Too Many Spiders

I’m not sure if you’re as big of a comic book geek as I am. If not, you might not have heard the news that Spider-Man is going to officially be a part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). Rejoice! Sony (who own the rights to Spider-Man) and Marvel (who own the rights to the Avengers and everyone on the team) came to an agreement. For a massive hunk of money Sony’s going to stop the string of terrible decisions they’ve made over the past couple of years and let Spider-Man in on the MCU fun. At some point in the future we’ll see good ol’ Webhead flipping around with Captain America, annoying the heck out of the Hulk, and poking fun at the megalomaniac that is Tony Stark.

All good news, right? That’s what I thought. Until I realized the ripple effect this new development has sent through the MCU. There’s a lot already going on and Marvel had previously announced their movie schedule from now all the way until 2019. Plans had been laid. Wheels had started turning. And I was thrilled with upcoming events.

Then this itsy bitsy spider came and messed everything up. Several films have been bumped back just to get the “new” Spider-Man to debut in the upcoming Captain America: Civil War movie in 2016 which will in turn set him up for a solo movie in 2017.

Among the movies that got bumped were two movies that I believe a lot of people were getting very excited for because of what they represented. One of them, Black Panther, is going to (eventually) be the first Marvel movie headlined by an African-American. Captain Marvel, also getting pushed for more than half a year, is going to (eventually) be the first Marvel movie headlined by a female superhero. Sort of big steps and ones I think we could really use more of in the movies.  And quite frankly (and selfishly), these were two superhero movies I really wanted to see. Not to mention the others that were delayed (Thor: Ragnarok and The Inhumans, among others).

So I’m a little confused. All of these groundbreaking movies that have already been well in the works for quite a while are getting delayed so we can see Peter Parker get bit by a spider. Again. For the third time in 15 years (with 5 movies under its franchise belt). Gee, I wonder what happens.

Don’t get me wrong. I like Spider-Man and I like that he’s going to be a part of the MCU. I’m just getting tired of having the same movie/superhero redone/rebooted ad nauseam while there are all these great original themes to put out there.

Of course I’m hoping Marvel does well and produces a worthwhile Spider-Man solo outing, but as of right now I can’t get enthused knowing that fun, awesome, exciting characters I’ve never seen on-screen are getting de-prioritized for a character that’s a very well-worn road by now.

Marvel Miss

With the head honcho of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) giving a bunch of interviews lately in support of the upcoming movie Ant-Man (which I’m definitely going to go see) there’s been a lot of excitement in my life as I think about the upcoming slate of superhero movies. My eyes and ears in eager anticipation.

Being a consumer of this fine entertainment is quite exciting. But I sort of think that being the creators of said entertainment might be even more exhilarating. That’s why in the middle of all this activity I’m quite disappointed to know that Marvel Universe characters won’t be attending the San Diego Comic Con.

If you’re not familiar with the SDCC, saying that Marvel superheros won’t be attending is like saying that the Pope won’t be going to church on Easter Sunday.

Oh, they’ll have panels with writers, executives, animators and such. I think the Agents of Shield (t.v. show) cast is due to appear. But none of the characters from the movies will be in attendance as they’ve been in the past.

I understand scheduling conflicts, sure. Celebrities are busy and can’t make it to everything they’re invited to, but Marvel’s choice to forego the mecca of comic book geekdom is on par with a rock band that doesn’t put on concerts. Even though spokespeople for Marvel have said it’s not a sign of disrespect, I feel like not sending someone is thumbing the nose at us fans. Well, not me personally since I can’t even begin to afford a ticket, but I’d still like to know that I could see Loki’s smile in person if I did have the expendable income to go.

In this article, the writer says this about Marvel’s decision:

Also it came down to money as well. The studios spend thousands of dollars to go and there was no need to force the issue if there wasn’t an immediate benefit according to one executive.”

Marvel’s nickel and diming us? Really? They have to worry about paying their water bill? Marvel has more money than Scrooge McDuck. “Thousands of dollars” to them is like laundry change for us.

Marvel, if you’re listening, do the right thing. Put Robert Downey Jr. in one of your Iron Man suits and fly his butt down to sunny San Diego for 36 hours. Too big of a star? I’d be happy with a Mark Ruffalo, too. Or Star-Lord. Or Captain America. Or any number of heroes you happen to have around. It’s not as if you have a shortage.

Although seriously. Just send Tom Hiddleston. Given his past Comic Con performance, Loki would do it for us all.

Super Friends

So that thing called the Super Bowl happened over the weekend, right?  It seemed like there were more hungover, cranky people than usual straggling through the day on Monday, which reminded me that there was a big sporting event the day before.

If you can’t tell, I’m not a big football fan.  I’m a big fan of the commercials usually… though I’ve gotten my fill of those long before the game ever airs.  AND, I can be a big fan of football fans, especially if their love of the game makes the world a better place. “When, by chance, does that ever happen, Wendy?” you may be asking.

