Who’s Who In “WandaVision”

SPOILERS FOR WANDAVISION AHEAD!

As WandaVision‘s central mystery expands across several decades of television history and at least two distinctly separate realities, so too does its cast of characters, both major players and bit parts. And with Wanda raising the stakes dramatically in episode three, it’s becoming more important to tell characters apart and work out the most important details in any Marvel Cinematic Universe property – who’s connected to whom, and who’s working for whom? WandaVision hints at the idea that charming newlyweds Wanda Maximoff and Vision are being manipulated by dark forces lurking within their quaint suburban community of Westview: but after yesterday it’s looking more likely that Wanda herself has a hand in causing the strange events that plague her and her husband from day one of their married life together.

Let’s get into it, shall we?

Wanda Maximoff

WandaVision
Wanda Maximoff | cnet.com

Our series’ heroine has always been something of a lone wolf. After the events of Avengers: Endgame, with Vision dead, her strongest tie to the Avengers family was severed – and it looks like she decided to finally follow Hawkeye’s lead and just retire. But Hawkeye already had a family with which to settle down. Wanda first had to build one of her own, which would require her to do…whatever she did to bring back Vision back to life, possibly only in her dreams. Noting how violent her reaction has been to the S.W.O.R.D. logo whenever it pops up in Westview, many fans have speculated that Wanda was working with S.W.O.R.D. (which stands for Sentient Weapon Observation and Response Division in the MCU) to resurrect Vision when she went rogue and decided to hijack the experiment, eloping with her android boyfriend into a pocket dimension that she created on the site of the real town of Westview…or which someone else created for her, in order to lure her into a trap. Either way, it’s beginning to look like the citizens of the real Westview are now trapped there with her against their will, and are the real victims in this messy situation.

Allegiance: let’s mark her down as a free agent for now. It may turn out she’s being too heavily manipulated to see the chaos she’s causing, but honestly, it looks like she has a lot of control over Westview and is enjoying her newfound power. So even if she’s not entirely at fault, I don’t think she’s blameless either.

Vision

WandaVision
Vision | indianexpress.com

How did Vision go from being killed by Wanda to being resurrected by Thanos, to being killed by Thanos, to being resurrected yet again in WandaVision? Well, extrapolating off the theory that Wanda was working with S.W.O.R.D. to resurrect the android post-Endgame, my guess is that S.W.O.R.D.’s tech was capable of rebooting Vision – but without any of his past memories, including those he shared with Wanda. Learning this could easily have spurred Wanda to betray S.W.O.R.D. and steal the android’s partially-rebooted body for her own purposes, and would explain why Vision’s memory seems so fragmented. He clearly remembers Wanda, or at least has been convinced to think he does, but he seems clueless about his past, and even his purpose in Westview: unlike Wanda, who enters the sitcom reality with a clear motive to settle down and fit in. But he’s also inquisitive, which will serve him well in the coming days/decades.

Allegiance: I believe he’s linked to Wanda, at least for now. He’ll probably try to exercise his free will as the couple clash in later episodes, but I have a nasty feeling Wanda will be able to tug him along whithersoever she goes. Doesn’t mean we won’t get an epic battle sequence out of it, though.

Agnes

WandaVision
Agnes | hollywoodlife.com

Many of us are so convinced that Wanda’s overly-friendly next-door neighbor Agnes is actually the evil witch Agatha Harkness from Marvel Comics that it’s become almost second nature to refer to her as Agatha. With literally every clue pointing towards this being the case (apart from the similar names, Agnes’ wedding anniversary is the same day the Salem Witch Trials started, she wears a witchy brooch, and even owns a rabbit named for Harkness’ son in the comics), it seems almost too easy a connection to make. Personally, I suspect Agnes will be Agatha in some form or another, and is probably still a witch, but I’m not convinced Marvel isn’t totally reinventing the character as a more sympathetic antiheroine, a victim of manipulative forces. My guess: she’s responsible for luring Wanda into the pocket dimension surrounding Westview at the orders of Mephisto, Marvel’s devil, and is thus aware of what’s going on – but isn’t fully evil.

Allegiance: Agatha Harkness being Mephisto’s right-hand woman in the comics paves the way for Agnes to fill a similar role. But her small panic attack in yesterday’s episode makes me think she’s unwillingly serving the devil and trying to escape from him. There’s an interesting story to be told there about the toxic and abusive relationships endorsed by the same patriarchal system that many classic sitcoms upheld.

Dottie And Phil Jones

WandaVision
Dottie Jones | decider.com

Dottie (and, to a lesser degree, her husband Phil) is perhaps WandaVision‘s biggest enigma to me at the moment, and I’ve cycled through several theories about who – or what – she is. Her high status among the citizens (particularly the women) of Westview strongly implies that, like Agnes, she may be a witch. And with witches and Mephisto going hand-in-hand in Marvel comics, it’s not too much of a stretch to extrapolate that she could be working with the devil to steal Wanda’s twins – after all, she did lead the eerie communal chant of “For The Children”. But I’m beginning to wonder if the lemonade glass exploding in her hand and revealing her red blood (in the black-and-white episode) was an attempt by Mephisto to alert Wanda to the fact that Dottie, whether she’s a witch or not, is also a third-party intruder with her own agenda in Westview.

Allegiance: if Dottie has an ulterior motive for wanting Wanda to hurry up and have kids, what is it? Like Mephisto in the comics, she could be trying to absorb young Billy and Tommy into her soul to increase her demonic power…or, if she’s not evil, she might be trying to protect the children before someone else has a chance to kidnap them.

