“Raya And The Last Dragon” Promotional Art Reveals Title Character!

Despite the fact that it’s probably going to be an amazing movie based off the few details we know so far, Raya And The Last Dragon isn’t on the radar for most general audiences just yet. The upcoming animated feature film from Disney Animation was quietly announced last year and has since dropped off the face of the earth: no new casting, no first look images, no trailers or teasers – and no clear release date in site, since coronavirus is still keeping every film studio on their toes. Raya And The Last Dragon is tentatively set for March 12th, 2021, but that date could certainly change several more times.

While we wait, however, the internet has been blessed with a new piece of promotional art for the film which comes to us via a Panama-based shipping company promoting their services and collaborations with companies such as Disney: tucked away on their Instagram, one is able to discover the brand new artwork, which gives us our first clear look at Raya and a not-quite-as-clear look at the Last Dragon.

Raya And The Last Dragon
thedisinsider.com

The image doesn’t reveal much beyond that, but that hasn’t ever really stopped me from theorizing before. Raya And The Last Dragon takes place in an entirely fictional realm, rather than in any particular historical period, but it draws influences from the culture, folklore and mythology of Southeast Asia – as evidenced in this image by Raya’s clothing, the sinuous, almost serpentine dragon trailing across the sky – and, unfortunately, mostly hidden behind cloud cover – and the ruined stonework overgrown with strangler figs, a sight common in locations such as Cambodia’s Angkor Wat, an ancient temple complex reclaimed by the jungle. With that in mind, I’ve already begun exploring Southeast Asian mythology (much like how I took a deep dive into Scandinavian folklore before the release of Frozen II) and hunting for details that could show up in the film.

Raya And The Last Dragon
Angkor Wat | bbc.co.uk

One thing in particular interests me about the new poster: surrounding Raya (who, by the way, is perfectly dressed for a heroic quest to find a dragon, though I really would have appreciated a glimpse of her weapon: we can see the hilt, but not much beyond that) is a field of glowing blue flowers, and so far I haven’t come across anything like this in the legends and lore of the region. That being said, it’s hard not to see a resemblance between these flowers and the glowing blue will o’-the wisps that guided Princess Merida to her destiny in Pixar’s Brave, and so I wouldn’t be surprised if these flowers serve a similar purpose in Raya And The Last Dragon.

What do you think of the image? Are you excited for Raya? Share your own thoughts, theories and opinions in the comments below!

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“The Little Mermaid” May Have Found Its Vanessa!

In times of crisis, it can be comforting to know that not everything has been canceled or delayed indefinitely. The Little Mermaid live-action remake may not be sailing into port any time soon, but it is still coming to a theater near you, and today we’ve learned that a big name may have just joined the cast of the fishy fairytale. The brilliant folks over at The DisInsider broke the news that singer/songwriter Kacey Musgraves has been circling the role of Vanessa in The Little Mermaid, and that, while she’s not locked in just yet, she has spoken with Disney executives via Zoom call to discuss the subject.

The Little Mermaid
popsugar.com

Musgraves as Vanessa is an unexpected casting choice that is sure to provoke renewed interest in the film – but then again, so was Halle Bailey as Ariel and Melissa McCarthy as Ursula: and for a moment there, so was Harry Styles as Eric until he passed on the coveted role. Like Halle Bailey, she is better known for her career in music than in movies: she is a nine-time Grammy nominee, and six-time winner, and one of the most well-known female country singers working today. But she’s also a frequent collaborator with Disney – just last year, she performed All Is Found for the closing credits of Frozen II…the song is somewhat forgettable, and I don’t understand why she wasn’t chosen to sing something more powerful like Show Yourself, but don’t get me started on the ways in which that song was robbed. Anyway, she’s established a relationship with the studio, and that’s clearly paid off.

For those who have been living under a seashell for the past thirty years, Vanessa is the human disguise of shapeshifting sorceress Ursula in The Little Mermaid, who shows up for a couple of scenes near the end of the movie to try and steal Eric away from Ariel and prevent the mermaid from scoring a true love’s kiss. Vanessa uses Ariel’s stolen singing voice to easily win over the prince (I’ve always disliked Eric, despite the fact that this technically isn’t his fault), and the two hastily arrange a marriage on the prince’s ship – a marriage which is interrupted by Ariel and her animal sidekicks when they overhear Vanessa singing about her evil plan (when will Disney villains ever learn?). Physically, the character of Vanessa matches Kacey Musgraves pretty perfectly. But there is one problem which I hope is resolved.

