Ex-Machina and Race

I remember watching Ex Machina back in 2015 and falling in love with the film within the first half hour. The film follows a programmer, Caleb Smith, who is invited to test an AI being developed by his  CEO, Nathan Bateman.

By the time it was done, Ex Machina was one of my favourite films of all time. Aside from the great performances, especially by Oscar Isaac, the film asked a lot of interesting questions. There was one question, and one specific line, that still sticks with me. It comes to the forefront of my mind every time the topic of interracial dating ever comes up, with the most recent occurrence being Get Out.

“Accumulated external stimuli” (AEI).

Whether it is in person, online or in entertainment, there are a plethora of reasons offered for dating exclusively in one’s race.

“It’s not natural”

Neither are cars and retirement homes. In the good old days when humans used horses to travel and the old and sick would perish to make way for the fittest. Some scholars even argue monogamy is unnatural. How many of these things do proponents of this argument which to cut out of society? Of course, these people probably don’t realize how faulty their reasoning is. After all, I am sure many of the people who use the argument have no attraction to other races, and therefore assume that it is natural for them to feel that way.

This also brings up the question of why they view it as unnatural. I grew up with interracial couples in my family, among my cousins, aunts etc. By the time I was ten I viewed interracial coupling as natural. However, I realize my experience is not an objective truth. People who grow up with racially or ethnically homogenous families will be more likely to see an interracial coupling as unnatural if they have rarely experienced it themselves. Especially if their family also actively discourages or criticizes such relationships.

“It’s not racist. It’s just a natural preference.”

AEI is the only reason for racial preferences that I agree with. Firstly, it doesn’t view attraction to a specific skin colour or ethnicity as being an ingrained development, where we are born programmed only to date white people, or Chinese people etc.  People who grow up genuinely believing their preferences were pre-programmed (so to speak) often disregard the impact of years of subtle coaching from family and/or friends to stick to their own or “preserve the culture”.  If your parents are guiding you to seek out your own kind once you have your first crush at age seven, it is easy for you to reach thirty and think that the choice was a natural one.

Of course, people don’t always have a preference for their own. Some people will reject their own kind and only seek out others. I know plenty of black people who don’t want to date other black people, or at least not dark-skinned black people. I know people who are neither white or black, but still have a preference for white mates, or lighter-skinned mates that can produce lighter-skinned children. It is a mark of beauty and progress. They see their family moving on up in the world as the generations become lighter. Is this sort of self-hate natural? Or is it a result of what they were taught to value by their own family? Or maybe a result of the dominant images of beauty available in the media they consume? As Nathan says, these stimuli form a sphere of influence that “you probably didn’t even register, as they registered with you.”

Logan Thoughts (Spoilers)

Click here for a spoiler-free review of the film.

After seeing Logan and having some more time to think about it, I wanted to share more thoughts on it without having to worry about spoiling any plot details.

First I have to address one of my biggest gripes. This is my first time seeing Boyd Holbrook in anything and I have to say I am more motivated to check out Narcos after seeing his performance. Do I have a man-crush? Maybe. From the first line of his first scene, I was enthralled. His performance initially hid the fact that the character, and the villains as a whole, were poorly developed. We know Transigen experiments on children and wants to weaponize mutant genes. It is obvious that an army of mutant children would be a terrifying weapon for their enemies, but the head figure (Zander Rice) also explains they created a virus that resulted in the lack of mutant births for the past 25 years. This is one of the most interesting machinations and is glossed over with a few lines of dialogue. It would have been interesting to see more of Rice’s role in this, and Pierce’s role in the curation of X-23 as the chief of security.

This brings up the issue of screen time. The film is 137 minutes, but didn’t feel that long to me, despite a late show time. I think an extra 15 minutes could have done wonders for fleshing out Transigen, Rice and Pierce. We wouldn’t need one solid chunk of exposition that drags the film down. I thought it would have been interesting to see X-23’s flashbacks, the same way we saw Logan’s in the original X-Men trilogy. These could have served the same purpose as the videos from X-23’s adoptive mother, and could have been more interesting.

Next, I just have to reiterate that Stephen Merchant is the man. Caliban had relatively little screen time compared to the main trio of Wolverine, Professor X and X-23, but he still held his own. Fear the light.

The death of the family during the farm scene came as a surprise. I had a feeling that something bad would happen once Professor X decided to stay the night. It came across as a careless move on his part but makes more sense analyzing the move from his character’s perspective. Westchester is where the X-Mansion is located and it is implied that he killed most of the X-Men in the “Westchester incident”. This also adds more reason why Charles says he “doesn’t deserve” a happy day like the one they had. He believes he deserves to be punished but he also wants to enjoy the company of other people before his death. He had years of isolation and is now somewhat carefree in his desire to enjoy life. Although it comes across as selfish, it is somewhat understandable.

However, the death of the family does make Charles’s decision tougher to cope with. Of course, he pays for the mistake as well when X-24 shows up. At first I thought Charles was having a flashback and was thinking they were adapting the X-Mansion incident from Old Man Logan, where Wolverine is tricked by Mysterio into killing the X-Men.

Instead, Charles dies, possibly thinking Wolverine killed him. Then the son, wife and dead get slaughtered. I was thinking that they would be saved at the last second, like most Hollywood films. Although their deaths were brutal, it was also good to see that the film truly wasn’t pulling any punches.

Some members of my audience audibly gasped when X-24 descends the stairs to meet Logan for the first time. For many people, it was a genuine “oh s***” moment. We know X-23 is a clone, now we see one that is Logan at his physical prime. These shots make use of digital faces but the effects are much more seamless than the version of **spoilers for Rogue One– Princess Leia in Rogue One of Clu in Tron: Legacy.

Although X-24 was an amazing physical threat, I feel as if his inclusion hampered the development and threat that could have come from Pierce. Like Zander, Pierce is mainly an overseer, managing the work of people underneath him. There is nothing wrong with villains like that, but maybe it comes across as more jarring, since he and The Reavers were marketed as the main, direct threat. Obviously X-24 would have been too big a reveal for the trailers and commercials, but it still brings up the issue of what audiences expected from Pierce.

Seeing Logan go near-berserk in the forest was an absolute treat. The roar after he takes the serum, followed by his sprint through the forest was cinematic gold.

 

Some people didn’t understand why an R-Rating was a big deal for this final film. Hopefully Logan shows why. Wolverine’s main weapon are metal claws he sinks into people, an R-rating works perfectly, for a solo film especially.  We don’t see stuntmen fall to the ground as Jackman swings his arms. For once, we get to see unadulterated carnage that truly immerses us in the experience. The casino scene, where Logan pushes his slaws, in semi slow-motion, through one man’s head after another is something we couldn’t have in a PG-13 film. The camera would have had to cut away with each stab.

