Doctor Orientalism: Marvel’s History of Anti-Asian Narratives

While watching Avengers: Infinity War, there was a specific moment where Doctor Stephen Strange, Sorcerer Supreme and protector of the time stone, duplicates himself. His many arms stretch out of his body like a hypnotic spider, and he proceeds to multiply to throw Thanos off guard in the middle of a tense battle. The audience erupted in applause, but I couldn’t help but feel unnerved at the display of blatant cultural appropriation. What could have been a triumphant moment of pride for me, had Strange been played by an Asian actor, was instead one of alienation. So here I am, with the goal to talk about this issue head-on. To do so effectively, we’re going to have to go back to the beginning.

Doctor Strange’s existence in the MCU has been a problem for me ever since he was cast, as there has always been an issue with the original source material, and the on-screen interpretation of the character has not done anything to fix it. When he was introduced into the comic sphere in 1963 with Strange Tales #110, there was a mass hippie craze for any “exotic” culture. The Sorcerer Supreme’s lore and imagery were heavily inspired by Tibetan and South-East Asian Buddhist folklore and legends. Obviously, it was never thought at the time how harmful it is to take an external culture and exploit it for aesthetics, but he was actually never explicitly caucasian until he became a popular character and was implemented into other storylines.

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VIDEO: Ten Years of MARVEL, a Retrospective

After the record shattering release of ‘Avengers: Infinity War’, we made a video edit to commemorate the 19 Marvel Cinematic Universe films over the past 10 years. Not all of them appear in the edit, but we wanted to tribute the characters, moments, and the emotions that make the trip to the cinema so special.

The Much Ado team will start creating even more video content in the next few months, so be on the lookout! Follow us on Twitter @muchadocinema for updates!

‘Avengers: Infinity War’ in Conversation

This past week has been an emotional rollercoaster for Marvel fans. 10 years, 19 films, and a lot of heroes have been leading us into Infinity War. Now that we’ve all seen, and grieved over the film, it’s time to talk about it. Much Ado writers talk about their favourite scenes, problems and most importantly, about Carrie Coon’s cameo, in conversation.

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Classic Film 101

Classic films can be a bit daunting when you don’t know where to start. French New Wave? Italian Neorealism? German Expressionism? What do they all mean? Sometimes you don’t need to jump in the deep end with the 6-hour epics — there are classic films that are just as accessible as those made today, with the added bonus of operating as an easy gateway into the world of classic film. All it takes is that one movie — so we asked our regular writers: What film got you into classics?

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Much Ado About Cinema’s Favorite ‘Star Wars’ Moments

There are few film series as iconic as George Lucas’s ‘Star Wars’. It has spanned generations and shows no signs of stopping, with ‘Solo: A Star Wars Story’ coming out in just a few weeks. This franchise has given us heroes, villains, an iconic film score, and JarJar Binks. To celebrate May the Fourth, Much Ado is looking back at our favorite ‘Star Wars’ moments and why they resonant with us.

Llewyn – Binary Sunset, ‘Episode IV: A New Hope’

‘Star Wars’, for me, has always been about the spectacle of adventure and discovery first and foremost. These movies, like the serialized “Flash Gordon” entertainment they are inspired by, are an escape from mundane reality and into a world of whimsical beauty. When we first meet our hero, Luke Skywalker, he is a moisture farmer on Tatooine searching for a higher purpose. This iconic moment, closing off the first act of the film, shows Luke looking off into the setting dual sunsets of his home planet. The iconic John Williams score kicks in as we close up on Luke’s face. What awaits him out there in the galaxy, past these burning stars? Will he ever get the opportunity to rise up? Is that in his destiny? This is a true defining moment for this franchise, one that represents empathy, hope, curiosity, and ambition. Regardless of where we come from in life, maybe we are destined for more.

Mary Beth – Fight Above the Sarlacc Pit, ‘Episode VI: Return of the Jedi’

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They approach the Sarlacc Pit in ‘Return of the Jedi’

Whenever I think of Star Wars, this is the first scene that comes to my mind. Just thinking about those quick, deep notes that play as the camera cuts to each character right before Luke jumps gives me goosebumps. Then, he jumps, R2D2 shoots out Luke’s lightsaber, and all hell breaks loose. Chaos reigns as Luke, Lando, Han, and Chewie all push their guards into the Sarlacc’s gaping maw. And who could forget Princess Leia? While the men are brawling, she single handedly strangles Jabba the Hutt with the chains used to imprison her, all while in a bikini. Talk about iconic. Even in the face of tentacled pit monster, the Force will always win.

Kareem – Luke confronts Vader, ‘Episode VI: The Empire Strikes Back’

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Luke confronts Darth Vader in ‘The Empire Strikes Back’

The Empire Strikes Back’ is a brilliant film, which gradually builds and builds in terms of world building, excitement and narrative tension. All of that climaxes in the arguably most well-known moment in modern pop-culture. But the impact of the infamous twist doesn’t come out of nowhere. There is some truly masterful filmmaking that leads up it – especially in terms of sound design.

