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Spider-Man: Homecoming (Film Review)

Until I get ‘New to Comics’ back online, I’m going to be posting some stuff for that site on here if it’s particularly relevant or if I want to share it as soon as possible. So today, here’s my review of the sixteenth entry into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Spider-Man: Homecoming

RELEASED: 7th July 2016
DIRECTED BY: Jon Watts
WRITTEN BY: John Francis Daley, Christopher Ford, Jonathan Goldstein, Chris McKenna, Erik Sommers & Jon Watts
PRODUCED BY: Kevin Feige & Amy Pascal
STARRING: Tom Holland, Michael Keaton, Jon Favreau, Marisa Tomei, Jacob Batalon, Laura Harrier, Zendaya, Tony Revolori, Logan Marshall-Green, Bokeem Woodbine, Michael Chernus, Donald Glover & Robert Downey Jr.

REVIEW: The main problem with Spider-Man: Homecoming is that the casual viewer may falsely believe that Sony was wholly responsible for making this film, what with their company names being plastered all over the opening and closing credits. Which, frankly, is a shame, because this film was made by Marvel Studios, and financed by Sony; and it would truly be a terrible thing if Sony got the credit for what is, to date, one of Marvel Studios’ best films.

In terms of story, the film is surprising on several levels. Firstly, it’s generally understood that the more writers you pump into a film, the messier it gets. That, paired with the fact that the whole storyline is seemingly stuffed into the above trailer, could give cause for concern. But having seen the movie, I can assure you that you don’t need to worry about either of those factors.

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The film follows Peter Parker (Tom Holland), the ‘Spider-Man from YouTube’, as he returns to everyday life several months after teaming up with his mentor, Tony Stark / Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), to stop the renegade heroes in Captain America: Civil War. Armed with a new suit and a strong desire to join the Avengers, Peter struggles with the problems of high-school and attempts to try and impress Tony by taking on the Vulture and his gang of arms dealers.

While some may complain that Peter’s desire to be a superhero seems to come more from his adoration of Tony Stark than the guilt felt from failing his now deceased Uncle Ben (who only gets an indirect, unnamed mention), the film, for the most part, captures Spider-Man better than any film before it. The wit, the physicality, the youth and the crazy ideas embedded in the suit that riff off the early 60s comic-books. It’s all perfect. Even more importantly however, it captures Peter Parker better than any film before. While Toby Macguire and Andrew Garfield’s Peter Parkers leaned heavily into the angst of being a teenager and the despair at the death of a loved one (whether that be the aforementioned Uncle Ben or his long-deceased parents), Holland’s Peter actually looks and acts like a genuine teenager.

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Throughout the movie, he cycles through being hot-headed, fun-loving, socially awkward, and truly terrified in one particular scene that will make a lot of classic comic-book fans happy. He acts like a teenager actually would if he was thrust into this zany world of Norse Gods and giant green rage monsters. He’s still young, and he’s not perfect. He tries, he fails, he tries again. And although he may very rarely succeed (seriously, this Spider-Man is not the best super-hero, but it’s what the story’s aiming for and it works) his true heroism comes from his determination and his strong moral compass. Even though he is hopelessly outgunned by the Vulture, he’ll still stop to lecture him about the fact that “selling weapons to bad guys is wrong”.

But while the writing behind Peter’s character is fantastic, and Tom Holland’s performance is phenominal, it would of course be pointless without the rest of the cast alongside him. Not only does Homecoming give us the most age-appropriate Spider-Man and supporting cast, but also the most human. The film scraps the focuses of Spidey films gone by: Harry Osborn, Gwen Stacy and Mary-Jane Watson, in favour of hybrid characters, who are, for all intents and purposes, new and diverse, but with a hint of some classic characters like Liz Allan, Flash Thompson, Ned Leeds and Betty Brant mixed in.

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Each of the young actors playing these characters really hold their own, and make Peter’s high-school scenes seem like the most natural parts of the movie. His awkward interactions with Liz (Laura Harrier) highlight what it’s like to be a teenager and strengthen the struggles of being a super-hero. The deadpan humour from Michelle (Zendaya) brings a different, but welcome slice of comedy. And Flash Thompson (Tony Revolori) is a great foil to Peter; he’s such a wonderful arsehole. However, it’s the banter between Peter and his best buddy Ned (Jacob Batalon) that really humanises Peter. Their interactions ground Peter in his social circle, highlighting his nerdy tendencies and giving him someone to lean on that, for once, isn’t the obligatory girlfriend. Plus, he, like everyone else, gets a lot of opportunities to bring the laughs.

The comedy in the film should also be noted as a highlight of the MCU. While I’m sure there are other films that may have the odd joke that is better than anything in here, it’s the timing and pacing that makes this film a cut above the rest. Guardians Vol. 2 and Doctor Strange got stuck with the usual Marvel trope of trying too hard to be funny – sticking jokes where they don’t belong. But in Homecoming? Everything fits right into place and does so with it’s own natural voice, not unlike the best Marvel films, the second and third Captain Americas.

