The Umbrella Corporation – Probably THE Most Evil Company In All Of Fiction

The Umbrella Corporation, a staple in the Resident Evil series and probably THE most evil corporation in all of fiction, why? well… let’s find out.

FOUNDING OF UMBRELLA

The Umbrella Corporation was originally founded as Umbrella Pharmaceuticals in late 1967 in the UK by Dr. Oswell E. Spencer, Dr. James Marcus & Dr. Edward Ashford.

Marcus and Spencer had become obsessed with a 19th century encyclopedia titled Natural History Conspectus. It was written by Henry Travis and detailed his journeys and contact with the Ndipaya tribe of West Africa and their folklore detailing a flower which can imbue great powers when consumed. Spencer and Marcus conducted several expeditions into the region and eventually discovered the flower. The Drs. along with Marcus’ student Brandon Bailey, discovered the flowers contained a mutagenic virus they would later dub “Progenitor”. Brimming with potential, Spencer made it his life goal to ensure the genesis of a new race of humans using this newly discovered progenitor virus. He founded Umbrella Pharmaceuticals alongside his long time friend Marcus and their mutual friend Ashford. On the face of things, Umbrella was a simple medicine manufacturing company, some of their most notable contributions were Adravil, Aqua Cure, Safsprin, and a common first aid spray to heal wounds. Under the surface the main goal of Umbrella was to further Spencer’s research into the advancement of humanity using Progenitor and to manufacture bio weapons to be sold for research money. One such project, became known as the “T-Virus”.

In the early 1970’s, Umbrella acquired Arklay laboratories and their samples of the Ebola virus. Officially, Arklay was using the virus samples to attempt to manufacture a cure; unofficially, they were mutating the virus to strengthen it’s applications and potential use as a bio-weapon. Throughout the early 70’s, Umbrella acquired several other subsidiary laboratories and their research for use in it’s bio-weapon research and manufacturing. They would contract each subsidiary to manufacture a specific medicine but use their collective research, which was deemed property of Umbrella, to further their bio-weapon research.

Progenitor flower

For each vaccine that the Umbrella Corporation produced, they also produced a strain of the virus that was resistent to it. Thus, ensuring them a global market. A large portion of their viral research was on specific viruses and bacteria outlawed by the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention. As Umbrella began to acquire more and more research firms, they also branched into other industries, always with an ulterior motive. Umbrella made a huge push into tourism and transportation who’s main purpose was the transportation of biological and viral weapons out of Africa. They also founded an Umbrella subsidiary company for defence manufacturing called Umbrella Industries that focused on weapons manufacturing and Anti-B.O.W (Bio Organic Weapon) weaponry.

In 1978, the T-Virus project began to move away from its original designation as a weapon of death when it was discovered that hosts infected and killed with the virus underwent severe mutations. The T-virus caused severe mutations in the host which rendered them alive in a mentally damaged, cannibalistic and homicidal state capable of strenuous activity even after death.

DISSENTION AMONGST THE FOUNDERS

As the success of Umbrella began to take shape, the founding members of the company became at odds with one another. Ashford was actually killed in a T-virus experiment that went awry in 1968. It is highly believed that Dr. Spencer had something to do with the accident, though no connection was ever proven.

Dr. Marcus grew very unpopular with the executive board of the company for his tendency to use executive trainees as guinea pigs in his biological experiments without consent. It got so bad that Umbrella Security Service (the company’s private police force) apprehended and executed him in 1988.

Dr. Alexander Ashford, the son of the Late Dr. Edward Ashford, did not take up his father’s work in virology and thus was not a threat to Spencer and his control of the company. Alexander’s daughter, Alexia, however, did follow in her grandfather’s footsteps and helped to restore the Ashford name to prominence. Spencer grew worried of the Ashford’s once more and both Alex and Alexia were infected with a version of the T-virus code named “Veronica”. They disappeared from public eye and were believed to be dead.

