The following is a video from my YouTube channel, Jack’s World. It’s my full review of season one of “Invincible,” an animated series based on a comic series by Robert Kirkman of the same name. In a year where comic fans have been spoiled by great shows like “WandaVision” and “Falcon and the Winter Soldier,” this show offers something different. At the same time, it offers a unique story that fits perfectly with the current cultural zeitgeist. I explain why in this video while also just celebrating my love for this show. Enjoy!
Tag Archives: comic book movies
We’re at a point with superhero movies where the bar has been raised to such a degree that we can’t just call them a passing fad anymore. Love them or hate them, superhero movies have evolved. They’ve developed a complexity and nuance that few genres ever gain, regardless of medium.
Plus, they make billions at the box office. Let’s not forget that. It’s why the Bill Mahers of the world won’t stop whining about superhero movies anytime soon.
Forgetting the whiners and petty nit-pickers of the genre, superhero movies have a higher threshold to achieve to be considered successful. It’s not enough anymore than to just put a famous actor or actress in an iconic costume and replay famous scenes from comics. The story, characters, and themes have to be refined and compelling.
That’s a challenge for any movie, but one that felt far more daunting for “Wonder Woman 1984.” After the success of the first “Wonder Woman” movie, which did a masterful job of establishing Diana’s origin and building her superhero persona, this sequel is tasked with building on that foundation.
As someone who loved the first movie and made it a point to watch “Wonder Woman 1984” on HBO Max with my mom on Christmas day, I had high hopes for this movie. I wasn’t expecting “The Dark Knight” level of quality, but I was hoping for a worthy follow-up.
Without giving away too many spoilers, I’ll say without hesitation that it succeeded. This movie was a beautiful, emotionally driven cinematic experience and a worthy successor to the first “Wonder Woman.”
I say that knowing that some reviews were quite scathing in their assessment of the film. As is my general rule, I never read reviews before I see a movie. As I saw with “New Mutants,” that can wrongly color your perspective. As was also the case with that movie, I was genuinely surprised by the criticisms levied against “Wonder Woman 1984.”
However, I’m not going to waste my time responding to those criticisms. I’m just going to offer my take on why I thought this movie was a worthy follow-up to the first. Like any sequel, its primary goal was building on what the first movie established. In that sense, this movie did succeed.
The setup for the movie is a dazzling spectacle. Like the first, we get a brief glimpse of Diana’s youth on Themysicra. We see her living and growing amongst her Amazon sisters, showing the kind of power and potential that lies within her. It’s a true sight to behold and one director Patty Jenkins fleshes out meticulously.
Within that setup, though, is an important theme. It highlights the importance of truth and doing things the right way for the right reasons. You cannot and should not take shortcuts to achieve your goal. Doing so will always come at a price and incur consequences. It’s a simple, but necessary lesson that kids and adults alike often learn the hard way.
That leads us directly to the main antagonist of the movie, Maxwell Lord. Played by Pedro Pascal, he comes off as the very antithesis of this lesson. He’s a con-man and a huckster, always looking for a shortcut to get what he wants. That includes tampering with the forces of the gods, which puts him in direct conflict with Diana.
At the same time, this conflict ties closely to another unfolding with Diana’s new friend, Barbara Minerva. Played by Kristen Wiig, she comes off at first as the very antithesis of Diana. She’s a nobody. She has none of Diana’s power, grace, or skill. She’s basically invisible, only ever getting attention from people she doesn’t like.
This is very much in line with the characterization of Barbara Minerva in the comics. She’s Wonder Woman’s chief rival, but she started out as a friend. She’s even sympathetic to some extent. She’s not looking to become a villain, like Maxwell Lord. She just wants a taste of the power and prestige that she sees in Wonder Woman.
She ultimately gets her chance, as does Maxwell Lord. When Barbara stumbles upon the Dreamstone, a relic imbued with the power from Dolos, the god of lies, that can grant wishes to those who wield it. However, like a typical monkey’s paw narrative, every wish comes at a price.
It closely mirrors the lesson young Diana learned in her youth, as depicted in the movie’s opening scenes. Taking any shortcut to get what you desire will come at a price. You can try to avoid the consequences all you want, but it eventually compounds. The more you try, the worse it’ll get.
Maxwell Lord thinks he has a way to avoid this. He thinks he can get everything he wants by simply making the right kind of wish. That ultimately causes a great deal of destruction. I’d go into detail, but I’d rather not reveal too much. All you need to know is that it’s not the kind of destruction Wonder Woman can stop with her fists and her sword.
What happens with Barbara Minerva is even more impactful. Like Maxwell Lord, she’s unwilling to give up any power she gains. Unlike Lord, however, she’s willing to pay any price to keep it. That’s what sends her down a dark path. It’s also what turns her from one of Diana’s friends into a truly tenacious foe.
These conflicts become very personal to Diana because she too is unable to resist the temptation. She may give so much of herself to others, but she also has desires and wishes of her own. That’s where Steve Trevor, played again by Chris Pine, enters the picture.
His death and heroic sacrifice in the first “Wonder Woman” movie was so powerful. That whole movie really sold the love that blossomed between him and Diana. Even as the years go by, his death still burdens Diana. She cannot let go of that love. She wants nothing more than to have it back.
It’s sad, but understandable. If ever someone deserved a consequence-free wish from all her heroic acts, it’s Diana. Unfortunately, there’s no getting around it. She still tries. She gets her chance to be with the love of her life again. As with everything else, though, it comes at a price.