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Like the humour, the scale is also just right. The film is heavily embedded in the MCU, but gives us a far different perspective to the Iron Mans and the Thors that we’ve become so familiar with. It shows how these Avengers and aliens and Gods affect everyday working class people. It’s because of this that the Vulture feels like one of the few genuine Marvel villains; on top of a superb performance by Michael Keaton, the character doesn’t want to rule the world and isn’t at all crazy. He’s just a small business owner, who wants to look after his family. And when it comes to his clashes with Spider-Man, his professional outlook presents a intimidating threat to the overzealous and excitable Spider-Man, who is far more at home dealing with bank robbers and bike thieves.

Unfortunately, there are a few things that stop me from giving it five whole stars, and they are the following: The music (and I’m talking the actual soundtrack my Michael Giacchino), with the exception of the fanfare that covers the Marvel logo, is pretty forgettable. I could hum some tunes from Avengers Assemble and Iron Man 3 at you if you asked, but when it comes to this? I got nothing. And I just saw it last night.

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Also, in regards to up top, when I said Spider-Man was a pretty useless super-hero in this movie, it would have been nice to actually see him hold his own at least a little bit against the Vulture. I understand that there are several movies to up his experience level, but going forward, without a lot of training, it’s going to be kind of hard to believe this kid can hold his own against super-villains, let alone the aliens he’ll be facing in Avengers: Infinity War. But eh, that’s a problem for another day.

All-in-all, I give it:

4-5-stars

For being one of the best Marvel films, a real fun movie and potentially the best Spider-Man film. Don’t hold me to that though.

Oh and one more thing. Stay to the very end of the credits; the post-credit scene is hilarious.

 
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Posted by on July 14, 2017 in Comic Books, Film & TV

 

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Why are Netflix’s Defenders called ‘The Defenders’?

When it comes to the Marvel Cinematic Universe (and to a lesser extent, super-hero movies in general), I make it my mission to watch as much as possible. In the MCU, the only thing I’ve started and not finished so far is Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (I think I’m near the end of season two, but I don’t care enough to figure it out).

Marvel’s films and television (with S.H.I.E.L.D. being the exception), have high production values and for the most part, some quality storytelling. Of course, some of the films can feel a bit same old, same old at times, but they’re definitely, as a whole, progressing. Marvel is doing the best they can with the IP’s they have left, and as such, it’s (almost) always something I want to see.

The Netflix shows, if you haven’t been watching them, are especially good. The most recently, Luke Cage, premiered on the 30th. I spent my day watching it, and by 2am on the 1st, I had my review written up. You can read it here, if you’re so inclined.

Anyway, the next Netflix series due to be released is Iron Fist, which, as of today, we know will premiere on the 17th March next year.

After that, at some point we’ll be getting the Avengers-style team-up, The Defenders, along with another series of Daredevil, Jessica Jones, The Punisher and probably Luke Cage.

As I said, I’m very much looking forward to all of this. Not only am I a MCU fan, my favourite television recently has been the Netflix productions (not just Marvel, but House of Cards, The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, etc.).

But there is something that bothers me, being the fussy nerd that I am, and that’s the title.

Now, this isn’t just because traditionally in the comic books, these characters aren’t the Defenders* (if anything, they’re the New Avengers, minus a couple of members, but whatever). In the comic books, the original Defenders line-up looked something like this:

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Doctor Strange, the Hulk, the Silver Surfer and the Sub-Mariner. They would often be joined by various other assorted characters across the years.

It was a powerful and pretty bad-ass line-up, who, when they stopped fighting among themselves were perhaps one of the most powerful teams in the Marvel Universe (if not THE most powerful).

Of course, the problem here is that the Silver Surfer and (probably) Namor the Submariner were part of the many film distribution rights deals that Marvel made in the nineties to get some dollar. The Silver Surfer and Namor (again, probably; I can’t think off the top of my head but it may be Universeal) are, in movie-form, owned by Fox, and thus are untouchable for Marvel unless they buy back The Fantastic Four property.

So the name’s available. Why not use it? Right?

Because there is a much better name for Netflix’s ‘Defenders’ already on the table, and it actually makes sense in the context of the shows.

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In the comics, Luke Cage and Iron Fist have long been best friends. Mike Colter (who plays Luke Cage) even acknowledged the fact in a recent interview on BBC Radio 2. They have also long operated the business ‘Heroes for Hire’. The name is fairly self-explanatory. As heroes, they would hire themselves out to people who needed their help.

This isn’t really a spoiler, but in the Luke Cage series, the character even has references to his comic-book businesses. It’s even in Method Man’s rap towards the end of the series.

Now the reason it frustrates me that they’re using The Defenders rather than The Heroes For Hire, is that even if Daredevil and Jessica Jones were never members of the Heroes for Hire in the comic books, BOTH OF THEM ARE LITERALLY HEROES FOR HIRE!

