“WandaVision” 1st Trailer Review!

The Marvel drought is officially over, with the release of the first full trailer for the studio’s first ever Disney+ streaming series, WandaVision. In a perfect alternate reality, The Falcon And The Winter Soldier would likely already be well into its first season or might even have already concluded – but as we can see from the WandaVision trailer, picture-perfect alternate realities aren’t always as perfect as they seem from the inside looking out.

WandaVision
slashfilm.com

The trailer includes everything I was most hoping to see (and was worried I might not) in just under a minute and a half. The classic sitcom elements are all there, from the constantly changing aspect ratio to the laugh track that we hear punctuating two separate scenes. The psychological horror elements are front and center, with cheerful music accompanying scenes of a quaint suburban utopia glitching: time rewinding, scenes repeating themselves in a loop – all we’re missing is some color bars to make it apparent that Wanda Maximoff and The Vision (whose names, conjoined, make up both the title of the series and a clever play on the word television) are in fact living in a classic sitcom-inspired alternate reality as many of us have guessed from the day the series was announced.

The last we saw of these two characters, Wanda was still in a fragile emotional state and recovering from the traumatic events of several previous Marvel films – and as for Vision, well, he had been killed…twice. Once by Wanda herself after it became clear that she was the only person strong enough to kill him and seemingly destroy the dangerous Mind Stone embedded in his head; once by the Mad Titan Thanos, mere moments after dying the first time, when Thanos used the Time Stone to reverse the consequences of Wanda’s tragic sacrifice, resurrecting Vision only to rip the reconstructed Mind Stone out of his head, killing him instantly and far more brutally.

But now, in the WandaVision trailer, we find them happily married and moving into a lovely little townhouse in the suburbs….back in the 1950’s or 60’s, as is made obvious by the fact that everything is black and white, “Twilight Time” is playing, and Wanda and Vision appear to be channeling Dick Van Dyke and his onscreen bride Mary Tyler Moore. As the two get comfortable, they try to bond with the neighbors (including the nosy Agnes: more on her in a moment), which leads to an uncomfortable dinner party with the newlyweds trying to vaguely explain where they came from, how long they’ve been married, and why they’re still childless. As the screen glitches and Wanda begins to panic, the truth becomes clear – with the help of her supernatural powers, Wanda Maximoff has somehow built an entire idyllic dreamscape for herself an a resurrected Vision. Unable to achieve her happy-ever-after in the real world, she’s decided to build one from scratch. It helps when your alter ego is The Scarlet Witch and you can just do this stuff.

WandaVision
collider.com

But nothing comes easily. Even though we see Wanda trying to keep her utopia intact, the entire place is clearly coming apart at the seams. Why exactly is still unclear: is this whole world somehow contained within Wanda’s mind, and the mental toll of trying to hold it together is inadvertently causing it to crumble to pieces around her? Or are the events of this show playing out in, as I suspect, a pocket dimension, one which is quickly closing or becoming unstable and potentially deadly? To me this latter option seems the most likely for a number of reasons: note, towards the end of the trailer, what looks to be a gated compound surrounded by armored vehicles, helicopters and teams of heavily armed agents (who, by the way, come from S.W.O.R.D., the sister organization of S.H.I.E.L.D.). Note how, when we see Monica Rambeau get thrown through mid-air in Wanda’s world, she pops out through a rift in the real world before into the earth at the same location where all the S.W.O.R.D. agents are stationed (notice also how she zooms straight by a town sign in the real world that seems like it might say Westview, just like the name of the town in Wanda’s world, according to Vision’s newspaper). I think there’s something beyond all those electric fences, something S.W.O.R.D. is guarding or observing, and I think it’s probably a portal to another dimension into which Wanda has entered and to which she has now lost herself – and I think Monica is the agent who’s been tasked with trying to get in and retrieve the Scarlet Witch before the effects of her tampering with the space-time continuum bleed out into the real world (I’ve speculated previously that this is why I think Darcy Lewis will also be appearing in WandaVision: she was a prominent figure in Thor: The Dark World because of how much she knew about portals opening between worlds and dimensions, and her expertise could be vital to S.W.O.R.D.). But, no matter how much Wanda may privately realize she’s living out a fantasy, she’ll still resist having to leave and she’ll probably become a destructive force of dark magic if anyone tries to separate her from Vision – or the two newest members of her family, her twin boys.

Yes, it looks like Wanda and Vision have been busy making up for lost time in this new life they share. Their twin sons, Wiccan and Speed, are both powerful and important heroes in the Marvel comics, and it’s great to see them onscreen at last, even if they are still babies. Thanks to Wanda’s reality-warping powers and the fact that she keeps changing the decade (we start out in the 50’s and progress through television history all the way to the 90’s or early 2000’s in the sitcom world), I expect both boys to be in their teens by the end of WandaVision, making them perfect candidates to join the ranks of the Young Avengers team being assembled across the MCU. I’ve speculated that we’ll see Wiccan, one of the most notable LGBTQ+ characters in Marvel history, come out as gay to his mother after meeting Hulkling, his eventual boyfriend, when the latter arrives as part of the same S.W.O.R.D. team sent to obtain Wanda.

WandaVision
Hulkling and Wiccan | comicsbeat.com

Whether Wanda will be so fortunate in her love life remains to be seen. We know she’s in Doctor Strange: The Multiverse Of Madness, so she clearly survives WandaVision, but she could be permanently scarred (mentally, emotionally, and perhaps physically) by whatever happens to her and Vision here – I definitely don’t see Vision making it out alive, meaning Wanda will likely once again be left heartbroken (especially if S.W.O.R.D. takes her children into their custody as well). Hiding won’t work: even in the confines of her perfect reality, the couple are still in danger thanks to their nosy neighbor Agnes, who is very likely the evil sorceress Agatha Harkness.

In the comics, Harkness is an agent of chaos who mentors/manipulates Wanda and gets the younger Witch embroiled in a couple of unsavory situations, including some very literal deals with the devil. Her iconic purple and fuchsia outfit is reflected in the character Agnes’ bright purple leg warmers and hot pink tights (circa 1980-something). and the witch hat she wears while sitting paralyzed in her car on Halloween, which is where Vision finds her and gently tries to wake her with his own superpowers. When she jumps, and hurriedly asks if she’s dead, it prompts Vision to ask her in his most innocent tone of voice why she would ever think that. “Because you are,” she responds bluntly, before bursting into maniacal laughter. I’ve got to imagine that being informed in the middle of the night by a teal-haired woman wearing a witch’s hat that you’re actually dead and your wife murdered you (oh, and also you’re definitely living in a simulation and your kids are probably fake) has to be an emotional gut punch of some kind.

Probably explains why Vision looks so glum in the next shot, where we see him trick-or-treating in the neighborhood while wearing his iconic outfit from the comics as a Halloween costume. It looks absolutely ridiculous, but it’s an Easter Egg, and I love it. Wanda also wears a version of her comics-accurate costume for the Halloween episode, which includes her signature crescent moon tiara, red cape and gloves. Here’s hoping she gets a more sophisticated version of the costume (or at least the tiara) to wear into battle when she’s inevitably forced to defend her family from intruders.

WandaVision
nerdist.com

I have a suspicion she’ll take down some S.W.O.R.D. agents before all is said and done, but they may not all be so easy to kill, even though she’s armed with dark magic. The way the trailer ends, with us getting our first good look at Monica Rambeau as she recovers from being thrown through the air, makes me think these two women will quickly become nemeses. It won’t be a one-sided fight, either: in the comics, Monica has some cosmic superpowers of her own, which are similar to Captain Marvel’s, and she goes under the alias Spectrum. If push comes to shove (and it will), I think Monica is more than capable of holding her own. It’s even possible that she’ll obtain her powers due to her close proximity to Wanda’s magical outbursts: since we know only Wanda, whose powers derived from the Mind Stone, was able to destroy the Mind Stone, it stands to reason that the only way to defeat Wanda is to use some of her own power against her.

