Ten Years of Evolution (What to Expect from a Post-War MCU)

The MCU officially hits the double-digits this year, and boy are they celebrating with a bang. Avengers: Infinity War is set to release exactly ten years and two days after Marvel’s cinematic battering ram of an opener Iron Man, and it’s stacking up to be the most star-studded, explosive, expensive event film of all time.
Infinity War is also looking to reshape how the MCU works in-universe as well, with permanent deaths of Marvel mainstays appearing more and more likely to become a reality. However, there are deeper changes occurring to this universe that even the most observant fans may be missing. As such, I think it’s important that we run through how this franchise has changed over the past ten years and how the landscape might look moving forward.
(Spoiler alert for potentially any and every MCU film through Thor: Ragnarok)


We’ve all known this was coming. Fan theories about the death toll of Infinity War have dated back as far as its announcement. Chris Evans’ unabatable desire to leave the spotlight has been well documented, Jeremy Renner’s had one foot out the door for a while now, and Robert Downey Jr is getting way too expensive. That’s not to mention that the average Avenger age (even including the 21-year-old Tom Holland) is 42, which is just about double the age of the average moviegoer. I know we live in the age of Liam Neeson running around every conceivable mode of transportation with a gun, but Marvel has both the means and the talent to be better than that.

It doesn’t take a lot of deep investigation to notice that the first four protagonists of this grand cinematic universe are all about a straight white guy in (or around) his 30s fighting another probably straight white guy who’s usually somewhere in his 40s or 50s (except Loki, who’s another white guy in his 30s, but not necessarily tied down to that traditional heterosexual lifestyle). Initially, it seemed like the primary answer to this was Scarlet Johansson’s Black Widow and the added emphasis to B3 (Black Best Bud) characters James Rhodes and Sam Wilson. After all, that’s been the pattern for ten years now. “Hey, come see this white guy fight evil. Oh, and he’s got a friend who’s [insert ethnic minority here], so this movie’s for you [insert ethnic minority here] people, too!” Just look at the airport line-up for Civil War. Of the twelve combatants: two are black, three are female, none are both.

I’m not here to make a big stink about that personally. I know these things take time. I’m simply pointing this out that when we look at audience reactions to Doctor Strange (see full-length cliché above), it might become apparent that people aren’t actually tired of origin stories; they’re just tired of the same origin story. They’re tired of seeing the same type of character go through the same type of trials to make the same humbling realization before resolving things with the same white love interest in the third act. Iron Man is getting especially problematic in this field, as he’s starting to do it in other people’s movies.

Looking to the future, we can see that Marvel has already started to make course corrections on that front. Black Panther (the first live-action superhero movie to give a person of color top billing in 14 years) is already building up massive amounts of hype. Ant-Man and Wasp and Captain Marvel are adding much needed emphasis on the female front. Plus, there’s the insanely diverse Guardians of the Galaxy films (of which we’re promised at least one more). Even Blade might be coming back, since the film rights have finally reverted home.

Marvel Comics have already established precedent for a black Captain America, a female Thor, and a black female Iron Man. With Evans and Downey Jr potentially looking to bow out, now is as convenient a time as ever to start telling new stories under recognizable brands. There’s a lot to be owed to the superstars who built the franchise, but I think Feige and Co. are due to start giving airtime to new voices, if for no other reason than to keep things fresh. (Also, I’m really just pulling for an Amadeus Cho Hulk sometime in the near future.)

Gonna be honest, I think Thor: Ragnarok just struck the killing blow on the very concept of a “solo” film. From now on, I doubt we’re going to see any more Iron Man 3’s where the hero comes back from the big event and has to face one of his (or her) own personal rogues gallery in his (or her) own little pocket of reality. The selling point of Marvel has always been the interconnectedness of everything (which is also the premise of my current favorite show on television #shamelessplug). I think, now, they’ve finally figured out how to make that work throughout the entire cinematic universe, not just the team-ups.

In place of the traditional solo outing, we’re likely to see more like sub-combinations of heroes who end up having to solve slightly smaller problems while the others are occupied or away or (in Hulk’s case) REALLY away.

This is once again a change for the better. Pulling characters with established relationships together means you don’t have to waste time expositing said relationship, and you can instead leap right to the meat of it. Civil War is about Steve Rogers’ and Tony Stark’s competing ideologies. Ragnarok is about Thor and Bruce Banner recognizing and accepting their own strengths. Even Spider-Man: Homecoming shows both Peter Parker and Tony Stark having to realize that each of them has more to offer the other than first presumed. It’s these constantly evolving relationships that are really what matter about this whole “shared universe” concept. Everything else is just window dressing.

In case you’ve been living under a rock recently, Disney bought Fox (well, most of Fox). Basically, what that means for Marvel is that the X-Men and Fantastic Four can come back home. What this means for… well, for everything is up in the air still, but the projection that these properties entering the MCU proper is probable, problematic or not.

Many fans are going nuts about the possibility of Hugh Jackman coming back out of retirement or finally a House of M movie. I, meanwhile, would be very excited to see the absolute craziness the Fantastic Four will bring with them. After all, Reed Richards and Sue Storm also bring with them the prospects of Franklin Richards, a.k.a. Marvel’s own patented and trademarked metaphysical can of worms. So yeah, the possibilities just became endless. A Marvel Zombies movie suddenly sounds plausible, or a Deadpool Kills The Marvel Universe spin-off, or a Marvel 1602 series. They can literally do anything now with the perfect excuse of “Most little boys count sheep to go to sleep. Little Franklin Richards creates miniature alternate universes.”

Speaking of which, Deadpool can now cross over into the MCU, so there’s that and everything that comes with it. I’ll leave that one up to your imagination.
I think a big thing this could enable is far more time-jumping. Until very recently, every Marvel movie has been pretty much set in the year in which it’s released. With the release of Captain Marvel next year, however, that is about to change in a major way.

Oh, and let’s not totally disregard House of M in this article, as that could very easily be the entry point for these properties much in the way that Days of Future Past repaired the damage done by X-Men: The Last Stand. After all, when you break reality, nobody ever said you have to put it back exactly the way you found it. Sometimes, the McFly Rule applies.

