Robert Aramayo Joins Amazon’s “Lord Of The Rings”!

With production supposedly set to begin on Amazon Prime Studios’ The Lord Of The Rings prequel series in February, the streaming service has found a new lead to replace departing star Will Poulter: Game Of ThronesRobert Aramayo will take over the coveted role.

Robert Aramayo Joins Amazon's "Lord Of The Rings"! 1
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There is no indication, as of yet, which role Poulter and now Aramayo are set to play, though the Tolkien fandom had largely arrived at the conclusion that Poulter, who bears a striking resemblance to actor Hugo Weaving, would be playing the younger version of Weaving’s Lord Of The Rings character, Elrond Half-Elven. Aramayo, on the other hand, is best known for his role as a young Ned Stark (also played by Sean Bean, who portrayed Boromir in The Fellowship Of The Ring) on the HBO fantasy drama Game Of Thrones, a character he played for just four episodes – I bring up that last point in an attempt to allay Tolkien purists’ fears that casting Thrones actors automatically indicates that the Lord Of The Rings prequel will be a knockoff of the former series, despite the fact that only two Thrones actors have thus far been cast in LOTR, and neither had any sort of substantial role on Thrones.

Aramayo’s casting is an exciting addition to the high-profile series, which recently cast Welsh actress Morfydd Clark as a young Galadriel in the epic fantasy, which will explore a period of time long before the events of The Lord Of The Rings, during the War of the Last Alliance, the heyday of the kingdom of Númenor, and the first downfall of Sauron. So far, Galadriel is the only named character to have been cast, though Aramayo’s character is being referred to by a codename, Beldor.

How do you feel about Aramayo joining the series? Share your thoughts, theories and opinions in the comments below!

Benioff & Weiss Depart “Star Wars” Franchise!

What Deadline is reporting as a “Star Wars Setback”, the rest of the world seems to be praising as one of Disney’s greatest business moves in a long time. The bitter war waged against Game Of Thrones screenwriters David Benioff and D.B. Weiss by their enraged ex-fans has now reached a crescendo, with the two men being forced to abandon their newfound place at the helm of an entire Star Wars trilogy. It’s a big win for audience backlash, which is both exciting and a little frightening.

It’s exciting because, in this case, fans really do have a good reason for wanting Benioff & Weiss to exit Star Wars. The duo are pretty much exclusively responsible for the controversial final season of the HBO TV series, Game Of Thrones, that saw character development thrown out the window, expectations subverted in the worst way, plot twists coming out of nowhere – all of it to rush towards a clumsily-structured, badly-written finale that saw the series’ protagonist and most beloved character slain in cold blood. Fans are understandably worried that what happened to Game Of Thrones can happen to Star Wars, and there’s obviously plenty of reason to believe them. I wrote an entire post on this subject yesterday, in which I addressed Benioff & Weiss’ recent interview (which I think must have been a contributing factor in their decision to depart Star Wars), in which they talked about basically scamming HBO into giving them an expensive film school experience while they were supposed to be developing a TV series based off of books they didn’t even try to understand. I’m sure Disney was also more than a little nervous about hiring two men who just unabashedly revealed that they got into a heated argument with a mother who didn’t want them placing her baby fully-naked on a block of ice, both exploiting and endangering the infant.

On the other hand, it’s also a nerve-wracking development: how closely do studios listen to their fanbases, and how much influence and power should audiences exercise over film-making? It’s a question that has been plaguing us for quite some time, but it’s all about context: when fans rioted about the design of Sonic The Hedgehog in Paramount’s Sonic movie, they were justified because the character looked like an asymmetrical weasel rather than a hedgehog; when protesters demanded a boycott of Disney’s Mulan remake because the lead actress expressed her support for the police-state of China, they were definitely coming from the right place, though that story is a very complex one; when heartbroken fans demanded that Johnny Depp’s career be canceled after claims of domestic abuse arose against the actor, well, we still don’t know who’s right or wrong in that case, or if it’s actress Amber Heard who should be canceled instead, or if it’s both of them. Context matters in these situations. So, yes, in my opinion, fans are at least partly justified in wanting Benioff & Weiss to leave Star Wars, because there are many reasons not to trust the two men with a story of that magnitude, so soon after the disastrous finale of Game Of Thrones.

We could also say they deserve a second chance, and that’s true, to some extent: which is why it’s a good thing that Benioff & Weiss already signed a deal with Netflix, which is where they will be headed. If they do a good job over there, with some smaller projects that don’t run the risk of upsetting a franchise that has only just regained its footing to begin with, then maybe they should consider coming back to Star Wars – if Kathleen Kennedy will have them. But in the meantime, Disney is keeping that galaxy far, far away from the divisive duo.

In Benioff & Weiss’ defense, their statement on the matter implies that it was their obligations to Netflix that prevented them from devoting their full time and attention to Star Wars – but while I suppose that could be true, it seems more likely to me that it’s the polite way of flattering Netflix into offering them more job opportunities.

So what do you think? Is this a win for fans – or a loss for Disney? Share your own thoughts and opinions in the comments below!

Should We Be Worried About Amazon’s “Lord Of The Rings?”

This is a departure from my usual posting format in that this is not strictly a news story, but more of a response to a news story. The story, in this case, is actually an interview with Game Of Thrones screenwriters and showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, which was posted online in Twitter thread form by an attendee, who goes by the username Needle & Pen. The interview was shocking, and soon had the entire internet collectively wringing their hands and crying out to the heavens: “How did this happen?”

