“Loki” 2nd Trailer Leans Into The Absurd Side Of Marvel

WandaVision was the gust of fresh air that blew open the doors to the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s untapped reserves of sheer absurdity, and for that I think we will always be thankful. But WandaVision‘s weirdness was very specifically engineered to produce a sense of dread in the viewer, an understanding that something had to be terribly wrong – because worlds like the one Wanda had created for herself couldn’t possibly exist in the (mostly) grounded MCU. Loki, on the other hand, reassures those of us who loved WandaVision that the MCU actually is just…weird. Permanently.

"Loki" 2nd Trailer Leans Into The Absurd Side Of Marvel 1
Loki | polygon.com

I’ve compared the upcoming Loki series’ concept and styling to the works of British fantasy author Terry Pratchett before, and the second trailer (released today quite out of the blue: classic God of Mischief move) only makes that comparison more apt – as well as making a convincing argument for everyone involved in the production of this series going on to develop an adaptation of any one of Pratchett’s novels after this is done. There’s also shades of Dr. Who, Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency, and Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy – basically, every zany, high-concept, British sci-fi/fantasy ever made rolled up into one.

The new trailer for Loki treats us to one deliciously abstract visual after another, beginning with a charming elevator noise as a magical glowing door appears in the wall of what looks like a horrendously ugly 1980’s subway-station with brown, orange, and mustard-yellow tiling; soon revealing a man in a German stahlhelm, holding the Tesseract in one hand, and gripping the Norse deity’s arm with the other. I mean, seriously, just read that sentence and tell me it doesn’t sound like the opening to a Dirk Gently mystery.

The atrocious color palette is echoed throughout all the lobbies, waiting rooms, offices, and elevators of the Time Variance Authority, or TVA for short, in whose headquarters Loki has unwillingly ended up. As in the Marvel Comics, it appears the TVA work from behind-the-scenes to monitor the flow of time, making sure everything runs like clockwork and working to ensure that alternate timelines are cut off before they in turn sprout innumerable other timelines – each an entire universe of possibilities. Like Wanda walking out onto the empty soundstage of her life and finding stage-lights and auditorium seating, we’re seeing for the first time the nuts and bolts of the MCU.

From their seemingly infinite office space (which I’m fairly certain is tucked away in its own dimension, not limited by the confines of our earth), the TVA dispatches heavily-armed soldiers (including one prominently played by Lovecraft Country‘s Wunmi Mosaku) across the Multiverse to locate anyone caught moving across timelines, and drag them back for trial…where they will presumably face Gugu Mbatha-Raw as Judge Renslayer. This character’s first name hasn’t been revealed, but don’t be surprised if it turns out to be Ravonna, since Princess Ravonna Renslayer is a notable comics character who shares a long romantic history with Kang the Conqueror, a time-traveling Marvel villain who’s already been confirmed to appear in Ant-Man And The Wasp: Quantumania, played by Jonathan Majors of Da 5 Bloods and Lovecraft Country.

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Judge Renslayer | marvel.com

The TVA’s agenda is still not entirely clear, so it’s possible – I’d say probable – that they have an ulterior motive for keeping Loki alive and enlisting him into their army of timeline-hunters, beyond just needing his “unique Loki perspective”, as Owen Wilson’s Mobius puts it. They, or at least some of their top agents like Renslayer, might be working with Kang to conquer all the timelines simultaneously, and Loki’s knack for causing mischief might work in their favor. Kang could even be the hooded figure we see battling TVA hunters in the agency’s hallways and utilizing their glowing portal technology – though, with alternate universes in play here, that could just as well be Lady Loki, or Old Loki, or another of the God’s many variants.

But while that mystery is sure to be compelling, the thing that has me most excited for the series is the thought of traveling back in time through the history of our earth, and of all the Nine Realms yet to be explored – and all the versions of them that exist throughout the Multiverse. Loki has already been seen playing the part of notorious real-life hijacker D.B. Cooper in the 1970’s, but now we get a clearer glimpse of other locations he’ll travel to, including a Medieval festival (where we later see a TVA hunter wielding a jousting lance); a Roman street that’s probably in Pompeii based on the wall of ash and smoke bearing down on the grinning God; a Roxxcart supermarket; a ruined New York City; an otherworldly mining facility; and two diametrically-opposed castles, one bathed in golden light and the other dark, laced with cracks as if made of glass.

Another awesome reveal is the return of Loki’s magic powers, an aspect of his character that’s been sidelined in his last few movie appearances in favor of his twin daggers. Those beautiful weapons still show up in the trailer, but it’s nice to see him wielding magical green energy-blasts as well, particularly given how badly the Russo Brothers used him in Infinity War; not even allowing him to pull a signature magic-trick on Thanos before having his neck broken. It’s still one of the most embarrassing character betrayals in the MCU, if you ask me.

Loki
The God Of Mischief | nme.com

But the crucial difference is that this Loki is Avengers-era Loki, at the height of his game, riding a massive confidence boost from escaping the Avengers on Earth, and still significantly more villainous than heroic. And the writers have clearly gotten into the character’s headspace from that period, because the chaotic mess of Shakespearean angst that we all fell in love with is finally back, and I can’t wait to see where (and when) his story goes from here.

Trailer Rating: 8.5/10

“Zatanna” Is Finally Coming To The DCEU!

It’s been a good year for Emerald Fennell. Coming off two Emmy Award nominations for her work as head writer on Killing Eve‘s second season, the multitalented British actress has skyrocketed to fame thanks to a major role in Netflix’s The Crown, followed by her feature film directorial debut with Promising Young Woman; a revenge thriller seeped in social commentary that has sparked heated discourse while scooping up nominations and wins at every prestigious awards ceremony – including five Oscar noms, three for Fennell herself. She probably doesn’t stand a chance against the awards-season juggernaut that is Chloé Zhao’s Nomadland, but either way, she and Zhao will be fine – they’re both now attached to major superhero franchises.

