An Alternate Rise of the Blockbuster

I forgot to mention in the notes: the plot of TTL's Moonraker is slightly different, given that its main inspiration is Close Encounters rather than Star Wars. As noted, there's more gimmicky shit about UFOs and apparent alien abduction (which, of course, turns out to be the work of Hugo Drax).

Brainbin said:
You mention that Moore's reception as Bond - had he left after For Your Eyes Only - would be mixed, and I can see that. Here, he goes out on a high note (his best performance as Bond, we're in agreement there), but he still has plenty dragging him down. Full disclosure: I'm a fan of Moore and I think he gets too much flack IOTL, but I agree that just because we're spared his two later films ITTL doesn't mean that people would suddenly love him.

But what's really interesting is that the one Bond consistently judged inferior to Moore - Lazenby - has here been redeemed! I love the irony. We get a better film, even though the best possible candidate for the role of Bond - who took the role IOTL - has turned it down! But they've had to compensate for that elsewhere, and that almost always results in stronger overall films. The best actors in the world can be capsized by poor writing or direction.
Full disclosure: I like Lazenby a lot. Even though his performance is sort of awkward in OHMSS, that's the result of it being basically his first acting job ever -- given time he could have become possibly the best Bond of all of them. As it is, I rank him fourth: my order of preference is Dalton, Connery, Craig, Lazenby, Brosnan, Moore. (The latter two I just find bland -- although I still like them, just not as much.)
 
I like the idea of John Rhys-Davies as Largo. However, I must ask, what led you to choose so many actors from other Bond movies IOTL and give them new roles ITTL?
 
I like the idea of John Rhys-Davies as Largo. However, I must ask, what led you to choose so many actors from other Bond movies IOTL and give them new roles ITTL?
Laziness. :D I couldn't be bothered searching for a new Domino, so I just gave the role of the Italian Bond girl to the Italian actress. As for Michaela Clavell, I was actually prepared to do a proper in-depth search for a replacement for Lois Maxwell... then I realised that Penelope Smallbone was basically going to be a "new Moneypenny" anyway and they'd effectively done my work for me.

And I brought back Telly Savalas because he was the best Blofeld. And he had acted opposite Lazenby last time too, so there's a reasonable motivation for hiring him again. And he was conveniently available for the period of filming as well.
 
Oh, and while I'm here I need to ask this again: can anyone think of an actress who could play Luke Skywalker's sister? So, someone who's born in the 1950s and looks like they could be related to Bill Mumy. Red hair optional.
 
And I brought back Telly Savalas because he was the best Blofeld. And he had acted opposite Lazenby last time too, so there's a reasonable motivation for hiring him again. And he was conveniently available for the period of filming as well.
I think Telly is great as Blofeld!
 

Glen

Moderator
Oh, and while I'm here I need to ask this again: can anyone think of an actress who could play Luke Skywalker's sister? So, someone who's born in the 1950s and looks like they could be related to Bill Mumy. Red hair optional.
How about Annette O'Toole?
 
I considered her quite early on (being one of only two redheaded 80s actresses I know of) but I don't know if she could play a good villain.

But I think I've figured out who can play her.
 
So basically, you've put her effectively in OTL's Mara Jade role?
Hmm... they're both female practitioners of the Dark Side (a.k.a. the Bogan Force) with red hair but apart from that not really. And the red hair is a coincidence too -- it's only because in TTL Luke's hair is red.

BTW, will someone do anything in regards to Jim Hatfield's novel ITTL?
I didn't know about that. No change.
 
Update #12 -- the making of The Star Wars -- Chapter IV: The Sith Strike Back.

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Although he was on top of the world professionally, late 1982 through to early 1983 was a dark period in George Lucas’s personal life. His marriage to Marcia Lucas – who had been editor on all his films, and had provided invaluable scripting advice – was falling apart, due to his preoccupation with work and his sterility. Like many artists had done before, Lucas let off steam by channelling his dark feelings into his work; as Lucas was careful not to let his mood infect his more lucrative property, The Temple of Doom, from the Adventures of Indiana Jones (prequel to Raiders of the Lost Ark), this was mainly targeted at The Star Wars – Chapter IV: The Sith Strike Back.

It is likely that this also influenced Lucas’s choice of writer/director for The Sith Strike Back: Canadian cult-film director David Cronenberg, who had recently earned name-recognition for his notorious 1981 film Scanners. Lucas always maintained that he would have chosen Cronenberg regardless, due to his respect for him as an auteur, but there is no denying that Cronenberg was especially suited to making a Star Wars film designed to earn a rating of PG-13 (one of the earliest famous examples of such).

