Disney & Pixar’s Soul promises a whole bunch of mind-boggling metaphysics in its first, minute-long teaser trailer: and surprisingly few “ugly-cry” moments from a studio that will keep Kleenex in business for years to come. But if anyone’s gonna make us sob in this movie, it’s going to be star Jamie Foxx, who is already doing an excellent job in his Pixar debut as the studio’s first black leading man.
His trailer monologue sounds like excerpts from some rousing speech that his character, middle school teacher Joe Gardner probably gives in the third act: he talks passionately and brilliantly about how life is too short to waste being anything other than what you want to be – what you were born to be. For Joe, that’s a career as a great jazz musician, a goal he works hard to achieve – before tripping into an open manhole in the street and…um, turning into a tiny glowing green vaguely-amoeba shaped thing? Did he die? Is he unconscious? Knowing Pixar, they killed him.
Either way, his little green soul is clearly very much alive – or, at least, undead. He finds himself in what appears to be the vast expanse of the cosmos, watching in exasperation as Tina Fey’s little glowing green undead soul tells him that she wants to be remembered for her funny cowboy-dance. I’m not entirely sure what Joe is supposed to learn in the soul region, as he already appears to have his life pretty much in order and he clearly understands what he wants to be and how he wants to get there – but Pixar is usually pretty good with thematic material, so I trust them to put together a compelling story.
So what do you think? How would you rate the trailer, and how many tears do you think you’ll shed, watching little green lightbulbs wax poetic about philosophy? Share your thoughts in the comments below!
Not too long ago, I spoke about how bizarre it was that an actor like Jonah Hill could be circling the role of The Riddler in Matt Reeves’ upcoming DCEU origin story, The Batman, which will follow a young Dark Knight as he navigates a Gotham City seething with villainy and corruption. Hill, who was far more suited to the role of The Penguin, eventually walked away from the project entirely, both due to that and the fact that he was asking for significantly more money than Warner Brothers was willing to pay for him to play a character they didn’t even want him to play.
And now we’re kind of in the same situation: just now, news broke that Andy Serkis, famed motion-capture performer and director of Sony’s Venom 2, will be joining the cast of The Batman (despite, you know, directing Sony’s Venom 2 at the same time) as Bruce Wayne’s loyal butler Alfred Pennyworth. Fans had long hoped that Serkis would exploit his friendship with director Matt Reeves (the two worked together on the recent Planet Of The Apes movies) in order to win a role in the DC film, so this isn’t disappointing news by any means. Andy Serkis is always a win. But it is kind of surprising, in light of the other casting announcement that came out mere minutes later.
Colin Farrell, the handsome Irish actor known for his work in films such as Saving Mr. Banks and Fantastic Beasts & Where To Find Them, has landed the role of Oswald Cobblepot, better known as The Penguin in DC lore. To be clear, I’m not complaining about this casting choice, but if I had to choose someone to play the stout, eccentric Gentleman of Crime, it would not be Colin Farrell: in fact, if I had to choose an actor to fit that role perfectly, it would be somebody a bit older, with a crazy glint in their eye, somebody who could rival the incredible performance of Danny DeVito in the same role in Batman Returns – actually, it would probably be Andy Serkis. Whereas the taller, fine-featured, soft-spoken Farrell would be a perfect fit for the role of Alfred Pennyworth.
But as we’re beginning to expect with this movie, it’s the other way around.
Farrell’s casting, in particular, is noteworthy because (a) he’s another ridiculously good-looking addition to this already bizarrely beautiful cast, and (b) see above. The Penguin has never been portrayed as a handsome man, and, in fact, much of his origin story revolves around him being the exact opposite: bullied relentlessly for his obesity and shuffling gait, the young Oswald Cobblepot turned to his pet birds for friendship as a child, and became an avid student of ornithology, eventually adopting bird-themes into his villainous style. Reeves is obviously going in the opposite direction with this out-of-the-box casting – and, while I find it intriguing, I can’t say I abhor the idea of Colin Farrell donning Penguin’s signature top hat, monocle and umbrella while wreaking havoc on the streets of Gotham. It just makes me wonder whether Matt Reeves will reveal Gotham to be a stylish, trendy modern city more in line with today’s New York City. Maybe it’s time we moved past Gotham’s traditional representation as a depressingly gritty underworld of criminal activity, seething with corruption and pollution. Margot Robbie’s Birds Of Prey movie almost seems to be leaning in that direction already with its bright neon color palette and fresh, alluring style, but it’s too early to tell yet if she got to that idea first, before Reeves.
Farrell and Serkis will join Robert Pattinson, Zoe Kravitz and Jeffrey Wright in The Batman, which is slated to release in 2021.
So what do you think of the idea of Andy Serkis as Alfred and Colin Farrell as The Penguin? Should the actors have been swapped? How would you feel about a new take on Gotham? Share your thoughts in the comments below!
Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes Of Grindelwald was not a good movie. In fact, it can be argued that it was a downright bad one – certainly critics and audiences were almost unanimous in their condemnation of the film’s many convoluted subplots, crowded cast of characters, and disrespect toward Wizarding World canon. Nonetheless, many of us hoped and prayed that, despite fan backlash, despite that ugly Rotten score, despite (worst of all) the lower box-office returns, the franchise could reach its full potential in a third installment, a third film that could right Grindelwald‘s wrongs and put the series back on track. We, the faithful few, suffered devastating setback after devastating setback: the film was pushed back to a 2021 release date; star Ezra Miller’s busy schedule seemed to indicate that he might be leaving the Beasts franchise, or worse, that it might be canceled – these were the concerns that kept us awake at night. We heard rumors that Johnny Depp was out as Grindelwald; that Warner Brothers had lost faith in writer J.K. Rowling’s ability to turn out a good film; that nothing was certain.
