“Hamilton” Film Review!

What is there to say about Hamilton that hasn’t now been said a million times before in the five years since the musical phenomenon burst onto Broadway? In those five years, Hamilton, the story of one of America’s most influential Founding Fathers, has sparked a mini revolution of passionate conversation about American history; inspired a dedicated fandom; and now, on the anniversary of America’s Declaration of Independence, made the long-awaited jump from stage to screen. There was never any doubt that this moment would be huge: Disney paid a hefty sum of $75M for the rights to the musical, and it’s already right up there with The Mandalorian as one of the most high-profile original productions that Disney+ has to offer. But the outpouring of support for the film is still incredible to see: yesterday, the day of its release, Hamilton and a slew of other hashtags related to the musical were among the top trends of Twitter, and people (like myself) flooded social media with our reactions. Amid all the talk, what is there left to say?

Hamilton
nytimes.com

Well, the fresh new format in which the musical is being presented is cause enough for conversation; though, unsurprisingly, it’s not quite as interesting a subject for many as, say, the story or world-famous soundtrack. The movie was filmed over the course of three days, with cameras placed in the audience during two live performances of the show, before moving onstage to achieve a more cinematic experience – no easy feat, I’m sure, considering how many dancers are often crowding the stage, sometimes so many that we lose sight of our main characters (one of only a few flaws in the actual staging of the musical). Overhead shots are utilized in a number of scenes, particularly for duels. And extreme close-ups bring us nearer to the actors’ facial acting than was ever possible before, even for front-row audiences: from Daveed Diggs’ repertoire of eye rolls and dramatic sneers as a quirky, flamboyantly dressed take on Thomas Jefferson; to the spit flying from King George III‘s (Jonathan Groff) mouth as he sings his breakup song to America, assuring them they’ll come back to him once they’ve had their fun.

Diggs and Groff are among a number of standouts in the supporting cast who surround Alexander Hamilton (Lin-Manuel Miranda) on his journey from poor immigrant to cornerstone of early American government. Diggs, notably, is one of several actors with two or more roles in the musical: before he transforms wholeheartedly into the fast-rapping character of Jefferson for the rousing second act, he is no less hilariously charismatic as the Marquis de Lafayette, America’s ally from across the Atlantic. Anthony Ramos is both Hamilton’s close friend John Laurens during the Revolutionary War, and then later his son Phillip (though the latter role is probably the more interesting of the two, I personally found Ramos to be more fun in the first, and I can’t wait to see him star in Lin-Manuel Miranda’s In The Heights next year: if coronavirus hadn’t moved the film from its original June 26th release date, these past few weeks would have been a showcase of Lin-Manuel’s musical talent; but then again, if coronavirus hadn’t struck, we would still have been waiting until October of next year to see the Hamilton film on the big screen).

Hamilton
standard.co.uk

In the next tier (not in terms of talent, but based on how close they are to Hamilton) we have Christopher Jackson as the indestructible, untouchable George Washington, whose role as a mentor and something of a father figure to Alexander Hamilton is pivotal to the entire story. There’s Angelica Schuyler (Renée Elise Goldsberry), one of Hamilton’s many lovers and the most dynamic, at least initially, of the three Schuyler sisters. And of course we have Leslie Odom Jr., who brings plenty of fiery passion to the somewhat underwritten character of Aaron Burr, an ambitious political candidate forever walking unwillingly in the shadows of larger-than-life figures; the man whom history will forever paint simply as the villain in Alexander Hamilton’s story. And isn’t that the whole theme of the musical? It’s a story about the power of legacy, and how powerless we are to define what that is; as George Washington notes, you have no control over “who lives, who dies, who tells your story”.

The woman who tells Alexander’s story and who, in my humble opinion as a first-time viewer, seems like the understated heroine of the piece, is Eliza Hamilton (Phillipa Soo), Alexander’s wife and later his biographer. Her personal journey, running parallel to Alexander’s lofty dreams, may seem small and inconsequential to some: but in the end, she is the woman still alive fifty years after her husband’s death, still sifting through his writings and trying to piece together a more complete picture of the man, continuing the work on the garden he never saw bear fruit, on the symphony he left unfinished. Hamilton is really a story about people like Eliza, the people who will tell our stories when we’re gone, if we’re lucky enough; whose own stories often get overlooked amid all the heated discourse about their subjects. And Lin-Manuel Miranda isn’t really a modern day Alexander Hamilton, but he is a modern day Eliza, taking back control of a narrative that rarely if ever finds a place for the marginalized, but using this opportunity to uniquely inspect the story of America’s foundation through their eyes: the eyes of immigrants, the Black community and people of color, women, radical thinkers. Through embellishing the story with song and liberally picking and choosing which parts of Hamilton’s life story to adapt, Miranda is exercising his own right as a creative and a chronicler to reinvent Hamilton once again for a more modern audience. It’s hard to tell how Eliza herself would react to all the fame and glory she and her husband now enjoy – but one would hope that, like her musical counterpart, she would gasp in joy and awe at the audience gathered to witness her husband’s legacy in motion.

Hamilton
npr.org

And then there’s Alexander himself: it’s hard to find many faults in Lin-Manuel Miranda’s performance, though it’s easy (and, in fact, important) to see the flaws in the complex character – apart from the historical fact that the real Hamilton was willing to stay silent on the issue of slavery whenever it suited him, the musical’s more liberal version of Alexander hurries through life, too concerned with his future to savor the present, too obsessed over protecting his legacy to be worried about what cost his actions have on those he loves. Alexander himself recognizes this and even sings about it on several occasions (most notably in “The World Was Wide Enough”), but once again it is Eliza who illustrates this point most brilliantly, in “Burn”, a heart-rending number sung in response to the devastating Reynolds Pamphlet scandal.

While we’re on the subject, my favorite subject, I want to highlight several of the songs which made the biggest impressions on me, at least during this viewing – first of many, I hope. Much to my surprise, neither “The Room Where It Happens” nor “Alexander Hamilton”, despite being the two most instantly recognizable songs from the show, would probably crack my top ten if I had to rank them all. “Burn”, my favorite off the entire soundtrack, draws our attention to the gaps in the narrative with its cleverly-constructed lyrics; George III has three catchy songs, each following the same melody, starting off with the sassy, self-righteous “You’ll Be Back”; Hamilton and Jefferson’s rap battles, particularly the first one, are exceptionally witty; and “Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story”, the final song in the musical, gives the story an appropriately epic send-off, reminding us once again that the legacies we leave behind are never truly ours and ours alone, but belong just as much to the people who survive us, who keep those legacies alive long after we’re gone.

In conclusion, I doubt I’ve managed to say anything truly new about Hamilton, but what I hope is that by lending my voice to the conversation I can help to draw further attention to this rare achievement in American theater. This show may look like a scrappy, low-budget historical reenactment, but what it lacks in spectacle it more than makes up for in passion and unquestionable cultural impact.

Movie Rating: 9/10

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“Artemis Fowl” Movie Review!

From my understanding, the Artemis Fowl books are supposed to be pretty good. For my part, I never really got into them all that much – I read the first book (though, to be honest, I think I page-skimmed it), never picked up the sequel, and forgot basically everything that happens in the story fairly quickly. So I went into this new Disney film adaptation without any pre-conceived notions of what Artemis Fowl ought to be about.

And it was still a crushing disappointment.

Artemis Fowl
Domovoi Butler, Holly Short, Mulch Diggums and Artemis Fowl | d23.com

Artemis Fowl, the movie, has a special place on the sadly long list of films that are somehow all plot and no plot at the same time. On the one hand, there’s oh so much going on: people are being kidnapped and ransomed left and right, shady deals are struck with the worst sorts of people, there’s an entire civilization of ancient Celtic fairies living in the center of the earth and they’ve lost a magical golden…vaguely acorn-shaped…thing…and some of them want to use it to…um, destroy the human race, I think….and there’s a whole subplot about who took the golden acorn thing in the first place and whether or not he was a traitor, but it’s hard to tell because this subplot is also only ever subtext despite being intrinsic to what I think was the main thrust of the story – and then on the other hand, this movie is basically just set up for a sequel which is never going to happen, because almost none of the story threads begun in Artemis Fowl actually end; they just peter out in the last twenty minutes of the movie, in a weirdly long, slow section of nothing happening.

This problem might never have occurred if the movie were about someone other than Artemis Fowl himself. Fowl, played by newcomer Ferdia Shaw, is a singularly uninteresting character who apparently is a masterful strategist, though we never get to see him work out any of his strategies – those are all explained to us with the help of some helpful narration from Mulch Diggums (Josh Gad) the giant, treasure-hunting Dwarf who claims to be the true hero of the story so many times that, by the end of the movie, I was convinced he should have been. Fowl, unfortunately, has all of the bark but no bite – for a boy who boasts loudly that he’s a criminal mastermind and struts around in suits and dark sunglasses like a miniature runway model, he doesn’t actually commit many crimes or do anything particularly cool. Everything that’s supposedly going on inside his enigmatic mind is firmly outside of the audience’s grasp, and the attitude he projects outwardly – that of a bratty, too-cool-for-school aristocrat – is unappealing and grating after a while.

