Not Dead Yet

You may once again be forgiven for thinking that I might have finally succumbed to the enticing pull of the hereafter. But I haven’t. I just haven’t written anything. Which is different.

After writing about too much Star Wars, I ran out of things to write about. Infinity War? Iron Man and Captain America will die. And Loki. Cyberpunk 2077? We’ll see it at E3. And…done.

If you’re in need of any more Hero’s guides, let me know. God forbid you find yourself out in the deep blue sea, surrounded by super-intelligent sharks that can swim backwards and you haven’t read a guide on how to handle the situation.

In terms of proper writing, I have just crossed the 85,000-word mark of my fifth novel today. Which will, when released be my sixth. And it will be book five of the NEXUS series. Yes.

If you read my books and can count, you may wonder what happened to book four (which should be my fifth novel but will actually be my sixth, except in terms of release, in which case it will indeed be my fifth. Just to clarify). I haven’t written it. My books do have slightly different tones, and some are too different to write from the same mindset. These two, to, have two too different tones. It’s true. So I’ve been unable to get myself in the right mood to write book four, but book five has been going fine. It is, if you are curious, taking a pinch of the noir from my thriller, Acts of Violence, and adding it into the mix. Not so much as to bring it out of the NEXUS series, but enough that I can’t write it and a lighter, more space opera-ish one at the same time (which is entirely in the style of Blades).

Aside from this I have been doing entirely pointless things like painting garden statues. I walked into Homebase just after Christmas and came face to face with a load of Star Wars characters. Naturally, I thought: I should paint those. So I did. Well, I (badly) painted Yoda and R2 and then lost the urge.

Yoda & R2D2 unpainted Yoda & R2 Painted

Then I decided to sculpt stuff out of polymer clay, which is the natural progression of painting polystone garden statues. I made Superman. Kind of. I am now working on a full figure of the main character of my current book. So if it looks wrong…well, it’s you who’s wrong. It’s going okay, except that I have no idea what I’m doing.

 Superman head sculpt   Figure sculpt

I also have a three-legged cat now. His name is Hop.

No doubt Thanos will demand that I return to say I told you so when dust is bitten, but hopefully I’ll think of something to say before then. So…bye. Bye then.

Bye.

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Avengers: Age of Ultron

I know you miss my clever titles, but…SEO.

As you may have noticed, I enjoy superhero films. And games. And sometimes graphic novels. So, naturally, I have been looking forward to The Avengers: Age of Ultron since it was announced. Admittedly, I actually found myself less enthusiastic about it as time went on, to the point that when I woke up on Thursday morning, I didn’t remember that I was going to see it. But, I was happy to be going back in to see Thor, Captain America, Iron Man, et al. Mostly, I wanted to see one of the new additions to the Avengers team, The Vision. Well, I say mostly, but it was half that and half wanting to see James Spader’s Ultron.

From the trailers, we got the impression that Ultron could be the first villain in the Marvel Cinematic Universe who was truly menacing, intimidating, and scary. Someone who posed a very real threat to the Avengers, powerful as they are. Unfortunately, what we got was…a comedian.

Avengers Age of Ultron

Let’s start from the start. The snowy, forest scene that we saw plenty of pictures of gets blasted apart by the Avengers and Hydra. Already, about 1 minute in, the film made its first mistake. It tried to copy the impressive single-shot sequence from near the end of the first Avengers. The one where the camera moves from one Avenger to the next, to the next, without cutting. It looked good in that film. In this film, it was some of the worst CGI I’ve seen for a long time. It was contrived and looked simply awful.

And that just, for me, sums up a lot of Joss Whedon’s writing in Age of Ultron. He seemed more concerned with getting cheap laughs than telling a story. With forcing ‘cool’ scenes than actually telling us what the hell was going on. Although the story is simple, I found myself confused more than once. Ultron himself seems to go through a few different variations of his evil plan but we, the audience, seem to find that out by accident. Of course, the story itself is the biggest cliche there is when it comes to stories involving artificial intelligence, but that should have been okay. After all, it’s how a story is told that’s the main thing. Unfortunately, it was told quite badly.

Ultron. It’s James Spader! How do you get a voice like James Spader’s to come out of your villain’s mouth, and still manage to make him benign and unthreatening? Yes, he’s more powerful than any of the Avengers and, yes, he kills a few people, but he also jokes constantly. It takes a very special writer to write a character who is both witty and scary, and Joss Whedon is not that writer. So yes, Ultron is funny. Very funny in places. But what do you want from a big, bad villain: threat and menace, or some laughs? The humour of the Marvel films is one of their attractions, but set yourself a damn limit!

It’s Iron Man 3 and Mandarin all over again. Remember how good the trailers seemed? How menacing and threatening The Mandarin sounded? We knew it was going to be good. Then we watched the film and…Trevor Slattery. What? Not that Ultron isn’t a threat. He’s just not threatening.

It seems like Whedon wanted him to be like a moody teenager at first, since he has only just been created. But he never really bothers to push the character down that route. Which leaves him a bit all over the place (like most of the film).

