Category Archives: superhero movies

Latest “Black Widow” And MCU Delays: Perspectives And Prospective

This year has sucked for many reasons. While one reason tends to be more prominent than others, many of us have felt it. Some have just felt it more than others. While 2020 has sucked for everyone, it especially sucks for fans of superhero movies and the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

This year was supposed to be a year of transition. After the record-breaking returns of “Avengers Endgame,” the MCU was at a crossroads. Prominent actors had lived out their contracts. Certain heroes were killed off or retired. Longtime Marvel fans like myself were both anxious and curious to see where the MCU would go from here.

This year was supposed to be the beginning of Phase 4, which was to commence with “Black Widow,” “Eternals,” and “Shang-Chi.” On top of that, the MCU was going to venture into the world of streaming with several Disney-Plus shows. It all seemed so promising.

Then, the goddamn pandemic hit. Need I say more?

Now, it’s official. For the first time in a decade, there will be no MCU movies in 2020. According to The Verge, “Black Widow” has been pushed into 2021, along with the rest of the aforementioned 2020 slate of movies.

The Verge: Black Widow delayed to 2021, pushing back The Eternals and other Marvel movies

Black Widow will now open on May 7th, 2021 — more than one year after it was originally scheduled to be released. Like with other Marvel delays, Black Widow’s new date pushes Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings back from its May 7th, 2021 release date to July 9th, 2021. The Eternals, which was supposed to follow Black Widow is moving from February 12th, 2021 to November 5th, 2021. A number of other Disney films, including West Side Story and The King’s Man, were also moved around as part of the shuffle.

Basically, the entire timeline for the MCU’s next phase just skipped a year. As someone who scheduled entire months around going to see Marvel movies, I can’t put into words how disappointing this is. This year has broken my heart, my spirit, and my hope for a brighter future. This just rubs salt, acid, and molten lead in the wound.

However, as disappointing as this news is, I do want to keep things in perspective. I also want to highlight some insights that may or may not be encouraging. Please don’t mistake any of that for tangible hope. I still have none left. At the same time, I do see reasons for encouragement.

For one, I’m not too surprised by “Black Widow” being delayed. I think the bean counters at Disney saw the box office returns of “Tenet” and decided to throw in the towel for this year. Despite that movie being widely praised by fans and critics, it barely made enough to cover the marketing budget for a typical MCU movie.

Movie theaters are not back. They are a long way away from being back, so to speak. This pandemic has hit them harder than any other industry that doesn’t involve health care workers and mask manufacturers. Even if a good movie comes out, people are still reluctant to go.

That’s not likely to change this year. It probably won’t change in the first few months of 2021, either. However, if the current timelines are to be believed, we should have a working vaccine by the end of 2020. That’s the only way the world will return to some semblance of its former self.

Now, I don’t believe that timeline for a second and I don’t think Marvel Studios believes it, either. If they did, then they wouldn’t have pushed “Black Widow” all the way into the spring. While this does mean a longer wait, it also reveals something else that’s just as important.

Earlier this year, I questioned whether the entire movie theater industry has been irreparably damaged. While I stand by many of my points, I might need to pull them back. Before this news came out, Disney decided to take the plunge into pure streaming and dump “Mulan” onto its streaming service. I suspect that if this move proved both successful and profitable, then that might be the future for all its major movies.

However, that future is now in question. While Disney has claimed that the movie has generated some healthy profits, the extent of those profits is very much in question. Nobody is convinced that “Mulan” is a success or failure. This is not like “Trolls World Tour,” a kids movie that cost less than half of what it took to make “Mulan.”

In a healthy, non-pandemic world, it’s hard to say whether “Mulan” would’ve worked out better. However, it is fairly clear that dumping a big budget blockbuster movie on a streaming service just isn’t as profitable as the good old fashioned box office.

That bodes well for both movie theaters and the MCU. I believe that Disney and Marvel Studio believes that their big budget blockbusters need to come out in theaters. These are not cheap independent movies that Netflix gladly gobbles up. These are massive cinematic undertakings. They need movie theaters to get a good return on their investment.

