“She-Ra” Season 5 Review! No Spoilers!

Would it be too much of a hot take to say that everything Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame did, the fifth and final season of She-Ra And The Princesses Of Power did just as well – if not better in several instances? I’ll let you decide.

Now, to be fair, She-Ra has the advantage of being a Netflix series, with up to thirteen-episode seasons, so it’s probably not entirely right to compare it to any movie, even ones that are three hours long. However, considering that She-Ra‘s final season, whether intentionally or coincidentally, lifts a great deal of material straight from the closing chapters of the Infinity Saga, it seems fair enough to compare the two storylines, and how they are executed, and how the Netflix/Dreamworks cartoon sometimes gets it right where the Marvel Studios blockbusters falter.

She-Ra
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But first, a little background. I was not a She-Ra fan until Friday morning, when I decided it was high time I watched the entire series as quickly as possible, in order to catch up with the final season which had just dropped on Netflix. I had tried once before, several months ago, but I never even got past the opening credits. I forced myself through on this occasion, however – and before the first episode was over, I was already very thankful for that decision, because….wow. But don’t even get me started on the four previous seasons. This is strictly a Season 5 review.

Though I do think a little bit of Season 4 finale recap is in order – if you haven’t caught up, be warned: SPOILERS for that season up ahead! In the aftermath of Queen Glimmer (Karen Fukuhara) recklessly deciding to use the Heart of Etheria – a magical superweapon which lies embedded deep within the core of the planet – a great many things have changed in the status quo: first of all, Etheria itself has been carried through a portal out of its empty pocket-dimension and back into the larger universe; Adora (Aimee Carrero) has lost her connection with the ancient warrior She-Ra, and the Sword of She-Ra is broken and useless; and Hordak (Keston John), once the greatest enemy of the Princesses of Power, has been revealed to be nothing more than the puppet and defective clone of a far greater evil – Horde Prime (also Keston John), an alien overlord who has now launched a massive invasion of Etheria, and has simultaneously captured Glimmer, Hordak, and Hordak’s former second-in-command, Catra (AJ Michalka).

She-Ra
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Season 5 picks up after a small time jump. Horde Prime’s invasion is well underway now, and Adora, the archer Bow (Marcus Scribner), and all the remaining Princesses of Power are leading a futile rebellion against him. But on Horde Prime’s flagship, Glimmer and Catra are forced to establish a delicate trust bond with Prime and with each other as they plot a way to escape from imprisonment. Prime is essentially Thanos, and with less clever writing he might just have been that: his agenda (to destroy worlds across the universe in order to achieve cosmic balance and bring about a lasting peace) is much like the Mad Titan’s plan to end world hunger by wiping out half of every planet’s population; even more specifically, he too is the long-awaited mastermind behind the plans of an earlier antagonist in the franchise, who arrives on a gargantuan starship from the depths of space, whose army of mindless bodyguards start almost all their speeches with the word “Rejoice”, and who also has a tendency to meaningfully snap his fingers. Like Thanos, he has arrived on Etheria with the intention of claiming a superweapon that just so happens to come in the form of a magical link between a set of multi-colored crystals.

But unlike Thanos, Horde Prime has time to elaborate on his plans, and the characters have time to get to know him, to witness firsthand his strengths, and to begin to understand his weaknesses while they wander his ship. His special abilities, cloning and mind-control, aren’t anything we haven’t seen before, but they do also differentiate him from Thanos. And in one of my favorite scenes from early in the series, we get a chilling look at the devastation Horde Prime has wrought when he serves Glimmer and Catra a dinner consisting of various rare delicacies from worlds he destroyed in the past. Being the last person in the universe to know an entire planet’s recipes may not seem too dramatic, but it instantly makes the fight to save Etheria more personal, and conveys the horrors of Horde Prime’s conquests far better than any war-torn planet or battlefield.

She-Ra Catra
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And that’s the thing: whenever She-Ra strays dangerously close to imitating the Marvel films, it immediately veers away again with the help of some clever, quirky twist that makes it feel fresh and invigorating. The final season may have all the same scope, scale and – occasionally – story-beats as Endgame, but it puts its own unique spin on that story. There is only one instance I can think of where this isn’t the case, when several of our heroes (I won’t say which) are left stranded in space on their way to Etheria, but the fuel they need for their own ship is actually crystals in the exact shape of Captain Marvel’s eight-pointed star – Captain Marvel being the one who rescued Tony Stark from being stranded in space after his ship ran out of fuel – so they touch down on a desolate planet only to run into a motley crew of space pirates led by a woman called Starla (Melissa Fumero) and a bald purple cyborg woman with trust issues, in an interaction that plays out almost identically to a similar meeting between Tony Stark and Star Lord’s motley crew of space pirates – which also includes a bald purple cyborg woman with trust issues – in Avengers: Infinity War.

But there’s a not-so-secret weapon at the heart of She-Ra, and that’s the series’ core cast of characters and the relationships between them, which are constantly evolving in new, unpredictable directions. Avengers: Infinity War‘s greatest problem, in my opinion, is how it sacrificed character for plot: it’s a problem that unfortunately carries over into parts of Endgame – but She-Ra doesn’t have that problem: every major character has room to grow, and all their development happens onscreen, so it doesn’t need to be exposited to the audience. The cast is also small enough already that everyone can get a meaningful role: whereas in Endgame, it sometimes felt like certain characters had only survived the Infinity War snap so they could provide comedic relief.

She-Ra
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The story’s focus is still on Adora and Catra, as the couple navigates their fragile relationship with some difficulty. But for the first time, it’s not Adora putting in all the effort: Catra, for her part, is finally trying to stop pushing people away from her every time they show her any affection – though, much like Marvel’s Loki, she still plans on exploiting the current chaos for her own advantage, even if it means hurting others. Their relationship goes through some very surprising ups-and-downs this season. Separately, they’ve both changed as well – Adora is busy over-exerting herself as she tries to match the strength and stamina she possessed when she could turn into She-Ra, while Catra is a quieter, less aggressive shadow of her former self.

