How “Onward” Borrows From “Lord Of The Rings” – In The Best Way!

MAJOR SPOILERS FOR ONWARD…AND THE LETTER FOR THE KING…AHEAD

Onward was never really on my radar – when the trailers came out, I thought they were weak, and I never even got to see the film in theaters due to the coronavirus. But now that I have seen it, I can’t stop thinking about this strangely endearing story, which so many other critics have said is merely okay: an enjoyable, but easily forgettable, offering from a studio that has produced instant classics. That may be true for some, but I’m not ashamed to say that Onward is quickly becoming one of my favorite Pixar films.

Onward
techcrunch.com

I’m thankfully not alone in this opinion. But my opinion on the film has grown stronger and stronger with each passing day (and rewatch). And I have a few theories on why this film speaks so much to me, and why I think it has already become one of Pixar’s most underrated offerings: a story that deserves to be exalted, and is instead being bullied for its simplicity, so-so worldbuilding, and subversion of tropes – which has itself become something of a trope, though I maintain that Onward does it in the best way possible, and that’s because it borrows the inspiration (just the inspiration, mind you, everything else about it is different) for its most crucial subversive element from The Lord Of The Rings.

Now, Onward borrows a lot of stuff from J.R.R. Tolkien’s masterpiece, it’s true. There are little details hidden all over the richly-detailed fantasy world, and, unsurprisingly, many of them harp back to the man who is described as the father of modern fantasy. Fast-food restaurants serving second breakfast, soft drinks named Mountain Doom (with “explosive caffeine!”), an image of what I believe to be Gandalf versus The Balrog in the back of Barley’s van…basically, all the usual stuff that would make me slightly biased in this film’s favor. But no, I don’t love it solely because of that. Nor do I love it solely because everyone in the film is an LGBTQ+ icon (though, if you’re interested, feel free to check out my non-existent TED talk about how Laurel and The Manticore are absolutely canon, the pawn shop owner radiates big boss lesbian energy, and Barley is a chaotic gay cinnamon roll). Sure, those things contribute to the film’s overall appeal – but what I love most about it is how it finally clarifies that Samwise Gamgee was the true hero of The Lord Of The Rings.

Lord Of The Rings Samwise
lotr.fandom.com

If you don’t already know, let me explain: in the Tolkien fandom, there has always been a war between “stans” of Frodo, and “stans” of Samwise Gamgee – a “stan” being a person who devotes themselves, wholly and unconditionally, to one specific person, fictional character, or thing. I’m not a big fan of stanning anyone or anything, simply because stans often become so passionate about whatever they’re stanning that they refuse to see its faults, and instead become toxic and hyper-aggressive when they see a threat to their idol. In the case of The Lord Of The Rings, it’s either really sad or really unsurprising that a story about unconditional love and loyalty would attract so many stans – who often divide themselves into either Frodo stans or Samwise stans. However, all you toxic Samwise stans are off the hook today, because I’m not coming for you – I’m coming for the toxic Frodo stans, and their idea of what makes a true hero.

J.R.R. Tolkien described Samwise Gamgee as the true hero of his story. Needless to say, Frodo stans have never liked this tidbit of trivia, and typically disregard it, either choosing to scream “DEATH OF THE AUTHOR!,” as loudly as possible, or snobbily remarking that “well, Tolkien didn’t write it that way”. Well, actually, he did – though, admittedly, everyone has differing opinions, and I respect that. But Onward uses the same formula for its hero and protagonist and makes it even less disputable.

Onward Barley Lightfoot
variety.com

In my opinion, what Frodo stans often overlook is that a story’s hero isn’t always its protagonist, nor vice versa. It’s rare to find, indeed, though I can actually name at least one other story this year that has done it…in a way. I say “in a way” because, while Netflix’s The Letter For The King turns the tables on its main character and reveals that one of his supporting cast, a young woman, is actually the hero of prophecy, and destined to defeat the villain, she never actually becomes the hero of the story. She’s a central plot-point, but that’s all she is: she’s just there to fight the big bad. In trying to create a surprise hero reveal, Netflix accidentally made their surprise hero the surprise protagonist of the series, while the character who was both hero and protagonist up until that point became solely the hero.

Because here’s the thing, which I’ve found is true across several different mediums: a hero doesn’t have to be the character whose name is in the title, or who gets to fight all the big sword-battles, or wield all the cool magic powers. From my experience, a story’s hero is often the overlooked beating heart of the story, the character around whom the entire story revolves without us ever noticing, usually until the very end. Sam, for instance, is the hero of The Lord Of The Rings – he represents everything the good guys are fighting for, and, without him, the story falls apart: not only because without him Frodo would have died several times before ever reaching Mordor, but because without him, The Lord Of The Rings isn’t the story of unconditional love, unbreakable friendship and unquenchable hope that we know it to be. Without him, in fact, it’s a pretty dark tale. So Sam is the true hero of that story because he is its core, the rock upon which the story is built, and Frodo is the protagonist: the character at the center of the plot – and he’s important too, because he teaches us about the importance of mercy and forgiveness, and how power corrupts. But when Frodo lies, maimed and spiritually exhausted on the slopes of Mount Doom, who is there beside him at the end of all things? Sam, that’s who. And it’s Sam’s presence there that reminds us what the story is all about: hope enduring even in darkness, and love defeating evil. For me, this is what defines a hero versus a protagonist, and shows how both can exist in one story without necessarily being the same person – a story’s true hero is the character who best personifies the themes and moral of the story, if there is one, while the protagonist is the most important character in the plot.

Onward Ian Lightfoot
decider.com

And that brings us back to Onward, and the case of Barley and Ian. For most of the film’s duration, it seems clear who is both hero and protagonist: Ian Lightfoot. He’s our POV character the entire time; he’s the one who initiates the quest when he finds out he’s the only character who can use magic; he’s the character who fights all the big fights, overcomes all the hardest obstacles, and has the big third-act battle against the fire-breathing dragon. But that doesn’t make him the hero – as it turns out, Ian is the protagonist, while his overlooked and underestimated older brother Barley Lightfoot is the story’s true hero.

It might sound unthinkable. But Onward isn’t just the story of two boys trying to meet their father – it’s a celebration of parents and parental figures in general. That’s why the father is the elusive end-goal of the movie’s plot. That’s why Laurel, the boys’ mother, follows them on their quest and has a key role in the final battle. That’s why there’s a subplot with the boys’ stepfather, whom they initially dislike but learn to accept. That’s why the big revelation at the end of the movie is that Barley Lightfoot has always been Ian’s own father figure growing up, and that Ian always did know his father, through Barley. And that’s why, in a moving act of gratitude, Ian returns the favor by giving Barley, and Barley alone, the chance to reunite with the ghost of their father in the film’s epic conclusion. That’s not entirely by choice – there’s a large dragon headed their way, and one of them has to stop it before it kills them all – but that makes it more powerful: because by that point, Ian’s character arc has concluded. He’s already figured out what and who the story is all about. But Barley still hasn’t: in a noble act of self-sacrifice, he offers to go hold off the dragon and give Ian the chance to meet their dad. But Ian stops him, telling him that now, Barley deserves what Ian always had: a chance to share his life, even for a moment, with his own father figure. Suddenly, Barley Lightfoot is the true heart, soul and hero of the story, and he best represents what the film is all about.

