Last week news broke that Marvel Entertainment has cast Finn Jones to play Iron Fist in their Netflix series slated for 2017. Jones is a blonde haired, blue eyed, straight cis white man and despite playing a character that in the comics would also match that description, this was also looked to as a chance for Marvel to cast differently as the character of Iron Fist appropriates heavily from Asian cultures. So, basically, this was a lose/lose casting situation for Marvel, and Marvel chose to lose.
To me the real question is not why they cast the way they did. My question is, why are they making an Iron Fist show at all? Sure, part of this is me being flip, but I’m also trying to make a valid point.
For those unfamiliar with Iron Fist, here’s a quick background. Iron Fist, a.k.a. Danny Rand, was created in 1974 by comic book legends Roy Thomas and Gil Kane. His primary ability is being a master of martial arts, but he also has some additional powers including an ability to concentrate his chi in his fist, which gives him his name. The character was heavily influenced by the early-mid 70s interest in martial arts in Western culture – even Jon Pertwee as The Doctor practiced a form of Aikido. Iron Fist started in the pages of Marvel Premiere, later getting his own title, then joining up with Luke Cage a.k.a. Power Man. After his “death” in Power Man and Iron Fist #125 in 1986, Iron Fist would fade in and out of the Marvel Universe, occasionally getting his own solo series again, most notably a run in the mid-2000s written by Matt Fraction. Oh, and like most other characters created at Marvel from 1974 and before, he’s a straight cis white man.
In hindsight, it’s easy to see how Iron Fist was problematic. Not only is this a character that appropriates Asian cultures, he’s been written and drawn almost exclusively by straight cis white men. Larry Hama has contributed to the character, but he’s one of the rare exceptions. Yes, I completely understand that Iron Fist is a white man, but maybe if you’re going to appropriate a culture you should have some input from people in that culture.
Iron Fist will be, if everything goes according to plan, the fourth solo Marvel Entertainment Netflix series. We’ll have had two seasons of Daredevil, a season of Jessica Jones, and a season of Luke Cage before Iron Fist has his own show. Maybe he’ll show up in Luke Cage. So why are people upset? Why does Iron Fist just seem like a bad idea now?
The primary reason for me, and maybe a lot of you out there who also aren’t thrilled by the prospect of an Iron Fist show, is the lack of diversity casting. Not because Iron Fist should have been cast different, but because he we don’t need an Iron Fist show. The TV shows have a much larger audience than the comics. And often a much different audience.
The people who have been enjoying the Marvel Netflix series, and even Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. have been watching Marvel move towards more diversity. Daredevil featured a straight cis white man, but Jessica Jones was about a straight cis white woman and Luke Cage a straight cis black man. Having them go back to a straight cis white man lead after this comes off as a step backwards to many in the audience, and rightfully so.
Fans of the comics can yell from the rooftops until they’re blue in the face. They can point out how Iron Fist/Danny Rand has always been a straight cis white guy. They can call out people for being casual fans and criticizing them for having never read an Iron Fist comic. All of that misses the point. Marvel Entertainment on TV has been giving off the impression to its viewers that they care about diversity, and to many viewers out there this is a move against the expectations that Marvel has set up and a betrayal to an audience that expects more.
Some people may be thinking to themselves who else could Marvel have even picked. Didn’t Marvel Entertainment have to make an Iron Fist show if they wanted to do The Defenders? The answer is a resounding no. In all of Marvel’s TV and movie adaptations they don’t always follow the comics that closely. Sometimes they don’t follow them at all. If they did, the first Avengers movie wouldn’t have had Captain America, Hawkeye, or Black Widow in it, the first X-Men movie would not have had Wolverine, Storm, Rogue, Mystique, and many others. Black Widow in particular was added to Avengers because of Joss Whedon’s instance to have more representation after all.
Marvel has many, many characters to consider instead of Iron Fist. In a conversation I had with fellow ComicMix columnist Molly Jackson, she suggested why not Moon Knight? What about Dakota North? Monica Rambeau? Squirrel Girl? Or the incredibly obvious choice of Kamala Khan as Ms. Marvel? It doesn’t matter if these characters were in The Defenders or not, they could still just as easily be in the team. Guardians of the Galaxy, Ant-Man, Agent Carter, Jessica Jones, and Luke Cage all show Marvel’s willingness to use lesser known properties in a different medium to give them new life and a larger audience. Why not also use that strategy to expand other characters profiles to expand representation rather than adding yet another straight cis white guy to the mix? Marvel could still even just add Iron Fist to Luke Cage, just as Luke Cage had a big role in Jessica Jones. Iron Fist doesn’t need his own series for that.
