Celebrating International Women’s Day with a Captain Marvel Viewing

March 08 is International Women’s Day. Very appropriately, we are celebrating by going to see Captain Marvel!

IMDB Captain Marvel Eyes Horizontal

I’m hoping it’ll be as awesome as the trailers look!

To the people complaining that this version of Marvel is too political and therefore massively off-putting, I have only one thing to say.

(Long post warning.)

Read the whole post.

Some Random Thoughts on Aquaman

We were late to see Aquaman, but here, finally, are some random thoughts in no particular order.

Spoiler warning very much in effect!

IMDb Aquaman Comic-Con Poster

  • First of all: visually, it was a feast! In the theater while waiting for the movie to start, Erik mentioned he’d read somewhere someone say that Aquaman will change the way movies are expected to look for this generation the same way (I assume the original) Star Wars did for previous generations. I’d fully believe it: so many different effects and environments, all polished off to a regal shine (if you’ll pardon me for being corny for a bit). I’d also say this: while the SW prequels attempted to shower the audience with rich sets and visuals, they ultimately just didn’t reach the level of breathtaking; Aquaman (and Moana, Rogue One, and SW:XIII) actually succeeded.
  • The character Tom Curry (played by Temuera Morrison), the lighthouse keeper, looked Polynesian and sounded like a Kiwi. For a character who’s supposed to be a Mainer that was a bit of a whiplash. Then again, the world is more international these days than ever before.
  • Speaking of Maine and lighthouses, even I could tell there were too few trees in the “Maine” scenes. It looks like they were filmed in Newfoundland, so that would explain it. Other than that, the supposedly northern locations looked at least plausible—the rocky coast looks just right, in fact—so a plus for that. (I’m the kind of northener who happens to care whether my home is misrepresented or not.)
  • I’ve never read the comics, so I have no idea which plot elements came from where; I can’t comment from that point of view. (Literally, what I knew is Raj from The Big Bang Theory saying “Aquaman sucks!”) With that caveat, at first I was merely amused by the mixing of the Atlantean and Arthurian legends, but they kinda made it work. The antagonist’s father-son-tragedy-as-backstory was unfortunately tiresome, but at least it was given to black people, plus Yahya Abdul-Mateen II really rocked as Manta. (I’m so sick of seeing middle-aged white men wrangling with son guilt. Hey Leverage—I’m talking about you especially!)
  • The Tom-Atlanna romance was seemingly set up exatly like the dime-a-dozen action movies that have come before: man meets woman, she blows his mind with her awesomeness, they fall in love only to have him lose her In Order to Have Feelings(TM). Thankfully, Aquaman not only didn’t follow the trope through, it subverted parts of it: instead of dying, Queen Atlanna thoroughly wiped the deck with the team sent to bring her back to Atlantis (while he protected their child, Arthur, having correctly determined that her enhanced abilities would allow the family to survive—I just LOVE smart, self-confident, genuine, non-egotistical men). After the attack, Atlanna decided she’d better return voluntarily to protect Tom and Arthur, and subsequently was reported to have been sacrificed to a Verifiable Monster of the Deep, again making it look like the plot fridged her to give Tom the Official Permission to Wallow, but no—towards the end, we find out she not only survived, but carved a haven for herself and joined Princess Mera and Arthur in their quest for the super trident.
  • In the same vein, the Mera-Arthur romance was foreseeable and dull. At least the movie gave her the initiative unlike so many prior Hollywood stories.
  • Surprisingly, I didn’t mind Nicole Kidman as Atlanna.
  • Hairwise, surprisingly many characters kept their long hair loose even underwater. I would’ve thought it would be in the way too much, at least for the guards and other fighters. Mera’s hair was too red for my taste (The Little Mermaid, anyone?), but Vulko (played by Willem Dafoe) had quite a cute man bun/thing.
  • Overall, I felt that characters didn’t fare that well, unfortunately. Apart from Atlanna and Mera, I can’t remember any other women having more than a line, if that, except for the Fisherman Princess (and that’s really pushing it, too). Why is is that the only women being shown as active, rounded-out people instead of plot-relevant placeholders* are royalty? Not to forget the many mer-men who barely got defined as individuals. The creators clearly made a choice to focus on the story and visuals instead of characters. I’d rather see great characters AND great story, preferably with knock-out visuals, too; that’s why I love Black Panther so much.
  • I found the five underwater kingdoms that separated from the original Atlantean culture quite cliched, flat, and underdeveloped. Looks like developing the visuals took precedence indeed.
  • And wow—the Verifiable Monster of the Deep was monstrous!
  • And whatever else you might say, Aquaman really was epic. That said, some of the power poses approached ridiculous, but I suppose that happens easily when adapting superhero comics.
  • The final fight between Manta plus his goons and Mera plus Aquaman happened in a small seaside town in the Mediterranean, and it was inventive and not too predictable. However, we last see Manta plunging into the water from a cliff, bouncing off the rocks in the process. Now, one of my pet peeves is when a protagonist survives repeated and super violent hits, shakes, car crashes, what have you, because no matter how well a human body may be armored, your brain can still whiplash inside your skull, and that, as I understand, is really the life-threatening aspect of being hit too hard on the head. I thought that was it for Manta after his plunge and felt pleased Aquaman avoided yet another trope, but no—in a stinger, we see him drag himself to the shore. Argh!

