“Raya And The Last Dragon” 2nd Trailer!

The first trailer for Disney’s Raya didn’t make that big an impact when it dropped several months ago, despite its stunning animation, stellar voice-cast headlined by Kelly Marie Tran, and beautiful Southeast Asian setting. It caused plenty of heated discourse, though: as many fans understandably felt cheated by the way the film blends several vastly different Southeast Asian cultures, traditions, and myths; and others drew unfavorable comparisons to Avatar: The Last Airbender and Legend Of Korra, saying Disney had blatantly ripped off the popular Nickelodeon series’.

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Raya And The Last Dragon | collider.com

The second trailer – released today, completely out of the blue as far as I can tell – is bound to be a shock for anyone who genuinely loved the first trailer for its maturity, somber tone, and grandeur. We’re about two months out from Raya‘s release, and suddenly Disney has decided to market the film as Lord Of The Rings by way of…Fast And Furious, I guess? I’m not complaining, because this movie still looks ridiculously awesome (emphasis on the ridiculous), but Disney’s misleadingly epic teaser trailers are becoming a bit much at this point. Then again, anyone who actually thought Frozen II was going to be a dark fantasy about the impending dangers of climate-change based on one scene of Elsa running over water was probably setting themselves up for failure.

But the key difference between Raya And The Last Dragon and other Disney animated family films is that Raya actually does have the stunning, gravity-defying action sequences its trailers promise. According to directors Don Hall and Carlos López Estrada, a cut exists of the movie that could have landed it an R-rating for violence. That may be exaggeration, but their insistence that the film’s fight scenes are inspired by those of franchises like John Wick certainly gives me hope that we’re in for something spectacular when Raya leaps onto our screens in March, armed with her iconic wavy-bladed kalis, whip, and magic powers.

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Raya | slashfilm.com

Thankfully, Disney Animation has broken recent tradition and given Raya an actual villain to bounce off of, and to fight. Although I appreciated Frozen II‘s villain twist (“the crimes and misdeeds of previous generations, if left unaddressed, are the greatest evils of our time” was a clever and brilliant message, albeit completely undermined in the film’s third act), I’ve been missing real Disney villains lately: their unapologetic campiness, their swagger, and their braggadocio. Raya’s nemesis, named Namaari and voiced by Gemma Chan, might not have a campy bone in her body, but she’s got the swagger, she’s got the braggadocio, and most importantly, she’s got back muscles that most Disney villains would kill for. I don’t know whether to ask for her workout regimen or her hand in marriage.

There’s always a chance that Namaari and Raya (voiced by Kelly Marie Tran, who recently made her triumphant comeback to social media after years of relentless harassment from embittered Star Wars fanboys) will join forces by the end of the movie to defeat some greater evil, but before that happens we’ll get plenty of duels between the two, as they both hunt for the last dragon – the only creature capable of saving the land of Kumandra from an ancient evil. Set to modern epic music, the trailer invites us on a globe-trotting quest around Kumandra’s warring regions alongside a fellowship of anti-heroic misfits, including a con-baby with a troop of monkey minions. Each region seems to reflect a different part of Southeast Asia, from the forests of Indonesia and the Philippines, to the river-delta villages of Bangladesh. The new trailer showcases more of the area’s diversity than the teaser, while memorable sequences from the teaser are noticeably absent: the sequences that had viewers comparing Raya and Korra’s blue outfits and similarly-styled ponytails.

Raya
Raya | etonline.com

But the new trailer does confirm that the mysterious masked man seen battling Raya in the teaser was, in fact, her father – and the ritual guardian of Kumandra’s dragon gem, as I guessed at the time. Daniel Dae Kim will voice the role, which will surely be brief: he barely gets to speak a single line in the trailer before we cut to Raya placing flowers at a shrine with a statue of him. It’s somehow comforting that, with the world as unpredictable and chaotic as it is, you can always rely on Disney Animation to kill their protagonists’ parents. Some things never change.

But what about you? How excited are you based on this new trailer? Share your own thoughts, theories, and opinions, in the comments below!

Trailer Rating: 8.5/10

“Eternals” Begins Filming: “Thena” Revealed!

We’ve all been waiting for a glimpse, however brief, at one of Marvel Studios’ most tantalizing and mysterious upcoming projects – Eternals, the story of a race of human/alien gods created by the Celestials to protect our earth from prehistoric threats. Today, we’ve been given a glimpse, but it raises more questions than answers.