Before we go, I have to make a bold prediction: based off this trailer and what we already know, I think that WandaVision is about to be the most wildly original and imaginative thing that Marvel has ever done, and I believe that it has the potential to usher in a new era in the studio’s history. Marvel’s tried and true formula is known to work, but many of us have been wanting the studio to branch out, try some new things and take some big risks: this trailer is all of that. The MCU is about to get a whole lot messier, as the complications of the Multiverse ensure that literally anything can happen from now on and creative freedom can go unchecked, and I’m here for it.

Trailer Rating: 10/10

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Tatiana Maslany Cast As Marvel’s “She-Hulk”!

Canadian actress Tatiana Maslany has become the second member of Marvel’s growing Hulk family, as she has – according to Deadline – signed on to play Jennifer Walters (a.k.a. She-Hulk) in a highly-anticipated Disney+ series which will follow the fan favorite character on her journey to becoming the indomitable, bright green superheroine. Maslany, whose career highlights include prominent roles on BBC’s Orphan Black and HBO’s Perry Mason, is an unexpected but refreshing choice to play the character, whose casting has been a topic of debate in the Marvel fandom for months.

She-Hulk
theverge.com

Jennifer Walters, the heroine at the heart of the upcoming She-Hulk series, is a character with a lot of heart and humor, and the fancasts for her have primarily been actresses with a background in comedy, such as Alison Brie (who was rumored to be the type of actress Marvel was looking for), Aubrey Plaza and Stephanie Beatriz. My personal favorite fancast was always Aladdin’s Naomi Scott, but clearly that was just me. Anyway, the casting of Maslany might indicate that Marvel has something a little different in mind: Maslany isn’t a stranger to comedy, but her talents are definitely best showcased in her wide range of dramatic performances, from her role(s) on Orphan Black as Sarah Manning and over a dozen clones, to her recent appearance as Sister Alice McKeegan (based on the real life evangelist Aimee McPherson) on Perry Mason. Taking all that into consideration, I’m willing to make a guess that Marvel’s She-Hulk will be just as much a dramatic character as a comedic one, something that I’m relishing the chance to see. Jennifer Walters’ story lends itself to a dramatic telling.

For those unaware of She-Hulk’s origins (and those who mistakenly still think she’s just a Hulk rip-off without her own personality or backstory), here’s a little refresher on where she comes from: in the comics, she starts out as ordinary Jennifer Walters, the cousin of Bruce Banner (who, by then, is already the Hulk). After her father angers a homicidal crime lord, she gets caught in the crossfire and has to be rushed to the hospital, where Bruce Banner gives her an emergency blood transfusion to save her life. The gamma radiation in his blood transmits to her and gives her nearly identical powers, but with a few interesting differences: firstly, when she transforms into her She-Hulk persona, she retains her human intellect and emotions, allowing her greater control over her actions and ensuring she never turns quite as destructive as her cousin; secondly, she doesn’t become a monster…instead, she just turns big, muscular and green, with (typically) an iconic purple and white costume and a mane of 80’s curls that has her at the top of my list of best superhero hairdos. When she’s not fighting crime with her fists, she’s fighting it in the courtroom as a lawyer who represents both civilians (particularly minorities and members of marginalized communities) and superheroes. I have a feeling her backstory will be slightly updated to have her first take legal action against the crime lords, who will then later retaliate and intentionally try to kill her, prompting her into a bit of a crisis as she has to try and figure out whether to go after them as a superpowered vigilante or as a prosecutor backed by the justice system. There’s a lot of potential for drama there.

She-Hulk
usatoday.com

But, as in the comics, there’s also plenty of room for humor. I kind of doubt that the Marvel Cinematic Universe version of She-Hulk will ever directly break the fourth wall as she does in the comics, but that doesn’t mean she still can’t be every bit as funny and sassy as her comics counterpart. A lot of it will depend on surrounding her with a great supporting cast who can act as foils to her: there’s plenty of evidence to suggest that Mark Ruffalo’s Bruce Banner will appear (I mean, he probably has to for her origin story to work), most likely in his newest form as the cool, self-confident Professor Hulk, unless the series takes place prior to the events of Avengers: Endgame. There’s also rumors that a number of other Hulk and Hulk-related characters could show up, including Red Hulk, and maybe even Hulk’s former love interest, Betty Ross (hopefully, as rumored, with Liv Tyler reprising the role).

Kat Coiro, who will direct the She-Hulk pilot and several more episodes in the show, and Jessica Gao, who is the head writer of the series, both also come from the comedy genre and will likely keep things light-hearted (I mean, as much as possible when you’re dealing with a character whose powers literally derive from a nearly fatal shooting).

She-Hulk
nerdist.com

Since the question will eventually come up…no, I really don’t expect the 5′ 4″ Maslany to play She-Hulk in her actual Hulk form: in other words, while she’ll still do the voice and presumably motion-capture, I presume the She-Hulk persona will be realized through CGI. This is a little bit disappointing, especially since no one wants to see special-effects budget limitations possibly hinder how often She-Hulk will be onscreen, but it can’t be helped: Hulk was a fully CGI character too, and no one complained (up until Avengers: Endgame, and then everyone complained). And the Disney+ shows have big enough budgets that She-Hulk’s design should look pretty good, no matter what.

On the other hand, if Tatiana Maslany wants to try and convince me that she’s a towering green woman with the physique of a professional bodybuilder through sheer force of acting, I think I’d buy it. She’s that good an actress.

What do you think of the casting? Are you excited to see She-Hulk make her MCU debut on Disney+? Share your own thoughts, theories and opinions in the comments below!

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“The Mandalorian” Season 2 Teaser Trailer! Baby Yoda Is Back!

This is the way.

In the absence of any of the original Marvel content that was supposed to debut this year, Disney+ is relying on a second season of its mega-hit The Mandalorian to keep subscribers satisfied with the streaming service: and yes, while it’s disheartening that we’re now probably getting two seasons of this one show before a proper trailer for either Marvel’s WandaVision or Falcon And The Winter Soldier, I’d be lying if I said that the irresistible duo of Pedro Pascal and his puppet sidekick Baby Yoda isn’t enough to tide me over for a while yet. And the first trailer for The Mandalorian‘s upcoming second season gives us plenty of the adorable single father/social media celebrity pairing that we can’t get enough of, no matter what other problems we (or is it only I?) might have with the series overall.

The Mandalorian
radiotimes.com

During the first season, I mostly took issue with the slow pacing and general sense of meandering that had me wondering, more and more with every episode, whether there was supposed to be a plot throughline or not. Everything worked out by the end, when the Mandalorian (whose real name is Din Djarin) had his epic confrontation with ex-Imperial Stormtroopers under the command of Moff Gideon, who was revealed in the finale to be in possession of an ancient, powerful weapon: the Darksaber of Mandalorian legend, once wielded by generations of Mandalorian leaders and even the tyrannical Sith Lord Darth Maul. But this time around, new problems have emerged: specifically the castings of Rosario Dawson as the Jedi Ahsoka and Gina Carano as Cara Dune. The former, who is joining the show for the first time this season, has allegations of transphobic abuse leveled against her by a former employee; the latter, a holdover from season one, has recently been embroiled in a number of online controversies, including urging people not to wear masks or stay in quarantine during coronavirus and appearing to mock the trans community with her new set of joke pronouns.

The Mandalorian
Ahsoka Tano | thedisinsider.com

Will they detract from my enjoyment of the new season? I hope not, because the teaser trailer has me deeply invested already in the Mandalorian’s next adventure across the galaxy, but you can be sure I will continue to address it throughout my coverage of the season. We briefly catch a glimpse of Cara Dune in the teaser, and I have to admit feeling a bit of disappointment that I can’t get as excited about her appearance as I should be. It’s doubly unfortunate because, for the moment at least, Cara Dune is the show’s female lead and Ahsoka is supposed to be a major character too. Thankfully, other female characters are leveling up in the show, including Sabine Wren: who is possibly the hooded woman we see watching the Mandalorian and Baby Yoda in the teaser.

The teaser, thankfully, highlights a number of other things to get hyped about, including what looks like a more structured storyline revolving around the Mandalorian trying to reunite Baby Yoda with the infant’s kin; a bunch of new and old locations, including Tattooine and an ice-planet (Hoth? I don’t remember many other ice-planets in Star Wars); and an increase in violence. No sign of Moff Gideon or his legendary Darksaber just yet, but I’m sure he’ll pop up in future trailers. As for the Jedi, they seem to be remaining in the shadows for right now, but I have a feeling more are out there then we think (my theory is still that Jedi Master Yaddle survived the Great Purge and is Baby Yoda’s mother).