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Well, by Benioff & Weiss’ own admission, they don’t know – or seem to care. In the interview, which reeks of white privilege, elitism and snobbery, the two men proudly revealed just how inexperienced and unprepared they were for the task of adapting the massive fantasy epic to the small screen, and just how happy they are that they were able to basically dupe HBO into hiring them. For instance, they talked about meeting with A Song Of Ice And Fire author George R.R. Martin for the first time, and confessing to him that they “didn’t really have any” bona fides or experience. In their own words: “We don’t know why he trusted us with his life’s work.”

Now, I’d love to talk about Game Of Thrones, and the various failings of Benioff & Weiss, but that’s not what this post is about – or, well, it is, but only indirectly. This post is, in fact, a response to a response to this interview: soon after that tweet went public, The One Ring.net, the most trusted and reliable Tolkien forum in the world, expressed their concerns that Amazon Prime’s upcoming adaptation of the histories of Middle-earth would fall into the same trap as Game Of Thrones: and they had some legitimate fears, so let’s break down what was said by both sides, and what Amazon can learn from the hugely underwritten, half-baked final season of Game Of Thrones that firmly cemented Benioff & Weiss as some of the fantasy genre’s most hated individuals.

The One Ring.net (or TORN for short) drew attention to the fact that JD Payne and Patrick McKay, the showrunners of Amazon Prime’s Middle-earth series, share many similarities with Benioff & Weiss: both are relative newcomers to the scene, having no experience in TV, or in the making of big-budget, spectacular fantasy epics. Payne and McKay did write a script for a Star Trek movie – but it was never used, which isn’t exactly a promising sign. And, as TORN pointed out rather dismissively, both duos are, when it comes down to it, just “a couple friends”. It’s true that Payne and McKay have been working together for most of their adult lives, just like Benioff & Weiss, but I think it’s worth mentioning that Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh, two-thirds of the creative team behind The Lord Of The Rings trilogy, were a married couple when they started working on the ambitious film project, yet nobody has any complaints about that. The fact that Payne and McKay have a close friendship isn’t really a problem, in my opinion. The fact that they have no prior experience – obviously, that could pose quite a substantial problem along the line. But here are my three reasons why we should NOT be worried about Amazon’s Lord Of The Rings prequel series becoming the next Game Of Thrones-level disaster.

1: They’re Not Alone.

For Benioff & Weiss, being handed full creative control over HBO’s most daunting and daring TV adaptation wasn’t a passion project so much as “expensive film school” – or, in Weiss’ words, a “ten year drunk party”. And the two men treated it as such, giving themselves freedom to make as many mistakes as they wanted. They admit in the interview that working with costume designers, for instance, was a “learning experience”. And yet, rather than bring in talented and experienced individuals to help them figure out the process, Benioff & Weiss went in the completely opposite direction, much to HBO’s chagrin – they decided early on that it was going to be just the two of them, stumbling through the series’ development like idiots, because they “didn’t know better”. They were eventually forced to bring in another writer, Bryan Cogman, and were helped by a second, Dave Hill: both men got to write a whopping four episodes each – out of seventy-three.

On the other hand, Payne and McKay are not alone, and have surrounded themselves with incredibly talented people from all different genres of film and television: their writer’s room is nigh on overcrowded, in fact, with Payne and McKay being joined by Gennifer Hutchison of Breaking Bad, Helen Shang of Hannibal, Jason Cahill of The Sopranos, and Justin Doble of Stranger Things, with Bryan Cogman, Glenise Mullins, and Tolkien scholar Tom Shippey as consultants. It’s a far cry from the two-man show that was Game Of Thrones. There are talented and dedicated people involved with Amazon Prime’s series who can help to guide Payne and McKay on their debut journey. Is that all it takes to steer a five-season epic series with a budget close to a billion dollars? No, probably not. But it’s a good first step, and it will hopefully prevent Payne and McKay from indulging in the amateur excesses that Benioff & Weiss seemed to enjoy in their first few years working on Game Of Thrones.

2: There Is Diversity On Amazon’s Team – Though Not Enough.

One thing that immediately stood out in the Benioff & Weiss interview was their casual dismissals of fans’ complaints of racism, sexism, and especially white privilege – i.e., the idea that white men, even without being blatantly racist, still think they are owed certain privileges and rights by virtue of their skin color. For instance, the privilege to simply walk up to HBO and say “hey, give us a TV show to make”.

Benioff & Weiss’ counter to the argument was that Dave Hill, whom I previously mentioned wrote a total of four episodes from 2015 to 2019, is of Asian descent. Vanessa Taylor also had a brief stint working with the two men before leaving to write The Shape Of Water. But, is that really enough? In a series that is known for having some of the most iconic female characters in fantasy, is it enough to have only one woman temporarily helping to write those characters? And do I even need to rhetorically ask if it’s enough to have zero people of color in the non-existent Game Of Thrones writer’s room?

Now let’s take a look at Amazon Prime’s creative team for their Lord Of The Rings series: leaving aside the fact that Amazon Prime Studios is, in fact, run and overseen by a woman, Jennifer Salke, who was recently named the 17th most influential person in Hollywood, we have, in the Lord Of The Rings writer’s room, a total of three women as of right now: Mullins is also a woman of color, while Shang is of Asian ethnicity.

