Category Archives: Other

Marvel Musings: The Future Options of the MCU

It is the end of the era for the MCU. Far From Home concluded the Infinity arc. And naturally there are already people calling doom and gloom on the MCU. But despite all the claims of “comic book fatigue” the MCU is still in full swing. Hell, the audience is currently so into Comic book movies, Venom and Aquaman blew all box office expectations right out of the water.

And by now the MCU has laid out some of its plans for the next years. Which makes it an odd timing to do an article about the future of the MCU, but, well it is pretty much always an odd timing for this. No matter when one writes an article like this, there always seems to be some news which just dropped or is right behind the next corner. So I’ll start with some random observations regarding the announcements, continue with some speculations what Marvel might be aiming at narratively and finally finish with some sort of personal wish-list.

1. The Announcements

Well, the MCU has laid out its slate for the next three years and there were little surprises in it. Sure, nobody expected that Natalie Portman would be back,  but overall, those were mostly projects which were already rumoured. Still, by having at least some definite idea in which direction the MCU will move, there are some conclusions to be made. And there was at least one news, which didn’t please the fans at all.

1.1. Spider-man no more?

That was the “shocker” between all the news which dropped in the last weeks. But it is not one I intend to discuss at the moment because I am personally convinced that the last word about this hasn’t been spoken yet. I am sure that the MCU will manage to with or without Spider-Man, I am equally sure that it would be a win-win for everyone if they would work even closer with Sony than beforehand and I am deeply sad about the notion to lose Tom Holland in the role. In any case, I am still in a “wait and see” mode. I am not in the mood to jump the gun and make a list of predictions about something which might be old news next month, no matter how much Sony currently insist that the deal is over.

1.2. What wasn’t mentioned

Before I get into what was announced, I have to point out that what wasn’t mentioned was maybe just as interesting. I.e I was kind of surprised that they didn’t announce a Captain Marvel sequel but then, I am pretty sure that one is in planning and they don’t see a reason to put themselves on the clock. Announcing projects for the next two to three years might be smarter than bragging about what one plans to do five years in advance.  I was not surprised by the lack of date for GotG Zun3 (I have no idea if they will call it that, but until there is an official title, I will use that one), because the project was thrown out of whack and they now have to figure out a new schedule for it. The lack of Ant-man related announcement worries me, though. Ant-man is currently the lowest grossing franchise the MCU has, but I would still be sad if they just end it without a proper conclusion. I would really like to explore how the years of the snap affect the man who wanted nothing more than be there for his daughter, but ended up missing most of her childhood.

1.2.1. The Fantastic Four

To be fair, I didn’t really expect any announcement related to the Fox-properties just yet. There is no need to rush it. But if Marvel had mentioned something, I would have thought that it would be The Fantastic Four. After all, they keep saying that they want to go cosmic, and The Fantastic Four is a very cosmic property. So I keep expecting an announcement which is somehow Fantastic Four related within the next year or so.

1.2.2. The X-men

Again, I didn’t really expect anything X-men related just yet, but I am also not sure if there will be anything related to them anytime soon. The X-men are an oddity in that the last X-men movies didn’t really do all that well, but there is still a high demand for the characters turning up in the MCU, at least from comic book reading fans. Thing is, I don’t think that they would be a good fit into the current time-line of the MCU. Due to the fact that the continuity in the MCU is way tighter than in regular comic books, it would be nearly impossible to sell the general audience the notion that the same world which has the Avengers is also hunting mutants with giant robots. The only way to include the X-men into the current MCU would be if you toned down the whole “mutants are second class citizen idea”, but then you run into the problem that the very centre of X-men lore is lost. I honestly think that they would better off in their own time-line and universe. I mean, it is not like this would preclude Marvel from doing a dimension hopping cross-over event town the line, and it would allow the X-men way more freedom to be what they are meant to be.

1.3. The role of the Disney Plus shows

Let’s be honest here, the announcements for Disney Plus are currently just as if not more exciting than the movie announcements. Which somewhat worries me. Disney is currently pulling all the stops in order to get as many people as possible subscribed as fast as possible, hence it looks as if they put a decent budget into all of those shows. But what will happen when the first “boom” of subscribers stops? Eventually they will have every MCU fan who would and can afford the service on board. Since people are less likely to jump ship once they have a subscription, will Disney eventually do less Marvel shows (just enough to keep people interested) or cut the budgets? Hard to tell now.

The is also the fate of the “other” Marvel TV shows to consider. They are left kind of in the lurch. But then, most of them are ending anyway or have already been cancelled. What is left is only Runaways and maybe Cloak and Dagger. And they seem to exist in their own little universe anyway. But there is also a Ghost Rider show announced (which I can’t wait to see) and I am also hoping that Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. might morph into a new show. I am certainly not ready to say completely good-bye to those characters.

Meanwhile though, it looks like Marvel intends the Disney Plus shows to be tighter connected to the MCU than the previous Marvel shows, with characters not just going from the movies to the streaming shows, but their action there also impacting the movies. It will be interesting to see if that works, but I am positively salivating about the possibilities. In this format, they can basically mix and match characters at will. We already had this in some degree in Phase three, when Ironman guest starred in Homecoming and Hulk paired up with Thor in Ragnarok, but I expect to see more of it. We already know that Scarlet Witch will play a role in the Doctor Strange movie. There are also persistence rumours that Namor will turn up in the next Black Panther movie. I believe this when I see it, since fan wishes have created rumours before, but it is certainly possible that Marvel will use established franchises to introduce new characters.

A lot about the role of the streaming show will depend on how successful Disney Plus is, and how many people end up watching them. It is difficult to tell, because Netflix tends to be stingy with numbers, but the convenience of being able to watch a movie on a flexible schedule at home seems to lead to a bigger audience. It is entire possible that in a few years we will perceive the cinematic movies as something we watch in addition to the Marvel streaming shows instead of the other way around. Though there is a danger that the audience will feel overwhelmed eventually. On the other hand, the trick of the MCU was always that you don’t really have to watch everything which is a part of it. But once you start, there is always the feeling that you have to seek out all of it, and streaming makes this process very convenient. Having the complete MCU at one place will help to keep people in the loop and interested.

2. But what next?

What the MCU needs, though, is something new to work forward to. In phase one it was the notion of a big crossover event. Then it was the threat of Thanos. Now for the first time we are largely without a clear direction. There are certainly a few options Marvel could pick, but I have picked the three I consider the most likely.

2.1. The Kree/Skrull War

Considering how much importance they assigned to Captain Marvel going forward, all this talk about the MCU going cosmic and the teases we got in Far from Home, I think it is save to predict that we’ll get something involving the Kree and the Skrull in the future. And regarding this particular conflict, there are a lot of comic book stories which involved either the Kree, the Skrull or both to draw from. Having heroes we know involved in this conflict could be a good way to raise the stakes without the need to destroy a city on earth every other movie. And the option are endless, including having fractions within those two groups going up against each other. Or a secret invasion.

2.2. The Young Avengers

Is it just me or is there an effort to work towards some sort of “next generation” set-up? Spider-man aside, they have aged up Cassie enough that she could become Stature or Stinger any time, the Hawkeye series seems to be about him training his replacement and there is a Ms Marvel series in the making, too. Then there is WandaVision which could potentially be used to set up Wiccan and Speed as characters. I can also think of a way or two to explain the presence of Hulkling in the MCU, with a few tweaks to his backstory, naturally. In short, there are now a lot of options to introduce young characters and a cross-over event with them could cause an excitement similar to the excitement about the first Avenger movie. Provided, naturally, Marvel manages to make them just as popular from the get go.

2.3. Thunderbolts

For those who don’t know, the Thunderbolts are a team of villains who under the leadership of Zemo decided to act like heroes for a while for their own gains, but then some of them started to like being heroes and switched sides for real. There is actually little reason to think that Marvel will go there outside of them using Zemo again in Falcon and the Winter Soldier. While the survival rate of Marvel villains has been slightly improved, it would be difficult to put a team of them together. Still, I would be very surprised if the idea isn’t at least thrown around in Marvel’s writer’s room. There have been multiple hints that the world is looking for a new version of The Avengers in Far From Home, so this would be the perfect moment to present a version of an Avenger team which has gone (or always was) bad, thus mixing ideas from the Thunderbolts with ideas from the Dark Avengers.

3. My not so small wish list

Honestly, I am pretty much open for whatever comes next in the MCU. In general, I hope that there will be new genres, which are explored, and new characters introduced. Those which are constantly talked about by the fandom will most likely turn up sooner than later. My own wish list is a little bit more obscure.

2.1. A Silver Surfer Origin Movie

The Silver Surfer in itself is not THAT obscure, but my specific wish is. I don’t want him to be introduced as a side character, I want to see specifically him starring in his own origin story, simply because he has one of the most tragic origin story out there. Usually those are about a flawed character raising to heroism. But his story is about an already heroic character managing to rescue his planet but also paying a high price due to being perverted into a tool of destruction, dooming multiple planets in order to rescue one. This is a movie which has to happen. If for no other reason than that it would make any clash between him and the heroes we know and love so much more suspenseful.

3.2. Amadeus Cho

Between all the young heroes which are currently waiting in the woodwork, there has been no mention of Amadeus Cho so far. But he is a character I really want to see. No his Hulk version, no, I want the overly smart team who manages to fight with his mind alone. I just like the idea of a character who doesn’t have specific powers or weapons but still manages to stand shoulder to shoulder with some of the most powerful people in the world because he knows how to use the abilities her does have to full advantage.

3.3. A Silverclaw movie

Now, this is a character really nobody is talking about. But they should. Because there is so much potential in the character.  For one, her powerset is completely different from what we have seen so far, and could create some cool visuals and unusual battle scenes. Two,  her backstory is a little bit more unusual than most. I certainly wouldn’t mind a movie about someone reclaiming their cultural heritage. And three, she does represent a minority which is currently nearly invisible in the MCU, and I am always for more diversity. Not in order to fulfil some sort of invisible checklist, but because it makes things more interesting in my book. Different perspectives open up new story options which in turn helps the MCU to stay fresh.

3.4. Exploring the Savage Land

Honestly, why isn’t Savage Land that already a franchise? This is a comic book property which features freaking dinosaurs. Considering how well Jurassic World did one would think that Marvel would take it into consideration at the very least. The only explanation I have for no movement on this front so far is that the rights might have been in the grey area between Marvel and Fox, but that is just a suspicion on my part. Hutch Parker once stated that both Marvel and Fox could have made a Savage Land movie, but I take throwaway statements like this with a grain of salt. In any case, while Ka-Zar and Shanna aren’t the most compelling of characters, and there are some potential minefields in using either of them, the world itself is practically made for a big screen adventure. Just the opportunity to throw together a bunch of prehistoric creatures without having to worry about the question if they actually existed around the same time would be a lot of visual fun.

3.5. Dazzler

Yes, I know, I said that I expect Marvel to wait with the X-men. But then, I don’t think that Dazzler necessarily needs to be a mutant. To me she fits better into the world of the Avengers than the world of the X-men anyway, considering how openly she uses her power from the get go. And that is part of the reason why I really want to see a movie featuring her: Usually we get to see characters who want to use their newfound abilities for good. It would be kind of refreshing to see a character who uses it for her career, without having any ambitions to be an actual heroine. Plus, she is the perfect character for a musical which isn’t crack.

And this was my obligatory “thoughts about the MCU” article. Maybe it is time to talk about something else for a while. I love the MCU, but it is not the only franchise out there. So, which one of my series should I continue? More By the Book? More Double Takes of Disney movies? Maybe something more lyrics related? Or something completely different? I am open for wishes and suggestions.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Movie Criticism and the Question of Objectivity

So I guess, the newest trend on the internet is to talk about the question if movie criticism has become too nitpicky and if plot-holes matter. Or at least this was a big topic when I started the article, but I needed some time to put together all aspects of it. Though this time around, I don’t really want to repeat the whole discussion and the points made – I am sure if you really care, you’ll find the relevant information quite easily – but I nevertheless want to weight in. Mostly because I feel that currently the discussion isn’t particular precise. I think that the video which set off the avalanche was pointing towards a trend we should be aware of and which is worth examining, but the way it argued the point was unfortunate to say the least. Which resulted in most response videos not really addressing the point itself but instead arguing against the style of argumentation.

Basically, while the discussion about the music in the MCU spawned a number of videos with competing ideas, each of them bringing a new thought to the table, this one mostly consists of people criticizing each others line or argumentation and taking cheap pod shots at each other. I intend on focussing on the original question: Do plot-holes matter and is there something wrong with the way internet culture consumes movies? And in order to do this properly let’s start with the basics: What kind of movie criticism actually exist?

1. Reviews

This is the most basic of movie criticism and serves a very specific purpose: Helping the audience to decide if a movie is worth their time and money. To be perfectly clear here, though: I am not saying that this is what every audience member is using reviews for. I am actually pretty sure that a considerable part of the audience is like me in that they make their decision based on trailers and themes and only look at reviews because they are either on the fence about a particular movie or because they respect the opinion of the reviewer and want to know what he or she thinks.

But none of this changes the original purpose of the review. And, to be frank, especially in the YouTube sphere, the quality of reviews is questionable. Nowadays a lot of reviews are basically a flashy version of a forum post. You basically have someone just blurting out his or her opinion out. This can be helpful if you already know that your own taste roughly matches up with the opinion of said reviewer, but in my eyes, a really good reviewer should strife for objectivity.

1.1. The Question of Objectivity

Oh, I said the bad word: objectivity. There is this school of thought that movie criticism is completely subjective because we all perceive movies differently. But if this is true, well, why are we even bothering discussing movies? If every movie is completely subjective and everything goes, then the implication is that it is not a craft which requires talent. Or, to put it differently, certainly you can describe the scribble of a three year old as art, but it still doesn’t display the skill and/or creativity of a Picasso. We are perfectly able to articulate the difference between those two, just like we are able to judge the difference between a Shakespeare sonnet and the typical rhymes someone might cobble together for a birthday.

So yes, I think there is objectivity in movie criticism. It is based on centuries of experience in what works and what doesn’t. Yes, centuries, because while film itself might be barely a century old, narration, music and picture composition, which are all part of film, have been around since the beginning of humanity. I would even go so far to say that there is a measurement for it, we just haven’t defined it yet. After all, painters were composing their pictures following the golden ratio long before its existence was even discovered, and there is an undeniable connection between music and mathematic. So when we enjoy a movie, there might actually be a complicated algorithm working in the background.

In addition, we already know that we react to certain colours, music, aso in a certain manner. If we do so because we were trained to react that way by the media we consume or if we create media based on some basic instinct which has been embedded in us since the beginning of humanity is a little bit like the chicken and egg question. The important factor here is that there are certain expectations to watching movies and that it makes a difference if they are deliberately subverted or if a director has trouble to craft a coherent story. Hence we are able to say “yeah, this movie was really well made, but I personally didn’t care for it” or “well, I know that movies isn’t really that good, but it is a guilty pleasure of mine”. If movies were completely subjective, we wouldn’t be able to make such a judgement.

There are people who argue that all those standards for movies are made up und personal enjoyment is the only metric which matters regarding the quality of a movie, rendering the very concept of a “guilty pleasure” as nothing more as the acknowledgement that one goes against the grain. I disagree. There are quite a few movies which I enjoy which do not have the stamp of approval of the majority, and which I wouldn’t call a guilty pleasure at all. Because I think that the elements I enjoy in those movies are genuinely good enough that they outweigh its flaws. There are other movies I don’t like at all, but can acknowledge as good, either because they are simply “not for me”, or because I can understand that what I consider as a deal breaker doesn’t bother other people. And I have my guilty pleasures, movies I largely enjoy because of their flaws and not despite of them. That doesn’t make them suddenly good movies, though.

