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Captain Marvel (2019) – Review

Spoiler Free Thoughts and Review

Infinity War and Endgame are, not surprisingly, coming out very close to each other.  At least when compared to the previous Avengers outings they are close to each other.   This is kind of understandable given how disruptive the end of Infinity War was.  Even Agents of SHIELD essentially took a prolonged break to wait for things to be fixed.  A couple of films have squeezed in between, both featuring things that will likely show up prominently in Avengers End Game.  The first was Ant-Man and the Wasp, which according to the post credits scene, effectively happens simultaneously along side Avengers Infinity War.

Captain Marvel gets around this problem by taking place in the past.  Only the credits scene happens during “present day”.  This is kind of a first for Marvel films which have always taken place “Present day”.  Captain America: The First Avenger got around this by having it’s current day scene happen at the end of the film after Steve wakes up from his long cold sleep.

The core of the film is an origin story for Carol Danvers, aka Captain Marvel, aka Vers (pronounced Veers).  The majority of the film takes place in the mid 90s with some flashbacks to Carol’s past life 6 years previous.  It sort of mixes up the standard “origin” concept this way since it doesn’t just start with “here is how she got her powers” then “here is how she learns to be a hero”, which is nice.  Her original also ties heavily into the plot itself.

The real show stealers of this film are Samuel L. Jackson, who plays a CGIed younger version of himself as Nick Fury, and Carol’s cat Goose.  Ben Mendelsohn also does a pretty good job as the Skrull leader Talos throughout the film.  There are some good funny bits, mostly involving one or more of these three characters though it’s not a constant joke like Guardians of the Galaxy.

So how is the movie?  It’s… alright.  There has been some controversy with the film getting brigaded with negative reviews on review sites.  It’s not the best Marvel film by any stretch, but it’s certainly not god awful like some of these “ratings” suggest.  It’s like a pretty solid 7/10 or so probably.

Synopsis and Spoilers

The film opens with Carol, at this point known as Vers (Veers), living on the Kree home world and training with Yon-Rogg to join an elite Kree Commando force known as the Starforce.  We get a brief look at how she has no memory of her past but has dreams of it occasionally through a brief dream sequence where she is injured on the ground along side Annette Benning’s character and being attacked by a Skrull.  The Starforce and Kree are at war with the Skrulls.  The Kree should be fairly familiar to anyone following the MCU, they have showed up in a few movies and the Agents of SHIELD show quite a bit.  The Skrulls are new to the MCU though.  Basically, they are tricky aliens who can shapeshift.  It’s not a plot element in the movie but Super Skrulls can also replicate the abilities of super heroes.

Anyway, Vers gets summoned to meet with the Supreme Intelligence, leader of the Kree, who takes the form of “something important to each individual”.  In the case of Vers, it takes the form of Annette Benning.  Vers is recruited into Starforce and the little party of fighters head off on a mission to rescue someone on a Skrull planet.  They arrive, we get to see the Starforce in action a bit when they are ambushed by Skrulls, and Vers heads into a base alone to look for the hostage.  It turns out it’s a trap and the hostage is a Skrull, and Vers is taken captive.

We get a few flashes of her past again, as the Skrulls scan her memory for information.  They find a memory of Vers and Annette Benning together on an airfield on Earth, after reviewing the memory several times they discern the location of the airfield.  Around this time Vers manages to break free of the system and starts fighting her way out of the Skrull ship.  She escapes as the ship explodes and crash lands in a Blockbuster video on Earth.

This brings up my first kind of problem here, we later find out she was out for a few hours, but it’s not really explained when the Skrulls traveled to Earth from wherever they were.  I mean, obviously it happened, but the way it was presented felt a little random and convenient. 

After using the Earth’s phone system and some Kree technology, Vers manages to contact Yon-Rogg and sets out to find out why the Skrulls were looking for Annette Benning.  Not before being confronted by SHIELD and Nick Fury, with Agent Coulson in tow as a rookie agent.  Fury doesn’t seem to quite believe Vers’ story about aliens and Skrulls and Kree.  They are interrupted by an attack by a Skrull whom Vers chases down on foot with Fury and Coulson pursuing in a car.  Vers fights with the Skrull a bit on an elevated train as the SHIELD agents follow on along behind.  Fury gets a call on the radio of his car from Coulson, who wonders where everyone went from the Blockbuster, which alerts Fury that Coulson in the car isn’t who he thinks it is.  After a brief fight he wrecks his car, killing the Skrull who reverts back to his normal form.  Vers loses the Skrull she was following in a crowd. 

After changing to some normal clothes from her fancy Kree suit, Carol takes to searching the internet for clues about Annette Benning’s whereabouts.  Coulson gets some information on the Skrull body at the SHIELD base before, in classic Fury fashion, showing up randomly to talk to Vers.  Since he now believes her story, they agree to team up to figure out what’s going on and head to a secret base where Annette Benning was working.  In the base they find that the person they are looking for has been dead for years.  They also find a cat that appeared previously in Vers’ memories and some information on the Light Speed drive that had been worked on there.  Vers also discovers that she is in a photo of the test experimental test plane.

Meanwhile, Fury has contacted SHIELD to let them know where he was, only it turns out that his boss has been replaced by a Kree.  In a bit of a clever bit, he discovers this when his boss calls him “Nick” instead of “Fury”.  He previously made a huge point to Vers that no one calls him anything but Fury.  No one.  He tricks the Skrull into splitting up by commenting “Just like in Haiti”, which I only mention as it comes up again later.

