In Defense of Iron Men & Mandarins

 Iron Man

EDITOR’S NOTE: The following will contain major SPOILERS about Iron Man 3. If you haven’t seen the film and don’t want to learn what happens, do not read anymore!

Despite the somewhat mixed reaction to Iron Man 3, the reviews still remained on the positive. I know our fellow Starloggers colleague José Soto enjoyed the film. But there is a vocal base out there of people who loathe Iron Man 3, including our one of our other colleagues Jim McLernon. Much of that dislike has to do with some perceived flaws with the film and the Mandarin (Ben Kingsley).

iron armorsWe’ll be the first to admit that a minor quibble has to do with the high-speed action near the end of Iron Man 3.  At that point, Iron Man/Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.) and Iron Patriot/James Rhodes (Don Cheadle) have a final confrontation with the main villain Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce) at an oil tanker. Needing help against the super-powered Killian and his Extremis army, Stark calls for back up and a cavalry of remote controlled Iron Man armors arrive. We don’t really get enough time within the dizzying action sequences to view these great Iron Man armors. Sure, we’ll see it in toy stores and production stills, but for a moment, the final fight suffered the same syndrome that plagued Transformers 2–too much blurry metal and things happening so fast that it was hard to follow which armor was which. The final battle takes place at night, so that doesn’t help either.

The rest of the film had clear storytelling and it was great to watch. Shane Black co-wrote and directed this entry with guidance from producer Kevin Feige and original director Jon Farvreau. Iron Man 3 is a solid entry in the Marvel movie universe. Better than the second film and about as enjoyable as the first one.

???????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????We liked how Marvel is treating this film as a conclusion of sorts, yet leaves an opening for future films–hopefully with Robert Downey, Jr. (RDJ), who for many people is Tony Stark. Along with him, Gwyneth Paltrow, Cheadle, and Favreau perform at their expected best and are able to walk that fine line between action, comedy and drama. Pearce and James Badge Dale as the heat-based villain Eric Savin are terrific new additions to the cast and standout as villains. But RDJ carried the film. Just as Christopher Reeve personified Superman perfectly, so does RDJ as Iron Man. His character is suffering from the events of The Avengers and we see the personal impact that those events created on a person. RDJ showed a vulnerability that hasn’t been seen before. It was refreshing and made him more human and identifiable.

The final minutes of Iron Man 3 seemed like a conclusion to a larger story arc about Stark’s life and to the film trilogy. Iron buddiesIt seems as if Stark is done with being Iron Man, he’s purged his inner hang ups (and his armors), grown and no longer has the need to use the armors as crutches. But he concludes his narration by stating “I am Iron Man”,  so hopefully Marvel and RDJ can reach an agreement for him to reprise the role. After all the end credits do reveal that Tony Stark will return.

We liked how this Iron Man film is very self contained without any Avengers appearing during the film (emphasis on the word during :D), yet the film expands on the general Marvel movie universe that Iron Man gets involved with. We see competitor industries like A.I.M. (Killian’s company) and Roxxon, two villainous corporate entities seen in the comic books.

Now on to the Mandarin. His role in the film is very controversial. Supposedly he is considered to be the main Iron Man villain in the comic books but bringing that character to the big screen is problematic.

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In the comic books, he is this Chinese warlord who possesses ten alien rings with different kinds of powers and was created in a less politically correct time. The Mandarin as he is in the comic books is considered to be a negative stereotypical portrayal of Asians. To bring that character into a big budget film would have created a public relations firestorm. There isn’t any way in today’s climate where the U.S. owes China so much money and seems largely content with being indebted to that nation, will a stereotype like the  Mandarin appear on film. Putting politics aside, the film studios will lose a ton of revenue in Asia if they used the traditional Mandarin super villain. Family-friendly Disney (Marvel’s owner) want to expand their appeal with China, not close it. The creative minds at Disney/Marvel wouldn’t allow the Mandarin to be portrayed as in the comic books, so the Mandarin had to be politically correct.