The forest scene is something I’ve been wanting to see for a while and was delivered beautifully. Yet again. I have to comment on X-23. Many films are guilty of showing a woman with Angelina Jolie proportions knocking out 250 pound guys with one punch (looking at you Colombiana). X-23’s claws avoid that issue. We don’t see her overpower men for the most part. The flip she performs on the gas station attendant is the only example I can think of. Otherwise, she uses her size to her advantage, relying on stealth and agility to kill her enemies.

One thing that bothered me was that her transition from a borderline-feral mute to a more well-adjusted human seemed a little too fast. She nearly kills the gas station attendant because he tried to take her goods from her. At first I tried to rationalize that by saying that she interpreted his hands on her as a deadly threat, but her relationship with the Eden children contradicts that. Although the children were collectively treated as products by Transigen it is implied they had a pretty strong relationship with one another before they escaped. Since X-23, or Laura, is able to socialize with them normally when she arrives her reaction to the gas station attendant seems out of character. Then again, we didn’t get to see her interact with the group much. Most of the film from that point on focused on her interacting with Logan and their fight with Transigen. It would have been interesting to see how they all reacted to being together again.

P.S- Some people might laugh at the fat kid running, but that kid was hauling ass.

 

Logan Review

Entertainment Value: 10.10

Critical Value: 7.5/10

It is the end of an era. After 17 years, Hugh Jackman presents us with his last outing as Wolverine. After the first two Wolverine films many fans, myself included, initially approached another one with a healthy dose of skepticism. Then the first trailer dropped and skepticism gave way to hype for many people.

Then the second trailer dropped, confirming that Dafne Keen would be playing X-23. The film was flooded with good reviews from Rotten Tomatoes and one of my favourite YouTube reviewers also gave the film his highest rating. Needless to say, I expected a lot from this film, and for the most part, it delivered. I won’t say that the film is on the same level as The Dark Knight (it got a lot of comparisons to it) but it is undoubtedly the best Wolverine film and one of the best films in the X-Men Universe.

Logan introduces us to a bleak(er) future where most mutants are now dead. Twenty five years have passed without a mutant birth, most of the X-Men are dead, and Logan is slowly dying as his healing factor burns out. He is aging more noticeably, healing slower and the adamantium in his body is now poisoning him. Meanwhile, Charles Xavier is suffering from a mental disorder. Early plot summaries said the disease was Alzheimer’s but it is never actually confirmed in the film. Either way, he is prone to fits of dementia and seizures, which have devastating effects on the people around him.

Logan now works as a chauffeur and is content to save money so that he and Charles can buy a boat and live on the sea. Logan is tracked by a Mexican nurse who eventually convinces him to escort Laura Kinney (X23) to a mutant safe haven and evade The Reavers, cycber-netically enhanced soldiers tasked with bringing X23 back.  Firstly, I have to say that X23 was insanely badass in this film, showcasing an agile fighting style that is in contrast to the brute force on display from Wolverine. Although Wolverine is feral in his own way, Laura shows us what could have become of him if he was raised as a weapon. Dafne Keen doesn’t have many lines for most of the film, relying on facial expressions and body language to create the character.

The makeup department did a great job in creating a weathered Logan, whose body tells it own story. Jackman is able to exude anger, coldness,sensitivity, love and caring seamlessly. Although his character seems to shy from caring or helping others, it is easy to see that he is only putting up a wall to protect himself from the pain of losing more people he cares about.

Charles Stewart brings us a different version of Charles Xavier. Although Charles still houses some of the wisdom we associate with the character, his disease has resulted in forced isolation. We see a Charles who knows his time is coming and is eager to enjoy the rest of his time, coming across as more carefree than any other version of Xavier we’ve seen on screen. The closest comparison is to his younger, broken self in Days of Future Past. 

Jackman, Stewart and Keene are the film’s center and their scenes stand out as my favourite emotional moments. At its core, the film is about family and it great to see the family grow stronger as the film progresses. Although he is not necessarily a part of the family, Caliban (Stephen Merchant) assists Wolverine in taking care of Xavier and his performance is another stand out in the film. He has a relatively small role but succeeds in picking away at Logan to reveal his mindset as they try to navigate the dangerous world they live in.

Needless to say, the action is amazing, giving us the R-Rated glory we’ve been waiting to see for a while. People don’t just fall down when Wolverine swings his arms, they die in spectacular, gory fashion. There were many scenes that genuinely gave me chills. The film does feature some spotty CGI in parts. Fortunately, most of the effects are practical.

One of the weakest parts of the films, in my opinion, are the villains. Don’t get me wrong, Boyd Holbrook was enthralling as Donald Pierce. The issue is that it felt like he had little screen time. He and the man he answers to, were not developed very well in contrast to the other characters. There is one interesting goon that adds a new level of threat to the film, and the goon’s introduction is one of the most memorable in the film. However, I feel as if this mute goon could have been substituted for a stronger Donald Pierce.

While the film was not perfect, or as even as I would have liked, it was a solid end to Wolverine’s story. The ending, for lack of a better world, is poetic. Jackman has implied that he would be open to playing the role again if it existed in a different universe e.g. the MCU. However, he has also said that “This is it. This is the last one.

It is sad to see Hugh Jackman end the role, but I am happy that this is the film he did it with.

Edit: After more thought, had to bump up my ranking of Logan.

X Men Universe Film Rankings

Days of Future Past

X2

Logan

Deadpool

First Class

X-Men 1

Apocalypse

X3

The Wolverine

Origins

Deadpool 2 Teaser

 

Deadpool is the highest grossing R-rated film of all time and a sequel was inevitable. The plot wasn’t complex, but Ryan Reynold’s was amazing and many people were happy to see a more faithful adaptation of The Merc with a Mouth after the horrible first attempt in X:Men Origins.

The second film has been slightly hampered by some directorial issues, with Tim Miller leaving to be replaced by David Leitch (John Wick). Leitch seemed like a perfect candidate but since John Wick was co-directed by Chad Stahelski we’ll have to hope that the most memorable things about that film’s direction came from Leitch: Especially the distinctive gunfights. Meanwhile Drew Goddard’s (Cabin in the Woods, The Martian)  involvement as a writer also gives me hope that the film will bring more of what we liked from the first film, while also offering an improvement.

Cable is confirmed to be in Deadpool 2 but has not yet been cast, which is why I initially thought the teaser (also referred to as No Good Deed) was a fan-made video. However, No Good Deed is a legitimate teaser of sorts. It depicts Wade coming across a mugging and not-quite rushing to help. After fumbling around in a phone booth to change, he emerges only to find that the old man is already dead. The scene depicted will likely not even be in the film, but it does whet my appetite for another Deadpool film.