Anyway, Fury reunited with Vers, who is not happy at all about him alerting SHIELD to their location.  There is a brief battle before they escape in a Quadjet, which looks a lot like a bulkier and older model Quinjet.  They discover that the cat managed to stow away with them on board the jet.  They set off to visit Maria Rambeau, who was listed as the last person to see Vers alive in her past life. 

It turns out Maria was best friend to Vers in her past life.  They bond, we learn that Vers is from Earth (which we all kind of expected given the flashbacks).  We learn that her name isn’t Vers, it’s Carol Danvers.  There is a half a dog tag that reads “Carol Dan” on it.  Carol had a jacket that apparently Maria’s daughter wears sometimes.  Maria is a little town since she is happy her friend is alive and a little irritated that she was off on another planet. 

This is all interrupted by the arrival of Talos, the Skrull commander, now in his normal Skrull form.  He wants a truce, and to talk, and to reveal… the plot twist.  It turns out that Annette Benning wasn’t human, but was a Kree scientist known as Mar-Vell.  He plays back a recording of the crash Carol was involved in, the one that’s he had been dreaming about.  Mar-Vell and Carol are piloting the experimental craft and get shot down by some alien craft.  Only instead of being attacked by Skrulls, it turns out she had been attacked by Yon-Rogg.  The Kree were the ones after the Light Speed Drive all along, not the Skrulls.  During the confrontation, Mar-Vell had revealed her secret to Carol.  Carol then fires a Kree weapon at the Light Speed drive, causing it to explode.  Somehow the energy is absorbed into Carol’s body.  Seeing this power, Yon-Rogg abducts her, her memory is wiped, and she is recruited to Starforce.  We also see him pick up the other half of the dog tag which reads only “vers”, which was the missing half of “Carol Danvers” on the complete dog tag, and the reason she is called “Vers” early on.

Carol is a little pissed that she has been lied to of course. 

This recording also leads to the secret coordinates that aren’t on the Earth, but are actually in orbit around Earth.  The Skrulls modify the Quadjet for spaceflight and they all (Carol, Fury, Talos, Maria, the Cat) head into space.  Once there they discover Mar-Vell’s secret cloaked space station, which, surprise, contains a bunch of Skrull refugees.  Specifically, Talos’ family, who had been working with Mar-Vell.  It also contains the source of power that the Kree are after in the Tesseract Cube.  Carol gives the Tesseract to Fury for safe keeping, or specifically, Goose the Cat eats is with a bunch of tentacles that spew out of it’s mouth, because it’s not a cat it’s a Flurgen. 

The Starforce squad shows up and use an implant in Carol’s head to force her to power down.  Carol is then, once again, confronted by the Supreme Intelligence.  The Skrulls and Fury and Maria are locked up.  Carol confronts the Supreme intelligence who kind of taunts her about how weak she is.  This pretty much causes her to overcome the implant and unleash her full power.  She wipes the floor with the Starforce Squad.  Meanwhile, Talos has disguised himself as a Starforce grunt, and alerts Fury with a comment about Haiti, which is once again, kind of clever.  They overpower their captors and escape with the Skrulls to the Quadjet.  Along the way we get to see more of Goose’s true power as the Cat eats several of the guard whole.

Carol and Yon-Rogg blast out of the station in a shuttle, but not before Ronan arrives to cleanse the Earth of it’s Skrull infestation.  His starships launch several missiles at the planet.  Carol uses her newfound Super Saiyan powers to fly into space, destroying the missiles along the way and easily dispatching one of Ronan’s ship.  Ronan turns tail and exits the area to go off and get killed by the Guardians of the Galaxy later.

Carol returns to the surface to confront Yon-Rogg.  Realizing he is no match for her, he goads her into proving she can fight him with no powers, but she blasts him anyway.  Because she is “the hero” she tosses him into the escape pod, programs it to head back to the Kree home world and tells him to let the Kree know she is coming for them.

She says her goodbyes to Fury and Maria, leaving the Goose and the Tesseract with SHIELD.  She makes it her mission to help the Skrulls find a new home world and to combat the Kree, and she leaves with the Skrulls to parts unknown.  Before leaving she leaves Fury with the modified pager he can use to summon her in case of emergency.

There are two end credits scenes.  One with the Avengers in Avengers HQ, lamenting their loss at the hands of Thanos and pondering the meaning of the Pager, which was activated by Fury at the end of Infinity War.  The pager has mysteriously stopped sending a signal and they don’t know why.  Suddenly, they turn and a very angry looking Carol is there, and asks ‘Where’s Fury”.

The second scene shows Fury’s desk, Goose jumps up on the desk.  Anyone who has owned a cat can probably predict what happens next in the context of the film, I know I did.  I mean cats like to eat things they shouldn’t like plants, or Tesseracts, but these things don’t really flow through the digestive tract.  Goose starts hacking and coughing before ejecting the tesseract out onto the desk.  It’s pretty funny.

How it’s Connected

So, there’s a fair amount of connected here, but the biggest and most obvious is the Tesseract which first appeared in Captain America: TFA and later in the first Avengers film.  It also made a brief appearance in Thor: Ragnarok, since after Avengers it was stored in Asgard, where it was saved from Ragnaros by Loki.  Then again in the opening for Avengers: infinity War where it was taken by Thanos and inserted into the Infinity Gauntlet as the Space Stone.

The Tesseract is shown to be the source of power for the Light Speed drive that was being developed by Mar-Velle which exploded and infused Carol with her super powers.  It makes sense that this would be able to power a super powered space engine since it’s the Space Stone, which has the ability to let the user travel across space.

Fury gets his eye scratched out by the cat Goose, which is supposed to explain why he has an eye patch in the future.  It’s kind of cute since it’s bad ass Nick Fury and you expect it to have happened by something more than a cat.  In this same line, it’s a little lame, because you expected it to be more than a cat.  Ok, technically Goose is a Flurgen or whatever.

