Entry for November 19, 2007: Batmobile and Beowulf

Friends, I hope you had a good weekend. On Saturday, 17 November 2007, I drove out to the Sheraton Framingham for the annual Super MegaFest. The genre entertainment convention was somewhat better organized than last year, but with relatively few events of its kind in the Boston area, it was pretty crowded.

Unfortunately, I didn't see co-workers Tom L. or Ken G., who also planned to attend, nor did any of the local gamers join me. However, I did have a good time meeting celebrities, browsing in the dealers' rooms, and hanging out with fellow pop-culture fans.

Among other things, I got to sit behind the wheel of the Batmobile, one of several seen in the campy 1960s Batman television series. "Rockets to power, turbines to speed!" — it's one of the more recognizable vehicles from fiction.

Speaking of Batman, I got an autograph from onetime "Robin" Burt Ward. I had met his "old chums" Adam West and Julie Newmar (Batman and Catwoman respectively), as well as Eartha Kitt (another Catwoman), Yvonne Craig (Batgirl), and Frank Gorshin (the Riddler) at previous shows. They were all quite friendly.

While the Net buzzes with speculation about a planned live-action Justice League movie, even during the writers' strike, I was glad to indulge in nostalgia. Like everything else, signed photos have become more expensive (now at $20 to $50 each), but it's easier to hold brief conversations with the actors than at larger conventions.

I also met former Supergirl (and, more recently, "Lara" on Smallville) Helen Slater, who has aged well. Larry Storch, from comedic Western F Troop, was as funny as ever. In addition to the usual aging Playmates, Butch Patrick ("Eddie Munster" on The Munsters), Margot Kidder (Lois Lane from the early 1980s Superman films), William Katt (from The Greatest American Hero), and Jeremy Bulloch (Boba Fett in the original Star Wars movies) were all present.

In keeping with the Batman theme, several people were in costume as characters from that franchise. In the dealers' rooms, there were numerous DVDs, comic books, action figures, props, and other memorabilia. I bought a few HeroClix miniatures for my D20 Mutants & Masterminds 2nd Ed. superhero game, but not much else this time around.

It was a busy week for fans for speculative fiction, with the Battlestar Galactica: Razor and Star Trek: the Menagerie theatrical premieres (see earlier blog postings); strong new episodes of Heroes and Journeyman; and the Super MegaFest. In related news, there were the mixed reactions to Marvel Comics' announcement of its online initiative, the Doctor Who charity video (thanks to Thomas K.Y.), and a preview of the Star Wars: Clone Wars computer animated television series.

The next local convention that I may try to attend is Arisia, which focuses more on the literary side of science fiction, in mid-January of 2008. Later in the weekend, Janice and I caught up on recorded shows, including Pushing Daisies, and I look forward to an Avatar: the Last Airbender telemovie.

In addition, Janice and I met Beruk A., John C.M., and Sara F. and her boyfriend Josh for a 3-D screening of Beowulf at Jordan's Framingham IMAX theater. The Old English epic, rendered by computer animation, was adapted by respected British author Neil Gaiman. Director Robert Zemeckis has improved on the motion-capture technology he previously used in The Polar Express.

Beowulf featured a distinguished cast that included future Indiana Jones IV sidekick Ray Winstone as the Geat hero, Sir Anthony Hopkins as King Hrothgar, Princess Bride's Robin Wright-Penn as Hrothgar's long-suffering queen, creepy Crispin Glover as the monstrous and childlike Grendel, and Angelina Jolie as Grendel's seductive and vengeful mother.

In short, the story begins with Danish King Hrothgar's new mead hall being plagued by attacks by the murderous Grendel. Mercenary and boastful, but also brave and honorable, Beowulf arrives in a Viking longship to kill Grendel and claim a reward in gold, which he doesn't realize carries a curse. Beowulf later fights a dragon in a spectacular battle.

This movie's fight scenes were well-choreographed, even if the gratuitous nudity was occasionally unintentionally amusing, especially in a PG-13 flick. While the last third of Beowulf diverges from the original pagan poem, recorded in the fifth century A.D. by Christian monks, Gaiman and company's plot changes make sense, and I'd compare this movie favorably with Frank Miller's 300, which took some liberties with actual Greek history. I'd give Beowulf about a 7 or 8 out of 10, or a B+.

The next genre movies that might be worth seeing are the postapocalyptic horror I Am Legend, starring Will Smith, and The Golden Compass, featuring Casino Royale's Daniel Craig and Eva Green, as well as Sir Ian McKellan, Nicole Kidman, and Sam Elliott.

This past weekend, Janice and I also raked leaves and began Christmas shopping, and I played City of Heroes online with our full supergroup online for the first time in weeks. I don't expect to enjoy the next few days' worth of work or the long drive down to Virginia to see my family. Still, I hope that you and yours have a Happy Thanksgiving!