Now, a celebration of unconventional parental figures and older siblings isn’t anything new – the Frozen series and Lilo & Stitch are two other animated movies that give older siblings all the respect they deserve, and in fact Barley Lightfoot shares a couple characteristics with Elsa in particular (make them both gay, you cowards!) – but Pixar’s spin on the material gives it a truly unique twist. And in so doing, whether intentionally or not, they have paid homage to the father of modern fantasy.

Onward
loudwire.com

And there you have it. At this point I’ve likely angered a fair number of Frodo stans (but don’t worry, I still love all most some a few of you), and I’ve rambled on for far too long. Share your own thoughts, theories and opinions in the comments below!

Oh, and one last thing. My initial rating for Onward was too low, so allow me to do something I almost never do, and revise it:

Rating: 9.5/10

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“Onward” Review! No Spoilers!

This review comes at a strange time, just a little over a month since Pixar’s Onward hit theaters – long after I should already have been able to see this film in a pre-coronavirus world, and long before I should have been able to catch it on streaming. But here we are, entering a new and uncertain chapter of the film industry’s history: one in which films now leave theaters and hop into the ancillary markets much earlier than expected.

Unfortunately, Onward suffered the consequences of arriving on the very weekend that much of the world suddenly realized just how dangerous the coronavirus crisis was quickly becoming – it pulled only small crowds to the box-office, and even those became impossible to muster when theaters collectively chose to close down. As a result, I feel safe in assuming that not many people have seen Onward yet, and for those of you who haven’t, here’s my review. I will not call it “late”, for a movie review is never late – it arrives precisely when it means to.

Onward Pixar
newsweek.com

Onward is not, strictly speaking, Pixar’s first adventure in the fantasy genre – but it is the first one with Elves, and that’s got to count for something. Set in a magic-infused world of wonder that has slowly declined with the inevitable advent of technology and industrialism, the film follows two Elves on their mighty quest to spend a single day with the ghost of their dead father, who can be brought back to life with a little help from a magical gemstone, a wizard’s staff, and an absent-minded Manticore.

Appropriately, the film revels in meta-humor, with plenty of loving shout-outs to mythical characters, creatures and locales; Easter eggs galore for the keen-eyed; and all the standard fantasy tropes we know and love. Because of the unusual circumstances allowing us to watch Onward from the comfort of our own homes, it’s tempting to watch the film with a finger poised over the pause button, trying to examine every corner of the screen for these whimsical details (though some are obvious: such as a fast-food restaurant whose giant neon signboard reads “Burger Shire: Now Serving Second Breakfast!”). I encourage you to try and refrain from doing so, at least on your first watch, so you don’t miss out on the story itself. As Martin Scorsese would advise – just try to pretend you’re in a theater.

Onward‘s multitude of callbacks to classic fantasy literature and myths get the film in trouble in more ways than one, unfortunately. Whereas other Pixar films usually involve some unique, hilarious twist, and immerse the viewer in a fully fleshed-out world rich with individuality, Onward‘s twist has been explored in dozens of books and movies before, most successfully in Terry Pratchett’s satirical Discworld novels, and its world is mostly built from borrowed material. This makes it hard to sell people on the worldbuilding premise, because the film doesn’t scream creativity like Pixar’s previous hits: Coco, Inside Out, Toy Story, Finding Nemo, Monsters Inc., etc.

Onward
radiotimes.com

So what do you sell them on? Well, Pixar seems to think that audiences just want a good long cry, and markets its films accordingly – but Onward is really more heartwarming than sad. Don’t get me wrong: it has plenty of sad scenes, but the story, and its resolution, are more poignant and subtly bittersweet than outright soul-crushing. This is sadness done right; sadness used as an essential ingredient of a larger story, rather than for shock-value or in a formulaic fashion.

The story is carried by two extremely likable protagonists, whose contrasting and conflicting personalities balance each other out very nicely – Ian Lightfoot (voiced by, and almost certainly modeled after, Tom Holland) is the indecisive, socially awkward youngest member of the Lightfoot family, who was born after his father’s death, and thus relies on second-hand accounts of his father to build his own impression of him. Barley Lightfoot (Chris Pratt), the older brother, is something of a gentle giant, with relatable, but niche, interests: ancient history, magic, and mythology. The voice-work on both characters is solid, though unremarkable – which possibly benefits Pratt, as he is controversial enough in his personal life that distancing him from the characters he plays isn’t exactly a bad idea.

The small supporting cast is filled out by Julia Louis-Dreyfuss as the Lightfoots’ mother, Laurel, whose almost superhuman strength (seemingly obtained through routine aerobics sessions) feels like it should be more of a big deal than it is; The Manticore (Octavia Spencer), once an Athena-esque figure of legend who gifted heroes with magical weapons and wisdom, now a worn-down restaurant owner just trying to host karaoke night; and Lena Waithe as “Pixar’s first openly gay character”, a cop who appears in one scene and has a single line of dialogue referencing her girlfriend’s kid. It’s a small step forward for the LGBTQ+ community, but in a film where Laurel Lightfoot and The Manticore share several scenes together and have undeniable chemistry as they go on their own little lawless adventure to restore The Manticore to her former glory, it’s also a missed opportunity.

Onward
forbes.com

The quality of the film’s animation is nowhere near as spectacular as films like Coco or Brave – but in the world we now live in, it’s possible Onward will be nominated for an Oscar simply because so many other animated films will be pushed back to next year.

Honestly, if no better challenger arrives on the scene between now and next Oscar season, I wouldn’t mind seeing this unfortunate underdog eke out a win. Not only do I relish the thought of a sequel (yeah, yeah, I know, Pixar wants to focus on original content: well, tell them to stop coming up with original content that demands a follow-up!), but I think it would be welcome compensation for the film’s lost audience appeal and box-office returns – not to mention petty vengeance on coronavirus for all the damage and disruption it’s caused.

Movie Rating: 9.5/10

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“Dolittle” Trailer Review!

We’ve grown so accustomed to Robert Downey Jr. being a movie-star, it’s hard to imagine him ever losing that status. But Dolittle seems intent on sending Downey back to obscurity, with a lonely January release date, and a poorly executed trailer that showcases bad CGI, and a badly exaggerated British accent from Downey, who is clearly much more comfortable in a suit of iron armor: and can we really blame him? The role of Iron Man was tailor-made for the actor – whereas that of Dr. Dolittle is perhaps better suited to someone like comedian Michael Sheen, who will actually have a prominent voice role in Dolittle.

