The Eve of Marvel’s Phase Three

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Marvel Studios is launching Phase Three of their Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) with the release of Captain America: Civil War. It is hard to believe that less than ten years ago, the superhero film landscape changed forever with the 2008 release of Iron Man, considering he was not a top-tier character in the Marvel Universe. But, the film turned out to be much better than most expected and the very tail end of the film tantalized fans with the promise of a larger film universe when Nick Fury appeared and mentioned that not only were there other superheroes but that a team called the Avengers was planned. This was a spectacular, game-changing moment in superhero films. Never before had superhero films spawned a viable universe. Of course, the original Superman films and Daredevil had spinoff films but they were dead on arrival and seemed like afterthoughts.

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Each successive film in the MCU built upon a shared-universe platform that culminated with The Avengers and continued on with the Phase Two MCU films that concluded last year. Now the Phase Three films of the MCU promise to up the ante in superhero madness that will conclude with the two-part Avengers: Infinity War. Most likely the MCU will have undergone an upheaval that will begin with Captain America: Civil War. How so? For starters, Spider-Man is now officially part of the MCU and is the grandest prize in Marvel Studios’ quest to regain the film rights to the Marvel Comics characters. As most people know Spider-Man, Fantastic Four and the X-Men have their film rights owned by other studios. Ever since the success of Iron Man and other early MCU films, Marvel Studios has been methodically regaining film rights to their characters. Now that the webbed wonder is “shared” by Marvel Studios and Sony Pictures, who is next?

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The most likely target is the much-go home ffmaligned Fantastic Four. Currently, Fox has the film rights and by now it is clear that the movie studio does not know how to translate Marvel’s First Family into the big screen. The hot rumor going around the Internet lately is that Fox selling/trading the rights to the Fantastic Four back to Marvel is a done deal. Speculators point out that Fox being allowed by Marvel to go ahead and develop TV shows based on the X-Men franchise somehow proves this. It is believed that Marvel would not just give up the TV rights lightly. Some serious haggling must have occurred and short of giving back the X-Men to Marvel (maybe our grandchildren will live to see that happen), the only bargaining tool Fox had was the Fantastic Four. Doubters will say that both studios denied this, but remember that Sony and Marvel denied until last year that Spider-Man would join the MCU and we know how that turned out.

The thing to watch out for is the film slate for unannounced films after Avengers: Infinity War, Part II, especially now that the Inhumans film has been placed on hold. It is quite possible that Marvel wanted to make room for a potential Fantastic Four film after the Avengers or to kick off Phase Four. Nothing would thrill fans more than to see the FF make an appearance or even have an Easter egg in Avengers: Infinity War, Part II, which would set up a solo film nicely, just as it is happening now with Spider-Man. If this is going to happen, Marvel is not ready to reveal this, so as always, we have to wait and see.

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Of course, this doesn’t help soothe any hurt feelings for anyone who eagerly anticipated Inhumans. Frankly, the property hasn’t taken off in popularity despite Marvel’s best efforts in the comic books and the TV series Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. The Inhumans were supposed to take the place of the X-Men as part of the turf war that Marvel is having with Fox. But with tensions thawing between the two entertainment giants, the Inhumans lost their appeal. A reason for that can be placed to Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. since the show is spending a lot (or too much according to unhappy fans) of story time to the Inhumans and what has been shown so far about them hasn’t exactly captured the imagination when compared to the X-Men. Another reason based on more Internet rumor has to do with MCU honcho Kevin Feige no longer answering to Marvel Entertainment CEO Ike Perlmutter. Allegedly, relations between the two were less than harmonious and now Feige is in charge of the film franchise while Perlmutter handles the TV properties. Since Inhumans have appeared first on TV, well…put two and two together. It’s just hearsay and we won’t get the actual truth for a very long time, but it is intriguing. Don’t fear for the Inhumans though. They’ll make their appearance on film one of these days. They can do so in a Fantastic Four film.