Catra’s reluctant interactions with the imprisoned Queen Glimmer are also surprisingly fun to watch, as Glimmer too has to make an effort to trust her former enemy, the woman responsible for her own mother’s death. Glimmer has had a rough time these past couple of seasons, losing people she loves and watching as her close circle of friends gives up on her when she needs them most – something which is partly her own fault, as her stubbornness manifests itself in increasingly dangerous decisions. Much like Catra, she is descending into a dark place, and it’s both thrilling and scary to join her on that journey.

Back on Etheria, Bow has also made some changes to his own lifestyle – though not quite enough to make him give up crop-tops, which he still wears proudly even in circumstances where one would think it impossible: such as the crushing void of space. His arc in this season is more understated than others, but it gives him a number of deeply satisfying revelations about his purpose in life, and also briefly reunites him with his two dads, who are still just as charming and witty as ever.

She-Ra
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My personal favorite character in the series, the geeky tech-genius Entrapta (Christine Woods), is given plenty of material to work with (quite literally) this season. Lost and lonely without her lab partner Hordak to turn to, she once again has a hard time reminding herself that she can’t just join the bad guys because they have cooler technology.

The other Princesses each get more time to shine, especially now that She-Ra herself isn’t around to steal the spotlight from them in action sequences. Shy, sensitive Scorpia (Lauren Ash), having just recently regained her Princess status after living her entire life severed from the powers of her Runestone, is the most compelling to watch – but then, she’s always been compelling. To no one’s surprise, she gravitates most toward Princess Perfuma (Genesis Rodriguez), who is battling her own insecurities and finds a kindred spirit in Scorpia’s gentle personality. The two more brusque Princesses, Frosta (Merit Leighton) and Mermista (Vella Lovell) have smaller roles this season: though the latter does get some very interesting development later in the season, and, as always, has adorable banter with the boisterous pirate captain, Sea Hawk (Jordan Fisher). A pleasant surprise is the upgrade of guest stars Spinnerella (Noelle Stevenson) and Netossa (Krystal Joy Brown) to recurring characters: they’ve come a long way from the time when Bow couldn’t even remember what their powers were.

Several villains find themselves joining with the Rebellion against Horde Prime’s power – the Horde itself has dissolved, while Hordak is trapped between his loyalty to his maker, and fidelity to his friend Entrapta (is there something more to their peculiar relationship? You’ll just have to watch and find out). Shadow Weaver (Lorraine Toussaint), meanwhile, still maintains that she is loyal to Queen Glimmer, even though her meddling with dark magic, which resumes early in the season as the Rebellion runs out of other options, makes her vulnerable to the temptation of evil.

She-Ra
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The dark magic itself is still fairly vague, but it is used in a greater capacity than ever before, and there are several fights which utilize it very well – especially those which also involve Glimmer’s father Micah (Daniel Dae Kim), who has had a little time to regain his strength since his decades-long sojourn on Beast Island. All in all, the action has been upgraded significantly this season: in particular, the fight scene which closes out Episode 5 is appropriately epic, and another fight soon after has one character literally leaping across an asteroid belt and blowing up starships with their bare hands. That’s all thanks to the incredible animation, of course.

A She-Ra review wouldn’t be complete without a shout-out to the series’ commitment to diversity – an area in which it wipes the floor with Endgame. While that film mustered up one nameless gay background character, She-Ra ends queerbaiting critiques once and for all with definitive, powerful LGBTQ+ representation.

For me, She-Ra beats out Endgame because of how undeniably right the payoff for every story thread and character arc is in the end. While Endgame leaves room for argument and debate over several characters’ fates, She-Ra ties everything up neatly, in a way that is brave but satisfying – at least for me. There’s no room for the sort of unending, roundabout discourse that plagues other fandoms. This feels like a conclusive, fitting ending for characters I only just met yesterday and for whom I would already sacrifice everything.

Series Rating: 10/10

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A Live-Action “Hercules” Is In Development At Disney!

A lot of people complain about the recent deluge of Disney live-action remakes, and, despite the fact that I personally have liked almost all of said remakes (with the glaring exception of The Lion King), I can understand the reasoning behind these complaints. More often than not, Disney has rigidly insisted on remaking all of their most beloved classics – films like Aladdin, Cinderella, Beauty And The Beast, The Jungle Book…films that are already so good or at least iconic, that it’s hard to add anything new to the story. That’s why I’m so happy that, at long last, the studio is looking to remake a couple of its more niche or less popular films. Films like Hercules (oh, and also Robin Hood).

Hercules has a huge cult following, to no one’s surprise. The film is a lot of fun, it’s got some pretty good songs, and the characters are hilarious and endearing – especially the villainous Hades, and the snarky princess Megara. But thanks to a poor box-office performance, Hercules is often neglected by both the studio that made it and general audiences: not quite as much as, say, Atlantis: The Lost Empire or Treasure Planet, but enough that neither Hercules nor Megara are considered official Disney royalty, despite being the prince and princess of Olympus and its huge pantheon of gods. Incredibly unfair, if you ask me. But thankfully, the film will now get a second chance to prove its worth, in the form of an upcoming live-action remake (special shout-out to the folks at The DisInsider for obtaining this awesome new scoop).

Hercules image
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Along with the news that the film is being remade for a theatrical debut and a hint that it will be a musical like the original (unless, I suppose, the non-musical Mulan remake does so well that Disney rethinks that strategy), there’s also several rumors of possible directors for the coveted project. Jon Favreau is probably the most obvious choice on the shortlist thanks to his work on the massively successful The Jungle Book and The Lion King remakes, but, from a creative standpoint, he seems like a weak option: perhaps The Lion King was just a fluke, but it’s also indicative of a mentality I personally don’t want to be applied to Hercules – adapting one of Disney’s more niche properties should be an opportunity for a more unique, creative vision, and Favreau’s has…not been that. And look, I’m not going to sit here and say that Bill Condon brought anything revolutionary to Beauty And The Beast, or that Guy Ritchie was able to leave his own distinct mark on Aladdin, but at least they added new material to the plot and expanded on some things, however small: The Lion King really didn’t do anything to widen the world or broaden the scope of the story. Then again, Favreau has proved to be a great producer on The Mandalorian, so I wouldn’t be averse to him having a role behind the scenes – but I don’t think he’d be the best choice for director.