Artemis Fowl
Domovoi Butler and Artemis Fowl | polygon.com

The film might have benefited from being reworked around a supporting character in the plot, Holly Short (Lara McDonnell). Short, a talented, up and coming officer in the fairy militia, is better written than her above-ground counterpart, and she has a more interesting story to tell, as the daughter of the fairy responsible for the whole mess with the golden acorn thing. And, while this might not be a deal-breaker when it comes to choosing your protagonist, she is also cooler than Artemis Fowl – she has mind-control and healing powers (underutilized, of course), a snazzy green outfit and wings, and technologically-advanced weaponry. She’s also one of the very few highlights of the film, and one of the only truly memorable performances.

And I say that with all due respect to Josh Gad and Colin Farrell (Farrell, never one to miss out on a Disney Dad role, is playing Artemis Fowl Sr.). Judi Dench is here and there throughout the movie as the fairy commander Root, and she has some good line delivery, but more could have been done with her character’s rough-and-tough personality and extensive vocabulary of imaginative insults. Nonso Anozie plays Domovoi Butler, the Fowl family’s bodyguard and butler (get it? Because his name is Butler?) with complete apathy, making it unintentionally comical when his character is supposed to break down in tears during “dramatic” moments. Then again, he’s given such wretched dialogue to work with, especially during his first few scenes, that I can’t honestly blame him for being unable to force out any emotions.

Artemis Fowl
Judi Dench as Root | theguardian.com

There’s a villain, but this is the type of villain who only works through clueless cronies and thus has virtually no real impact on the plot. Artemis Fowl never even has a confrontation with this character – presumably, that was being saved for the hypothetical sequel – and only ever gets to fight a few fairy soldiers and a troll. The former are dispatched with a variety of magical weapons in a bizarrely edited sequence that seems to operate on the principle that action is more exhilarating if it’s just sped up, and the latter is pointless, but takes so long to defeat that you begin to wonder if it’s actually the final boss battle of the movie, and then you realize that it is and so it’s yet another disappointment to add to the list.

As I watched the film, I was looking for something, anything, to compliment: at last, I had settled upon the music. It was Celtic, if a bit stereotypically so, and I like Celtic music. But then I made the mistake of listening to it as it plays over the closing credits, and that’s when I realized that the reason I liked it is because it’s virtually copied from Howard Shore’s brilliant “The Breaking Of The Fellowship”. It’s not completely identical – it’s nowhere near as good – but the similarities are unmistakable and made me dislike it too.

And while I may not know the books very well, I do happen to be an avid reader of Celtic, and particularly Irish, mythology, and so of course I was offended by the film’s reworking of ancient pagan folklore. The basics are there: the Tuatha Dé Danann were driven underground by humans long ago, and have diminished into the stuff of fairytale. But the modernized twist, with the fey folk now carrying modern weapons and listening to modern music (I was hoping beyond hope that the fairy music would have been provided by real Celtic musical artists, but I was, wait for it, disappointed yet again) felt like shoddy worldbuilding. The only bit that was clever, in my humble opinion, was the unusual but illuminating reveal that David Bowie was apparently a member of the fairy race.

Artemis Fowl
Artemis Fowl | ign.com

This film, simply put, is a disaster. There is little to no cohesion; characters feel half-baked; scenes are shot and edited poorly; it’s definitely not Kenneth Branagh’s finest achievement as a director, and even without any real knowledge of the books I’m positive it’s a let down for fans of the popular series. Though the film ends with a hook for a sequel, I doubt very much that this incarnation of Artemis Fowl will ever return to screens big or small (and on that point, I’m glad this film skipped theaters and headed straight to the Disney+ streaming service, so I didn’t have to risk catching coronavirus just for this). Instead, let me console you with the truth that, no matter what was planned to come next, it would likely have been just as disappointing as this turned out to be.

Movie Rating: 1.9/10

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Evan Peters Joins The Cast Of “WandaVision”!

First thing’s first, it’s important that we look at this news calmly and rationally, and not jump to conclusions because – OH MY GOD IT’S AN X-MEN CROSSOVER ISN’T IT??? X-MEN CROSSOVER, X-MEN CROSSOVER!!!

Forgive me. I’m calm now (*screams internally*). And I’m ready to very calmly discuss the news that just broke about actor Evan Peters joining the cast of Marvel Studios’ upcoming Disney+ series, WandaVision. Now, to those unfamiliar with the name, Peters’ casting is probably insignificant – but it shouldn’t be, because this is actually quite extraordinary and opens the door for…so many things (*cough, cough, Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. crossover*) that could drastically alter what we think we know of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s future.

Quicksilver WandaVision
comicbook.com

Evan Peters, you see, is probably best known for his portrayal of the mutant speedster Quicksilver in Fox’s most recent round of X-Men movies. These films didn’t quite match the cult classic status of Fox’s original X-Men trilogy, but a couple of individual castings were spot-on: and many fans agree that Evan Peters as Quicksilver was one of them. But unfortunately for Peters, his version of the character has always been overshadowed by the version of Quicksilver who appeared in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, played by Aaron Taylor-Johnson. Taylor-Johnson’s version had far more exposure than Peters’ thanks to appearing in one (almost universally condemned) Avengers movie before being unceremoniously killed off – thus, many Marvel fans are still rooting for him to reprise his role, without even considering the alternative.

But now, Disney owns Fox, and with Evan Peters being cast in WandaVision, it looks far more likely that Marvel is looking to bring his take on Quicksilver into the MCU. It’s plausible, I suppose, that Peters is playing a completely different character. But the WandaVision series literally focuses on Quicksilver’s twin sister Wanda Maximoff as she tries to warp reality to bring back deceased loved ones, so that seems like a truly bizarre coincidence, if it is the case. It’s also possible that both Peters and Taylor-Johnson will play the role – after all, Wanda is going to be toying with some pretty dangerous magic, so it’s easy to imagine her accidentally summoning two versions of her brother out of the Multiverse. Such a mishap would also feel right at home in a sit-com like the ones by which WandaVision is inspired.

WandaVision
themarysue.com

But even if Peters’ role is only for a cameo, it’s still a major step forward for the MCU. Up until now, we’ve cautiously hoped for crossovers like these: but this would be the biggest one yet. And if it goes well, it’s possible it could be followed by other, similar crossovers. Other X-Men stars could potentially show up for Multiverse cameos, or small supporting roles: for instance, fans are already reacting well to the footage we’ve seen of Anya Taylor-Joy and Maisie Williams as Magik and Wolfsbane in The New Mutants, which will be the last of Fox’s X-Men films whenever it finally gets released. Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. star Chloe Bennet is still waiting for her chance to appear in the mainstream Marvel universe. There are a bunch of talented actors and actresses who have become fan-favorites without ever once showing up in MCU canon, and they don’t deserve to be tossed aside. Peters’ casting bodes well for all of them.

On the other hand, the MCU does have a responsibility to differentiate itself from what came from – and let’s not fool ourselves: the reaction to most of the Fox X-Men films was mixed, to say the least. Therefore, even if Peters is playing Quicksilver in WandaVision, I expect him to only have a small role, and I doubt he’d ever show up again. But who knows? I never even imagined we would be here, discussing this.

What do you think of Evan Peters being cast? Who do you think he’s playing? Would you like to see any more crossovers from the various other franchises existing on the fringe of MCU canon? Share your own thoughts, theories and opinions in the comments below!

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Rick Riordan Developing “Percy Jackson” For Disney+!

It’s been a long wait, but the hopes and dreams of Percy Jackson fans worldwide (and there are a lot of them, as shown by the way they’ve taken over Twitter) have finally been realized – bestselling author Rick Riordan and his wife announced today that they have convinced Disney to adapt Riordan’s Percy Jackson And The Olympians series: a series many regard to be every bit as iconic and formative as the Harry Potter and Hunger Games books, and that, with a dedicated and faithful approach to the source material, could have just as much success onscreen as both those franchises.

Percy Jackson
bookstacked.com

But whereas both Harry Potter and The Hunger Games have only had one, definitive adaptation, Percy Jackson is different in that it was adapted once before – and fans of the books, including Riordan himself, were almost unanimous in declaring that the two films derived from the first two books in the series were badly-written, badly-cast, and just….well, bad. After the two films’ poor reception, the planned franchise (then owned by 20th Century Fox) quickly dried up, and any hope of a proper reboot seemed lost. Until this year, when Rick Riordan started casually dropping hints on his social media accounts that implied he had been meeting with Disney executives to discuss the possibility of a reboot – and now, at last, it’s finally here. It’s happening. And it might just be good.