Beasts is not dead, despite how long it took to get the series off of life-support. In Fantastic Beasts 3, the franchise will need to work harder than ever before to convince fans to stick around – but Rowling can’t rely on the same tactics she thought would make Grindelwald an instant hit: her literary style, the complexity of her stories, her excessive callbacks to Harry Potter – that all needs to stop now, for the third film to work. No more subplots within subplots within subplots, all stuffed into one gigantic red-herring; no more half-baked characters tossed into the story to fill up space and time; no more queer-baiting Grindelwald and Dumbledore’s LGBTQ relationship. It’s time to put the focus back where it belongs, on the core narrative of our four heroes (Newt Scamander, Jacob Kowalski, Tina and Queenie Goldstein), and strip away the layers upon layers of underdeveloped plot that turned Grindelwald into the tangled mess that it was. Bring us back to basics, Jo, and give us a good, stand-alone story that is comprehensible, accessible, and enjoyable.
Thankfully, she’s not alone. As many of us suspected and hoped would be the case, a real screenwriter has been brought onboard to assist Rowling in translating her impressive vision to the big screen: Steve Kloves, the writer for all of the Harry Potter films (except Order Of The Phoenix). Rowling was originally set the write the third film on her own, but reason has prevailed.
I’m not saying that Rowling is not a good writer – on the contrary, I believe she is quite an excellent one: she has an eye for detail, she weaves clues and hints into her writing in an intriguing way that allows fans to play along, and she has a knack for compelling mystery (so much so that, when not writing wizard books/movies, she writes mystery novels under a pseudonym). But her style is best suited to the literary format, where she has all the time she needs to write those mysteries and weave those intricate stories. In a two-hour film, her plot is virtually bursting at the seams, demanding to be given space to breathe, pleading with the viewer for more time – time that Rowling simply doesn’t have. With a professional screenwriter at her side, she will hopefully be able to edit her story down to a decent size, give it a clear focus, and make it just a bit more cinematic: certainly there’s enough in the third film to make a good movie, it just needs a good script.
Fantastic Beasts 3 is confirmed to be another world-hopping adventure like the first two films, with Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, set as one of the main locations – though the Deadline article in which the news broke does make it seem like the story will span several continents: which would fit in with what star Dan Fogler suggested earlier this year, that the third film would be bigger in scale than the first two combined. Oh please, Jo, don’t mess this up. This could be your last chance – don’t mess this up!
The regular cast, including Johnny Depp as Grindelwald and Jude Law as young Albus Dumbledore, are confirmed to be returning for the third film. Jessica Williams, who had a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cameo in Grindelwald as Professor Eulalie “Lally” Hicks, will also have a pivotal role, though no further details have been revealed about her character. Production will begin in Spring of 2020.
What do you think of the news? Are you relieved, or disappointed that the franchise is continuing? Share your thoughts in the comments below!
In the eyes of history buffs, The King will probably be a decent, if boringly conventional retelling of a fascinating story from the vaults of Medieval history. For fans of Shakespeare, this interpretation of the bard’s work, watered down in the telling, will probably be a bland disappointment. But in my opinion, the movie, while not particularly fresh or exciting, is worth a watch merely for the performances from Timothée Chalamet and Robert Pattinson, accompanied by Nicholas Britell’s beautiful score. And if you find yourself drifting off in the first half of the movie, with its interminable gray color palette, dreary dialogue and half-hearted brutality – simply fast forward to when Pattinson shows up about an hour in, at which point the movie finally sheds some of its solemn trappings, develops a faint splash of color, and actually gets interesting.
The story itself is classic: the brief, tumultuous reign of King Henry V (Timothée Chalamet) of England, who stormed and nearly conquered France in 1415. But with two versions of the story out there – the historical account, and Shakespeare’s heavily fictionalized version – the film goes for the least interesting option: trying to blend the two into one coherent whole, using historical realism to set the scene, but sticking faux-Shakespearean dialogue into the mouths of its actors, who, to their credit, actually make it sound halfway decent – up to a point. Director David Michôd and writer and star Joel Edgerton haven’t made anywhere near enough additions or alterations to the story, and as a result The King often feels like it’s treading on well-worn ground – or rather, sinking in the muddy field of Agincourt, weighed down by plate armor and brooding plot. To put it simply, the movie isn’t particularly fun, and it doesn’t have much room to breathe. But what it lacks in originality of voice, it makes up for with the casting of two stellar performers.
Chalamet embodies the young king of England with a stone-cold solemnity that sets the tone for the whole movie – the rest of the movie, however, fails to achieve the same balance of neutrality and watchability as Chalamet does consistently. Rather, the movie itself begins to fall away and fade into fog, while Chalamet’s Henry becomes more clearly defined with each passing minute, until, in its closing scenes, he is the only life it has left. And what life he possesses! Typically seen as a dewy-eyed Hollywood heartthrob, Chalamet is here a gaunt, pale figure with leering eyes that disguise a heart longing for peace in his time – he is at times inspiring (as when he rallies his men for battle on the morn of Agincourt, using dialogue that is nowhere near as impressive as the St. Crispin’s Day speech his character utters in Shakespeare’s play but still sounds good because it’s Timothée Chalamet), or terrifying (as when he confronts his dying father in the latter’s bedchamber, ripping the sheets away from the bed, letting the old man shiver and tremble as the life slips from his body). But he is always a commanding presence onscreen, never rivaled by any of his castmates until Pattinson enters the picture, challenging Chalamet’s calm with a startlingly zany performance that turns The King into one of 2019’s most unexpectedly weird movies.
Pattinson, another actor trying to reshape his image in the public conscious, is a terrifying/hysterically funny revelation in his role as the Dauphin of France. Other reviewers are conflicted about his portrayal of the character, saying he ruins the serious nature of the film, or, alternatively, is its one saving grace. A callous, sadistic idiot, the Dauphin somehow manages to seem like an absolutely credible and formidable force even while being an unabashed peacock, strutting about in fancy black armor, laughing like a maniac and grinning dumbly at his own offensive jokes. But while I personally loved Pattinson’s portrayal, I can easily understand why critics can’t decide whether they love him or hate him – his performance is so deliberately exaggerated that it feels like it must be saying something, or attempting to: but what? If he’s merely trying to insult the French, then at least he’s made Shakespeare happy.
