Second Trailer for Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings

The first of Marvel Cinematic Universe’s full-on Asian movies, The Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, is coming in three months, and the studio has released a second long trailer.

Marvel Studios’ Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings | Official Trailer by Marvel Entertainment on YouTube

As I wrote in my reaction to the first trailer, if there aren’t enough pre-launch links (no pun intended) to familiar characters or events, I’ll probably skip this movie.

It didn’t look like there were any additional links in this trailer, either. However, Andrew Tejada’s writeup at Tor.com did speculate whether two characters have “huge potential connections” to the MCU. One is the Abomination played by Tim Roth in The Incredible Hulk from 2008 (written by Zak Penn and directed by Louis Leterrier with Edward Norton and Liv Tyler leading the cast). I wouldn’t have been able to recognize the character, and even if I had, completely opposite to Mr. Tejada, his return certainly is far, far, far down the list of things that might entice me to the theater.

The action looks gorgeous, yes, not to mention beautifully shot. However, if I wanted to see skilled Asian people perform feats of martial arts on screen, with occasional flares of the fantastic and/or superheroic, I would’ve been watching Hong Kong flicks all along.

What I’m looking for in the MCU is individual stories that connect and interweave in arcs multiple movies wide, impossible to tell in one or two or three movies. So far the Shang-Chi trailers aren’t giving me that. (While I’ll always enjoy origin stories like the first Iron Man, it’s in connecting his story to the rest of the Avengers’ that makes the MCU so special.) And that is a real shame, since I dearly want more of the world outside the Anglo-American one on the MCU screen.

Hey, look! We found a thing on the internet! We thought it was cool, and wanted to share it with you.

More Trailers and Clips for Black Widow

The original release date for the Marvel Cinematic Universe movie Black Widow was, unfortunately, eaten up by the pandemic. Out for round two, we have a new long trailer.

Marvel Studios’ Black Widow | New Trailer by Marvel Entertainment on YouTube

Mostly recycled footage, but a few entirely new clips. Unlike the earlier ones, this trailer seems to underline Natasha’s connection to the Avengers: glimpses gleaned from the rest of the MCU stories are pasted in, and the Avengers’ theme swells in both in the beginning and at the end. I wonder how much the pandemic might have affected the decision to include them?

I also wonder whether the shorter clips linked to below, ranging from half a minute to three quarters, released in June 2021, might have to do with the careful re-opening of our movie theaters and wanting to drum up more interest, yet not going overboard in case theaters need to be closed again? (I certainly do not envy health care officials who have to make those hard calls.)

Let’s Go | Marvel Studios’ Black Widow by Marvel Entertainment on YouTube

Got This | Marvel Studios’ Black Widow by Marvel Entertainment on YouTube

Spy | Marvel Studios’ Black Widow by Marvel Entertainment on YouTube

Control | Marvel Studios’ Black Widow by Marvel Entertainment on YouTube

Finally, Marvel has uploaded a short film clip titled “In Pursuit”:

“In Pursuit” Film Clip | Marvel Studios’ Black Widow by Marvel Entertainment on YouTube

Okay, apart from the falling bit, it feels good to see an all-female team chased by an all-female team. The gender of the action heroes shouldn’t matter, if you ask me, but since we still live in a world where it does, I’m going to be rooting for Black Widow

…as long as it’s actually good—2005 Elektra, I’m looking at you!

Hey, look! We found a thing on the internet! We thought it was cool, and wanted to share it with you.

First Trailer for Eternals

The Western world is vaccinating their citizens furiously against covid-19, and societies are clamoring to retun to normal. It’s therefore no surprise that we’re seeing more movie-related news.

The first trailer for Eternals has been out over a month now:

Marvel Studios’ Eternals | Official Teaser by Marvel Entertainment on YouTube

Part of Marvel’s Cinematic Universe, it apparently follows a group of immortal, human-shaped beings who’ve lived on Earth for centuries in secret, until something (or someone?) forces them to come out of hiding.