That’s the biggest theme of this movie. Getting what you want by breaking the rules or cheating will always come at a price. Even if you’re willing to pay that price, it does cause damage to yourself and others. It’s a painful lesson and one that gives “Wonder Woman 1984” so many emotional overtones.
It’s because of those overtones that this movie works so well. Wonder Woman, by her nature, is a very emotionally driven character. Her love, compassion, and heart are among her greatest traits. They’re as strong as her fighting spirit. The first movie revealed this and “Wonder Woman 1984” builds on that.
Her greatest struggles always have an emotional weight to them. It’s not just a matter of her beating up the bad guy to save the day. One of those foes was once her friend. Another is someone she can’t defeat simply by beating him up. She has to use that uncanny compassion and heart to win the day. That’s what makes her Wonder Woman.
I would argue that’s the most important aspect of her character and this movie captured it perfectly. I really did feel for Diana as she went through these emotional upheavals throughout the story. It brought out her greatest strengths, as well as her greatest weaknesses.
Now, speaking of weaknesses, this is where I also have to levy some criticisms of my own against “Wonder Woman 1984.” I promise they’re not nearly as petty or overblown as some of the other reviews to this movie. Some have complained about the length and tone of the movie. I honestly think that sort of criticism is misguided.
I’ll still say outright that this movie was not as good as the first “Wonder Woman.” This movie was not as concise and polished, in terms of story. There were a number of “and then this happened” moments that made the story seem a bit jumbled at times. In some cases, it relied too heavily on contrivances and suspension of disbelief to move things along.
I get the sense this was done to keep things moving forward from a plot standpoint. I also think there were some difficulties in revealing the ins and outs of godly magic, which is considerably harder to do in a movie when compared to a comic.
None of these shortcomings kept the movie from working overall. Gal Gadot once again carried her role as Wonder Woman with grace and grit. She, Steve Trevor, and Cheetah all had well-developed characters that played their roles well throughout the story. In terms of the most important elements to a good Wonder Woman movie, “Wonder Woman 1984” got them right.
If I had to score this movie, I’d give it a 4 out of 5. It has some noticeable flaws, more so than its predecessor. However, Gal Gadot is still an amazing Wonder Woman, Patty Jenkins is still a great director, and this world they explored together was full of dazzling wonder.
For a year that has been so bleak and dire, it’s just what we needed. For that, I thank “Wonder Woman 1984” and all those who helped make it happen.
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.
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.
“Justice League: The Snyder Cut” Is (Actually) Being Released: My Thoughts, My Hopes, And The Implications
It’s really happening.
After years of hashtags, billboards, and incessant curiosity, it’s really happening. The fabled “Snyder Cut” of 2017’s “Justice League” is going to be released. Near as I can tell, this is not a joke. It’s not some wild rumor that some renegade trolls concocted. This is real. According to major entertainment news outlets, including The Hollywood Reporter, this is going to happen.
Zack Snyder’s original vision for “Justice League” is coming out in 2021 exclusively on HBO Max, the latest entry to the streaming wars, courtesy of Warner Brothers. I doubt those outside devoted fans of comic books and superhero movies understand why this is such a big deal, but as someone within that circle, I can assure you that this is big.
Rather than explain the whole story, I’ll just cite The Hollywood Reporter, which does a commendable job of summing up the issues. If you need more information on the story of this mythical cut of an otherwise forgettable movie, Forbes also did a decent rundown of the timeline.
In the time since its release, something unusual happened: A growing movement of fans, rallied by the hashtag #ReleasetheSnyderCut, had called, agitated, petitioned — even bought a Times Square billboard and chartered a plane to fly a banner over Comic-Con — for Snyder’s version to be released. And on the film’s second anniversary, the hashtag had its biggest day ever — with even the movie’s stars Gal Gadot and Ben Affleck adding their voices on Twitter.
So here, the morning after, was their agent saying that Toby Emmerich, chairman of Warner Bros. Pictures, was acknowledging the movement, and more importantly, was willing to accede. “This is real. People out there want it. Would you guys ever consider doing something?” was what Emmerich was asking, Zack Snyder recalls.
The answer to Emmerich’s question, a whispered-about secret for months, was revealed Wednesday when Zack Snyder confirmed, at the end of an online screening of his 2013 movie, Man of Steel, that his version of Justice League was indeed real. And that it will be coming to HBO Max, the WarnerMedia digital streaming service launching May 27, and is expected to debut in 2021.
Now, I have my share of opinions about “Justice League” and Zack Snyder. I actually saw the theatrical version of “Justice League” when it came out. While I gave it a respectable review, I don’t deny that the movie has its flaws. I’m not an overall movie buff, but even I could tell that the movie was heavily edited. There was definitely a vision and plenty of potential, but a lot of it got lost on the cutting room floor.
In its current form, “Justice League” is one of those movies that gets less compelling with age. You can see it once, have an enjoyable experience, and completely forget that experience within weeks. It’s not a movie that you can re-watch and feel engaged. It’s just too bland and sanitized.
Snyder’s cut of the movie promised to be different. He had a much different vision, but couldn’t realize that vision due to a family tragedy that tore him away from the project. Now, we’ll get to see the essence of that vision.
Personally, I’m curious. I’m not curious enough to shell out money for yet another streaming service, but I’m certainly interested in what Snyder had planned for this movie. A big part of that curiosity stems from Snyder’s history as a filmmaker whose vision tends to get lost on the cutting room floor.
