Superheroes Represent At The Oscars

Last night, the Academy Awards were surprisingly kind to superhero films. Sure, there were some disappointments, big and small; seriously, First Man had better special effects than Avengers: Infinity War? Please. But on the whole the superhero film genre was well represented in the Academy Awards for films that came out in 2018.

Recognizing the MCU

Comic book fans had reasons to celebrate last month when Black Panther was nominated for best film. As we all know, this is the first time a superhero film earned that prestigious nomination. Whether or not the film deserved it is open for debate. But nevertheless it was a great and historic moment for fans as at last the superhero film was recognized as a genuine piece of cinematic art. OK, this is a bit hyperbolic, but the fact is that for too long superhero films were considered juvenile fare though that has been far from the truth.

black panther at wakanda

In the past, these films were often nominated for best visual effects or some other technical category and sometimes won. That has changed slowly over recent years. The Dark Knight picked up an award for Best Supporting Actor in addition to getting numerous technical nominations. However, many rightly felt that The Dark Knight should have been nominated for Best Picture, and this snub caused a changed in the amount of films that can get the Best Picture nomination. Others also believed that Logan should have received a Best Picture nomination, but it did get one for Best Adapted Screenplay. This was the first time a superhero film got such a distinguished nomination. With this, it was only a matter of time before a superhero film was nominated for Best Picture and that happened only a year later.

Of course, cynics will credit Black Panther’s numerous nominations to a strong marketing campaign from Disney, and they would not be wrong. But in the end the film studio was largely successful with Black Panther nabbing the coveted Best Picture nomination. Honestly, it winning was always a long shot, especially since it didn’t garner nominations for directing, writing or acting. Traditionally, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has a huge bias against genre films. No science fiction film has ever won, and only a couple of fantasy films have won including The Shape of Water. Also, that film just won for Best Picture the year before. There wasn’t any way the Academy would allow a genre film to win for Best Picture two years in a row. In fact, this doesn’t happen with other genres. Besides, the Academy likes to pick “important” biographies or historical dramas with timely messages.

Put all that aside for now. It was great that not only was Black Panther nominated, but that it actually won three well-deserved awards. The most for any superhero film. Frankly, it would have been a shock if the film didn’t win for Best Costume Design or Best Production Design. In these categories, Black Panther excelled with its unique and eye-popping visual look and costumes. The award for Best Original Music Score was a pleasant surprise since the score was so enchanting. These wins signal the Academy’s recognition of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s (MCU) quality and caliber. This will be the first of many awards that the MCU will win. It may be a long time before an MCU film or any superhero film will win for Best Picture, but it will happen.

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Top 10 MCU Villains

mcu villains

The films of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) are beloved by many but one complaint lodged against the MCU is over its villains. Critics point out that the main flaw with the MCU films are its lightweight villains. This is a valid criticism since many times the MCU films featured forgettable foes that didn’t resonate with viewers. However, there are some truly outstanding villains in the MCU, and some underrated ones, as well, that have broken this mold lately. Here for your consideration are the best MCU villains. Needless to say spoilers will follow.

Thaddeus Ross

10. Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross (The Incredible Hulk)

Obsessed and prejudiced against superpowered beings, Thaddeus Ross (William Hurt) has proved to be a hindrance to superheroes in the MCU. First as a general in The Incredible Hulk, Ross played a Javert-type by relentlessly chasing Bruce Banner throughout the Americas. His actions led to the creation of the Abomination and fractured his relationship with his daughter, Betty.

Ross next turned up in Captain America: Civil War as an obtuse Secretary of State determined to bring all the superpowered beings of the world under control by imposing the Sokovia Accords. This truncation of freedom and individual rights put him at odds with Steve Rogers and his teammates, which ultimately led to the Avengers breaking up.

Hela

9. TIE: Hela (Thor: Ragnarok)/Red Skull (Captain America: The First Avenger)

These two are prime examples of villains crazed with world conquest. Hela is the Asgardian Goddess of Death who destroyed Thor’s hammer, conquered Asgard and helped cause its destruction. More than a match for her half brother, Thor, she was portrayed with great gusto by Cate Blanchett.

Born in the fires of World War II, the Red Skull/Johann Schmidt (Hugo Weaving) outgrew the Nazis and formed the Hydra terrorist organization thanks to his severe nihilistic mindset and access to superweapons. While not as layered as other villains on this list, the Red Skull in the first Captain America film was quite memorable and his recent reintroduction into the MCU sparked new interest in him.

8. Aldrich Killian (Iron Man 3)

Despite the controversy surrounding the third Iron Man film, it can’t be denied that Aldrich Killian (Guy Pierce) was not only the best Iron Man villain to date but one of the MCU’s top foes. Not only was Killian a notorious business competitor to Tony Stark, but he was the mastermind behind A.I.M. and the Mandarin. His machinations to topple the U.S. government and destroy Tony Stark by implementing the Mandarin’s terrorist campaign are nothing short of genius.

However, it was his vendetta against Stark that made Killian somewhat relatable. Years ago, Killian was a nerdy scientist who was dismissed by a pre-Iron Man Stark. This inspired him to achieve Stark’s level of success and fueled his hatred for Stark. This bit of history also illustrated how Stark’s callous past had caught up to him in Iron Man 3 and nearly undid him.

