I'm back!!! Again..!! My HELSTROM Review- as well as a review of Marvel in general..
I'm back to the grind of sorts..
Did you miss me? Of course not..but as such I've returned to this corner of the web..to pontificate about the current state of comic book film and tv as well as the goings on in film media..
Its been a "dry" year in film and tv. No thanks to Covid-19, and its immediate aftermath thus the shutdowns of all film and tv productions as well as forcing some shows to cancel over it, (even though they won't admit that their respective shows were already in deep prior to the shutdown-see Supergirl)but now that some control has come back to most production houses, we have finally been able to watch something new from the planned reorganization of the Marvel/Disney/Hulu TV side of things.
Now before I get into the details, just so you know I'm a Marvel fan through and through. DC was never really my thing however I have always enjoyed the films growing up in the late 70s and 80s. That being said, I have much respect for those who have been the motivators in the film houses who get these projects going and are able to get them on the screen. These folks never really get the true respect of the fans or even their own companies but over time a few have managed to work their way up, from either the comic book side or the film side in order to shepherd their franchises.
Yes, you have your David Goyer or Kevin Feige or Jim Lee or even a Joss Whedon or Geoff Johns, but I want to talk about Jeph Loeb. But we will table that for the moment and get back to it.
Now having watched the whole season of Helstrom, I will say this: it was good.
Not great. Not exciting. Not scary.
Was I expecting more? Yes. Much more.
I understand there are excuses abound right?
"We had to stop production" or "This is what we had to work with" etc etc..
Yes I appreciate the fact that they managed to put out a series that had been planned a year or so ago. But this was some low grade schlock. At some point you have to wonder "Is this actually a Marvel operation or a Fox operation?" No attention to any sort of detail from the books. No real writing connection to the films or previous shows(though i will admit the Jeph Loeb/Agents of Shield/Daredevil/Iron Fist production fingerprint is all over this mess), for example: a moment that could have have been played more comicly is the scene where Yen is in the tunnel with the Keeper's skull- as a viewer we know he's there but none of the acting or writing is explaining why he is there or what the situation is about. All we see at thend of one scene is the Keeper's eye popping out- that's all. We don't see or hear the conversation with the skull or understand what is going on thus this whole characterization that was building up around the Yen character from the first episode is thrown away. Later we learn he is now a Keeper- huh?? How did that happen? We have more flashbacks of Daimon and Ana's living situation then we actually need yet none of them explain how they even have powers let alone learned how to control them. Even Ana's backstory doesn't match Daimon's- there still are some parts missing, yes she was taken by the father during his serial killings but huh?? So what?? What about Daimon? Nothing was explained even though he is the main character. Flashbacks are meant to explain details or build up the character's present motivations. Ana's character became more developed than the lead- and yes she was the best actor but even her character was a let down because of handcuffs from the writing staff.
That in itself is also the main problem. The writing.
Were the writers put in a bubble away from everything because it sure reflects that.
I constantly felt that the actors were too constrained by the writing or by the director. Its pretty bad when you can feel the stress from an actor- not from the writing but by the production itself.
We have all seen these shows before folks. Even last year with "EVIL" and the years before with the "Exorcist" tv series, or even with DC's "Constantine" we have all been down this road before. I mean "Supernatural" has done this shlock for 15 seasons!! Yet Marvel still hasn't figured out this angle of their medium and it has all been done better.
I understand that "believability" is an essential part of making a show based on demons and the supernatural a tough pill to swallow, but it hasn't been the issue with any of the superhero films or even previous shows like Agents of Shield or Daredevil?
So what is the problem?
I believe it lies with Jeph Loeb.
His record for quality tv work has been decent, however when it comes to commitment- especially in a product that is outside of his ballpark, it usually fails miserably.
Remember the Inhumans?
It had so much potential but its obvious laziness in part to production and writing was its own downfall.
Even Agents of Shield was a mess for fans of Marvel- yes its best seasons have been the most recent ones but as a Marvel fan- of the books that is, it felt like a waste. The whole point of the films and tv series was that it was all in the same universe yet it never felt like it was. I understand the need for it all to be seperate but sorry its a comic book tv show- you have to check your books and references!! Now that we have moved on from all of that and Marvel has this new contract with Hulu, I thought Loeb was gone too.
Boy was I wrong.
Its the same shit again.
Cheap production. Bad writing. No referencing. A horror show that's not scary nor mysterious at all.
Hardly a detective story.
The actors felt overworked and underpaid.
Not even any resemblance to the characters they're based on.
Like I said it felt like a Fox production and not a Marvel one.