????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????Black and the producers made an acceptable alternative. They had it that the Mandarin was just a British actor hired by Killian to portray a super terrorist. The Mandarin would claim credit for Killian’s terror attacks and Killian gets to manipulate the public and gain more control behind the scenes. In effect, Killian is the Mandarin; he even claims at one point that he is that person.

The bottom line is that the Mandarin doesn’t exist in this film. But honestly, he isn’t a famous villain like Dr. Doom or the Joker so drastically changing the villain wouldn’t turn off the general public. It was a calculated risk that the people behind Iron Man 3 took. We think it was a rather brilliant and daring plot twist but it turned off some vocal fans. That is understandable but they have to be realistic and for now this is the best solution.

But enough with this controversy. Iron Man 3 is still a joyous and energetic film thanks to its many merits. And the recent box office receipts confirm that the appealing combo of Iron Man and RDJ continues to be invincible.

GEO and Waldermann Rivera

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Star Trek Movie Retrospective–Star Trek: Insurrection

“How many people does it take admiral, before it becomes wrong? Hmmm? A thousand? Fifty thousand? A million?”

Captain Jean-Luc Picard questioning Admiral Dougherty’s attitude about forcibly relocating 600 Ba’ku villagers

ins posterThe ninth Star Trek film, Star Trek: Insurrection, isn’t well regarded by fans and even the people who made it. However, it does have some merit. In fact, as our contributor GEO would say, here’s what’s great about Star Trek: Insurrection:

Still looking? Don’t bother. There isn’t anything great about the film.

dataIt opens in a quaint pastoral Mediterranean-looking village on an unnamed planet. The townspeople are a simple and content lot who tend to their fields, bake bread and live a quiet existence. But they’re monitored unnoticed by Starfleet personnel and mummified-looking aliens in a duck blind. They’re also tracking an invisible person who turns out to be the android Lt. Commander Data (Brent Spiner) who has gone rogue. Other cloaked officers try to stop him from reaching the village, but the android reaches it. The villagers become aware of them, especially after Data removes his invisible suit and shoots at the invisible monitoring station, making it visible to everyone.

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Meanwhile, Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) is hosting a reception onboard his ship, the Enterprise-E, for new members of the United Federation of Planets. He runs into his old Klingon friend Lt. Commander Worf (Michael Dorn) who apparently dropped by the ship to visit. Worf at this time was a regular character in the show Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (DS9) but it’s never really explained what he was doing on the Enterprise-E.

sona ship enterprisePicard gets an urgent message from Admiral Dougherty (Anthony Zerbe) who is requesting Data’s schematics and informs him of the android’s behavior. He adds that Data took hostage the Starfleet observers along with the Son’a, the aliens working with the observers. The captain offers to send his ship over to help but Dougherty discourages this since the planet they’re on is in a perilous region of space nicknamed the Briar Patch.  It got that name from its volatile gases in the system’s nebula that creates anomalies like poor communication.

His interest piqued, Picard has the Enterprise-E go to the planet anyway. When they arrive, Dougherty is with the Son’a leader Ru’afo (F. Murray Abraham) on the Son’a’s command ship, which was just attacked scout shipby Data in a scout ship. Picard and Worf quickly leave their ship in a shuttlecraft and are in turn attacked by Data’s ship near the ringed planet. Both vessels enter the planet’s atmosphere during a cat-and-mouse chase. Over the radio, Picard engages Data to an embarrassingly dumb musical duet based on a Gilbert and Sullivan musical. This distracts the android long enough for Worf to board his ship and deactivate him with a modified tricorder.

Afterwards, the Enterprise-E crew arrive at the village to free the hostages. They’re surprised to find that the so-called prisoners are treated as guests and are free to leave. Picard meets one of the villagers, Anij (Donna Murphy) and a few others. They’re the Ba’ku and despite their primitive appearance are actually a warp-capable society who are up to date on science and technology but choose to live a simpler life.