(Something that struck me in Pattinson’s first scene in The King, while he was busy talking about how he wanted to drain Henry’s body of its blood and bury it under a tiny French tree, was how happy I am that he will be soon be the DCEU’s new Batman: immediately after thinking that, Pattinson turned his head in such a way that it almost appeared that he had elf-ears for a fleeting moment – and that, coupled with his long blond wig, impressive eyebrows and sinuous physicality, made me gasp, pause the movie and go on Twitter to express my regret that Pattinson had not been cast as Sauron in Amazon Prime’s upcoming Lord Of The Rings prequel series. I’m sorry I have to bring everything back to LOTR, but this is something that I cannot now unsee and cannot ever forgive Pattinson or Amazon Prime for: just think of the beautiful young Sauron that might have been, gifted with Pattinson’s charismatic craziness! It would have been perfect).
The supporting cast is okay, though the only other standout is Ben Mendelsohn as the aging King Henry IV. Joel Edgerton’s Falstaff is made out to be the film’s Everyman archetype, but the character is boring and lifeless (and Edgerton’s performance is so tired that it’s hard to tell whether his yawns are in-character or not). Then there’s the Archbishop of Canterbury (Andrew Havill), who I feel deserves a dishonorable mention simply because of how insufferably annoying he managed to be in the five minutes of screen time he possessed. As for female characters – there are a grand total of three. Lily Rose-Depp is merely okay in the role of Catherine of Valois, who only appears in the film’s last twenty minutes and has one scene of importance; her performance is most notable for the fact that Catherine claims at the outset that she can’t speak English and then proceeds to do so anyway for the rest of the scene.
The film suffers greatly from its muted color palette, and cinematography that is, for the most part, drab and uninspiring. The sole exception is the scene in which Henry V’s forces besiege the castle of Harfleur, using massive trebuchets to launch flaming missiles over the fortress walls: who doesn’t love a good trebuchet? They’re far more interesting than catapults, in my honest opinion. And filming them in action also allows for plenty of interesting camera-work, as The King proves beyond a doubt. Beyond that, the film has nothing going for it in terms of visual splendor – there just isn’t any. The splash of somber green we get from the field of Agincourt is a brief respite from the damp grays and browns of Merry Old England – but even that is quickly transformed into a melee of upturned mud, and the filth of violence.
For history buffs (myself included) the legendary battle of Agincourt is what will keep you watching until the end of the movie: and it’s teased in a big fashion, with a single line of dialogue delivered by Pattinson’s Dauphin in one of the most hilariously exaggerated French accents you’ll hear outside of a Loony Tunes sketch, guaranteed to make your skin crawl in anticipation of the inevitable – “Let us make famous that field out there, this little village of Agincourt that will forever mark the sight of your callow disgrace.” I’m glad I watched The King for that line alone – and thankfully the ensuing battle delivers exactly what the film needs: it’s brutally epic, chaotic, and realistic. If you’ve ever wondered what it would be like to drown in mud, then The King is the film for you!
An additional incentive to watch the movie (beyond mud-drownings) is the score by Nicholas Britell, which is stirring and appropriately ominous.
All in all, did I have fun watching The King? No, not exactly. I don’t think it tells the story of Henry V better than any history book can – certainly not better than Shakespeare (and I don’t typically praise Shakespeare). But I do think it’s worth a watch if you’re a fan of either Chalamet or Pattinson, or want to check out a “highbrow” sampling of their work. Just don’t expect too much from the movie itself – it may be called The King, but its crown belongs firmly to its stars.
Disney+ is speeding towards its launch date on the 12th of this month, and people are already eager to finally have the streaming service and its boatload of content, both old and original, at their fingertips. But those of us who are Marvel fans, and have thus already watched all of the Marvel films that will be on Disney+ about ten times over, are looking much further ahead to when we will finally have original Marvel content to stream on the platform. There are eight Disney+ exclusive miniseries in the works, but all of them are still a long way off. So here I am to tide you over, while you wait, with all the latest updates on Marvel’s venture into the world of streaming.
The Falcon And The Winter Soldier: first up is the series which will follow Sam Wilson (“The Falcon”) and Bucky Barnes (“The Winter Soldier”) as they fight evil in the name of the late great Captain America. Rumors suggest that the duo will face off against one of Marvel’s most controversial villains – US Agent John Walker, a Southern conservative who receives the title of Captain America from the US Government after the powers that be decide that Falcon, a black man, isn’t fit to carry the Captain’s shield and legacy. Created in the Reagan era as a warning against hyper-patriotism, Walker is an interesting character to explore, especially given the current political climate. Baron Zemo, first seen in Captain America: Civil War, will also serve as an antagonist in the show, and one of the central plot elements is rumored to be a killer virus that Falcon and Winter Soldier will have to stop from spreading across the United States – it’s unclear what the virus will be, but the Russo Brothers originally planned to use a similar storyline for Civil War, in which Captain America would have to stop the spread of the Madbomb virus, which turns people into mindless, bloodthirsty berserkers: Madbomb could be brought back for The Falcon And The Winter Soldier, and would make for a pretty compelling story. Thankfully, we only have to wait until next Autumn to find out how the two superheroes will deal with that onslaught of dangerous threats: the show is currently filming in Atlanta, Georgia.
WandaVision: a direct tie-in to Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness, which will release in the summer of 2021, WandaVision will explore the life of Wanda Maximoff after the events of Avengers: Endgame, as she descends into insanity and constructs an elaborate alternate reality for herself and a resurrected version of her dead lover, the Vision. A new rumor suggests that when Vision is brought back to life in the series, he will appear as the White Vision, an alternate version of the character that became very popular in the 1980’s – basically just Vision, but without any human emotions or memories of his past life. The series is also apparently looking to cast two babies, which strongly implies that Wanda Maximoff’s twin children from the comics, the heroes Wiccan and Speed, will make their MCU debuts in this show. WandaVision will probably begin filming fairly soon. Randall Park and Kat Dennings will reprise their roles as comedic relief characters Jimmy Woo and Darcy, respectively, while Teyonah Parris joins the series as Monica Rambeau, whom we last saw as a child in Captain Marvel.