Zatanna
Zatanna | comicbook.com

Fennell, it is reported, will write the script for a Zatanna solo film set in the DC Extended Universe and produced by J.J. Abrams as part of his overall deal with Warner Brothers to specifically help bring characters from DC Comics’ Justice League Dark roster to the big screen. Currently, Fennell is only set to write the film, not direct, but hopefully she’s given enough creative freedom and input to leave her distinctive stamp on the final product: if anyone can give Zatanna the adaptation she deserves, it’s Fennell. Promising Young Woman has all the eccentric flair, dark humor, and gloriously campy production design I’d hope to see from a film centering DC’s best magical character.

Zatanna Zatara is a classic stage magician and illusionist, whose character builds on every antiquated trope associated with the business: from the magic wand, to the flowing cape, tarot cards, and top hat (which, in Zatanna’s case, doubles as a gateway to other dimensions). Descended from sorcerers and alchemists dating as far back as Nostradamus, Leonardo da Vinci, and Nicholas Flamel, Zatanna belongs to the race of Homo Magi, who possess the innate ability to cast spells by speaking backwards (and are therefore susceptible to throat injuries). But while Zatanna’s magic makes her one of DC’s most powerful beings, theoretically capable of overpowering Superman, she’s at her best while working alongside gritty characters.

Zatanna
Justice League Dark | denofgeek.com

Batman and Catwoman are frequent allies/opponents of hers, a result of living just outside Gotham in a magically-guarded mansion named Shadowcrest, but Zatanna’s strongest allegiance is to the team of sorcerers known as Justice League Dark. Formed by Madame Xanadu to guard earth from supernatural threats, the team goes through many iterations, with Wonder Woman even leading it at one point – while possessed by the fragmented spirit of Hecate, the Greek goddess of witchcraft. Zatanna has an on-and-off relationship with her teammate, John Constantine (who is in the process of being cast for an HBO Max series following the occult detective’s own adventures).

With witches all the rage right now, it makes sense to finally elevate Zatanna to big-screen status, after having previously only appeared in live-action once on the CW. There is currently no actress attached to star in the lead role, although the internet is abuzz with fan-casting. My personal suggestions are British-Indian actress Anya Chalotra, who flawlessly portrayed the sorceress Yennefer in The Witcher‘s first season, and Pakistani-Indian actress Jameela Jamil – who’s already a member of the DC family thanks to a small role in the Harley Quinn animated series. If the film is more serious in tone, Chalotra’s quiet intensity would be a good fit for the role – but Jamil would nail a more irreverent, humorous interpretation.

As a third choice and a bit of a curveball, I’ll also throw Lady Gaga’s name into the mix, because she’s an Oscar-nominated actress who shares the character’s Italian heritage from the comics, and would certainly bring the campiness I want, as well as the kind of star power that could make this a true event film for general audiences. It feels a bit too much like stunt-casting, to be honest, but I’d be open to the idea.

Zatanna
Anya Chalotra | express.co.uk

So what do you think? Who are your top fan-casts for the role of Zatanna, and how do you want to see the character brought to life? Share your own thoughts, theories, and opinions, in the comments below!

“WandaVision” Episodes 1 & 2 Review! SPOILERS!

SPOILERS AHEAD FOR WANDAVISION!

A year’s worth of quarantines and COVID-19 delays has changed us all, Marvel Studios’ classic formula and release date calendar included. Thus, WandaVision, originally slated to follow two more traditional Marvel installments (Black Widow and The Falcon And The Winter Soldier) onto the scene, is now kickstarting the MCU’s fourth phase of movies and Disney+ streaming series’. It’s a bold and potentially risky move: WandaVision is the kind of experimental property that Disney was probably afraid to lead with, due to its, shall we say, zanier qualities.

WandaVision
Vision and Wanda Maximoff | marvel.com

But as the MCU expands across multiple new mediums and genres, WandaVision probably offers the most authentic taste of what’s to come in the near future. Refreshingly unpredictable, quirky, and a bit more mature in tone than what we’ve come to expect from Marvel, the series’ first two episodes released this morning offer up a complex yet intoxicating concoction – blending the charm of retro black-and-white sitcoms with a dash of chilling psychological horror. Ironically, the only ingredient absent from the recipe is superheroes – and I’m okay with that.

With no Avengers running amuck, and with both Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) and Vision (Paul Bettany) trying to hide their supernatural origins from their neighbors, WandaVision‘s quaint suburban utopia is perfectly normal in every way, at least at first: and only hints of the larger cinematic universe are able to bleed through, mostly via brief, jarring, infomercial segments that interrupt each episode about halfway through, advertising some bizarre product with a hidden MCU connection – a Stark Industries toaster, which refers back to Wanda’s own complicated history with Tony Stark, and to Vision’s famous comics nickname; and a classy Swiss wristwatch named for Wanda’s old handler, Baron Von Strucker, and bearing a small, sinister, HYDRA logo.

But for the most part, we’re simply following Wanda and Vision’s day-to-day misadventures in the picturesque town of Westview, as if we were being dropped randomly into the middle of actual sitcoms. The first two episodes span two decades of television history – the first set in the 50’s, with a familiar aesthetic borrowed from The Dick Van Dyke Show and I Love Lucy, and the second in the 60’s, with cute nods to Bewitched: including a near-identical animated opening sequence and some suspiciously witchy behavior. Each episode comes with a new theme song written by Frozen songwriting duo Kristen-Anderson Lopez and Robert Lopez, but the cast of characters remains the same, their ages and appearances largely unchanged even as they advance rapidly through time.