The Little Mermaid
Prince Eric and Vanessa | littlemermaid.fandom.com

Vanessa barely ever sings. And while Kacey Musgraves is still a win either way, I can’t help but wonder why Disney would be focused on her for the part if they don’t plan to expand the role of Vanessa and give her more songs beyond the two she has in the original animated film (and when I say she has two, I really only mean she wails beautifully on the beach when seducing Eric and then has two or three lines where she’s maybe singing, maybe just talking melodically about her evil plan). But Howard Menken, who is doing the music for The Little Mermaid, has only written four new songs that we know about – and according to The DisInsider, these consist of a solo number for Eric (he doesn’t need one, but whatever), a duet for Eric and Ariel (have I mentioned I don’t like Eric?), a song for Scuttle the seagull (who will be voiced by Awkwafina, so I’m letting this otherwise ridiculous decision slide), and a solo number for…King Triton, of all people. It’s possible Menken will write additional songs as production gets underway, but for now this is what we know. No new solo numbers for Ariel or Ursula, nothing new for Sebastian, and nothing new for the character of Vanessa. So as of right now, unless Disney simply plans to fill out Vanessa’s Song (the evil plan song: it doesn’t even have a real title, it’s that short) with more lyrics, then I don’t see the reasoning behind Kacey Musgraves’ casting, though I am still excited for her.

What do you think of this new casting for The Little Mermaid? Do you hope to see Vanessa’s role expanded and/or new songs written for her? Share your own thoughts, theories and opinions in the comments below!

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“Tron” Review!

Because of the recent news that the Tron franchise is apparently still a priority at Disney and plans for franchise-expanding sequels or reboots are still underway, I thought it might be interesting to take a circuitous stroll back down memory lane and revisit one of the strangest movies from what is often considered Disney’s Dark Age, in the early 1980’s. This era of the studio’s long and storied history isn’t known for producing a whole bunch of timeless classics (if there are any hardcore fans of The Black Cauldron out there, I’d love to know about them), nor box-office hits – but how do you even begin to describe Tron? The needlessly convoluted sci-fi adventure flick about glow-in-the-dark humanoid computer programs fighting to overthrow their tyrannical leadership doesn’t seem to fit neatly into any box, and so of course it has acquired a kind of well-earned cult classic status over the years – even leading to the creation of a poorly-received sequel in 2010 which, while not a box-office flop, failed to recapture much of what made the original film so…bizarrely endearing.

Tron
looper.com

There are so many things wrong with Tron from a storytelling standpoint, and yet, despite quickly falling into the classic sci-fi/fantasy trap of trying to seduce the audience with incredibly complex world building instead of, you know, a particularly good story, or well developed characters (though, considering how badly the sequel’s attempts at character development went over, perhaps we weren’t missing anything anyway?), somehow it still works – or at the very least, it works about as well as a movie about warring sentient computer programs possibly could in 1982, at the very dawn of the age of special effects. Knowing some of the story about the cutting edge technology used to create the sprawling electronic landscape of The Grid (which, to the modern viewer’s eye, probably just resembles partly-completed digital artwork of Flatland) definitely helps to make the movie interesting from a cinephile’s point of view: its influence on CGI is far less well known than the influence of, say, The Little Mermaid on animation, but the two films are arguably comparable in terms of the lasting impact they made on the industry. The difference is that The Little Mermaid was a juggernaut that almost immediately birthed an unstoppable Disney renaissance – Tron was a financial disaster for the company that was snubbed at the Oscars for the Special Effects award it clearly deserved, apparently because Academy voters thought using computers was cheating.

That doesn’t make the work that went into designing Tron any less commendable, however. The film was born out of an idea to create a neon gladiator mascot for the fledgling Lisberger Studios, which felt that the character needed a starring vehicle to sell him to audiences and establish the studio’s brand – ironically, the cost of making the film became so high that Lisberger Studios had to turn to Disney for help with financing and marketing. In a classic case of studios being afraid to invest too heavily in something radically new, Disney allowed them to make the movie but decided not to give it the marketing push it also needed until too late in the game. Behind the scenes, the process of designing the world of Tron using rotoscoping and the even more grueling technique of backlit animation (which gives the movie its one-of-a-kind glow in the dark look) had to be fast-tracked to meet its release date, with director Steven Lisberger eventually having to hire a whole separate team of animators from Taiwan to ease the stress on his own employees. Miraculously, they managed to get the job done within nine months, a true credit to the power of teamwork.