Another thing that’s been reported is that the Marvel Universe moving forward will be a little less claustrophobically Earth-centric. With recent hyper-creative space ventures like Thor: Ragnarok and Guardians of the Galaxy 2 as well as Doctor Strange venturing into other dimensions, that sounds like a lot of good news. A bigger playing field means a broader range of styles and stories. It also means more creative sets and costumes, which I personally am always in favor of.

Don’t get me wrong, it was fun back in 2008 when Jeff Bridges’ Iron Monger smacked Iron Man upside the head with some guy’s motorcycle, and the original Avengers’ battle in New York was awesome, but the the drably destroyed city of Sokovia and the airport scene in Civil War kind of proved to me that Marvel’s running out of Earth-based locations for genuinely epic battles.

Meanwhile, on the cosmic side of things, you have heroes fighting living planets, Hulk smashing the actual space devil, and Doctor Strange using some super-trippy bargaining tactics on the dark side of the moon (or whatever that was). Bottom line, the crazier the production design is allowed to get, the more on-board I am.

Honestly, the MCU has always been about telling stories that are relevant to us now. From the divisiveness of Civil War to the anti-extremist message of Doctor Strange or the deeply personal family stories of Thor: Ragnarok and Guardians of the Galaxy, Marvel movies touch people in a way that no other shared universe has been able to consistently match. That is unlikely to change, because that is the most essential secret to the MCU’s undeniable success.
What will change, however, is who those stories will be about. We may have to start seriously saying goodbye to the characters we’ve loved (for better or for Thor: The Dark World) these past ten years. And you know what? That’s okay, because we have literally an entire universe of new characters to meet and love just as much, even if it’s not in the same way.

As actors age, and as characters reach the natural conclusion of their arcs, I can only hope that Marvel has the maturity and respect for the impressive storytelling machine they have constructed to allow them to rest. I don’t want to see a chair-bound Iron Man fighting an incontinent Captain America for the seventh time (wait, scratch that, bad example). I want to see what strange new worlds and new civilizations can come from this ever-expanding reality of possibilities. I want to see just how bonkers this universe can get and still feel like itself. I want to see insanely creative people say “we’re going to go do this because we can, and we think it’s cool, and we think you’ll think it’s cool too.”

There will be missteps. There will be mistakes and messes and decisions that don’t quite make any sense to anybody, but I will continue to love watching it unfold as I have these past ten years, because I’m a sucker for people who work hard to build something great.
Here’s to living up to the words of Stan Lee, “Excelsior!”

Following The Stars (Are Time-Gap Sequels The New Reboot?)

Minor spoilers for Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales. So, go see it. That be the best way to repel spoilers. Also, some slight spoilers for Star Wars: The Force Awakens, but if you haven’t seen that yet, where have you been, stranded on Jakku?

Nostalgia is a major part of wish fulfillment. The human subconscious is frequently drawn towards good memories of years gone by as a way to cope with the harshness of the present. A healthy dose of it can keep you young at heart, but too much and you’ll find yourself stuck in the past. Of course, if there’s one thing alcohol has taught us, it’s that people naturally tend to overuse their comforts.

Now, more than ever, Hollywood has picked up on this and transmogrified nostalgia into the hottest of commodities. As I have stated before, we live in an era of remakes and reboots, as well as adaptations of childhood classics. It’s a trend as old as film itself, but things really started going crazy with the turn of the new millennium. Suddenly, every studio was looking to put its gritty, effects-driven spin on old stories, and audiences ate it right up… until they didn’t.

It’s difficult to say when, but probably somewhere around the American housing market crash of 2007, audiences got more and more hip to the fact that filmmakers were just repackaging their old favorites and selling them what amounted to prettier-but-dumber versions. The average moviegoer was tightening the belt, and the Michael Bay eye-candy was not filling their needs anymore. Reboots could still work, but they now required actual effort in order to sell. Studios could no longer rely on the quality of stories from the past; they had to make them good in the present.

That is, until Disney found the loophole.

When Tron Legacy opened in 2010, it was unlike anything audiences had ever seen (and I don’t just mean Jeff Bridges’ incredible digital rejuvenation.) This was not a straight remake of the cult classic Tron, nor was it what Tim Burton wanted everyone to call a “reimagining”. This was a sequel, a pure-blooded member of the franchise, made decades after the original. It featured a new cast, supported by the old one, continuing the story of the first film with continuity (sort of) intact.

Well, Tron: Legacy didn’t do so well, so it was back to the drawing board for Disney. (In the meantime, they had Marvel movies to make, so nobody needs to feel bad for the mouse.) I can only imagine the post-mortem on that film, the conversations of what went wrong. It had a star-studded cast, groundbreaking effects, and a story that held together well enough. What was it about this movie that sent it the way of Atlantis: The Lost Empire?

I’ll tell you what it was: Tron was a cult classic. Sure, it has a fanbase of some kind, but the majority of them found it after its theatrical run. So, sure they liked it, maybe even loved it, but it wasn’t like it was this major event that had suddenly stopped happening, leaving hordes of fans without a regular fix. It wasn’t, say, Star Wars.

Or Jurassic Park, for that matter. Universal actually beat Disney to the punch, with Jurassic World making out like a bandit at the box office half a year before The Force Awakens broke records on opening weekend. Even Warner Brothers jumped in with Mad Max: Fury Road. 2015 had clinched it; the studios had struck gold, and nostalgia was the key.

Fast-forward to 2017. Rogue One has been heralded as possibly the best Star Wars film ever, The Last Jedi has everyone buzzing like mad, and Jurassic World II is chugging its way along to a 2018 release. Blade Runner 2049 is looking to be a better Ghost in the Shell than director Rupert Sanders tried to push on us. It’s even happening on television with shows like The X-Files and Twin Peaks coming back to weird people out once again.

Here’s the thing, though: These are all continuations. They’re taking endings that were definitively endings and changing them into “to be continued”s. Granted, this is nothing new (circa 1986, with Back to the Future’s VHS release), and life does go on. However, there is something to be said about closing the book.

That’s where Pirates of the Caribbean comes in.