The Townsfolk

WandaVision
Mr. Hart, Vision, and Mrs. Hart | dailyadvent.com

Despite how it looks, not everybody in Westview has some grandiose plan to steal Wanda’s babies – and now that episode three has confirmed that Westview is a real town in the real world, it would seem that most of the background players in WandaVision are just regular people who got sucked into the sitcom fantasy against their will. Judging by how close Westview appears to be to a large S.W.O.R.D. complex, some of these people might be low-level S.W.O.R.D. staffers, nonthreatening to Wanda. Vision’s co-worker Norm could fall into this category (his actor, Asif Ali, also played a low-level Cybertek employee in Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.). Others, like Herb and possibly the mailman Dennis, might have a better idea of what’s going on – Herb even begins to disclose the truth to Vision, telling him that “Geraldine” arrived in Westview “because we’re all…she came here because we’re all…” before being stopped by Agnes, who confronts him with a panic-stricken expression. We’re all…trapped, I assume? Dennis has his own bizarre run-in with Agnes while walking past Wanda’s house, where they exchange what seems like coded banter.

Allegiance: most of these folks, with the possible exception of Herb and Dennis, probably don’t have any strong allegiances that will put them at conflict with Wanda, Mephisto, or even neighbors like Agnes. If that changes, I’ll be sure to point it out.

“Geraldine”

WandaVision
“Geraldine” | elle.com

Long before WandaVision premiered, it had already been confirmed by Marvel that Teyonah Parris would be playing Monica Rambeau in the series, so “Geraldine’s” secret identity was never much of a mystery. Set photos and promotional material had also revealed that Rambeau, last seen in the MCU as the young and impressionable daughter of retired test pilot Maria Rambeau in Captain Marvel, would now be working with S.W.O.R.D. in some capacity. If WandaVision were following the comics exactly, this would totally make sense: there, S.W.O.R.D. deals with space and explores alien worlds, and MCU Monica grew up surrounded by aliens thanks to Captain Marvel’s dealings with her mother. But MCU S.W.O.R.D. tackles “sentient weapons”, making Monica’s chosen career path a little more confusing. In the comics, Monica also has superpowers – which I think Wanda might have accidentally given to her when she wrapped Monica up in a hex-magic cocoon and tossed her out of WandaVision.

Allegiance: Monica seems loyal to S.W.O.R.D.; though a conflict could arise if S.W.O.R.D. responds to Wanda’s actions with further violence, and Monica cautions them to go gentle. Monica was raised to see the good in everybody: I think she’ll sympathize with Wanda’s pain, and genuinely want to help her.

“Ralph”

WandaVision
Mephisto | looper.com

In the first three episodes of WandaVision, we’ve learned more random details about Agnes’ mysterious husband “Ralph” than we’ve learned about Agnes herself…but where is he? Who is he, really? Until he shows up in person, we won’t know – but my suspicion is that he’s none other than Mephisto himself, and that his marriage with Agnes is more metaphorical than anything (but literal enough that Agnes actively avoids her “mother-in-law”), a way of hiding in plain sight while observing Wanda. Agnes’ remarks about him paint a disturbing picture of a repulsive character whom Agnes wants to leave, but can’t.

Allegiance: if “Ralph” truly is Mephisto, he serves no one but himself, but freely manipulates those around him, like Agnes, Dottie, and of course, Wanda.

So what do you think? Which WandaVision characters do you want to know more about heading into episode four? Share your own thoughts, theories, and opinions, in the comments below!

May Calamawy Joins “Moon Knight”!

Although Oscar Isaac has yet to be officially confirmed as the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Moon Knight (though it’s pretty clear at this point that he will indeed be donning the antihero’s iconic mantle), the series is moving full steam ahead with a production start date already set for March, and has now begun casting other key supporting roles. May Calamawy has become only the second cast member to join the series, playing an as yet unnamed character who will join the Moon Knight on what Marvel president Kevin Feige described as a globe-trotting, “Indiana Jones-type” adventure.

Moon Knight
May Calamawy | refinery29.com

Calamawy, a Bahraini actress with Egyptian heritage, has risen to stardom through her popular role on Hulu’s Ramy, where she portrays Ramy Youssef’s  younger sister, Dena Hassan, and has helped to break barriers for MENA (Middle Eastern and North African) representation in TV. She will have a chance to do so again in the Moon Knight series, where she is likely filling the role of Marlene Alraune: an important figure in Moon Knight’s backstory. A casting call that MCU Direct was able to reveal back in September of last year suggested that Marvel was searching for actresses of any ethnicity, and in the same age-range as Calamawy, to play a character believed to be Marlene.

At the time, Marvel provided only a few details about the character, including that she would be “a manipulative operative working for a secret organization”, possibly hinting at a connection to the MCU’s S.H.I.E.L.D., or even S.W.O.R.D., which is being set up to have a major role going forward: S.W.O.R.D. agents will be tasked with trying to restrain Wanda Maximoff in WandaVision, and will likely show up again in the Secret Invasion series. In the comics, Marlene’s character has never had ties to either of these organizations, but then again, she’s also been little more than a rip-off of Marion Ravenwood from the Indiana Jones franchise – so I don’t mind if her backstory gets rewritten to better suit the modern setting.

