Top 8 Questions after watching the new trailer for Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi
(Spoilers? Just some mild ones, bub.)
Yes, it’s good to see Wolverine in action again. Pairing him with a mini-me (or mini-him… er, actually a female mini-him) smelled like a big fat gimmick upon first glance (or whiff) but Wolver-tween is interesting, entertaining… and jarring. Seeing her decapitate an enemy was oddly refreshing. Why?
Continuing the read-through of as many Avengers and Fantastic Four–related Marvel comics as possible!
Fantastic Four #94-104; Avengers #73-83; Captain America #121-133, Captain America and the Falcon #134; Iron Man #21-32; Incredible Hulk #125-134; Thor #172-181; Amazing Adventures (starring Black Widow) #1-4; years: 1970-71
The Revolving Door of Avengers Mansion
Yellowjacket and Wasp are out so Hank Pym can do science for the government, but Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch are back, thus filling the Avengers’ quota of unhealthy relationships. And then the Vision abruptly leaves shortly later…and returns almost immediately.
The Best of This Bunch – Iron Man #21-22
Archie Goodwin’s solid run on Iron Man continues with a tale of Tony Stark trying to quit his superhero life…and realizing he can’t. The story features tropes that have become too commonplace these days—a replacement for the hero, a replacement for an old villain, and the death of a romantic interest. But these tropes were fresher in 1970 and, in this particular instance, well-handled.
Iron-willed boxer and all-around decent guy Eddie March makes for a likeable potential Iron Man, though he has a medical condition of his own that cuts his super-heroic career short. Surprisingly, he survives the tale, but Janice Cord’s death comes out of nowhere.
Janice had been portrayed as a potential girlfriend for Tony Stark for the past twenty issues or so. Now, after an experimental medical procedure leaves Tony Stark’s heart healthy enough for daily life but not necessarily superhero life, he decides to pursue a normal relationship and pass the Iron Man armor onto a worthy successor.
However, Janice hasn’t sprung to life as a particularly memorable or compelling character…so she must die, naturally. In the story’s defense, back in these days, any character who lasted beyond his or her first or second appearance wasn’t likely to die ever. So at the time, this was a somewhat bold story decision on Goodwin’s part, even though to modern sensibilities, the automatic reaction tends to be, “Ugh, another woman killed to provide motivation for the male hero?”
Goodwin’s run ends several issues later, and the drop in quality is steep. (more…)
So I finally got around to seeing one of the most anticipated movies of the summer, Captain America: Civil War. In general, I’m not that into superhero movies, primarily because I find they’re often over-simplistic for my taste: These are the good guys. Those are the bad guys. Now watch them blow stuff up.
Luckily, Captain America: Civil War does not fall into that trap. There’s two opposing sides, but rather than a battle of good vs. evil, it’s a battle between two different interpretations of good. The conflict is introduced when the UN finally expresses discontent with the Avenger-caused destruction of previous Marvel movies, which is best summed up this way:
So the Avengers have a choice. Do they want to give the governments of the world increased control over their operations (#TeamIronMan) or continue to be as independent as they’ve always been, even if that makes them outlaws (#TeamCap)?
The Avengers have been around since long before the Marvel Cinematic Universe became a mainstream pop culture juggernaut. In this new series, I’ll be reading the Avengers-related titles of the original Marvel Comics Universe from the 1960s through the present over the course of many, many months, and I’ll chart my observations here every two or three weeks.
I’ll include the Fantastic Four in this, since not only is their first (hopefully) good movie coming up this summer, but they’re also a major part of the traditionally super-heroic corner of the comics universe—as opposed to the feared-and-hated characters like the X-Men and Spider-Man or vigilantes like Daredevil, though Hulk gets included on account of being a founding Avenger. (If I included those other franchises, I’d never finish.) Between the Marvel Unlimited digital library and my own collection, we’ll be able to cover most (but not all) of the books starring Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, and the like. Special thanks to The Complete Marvel Reading Order for sparing me the hard work of keeping track of what to read next.
So face front, True Believers, as we begin our long-term tour of the evolution of Marvel with this extra-sized first issue!
Fantastic Four #1-13, Tales to Astonish (starring Ant-Man) #27, 35-41, Incredible Hulk #1-6, Journey Into Mystery (starring Thor) #93-89, 91, Strange Tales (starring the Human Torch) #101-108, and Tales of Suspense (starring Iron Man) #39; years spanned: 1961-3.
We’re at the ground floor here, so pretty much everything is new.
Though Marvel Comics had been around in some or another since the late 1930s, Marvel continuity officially begins with the introduction of Mr. Fantastic, the Invisible Girl, the Human Torch, and the Thing in Fantastic Four #1.