Hawkeye: an upcoming Marvel project that has generated some controversy already is the Hawkeye miniseries which will focus on the current Hawkeye, Clint Barton, and the future one, Kate Bishop. Jeremy Renner, who plays Barton in the MCU, has been the target of a whole bunch of allegations from his ex-wife recently, accusing him of physical and emotional abuse. There’s still no official word on whether or not Renner will remain as the star of the series, though reliable sources have hinted that Disney has considered recasting the actor if the allegations are true. According to Marvel executive Trinh Tran, one major element for the series will be explaining Barton’s origins: presumably his time as a circus performer, and then as an Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. – maybe even another tantalizing reference to the infamous Budapest incident. The series doesn’t have a production start date, but will release in Autumn of 2021. Hawkeye is just a boring character in general, though (at least, in my opinion), so no one is really too upset that we have to wait a little longer for this series. Just sayin’.
Ms. Marvel: speaking of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., a prominent member of the S.H.I.E.L.D. team could be joining the MCU through the Ms. Marvel series. The show, which will start production in April of next year, has just hired Krista Husar, the casting director from the ABC TV series Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D, leading to speculation that Ms. Marvel might be looking to cast actress Chloe Bennet, who plays Inhuman heroine Daisy Johnson on S.H.I.E.L.D., in the Marvel Cinematic Universe: it could be a stretch, but it would make sense story-wise, since Ms. Marvel is already rumored to include multiple Inhuman characters, including the Royal Family of Attilan, and, of course, Ms. Marvel herself. Marvel is currently looking for an actress to play the shape-shifting teenager, and is now casting her entire family, including her parents Yusuf and Muneeba, and her brother Amir. A villain is also reportedly being cast for the series – and here’s where I want to take a moment to just admire the fact that, if the rumors are reliable, then Disney+’s roster of characters will be weirder than anything we’ve seen from the MCU before: because apparently the villain that Marvel is looking to cast is none other than (bear with me here) The Inventor – a clone of legendary genius Thomas Edison who, due to an accident with his DNA, ends up becoming an anthropomorphic bird-man hybrid who operates out of Bayonne, New Jersey. Between that and Ms. Marvel herself being a walking rubber-band, this series is shaping up to be…interesting, to say the least. Even Ms. Marvel’s original creator, G. Willow Wilson, is afraid the lead character will look “really creepy” in the live-action format.
Moon Knight: finally, the Moon Knight series is also getting off to a good start, with casting underway for a Jewish actor to portray troubled antihero Marc Spector, the former CIA mercenary who becomes the unwitting servant of the Egyptian moon god Khonshu (these premises are crazy!). And a recent rumor indicates that Marvel is looking to adapt another absolutely bonkers villain for the small-screen story: Stained Glass Scarlet, the psychic, crossbow-wielding ninja nun/vigilante/former prison guard who kills her own son after he turns to a life of crime, and forms a telepathic bond with Spector through his dreams, is apparently destined for a place in the series as a lead antagonist. In the comics, she has something close to a redemption arc, in which Spector learns to pity her, and eventually allows her to escape from the police. How much of that will be transferred over to live-action is still unclear.
At this point I can only imagine what the casting calls will be like for series’ such as She-Hulk or Loki. It looks like Disney+ will be home to some of the wackiest heroes and villains from the Marvel Comics, and I hope to hear of more in the near future: from the reality-bending antics of WandaVision to the polymorphous weirdness of Ms. Marvel, it looks like there’s plenty of room for more insanely unique storylines on the small screen.
So what do you think? Share your own thoughts and theories in the comments below!
I’ve gotta get a message to you, dear film-aficionado: get your fancasts ready, jive to the sweet sounds of 70’s pop, and rejoice – the Bee Gees, one of the world’s most beloved and recognizable music groups, are finally getting their own movie. Following the huge success of films like Bohemian Rhapsody (the Academy-Award winning Queen biopic), and Rocketman (the Academy-Award hopeful and Elton John biopic), and the promise of more to come (a…Boy George biopic?), the Bee Gees, whose personal lives are a dramatic and compelling story of triumph and heartbreak, accompanied by an upbeat disco soundtrack, were inevitably going to end up on the big screen at some point – nonetheless, it’s very exciting to see it happen in the lifetime of Barry Gibb, the last surviving member of the band (Maurice died in 2003 of medical complications at the age of 53, while Robin died from cancer in 2012, aged 62).
It’s also exciting that Paramount will be the ones to make the film. While that’s not entirely surprising (they are, after all, the studio that brought you Rocketman, mentioned above), it is especially fitting since it was a Paramount movie, Saturday Night Fever, that helped to turn the Bee Gees into the household name they are today: the film’s soundtrack, for which the group wrote iconic songs such as “Stayin’ Alive”, became the best-selling movie soundtrack of all time upon its release in 1977 and, in the words of music supervisor Bill Oakes, “breathed new life into a genre that was actually dying”. And now, perhaps because of that fateful union of film and music, the Bee Gees themselves will be stayin’ alive in the memory of filmgoers for years to come. It brings a tear to the eye, that’s for sure.
Paramount has bought the rights to the story of Barry, Robin and Maurice Gibb, and all of their music, and Bohemian Rhapsodyproducer Graham King is already attached to the film. So, while Paramount searches for a writer and director, it’s time for us fans to start considering who should be cast in the lead roles (since, obviously, that’s the most important question). Share your suggestions in the comments below!
Henry Cavill is intent on making us believe that he’s rocking that silly silver wig – and you know what? He’s actually doing a pretty good job of that.