Moon Knight
Moon Knight | superheroes.fandom.com

Marlene in the comics is a stereotypical “archaeologist’s daughter” (not to be confused with the very similar “scientist’s daughter”), and is most often utilized as a love interest to Marc Spector, a.k.a. Moon Knight. While accompanying her aging father on his final research trip to Egypt, she accidentally becomes embroiled in a fight between Spector and his nemesis, The Bushman, who kills her father and attempts to kill her too but is stopped by Spector: who is left mortally wounded in the attack. Spector is then revived by the ancient Egyptian moon deity Khonshu, and given a second chance at life in exchange for his services as an assassin and mercenary, carrying out the god’s dirty work on earth. Marlene accompanies Marc Spector occasionally on his crime-fighting missions, and has some fighting skills of her own that she’s able to put to good use, but most comic readers still only know her as Spector’s on-and-off girlfriend, who at one point leaves him for her ex-husband and then reunites with him later. The MCU has never been great at creating truly messy romantic drama, but WandaVision seems like it might finally reflect a widescale shift towards writing more complex romantic relationships – so I guess we’ll have to see what happens.

But regardless, this is still very exciting casting, and bodes well for Calamawy’s career beyond Ramy. I hope that we’ll soon see other MENA actors join Moon Knight in significant roles, making up for the MCU’s earlier, dated, and deeply offensive portrayals of Middle Eastern characters as terrorists. This stereotype continues to be perpetuated in mainstream media – just last month, Wonder Woman 1984 tried to get away with it too: in what may have been an ill-conceived and tasteless attempt to pass it off as just another hallmark of the 1980’s films upon which the DC sequel was based, like troubling depictions of women, dubious consent issues, and queerbaiting.

Moon Knight
Marlene Alraune | comicbookrealm.com

So what do you think about Calamawy’s casting, and how excited are you for Moon Knight? Share your own thoughts, theories, and opinions, in the comments below!

“Wonder Woman 1984” Review!

There’s a small but memorable scene in Wonder Woman 1984 in which the film’s major antagonist, Maxwell Lord (the irresistibly charming Pedro Pascal), having just worked his dark magic on the President of the United States and sparked an all-out nuclear war with the Soviet Union, tries to escape from an altercation at the White House only to find himself awkwardly handcuffed to Steve Trevor (Chris Pine), Wonder Woman’s quick-thinking sidekick and lover. I bring this up because it’s representative of the film overall, which handcuffs itself to Pine’s Trevor and stubbornly sticks to him even as his very presence in the story demands that the entire plot revolve around him and not the lead character. The only way this metaphor could have been made even stronger would be if Wonder Woman herself were handcuffed to Trevor in this scene to reflect the film’s inability to give independence or agency to its female characters.

Wonder Woman 1984
Wonder Woman | cnbc.com

Make no mistake, I loved Pine in the first film – and I adored the mature, elegant romance between him and Diana Prince (Gal Gadot): which was written in such a way that both characters could be strong and vulnerable with each other, and both had equal footing – with Diana clearly and effortlessly remaining the lead. Trevor’s death in Wonder Woman was a heartbreaking and powerful moment that allowed us all to see the good in humanity. And yet he’s back in Wonder Woman 1984, nearly a century after his death in World War I, doing pretty well for a guy whom we last saw get blown to bits in mid-air. Prior to the film’s release, I was as excited as anyone to see him return: in hindsight, I’m beginning to realize how foolish it was to ever attempt something that could so easily go so wrong…and did.

It’s blasphemous to even suggest, I know. The first film relied so heavily on that spark of chemistry between the two actors and their characters. But Wonder Woman 1984 had the means to substitute that timeless pairing for another one that could have been just as well-written and well-received, if director Patty Jenkins and her team of screenwriters hadn’t decided to resurrect Steve Trevor for one last lackluster hurrah: because let me tell you, everything that’s bad about this film’s flawed script, from the convoluted globe-trotting adventure to the random interlude with a Mayan shaman, feels to me like the inevitable side-effect of having to devise an excuse for how Steve was even able to come back at all.

And with the return of Steve Trevor, Diana herself gets sidelined in a story that seems almost uninterested in her as an individual. She’s got nowhere left to go and nothing new to learn, essentially. A vague theme about the importance of being true to yourself is woven throughout the film, but it’s not exactly an urgent message that Diana personally has to embrace, unlike the first film’s timely reminder to believe in the goodness of people. She was being true to herself anyway, before Steve randomly came back into her life and took over her entire storyline (oh, the parallels to Avengers: Endgame). I mean, it’s really a shame there was no way to weave this message more cleverly into the plot and romantic subplot by…oh I don’t know, making this a queer love story?

Just as DC preceded Marvel in the department of successful female-led superhero movies, many of us had hoped they’d be the first to give us a proudly and openly LGBTQ+ superheroine onscreen in the form of Diana Prince (Harley Quinn was vaguely bisexual in Birds Of Prey, and a supervillain anyway). We’ve known for some time that wouldn’t be the case, with Patty Jenkins confirming that wasn’t the story she wanted to tell. But what we get instead is a film that tiptoes around even the possibility of a same-sex romance as clumsily as Barbara Ann Minerva (Kristen Wiig) strides around the Smithsonian in high heels. Now, to be fair, most of the romantic tension between Diana and Barbara is more a result of the palpable chemistry between the two actresses (the quiet, ethereal Gadot and sparky, exuberant Wiig complimenting each other very nicely), rather than necessarily indicative of anything intentionally written into the script, but at the same time…come on. Both Diana and Barbara are canonically bisexual in DC Comics, and you’re telling me Patty Jenkins didn’t know what she was doing by casting a romantic filter over their awkwardly flirtatious lunch overlooking the Washington Monument, or having Barbara tumble into Diana’s arms in a subversion of a dated Hollywood romantic trope? It’s queerbaiting that only serves to underscore the fact that the rest of the movie is, in the words of one of my favorite reviewers, Valerie Complex; “aggressively heteronormative”.

