Ready Player One – A Commentary On The Path of Modern Gaming

This past weekend along with the purchase of my Infinity War tickets, I bought tickets for a Friday night showing of Ready Player One. I had seen trailers of the movie for several months and just the premise of the film (the adventure of finding the coveted Easter Eggs) put it on my ‘to see list’. Prior to heading to the theater I checked the ratings on Rotten Tomatoes (just like everyone) and was pleased to see the 74% critic rating and the 80% audience rating. I briefly perused some of the negative critic reviews listed and noted they all said the same thing, “It’s a CGI slugfest with no plot”. What? You don’t go to a movie like Ready Player One expecting the intricacy of Inception or the character development of the Godfather series, you go to see CG characters duking it out in a video game style death match! I didn’t let these few negative reviews, that likened it to the recent Pacific Rim: Uprising for it gratuitous CGI usage and minimal plot, discolour my anticipation for the movie. I can honestly say, that while there are obvious plot holes and plot armour for some parts, it is a fun and exciting movie to kick back and watch with some popcorn.

One thing I did notice as I was watching it was that, as a gamer myself, the world of the Oasis is becoming an ever increasing possibility. Let me explain…

SOCIAL SPACES

It’s no secret that the majority of Ready Player One takes place in a virtual game called The Oasis. This game is the main setting for all of the events that really move the plot forward. It’s explained as a massive social space with various worlds that each tailor to different experiences. As they explain in the movie, the PvP area (Player vs. Player arena) is called Planet Doom, while there is a casino world, a racing world, a virtual vacation world and even a world where you can climb Mount Everest with Batman. This concept of social paces is nothing new to gaming. If you look at any online multiplayer game they all have a social space where you can interact with other players before venturing into the game world. Destiny has the Tower, Call of Duty WWII has the camp, and The Division has the HQ. Each of these spaces allow you to interact with other players by inviting them to join a party or challenging them to 1v1 matches.  In addition to social spaces, each game with an online multiplayer component also has a lobby that allows you to speak to other players either on your team for that match, or against you for that match.

Destiny Tower

In Ready Player One, the entire Oasis is in itself a social space. While there are certain areas where you can kill other players freely, like Planet Doom, the nightclubs and cities tend to be safer. Social gaming is the next step in the online gaming path, gone are the days of having 4 friends crowding around one screen while playing Halo or Goldeneye. While you can still play socially with your friends in almost every game, each individual person now needs their own console and copy of the game (unless you game share). This step was taken to ensure maximum revenue by gaming companies for their product. While most people are not happy with this, it’s becoming more commonplace in today’s gaming market.

As games move more and more into social multiplayer territory, the size of these spaces is going to become much larger to accommodate the number of players in the game at any one time. For example, In Destiny when you venture to the Tower ( the social space), you are put into one of millions of tower models that each support 36 players. Depending on the number of people playing the game at any one time, there can be anywhere from several thousand to millions of identical towers each with a maximum of 36 players per tower. The game can only support so many different players at once and thus the developers needed to create multiple copies of each space to accommodate the load of the players and the rendering of the world.

As I said before, as social spaces become more and more common in games, they will grow larger and larger until it turns into a massive Oasis style world with everyone logged in and able to see each other at once.

ZEROING OUT/PERMA-DEATH

In Ready Player One, there is one major consequence to dying in the Oasis, that consequence is referred to as “zeroing out”. When a player zeroes out in the game, they lose all their credits and progression, forcing them to start from the beginning. This aspect of the Oasis is what makes the PvP battles on Planet Doom so nerve-wracking. I know I for one die extensively while playing an online multiplayer game. Normally, my kills outweigh my deaths giving me a positive K/D (kill death ratio) at the end of the game, but the deaths number is also quite large. If I had to zero out and lose all my progress every time I died… I doubt I would play games like that anymore. That being said, there are games that incorporate this consequence into modern gaming, they refer to it as perma-death.

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Perma-death is exactly how it sounds, permanent death; some of the more recent games to incorporate this aspect are: Day Z, FTL, X-COM, and Fire Emblem. In each of these games dying/losing all your lives means an instant game restart, which in turn loses all progress and gear accumulated throughout your session.  This brings an extra level of intensity to these games as you know that you can’t just revert to the last save a la Call of Duty, Halo or Assassin’s Creed.  The only difference with these games that feature perma-death, is that most of them, are not multiplayer. While you can have friends join and assist you in the game, the consequences are the same for them, death = instant restart. While there are some great gamers who can make it through the standard fps game levels on hardest difficulty without dying, they are few and far between. There is a game that basically melds the two aspects of respawn and perma-death together and that game is The Division.

In The Division, you play as an agent of the Division tasked with establishing an HQ in New York City following an bio-terror attack. As you progress through the game you accumulate gear which can be found throughout the world or purchased from in-game vendors. Once you have completed the main story and attained a high enough level you can take on “The Dark Zone”. The Dark Zone is a walled off area in the middle of the city with high level enemies and a free for all mentality. Players can roam around pillaging the high level gear in the Dark Zone and assist each other in taking down high level bosses, or engage in PvP firefights to steal each other’s gear. If you die in the Dark Zone, you lose all the gear you accumulated while there and you respawn back at the staging area. Each person can only carry so much gear while rampaging through the Dark Zone and eventually must call in a helicopter to extract it. Calling in the helicopter lets EVERYONE in the Dark Zone know where you are and what you’re doing, whether it’s other players or NPC enemies. There’s a time frame that you must hold the extraction zone before the helicopter arrives to extract the gear, which give malicious players and NPCs the time they need to kill you and steal your gear. I personally have lost many high level gear pieces to other players while trying to defend the extraction zone. It did not bode well with me.

While this isn’t an exact copy of the “zeroing out” mechanic from Ready Player One, permadeath and the Dark Zone are as close as we have right now.

EASTER EGG HUNTING

The entire premise of the film is to find three “Easter Eggs” left in the Oasis by the creator. When one person finds all 3, they will inherit controlling stock in the company and a fortune numbering in the hundreds of trillions of dollars. The concept of Easter Eggs has been around in the gaming world for decades. An “Easter Egg” for those unfamiliar with the term, is a special construct or nod the creators put in as a reference to either themselves or other projects.

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A notable example is in the 2016 release of Doom, when the creators put a portion of the original Doom game from 1993 in during the main story allowing exploratory players to enjoy a small portion of the original classic. Another example is in the game Halo: Reach, wherein if you complete the final mission on Heroic or Legendary; at the right moment in one of the cut-scenes, if you push both sticks to the right the camera will pan and show a shot of the Master Chief in his cryo tube. As I said before, these little nods to other games are what the meaning of an Easter Egg is.

Even though Easter Egg hunting has been around for a long time in gaming, and has now jumped into the film medium with the explosion of the MCU. While yes, there were Easter Eggs in film before the MCU, Marvel studios used them to the point of such success that a lot of other studios have started adding them to link their works together.

DECEIVING AVATARS

This in’t anything new, but they do make a point during the film to explain that while someone’s avatar may look like a young attractive female, doesn’t mean they aren’t really a 300lb dude that lives in his mom’s basement. This is something that is prevalent in not only gaming but society as a whole. With the anonymity of the internet you can appear as anybody you want, regardless of being in a game or not. It’s something that people need to watch out for while perusing the web or the gaming lobbies. Aech, pronounced “H” (one of the characters in the film), makes a joke out of it, but it’s an issue that can have serious real world consequences. The “Nigerian Prince” that emails you promising to share their fortune with you if you send them $500 right now is 100% a scam, but some people fall for it and end up getting burned for thousands of dollars because the “prince” stole their identity.

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In the film, the players in the Oasis are able to model their avatars after anything they wish. Some choose other gaming characters such as Halo Spartans and Overwatch characters, some choose movie characters like Freddy Kreuger or Robocop, and some go for a mix of everything. The concept of making your avatar as far from what you really look like is nothing new, but some of the players in the movie do take it to the extreme. Not only does your avatar mask what you really look like, but it also masks your actual age. With most multiplayer games, you can ball park someone’s age when they speak in the game chat, but that’s not always the case. Ready Player One uses this as an interesting concept for a few characters and it helps to hammer home to anonymity of the gaming world.

CHARACTER PROGRESSION/POWERFUL WEAPONS/IN GAME PURCHASES (PAY TO WIN)

Character progression is the cornerstone of many RPG and Shared World shooter games, and this is something the Oasis takes into account during the film. While if you die you zero out and lose all your gear, if you’re good enough as with some of the characters in the movie, you can get over 10+ years of experience and gear which helps you out immensely.  The opening of the movie focuses on one particular battle on Planet Doom. The prize for winning this battle is a gauntlet that allows the wearer to assume the identity of any mechanical being they wish. This prize plays a big part later on in the film and when the character uses it, I will admit… I did get a little giddy in my seat and throw my hands in the air in excitement. This character progression and power weapon concept is very aptly exemplified by the Elder Scrolls series.