That need might very well be what saves the movie theater industry, at least to some extent. I think moving the MCU’s heavy hitters into 2021, assuming by then a vaccine will have tempered the pandemic, shows that they still believe in this model. They’re still committed to using this platform for developing the MCU.

Honestly, I’m a bit relieved. As much as I love binge-watching my favorite movies, there’s still something to be said about the movie theater experience. I don’t think that watching “Avengers Endgame” on my TV would have had the same impact as it did when I saw it in IMAX. That experience is still valuable.

Now, I’ve learned not to trust release dates and timelines. This year has taught me that all timelines are tentative when pandemics are a factor. Be that at as it may, Disney’s reluctance to dump big movies on a streaming platform bodes well for the movie going experience.

If and when “Black Widow” comes out on its newly scheduled date, I’ll definitely be there to see it. It may also be the best possible sign that we’ve gotten through this awful shit storm that has been 2020.

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WandaVision Trailer: My Reactions And (Renewed) Hopes

This year has been a lost year for many things. I don’t think I need to go into reasons why or to what extent. It’s awful. We don’t need to be reminded of that. This is especially true for fans of superhero movies. To some extent, this year almost feels like karma after movies like “Avengers Endgame” dominated the box office for so long.

As bad as things have been, we’re still trying our best to inject a little awesome into this increasingly dystopian landscape. Like it or not, superhero movies and media still have a place in the entertainment landscape. This past year might have been a huge loss for the box office, but there’s still reason to be excited about the future of the genre.

That includes the entertainment behemoth that is the Marvel Cinematic Universe. When this year began, it promised to be a time of transition. With the rise of Disney Plus, Marvel Studios has a new medium to explore and evolve. Among those crop of shows is mini-series called “WandaVision.”

Given Vision’s fate in “Avengers: Infinity War,” the setup alone for this show is odd. Not being a fan of how their relationship was handled in the movies, I admit I wasn’t that excited about this show. However, I was curious.

Then, the trailer dropped and my curiosity has only grown. If you haven’t seen it yet, I highly recommend you check it out.

It looks weird. The setup is very strange. The visuals are all over the place. It’s hard to tell whether Vision is alive, dead, or part of some strange fever dream. There’s a lot of strange humor and odd mysteries. This show looks downright crazy.

That’s exactly why my hope and excitement for this show has been renewed.

To explain, it’s necessary to know a few things about Wanda Maximoff. Before she helped make Elizabeth Olson a star, she was a very controversial and very unstable character in the comics. She had a nasty history of warping reality in distressing ways, often at the cost of her sanity.

If this trailer is any indication, she has not been coping well with Vision’s death at the hands of Thanos. That reaction would be perfectly in line with what happened to her in the comics during the infamous House of M event. That event is still a bit of a touchy issue for many comic fans, but it’s a perfect foundation for this show.

It puts Wanda in a position to deal with her many issues. However, given her powers and her unstable nature, that process is bound to be messier than series of intense therapy. It wouldn’t even be the first show that explored reality-warping people dealing with mental health issues.

Legion,” a short lived, yet well-done show on FX did something similar. For Wanda, creating these pocket realities in which she’s still with Vision, living this ideal life with her lover, feels exactly like something she’d do. Giver her upcoming role in “Dr. Strange: In The Multiverse Of Madness,” it could act as a precursor for things to come.

I hope this sets the stage. I also hope this makes Elizabeth Olson’s take on the character more complex. To date, all she’s done is fail to protect her loved ones and lash out. I think she has room to do so much more. I hope she succeeds with this show.

I think Marvel and Disney need this show to succeed, too. With the world still such a mess, they can’t rely totally on the cuteness and merchandizing potential of Baby Yoda to see them through.

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Filed under Marvel, Marvel Cinematic Universe, romance, superhero comics, superhero movies

Jack’s World: How House Of X/Powers Of X Redefined The X-Men

The following is a video from my YouTube Channel, Jack’s World. As someone who has followed and praised X-Men comics for years, I wanted to make a video that articulated just how important the recent House of X/Powers of X story by Jonathan Hickman is in the history of the franchise. I tried to do it justice while trying not too hard to geek out. Enjoy!