Like the “superhero landing” gag from the first film, this teaser is quick to mock old and new superhero tropes. Superman can change in a phone booth just fine because he has super speed, but Wade isn’t as fast or graceful. As Wade says later, “Didn’t those disappear in ’98?”

Stan Lee makes a cameo, and Deadpool is quick to break the fourth wall as he acknowledges him. After apologizing to the corpse of the man he was supposed to save, Wade also eats his ice cream in true anti-hero fashion, after running past a Logan poster. Wade then references Logan again, making sure to throw in an awful Australian accent in his attempt to mimic Hugh Jackman. Although the clip does come across as a bit dragged out I appreciated how it managed to combine all the essential aspects of the character into three minutes.

What were your thoughts on No Good Deed?

Alive

As I’ve discussed previously, I completed a draft of my third book, Alive. I am now in the process of editing it. This edit encompasses everything from spelling and grammar, to fleshing out some characters more and making sure that I am showing, not telling.

Another part of the editing is ensuring that the book doesn’t start too slowly. The one time I was able to get an agent to review my work, her only criticism revolved around the novel’s pace. Her two sentences of feedback made it clear she took months to give my work a cursory glance, but I still want to acknowledge the feedback I was given.

Alive begins with an origin story of sorts, detailing my character coming to terms with the new abilities that his werewolf bite gives him. Although these parts were interesting to me, I realize they represent a slow start for my potential audience. With that said, I have begun to think about what I want the book to start with. Below is an excerpt I am considering moving to the front of the book, before using flashbacks to fill in the gaps.

*********

Mason’s head was pounding as he rose from his slumber. The sensation reminded him of nights where he drank himself to sleep, waking dehydrated and red-eyed. Mason eyes weren’t open yet, they felt like they were weighed down with miniature sandbags. He tried to bring his left arm to his head, but it was being held down by something. Mason tried again, but was barely able to move his arm an inch before it was pushed down again. It was the same story for his right arm, and his legs. He could feel the surface beneath him, definitely not a cot. His senses were slowly waking up as his brain did. He could feel stiff, cold metal on his skin, it reminded Mason of an unpadded stretcher.

Keeping his eyes closed, Mason tried to listen to the world around him. He was sure that six days of drugging would dull his senses, but he needed to start using them as soon as possible to escape his mental rust. The room felt colder than his Torville cell. He was likely underground again. Sounds came first. Like the Torville cell, there weren’t many to speak of yet. Mason’s headache worsened as he tried to focus, picking up on the sound of water dropping somewhere behind him. He heard one drop at a time, with each one sounding like a firecracker going off. It was likely a tap with a leaky faucet.

As Mason thought of the water he realized how dry his throat was.. He tried to lift his arms again, exerting more force this time. He felt the resistance again, probably leather straps. The straps slowly stretched on either side of him as he continued to push. He didn’t feel as strong as he did six days ago, but it seemed like he was still stronger than the average man. His body wasn’t immune to drugging, but perhaps its rapid healing was helping him to recover faster.

Mason opened his eyes, seeing a concrete ceiling about ten feet above him. The concrete extended to the surfaces all around him, forming a cage that was about fifty feet wide. There was a metal door ahead of him. Metal bars, which allowed someone on the other end to peek in, broke up the last few feet of the door. There was no one there now but Mason was sure that there would be soon. Mason’s red uniform contrasted with the brown straps that were holding him down. Craning his neck, Mason could make out the gold crest on his left breast and the golden belt across his waist. He was a soldier now, being sent to do someone else’s bidding.

There was an opportunity to escape now; nothing was tying him to this cell. He had no loyalty to Torville or Alexandria. He and his mother travelled to Alexandria when he was fifteen. For his mother it was a vacation, for Mason it was the possibility of a new life. Mason was at the age when his naiveté was quickly being assaulted by reality. He started to realize the real reason that teachers advised him to aim for a realistic career. By this time he already suspected that it played a part in having few friends and no girlfriend. Even his few friends were never comfortable inviting him into their home. He and his mom were always given the worst seats at restaurants, even when others were free. People crossed the street to avoid them whenever possible. Mason went to Alexandria hoping that things would be different. That idea alone demonstrated his naiveté. For some reason he thought that a location was enough to change people’s beliefs.

The only thing Mason was sure of now was that he was going to transform again. Actually, Mason couldn’t even be sure of that. It was the council’s educated guess at this point, educated by folklore. If that guess was wrong Mason could be in for days of torture before he was beheaded. The problem was what he would do even if he escaped. If he got away and transformed in the wilderness he would still be as mindless as if he transformed in Alexandria. Of course there would be more casualties in Alexandria, but Mason didn’t really care. He found that there was normally a tendency to romanticize strangers, imagining that they have the personality and values you admire. Mason learned to stop doing that long ago, mostly because his fantasies rarely came true. William was one of the few exceptions, but Mason didn’t want to overestimate how many Williams there were in Alexandria. It was easy for his anger to justify casualties, especially since he wouldn’t remember, but Mason’s conscience was more powerful. He knew he wasn’t a murderer. Let alone a mass murderer. He had to escape.

His head continued pounding, with the pain emanating from the center of his scalp. His throat and mouth felt dry. He licked his lips and felt chapped skin. He felt something pushing at the base of his throat, and tried to take deep breaths to alleviate his nausea.

Mason heard a door open somewhere in the hallway outside. There were footsteps now. Mason didn’t need his enhanced senses to hear boots making their way towards the gate. If someone saw him trying to escape while he was still locked in the room he would have to break the door down to escape. He doubted his strength would allow him to do that. He laid back and closed his eyes just enough to make out the doorway. Hopefully anyone looking in would think he was sleeping.

Someone appeared behind the bars a few seconds later. Mason could only make out a bearded face from his angle, someone who looked to be about fourty.

“Still sleeping,” the main said as he turned to his right.

The man lingered for a few seconds before Mason heard a key at work. The door swung open, with its hinges screaming in protest, revealing a stocky figure enclosed in a gridded leather uniform. The black, long sleeved shirt was stamped with Alexandria’s insignia, a red wolf’s head. Mason knew that was Alexandria’s military uniform. As the bearded man entered, two more followed behind him, who were likely prison guards. They were wearing blue uniforms with armoured chest plates comprised of a thin sheet of red metal that wrapped around their torso.

From what Mason learned in school, many armies no longer used such armour, preferring to craft their uniforms out of thickly padded leather. The armour posed too big a sacrifice for mobility in close quarter combat, and still left the head and neck too vulnerable to attack. It was possible to armour soldiers from head to toe, but even Alexandria probably didn’t have enough metal to afford that. In long- range combat, a hail of metal-tipped arrows could pick up enough velocity to tear through armour like butter. The armour only made sense for prison guards, who would only need an added level of protection as they attempted to restrain one unruly prisoner at a time.