Tron
mentalfloss.com

But on its own, separated from its later impact and the behind-the-scenes work that went into it, just looking at the finished film as a whole: does it hold up? That’s a bit of a harder question to answer. As I said, Tron has a lot of story issues – the audience gets handed a whole bunch of information about the cyber world right up front, and is then expected to retain all that information for the next thirty minutes, while we watch the Real World storyline play out (which itself is pretty complicated). Then the Real World completely ceases to exist as far as the movie is concerned, and we’re plunged into The Grid, where computers wage brutal warfare against each other: highly ritualistic warfare involving motor-bike/smart car hybrids, but warfare nonetheless. There are solar sailers to be flown, beacons to be lit, and electric blue water to drink (I bring that up because there’s one scene of the main characters drinking said water that seems to go on for way longer than it probably needs to). It’s all very confusing.

Jeff Bridges and Bruce Boxleitner lead the cast of mostly identical white men trapped in glowing outfits with ridiculously oversized helmets, most of whom wield Frisbees to complete the look (a look which somehow warranted an Academy Award nomination for Best Costume Design). Bridges’ character, brilliant programmer and arcade video game champion Kevin Flynn, is supposedly the star of the movie, though there’s no good reason for why that is when Boxleitner’s character (dissatisfied ENCOM employee Allan Ward in the real world, legendary hero Tron on The Grid) has his name in the title, has just as much if not more plot agency than Bridges’, and actually is the clear male lead for the first thirty minutes of the movie. It’s like if Star Wars: A New Hope started out being about Luke Skywalker and then changed to become Han Solo’s story partway through (interestingly, there’s actually several similarities between Kevin Flynn and Han Solo, particularly in the sequel). David Warner gives the best performance in the film as the sinister E. Dillinger, President of the ENCOM company (in his Grid form as Sark, he comes off as a sad Darth Vader ripoff). As a side note: whenever Warner’s Dillinger was onscreen, I was constantly distracted by the nagging thought that, if Disney ever reboots this franchise, they absolutely need Ben Mendelsohn for this villainous role. Lora Baines (Cindy Morgan), the female lead, shows a lot of potential as a spunky scientist, but of course this is the 80’s, so it’s not long before she trades in her intelligent and pro-active role for the part of demure, soft-spoken damsel Yori. In keeping with the Hollywood tradition of rebooting classic franchises with the original male leads but conveniently forgetting to bring back the female leads, both versions of Morgan’s character were dropped for the sequel, despite her repeated efforts to try and contact Disney.

On the flip-side, two women played an integral role in giving Tron the eerie techno vibe we know and love: composer Wendy Carlos, an openly trans woman best known for her work on A Clockwork Orange and The Shining, collaborated with Annemarie Franklin on the score – parts of which, unfortunately, were removed by Disney and replaced with songs by Journey: the rock band’s contributions to the film were honored in the sequel via a slightly random use of the song “Separate Ways”. But Carlos’ iconic score is still a lasting testament, like all her work, to the often underappreciated achievements of trans people in the film industry.

Tron
reelworldtheology.com

I, for one, am glad that Tron will be getting another chance at proving its value to modern audiences: moviegoers (or, quite possibly, Disney+ subscribers) deserve a chance to see more stories from The Grid, told with the best new technology available to the studio, and longtime fans of the franchise deserve a continuation of a series that has been pretty much dead for a long time. We all deserve a little more Tron in our lives.

End of line.

Movie Rating: 7.8/10

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“Encanto” In The Works At Disney!

Who doesn’t love a good old Disney animated movie? The studio’s recent mini-Renaissance has given us what are (arguably, I suppose) instant classics like Tangled, Frozen, Big Hero 6, Zootopia, Moana, and Frozen II, and hopefully we can soon add Raya And The Last Dragon to the list. But another film from the acclaimed studio is quickly upcoming, and now, thanks to reporting from The DisInsider, we have a title to tentatively attach to the project: Encanto.