Did you see Aquaman? What did you think?

Image: Aquaman Comic-Con poster via IMDb.

*) The delightful term plot-relevant placeholder is from a review by Liz Bourke—thank you!

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

One Month to the Captain Marvel Movie Release

The release of Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Captain Marvel is one month away.

Twitter Review Wire Media CpMarvel Character Posters

Nice—out of nine characters who got their own posters, four are women, four are men, and one is a cat. Can’t wait!

I’ve tried to stay away from spoilers of any kind, but it’s difficult to do completely in these days of nigh-universal social media saturation. (Yes, I protect my media bubble accordingly!)

While looking for an image to post I came across some discussion on the cat, apparently called Goose, whom we saw Nick Fury getting cute with in the second trailer. That, at least, is a safe topic! 😀

And here’s the tv spot that dropped last weekend:

Marvel Studios’ Captain Marvel – “Big Game” TV Spot by Marvel Entertainment on YouTube

Only a few new clips there.

Soon! 🙂

Image: Marvel Entertainment via Review Wire Media on Twitter

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

Spider-Man: Far from Home Trailer

After a slew of horrible unsuccessful Spider-Man movie attempts, Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Homecoming felt like a warm spring after a prolonged winter: young, fresh, and welcomed with open arms. Apart from a great supporting cast, Tom Holland’s Spidey is the first screen version that actually feels young and boisterous.

It’s now five months until the sequel, Spider-Man: Far from Home, is released and the first teaser has been out a few weeks:

SPIDER-MAN: FAR FROM HOME – Official Teaser Trailer by Sony Pictures Entertainment on YouTube

Clearly he is brought back during Avengers: Endgame (which drops two months prior to SMFFH) after being ashed by Thanos in Avengers: Infinity War. It’s an odd situation; then again, this long a sequence of superhero movies is entirely unprecedented.

Anyway. In the sequel, Spidey gets to go to Europe on a school trip – the debate team from SMH by the looks of it. We see glimpses of London and Venice, plus Nick Fury sticking his fingers in the soup. But before Peter even gets his wheels up, we see Aunt May heading a Spidey rally of some sort. (I think I heard that she has become his social media person?) Not a bad way to update the story a bit. And, what! Happy is batting his eyelashes at May?!?

The neatest effects have to be the earth, fire, and water spirits, though. (WoW elementals, anyone? Now I want to play my shaman more… or maybe my frost mage.) I don’t know anything about Peter Gyllenhaal’s character (Mysterio), so we’ll see. The best lines of the trailer are given to Zendaya, however:

Peter: “You look really pretty.”
Michelle: “And therefore I have value?”
Peter: *stutters* “No… I…”
Michelle: “I’m messing with you. You look… pretty, too.”

LOL! 😀

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

Captain Marvel Special Look Trailer

Captain Marvel, the next installation in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, is released this March. I don’t typically go looking for hype and speculation; instead just read whatever I come up with in my usual browsing, but this special look trailer of (mostly) Carol Danvers is so great I’m tempted to.

Marvel Studios’ Captain Marvel | Special Look by Marvel Entertainment on YouTube

LOL! Awesome! 😀

When a female (super)hero—and, sadly, usually only the one—is part of a story, I tend to cringe, because a lot of the time they’re not treated terribly well or given anywhere near equal screen time or lines or agency as their male co-heroes. As impossible it is to truly say on the basis of trailers, though, I’m more and more optimistic of Captain Marvel.

I’ve eagerly waited for the MCU movies before, sure, but I can’t remember being quite this pumped before. I really, REALLY can’t wait for March!