So, Amazon Prime is doing only marginally better than Game Of Thrones in terms of gender and cultural diversity: but at the very least, there’s some progress being made. We have to hope that more women and POC are added to the writer’s room as time goes on, but for now we can at least be assured that there is already more diversity on this team than on the team assembled for Game Of Thrones.

3: Payne And McKay Have Nowhere To Hide.

Okay, that sounds unintentionally threatening. What I mean is this: when Benioff & Weiss began their tenure on Game Of Thrones, they were doing a relatively simple adaptation from page to screen: and while they did introduce a bunch of new elements, they continued to work from George R.R. Martin’s novels until 2016, when they ran out of source material to draw from: and at that point, most fans tend to agree that the show suddenly began to decline in quality. At first it wasn’t too noticeable, as the fanbase was initially excited to be surprised, and was willing to ignore some of Benioff & Weiss’ mistakes: but by the finale of season 7, it was becoming clear that something was wrong: after years of slow, patient build-up, the storyline of the Night King and the White Walkers was being rushed into the foreground, and Benioff & Weiss were already publicly discussing their desire to conclude the story in its eighth season. The last two seasons were drastically abbreviated to provide for this, with the final season being cut down almost to miniseries format, with only six episodes to tie up several hundred loose ends, story-threads, subplots, so on and so on. And, as everybody is now aware, the final season didn’t go over well: poorly received by critics and fans, the once-mighty TV series ended with a bit of a whimper, reducing complex characters to cardboard cutouts and basically ruining what made the show so much fun: its depth. To nobody’s surprise, though, that depth was a hallmark of Martin’s work, not Benioff & Weiss’.

Payne and McKay don’t have the ability to hide behind J.R.R. Tolkien’s published novels for several years before finally having to strike out on their own, into uncharted territory: because the Amazon Prime series isn’t actually an adaptation of The Lord Of The Rings. It is instead a prequel series, covering the only time-frame in Tolkien’s extensive legendarium that he didn’t write much about – the three-thousand year long era in between the events of The Silmarillion and the downfall of Sauron that is glimpsed in the prologue of Peter Jackson’s The Fellowship Of The Ring. Why do I continue to call the series The Lord Of The Rings, then? Well, there’s still no official title for the show, so it’s going to have to do, despite being a little misleading.

Anyway, it’s encouraging to know that what we see from Payne and McKay will be indicative of the series’ quality going forward, whereas with Benioff & Weiss we were cruelly deceived. The writers at Amazon Prime will have only scraps of material to work from, but it’s their responsibility and duty to fill in the gaping holes in Tolkien’s mythos. Hopefully, they can achieve that – and if they can’t, then we’ll know right away, rather than wasting ten years of our lives.

And finally, a bonus point that I think is worth mentioning: Amazon Prime seems to care for the Tolkien fanbase in a way that Benioff & Weiss never did for Game Of Thrones‘. In the interview, the two men admitted to grossly misinterpreting their own fanbase; in an attempt to make fantasy popular to “NFL players”, they stripped the books of their more fantastical, magical elements – that is, until the final season, when those were the only things left in their dwindling toolbox. They didn’t ever listen to fans’ feedback, because they didn’t see the value of considering other peoples’ reactions. And it’s just as well, because as for their opinions on the books they were meant to be adapting, well…

Now, we don’t know what Payne and McKay think of Tolkien’s work: all we have to go on is the official Amazon Prime press release that says they feel like Frodo on the beginning of his great journey, etc, etc. But Amazon Prime’s Lord Of The Rings has been surprisingly cooperative with and responsive to fans – at least, until their official Twitter account basically went missing in action several months ago. For instance, when fans noted that there were design flaws on one of the Middle-earth maps released by Amazon, the creative team (which we now know is led by renowned artist John Howe) was quick to revise the map. And aside from that one blunder, the other maps they’ve released all hold up to scrutiny, remaining faithful to even some of the obscurest bits of Tolkien canon. And if you’re wondering why I’m rambling about the maps, consider that Benioff & Weiss also acknowledge in their interview that they themselves were “geographically challenged”. So again, Amazon Prime is one step ahead of them in that regard.

So there you have it: my response to the response to this incredibly dismaying interview with the two men responsible for some of the highest highs and the lowest lows in modern television history. If you want to read the full Twitter thread, referenced several times above, I’ll direct you here. I wish you luck.

So what do you think of all this? Do you think Payne and McKay have an advantage, going into this daunting project: or will they end up being the next Benioff & Weiss? And as for Benioff & Weiss themselves – what do you think of their admissions and confessions? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Joseph Mawle Joins Amazon’s “Lord Of The Rings”!

Amazon Prime’s upcoming The Lord Of The Rings prequel series is thoroughly fascinating and occasionally bewildering: just the other day we discussed the intriguing case of the uncovered audition tapes for the series, which revealed what seemed to be the four leads of the eagerly-anticipated show. Now, a completely new character has popped up out of nowhere! I tell you, it’s been an exhilarating process covering the constant stream of news about this project – and we’re still only in the pre-production stage!

