Alexandra Shipp: Blackish

The Thursday announcement that Disney has acquired 21st Century Fox properties, including X-Men, led to a lot of speculation concerning the future of the X-Men film universe. I shared some of my own thoughts on this, and while sharing the link on Twitter I came across another conversation. There were retweets all over my feed revealing one post after another arguing that Alexandra Shipp, who portrays Storm in X:Men Apocalypse and the upcoming Dark Phoenix, is too light-skinned to play Storm.

I didn’t comment on the argument at the time because I wanted to let it develop more before, so that more contextual info would be available before I shared my thoughts. Two days after the conversation began, it is now easy to trace its inception.

This debate began after a fan asked Shipp if she would like Storm to meet Thor, now that the universes would likely be merged. Shipp’s enthusiastic response was then met with criticism from one fan, “Disney is re-casting the whole team, boo. Sorry. Dark Phoenix will be your last. We getting a dark skinned non-racially Ambiguous Storm like we deserve.”

Shipp then retorted:

Presumably, the debate that I viewed on Thursday originated from this exchange. It is not confirmed if Disney will start fresh with X-Men and recast after Dark Phoenix but that isn’t really the point here.

Maybe Disney will re-cast, and also usher in a jarring tone change (as I suspect). However, I don’t think that Shipp’s skin tone should be an issue central to her potential re-casting. If a darker-skinned actor takes her place I have no problem with that, but I also don’t think that Shipp’s skin tone gives us a bastardization of the character.

Shipp’s response reminds me of statements Halle Berry made concerning her own racial identity. Like Shipp, Berry is mixed and chose to identify as black from a young age, because she knew that is how the world would perceive her. For example, a white guy who says he doesn’t date black girls, would still see Berry as a black girl, instead of a white one.

While Shipp says she has never been “treated white” it is a fact that there is pervasive colourism in the world and in Hollywood. Even in Jamaica, a country that is 90% black, dark-skinned black people are performing skin bleaching to lighten their skin because they realize lighter-skin is viewed as more attractive. In other areas, such as Latin America, South East Asia and the Middle East, lighter skin is inherently viewed as more attractive than darker skin. The preference for lighter skin often coincides with a preference for other features typically associated with whiteness, such as straighter hair, thinner lips and thinner noses. Light skin goes beyond the aesthetic, becoming a marker of status and privilege due to the legacy of slavery or colonialism. For someone like Shipp, she may benefit from this colourism in some situations, while also being subjected to racism like any other black person in other situations.

There is a trend in entertainment- whether it is music videos, television or film- to cast the lightest-skinned black people possible, especially if they are love interests or eye candy. After a while it isn’t simple happenstance that most of the attractive black women in entertainment have “sun-kissed skin”, it is a deliberate choice by casting executives. They can get people who are ethnic without being “too dark”.As Viola Davis says,  there is a pervasive conception that “If you are darker than a paper bag, then you are not sexy.” Of course, Hollywood sometimes graces us with an exception, but the word “exception” means that they are a minority within a minority. I have been over the “best actor for the part” argument, and the slate of talented black actors that seemingly come out of nowhere for productions like Luke Cage and Straight Outta Compton make it clear there is plenty of black talent out there, they just need opportunities for good roles.

Respect to Bad Boys II for its dark-skinned love interest

It is possible that I am setting the bar somewhat low for Storm since I am so used to roles being whitewashed anyway. Even films based on true stories, like 21, are not safe from Hollywood’s attempts to make it more “marketable”. Storm seems like one of the few untouchable characters, and this may be why fans are even more protective when it comes to her portrayal.

There were plenty of users arguing that the discussion of whether a black actress is black enough is divisive and racist in itself. I ignored most of these comments simply because this is the same logic used to shut down any discussion of racism nowadays. You complain about white supremacist marches in Charlottesville? You’re being divisive. You complain about another unarmed black kid getting killed? You’re divisive. You complain about a public figure saying something racist? You’re divisive.

In principle, I don’t think it is racist or “divisive” to complain about an actress’s skin tone. Especially since I am sure that many of the people using this “divisive” excuse routinely defend whitewashing in films, thereby enabling racist practices in Hollywood.

Now, there are also people who understand the implications of whitewashing in film, and genuinely just believe that there is nothing wrong with Shipp’s skin tone. The character is black, and Shipp is black as well. Shipp is mixed, but Apocalypse never states that the character is mixed, and Shipp is a visibly black individual. In terms of skin colour, she may not be Viola Davis or Lupita Nyong’o, but she definitely isn’t Paula Patton or Meghan Markle either.

