Black Panther Trailer

Another distraction from my horror fixation has come along, in the form of another trailer for Marvel’s Black Panther.

As I’ve said in my YouTube video I believe that Black Panther got a strong introduction in Civil War, even though his character was only brought into to replace Spider-Man (who Marvel didn’t have the rights to when they began writing the script).  Ignoring the copyright issues that birthed him, Chadwick Boseman breathed life into the first black superhero in mainstream comics. The suit, the dialogue, the fighting style, the accent, were all handled well and made Black Panther a standout. Black Panther was also a standout since he was one of the few characters who was allowed to remain serious for more than three minutes at a time.

Building off the last trailer, this one still does not reveal too much about the plot or the villain. We know that T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) is still adjusting to his new role as King, following the death of his father. Additionally, we see more of Michael B. Jordan’s villain, Erik Killmonger.

Firstly, I will say that I don’t like the song choice for this trailer as much as the one in the first. Some viewers are voicing complaints about the lack of any African influences in the score, but it’s too early to complain about that. Let’s wait until we see the film and then judge the score. The trailers are only using music mean to appeal to audiences. Unlike “Legend Has It“, I don’t feel like this song meshed with the video as well.

With that gripe out of the way let’s move on to the positives.

The set and costume design for Wakanda looks amazing, a mesh of something futuristic and traditional. Wakanda is  an advanced nation untouched by colonialism and I am very happy to see that the filmmakers are not shying away from the world’s African roots. It may seem obvious that an African nation should have African influence in its clothing and architecture, but you never know with Hollywood. Fortunately, it looks like the director of Fruitvale Station hasn’t sold out just yet.

Continuing with the trend to embrace real African culture and rituals, Killmonger also sports scarification that is used as a form of body art by some ethnic groups. Online info about Killmonger shows that he is a foe who wishes to overthrow T’Challa. Jordan has compared Killmonger to this movie’s version of Magneto, a anti-hero who wants to do what he believes is best for his people, even if it means overwhelming death and loss along the way.

That seems interesting but we get some more generic lines from Killmonger in this trailer, and the line delivery wasn’t too impressive. Hopefully the lines sound better in context. Let’s also hope that we get a good villain (Marvel’s kryptonite) to go along with a unique world and a hero who has potential to become of Marvel’s biggest.

I hate to end with a negative, but I must say that some of the special effects also need work. There are a few cartoonish looking ones throughout the trailer, but there are also some more photorealistic ones. Since the film comes out February I am hoping that post-production will works its magic.

I give you CGI backgrounds, with real faces.

Although I have some reservations about the villain and the special effects, there is still plenty to look forward to. The cast and the world are both amazing. If my reservations prove to be unfounded,  I am sure that this could end up being one of Marvel’s best films.

The Punisher

Daredevil’s second season was met with a more mixed reception than the first. There was criticism levied at the plot, which brought in more of the mystical elements from the comics, in contrast to a first season that was more realistic (realistic is relative with comic book adaptations). I personally detested the love story between Karen and Matt, which there was absolutely no indication of in the first season. One thing that many people loved, and probably wanted more of, was The Punisher.

The anti-hero featured heavily in the marketing and Jon Bernthal nailed his performance, before becoming more scarce in the latter half of the season. With the success (ratings wise) of DD season 2 and the reception for The Punisher it was obvious that he would likely get his own spinoff.

Today we got our first trailer for the show, a short but sweet teaser of what is to come. In short, I can’t wait for this show to come out and I am somewhat annoyed that Netflix has yet to reveal the exact release date. Fortunately, there isn’t that much time left in 2017 so it is coming out sooner, rather than later.

Firstly, this trailer doesn’t give away too much of the plot. DD season 2 introduced us to the conspiracy that Frank is a part of, a plan by government agencies to kill him so that certain secrets remain buried. As much as I am looking forward to Frank taking on the government, like some of the arcs in Punisher Max, I have to say this conspiracy is the one part of the Netflix punisher mythos I didn’t like. In the series, District Attorney Reyes admits that they were conducting a sting on a gang meeting in Central Park. Reyes chose not to clear the area in order to avoid tipping off criminals and this ultimately impacted Castle when the gangs caught on to the ruse.