Back on the Enterprise-E, Chief Engineer Geordi LaForge (Levar Burton) informs Picard that Data’s positronic brain was damaged in a firefight, which is picard data and chickwhy he was acting strangely. Data, now repaired, is activated. The android doesn’t remember much of what happened to him, so him and Picard go back to the planet to investigate. Anij and other Ba’ku, including a young boy named Artim (Michael Welch) who previously encountered Data, join them. They discover a cloaked rectangular ship that is really one large holoship that can recreate any environment inside of it. The ship has a recreated Ba’ku’s village, meaning that the villagers were to be transported there while they slept and fooled into thinking they were still in the village. The mystery just deepens.

Picard and his crew begin experiencing strange reactions to being on the planet, notably that they are getting younger. Worf breaks out in acne, First Officer William Riker (Jonathan Frakes) and Counselor Deanna Troi (Marina Sirtis) rekindle a dormant romance and most dramatically Geordi regains his eyesight. The scene where Geordi looks at a sunrise for the first time in his life was his best moment in all the films thanks to Burton’s quietly emotional acting.

geordi sees

Anij explains to Picard what is going on. The Ba’ku left their ruined planet centuries ago and resettled in the current world. The metaphasic radiation from the rings of the planet rejuvenated them, which explains the Ba’ku’s youthful appearance. Anij and many others are actually centuries old thanks to the rings. The Ba’ku’s world is an actual Fountain of Youth, which is why Starfleet and the sickly Son’a are so interested.

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Star Trek Movie Retrospective–Star Trek: First Contact

“The line must be drawn HERE! This far, no farther! I…will make them PAY for what they’ve done!”

Captain Jean-Luc Picard ranting about the Borg

posterWhen producers started making the eighth Star Trek film, they knew it had to deliver big. The previous film was successful but received criticisms over its quality. So for Star Trek: First Contact they brought out the big guns in the form of the Borg, the most popular villains on the TV show Star Trek: The Next Generation (TNG). And it worked.

It opens with a close up shot of Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) looking straight ahead. The camera pulls back to reveal he’s inside the nightmarish machinery of a Borg vessel. What’s worse is his transformation into one of them and losing his identity. The Borg are a cold, and nearly invincible cyborg race made up of assorted aliens that are forcibly converted using painful looking cybernetic implants. They seek the perfect union between machine and life and assimilating other races to achieve this objective.

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Picard eventually wakes up from the nightmare, which was a flashback to his ordeal in the classic two-part episode “The Best Of Both Worlds”. He’s onboard his new ship, the Enterprise-E and receives news that the Borg have returned to Federation space. However, instead of being ordered to join an assembled armada to fight the Borg, he is to patrol the Romulan Neutral Zone with his ship.

He and his crew are visibly restless about their orders. Later as they carry them out, his first officer Will Riker (Jonathan Frakes) complains about the orders, Picard tells him that Starfleet feels that his own experiences with being turned into a Borg will compromise his ability to fight them.

Just then he and the crew pick up transmissions from the fight. Things aren’t going well for the Starfleet armada, it’s losing badly to the Borg. Having heard enough, Picard decides to disobey orders and join the fight, with his crew behind him. The Enterprise-E then warps off at its highest speed to Earth.

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The very next scene features a mammoth and imposing Borg cube that fills the screen, accompanied by a booming score, as it nears our planet. It’s slammed by weapons fire from Starfleet ships. Unlike “The Best Of Both Worlds” the ships are putting up a better fight, but are still losing. New and eye-catching Starfleet ships abound, one of them is the Defiant, the scrappy escort vessel seen in the TV show Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (DS9). Commanding the Defiant is the Klingon Lt. Commander Worf (Michael Dorn), who in between films, joined DS9. His damaged ship is caught in a tractor beam from the cube.

borg battleThe  Enterprise-E suddenly joins the fray, rescues the Defiant and beams aboard its survivors. Moments later, Worf joins his old comrades at the bridge, completing the film reunion. Picard takes command of the fleet and orders a simultaneous barrage of weapons fire at specific spots on the cube.

