The Defenders Trailer Review

Potential spoilers ahead for all Marvel Neflix shows: Daredevil (1 and 2), Luke Cage, Jessica Jones and Iron Fist

The Avengers of netflix are arriving later this year, and Marvel recently released the first trailer for the team up series.

Firstly, I have to say that my excitement for the series was somewhat dimmed after watching Iron Fist. Although the show wasn’t as bad as critics made it out to be, it still fell short of the other series’ in my opinion. The acting ranged from great to hammy, with some actors struggling with some scenes more than others. Since Iron Fist is supposed to be one of the best fighters in the Marvel universe, the fight scenes were also a huge disappointment, with the best one trumped by almost any fight from Daredevil. The writing could also have been greatly improved to provide better villains and better plotting. Next to Mike Colter, Finn Jones is definitely the weakest actor out of the defenders. At least with The Defenders, Jones and Colter won’t be carrying the show. They’ll be supported by Charlie Cox and Krysten Ritter.

When the series was scheduled to arrive before another season of Luke Cage I assumed that Cage would be broken out of prison. From this trailer it appears like that isn’t the case. We see Cage in public, riding a bus and still being referred to as Harlem’s hero. Perhaps he received some legal assistance from Matt too.

The first scene in the trailer remains my favourite. It isn’t action packed, but it is the perfect introduction for Matt Murdock’s character. It is also the first shot we get of two defenders together. Like the after-credits scene in Iron Man, where we first see Nick Fury, this shot of Matt and Jessica could be the start of an era.

The other character meetings appear to happen by chance, such as Rand and Cage. Since the characters all live in the same city, this bothers me less than it normally would but hopefully they’re not just bumping into each other on the street. One thing (among many) that bothered me about Iron Fist, was that Claire just happened to train at the dojo where Colleen worked, leading to her meeting Rand. Yes, same city, but Manhattan is a pretty big place and the characters don’t all live in the same area of Manhattan. It would make more sense for them to meet as they pursue leads on a new threat, such as Sigourney Weaver’s character, Alexandra.

Not much has been revealed about Alexandra yet, but she is likely involved with The Hand. Elektra died at the end of Daredevil’s second season, but her body was retrieved by The Hand afterwards. Now we know that Elektra will return, serving as The Black Sky, The Hand’s weapon. Unless the show will have two different villains, it looks like The Hand will be the main one for The Defenders.

We don’t see too much of the fight scenes so far, which is fine by me. Hopefully the fights are better than the ones we got in Iron Fist. While Jessica Jones and Luke Cage aren’t great martial artists, DD and IF are supposed to be some of the world’s best. I want to see that portrayed convincingly. If the actors get more than fifteen minutes to practice choreography, we should be good to go.

I was happy to see the interaction between Cage and Rand, since they have their own Heroes for Hires series in the comics. The moment Rand punches Cage is also a throwback to Cage’s own series, where a thug punches him and breaks his hand. It looks like Rand’s punch affects him a lot more than the thug’s did.

Many cast members from previous shows are confirmed to return for this series as well. We know Misty Knight is back, but Colleen Wing, Karen Page, Jerri Hogarth, Foggy Nelson, Trish Walker and of course, Stick are all returning. Even if their roles are relatively small, it does bring up the question of pacing. The previous Netflix shows were all thirteen episodes, but could have been shortened. Luke Cage in particular felt like it was dragged out via legal wrangling. We already know the main characters, so maybe The Defenders doesn’t need to be as long. However, we still have to deal with introducing the characters to one another and setting up their villain. I am hoping that the show doesn’t feel rushed or bloated between the team introductions, the conflict itself, plus appearances from other characters.

With all that said, I am excited for the show. I am hoping that it represents all the best things about the Marvel netflix shows. The great acting and action from DD and JJ. The great villains, with the exception of Diamondback any villain introduced in Iron Fist. The great supporting characters and the writing that isn’t afraid to eschew mindless “fun” in order to tell a good story.

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.

Spider-Man Homecoming Trailer Thoughts

I initially avoided watching this trailer because I was worried it would give too much away. Overall, my wariness appears to be justified.

Tom Holland was a highlight of Captain America: Civil War, even though the character was clearly rushed into the film after Marvel obtained the rights (or technically leased them from Sony). Although I have previously ranted about the MCU obsession with light-heartedness and fun, I wasn’t as worried about that obsession ruining a Spider-Man film. Peter Parker’s wisecracking is a key part of the character and Holland mastered that element, as well as capturing a more serious moment when he referenced Uncle Ben’s death with Tony Stark.