As opposed to the first Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings trailer, there is at least one reference to the rest of the MCU, as bare and uninformative as it is, but I still don’t have a good idea of how these people connect to the rest of the characters we know.

Whether I’ll want to watch this is still up in the air; maybe the second trailer will give us more to go on. A talented, big-name cast should be interesting to see and Ramin Djawadi’s music awesome, if nothing else. Oddly (since I’m not especially keen on the early history of the Near East), one of the things I would enjoy seeing more of is Babylon and the Ishtar Gate, of which we see a short glimpse in the trailer.

At this writing, Eternals is set to release on November 05, 2021.

Hey, look! We found a thing on the internet! We thought it was cool, and wanted to share it with you.

First Trailer for Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings

The newest trailer in the Marvel Cinematic Universe is for Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings:

Marvel Studios’ Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings | Official Teaser by Marvel Entertainment on YouTube

Um, okay?

If I knew little of the Avengers upon first being untroduced to the MCU, I know absolutely nothing about this Shang-Chi and his (their?) connection to the rest of the Marvel characters. Disappointingly, the trailer itself didn’t answer a single question of how they’re connected either. Oh, we got a lot of fisticuffs and action—speedy fight scenes handsomely filmed, sure—but no answers.

If the rest of the trailers aren’t going to link Shang-Chi to the characters or events we already know, I doubt I’ll want to see the movie in the theaters. I might not even rustle up the enthusiasm to see it on disc via the library.

At the time of this writing, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is set to open September 03, 2021, in the U.S.

Hey, look! We found a thing on the internet! We thought it was cool, and wanted to share it with you.

Quotes: We Humans Need Cinema, as a Collective Experience

Director Denis Villeneuve (whom I know from Arrival and Blade Runner 2049) talks about the decision made by Warner Brothers to release their new movies concurrently in theaters plus their streaming platform in an interview with Variety:

“I strongly believe the future of cinema will be on the big screen, no matter what any Wall Street dilettante says. Since the dawn of time, humans have deeply needed communal storytelling experiences. Cinema on the big screen is more than a business, it is an art form that brings people together, celebrating humanity, enhancing our empathy for one another — it’s one of the very last artistic, in-person collective experiences we share as human beings.

“Once the pandemic is over, theaters will be filled again with film lovers.

“That is my strong belief. Not because the movie industry needs it, but because we humans need cinema, as a collective experience.”

This is a hairy situation. I fully agree with Villeneuve in that the theater experience—both movies and traditional plays, not to mention concerts of all varieties—was created with the physical presence of masses in mind, and, indeed, it benefits enormously from our physicality.

Technology has drastically changed how many things can be achieved digitally instead of physically. However, the fact has not changed that we are physical beings and crave physical experiences. There’s nothing quite like being drawn into a story and hearing the crowd around you reacting to it with you. (Think of sports events if you’re a sports fan.)

At the same time, however, I cannot but applaud the decision from an accessibility point of view. Personally, I literally understand and enjoy movies much, much better when I can access subtitling or captioning (and this is before the reduced hearing that’s in my family’s genes has really affected me; subtitles will only get more important for me in the future). And despite the theaters Erik and I usually visited in the Before Times being physically accessible, I have also visited theaters that aren’t, or theaters that have inaccessible bathrooms, or theaters that have bad seating.

Of course, one doesn’t have to have a disability or chronic conditions to enjoy streaming brand new movies. Coming from a large family I know herding kids in and out of theaters isn’t always easy. And there have been times I might have wanted to see a movie, but it would’ve meant slogging back out after a long day, waiting for a bus to take me downtown (or riding my bike in the wind and the rain) and all of it back again afterwards, so instead I stayed comfortably home.

There are a number of ways in which streaming content immediately on release day will benefit ordinary folks of all kind. At the same time, I do hope, most fervently, that movies made for the big screen do not disappear. For me, like for Villeneuve, they’re one of the major cultural features of 20th and 21st centuries.