The trio moved closer and Mason had to shut his eyes completely to make sure they didn’t realize he was awake. He could hear two people moving to either side of Mason, until they were both standing by his shoulders. The one to his right placed his hand on Mason’s neck, and Mason felt it rest on his pulse.

“Still alive, pulse feels stronger than it did yesterday.” The man said.

“It’s been a day now; I guess he’s in some kind of coma.” It was the bearded man’s voice; he was still standing close to the door.

“How long do they want us to keep him here commander?” The voice was from his left now.

“Don’t think they were expecting him to be unconscious this long. We’ll have to see what they say. Doubt it will be more than two days. Week’s almost done; any info he has on guard rotation won’t be much use after that. We don’t need much else from them at this point.” The bearded man said. He was in charge of this group, but it seemed like he still reported to someone else. The ranks were probably similar to the ranks in Torville, where commanders held rank over prison guards and a small group of soldiers, while also reporting to a Marshal.

“Are we done here then?” The guard on his left said.

“Almost, I want to rule something out,” The commander said.

Mason heard the commander walking over to him, with his steel-toed boots clicking off the concrete. There was the unmistakable sound of a weapon being unsheathed. It didn’t sound as loud as it did when Lance drew his. Maybe it was quieter because the commander was further away or because Mason’s senses were still recovering. However, he hoped it seemed quieter simply because the blade was smaller.

The commander got closer, Mason tried to isolate his heartbeat, finding it and tracking it until he was right beside Mason’s feet. The commander pulled up the left leg of his uniform, and Mason stopped himself from shivering as cold air hit his calf. He knew what was coming next, and braced for it.

The commander tore through his skin with his blade, making a shallow ring around the left side of Mason’s calf. Mason’s own experiments on his body caused him to barely feel the cut. The commander was convinced he wasn’t playing dead, but now there was a bigger problem. His body would start to heal itself in a few seconds, and he’d either be experimented on again or promptly burned.

“Rayner, get a medic to patch up this…”

Mason felt the burning itch spreading across his calf. The commander’s heartbeat was accelerating like a horse freed from its gate. A hand grabbed Mason’s ankle, and Mason could feel warm breath blowing on it.

“Everything okay commander?” The guard on the right said.

“Rayner, go get Marshall Talbot. Tell him this is an emergency.” At this moment, Mason missed William’s curiosity and excitement. The commander barely made it through his sentence, pausing and stuttering like a toddler trying to read a book. Burning or beheading seemed like a more likely fate by the second.

There were footsteps to Mason’s right as Rayner ran to the door. Mason focused on the footsteps and heard Rayner make a left turn. If Mason wanted to live much longer, he’d probably have to follow Rayner soon. He tried to follow the footsteps for as long as he could, but they disappeared ten steps outside the door, and his headache intensified to thank him for his effort.

“What’s happening commander?”

“Raleigh, come here.” The commander said.

Raleigh walked over beside the commander, and Mason now had two people staring at his calf.

“Do you see a cut?” The commander said. His voice was a little steadier now.

“No, but I saw you make one. I saw it bleed.” Raleigh said. Now his heart was joining the race.

Something cold touched Mason’s calf, likely a sleeve. It wiped away the blood and left his calf truly bare again.

“I saw the cut heal, right in front of my eyes.” The commander said.

“How’s that possible?” Raleigh said. Now his voice was starting to shake.

“These people like witchcraft, probably learned how to do it from his parents.” The commander said.

“I’ve heard that too, we can’t keep him here.” Raleigh said.

Raleigh was giving orders now, but the commander didn’t seem to notice.

“Of course not, I’ll convince the Marshal.”

“How do we kill him though?” Raleigh said.

“Beheading, fire, maybe both.” The commander said.

Maybe the marshal would insist that Mason be kept alive, but that was a long shot now. Mason couldn’t play dead anymore. Either he tried to escape now or risk getting killed when the Marshal and more soldiers made their way to this room. The straps felt like they could break, but if they didn’t the two men with him could panic and end his life.

He was tired, dehydrated and nauseous, but he couldn’t let that stop him now. Mason clenched his fists, pushing himself up from his torso. The straps went taut as his arms pushed against them.

The commander and Raleigh both stepped back, with their gaze averted from Mason’s legs to his face. The commander stood a few inches taller than Raleigh, and he still had an unsheathed knife in his right hand. It was Mason’s turn to panic as the straps around his arms held taut for a few seconds before they mercifully snapped. As they did, the commander rushed forward, with his long arms guiding the knife toward Mason’s neck. Mason legs tore through the straps and his right leg connected with the commander’s elbow. The knife sliced through Mason’s left shoulder, grazing flesh but missing bone. As the commander’s arm followed, Mason grabbed the wrist and twisted it as hard as he could.

The knife fell to the floor but Mason barely heard it over the commander’s scream. Looking at the hand, Mason realized that the palm was now facing the opposite direction. The bones in the wrist were shattered, leaving the hand flopping around like a dead fish. Mason grabbed the commander’s graying hair and slammed his head against the stretcher. He could hear the commander’s nose break and caught a glimpse of blood spatter on the stretcher before he threw the man aside, hearing the body crash to the left of the stretcher.

There appeared to be a reason Raleigh was only a guard. Mason’s eyes darted back and forth between the commander and Raleigh for the past few seconds, and Raleigh stood rooted to the spot, with his hand on his sword’s hilt. He probably wasn’t even used to having a sword; it could be a liability when dealing with some prisoners since they could try to take it. Whenever Mason was brought to a cell in Torville a squad of unarmed guards, who basically served as glorified orderlies, accompanied him.

Now Raleigh was in a situation where he needed to be a soldier, and he was struggling to make the transition. Once the commander’s hand was broken, Raleigh finally sprang to life, unsheathing his sword. Mason grabbed the sides of the stretcher, using it to anchor himself as he pulled his left leg free. He jumped off the stretcher before a blade came crashing onto it. While Raleigh raised the sword again, Mason rushed towards him and tackled him to the ground.

This time, Mason heard bones breaking in Raleigh’s chest. Raleigh didn’t scream but the air rushed out of him, sounding like a draft from an open window. Raleigh collapsed, with his arms around his chest and Mason stumbled to the ground. It was already obvious to Mason that he wasn’t going to cope with sound well if he got outside. Not to mention the nausea and fatigue that was still plaguing him.

His shoulder burned as the cut sowed itself back together. As Mason got to his feet again, he felt his stomach squeezing its contents upwards. He kneeled forward and a stream of green, acidic vomit hit the floor, splattering onto the door and the walls. It was as if a pair of hands was wrapped around his stomach, desperately trying to wring out its contents. The vomit continued pouring out in one painful burst after another.