All of this to say that while I don’t agree with the backlash against Shipp in this case, I can understand where the detractors are coming from. If Shipp did a poor job with the role I would probably be more likely to support them. However, I thought Shipp was great as Storm. Maybe I’m not the best person to judge but her accent also seemed a lot more authentic than whatever Halle Berry tried to do in X-Men 1 (2000). Although Apocalypse was a disappointing film I was looking forward to seeing more of this iteration of Storm and I hope that if she is recast, fans don’t share simply because she was too light-skinned for them.

Fox- A Disney Company

Today, Disney acquired 21st Century Fox for $52.4 billion. The deal comprises numerous properties, ranging from The Simpsons, to Avatar, but the biggest point of interest for me is that Disney now has the rights to X-Men.  The development is now confirmed but this is something that a lot of Marvel fans have been praying for for a long time, if online discussion is any indication. I remember entire threads on the Internet Movie Database’s (IMDB) forums where people would demand that the rights for the X-Men films go back to Marvel. People would argue that the series needed a fresh start under Marvel Studios because the X-Men films mishandled characters like Cyclops (fair enough) or because they didn’t like the buttons on a costume (seems unreasonable). Like I have mentioned before when discussing the DCEU, when people want something to fail they become more sensitive to any perceived shortcomings.

Aside from the fans that have been praying for this, there are more reasonable fans who simply wanted to see the X-Men in the Avengers universe. I can’t blame anyone for wanting to see Wolverine in the Avengers film, which likely will not happen. Hugh Jackman previously said that he would be open to returning in the role if he got to be a part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) but he has said more recently that the “ship has sailed” for him. The scripts for Infinity War Part I and II are already written and being filmed, so normally I would say that the ship has sailed for seeing any former Fox properties in Infinity War. However, the rushed introduction of Spider-Man in Civil War does make me wonder if the filmmakers might be willing to squeeze something in for Part II.

One of my biggest worries was that darker and/or R-rated properties like Deadpool would be watered down to suit Disney’s “fun” and family-friendly silver screen image. Fortunately, Disney CEO Bob Iger has stated that Deadpool can remain R-rated at Disney. This is a step in the right direction, but it is still aligned with Marvel President Kevin Feige’s proclamation that the MCU will never be dark.

Deadpool had one noticeably dark segment, namely Wade’s time spent being tortured, but for the most part it still fits in with the “fun” tone that Feige is committed to.  In contrast, the X-Men films, especially X1, X2 and Days of Future Past (DOFP), are noticeably much darker than anything in the MCU’s films. The themes of prejudice from the comics are unashamedly fleshed out on screen, showcasing the violence and darkness that mutants experience. The opening scene of X1, where Magneto is separated from his parents in a concentration camp, is still one of my favourite openings in any film. I highly doubt we would see a scene like this if X1 was originally handled by Marvel Studios. Maybe most of the scene would be the same, and then a Stan Lee cameo would be used to alleviate the tension.

Now, the MCU has also given us properties like Jessica Jones and The Punisher, but I am not talking about Netflix here. I am talking about the big screen. When Disney originally acquired Marvel, people argued that imprints such as Touchstone would be used to distribute darker or R-rated material. However, we know now that any R-rated material so far has come from Netflix. Deadpool 3 will likely be the first R-rated X-Men film property that Disney gives us.

I think Disney will be willing to give Deadpool more R-rated sequels because they have already seen how successful his film was. The box office receipts are a testament to people’s love for the character in all his R-rated glory. In contrast, Disney might be more willing to take risks with X-Men since the most recent X-Men film, Apocalypse, underperformed (relative to previous entries) with critics and the box office. Additionally, Logan was a well received R-rated entry but marked the end of the X-Men film universe’s most popular character.

If darkness is viewed as the enemy, then “fun” will be viewed as the saviour. What about the rest of the films? Will X-Men be rebooted to offer more “fun” now? Will the themes of prejudice all be cut in order to make everything more family friendly? Will we get scenes like this one?

Or this one?

I doubt it.

Bates Motel Finale

Spoilers for Bates Motel

I started the fifth and final season of Bates Motel soon after its premiere in February but just finished the last episode this weekend. The delay was not due to a lack of interest in the series itself, but more of a lack of interest in Kodi. I used the streaming service for any show that either wasn’t available on Netflix or didn’t have its latest season there. After dealing with the crash of one Kodi add-on after another, I grew sick of Kodi and then retreated exclusively to Netflix offerings for a long time.

Since I finished watching the first season of Hemlock Grove and Big Mouth, I finally made time to wrap up one of my favourite shows. This piece isn’t necessarily a review, it’s just an offering of some of the things on my mind after finally finishing.

