D23 Expo 2022: A Great Disappointment For Marvel

For some time, fans expected the presentation by Marvel Studios at this year’s San Diego Comic-Con (SDCC) to pale when compared to this weekend’s D23 Expo 2022. The last D23 convention was jammed with exciting announcements about Marvel Studios. Being that D23 is prepared by Disney and devoted to its properties, one would think all mind-blowing announcements and presentations about Marvel Studios would be revealed at D23 after this summer’s SDCC. For weeks, the rumors have been flying fast about pending casting announcements for upcoming Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) projects. Supposedly, Deadpool 3 was to be announced with a special appearance by Ryan Reynolds; Henry Cavill, Denzel Washington, Jodie Comer, and numerous actors were to be announced as being cast for several MCU films and TV shows; the cast for the Fantastic Four would be revealed. Did any of that happen? NOPE.

There weren’t any major, new announcements, except that Matt Shankman has been officially announced as the director of the Fantastic Four film, and Armor Wars has been re-confirmed as going into production. The Marvel Studios presentation consisted of films and TV shows that we knew about. We did get some casting announcements such as Ke Huy Quan appearing in the second season of Loki, and that Tim Blake Nelson will appear in Captain America: New World Order as the Leader, With that last revelation does this mean that the Hulk will appear in Captain America: New World Order? The Leader is a Hulk villain, after all.

We did learn that a lot of footage and trailers were presented at D23 about Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, Echo, Loki, The Marvels, Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, and Ironheart. Too bad, most of us cannot see them. Based on Twitter and other social media feeds by those lucky enough to have attended the presentation, the footage sounded great, but no one else could see the footage. All we received were TWO trailers. One for Secret Invasion, which has the look of a solid spy thriller, and Werewolf By Night, a one-shot film coming next month on Disney +. It is both surprising and concerning that Werewolf By Night will stream on October 7, less than a month from now, but it is only now we are seeing any footage. Honestly, the black-and-white trailer makes Werewolf By Night look very campy while evoking the mood of an old Universal horror film and a grindhouse film. But it could be good.

Perhaps the most intriguing news coming out of the Marvel presentation was the revelation of the Thunderbolts lineup. The Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan), U.S. Agent (Wyatt Russell), Yelena Belova (Florence Pugh), Red Guardian (David Harbour), Taskmaster (Olga Kurylenko), and Ghost (Hannah John-Kamen). Basically, the lineup seems like a reunion of cast members from The Falcon and the Winter Soldier and Black Widow, plus a return of a villain from Ant-Man and the Wasp. So, no Abomination or Baron Zemo as everyone expected. Still, just the inclusion of the Winter Soldier is enough to get excited over the Thunderbolts.

As it can be seen, there wasn’t any announcements about other MCU projects. No news on Blade, Deadpool 3, zilch about the X-Men, not even anything on the Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special, which is supposed to be streaming in a few short months, or Guardians of the Galaxy, Volume 3. Keep in mind that an exclusive trailer for that film was shown already at SDCC. They could have at least released it to the general public.

Even if Disney could not show exclusive footage to the general public for their MCU projects, at least release an image. Let us see a better look at Namor or Kang! Releasing two trailers does not cut it.

On the other hand, the Star Wars presentation was better, with its highlight being the release of the trailer for the third season of The Mandalorian. With the Star Wars presentation, not everything was shown to the general public, but at least enough was released. Even the Disney animated films presentation from yesterday was more interesting.

Blame it on our unrealistic expectations and for giving in the hype and speculation, but aside from the few thousand people who attended D23, the Marvel Studios presentation was a disappointment for everyone else. This was the first live D23 since the pandemic and the excitement was wild, Disney could have made some exciting and surprising announcements on the level of Avengers: Secret Wars at SDCC, but nothing new was revealed. Overall, the Marvel presentation was almost as disappointing as the presentation by Warner Bros. about their upcoming DC films and TV shows at SDCC. Yes, that bad.

Disney definitely dropped the ball at D23 with Marvel Studios and the MCU. Hopefully, future conventions and presentations will improve, but we should temper our expectations and be realistic.