James Spader is, naturally, very good as Ultron regardless of the writing.

avengers-age-ultron-poster

You’ve probably noticed that the writing is the main let down of the film for me. It had little structure. Things just happened. It was simply ‘Oh now this is happening’, rather than ‘This is happening because he did that, and they need this outcome, blah blah blah…’ Rarely was there much cohesion between the scenes and the storytelling.

So those are my main complaints.

It’s less of a complaint, but I was disappointed with how little Paul Bettany’s The Vision was in it. He appears late on in the film, and only really has 4 or 5 scenes. And a very small handful of lines. Yet, despite that, he was one of the best things about the film. Him and Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye, who was much better utilised this time round. And funny.

Thor seemed a little redundant this time, despite practically being a god. In fact, he took more of a beating from Ultron than any of the mere mortals, who held their own against him perfectly well. But there was no real story to his character, other than in a set up for future films. Though in light of the other issues, this didn’t really bother me. He was still Thor as we know him – though perhaps not taking quite as much punishment as we know he should be able to.

Overall, I did enjoy the film, you might be surprised to hear. I will definitely watch it again, perhaps at the cinema with the free ticket I got to make up for the flickering of the screen throughout.

I should probably list all the things I liked about it now, but it’s actually a lot harder than listing the things I didn’t. The memory of the film seems quite blurry, thanks to the aforementioned lack of structure.

Ah, but I know what I will complain about again though! Coulson. No Phil Coulson. The current events of Agents of SHIELD do mean that it kind of makes sense that he wouldn’t have a cameo, but I’d hoped they would find a way. After all, his death in the first film caused such outrage that Marvel had to bring him back!

But then I read Whedon’s comments on the topic. As far as he’s concerned, Coulson is dead to the MCU. Basically, he sounds extremely bitter, with his ego bruised by the fact that Marvel decided to undo his decision to kill the character. I wouldn’t be too happy either, but at the end of the day, these characters are Marvel’s not Whedon’s. The fans are Marvel’s, not Whedon’s. So I’m as disappointed with Whedon as I was with the film. More so, actually.

What I found amusing by his statements concerning Coulson, though, was that he said that the plot device of someone dying and then coming back can be used to the point of there never feeling like there’s something at stake. While that’s true (and let’s ignore the fact that it doesn’t lessen the impact at the time), he’s saying this after putting out a film that contains the utterly pointless death of a main character. Not only is it utterly pointless, and only there so that we feel like the whole thing had been dangerous and they didn’t all get out unscathed, but it seemed like he had been thrown into the film for that purpose.

age-of-ultron-the-vision

I understand the idea that characters might need to die, otherwise it’s all too easy and clean and nothing really feels like it’s at stake, but that’s not necessarily the case. Ultron could have been the villain who tore the heroes apart on the inside. Who got in their heads and broke them. After all, as someone said: Ultron probably knew more about each of them that they knew about each other. He could quite easily have used that knowledge. No one needed to die in order for them to not make it out unscathed. But more to the point, if you are going to kill a character, don’t make it so entirely contrived.

But anyway, that’s probably enough ranting. Go and see it. It’s quite good, despite what I’ve said… I’d probably rate it 4th or 5th out of the Marvel films.

Marvel Vs. DC

So, the other week we got the announcement of the DC movie slate up until 2020. Yesterday, Marvel announced their Phase 3 movie slate. We now know their film slate from 2015 up to 2019. Get ready for a damn long list:

Marvel v DC


Avengers: Age of Ultron

May 1, 2015


Fantastic Four

August 7, 2015


Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

March 25, 2016


X-Men: Apocalypse

May 27, 2016


Doctor Strange

November 4, 2016


Untitled Wolverine Sequel

March 3, 2017


Wonder Woman

June 23, 2017


Thor: Ragnarok

July 28, 2017


Justice League Pt.1

November 11, 2017


The Flash

March 23, 2018


Captain Marvel

July 6, 2018


Aquaman

July 27, 2018


The Amazing Spider-Man 3

TBA 2018


Avengers: Infinity War Pt. 2

May 3, 2019


Cyborg

April 3, 2020



Ant-Man

July 17, 2015


Deadpool

February 12, 2016


Captain America: Civil War

May 6, 2016


Suicide Squad

August 5, 2016


The Sinister Six

November 11, 2016


Guardians of the Galaxy 2

May 5, 2017


Fantastic Four 2

July 14, 2017


Black Panther

November 3, 2017


Female-Led Spider-Man Spin-off

TBA 2017


Avengers: Infinity War Pt. 1

May 4, 2018


Untitled Fox-Marvel Film

July 13, 2018


The Inhumans

November 2, 2018


Shazam

April 5, 2019


Justice League Pt. 2

June 14, 2019


Green Lantern

June 19, 2020


 

So that’s our next five years. Thirty superhero and superhero-esque films (I don’t class Guardians of the Galaxy or the anti-hero/villain ones as superhero films). It will be a good five years for people like me who can barely get enough of such films, but might it be a little too much? I recently dismissed the idea that the superhero genre was becoming oversaturated by saying that no one ever said that about action films or romantic comedies. However, thirty films in five years is quite a lot. I suppose it does make sense, though. In five years, all of those actors are going to look quite different. Some aren’t particularly young now. So it makes sense to round off storylines and bring things to a close while those actors are still have the interest, and are able, to play those characters.

