The Witcher – Netflix’s Next Big Endeavour

I decided to include not only Halo, but all video games in the opening post for each month. While I focused on Halo for the past three installments, this time, I decided to focus on a game that has a series coming to Netflix, The Witcher. The Witcher is an epic fantasy saga that was based off the books written by Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski. The first book of the series titled Sword of Destiny was written in 1992 and gained a cult following. Since the release of Sword of Destiny, there have been 7 more novels added to the series with the latest one coming in 2013. The novels were originally written in Polish and have since been translated into over 15 different languages, including English. The main character of the series is named Geralt of Rivia, a Witcher. In the novels, a Witcher is a monster hunter that along with some mutagen body modifications, has been trained from a young age to combat monsters. Geralt is a member of the School of Wolves but several other Witcher Schools exist in the universe.

SETTING

The saga of the Witcher takes place on the continent, the name of the continent is never given but the various kingdoms and cities all have been named. Several thousand years before the series starts, the Elves sailed across the sea and settled the continent. With the continent already being home to the dwarves and gnomes, a racial war broke out between the dwarves and elves; with both sides eventually calling a truce and settling in different regions. The elves settled in the plains and forests, the dwarves settled in the hills and mountains and gnomes took the spaces that were left, mainly coastal areas. Roughly 500 years before the first book, humans sailed across the sea and decided to settle on the continent. When humanity arrived, as per usual, they started a war against the indigenous populations and emerged victorious. With the elves, dwarves and gnomes now classified as second class citizens, they live in small ghettos in the shadows on the great cities that the humans built. While the cities are relatively safe for habitation most of the wilderness still remains unclaimed with various beasts and factions residing there.  After a magical event known as the “Conjunction of the Spheres” various supernatural beasts (werewolves, vampires, etc) arrived on the continent and began cutting a bloody path through the wilderness.

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While the humans defeated the other races to become the dominant species, they were unable to stay united in their beliefs. In the centuries leading up to the start of the series, the southern regions of the continent have come under the control of the Nilfgaard Empire, while the Northern regions have united as the Northern Kingdoms. They went to war in a brutal and bloody conflict that cost millions of lives and accomplished nothing, which is where the first book picks up, immediately following the end of the first war.

CHARACTERS

GERALT – The Main Character for the saga is Geralt of Rivia. Geralt is a human male that was taken when he was born by the “Law of Surprise” which dictates that if someone cannot pay for the witcher’s services, that witcher may take something the debtor does not know they have. This law was what allowed for the witcher who performed the service for the parents of Geralt, to claim their first born child as his payment, making Geralt a witcher candidate. Forcing his parents to take him, as a new born baby, to Kaer Morhen to be trained as a witcher. As he grew up at Kaer Morhen (the witcher school for the Order of the Wolf) Geralt exhibited skills beyond his age which allowed him to take the trial of grasses early. The trial of grasses is a procedure during which the recruits are exposed to mutagens and procedures to enhance their senses to allow them to become full witchers. This trial is not without its risks, as roughly 25 – 40% of recruits can perish from these mutations. Geralt took to the mutations so well, that additional mutagens were used giving him near superhuman abilities. As a result of his mutations, his skin pigment was destroyed as was the pigment in his hair which caused his skin to become very pale and his hair to go white, earning him the nickname “The White Wolf”.

Geralt

YENNEFER OF VENGERBERG – A powerful Sorceress and the “true love” of Geralt’s life. She was born in the kingdom of Aedirn, which was one of the most heavily human colonized areas of the continent. Due to her aptitude in magical arts, she was the youngest member of the Brotherhood of Sorcerers  and was eventually courted for membership by the Lodge of Sorceresses as well. She was the magical advisor to king Demavand III and the surrogate mother to Ciri. She was known for wearing black and white garments and using Lavender as her signature fragrance. Like all sorceresses and magic users, she was born sterile, and thus was never able to have children of her own, hence why she took such a liking to Ciri and helped raise her as her surrogate mother.  She participated in several major battles and helped to bring Geralt’s memory back to him after he lost it following his apparent death.

CIRILLA FIONA ELEN RIANNON (CIRI) – Is a powerful Witcheress and the surrogate daughter of Geralt and Yennefer. Having been given to Geralt by the Law of Surprise, Ciri never really knew her parents as they were killed at sea by a storm. She was raised by her grandmother and uncle on Skellige and in Cintra for the first few years of her life. Ciri is of Elder Blood descent which allows her for some impressive abilities of travelling through time and across different planes of existence at will. Having been raised at Kaer Morhen by Geralt and Yennefer as their surrogate daughter, she developed a strong bond with the Witcher and the Sorceress. She is constantly pursued by nefarious enemies for both her Elder Blood abilities and her inheritance to the throne of Cintra. Ciri is one of the main characters in the Witcher III : The Wild Hunt game as well as in the book series.

TRISS MERIGOLD – A Powerful Sorceress and constant ally of Geralt and Yennefer throughout the games and the novels. She was born in the land of Temeria and became an extremely powerful sorceress before meeting Geralt and Yennefer. She lived at Kaer Morhen with Geralt, Yennefer and Ciri acting as an older sister to Ciri through her formative years. Along with being a gifted Sorceress she was also a talented healer and carried quite a few healing potions on her person to help others in need. She was the one responsible for stopping several of the hormonal mutagens used on the Witchers from being applied to Ciri, thus saving some of her secondary gender traits. Triss was in love with Geralt even though he never reciprocated the feeling, him being in love with Yennefer and all.

DANDELION – Also known by his birth name of Julian Alfred Pankratz, was a bard, poet, minstrel and close friend of Geralt. Not much is known of Dandelion’s past, except that he was of noble birth and that he started into poetry at age 19 thanks to his infatuation with Countess de Stael. He was educated at Oxenfurt University where he eventually became a professor. He taught for just over a year before deciding to put some miles on his soul by travelling and playing for the people. Within several months he was known as one of the best minstrels in the Northern Kingdoms with his most famous ballad, The Lion Cub of Cintra, being requested frequently.  He met Geralt in the small town of Upper Posada where Geralt was dealing with a particularly mischievous Sylvan (Goat man).  Since their first encounter Geralt and Dandelion have become close friends and allies.

THE SHOW

In early of 2017, it was announced that Netflix had picked up the rights to make a Witcher show based on the original works of Andrzej Sapkowski. Lauren Schmidt Hissrich was named showrunner for her previous work on Daredevil and The Defenders Netflix series. The show will take place over 13 episodes, each an hour and length and tell the tale of Geralt the monster Hunter as he makes a name for himself on the continent amidst a war.

Netflix

I started playing the Witcher game series with the second installment, Assassin of Kings, and as someone who has never played a game of that scope before, I was blown away. CD Projekt Red really delivered something wholly unique with that installment, at least to me. I was never a fan of the Final Fantasy games so having a game that took place over 4 different discs was a pretty daunting task for me. I thoroughly enjoyed the game even if i wasn’t that good at it. I found myself waiting expectantly for the next game which turned out to be Witcher III: Wild Hunt. I pre-ordered Wild Hunt and the day it downloaded on to my Xbox I sunk probably 8 hours into the story. Coming off a gap of several years without playing a Witcher game, I was a little rusty at first and died numerous times before I finally got the hang of the combat system. The story for the show is said to be wholly original but take heavy influences from both the original novels and the games themselves.

While originally Sapkowski was attached to act as creative consultant for the project, in early of 2018 he denied any involvement whatsoever with the series. The Witcher saga has been made into a film and mini series in Poland already, taking on the title of The Hexer. While Sapkowski was not a fan of with adaptation, it was met with some commercial success in the home country. This will mark the first time that a Witcher series has been attempted by someone outside of Poland and will also serve as a beginning to an ongoing series for Netflix.

Netflix has had some very recent hits and misses when it comes to their original content. Some of it is very spot on, Daredevil, Stranger Things and Orange is the New Black being prime examples; while some is a hard miss with Iron Fist (which I still enjoyed), Disjointed and Friends From College sitting firmly in that category. While not every show can be a perfect adaptation, there are several examples of shows taking some liberties with the source material while still remaining faithful to the fan base, Castlevania, Lost in Space and Daredevil are perfect examples of this. I’m hoping that the Witcher is going to the the latter and open as a great show a la Game of Thrones, while still retaining the magic that separates it from other high fantasy stories. Warring kings and mythical beasts is nothing new for a show or even movie, but doing it well is something that several studios have struggled with. HBO has made sure to lock in a spot in history with Game of Thrones but other shows like Camelot, Merlin and Vikings, while still good, don’t have the same effect.