Serving exactly what it sounds like, the Quotes feature excerpts other people’s thoughts.

Latest Wonder Woman 1984 Teaser

Warner Brothers has released a new 60-second Wonder Woman 1984 teaser:

WONDER WOMAN 1984 – CCXP :60 by Warner Bros. Picture on YouTube

We see a few new scenes and voiceovers. I assume it’s Diana’s mother who says in the first half of the video “This world is not yet ready for all you will do” as a lead-in to some amazing stunts, like lassoing the tail of an airplane or a bolt of thunder(!).

I confess I’m sceptical of how well those kinds of stunts might work; I mean that I have a hard time imagining them not looking ridiculous. I guess we’ll see. (Eventually. We’ve been too busy to talk about when we might want to see WW84.)

2020 has been a difficult year for the performing arts, too. Apparently, to recoup some of the losses, Wonder Woman 1984 will be shown in selected theaters in the U.S. and concurrently streamed on HBO Max. The release date here is December 25, 2020.

Hey, look! We found a thing on the internet! We thought it was cool, and wanted to share it with you.

The First Villeneuve Dune Trailer Is Out

The first trailer for director Denis Villeneuve’s Dune is making its rounds, and it sure looks shiny:

Dune Official Trailer by Warner Bros. Pictures on YouTube

We don’t see many women doing much of anything, just standing, staring, emoting, and kissing, which is complete, utter, and total hooey compared to the book; I hope it’s just a case of trailers always lie.

At least Mother Gaius Helen Mohiam is prominently monologuing, but we hear nothing of Lady Jessica or Chani. As Charlotte Rampling is playing the Mother, Rebecca Ferguson Jessica, and Zendaya Chani, I have no doubt we’ll see stellar performances for the main female roles.

Timothée Chalamet plays Paul. I’ve only seen him as Laurie in the newest Little Women (2019, directed by Greta Gerwig) and apparently in Interstellar; I didn’t like his version of the former and remember nothing of the latter, so he’s a big unknown as far as I’m concerned. I saw someone critique him as being an okay choice for young Paul at the beginning but not having enough gravitas (to paraphrase) for the older Paul Muad’Dib. Plausible, I agree; I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

Oscar Isaac I’m looking very much forward to, if for nothing else then to see whether he has the range to play Duke Leto. Stellan Skarsgård, Javier Bardem, and David Dastmalchian I would also expect to do just fine if not directed to be too hammy. But the rest… Well. I get that Jason Momoa, Josh Brolin, and Dave Bautista are big names, but I find them uninspiring choices. Again, I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

I’ve also seen the two previous big screen adaptations (the 1984 movie directed by David Lynch and the 2000 miniseries directed by John Harrison). Both had some flaws that to me weighed the adaptations down more than the positives could buoy them, so I’m looking forward to Villeneuve’s version. It certainly looks gorgeous.

At the same time, I agree with an online contact who elsewhere said that they’d like something that’s more relevant to 2020s than to the time the story was written (1965).

At this writing, Dune is set to be released on December 18, 2020.

I doubt we two will see it in the theater unless there’s significant improvement in the local covid-19 numbers, so I’m hoping for an early release to either streaming services or disc.

Hey, look! We found a thing on the internet! We thought it was cool, and wanted to share it with you.

Second Trailer for Wonder Woman 1984

A new trailer for Wonder Woman 1984 is out:

Wonder Woman 1984 – Official Main Trailer by Warner Bros. Pictures on YouTube

I don’t know about you, but for me the most delightful thing in the trailer was the quick glimpse of young Diana running into an arena with other amazons. She was an absolute joy in the first movie!

Pedro Pascal, the actor for the male antagonist Max Lord, does a very good job—I’m repulsed by the character already; I just hope the performance isn’t too huge a hock of ham. I’ve only seen Pascal in Kingsman: The Golden Circle (plus a smattering of smaller roles in a variety of tv series), so I don’t have much to go by.