Well, despite my lack of knowledge, or frankly, any care whatsoever, in the teams playing in the Super Bowl, I had been paying keen attention to one of the highly publicized bets that took place between two celebrities.  Of course it has to be Marvel related, right? Of course it does. The Marvel Universe even invades the Super Bowl.

Chris Pratt (also known as Star-Lord from Guardians of the Galaxy) and Chris Evans (Captain America from every other damn Marvel movie out there) placed a friendly wager on the Super Bowl that made me realize they’re probably just as good in real life as the heroes they portray on film. Here are links to catch up in case you haven’t seen the myriad of articles scattered throughout the internet already:

http://www.nydailynews.com/entertainment/gossip/chris-pratt-chris-evans-super-bowl-bet-charity-article-1.2087068

http://www.people.com/article/chris-evans-pratt-super-bowl-bet-update

The bet? If Seattle won, Evans has to visit the Seattle Children’s Hospital dressed as Captain America. If New England came out on top, Pratt would have to suit up as Star-Lord and traipse through the halls of Boston-based charity Christopher’s Haven.

The Twitter war between the two of them was so fun to watch (Chris Evans calling the Seahawks seachickens just tickled me to no end), mainly because in the end, the stakes aren’t for money or bragging rights or making the other person do something embarrassing and stupid. The end game is all about making sick kids happy and having kids who need strong role models to get through some extremely difficult things that life has thrown at them have a chance to meet their heroes. It’s equal parts being philanthropic, being fun, being gentlemanly, and being just a decent damn person.

And yes, it gets even better. With New England winning that means Star-Lord, aka Pratt, has to follow through and go to the Boston charity (which he is absolutely thrilled to do) – BUT – Evans isn’t about to sit on his laurels knowing that he brought sunshine to one group of kids and not another.  So even though Evans won the bet, Captain America is still going to visit the Seattle Children’s Hospital. It’s a win-win.

This is who I want my heroes to be. If I’m paying $16 to root and rally for them on the big screen I’m much more invested in giving the theaters and studios my money if I can root and rally for this person in real life. I don’t want my favorite heroes to be busted by the cops for getting into bar brawls, screaming anti-Semitic remarks, or hitting their significant others. When that happens it’s so much more apparent that the cape and cowl are just for a paycheck.

But when actors do something akin to what Pratt and Evans have done (and which these two do frequently by the way), that makes me feel that it’s not just a stupid movie part for them. Maybe it means something, maybe it’s a chance to communicate goodness…like they exhibit in real life. That, ultimately, is what makes them legit superheroes.

pratt_evans

Heroes for Humanity

I love my superheroes. Batman, Superman, X-Men (past, current, and future classes), Deadpool (okay, well maybe he’s more of an anti-hero), and pretty much the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe. I geek out over these characters on a regular basis and take my appreciation of them pretty seriously. Which is why when I stumbled across the article “Superheroes Don’t Exist to Solve Problems, They Exist to Punch Bad Guys” (link here…although I am slightly against sending more internet traffic to this guy’s site), I felt like it was a personal attack on what I look at in my life as positive allegories on ways in which we should all strive to make the world better (did I mention I was a geek?).

The superheroes of popular film have little in common with the heroes of the real world.” This, shockingly enough, is the very first line of the article. Already I get a sense that the author has trouble understanding the definition of fiction as well as entertainment; how both of those mediums can be combined to mirror our reality without being bound by the same rules.

He continues by writing, “The archetypal superhero is a hands-on vigilante clad in form-fitting Lycra. Spider-Man, Batman, Superman, and The Flash all assert their heroism by busting small-time street criminals and delivering violent sermons on the importance of law and order.”

I really am at a loss for where to begin because I am getting a sense that this person doesn’t actually read any comics or even do as little work as to sit through any of the various two-hour movies out there before writing his article.

One viewing of the last Captain America movie The Winter Soldier would dispel his assertion. Yes, Captain America runs around with a shield and has a star on his chest, but his goal is not to put thugs in the hospital. He’s been disillusioned by his own government (one that up until now he has held in high regard) and is seeking a way to ensure that the privacy of the public is protected lest the country slip into a culture of distrust from illegal phone taps and email tampering. Sound familiar at all? On his quest to make sure millions of lives are saved from an international security agency cloaking their ascension to monarchy by weeding out the weaker links, Captain A runs into some resistance and has to take them out. Heaven forbid he has to get into a few fights. It’s more than clear he’s not some brute looking to get his jollies off by punching some noses. If there’s one thing Captain America stands for, it’s the “people” of the world.  He’s out to make a difference and to see that good wins over evil whether evil happens to be a man with a red skull for a face or his own national government.

Then there’s this: “Batman’s stated goal is to rid Gotham City of crime, but he rarely undertakes the actions that can tackle the causes rather than the effects of criminality. Bruce Wayne could use his lofty social standing to lobby for more education funding, tighter gun control, and a social safety net that would prevent young people from resorting to a life of crime. His wealth could be used to support drug clinics and foster prisoner rehabilitation programs to reduce recidivism. Instead, he puts on a black mask and a husky voice and goes to pound hapless street thugs in the night.”