I’m hoping the Witcher series will provide us with a much needed surrogate to the ever successful Game of Thrones (which ends next year), while remaining as its own entity that will hold it’s own spot as one of the great shows to come from the streaming service.

The Last Wish

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Most Underrated Heroes Vol. 7 – Blade

This week for my most underrated hero, I decided to focus on someone that is vastly underused and under-appreciated, Blade.

Blade first came to prominence during the late 90’s & early 2000’s when the Daywalker was given his own trilogy of movies starring Wesley Snipes in the titular role. Following the film trilogy, a Television series was ordered with Kirk Jones, in the role of Blade. The live action show lasted only one season before being cancelled by Spike TV (the network it aired on) due to budget limitations. a limited but successful anime show was also released starring Blade.

Snipes Blade

Blade has been a secondary character for most Marvel publications and has never really been given his time in the spotlight. His lack of use is definitely linked to the mature themes his comics are made with; focusing on a Dhampir who hunts vampires and their familiars, often with brutal efficiency.

Blade was created in July of 1973 by Marv Wolfman and Gene Colan as a supporting character in the title The Tomb of Dracula. 

HISTORY

Blade was born in 1929 in Madam Vanity’s Brothel in the Soho neighbourhood in London England. He was born Eric Brooks, to his mother Tara Brooks and (at the time) an unknown father. Due to complications experienced during labour, Tara was forced to seek medical help from a local doctor. The doctor is question was a vampire named Deacon Frost. Frost began to feed on Tara during her childbirth and as such passed along some enzymes to her unborn/being born child. Tara was killed in the process and before Frost could kill Eric, he was driven off by the other workers of the whorehouse. Eric was then gifted some vampiric abilities such as the ability to: sense supernatural creatures, immunity to complete vampirism, and an extremely prolonged lifespan.

Eric grew up calling Madam Vanity’s home, but one night while walking home, he stumbled upon an elderly man being attacked by three assailants. Despite only being 9 years old, Eric decided to help the elderly man and ran to his aide. It wasn’t until he had joined the fray that Eric realized the assailants were vampires. The elderly man used a silver sword which was hidden in his cane to dispatch the vampires and save them both. After the ordeal the old man introduced himself to Eric as Jamal Afari, a famed jazz musician and vampire hunter. Jamal moved into Madam Vanity’s and began to instruct Eric in vampire hunting, hand to hand combat and music. Blade became very proficient in hand to hand combat techniques and the use of edged and bladed weapons. He trained himself to Olympic level fitness and was soon proficient in dispatching most younger vampires by himself. He was soon given the nickname of “Blade” by his fellow vampire hunters and the vampires that he would hunt. After several successful solo hunts, he believed he was untouchable and that he could take down any vampire he wanted. In his hubris, he joined a street gang that was headed by a very powerful vampire named Lamia. The battle with Lamia was grueling and cost Blade his then girlfriend, Glory.

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This  loss and the subsequent loss of Jamal to Dracula, hardened Blade’s resolve to rid the world of vampires. Jamal was resurrected by Dracula as a vampire, forcing Blade to battle and kill his mentor and father figure.  Blade then tracked Dracula across Europe and Asia even allying with several other hunters who called themselves Ogun Strong’s Vampire Hunters. Dracula murdered most of the hunters except for Blade and one other before they were able to stake him. In memory of one of his fallen comrades, Blade adopted the use of Teakwood daggers as his preferred weapon.

After tracking a resurrected Dracula to Paris, Blade crossed paths with Quincy Harker the son of Johnathan Harker, and his vampire hunters: Rachel Van Helsing (daughter of Abraham Van Helsing), Taj Nital, and Frank Drake. Reluctantly, Blade allied with these hunters on several occasions and even took on Dracula once more with their help. When Dracula defeated the hunters, Blade became aware that he was immune to a vampire’s bite. After coming to this realization, he decided to hunt down Deacon Frost alone and get revenge on him for the murder of his mother. During his solo career, Blade fought Dracula, Morbius the Living Vampire, and the Legion of the Dead.  While tracking Frost, his target fled to the United States and thus, Blade ventured into the underbelly of Boston, Massachusetts. It was during this solo career in the USA that Blade encountered notable Private Detective, Hanibal King. Blade allied with King due to a mutual hate for Deacon Frost (the man who had turned King into a vampire) and they hunted Frost together. Eventually they caught up to Frost and put him down for good, disbanding his supporters in the process.

King and Blade would go on to team up with previous Blade ally, Frank Drake and assist Dr. Strange in combating many threats, most notable the Darkholders.  They also assisted Dr. Strange in the casting of the Montesi Formula which was meant to destroy all Vampires on Earth. While the spell worked for a time it eventually dissipated and his former ally now turned vampire Taj Nital attacked him, forcing Blade to kill him. The vampire Lord Varnae rose to power, causing Blade and his allies to stop him. During the ensuing battle, King and Drake appeared to have been killed, before Blade killed Lord Varnae. Blade drifted around the USA hunting vampires and allying with various other hunters before he ended up in Louisiana, where he discovered an alive Hannibal King. The two once again, allied together to take down a resurrected Deacon Frost and Ulysses Soujourner, the latter of which had Morbius under his mental control.

Blade tracked Morbius to New York city where he allied with Spider-Manto take him down. During the battle, Blade was bitten by Morbius. Due to Morbius being a biological lab accident, his unique form of vampirism reacted with the enzymes in Blade’s blood. This reaction provided him with all the strengths of a vampire except sunlight did not affect him. It was after this that he was given the title “Daywalker”.

SHIELD attempted to use Blade’s blood to clone vampire operatives with UN support. The project was title Project: Silvereye and was shut down by Blade and a couple of allies. Blade and several hunters then all banded together to stop Dracula from becoming a God-like vampire Lord before Blade returned to New Orleans. Blade was once again forced to battle a resurrected Dracula (he just never dies) and put him down apparently, for good. After his most recent battle with Dracula it was revealed his father, Lucas Cross, was responsible for the latest Dracula resurrection. Cross kidnapped Blade and tried to force him to feed on a virgin girl to fulfill a prophecy. Blade bit his own hand off to get out of his restraints and rescued the girl before fleeing the SHIELD Helicarrier, Pericles V, where they were being held.  Blade would eventually begin the prophecy by feeding on a virgin girl after biting an evil vampire priest.

Blade was then hired by Dr. Doom to perform a task which involved travelling through time. During his adventure, Blade freed his captive father and fulfilled another part of the prophecy his father was trying to get him to start. Upon completion of the mission for Dr. Doom, Blade was given an elixir that Doom claimed would cure a Vampire of their need to feed but would also remove the blood lust hunters receive for killing vampires. Blade decided to give the elixir to Hannibal King and continue on his mission alone.

Blade Anime

During the first Civil War story line, Blade became allied with SHIELD which allowed him access to their technology. He used this tech to aid him in his hunt for vampires and even gave himself a “gun hand” to replace the one he was force to gnaw off. During his tenure as an operative of SHIELD, Blade fulfills a prophecy he believes will restore the souls to the extant vampires. He was wrong. In reality, the prophecy returned all vampires ever killed to life, bringing the world into peril. Following the conclusion of Civil War, Blade was recruited into Vanguard ( a superhuman black ops team run by the US government). Having been forced to return his “gun hand” after leaving SHIELD, Blade was given a cybernetic hand when he joined Vanguard. The team did not last for long before it was disbanded and Blade returned to England and joined MI-13, to combat supernatural threats. One of the members of his MI-13 team was named Spitfire, a vampire. When Blade tries to kill her, the two fight and eventually end up working together. After a mission together, Blade is trying to apologize for attempting to kill her, she kisses him; beginning a brief romance for the two of them.