When it stopped Mason collapsed backwards, with his hand on his stomach. There was pain there now; making him feel like his stomach was stepped on. He probably only lost a minute or two, but every second counted now. Mason realized he was barefoot, and tried to tiptoe through the puddle of his own making. He felt the acidic vomit on his toes as he reached the door and turned left.

There was a dead end to Mason’s right, but the concrete labyrinth continued for about one hundred feet to his left. The concrete was jagged, and threatened to cut his feet as he ran, but Mason knew that a few cuts were the least of his worries now. As he came to a stop at the end of the hall, Mason felt his head spinning. The hallway looked like it was doing a cartwheel. He rested against the wall on his right, trying to regain his balance.

Peeking around the corner, he saw two guards flanking a single stairwell about fifty feet ahead of him. Both guards were armoured from head to toe. One sheet of armour wrapped around each leg, another around the torso, the arms and a helmet for the head. The helmets had metal flaps at the front, which were currently raised as the two guards talked to one another.

Despite their mundane conversation about food, their costumed figures still filled Mason with fear. The dark red metal evoked the image of a bloodied knight. Even though the armour would hinder the guards’ mobility, the narrow hallway wouldn’t offer Mason much room to maneuver either. This was the type of environment where such bulky armour would give someone an advantage.

Mason thought back to his escape from his cell. The commander looked like he was at least two hundred pounds, and Mason remembered how he was able to toss the commander to his side. He remembered the commander’s feet actually leaving the ground before he crashed to Mason’s right.

With that memory in mind, Mason took a few deep breaths, relieved to see that the hallway stopped spinning in front of him. There was no more time to waste. Mason planted his legs and bolted around the corner, feeling like he was running faster than he ever had before. He was three strides in before the guards turned to face him.

The flaps on their helmets went down and their swords came out of the sheaths. One guard held his sword out to his left, the other to his right. If they were to swing, the swords would create an arc that would cover the entire length of the hallway, cleaving Mason’s torso from the rest of his body. The stains on the concrete made it clear that some unlucky prisoner met that fate previously, and Mason was determined not to join them.

Even with his enhanced vision he could barely make out their eyes staring out from above the metal flap, four orbs encased in metal. The stairway behind them led to a closed door. It would be another hurdle for Mason if he got by the guards, but it also prevented them from calling for backup.

The swords were about four feet long, so Mason waited until he was just out of their range before leaping. His jump took him over the swords, leaving them sweeping through the air, and he landed at the foot of the staircase as the guards tried to reorient himself. A quick look at the door showed there was no way to open it from the inside. Before the guards turned around, Mason grabbed the top of their helmets, hooking his fingers in the eye slit and pulling the helmets off. The guards turned to face him as their helmets hit the ground. Their swords started to swing in his direction but the swords fell to the ground as Mason slammed the guards’ heads together.

As their bodies hit the ground, Mason grabbed the man on the left, hooking his fingers under the armoured torso and lifting the man onto his shoulder. Another bout of dizziness hit him and Mason’s knees buckled for a few seconds, but his balance returned and he started carrying the man down the hallway and back to the cell. The soldier probably weighed at least three hundred pounds with the armour on, but he only felt slightly heavier than a bag of wet concrete.

Turning the corner, Mason dropped the body on the floor, where it wouldn’t be visible from the doorway. He then ran back to the other soldier, and repeated the process. By his count, his whole escape took about ten minutes so far.

Mason stripped one of the soldiers of their armour, and then grabbed one of their pairs of boots. The boots were too small for him and felt like they would crush his toes with each step, but they would do for now. Between the armour’s weight and the boots, Mason was forced to slow his pace as he walked towards the door. With every step, he was worried that the door at the end of the hall would swing open and reveal the Marshal with a squad of soldiers behind him. That thought got Mason’s heart racing more than anything he’d done in the past ten minutes.

Mason’s legs were shaking as he reached the top of the stairs and banged on the door. His metal covered fist hit the door three times before a portion of the door slid aside to show someone’s face on the other end. Mason noticed the sounds that filtered in, chatter all around him. There was wind coming in from windows, the shuffling of paper, the clicking of boots. The panel was a few inches below Mason’s face, and the majority of its length was taken up by a face leering up at him.

Mason took the armour from a guard who was about the same height, but he was worried his skin would give him away. The guard below would only be able to make out a thin sliver, but it could be enough.

“What is it?” The man said. He looked to be about Mason’s age, probably a young guard hoping that he’d be able to move up the chain soon. He’d be eager to impress, and Mason’s experience told him these were the worst guards to deal with. However, he realized he could manipulate the guard’s eagerness to impress.

If Mason had any luck left, the guard wouldn’t notice that his voice sounded different. The door seemed to block out most noise so maybe this guard didn’t hear the other two speak much.

“The prisoner’s up. The commander’s worried he might wear down the straps if he keeps pulling on them. He just wants a third person to help hold down the prisoner while he loosens the straps and reties them. You need to come quick though.”

The words barely left Mason’s mouth before he heard a lock come undone. The door swung open and the guard stood revealed in front of him, forcing Mason to look back down the hallway to hide his face.

“Just head down there, they’re waiting for you.” Mason said.

The guard rushed past Mason, nearly becoming a blur as he jumped down the flight of stairs. Mason quickly stepped out of the underground cavern and pushed the door closed. The guard looked back at him as he got halfway down the tunnel, but it was too late by then. The metal panel slip closed and the guard’s voice would be drowned out until the marshal came by.

As Mason turned to face the room he was greeted by another guard. The man was standing at a wooden desk about twenty feet ahead of Mason, staring back at him. The desk spanned most of the length of the floor, leaving only about ten feet on either side. Orange brick boxed it in, leading to an open door that was about one hundred feet away. Mason could make out doors on either side of him, leading to other areas of the station. Most of the chatter he heard before was coming from that direction. The regular holding cells were likely back there. It seemed like Alexandria also treated him like a special prisoner. He only had one hundred feet separating him from freedom now. There were two more guards stationed by the door ahead,

“Your break isn’t for another twenty minutes. Get back in there.” The guard said as he quickly resumed his review of the papers in front of him, making his sword bob in its sheath. He appeared to be in his thirties, with a fatigued voice that made him sound much older. Days of monotonous work were taking a toll on him.

Meanwhile, Mason’s senses were taking a toll on him now. Six days of drugging, six days without practice honing the senses. Everything was coming in a flood now, especially his sense of smell. There was the scent of vinegar from the mixture used to wipe the floors, onions wafting off of the guard’s breath. His stomach started to feel uneasy again, like he might festoon the station’s floors for a second time.

“The commander told me to send the other guy in and go on break now. You can ask him if you want.” Mason said.

