Marvel’s Black Panther

This May marks the ten year anniversary of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. If they continue to release films like Black Panther, they can keep making movies for the next hundred years. I cannot give enough praise to Black Panther.  It is one of Marvel’s strongest offerings and shows why they have been able to succeed in building their universe whereas others like Universal and Warner Bros have struggled. Mightily in the case of Universal. They continue to add breadth and depth to their universe.

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A preview ran before Black Panther for Antman and Wasp. Both of these are MCU movies about superheroes, but Antman is a playful heist franchise. Black Panther is a whole other monster dealing with themes about leadership, blood, racial identity, and tradition.

Black Panther is not a character I’m heavily invested in. He’d pop up in the comics I read like Spider-man or the Avengers. I always enjoyed him because he was cool. He was the king of an African isolationist country with futuristic technology. I never got into his comics because I never made the effort to. I knew his backstory and the origin, going into this movie. I went into this expecting another solid Marvel origin movie, but it took itself off the path.

Very violent. People get cut up by swords, stabbed with spears, shot in the head. It has a little politics in there but it’s never allowed to overpower the movie. You’re not beat over with the head of a message. I loved the sets and costume designs for this movie. It takes from African culture and adds a sci-fi twist to it. The Marvel Cinematic Universe is full of sci-fi and worlds different than ours. I was impressed that they were able to give Wakanda its own identity that set it apart from the Asgard of the Thor movies and the alien world seen in Guardians of the Galaxy.

From a craft standpoint, I liked how willing Ryan Coogler was to put T’Challa through the winger. This guy gets messed up in this movie. He finds out dark secrets and gets the crap kicked out of the him. He’s a good protagonist because of how vulnerable he is throughout the film.  He’s a man made king by the death of his father, unsure if he’s ready for the throne He faces tough questions once he is king and discovers the right answers by the end of the film. I hadn’t seen any of his other films (Creed is on my to watch list but I’ve only seen Rocky 1). I will make an effort to watch the rest of filmography.

As a first generation African immigrant, I was often caught in between two cultures as a kid. The American Black culture and African culture.  This movie was a unique experience as it had those two worlds clash with each other through the conflict between, T’Challa and Erik Killmonger. T’Challa is African-born, raised in tradition, surrounded by family. Killmonger is American and has experienced the prejudices that go on in this country. He’s lost everything and wants to get even. I loved how far Coogler was willing to go with Killmonger to make him sympathetic but also show how destructive his line of thinking was. Michael B Jordan owned the role.

I give this film a strong recommendation. It’s a good movie with a memorable villain. I’m interested to see how this film does in the international box office. Domestically, it’s looking to break records. Superhero movie exhaustion is not here yet and it may never come.

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Welcome to The Silver Screen, Deadpool.

20th Century Fox has done the unthinkable. They have opened Pandora’s Box and unleashed the Merc with A Mouth on the masses. Bad parents will  rue the day they let their children watch a masked psychopath cut off his own hand in the theater.

Fox’s Deadpool works. It will not win any Oscars. It was not made to. It was a gift to the fans of the character and an apology for a past wrong-doing.

In 2009, 20th Century Fox plopped a turd in the lap of every Deadpool fan with his portrayal in X-men Origins: Wolverine. A character known for his talking had his mouth sewn shut and turned into the unspeakable.

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The portrayal was universally panned. The movie was highly offensive to not only Deadpool fans but movie fans everywhere. The only enjoyable version of X-men Origins: Wolverine was the leaked workprint version. That may be the greatest comedy film ever created. Certainly in the same league as Some Like It Hot.

A Deadpool movie had been rumored for years after the butchering of the character. A script floated around online. I  got my hands on it while in college.  It was decent. This new movie has scenes from that script. I like this movie a lot more than that old script.

Deadpool is a relatively faithful adaptation of Joe Kelly’s run of Deadpool. Adaptations should focus on bringing the spirit of the story to another medium. Fans want a 1:1 reproduction of the source material and that is not feasible in most cases. What works in one medium does not necessarily work in another.

Deadpool has the spirit of the character down. Deadpool is a tortured psychopath masquerading his insecurities and fears with sardonic wit. The Deadpool character is known for his humor and breaking the fourth wall. It is forgotten by many  that he is a man who has cancer eating away at his insides everyday and he has killed many people. He is a mercenary, not a comedian.

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Joe Kelly’s run focused on Deadpool’s insecurities. Deadpool was not a hero. He’s your prototypical anti-hero on acid. He detested the word, “hero”. He once beat a woman to a bloody pulp for continuing to call him one.