Elizabeth Olsen is at the top of her game, bringing out the best version of Wanda Maximoff yet with the help of extremely well-written dialogue and witty jokes that land well more often than not (the live audience laughter is give-or-take, though it works with the setting). Olsen has great comedic timing, and, crucially, all the charisma and earnestness of the real-life sitcom heroines from this era. She finds opportune moments to subtly channel the sophistication of The Dick Van Dyke Show‘s Mary Tyler Moore, the casual confidence of Bewitched‘s Elizabeth Montgomery, and the unbridled campiness of I Dream Of Jeannie‘s Barbara Eden, depending on what any given scene requires – but her performance is entirely her own, and never crosses the line into parody. Paul Bettany, meanwhile, lends a surprising amount of physical comedy and slapstick humor to the series, as well as his character’s signature brand of sardonic wit. Combined, the duo are more compelling and more naturally romantic (I’d even go so far as to say “adorable”) than we’ve ever seen them to date. With the series jumping into the 50’s setting right off the bat and providing no explanation for why or how two characters last seen in the modern world (one of whom even died – twice) are now living in an oldschool sitcom, Olsen and Bettany’s relatable performances act as necessary anchors for the audience – the couple seem just as unsure and unsettled as we all are, but do their best to ease into Westview’s flow without making a stir because (a) they don’t really have an alternative, and (b) who wouldn’t do the same, placed in a similar situation?

WandaVision
WandaVision | vox.com

Of course, their actions lead to some hilarious hijinks (a particularly funny one involving a mix-up with a wedding anniversary that neither Wanda nor Vision can remember, because, well, they haven’t actually gotten married yet), but the couple seem to be doing pretty well playing catch-up on everything they’ve missed, while making new friends in town.

In fact, one could argue the neighbors are a little too friendly, and too quick to forgive and forget any of the couple’s oddities in pursuit of some ulterior agenda. Agnes (Kathryn Hahn), Wanda’s next-door neighbor on the right (“my right!,” Agnes unhelpfully elucidates), pops by periodically to check in on Wanda or help her out of a predicament with a well-timed pineapple. In episode two, Agnes also provides Wanda access to the town’s high society cliques, including the event planning committee headed by a woman named Dottie (Emma Caulfield), who goes from hating Wanda’s guts to endlessly praising her. Eventually it becomes creepily clear what prompts this change of heart: Dottie’s motto, which she and her friends recite in a reverent chant, is “For The Children”; a simple message that glosses right over the fact that Westview has few, if any, junior members at all – until Wanda herself suddenly becomes pregnant near the end of episode two.

If you’re familiar with the comics, you’ll know that Wanda’s twins, whom I expect will arrive at some point in episode three, are of great interest to multiple dark powers lurking in the Marvel universe – including the evil sorceress Agatha Harkness, and the devil himself, who typically goes by the name Mephisto. Many fans have already caught onto the fact that Agnes is probably Agatha Harkness in some form or another, but Mephisto is probably already in Westview too. Agnes seems to confirm this in episode two, after Dottie remarks that “the devil’s in the details”, when she whispers to Wanda in an aside that he’s in other places too. Mephisto hasn’t shown up physically yet, at least not that we’re aware: he could be the salesman in the aforemtentioned informercial segments, whose products are all fragments of Wanda’s traumatic memories, and who is accompanied by a tall woman who might be another version of Agatha too. Or he might be Agnes’ mysterious husband, “Ralph”, whom she mentions in passing so many times he has to be significant. Even Agnes’ pet rabbit, Señor Scratchy, has a Mephisto connection: Scratch is a term often applied to the Christian devil, and Nicholas Scratch is the name of Agatha Harkness’ son, an ally of Mephisto.

There’s a distinctly creepy undercurrent to WandaVision – quite literally, as episode two’s cliffhanger reveals that anonymous characters from the outside world have been moving underneath Westview via the sewers, dressed in bee-keeping uniforms for some unbeknownst reason. There are loud noises in the night, a strange voice cuts through radio static to loudly address Wanda by name, and a colorized toy helicopter shows up in Wanda’s black-and-white rosebush. The show’s visual iconography feels straight out of an arthouse horror picture: a crimson splash of blood on Dottie’s hand, constantly flickering TV screens, Mrs. Hart (Debra Jo Rupp) laughing while her husband chokes to death on the floor. The implication is that WandaVision sometimes glitches – but whether that’s because of someone inside manipulating Wanda, or someone outside trying to exert control, or Wanda herself losing control over what she’s created, is unclear.

Certainly it looks like agents from S.W.O.R.D. are trying to break through to her from outside, and that Wanda is unintentionally absorbing them into her world, rebooting them with new identities and forms – in much the same way that, while dreaming, you might still be able to hear noises in the real world, but your brain contextualizes them within the dream’s internal logic. For instance, we the audience know that Teyonah Parris’ character is not who she says she is to Wanda, a cheerful young debutante named “Geraldine”, but is in fact a S.W.O.R.D. agent named Monica Rambeau (whom you may remember from Captain Marvel). But Wanda doesn’t know that, and Monica doesn’t seem to know either – she’s been so deeply absorbed into the fabric of Wanda’s reality that she’s forgotten her own.

WandaVision
Geraldine and Wanda | elitedaily.com

It’s easy to see why. WandaVision masterfully recreates the world of classic sitcoms, employing practical effects and only the most rudimentary digital effects to convey Wanda’s chaos magic. From the shifting aspect ratio to the cinematography, to the hard work of the hairstyling and costume departments, to the period-accurate slang and mannerisms (for example: Wanda and Vision begrudgingly respect the constraints of unseen network censors until the 60’s, when Wanda converts their two beds into one), everything in this faux reality feels perfectly authentic, and detailed enough that I can’t wait to rewatch it again and again. My only major complaint is that I fear we won’t spend enough time in any decade to feel truly settled in one – though I rather suspect that’s the point, since Wanda and Vision are facing the same struggle: not being able to fit in no matter the era and changing social norms, and despite their best efforts to disguise their differences.

