The ancient world has always been fascinating. The mixture of mythology, history, and curiosity about life back then has piqued the interest of modern people for centuries.
The new MCU/DisneyPlus series, Moon Knight, premiered last Wednesday. Steven Grant/Marc Spector (Oscar Isaac) is a former member of the US Marines. Living in London and working at a museum gift shop, Steven/Marc has a figurative weight attached to his ankle via dissociative identity disorder. Blacking out and then having vivid dreams of another life, he encounters Arthur Harrow (Ethan Hawke). Arthur is an enemy from one of Steven/Marc’s other life. To say that he is dangerous is an understatement.
He soon finds out that he has the powers of an Egyptian Mood G-d. Though the powers appear to be a windfall, there is a downside that he quickly discovers.
I walked into this series completely blind. This is the first time I’ve heard of Moon Knight. Knowing nothing about what I was about to watch was a good thing. I had no expectations, therefore I cannot be disappointed by any changes that have been made from the original text.
I liked the inclusion of mental illness. It is one more step away from stigma and one step closer to acceptance. My problem is that I was confused. Maybe it’s the plot or maybe it’s because I am totally new to this world. Either way, the jumping back and forth was a bit confusing. What did make me want to at least watch the next episode was when he turned into his superhero alter-ego.
The beauty of a world like the MCU universe is that the number of stories that can be told is nearly endless. Over the last year or so, DisneyPlus has released four different series that extend the narrative beyond the ones that exist on the big screen. The list below is my ranking of the existing series.
Loki: Tom Hiddleston shines once more as the trickster g-d turned hero. With Owen Wilson as a mid-level bureaucrat and Sophia Di Martino as Sylvie/the Variant, the program takes one of Marvel’s most beloved and iconic characters in surprising directions.
WandaVision: A loving rip-off of the family sitcom over the decades, Elisabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany returned to the roles of Wanda Maximoff and Vision. An allegory of grief and loss, it speaks to how difficult it is to lose the ones we love. The highlight at least for me, was Kathryn Hahn as nosy neighbor/baddie Agatha Harkness. That is a character for the ages
What If…: This animated series takes the narrative into new directions, introducing new storylines and mixing characters in ways that do not fit into the big screen timeline. From a writing perspective, this program is completely unique and a lovely way to take this world to places where it had not been before.
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier: Taking place after Avengers: Endgame, this is sort of a buddy comedy meets series with a not-so-subtle political message. Though it was did not quite hit the mark as other series did, it was still relatively engaging. The addition of Erin Kellyman’s character, who turns from baddie to hero was a nice twist that I happily did not see coming.
A parent’s love for their child is a powerful thing. Sometimes, this leads to actions that might be considered odd or out of the box.
In the 2015 film, Ant-Man, Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) is a con-man with a past and a record. He is also a father who adores his daughter. Given a super suit that allow him to change his size, Scott joins his mentor Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) to save the world against Darren Cross (Corey Stoll). Joining Scott on his path to superhero-dom is Hank’s daughter Hope Van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly).
This movie is so much fun. I can’t comment on the transfer from the page to screen because I have never read the comic book. The best thing is that it does not take itself too seriously, which allows the audience to have fun in a fully engrossing and entertaining manner. The actors have amazing chemistry, the special effects are nicely balanced with the narrative, and Lilly’s character stands on her own two feet without being limited to the relationships she has with the male characters.
Movies and/or television shows that are based on comic books have been part of our modern entertainment era for decades. What is important is the balance between the source material and the enjoyment of the audience.
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings was released into theaters a few weeks ago. Based on the comic book of the same name, we are initially introduced to twenty something Shaun (Simu Liu). Living in San Francisco, he and his best friend Katy (Awkwafina) earn their living parking cars. Reality intervenes when Shaun’s ancient warlord father Xu Wenwu (Tony Chiu-Wai Leung) send his goons to bring his son back to China. On the plane, Shaun tells Katy that his real name is Shang-Chi and the truth about his family. Meeting up with his sister Xialing (Meng’er Zhang), they have to come together to defeat their father and prevent an even greater disaster from occurring.