The comics I’ve read so far that detail Frank’s origin, from Year One to the Max series (2004 and 2010), depict his family’s death as a simple issue of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. His family stumbles across a mob hit and the mob decides to eliminate witnesses. This sense of randomness and chaos is what made his family’s death so tragic. I think Frank’s vendetta against criminals as a whole makes more sense if he lost his family to something much more senseless than a sting gone wrong. However, Frank’s battles against other government agencies (from the looks of this trailer) could lead to some interesting overlap from the Punisher Max (2004) comics, which are gems for Punisher comics and comics as a whole.

With that said, the costume is actually my only other negative on display in this trailer. It doesn’t look terrible, and still gets the skull right, but I feel like the suit would look better with a different design for the vest itself. However, this is a relatively minor complaint since the show will hopefully have more to offer than a great wardrobe.

While Kevin Feige says the MCU films will never be dark, the Netflix shows have been a different story. The Punisher looks to continue that trend with the brutal headshots crammed into the two minutes of footage. I found some of the hand-to-hand fight scenes lacking in Iron Fist and Defenders, even for the characters who are supposed to be skilled martial artists. The choreography was weak and I’m hoping Frank’s style of combat will lend itself to some entertaining shootouts and some hand-to-hand fights as well. He is not as skilled a fighter as Daredevil but his fists are still deadly.

This trailer shows us a glimpse of Karen Page, who I feel has way more chemistry with Frank than she has with Daredevil.

Some of the most interesting subplots in the Punisher Max (2004) series was how the police reacted to Frank’s Killings. It is implied local police implicitly supported his actions, by never making serious moves to bring him in. Although they detested what he did on principle, they knew he was an unmatched deterrent against crime. The last scenes in the trailer, focusing on a group of detectives, makes me wonder if this series will also explore Frank’s actions from the other side.

Overall, this series is my most anticipated for the rest of the year and I have high hopes that it will deliver and possibly surpass Daredevil Season 1 as my favourite Marvel Netflix show.

Wonder Woman Review

Wonder Woman is an origin story of sorts for Diana Prince a.k.a Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), the Amazon who leaves her home island of Themyscira to venture to aid the Allies in World War II. She is accompanied on her journey by Steve Trevor (Chris Pine), an American spy who crash landed in Themyscira after escaping from the Germans with information on their new super weapons.

I originally planned to see Wonder Woman on Tuesday, and after some delays I finally got around to it last night. The film made headlines for being the first DC Extended Universe (DCEU) film to get good reviews, currently sitting at 92% on Rotten Tomatoes. I’m not one to blindly follow reviews, but I know a lot of other people do. Relatively poor reviews for Man of Steel and horrendous ones for BatmanvSuperman led Warner Bros to force changes onto Suicide Squad that ultimately made that film worse e.g. cut out the abusive Joker and Harley Relationship, overload the film with songs to lighten the tone.

With that said, I realized that Wonder Woman was carrying the DCEU on its shoulders. This film needed to rekindle hope for the studio executives and the general audience. Did the film live up to the hype? I will say that it wasn’t amazing, but it was pretty good.

Firstly, any regular readers will know that I despise the obsession with “fun” that is rampant these days, especially when it comes to comic book films. The Marvel Cinematic Universe has a whole is committed to keeping the films light, with Kevin Feige saying the films will never be dark. There is no better example of this than Thor: Ragnarok (the Asgardian term for Doomsday) being rewritten just to lighten the tone. I have no problem with levity and fun, but it is always better when it actually fits the situation and the characters. It gets tiresome when every serious moment or line is undercut by a one-liner.

Wonder Woman definitely has more levity and “fun” than MOS and BvS, but is darker than Suicide Squad. Yet it is still better than Suicide Squad. Point being,  “fun” is not a guarantee of good, “dark” is not a guarantee of bad, and I hope studio executives don’t see Wonder Woman’s success as the sole result of its lighter tone.

The humour does work well in the film, mainly playing off Diana as a fish out of water in “Man’s World”. Gal Gadot truly shines when portraying Diana’s childlike curiosity and innocence as she learns more about Man’s World. Her performance is weaker when the script asks more of her. Fortunately, she is assisted by Chris Pine. After seeing Pine as Captain Kirk in the new Star Trek films I knew he would be great in this role and he didn’t disappoint. The character of Steve Trevor has often been used as comic relief and Pine nails that, while also deftly handling the more serious moments. Pine and Gadot are also assisted by their own rag-tag group, amongst which Sameer (Said Taghmaoui) is the stand out.