Dr, Brandon Bailey now a full fledged virologist and not just Marcus’ student, was overseeing operations in Africa with the production of the T-Virus and various other biological weapons. Despite his requests to be moved to another locale, he was kept in Africa as head of manufacturing and research until he was executed by the Umbrella Security Service in 1998 to prevent a “security breach”. Several other doctors and their descendants would die under suspicious circumstances, with no direct evidence ever implicating Spencer.

BIO ORGANIC WEAPONS

NEST Facility

In the early to mid 1980’s a rare but effective immunity to the T-virus was discovered in various populations around the world. T-Virus research was doubled as well as the production of new chimeric beasts dubbed “B.O.W” (Bio Organic Weapon) began. The B.O.Ws were utilized by many militaries around the world that Umbrella had infiltrated in an attempt to kill anyone with a natural immunity to the T-Virus. By this point in time, Umbrella had grown to be a massive global conglomerate that controlled many of the most powerful nations around the world. The Arklay laboratory was the main research installation for Umbrella USA until the construction of the NEST Facility in 1991. The NEST (renamed the HIVE in the film series) was a massive underground research facility on the outskirts of Raccoon City that specialized in work with the G-Virus. The G-Virus (Golgotha Virus) was a mutated viral strain of the original Progenitor virus that could reanimate dead tissue without the negative effects of the T-Virus. It would also bestow upon the host near superhuman abilities effectively granting them biological immortality.

Jealous of the success coming out of Umbrella USA and their NEST facility, the European branch of Umbrella began work on their Nemesis Project. Project Nemesis was designed to create an intelligent parasite that could circumnavigate the brain death and loss of intelligence caused by the T-Virus. Project Nemesis ran alongside the USA’s project Tyrant to develop a superhuman weapon. In 1998, both projects were merged to create the Nemesis T-Type, a hulking B.O.W that had an AI interface to allow remote control of its actions. The only known Nemesis T-Type was dubbed “The Pursuer”, it was killed by Jill Valentine and Carlos Olivera during the Raccoon City incident.

PRE RACCOON CITY INCIDENT

With the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 90’s, Umbrella aggressively expanded into Easter Europe and Northern Asia. they founded, trained and armed several branches of paramilitary forces all under the control of the Umbrella company for use in outbreak events. An anti-B.O.W training facility was established on Rockford Island and was overseen by Alfred Ashford, the grandson of Dr. Edward Ashford.

Umbrella developed an intelligence division which served to keep track on the various governments of the world and their plans. The intelligence arm of Umbrella planted moles in various governments around the world, one such mole, that was planted in the USA, was Albert Wesker.

Umbrella’s influence over the governments they were selling weapons and biological agents to was extremely prevalent. When plant No.57 in West Africa suffered an outbreak, the Umbrella Biohazard Countermeasure Service (UBCS), massacred everyone in the plant and the surrounding villages to prevent exposure. This cleansing was covered up by the government so nobody would know of Umbrella’s involvement. Similarly, when a human experiment went wrong at a hospital in the Arklay Mountains, there was no police investigation, no media outlet identified Umbrella as the culprit and the hospital was shut down in 1993.

In 1996, one reporter who was getting close to the truth of what was really going on, was murdered with his body being washed up on the shore of the Aimes River. No investigation was conducted into his murder and all his notes and evidence mysteriously disappeared.

RACCOON CITY INCIDENT

THE MANSION INCIDENT

By the time of the Raccoon City incident in 1998, Umbrella’s influence and power had begun to decline. The decline was attributed to 2 reasons:
1. Industrial Espionage with other companies and governments stealing Umbrella’s research.
2. Internal Destabilization from the constant fighting and back stabbing done by the Umbrella board.