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

Avengers: Endgame Trailer

Whoa – Marvel Studios released the second Captain Marvel trailer and the first Avengers: Endgame trailer only four days apart.

Marvel Studios’ Avengers – Official Trailer by Marvel Entertainment on YouTube

It does make sense—Avengers: Infinity War was implying heavily that Captain Marvel will be there for the sequel—but I can’t remember a big studio doing anything similar before. It’s a good time to be a geek. 🙂

As for the trailer: I didn’t much care for AIW, and it came across particularly wooden after the glory of Black Panther. Also, we all know a lot of the events of AIW will have to be undone in Endgame. We’ve now seen a teeny glimpse.

I’m wondering whether the fact that Doctor Strange wasn’t in the trailer at all means the postproduction team is still furiously working on the scenes. More likely is that they’ll want to safeguard any hints of his involvement in the final reveal from leaking prematurely. Also, I have to admit that I was surprised to see Hawkeye return; looks like he might have been written an interesting story twist.

If there’s a major complaint I have, it’s Tony frigging Stark being plastered front and center. In a trailer that runs 2:25, he monologues / occupies the scene for almost a minute (0:55). That’s way too much; weren’t the Avengers supposed to be ensemble movies, after all?

In addition, I have some fleeting thoughts that don’t really go anywhere. (When did Cap shave? Why is Cap crying? And that’s so great—in my world, a man is nothing if they don’t allow themselves to cry. Huh—Scott Lang embiggened and out of the subatomic realm? Ok, there’s Black Widow and Nebula, but where are the rest of the women?)

Mostly, though, the trailer managed to re-ignite my interest in the sequel after the decidedly lackluster first part.

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

Second Captain Marvel Trailer

Yesterday’s release of the second official Captain Marvel trailer caught me off guard. (It seems to happen to me a lot this fall.) No matter—it’s as AWESOME as the first.

Marvel Studios’ Captain Marvel – Trailer 2 by Marvel Entertainment on YouTube

My thoughts of the first trailer pretty much stand for this one, too—more of Nick Fury is great, and especially when he get gets cute with a cat! 😀 Also, again, it’s seriously sooo wonderful that Carol Danvers is shown as a soldier instead of sexy-woman-soldier (think of those silly Halloween costumes). I’m not at all interested in the Skrull and the Kree plot yet, but we’ll see.

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

First Captain Marvel Trailer

The first official Captain Marvel trailer just dropped today, and it’s AWESOME!

Marvel Studios’ Captain Marvel – Official Trailer by Marvel Entertainment on YouTube

The below reaction is pretty accurate:

io9 Tom Hiddlestons Loki Whee Gif

Okay, granted, it doesn’t show much yet beyond glimpses. I know nothing of the comic book version of Carol Danvers to begin with, nor do I know whether a rumor saying the movie won’t be dealing with her origin story is true or not. What impressed me, though, is how much the trailer highlighted her determination, standing up time and again after falling down.

It was also great to see younger, sprightlier Nick Fury. Not to mention Coulsooooon!

Tumblr The Playlist Cobie Smulders Coulson1Tumblr The Playlist Cobie Smulders Coulson2Tumblr The Playlist Cobie Smulders Coulson3Tumblr The Playlist Cobie Smulders Coulson4

(As an aside and half-serious at that: as someone who’s going to turn into a little old lady at some point, I hope there’s a darned good reason for Danvers’s punch!)

Last, a LOUD-AS-HELL YAY for no boob armor, nor sexy boob-butt-thigh poses. Frickin’ finally!

Ant-Man Its About Time

The movie opens March 8, 2019. Can’t wait!

Images: Tom Hiddleston as Loki whee gif via a comment on io9.com. Gifs of Cobie Smulders as Maria Hill from The Avengers’ blooper reel via The Playlist on Tumblr. Evangeline Lilly as Hope Van Dyne screencapped from one of the stingers at the end of Ant-Man.

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

Representation Chart: Marvel Cinematic Universe, Phase 1

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 Phase 1 movies of Marvel’s Cinematic Universe (Iron Man; The Incredible Hulk; Iron Man 2; Thor; Captain America: The First Avenger; Avengers).