The Mandalorian
Baby Yoda | syfy.com

Speaking of Baby Yoda, the adorable little baby is still pint-sized and easily portable, something that comes in handy during action scenes I’m sure. Just so long as no one smacks the baby on his itty-bitty fragile little head this time around (looking at you, random Stormtrooper from season one), he should be doing pretty good: he’s learned how to quickly evade danger by disappearing into the safety of his floating cradle. He has the power to use the Force, but he’s just not in the mood to do so, and you know what?…I respect that.

So what do you think? How excited are you for The Mandalorian season two? Are you here for the plot, or for Baby Yoda? Share your own thoughts, theories and opinions in the comments below!

Trailer Rating: 8/10

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Howard Ashman’s Story Is Brought To Life In “Howard”!

Howard is yet more proof that one of the Disney+ streaming platform’s greatest strengths, despite an overall lack of original content, is its catalog of documentaries – not all of which, to be fair, were created exclusively for the service. Between this, Into The Unknown: The Making Of Frozen II, The Imagineering Story and Waking Sleeping Beauty, viewers are in for a treat if they ever seek out this particular genre on Disney+. Unfortunately, it remains one of the service’s better kept secrets that all these films and miniseries’ are even on there at all. Howard, which explores the life and times of one of the studio’s most celebrated songwriters as well as the impact he had on the Disney Renaissance, is neither the most illuminating nor the most well-made of these documentaries, but it is a welcome addition to the collection – and like the rest, it affords us a much-needed glimpse behind the curtain into the making of Disney magic: particularly the blood, sweat and tears that goes into the creative process.

Howard Ashman
d23.com

Now, if you’re already familiar with many of the details of Howard Ashman’s story (and/or if you are subscribed to the superb Dreamsounds channel on YouTube, which examines Disney music through an LGBTQ+ lens and as a result focuses several video essays around Ashman), then Howard probably won’t be anything too groundbreaking. The film goes over all the pivotal moments in Ashman’s life, from his youth to his accomplishments in musical theater and film, to his tragic death from AIDS, before closing off with a look back at his legacy – accompanied by a montage which includes footage from Disney’s live-action remakes of Beauty & The Beast and Aladdin – but while it does also dig a little deeper into his personal life it still feels distanced and a bit cold until the very end: though this could be because the film only uses voiceover from the people who knew and loved Ashman to narrate a long string of old photographs, snippets of footage, etc, rather than allowing us to attach faces and, most importantly, real emotions to the names of the interviewees.

Probably the most important element of the film is how it tackles the latter period of Howard Ashman’s life, while he was simultaneously turning out some of his greatest work for Disney and also suffering from AIDS. The documentary appropriately doesn’t make the whole story about Disney (though you might think that’s the case early on, as Ashman’s sister recounts how as a child he used to create fantastical stories about magic and made-up characters), nor does it gloss over the horrors of the AIDS epidemic: the 1980’s was a terrifying and extremely dangerous place for gay men, which the documentary makes very clear by recounting how Ashman kept his illness a closely-guarded secret until near the end of his life for fear of losing his insurance and being fired by Disney. Just because he was working for a studio with a reputation for charming, happily-ever-after fairytales doesn’t mean he was oblivious to the reality that at the time (and even now, to some extent), there was no surety that Disney was an LGBTQ+ friendly company or that they would accommodate his needs (they did, much to Ashman’s relief; sending their teams of animators and writers to his home in upstate New York rather than requiring him to fly back-and-forth between the East and West coasts, and continuing to involve him in the songwriting process for Aladdin while he was hospitalized).

Howard Ashman
medium.com

The gay subtext that Ashman is believed to have put into the music he wrote for Disney is also addressed (though again, if you want to know more about it, I recommend the Dreamsounds channel, which covers this topic in much greater depth). Both Part Of Your World, the iconic “I Want” song from The Little Mermaid that Ashman fought for despite Disney CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg’s objections (the “I Want” song wasn’t Ashman’s invention, but he certainly popularized the term) and The Mob Song from Beauty & The Beast are often believed to have LGBTQ+ themes, though only The Mob Song is brought up to prove this point in the film, with parallels being drawn between the townsfolk’s fear/hatred of the Beast, which results in them marching with pitchforks, gun and torches to kill him, and society’s fear/hatred of the LGBTQ+ community, which expressed itself in similar, and no less brutal, violence. A counterargument is provided that Howard Ashman wasn’t projecting his own experience into the lyrics of his songs, but was instead stepping into the shoes of the characters with the help of his remarkable amount of empathy, but it can’t be argued that a large part of his empathy with the struggles of misunderstood and mistreated characters like Ariel and The Beast is likely to have stemmed from his own struggles being accepted in a homophobic society.

Following the course of one man’s real life story leads us inevitably to Howard Ashman’s last days on earth, with his working partner Alan Menken, The Little Mermaid star Jodi Benson and others sharing their last memories of him, including a prophetic dream of the lyricist wearing black robes which Menken had on the same morning as Ashman’s passing. It goes without saying that the last couple of minutes of the documentary are an emotional ride.

Howard Ashman
syfy.com

Howard Ashman was able to get a lot done in his life, and several of the interviewees note that his frustration at having so little time left often motivated him to work even harder during his last years. Despite only working on a handful of films for Disney, Ashman shaped the future of the studio, its storytelling and its music, and he continues to impact the way they craft their animated films to this day. The whole Disney Renaissance is largely because of him and the way in which he was able to seamlessly reinvent the studio’s formula to closer match that of the Broadway musicals which he loved. On the stage, of course, he was responsible for the legendary Little Shop Of Horrors musical and was involved with the subsequent film adaptation, which is itself getting a remake sometime in the near future. And he is particularly notable for being able to accomplish so much of this while working as an openly gay man, no easy feat in any time period. In the documentary, he is heard humbly admitting that he doesn’t think of himself as a trailblazer – but there is no question that he was one of the most brilliant minds in music during his time, and that his influence will continue to be felt for a very while.

Movie Rating: 7.5/10

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“Hamilton” Film Review!

What is there to say about Hamilton that hasn’t now been said a million times before in the five years since the musical phenomenon burst onto Broadway? In those five years, Hamilton, the story of one of America’s most influential Founding Fathers, has sparked a mini revolution of passionate conversation about American history; inspired a dedicated fandom; and now, on the anniversary of America’s Declaration of Independence, made the long-awaited jump from stage to screen. There was never any doubt that this moment would be huge: Disney paid a hefty sum of $75M for the rights to the musical, and it’s already right up there with The Mandalorian as one of the most high-profile original productions that Disney+ has to offer. But the outpouring of support for the film is still incredible to see: yesterday, the day of its release, Hamilton and a slew of other hashtags related to the musical were among the top trends of Twitter, and people (like myself) flooded social media with our reactions. Amid all the talk, what is there left to say?

Hamilton
nytimes.com

Well, the fresh new format in which the musical is being presented is cause enough for conversation; though, unsurprisingly, it’s not quite as interesting a subject for many as, say, the story or world-famous soundtrack. The movie was filmed over the course of three days, with cameras placed in the audience during two live performances of the show, before moving onstage to achieve a more cinematic experience – no easy feat, I’m sure, considering how many dancers are often crowding the stage, sometimes so many that we lose sight of our main characters (one of only a few flaws in the actual staging of the musical). Overhead shots are utilized in a number of scenes, particularly for duels. And extreme close-ups bring us nearer to the actors’ facial acting than was ever possible before, even for front-row audiences: from Daveed Diggs’ repertoire of eye rolls and dramatic sneers as a quirky, flamboyantly dressed take on Thomas Jefferson; to the spit flying from King George III‘s (Jonathan Groff) mouth as he sings his breakup song to America, assuring them they’ll come back to him once they’ve had their fun.