Cronenberg accepted the job in late 1982, turning down the position of director for the film version of Stephen King’s The Dead Zone (which would eventually go to veteran filmmaker Robert Wise) – Cronenberg judged that The Star Wars would give him greater exposure, as well as allowing him more creative freedom than a straight film adaptation could.

Because of the delay in re-signing all three major stars, the release of The Sith Strike Back would be pushed back to two years after the release of Return of the Jedi rather than the expected eighteen months. The filmmakers would stick to the two-year schedule thereafter, finding it more convenient, but at the time it prompted sufficient concern about viewers’ waning interest that it led to the re-release of the original film in early 1983, now under the expanded title The Star Wars – Chapter I: Terror of the Death Star. After the film’s re-release run (which pushed its total earnings from both releases over the $200 million mark, but didn’t approach the success of Steven Spielberg’s Haunted House), it was released for the first time on home video. (The re-release was also very likely the cause of congressional Democrats ridiculing the proposed Strategic Defense Initiative missile shield as the “Death Star program”, and may have been instrumental in turning public opinion against it.)

The story of The Sith Strike Back, unlike the first three films, notably barely featured the Rebel Alliance at all and was primarily focused on the lead characters, as well as the conflict between the Force and Bogan Force, or Jedi and Sith. It began by returning to Luke’s home planet Utapau for the first time to show the protagonists rescuing Han Solo from alien crime boss Zavos Fortuna (immediate superior of Captain Oxus, who also reappeared) while laying low at the Lars homestead. The rescue is successful, but shortly afterwards Prince Annikin Valorum, Dark Prince of the Sith, tracks down Luke and Leia to the farm: Owen and Beru Lars are killed, while Luke’s young cousins Biggs and Windy are abducted. With Han recuperating with the Rebels, Luke and Leia go to track them down to a system controlled by the Knights of the Sith – where, it transpires, Valorum has been keeping Luke’s twin sister Zara her entire life (under the name “Zara Starkiller”) and training her to be a fanatical Sith killing machine. Valorum intends to brainwash Biggs and Windy into becoming the same way, knowing they too have the potential to become strong in the Force. Luke and Zara end up duelling with each other and she uses the power of the Bogan Force against her brother, including projecting extremely disturbing hallucinative imagery into his mind. The end of the film is bittersweet: Biggs and Windy are rescued, but Zara remains a villain in the thrall of Valorum and the Bogan Force (though it is suggested that there is hope she could be redeemed in the future.)

As with the three lead roles, the part of Zara was tested in open auditions. The final selection was a daughter of two famous Hollywood performers who’d gained a reputation as a horror-movie “scream-queen” which she was desperate to shed: Jamie Lee Curtis, who had recently finished filming on the comedy Trading Places and now relished the opportunity to play a villain. To better emphasise Curtis’s physical resemblance to Bill Mumy as Luke, her hair was dyed auburn-red.

While the actors for Owen and Beru from the first film reprised their roles, neither of the original children who had played Biggs and Windy Lars were still acting (nor were they judged to have the required acting range, in any case). Thus they were replaced by real-life brothers River and Leaf Phoenix, playing Biggs and Windy respectively.

When The Star Wars – Chapter IV: The Sith Strike Back was released to cinemas in May 1984, reviews were mixed. Although critics generally liked the story itself, its execution by Cronenberg made many people feel uneasy – particularly its treatment of Biggs’ and Windy’s kidnapping, which was too uncomfortably realistic in its fearfulness and horror rather than having the customary “oh no, the Hardy Boys have been captured again!” adventurous feel audiences may have come to expect. The Luke-Zara duel also came under fire for its imagery, and has since become infamous for being a greater cause of childhood nightmare fuel than the “tunnel scene” from 1971’s Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. One demographic with whom the film had an overwhelmingly positive reception, however, was teenage males: these were audience members who had seen the first film as children and were happy to see the series “grow up” with them.

In the end, although The Sith Strike Back was still a blockbuster success, it was far less profitable than any of the previous films in the series with a domestic gross of $115 million. Later that same year, George Lucas’s other film The Temple of Doom (rated PG) was a smash-hit success with $356 million earned at the box office worldwide, doing slightly better than its predecessor. For Lucas, the message was clear: The Star Wars being PG-13 was a failed experiment, and the next installment would have to go back to PG.

