Monday, January 11, 2016

The Lobo Paramilitary Christmas Special (2002)

Well, despite a leg wound, massive levels of exhaustion, and having inhaled at least 3 pounds of dust, I'm here with something new to talk about. And hey, it's holiday related! During Shitmas? How surprising! But yeah, before we get into the actual meat, let's talk about comic books. Did you know I read those? Have I brought that up before?

Yeah, I read comics. Really good, well-done comics.

Yep, me and comics are old friends. They actually got me into reading as a kid. Moving on from that earth-moving revelation, let's talk about a comic book character of some renown: Lobo. First appearing in DC Comics' Omega Men series, Lobo is the last surviving member of his race, the Czarnians. He's the last because he sort of let loose a horde of flying scorpions that killed everyone. Oops. He's mostly known for how he's been popularly portrayed later on, which is as a space biker bounty hunter who is as strong (if not stronger) than Superman. But, unlike ol' Big Blue, he doesn't tend to hold himself back and has been known to kill his enemies pretty savagely.

As such, they've had some disagreements about his methods in the past. I call them "punch-laden arguments".
Lobo reached popularity in the 90s as a character who existed to mock the grim and dark nonsense that happened in such a serious manner in other books. His books made light of it, taunting people with his antics and treating his violence like he was a lost Loony Tunes character. A part of this overall joke with him is reflected nicely in the various specials released which feature things like him showing up at a comic convention, him crashing spring break, and even one where he gets turned into a Robocop knockoff after dying from drinking too much.

These are real things. I own them.
In short, Lobo is not a character to be taken too seriously. He's meant to be a fun (albeit violent) character that exists to poke fun at grim and gritty stereotypes both in the medium and in popular culture. A lot of people love him for that very reason too, as it gets grueling to constantly read stories about characters who are devoid of humour or a self-awareness about how silly things can really be in comics. And DC Comics, being the entity that seems to exist in a state of "not getting it" since their big reboot hit, decided to drastically alter the main man into something completely different than what he has been for the majority of his existence. Now he isn't funny, over-the-top, or a parody of grim-dark things in comics. Nope, now he's just another ridiculously cliche character in a large stable of interchangeable characters who seem to all be devoid of personality. Oh, and they had him kill what looked like the actual beloved character that fans knew as Lobo.

It's always good to break what isn't broken and then shit on the fans' faces at the same time.
I could probably make an entire article about this and many other terrible decisions DC Comics made when initiating their reboot, but not today. Today we're going to ignore that stupid insulting nonsense and focus on the real Lobo. The alcohol-swilling, ass-grabbing, body-splaying space biker bounty hunter who loves space dolphins and cigars. You see, back when he was still a properly utilized character at DC Comics he had his very own Christmas special one-shot comic produced. It was as delightfully ridiculous as you would expect it to be. Many years later, a guy named Scott Leberecht made a short film based on this comic as part of the American Film Institute's director's studies program. because of it being considered an educational exercise, this meant that he could utilize the characters from the comic without royalties being paid out to DC Comics. It also meant that he didn't have to answer to anyone else when making the film.

Which meant avoiding some problems other comic book films of the time suffered.
How did this short film turn out? Well, we're here to find that out and to talk about a holiday special that you've likely never seen. Let's proceed, shall we? Our story opens with nice Christmas music...that immediately gets shoved aside as metal starts playing. We see our titular hero, Lobo, walking down an alleyway and into a bar full of various "people". Some are clearly human and others are debatably humanoid. He walks up the bar itself, shoves a patron down onto it, and has the bartender forcibly tell him where the person he's there to meet is. Now, the immediate thing I notice going into this is Lobo himself. Or rather, the actor playing him, I should say. He's played by Andrew Bryniarski, who isn't a name you might immediately know. What is he probably most famous for? Well, he played Leatherface in the Texas Chainsaw remake and its prequel...but there is something more notorious that he was featured prominently in.

Oh yeah. He was in that movie.
Yes, Andrew played Zangief in Street Fighter, a movie I have gotten countless requests to cover. It's easy to see why he got picked for Lobo here, as he does have the proper physique and size for the role. He also actually wanted to play the main man for quite some time, even going as far as to circulate make-up tests of himself as the character in 1999 to show that he could definitely fill the role visually. You gotta love it when an actor is just a big fanboy like that. It gives you a warm fuzzy feeling. Or maybe that's just a tumorous growth? Hmmm...back to the story, we see who Lobo is here to meet. And who could be meeting one of the most dangerous men in the universe in a dive bar?

Look, it's Hugh Jackman!
Yep, it's the Easter Bunny and he's looking to hire Lobo to take someone out on behalf of himself and other holiday representatives. They want Lobo to take out Santa Claus. It turns out that Christmas is taking over all the other holidays. Actually...yeah, that is exactly what's been happening, isn't it? You go out and see Christmas stuff getting put out earlier and earlier. It bled into Halloween this year, for fuck's sake! I don't really condone the outright slaughter of Santa but I can definitely see where the Bunny and his friends are coming from. Luckily for them, Lobo isn't a big fan of Christmas either, as he points out that he never got what he wanted from Santa.