Robin Wright and Connie Nielsen reprise their roles; that’s lovely. I did complain, if you remember, that Antiope should be bought back when I was writing about the first trailer. I hope she doesn’t just get shunted into a mere flashback.

What we can tell of Kristen Wiig’s performance looks good, too; I’ve seen her in Ghostbusters and The Martian and enjoyed her voice acting (e.g. How to Train Your Dragon and the Despicable Me series); here’s hoping the trailer doesn’t lie in this respect.

I’m also delighted that Patty Jenkins has been given the chance to write the story and screenplay, not just direct. Here’s hoping she can make 1980s more interesting and less cringe-worthy than when I went through it!

According to IMBD, WW1984 is now set to release October 02, 2020. We’ll see whether the pandemic eats up this premier, too…

Hey, look! We found a thing on the internet! We thought it was cool, and wanted to share it with you.

Representation Chart: Star Wars, Sequel Trilogy

We all know that the representation of people of different genders and races is imbalanced in popular media, but sometimes putting it into visual form can help make the imbalance clear. Here’s a chart of the Star Wars sequel trilogy movies (Episode VII: The Force Awakens, Episode VIII: The Last Jedi, Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker).

Characters included

(Characters are listed in the first movie in which they qualify for inclusion under the rules given below.)

  • Episode VII: The Force Awakens: Poe Dameron, Kylo Ren, Han Solo, General Hux, Snap Wexley, Rey, Captain Phasma, General Leia Organa, Finn
  • Episode VIII: The Last Jedi: Luke Skywalker, Vice Admiral Holdo, Rose Tico
  • Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker: Emperor Palpatine, Zorii, Lando Calrissian

Rules

In the interests of clarity, here’s the rules I’m following for who to include and where to place them:

  • I only count characters portrayed by an actor who appears in person on screen in more or less recognizable form (i.e. performances that are entirely CG, prosthetic, puppet, or voice do not count). Phasma and Zorii are edge cases on this rule, but since we do at least once see enough of their faces to identify the actors as white women, I have included them.
  • The judgment of which characters are significant enough to include is unavoidably subjective, but I generally include characters who have on-screen dialogue, who appear in more than one scene, and who are named on-screen (including nicknames, code names, titles, etc.)
  • For human characters that can be reasonably clearly identified, I use the race and gender of the character.
  • For non-human characters or characters whose identity cannot be clearly determined, I use the race and gender of the actor.
  • I use four simplified categories for race and two for gender. Because human variety is much more complicated and diverse than this, there will inevitably be examples that don’t fit. I put such cases where they seem least inappropriate. “White” and “Black” are as conventionally defined in modern Western society. “Asian” means East, Central, or South Asian. “Indigenous” encompasses Native Americans, Polynesians, Indigenous Australians, and other indigenous peoples from around the world.
  • There are many ethnic and gender categories that are relevant to questions of representation that are not covered here. There are also other kinds of diversity that are equally important for representation that are not covered here. A schematic view like this can never be perfect, but it is a place to start.

Corrections and suggestions welcome.

Chart by Erik Jensen

In the Seen on Screen occasional feature, we discuss movies and television shows of interest.

When Your Favorite Creator Has a Bad Take

It happens sometimes, especially in today’s social media world: the creator of something you love, be it a book, movie, tv show, comic book, or some other work of art, has a bad take. We’re not talking about your garden-variety difference of opinion. (Despite what the Internet would have you believe, people who like pineapple on their pizza and people who don’t can, in fact, live in peace together.) We’re talking about a serious bad take, one that denies the fundamental humanity of a whole group of people or supports acts of violence in the real world. What do you do then?

The first steps are obvious enough. You can speak out against them, whether online or off. You can affirm your support for the people they targeted, whether publicly to the world at large or privately to the people you care about.