Some will write this off as overzealous social justice warriors that just don’t understand comic properties and are searching out the next trivial cause to latch themselves onto. That is not what’s happening. What we’re seeing, as far as I can tell, is backlash to a tone deaf company that’s expanding its audience reach and not following through with the unspoken promise of better representing the audience that people like Joss Whedon worked hard to cultivate for them.
Greetings, ComicMixers! Did everyone have a good weekend? I hope so! But I know, I know, there was probably one thing missing from your hopefully glorious and relaxing weekend – my SDCC coverage! Yes, that’s right – Along with Part I(the con floor!); Part II(the Her Universe Fashion Show!); and Part III (The party round-up!), here comes Part IV – the panels!
Contrary to what folks who see me at cons might think, I can actually sit still for at least an hour at a time, and sometimes I even want to. In particular, I do like to try and see a few panels whenever I’m at a con; and going into SDCC, I definitely had some on my agenda. This year, unlike many, I actually even managed to see most of them, and I’m glad I did, because they were awesome and I want to share them with you. So here we go!
Look, the day they have voice actor panels at a con and I don’t make it to at least one is the day you’ll know I’ve lost my joy in life (the same goes for any panel featuring the delightful Rob Paulsen – and since I couldn’t make the TMNT panel (and see the awesome TMNT SDCC mini scene in person!) due to a scheduling conflict, this panel was definitely a must). The panel featured Susan Eisenberg, Rob Paulsen, Caitlin Glass, Anthony Bowling, Tara Platt, Yuri Lowenthal, and Genese Davis, and was primarily a Q&A, with the usual fun (and funny voices) that goes on at a VO panel.
Genese Davis was a fantastic moderator, and you could just feel the love these VO folks have for their work and the fans. It was also neat to hear, e.g., Eisenberg discuss what voicing Wonder Woman has meant to her, and other great and inspiring stories from the panelists. My favorite funny bit of the panel was Lowenthal’s explanation for why he has a mohawk, which basically varies depending on the moment and his mood. “You know, a fan will ask me, ‘Did you get a mohawk because your character has one?’ And I’m like, ‘Oh, yeah, what a good idea – of course that’s why I got it!'” Hah!
The Black Panel
For those who don’t know, The Black Panel is an SDCC staple that’s been happening since 1997. It primarily features black creators in and connected with the genre entertainment industry (although often there is also a “token white person” on the panel) and discusses their impact on and experiences within the industry. While the panel is known for the irreverent humor and moderating style of organizer Michael Davis , it’s also known for the impressive list of top-tier creators it’s featured over the years, and the valuable advice they have shared for young creators and others in the audience.
This year, the panel featured Joe Illidge, Eric Dean Seaton, Don McGregor, Tatiana EL-Khouri, and of course, moderator Davis. Although distilled wisdom and good advice were shared with the audience by all of the panelists, as usual, this panel was also bittersweet and truly the end of an era, as we learned that this was going to be the last SDCC Black Panel. It then featured a scrolling list of all of the luminaries who have been on the panel, as well as at least two fans whose Q&A questions consisted of talking about how valuable the Black Panel has been to them over the years in raising awareness of black talent (one woman in particular, a librarian, discussed how the panel had helped her to find black-created comics to include in her library stock). It was truly an inspiring panel, both in hearing what the panelists shared, and in hearing what the panel has meant to people; although of course, the trademark humor of the panel was still present. In classic Black Panel style, Davis closed the final Black Panel with, “Oh yeah: white people, get out!”