Ah yes, Pirates of the Caribbean. Now there’s a film franchise that’s gone through as many rises and falls as you can find on the attraction that inspired it. They made swashbuckling cool again with The Curse of the Black Pearl, invented the feature-length movie teaser with Dead Man’s Chest, and discovered that maybe there is a such thing as too much plot in the 3-hour behemoth that was At World’s End (my personal favorite of the franchise, but I realize I’m in the minority there). Nevertheless, each film kept making more money. So, to no one’s surprise but many’s chagrin, Jerry Bruckheimer pushed ever onward with yet another sequel. Unlike the two films before it, On Stranger Tides was a standalone sequel, leaping far away from the tangled web of continuity that came before. Unfortunately, that ended up being the film’s downfall. Without the grandiose plot threads of the original trilogy to put wind in its sails and Gore Verbinski’s incredible talent to manically focus on everything at once, the fourth installment in the saga ended up adrift, drowning in its comparative dullness. Penelope Cruz and Sam Claflin served as poor replacements for trilogy mainstays Keira Knightley and Orlando Bloom respectively. Turning Jack Sparrow (easily Johnny Depp‘s biggest cash cow) into the protagonist was entirely a mistake, and Ian McShaneas Blackbeard was an unforgivably dull villain. Even the supernatural aspects of the film, which were consistently incredible up to that point, were painfully watered down. Certainly, it had the highest opening weekend gross of the franchise, but general audience reaction was that nobody really cared to find out where the blatant cliffhanger ending led. Overall, the whole endeavor didn’t add anything special, and it left the franchise with the wrong kind of salty taste.

Fast forward again to 2017. We have a new Pirates film on our hands, Dead Men Tell No Tales, and it is absolutely dripping with nostalgia. Rather than flee from its predecessors, this film celebrates its heritage. Instead of trying to make Jack a likable hero, the writers returned him to a lovable fly in the ointment. What’s more, On Stranger Tides offered nothing in terms of closure, whereas Dead Men Tell No Tales is all about closure. It’s what our new leads, Henry Turner and Carina Smyth, are searching for; what the grim grinning Captain Salazar (portrayed hauntingly by the acclaimed Javier Bardem) is chasing after; and what Jack Sparrow, characteristically, is running far away from. Even Hector Barbossa gets mixed up in this whole closure mess when-oops, spoilers…

He’s Carina Smyth’s father. There, I’ve ruined that entire subplot for you. Man, I’m just as bad as Wikipedia.

What I’m getting at is that Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales revels in the fact that it is a part of its franchise, for better or for worse. In this way, rises above not only On Stranger Tides, but also the film to which critics have been comparing it: Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

Yes, I just said Dead Men Tell No Tales was better than The Force Awakens. I can feel some hate already.

I’d like to preface this (too late for that, interlude, maybe?) by saying I am a fan of both Star Wars and Pirates of the Caribbean. Along with Back to the Future, they’re my top three favorite franchises of all time. (Ooh, I’ve angered some more people, I’m sure.) Furthermore, I enjoyed The Force Awakens. It is not at all a bad film.

But is it really Star Wars?

When it comes down to it, The Force Awakens is a great, fun, frenetic science-fantasy action-adventure movie with impressive effects and a serviceable story. However, that alone does not make a Star Wars movie. (Trigger Warning: This is my opinion.)

Here is a list of things that make a Star Wars movie:

  • The Force
  • An epic struggle between good and evil with our heroes caught in the middle.
  • Memorable main and side characters that richly fill out the universe and give it a lived-in feel
  • Intense space battles that immerse you into the conflict (Plus, it can’t be Star Wars if there aren’t some wars in the Stars)

Here’s a list of what The Force Awakens gave us:

  • The Force (so far so good)
  • An epic struggle between good and evil with our heroes occasionally getting mixed up in it (wait, what?)
  • Memorable main characters that fill the frame so we remember what toys to buy at the Disney store (whoa, hang on there…)
  • A light dusting of X-Wings shooting down Tie Fighters which takes a massive back seat to what amounts to a whole lot of infighting (now, that’s hardly fair.)

Ask anyone what was the best part of The Force Awakens, and they’ll probably pull up a pithy quip from Finn or Han, whip out a funny Stormtrooper moment, or remind you that Leia was in it and as a military general no less. (Side Note: I totally support that decision, made perfect sense for her character, but I do disagree with people who denigrate her contributions as Princess Leia by comparison. Princess Leia got things done.) That’s all great, and they were a lot of fun, but where’s the scale? Where’s the grandeur? Star Wars is a SPACE OPERA, and yet The Force Awakens is written more like an episode of NCIS (again, good in its own right, but not Star Wars).

In direct contrast, Dead Men Tell No Tales carries on the piratey torch with bountiful betrayals, convoluted coincidence, and some deliciously creepy sea myths. Captain Jackblunders about some wonderfully zany escapades, and turns out to be-ah, spoilers.

He’s the reason why they’re all in this big mess, once again. If Jack Sparrow hadn’t led Captain Salazar into the Devil’s Triangle, they could have just popped on over to the trident, grabbed it, and Paul McCartney‘s your surprisingly funny cameo.

From the sharp tongued wit of the dialogue to the legacy of its mythos, the film stays true to its nature and serves as a heartwarming epilogue to the original trilogy that spawned it. Honestly, if the story ended here, I’d be okay with that.

It probably won’t though, so keep a weathered eye on that horizon.

Art Imitates Life (The Underlying Message of Doctor Strange)

I didn’t want to have to post this. I had an absolute blast writing it, but I was hoping (and, until now, assuming) that everyone already kind of knew what I was saying, that it didn’t really need to be said.

Well, now Donald Trump and Steve Bannon control the White House, Christian terrorism is on the rise, and everyone’s shouting at each other like “this wasn’t my fault!”

Okay, so I was wrong. Here we go.

2016, right? What a year that was. Warner Brothers teamed up with DC to prove (twice!) to everyone that they don’t know how to make comic book movies. Fox stumbled off of their Deadpool high with X-Men. Paramount painfully mishandled Star Trek’s 50th anniversary (not that Universal did much better with Back to the Future’s 30th in 2015). Meanwhile, Universal, eh, they did all right.

It was a really good year for the House of Mouse, however: Civil War, Finding Dory, Moana Rogue One. Disney and their subsidiaries are on fire right now (which is kind of poetic, given how many wildfires California had last year). They just can’t seem to not stick the landing with audiences and critics alike (despite the usual detractors).

So, what put all of these films over the top? What do they have that the other studios can’t seem to consistently grasp?