One issue that the DCEU, like the MCU has had, are its villains. The MCU has Loki as its standout, and the DCEU is still trying to find its own. On repeat viewings, The Joker is underwhelming (not just due to his screen time), Doomsday’s weak CGI and tacked on introduction didn’t help his case, and Lex Luthor…they should have cast someone else. General Zod is one of the DCEU’s better contenders, a competent villain but not a very memorable one.

Wonder Woman fights against the Nazis here, with the main focus on General Erich Ludendorff (Daniel Huston) and Isabel Maru a.k.a Doctor Poison (Elena Anaya). Although Ludendorff has more screen time, Doctor Poison was more memorable. Her mask probably helped to add to her screen presence, and I’d much rather see a slew of Doctor Poison costumes for Halloween this year than the Harley Quinn epidemic of last year. Not to take anything away from Huston either, his German accent is a bit hokey at times but overall he was enjoyable, with he and Doctor Poison forming a Joker/Harley dynamic.

Diana also has a more personal villain in the film. Many people may already know the villain I’m referring to, but I won’t delve into him too much to avoid giving too much away. Overall, the final villain’s reveal and the final fight scene could have been handled better.

A consistent issue with the DCEU has been its third act. Man of Steel still offers the best third act fight scene in my opinion, with Wonder Woman coming in second. Let’s not talk about Suicide Squad. Like BatmanvSuperman and MOS, WW’s last fight scene is somewhat hampered by some cartoonish effects. The effects in this sequence were more jarring since the visuals and action were pretty impressive up to this point. We don’t truly see Diana fight as Wonder Woman for at least fourty minutes into the film, but the fight is well worth it. I also didn’t feel like the film dragged up until this point or any other in the film.  Aside from some poor effects, my only issue with the fight scenes is that slow-motion is overused at times. Otherwise, the action is fast-paced and well-choreographed. Let’s not forget the score, with the Wonder Woman theme being reminiscent of the Donner Superman one in terms of the excitement it generates.

Wonder Woman offers action, levity and some great performances. Wonder Woman also doesn’t shoehorn in any links to other DC characters. The only reference to another member of the Justice League is an organic one that helps to tie the story together and give an ending that has all the “hope” so many people say the DCEU is lacking. I walked out of the theater more excited about Justice League and the other DCEU films, while also hoping that the stories don’t end up being hampered by the “fun” mentality. WW’s tone was a great mix of dark and light, not afraid to show the dark side of human nature while also countering with a level of optimism that befits the character. Superman helped to counter the darkness in Batman, and Wonder Woman helps to counter the darkness in both.

Wonder Woman- Saving The DCEU

Reviews have started pouring in and Wonder Woman looks like it is the DC Extended Universe’s (DCEU’s) first critical darling.

I have never been one to follow critics blindly, but this is still news that I am happy to hear. In my opinion, Man of Steel was a decent (7/10) film hampered by some weak acting and some pacing issues. Batman v Superman came across as a rushed buildup to the Justice League, with a terrible portrayal of Lex Luthor and a weak third act. Suicide Squad… let’s just move on.

Box office success is always imprtant to fans since a film is more likely to spawn a franchise if it is financially successful. If a film is not intended to be a franchise, financial success can still be good for fans since it is validation that other people watched something they enjoy. This is easy to understand but people often seem confused about why fans care abor critics. While the reviews may not impact my own enjoyment of a single film, they can have implications for a franchise. Batman v Superman nearly grossed one billion dollars but was still considered a box office disappointment rellative to expectations. Suicide Squad was a success financially but was critically panned. A string of films like this can cause studios to lose faith in directors or an entire film universe e.g. all the fanboys crying for the X-Men rights to back to Marvel after X:Men Apocalypse.

Wonder Woman is a chance to prove that a female led superhero film can be a critical and financial success, and that the DCEU ship can right itself. People who may have lost interest in the DCEU before, will be more likely to see Wonder Woman. If they like Wonder Woman, they’ll be more likely to see The Justice League, and so on. The DCEU can’t really be considered a failure prior to Wonder Woman, but it didn’t appear to be headed in the right direction.