This has happened to him multiple times before and for other superhero movies. There were a lot of heavy criticisms levied against “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice” and some of those criticisms were valid. However, the longer and more complete Ultimate Edition of the movie directly addressed some of those flaws. I honestly think the movie would’ve done better if that edition had come out.
A far more notable example, in my opinion, involves Snyder’s take on “Watchmen.” That movie is somewhat polarizing among fans, although I personally liked it. However, this movie has multiple extended cuts, including a director’s cut that Snyder himself says is most consistent with his vision for the film.
That’s actually the version I own on blu-ray. I think it’s an underrated gem among superhero movies. It’s more complete, concise, and compelling. It better encapsulates the essence of “Watchmen” and the story it tries to tell.
It’s because of these instances that I believe will help Snyder’s cut of “Justice League.” History shows that he can tell a great story, so long as the critical details aren’t cut out in the final edit. Granted, editing is a core aspect of finalizing a movie. It’s necessary to get a movie to within a reasonable time-frame for a movie-watching experience. Not everyone wants to sit in a theater for four hours unless it’s something J. R. R. Tolkein wrote.
Snyder’s desire to tell a larger story seems to get away from him. In that sense, it might be a good thing that this isn’t coming out in theaters. Instead, it’s coming out on a streaming platform that people can consume at their own pace. People already consume hours on end of old shows. Consuming a four-hour movie isn’t quite as daunting. Just look at “The Irishman.”
This is where I feel the larger implications of this announcement may come into play. A non-insignificant reason why Snyder’s movies keep getting chopped up into something that doesn’t do well with critics or fans is because they’re so long. His efforts to tell a bold story just don’t fit within that reasonable two to three hour time-frame for a movie. Movies like “Watchmen” reveal that those stories can be compelling.
Beyond the story, the impact of the Snyder Cut could extend beyond “Justice League,” superhero movies, and the movie-making process as a whole. This is where I believe there could be larger implications that will likely impact future movies, including those that don’t involve superheroes.
For decades, there has been this idea that movies have to operate within certain restrictions. For the most part, there’s merit to those restrictions. Movies beyond three-and-a-half hours just aren’t feasible for a general audience or their bladder. A trilogy like “Lord of the Rings” was a rare exception, but could never become the norm.
Thanks to streaming platforms like Netflix and HBO Max, this may no longer be the case. Now, there’s a new method for releasing these movies. The current global pandemic, as well as the recent success with direct-to-streaming releases, will further raise the importance of those platforms.
With these new tools and emerging trends, why should movies be confined to the limits imposed by movie theaters? Why can’t there be a four-hour “Justice League” movie? Why can’t there be a five-hour Avengers movie? Why does any movie have to be chopped up and edited to such an extent that it loses important aspects of its plot?
The Snyder Cut could make the case that those restrictions need not hinder a bolder vision. There’s still a place for the kinds of popcorn movies we see in theaters, but why not also invest in a place where a movie like Snyder’s cut of “Justice League” can also exist?
The world of movies, media, and story-telling is changing. Regardless of how the Snyder Cut ends up being in the eyes of fans, its impact could be far greater. Hopefully, it leads to bigger, bolder, and better stories. It may not always warrant the cost of another streaming service, but it opens the door to so many possibilities.
Time will tell. Hopefully, we’ll see if the wait was worth it in 2021.
Since the conclusion of “Dark Phoenix,” a movie I genuinely love and have re-watched more times than “Avengers Endgame,” it’s been a strange time for X-Men fans. We know that the X-Men are coming to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. With the Disney/Fox merge finalized, it’s only a matter of time before we see mutants pop up in the Marvel universe. It may even come sooner than we think.
Then, there’s “New Mutants.” This movie, which is based on a well-known, critically acclaimed X-Men comic from the 1980s, is a hell of an anomaly. It was originally supposed to come out in April 2018, but got delayed for reasons that are too complicated and stupid for me to put into words.
Delays aside, it has a bold concept. It attempts to mix horror with superhero movies. It’s a unique combination, but one that doesn’t sound that outlandish. Remember, this is the same franchise that made “Deadpool” a Valentine’s Day movie. However, at a time when Marvel Studios has set such a high bar, it almost feels out of place.
Now, with a firm release date of April 3, 2020, it seems like “New Mutants” is still happening. The director, Josh Boone, has been given the opportunity and the blessing by our Disney and Marvel overlords to see his vision through. Honestly, after seeing the latest trailer, I’m rooting for this movie.
It’s not just that this movie is bringing to life more great characters from the X-Men franchise. This movie is attempting to do something that we’ve never seen in the MCU or from DC, for that matter. It’s daring to mix genres in ways they’ve never been mixed. It’s attempting to craft a different kind of superhero movie. Given the success of “Joker,” I’m genuinely rooting for this movie.
I really do hope it succeeds and not just because I’m a die-hard X-Men fan. I think the superhero movie genre needs this. It needs to show that it can expand, evolve, and grow in new ways. Superhero movies don’t just have to be this colorful, big-scale spectacles backed by Disney’s deep pockets. They can be something different, darker, and bolder.
“New Mutants” has had a lot of forces working against it. If it succeeds with critics and fans, then it sends a message to Marvel, DC, and the greater powers that be that there’s room for different kinds of superhero movies. They don’t have to follow the same formula. They can succeed in entirely new ways while still strengthening the brand.
If nothing else, it’ll tell the Martin Sorceresses of the world to piss off in the best possible way.