There is charm in this newly released trailer, and a sense of wonderment that is appropriate for the material: too often, these days, even the smallest, most intimate stories get turned into big-budget CGI spectacles – the first look at The Secret Garden is a good example of a low-stakes children’s classic rudely transformed into a mindless mess of visual effects wizardry. So in that regard, perhaps it’s encouraging that Dolittle is going in a different direction, with shots pulled straight from the pages of a fairytale – specifically, I’m thinking of the adventures of Sinbad, since Dolittle also has a sea-faring journey at its heart, as well as a faux-Indian setting (along with all its traditional, if rather stereotypical accouterments, such as hungry tigers, golden palaces, lavish banquets, and a malicious prince with dark eyeliner played by a non-Indian actor).

Now, it’s worth noting that this trailer, despite being two minutes long, mostly consists of large animals hurrying about without rhyme or reason. It seems that Dolittle will be called upon by the Queen of England to find a cure for a mysterious illness by traveling the seven seas with his menagerie of talking animals, but absolutely none of that is even hinted at in the trailer. Instead, we listen to a rendition of “What A Wonderful World” (a great song, but overused), while Dolittle himself mumbles almost incoherently about how it’s okay to be scared (meanwhile, his sailing ship is literally being torn to pieces by enemy warships, and he’s just crashed out on the deck in a clumsy 19th Century diving-suit: personally, if I were in such a situation, I think I’d be trying to get away as fast as possible, rather than just sitting about, but whatever; you do you, Dolittle).

I mean, one thing to look forward to is the all-star cast: but almost all of them are voice roles, and does Emma Thompson even count? She’s in literally everything these days: it’s almost like we take for granted that “obviously, Emma Thompson’s in this movie too”.

So what do you think? Is RDJ a good fit for the role of Dolittle? Is this movie going to be a hit or miss with modern audiences? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Trailer Rating: 4/10

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“Onward” Trailer Review!

Pixar is going all out on the sob-factor in their new, humorously quirky, vaguely unsettling trailer for Onward, a film about two brothers trying to resurrect their deceased father in a world full of magic, mischief, and angry unicorns. And it’s a good thing they are, because it’s all they’ve got so far.

As in the first trailer, I’m still not seeing much about the actual concept that feels entirely unique – yes, it’s turning common fantasy tropes upside-down and giving them a funny twist, but…it’s been done. The unicorns raiding trash cans, the biker gang of fairies, the pet dragon: I mean, maybe it’s just because I read a lot of Terry Pratchett’s work, but “mundane magic” doesn’t feel extremely high-concept anymore. But, of course, Pixar isn’t relying solely on setting to sell this story – no, they’re relying on human tears to fuel this movie at the box-office.

In this new trailer, we watch Ian and Barley Lightfoot, our Elven protagonists, as they attempt to use a magic staff to bring their father back from the dead for a single day – but, this being Pixar, the plan backfires, and what they’re left with is a pair of sentient ghost legs that will probably make us all cry ourselves to death in the theater, but for the moment just look…kind of creepy, to tell you the truth. That situation is not alleviated when the brothers attempt to disguise the legs by giving their dad a fake body composed of several sweatshirts, jackets and a pair of glasses – am I supposed to stifle a sob at the sight, or tremble in terror? Honestly, I’m not sure.

Yeah, and then, um, I think somebody gets decapitated? And also burned to a crisp? I’m not entirely sure what to think of that, but the impression I’m getting is that, for all of Onward‘s yoga trolls and casual cyclops (cyclopses? cyclopsis?) this world is actually quite dark and dangerous: after all, it wouldn’t really be Pixar without somebody dying or getting killed in the opening sequence – though, as we recently learned from Toy Story 4, even some of the studio’s most nightmarish villains get served up justice.

The trailer gives us a bit of humor, mostly resulting from the highly awkward scenario of having to travel around with a pair of legs, searching for the top half of a ghost. But the actual jokes are pretty weak – probably because Pixar is saving their best ones for the movie-going experience. The studio has often been accused of having weak trailers for great films, and I hope that Onward is no different: sure, it might look a little derivative right now, but who’s not going to see this film at some point, whether in theaters or on streaming? Are you?

What do you think of the trailer, and what are your thoughts on the genre? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Trailer Rating: 6/10

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“Madame Web” Coming To Sony’s Spider-Verse!

You would think, with Sony having successfully taken Spider-Man away from Disney and Marvel Studios, with all of the character’s huge universe of characters, villains and exciting storylines at their disposal, without having Kevin Feige running the show, without Bob Iger breathing down their backs, without any limitations whatsoever on their creative control over the entire Spider-Verse…you would think Sony would want to do something with all that.

"Madame Web" Coming To Sony's Spider-Verse! 1
denofgeek.com

Well, technically, they are. But this latest Sony announcement, one of their first Spider-Man related news-stories since the Sony/Marvel breakup, is confusing at first because of just how bizarre it is. It’s being reported that Sony is developing a Spider-Man spinoff about a little-known character from the Spider-Verse, Cassandra Webb, who goes by the name “Madame Web”. To call her “little-known” is probably an understatement, in fact. An elderly blind clairvoyant, who needs to be surrounded by a giant mechanical web-shaped life-support system at all times, Webb is…well, she’s not the character that immediately comes to mind when you think of Marvel heroes who deserve their own spinoff films. Green Goblin, Black Cat, Venom, Silk, Silver Sable; those seem like the obvious choices, and already have some strong fans from the comics, and/or have appeared in previous Spider-Man films, so they’re not totally unknown to audiences.

Madame Web, on the other hand, is…not any of that. And unless Sony is taking a radically-different approach to the character, she doesn’t seem like a heroine whose story would make for a great action thriller or superhero epic. If anything, a Madame Web movie could be more introspective and thoughtful, focusing on how Webb uses other heroes to do her bidding, and the moral implications of her actions. It seems like a rather dark subject for a Spider-Man movie, too; watching an old woman forced to sit in the solitude of her webs, while wars rage outside her home, unable to do anything to help. Somehow, Webb’s story seems more like awards season fare, rather than a crowd-pleasing, family-friendly popcorn flick: additionally, the script is apparently being written by Matt Shazama and Burk Sharpless, who are currently developing another Spider-Man spinoff for Sony, about the bloodthirsty vampire Morbius. So, maybe don’t expect Spidey to run into Webb on a school field-trip.

Then again, who knows? Maybe Sony is doing what Marvel Studios did; building up the onscreen personas of little-known characters, preparing for some huge crossover event like an Avengers movie of their own. Webb, whose powers include foresight, would be an invaluable addition to the team, and could work from behind-the-scenes, like a puppet-master of sorts. That would be both slightly creepy and very cool, and seems like it would fit in with the edgier approach that Sony is taking with some of their Spider-Verse acquisitions. Then again, going too dark will lose some of the crucial teenage audiences that turn out regularly for Tom Holland’s Spider-Man movies, so Sony should be careful with their marketing decisions here. And they might also want to start trying to lure in the large part of their Spider-fandom that they lost when they took Spidey away from the MCU: there’s still a lot of resentment toward the studio, resentment which could probably be abated if Sony were to finally use characters like Green Goblin, Doc Oc, the Sinister Six, etc. I just don’t know if Madame Web’s fanbase is big enough to make this film a worthwhile investment, especially now, when Sony has to make good choices and show that they can still be responsible with the great power they now have over Spider-Man.