Bates Motel was marketed as a “contemporary prequel” to 1960’s Psycho, and like some intended prequels I didn’t expect the events to line up exactly. The original film doesn’t give us too much about Norman Bates’s background, except the fact that he killed his mom and her lover out of jealousy. Seasons 1-3 were untouched territory in terms of Norman Bates’s development, and his relationship with his mother and other women.

While I detested some of the subplots in these seasons, mainly due to the terrible acting on display from the high school girls, especially Nicola Peltz as Bradley Martin. This woman has the ability to ruin anything she touches, whether it’s bringing down Bates Motel or adding to the misery of The Last Airbender.

Pictured above: One great actor, along with a black hole of charisma and screen presence.

I digressed.

While Peltz’s acting was awful, Norman’s relationship with her actually explained why he would grow even closer to his mother. After pursuing a girl he liked, he was rejected and used. Then Norma was quick to take advantage of that and reinforce all of the negative ideas swirling in Norman’s head about other women. While Norman had a good relationship with Emma Decody, she became his “good girl” in a sense: The sweeter girl who he ignored. By the time Norman moved on from Bradley, Emma was moving on from him.

Seasons 3, 4 and 5 got us closer to the formation of the Norman Bates we see in Psycho. While it was always implied that Norman’s blackouts were another personality taking over, season 4 gave us our first real glimpse of Mother taking over Norman. When Bradley dies, Norma isn’t represented as a figure alongside him. She literally embodies him. This is similar to a moment where Norman confronts his uncle, Caleb, in season 2, but Bradley’s death actually shows us Vera on camera in Freddie’s place.

Followed by Bradley’s death:

With Bradley’s death at the end of season 3, one of the worst actors in the show is removed and more importantly, we get closer to Psycho. Norma and Romero get married in season 4, starting off for financial purposes and then developing into real love. At this point, I wondered if Romero would be the lover that drives Norman to commit a double homicide.

Later in the season we find out that Norman doesn’t kill Romero and Norma at the same time, but mother dearest does meet death at her son’s hands. This was a change from the movie mythos but one change I did not expect was Norman’s death at the hands of his brother.

From the beginning I assumed that any character not referenced in Pyscho would be dead by the time the show ended. I imagined that Norman would remain the only main cast member alive, managing the motel by himself as the show ended. This theory got thrown out when a character from the original film, Marion Crane was introduced. Crane, the infamous 1960 shower victim, was the series’s biggest callback to the film. While Crane didn’t serve as the victim in the show, she still played a part in events that sent Norman into full on Psycho territory.

Crane is replaced by Sam Loomis, another person that I was very happy to be rid of.

As I mentioned in a previous post about Bates Motel,  I was happy the show didn’t use the iconic score from the film (good quality uploads are hard to find online). Episode 5.6 became one of my favourites simply for how it handled this scene and for all the possibilities it gave us in future episodes.

Like the movie, Norman has unearthed his mother’s body and brought it back home. He is starting to wear his mother’s clothes and wig when her personality takes over, and for a part of the season it looks like he might avoid punishment for any of his crimes. Norma’s downfall is all tied to a moment of self-awareness and empathy that allows him to confess to his crimes, forcing the police to look into the whereabouts of his victims. By the time Norma takes the reins again it is too late.

Romero dies, mainly because his grief causes him to turn his back on Norman. One of the toughest characters on the show ends up bludgeoned and shot by a kid who’s neck he should have snapped when he had the chance. It is actually my favourite character, Dylan, who ends up being the hero and delivers the biggest shock of the show.

Bates Motel branches off, carving its own path and killing off Norman Bates. Norman gets to be reunited with his mother, while Dylan is reunited with his family. While it was still sad to see Norman die, it was the only way to end his pain and to stop him from harming anyone else. If he was constrained to a mental institution away from his mother for the rest of his life, he would have been miserable. If he remained free, with periodic killings of any woman that “Mother” viewed as a threat, then other people would end up suffering.

The relationship between Dylan and Emma was strained following the confirmation that Norman killed Emma’s mom, but I was happy to see that they remained a couple. Perhaps it would be more realistic that Norman’s actions drove a wedge between them. Then again, it is not like Emma met Norman due to Dylan. It was the other way around. Dylan can’t be blamed for bringing Norman into their lives and he can’t be blamed for what Norman did. Norma is more to blame for refusing to get help for her son, but Emma’s visit to Norma’s grave shows that she still loves and respects Mother.

It’s been a long time coming but I am happy to wrap up one of the few shows that actually continued to get better with each season.