I don’t believe that movies are completely subjective. Nor do I think, that you can remove the bias completely from a review. Some people are drawn more to characters, others prefer strong themes, others are simply more forgiving because they like an actor or director or because they went into the cinema with really low expectations. But I still think that a good review should start with the question “what kind of movie was the director attempted to make?” and end with “which kind of audience (if any) might like this movie?”. For example a very common complain about MCU movies is that an entry isn’t completely stand alone. Well, that is the point, people who watch the MCU want to experience an overreaching universe. Criticizing that a particular set-up wasn’t particularly well handled – god knows that there have been a lot of complains about Thor’s hot tub vision machine in Age of Ultron, and rightly so – is helpful, complaining that those set-ups are part of the MCU at all is not. On the same token, someone who starts his review with “this is just another chick flick” has already lost me, and not just because I really don’t see why movies which target the female audience are often treated with so much scorn, but also because even the so called chick flicks vary greatly in quality. Academy award wining and one of the highest grossing movies of all time Titanic can be considered a chick flick. Which brings me to another point.

1.3. The Danger of Elitism

I think the worst mistake a reviewer (or any movie fan for that matter) can make is to dismiss certain genres or type of movies off-hand. I guess the most common form of elitism is the idea, that certain movies are beneath serious criticism, sometimes because of the genre – romcoms, horror and action movies often get this treatment – sometimes because of the intended audience. And then there is naturally this ongoing claim that franchise movies somehow hinder the production of original movies, the implication here being that they lack creativity. In reality, one can create a movie which isn’t based on anything and it still can end up feeling tired and generic. At the same time a franchise movie can offer something interesting, maybe even ground-breaking. A number of famous movies are based on pre-existing properties anyway. That doesn’t make them in any way less creative since the transition for the big screen it an act of creativity in itself. Which is why a good reviewer should always be open-minded check his or her own bias. It can’t be completely removed from the equation, but it should always be treated like a bug, not a feature.

1.4 The Movie Discussion

While I just said that reviews usually have the purpose to inform the audience about a movie, a lot of creators have recognized by now that a lot of people prefer to use them to, well, feeding into their confirmation bias. Sorry, I know that I am stepping on some toes with this claim. But why else should you watch a so called spoiler-review? Most do it to figure out if their favourite reviewer agrees with them or not.

Now, not to be completely unfair, if you watch a group of people discussing a movie, there might be a good idea or two coming up in the interaction. But that is extremely dependent on the participants. Most of the time, you get a good idea what the taste of the people discussing the movie is like, but not what the actual movie is like. Or, to put it differently, not everyone is Siskel and Ebert, and finding a pairing like this is very rare indeed.

I suspect the success of those discussion rounds is based more on the listener getting some sort of fan-interaction by proxy. Meaning: If you don’t have someone with whom you can discuss your most beloved franchise, you can at the very least listening to other people doing it and leaving your own comments. And maybe you end up arguing with someone else in the comment section.

2. Nitpick-Humor

But what seems to be more common on the net is what I would call Nitpick-Humor. Those are youtuber or blogger which go through a movie and then make fun of real or perceived flaws. Originally, those weren’t really meant to have anything to do with movie criticism at all. They were meant to be entertainment. The Nostalgia Critic for example used to only tackled movies which already had a colourful reputation, to word it politely. But over time, the entertainment aspect bleed into reviews and more and more serious review bleed into entertainment offers. At this point the lines are so blurred, it is often hard to tell in which entry a specific category falls. Sometimes it is both. Sometimes it is neither because the creator of the video above all cares about neither about entertainment nor about serious reviews, but about how many people can be conned into watching his product.

2.1 Clickbait

Let’s talk about the elephant in the room: Cinemasins. Count me in as one of those people who hate Cinemasins. But I don’t feel that way because they decided to make nit-picky videos about movie, I feel that way because they are lazy about it. And I am not just talking about they dinging movies for so called “sins” which could be cleared up spending five seconds to look the information up – I noticed that they are especially bad in physics, animals and just general knowledge of literature and culture. But what really enrages me is that they often complain about details which are actually clarified in the movies themselves. I could actually wrote a whole article about why Cinemasins is awful as well as a problem, but instead I’ll just link you to a video which already explained all my issues in detail, with the necessary sources to underline the point.

If you want to see a better version of Cinemasins, I recommend Cinemawins to you.  Not because it has a positive outlook on movies, but because the points those videos bring up are based on actual knowledge about movie-making and story-telling.  It’s still not good movie criticism, though, because it is too one sided. But at least it adds ideas to the discussion which might be worth discussing. Cinemasins is just muddying the waters with lazy clickbait.

To reiterate: I have no problem whatsoever with videos which point out plot-holes, and I have no problem with them doing it in a joking manner. I do have a problem with videos which are basically the entertainment version of fake news, making a false claim about a movie so convincingly, that it becomes an accepted fact.

Even channels  who are more honest players might slip up in this regard. For example, I really dislike the How it should have ended video for Captain America The First Avenger, because it is built on two big jokes, both of which pointing to a non-existent flaw. One is based on a lack of knowledge by complaining about the bombs having the names of the city where they are supposed to explode written in English on them. Well, they don’t. New York and Boston just happen to be the German words for New York City and Boston. This joke is especially annoying because this movie is actually pretty good about labelling everything in Red Scull’s base in correct German, unlike most movies and TV shows I have seen. Meaning: the creators of the movie paid a lot of attention to detail and yet a huge number of people think that they were lazy about exactly this aspect, because some video creator on YouTube didn’t do proper research. (All this said, you could still make a point about the ridiculousness of writing the name of the destination on the bombs in the first place).

The other big joke is questioning the logic of Cap forcing down the plane, even though the movie itself clearly states the reason: He is currently over an area where nobody lives and knows that this won’t be the case for much longer, so he has to act immediately. If there are still bombs on the plane is irrelevant (though for the record, there are still some left), just a plan crashing into a city would kill a lot of people. That Cap has control over the plane is likewise irrelevant, because he is not a pilot. There is no way that he would be able to land safely without risking anyone else’s life. Plus, if there is anything the movie has established than that Cap’s first instinct is always to sacrifice himself. That is who the character is, and making a joke about what is one of the most heart-breaking scenes in the whole MCU is kind of like being the guy who sits behind you in the cinema during Titanic saying loudly “isn’t it tragic” with a fake sob while Jack is dying (and yes, this happened to me).

And don’t get me wrong here, I am not saying that we should turn off our brains while watching movies. I actually think that a truly good movie should stimulate our brain and challenge our perception of the world. But…

2.2 Do those plot holes actually matter?

Well…yes and no. Yes, they do matter. Even something as simple as a small mistake in the background like a chair suddenly standing in a slightly different position matters. It’s an imperfection in the movie, period. The question is how much those kind of mistakes impact the overall quality of the movie. I think everyone will agree that the chair doesn’t make a difference if for no other reason that most people wouldn’t even notice upon first viewing. This isn’t even really a plot hole (though it technically does break the narrative), more a goof.

Some would say that a plot-hole does matter when it takes you out of the movie upon first viewing, but even that isn’t truly correct either. If you go into a movie with a cynical mind-set, like the guy who ruined my second viewing of Titanic for me, you take yourself out of the movie on details you would gladly overlook in a different movie, and which a viewer with a less cynical approach wouldn’t notice.

My perspective is that plot-holes do matter when they interrupt the flow of a story and feel like lazy writing instead of an artistic choice. And yes, I know, that there is still an element of subjectivity in this definition,  but hear me out. Citizen Kane is widely considered one of the best if not the best movie of all time. It is also entirely build around a plot hole, because it should be impossible for anyone to look for the meaning of the last word of a dying man, when said man passed away utterly alone. And yet it doesn’t feel like a huge deal, because this is a choice made for dramatic effect which underlines the message of the movie itself.

Compare this with Batman coming back into the city in The Dark Knight Rises. Yes, Batman suddenly turning up in a dramatic fashion is very, well, Batman. But the moments gets widely criticised because it isn’t just one plot hole, it is a triple plot hole. It is a plot hole on the “this doesn’t work in real life” level, because if someone is stranded somewhere at the end of the world with no money and no help, we want to know how said person made his way back. We don’t need to necessarily see it, but we need some sort of logical explanation. It is a plot hole on the “this goes against everything the movie established” level, because the narrative goes out of its way to show multiple times that Gotham City is under look-down. Batman just turning up in it with no explanation whatsoever fells therefore like cheating. And it is a plot hole on the thematic level because after a whole movie underlining how broken Batman is, having him suddenly healed because of willpower feels like a cop-out.

In the end it boils down to lazy writing vs an artistic decision. What is what, well, there is still room for argument there, but it is important to keep in mind that not every plot hole is automatically an unforgivable flaw. And not everything which the internet has labelled as a plot hole actually is one either. The weakness of the Death Star is not a plot hole because it isn’t unbelievable at all that the prototype of a new weapon might have a weakness in construction. There are real live examples of something like this happening. The seize of the door in Titanic is not a plot hole either, because the movie establishes that when Jack and Rose try to get both on the door, it keeps moving out of balance – and remember, they don’t really have any time for experiments, the water is freezing cold, every second they spend longer in the water trying to balance out the door can make the difference between life and death. So the movie establishes that it doesn’t work, and it is really a nit-pick if the set-designers seized the door right or not.

Creating a movie or any story for that matter is to a large part about editing. What you leave out is just as important as what you put in. And sometimes additional explanations just don’t serve a movie well. That is why conveniences are the bread and butter of movie making. Even if it is something as simple as finding a free parking spot directly in front of the house you want to visit in the middle of New York City. Because having the characters first search of a parking spot and then having to pay for it would be just a waste of precious runtime.

In general, tropes are not bad. It can be fun to be aware of them (it can also ruin your movie experience) but at the end of the day it is always about how they are utilized. And to judge this, well, that is the job of a proper analysis.

3. The Movie Analysis

But to be honest, I don’t think that either reviews or nit-pick humour is the place where meaningful movie criticism happens. That is because neither of them are really suited for it. Reviews don’t really add much to the discussion because they are too current. Some movies need some time to truly sink in and it is just impossible to measure the impact a movie and if it will truly endure the the test of time ahead of time. Which is why the academy got if wrong more often than not when it comes to awarding the best movie of a year, especially in terms of staying power.

Nit-pick humour is pretty much useless because it puts the entertainment value over the actual analysis, and it lacks the desire to put the observations made into a broader context. Without context, though, it is impossible to truly judge anything movie related.

Movie Analysis that’s what people like Lindsey Ellis (after her Nostalgia Chick days), Kyle, Every Frame a Painting, Folding Ideas and others like them offer. Well-structured video essays which are underpinned with a lot of knowledge and are built around a specific idea. That doesn’t mean that those ideas are always necessarily agreeable to the whole audience – remember I myself published a long article about a video of Every Frame a Painting I strongly disagree with – but they provide a solid argued point of view on a movie which can then become part of a larger discourse.

Don’t think that I look in any way down on the kind of discussion friends have after watching a movie together. Those are important part of the experience. But they are not the best setting to truly dig deeper into the structural aspects of a movie. Exchanging opinions is one thing, going into a deeper analysis is something else. Or, to put it differently: The general audience is able to voice IF they like a movie or not, but it is the job of the movie discourse to figure out WHY a movie or specific scenes resonate with an audience. Finding ways to eloquently explain why a movie deserves praise is hard once you get past the surface level, even if you have some basic knowledge about film. I often enough have been stuck with truly explaining why something resonates with me only to stumble over someone who was able to put the finger on exactly what made a particular scene work.

As a general rule it is easier to explain why something doesn’t work, though even then I feel that sometimes it is easy to put the blame at the wrong place. For example, the reason why Superman killing Zod at the end of Man of Steel doesn’t work is not because he is Superman. This would be the easy conclusion. It is because the built-up to the scene is badly executed (to explain that would be an essay in and of itself) and the fall-out is non-existent.

3.1 The Discourse

So, where is this discourse happening? In the past, mostly in universities, sometimes TV shows. Nowadays it is happening on the internet, accessible for everyone. And that is a great thing, because it opens up the participation in said discourse to everyone. That doesn’t mean, though, that everyone choses to participate on the same level or that every participant is a honest player.  There are youtubers which aren’t really motivated by their love of movies, but by a desire to create controversy, or to push their political agenda.

To be frank, you have to wade through a lot of toxicity in order to find a good discourse on the internet, and the more high-profile a movie is, the more questionable content there is. Sorting through all this can be exhausting. In fact, there is so much content regarding movie discussion out there that we have now started to comment on the movie discussion itself. And not in a constructive manner. Especially the Star Wars fandom has become a battleground of people tearing each others videos apart just because they disagree on The Last Jedi. And don’t get me wrong here: A video which is dishonestly argued deserves to get torn apart – for example one which is misrepresenting a movie by argue based on selected scene while skipping scenes which disproof the point which one is trying to make. But this is about more than arguing about the merit of a franchise, this is about people really wanting to sink a franchise. To which I just have to say: Why do you care? There are a lot of franchises out there I don’t care for at all. There are also franchises I fell out of love with. The logical reaction to a bad experience is to walk away.  Badgering other fans to agree with you or attacking the cast and crew isn’t helpful at all. It is just a movie. No matter what happens, whatever made you fall in love with a franchise in the first place will still be there. Just as I am happy that Disney only made one Pirates of Caribbean movie (and I stick to that story), you can be happy that Star Wars is just a trilogy, if you are really that dissatisfied with what came after.

3.2 The Meta Level

At this point, the fandom discourse has become so prominent, there are a number of channels out there which are no longer really about discussing a movie, instead they are talking about the discussion surrounding a movie. Justsomerandomguy does it with Marvel vs DC controversy. Hishe and Honest Trailer tend to integrate fandom memes into their jokes. On a more serious note, Renegade Cut has explored fandom tribalism in a miniseries about the DCEU. And I am currently exploring the effect internet culture has on the way we perceive movies and the movie industry in general (yes, I will get to that point, too).

We have now reached a level at which commenting on other channels has become a subscriber draw on its own. So everything which I have listed above regarding the different kind movie discussions exists again as a commentary on said different movie discussions. The upside of this trend is that, intentional or not, it calls out the various fandoms. It can be a great tool for self-reflection. But there is also a risk that feedback loop is created, or that falsehoods are repeated so often that they become accepted facts.

For example: Every time someone praises Ironman 3, their first step is to defend the Mandarin twist, as if this is the main problem with the movie. Yes, the Mandarin twists gets a lot of attention, but a lot of people who criticise the movie as a whole say that they twist in itself is one of the ideas they like in it. Don’t get me wrong, there are people who are all about not getting the Mandarin they wanted, but they are just one group of critics, and I suspect not even a particularly big one. Consequently, focussing your defence on the merits of the twist alone doesn’t really make a good case for Ironman 3. Pointing out which aspects of the movie work on the other hand is.

We all live in some sort of bubble, one way or another. How we perceive the world or the fandom is largely dependent on what kind of people we interact with. And often the ones who scream the loudest are actually just a minority. Which is why it is often important to take a step back and reconsider before jumping on an issue. And it is equally important to approach a movie with a readiness to discard a thesis we had in mind. It’s not about proving what we already think about a movie, it is about testing if what we think about a movie is actually matching up to reality.

And it is about questioning our own parameters. I said above that there is objectivity in movie criticism. Well, there is also no rule which elements are making a good movie. Creating a movie is like creating a good meal. There are rules how you have to prepare the ingrediencies you intent to use, there is no rule how to combine them. It is all about finding the right balance between the different tastes.  Hence the question is not if a movie has a memorable villain, the question is if there should be a villain at all and if there is a villain, if said villain serves the story. The question is not of the main character has a great character development – in fact, some of the most famous characters out there are static characters – the question is how well the characters fit into the story.  A joke which works in one movie can be completely out of place in another one. Every element in a movie needs to be discussed in the context of that movie alone (and sometimes the franchise it belongs to). And that includes plot holes.