In episode one, Vision promises Wanda that their star-crossed romance will finally have a happy ending in Westview…but, well, considering that he’s actually dead and she’s about to lose everything again, we’ll see how long that lasts.

Episode Rating: 9.5/10

“WandaVision” 2nd Trailer!

The annual Disney Investors Call this year turned out to be a far more spectacular event than anyone could have guessed, with creatives from all of the studio’s many divisions (including Lucasfilm, National Geographic, Disney Animation, Pixar, and Marvel) revealing new information about upcoming films, TV series, and Disney+ originals. The deluge of teasers, trailers, and reveals will take a while for me to work through – so let’s start with something sweet and simple: a new trailer for Marvel’s swiftly-approaching superhero sitcom, WandaVision, which many of us thought would drop earlier in the day that it did. Either way, we got it, and I’m glad we did.

WandaVision
Wanda Maximoff and Vision | gamesradar.com

The first trailer for WandaVision, which dropped a few months back, quickly broke records and proved that Marvel fans are ready and willing to jump back into the MCU. WandaVision, however, appeals to audiences from all different backgrounds, with a retro aesthetic and zany comedy that are sure to be a hit with fans of classic sitcoms like I Love Lucy, The Dick Van Dyke Show, Bewitched, and The Brady Bunch, or more recent ones like Modern Family, which is also said to be an inspiration for the six-part Marvel series.

This new trailer is a cleverly edited blend of both the sitcom mayhem and the superhero action – plus the touch of psychological horror that I find most fascinating about WandaVision‘s premise. Once again, we see Wanda Maximoff and Vision using Maximoff’s reality-bending superpowers to live out their dream life, with a nice house in the suburbs, twin babies, and suspiciously friendly neighbors. Wanda is able to change the time period at will, and the trailer gives us a better look at the various decades of television history we’ll see replicated in extraordinary detail throughout the show, while the aspect ratio changes accordingly. For instance: notice how Wanda’s magic is achieved with practical effects for scenes set in the 1950’s and 60’s, while actual CGI is used more and more only as the series progresses into the future. The scenes in the 70’s (where Paul Bettany’s Vision sports an appropriately atrocious blond hairdo) seem to have matte painting backgrounds, which is another cool little nod to old filmmaking tricks. In the background, a slowed-down, psychedelic version of “Daydream Believer” by the Monkees plays.

WandaVision
WandaVision | theplaylist.net

But something dark lurks beneath the cheery façade Wanda has designed for herself, as we can see when scenes and characters start glitching. Teyonah Parris, who plays superheroine Monica Rambeau, shows up at Wanda’s door with a knowing smile – but then doesn’t seem to know who she is, or why she’s there. Eerie voices cut through normal radio broadcasts, and a creepy-looking figure in a hazmat suit appears suddenly in the darkness. Even Wanda’s neighbor Agnes (whom we’ve believed for a long time is actually the evil witch Agatha Harkness from the comics) looks a bit freaked out. Meanwhile, in the real world, a team of S.W.O.R.D. agents led by Jimmy Woo and Darcy Lewis try to break through to Wanda, bringing in armored vehicles, military helicopters, and entire squadrons of army troopers to deal with a massive, flickering red wall of light – which I believe is enclosing Wanda in the pocket-reality where she’s crafted her suburban utopia.

We also get a new tease of how Wanda was able to resurrect Vision, who died in Avengers: Infinity War after having the Mind Stone – his power source, and supposedly the source of Wanda’s own magic – ripped out of his head by Thanos. In this new trailer, Wanda can briefly be seen interacting with the Mind Stone, before an explosion knocks the wind out of her. Since the Mind Stone was destroyed offscreen by Thanos in Avengers: Endgame to prevent anyone from ever being tempted to use its power again, there can be only one explanation: Wanda is strong enough to recreate the Infinity Stones. And even though I don’t expect her to bring back the entire set, one is enough to accomplish what she wants – and probably enough to attract the attention of any number of Marvel villains who might want to exploit her rare skill.

WandaVision
WandaVision | cbr.com

Whether that’s the case or not, Wanda isn’t going to let herself be exploited so easily – which I like, because I’ve always been worried that WandaVision could repeat a long-since trope of depowering strong female characters by having them go mad, usually because they’re “too emotional” to handle the weight and responsibility of their own strength. But what we can see from Wanda is that she’s ready to fight to defend her home and her loved ones, and there’s an awesome shot of her taking flight into battle, buoyed by her characteristic fireballs of red energy – while the final sting shows her and Vision taking each other’s hand and getting ready to face some unseen enemy. Hopefully she has plenty more opportunities to show off her capability and competence, as this trailer promises.

Trailer Rating: 8/10

“The Witcher” Season 2 – First Look At Yennefer Imprisoned!

I was counting on you, Yen.

Out of all the main cast of The Witcher, no one changed outfits more frequently throughout season one than Yennefer of Vengerburg, the farm girl who transformed into a regal Mage and then spent decades losing herself to a life of opulence and luxury anywhere she pleased in The Continent. Her magic and her exquisite fashion sense combined meant that virtually every time she would reappear after one of her long, mysterious absences, she would have an entirely new wardrobe. And, as a Mage, she had absolutely no qualms about one such dress – a long silver and black number decorated with fringes and tassels – into battle at Sodden Hill, on that fateful night when she wrecked the Nilfgaardian Army with purging flames. It was the last time we saw her in season one, because when the smoke cleared she was nowhere to be found: in-universe, most everyone seems to think she’s dead, having used up all her magic to save Sodden. But new first look images reveal that’s not the case: Yennefer survived, she was imprisoned, and all while still wearing the same dress.