Well, they all featured well-rounded characters, memorable quotes, and some well-choreographed action sequences. I mean, those things got and kept butts in seats, sure, but the answer we’re looking for lies underneath all that. Each of these otherwise fantastical films contained, at their cores, a surprisingly grounded and applicable thesis.

Captain America: Civil War expertly represented the real-world relationship between the public and private sectors and asked questions of the role and reach of government as well as the ethics of taking responsibilities of a sovereign nation and burdening them onto yourself. Finding Dory, meanwhile, showed the value of proactivity and the danger of playing the victim for too long. Rogue One reinforced the importance of optimism and determination in a world that seems against you. Finally, Moana offers a lesson in selflessness and warns against the dangers of complicity.

Now, you may have noticed one film missing from the list. It’s last year’s one black sheep film from the Marvel machine: Doctor Strange

And it’s one of the most important films of the year.

According to Box Office Mojo, Doctor Strange grossed $664 million and some change at the box office. That’s certainly not a terrible return. I mean, they did better than break even against the film’s reported $165 million budget, but compare it to Civil War’s $1.15 billion and you. begin to see the problem. Even DC’s critically panned Suicide Squad beat it by $100 million.

The primary complaint about Doctor Strange was that it was yet another formulaic origin story. It had pacing issues, controversial casting, and the good doctor isn’t exactly Spider-Man when it comes to instant recognition. What’s more, Mads Mikkelson’s villainous Kaecilius (which should totally be somebody’s rap moniker by now) was as bland as a white rice sandwich. The mind-bending visuals were initially impressive, but ultimately failed to deliver in the third act. Overall, it felt like a really strong premise that could have maybe just used a little more workshopping. before heading into production. Unfortunately, this gave most audiences the impression that it was just narratively unoriginal, which is not true, not at all.

I’m not saying it deserves an Oscar for its writing, but it deserves better.

This is where Disney (and, by extension, Marvel Studios) has mastered the art. Even their “good enough” films contain more depth than many other studios’ tentpoles. For example, peel off the trippy visual flair and the mystical mumbo jumbo, and Doctor Strange becomes a stark (Marvel pun not intended) commentary on our current political climate.

Think about it. Kaecilius and his followers stand for the conservative extreme: misinformed, disenfranchised, and cynically critical of the current world order. Mordo represents the liberal extreme: rigidly ethical, blind to viewpoints other than those he espouses, and easily turned against his own kind if he catches even the faintest whiff of compromise (sorry, I mean “hypocrisy”). The Ancient One plays the role of a liberal leader, who may have once been a radical like Mordo but was forced to realize that the world is not so black and white. Dormammu, well, he’s a giant demon that destroys everything he touches. I think we can all infer what he symbolizes.

Then there’s Doctor Stephen Strange, curious about both sides of the conflict, decided on neither, and regularly being turned off to the whole thing entirely because of how absolutely crazytown everything even remotely related to it is. In this allegory, Strange is the moderate, the rationalist. He uses his head to guide his heart (sometimes to a fault, as in his relationship with love interest Christine Palmer), he readily listens to opinions from both sides (as is evident in his mid-fight interview with Kaecilius), and he alters his opinions to cooperate with reality (unlike the presumptuous disciples of Dormammu and the overly judgmental Mordo). Furthermore, just like the majority of us moderates, he is utterly incapable of convincing either extreme to tone it down a bit. However, it is his willingness to listen, his constant thirst for knowledge, and his critical thinking—unclouded by partisan absolutes—that allows him to approach Dormammu not as a combatant seeking to defeat the beast, but as a negotiator seeking the best possible outcome.

This “you’re either with us or you’re against us mentality” is growing tiresome, and the creative team at Marvel seems to be picking up on that, whether they mean to or not. If Iron Man is the hero of industry and Captain America the hero of the underdog, Stephen Strange is the hero of the silent majority, and this is where the film breaks off from every Marvel film before it. Our hero doesn’t gain some new power that allows him to offer a brute force beatdown to anyone who stands in his way, nor does he have some epiphany that strengthens his resolve to fight for what he believes in. Instead, he realizes what must be done and uses his cleverness to see it through.

Doctor Strange represents the ultimate political figure, strategic, diplomatic, rational. He doesn’t just ram his own way down others’ throats. A rational person understands the inherent risks of that gambit far outweigh the rewards. No, instead he approaches his opposition as an equal and says “I have come to bargain.”

What’s Xavier Doing in Logan? (SUPER SPOILERIFIC THEORY)

Before I get started, kudos to Reddit user Jboogs1 for coming up with a similar theory around the same time I did. Credit where credit is due, they posted before I started writing this, so check out their version of this theory over at Reddit.

Also, everything in this article is entirely unproven. I have no confirmation from 20th Century Fox, James Mangold, Hugh Jackman, or anybody. However, if you are the type who prefers to go into a movie completely blind (I respect that, by the way), you may want to avoid this article for now, as it contains speculative spoiling.

If you haven’t born witness to the overbearingly incredible trailer for what’s looking to be Fox’s next sorely needed success, then here it is. You’d best watch it before reading on, because it’s what we’re going to be talking about in this article.

Mining from the veins of The RoadBook of Eli, and The Last of Us, it’s looking like James Mangold and his team have something special prepared for us. We already know that it’s likely to be Jackman’s last turn in the role, so expect him to put everything into this probable finale. However, this could full-well be the send-off to yet another X-Men veteran. After all, in case you somehow missed it, that is indeed acclaimed actor Sir Patrick Stewart back as Charles Xavier who seems to be accompanying Logan on his journey. This presents an interesting and unique question.

What Is Xavier Doing In This Movie?

Well, that depends on which Xavier you’re talking about: the very real Xavier who is dying on the gurney or the psychological construct riding in the back of Logan’s truck.

Yes, you read that right. Anyone with eyes can tell that Xavier (likely among many others) is going to die somewhere within the film. My suspicion is that it will be earlier rather than later, and it will be his dying wish that drives Logan to unsheathe his claws one last time.

Proof you want? I don’t have any, but I do have some speculative analysis:

First off, we already know that Professor Charles Xavier is a telepath. Even though information has come out that his powers are growing unstable with age, he clearly still has them. Feasibly, we can infer that he might use them to create an afterimage of himself in Logan’s mind that would guide his weary soul and stay him from inaction. Honestly, even if that’s not the case, the trailer gives us a clear picture that Logan has taken to heavily hitting the bottle since we last saw him, so it could even be that his survivor’s guilt manifests itself into the hallucinogenic form of the most long-standing moral compass he’s ever had.