Mason knew he made a mistake before he opened his mouth. This guard would definitely be well acquainted with the people working for him. He would know that the voice sounded different. The guard lost interest in the papers in front of him and quickly turned back towards Mason. Mason looked at the ground to hide his face but he could hear the guard walking towards him.

“Don’t hide your face when you’re talking to me,” the guard said.

Mason heard the guard snap his fingers, and soon there were two sets of footsteps coming towards him.

Three pairs of boots came into view as he examined the white tiles beneath him. There were three armed men less than ten feet away. Mason knew what he had to do. He rushed forward, pushing through the phalanx ahead of him. He heard someone’s bone break on impact, and heard two more cracks as the trio landed on the ground. Even if he didn’t have enhanced strength he doubted the three soldiers would stand a chance against his armour.

Mason realized how wrong he was as the central guard managed to slide his sword into the thin groove between Mason’s torso and his legs. It was what they were trained to do, another reason that heavy armour wasn’t that practical anymore. Mason wished he’d remembered that tidbit earlier.

All three guards were sprawled on the ground, one was clutching his arm, one was clutching his chest and the third appeared to be dead from landing on his neck. The damage was already done. The sword was nearly at a ninety degree angle, with the tip lodged somewhere in his chest, but fortunately missing his heart. Mason could see another foot of the blade hanging down from his torso, with the hilt hovering halfway down his thigh.

The pain reminded Mason of the mauling that got him here, the pain of having chunks of flesh torn out of his body. However, he realized that the mauling was far worse. He could still stand, and as he made his way around the desk it was clear he could still walk. The sword missed his spine. Some of his organs were probably skewered but strangely, it didn’t hurt as much as he thought it would. Mason knew he could just be in shock, but he also knew that Torville’s testing increased his pain tolerance and his curse seemed to increase his pain tolerance. Each step brought increased pain, causing the blade to shift and tear through more veins and muscles.

Although the pain might be dulled, his body was still struggling to cope. He could feel another wave of nausea hitting him. The coppery taste of blood was haunting his throat, and he saw that the sword’s blade and hilt were being baptized by their new home. Looking ahead, Mason saw the open door. He couldn’t see any people ahead of him.

The stone path outside seemed forked to the left, where it likely led to the front entrance. Mason could make out horses neighing somewhere behind him, the stable would be too far behind to reach without being spotted. The horses were almost drowned out by the sound of footsteps and Mason knew that at least ten other soldiers were making their way towards him.

He grabbed the sword’s hilt, feeling it bury itself deeper as he leaned forward. With his hands on the hilt, Mason pulled downward, feeling the sword leave severed veins and punctured organs behind. By the time the sword crashed to the ground Mason could feel the burning itch running from his chest to his hips. The pain from the stab would be temporary, but beheading was permanent. Mason made his way over to the side of the desk, knowing that his blood was creating a trail right to the door. He looked back, seeing the door on the left side of the desk.

The brown tiles continued into the next room, where five guards were now running towards him. They were all armed, and they didn’t have bulky armour slowing them down. There were likely more men coming from the other side of the station as well. The hall continued down for hundreds of feet but it wouldn’t take the guards that long to cover the distance. Once they did, there was a good chance they would turn Mason into a kebab.

Mason tried to run again, even with his strength, the armour and the injury prevented him from getting anywhere close to his full speed. A light jog got him to the outside. The path forked to his left, where it led to a wooden gate where two more guards were standing in wait. The gate was about fifty feet high and continued all around the station, where the moonlight was reflecting off the barbed wire at the top. The doors on either side of him were held open by nails bolted into the earth in front of them and as Mason expected, the door could only be locked from the inside.

Going back wasn’t an option, and if Mason tried to go around to the stables the gate would still trap him. Trying to go straight through the gate would likely result in death, the guards at the door already had their eyes on him and trying to cover that distance would give the other guards more time to catch up and surround him.

The gatekeepers didn’t know anything was the matter now, but they would once they saw men chasing after him. The shortest distance to cover was to Mason’s right, where the gate was only about fifty feet away. Mason hurriedly started pulling the armour off, hoping to make a run for the fence and climb over. The torso would take the most time so he didn’t bother trying to remove it. His helmet came off first. Then his arms, boots and the armour over his pants. By this time, the guards could tell his skin was darker than theirs and they were making their way over. They would have about two hundred feet to cover.

The guards in the station were moving past the desk when Mason took off for the wall. The guards by the gate were about fifty feet away. He could feel muscles and organs in his body stitching themselves back together. The burning sensation made him feel like his heart was on fire. The blood flow from the injury was slowing down already, morphing from a spring into a leaky faucet.

Even without the armour, he was only able to muster a light jog as he made his way for the fence. His legs felt heavy, as if he was trying to run through wet sand. His wound was healing fast, but it seemed like it was stealing more energy from him in order to do so. There was little chance of making the gate in time and Mason didn’t feel like he had the strength to fight all of the men off.

Images started dancing through his head. His head flying after a slice to the neck. His intestines hanging loose after a slash across the stomach. After everything he’d been through, Torville still managed to send him to his death. He always thought he would go down fighting if a day like this ever came, but like a lot of his other dreams, it seemed like it would remain a fantasy. He might be able to fight off a few of the soldiers, but their numbers would overwhelm him quickly. He’d be hacked to pieces and likely follow in his mother’s footsteps.

Warm tears cut through the dirt on his face, cascading over dry skin before they hung off his cheek and fell to the stone path. They sparkled briefly under the moonlight before they splattered beneath him. The guards from inside the station were now outside, and the men from the gate were just a few feet behind them. Despite the danger in front of him, Mason’s eyes were suddenly drawn upward.

Archer: Dreamland

Spoilers for seasons 1-7. 

March 3 is rapidly approaching and I am already making plans to see Logan, ideally in IMAX. In the meantime, I caught another tv spot for Archer’s eight season, which reminded me that Dreamland is set to premiere on April 5.

While I do not love season 5-7 as much as the first four, I still believe that Archer is one of the funniest shows on television. The first four seasons are tv gold and the last few still caught my interest more than shows such as The Office or Parks and Recreation.

I first came across Archer during its third season, due to persistent ads on Teletoon at Night. Curiosity got the better of me and I checked out this video on YouTube.

It was then obvious that I needed to check the show out. H. Jon Benjamin is masterful as Archer and he is the kind of voice actor that plays off any other character/actor well.

While previous seasons of Archer have never truly indicated a specific year, Dreamland will be set in 1947. The season will be similar to an anthology series, like American Horror Story, where we have many of the same characters and actors returning, but in different roles. Archer is now a private detective, and Mallory is no longer his mother (from the advertising we’ve seen so far). This is somewhat unfortunate since I find their twisted relationship to be one of the most consistently funny things about the show. Although the setting is reimagined, the trailer makes it clear many of the characters still have their quirks. Archer is still arrogant, Krieger is still some kind of weird scientist, Cheryl is still insane and Pam is still badass.