The Witcher
Yennefer | Twitter @witchernetflix

Depending on how you look at it, you could say it’s either slightly anticlimactic from a marketing standpoint or slightly worrying from an in-universe standpoint because you know Yennefer’s in a bad way when she doesn’t even have time to make a quick costume change. No significant upgrade or eye-catching new look seems to be in store for the mighty Mage, unlike the rest of her Witcher castmates. The first of the two new images shows the wounded Mage walking, almost as if in a trance, through the burning forests around Sodden Hill. It’s unclear where she’s headed, but my guess is that she’s trying to find Geralt. Both Geralt and Ciri received visions of the burning battlefield where Yennefer was last seen just after her disappearance, suggesting that the three are “linked by destiny”, as the saying goes…it stands to reason then that Yennefer might have received visions of where Geralt and Ciri are, as well. Her face is bloodied and streaked with ash and grime, and she’s still dressed in filthy, tattered clothes (although she has covered herself with a heavy black cape), but at least she’s alive. Even though we saw many other Mages begin to bleed profusely or even die after expending every last drop of their reserve of chaos magic, Yennefer has somehow been able to survive the traumatic incident mostly unscathed. Mostly, that is, because the second image finds her in an entirely new predicament.

The Witcher
Yennefer | ign.com

Someone has taken Yennefer captive. We know it must be soon after her misadventure at Sodden Hill, because she’s still wearing the same dress, but her captors have added a new accessory to her look: a dimeritium shackle, which in The Witcher universe is used to restrain the flow of chaos magic and is thus often the only thing capable of containing a powerful Mage. In The Witcher video games, it is mentioned that, in extraordinary cases, Mages have been able to break free of dimeritium bonds, although Yennefer will have to take a little time to recover some of her chaos before she can manage anything that spectacular. She’s gripping her shackled hand as if it’s giving her great pain, which in turn is giving me great pain because I can’t stand seeing anybody hurt our precious Yen.

So who has her imprisoned? Well, Netflix hasn’t said anything officially, but Redanian Intelligence does believe they know the answer, and it’s a minor spoiler for events that probably happen in the first or second episode of the show. If you want to go in completely unprepared, I’ll leave you with this hint: it ties back into other things we’ve been talking about recently, and promises us further exploration of The Witcher‘s world-building. It also means we’ll get to see some very interesting interactions between Yennefer and an important character we still don’t know much about.

The Witcher
Yennefer in season one | elitedaily.com

Unfortunately for us, these two latest images reveal very little else about Yennefer’s plight, and so we’re left having to play guesswork. My biggest relief is that this means Yennefer will definitely have her own subplot occurring parallel to the Geralt/Ciri arc. Netflix isn’t trying to keep her fate a big mystery, which I like, because I want to be able to spend more time with this amazing character. As many of you know, Anya Chalotra’s excellent performance as Yennefer was one of the things that kept me hooked on The Witcher, and I am extremely excited to see how her character develops in season two. Sadly, I don’t think we’ll be seeing any more images from The Witcher tomorrow (where is Jaskier, Netflix?!), so now we have to settle down and wait for…whatever’s next, I suppose. A poster? A little snippet of footage to get us all hyped? The Witcher is currently filming, and is still predicted to release sometime in 2021.

So what do you think? How do you feel about Yennefer’s same old look, and what are your thoughts on the reasoning for her imprisonment? Share your own thoughts, theories and opinions in the comments below!

“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

“Loki” Photos Could Reveal TVA, Lady Loki And More!

The Loki series on Disney+, which will follow the trickster god on a journey through space and time, recently revealed an exceedingly brief snippet of teaser-trailer footage that got the entire Loki fan community talking about the Asgardian sorcerer’s connections to an obscure group of Marvel Comics characters known as the Time Variance Authority, or TVA – now, newly-released behind-the-scenes photos show Loki and the TVA teaming up, as well as the possible introduction of one of two (technically three, but we’ll get to that) Marvel characters that fans have been longing to see onscreen for a while now.

The photos, which surfaced on Twitter, reveal Loki and a number of Time Variance Authority special agents walking through the rain in what could be a park or a field. Loki himself wears a police detective uniform, and a badge of some sort: though this one is gold rather than red, it is likely similar to the symbol of the TVA that was emblazoned upon his prison garb, which we saw in the teaser trailer. It’s impossible to say for certain whether this means that Loki will be imprisoned by the TVA first and then weasel his way into their good graces and start working for them (which sounds very Loki), or if it means he’ll work for the TVA first and then betray them and get landed in prison when a better deal comes along (which also sounds very Loki).

Walking alongside Loki and his band of soldiers (who appear to be wearing various articles of armored clothing from different time periods, including what could possibly be modified German Second World War uniforms), is a man dressed in a long blue raincoat with his hood pulled up over his face. Despite that, it’s not implausible to guess that this man could be Owen Wilson, who was cast in a top-secret role for the series. Fans have been wondering whether Wilson could be playing a major Marvel villain like Kang the Conqueror, but if this is him in these photos, I feel pretty confident saying that he’s playing Justice Peace, the head of the TVA and one of its greatest agents. Kang the Conqueror isn’t the type of character to sport a pencil mustache, trousers and brown loafers: Justice Peace is, and seems more like the type of comedic, zany character that Wilson would be asked to play, anyway.

If that is the case, however, it raises the question of why Marvel would go to such lengths to keep Peace a secret. Perhaps they have larger plans in store for him, or perhaps Peace will be revealed to be someone else entirely? Keep an eye on him, is all I’m saying.