 

4. Back to the beginning

So, is there something “wrong” about the way we consume movies? Before I answer the question (or at least take a honest stab at it), I think I should explain why the question is even important in the first place. After all, who cares how someone else consumes movies?

Frankly, I don’t. I do care about the fact, though, that the internet discourse is now influencing the way movies are being made. As Lindsey Ellis rightly pointed out, the Beauty and the Beast remake is a big exercise in answering meaningless gripes with the original movie.

 

And that is just one example. The Star Wars Anthology movies seem to be mostly about answering questions nobody ever wanted an answer to, like how Han Solo got his name. Rogue One is entirely about answering the aforementioned question about why the Death Star had such a glaring weakness. A little less obvious is a current trend of movies to overexplain details.

And I also care about how the discourse can contort a movie in the mind of the audience, especially if there are dishonest players in the conversation who for one reason or another really want a movie to fail. Currently the whole discourse surrounding Captain Marvel is pretty much a prime example of everything wrong with movie criticism on the internet. You have people using a deleted scene to make a point about the movie’s main character (for the record, the only discussion which should ever involve a deleted scene is answering the question if the deletion was a good or a bad decision), you have long videos about so called plot holes which falsely claim that Captain Marvel somehow broke the time-line (in reality the movie slots surprisingly well into the timeline of the MCU), and you have a general unwillingness to engage with the themes of the movie. The so called controversy isn’t about Captain Marvel at all, it is about pushing a narrative, and sadly this narrative will impact how some people see the movie.

So should we stop talking about plot holes? My answer is an emphatic: No. We shouldn’t stop talking about them, as long as they are genuine plot holes and not something which can be cleared up just by paying attention to the movie. But we might want to reconsider how much importance we assign to them.

In general we need to stop treating movies like they have to adhere to some sort of fool proof recipe. A lot of people – and that includes some reviewers – seem to have an extremely narrow view of how a movie should look like. Movies which are more allegorical seem to often get right over their head. And sometimes themes are missed exactly because of prior expectations.

We should also be a little bit more careful regarding the various channels related to movies we consume. There is nothing wrong with enjoying some entertaining takes on a movie or to laugh about overdone tropes or even our own over-investment in certain movies. But we need to judge criticism on the merit of the argument instead of it its entertainment value. And we need to get away from the idea that logic has to be the overriding feature of a movie, or that a plot hole is automatically a black mark against a narrative, and not a neutral feature. We need to get away from the notion that overly long videos in which someone goes through a movie step by step and nitpicks every second of it is in any way meaningful criticism.

A plot hole is not a measuring stick for the quality of a movie. It is just a feature of one. And more often than not the least important one.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Disney and Fox: What’s the Deal Part 2

So, it has been a while since I wrote my first article about the Disney/Fox deal. Partly because those last six months really kept me from writing all that much for the blog at all, I couldn’t even use the Christmas break for writing since I hurt my hand shortly beforehand. Though originally I waited so long to continue this because of Comcast’s bid. Less because I though that they would succeed in stopping the deal altogether, but I knew that it might influence how it would look like in the end. And they did, not just in terms of cost. But that is a topic for another article, in which I will take a closer look at the international assets Disney now acquired. Today I want to talk about the TV assets specifically regarding the US markets and the various TV shows which now fall under Disney’s umbrella.

But first a little update. It seems like I have been pretty close with my predictions regarding the Fox movie studios so far. Bob Iger has already confirmed that they will leave Searchlight untouched, so I was right that they would stick to the usual MO to not change a working system. Searchlight’s academy award track record is just too good for Disney to do a big overhaul.

The take-over of 20th Century Fox on the other hand ended up being quite a blood-bath, the biggest surprise being the decision to dissolve the Fox 2000 brand. Well, it was mostly a surprise because there was no noise about this possibly happening beforehand. But, let’s be honest here, Fox 2000 doesn’t have the same level of brand awareness Searchlight has, so little, that I didn’t even address it separately in my last article but just lumped it in with 20th Century Fox proper. And the kind of movies they produce – middle budget book adaptations – is nothing Disney Picture can’t cover, too. Not that Disney Picture couldn’t use some creative talent to give it a few impulses, but that is another story.

20th Century Fox is currently undergoing a lot of changes. In: every project will be examined and judged. Disney has said that the movies which have started filming would be released, but there are still a lot of projects which haven’t made it to this stage yet. One project which has already been cancelled is an adaptation of Mouse Guard , a comic which is apparently Game of Thrones but with mice. Haha, some of you might think, naturally Disney wouldn’t allow anything Game of Thrones like to go through. Well, not quite. There were a lot of reasons why Disney decided to stop the project (though they’ll allow the creators to shop it around), one of it allegedly being the overblown budget for an unknown property. But apparently one reason was that Disney wants Fox to focus more on PG-13 and R-rated properties, and lower budget family friendly movies. Which, frankly, makes a lot of sense. Now, I am not quite sure why an adaptation of Mouse Guard would be considered as skewing too young – meaning, I am not sure if Fox originally pushed the concept in this direction or if Disney erroneously thought that a story involving mice had to be cutesy – but the reasoning given shows that the fears Disney might turn Fox into a clone of itself were completely unfounded.

Another thing which is now know about the future of Fox are some details regarding the future leadership. Vice chair Emma Watts is the senior most member of 20th Century Fox who will make the transition to Disney. Emma Watts is a seasoned production executive known for having a great relationship with a lot of strong talents and might be the perfect choice to take the various Fox franchises in hand.

On April 3 she joined Alan Horn during a representation at CinemaCon, and everything which has been said so far sounds like Disney intends to run 20th Century Fox like another of their brands. Give it a few years and what comes out of 20th Century Fox might be quite distinctive in their own right, mostly offering a mix of r-rated movies, horror franchises and edgy movies with franchise potential.

You might remember that I was unsure about the fate of Blue Sky and it turns out if there might be a place for it at Disney after all. At least for now Disney has put the studio on its website, alongside with Disney Pictures, Disney Animation Studios, Pixar, Marvel Studios, Lucasfilm, 20th Century Fox and Searchlight. Those seem to be the future pillars of Disney’s movie business.

While I originally wondered why Disney should need a third animation studio (not counting the entities responsible for their TV shows) when it already owns the two most successful ones out there, there is a future use I can imagine for Blue Sky.

Above all, doing movies which fit neither into the Disney Animation Studios nor the Pixar brand. To clarify, Disney is known for making family friendly movies based on fairy tales or well known childhood classics. They have dabbled in original movies once a while, and more recently with a lot of success, but taking pre-existing properties and disneyfying them is their bread and butter. Pixar on the other hand is mostly known for original, off-the-wall ideas which they develop in successful movies and then into franchises.

Those two approaches cover a lot of possibilities for animation, but there are some things which won’t fit either Disney Animation or Pixar. For example Comic book adaptations. Yes, I know, both of them have dabbled in superheroes, but there is a difference between disneyfying an extremely obscure property or doing an original take on Superhero tropes and actually adapting a comic book. Or a comic strip. Remember, Blue Sky was also the studio which successfully adapted The Peanuts and it is currently working on Nimona. Now that Into the Spiderverse has been highly successful, Disney might want to get in on the action, and Blue Skye would be way more suited to tackle a project like this than the Disney Animation Studios or Pixar are. They know how to respect an art-style and how to capture the core of an IP.

They are also more suited to movies which are more, well, contemporary. Both Disney and Pixar prefer a time-less style, which is part of the reason why their movies tent to be pretty much classics the moment they are created. Blue Sky is more connected to pop culture, which is one of the reasons why their movies often veer into “disposable” territory, but, well, there is a market for those middle-tier movies which don’t shoot for the stars. Plus, while Blue Sky has so far mostly targeted a demographic which is roughly in Disney’s wheelhouse, they are not above to do something which is clearly addressing a younger audience – see Ferdinand – or to target nostalgic about a specific period of time more so than specifically families. And since Blue Sky’s target demographic isn’t quite as defined as Disney’s, they can easily do something specifically aimed at teenagers if they wanted to.

Plus, Disney will need a lot of content for its streaming service, including animated content. Not that I think that any of the movie studios will start to produce exclusively for streaming service, at least not as long cinemas are still a profitable revenue stream. Alan Horn said as much at CinemaCon.

“The theatre is and will always be in our minds. It is the cornerstone of the theatrical business, period. It is really where it all started…it’s where Disney and Fox will continue to move forward as one united company.”

Thus said, Disney’s strategy seems to be clear. They seem to be focussed on blockbusters and popular franchises, the kind of movies which makes people feel that they really should see them in theatres because they belong on a big screen, or which make for a good outing. The smaller production seem to fall by the wayside, with the exception of Searchlight’s output, since the only kind of smaller movies which do well on the big screen tend to be the ones which get award buzz.

In the long run this means that the low to middle budget dramas will most likely be squeezed out of the market and only turn up on streaming, but I admit, I am not sure if I am too bummed about that. Mostly because I myself feel that they don’t really utilize the big screen anyway, so why not making them for streaming from the get go?

Well, so much about the movie studios. Let’s move to the television studios. Here is what Disney has acquired and will keep (there are a few assets they need to sell to avoid anti-trust issues and naturally Fox didn’t sell it’s broadcast network):

  • Fox Television Group
    • 20th Century Fox Television
    • Fox 21 Television Studios
    • FX Networks
    • FX Productions
    • National Geographic Partners (73%)
  • Fox Networks Group International
    • Fox Networks Group Asia
    • Fox Networks Group Europe
    • Fox Networks Group Latin America

There is also the Endemol Shine Group (50%), Hulu (30% which raises Disney’s share to 60%), Star India and Tata Sky (30%), but I’ll address those properties when I cover the international future of Disney as well as their plans for the streaming market. Though I need to point out that with the Endemol Shine Group (which is seated in the Netherlands) Disney also gets its hand on a couple of very interesting international IPs, including Big Brother, MasterChef, Peaky Blinders and Black Mirror.

Now Disney made an announcement regarding the future leadership and structure of the Networks on October 8, 2018. Now, this was a few months ago, and it is possible that there haven been or will be changes, but back then, it was supposed to look like this:

  • Peter Rice – Chairman, Walt Disney Television and Co-Chair, Disney Media Networks
    • Dana Walden – Chairman, Disney Television Studios and ABC Entertainment
      • Channing Dungey, President, ABC Entertainment
      • Patrick Moran, President, ABC Studios
      • Jonathan Davis and Howard Kurtzman, Presidents of Twentieth Century Fox Television
      • Bert Salke, President, Fox 21 Television Studios
      • Tom Ascheim, President, Freeform
      • Wendy McMahon, President, ABC Owned Television Stations Group
    • Gary E. Knell, Chairman of National Geographic Partners
    • John Landgraf, Chairman of FX Networks and FX Productions
    • Gary Marsh, President and Chief Creative Officer, Disney Channels Worldwide
    • James Goldston, President, ABC News

Notable about this structure is that for now mostly that Disney has apparently no intention whatsoever to disrupt the work of FX. Not only will it stay under the same leadership, it will report directly to Peter Rice. Also notable is the fact that Disney plans to keep ABC Studios and Fox Television Studios as separate entities for now. It doesn’t really look like there will be much of a change for any of the entities other than maybe in terms of programming. We will know more about than on May 14. For this day ABC’s upfront presentation is scheduled, and this year it is expanding to include it’s new corporate siblings. Not that I expect huge changes.

In a way it might make more sense to wait until this date to write this article, but let’s talk about the IP’s Disney acquired. Small disclaimer here: Television rights are waaaaay more complicated than movie rights. With movies, you have a production company and a distributor, which often belongs to the same entity as the production company. With TV shows, you have a production company, a network which buys and airs the show, someone who buys the syndication rights – and all of those can belong to a different company.  Basically, even if you know who originally produced a show that doesn’t necessarily mean that said entity has currently the control over said show. It all depends on the contracts.

Thus said, this deal is actually streamlining some of the rights, since Fox produced a lot of shows which aired of ABC – a kind of famous example is the Adam West Batman show which is now owned by Disney. And once you put all this together, well the Library is huge.

But on top of all the IPs which are owned/have been produced by either ABC or Fox, there are also a long list of IPs by now defunct production companies Fox bought at one point (or which were operating under the Fox umbrella until Fox decided to stop production). So, before I get to 20th Century Fox Television and FX, I’ll briefly cover some of the other production studios.

Regency Television seems to have been mostly active between 1999 and 2008. It’s most notable shows included Roswell and Malcom in the Middle. Foxstar Productions had a lot of success with Biography and some with Alien Nation, but otherwise there is nothing really remarkable in its small line-up. Genesis Entertainment was active in the 1980s and early 1990s and is responsible for hit shows like Highway to Heaven and Tales from the Crypt. Then there is Blair Entertainment and Storer Broadcasting, whose TV-show line-up is so small, it is barely worth mentioning. Four Star has a little bit more to offer, but since that studio was active from roughly the 1950s to the 1980s, with most of their titles being from the first two decades, a lot of those shows are a little bit dated. A lot of westerns and shows which stars celebrity X overall. Speaking of which, the list of defunct studios also includes MTM Enterprises – Mary Tyler More Enterprises – which naturally includes the Mary Tyler Moore Show but also a few other classics, like Remington Steele. And New World Television, whose most relevant programming included a bunch of Marvel based shows, including The Incredible Hulk. And Sledge Hammer.

I think the most valuable of those acquisitions is the Metromedia Producers Corporation., which has produced a number of quite interesting IPs,  including Charlie’s Angels, Hart to Hart, Starsky and Hutch and a number of other shows which can be called “classics”.

And finally there is Stephen J. Cannell Productions. Now apparently in this case the library is owned by Cannell’s family, but Fox still retains a few rights. Like the right to do remakes. We are talking here about shows like The A-Team, Hardcastle and McCormick, Hunter, Riptide, Stingray and 21 Jump Street.  Though for Disney those rights aren’t that interesting. Nice to have, but what they really want are IPs to put on their streaming service.

Which is a little bit a problem with FX. Oh, there is certainly a place for FX in the company, but I think it is save to say that if Disney decides to stream certain FX shows, it will happen via Hulu, and not Disney+.  Between shows like JustifiedNip/Tuck, Rescue Me, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Sons of Anarchy, The Shield, Archer, American Horror Story, Anger Management, The Americans, Better Things, Louie, You’re the Worst, Fargo, American Crime Story, Legion, and Atlanta there aren’t really many who would tonally fit the tone subscriber would expect from Disney.

There is one sub-division which is currently active nobody talks about, but which might not have much of a future under Disney: Animation Domination High-Def. They have produced animated shows since 2013, but frankly, there is nothing in their line-up which I actually know except for Neo Yokio, which is a hot contender for the most tone-deaf series I have encountered in the last years. Any, I am mostly putting a question mark beside this particular studio due to its animation veering more to an older audience, and Disney will be automatically more interested into shows which fit Disney+ one way or another.

But let’s talk about the big one, the long list of shows Fox produced and aired in the last decades. Those shows include M*A*S*H, Glee, How I Met Your Mother, Bones, Empire, Family Guy, 24, Modern Family, This Is Us, American Dad!, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Futurama, New Girl,  The X-Files and, maybe the biggest property, The Simpsons.

Or let’s just talk about The Simpsons, because apparently The Simpsons is seen by some people as some sort of litmus test. I am not quite sure why, though. I mean, realistically speaking The Simpsons has been a zombie show for at least a decade. Those who still watch it seem to do it more out of some sort of habit than out of true excitement. There have been videos about when exactly the downfall of The Simpsons began and what was the cause of it for years. So…what exactly can Disney do to “ruin” The Simpsons?