The Elder Scrolls is probably one of the most successful RPG franchises the world over. The game is made by Bethesda studios, and in it, the player controls a character of their own design in the fantastical world of Tamriel. As you progress through the main story your character levels up until you can unlock certain quests. Some of these quests, gift you with weapons based on the powers of the literal Gods from the lore in the game. I won’t get to into the explanation because if you’re not a fan it won’t make any sense and can get quite boring; however, the weapons you can get on these quests can vastly improve your combat effectiveness in the game to the point of walking through boss battles.

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Ready Player One utilizes this concept with the gauntlet as I previously explained; but, they also allow for players to utilize the currency they obtain in the game to purchase weapons and various other nick knacks that can be used in game and in the real world. One such device a player can purchase, is the Holy Hand Grenade on Antioch from Monty Python fame, which is a very powerful weapon in game, or they can purchase a VR suit for use in the real world to augment their Oasis experience. Pay to Win is something that is plaguing current gaming. It allows for people who don’t want to spend the hours developing skills and unlocking weapons and perks the traditional way, to purchase the upgrades they want for real world money. This makes for very unbalanced first few months of a game’s release and is the cause of some very vocal outcry by fans, Star Wars Battlefront II from 2017 is a prime example.

Ready Player One is based off the book by Ernest Cline from 2011, which was released fairly recently for a movie to be adapted from it. At the time the book was written, some of the trends he explores in the novel and that get explored in the movie, were already becoming very prevalent in the gaming world. Loot boxes, pay to win, level progression and perma death were all making their introduction into the gaming market when the book was written. The film does a great job of showing how these concepts are being taken and ran with and how in the future, this could become the norm for gaming. While each individual company, Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo, would never agree to produce a game together, eventually one of them may win out the dreaded “console war” and then the concept of Ready Player One could really take shape.

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The Road to Infinity War

With the biggest comic movie event in History just two weeks away. I thought it would be good to give a rundown of the road to Infinity and where we find each of our heroes as this event begins to take shape. Black Panther was the final piece of the puzzle prior to release of Infinity War and helped to bring the major battleground of Infinity War into the spotlight. From most of the trailers we can see that a large battle takes place on Wakandan soil. Several of the Secret Avengers and the regular Avengers fight together backed by the Wakandan army against Thanos and his Outrider army. I have already provided a run down of the Infinity Stone locations which can be found here:

https://comicfan9812.wordpress.com/2017/10/05/infinity-stone-rundown-locations-and-powers/

With the stone locations and powers out of the way, let’s dive into the actual characters…

*WARNING! This post will contain spoilers for Black Panther and all other MCU movies*

CAPTAIN AMERICA/NOMAD

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The biggest change for a character from the OG lineup is that Cap, has dropped the Star Spangled hero name. At the conclusion of Civil War he chose to side with Bucky and the truth over Tony and his quest for revenge. As he limped off after incapacitating Tony, he dropped his shield. This was a huge moment for Cap, as through his entire arc with his own trilogy and the Avengers films, he has become more and more disenfranchised with the way the governments of the world are handling things. He finally sheds that last bit of identity that has anchored him to his legacy for the last 80 years and is now embracing his own path. At least at the beginning of the film he has taken the identity of Nomad, which is a nod to several comics where Cap lost faith in the government he swore to defend. I’m betting that by the end of the film he will once again be the Captain America the world looks up to. Also at the conclusion of Civil War we also saw Cap/Nomad/Steve Rogers, breaking his team out of the Raft prison to then become the Secret Avengers. I am really hoping they incorporate Cap’s final stand from the Infinity War comic against Thanos, I just think it will have such a huge impact on the rest of the Avengers fighting and spur them on.

IRON MAN

Tony is in a difficult place. At the end of Civil War, we saw him trying to help a now paralyzed Rhodey to walk again while heading a broken team of Avengers. After his rampage in the Siberian bunker, he was defeated by Captain America, who up until that moment had been one of his closest friends. The betrayal he felt when Cap sided with the man who had murdered his parents overwhelmed his reasoning, and in turn, he lost his greatest ally. While Captain America still has faith that he and Tony can work together in the future (as evidenced by the burner phone he sent Tony), he knows that until something happens that requires them all together, their relationship will never be the same. In Spider-Man: Homecoming we find out that he and Pepper are actually back together after being on a break during Civil War, not only are they together, they’re engaged! In the trailers we see that Tony has perfected his bleeding Edge armour and has lost an arm? or a hand at least. I think that while Tony tries to bring the team back together he knows that the only one who can do that is Cap, and he is okay with that (deep down). I’m also guessing that if it doesn’t happen in this film it will definitely happen in the next, Rhodey is going to get killed by Thanos, a la Civil War II.

SPIDER-MAN

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Spider-Man is one of the newest additions to the team dynamic, much like Doctor Strange. Peter partook in the events of Civil War as the “secret weapon” of the pro-registration forces. While he did fight for the registration forces he did not officially sign the Accords. In Spider-Man: Homecoming, he nearly joined the Avengers as a full time member before declining at the last minute. This was also when we saw the Iron Spider suit for the first time. In the trailer Peter appears to be on a field trip or some sort of excursion with his school when Thanos’ scout ship appears in New York. We don’t know how exactly but we do know that he will be given the Iron Spider Suit at some point in the film and that he will have some memorable dialogue with Dr. Strange.  At his core, Peter just wants to impress. Knowing that he is the youngest human member of the Avengers by at least a decade, he desperately wants to prove that he can roll with the big league and will do whatever he can to make that happen.

BLACK PANTHER

T’Challa was the most recent hero to be given his own film on the road to the Infinity War. At the end of the movie we see T’Challa finally bringing the nation of Wakanda with all their technology into the international spotlight. At the end of Civil War, he realized that his quest for vengeance had led him down the dark path that was now consuming Tony, and he refused to be a party to it any longer. Following the final battle, he took Cap and Bucky into Wakanda; with the latter agreeing to be put on ice, until Wakandan science could figure out a way to scrub all the Hydra influence from Bucky’s brain. He fought his cousin, a usurper during his solo movie, and after a brief time of near death he reclaimed his throne.  T’Challa has been a conflicted character from his first introduction and continues to be so. While he is resolute in his decisions, he is unsure of the type of king he should be. In the post credit scene for Black Panther, we see a newly awakened Bucky being called “White Wolf” by Shuri before being led off screen. With his nation being one of the battlegrounds in the upcoming Infinity War, T’Challa is going to have to make some hard choice between doing what is best for his people and what is best for the world as a whole.

BLACK WIDOW

Natasha has constantly been a side player in the MCU, which is a crime. As one of the best fighters in the MCU having trained with the likes of Wolverine and the Winter Soldier, she is criminally underused. That being said, she brings her A game every time she is on screen and Infinity War will be no different. At the end of Civil War she went into hiding with Tony offering her a chance to run because of what she did at the airport (stopped Black Panther from stopping Bucky and Cap). It’s not very clear what she has been doing during her seclusion but we do know that she dyed her hair blonde. She is seen in the battle for Wakanda making it seem that she and Cap have kept in contact with each other since they both went underground. Having fought for both the Soviets and SHIELD Widow is conflicted between her duty to the government she questions and what she knows is right. Originally having sided with Iron Man and the pro-registration faction in Civil War, she was very much the voice of reason concerning some of their tactics. Whether she will continue to be this voice of reason or resort to the brutality she was trained for, is something only Infinity War can show.

SCARLET WITCH

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Wanda Maximoff quickly went from being the villain in Age of Ultron to reluctant hero, to full on badass in the span of a few scenes. When Hawkeye delivers his speech of choosing who she is, she takes it to heart and emerges as the hero the people of Sokovia needed. During Civil War she originally sided with the registration forces until it was revealed they were keeping her locked at the compound as a safety precaution. Hawkeye breaks her out and gets her to tap into her real power and take Vision down a peg. She fought with Captain America at the airport battle but was captured in order to allow Cap and Bucky time to escape. The last time we saw her she was being broken out of the Raft by Steve Rogers at the end of Civil War. Wanda is unsure of herself and the powers she possesses. She knows that she could become a destructive force if she wanted to, but has taken steps to stay on the side of good to honour her brother and the hero she knows she can be. It’s revealed through the trailers that she is having a relationship with Vision, though with the mind stone firmly ensconced in his forehead; one has to ask, how she will handle his eventual death.

DR. STRANGE

Dr. Stephen Strange is the only person on earth who knows what the infinity stones are, and is in possession of one. When he finished his solo adventure he had used the Eye of Agamotto to trap Dormammu in and endless time loop until he agreed to end his assault on earth. Since then, Dr. Strange has been named the Sorcerer Supreme of Earth and has even helped Thor on his quest to find Odin at the beginning of Thor: Ragnarok. In the trailer it shows what can be assumed as the first battle in New York outside of the Sanctum Sanctorum, and Banner crash landing in the Sanctum. Strange is going to team up with a bunch of heroes he’s never seen before, to battle and enemy he doesn’t know, to save a world that doesn’t know magic exists… while using magic. While he is familiar with extra dimensional beings that could pose a threat to earth (as he stated in Thor: Ragnarok) Even he isn’t ready for this. Strange is an arrogant perfectionist, nobody can dispute that. While he was a surgeon he didn’t trust anyone else to do anything right, but now that he must rely on other forces to do his work, he has become more accepting of other people. This is movie going to test his resolve, he is used to using magic to fight magical beings, but even all his training and mystic arts are not going to prepare him for an unending alien horde led by a fanatical madman.