That may be, at least in part, because he actually has dialogue and substantial scenes in this trailer, as opposed to the first teaser for this hotly-anticipated Netflix release – which now has a release date of December 20th. Netflix obviously hopes that The Witcher, with its fast-paced action, alluring premise and tons and tons of magic, will appeal to fantasy fans – especially that crucial contingent of unhappy Game Of Thrones ex-fans who might be too impatient to wait for HBO’s upcoming Thrones prequel, House Of The Dragon. It would be a big win for Netflix as the streaming wars heat up and HBO prepares to launch its own streaming platform, HBO Max.
Henry Cavill himself has a personal stake in Netflix’s war against Warner Brothers (and, by extension, HBO), having been unceremoniously ousted from the role of Superman – a bit of a thankless role these days. Cavill is clearly having more fun chewing on the dramatic, darker material he’s been granted with The Witcher than he ever had with the goofy glasses of Clark Kent – speaking of chewing, we learn in this trailer that Cavill’s character, protagonist and anti-hero Geralt of Rivia, had his fangs filed down, which is…cool, I guess? Creepy? By Cavill’s line-reading, it would seem he intended it to sound vaguely seductive (hey, am I going to sit here and say he’s the greatest actor to ever walk the planet? No, but I do think it’s admirable that he’s landed himself a big role and is clearly taking it seriously, even though his performance does occasionally appear a bit counter-intuitive to that goal, at least based off these trailers – trailers which also do nothing to convincingly sell the idea that Cavill is a natural platinum-blonde).
Cavill’s co-stars are a diverse and intriguing cast of characters: Freya Allen as Ciri has a charming, ever-so-slightly hobbit-y look to her; and Anya Chalotra is every inch a sorceress in the role of Yennefer – both characters, whose backstories have only been hinted at before in Witcher novels and video games, will be major players in the Netflix series. And, considering how cool and powerful they seem to be, that’s probably not a bad thing: Yennefer especially seems to have a great deal of dark magic up the sleeves of her impressive fur-coat.
All in all, the series looks good – with a definite focus on delivering a dark blend between horror (sort of: I don’t know about you, but the CGI monster we catch a glimpse of at 0:22 isn’t all that terrifying), nonstop action (with magic!), and political intrigue (okay, I love political intrigue stories, so sign me up for ten hours of palace drama, royal squabbles, and stunningly beautiful costume design).
What are your thoughts on The Witcher trailer? Share your thoughts in the comments below!
What Deadline is reporting as a “Star Wars Setback”, the rest of the world seems to be praising as one of Disney’s greatest business moves in a long time. The bitter war waged against Game Of Thrones screenwriters David Benioff and D.B. Weiss by their enraged ex-fans has now reached a crescendo, with the two men being forced to abandon their newfound place at the helm of an entire Star Wars trilogy. It’s a big win for audience backlash, which is both exciting and a little frightening.
It’s exciting because, in this case, fans really do have a good reason for wanting Benioff & Weiss to exit Star Wars. The duo are pretty much exclusively responsible for the controversial final season of the HBO TV series, Game Of Thrones, that saw character development thrown out the window, expectations subverted in the worst way, plot twists coming out of nowhere – all of it to rush towards a clumsily-structured, badly-written finale that saw the series’ protagonist and most beloved character slain in cold blood. Fans are understandably worried that what happened to Game Of Thrones can happen to Star Wars, and there’s obviously plenty of reason to believe them. I wrote an entire post on this subject yesterday, in which I addressed Benioff & Weiss’ recent interview (which I think must have been a contributing factor in their decision to depart Star Wars), in which they talked about basically scamming HBO into giving them an expensive film school experience while they were supposed to be developing a TV series based off of books they didn’t even try to understand. I’m sure Disney was also more than a little nervous about hiring two men who just unabashedly revealed that they got into a heated argument with a mother who didn’t want them placing her baby fully-naked on a block of ice, both exploiting and endangering the infant.
On the other hand, it’s also a nerve-wracking development: how closely do studios listen to their fanbases, and how much influence and power should audiences exercise over film-making? It’s a question that has been plaguing us for quite some time, but it’s all about context: when fans rioted about the design of Sonic The Hedgehog in Paramount’s Sonic movie, they were justified because the character looked like an asymmetrical weasel rather than a hedgehog; when protesters demanded a boycott of Disney’s Mulan remake because the lead actress expressed her support for the police-state of China, they were definitely coming from the right place, though that story is a very complex one; when heartbroken fans demanded that Johnny Depp’s career be canceled after claims of domestic abuse arose against the actor, well, we still don’t know who’s right or wrong in that case, or if it’s actress Amber Heard who should be canceled instead, or if it’s both of them. Context matters in these situations. So, yes, in my opinion, fans are at least partly justified in wanting Benioff & Weiss to leave Star Wars, because there are many reasons not to trust the two men with a story of that magnitude, so soon after the disastrous finale of Game Of Thrones.
We could also say they deserve a second chance, and that’s true, to some extent: which is why it’s a good thing that Benioff & Weiss already signed a deal with Netflix, which is where they will be headed. If they do a good job over there, with some smaller projects that don’t run the risk of upsetting a franchise that has only just regained its footing to begin with, then maybe they should consider coming back to Star Wars – if Kathleen Kennedy will have them. But in the meantime, Disney is keeping that galaxy far, far away from the divisive duo.
In Benioff & Weiss’ defense, their statement on the matter implies that it was their obligations to Netflix that prevented them from devoting their full time and attention to Star Wars – but while I suppose that could be true, it seems more likely to me that it’s the polite way of flattering Netflix into offering them more job opportunities.
So what do you think? Is this a win for fans – or a loss for Disney? Share your own thoughts and opinions in the comments below!
The Mandalorian, which is being hailed as a “visionary” new chapter in the Star Wars saga, has a lot of responsibility on its caped shoulders: as the flagship original series for Disney+, it needs to pull in viewers fast, and hold their attention across a span of several weeks. Does its second – and presumably final – trailer succeed in attracting customers to the new streaming platform?
