“Hawkeye” Delayed Indefinitely!

Marvel Studios’ Phase Four is sure to be just as successful as the previous three, and will almost assuredly rake in just as much, if not more, money for the studio and legendary producer Kevin Feige. So I don’t doubt that, no matter how much bad publicity may plague Phase Four right now, everything will work out just fine for Marvel and Disney: it always does. That being said, bad publicity is so rare for the Marvel Cinematic Universe that I think we should take a moment to acknowledge that, for the time being, the studio certainly seems to be experiencing some difficulties when it comes to crafting their next big master-plan, and piecing together dozens of converging subplots and story-threads. Just recently, Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness director Scott Derrickson quit the project over “creative differences” and concerns that he wouldn’t be able to meet his deadlines. Tonight, the Hawkeye series on Disney+ is the latest Marvel project to experience setbacks, as it has been put on the back-burner and shifted off the studio’s busy production schedule, despite earlier reports that it would begin filming in July.

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No official reason has been given for the series’ delay, but it looks like Disney is trying to make room for alleged star Hailee Steinfeld to fulfill her current commitments to Apple TV before joining the superhero streaming series that will (supposedly) see her suit up as Hawkeye’s young protege, archer extraordinaire Kate Bishop. According to other sources, Disney is determined to win Steinfeld, but also isn’t afraid to move on from her, if she can’t work out her own schedule to accommodate both Hawkeye and her zany historical-fiction comedy Dickinson.

It is not being reported, but some fans are already speculating that the delay is in part caused by star Jeremy Renner’s own personal scandals, which erupted into the spotlight several months ago, leading to widespread concern (or excitement, depending on how you feel about the actor) that Renner would be recast, or written off the series, with the entire focus being redirected on his younger costar. This is not something that has come up since, but it’s still worth keeping in mind.

And, if the delay drags on with no start-date in sight, Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D star Adrianne Palicki already has an idea for a substitute: the actress posted on her social media that Marvel has her phone number, and should take this opportunity to contact her with the intention of writing a streaming series based around her S.H.I.E.L.D character, Bobbi Morse a.k.a Mockingbird. I’ve speculated in the past that Morse, who has a strong connection to Kate Bishop in the comics, could be a fun supporting character on the Hawkeye series, especially played by Palicki – but I have to admit, Palicki’s own suggestion sounds even cooler (I’ve never really been a fan of Hawkeye himself, to be honest).

Considering that the series premise has only had a lukewarm reception so far, even with the casting of Renner and Steinfeld, it doesn’t look like anyone is going to be biting their nails in breathless anticipation, waiting to see when the show will finally go into production – but when it does, I’ll be sure to report on it.

How do you feel about the delay, and do you think Mockingbird should get her own series instead of Hawkeye? Share your thoughts, theories and opinions in the comments below!

“The Falcon And The Winter Soldier” Head For Madripoor!

The Mandalorian has concluded its first season’s massively-hyped run, and now everybody seems to have one question, and one question only: what do we watch on Disney+ now, while we wait for the second season of the Star Wars serial?

Well, for the moment, you’re going to have to stick to whatever else you’ve been watching on Disney+ in between Mandalorian episodes: you could catch up on The World According To Jeff Goldblum, or binge-watch a gazillion old movies that you never even knew existed. You could just rewatch The Mandalorian, if that appeals to you. But don’t worry: Disney+ has some particularly exciting new content coming next year – Marvel Studios’ The Falcon And The Winter Soldier will drop on the streaming platform in the fall of 2020, and I’m here with all the latest updates and info to tell you why you should be excited for the series.

The Falcon And The Winter Soldier (or TFATWS: the series’ title is absurdly long, and I have no idea who came up with it) will follow the adventures of Anthony Mackie’s Sam Wilson and Sebastian Stan as Bucky Barnes in a post-Avengers: Endgame world crawling with villains and criminals of the worst sorts – Baron Zemo, the mastermind behind the Avengers’ downfall, will make an appearance, having apparently escaped from prison since the events of Captain America: Civil War; alongside him will be white Southern conservative John Walker, a homegrown hero turned brainwashed zealot who, in comics published during the Reagan administration, unofficially donned the Captain America moniker in response to Sam Wilson, a black man, carrying the hero’s title – just as there will be multiple Black Widows in Black Widow, TFATWS could introduce a conflict between the two Captain Americas, and explore the larger question of what it means to be the face of the USA, and who has the right to earn that honor. It’s unclear just how deeply Marvel wishes to dive into this political discussion, but if done correctly it could be a risky, important story that demands to be told at this moment in American history.