Kershner decided to show an, for the franchise, extremely rare degree of restraint in terms of score. Instead; we get a audial texture consistent of Vader’s breathing, the humming of machinery and the sounds of colliding lightsabers. While there is dialogue too, there are moments, where human silence reigns, and we see these characters being subjected to the mystery of their surroundings, and perhaps to the circumstances, that brought them, a father and a son, into a situation that poses them as enemies to each other.

Mary Beth – Snokes’ Throne Room, ‘Episode VIII: The Last Jedi’

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Snokes’ Imperial Guards in ‘The Last Jedi’

I’m weak for monochromatic set design, so you can imagine how Snokes’ throne brought me to my metaphorical knees. Rick Heinrichs, production designer for ‘The Last Jedi’, said that the idea behind the design was “to make anybody looking at it, whether they’re Resistance or anybody else, go weak in the knees.” I would say that goal was achieved. Besides the production value, this scene is a turning point for Rey. Her struggles throughout ‘The Last Jedi’ challenge what we’ve seen throughout the ‘Star Wars’ franchise, where good and evil, Jedi and Sith, were binaristic ways of thinking; we always knew who to cheer for. But now, it isn’t so clear. As Kylo Ren raises his hand and asks her to join him, there is doubt about what she will do. But she won’t succumb to his manipulation, knowing that despite coming from nothing, she still has an important part to play in this story.

 

Llewyn – The Boy and the Broom, ‘Episode VIII: The Last Jedi’

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George Lucas, as infamous as he was for creating the prequels, once said that “[‘Star Wars’] is like a poetry, it rhymes.” Lucas’s Star Wars was about the Skywalkers, he centered an entire galaxy of characters on one specific family and their generational impact. Rian Johnson’s ‘The Last Jedi’ challenges all of those previous notions of legacy and patriarchy the prequels explored. In doing so, Rian gave the force back to the fans. Rey learns, same as we do, that you don’t need to come from a lineage of Jedi to become a hero. The ending scene to this subversive chapter in the ‘Star Wars‘ saga shows the abused child laborers we were introduced to back on Canto Bight, telling stories of the mythical Luke Skywalker before getting yelled at to continue cleaning. A boy, in a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moment, grabs a broom using the force while no one was looking. The force theme plays as he looks into the sky. Sound familiar? This moment is a perfect encapsulation of everything ‘The Last Jedi means. But as subversive as it was, it maintains the rhythm Lucas created.

Kareem – Holdo’s Sacrifice, ‘Episode VIII: The Last Jedi

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Rian Johnson’s franchise-redefining masterpiece ‘The Last Jedi’ has an overarching refocus of the narrative towards the purpose, goals and the urgency of the rebellion. Since the prequels barely had a narrative of systematic rebellion, and the original trilogy tried to rather use it as a set-up for it’s grand, character-focused adventure arc, this might be only the second time (after ‘Rogue One: A Star Wars Story’, which sadly didn’t quite hit the mark), that the rebellion as a concept is pulled into the spotlight. Johnson tries to grasp, what rebellion against a system means. It’s a fight that is very slight in terms of perspective. But exactly that last spark of perspective turns out to be the essence, and the task of the rebellion. When Admiral Holdo, wonderfully played by Laura Dern, crashes the commanding ship of the rebellion as the last remaining person onboard, into the First Order’s Star Destroyer, she unleashes the biggest spark imaginable. It’s a major breaking point in the narrative, and it reshapes the story arc of every other character in the film completely. Her altruism during that moment is specifically what keeps the rebellion alive.

What to Watch Out For at Cannes 2018

It’s almost that time of the year again. Red carpets are being prepared, critics are gathering their caffeine tablets, and social media is beginning to buzz about the latest and greatest films from across the world. Cannes Film Festival has always marked the film calendar with ingenuity and controversy alike, and this year is no different. Dramas this year include a return of Nazi-sympathiser Lars von Trier to the lineup after a supposed seven year ban, a long and exhausting battle with Netflix (in which nobody really won), and a lack of female directors in competition (a dismal 14%). On the other hand, the 3 Days at Cannes programme will allow 1000 young cinephiles access to one of the most exclusive film events of the year, the competition jury is majority women, and Cannes’ very first Kenyan feature – discussed below – will compete in the Un Certain Regard section. One step forward, two steps back.

Regardless of all this, we’re excited because Cannes always means one thing: fantastic films. In preparation for the festival, we’ve put together a short list of those premieres that we’re most keen to see.

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Much Ado’s Top Five Films of Marvel Cinematic Universe

Ten years in the making and Infinity War is finally here! Blockbuster cinema is filled with milestones; Steven Spielberg’s Jaws invented summer blockbusters and years later MCU impacted the way we view and consume them. Previous generations remember seeing iconic shots from Terminator or Lord of the Rings films in cinemas, today’s generation will have The Avenger‘s circle shot. Whether you like MCU films or not, it would be ridiculous to deny that they’ve had huge cultural and cinematic influence for the past ten years. With Infınity War‘s arrival, it’s time to look back at past ten years and rank our top five!

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