Near the end of the film, the Kree general Ronan makes a brief appearance.  His small fleet of ships shows up to destroy Earth but are stopped by Captain Marvel when she goes Super Saiyan.  Ronin, you may recall was the primary antagonist of the first Guardians of the Galaxy.  He isn’t the only character to show up in Captain Marvel from GotG, Korath (“Star-Lord Man”; “Who?”) shows up as well as a member of the Kree Star Force squad that Carol is a part of.

Then of course there is Agent Coulson, whom Fury refers to as “Rookie”.  His roll isn’t very big but it’s nice to see him show up again in the films and not just Agents of SHIELD.

There is also a slightly cheesy brief bit at the end that implies Fury got the name for The Avengers from Carol’s pilot nickname of “Avenger”.

Then of course the credits scene, where Carol answers the call of her pager sent out by Fury at the end of Infinity War, and shows up looking rather pissed.

One other note that may or may not become relevant later, Carol’s friend has a daughter named Monica Rambeau.  She is like 10 maybe in the film.  She carried the Captain Marvel mantle in the comics briefly, and even lead the Avengers briefly.  I doubt she elevates to that level in the MCU, but she may show up again “present day” as an adult.  She is also a member of the slightly niche with a cult following group Nextwave.  I would be pretty happy if they opted to make a Nextwave film.

Thoughts on what’s next

Captain Marvel will show up again alongside the Avengers in the next film, Avengers: Endgame.  Her massive power level will definitely be a strong addition to whatever fight happens in that film.  I look forward to seeing her go toe to toe with Thanos.  I also wonder how well she will play with the rest of the characters.  In her own movie here, she comes off as pretty single track on her goals.  I can see her showing up, discovering what has happened to Fury and everyone else, and jetting off to beat the shit out of Thanos as soon as she discovers his location, despite protests from anyone else (Steve Rodgers). 

I can also see her getting along with Thor in interesting ways.  Thor already outclasses all of the other Avengers in power level, which became supremely clear in infinity War, but I feel like Carol may actually be stronger than he is in a straight fight. 

Final Notes

There isn’t a lot of the larger picture that is advanced here, but it does introduce us to a new hero which will add a new dynamic to things going forward.  The film does a fairly decent job of sort of explaining where Carol has been since her time in the 90s and the present day time.  So far, nothing has happened that would have given Fury cause to summon her before either.  The invasion of New York was handled by the Avengers and Ultron was a problem, but not one that he really knew about until last minute, and once again, the Avengers managed to keep it under control.  Ultimately, it’s a nice introduction, but it’s kind of unnecessary in the grand scheme of things.

Alita: Battle Angel (2019)

When this film was first announced, I have to say I was both kind of excited and a little worried. Excited because it looked pretty awesome, worried because, manga to live action adaptations tend to be kind of hit or miss. I also felt like even if it was good, it wouldn’t really have enough mainstream appeal to actually be successful.

While I really liked this movie, its not perfect. It has a lot of weird pacing issues and the ending left a bad taste but the visuals are amazing and the action sequences were all well done. The story is alright as well, though if anything it’s a little overly complex for the duration of the film. In preparation for the film I read through a lot of the original manga. The manga, is sort of a series of separate stories involving Alita, one event happens, then another happens, then another, and so on. The movie is sort of a remix of these stories where they are a bit more intertwined together. This Blending helps make things feel a little more like one big story, but it can make things a little harder to keep track of which characters are important to which storyline.

There are a lot of parts that are pretty faithful to the manga, and others that are toned down and others that seem to be new. For example, the first real story in the manga involves Alita and Ido tracking down a killer who is obsessed with eating people’s brains. The same killer shows up in the movies, but the brains part is removed and his role is expanded a bit so he shows up several times throughout the movie. There is a big set piece of Motorball, which is all in later story elements of the Manga, but in the movie, it’s introduced as a plot device earlier on, and we see less of Alita rising through the ranks of the sport, probably to save time. There are however plenty of other sequences that are lifted directly from the pages of the Manga.

As much as I like that they tried to make things more cohesive, it also kind of hurts the story a lot. Alita’s evolution from innocent little girl amnesiac to bad ass warrior is basically explained away by “mysterious past”. It feels a little unnatural. In the manga, she joins Motorball because she is mad at Ido and upset over a recent personal loss and essentially wants to forget her new past life. In the movie, she joins more “because it’s cool” and vaguely because the winner gets to go to Zalem. That personal loss moment doesn’t occur until the end of the film and she never really turns away from Ido. I found this a little disappointing since Ido and Alita competing against each other’s Motorball teams while pretending to be strangers was kind of a fun bit in the manga.

The next paragraph involves some spoilers for the film. There is also a lot of subplot involving Demi Moore’s character Rose, and the mysterious Nova. I really feel like the parts about Nova should have been seriously toned down or trimmed out, with more emphasis on Vector being the main villain of the film. The plot points for Nova literally go nowhere except to set up a sequel and the plot would have felt more contained without it. Demi Moore also has this weird tendency to just sort of show up a few times, to either be a snide bitch or to help out randomly. She exists to sort of give more backstory for Ido’s connection to Alita, but overall she just sort of feels uselessly tacked into everything.

This leads to my main disappointment with this film, which frankly, is only a disappointment if there is never a sequel. The movie just sort of… ends, with no real resolution. Things are set up for a sequel, but I worry it may not do well enough to get one, leaving the movie with a very meh ending. My one optimistic hope is that that the producer, James Cameron, best known for Avatar and Titanic, two of the largest films ever made, has such a huge hard on for the material that he’s been trying to make this movie for like 20 years. I feel like he may push a sequel out even if this first film is a flop.