A final note, though: Sony will presumably soon be on the lookout for an actress to fill the role of Casandra Webb, and I’m urging them to get to Meryl Streep before Marvel scoops her up for some bit part. If there’s anybody who could pull off this difficult role (and possibly bring in some Oscar nominations for Sony), it would be Streep.

What are your feelings on a Madame Web movie, and do you think it’s the content that audiences crave from Sony, post-Marvel? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

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Sony: Into The Spider-Drama

I had already made up my mind to write a follow-up post to all the Spider-Man drama last night, after some new updates on a rapidly evolving story. But I was blindsided by just how dramatic some of these updates would be. Let’s dig in and discuss.

So, for all of you new to the story: last night, Sony Pictures and Disney Studios supposedly ended the deal they’ve had since 2015, whereby the character of Spider-Man is jointly owned by both companies, with creative control largely belonging to Disney (and specifically Marvel Studios), and the vast majority of box-office returns flowing straight into Sony’s treasure hoard. This apparently came about due to a disagreement over money: Disney is fed up with having to satisfy Marvel by agreeing to this deal, and so pressed Sony to allow for a 50/50 co-financing agreement, which would effectively impoverish a studio whose only big franchise is Spider-Man. Sony backed away from the new deal and took Spider-Man with them. That was how things looked at first.

Then, just after I had posted my initial response to the news, some more headlines started popping up. It was all just a false alarm, blown out of proportion: deals were apparently still ongoing: theories started emerging that it had all been a hoax, that the details had been leaked by Disney as a publicity stunt to gather support. They might have; we don’t know yet. But a closer look at those headlines revealed that they were little more than unsubstantiated rumors and speculation. But for a moment there, it looked like both sides had reached an uneasy ceasefire. Sources were saying that Sony executives were trying to reach out and explain to the press that this was all hypothetical.

That was until Sony themselves took to social media to explain what had happened, leaving no doubt that they weren’t messing around here, a deal had not been reached, talks were not ongoing, and no, Disney, you can’t have Spidey back yet. Their official statement placed the blame squarely on Disney, and characterized Marvel Studios and Marvel president Kevin Feige as the main victims of this terrible offense: “We are disappointed,” read the press release, “but respect Disney’s decision not to have [Feige] continue as a lead producer of our next live-action Spider-Man film.”

Ouch. That hurts. Especially because Feige is caught directly in the middle of this studio warfare, and is now being used by both sides to justify their actions, but has no ability to actually work out a deal on his own. And at this point, it’s become Disney’s problem just as much as it is his – Disney is currently building an entire Marvel theme park in which the main attraction will be…a Spider-Man ride. That was truly a brilliant idea, deciding to cash in on the character before even settling the question of whether they could.

The shame and blame tactics didn’t stop there, as Sony suggested that Disney would now try to pamper Feige into submission with a whole bunch of new toys obtained during the Disney/Fox merger: “We hope this might change in the future, but understand that the many new responsibilities that Disney has given him – including all their newly added Marvel properties – do not allow time for him to work on IP they do not own.”

Even The Hollywood Reporter is using the word “divorce” to describe this situation, and it’s no surprise – this whole situation sounds very hostile, and very risky. Disney can back down and allow Spider-Man to slip back into Sony’s vaults, or they can wise up and offer a more fair and balanced deal, one that doesn’t involve them stealing half the profits of a franchise that’s not actually theirs. Maybe losing some of the marketing rights to the character wouldn’t hurt either, since Disney has clearly run rampant with them. Feige can’t do much at all, and any actions he does take will look like he’s being moved around by Disney, unless he tries to negotiate a deal behind their backs – which, you know, probably isn’t a great idea. At the moment, Sony president Amy Pascal is in the position of power: she can smash a gaping hole in Marvel Cinematic Universe continuity, rob the franchise of one of its most iconic characters, and also wreck Disney’s new Marvel Land theme park.

Spider-Man star Tom Holland has been silent on the whole situation, but his Avengers co-star Jeremy Renner hasn’t, publicly stated that Sony should give back the character to Marvel, imploring the studio to remember that Spidey was Stan Lee’s favorite character. Deadpool star Ryan Reynolds, who hasn’t actually entered the MCU yet, seemed dismayed that he wouldn’t be able to join a Cinematic Universe that didn’t include the Webslinger.

If a deal is reached, it should come before Disney’s D23 event (at which they’re expected to officially announce the Marvel Land park, and possibly some upcoming Marvel movies). That’s…the day after tomorrow.

Do you think Sony and Disney will settle this dispute? Is it too late for that? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!

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Spider-Man Is Leaving The MCU!

Some Spoilers for Spider-Man: Far From Home ahead!

Well, that was a surprise.

Today would have been a completely unremarkable, even boring day in the world of entertainment industry news – there weren’t any big, flashy headlines to wake up to, no unexpected trailers dropping or big casting news. The world was mostly just chatting amiably about Amy Adams’ birthday, and getting ready for D23. Then, this happened.

As of today, the Sony/Disney deal over the Spider-Man rights has officially collapsed, leaving chaos, heartbreak and a collective sense of shock in its wake. Most of the internet is hurriedly rushing out hashtags like #BoycottSony or #GiveBackSpiderMan, while the rest are cheering about what this means for a shared Spider-verse over at Sony. I’ll try to sort out the details and let you draw your own conclusions, but I want to point out upfront that I am one of the fans who is currently very upset about this news. Not to the point where I want to boycott Sony, as I think that’s pretty ridiculous, but definitely angry enough to…well, write this post, for one thing.

The first thing that needs to be understood is that Spider-Man is the subject of the trickiest rights situation in Hollywood: or, was. Sony exclusively held the rights to the character, and the entire Spider-verse (a.k.a. Spidey’s entire roster of supporting characters, rogues, etc), from 1999 to 2015. During that time they produced two separate Spider-Man franchises, one starring Tobey Maguire, followed by a reboot with Andrew Garfield in the Webslinger’s iconic costume. After the reboot flopped, and the Spider-verse looked to be in danger of breaking apart, Sony’s president Amy Pascal came to an arrangement with Disney and Marvel Studios that the three companies would be able to have joint ownership of the character – with Sony reserving most of the rights. Spider-Man was never sold to the MCU, so much as he was leased. Sony still financed, produced and distributed his films, while Marvel only got a small portion of all Spider-Man box-office returns. The only control that Marvel ever really had over the character was the ability to use him as they saw fit in a total of five Sony-approved films, to recast him, and to choose directors and creative teams for his franchise. For more information on the specifics of the deal, I’ll direct you here.