Dark Horse: An Afternoon with Joss Whedon
This panel was an absolute delight (and can be watched in its entirety here, thanks to others who actually filmed it). Whedon started with a nice thanks to Dark Horse and a funny Oz joke: ” I want to talk about how ridiculously grateful I am to everybody at Dark Horse for doing what is honestly one of the hardest jobs in the world. When you take a licensed product, something that already exists, and you have to continue those stories, you have to be so faithful and yet so inventive to make the stories come to life. And that is a tightrope act. It is really difficult for someone; for anyone, to carry on something that is so beloved, and take it to another level, while still being true to all the voices and the characters and what we were trying to do way back when. Thank you to Scott, who’s been my editor forever, and Sierra, who is working on the books; Mike Richardson, who built the house we’re all in, and particularly the writers and artists – Christos Gage has been killing it, Rebekah Isaacs, and Georges Jeanty of course; Zack Whedon. …I feel like five years ago a tornado ripped up my house and dropped it in the land of Marvel, and it’s been a very weird time. And (pointing to the audience) you were in it, and you were there, and you were there…and all that while, all these people have been working so hard and doing such beautiful work, and it’s been so great for me to know that the things I care most about are being taken care of. So I want to give Dark Horse a shout-out for their amazing work.”
Following that was some big news from Whedon; the announcement of a new Dark Horse six issue book, The Twist, about which Whedon said, “it basically deals with the most important moral question facing us, which is why isn’t there a Victorian female Batman?” He then decided to impart some life and creative advice to all of us, which was, ” Continue to earn what you already have.” Followed quickly with more witty repartee, including discussion of the Marvel movies, about which he observed, “What’s exciting was that everyone was so perfectly pleased with how I handled Natasha.” Followed by, “Yeah, I still got it,” in response to the ensuing laughter.
The whole panel is well worth a watch, but in particular Joss’s answer to this fan question is worth paying attention to. The fan said, “I, like many of us, gain a lot of peace from your work, even though it’s about people who exist in very non-peaceful situations. My question is: what is the world, what is existence, why are we here, how can I and all of us feel more sane and purposeful in our own lives, and how do you represent that philosophy in your writings?”
Whedon replied with, “You think I’m not going to…but I’m going to answer that! The world is a random and meaningless terrifying place, and we all, spoiler alert, die. Most critters are designed not to know that. We are designed uniquely to transcend that. To understand that…Ooh, I can quote myself, this is fun! ‘A thing isn’t beautiful because it lasts.’ That what we have right now, right here, has as much meaning as anything we’re afraid of. And the way we’re designed to do this is that the main function of the human brain, the primary instant function, is storytelling. Memory is storytelling. If we all remembered everything, we would be Rain Man, and we would not be socially active at all. We learn to forget and we learn to also distort, and from the very beginning, we’re learning to tell a story about ourselves.
I keep hoping to be the hero of my story; I’m kind of like the annoying sidekick. I’m like Rosie O’Donnell in the Tarzan movie that Disney did. I’m that annoying. I was like, “But I’m Tarzan, right?’ And they were like, “No. You’re that weird ape that we don’t know if it’s a girl.” But, it is still a narrative. And since we’re doing that from the moment we’re alive, living stories that we then hear and see and internalize and wear hats from and come to conventions about; we all come here to celebrate only exactly that: storytelling. And the shared experience of what that gives us. And it may give us strength; it may distract us. It can do almost anything. And that, for me, is how we live peacefully, and how we live with ourselves, and each other. We understand our story, everybody else’s story, that we’re all part of that; and that story is going to be with us, and can be controlled by us, and can be surprising and delightful and horrifying and all those things, but it’s something we can survive because, unlike me, you all are the hero of the story. That is my answer.”
Wow. And after that profoundness, I’ll end my summary of this panel with this quote from Whedon, which clearly needs no context: “This is very simple, and I think everyone can relate to where I am on this. I love bees. I just want to put bees in my clothes. And have bee-time.”
Thanks for that, Joss. And for being awesome.
20th Century Fox
Ohhhhh, you guys know where this is going, right? Okay, so the Fox panel showcased a bunch of projects, including The Maze Runner: Scorch Trials, Victor Frankenstein (which featured the most hilariously homoerotic panel I have experienced in person), Fantastic Four, and X-Men: Apocalypse, several of which I’m excited about (X-Men in particular); but you all know why I sat my butt on those hard seats in the Most Depressing Room of SDCC for two hours after Joss Whedon left, right? Deadpool. (Look, I’m not the only one. The Wall Street Journalis all about the Deadpool, too. As is Nicholas Hoult, who, when asked about his character Beast on the X-Men panel, replied, “I can’t concentrate because I’m still psyched about the ‘Deadpool’ trailer.”)