The Return Of Obi-Wan Kenobi

The latest Star Wars TV show to stream on Disney+, Obi-Wan Kenobi, is naturally focused on the noble Jedi Knight and his story of redemption ten years after Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. When we last saw Obi-Wan (reprised by Ewan McGregor, who played the character in the prequel trilogy), he was devastated after his Jedi apprentice, Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen), turned to the dark side of the Force, assume the identity of Darth Vader and decimated most of the Jedi Order. The show picks up years later on Anakin’s home planet Tatooine where Obi-Wan is in exile watching over Anakin’s young son, Luke (Grant Feely), from afar.

This version of Obi-Wan is a far cry from the confident and brave warrior from the prequels. Obi-Wan Kenobi, who goes by the name of Ben, lives a quiet life in solitude and generally avoids contact with other people. He also manages to avoid the prying eyes of dark side followers called Inquisitors, including Third Sister Reva Sevander (Moses Ingram). For some reason, Reva is obsessed with finding Kenobi and capturing him for the Inquisitors’ leader, Darth Vader.

On the planet Alderaan, Luke’s twin sister, Princess Leia Organa (Vivien Lyra Blair), is kidnapped to lure Kenobi. Her adopted father, Bail Organa (Jimmy Smits), travels to Tatooine to ask Obi-Wan to help find her. After some prodding, Obi-Wan Kenobi realizes he has a duty as a Jedi to help his friend and sets out to rescue Princess Leia. After rescuing Leia on the planet Daiyu, the Jedi Master is pursued by Reva, and later Darth Vader, across several worlds. Before long, Obi-Wan realizes that although he left the Jedi lifestyle years ago, he cannot let go of it and his responsibility to the cause of freedom in the galaxy.

Unlike the other Star Wars Disney+ TV shows, at certain times, Obi-Wan Kenobi feels more like an extended Star Wars film, even the end credits follow the style of the films. But at other times, the limits of television are obvious in terms of scope and budget. Of course, this has no bearing on the quality of the show, which is excellent, but the clash in style and scope may offput some viewers. However, the show is a near-perfect presentation about one of the most revered Star Wars characters. In the prequel films, Kenobi was a supporting character but thanks to McGregor’s performance the Jedi rose in stature to the eyes of many fans. Unlike the conflicted and bratty Anakin, Kenobi was a noble and gallant presence who personified the perfect Jedi. To see him as a hollow, pessimistic, and timid person hiding in the sands of a remote planet at the start of the series was disheartening to watch. Disconnected from the Force and taking pains to avoid conflict, it was disturbing to see how far Kenobi had drifted from the courageous Jedi way. It was also realistic. But, when he slowly regained his connnection to the Force during the show, well, those moments were very gratifying. Of course, McGregor’s performance is stellar as always and his love for the character clearly shows.

One of the best moments was during a flashback sequence that had Obi-Wan dueling with Anakin before he became Vader. The sequence was a brilliant way to reunite the two actors as it showed not just the arrogance of Anakin, but Obi-Wan’s hubris, which would blind him to Anakin’s fall later on in Star Wars Episode III.

There are many other thrilling and inspiring moments throughout the series, such as the final duel between Obi-Wan and Darth Vader; Kenobi reconnecting with the Force in dramatic fashion; Kenobi’s interactions with young Leia; Vader’s moments of quiet rage and explosive and vindictive menace; suspenseful chases and battles; and the fanatical nature of Reva, who hid a tragic backstory. At first, Reva came off as a one-dimensional, cartoonish villain but through the course of Obi-Wan Kenobi, she became more nuanced and complex as her cause was finally revealed. A lot of credit has to go to Ingram who delivered a commanding performance.