The other names currently being floated are Gore Verbinski and the Russo Brothers. The former you will recognize as the director of Disney’s original Pirates Of The Caribbean trilogy (which, incidentally, I just watched a few days ago, and have been meaning to review), and the latter as the directing duo behind Marvel’s Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame. Now, I really like the Russo Brothers – despite some gripes I have with Endgame, I think the Russo’s are both extremely talented directors. But Verbinski…he’s the one I want helming the Hercules remake. His skill with action scenes and his eye for detail would help to make the film visually stunning, atmospheric, and appropriately epic for an adaptation of an ancient Greek myth.

Hercules Disney image
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As with any remake, there’s an opportunity for Disney to both honor the animated classic while updating the story with more modern sensibilities: due to the fact that Hercules has a smaller fanbase than the studio’s big hits, there’s probably an even greater likelihood that this remake could feature a number of changes – if I had to guess, I’d imagine that Megara will get a larger role, and probably won’t be subjected to the satyr Philoctetes’ unwanted advances, which, in the original film, quickly crossed a line into what would be considered harassment. And I’d love to see the remake draw more heavily from actual Greek mythology – the animated film was not very faithful to the Hercules myths, which means there’s a lot of room to improve on that front: though I’m 99% certain we still won’t see the actual Hercules origin story onscreen, as it involves Zeus cheating on his wife by disguising himself as the husband of a mortal woman.

There’s no word yet on who will be cast in the remake, though the internet is already abuzz with theories – the general consensus is that the Muses should be played by some of pop culture’s most talented black performing artists, from Beyoncé to Lizzo to Janelle Monaé, while singer Ariana Grande, coming off a strong and well-received recent performance of Megara’s ballad “I Won’t Say I’m In Love” appears to be the top choice to play the princess. As for Hades, I still maintain that Jeff Goldblum would be the ideal candidate for the zany, campy role, but I’m open to suggestions.

So what do you think of a Hercules remake? Who would you like to see come onboard as director? Who should star? Share your own thoughts, theories and opinions in the comments below!

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Five Ways Black Widow Could Come Back To The MCU!

Last night, I had the chance to watch Avengers: Endgame again for the first time in a while. As on previous rewatches of the film, I found myself appreciating most of the first act of the movie (where, SPOILER ALERT I GUESS?, the Avengers kill Thanos), and most of the third act (where the Avengers kill Thanos a second time). I even liked a lot of stuff in my least-favorite part of the movie, that troublesome second act that has the team split up across different timelines and try to steal Infinity Stones from history.

Black Widow
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But I still cringed at the absolute worst part of Avengers: Endgame – the scene in which Natasha Romanoff, the legendary Black Widow, sacrifices both her life and years of character development in exchange for the mysterious Soul Stone, willingly leaping from that accursed cliff on the godforsaken planet of Vormir to her very certain death. Cue the outrage. Natasha Romanoff, Marvel’s first (and for a long time, only) woman Avenger, was sacrificed in much the same way as another woman a year earlier: Gamora, who was tossed from the cliff by her own father. As womens’ bodies continue to pile up at the foot of that stupid cliff, fans (and especially, female fans) asked Marvel one simple favor: could you please stop fridging women?

Natasha Romanoff’s death is doubly infuriating because it came just before her long-awaited solo movie, Black Widow, which is supposed to explore an adventure in her past, before the events of Avengers: Endgame. But many are still clinging to a desperate hope that the Widow is still somewhere out there, either alive on earth or fighting to get back home. So let’s take a look at a couple ways Natasha could come back to life in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

5: It Wasn’t Really Her.

Yelena Belova
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This theory is a bit preposterous, but still worth noting: the idea is that Natasha Romanoff’s “sister”, Yelena Belova, who will make her debut in the Black Widow film, actually traded identities with Natasha before Avengers: Infinity War, or at some other point before Avengers: Endgame. There’s a little bit of evidence that supports this: Natasha wearing Yelena Belova’s jacket in Infinity War; a shot from a recent Black Widow trailer that shows Yelena Belova on a surgical table with a strange scar around her forehead, as if her face had been removed or changed. This option is undoubtedly the least appealing, not only because it would mean that the rest of Natasha’s awesome character beats in Endgame weren’t her own, but because this only changes the identity of the woman victim. As Infinity War Captain America would say: “We don’t trade lives.” Nonetheless, expect the super-spy sisters to swap identities frequently in the Black Widow film.

4: Multiverse Shenanigans.

Gamora
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As I mentioned previously, Gamora was the first person to lose her life on Vormir – but she has since returned, thanks to the time heist in Avengers: Endgame. Coincidentally, it was when Black Widow, Nebula, Hawkeye and War Machine traveled back to 2014 to retrieve the Power and Soul Stones that a 2014 version of Gamora was able to slip through into the present Marvel timeline, along with the 2014 Nebula and Thanos. If the Avengers wanted to bring Natasha back, they could simply find a version of her from another timeline – but that poses a whole bunch of other problems.

3: Bruce Resurrected Her.

Hulk
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One of the plot-lines left over from Avengers: Age Of Ultron that went nowhere was the love story between Natasha Romanoff and Bruce Banner a.k.a. The Hulk. The two characters both regarded themselves as “monsters” (let’s not even get into the reasons why), and bonded over that. But after Bruce went missing for two years and the Avengers films switched directors, that story was mostly left unfinished. Except for the fact that, when Bruce Banner finally got his hands on a fully-operational Infinity Gauntlet at the end of Endgame and snapped his fingers to bring back the people that Thanos had dusted, he also tried to bring back Natasha. This is only mentioned in a throwaway line in the film’s final few minutes, but it’s still intriguing – could Bruce have been successful? How would he know? Natasha would presumably be resurrected on Vormir where she died, meaning she’d have to find her own way home.

2: Captain America Came To Bargain.

Captain America
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At the end of Avengers: Endgame, Captain America takes it upon himself to go back in time and return all the Infinity Stones the Avengers had taken from time. The Space Stone went back to New Jersey, the Time Stone back to the Sanctum Sanctorum, the Reality Stone…I don’t even want to know how he somehow injected it back into Jane Foster without her knowing. But the Soul Stone is the most interesting one: to bring it back, Captain America would have to return to Vormir, to the exact moment of Natasha’s death, and hand it over to…Red Skull, I guess. But does returning the Stone mean that Natasha’s life is also returned? If Natasha is to be brought back to life, this is by far the most likely explanation as to why.