Season 5 and 7 both featured less drastic attempts to reinvent the series, without actually reinventing the character’s temporal setting. I wasn’t a big fan of Vice, and season 7 was an improvement over it in my opinion.

Of course, season 8 does bring up one issue for me. Seasons 9 and 10 are green lit and I wonder if the timeline we are familiar with will be re-visited in future seasons. Does this mean Archer’s life was truly ended by some starlet in season 7 after surviving against far more formidable foes?

There is a fan theory that this entire season will turn out to be one of Archer’s coma-induced dreams, and for once, I might actually like the idea of such a reveal.

Matt Reeves To Direct The Batman

Note: For an abridged version of this post, check out my YouTube video.

About a month ago, Ben Affleck stepped down from directing The Batman, which does not yet have a release date. Matt Reeves (Dawn of the Planet of the Apes) was circling the role for a few weeks and it is now confirmed that he will direct, using a script from Chris Terrio. There  were reports that Geoff Johns and Affleck wrote the script but there has been no mention of that in recent reports concerning Reeves. However, Affleck and the studio apparently approved Terrio’s script. The new script is likely a composite of Johns, Affleck and Terrio’s work.

Ben Affleck made it no secret that he detested all the questions he received about The Batman while promoting other films, such as Live By Night. There was a lot of speculation that he would leave the directing role, and his role as Batman due to the pressure to please a horde of nitpicking comic book fans. For now, Affleck is still signed on to produce and act, and I hope it stays that way. Some reviews of Live By Night say that the film suffered from Affleck trying to do too much as an actor, writer and director. I can’t help but notice his original decision to step down coincided with the flood of negative reviews for Live By Night. Hopefully stepping down from directing The Batman as a move that is meant to alleviate some stress, but also ensure a better film.

The Batman is still my most anticipated DC solo film, and I hope it delivers the quality film that DC fans have been waiting for. Hopefully some of the other projects deliver that prior to The Batman as well. Man of Steel was decent, and BatmanvSuperman had the potential to be amazing. Instead, we get a terrible portrayal of Lex Luthor and a rushed version of Doomsday. Suicide Squad gave us some things to love, like Deadshot and Harley Quinn, and a lot to hate as well. I’m looking at you Enchantress, Incubus, most of the third act etc. Each film had great moments, and even stretches of excellence, that couldn’t elevate the entire film.

One of my favourite scenes from BatmanvSuperman

As I’ve said many times before, the DC Extended Universe (DCEU) has issues, but the tone of their films is not one of them.  Reeves last few films demonstrate that he knows how to handle a dark tone. People can complain about the need for more “fun” in the DC Universe, thanks Dwayne Johnson, but I think we can all agree that darkness fits a batman film. Aside from Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Reeves also masterfully wrote and directed Let Me In (2010). The film is based on a revered book, but we have all seen great source material turned into subpar films. While Apes was also amazing, I think Let Me In is a better example of Reeve’s creative skill since it addresses a big issue I have had with some DC films and films as a whole.

When a great director creates a poor film people are quick to argue that the director was hampered by a poor script. From what I understand, the director can override the writer. The director shouldn’t be a drone mindlessly translating a script to film. he is supposed to utilize his own discretion to oversee what he films. Zack Snyder has numerous “story by” credits on IMDB, which is the same credit given to Christopher Nolan for Man of Steel. From what I have researched, “story by” is just a credit given to someone who came up with the basic plot of the film:

Superman’s fight with Zod makes people distrust and fear him, including Batman. Batman then forms a plan to take him out, but Lex Luthor has his own plans as well.

This basic plot could be conveyed in some form other than the screenplay, such as a “treatment” or short story.

In comparison, the screenplay credit goes to the person who actually crafts the dialogue and fleshes out the characters. Snyder’s only two “screenplay” credits are for Sucker Punch (2011) and  300: Rise of an Empire (2014). I tried watching Sucker Punch, I couldn’t finish it and I have consistently heard that Rise of an Empire is dramatically inferior to the original film. I don’t like to base my opinions solely on the opinions of others, since I would have avoided BatmanvSuperman like the plague if I did. If you believe that I am mistaken about Rise of an Empire, let me know. My point, is that a director who is also a strong writer should be able to expertly exercise his own discretion with the material he is given in order to create a great film.

While the director can override the writer, the studio can override the director. This has already happened with Bvs and Suicide Squad. The uncut version of BvS helps to flesh out Clark and Bruce more, while also clearing up some elements of the plot that didn’t make as much sense in the theatrical film. Meanwhile, the abusive Joker and Harley relationship was removed from Suicide Squad because the studio was worried it made things too dark (among other changes). The films aren’t perfect without these changes, but they are definitely better.

I am hoping that Reeves was able to negotiate for creative control over this project, so that the real filmmakers can craft something for the big screen that DC fans can be truly proud of. There are several other projects I am excited for in the meantime, especially Aquaman and I hope that The Batman doesn’t end up being one of the last hopes for a consistent and well crafted DCEU film.

Bates Motel Season 5 Premiere Thoughts

Warning: This post contains spoilers for the season 5 premiere. Bates Motel premiered in 2013, serving as a contemporary prequel to Psycho (1960). Since the series is a prequel this blog post will also have spoilers for the film, and ultimately the fifth and final season of the show.

I have always tried to avoid getting immersed in too many television shows at one time. For the moment, I was content to finish up The Boondocks (or at least the first three seasons) and Suits, while also watching Taboo weekly. Then I happened to see a commercial for the fifth season of Bates Motel and knew that I had to add another show to my list.

Season 4 was the best one so far in my opinion. Weak subplots and actors were removed for the most part once Bradley Martin (and some other girl later on) were eliminated for good. Instead of padded teen drama, the writers focused on Norman’s descent into madness, building up to the character we see in Psycho. As usual, Vera Farigma and Freddie Highmore shined, and had great support from Nestor Carbonell, Max Thieriot and Olivia Cooke.

Season 5 continues two years after season 4, with Dylan and Emma living happily together with their baby, while Norman is now the manager and sole employee of the motel. Meanwhile, Romero is serving time in prison.

By this point, Norman is pretty much the character we see in Psycho. Norma still exists in his head, but is pretending to be dead and confining herself to the house in order to be always be there for him. Meanwhile her frozen body resides in the basement and is a source of comfort for her unhinged son. Norman’s diary makes it clear he’s been having more blackouts, which are clearly the times that the Norma persona takes over. Most recently, Norman killed a man that Romero sent to kill him. While trying to dump the body, Romero calls the man’s phone, making it clear to Norman why someone wanted to kill him.