In May of 1998, the facility in the Arklay Mountains had a containment breach. While the facility was quickly put on lockdown, sentient “Cerberus” B.O.Ws escaped and made their way through the mountains killing and turning hikers into zombies. These zombies then attacked and turned other civilians into zombies as well. The local law enforcement was unable to determine a cause of the deaths or stop them from piling up. They contacted the STARS (Special Tactics and Rescue Service), a paramilitary organization funded by Umbrella that operated independently of both law enforcement and military, to help stop the murders. Having retired from the military, Albert Wesker was now leader of an elite team of STARS operatives and was tasked by Umbrella with taking his squad into the mountains and allowing them to be killed. He was told to destroy any incriminating evidence linking the incident to Umbrella and record all combat encounters to observe the combat effectiveness of the T-virus infected hosts. Wesker faked his death and left with all the incriminating evidence he had found and fled to the rival biological tech company. Only 2 members of his team survived the ordeal, Chris Redfield and Jill Valentine.

OUTBREAK INCIDENT

Dr. Birkin, the head of the NEST facility underneath Raccoon City, devised a plan to leave Umbrella and hand himself, along with samples of the T-Virus and the G-Virus, over to the US military/government after he failed to impress his way into Dr. Spencer’s inner circle. Due to the deep influence of Umbrella, he devised a plan to ruin them and expose their nefarious acts around the world. In the weeks, leading up to his departure, Birkin dumped live samples of the T-Virus into various essential works around Raccoon City such as their Sewage Treatment Plant. This allowed for the T-Virus to infect the entire City in a matter of weeks. By mid September of 1998, the entire City was experiencing the effects of the T-Virus and the Raccoon City hospital was under strict quarantine. Dr. Birkin was killed when he released his “Hunter” B.O.Ws in the sewers of the city. An Umbrella Security Service team was sent to handle the problem and Birkin was killed in the crossfire. He used a vial of the G-Virus to mutate himself into a powerful monster that rampaged through the sewers and the city itself.

T-Virus

By this time, Umbrella had become aware of the contamination of Raccoon City and moved to cover up their involvement. They quarantined the entire city and attempted evacuate some of the remaining uninfected civilians. When the infection spread too rapidly, the Umbrella squads sent into the city were decimated. The remaining National Guard, Military and Umbrella forces retreated to their blockades and sealed the city shut. With the city sealed and all living people in the city presumed to be infected or soon to be, Umbrella decided to use this as a testing ground for some of their B.O.Ws. Umbrella Europe deployed the Nemesis project to eliminate any surviving STARS members or civilians in the city, to test its combat effectiveness and to avenge the disappearance of two other B.O.Ws sent in by the military to initially control the outbreak. When it became clear that the outbreak could not be contained, and project Nemesis was lost to some survivors in the city (Jill Valentine and Carlos Olivera), The President, Joint Chiefs, and the Security council opted to use and experimental fuel air bomb to destroy the city and all traces of the infection. An undercover Umbrella agent used his influence over Senator Ron Davis to push for the bomb to be used. On October 1, 1998, the fuel air bomb was deployed and the city was destroyed along with all evidence of Umbrella’s involvement in the outbreak incident.

UMBRELLA’S DECLINE

After the incident in Raccoon City, the United States government was no longer able to ignore the power that Umbrella had amassed. Congress voted to suspend Umbrella USA’s right to do business in the country and federalized all of their assets. With no evidence of the outbreak despite what some survivors were reporting to the media, the United States government was in very hot water over their bombing of the city. While several outlets were receiving interviews from survivors like Alyssa Ashcroft ( a field reporter with Raccoon City Press), the threat of bio-weaponry was covered up providing no excuse for the bombing. In response to the backlash received over the Raccoon City incident, the United States government formed the Anti-Umbrella Pursuit and Investigations Team. This team was focused on anti-B.O.W tactics and was given near unlimited power to operate within the US against bio weapons and outbreaks under the Anti-Virus Weapon Protocol No.7600.

As stock shares in Umbrella and its influence began to wain, Dr. Spencer (now the only surviving founding member) decided to shutter much of Umbrella’s viral weapons research and production. Umbrella’s African production facility was shut down and all staff eliminated to prevent a security breach.

In November after the Raccoon City incident, Umbrella’s facility on Sheena Island was destroyed along with their production facility for project TYRANT.