So far, out of the three Netflix shows, Luke Cage is the only lead character who hasn’t undergone heroics after being hired for his services! The original hero for hire, thus far, is the only hero who hasn’t been up for hire. What’s that about?

Across the series, Luke is continually told that if he were to start a business, people would definitely pay for his services. Now, were we to assume that at the start of the crossover series he and Iron Fist were to meet and start up that business, you’ve got your show right there, with a name that actually fits the characters.

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But what about Jessica Jones and Daredevil?

Well, as I said, those two are the only characters who, so far, have actually been heroes for hire in the MCU/Netflix universe. Jessica Jones is a private investigator with super-powers. Tying her into Cage and Iron Fist’s business would be a piece of cake. They get hired for a case; either they need a P.I. and Luke calls on Jessica, or she’s ALSO been hired and they cross paths. It’s so simple to play this hero for hire angle that it’s annoying that it’s not what’s going down (I mean it might be, but I am of course speculating from the title).

Daredevil could come on in much the same way. Much of his own show see’s him donning his crimson costume AFTER he’s been hired to represent someone in court. Whatever it is that draws these heroes together could at some point hire Matt Murdock, and boom, you’ve hired another hero, Daredevil.

Four heroes, who have come together, after being hired. Heroes For Hire.

The only real reason they could be called the Defenders at this point is some weak-ass promotional material Marvel put out saying these guys and gal are the ‘Defenders of New York’. If people haven’t seen that; they might wonder why these characters are called The Defenders.

Call them Heroes For Hire, and people will get it. Know why? Because being ‘Heroes for Hire’ is what all these character fucking do.


I’ll leave you with that to mull over, and then just drop this trailer for a REAL Defender, Doctor Strange, right here, because how awesome is that jazzy Tron-esque soundtrack:

* Before anyone rants at me, I do acknowledge that some of these characters have been Defenders in the comics as well, but not as a team, all four of them together, and not in a way that makes as much sense as them being ‘Heroes for Hire’.

 
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Posted by on October 4, 2016 in Comic Books, Film & TV

 

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Avengers: Age of Over-saturation

I’m allowing myself a break from my screenplay assignment for two reasons: the first being I’ve already written four drafts, and I need to move onto other things, and the second being I have Avengers: Age of Ultron constantly on my mind.

You all know the story, but here it is anyway, as narrated my Mr. Samuel L. Jackson:

All those (three) years ago, it was necessary to hype up such a thing as the Avengers. Sure, it was always going to do pretty well, but then nothing like this had ever really been done before. There were the X-Men and the Fantastic Four, but they built all their characters up in their own films, it wasn’t an ensemble piece like Avengers Assemble.

Now here we are, three years on, and the Avengers are reassembling to fight Ultron, a villain of their own making. But just like the market is getting slowly over-saturated with super-hero movies and television shows, our screens are way past saturation point with commercials and advertisements. The first Avengers film guaranteed that people would go see the second even if there was pretty much no marketing done for it, beyond a little info-drop about when it would be released.

But despite this, we’ve already had countless previews thrown at us, to the extent that, by the end of this post, I believe I can pretty accurately lay down the plot of the film. Fortunately for me, I live in Britain, so I only have to wait nine days or so, unlike all you unlucky Americans who have to wait until May.

So, obviously, if you’re adverse to trailers, look away, and if you’re worried I may be right (which at this stage shouldn’t be hard, considering we’ve all probably seen a good half of the film in two-minute snippets) then again, look away, because here goes nothing!

So first, we’ve got the main trailers:

In those alone, you get a pretty hefty look at the film. And then you’ve got the TV spots, which are packed with details:

Already, that’s a lot of info. Although it has neglected a lot of details about Paul Bettany’s Vision character. But as if all those weren’t enough, there are clips as well:

I’ll admit I hadn’t seen all of that second one before. I can’t say Im a fan of the way Ultron’s lips move; looks too cartoon-y. I always thought that was the worst part of the Transformers franchise as well (y’know, apart from the abominable plot), but I digress.

After all that, then there’s still all the promotional material like the Audi adverts. But frankly, I can’t be bothered with all those. I’d say this bulk is more than enough.

So, what have we got so far?

Going off those videos and any promotional interviews, we know the following:

  • The film starts with The Avengers as a unit; they’ve been together some amount of time since the end of The Winter Soldier, acting as a fill-in for S.H.I.E.L.D. and funded by Iron Man.
  • Together they stage an attack on a Hydra cell in Europe, and in the process come into conflict with Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch, who have been empowered by Baron Strucker.
  • The Avengers take down most of the cell, and reclaim Loki’s staff from the first film. Black Widow reveals a deeper relationship with Bruce Banner as she calms the Hulk. Meanwhile, the twins escape.
  • The team regroup at the Avengers tower, after struggling with what they have just faced. However, they are one step closer to ending all the problems they have collectively caused over the years and going their separate ways.
  • Inviting War Machine and some other friends to the tower, Tony holds a party. As things begin to die down, Ultron (the combined brainchild of Tony and Bruce, now empowered by the scepter) reveals himself, and exclaims that the only way to achieve the peace they have all dreamed of is to wipe-out mankind.
  • After taking down his original form, Ultron’s A.I. escapes, but not before wiping out J.A.R.V.I.S. Rebuilding himself, he crosses the Atlantic and seeks out the twins, who are hateful of the Avengers due to their standing as a representation of American power.