Joseph Mawle Joins Amazon's "Lord Of The Rings"! 3
koimoi.com

Anyway, we’ve got a new casting announcement, and it’s already been getting a fair bit of attention: Joseph Mawle, an English actor best known for portraying Benjen Stark in just 6 (count ’em, 6) episodes of Game Of Thrones. Benjen was a minor character at best, and never did anything particularly memorable until rescuing Jon Snow from beyond the Wall in the seventh season. And yet this news is, as I said, stirring up the Tolkien community, with even platforms as well respected as The One Ring.net complaining about how the Amazon Prime series is already beginning to turn Lord Of The Rings into a carbon copy of Game Of Thrones, ignoring the wishes of Tolkien purists, etc, etc. I honestly don’t understand how that logic is even supposed to make sense – in my opinion, it would be like saying that Peter Jackson’s trilogy was turning into a carbon copy of Back To The Future Part II when they cast Elijah Wood, simply because Wood happened to have an insignificant role in the latter film (bet you didn’t know that).

Whether or not Amazon Prime is channeling Thrones for this project, let’s consider what we know about Mawle’s casting before jumping to conclusions. According to the trades, Mawle is taking on the role of “Oren”, one of the series’ main villains. Now, let’s face it: Oren, while it’s almost certainly another codename, sounds a good deal like Sauron, and there’s a strong possibility that Mawle will in fact be Amazon Prime’s Dark Lord (I feel like we’ve had this conversation many times already). He is the oldest cast-member to join the show so far, but still has distinctly Elven features, very much in line with men like Hugo Weaving or Lee Pace, who convincingly and brilliantly portrayed Elves in the previous Middle-earth films (and that Elvenesse is something Mawle will need, if he is to play Sauron, who should spend much of his time onscreen disguised as an Elf. Mawle is also a very good actor, which, you know, is also a bonus.

If you want my honest opinion (you probably do, if you’re reading this), I see Mawle as a better choice for the Witch-King of Angmar, whom we should expect to see in the series: with his long, gaunt features and thin frame, the actor seems like he could do a great job portraying the sorcerer in all his ancient, incorruptible glory, before his inevitable downfall into ruin. I mean that as a compliment, by the way.

So what do you think? Is this our Sauron? Or our Witch-King? Or somebody entirely different? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

The Mystery Of Dark Rey…

In an otherwise largely uneventful day at the D23 Expo (you know, if you ignore Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt trying to outdo each other with dramatic entrances), Star Wars was the main talking-point: while not even a snippet of the new Rise of Skywalker footage has leaked online, it’s still all that the internet is discussing – specifically, the final shot of this unseen footage, which apparently shows a major protagonist wavering between the Light and the Dark.

I guess I should include a warning for potential spoilers, but all of this footage is expected to officially drop on Monday – so I don’t know if you should be too worried about it. And, yes, that also means that I’m rather premature with this news, but it’s one of the few things we have to talk about that will make for an interesting post today.

So what am I talking about? Well, apparently, the Star Wars presentation at D23 revealed a few things to the audience of several thousand fans: apart from a brand-new poster that looks epic, director J.J. Abrams also showed a brief sizzle reel of footage from the upcoming installment in the franchise, which is expected to be the last in the forty-year long Skywalker Saga. And so it was that those spectators got to witness a shocking reveal: Rey, the unwavering heroine of the franchise’s last two entries, might be reconsidering her values and moral code.

She was apparently seen dressed in a black cloak with a hood, holding a double-bladed red lightsaber that apparently strongly resembles the one carried by Darth Maul, the central antagonist of Star Wars: The Phantom Menace. While we can’t yet know for certain what this means, there are already hundreds of theories floating around the internet. Some believe it’s merely a trick: that this scene is probably only part of a vision or nightmare-sequence which will end up having no real impact in the film itself. Others, however, are rather less cynical: Rey could be the daughter of Darth Maul, apparently, or even the daughter of the long-dead Emperor Palpatine, who will be making a comeback in some form for this film. She and her nemesis/possible love interest Kylo Ren might switch sides, with Rey becoming an embittered Sith Lord while Ren joins the Jedi. She could be using this appearance as a disguise, in order to work her way up through the ranks of the First Order. Palpatine could be manipulating her. There’s endless possibilities.

Some of them make sense, some don’t. For instance, the theory that Ren and Rey switch, while very cool, could seem contrived: yes, Rey was obsessed with that weird evil cave on Luke’s island in The Last Jedi, but she hasn’t ever seemed interested in the dark side or the ways of the Sith – she’s been mostly focused on trying to lure Kylo Ren over to the light, in fact. So changing that now could result in an outcry similar to that which followed the decision to randomly turn Game of Thrones‘ heroine, Daenerys, into a psychotic genocidal war criminal for no apparent reason other than that it looked cool and justified her being murdered at the end of the show. And in both cases, it would be a female protagonist who gets retconned to be evil – not a good look for Star Wars, just as it wasn’t a good look for Game of Thrones. As for Kylo: well, he’s stared longingly at the light many times before, and he seems like he might be doubting his lifestyle choices, but making the jump to the Jedi is a big commitment – something that doesn’t seem like it could be adequately covered in a single film.

Me, I’m actually ever so slightly more concerned about another shot from the footage: supposedly, a glimpse of C-3PO with glowing red eyes, implying that the lovable droid is also heading down a dark path. We’ve seen evil droids in Star Wars before, but never one that actively chooses to pursue a career with the Dark Side (correct me if I’m wrong, hardcore Star Wars fans). And if he gets hacked and destroyed by agents of the First Order, I swear to Yoda I will boycott.