One other thing I definitely want to address is the eyes. When the trailers first dropped for this, the one main topic of discussion were Alita’s large eyes. In the actual film, it’s really not an issue, at all for a few reasons. First, a lot of the cast has some sort of cyborg augmentation. Hell off the top of my head, I think there were only a few notable characters who didn’t have some level of cyborg going on. There are character with robot arms, characters with robot skulls, characters with robot legs, there are robot parts, everywhere. That’s part of the world of Iron City, where the film takes place. Also, during some flashbacks of Alita’s past, other characters with these same eyes are shown, which implies that it’s part of where she came from, and not just a gimmick to make her character look more “anime”.

Speaking if Iron City, it’s a really interesting setting for the story. I really like these sort of dystopian future cyberpunk settings, and Alita has a lot of great atmosphere to it. The story takes place in Iron City, which is basically a huge slummy junkyard that sits under the flying sky city of Zalem. Nothing is really shown of Zalem aside from it’s underside. Many of the characters have dreams of reaching this city, which is believed to be some sort of utopian paradise, and it’s a central plot element motivating several of the characters. The lower city is cluttered and crowded and full of cobbled together buildings, constructed from scraps dropped by the city of Zalem.

I also wanted to touch a bit on the violence as well, more for informational purposes than that I really have a problem with it. The movie itself is rated PG-13. There isn’t any sex or nudity, there isn’t a lot of swearing, but it’s fairly violent. The manga is extremely violent. It’s full of pretty detailed art of people getting their heads crushed or brains ripped out and eaten. The movie tones this down quite a bit, but there is still a ton of dismemberment. On one hand, it’s all cyborgs, so, they are “like robots”. Except as “cyborgs”, they ARE people, with robot bits. If a human has his head removed and put on a human body, just because it doesn’t have a bunch of blood, doesn’t mean it’s not a little graphic in nature.

Wrapping up, it’s a good cyberpunk film and manga adaptation. It’s more faithful of an adaptation than some other recent manga adaptations for sure (Ghost in the Shell). That said, it’s based on an old Manga, which means it’s not really going to be everyone’s cup of tea due to some of the cultural oddities that come along with that. It’s visually nice but it’s not nearly as accessible plotwise as say, a Marvel movie. Fans of Sci-Fi and cyberpunk should definitely enjoy it.

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-verse

Sony is kind of in a weird place with it’s Spider-Man license.  They are working on their third reboot of the series, which is not tied to the MCU which they don’t really own any stake in.  So they have a pretty decent and successful Spider-Man series going now, but it’s technically part of a universe they can’t fully touch.  Take the recent Venom movie, for example.  Venom is pretty tied to Spider-Man, but this new movie itn’t part of the MCU, so that gets a little tricky.

Maybe they don’t really care a lot about continuity.

Maybe they also have just made a bold move that let’s the nor really care about continuity, with Spider-Man: Into the Spider-verse.

Into the Spider-Verse is a fantastically animated color fest that does a pretty good job of giving us an Origin story, while also giving us a developed world that lets everything sort of speed along without being yet another slow burn Spider-Man origin.  In fact the movie repeatedly pokes fun at the idea of yet another Origin Story, and how everyone already knows the origin on Spider-Man.  It’s an enjoyable film and I look forward to the eventual sequel and likely spin-offs.

Spoiler Free Thoughts

So, I had an idea of what to expect going into this movie, but I wasn’t super sure it would be that great.  I honestly kind of skip most of the animated comics based stuff these days, more for lack of time than anything.  I kind of worried this was joust going to feel like something that should have been a TV Special or straight to Blu-Ray sort of deal.  Considering how few films I actually see in a theater, that I went at all says something I suppose.

The basic plot follows the origin story of Miles Morales becoming Spider-Man.  It’s not quite the same as his comics origins but it shares some similarities.  So, you might be wondering why there is a Black Spider-man named Miles, he is not new to the Marvel Universe for this film at all.  This isn’t meant to be a detailed run down, but to sort of give you an idea.

Back in the early 2000s, Marvel created the Ultimate Universe.  This was essentially a new Marvel continuity where everything was darker and grittier and the Avengers were known as The Ultimates.  In 2011, Miles Morales was introduced as a new character who was also bitten by a radioactive spider.  Shortly afterwards, Peter Parker of the Ultimate universe was killed and Miles Morales too up the Spider-Man mantel in the Ultimate Universe.  Cut to more recent times, during Marvel’s Secret Wars event.  Basically, Marvel wanted to combine all of it’s various continuities into one continuity to trim the fat off things a bit and simplify everything.  So Secret Wars saw the Ultimate Universe crossing over with the main Earth-616 Continuity.   They used this plot to kill off some versions of heroes, and revive others by replacing them with their dimensional counterparts and just in general slim things down.  Miles Morales Spider-Man however, had become pretty popular, so he was spared and became part of the main Marvel continuity.

There is a lot more to it of course but I’m not really here to give a full history of Marvel Comics.  The real fun of the movie comes from “The Spider-Verse”, and the overall fairly tongue in cheek way it handles itself.  Early in the film, the plot is revealed involving Kingpin trying to open a gateway to other dimensions.  This rift causes several other Spider-folks to cross over into Miles’ world.  Miles being new to the job, gets some help and grief from these other Spider-people and of course, learns to be his own brand of Spider-Man.  We also get a brief history of each of the various other Spideys through little cut away story sequences, though for the most part, three of them are a pretty throw away part of the story.