Angelina Jolie, one of the stars of the film (the others being Gemma Chan, Kit Harington and Richard Madden) has been spotted in the United Kingdom, filming some very interesting and unusual scenes for the superhero movie. Jolie has been confirmed to be playing the immortal warrior Thena, but, well…she doesn’t appear to be playing the character here: or, if she is, then her outfit has been dramatically altered since we saw it in the D23 Expo concept art last month.

I won’t post all of the photos, since they might be considered spoilers by some; but the few that I’ll show certainly seem to imply that Jolie’s take on the war-goddess is definitely very different from how she’s appeared in the comics, dressed in Greek-inspired armor.

"Eternals" Begins Filming: "Thena" Revealed! 1
Twitter | @eternalsupdates

The first image shows Jolie, sporting the character’s white-blond hair, in what looks at first glance to be a Greek gown of some sort, wading through water, holding some sort of little black pot. The general consensus among internet theorists is that she’s scattering ashes, for whatever reason.

But the next photo made me start wondering…

"Eternals" Begins Filming: "Thena" Revealed! 2
Twitter | @eternalsupdates

Because I don’t know about you, but I’ve never seen a depiction of ancient Greek women wearing such modern footwear. And that inspired me to start looking more closely at the rest of the outfit: those long sleeves certainly seem out of place in the ancient world, for instance…and then I found this image.

"Eternals" Begins Filming: "Thena" Revealed! 3
Twitter | @eternalsupdates

Ignore the modern coat that Jolie is wearing over her outfit to keep warm, and look at the front of the dress: it’s very clearly a modern or 20th Century button-up dress, rather vintage-inspired by the looks of it. In fact, it gives off some serious Indiana Jones vibes, to the point where I almost began wondering whether Jolie was playing some sort of similar adventurer, or…archaeologist.

Oh, wait. Remember all those rumors from months ago that a “female archaeologist” was the lead of Eternals? But everyone dismissed them because Jolie was confirmed to play Thena, and nobody else seemed to fit the description of the character. That female archaeologist, after all, was said to be Margo Damian, from the original Eternals comics published back in the 70’s, a character who wore her hair in that decade’s trendiest styles (because archaeologists are paragons of fashion: everybody knows that), and dressed like a female Indiana Jones.

And now we have Angelina Jolie, the lead of the film, doing the same.

But Jolie is playing Thena, right? How can she also be playing Margo Damian? Well, there isn’t any precedent for this in the comics, but it is an established part of recent Eternals lore that the Eternals’s minds were once wiped by the trickster Sprite (who will also show up in this movie), and the gods were forced to live as humans, suffering from amnesia and fragmented memories until they remembered who they were. In the original comics, it turned out that Damian’s partner and love interest, Ike, was in fact the Eternal Ikaris (shocker, I know). We don’t know for sure what’s happening here, but Marvel might be updating the story and having Margo be the one to discover that she’s the long-lost embodiment of an ancient goddess – since, in the comics, she sort of just…died. This would also help to explain why the Eternals didn’t show up in Avengers: Endgame to help in the fight against Thanos – because they don’t remember their powers yet.

So what do you think? Is Jolie playing Thena or Margo Damian in this scene? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Kit Harington Enters The MCU!

It’s only been a few months since the epic(ly disappointing) finale of the HBO hit series Game of Thrones, and many have been wondering where the Emmy-award winning show’s stars will go next: Emilia Clarke, best known as Daenerys, Mother of Dragons, Breaker of Chains, etc, etc, is starring in a chipper Christmas rom-com; Maisie Williams, the girl with no name, is starring in a British comedy series; Lena Headey, the notorious villainess Cersei Lannister, will next be seen in Netflix’s Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance; and as for the show’s star, Kit Harington…well, he promptly disappeared into a rehab facility, apparently suffering from stress. How much of said stress was caused by the strenuous and tiresome process of filming Game of Thrones is as yet unknown, but it looks like the actor is back on his feet and making a return to the entertainment industry in appropriately epic fashion: landing a role in a Marvel movie.

Harington is not the first of the show’s cast to end up in the Marvel Cinematic Universe: last year, Peter Dinklage had a glorified cameo in Avengers: Infinity War. Sophie Turner, Thrones‘ Queen in the North, appeared in the Fox X-Men movies, and was soon to be joined by Maisie Williams – before things went abruptly downhill for that franchise. And earlier this year, a star from earlier seasons, Richard Madden, joined the ever-expanding cast of Marvel’s upcoming Eternals. And now, Harington has too.