Avengers: Infinity War Trailer Thoughts

Yesterday I wasn’t that excited for Infinity War. Perhaps it was due to a case of MCU fatigue, or maybe the decision to change a doomsday story into a comedy left a bad taste in my mouth. One of my friends advised that I would enjoy Thor: Ragnarok if I treated it as a comedy, instead of a Thor movie. Hence my decision not to see it.

After seeing the trailer for May 2018’s biggest release, I am now firmly aboard the hype train. Simply seeing all of these Marvel characters on screen is its own treat. Captain America is back, with the beard that has been teased via concept art for quite some time now. Along with Cap comes the return of the Winter Soldier, with a new metal arm. I remember watching the Infinity War promo many months ago and hearing Kevin Fiege say that it was important to break the Avengers apart before introducing a threat like Thanos.

“Get this man a shield,” says T’Challa. It could be clever editing but I am sure that this line is directed to Captain America and this makes it likely that Cap and his fellow anti-registration heroes are still in Wakanda when Thanos invades.As a result, it looks like Black Panther and Wakanda will have a central role in the film.  This would make sense since they would still be fugitives of the American government and still at odds with Iron Man. Even though the relationship appeared to be healing at the very end of Civil War it was clear that Cap and Stark weren’t going to reunite as drinking buddies just yet.

Speaking of Iron Man, his gift to Spider-Man looks glorious.

I have been stalling on watching Spider-Man Homecoming, mainly because I was put off by the Iron Man 3.5 vibe. From what I understand Tony Stark has relatively little screen time but I didn’t like the fact that Spider-Man was now tied to Iron Man because of the latter’s rushed introduction and exit from Civil War e.g. “We just got the rights to Spider-Man so we’ve got to add him to the movie somehow.”

The special effects for some shots could use some work but we still have some time for post-production so I’ll reserve my judgment until then.

Despite all the eye candy on display one of my favourite parts of the trailer is actually right near the beginning, with the different members of the Avengers saying “There was an idea to bring together a group of remarkable people to see if we could become something more. So when they needed us, we could fight the battles that they never could.” This brings us back to a similar phrase being uttered by Nick Fury in the Avengers trailer in 2012.

Thanos’s few lines in this trailer leave me thinking that he can hopefully be a memorable villain for the MCU, in addition to Kilgrave and Loki. I have to say that Thanos looks better with the helmet. In my humble opinion, he simply looks incomplete without it. The lack of the helmet stands out more since we already saw the helmet in Guardians of the Galaxy.

In the comic, the conflict was focused on the heroes vs Thanos himself. The trailer shows the heroes also facing an army of minions and I am hoping that Thanos still has room to stand out and that this doesn’t end up as another situation where a sub-villain detracts from the main one e..g X-24 stealing Donald Pierce’s thunder in Logan.

I hate the Marvel/DC talk but I will say that Marvel’s format of having solo or even multiple solo films prior to a team up film can make the final product much more satisfying for fans. I was excited for Justice League as a fan of the comic books and tv shows, but Infinity War is now anticipated by the casual fans who probably still make fun of comic book readers. Additionally, we don’t have to worry as much about characters lacking development since they already got the bulk of their development from their solo films.  The majority of characters are not being introduced here. They are only being developed further as they adapt to a new situation. With that said, the film still runs the risk of having some characters fall by the wayside since there are simply so many. Another risk is handling the switch of tones between characters who are coming off of different storylines. The cast of Civil War had a relatively dark storyline, while Guardians of the Galaxy 2 and Thor: Ragnarok  were full on comedies.

Despite these worries, I am a believer again. The Winter Soldier is my favourite MCU film and I am hoping the Russo Brothers can bring all of these characters together for something that has the “fun” so many people crave these days, while also giving us something that is truly epic.

Jason Isaacs and Free Speech

I have previously discussed the phenomenon of people who don’t believe that celebrities are allowed to have opinions. Any political comment, whether it is in an interview or on social media, is derided as inappropriate and a breach of some supposed social contract.

I don’t despite this mindset simply because it has resulted in some actors I like being vehemently criticized. I despise this mindset because of the inherent hypocrisy in it.

The most recent example I will use is a tweet I came across from Jason Isaacs, who expertly called out a Star Trek fan who said his political views are alienating the Star Trek Fan base.

 

So here we see a fan who feels like Jason Isaac’s political views are affecting “the fan base”, which we can translate to “me”. This fan is not speaking out on behalf of others, he is speaking out on behalf of himself. Isaacs previously criticized Trump via tweets and retweets of anti-Trump videos, so this *whitegenocide believer felt the need to call Isaacs out. It is obvious that someone who repeatedly uses the hashtag #whitegenocide doesn’t believe in the value of diversity and is likely to support the President who said Mexico “doesn’t send its best” to America and who also wants to keep Muslims out. So, instead of saying that he disagrees with Isaac’s political views, this twitter user simply tries to say that entertainers as a whole are not allowed to express political opinions.