Another potential death here could be that of Rhodey, seeing as he doesn’t appear in anymore promotional material.

  • The team come to blows, as they now realize they cannot trust Tony, despite the fact he funds the whole operation. Eventually, they set aside their differences and reunite to go find Ultron.
  • The Avengers track Ultron and the twins down to somewhere around Africa, where Ultron has come to collect a metal known as Vibranium from a man named Ulysses Klaue (played by Andy Serkis). They engage them once again, as the Scarlet Witch reveals the true extent of her powers, altering the minds of several of the team.
  • Whilst Captain America and Black Widow see their pasts, Tony see’s the destruction of the Avengers, and the Hulk is driven into a mad rage. Activating a fail-safe, Tony summons his Hulk-buster armor to the scene, and engages the Hulk in Johannesburg.
  • Now scattered and in disarray, the Avengers retreat to a cabin (possibly owned by Hawkeye‘s family) where they must once more put aside their differences. Cap and Tony enter a heated argument, seeding Steve’s next film, Civil War.
  • Whilst the other Avengers are at Hawkeye’s cabin, Thor has returned to Asgard, to seek out his own solutions, and perhaps confront Loki/Odin.
  • The team are brought together once again by Nick Fury, who insists they are humanity’s only chance of surviving Ultron.
  • Meanwhile, the twins come to blows with Ultron, when they realise the true extent of his plans.

This next part is pure speculation, but I’m not sure where else it would fit in.

  • Reuniting at Stark tower, the team reassembles, as J.A.R.V.I.S. manifests himself in a physical body, code-named: The Vision.
  • Thor returns, and engages the Vision, whom he sees only as an agent of Ultron, and drives him off.
  • Now mostly reunited, the Avengers team-up with the twins, as Ultron plans to raise a city into the sky, and hurl it back at Earth as a weapon. Boarding the floating city, the Avengers engage Ultron’s army of… Ultrons.
  • Eventually, they win, obviously, as the Vision returns and kills his father/mentor/brother/whatever that is Ultron.

Another potential death? Quicksilver, as a means of cementing Scarlet Witch’s allegiance to the Avengers.

  • The Avengers have saved the day, but realise they can no longer trust each other. Iron Man leaves the team, as does Thor, who must return to Asgard to halt the upcoming Ragnarok. Oh, and the Hulk’s probably lost in space when Ultron raises the city.
  • Without their main players, Captain America forms a new team of Avengers, consisting of Hawkeye, Quicksilver, Scarlet Witch, with Black Widow and the Vision as possibilities. Black Panther is also a possibility, although I doubt it.

So yeah. That happened. Or will happened. I’ll tell you in a week and a half. I’m kind of curious to see how I did, but also kind of annoyed that there’s this much out there.

I’m sure Joss Whedon will have found a way to stick a whole load of extra material in there, but as a person with no self-control, it is rather annoying that I’ve watched all this stuff. It’s probably why I drink and smoke so much. In my future I see gambling problems, getting in with the mob, and dying young. But at least before that happens, I’ll be able to tell my killers that I accurately predicted a film, and perhaps they’ll let me hang around as an informant.

I’ll tell you how that goes too. Assuming I survive the experience.

 
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Posted by on April 14, 2015 in Comic Books, Film & TV

 

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The Marvelous Spider-Man

I had originally planned to write a post about my writing future and a series of reviews that I had planned to do, starting with a review of The Interview.

But then I did my regular morning internet rounds and discovered something beautiful.

Marvel got Spider-Man back.

For those of you who don’t waste as much of their time on these trivial little details as I do, although Marvel obviously has always owned Spider-Man, in a bid to start up their film franchises, they dished the cinematic rights of each character to various studios. Characters like Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four, the X-Men, Blade, Daredevil, Ghost Rider and others now had a shot of having movies made.

Unfortunately for Marvel, they eventually realized they were better at making these films than anyone else, but by this point they couldn’t technically make films of any of their major characters. Hence the sudden spiking popularity of the Avengers. Now some might argue the Avengers have always been big names at Marvel. But really, unless you read the comics and  watch the cartoons, you probably didn’t have much of a clue pre-2008. I remember making a status about the death of Captain America in 2007, and all I got in response were queries of ‘Who’s Captain America?’. That response would obviously be met with some ridicule now.

Anyway, another brief bit of back-story. Sony’s been in the shitter. You may have noticed.

Not only that, but their Spider-Man franchise has not been doing nearly as well as they had hoped. We were almost forced into a Spider-Man cinematic universe, which I honestly believe may have tipped the scales towards the death of comic book movies. The characters of the Spider-Man lore are rich and varied. But lets be honest. No one gives a shit. There are tons of more interesting Marvel characters who would make better movie stars.