Wonder Woman 1984
Cheetah | flickeringmyth.com

To the surprise of absolutely no one, the scenes that center women are the highlights of the film: from those early interactions between Diana and Barbara, to the epic prologue action sequence on the Amazonian isle of Themyscira, to a cheeky and delightful mid-credits scene. But none of these isolated scenes make up for the fact that the character arcs of both female leads in Wonder Woman 1984 (one of those female leads being a literal icon of feminism) revolve almost entirely around men. For Diana, that’s Chris Pine’s Steve, who returns with the help of an incredibly convenient plot device and plays fish-out-of-water for a while…a really long while, during an excruciating montage that exists solely to trot out every semi-nostalgic 80’s cultural trope you can imagine. Pine is still perfectly likable and has some laugh-out-loud line deliveries, but never truly recaptures what made his character so special – and thus feels like a burden the film must carry.

For Barbara Ann Minerva, it’s Pedro Pascal’s Maxwell Lord – who is quite an interesting character, despite being surprisingly little like the young Donald Trump we all assumed he would be based on the promotional material. An oil tycoon with his eye on a legendary ancient wishing stone forged by the Gods, Lord seduces the world with his voice and power to make the impossible possible. He’s got Trumpian elements to his character, of course (among the more obvious examples: he yells “You’re hired!” at one point), but his motivations are relatable, and his charm genuine. Pascal also just oozes the kind of unshakably consistent charisma that can turn a silent, faceless gunslinger into a beloved icon, or make a dumpster fire of a movie like We Can Be Heroes shockingly entertaining.

Minerva herself does get to transform into the anthropomorphic Cheetah we know from the comics, and the CGI isn’t entirely awful as she flails about in her dimly-lit third-act duel with Diana (or perhaps Diana’s Golden Eagle armor is so distractingly awful I didn’t notice), but she deserved to be the major antagonist of this film, and not merely Maxwell’s loyal henchwoman. I’m also afraid that Wiig’s excellent dramatic performance and thrilling action sequences will be overshadowed in the larger fandom discourse.

Apart from Wiig’s notable fights (particularly her brutal takedown of a drunk man who continually harasses her on her jogging route), the action in Wonder Woman 1984 is fairly slight, with the only other standout being the prologue on Themyscira, where the Amazons compete for honor and glory in a series of challenges that test their physical abilities. If Jenkins is going to commit to having Diana only use her Lasso of Truth as a weapon (an idea I actually really like, as it reflects the character’s refusal to kill), she just has to find better ways to incorporate it into action scenes, because it can too easily come off as overly ridiculous.

Wonder Woman 1984
Wonder Woman | cbr.com

Jenkins did make other “campy” elements from the character’s mythology work for Wonder Woman 1984, though, including Cheetah (doesn’t matter if she’s dressing up as a cat, or literally morphing into one: it’s still a hilariously campy concept), and the Invisible Jet – which comes about through a bizarre but acceptable deus ex machina. Unlike Shazam, this film isn’t trying to be goofy or funny: it still takes itself very seriously, and thus comes across as uniquely earnest for a superhero movie. In some ways, I’d say that’s one of several ways in which the movie evokes real 80’s adventure movies: both the good and the bad. The heightened sense of adventure, the not-so-great CGI you’re willing to excuse because everything happening onscreen is just so much fun, and the outdated perceptions of women and foreign nations that make us cringe deeply in our souls (we just need to collectively stop letting white American directors write North African and Middle Eastern nations into their scripts, because they’ve proven they’re not up to the task of handling those nations and their individual cultures at all well).

There’s still plenty of hope for the Wonder Woman franchise in the near future. We’re not dealing with another Crimes Of Grindelwald here (although the box-office reception would seem to disagree). But the divisive audience reactions and legitimate criticisms of Wonder Woman 1984 should hopefully alert Warner Brothers to the need to put this series back on track with better screenwriters and a stronger, more cohesive focus on women as individuals with their own storylines….even (and especially) if that means no more Steve Trevor.

Movie Rating: 6.5/10

Rest In Power, Chadwick Boseman. 1976 – 2020

Chadwick Boseman
theatlantic.com

In 2018, during the press tour for Marvel’s upcoming release Black Panther, the film’s star Chadwick Boseman gave a heartfelt interview with SiriusXM Radio during which he shared with viewers a story from his time filming the Afrofuturist superhero epic, which would go on to become a cultural milestone and a critically acclaimed celebration of Black pride and joy. The story was that of two young boys, named Ian and Taylor, both suffering from terminal cancer, whom Boseman had exchanged letters with: the boys were trying to hold out long enough to see Black Panther finally come to life onscreen, but tragically they passed before they had the chance. Boseman broke down in tears while telling the story, but used the moment to talk about the larger cultural impact of Black Panther and the ways in which movies and media can help to empower and inspire communities that often never see themselves represented onscreen in sympathetic roles.