It looks like @Eye_of_Empire has deleted some of the tweets in the thread since, but his original response to Isaacs appealed to the principle of free speech. So after criticizing someone for exercising their free speech, this user says his comment is appropriate because it was his legal right. Isaacs has that legal right too. Fine, maybe you want to argue that Isaacs is an actor so it is different. It shouldn’t be. Actors are real people too, with their own fears, values and political beliefs.

The real question here is if @Eye_of_Empire would be as upset with Jason Isaacs if Isaacs repeatedly proclaimed his love for Trump and his belief in White Genocide. I doubt that would bother @Eye_of_Empire as much. The idea that actors shouldn’t have opinions is a smokescreen for “actors shouldn’t express views different from mine”. If I disagree with an actor’s political views I say that I disagree, I don’t pretend like my anger is about the principle of actors discussing politics.

I was tempted to pursue another topic for this post but I decided to continue with this one because the irony is a godsend. Diversity and acceptance have always been themes of Star Trek, where people of different races (human and alien) look past their differences and work together. Star Trek even has the distinction of having tv’s first interracial kiss between Uhura and Captain Kirk in 1968. So we have this apparent longtime fan of the show who is disgusted by an actor who speaks out against the bigot in Chief. Welcome to America.

The Punisher Review

After introducing the character in season 2 of Daredevil, Netflix was kind enough to give us a series dedicated to war veteran Frank Castle. The Punisher was my favourite part of Daredevil‘s second season, with the script and Jon Bernthal’s performance helping to humanize the character while also showing how deadly he is.

Before I can review the series itself I have to mention one aspect of this Punisher’s origin that I had a problem with when it was first explained in season 2 of Daredevil. Depending on the line of comics, Frank Castle’s family is either murdered by the mob because they happened to witness a mob hit (e.g. Year One) or because they were collateral damage from a shootout between rival gangs in Central Park (e.g 2004 Punisher Max).

Daredevil reimagined their deaths as collateral damage that was due to a shootout, but a shootout that was the result of a failed sting by District Attorney Samantha Reyes. Frank’s story then became tied to a government cover-up that dominated the plot.

This season continues with more government cover ups, making the plot line seem somewhat stale in comparison to all the material that myself and other comic readers were hoping to see on screen. There are references or nods to characters and arcs from the Max and Year One comics, and we even get a version of Agent William Rawlins from the comics as well. However, anyone hoping for more than that may be disappointed. This is another rendition of The Punisher where the villains are tied intimately to his past, instead of offering a new threat. Now, on with the show.

After killing all of the gang members tied to the Central Park Massacre, Castle fashions a simple new life as construction worker, Pete Castiglione. Frank burns his Punisher vest early in the first episode, symbolizing the end of his war, but it is obvious something will drag him back in. The Punisher’s re-emergence is a short, but bloody and glorious fight that is enhanced with the accompanying music. Speaking of music, Tyler Bates did a masterful job for the show’s soundtrack and the show’s opening is narrowly beaten out by Daredevil’s in my opinion.

Like the first season, this season further explores Frank’s mental state and his view on the world. Like the comics, I am happy to see the show didn’t shy away from being political at times. Some people on YouTube, the bastion of online intellectual discourse, are complaining that the show should “stick to entertainment”. Firstly, these people don’t realize that all shows aren’t obligated to be mindless entertainment. Secondly, the “stay away from politics” talk is usually code for “don’t express views I disagree with”. Final point, people who complain about The Punisher being too political have clearly not read any of the comics.

Frank was a former soldier and the military does play a part in many of the 2004 Max comics. While Frank respects veterans as a whole for their service and sacrifice, he does not respect the institution of the military.

“Fighting for the people who run the world gets you stabbed in the back. You fight the wars they start and feed. You kill the monsters they create…. I’m not going back to war so colt can sell another million M-16s.”

Frank Castle- Punisher Max, Issue #4.

If you think this is a “liberal talking point” as someone else put it, then the character isn’t for you.

The season deals with issues ranging from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder to the US involvement in Afghanistan, just like some of the comics do. While Frank re-emerges as the Punisher, Homeland Agent Dinah Madani also begins digging into Frank Castle’s past as a way to investigate the death of a policeman she worked with while stationed in Afghanistan. “Agent Orange” also develops an interest in Castle since Castle was involved in an illegal military operation that a mysterious hacker named “Micro” has video evidence of.