Eternals covers the story of a race of space gods created at the beginning of the universe with the task of protecting and preserving the planet Earth. Madden, who played too-pure-for-this-world war hero Robb Stark on Game of Thrones, is here portraying the leader of the Eternals, Ikaris, who sports a dashing blue outfit and otherwise looks exactly like Richard Madden: thankfully, the horrendous hairdos from the 1970’s comics have been thrown out in favor of a more streamlined, modern approach. Harington, on the other hand, has been cast in the role of an Arthurian-inspired knight with a black outfit, a magical sword, a semi-divine love interest, and…hey, wait, is he just playing Jon Snow again?

Well, kind of. Harington’s new character, Dane Whitman, better known as the Black Knight, is definitely one of the most Game of Thrones-ish heroes Marvel has ever created, being the descendant of an actual member of King Arthur’s Round Table, who received his magical weapon from Merlin the magician: Whitman himself is also the recipient of supernatural gifts from otherworldly beings, as the Lady of the Lake (yes, the very same) gave him a winged horse named Strider – because, if you’re going to rip off fantasy tropes, why not rip off from the best? In a movie that already has an 11-member ensemble cast, I honestly have no clue whether Marvel will have time to fit in a backstory explaining that the Arthurian legends are MCU canon, but maybe that could be explored in future films.

The important thing to note is that Black Knight, while not an Eternal himself, is a love interest of the Eternal enchantress, Sersi – who has also been cast today, with Captain Marvel actress Gemma Chan filling the role. Introducing Black Knight and Sersi to the MCU on the same day certainly suggests that we’ll see them pair up in this movie, but it does raise some intriguing questions: in comics lore, Sersi is more commonly involved with Ikaris, so which one will she choose in the movies? And if she chooses to be with Black Knight, does that leave Ikaris open to be the MCU’s first gay character, as Marvel president Kevin Feige suggested last month?

Something that has bothered Marvel fans today is the fact that Harington’s talent is being “wasted” in such an “insignificant” role, when he could be playing somebody “important” like Wolverine. Regardless of the fact that Harington really doesn’t resemble Wolverine at all, this is a classic case of fans going in with expectations way too high: I’ll admit I was hopeful for a Fantastic Four reveal today, but anything having to do with the X-Men is probably at least a year away, if not further. Besides, we don’t know yet how big a role Black Knight will play in Eternals, or whether he’ll feature in future films; so, until then, let’s hope for the best, right? And let’s not forget that people also felt like Gemma Chan was wasted in Captain Marvel – and look at her now, getting a second chance in the MCU as the star of one of their upcoming films. Anything is possible in Marvel these days.

Even the Lady of the Lake, apparently.

Gemma Chan’s Return To The MCU!

Marvel Studios had a few unspoken, but solid rules that rarely, if ever, got broken: until this year. For instance, main characters didn’t die in Marvel films – or if they did, their deaths weren’t permanent: Loki could die over and over again, but he never had to actually die. Avengers: Endgame changed all that. Marvel heroes didn’t get more than three solo films: then, Thor 4 (Love And Thunder) got announced. Actors didn’t get to play more than one character in the Marvel Cinematic Universe – if you signed on for a specific role, you were going to play that role and no other. Marvel president Kevin Feige was even pushing boundaries by allowing Paul Bettany to voice Tony Stark’s robotic assistant J.A.R.V.I.S., and also play Vision, the living, breathing embodiment of J.A.R.V.I.S. But today, apparently, all of Marvel’s rules have been thrown out the window.

Actress Gemma Chan, best known for her work in Crazy Rich Asians, had a supporting role in this year’s billion-dollar blockbuster Captain Marvel, as the trigger-happy Kree sniper Minn-Erva. Near the end of the film, (Spoiler Warning!) Minn-Erva’s spaceship gets blown out of the sky, and the assassin – presumably – dies in a billowing inferno. But while that might be the last we ever see of Minn-Erva, it might not be the end of the line for Gemma Chan in the MCU.