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The humor in the comic book was strong. It was very much a part of the book and character’s success. Joe Kelly seamlessly added in references to television shows, celebrities, and more. Some of which have stood the test of time.

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Deadpool takes the best of Joe Kelly’s run.

All the elements of that Deadpool character are in this movie.His checkered past. His aversion to the word, “hero”. His mangled face. His fourth-wall breaking. His scumbag friend, Weasel. The gratuitous violence. The old blind woman that he keeps locked in his house for company.

Blind Al and Weasel made it to the movie screen. We have come a long way from 1978’s Superman.

Deadpool is at its best when the title character is running around in his red tights and mask. Ryan Reynolds is having a lot of fun with the role. He brings the insanity and tragedy of Deadpool. The way Deadpool fights and acts is straight out of one of his comic books. Reynolds’ timing is impeccable. He gets the character. I appreciate the love he’s shown Deadpool.

I have one gripe with Deadpool in this movie. He’s not ugly enough.

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He should have looked more like an eighties horror movie villain. Closer to Jason Voorhees than Ryan Reynolds with a bad rash. The audience should have had the same reaction as the characters when Deadpool removes his mask. His face should be stomach-churning. I also think we shouldn’t have seen his face until the final scene. It should have been a running joke that we see only the characters’ reaction to it. I know they had a lower budget for this film so I’ll let this slide.

The movie does struggle when Deadpool is not on the screen. The flashback scenes showing his romance with Vanessa were some of the weaker scenes of the movie. They are funny, but not gripping.  The movie starts us off with him in the suit. He’s gunning and slicing mooks. Every flashback scene pulled us away the present to deliver us the past.

The film should have started where the story started. Instead we get a little bit of present Deadpool and then some flashback. More Deadpool, more flashback. Once the flashbacks stopped and the movie could just go, it flowed. The movie had to do the origin story which hurt it. It tried to do A Day in the Life of Deadpool and Deadpool’s Origin all at same time. It should have tried to be one or the other.

If they went down that path,  it would have been thirty minutes without Deadpool in the suit. The audience might have grown restless. So maybe in medias res is the better way to start.

The movie throws a busload of jokes at you. Most of them work. The ones that don’t, you forget about quickly. Every audience will react to this movie differently. The jokes about Blade 2, Green Lantern and X-Men Origins: Wolverine went over the heads of my audience. Everyone will find something funny. I could see people disliking all the dick jokes and over-the-top swearing. It is very sophomoric but the tone fits Deadpool.

The film was more sexually-charged than I was expecting for a comic book film. There were jokes about masturbation and pegging. They were funny, but I hope they don’t turn some people off to the movie.

The film is a fun time in the theater. If you’re looking for  sweet film with decent action, questionable acts around stuffed animals, and a ton of humor, you should check out Deadpool.

I do have one thing about the ending though.  Spoiler Alert.

 

Deadpool gets the girl. He’s a character who’s not supposed to get the Hollywood Ending. The scene prior to it was an attempt to define Deadpool as not a hero. Colossus, an X-man, tells Deadpool to not shoot the main villain in the head. Deadpool can define himself as a hero by sparing a life. Deadpool does not hesitate and blasts him in the head in the middle of Colossus’s speech. This is telling us Deadpool is no hero. However he is given the hero’s ending by having Vanessa accept him despite his ugly looks.

For a movie that prided itself on deviating from the traditional path, it had a traditional ending. To be Deadpool is to suffer. He can’t get the girl. What will they do with her in the sequel? Kill her off? It seems like they have to. Will Deadpool get married?

I have high expectations for the sequel.

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Age of the Superhero.

Spoilers for Avengers: Age of Ultron

The Avengers was a great spectacle. It wasn’t the best shot movie or the most well-acted. It was a great time in the cinema. A nicely-executed pay off to Marvel’s patience with their franchises. Also a great big pay off to Disney. So what comes next?

Avengers: Age of Ultron is what they came up with. Thanos was teased at the end of the first Avengers, but he needed more time in the kitchen. A hell of a lot more time since he’ll be in two more movies. So they microwaved up some Ultron for us. They left him in a bit too long. He’s not bad. Just a little soggy.

The Good
-The Party
Everything about the party scene. From Thor’s reaction. We’re able to stay with the characters. The cameos are cute and don’t overstay their welcome. And this was back when the Cap language joke was really funny. The hammer scene was on point. And then Ultron makes his horror movie entrance. This is the best stuff in the movie.