One of my worries is that the good reviews are attributed SOLELY to the lighter tone. Wonder Woman‘s “fish out of water elements lend itselt to comedy; and Steve Trevor has always been depicted as comic relief as well. I have no problem with humour, but hate when it becomes part of a formula that ultimately waters down an entire world. The mentality that the DCEU films just need more “fun” is rampant online. Even The Rock expressed this mentality when discussing bringing Black Adam to the big screen. “Fun” does not fit Black Adam at all, so now we’ll likely get a bastardized version of the character. MOS and BvS are always criticized for their “depressing” tone but let’s not forget that the lighter Suicide Squad was an even worse film (according to RT).  “Fun” is not the only ingredient for good, and also does not have to be an ingredient for good. The Justice League trailers feature some humour that comes across as a cheesy response to all the MOS and BvS criticisms: “We added jokes. People will love it now.” Let’s hope the desire to add “fun” doesn’t overshadow other issues the previous DCEU films had.  There is a tendency now to tie unrelated elements of the writing back to “fun”. “Fun” becomes the root that all quality springs from in some people’s minds.

With that said, I am eager to see if Wonder Woman lives up to its hype.

Extremity

Note: For anyone that didn’t know, I have become an avid comic book reader over the past two years. This adds to my list of traits that make me ridiculously desirable to women. This short piece on Extremity was intended for comicommand, since the site is not being updated for the moment (but will return) I am posting it here.

Image Comic’s first new comic of the year proves to be another promising addition to Image’s stable and comic book offerings as a whole. Writer and artist Daniel Warren Johnson (Space Mullet) brings a fictional world replete with warring clans. The main character, Thea, is a human female whose mother was killed by a clan known as the Paznina. In addition to killing her mother, they also cut off Thea’s right hand. Along with her hand, Thea loses her skills as an artist and a cornerstone of her identity. Johnson intended Thea’s dilemma to mirror his own fears of losing the extremity that makes him who he is.

The first issue introduces us to Thea, as well has her brother, Rollo and her father Jerome, the leader of their clan. While Jerome expects his son to be his successor, the first issue makes it clear that Thea is more likely to do so. In relatable fashion, Rollo is hesitant to engage in the violence that is needed to survive in their world. While he struggles to kill one man, his father wears a mask embedded with the teeth of fallen foes. Thea shows signs of struggling with violence as well, but is a much more capable warrior than her brother. Since her father acknowledges her skill, but is still insistent on Rollo becoming the next clan leader, it is likely that sexism plays a role in their clan’s hierarchy.

The final issue ends with Thea getting revenge on the man who cut off her hand, one of the first acts in an all out-war with the Paznina. Johnson made it clear he wants to explore how a family will develop under such circumstances, and it is clear that the members involved can’t get through one violent act after another without changing fundamentally. In this sense, the comic reminds me slightly of The Walking Dead, which consistently focuses on how people adapt to a new and harsher world. Of course, this isn’t unique to The Walking Dead. This question is central to most post-apocalyptic tales and/or tales of revenge. However, it is interesting to see it focus on a female character.

The artwork is aided greatly by the shading and colouring bestowed by Mike Spicer. The artwork itself is the weakest part of the comic in my opinion, but like any series, I want to read more issues before I pass a more definitive judgment on it. The dialogue can also be clichéd at times, and overly expository at others. The characters didn’t need to call each other “brother” or “sister” for us to know they’re related, more subtle cues were present in the comic’s pages. However, there were only a few lines that I had gripes with and they didn’t dissuade me from reading the next issue when it is available.

The Dark Knight III: The Master Race

Note: The below article is one that I intended to upload to comicommand back in March. Since comicommand is not being updated for the moment (but will be soon), I have decided to post this article on my site instead.

I heard mixed things about The Dark Knight: Master Race but my love of Batman eventually persuaded me to check out Frank Miller’s latest foray into the character’s mythos. This series is also co-written by Brian Azzarello (100 Bullets) and follows three years after The Dark Knight Strikes Again.

In this continuity, Ray Palmer (The Atom) is successfully able to free the inhabitants of the miniaturized, bottled Kryptonian city Kandor. Not only does he free them, but he also returns them to full size. Once free, these new inhabitants set out to create a society where the strongest, their own people, rule.