Encanto Disney
nerdist.com

Encanto, the Portuguese word for “charm”, may only be a working title for the film, but it certainly feels appropriate considering what little we now know about the story itself: Encanto is supposed to center around the story of a Brazilian family who all possess magical powers – all, that is, except the protagonist, a young girl whose name is still unknown. Should this storyline survive into the final film, the heroine will join several other notable women of color in the Disney roster; though it is not known as of yet whether she will be considered for a spot amongst the Disney Princess line-up. Of course, there are several rules about just who can and can’t be an official Disney Princess, and we don’t yet know if the heroine of Encanto will pass the test.

As for other plot details, we simply don’t know anything yet. The Portuguese-language title means the film is probably set sometime during or after the 1500’s, when forces of the Portuguese empire first settled in Brazil. Most of Disney’s most popular animated films, from Snow White all the way to Frozen II, have been historical pieces, so I’d be a little surprised if this one isn’t – but a historical setting, in this case, might require Disney to tackle the issue of slavery: as a colony, Brazil was built on the suffering of Black slaves, who made up much of the country’s population. Brazil was actually the last country in the Americas to abolish slavery, in 1888. The easy solution, then, would be to set the film in modern day Brazil. The much harder, but possibly more rewarding, solution would be to try and tell a story that doesn’t gloss over this shameful period in Brazilian history, but instead addresses it with sensitivity and awareness.

Encanto Disney
Colonial Brazil | smarthistory.org

On that note, it’s interesting that the film is supposedly being directed by Byron Howard and Jared Bush: the duo behind the mega-successful phenomenon that was 2016’s Zootopia, a film with very cleverly written but family-friendly social commentary in a stunningly animated, entertaining package. Joining them will be singer/songwriter Lin-Manuel Miranda, who I guess isn’t ever going to get around to developing that Moana sequel we were all asking for at one point? Miranda’s involvement does, obviously, suggest that this film will be another musical – lending some credence to the theory that the heroine will be a Princess. Charise Castro Smith, a writer and producer on The Haunting Of Hill House, will co-write the script with Bush.

The matter of a release date is still somewhat up in the air, like pretty much everything else in Hollywood right now. Assuming the coronavirus crisis doesn’t necessitate any more calendar-shuffling mayhem, we might expect to see Encanto around Thanksgiving of next year.

So what do you think? How excited are you to see this new Disney animated film? Share your thoughts, theories and opinions in the comments below!

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“Artemis Fowl” Movie Review!

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

And it was still a crushing disappointment.

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

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

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

Artemis Fowl
Domovoi Butler and Artemis Fowl | polygon.com

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

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

Artemis Fowl
Judi Dench as Root | theguardian.com

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

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

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

Artemis Fowl
Artemis Fowl | ign.com

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

Movie Rating: 1.9/10

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Evan Peters Joins The Cast Of “WandaVision”!

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

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

Quicksilver WandaVision
comicbook.com

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

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

WandaVision
themarysue.com

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

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

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

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For Pride Month 2020, Let’s Discuss The Year’s Biggest LGBTQ+ Moments In TV And Film!

SPOILERS FOR HARLEY QUINN SEASON 2 AND SHE-RA SEASON 5!

Happy Pride Month! As we begin to celebrate the history and culture of the LGBTQ+ community, I thought it would be interesting to look at what the community has accomplished already in 2020, through the mediums of TV and film. Though coronavirus has prevented many inclusive films from making it to theaters this year, there are still plenty that did get there before the world went on lockdown, and many more that have released on streaming. For this breakdown, we’ll be looking at the setbacks the LGBTQ+ community suffered early in the year, and three outstanding breakthroughs in representation that both occurred just last month which could signal big changes in the industry.

Of course, I should note that this is not, by any means, a comprehensive list of every film or TV series released this year that touches on any of these issues – this is merely a discussion of some especially significant incidents spanning the course of the past several months, which I feel present a fairly accurate depiction of the year’s many ups and downs as a whole.

She-Ra LGBTQ
She-Ra rescues Catra | tor.com

2020 opened on a promising note with Marvel President and head producer Kevin Feige boldly announcing that the Marvel Cinematic Universe would welcome its first ever transgender superhero in the very near future, at a Q&A where he used the words: “Yes, absolutely. Yes.” Unfortunately, the moment was irreparably tarnished when it was revealed that Feige hadn’t realized the question was specifically about transgender superheroes, and only meant an LGBTQ+ superhero was coming very soon. That doesn’t necessarily mean that transgender heroes aren’t going to appear in the MCU at some point (there are rumors that a transwoman superheroine, Sera, could appear in either the Loki Disney+ series or Thor: Love And Thunder), but it does cast doubt on when that will ever happen. It was a bad omen, heading into the new year.