If you’re a fan of comic books, superhero movies, and the Marvel Cinematic Universe, this past weekend was like Christmas, Halloween, the 4th of July, and the Super Bowl all rolled into one. The San Diego Comic Con is essentially the epicenter of geek culture. In recent years, it has only gotten bigger, becoming a staging area for major pop culture events. This latest convention was no exception.
While there was plenty of news to follow at this year’s Comic Con, especially for X-Men fans like me, the biggest event was always going to be Marvel Studios. It has already been a historic year for superhero movies, especially on the Marvel side of the genre. Shortly before the convention began, “Avengers Endgame” officially passed “Avatar” to become the highest grossing movie of all time.
It’s a good time to be Kevin Feige.
It’s a good time to be Bob Iger.
It’s a good time to be a Marvel fan, in general.
With the end of “Avengers Endgame,” however, the story that began in 2008 “Iron Man” has concluded. The Avengers assembled in a truly spectacular battle for the ages. Thanos is defeated. The Marvel Cinematic Universe is once again secure, but after making the highest grossing movie of all time, how can Marvel Studios keep raising the bar like this?
In Hall H of the San Diego Convention Center, the next phase of the MCU was finally revealed. Some of the announcements were expected. News of a “Black Widow” movie, as well as an “Eternals” movie, had already been reported months ago. News of a “Blade” movie within the MCU was more surprising, but that wasn’t the biggest story by a long shot.
By far, the biggest Marvel Studios news to come out of San Diego Comic Con 2019 was Natalie Portman returning as Jane Foster to play a female Thor. I’m not going to lie. When I saw this news, I had to blink a few times and slap myself to make sure I wasn’t dreaming. Once certain this was real, it finally sunk in.
Natalie Portman is returning the MCU as Jane Foster to play a female Thor.
To appreciate why this is a huge deal to longtime comic readers like me, I need to provide a little context. Jane Foster being Thor is a concept that only recently gained prominence, thanks to one of Marvel’s top-tier writers, Jason Aaron.
Back in 2014, the Thor comics underwent a major upheaval. After a fateful encounter with Nick Fury, Thor suddenly became unworthy of lifting Mjolnir. It was a dramatic moment that defined the character for years to come. Then, after everyone in Asgard failed to lift the hammer, Jane Foster came along to wield it. In doing so, she became the new Thor.
If you haven’t read the first few volumes of that story, I cannot recommend them highly enough. Even if you’ve only seen the movies, you’ll still find plenty to love about these comics. They made me a fan of both Thor and Jane Foster. If Marvel Studios and Natalie Portman can even capture a fraction of this story’s greatness, then it’ll be a bold new era for superhero movies.
Now, make no mistake. Jane Foster becoming Thor was not without controversy. In fact, the timing of this story couldn’t have been worse. It came out right around the same time that efforts to promote diversity within superhero comics had become mired in regressive politics. It was a time when iconic characters were being replaced and new characters were being created, albeit with mixed results.
I’d rather not go into all the issues, controversies, and absurdities from that era, but I will say that Jane Foster becoming Thor was one of the success stories from that tenuous period. Her journey as the new Thor didn’t supplant that of her predecessor. If anything, it complemented his story. The title of Thor was greatly improved because Jane Foster wielded that hammer.
Now, Marvel Studios is in an even better position to do the same. The success of both “Wonder Woman” and “Captain Marvel” has established that there is a market for female superheroes. The events of “Avengers Endgame” also opened the door for someone else to step in without diminishing Chris Hemsworth’s character, who may still have a part to play in “Guardians of the Galaxy 3.”
It also helps that Natalie Portman’s Jane Foster has been MIA since the events of “Thor: The Dark World.” While her reasons for leaving were somewhat obscure, the announcement at San Diego left no room for ambiguity. She’s coming back and she’s going to play a major role in the next phase of the MCU.
In my opinion, this will go down as one of the most pivotal announcements in the history of the MCU. Why do I believe this is bigger than the Eternals, Blade, Black Widow, or any of the upcoming shows on the Disney+ streaming service? To answer that, it’s necessary to take a step back and look at the bigger picture.
The Jane Foster that Natalie Portman played in the first two Thor movies is not the same Jane Foster who has established herself as a prominent force in the comics. Throughout her history, she has maintained a strong connection to Thor and not just as a romantic interest. In many respects, she has been the character through which ordinary, non-Asgardian people explore Thor’s world of gods, demigods, and monsters.
A big part of what made Jason Aaron’s story surrounding Jane Foster becoming Thor so powerful was how she proved her worthiness of that title. As a mortal woman with many mortal limitations, she embraced that role and proved herself against gods, monsters, and even other superheroes. It was easy to cheer her on every step of the way.
In any era, it’s a powerful story, having an ordinary human embrace god-like power to bear god-like burdens. In this current era of superhero movies, Jane Foster becoming Thor isn’t just a fitting, comics-accurate way to build her story in the MCU. It’s a story that almost feels necessary.
The MCU is a world that has become densely populated by super soldiers, aliens, gods, monsters, and demigods. With the conclusion of “Avengers Endgame,” the world is in a tenuous state. Friendships, families, and teams have been decimated due to the conflict surrounding Thanos and the Infinity Stones. There are voids to be filled, including a few once populated by gods.
Ordinary people becoming heroes is a story that the MCU has told many times before, the latest being “Spider-Man: Far From Home.” Stories about ordinary people becoming gods haven’t been nearly as common and with the Eternals already poised to join the MCU, I think that story should play out in some manner, if only to keep humanity connected to this world.