I’ll say this: if you were already hooked by The Mandalorian after the first trailer, I assume this trailer will pique your interest even further. But this isn’t the type of trailer that tries to expand the prospective demographic; it doesn’t reach out to a new target audience or even tease any big reveals that could entice general audiences. No, if you like Star Wars – you’re going to have to watch this show. If not…well, I guess there’s always that Lady & The Tramp remake.
Even for Star Wars fans, this trailer doesn’t really have a whole lot to say: it’s mostly just quick glimpses of hand-to-hand action and a couple of important-looking-people walking around, zooming across the desert on little hoverbikes, etc. Nothing too revolutionary. It does promise a bit of backstory for the First Order, and it shows us what the galaxy was like in the days after the return of the Jedi (based on the trailers, I’d say it seems to be relatively the same as it always was, except without nearly as many storm-troopers – since a lot of them have seemingly been killed by the native populations of the planets they subjugated, and have had their heads mounted on spears. Yep, this is just your average family-friendly Star Wars adventure!)
But maybe that’s all on purpose. Rumors say that The Mandalorian is loaded with spoilers, so much so that Disney won’t even be showing episodes of the series to the press before its premiere on Disney+ launch day, November 12th. Perhaps we’ve seen so little because there’s so much that can’t be shown yet. Fingers crossed, right?
So what do you think of the trailer? Share your own thoughts in the comments below!
This is a departure from my usual posting format in that this is not strictly a news story, but more of a response to a news story. The story, in this case, is actually an interview with Game Of Thrones screenwriters and showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, which was posted online in Twitter thread form by an attendee, who goes by the username Needle & Pen. The interview was shocking, and soon had the entire internet collectively wringing their hands and crying out to the heavens: “How did this happen?”
Well, by Benioff & Weiss’ own admission, they don’t know – or seem to care. In the interview, which reeks of white privilege, elitism and snobbery, the two men proudly revealed just how inexperienced and unprepared they were for the task of adapting the massive fantasy epic to the small screen, and just how happy they are that they were able to basically dupe HBO into hiring them. For instance, they talked about meeting with A Song Of Ice And Fire author George R.R. Martin for the first time, and confessing to him that they “didn’t really have any” bona fides or experience. In their own words: “We don’t know why he trusted us with his life’s work.”
David is describing the pre-meeting with GRRM who was questioning their bona fides and “we didn’t really have any.” We had never done TV and we didn’t have any. We don’t know why he trusted us with his life’s work.”
Now, I’d love to talk about Game Of Thrones, and the various failings of Benioff & Weiss, but that’s not what this post is about – or, well, it is, but only indirectly. This post is, in fact, a response to a response to this interview: soon after that tweet went public, The One Ring.net, the most trusted and reliable Tolkien forum in the world, expressed their concerns that Amazon Prime’s upcoming adaptation of the histories of Middle-earth would fall into the same trap as Game Of Thrones: and they had some legitimate fears, so let’s break down what was said by both sides, and what Amazon can learn from the hugely underwritten, half-baked final season of Game Of Thrones that firmly cemented Benioff & Weiss as some of the fantasy genre’s most hated individuals.
The One Ring.net (or TORN for short) drew attention to the fact that JD Payne and Patrick McKay, the showrunners of Amazon Prime’s Middle-earth series, share many similarities with Benioff & Weiss: both are relative newcomers to the scene, having no experience in TV, or in the making of big-budget, spectacular fantasy epics. Payne and McKay did write a script for a Star Trek movie – but it was never used, which isn’t exactly a promising sign. And, as TORN pointed out rather dismissively, both duos are, when it comes down to it, just “a couple friends”. It’s true that Payne and McKay have been working together for most of their adult lives, just like Benioff & Weiss, but I think it’s worth mentioning that Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh, two-thirds of the creative team behind The Lord Of The Rings trilogy, were a married couple when they started working on the ambitious film project, yet nobody has any complaints about that. The fact that Payne and McKay have a close friendship isn’t really a problem, in my opinion. The fact that they have no prior experience – obviously, that could pose quite a substantial problem along the line. But here are my three reasons why we should NOT be worried about Amazon’s Lord Of The Rings prequel series becoming the next Game Of Thrones-level disaster.
1: They’re Not Alone.
For Benioff & Weiss, being handed full creative control over HBO’s most daunting and daring TV adaptation wasn’t a passion project so much as “expensive film school” – or, in Weiss’ words, a “ten year drunk party”. And the two men treated it as such, giving themselves freedom to make as many mistakes as they wanted. They admit in the interview that working with costume designers, for instance, was a “learning experience”. And yet, rather than bring in talented and experienced individuals to help them figure out the process, Benioff & Weiss went in the completely opposite direction, much to HBO’s chagrin – they decided early on that it was going to be just the two of them, stumbling through the series’ development like idiots, because they “didn’t know better”. They were eventually forced to bring in another writer, Bryan Cogman, and were helped by a second, Dave Hill: both men got to write a whopping four episodes each – out of seventy-three.
On the other hand, Payne and McKay are not alone, and have surrounded themselves with incredibly talented people from all different genres of film and television: their writer’s room is nigh on overcrowded, in fact, with Payne and McKay being joined by Gennifer Hutchison of Breaking Bad, Helen Shang of Hannibal, Jason Cahill of The Sopranos, and Justin Doble of Stranger Things, with Bryan Cogman, Glenise Mullins, and Tolkien scholar Tom Shippey as consultants. It’s a far cry from the two-man show that was Game Of Thrones. There are talented and dedicated people involved with Amazon Prime’s series who can help to guide Payne and McKay on their debut journey. Is that all it takes to steer a five-season epic series with a budget close to a billion dollars? No, probably not. But it’s a good first step, and it will hopefully prevent Payne and McKay from indulging in the amateur excesses that Benioff & Weiss seemed to enjoy in their first few years working on Game Of Thrones.