The next character we meet is Hank Pym (who will be played by Michael Douglas in this summer’s Ant-Man movie) in Tales to Astonish #27, which is more a sci-fi short story about a scientist being almost done in by his own invention rather than a superhero tale. Pym becomes Ant-Man in TTA #35. (more…)
Within about 36 hours of its American theatrical release, Avengers: Age of Ultron has already grossed over $424 Million dollars worldwide (update: the final tally for the weekend is $626,656,000) and it earned the title of having the second-highest grossing opening day of all time, just behind Harry Potter’s final installment. Marvel Studios continues its Hulk-like rampage across the American cinematic landscape. Having now seen both the 2D and 3D (not worth it) versions of the film, I feel like I’ve done my part.
But I guess the real question is, “Was it worth it?”
The short answer is yes, absolutely.
The longer answer is, this is a film that has a lot of heart, goes out of its way to show its heroes actually being heroes, further develops key characters that haven’t had as much of a chance to be seen in other films, has a pretty compelling villain (almost entirely thanks to James Spader), and unsurprisingly features some phenomenal action sequences.
What’s invisible, stretchy, rock hard and on fire? This trailer! Or at least the cast is…
Josh Trank’s “Fantastic Four” is about 3 months from theatrical release and with that impending doom (ha!) comes a new full-length trailer.
I’ve tackled this issue before, but to reiterate, I’ve been pretty stoked about this film since I heard Trank was first attached. “Chronicle” was a great film with a dark edge that I thought would be great for a reboot of Marvel’s first family. Then all the production nightmare stories started floating around about Trank trashing the set and the cast wanting to back out, etc. But none of that would have ever crossed my mind having just viewed the second trailer!
With the second installment of The Avengers less than a month away, and with it clearly the favorite to be the summer blockbuster of 2015, it behooves us to be aware of that which came before — or, at least, from where the new characters to which we’ll be introduced come, as well as various needed plot elements.
Print comics is a dying medium, yes, but naturally, without ’em, we wouldn’t be able to enjoy our heroes on the silver screen.
Ultron was created by Hank Pym, aka Giant Man as shown in Avengers #58. The robot quickly “evolves,” going from monosyllabic to complex speech in mere moments. He quickly frees himself from any concept of robotic servitude, immobilizing and then brain-wiping Pym, and escaping into the night.
Soon disguised as the Crimson Cowl, Ultron recruits a new Masters of Evil to assist him against the Avengers, and follows this with the creation of the Vision (Avengers #57), whom he also sends against Earth’s Mightiest Heroes.
The Vision, however, betrays Ultron and helps the Avengers to defeat the mechanoid. But unknown to all, the robot’s “braincase” remains intact.
Her answer was epic:
I think it’s so stupid because of this whole minorities in Hollywood thing. It’s so stupid. Stop stealing all the white people’s superheroes. Make up your own. You know what I am saying? What’s up with that?
While this may be a bit harsh (Rodriguez indeed backpedaled a bit on her Facebook page after her comment), it speaks to the current craze within, if not yet so much the comicbook movie industry, certainly the print comicbook biz.
The “Big Two” companies, Marvel and DC, over recent years have “re-imagined” many of their popular heroes by
- turning Thor into a woman
- having Sam Wilson, the Falcon and an African-American, assume the role of Captain America
- making Ms. Marvel a teenaged Muslim female
- making Green Lantern a Muslim male
- making the original Green Lantern gay
- creating an Hispanic-black Spider-Man
- turning Nick Fury into a black man
- transforming Johnny Storm, the Human Torch, into a black guy
- making Asgard’s Heimdall a black guy
- officially making Catwoman bisexual
You may notice a slight title change from the usual “Trailer Tuesday” headline. New year, new start right!? Well not really. I just did that because the official 2nd trailer for “Avengers: Age of Ultron” was released tonight! I’ll try to keep this one brief since I get a little long winded when it comes to all things geek-worthy.
As anyone who’s anyone may (or may not) know, the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) has been known for the mystery surrounding its’ projects. The people over at Marvel have been doing something right for the last eight or nine years, because they seem to reveal the right amount of information at just the right time. Queue up the new trailer and we’ve got another handful of mystery shots for us to decipher before May hits!
The trailer opens with a pretty familiar scene of a city in turmoil and the Avengers helping to evacuate the innocent bystanders. Follow that with a few depressingly gloomy looks from a couple of our mighty Avengers, and we’re reminded that this is not going to be a lighthearted, feel-good movie like the first time around.