According to multiple outlets, Chan is making a return to Marvel, in the form of a completely new character who will appear in next year’s Eternals, a film which already stars Angelina Jolie, Salma Hayek and Richard Madden as immortal space gods enlisted with protecting Earth from the Deviants. While very little is known about the film’s plot, it would appear to be a prequel spanning thousands of years of human and alien history, documenting a time when even the Titan warlord Thanos was still an infant. So, unless Minn-Erva is much older than she appeared, it doesn’t seem likely that we’re going to be seeing a younger version of her – and why would we, anyway? In Captain Marvel, Chan’s character was significantly…insignificant. Certainly not the type of villain that audiences are going to be waiting to see again on the big screen. Unless it turns out that she was an alien archaeologist in her spare time or something, it seems bizarre that Minn-Erva would appear in this movie.

But then…who is she? There may be at least three major female characters who have yet to be cast: the human archaeologist Margo Damian, the sorceress Sersi, and the possibly villainous android Elysius. If I had to take a guess, I’d wager that Chan is playing Elysius: not only because she looks much like the character, but because the comics version of Elysius actually has a small, but important link to the Kree aliens – the character first appeared in Captain Marvel #59, long before Carol Danvers possessed that title: instead, the Captain was a Kree male known as Mar-Vell, who became Elysius’ lover for a time before dying, at which point Elysius gave birth to their children, Genis-Vell and Phyla-Vell, two very important characters in the Marvel comics. It’s a lot of stuff to keep track of, but it’s an important link that could be exploited if Marvel Studios feels the need to explain, in some way, the reasoning behind this casting choice. Minn-Erva could be another daughter or descendant of Elysius (though the identity of the father might need to change, since the name Mar-Vell was already used in Captain Marvel to refer to a female Kree character: unless Elysius is the Eternals‘ touted LGBTQ character?)

Gemma Chan's Return To The MCU! 4
latimes.com

Chan isn’t the only person joining the cast of Eternals today – Barry Keoghan of Dunkirk will make his Marvel debut in the film as well, in an unknown role: possibly as the god of love, Eros “Starfox”, or, as some have suggested, a young version of Thanos.

What do you think about Marvel breaking their own rules like this? Who do you think Chan and Keoghan are playing? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!

Captain Marvel Review (No Spoilers!)

Captain Marvel Review (No Spoilers!) 5
geektyrant.com

After all the negativity, the backlash and controversy surrounding this film – and lead actress Brie Larson – it is something of a triumph to see how marvelous this film actually is. Directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck have created something very, very special. Not only does it equal the cinematic masterpiece that is Wonder Woman, but in some places it even manages to surpass it. It is a better origin film than any other in the MCU thus far, including Black Panther. Brie Larson’s Carol Danvers is one of the most likable protagonists to come from Marvel – it’s not just her wit and sass that make her so much fun to watch: it’s seeing how she was before the event that changed her life, and seeing her try to rebuild the relationships she had with friends and loved ones on Earth. There is something bittersweet about the movie, something very sad about every scene where Carol reminisces on her past life, or has a sudden memory of something she cannot fully understand. Seeing her struggling with this trauma is moving, and is one of the finest aspects of the film.

Of course, it is made so only by the fact that Brie Larson is an incredible actress, and even when she is an amnesiac on the planet Hala she still manages to take very difficult material and run with it – fly with it, in fact. When the film opens, she is a soldier living on Hala, the homeworld of an alien race of “noble warrior heroes” – the Kree. But she has memories of something else, a different world, a different life: it’s a classic storyline, but there are so many interesting and unique elements, so many unexpected twists, that it feels fresh and exciting: and poignant – and also, it has Brie Larson, and she carries the whole story with ease. She has moments of intense drama and laugh-out-loud humor, and she blends the two in a way that no other Marvel hero has done with such skill. She is, without a doubt, the definitive reason to go see this film: I, for instance, went into the movie as a Thor fanboy – but when I left, Carol Danvers was my favorite Marvel superhero, and one of the best heroines ever brought to the big screen.

The aforementioned storyline of Carol Danvers, however, is the second reason to see the film – if you like a story that is twisty, complex, and as deeply layered as Captain America: Winter Soldier, or Captain America: Civil War. Admittedly, when the film begins it is hard to follow. There are dream sequences and vague hints, and things that happen very fast and very chaotically – but even Carol doesn’t know what’s going on, which is both a help and a hindrance: on the one hand, it gives us the opportunity to relate to Carol as we see things through her eyes and learn with her, but on the other hand…her confusion rubs off a bit on the audience, leaving us a bit perplexed in the first fifteen to twenty minutes. But then, just as we are wondering what is going on, clues start falling in place, things happen that set off a chain reaction of other things happening, and we suddenly realize that things are not as they seem. The major problem, I think, with the flashbacks that are used frequently in the movie is that, while some of them are relevant, there are others that are not – though they appear to be – and they are interspersed with the relevant flashbacks in a way that can be confusing. Thankfully, this problem goes away early on in the film, and after that it’s smooth flying – well, aside from one spot of space turbulence.