Finally, we have a photo of a woman standing alone, who is almost certainly Sophia Di Martino, one of the first actresses to join the cast alongside Tom Hiddleston as Loki. She has short blond hair, and, though her pose and winter-jacket make it hard to see much of her costume, it’s undeniable that she’s wearing some sort of golden pendant or collar, and the rest of her outfit (what’s visible, anyway) appears to be dark green in color. We have no idea who Di Martino is playing yet, but this photo might have a bunch of clues.

Lady Loki/Enchantress
Twitter | @hiddlesgold

The green and gold color-scheme is shared by at least two characters in Marvel’s Asgard mythos: Loki, who wore his classic green-and-gold armor in The Avengers, and Enchantress, a powerful and usually villainous sorceress.

Enchantress is one of those characters who has multiple versions in the comics, with the two most notable being Amora, the original, and significantly more popular, iteration; and Sylvie Lushton, a human Oklahoman girl who gained magical powers through an encounter with Loki. While most fans would probably rather see the Amora version, an unconfirmed addition made to IMDb today could point towards Sylvie being the Enchantress we see in the Loki series: Cailey Fleming, a child actress, has supposedly been added to the series cast in the role of “Young Sylvie”.

Enchantress, no matter which other name she goes by, is almost always depicted as a blond woman wearing green and gold, and almost always has a connection to Loki in some way or another, whether as an ally or enemy. However, the possibility remains that Di Martino is playing neither Amora nor Sylvie Lushton, but could instead be portraying Lady Loki.

Loki, in the comics, is gender-fluid, something I’ve written about previously, and something which is rumored to be a factor in this new series. And even though Di Martino doesn’t strongly resemble Hiddleston, it’s been reported that she could be playing the female version of Loki. She’s blond in this new image, but she might just be waiting for a long black wig. And what we can see of her outfit looks very much like how Lady Loki dresses in the comics: the green is darker than Enchantress’ hallmark green, and gold jewelry is beloved by both Loki and Lady Loki. If that’s the case, then this could be our first look at gender-fluid representation in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

What do you think? Are these images indicative of anything, or should we wait for context before we jump to conclusions? Share your own thoughts, theories and opinions in the comments below!

“Shadow And Bone” Assembles Its Cast!

I only just recently discovered the Six Of Crows series of novels of Leigh Bardugo; and I’m glad that I did, because reading them has given me the ability to speak with some knowledge on the new casting announcements for the upcoming Netflix series, Shadow And Bone, based on her collected works. The series, which will be faced with the daunting task of condensing or combining elements from her Shadow And Bone and Six Of Crows novels, is shaping up pretty neatly, and has me hopeful that, along with The Witcher and Narnia, Netflix could be developing their own fantasy empire to challenge the likes of HBO and Amazon Prime in the near future.

So who’s been cast? Several of the major characters from Bardugo’s novels are present in the group photo released today by Netflix, with a handful conspicuously absent. Among those gathered we have the master thief and strategist Kaz Brekker, the assassin Inej Ghafa, and the sharpshooter Jesper Fahey, all from Six Of Crows, alongside the powerful Grisha sorceress Alina Starkov, the mysterious “General Kirigan”, and Alina’s best friend Malyen Oretsev, from the Shadow And Bone series.

"Shadow And Bone" Assembles Its Cast! 2
Twitter | @seewhatsnext

The biggest name among the cast is undeniably Ben Barnes (Kirigan), who previously portrayed Prince Caspian in the Chronicles Of Narnia – but that’s not saying much. Freddy Carter (Kaz) is probably going to be one of the show’s leads, but he is a mostly unknown actor, whose previous work includes Wonder Woman. Amita Suman (Inej) is best known for a guest role on the latest season of Dr. Who. Jessie Mei Li (Alina) has some experience in theater, but only a handful of acting roles in film. Kit Young (Jesper) has no acting credits. Archie Renaux (Malyen) will appear in next year’s Morbius, but has no other acting credits. So, with the absence of any real star power, we just have to hope that these six actors have a lot of talent between them.

We have yet to hear casting announcements for the other major characters of Bardugo’s series, including Wylan Van Eck, Matthias Helvar, and Nina Zenik. But this adaptation will clearly be playing around with Bardugo’s established timeline for her books, so it’s possible that those characters may not be introduced until later seasons of the series.

So what do you think? Are you happy with the casting announcements? Are you familiar with any of these actors? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

“The Witcher” First Trailer!

Firstly, let me preface this post by apologizing for my delay: I’m more than an hour late by now, due to not being able to get home fast enough. Destiny has arrived, so have I, and so has the first teaser trailer for The Witcher on Netflix!

My first impressions are a mix of chaos and confusion: I’ve never read the books or played the video games that this series will be based on, so I have almost no idea what the plot is – I am slightly familiar with the main characters like Geralt of Rivia (Henry Cavill), Yennefer (Anya Chalotra) and Ciri (Freya Allen), mostly because I watch a lot of videos by BookTubers who are devoted fans of The Witcher series: specifically Elliot Brooks – go check out her channel, it’s great.

But for right now, until she publishes her own review of the trailer, which will undoubtedly be far more intelligent than mine, I must work from what I know: very little. Okay, let’s dive in. Let’s see, we’ve got Elves, beautiful dark-skinned Elves for a change, and we get a tantalizing glimpse of the paradise they created long ago in this strange world, known as The Continent. These Elves were sorcerers, and taught the arts of chaos magic to humans – only to have the humans rise up against them and massacre them. From what I gather, that is a core theme of the series, both in book format and TV – humans are horrible, despicable creatures, little better than the monsters that populate their myths and dark imaginings. This trailer shows off just how wicked people can be, through some montages of them killing people…wait a second, for a moment there I thought this was Game of Thrones.