Blade assisted the X-Men during the Curse of the Mutants arc when Dracula’s son and his vampires appeared in San Francisco and turned Jubilee. He butted heads with the mutant leader Cyclops, when the latter planned to resurrect Dracula to assist as well. Blade was quoted as saying “You don’t dig up Hitler to help get rid of Saddam Hussein”; however, Cyclops was not deterred and raised Dracula anyways. Blade was knocked unconscious by Cyclops when he tried to kill Dracula during the final battle. After the victory, Dracula returned Jubilee to the X-Men; however, Jubilee was still a vampire. When Blade went to “end her misery”, Wolverine stood between them and told Blade that it wasn’t going to happen. Blade left saying that sooner or later, someone is going to have to kill her and it will be harder for one of them to do it than it would be for him.

Not long after the end of the story arc, Blade was invited to the Jean Grey School for Higher Learning to teach a class on killing vampires.

Prior to the Secret Empire event, Blade actually joined the Mighty Avengers by using Hawkeye’s identity of Ronin. Once he was discovered, he was kicked off the team for his methods and violent tendencies.

During Secret Empire, Blade was trapped in New York when it was isolated by a Dark Force dome. Due to the fact that the sunlight can’t get through the dome, the vampires living in New York declared open season and began attacking the human population indiscriminately. Blade went to war with vampires inside the dome to protect the citizens of New York. Following the event, Blade’s whereabouts are unknown.

 

POWERS & ABILITIES

Blade is not fully human. Due to his mother being fed on by Deacon Frost while she was giving birth to him, Blade is a Dhampir. A Dhampir is the term given to an offspring of a male vampire and human woman. While this isn’t 100% the case, it makes the most sense given the mutation Blade underwent while being born.

Due to being a Dhampir and having been bitten by Morbius, the powers Blade presents are as follows:

  • Superhumanly Acute Sense – All of his sense are as acute as those of a regular vampire which is greater than those of Wolverine .
  • Superhuman Strength – Able to lift about 1 ton
  • Superhuman Speed
  • Superhuman Agility
  • Superhuman Stamina
  • Superhuman Durability
  • Regenerative Healing factor – Stated by Wolverine during Civil War to almost be on par with his own. Blade cannot regrow limbs or organs.
  •  Prolonged Lifespan – while not fully immortal he has not aged since his introduction in comics.
  • Immunity to Vampire Vulnerabilities – immune to sunlight, silver, garlic, and religious symbols such as crosses and crucifixes.

In addition to his Powers listed above, Blade also has the following accolades:

  • Master Martial Artist
  • Expert Marksman
  • Expert Swordsman
  • Weapon Proficiency – Proficient with every form of weaponry known to man
  • Multi-lingual
  • Expert Driver
  • Sorcery Skills

In addition to all of his powers and abilities Blade is still plagued by one weakness, the “thirst” aka need to feed. In order to avoid having to feed on human, Blade has developed a serum that provides all the nutrients of blood without him having to attack someone. He keeps this serum on his person at all time. One dose is good for 24 hours of enhanced combat and he can ingest extra as needed to heal from severe wounds. If he is unable to take his serum he will become physically weaker and his self control will strain until he attacks someone to feed on them. Going without feeding or taking his serum for an extended time would prove fatal.

Blade_Marvel

Blade’s normal loadout consists of: Teakwood daggers, Adamantium Stakes, Kevlar body Armour, Automatic Sub-machine guns customized for hollow point garlic filled silver bullets, various UV weapons, garlic and silver injection weapons and his titanium forged acid etched sword.

 

WHY THEY’RE UNDERRATED

Blade is underrated because he brings an entire sub genre to the forefront, vampires. In the Marvel comics with time travelling villains, alien invasions, demons from another plane attacking cities and the bounty hunter of the devil himself riding around on a motorcycle… vampires seem to be left on the back burner. Not only does he include vampires, but he also includes all sorts of horror themed creatures like werewolves and ghosts that could also provide some awesome stories. The biggest factor that keeps Blade from joining the main Marvel heroes is the fact that his stories are very mature themed. I mean, a half vampire slaughtering full vamps as they feast on innocent people? Seems pretty mature themed to me.

I really think Blade is underrated just because a lot of people don’t know about him. Apart from the Wesley Snipes movies, most people probably didn’t know there was a television show or even an anime series dedicated to the character. Don’t get me wrong, I love the Blade movies; Snipes did an amazing job with them. I will confess that I have never seen the live action show, but I did watch the anime and it was pretty awesome.

If they included Blade in more publications or gave him his own run instead of relegating him to secondary character/ supporting character, it would really help to bring him into the mainstream. Blade has all the hallmarks of a great hero if given the chance. He is a half vampire with a drive to eradicate the species because of what they did to his mother. He fits in with the Avengers (powers-wise) and can hold his own against extremely powerful enemies like Lilith.

The mere fact that Blade hasn’t been included in more mainstream events is an issue. This doesn’t even touch on the fact that in a world saturated with white superheroes, he is one of the few prominent African American heroes. The first African American superhero we were given in mainstream media release, was Michael Jai White’s portrayal of Al Simmons “Spawn” in 1997. Blade was next with his first movie in 1998; then after the two subsequent Blade movies, it wasn’t until Hancock in 2008 we were given another African American hero. With the release of Black Panther last month, the world rallied behind the King of Wakanda and made it one of the best movie opening weekends of all time. There is definitely a call for more diverse heroes in mainstream culture and Blade would be a perfect example of a hero that already has an established career with doing well in media releases.

I know the release of the new Marvel Legends figures included the Defenders from the Netflix Marvel releases and… Blade! With Punisher season 2 beginning filming and Jessica Jones season 2 due out in a couple weeks, my fingers are crossed that maybe just maybe they’ll cross paths with the Daywalker himself.

Blade and Punisher

The Problem With Transitioning Comics To The Big/Small Screens

I wanted to start off the year with a post related to something I have been thinking about for a long time; the problems with bringing comics to the big/small screen.  I will be the first one to admit that sometimes a comic will do better as a TV show or as a movie and vice versa, but there is a fine line about the distinction and I will explain.

WHEN IT WORKS BETTER AS A TV SHOW

Arrow and Flash

We have all seen the success of the CW “Arrowverse” and its related content; conversely, we have seen the success of the Marvel Netflix corner of the MCU. Both of these successful franchises have something in common, they’re grounded.  The CW started dabbling into the superhero genre with Smallville way back in 2001. It was the first widely successful superhero television show and ran for a full 10 seasons. The show centered around Clark Kent as he grew up in Smallville and his eventual move to Metropolis. The thing that made the show likeable was that we watched as Clark grew as a person and as a hero, he started as a young naive kid and ended the series as the Superman the world needed. One thing I will say about the show is that I felt it was about 3 seasons too long, and I know I for one was a little irate that he never flew until the last 5 minutes of the last episode.  I get that the show had budget restrictions but come on! It’s Superman!

Almost exactly a year after Smallville ended, a gritty new superhero drama graced our television screens, and that show was Arrow. Arrow went for a much more dark and gritty approach and knocked it out of the park. I know I was blown away with the show and never missed an episode until the dismal fourth season… ugh. But the show worked as a television serial because of the grounded and character driven plots, not to mention it wasn’t heavy reliant on CGI.  Netflix used this formula to create probably the greatest superhero TV shows to date. Within the Netflix universe you get Daredevil, Punisher, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and Iron Fist; all these heroes are fairly grounded and don’t rely heavy on the crazy storytelling and plots that would require heavy CGI.

The “Arrowverse” has definitely branched out and included some more “out there shows” with the likes of Legends of Tomorrow and Supergirl. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy the crossover episodes but they just don’t fit with the gritty world Arrow created. When the Flash first aired, it actually started by using a backdoor pilot in Arrow, and was an interesting contrast to the dark tone of the show. Much like the title characters of DC comics, Batman and Superman, Arrow and Flash are the exact opposites. Arrow is the dark and brooding drama; whereas Flash is the lighthearted fun serial with lots of bright colours and warm tones.

Runaways

With the sale of Fox to Disney, I am interested to see what will happen to all the new slew of X-Men related content now airing on television. I will not lie, I watched one episode of the Runaways and turned it off halfway through. It just wasn’t engaging and the rarity of a teenager using their powers? I know if I had powers as a teenager or even a dinosaur that responded to my mental commands… I would use that shit every chance I got! X-Men is one franchise that will not work well on TV just because the heroes and story arcs rely on heavy CGI. Badass ninjas and indestructible skin are easy to show on TV, shooting ice and fire from your hands or giant laser beams from your eyes… not so much. For a superhero show to be successful it needs to be grounded and character driven, which sadly most comics are not.

