Thor Ragnarok Trailer Released

We finally have a trailer for the upcoming Thor Ragnarok, giving us a bit more information on the storyline and showing us the major characters in action. Set, appropriately, to Led Zeppelin’s Immigrant Song, the trailer sees Thor encountering Hela, who seems to be launching an attack on Asgard. Robbed of his hammer, Thor is ultimately captured and brought to the Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum) to fight in his games.

 

So, some quick thoughts:

  • I love that they used Led Zeppelin for the trailer.
  • Helmets! Hela has her crazy, but iconic headgear. In previous images of Cate Blanchett, we always saw her face, but the trailer shows her in her full, majestic Goddess of Death finery. In addition to that, both Thor and Loki have variations on their comic helms.
  • Tessa Thompson’s character (supposedly a valkyrie, but I’m not sure if it’s Brunhilde) is in the employ of the Grandmaster. I can’t recall if the previous films made mention of the valkyrie, so I am not sure if they exist in the MCU, or if she left their number to join Grandmaster for some reason
  • No sign of Odin, although we see Loki. Is he continuing to impersonate the All-Father?
  • I really hope that they follow Norse mythology (and the comics) and keep Hela as Loki’s daughter.
  • Given that we see Hela, and given the title of the film, I wonder if we will see Loki’s other children, Jormundgand and the Fenris Wolf.
  • I still don’t understand the decision to use a title card that looks like it’s from an 80’s arcade game

I know that some people aren’t fans of Thor and consider his previous films to be amoung the weaker entries in the MCU, but I love the character. He is the closest thing the films have at the moment to a Superman-level character, so he’s suitable for the big, epic stories and battles. I also love Norse mythology and while the films (and comics) deviate wildly from the source, there is still enough of the grandeur of Asgard for me to enjoy.

Hulk looks great. His scenes should be suitably impressive, though I hope that this is the last time we will see him fighting against one of his fellow heroes. It was all but required in the first Avengers and it was logical enough in Age of Ultron, but it’s time for him to focus on smashing the bad guys instead of his allies.

I really hope that this will not be the final film for Thor. There is so much potential for great films based on Norse myths that it would be a shame not to explore it. I would love to see Surtur, for example.

I’m not sure why the film is named Ragnarok, as it doesn’t seem to actually deal with the Twilight of the Gods as it is usually portrayed, thought the film may be using the name simply to refer to a large scale battle against Asgard.

Thor Ragnarok is one of the superhero movies coming this year that I am most interested in, thought it is not due until November 3rd. Fortunately, we have a number of ofther comic films to keep us occupied between now and then.

What are your thoughts on the new trailer? I’d love to hear some comments.

Craig

 

Remembering TV Shows of the 80’s: Robin of Sherwood

“He’s Coming… the Hooded Man… is Coming…”

As Ailric of Loxley lies dying on the ground, his body pierced with a dozen crossbow bolts, he utters this line to Robert de Rainault, the Sheriff of Nottingham, warning him that the chosen son of Herne the Hunter will soon rise to protect the common man. So begins Robin of Sherwood.

I simply cannot tell you how much I loved this series, produced by the BBC and made available to me on PBS in the mid-80’s. The show doesn’t seem to be as well-known as I think it deserves to be, but in most instances, those people I know who are familiar with it have loved it (almost) as much as me.

I have written a number of times on this site about my love for superheroes, but aside from the spandex crew, I also have a deep and abiding love for heroes like Robin Hood, Zorro and the Lone Ranger. These are characters that I grew up with and in the case of Robin Hood, I was even more drawn to him due to the thought that he had, perhaps, been a real person.

Was Robin real? Was he an actual person? Is the Robin Hood that we know today just an amalgam of different, real people, or is he entirely fictitious? It’s hard to say with certainty, but I will say that he was real enough to be awesome to me and fill my head with dreams, so I happily consumed every bit of entertainment featuring him, whether comic books, novels, movies, or even the cartoon Rocket Robin Hood!

Of all the various incarnations of Robin, however, the one that stands out most for me, and even still manages to stir deep emotional responses, is Robin of Sherwood, and while I suspect that the average North American is not very familiar with this series, they are undoubtedly familiar with the effect it had on future stories featuring him.

“I am Not a Serf. I am a Free Man.”

This Robin, played wonderfully by Michael Praed, is a common man, born in the village of Loxley, which was burned to the ground by de Rainault years earlier in an attempt to put down a Saxon rebellion and uncover the Silver Arrow of Herne the Hunter, a symbol of pre-Christian England.

Following the death of his father, Robin is raised by his uncle, the local miller. His cousin, Much, looks to Robin like an older brother and it is Much’s decision to kill one of the king’s deer that leads to Robin’s first encounter with the villainous Sir Guy of Gisborne, right hand man of the Sheriff.

