’t help but spend our time and money on it.

Which is where Don’t Kill Your Television comes in, to present the alternative: a middle ground between blindly accepting and shelling out money to mass media as it exists today, and revolting against it in a futile attempt to get back to our mythologized good old days. We propose that loving something, as we clearly love television and have the statistics to prove it, means remaining critical of it, requiring nothing less than its best, and forcing improvement instead of accepting stagnation.

To that end, I intend to maintain this blog of critical analysis, news, and yes, a fair amount of opinion, on television and film, what’s good about it, what’s bad, and where we go from here.

So who’s ‘I’?

Well, DKYT was recently founded and is currently maintained with enthusiasm, if not skill, by an early-admission super-senior designing an independent major in film. Nonetheless, I would be happy to accept new contributors who believe in the cause, who may have more experience with blogging than I do, or who can offer more varied perspectives on current trends and new developments.

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