THOR

Thor is now King of Asgard. His father is dead, his mother is dead… his hammer destroyed. His home is dead, and he is missing his eye; but, he has his people and a few strong allies with him to help bring Asgard back from extinction. He battled Hela in Ragnarok and  would’ve lost everything if it wasn’t for the quick action by himself and Loki. He is now leading the entire population of Asgard through the cosmos on a ship stolen from Sakaar, with no destination in mind. In the first post-credit scene from Ragnarok, their little ship is seen being confronted by Thanos’ warship, the Sanctuary. In the trailers were are shown bits and pieces of Loki stepping over dozens of dead bodies and handing the Tesseract (which he stole from the Asgardian vault before the end of Ragnarok) to presumably Thanos. We are also then shown a clip of him with the other “children” of Thanos (his generals) as he watches on while Thanos presumably tortures Thor. Thor is then picked up by the Guardians of the Galaxy before he leaves on a quest to forge his new hammer, Stormbreaker. With his people either dead or captured, the new king of Asgard is going to do everything in his power to bring down the tyrant who attacked them.

HULK

Hulk is with Thor and will presumably be beaten and cast out of the ship to crash to the earth in the Sanctum Sanctorm. He has been battling on Sakaar for several months and then helped Thor to bring down his evil sister Hela and her giant wolf Fenris. During Ragnarok, Banner was concerned that if he changed back into Hulk that he could never change back to Banner. The trailer shows a bewildered Banner at the bottom of a Hulk sized hole in the Sanctum Sanctorum, so that would appear to be a false assumption on Banner’s part. We aren’t shown much of the Hulk in either trailer except for the epic charge of the heroes in Wakanda being led by Nomad with Hulk close behind. While Banner may be the analytical mind in reconstructing the Hulk buster armour and reconciling with Widow, Hulk is out for revenge. He got beat by someone stronger than him and that makes him angry.

GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY

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The Guardians of the Galaxy are fresh off their second foray into galaxy wide heroics. They’ve done the schtick twice and are looking for something else. At the culmination of GotG vol. 2, Star Lord killed his father, Yondu died, Groot is growing into adolescence, and Rocket has realized that he can’t push his friends away. Gamora and Nebula have somewhat reconciled, while Drax is still burning for a confrontation with Thanos to avenge his wife and daughter. The Guardians stumble onto the wreckage of the Asgardian transport ship in the trailer and literally crash into a floating Thor. They have Mantis revive him and presumably assist him in defending the Earth and forging Stormbreaker. The trailer shows us that Rocket and Groot assist Thor to forge the new hammer while the rest of them head to earth to help the Avengers. The stakes have never been higher in this film. The Guardians are going to learn very soon that Thanos is not one to be underestimated, but they’ve gone up against literal Gods and come out okay, so they should be fine, right?

WAR MACHINE

Col. James “Rhodey” Rhodes, is the one person who has remained a friend of Tony since he was first introduced way back in 2008 during the first Iron Man film. He has gone from consultant/PR manager, to hero, to symbol of Freedom, to member of the pro-registration forces to a paraplegic. At the end of Civil War, he was hit by a blast of friendly fire from Vision. This knocked out his armour and cause him to plummet several thousand feet to the ground below. Vision had become distracted by Scarlet Witch and while Tony and Sam tried to save him, they were unable to stop Rhodey’s fall. Col. James Rhodes lost the use of his legs. At the end of the film we are shown Tony having constructed some miniaturized exo-skeletal legs to assist Rhodey in walking. Tony asks Rhodey if he regrets it, to which Rhodey replies he doesn’t. Despite the fact that he may never walk unassisted ever again, Rhodes believes that what they were doing was right and he is okay with the consequences.  In the trailer we see him walking behind a group of heroes as they arrive in Wakanda so clearly, Tony has MacGyvered something together to allow him to walk normally and fight in his armour. Rhodey belives that the things the Avengers do, needs to be done. He doesn’t always agree with how they do it, but that’s why he signed the Accords to be kept in check.

VISION

Vision is one of the most complex and frankly OP members of the Avengers. Not only that, but he is the youngest by about a decade. That being said, at the conclusion of Civil War we saw his romance with Scarlet Witch beginning to blossom to the point that they will both act on it in the upcoming film. In the trailer we are shown a non Scarlet and green Paul Bettany leaning us to believe that Wanda has begun to master her powers. We are also shown a shot of Vision screaming on the ground while Corvus Glaive stabs into his forehead in an attempt to remove the Mind stone ensconced there. Curiously, we are also not shown any footage of Vision in the final battle or the charge scene with the other heroes. This leads me to believe that Vision may be the first casualty the Avengers suffer in Infinity War. Vision was one of the driving forces behind the accords with his famous line “…our very existence incites challenge”. Now with the other heroes on the run and his feelings for Wanda finally being reciprocated, he may not want to risk everything he has in a fight they might not be able to win.

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WINTER SOLDIER/BUCKY BARNES

Bucky is a curious case for the Avengers. He was never a member but his status as one of the original Howling Commandos can’t be ignored. Steve will vouch for his lifelong friend until the day he dies and this can cause issues for other members of the team… Exhibit A… Civil War! Bucky wants to forget the things he’s done and focus on his new life and build a new reputation for himself. The only issue is, his old life doesn’t seem to want to stay buried. At the end of Civil War, he voluntarily enters into cryo sleep again, in order to give the Wakandan scientists time to try and scrub all traces of Hydra indoctrination from his brain. As previously stated, the last time we saw him was in the post-credit scene from Black Panther where Shuri has awoken him. It’s not clear if this happens prior to the commencement of Infinity War or during the opening moments of the film. He is shown to be minus an arm which he will obviously get back and he has a new code name ” White Wolf”.

FALCON

Sam Wilson has been a stalwart compatriot to Captain America ever since his introduction in the MCU during Captain America: Winter Soldier. He was absent from Age of Ultron due to him running down leads on the location of Bucky for Steve, which finally pays off at the start of Civil War. He sides with Cap during the conflict and is one of the heroes that allows himself to be captured to give Bucky and Cap time to escape. Last we see of him he along with the other “fugitive heroes” are being liberated from the Raft by Steve Rogers. Sam is a soldier. He is more comfortable on the battlefield than he is in his own home, he says as much in Winter Soldier. While he has acclimated to civilian life he still longs for the thrill of the fight. He will follow Cap to the ends of the earth because he likes having someone to look to in times of trouble, and who better than Captain America? Sam can be seen in the trailers during the fight in Wakanda so we know that he will make several appearances in the film. With Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan only halfway through their Marvel contracts, the main question is who will don the red, white and blue when Steve Rogers bites the dust?

ANT-MAN

Scott Lang is probably the most outrageous member of the anti-registration forces. At the end of his solo film he was given everything he wanted, access to his daughter, but he threw that all away because Hawkeye told him to? The argument could be made that Cap asked him and as put by Lang himself ” When Captain America calls, you answer”. Ant-Man’s probably biggest contribution (see what I did there?) was when he surprised everyone by going big and becoming Giant-Man. This only lasted briefly but it served as a big enough distraction (I did it again!) to give Cap and Bucky the time to escape. He was last seen being broken out of the Raft to begin his life as a fugitive once again. We know that Ant-Man and the Wasp is due out this summer after Infinity War makes its run through the theatres, but we aren’t exactly sure how big (heh) of a role he will play in the conflict. Ant-Man is concerned with being able to see his daughter, after spending so much time away from her. He wants nothing more than to resume his old life, but with receiving the Ant-Man suit and being called to help Cap, one has to wonder if he will ever get to it.

 

There you have it, those are all the major players in Infinity War and what drives them. I am super excited for the film and have already pre-ordered my VIP tickets for opening day. If you have any input on the upcoming film please feel free to drop a comment. See you next week!

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An Impossible Expectation – Living Up To The Legacy

This week, I decided to focus on something that I have noticed with the newest press regarding upcoming seasons and movies based on comic media; the impossible task of living up to the legacy. With the explosion of the MCU beginning in 2008, comic book movies have become the best thing a studio can do to make money; however, it is not without its risks. While Marvel studios seem to have found the formula to make successful movies, other studios like DC Entertainment and Fox studios are more hit or miss. Don’t get me wrong they have some great hits, Deadpool and Wonder Woman are awesome and huge steps for the superhero genre if not movies as a whole. We got the first widely successful female led movie with Wonder Woman, Logan and Deadpool showed us R rated movies can still make buck, and now Black Panther has rallied the entire world behind the fictional nation of Wakanda. But for all the bluster that these movies and shows can provide… the one thing they can never do, is live up to the legacy of the characters.