1: Natasha, Daughter Of Ivan.

Druig
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And then we come to my theory. I’ve always believed that there’s a reason the Black Widow solo film is supposed to kick off the epic, cosmic events of Marvel’s Phase 4. But what business does the decidedly human heroine have in this universe of gods, aliens and mythical lore? Well, my theory is rooted in comic lore and a very intriguing name that gets dropped minutes before Natasha’s death. Red Skull calls her “daughter of Ivan”, and Natasha comments that he must be telling the truth, because she didn’t even know her father’s name. But who is Ivan? While there are any number of Ivan so-and-so’s associated with Natasha in the comics, there’s also another character who goes by that name, who has a connection to the events about to unfold in the MCU: Ivan Druig is the alias that Druig, an Eternal (who will be played by Barry Keoghan in The Eternals), takes when he impersonates a sadistic Russian KGB officer and the leader of a small Soviet state named Vorozheika. If “Ivan” is Ivan Druig, and Natasha is Ivan’s daughter, that makes her a demigod – similar to how Peter Quill was revealed to be the son of a living planet. Druig might have an interest in resurrecting his daughter, maybe even giving her new powers in the process. If this were the case, Natasha could hold her own in the next phase of the MCU, while her film would have a major tie-in to The Eternals that would help to get audiences excited for that film.

What do you think of these theories? Do you even want to see Natasha brought back, or were you happy with her sacrifice? Share your own thoughts, theories and opinions in the comments below!

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Sebastian Stan Vs. “Avengers: Endgame” Explained!

Ah, the drama. Earlier this morning, Marvel Cinematic Universe star Sebastian Stan made headlines by seemingly expressing his disappointment with the ending of his Marvel character’s story arc in Avengers: Endgame (and was welcomed by Star Wars star John Boyega into the small but steadily growing community of actors unhappy with how they were treated in the final installment of their respective franchises). I say “seemingly” because it’s kind of unclear whether or not Stan’s vague, single-emoji response to an angry fan’s social media post was an expression of sympathy or not. But since Stan hasn’t clarified his position, and the internet is having a field-day with this story, let’s assume for a moment that Stan really doesn’t like the conclusion to the long and tumultuous history of Bucky Barnes, a.k.a. The Winter Soldier, in the MCU.

Sebastian Stan Vs. "Avengers: Endgame" Explained! 1
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First of all, we have to take a look at the post which stirred up all this controversy and drama. The tweet, itself a response to an official Marvel post about Bucky’s relationship with Steve Rogers, a.k.a. Captain America, read: “Together until the end of the line. Or until bad, inconsistent, out-of-character writing turns Steve Rogers into his own anti-thesis. Shouldn’t it be “together until the end of the lie” now?” The author’s harsh condemnation of certain Avengers: Endgame plotlines would have been controversial regardless of whether it was spotted by a certain Marvel actor (who doesn’t even have Twitter, which makes the whole situation even weirder), but the fact that Stan posted a single wide-eyed emoji (which, according to the internet, could mean anything from shock to embarrassment), is what’s got everyone talking. Why is he angry about this whole “end of the line” business anyway, and what would he have preferred to the ending we got?

Before we go any further, let me make it clear that I don’t necessarily disagree with either Stan or the fan, but that doesn’t mean this post is going to devolve into an embittered, anti-Endgame tirade. I like Endgame: I like it less now than I did upon first viewing, because I’ve identified many of the film’s flaws, and I’m not entirely satisfied with the many of the film’s decision, especially with regards to the final choices of characters like Tony Stark, Natasha Romanoff, and, yes, Steve Rogers, but I still really like it. I don’t think the Russo Brothers are bad directors, or that Disney/Marvel are evil for not creating the perfect movie, or that anybody has to be “cancelled” by the MCU fandom. I’m not the type to start unnecessary drama (though, if you’d like me to, I could start by saying that Avengers: Infinity War is a complete and utter mess: but I won’t). No, I just want to discuss what I feel is one of the most uninspired and uncomfortable decisions made by the Avengers: Endgame writing team.

Which just so happens to be the conclusion to Steve Rogers’ and Bucky Barnes’ relationship.

In the MCU, these two characters, more than probably any other duo (with the exception of Thor and his brother Loki), have constantly been paired up in increasingly dramatic and thrilling situations that have tested their loyalty to each other time and time again: and yet, despite everything, they’ve always found a way back to each other’s side. Steve gets frozen in the Arctic Ocean for seventy years? No biggie. Bucky is horribly maimed in a wartime accident and becomes the brainwashed servant of a malicious organization operating deep within the most secure counter-intelligence group in the world? Not a problem. Their relationship was important to the plot of Captain America: The First Avenger, crucial (obviously) to Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and pivotal to Captain America: Civil War, in which it was a dispute over Bucky’s safety that led Steve to disobey the Sokovia Accords and start a conflict with Tony Stark that led to the titular civil war which broke up the Avengers, which in turn led to Steve and Bucky going on the run, which in part contributed to Thanos’ victory in Avengers: Infinity War, which set in motion all the events of Avengers: Endgame and thus everything that will happen in the MCU for decades to come. It’s not like Bucky is some side-character: he’s a really big deal.

And then, suddenly, he wasn’t.

At the end of Civil War, Bucky was sent to the African nation of Wakanda to recuperate from his injuries, and since then has shown up a handful of times onscreen, spoken a couple lines of dialogue, and has acted as little more than an extra in fight-scenes. In the post-credits scene of Black Panther, he’s not even that – he wakes up in Wakanda and gets the title of “White Wolf”, which seems to forebode big developments down the line. In Infinity War, he is gifted a seriously cool new vibranium arm that seems designed to wreak havoc on the battlefield but…doesn’t; and then, after being dusted by Thanos, he disappears for five years until the Endgame finale, where he has little more than a cameo as the guy standing silently but supportively behind Steve as he, Steve, makes some of the stupidest decisions of his unnaturally long life. And yes, he’s now getting his own Disney+ series (in which he will co-star alongside Anthony Mackie’s Falcon), but that can’t erase the fact that the conclusion of his relationship with the most important person in his life amounted to a brief exchange using dialogue recycled from their first movie. Meanwhile, Steve gets to enjoy a fairytale ending while everyone else in the MCU suffers irreversible pain and hardship; he goes back in time and unabashedly robs a strong, independent woman of her own agency and story arc, just so he can make good on a promise he made twenty-something movies ago. Was it so absolutely necessary that he have his dance with Peggy Carter, thereby creating his own alternate universe in which she never remarried after his disappearance, or had her own family, or moved on with her life?