More importantly, it would have to bring back the fun. Lucas thus commenced negotiations to bring back Lawrence Kasdan to write The Star Wars – Chapter V. And for director, Lucas once again chose a filmmaker who he felt was talented yet under-appreciated: Jonathan Demme. At the time, Demme had directed the critically-acclaimed but low-profile films Handle With Care and Melvin and Howard, and had most recently gone through a deeply troubled production on the box-office flop Swing Shift. Demme was prepared to depart Hollywood entirely (and indeed had already begun moving into new ventures with the Talking Heads concert film Stop Making Sense), but Lucas’s offer made him reconsider.

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Notes: I've been sitting on this update for a while now but real life intervened again. Plus I was lazy. Anyway, the point is I'm sorry I didn't have this ready for May the 4th.

Oh, and confession time: I've never actually seen a David Cronenberg film. So if anything jumps out as being out of character or anything, tell me.

George and Marcia Lucas divorced around this time in OTL as well, for much the same reasons.

I've retconned the format of the Indiana Jones titles, so there's no colons in them -- instead they each have the subtitle ...from the Adventures of Indiana Jones. In terms of how this is displayed on screen, the subtitle would be in much smaller font below the main title and would typically be omitted in conversation. The idea is to make each of the Indiana Jones films sound like individual stories drawn from a much larger tome (i.e. "The Adventures of Indiana Jones"), much in the same manner as some early Star Wars drafts were subtitled "From the Journal of the Whills".

This update has the first political change this TL has seen: Reagan's infamous "Star Wars" is instead nicknamed "Death Star". This is partly because the re-release has the Death Star specifically still fresh in people's minds, and partly because the name of the series in TTL is "The Star Wars" rather than just "Star Wars". The different name makes it clearer that the nickname is meant as a term of ridicule.

I was going to have Luke, Leia et al rescuing Han from Captain Oxus, but I realised that Captain Oxus is a bit too laughable a figure (a drunken shouting fat Irishman), thus Zavos Fortuna is his boss. Fortuna's a much more Jabba-like figure, although he's probably not a giant slug. Oxus works for him. I didn't feel the need to spell it out in the update, but both die in the movie.

Jamie Lee Curtis is my choice for Zara. I regret nothing.

The Temple of Doom in TTL is rather less dark and disturbing than OTL's Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, and is more successful as a result. It also exceeds the profits of OTL's Raiders of the Lost Ark, due to Harrison Ford now being a household name.

The next update will be a bit of a round-up, about the state of action films in America and science-fiction in the UK. I'll write it when I write it.
 

Glen

Moderator
A solid update. I think JLC will do well in the Zara role. This movie sounds more like something from Power and Glitter.
 
Update #13 -- American superheroes and "gunsploitation", and British science fiction.

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America

Although the trend began in the late 1970s with Superman and Superman II, the superhero movie could be regarded as a defining film genre of the 1980s. The decade saw the release of a multitude of adaptations from comic books: from the biggest-scale franchises such as Superman, Batman, Captain America and Spider-Man, through to cheaper efforts such as The Flash, Daredevil and Green Arrow. (A glaring exception was of course Wonder Woman, whose film adaptation would be continually delayed throughout the decade due to a combination of bureaucratic misfortune and badly-disguised misogyny.)

One can see the influence of the superhero movie bleed into other genre films of the era, even in established series. For example, the Jedi and the Sith in The Star Wars are effectively superheroes and supervillains within a science-fantasy setting. And in Rocky IV, the final movie of the Rocky series, protagonist Rocky Balboa is obviously depicted like a superhero facing off against the blatantly supervillainous Ivan Drago.

In addition to adaptations, film studios began making their own original superhero stories – notable examples being Shadow Hawk and Agent Zero. Most of these original superheroes were targeted towards an older crowd with R-rated films, while adaptations were more likely to be PG or PG-13. Although the characters were original their origins and powers generally fit the mould of either Captain America or Batman, either being genetic supermen or merely highly equipped with technology. As a rule, their enemies would be either criminals, terrorists or (occasionally) communists.

These films’ popularity was often at the expense of the sub-genre commonly known at the time as the “shoot-’em-up”, although it has come to be known in retrospect as “gunsploitation”. Gunsploitation referred to a certain type of action film with its roots in such movies as the James Bond series, Dirty Harry and the films of Charles Bronson, distinguished by many key elements being pushed absurdly over the top. The protagonists were commonly ridiculously-muscle-bound alpha males in the roles of policemen, military officers or government agents – often mavericks in their jobs – battling assorted criminals or enemy nations in spectacularly theatrical action scenes heavy on gunplay, chases, explosions and one-liners. Villains were as a rule one-dimensional and obviously evil to the core. Character development was minimal, and if there was an attempt to play on the audience’s emotions it was generally blatant manipulation.