Jane becoming the Goddess of Thunder is the perfect story to maintain that connection. Unlike Carol Danvers, Jane is not a soldier or a warrior. She’s a scientist who got caught up in the world of gods and superheroes, but she didn’t run from it in the comic. Now, armed with Natalie Portman’s Oscar-winning talent, she’s poised to make a similar journey in a world that needs new heroes to step up.
It’s an exciting, but uncertain time for the MCU. However, when you’ve got a story like that of Jane Foster becoming Thor and an actress as talented as Natalie Portman leading the way, the future has never been brighter.
When a particular genre becomes over-saturated and overdone, it’s tempting to try and reinvent the concept in hopes of striking a new chord. It’s especially tempting when so many others have risen the bar to such an insane extent that success can only be measured in billions instead of millions.
It would’ve been easy for a movie like “Shazam” to give into such temptation. With the recent success of “Aquaman” and “Avengers Endgame” set to break all sorts of box office records, it seems like this movie has to do something extreme, just to stand out. How else would it succeed in such a crowded market in a golden age of superhero movies?
That was my greatest concern before I saw “Shazam.” As much as I loved the trailer, I was worried that this movie would try so hard to stand out that it would overlook the part of actually being a fun cinematic experience. That sort of oversight has been plaguing the DC Extended Universe since “Man of Steel.”
Well, having seen the movie, I’m happy to say that none of those concerns were founded. In fact, I’m elated to report that “Shazam” is another big win for DC Comics and superhero movies, as a whole. However, it didn’t win because it reinvented the genre or did something radically different. It won because it followed the basic formula for quality superhero movies and had fun along the way.
It helps that the core appeal of Shazam, as a character and superhero, is that it approaches heroics with a childlike playfulness. Billy Batson, the alter ego of the titular hero, is not some jaded adult like Batman. He’s not even a boy scout idealist like Superman. He’s just a kid and one who got dealt a bad hand, for that matter. Being both an orphan and a troublemaker, he sees the adult world through very different eyes.
That’s a novel perspective, to some extent. Every other superhero movie, even going back to the era of Richard Donner’s “Superman,” has framed the idea through an adult lens. It always starts out as something simple. An individual gets superpowers, they start carrying out simple acts of heroism, and those acts eventually get complicated, as often happens with adult issues.
With a character like Billy, things never get that complicated. Again, he’s a kid. Even in his heroic form, he sees conflict with a childlike simplicity and “Shazam” captures that simplicity perfectly. The movie doesn’t deviate much from the details and themes of the source material. Concepts like the Rock of Eternity and the Seven Enemies of Man are present and accurately portrayed.
Such details may not matter to those unfamiliar with the comics, but such accuracy is largely a bonus. What really makes this movie work is how it follows Billy’s journey and not just the one he undergoes as a hero. His evolution when he’s not a magically-endowed superhero is arguably the most meaningful aspect of the story.
When we first meet Billy, it’s hard to discern whether he has the spirit of a hero. He’s no upstanding boy scout. In fact, he’s very much a troublemaker who’s willing to thumb his nose at police, break the rules when it benefits him, and run away from anyone who tries to help him. However, he never comes close to crossing that might send him down a darker path.
It’s that trait that sets him apart from his villainous counterpart, Dr. Sivana. While he’s no Thanos, he demonstrates that he’s a lot like Billy in a few key aspects. He’s given a chance to become a hero, but is unable to refuse the temptation that often comes with immense power. That failure haunts him and pushes him down a darker path.
For a time, it seems as though Billy could walk a similar path. When he first gets his powers, he reacts in ways that most would expect of a 14-year-old boy. He tries to buy beer. He tries to make money. He even ventures into a strip club. It’s hilarious and cute, but it also establishes the perfect tone for a movie that avoids complicating the standard superhero narrative.
Within that narrative, there’s a hero who makes choices and learns from his mistakes. There’s also a villain who makes choices and refuses to learn from them. When they eventually clash, it’s a flashy spectacle with simple, understandable stakes. It’s no Battle of Wakanda, but it doesn’t have to be.
From the moment he first gets his powers to the final showdown with Dr. Sivana, Billy develops into his own hero, but never loses his childlike mentality. He’s not forced to grow up too fast, nor does he have to abandon the civilian life he’s trying to establish. Whereas being Bruce Wayne is often an inconvenience for Batman, being Billy Batson is necessary for Shazam.
This shows in the seamless characterization provided by Asher Angel, who plays young Billy, and Zachary Levi, who plays Shazam. At no point does either manifestation feel like a different character. They both wield the same childlike charisma as they navigate their superhero journey. The same lovability that made Levi so great in shows like “Chuck” help him and Angel bring out the best in Billy Batson.
When the movie begins, it’s not clear that Billy has what it takes to be a competent hero. Trying to determine his worth is like trying to determine if some random 14-year-old will one day play in the NFL. The odds are against them, but the potential is still there. By the time the credits roll, the message is clear. Billy has the spirit that Shazam was looking for and you can’t help but root for him.
At its core, “Shazam” checks all the right boxes for the classic hero’s journey. Billy Batson is perfectly poised to take that journey and not just because he’s one of many orphans who become superheroes. The movie doesn’t try to subvert these tried and true tropes. If anything, it embraces them and dares to have a little fun along the way.