Diggs and Groff are among a number of standouts in the supporting cast who surround Alexander Hamilton (Lin-Manuel Miranda) on his journey from poor immigrant to cornerstone of early American government. Diggs, notably, is one of several actors with two or more roles in the musical: before he transforms wholeheartedly into the fast-rapping character of Jefferson for the rousing second act, he is no less hilariously charismatic as the Marquis de Lafayette, America’s ally from across the Atlantic. Anthony Ramos is both Hamilton’s close friend John Laurens during the Revolutionary War, and then later his son Phillip (though the latter role is probably the more interesting of the two, I personally found Ramos to be more fun in the first, and I can’t wait to see him star in Lin-Manuel Miranda’s In The Heights next year: if coronavirus hadn’t moved the film from its original June 26th release date, these past few weeks would have been a showcase of Lin-Manuel’s musical talent; but then again, if coronavirus hadn’t struck, we would still have been waiting until October of next year to see the Hamilton film on the big screen).

Hamilton
standard.co.uk

In the next tier (not in terms of talent, but based on how close they are to Hamilton) we have Christopher Jackson as the indestructible, untouchable George Washington, whose role as a mentor and something of a father figure to Alexander Hamilton is pivotal to the entire story. There’s Angelica Schuyler (Renée Elise Goldsberry), one of Hamilton’s many lovers and the most dynamic, at least initially, of the three Schuyler sisters. And of course we have Leslie Odom Jr., who brings plenty of fiery passion to the somewhat underwritten character of Aaron Burr, an ambitious political candidate forever walking unwillingly in the shadows of larger-than-life figures; the man whom history will forever paint simply as the villain in Alexander Hamilton’s story. And isn’t that the whole theme of the musical? It’s a story about the power of legacy, and how powerless we are to define what that is; as George Washington notes, you have no control over “who lives, who dies, who tells your story”.

The woman who tells Alexander’s story and who, in my humble opinion as a first-time viewer, seems like the understated heroine of the piece, is Eliza Hamilton (Phillipa Soo), Alexander’s wife and later his biographer. Her personal journey, running parallel to Alexander’s lofty dreams, may seem small and inconsequential to some: but in the end, she is the woman still alive fifty years after her husband’s death, still sifting through his writings and trying to piece together a more complete picture of the man, continuing the work on the garden he never saw bear fruit, on the symphony he left unfinished. Hamilton is really a story about people like Eliza, the people who will tell our stories when we’re gone, if we’re lucky enough; whose own stories often get overlooked amid all the heated discourse about their subjects. And Lin-Manuel Miranda isn’t really a modern day Alexander Hamilton, but he is a modern day Eliza, taking back control of a narrative that rarely if ever finds a place for the marginalized, but using this opportunity to uniquely inspect the story of America’s foundation through their eyes: the eyes of immigrants, the Black community and people of color, women, radical thinkers. Through embellishing the story with song and liberally picking and choosing which parts of Hamilton’s life story to adapt, Miranda is exercising his own right as a creative and a chronicler to reinvent Hamilton once again for a more modern audience. It’s hard to tell how Eliza herself would react to all the fame and glory she and her husband now enjoy – but one would hope that, like her musical counterpart, she would gasp in joy and awe at the audience gathered to witness her husband’s legacy in motion.

Hamilton
npr.org

And then there’s Alexander himself: it’s hard to find many faults in Lin-Manuel Miranda’s performance, though it’s easy (and, in fact, important) to see the flaws in the complex character – apart from the historical fact that the real Hamilton was willing to stay silent on the issue of slavery whenever it suited him, the musical’s more liberal version of Alexander hurries through life, too concerned with his future to savor the present, too obsessed over protecting his legacy to be worried about what cost his actions have on those he loves. Alexander himself recognizes this and even sings about it on several occasions (most notably in “The World Was Wide Enough”), but once again it is Eliza who illustrates this point most brilliantly, in “Burn”, a heart-rending number sung in response to the devastating Reynolds Pamphlet scandal.

While we’re on the subject, my favorite subject, I want to highlight several of the songs which made the biggest impressions on me, at least during this viewing – first of many, I hope. Much to my surprise, neither “The Room Where It Happens” nor “Alexander Hamilton”, despite being the two most instantly recognizable songs from the show, would probably crack my top ten if I had to rank them all. “Burn”, my favorite off the entire soundtrack, draws our attention to the gaps in the narrative with its cleverly-constructed lyrics; George III has three catchy songs, each following the same melody, starting off with the sassy, self-righteous “You’ll Be Back”; Hamilton and Jefferson’s rap battles, particularly the first one, are exceptionally witty; and “Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story”, the final song in the musical, gives the story an appropriately epic send-off, reminding us once again that the legacies we leave behind are never truly ours and ours alone, but belong just as much to the people who survive us, who keep those legacies alive long after we’re gone.

In conclusion, I doubt I’ve managed to say anything truly new about Hamilton, but what I hope is that by lending my voice to the conversation I can help to draw further attention to this rare achievement in American theater. This show may look like a scrappy, low-budget historical reenactment, but what it lacks in spectacle it more than makes up for in passion and unquestionable cultural impact.

Movie Rating: 9/10

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“Artemis Fowl” Movie Review!

From my understanding, the Artemis Fowl books are supposed to be pretty good. For my part, I never really got into them all that much – I read the first book (though, to be honest, I think I page-skimmed it), never picked up the sequel, and forgot basically everything that happens in the story fairly quickly. So I went into this new Disney film adaptation without any pre-conceived notions of what Artemis Fowl ought to be about.

And it was still a crushing disappointment.

Artemis Fowl
Domovoi Butler, Holly Short, Mulch Diggums and Artemis Fowl | d23.com

Artemis Fowl, the movie, has a special place on the sadly long list of films that are somehow all plot and no plot at the same time. On the one hand, there’s oh so much going on: people are being kidnapped and ransomed left and right, shady deals are struck with the worst sorts of people, there’s an entire civilization of ancient Celtic fairies living in the center of the earth and they’ve lost a magical golden…vaguely acorn-shaped…thing…and some of them want to use it to…um, destroy the human race, I think….and there’s a whole subplot about who took the golden acorn thing in the first place and whether or not he was a traitor, but it’s hard to tell because this subplot is also only ever subtext despite being intrinsic to what I think was the main thrust of the story – and then on the other hand, this movie is basically just set up for a sequel which is never going to happen, because almost none of the story threads begun in Artemis Fowl actually end; they just peter out in the last twenty minutes of the movie, in a weirdly long, slow section of nothing happening.

This problem might never have occurred if the movie were about someone other than Artemis Fowl himself. Fowl, played by newcomer Ferdia Shaw, is a singularly uninteresting character who apparently is a masterful strategist, though we never get to see him work out any of his strategies – those are all explained to us with the help of some helpful narration from Mulch Diggums (Josh Gad) the giant, treasure-hunting Dwarf who claims to be the true hero of the story so many times that, by the end of the movie, I was convinced he should have been. Fowl, unfortunately, has all of the bark but no bite – for a boy who boasts loudly that he’s a criminal mastermind and struts around in suits and dark sunglasses like a miniature runway model, he doesn’t actually commit many crimes or do anything particularly cool. Everything that’s supposedly going on inside his enigmatic mind is firmly outside of the audience’s grasp, and the attitude he projects outwardly – that of a bratty, too-cool-for-school aristocrat – is unappealing and grating after a while.

Artemis Fowl
Domovoi Butler and Artemis Fowl | polygon.com

The film might have benefited from being reworked around a supporting character in the plot, Holly Short (Lara McDonnell). Short, a talented, up and coming officer in the fairy militia, is better written than her above-ground counterpart, and she has a more interesting story to tell, as the daughter of the fairy responsible for the whole mess with the golden acorn thing. And, while this might not be a deal-breaker when it comes to choosing your protagonist, she is also cooler than Artemis Fowl – she has mind-control and healing powers (underutilized, of course), a snazzy green outfit and wings, and technologically-advanced weaponry. She’s also one of the very few highlights of the film, and one of the only truly memorable performances.