Jon Bernthal joins the Marvel stable of actors who excel in their character’s skin. He is joined by a capable cast, with Micro (Ebon-Moss-Bachrach) being the standout since the relationship between the two forms the backbone of the story. In this continuity, Micro’s family is still alive but Micro was forced to fake his own death after being framed by Homeland Security. When Micro attempts to reach out to Frank, Frank finds Micro’s family as a way to gain leverage on him. The interactions between Frank and Micro’s wife, Sarah (Jaime Ray Newman) were interesting at first, since they both lost loved ones and bonded over that. Then the interactions continued, and included more screen-time from Sarah’s bratty son who is also one of the weakest actors in the show. A love triangle quickly developed and this entire subplot was one of my biggest gripes about the show. The chemistry on display between Frank and Karen Page was far better and didn’t leave me wanting to skip certain scenes.

Fortunately, this season also gives us some more memorable villians such as Billy Russo (Ben Barnes) and Lewis Wilson (Daniel Webber). Barnes’s role in Westworld showed that he can play a smug douche pretty well but he gets to do more with the script here, playing a friend turned foe who has profited off his evils.

The action itself integrates good hand-to-hand choreography (looking at you Iron Fist), gunfights and stealth kills that would make Batman proud. The fights weren’t actually that plentiful but the show does a great job of building the tension between the bursts of action (minus the Lieberman house visits).

Overall, I will rank the punisher third among all the Marvel Netfix seasons, behind Jessica Jones and Daredevil Season 1.

Current Ranking.

  1. Daredevil
  2. Jessica Jones
  3. The Punisher
  4. Daredevil Season 2
  5. The Defenders
  6. Luke Cage
  7. Iron Fist

Ben Affleck’s Future as Batman

By now I am sure many of you have read one article after another declaring that Ben Affleck will likely retire his role as Batman, and that Jake Gyllenhaal is in talks to replace him. Clickbait is nothing new when it comes to news, but the DCEU in particular is overwhelmed by articles that twist words and then create sensationalist headlines.

Another recent example was the recent announcement that DC’s future films will fall into two categories following Justice League, the interconnected films and unrelated ones such as the Joker origin film. This news either gets misunderstood completely or is just twisted into a headline that generates more attention, such as this one.

Ben Affleck has apparently said that committing to the Batman solo film is “something I’m contemplating”. Of course, there is uncertainty here, but from what I was hearing it sounded like Affleck confirmed he was done after Justice League. With how easy it is to share information online nowadays, some purveyors of this information forget to fact check or even read the articles they retweet before they share them. The YouTuber Akasan was one of many people to share the “end of DCEU” article, apparently without reading it.

Another problem is that there are plenty of people who want the DCEU to fail, and confirmation bias makes it far too easy to either focus on such articles or extrapolate far too much from simple headlines. No one made articles saying “Is this the end of the MCU?” when Thor: Ragnarok underwent a script rewrite and a director change. Marvel has had much better critical success with its films and a more impressive track record so people aren’t so quick to pray for its end.

Many fans hated Affleck’s casting when it was announced, and many of those haters likely changed their mind when they saw him on screen in BatmanvSuperman (BvS). However, it seems that there are people who either still hate Affleck in the role or simply don’t like him enough to like the DCEU as a whole. Or perhaps people realize that the polarizing nature of the DCEU makes it a much better subject for clickbait articles than the MCU and other entertainment properties. After all, a headline saying “Another Marvel film is coming” or “Infinity War Trailer Released” may not get as many eyeballs as “Affleck out as Batman! Jake Gyllenhaal in?”.

The Black Hole of Social Media

I reached out to a former professor for advice on developing a career in writing and one of her main pieces of advice was to avoid social media as much as possible, it “eats time like acid”. This was something I started to accept months ago. I would open up YouTube with the intention of watching one video and end up spending 10+ minutes travelling down the black hole of related videos. I would open up Instagram with the intention of posting to my accounts and leaving, and end up spending another 10+ minutes scrolling through one account or page after another.

I began using Instagram within the past year in an attempt to build my following but I am not sure if it has been as helpful as I hoped. Twitter already taught me that people can like or even retweet your content without really engaging with it e.g. clicking a link and reading a blog post. I worry that the same thing is happening with Instagram. I have a small following but I know those followers and likes are not worth anything when it comes to them reading the content I create on this blog.

Part of the issue is that there are so many accounts and so many people wanting to gain their following. I try to engage with the small group of people who regularly like my content and checking in on 15+ accounts daily can still eat up a lot of time. As I complain about my need to return a favour I can understand why it can be difficult to go to someone’s site and become a regular visitor, even if you want to.