No. It was, in my opinion, blatant fan-service that makes little to no sense given everything that has happened to Steve over the years. His entire arc has been one of trying to survive in the modern world, to find purpose and meaning in an era that no longer requires his antiquated morals and services, trying to adapt to society. At first, he fought with tooth and nail and Frisbee-shield: he pined after Peggy and he clung to Bucky, and he shook his head at newfangled customs. But he was beginning to change, to evolve, when Endgame happened – in Winter Soldier, he was forced to take a good long look at the government he had blindly followed into battle for decades, and in Civil War he actually fought back against all forms of government, becoming a rogue anarchist. He even had a new love-interest (albeit one who was related to his former love-interest, which made the whole situation highly disturbing and awkward). And then, after all that development, what does he do, first chance he gets? Hops in a time-machine and fills out an entire lifespan with Peggy Carter, thereby shattering any hope that he would move on with his own life, and stealing Peggy’s own opportunity to do so. And for Sebastian Stan and many other outraged viewers, the worst part of this was that it prevented Steve from having any time to interact with Bucky, a friend he had actually known for some time in both the past and present, and with whom he had a complex, meaningful relationship – for whom he had fought the entire world, for whom he had risked his own life countless times: a friend he had believed in when no one else would.

Steve’s ending is uninspired because it does nothing new with the character, but instead harps back on what made him interesting ten years ago: it reverses years of development in an attempt to make his story come full-circle. And unfortunately, this is similar to what happens to many other Avengers in the same movie: Tony Stark, who spent much of his life wondering how he would die and how many people he could save while doing it, died saving the entire world; Natasha Romanoff, whose every waking moment was spent giving thanks to her family and wondering when she would have to sacrifice everything for them, sacrificed everything, including her life, for them; Clint Barton, who just wanted a boring, middle-American family and a farmhouse in the middle of nowhere, got all that after briefly turning into a bloodthirsty ninja and exacting vengeance on all the Asian crime-lords who had absolutely nothing to do with his family getting dusted by Thanos. Each of those endings tries to employ the full-circle trick, but they almost all fail because the full-circle trick doesn’t always work, and isn’t always that interesting, for the same reason why most people like the concept of free will more than fate – the idea that your destiny is predetermined is, honestly, kind of boring. There’s no surprise, no tension.

I can’t claim to understand what went into the making of Avengers: Endgame, or why the screenwriters and directors chose to do what they did with the story: but one thing that most Marvel fans have noticed (and have already speculated could explain the sudden disappearance of Bucky Barnes) is that soon after The Winter Soldier‘s release, a vocal division of the fandom rose up to demand that Steve and Bucky’s relationship go an extra step further and develop into a romantic dynamic. While both actors, Chris Evans and Sebastian Stan, were very supportive of the idea, it seems that higher-ups at Marvel were nervous even to acknowledge the idea of a Steve/Bucky love story, and tried to backpedal: they gave Steve a new, temporary female love interest, and even wrote in a conversation between the two where they talk about the extremely-straight-and-not-at-all-gay relationships that they had back in the 1940’s. And it didn’t take long before Bucky suddenly started vanishing from the movies and getting less and less screen-time. Maybe this is because of cowardice, or maybe it’s simply because the Russo Brothers didn’t want another gay character distracting from that crucial five-second cameo from the Unnamed Gay Man in Avengers: Endgame, but either way it does seem to have had a negative impact on how Marvel treated Bucky Barnes.

Now, we don’t know if this is why Stan doesn’t like the ending to Steve and Bucky’s relationship (technically, we don’t even know if he doesn’t like their ending). A single emoji can say a lot, but in this case it’s vague enough that I’m basing most of my assumptions off the original tweet, which said the Endgame plotline was “bad” (which is entirely subjective), “inconsistent” (which I’ve argued is an accurate assertion), and “out-of-character” (there’s no good answer to this one: after all, Steve is the character who rebelled against the very political structure that created him, but he’s also the same character who couldn’t even find a prospective date outside of his 1945 girlfriend’s immediate family). Now I leave it up to you, my dear jury, to decide for yourselves who’s right and who’s wrong in this debate. In my personal opinion, I have to agree with many of the claims made in the original tweet, but I’m also not going to sit here and say that Avengers: Endgame is poorly-written, as if it didn’t masterfully handle the extraordinarily large cast of characters across several timelines and in multiple parallel realities, right up until that iffy ending.

So what do you think? Is Sebastian Stan well within his rights to raise his voice, despite still being employed by Marvel (even John Boyega waited until after he was done with Star Wars to give them a piece of his mind), or does he come off as merely disgruntled? What do you, personally, think of the ending to Steve and Bucky’s story, and if you could rewrite it, would you? Share your thoughts, theories and opinions in the comments below!

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Marvel Phase 4 Timeline!

With Avengers: Endgame out in theaters (and crushing the box-office), Marvel is already looking ahead to the Fourth Phase of their cinematic universe – we’ve already discussed what movies will soon be coming to the big screen in the near future: now let’s talk about when we’ll probably see them.

So, leaving aside Spider-man: Far From Home, which long ago wrapped filming and is set to release on July 5th of this year, the next Marvel film to start production should be the Natasha Romanoff origin story Black Widow, which, according to star David Harbour, should begin in June, possibly in the United Kingdom. Director Cate Shortland is attached, and Jac Schaeffer is the scriptwriter. Scarlett Johansson will be returning to the role of the Russian assassin. We should see Black Widow on May 1st, 2020.