Although I also have mixed thoughts about this series, which shifts from amazing to mediocre within one issue, its exploration of Superman and his people is enough to keep me reading.

One of my biggest issues with the new 52, at least as portrayed in animated films like Justice League: War, was the relationship between Superman and Wonder Woman. When together, they are like the captain of the football team and the head cheerleader. Lois Lane wasn’t just a love interest to me. She was one of the key figures, along with Superman’s adoptive parents, that literally and figuratively kept Superman grounded. While Superman was more physically separated from his parents, Lois was a constant thread that enabled him to value human life. Growing up among humans also developed Superman’s respect for them.

In contrast, the daughter that he had with Wonder Woman grew up among Amazons and sees humans as “ants”. When the inhabitants of Kandor make their intentions clear, Lara is eager to follow them and shun her father, who she sees as a traitor to his people. She has grown up with the power granted by two of the world’s greatest heroes, along with the isolationist mindset of the Amazons.

The Kandorian leader, Quar, is a twisted version of what Superman could have been. While enemies like Zod desired the annihilation of humans, Quar expresses a paternalistic mindset that undermines human agency. In his own view, humans need to be ruled. They are the savage slaves that he wishes to civilize. Superman recognizes his power, and the advantages it gives him over the people of Earth, but he also recognizes the strength and free will of its people. Although he is better than Quar in many ways, he is not far removed from him.

 

Teen Titans: The Judas Contract Review

It is an understatement of epic proportions to say that the post-Flashpoint DC Animated Films have not lived up to their predecessors. Flashpoint, my favourite DC Animated film, was followed by Warwhich had very little going for it. Weak voice acting from a lot of the cast, weak dialogue, terrible characterizations for some characters (Wonder Woman especially) etc. The list of negatives goes on and the subsequent films did little to raise my hopes. Batman v Robin and Gods and Monsters were bright spots, which gave me hope that DC were climbing the ladder back to greatness. Then Justice League vs. Teen Titans came along, and sent my hopes spiralling into the abyss. The Killing Joke was a little disappointing, and could have cut the batgirl prelude, but was a pretty good film overall. Then we got a pretty forgettable Justice League Dark, not terrible, but nothing special earlier compared to works like Under The Red HoodSuperman vs The Elite, First Flight or even Assault on Arkham.

All of that to say, I made sure not to get my hopes up about this film.The Judas Contract (TJC) is an adaptation of the comic storyline of the same name, which I have not read. I can’t judge the film based on it’s accuracy to the comic since I have not read the comic yet and don’t want to simply Google comparisons since they’ll contain spoilers for the comics.

Overall, the film is a definite improvement over JL vs Teen Titans and War. Since the latter two films are my most hated DC animated films to date, that compliment isn’t saying much.

The most notable improvement in this film was the handling of Damian Wayne’s character. Since his introduction in Son of Batman Damian Wayne has been abrasive, stubborn, arrogant…in short, bratty. In Son of Batman, Batman vs. Robin and Bad Blood his more undesirable characteristics were also balanced out to create an anti-hero that was annoying at times, but not insufferable. Then JL vs Teen Titans undid any development the character previously received and pretty much made him Bart Simpson in a Robin suit. All improvements in terms of social skills, self-awareness, respect etc. were gone.

Spoiler: I was happy when Blue Beetle nearly killed him.

In TJC Damian is still a loner who is adjusting to working well with a team, just like his dad. He still has an attitude problem but he also looks out for his team and isn’t the petulant child we last saw in JL vs Teen Titans.

Damian, along with Beast Boy are the highlights among the Titans, with their dialogue and voice actors bringing the most life to their roles. Nightwing, one of my favourite characters, also gets to shine. We get to learn more about Starfire’s background, although she still just comes across as a two-dimension princess kindness for the most part.

The newest member, Terra, plays a pivotal role in the story and her story arc demonstrates how seemingly unsympathetic characters can still gain our sympathy. However, there is a birthday scene that was truly cringeworthy and reminded me of the DDR scene in JL vs Teen Titans.

I have to say that Deathstroke was the biggest highlight of the film. Aside from being one of my favourite DC villains, Miguel Ferrer does an amazing job as the villain. Deathstroke doesn’t have that many lines compared to some of the other characters, and his character mainly relies on charisma for the role. Ferrer brings that in spades and makes me overlook some of the weaker dialogue and relatively little screen time.