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Enough with the speculating and let us concentrate on the confirmed menu coming our way. After Captain America and Iron Man finish duking it out, we finally meet the Sorcerer Supreme, Doctor Strange this November. Next year our favorite Guardians of the Galaxy return, Spider-Man will have his grand homecoming and Thor and Hulk have a buddy film. Afterwards in 2018, Black Panther gets his solo outing, Ant-Man returns with the Wasp and the Infinity War begins. Finally, Phase Three concludes in 2019 with Captain Marvel and the conclusion of the Infinity War. We fans certainly have a full plate!

José Soto

 

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A Brief Look At Star Trek: The Animated Series

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Back in the mid ’70s, the Star Trek animated series was literally one of the few outlets that Star Trek fans had when they were in need of new Trek content. This may seem odd given all the video games, books and whatnot that exists today for Star Trek, but in those times the animated series was the closest thing to new Trek. After all, it was executive produced by the original show’s creator Gene Roddenberry, written by many of the original show’s writers and voiced by most of the original actors.

It may seem easy to dismiss the cartoon today by some elitists who criticize the crude animation and simplistic story lines. But there was a bit more to the cartoon than what was on kzinthe surface. Remember these cartoons aired on Saturday mornings and were under strict parental guidelines. Yet, despite the limitations the series stood out. It even won a Daytime Emmy award for “Best Children’s Series”. Many of the scripts were penned by noted sci-fi writers like Larry Niven (who introduced his warlike aliens the Kzinti in the episode “The Slaver Weapon”), David Gerrold, and D.C. Fontana. Even Walter Koenig wrote one script for the series. In many instances, the series followed up with favorite characters like Harry Mudd and situations like the tribbles coming back to infest the Enterprise.

But more importantly, the animated series was  true to the spirit of Star Trek. Amid the children-oriented trappings of the episodes were morality tales and interesting sci-fi concepts. For example, the final episode “The Counter-Clock Incident” dealt with the value of old people and how they can still make a difference. In the episode “Yesteryear”, considered by many to be the best episode, the story examined the reality of losing a pet, which is traumatic to children.

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One issue with the series is about whether or not it is considered canon in the Star Trek lore. For years, Gene Roddenberry and other insiders expressed the belief that the cartoon was not canon. However, elements of the show did make their way into Star Trek-related works and even episodes of spinoff shows. For example, a lot of background information about Vulcan and Spock’s youth that was introduced in “Yesteryear” have resurfaced in other Star Trek shows and books like the Star Trek Encyclopedia. Even James Kirk’s middle name, Tiberius, was first revealed in the cartoon and later confirmed in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. So, certain features of the animated show were considered canon by Paramount Studios.

Finally, in 2007, the Star Trek official website declared that the show is officially canon. Reinforcing this are statements from Gerrold and Fontana that the show represented the fourth year in the Enterprise’s five-year mission. Think of it this way, the episodes were just simplistic retellings of what actually happened to Kirk and the Enterprise crew during the fourth year.

kirk magicIt is hard to believe that over forty years later, the Star Trek animated series is still looked on fondly by fans. Just like its parent series that it is based on, the Star Trek animated series was more than just a children’s show. At the same time, before the film series and the spinoff TV shows, the animated series was something for fans to treasure and relive the Star Trek viewing experience. It’s regrettable that a new animated show based on Star Trek has not been produced since then. The rich lore of the Star Trek universe will provide so much material for new animated adventures and help keep the fandom thriving much in the same way that Star Wars: The Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels has done for the other big sci-fi franchise. This is something for CBS Studios to think about in the 50th anniversary of Star Trek.

Lewis T. Grove

Doctor Strange Trailer Premieres

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As if we weren’t done drooling over last week’s debut of the Rogue One: A Star Wars Story trailer, now we have Doctor Strange! Last night, Marvel Studios unveiled the first teaser trailer for this November’s release of Doctor Strange, the latest addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU).