And I say that with all due respect to Josh Gad and Colin Farrell (Farrell, never one to miss out on a Disney Dad role, is playing Artemis Fowl Sr.). Judi Dench is here and there throughout the movie as the fairy commander Root, and she has some good line delivery, but more could have been done with her character’s rough-and-tough personality and extensive vocabulary of imaginative insults. Nonso Anozie plays Domovoi Butler, the Fowl family’s bodyguard and butler (get it? Because his name is Butler?) with complete apathy, making it unintentionally comical when his character is supposed to break down in tears during “dramatic” moments. Then again, he’s given such wretched dialogue to work with, especially during his first few scenes, that I can’t honestly blame him for being unable to force out any emotions.

Artemis Fowl
Judi Dench as Root | theguardian.com

There’s a villain, but this is the type of villain who only works through clueless cronies and thus has virtually no real impact on the plot. Artemis Fowl never even has a confrontation with this character – presumably, that was being saved for the hypothetical sequel – and only ever gets to fight a few fairy soldiers and a troll. The former are dispatched with a variety of magical weapons in a bizarrely edited sequence that seems to operate on the principle that action is more exhilarating if it’s just sped up, and the latter is pointless, but takes so long to defeat that you begin to wonder if it’s actually the final boss battle of the movie, and then you realize that it is and so it’s yet another disappointment to add to the list.

As I watched the film, I was looking for something, anything, to compliment: at last, I had settled upon the music. It was Celtic, if a bit stereotypically so, and I like Celtic music. But then I made the mistake of listening to it as it plays over the closing credits, and that’s when I realized that the reason I liked it is because it’s virtually copied from Howard Shore’s brilliant “The Breaking Of The Fellowship”. It’s not completely identical – it’s nowhere near as good – but the similarities are unmistakable and made me dislike it too.

And while I may not know the books very well, I do happen to be an avid reader of Celtic, and particularly Irish, mythology, and so of course I was offended by the film’s reworking of ancient pagan folklore. The basics are there: the Tuatha Dé Danann were driven underground by humans long ago, and have diminished into the stuff of fairytale. But the modernized twist, with the fey folk now carrying modern weapons and listening to modern music (I was hoping beyond hope that the fairy music would have been provided by real Celtic musical artists, but I was, wait for it, disappointed yet again) felt like shoddy worldbuilding. The only bit that was clever, in my humble opinion, was the unusual but illuminating reveal that David Bowie was apparently a member of the fairy race.

Artemis Fowl
Artemis Fowl | ign.com

This film, simply put, is a disaster. There is little to no cohesion; characters feel half-baked; scenes are shot and edited poorly; it’s definitely not Kenneth Branagh’s finest achievement as a director, and even without any real knowledge of the books I’m positive it’s a let down for fans of the popular series. Though the film ends with a hook for a sequel, I doubt very much that this incarnation of Artemis Fowl will ever return to screens big or small (and on that point, I’m glad this film skipped theaters and headed straight to the Disney+ streaming service, so I didn’t have to risk catching coronavirus just for this). Instead, let me console you with the truth that, no matter what was planned to come next, it would likely have been just as disappointing as this turned out to be.

Movie Rating: 1.9/10

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Evan Peters Joins The Cast Of “WandaVision”!

First thing’s first, it’s important that we look at this news calmly and rationally, and not jump to conclusions because – OH MY GOD IT’S AN X-MEN CROSSOVER ISN’T IT??? X-MEN CROSSOVER, X-MEN CROSSOVER!!!

Forgive me. I’m calm now (*screams internally*). And I’m ready to very calmly discuss the news that just broke about actor Evan Peters joining the cast of Marvel Studios’ upcoming Disney+ series, WandaVision. Now, to those unfamiliar with the name, Peters’ casting is probably insignificant – but it shouldn’t be, because this is actually quite extraordinary and opens the door for…so many things (*cough, cough, Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. crossover*) that could drastically alter what we think we know of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s future.

Quicksilver WandaVision
comicbook.com

Evan Peters, you see, is probably best known for his portrayal of the mutant speedster Quicksilver in Fox’s most recent round of X-Men movies. These films didn’t quite match the cult classic status of Fox’s original X-Men trilogy, but a couple of individual castings were spot-on: and many fans agree that Evan Peters as Quicksilver was one of them. But unfortunately for Peters, his version of the character has always been overshadowed by the version of Quicksilver who appeared in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, played by Aaron Taylor-Johnson. Taylor-Johnson’s version had far more exposure than Peters’ thanks to appearing in one (almost universally condemned) Avengers movie before being unceremoniously killed off – thus, many Marvel fans are still rooting for him to reprise his role, without even considering the alternative.

But now, Disney owns Fox, and with Evan Peters being cast in WandaVision, it looks far more likely that Marvel is looking to bring his take on Quicksilver into the MCU. It’s plausible, I suppose, that Peters is playing a completely different character. But the WandaVision series literally focuses on Quicksilver’s twin sister Wanda Maximoff as she tries to warp reality to bring back deceased loved ones, so that seems like a truly bizarre coincidence, if it is the case. It’s also possible that both Peters and Taylor-Johnson will play the role – after all, Wanda is going to be toying with some pretty dangerous magic, so it’s easy to imagine her accidentally summoning two versions of her brother out of the Multiverse. Such a mishap would also feel right at home in a sit-com like the ones by which WandaVision is inspired.

WandaVision
themarysue.com

But even if Peters’ role is only for a cameo, it’s still a major step forward for the MCU. Up until now, we’ve cautiously hoped for crossovers like these: but this would be the biggest one yet. And if it goes well, it’s possible it could be followed by other, similar crossovers. Other X-Men stars could potentially show up for Multiverse cameos, or small supporting roles: for instance, fans are already reacting well to the footage we’ve seen of Anya Taylor-Joy and Maisie Williams as Magik and Wolfsbane in The New Mutants, which will be the last of Fox’s X-Men films whenever it finally gets released. Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. star Chloe Bennet is still waiting for her chance to appear in the mainstream Marvel universe. There are a bunch of talented actors and actresses who have become fan-favorites without ever once showing up in MCU canon, and they don’t deserve to be tossed aside. Peters’ casting bodes well for all of them.

On the other hand, the MCU does have a responsibility to differentiate itself from what came from – and let’s not fool ourselves: the reaction to most of the Fox X-Men films was mixed, to say the least. Therefore, even if Peters is playing Quicksilver in WandaVision, I expect him to only have a small role, and I doubt he’d ever show up again. But who knows? I never even imagined we would be here, discussing this.

What do you think of Evan Peters being cast? Who do you think he’s playing? Would you like to see any more crossovers from the various other franchises existing on the fringe of MCU canon? Share your own thoughts, theories and opinions in the comments below!

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Rick Riordan Developing “Percy Jackson” For Disney+!

It’s been a long wait, but the hopes and dreams of Percy Jackson fans worldwide (and there are a lot of them, as shown by the way they’ve taken over Twitter) have finally been realized – bestselling author Rick Riordan and his wife announced today that they have convinced Disney to adapt Riordan’s Percy Jackson And The Olympians series: a series many regard to be every bit as iconic and formative as the Harry Potter and Hunger Games books, and that, with a dedicated and faithful approach to the source material, could have just as much success onscreen as both those franchises.

Percy Jackson
bookstacked.com

But whereas both Harry Potter and The Hunger Games have only had one, definitive adaptation, Percy Jackson is different in that it was adapted once before – and fans of the books, including Riordan himself, were almost unanimous in declaring that the two films derived from the first two books in the series were badly-written, badly-cast, and just….well, bad. After the two films’ poor reception, the planned franchise (then owned by 20th Century Fox) quickly dried up, and any hope of a proper reboot seemed lost. Until this year, when Rick Riordan started casually dropping hints on his social media accounts that implied he had been meeting with Disney executives to discuss the possibility of a reboot – and now, at last, it’s finally here. It’s happening. And it might just be good.

The new adaptation will be a series, planned to debut on Disney+, the studio’s streaming platform. Riordan announced several details about the series: it will be a multi-season commitment, with each season covering one whole book in his original, five-part series (though there will likely be room for spinoffs, perhaps even ones adapting Riordan’s other series’ set in the same universe as Percy Jackson, such as Heroes Of Olympus and The Kane Chronicles, if this series does well). The first season, for instance, will consist of the entirety of the series’ first book, Percy Jackson And The Lightning Thief. For those of you not in the know, allow me to give you a quick rundown of the story (and let me assure you, I am not some poser copy-and-pasting summaries of the books from Wikipedia pages: I was and still am a big fan of Riordan’s work, and I own copies of all of his books, all the way through to The Trials Of Apollo. In fact, I’m so much of a fan that it drove me mad that I had to use images from others of Riordan’s books to fill out this post: unfortunately, there’s not enough images solely of art from Lightning Thief).