The new adaptation will be a series, planned to debut on Disney+, the studio’s streaming platform. Riordan announced several details about the series: it will be a multi-season commitment, with each season covering one whole book in his original, five-part series (though there will likely be room for spinoffs, perhaps even ones adapting Riordan’s other series’ set in the same universe as Percy Jackson, such as Heroes Of Olympus and The Kane Chronicles, if this series does well). The first season, for instance, will consist of the entirety of the series’ first book, Percy Jackson And The Lightning Thief. For those of you not in the know, allow me to give you a quick rundown of the story (and let me assure you, I am not some poser copy-and-pasting summaries of the books from Wikipedia pages: I was and still am a big fan of Riordan’s work, and I own copies of all of his books, all the way through to The Trials Of Apollo. In fact, I’m so much of a fan that it drove me mad that I had to use images from others of Riordan’s books to fill out this post: unfortunately, there’s not enough images solely of art from Lightning Thief).

Percy Jackson
pinterest.com

The Lightning Thief sets up the saga of Percy Jackson, a twelve-year old boy when the story opens (very important point, we’ll get back to that), who quickly discovers that he is the secret son of Poseidon, the ancient Greek god of the ocean – which makes Percy both a demigod and a “half-blood”, a term applied to all characters in the series with one mortal and one immortal parent. Percy is swept off to Camp Half-Blood, where he encounters a host of other characters with similar backgrounds – but, for the first few books at least, Percy is the only demigod whose parent is one of the “Big Three”: that is, Zeus, Poseidon and Hades (not to be confused with the Hades who will soon show up in Disney’s live-action remake of Hercules). His supporting cast includes Annabeth Chase, a strategical, ingenious daughter of Athena, goddess of wisdom; Grover Underwood, a satyr entrusted with protecting Percy’s life from various mythological monsters (one of the best things about Riordan’s work is that he uses some truly obscure characters from the myths, rather than just exploiting the big names like Medusa, The Minotaur and The Hydra – in fact, those three monsters, despite being the most popular, are probably among those used the least overall in the series); and Luke Castellan, a son of Hermes and one of the senior members of Camp Half-Blood’s management alongside the immortal centaur Chiron and the expelled Olympian Dionysus, who goes by “Mr. D” while on earth. This core cast of characters is expanded as times goes on, and, of course, they are joined from time to time by a number of Greek gods: all of the pantheon, from Zeus to Hestia, show up in some form or another, and some play integral roles in the plot. These gods are on the brink of open war when the story begins, and Percy Jackson gets drawn into the middle of their conflict as a pawn, while trying to locate a dangerous artifact stolen from Zeus’ possession.

Percy Jackson
wallpapercave.com

Obviously, any adaptation of a work is going to make changes – that’s why it’s called an adaptation, and not a word-for-word translation. But most agree that the Percy Jackson series needs a more faithful adaptation than whatever it was we got in the film duology: in the films, Percy and his friends are all angsty teenagers rather than kids, and their humor is more coarse and adult than the witty style that Riordan wrote into his books; the films use overexposed and frankly boring monsters in place of some of Riordan’s more creative choices – one particularly awful instance is when The Hydra is employed as a substitute for Echidna and The Chimera, two far more compelling monsters; the gods are depicted as stereotypical Greek warriors of gargantuan stature, when in the books one of the defining features of the gods is how human they are – Poseidon wears tacky Hawaiian shirts and enjoys fishing, while Ares is a hyper-aggressive macho biker and Zeus is a permanently dour middle-aged man in a pinstripe suit; and the story is unnecessarily convoluted by the introduction of a new quest to find magical pearls that, in the books, is summed up in a single scene.

Needless to say, fans demand and expect better from Disney – what we (I feel comfortable saying we, because I do regard myself as a hardcore fan) expect is a series that highlights the best aspects of the books and reminds us just how much they meant to us, growing up. Percy Jackson made me into a Greek mythology buff, and I have retained all (or at least most) of the knowledge I obtained when, after reading the books, I would immediately set about researching every single mythological character referenced in the books, from Kronos (Lord of the Titans, imprisoned in Tartarus after brutally murdering his own father and then subsequently being brutally murdered by his own son, temporarily defeated by a hairbrush) to Kampê (demonic, scimitar-wielding entity ordered by Zeus to keep watch over the hundred-handed Hecatonkheires on Alcatraz Island). Thankfully, Rick Riordan assured us all that he will be supervising the development of the series, and will be on-set regularly to make sure everything is going smoothly, and his artistic vision is being respected.

Percy Jackson
hypable.com

I am also certain that Riordan, who has recently established himself as a progressive voice in young adult (YA) literature, will also insist that Disney includes far more diversity than he himself wrote into his first series of books. For example, several characters from his first series are confirmed, in more recent books, to be on the LGBTQ+ spectrum – but I think Riordan will at least try to have those often emotional coming out scenes happen sooner, rather than later. Similarly, I expect there to be several more female characters in the first season of the series than just Annabeth, Percy Jackson’s mom, the camp bully Clarisse, and a scattering of monsters and nymphs. I will also be interested to see if Grover, one of the few characters racebent for the film adaptation, will go back to being a white character in the reboot, or if Riordan will choose to keep that one element from those otherwise easily forgettable adaptations (though, if they do choose to make Grover black in the Disney+ series, I hope his portrayal will be more sympathetic this time, and less borderline overtly racist caricature).

As a side-note, I also just want to point out that I have several fancasts already brewing in my head, and I may feel the need to share some of them with you in another post somewhere down the line. So be on the lookout for that.

What do you think about this idea? How do you feel about Rick Riordan’s close involvement with the series’ production? What do you expect to see from a Percy Jackson show? Share your own thoughts, theories and opinions in the comments below!

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Katee Sackhoff Will Join “The Mandalorian” As Bo-Katan!

SPOILERS FOR THE CLONE WARS, STAR WARS: REBELS AND THE MANDALORIAN AHEAD

When a franchise is as divided and fragmented as Star Wars is, it can be a welcome relief to find evidence of continuity between that franchise’s various offshoots. Katee Sackhoff, the voice-actress behind the role of Bo-Katan on The Clone Wars, joining the cast of the second season of Disney+’s live-action phenomenon The Mandalorian might not seem like too much of a big deal: in fact, to some it might seem obvious, even predictable. But for someone still terrified that Marvel’s Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. will be officially decanonized and all its cast of characters recast as soon as the series ends, it’s like a glimmer of hope for the future.

The Mandalorian Bo-Katan
nerdist.com

Sackhoff is, however, an obvious choice to portray Bo-Katan, whom she has voiced in several seasons of the animated series, The Clone Wars – the fan-favorite character is a Mandalorian rebel aligned with the violent Deathwatch terrorists when we first meet her, but she quickly develops into a fascinating, nuanced woman, who hatches an elaborate plan to win her home planet back from the clutches of Sith Lord Darth Maul and his loyalists. After the death of her sister, the Duchess Satine, Bo-Katan becomes steely and frigid, but more devoted than ever to the Mandalorian way of life. By the end of The Clone Wars, she’s become the leader of Mandalore, and in Star Wars: Rebels, we see her accept the Darksaber, a symbol of Mandalorian patriotism, and embrace her destiny as the heroine who will unite the various Mandalorian clans. Sounds like she should be a pivotal figure in a story about the Mandalorians, right?

The Mandalorian Darksaber
slashfilm.com

Unfortunately for Bo-Katan, we also learned in The Mandalorian that her destiny was unfulfilled – as the villain Moff Gideon was seen wielding the very same Darksaber in the season finale, with no explanation of how or when he obtained it. It’s very likely that Bo-Katan was killed prior to the events of the series and the Darksaber taken from her, meaning that any role she may have in these upcoming seasons of The Mandalorian could be limited to appearances in flashbacks. But the Bo-Katan fan in me desperately hopes she somehow survived the brutality of the rebellion and the war against the Galactic Empire, not only because she’s a fun character who deserves a prominent role, but because Katee Sackhoff is a very underrated actress who could benefit from the exposure in what has proven to be Disney+’s most successful original series.

Bo-Katan is only the latest in a steadily growing line of animated characters making the jump to live-action: others, however, like former Jedi Ahsoka Tano and Mandalorian Sabine Wren, have been or likely will be recast for their appearances in The Mandalorian‘s highly anticipated second season (Tano and Wren are also rumored to appear in just one episode of the season, which will serve as a backdoor pilot for their own spinoff series: if that is true, it makes sense why Disney and Lucasfilm would want to cast bigger, more recognizable talent for the roles). Boba Fett will also make his return to Star Wars in the upcoming season, though it is believed he will only have a small role.

The Mandalorian
thewookieegunner.com

Assuming that Bo-Katan did, in fact, survive her fateful encounter with Moff Gideon or his forces, she could conceivably run into Din Djarin and Baby Yoda while on the hunt for Gideon and her stolen Darksaber. The character lends herself nicely to cool action sequences – thanks to her jetpack, secret weapons and martial arts prowess – and I’d be eager to see her take on Gideon in a fight. If it’s only through flashbacks, and the outcome of the fight is predetermined, then so be it…but I really do think there are many more things that could be done with her character, and I hope that’s taken into consideration before a decision is made to kill her off.