In essence, gunsploitation films were the same as superhero films but without any justification for the protagonists’ superhuman abilities beyond their sheer overwhelming machismo. So it transpired that as a rule, superhero films would nearly always win when placed side-by-side with gunsploitation films on a cinema marquee – perhaps a sign that audiences were more willing to suspend disbelief for the thoroughly impossible than for the merely counter-intuitive. Notably, gunsploitation films that crossed over with other genres like speculative fiction (e.g. The Terminator, Aliens) or comedy (e.g. Beverly Hills Cop) were much more successful than straight examples.

The public’s attitude to gunsploitation is best demonstrated by the performance of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s follow-up to The Terminator: the gunsploitation flick Commando (which was at least partly comedic but was primarily intended as an action film). The film was released in summer 1985 – between Spider-Man (starring Matthew Broderick as Peter Parker) being an amazing smash-hit success, and Shadow Hawk drawing the more mature audience who might consider Spider-Man too tame, Commando did not receive an especially large audience share – it grossed $23 million and was considered a step down for Schwarzenegger after Conan the Barbarian and The Terminator.

Still, Commando had earned back just over twice its budget, which made it respectably successful and was sufficient to earn it a sequel. Die Hard: Commando II (1988) is best known for being the first film appearance of actor Alan Rickman as the Russian terrorist leader Anton Grechko, who was widely considered to be the best part of a film that generally did not distinguish itself. Schwarzenegger himself acted in several other gunsploitation films through the late 1980s, and would also go on to play several more high-profile villain roles, but would not achieve mainstream success playing a hero again until Skynet: The Terminator Part II (1991) – after that, he was able to permanently transition to heroic roles (helped by the fact that by that time he was able to speak with a flawless American accent in films). Schwarzenegger was one of the few gunsploitation stars who was able to break through to the mainstream – others such as Chuck Norris and Steven Seagal remained thoroughly ghettoized within the sub-genre and are generally unknown to all but enthusiasts.

Sylvester Stallone, meanwhile, took an entirely different approach to his career than Schwarzenegger – throughout the 1980s he was associated with films that flirted with gunsploitation but were slightly too intelligent to belong to the genre. A good example was First Blood (1982), in which he starred as killing-machine Vietnam veteran John Rambo: the film delved into Rambo’s tortured psyche, only featured him actually killing one person (and that accidentally, in self-defence) and finally ended with Rambo’s ignoble death at the hands of his former commanding officer. Another such example was Eagle’s Fury (1986), which Stallone wrote and directed but did not act in himself.

Eagle’s Fury starred Harrison Ford as Colonel Leo Hendricks, commander in charge of a Delta Forces unit, and Jason Robards as the President of the United States – the film was centred around a mission (“Operation Eagle’s Fury”) to rescue American civilians being held hostage by a North African nation which had recently undergone a communist revolution. Despite the changes in details, the story was a thinly-veiled “how-it-should-have-happened” for the Iran hostage crisis of 1979-81, and Robards’ character – though not defined politically beyond a certain hawkishness – a clear analogue of President Ronald Reagan. However, the film itself was superbly well-written and shot, and actually took the time to portray its protagonists as real people without resorting to cheap manipulation; Harrison Ford, a dyed-in-the-wool Democrat, stated that he accepted the role of Hendricks out of high regard for the screenplay itself regardless of its political message. Eagle’s Fury would later come to be regarded as the signature right-wing movie of the decade, and would be celebrated by American conservatives (particularly the interventionist warhawk “neoconservative” faction).

The connection of Eagle’s Fury with the Iran hostage crisis was not lost on the viewing public: the film’s release saw a spike in anti-Iranian sentiment nationwide, the likes of which hadn’t been seen since the crisis itself. Stallone himself had to make a public statement decrying all prejudice or violence against the Iranian-American community.

The United Kingdom

While Spider-Man and Shadow Hawk were busy blowing Commando out of the water, across the Atlantic Ocean a film was being released that had been anticipated for some time. After two radio series, four books and one six-episode television show, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy was being adapted to film as well.