Marvel LGBTQ
Marvel Comics’ transgender heroine Sera | mcuexchange.com

In February, Marvel’s rival DC had a golden opportunity to explicitly confirm that one of their most major characters was canonically LGBTQ+ – but instead, their hyped-up zany comedy Birds Of Prey danced around the issue of sexuality, giving only eagle-eyed viewers a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it nod to lead character Harley Quinn’s bisexuality in an animated sequence, while simultaneously hinting through stereotypical mannerisms that flamboyant, misogynistic villain Roman Sionis and his partner-in-crime were a gay couple. A lesbian character in the film, Renee Montoya, did play a large role and had an ex-girlfriend who also showed up, which makes Birds Of Prey something of a “one step forward, two steps backward” sort of situation.

Around the same time, the Disney+ streaming platform came under fire for a slew of reasons, most of which involved the service’s attempts to whittle down their roster of upcoming original content in a manner which many saw as discriminatory towards series’ with a focus on LGBTQ+ issues. While Disney+ didn’t do this with all of their shows (High School Musical: The Musical: The Series and Diary Of A Future President both featured openly LGBTQ+ characters), they did make the decision to move their hotly-anticipated Love, Victor (a spinoff of 20th Century Fox’s successful gay romance Love, Simon, obtained during the Disney/Fox merger) to Hulu, deeming it too mature for their own platform. One of the service’s most high-profile original series’, a sequel to the Lizzie McGuire Disney Channel series, was shut down entirely – with some sources saying that it was due to the way in which the story tackled matters of sexuality. It didn’t take long before the whole situation had raised a very interesting discussion about what is “family-friendly”, but that hasn’t saved Love, Victor from heading to Hulu, nor has it resurrected Lizzie McGuire.

Love, Victor LGBTQ
Love, Victor | deadline.com

In March, as the world started falling apart thanks to coronavirus, the Pixar film Onward was lost in the catastrophe, and moviegoers barely had any time to acknowledge the fantastic animated feature or its moment of LGBTQ+ representation – a moment that would have been great, had it not been leaked to the press by eager journalists prior to the film’s release and subsequently massively overhyped. In the film, a cop played by openly lesbian actress Lena Waithe briefly mentions her girlfriend in a single line of dialogue. Despite how brief the moment was, the film was still boycotted by conservative groups like One Million Moms and banned by several Middle Eastern nations.

Within a few weeks, the coronavirus had already caused major shifts in the film industry: films were being reshuffled across the board, movie theaters around the globe were shutting down and studios were hurrying to push all their upcoming or recently released content onto streaming. Unfortunately, one notable victim of all the release date rearrangements was Marvel’s The Eternals, a film already remarkable for its diverse cast. The superhero epic directed by Asian-American indie icon Chloe Zhao is set to feature the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s first gay couple, and was supposed to release in November of this year. Sadly, the film has now been pushed back to February of 2021, meaning we will have to wait even longer before we can find out what Lebanese actor Haaz Sleiman was talking about when he said that there’s a gay kiss in the film that’s so emotional it made people on-set begin crying. Another Disney film, Jungle Cruise, was delayed an entire year, and will now be opening in summer, 2021: though it’s been invisible in the film’s marketing so far, Jungle Cruise is supposed to introduce Disney Studios’ first openly gay character – which is already somewhat controversial, as Disney couldn’t even be bothered to find an openly gay actor to play the role, rumors say that the character’s depiction is “hugely effete”, and test screenings apparently revealed that the character has a coming out scene in which he never actually states that he is LGBTQ+. Perhaps a delay for that movie wouldn’t be a bad thing, as it could allow them to do some much-needed reshoots.

But not everything has been all gloom and doom. The past month has introduced a wave of new representation: some of it from DC Universe, some from Netflix, some, most shockingly, from Disney+ – all of it through the form of animation.