So, the three throw away Spideys consist of: Spider-Man Noir, a Spider-Man from a 30s world who is a detective and lives in a black and white world; Spider-Ham, a Looney Tunes style anthropomorphic pig complete with Subspace hammers and random anvils; and SP//DR, a futuristic Anime girl who pilots a Spider-Man sort of robot.  These three pretty much exist as comic relief characters once they arrive.  Of the 6 main Spiders, they are probably the most one off anyway.

Most of the story revolves around Miles Morales, Peter Parker, and Gwen Stacey, and mostly Miles Morales and Peter Parker, as Peter shows Miles the ropes of being Spider-Man.  This particular Peter is a little washed up though, so Gwen gives a lot of later pointers and help to both.  I should add, this isn’t really like some training montage of teaching, it’s much more of a trial by fire sort of deal, as Peter and Gwen must work to get control of the dimensional gateway to get back to their own respective universes. 

There are a ton of references to all sort of Spidey things outside the actual Spideys.  Nods to things like the Tobey Maguire movies, several Spider-Man Memes from the old 60s cartoon, the comics themselves make an several appearances as part of the plot.  The whole thing feels very aware of itself while never really acknowledging itself.  It makes for a lot of great jokes and moments. 

It’s also really visually interesting.  It feels like a comic in motion.  Everything is very bright and colorful, and everything looks nice and smooth.  It’s a really great effect that would have never worked in a live action film.  I also like how the different Spideys are different styles as a not to their different universes.  SP//DR looks like an anime cartoon, Spider-Ham looks like a Looney Tunes cartoon, even a brief shot of Spider-Woman in her own world has a differently styled background that more matches what the Spider-Gwen comic looks like.

Spoilery Thoughts

So moving on to a little more actual detail.  I have to say, I really enjoyed the villains.  Granted, they were fairly throw away in the case of Scorpion and Tombstone and Goblin, Prowler and Doc Ock were both pretty cool.   I don’t know if lady Octavius appears in any comics, though I suspect she does, it was a twist I didn’t see coming since I wasn’t familiar with the source material.  While we’re on the subject of twists, I also didn’t know about the Prowler thing, though when it was being set up, it felt really obvious.  Prowler overall really shines and feels pretty menacing.  I really liked all of his moments and it’s a shame he didn’t get more screen time.

Then there’s Kingpin.  I, kind of hated Kingpin.   I have just come off of wrapping up Daredevil on Netflix, I definitely never expected Kingpin to be Vincent D’Onofrio’s Kingpin, but this Kingpin was so outlandishly cartoonish, I found him a little hard to take seriously.  Don’t get me wrong, every character in this is highly stylized, but Kingpin’s microscopic head and massive body is outlandish even by the stylization of this universe.  His design felt more out of place than Penny Parker, who was literally designed like a 2D anime girl.

I also really enjoyed the contrasting Peter Parkers.  Peter from Miles’ universe is basically peak Spider-Man.  Getting to see him in action was also great, because he’s just full on Spider-Man.  No dark angst or worry and conflict, just Spidey being Spidey.  Then we get to meet Midlife Crisis Spider-Man, commonly called Fat Spider-Man.   There is so much nuance going on here that work so well.  He’s out of shape and doesn’t really care, but when it counts, he still just does what he does.  He’s been in the game long enough that everything is second nature, but he also has been doing it long enough he’s kind of become jaded and apathetic.

Then there’s Spider-Woman who sort of contrasts between Miles and Peter (Fat Peter, amazing Peter dies early on).  She is still kind of a rookie at being Spider-Woman, but she is driven and confident in her abilities.  I also particularly liked how both Peter and Gwen basically just accepted everything, because they have already been through plenty.

This does bring up some bits that almost felt like they should have been addressed.  Maybe a director’s cut could add them, and maybe they got dropped because the writer’s didn’t want to complicate things.  Maybe it wasn’t addressed because it would be kind of creepy since Fat Peter is like 40 and Gwen Stacy is something like 15 or 16.  Basically, Peter and Gwen never really acknowledge their relationships with their alternate selves.  There is a sub plot involving Fat Spider-Man and the alternate Mary-Jane Watson too, so it’s not completely off the table.  Gwen mentions that she couldn’t save her friend, spoiler, Spider Gwen basically killed her Peter while he was The Lizard, but doesn’t really seem weirded out by meeting an older version of her dead friend.  Meanwhile we get no history from Peter and any Gwen Stacy he may have known.  Gwen Stacy dying is kind of a big moment for some versions of Spider-Man. 

Otherwise, I really have no real complaints about the movie.  It does a great job of just rolling with everything and assuming we either already know or can figure it out.  The crossover mix nature of the plot is great too because it keeps the origin story of Miles Morales from being being, because we get several experienced and capable Spideys to watch instead.  I almost wish they would do a Spider-Gwen movie now, because I really enjoy that book and enjoyed her presence in the movie.  There is a post credits scene that sets up more cross universe shenanigans so I’m sure the sequel will bring her back.  Hopefully it will give us more Midlife Crisis Spider-Man too.

The Inhumans – Season 1 – The End

Yeah, I skipped a few of these.  I just didn’t really feel compelled to write much about the last few episodes.  I really tried to like this, and really wanted to, and I was pretty excited to know there was an Inhumans movie/show coming for the longest time.  The actual product was just so… underwhelming.  I can retread some of the problems I’ve mentioned previously.  The complete lack of super powers.  The unlikable characters almost universally across the board.  The constant retreading of the plot itself about oppression of the people, blah blah.  Maybe a little more showing and a little less talking next time.