At the time, none of us in the general public knew that Chadwick Boseman had himself been diagnosed with colon cancer just two years prior to that touching conversation. We found that out the hard way last night, when it was announced by Boseman’s family that the star, aged 43, had passed away after an exhausting four-year long battle with the disease, during which he had never ceased in his fight to change Hollywood from the ground up. Last night, we lost a true legend, a man who “radiated power and peace”, whose talent for acting was rivaled only by his talent for effortlessly spreading love, happiness and a sense of pride and dignity to marginalized communities around the globe. As Simu Liu, who would have been his Marvel co-star starting next year, put it: “Without Chadwick, and what he gave to his character, there is no Shang-Chi. Period.”

He was T’Challa, the poised, elegant King of Wakanda that audiences first fell in love with after his thrilling Marvel debut in Captain America: Civil War. But he was also baseball pioneer Jackie Robinson in 42, a role that cemented him as one of the great actors of our time. He was Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall in 2017’s Marshall. He was the “Godfather of Soul”, James Brown, in Get On Up. He was the fictionalized, almost god-like Vietnam War-era soldier “Stormin'” Norman in Da 5 Bloods. He would have been the African samurai Yasuke in an upcoming biopic about the 16th Century warrior. To embody so many of Black history’s most celebrated figures in so little time takes a special kind of dedication and determination – two virtues with which Chadwick Boseman was blessed, beyond a doubt.

Chadwick Boseman
indiewire.com

It’s been hard for me to process the grief I feel over losing Boseman so early – far too early – to a disease as malignant as cancer, when he clearly had so many years left in him, so much art and talent he still could have shared with the world. But processing this pain has been made easier by seeing the genuine joy that Chadwick Boseman inspired, especially in children who looked up to his persona as the Black Panther, but also in Black audiences of all ages and all walks of life, who saw in that groundbreaking character something so much more than just a Marvel superhero with a flashy suit. Reading the tributes to Boseman from Black individuals for whom Black Panther revitalized their interest and pride in their cultural heritage (whether that expressed itself in the action of wearing traditional African clothing or studying Afrofuturistic philosophies, or anything else in between) has been both powerful and humbling.

In the absence of Boseman’s commanding presence, we are left with the legacy he leaves behind and with the urgent opportunity to carry on with that legacy, thus ensuring that future generations will remember Chadwick Boseman as a true king, an honor he deserves after the hard work he put into each and every one of his performances. At the same time we are left with his incredible body of work, which we must preserve so that it may continue to inspire future generations as it did us. We are also left with a sobering reminder to be kind: several months ago, although it wasn’t known at the time that Boseman was battling cancer, the actor appeared in public for a photo that quickly went viral for all the wrong reasons, with people on social media making jokes about his dramatic weight loss. Words have power, no matter how well-intentioned. It never hurts to be kind.

Chadwick Boseman
etonline.com

After winning the Screen Actors Guild Award for an Outstanding Ensemble Cast, the cast of Black Panther, led by Chadwick Boseman, took the stage; and Boseman spoke passionately and eloquently in the space of just a few minutes about the experience of being “young, gifted and Black” in Hollywood at such a crucial time, and how special, how life-changing it was for him to be able to work alongside so many other gifted Black professionals in the business and to give something back to pop culture, something that ultimately redefined the film industry in more ways than he would have ever thought possible. The background music signaling that his speaking time was up played too soon, cutting him off midway through his speech – but Boseman kept talking, refusing to allow that rare, unique, powerful moment to pass until he had made his point loud and clear.

But now, his life and career have been cut short, and he, despite his best efforts to fight colon cancer, is gone too soon: it is understandable and entirely acceptable that many (especially in the Black community) will feel devastated, and will need time for self-care. I cannot and will not dissuade you from taking as much time as you need to absorb this news and process it however you please. But we can’t allow this rare, unique, powerful moment in which we live to pass by either: our world – our society – is at a point where we need to firmly and unequivocally repeat that Black Lives Matter (in our writing, in our speech, in our actions most importantly) until they actually do in the eyes of the law and the institutions that constantly resist that simple statement, or worse, actively seek to violate the freedoms of Black people around the globe, through acts of violence and intimidation. Don’t let the moment pass. Don’t let the music play until we’ve said what has to be said, until we’ve done what needs to be done. Instead, let us all continue to do what Chadwick Boseman would have done: fight to protect Black lives, and fight to see the Black community represented in the media we consume by consuming that media responsibly and uplifting Black voices wherever and whenever possible.

Chadwick Boseman
bbc.com

Rest In Power, Chadwick Boseman.

“The Umbrella Academy” Season 2 Trailer!

Last time we saw the seven misfit super(anti)heroes who make up the Umbrella Academy, they had narrowly escaped the fiery cataclysm that resulted when several chunks of moon shrapnel crashed into the Earth, obliterating the planet and wiping out the rest of the human race. Now they’re back, having traveled through time and space to Dallas in 1963, where (surprise, surprise) they’re once again facing an imminent apocalypse, this time somehow linked to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. But to make matters even worse, the entire team has been split up.

The first trailer for the upcoming second season gives us a good rundown of what’s going on and where our protagonists have ended up: necromancer and drug addict Klaus (Robert Sheehan), unsurprisingly, has landed himself in a psychedelic cult; Allison (Emmy Raver-Lampman) has become a lawyer specializing in civil rights, and I can already envision plenty of scenarios in which she uses her mind-control powers to win cases; Luther (Tom Hopper), the team’s muscle-bound strongman, is working as a boxer; Diego (David Castañeda), the guy with all the knives, is stuck in a mental hospital with a new character who appears to be his love interest; Vanya (Elliot Page), the seemingly harmless violinist who caused the apocalypse with her ability to control sound waves, appears to be looking for normalcy in rural Texas, because that makes sense; Ben (Justin Min), the ghost of a former Umbrella Academy member, appears to have broken free from Klaus and is now just sort of chilling; and Five (Aidan Gallagher), time-traveling teenage know-it-all that he is, is trying to round them up all in order to hopefully prevent yet another end of the world scenario.