Batman

Let’s take Batman for instance, how many Batman movies have there been? Including the movie from the 60’s TV show starring the late Adam West, there have been 9 live action Batman films; and all 9 of these films have done different takes on the character without nailing the source material 100%. I commend each actor for taking the role and making it their own, but nobody has been able to fully capture the essence of the character, and nobody ever will.

Batman was first introduced in Detective Comics #27  from March 1939, that’s almost 80 years of stories and character development. Now I’m not saying that anyone trying to take the role should quit, I’m saying the opposite, I think the more people that take the role on we can get a clearer glimpse into the character of Batman. With West, we got the silly, gadget driven Batman, Keaton gave us the dark and Gothic protector, Kilmer gave us the investigative defender, Clooney gave us the campy playboy, Bale gave us the tortured and driven knight, and Affleck gave us the brutal and vicious brawler. Each actor has made the role their own by taking a piece of the vast history of the character and putting their own spin on it.  While it can get tiresome as a fan to constantly have a new person taking on the role instead of sticking with one person, it is necessary. In the animated universe, no matter what, Kevin Conroy is the voice of Batman. Jason O’Mara delivers a great spin with the new DCAU films, but nobody can compare to Conroy’s iconic voice. The same thing can be said about the Joker. Anybody who tries to do that in an animated setting will always be compared to Mark Hamill while any live action interpretation will always be compared to the late Heath Ledger.

Batfamily

Just in Batman’s history alone, we have over 5 Robins, only 1 of which has made it to the live action screen, multiple failures on the part of the Bat, his own death and resurrection, and his rehabilitation following his greatest defeat. None of the stories we have received so far in film format have focused on any of these aspects. We may FINALLY be getting the story of Jason Todd’s murder, which is arguably Batman’s greatest failure, but that happened in A Death in the Family from December of 1988. It took 29 years for his death to finally be mentioned in a DC live action film and even then, it was only done in passing. I am of course referring to the Robin suit on display in the Batcave spray painted with the words “Hahaha Joke’s on you Batman”; as well as, the mention of Harley Quinn being an accomplice in the murder of Robin in Suicide Squad. The suit is something that not many people would notice or even get the reference if you were not familiar with the source material. While the mention in Suicide Squad is so quick, if you blink you’ll miss it. While the live action films have been lacking in expanding the Batman mythos and history, the animated films have stepped up.

The modern DCAU (DC Animated Universe) took heavy influence from the New 52 run of DC Comics, while some of the classic stories and films took inspiration from the modern age of DC. We have seen Damian (Batman’s biological son) as Robin, Jason Todd as Robin and Red Hood, Dick as Nightwing, and the introduction of Batwoman and Batwing. For obvious reasons the animated movies can do more than a big budget movie can, and they can do it for much cheaper too. But Batman isn’t the only hero that this has been done with.

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Spider-Man is the most popular Marvel hero worldwide and one of my personal favourites. He has been a Marvel mainstay since his first introduction in Amazing Fantasy #15 in August of 1962. Since his introduction into Marvel, he has had 3 live action film adaptations as well as a whole slew of animated television shows and by slew I mean 9 animated shows. All of his shows have done a solid attempt at bringing his history to the forefront. The best one, in my opinion, is the Spider-Man animated series that ran in the early 90’s. It introduced a lot of kids to the great universe Spider-Man had created while doing crossovers with other heroes as well, most notably the X-Men. This is another example where the animated features have done far more to honour the legacy of Spider-Man than the movies ever did.

The first slew of movies were directed by Sam Raimi and starred Tobey McGuire as Peter Parker/Spider-Man. The first of Raimi’s Spider-Man films were released in 2002 to a warm reception. Introducing Norman Osborn/Green Goblin with a stellar performance by Willem Dafoe (we’ll just forget the power ranger costume…), then Alfred Molina as Otto Octavius/Doc Ock is Spider-Man 2, and finally the abysmal Spider-Man 3 with New Goblin, scrawny Venom and a great performance by Thomas Haden Church as Flint Marko/Sandman. The first two movies were well received but by the third the studio (Sony) decided to meddle and forced Raimi to include Venom into the plot. With the failure of the third film, Spider-Man was put on ice until 2012 when Sony rebooted the franchise with the Amazing Spider-Man.

Spider-MAn

Spying the success of the MCU, Sony tried to build an entire universe based off of Spider-Man. The first movie was okay, it was a fresh take and brought Peter back into high school. The second one was terrible, it was too long and destroyed the Green Goblin as a character. The one thing that the second movie did get right was the death of Gwen Stacy. Paying direct homage to Amazing Spider-Man #121, it was a near scene for scene remake of the iconic moment in Spider-Man’s history; right down to the costume choice being a direct recreation of the clothing worn by Gwen in the comic.

Now we have a new Spider-Man with Tom Holland that is included in the MCU. Sony finally admitted they screwed up and struck a deal with Marvel to allow them to use Spider-Man in the MCU.  Tom Holland has been extremely well received and looks to be the new breakout star of the entire MCU.

All these shows and movies have barely even scratched the surface on things that have happened in Spider-Man’s comic run. I will admit that I haven’t watched all the shows, but to my knowledge, the only one to properly introduce Venom and Carnage was the 90’s animated series; which included a large portion of the rogues gallery in various episodes. Again, while each show and film took a piece of the mythos and made it their own, it never quite captured the legacy of the character. Spider-Man is one of the most popular heroes in the world, and the inability to capture the essence of the character is a glaring issue. We’ve gotten the closest thing to a comic accurate Peter Parker with Tom Holland in the MCU, but even then, something feels off… oh right, his 40 something attractive aunt flirting with Tony Stark.

As I said before, all these attempts at bringing the characters to the screen are necessary if we are to eventually be able to pay homage to the legacy they have created. Batman and Spider-Man are just two examples of dozens of characters with histories and legacies that span decades. Fantastic Four, Captain America, Wonder Woman, Superman, Martian Manhunter, Iron Man, and Flash all have rich legacies to pay homage to, and it’s just not feasible to do so with 1 or 2 movies or even a season or two of television.

I am a big stickler for accuracy in comic movies and shows, it doesn’t sit well with me when they change things or mesh story lines together, it irks me quite substantially. That being said, I understand that there is no way these interpretations are ever going to be able to measure up to the expectations in my head from reading the stories, and that’s okay. Fresh spins on characters are part of what has helped to ensure the longevity of comics. Each  new author and artist takes what was laid down before them as a foundation and builds on the character. Sometimes you get great runs, like Frank Miller with the Dark Knight Returns, and sometimes you get terrible interpretations like Rick Remender with his Axis event. Each of these events and runs have worked to establish an ongoing legacy for each character that film studios want to tap into to appeal to the fans, even if they butcher it in their attempt.

Many fans have sour tastes in their mouths from the likes of Ghost Rider 1 & 2, Man of Steel, Affleck’s Daredevil, Steel (ft. Shaq?! come on!!!), and the Schumacher Batmans; but they keep coming back, in hopes the studios get their shit sorted out and deliver something worthy of the legacy of the character. The main point I’m trying to make is, as a fan, don’t sweat it. When it comes to studios making movies or shows off of comics, there is no way in hell they will be able to jam 50+ years of history into 1-3 movies or a couple seasons of an animated show. Give the studios a break and just be happy they’re making an effort at all. It wasn’t so long ago when if someone suggested a movie or even live action TV show based off a superhero you would be met with mocking laughter.

I am not one to quote Superman (ugh..) but this quote perfectly explains what I’m trying to get at.

“You will give the people of Earth an ideal to strive towards. They will race behind you, they will stumble, they will fall. But in time, they will join you in the sun, Kal. In time, you will help them accomplish wonders.”

in the sun

Give it time. If we give it time, I have faith that eventually we will be given wonders.

Black Panther – My Review *Spoiler Free*

I, like many others, went and saw Black Panther this past weekend when it released. The theater was packed and the anticipation was high among all those in attendance. When the Marvel title card appeared on the screen, I had a last thought of “what if this movie sucks like Justice League did?” I am glad to say that this was definitely not the case! From the opening scene to the end of the second post-credit scene (yes there are 2), the movie never stopped. The entire cast knocked it out of the park with their portrayals, and Eric “Killmonger” Stevens would give Loki a good run as Marvel’s top villain.

One thing I would like to say is that many people are saying this is the first superhero movie to star an African American male in the lead role, which is wrong. Blade, Hancock and Spawn all starred an African American male in the lead role and they were released years before the MCU even began.

Now that we have cleared that up let’s dive into the review.

*THIS WILL BE A SPOILER FREE REVIEW*

THE STORY SO FAR

Prior to the beginning of the movie, we have been given quite a it of a story involving Panther. He first showed up in Captain America: Civil War after the bombing of the UN gathering, which was held in order to sign the Sokovia Accords.