Secondarily, the Xavier in the truck is far more, let’s say, coherent than the one on the gurney. The description in the article I linked to above (here it is again for the lazy) mentions that Charles does not even remember Logan at times. I may be reading more into body language and tone of voice, but the Charles Xavier getting Miss Daisied around in the trailer seems a bit too lucid for that. I will admit, this is by far the weakest point of speculation I have here, as he could be suffering from Alzheimer’s, which would allow for periods of lucidity.

Thirdly, the large majority of footage regarding Xavier is either him dying on the gurney or him hanging out only with Logan and the girl (who I’m pretty sure we’re all allowed to say is X-23). It all feels a bit too reminiscent of The Sixth Sense to me (if you don’t know what I mean by that, come on, it’s been out for 17 years already). There are some shots of Xavier getting his freaky mind thing on with a whole bunch of (probably doomed) commandos, but that could easily be toward the beginning of the film.

Finally, and most importantly, there’s the action. Logan is absolutely wild in this trailer. He’s clearly on the full offensive in the scenes we’ve been shown, and that’s not something that tends to happen when you’ve got an infirmed, elderly man sitting around nearby. Considering that Logan’s idea of a safehouse is an overturned water tower, the chances of him finding actual safe places for his friend to nap while he does that not very nice thing that he does are slim to none.

So that’s my view of it. That’s my theory for how Professor Charles Xavier fits into the movie Logan. Could I be wrong? Oh, absolutely! In fact, if you think I am wrong, I invite you to tell me just that in the comments. If you think I’m right, feel free to tell me that too.

No matter what, though, I’m just excited to get one last run with my favorite Wolverine.

Suicide Squad’s 3 Biggest Mistakes (Even After DC “Fixed It”)

It’s been a bad year for the DCEU (that’s short for “DC Extended Universe”, which is what they’re calling their cinematic universe, for some reason). First, Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice fell flat on its face after opening weekend due to a barrage of poor reception from both critics and fans. So, they decided to course-correct their next big film, Suicide Squad, only for it to do the same thing.

But how could it be so? They fixed it, didn’t they?

Well, unfortunately, they missed a few critical mistakes. SPOILER ALERT (Although I don’t think there’s much to spoil that the movie doesn’t spoil on its own.)

All right, so one of the major gripes with Batman v. Superman was that we paid to see an action movie and instead got a buttload of exposition with some action tacked onto the end. Everyone’s agreed on that, right? Okay. Well, apparently DC didn’t hear that complaint, because Suicide Squad is a buttload of exposition with a dash of action sprinkled throughout. Deadshot gets a flashback, Harley gets a flashback, El Diablo gets a flashback. Everybody gets a flashback! They went full Oprah. You never go full Oprah.

In reality, none of that would be so bad if it was done in one of two ways:

  • Front-load all of the exposition, and then drop us into the action with no interruptions, or
  • Drop us into the action from the start and only give us exposition as it becomes necessary.

Unfortunately, somebody decided that this movie needed to do both. As a result, the action of the second hour gets unnecessarily broken up by information which we’ve already been explicitly given, and the later moments of the movie that seem like they’re supposed to be major reveals are spoiled by the entire first half. I know that exposition is the foundation of a plot, but think of it like baking a cake. If you double the flour, all you’re going to get is a really dry cake.

Now this actually felt like the result of DC’s “fixing” job. After all, the biggest complaint about Batman v. Superman was that it was “too dark”, right? (Actually, it was somewhere between the hypocritical, somewhat nonsense motivations of the main characters and the plot with more holes in it than Jimmy Olsen, but oh well.) Well, DC listened–or they think they listened–and decided to make some changes in the then-upcoming Suicide Squad to make it more fun.

And what say fun more than randomly tossing in pop songs from the 80s? Who cares if it’s appropriate? Who cares if tough-as-nails Amanda Waller marches into the most serious proposition of her life to the tune of a comparatively silly song? Who cares if Eminem’s “Without Me” just kind of gets slapped onto a scene that really didn’t need music to be entertaining in the first place? Who cares if Bohemian Rhapsody makes no sense as the closing anthem to this movie other than the fact that it was in a trailer that a lot of people liked?

I care.

I care because it feels manufactured. It feels fake. It feels like it doesn’t belong in the same movie where legitimate character comedy actually exists. Let’s remember Captain Boomerang’s characteristically cowardly reaction to Rick Flag telling the team that they’re all free to go. Let’s remember the scene in which Waller unflinchingly describes the primal–albeit tragically underused–beast that is Killer Croc as she herself digs ravenously into her own steak. Let’s remember just about any scene involving Deadshot, Flag, and Waller. This is a film that any viewer can see has legitimate comedy written into it. The additional pop music only served to establish that the filmmakers were not nearly so confident, and that lack of confidence can destroy a movie’s credibility.

I’m only going to say this once: You should never try to apply traditional morals to a film about supervillains being forced to save the world. There is just so much that can and will go wrong.

For characters like Deadshot or El Diablo, it works. They are shown as characters with some kinds of morals and better natures that can be appealed to.

For Harley Quinn, who spent the majority of the movie obsessed with returning to her true love, The Joker (whose surprisingly uninspired performance by Jared Leto deserves its own article), the idea of her turning down the temptation of bringing him back from the dead is just for the most preposterous reason, even for her.

Captain Boomerang came the closest to what I expected from this movie, taking every opportunity to act as selfishly as possible, but even he returns for the final fight without any cheeky explanation. Come on, have him say he “couldn’t find a ride out” or something. Anything would have been better than the bland Magnificent Seven rip-off we were given.

Meanwhile, Killer Croc’s reason for existing in this movie just totally eludes me. The film gives him no motivations, very little personality, and utterly nothing to remember except that he likes BET. He could have not been in this movie, and I would never have noticed. For a character usually as imposing as him, this was devastating.

The saddest part about Suicide Squad is that there is a reasonably good movie sitting in there, but the filmmakers wasted their opportunity to make it so. They overcorrected in the wrong ways and totally overlooked ways to actually improve the film that they already had.