I have considered deleting my Instagram accounts but I am wondering if I need them simply because it looks good to have them. One day when I (hopefully) get an agent, will she see my lack of an Instagram account as a disadvantage for my marketability. At that point will a few hundred followers be better than none? Maybe it will be worth it then but right now all I truly see is a drain of data. I blame myself for the lost time since it is my attention span that causes the issue.

I have now made a resolution to spend my time on the bus either writing or reading. No more listening to music and I will allow myself ten minutes to post to my two accounts. The current book I’m working on, “Alive: Part II” began with a short poem I wrote and I hope to generate some more roots while I spend time travelling to a place I hope to escape soon.

Justice League Review

Along with Netflix’s Punisher, November 17 also marked the release of Justice League. Anyone who watches my YouTube videos or has read my other articles knows that I hate the DC vs Marvel mentality that prevents people from trying to enjoy both properties. Due to my own openness to enjoy both, this weekend was an early Christmas.

After some disappointing results from BatmanvSuperman and Suicide Squad (don’t even get me started) I approached Justice League with cautious optimism. One of my biggest worries after seeing the trailers was that the studios would force more humour or “fun” into the film. Joss Whedon assisted with post-production but Ben Affleck has said that the tone was set prior to Whedon’s arrival. I have no problem with “fun” itself, but I hate the increasingly popular mentality that every comic book film has to be fun in order to be good. This mentality also leads to people targeting the tone as an issue if a film is poor. BvS had its share of issues, such as Eisenberg’s Luthor and the third act. The tone was the least of my worries but people flocked to that argument like moths to a flame. I was worried the filmmakers would now see adding more humour as the only key to success, as opposed to some better performances, character development etc.

I can say that most of the humour in the film works. There are some lines, particularly one from Batman, that felt out of place but the film didn’t end up being Thor: Ragnarok like I feared. Barry Allen (Ezra Miller) provides most of the comic relief and will probably emerge as a new fan favourite. His Flash is young and inexperienced, serving mostly as crowd control and ancillary support in the fights. While I liked the character himself, I still have to wonder why Barry was given Wally West’s personality. Any fans of the Justice League animated show will remember Wally West’s flash as the comic relief. Meanwhile, Barry Allen is a more serious character. Miller is weaker in the more dramatic scenes, which is a surprise given his performance in The Perks of Being a Wallflower. Maybe my friend was onto something when he said Zack Snyder’s weakness is directing actors.

However, the majority of performances either gave us something new to like or built off what we’ve seen before. Ben Affleck’s Batman is more optimistic about his ability to impact the world with the league but still has traces of the world weary Batman that many fans are probably familiar with. He has “contingency plans” and he still knows how to push people’s buttons, as demonstrated in a scene where he confronts Wonder Woman.

Gal Gadot shines as the heart of the team, the warrior who also serves as a mother to the team’s new or reluctant members. Ray Fisher actually emerged as one of my favourite performances, but the writing and runtime doesn’t allow his character to flourish, especially in the second half. Jason Momoa is decent as Aquaman. Don’t get me wrong, he is an imposing figure on screen who has probably diminished the general public’s idea of Aquaman as a loser, but this film does lead me wondering how well he will carry a solo film.

Anyone who has seen all of the trailers or even saw BvS knows it was likely Superman would return. His return is actually tied into the plot from BvS, and is something that Batman is actively pursuing in the film. It doesn’t end up being a deus ex machina like I feared and Superman’s return actually leads to one of the film’s most memorable moments. Henry Cavill could be a wooden Superman at times but I actually enjoyed his performance here.

It is clear some scenes were cut from the film, either because we are missing parts from the trailer, or the fact that the film could have used some more time to flesh out the new Leaguers. To its credit, Justice League gives us a sense of character backstories without spending too much screen time to go in depth e.g. we learn Barry got struck by lightning and we know Cyborg was in an accident, but we don’t see it. This may be due to post-production cuts or it may have been the original cut. However, it begs the question of why ten or fifteen minutes couldn’t have been used to give Cyborg, The Flash or Aquaman some more devoted screen time. Stepping into the light is a theme of the film, not referring to tone, but referring to heroes who often work alone coming together to fight an enemy. At the beginning of the film Cyborg is still coming to terms with his new identity and takes some cues from Batman, keeping to himself while he tries to better understand his body and abilities. He makes it clear he can’t fully control his body yet and this leads to some interesting conflict, but this subplot is discarded in the film’s second half.

I hate to bring up a Marvel comparison but herein lies the advantage of doing solo films prior to the team-up. My previous paragraph could end up being null if each character got a solo film first. However, I will say that doing a team up film first can also generate more interest for a solo one. With their budgets, superhero films aren’t always guaranteed box office success. Maybe a Cyborg film done prior to Justice League would not have done as well as the studio hoped? Now, I hope the film comes to fruition due to Fisher’s performance.