It seems that this show was apparently done by the same guy who did Iron Fist, and I can certainly see that.  I didn’t hate Iron Fist like a lot of folks did, but it is definitely the weakest of the Netflix shows for a lot of the same reasons.  The best parts of Iron Fist were all the parts involving the Hand.  Everything with the Meachums and all the bull shit around Rand Corp, that was boring and repetitive and lame.  Basically, once again, too much boring talking among unlikable characters, not enough super powers and action.

You can also contrast The Inhumans with the other currently running super hero series, The Gifted, which is a little light on the powers, and uses a lot of “non effects” powers like memory alteration and invisibility, but it still manages to keep up action and keep things moving.  I think my biggest probblem with this show is that it felt like nothing happened.  We got 8 episodes, but it was 8 episodes of the Royal Family wandering in the woods and 8 episodes of Maximus talking about how he wants to save the people.  Contrast this with something like, Agent Carter, which had this mini series slot on ABC before, where all sorts of crazy things happened and the plot kept moving along and building.

Even with 8 episodes we really just don’t get much out of the characters.  Block Bolt spends the entire series looking grumpy.  Medusa just comes off as a push bitch for the most part.  Crystal pretty much just escorts the dog around, Gorgon and Karnak have some weird undertones to their relationship going on but it’s not clear if they are just in a  great buddies romance or if the writer’s just didn’t want to deal with gay mixed couple space alien romance.

Almost all of the human characters of the series ended up being throwaways, though bootleg Felicity Smoak has some potential to maybe transcend into SHIELD or something.  I doubt it but she’s one of the more likeable characters in the series.

As for the last few episodes, Gorgon gets killed then revived through a second Terra Genesis which causes him to go kind of crazy.  Everyone returns to Attilan where Maximus has wired the place to be destroyed if he dies.  The Royal Family urgently tries to evacuate the city, which seems to be deserted anyway, I mean maybe some more shots of a panicked populations or something would help.  For all the talk of “The people” in this show, we barely get to see them at all.

Oh and Triton shows up, kind of randomly.  You know, that guy that fish guy Gorgon was supposed to find in Episode 1.  He’s just sort of another Karnak, in the sense of he does some martial arts occasionally and is bald (and green).  Ultimately though, nothing is really resolved in the series.  Everyone sort of does things, and stuff happens, but there feels like there isn’t any purpose to the actions being taken.  There’s just something missing here, and I can’t quite put my finger on it.

Someone is optimistic about the future of the show however.  There wasn’t really any resolution as to what happened to Maximus or Attilan, he’s trapped there and the place is sort of collapsing but never really dies.  There was some sort of weird glowing thing happening on the throne itself, but we don’t know what.  There’s mention of some sort of larger enemy, but no details given.  The Inhumans are all on Earth now to start anew, maybe in a new hidden city or just by blending in with the population.  What I’m saying is, there was a lot of set up for more, I just, seriously doubt there will BE more, given how poorly this show has gone over.

The Gifted – S01E05 – BoXed In

An important character died in The Inhumans and I couldn’t come up with anything I felt like writing about and skipped it. Yet here I am again with another installment of The Gifted.

One of the first thing that comes up is something I was left nagging at me from the last episode. Everyone returns to the base after the rescue, and Reed Strucker runs into Fade (the bartender) who immediately points out that Reed was working for Sentinel Services. This pretty much sets everyone on edge as they decide if they can even trust Reed.

Polaris and Eclipse are till out on their own trying to evade Sentinel. There was a really clever little moment where they worked together to take down drone flying above them, otherwise it was just a bit of bonding time. They encounter Agent Turner at a roadblock and take him hostage. Watching Polaris in action against Sentinel is so satisfying. Shades of Magneto all around, it’s great how effective her power is at quickly dispatching anyone with guns and body armor. Speaking of Agent Turner, we also get a flew glimpses at the past “Event” that’s been referenced a few times in the show, the event where his daughter died that drives him to stop Mutants.

Meanwhile the Struckers work to earn the trust of the Mutant Underground. Mrs Strucker works to help Trader who was shot last episode. Andy volunteers to donate blood to the cause. Reed uses his knowledge from working as a prosecute to help them decode Sentinel Services radio signals and to help lead the Sentinel search parties away from the area. Reed’s mission requires Fade’s ability to become invisible to help but Fade’s not too keen on the idea. The plan pretty much goes off as planned without a hitch aside from the expected moment of Fade showing up late to pick up Reed. Expected because it fits the idea that “he doesn’t trust this guy maybe he will betray him but oh he didn’t really.”

Eclipse and Polaris are working on interrogating Agent Turner to find out how they are controlling Pulse. They aren’t making a lot of progress and get interrupted by the arrival of more Sentinel troops who surround the building. Blink and Dreamer join them in the warehouse (via Blink’s portals) so Dreamer can extract memories from Turner. Polaris holds off the breaching team of soldiers briefly but they start using gas which she can’t stop so they are forced to evacuate. Not before Dreamer gets some glimpses as to what’s going on in Turner’s head. Dreamer being pulled away from Turner early also seems to scramble his brain a bit.

Finally, Blink confronts Dreamer about the memory that was implanted in her head. She realizes what has happened after watching what happened with Turner and is understandably upset about it. Blink isn’t the only one with memory issues, we get a moment with Agent Turner returning home to his wife, he no longer remembers his daughter being killed.

There were a lot of very “predictable” moments in this episode, but they can’t all be 100% original all the time. There seems to be kind of a cadence going on where we have an episode that’s a bit slower then one that’s more action packed. It’s a pretty good pace. Also, what’s up with the human characters being the doctor/nurse in these sorts of shows. I guess it’s just an excuse to give a non powered person an excuse to help a super powered person.