In December, the Umbrella training facility on Rockfort Island was attacked and destroyed by the Rival Company. The survivors fled to the Antarctic transport facility Umbrella had set up years before to distribute bio-weapons globally without interference from governments. As the survivors and the samples of the T-Virus they brought with them were deciding what to do, former STARS member and survivor of the Mansion Incident Chris Redfield, activated the facility’s self destruct system.

As the years ticked by, Umbrella found it hard to keep their employees in line. With their detention facilities on Rockfort and Sheena islands gone, and their research grinding to a halt, many employees began selling bio-weapons on the black market to make enough money to run from the company. The United States government was still covering up the bio-terror attacks, which were growing in frequency with the weapons making their way onto the black market. To combat this rise in bio-terrorism, the United States government formed the Federal Bioterrorism Commission to combat another threat on American soil should it ever arise.

Albert Wesker

In 2002, a terrorist named Morpheus Duvall raided Umbrella’s Paris facility and stole samples of the T-Virus as well as an experimental T+G Virus. The group then boarded a cargo ship as it was transporting illegal Hunter B.O.Ws to an unknown buyer in North America and commandeered the ship. The group threatened to fire missiles loaded with the T-Virus at large cities in both the USA and China unless they were paid 5 billion dollars. A coordinated effort between the US and Chinese governments resulted in a neutralization of the threat with no media coverage of the event.

By 2003, Umbrella had become a shell of its former self. Most of the nations of the world had withdrawn their support of the company and many of its subsidiaries were closed down. The final straw that broke the camel’s back was when their Caucasus facility suffered an outbreak. The surrounding villages were all burned to prevent further spread of the virus and Umbrella lost their super computer that had all of their research they amassed since the founding of the company. The United States Division of Umbrella was embroiled in a legal battle, which they almost won, in regards to the incident in Raccoon City. Due to the lack of physical evidence tying them to the outbreak and the cleansing of the city, Umbrella was nearly able to shift full blame to the government of the United States. It took a defected Albert Wesker, who had copied the super computer hard drive before the Caucasus facility was destroyed, making a covert deal to provide the US government with overwhelming evidence to convict Umbrella USA for a guilty verdict to be rendered. With Umbrella USA being found to have caused the incident and being found implicit in the “sanitation” of the infection, their stock prices plummeted and they were forced to declare bankruptcy due to compensation claims.

Umbrella Pharmaceuticals and the Umbrella Corporation were forced to declare bankruptcy following the verdict in the United States Supreme Court. American and Russian intelligence services issued a warrant for the capture of Dr. Spencer, though it was several years before he was found. He was killed by Albert Wesker in 2006 before he could stand trial for his actions.

With the bankruptcy of Umbrella their only division to remain active, if even for a brief period, was their Japanese location. It remained active until its liquidation in 2014 when no company would risk their reputation by purchasing it.

Umbrella Pharmaceuticals and the massive global conglomerate of Umbrella Corporation are without a doubt one of if not THE most evil corporations in all of fiction. Granted there are some like Oscorp from Spider-Man, Lex Corp. from DC Comics or even Abstergo Industries from Assassin’s Creed that are pretty brutal in their treatment of people; but, none of them compare on the scale of Umbrella. Umbrella essentially owned your research, you and anything you produced. Not to mention they reserved the right to kill you if necessary to prevent a “security breach” or even used you as a guinea pig for some new viral weapon they were testing without notifying you that you were being tested. They condoned the massacre of nearly an entire city to test some of their own mutated weapons, and they tried to cover it all up with a bomb that destroyed all evidence linking them to the incident. This is one company that I am happy has stayed firmly in the realm of fiction.

That was an extremely condensed version of the history of the Umbrella Corporation from Resident Evil fame. Any thought let me know in the comments. See you next week!

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Avengers: Endgame – Trailer Breakdown & Plot Prediction

Earlier this morning we were gifted with an early Christmas present, the new Avengers trailer! Originally it was supposed to be released on Wednesday earlier this week; however, due to the untimely death of past President George H. W. Bush, it was pushed to today to accommodate his televised funeral service in Washington. I was not familiar with his policies and and acts as president of the United States  but from what I understand he did a lot of good for the country and he will be sorely missed.