A few thoughts come to mind when reacting to this trailer. On the whole, it’s very intriguing. For a teaser, this trailer for Doctor Strange sets out to do what a teaser should accomplish–to lure us in, make us want to see more. But more importantly it makes us want to watch this thing over and over again. Benedict Cumberbatch, already killing it from the publicity photos in his full Doctor Strange garb, looks great, as does Tilda Swinton as the Ancient One. The couple of brief sequences we saw with the two of them together calls to mind for some reason The Matrix film where our hero is introduced to a more bizarre reality from a sage type. Some of the funkier imagery brings to mind the Christopher Nolan film Inception with the swirling cityscapes and it just hints at some of the wilder, weirder stuff to be shown in this film.

However, I just wish the Doctor Strange trailer showed us a bit more of the kookier side of the Marvel Cinematic Universe or even a full reveal of Doctor Strange in his classic Steve Ditko duds. We’ve already seen photos of Benedict Cumberbatch wearing the iconic red cape and blue tunic for months so what would be the harm in showing him in his full glory? Also this trailer missed an opportunity to show off Strange performing those graphic incantations from his hands as seen in the Marvel comics, that would have been awesome. Lastly, being that the film is being directed by Scott Derrickson, who is noted for his horror films, Doctor Strange doesn’t feel like a horror film, which would have been an excellent new avenue for the MCU. On the other hand, it doesn’t come off as a superhero film at all, but more of a fantasy film, which is not a minus.

But I get the feeling that we’ll see much more weirder stuff in a second trailer. This one is just an introduction to the more hidden and mystical nature of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. And it accomplished it’s mission in whetting our appetites for the bizarre worlds of Stephen Strange.

Waldermann Rivera

 

Superman & Batman Should Be In The Arrowverse

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While I really enjoyed some of the most recent episodes of the shows in the so-called Arrowverse (Arrow, The Flash, and Legends of Tomorrow), there’s this nagging notion that has grown with me. It has to do with the fact that in the shared universe of these shows (leaving out Supergirl for now since that show takes place in another reality) Superman and Batman don’t seem to exist.

I understand the reasons why DC Entertainment/Warner Brothers don’t want their two most popular superheroes in the Arrowverse. Early on when it was just Arrow, the show’s flahs and GAcreators/producers wanted a superhero show that was grounded in reality without any connections to the just-concluded Smallville. So that meant no characters with superpowers and Arrow had to appear as if what happened was kind of plausible. But superpowers started to creep its way into Arrow by its second season when a drug was introduced that can grant people superhuman strength and when Barry Allen made his debut appearance, which ended with him getting struck by lightning. Not only that, but other elements of the DC Universe started appearing such as the Suicide Squad and Amanda Waller.

The following season of Arrow had the title superhero battling with the Batman villain Ra’s al Ghul and The Flash premiered with an explanation as to what caused people to suddenly develop superpowers. It seemed like a good starting point to jumpstart a DC Universe. The producers even took things a step further by introducing magic in Arrow with the Lazarus Pit and an appearance by sorcerer John Constantine, as well as the supernatural heroine Vixen. It didn’t end there, both shows served also featured the superheroes Hawkman and Hawkwoman, which were then spun off to co-star in Legends of Tomorrow.

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All this is going on in the Arrowverse so why not have Superman and Batman be a part of it? To me, this Arrowverse feels a bit off since neither of those characters are in it and the Flash is probably the most powerful superhero in it. The obvious answer to the question is that Warner Bros. and DC don’t want their two big guns appearing on the show. They’re being held for the big leagues, IOW the movies. That’s fine, leave the epic heroes for the silver screen with the big budgets, but what is baffling is this idea that TPTB have that they don’t want audiences confused or have their product diluted. The average fan wouldn’t expect to see Ben Affleck or some other big shot actor appearing as Batman or Superman in The Flash. Nor would they be confused if they saw someone else portraying the Man of Steel. We’re not stupid.