While unconfirmed, it looks like Zemo and Walker will be joined by a third villain – Arnim Zola, the disembodied conscious of the Nazi scientist who set up the foundations of the HYDRA organization after the Second World War. Zola’s functional brain/super-computer was destroyed in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, but it seems that the evil genius could have found a way to live on, perhaps through the form of his children, Jet and Leo. Minor antagonists could include Battlestar and Songbird. But the biggest surprise of all, and the most recent one, is the revelation that parts of the story may take place on the fictional island of Madripoor.

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Madripoor, a wealthy island paradise located off the coast of Singapore, is a crime-capital in the Marvel Comics Universe, having attracted numerous villains to its sunny beaches and seafront cities – and, thus, just as many heroes. And, interestingly, many of the characters who have visited the island in the comics are characters with upcoming Marvel movies and Disney+ shows: Hawkeye and Kate Bishop staged a daring raid on a Madripoor hotel to save Hawkeye’s reputation from being publicly ruined; Shang-Chi defeated a dragon dwelling in the ocean beneath the island; and the X-Men, including Wolverine and Magneto, have also visited on occasion. We don’t yet know who will inhabit the island in TFATWS, but it wouldn’t surprise me any if Baron Zemo had set up shop there to recruit his very own team of villains – possibly the legendary Thunderbolts, possibly a different group. Characters who could show up on Madripoor include crime lord and martial artist Tyger Tiger, who was installed as governor of the region by Tony Stark, and the mysterious vampire Sapphire Styx; both characters would provide good opportunities for Southeast Asian diversity in the Marvel roster.

Madripoor is such a fascinating location, it would also be exciting if it continued to feature in future Marvel projects – while the Hawkeye series could potentially make a stop at the island getaway, I’d love to see it as a prominent location in Shang-Chi And The Legend Of The Ten Rings, where our hero could get into some crazy fights and action sequences amongst all the casinos, hotels, and dazzling beachfront villas and boulevards.

Filming for the Madripoor sequences will likely take place in Puerto Rico, where the series is expected to film at some point early next year.

What do you think of Sam and Bucky shipping out to Madripoor, and what characters and comic-cameos do you expect to see there? Share your own thoughts, theories and opinions in the comments below!

“The Mandalorian: Chapter 8” Review!

The final episode of The Mandalorian‘s first season on Disney+ is quite appropriately titled Redemption – for not only does the title work in-universe, but it’s also an amusingly apt reflection on the fact that Redemption very literally redeems the slow-paced series’ many mishaps. The plot itself often seemed like an afterthought while Mando (Pedro Pascal) and his tiny, adorable sidekick Baby Yoda traveled the galaxy, stopping in at random planets to marvel at the visual spectacle and meet new friends – or enemies. But in the season finale, masterfully directed by Taika Waititi, the story is rich, thrilling, entertaining and emotional; the characters feel more fleshed-out than they have appeared previously; and, most importantly, Baby Yoda is the cutest we’ve seen him yet.

And that’s all I’ll say in the non-spoilers section. If you haven’t watched the episode yet, but plan to, then turn away now! SPOILERS AHEAD!

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The finale is chock-full of plot twists and gasp-out-loud revelations, but none more bewildering than the fact that Taika Waititi, who has never directed a Star Wars property previously, is somehow able to ease into the director’s chair for Redemption with all the graceful assurance of Dave Filoni, who at first glance would seem the natural choice to bring this series home to its epic (and thankfully, only temporary) conclusion. Waititi’s work here is surprisingly understated: you’d be hard-pressed to find any clues that this episode comes from the mind that brought you crazy, colorful comedies like Thor: Ragnarok or Jojo Rabbit (though it is amusingly unsurprising that the finale stars Waititi’s own character, assassin turned nurse droid IG-11, in a particularly prominent role). Obviously, directing a single good episode of TV doesn’t warrant immediately getting a three-picture deal with Lucasfilm, but hey, why not give Waititi a shot at his very own Star Wars trilogy?