Onto the trailer!

Ever since the ‘snappening’ at the end of Infinity War, fans have been speculating as to what will happen to the defeated team. With Ant-Man and the Wasp, we were shown a probable solution to the Avengers’ problem of dealing with a fully powered Thanos with all the Infinity stones, Quantum Time Wells. In the post-credit sequence of Ant-Man and the Wasp, original Wasp (Janet Van Dyne) was coaching Scott on what to look for in the Quantum Realm. One of the anomalies that she cautions against is Quantum Time Wells, which (I think) is how the Avengers are more than likely going to beat Thanos. 

Let’s breakdown the trailer…

We start with a lonely Tony recording a voice message in hopes that Pepper will one day see it and know that in his last moments he will be thinking about her. He states that his oxygen will run out by the next day and power a few days after that, but he wants her to know that in his final days she was all he could think about. Which shows a lot of personal growth for Tony, ever since we were first introduced to him in 2008’s Iron Man he has been a fairly narcissistic person. Pepper was the one person that he could care about and who he wanted above all to protect. 

Tony recording the message for Pepper

The title card for Marvel Studios got a bit of a redo since the ‘snappening’ and now shows the title discarding into dust much like some of the heroes did after the snap.

We are shown Thanos’ armour arranged on a stand to represent a scarecrow as Thanos walks through a field of alien plants still wearing the damaged gauntlet. Apparently after Thanos murders half of the life in the universe he decided to become a farmer?

Thanos scarecrow

We are shown some exterior shots of the Avengers compound while Widow is summarizing what Thanos did to a startled Bruce Banner. We see a shot of a now beardless and groomed Cap shedding a tear for either Bucky or his friends and allies. Banner is amazed at everything that happened and see all the people they lost as their faces begin rotating through a wheel on the holo-screen in front of him.

Cap sheds a tear for the fallen

We get a shot of the empty Avengers compound and then more shots of the survivors from the ‘snappening’ as they mourn their friends and loved ones. We get a nice voice over from Captain America as he states that they all lost someone either friends or family and that they all lost part of themselves when it happened. 

Ronin

We cut to a shot of a hooded figure cleaning a bloody sword on their sleeve while Widow watches in a town somewhere in Asia. The figure removes their hood and mask to reveal Clint Barton who has adopted his Ronin alias. Cap’s voice over then says “This is the fight of our lives” as we see him looking at the picture of Peggy Carter he keeps in his compass. Inside of a Quinjet, Widow turns to him and says that their plan will work while Steve says ” I know it will, because I don’t know what I’m going to do if it doesn’t”.

Cap in Quinjet

We then get the title card for the movie where the avengers “A” is being put back together from broken stone on a purple background. The Avengers title appears on the screen with the subtitle “Endgame” appearing out of a purple flash. The final shot of the trailer shows us Scott Lang arriving at the Avengers compound and talking to the security camera asking to be let in. He introduces himself as Ant-Man and that they would remember him from the airport in Germany. Cap stands up with a determined look in his eyes asking if it’s an old message with Widow stating “No, this is at the front gate”. We then get a purple title card stating April 2019 with the ‘A’ in April as the Avengers ‘A’. 