Zemo (disguised as Bucky “Winter Soldier”) bombed the UN gathering to disrupt the Accords and caused the rift in the Avengers. In doing so he killed King T’Chaka, the reigning monarch of Wakanda. His son, T’Challa, took the family ring from his father’s finger and became the king of Wakanda and the Black Panther.

Legacy

After failing to kill/capture Bucky himself, T’Challa allied temporarily with Iron Man and the pro-registration side. Following the airport battle and the evasion of Bucky and Cap from the authorities, Panther followed Iron Man in a Wakandan stealth ship to the bunker in Siberia.

It was there he learned the truth about what had happened and realized he had been hunting the wrong man for his father’s death. He took Zemo in for his crimes and retreated to Wakanda giving Bucky and Cap sanctuary from the authorities.

THE SETTING

The movie picks up with T’Challa fresh into his role as king. He is attempting to rescue some women who were kidnapped by a Warlord. As he returns to Wakanda, he is greeted by his mother, the Queen, and his sister Shuri. Shuri is the brilliant mind behind most of Wakandan technology and would definitely give Tony Stark a run for his money.

In order to be crowned King of Wakanda, the tribal leaders that make up the Senate of Wakanda are given the right to challenge T’Challa in one on one ceremonial combat. The winner of this combat will be crowned king of Wakanda and Black Panther.

Eric Stevens partners with Ulysses Klaue to enact a plan he has been harboring for years. When the “Killmonger” arrives in Wakanda, he immediately sets his sights on the throne.

Characters

Black Panther has a vast array of characters that are important to the plot. The amount of people involved in the film is staggering; not to mention, the fact that this film is made up primarily of actors and actresses of African and African- American descent makes it even better.

Cast

While there are far too many characters to list, here are the most prominent characters and the actors/actresses portraying them:

  • T’Challa/ Black Panther – Chadwick Boseman
  • Eric “Killmonger” Stevens/ N’Jadaka – Michael B. Jordan
  •  Nakia – Lupita Nyong’o
  • Okoye/ General of Dora Milaje – Danai Gurira
  • Princess Shuri – Letitia Wright
  • W’Kabi – Daniel Kaluuya
  • Everett Ross – Martin Freeman

As I said before the amount of people in this movie is impressive and all the characters are important in their own way to the progression of the story. Angela Bassett, Forest Whitaker, Winston Duke, and Andy Serkis all bring their A-game to this film and make their characters memorable.

The particular stars of the movie for me are Michael B. Jordan and Letitia Wright.

Having only ever seen Jordan in a role as the hero/protagonist it was a very refreshing change to see him as the ruthless villain. He brought an intensity and backstory to the character that hasn’t really been seen for a villain in a Marvel movie.

Letitia Wright was definitely a breakout star for this film. She perfectly nails the sarcastic and youthful approach that the studio was giving to the character. Not only that, but she is probably the smartest person in the MCU. Her youth hasn’t stopped her from designing and building a large majority of the technology which is seen being used in Wakanda.

I don’t want to say too much more for fear of revealing the plot or character development; however, the cast created an atmosphere that really brings you to the magic and wonder that is the Wakandan nation.

COSTUMES

I will be the first to admit that I know nothing of African culture or traditional dress. Being a straight white male of Scottish and Polish descent and growing up in the Dutch farmland of Ontario, I was never really exposed to other cultures.  That being said, even I was able to tell the incredible work done by both the costume designer Ruth Carter and the production designer Hannah Beachler. They took influences from cultures all across Africa and incorporated them into the costumes for the actors in this film.

Shuri + Dora Milaje

The bright colours and intricate weaves of some of the costumes looked incredible while still remaining fuctional. The Dora Milaje definitely stole the show in their battle armour and their ceremonial garments.

Again, coming from someone who’s entire knowledge of African culture has been from movies and brief subjects in history class, I was blown away. I can only imagine how people native to the many cultures displayed in this movie could have felt.

ACTION

The action in this movie was top notch, even for a Marvel movie. I’ve personally found that while the action is always “good” in an MCU installment, there are a few where it really pops, Captain America: Winter Soldier, Daredevil, and Spider-Man: Homecoming are prime examples.  Black Panther really leaned into the influences from several martial art styles as well as the big cats of Africa themselves in inspiration for the choreography. One of the opening scenes see T’Challa taking on a warlord and his soldiers, and in this scene, he stalks them and hunts like the big cat of his namesake. When the action does kick off he dials it up to 11 and takes no prisoners.

Killmonger is definitely one of the better choreographed villains in the entire MCU. He trained in the American military and special forces and then eventually came to work for the CIA. Later in the film, Everett Ross describes him as ” one of the guys we would send into a country during times of political upheaval to destabilize the nation”. The fact that they would send one man in to destabilize an entire country just shows you how well trained and lethal he is. His motivations are a little weak but overall he brings a ferocity that none of the other MCU villains have been able to match.

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The final battle is definitely one for the books. It incorporates the various styles of the different characters in the film into one great fight. The best part of the whole fight when Daniel Kaluuya’s character (W’Kabi) brings what his people are known for to the fight and ups the stakes even more.

VISUALS

While it’s obvious that the shots of Wakanda are all done on a green screen (because Wakanda doesn’t actually exist… or maybe… that’s what they want us to think) Coogler does a wonderful job of making you feel like you are there in Wakanda experiencing this first hand. From the sprawling jungles to the metropolis of the capital city itself, Coogler crafts an entire nation of wonder and technology that would make Tony Star’s mouth drop open in awe.

I’m not one for cinematography, but I can appreciate when someone does their work well!

THE STORY

While the story was engaging there are obviously plot holes, it happens with every movie. While they aren’t glaring they are there, but for the casual movie goer they won’t even notice them.

The story of this film is very much centered around redemption and acceptance. When we start off, T’Challa is trying to accept the role he has been given as ruler of Wakanda and it’s defender. Through turns of events, his belief in everything he has known is called into question and he has to find it in himself to fight for what he believes is right. While he doesn’t know what to believe, he knows that he has to believe in himself if he wants to become the King his father and people believe he can be.

As I’ve said before, Killmonger is probably the best villain the MCU has put out to date. He is ruthless, calculated, and resolute in his belief. He knows that what he has to do might make him enemies but in the end he will be the one standing above the ashes and he will be victorious. I feel I can say this without wandering into spoiler territory, his belief is not wrong. During the film you are shown things from the perspective of T’Challa and his father, when Killmonger enters the picture, you are shown his side of the story and realize that he isn’t wrong in what he thinks. This draws an interesting development to the story as you try to figure out who the real “villain” is. The story very much plays on the trope of right vs. wrong and every shade of grey in between.

I will definitely recommend that everyone go and see this movie. Regardless of if you are a fan of comics or not the story and cinematography alone are worth seeing. Coogler and his team crafted probably one of the best Marvel movies to date. I would rate this movie a solid 9/10. As a comic fan there are nit picky things that I didn’t like, but I didn’t let them discolour my impression from the movie.  Check this out as soon as you can! I’ll be back next week for another installment of most underrated heroes, see you then!

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Wakanda Forever

Venom – A History

With the release of the Venom teaser starring Tom Hardy, I decided to focus this week’s post on the villain turned anti-hero, Venom. I for one am very excited about the film, and despite the backlash surrounding the teaser think it will turn out great. There has been a lot of controversy online about them not showing the suit or even the symbiote. One thing that keeps getting forgotten is that it was a TEASER for the trailer. Not only that, but filming only wrapped shortly before Christmas and so the CGI is probably not finished on the film. Okay, now that that’s out of the way, we can move on to the character himself!

Originally the idea for a new costume for Spider-Man was created by a Marvel Comics reader named Randy Schueller. The idea was purchased from him in 1982 for a total of $220.00.

Venom first appeared as the  black costume or “alien costume” form in December of 1984 during the Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars event. It attached itself to Spider-Man when his suit was ripped and torn in battle. Because Spider-Man was the first host, all subsequent hosts gain some of the abilities of Spider-Man such as: Web slinging, wall crawling, super strength, and speed.

Several artists and creators at Marvel had a hand in creating the “alien suit”; the creators involved were: Roger Stern, Tom DeFalco, Mike Zeck and Ron Frenz.

The official character of Venom was created by David Michelinie and Todd McFarlane in 1988 and first appeared in Amazing Spider-Man #299 in May of that year, having received a cameo in the April issue of the same run.

 

HISTORY

The Venom symbiote is actually a sentient creature hatched on the planet Klyntar. The symbiotes of Klyntar were part of an organization called the Agents of the Cosmos. As agents, they were tasked with finding suitable hosts in order to create a force of noble warriors to maintain peace across the universe. The Venom symbiote chose poorly for its first host and was forced to carry out a genocide on the host’s planet. This genocide twisted the symbiote into a hate-filled and rage addicted being. Despite being twisted, it wanted to bond with all future hosts and protect them rather than dominate them. Due to this desire and the twisted nature of the symbiote, it was imprisoned by the other Agents of the Cosmos who feared it would contaminate the gene pool. When the Beyonder was creating Battleworld, he inadvertently incorporated the prison for the Venom symbiote into the Battleworld.

