The State Of Two Cinematic Universes: MCU & DCEU

This past week the news involving the two big superhero film universes perfectly illustrated their states. For the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) it seems clear that they can do no wrong. This is based solely on the astronomic success of its latest film Black Panther. Meanwhile, over at the DC Extended Universe (DCEU), the woes continues with the latest news that Joss Whedon is no longer involved with a proposed Batgirl film.

So why are the states of both cinematic universes so vastly different? Both have popular superheroes and their films have tremendous talent creating the films. But why is the MCU so popular while the DCEU is looking more and more like the JV squad? Well, it’s not easy to pinpoint the success and failures of both universes but there are some factors. Let’s go over them.


One advantage Marvel Studios and the MCU had over Warner Bros. and DC was simply a head start. The MCU began in earnest ten years ago with Iron Man. That film featured a well known, but not very popular, superhero. Marvel Studios did not have the luxury of having their early films star Marvel Comics’ headliners like Spider-Man and the X-Men. With this handicap, Marvel Studios was forced to focus on the character of Iron Man and it worked. But that was not all, at the end of the film, there was the famous Nick Fury tease that signaled the existence in the film of a larger universe. This excited fans and set the groundwork for a viable cinematic universe.

Each film in the MCU has organic (usually) references to other Marvel properties that helped create excitement for future films even if the current one was a disappointment. It also helped that each film in the MCU is distinctly different (for the most part) from the other. They ranged from standard science-based superhero yarns (the Iron Man films, The Incredible Hulk), political thrillers (Captain America: The Winter Soldier), period pieces (Captain America: The First Avenger), Star Wars-like space adventures (Guardians of the Galaxy), quirky, comical heist capers (Ant-Man), supernatural tales (Doctor Strange), stories set in fantastic locations (the Thor films), cultural milestones (Black Panther), and good ol’ superhero epics (the Avengers films). By being so versatile the MCU never seems to run out steam or stories to tell. Granted, the films have their faults like subpar villains, which are just dark versions of the main heroes, but the focus on character and stories made the MCU so successful.

Black Panther and MCU

There is also one other important factor that the MCU has and that is Kevin Feige, the head of Marvel Studios and the filmmaking version of Phil Jackson. He masterfully and carefully guided each film to tremendous success. His vision for the MCU and ability to carry it out is a big reason for the upbeat state of the MCU. Will they falter? Of course, in fact, the MCU has had some genuine stinkers like Iron Man 2, but it has been able to quickly recover. Right now, Marvel is on a hot streak that has been going on for several years now and the future looks terrific with upcoming and hotly awaited films like Avengers: Infinity War, Ant-Man and the Wasp, Captain Marvel and of course a sequel to Black Panther. Hopefully this streak will last for years to come.

Continue reading


Star Trek: Discovery – A First Season Review

Ordinarily, when reviewing TV shows, I would watch 4 to 6 episodes to get a good feel for the program. With Star Trek: Discovery, I decided to wait until it concluded its first season before doing a review because I honestly could not decide how I felt about it. This latest Star Trek spinoff has been the most difficult to form an opinion about. It has many commendable features, yet there are so many aspects about it that misfires so badly, that we have to wonder if the creators behind this spinoff understand Star Trek at all. Major spoilers will follow.

Star Trek: Discovery takes place in the 2250s, which makes it a prequel to the original Star Trek. Then again it does not feel like a prequel but more like a remake. Naturally, it does not recreate the mood and production of the original because it would have been laughed off and this is part of the reason why it is so controversial with fans. Overall, this show has to be accepted as a remake rather than a reboot because there are many attempts to stick to canon and some elements established in the original Prime timeline, such as numerous Easter eggs, references and sound effects. On the other hand, they’re not always consistent with sticking to canon, which can be irritating. But once you put aside these feelings about this latest Star Trek spinoff, it becomes easier to watch.

Star Trek: Discovery is updated to today’s standards in terms of special effects, set design and writing. The entire show is beautifully executed and each episode feels more like a feature-length film than a TV show. While this is welcome, at times the creators went too far in reimagining Gene Roddenberry’s futuristic universe. A case in point is the unnecessary re-do of the Klingons, the show’s main enemy race. The poor actors portraying the Klingons seem to be drowning under all the heavy makeup and wardrobe and we have to wonder why the showrunners thought this was an improvement over the perfected Klingon look seen in the other spinoffs and films. Be that as it may, the subtle updating of other alien races like the Andorians and the Tellarites are executed well.