In the midst of all of the other cool Fox stuff going on, moderator Chris Hardwick of Nerdist started the Deadpool ball rolling with, “I believe we have a special announcement before the next panel…?” That was the cue to roll an SDCC Hall H exclusive video which showed Ryan Reynolds in his full Deadpool regalia, seated in a Masterpiece Theatre-style chair, complete with pipe in hand, as he intoned, “In a world divided by fear, one man must save the world… From the studio that inexplicably sewed his fucking mouth shut the first time, comes five-time Academy Award-winner Ryan Reynolds as a man on an e-Harmony date with destiny. Ladies and gentlemen of Hall H, I give you…me! Deadpool! To teach you to take these broken wings and learn to fucking fly again.” And then, of course, Deadpool tried to put the pipe in his masked mouth and dropped it.
Amidst an absolute uproar of delighted cheers and screams, Reynolds snuck onto the still-dark stage to surprise us all as the lights came up and lead off an awesome, raunchy, totally Deadpool-esque panel that also featured Tim Miller (Director), Morena Baccarin (Vanessa Carlysle), T.J. Miller (Weasel), Brianna Hildebrand (Negasonic Teenage Warhead), Ed Skrein (Ajax), and Gina Carano (Angel Dust). Reynolds responded to the crowd’s cheers with, “Looks like we’re ready to make the chimi-fucking-changas already. It’s only been eleven years in the waiting.” When Hardwick asked him how it felt for the movie to finally be coming out, Reynolds replied, clearly delighted, “One year ago, almost today, some asshole leaked that footage, and that’s why we’re standing here… You guys – the internet, fans, you made the studio do this.” Reynolds, Miller, and cast also gave credit to the excellent script of Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick.
Miller said about the movie finally being made that, “I would have made this fucking movie anytime, but it had to come at the right time, and the studio was ready to make it now. And I think it’s because as Ryan said, it’s the fans. He is the perfect character for our time, I think.” Reynolds added, “I think this character inhabits a space in the comic universe that no other person can or will ever inhabit. It’s got everything you’d ever want. …For one I just think it’s an absolute miracle that a studio let us make Deadpool, let alone an R-rated Deadpool.” He added, “…No matter what the rating is, though, babies will love this.”
All of the actors discussed their characters, and were clearly excited about their roles in the film. When asked about her character Vanessa, Baccarin said, “She’s a badass. It was really awesome to read the script. You don’t get to read many superhero movies that have a badass romantic lead. She gives him lip right back, and not necessarily the talking kind. …She’s the perfect match to his crassness.”
After the Q&A they showed some exclusive footage, which was amazing and appears very loyal to Deadpool’s origins. Expanding on the earlier leaked footage, it showed more characters and backstory (including that Negasonic Teenage Warhead starts out in training with Colossus), included more great comedic moments, and highlighted Deadpool’s fighting prowess when he shot three people in the head with one bullet. It was also rife with fourth-wall breakage, and featured a Liefeld joke, a dig at Green Lantern, and an appearance by Blind Al (w00t!). It was such a hit that at the finish, Hall H exploded into chants of, “One more time!” and Hardwick obliged by running the footage again, to more cheers.
In summary, this panel was hilarious and the movie looks like it is going to be awesome and, and, and you guys. I can’t even. I almost died of happiness during the panel. Deadpool. Is finally coming to theaters. And it looks fantastic. Y’all are lucky I didn’t expire right there in Hall H and am still here to write this.
And that I was still vaguely coherent for the next Fox panel, X-Men: Apocalypse. I feel like no matter what, I’ll do this write-up a disservice, because I was still buzzing so much from Deadpool that I could hardly concentrate; but I will say that the footage looked amazing, the cast is huge but it seems to work, there was a moment where Hugh Jackman sat on Jennifer Lawrence’s lap, and I am really looking forward to the film. If Deadpool hadn’t been on the panel agenda, this would have been the Fox movie I’m most looking forward to.
The last panel-like thing I did while at SDCC was actually a screening – of X-Men: Days of Future Past – The Rogue Cut. Essentially, a Rogue storyline got cut out of the movie for running time, and it’s been added back by Bryan Singer, who introduced the screening for the new DVD. The screening was cool – it was fun to see the film again on the big screen, and while the movie does work without the Rogue storyline, I did feel it added to the overall story to include it. Certainly for a movie on DVD (where you can pause anytime for snack and bathroom breaks!) I’d advocate getting the longer cut.
And that’s it for me and the panels! Check out my panel photo album here or my whole SDCC collection of photos here.