Meanwhile, Sony used the remaining scraps of the Spider-verse to start creating their own separate franchises, completely disassociated with the MCU – Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse and Venom, two of last year’s most unexpected successes, seem to have proved to Sony that a three-way partnership with Disney and Marvel was no longer necessary – or profitable. Besides, they’re clearly itching to introduce Spider-Man to their roster of other characters, and they can’t do that until they have full control over the character once more.

So they did the only logical thing they could do. Mere days after Spider-Man: Far From Home, a Sony/Marvel production, officially became the highest-grossing Sony film of all time, Sony chose to pull out of their deal with Disney and Marvel – thereby immediately removing the character from the MCU, shutting the door on future Marvel storylines involving the character, and preventing Marvel president Kevin Feige from having any creative control over Spider-Man’s future films. This, of course, was always a risk, and it looks like Sony might have been scared by Feige’s supposed willingness to bring even more Spider-verse characters into the Marvel fold – perhaps that possible Gwen Stacy cameo in Avengers: Endgame was the last straw, who knows?

Whatever was the reason for Sony’s abrupt decision, it looks like, once they made up their minds, they didn’t back down. Disney apparently reached out to the studio, on Marvel’s behalf, with an offer to set up a 50/50 co-financing deal for all future Spider-Man movies – Sony turned it down immediately, and offered to keep the current deal going; the deal under which Marvel receives a measly share of profits. Disney rejected that offer. At which point Sony just cut their losses and took Spider-Man back. Both sides are just trying to look out for their business, and that’s completely understandable. Disney (and especially Marvel) don’t want to lose one of the cornerstones of their biggest franchise, and Sony doesn’t want to keep sharing their biggest franchise anymore, in a deal that has effectively prevented them from fully building their own Spider-verse.

The main problem is that this leaves Kevin Feige and the MCU in a horrible position. Having just set up a huge, world-changing story arc in Far From Home that was clearly intended to set up future Spider-Man movies and pave the way for Peter Parker becoming Marvel’s new Iron Man, Feige will now have to slowly dismantle all that hard work. If Sony and Disney don’t renegotiate (and it doesn’t seem likely that they will, at least not yet), then Tom Holland’s version of Spider-Man is officially gone from the MCU, leaving a gaping hole in the universe’s carefully constructed structure. Mysterio, one of the most awesome villains in recent comic book movie history, is gone as well. MJ, Aunt May, Ned: all of them are gone. J. Jonah Jameson, who just got introduced to the MCU, is out of it again. Sony will take back all their characters and probably recast and rebrand them all, giving Peter Parker a new origin story in a new trilogy of films that will most likely not expand on anything you’ve seen in Peter’s brief MCU tenure.

And so I feel obligated to conclude this post with what will most likely turn out to be the last line of dialogue ever spoken by Tom Holland’s Spider-Man in the MCU:

“What the fu-”

*cut to black*

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“Spider-Man: Far From Home” SPOILER Review!

If you haven’t seen Spider-man: Far From Home yet, make sure you get out of here and into a theater now, because you don’t want to miss it, and you definitely don’t want to get spoiled!

I have a feeling that the spoilers are, in large part, what make Far From Home such a fun movie: as I wrote in my nonspoiler review, it’s virtually impossible to talk about the film without giving anything away, because there are dozens of little shocks and surprises, not to mention a couple of huge, mind-blowing plot twists. And we can talk about them all now! We’ll discuss them in order of importance.

Surprisingly, one of the smallest, most insignificant surprises in the movie has to do with the consequences of Avengers: Endgame – or, rather, the lack thereof. The film opens with an emotional tribute to fallen heroes of previous movies, set to Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You”, which then gives way to some exposition about what happened after Endgame: namely, the moment at which half of the human population suddenly reappeared. Unfortunately, this is all covered in a matter of seconds, with just one quick shot of dusted highschool students suddenly reappearing on the basketball court where they had been dusted five years earlier by Thanos’ infamous Snap. Thanos would be outraged to hear that people have begun calling this moment…the Blip. It’s a dumb name, and it does kind of undermine the huge drama of Endgame, but it is exactly what people these days would call such an event – a blip, a minor nuisance for those who were dusted.

But let’s talk about that, actually. In Far From Home, we mostly see things from the perspective of those who were Dusted, and have since Blipped back into existence, five years later, but still the same age. Peter Parker (Tom Holland), and all but one of his classmates were victims of the Snap, as was Peter’s Aunt May (Marisa Tomei). Leaving aside the fact that this is highly implausible considering that the Dusting was random and indiscriminate, these characters all have something in common, something I couldn’t quite place a finger on while watching the film: entitlement. The Dusted make up the vast majority of this film’s cast, and almost all of them have the same attitude of nonchalance and, dare I say, arrogance. They died and came back to life, but for them, the entire span of time between the Snap and the Blip was a matter of minutes: meanwhile, in the world around them, people have gotten married, had kids, died. One Dusted character comments on “how weird” it is that his younger brother is now older than him, but why don’t we stop to think about how it must feel for that younger/older brother, who has probably been dealing with emotional trauma, possibly even living as an only child, but now has to re-adapt to life with a sibling? The film only focuses on one character who survived the Dusting and has grown up in the intervening five years – Brad Davis (Remy Hii), who is treated throughout the film as a threat to Peter’s relationship with MJ (Zendaya), and something of an antagonist. But it’s the Dusted who actually come off as ungrateful and selfish, willfully endangering their lives time and time again. A lot of people wondered why, if Peter had just been Dusted, Aunt May would immediately thereafter let him go on a field-trip to Europe. Well, because Aunt May was just as dismissive of the Snap as any of the Dusted: sure, she had a funny experience where she reappeared in her old apartment only to discover that a new family had moved in – but she still got the apartment back, didn’t she?

Anyway…while we’re on the subject of Aunt May, let me move on from my angry tirade – May is not an important character in the film, but she does have a very adorable flirtatious relationship with Tony Stark’s aide, Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau). And at the end of the movie, when Peter confronts them and asks for the truth, May breaks Happy’s heart by revealing that it wasn’t meant to be a serious relationship – just a fling. Hopefully May rethinks that, because these two made one cute couple (honestly, when you think about it, it’s another example of how ungrateful the Dusted are).

Happy isn’t the only constant reminder of Tony Stark in Far From Home: aside from a brief mention of Tony’s wife Pepper Potts, there’s also some new surprises. We learn early on in the film that, before his death, Tony built a pair of glasses which control the hugely dangerous E.D.I.T.H (Even Dead, I’m The Hero) technology: this includes an almost infinite supply of killer drones and some really scary satellites orbiting the planet. Naturally, he also entrusted these glasses to Peter Parker, a scared and overwhelmed teenage boy. Just like any of Tony’s creations, these E.D.I.T.H glasses can be used for good or bad purposes – Peter makes this clear when he accidentally uses them to call a drone-strike on his rival, Brad Davis: even worse, he then gives the glasses to Quentin Beck (Jake Gyllenhaal), a man he’s known for a couple of days – even though he does eventually get them back, the E.D.I.T.H drones also capture him on camera, killing Beck. We’ll get to that later, though.