Speaking of Marvel comparisons, Justice League does give us a pretty forgettable villain. I was excited to hear about Steppenwolf as the villain since it meant we could soon be getting Darkseid. The design we saw in the deleted scene of BvS is discarded here for a look that is more generic and looks poorly rendered for the majority of the film’s scenes.

Steppenwolf’s plot revolves around the Mother Boxes, three devices that can combine to turn any planet into the hellish environment of his homeworld (awesome getting a reference to Apokolips). The majority of Steppenwolf’s screen time is spent in search of the Mother Boxes, which leads to a memorable fight with the Amazons and some great fights with the League.

Wonder Woman shines as the battlefield MVP for most of the film. The Flash and Aquaman get their moments as well, while Cyborg serves his own purpose. It is an old joke that Batman would be useless against physically powerful villains but decades of comics show him fighting far more powerful foes with the use of gadgets and tactics. We get some of that here but there is also plenty of time when Batman is removed from his plane or bat mobile and ends up being the weakest link. Even when he is fighting one thug at the beginning of the film he is able to execute some stunning acrobatics (complete with slo-mo) but then still takes a lot of time to take down one person when compared to his speed in the warehouse fight in the first film. Now, this film makes it clear he is getting older and is more beaten up than ever, but his prowess ends up being inconsistent throughout the film.

While CGI provides us some great shots, such as Flash’s Sistine Chapel moment, it also gives us many other scenes where CGI simply seems unnecessary or poorly rendered. The fights fights are hampered by poor CGI in places, especially for the parademons. Like Steppenwolf himself, the parademons looked better in BvS (the Knightmare scene). Additionally, the fights are somewhat diminished by the fact that we aren’t as emotionally invested since the villain isn’t that interesting. He is physically powerful and imposing but so are his opponents, we need more than that to interest us. Ciaran Hinds’s voice acting sadly seems wasted. Steppenwolf has some good lines but overall he felt like another placeholder villain with a pretty generic motive that was provided simply so the league could have something to fight.

A film should not be judged simply for what it sets up, but I have to give the theatrical cut some credit for its ability to weave in other characters and worlds in its concise running time. We get a brief glimpse of Atlantis and glimpses of important characters from other worlds, such as the Greek Gods and Green Lanterns. There are two post-credits scenes and the second one leads well into the future DCEU movies, while also providing a glimpse of a character many fans have been waiting for.

Overall, Wonder Woman is still my favourite DCEU film, but there are some things that I liked about the Justice League movie. The final fight is more entertaining, which is probably unfair since the fight combines our favourite characters. Justice League is hampered by some of the same issues from its predecessors but still surpasses BvS Suicide Squad and after some thought I might have to say it beats Man of Steel. I might revisit this ranking in a week though.

For now:

  1. Wonder Woman
  2. Justice League
  3. Man of Steel
  4. Batman V Superman
  5. Suicide Squad

Deadpool 2 Teaser Thoughts

You likely remember Deadpool’s  “No Good Deed” spot but we now have our first official teaser.

Like the first teaser, this one doesn’t show us too much and I don’t mind that at all. The majority of the time is actually occupied by a Bob Ross parody. I didn’t know the name of the painter but I immediately recognized the reference from Deadpool’s tone of voice and the wig. Like the first film, I am glad that Deadpool 2 embraces cross generational pop culture references, ranging from Aliens 3 to Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine. I also want to thank Ryan Reynolds for introducing me to the term “holy f***knuckles”.

The actual film footage gives us brief glimpses of Domino, Vanessa and most importantly, Dopinder. Deadpool’s conversations with Dopinder are some of my favourite moments so I am eager to see more.

Negasonic is back and looks better than ever. The colours in the costume from the first movie hinted at a classic X-Men costume but now it looks like we’ll get the real thing.

I know a lot of people though that the classic X-Men costumes couldn’t work on screen. I was one of them at but X-Men First Class changed my mind and this costume just affirms my belief that there isn’t anything wrong with some more colour. It’s a great nod to the classics, that also doesn’t come across as cheesy on screen. Since this film has a bigger budget I am also wondering if there will be more X-Men cameos or if there will be any reference to recent X-Men films like Apocalypse or Logan.

We also get a superhero landing in the film clips. There is plenty more material ripe for parody in the superhero genre so I’m hoping Deadpool makes use of all its ammunition. Since David Leitch (co-director of John Wick) is in the chair, I am sure the action will deliver so that is actually the least of my worries. The pessimist in me worries that since this film is no longer just a passion project with a (relatively) small budget, it might not have the same magic as the first. However, I am hoping it delivers.