So what do you think? What’s Rey doing? Is she Sith or not? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Kit Harington Enters The MCU!

It’s only been a few months since the epic(ly disappointing) finale of the HBO hit series Game of Thrones, and many have been wondering where the Emmy-award winning show’s stars will go next: Emilia Clarke, best known as Daenerys, Mother of Dragons, Breaker of Chains, etc, etc, is starring in a chipper Christmas rom-com; Maisie Williams, the girl with no name, is starring in a British comedy series; Lena Headey, the notorious villainess Cersei Lannister, will next be seen in Netflix’s Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance; and as for the show’s star, Kit Harington…well, he promptly disappeared into a rehab facility, apparently suffering from stress. How much of said stress was caused by the strenuous and tiresome process of filming Game of Thrones is as yet unknown, but it looks like the actor is back on his feet and making a return to the entertainment industry in appropriately epic fashion: landing a role in a Marvel movie.

Harington is not the first of the show’s cast to end up in the Marvel Cinematic Universe: last year, Peter Dinklage had a glorified cameo in Avengers: Infinity War. Sophie Turner, Thrones‘ Queen in the North, appeared in the Fox X-Men movies, and was soon to be joined by Maisie Williams – before things went abruptly downhill for that franchise. And earlier this year, a star from earlier seasons, Richard Madden, joined the ever-expanding cast of Marvel’s upcoming Eternals. And now, Harington has too.

Eternals covers the story of a race of space gods created at the beginning of the universe with the task of protecting and preserving the planet Earth. Madden, who played too-pure-for-this-world war hero Robb Stark on Game of Thrones, is here portraying the leader of the Eternals, Ikaris, who sports a dashing blue outfit and otherwise looks exactly like Richard Madden: thankfully, the horrendous hairdos from the 1970’s comics have been thrown out in favor of a more streamlined, modern approach. Harington, on the other hand, has been cast in the role of an Arthurian-inspired knight with a black outfit, a magical sword, a semi-divine love interest, and…hey, wait, is he just playing Jon Snow again?

Well, kind of. Harington’s new character, Dane Whitman, better known as the Black Knight, is definitely one of the most Game of Thrones-ish heroes Marvel has ever created, being the descendant of an actual member of King Arthur’s Round Table, who received his magical weapon from Merlin the magician: Whitman himself is also the recipient of supernatural gifts from otherworldly beings, as the Lady of the Lake (yes, the very same) gave him a winged horse named Strider – because, if you’re going to rip off fantasy tropes, why not rip off from the best? In a movie that already has an 11-member ensemble cast, I honestly have no clue whether Marvel will have time to fit in a backstory explaining that the Arthurian legends are MCU canon, but maybe that could be explored in future films.

The important thing to note is that Black Knight, while not an Eternal himself, is a love interest of the Eternal enchantress, Sersi – who has also been cast today, with Captain Marvel actress Gemma Chan filling the role. Introducing Black Knight and Sersi to the MCU on the same day certainly suggests that we’ll see them pair up in this movie, but it does raise some intriguing questions: in comics lore, Sersi is more commonly involved with Ikaris, so which one will she choose in the movies? And if she chooses to be with Black Knight, does that leave Ikaris open to be the MCU’s first gay character, as Marvel president Kevin Feige suggested last month?

Something that has bothered Marvel fans today is the fact that Harington’s talent is being “wasted” in such an “insignificant” role, when he could be playing somebody “important” like Wolverine. Regardless of the fact that Harington really doesn’t resemble Wolverine at all, this is a classic case of fans going in with expectations way too high: I’ll admit I was hopeful for a Fantastic Four reveal today, but anything having to do with the X-Men is probably at least a year away, if not further. Besides, we don’t know yet how big a role Black Knight will play in Eternals, or whether he’ll feature in future films; so, until then, let’s hope for the best, right? And let’s not forget that people also felt like Gemma Chan was wasted in Captain Marvel – and look at her now, getting a second chance in the MCU as the star of one of their upcoming films. Anything is possible in Marvel these days.

Even the Lady of the Lake, apparently.

“The Witcher” First Trailer!

Firstly, let me preface this post by apologizing for my delay: I’m more than an hour late by now, due to not being able to get home fast enough. Destiny has arrived, so have I, and so has the first teaser trailer for The Witcher on Netflix!

My first impressions are a mix of chaos and confusion: I’ve never read the books or played the video games that this series will be based on, so I have almost no idea what the plot is – I am slightly familiar with the main characters like Geralt of Rivia (Henry Cavill), Yennefer (Anya Chalotra) and Ciri (Freya Allen), mostly because I watch a lot of videos by BookTubers who are devoted fans of The Witcher series: specifically Elliot Brooks – go check out her channel, it’s great.

But for right now, until she publishes her own review of the trailer, which will undoubtedly be far more intelligent than mine, I must work from what I know: very little. Okay, let’s dive in. Let’s see, we’ve got Elves, beautiful dark-skinned Elves for a change, and we get a tantalizing glimpse of the paradise they created long ago in this strange world, known as The Continent. These Elves were sorcerers, and taught the arts of chaos magic to humans – only to have the humans rise up against them and massacre them. From what I gather, that is a core theme of the series, both in book format and TV – humans are horrible, despicable creatures, little better than the monsters that populate their myths and dark imaginings. This trailer shows off just how wicked people can be, through some montages of them killing people…wait a second, for a moment there I thought this was Game of Thrones.