In a spectacular display, the Starfleet ships fire a vicious volley at the Borg cube and destroy it. However, before it explodes, the cube releases a smaller, sphere-shaped vessel that rushes towards Earth.

The Enterprise-E is on its tail as a temporal vortex opens up in front of the Borg sphere that leaves behind borg earthan energy wake that washes over the Enterprise-E.  After the sphere disappears into the vortex, the horrified crew of the starship see the Earth before them become Borgified. The planet’s colorful landmasses are transformed into one continuous field of metallic grey.

They  deduce that the sphere traveled to Earth’s past and assimilated the planet. The ship’s android operations officer Lt. Commander Data (Brent Spiner) theorizes that the wake protected them from being changed with the altered timeline. Before the vortex can close, Picard orders the Enterprise-E to go through it.

The sphere emerges from the vortex and begins attacking a small, rundown town in Montana. The Enterprise-E arrives a few minutes later and destroys the sphere. They learn they’re in the mid 21st century, April 4, 2063 to be exact, about ten years after World War III. Based on that information, Picard realizes that the Borg want to stop Zefram Cochrane, the human inventor of warp drive technology, from successfully testing Earth’s first warp drive ship, the Phoenix. Its flight on the next day will attract the attention of a passing Vulcan ship, which will then travel to Earth. The resulting peaceful first contact will eventually lead to the founding of the United Federation of Planets.

Fearing the worst, Picard with an Away Team beams down to the town, which actually has a missile complex. picard dataEven though most of the personnel in the complex are dead, Cochrane’s assistant and co-pilot Lily Sloane (Alfre Woodard) is found alive but suffering from radiation poisoning. She’s taken back to the ship for treatment by Chief Medical Officer Dr. Beverly Crusher (Gates McFadden) while Picard looks for Cochrane. The Phoenix (actually a converted nuclear missile) is damaged but repairable.

Throughout the film, Picard was able to hear Borg voices in his head, a residual effect of his ordeal after being assimilated. He hears them again and returns to the ship with Data, while having Riker beam down to continue looking for Cochrane. Chief Engineer Geordi LaForge (Levar Burton) also beams down with a team to repair the Phoenix and continue with the planned flight.

Back on the Enterprise-E, the bridge crew discover that they are losing control over several systems and cannot contact main engineering. It soon becomes apparent that there are Borg drones onboard the starship. The captain theorizes that before the sphere was destroyed several Borg must’ve beamed onboard undetected to assimilate the starship. Acting quickly, Picard orders Data to lock out the main computer and heads to main engineering with a security team. Picard’s plan is to puncture the warp core’s plasma coolant tanks, which will flood engineering and liquefy all organic matter, namely the Borg’s organic parts.

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When they get near their destination, several Borg drones, many of whom are assimilated crewmembers, attack Picard’s detail. They’re forced to retreat but Data is captured.

During his retreat, Picard runs into Lily, who evacuated sickbay and separated from Crusher’s medical team after the Borg broke into the medical facility. Lily doesn’t know what is going on and orders Picard at phaser point to be taken back home. PIcard is able to convince her that she is on a ship from the future and takes her with him to a holodeck. They briefly hide there while a 1940s detective story simulation plays until two Borg enter the holodeck. Picard begins to exhibit his inner rage and transforms into a movie action hero while killing them with a holographic Tommy gun. Then he retrieves a neural processor from one of the corpses to learn the Borg’s plans.

outer space fightOne of them is to use the ship’s deflector to contact other Borg for reinforcements. This leads to one of the film’s most suspenseful moments: a dangerous battle with the enemy outside on the ship’s outer hull. They’re truly inhuman with their capability to function without spacesuits, while Picard, Worf and a redshirt named Hawk (Neal McDonough) donned sleek, white EV suits.