Upon being thrown in prison, Robin and Much encounter Will Scathlock, who has renamed himself Scarlet after killing the mercenaries who raped and murdered his wife, and two other outlaws,Tom and Dickon.

Escaping from the dungeon, Robin is separated from the others. Fleeing from Gisborne and his men, Robin runs straight into the chambers of a young maid named Marion…

“You’re Like a May Morning…”

The cast of this series was kept small. Some characters from the legends, such as Alan-a-Dale are absent. The show couldn’t afford to have a large army supporting the Sheriff, so Robin and his men had to be limited in number in order to keep them suitably outmatched, though Alan did appear later in the series. The main cast consisted of Robin, Marion, Much, Will, Little John, Friar Tuck, and a Saracen named Nasir, who had formerly been an assassin.


Nasir in particular, was an interesting character. Not part of the original tales, he was intended to be in a single story before being killed off, but was made a regular part of the show. His presence was strong enough that years later when Kevin Costner starred in Prince of Thieves, a Saracen character (played by Morgan Freeman) was included by the producers who mistakenly believed that he was part of the actual Robin Hood tales.

Robin’s enemies, as usual, included the previously-mentioned Sheriff of Nottingham, his brother the Abbott Hugo, and Sir Guy of Gisborne. While many people look back fondly on Alan Rickman’s portrayal of the Sheriff in Prince of Thieves (and I liked him as well. I mean, come on. How can you not like Alan Rickman?), the performance of Nickolas Grace in this series is what I will always remember when I think of the character. In fact, all of the actors in this series remain the definitive versions in my mind, whether Clive Mantle as Little John, or the gorgeous Judi Trott as Marion.

And seriously, no one will ever be a better Will Scarlett that Ray Winstone.

“We Can All of Us Be Gods. All of us!”

Robin of Sherwood, while having a gritty, realistic look and feel to it, also included a number of mystical elements. Robin himself was more than simply an outlaw fighting against the Sheriff; he was the prophesied Hooded Man, the spiritual son of Herne the Hunter. Robin carried with him “the powers of light and darkness,” as well as Albion, one of the seven swords of the mythical master smith, Wayland.

Robin’s father Ailric had been the guardian of the Silver Arrow of Herne, a mystical artifact that was critical to Robin’s survival when he faced the demon-worshiping Baron de Belleme.

This show had a major influence on me, and was responsible for my taking up archery and sword fighting, probably the most physical activities I engaged in at the time. It also reignited my love of mythology, which also ultimately saw me adopting new beliefs and philosophies as I developed a more Wiccan/ pagan outlook on life.

“Nothing is Forgotten. Nothing is Ever Forgotten.”

While the show sadly lasted for only three series/ seasons– the third of which I was less enamoured due to the addition of a new cast member– I have never forgotten it. I had managed to record most of the episodes on VHS during the last broadcast on PBS, but the quality was extremely poor, almost to the point of being unwatchable. When I could no longer watch it, I was rather upset, until years later I found it online, again on VHS, being sold by someone who no longer wanted his copies. I was able to buy it, although I had to have it transferred to another tape due to region restrictions, so again, it wasn’t a great quality, but I was very happy.

Fortunately it is now available on DVD (which I purchased a few years ago) and Blu-Ray (which I plan on buying…) Like M*A*S*H, the Six Million Dollar Man and Star Trek, I am sharing this series with my son, letting him get to know the heroes that impacted my life growing up. Whether you have never seen Robin of Sherwood, or you have seen it but not in several years, I strongly suggest that you pick it up. Robin and his men are waiting for you.

Please share your thoughts on Robin of Sherwood  (or any other show you loved) with me.

May Herne protect you.

Craig

 

 

 

How DCU Movies Kick Marvel’s Butt

DCU Movies Kick Butt?

Now, before you jump all over me, let me say that I think the DCU movies have their flaws. Some fairly major ones actually. In general, so far, I prefer the Marvel movies. This statement will naturally still bring people down on me, just a different group of them.

I grew up with both DC and Marvel, so I love them both, but where my brother preferred DC, I was a Marvel fan. It all came down to the characters. My brother loved Superman and Batman, while I loved Spider-Man most of all. I was a DC fan as well, though. Superman is right at the top of my list with Spidey, and if you have read anything else on this site, you likely know that I am reading mostly DC comics now.

But while I am enjoying DC over Marvel in the comics, I prefer Marvel to DC in the theaters. Some say that DC is making more mature movies while Marvel is making films for kids. I happen to like the film of both companies, but I prefer Marvel’s brighter and more fun tone to DC’s dark and gritty style (strangely, though, I enjoy the darker Netflix fare that Marvel has put out quite a bit.