Oh yeah, and that after-credits scene was made totally unnecessary by the fact that we already had a teaser trailer for Justice League come out, like weeks ago. The post-credits sequence for Iron Man only worked so well because it was such a surprise. You can’t surprise people with something you’ve already revealed. That was a problem with this movie we addressed above, and you kept that problem alive right through the end, DC. Please, for all our sakes, figure out what you’re doing before things get any worse.

That’s just my opinion, though. What do you think? Did I miss anything, or was I too harsh on the movie? (I will say that, despite everything, Will Smith’s performance as Deadshot was top caliber.) Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

The Evil Genius of THE WOODS (How To Properly Revive A Franchise)

Okay, show of hands: who was absolutely surprised by the reveal at SDCC 2016 that Lionsgate’s little project The Woods actually turned out to be a little bit more familiar than we were led to believe? Considering that I can’t see any of your hands (unless you were to post a picture of your raised hand in the comment section, I guess, but who all’s going to do that?) I’m going to assume all of you.

Oh wait, except there were the clever ones of you that picked up on all of the little breadcrumbs Lionsgate left for fans to find and that I completely missed because The Woods wasn’t even on my radar–exactly, I would posit, as Lionsgate planned it.

Anyone who knows literally nothing about any of this and wants to find out for themselves, just cover your eyes and shout “la la la la la la” as loud as you can.

Ha ha. You look ridiculous.

Moving on. Now we all know that Adam Wingard’s The Woods is actually titled Blair Witch. I think I can safely say no one saw this coming, so bravo to whomever thought up the most clever reveal of the century. Now, it seems, the confusion is to whether this upcoming entry is going to be a sequel or a reboot.

I’m here to say “yes” to both theories.

Yup, Blair Witch is actually a reboot OF a sequel. You see, Blair Witch (whether the filmmakers realize it or not) is actually a remake of Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2. That’s right. I went there, and now I’m going to have some ‘splaining to do:

I mean, you couldn’t guess that? Surprise, surprise. Book of Shadows was ALSO a sequel to The Blair Witch Project! (GASP! NO! IT CAN’T BE TRUE!)

At this point, I should probably embed the trailer for your purview (in case you somehow stumbled upon this article WITHOUT having seen it already).

From the looks of things in the trailer, Blair Witch is going to be a hybrid of found footage and more traditional cinematography. Do you know where else that happened? Book of Shadows, not that it was done well, but the connection is there. Let’s face it, though, found footage is a dying trend. It was a great gimmick all of three times, and it serves far better as a piece of a larger puzzle.

The whole plot of Blair Witch seems to kick off with the main characters drawn to the location of the original film by video footage from said original film. Guess where that was done first. If you guessed Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers… what are you smoking, man? It was Book of Shadows. On the bright side, it looks like Lionsgate is going to be smarter about it, giving the franchise events a much more linear feel by treating the original footage as actual found footage rather than the… confusingness that Book of Shadows went with. (Seriously, trying to sell us that the entire movie was a mass-media documentary? Hard sell, Artisan Entertainment.)

You know it. I know it. Everybody knows it. If our friends at Lionsgate are any kind of smart, they’re going to either ignore or straight up erase the events of that pile of moose caca. I’m not saying that Days of Future Past is the one and only formula for success, but it’s certainly a good role model.

Of course, I could be totally wrong, and they may find some contrived way to retain Book of Shadows into the continuity, but nobody wants that.

I know, blasphemy, right? Hear me out. Within all the fecal matter of the movie so bad that they tried burning the soundtrack to the back of the disc to sell more copies, there were some hints of a good sequel. A new group of kids returns to the woods? Pretty cliché, but I see no reason to mess with what works. Reliving the events of the past to reveal the state of the present? Yeah, that could work, especially with the broad room for interpretation The Blair Witch Project gave us in the first place. Rather than starting over from scratch, Blair Witch seems to be taking the good ideas from Book of Shadows and giving us a proper sequel in its stead.

So, on the one hand, you can complain that what was looking to be an original IP turned out to be another sequelboot.

Or, on the other hand, you can complain that Hollywood is yet again trying to strike gold with a product that already struck gold in the first place.

Or, on the other hand, you can appreciate that Lionsgate is taking a creative franchise that was all but dead in the water and revitalizing it with something people might actually enjoy.

Wait, now I have three hands.

I have to go think about this.

Playing Catch-Up (Why Rushing A Franchise Doesn’t Work)

Okay, as a warning preface to all of this, everything I’m writing today is about a movie that has not come out yet and (as far as I know) have not even begun production. So, I could be 100% wrong on all of this, but I could be 100% right. That second possibility is what worries me, which is why I paused research on a piece about feminism in Star Wars to write this now.

Why now?

This is why.

For those of you who just can’t bring yourselves to click away, I’ll clue you in. There are now whispers of Fox teasing that they will be taking another swing at adapting the Dark Phoenix Saga following this year’s X-Men: Apocalypse. There is some confusion over whether it will be the next film or a few installments down the road, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it was the next one.


I’m glad you asked.


In 2012, Marvel Studios released the biggest and most successful superhero film in the history of mankind, and there was much rejoicing. It had action, it had drama, it had a Hulk everyone loved, and no one knew how it could get any bigger until it did. Now, they have Captain America: Civil War (which we all know is basically Avengers 2.5) coming out this year and a third, two-part Avengers event visible on the horizon. Say what you will about Marvel Studios. They’re on fire.

Update 01/18/2018: They’re still on fire.


DC, in the meantime, has been working with their parent company, Time Warner, to try to get back in the game. 2009’s Man of Steel was a reasonable hit, but look at what they have to compete with in their second movie alone. It’s no wonder they packed their movie with more characters than The Amazing Spider-Man 2. There are going to be no less than 67 heroes (I’ll repeat that, 67 HEROES) in Avengers: Infinity War. So, now, Justice League is getting a 2018 release, but really, the first Justice League movie just came out.

Update 01/18/2018: Justice League was an underwhelming, poorly conceived, rushed mess that proves my point better than I ever could have.

These are two companies that have entire universes at their disposal. What does 20th Century Fox have? I’ll tell you exactly what they have: DeadpoolThe Fantastic Four, and The X-Men.