Being a geek can be hard. We all hear the stories about being bullied as a geek. We all have our favorites. Mine was when my boss at the time was asking me if I cosplay. When I said yes, she responded “So, you’re like a furry?” It was my facepalm moment for that day. (But I still love to tell that story.)
So, when an opportunity arises to just be me with a group of accepting geeks (not all geeks are), I jump at the chance. For the past few years, I’ve been a member of Browncoats of NYC. Yes, Browncoats as in Firefly/Serenity fans. It doesn’t matter that it has been over a decade, I still love that show.
I also love the people that are part of Browncoats. They are accepting of everyone, no matter what. We all love different and random things but our Firefly fandom brought us together in the best possible way. We sit around and argue about anything and everything geeky, with no repercussions. A good time is had by all. And these Browncoats have become great friends for anyone to have.
Every year, we hold a Can’t Stop The Serenity fundraiser to raise money for Equality Now. This event honors fans getting Serenity made after the show was cancelled and Joss Whedon, the man who created this universe for us. Think of it as a big Firefly love fest, but with toy revolvers and donations. Our NYC event was this past weekend, and as always, was a fantastic time. It was the 10th anniversary of these events, so we had many staffers from Equality Now join us, which meant we could share our passion with more and more people. When the event was all over, I left with the feeling of joy because I spent the day hanging out with awesome people doing something we all loved.
Go check out the Can’t Stop The Serenity global page. You might find an event happening locally and you should check it out. You’ll meet a fine bunch of ruebens who may change your life for the better.
A recent Internet brouhaha occurred when some feminists attacked Joss Whedon after the opening of Avengers: Age of Ultron claiming he was a misogynist, etc, for his portrayal of Black Widow in the movie. I haven’t seen the movie yet – I may be one of a handful in the world who hasn’t – so I can’t comment on it although given Whedon’s track record, I am skeptical.
When Whedon closed his Twitter account, the Internet went crazy and charged he was chased off by “militant feminists.” Again, I was skeptical. Whedon himself later stated “I just thought, Wait a minute, if I’m going to start writing again, I have to go to the quiet place, and this is the least quiet place I’ve ever been in my life.” That’s true of the Internet in general, by the way. A great tool but also a great temptation for wasting time.
This practice of attacking our own is not new. Will Smith playing Deadshot in the upcoming Suicide Squad movie, has been attacked by some as being too lightweight for such a stoic badass character. This ignores the work he did in such films as The Pursuit of Happyness or the minor role he had playing the devil in Winter’s Tale. Serious characters, well played.
Ben Affleck as Batman/Bruce Wayne in the upcoming Superman vs. Batman: Dawn of Justice? According to sections of fandom, heresy! They said the same thing about Michael Keaton waaaay back before his first Batman film. When I was writing GrimJack at First Comics, we got a letter from someone who said I should leave the book and let other writers do the character because I wasn’t up to this letterhack’s standards. That may explain a certain lack of sympathy I have for these type of fans.
It’s not everyone in fandom. They can, however, be a vocal segment of fandom. Often an angry and strident voice in fandom. They seem to have (or think they have) a Fan Early Warning system (or F.E.W.s), a sort of Spidey-Sense that starts tingling when they sense something wrong (especially in casting) in an upcoming project, especially film. There is a certainty that they are right, a vitriol that accompanies the attack, and an unwillingness to hear any other point of view. It isn’t what they wanted, it isn’t how they would do it, it’s not how they see it and so it is wrong. No debate, end of story.
Does it matter? It is a small minority, after all. A small, strident minority that can be heard over the din of the crowd. That’s part of the problem with this country today – minority voices stridently decrying what they think is wrong and refusing to listen to any other opinion because, you know, that would be compromising their principles. You can’t just agree with them; you have to agree wholeheartedly and for the right reasons. You have to share the same religion; you have to drink the same flavor of Kool-Aid.
Everyone has a right to their own opinion but it is often formed without actually seeing the work. The dissident fans haven’t seen any footage of Will Smith as Deadshot, yet they already know he is wrong. Their proof that Ben Affleck will suck as Batman? His performance in Daredevil. (He has also performed in other films since then, including a fine turn as George Reeve in Hollywoodland .)
Negative comments can create a negative image of a given work, especially movies, before it’s seen. The “buzz” can affect how a film is perceived and received. It can affect the box office. That, in Hollywood, is serious.