Let’s be honest, did you expect anything else out of this week’s Trailer Tuesday? I have personally been dying to write about this one, so bare with my over-dramatic, fanboy antics. You’ve been warned. It was originally announced that the new trailer for Avengers: Age of Ultron was supposed to air during the newest episode of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and would not be released before then. However, in today’s unpredictable world of technology, the trailer was unexpectedly leaked almost an entire week early. Props to Marvel, as they went with it and shortly thereafter released higher quality versions as opposed to scrambling to rip it off of every major website in cyberspace. I’ll start by saying, there is so much going on in this “teaser” trailer that it’s hard to break it down in a way that wouldn’t take up 30 pages in Microsoft Word, so I’ll give a general overview. As a massive fan of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (and everything Joss Whedon touches), I have been a dedicated follower of this franchise since the beginning. In the first Avengers film, we were eased into a world that was mostly a fun family film, where all of these superheroes co-exist and ban together to conquer the day. With this trailer, now we’re not so sure. From the opening shot, we see a cantered aerial view of what looks like a normal, pretty metropolitan city. However, when it’s accompanied by a sinister voiceover from the evil robot villain, none other than Ultron (James Spader) himself, we get the hint that things aren’t going to be so lighthearted this time around. Ultron is a seriously freaky villain. As we witness the Avengers’ first encounter with him, their peaceful dinner party is interrupted as he enters the room claiming, “You want to save the world but you don’t want it to change. You’re all puppets, tangled in strings.” All of this is followed by a series of bleak shots of our lovable Avengers clearly up against a villain that they’re not only unfamiliar with, but that they might not actually be able to stop. This trailer does a fantastic job of cranking up the stakes from the first film. Although it clocks in at over 2 minutes, it is less of a revelation of story and more of a glimpse of what to expect in tone and atmosphere. And it’s looking to be a dark one. Joining the wonderful cast of characters, which originally included Captain America, Iron Man, Thor and Hulk among others, we now have two morally ambiguous characters coming in to play. The Maximoff twins, Quicksilver (Aaron Johnson) and Scarlett Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) are two troubled young adults with extraordinary gifts. However, after being held captive and experimented on by some bad, bad people, I think we’ll see them start out as strong opponents of the Avengers, but ultimately end up as powerful allies. With very little dialogue aside from Ultron’s voiceover, what I found to be most effective here was how well the analogy of “puppets and strings” was written and delivered. One could interpret Ultron’s claim of these strings being the emotions that come with being human, and that give us a moral sense of right and wrong, thereby inhibiting us from doing things that, say, a robot would have no qualms with. Then we end on one last powerful line from Ultron saying “There are no strings on me.” Freaky deaky! This dude has zero remorse or emotional capacity, which makes him the perfect adversary for our (mostly) inherently good Avengers. Whew! Got a little winded with this marathon. But this trailer did nothing but spark my interest to the fullest. I’m now more excited than ever for May 1, 2015 to roll around so we can see how the Avengers fare against the psycho robot Ultron! Anyone else catching this at a midnight screening!?
It’s no secret Guardians of the Galaxy of is a good movie. The critics say so, audiences say so, even we say so. Rather than recap why it’s so much fun, I want to reflect a little on why I find this outing in the Marvel universe a bit more interesting than usual.
Guardians feels different than the other Marvel (and DC) films. All these comic book films are epic in some sense; a hero struggles against the overwhelming forces of evil, always making Joseph Campbell proud. But even though the heroes here struggle against the galactic evil of Thanos, Guardians manages to have more weight than its predecessors despite (perhaps I might say because) the movie knows it isn’t serious. Freed from the seriousness and dark overtones of “realistic” comic book movies, the characters have more space to explore good and evil and pertinently, what lies between.
The five guardians are not good moral characters, they are the Tony Starks of the stars. Stark privatized world peace to indulge an ego founded on his father’s passing. The protagonists have their own motives built not on universal goods, but on the ego or on a friendship or vendetta. Because the tone of the movie doesn’t stand in front of the audience yelling “I’m gritty and I’m real,” the characters are allowed to surprise us. If you yourself are surprised this blend works, know the reality of humanity is the unexpected. And one of the greatest delights as a human is to be surprised by the depths and shallows of the cacophony of humanity (so long as innocent people aren’t hurt).
A further note on the tone makes Guardians of the Galaxy especially fascinating in the Marvel canon (and I say this as someone versed in the films with little knowledge of the comics). The universe of Star-Lord, of Ronan and Xandar, feels much more like Star Wars or the Fifth Element than our own. Considering the histories of the protagonists, let’s throw Lost in Space into the mix as well. It doesn’t feel like Iron Man’s Middle East, Spiderman’s New York, or Thor’s desert southwest. Those supernatural or superhuman elements have existed on our world and the conflict of the characters and narrative comes from limited incursions from these “other” universes: how will humans deal with the Tesseract, how will humans respond to freak accidents and powerful mutations? Guardians of the Galaxy inverts this formula. How will an extravagant universe take a little dose of humanity, our culture – our mixtapes? These superheroes are different. They no longer exist in our world. We exist in theirs.