From my point of view, if Disney had decided to cancel The Simpsons it would be totally understandable. Yes, the ratings for the show have been relatively stable for a long, long time, but sometimes it might be a good idea to stop beating a dead horse. At the same time, I never expected them to actually do it either. Because The Simpsons are still a reliable cash cow and it would have been stupid for Disney to not milk it. And that is exactly what they did.

So, for those who don’t know already, The Simpsons was renewed for a thirty-first and thirty-second season on February 6, 2019. The latter season will contain the 700th episode. In addition, Disney is moving the first thirty seasons of the show to their streaming service, so that they will be Disney+ exclusives. Well played, Disney, well played.

But I am slipping into discussing the streaming service, so let’s close this for now with a pretty obvious observation: Regarding the merger the different Fox channels will most likely be fine for now. Some shows will be renewed, others won’t, and overall it will be business as usual. For the broadcaster the rise of streaming is the far bigger threat. They will never be completely replaced, because there will always been events which are more fun to watch live, there will always be the news segment, there will always be shows and there will always be people who prefer to flip through their channels in order to eventually settle something which happens to be on instead of having to search through some sort of catalogue. But especially the cable channels will come more and more under pressure in the future. And this might lead to Disney shutting down specific channels, both on the ABC and the Fox side of things. But if that happens, it will be more about the overall shift to streaming. It is on the various channels to keep the audience interested in their programming.

Meanwhile Disney has acquired a ton of content. Now, I don’t expect them to put all of this on their streaming platform, and not just because a lot of them are still tied up in a deal or another. But this is a lot with which they can do whatever they want. And that includes creating remakes or making movies out of them. The possibilities are kind of endless there.

And that’s for now. Next time I will examine the streaming plans of Disney in more detail – both nationally and internationally, the latter maybe being the more interesting topic.

 

 


The top ten worst Disney Songs

I am usually not prone to negativity. I tend to prefer writing positive articles in order to praise movies, even though tearing something down usually gets you more clicks. That doesn’t mean that I don’t indulge once a while in a little bit of venting, too, but as a general rule, I consider it more helpful to point out why something works than why something doesn’t work, even though it is way harder to articulate the former.

But when I started to think about doing something along the line of a best Disney songs list, I soon started to realize that this would be an impossible task. Disney has created so many outstanding songs, even doing a ten best soundtrack list would be difficult, never mind doing one praising the best songs. Even if you keep it to the animated canon, there should be something between 300 and 400 songs.

In the end I decided to do something which might be even more challenging: Finding the ten worst Disney Songs. Usually you can trust that any song which turns up in a Disney movie is at the very least decent. So I had to dig really deep to even find ten I felt I could put on a “worst” list without feeling too bad about it. What made my search especially difficult, though, was that I completely limited myself to Disney Animation Studios movies. For two reasons: Had I included the cheapquels, this would have been too easy. Bad music in a direct-to-video production is kind of a given, even when Disney is producing it. And while I could have included Pixar, their movies use music in a very different way than the standard Disney movie does.

For the same reason I made my live even more difficult by excluding the package movies, too, even though there was a lot of dated and boring music I could have mined out of them. I can hardly complain a song not adding anything to the story if there isn’t really a story to be told after all. I also excluded end-credit songs and songs not created by Disney for this specific movie (which only applies to Chicken Little and Lilo and Stitch anyway).


Which brings me to the criteria under which I will judge the songs:

1. How much do I like the song?

This should be a given. Any song which has a catchy tune and a great text had a good chance to not make the list, unless it failed the other two categories.

2. How well does it fit the scene and the movie?

This is the big one. There are a number of songs which failed the first category, but didn’t end up on the list because they did exactly what they were supposed to. So I won’t ding the “Canine Crunchies” song for being a relentless annoying jingle, because that is exactly what it is supposed to be. And I won’t complain about “Scales and Arpeggios” for having the most simplistic melody possible, because the song is supposed to present something a child might learn during the first piano lessons. On the flip-side, there are also a few songs which more or less passed the first category, but failed to elevate the movie in question. And yes, one or two of them made the list.

3. How much does its quality impact the movie in general?

Basically the more the song ruined the mood of the movie and the more annoying it was, the higher it ended up on the list. So, to explain my elimination process, here a few songs which I seriously considered, but which didn’t make the list in the end.


One of the first things I did when I decided to make this list was taking a close look at Home on the Range again. Because I just couldn’t remember any songs from the movie except the villain song. But after listening to all of them, I just couldn’t bring myself to hate any of them. They are a little bit forgettable, but none of them are outright bad, and they fit the movie pretty well overall. I ended up really liking “Will the Sun ever Shine again”, the ballade had so much feeling behind it. To be frank, I just wasn’t sure if it is really the fault of the songs that I couldn’t remember most of them, or if it was simply a combination of the movie itself being such a disappointment and me not being into this style of music. In the end the fact that none of the songs impacted the quality of the movie itself in any way lead me to leaving them all off the list. At least this soundtrack fits the movie, and they add to the story.

The same can’t be said for the Soundtrack of The Princess and the Frog. This movie has a serious issue with having songs which are just re-establishing what the audience already knows instead of moving the story forward. Especially “When we’re human” is guilty of this. And there is also a lot to be said about the notion of two frogs dancing under the light of a butt, while the owner of said butt is singing about his love towards the star. But in the end, the quality of the songs themselves just kept them off the list. “Ma Belle Evangeline” is such a nice tune,  and while I do think that the songs of the movies overall are a little bit less catchy than the truly great Disney soundtracks, the style is a perfect fit for New Orleans.

Brother Bear was taken into close consideration because in this case, the songs don’t fit the setting at all, and the way they are used are sometimes downright distracting. But this was another case in which the quality of the songs just kept it off the list. To be completely clear here, I have no issue whatsoever with Phil Collin’s music. I like the songs he did for Brother Bear, and just don’t think that they were a good choice for this particular movie and I really, really enjoy his work for Tarzan. The only song from Tarzan which I even considered for this list was “Trashing the Camp”, but I felt while the execution is lacking, the conception was strong enough to warrant some leeway.

And finally there was “Bluddle-Uddle-Um-Dun”. I tend to be a little bit more forgiving towards Snow White and the Seven Dwarves regarding its various filler songs, mostly because the whole movie was exploring new ground. But a four minute song about washing for dinner is a little bit much. When I watched the scene again, though, I realized that the song itself isn’t really four minutes long, for most its running time it is pure score while the dwarves perform physical humour. It kind of felt wrong to ding the song for it, because the issue here is the overlong washing scene in itself and the song makes it at least somewhat bearable.


So, if anyone is still reading this after the overlong explanation, here are my top ten worst Disney Songs to date.

10. Wine/The Drinking Song

Sleeping Beauty has one of my favourite soundtracks. I have said it before, but the score was quite an unique challenge because it was based on pre-existing music which then had to be rearranged painstakingly to fit the movie and the style. And I guess the most difficult part was to turn music which was written for a ballet into song. In some instances, the result is just beautiful. I mean, who doesn’t like “Once Upon a Dream”? But “The Drinking Song” is where the movie truly stumbles. It is barely a song at all, and the parts of it which are kind of like singing, well, it is just obvious that the melody was never meant to be part of a song.

9. The Gospel Truth

Yeah, speaking of ill-fitting soundtracks, Hercules might take the cake there. I mean, how the hell does one start with Greek mythology, and then ends up with Gospel? Those two things aren’t even remotely related to each other. I guess you can do an overly complicated explanation that Gospel can by considered the modern take of a hymn, except that they are a modern take on Christian music, and we are talking here about Greek mythology. Which, I guess, one could argue is a religion too, but, well, would you want to see a story about Jesus being represented by Native American chants? Or Hindu prayers? Yeah, exactly.

On top of this, the soundtrack doesn’t even stick to the style. If you put “The Gospel Truth” beside “I’ll go the Distance” and “Can’t tell I’m in love” without knowing anything about them, would you think that they all belong to the same movie?  And, to add insult to injury, it is basically taking the role of a villain song. Don’t tell me that you wouldn’t have loved to see Hades going all evil in verse?

In the end the only good thing I can say about “The Gospel Truth” is that I don’t necessarily dislike the song in itself and it has a purpose in the story. That wasn’t enough to keep it off this list, though.

8. In Summer

Speaking of purpose, “In Summer” has none. I actually had quite a number of songs from Frozen up for this list.  No, “Let it Go” wasn’t one of them. The song is overplayed by now, but it is overplayed for a reason. In general, though, should I ever decide to write an article about how good songs can be used to the detriment of a movie, Frozen would be the example to use. “In Summer” makes the list because it is utterly pointless. It feels as if the directors suddenly realized “oh, we have crammed all our songs in the first quarter of our movie, what should we do now?” and then threw in the most boring of all side-kick songs. It doesn’t tell us anything new about the character, it doesn’t move the story forward, the joke that Olaf wants exactly what will destroy him is not as funny as the song writers apparently thought and it really, really overstays its welcome. Which runs out after the first verse.

7. We’ll Smoke the Blighter out

Speaking of cramming in songs, Alice in Wonderland takes the cake. There are 19 songs in the movie and the only reason this kind of works is because most of them are only a few lines long. That’s true for “We’ll Smoke the Blighter out”, too, it is so short and unassuming is that I nearly gave it a pass. Until I remembered that it an upbeat tune about burning the lead character alive. Alice in Wonderland has a few songs which are way too cheerful about terrible events – I am looking at you, “The Walrus and the Carpenter” – but only this one manages to confuse me. It is like the movie itself can’t decide if it should be dramatic or play the danger of the scene in question down. The result is kind of uncomfortable to watch, even if it lasts barely a minute.

6. Perfect World

Oh, I know I will get flak for this one.  A lot of people are into the bolt choice  The Emperor’s New Groove made with its music. And yes, if they had stuck to the original concept of the movie, it might have worked. But once the movie became more and more a Buddy comedy spiked with jokes about Disney tropes, it is kind of unforgivable to have a music number which is not in one way or another a commentary about Disney’s typical musicals. It also kind of feels misplaced. Not because it is modern, but because it it doesn’t really seem to relate to, well, anything in this movie. Though I admit, I also simply don’t like the song itself. It doesn’t do anything for me and, even worse, I am unable to see what other people might enjoy about it.

5. Lack of Education

Frankly, this talk-singing barely counts as a song. But that is not the reason why it made the list. The Fox and the Hound uses this style a few times, but this is the one scene in which it bothers me, because of what the scene is about. Big Mama explains to Tod that his best friend might kill him one day – in an upbeat rhyme. Again, this is about explaining a little fox what hunting dogs do to him and his family, and they decided to use an upbeat rhyme for the scene. What, did they think that they had to soften the blow for the younger audience this way? Wouldn’t be surprised if that was the reason, in any case though, this big nothing of a song is completely ill-fitting.

4. Perfect isn’t Easy

Has there ever been a more prophetic title? So far I have talked about songs which ruin the mood for one reason or another. But, for all the criticism I piled on the songs so far, I can’t bring myself to really dislike them. Being slightly annoyed by them, yes, feeling resentment towards them, yes, being bored by them, yes, but not true dislike. But I admit, I really, rally don’t care for the soundtrack of Oliver and Company. It just oozes the 1980s, making the whole movie incredible dated. But at least most songs have a catchy tune and actually add to the story, which rescued them from turning up on this list. “Perfect isn’t easy” though is just another case of a time filler with very little in substance. Which would be okay if the song were at least fun to watch. Considering the talent involved, I really, really tried to like it, but no, I can’t. There is something about Bette Middler’s performance which just hurts my ears.
What put this one so high on the list, though, is the content of the song. There is something really screwed up about the character of Georgette for the whole movie, and this song is just one example of it. It basically praises the virtue of confidence and spending a lot of time in improving your appearance. Which is really not a message I would want to send my child. Granted, Georgette is an antagonist for most of the movie but the song itself still plays it pretty straight – Georgette gets the attention she wants – and at no point her self-obsessed ways are portrayed as problematic. She is perfectly happy with being the object of desire for many. But I am not happy with hearing her screech about it.

3. A guy like you

The Hunchback of Notre Dame is infamous for its switching moods and ill-advised use of the Gargoyles as comic relief. But that’s not what landed this song so high on the list. It’s it relentless undercutting of the theme of the movie. I get the intention: The idea is that Quasimodo’s look is unique and therefore should be appreciated. But that is not really what the song brings across. It looks more like the Gargoyles are lying to Quasimodo to make him feel better about being “shaped like a croissant”. And isn’t the point of the movie that yes, Quasimodo is misshaped, but that this doesn’t mean that he should be closed off from society? That there is a need to look behind his, well, ugliness? Plus, the pedestrian nature of the song itself really doesn’t match the epic tunes of the “Belles of Notre Dome” or “God save the outcasts”. It sounds like it wandered in from one of the better Disney cheapquels.

2. Good Company

This song is so bad makes me think that the 1980s style music they used for the rest of Oliver and Company is actually a blessing. Remember what I said about “Scales and Arpeggios” being completely appropriate for the scene it was used for in Aristocats? Yeah, “Good Company” goes for the same vibe of the kind of music a child would play on the piano, but it is too simplistic even for this setting. The kicker is the text, though. It’s basically “You and me will be together in good company” put in verses and then repeated with slight variations three times. That’s it. No wonder they needed the help of Howard Ashman to finish the soundtrack of the movie if THAT is the kind of texts they had to deal with up to this point. There is charmingly understated and insultingly simplistic. This is clearly the latter.

1. Fixer Upper

Well, this might not be a surprised for those who know me a little bit. I have ranted about how much I hate, hate, hate “Fixer Upper” multiple times. It scores high (or low) on every single criterium. The soundtrack of Frozen in general sounds like it is from at least three different movies, but “Fixer Upper” sounds like it is not from a movie at all, but from a particularly grating school performance. If you listen to the song out of context (just the idea of having to do that lead to me nearly scrapping the article), the idea that you can shape a man to the ideal partner just by investing enough time in “fixing” him is just misguided. I know that the song is based on the personal experience of the song writers, but while being in love and saying to your friends “yeah, he is my fixer upper” is still kind of cute, telling someone else that you can improve a man by just investing enough time into him is just not a good message.  And yes, I know that what is meant in the song is most likely that ideally we improve each other while being in a relationship, but that is not what comes across.

So, the song is annoying, the text not half as clever as the song writer apparently thinks (which seems to be a pattern with Frozen songs), the message poisonous – this song is already a strong contender for this list before I even get to its placement in the movie. So, Anna is in the process of dying, Kristof has brought her to the Trolls in order to get help and in that situation they start to sing about her starting a relationship with Kristof? And if all this isn’t bad enough already, when they learn that Anna is already engaged, they basically ignore it and then try to forcible marrying those two. Just…what were the directors thinking?

Yes, Hans turns out to be the villain of the movie eventually, but the Trolls can’t know that. Even the audience isn’t supposed to know that at this point. But in any case, the Trolls just ignore any notion of consent, going so far to nearly forcible marry Anna and Kristof. In the end, a song which is already terrible in itself ticks off all boxes and actively makes the movie even worse. It makes the Trolls unlikable, breaks the tension of the moment, and even manages to undermine the themes of the movie. Remember, the whole “you shouldn’t marry a guy you just meet” thing? That is exactly what the Trolls are advocating here, robbing Anna of any agency whatsoever (not that she had much to begin with, but that is a rant for another day).


And those are my least favourite Disney songs. Sorry for not including any samples, but I kind of don’t want to advertise any of those songs further. And sorry for the little bit of ranting in the end. To be honest, for all the complaining I did, my search for the worst Disney songs made me appreciate Disney even more. One would think that after so many movies, most of which being musicals, it would be pretty easy to find a couple of duds, but nope, Disney’s musical output is just as strong as its animation. More often than not it pushes a scene and the animation in it to an even higher level. Animation and music tend to compliment and elevate each other, and I guess Walt Disney recognized this early on. Remember what the first sound Mickey uttered in Steamboat Willie is? Whistling. And this moment is still one of the most iconic ones in Disney and animation history. Now, decades later, it’s still often musical numbers which provide the most memorable scenes. May this never change.