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Top 10 Fringe Episodes

Fringe, one of the most recently acclaimed sci-fi shows, concluded its five-season run earlier this year and its final season is out on Blu-ray/DVD this week. The show boasted many intriguing and memorable episodes that pushed the envelope in regards to storytelling. The show was about the investigations by a government agency into fringe science events like strange mutations and teleportation. The Fringe team led by Special Agent Olivia Dunham (Anna Torv), Dr. Walter Bishop (John Noble) and his son Peter (Joshua Jackson) encountered some really bizarre phenomena. While Fringe had many standout episodes, these ten were among the show’s very best stories.

10. “The Arrival” The enigmatic Observer called September (Michael Cerveris) is fully introduced and right away viewers are fascinated by this strange, formidable being from the distant future who can predict actions.

9. “The Boy Must Live” This fifth-season episode boy must livetakes place (as does the entire season) in the future where the Observers have taken over the world. September and the Observers’ origins are finally revealed as is the forgotten plot devised by Bishop to defeat the Observers.

8. “Black Blotter” The Fringe team recover an empathic and mute child Observer called Michael (Rowan Longworth), who is the key to defeating the Observers. Meanwhile to aid in that task, Bishop takes a hallucinogen, which leads to some pretty trippy animated sequences. How trippy? Imagine Sgt. Pepper meeting Monty Python!

brave new world7. “Brave New World, Parts 1 & 2” The fourth season (and for a moment the series before it was renewed) closes with this exciting two-parter that has the Fringe team finally confronting Bishop’s former partner (Leonard Nimoy), who is out to destroy the universe and remake it to his own designs.

6. “There’s More Than One Of Everything” This first-season finale answers many questions about The Pattern events that the Fringe team was investigating while brining up many more questions and startling revelations. One of the biggest ones being about Peter’s identity. Plus, it introduces a parallel world where the World Trade Center is still standing.

5.TIE: “The Plateau”/ “Amber 31422” These two episodes take place predominantly in the parallel world where Olivia was trapped and brainwashed amberinto believing she was her double. The episodes present viewers with intriguing plots about the affect the Fringe team have on the parallel world. “The Plateau” is about a gifted man who can forecast future possibilities using math, except for the unforseen variable of a different Olivia in his world. It would prove to be his undoing. “Amber 31422” examines the impact that the suspending amber chemical has on people living in the parallel world. Notably on twin brothers, one of whom was released from the substance and we learned what it felt like to be embedded in amber.

4. “Peter” This outstanding flashback episode explains how the entire mess peterwith the parallel world began. Taking place in 1985, Dr. Bishop comes up with a way to peer into a parallel world. Around the same time his son dies and he learns his son’s double in the other world is also dying, thus he decides to save that boy at a terrible cost. The episode had a nifty retro feel to it, even the opening credits reflected the 1980s with its electronic soundtrack and listings of cutting-edge technology during that time.

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3. “Entrada” The thrilling conclusion of the swapped Olivias storyline in season three has them both on the run in the two universes. Fauxlivia, the nickname for the Olivia from the parallel world has her cover blown. Meanwhile, the original Olivia manages to break her from her captors who were out to remove her brain for study. There was an urgent feeling of desperation shown by both Olivias as the original tried to make her way back to her own universe, while her malevolent double assigned to the original universe mercilessly avoided a manhunt led by Peter.

white tulip2. “White Tulip” One of the grisliest and most emotional stories dealing with time travel introduces Alistair Peck, a scientist (played exceptionally well by Peter Weller) who is experimenting with time travel. Peck is able to time travel by painfully and surgically implanting devices on his body. What gets the Fringe team involved is that his work winds up killing people by draining them of their energy. It turns out that Peck was only trying to save his wife from being killed in the past.