I’ve already written a post about the DC films, for Uproar, so now I’ll say a bit about some of the Marvel ones:

Age of Ultron

The Avengers: Age of Ultron trailer was released just the other day, and it looks extremely good. I was surprised by the casting of James Spader as Ultron, but given his monologue through the trailer, I can see it was a very good choice. Even if I hadn’t seen it, I’ve recently started watching Blacklist, and some of his scenes in that show that he can be quite intimidating using nothing but his voice.

The question that the trailer prompts is: what’s wrong with Bruce Banner and Hulk?

Deadpool

A lot of people have got very excited at the prospect of a Deadpool film. The ‘Merc with a Mouth’ was quite severely abused by the first Wolverine film, but now Marvel are giving him his own film, and by the leaked test footage below, we can be fairly sure they will be sticking closely to what the anti-hero is meant to be: random, unstable, and weird. Ryan Reynolds also is very likely to be reprising the role of the fourth-wall-breaking, near-indestructible assassin who once killed off the entire Marvel Universe and then turned on his writers and artists, and the readers.

Captain America: Civil War

The Civil War storyline revolved around the US government introducing the Superhero Registration Act, which would see all superheroes answering to the government. This causes a schism between the superheroes, with some agreeing with the act, and others opposed. Captain America is at the head of the group opposed to it, while Iron Man leads those who support it.

Marvel's Civil War

I’m not convinced that storyline could work all that well on film. Apart from anything else, we like to be able to root for one side, but in a story where heroes are fighting heroes, who do you root for?! But also, I can’t see the Tony Stark/Iron Man that we know from the films being pro-registration. It doesn’t make sense. Presumably, something drastic will happen in Age of Ultron, changing him quite fundamentally. Perhaps simply the fact that he has created Ultron will be enough to make him think that he should be answerable to someone.

The other thing I’m unsure about is sticking the storyline into a Captain America film. doing so surely makes it much more than a Captain America film, doesn’t it? Maybe they should have done a DC and called it Captain America v Iron Man: Civil War. Or not.

Black Panther

Black Panther

This contradicts what I said in the DC article about DC beating Marvel when it comes to diversity. Well, a bit. DC still have Mamoa and Gadot. But Marvel will be the first to have a black superhero lead (although to be fair, Hancock got there long before either of them!).

Black Panther – named before the Black Panther Party, it may be worth noting – was the first black superhero to be published in mainstream comics, also predating any black DC heroes. He is an African king, and if you mixed Captain America and Batman into a mystical, panther-costumed human stew, you’d get Black Panther.

Marvel also released concept art for Black Panther, which is very close to his depiction in the comics, minus the cape. It’s also pretty good looking.

Infinity War

Just like DC’s Justice League, the Avengers’ next outing after Ultron will be a two-parter. It’s not too surprising, given the storylines of other Marvel films, that it is the Infinity War. There are six Infinity Stones, which predate the creation of the universe, and can only be wielded by by beings of incredible power. We’ve seen four of the Infinity Stones so far in the films, and seen what happens when a ‘lesser’ being tries to wield them (unintnetionally in some cases):

  • In Captain America: The First Avenger, Red Skull comes into possession of the Tesseract, which reappears in The Avengers. It is the ‘Space Stone’
  • Loki’s Chitauri sceptre appears in The Avengers and in the after credits scene of Captain America: Winter Soldier. It is the ‘Mind Stone’
  • The Aether is what afflicts Jane Foster in Thor: The Dark World, and is later delivered to The Collector by Lady Sif. It is the ‘Reality Stone’
  • The Orb is the centre of the Guardians of the Galaxy film, retrieved first by Peter Quill, and then stolen by Ronan the Accuser. It is the ‘Power Stone’

We can see (until it’s pulled) in the teaser video Marvel showed during their announcement of Phase 3 that Thanos will be in possession of the completed Infinity Gauntlet, which incorporates all six Infinity Stones.

I’m looking forward to the two-parter, but I’m afriad to watch it at the same time. It will almost certainly bring together not just the Avengers themselves, but the Guardians of the Galaxy, Captain Marvel, and quite possibly some of the others mentioned above, against Thanos the Mad Titan. Don’t expect everyone to make it out alive.

Captain Marvel

Captain Marvel

DC will beat Marvel to the punch with Wonder Woman, but who cares? It’ll be good to have the female led Captain Marvel – aka Carol Danvers – rather than the male one. This makes me wonder about my Agents of SHIELD predictions though. One of my Skye predictions doesn’t work now, but the Coulson one still might (even though it was a long shot to begin with).

In the comics, Carol Danvers gets her powers from an explosion that causes her DNA to merge with that of the original, male Captain Marvel. This is possible if my above Agents of SHIELD theory is right – which it probably isn’t – but most likely, it will occur some other way (probably still an explosion).

 
 

So, unless films such as Spider-Man 3 get killed off, those are our thirty superhero and superhero-esque films for the next five years. Which are you looking forward to most: Marvel or DC?