WHEN IT WORKS BETTER AS A MOVIE

CGI and team ups. Enough said.

Big budget movies can obviously have ridiculous amounts of awesome CGI and still pull it off. For the most part… Looking at you Justice League!

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Massive team ups also only work as a movie, unless you devote a solid series to each character first, then they CAN work. They won’t always work, but batting 80% is better than failing every time.

I just find that for the likes of Avengers, X-Men, and Justice League the characters are too big to have them just thrown in or put into a TV show. Smallville tried to put the Justice League and the Justice Society into the series and it worked… sort of. Each member of the their “league” was given at least one episode of introduction prior to the team up. The Justice society was jammed into a 2 episode arc that really only highlighted two, potentially 3 characters.  While the ending to the Justice society arc did give us back Martian Manhunter and gave us Hawkman in a more permanent role, it wasn’t properly executed.

WHAT DOESN’T WORK FROM COMICS IN MOVIES & TV

Okay I will admit that there are some glaring issues with the MCU and the DCEU, everybody with me so far let’s move on…

The MCU is the unstoppable force behind all the modern connected universes, that being said, they tend to change a lot of things so that it will work with their overall narrative. The Infinity Stones are a prime example of Marvel studios changing their lore to work with their overall narrative. We all know there are 6 Infinity Gems (stones in the MCU), each representing a fundamental force that composed the universe. Originally called the Soul Gems until Infinity War when they were renamed the Infinity Gems, Thanos was the first to use all 6 in unison.  The thing that irks me is that they take other artifacts that are important from Marvel comics lore and make them Infinity Stones for the sake of the narrative.  The Tesseract is not the Space Stone, it is in fact closer to the cosmic cube which is responsible for Hydra Cap; Loki’s Scepter is not the Mind stone, and the Eye of Agamotto is not the time stone.

Apart from the renaming and branding of the Infinity Gems, one thing that Marvel does take a liberty with is changing their stories to work with the modern superhero/sci-fi framework, let me explain… Sci-fi stands for Science fiction, everybody knows that, so why do they remove sci-fi aspects from their movies? Let’s look at Age of Ultron

Age of Ultron

Avengers: Age of Ultron is a solid movie, not the best of the MCU but also not the worst. The thing is that Ultron is a recurring villain that the Avengers have never been able to defeat 100%. They always just BARELY beat him and then he shows up again later and better equipped. I understand that they needed to have his origin, growth and death all in one movie, but why choose that story to do? The real Age of Ultron story from the comic of the same name plays out completely differently than the movie. In the comic, Ultron confronts the Avengers and wins. Within the first 20 pages of the event, Ultron has beaten the Avengers.  He establishes a dystopian society which he rules from the future using Vision (his son) as a conduit. In order to win, Wolverine and Sue Storm make a desperate attempt to go back in time and kill Hank Pym the original creator of Ultron before he can develop the genocidal AI. Because time travel never goes the way it’s supposed to, the future ends up being worse with the Avengers being named the Defenders, and a massive war being waged by Tony and his tech/cybernetic empire against Morgan Le Fey and her magic kingdom. Wolverine and Sue Storm decide to go back in time and stop themselves from killing Pym by… killing themselves. This makes them a temporal paradox and because nobody likes that kind of stuff, they convince Pym to install a backdoor program in Ultron’s code before they use Dr. Doom’s time platform to return to their own time, thereby righting the paradox. Wolverine and Sue arrive at the beginning of the story when Ultron first defeats the Avengers. Before Ultron can finish the job, the subroutine installed by Pym in the paradoxal timeline runs causing Ultron to shut down momentarily allowing Thor the time he needs to smash Ultron to pieces.

For obvious reasons they couldn’t use the story because for one… Wolverine and Sue Storm were owned by Fox until several months ago. But this story is a prime example of one key component of comic book fiction that will never transfer well into movie form, time travel.

Time travel is something inherently accepted by the comic community as a regular occurrence in comics. When it occurs it never really throws anyone for the ringer. Most readers just say “oh, this is going to get good” and they continue reading. DC’s Flash is probably the most relevant case with this type of publication. I like the Flash but I don’t get to read a lot of his stories because Batman… and priorities. That being said most of his major events have revolved around him either travelling backwards or forwards in time and mucking something up.  Then he has to fix it before he can come back and grow a little bit as a character each time. Time travel just doesn’t transfer well into a movie, there are some exceptions (Looper), but for the most part it’s a type of Sci-Fi that works best in printed form.

Multiverse

Keeping the train moving on Sci-Fi concepts that work better in print than film, Alternate Realities. It is well established that everything that happens in comics takes place on one earth in the vast array of the multiverse. Both DC and Marvel utilize this concept and generate some pretty great stories with it. DC has made great stories like Crisis on Infinite Earth, Final Crisis, and Infinite Crisis. Marvel uses the multiverse a lot less liberally but still generates some great stories like the Hickman run on Avengers in the MarvelNow! printing, Secret Wars, and Battleworld. Alternate Realities is just something that can be accepted in comics, mainly because of the infinite possibilities and variations on heroes. Not only that but it allows for some possible evil versions of the heroes to come to the forefront as with DC’s Crime Syndicate of Earth-3. When making a film there are certain things that you have to take time to do, one of the big ones is explaining how the physics works in the world you’ve created. If you look at every successful Sci-Fi TV show they all explain how things are possible in their universe, from FTL travel to weapons and even biological life. Films can do this but they have to condense it way down into  a few minutes, which doesn’t allow for a lot of in depth explanation. For this reason most films have avoided the subject of alternate realities unless the entire premise of their plot is based on it, like The One from 2001.

With glaring plot holes abundant in their films, there are still just some things that comic fans will accept without a reason. When Flash was first published he was the “Fastest Man Alive” and nobody needed to know how it was possible. Over decades the story gets a little more clear and complex and now it’s common knowledge among many comic fans how Flash can move as fast as he does. The same can be said for Superman. Way back when Action Comics #1  was released and we saw a man who could lift a car, was bulletproof, and could fly; nobody needed an explanation as to why he could do it. Again, through several decades of continued story telling the picture has become a little clearer to the point where it is crystal.

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Movies and TV shows are a great medium to be able to tell comic book stories, and get those who might not be inclined to pick up the latest issue of Flash or Spider-Man interested in the character. Like I’ve said though there are just some things that will never transition well into a movie and a TV show and that’s okay. Alternate Timelines and Alternate Realities are confusing enough for the fans without butchering explanations and leaving giant earth sized plot holes. The second season of the Flash TV show explored the idea of the multiverse but they didn’t let the concept overwhelm the overall narrative of the show. They dabbled into the science but kept the focus on Barry and his team, allowing the viewer to fill in the blanks. For myself and many other this was not an issue when watching the show, but I do know there were several people who stopped watching due to the confusing nature of the season and its jumps from earth to earth.

Movies or TV shows,  it doesn’t matter to me how they do it, as long as they do the story justice and stay away from things that just should be better left on the pages of a comic book.

 

Most Underrated Heroes Vol.5 – Daredevil

This month for my underrated Hero I decided to take a step back from anti-heroes and their magical kin and focus more on one of the most tortured heroes in Marvel comics, Daredevil.

Daredevil shot to popularity with his introduction in and starting off the Marvel Netflix universe. While the series does a great job of explaining the character’s origins and motivations they really skimp on some of his greatest stories. It still stands at the top of my list for Netflix shows even with the inclusion of the Punisher, which is saying something considering my love of anti-heroes.

Time to dive into the background of the Man Without Fear!!

HISTORY

*There are SEVERAL retcons of Daredevil’s Origin. This will be an amalgamation of all the important aspects*

Daredevil first appeared in Daredevil #1 (April,1964) and was created by Stan Lee, artist Bill Everett with some notable input from Jack Kirby.

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Matthew Michael Murdock was born to his father Jack “Battlin” Murdock a washed up boxer living in Hell’s Kitchen, New York. It is not revealed who Matt’s mother is until much later in the comics, all he knew was that she didn’t want him. From a young age Matt’s dad urged him towards schooling and being a good student so that he could make something of himself and not end up like he did. Eventually Jack is forced back into the ring as a way to make money for them to survive, when he returns home Matt stitches up his wound after every fight.