April 2019

My prediction of the plot is as follows:
Scott Lang arrives along with Clint who has assumed the Ronin persona to the Avengers compound where Captain America and Black Widow are thinking up a counterattack. He explains how everyone (Hank, Hope & Janet) were wiped out and he needs to get them back. Cap and Widow will then explain what happened with Thanos and they will take some time coming up with a plan.
Tony is floating in space in the Milano (Peter’s ship from Guardians of the Galaxy) but without any fuel or knowledge of how the hip works/to fix it, he is set to drift in the void between Titan and Earth. He will be found by Captain Marvel who is answering Fury’s call from the post-credit scene in Infinity War. They return to Earth where the remaining Avengers and those that survived the ‘snappening’ are formulating their plan. 
Thanos is a farmer? and he is happy at what he has down knowing the universe will spin on. Though he knows something isn’t quite right.
The remaining Avengers decide to use Quantum Time Vortexes to go back in time to the battle of New York from the first Avengers film. Tony poses as a SHIELD security agent in order to help break Loki out so he can tell them where Thanos is. The original avengers and the new squad ally together during the battle of New York. The new squad are responsible for protecting the city while the original crew head through the wormhole to confront Thanos on the Chitauri station when he doesn’t have any of the stones.
In the climactic battle the portal will need to be closed . The original crew will still be fighting Thanos and they’ll make the sacrifice to hold the line while the new squad closes the portal to Earth, stranding them in Chitauri space. Cap and Tony will make a final stand against Thanos with both dying in the fight. With Thanos being defeated and not lasting to get both the power and space stones, the other stones are then returned to their rightful places and the timeline is reset. 

There you have it! My breakdown of the trailer and my prediction of the plot. I am super excited for this film and hope that it’s going to be even better than Infinity War was! See you next time!

Modern Villains & The Complexity They Represent

2018 has been an amazing year for movies. No contest. One of the greatest things that came around this year in particular is that the villains being chosen for movies are not the classic villain. While some do have a “Take over the world because I want to” vibe to them, most of them are compelling and interesting characters. They represent an alternative way of thinking and while they might choose the wrong path they aren’t necessarily wrong. Let’s look at some of the great villains from movies this year. 

THANOS

The biggest movie event of the year, and probably the last 20, was Avengers: Infinity War that premiered on April 27, 2018. The last 10 years of Marvel films have been building up to this event and it paid off (for the most part) extremely well. The big bad in this movie was the Mad Titan Thanos, but this Thanos was MUCH different from his comic book counter part. In Marvel Comics, Thanos is evil for the sake of it. He doesn’t have any real ulterior motivations other than wanting to be reunited with Lady Death, whom he has fallen in love with. Thanos thought that if he could prove to her that he deserved her love she would admit that she belonged with him and they would finally be united in love. Yes, comic Thanos wants to bang a busty skeleton and that is why he kills half the universe. While this does work to make a great villain to have the Avengers go up against, the maniacal overlord trope has been used and abused so many times in film that something else needed to be done, enter the Russo brothers.  

Until they directed Captain America: The Winter Soldier, the Russo’s main directing credit came from the paintball episodes of Community. With their success at crafting (arguably) the best Marvel movie to date, Kevin Feige gave them the reigns to bring Thanos to the big screen. The Russos dove into their work and brought us a mad titan that you could sympathize with. In the MCU, Thanos begins his quest to get power sure, but having the power wasn’t his goal it was a means to an end, he wants to bring the universe back into balance. His main argument is that he is the only one who can see that eventually life will cease to exist if left to prosper unchecked. We find out that this is what led to the downfall and extinction of his home planet. He states that the universe only has a finite number of resources and that those resources are being used at an alarming rate. So, to ensure the longevity of life, a culling must take place. 50% of the entire universe, chosen indiscriminately to ensure fairness, needs to die to ensure life continues.  This draws an interesting parallel to our own planet where we are using resources at an increasingly fast pace and Global Warming will become inevitable in less than 50 years unless we do something about it. The redeeming quality of Thanos, is that he knows he is also part of the problem and he is willing to sacrifice himself if it means the universe spins on. 