-The Vision
The character was introduced late, but I liked what I saw of him. There was potential constrained by the faults of the movie. But this is about what’s positive. I want to see him explored deeper. It’ll have to be done in future films. I don’t know where Marvel will fit it in. Better not be in Captain America 3. I don’t want it boggled down by that.

The Bad

-TOO MANY CHARACTERS!!!
The biggest flaw in Age of Ultron is the amount of central characters in its cast. The Avengers had less and Hawkeye got shafted. So the answer to that was to add three new good guys and a villain. Along with makin

I have no idea what the hell Thor was doing in this movie or why he was even there. He wanted Loki’s staff and then went into a lake. And came back to make Vision because he had a vision. It was weird. I felt like I missed a scene.

I believe this movie needed to make a choice between the twins or Vision. Having both only reduces what can be done with character development for the entire cast I’d lean toward cutting the twins. Vision is a great parallel to the human-hating Ultron. More cameos should have been cut back on too. I love War Machine but he shouldn’t have returned after the party scene.

With more story space for the characters, this film could become a worthy successor to the Avengers. Now it only will be at the box office for Disney.

-Lack of gravitas
This is the biggest threat the Avengers have faced thus far. Ultron wants to make mankind extinct by dropping a meteor on the planet. But you could not tell for a second that anyone was worried by the way they were talking. A one-liner here. A one-liner there. Lightening up scenes to relieve tension is good writing. But this went over-the-top. Ultron was far funnier than I expected him to turn out.

I thought he was going to be a cold calculating robot. One that would relentless in his mission to the point of exhausting the Avengers. Attacking their personal and physical flaws all while building his final solution for mankind. My own fault for expecting that. The first trailer didn’t have Ultron as a funny guy.

There were Ultron bots that never seemed to be a threat to anyone. They were there to be smashed. I can’t recall a single Avengers struggling against them. The only person who dies is the guy with 15 minutes of screen-time. The characters need to take the situations a bit more seriously.

-Looking Ahead Too Much
They built for Black Panther, Infinity War, Thor 3, and Captain America 3 in this movie. It bottle-necked the film to have to include all these scenes. I don’t know whether to blame Joss Whedon or big wigs for this, but I want it to stop. Please.

That’s it for my thoughts on A2: Ultron Day. This was in the middle tier of Marvel films. If you don’t like superhero films, don’t bother. And if you do, then you’re going to see it anyway.

So writing this was completely pointless.

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Race Swap

“Kingpin isn’t black! Man! They screwed it up! I ain’t watching that crap!
-my cousin twelve years ago upon seeing Daredevil‘s first trailer.

Movie adaptations can’t be wholly accurate representations of the source work. Everything cannot go in. Your favorite passage will not make it into the script. It’s the nature of adaptation to the screen. But once things like races start changing, you raise your eyebrow.

If you’re a diehard fan, you might have the same reaction my cousin did upon seeing a character’s race swapped.

No! They can’t even get the character’s races, right?! This movie is doomed! They’ve soiled it!

The casting of Michael B. Jordan as Johnny Storm in Fox’s upcoming Fantastic Four had a small backlash. I see why someone would be skeptical of those in charge when characters’ history is being messed with.

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I’m ambivalent towards race swapping.

I try to wait and see the performance before making a rash judgement.

I wasn’t a fan of the changing of Johnny Storm but keeping Sue white. They’re blood brother and sister. The cynic in me thought the powers that be wanted their blonde love interest while still being able to reach the “urban” demographic. But I’ve since decided to give him a chance rather than root against him.

I’m peculiar about race swapping. I had no gripes with making Samuel L. Jackson into Nick Fury. There was a basis in the comics for it. But I hated when the races from Avatar: The Last Airbender were changed in Last Airbender. I refused to see it.

That’s the odd thing about race swapping. It’s a violation of a minority character when you turn them white, but swapping white people for minorities is okay. Why is that?

Will the Cinematic Superhero Bubble Burst?

To be short, No.

I hear grumblings that audiences will reject the parade of masks and spandex. It hasn’t happened yet. We haven’t reached the peak of this superhero movie boom.

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Mainstream audiences are in love with superheroes more than ever. We’re all still on that honey moon.