When Matt was 9 years old he saved an elderly man, who had stepped out into the street, from getting run over by a RAND Oil & Chemicals truck; which in turn caused an accident. Some of the chemicals splashed into his eyes and the last thing he ever saw was his father comforting him as his vision blurred until he was blind. When he awoke in the hospital after the accident he was amazed that he could hear everything in the world around him. It became to much and started causing him pain. His father attempted to calm him down by allowing Matt to run his hands over his face letting him know that his dad was there for him. Matt learned to read braille and dove into this studies. He kept his new found senses from everyone including his dad for fear of being outcast even more.

While his father continued to train at Fogwell’s gym, Matt studied ringside. He overheard his father being offered a large sum of money to lose his upcoming fight with Carl Creel. Matt’s father had taken the money given to him to throw the fight and bet it on himself to win. When he emerged victorious he put a plan in place to ensure that Matt would have the money for when he went to school before he was murdered by the mobsters who paid him to throw the fight. Matt found his father beaten to death in the street in front of Fogwell’s gym. Matt was sent to Saint Agnes orphanage where he was found by Stick and trained to become a warrior. Matt quickly mastered his blindness and began using his other senses to aid him in battle.

Enraged by the legal system’s inadequacies in bringing his father’s killers to justice, Matt donned a costume made from his father’s boxing robe and attacked the Fixer (man responsible for his father’s death) and his goons. Matt savagely beat the goons and frightened the Fixer to death under the guise of Daredevil.

Matt then proceeded to open a law firm with his long time friend Franklin “Foggy” Nelson whom he had met, studied and roomed with at Columbia Law. It was during his studies at Columbia Law that he met and became enamoured with Elektra Natchios. Elektra encouraged Matt to “break the rules” which almost cost him some credits he needed to graduate.

Nelson & Murdock opened in Hell’s Kitchen and began serving the working class citizens to hopefully get them the justice they deserve.  Matt vowed to fight for the people and get the justice they deserve during the day but at night he would fight as Daredevil to take down those beyond the grasp of the law.

SHADOWLAND

Shadowland

One of Daredevil’s biggest stories in the last 20 years was the 9 issue run titled Shadowland. Matt had journeyed to Japan in hopes of learning the secret of the Hand and form them into a force for good. When he gains control of the Hand he returns to New York with his army of undead ninjas and erects a temple/prison in the middle of the demolished Hell’s Kitchen. During the Dark Reign arc Bullseye had leveled much of Hell’s Kitchen in an attempt to kill Daredevil, obviously it didn’t work.

So Daredevil brings the Hand to New York but not before the leaders of the Hand (Snakeroot) infect Daredevil with the essence of the Beast (yes, just go with it). Daredevil and his army begin by policing the kitchen and taking the criminals down to the prison beneath Shadowland. As the beast begins taking Daredevil over more and more, he begins allowing more  brutal tactics until his ninjas are straight up murdering people in the streets. Bullseye escaped from his transport to the Raft (prison) and decided to kill Daredevil once and for all. When Bullseye challenges Daredevil we see the new suit that Daredevil is sporting which is all black, with a red “DD” symbol on the chest and blades on his wrists. They fight for some time before Luke Cage and Iron Fist stumble upon them. The Heroes for Hire offer to help but Daredevil asks them ” Are you prepared to swear allegiance to the Hand for all of eternity?”. When they respond with a resounding “No” Daredevil tells them to stay out of his way and then proceeds to break both of Bullseye’s arms before stabbing him through the chest with his own sai (a homage to how Bullseye murdered Elektra).

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Several of the street level heroes band together and raid the temple of Shadowland to hopefully bring Daredevil to justice. The raid team consists of: Luke Cage, Iron Fist, Moon Knight, Spider-Man, Ghost Rider (eventually), Punisher (eventually), Shang Chi, Misty Knight, and Silver Sable. The battle does not go the way the heroes want and when Ghost Rider arrives (after bring summoned by Kingpin and Lady Bullseye to fight the beast) things really go haywire. With the heroes backed against the wall and the Hand closing in Punisher blows an exit and tells everyone to move out while he opens up with a M240 LMG.

The heroes resolve to try again while the Thunderbolts are occupying most of the Hand underneath Shadowland. This time they are accompanied by Elektra and Wolverine. When the heroes are able to subdue Daredevil, Elektra tries to reason with Murdock, but the voice that comes from his mouth isn’t Matt’s and it proclaims “There is no Murdock! Only the Beast!”. He then breaks out of the webbing covering him and lays a serious beat down on the heroes. Foggy arrives and tries to reason with Matt, when the Demon decides to kill Foggy (the power of the Beast having caused Daredevil to take on a more demonic shape), Iron Fist focuses his Chi and hits Daredevil with a massive blast. This allows Matt to temporarily regain control of his body and reflect on everything he has done in his life and everything the beast has caused him to do. Before the Beast regains control, Daredevil kills himself breaking the spell and killing the Beast once again.  As the heroes gather themselves they realize that Daredevil’s body is gone and Kingpin uses Typhoid Mary to take over the Hand and become it’s new leader.

A man enters a confessional in a Catholic church claiming that he is lost and Black Panther has claimed Hell’s Kitchen as his turf. Murdock is shown getting off a bus in rural America and begins walking.

DAREDEVIL: REBORN

Following Shadowland, Murdock has ventured into Mexico and ends up at a diner outside of a small Mexican town where a young boy is being bullied for being blind. Matt takes pity o the boy and helps him to fend off his bullies while offering him some wisdom about coping with his disability. When the local police show up and are hostile towards Matt, his curiosity is piqued.

Matt follows the police to the outskirts of town and discovers a mass grave filled with locals and crates of weapons. Upon further investigation Murdock discovers that the police are working with a drug smuggler name Calavera. Murdock decides to interrupt their operations and dons his classic Man in black outfit.

Calavera is a metahuman with the ability to telepathically draw out and exploit anything that a person feels guilty for or; as they explain in the comic, exploit their sins. With Murdock being forced to relive every sin he has ever committed he becomes resolute that his actions were necessary. He becomes reassured in his beliefs and his responsibilities to the people of the Kitchen and upon defeating Calavera decides to return to New York and rebuild his law practice as well as his life as Daredevil.

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POWERS & ABILITIES

Daredevil is blind. He was blinded at the age of 9 when the chemicals from the Rand truck spilled in his eyes.

Due to the chemicals he developed a radar sense (echolocation). In addition to his radar sense his other remaining senses now function at superhuman levels and accuracy.  His radar sense is strong enough that fabrics and most walls do not stop him from being able to see through them. He also has omnidirectional vision because of his radar sense.

He is able to use his hearing as a polygraph which helps him to determine if a person is lying, this ability can be fooled and is not 100% accurate.

He is able to detect environmental changes created by teleporters making him able to react to a person’s teleporting ability before they can get the drop on him.

Having been trained by Stick he is a master of most martial arts and close combat techniques. He doesn’t focus on one discipline to fight, instead he uses various disciplines at once including: Ninjitsu, Aiki, Jujutsu, Aikido, Judo, Karate, Kung Fu, Silat, Capoeira, wrestling, stick fighting, and American Style boxing.

Daredevil’s main weapon is his billy club. It disguises as his walking stick during the day but it also conceals a grappling hook and can be separated into two pieces for combat. He is an expert marksman and can throw almost anything with 100% accuracy.

REASONS THEY’RE UNDERRATED

Where do I even start… well how about with HE IS A BLIND SUPERHERO! In a world filled with people getting powers from aliens, literal Gods fighting beside you, and Super soldier experiments leading the charge, Daredevil has a disability. He is not able to see like everyone else. Yes, his radar sense actually let’s him see better than some people can normally, but there are not many heroes that were given their powers while losing something that most people take for granted.

When Stan Lee first created him, he was worried that Marvel would receive backlash from how far he had said Daredevil’s other senses were enhanced. He received a great amount of support from people writing him telling him how much they loved Daredevil, and he even received a letter from The Lighthouse For the Blind which stated that the blind people they helped loved having Daredevil read to them. Daredevil helped to show the masses that just because you have a disability doesn’t mean you can’t be whoever you want to be.