I loved this movie. Though I have no knowledge of the narrative or the character arcs within the books themselves, I can say with certainty that the film adaption is superb. I loved the balance of the comedy and the action. The female characters who surround Shang are not sitting in the background, waiting to be rescued. They are as important to the action as the male characters. The one role that stood out to me was Xu Wenwu. He is akin to Anakin Skywalker in that his intentions are good, but his actions are not exactly on the up and up.
Do I recommend it? Yes.
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is currently in theaters.
No one’s past is crystal clear. It is full of potholes, bad memories, and mistakes that still linger in our minds. When facing our past, we can either run from it or face it.
The new Marvel movie, Black Widow, premiered two weeks ago. It takes place between Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War. The film opens on an average American suburban family in Ohio sitting down to dinner. But dinner is cut short when their true identity as Russian spies is revealed and they must hightail it out of the US. It then cuts to the present. Black Widow/Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) has discovered a conspiracy that is tied to her previous life as an assassin and spy. When she becomes a target, she must turn to the family that was assigned to her by the spy agency. Her younger sister, Yelena (Florence Pugh), father Alexei (David Harbour), and mother Melina (Rachel Weisz) have all gone their separate ways. Revealing the source of the conspiracy and ending it requires more than a physical coming together as a group, it means facing the unhealed emotional wounds that still linger.
This movie is amazing. The action and stunts are well balanced with the humor and the emotion. As an audience member, I saw the main character as more than a superhero who is able to save the day. I saw a woman who is conflicted about both her present and her past. She makes the difficult decision to look at what she has done square in the eye instead of running from it. It a lesson that goes well beyond the genre and movies in general.
Do I recommend it? Absolutely.
Black Widow is now in theaters.
P.S. Stay for the mid credit scene. The wait is long, but it is worth it.
Audiences love a good antagonist. They have the ability to make the narrative more interesting and challenge both the protagonist and the audience.
The new DisneyPlus series, Loki, premiered on Wednesday. It start where Avengers: Endgame left off. When Loki (a glorious Tom Hiddleston) is able to get his hands on the Tesseract, he evades justice. But it is a short escape. Captured by the Time Variance Authority or TVA, he is accused of changing the timeline. His minder, Mobius (Owen Wilson) is in charge of building the TVA’s case against the prisoner. But when a greater evil emerges, Loki may turn from villain to hero.
What a way to kick off a new series. Hiddleston, Wilson, and company are having fun and it shows. I loved the transition from Loki being a straight up baddie to a complicated character who you want to root for, in spite of his past. Kudos goes to the production design team who created a set colored by shades of 1970’s brown and burnt orange. It is a nice change from the bright and colorful world that the Avengers live in.
Do I recommend it? Absolutely.
New episodes are released every Wednesday on DisneyPlus.
When fighting against injustice, superheroes don’t always wear capes or use fantastic weaponry. Some are just brave enough to stand up and speak their truths.
Earlier this months, recent Texashigh school graduate Paxton Smith stepped up the microphone to give her valedictorian speech. Instead of reading from the text that was approved by the administration, she used her platform to speak out against the heartbeat bill signed into law by Governor Greg Abbott.
The problem with this bill is that it goes into effect before pregnancy is detected, taking away the person’s right to make a decision about their body and their future. The problem with this bill and others like it is that is shortsighted. It does not take into account if the pregnancy comes about via rape, incest, or if it is medically necessary to abort the pregnancy. It also ignores the millions of already existing children who for a variety of reasons, are growing up in less than economically ideal circumstances. Where is the need to help those kids?
We need more young women like Paxton Smith. With future leaders like her, I see a bright future for this country.
There comes a point in which a brand has to realize that not every IP needs multiple spinoffs. After the massive success of Endgame and WandaVision, the next logical step is to greenlight other offshoots with other characters from within the same universe. The problem is not every one of them is worthy of it’s predecessor. The problem with The Falcon and the Winter Soldier is that while it is entertaining, it is not as good as WandaVision.
Do I recommend it? Maybe.
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier is available for streaming on DisneyPlus.
Words, words, words... well said Hamlet! A little blog to go off on tangents within the worlds of history and literature that interest me. From the Tudors to Tom Hardy's Tess, or from the Wars of the Roses to Wuthering Heights, feel free to browse through my musings to pick up extra ideas and points for discussion!