2: There Is Diversity On Amazon’s Team – Though Not Enough.
One thing that immediately stood out in the Benioff & Weiss interview was their casual dismissals of fans’ complaints of racism, sexism, and especially white privilege – i.e., the idea that white men, even without being blatantly racist, still think they are owed certain privileges and rights by virtue of their skin color. For instance, the privilege to simply walk up to HBO and say “hey, give us a TV show to make”.
I have been thinking about this thread for 12 hours. They are open and… proud of failing upward and being mediocre. It’s frustrating to see what white men get away with while creators of color have to be perfect and prepared always. https://t.co/VccL73GcPw
Benioff & Weiss’ counter to the argument was that Dave Hill, whom I previously mentioned wrote a total of four episodes from 2015 to 2019, is of Asian descent. Vanessa Taylor also had a brief stint working with the two men before leaving to write The Shape Of Water. But, is that really enough? In a series that is known for having some of the most iconic female characters in fantasy, is it enough to have only one woman temporarily helping to write those characters? And do I even need to rhetorically ask if it’s enough to have zero people of color in the non-existent Game Of Thrones writer’s room?
“You don’t have any black writers weighing in on how you write Grey Worm and Missandei” “well, we have one Asian writer we promoted up who wrote 3 episodes in the past 3 years”
Now let’s take a look at Amazon Prime’s creative team for their Lord Of The Rings series: leaving aside the fact that Amazon Prime Studios is, in fact, run and overseen by a woman, Jennifer Salke, who was recently named the 17th most influential person in Hollywood, we have, in the Lord Of The Rings writer’s room, a total of three women as of right now: Mullins is also a woman of color, while Shang is of Asian ethnicity.
So, Amazon Prime is doing only marginally better than Game Of Thrones in terms of gender and cultural diversity: but at the very least, there’s some progress being made. We have to hope that more women and POC are added to the writer’s room as time goes on, but for now we can at least be assured that there is already more diversity on this team than on the team assembled for Game Of Thrones.
3: Payne And McKay Have Nowhere To Hide.
Okay, that sounds unintentionally threatening. What I mean is this: when Benioff & Weiss began their tenure on Game Of Thrones, they were doing a relatively simple adaptation from page to screen: and while they did introduce a bunch of new elements, they continued to work from George R.R. Martin’s novels until 2016, when they ran out of source material to draw from: and at that point, most fans tend to agree that the show suddenly began to decline in quality. At first it wasn’t too noticeable, as the fanbase was initially excited to be surprised, and was willing to ignore some of Benioff & Weiss’ mistakes: but by the finale of season 7, it was becoming clear that something was wrong: after years of slow, patient build-up, the storyline of the Night King and the White Walkers was being rushed into the foreground, and Benioff & Weiss were already publicly discussing their desire to conclude the story in its eighth season. The last two seasons were drastically abbreviated to provide for this, with the final season being cut down almost to miniseries format, with only six episodes to tie up several hundred loose ends, story-threads, subplots, so on and so on. And, as everybody is now aware, the final season didn’t go over well: poorly received by critics and fans, the once-mighty TV series ended with a bit of a whimper, reducing complex characters to cardboard cutouts and basically ruining what made the show so much fun: its depth. To nobody’s surprise, though, that depth was a hallmark of Martin’s work, not Benioff & Weiss’.
Payne and McKay don’t have the ability to hide behind J.R.R. Tolkien’s published novels for several years before finally having to strike out on their own, into uncharted territory: because the Amazon Prime series isn’t actually an adaptation of The Lord Of The Rings. It is instead a prequel series, covering the only time-frame in Tolkien’s extensive legendarium that he didn’t write much about – the three-thousand year long era in between the events of The Silmarillion and the downfall of Sauron that is glimpsed in the prologue of Peter Jackson’s The Fellowship Of The Ring. Why do I continue to call the series The Lord Of The Rings, then? Well, there’s still no official title for the show, so it’s going to have to do, despite being a little misleading.
Anyway, it’s encouraging to know that what we see from Payne and McKay will be indicative of the series’ quality going forward, whereas with Benioff & Weiss we were cruelly deceived. The writers at Amazon Prime will have only scraps of material to work from, but it’s their responsibility and duty to fill in the gaping holes in Tolkien’s mythos. Hopefully, they can achieve that – and if they can’t, then we’ll know right away, rather than wasting ten years of our lives.
And finally, a bonus point that I think is worth mentioning: Amazon Prime seems to care for the Tolkien fanbase in a way that Benioff & Weiss never did for Game Of Thrones‘. In the interview, the two men admitted to grossly misinterpreting their own fanbase; in an attempt to make fantasy popular to “NFL players”, they stripped the books of their more fantastical, magical elements – that is, until the final season, when those were the only things left in their dwindling toolbox. They didn’t ever listen to fans’ feedback, because they didn’t see the value of considering other peoples’ reactions. And it’s just as well, because as for their opinions on the books they were meant to be adapting, well…
Did you really sit down and try to boil the elements of the books down? Did you really try to understand it’s major elements.
No. We didn’t. The scope was too big. It was about the scenes we were trying to depict and the show was about power.
Now, we don’t know what Payne and McKay think of Tolkien’s work: all we have to go on is the official Amazon Prime press release that says they feel like Frodo on the beginning of his great journey, etc, etc. But Amazon Prime’s Lord Of The Rings has been surprisingly cooperative with and responsive to fans – at least, until their official Twitter account basically went missing in action several months ago. For instance, when fans noted that there were design flaws on one of the Middle-earth maps released by Amazon, the creative team (which we now know is led by renowned artist John Howe) was quick to revise the map. And aside from that one blunder, the other maps they’ve released all hold up to scrutiny, remaining faithful to even some of the obscurest bits of Tolkien canon. And if you’re wondering why I’m rambling about the maps, consider that Benioff & Weiss also acknowledge in their interview that they themselves were “geographically challenged”. So again, Amazon Prime is one step ahead of them in that regard.