Netflix wants this to be Game of Thrones for a new audience dissatisfied with how that show ended, and so they’ve gone to elaborate lengths to make sure this show looks incredible. The production values are insane – beautiful costumes, realistic CGI, and mostly good wigs (there was a lot of worry about that last point, after Henry Cavill had shared a picture of himself wearing one depressingly-cheap set of platinum extensions). The only thing that indicates this show has to work on a somewhat smaller budget than your average movie studio is the general absence of top-notch talent – Cavill is the biggest star by far, and his co-stars are virtually unknown actresses. But thankfully, they do a pretty good job, in this trailer at least, of being mysteriously magical. Magic is one of the trailer’s big attractions, in my opinion: it’s always been an element that fantasy films and TV shows are wary of, because it can easily look and feel slightly ridiculous. Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones both steered clear of depicting much magic onscreen, unless they absolutely had to: magic is something that usually finds its way into more light-hearted fare, such as The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe. But The Witcher doesn’t shy away from fancy lights and displays of sorcery and enchantment: we have glowing trees in the desert, plenty of monsters (including giant spiders, can’t go wrong with those), catastrophic explosions of uncontrollable power, and even people throwing lightning from their hands. When was the last time you saw that in mainstream fantasy? It’s actually been a while since we’ve seen anyone but superheroes and psychic teenagers harness supernatural powers like this. At least, it’s been a while since I’ve seen anything like this.

Overall, it looks really good, definitely something that I’ll want to binge-watch when it arrives on Netflix this…Winter? I don’t know, the trailer doesn’t inform me. Well, whenever it comes out, it looks like it will be really good. Fingers crossed, people!

Trailer Rating: 8/10

First Look At “The Witcher” On Netflix!

The war to fill the fantasy-adaptation void that Game of Thrones left has begun: HBO is racing around the clock to get Bloodmoon, a Game of Thrones prequel, up and running, while their adaptation of His Dark Materials will debut later this year (and has already been confirmed for a second season); Amazon Prime will drop Carnival Row, a moody Victorian-era paranormal thriller, in August, about the same time they’re supposed to start filming their five-season prequel to The Lord of the Rings – their Wheel of Time series has already cast Rosamund Pike in the lead role of the sorceress, Moiraine, and should go into production soon, while Conan the Barbarian is still in early stages of development, and the Ringworld project has been silent for a year or two now; BBC America will start adapting some of the works of late author Terry Pratchett, which is something I am very much looking forward to; Apple TV’s adaptation of the science-fiction epic, the Foundation Trilogy, is still…maybe…on its way to being greenlit. Netflix’s The Witcher, however, will arrive on screens sooner than most of these adaptations – the first look arrived today.

The photos and official poster that have been released are really exciting, so let’s check them out. First of all, we’ve got Henry Cavill, formerly known as Superman, in the role of Geralt of Rivia, scarred monster-hunter and Legolas look-alike, sporting the silvery wig that had him being ridiculed all over the internet just a few months ago: it looks…better now, even though it’s hard to believe that could be possible.

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A pretty good wig, if you ask me. I’m not a big fan of Cavill’s, but he looks better here than he ever did during his short-lived run as Superman in the DCEU: he looks gritty, weathered, harsh. He’s also, I believe, the only real star-power that Netflix can rely on for The Witcher: besides him, we have Anya Cholatra as the powerful sorceress Yennefer, looking stylish in a heavy fur-coat:

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The outfits look to be very high-quality. Finally, we have Freya Allan as the secretive Princess Ciri, all shadowy and mysterious, lurking in the forest while the others are all posing dramatically by the sea.

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The images look quite good, and give me hope that this might be a pretty decent adaptation – granted, I’ve never read the Witcher novels, so I won’t be able to give you in-depth analysis of what’s different between the books and the show, but I know someone who can: check out Elliot Brooks on YouTube if you want to know more about the show, and the novels, and the accompanying video games that actually made the novels as popular as they are (her channel is awesome, but especially for stuff about The Witcher).

What do you think? Do you like these images? Netflix has announced that they will be heading to San Diego Comic Con with The Witcher, so expect many more updates – and probably a trailer! – there.

Amazon Finds A Director For “The Lord Of The Rings” Prequel.

Game of Thrones is over, and has left a gaping hole in the fantasy genre – a hole that multiple film and TV studios are eager to fill. Amazon is the favorite to achieve that, with their upcoming Lord of the Rings prequel series based on the novels and other published works of J.R.R. Tolkien, a five-season, billion-dollar commitment that apparently will also spawn a number of spin-offs and sequels.

That all sounds fantastic, but so far we’ve had barely any indication that this project is even still alive. They confirmed the show’s setting and time-period earlier this year through a series of posts on their official Twitter page, which was followed by a report that shooting would begin in Leith, Scotland, later this summer. John Howe, art director on Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy, and Tom Shippey, a Tolkien scholar, both boarded the project at some point as well. There has been very little online chatter about the show, unless you (like I) habitually frequent sites like TheOneRing.net. But that might be about to change with the news that broke today, that Bryan Cogman is rumored to be either the director or a chief consultant for the show.