Characters included

  • Iron Man: Tony Stark / Iron Man, Obedaiah Stane, Agent Coulson, Happy Hogan, Abu Bakaar, Pepper Potts, Christine Everhart, Colonel Rhodes, Nick Fury, Yinsen, Raza
  • The Incredible Hulk: Bruce Banner / Hulk, General Ross, Emil Blonsky, Leonard, Stanley, Samuel Sterns, Betty Ross, Major Sparr,
  • Iron Man 2 (new characters): Ivan Vanko, Senator Stern, Justin Hammer, Natasha Romanoff / Black Widow
  • Thor (new characters): Thor, Loki, Odin, Erik Selvig, Volstag, Fandral, Agent Sitwell, Clint Barton / Haweye, Jane Foster, Darcy Lewis, Sif, Frigga, Heimdall, Hogun
  • Captain America: The First Avenger: Steve Rogers / Captain America, Bucky Barnes, Colonel Philips, Johann Schmidt / Red Skull, Howard Stark, Dr. Erskine, Dr. Zola, Dum Dum Dugan, James Falsworth, Jacques Dernier, Gilmore Hodge, Senator Brandt, Peggy Carter, Gabe Jones, Jim Morita
  • Avengers (new characters): American World Security Councilor, Russian World Security Councilor, Agent Hill, British World Security Councilor, Chinese World Security Councilor

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).
  • 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, 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, or, if no existing option is adequate, give them their own separate categories.
  • “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, including sexuality, language, disability, etc. 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.

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

Rating: Marvel Cinematic Universe, Phase 1

We’ve taken a bit of a swerve in our rewatching and rating project. In between tv series, we’ve decided to take a run at the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Here’s our take on Phase 1:

  1. Iron Man – 7
  2. The Incredible Hulk – 2
  3. Iron Man 2 – 6
  4. Thor – 4
  5. Captain America: The First Avenger – 8
  6. The Avengers – 10

It’s a bit of a mixed bag. The overall average is 6.2, which is perfectly respectable, but the range is all over the place, from pretty bad to meh to awesome.

You can tell that Marvel was still figuring out how to make not only a new kind of superhero movie but a new kind of movie franchise. The early installations are stand-alone, fairly slow-paced, and self-contained. We can still remember how exciting it felt to have a minor character like Agent Coulson pop up in multiple movies that weren’t sequels. Nowadays we don’t even get out of bed for a Marvel movie that doesn’t have at least three tie-in characters and a place in the ongoing arc of the Phase.

The Incredible Hulk, the largely forgotten Marvel movie, is on the bottom of the heap at 2. Formulaic and uninspired, the story drags itself from one obligatory action scene to another. Having seen Mark Ruffalo’s take on Bruce Banner, Edward Norton feels flat and unsympathetic. So much backstory is assumed that this movie feels like a sequel to something we’ve never seen (it takes care not to step on Ang Lee’s previous Hulk movie without actually picking up on its story in any meaningful way). Although there are some bright spots in this movie, like the visually thrilling foot chase through a Brazilian favela, you can see why we haven’t gotten another stand-alone Hulk movie.

We’re lucky that Marvel hedged its bets on launching the MCU with two movies instead of just one. Iron Man delivers much of what The Incredible Hulk lacks. While the story is still relatively straightforward and follows a predictable Hollywood three-act structure, it is more competently handled and more subtly embellished than Hulk. We get to see Tony Stark tinker and iterate not only on his suit designs but on his ethics and sense of self, which is makes his character much more interesting to watch than Banner, who has no real character development in his own movie. Robert Downey Jr. sells the character of Tony Stark as a flawed genius grappling with the consequences of his own choices.

Iron Man 2 carries on the good work of the original without adding much to it and begins the unfortunate trend of Marvel movies whose plot is driven by Tony Stark’s emotional issues. Thor has some beautiful art design and fun character moments, but mostly ends up feeling like the product of too many compromises.

Captain America: The First Avenger delivers a solid origin story not only for its eponymous hero but for the whole Marvel universe as well. With an alternate-version World War II dominated by Hydra’s experiments with cosmic technology and an American super soldier, the ground is prepared for a modern world of superpeople. Chris Evans’s performance takes a character who could be flat and sanctimonious and makes him charming.

But it is The Avengers, at a full 10, that crowns Phase 1. Joss Whedon’s last great work before his descent into self-satisfied mediocrity, The Avengers is a superhero movie that takes not only the idea of superheroes but the idea of a superhero movie seriously. The characters have both emotional depth and clear motivations. Their conflicts arise not from plot contrivance but from conflicting world-views and emotional needs. And they smash alien monsters together real good.

Got a different take on Marvel’s first hexalogy? Let us know in the comments!

Image: Still from The Avengers via IMDb

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