Another surprise that boggled my mind, at least, was that Mandalorians are cool – for what I feel is the first time, despite everyone else in the world idolizing the very ground that Boba Fett walks upon. And one of the coolest things about them (apart from jetpacks and flamethrowers) is that they’re not a specific race of people, as Cara Dune (Gina Carano) reveals during an emotional moment in the episode: they’re a creed. Not only does it reinforce a particularly Rian Johnson theme in Disney’s Star Wars, that anyone can be a Mandalorian without having to have been born one, but it also makes the Mandalorians seem a lot more noble – in an extended flashback sequence which haunts our protagonist’s mind, we witness a squad of the flying, armored warriors acting as human shields for wounded refugees trying to escape from brutal droid-warfare: and it is revealed that during this battle, a young orphaned boy named Din Djarin was rescued by these Mandalorians and taken to safety with them – that boy was our very own “Mando”, whom I guess we can finally call Din Djarin? We’ve actually known that name for a while (Pedro Pascal ever-so-slightly spoiled it last month), but it’s only now canon, meaning I can only now use it. Yes, the Mandalorians are still vaguely cultish, and more than a little creepy, but at least they’re not solely defined by characters like Jango and Boba Fett anymore, or even just the term of “bounty hunter”. Djarin’s other biggest secret, his face, was also finally revealed in this episode…and, well, it’s Pedro Pascal’s face. I’m not entirely sure what we were all expecting, but honestly, that reveal was a bit underwhelming. It’s not like his face was even altered in any way: he didn’t have any scars or third-degree burns to speak of, no missing eyes or other distinguishing facial features. Not even a different hair color.

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Djarin’s secrets weren’t the only ones brought to light: IG-11 is revealed to have been entirely reformed by Kuiil’s repairs, riding in to rescue Baby Yoda from a couple of monstrous stormtroopers who amuse themselves by punching and mocking the adorable little infant – the droid then straps The Child into a baby-backpack and goes on a killing spree around Nevarro, mowing down stormtroopers. He later sacrifices himself to rescue the whole team, self-destructing and blowing an entire legion of enemies sky-high. Baby Yoda himself is given his own hero moment when he faces down a flamethrower-wielding stormtrooper and deflects the attacker’s fire back at him: there’s a couple more reveals about his character, but I need to address those separately. Then there’s Cara Dune, whose home planet is revealed to be Alderaan (Princess Leia’s planet, infamously blown to pieces by the Death Star in A New Hope), thus explaining her undying grudge against the Empire. Greef Karga (Carl Weathers) turns out to have been an ex-Imperial himself, though that big secret falls a little flat due to the fact that we barely even know Karga, and have always been on-the-fence about whether or not to trust him and his Bounty Hunters Guild, anyway.

The person doing a lot of this dramatic-revealing is none other than Moff Gideon (Giancarlo Esposito), who is being set up to be the series’ big bad, and Din Djarin’s arch-nemesis. Gideon toys with his victims as they shelter in the burnt-out rubble of Werner Herzog’s lair, spilling their secrets to the world and promising them tantalizingly good deals if they’ll only hand over Baby Yoda. We never do find out what Gideon or Herzog wanted with The Child (and, come to think of it, we never even found out Herzog’s character name or purpose in the story, before he was unceremoniously murdered in the assault on his hideout), but considering how despicably evil Gideon is revealed to be, I’m going to assume it’s not because either of them just wanted cuddles and hugs. Gideon is also shown to have an alarmingly dangerous arsenal: not only can his tiny little handgun pierce through beskar steel, but the Moff is also a trained TIE-fighter pilot capable of handling his own in a dogfight. Oh yeah, and he just so happens to be in possession of the one black lightsaber in the entire galaxy, no biggie.