Avengers: Age of Ultron first trailer release broke viewer records. Each of Marvel’s Phase Two films out-grossed their predecessor by a sizable mount. Guardians of the Galaxy was supposed to be a flop but instead soared to the top of the box office. Right now Marvel is untouchable. They can make any movie now. Once Rocket Raccoon can be turned into money, any one can. The train will keep moving.

Warner Bros wants some of that shared universe multifranchise cash too. And audiences want them to conted Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice should do very well at the box office regardless of the movie’s quality. It’s Batman. People love Batman and they’ll love to watch him kick Superman’s. Suicide Squad has the star power to also perform well. So DC will

For the other companies, the future isn’t as bright.

I could foresee Fox’s Fantastic Four faltering at the box office. They’ve been very secretive about that film. No trailers, not even a movie logo. There’s bad rumors circulating around it. And everyone knows by now they’re only making it to keep the film rights so they don’t revert back to Marvel. Fantastic Four isn’t as strong a brand as X-men either. Isn’t anyone aching for a new movie with a Dr. Doom who blogs? I could see it under performing or forgotten in the shadows of DC/Marvel.

X-Men will stay strong but it’s time for a new Wolverine. I want to see how Deadpool does. The only way that character works is in an R-rated action comedy. Anything less and it’s like why bother? I’m a huge fan of the character. I’ve read the leaked script. I hope they cook something else up. It was not bad, but also not great. And Deadpool deserves a great script that pulls from the Joe Kelly era.

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Sony is in rough shape after the hacking. They want to make a Spider-man shared universe and I’d rather they didn’t. They’ve hurt poor Peter enough. The boy needs to go to the mouse.

If anything, superhero movies will end being the only movies in theaters in the coming years.

Achieving the Impossible

Marvel has done the impossible. 2008 was the beginning. Iron Man managed to capture the spirit of the character and be a pretty good movie. Robert Downey Jr. was cast as Tony Stark and gave a great performance. Marvel surprised me with the movie and then the after-credits scene.

Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury showed up after the credits. I got giddy seeing the Ultimate Version of Nick Fury come to life. I’ve dabbled in comic books here and there so I recognized what they were trying to do. I could tell that this could be the start of something incredible if it ended up right. This was a real ambitious project. Never before were comic book characters weaved together into one movie, one coherent continuity. For years whenever someone would bring up the idea in a discussion forum, they were laughed at or told that it could never happen.

The Avengers was seemingly impossible project. Marvel needed all their movies to be successful financially. None of them could bomb critically either. One failure could ruin everything.

With each movie, I feared that they would screw up and then the project would end up dead in the water. The Incredible Hulk came out later in 2008. It wasn’t the best film, but it wasn’t awful. The after credits scene with Tony Stark kept the dream alive. Marvel proved that they could make two movies that weren’t horrible about two of their properties. I kept up hope. I wanted to see them succeed.

Then Iron Man 2 came and it was pretty bad. I feel asleep while watching it in the theater. It felt jumbled and tried to do too many things at once. It was an Iron Man sequel and an Avengers prequel. The villain was also lame. It was making money so it seemed that the Avengers would happen, but I worried about the quality now. If they couldn’t handle just Iron Man, how could they handle Iron Man, Hulk, Captain America, Thor, and others?

The impossible mission stayed impossible. I couldn’t see how they could make both a good movie and a critical success. Hollywood is known for ruining projects. Many good scripts are ruined by the time they make it to the screen. After Iron Man 2, I thought it was over.

Thor brought me back.Tom Hiddleston was amazing as Loki. The film was better than Iron Man 2. I came out of theater interested in both a Thor sequel and the Avengers. Captain America’s quality was also above average. Now everything was in place. They had the money. They brought back nearly all the actors. But could they do it?

 

 

 

 

OH HELL YEAH!!! THEY DID IT! THE AVENGERS KICKED ASS! WHEN HULK AND THOR WERE GOING AT IT, I LOST MY MIND! I NEVER THOUGHT I’D SEE THAT ON THE BIG SCREEN! LOKI TAKING ON CAP! LOKI MANIPULATING! HOLY SHIT! IT WAS AMAZING!  AND THEN WHEN CAPTAIN AMERICA JUMPED IN AND COMMANDED! HAWKYE SHOOTING THOSE ARROWS! IRON MAN VS. THOR!!!

BEST SUPERHERO MOVIE EVER! GOOD LUCK THE DARK KNIGHT RISES! THE BAR HAS BEEN RAISED! I’m so glad that during my lifetime Marvel achieved the impossible.

Thank you Marvel. I haven’t had that much fun at the movies in a while.