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RIP Chadwick Boseman: A True King For Our Time

Sometimes, just when you think things can’t get possibly worse, the universe finds a way to hit you in a way that reminds you otherwise. This year has been awful by so many measures. Between global pandemics and ugly politics, it really felt like 2020 couldn’t get more agonizing.

Then, we lost Chadwick Boseman.

Of all the good, pure, loving souls this year could’ve taken, this one definitely hurts. This hurts in ways that words just cannot properly articulate. I say that not just as a lifelong fan of Marvel and Marvel superhero movies or as someone who cheered the success of “Black Panther.” I say that as someone who respected the man since he showed his heart and acting talents as Jackie Robinson in “42.”

I’ll say it again. This hurts. When I saw this report, I didn’t want to believe it. I thought it had to be a mistake or some elaborate troll job. Sadly, it wasn’t. When the official announcement came down, I was in genuine shock.

I’m honestly at a loss for words here. Not since the death of Stan Lee have I been in such utter disbelief. I’d been bracing for Stan’s passing, given his advanced age. I never imagined that someone like Chadwick Boseman, a man of only 43 who seemed to have a bright career ahead of him, passing away. The fact he was able to keep working as he fought cancer is a further testament to his greatness.

For someone like Boseman, who set himself apart as such a paragon of how great Hollywood could be, it just isn’t fair. Absolutely nothing about this is fair. This man brought to life a character who resonated with millions. He rose to stardom for all the right reasons, making all the right choices, even as his own body failed him.

His loss will be felt for generations to come. Someone like Chadwick Boseman doesn’t come around often. At a time when Hollywood seems to be lacking in respectable role models, losing Boseman stings even more. I don’t know what else I can say, other than he will be missed a great deal. The world is an objectively worse place without him.

At the risk of ending this video on too much of a downer, here’s a clip of my favorite moment from Boseman. Now that he’s gone, these moments are all the more precious.

Wakanda forever!

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Jack’s World: New Mutants Movie Review

The following is my first video movie review for my YouTube channel, Jack’s World. After a summer being locked down due to a global pandemic, movie theaters in my area finally re-opened. Fittingly enough, the first movie I checked out was the frequently delayed “New Mutants.” Was it worth the wait? Well, see for yourself!

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“Zack Snyder’s Justice League” Teaser Is Here And Why I’m So Hopeful

This past weekend was a damn good weekend if you’re a fan of all things DC Comics. The festivities surrounding DC FanDome, a showcase of the revamped future of DC Comics, was truly a sight to behold. As someone who is genuinely concerned about the future of DC Comics, and the comics industry in general, this was an incredible experience that gives me some tangible hope.

In a year like 2020, hope is almost as precious as a vaccine. Let’s not lose sight of that.

There were many highlights. I already cited the new “Wonder Woman 1984” trailer as a wonder to behold. However, the one teaser that got me most excited was the first full teaser of Zack Snyder’s Justice League, which is set for release on HBO Max in 2021.

Now, the story and politics surrounding this movie are way too complicated, not to mention distressing, for me to go over. I’ve already touched on it before, so I’ll simply present the teaser for those who haven’t seen it. Hopefully, it evokes in others the same excitement I felt.

Now, I want to make one thing clear. I was not among those loudly protesting for the release of this movie. I saw the first “Justice League” movie in theaters. I didn’t hate it, but I could tell that it was not a well-organized movie. While I may not have joined the #ReleaseTheSnyderCut movement, I did hope that we’d get some sort of extended cut at some point, if only because there’s a solid precedent for it.

Solid doesn’t mean good, but in Zack Snyder’s case, I think there’s a context worth considering here. Snyder’s record as a filmmaker is mixed, but the man clearly knows how to think big. For a franchise like DC Comics and Justice League, you need that kind of vision and scale to do justice to these characters. That’s why I thought he was such a good choice to turn DC Comics into a major film franchise.

Snyder approaches movies as a huge, over-arching vision. He’s great at making spectacles. His work on “300” is proof of that. However, Snyder also has a nasty habit of clashing with studios who want to chop his vision up into something people can see in a movie theater without taking one too many bathroom breaks. Oftentimes, that grand vision is difficult to condense into a commercially viable product.