I'm gonna hazard a guess that it's because Lobo tends to end up on the naughty side of things.

Thus the main man heads to the North Pole and he begins tearing his way through the elves as he seeks to shut down Santa's whole operation. We see this initially through security cameras that some elves are watching from the control room, which even includes what is probably the only Blair Witch Project parody to ever garner a chuckle from me as we see a lone elf in front of a camera saying he's "so scared" as he breathes roughly. From behind rises Lobo, ending that elf's fears once and for all.

Looks like someone just got their stocking stuffed.

Part of what I like about it is that it, much like the violence in the comics, feels firmly comedic in nature. The elf speaking in a goofy fashion as Lobo rises smiling behind him, whispering "boo" before killing him, clearly mocking the film that was famous for never having a visible villain. This scene on its own is a better horror movie parody than the Scary Movie and A Haunted House series have been able to accomplish with multiple sequels. After watching him kill said elf, the other elves in the control room panic.

They just realized that this whole thing is actually just a lead-in to Viscera Cleanup Detail. Panicking is to be expected.
The leader tries radioing the other elves but when he gets no answer, he decides to take the fight out to Lobo with his large gun. He dies almost immediately after opening the door and then the other two cowering elves are left to Lobo as he makes short work of them. One elf survives this onslaught, managing to make it to Santa's office where he informs him that "the naughtiest one has come" before falling over dead. Well, I'm assuming he's dead but I could very well be wrong.

I guess he could pull through. He did manage to make it this far in that condition.
Lobo confronts Santa and we get some clear allusions to the fact that Santa has a bit of a reputation for being naughty himself. Wait...is this Santa the same one who grabbed a battle axe and went on a killing spree? Because I wouldn't be surprised. Lobo does call him Killer Kringle and Big Bloody Nick, so it does line up. Santa offers him a drink but he declines, saying he's there on business and the red man tells the main man that he's aware, revealing the Easter Bunny in a cage next to his throne.

Alright....yes, that is a minor twist. Now get out of here!
The Bunny begs Lobo for help, saying that he's almost sober and that Santa has neutered him. Santa rebuts that he couldn't resist, as apparently his testicles are delicacies. Eughhh. Lobo agrees but the Easter Bunny then gets angry and reminds him that he's paying him to kill Santa, not agree with him on whether his balls go well with a nice wine. Just as it looks like Lobo is going to off him, Santa pulls out a present for him, telling him that they've wanted to give it to him for years but he's never been on the nice list. Lobo bites, taking it and tearing it open to reveal a snowglobe with dolphins in it that leaves him happily transfixed. Remember, he loves those fraggin' fishies. The Bunny tries to snap him out of it as Santa pulls out a revolver, saying that he "cares about all the children of the world, including him".


Sometimes his version of caring tends to result in body bags. Because he just cares so much it hurts...other people.
Before Satna can get a shot off, Lobo shoots him, revealing that he had his other hand tucked under his arm with his gun aimed at the big man. Santa declares "you naughty bastard" before falling over, and the Easter Bunny erupts from his cage happy that the deed is finally done. Lobo stares once more at the snowglobe, then tosses it away, then takes out a cigar while the Bunny dances about happily with the knowledge that he'll now be the number one king of the holiday scene. This gets cut short when Lobo turns and puts a bullet right between his eyes, looking into the camera and saying "I always did hate the holidays". The end!

"Ain't I a fraggin' stinker?"
As a short film it's actually pretty well done, featuring good costume work and make-up. It's especially impressive when you consider it was made on a budget of $2,400. Well, it did receive some donations from fans that likely made it slightly higher, but yeah, not bad at all. The actors did well in their roles too, with the Easter Bunny firmly coming off like a seedy little weasel only out for himself and Santa being grizzled and a bit imposing as he faces off against Lobo. Andrew Bryniarski himself does a pretty good job as Lobo, feeling like the right mix of cartoon character and hardened killer.

It doesn't hurt at all that he really looks the part too.
My major gripes would be that the sound could be better and that maybe we could've seen a bit more of the violence against the elves, but between the low budget and the fact that I am watching a worn-out copy of the film, these are forgivable. Overall, it's a pretty fun little short that gives a good idea what a Lobo movie could be like if given the proper love and attention that fan favourite character like himself deserves. Sadly, we never see this Lobo in live-action again as the company itself seems to be still pushing the desperately boring new version which seem more interested in being cool than it does being funny. But we can always go back and look at one came before, now matter what. So, until we reach a point where people at WB and DC Comics actually give a shit about their fans, I'll be here wishing I could afford this obscenely expensive Lobo statue. Later days, bleeders.

And to all a good night.

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