Contrary to what most readers think, Spider-Man was not the first superhero to don the alien suit. That honour fell to none other than the Merc with the Mouth, Deadpool. Deadpool found the prison and allowed the symbiote to attach itself to his costume (which had been damaged in battle). When he felt the symbiote begin to interface with his mind, Deadpool removed the symbiote and placed it back in its prison for fear that his own insanity would adversely affect it. Moments later, Spider-Man showed up and released the symbiote and allowed it to bond with him. This provided Spider-Man with a suit that could mimic street clothes, provided stronger webbing and took the colour scheme of the second Spider-Woman ( Julia Carpenter).

Spider-Man

Back on Earth Spider-Man used the suit for months before realizing it was exerting control. He removed the suit in the bell tower of a church with the help of the sonic waves created by the ringing bell. The suit then returned to Peter’s apartment and took the form of a regular blue and red Spider-Man suit and waited for him to put it on. After realizing the suit had returned and he had bonded with it again, Spider-Man needed help. He went to the Fantastic Four to get help and they aided him in removing the suit. After Spider-Man got rid of the suit, the symbiote fled before trying to return to both him and Deadpool. Both men rejected it after it bit the arm off a bounty hunter sent to capture it by the Collector (Benicio Del Torro from GotG). The symbiote fled to the church where Spider-Man had removed it earlier, Our Lady of Saints Church, and  found a new host in the form of disgraced journalist, Eddie Brock.

Eddie had been having a rough go of things… He lost his job as a journalist, he had been diagnosed with adrenal cancer, he had been disowned by his father and his wife had left him. He was contemplating suicide when he went to the Our Lady of Saints church to pray for forgiveness. It was there that the symbiote was drawn to him. His hatred with Spider-Man for ruining his journalism career was amplified by the symbiote and turned into a fixation of either reclaim Spider-Man or killing him.

Over several years Venom and Spider-Man would fight. Eddie believed the symbiote wanted to return to Spider-Man and would leave him if given the chance, so Eddie resolved the only way to keep the symbiote was to kill Spider-Man. During a battle with Styx and Stone, in which Eddie had become a vigilante and was assisting Spider-Man, the symbiote appeared to have been killed by Styx’s deathly touch. When the symbiote healed it found Eddie in prison and broke him out. The symbiote reproduced asexually and it’s offspring bonded with Eddie’s cellmate Cletus Kasady creating Carnage.

The symbiote then left Eddie Brock and bonded with Mac Gargan (the Scorpion) a low level villain that agreed to satiate its blood lust and kill Spider-Man. Gargan would go onto be a member of the Thunderbolts and Sinister 12. He was nearly killed when he tracked down a former host and it was revealed to be Eddie Brock. Brock had the remnants of the Venom symbiote in his blood mutated and became Anti-Venom. Gargan barely escaped alive and the symbiote was badly damaged during the fight when it tried to leave Gargan and bond with Brock. Following the events of Siege, the US Military took possession of the symbiote.

Venom 2

Flash Thompson was a war hero who had lost his legs in combat. He was recruited by the military to become Agent Venom. Agent venom worked with Flash and was sent on covert mission around the globe. The time it took for the symbiote to completely bond with its host was 48 hours, and as such Flash was only allowed to wear the symbiote for missions. He was able to remain in control of the symbiote until he got mad in which case the symbiote was able to take over regardless of the suppressant drugs the military was pumping into the symbiote. Flash participated in many Avengers mission as a Secret Avenger and was even a member of the Thunderbolts. He was asked by Steve Rogers to take Iron Man’s place as liaison with the Guardians of the Galaxy. During his tenure with the Guardians, the Klyntar Hive Mind attempted to reconnect with the symbiote which caused the symbiote to go berserk. The symbiote took over each member of the Guardians until it at last found Drax, who was able to pilot the ship to the symbiote home world of Klyntar. There the symbiote voluntarily re-integrated with the Hive Mind and was cleansed of its blood lust and hatred before being re-bonded with Flash.

Agent Venom

Upon return to Earth after the second Civil War, Flash was hunting down Mania and was attacked by an FBI task force equipped with Anti-symbiote weaponry. The symbiote left Flash and ran, due to it’s shame for reverting to its bloodthirsty ways. It happened upon a former Army Ranger, Lee Price,  who was about to be gunned down in a botched arms deal between two rival gangs. The symbiote bonded with him to protect him but was quickly dominated by the soldier’s will. Price quickly went on to massacre both sides in the gang conflict and used traumatic childhood memories to shut the symbiote up when it rejected his commands. Price would further use the symbiote as a means of crime and vigilantism until two FBI agents discovered his identity. These agents told Price they would expose him as Venom if he did not comply and return to the FBI. When Price refused to go (obviously), Eddie Brock and his anti-symbiote task force, along with Spider-Man managed to separate Price from the symbiote.  Price was arrested by the NYPD before being broken out by Maniac. While the symbiote was en route to the FBI headquarters in New York to be handed over to Alpha Flight; Brock broke the symbiote out of captivity reuniting with it once more. With the symbiote bonding to Brock again, Venom has become the Lethal Protector he once was.

SYMBIOTE

While the symbiote itself bonds with another being to reach its full potential, it does itself have it’s own personality and thoughts. The first host it bonded with was corrupt and thus corrupted the symbiote to the point that it was addicted to rage and hatred. As previously stated it was because of this that it was captured and imprisoned by the Agents of the Cosmos. Prior to being bonded with Spider-Man the symbiote was only able to understand simple emotions like sadness, happiness and anger. The symbiote viewed Peter Parker as his ideal host and was able to understand more complex emotions when bonded with him. When Peter rejected the symbiote it’s admiration for him was replaced with hatred and anger. It never truly liked any of its subsequent hosts believing them all to be inferior to Peter Parker.

The symbiote is adverse to lying and will be brutally honest if given the time to speak. It will normally say the things it knows will get you to lose control and give into the rage that it feeds on.

Venom Symbiote

Prior to it being cleansed, the symbiote’s blood lust was insatiable. Eddie Brock described it as ” an ocean of darkness trying to drown him with its rage and hunger, reducing his mind to a “red ruin” at its most intense”. This blood lust only increased as time went on until when it was bonded with Mac Gargan, it forced Mac to bend to its will. Mac became overwhelmed by the symbiote’s blood lust and resorted to cannibalism as a means to satiate it’s desire for blood. When it was bonded with Flash, he took suppressant drugs to keep the symbiote under control, but if Flash ever lost control and gave into his rage, the symbiote would take over. After abandoning Gargan, the symbiote attempted to find itself a permanent host. The symbiote wished to find the strongest host and as such would bond with an individual while still searching for a stronger host. This led to the symbiote attempting to abandon Eddie and Flash while in various conflicts. The symbiote tried to abandon Flash to bond with Kaine (a clone of Peter Parker) but Flash was able to stop the symbiote through sheer force of will.

Once it was cleansed of it’s rage and blood lust, the symbiote became docile repentant and subservient to its host (Flash Thompson at the time) in essence, what it was intended to be all along. When Flash expressed concern that his own hot headedness might affect the symbiote and change it again; the symbiote spoke to Flash saying it preferred him as a host and called Flash its friend.

Because it’s comics and the symbiote can never just be at peace it slowly reverted back to its old ways until it was forcibly removed from Flash. After the ordeal with Lee Price, being captured by the FBI and being re-bonded to Eddie,  the symbiote became re-corrupted but still wanted to be a hero. The blood lust returned and Eddie was forced to seek help from Alchemex which cured the issue and returned the symbiote to its benevolent state post cleansing.

The symbiote is very possessive and as such will violently defend its wearer if attacked. This has led to several brutal fights between Venom and others throughout his comic run.

POWERS GRANTED BY THE SYMBIOTE

The symbiote is able to act on its own without a host body. It is able to controls its tendrils and tentacles and can even assume a humanoid shape briefly. When bonded with a host, it takes on a black and white coloured suit with large white eyes and a large mouth filled with sharp teeth.  Due to having been bonded with Spider-Man for an extended period of time it gained access to his genetic code and can bestow similar powers onto any being that becomes its host. In addition to Spider-Manlike powers, it also enhances all the physical attributes of its host to superhuman levels.

Venomverse

Some of the powers it grants are as follows:

  • Superhuman Strength
  • Superhuman Durability
  • Superhuman Stamina
  • Healing Factor – Able to cure ailments and injuries human beings cannot ie. Cancer.
  • Genetic Memory
  • Offspring Detection
  • Wall Crawling
  • Webbing Generation
  • Constituent Matter Generation
  • Constituent Matter Manipulation
  • Spider Sense
  • Immunity to Spider Sense – Venom is one of the few characters in Marvel comics that cannot be picked up by Spider-Man’s Spider Sense. Ben Reilly who was cloned prior to Peter becoming host to Venom, is still able to detect Venom with his Spider Sense.
  • Camouflage – Able to mimic clothing, and surroundings
  • Poisonous Fangs
  • Parasitic Inheritance – Able to copy the abilities of hosts it had been bonded to
  • Shapeshifting

The Symbiote does not have many weaknesses other than sonic attacks and intense heat. Since it first bonded with Spider-Man, these attacks have become less effective as the symbiote has built up an immunity.