Percy Jackson
pinterest.com

The Lightning Thief sets up the saga of Percy Jackson, a twelve-year old boy when the story opens (very important point, we’ll get back to that), who quickly discovers that he is the secret son of Poseidon, the ancient Greek god of the ocean – which makes Percy both a demigod and a “half-blood”, a term applied to all characters in the series with one mortal and one immortal parent. Percy is swept off to Camp Half-Blood, where he encounters a host of other characters with similar backgrounds – but, for the first few books at least, Percy is the only demigod whose parent is one of the “Big Three”: that is, Zeus, Poseidon and Hades (not to be confused with the Hades who will soon show up in Disney’s live-action remake of Hercules). His supporting cast includes Annabeth Chase, a strategical, ingenious daughter of Athena, goddess of wisdom; Grover Underwood, a satyr entrusted with protecting Percy’s life from various mythological monsters (one of the best things about Riordan’s work is that he uses some truly obscure characters from the myths, rather than just exploiting the big names like Medusa, The Minotaur and The Hydra – in fact, those three monsters, despite being the most popular, are probably among those used the least overall in the series); and Luke Castellan, a son of Hermes and one of the senior members of Camp Half-Blood’s management alongside the immortal centaur Chiron and the expelled Olympian Dionysus, who goes by “Mr. D” while on earth. This core cast of characters is expanded as times goes on, and, of course, they are joined from time to time by a number of Greek gods: all of the pantheon, from Zeus to Hestia, show up in some form or another, and some play integral roles in the plot. These gods are on the brink of open war when the story begins, and Percy Jackson gets drawn into the middle of their conflict as a pawn, while trying to locate a dangerous artifact stolen from Zeus’ possession.

Percy Jackson
wallpapercave.com

Obviously, any adaptation of a work is going to make changes – that’s why it’s called an adaptation, and not a word-for-word translation. But most agree that the Percy Jackson series needs a more faithful adaptation than whatever it was we got in the film duology: in the films, Percy and his friends are all angsty teenagers rather than kids, and their humor is more coarse and adult than the witty style that Riordan wrote into his books; the films use overexposed and frankly boring monsters in place of some of Riordan’s more creative choices – one particularly awful instance is when The Hydra is employed as a substitute for Echidna and The Chimera, two far more compelling monsters; the gods are depicted as stereotypical Greek warriors of gargantuan stature, when in the books one of the defining features of the gods is how human they are – Poseidon wears tacky Hawaiian shirts and enjoys fishing, while Ares is a hyper-aggressive macho biker and Zeus is a permanently dour middle-aged man in a pinstripe suit; and the story is unnecessarily convoluted by the introduction of a new quest to find magical pearls that, in the books, is summed up in a single scene.

Needless to say, fans demand and expect better from Disney – what we (I feel comfortable saying we, because I do regard myself as a hardcore fan) expect is a series that highlights the best aspects of the books and reminds us just how much they meant to us, growing up. Percy Jackson made me into a Greek mythology buff, and I have retained all (or at least most) of the knowledge I obtained when, after reading the books, I would immediately set about researching every single mythological character referenced in the books, from Kronos (Lord of the Titans, imprisoned in Tartarus after brutally murdering his own father and then subsequently being brutally murdered by his own son, temporarily defeated by a hairbrush) to Kampê (demonic, scimitar-wielding entity ordered by Zeus to keep watch over the hundred-handed Hecatonkheires on Alcatraz Island). Thankfully, Rick Riordan assured us all that he will be supervising the development of the series, and will be on-set regularly to make sure everything is going smoothly, and his artistic vision is being respected.

Percy Jackson
hypable.com

I am also certain that Riordan, who has recently established himself as a progressive voice in young adult (YA) literature, will also insist that Disney includes far more diversity than he himself wrote into his first series of books. For example, several characters from his first series are confirmed, in more recent books, to be on the LGBTQ+ spectrum – but I think Riordan will at least try to have those often emotional coming out scenes happen sooner, rather than later. Similarly, I expect there to be several more female characters in the first season of the series than just Annabeth, Percy Jackson’s mom, the camp bully Clarisse, and a scattering of monsters and nymphs. I will also be interested to see if Grover, one of the few characters racebent for the film adaptation, will go back to being a white character in the reboot, or if Riordan will choose to keep that one element from those otherwise easily forgettable adaptations (though, if they do choose to make Grover black in the Disney+ series, I hope his portrayal will be more sympathetic this time, and less borderline overtly racist caricature).

As a side-note, I also just want to point out that I have several fancasts already brewing in my head, and I may feel the need to share some of them with you in another post somewhere down the line. So be on the lookout for that.

What do you think about this idea? How do you feel about Rick Riordan’s close involvement with the series’ production? What do you expect to see from a Percy Jackson show? Share your own thoughts, theories and opinions in the comments below!

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Katee Sackhoff Will Join “The Mandalorian” As Bo-Katan!

SPOILERS FOR THE CLONE WARS, STAR WARS: REBELS AND THE MANDALORIAN AHEAD

When a franchise is as divided and fragmented as Star Wars is, it can be a welcome relief to find evidence of continuity between that franchise’s various offshoots. Katee Sackhoff, the voice-actress behind the role of Bo-Katan on The Clone Wars, joining the cast of the second season of Disney+’s live-action phenomenon The Mandalorian might not seem like too much of a big deal: in fact, to some it might seem obvious, even predictable. But for someone still terrified that Marvel’s Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. will be officially decanonized and all its cast of characters recast as soon as the series ends, it’s like a glimmer of hope for the future.

The Mandalorian Bo-Katan
nerdist.com

Sackhoff is, however, an obvious choice to portray Bo-Katan, whom she has voiced in several seasons of the animated series, The Clone Wars – the fan-favorite character is a Mandalorian rebel aligned with the violent Deathwatch terrorists when we first meet her, but she quickly develops into a fascinating, nuanced woman, who hatches an elaborate plan to win her home planet back from the clutches of Sith Lord Darth Maul and his loyalists. After the death of her sister, the Duchess Satine, Bo-Katan becomes steely and frigid, but more devoted than ever to the Mandalorian way of life. By the end of The Clone Wars, she’s become the leader of Mandalore, and in Star Wars: Rebels, we see her accept the Darksaber, a symbol of Mandalorian patriotism, and embrace her destiny as the heroine who will unite the various Mandalorian clans. Sounds like she should be a pivotal figure in a story about the Mandalorians, right?

The Mandalorian Darksaber
slashfilm.com

Unfortunately for Bo-Katan, we also learned in The Mandalorian that her destiny was unfulfilled – as the villain Moff Gideon was seen wielding the very same Darksaber in the season finale, with no explanation of how or when he obtained it. It’s very likely that Bo-Katan was killed prior to the events of the series and the Darksaber taken from her, meaning that any role she may have in these upcoming seasons of The Mandalorian could be limited to appearances in flashbacks. But the Bo-Katan fan in me desperately hopes she somehow survived the brutality of the rebellion and the war against the Galactic Empire, not only because she’s a fun character who deserves a prominent role, but because Katee Sackhoff is a very underrated actress who could benefit from the exposure in what has proven to be Disney+’s most successful original series.

Bo-Katan is only the latest in a steadily growing line of animated characters making the jump to live-action: others, however, like former Jedi Ahsoka Tano and Mandalorian Sabine Wren, have been or likely will be recast for their appearances in The Mandalorian‘s highly anticipated second season (Tano and Wren are also rumored to appear in just one episode of the season, which will serve as a backdoor pilot for their own spinoff series: if that is true, it makes sense why Disney and Lucasfilm would want to cast bigger, more recognizable talent for the roles). Boba Fett will also make his return to Star Wars in the upcoming season, though it is believed he will only have a small role.