It’s not hard to be heard these days. Is it too much to ask to consider what is being said? To think before you speak?
What am I saying? This is the Internet. Of course it is.
We jump into the world of independent movies starting with Elliot Diviney. He’s a talented editor for projects that include LOST and BATTLESTAR:GALACTICA, but he is also an indie film maker with a new movie that puts him into the super hero feature arena, Then meet Karen Lam, celebrated horror writer and director whose film EVANGELINE finally hits the U.S. this month.
Next week, Greg Poehler (along with sister Amy) is bringing back WELCOME TO SWEDEN for a new season on NBC. We get an exclusive look. Be sure to follow us on Twitter @ThePointRadio.
It’s almost impossible for me to be too positive about Avengers: Age of Ultron. It’s a movie that would have been the movie of my dreams when I was 10 years old, when I was 20 I would have told you there was no chance it would ever happen, even at 25 I would have thought it was far too optimistic. It is as good as superhero movies get and as a life long fan of superheroes I loved it to pieces. I love how the fight sequences feel like playing with a big box of action figures but with a quarter billion dollar budget. I love Joss Whedon’s banter and the performances he gets from his actors each of whom feels perfectly cast. I even love it for the flaws, that it’s a little too packed with winks and teases, that there’s a pervasive refusal to call people by their code names, the dawning realization that I don’t care about Iron Man at all. I’m overjoyed that I’ve been able to see comic book movies get to where they are right now that when the standard bearer for the genre comes back I can only stand back in awe.
James Spader is so unbelievably good as Ultron. I thought Ultron was a mistake as a villain, I just didn’t believe he was interesting enough to pull an entire movie when I never cared for his comics, but Spader is so good I literally couldn’t remember Tom Hiddleston’s name when it was over. Spader turns a character I frequently thought had no personality (and I’ve read very few Ultron stories so it might not be a fair assessment) and turned him in to a character that had a sense of humor, and more importantly a real point of view. There’s a moment early in the film where Ultron accuses Tony Stark of not wanting peace but quiet and after the events of this week in Baltimore that hit particularly hard. While Spader is the glittering jewel of the new cast Elizabeth Olsen is also a treasure, she provides some human emotion to moments that would otherwise feel too large and fantastical to connect with and I’m quite thrilled to have her in the Don Cheadle level of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
First of all, I was lucky because I got to go. I was lucky to hear Joe Quesada introduce the film, not only because he was amusing but he was gracious enough to thank the event planners before he thanked the Hollywood bosses. Trust me, as someone who has worked events for more than 20 years, it’s unusual when someone says “Thank you.” He also thanked all the people who worked on the books, the source material for the movies.
And I was lucky because of the audience. The people in Manhattan’s Ziegfeld Theater on Tuesday were Marvel (and Disney) employees, freelancers, and their plus-ones. It was the kind of audience that cheered the coming attractions (Ant-Man), of course. They cheered the created-by credits. They cheered Stan Lee. From their cheers, I could tell that I picked up all the Easter eggs, thrown in for the fans in the audience by the fans who made the film.
The film. How was it? There may be SPOILERS, depending on how you define the term, although I will try to avoid the big ones.
If you haven’t seen the first Avengers movie, you might have some problems jumping into the plot of this one. If you haven’t seen any of the Iron Man, Thor or Captain America movies, you may miss a few key character developments. And if you didn’t watch Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. this week, you missed the set-up.
None of this was a problem for me. I’m going to guess, given the name of this site, that it isn’t a problem for you either.
The plot, as you might surmise from the title, concerns the creation of Ultron, using the Infinity Stone from Loki’s staff (from the first Avengers movie) and Tony Stark’s tech. Ultron runs amok, and the rest of the movie involves our heroes trying to stop him/it. As they do, they first fight and then team-up with Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch. In the process, many, many places suffer severe damage, including Wakanda.
(During the fight in Wakanda, our heroes must deal with the local police and, later, the military. In both cases, the first faces we see in uniform are white. Given current events, this took me out of the narrative for a beat.)
If I approach this review with my English class lessons, it is difficult to describe. There is no single protagonist, no character who has a transformative story arc. My future husband, Robert Downey, Jr., and the other heroes with their own film franchises (i.e. Captain America and Thor) do very little other than fight and trade quips, once they get past the exposition parts of the dialogue.