So why do I say that the DCU movie kick Marvel’s butt?

It’s All About the Ladies

For some time now we have been aware of the growing popularity of superheroes (and geek culture in general) amoung girls and women. Many fans have been hoping to see a female lead in a Marvel movie, but nothing has come to pass as of yet. I personally don’t think that a character like the Scarlet Witch could carry a film by herself, but I don’t have too much difficulty believing that Black Widow could do so. I could easily see her in an action/ espionage film. It would be less of a gamble for them than some other films because it could be made with a smaller budget.  I don’t understand Marvel’s disinterest in giving her a film.

Over at DC however, one of their highest-profile and most-anticipated films is the upcoming Wonder Woman film starring Gal Gadot. The buzz on the film has been good and despite some early resistance to the casting of Gadot in the role, she seems to have won over quite a few fans after her appearance in Batman v Superman.

And lest we think that Wonder Woman is the only female character capable of headlining a superhero film, it has now been announced that Joss Whedon– creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Firefly, and writer/ director of the first two Avengers films– will be writing and directing a new Batgirl movie.

I’m not sure if Marvel is simply not confident enough in Black Widow’s drawing power, or if it’s something as simple as Scarlett Johansson  having a limited number of appearances left to her contract and Marvel wanting to save those appearances for Avengers-related films.

Marvel took a chance– and did very well– with Jessica Jones on Netflix, but it’s past time for a female superhero to appear as the lead in a theatrical release. There is a large untapped fan base just waiting for a hero to call their own. Until Marvel realises this, DCU movies have a real chance to kick their butt.

Do you want to see more female leads in superhero films? Let me know!

Craig

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Spider-Man Homecoming Trailer 2 Released

Yes!

Today is the day I have been waiting for, with a new trailer for Spider-Man Homecoming. Spidey is probably my all-time favourite hero and I have been looking forward to this movie for some time now. I really enjoyed Tom Holland’s take on the character in Captain America Civil War and have high hopes for Homecoming.

So, having finally seen the new trailer what did I think? My reactions follow the trailer below.

Well… I have kind of mixed feelings, actually, but I’ll start with the good stuff.

I really like Tom Holland, even though we haven’t seen much of him yet. Since we are back to the start of Peter’s career as Spider-Man, I am glad to see a young actor in the role, which makes his inexperience and earnest demeanor much more believable. It also has the added bonus of him being young enough to stay in the role for several movies.

Visually, I think it looks great. Spidey moves the way he should and I while I can appreciate darker, moodier superhero films, I am a big fan of bright colours and more optimistic heroes. Spider-Man has been through as much grief as pretty much any other character, but he has usually managed to keep an upbeat view on things.

Seeing Spider-Man in the MCU is where I start to have the mixed feelings, though. I love that he is able to interact with the Avengers in theory, but the film looks like it might have the same issue that the comics themselves have when heroes cross over into each other’s books, and that is the way that the title character usually becomes less competent in some way.

In this case, Spidey need the help of Iron Man to combat the Vulture, played by Michael Keaton. In the comics, Vulture isn’t that much of a threat that Spider-Man should require help. He’s always managed to defeat him on his own. I can overlook this to a degree, given that this is a somewhat inexperienced Spider-Man, but this is also the solo debut for this iteration of the character, so it is vital that he be able to stand on his own, rather than depend on help. This sets a precedent that will have fans asking why he doesn’t call for the Avengers every time he is having difficulty in future films.

The fact that Tony supplies him with a high-tech suit makes this worse. Peter is supposed to be a genius, equal in his own way to Stark or Banner. Having Tony design and provide tech to him undermines him. Peter himself says “I’m nothing without this suit” in the trailer and I have a big problem with that. I can write it off a bit as Peter’s own insecurity, but the fact is that the trailers released thus far do make him look like a bit of a tech-based hero. He may not have actual armour like Tony, but he seems to have gadgets in a way that we are more used to seeing on a hero like Batman….

I’m not going to comment on “Aunt Bae” other than to suggest that is the de-ageing trend continues, a future reboot might see her as his slightly-older cousin.

And why do we always need the heroes to be unmasked during a battle with the primary villain? That drives me nuts. I don’t really need an answer, though, because I know that studios pay for an actor in a role and want to see their faces on screen. I have a feeling, however, that having Vulture see Peter’s face is going to be a death-sentence for him, unless they want to have him continually threaten to reveal his secret identity… (Sudden, frightened thought: I really, really, really hope that they don’t have Peter go public with his identity.)