7. Alexander Pierce (Captain America: The Winter Soldier)

As the U.S. Secretary of Defense (the MCU is a fertile ground for evil politicians, isn’t it?), Alexander Pierce (Robert Redford) developed a S.H.I.E.L.D. project using preemptive strikes that targeted world leaders and important figures like Tony Stark and Stephen Strange.

What is worse is that his actions against Steve Rogers and his supposed friend Nick Fury revealed that Pierce was a Hydra leader who had infiltrated and corrupted S.H.I.E.L.D. to its core. A big factor in his successful infiltration was his charming exterior which hid his cold interior. What made Pierce even more frightening and formidable were his immense resources and clout. He actually had the law on his side, which he used to take out to try to take out Captain America and his allies.

6. The Winter Soldier (Captain America: The Winter Soldier)

Nowadays it may be difficult to think of Steve Rogers’ BFF as a villain, but that was not the case in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. In the first Captain America film, James “Bucky” Barnes (Sebastain Stan) was Steve’s Depression-era buddy and joined him in World War II before ultimately dying in the line of duty. Or so we thought.

The second Captatin America film resurrected Barnes as a vicious and brainwashed Hydra assassin who was more than a match for Captain America. He even caught Cap’s famed shield in mid-air as it was thrown at him! The level of ruthlessness and deadly skills he displayed was as intimidating for us to watch as it was for the film’s heroes to endure. At the same time we felt for Steve and Bucky because of their past history and the fact that Bucky was forced by Hydra to carry out heinous acts.

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Avengers: Infinity War—Aftermath & What’s Next For the MCU, Part I

the Infinity gauntlet

Okay by now, half the world has seen Avengers: Infinity War. So, it’s safe to start discussing the ramifications of the film and not be too worried about spoilers. But if you have not seen Avengers: Infinity War yet then what are you waiting for? Bookmark this page, run out and see it, then come back to this article. With that said, let’s get started.

 

SPOILERS!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Those of us who have seen Avengers: Infinity War know that in the end Thanos wins. Our favorite heroes of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) could not stop the Mad Titan with his scheme to wipe out half of all life in the universe. It was frankly shocking to see the villain triumphant. In these superhero films, and for that matter most films, the bad guy is always on the verge of winning until the hero pulls it off at the last minute and defeats the foe. Not this time. Despite all the efforts of the collective MCU heroes they fell short. This failure culminated with Thanos’ infamous snap of his fingers that took out most of the new guard. So, what’s next? How do the Avengers and the others MCU heroes recover? Is Thanos unbeatable? What will Thanos do now that he’s achieved his goal? (Besides watching the sun with a satisfied smile on his face.)

Thanos triumphant

Avengers Assemble!

A common, but favorite trope in the Avengers comic books is one where the team is thoroughly defeated or breaks up. The cackling supervillain of the month is on the cusp of total victory until a slapped-together version of the Avengers is assembled and come to the rescue. Examples of this include the “Under Siege” and “Breakout” storylines that were well received. Avengers: Infinity War has a version of this theme and it has to be considered as part one since we’re at the stage of the story where all hope is lost. Part two concludes the story by having the Avengers and their allies making their comeback. Part of the fun with this story is seeing the recruitment of unlikely, retired and underpowered heroes who somehow help turn the tide.

Captain Marvel to the rescue!

We already saw in the post-credits scene of Avengers: Infinity War that Nick Fury managed to send out a distress call to Captain Marvel before he turned to dust. Captain Marvel is supposed to be the most powerful person in the MCU according to Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige. For the sake of the universe, that better be true, but we’ll get an idea when Captain Marvel premieres on March 2019. Like what Black Panther did for T’Challa, Captain Marvel will tell the heart of her story and have her do a deus ex machine cameo in Avengers 4 (whatever it will be called) and contribute to the defeat of Thanos. Sort of like Superman in Justice League, only this time there won’t be any shoddy CG mustache removals.

Founding Avengers get their spotlight

Other expected heroes are Ant-Man and Hawkeye, who were both noticeably absent in Avengers: Infinity War. Behind-the-scenes photos of the fourth Avengers film confirm that both characters will join the fray. It is always fun to see undervalued heroes coming to the rescue and playing important roles. On a side note: it will be fittingly awesome if Ant-Man and the Wasp officially join the Avengers for at least one film. After all, they were the founding members of the superhero team in the comics. Who knows? Maybe the quantum realm angle, which is Ant-Man’s domain, will provide a key to defeating Thanos.

Time On Their Side

Many of the behind-the-scene photos for Avengers 4 feature Ant-Man fighting alongside Iron Man and what looks like Captain America as seen in the first Avengers film. In it, Captain America donned a more spandex-like outfit and the scenes look like recreations of that film’s famous battle in New York.