Instead, the revealing character moments belong to the Hulk, to Hawkeye, and the Black Widow. If anything is going to rile up the fanboys, it is the changes the movie makes to Hawkeye. Since I haven’t followed the character in the comics (although I’ve enjoyed a bunch of the new version), I wasn’t offended. I think it works for the character in the movie. It explains a lot about his relationship with Black Widow.
Here’s my favorite thing about the version of the Black Widow we get in these movies, a part of her character I credit to Joss Whedon (based on Buffy and Firefly): she not only holds her own with the male characters, but she has relationships with them that are collegial, not romantic. She is, first and foremost, a friend and an ally. While there seems to be some suggestion that she and Bruce Banner might click, even that possibility comes from the trust and respect they have for each other as teammates, not hot bodies.
Ultimately, The Avengers: Age of Ultron suffers from the fate of most middle films in a trilogy. There can’t be a real resolution because then there would be no need for the third movie. Still, there are a lot of pretty people doing a lot of pretty spectacular things, with plenty of explosions and lots and lots of fight scenes in exotic scenery.
Go. You’ll have a good time. Just don’t try to write an English theme about it.
Did you see it? Did ya did ya did ya? The latest trailer to the future billion-dollar-blockbuster-to-be Avengers 2: Age of Ultron didn’t dance around the revisionist history of the cinematic 616. Ultron, once the product of Dr. Hank Pym – of Ant Man fame, don’t you know – has been shifted to the fatherly arms of one Tony Stark.
Now, the movie isn’t out yet, and I’ve abstained for seeking any real spoilers (that the trailer didn’t spoil itself). For all I know, Tony “invented” it the same way Microsoft invented the Zune. But, let’s just assume that in the world of Joss Whedon’s Marvelverse, Tony Stark did as he said: he attempted to create a solution to the ails of the world… and in doing so, created a would-be destructor instead. Simply put, this is a brilliant move by the boardroom of Mickey Mouse. Old school fans be damned.
An old adage I was taught in screenwriting class was that “you don’t put a gun on the table if you don’t plan on firing it.” The idea being that storytelling in a restricted amount of time (like a 150 minute movie) means sometimes having to consolidate resources. And while I’m sure I could have my ear talked off by someone older than me on the rich history of Pym’s creation of the aforementioned villain, it’d fall on deaf ears. The biggest reason: the story thus far in the Marvel movies has wonderfully built to this outcome.
Take a trip through Iron Man, Iron Man 2, Avengers, and Iron Man 3. The genesis to the Marvel Studios empire was built on the back of Anthony Stark: war-monger, philanthropist, martyr. It makes complete sense coming out of Avengers and Iron Man 3 that Tony would feel compelled to create a machine to solve the world’s problems. And it’d make even more sense he’d imbue it with a bit of his own panache. Any decent scientist will tell you the man who could invent Jarvis as presented is more than capable of creating the AI that wants to end humanity in order to save it. No one builds a monologuing AI better than Tony “Poke the Hulk in the Tuccus” Stark.
What I love even more than the choice to saddle Tony with the idea for Ultron is the potential stories that spin out of it. Akin to Grant Morrison’s astounding Tower of Babel arc in JLA, here the biggest threat to the Avengers (and the world at large) isn’t the rampaging id, alien demi-god, or right-wing cyclops… it’s the narcissist futurist. And given the name drop of Captain America: Civil War and the leaked stories of Tony’s appearance in it, it doesn’t take much brain power to see that Captain America may end up opposite his teammate over something as trivial as potentially almost ending the world. Plus, Tony also sorta created Whiplash and a fire-breathing Guy Pearce. If that’s not enough to go to war, then I don’t know my politics.
Beyond Cap there’s potential steam to be blown off by countless others. And what of Tony’s Science Bro, Dr. Banner? Maybe he’ll be more sympathetic to a man trying to quell the beasts of the world and messing up. And what of Black Widow or Hawkeye? One would imagine they aren’t ones to choose sides quickly. And then there is S.H.I.E.L.D. and all of that potential mess.
Whedon’s recent interviews have all beleaguered the point that with this sequel the story is decidedly more insular than the previous iteration. Avengers pretty much charged out of the gate swinging, and there was hardly time for Earth’s Mightiest Heroes to fraternize. Those critics devoid of our fanboy hearts saw the coming together of the menagerie of complex costume choices as being inherently explosive.