Now, Deadpool was a huge hit, don’t get me wrong, but that’s not the kind of lightning that’s guaranteed to strike twice. Meanwhile, the Fantastic Four, well, there’s pretty good evidence that franchise is cursed. That leaves us with everybody’s favorite mutant team to make the big bucks. Every year. Forever.

So, it make sense for Fox to want to put its best feet forward with such a prominent story arc as the Dark Phoenix Saga. I mean, that’s how they’ve been doing it so far. Pick a storyline the most people remember and press play. Watch the money roll in. Done.

There are a few problems with that, though.


DC is probably going to be able to attest to this when Justice League: Part 1 comes out, but seeing all of your favorite heroes in the same movie isn’t as exciting the second time around. Actually, Marvel can already attest to this.

The Dark Phoenix Saga is a high stakes arc, and people are going to be disappointed if there isn’t a mortality rate to match that, especially since killing superheroes for good has started to become popular again. Isn’t that right, Wolverine?

Now, when I say high stakes, I mean high stakes. In the original comics, Jean Grey goes 100% power-mad bonkers. She murders billions of people (and that’s low-balling it). She becomes the single most dangerous active weapon in the universe, and the scariest thing is that she’s the one pulling the trigger. We’re talking decimation and loss of life so great that Marvel’s then editor-in-chief Jim Shooter declared that she was not to be revived ever unless someone could come up with a way to explain that she was not responsible for the atrocities committed.

I mean, where do you go from there? I supposed you could have a post-apocalyptic future in which one of them has to go back to change the past in order to save everyone oh wait. Well, what if the original mutant was to re-emerge and turn out to be a really bad dude. He could be called Apocalypse and oh wait again.

Uh, I guess you could do House of M, or you could do that one storyline where half of the kids at Xavier’s School For Gifted Youngsters start a Mutant Lives Matter riot.

Or you could do Avengers vs. X-Men. No, I’m kidding, we all know you’ll never do that.


Yes, news is that Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War are going to have dire consequences and will likely be the exit point for some major players in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. On the DC side of things, oh wait, spoilers.

As I said, the Dark Phoenix Saga is a HIGH STAKES ARC, and it will more than likely be the exit of a few favorite. Also, it will (if they do it properly) most definitely be the temporary exist of Jean Grey.

Why doesn’t this work? Marvel’s characters have been with us since 2012. We’ve had 11 movies and 2 television shows with some combination of these characters to get to know what these people mean to each other and to us. Fox should know this. They’ve done it right once before.

One of the few things that Fox did right all the way with the original X-Men trilogy was Jean Grey’s arc. In the first movie, they introduced her as a character and played around with the love triangle featuring Cyclops and Wolverine that everyone knows so well. We also got a brief indicator that something bad might be on the horizon. In the second movie, the foreshadowing became stronger, but she still proved a vital member of the team and even saved everyone before… Oh, hang on, spoilers.

No, that movie came out 13 years ago. Forget the spoilers. Jean Grey got swallowed up by a lake. We all thought it was over, but it wasn’t. That brings us to the movie Fox wants us to forget ever happened. No, not that one. Not that one either. Wow, I really did forget about that one.

X-Men: The Last Stand may have done a disservice to a lot of characters, but Jean Grey was not one of them. She got her explosive rebirth and, let me tell you.




She killed Cyclops. She killed Professor X. She killed dozens of random mutants and soldiers. The whole while, she let loose her rage and tormented Wolverine. Then, at the end of this arc, that had been building for three movies, we lost Jean Grey.

More importantly, we saw Wolverine lose Jean Grey, and it was tragic.

I don’t care what anyone says, that scene was the best scene in any X-Men movie to date. Hugh Jackman’s screams are still ringing in my ears, and It’s 2016.

We’re just now meeting this new Jean Grey, and they already want to us to say goodbye.

Or they don’t, and I’m wrong.

God, I hope I’m wrong.

STEVE ROGERS IS HYDRA!!! (oh wait, no he’s not…)

Spoilers… I mean… Obviously…

So, here we are. Captain America is HydraCaptain America: Steve Rogers #1‘s big twist ending that made kids cry has been making waves around the internet for days. Everyone hates itEveryone REALLY hates itIt’s worse than the Holocaust!

Whoa there…

Calm down, dude. Let me show you the light at the end of the tunnel.

That’s right, I can PREDICT THE FUTURE! Well, I can read preview pages of upcoming issues of comics online, anyway.

Yeah, that’s right. Here’s the preview page for Captain America: Steve Rogers #2.

For those of you who hate clicking on links (how did you even GET here?) here’s the plot summary for the upcoming issue:

As Steve battles a resurgent Hydra more dangerous than ever before, he must confront a ghost from his past!

The cover image gives away more, but you’re going to have to click on to see it. Why? Because there’s no such thing as a free lunch. (If it makes you feel better, you can just assume that I’m secretly Hydra or something.)

If that was Steve Rogers (100% ACTUAL Steve Rogers) acting of his own free will at the end of issue #1 without some kind of secret Hydra-battling plan behind it, then that description up there would make absolutely no sense.

Now, I have no idea what Marvel is planning for this run, but don’t presume that they’re dumb enough to make him a villain on his 75th anniversary.

The only person who should be mad is Hydra Bob. If Cap really HAS been on the Hydra payroll, that’s money that’s not going to ACTUAL Hydra agents.

EDIT #1: Check out this wonderful article reporting on an interesting fan theory that’s pretty convincing, given that Erik Selvig’s in this storyline.

EDIT #2: Wow. Seriously, people.

The Trouble With Titles (Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Laziness)

Do you like the title of this editorial? Look at it. Look hard. Maybe squint a bit. Look at it upside-down. Okay, stop standing on your head; you look ridiculous.

That wasn’t probably what you were thinking about when you clicked the link to come here, but it speaks volumes about you. Do you prefer long titles or short? Do you enjoy a little wit or play on words, or would you rather they stay straight-laced and to the point? How much ambiguity will you allow before you put your foot firmly down?

I ask all this, because titles are heavily subject to taste. There is a great deal of one man’s trash and another man’s treasure. If you don’t agree with what I have to say here, it does not make either you or me wrong. I welcome any dissenters to do so without fear of derision from me, and I will do my best to defend you from others who would do so. However, there is also a such thing as “good taste” and “bad taste”, so I shall be carrying forth with my argument forthwith.