So what do you think? How do you feel about seeing Bo-Katan in live-action for the first time ever, in The Mandalorian? Share your own thoughts, theories and opinions in the comments below!

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“Ghost Rider” Coming To Disney+! Will The “Midnight Sons” Follow?

Though he’s probably among the most popular characters in the Marvel comics roster, Ghost Rider has had a hard time on screens both big and small. His first film adaptation came at a time when neither DC nor Marvel had yet figured out the magic formula for how to craft a comic book movie, and his appearance on TV, while still the best take on the character, had only limited appeal due to being on a TV show that far too few people actually watch – but now, it looks like Ghost Rider is heading to an even smaller type of screen (though, at the moment, a far more profitable one), and there, with the help of the established Marvel brand name and the tried-and-true Disney+ marketing strategy, he may finally get the success he deserves.

Ghost Rider
tvline.com

Ghost Rider is one of several dark, edgy characters who operate on the fringes of the Marvel Comics universe: the Rider in particular has always been one of the most unabashedly violent – he literally sells his soul to Satan himself (technically Mephisto, but whatever), so how could he not be? Whether the name belongs to stunt motorcyclist Johnny Blaze or car mechanic Robbie Reyes, a few key details always remain the same: he rides around at night with hellfire burning in his skeletal face, wielding whips, chains and a variety of other spiky weapons which he uses to harvest the souls of the damned, while fighting some of Marvel’s most powerful mystic villains – and occasionally, heroes, as he is rarely ever solely good or evil. It’s hard to imagine this character peacefully co-existing on the same family-friendly platform as other Disney brands.

That’s exactly why he was supposed to be heading to Hulu, with Gabriel Luna reprising the role of the Robbie Reyes version of the character – which he had already played, phenomenally, on the fourth season of ABC’s Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D., often said to be the series’ best. An idea for a spin-off following his character on more brutal, bloody exploits had already been written, but, sadly, the entire series was scrapped by Marvel president and producer Kevin Feige – at the time, it was believed that Feige had his own plans in store for the character, and now that has seemingly been confirmed. It looks like a version of Ghost Rider (probably Johnny Blaze, since it’s been strongly suggested that it’s not Reyes) will be going straight to Disney+, instead.

But whether Ghost Rider arrives on a motorcycle or in a muscle car, he won’t be alone. In fact, he could easily herald the creation of a new kind of superhero team in the MCU, one that is grittier and riskier than anything we’ve seen before. A couple potential members of this team are already popping up, though they will likely have to wait until the Rider arrives before they can actually form. I am, of course, referring to the infamous Midnight Sons.

Ghost Rider Midnight Sons
comicbook.com

In the comics, this team consists of a small, close-knit group of supernaturally gifted antiheroes, who usually work alone but come together in dire circumstances to protect the world from threats like demons, vampires and magic-users. Unsurprisingly, they’re closely affiliated with Doctor Strange, and his associate Doctor Voodoo. Membership changes on a regular basis, but characters like Ghost Rider, the Moon Knight, Blade and Elsa Bloodstone are all regulars at this point. And thankfully, almost every character on the team has a pretty good chance of showing up in the MCU in the near future, meaning that we could see them come together just in time for a third Doctor Strange film.

Ghost Rider Moon Knight
looper.com

Ghost Rider, obviously, is the very reason why this team would and should be assembled, so he’s a lock for a spot in the team’s line-up. Moon Knight, a mentally unstable CIA mercenary possessed by the spirit of an ancient Egyptian moon god, has his own Disney+ series on the way – some of his supporting cast, such as Werewolf By Night or even Stained Glass Scarlet, could make good Midnight Sons candidates. Mahershala Ali is set to play rogue vampire assassin Blade in an as yet undated solo film, which will probably also introduce the world to feisty British monster hunter Elsa Bloodstone. And Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness, the Sorcerer Supreme’s long-awaited sequel, is heavily rumored to feature Doctor Voodoo, as well as Strange’s love interest Clea – the niece of primordial demon Dormammu – whose horrific heritage should be enough to land her a spot on the team. With those specifics out of the way, all that remains to be done is to find them a proper villain to fight – and there are quite a few already lurking in the depths of the Fear Dimension, and elsewhere.

One of the most obvious and natural choices to take on the team during their first outing would be Karl Mordo, who was set up as a villain in Doctor Strange but hasn’t appeared since. His whole mission is to wipe out all the sorcerers in the MCU, meaning he’d have good reason to want to take down an entire team of powerful magic-users. The only problem I see with this idea is that Mordo doesn’t seem to have the strength to take on all the Midnight Sons at once, so he’d probably need to recruit several other…well, sorcerers, to his own cause. And that could work, if Mordo had been shown to be a hypocrite – but from what little we know of him, we can see that he truly believes everything he espouses. That means if Mordo does become a Midnight Sons antagonist, he should either be a third party trying to take out both the Sons and whoever their real enemies are, or he should get a serious power upgrade that could put him on the level of a Ghost Rider or Doctor Strange.

Ghost Rider Dracula
fullcirclecinema.com

But while we wait for that to happen, the Midnight Sons still need a villain – and in my opinion, it should either be Lilith, Mother of All Darkness and a frequent opponent of the team in the comics; or Dracula himself, who is rumored to make an appearance in the Moon Knight series and would probably also show up in Blade, whenever that movies comes out. Both of these villains are powerful and experienced: Lilith is an immortal survivor of the sinking of Atlantis (which means she could show up as early as next year’s The Eternals, which is said to feature that cataclysmic event), and comes with her own army of similarly demonic children, scattered around the world and waiting for her command to stir them into action; while Dracula, of course, is a 15th Century Transylvanian warlord and king of vampires. And while Dracula is actually the father of another character coincidentally named Lilith in the comics, the MCU version of the character could be the…wait for it….midnight son of Lilith, Mother of All Darkness. Writes itself, doesn’t it?

I’m partially kidding about that last bit, though I actually do think it would be a good idea to tie the two characters together somehow and have them both face the Midnight Sons in battle. In the Marvel comics, vampirism is often a hereditary trait, so it makes sense for vampires like Dracula to involve their whole families or clans in their own wars. And if we could see that war spread out across several MCU franchises, it could be a huge event with the potential for plenty of crossovers.

But what about you? Do you think Ghost Rider will bring the Midnight Sons into being, or will we have to wait even longer? Are all these characters possibly too dark for Disney+? Share your own thoughts, theories and opinions in the comments below!

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If Marvel Is Making “Secret Warriors”, They Need The Agents Of SHIELD

You know the feeling when you finish work on a long post about the upcoming Ironheart series and say to yourself, “well, now I just have to write one about Ghost Rider and I’ll be done for the day”, only to find out that a Secret Warriors project has apparently been announced for Disney+ while you were writing? No? Is this not something I can vent about to anyone? Does no one feel my pain???

Well, I can assure you of this: Marvel Studios is going to feel my pain if they dare to do the unthinkable and try to create their own Secret Warriors team, when they already have a perfectly good one on Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. And if they even think about recasting characters like Daisy Johnson or Yo Yo Rodriguez…let me just tell you, I respect Marvel, and I love most everything they do, but that – that would be unforgivable.

Secret Warriors Quake and Yo Yo
comicvine.gamespot.com

Now, it’s not being reported that they will definitely recast, or that this take on Secret Warriors will break Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. canon – but there’s only two versions of the Secret Warriors team that they could be adapting, and one of them has Squirrel Girl. No offense to Squirrel Girl, but I really don’t see her joining the Marvel Cinematic Universe anytime soon – or ever. And if I’m right, and Marvel wants to use the more classic iteration of the team, the one which includes characters popularized on Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D., well, that means that those of us who are fans of both the MCU and the MCU-adjacent TV programs could soon find our loyalties to both tested.

Honestly, it makes sense to bring the Secret Warriors into the fold of the MCU right now, as they play a crucial role in the Secret Invasion storyline, which is also supposedly being adapted for the small screen. In the comics, this small but effective task-force is assembled by Nick Fury to handle Skrull sleeper-agents who have infiltrated earth by using their shape-shifting abilities to impersonate government officials and superheroes. I didn’t know about the existence of this upcoming Marvel project when I wrote out my ideas for an entire Secret Invasion story arc just last night, but I think it would be easy to retroactively add them into my grand plan: since the main thrust of the Secret Invasion story seems like it might happen in space, simply have the Secret Warriors series (or movie; it’s unclear which it might be, though Marvel has yet to announce any Disney+ movies of their own) deal with the Skrulls who manage to slip in through the cracks and get past Nick Fury’s Agents of S.W.O.R.D. While team members Quake and Yo Yo have been to space before on Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D., the team as a whole is better suited to a small-scale, earth-based conflict.