The Eternals, which may star Angelina Jolie and Kumail Nanjiani, is probably next in line, as cameras are expected to start rolling in September, also in England. Chloe Zhao is the director, making her Marvel’s third female director, and their first of Asian heritage. Matthew and Ryan Firpo will be the writing the screenplay for this ambitious project, rumored to have a massive ensemble cast with five female leads and three male leads. The Eternals does not yet have an official release date, but it seems likely that it could make the November 6th, 2020 slot that is currently reserved by Marvel.

Beyond that, things get a little trickier, but it looks like the eagerly-anticipated Black Panther 2, sequel to the 2018 box-office giant, is moving along at a swift pace, with the first film’s director Ryan Coogler and stars such as Chadwick Boseman, Letitia Wright and Danai Gurira – and even Michael B. Jordan, whose character died in Black Panther – all expected to return. Filming will probably begin early next year, and the movie could easily make the February 12th, 2021 release date.

After a strong outing in Avengers: Infinity War, Doctor Strange has also been confirmed for a sequel – Benedict Cumberbatch is expected to reprise the role, though there has been no official announcement. Director Scott Derrickson and screenwriter C. Robert Cargill are likely to return. The release date for this movie has been a matter of contention, with some outlets reporting it could arrive in 2020 – that seems highly improbable, as there has been no word on any production dates yet: though actor Benedict Wong did suggest it might start filming earlier than expected. But it’s a pretty safe bet that Doctor Strange 2 will arrive, at the earliest, in 2021. The only question is what month, exactly. Aside from the February 12th slot, there are just two other confirmed Marvel slots that year – May 7th and November 5th. Considering that the first Doctor Strange came out in November, and some other developments, I’m predicting we’ll next see the Sorcerer Supreme on November 5th, 2021.

So what takes that May 7th date? Well, the aforementioned developments have to do with the fact that Shang-Chi, Marvel’s first Asian-led film, is rumored to begin filming soon after The Eternals wraps. That should place its start date early next year, and could point to Shang-Chi making that May 2021 release date. Destin Daniel Cretton is onboard to direct the film, and David Callaham will write the script, but no casting announcements have been made yet.

Then there’s the whole question of when Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 will get off the ground – director James Gunn was fired and went to work with the DCEU over at Warner Brothers, only to suddenly be rehired by Marvel earlier this year. Now, Gunn has two commitments to the two rival studios, which is rather intriguing: thankfully, he’s decided to do the courteous thing and finish filming Suicide Squad for DC before picking up where he left off with Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3. But, surprisingly, this sequence of events could start much sooner than anticipated: Suicide Squad is moving at full speed ahead, and Guardians 3 is now rumored to start filming sometime next year. It seems to me that we could see the return of Star-Lord and his band of intergalactic bandits on May 6th, 2022.

Beyond that there’s also a July 29th, 2022 date that could fit a Captain Marvel sequel, something that is likely to start sooner than later, based on the film’s incredible box-office run and astonishing staying power. There is a peculiar February 18th, 2022 release date as well, one that intrigues me: it doesn’t seem well-suited to Guardians of the Galaxy, which has been a Summer franchise, but Shang-Chi looks to be moving too quickly to get pushed back so far. It’s possible this is where Black Panther 2 ends up, or it’s also conceivable that this slot will be changed in the coming months. So far Marvel’s president Kevin Feige has said nothing about when we’ll see any of these films.

And that’s what brings us full-circle, back to Spider-man: Far From Home. Feige is apparently waiting until that film debuts before he will unveil the official Phase 4 timeline: that reveal will probably be made at San Diego Comic Con in July. We don’t have long to wait.

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What’s Next For The MCU? Phase 4 Predictions.

The ending of Avengers: Endgame leaves us with a bittersweet taste in our mouths. Things have changed in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, for better or worse, and now we have to continue on in a world that deals with Endgame‘s ramifications – a world with some new characters we don’t yet know much about, new storylines we’re not yet emotionally invested in: where do we go now, and who can we expect to see more from in the coming years?

Naturally, there are major spoilers for Avengers: Endgame ahead. If you haven’t seen the movie yet, I encourage you to go do so – like, now.

You’re back? Good, so let’s talk about what happened, and what happens next. The original Avengers (Tony Stark, Steve Rogers, Thor, Natasha Romanoff, Bruce Banner and Clint Barton) have had their stories concluded in a variety of different ways: Tony is dead, and likely to remain that way; Rogers has now gotten everything he wanted, including his dance with Peggy Carter, and his arc is finished – he’s not dead, but he’s now an old man; Thor has joined the (As)guardians of the Galaxy and seems likely to enjoy a whole bunch of new adventures; Romanoff’s broken body is lying at the foot of a cliff on the planet Vormir, where she sacrificed herself for the Soul Stone; Banner is now Professor Hulk, and his entire story seems to have ended; Barton has returned to his family.

Of these, Thor, Romanoff and Barton are probably going to continue on into the next phase of the MCU.

Thor has joined forces with the Guardians of the Galaxy, and will presumably be a key player in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, which seems likely to focus on an unresolved plot point from Endgame: Star-Lord, the Guardians’ leader, was temporarily reunited with his girlfriend Gamora, but she disappeared at some point afterwards. We see him searching for her at the end of the movie, so it looks like that could be a critical focus of the third Guardians installment. Star-Lord, thankfully, has help from Gamora’s sister, Nebula, who has been more than redeemed by events in Endgame – and from Thor, who has relinquished all of his other duties so he can join his friend Rocket Raccoon here on an intergalactic mission. Certainly Thor’s presence on the team will be welcomed by other Guardians such as Drax and Mantis, both of whom seemed infatuated with him in Avengers: Infinity War, and by Nebula and Rocket, who have now become friends with the God of Thunder. There’s already some tension between Thor and Star-Lord, however, about who gets to be captain. Considering the overwhelming support for Thor, I think Star-Lord’s in for a surprise – I wonder if this might carry through into real life. Star-Lord actor Chris Pratt has been the unchallenged star of the Guardians franchise for two movies now, but Chris Hemsworth’s Thor is a fan-favorite and could easily overshadow the rest of the group. Hopefully, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 director James Gunn, newly reinstated to the franchise, will be able to give all the characters their proper screentime.