So they made a deal, and although they still ‘own’ Spider-Man, they’re willing to share. Fantastic.

So here are some of the places I suspect/would like to see the wall-crawler show up:

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The first and perhaps most likely place is the upcoming Civil War. It was originally announced that the Black Panther would emulate Spider-Man’s role in the next Captain America flick, but seeing as he’s getting his own movie in the not too distance future and [possible spoilers] is suspected to have an appearance in Age of Ultron, I very much doubt Chadwick Boseman would scootch aside a little to give the web-slinger some space. And what with Spider-Man’s next installment having already taken the place of Black Panther, I’d say that situation is not unlikely.

This would be perhaps the best place because it would affirm Spider-Man’s position in the new Marvel Movieverse, post-Civil War, and make it believable that he could have perhaps been around but out of sight since the start of the first Avengers.

Plus, objectifying a young teen superhero to make their point would make Iron Man and Captain America’s struggle much more poignant and morally grey.

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One of the best original team-ups from Marvel has got to be Spider-Man and Daredevil. Street-savvy heroes who operate in completely different ways. One is mostly dark and brooding, the other quipping and aloof. Both love the thrill of superhero-ing. Now, Daredevil is soon to be getting his own show, that looks pretty interesting, if I do say so myself. But for the time being, he’s probably going to remain Netflix only.

Now imagine if Marvel and Netflix made another deal? A Spider-Man/Daredevil team-up movie. It would be a way of Netflix transferring their characters from big to small screen, and for Marvel to perhaps avoid the Spider-Man/Superhero over-saturation of the market.

They team-up, the fight, they reunite to battle someone like Mysterio, whilst Daredevil teaches Spider-Man how to make the streets his own, and Spidey teaches Daredevil to have a little fun. The perfect Superhero buddy cop film.

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Everyone wants to see Spider-Man join the Avengers. But if we’re honest, the Avengers have a good thing going. They’re bringing in new and interesting heroes, and they’ve already got Robert Downey Jr. hogging the limelight. They don’t need whoever is next cast as Spider-Man to do the same.

So a spin-off, much in the same vain as the aforementioned Netflix/Marvel idea. Let’s say the Avengers get taken out of the picture for a movie, but the world still needs saving. Who do you call? Looking at the above cover, you could already make a basic roster straight off the bat. Spider-Man, Luke Cage, Iron Fist and Doctor Strange are all set to join the movie-verse in the near future. Perhaps just sub Ronin and Spider-Woman for Hawkeye and Black Widow as a means linking it to the main film and you’re golden. Just a shame Marvel can’t bag Wolverine as well, but then that could allow for someone like Black Panther to take his place. Give and interesting contrast between the street-wise thug that is Luke Cage and the majestic prince known as Black Panther. Talk about diversity.

Punisher 

 

As I’ve said, Wolverine can’t be used. Unfortunately, after Daredevil, he’d be my next choice alongside the Fantastic Four or the X-Men. But alas, it is not to be. So instead, why not throw in someone like Wolverine, who has had a similar relationship with the wall-crawler.

Picture this: Spider-Man returns for his next big screen outing, where he is plagued by the menace of the Chameleon. Framed for murder or theft, Spider-Man attracts the attention of The Punisher, who has made it his mission to end crime on the streets of New York City. The two fight, the Punisher proves admirably adept, and Spider-Man struggles with the morality of the Punisher’s methods as the pair bring the villain to justice.

3173470-thunderbolts+#115+-+page+1But then again, who says Spider-Man has to feature at all? Say Spider-Man shows up in one of the aforementioned franchises, then Marvel could use it to springboard another property of theirs; The Thunderbolts. Yes, at this stage, it would look just like they were copying Suicide Squad, but the Thunderbolts would already be mostly established villains and have super-powers. Bring in someone new as Norman Osborn, his identity still in-tact, as the Thunderbolts new Director. Perhaps start the film with flashbacks to Spider-Man’s conflict with the Venom suit, introducing him as well. Follow through with Baron Zemo from Civil War in the place of Swordsman. Whack in Bullseye from his inevitable appearance in Daredevil. Then maybe finish off with assorted villains from Black Panther, Captain Marvel, Ant-Man or heck, even Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

To be honest, Marvel could just throw any random villains in, and I doubt people would complain. Not everyone can have their own solo film to start them off.

Anyway, can you tell I’m excited? I’ll be back tomorrow with a couple of reviews for you. Squee.

 

 

 
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Posted by on February 10, 2015 in Comic Books, Film & TV

 

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The Justice League Movie Slate, Part One: Entitlement

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Breaking News

So two days ago, something big happened the world of comic book movies; you probably heard about it.

DC announced their movie schedule up until 2020, not including the next Batman and Superman films. Mostly new film ideas, intertwining stories, and two films with a large enough scale to rival The Avengers.

A Comic Fan’s Sense of Entitlement

Now ever since Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice was announced, despite my preference to Marvel comics, I was always slightly more excited to see how DoJ would turn out than I was about whatever films Marvel was coming out with.