Marvel Musings: Death and Consequences

I am sorry that I haven’t managed to continue my villain series as planned. Partly this was due to real live concerns (mainly a bout of flu which really hit me hard), but partly it was because the articles I had planned (and even already partly written) were about Hydra, which suddenly made a reappearance in the MCU. This lead me to delaying the articles, and I am glad that I did. I will eventually continue with the series, but a little bit closer to Avengers 4.

Meanwhile though I think it is time to address a notion which has bothered me a while: The idea that killing off characters make a story automatically better. Frankly, I blame The Walking Dead and Games of Thrones for the popularity of this idea. And while I can’t really comment on the former, I have some thoughts regarding the latter. Not in terms of the show, but I actually read the books. Well…most of them. By the time the TV show aired, I had already given up on the series, and one of the reasons was the Red Wedding. It wasn’t the only reason, but it played heavily into the decision (alongside with me being sick of reading about violence against women without no proper exploration of the effect aside from “look how badass our heroines got by surviving”).

Yes, I know, a lot of people think that the Red Wedding is brilliant. They say that they liked it, because it was so unexpected and they like the idea that no character is safe. I never saw it the same way. To me it was the result of an author wanting a cheap shock effect and getting rid of a character he got bored of. Which brings me to my first thesis regarding this matter:

A story in which certain characters don’t have a plot armour doesn’t exist.

There are always those which are more interesting than others, so a writer tends to hold onto them, unless killing them off would allow them a rewarding narrative opportunity. And this is actually a good thing. Because from a reader or viewer perspective, I think there is nothing as frustrating as investing a lot of time into a character and then said character dies for no reason whatsoever. I am ready to bet if the victims of the Red Wedding had been Daenerys, Sansa, Arya and John Snow, the reaction of the audience would have been very different. More along the way the fans reacted when BBC’s Robin Hood killed off Marian.

For the record, I certainly don’t begrudge anyone to be a fan of Game of Thrones. The only reason why I address this at all is because the raising readiness of TV shows to kill more characters than in the past bred the notion that Marvel movies will never be as good as they should if they follow suit – and yes, this is the point at which I will eventually discuss Infinity War, so if you haven’t seen the movie yet, you should stop reading right now.

There is this general notion that Marvel has to start killing characters to create stakes. To which my reaction is: Have you watched the MCU? There have been plenty characters killed since the MCU started, and not just villains. Not counting the TV series, the list of heroic characters dying before Infinity War and staying dead includes Yinsin, Erskin, Howard and Maria Stark, Peggy Carter, Quicksilver, Freya, Odin, the Warriors three, Denarian Sal, Yondu Udonta and Groot (yes, the first Groot died, Baby Groot is NOT identical with him).

And yes, I am aware of the obvious counter argument: Those are mostly mentor or parental figures, or side characters, we need to see one of the main characters die. Do we though? One should never forget that:

A dead character is a missed narrative opportunity

For example, Yondu sacrificing himself for Peter was a beautiful moment, but it also robbed the audience of seeing more of their complicated relationship on screen. And just imaging how many great stories we wouldn’t have gotten if more deaths in the MCU had been permanent. There would be no Winter Soldier. There would have been nobody to attack New York. There would be no Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. To me, a dead character is a five minute shock effect, a living one is an option for even more interesting stories. Hence there is always the need to consider if a death is really worth it. In Yondu’s case, it might have been worth it in the end. It was a tragic and meaningful moment which will resonate through the whole of the GotG franchise. But had they killed Loki in Thor, it would have been an unforgivable waste of a great character.

All this said, there is a danger of overdoing it with holding onto characters, especially if you keep killing and then reviving them. In comics, this is a common problem. More or less every character has been killed and revived at one point. But, I would argue, the problem is not the act of killing and reviving someone in itself, the problem is circular storytelling. I will take Supernatural as an example. Sam and Dean have both been killed multiple times by now. But at what point did those deaths actually become meaningless? I would argue that they became meaningless when there was no story left to tell with those deaths (again, what follows are major spoilers for Supernatural).

Sam dying the first time was meaningful because it lead to Dean sacrificing his soul. Dean not managing to get out of the deal was meaningful because it subverted expectations, but also lead to him spending what felt like years in hell, adding a tragic story to his character. Dean being killed multiple times by Gabriel was mostly done for fun, but also served to explore the dependence between Sam and Dean from Sam’s angle. When Dean and Sam both got shot it allowed for a great episode exploring heaven. But there was eventually a point at which those deaths didn’t happen anymore to create narrative opportunities, but for fake drama during which the audience could get the swelling music and the tears – again! It felt like “been there, done that, can we move on now?”.

A resurrection is only problematic when it becomes repetitive.

So, let’s apply this thought to the MCU and discuss Loki, the master of not-dying. Currently he is up to three deaths, the last of them seemingly permanent. Are those deaths sufficiently different? My answer is yes! The first time is a suicide attempt after he realizes that Odin doesn’t approve his actions, the second time is a deliberate trick and the third time, well, it looks like his action finally caught up to him, but he went out defending Thor. He basically got the death he pretended to have in The Dark World for real in Infinity war.

What is important regarding Loki’s various deaths is not just what we did see, but also what we didn’t see. None of the previous deaths spend a lot of time on Thor’s reaction to it, and what we saw of it played out differently each time. Or, in other words, it was a good decision to make Loki’s death quick but visceral in Infinity War, because we already had the scene of Thor holding a dying Loki in his arms in The Dark World. Doing it again would have been a repetition, hence the writer avoided it. Instead they allowed Thor some time to actually grief over all the people he has lost – finally – hence covering ground the audience hadn’t really seen beforehand.

To be frank, I don’t have a problem with any of the fake deaths in the MCU with the notable exception of the five second loss of Pepper Potts in Ironman 3. Her seemingly falling to her death didn’t really have much of an effect on the narrative, because Tony wasn’t even given enough time to grief properly about it. Nor is this traumatic event ever addressed again. It is the epitome of an utterly pointless fake death.

And that doesn’t mean that I wanted Pepper Potts to die. Nor do I think that the audience would have been pleased if she had died in this manner. The reality is that we tend to get attached to characters and hence we don’t want them to die unless it is done in a way which honours the character. That is what 90% of the discussion surrounding The Last Jedi is about. That’s why the Robin Hood fans were so angry about Marian dying. That’s why Arthur Conan Doyle resurrected Sherlock Holmes back in the day.

And don’t get me wrong here, losing a character can be a emotionally satisfying experience. Yondu is a good example of that. But I would propose that:

The ending of Infinity War works not despite but because we know deep down it isn’t permanent.

Just let’s imagine that those deaths never are reversed and next we see Shuri stepping in as Black Panther, a new Spider-Man and hey, Bucky, after everything he went through, was just snapped out of existence and Cap is giving up on him without a fight again. The audience would be p….. This would be like killing of a main character in the last episode of Enterprise or killing off Arthur the moment he realizes that Merlin has magic. Or, to put it differently, a death is usually a terrible pay-off for years of investments into a specific character or plot-line. That doesn’t mean that it can’t work (most memorable example of it is the series finale of Dinosaurs), but it needs to have a point which is bigger than just a character dying.

And this is what Avengers 4 has to deliver. In a lot of ways the ending of Infinity War is a promise for greater things to come. Avengers 4 has to be about the characters left dealing with the consequences and finding the strength for one last battle to set this right again. And, speaking of consequences:

Death is the most boring of consequences

It really is. To use some examples from the MCU: The Vulture dying after having figured out Spider-man’s true identity would have been handy, but having a villain out there who has this information but decided to not use it (yet?) because he owes Spider-Man his live is way more compelling. Bucky falling from the train is a beautiful turning point in The First Avenger, but even better is him being turned into a brain-washed Hydra Assassin who ends up attacking Steve one movie later.

The MCU is full of interesting consequences which, to be honest, enthral me often more than someone dying. What is more dramatic than the truth about Bucky’s action being revealed towards the end of Civil War? What is more heart-breaking than seeing Spider-man trapped under concrete, calling for help like the teenager he is?  Or Bucky having to take the mouth piece, bracing himself for torture? Even Marvel’s arguably best death so far works so well not because Yondu dies, but that he declares himself to be Peter’s dad with his last breath followed by a funeral scene which runs the gambit of all emotions, from anger to sadness to happiness back to sadness.

More often than not a death is a neutral feature – I doubt that many in the audience cared much when the Warrior’s Three were wiped away – and sometimes a character has to die to make room for something else – Odin dying is an example of this, he had to go so that Thor could step up to the throne. And, to be frank, if there is one death in Infinity War they won’t reverse for sure, it is Heimdal’s. Oh, I am sure the character has its fans, too, but overall he was always barely utilized played by an expensive actor. Narratively there is no direction to go in with him.

To be clear about this: I am not saying that a death, even the death of a main character, can’t be a satisfying and meaningful experience. It always depends on what the impact on the narrative is. If the audience will feel cheated, one shouldn’t do it. The death of a popular character should always provide some sort of conclusion for the audience or open up new interesting storyline to explore.

Which is why I am torn about Loki dying in Infinity War. See, I was actually looking forward to seeing the Avengers interact with a somewhat redeemed Loki. And yet I don’t think that they should bring Loki back in Avengers 4, not after Thanos practically turned to the audience to confirm that yes, this time it will be a real. Loki escaping death again after this assurance would be kind of cheating. Plus, I have to admit that the character went full circle. His last act was acknowledging both his ice giant heritage as well as his kinship to Thor, so it mostly worked as a conclusion for his storyline.

But if they bring him back a few movies down the line, maybe this time as kid Loki, I would be all for it! Again, Loki as a character is too compelling to lose him permanently. And, speaking of characters which could be resurrected eventually but not immediately, Vision could be brought back too. He is an android after all, there is a possibility that down the line there will be another version of him. And that would be completely okay, as long as said version is different from the Vision we saw before. Again, it’s the consequences which count, and the narrative opportunity.

Gamora on the other hand, well, I think the audience expects her to play an important role in Avengers 4. But will she be brought back to live at the end of it? Both options work for me (depending on the narrative built around them), though for the record, it would be a shame to permanently lose one of the few relationship between two females in the MCU. And with few I mean the only one left in the movies outside of Black Panther considering that neither Jane nor Darcy will make a reappearance anytime soon.

I guess I went a little bit off the tangent there. So, to summon this up, a death can be a narratively satisfying option, but it is by far not the only way to have stakes in a movie franchise and, imho, it is one of the least creative ways to create suspense. Characters making far reaching decisions and having to deal with the fall-out of said decisions is a way more satisfying approach.

Do I think that the MCU will kill a main character in Avengers 4? Actually, yes, I do, I don’t think that Ironman will survive the movie because his character arc has come full circle and frankly, RDJ is too expensive to stay a part of the franchise. But if Phase 3 ends with a wedding instead of a funeral, I wouldn’t be disappointed either. The only thing I need from Avengers 4 is that consequences of the Snap are felt, and that the reversal of it doesn’t involve reversing the whole of Infinity war. And, to be honest, the less characters die, the better in my book.

 

 

 

 

 


Marvel Musings: The Advantage of the MCU

I really can’t count how often I have seen articles or videos with the title “The Problem with the MCU” or read a critique which bemoaned at length how uniform the MCU movies supposedly are. It’s a notion I disagree on, but I also don’t really see the point in arguing against it. There are so many MCU movies, anyone can take a bunch of them and point to aspects which are similar in them, just like I can take The Winter Soldier and Guardians of the Galaxy in order to point out the differences. It’s a circular argument which will lead to nowhere.

I also won’t deny that building an overreaching universe comes with some drawbacks, some of which I will address later. But I also think that it comes with a number of advantages which make the project worthwhile – and unique. But let’s first clear up the terminology.

What is the definition of a Cinematic Universe?

Some people would claim that Universals Monster Universe was the first of its kind. I disagree. Despite the name, what Universal actually invented wasn’t the concept of an universe, but the movie crossover. When Frankenstein meets the Wolf Man, there has been no built-up whatsoever to the moment. It is just another in a long string of monster movies which just happens to put together two monsters from different franchises.

Which brings me to the first thing which I feel might be the most important feature in an universe: Continuity. And with continuity I don’t just mean that what happens in one movie doesn’t contradict what happens in another movie, I mean  thematic threw line as well as constant character development.

I also think that the story has to follow more than one character. There are a number of franchises out there and some of them even manage to have a proper progression from movie to movie instead of rehashing the same story again and again. But if we stick to basically the same set of characters, it is not a universe, it is one ongoing story.

But sometimes franchises do branch out. What is pretty common, especially on TV, is the Spin-off. To mention a particular long running example: Jag spawned NCIS, which in turn has two additional Spin-Offs. But that doesn’t make it one big universe because other than the occasional cross-over episode, what happens in one show doesn’t influence what happens in the other show at all. They have continuity, but only in their own realm. A Spin-off can be the first step to a universe, but it doesn’t automatically create one.

To summon this up, what a movie universe needs is:

  1. Continuity
  2. The possibility of different characters and places being the focus of a story
  3. Events in one part of the universe influencing what happens elsewhere

And if you put it this way, the list of what can be considered a universe as opposed to a franchise is pretty short. You could argue that Star Trek is one since Deep Space 9 because that was the first time a Star Trek series intertwined with its predecessors on a fairly regular basis. DC’s animated shows and movies work like one, as does the Arrow-verse on CW (mostly). And then there are the Conjuring movies which some claim to be one, but, well, I am not into horror movies at all, so I can’t really judge it. It looks to me like a construct of sequels, prequels and spin-offs, but I might be wrong and there are more connections between the various movies then it seems to be.

Anyway, usually overreaching universes tend to exist in books and not in TV or movies. This is mostly for practical reasons. An author doesn’t have to worry about the availability of actors or budgets or ratings or any of the other factors which force TV and movie writers to keep their stories within specific parameters.

Though even book authors have a preference to stick with specific characters. There are exceptions – for example CJ Cherryh’s Alliance/Union universe is way more focussed on building a world seen from different perspectives than on telling the story of a specific group of characters – but a lot of written universe grow pretty much by accident. And yes, that includes the comic book universes.

I feel that the MCU is unique in structure and scale. It didn’t just come to be, it was planed. It didn’t start on TV but as a movie franchise. And it presents a world which feels bigger more lived in than anything I have seen before. And it is doubly impressive when you consider how it started.

A little bit of history

A lot of people have gotten into the habit of seeing Marvel as the big boy in town, especially since it merged with the oh so powerful Disney company. But we only have to go ten years back to see a very different picture. Then we see a new founded studio struggling to get its first movie off the ground. On the line is nothing less than the TV and movie rights for all Marvel characters the company still owns and the production itself has to fight every step on the way. First it struggles with finding a director ready to bet his reputation on this silly Superhero property with a very limited fanbase, then the shot starts with no finished script, something which could have gone very wrong if Marvel hadn’t bet on a very talented but during that time kind of washed up actor to not fall back into his drug addiction. This is the Hollywood equivalent of doing a tightrope walk over a fire pit during a storm and yet it somehow worked out. Though I am not sure if Marvel studio could have pulled off The Avengers as well as it did without Disney’s backing.

Since we are on topic, we are also in this habit to see Disney as the giant company which towers over everything. This is again a kind of screwed perception (or at least it will be until the Disney/Fox deal is fully implemented). Disney is really good in branding itself, but of the big six, Disney is the only studio which didn’t already belong to the Hollywood giants back in the golden era. If you compare Warner Bros. with Disney, Disney is pretty much the former underdog, the small independent studio which survived in a market place controlled by monopolies and managed to grow to a point that it is able to play with the big boys. Powerful enough that they could afford the purchase of Marvel, betting on the future success of the studio and offering considerable resources to allow the talent behind the MCU to realize its vision.