It happened with both “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice” and “Watchmen.” Each movie came out in theaters to mixed reviews by both fans and critics, to put it mildly. However, each movie also has an extended version that came out later. In both cases, the extended product was far superior. They include additional plots and details that make the overall vision more complete and satisfying.

This is especially true of “Watchmen.” Seriously, if you haven’t seen the Ultimate Cut of that movie, I highly recommend it. Even if you hated the theatrical cut, this one is a lot more satisfying, even if it’s over three-and-a-half hours long.

The same goes for “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice.” Its extended cut is far more complete and concise than what we saw in theaters. No, it doesn’t make Jessie Eisenberg any less annoying as Lex Luthor, but it is a more competent and complete movie. It’s just longer and more fleshed out.

There’s also an extended version of Zack Snyder’s other film, “Sucker Punch.” Now, I’m not a big fan of that movie and that extended version doesn’t add much, especially compared to “Watchmen.” However, those extra minutes of footage add critical context to the movie that make it work better, as a story. Even if you don’t like how the movie plays out, you can at least appreciate the context.

In every case, it shows that Snyder had a solid vision for these stories. Too much of that vision got left on the cutting room floor. With “Justice League,” we’re not just talking about an extra half-hour of footage. Basically, this version of the movie contains footage that was almost entirely scrapped for the theatrical cut. It’s the same cast and concept, but a very different vision.

It’s also a vision that will have the time and space to be complete. According to Deadline, this cut of the movie will be nearly four hours long, divided into hour-long segments. That’s a hell of a vision and if history is any indication, it’ll be a spectacle worth seeing.

I, for one, will be eager to see the finished product. Snyder has shown in the past that he can tell a damn good story when he has enough time, space, and energy. HBO Max may be a more fitting platform than a standard movie theater. It may also open the door to a bolder vision for DC Comics in the future.

Only time will tell. All I’ll say from here on out is that the Snyder Cut is almost here. Hallelujah!

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Wonder Woman 1984 Final Trailer!

This year has been objectively terrible, but there’s still time to for it to end feeling slightly less awful. Among the many casualties of this year has been the release of “Wonder Woman 1984.” This movie was supposed to come out back in May. Then, a global pandemic hit and everything wonderful was either cancelled or pushed back.

However, there’s only so much you can do to push back Wonder Woman. Pandemic or not, her wonder is worth fighting for. That includes pushing through with a theatrical release. I don’t care how many masks I have to wear. I don’t care how many times I need to dip my hands in soap and/or hand sanitizer. I’m going to see this movie in a goddamn theater. This final trailer only proves why.

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Jack’s World: Why Conservatives Make Better Villains (For Now)

The following is a video I made for my YouTube channel, Jack’s World. It’s a video version of an article I wrote a while back. I added and removed a few details to the video. If necessary, I’ll do a follow-up. Enjoy!

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Filed under Current Events, extremism, human nature, Jack's World, media issues, philosophy, political correctness, politics, psychology, superhero comics, superhero movies, Villains Journey, YouTube

New York Comic Con 2020 Is Cancelled (And Everything Is Worse)

In case I haven’t made it clear enough, this year fucking sucks. I want nothing more than to purge the year 2020 from my memory. Every week, it seems, a new brand of awful emerges to crush our collective spirits. Most of it stems from the global pandemic that has cancelled damn near everything we love.

Some of those cancellations hurt more than others. Personally, I can endure going a year without the NCAA basketball tournament. I can even endure NBA and NHL playoffs getting pushed back. Those are painful, but they’re bearable.

Then, there’s the New York Comic Con. Losing that is a different kind of pain. Losing that hurts me on a level that I cannot put into words. I’ve been bracing for it ever since the San Diego Comic Con got cancelled.

Finally, it became official and still, it hurts. As bad as this year has been, this just makes it utterly irredeemable.

Verge: New York Comic Con is Cancelled

New York Comic Con’s physical presence is canceled this year. The annual convention typically takes place in Manhattan’s Javits Center. Organizers announced today, however, that “it likely comes as no surprise that NYCC 2020’s physical event at the Javits will not be able to run as intended.”