Oh, wait. Sorry, I forgot to mention that this writing will be dealing with subject matter related to the upcoming film Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. I won’t be mentioning anything that’s not in the trailers, but if you prefer to walk in blind, know that there are potential SPOILERS ahead. You’ve been warned. Now, onward.

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Wow, is that a long title (though, I guess I’m one to talk). Plus, what does the v stand for if not for “versus” (which has been confirmed to absolutely not be what it stands for)? Why tack on “Dawn of Justice”? Why is Batman’s name first in a movie that is a sequel to a Superman film (whether DC and Warner Brothers want to admit it or not)? It raises more questions about itself than it does about the movie, and that doesn’t work for a title like this.

To really get some context on this, we should rewind a bit. Let’s go back to May 2014. Man of Steel is just under a year old. Most of the world has accepted that this is what DC’s Cinematic—oh, I’m sorry—”Extended” Universe will be, for better or for worse. We all know there’s a sequel coming, the sequel to Man of Steel, and it’s going to have Batman in it. Oh, what are they going to call it? Will it be cool? Will it be savvy? Will it acknowledge the general intelligence of the audience to which it is marketing? Then, from the nerd heavens (or at least nerd purgatory… nerdatory?), it descends. Say it with me now, “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice”.

Did you say “v”, or did you say “versus”, because it’s especially important that you don’t say “versus”. Remember, this is not “a straight ‘versus’ movie”.

This is where our first problem lies. Why is the “v” there if we’re not meant to think about this strictly as a movie in which Batman fights Superman? Why put that in front of us if you’re just going to trivialize it? Oh, speaking of trivialization, you did remember to say “Dawn of Justice” at the end, right? You have to make sure you say “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” and not just “Batman v Superman”. If you don’t, you’re not saying it right.

Understand that I’m channeling the man, woman, or whatever who came up with this title. Personally, I find myself dropping the subtitle from my vocabulary every chance I get. Throughout the entire research phase for this little rant I’ve typed up, the vast majority of my Google™ searches were formatted as such: “batman v superman [insert detailed subject matter here]”. I mean, really, it’s just too long. Furthermore, it trivializes the story of the film. “Dawn of Justice”, okay. So, now we all know that this is just going to be one big trailer for the “Justice League” film that’s increasingly imminent over the horizon (remember, we’re talking from the May 2014 perspective. Justice League wasn’t officially announced until October 2014). In fact, here’s an article that confirms that exact mentality. They straight-up say:

The film is part of the setup for director Zack Snyder’s next project, a movie about the Justice League.
Why would you allow your own movie to be trivialized like that? I understand wanting to build hype for the sequel, but it should never be at the cost of the film you’re trying to sell right now. Look at how Marvel did it. Their last film before The Avengers was Captain America: The First Avenger. Sure, you think about The Avengers coming up, but first you get to watch a movie about the guy who started it all. It’s active, whereas Dawn of Justice is passive and reminds one of the inevitable passage of time, like “how much time is left until Justice League comes out?” This film is still about Batman and Superman, yes? I mean, their names are the only two in the title, which means that they’re still getting the most screen and story time, yes? It’s called “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice”, not “Batman v Superman and Wonder Woman as well as Aquaman: Dawn of Justice featuring The Flash with special guest star Cyborg”, so I’m expecting to see more of the former than the latter.

Oh, hey, while we’re on the subject of names, you made sure to say “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” and not “Superman v Batman: Dawn of Justice”, right? It’s vital that you remember that Batman is at the front of this title, not Superman. Okay, yes. This movie does directly follow the events of a Superman film, it does feature Superman as a main protagonist, and the villain is a Superman villain (remember, it’s May 2014, we still hadn’t suffered the film’s own creators spoiling Doomsday being in the movie, so yes, “villain” not “villains”). However, Batman has had the more successful cinematic run lately, so he gets the first name spot. (Actually, here’s an article that provides an alternate theory that I can get behind… sort of. I’m not sure how okay I am with two titans duking it out being likened to a court case, but it does fit the characters’ motives.)

You know what? No, I’ve had it. This title is terrible. It’s blunt, it’s wordy, it’s way too easy to get confused, and it suffers from a supreme lack of focus. In a franchise opened by a film titled Man of Steel, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice should never have even made it to the table. What it lacks in subtlety, it makes up for boundlessly in convolution. Is this even the same team that worked on Man of Steel? Did somebody have a stroke? What gives?

What makes this all worse, though, is that DC had a title sitting there, ripe for the picking. It’s short, simple, and it would have made this film seem like the best thing ever to both those who know what it means and everyone else. It comes from the first Superman/Batman team-up comic You see, before it was called Superman/Batman, the team-up was called, quite simply, World’s Finest. While the series ended in the 1980s, the phrase itself has become synonymous with the two pillars of the DC Universe. What’s more, with only two words, it sums up what Warner Brothers couldn’t with six.

What makes Batman and Superman so interesting to watch together is that they are as different as day and night (to make the obvious comparison). They do have very different perspectives, and they do disagree. However, being the World’s Finest examples of American ideals, they always eventually push past their differences to see their shared goal of justice and freedom in a world plagued by crime and tyrants. What’s more, it doesn’t hesitate to give you chills. Re-watch the teaser for the film. I’ll embed it here:

Now, imagine Batman’s final words being followed by World’s Finest instead of the market-tested mess you’ve been force-fed for the past two years. Did you get chills? I got chills. The juxtaposition to the subject matter of the trailer, the reverential homage to the source material, the beautiful cleverness of it all, it’s almost enough to make me tear up a bit and wander down to my lake house that I don’t have throwing bread to the ducks and wondering what could have been.

Plus, they gave up on what could have been the most high-profile game of chicken in all of history. Who would be the first to use the superhero’s actual superhero name in the film title? This one simple change could have had rippling effects all the way down the line of the DCEU. Wonder Woman might have been titled The Spirit of Truth. The Flash might have been titled The Fastest Man Alive. The new Batman solo film (which we all know is coming) could have been The Caped Crusader. This could have gone on for ages, and it would have been fantastic.

Unfortunately, they ruined it. I’m still going to see the film, and I’ll probably like it, but this train of thought will be swimming around in the back of my mind the whole way through.