Venom is one of the best Spider-Man villains specifically for his belief that if the symbiote can’t bond with Spider-Man then he has to die. With everything that happened to the symbiote it’s no wonder that it turned out the way it did (a murderous cannibalistic rage monster). The journey that the symbiote went on after being bonded with Eddie has shown that while something might start off as evil there is always the room for growth. Venom went from being a genocidal symbiote, to a villain, to a hero, back to villain, and back to hero. Now, in Marvel publications, he has been termed as an anti-hero (Awe YEAH) and I think this is a great arc for the character to go through.

spider-man-carnage-vs-venom

I’m super excited for the movie starring Tom Hardy and I think if done right (knock on wood) it could be a great film. I understand the trouble with having a Venom movie without have a black suit Spider-Man; however, sometimes you just have to accept that not everything can be done. We got a black suit Spider-man in the terrible Spider-Man 3 from 2007 and the fans were not impressed… mostly due to the dancing and Topher Grace. The suit when on Spider-Man looked good, but the skinny emo Venom we were given was just a travesty. I am really hoping for a redemption of the character by Tom Hardy. Hardy is a great actor and I’ve never seen a role that he didn’t perform well. One of his greatest performances for me has to be in Inception. Just his general badassery in that movie was top notch. If he can channel that energy into his role as Eddie Brock, we may finally get the lethal protector comic fans have been waiting for.

Well there you have it, a breakdown of Venom before the Venom movie comes out. Any questions or comments feel free to post. as always, See you next week!

How Does A Sith Get Their Lightsaber?

This week, I decided to focus on Star Wars since the release of the Solo: A Star War Story trailer on Monday morning. I will not be doing an analysis of the trailer frankly because it’s under 2 minutes long and for some reason this movie doesn’t interest me as much as Rogue One did. With all the drama that went on behind the scenes of this movie, and the studio reportedly not having faith in it, I won’t be holding my breath on this one.

Enough about Solo, let’s get back to the post at hand… how Siths get their lightsabers? Before we dive into the Expanded Universe answer, and the newer retconned Marvel answer, a quick history lesson on the Sith and how they came to be.

Sith Code

*Sith Code

HISTORY

First thing to say is that unless you have delved deep into the expanded universe (prior to Disney purchase); you are probably not aware that the term “Sith” actually describes a species of alien which evolved on the planet Korriban. This takes place roughly 100,000 years before the battle of Yavin (BBY). It wasn’t until roughly 28,000 BBY, that the Sith King Adas, successfully united the peoples of Korriban and ruled them as their Sith’ari (Warlord). Adas’ reign lasted unopposed for several centuries until an invasion by the Rakata of the Infinite Empire put that into jeopardy. Adas waged a war against the Rakata effectively driving them from Sith Space. During his rebellion Adas’ troops secured Rakata ships and used them to expand the Sith Empire to Ziost, Tund, and Malachor V. His victory was short lived, as the fighting had cost Adas his life. The Sith species fell to infighting with several factions scrambling for the power left by Adas. The planet of Korriban was ravaged by war and when a new Sith Warlord destroyed the cities of Korriban, the Sith species were pushed back to the primitive stages.

In 25,053 BBY, the first Galactic Republic was being formed on the planet of Tython. Leaders and warriors from across the galaxy traveled to Tython to discuss the energy field present in the galaxy, the Force. Several of the members in attendance advocated for the use of Bogan. Bogan is what we would eventually come to know as the Dark Side of the Force. During the Force Wars of Tython the followers of the light fought and defeated the followers of Bogan. During 24,500 BBY, a Jedi named Xendor left the Jedi order along with many other students to pursue the Dark Side. Taking the name of Legions of Lettow, they came into conflict with the reigning order of the Jedi. The war between these two sides became known as the First Great Schism and resulted with the Legions of Lettow being defeated;  and thus the light side fostered for thousands of years.

The_First_Dark_Sith_Lords_on_Korriban*First Dark Lords of Korriban

7,000 BBY was the year that the Dark Side gained a hold again. Several Jedi had come to learn of the dark workings that the force could manage and had become reliant on them. When they campaigned for support from the Jedi Order they were cast out and deemed “Dark Jedi”. These Dark Jedi then launched a war against the Jedi Order that would be known as the “Hundred Year Darkness”. During the Battle of Corbos, the Dark Jedi were defeated. Unable to control their infighting, they slaughtered more of themselves than the Jedi did; leaving the few remaining to be killed by Jedi bombs or captured. After their defeat, the Jedi loaded their prisoners onto unarmed transport ships and took all their weapons from them. The ships were pre-set to enter the unknown regions of space which would allow the Dark Jedi to contemplate the error of their ways.

Their ship emerged from hyperspace over the planet of Korriban. The Dark Jedi quickly used their mastery over the Dark Side of the Force to win favour with the Sith. The Sith people were so  amazed by their abilities that they were named “Jen’ari “, which means Dark Jedi in the Sith language. The Dark Jedi formed a close relationship with the King of Korriban, and then used that relationship to overthrow him. Once they overthrew the king and any who were loyal to him, they acted swiftly to take dominion of the Sith species. The Dark Jedi then proclaimed their leader as the Dark Lord of the Sith; and thus, the modern order of the Sith was born. Over the next several generations the Dark Jedi and the Sith of Korriban interbred to the point where they were a single entity and not able to be distinguished apart.

The History of the Sith spans tens of thousands of years and is far too much to concentrate into one post. Just know that until roughly 60 BBY, the Sith waged many wars against the Jedi and the Republic even going so far as to attack the Jedi Temple on Coruscant directly.

SITH ORDER

The Sith never had just one Order; by that I mean, unlike the Jedi Order, the Sith Empire went by various names through its tenure. Depending on who was the leader of the Empire, depended on what it went by. Here is a brief list of  the various names the Sith Empire went by and their most notable ruler/member:

  •  Sith Empire, “Old Sith Empire” – Most notable ruler: Darth Vitiate
  • Brotherhood of the Sith  “Sith Brotherhood” – Most notable ruler: Exar Kun
  • Sith Triumvirate – Most notable ruler: Darth Nihilus
  • New Sith, “New Sith Empire” – Most notable ruler: Darth Ruin
  • Brotherhood of Darkness – Most notable ruler: Skere Kaan
  • The Order of the Sith Lords, “Bane’s Sith Order” – Most notable member: Darth Vader
  • Lumiya’s Sith – Most notable member: Darth Caedus
  • The Lost Tribe of the Sith – Most notable ruler: Yaru Korsin
  • One Sith “New Sith Order” – Most notable ruler: Darth Krayt

Vitiate

*Darth Vitiate

EXPANDED UNIVERSE 

Alright, so now let’s get down to the topic of this post, how a Sith gets their lightsaber. Prior to the Disney purchase, the Star Wars Universe was quite expansive. It encompassed hundreds of thousands of years of history and provided rich backstories to some well known characters while establishing complete new characters as fan favourites.

Most Star Wars fans know that a Jedi creates their own lightsaber when they are a young Padawan. The television show Star Wars: Clone Wars actually explains the entire process in an episode during one of the later seasons of the show. Each Padawan must find their Kyber crystal and construct their own saber. The Kyber crystals are what actually power each individual lightsaber. They themselves are believed to be sentient, in that not every Kyber crystal will work the same for each Jedi.  While a Jedi is able to use any lightsaber, the one they created with their own crystal will always be more in tune with their personal connection to the Force. The Sith have moved past this trivial bond between crystal and user.

In the Expanded Universe, the Sith have perfected the creation of synthetic Kyber Crystals. The synthetic crystals actually came more out of a necessity rather than the will to find an alternate source. When the Dark Jedi were first exiled, they retained their regular blue/green sabers. They used these sabers until they were taken from them, after their defeat, before they were cast out to Korriban. Being branded as wanted fugitives put a damper on them being able to stroll into a Jedi controlled system to retrieve a Kyber crystal to make a new saber. The Sith therefore found a way to manufacture power crystals to use in their sabers.

The Manufacturing process is pretty standard and was actually a very common process for scientists in the Star War Universe. It utilizes a piece of lab equipment referred to as a Geological Compressor. This compressor was originally used to simulate the geological conditions on distant planets in a lab setting. The Sith used this tech with some slight modifications to create the synthetic Kyber crystals. The crystals naturally come out with a red colouring due to the synthetic process, and as such generate a red blade. While the colour can be changed easily, the Sith liked to keep the red sheen to make sure they were distinct from the Jedi. The individual would load the raw minerals into the machine and leave it for anywhere between 24 hours to four days. During the process, the individual creating the crystals would meditate and focus the force into the chamber to create the potent and strong crystals.