Because of the pandemic, all major events this year — including Google I/O, E3, and SXSW — have come to a stop. Organizers canceled San Diego Comic-Con in April for the first time in 50 years in favor of an online event. NYCC will follow suit with an online-only event, taking place October 8th-11th, through an online portal dubbed New York Comic Con’s Metaverse. “We are partnering with YouTube to bring to life four days of incredible content from the biggest studios, publishers and creators in the business,” organizers said.

Although digital is the best effort any event can safely make, events like Comic Con are social affairs. The fun for many fans is dressing up, seeing favorite celebrities in person, and spending time with fellow geeks. Online events are also ripe for logistical problems; SDCC’s online event, which took place late last month, had streams taken down due to copyright claims or required fans to have access to several streaming platforms.

I’ll say it again and I’ll belabor it as much as I damn well please. This hurts me. This hurts me a lot. I don’t care for some live “virtual” event. That didn’t work for San Diego. It’s not going to work here, either. Having a virtual comic convention is like having a virtual massage. It’s just not physically possible.

I’ve been going to the New York Comic Con every year since 2012. I’ve documented some of those trips. What makes it worth going to has less to do with the news that often comes out of these conventions and everything to do with the experience. You cannot replicate that with a fucking livestream video that cuts out and gets interrupted by shitty insurance commercials ever 20 minutes. You just can’t.

You go to congregate with your fellow fans.

You go to share a colorful, engaging experience with people who share your interests.

You go to meet new people, bond over your hobbies, and enjoy the many activities that you can experience in New York City.

Now, I’m not the most socially capable person on the planet, but at the New York Comic Con, I feel like I can connect with anyone. I can make new friends, flirt with cute girls, and share memorable moments. It’s an experience surrounded by spectacle. There’s just so much to see and do. The idea of not being able to do it this year is just soul-crushing.

I get why it can’t go on. Given the crowds at the New York Comic Con, it’s not exactly easy to social distance. We’re in a pandemic. Thousands have died and thousands more are likely to die before all is said and done. It’s awful. It’s taking lives and destroying the things that make life worth living.

There’s no upside. There’s no hope, aside from waiting another year, assuming the world is still intact. I’m willing to be patient, but my spirit is now fully and utterly crushed. The New York Comic Con is cancelled this year and everything is worse. There’s nothing more to say.

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Why Conservatives Make Better Villains (For Now)

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We currently live in a golden age of villains. Between Thanos, Erik Killmonger, the Joker, and Walter White, there has been a veritable surge of complex characters who also happen to be compelling villains. While there’s still a place for the kind of pure evil that Disney villains have relied on for years, this trend in a more refined brand of villainy feels both refreshing and overdue.

I’ve written extensively on villains before. As a lifelong fan of superhero comics and movies, I’ve consumed, contemplated, and scrutinized hero/villain dynamics more than most. In doing so, I’ve noticed plenty of trends. Like most aspects of popular culture, it’s always evolving. Very few themes and details remain constant, especially when it comes to antagonists.

That said, there’s one trend in villains that has remained somewhat constant over the course of my lifetime. It’s also a trend that I see as intensifying, albeit in a subtle way. Some of it coincides with the growing complexity of villains in popular culture, but most of the trend precedes the current era of superhero-dominated media. If anything, superhero media helped accelerate it.

While most villains and heroes rarely identify with a certain political affiliation, it’s usually not hard to discern how most would vote in a contemporary election. I would even argue that it’s easier to surmise what a villain’s political leanings are compared to that of heroes. Take any villain from the past 10 years of movies, be they superhero or otherwise. Chances are a vast majority of them would identify as conservative.

Now, I understand conservatism is an exceedingly broad term. It has a dictionary definition, but as a political philosophy, there are many sub-sets, divisions, and variations. From fiscal conservatives to social conservative to neoconservatives, there are many wildly different ideologies that still identify as conservative. A few actively clash with one another.

Those complexities aside, there are some core tenants associated with conservatism and it’s those very tenants that make it such an effective basis for villains. Chief among conservative values is the idea that traditional norms, institutions, and values be maintained. Change isn’t actively dissuaded, but it is viewed with caution and suspicion. To be conservative is to affirm the status quo, to some extent.