But what is truly important to remember here is that by the time Marvel studios released Ironman, Warner Bros. had done a number of comic book based movies already, had thrown around the idea for a Justice League movie for years and had already built an overreaching universe with its animated output. But it was Marvel Studios which decided to try its hand in making a group of B-List heroes the big event. They came from behind and are now so far ahead that I nearly feel sorry for Warner Bros. except that I am very aware that the studio had all the resources and the time to be out of the gate first.

But why didn’t they? Well, there are a couple of factors one has to consider.

A little Hollywood history

Honestly, one can’t completely blame studio executives for not believing that an overreaching universe could work in the movies. Because I am pretty sure that only 20 years ago, it wouldn’t have worked. One has to consider the accessibility of media in the past, and the viewing habits of the audience.

When movie theatres became a thing, serials were pretty common. As were shorts. A typical Saturday evening matinee in the 1920s and 1930s looked like this: At least one Serial, a cartoon, the weekly news, and two main movies (which had a length between 30 and 50 minutes back then). And the serials had a very specific purpose: To ensure that the audience would visit the theatre at least once a week. Granted, those serials couldn’t be too intricate, because if a viewer missed out a week or two he had still to be able to follow it. Most of the times the episodes were really formulaic, but ended on some sort of cliffhanger (often literally – that’s where the word originated) so that the audience was curious to see the solution the following week. And a particular popular and successful subject for those serials were Comic book characters. That Flash Gordon is still that well known today is due to his famous serial putting giving him enough exposure that once a while a new movie or TV show tries to revive the property, and characters like Batman and Captain America made their on-screen debut in serials.

The last serial aired in 1956, but at this point the viewing habits had already changed due to the rise of TV. To clarify something: The film industry survived this change just fine. Most movie theatres didn’t. And we are still in a process of consolidation due to more and more media veering away the attention of the audience, so don’t be surprised if there are less and less theatres around. But in the movie industry a new split happened. Serials and news were now reserved for TV, while the Hollywood movies went for the big epics. The importance was (and still is) that the movie offers something the audience wants to see it on a big screen and not on TV.

For some time, due to the audience not going to the theatre regularly anymore, sequels were usually expected to make less than the predecessor. After all, you couldn’t bet on everyone who watched the first part turning up for the second part and, let’s be honest here, few people would watch a sequel to something they haven’t seen. Consequently sequels were usually a quick cash grab: Throw them out there as fast as possible and hope that they retain enough of the original audience to make some safe money from them. But they weren’t seen as viable long-term investment until, well, until the rise of home video in the 1980s.

Due to people being able to buy the movie they liked, being able to watch it whenever they wanted and not whenever it happened to turn up on TV and, above all, share it with their friends, the likelihood of people who didn’t see a successful movie in theatre discovering it through other channels and then turning up for the sequel grew. Suddenly a sequel became a viable investment which could be used to groom an audience – provided the studio caught on. Let’s be honest, most of them didn’t and to this day still throw out hastily penned sequels with no care whatsoever until the audience gets tired of them and stops turning up. But there were more and more attempts to actually put some effort into the sequel in the hope to retain the audience.

And then the internet happened.

I know it is difficult to grasp for those who grew up having access to the world by mouse click, but the speed with which information currently flows is amazing. And it has thoroughly impacted the way we experience media. Until the 1990s TV shows were still pretty much a “it doesn’t matter if you miss an episode or two” affair, but nowadays a lot of TV shows, especially those written for streaming, feature a tightly written narrative. At the same time, movies have become more of a group experience. It is no longer just about being able to say “yes, I have seen this popular movie” at the water cooler or in the school yard, now there are long online discussions about movies. And while by far not everyone participates in those discussions, they can thoroughly influence the success of a movie. Forget Rotten Tomatoes, nothing kills a movie as fast as bad buzz – or, maybe worse, no buzz at all. And only in this world, in which media is easier accessible than ever, something like the MCU could even exist.

I often read comments of people (and yes, I know I am straw-manning a little bit here, but I need to make the point) who claim that TV shows belong on TV and not in the cinema, or that the tendency of the MCU to set up the next movie in each outing is an inherently bad thing because it destroys the movie experience. Well, newsflash, there is no fixed rule for how the movie experience should look like. It used to be black and white movies with a length around 20 minutes and, if you were lucky, an orchestra to fill the silence instead of a street organ. I tend to define a movie as something which has at least the length of an hour and consider everything less a feature or a short-film, but a viewer from the early 1920s would think me crazy for expecting a movie to be longer than an hour in the first place. And yes, serial storytelling not only belongs into the theatres, it was part of them from day one. It was just absent for a very long time.

This is not saying that there isn’t a bad way to set-up the next movie and a good way of doing it. But the process of setting something up for the future is itself a neutral feature of a movie. And if someone moans that he “wants to watch a movie which isn’t about the next one for a change”, my answer is: Then watch something else. Each year there are a number of stand-alone movies which are released. Complaining about the existence of movies which are part of something bigger is like, well, like me complaining about the existence of horror movies. Just because I don’t like most of them doesn’t mean that they don’t have merit or that I have any right to make a fuss about other people enjoying them.

Granted, the current obsession Hollywood has with the notion of overreaching universes is slightly annoying. But not because so many studios consider the option, but because most of them don’t do a particular good job with it. It is just another fad. Just like it was annoying when the Disney Renaissance lead to a string of movies copying the Disney Musical Formula, when Die Hard lead to a string of movies about cops or soldiers being trapped somewhere with a bunch of terrorists, when Independence Day lead to a string of movies about catastrophes and the destruction of landmarks, when Harry Potter lead to a bunch of progressively worse Young Adult book adaptations, and every single other time a successful movie lead to Hollywood chasing the latest trend. They will eventually learn. Maybe they have already, the enthusiasm for Universes seems to have dimmed considerably. Speaking of which….

What does the MCU right?

It is really not for a lack of trying by other studios that the MCU is still the only truly successful cinematic universe out there. A big factor is time. The MCU needed four years to make the move from a string of stand-alone movies which were hinting at something bigger to a proper universe. Those studios which followed the lead either tried to do the same in one or two movies, or they are still in the growing phase of their universe. Granted, they had six years, someone could have caught up at this point. But, as I pointed out already, this isn’t as easy as it looks. After all, you not only have to make a number of movies to reach this stage in the first place, they also have to be at the very least decent movies in order to keep the audience interested. And when was the last time any studio not named Disney managed to release even three movies in a row for the same franchise without at least one of them not being up to par?

On the other hand, most universes fail with their first or second release already. Usually due to a lack of patience. As I mentioned above, laying some ground-work for the next movie in the franchise is in itself not a bad thing. It becomes a problem, though, when the focus is so much on the next instalment that the current one feels incoherent and unfinished. Marvel had a misstep or two in that regard, but in general they learned early on to take it slowly. First the movie at hand, then the tie in, often as an end-credit tease. And, just in case you didn’t notice, a lot of those teasers from Phase 1 got reconned later on because plans changed and Marvel needed some time to find its footing. But it didn’t matter because they were never part of the main movie anyway.

Also, while the movies and the TV shows are connected and set in the same universe, they all work like a mosaic picture. Meaning that you can just watch the various franchises in the MCU isolated from each other if you chose to – but once you do you immediately get the feeling that you have the rest too, just for the additional information. Still there are people out there who stick to one franchise or one TV show and happily ignore everything else. This has the advantage that everything can become a point of entry to the MCU.

But outside of the marketing advantage, why even bother? Why not simply do standalone movies?

What is the actual merit of a cinematic universe?

Well, for one, is a way more accurate depiction of comic books on the big screen than stand alone movies are. At least regarding Marvel and DC, which both feature multipel universes in their respective comics. But it also offers some rare narrative options.

Let’s start with the obvious one: The writers have to spend way less time to set things up. Every stand alone movie has to use a considerable amount of its runtime to explain the world and introduce the characters. Consequently there are always a number of characters the audience doesn’t really get to know at all because they are simply not that important for the story. But in the MCU, this isn’t really that much of an issue. The various movies tend to spend some time in reintroducing the characters, but can keep it to the basics.

Let’s examine The Avengers as example. One of the major conflicts in the movie happens between Steve and Tony, Steve standing for old fashioned heroism, Tony being a product of a more hedonistic society. The audience really doesn’t need to watch any of the other movies to understand this concept. But if it has watched them, it also knows about the friendship between Howard and Steve and the complicated relationship between Howard and Tony. If it has also watched Agent Carter on top of this, it also has a deeper understanding why Howard was the way he was, how much losing Steve hit him and why he ended up praising him so much that Tony started to resent him.

Then there are the interactions between Thor and Loki. Again, just from watching The Avengers, one can easily gather the basics: That Loki is adopted, that he thinks that his family hates him and that he is on a giant power trip due to his insecurities. But if the audience has watched Thor it also knows how deep Loki’s self-hatred runs and how much of what he does is motivated by internalized racism.

This also works in the other direction. No, a scene in a later movie can’t retroactively make a scene in an earlier movie better, but it can add another layer to it. Knowing Odin’s history with Hela makes him punishing Thor that harshly when he turned out to be too ready for war more than just an angry reaction, but a response born out of deep seated fears. A lot details regarding Thanos and Loki haven’t been revealed yet, but they are bound to play a role in the upcoming Avengers: Infinity War.

Granted, some might feel that the scene of Loki stabbing Coulson has lost its weight due to Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., but I would argue that while the shock effect might be lost knowing that he gets resurrected later on, he also becomes a more fleshed out character in the show. I for my part care more about Coulson getting stabbed now that I know him better than I did back when he was just the corky fanboy agent.

But the MCU allows more than just additional lawyers to the character. It also allows the writers to explore consequences in a way that even a TV show would struggle to do.

Again, let’s stick with the Battle of New York – which in itself is a direct consequence of Odin hiding the Tessaract on earth which was later used by Red Skull and eventually found by S.H.I.E.L.D. – and its aftermath. In Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D we learn that a couple of first responders firefighter died because they contracted an alien virus. In Spider-man: Homecoming we learn that Adrian Toomes collected a bunch of alien tech and sold it on the black market after the government regulations screwed him over. And then there are the Netflix shows which spend a lot of time on the socio economic impact. Neighbourhoods which need to get rebuild. People who are angry because their loved ones died. White collar criminals who enrich themselves during rebuilding. A general feeling of insecurity spreading through the city.

Usually when we see the action piece in a block-buster, we only see the heroic aspect of it. We never get to see the fall-out. But in the MCU, we do. And due to all those perspectives being related to the same event, it allows for a way more layered storytelling on a much bigger scale than a stand alone movie or even a TV show is able to provide.

And then there is Captain America: Civil War. A movie like this can only exist in a wider universe. Unlike most Marvel movies this one does expect from the audience to have done its homework – meaning, having at least watched all Captain America and Avengers movie up to this point, but ideally also the Ironman movies and perhaps Ant-man. Some people would see this as a weakness, but it is also a strength. Otherwise it would be utterly impossible to have a fight involving twelve characters with the audience not only knowing what the two groups are fighting for, but also why every single fighter has picked the side their are on.

But maybe even more important, by knowing the backstory of Steve and Tony and knowing how they have developed in the previous movies, there is a sweet irony in their positions. Steve once started out as someone who believed in America, its ideals and its government. He now still believes in the ideals he used to fight far, but he no longer trusts in politics. Tony used to flip the finger at anyone who would try to tell him what to do, but after having made some particularly fateful decision – one of which lead to the destruction of a whole country – he now craves any kind of structure which might prevent him from repeating his mistakes.

Exactly this backstory is what makes their arguments in Civil War so poignant. They not only understand where the other is coming from, they have been in each others position at one point and therefore recognize the underlying dangers in them. And, it bears repeating, the only reason why Civil War works so well is because it is underpinned with years of storytelling and careful character development.

But what are the downsides?

Well, some people (yes, I am strawmanning again, bear with me) would claim it shackles creativity. I don’t quite agree. I think that it pushes creativity in certain directions due to the need to follow a cohesive body of work. Again, this is neither a downside nor an advantage, it is a neutral feature. No writer works in a vacuum, and sometimes having a starting point can actually encourage creativity and yield interesting ideas. Most writers like to bounce ideas off another. But some of them also really like to keep a certain degree of control over what they create.

So, I wouldn’t say that there are downsides to it, but a number of challenges. And sometimes the seams are quite visible. Take the Thor franchise. The first movie ended with Thor being cut-off from earth. But he was needed in The Avengers, so an excuse was made up why this was possible. And then the second movie has an overly clumsy explanation why Thor didn’t bother to even visit Jane between movies. And then this movie sets up yet another cliff-hanger with Loki having replaced Odin, only for this plot point being solved as fast as possible in the third film because obviously Taiko Waititi was more interested in doing Planet Hulk than delving into the set-up at hand. But at least he didn’t turn another movie into a giant plot-hole the way Shane Black did with Ironman 3.

So yes, the MCU isn’t perfect. And, as a general rule, I think the Marvel should really try to keep one franchise within in the hands of the same people as much as possible. One reason why the Captain America franchise works so well is because it has the same writing team from start to finish. Guardians of the Galaxy takes full advantage of the freedom a property set in space has, but it is also safe in the hands of James Gunn. I also have a good feeling about the future of Ant-man, which seems to become palette cleanser for the MCU, following the big block buster with a smaller scale – no pun intended – adventure.

So, to summon this up: While the MCU comes with certain challenges, it also provides a foundation on which new stories can be build. It allows the creation of a long-lasting narrative like a TV show does, but unlike a TV show it is not bound to work within specific parameters. The writers and directors can change genre at will, can go from a big story to a small story and they can explore the same event from as many perspectives at they want. And that makes the MCU an unique breeding ground for stories which simply can’t be told this way in a stand alone movie. At least until someone else managed to built a similar construct.

 

 

 

 


Marvel Musings: Darren Cross

People who paid attention might have noticed that I skipped Ultron, even though he should be dead and is not a Hydra villain. The reason for this decision is that I am not quite sure if the Ultron arc is truly finished yet. Oh, he himself is, but I have a theory or two about the sceptre and how it influenced Ultron which may or may not be addressed in Infinity War. Plus, I would prefer to discuss Ultron back to back with a certain other AI in the MCU, which in turn I would prefer to cover after Hydra so, yeah, we will get back to him later. I know, I am disappointed too. I would rather take him apart than Yellowjacket. But then, I might be too harsh on him. Let’s see how well he scores.

MV7-Yellow-Jacket

 

1. Character Establishing Moment

How well is the villain established in his first scene?

The first time Darren Cross turns up is basically a giant exposition dump – but a really entertaining one. The undertones in his interaction with Hank Pym as well as his overall demeanour do establish him as a serious threat from the get go. Let’s appreciate for a moment what the audience learns in a comparative short scene: That Darren Cross has taken over Hank Pym’s company, that he used to be his protégée but turned against him, partly for lying about the existence of an Ant-man suit, that he managed to revive those old plans and create his own model and that him selling said suit would be a terrible thing for the world. Add to this small touches, like the name of company on the model having changed to “Cross” instead of “Pym”, and there is little to complain about regarding the scene. It is not the most memorable first entrance, but certainly an effective one. 4 Points.

 

2. Motivation

What is his motivation and how creative is it?