The lightsaber in question, better known as the Darksaber, has never been seen in live-action before this day, though it was seen in the animated series, Star Wars Rebels, which gave us a couple clues about the saber’s history. It was crafted by Tarre Vizsla, the first Mandalorian Jedi, during the reign of the Old Republic, and has since meandered across the universe, through the hands of a number of notable peoples and individuals, including the belligerent Mandalorian Clan Vizsla (to whose ranks Din Djarin appears to belong), the legendary Sith Lord Darth Maul, and Nite Owls leader Bo-Katan, who was the last known person to wield the blade, almost a decade before we seen Moff Gideon crawl from the wreckage of his TIE-fighter with the weapon in hand. The Darksaber is something of a mystical item, bestowing upon its wielder the title of Mand’alor, or leader of the Mandalorians – Gideon certainly has a fascination with the religious order, having been personally involved with eradicating them during the Great Purge and keeping tabs on those who survived. And now that he’s back on his feet, we can safely assume Din Djarin and Baby Yoda won’t be safe from his murderous rage anytime soon.

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But for the moment, Din has a more urgent problem to worry about: while visiting his old friend The Armorer (Emily Swallow), he was gifted a number of odds-and-ends, including his very own jetpack, a personal sigil, and custody over Baby Yoda – which, apparently, is something that The Armorer can just hand out to anybody she feels like. But there’s a catch: while she tells Djarin to protect and train the baby (and even bestows upon them a title, the “Clan of Two”, which seems to hint at Star Wars’ common theme of duality), she also instructs him to seek out the child’s people – it’s not clearly indicated whether she’s referring specifically to Baby Yoda’s birth-family, or the Jedi in general, but it’s obvious that this will be a central plot-point in the series’ second season. But honestly, as much as we all want to see a whole planet of Baby Yodas, I think I’m just as excited to see The Child training as a Mandalorian – just so long as Din Djarin doesn’t try to make him wear a ridiculous helmet of his own: Baby Yoda’s adorable, expressive little puppet-face will not be hidden from the world, not if I and the internet have anything to say about the matter.

For the record, I think there’s a decent chance that we do actually see the home-planet of The Child’s species in The Mandalorian, and that the Jedi sage Yaddle will be revealed to be his mother. I know, I know, Yaddle is presumed dead – but there’s never been any conclusive evidence that that is the case, and honestly, she deserves so much more recognition than she gets. You know what, I’m just gonna say it: I think Yaddle is a better character than Yoda. Come at me, Yoda stans!

We’ve been left with a number of pressing questions from the season finale, but a bunch of mysteries have also been resolved, and we’ve left Din Djarin and Baby Yoda in a good place, all things considered. What did you think of the finale? Are you excited for Season 2? Share your thoughts and theories in the comments below!

Episode Rating: 9/10

“The Mandalorian: Chapter 7” Review!

Minor SPOILERS For Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker Ahead!

The penultimate installment in The Mandalorian‘s (sometimes) epic journey dropped last Wednesday, so as to avoid having to compete with Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker‘s Friday release date, but I am only just getting around to reviewing the suspenseful episode today. And I’m pleased to announce that, while the series has moved too slowly up until now, director Deborah Chow once again manages to send a jolt of tension into the story’s creaking mechanics just in time for the season finale.

The episode opens with The Mandalorian (voiced by Pedro Pascal: it was revealed recently that Pascal himself only occasionally portrays the masked and armored mercenary physically) receiving an urgent message telling him to return to the city of Nevarro with his precious cargo, the adorable Baby Yoda. But Mando, still finding time for detours in all the chaos and fast-paced action, first makes brief stops to two other planets to recruit former ally Cara Dune (Gina Carano) as additional muscle, and blurg-herder Kuiil (Nick Nolte) as a babysitter for The Child. But things don’t go entirely according to plan, and everything that happens next is one big spoiler – and for once, I actually mean that. This episode actually does have some twists and turns, and one shocking cliffhanger ending.

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The first big surprise comes when Baby Yoda uses the Force to try and choke Cara Dune as she arm-wrestles the Mandalorian on his ship. The action is undeniably defensive on the Baby’s part, as he was obviously just trying to protect Mando from what he thought was real physical harm, but it still leaves the audience reeling: yes, Baby Yoda is capable of actually killing someone with the Force already, and isn’t afraid to use his powers. Not much later, he uses the Force to heal a wound dealt to Greef Karga (Carl Weathers) in a battle with giant bats. This is even more alarming than the Force-choke incident – Baby Yoda is one of only two (possibly three) characters in the current Star Wars canon to possess Force-healing abilities, the other(s?) being revealed in Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker. That would seem to suggest that Baby Yoda is very powerful and very unique, and it’s no wonder that the Empire wants him – we just don’t know what they plan to do with him.