Cogman’s involvement with the series is interesting news for Tolkien purists who want the core themes of the book to be transferred to the screen – he served as “loremaster” for Game of Thrones, working to maintain fidelity to the George R.R. Martin novels, and has won multiple Emmy Awards. This is not going to please everyone, though – Cogman is now the third white male to board the project, following the firing of Sharon Tal Yguado at Amazon Studios. Jackson’s famous trilogy was extremely progressive in that it was largely written by two brilliant women; Jackson’s wife Fran Walsh and friend Philippa Boyens. Cogman, on the other hand, is in part responsible for some of the most controversial scenes in Game of Thrones history, such as the brutal torture and rape of Sansa Stark, something that (a) is undeniably a key element of Sansa’s brilliant character arc, but (b) was not in the original books and does have some suspiciously sexist overtones. Tolkien’s world is much “cleaner” than Westeros, and one wouldn’t expect to find such acts of violence in Middle-earth – though, then again, this series is not going to be set in the Middle-earth we know from the books and movies: this is going to be a story of an empire falling into decadence and decay, a civilization obsessed with death to the point of madness. This is a subject that has already been debated and argued for years, so I’m not going to dive too deeply into it, but I’ll leave it up to you to decide: is Cogman’s involvement a problem, or are you excited about this news?

(Benioff & Weiss, the Game of Thrones showrunners who have been the target of a LOT of backlash these last couple of weeks, are not involved in the show, by the way – nor are they likely to be, since they’re joining the Star Wars franchise).

MTV Awards Nominees!

Well, my votes have been cast – or, my first round of votes has: MTV has a strange system whereby voters are allowed to vote more than once, thus allowing rabid internet fans to make their voices very clearly heard. This is both wonderful (who doesn’t love voting more than once?), and infuriating (voting more than once is…well, cheating?).

But let’s talk about what we’re even voting for! The 2019 MTV Movie & TV Awards nominees have been announced, and the polls are open in all sixteen categories. Here’s some of the nominees, and, of course, the candidates who got my vote.

For Best Movie, the top contender is obviously Avengers: Endgame, the superhero mega-hit that has crushed the box office and dominated the public conscious for months. While I voted for Endgame, I have to admit there were several other worthy challengers: BlacKkKlansman, Spike Lee’s dramatic adaptation of the story of a black man who infiltrated the KKK; Spider-man: Into The Spider-Verse, an animated film with huge appeal to a mainly teen and young-adult fanbase (and those teens are MTV’s target audience); To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before, a critically-appraised Netflix film about teen romance; and Us, Jordan Peele’s latest horror-drama about doppelgangers who terrorize an African-American family.

For Best Show, the choice was incredibly easy. Game of Thrones has my vote, no matter how bad the final season may be – and it’s bad, don’t get me wrong, but it’s still building off of very good material, and, hey, there’s one more episode left! There’s still time to turn the sinking ship around…even if, by that time, it will be too late. But seriously, I’m a fantasy fan, and Riverdale simply does not appeal to me. Now, if The Umbrella Academy were on this list, the choice would have been even easier, but sadly MTV has decided to ignore this cinematic masterpiece.

Interestingly, MTV does not have separate categories for Best Actor and Best Actress, which makes the competition for Best Performance In A Movie that much harder: Amandla Stenberg for The Hate U Give; Rami Malek for Bohemian Rhapsody; Sandra Bullock for Netflix’s Bird Box; Lupita Nyong’o for Us; and Lady Gaga for A Star Is Born. I voted for Lupita because she deserves way more recognition than she gets. Malek is worthy competition, but he did just win an Oscar for his role as Freddie Mercury. It’s far more likely, though, that Lady Gaga will finally get an award, even though it’s probably too late to console her for her Oscar snub.

Naturally, for Best Performance In A Show, I’m backing Emilia Clarke of Game of Thrones – yes, her character has just recently inspired backlash and division among the fans (and you never want to divide the fans), but she’s still a great actress, just burdened with bad writing.

None of the categories were as difficult as Best Hero, which pits Captain Marvel and Iron Man of the MCU against Shazam from DC, Game of Thrones‘ Arya Stark and BlacKkKlansman‘s Ron Stallworth. This one was hard: Captain Marvel has a special place in my heart because of all of the trials that she (and actress Brie Larson) has struggled through on her way to a billion-dollar box-office sensation, facing internet trolls and haters along the way; but Iron Man’s heroism in Avengers: Endgame cannot be emphasized enough – Robert Downey Jr. is the man who started the MCU and has now honorably closed its third phase as well. But then you’ve got Arya Stark, the girl being lauded as the true hero of Game of Thrones after the show has increasingly begun honing in its focus on her, the traumatized assassin and fierce warrior who said “Not today” in the face of death. Ultimately, Captain Marvel won my vote – the negativity that has surrounded her solo film was vanquished by Larson’s own bravery, as the actress refused to back down from the fight. It is worth noting, however, that Shazam‘s very own Zachary Levi will be hosting the MTV Awards ceremony – I wouldn’t be surprised if he ends up winning.

MTV has its own peculiar categories: Best Kiss, for instance. I voted for Jason Momoa and Amber Heard’s kiss in Aquaman simply because, if it’s passionate enough to get the film censored in certain countries, that’s got to count for something.

Another fun one is Best Comedic Performance – with some indecision on my part, I finally chose Marsai Martin of Little, even over Zachary Levi’s performance as Shazam.

Best Villain…Thanos, obviously. Is there any doubt that Josh Brolin’s motion-capture creation should take home this award after snapping half the universe out of existence? I don’t think so.