Of course here and there are all part of a bigger here in which all of us and all of the Marvel heroes live. This is perhaps the most interesting part of Guardians. Compare Marvel’s product in the early 2000s to their movies now. Iron Man 3 was bigger than Iron Man, Thor: The Dark World was bigger than Thor. Even Captain America: The Winter Soldier, felt bigger than The Avengers. Marvel has leapt from the earth to the fertile imaginations of the universe. It’s fun, but is it sustainable? How long can Marvel go the bigger and louder route before the pendulum swings back to a smaller superhero, a more personal struggle a la Unbreakable? Whatever the answer is, I’m along for the ride.
When I first heard that Marvel was contemplating a Guardians of the Galaxy project, I thought it could be cool, but that it would take a really good story to break through the normal sci-fi hurdles of an original, potentially-unrelatable cast of characters and settings. Then they announced that they’d hired James Gunn and any trepidation I might have had turned immediately into joy and excitement.
While most critics and commentators were questioning the logic of hiring a guy who had only directed low-budget films like Super ($2.6M) and Slither ($15M), (as well as his beloved series PG-Porn) and handing him the keys to the kingdom, I was thinking about how brilliant Marvel Studios has been by focusing not on finding “known” directors, and instead hiring directors who exude originality in tone, and taking chances on them.
More than anything, it seems to me that that is what really matters in creating a great comic book movie like Guardians of the Galaxy. Technical inexperience can usually be overcome by hiring the best of the business to head up creative teams and production departments, but a sharp director is indispensable.
In a recent Variety interview, when he was asked how much harder it is to make a $170M movie compared to the small-budget indies he’s used to, James Gunn replied:
“I remember one friend in particular was like, ‘It’s so hard, is the pressure getting to you, are you freaking out?’ And I’m like, No. It seems 1,000 times easier than “Super” was. You’re surrounded by the best people in the business, I can envision any shot in my head and I can make it a reality.”
And this is where the genius of Kevin Feige has made all the difference for Marvel Studios.
When Marvel tapped Jon Favreau to make Iron Man, it was basically the same situation. Instead of hiring a guy who had directed a half a dozen tentpole movies already, they picked a guy who had done primarily smaller films (Swingers, Made) and who had demonstrated a specific tone & vision. Let’s not even get into discussing Joss Whedon’s work prior to The Avengers.
You can see this same type of forward-thinking with casting.
When Robert Downey, Jr. was cast as Iron Man, “the industry” thought it was a big risk because of his past battles with alcoholism. Of course… The character of Tony Stark has also battled alcoholism throughout the comics, so perhaps it was always a perfect fit. Likewise, a few years ago, nobody would have pegged the loveable but kind of schlubby goofball Chris Pratt as a leading man in a superhero movie. But then, the character of Peter Quill is – underneath the Han Solo exterior – an immature goofball, too. He got abducted by space pirates as a boy, and never really grew up. Thus… Chris Pratt makes sense.
So what about the film itself?
With a 92% “Fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes and a pile of earned media from its powerful $160.4 million opening weekend, there’s not much I could say about the characters and plot of Guardians of the Galaxy that hasn’t been covered in any of a hundred reviews, so I won’t waste my limited space here with any of that.
Instead, let’s talk about why – after a string of terribly mediocre summer blockbusters (Lucy, Hercules, Snowpiercer, Transformers 4, etc.) – the “Guardians of the Galaxy” are finally here to save the day for movie-goers everywhere. For me, it really all comes down to tone.
James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy is pure space adventure, and all fun.
It’s a movie that is both campy and absurd, yet simultaneously relatable and human. Its realism comes not so much from believable scenarios and plausible technology (definitely not that), but by being emotionally grounded in two important ways.
The first is the core of humor and heart developed with characters who – be they a raccoon, talking tree, or green alien assassin – feel like real people doing things real people would do… for the most part. Admittedly, it may help to have a bit more of an in-depth understanding of the character backstories and the universe to understand everything, but based on the movie’s reception, audiences don’t seem to be having too much of a problem understanding what’s going on.
But even if they did, the second core for Guardians of the Galaxy is the flawless use of pop-music from the 1970s and 80s that grounds the film and makes it relatable, even though roughly 5 minutes actually takes place on Earth. A lot will be made of this in writing about this film, but speaking as a composer and (former) professional music supervisor, it is really an incredible facet of this movie, and it really helps make the complicated plot and interstellar locations feel a lot more like home.
So if you hate Indiana Jones, Star Wars, exciting space adventures, and having fun or laughing uproariously at the cinema, Guardians of the Galaxy might not be for you.
But personally, I already can’t wait to see what Awesome Mix Vol. 2 has in store for us all.