First, let’s talk about Beck himself. This one honestly shouldn’t have come as a surprise: we learn about halfway through the movie that Beck, who seems really nice and friendly, is actually a mentally unstable con-man trying to get revenge on his former boss, Tony Stark, who he believes stole his life-work and gave him no credit. With a team of disgruntled former Stark Industries employees, Beck has created an elaborate smoke-and-mirrors ruse – he pretends to be from another world in the Marvel multiverse, a warrior hunting huge creatures called Elementals, which wreak havoc across Europe. In reality, the Elementals are all special effects, and Beck is hunting Peter Parker, trying to win him over with kindness and get the E.D.I.T.H glasses from him. Jake Gyllenhaal brings a lot of charisma to the role – and his abrupt transformation from sweet, gentle Quentin Beck, to the over-the-top theatrical villainy of “Mysterio”, as he calls himself, is handled with ease. Granted, the actual scene in which his evil plans are revealed is…not quite as great. Gyllenhaal has to dump a lot of exposition and backstory while monologuing to his henchmen, and the dialogue itself is a bit wooden – but the delivery is as good as it can be, and Gyllenhaal was clearly having the time of his life while filming. He reminded me a great deal of Count Olaf from A Series of Unfortunate Events in that one scene. And he was detestable: from his snarky smile to his outfit, I wanted to punch him in the face. I didn’t think he could get worse.

He got worse.

I mentioned in my nonspoiler review that fans of Peter Parker will be traumatized by this movie: I stand by that. After getting the E.D.I.T.H glasses, Mysterio learns that Peter and MJ have uncovered his secret identity and are trying to reach Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) at a S.H.I.E.L.D office in Berlin. Mysterio lures Peter into a trap, using special effects and illusions to fool him into an abandoned warehouse where he tries to murder him. What follows is some of the most nightmarish and imaginative stuff I’ve ever seen in a superhero movie: a sequence reminiscent of the “A Friend Like Me” musical number in Aladdin – but with disorienting green fog, spiders, and hundreds of Mysterio clones instead of singing genies and magic carpets. There are moments of dead silence, where we follow Peter as he tries to find a way out of the CGI darkness, only to run into a graveyard where he is confronted by a zombie apparition of Tony Stark. There’s a scene where Peter is surrounded by mirror images of himself, which suddenly come to life and try to strangle him. It goes on for an excruciatingly long time, with no end in sight – there’s one point at which you think the illusion is over, when Nick Fury shoots Mysterio in the back…but that’s a deception too. And then Peter Parker gets hit by a train.

He survives this, of course. How, I don’t know, but at least he manages to finally break free from Mysterio’s illusions – watching Peter be tortured both physically and mentally, not knowing who he could trust or what he could do to escape: it was heartbreaking. I nearly cried when Peter climbed, bloodied and bruised, up onto the side of the speeding bullet-train. I nearly cried again when he was wandering, lost and confused, through a picturesque Dutch village. I did cry when he finally met up with Happy Hogan again: he was crying, I was crying.

Then Led Zeppelin started playing. That dried my tears pretty quickly.

One more thing about Mysterio before we move to the third act surprises: the whole concept of the Multiverse, teased in the first few trailers for the film – it’s all a lie, concocted by Quentin Beck’s professional scriptwriters. There is no rift between dimensions, no Earth 616 – as of right now, there is still only one reality in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which is honestly fine by me. It does mean we can probably dismiss all those rumors about the X-Men or the Fantastic Four coming from an alternate world in the Multiverse.

Now, for the big battle at the end. This happens in London, on the Tower Bridge, where Mysterio uses the E.D.I.T.H drones to create one “Avengers-level threat” for him to single-handedly defeat. Things get a little messy when Peter Parker disables the drones and exposes the illusion, leading to an epic battle where Peter has to go through Mysterio’s nightmare world again in order to get to him. Meanwhile, his friends, such as MJ and Ned (Jacob Batalon) are trapped in a museum, using medieval weapons to take on the killer-bots: this is what I called a Disney-Channel moment in my nonspoiler review – it’s silly, but fun. In the end, though, no amount of plot armor was going to save those kids from being horribly murdered – it’s only when Mysterio shuts down E.D.I.T.H by himself, while trying to fool Peter into thinking that he’s surrendered, that the teens are able to escape. But here’s where things get really cool – and, again, traumatic. Mysterio falls back, seemingly humbled, telling Peter that he regrets everything. For a few moments, the audience is fooled – and then, suddenly, Peter spins around and grabs a gun from the real Mysterio, who has been standing nearby, invisible. There’s a single gunshot in the dead silence, and Mysterio slumps to the ground, dead – all¬†thanks to Peter’s “spidey-sense” (though, it’s worth mentioning that there’s a running joke in the movie where everybody refers to “spidey-sense” as the “Peter-tingle”, something that Peter loudly objects to on multiple occasions).

But Mysterio’s legacy lives on, just as he wanted it to: turns out, he was filming the whole battle, and his henchmen edited the preserved footage to make it look like Mysterio was murdered. This is revealed in a shocking mid-credits scene, in which the footage is broadcast on national television by conspiracy network, The Daily Bugle, along with Peter Parker’s name and image: in a horrifying parallel to Tony Stark’s own declaration “I am Iron Man” at the end of the first Iron Man movie, Peter’s own identity has now been unintentionally revealed to the world. It’s likely that the third Spider-man movie will see the young web-slinger, armed with E.D.I.T.H, on the run from a host of villains who will be coming after him, not to mention his family and friends.

And, finally, one more surprise is revealed at the very end of the movie, but it’s so big that I think it warrants its own post, so I’ll only cover it a little here: basically, in the post-credits scene, Nick Fury and his partner Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders) are revealed to have been Skrulls – specifically, Talos and Soren, who we already know from the Captain Marvel solo movie. We overhear their conversation with the real Nick Fury, as they inform him that they’ve successfully delivered Tony’s glasses to Peter. Nick Fury himself is shown to be lounging on a tropical beach, which itself is merely a hologram: turns out, Fury is in space, on a vast starship manned by Skrulls, commanding what looks to be an army of soldiers or workers in a sort of cosmic version of S.H.I.E.L.D., again paralleling the end of the first Iron Man, in which Nick Fury first appeared onscreen and recruited Tony Stark into the Avengers Initiative. Eleven years later, Fury is assembling some sort of new team for Phase 4. I have a few guesses as to what might be going on there, but we’ll discuss that another time.

With the end of that post-credits scene, the Infinity Saga is officially over. The story of Tony Stark has been concluded, but there are dozens of new stories we can’t wait to see unfold on the big screen. We even have a bunch of new questions: is Spider-man going to be the next face of the MCU? Will he be forced to hide, or will he confront his enemies head-on? Is Mysterio really dead? What is Nick Fury doing up in space? Can all the Skrulls be trusted? How long have Skrulls been impersonating people on earth? Will the E.D.I.T.H tech play a large part going forward?