Although plenty of people saw The Amazing Spider-Man series as being too dark, the tone wasn’t an issue for me. With that said, the second film was bogged down with too many villains and some pretty hammy performances from the likes of Paul Giamatti and Dane Dehaan.

Since Spider-Man is one of my favourite comic book characters, probably just behind Batman, Wolverine and The Punisher, I was excited for Homecoming.

Now…this trailer. The YouTube comments make it clear a lot of people disagree, but I think I have Tony Stark fatigue.  However, there is a silver lining. It looks like Stark steps back from supporting Peter after the incident on the ship, leaving the film to hopefully focus on our favourite wall crawler.

I am just worried the film might reach this point halfway through, which is too late in my opinion. The character of Peter Parker got anchored to Stark due to his rushed introduction in Civil War, and now the writers are doing their best to keep that thread alive and also find a coherent reason to cut it. Meanwhile, marketers are also pimping Tony Stark out to the audience.

The high school setting for Spider-Man worked surprisingly well in The Spectacular Spider-Man, since the show avoided becoming 90210 featuring Spider-Man. I am hoping this film has a good balance as well. Zendaya’s one line in this trailer already leaves me worried about her acting skills. She says “my friends are up there” with the same enthusiasm she would say “I broke a nail”.

On a positive note, the trailer doesn’t spoil too much of Michael Keaton as The Vulture. So far, he seems the best kept secret and also seems like he may be a highlight of the film. The new costume is awesome and I have renewed faith in Keaton after watching Birdman and Spotlight.

Additionally, a lot of the humour in this trailer was actually good. My favourite parts were the interactions between Peter and his friend. My least favourite ones, you guessed it, anything with Tony Stark.

What are your thoughts on the new Spider-Man Homecoming trailer?

Iron Fist Thoughts

Hello everyone,

I know I haven’t been too active on the blog over this past week but I’m back to it now, and plan to keep uploading new content at least three times a week.

Warning: Spoilers Ahead.

I finished watching Iron Fist earlier in the week and while it isn’t as bad as some of the critics make out, it is definitely one of the weaker Marvel Netflix shows. Overall, the acting is some of the weakest we’ve seen. Luke Cage was also hampered by Mike Colter’s abilities, but fortunately he was the only real weak link in terms of the acting. Shades was a cheesy character but I believe Theo Rossi did the best he could with the role. With Iron Fist, we get some weak or inconsistent performances from the main character, and supporting cast such as David Wenham and Sacha Dhawan.

There is one issue that is the elephant in the room, so I guess I’ll get into that issue too. When the first promotional material aired many people complained about Danny Rand being white, even though he is also white in the comics. Rand was seen as another example of cultural appropriation or the white savour dynamic that we see in The Great Wall and earlier works like The Forbidden Kingdom (2008). I was quick to defend Rand’s race since the show was being true to the comics but I’ve also tried to be open-minded and see where detractors are coming from.

Some may view it as a stereotype if we get another martial artist who is Asian or Asian-American, but some people have pointed out that Rand could be different. He could have been a three-dimensional, wealthy, main character with martial art prowess. Instead we get another story where the white lead takes on scores of foreign Asian enemies. Of course we have Colleen as well, but she can basically be the one “Asian friend” that detracts from all the other problematic issues in the show. I am not saying you all have to buy this narrative, but it is something to think about. Of course, you can also feel free to just throw out right-wing buzzwords like “social justice warrior’ instead, talking about how you’re colour-blind and then support the whitewashing of movies like Ghost in the Shell.

Speaking of martial arts, the fight scenes in this show were underwhelming to say the least. I started watching Into The Badlands and I immediately saw what Iron Fist should have given us.

After Daredevil I was hoping to see amazing choreography and fluid action. Especially since Iron Fist, like Daredevil, is supposed to be one of the best fighters in the Marvel universe. Instead we get actors awkwardly working their way through their choreographed steps, giving no impression of real experience and training (for the most part). The Into The Badlands stars underwent three months of training prior to filming. In comparison, Finn Jones underwent three weeks. Then he only got to practice the choreography for specific fight scenes 15 minutes before they were filmed. Since the show’s writing is weaker, I was at least hoping to see some of the best action to date.

The “White Saviour” argument did pop back in my head after seeing Zhou Cheng (Lewis Tan) fight Danny. Tan, a martial artist in his own right, is also able to give us an interesting character with his few minutes of screen time. I can’t fault people for saying he should have received the role of Iron Fist instead.

Another issue with the show is that the most interesting parts of Danny’s backstory are only shown in very brief flashbacks, or are recited to us. I suspect that the show’s budget is the main culprit for this. Instead of a few more minutes of Danny’s training in K’un-Lun, we get more corporate espionage.