In simpler terms, put that many type-A personalities on one giant flying fortress and you were bound to have an alien invasion and the near destruction of New York City. Of course we’d all beg to differ, but the outsiders have a point. And it all comes back to Tony.
At the end of Iron Man we were introduced to the concept of the superteam – and the tin man was clearly at the core of it. When Tony stepped on the Triskelion, he treated it as if he owned it. And after he illegally downloaded all the secret files within, in a way he did. And he was quick to reveal to his fellow Avengers how secretive and potentially damning their would-be employers were. Forever the smartest man in the world… doomed to see his biggest ideas twisted into death and destruction. Tony Stark is karma’s bitch.
Once upon a time, most movie theaters showed more than a single feature. For the price of your ticket, you’d get two movies, maybe a cartoon, sometimes a featurette. You got good value for your money in those days especially at second or third run theaters or revival houses. This was in the days before DVD, Blu-Ray, or even VHS.
In fact, for a long time, the movie studios only got one bite of the apple. Oh, a few movies might show up again; Disney did a good job of bringing classics out of their vaults. When the movies were sold to show on TV, that would also generate some revenue but nothing like today when a major part of the money made by films comes from Blu-Ray and DVD sales. (Aside: I wonder how true that will remain with Netflix and Hulu, et al.)
The first time I saw Casablanca was in a movie theater in an inspired double feature with Play It Again, Sam – the Woody Allen vehicle in which Casablanca plays a big part. Most of the double features I remember weren’t so brilliantly paired although even these days you would get a coupling whose titles together were suggestive. For example, I recently saw a photo of a marquee that has Annie and Satan’s Daughter on it.
There was a pairing that still haunts my nightmares. I was in a play out of the Guthrie Theater that toured the upper Midwest hitting small towns in states like North and South Dakota (both of which seemed entirely made up of small towns) and I, with my fellow travelers, were desperate to catch a movie on our days off. The same double bill followed me for weeks – The Apple Dumpling Gang Rides Again and The Amityville Horror, both of which scored a minus 10 on my must-see list.
These days, we can make up our own double or even triple feature. Some are obvious such as the Bourne movies, but I like it when there are more imaginative pairings like the aforementioned Casablanca/Play It Again, Sam duet.
For example, we recently watched Guardians of the Galaxy (which is rapidly becoming my favorite Marvel movie) and then watched Galaxy Quest which, if you don’t know it, sends up Star Trek and its fans while, at the same time, being a homage to them. Both are quite funny, well cast and acted, have some surprisingly serious moments, and both even have a death that is surprising and moving. If I wanted to make it a triple feature, I would add Serenity, Joss Whedon’s continuance and completion of what he began in the TV series, Firefly. Like the other two, Serenity is a space opera that uses a lot of humor. The three have similarities in tone and attitude that play off each other well.
Another pairing that I stumbled upon was My Neighbor Totoro and Lilo and Stitch. Both are animated features; the first is the masterpiece from Japanese animator Hidao Miyazaki and the latter is from Disney (although, interesting aside, Totoro was distributed in the U.S. by Disney). Both deal with family and have a younger sister/older sister dynamic at their heart. Totoro is, admittedly, gentler and lower keyed than Lilo and Stitch but both show a lot of heart. And Totoro has the Cat-bus!
There are two lesser-known Irish films that work well together – Waking Ned Devine (one of my all time favorite films) and Rat. The latter you may not know but it’s a dark comedy starring Pete Postlethwaite and Imelda Staunton. I cannot briefly describe it to you but I do recommend it. It may not be to everyone’s taste but it is to mine.
There are lots of other double and triple features I could think of but odds are you could, too. If you think of any, speak up. You may know some that I don’t. In the meantime, as Ebert and Siskel used to say, I’ll see you at the movies.
We are back with the cast of AGENTS OF SHIELD to talk about how they planned ahead for the events which unfolded in CAPTAIN AMERICA WINTER SOLDIER and what it is like to live, eat and breathe all things Marvel. Plus we start our coverage of New York Comic Con with a preview of some treats you’ll find at the show.
We will be back early this week (Wednesday) with another podcast right before we hit the show floor. And if you can’t make the show, we are carrying LIVE video feeds from NYCC at our website, GetThePointRadio.Com starting on Thursday. Don’t miss a minute.