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gizmodo.co.uk

The space aspect, actually, is one of the most interesting things in the film: we are brought to a total of three different worlds in the film – the Kree homeworld of Hala, the Kree border-world of Torfa, and Earth. Hala is the most interesting of the three worlds – since Torfa is mostly irrelevant. Hala is a fantastic place, brilliantly lit, and is inhabited by a race of blue alien warriors – or rather, mostly blue warriors: Jude Law’s character is, for some reason, not blue. This race, the Kree, are for the most part background characters: Jude Law portrays the Commander of Starforce, a team that consists of “Vers” (Brie Larson), Minn-Erva (Gemma Chan), Korath (Djimon Hounsou), Att-Lass (Algenis Perez Soto), and Bron-Char (Rune Temte). Aside from Law and Larson, the rest get very little screentime – though not as little as Lee Pace’s Ronan the Accuser, a character that will no doubt be familiar to fans of Guardians of the Galaxy.

Besides Ronan, there are many other tie-ins to various Marvel movies – and the most notable is the appearance of Nick Fury, once again portrayed by the great Samuel L. Jackson (though here, Fury is much younger and more naive, and has both of his eyes: his apparent youth is achieved by incredible de-aging techniques that are so seamless you will actually believe you’ve been transported back in time to 1995, which is when this movie takes place). S.H.I.E.L.D agent Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) also shows up – also de-aged – though very briefly. There are some terrific nods to the first Avengers, one of which will make fans gasp in surprise, and one of which will fill in some blanks. The mid-credits scene is also…shocking.

Speaking of shocks, there are twists in this movie, twists that you will never see coming. And obviously, because this review is Spoiler-Free, we will leave it at that.

However, I can say this: the film takes place during the war between the Kree and their mortal enemies, the shape-shifting Skrulls – and Ben Mendelsohn portrays the leader of the Skrulls, Talos. I went in expecting a two-dimensional villain: I was very surprised at how much depth this villain had, though, so much so that by the end of the film he was one of my favorite characters. I can’t say any more, but there’s a lot to say about Talos.

No review of this film would be complete without mentioning three stand-out performances: Lashana Lynch, who plays USAF pilot Maria Rambeau, Annette Bening, who plays…well, somebody whose name should not be revealed in the Spoiler-Free review, and Goose the Cat. Lynch is incredible, and the first scene that she appears is one that left me in tears: the sheer force and range of her acting was extraordinary, and entirely unexpected. As for Bening – well, she is surprising. That’s all I’ll say about her. She has one very interesting action sequence, though, that had me at the edge of my seat. And Goose? He’s adorable, and is a great mascot for the film, just like Groot is for Guardians of the Galaxy.

What about the action – and especially, the third act battle? Third act battles have become synonymous with “meh” in comic book movies, with even great ones like Black Panther and Wonder Woman failing to stick the landing. So how does this one hold up?

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syfy.com

Very well, almost perfectly. There are only two fights in the film that are somewhat flat – a fight on Torfa, which actually does get more interesting after a minute, and the fight sequence on the subway train that we’ve seen in basically every trailer for the movie: more interesting to me was the car chase that was happening at the same time as the train fight – and there was one particularly shocking moment in the sequence that does elevate the stakes a lot. As for the third act battle: perfect. The crown jewel of the film, in fact. Again, it’s too spoilery to say much about, but it has a lot of layers, and all of them are very well-done: and there is one very special moment that seems to tease something that I really hope we get in a future Captain Marvel movie.

So to sum it all up: don’t miss out on Captain Marvel. You need to see her to believe her, really – her powers are incredible, and she could very well become your new favorite Marvel superhero. The movie has a great cast, great acting, a great storyline, and sets up neatly for Phase 4 of the MCU. Also, there is a very touching tribute to the late Stan Lee, that will have you in tears before the movie even begins. This movie is a great tribute to the power of women, and to the power of all individuals to choose for themselves who they want to be.

Movie Rating: 9.5/10