Rather than simply retelling the story of the Earth being destroyed and of the planet Magrathea yet again, the film was instead based on plans for a second series of the TV show, which would have been adapted from the third book Life, the Universe and Everything. This meant that the film appeared to follow on from the TV show in some ways: it started on prehistoric Earth, where the show had ended; its backstory more or less matched the events of the show; it kept the same designs for the Guide, Marvin and the Heart of Gold; and Peter Jones, Simon Jones, Mark Wing-Davey, Stephen Moore and Richard Vernon all reprised their roles. There were also significant differences, such as the recasting (yet again) of Ford Prefect and Trillian – David Dixon was judged as too placid and Sandra Dickinson too ditzy to be suitable for the film; they were replaced in the roles by Rik Mayall and Miranda Richardson respectively. The design of Zaphod in the film also changed: the utter failure of the second animatronic head from the TV show resulted in its replacement in the film by a second animatronic face, on the back of Zaphod’s head. (At Wing-Davey’s insistence, Zaphod’s hair was also changed from red to surfer blond.)

In the UK, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (1985) did respectable business. In the all-important American market, its release was delayed to November and then passed by mostly unnoticed. A sequel was not forthcoming.

1985 also saw the television show Doctor Who air its 23rd season, again with Colin Baker as the Doctor. It was clear from the previous year that Nicola Bryant’s character Peri Brown wasn’t working: her relationship with the Doctor as his Companion was too antagonistic, to the point where they didn’t seem to like each other at all, and their conflicts always seemed to end in the Doctor’s favour. Additionally, the strategy to attract more viewers through Peri’s sex appeal didn’t appear to be working. At the end of the second serial, Peri was killed off under tragic circumstances; the next serial introduced the Doctor’s new companion Claudia, played by Angela Bruce. Claudia was a sharp contrast to Peri, and not only due to being about ten years older and the first non-white companion in the history of the show: she seemed to actually enjoy travelling in the Tardis, unlike Peri, and was able to deflate the Doctor’s ego through being dismissive of his bluster, meaning the two were better matched in strength of personality. The character would remain on the show for the rest of Colin Baker’s tenure as the Doctor, finally leaving the show in Sylvester McCoy’s first full serial as the Seventh Doctor (the final serial of the 25th season, in 1987) to be replaced by new character Ace, played by Sophie Aldred.

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Notes: I wrote this earlier than I thought I would. That's a sign that I've been seriously procrastinating during this exam revision period and I need to study more. (Though in fairness to myself, I've had most of this planned for a long time.)

"Shadow Hawk" and "Agent Zero" are actually comic-book character names in OTL, but since they were invented in the 1990s I feel comfortable about stealing them here. Seriously, it's really fucking hard to come up with a completely original superhero name. Just try it. I dare you.

What in TTL is called "gunsploitation" would in OTL simply be called "action" -- but the difference is that the tropes of OTL's '80s action films never came to dominate the entire genre, meaning that the "shoot-'em-up" remains a bit of a separate subgenre within the larger whole.

Confession time: I've never seen Commando either.

Matthew Broderick seemed like the obvious choice for 1980s Peter Parker. A welcome side effect (for me) is that I've just severely altered Ferris Bueller's Day Off, or possibly butterflied it away completely. Man, I hate that movie.

Die Hard was almost a sequel to Commando in OTL as well, but got retooled into a standalone story. In TTL, Die Hard: Commando II is more like its original conception -- less heist film, more terrorism thriller. Lower budget too. EDIT: Forgot to mention -- Arnold Schwarzenegger's Germanic accent means that the bad guys get changed from German to Russian. Hence "Hans Gruber" (who is named "Anton Gruber" in the source novel) becomes "Anton Grechko".

Rambo still dies at the end of First Blood because there's less potential for a sequel, given that superheroes are on the way up and gunsploitation is on the way down -- thus they keep the original ending. There are no Rambo sequels.

Eagle's Fury basically takes the cultural place of Red Dawn, helped by the fact that it's actually a much better movie than Red Dawn is.

There were plans to make a second series of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy based on Life, the Universe and Everything in OTL as well, but they were discontinued.

It's not clear from the update itself, but the major difference regarding Doctor Who is that Michael Grade never becomes Controller of BBC1, and thus doesn't put the show on an 18-month hiatus out of spite. I've butterflied away the character of Mel (hurrah!), but I'm keeping Ace and I regret nothing. I'm also keeping Sylvester McCoy because he's awesome, but he comes into the show a little later (near the end of the penultimate serial in 1987, rather than in the first serial) due to Colin Baker retiring from the role rather than being fired. But as luck would have it, this means that Sylvester McCoy now gets to skip over his silly season and get straight to the good stuff.