Anyhow, I don’t want to be hating on this without seeing it. Truth is, I am very excited for it. I’ll be there opening night. I find it frustrating though, to have a film come so close to getting things just right, only to have small, nitpicky things throw me off. It’s similar to how I felt with Man of Steel, where we finally had the technology to show Superman at full-power, which is something we have waited decades for, only to have him dress in dark colours, be depressed and kill his enemies.

I also have to wonder what’s going on with the announced “spider-verse” films starring Venom, Black Cat and Silver Sable (supposedly). It’s been said that they will have no ties to the MCU, which is a bit confusing. Why make the effort to integrate Spidey if everyone else in his world will be separate? I don’t really need Venom teaming up with HYDRA, for example, but if they take the approach that they are not in the same continuity, but just without crossovers, that is a bit weird.

Spider-Man Homecoming releases July 17, with me in line at the theater.

What are your thoughts on the trailer and the direction the film is taking? Let me know!

Craig

 

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Netflix’s Iron Fist: First Impression

So, maybe it is a bit early to write anything about Iron Fist on Netflix, but I thought I would comment anyway. There has been a lot of criticism of the show, almost all of it coming before anyone had seen a single episode, which I think is pretty unfair. Unfortunately, the internet being what it is, having negative comments will likely have a significant effect on the viewership, whether the criticism is warranted or not.

The main issue (at least initially) lay with the casting of  Finn Jones (formerly of Game of Thrones fame) in the titular role of Danny Rand/ Iron Fist. A rather vocal group of supposed fans made it clear that Danny– a caucasian character in the comics– should have been changed to an Asian one, both to allow for increased diversity in superhero fiction and to avoid cultural appropriation. The argument was made that by casting Jones, Marvel overlooked as opportunity to avoid the White Saviour trope. Other argued that Marvel was doing the right thing by casting in accordance with the character’s appearance in the comics.

As I often do whenever this sort of thing arises, I have conflicting thoughts; on one hand, as a comic book fan, I love when they stay as close as possible to the source material. On the other hand, I do agree that we need more diversity in our superheroes (and fiction in general). My wife is Asian and thus my kids are half Asian, so I think it would be great to see more Asian characters, but I also think that rewriting characters isn’t always the way to go.

I happen to like Luke Cage. I enjoyed the Netflix series quite a bit, and also was a fan of the character in the comics. I think it is more effective to have (or create) a great black/ Asian/ gay/ whatever character than it is to co-opt an existing character and change them. Obviously, as a white guy, my opinion may differ from that of a person of colour, but it seems to me that by simply changing a character’s skin colour, ethnicity or sexuality for the sake of diversity, creators are saying that it would be too difficult to create a new, interesting character that fans would care for. I find that entirely false and need only to point to Kamala Khan as an example.

Danny Rand, however, is a bit more problematic, being a white guy who enters the mystical city of K’un L’un where he is trained in martial arts and ultimately gains the power of the Iron Fist. So, in essence, the white hero takes the ancient Asian martial art to go save the world, presumably because only a white guy can. The thing is, I don’t think that is what they are trying to imply. Unfortunately, these days we tend not to look at intentions, only what we perceive, and people are perceiving this is a largely negative way.

I have only watched the first episode so far, so it is hard to judge. The series may turn out to be horrible, or it may be amazing. For what it’s worth, I enjoyed what I have seen so far. I expect to like the rest of the series, although I know it is not without flaws. I don’t think the show is going to be anything groundbreaking, but I also don’t think it deserves to be hated. Comic adaptations are having a bit of a difficult time in the sense that if they change the source material, there is a negative reaction. Now in the case of Iron Fist, staying true to it is doing the same.

Finn Jones is not making any friends either, with his attempt at defending the show. I feel for him, because he presumably went into the show thinking it would be a good role for him and instead is having to play at politics as people attack him for simply being cast as Rand. I’m sure he was excited for the part. I’m sure he did his best with it. Bad enough that he should face the vitriol of angry fans, he must be aware that the work of virtually everyone involved with the show is now being looked down upon because of him. That can’t be easy.

Some suggested that a good compromise would have simply been to make Danny half-Asian. That would also have allowed them to play with the notion of him being caught between two worlds in a way that could appeal to a large part of the show’s potential audience. I think that could have worked, personally, but I am not sure how much it would have helped. It’s pretty clear that there are those who are determined to hate the show simply because it isn’t what they feel it should be.

I’m going to continue watching. I’m going to hope that it’s good. I’m also going to hope that enough other people watch it to make it successful, because we all know that the studios are entirely likely to assume that one “failed” series means that the bubble has burst for superhero shows, which could spell trouble for future projects.

Most of all, though, I hope that they find a way to appeal to all of the fans, though I know that’s unlikely.

What are your thoughts on Iron Fist? I’d love to hear from anyone who has watched it.

Craig