It’s easy to share in that fun. The humor is exactly what you would expect of a movie that involves 14-year-olds getting superpowers. It’s serious when it needs to be, but never too serious. Given the grim and gritty settings of other DC Extended Universe movies, it’s a breath of fresh air that the superhero genre badly needed.
It’s not without its flaws. Some details of Billy’s life are underdeveloped and glossed over. There were also inconsistencies with Dr. Sivana as well, but none were egregious to the point where they derailed the movie. It simply stuck to a simple formula, mixed in a few twists along the way, and made the most of what it had to work with.
If I had to score “Shazam,” I would give it an 8 out of 10. It didn’t reinvent superhero movies or raise the bar. It was simply a fun, entertaining movie that gave a character with little star power a chance to shine. It even managed to accomplish all this without trying too hard to make him like Batman. For a DC Comics movie, that alone is a major accomplishment.
What can be said about the Marvel Cinematic Universe that hasn’t already been said, affirmed, or celebrated? I know I’ve said plenty about it, both in glowing terms and with real concern. Being a fan of superhero comics and the superhero genre, in general, I don’t think I can add much more to the near-cosmic status of this cinematic achievement.
The support of the fans and the billions made at the box office speaks for itself. Say what you will about Disney’s desire to exploit fandoms out of their money. They know how to give the people what they want. Between the recent success of “Captain Marvel” and the insane expectations surrounding “Avengers Endgame,” it’s hard to imagine this decade-spanning franchise ascending to greater heights.
I believe it will, though. I also believe that part of that ascension will involve pitting the Avengers against the X-Men in a clash that is sure to rock the foundations of the MCU. I know that’s somewhat of a reversal of my previous opinions, but recent events have led me to reconsider my position on the Avengers fighting the X-Men.
This isn’t just me, a passionate fan, speculating on what I think will happen once “Avengers Endgame” and the Disney/Fox merger is final. We already know that the X-Men and Fantastic Four are scheduled to arrive in the MCU at some point. It’s the impact they’ll have that’ll set the tone for the future of the MCU and there are already rumors about that impact swirling.
Now, all internet rumors should be taken with the smallest grains of salt, but according to We Got This Covered, a site with a mixed reputation at best, the top brass at Marvel Studios are already plotting a future Avengers vs. X-Men movie. If true, in whole or in part, it would be a bold move, even by the lofty standards of Marvel and their Disney overlords.
It would definitely be a gamble, that’s for sure. That’s because the Avengers and X-Men have clashed in the comics before. There was even a major crossover event entitled “Avengers vs. X-Men” back in 2012. While I won’t get into the specifics surrounding that event, I will go on record as saying that it’s not one of those iconic Marvel stories that fans hold dear.
In fact, “Avengers vs. X-Men” is probably the most controversial and divisive story Marvel has told in the past 15 years. It’s not just because it pitted two iconic superhero teams against one another for reasons that weren’t properly fleshed out. It marked the point where heroes fighting other heroes officially got old.
It doesn’t help that the MCU already had a major clash like that with “Captain America: Civil War.” It helps even less that “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice” burned fans out even more on the topic. However, by the time Marvel and Disney get around to making an Avengers vs. X-Men movie, I believe the time will be right to tell this story.
Right now, the MCU is in a bit of a transition. “Avengers Endgame” is set to conclude the story that began with “Iron Man” back in 2008. The arrival of the X-Men and the Fantastic Four in the MCU hasn’t even begun yet and the powerful voices at Marvel Studios have already indicated that they’ll be starting from scratch.
Whatever form their arrival takes, it’s sure to take the MCU in new directions. However, I believe an Avengers vs. X-Men movie would unite the new aspects of the franchise with the old. It would act as a catalyst, of sorts, to connect the stories of the present to those in the past. If done right, it could carry the MCU to heights that Thanos himself couldn’t have achieved.
While I am not a fan of how the conflict played out in the comics, I believe the likes of Kevin Feige and Laura Shuler Donner could craft a superhero battle for the ages that will leave fans like me excited for another decade. What follows are my top five reasons why I believe Marvel and Disney should pursue Avengers vs. X-Men movie.
I concede there are many who don’t share my sentiments. I welcome any comments arguing to the contrary. For now, though, this is why I believe such a movie would fit perfectly into the cinematic marvel that is the MCU.
Reason #1: It Would Highlight (And Confront) The Discrepancies On How The World Approaches Superpowers
As soon as the X-Men arrive in the MCU, they’ll be faced with a frustrating double standard. Spider-Man has superpowers that he uses to swing around New York City, fight bad guys, and save the day. In general, he’s celebrated as a hero, along with most of the Avengers. The X-Men use their superpowers to do the same, but are labeled dangerous threats. What gives?
There are a lot of political and logistical reasons for this. Unlike other heroes, the X-Men are mutants. They were born with their powers. They’re part of an emerging sub-species that may or may not render homo sapiens extinct. That scares ordinary people more than some kid who just got superpowers in a random accident. How does society and established superhero teams deal with that?
It’s a relevant question and one the Inhumans failed miserably at addressing. Part of what made “Captain America: Civil War” such a compelling movie was that it didn’t avoid the complexities of this issue, acknowledging how difficult it is to hold people with superpowers accountable. That conflict was never fully resolved. In an Avengers vs. X-Men movie, the stakes would be even higher.
Unlike “Captain America: Civil War,” however, neither side can leave the conflict unresolved. Mutants will still emerge. People will superpowers will continue to exist. It puts iconic heroes in difficult positions that they can’t punch, stab, or smash their way out of and that often brings out the best and worst in these iconic characters.