It doesn’t matter that Captain America: The Winter Soldier was one of my favourite superhero films ever, or that Avengers: Age of Ultron is going to be out of this world. What matters to me was that this was something new. I watch the Marvel films because I’ve read the source material, and I’m interested to see what the adaptations will be like. However, whilst at this stage I have read a fair few DC comics, for the most part, it is still relatively unknown to me, and as such the movies come across fresher; I’m just interested to see what the story will be, what will happen, and how DC are going to fight back against Marvel’s constant kicking of their arse’s.

So I was listening to an iFanboy podcast the other week, in which one of the speakers pointed out that the worst thing about comic book fans is their sense of entitlement. As fans, we have enjoyed these characters far longer than everyone else. We were reading about them at a time when people didn’t even know who they were. I remember back in 2007, I, being the weird little nerd that I am, updated my Hotmail (how times have changed, eh?) status to ‘R.I.P. Captain America’. I quickly deleted that, because I was inundated with questions asking who Captain America was. It’s only been seven years, but now everyone knows who Captain America is. EVERYONE. But I digress.

My point is, that I could tell you excruciatingly unimportant details about the Marvel Universe, and from my perspective, I have a certain informed viewpoint about how the characters should be. As such, I’m not that up for debating a lot of these topics, because the majority of the time, (I think) I will know the definitive answers and reasoning’s to the discussion from a comic point of view. Discussing it doesn’t interest me that much, because unless I’m talking to someone who is just as nerdy as I am, then really I’m just having to feign lack of knowledge so that my conversee (?) can try to make whatever point they’re trying to make without me shooting them down because (I think) I know they are misinformed. It’s unfortunate and a bit arrogant, but for most comic fan’s, it’s the truth. And even when it isn’t, that exact sense of entitlement that comic fans have mean that I wouldn’t admit it when I was wrong because I and others like me are so sure of our comic knowledge that we wouldn’t claim to be wrong unless we were just doing it to make someone feel better. That and the fact that most people I know aren’t that interested in comic book news like I am. And yes, there can be some joy found in educating someone in a subject, but sometimes there’s just too much ground to cover, and it becomes a bit much. Especially when the other party doesn’t actually care all that much

Again, I’ve gone off topic a bit. I think what I’m trying to say is that with DC, I don’t have that overconfidence about what I do and do not know. On a basic level, I get downgraded from ‘know it all’ to a bit more than a ‘casual observer’. I can have my opinions, and I can engage in a more interesting discussion about it, because I know enough to maintain a conversation, but I don’t know enough where said conversation will be one-sided.

Ten Movies, Five Years

So with that in mind, here are my thoughts on each film announcement; what I understand about it; what I expect to see; and what I would like to see.

2016 brings us Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad.

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I’ll try to keep my thoughts on BvS:DoJ brief, because frankly, we’ve all known about that one for a while now. After listening to various things and reading various sources, I have come to realise that doing what Marvel is doing, but backwards, is in fact the right way to go about things for DC. Although to some extent they are copying Marvel’s business model somewhat, if they were to copy it in the exact same way as Marvel actually do it, it would seem like far too much of a rip-off. DC needs to get their products out fast, but don’t have the luxury of testing the waters in the way that Marvel did, because if they tried and failed on any level, everyone would just dismiss them entirely. Establishing that Superman was not the first part of the DC Universe is important, because it means you can just jump straight in. Not everyone needs an origin story, and the majority of Justice League characters are fairly well-known anyway.

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Suicide Squad, I think is also an interesting and smart move, especially considering that they’re looking to pull some big names to round out its roster. After the success of Guardians of the Galaxy, weirder properties have proven that they do have their place in the world of comic book film. More importantly, however, this would help hammer down the point that DC Universe didn’t start with Superman. To have a film about super-villain redemption, the super-villains need to have been around for some time in order for them to be captured and redeemed. This means, by extension, that unless all super-crime was dealt with by the authorities before Superman’s arrival, other heroes like Batman need to have also been around for quite some time. It reiterates that there is more going on than we’ve seen, and I feel like for DC’s approach to retain some level of uniqueness, that much is important.

But with that in mind, I’ll have to save the rest for part two, in which years 20172020 will follow.

 
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Posted by on October 17, 2014 in Comic Books, Film & TV

 

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Film Review – Guardians of the Galaxy

I’m going to have to take a break for my amazingly slow re-watching of Doctor Who, as today I saw a film I’ve been waiting for for quite some time, and so I now have the chance to practice my review writing.

-MILD SPOILERS AHEAD-

A Marvel Studios Film, Directed by James Gunn

Released: 21st July 2014

Starring: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper, Lee Pace, Michael Rooker, Karen Gillan, Djimon Hounsou, John C. Reilly, Glenn Close and Benicio del Toro

Review: Sitting down to Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy, I prepared myself for what could have well been the best Marvel film yet. The film was easily the biggest risk the studio has taken so far, and also the biggest detour from their usual super-hero movies.