This doesn’t mean that Arrow, The Flash and Legends of Tomorrow have to feature the actual appearances of Superman or Batman, just allude to them like they do in Supergirl. We don’t see Superman on that show, but he is mentioned and has a presence. Would it hurt to just name drop the city of Gotham or Lex Luthor? No. It would make the Arrowverse feel more complete and richer. Instead we keep wondering why Ra’s al Ghul exists but not Bruce Wayne.

supergil flashSeriously, I think the Arrowverse shows should be allowed to refer to both superheroes. And on a personal note, I think they do exist in the Arrowverse. In one episode of Legends of Tomorrow the time traveler Rip Hunter said that he saw Men of Steel die and Dark Knights fall. That couldn’t be any more clear who he was alluding to. The fact that Ra’s al Ghul exists implies that the world of Batman also exists in the Arrowverse. Ditto goes for Superman when you throw in Supergirl. In that already famous Supergirl episode “Worlds Finest” the Flash visits her dimension and he states that he doesn’t know of any aliens on his world. That implies that Superman may exist in the Arrowverse, but has not revealed himself to the general public. The same can go for Batman, who is probably operating deeper in the shadows than Green Arrow and may be considered an urban legend at this point.

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Maybe after some time, we’ll see some kind of reference to the two superstars of DC Comics. It won’t be the end of the world if this never happens, but it would make watching the Arrowverse shows much more fulfilling.

T. Rod Jones

Celebrating A Star Wars Day At Sea

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For this year’s Spring Break, my family and I decided to spend the vacation taking a cruise. Not just any cruise…but a Star Wars cruise! Actually it was a vacation on the Disney Cruise Line ship Disney Fantasy and on one of the days at sea, onboard festivities were devoted to Star Wars. The cruise by itself was fantastic with impeccable service and amenities, in short, a Disney cruise is well worth the money and despite it not being a theme park visit you do feel the Disney experience.

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The icing on the cake for myself, however, was the Star Wars aspect, of course. Even though the Disney Fantasy was themed after all things Disney, the presence of Star Wars was felt throughout the cruise even before the Star Wars Day at Sea.

20160320_135155For starters there was the merchandising; the gift shops sold the typical Star Wars toys and paraphernalia that can be found just about anywhere on the planet. However, the stores did have moderate to expensive clothing, accessories and other keepsakes like art printings, t-shirts, shoes, magnets and bags. Then there were other collectibles near the ship’s theaters.

The Disney Fantasy has two theaters that played live musical productions and films as well. Of interest to fans was that the entire Star Wars saga was shown at various times throughout the cruise. It was a lot of fun sitting down and watching the films again on the big screen with like-minded audiences while munching on popcorn.

During the actual Star Wars Day at Sea, the Star Wars property took center stage, which was on a Wednesday, the halfway point of the cruise vacation. Throughout the Disney Fantasy, iconic music from the films were played and the ship’s horn blared out the infamous “Imperial March” at certain times of the day. Many passengers were decked out as their favorite Star Wars characters. Several took part in a costume celebration where they got to mingle with other fans or with the Star Wars characters that patrolled the ship.

The characters were well done and looked 20160323_122420_resizedauthentic, but more importantly stayed in character. For instance, Jawas popped out of nowhere near the atrium and tried to steal jewelry and other personal effects from passengers (it was all in good fun, mind you). Villainous characters like Darth Maul or Boba Fett silently intimidated passengers as they posed for pictures. However, Darth Vader took the prize for the most authentic recreation. Not only was the costume spot-on perfect, but he actually spoke to one young member in my party with James Earl Jones’ distinctive voice as he mocked the rebels.

On the Star Wars Day at Sea both theaters hosted Star Wars-related events. At the Walt Disney Theatre, for most of the day the production/attraction seen at Walt Disney World and Disneyland called Jedi Training: Trials at the Temple was shown. This is the one where a Jedi Knight teaches young Padawans on how to use the Force to defeat Darth Vader (who also appears and fences briefly with each youngling). The other theater, the Buena Vista Theatre, presented a Guest Speaker Series featuring Joel Aron, the special effects guru for Star Wars Rebels. The same theater also had a Star Wars-related PowerPoint presentation called Star Wars 101, which actually helped members of my party get caught up on the intricacies of Star Wars and was presented with lots of enthusiasm.

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