Will Aunt May and Happy end up together?

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“Spider-Man: Far From Home” Review – NO SPOILERS!

This movie is such an intricate web (get it? It’s a spider joke…moving along) of plot twists, it requires me to think very hard and carefully about literally ever word I’m using – I don’t want to spoil a single thing in this movie. There are twists within twists, and there are all sorts of tricks and little shockers, plus two of the most incredible post-credits scenes ever, scenes that will be talked about for months to come. And, for this review, we can’t discuss any of them. Not a one. My lips are sealed.

But…uh, if you haven’t seen Avengers: Endgame yet, you might want to go? Because this movie is very closely linked to what happened in Endgame.

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I feel it’s within my right to tell you a little of what to expect, in terms of atmosphere and tone: the film is very much high-school melodrama meets psychological horror – and if you think those two things probably don’t flow together very well, you’d be about partially right. Far From Home does sometimes have a little difficulty with that issue, at least with its supporting cast: specifically Ned (Jacob Batalon), MJ (Zendaya), and Betty (Angourie Rice). These three characters each have pretty sizable roles in the movie, and they often come across as a little…nonchalant? Yes, they’re teenage protagonists, and as such they have all the usual angst and over-the-top cringeworthy awkwardness that we’ve come to expect from teenage protagonists in movies, but it often gets in the way of, and subsequently diminishes the threat of the possibly world-ending catastrophic events happening around them. MJ, at the very least, has a little more dramatic material (and morbid humor) to work with in her role, and she even gets to play detective for, like, five or ten seconds, but she’s mostly here because this movie is truly a teen romance story at its heart, and her romance with Peter Parker (Tom Holland) is sweet enough and cute enough that it works. It’s not the best love story, and it’s a little dumb, but it’s there and I kind of like it, for what it is. It gives Peter an emotional anchor throughout the story.

One of two such anchors, in fact: the other being his attachment to the legacy of the late Tony Stark. Tony’s huge, larger-than-life status as an icon, a hero, a great man, is constantly reiterated through the film – from a heartbreaking opening-credits sequence up until the film’s finale. We are reminded over and over just how much Tony meant to Peter, and to the world. And we can sympathize with Peter’s pain and grief at losing him, and his quest to be the next Iron Man, a superhero that people can believe in. At times it becomes unbearable, and Peter is swallowed up by a claustrophobic panic as people constantly bombard him with questions about whether he’s leading the Avengers now, or what he plans to do if aliens attack again. If you’re a fan of Peter Parker, which I assume you are if you’re planning to go see Far From Home, just prepare for a lot of emotional trauma: because let’s just say…people are going after Peter in this movie in a way we haven’t seen before, kicking him when he’s down, tearing him apart (metaphorically speaking), and he takes a serious beating from it, physically and mentally. There are multiple scenes in this film where I felt like crying on Peter’s behalf, because he is tortured here. So many times, and in so many ways.

I am not kidding when I say there is psychological horror in this movie – in fact, there are multiple instances of it, and it makes the entire second and third acts feel nightmarish. One sequence, in particular, seems to go on and on, as Peter is lured in different directions like a puppet on strings, manipulated and mocked, unable to do anything to prevent all the awful things he’s forced to witness. He is far from home in so many ways.

And home seems particularly appealing now – the dread and gloom of Endgame has mostly passed, and families have been reunited: though, as Peter’s Aunt May (Marisa Tomei) points out early in the film, there have been some humorous consequences to the Snap, when half of the universe was disintegrated, and the subsequent moment when half of the universe suddenly reappeared. The name of that moment is itself pretty humorous, so I won’t spoil it for you. Anyway, the dusted are back, as we knew from Endgame, and people are moving on with their lives, all carefree. Aunt May even has a little flirtatious relationship going on with Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau) – that was teased in the trailers, it is not a spoiler. I won’t tell you what ends up happening on that front, though, because it’s funny. There’s a lot of adorable humor in Far From Home, actually – the movie is very cute. Okay, cute might not be the right word, considering all the mental trauma and horrifying imagery, but…um, cute during specific moments that I can’t spoil for you but which I assure you are definitely cute? There’s also a bit of the Disney-Channel factor, at certain points, especially in the third act: it would be difficult to explain what I mean by that without unintentionally spoiling certain moments of tension, but…uh, everybody knows what the Disney-Channel factor is, right? You’ll know it when you see it. It involves the teenage supporting cast, unsurprisingly.

Oh, by the way, there were a bunch of rumors going around that a transgender character and a Muslim character would show up in Far From Home: they do, but their appearances are incredibly brief – though Zoha Rahman did look very stylish in a variety of beautiful hijabs.

Samuel L. Jackson and Cobie Smulders have great chemistry once again, as super spies Nick Fury and Maria Hill. I can’t say too much about them, or their character arcs in this film, because…reasons…but they’re good. Very good.

While we’re treading the fine line between spoilers and nonspoilers, I will give as vague a description of Jake Gyllenhaal’s Mysterio, as is humanly possible. He is very interesting, he’s got a lot of charisma, and he made an impact. That’s it. Gyllenhaal does a really good job, except for one scene where – nope, not saying anything. But it’s just not a great scene. No spoilers!

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denofgeek.com

And, um, yeah, so there are also these two post-credits scenes that are, like, really important: don’t miss them, because they set up the next phase of the Marvel Cinematic Universe in a really cool way, and…yeah. That’s pretty much all I can say. This movie is a web, a tightly-knit web of secrets that demand to be talked about in a spoiler review – so go watch the movie! Go watch it, so you can get back here and read my spoiler review, which will be up in no time (well, give me a little time to write it)!

Movie Rating: 9/10

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“Onward” Trailer Review!

Unfortunately, this trailer dropped late at night, so I was unable to review it then – but we’re here now, aren’t we? Honestly, I have no idea who at Pixar and Disney thought it was a good idea to release the first teaser trailer for an animated kid’s movie at night, it’s not like this is going to be Maleficent or something, but whatever.

Let’s take a look, shall we?

Right off the bat, the animation looks pretty good, as we soar over a mystical land of magic and wonder, populated by flying unicorns and mermaids. Then, in a charming shot, we see a jet-plane interrupt the tranquility of this strange place. After that initial moment of wonder, the trailer goes rapidly downhill as we enter the magical suburbs where our protagonists live.

Don’t get me wrong, none of that has to do with voice actors Tom Holland and Chris Pratt. Holland sounds essentially like…well, like Holland, which works for his character; a shy, scrawny, teenage elf named Ian Lightfoot, who is clearly modeled off the actor’s more notable role as Spider-man, presumably in an attempt to attract Holland’s mobs of overzealous fans (though his fans would ravenously devour him in any role, to be honest). Pratt’s character, Barley Lightfoot (seriously, that’s his name), the brother of our teenage elf protagonist, is some sort of grungy adventurer who drives around in a unicorn-emblazoned van, talking loudly and using archaic words – like an entire movie of Pratt’s Marvel character Star-Lord copying Thor’s voice, from that iconic scene in Avengers: Infinity War. The two elf brothers are apparently on a quest (which Holland’s elf denies is a quest) to find the last remaining real magic in their world, somewhere outside of their town of…New Mushroomton (as if the names in this movie didn’t already sound rather trippy, New Mushroomton is all the evidence you need to prove that someone working on this film is smoking something).