Most characters in the Marvel Universe overlook Daredevil because in their eyes he has no real powers, but this is a guy who has fought and beat Iron fist, Shang Chi and Black Widow; all of whom are reputed to be some of the BEST fighters in Marvel Comics.

Mostly though the reason Daredevil is underrated is because he is one of the more human characters. There are obviously human characters in Marvel comics but Daredevil is one of the few who is actually unsure about his place in the world. He is probably the most conflicted and tortured character in Marvel comics, with both his resounding catholic faith and his job as a Lawyer. For someone who is as religious as he is and who constantly goes to confession, wearing a red devil suit and beating on people at night seems pretty contradictory. The Netflix show illustrates this conflict really well especially in the first season. He has quite a few good discussions with the local priest about what he does and whether or not it is God’s work. During season 2 though, is when he has the infamous philosophical debate with Frank Castle. That episode really illustrated how sometimes there is no black or white and there is only a big muddy grey.

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I really think Daredevil should get some bigger roles in the events that take place in Marvel comics. He had a small part in the Civil War story wherein he called Tony “Judas” before being incarcerated in 42 (the negative zone prison for super powered beings). Like I said his biggest event was that of Shadowland, and that wasn’t the most well received story arc for him. He really deserves a better chance to sine and show that he is just as capable as any other hero to fight the good fight.

This concludes another week of Underrated Heroes! Let me know what you think! See you all next week.

Justice League + Punisher- Review (NO SPOILERS)

This past weekend two of the most anticipated releases of the year came out, Justice League and the Punisher Netflix series. I am glad to say that I saw them both in their entirety upon release. This is going to be a long post as I will review both of these entities in their entirety. That being said this will be a spoiler free review and dive mostly into the productions and characters.

Let’s Start off with the one the entire internet is talking about… The Justice League!

JUSTICE LEAGUE

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I am going to be frank with this one, I liked the movie but there were quite a few things that needed to be fixed with it. I have found from watching all the DCEU movies that they are made for comic book fans whereas Marvel movies are made for everyone. What I mean to say is that there are some sections of the Justice League movie that I, as a comic fan, were able to fill in with ease; however, someone who might not be as well versed in comic books would not be able to connect to. For example, they did a piss poor job of explaining what the mother boxes were for and who Steppenwolf is. I glossed over it, as did the people i was watching it with, because we knew who these characters were and how they functioned. For the most part the people in the theatre seemed to follow the movie fairly well, there were only a few scenes where I heard a collective “Huh?” from the audience. The overall pacing of the movie was really good, it didn’t get bogged down like Batman V. Superman did, and it didn’t jump making huge leaps like Suicide Squad. Mostly though, it was fun! I walked out of that theatre with a smile on my face and thinking that it was basically just an episode of Justice League unlimited in live action form.

CINEMATOGRAPHY

All right, it’s pretty well known that this project was experiencing a LOT of drama behind the scenes. most notably, Zack Snyder having to take some personal time to deal with the suicide of his daughter. Warner Brothers then brought in Joss Whedon (of Avengers fame), to finish the project and see it through post production. Most people are not aware that most of what was re-shot under Whedon were the character interactions and the action scenes he left largely alone. Warner Brothers actually fired Zack from the project during post production when they ordered him to cut the movie to less than a 2 hour run time and he refused.

Now with that in mind, STOP BLAMING WHEDON FOR THIS MOVIE!

Moving on… Zack Snyder has a very specific style that works very well with the darker and grittier heroes. That being said it doesn’t really flow with the tone of the Justice League. If Snyder directed a solo Batman movie (which he pretty much did with Batman V Superman) I personally, would watch the shit out of it. I loved his take on Watchmen and his style has no equal. His style is very gritty and he grey washes a lot of the colours to make them more flat and matte. He isn’t like Michael Bay who puts a blue filter on EVERYTHING and adds explosions just because; and he’s not like J.J. Abrams who likes to blind people with lens flares, but he definitely has a very unique style that nobody can mistake.

It’s obvious which scenes of the movie were filmed by Snyder and which were filmed by Whedon.  The tonal shift between scenes is very obvious in some cases and it can cause you to feel like you’re watching two very different movies. Again, not Whedon’s fault, he did what he was hired to do. He actually didn’t want to take the project away from Zack, but when WB fired Snyder, Whedon stepped up because he loves the characters and was waiting just like the rest of us for Justice League.

Whedon’s style is very… different from Snyder’s. not to say they are polar opposites, but they kind of are. Whedon loves to add colour splashes and make everything pop to add visual flair to the shots. As I said before it is very evident what was shot by Snyder and what was shot by Whedon.

HUMOUR

Okay, so this is not a dig at Zack Snyder but he really doesn’t get humour and he doesn’t really add it into his movies. He does cynicism and sarcasm like a boss, but for outward obvious humour he is kind of deaf to it. Pretty much all of the humour in Justice League came from Whedon and his re-shoots. Most of the humour in Justice League comes from the interactions between the characters and the dialogue they deliver.

Ezra Miller though! Ezra plays Barry Allen/Flash in this film and he is by far the best character in the movie, this is coming from a die hard Batman fan too. When he first meets the other members of the League and they go to the Batcave for the first time, he runs around checking everything out, just like any member of the audience would. He is basically an extension of how any member of the audience would react in the movie, he is in awe of the other Leaguers and when compared to the rest of them he is the rookie.  Batman has some great mentoring moments with Flash and it shows that this Batman views Flash like one of his Robins which is a very cool dynamic to introduce into the DCEU. I don’t want to say anymore because that could give away some of the best scenes, but let me say that Flash’s antics caused the entire theatre to laugh, every time.

COSTUMES

So the costumes in this movie are pretty much identical to the ones worn by the Trinity in Batman V Superman with the exception of Batman. For most of the movie he is wearing a very dark blue suit reminiscent of the cartoon Justice League. His suit looks black in the dark but when it’s shown in the light it has a very dark blue hue to it. Just like in the promotional poster for the movie that says “You Can’t Save The World Alone”. The rest of the League has awesome costumes as well, with the exception of Superman and Wonder Woman, the creators opted for a more armoured look for everyone during the final fight. I think this makes them look more prepared for what they encountered and made it more believable than different coloured spandex.

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One thing that was brought to my attention was by one of my movie viewing compatriots during the scene where Steppenwolf appears on Themyscira. She (my compatriot) noted that the Amazons were much more scantily clad than in the Wonder Woman movie. I will admit I didn’t notice this as I was too focused on the action, but when I went back and looked at the trailers showing the scenes with the Amazons my friend was right, they were no where near as armoured as in Wonder Woman.  While this is obviously a ploy by the creators to keep young men coming to the movie I thought it had to do with something entirely normal, maneuverability. Wonder Woman takes place during the time span of World War I, during this movie the Amazons are much more armoured and move slower compared to Justice League. It was also during Wonder Woman that the Amazons discovered their armour no longer stopped the weapons of man. I am of course referring to that scene on the beach, when several dozen Amazons including their general were cut down by rifle fire.  Now this might be my mind over thinking it but I believe that when they came to realization that their armour was ineffective they opted for a lighter material that they can still used to deflect physical attacks, but didn’t restrict their movement.  When you see the movie you will understand what I mean, I just can’t say anymore without spoiling it.

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OVERALL THOUGHTS

If you’re looking for an oscar worthy movie then this is not it. If you’re looking for a fun superhero movie with some great one liners look no further! While it failed to capture the magic of the Avengers, Justice League made leaps and bounds compared to some of the previous DCEU continuity. It got rid of the dark and gritty tone set by the previous installments in the universe and decided to go for a more fun approach.

I will say this Steppenwolf looked absolutely terrible. When a movie costs over 300 million to make you think they could use some better CGI. For most of the movie he looked like he was cut out of PS3/Xbox360 cutscene. His reasons are very unclear in the movie and this inhibits the story telling quite a bit. I think they should’ve used him as a segue way into their big bad Darkseid, and they might eventually, but as of right now he was a very lackluster villain for the League to have gone up against. When you see the movie you’ll understand what I mean during the final fight, 2 members of the League kept him occupied while the rest did other things.