In that sense, Guardians is an interesting piece of cinematography; it was funny, entertaining, and didn’t conform to the usual stereotypes like many films seem to do. However, regardless of what others say, Marvel’s best movie yet, this was not.

Let’s start with the storyline.

The film follows the human Peter Jason Quill, abducted at a young age, as he travels through the galaxy as a ‘Ravager’, a band of thieves lead by Michael Rooker’s Yondu. In his escapades as the ‘legendary’ Star-Lord, Quill comes into contact with the assassin Gamora, the vengeful madman Drax and the bounty-hunters Rocket and Groot. After getting past their initial difficulties, the group take a stand against the evil Ronan who seeks to wipe out all life on the planet Xandar with the use of one of the coveted Infinity Stones.

The story is fun and interesting enough, and does a good job of tying together various strands left out by other Marvel movies. The Infinity Stones are finally explained in more detail, and their actual design stays somewhat faithful to their comic-book counterparts, something which pleased a nerdy comic-fan such as myself.

However, the coherency of the story is not quite as clear as the explanations. Although I was never at a loss as to what was going on, a lot of the film felt like it was jumping around just a bit too quickly. There was a lot going on, and most of it had been slapped together rather messily. The individual scene were great, but I found the final product to be wanting.

The dialogue is another problem that I had with the film. Although for the most part, Chris Pratt’s Star-Lord and Bradley Cooper’s Rocket present amusing lines with flawless delivery, Saldana’s Gamora and Bautista’s Drax sometimes come off as a bit awkward in their speech. On one hand, I feel like this is intentional, as much of it is used to comedic effect, presenting confusion surrounding the aliens’ misunderstanding of Earth sayings. But some times, it just doesn’t work, and the actor’s come off seeming like they just aren’t putting in 100%.

I like to think Bautista can be forgiven, being a wrestler by profession, but it still doesn’t make up for a lot of things. Another example is the otherwise perfect Rocket Raccoon, who at one point rages about how the other characters have pushed him to ‘weed’ some grass. It comes out not making sense or being particularly funny, and is telling of how the script could have been looked over a couple more times.

But those are just a minor quibbles in what ends up to be a mostly great film.

The casting is phenomenal; despite Bautista’s aforementioned awkward delivery at times, his character of Drax is such that he doesn’t need an A-List actor portraying him. Rocket Raccoon and Groot instantaneously become easily two of the best characters in the film; the voices are spot on, and their CGI depiction is both fascinating and hilarious.

Likewise, the more human characters such as Pratt’s Peter Quill and Reilly’s Rhomann Dey are equally fun to watch. Pratt never misses an opportunity to tickle the audience’s funny bone, and the bigger actor’s like Reilly feel comfortable in the film, despite their odd casting as action-hero-galaxy-protectors.

My favourite thing about the film however (MORE SPOILERS), is its attention to comic book detail. The prison scene identifying each of the main characters is filled with comic-facts, such as Gamora’s status as Thanos’ adoptive daughter, Rocket’s origin and home-planet, and a shoutout to Groot’s original appearance in which he hailed from Planet X. Meanwhile, Thanos’ first speaking appearance is something worth waiting for, as Josh Brolin’s voice acting easily fits into the Mad Titan’s imposing figure. Likewise, other subtler hints are thrown in, such as when the Collector alludes to Groot’s status as some sort of royalty, or when Cosmo the Dog is found in the Collector’s museum.

However, the biggest and most obscure bit of comic book mythology to be thrown in is the post-credits Howard the Duck cameo. Honestly, it’s not worth waiting around for. At all. But it’s interesting to see such a thing being brought into the Marvel Universe.

Overall, Guardians of the Galaxy hits the nail on the head for being funny, entertaining, and for the most part, decently acted. It draws heavily from the comics like all the best Marvel movies, and remains probably one of the weirder, more ridiculous films I’ve seen in recent years, which honestly, isn’t a bad thing.

 
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Posted by on July 31, 2014 in Comic Books, Film & TV

 

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“Emotionally Subnormal”: Comic Book Culture and its Intended Audience

At twenty years old, I’ll admit to being a big fan of comic books. But the stereotype seems to dictate that as you get older, you either put down your comics and become part of society, or you’re sucked into a life-halting abyss and condemned to forever be a man-child who lives in your mothers basement. Fortunately for me, my mother doesn’t have a basement.

But despite my glib claims, I really do take the whole issue to heart. Why should people be panned for doing something they enjoy, just because parts of society deem it childish, and is that really what my future holds (sans-basement)?

The Criticism.