The trailer promises that the dysfunctional family will be burdened with just as much emotional baggage as they were in the first season – that might seem like an unusual selling-point, but it’s one of the key elements that made the show so wildly popular in the first place. However, there’s another secret weapon that The Umbrella Academy has, and that’s its roster of bizarre yet terrifying villains – and thankfully season two is already setting up a number of those: Swedish vacuum-cleaner salesmen who double as ninja assassins and a Commission bureaucrat with a fishbowl for a head? Count me in! We also get a brief glimpse of season one’s reluctant killer Hazel (Cameron Britton), now reformed and significantly older, helping Five on his mission, which is pretty sweet.

Umbrella Academy
radiotimes.com

Once again, the CGI budget for the Netflix series looks incredible, and it seems like we’ll be treated to a bunch of epic action scenes utilizing each of the Hargreeves siblings’ superpowers in clever ways. Intentionally or not, however, the focus seems to have shifted away from the characters with special effects-heavy powers like Klaus and Vanya, and more towards Allison and Diego, both of whom, while undeniably very dangerous and effective, don’t require a whole bunch of CGI for every fight sequence. In fact, it’s now become a running joke that Allison tries to use her powers as little as possible. But we’ll see: I have no doubt that, despite not being featured very prominently in the trailer, Vanya will still be accidentally wreaking havoc everywhere she goes.

And of course, even as the family drama moves into new territory, the Hargreeves’ can’t ever escape from the looming shadow of their abusive father-figure, Sir Reginald Hargreeves, who appears at the end of the trailer as a somewhat younger gentleman. From the context of the scene, it appears that the Umbrella Academy will have to seek him out for help, possibly (hopefully) so he can finally give them some answers about where they came from, why they have powers, and why he was so obsessed with the moon.

So what do you think of the first Umbrella Academy trailer? Share your own thoughts, theories and opinions in the comments below!

Trailer Rating: 8/10

“Black Widow” Super Bowl TV Spot Review!

Marvel Studios’ Black Widow is only a few months out, and with a new line-up of character posts, special Twitter emojis and recently revealed tie-in merchandise, the film’s marketing campaign is heating up. Tonight, we’ve got a new Super Bowl TV spot that gives us tiny glimpses of new material: nothing too substantial, but just enough to keep us talking.

The brief teaser, which highlights each of the characters who make up Natasha Romanoff’s team of Russian special agents, features a voice-over from Romanoff, the Black Widow herself, who tells us that the Avengers weren’t her first family – before she was the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s super spy and legendary assassin, she was a member of the Red Room program, which trained her (along with her “sisters”, Yelena Belova and Melina Vostokoff) to be the world’s most lethal killers. Now, in the Black Widow movie, she’s taking on the Red Room with the help of her comrades, and facing off against an impressive roster of villains.

We still haven’t seen the face behind Taskmaster’s skull-shaped mask, but we’ve now got more proof that he is indeed displaying his comics-accurate abilities, such as the photographic reflexes that allow him to copy any opponent’s fighting moves – in this new trailer, he flips his shield in a manner reminiscent of Captain America’s classic move, implying that at some point he fought the First Avenger.

The trailers for this film have been careful to avoid showing any spoilers, and this one is no different. We still have no clue what will happen to Natasha’s family on their mission deep into Siberia: a theory created soon after the first trailer’s release suggested that Natasha could be seen holding Yelena Belova’s jacket in a scene after a helicopter crash, leading the internet to believe that Belova might have died in the crash. That theory is disproved by this new TV spot, which shows the whole family safely reunited at the crash-site and gathering in a circle to hold hands – with Natasha being the only member of the team to stand to the side.

What do you think of the TV spot, and do you think any of Natasha’s family are doomed to die in the hotly-anticipated Marvel thriller? Share your own thoughts, theories and opinions in the comments below!

Trailer Rating: 6.5/10

“Captain Marvel 2” In The Works At Marvel!

To nobody’s surprise, the wildly successful Captain Marvel, released last March, is getting a sequel: the cosmic superhero film, Marvel Studios’ first to be headlined by a female hero, crossed into the billion-dollar club within a couple weeks, and introduced audiences to star Brie Larson as the sassy, headstrong Carol Danvers a month before her small but pivotal role in the mega-hit Avengers: Endgame. And while a tiny, toxic group of angry moviegoers complained that Larson and Danvers were “ruining Marvel”, most people simply ignored the loud discourse that surrounded the film’s release, and found Danvers and her supporting cast to be perfectly likable and fun: her movie was enjoyable, the writing was average (with a couple outstanding exceptions that I will defend to the death), and the directing was fine. Turns out, Carol Danvers was absolutely no different from many of her male Marvel co-stars – in that her debut movie was a strong, if safe, jumping-off point into future installments of her solo saga.

But now, with a new setting, a new screenwriter, and new directors, the Space Stone-powered heroine’s sequel movie could be something truly extraordinary: something that could prove once and for all why Danvers is the perfect candidate to lead the Marvel Cinematic Universe into the new decade. So let’s discuss everything we now know about Captain Marvel 2.