That’s all well and good if the status quo is beneficial to everyone. It’s not so preferable for those who either fail to benefit or are actively screwed over by that same status quo. Since there has never been a society in history that has achieved perfect prosperity for everyone, regardless of their minority status, there’s bound to be people who get left behind.

In our own real-world history, we’ve seen people from those disaffected groups organize and fight the status quo to better their lives. That struggle has played out in the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s, the movement for women’s rights, and the LGBT rights movement that’s still going on today. Those who oppose these movements tend to have, broadly speaking, conservative leanings.

Look at the groups that opposed the Civil Rights movement.

Look at those who actively oppose LGBT rights, women’s rights, and immigrants.

They all espouse rhetoric that would put them at odds with Superman, Captain America, and most other superheroes who value justice, truth, and peace. For some, their talking points sound like ideas that only villains in the mold of Lex Luthor would agree with. While not all of them identify as overtly conservative, the standard principles are there.

Anything too different from the status quo must be wrong or evil.

Anybody too different from the people everyone else in a society must be bad, evil, or devious.

Any idea, trend, or movement that is disruptive or deviant in any way is something to be opposed.

It doesn’t just manifest in superhero movies or underdog stories, either. Look at a movie like “Footloose.” In this story, the people who ban dancing are uptight, dogmatic, religious zealots who likely voted for Ronald Reagan in 1984 when this movie came out. They were the antagonists of that story and the kids, while not overtly liberal, dared to defy them.

It can even manifest subtly in other media. In kids shows like “Recess,” “Hey Arnold,” and “Rocko’s Modern Life,” the most common antagonists are uptight authority figures who have no tolerance for new ideas, big changes, or anything remotely fun. It’s hard to imagine any of these characters voting for someone who builds their slogan around change, reform, and reinvention.

They like things the way they are. Most of them benefit from the current system and will naturally seek to preserve their place in that system. While they won’t always see themselves as villains, it’s difficult for them to come off as heroes. You can only be so heroic when your side is closely aligned with predatory business practices, fun-hating religious zealots, and unabashed war-mongers.

That’s not to say it’s impossible for liberals to be villains too. It does happen and it can be done very well when done right. I would argue that Erik Killmonger in “Black Panther” was more in line with an extreme liberal revolutionary who didn’t just want to pursue change. I would make a similar argument for Ra’s Al Ghul in “Batman Begins.”

These characters didn’t just seek to change society from its current unjust state. They sought to violently destroy it and rebuild it from the ground up. That kind of liberalism exists in the real world and it can make for compelling villains.

However, the number of villains who align with the politics of Killmonger are far fewer than those who would align with the politics of Lex Luthor. In general, it’s easier to resist change rather than embrace it. It’s also necessary to some extent for those to resist change to be uptight authority figures who are okay with coercing others to maintain traditions. Logistically, the villains in many conflicts must be conservative.

Now, that’s not to say that villains will always lean conservative in popular media. What it means to be conservative changes over time. If you were to listen to conservative rhetoric 50 years ago, they would sound very different. They might even sound liberal by today’s standards.

The same goes for liberalism of previous eras. It hasn’t always been closely aligned with the politics surrounding minority rights, income inequality, or political correctness. The liberals of the 1920s would likely clash with the liberals of today. That’s just part of the ever-evolving nature of politics.

 

For the time being, though, being a villain in popular culture usually means being conservative to a certain extent. Conservatives are more likely to be the rich, greedy business people who would gladly burn down a rain forest or exploit slave labor to raise profits. Conservatives are more likely to be the rule-loving, fun-hating, curfew-enforcing religious zealots who wouldn’t mind electing theocrats with every election.

These types of individuals are far more likely to be villains in a story. At the very least, they’ll side or tolerate the villain. It’s easy to believe that those who side with the religious right and well-connected rich people will generally oppose a selfless, likable protagonist. From a narrative perspective, these kinds of villains are better in that we tend to root for heroes who oppose authoritarian bullies like that.

Again, it’s guaranteed that political and cultural trends will likely change what it means to be conservative, liberal, and everything in between. For the time being, if you were to bet on the political leanings of an antagonist, the odds are mostly in favor of that antagonist being conservative.

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