The next update will be regarding Highlander.
 
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Glen

Moderator
Well, this one deserves some in depth commentary, but let me say overall a very interesting and action packed update, CM!

Update #13 -- American superheroes and "gunsploitation", and British science fiction.

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America

Although the trend began in the late 1970s with Superman and Superman II, the superhero movie could be regarded as a defining film genre of the 1980s. The decade saw the release of a multitude of adaptations from comic books: from the biggest-scale franchises such as Superman, Batman, Captain America and Spider-Man, through to cheaper efforts such as The Flash, Daredevil and Green Arrow. (A glaring exception was of course Wonder Woman, whose film adaptation would be continually delayed throughout the decade due to a combination of bureaucratic misfortune and badly-disguised misogyny.)
Oh come on! Why did you delay Wonder Woman? Was it to get rid of Lynda Carter? Curse you, curse you I say!:mad:

One can see the influence of the superhero movie bleed into other genre films of the era, even in established series. For example, the Jedi and the Sith in The Star Wars are effectively superheroes and supervillains within a science-fantasy setting. And in Rocky IV, the final movie of the Rocky series, protagonist Rocky Balboa is obviously depicted like a superhero facing off against the blatantly supervillainous Ivan Drago.
Sounds like interpretation change due to different context rather than an actual change to the films in question.

In addition to adaptations, film studios began making their own original superhero stories – notable examples being Shadow Hawk and Agent Zero. Most of these original superheroes were targeted towards an older crowd with R-rated films, while adaptations were more likely to be PG or PG-13. Although the characters were original their origins and powers generally fit the mould of either Captain America or Batman, either being genetic supermen or merely highly equipped with technology. As a rule, their enemies would be either criminals, terrorists or (occasionally) communists.
Funny, somehow I would have thought the opposite would have occured with more 'adultish' versions of classics to both interest an older viewer as well as tapping into their nostaglia, and then a bunch of lower budget, 'kid-friendly' superhero knockoffs.

These films’ popularity was often at the expense of the sub-genre commonly known at the time as the “shoot-’em-up”, although it has come to be known in retrospect as “gunsploitation”. ....
Interesting thought and I like the concept of gunsploitation films as a subgenre - not sure that superhero faire would suck so much of the life out of the action genre, but that is certainly an unknowable question and in your timeline it is as valid a response to superhero movies as any.

The public’s attitude to gunsploitation is best demonstrated by the performance of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s follow-up to The Terminator: the gunsploitation flick Commando (which was at least partly comedic but was primarily intended as an action film). The film was released in summer 1985 – between Spider-Man (starring Matthew Broderick as Peter Parker) being an amazing smash-hit success,
Good that there is a Terminator. Like Broderick as Peter Parker.

and Shadow Hawk drawing the more mature audience who might consider Spider-Man too tame, Commando did not receive an especially large audience share – it grossed $23 million and was considered a step down for Schwarzenegger after Conan the Barbarian and The Terminator.
Meh - OTL Commando certainly was no great film....

Still, Commando had earned back just over twice its budget, which made it respectably successful and was sufficient to earn it a sequel. Die Hard: Commando II (1988) is best known for being the first film appearance of actor Alan Rickman as the Russian terrorist leader Anton Grechko, who was widely considered to be the best part of a film that generally did not distinguish itself.
Certainly plausible from the production history but I shall miss terribly OTL Die Hard - I do not believe that this is an improvement.

BTW, this does raise some interesting questions as to the direction of Bruce Willis' career.

Schwarzenegger himself acted in several other gunsploitation films through the late 1980s, and would also go on to play several more high-profile villain roles, but would not achieve mainstream success playing a hero again until Skynet: The Terminator Part II (1991) – after that, he was able to permanently transition to heroic roles
Ooh, you need to give more details of this alternate Terminator sequel!!

(helped by the fact that by that time he was able to speak with a flawless American accent in films).
Did he do better in some way than OTL? While he certainly has suppressed his accent, I would hardly call his current one OTL 'flawless American'.

Schwarzenegger was one of the few gunsploitation stars who was able to break through to the mainstream – others such as Chuck Norris and Steven Seagal remained thoroughly ghettoized within the sub-genre and are generally unknown to all but enthusiasts.
No, I want the first five Seagal films! Above the Law, Hard to Kill, Marked for Death, Out for Justice, and Under Siege. After that, he got kinda weird and I'm okay. Especially Above the Law - it really set a new mark!