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It appears that Carol Danvers’ sequel will shake things up by giving us a change of scenery: while her origin movie was set in 1995, a couple years after the young fighter pilot was abducted by Kree aliens after absorbing the powers of an Infinity Stone, her second solo outing will take place in the present day (or, rather, the future day), after the events of Avengers: Endgame (which is set in the year 2023, in case you’ve forgotten). That means the Carol we see next will be an older, wiser Carol, a Carol who will have spent almost three decades traveling the stars, helping end wars across the galaxy. There’s no indication yet of who she’ll interact with in her sequel: will her best friend Maria Rambeau still be around to help her? Most importantly to comic-book fans, will Maria’s impressionable young daughter Monica have matured into the superhero known as Photon?

Considering who the sequel’s screenwriter is going to be, I’d guess the answer is “yes”. Megan McDonnell is supposedly set to write the scripts for Carol’s upcoming follow-up film, and her current credits include WandaVision, the hotly-anticipated Disney+ streaming series that will introduce a grown-up version of Monica Rambeau. Considering everything we now know about WandaVision, from the fact that it’s been fast-tracked for a late 2020 release, to the fact that its writers are now being moved into other key positions at Marvel, it looks like the series, which will star Elizabeth Olsen as a dangerously unbalanced Scarlet Witch, is going to be a big hit for the studio, and everybody involved with its production will probably leave with their heads held high.

Captain Marvel directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, on the other hand, may not be able to walk away from their tenure at Marvel with such honor – the directing duo are suspected to be moving on to other projects, and will not be helming Danvers’ sequel: Marvel is supposedly searching for a female director to take on the project, and guide it to its projected 2022 release date. Honestly, while I bear no ill will towards Boden and Fleck, I don’t think this is necessarily a bad idea: they didn’t do a bad job directing Captain Marvel, but they also didn’t do anything particularly new or invigorating – though, as I mentioned, I think the film does have some really good elements, including on-point humor, a subtly campy 90’s vibe, and strong performances. The sequel can do whatever it wants with that: it can go all Thor: The Dark World (a bad decision: don’t do that, Marvel) and double down on everything from the first film, or it can try for a more Thor: Ragnarok approach and branch out in a new direction, test the waters, give us a surprisingly fresh perspective on the character. Personally, I’d love to see Carol spend more time in space in her sequel, rather than moving about undercover on earth – that would also allow her to take on opponents her own size, and face some real challenges: since there’s probably very few villains on Earth who are going to stand a chance against her laser-punches and indestructible, fiery aura.

So what do you think? Carol’s story will have major changes both behind the scenes and in front of the camera, but will all turn out well? Where do you want to see her go next? Should she spend more time in space or on Earth? Share your thoughts, theories and opinions in the comments below!

“Birds Of Prey” Official Trailer!

Harley Quinn is back and better than ever in the first trailer for Birds Of Prey, which sees her and a few of the other emancipated women of Gotham getting together to wreak havoc on the city with glamour, glitter and gunfights. DCEU fans have been eagerly anticipating this first official trailer for weeks, and now, finally, we have it. So does it live up to expectations?

I say, yes. The movie looks absolutely crazy, but in the best way possible: irreverent, reckless, and irresponsible, Margot Robbie’s take on the character of Harley Quinn is a far cry (a canary cry? bad Birds of Prey pun, I know) from her comics counterpart, one of Batman’s most dangerous and sinister villains – but she’s possibly better. And without any Batman in sight, Quinn is free to roam through Gotham on roller-skates, robbing, vandalizing and basically having a good time – she compares her crime spree to a sleepover party at one point in the trailer, and even suggests that she and her henchwomen should order pizza.

In fact, Harley Quinn’s only companions these days are two very large hyenas, and the other women in the Birds of Prey team, who get about ten seconds of screentime each in this trailer – though that’s more coverage than they’ve gotten in the film’s promotional material, which has focused exclusively on Harley herself. Black Canary, Huntress, Renee Montoya and Cassandra Cain, the other members of the group, look a bit more like extra cannon fodder for fight scenes, as does, rather surprisingly, the villain Black Mask (played by Ewan McGregor!). So while the full title of this movie is (*clears throat*) Birds Of Prey And The Fantabulous Emancipation Of One Harley Quinn, you could probably lop off the first part of that hefty moniker without much issue. This is Harley’s world, and, for better or worse, the supporting cast is just passing through it.

Nevertheless, the fight scenes, in which the other Birds of Prey will probably have their few and far-between moments to shine, look spectacular and dazzlingly unique. We’ve got chase scenes through shopping centers, roller-derby action sequences, and one peculiar but beautifully shot dance hall fight in which Margot Robbie gets to channel her inner Marilyn Monroe for a musical number. There’s humor, wit, and empowerment. Harley, armed with her oversized mallet and psychotic impulses, is officially back in business, and ready to take down the patriarchy.

And you know what? I’m kind of here for it.

Trailer Rating: 8/10

“Madame Web” Coming To Sony’s Spider-Verse!

You would think, with Sony having successfully taken Spider-Man away from Disney and Marvel Studios, with all of the character’s huge universe of characters, villains and exciting storylines at their disposal, without having Kevin Feige running the show, without Bob Iger breathing down their backs, without any limitations whatsoever on their creative control over the entire Spider-Verse…you would think Sony would want to do something with all that.