Meanwhile, Natasha Romanoff, the Black Widow, seemed to have a definitive conclusion in Endgame, sacrificing herself so that the other Avengers could win the Soul Stone and complete their construction of an Infinity Gauntlet. However, Romanoff is getting her own solo movie next year, and even though Black Widow seems to be a prequel, it doesn’t seem very Marvelous to make the very first move of the next phase be a callback to the past. I’ve speculated before that I feel Black Widow has a major connection to events in Phase 4, specifically the upcoming Eternals franchise, but that’s still just a guess. At the moment, all we know about Black Widow is that she’s dead. Her death, however, could hypothetically be reversed – Captain America returns the Soul Stone at the end of Endgame, which might be enough to undo Black Widow’s sacrifice and bring her back to life. Her movie is set to star Rachel Weisz, Florence Pugh and David Harbour (with some outlets also reporting that Emma Watson might still be involved in the project), and is going to be the stepping-stone into the next phase of the MCU. Whether or not Black Widow ends up being linked to the broader Marvel universe, though, it will still be a very interesting foray into an unexplored corner of the timeline, one that involves spies, political intrigue, and (hopefully) the often-alluded-to-but-never-properly-explained incident in Budapest that both Black Widow and Hawkeye remember so differently.

Speaking of Hawkeye, Clint Barton finished out Endgame still very much alive, and very much still the family man he’s always been. At the beginning of Endgame, we saw him and his daughter practicing archery, and now that he’s back he’ll presumably continue his lessons with her. However, everything might not be as happily-ever-after as it seems for Barton, who did a lot of questionable things during the time that his family was snapped out of existence by the Titan Thanos. Aside from renewing his semi-romantic relationship with Black Widow, Barton also adopted a new identity – under the name Ronin – and began systematically killing people across the globe. We even saw him dealing with Japanese criminals in a particularly vicious scene, which saw Hiroyuki Sanada wasted in a seemingly pointless cameo as one of Ronin’s victims. But could karma catch up with Hawkeye in the future? It’s been rumored that he’s getting his own streaming show on the new Disney Plus platform, where we might also see the Hawkeye mantle pass on to Kate Bishop, a comics character who has yet to enter the MCU. Maybe some figurative ghosts from Barton’s bloodstained past come back to haunt him and his family, and he has to team up with Bishop to stop them.

Interestingly, Hawkeye wouldn’t be alone on Disney Plus: Scarlet Witch, Vision, Loki, Winter Soldier and Falcon are the Marvel characters currently confirmed to be getting their own streaming shows. Scarlet Witch and Vision will be starring in the oddly-named WandaVision, which will see actors Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany reprise their roles as the telepathic mutant (they’re allowed to use that word now, due to the FOX merger), and the deadpan android. Very few details are known about their show so far, except that it might take place in the 1950’s – which is confusing, to say the least, since neither Scarlet Witch nor Vision have shown any interest in time traveling previously, and Vision is actually dead at the moment. The Loki show, aptly titled Loki, could potentially explore one of Endgame‘s most intriguing moments – where Loki, in an alternate timeline, manages to escape with the Space Stone after the Battle of New York. This timeline, unlike others, might not have been affected by Captain America returning the Infinity Stones to their proper timelines at the end of the movie. This means we could see Loki on a wild, galaxy-hopping adventure through space and time in his own show: who wouldn’t be down for that?

Falcon & The Winter Soldier, on the other hand, is by far the most easy-to-understand of the three confirmed shows: at the end of Endgame, we saw Steve Rogers pass the title of Captain America to Falcon, who accepted it with the silent blessing of Bucky Barnes, the Winter Soldier, who stood nearby. A new Captain America means (most likely) more trouble with organizations like S.H.I.E.L.D and HYDRA, which can’t ever seem to get their act together. We’ll see Falcon and Winter Soldier team up against a new threat to American freedoms and values, while also coming to terms with what it means to be Captain America. Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan have such fantastic chemistry, both onscreen and off-screen, that I think this show will be a big hit.

Not everything is so simple, though. On the big screen, the MCU is going to continue getting larger and more complex, with the addition of the Eternals, a divine race of superhumans who will show up in theaters in late 2020, ushering in what could be Marvel’s most ambitious goal yet: a cosmic phase. It’s long been speculated that, after Endgame, things are going to get crazier in the MCU, with the addition of more out-there concepts such as Eternals, Deviants and Celestials, or characters like Galactus and the Silver Surfer. If that is what they’re doing, The Eternals is the perfect place to start this: the members of this ensemble team are relateable enough that they might be able to sell some of these strange new ideas to audiences, especially with the help of confirmed stars Angelina Jolie and Kumail Nanjiani. The film looks to be a crowded one, with rumors of five female leads and three male leads, including Marvel’s first openly gay male lead, and a female lead of color. This project is one that I’m highly anticipating.

After The Eternals, though, the MCU doesn’t look to be diving into otherworldly and galactic storylines: instead, we’ll probably first be returning to the tranquil African nation of Wakanda, where Black Panther and his sister Shuri will face some new, as yet unknown, threat to the throne. There are very few details about this eagerly-awaited sequel to the 2018 cultural phenomenon that was Black Panther, but you can be sure that the film will go into production as soon as possible.

Another sequel that has yet to be officially confirmed is Captain Marvel 2. Air-force pilot Carol Danvers flew higher, further, faster at the box-office this year, proving that a female superhero is more than capable of carrying her own franchise. While there is no word on when such a sequel might be released, it’s probably only a matter of time. Carol got her comics-accurate haircut and sash in Avengers: Endgame and looks like she’s ready to take on her undefeated foe from her solo movie, the Kree Supreme Intelligence, or possibly even her former mentor Yon-Rogg, who was allowed to escape unharmed at the end of Captain Marvel. The alien race of Skrulls, villains in the comics, were portrayed in a more sympathetic light in the MCU, but that doesn’t mean all of them are benevolent – I’ve already questioned whether one character established in Captain Marvel might walk down a dark path in a future movie. Endgame teased the appearance of several new female superheroes, including Valkyrie as the new Queen of Asgard and Ant-Man’s daughter Cassie Lang: it’s possible that, in a nod to the A-Force storyline from Marvel comics, we could see these heroines team up under the leadership of Carol Danvers to take on some cosmic threats.

