‘Spider-Man: Far From Home’ is a Summer Vacation Worth Taking

To be totally candid here, it’s difficult to separate my thoughts on Far From Home as a film and my thoughts on it as a die-hard Spider-Man fan. Since the MCU is progressively becoming less stand-alone, I feel it is necessary to give my thoughts on previous entries. Homecoming remains my favorite Spider-Man film, and I am lukewarm at best towards Avengers: Endgame, and if you’re not a fan of either, if you dislike the MCU’s interpretation of Spider-Man, then Far From Home will do very little to change your mind. What we’re dealing with here, is a new, modernized re-interpretation of Peter Parker/Spider-Man instead of a definitive version of the character; the sooner you accept that, the better. You will also read me clarifying “live-action” when I make any bold claims because Into the Spider-Verse still remains the best Spider-Man film and possibly the best comic book film ever.

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I argue this mainly because Far From Home follows Peter Parker in a far different mindset than one would normally expect from him. This is a young, sixteen-year-old Peter that has gone through an enormous amount of trauma from the last two Avengers movies, and in the aftermath, has developed an exhaustion with superheroism; a Spider-Man that has a lot to learn about maturity, responsibility and a lot of emotional baggage to sort through. Jaded with the weight of Iron Man’s passing, Peter (Tom Holland) decides he wants to take a break; to go on his summer field trip in Europe with his classmates and pursue a romance with MJ (Zendaya). Along the way, he runs into Nick Fury (Samuel L Jackson) and a mysterious… Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal), and the balance between being Spider-Man and being Peter Parker becomes an even more complicated weight to burden.

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‘Infinity War’, ‘Endgame’ and a Year Without Gamora

This article contains spoilers for Avengers: Endgame.

It’s been over a year since I’ve witnessed Gamora, one of the most strong-willed women of the Marvel universe, die by the hands of her own abuser.

I know that Avengers: Endgame is a three-hour film with an ungodly amount of baggage to sort through. I know that not only were directors Anthony and Joe Russo challenged with crafting a satisfying conclusion for our original six Avengers, but they were also tasked with forging a new direction for all other characters within the 22 movie franchise, post the aftermath of the cosmic-shattering events of Infinity War. Knowing all this to be true, and all that was at stake, I entered the theater aware that there was no possible way all of the Marvel fan community, with their own favorite characters and unique emotional investments, could realistically walk out of Endgame fully pleased with what they had watched; and yet, despite knowing all of this, even despite enjoying most of what I saw in Endgame, I’ve still had a festering, empty feeling in my heart over one character: Gamora. 

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Zoe Saldana as Gamora in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

I am aware that I will always carry a bias here. The Guardians of the Galaxy movies mean a lot to me. I love how over the top they are, from their nostalgic needle drops to their sometimes overbearing amounts of sentimentality. I love that they are two calculated, messy movies about scarred and lonely people full of regret, who realize that they are stronger together and that there is a greater meaning of life in the family connection they choose in each other. I’ll save you the specific details, but as someone with a messy relationship with my own blood family, and as someone who’s strongest emotional connections are amongst friends from all sorts of different places, these themes especially ring true. Gunn’s two Guardians films often pass boundaries (i.e. “green whore” line from Drax in Vol. 1, or the many jokes about severed limbs from Rocket) but despite all of that, they’re always being told from a place of sincerity and genuine growth that has struck a chord with me since seeing them on their opening weekends.

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‘Avengers: Endgame’ – A Heartfelt Thank You to Earth’s Mightiest Heroes

I have given more than half of my life to the Avengers. I first saw Iron Man (2008) at my local cinema with my dad; I remember enthusiastically climbing the bus stop afterward and demanding I be called ‘iron girl’. I went home and painted toilet roll tubes red and yellow to make gauntlets (which sat nicely alongside my tin foil Wolverine claws). I’m now 21, and the Avengers have been by my side for eleven of the most formative years of my life.