While this process was much quicker than finding naturally occurring crystals, it created unstable blades. Most Sith utilized the unstable blade because it was stronger than a natural blade. During combat the Sith blade stood a chance of “breaking” the Jedi blade by overloading the energy matrix of the Jedi saber and shorting it out.

Unstable Sith Blade

*Unstable Sith Blade

The unstable nature of the lightsaber cause problems for the Sith as well. While it would cause more damage when it struck due to the unstable energy, it was also prone to shorting out temporarily.

RETCONNED UNIVERSE

Post Disney purchase, most of the Expanded universe was scrapped while Disney worked to create a new universe in which Star Wars would take place.  In this new Universe the only things that were deemed canon were the movies (original trilogy and prequel trilogy), The Clone Wars movie and TV show and the new trilogy. Since then the Universe has expanded to include the new TV show Rebels. During Rebels  we are also gifted with some Easter Eggs in the form of name drops for major conflicts ie. The Mandalorian Wars; showing that Disney is expanding the universe to include some of the original Expanded content.

Recently Marvel has begun releasing new content in the Star Wars universe which is considered canon by Disney. One of these titles is a favourite of mine, Darth Vader: Dark Lord of the Sith. This series picks up immediately after the events of Revenge of the Sith, with Darth Vader finding his way in the new Empire. The First task Vader is given as a new Lord of the Sith, is to get a lightsaber.

It is revealed through the first couple of issues that the Sith have never used synthetic crystals to create their lightsabers. While watching as the “traitorous” Jedi’s lightsabers are incinerated in front of the Galactic Senate; Palpatine provides Vader with the truth behind the Sith’s lightsabers. A Sith does not manufacture their own lightsaber, they kill a Jedi and take theirs. Sith for thousands of years have used this method to gather their lightsabers and now Vader must do the same. When pressed further, Palpatine tells Vader that the reason that the Sith lightsabers are red and not green or blue is because they have been made to bleed.

Make the crystal bleed

When a Sith kills a Jedi and takes their lightsaber, the process of transforming the blade has only begun. The Sith must then take the blade to the “source of their power”. In Vader’s case it was the planet Mustafar where he “died”. There the Sith dismantles the lightsaber to reveal the crystal and by using the Force, imbues the crystal with all of their hatred, anger and malice. This causes the crystal to bleed and become the deep crimson of the Sith’s blade.

Make the Crystal Bleed 2

*It is unclear if the traditional practice is still used as this is what Kylo Ren’s lightsaber appears to be*

Vader forcing Crystal*Vader on Mustafar corrupting the Kyber Crystal of a fallen Jedi master

Once the Sith Lord has achieved the crimson blade he is then a full member of the Sith Order and can take his place at his master’s side. This task is difficult for most Sith after the execution of Order 66 due to most of the Jedi being hunted down and killed. It is revealed through the new comic series, and through Rebels, that there are quite a few Jedi who survived the purge and are hiding throughout the galaxy. In order to root out the remaining Jedi from the galaxy, the Emperor has begun training Inquisitor’s to operate as hunter/trackers for hiding Jedi, and to kill any they find.

 

So there you have it! That is how the Sith got their lightsabers in both the original Expanded Universe and the new Retconned Universe. Let me know what you think!

See you next week!

DCEU – Restructuring and Revamping

For this week’s post I decided to focus on some new developments in the DCEU camp and what my thoughts are behind them.

Okay so I don’t think it’s exactly any sort of a secret that Ben Affleck is going to leave the Batman role behind in the next couple of years. From the lackluster performance of Batman V. Superman, the failure of Suicide Squad, and the very sub-par Justice League; DC entertainment have decided to restructure their entire expanded universe and inject some hopeful new blood into their floundering franchise.

Batman

The first big piece of news that isn’t really that new is that Ben Affleck is no longer writing or directing the film that was tentatively titled The Batman. In wake of Affleck backing out of the directorial and writing role DC Entertainment has tapped Matt Reeves (Planet of the Apes trilogy) to helm the project. As part of the condition that Reeves takeover the project he is going to make a trilogy and he has scrapped the pre-existing script (with Deathstroke as the villain) to write his own original script and story for the trilogy. This came as a shock to fans who were hoping to get an Affleck directed Batman film. I know I loved the Town and Argo, both films were written by , directed and starring Affleck and I was a little disappointed that they scrapped the story he had worked so hard on. Not only was the story scrapped, which featured Joe Manganiello reprising his role as Slade Wilson/Deathstroke, but Deathstroke was potentially scrapped as a villain all together. We did get a little tidbit of a taste of Manganiello as Wilson in a Justice League post-credit scene wherein Lex Luthor floated the idea of the Society of Supervillains. Since his announcement of taking over the project Matt Reeves has stated he has an idea in mind and he has begun the early stages of writing the script. Recently it was reported that Ben Affleck would not be starring as Batman in Reeves’ trilogy, and that a new actor would be cast in the role of the Dark Knight. Speculations began flying as to why Affleck would not be reprising the role and who would be best suited to take his place. Some of the front runners for the role were rumoured to be: Jake Gyllenhaal, John Hamm, and Karl Urban; with recent news putting Gyllenhaal as the favourtie for the role.

Gyllenhall Batman

While I do love Batfleck it is apparent through interviews and appearances at cons and television, that Affleck is not crazy about the role. He was reported as saying at San Diege Comic-Con that he” …is Batman and it is the role of a lifetime for any actor. He is Batman for the foreseeable future.” That being said recent re-structuring of DC Entertainment may have that called into question. While Affleck certainly does have at least 2 more movies (1 of which being another Justice League) in his contract, the actor and the studio are not in the greatest of spaces after the fiasco that went on with the re shoots of Justice League. It has been well documented that the studio pushed both the actors and replacement director, Joss Whedon, into a tight schedule for re-shoots of the film. This caused everyone associated with the film to work for long hours without a break and caused tensions to rise behind the scenes, with Affleck being very vocal about the whole ordeal.

Do I want Affleck to step away from Batman? No. I think he has the best look of anyone that has taken the role thus far. Don’t get me wrong the Dark Knight trilogy is amazing, but it is more fondly remembered for the amazing performance by Heath Ledger than for Batman. I grew up watching the animated series, playing the games and reading the comics, and Ben Affleck definitely has the look to play Batman. I am not crazy about the voice modulator that everyone seems to think that Batman has to use. My friend Malcolm and I have said it since the beginning that to make any Batman fan happy, have Kevin Conroy voice over the actor and make the cape CG.

Recently, The Flash movie has finally found its directorial team with John Francis Daley and Johnathan Goldstein. These two were the minds behind the Vacation remake starring Ed Helms and they also co-wrote Spider-Man: Homecoming, which they were also considered to direct before Marvel went with John Watts. With the Flash movie having finally found its directors the focus has once again turned to the story, Flashpoint. DC Entertainment Announced that this would be the title of the Flash movie before Justice League was released, and it was honestly the smartest move they could make.

Flashpoint

In DC comics Flashpoint was when Flash decided (after being goaded on by Reverse Flash) to travel back in time and save his mom from dying. The entire adventure caused a new time stream to form and it was not a pretty future…  Aquaman and Wonder Woman at war, Superman never having seen the sun, Bruce Wayne dying in the alley and his father becoming Batman while his mother goes insane to become the Joker…. When Flash was finally able to right his wrong and reset the timeline, the New 52 had begun. DC Comics used both Flashpoint and Infinite Crisis to “reset” their comic multiverse down to just 52 Earths. It allowed for a re-launch of existing properties giving all their characters a younger look and more inexperienced feel. Sadly the New 52 did not prove to be very popular among many comic fans and DC re-vamped and re-launched their comic properties again with Rebirth just 6 years after the New 52 began.

The reason Flashpoint is the smartest call they could make is due to the nature of the story. As I said before DC Comics used it as a means of resetting their comic universe and DC Entertainment will most likely use it in the same manner. With the lackluster performance of the DCEU thus far (minus Wonder Woman) DC Entertainment is looking to re-vamp their brand and start fresh with their expanded universe. With Aquaman set to release in December of this year and Wonder Woman 2 set to come out next year along with (potentially) Suicide Squad 2 the re-launch seems to be a weird call to make.

I think the main reason for the re-vamp is to go with a younger Batman. They will keep the rest of the League as is, most of them are “younger” anyways; and they will introduce a younger Batman to join the League. This will bring their movies and comics more in line with one another and allow for a more cohesive and accurate timeline.  One of the many criticisms of the DCEU is the age discrepancy between Batman and the rest of the League. In the DCEU as it stands now, Batman is mid 40’s to early 50’s, while the rest of the League are their mid to late 20’s. While this worked great for the gruff experienced Batman showing the younger ones how to do things, it doesn’t translate well for a good dynamic after that.  Injecting a younger actor into the role will open up the experience to potentially include a Robin or two and bring some much needed revitalization to the DCEU.