The Mandalorian
thewookieegunner.com

Assuming that Bo-Katan did, in fact, survive her fateful encounter with Moff Gideon or his forces, she could conceivably run into Din Djarin and Baby Yoda while on the hunt for Gideon and her stolen Darksaber. The character lends herself nicely to cool action sequences – thanks to her jetpack, secret weapons and martial arts prowess – and I’d be eager to see her take on Gideon in a fight. If it’s only through flashbacks, and the outcome of the fight is predetermined, then so be it…but I really do think there are many more things that could be done with her character, and I hope that’s taken into consideration before a decision is made to kill her off.

So what do you think? How do you feel about seeing Bo-Katan in live-action for the first time ever, in The Mandalorian? Share your own thoughts, theories and opinions in the comments below!

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“Ghost Rider” Coming To Disney+! Will The “Midnight Sons” Follow?

Though he’s probably among the most popular characters in the Marvel comics roster, Ghost Rider has had a hard time on screens both big and small. His first film adaptation came at a time when neither DC nor Marvel had yet figured out the magic formula for how to craft a comic book movie, and his appearance on TV, while still the best take on the character, had only limited appeal due to being on a TV show that far too few people actually watch – but now, it looks like Ghost Rider is heading to an even smaller type of screen (though, at the moment, a far more profitable one), and there, with the help of the established Marvel brand name and the tried-and-true Disney+ marketing strategy, he may finally get the success he deserves.

Ghost Rider
tvline.com

Ghost Rider is one of several dark, edgy characters who operate on the fringes of the Marvel Comics universe: the Rider in particular has always been one of the most unabashedly violent – he literally sells his soul to Satan himself (technically Mephisto, but whatever), so how could he not be? Whether the name belongs to stunt motorcyclist Johnny Blaze or car mechanic Robbie Reyes, a few key details always remain the same: he rides around at night with hellfire burning in his skeletal face, wielding whips, chains and a variety of other spiky weapons which he uses to harvest the souls of the damned, while fighting some of Marvel’s most powerful mystic villains – and occasionally, heroes, as he is rarely ever solely good or evil. It’s hard to imagine this character peacefully co-existing on the same family-friendly platform as other Disney brands.

That’s exactly why he was supposed to be heading to Hulu, with Gabriel Luna reprising the role of the Robbie Reyes version of the character – which he had already played, phenomenally, on the fourth season of ABC’s Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D., often said to be the series’ best. An idea for a spin-off following his character on more brutal, bloody exploits had already been written, but, sadly, the entire series was scrapped by Marvel president and producer Kevin Feige – at the time, it was believed that Feige had his own plans in store for the character, and now that has seemingly been confirmed. It looks like a version of Ghost Rider (probably Johnny Blaze, since it’s been strongly suggested that it’s not Reyes) will be going straight to Disney+, instead.

But whether Ghost Rider arrives on a motorcycle or in a muscle car, he won’t be alone. In fact, he could easily herald the creation of a new kind of superhero team in the MCU, one that is grittier and riskier than anything we’ve seen before. A couple potential members of this team are already popping up, though they will likely have to wait until the Rider arrives before they can actually form. I am, of course, referring to the infamous Midnight Sons.

Ghost Rider Midnight Sons
comicbook.com

In the comics, this team consists of a small, close-knit group of supernaturally gifted antiheroes, who usually work alone but come together in dire circumstances to protect the world from threats like demons, vampires and magic-users. Unsurprisingly, they’re closely affiliated with Doctor Strange, and his associate Doctor Voodoo. Membership changes on a regular basis, but characters like Ghost Rider, the Moon Knight, Blade and Elsa Bloodstone are all regulars at this point. And thankfully, almost every character on the team has a pretty good chance of showing up in the MCU in the near future, meaning that we could see them come together just in time for a third Doctor Strange film.

Ghost Rider Moon Knight
looper.com

Ghost Rider, obviously, is the very reason why this team would and should be assembled, so he’s a lock for a spot in the team’s line-up. Moon Knight, a mentally unstable CIA mercenary possessed by the spirit of an ancient Egyptian moon god, has his own Disney+ series on the way – some of his supporting cast, such as Werewolf By Night or even Stained Glass Scarlet, could make good Midnight Sons candidates. Mahershala Ali is set to play rogue vampire assassin Blade in an as yet undated solo film, which will probably also introduce the world to feisty British monster hunter Elsa Bloodstone. And Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness, the Sorcerer Supreme’s long-awaited sequel, is heavily rumored to feature Doctor Voodoo, as well as Strange’s love interest Clea – the niece of primordial demon Dormammu – whose horrific heritage should be enough to land her a spot on the team. With those specifics out of the way, all that remains to be done is to find them a proper villain to fight – and there are quite a few already lurking in the depths of the Fear Dimension, and elsewhere.

One of the most obvious and natural choices to take on the team during their first outing would be Karl Mordo, who was set up as a villain in Doctor Strange but hasn’t appeared since. His whole mission is to wipe out all the sorcerers in the MCU, meaning he’d have good reason to want to take down an entire team of powerful magic-users. The only problem I see with this idea is that Mordo doesn’t seem to have the strength to take on all the Midnight Sons at once, so he’d probably need to recruit several other…well, sorcerers, to his own cause. And that could work, if Mordo had been shown to be a hypocrite – but from what little we know of him, we can see that he truly believes everything he espouses. That means if Mordo does become a Midnight Sons antagonist, he should either be a third party trying to take out both the Sons and whoever their real enemies are, or he should get a serious power upgrade that could put him on the level of a Ghost Rider or Doctor Strange.

Ghost Rider Dracula
fullcirclecinema.com

But while we wait for that to happen, the Midnight Sons still need a villain – and in my opinion, it should either be Lilith, Mother of All Darkness and a frequent opponent of the team in the comics; or Dracula himself, who is rumored to make an appearance in the Moon Knight series and would probably also show up in Blade, whenever that movies comes out. Both of these villains are powerful and experienced: Lilith is an immortal survivor of the sinking of Atlantis (which means she could show up as early as next year’s The Eternals, which is said to feature that cataclysmic event), and comes with her own army of similarly demonic children, scattered around the world and waiting for her command to stir them into action; while Dracula, of course, is a 15th Century Transylvanian warlord and king of vampires. And while Dracula is actually the father of another character coincidentally named Lilith in the comics, the MCU version of the character could be the…wait for it….midnight son of Lilith, Mother of All Darkness. Writes itself, doesn’t it?

I’m partially kidding about that last bit, though I actually do think it would be a good idea to tie the two characters together somehow and have them both face the Midnight Sons in battle. In the Marvel comics, vampirism is often a hereditary trait, so it makes sense for vampires like Dracula to involve their whole families or clans in their own wars. And if we could see that war spread out across several MCU franchises, it could be a huge event with the potential for plenty of crossovers.

But what about you? Do you think Ghost Rider will bring the Midnight Sons into being, or will we have to wait even longer? Are all these characters possibly too dark for Disney+? Share your own thoughts, theories and opinions in the comments below!

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If Marvel Is Making “Secret Warriors”, They Need The Agents Of SHIELD

You know the feeling when you finish work on a long post about the upcoming Ironheart series and say to yourself, “well, now I just have to write one about Ghost Rider and I’ll be done for the day”, only to find out that a Secret Warriors project has apparently been announced for Disney+ while you were writing? No? Is this not something I can vent about to anyone? Does no one feel my pain???

Well, I can assure you of this: Marvel Studios is going to feel my pain if they dare to do the unthinkable and try to create their own Secret Warriors team, when they already have a perfectly good one on Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. And if they even think about recasting characters like Daisy Johnson or Yo Yo Rodriguez…let me just tell you, I respect Marvel, and I love most everything they do, but that – that would be unforgivable.

Secret Warriors Quake and Yo Yo
comicvine.gamespot.com

Now, it’s not being reported that they will definitely recast, or that this take on Secret Warriors will break Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. canon – but there’s only two versions of the Secret Warriors team that they could be adapting, and one of them has Squirrel Girl. No offense to Squirrel Girl, but I really don’t see her joining the Marvel Cinematic Universe anytime soon – or ever. And if I’m right, and Marvel wants to use the more classic iteration of the team, the one which includes characters popularized on Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D., well, that means that those of us who are fans of both the MCU and the MCU-adjacent TV programs could soon find our loyalties to both tested.