So there you have it: my response to the response to this incredibly dismaying interview with the two men responsible for some of the highest highs and the lowest lows in modern television history. If you want to read the full Twitter thread, referenced several times above, I’ll direct you here. I wish you luck.
So what do you think of all this? Do you think Payne and McKay have an advantage, going into this daunting project: or will they end up being the next Benioff & Weiss? And as for Benioff & Weiss themselves – what do you think of their admissions and confessions? Share your thoughts in the comments below!
Amazon Prime’s upcoming The Lord Of The Rings prequel series is thoroughly fascinating and occasionally bewildering: just the other day we discussed the intriguing case of the uncovered audition tapes for the series, which revealed what seemed to be the four leads of the eagerly-anticipated show. Now, a completely new character has popped up out of nowhere! I tell you, it’s been an exhilarating process covering the constant stream of news about this project – and we’re still only in the pre-production stage!
Anyway, we’ve got a new casting announcement, and it’s already been getting a fair bit of attention: Joseph Mawle, an English actor best known for portraying Benjen Stark in just 6 (count ’em, 6) episodes of Game Of Thrones. Benjen was a minor character at best, and never did anything particularly memorable until rescuing Jon Snow from beyond the Wall in the seventh season. And yet this news is, as I said, stirring up the Tolkien community, with even platforms as well respected as The One Ring.net complaining about how the Amazon Prime series is already beginning to turn Lord Of The Rings into a carbon copy of Game Of Thrones, ignoring the wishes of Tolkien purists, etc, etc. I honestly don’t understand how that logic is even supposed to make sense – in my opinion, it would be like saying that Peter Jackson’s trilogy was turning into a carbon copy of Back To The Future Part II when they cast Elijah Wood, simply because Wood happened to have an insignificant role in the latter film (bet you didn’t know that).
Whether or not Amazon Prime is channeling Thrones for this project, let’s consider what we know about Mawle’s casting before jumping to conclusions. According to the trades, Mawle is taking on the role of “Oren”, one of the series’ main villains. Now, let’s face it: Oren, while it’s almost certainly another codename, sounds a good deal like Sauron, and there’s a strong possibility that Mawle will in fact be Amazon Prime’s Dark Lord (I feel like we’ve had this conversation many times already). He is the oldest cast-member to join the show so far, but still has distinctly Elven features, very much in line with men like Hugo Weaving or Lee Pace, who convincingly and brilliantly portrayed Elves in the previous Middle-earth films (and that Elvenesse is something Mawle will need, if he is to play Sauron, who should spend much of his time onscreen disguised as an Elf. Mawle is also a very good actor, which, you know, is also a bonus.
If you want my honest opinion (you probably do, if you’re reading this), I see Mawle as a better choice for the Witch-King of Angmar, whom we should expect to see in the series: with his long, gaunt features and thin frame, the actor seems like he could do a great job portraying the sorcerer in all his ancient, incorruptible glory, before his inevitable downfall into ruin. I mean that as a compliment, by the way.
So what do you think? Is this our Sauron? Or our Witch-King? Or somebody entirely different? Share your thoughts in the comments below!
I’m not crying, you’re crying. Okay, well, I’m crying a little, but only a little…*I watch the trailer for the fifteenth time in a row, and get up to Carrie Fisher’s voice-over at the end*…okay, I’m officially sobbing again.
This stuff is pretty emotional. It’s the final trailer for the final movie in a saga that has spanned over forty years – I mean, that sort of thing doesn’t happen every day. We cried tears over the conclusion to a single decade of the Marvel Cinematic Universe…imagine four decades of Star Wars, coming to a close at long last, delivering what may or may not be a satisfying conclusion to one of the most epic and legendary adventures of all time, one of the greatest stories ever told onscreen. Am I expected to hold back my tears when C-3PO, who’s been one of the few constants in this franchise (and has appeared in every single Star Wars film to date) tells his friends that he’s taking one last look at them, in case something happens to him? How about when we catch a fleeting glimpse of what looks to be the Tantive IV, the first starship to ever appear in Star Wars, crash-landing on an alien planet? Am I supposed to simply ignore Daisy Ridley being visibly moved to tears at multiple spots in the trailer? Am I supposed to just forget about – well, actually, I am trying to forget about “Reylo”, but am I supposed to forget about Reylo? No, I don’t think so! *voice cracks*
As you can imagine, I’m emotionally distraught right now. The trailer starts out a bit slow, but quickly builds up to a crescendo, giving us hints of the thrilling action and bittersweet emotions we should expect from the final chapter in this story: Resistance fighters riding horses in a cavalry charge across the shattered wreck of a star destroyer, vast Imperial star cruisers emerging from the ice of a frozen planet, Kylo and Rey dueling amid the ruins of the second Death Star. Palpatine is back, and seated once more on a throne – director J.J. Abrams loves his parallels, you know, so we might want to be prepared for a Vader-esque self-sacrifice moment at the end of the film, whether from Kylo Ren or Rey – is Rey going to be Dark Rey? Is that still a thing? Am I supposed to think about that right now, when I have so many things to cry about? Oh yeah, and for whatever reason Dominic Monaghan of The Lord Of The Rings is in this movie – I’m cool with that. He’ll probably make me cry even more: not for any particular reason, just because…Lord Of The Rings is sad. You know? I mean, that connection makes sense to me: it doesn’t to you?
But nothing makes the tears start flowing like the very ending, when Carrie Fisher’s voice-over delivers the final line in the final trailer for the final film in the final trilogy of this incredible saga, a trailer that “just-so-happened” to drop on what would have been Fisher’s 63rd birthday: just after Mark Hamill’s “The force will be with you”, her voice, soft and comforting, is heard, with a simple but passionate: “always”. The story of Star Wars lives on forever.
So don’t blame me for crying. The blame is solely with you, dear reader, if you are somehow unmoved by this nostalgic sob-fest. *cries dramatically, as the Star Wars theme plays for the twentieth time*