And it’s New Mushroomton that’s the problem, as one might expect. Yes, the whole premise of the movie is that magic is now commonplace: we see mermaids checking their texts while lounging in the pool, centaurs jogging, unicorns raiding garbage cans like really sparkly raccoons. That’s fine, but the animation doesn’t illustrate this concept with charm or the usual Pixar wit – the New Mushroomton suburbs look rather boring, and what could be some really juxtapositions of the magic and the mundane…look pretty unimaginative. For instance, Ian Lightfoot’s pet being a dragon that acts like a dog – that is the easiest possible choice, and it’s been done before! Why not have the dragon be a cat? – or, better yet, have the Lightfoots’ pet be something interesting, like a giant spider or a phoenix, or something.

I mean, yeah, it’s just a brief teaser trailer, but it does nothing to excite me in the way that a Pixar film usually would; so far, I’m not seeing the creativity I’m used to seeing from this studio.

Trailer Rating: 4.5/10

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“Spider-Man: Far From Home” Plot Twist?

With the release of Avengers: Endgame, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has settled into a deceptively calm lull – a quiet before the storm. Many expect the upcoming Spider-man: Far From Home to deal with the huge aftermath of Endgame, specifically the world-changing effects of Thanos’ Snap, and the…

Oh, hold on a moment. SPOILER WARNING! If you haven’t seen Avengers: Endgame, look away, stay back, get you gone.

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digitalspy.com

Still here? Good, let’s talk about Tony Stark’s tragic sacrifice, which saved the world but robbed the young and impressionable Peter Parker of his father-figure, mentor and friend. Tony was one of the key elements of Peter’s first MCU outing, Spider-man: Homecoming, and is expected to play just as important a role in Far From Home, even if he is…you know, dead. The trailers have shown Peter mourning Tony’s death, even as the rest of the world is busy painting murals of Stark on walls and dedicating shrines to him. Peter’s life seems to have taken a downhill turn, as we see him sleepless and bleary-eyed, putting away the Stark-tech suit he proudly wore in Avengers: Infinity War, trying to live a normal life: when he’s approached by Nick Fury to help with a supernatural threat, we even see him trying to push his responsibilities onto other heroes – who, conveniently, happen to be off-world. (But, no, seriously, all the other heroes are busy? What about Ant-Man and the Wasp? They’re not doing anything).

But Peter Parker isn’t in the clear yet, and a new reveal from actor Tom Holland suggests that the storm might be about to break in epic fashion, shaking things up in Peter’s life, and at the same time initiating the fourth phase of the MCU.

Holland said “There’s a scene in this film where audiences will feel like they were punched in the face….it’s very tense, and it sorts of rips the rug from underneath your feet. It’s pretty awesome.”

“Awesome” certainly is one way to put it. Far From Home director Jon Watts apparently believes that the scene in question will be controversial, and that some fans will “hate it”. This keeps getting better and better. The big question now, of course, is what could possibly be so shocking, so unexpected, that it could potentially divide the fanbase and leave us dumbfounded?

Unfortunately, there’s plenty of possibilities. Let’s discuss.

We’ve already known for some time that the Multiverse is actually a thing – the Far From Home trailers have revealed that there are alternate realities running parallel to the main MCU timeline, some of which were apparently fractured by Thanos’ Snap, releasing creatures from other dimensions into our world. Quentin Beck, a.k.a “Mysterio”, is seen teaming up with Peter Parker to hunt down these intruders and herd them back into their own reality. Fans have basically just taken for granted that, since Mysterio is a villain in the Spider-man comics, he might not have the most noble intentions in the MCU: he could be playing on Peter’s emotions; he might be lying about the Multiverse, using it as a cover for something else; with his powers of deception and illusion, he might have trapped Peter in an alternate reality of his own. Any of those could be twists, but they would be small ones – probably resolved by the end of the movie, without any major ramifications. It’s just that almost everybody has already guessed that Mysterio isn’t what he claims to be, so this would hardly be a satisfying shocker.

Mysterio might have something to do with the twist, though. According to producer Eric Carroll, the maybe-villain/maybe-hero will star in many more Marvel films to come, which means we might not see him die in Far From Home, even if he does turn out to be evil. He might slink back into the Multiverse whence he came, and wait for another, better opportunity to conquer the world. Or, you know, he might be good. I mean, that possibility is still technically on the table. It would probably be a bigger twist if he turned out to be good, than if he turned out to be the villain – but then again, Captain Marvel just did the same thing by revealing that the alien Skrulls were actually good guys.

It’s also very possible the twist is aiming for our heartstrings, and that it might have something to do with the recently-deceased Tony Stark. Maybe Mysterio conjures up an illusion of Stark, and uses it to deceive and manipulate Peter?¬†AI Tony is something that Marvel fans have been eagerly raving about since he died, and it would be cruel and heartless to introduce the concept – only to then reveal it as a sham, and rip it away. Or what if Mysterio is AI Tony?

What if Peter Parker cracks under the strain of having to live in Tony Stark’s footsteps and ends up joining Mysterio, becoming a villain? A scene like this, at the end of the movie, could be similarly horrific as the infamous Snap at the end of Avengers: Infinity War, where many beloved heroes (including Spider-man) turned to dust and crumbled away before our very eyes. I’ve also seen speculation that Mysterio is actually Peter Parker himself, but an alternate, evil version – one who turned down a path of darkness and villainy after Tony Stark died in his universe. That could illustrate some of the larger themes of the movie, about coping with grief and honoring the legacies of lost loved ones.

Maybe Nick Fury, the man who started the Avengers Initiative, will be one of the victims of Mysterio’s brutality, and his death will officially close the Infinity Saga that he began? Others have suggested that Fury or his co-worker Maria Hill could be another classic Spider-man villain, the Chameleon, in disguise: the appearance of Chameleon has been the subject of many rumors recently. Fury’s death, or a reveal such as this, would definitely anger fans. Maybe (just throwing out the possibility) Peter’s Aunt May is actually the Chameleon? Or even Happy Hogan? Ned? What if Peter Parker is the Chameleon…wait, that doesn’t make sense.

With Mysterio and the Multiverse both confirmed to be large parts of the Far From Home plot, it’s likely that one or both of these things has to do with the twist. Unfortunately, there’s so many possibilities, it’s really difficult to nail down just one. I can’t wait to hear your own thoughts and suggestions in the comments below!

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Marvel Phase 4 Timeline!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Check out the Self Storage Barn of Morris which is where I have been keeping my BobbleHead collection of late!