In the first instance, DC Universe’s Harley Quinn animated series rectified Birds Of Prey‘s glaring omission by adhering to comics canon and having Harley Quinn and fellow Gotham City supervillain Poison Ivy begin a tentative relationship, which has even resulted in the two sharing a kiss. The duo now have to sort out their messy, complicated feelings for each other, and that’s great. It’s the first time the relationship, which was wildly popular in the comics, has been represented onscreen – and fans are already enjoying the canonization of the pairing, which they have labeled “Harlivy”.

She-Ra LGBTQ
Adora and Catra | polygon.com

However, something that sets Harley Quinn apart is that the series is exclusively for adults, meaning that its audience is necessarily limited. That’s not a problem that faces Netflix and DreamWorks, whose collaboration on the animated reboot of She-Ra And The Princesses Of Power is something that can be enjoyed by all ages – the fifth and final season premiered on the streaming service just recently, and made the hopes and dreams of the series’ many LGBTQ+ fans finally come true when lead characters Adora (a.k.a. She-Ra, Princess of Power) and Catra rekindled their friendship: which turned into a slow-burn romance, which culminated in the two confessing their love for each other in the series finale, kissing, and saving the world with the power of love. That, my friends, is representation done right – because as much as I enjoy seeing “casual” representation (such as the cop from Onward, who simply mentions her girlfriend without making it a big deal), I infinitely prefer seeing characters whose sexuality or gender identity is something that actually helps to define who they are. And with Adora and Catra, whose relationship has been at the heart of She-Ra for all five seasons, it made complete sense that their love would play a huge part in the conclusion to the story – and it did, because showrunner Noelle Stevenson is a brave, brilliant genius, who fought to make sure that she wouldn’t have to pull a Legend Of Korra on her fans and just have Adora and Catra hold hands and/or gaze platonically at each other.

Out LGBTQ
Pixar’s “Out” | nytimes.com

Finally, we have to talk about Out. Though Disney+ is still new and working out many of its flaws, they did just recently make a big step forward – or rather, Pixar did it for them and Disney+ gets to take the credit: Out, the newest of Pixar’s animated Sparkshorts which debuted exclusively on the streaming platform, follows a gay man in an interracial relationship as he struggles to come out to his parents. Even though the story involves an unpredictable magical mishap and a lot of dog humor, it never loses sight of its true focus, which is a heartwarming message of acceptance. The short, which clocks in at around nine minutes long, is an understated milestone, becoming the first Pixar story to star a gay lead – and much to its credit, enjoyed a spot on Disney+’s top trending section, which shows that audiences are curious and eager for more content like this.

And so, as we head into Pride Month coming off of small successes like Harley Quinn, She-Ra and Out, I must ask of all my readers that you keep fighting for change in any way you can: whether that means demanding more LGBTQ+ representation from Hollywood, or protesting police brutality because black lives matter – or, preferably, by doing both. One day, we will see that change, and it will come from people like you. 2020 is a wake-up call for all of us: to fight harder. To do better.

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Michelle MacLaren May Direct “Captain Marvel 2”!

Let me just tell you that, in my personal opinion, there was no reason for Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck to vacate their positions as the directors of the Captain Marvel franchise. Was Carol Danvers’ origin story the best-directed film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and did the directing duo do the best job bringing the character to life? No, probably not from a technical standpoint. But Captain Marvel is still one of my favorite films in the entire Infinity Saga, and Boden and Fleck are good directors: their recent work on Hulu/FX’s drama Mrs. America should prove that. But they’re out, and they will not be working on the Captain Marvel sequel (though, intriguingly, it was also reported that they may not be out of the MCU entirely, and could be working on other projects for the studio).

Captain Marvel
imdb.com

In their place, Marvel is supposedly looking for a woman to direct the sequel, which will probably pick up after the events of Avengers: Endgame, where Carol Danvers proved herself vital to the fight against the Mad Titan Thanos. Though she was underestimated, belittled and demeaned for a large part of her own solo film by an assortment of sexist villains – and by the angry, equally sexist internet trolls who put together an inconsequential boycott that didn’t stop the film from easily crossing the billion-dollar mark and becoming one of the most profitable films of 2019 – the heroine, played by Brie Larson, has proven to be fairly popular with fans, though many claim that the character still needs to find her footing in the MCU, with the help of a great director who truly “gets” her: much like how the Russo Brothers elevated Captain America to the same level as Iron Man, or how Taika Waititi reshaped the character of Thor with his zany, comedic touch. I would still argue that Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck could probably do it, but it definitely doesn’t hurt to occasionally bring in a new vision, shake up the status quo, and give something else a try. If people are honestly still on the fence about Captain Marvel (I don’t get it, but whatever), then maybe she just needs a new director.