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Despite the drama behind the camera and the tonal shift this movie is a solid superhero flick. It’s not as complex as it could’ve been but it also didn’t spoon feed you everything off the hop (Marvel). It is far from the best superhero or even DC movie ever made, but it’s definitely not the worst either (Bat Nipples anyone?) I definitely give this movie a 7/10. It has some flaws and some things that I would change personally but overall like I’ve said it’s a fun movie to just kick back and enjoy for 2 hours.

 

Onto Marvel!

 

PUNISHER

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So, I’m sure myself like many others, marathoned Punisher in either a day or a day and a half. My friend and I decided to get up early on Saturday, make a coffee and a bagel each and start the marathon. the title sequence was amazing! The song and the sequence showing the various bullets and weapons that then form the Punisher skull just fit the show so perfectly! The song itself is going to be a must have for my personal playlist, it was reminiscent of the classic rock ballads with hints of country thrown in. I will admit that I dislike country music very much, (but that’s a whole other topic), but this song was awesome! The series itself is probably the most brutal of all the Netflix series to date. It follows Frank after he has finished his crusade for vengeance and he is trying to keep a low profile as Pete. Things obviously don’t go to plan and he is dragged back into his old life. Micro seeks out Frank to help him bring down a government conspiracy so that Micro can see his family again. The show doesn’t pull any punches and doesn’t skimp on the violence either. The final two episodes are probably two of the most brutal episodes of a show I have ever seen and I watched Sons of Anarchy and Game of Thrones.

CINEMATOGRAPHY

This show has a very Stark and gritty tone to the shots they use. When Frank is sporting his full Punisher garb they use a lot of shadows and lighting tricks to hide his face while making the skull on his armour pop. Giving the impression of the skull coming for you as opposed to the man. They also use a lot of warm colours during his memory scenes and dream sequences. They also like to frost the tiniest bit of the shots when he is recounting a memory. They especially add a very soft filter and bloom the light sources when he dreams about his family. It’s a great technique that adds a lot more to the scenes.

HUMOUR

This is a show about the Punisher, he really isn’t a funny guy. That being said the supporting characters of Billy Russo and Micro really bring the humour and so does the character of Stein. Those three bring just a little bit of light and antics to this dark brutal drama.

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COSTUMES

The costumes in this show are spot on. Most of the characters only wear regular street clothes so there isn’t much to convey. When the Punisher does suit up though he is like a mash up of the 2004 Thomas Jane and the 2008 Ray Stevenson. He sports tactical gear without looking overly tank like. He isn’t sporting light gear but he is definitely not wearing full advanced combat body armour.

The weapons! Weapons fall under costumes, it’s my blog I can put them where I want!

For most of the show he uses the tools he has at hand, sometimes a sledge hammer and sometimes a handgun. When he does get his arsenal though, look out anonymous henchmen! The main battle scene wherein Frank takes on about 30 guys by himself is nothing sort of spectacular. He weaves and kills like some sort of deadly water dancer. If the water dancer could kill you with their bare hands in 30 different ways…

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OVERALL THOUGHTS

This series is a great addition to the Netflix Universe. It currently sits as my second favourite series after Daredevil and before Iron Fist. I don’t want to dive too much into the plot for fear of spoiling something but I will say that it’s a great revenge plot. Following the Punisher’s arc in Daredevil Season 2 could’ve been rough but this production team and the actors pulled it off amazingly.  I would definitely rate this series a solid 8.5/10. I can’t explain why I gave it that rating until you watch the series. Once you watch it and the ending you will definitely understand the rating I gave it. The plot is a little convoluted at times and if you aren’t paying very close attention you can miss some key moments. Bernthal embodies the role and really gets into the grit of what makes Frank Castle tick. For those expecting a series where Frank senselessly murders hundreds of anonymous henchmen, this isn’t it. Want that kind of Punisher violence then watch Punisher:War Zone starring Ray Stevenson. I will say that Bernthal doesn’t look like the comic book version of Frank Castle but he definitely acts like him when it counts.

 

Those are my reviews of both releases. Agree or not let me know! see you next week for another edition of Underrated Hero!

Vengeance in White – Moon Knight

Since I started this blog 37 weeks ago, I have been holding back on writing about one of my favourite heroes and that would be Moon Knight. I know that I have already put out a post about how he should be the next hero included in the Marvel Netflix universe, but for those unfamiliar with the character I will give a quick rundown of the Avatar of Khonshu.

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BACKGROUND

Marc Spector was born in Chicago, Illinois to a rabbi and his wife. He was the oldest of two boys, his younger brother being Randall Spector (Shadow Knight). From a young age both the Spector children were fascinated with guns and warfare, something that didn’t sit well with their pacifist father. After butting heads with his father for much of his childhood and teenage years over the influence he was having on his younger brother at the age of 16 Marc left his home and enlisted in the Marines. During his tenure in the Marines he became a heavy-weight boxer and competed in several competitions winning the majority of them. It is revealed in the Shadowland arc that Marc’s father confronted him while Marc was training for a fight, and suffered a fatal heart attack while reaming Marc out for him being the cause that his little brother enlisted as well. He was recruited by the CIA to become a black ops operator right from the Marine corps, and he served with the CIA for many years before leaving to become a freelance mercenary.

During his extensive career as a mercenary, Spector met and befriended Henri “Frenchie” Duchamp. Henri was a french pilot who became fast friends with Marc and aided him for many years even during his superhero career.

Spector was hired by Raoul Bushman as part of his attack force on a mission in Egypt. While on mission the mercenaries stumbled onto an archaeological dig of the temple dedicated to Khonshu, the Egyptian God of the Moon and Vengeance, headed up by Dr. Peter Alraune and his daughter Marlene. When Bushman discovered the wealth stored in the tomb he resolved to take it for himself and started his acquisition by murdering Dr. Alraune and several of the workers. Disgusted by what he saw, Spector challenged Bushman to one on one combat. Bushman defeated Spector leaving him alone to die in the desert. Some of the workers who still worshiped the old Gods found Spector dying of his wounds in the desert and carried him to the feet of the Statue of the Moon God Khonshu. It was here in the temple he had fought and died to protect that Spector’s heart stopped. The God Khonshu appeared to Spector in a vision and told Spector that he would give him another chance if Spector agreed to become his avatar on Earth. Spector agreed. When he woke up, Spector grabbed the cloak that covered the statue and wrapped himself in it declaring himself the Avatar of Khonshu. He then confronted Bushman a second time and was victorious. With Bushman defeated Spector returned to America accompanied by Frenchie and Marlene and the statue of Khonshu from the temple.

He decided to become a crime fighter and created his superhero persona in the image of Khonshu. Donning the moniker of the “Fist of Khonshu” Spector became the Moon’s Knight. He created a silver coloured suit using the cloak that was draped around the statue as his cape and hood.

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When he returned to the U.S.A. Spector invested the money he had acquired over his mercenary career and amassed himself a small fortune. In order to keep up the appearance that he had died in Egypt, Spector crafted the alias Steven Grant millionaire entrepreneur, to help him purchase some high end real estate and infiltrate the upper class. In order to maintain contact with the street level crime he also developed the alias of Jake Lockley New York city cab driver. It was using the Lockley alias that he met allies such as Betrand Crawley, Gena Lander and her two sons.

Spector first appeared in the 1975 comic Werewolf by Night as the villain hunting down the title character for an organization called the Committee. He remained as an occasional villain until in  1976 when he was given his own Marvel Spotlight. In 1978 his origin was retconned so that his first appearance was a cover he used to take down the Committee.

SKILLS + WEAPONS

Marc Spector is just a man. A man who was given a second chance at life (and many subsequent chances) but still just a man. He is a formidable close quarters fighter being a champion level heavy-weight boxer. He is proficient with most firearms and is considered an expert marksman.

There was a brief period where he was bitten by the Werewolf and affected by the Lycanthropy sickness. He was given varying strength and speed powers based on the phases of the moon.

Moon Knight uses a variety of weapons ranging from truncheons, to crescent shaped throwing knives, staves, spiked brass knuckles, and various firearms. He at one point also created an armored version of his costume made out of Adamantium. he also has multiple Moon-copters which he uses during his patrols, and in more current issues a series of autonomous gliders and vehicles.

Moon Knight has also been stated to be the one hero that Taskmaster will not replicate because he would rather take a punch and keep the momentum and offensive, than block and lose his momentum.