I thought the show was strongest mid-season, building up the mystique of the Hand and Madame Goa, demonstrating their hold over Harold Meachum. Speaking of Harold Meachum, Wenham’s performance went from great to hammy scene by scene. Don’t even get me started on his return from the dead (after Ward murders him), where he’s apparently brain-damaged and stumbles around New York like a crackhead. I blame that one on the writers though.

There is another issue I blame on the writers as well. It seems like a small one but almost ends up causing a plot hole. We see Gao use some sort of power on Danny when he confronts her after completing his challenges in the warehouse. Then she never uses this power again. It is never explained why she can’t use it again either. 

I love Claire Temple but I felt like this show could have used less of her. Obviously she is the bridge between all four Defenders characters, but did she really have to go to China with Danny and Colleen? Actually, I can understand her going to China. Did she have to specifically go to Gao’s hideout? She is the weakest fighter and if the writing was consistent, probably would have been killed. Finn Jones filmed Iron Fist back to back with The Defenders so that answers the question of why Jones got less time to prepare for his fights and why Claire was in most of the episodes. 

Aside from Claire, references to other characters were handled more smoothly. Claire is still reading Luke Cage’s letters from prison. Hogarth’s involvement makes more sense and her introduction into the show doesn’t rely on coincidence (like Claire training at Colleen’s dojo). Joy Meachum references hiring Jessica Jones as a private investigator; at least that is who I assume she referred to when talking about PI who’s good “when they’re sober”. As always, there are also references to “the incident”, which is the name used to refer to Loki’s attack on Manhattan and the Avengers subsequent defence of the city.

Jones and Colter are definitely the weaker actors from the Defenders troupe, with Charlie Cox and Krysten Ritter providing strong performances as Daredevil and Jessica Jones. I am excited to see the characters together and am hoping that their collective strength can make up for the deficiencies that each actor and show had.

Netflix’s Punisher

With Iron Fist and The Defenders coming out later this year it can be easy to forget about the Netflix series that follows.

After seeing him in The Walking Dead and Fury (2014) I thought Bernthal’s casting as Frank Castle a.k.a. The Punisher was perfect. He went on to become the best thing about Daredevil’s second season, providing a deadly foil to Matt Murdock. After watching the season and reading The Punisher Max and War Journal, the Punisher quickly became one of my favourite comic book characters.

While the Marvel Cinematic Universe is (MCU) is sometimes hampered by the desire to remain family-friendly, the Netflix shows capture a more adult world that is also not afraid to embrace the more fantastical elements of the comics. Many people didn’t like the mystical aspects of Daredevil’s second season, probably due to the contrast with the gritty first season. However, I didn’t mind these additions. My biggest gripe was the love story between Matt and Karen, which wasn’t foreshadowed at all with the previous season. This season began and they were suddenly in love.

With that said, The Punisher is a series that might work better (at least for the first season) with more grounded villains. Most of the villains in the aforementioned comics were figures involved in crime syndicates such as the mafia or IRA. While The Punisher obviously lives in the same universe as Thor and The Hulk, and has fought some of these figures in the comics, I hope the solo series starts with his work on the streets. Daredevil ended with Castle donning his costume as he continued his personal war on crime. I want to see that story expanded, as Castle continues to target criminal enterprises.

While Daredevil emphasized Castle’s pursuit by law enforcement, the Max comics frequently imply that the police tolerate his presence. There is a story arc where corrupt policemen frame him for the murder of one of their own, but for the most part the police realize he makes their jobs easier and scares some people off the streets. It would be interesting to see this dynamic in the series as well. I have heard the series will be inspired by the Max run, and I am especially hoping that the “Slavers” arc is adapted.

Set pictures have revealed that Karen Page will appear in the series. She tried to act as Castle’s voice of reason in Daredevil, creating a character dynamic that had far more chemistry than her and Murdock’s. It is likely she will be trying to steer him away from vigilantism, or a less violent alternative. If the character’s written properly he won’t be changing his mind, but their conversations could lead to more interesting insights about how Castle views the world e.g. the rooftop conversation in Daredevil.

One of my main worries is the length of the seasons. Every Marvel Netflix show is thirteen episodes, which feels like too much at times. Luke Cage was a good show, but I feel like it was hampered by the length. Shortening the series by an episode or two could have led to some more concise storytelling. Since the series needed to be padded to 13 episodes I feel like all of the legal wrangling in the last few episodes was added to get the series to the necessary length. Since The Punisher kills his enemies there will be definitely be less police and courtroom proceedings to worry about. However, some other plot twists could be utilized to pad the series unnecessarily. Until the thirteen episode rule changes we’ll have to hope the writers adapt to give us 13 episodes that don’t feel bloated or stretched out.