And I’ve got to say, Michelle MacLaren is not a bad choice. If it’s indeed true that she is one of several women being eyed for the job, then I would love to see this happen: MacLaren has never tackled a major film before (well, actually, she did try twice, but we’ll get to that), but her resume on TV speaks for itself – Emmy-award winning executive producer and director of some of Breaking Bad‘s most iconic episodes, and director of four fantastic episodes of Game Of Thrones (including The Bear And The Maiden Fair), three episodes of The Walking Dead, two episodes of Better Call Saulone of Westworld, and The Morning Show‘s pilot. In fact, she’s so ingrained in the TV scene that I have to wonder whether she might be directing a Disney+ series instead – perhaps even one that includes Captain Marvel in some capacity, such as Secret Invasion or Ms. Marvel. Then again, even though it might seem risky to hire a TV director for a blockbuster film, it’s worth pointing out that the Russo’s and Taika Waititi both had backgrounds in TV before moving to Marvel and directing some of the studio’s best entries. It’s just not indicative of anything.

Captain Marvel Michelle MacLaren
watchersonthewall.com

This wouldn’t be MacLaren’s first experience with superheroes either, though it might prove to be a more pleasant one for her than her last encounter with the genre. MacLaren was originally attached to DC’s Wonder Woman before abruptly leaving the project over creative differences and being replaced by Patty Jenkins (who did an absolutely incredible job, of course). The reason for MacLaren’s exit was supposedly that she wanted to make a more epic, action-heavy origin film for the heroine, but her TV background gave studio executives worries that she might be biting off more than she could chew. After a long and arduous pre-production stage, MacLaren left the project. Something similar may have happened with another comic book adaptation she was supposed to direct: Cowboy Ninja Viking, an action film starring Chris Pratt and Priyanka Chopra, shut down production in August 2018 and has been indefinitely stalled ever since. It was rumored that script issues were the problem in that case, but no details have ever emerged that would confirm or deny those suspicions. At least in the first instance, it sounds like MacLaren’s ambitions were simply too big for what Warner Brothers had planned – which doesn’t sound too bad, if audiences are looking for Captain Marvel to get a serious overhaul (again I ask, why does she even need one?), but Disney might not agree with that assessment, and the last thing Marvel probably wants is another director suddenly walking out on them.

Captain Marvel
syfy.com

But we’ll see. There are many talented women who could direct Captain Marvel 2. Marvel President Kevin Feige has said that the MCU will try to be more committed to allowing individual directors the chance to break free from formula and run with their creativity, something that bodes well for the studio’s future – in the past, it was often said that Marvel films didn’t rely on the input of their respective directors so much as Kevin Feige’s overarching vision: which wasn’t a bad thing, since Feige’s vision allowed the studio to get to the place in which it finds itself today – a place where they can now feel free to hire more clever, unique directors: like Chloe Zhao, Cate Shortland, Sam Raimi, and Destin Daniel Cretton. MacLaren would be more than capable of holding her own even among their company.

How would you feel if MacLaren came onboard Captain Marvel 2? Do you think she could give the character the boost she (supposedly) needs? Share your own thoughts, theories and opinions in the comments below!

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

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

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

The Mandalorian Bo-Katan
nerdist.com

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

The Mandalorian Darksaber
slashfilm.com

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

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

The Mandalorian
thewookieegunner.com

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

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

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

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

Ghost Rider
tvline.com

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

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

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

Ghost Rider Midnight Sons
comicbook.com

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

Ghost Rider Moon Knight
looper.com

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

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

Ghost Rider Dracula
fullcirclecinema.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

Secret Warriors Quake and Yo Yo
comicvine.gamespot.com

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

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

Secret Warriors
outerplaces.com

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

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

Secret Warriors
superherohype.com

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

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

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Marvel Developing “Ironheart” For Disney+!

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

Ironheart
tvovermind.com

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

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

Ironheart Tony Stark
inverse.com

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

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

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

Ironheart Marsai Martin
latimes.com

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

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

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