The Star Trek spinoff follows the story of Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green), a former first officer who mutinied against her captain and was jailed. Her actions helped spark a war between the Klingons and the United Federation of Planets and most of the first season is devoted to this storyline and her redemption. Burnham is freed by the captain of the U.S.S. Discovery, Gabriel Lorca (Jason Isaacs), and enlists her to his crew for some ulterior motive. He assigns her to aid the ship’s science officer Lt. Paul Stamets (Anthony Rapp) and find a way to utilize an experimental spore drive being tested on the Discovery to win the war against the Klingons. Eventually this results in Stamets using himself as a conduit for the spore drive, which allows the ship to instantaneously travel anywhere.Even though Burnham is the main protagonist, Lorca has emerged as the most fascinating character thanks in part to Isaacs’ exemplary acting and the way he is written. Lorca was introduced as a mysterious, and unusually brutal commander who was obsessed with winning the war. He was not above tossing aside ethics to get the job done, and pushing people beyond their limit, yet he was a capable commander. But in the second half of the season, the Discovery wound up in the Mirror Universe where humans are evil and it was revealed that Lorca himself came from this reality. This confirmed many suspicions that fans had but in the end, this development was a disservice to Lorca who became a moustache-twirling villain and unremarkable. Hopefully, some way can be found to return some version of Lorca in the second season.Therein lies the fault and strength of Star Trek: Discovery and this is typical of its conflicting nature. Some characters are compelling and well developed like First Officer Saru (Doug Jones), a lanky and fastidious alien, Sylvia Tilly (Mary Wiseman), a bubbly young cadet, and Ash Tyler (Shazad Latif), a Starfleet officer who is actually a Klingon that was surgically altered into a human in order to infiltrate Starfleet. While others are interesting background bridge crewmembers  that  the show largely ignores. I’m not even sure what their names are, I just know them as the cyborg lady, or the woman with the metal implant on her skull. They barely have any dialogue and are begging to be examined more closely.

The stories themselves are also just as uneven. Some episodes are genuine classics and belong up there with the great Star Trek episodes. These include “The Wolf Inside”, “Despite Yourself” (two fantastic Mirror Universe tales), “Lethe”, “Choose Your Pain”, and “Into the Forest I Go”. As great as those were, Star Trek: Discovery is also weighed down with some downright clunkers that are poorly plotted and clumsily executed. One example is the first episode that aired for free on CBS, “The Vulcan Hello”, which needed to be great to entice people to subscribe to the CBS All Access app that streamed the rest of the episodes. Unfortunately, the season also ended on a less-than-thrilling note with a two-episode storyline that ended the war too quickly and unsatisfactory. However, the final shot of the last episode “Will You Take My Hand?” brought a thrill when a sparkling and graceful Enterprise appeared on the screen.Despite these faults, I have to admit that I genuinely enjoy Star Trek: Discovery. As far as first season Star Trek shows go, this is the best one since the original Star Trek. Unlike some other Star Trek spinoffs that first started out, this show is rarely dull and takes some genuine risks, even if they do not pay off. Of course, the criticism is valid that unlike its predecessors there isn’t any exploring done. This is something that is a vital essence of Star Trek, but it does push the envelope, chiefly with its characters and focus. The captain is not the main hero but a broken and disgraced former officer. Many of the characters are out to prove themselves and most of them do, which is why they are so easy to watch and root for.Another thing to note is that putting aside all the action and eye-popping visuals (seeing the Discovery spin its saucer while it goes into spore drive never gets dull), certain elemental truths about Star Trek are still there. We just have to recognize them: accepting diversity, seeking diplomatic solutions, and bettering yourself. As Alexander Courage’s iconic theme played during the end credits of the season finale, I found myself eagerly waiting to see more from Star Trek: Discovery, and for that reason the show is a success.

José Soto



The Cloverfield Conundrum

A lot of the buzz generated from the Super Bowl centered on the Netflix premiere of The Cloverfield Paradox. It was anticipated by many fans of the Cloverfield movies since it promised that it would explain the first Cloverfield film. Well, the film left many people confused as to what it all meant. Sure, it was the weakest of the Cloverfield films, but it explained how the three films are connected, though it was done clumsily. Ahead of this will be major spoilers for all three Cloverfield films.