 

 

Review – Movie – Monster Trucks

So, I’m kind of a stupid sucker for this sort of thing. Kind of dumb movies based on dumb concepts. Monster Trucks really feels like one of those, in a meeting, guy says “What about, trucks, possessed by MONSTERS. And we could call it…. MONSTER TRUCKS. This is a Nickelodeon film and rated PG, so it’s pretty sanitary in it’s story and presentation. You’re not going to get much more than what you might expect. There’s quite a few faces that you’ll recognize in here as well, though the stars are Lucas Till, from MacGuyver as “Handsome outcast loser kid” and Jane Levy as “Nerdy Girl Love Interest”.

Some spoilerish thoughts and then a less spoilery wrap up beyond that.

Plot Summary

The film starts off with an oil company discovering an underground water source during a drilling operation. After penetrating the tunnels, a mysterious creature escapes from the well (several actually). They capture at least one creature and another hides inside a company truck that was crushed during the explosion.

A few notable characters are introduced, there’s a couple of Oil company people, a corporate jerk and a couple of science folks and there is this animal tracker/exterminator/tough dude hired by the Oil company. Honestly, their names aren’t super important, they are all pretty much just the characters you’d think of in these rolls existing. It’s clear they all basically exist to serve as plot foils for our hero in various ways.

Enter our hero, Tripp (MacGuyver). We get a brief introduction sequence, he seems to be kind of the loner stereotype though he doesn’t really look it, his mom and dad are divorced (the dad was working at the oil field) and his mom seems to be dating the town Sheriff. He also works at the local junk yard with Danny Glover in a wheelchair. The junked Oil company truck is dropped off and Tripp is rather excited by the prospect of taking the engine from it for his junker old timey project truck.

He soon discovers there is more to their truck after finding some missing oil, and later luring out the giant tentacled monster who has been drinking said oil. Around this time the Oil Company enforcer dude shows up with some goons. The monster sneaks off and hides inside Tripp’s Junker truck, where he remains for most of the movie. This also crates our first… Monster Truck. Tripp tells the goons to go ahead and search around while he pushes the truck and the monster out of the garage, where he runs into Jane Levy, who was coming by to help him out with some studying.

The monster starts acting up and she discovers the monster. With the goons quickly approaching they jump in the truck and the monster drives it off. They arrive at Meredith’s place (Jane Levy), where Tripp fixes up the truck so the monster and drive it better.

They take the Monster Truck out for a spin around town and to feed on some gasoline, only to discover gasoline kind of makes the Monster go kind of nutty. After some hi-jinks in the streets they end up ad Tripp’s dad’s place to get some more input on what happened with the Oil Field accident. His dad however rats them out to the Oil Company Goons. After a dramatic chase escape between the Truck, the Goons and the Sheriff, they end up at another place run by Meredith’s family, a cabin out in the woods.

You see kids, this is how we know she likes him, because she keeps hanging out with him and his crazy truck, despite all of the peril they keep getting involved with.

Through this whole crazy escapade, we’ve gotten a few glimpses at the Oil company scientist guy. It seems that he has two additional monsters help in captivity. After some testing, he finds that the monsters are smart and able to communicate telepathically with each other. He also greatly objects to the Oil Exec dude’s plan to kill the creatures so they can get on with drilling up Oil.

So the next morning Tripp and Meredith wake up to find that the monster as left. Fortunately, Meredith’s affections for Tripp are apparently creepier than they have been coming off because she has an app on her phone that is able to track Tripp’s phone, which is in the truck. Creepy much? Tripp doesn’t bat an eye at the fact that she has apparently been secretly stalking him using her cell phone. I mean tracking apps usually need special permissions, which would suggest at some point she snuck this app on her phone.

They track the monster to a facility owned by the Oil Execs and discover the other two creatures. Unfortunately, it was a trap and they are all ambushed and taken prisoner by the Oil Company guys. While being escorted off the premises, Meredith and Tripp are picked up by the Scientist guy, who wants to help the monsters escape so they don’t get killed. The scientists suggests they need to get the monsters back to the vent in the oil field so they can return home. But they need some way to move them fast.

Which brings us to… more… Monster Trucks.

Specifically, they essentially steal a couple of other trucks, rip out the engines and modify them using more stolen parts from a car dealer. But it’s for a good cause, or something.

Our heroes hijack the semi transporting the monsters and meet up with their newly hollowed out trucks. We get an action packed cross country race through the woods and up a mountain to the dig site, and some unexpected help from the Sheriff and our family of monsters is safely returned home. Everyone gets a nice feel good ending.

Thoughts

Ok, so yeah, this movie is definitely designed for a younger audience and it’s a Nick film. Most of the characters are all as a result pretty much cookie cutter stereotypes. The basic plot is… honestly pretty solid, as well as it’s execution. This is accepting the idea of tentacle monsters that like to control trucks is a thing. The real flaw of this film is that it’s a story that’s been done before, Kid (ok, the heroes are like 18 or something but you get the idea), kid finds alien/creature/sea animal and befriends it, corporate/government goons want to stop/kill said creature/alien, usually for “reasons” that amount to “they are the bad guys”. This movie doesn’t break any new ground. It’s still a pretty fun movie, and the special effects are pretty good as are the goofy stunts.

It’s not going to win any awards, but there are worse movies to watch and younger kids will get a kick out of the whole thing for sure.

 

The Gifted – S01E04 – eXit Strategy

Plot wise, this was certainly a pretty important episode but I can’t help but feel like it kind of stalled a bit in the first half, or more. Blink deals with the lingering fallout of the implanted memories, Eclipse meets with an old friend and interrogates a guy, the Strucker kids find a way to work together to focus Andy’s powers better. The ultimate goal is to hijack a convoy transporting Reed Strucker and Polaris between prisons.