But we will find out soon enough: after entering Nevarro and finding the city overrun with ex-Imperial stormtroopers, Mando, Karga and Dune come face-to-face with Werner Herzog’s mysterious character, still known only as The Client, while Kuiil takes Baby Yoda and rides as fast as possible back to the Mandalorian’s ship. But while Mando’s plan initially seems to be successful, as he guns down an entire squadron of stormtroopers and seemingly kills Herzog’s character, Kuiil isn’t so lucky. Stormtroopers intercept the mustachioed alien’s communications with Mando and hunt him down even as he tries to escape: the episode leaves us with a heartbreaking final shot of Kuiil’s tiny body, still smoking from a fatal laser blast, lying just a few feet from the spaceship. And Baby Yoda? The stormtroopers have him in their grasp.

Mando and his little team aren’t in great shape either, going into the finale. Their story leaves off with them barricaded inside Herzog’s lair, while dozens of stormtroopers surround them on all sides – far more than the “four” bodyguards that Karga had warned them about going into the mission. And that’s not even the worst of it: arriving in a majestic Imperial TIE-fighter, resplendent in military uniform, is Moff Gideon (Giancarlo Esposito) a new character to the Star Wars universe, but not wholly unfamiliar either: A New Hope introduced fans to Peter Cushing as the menacing Grand Moff Tarkin, commander of the first Death Star, and there have been a couple other “Moffs” here and there, grand or otherwise. Gideon, with his battalion of special death-troopers, certainly looks like one of the ex-Empire’s most senior officials. Whatever he is, his intentions are clear: he wants Baby Yoda, and, knowing the Moffs, he’s probably prepared to blow up the entire city of Nevarro to get his hands on the adorable little creature – I mean, can we blame him? Poor guy’s probably been scouring the internet for good-quality Baby Yoda plushies and has finally snapped and gone after the real deal. That’s a perfectly legitimate villain origin story.

Other highlights from the tense episode include the return of IG-11 (voiced by Taika Waititi), the assassin droid whom Mando slew in the very first episode. Kuiil reveals that he found and repaired the droid, and that the former bounty hunter no longer remembers his past life of brutality and violence, and is now a willing servant, farmhand and waiter. But the droid’s eerie interactions with his killer suggest that maybe IG-11 is just waiting for his chance to strike.

As we wait for the eighth and final episode in the series, I think it’s about time we started considering how many of our pressing questions can logically be answered in a forty-minute finale: will we learn who Baby Yoda is, and what the Empire wants with him? Will we learn anything about the state of the Empire at this point in time, and will it help to clarify certain elements of The Rise Of Skywalker? Will more of the Mandalorian’s former friends and enemies make an appearance one last time, or will it just be him, Dune, Karga and Yoda against the world? Will Mando remove his mask, give us a hint of his shadowy backstory, or explain why he hates droids so much? Was it Moff Gideon who approached Fennec Shand’s body on the sands of Tatooine in Episode 5, or was that another, as yet unknown character? We’ve got a lot of questions, and Episode 7, aptly titled The Reckoning, has only added more to the mix.

Fingers crossed that the finale can answer at least a couple of them.

Episode Rating: 8/10

“The Mandalorian: Chapter 6” Review!

While I was not fond of Rick Famuyiwa’s first episode of The Mandalorian, The Child, I feel he has done much to redeem himself in the story’s newest entry, The Prisoner, which sees our protagonist finally become…well, the protagonist. Though the episode does absolutely nothing to course-correct a show that still has no throughline, it at least gives us great action sequences and an eerily suspenseful prison-heist storyline to distract us from that detail: at this point, it seems highly unlikely that the show’s first season will do anything beyond the established formula of having each episode begin with The Mandalorian (Pedro Pascal) either having to fix his spaceship or earn money (money he never seems to use), achieving his goal by means of a detour or side-quest, and then leaving for another corner of the galaxy. While it’s not exactly thrilling, it’s at least got impressive world-building.