KILLMONGER

On February 16, 2018, we were introduced to the nation of Wakanda through Ryan Coogler’s epic film Black Panther. Having been introduced to T’Challa in Captain America: Civil War, his solo film was where Black Panther was really allowed to shine. Part of what made the movie so great was its compelling villain, Eric “Killmonger” Stevens also known as N’Jadaka. Now Killmonger spent the first good portion of the movie manipulating his way into Wakanda proper before executing his plan. He attempted and succeeded in a coup of the throne by exploiting his right to challenge the king to one on one combat for the throne. While he missed the official day where all the tribes were permitted to present a challenger, his cousin T’Challa accepted his challenge. Killmonger was a vicious fighter and had been trained by the CIA to work as a black ops member to destabilize foreign governments. He racked up over 2,200 confirmed kills and decorated his body with ceremonial “crocodile” markings for each life he took. When Killmonger defeated his cousin and assumed the throne his first act after ingesting the heart shaped herb for himself was to burn the garden where it was grown. His second order was to arm the “Dogs of War” Wakanda had stationed around the globe so they could arm the disenfranchised descendants of the African people to take control. Having grown up in the slums of Oakland California after his father, prince N’Jobu was killed by the king T’Chaka for betraying the people of Wakanda, Killmonger knew the conditions his people’s descendants were living in. Wanting to end the subjugation of his people he believed that the only way to accomplish this task was to create a series of coups around the globe and arm the revolutionaries with Wakandan tech, which is way more advanced than the rest of the world.

His belief in the ability and requirement of the Wakandan nation to end their ruse of appearing as a third world country and assume their rightful place as rulers of the world, caused a shift in the people of Wakanda. While some like the Border Tribe allied with Killmonger, most didn’t agree with his way of thinking. When T’Challa returned and took his throne back, he agreed that it was time for Wakanda to step out of the shadows and take a more active role in the affairs of the world. In the end, Killmonger was right even if he went about it the wrong way, and his people took their place as major players in the affairs of the world. 

GRINDELWALD

Say what you will about the second installment of the Fantastic Beasts franchise, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, but the villain Gellert Grindelwald, played by the great Johnny Depp, stands as one villain you can’t help but sympathize with.

SPOILERS AHEAD!!!

The movie starts nearly immediately after the first one ended, I believe there has been a few months of time that passed but nothing has really changed. We start with the American Ministry of Magic holding Grindelwald in a cell before the British ministry representatives arrive to transport him to Europe for his crimes. They never specify what his crimes are but it appears he is like most of the mafia bosses in history, linked to many crimes without direct evidence to place him there. While his followers do utilize the unforgivable curses to their full extent and with wanton disregard for the muggle population, Grindelwald doesn’t use any of the curses himself. It also appears in the film that in certain circumstances, the 1920’s Ministry of Magic condoned Aurors utilizing the killing curse to stop large threats to the Wizarding World.  Now none of this really has anything to do with Grindelwald but it is important to know because of how the movie plays out. The reason that you sympathize with Grindelwald comes at the climax of the film. Grindelwald is hosting a massive congregation of witches and wizards from across Europe in order to recruit them to his side. While most people think Grindelwald is just a Voldemort analogue, they could not be more wrong. While Voldemort wanted to extinguish muggles and all muggleborns because he viewed them as dirty or unclean, Grindelwald wants to control them.  He understands that in the beginning there will be death and that is the price they must pay for their ultimate goal which is harmony through wizard rule. Now while this definitely sounds “Take over the world villainy”, give me a moment to explain…

The movie takes place in the 1920’s which comes on the tail of the ending of the First World War. Now we learn that the wizarding world didn’t take part in the war in any capacity but countless witches and wizards were killed because of it through collateral damage. Grindelwald provides a vision to his congregation at the end of the film that predicts WWII and the dropping of the atomic bomb. He goes on to say, that if left to their own devices, muggles could destroy the planet within the next 20 years and calls for witches and wizards from all countries to ally with him to bring the muggle world to order to stop unnecessary death.  This causes a lot of the congregation to ally with him and chant his name in unison, which is something he relishes in. It’s obvious Grindelwald is an egomaniac, but being an egomaniac doesn’t mean he was wrong in his beliefs. 

There you go, three fine examples of how modern films are moving away from traditional villainy and giving us more complex villains. As I’ve said before, while some of them went about it the wrong way, none of them were wrong in what they thought.  See you next time!

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.

Spiderman-1994-spiderman-the-animated-series-1994-29730956-333-250

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.

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!