I’m confused as to how Captain Marvel vs Minn-Erva is seriously one of the nominees for Best Fight – I mean, seriously, that is possibly the weakest fight-scene in the entire Captain Marvel movie. I would have chosen her ten-second combat with Yon-Rogg over that scene. Even with Captain America vs Thanos and Ruth Bader Ginsburg vs Inequality also up for consideration (though, really, does that latter even make sense?) I felt compelled to vote for Arya Stark vs The White Walkers in Game of Thrones Season 8, Episode 3. That is an intensely exciting fight, even if it suffers from being darkly lit in an episode that was already notorious for being darkly lit.

I didn’t forget Ruth Bader Ginsburg though, when she came up again as one of the nominees for Best Real Life Hero. How could I not vote for the woman who has dedicated her life to the fight for equality? She’s up against Serena Williams, though, so expect the competition there to be tight.

So what do you think? You can vote here, and share your thoughts about the nominees in the comments below! (But if you don’t vote for Arya Stark, are you really even entitled to an opinion?)

Richard Madden Joins “The Eternals”

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The cast for Marvel’s upcoming film The Eternals continues to take shape – and continues to nab big-name actors, with Richard Madden of Game of Thrones being the latest addition to the team roster. While Marvel has not yet released an official statement on the casting, Madden is believed to be playing the Eternal Ikaris, one of the film’s three male lead characters. So let’s take a brief look into the character of Ikaris, and what we might expect to see from him in the film.

Ikaris is one of the major Eternals, possessing the ability to fly, manipulate energies through molecular distortion, and teleport. He is immortal and invulnerable to most weapons (who isn’t, in the MCU?). He was born thousands of years ago, in Siberia, and inspired the ancient Greek legend of Icarus – well, technically his son did that, but I’m trying to keep this simple. Ikaris is the cousin and arch-nemesis of one of the Eternals’ greatest villains, Druig, who is also expected to show up in The Eternals. I have a theory we might see Druig even earlier, in the Black Widow prequel, and Ikaris’ Russian origin might suggest another connection, however tenuous. In the comics, Druig hunts Ikaris, searching for the location of the Pyramid of the Winds, located in the Arctic Circle – if Druig does appear in Black Widow, he might be looking for Ikaris, following a trail that could lead him to the sacred Pyramid in The Eternals.

In another comic run, Ikaris and the Eternal Thena defeat Druig in the fictional Russian state of Vorozheika, where Druig is attempting to win the allegiance of other Eternals. Ikaris and Thena have a long-standing conflict that could add another dimension to his character. But it is Ikaris’ relationship with another Eternal, the sorceress Sersi, that has frequently been rumored to be a crucial aspect of the Eternals film: it could make The Eternals the first MCU film to actually focus on a romantic storyline. Previous attempts to make love stories fit into Marvel films have all fallen a bit flat, with the designated “love interest” characters feeling one-dimensional and boring – for instance, Sharon Carter, who fell in love with her aunt’s ex-boyfriend; or Doctor Strange’s ex-girlfriend Christine Palmer, who was just…there; or Jane Foster, Thor’s girlfriend, a character that did not deserve to be gifted the incredible talents of actress Natalie Portman – and apparently Portman agreed, since she stepped out of the role after Thor: The Dark World and wouldn’t even return for a cameo in Avengers: Endgame – the filmmakers had to use old deleted footage of her instead.

So having a love story be the possible focus of a Marvel film could be one of two things: one the one hand, it could go down like the Fosters, Carters and Palmers of previous films – or, with a decent amount of screentime lavished on it, it could actually be pretty decent. In my opinion, the greatest comic-book movie romance of all time has to be that of Diana Prince and Steve Trevor in DC’s 2017 hit Wonder Woman, but maybe a similarly adorable couple could replace them – or at least try to come close. Richard Madden seems likely to be starring alongside Angelina Jolie as Sersi, so that dynamic should be interesting, if nothing else.

“Dark Phoenix” Final Trailer!

So…this is it. Presumably we’ll get some TV spots before the film comes out in June, but this is apparently the last full trailer. And unfortunately it has basically nothing new to say, nothing new to display, nothing new that audiences will pay to see. This trailer is pretty much identical to the last one, and that’s fine – it’s just not…great.

To be fair, though, there is some good stuff to dig our teeth into, even though it’s really not a lot. Sophie Turner as Jean Grey is pretty much the best thing we’ve seen so far; though, to be fair, she’s so good she kind of makes up for everything else. Of all the Game of Thrones actors, she is the one with the most promising future, in my opinion. Her showdown with Michael Fassbender’s Magneto looks to be epic stuff. Jessica Chastain still looks creepy.

And then…there’s all the rest, which I’ve discussed in my previous trailer review. Some new footage, mostly in space, and just a few glimpses of more action sequences and People Talking To Each Other About Jean™, plus a shot of Charles Xavier being engulfed by the Dark Phoenix. It still looks decent, but this is a final trailer: it should be a game-changer. It should have some stinger that hooks us, some big reveal or some really incredible shots that we haven’t seen before. It has none of those. It’s also kind of weird that this is the final trailer for a movie that comes out in June – is something wrong with the marketing for this film? Do I even need to ask?

Whatever. I just hope these trailers are misleading, and the final product is really good. My expectations are pretty much in the exact same place they were before.

Trailer Rating: 4/10