DEFINING TRAITS

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One of the biggest things that Moon Knight is famous for is his fractured psyche. Due to his connection to Khonshu and his already unstable mind, Spector suffers from Multiple Personality Disorder (MPD). This has caused his mind to compartmentalize each of his identities in such a way that he can switch personalities and identities based on whatever the task at hand is. This has gotten him into some hot water over the years with his fellow Avengers, particularly the Pro-Registration faction during the Civil War story line. The sad thing is that Spector doesn’t see anythig as wrong and it’s only his friends and allies who are concerned for him in regards to his mental state, believing he could snap at any moment and become a major liability to the rest of the superhero community.

Apart from his MPD, Moon Knight is also known for wearing white. While his original costume was silver in colour, his more modern and most well known costume is white. Considering that he patrols at night the colour white is an odd, choice but there is a line that he delivers that explains why he wears white and it is as follows.

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Basically I think Moon Knight is a really great character who should get his time in the spotlight. I know that Marvel is planning on expanding the Netflix universe and adding a couple of new heroes and He would make the best addition!

I know this is a short post and looks unmistakably like an underrated Hero post… but i’m honestly just waiting until next week when I can do a review of Thor Ragnarok and all its glory!

Anyways that’s it for this week, see you all next week!

Defenders – The Marvel Team Up We All Needed

*This will be a spoiler free review of the Netflix series, The Defenders*

The first season of Marvel’s Netflix team up, The Defenders, released on Friday. Unlike with most of the other series I was unable to watch it all right away as I was catching up on my Game of Thrones and visiting a good friend. I started by watching the first 5 episodes on Sunday night and I can honestly say that I was blown away by how good the series is. I had a discussion with a good friend of mine, Malcolm, once we had both finished watching the season and we both agreed that Superhero media works best as a season of TV as opposed to big blockbuster films. When you strip away the massive green screen and the exorbitant CGI you are left with a story and characters that don’t really do anything. Let me explain…

 

Let’s take Avengers (2012) the first instance of massive team up for either major comic company in a live action big screen film, it was a great film but was it? I will be the first to tell you that Avengers is amazing and I love it to death but there are definitely some major problems with it. It focuses solely on 2 characters and their growth throughout the film and the rest are there to add diversity and change of pace. It’s not question about it that Loki, Iron Man, and Captain America are the focal points of that movie, even Coulson who’s murder unifies the Avengers is relegated to secondary or tertiary character and plot device. None of the characters grow as people or even as heroes, they do what they always have and that’s it. Age of Ultron is a different story altogether, but that’s for another time. The reason that this happens is not on the fault of the writers solely, it’s the fact that they only have so much time to work with. You can’t have massive character growth and everything else to keep the plot moving in a 2 hour movie. stretch that out over 10 or even 13 hour long episodes and you sure can. Marvel’s Netflix universe has used this idea and ran with it delivering amazing shows since Daredevil first aired in 2015.  Critics didn’t really like Iron Fist, but I have already talked about that in a previous post so I won’t repeat myself.  With that being said, back to the topic of this post, The Defenders.

 

Plot

The story from the season of Defenders is amazing, it works with all the characters and brings their specific traits and quirks into a perfectly melded series. The main story is a little Daredevil and Iron Fist heavy, but that’s understandable when you find out who the main villains are and what they want. Sigourney Weaver is particularly well cast as the main villain Alexandra, with Scott Glenn making an appearance as Stick. The supporting cast are amazing as well, Misty Knight, Colleen Wing, Claire Temple, Foggy, Karen Paige all make appearances and help to push the story forward.  One thing that I will say as a fan of comics is that I HATE when they mix and match story arcs just to fit. They did this a little bit at the end of the season but for everything else it was a small nit picky thing that really only irked me. The main story revolves around Sigourney Weaver’s character Alexandra and her crusade to bring the city of New York to it’s knees. With only the team of Defenders standing between her and the destruction of the city, the heroes must learn to trust each other before everything they know and love is destroyed.

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Camera Work/ Editing

One of the coolest things that I found when watching the series is that when all the heroes are together they use a standard shot and standard lighting, etc. When each hero ventures off onto their own side quest you get the shooting style of each individual show.  In the first episode when we are introduced to each character as they go about their lives, we are shown 4 distinct filming, editing, and musical styles. The Jessica Jones shots use a much more stark and blue hue to the shots she’s the focal point of along with the patented scene changes involving camera shutters, Luke Cage uses a much warmer and yellow filter to the shots and the trademark psychedelic/funk music played in the background grounds him with his staunch sense of right and wrong. Daredevil/ Matt Murdoch uses a very standard filter but makes sure to pop out the colour of red and black whenever possible, and Iron Fist uses a stark filter which focuses on yellow and green for their colour pops. I really liked the way they blended each individual show’s styles together and moved flawlessly between them. That aspect alone put it far above anything the MCU or even the DCEU has put out thus far.

 

Character Development

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The series starts off where all of the others have left off plus several months. Jessica is trying to blend into the background and not be made a celebrity or what happened with Killgrave. Luke is just being released from Seagate for time served and is coming back to New York. Danny and Colleen have been roaming the world trying to find the central HQ of the Hand and end them, and Matt has given up being Daredevil and focusing on doing pro-bono work. Each member of the team is fighting in their own right against their failings and sins of their past as they forge ahead together on a crusade to save the city. IN my opinion the one who does the most growth is Jessica. She goes from wanting to be a nobody in behind the scenes to accepting that she can be a hero and help people. Danny does a lot of growth himself not just as the Iron Fist but as a person in general. After his debacle of a return in his solo series he is starting to learn the corporate world and the power he wields as one of the most profitable CEOs in the world. There is one scene in particular where Danny flexes his corporate muscle and shows the viewers that he isn’t some naive kid anymore that he is learning to navigate the corporate world and play the Game of Companies (doesn’t have the same ring to it as Game of Thrones…). Most of the development that is shown in this series comes from the relatively lone heroes learning to trust each other and work together as a unit. Let me tell you, in the finale when they start working together and functioning as a singular unit they are unstoppable.

 

Costumes

There isn’t much to say about costumes for this series. The only person who gets a costume that’s different from the one in their solo series is Danny, and even then it’s more just clothing for the appropriate climate where we first find him at the start of the show. The Black Sky does get a pretty awesome suit that is a lot more comic accurate than anything else, but even then it’s not 100% accurate. Matt Murdoch, Luke Cage, and Jessica Jones all wear their normal outfits and the Daredevil suit is the same one as in the finale of Season 2.

 

Choreography

The fight choreography impressed me very much. It blended all the styles from previous shows and there are several instances where puns and jokes are made by the team members based on what is going on. One particular instance is when Jessica remarks (after stopping a drone in the employ of the villain) “Am I the only one who doesn’t know karate?!”. The choreography that is displayed is very martial arts centric and focuses mostly on the fighting abilities of Daredevil and Iron Fist. It does seem to be a lot more brutal in the fact that there is less finesse to it than there was in Iron Fist, but the visceral and brutal fighting adds to the credence that these aren’t your typical superheroes that these are people of the streets. Danny also has greatly improved his fighting style and character since the end of Iron Fist. It was not done as a response to fan backlash but as general growth as a fighter and a person. Iron Fist aired roughly around the same time they were filming the final episode of Defenders so there really wasn’t time to address most of the critiques raised about the show. Danny has been fighting with Colleen against the hand for several months so it makes sense that his fighting style and character would progress naturally to the point he was at during the opening of the Defenders.

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Conclusion

The Defenders show is the culmination of the four character seasons that Netflix have released thus far and boy… does it show. They took the best parts of each show and blended them together into the perfect piece. The only gripe that I have against the show as a fan was that they combined comic arcs and made them mash together. I can’t tell you which comic arcs they mashed together without spoiling the finale so I won’t but just know it’s nothing major. The only other kind of issue I have is that it’s only 8 episodes. Every other season that marvel and Netflix have produced is 13 episodes and this one was cut to 8. I understand that the production value is higher with a show like this but come on, at least give us 10 episodes!

My feelings on the number of episodes aside I would highly recommend this show to anyone who is a fan of gritty grounded drama. The Marvel Netflix Universe has crafted itself a dark and visceral identity separate from the MCU and that is what give it the distinction it has. I would rate this series 91/100 and recommend that anyone who is a fan of the Netflix universe binge this immediately!