Secret Warriors
outerplaces.com

In the comics, the Secret Warriors are made up of characters who, at least at the time of their introduction, were fairly new and unquestionably niche – characters like the Inhumans Quake and Yo Yo (the one a former hacker and political activist, the other a reformed weapons-dealer); Phobos, son of the Greek god Ares; Hellfire, a demolitions expert who wields a flaming whip; sorcerer Sebastian Druid; and superhuman strongman Stonewall (who, as his name implies, is a member of the LGBTQ+ community). But Marvel doesn’t have to go into this without any brand recognition: in fact, if they play their cards right, they could attract a pretty devoted group of fans – if they maintain continuity with the version of the Secret Warriors team that has already appeared on Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D., where both Quake and Yo Yo are prominent members, and Hellfire also made occasional appearances.

I’m not saying I wouldn’t watch a new Secret Warriors series or movie that didn’t feature Chloe Bennet’s Quake and Natalia Cordova-Buckley’s Yo Yo, but I am saying that I would be much happier if I were (Hellfire, in my opinion, was a small enough part that it could easily be recast). Seeing anyone else in those roles would feel wrong, because Bennet and Cordova-Buckley have done an incredible job bringing those two very obscure characters to life, and because Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. is already ending with its seventh season this very month: there’s no reason for Marvel not to scoop them up and bring them over into their own universe – especially since the Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. versions of the characters have already had plenty of experience fighting the Kree, who are very likely to be involved in the Secret Invasion storyline, as the chief nemeses of the Skrulls in the MCU. Why not take advantage of that connection? Why not build on it?

Secret Warriors
superherohype.com

The thing is, I’m not trying to be greedy or unreasonable. I’m not calling on Marvel to include the entire S.H.I.E.L.D. team in a Secret Warriors project, or anything like that (though, honestly, who wouldn’t want a Melinda May cameo?) – but I’m big on continuity, and I think Marvel is at its best when they find clever ways to tie all their various franchises together: in this case, it makes even more sense to do that because of how obscure the team is, even in the comics. More people might tune in to watch if they knew they could see some of their favorite characters again. At the very least, I would. But of course, this is all just my opinion – and it’s possible Marvel doesn’t even plan on using any established version of the team. Maybe they want the version with Squirrel Girl, I don’t know.

What do you think? Is this the perfect place for a crossover event with Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D., and if so, how would you like to see characters like Quake and Yo Yo join the MCU? Would you also borrow S.H.I.E.L.D.‘s version of Hellfire, or recast that role? Share your own thoughts, theories and opinions in the comments below!

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Marvel Developing “Ironheart” For Disney+!

Avengers: Endgame brought about an end to the storyline of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s founding father Tony Stark, but new rumors suggest that the super-genius inventor’s legacy will carry on in the new character of Ironheart, soon to make her MCU debut on the Disney+ streaming service. While the move is almost certain to anger many people, there are also a number of reasons to be very excited for Ironheart taking on the mantle of her predecessor Iron Man.

Ironheart
tvovermind.com

If true, the Ironheart series will join seven other Marvel series’ currently in development for Disney+ – and two others rumored to be in pre-production, a Secret Invasion series and a Ghost Rider project which I will also cover. An argument could be made that Marvel is over-expanding themselves, but so far we have yet to see the studio make a mistake: and many of their upcoming series’ are already attracting very positive buzz, as fans clamor to see the stories of characters like Falcon, Bucky Barnes, Wanda Maximoff, Loki and Hawkeye (is anyone actually clamoring for that last one?) continued on the small screen and with more screentime than they would receive in the movies. But the streaming service is also a place where Marvel is looking to introduce several new heroes, including Ironheart, also known as Riri Williams.

Williams is a recent addition to the roster of Marvel heroes in the comics, having made her solo debut in 2018. She’s an intelligent and capable young black woman who builds her own iron suit while still an M.I.T. student, and later receives Tony Stark’s own blessing. Her story is largely wound up with that of Stark and his wife Pepper Potts, who give the young heroine advice, refuge and assistance during her Ironheart missions. That obviously poses a little bit of a problem for the MCU version of the character, since Tony Stark is already dead and Pepper seems to have been retired.

Ironheart Tony Stark
inverse.com

The comics do provide a solution for this problem, as Riri Williams’ Ironheart is often accompanied by the Tony Stark A.I., a sentient hologram of the hero. In the MCU, it wouldn’t be hard to explain the existence of something like that – Tony Stark was constantly inventing things, and he prepared for his death far in advance: in Endgame, it was revealed that he had even prepared one last holographic message for his daughter to comfort her during his funeral. It wouldn’t be much of a stretch to have Riri discover that he had also built himself a second body and brain with a fully-functioning consciousness – again, there’s precedent in the way Stark (albeit unintentionally) designed and created his own sentient A.I. personal assistants, most notably Jarvis.

There’s just one more obstacle. Robert Downey Jr. would have to return – he would likely only be willing to do that if his role was substantial enough to warrant it, but to do justice to Ironheart, any role Tony Stark plays would have to be small enough that he doesn’t overshadow her character. It definitely wouldn’t benefit either character, or the show in general, if Tony Stark’s return to the MCU drew criticisms for a white savior narrative. If the screenwriters for the series could find a delicate balance, they might just be able to convince Downey Jr. to make a return to the MCU – but in my opinion, it would have to be a one-off: the A.I. tech might be broken or only half-finished, meaning that Stark only gets to stick around for the duration of the series.

Without Downey Jr.’s involvement, there’s still ways for Riri to be a compelling character. If having her encounter Tony Stark himself is impossible, she could still be inspired by his enduring legacy in the MCU – a fun alternative might be to have one of her role models be someone like Tony Stark’s best friend and sidekick War Machine, who is one of the saga’s most underrated characters, or Princess Shuri of Wakanda, another young, black super-genius. Riri’s main villain in the comics has an origin story that could be tinkered with to tie into either the Ms. Marvel Disney+ series or Shang-Chi, or both: Tomoe, or “Techno Golem” as she is more commonly referred to, is an Inhuman who uses her power as the head of the Southeast Asia Crime Syndicate to control an army of ninjas from her hideout in the criminal underworld of Osaka, Japan. And Riri herself, apart from all outside influences, isn’t just a tokenized legacy character, as some are quick to claim – quiet and introverted, but driven by her ingenuity, resourcefulness and passion for science to pursue her dreams, she also suffers from the trauma of witnessing the death of her best friend and her step-father in a shooting. With a talented actress in the role, she could easily be on par with Tony Stark, or his own hand-picked successor, Peter Parker.

Ironheart Marsai Martin
latimes.com

And who better to play this pioneering character than an actress like Marsai Martin? Martin is currently fifteen –  the exact same age as Riri Williams in the comics – and has the distinction of being Hollywood’s youngest producer, as well as a winner of several NAACP Image Awards. She is best known for her roles in ABC comedy Black-ish, and as the star of Universal’s Little, but she should have no problems transitioning over to Disney+.

So what do you think of the idea of an Ironheart series? Have I helped to convince you that it’s actually a pretty good idea, or are you still on the fence about it? Share your own thoughts, theories and opinions in the comments below!

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Marvel Developing “Secret Invasion” For Disney+!

The Secret Invasion saga is a Marvel comics storyline that many fans have been asking to see depicted on the big screen since it was revealed that Captain Marvel would introduce the story’s chief antagonists, the Skrulls, into the Marvel Cinematic Universe alongside their nemeses, the Kree. But it seems that, while the repercussions of the storyline will probably be felt in the films, much or even the entirety of the Secret Invasion saga will occur exclusively on Disney+, in the form of a new series for the streaming service, according to a new rumor.

That means that the details of the story will have to be changed for the MCU adaptation, because the scale will likely be far smaller – but that doesn’t come as too much of a blow, because we already knew that the storyline would have to be changed a lot after Captain Marvel revealed that the Skrulls were actually a largely peaceful people of exiled refugees, rather than the diabolical shape-shifting troublemakers they are in the comics. We actually have yet to meet any evil Skrulls in the MCU, though for a Secret Invasion storyline to work, there will have to be some: the whole premise revolves around a group of Skrulls led by the conniving queen Veranke, infiltrating earth by disguising themselves as prominent government officials and superheroes. In the comics, this story sprawls across the entire Marvel universe: it’s still possible that could work in the MCU as well, but we now know that the main characters standing in the way of Veranke (or whoever leads the Invasion in this adaptation) will be the Agents of S.W.O.R.D.

Secret Invasion
vocal.media

S.W.O.R.D., also known as the Sentient World Observation and Response Department, made what was almost certainly its MCU debut last year in an incredible Spider-Man: Far From Home post-credits scene which showed former S.H.I.E.L.D. director Nick Fury leisurely strolling around the hallways of a massive space-station manned by benevolent Skrull and human workers, while simultaneously giving orders to Skrull operatives Talos and Soren, who were posing on earth as Fury and his assistant Maria Hill, respectively. Since then we’ve also been given evidence to suggest that S.W.O.R.D. will have a large presence in the WandaVision Disney+ series. Now, it looks like the agents of S.W.O.R.D. will be getting their own series, in which we may be able to explore the inner workings of their organization, and fully understand their various responsibilities as protectors of earth against cosmic and extraterrestrial threats.