Besides that concern, this series has a lot to offer. The few comics I’ve read present a swath of interesting supporting characters and villains that will help to support one of my favourite anti-heroes as he makes his solo tv debut. What is your most anticipated Marvel Netflix show of 2017?

 

The Irony of the MCU

 

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I saw Captain America: Civil War recently and I currently rank it as my second favourite MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) film, with The Winter Soldier still being #1 for me. Despite the love I have for some of the MCU, I can’t help but notice the criticism people always levy at DC films. I am no DC “fanboy”, I recognize that they don’t have as solid a film universe, since they got a later start on it. However, I have previously discusses my disdain for people who say that DC movies have a problem with their tone. Many negative reviews will at least mention the darker tone of the DC universe films as being a problem, as if darker=worse.I realize that Marvel has dark properties on Netflix, like Daredevil and Jessica Jones, but I made this post specifically to discuss the MCU on the big screen. Reading comprehension is a dying art, so let me break this down a little further. I am not saying that BvS or Man of Steel are amazing. MOS was a 7.5 for me and BvS a 6.5. I am not saying these films have no flaws. I am saying that I don’t think their tone is one of their flaws.

Obviously BvS had issues aside from its tone (I’m looking at you Eisenberg) but I can’t stand this relatively
new idea that darkness is a bad thing in itself, and that “dark” and “good” are mutually exclusive. Of course, there have been dark comic book films that have been relatively well received, like The Dark Knight and the more recent example of X-Men: Days of Future Past. However, times are changing. Go to Rotten Tomatoes and see how many negative reviews of Apocalypse mention the “dark”, “grim”, “joyless” tone as being an issue. I’ll wait.

There is a pervasive mentality that a comic book movie must be “fun”. It shouldn’t take itself too seriously and should have plenty of comic relief, otherwise it has failed as a film. The MCU is now held up as the standard of comic relief and as the benchmark for the tone that a comic book film should have. It is easy to see why people latched onto them since they have had the most prolific comic book film output of any studio.

What I find ironic, is that the “fun” mentality is what held comic book films back for so long. Many critics and members of the general public who flock to see MCU films now would have once scoffed at the idea of a critically revered comic book film. Of course there are classics like Superman (1978) but Superman did not usher in an era of consistent comic book films and box-office domination by comic book films. This era started slowly with films like Blade, then X-Men and then Spider-Man. Then came Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy and then the birth of the MCU with Iron Man.

Many critics once thought comic book films would never have the success they do now. They might be silly fun, but no one would take such films seriously. The idea of Oscar winners or nominees regularly starring in comic book films would have been deemed preposterous. Marlon Brando’s appearance in Superman was such a big deal due to the pedigree that he brought to the film. The first big successes of the modern era (Blade and X-Men) used a tone that many would now view as overly dramatic, “dark”, “pretentious” etc. but that is what allowed comic book films to gain more popularity and critic recognition. If it weren’t for these films we might not have the MCU. Yet everyone now forgets the stigma comic book films had to overcome and wants everything to be “fun” and “colourful”. There was a time when people thought that was all comic book films would have to offer, and it seems like fans now want history to repeat itself.

 

Updates

This marks the third day of my commitment to blog everyday, so far so good, but there are still plenty of days to go.

Although my novels are science-fiction, my blog has always explored a range of subjects. I write about movies and comics, but I also write about race and politics. I know that may dissuade some people but it is who I am. I am not diluting my interests for the people who may feel threatened by the views that I try to express in a rational manner.

When it comes to my daily post, I often write about what is on my mind. An article, a comment by a friend, anything can end up being the inspiration for an article. Since it is Friday now, I figured that a lighter blog post was in order. I’m checking out Captain America: Civil War tomorrow and I am excited. As I expected, the film has already been met with near critical acclaim. Although I love Marvel and DC I can’t help but feel somewhat apprehensive since I know the Marvel brainwashing is very powerful.

However, I’m still excited. I have dbox seats for tomorrow and will be putting up a review tomorrow night or Sunday at the latest. I am planning to do a written review as well as a YouTube video. I’ve been avoiding any promotional videos since the first trailer came out because I don’t want too much spoiled. I hear Tom Holland is amazing as Spider-Man so we’ll see what he brings to the table. I haven’t heard much about Chadwick Boseman as The Black Panther but I think he’ll kill it and hopefully build some hype for the Black Panther film.