Reason #2: It Would Raise The Stakes Surrounding Mutants In The MCU
In many ways, a clash with the Avengers would be the best way to show just how big an impact they’ve had on the MCU. Once the Avengers take notice, there’s no ignoring it anymore. Neither mutants nor the X-men would be able to operate in their own little niche of the MCU. They would have to play a larger part in a world that has already incurred a lot of damage from super-powered beings.
This sort of step is necessary in the overall narrative surrounding mutants in the MCU. It would be their coming out party, so to speak. It would show how far they’ve come and how much farther they have to go in terms of gaining legitimacy in the MCU. The X-Men, especially, have a lot to gain and a lot more to lose.
Unlike the Avengers, they can’t fall back on their reputation of having saved the world from Ultron or a Chitari invasion. They’ll be this upstart superhero team fighting to protect a group of vulnerable minorities who may or may not present a clear danger to those around them. It’ll be their chance to show that they belong on the same stage as the Avengers and the MCU will be better because of it.
Reason #3: It Would Intensify Rivalries And Ruin Friendships
There are plenty of rivalries in the comics that haven’t yet made their way into the MCU. Some are more prominent than others. The recent arrival of Captain Marvel lays the foundation for an especially big rivalry between her and Rogue, which would certainly add more personal stakes to an Avengers vs. X-men movie.
Beyond rivalries, the comics are full of friendships and connections that run quite deep. Wolverine had close personal ties to both Captain America and Black Widow in the comics. Storm has an extensive, albeit flawed, relationship with Black Panther. A number of X-Men have even been Avengers at some point.
Any clash between the Avengers and X-Men is sure to complicate every friendship and rivalry the two teams may have. Some of those connections will take time to develop. It’s very likely that the next phase of the MCU will probably focus on that in addition to integrating mutants into the MCU. An Avengers vs. X-men movie could simply act as a boiling point where it all comes to a head.
Reason #4: It Would Complicate What It Means To Be A Superhero (In A Good Way)
To some extent, the Avengers were lucky that Marvel Studios couldn’t use the X-Men in the early days of the MCU. In a world without mutants, being a superhero was less complicated. They just needed to use their powers and abilities in a heroic way. Then, they had to assemble and show that they could win wars against invading aliens.
The presence of an entire race of super-powered people, many of which are not inclined to be superheroes, adds a huge complication to the path towards heroism. The fact that mutants have powers presents them and non-mutant heroes with a conundrum.
Are mutants who don’t use their powers to be heroes irresponsible?
Are mutants who choose to use their powers for heroics on the same level as those who got their powers through another means?
These questions don’t have clear-cut answers. In a world where superpowers exist, mutants are a huge complication and the X-Men are on the front lines of it all. They try to inspire other mutants to do what they do while protecting those who choose a different path. They do so knowing that it only takes one mutant using their powers irresponsibility to do a lot of damage.
In an Avengers vs. X-Men movie, the very merits of being a superhero will suddenly be up for debate. That debate won’t likely be resolved with civil conversation and intelligent discourse. Whenever someone like Wolverine and the Hulk are involved, it’s a given there’s bound to be plenty of stabbing and smashing.
Reason #5: It Would Create New Opportunities For Better Villains (With Better Motivations)
Every clash between superheroes comes with a cost. “Captain America: Civil War” effectively divided the superhero community, which made them ill-prepared when Thanos arrived in “Avengers: Infinity War.” The comics followed a similar theme. After the original Civil War event, the entire world became vulnerable to a Skrull invasion.
A battle between the Avengers and X-Men will create a new host of vulnerabilities. For villains, it’s a golden opportunity to establish themselves in a world that is suddenly crowded with superheroes. While Thanos, Loki, and Killmonger all raised the bar for villainy, they couldn’t have emerged without the right opportunity.
With mutants, there aren’t just new opportunities. There are entirely new dynamics at work. It’s no longer a world in which superpowers are just complicated accidents. They can happen in individuals simply by being born. Within those dynamics, new kinds of villains with entirely new motivations can emerge.
Good villains are every bit as critical as good heroes, more so today than in previous eras. If the MCU is to continue to dominate, it needs to nurture the development of those villains while also creating vulnerabilities for them to exploit among heroes. An Avengers vs. X-Men movie would accomplish both.
There are probably other reasons I could list as to why I feel Marvel Studios should make this movie. There are probably plenty of other reasons why they shouldn’t. With the future of the MCU once again set to change after “Avengers Endgame,” the possibilities are vast. With the inclusion of the X-Men, and all the complications that come with them, it’s poised to evolve in bold new ways.
Certain movies are subject to unique standards. Nowhere is this more apparent than with superhero movies. A sci-fi movie can be flexible with its use of sci-fi elements. The same can be said for generic genres like romantic comedies, horror, action, and even stoner movies. A superhero movie, whether fairly or unfairly, will be judged by much stricter criteria.
This is the problem “Venom” faced before it even started shooting. Most fans, especially those who follow Marvel Comics, were probably intrigued by the possibility of a movie about Venom. Casting Tom Hardy in the lead role definitely help. No offense to Topher Grace, but he’s far more qualified to play Eddie Brock than he’ll ever be.
Even so, “Venom” had a lot of logistical problems from the beginning. It wasn’t going to feature Spider-Man. It wasn’t going to take place in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It wasn’t even going to get input from Kevin Feige and everyone else at Marvel Studios, who have made creating billion-dollar movies seem inane. By some standards, that’s a serious handicap.