Netflix wants this to be Game of Thrones for a new audience dissatisfied with how that show ended, and so they’ve gone to elaborate lengths to make sure this show looks incredible. The production values are insane – beautiful costumes, realistic CGI, and mostly good wigs (there was a lot of worry about that last point, after Henry Cavill had shared a picture of himself wearing one depressingly-cheap set of platinum extensions). The only thing that indicates this show has to work on a somewhat smaller budget than your average movie studio is the general absence of top-notch talent – Cavill is the biggest star by far, and his co-stars are virtually unknown actresses. But thankfully, they do a pretty good job, in this trailer at least, of being mysteriously magical. Magic is one of the trailer’s big attractions, in my opinion: it’s always been an element that fantasy films and TV shows are wary of, because it can easily look and feel slightly ridiculous. Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones both steered clear of depicting much magic onscreen, unless they absolutely had to: magic is something that usually finds its way into more light-hearted fare, such as The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe. But The Witcher doesn’t shy away from fancy lights and displays of sorcery and enchantment: we have glowing trees in the desert, plenty of monsters (including giant spiders, can’t go wrong with those), catastrophic explosions of uncontrollable power, and even people throwing lightning from their hands. When was the last time you saw that in mainstream fantasy? It’s actually been a while since we’ve seen anyone but superheroes and psychic teenagers harness supernatural powers like this. At least, it’s been a while since I’ve seen anything like this.

Overall, it looks really good, definitely something that I’ll want to binge-watch when it arrives on Netflix this…Winter? I don’t know, the trailer doesn’t inform me. Well, whenever it comes out, it looks like it will be really good. Fingers crossed, people!

Trailer Rating: 8/10

“The Lord Of The Rings: The Return Of The King” Throwback

Today is Tolkien Reading Day, the best time of year to go out and read up on the works of the great J.R.R Tolkien, author of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. However, if you don’t have access to the books, why not take three hours out of your day to watch one of The Lord of the Rings movies? And since this day is intrinsically linked to things that happened in The Return of the King, Part 3 of The Lord of the Rings trilogy, we’re going to be talking about that film.

Spoilers Ahead!

So let’s start our discussion with a reminder that I am one of those people who read the books first, before seeing the films – but, I am not a book “purist”, someone who believes that everything in the text could have been adapted word-for-word onto the big screen, without any need for changes, additions, omissions, etc.

Now, having watched the film about six-thousand times, I have noticed a number of flaws – little things, for the most part, but we’ll discuss them here: I say “we” because I’m going to be writing this post in Gollum/Sméagol fashion, as an argument between my purist self and my revisionist self. We’ll also discuss a number of scenes that capture perfectly the spirit of the book, and even manage to almost elevate the material (which is so good to begin with).

But, we’ll also talk about the movie in its own right, because it’s just such a good movie. Even if you go into these films never having heard of The Lord of the Rings, or J.R.R Tolkien, you’ll still be swept up into this magical world, and, assuming you’re anything like me, you’ll never leave it again as long as you live. The joy and wonder is still there, every time I open the book or watch one of the movies.

Well, now we’re off at last!

Let’s begin with a breakdown of the plot: the film follows the journeys of a group of Men, Elves, Dwarves and Hobbits as they travel across Middle-earth. Our hobbit protagonist, Frodo Baggins (Elijah Wood), carries with him the deadly but beautiful One Ring, an object of incredible power that contains the very soul of the Dark Lord Sauron. Only by destroying this Ring can Middle-earth be freed from the horrors of war and evil that have been relentlessly assaulting it. The film opens with Frodo and his loyal gardener Sam Gamgee (Sean Astin) being led through the dangerous country around the Dark Lord’s realm of Mordor. Their guide? A treacherous and utterly wretched creature named Gollum (Andy Serkis), who once possessed the One Ring and wants it back. Can he be trusted? Can Frodo be trusted? Can anyone be trusted around the Ring? – for the Ring wants to get back to Sauron, and it has the power to corrupt anyone who owns it. By the time we see Frodo here, in The Return of the King, the Ring has betrayed many masters: it was cut from Sauron’s hand long ago but quickly killed its new owner, a man named Isildur – it fell into the River Anduin, and was there picked up by a hobbit named Deagol, who was very soon murdered by his friend Sméagol. Sméagol took the Ring and fled with it into the mountains, and there, dwelling in dark caves and pits, he changed into Gollum – the Ring abandoned him too, though, and was found by another hobbit named Bilbo Baggins (Ian Holm), but Bilbo was good enough that he was able to give up the Ring willingly – he gave it to Frodo. But the Ring betrayed one of Frodo’s friends as well, the noble man Boromir (Sean Bean), who tried to kill Frodo in an attempt to steal the Ring.

That is, of course, the main plot: the Ring must be destroyed, but destroying it takes great effort and great willpower. And the only place it can be unmade is in the fiery forges beneath an active volcano named Mount Doom, in the very heart of the realm of Mordor. Sauron dwells here, a giant flaming eye atop a horned tower.

Purist’s Note: in the books, Sauron is not a “giant flaming eye”. He has a physical form, but it is terrible and maimed, because he has been unable to take any shape fair to the eyes of Men ever since he fell into the ruin of Numenor in the Second Age. The Eye is merely a metaphor, in the books, for his piercing knowledge of all things that move on Middle-earth.

Thank you, Inner Purist, for making that clear.

Moving on. Many miles away from Frodo, his other friends are busy fighting Sauron’s vast armies of Orcs, Ringwraiths and Haradrim. Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen) is the reluctant King of Gondor who must rally his people to stand in defiance of the shadow. Gandalf the White (Sir Ian McKellen) is the good wizard entrusted with helping all the Free Folk of Middle-earth. Arwen Evenstar (Liv Tyler) is the Elven princess in love with Aragorn, who must choose between an immortal existence with her family, or a mortal life with the man she loves.