Sylvester Stallone, meanwhile, took an entirely different approach to his career than Schwarzenegger – throughout the 1980s he was associated with films that flirted with gunsploitation but were slightly too intelligent to belong to the genre. A good example was First Blood (1982), in which he starred as killing-machine Vietnam veteran John Rambo: the film delved into Rambo’s tortured psyche, only featured him actually killing one person (and that accidentally, in self-defence) and finally ended with Rambo’s ignoble death at the hands of his former commanding officer.
Darn, I really loved Rambo II!

Another such example was Eagle’s Fury (1986), which Stallone wrote and directed but did not act in himself.

Eagle’s Fury starred Harrison Ford as Colonel Leo Hendricks, commander in charge of a Delta Forces unit, and Jason Robards as the President of the United States – the film was centred around a mission (“Operation Eagle’s Fury”) to rescue American civilians being held hostage by a North African nation which had recently undergone a communist revolution. Despite the changes in details, the story was a thinly-veiled “how-it-should-have-happened” for the Iran hostage crisis of 1979-81, and Robards’ character – though not defined politically beyond a certain hawkishness – a clear analogue of President Ronald Reagan. However, the film itself was superbly well-written and shot, and actually took the time to portray its protagonists as real people without resorting to cheap manipulation; Harrison Ford, a dyed-in-the-wool Democrat, stated that he accepted the role of Hendricks out of high regard for the screenplay itself regardless of its political message. Eagle’s Fury would later come to be regarded as the signature right-wing movie of the decade, and would be celebrated by American conservatives (particularly the interventionist warhawk “neoconservative” faction).

The connection of Eagle’s Fury with the Iran hostage crisis was not lost on the viewing public: the film’s release saw a spike in anti-Iranian sentiment nationwide, the likes of which hadn’t been seen since the crisis itself. Stallone himself had to make a public statement decrying all prejudice or violence against the Iranian-American community.
Could do without the controversy bit, but otherwise this sounds like a great movie!

The United Kingdom

While Spider-Man and Shadow Hawk were busy blowing Commando out of the water, across the Atlantic Ocean a film was being released that had been anticipated for some time. After two radio series, four books and one six-episode television show, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy was being adapted to film as well.

Rather than simply retelling the story of the Earth being destroyed and of the planet Magrathea yet again, the film was instead based on plans for a second series of the TV show, which would have been adapted from the third book Life, the Universe and Everything. This meant that the film appeared to follow on from the TV show in some ways: it started on prehistoric Earth, where the show had ended; its backstory more or less matched the events of the show; it kept the same designs for the Guide, Marvin and the Heart of Gold; and Peter Jones, Simon Jones, Mark Wing-Davey, Stephen Moore and Richard Vernon all reprised their roles.
Well, no matter how kitchy some of it was, I still loved the television mini-series a lot lot more than the OTL movie, so linking them is good, especially in casting and style (could be cleaned up and more sophisticated, but clear where the antecedents came from).

There were also significant differences, such as the recasting (yet again) of Ford Prefect and Trillian – David Dixon was judged as too placid and Sandra Dickinson too ditzy to be suitable for the film;
I heartily disagree - those two were terrific in their roles!

they were replaced in the roles by Rik Mayall and Miranda Richardson respectively.
On the other hand, these are great replacements and hard to argue with!

The design of Zaphod in the film also changed: the utter failure of the second animatronic head from the TV show resulted in its replacement in the film by a second animatronic face, on the back of Zaphod’s head. (At Wing-Davey’s insistence, Zaphod’s hair was also changed from red to surfer blond.)
I don't know about these changes - I liked the obviously fake second head!

In the UK, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (1985) did respectable business. In the all-important American market, its release was delayed to November and then passed by mostly unnoticed. A sequel was not forthcoming.
I think it is a real problem for the American audiences especially to start where the television miniseries ended. I would have remade Hitchhikers for the big screen being true to the miniseries, then made this as a sequel (and with little time in between releases, no more than a year - otherwise you will lose interest I fear).