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Avengers: Endgame is the long-awaited culmination of those years, a coming together of everyone we have met along the way, and a chance for the team to finally live up to their name and ‘avenge’. As cinema has had so many iterations of beloved comic book heroes, fans held out hope that those we lost during the events of Infinity War would return. But Marvel Studios are smarter than most give them credit for – a sense of finality is essential to keeping high stakes, and Endgame has buckets of both.

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Unpacking ‘Venom’, the Slimiest, Self-Parodying, Superhero Rom-Com of the Year

Venom is one hell of a fascinating, cultural enigma— in all the ways it wasn’t planning to be. From the opening shot of space to the Eminem-blasting credits sequence, the symbiote solo film is in a constant state of identity crisis. It is a clunky, tonal disaster with a script that seemed to have been written by an algorithm that churns out comic book origin screenplays by the hour. Tied together by the meme-able marketing,  outdated aesthetics, and poor critical receptionVenom was set up and sure to be a flop. Or so I thought, as the film just made 80 million dollars at the box office this weekend.

As someone who just stepped out of my 11:00 AM IMAX 3D time machine to the early 2000s, I am, of course, dumbfounded by these box office numbers. My shock leads me to log onto Twitter for an investigation of what the overall response of Venom‘s audience was, only to see the DCEU fandom have co-opted the financial success of Venom into their anti-MCU campaigns against film criticism. This surprised me even more – is this latest piece of Sony Pictures schlock what they really want to defend from the evil, nasty film critics? Even past this vocal minority of the Twittersphere, what did 80 million dollars worth of people see in “eyes, lungs, pancreas” that made them leave with satisfaction? As Laurie Metcalf famously once said, “Let’s just sit with what we’ve heard.”

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‘Ant-Man and the Wasp’ is Conventional, But Charismatic Enough to Excel Past Its Predecessor

If you’re a film fan, you probably have your mind made up on Marvel films at this point. You either like them enough or wish they would end, but they just keep coming! Personally, while I am not a fan of most of the early entries in the franchise, I’ve generally felt the latest offerings in Phase 3 have brought enough refreshing elements and a surprisingly mature amount of depth to popcorn entertainment. Ant-Man and the Wasp is the latest offering from the Marvel Cinematic Universe and sequel to the 2015 origin story. While it doesn’t pull the same punches or have as much thematic depth as Black Panther, it makes up for it with a charming cast that provides heart and tonal confidence to a film that takes it beyond what its predecessor reached.

It’s pretty well known that the first Ant-Man film was plagued with production issues- including the infamous firing of Edgar Wright due to creative differences. However, this is where Ant-Man and the Wasp gets to excel. Gone are the grievances over what could have been, and here are the best ways to build on what was established in the original flick. Reed displays a lot better directional skill here. The fight sequences are better staged, there are more uses of the shrinking and growing visual hooks, and in general, the tone is a lot more focused and energetic than the original (which looked like an NBC sitcom, at times) ever was. From the tiny car chases to the psychedelic VFX work of the Quantum Realm, there’s a lot more to savor this time around.

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Ant-Man (Paul Rudd) and the Wasp (Evangeline Lily) are just as fun as their size.

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Opinion: ‘Deadpool 2’, White Male Toxicity, and Tokenism

A few weeks ago, Deadpool 2, the sequel to the 2016 comic book action flick/rom-com, opened at a successful yet comparatively underwhelming $125 million at the box office, missing its $130-150 million target. On its second weekend, it dropped at an alarming 66% against Avengers: Infinity War and the opening to Solo: A Star Wars Story–meaning there is an apparent large gap between the performance of the first film and its sequel.

Theorizing about its box office performance is a more complicated conversation, as there are tons of factors going into these numbers (in fact, I would love if the money bar would stop raising for huge blockbusters). However, I do find that it is time to question if whether or not Deadpool‘s Family Guy-esque brand of humor and egregious use of comedic, lighthearted violence can stay relevant in the charged times we’re currently living in. Is Deadpool simply just outdated for the majority of today’s modern audience? For me anyway, the answer is: absolutely.

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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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