Brief glimpses from the commercial made it clear Romero isn’t in prison the entire season, so I am very interested to see what happens the next time he and Norman are face to face. I also wonder if Romero’s actions will have more repercussions for him down the road. The show doesn’t sync with the movie perfectly, but it is likely Romero will die if the fifth season is to end with Norman still running the motel.

Speaking of the motel, it is interesting to see that Norman’s voyeurism has now extended past spying on his mother. When “David Davidson” gets a room for he and his mistress, Norman makes sure to give him the room with the peephole so that he can watch them while he… jacks it. I originally thought Norman was simply shaking due to excitement (in a way he was), but his fumbling at his pants when he was interrupted make it clear he wasn’t just watching.

I am curious to see how the storyline with Dylan and Emma develops throughout this season. Their lives seem to be going great, which means something is bound to happen to remedy that. Caleb returns to them, but Emma is quick to drive him away. However, I doubt we have seen Caleb for the last time. At this point, he doesn’t know Norma is dead yet and I suspect he’ll find out somehow and have a desire to know exactly what happened.

Speaking of Psycho, the fifth season of Bates Motel will also introduce Marion Crane, the main character of the film. Since we have seen enough weak acting from Mrs Loomis, I am hoping Riri doesn’t add more. Crane is a central character to Norman’s story and I’m hoping Riri doesn’t bring down the season that has the potential to be the best.

Crane’s death in Psycho is immortalized in this infamous shower scene.

Perhaps her character will have a different backstory in the show, but I am thinking she will end up dying at some point. Clips from season 5 reveal that her and Norman kiss at one point, and his closeness to her could drive the possessive Norma persona to take action against Crane. Maybe the shower scene will be re-created. It can’t live up to the original but some sort of homage to it would be a real treat for anyone who has seen Psycho.

Mrs. Loomis (Isabelle McNally) is also another weak link in the series, with her acting bringing back the trauma of suffering through Peltz’s performance as Bradley Martin. I originally thought the last name was a reference to Scream (1996) but Madeleine Loomis is a character in Psycho II (1983). In that film, Madeline is actually Marion Crane’s niece. Due to Rihanna’s age it is unlikely that the show will incorporate this relationship.

On a side note, it was amusing to see Austin Nichols play yet another douche on tv, after playing Spencer in The Walking Dead. A brief search online shows that Austin is playing Sam Loomis, Madeleine’s husband. This is obviously going to result in another meeting between the two characters at some point. Maybe Mr. Loomis will end up in Norman’s freezer next. If “Norma” gets her way, Madeleine will likely be in there as well.

Concerns about Riri and Mrs. Loomis aside, this season of Bates Motel adds yet another small screen treasure to 2017.

The Great Wall

The Great Wall was never on my radar since the trailer failed to interest me, and because the inclusion of a white main character came across as a blatant example of whitewashing. Matt Damon’s character is a European mercenary, but it begs the question of why this character had to be introduced instead of focusing on an Asian one.

I have repeatedly discussed whitewashing on this blog and on YouTube, which is why I grow tired of repeating the same arguments, to defend the same arguments in support of whitewashing.

I came across a tweet from a user who I have previously had respectful disagreement with.

I didn’t bother getting into an argument with this user.

Firstly, there is a huge double standard in terms of race-change in comics. People will defend The Great Wall, Ghost in the Shell and Death Note blindly since white actors are more “relatable” or “marketable”. Or people will simply say that they are colour-blind and that we shouldn’t focus on race so much.

If a person of colour plays a white character there is a firestorm of criticism, ranging from Rue in The Hunger Games (2012), to Johnny Storm in Fantastic Four (2015).  People suddenly aren’t colour blind. They want actors who look like the characters, who fit the demographics etc. If people complained about non-speaking black extras who were in The Hobbit (2012) for ten minutes, they are obviously not colour-blind. They just don’t care as long as more white people are on screen.

The Great Wall isn’t an adaptation. The source material for this historical fantasy is the setting. It makes sense for the main character to be an Asian one, and now we have some people arguing that Chinese people don’t want to see themselves on screen. Don’t get me wrong, Chinese audiences shell out a lot of money for white American and European actors. I just don’t think they would be repelled by a Chinese actor. How are minority actors ever supposed to get bigger roles if they are always denied because they are not a big enough star?

Death Note cast Nat Wolff, an actor best known for YA flicks, as Light Yagami. Wolff is not a highly marketable actor but is a fact that Hollywood is willing to take bigger risks with unknown white actors.

Let’s also debunk the marketability argument by looking at two recent Hercules films. Kellan Lutz, best known for a supporting role in the Twilight series, starred in The Legend of Hercules (2014). Meanwhile, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson starred in The Hercules (2014). If all people cared about were how marketable the actors are, no one should have complained about The Rock’s race with the casting. The Rock is arguably the most marketable actor in Hollywood and people’s complaints about his skin colour on sites like YouTube and IMDB are not the comments of colour-blind people.

Likewise, I have always ignored the argument about people of colour not being “relatable” enough. Of course, being able to relate to a character can be crucial to enjoying a film. However, there are many great characters that are not necessarily relatable. How relatable is Optimus Prime? There is the assumption that a main character has to be relatable in order for people to see a film. If people will pay to see aliens and robots, why is seeing a a person of colour such a stretch?

Additionally, looks should not dictate how relatable someone is. I can relate to white Peter Parker, for his struggles with money and girls. Even when I can’t relate to a character, I can still enjoy a film. I can’t relate to Batman, with his level of personal loss, wealth, fitness etc. Yet I love watching (some versions) of him on screen.

Now let’s move on the crux of this twitter user’s argument. Free-market economics. Like many people, he argues people simply wouldn’t pay to watch the film without big American stars. He also conflates American with white, which many people continue to do.

I am sure that many people probably thought that a film like Straight Outta Comptom (2015) would never be a box-office success, even with a relatively modest budget of $50 million. Many people pointed to Red Tails (2012) as the definitive example of what would happen if enough white people weren’t involved. “All the white viewers in America and worldwide won’t pay to see a film with so many black people”. Yet Straight Outta Compton was a success and introduced audiences to new, talented and non-white actors. Straight Outta Compton marketed it’s story well, making people acknowledge the race of the actors but also put aside any prejudice or hesitance in order to see the story. If you are interested in a film’s story, setting etc, but decide not to watch it because   the main character isn’t white, there is something wrong with your head and Hollywood needs to stop pandering to this mentality.

How are minorities ever supposed to get bigger roles and become “marketable” leading men if they are never given the opportunity? Do they all have to settle for supporting roles with white leads and hope that is enough to someday make a name for themselves? Even if a film takes place in China, Hollywood makes sure a white man is there to lead the way.