Back in November, writer Alan Moore revealed his view on super-hero comic books. He claimed that they were a product meant for thirteen year old’s back in the 1950s. Of course, many comic book fans didn’t take kindly to this, for the most part because they themselves were well over the age of thirteen, and this man that many of them had revered had just collectively insulted them. Another big problem they had with this was that Alan Moore is the writer of such ‘graphic novels’ as Batman: The Killing Joke, in which Batman’s arch-nemesis, the Joker, kidnaps and humiliates Police Commissioner Gordon, and shoots and paralyses Batgirl, the Commissioner’s daughter and Batman’s one-time sidekick. It was pretty dark stuff, but is considered a must-read by many fans. However, for all you non-comic fans out there, another of Moore’s works that you’re probably more familiar with is the graphic novel which would go on to become the source material for the 2009 film The Watchmen. Again, it’s dark stuff, and has lead many to question whether Moore intended those works for children and teenagers. But having worked in the industry for decades, Moore knows the inner workings of its system, and is of course entitled to his own opinion.

But I realise that this is also an opinion that many other non-comic readers share. As a collector myself, I can see how people might think the whole thing is a bit childish. It’s an industry that has a predominantly male following, and idolises men and women flying around in tight revealing costumes solving problems in what could be argued to be most brutish way they can think of.

But in recent years, with the release of Fox’s X-Men film franchise, DC’s numerous attempts at Batman and Superman films, and Marvel’s ever-expanding Cinematic Universe, comic books are undergoing a renaissance in terms of its following. People are starting to appreciate superheroes a lot more than they used to, but this still isn’t leading to a universal appreciation for the printed source material.

A Failed Renaissance?

And why would they? People go to the cinema to escape their day to day lives and achieve a sense of escapism, not to find another reason to ‘waste’ their money on a product that’s very easily damaged, and provides about 20 minutes of entertainment. It’s like subscribing to a television series, but having to own a hard copy of every episode you watch. Instead, they can pay £8/$14 or so, sit down for an hour or two, and be wowed by the colourful characters speeding across their screen towards an eventual happy ending. And that’s that; they’ve had their money’s worth, and they can go home happy that the hero has won the day.

But what the films don’t convey is just how deep the comic book stories can run. And that’s not a criticism of the film makers, I love super hero movies. Too much perhaps. I look at my DVD collection on the shelves across the room from me, and about a quarter of the ones I keep here at my university housing are comic book adaptations of some sort. But because I’m such a big fan of both mediums, I can see that the differences between the two are staggering. Like all Hollywood films, superhero movies are made to make a profit. That’s why after the occasional risk pays off (2008’s Iron Man), a studio will for the most part stick with what they know. Hence the countless returns to Batman, whose presence in a film is guaranteed to gather an audience, no matter how good or bad the film actually is (1997’s Batman & Robin, I’m looking at you). But if you were to find someone eager enough to frequent their local comic book store, and ask them about a few of their favourite characters, chances are, unless they were simplifying matter’s for you convenience, they would be able to list off a fair few characters who you may only have the vaguest idea about.

Which is why comic book fans everywhere are praising the risk behind the soon-to-be released Guardians of the Galaxy. When I told my house-mate that GotG had been put into production, describing it as a ‘Star Wars-esque superhero flick, featuring a gun-toting, talking raccoon and a tree [played by Vin Diesel]’, he rightly admitted that that sounds like a ridiculous move on Marvel Studios’ part. But having read the source material, I realise that it’s a pretty fun and entertaining read.

Good v. Entertaining.

That’s the way I categorize most of the films I own/have seen, unless of course they’re just bad movies. And obviously, I can apply the same rule to comic books. As I said previously, Guardians of the Galaxy by Abnett and Lanning is a fun comic book. It’s Entertaining.

I mean, sure, it’s a good read as well, but as far as comics go, I would place it on the entertaining side of the spectrum (although just to clarify, good films/comics are obviously entertaining as well, but hopefully you understand my meaning). On the good side of the spectrum sit my favourite story-lines/issues. For instance, a Thor comic in which the title protagonist is heckled for not being around the stop Hurricane Katrina; a Spider-Man issue where reeling from the death of a close friend, the hero is forced to debate whether or not a relentless mass murderer deserves to be saved; a Luke Cage-orientated issue of Avengers, where the Harlem hero is attacked by government agents for refusing to become to submit to a questionable new law; or a Doctor Strange story where the sorcerer’s trusty ‘manservant’ is diagnosed with cancer, the one evil it seems he cannot face. To extend this back into film territory, to a lesser extent I could claim that Iron Man 3 is my favourite Marvel film, because it see’s Tony Stark stripped of his armour, and forced to combat evil whilst stricken with PTSD.

Do those sound interesting to you? Maybe they do, maybe they don’t, everyone has different tastes. And that’s the point!

Sure, people could say that comic books are childish, but what’re the chances they’ve actually read that many? Comics, like any other medium, cover a vast array of issues, and they’re not just limited to superheroes. Other acclaimed comics include things like Y: The Last Man (which is awesome) or Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (which I have to admit, I haven’t actually read, just watched the film, which is also awesome, and I’m not even that fond of Michael Cera). There’s just so much to chose from, and I think it’s a shame that people are so quick to dismiss all comic’s as something for the ‘Emotionally Subnormal’.

But seriously, watch Scott Pilgrim. It’s awesome.

 
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Posted by on March 22, 2014 in Comic Books

 

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