You can watch how the creator responds, whether they learn and grow from the experience or double down on their bad ideas. A lot of us have had to learn to challenge the bad ideas we absorbed from the culture around us, and most of us didn’t do it in public with an audience of millions. It’s fair to say that if someone has reached an age where they are producing art for a mass audience, they should really have gotten past basic prejudices and misjudgments, but if somehow they haven’t, it’s better that they do it now than not at all. Whether you find their actions convincing or sufficient is up to you. You don’t owe anyone your forgiveness, no matter what they may say or do. You’re also not wrong if you choose to give it. You are the only one who gets to decide what is enough for you.

If someone’s bad ideas are egregious enough to merit it, you can stop giving them money. Don’t buy their latest book or a ticket to their new movie. This may get complicated if their work is tangled up with the work of other people whose good work you still want to support, but loss of revenue is one of the biggest pressures you can put on a company or organization to drop a problematic actor or cut ties with a writer who has spewed hate. You can stop giving them attention, too. Unfollow or even block them on social media. Don’t give clicks to articles or posts about them or their latest work.

What about the works you already have? Do you have to clear their books off your shelves or throw away the DVDs? You can, of course, if you feel it’s right for you. If your enjoyment of those pieces of art would forever be tainted by their creator’s asinine or prejudiced comments, then there is no need for you to keep them. Like forgiveness, it’s a personal decision you can only make for yourself.

But what if you want to keep them? What if there are still things you love about those works, despite their creator’s attack of foot-in-mouth disease? How do you continue to enjoy them?

I spend a fair amount of my time reading books that were written by people who were absolutely wrong about a lot of important things ranging from the intellectual capacity of women to the morality of slavery. Much of this I read simply for my work, not for pleasure, but there are ancient texts I enjoy, some I have read over and over again for sheer delight, like the masterfully-told stories of Herodotus, the heroic deeds of the Homeric epics, Sappho’s longing love poetry, Martial’s wickedly funny epigrams, and others. Even without having a social media feed from any of these authors, I am confident that most of them believed in things we would find abhorrent today. How can I continue to enjoy their work?

The art is not the artist. This is the principle known in literary criticism as “the death of the author” (which is less dire than it sounds). What we create exists outside of ourselves. Once an author publishes a novel or a director releases a movie, their creative work is done. It is up to the audience to decide how they will receive and understand the work. Our experiences of art are not dictated wholly by the creator’s intentions but are a complicated interplay of our own thoughts and emotions with the artist’s ideas. Those experiences are personal and unique, and they do not depend on the moral qualities or opinions of the artist.

When I go back to the Iliad, I know that I am reading the product of a culture whose values were sharply different from my own on gender roles, the morality of war, the acceptability of slavery, and many other fundamental questions. It is impossible to read the epic without facing all of those differences. Many of them are so deeply woven into the story that it simply would not be possible to tell the story without them. The Iliad is the story of male warriors fighting over the possession of a beautiful woman; without any of these elements, it would cease to be the Iliad. And yet there are things to enjoy in the epic, without excusing or ignoring the cultural assumptions it is grounded in. Some of the most powerful passages in the work are those in which the humanity of individual characters comes through despite the cultural baggage around them. Helen has moments in the Iliad where we see her fear, her grief, her frustration and anger about the war being fought for her, and we glimpse her as a whole person, just as complex as any of the warrior-heroes around her. The final image of Achilles and Priam weeping together over their lost loved ones is a moving expression of the power of human compassion to overcome hatred. There is beauty and value in these things, and I can enjoy them while still being aware of the context around them.

If there is a book you love but whose author recently revealed themselves as a bigoted ass, it’s all right for you to still love the book and treasure the memories of how it made you feel when you first read it. Your experience of that book belongs to you, not to the author. Once their words and ideas entered your imagination, they became part of you, as much as any other experience in your past. You don’t have to excuse the author for their bad take, but neither does their bad take have to tarnish your enjoyment of their book.

It’s also okay if you decide that you can’t pick up that book again. You are the only person who knows what is right for you.

Here there be opinions!