olivias over there

1. “Over There, Parts 1 & 2” The two-part second-season finale takes place in the parallel universe as Dr. Bishop and Olivia travel there to retrieve Peter, who had defected to the other side. It was fun seeing all the differences in that other world. Examples include, lost friends and family who are still alive, canceled TV shows are still airing, the comic books are differentover there map (Red Lantern instead of Green Lantern), dirigibles fill an altered New York skyline, and even the map of the U.S. is radically different. But more enjoyable were the actors portraying alternate versions of their characters. Fauxlivia and Walternate were very effective villains and are part of the reason why Fringe was so much fun to watch.

Lewis T. Grove

Starloggers Asks Which Superheroes Should Appear In The Next Avengers Film?

 

Art by Marko Djurdjevic

Art by Marko Djurdjevic

 

Work is underway for a sequel to last summer’s mammoth blockbuster The Avengers. There is so much speculation about not only the film’s plot but if new superheroes will join the ranks of the Avengers. Our contributors were asked who should appear in The Avengers 2.

Annette DeForester: “Wonder Man as long as Nathan Fillion plays him. His character could set up another sequel that would feature Vision and Ultron. Sean Bean would be perfect as the Black Knight. If the rumors about Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch appearing in The Avengers 2 are correct then that would be fabulous! She (Scarlet Witch) is one of my favorite superheroes.”

C.S. Link: “Spider-Man, he seems to fit in with the group and many stories take place in NYC. Also, I’d pick Nova, he’s a cool character.”

Evan Rothfeld: “I’m not up on who’s who in the world of superheroes. Quicksilver? He looked like a cool guy and the Scarlet Witch, she was babe-licious. I would say in general, Doctor Strange, just as long as he’s not like that New Age wimpy version done in that ’70s TV pilot movie.”

GEO: “These are the characters I want to see in the sequels: Vision and Scarlet Witch, plus Quicksilver, who is Scarlet Witch’s brother and the siblings are founding members of the second lineup. Captain Marvell and Ms. Marvel, that way we can have the Kree-Skrull War! antmanWonder Man; his brain patterns were used to create the Vision’s brain. Tigra, she’s exotic, feline and would be as popular as Neytiri from Avatar. Black Panther, who is pure royalty and ties in with Captain America and his shield, which is made of vibranium and can only be found in Black Panther’s kingdom. And of course, Ant-Man/Giant-Man and the Wasp; they’re a great bickering couple.”

Jennifer Drucker: “My number one choice would be Spider-Man and then Wolverine. But Stan Lee’s the real superhero and he needs a better cameo in the next Avengers film.”

Jim McLernon: “I would like to see Ant-Man and the Wasp the most but only as long as they use the storyline where Hank Pym beats up on Jan as what happened in The Ultimates–and as long as Captain America beats Hank up for being a wife beater. Since they won’t do that I’d like to see Spider-Man and either the She-Hulk, Daredevil or War Machine as the new Avengers.

José Soto: “If the studios can work out an agreement then go with Spider-Man, that film would redefine the term blockbuster. But two people missing from The Avengers were Giant-Man and the Wasp. They’re two of the original founding members, have a good storyline and need to appear in the sequel.”

Lewis T. Grove: “I’ve always liked Hercules, and She Hulk could be a breakout character for The Avengers 2. I don’t understood the adulation for Ant-Man, he’s so uninteresting, although I liked his role in The Ultimates as Giant-Man.”

schwarmaWaldermann Rivera: “I have three picks aside from the obvious. Quasar, I liked that comic book from the late ‘8os and he would fit in with that cosmic angle Marvel is shooting for with Guardians Of The Galaxy. Valkyrie, not only does she tie in with Thor but could set up a Defenders film! Then do Spider-Woman before Sony snatches up the rights to that character…it will be the closest we’ll get to a spider character appearing in an Avengers film.”