Solution for Marvel:
1: They need to do what they did with the Marvel film franchise- add more charisma in their characters, as well as find a lead that can push the story along into other shows.
For example a cameo by Doctor Strange would have helped a lot. Considering that he might be your face of Marvel going into the next Phase of films, they should really consider utilizing that character more or at the very least have other crossover elements.
However there are some who will complain that it would make the show "hokey" or unbelievable and my response has always been that there needs to be more un-realism than realism.
Yes, we know that magic and hell are not real but in the world of Marvel- they are- but so are ducks that talk and smoke cigars and raccoon that shoot guns bigger than 5 men put together. So knowing this, to create a show that bridges fantasy and realism, Hell and Earth, this show failed to balance that as well as represent the characters its based on.
2: None of the characters looked anything like their book counterparts- if only by name or attitude alone. I understand they are rebuilding a corner of the Marvel universe but if they continue to misrepresent the characters they attempt to world build upon, then there will be a lack of faith by viewers of any other property going forward.
Where was the fiery Daimon Helstorm? Even then so- where was the real Santana? Horns n all?
Daimon's trademark satanic emblem was a nice touch as well as his trident in the last episode- but that's it?
These two characters are half-demons. They need to act and look like it. If WB's Lucifer can do it why can't this show even make the plate?
3: Better writing. Better editing. One review that i read mentioned the bad editing. I would agree only that it would be hard to prove considering as bad as the placement of scenes and writing was- the editing probably made it better. A very uneven series from episode to episode. I mentioned earlier about "referencing," that writers and directors should pay attention to previous works or the product its based on, and that is clearly not happening here. Following along from episode to episode, alot was skipped over or totally brushed off to keep the story going. This is episode tv folks not a 3 hour flick that needs to be edited down to an hour/45, there needs to be consistency.
Also the big moments need to be bigger and more powerful. The fight scenes were great but meaningless. When Daimon comes back its not unexpected or expected but more "eh, ok , you're here!" Other characters are built up like Victoria to fight back at Evil only to be brushed off by Daimon to save her thus expunging any of the character's reason to fight at all. Ana is mostly there in the end as a helper instead of actually a fighter..
It comes off very toned down then what it could have been. Even the demons are misrepresented for crying out loud!!!
4: Please stop dragging a 2 episode arc over 10 episodes! Like the Netflix shows previously, Loeb and Co. continue to drag us through story arcs that really should have been shorter and to the point. Instead we struggle through flashbacks upon flashbacks, and constant pointless dialogue. Even Iron Fist or Luke Cage didn't have that much yip yap!!
5. Get a new producer.
Its time for Jeph Loeb to move on to something else or put him back on books.
I don't know what it is about each movie/tv producer but they have a consistent trademark to their projects and Loeb has what looks like "an 70s/80s style" for tv programming. From the scripts, to the acting, to the directing- even the costume dept, its all got the Loeb touch. The worst is of course the Inhumans- a show so dreadful that the graphic novel it was based on was 100x better. As is the case with Helstrom, the actors were overworking and underpaid- i mean the actor who played Black Bolt learned sign language for the role!! Huh??
As a fan of the books and films, I totally bought into Kevin Feige's announcement that he was going to be in charge of both divisions. But like most things in Hollywood, announcements are made usually in spite- as if some other machination was moving behind the scenes. As fans we were all cheering that news earlier this year once it was announced that AOS was having its last season and that neither Daredevil or its spinoffs were continuing as well. There was some depression as we wondered what the future of the characters were- rumours continued that Daredevil could cameo in a Spider-Man flick or appear on the planned She-Hulk tv show. Then the announcements of the Disney Plus schedule of shows had us jumping out our seats. Then the pandemic came and no more news..just rumours upon rumours..
Thus when Helstorm went back on as planned- it was the shining light alot of the fans needed. The hope that this pandemic was going to be over soon and we would have some wonderful new shows- even The Mandolorian!!
So its sad to note that this show didn't make the cut. Like others I possibly had put this show on a pedestal ( as well as hopeful that my collection of Son of Satan and Hellstrom comics would increase in price..ehhh)expecting that a new adventure for Marvel had been started.
Unfortunately it seems that this could be over before its begun. With an abrupt cancellation of a Ghost Rider tv series and no word on anything else with Hulu(except for the Patton Oswalt, MODOK cartoon of course- ugh don't get me started on that!),I truly wonder what the next few years will be with Marvel. A new head of the tv division needs to happen asap. I'm sorry but Feige overseeing both divisions is fine but there needs to be a main tv producer isn't a comic book hack trying to make a tv show. If they needed that, they should have rehired Avi Arad!