First off, Bruce Wayne does use his lofty social standing to lobby for positive community initiatives (it’s a big thing in the comics actually). Sorry the comics don’t focus solely on that, but we’re looking for flights of fantasy and 22 pages about a new rec center breaking ground isn’t as thrilling as a car chase with The Penguin. It’s not that Bruce Wayne doesn’t do anything for the community; it’s just not the main focus because it’d make for quite a boring comic.

Stark Industries consistently works towards harnessing clean and renewable energy sources among other things. Superman/Clark Kent works at a damn newspaper so the public won’t be left in the dark on what their leaders are doing. Pretty much every superhero out there has a back story that is rich in these types of offerings, whether it’s a protective type of job (such as military), or a teacher helping young people, or a scientist who strives to help mankind or a philanthropist who strives to help everyone.

I could keep railing on and on trying to disprove every point the author made in his poorly researched attempt at trolling the “superhero fad” but this blog would end up being a book with how many examples exist out there.

The point is there’s more to every superhero than their power. It’s their conscience that drives them, not their ability to crush their enemy. In the end they do exactly what we do…they try to make a difference in the world around them using all of the tools at their disposal. Labeling them simply “pugilists” is a vast, vast underestimation. And it certainly does the writers of the stories a grave injustice.

Christmas Nerds

So this Christmas is going to be a somewhat lean one for my kids and me – and that’s okay. It’s not something we can’t work through. As we were talking about gift giving for the upcoming holiday, we decided that we’d choose presents we could sort of give to ‘each other’ to share – communal presents as it were, within a certain cost range.

Rather than purchase several gifts for each of us individually, we would choose a special gift that my son and I would give each other to share that would benefit the “whole” and, likewise, a gift that my daughter and I would give each other that would benefit the “whole.” You get the idea.

Anyway.

The choice of presents was theirs and theirs alone…I left that up to them and figured I would be content with whatever they decided. I just wanted them to be happy. They could’ve chosen anything. Here’s what they came up with. Needless to say, they did my geeky little heart proud. Our mutual love for Marvel Comics and Doctor Who runs deep. I love, love, love my Christmas nerds!

Sarah's Choice (to add to our Marvel collection)

Sarah’s Choice (to add to our Marvel collection)

Jake's Choice (we're all Whovians in this house)

Jake’s Choice (we’re all Whovians in this house)

Bad Guys?

Marvel Studios has been getting it right lately. I don’t know if you’re following this expanding and intricate universe they’ve been creating in phases over the years (including Iron Man 1/2/3, Captain America 1 & 2, Thor 1 &2, Avengers, and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.) but the quality and care that has gone into the franchise has been great — not just for other superhero movies to take note of and try to emulate so we, as an audience, get better crafted stories, but they’re at such a high-caliber that even non-superhero movies could possibly learn a thing or two as well.

For instance, the creation of a believable villain. I’ve said in the past that I fawn over the villains that have a twisted view of reality that was a slow evolution of injustices and misfortunes that accumulated over the course of their life. I hate the villains that just do evil because they want to be bad. That makes no sense. I don’t believe anyone wakes up thinking “Gosh, I would love to be a horrible person and do things that are terrible to others.” Maybe there are some people like that, but in movies I just can’t buy into it. It’s infinitely better when the backstory of the villain is laid out so you can see how they got to the murderous path they set upon.

The Thor films have done it exceptionally well with Loki. While I obviously don’t condone anything he does in that movie (cough, cough),  I can understand why he might think what he’s doing is right. That’s the important ingredient: the empathy. Marvel Studios has done it again with the latest Captain America movie, The Winter Soldier.

Sidenote: If you have not seen the movie yet, stop reading. MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD!

The “bad guy” that Cap, Black Widow, and their team has to take down seems amazingly sinister in the beginning. Just a brutal force with no stop button on the terror he wreaks. No small talk, no petting a white cat as he demands money from the UN via Skype from his secret lair, no MWAHAHAHA laughing, no grandstanding. He just destroys things, silently and quickly. Pretty standard badass stuff. And also pretty forgettable. But as the movie unfolds and his backstory is slowly revealed, the character gets depth and intrigue and you start to see how he got to be this unstoppable storm of homicidal rage. He was given a chance to be empathized with as we saw how his tormentors brainwashed away his humanity and turned him into a dehumanized zombie. It was just awful to watch (in a good way). I felt so bad for him. Yes, the villain. I felt so bad for what he had to go through. And once again I find myself on the side of the “bad guy.”

That’s the type of villain I think movies (or stories in general) should always aspire to. A story that can be viewed from all sides, rather than just the lens of the hero, makes a much more compelling plot and really engages me as a fan. Bravo, Marvel! Your ability to make the villain “not so bad” has been getting stronger as time goes on. It’s getting harder and harder to really hate the villain anymore since they’re not all born with black hearts. They’ve just had some horrible experiences that really messed up their heads and I’m glad the movie studio is taking the time to put that much thought into the “bad guys” now.

captain america