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And finally, it just might have a hero. Our lead character, the masked, emotionless, practical Mandalorian, has been set up as an enigma over the course of the last five episodes – but at the same time, he’s also been shown to be a rather clumsy fighter (in Famuyiwa’s previous episode, he was nearly killed by a rhino and humiliated by a pack of Jawas) and somebody who doesn’t tend to think ahead. But now, armored with beskar steel and armed with flamethrowers, garrotes and “whistling birds”, the Mandalorian is finally getting a chance to stand on his own two feet for once. The subplot in which he finds himself entangled today requires him to lead a small group of scoundrels and thugs into a New Republic prison-cruiser to free a dangerous hostage – and Mando actually works out a plan, executes it very well, and, when the tables turn, fights back with courage, wits, and a flair for the dramatic previously seen only in characters like Han Solo.

Baby Yoda is as cute as ever, and seeing his life constantly endangered by ruffians and ignorant idiots (one of whom even has the audacity to drop him!) is grounds for legal action against Disney. Famuyiwa appears to be the only director on this show who’s actually paying attention to the fact (that he introduced, in episode 2) that the Child is force-sensitive, giving him a cool little mission of his own in this chapter that makes him feel like his own character – one whose arc may very well be leading up to something, and at the very least is the cutest thing to come out of the Star Wars franchise since…actually, no, Baby Yoda is the cutest thing in the Star Wars franchise, period.

We need to talk about the episode’s big twist and ending, though, so let this be your warning that there are SPOILERS AHEAD!

After being commissioned by an old friend named Ranzar Malk (Mark Boone Jr.) to rescue a prisoner from the clutches of the New Republic, Mando is forced to take with him a band of strange, suspicious ruffians, all of whom seem to want him dead. Most notably, Natalia Tena portrays his former…lover? girlfriend?…a Twi’lek alien mercenary named Xi’an, whose hissing breath and throwing knives (not to mention, you know, the purple tentacles sprouting from her head) make her an instant classic, even if she is a bit grating after a while. It’s not a surprise that this crew doesn’t have Mando’s best interests at heart – it is a surprise, however, when they free the prisoner, Xi’an’s brother Qin (Ismael Cruz Cordova), who it turns out was imprisoned due to the Mandalorian’s interference. Mando gets shoved into a prison cell while his treacherous co-workers flee, trying to make off with his ship. But apparently they didn’t reckon with Mando’s newfound ability to pick locks by dismembering droids: he escapes and hunts them down one-by-one in a delightfully dark game of cat-and-mouse. All the while, assassin droid Zero (Richard Ayoade) is busy hunting Baby Yoda through Mando’s spaceship, having discovered the infant’s importance to the Bounty Hunter’s Guild. Thankfully, Mando is able to lock up his former friends and get back to his ship just in time to shoot the droid dead – but interestingly, Baby Yoda goes to use the Force just before the Mandalorian’s fatal shot, prompting questions about which character actually killed him.

But Mando doesn’t just want to get back at the traitors for trying to hurt his adorable little baby – he wants vengeance, and he gets it, big-time. Flying back to Malk’s base, Mando delivers up the promised prisoner, as well as a little parting gift: a New Republic tracking beacon that quickly alerts an entire squadron of X-Wing fighter pilots to the base’s location. Mando gets out of range just before the entire place is blown to pieces. It’s the first time we’ve gotten a glimpse of what the New Republic looks like after the Empire’s fall – and honestly, they look about the same as when we last saw them (except that these particular X-Wing pilots just so happen to be played by Mandalorian directors Dave Filoni, Rick Famuyiwa and Deborah Chow).

Possibly the best part of the episode was seeing characters trying desperately to unmask the Mandalorian – and failing miserably. Even after being taunted and mocked (and even called a Gungan, the worst possible insult in the Star Wars universe), Mando steadfastly refuses to ever remove his iconic helmet. Whether that’s because of plot purposes or because Pedro Pascal simply doesn’t want to have to actually film any scenes, we don’t know and probably won’t find out until the show’s final episode – if even.

So, The Prisoner doesn’t add much to the series’ tenuous idea of a plot, and whether or not characters like Xi’an will turn up again sometime in the future is still an open question: but it does give us an incentive to care about the Mandalorian himself – which, uh, probably isn’t a bad idea, considering that five episodes in, he was undeniably the most boring thing about the show named after him. We’re nearing the first season’s conclusion, and hopefully it’s an epic ride.

Episode Rating: 8/10