But, the fight for victory will not be easy. Sauron has unleashed all of his forces, and they are heading straight for the greatest city in Middle-earth: Minas Tirith, the capital of Gondor. Will Gandalf be able to keep the city’s defenses firm against such reckless hate? Will Aragorn reach the city in time to save it? Will Arwen choose love over the promise of immortality? The stakes are so high, they’re incredible.

Purist’s Note: in the books, Arwen had already chosen love over immortality, many years before the events of The Lord of the Rings. She and Aragorn had been betrothed on the hill of Cerin Amroth, and they had rejected both the Shadow of Sauron and the Twilight of the West.

Yeah, well, that’s not the case here. Here, we have a cast of incredible characters – played by an extraordinary cast – who collide with each other in the most brilliant ways. When the hobbit Merry Brandybuck (Dominic Monaghan) meets Éowyn, shieldmaiden of Rohan (Miranda Otto), will they overcome prejudice to fight in the war for Middle-earth? When Pippin Took (Billy Boyd) swears loyalty to the Steward Denethor (John Noble) will this choice come with a terrible responsibility – to watch as the Steward goes mad and tries to burn his own son alive?

Purist’s Note: well, no, apparently not, because in the movies Denethor releases Pippin from his service – whereas, in the books, Pippin remains in allegiance to Gondor.

This purist is getting on my nerves. You know what, Inner Purist, how about that scene where the Riders of Rohan appear over the hills at dawn and ride down to meet the orcs of Mordor in battle on the Pelennor Fields? Hmm, how about that? Was that not exactly as in the books?

Purist’s Note: well…well, I mean, no, because…

And what about the scene where Gandalf and Pippin discuss the prospect of death, using words directly from the book?

Purist’s Note: okay, that was touching, but the scene itself wasn’t in the books…

How about the scene on Mount Doom? Where Frodo finally stands above the consuming fires, unable to throw the Ring to its destruction? How about when Gollum takes the Ring from him in their last desperate struggle, biting off Frodo’s finger to get the corrupting treasure, dancing madly for joy on the brink of the fire – and falling, to his death? How about that terrifying scene where the Ring sits, motionless, on the surface of the lava, unwilling to be destroyed? And Frodo hangs from the cliff far above, staring down at it, contemplating with himself in those final moments whether he should leap into the fires after the Ring, or if he should take Sam’s hand and be carried to safety? How about that scene?

Purist’s Note: ooh, and how about that tortured look that Frodo gives to Sam as he makes his choice – but then, he reaches for Sam’s hand! And Sam pulls him up! And…uh, I mean, yeah, that scene is fine.

What about the final scene, at the Grey Havens, where Frodo goes off with the Elves to sail across the seas into the West? That emotional goodbye to his friends that has me in tears every time I watch it? That smile he gives as he boards the boat, and you know in your heart that he’s finally going to be healed of all his pain and hurt.

Purist’s Note: and when Sam says “well, I’m back” as he returns to his home, just like in the book…

Well, not just like in the book. If it had been just like in the book, he would have gone home to Bag-end, since in the book he inherited it from Frodo. Also, he should have only had one child at that time, but he had, like, five.

Purist’s Note: well, yeah, but, come on, the emotional heart of Tolkien’s work was all there. Director Peter Jackson could easily have gone for a more traditional route and had them all live happily ever after, but he didn’t. He showed the incredible pain that Frodo went through, and how it could never be healed – unless he left Middle-earth.

Yeah, I know, but Peter Jackson got a lot of things incorrect too. Let’s not forget the infamous scene where Frodo tells Sam to “go home”, which goes against everything in the books. That scene is painful to watch, it’s just so annoying.

Purist’s Note: okay, sure, but don’t forget that that scene was shot really early on, before the actors had any clear idea of the emotional journeys their characters were going on – before Andy Serkis had been cast as Gollum, in fact.

Good point. But how do you explain that scene with the skull avalanche in the Paths of the Dead?

Purist’s Note: wait, I thought you liked that!

I do! But…wait, aren’t you the purist? I feel like things got switched around here. I’m not supposed to be grilling you, it should be the other way round!

Purist’s Note: well, this is pretty normal when dealing with the movies. They’re conflicting, but in the end…they are pretty good movies, even when they’re not great adaptations. And, for the most part, they are great adaptations. Except for…a handful of things.

More than a handful. But, you’re right. No matter how many things might be wrong with the movies, I’m always going to love them. I’m always going to cry when Frodo sets sail into the West, or when Annie Lennox’s beautiful song starts playing over the credits…I’m always going to cheer when Sauron is cast down, and the Eagles rescue Frodo and Sam. I’m always going to feel completely heartbroken after the credits roll, when I realize that the story has finally come to its end. It’s the magic of this movie that makes that possible: you can overlook or even ignore every minor change to a character’s appearance, every faulty line of dialogue, every blunder or misstep. Because the magic is still there.

Purist’s Note: you’re going to tell me what the magic is now, aren’t you?

Yes, I am! It’s the magic of Frodo struggling through pain and torture to do the job that needs doing. It’s the magic of Sam carrying Frodo up Mount Doom, even when all seems lost. It’s the magic of Aragorn going to what seems like certain death so that he can buy Frodo just a little time. It’s the magic of Merry and Éowyn standing up against the Witch-King. It’s the magic of Pippin leaping into the flames to rescue Faramir. It’s the-

Purist’s Note: you’ve gone on long enough. I get it. It’s magic.

It is, and it’s the sort of magic that doesn’t go away, even after multiple viewings.

 

So there you have it: my thoughts on The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. No movie quite compares to it, honestly. It is everything I love about cinema, all rolled into one beautiful movie. From the opening sequence to the moment the screen fades to black, I am entranced, brought into another world, a world that I know and love from the books: not everything from those books made it onto the screen, but that’s okay. This sort of magic is rare. Enjoy it as it is.

Movie Rating: 10/10