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Well, technically, they are. But this latest Sony announcement, one of their first Spider-Man related news-stories since the Sony/Marvel breakup, is confusing at first because of just how bizarre it is. It’s being reported that Sony is developing a Spider-Man spinoff about a little-known character from the Spider-Verse, Cassandra Webb, who goes by the name “Madame Web”. To call her “little-known” is probably an understatement, in fact. An elderly blind clairvoyant, who needs to be surrounded by a giant mechanical web-shaped life-support system at all times, Webb is…well, she’s not the character that immediately comes to mind when you think of Marvel heroes who deserve their own spinoff films. Green Goblin, Black Cat, Venom, Silk, Silver Sable; those seem like the obvious choices, and already have some strong fans from the comics, and/or have appeared in previous Spider-Man films, so they’re not totally unknown to audiences.

Madame Web, on the other hand, is…not any of that. And unless Sony is taking a radically-different approach to the character, she doesn’t seem like a heroine whose story would make for a great action thriller or superhero epic. If anything, a Madame Web movie could be more introspective and thoughtful, focusing on how Webb uses other heroes to do her bidding, and the moral implications of her actions. It seems like a rather dark subject for a Spider-Man movie, too; watching an old woman forced to sit in the solitude of her webs, while wars rage outside her home, unable to do anything to help. Somehow, Webb’s story seems more like awards season fare, rather than a crowd-pleasing, family-friendly popcorn flick: additionally, the script is apparently being written by Matt Shazama and Burk Sharpless, who are currently developing another Spider-Man spinoff for Sony, about the bloodthirsty vampire Morbius. So, maybe don’t expect Spidey to run into Webb on a school field-trip.

Then again, who knows? Maybe Sony is doing what Marvel Studios did; building up the onscreen personas of little-known characters, preparing for some huge crossover event like an Avengers movie of their own. Webb, whose powers include foresight, would be an invaluable addition to the team, and could work from behind-the-scenes, like a puppet-master of sorts. That would be both slightly creepy and very cool, and seems like it would fit in with the edgier approach that Sony is taking with some of their Spider-Verse acquisitions. Then again, going too dark will lose some of the crucial teenage audiences that turn out regularly for Tom Holland’s Spider-Man movies, so Sony should be careful with their marketing decisions here. And they might also want to start trying to lure in the large part of their Spider-fandom that they lost when they took Spidey away from the MCU: there’s still a lot of resentment toward the studio, resentment which could probably be abated if Sony were to finally use characters like Green Goblin, Doc Oc, the Sinister Six, etc. I just don’t know if Madame Web’s fanbase is big enough to make this film a worthwhile investment, especially now, when Sony has to make good choices and show that they can still be responsible with the great power they now have over Spider-Man.

A final note, though: Sony will presumably soon be on the lookout for an actress to fill the role of Casandra Webb, and I’m urging them to get to Meryl Streep before Marvel scoops her up for some bit part. If there’s anybody who could pull off this difficult role (and possibly bring in some Oscar nominations for Sony), it would be Streep.

What are your feelings on a Madame Web movie, and do you think it’s the content that audiences crave from Sony, post-Marvel? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

“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.

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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…

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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.

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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!

Netflix’s “Umbrella Academy” Adds To Season 2 Cast!

While the second season of Netflix’s gritty superhero drama Umbrella Academy is still at least a year away (at best), the show has begun filming in Toronto, Canada, with the main cast returning to their instantly-iconic roles. But alongside the Hargreeves siblings, there are three new faces to add to the mix.

Netflix has just cast Ritu Arya, Yusuf Gatewood, and Marin Ireland for what appear to be large roles on the show. So let’s break down who they’re playing, and what their inclusion could mean for the series, and the future of the Umbrella Academy.

First of all, are they playing new members of the Academy – a.k.a. any of the thirty-six other supernaturally-gifted children all mysteriously born on October 1st, 1989? Well, it’s most likely that Arya and Gatewood, who are both around the same age range as the other Hargreeves, could be some of those long lost kids.

Additional confirmation of this could come from the character descriptions released by Netflix: Arya’s character, Lila, is an unpredictable “chameleon who can be as brilliant or as clinically insane as the situation requires”. To my mind, that suggests she has the ability to either shape-shift or, more interestingly, drastically change her personality in such a way that she becomes an entirely different person to any but the most discerning eye. Lila also has a macabre sense of humor: this suggests a villain at first, but pretty much everybody in Umbrella Academy has a macabre sense of humor, so it’s not very telling.

As for Gatewood, his character Raymond sounds more than a bit like Emmy Raver-Lampman’s Alison Hargreeves – a “born leader” with the “innate ability to disarm you with a look”. He’s married, and devoted to his spouse, and seems to have a wide social circle who love and adore him. But what does it mean? Is he, like Alison, creating a perfect life for himself by mind-controlling his friends and family? Or is he just a really great guy? That seems way too good to be true on a show like this, where everyone is hiding a secret.

Marin Ireland’s “no-nonsense Texas mom” Sissy doesn’t seem as much like a possible Umbrella Academy child to me, but she sounds interesting: at forty, Ireland will be portraying a “fearless”, free spirited woman who seems to be getting past a stale marriage and moving on to the next chapter of her life with fervor. She probably lives in Texas, and she obviously has kids: other than that, we don’t know too much about her, but she sounds like she could be the moral compass of the next season, like Agnes (and, to some extent, Hazel) were in the first.

All in all, this sounds like a great deal of fun, and the characters each seem to have a lot of depth and layers already: we’ll just have to wait and see whether they turn out to be long lost siblings, time-traveling assassins, or maybe even more donut-shopkeepers.

Captain Marvel Review (No Spoilers!)

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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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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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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