The other villians were somewhat forgettable in my opinion, and the final fight actually proves to be one of the duller ones. Bigger is not always better.

Overall, The Judas Contract was a decent way to pass the time, but still makes me miss the older DC films even more.

Thor: Ragnarok Thoughts

I have previously discussed my refusal to see Thor: Ragnarok due to Marvel’s insistence on bringing a comedy writer onboard to rework the film only because they worried the film was too dark.

Of course, I wouldn’t want a film to be dark if the tone doesn’t fit the characters or story. This argument can be a can of worms since many characters have stories that are uncharacteristically dark or light (e.g. The Flash with Flashpoint Paradox). The Barry Allen version of The Flash isn’t all sunshine and rainbows, but Flashpoint Paradox still took the darkness to a whole other level.

But I digress.

The previous Thor films had plenty of comic relief, or attempts at it. These included one painful line after another from the likes of Kat Dennings and Natalie Portman. One of the few good things to come out of the Thor series has been Loki. Ragnarok refers to Asgardian doomsday, so a dark tone seemed appropriate. Even if the film wasn’t going to adapt the mythical Ragnarok events, a title referencing doomsday still implies some level of darkness. Darkness would fit the story, and it could therefore fit the character. If a film is overhauled only to lighten the tone, regardless of whether the tone fits the character or story, that is a travesty. People complain about film’s being “dark” for no reason, but very few people have a problem with more “fun”.

What bothers me the most about the decision to change the film is that this demonstrates how the need for “fun” overrides other artistic considerations. The previous Thor films have other issues, such as a love story lacking chemistry,  and some weak villains (looking at you dark elves). All those issues were overlooked previously, but bring on some darkness, and it’s all hands on deck to make another film.

I still refuse to see the film in theatres but I must say that this first trailer has some great moments. More Loki is always a good thing, and I love the new look, which is partially inspired by his look in the Young Avengers.

Hela looks like she might give us another good villain. Her helmet has drawn a lot of comparisons to Aku, but since the helmet originates from the older comics, seems like Aku was inspired by Hela.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Hulk doesn’t look as convincing (CGI wise) as he did in The Avengers film but the film still has more post-production to go. I actually didn’t mind the “he’s a friend from work” line since it actually seems in character for Thor. However, it still sucks that just about every epic moment is likely to be undercut by a one-liner that the fun-addled masses will eat up.

I’ve been told my writing is quite depressing, so perhaps I hate the Marvel “fun mania” since it clashes with my own creative proclivities. As Jeremy Jahns said sometimes I would prefer an epic moment, to a funny one. Likewise, sometimes I would prefer an epic movie to a “fun” one.

Superman and The Old School

As I was scrolling through Twitter this morning and came across this gem:

I knew I had to talk about it, even if only briefly, because it captures an argument I have made time and time again. So @CaptainMarvelTalk hates the art on the right (which is just fan art if I’m not mistaken) because it makes Superman too “dark”, “gritty”, “intimidating”.

I have previously noticed that people tend to have very static fews of certain characters. Superman does typically have a boy scout persona, the typical nice guy. Does that mean every single piece of art has to depict him smiling and happy? He can’t look intimidating in a single art piece?

When I raised this point to @CaptainMarvelTalk he said that intimidation is out of character for Superman.

I then responded with this:

An iconic scene from Mark Waid’s Kingdom Come where Superman angrily bursts into a political meeting. Of course, he doesn’t kill anyone, but he is undoubtedly intimidating here. Then @CaptainMarvelTalk argues that Superman is “angry” here, not intimidating. The two can obviously overlap, and are clearly affected by audience interpretation. In the original fan art, and in Kingdom Come, Superman is floating with his eyes glowing red. If the fan art counts as intimidating, the Kingdom Come piece undoubtedly does too.

Clearly, @CaptainMarvelTalk just hates newer artistic interpretations of Superman, in favour of the old school. Instead of saying that, he nitpicks and shuts out common sense and reasoning, contradicting himself time after time during our debate. I think this is a solid example of the bias that also fuels the Marvel v DC debate and the never-ending debate about how DC is “too dark” and doesn’t have enough “fun”.