Daddy issues are a very common motivation in comic book stories and the MCU in general. Mentor issues are a little bit more rare, but in a way, there isn’t much of a difference, except that in the case of mentor issues, the person in question choose to look up to a specific person. Why did Darren Cross look up to Hank Pym? Because he always thought that the stories about the Ant-man were true? Or did he admire his other inventions? Maybe those questions aren’t that important, though. Still, answering them would add layers to his character. Instead his motivation is used to add complexity to Hank’s character. The notion that he shut out his mentee because he felt that he was too similar to Hank himself is fascinating. It tells us a lot about how Hank sees himself and hints at darker aspects within his personality. But Darren Cross is loosing out in this set up, so I go for 2 points.

 

3. Plan

What is his goal and does his way of reaching it make any sense?

The surface goal is to sell the Yellowjacket and make a lot of money in the process. The actual goal is to hurt Hank Pym by claiming everything which is important to him – his company, his technology and maybe even his daughter. This is why he invents Hank Pym to bear witness to his success, so that he can gloat and see his hurt. And in this context it even makes sense why he wants to sell the shrinking suit and not the laser pistol which turns people into goo. That wouldn’t be akin to claiming Hank’s legacy. What doesn’t make sense, though, is that he goes to Hank’s house to kill him shortly before the launch. Why? There is no reason for him to do this. Nor is there any reason to attack Cassie towards the end. Yes, the movie has hinted that wearing the suit would turn him crazy, but he is wearing it for the very first time. Scott has worn his for weeks and it totally fine. There is even a hint earlier in the movie that the suit is already driving him crazy, but how exactly is that supposed to work? Unless the experiments to built it already had an effect, but why is nobody else loosing his mind? All this is so muddled, I can’t give more than 2 points.

 

4. Success Rate

How successful is the villain overall? 

I guess he gets one brownie point for initially taking over Pym Tech and for capturing Scott briefly. But overall he is mostly successful in driving himself crazy. At the end of the movie he not only didn’t reach any of his goals, he inadvertently created a situation in which Hank is able to bond with his daughter again, which is pretty much the opposite of what he wanted. I give him 2 points.

 

5. Threat Level

How dangerous is the villain in general and to the hero in particular? 

Everything in Ant-man is a little bit smaller scaled (no pun intended) than usual. The danger the heroes have to deal with nevertheless nothing to underestimate. But it is also kind of abstract. I admit, I have a hard time to imagine how a world full of tiny spies would look like. On a more personal level, he feels very threatening though, and he seems to have all the power he needs to realize his plan. And once he goes crazy, he is certainly a threat towards Cassie. So I go for the middle ground with 3 points.

 

6. Foil Factor

How well does the villain figure into the story the movie is trying to tell?

Oh boy, this is hard to answer. The thing is that Ant-man feels as if two different visions are fighting with each other. I think that the movie was originally supposed to be about mentor relationships, and in this movie, Darren Cross would have been a great foil for Scott. But later on the themes shifted to father/daughter relationships. Which still works out great for Scott because this way his relationship to Cassie becomes pivotal, and naturally it leads to Hope becoming more important. But it also leaves Darren Cross kind of disconnected to the larger themes, and he is never even properly contrasted with Scott either. Usually when a Superhero defeats an evil version of themselves, they also symbolically defeat a negative or potentially dangerous aspect of their own personality. But there is nothing of Scott in Darren. Scott’s main problem is acting impulsive and blaming his failures on others. Darren is overly controlled and has obsessed for years over a particular invention instead of giving up on it. I wish I could be more gracious, but 1 point.

 

7. Acting

How well does the actor sell the role?

No complains there. He is menacing when he is supposed to be, generally creepy and finally believably unhinged. It’s not a performance for the ages, but a solid 4 points.

 

8.  Costume

Does the Costume fit the character and does it stand out in general?

It is pretty much impossible to not stand out in a yellow metal suit inspired by an insect. And I have to give Marvel a lot of props to make the suit look genuinely menacing instead of patently ridiculous. Even the extra-appendages look like they have some sort of purpose. On the other hand, though, it is not the kind of costume I would point to and say “yeah, that was a truly great one” either. So, I guess 4 points. Well done, but not outstanding.

 

9.  Entertainment Factor

How strong is the emotional response?

I am kind of neutral regarding him. In the scenes in which he is supposed to be creepy he does make me nervous, but in a very distant way. Him killing the sheep tickles my ire, but it also feels extremely manipulative. But it is not like he is boring me either, so I think 3 points are fair.

 

10. Memorable Moments

How many memorable scenes and lines has the character?

It is weird. On the one hand, I can’t think of a single memorable line Darren Cross utters. And yet, him turning some guy into yellow or experimenting on a cute sheep are hard to forget. And then there is the battle in the suitcase, him being trapped in the insect lamp and the gruesome way he (I assume) dies. Meaning he isn’t quite forgettable, but what is memorable about him is more the weird situations in which they put the character than necessarily his design or dialogue. I’ll go for the middle ground on this one. 3 Points.


With 2,8 points Yellowjacket scores higher than I expected. A lot here is rescued by the performance of the actor and a few memorable scenes and set-ups. Overall though the character suffers because the story the movie is focussing on has little to do with him.


Marvel Musings: Ego

I hope I didn’t spoil anything for anyone. But then, if you are interested in Marvel, you should have seen Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2 at this point. And yes, I realize that I skipped a few movies, but for one this one belongs in the timeline directly after the first Guardians and two, I feel that it would be better to contrast this one directly with its predecessor. After all, one of the reasons I cut Ronan some slack is because the need to establish multiple heroes as well as doing a lot of world building is inherently more important than having a complex villain. But how does the franchise fare once the basics are established?

MV8-Ego

1. Character Establishing Moment

How well is the villain established in his first scene?

Ego is a supposed to be a surprise villain. As such, the rules for establishing him are a little bit different in that ideally he shouldn’t come off as particularly evil or threatening. Now, was I surprised that he turned out to be the big bad of the piece? No, not really. But there are a lot of things which did surprise me, above all how callous he was regarding Meredith and Peter. I really bought into the notion that the love between him and Meredith was mutual, and while I did expect him to have ulterior motives regarding Peter, I also thought that he saw a little bit more in him that just some human battery. So I would say, mission accomplished. They fooled me just enough that there was a shocking reveal in the end. 5 points for this one.

 

2. Motivation

What is his motivation and how creative is it?

Ego’s motivation is basically “ego”. His whole being is so centred around himself and his own needs that he simply doesn’t care who gets hurt in the process. If he were human we would call him an egomaniac or a narcissist. And since he has the power to do so, that means that he wants everything in the universe going his way – as soon as he has gotten rid of all the vermin crawling around on it. It is a logical motivation for a powerful being, but also a little bit run of the mill. So I’ll settle for 3 points.

 

3. Plan

What is his goal and does his way of reaching it make any sense?

He wants to reshape the universe but because he hasn’t enough power to do it on his own, he has spread his seed all over the galaxy in the hope that one of his offspring might share his power. Simultaneously he has left plants on all planet he has visit, so that he can activate them whenever he wants. So far, so good, his plan is easy to follow. I call fool though on the idea that someone is able to plant a particularly alien looking flower close to a populated area and it doesn’t get discovered in over 30 years – and on some planets those weird alien flowers have to have been around for even longer. I think I have to ding a point for this, and give him 4 points.

 

4. Success Rate

How successful is the villain overall? 

He is operating in secret for who knows how long and comes really close to actually reaching his goal. But naturally he doesn’t win in the end and if you consider that he could have gotten to Peter way earlier when Peter was still vulnerable if he had just fetched him himself or at least bothered to do his research when Yondu didn’t deliver Peter, you just have to dock a point from him. So, 4 points.

 

5. Threat Level

How dangerous is the villain in general and to the hero in particular? 

Ego is even more dangerous as Ronan. Being a celestial he is way, way more powerful than any of the heroes. If he hadn’t been so focussed on Peter during the fight, or if Mantis hadn’t decided to side with the Guardians of the Galaxy (and even she was only able to stall him, not to stop him), he could have easily crushed all of them. 5 points

 

6. Foil Factor

How well does the villain figure into the story the movie is trying to tell?

Guardians of the Galaxy is a very theme driven movie. It mostly examines toxic family dynamics, but also how we ourselves can destroy the relationships in our lives if our decisions are driven by, well, ego. Especially in the interaction between Peter and Rocket this theme takes centre stage, and it is very fitting that the Guardians of the Galaxy have to overcome “Ego” in their second movie in order to become the kind of unit they should be.  At the same time, though, Ego is the logical continuation from the first movie. Him being around answers the questions about Peter’s heritage and in a lot of way concludes the second step in Peter’s journey to come to terms with the trauma of his past. For a villain which works both in a narrative and a thematic sense I can’t give less than 5 points.

 

7. Acting

How well does the actor sell the role?

This is a hard one. I am tempted to give Kurt Russell full points for this one, because he is playing a great character and it is not easy to make a character that disgusting charismatic. And yet I do feel that he could be a little bit more intimidating towards the end. He is great playing the typical Kurt Russell character, not so much playing the crazy the maniac. So I’ll go for 4 points.

 

8.  Costume

Does the costume fit the character and does it stand out in general?

I am using costume here in the widest sense, because technically the kind of “cool medieval chick” the human version of Ego is wearing is only a fraction of his actual costume. Considering that Ego’s actual form is the planet, I am taking his celestial/planet form into account. And that one is really impressive. Not only is the CGI practically flawless, the world itself has so many memorable elements, from the flying rainbow bubbles to the structure of the building with the fountain in front of it. Considering that they even throw in a shot in which the whole planet seems to have a face, I can’t give this one less than 5 points.

 

9.  Entertainment Factor

How strong is the emotional response?

I can say without any exaggeration that I have never ever hated a villain has much as Ego. And I don’t mean “hate” in the sense that I wanted something else in place of him, I mean it in the sense that I had the deep desire to jump into the movie screen and punch him into the ground. I am not sure what is worse, him callously admitting that he killed Meredith as if it is no big deal, or him destroying the Walkman, the last connection Peter had to his mother. And yet, there is still something fun and entertaining about Ego. There really shouldn’t be, considering that he is a sociopath hell bend on destroying the universe,  but he does have this rare magnificent bastard charm. 5 points.

10. Memorable Moments

How many memorable scenes and lines has the character?

As I already pointed out last time, Guardians of the Galaxy is a franchise full of memorable characters and moments. But Ego gets his fair share of them. From surfing through the air in an egg-shaped spaceship, to his interactions with Peter, there is little he does which isn’t memorable. Even all the exposition he is delivering is packaged in a memorable way. And then there are naturally his various transformations during the end fight. Plus, he is a living planet. How can I give him less than 5 points?


Ego is such a great villain, a 4,5 points average sounds like it is a little bit low. But it truly isn’t, not in my point system. It will be hard for any villain to beat this score.


Disney and Fox: What’s the Deal? Part 1

Honestly, when I did my little article about the possibility of a deal between Disney and Fox, I didn’t quite expect that we would get definitive news that fast. What I said back then still stands, though, in that it will take some time before the deal comes in full effect. Still, time to discuss what Disney has actually bought. But not in one article, that would be a way too long read. So I will start with movies today, then go into Live Action TV, then into TV animation and finally into everything else in later articles.

Keep in mind though that I am not an expert in this sort of thing. I did basic research, but I can hardly fly to the US in order to look up the relevant sources personally. I need to trust into what is available on the internet. I am basically just laying out information for you other people have researched, and there might be mistakes in my assessment of them. Also, a lot of what I’ll write is pure speculation. There is no way to predict exactly what Disney will do, just some movements which would make more sense than others.

This in mind, what are we actually talking about when it comes to the movies side of things? Well, 20th Century Fox naturally, but not just that. There are also sister companies and subsidiaries. Though some of them are more important than others, and not all of them equal Disney getting their hands on a bunch of properties.


Let’s put three of them aside for the moment: 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment is simply the home video distribution arm of 20th Century Fox studio, meaning they are not in the business of creating content themselves. Honestly, their whole business will most likely be simply folded into the Disney company. One home video distribution company is enough.  So, if you are wondering if this merger will lead to job losses, this is where most of them will most likely happening. It is mostly the distribution companies which will be hit hard by this.

A second subsidiary I don’t plan to discuss in detail is Fox Studios Australia.  This studio has been involved in a number of movie productions, but that tended to be productions by other companies. Ie the studio worked on the Lego movies, but those are naturally property of Warner Bros. They were also involved in Mad Max Fury Road, but again, not their property. How much what they do translates in revenue and if Disney is interested in keeping them going, I can’t tell. I would need to see the books to make a definitive judgement about it. But considering how much of a hassle it was to lease the former Sydney Showground for the studio, as well as the sheer size of it, my money is on Disney continuing to use the studio one way or another.

And finally there is Fox Star Studios, which actually does produce a lot of content, but for the Indian market. I will get to it when I discuss the acquisition of Star India in a later article. In terms of Hollywood movies, this studio is irrelevant.


That leaves Fox Searchlight Pictures, 20th Century Fox Animation and Blue Sky Studios. Meaning the “Oscar bait” and the animation branch of the company.

Let’s be honest here: The whole animation branch is nothing Disney cares about. When it comes to animation they are way ahead of Fox. I am not even sure how to categorize 20th Century Fox Animation, considering that it has only two movies on its name, Anastasia (1997) and Titan A.E (2000), both being Don Bluth movies. As far as I can tell the studio isn’t defunct though, so I assume that it does some sort of animation for Fox. They apparently work with Blue Sky on the regular basis.

And Blue Sky – honestly, this studio might be the biggest question mark in that merger, and of all the production companies it might be in most danger to get shut down. But I have somehow the feeling that Disney will try to resell it instead. Animation has become a huge market – some of the biggest grossing movies in the last years were animated – and while Blue Sky doesn’t have the pedigree Pixar or even DreamWorks has, it has a recognizable mascot in Scrat, and in Ice Age a worldwide successful franchise. Yes, I know, most people feel that this franchise has really overstayed its welcome, and I would agree (hell, I was over it when the first sequel hit the theatres), but studio executives tend to look at the bottom line, and the bottom line is that this franchise made a ton of money, with two instalments easily passing the 850 million mark worldwide. In addition, Blue Sky just managed to produce its first academy award nominated movie with “The Peanuts”.

This in mind both Paramount and Sony might be interesting in purchasing Blue Sky. Paramount because it is the only major studio which doesn’t have its own animation department. Though they used to distribute for DreamWorks and still own the rights to – you know, what, let’s not go into the complicated history of DreamWorks distribution and ownership. Let’s just say that nearly every major studio distributed at one point for DreamWorks and leave it with that. Currently the company is owned by Comcast which also happens to own Universal and Illumination, and whatever rights Paramount has, they are hardly replacing the ownership over an established Animation Studio. If they can afford it and/or plan to branch out in this direction.

Sony naturally already owns an animation studio, but one with a terrible reputation which last year managed the seemingly impossible to get even more tarnished by the Emoji movie. Just like Comcast owns both DreamWorks and Illumination and Disney owns both Pixar and the Disney Animation studios, Sony might have room for an additional studio. Thinking about it, Warner Bros might too. After all their CGI movies are currently still co-productions involving multiple companies. Hell, even Netflix might be interested. They want to produce their own content after all. I just doubt that they have currently access to this kind of money.

But let’s assume that Disney sells Blue Sky with all its IPs (to sweeten the deal). That would leave Anastasia and Titan A.E. with Disney. And no, that doesn’t mean that Anastasia is now a Disney princess. Technically not even Anna or Moana are Disney princesses yet, because there was no coronation ceremony for them. I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if Disney just buries both properties.


Which means we are now getting to the part Disney was actually interested in, the big movie properties. Let’s discuss Fox Searchlight first though.

A lot of people seem to work under the assumption that Fox searchlight is a production company. That isn’t quite correct. It is a distributer specialised in independent and foreign film productions, with a focus on dramedy, horror and especially art-house movies. But it is the kind of distributor which is also often involved in the financing of said movies.