Most Marvel fans, and I consider myself one of them, aren’t too keen on the idea of a Venom movie that doesn’t involve Spider-Man or have any connection to the MCU. Even if you have a passing familiarity with Venom in the comics, you probably know that a lot of his story is connected with Spider-Man. Telling a Venom movie without Spider-Man is like telling a Joker movie without Batman.
Actually, that may be a bad example. Forget I said that.
Logistical issues aside, I was still intrigued enough to give “Venom” a try. Like many other Marvel fans, I was not pleased with how his story was handled in “Spider-Man 3.” The only good that came out of that was a slew of dancing Toby Maguire memes. I felt Venom deserved better.
Well, without getting too deep into spoiler territory, I can affirm that “Venom” definitely succeeded where “Spider-Man 3” failed. It’s not just a good movie about Venom. It’s a good movie, overall. It had a lot of things working against it, but it still worked.
I know that the movie didn’t exactly thrill critics, nor did it blow the minds of hardcore fans who saw it. At the same time, it wasn’t messy or cumbersome like the theatrical cut of “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice.” Yes, this movie probably would’ve benefited by taking the “Deadpool” approach and gone for an R-rating. However, it still succeeds in many ways.
At its core, “Venom” works because it’s less about alien symbiotes infecting random people and more about Eddie Brock. This is his story and Tom Hardy does an excellent job capturing his persona. You don’t have to read a single comic to understand that Eddie Brock is not Peter Parker. He’s not exactly a hero, but he’s not a blood-thirsty villain, either.
Eddie Brock is one of those guys who’s a loser and not just because he ends up bonding with a parasitic alien. One of the best things this movie did was show that Eddie’s life falls apart because of a decision that he makes. He’s not a victim of bad luck. In the beginning, his life is actually really good. However, he makes a fateful choice that completely changes that.
At the same time, the movie establishes that Eddie is not the kind of guy who jumps at the chance to be a hero. He has a few opportunities before he bonds with the Venom symbiote. He doesn’t take it and unlike Peter Parker, it’s not purely out of responsibility. He’s just not the kind of guy who embodies the selfless spirit of Superman or Captain America.
Then, when he encounters the symbiote, these personality flaws intensify. At first, he’s just overwhelmed. He reacts in a way most people would. His first instinct isn’t to help people or be a hero. He’s actually petty and self-serving for the most part. As the story unfolds, he and the symbiote literally and figuratively feed off one another. They both grow and evolve, as characters.
That process involves plenty of action, some of which is pretty visceral. If you’re looking for the kind of cartoonish beat-downs we got in “Spider-Man: Homecoming,” you’re going to be disappointed. The action here is quite violent. It’s not on the same gratuitous level as “Deadpool,” but it’s close and it even holds back at times.
Given Venom’s brutal nature in the comics, this can be a bit of a problem. In watching this movie, you get the sense that the effects team worked overtime to keep the violence just below PG-13 levels. At times, it feels forced and that impacts the story to some extent.
That’s not the only issue, nor is it the biggest. While I believe the story works, I also can’t deny that it’s missing some key components. Those not familiar Spider-Man’s history surrounding Venom probably won’t notice, but it’s hard for me to be a Marvel fan and overlook some of these flaws.
The story of how Venom and Eddie Brock come together is solid, concise, and compelling, as it’s presented in this movie. However, it still feels like it’s missing a lot of emotional depth without Spider-Man. A big reason why Venom, and Eddie by extension, becomes so menacing is because of Spider-Man’s role in his story. Removing him from that story is glaring, to say the least.
To fill in those gaps, the movie creates a new source of conflict through the Life Foundation, which acts as the primary antagonist through its unscrupulous Mark Zuckerberg wannabe, Carlton Drake. That’s not to say Drake isn’t a decent villain, but he’s not even in the same hemisphere as Erik Killmonger or Thanos.
Even by non-superhero standards, these villains are pretty bland. It’s basically Venom versus and evil corporation who ends up serving an alien agenda. There’s nothing memorable or iconic about them, but that’s okay in the context of this movie because they still fulfill their primary purpose. They create the necessary moments that move Eddie’s story forward.
On top of that, the lack of connections with the MCU make this movie feel small by comparison, especially in a year when “Black Panther” and “Avengers: Infinity War” broke box office records. “Venom” has everything it needs to connect with the MCU. There’s nothing in the story that precludes it from having a role, but Sony has gone on record as saying that this movie is completely detached from that world.
As much as I’d love to see Tom Hardy and Tom Holland battle in a future movie, the lack of MCU connections still don’t take away from everything this movie does well. Overall, “Venom” is good movie that had a lot of factors working against it. This movie faced an uphill battle from the beginning, but still managed to achieve a lot. If I had to score it, I’d give it a 7 out of 10.
I’ve heard some claim that this movie belongs in the early 2000s and just doesn’t work within the current market of superhero movies. I say that’s bullshit. Good movies work, regardless of the year or era they come out. “Venom” is a good movie, but it’s also one that could’ve been much greater.
Coming out of the theater, I was satisfied, but felt as though there was a lot of potential left on the cutting room floor. It’s hard to know whether this movie would function better with an R-rating or as part of the MCU, but it manages to do plenty within its many constraints. Tom Hardy was handicapped in bringing Eddie Brock and Venom to life, but he still pulled it off.
Again, with all apologies to Topher Grace, Tom Hardy is now the definitive face of Venom and this movie sets him up for a promising future.