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?

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.

The Walking Dead- Midseason Premiere Thoughts

Season 7 was of The Walking Dead was originally one of my most anticipated since it would focus on Negan, one of my favourite comic book villains and the best villain that The Walking Dead comics have had to date. Season 6 introduced Negan and ended with a money-grubbing tease that left a bad taste in my mouth and made me skeptical of what season 7 would offer.

The season 7 premiere featured a drawn out encounter with Negan that was obviously done to pad screen time, but I was willing to overlook it for the first episode. Then the second and third episode focused on The Hilltop and The Saviours respectively. It has always bothered me when The Walking Dead does this, instead of cutting between the different stories. Shows like Game of Thrones have far more characters and locations to deal with and do a better job of giving each party their necessary time. I have no problems with Tara and Heath as characters, but giving them an entire episode was ridiculous.

Some may argue that focusing on one location gives more opportunity for character development and builds anticipation for other story arcs. In this case, I beg to differ. Cutting between different stories during an episode forces writers to be more concise with their storytelling, so that an entire episode doesn’t end up serving as filler. Instead of 40 minutes (without commercials), writers are forced to use tighter writing to express the same story in 20. Or they can possibly stretch the different stories over multiple episodes.

The way it stands, the eventual conflict with Negan gets dragged out to episode 9 since three episodes didn’t show Rick and Alexandria at all. Since The Walking Dead is sticking to longer seasons (the past few have been 16) it seems the desire to reach a certain amount of episodes, instead of just telling a story naturally, interferes with the storytelling. The Marvel Netflix shows have a similar issue, since Marvel makes them all thirteen episodes. I felt like Luke Cage, in particular, could have been shortened. The midseason break also seems like a move designed to keep The Walking Dead on air as long as possible, especially now that other AMC hits like Breaking Bad and Mad Men have completed their runs.

I never considered The Walking Dead one of the best shows out there, especially since the acting is inconsistent at best. It ranges from great (Lincoln), mediocre (Serratos) to awful (Riggs). With all that said, I was not that excited for the mid-season premiere.

Firstly, I am sure that Gabriel didn’t actually betray Rick since it would derail his entire arc as a more committed member of Alexandria. When he is driving away in the car, I thought I was seeing things, but online articles have confirmed that someone else emerges in the passenger seat. Earlier in the season, we saw someone spying on Gabriel at the wall and on Rick and Aaron at the boat. It appears that person reached out to Gabriel, and is probably aligned with the community that confronts Rick’s group at the end of the episode. I loved Rick’s smile; the look of a man who has found his army.

I thought the group might be Oceanside, but Oceanside was previously introduced as a female-only group. In the comics, the group is co-ed and Michonne joins them for a while. Unless they’ve added men since their last appearance in the show, this appears to be a brand new group that was never shown in the comics. If they are a new group, it almost comes across as a deus-ex machina, but I’ll reserve judgment until the next episode. The show better not focus on another group for the entirety of the next episode.

Some fans have had a hard time grasping why Rick’s group didn’t want to fight back earlier. Hopefully this episode makes it clear they were worried about their lack of numbers, relative to The Saviours.  Additionally, Negan has made sure to consistently put Rick in a bind by making the lives of others tied to his. Yes, Rick could have beaten Negan to death with Lucille when Negan visited Alexandria, but then The Saviours would slaughter everyone.

Like the comics, Gregory is content to stick his head in the sand and submit to Negan’s rule. Xander Berkeley chewed some scenery in this episode, and hopefully we won’t see too much of that in the rest of the season. If his arc follows the arc from the comics, we’ll be seeing him around more and this show doesn’t need more weak acting.

While Ezekiel is happy to join Rick’s alliance in the comics, he is hesitant here due to the risk of losing everything they’ve built. It is a fear that Rick had as well, and it is likely Ezekiel will change his mind. Ezekiel’s refusal also brings up another issue. In the comics, Dwight is actually a double agent who is working with Ezekiel to take Negan out. The show has already hinted at Dwight’s animosity towards Negan, for taking his wife and burning his face. We know that his motives for wanting Negan gone are there, but it looks like he may not be a double agent in the show. This doesn’t bother me too much, since his reveal seemed like a last minute decision in the comics. If Dwight was a double agent the whole time, why did he kill Abraham if he didn’t really have to?

Morgan reunites with Rick for the first time since Carol’s disappearance from Alexandria, and his own hesitation to go to war seems to have impacted Ezekiel’s decision. Although Morgan is willing to kill in self-defence, it seems the fear of all the lives that will be lost in the war makes him hesitate to join an all out war. The only positive thing to come out the meeting with Ezekiel is his offer of asylum for Daryl. This episode also made me wonder if Daryl will find Carol and convince her and Ezekiel to join the war.

While Rick doesn’t get what he wants from Ezekiel, he does came across explosives that he plans to put to good use against The Saviours. Rosita appears to have learned some valuable things from Eugene, and this appears to be the start of an arc that is meant to make us root for her character more. However, I still despise her character. Her sheer stupidity in trying to kill Negan with only one bullet got someone else killed and got Eugene taken away. Her attitude to Sasha also fails to make her endearing. Also, there’s the fact that she was in a relationship with Spencer of all people. The girl’s got poor taste.

Have to say I am more excited for issue #165 of The Walking Dead comic, than the next episode of this show.