Avengers 4 BTS

Avengers, Back to the Future, Part II style

These scenes suggest the obvious: time travel will most likely be an element in the film. Our heroes have to travel back in time to somehow undo Thanos’ damage and alter history. For all we know when Doctor Strange gave up the Time Stone to Thanos, he could’ve put a spell on it that allow the Avengers to make a temporal jump. They just have to figure out what they have to do exactly. It seems like a fun development similar to Back to the Future, Part II.

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The Pitfalls Of Wakanda’s Revelation In Black Panther

black panther at wakanda

By now all the hardcore Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) fans have seen the phenomenal hit Black Panther. Anyone who has not seen it yet should note there will be slight spoilers here. With that stated, one outstanding highlight of that film has been the depiction of Black Panther/T’Challa’s home country Wakanda, an African-centric, futuristic marvel. Seeing the advanced technological society was quite inspiring and offered an optimistic vision of where we might be headed. However, the fictional African nation faces significant problems when dealing with the outside world.

Wakanda became the most technologically advanced country because of its rich vibranium deposits. The technology shown in Black Panther places the country a few decades ahead of contemporary countries. The citizens enjoy advanced mag-levs, nanite-laden clothing and hardware, plus energy-based weapons. The isolationist nation could have conquered the entire world and this is the main point of the film’s villain Killmonger, who wants to use Wakandan technology as a form of retribution for the West’s subjugation of oppressed blacks worldwide. During the course of the film, Black Panther decides to  open up Wakanda to the outside world and share his country’s gifts with everyone.

That is a noble thought. If things go as planned Wakanda will be able to bring up the rest of the world to its level. But by opening up Wakanda, T’Challa opened up a can of worms. How will the world react to the idea that a super-advanced civilization existed right under everyone’s noses? Of course, there would be elation but it is likely that humanity could react with suspicion and envy. Many would question why Wakanda remained isolated for so long since they could have prevented or intervened in many worldwide catastrophes like major wars, famines, pandemics and so on. The revelation would spark a new arms race that would be comparable to nations trying to develop their own nuclear weapons. Some nations may even try to invade Wakanda. It does not matter if the African nation is so advanced. One disadvantage it has is its size compared to the outside world. The best defense going forth would be alliances with many nations. Also, consider that the world of the MCU is already more advanced than ours and can compete with Wakanda. Just look at Tony Stark with his continual advancements of his Iron Man armor, which also sparked an arms race as seen in Iron Man 2. Then there are the many remains of alien tech left over from the Chitauri invasion during The Avengers, which is something that Spider-Man: Homecoming and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. explored.

From a storytelling perspective Wakanda and its breathtaking society may wind up becoming de-powered in the future. The reason is that the technology shown in Black Panther is nearly on par with that seen in futuristic films like Star Wars and Star Trek. If the entire world in the MCU were to advance to Wakanda’s level it would become less relatable to viewers. Part of the appeal of the MCU films and other superhero stories is that they tend to take place in modern society. There are many ways around this dilemma, but the ramifications of Black Panther’s decision are terrific story material worth exploring in future Black Panther tales.

Lewis T. Grove

Ready Or Not, Here Comes Avengers: Infinity War, Earlier Than Expected

It’s a month early for April Fool’s, so this is real. Marvel Studios announced earlier today in a humorous tweet with Robert Downey, Jr. that Avengers: Infinity War will be released on April 27 instead of May 4. This certainly is a shock and a pleasant one for fans of the successful Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) who can now enjoy seeing the epic confrontation between the Avengers and Thanos. But the big question is why did Marvel Studios move up Avengers: Infinity War a week early?

Naturally, they won’t come out and tell us what the real reason is, but we can speculate. The theories are numerous as other sites and video channels are adding their two cents, but here are the best and most likely reasons:

  • Marvel Studios wants to release the film simultaneously on that day worldwide. Ordinarily the studio releases their MCU films a week early overseas before North America. By doing a simultaneous release, spoilers are cut down, as well as pirate copies for impatient viewers.
  • Black Panther is a monster hit and Marvel Studios wants to capitalize on the unexpected success of the film by releasing a film earlier that features Black Panther and Wakanda. Think of it like this, “Hey people, you liked Black Panther? Well here’s some more of him right away.” The reasoning is that momentum from Black Panther will spill over into the next MCU followup.
  • Avengers: Infinity War is expected to be the biggest film of the year and Marvel Studios wants to to do everything in its power to ensure this. They may have been mulling this ever since the release date of Deadpool 2 was moved from June to May 18, just two weeks after Avengers: Infinity War. There is a good chance that if the MCU film has legs and excellent word-of-mouth that it could continue to dominate the box office on May 18, but why take the chance?
  • The changed release date might give Solo: A Star Wars Story some breathing room so that it will not directly compete with a fellow franchise from the same company. Then again, Solo still has to compete against Deadpool 2.
  • The worse-case scenario is that Avengers: Infinity War may not live up to the hype (see: Avengers: Age of Ultron) and Marvel Studios wants to get the most bang for the buck before indifferent or bad word-of-mouth dulls its impact on the box office. Hopefully, that is not the reason.

Whatever the case may be, let’s just be happy that we’re going to get the most anticipated film of the year a bit early.  The summer movie season officially begins in late April this year thanks to Avengers: Infinity War. Maybe this will set a trend.