The Cloverfield saga started ten years ago with the release of the first film, which at the time before its release was kept in secrecy. A bunch of clues about the film’s content was teased and after the film came out, many obsessed over the origin of the giant Cloverfield monster that wrecked New York City. As time passed and no sequels appeared, interest died off until a couple of years ago when the film 10 Cloverfield Lane was suddenly released. Originally, the dark, atmospheric thriller did not have any connection to the first film until vague Easter eggs were added. But the sci-fi angle confused fans. The giant kaiju from the first film never appeared, instead the world was threatened by invading aliens.

The Cloverfield Paradox (originally called God Particle) offered an explanation as to what caused these events. As viewers know, The Cloverfield Paradox takes place in a space station that uses a Hadron Collider to solve the world’s energy problems in the near future. This transports the station  into an alternate reality where World War III breaks out on Earth and the crewmembers spend the film figuring this out and trying to find a way back to their own dimension. When the surviving crew returns to their own reality the big reveal at the end is that their world is under attack by a super giant Cloverfield monster.

Many viewers were perplexed. The film takes place in the near future, so how come no one remembered the first Cloverfield film or the alien invasion from the second film? The answer is simple, the experiment on the space station ripped open the barriers between dimensions that affected the past (Cloverfield in 2008), present (10 Cloverfield Lane in 2016 for our present, more or less) and future (The Cloverfield Paradox or the third film’s present). This was foreshadowed early in the film by a conspiracy writer that this event would occur and the world would be invaded by monsters, aliens and demons. Note that the fourth upcoming Cloverfield film, called for now Overlord, takes place in World War II and deals with Nazis and the supernatural, so that writer’s claims about demons and the past being affected could be applied there. Who knows, maybe we’re next?

The Cloverfield Paradox has many problems, not just that the Cloverfield connections were obviously inserted into the film. But at least there’s an explanation for the bizarre sci-fi events in the film anthology.

Waldermann Rivera


Sorry Folks, No X-Men Or FF In The MCU For A While


Many of us were disappointed when we learned last week that there are not any immediate plans to integrate the X-Men or the Fantastic Four into the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). In an interview with Vulture, Marvel Studios head Kevin Feige stated that it is too soon to stick the newly acquired properties into the MCU and that Marvel Studios is busy with their current slate of heroes.

As disappointing as that is, it should not come as a surprise. First of all, despite all the news in December 2017 about Disney buying most of 21st Century Fox’s intellectual assets, it is not a done deal yet. It will take at least a year for the deal to be finalized and approved by the government and, of course, there can be roadblocks, which would disrupt immediate plans for the Marvel mutants and the First Family of comic books. Coming right out and making that statement was the safest thing for Feige to admit. The statement is a good way of letting fans know to not get their hopes up that the X-Men or the Fantastic Four will somehow turn up in the next two Avengers films.

To shoehorn these new characters into carefully planned films and TV shows would be too disruptive and ruin the narrative flow. They have to be naturally introduced into the MCU because that universe is not set up for mutants and their baggage, although it will be easier with the Fantastic Four. The X-Men property is built on the premise that mutants are widely feared and disliked by normal humans. This would not gel with the MCU where for the most part, superhumans are better received. In the comic books, although both mutants and superheroes co-exist, the way they are treated does not make sense. If normal people distrust mutants because of their powers, shouldn’t they feel the same way about superheroes? Comic book events like Civil War addressed this but the dichotomy still exists. Besides the entire humans-fearing-superhumans motif has been addressed in the MCU with Inhumans as seen on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Inhumans. Last we heard both TV shows are nominally part of the MCU.

Look at the bright side, the time being given to integrate the properties allows Kevin Feige and Marvel Studios to have some breathing room. They can take their time to figure out how to integrate mutants and the Fantastic Four and just as important, who to cast in the roles. Despite what some may hope, it is likely that Marvel Studios will recast the iconic roles. This is a great opportunity for the Fantastic Four who’ve had terrible casting in the Fox films, but for the X-Men this can be traumatic for fans. Also, after the slated Fox X-Men films and TV shows run their course, it would be a good idea to give the properties a decent rest so when they make their comeback, the level of interest will be intense.

All we need is some patience and hope that at the very least some cryptic references about the X-Men and the Fantastic Four can be made in next year’s MCU films and beyond.

Lewis T. Grove