1985 also saw the television show Doctor Who air its 23rd season, again with Colin Baker as the Doctor. It was clear from the previous year that Nicola Bryant’s character Peri Brown wasn’t working: her relationship with the Doctor as his Companion was too antagonistic, to the point where they didn’t seem to like each other at all, and their conflicts always seemed to end in the Doctor’s favour. Additionally, the strategy to attract more viewers through Peri’s sex appeal didn’t appear to be working. At the end of the second serial, Peri was killed off under tragic circumstances; the next serial introduced the Doctor’s new companion Claudia, played by Angela Bruce. Claudia was a sharp contrast to Peri, and not only due to being about ten years older and the first non-white companion in the history of the show: she seemed to actually enjoy travelling in the Tardis, unlike Peri, and was able to deflate the Doctor’s ego through being dismissive of his bluster, meaning the two were better matched in strength of personality. The character would remain on the show for the rest of Colin Baker’s tenure as the Doctor, finally leaving the show in Sylvester McCoy’s first full serial as the Seventh Doctor (the final serial of the 25th season, in 1987) to be replaced by new character Ace, played by Sophie Aldred.
All the above fine by me. Peri was annoying in so many ways - it's a shame because I think the actress under different direction could have worked. However, Angela Bruce definitely has in OTL the street cred to pull off being a 1980s companion. Good on her and good on you!

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Notes: I wrote this earlier than I thought I would. That's a sign that I've been seriously procrastinating during this exam revision period and I need to study more. (Though in fairness to myself, I've had most of this planned for a long time.)
Then after you have commented on my brilliant comments, get back to studying!

"Shadow Hawk" and "Agent Zero" are actually comic-book character names in OTL, but since they were invented in the 1990s I feel comfortable about stealing them here. Seriously, it's really fucking hard to come up with a completely original superhero name. Just try it. I dare you.
Desolation - some mention of someone by this name on Marvel Earth 616, sorry.

Pyrion - not finding anything come up when searched.

The Maldovian - not in a comic (but don't ask about his backstory).

Inquest - not finding any comic character when searched.

The Nameless - okay this one got a hit but it is a group, not an individual. The Nameless One is a god or demon in the comic realm.

Roadmaster - seems no precedent.

So yeah, you have to go vague because the obvious ones have been used, but it is possible - on the other hand, I think there is nothing wrong with you recycling ones you like, especially if they aren't going to get used due to changes in the timeline otherwise.

What in TTL is called "gunsploitation" would in OTL simply be called "action" -- but the difference is that the tropes of OTL's '80s action films never came to dominate the entire genre, meaning that the "shoot-'em-up" remains a bit of a separate subgenre within the larger whole.

Confession time: I've never seen Commando either.
Not missing much.

Matthew Broderick seemed like the obvious choice for 1980s Peter Parker. A welcome side effect (for me) is that I've just severely altered Ferris Bueller's Day Off, or possibly butterflied it away completely. Man, I hate that movie.
Bad CM! Bad, bad!!! I LOVE Ferris Bueller's Day Off - it is like one of the all time classics from my perspective. I don't know what childhood tragedy made you twisted like this, but get help, man, please!

Die Hard was almost a sequel to Commando in OTL as well, but got retooled into a standalone story. In TTL, Die Hard: Commando II is more like its original conception -- less heist film, more terrorism thriller. Lower budget too.
A definite loss for this timeline.

Rambo still dies at the end of First Blood because there's less potential for a sequel, given that superheroes are on the way up and gunsploitation is on the way down -- thus they keep the original ending. There are no Rambo sequels.

Eagle's Fury basically takes the cultural place of Red Dawn, helped by the fact that it's actually a much better movie than Red Dawn is.
Don't know about that - Red Dawn was a cultural happening onto itself - Eagle's Fury is military genre, whereas Red Dawn is hard core survivalist, dude.

There were plans to make a second series of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy based on Life, the Universe and Everything in OTL as well, but they were discontinued.
Which was a damned shame!

It's not clear from the update itself, but the major difference regarding Doctor Who is that Michael Grade never becomes Controller of BBC1,
Yeah, that's probably a good thing.

and thus doesn't put the show on an 18-month hiatus out of spite.
Yeah!

I've butterflied away the character of Mel (hurrah!),
I'm not a Mel hater - but your alternate companion sounds much preferable, so if I have to choose, I'll go with yours.

but I'm keeping Ace and I regret nothing. I'm also keeping Sylvester McCoy because he's awesome, but he comes into the show a little later (near the end of the penultimate serial in 1987, rather than in the first serial) due to Colin Baker retiring from the role rather than being fired. But as luck would have it, this means that Sylvester McCoy now gets to skip over his silly season and get straight to the good stuff.
You go, ColeMercury! I can forgive you your strange Bueller hatred for this!!

The next update will be regarding Highlander.
Oh, please make things better, please please please!
 
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