Obviously, we already have an Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. series, and it’s quite good, so it does seem likely that at least part of the inspiration for this Secret Invasion story was borrowed from that MCU-adjacent TV program, which is set to premiere its seventh and final season this very month. In the MCU, S.H.I.E.L.D. ceased to exist several years ago, and the TV series, while popular with a small and devoted fandom (including myself), has drifted further and further away from MCU canon with each successive season. So, despite how unfair it is, there likely won’t be any reference made to the agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. or their many exploits across space and time (though if there is, I have a few ideas for how they could be implemented into a Secret Invasion storyline, which I’ll discuss).

Secret Invasion Agents of SHIELD
aminoapps.com

Barring a surprise cameo in Black Widow or The Falcon And The Winter Soldier, S.W.O.R.D.’s first official appearance is likely to come in WandaVision – which, on the surface, seems like a strange place to introduce a group of space-based characters whose mission involves fighting aliens. But the tie-in to Wanda Maximoff’s multiverse adventure probably comes through the character of Hulkling, a half-Skrull, half-human superhero and member of the Young Avengers, who is the boyfriend of Wanda’s son Wiccan and is already rumored to appear in the WandaVision series. While he may not yet be a full-fledged agent in the series, his status as a bridge between humans and Skrulls makes him a key player in the relationship between the two peoples and, occasionally, a pawn in their politics. Certain members of the WandaVision cast, most notably Monica Rambeau and Thor fan-favorite Darcy, are also presumably more closely linked to S.W.O.R.D. than to Wanda herself – as a child in Captain Marvel, Rambeau was shown to have developed a close connection with the Skrulls and her comics counterpart is a cosmically-powered superheroine, while Darcy is an intrepid scientist specializing in the study of astrological abnormalities, a niche talent that came in handy in Thor: The Dark World and could make her an invaluable member of the S.W.O.R.D. team.

So already we have at least three characters who could easily be introduced as S.W.O.R.D. members who find themselves caught in the middle of Wanda Maximoff’s inner turmoil – perhaps due to Hulkling’s relationship with Wiccan, perhaps for another reason: it’s even possible that Wanda’s attempts to scramble the multiverse might endanger the earth, leaving it vulnerable to alien hostiles, something which could easily make her a target for S.W.O.R.D., though if that’s the case it’s hard to imagine why someone else, with a better understanding of the threat, wouldn’t be sent to deal with her instead. Again, I’m thinking Darcy’s experience with the Convergence incident could prepare her for dealing with this event, which might similarly feature a powerful and dangerous character trying to open a portal between worlds – though in this case, it would be Wanda, and her motives would be more sympathetic than Malekith’s.

The Secret Invasion series will most likely follow soon after – “soon” being a relative term in this case, considering that nothing is going to be happening truly soon with coronavirus still posing a threat to any filming in the foreseeable future. It is said to lead into the events of Captain Marvel 2, and could potentially feature a crossover with a Young Avengers series on Disney+, again because of Hulkling, who is a prominent member of that superhero team. Let’s start wildly theorizing now, shall we?

Secret Invasion Abigail Brand
pinterest.com

My guess is that the Secret Invasion series will start out with the core S.W.O.R.D. team already firmly established, having been assembled by Nick Fury prior to the events of Spider-Man: Far From Home but only just now emerging as a force to be reckoned with in the MCU. Apart from Hulkling, Monica Rambeau and Darcy, the team will be headed by a group of powerful individuals including Nick Fury, Maria Hill, Talos and Soren, and Monica’s mother Maria Rambeau, who was last seen in Captain Marvel, where she was Carol Danvers’ best friend and helped the heroine protect the Skrulls from an entire Kree army. The team’s commander in the comics, mysterious green-haired Abigail Brand, will also serve in a key leadership position. In the comics, a number of notable cosmic characters also stop in for guest appearances – some we’ve already met in the MCU like Captain Marvel, Peter Quill and Gamora; some we haven’t, like Thor’s long-lost half-sister Angela, and the bizarre alien warrior Beta Ray Bill. If we’re lucky, certain S.H.I.E.L.D. members might also make the jump to space, like Daisy Johnson, Melinda May, or the FitzSimmons duo: there are already rumors that Johnson, an Inhuman, could make a cameo in the Ms. Marvel Disney+ series, which will star another Inhuman character – if that is the case, I wouldn’t rule out Johnson and even Ms. Marvel showing up as part-time S.W.O.R.D. allies.

The plot of the series will revolve around this team of characters working on the space station known as The Peak when the Skrull invasion occurs. The invasion itself will be led by Veranke, and could be motivated for a number of reasons: it’s possible Hulkling could have something to do with it, and that the fight breaks out over him, but he’s already getting a lot of attention, so I’d rather that Veranke be inspired to attack earth when she hears of the secret Kree sleeper agents already established on the planet – these agents were briefly mentioned by Talos in Far From Home, in a manner that felt very significant. This way, Veranke and her Skrulls are inherently fighting for a good cause, but they’re also positioned as enemies to S.W.O.R.D., who will of course want to defend earth and deal with the Kree in their own way. If Marvel really wants to rip off Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D., they could even have Veranke be a S.W.O.R.D. member herself, who betrays the organization, though in this case she could do so because she feels like her and her peoples’ concerns are being ignored. She might also try to get Hulkling to join her on her mission, which could give his character a fascinating dilemma but doesn’t make him the chief focus of a Secret Invasion storyline.

Secret Invasion Veranke
comicbook.com

Of course, there would have to be some shape-shifting happening, or what would even be the point of a Secret Invasion? In the comics, Veranke herself takes the form of Spider-Woman, but Sony owns the rights to that character and is unlikely to want to stick her in a Disney+ series. Besides which, Veranke impersonating Spider-Woman only works if Spider-Woman is already an established and trusted character in the MCU, which she isn’t. And beyond that, the scope of this series will probably be far smaller than it would be if it were a film – meaning that whoever Veranke does impersonate will probably be someone like Nick Fury, or someone else in the core S.W.O.R.D. team, rather than a big-name Avenger.

In the comics, The Peak is destroyed during the Secret Invasion by a Skrull posing as “Dum Dum” Dugan, a character who has long been deceased in the MCU and thus will have to be replaced. Abigail Brand and a few other agents will, as in the comics, escape the annihilation of their headquarters with the help of emergency space-suits (though, as this event will likely happen at the end of the series, this could be a fitting place to kill off certain characters, even fan-favorites like Talos, who presumably wouldn’t have a large place in the MCU after a Secret Invasion storyline anyway). They will be saved by Monica Rambeau – who basically has to have gained her own superpowers and adopted the Photon mantle by that point, right? – and Captain Marvel, who could show up as a finale guest star. Having Captain Marvel there also sets up the events of her sequel film, in which she may have to team up with the remaining S.W.O.R.D. agents to take down both Veranke and the Kree’s Supreme Intelligence, which is still a considerable threat to the security of the galaxy.

After this story is concluded, I imagine we’ll continue to see the S.W.O.R.D. team in the MCU: Rambeau, thanks to her similar set of powers, can easily become Carol Danvers’ sidekick, and Hulkling will join the Young Avengers as a full-time member. It’s also worth noting at this point that the finale of this series has the potential to introduce – or at least tease – both the X-Men and the Fantastic Four. Mutants such as Lockheed the dragon and Hank McCoy both serve under Abigail Brand as agents of S.W.O.R.D., and Brand runs into Mister Fantastic while he’s being held prisoner on a Skrull starship after the destruction of The Peak. If either of these things happens in the series, even near the end, it has the potential to be the next big MCU crossover event.

Secret Invasion Skrulls
hollywoodreporter.com

So that’s what I think of a Secret Invasion/Agents Of S.W.O.R.D. series, and how it could work. These are all just my personal theories and educated guesses: nothing based in substantial fact. This whole story is also only a rumor at this point – nothing has even been confirmed by Disney, so it’s possible I’m moving too quickly. Nonetheless, I’m very interested to hear what you have to say on the matter, so be sure to share your thoughts, theories and opinions in the comments below!

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“The Clone Wars”: Season 7, Episode 12 Review!

SPOILERS FOR THE CLONE WARS FINALE AHEAD

You knew this day was coming. At some point, we would come to the end of all things, and I would inevitably make a Lord Of The Rings reference because, despite it having nothing to do with the situation at hand it’s still my go-to resource for quotes, and we would all start crying because, yes, The Clone Wars is actually over. And no, not over like it was over the last two times, but over as in it was resurrected from the dead by Disney, a final season was commissioned, and now we’ve breezed through that too. I have very mixed emotions about how I feel right now, so get ready for just a little ranting and rambling.

Clone Wars finale
cinemablend.com

If you’re here, I assume you saw the warning at the top of the post, but one can’t be too careful – we’re about to get into SPOILERS! territory, and, what with this being a finale, there’s sort of a lot of spoilers.