But while battle rages among the stars, the earth itself might be threatened by more mystical forces – Doctor Strange, who became one of the Avengers’ most crucial players in Infinity War, is now unprotected by the Time Stone. This could leave him and the Sanctum Sanctorum open to attack by characters such as Karl Mordo, or even Dormammu. Magic is still pretty new to the MCU, and doesn’t yet have any clearly-established rules, so it will be interesting to see what director Scott Derrickson chooses to do with it here, in Doctor Strange 2, which will presumably see the Sorceror Supreme dealing with the fallout from Endgame. Hopefully we see him team up with the Scarlet  Witch, assuming she isn’t permanently relegated to Disney Plus.

Beyond even that, Marvel is already planning for its first film headed by an Asian lead – an origin story for the martial-arts master and spy Shang-Chi, whose appearance in the MCU doesn’t seem to have been foreshadowed by anything we’ve seen so far: unless it might be that the Japanese criminals from Endgame that Ronin killed were somehow associated with Shang-Chi’s infamous father, the crime syndicate Zheng Zu (previously known by the racist moniker Fu Manchu). Marvel’s president Kevin Feige has been surprisingly willing to discuss this particularly project, but there are still no concrete details.

And that’s all in the future. Only a few months away now is the last installment in Marvel’s Phase 3 – that is, Spider-man: Far From Home, which will pit the web-slinger Peter Parker against a reality-bending villain named Mysterio. While this isn’t officially part of Phase 4, according to Kevin Feige, it will still be an entertaining and exciting epilogue to the events of Avengers: Endgame, a much needed respite after huge battles and intergalactic politics, where we can sit back and enjoy some smaller-scale conflict for the safety of Spider-man’s neighborhood.

Which Phase 4 movie are you most excited to see? Let me know in the comments. Considering the fast pace at which projects like The Eternals, Black Widow and Black Panther 2 are being rushed along, it seems likely we’ll get more details about these and other movies sooner than later.

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“Avengers: Endgame” Spoiler Free Review!

"Avengers: Endgame" Spoiler Free Review! 2
themarysue.com

Visionary directors Joe and Anthony Russo have done it again, but this time, they’ve really done it.

In my opinion, it would not be an overstatement to say that Avengers: Endgame raises the bar for what can be done with superhero movies – something that has become nearly impossible as films utilize more and more revolutionary storytelling techniques. But Endgame shows what can be done when ten years of story carried over twenty-two movies crash together in a brave, brilliant and fitting fashion – and unfortunately, so much of it is spoilery, this review is going to have some pretty major holes in it, which will only be filled in when you see this film.

And trust me, you should.

If you thought last year’s Avengers: Infinity War took every story strand of the MCU and tied them all neatly together, you’d be wrong. Avengers: Endgame does that, and, unlike Infinity War, gives us a very final, very conclusive way to end this phase of the Marvel Universe – an ending that will make you gasp out loud, it’s that good. Where Infinity War snubbed characters such as Captain America (Chris Evans) and Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Endgame gives all of the original Avengers enough time to shine in the spotlight. And as for the fate of the universe, well…you’ll just have to watch the movie and find out about that!

There’s a certain urgency about watching this film: spoilers are already drifting out there on the internet, waiting to ensnare the unwary traveler. Go as soon as possible, before you have any of the massive surprises spoiled for you – these are things that truly deserve to be seen for the first time on the big screen. Certain scenes, certain reveals, are mind-boggling only because I was able to go into this movie completely unspoiled, knowing nothing of what to expect.

Now a lot of people have been worried about the length of Endgame, which clocks in at three hours and two minutes. In my opinion, the movie positively flew by, and didn’t feel like it dragged or slowed down at any time. The pacing is fast and crisp. There are also conflicting reports about whether you should stay through the (very long) credits to see what’s at the end. I think that the credits themselves are quite beautifully done, and should not be missed, at least the first few minutes of them. As for the little surprise at the end – well, it’s possibly worth it, but it might not be as it seems, and it might not be what you’re expecting, either. So I won’t say too much.

What can I talk about, then? The plot premise, obviously, is a big spoiler, as the trailers and marketing have (rightly) kept it all pretty vague – don’t trust everything in those trailers, by the way. But let’s see: the music, of course, is quite good, composed by Alan Silvestri once again, and the cinematography is excellent and beautiful. The CGI is incredible, especially on certain characters who I’m not entirely allowed to talk about here.

Characters I am allowed to talk about here include Thor (Chris Hemsworth) who has an interesting new angle to his personality that you’ll either love or hate: Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), whose return is quite refreshing at first but, at least for me, quickly wears off: and the newest addition to the team, Captain Marvel, played by Academy-Award winner Brie Larson, who brings a lot of spunk and energy to the movie even in dark times, and has some very cool scenes. Everybody has something to do in this movie, and no one feels sidelined or thrown-in for the sake of it. Even War Machine (Don Cheadle) finally gets a decent showing. Endgame has great purpose, and knows it. Everything is leading up to one thing, and that thing is-

A spoiler. Sorry!

Do yourself a favor, though, and watch this movie. The surprises are real, the shocks are extraordinary, the gasp-out-loud moments are frequent. You will not be disappointed, whether you’re looking for a drama or a fun action-movie, tragedy or comedy. This movie literally has everything, and I don’t say that lightly. Avengers: Endgame has forever changed the game with superhero movies. In my opinion, this is the peak of Marvel’s success: if, someday, the MCU can replicate this awesome achievement with another movie, they will be the luckiest studio ever. Because this is not an easy movie to forget, and it’s also a movie that demands to be talked about in depth, with no boundaries. Which is why I hope you’ll join me for my Spoiler Discussion, which will hold nothing back! But before you do, go see the movie!

"Avengers: Endgame" Spoiler Free Review! 3
forbes.com

Trust me, you won’t be disappointed. I’m adding Avengers: Endgame to my list of favorite movies today, and for good reason. This is the end of an era, the end of a beautiful story, but it manages to be even more than that – it’s just a fantastic movie overall!

Movie Rating: 10/10

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