There’s a lot of lead up to the action at the end, but it kind of feels like filler and it’s a little repetitious. We see the same sort of moments over and over with little plot movement.

Also kind of interesting though almost a side point, We get Trader, a mutant who makes himself invisible. I only find this notable because we’ve already had a mutant with this power in Fade, aka the Bartender guy. It kind of feels like a lot of times these sort of shows, and movies even, avoid duplicating powers like that, to avoid confusion. I mean it’s not unheard of, there are plenty of Mutants who share powers, it’s not just not super common in the TV/Movie world. Hell Polaris is almost a copy and paste job of Magneto in powers and personality. But then Magneto isn’t in this series.

Anyway, the meat and potatoes of this episode occurs int he last fifteen minutes, during the attack on the convoy. The plan, that we didn’t really get any insite into despite all of the build up goes completely sideways for reasons not immediately clear to our heroes. It turns out that Sentinel Services has a mutant named Pulse, who has the ability to disrupt other mutant’s powers. The Strucker kids are able to stop the convoy, but the plan to use Blink’s Portals and Trader as recon both fail.

Polaris and Reed bread free of their restraints inside the bus but the guards manage to beat them (literally) and keep them locked inside. Meanwhile, Thunderbird manages to subdue Pulse. Polaris notices that her powers have returned. Strangely, she’s apparently not quite as much of a copy and paste of Magneto as suspected. The bus and cage are lined with plastic. It seems her power can’t penetrate through plastic? It just seems kind of crazy that she can’t just rip the bus open at this point allowing for an escape. I guess she just isn’t powerful enough, because instead Strucker tells Polaris to rip the screws out of his knee replacement, which she does.

With their powers restored, they all make quick work of the escape. Blink makes a portal, Thunderbird and Eclipse rush to the bus to retrieve Polaris and Reed. It’s not really needed since Polaris breaks free on her own, stops the Sentinel soldier’s bullets, and disarms them. They all make their escape in an SUV.

The last notable thing, during the fight, Thunderbird notices a tattoo on Pulse’s wrist. Nothing more is said of it, but it’s clear it’s meant to be meaningful in some way. I’m sure there will be more to come.

 

The Inhumans – S01E05 – Something Inhuman Comes This Way

So, I was wrong last week,  I guess the Inhuman that Blackbolt and Medusa captured wasn’t the one who controls plants but an Inhuman named Locus, who uses echolocation to find people.  They did leave the other Inhuman from the prison behind though, which wasn’t super clear, because now Mortis has him captive.

A lot of this episode focuses on Karnak and the resolution of his story line.  Last episode had Karnak being intimate with the girl from the pot farm, which seemed to trigger the guy running the place because he shot his partner.  Things open up this week continuing this plot line, only now Karnak is in the gun’s sites.  Karnak and his girlfriend escape but she ends up shot int he process.  They are somewhat rescued when the dude chasing them gets called off by his bosses who are on the way to pick up the drugs.  The drug lord, for lack of anything better to call him, ends up shooting the pot farmer and sends his goons off to capture Karnak to tie up loose ends.  Ultimately Karnak and his girlfriend get captured.

Meanwhile both Gorgon and Black Bolt’s group are both heading towards Karnak’s location.  Gorgon is alone so there’s not much going on with that front but Black Bolt, Medusa and Locus are having a sort of heart to heart discussion about how most of the Inhumans are upset about the caste system.  Locus is unhappy that her “purpose” is to find things and that’s all she gets to do, though she wants to do more.  She keeps telling Black Bolt that he needs to be a better leader.  Medusa points out that Maximus isn’t any better, since he’s also just using her to find the Royal Family.

There are a few vague flashback sequences, between Karnak and Gorgon.  Basically how Gorgon is always screwing things up and Karnak is always picking up the pieces.  It feels a little hamfisted and ends up sort of being a set up for later int he show when Gorgon gets to rescue Karnak and fix Karnak’s problems.  I think the biggest issue I have with all of this is that it’s very sudden.  Like the whole point is to sort of show the relationship between Karnak and Gorgon, in the past.  It just doesn’t work super well given how segregated all of the characters have been.  I kind of feel like this is one of the biggest problems I’ve had with this show.  The main characters never interact with each other.  Instead they interact with all of these random humans, random humans that feel more like obstacles than characters.

Anyway, Gorgon frees Karnak and during their escape they reunite with Blackbolt and Medusa.  Karnak’s girlfriend suggests that they need to leave and she will stay behind to get the police to arrest the drug lord and his crew.  Also, apparently during the run up to their encounter, Locus got shot, because she decides to die very suddenly, I guess her usefulness was exhausted.  Just another example of how forced a lot of the events on this show are starting to feel.

We also get a few bits of Crystal bonding with her human friend and Auran reuniting with Mortis and planning to hold the Doctor hostage in order to draw out Blackbolt.

I’m kind of starting to feel glad this show isn’t going to be long running.  I kind of like the idea but I’m not really liking the execution here much.  I’m hoping, now that everyone is together again, we’ll get more interaction and things will get better.  We still have a bunch of kind of powerless super powered folks.  Karnak still doesn’t have his foresight abilities, Medusa is still shaved, Black Bolt still can’t speak without obliterating everyone.

I still kind of feel like the future of this show is pretty obvious.  After the group reunites with Crystal and Lockjaw, after dealing with Auran and crew, they will return to the moon.  Maybe Maximus has managed to get powers via the Doctor, but essentially Black Bolt will just return and probably be a better king, after having some new experiences.  It feels kind of predictable and I don’t really see any other direction or twists, especially given the limited time left.