First of all, it’s sad. You may think that’s obvious, given that this is the final episode of a beloved series, but The Clone Wars finale is sad on a whole new level – to a point where it doesn’t even feel sad, it just feels depressing. Other Star Wars stories have seen fit to close out their final chapters with at least a small glimmer of hope (think baby Luke arriving on Tattooine while the galaxy crumbles into chaos at the end of Revenge Of The Sith, or Leia’s shocking but inspiring appearance at the end of Rogue One), but not so The Clone Wars, whose finale abandons all hope and veers into territory so foreign to the series, it makes this episode feel almost like a standalone – an eerie, grimdark, post-apocalyptic dystopian short story.

The melancholy, and occasionally ominous, score accompanying this episode only works to make it even darker, as does the bleak gray color palette. Even the setting is designed to depress: remember the good old days when we could follow our sprawling cast of heroes all around the galaxy, to new and exciting planets untouched by war? Yeah, well, most of this finale takes place on the Republic (technically now Imperial) star-cruiser still hurtling through hyperspace towards Coruscant, and Ahsoka Tano (voiced by Ashley Eckstein) spends most of the time trapped in the cruiser’s suffocating maze of passages, being hunted by her own clones and finding every escape route closed off to her.

Clone Wars finale
cbr.com

With all of the main characters busy running for their lives, it’s unsurprising that nobody has time to suddenly recognize they’re in a finale and start monologuing dramatically to each other. But this episode has shockingly little dialogue at all, and there’s not really that many last words to be said. Ahsoka’s final scene with her old friend Captain Rex (voiced, like all clones, by Dee Bradley Baker) is, in fact, completely silent, as Ahsoka mourns her fallen troopers (what makes it doubly sad is that they were literally a gift to her from Anakin) by creating a vaguely creepy public art display out of their helmets, and Rex huddles by a cheerless fire, trying to stay warm. As for Darth Maul (Sam Witwer), he steals a ship and disappears into space, off on his own quest to cause chaos and exact vengeance on those who wronged him – which at this point is pretty much everyone. At least he tears apart the star-cruiser’s hyperspace engines before he goes, which inadvertently allows Ahsoka to make her escape (and keeps her from falling into Emperor Palpatine’s hands).

The Clone Wars used to be a pretty cheerful, even funny series: but that’s not the case in the finale. There’s no humor at all, and we’re even forced to watch the happy, helpful droids introduced in last week’s episode as they get blown to bits, screaming in their shrill voices, by a merciless clone firing squad. And soon afterwards, every clone on the star cruiser, including ARC Trooper Jesse, dies when their ship hurtles out of hyperspace and smashes into the surface of a remote planet.

Clone Wars finale
cbr.com

The closest thing to a hopeful ending is the haunting final scene, which shows Darth Vader arriving on this planet and finding the strange grave-site built by Ahsoka, alongside one of her lightsabers. The following shot of Vader activating and brandishing the blue lightsaber is both a sad reminder of what he was before his fall, and a subtle nod towards the redemption he would still achieve: redemption that would make him worthy of once again carrying such a saber. But for the moment, Vader is still Vader – and he turns away from the desolate scene, leaving us to follow his diminishing silhouette reflected in the visor of a dead clone-trooper’s empty helmet. Is that what passes for hope these days?

I may sound like I’m complaining about the sadness, but…well, I am a little, actually, but I did enjoy every individual component that went into today’s episode. Everything from the animation to the action scenes was beautiful, even if it was sad – but it does make one wonder: does Star Wars have a problem with happy endings?

Now obviously, The Clone Wars was never a story that was going to end with all the main characters riding off into a double sunset: but for a series that started out as a cartoon meant for kids, this is certainly a dramatic and unexpected heel-turn. Let me try to explain: it’s fine, it’s perfectly natural in fact, for a series to mature as its audience does and get darker as times goes along – with The Clone Wars, it’s been more than a decade since the series’ first episode aired, so quite a lot of growing has been happening in the interim, and people who watched the show as kids are now adults. What I do take issue with, at least a little, is this cheerless, hopeless ending with which we’ve been left.

Clone Wars finale
comicbook.com

Star Wars as a whole started out much like The Clone Wars did, as pure, shameless escapism; that’s exactly why it became the pop culture phenomenon that it did. But in recent years, the franchise has become….much less fun. The prequels, by virtue of being the prequels, were expected to end in tragedy, misery and inescapable despair, of course – but then you’ve got the sequel trilogy, which avoided a traditional happy ending by basically reminding us that nothing, not even victory, is ever final in this universe: no matter how many times you try to balance the Force (which is what we all thought Anakin had done, back in Return Of The Jedi), it will never work. Rogue One ended with all the main cast dead, their bodies battered into specks of cosmic ash. Now The Clone Wars ends with much of the cast dead and the survivors scattered across the galaxy, and I’m left wondering: what did we accomplish, on that journey?

Well, it’s in the finale’s title: Victory And Death. But what that title conveniently leaves out is that the victory in question isn’t really one at all, because it could have happened at any time had not Emperor Palpatine personally constructed, initiated and drawn out the Clone Wars for years by cunningly manipulating both sides, and even his eventual defeat decades later will still only be a temporary one; and the death in the title isn’t just the demise of an individual, but the collapse of a society, the utter annihilation of a way of life, of an idea, of an idealistic concept upon which the Star Wars galaxy had been built. Is that all that Ahsoka Tano, Anakin Skywalker, Obi-Wan Kenobi and their friends actually achieved, after all that time?

It’s at moments like these that I begin to question whether Star Wars‘ recent trend of sad, cynical endings is actually a good one, or if the franchise is even trying anymore to be comforting. It doesn’t really feel brave anymore: in fact, much like how Pixar is increasingly being criticized for attempting to exploit audiences’ emotions, I sense that Star Wars is heading down a similar path, towards a place where all their stories are designed to leave viewers emotionally devastated. I hope that’s not the case, but after watching this episode, I can’t help but feel that way.

But yeah, happy May The 4th, everybody! Honestly, I don’t want to make it sound like I was left disappointed by the finale – I thought it was hauntingly beautiful, and, if despair was the emotion the showrunners were hoping to cultivate from their audiences, they succeeded. But at a time like this, when the real world is already so dark and the future so uncertain, I can’t say I wasn’t a little discouraged by this conclusion, even though, in the end, it won’t affect my overall rating of the episode.

Episode Rating: 8.5/10

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“The Clone Wars”: Season 7, Episode 11 Review!

Clone Wars Ahsoka

SPOILERS FOR THE CLONE WARS AHEAD

In its penultimate episode, The Clone Wars ties back into the events of the main Star Wars films in a way that could almost have felt jarring under worse direction – but with all the ingenuity and creative thinking that has made the series beloved by fans, this episode, fittingly titled Shattered, actually finds very clever ways to keep us, the audience, firmly invested in the stories of the series’ original characters while also throwing them into the midst of one of the films’ most memorable sequences: the brutal execution of Order 66.

Clone Wars Palpatine
slashfilm.com

All through the episode’s opening minutes, the haunting score keeps us on edge, waiting for that moment when millions of clone troopers all around the galaxy – clone troopers who, through the series’ run, we’ve come to love for their individuality – will simultaneously become mindless servants of Chancellor Palpatine (voiced here by Ian McDiarmid, using dialogue from Revenge Of The Sith) and turn on the Jedi Order with guns blazing, bringing the Clone Wars to an abrupt, violent end. After last week’s episode, where Darth Maul (Sam Witwer) was captured by the forces of former Jedi commander Ahsoka Tano (Ashley Eckstein), one would expect a triumphant, victorious atmosphere – but there’s little joy or comfort to be found on the planet Mandalore as new leader Bo-Katan (Katee Sackhoff) turns her attention to the grim task of rebuilding her peoples’ society from the ground up, and Ahsoka prepares to bring Darth Maul into the custody of the Jedi on Coruscant, while still weighing in her mind the Sith Lord’s terrible prophecies.

As I suspected, the Jedi Purge is set into motion during Ahsoka’s journey through hyperspace, moments after she has a telepathic Force vision of Anakin Skywalker‘s (partially voiced by Matt Lanter, partially using Hayden Christensen’s dialogue) turn to the Dark Side and the violent death of Jedi Master Mace Windu (voiced by TC Carson, with some dialogue by Samuel L. Jackson) during his fight with Palpatine in the Chancellor’s offices. Thankfully, The Clone Wars‘ method of showing the Purge doesn’t involve actually reenacting any of the notable Jedi deaths from Revenge Of The Sith through another devastating montage – instead, we witness the whole event through Ahsoka’s eyes, as her entire crew begins firing on her without warning, forcing her to make a daring escape. Despite the fact that, earlier in the episode, Mace Windu insists on calling Ahsoka a “citizen” rather than a Jedi and other members of the Order seem to subtly demean her for her choice to become a neutral rogue, it appears that Palpatine wasn’t willing to make an exception for the padawan whose banishment he had partially orchestrated.