Honestly, it makes sense to bring the Secret Warriors into the fold of the MCU right now, as they play a crucial role in the Secret Invasion storyline, which is also supposedly being adapted for the small screen. In the comics, this small but effective task-force is assembled by Nick Fury to handle Skrull sleeper-agents who have infiltrated earth by using their shape-shifting abilities to impersonate government officials and superheroes. I didn’t know about the existence of this upcoming Marvel project when I wrote out my ideas for an entire Secret Invasion story arc just last night, but I think it would be easy to retroactively add them into my grand plan: since the main thrust of the Secret Invasion story seems like it might happen in space, simply have the Secret Warriors series (or movie; it’s unclear which it might be, though Marvel has yet to announce any Disney+ movies of their own) deal with the Skrulls who manage to slip in through the cracks and get past Nick Fury’s Agents of S.W.O.R.D. While team members Quake and Yo Yo have been to space before on Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D., the team as a whole is better suited to a small-scale, earth-based conflict.

Secret Warriors
outerplaces.com

In the comics, the Secret Warriors are made up of characters who, at least at the time of their introduction, were fairly new and unquestionably niche – characters like the Inhumans Quake and Yo Yo (the one a former hacker and political activist, the other a reformed weapons-dealer); Phobos, son of the Greek god Ares; Hellfire, a demolitions expert who wields a flaming whip; sorcerer Sebastian Druid; and superhuman strongman Stonewall (who, as his name implies, is a member of the LGBTQ+ community). But Marvel doesn’t have to go into this without any brand recognition: in fact, if they play their cards right, they could attract a pretty devoted group of fans – if they maintain continuity with the version of the Secret Warriors team that has already appeared on Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D., where both Quake and Yo Yo are prominent members, and Hellfire also made occasional appearances.

I’m not saying I wouldn’t watch a new Secret Warriors series or movie that didn’t feature Chloe Bennet’s Quake and Natalia Cordova-Buckley’s Yo Yo, but I am saying that I would be much happier if I were (Hellfire, in my opinion, was a small enough part that it could easily be recast). Seeing anyone else in those roles would feel wrong, because Bennet and Cordova-Buckley have done an incredible job bringing those two very obscure characters to life, and because Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. is already ending with its seventh season this very month: there’s no reason for Marvel not to scoop them up and bring them over into their own universe – especially since the Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. versions of the characters have already had plenty of experience fighting the Kree, who are very likely to be involved in the Secret Invasion storyline, as the chief nemeses of the Skrulls in the MCU. Why not take advantage of that connection? Why not build on it?

Secret Warriors
superherohype.com

The thing is, I’m not trying to be greedy or unreasonable. I’m not calling on Marvel to include the entire S.H.I.E.L.D. team in a Secret Warriors project, or anything like that (though, honestly, who wouldn’t want a Melinda May cameo?) – but I’m big on continuity, and I think Marvel is at its best when they find clever ways to tie all their various franchises together: in this case, it makes even more sense to do that because of how obscure the team is, even in the comics. More people might tune in to watch if they knew they could see some of their favorite characters again. At the very least, I would. But of course, this is all just my opinion – and it’s possible Marvel doesn’t even plan on using any established version of the team. Maybe they want the version with Squirrel Girl, I don’t know.

What do you think? Is this the perfect place for a crossover event with Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D., and if so, how would you like to see characters like Quake and Yo Yo join the MCU? Would you also borrow S.H.I.E.L.D.‘s version of Hellfire, or recast that role? Share your own thoughts, theories and opinions in the comments below!

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Marvel Developing “Ironheart” For Disney+!

Avengers: Endgame brought about an end to the storyline of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s founding father Tony Stark, but new rumors suggest that the super-genius inventor’s legacy will carry on in the new character of Ironheart, soon to make her MCU debut on the Disney+ streaming service. While the move is almost certain to anger many people, there are also a number of reasons to be very excited for Ironheart taking on the mantle of her predecessor Iron Man.

Ironheart
tvovermind.com

If true, the Ironheart series will join seven other Marvel series’ currently in development for Disney+ – and two others rumored to be in pre-production, a Secret Invasion series and a Ghost Rider project which I will also cover. An argument could be made that Marvel is over-expanding themselves, but so far we have yet to see the studio make a mistake: and many of their upcoming series’ are already attracting very positive buzz, as fans clamor to see the stories of characters like Falcon, Bucky Barnes, Wanda Maximoff, Loki and Hawkeye (is anyone actually clamoring for that last one?) continued on the small screen and with more screentime than they would receive in the movies. But the streaming service is also a place where Marvel is looking to introduce several new heroes, including Ironheart, also known as Riri Williams.

Williams is a recent addition to the roster of Marvel heroes in the comics, having made her solo debut in 2018. She’s an intelligent and capable young black woman who builds her own iron suit while still an M.I.T. student, and later receives Tony Stark’s own blessing. Her story is largely wound up with that of Stark and his wife Pepper Potts, who give the young heroine advice, refuge and assistance during her Ironheart missions. That obviously poses a little bit of a problem for the MCU version of the character, since Tony Stark is already dead and Pepper seems to have been retired.

Ironheart Tony Stark
inverse.com

The comics do provide a solution for this problem, as Riri Williams’ Ironheart is often accompanied by the Tony Stark A.I., a sentient hologram of the hero. In the MCU, it wouldn’t be hard to explain the existence of something like that – Tony Stark was constantly inventing things, and he prepared for his death far in advance: in Endgame, it was revealed that he had even prepared one last holographic message for his daughter to comfort her during his funeral. It wouldn’t be much of a stretch to have Riri discover that he had also built himself a second body and brain with a fully-functioning consciousness – again, there’s precedent in the way Stark (albeit unintentionally) designed and created his own sentient A.I. personal assistants, most notably Jarvis.

There’s just one more obstacle. Robert Downey Jr. would have to return – he would likely only be willing to do that if his role was substantial enough to warrant it, but to do justice to Ironheart, any role Tony Stark plays would have to be small enough that he doesn’t overshadow her character. It definitely wouldn’t benefit either character, or the show in general, if Tony Stark’s return to the MCU drew criticisms for a white savior narrative. If the screenwriters for the series could find a delicate balance, they might just be able to convince Downey Jr. to make a return to the MCU – but in my opinion, it would have to be a one-off: the A.I. tech might be broken or only half-finished, meaning that Stark only gets to stick around for the duration of the series.

Without Downey Jr.’s involvement, there’s still ways for Riri to be a compelling character. If having her encounter Tony Stark himself is impossible, she could still be inspired by his enduring legacy in the MCU – a fun alternative might be to have one of her role models be someone like Tony Stark’s best friend and sidekick War Machine, who is one of the saga’s most underrated characters, or Princess Shuri of Wakanda, another young, black super-genius. Riri’s main villain in the comics has an origin story that could be tinkered with to tie into either the Ms. Marvel Disney+ series or Shang-Chi, or both: Tomoe, or “Techno Golem” as she is more commonly referred to, is an Inhuman who uses her power as the head of the Southeast Asia Crime Syndicate to control an army of ninjas from her hideout in the criminal underworld of Osaka, Japan. And Riri herself, apart from all outside influences, isn’t just a tokenized legacy character, as some are quick to claim – quiet and introverted, but driven by her ingenuity, resourcefulness and passion for science to pursue her dreams, she also suffers from the trauma of witnessing the death of her best friend and her step-father in a shooting. With a talented actress in the role, she could easily be on par with Tony Stark, or his own hand-picked successor, Peter Parker.

Ironheart Marsai Martin
latimes.com

And who better to play this pioneering character than an actress like Marsai Martin? Martin is currently fifteen –  the exact same age as Riri Williams in the comics – and has the distinction of being Hollywood’s youngest producer, as well as a winner of several NAACP Image Awards. She is best known for her roles in ABC comedy Black-ish, and as the star of Universal’s Little, but she should have no problems transitioning over to Disney+.

So what do you think of the idea of an Ironheart series? Have I helped to convince you that it’s actually a pretty good idea, or are you still on the fence about it? Share your own thoughts, theories and opinions in the comments below!

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