Currently it releases ten movies every year and the track record is frankly impressive. Part of the catalogue are three best picture winners (Slumdog Millionaire, 12 Years a Slave and Birdman), as well as eleven movies which got nominated (The Full Monty, Sideways, Little Miss Sunshine, Black Swan, 127 Hours, The Tree of Life, The Descendants, Beast of the Southern Wild, The Grand Budapest Hotel and Brooklyn). In 2017 it released A United Kingdom, Table 19, Wilson, Gifted, My Cousin Rachel, STEP, Patti Cake$, Battle of the Sexes, Goodbye Christopher Robin, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri and The Shape of Water. I am not in the business of predicting the award season, but as far as I can tell, there is some buzz around the last two movies.

And this track record is the reason that even though Fox Searchlight is mainly a distribution company, I do think that Disney will not only keep it running, but capitalize on its ability to pick projects which resonate with the critics. Disney has its share of academy awards (in fact, Walt Disney alone won 26, more than anyone else in history), but only four best picture nominations (Mary Poppins, Beauty and Beast, Up and Toy Story 3) and not one single win. Being the only animation studio which ever got nominated in this category at all is a huge deal, but if Disney wants to appeal to the film fan demographic with its streaming service, it needs to drop a share of academy award nominees and winners on a regular basis. Fox turns up on the nomination list nearly every year, often with multiple productions, and in the last ten years it was especially Fox Searchlight which provided the Oscar bait. Disney would be a fool not to capitalize on this.

In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if Disney mostly keeps the company as it is, except for the marketing. If there is something Disney does really, really well, it is convincing their audience that their name (or Pixar or Marvel) stands for a particular kind of movie in a specific quality. Rebrand the whole business as “Searchlight” or even “Disney Searchlight”, and market it as THE studio/distributor of sophisticated movies, and they might be able to get the target group into the habit of at least checking out a movie released under the “Searchlight”  label, the same way animation fans automatically check out Disney and Pixar movies and Comic book fans won’t ever miss out on a Marvel Studios movie. Simultaneously to letting “Searchlight” be on the look-out for worthwhile productions and perhaps giving it a bigger budget to finance more or the projects they are interested in themselves, they could release all Fox studios productions which seem academy award worthy under this label.

If they do manage to establish “Searchlight” as a brand, they would have the additional advantage of being able to release Oscar bait movie the whole year. Currently most movies of this kind are released close to award season, because the studios expect to make more money if the movie gets award buzz. This results in a shortage of more serious-minded movies for the majority of the year. If Disney manages to convince the audience that a critically acclaimed “Searchlight” movie is a Oscar contender by default, they could start to release those movies whenever they want and, at least regarding this particular demographic, without any direct competition.

Granted, the downside of those more high-minded movies is that they are rarely franchise fodder. Fox has a long library of critically acclaimed movies, many of them seen as true movie classics. They are great to bolster up the library of your streaming service, but they will hardly be enough of an incentive to get people to subscribe in the first place. For that you need the big money makers, the movies everyone wants to see.


Fox has its share of blockbuster movies. Ignoring DreamWorks releases, Star Wars and their more successful Marvel movies, the highest grossing movies include Avatar, Titanic, Independence Day, The Martian, Life of Pie, Night at the Museum, The Day After Tomorrow, The Revenant,  Home Alone, Castaway and Mrs. Doubtfire. Notable Franchises include Alien, Predator, Die Hard, Planet of the Apes, The Omen Film Series and The Kingsman movies. The latter is interesting because Kingsman is a release of Icon Comics, an imprint of Marvel for creator owned work.  But then, I don’t think that there will be another sequel anyway. The last one already made considerable less than the first movie.

Which is something to keep in mind. A few of those Franchises aren’t exactly posed to make profit through additional instalments in the future. Die Hard, Alien and Predator are all pretty much on their last leg, and I am not sure how much the audience is still interested in Planet of the Apes after the last movie underperformed. Home Alone and its sequel will always be holyday classics, but the later instalments better stay forgotten. The Omen series seems to be pretty much dead already, while the remake was a modest success, there was no follow up and the TV show Fox launched based on the franchise was cancelled after one season. Independence Day thoroughly botched its attempt at becoming a franchise with the sequel.

That doesn’t mean that Disney won’t find a way to squeeze money of those franchises down the line, maybe through a remake or by exploring a new angle, but currently the only ones of those properties which look like they could produce a string of blockbusters down the line are Avatar and the Marvel IPs. And I am not even sure about Avatar. Maybe I shouldn’t doubt James Cameron after topping the highest grossing movie of all time list twice, but I am not quite sure if the interest in Avatar is really that big anymore. Avatar is the kind of movie people saw for the spectacle, not for the characters or even overall quality. But then, that is exactly what Jurassic World was about, too, the spectacle. If Cameron can dib into the concept again, Avatar could become a huge deal. And, to be honest, I believe that Avatar has a bigger chance of impressing the audience if Cameron has the experts at Disney to back him up. Which they will, they didn’t invest in theme park rights for Avatar to see the franchise fail.

But then, how many blockbusters can Disney actually release each year? Currently they do two, rarely three animated movies (ideally one Pixar and one from the animation studio, but the schedule got kind of messed up by the delay of The Good Dinosaur and Zootopia), one live action remake, one Star War movie and the schedule for Marvel is currently up to three movies a year (counting the Sony releases in the MCU). There is the possibility that they step it up to four Marvel movies each year and I guess they will squeeze in Avatar for the years in which they don’t have a live action remake scheduled. Meaning we end up with at least eight nearly sure money makers each year.

Is there still room for other blockbusters? Sure there is. The good thing about those truly big franchises, at least from a scheduling point of view, is that they tend to make most of their money within the first two weeks. Plus, those animated movies aren’t quite addressing the same demographic. Nor does the majority of Fox other productions. This is exactly why Disney bought the company in the first place, to cover the kind of movies they aren’t known for already.


Which includes r-rated material. To be very clear about this, even though it ended badly in the case of Miramax, Disney has dabbled in r-rated material before. Even in some X-rated stuff. And they could easily continue to do so and just release it under some brand name which allows Disney to stay invisible. But I don’t think that this is in Disney’s interest. They want everyone to know that they are the master of all possible movie genres, not just of family entertainment. And while the so called “edgy” approach of Miramax (as well as some other aspects of the company) were a bad fit for Disney, Fox’s kind of risk taking is more up the alley of what Disney has tested out with Touchstone.

Thus said, a lot depends on if the deal includes the Fox name. If Disney purchased the studio including name, fanfare and everything else, and it will be the Fox TV channels which will change their name eventually, Disney will most likely just allow Fox Studios to continue on its path with a few adjustments to improve revenue. Honestly, after all the scandals in the last year which resulted in Fox news getting hit hard in advertising revenue, they might want a fresh start anyway, and 20th Century Fox is certainly more worth with the tradition-laden name, even if the association to Rupert Murdoch has tarnished it. Otherwise though, Disney will have to rebrand in a way which clarifies “this is our level of quality but in a different style than you are used to”. Maybe by reviving the Touchstone brand, maybe by coming up with something new.


To summon up what I said so far: I think that once the deal has gone through properly, Disney will do some serious rebranding. In the end, the movie division of Disney will look like this:

  1. The Disney Animation Studios and Disney Pixar will cover family friendly animation, with Pixar continuing to create originals and franchises based on said originals, while Disney Animation focusses on loose adaptations and the Disney Princess Franchise, with an occasional original along the line of Zootopia or Wreck-it Ralph thrown in. I hope though that with Disney Animation sequels will become the exception, not the rule.
  2. Walt Disney Pictures for family friendly entertainment. That covers the live action remakes, the Park Ride based movies and the occasional children’s book adaptation.
  3. Lucasfilm for Star Wars. And maybe Indiana Jones. Let’s be honest here, outside of those two franchises Lucasfilm is responsible for maybe a dozen movies, and it doesn’t look like they intend to do anything original anytime soon. It is worth to keep it as a separate entity, not just because of Star Wars but also because of the technical expertise assembled at Lucasfilm
  4. Marvel Studios for Comic book movies. Maybe even comic book movies in general, but I’ll address the future of Marvel in another article once we know a little bit more about their plans.
  5. Searchlight for Oscar Bait.
  6. Fox studios as a big umbrella for everything else, from more adult themed movies to some more experimental stuff.
  7. Maybe – just maybe – they will also take Fox’s various horror franchises and built a brand around them. Recently horror movies have proofed to be low-risk money makers, so it might be worth to establish a horror brand or franchise. Maybe something along the line of what Paramount is currently doing with the Cloverfield movies, doing movies under a familiar label without them necessarily having to connect too tightly with each other aside from a familiar theme.

The Bottom line here is: I don’t think that 20th Century Fox has much to worry about when it comes to the production division of the company. Disney didn’t buy the movie studio to shut it down, but because it was honestly interested in the kind of content it produces, the kind of content which is a perfect addition to what Disney is already doing. There might be a little bit reshuffling and renaming in the future, but at the end of the day, Disney isn’t in the habit of meddling in a working concept. With one exception: Disney will most likely put the Marvel rights under the control of Marvel Studios. This means that 20th Century Fox will loose some of their most reliable franchises. But this might actually a win for the audience in the end, because (even if Comic book movie fans don’t like to hear it) it will ensure that the Comic book movie market doesn’t end too oversaturated each year, and it will push Fox to look for other alternatives instead of focussing on a Gambit movie next to nobody cares about or a Fantastic 4 movie nobody wants to see outside of the MCU.

There is also the possibility that Disney will release the Avatar Franchise under the proper Disney name. After all, there will be a park ride based on it and Disney has earned a reputation of providing great blockbusters in a way Fox does not. Fox on the other hand has a reputation of providing great low to middle budget movies, making it the perfect match for Disney.

 

 

 

 

 

 


Marvel Musings: Ronan the Accuser

Theoretically Ronan is a henchmen for Thanos in GotG, but since the story is about his goals and plans while Thanos just sits around in the background, he is the actual main villain of the piece. Plus, it would make no sense to discuss Thanos before even watching Infinity war. So, let’s focus on Ronan for now.

MV5-Ronan

 

 

 

1. Character Establishing Moment

How well is the villain established in his first scene?

Ronan’s introduction scene is a work of beauty. I just dig the dramatic set-up of him emerging from his ritual bath, being prepared by his aids in an elaborate ceremony. The monologue is a little bit much, but then, it is a good way to summon up his point as view for the audience immediately. And it is immediately punctuated with Ronan acting on his fanaticism by killing a prisoner – and letting his blood flood into his ritual bath. I think a lot of people just miss the implication that Ronan is literally bathing in the blood of his enemy to use it as foundation for his ritual makeup.  Trust Disney to get crap past the radar! Pointwise I am between 4 and 5, but since I only give 5 for perfection and the monologue is a little bit over the top, I’ll go for 4 point.

 

2. Motivation

What is his motivation and how creative is it?

Ronan is basically a fanatic terrorist, driven by the desire for revenge but also pure hatred for another culture. For a villain who is operating somewhere in space his motivations really hit close to home. Which makes judging the creativity aspect a little bit complicated. On the one hand, there is no denying that fanatic terrorists are dime to dozen as possible villains. On the other hand, they usually don’t turn up in space operas. The standard space villain is usually interested in power and conquering the galaxy, having a space terrorist is in a lot of ways a new approach. Which is why I settle for the middle ground with 3 points.

 

3. Plan

What is his goal and does his way of reaching it make any sense?

Ronan wants to destroy Xandar with the help of the power stone. It doesn’t get more straightforward than this. 5 points.

 

4. Success Rate

How successful is the villain overall? 

Let’s see, he kills the enemy, he manages to initially defeat the Guardians and take the stone from it, he does great damage to Xandar, destroying its whole fleet in the process and comes very, very close to destroying the whole planet. He looses a point though for allowing Gamora to manipulate him into sending her after the stone and then loosing the trail. He really needs better minions. Without Drax’s drunk call, he might have never caught up with them. So I settle for 4 points.

 

 

5. Threat Level

How dangerous is the villain in general and to the hero in particular? 

Despite Thanos calling Ronan a “pouty child”, there is not one point in the movie in which I don’t believe fully that Ronan isn’t just extremely dangerous, but also way more powerful than our group of heroes. Mostly because Ronan doesn’t even really care what the Guardians are up to. They don’t survive the first encounter with him because they outsmart Ronan, but because they are too insignificant in his mind to make sure that they – or at least Drax – are dead. When the finale battle starts, I don’t doubt for a second that they are going up against a nearly undefeatable opponent, and that the only reason they do it is because they have no choice if they don’t want to run away from Ronan wrecking havoc on the Galaxy for the rest of their lives. On pure power-level alone, Ronan is freaking terrifying, even before he has the stone. He swats Drax away as if he is a fly. And let’s not forget that he kills Groot as well as the whole Nova Corps fleet. 5 points.

 

6. Foil Factor

How well does the villain figure into the story the movie is trying to tell?

Thematically, not at all. The overreaching theme with the Guardians is that they are all people who were ripped out of their normal live by circumstances out of their control (or in Rocket’s case, never had a normal live to begin with). They are people who live at the fringe of society not necessarily by choice but because that was the hand which was dealt to them, but who have also stopped caring a long time ago. Ronan only exists to provide an opportunity for them to “give a shit” for once and do something more than survive, though one might see him as a darker version of Drax’s desire for revenge. But honestly, it is kind of refreshing to have a villain who is not a reflection of the hero and who has totally different abilities. Also, I am kind of okay with the villain not really being the focus of the story. There is only one thing a villain really has to be and that is a believable threat. Which, as we just established, Ronan actually is. So while I doesn’t necessarily add to the story on a thematic level, he fulfils his role within it perfectly. 4 Points.

 

7. Acting

How well does the actor sell the role?

I know that a lot of people will disagree, but I dig this performance. It is naturally totally over the top, but exactly that makes it perfect for that particular setting. I especially love how serious Ronan takes himself while he prances around like a diva. This could easily look ridiculous, especially when an actor doesn’t really commit to the role or doesn’t take it serious enough. Here we have the perfect balance between hamming it up and still respecting the character itself. The result isn’t a performance for the ages, but I have trouble to imagine anyone else in this role. 4 Points.

 

8.  Costume

Does the Costume fit the character and does it stand out in general?

It’s a great costume. As I mentioned beforehand, I especially dig the ritual make up. The idea that Ronan permanently walks around coated in the blood of his victims is disgustingly awesome. And the costume which goes with it is appropriately dramatic. The only issue I have with it is the colour. Yes, I know, black always looks menacing, but it is also a little bit the easy way out and it kind of results in Ronan looking like a Darth Vader copy. A little bit dark green or blue would have done some good here. Still, the result is memorable enough, so 4 Points.

 

9.  Entertainment Factor

How strong is the emotional response?

Outside of the fear factor, not particularly strong. This is, I guess, the biggest weakness of Ronan as a villain. His status as a terrorist is kind of academic since he commits his most heinous acts off screen. Him killing Groot certainly causes an emotional response, but since this isn’t really a direct act and more something which happens as a result of his actions, this emotional response isn’t as connected to him as it should. On the other hand, I was kind of disappointed when he died because his overdramatic demeanour was kind of fun to see. I guess I go with the middle ground, 3 Points.

 

10. Memorable Moments

How many memorable scenes and lines has the character?

Well, there is the ritual bath scene, then the one in which he breaks with Thanos and finally the ending. His face when Peter starts to dance is just hilarious. In a movie full off strong characters is a little bit overshadowed at times, though. Plus, Peter, Rocket and Drax are hogging the best one-liners. But I think I can give him a solid 4 Points.


And this results in a 4 Star rating….and yes, I know that a lot of people will disagree with me on this one. Not everyone enjoys the more hammy villains, and his role is very understated in favour of fleshing out the heroes of the piece. But I think this was the right decision for this particular movie. And I think that is what counts in the end.