Clone Wars Ahsoka
meaww.com

Ahsoka isn’t completely alone in the episode, however: during the initial attack, she can easily see that her long-time friend Captain Rex (voiced, like all clones, by Dee Bradley Baker) has tears streaming down his face as he pulls the trigger on her with shaking fingers – meaning that, despite how effective Palpatine’s brainwashing has been, there’s still hope for any clone who can successfully remove the inhibitor chip planted inside their brain. When she unearths sealed documents and testimonies from Rex, she also stumbles upon evidence regarding the mysterious cases of Fives, who, in the series’ sixth season, discovered the plot to exterminate the Jedi far too early and was personally tortured by Palpatine to the point of madness. It’s a harsh reminder of another of The Clone Wars‘ most powerful, emotional story arcs, but a beautifully fitting way to give Fives the justice he deserves, even if it is a little too late to save most of the Jedi. The main thrust of the narrative in this episode follows Ahsoka as she tries to corner Rex and get him into the medical bay, with the intention of removing the inhibitor and freeing him.

Another character she has to free is Darth Maul himself, whom she actually saves from execution – somewhere along the line, Palpatine must have added Maul’s name to his long hit-list. Maul, even without the aid of his classic lightsaber, is still able to give Ahsoka the distraction she needs, keeping the clone troopers busy with his savage fighting techniques: he beheads people, he slices people in half, he even uses the Force to cut one man’s arm off in an automatic door. As of the end of the episode, we don’t know where he is now or what he plans to do once the ship is cleared of hostiles – will he and Ahsoka have to make a deal in the series’ final episode? Will he have already escaped by the time she and Rex are free? We have no clue, yet. But, since one of the unexpected joys of this season has been watching Ahsoka and Darth Maul put aside their differences to fight a common enemy, I really hope they get at least one final encounter.

There are a bunch of notable moments from this episode. Ahsoka and Master Yoda (Tom Kane) have their last conversation ever, via hologram: both are reluctant to say too much to the other, unfortunately, which makes their dialogue far sadder – neither one gets to say all the things that should have been said in that moment. Ahsoka also chooses to withhold the information Maul gave her last week regarding Anakin and his pull to the Dark Side: information which would definitely have been helpful just a few minutes later. There’s a cute scene where Ahsoka recruits her starship’s team of maintenance droids for help – which provides some organic cheerfulness in an otherwise dark and ominous story. The episode ends with Ahsoka connecting to Rex through the Force and locating his inhibitor chip – something which causes Rex to see through his brainwashing, convincing him to help Ahsoka. But, judging by the huge army of clones currently trying to break down the medical bay doors, I suspect the duo will need help if they’re going to escape from the starship: which is also, if I’m not mistaken, still on its way to Coruscant, the new heart of the Galactic Empire and Palpatine’s reign of terror.

Clone Wars
meaww.com

All in all, it’s been an emotional journey, and I’m excited (though also sad) that we’ll get to finish it on May the 4th, when the series finale premieres. In the meantime, we have the whole weekend to cry over the thousands of dead Jedi now littering the Star Wars galaxy, the uncertain fate of Ahsoka Tano, and the fall of Anakin Skywalker. Like most Star Wars stories, The Clone Wars seems destined to end in bittersweet tragedy – but I’ve had a great time getting here. We’ve traveled from one corner of the universe to the other alongside Ahsoka, Rex, and the gang, and I’m glad we’ll at least get the chance to properly say goodbye to them as well.

Episode Rating: 9/10

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“The Clone Wars”: Season 7, Episode 10 Review!

CLONE WARS SPOILERS AHEAD!

Aided by a magical combination of fabulous voice-acting, stunning animation and mind-blowing writing, the tenth episode of The Clone Wars‘ seventh and final season has not only managed to exceed my wildest expectations (which were already high!), but has also quickly emerged as one of my favorite episodes of the entire series: all seven seasons, every choice made along the way, has led us to this – and the payoff is just as rewarding as we all hoped it would be (and mind you, the real payoff is still ahead: this is just a warm-up exercise for what’s to come!).

Clone Wars Darth Maul
meaww.com

Not a moment of screentime is wasted. This episode doesn’t even open with Tom Kane’s iconic voice-over recap, instead placing us directly into the action and drama, right where we left off last week – with Ahsoka Tano (voiced by Ashley Eckstein), alone and outnumbered, standing against the massive, hulking might of Darth Maul (voiced by Sam Witwer) and his small but deadly army of loyal Mandalorian terrorists. But the fighting takes a moment to get started, because Maul, characteristically, has something he needs to say – and Witwer brings his all to the role this week (not that he ever doesn’t, but he’s particularly good now), truly elevating the material and dialogue he’s working with – which is already so well written that it’s sparked some jokes on the internet, where Maul is currently trending on social media platforms, about where the former Sith apprentice had time to take a crash course in political sciences. But along with an expanded vocabulary, Maul arrives on the scene newly equipped with a fascinating humanity and philosophical, introspective attitude: something that might have been hard to imagine back when Maul was first introduced in Star Wars: The Phantom Menace as the mute, cool-looking apprentice of Darth Sidious – in fact, it might still have been hard to imagine even when Maul was resurrected in an earlier season of The Clone Wars as a monstrous creature tormented by a lust for vengeance. But over time, as showrunners and screenwriters have slowly recognized his potential, he has transformed into one of the series’ most compelling characters: a villain, but one slowly moving into the extreme middle of the divide between the Sith and the Jedi. He may still fight with his classic, doubled-bladed red lightsaber, but he is just as much a neutral third party as Ahsoka Tano herself. Is he turning to the light side of the Force? No. Is he becoming more fair and just in his old age? No. But as he himself quips during the episode: “Justice is merely the construct of the current power base”. Maul is now working on his own, outside the influences of either Chancellor Palpatine’s Republic or Darth Sidious’ Separatist Union, looking to establish a place for himself in the coming chaos. But in the episode’s biggest, most shocking twist he reveals that he can’t do it alone – so he reaches out to Ahsoka for her help.

And Ahsoka wavers. Maul touches on all her weaknesses, pointing out that she left the Jedi Order willingly, because she could not stand for their hypocrisy and corrupt politics. He reminds her that the balance of power in the galaxy is about to shift, and that the Jedi will collapse in a matter of days, maybe even hours, or minutes. He informs her that Darth Sidious has been playing both sides of the Clone Wars, toying with the agendas of both the Jedi and the Sith. Ahsoka, whose entire arc has led her straight into the same neutral zone as Maul, can’t help but see the truth and reason in his words. She doesn’t hesitate long: she agrees to join him. But then Maul ruins his own masterfully crafted plan when he tells Ahsoka that her Jedi master, Anakin Skywalker, is destined to become Darth Sidious’ greatest tool and weapon in the fight to topple the balance of the Force. And Ahsoka, unable to reconcile with the idea that Anakin could ever betray her, makes her move, rejecting Maul’s proposal and initiating…a light-saber duel.

Clone Wars
newsbreak.com

What a duel! With original Darth Maul actor Ray Park returning to perform the motion-capture for his character, and Lauren Mary Kim doing the same for Ahsoka Tano, the fight feels fully realized and unique. The action sweeps through the great throne room of Mandalore (which turns out to be an amazing set-piece, something that became clear to me when the hall’s stained-glass windows all simultaneously shattered inwards, ensnaring the duelists in a breeze of flying, multi-colored shards), and then gets carried out into the fiery hellscape of the city itself, where Maul’s loyalists are fighting the Mandalorians led by Bo-Katan (Katee Sackhoff). Everything you want from a light-saber fight, you get in this episode – there’s acrobatics and a precarious balancing-act at one point, the opponents both have dazzling elegance, and there’s a lot of Force use involved.

But in the end, it’s Ahsoka, surprisingly, who gets the upper hand – catching Maul with her Force powers as he falls, pleading to die, and holding him there until her clone troopers can take him hostage. With Maul’s forces already surrendering on the ground, it looks like the Siege of Mandalore might already be over: but the season isn’t, which means something big is still coming.

It’s not too hard to take a guess as to what that might be. On the margins of the episode’s story, we hear little snippets of news about how the Clone Wars is going: Count Dooku is dead by Anakin Skywalker’s hand, and Obi-Wan Kenobi (James Arnold Taylor) is on his way to kill General Grievous on Utapau, meaning it shouldn’t take very long to get to the great purge, and the systematic extermination of the Jedi across the galaxy. In this episode, we already saw ARC trooper Jesse (Dee Bradley Baker) become a prisoner of Darth Maul and surrender his mind to the powerful Sith – it’s possible that something occurred offscreen during their encounter that will cause Jesse’s programming to malfunction, leading him to attack Ahsoka before Order 66 has even begun. That could give Ahsoka some warning so that she can try and save some of the other clones under her command – or she might be forced to kill them all to save herself, which would be heartbreaking and utterly brutal to watch. All I know is that somehow, someway, Darth Maul is going to escape from his bonds – and a chaotic melee between his captors would pose the perfect opportunity for him to do just that.

So what do you think? How are you enjoying this final season of The Clone Wars, and what do you think will happen next? Share your own thoughts, theories and opinions in the comments below!

Episode Rating: 9.5/10

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