There are many great scenes with secondary characters who had their shining moments and left an impact. Take Rupert Friend as the Grand Inquisitor, his savage putdowns of Reva were epic. Then there was Indira Varma as Talla, a Rebel spy masquerading as an Imperial officer. She had a natural chemistry with Ewan McGregor and her inner strength and sacrifice was truly inspiring. Kumail Nanjiani gave an inspired performance as Haja, a con man pretending to be a Jedi and later has a spiritual change of heart. Blair did a fine job as Leia as she captured the essence of the Rebel princess and we saw the laying of her emotional foundation. And finally, the onscreen rivalry of McGregor’s Kenobi with Vader was completed with the return of Christensen, who shone as Skywalker/Vader. As noted above, their friendly rivalry was well executed in the flashback scenes as we witnessed the underlying insecurity of Skywalker. Christensen pulled this off fantastically with subtle facial revelations.

Despite its greatness, Obi-Wan Kenobi had its narrative flaws, which were alarmingly blatant. Take the fourth episode (arguably the series’ weakest, though it was entertaining), where Talla clumsily slapped around some stormtroopers in an Imperial base and defeated them. Or later in the episode when Kenobi threw on an Imperial cloak as a disguise and obviously hid Leia underneath him as they walked around unnoticed among oblivious Imperial personnel. Then there were the common Star Wars space and time puzzles where characters instantly travel from planet to planet, non-fatal stabbings from lighsabers, and spaceships with broken hyperspace engines being able to traverse star systems and avoid Imperial star destroyers.

Thankfully the merits of Obi-Wan Kenobi far outweigh its negatives. It was great to see Ewan McGregor return to a role that he made his own, but now as the central character. It was also fun seeing other actors from the prequel trilogy reprising their roles and seeing how the prequels connect more strongly with the original trilogy of Star Wars films. Even though it is a limited series and its main story feels complete, there is talk about continuing the adventures of Obi-Wan Kenobi: Jedi-In-Exile. It’s not clear what direction more episodes would take without feeling repetitive, but they would be welcome.

José Soto

The Uneven Book Of Boba Fett

The Book of Boba Fett is the latest Star Wars TV show and is streaming on Disney+. It serves as a spinoff of the popular TV show, The Mandalorian, and a sequel of sorts to previous Star Wars films, but in this case focusing on the mysterious bounty hunter, Boba Fett (Temuera Morrison).

Boba Fett was supposedly killed by a giant sarlaac in the film Return of the Jedi, but being that he was a fan favorite, he had to come back, as he did in various books and stories. In Star Wars canon, he officially returned in the second season of The Mandalorian and the post-credits scene of that show’s season finale showed Boba Fett taking over the criminal underworld in the planet Tattooine with his partner, the assassin Fennec Shand (Ming-Na Wen).

The series is in some ways part Western, part gangster drama as flashbacks reveal how the bounty hunter survived from being eaten by the sarlaac and his emotional transformation from a cold-blooded killer to someone who is more empathic and honorable. At the same time, the episodes chronicled his ordeal of being a crime lord and dealing with deadly competitors, namely the Pyke gang – intergalactic spice dealers who want to take over Boba’s turf.

There have been many complaints about The Book of Boba Fett, many of them are valid, but overall, the series is fine. It’s just that it should have been better and could have been if it had a better narrative flow and its scripts were more fine tuned. This is surprising considering the episodes are written by Jon Favreau (he shared a co-writing byline with Dave Filoni in the sixth episode), who was the mastermind behind The Mandalorian. What gives? Interference from the top execs at Disney? Maybe one day, we’ll learn the full story behind the scenes.

The narrrative flow of the series was quite jarring at times and also infuriating. The best example of this are with the fifth and sixth episodes. For some reason, the show stopped being about Boba Fett and became a mini-season for The Mandalorian as the story abruptly shifts to Din Djarin (Pedro Pascal) and we see what he and Grogu have been up to since the second season of their show ended. Boba Fett only appears once in the sixth episode in what is basically a cameo, while he is completely absent in the fifth episode. It did not make sense to do this, especially being that The Book of Boba Fett only has seven episodes. At least, these two episodes were well done.

The impression we are given is that the showrunners or Disney did not like where the main story was going or ran out of ideas and panicked by going back to what excited viewers. This was not fair to Boba Fett’s story and associated characters. Those two episodes could have been used to further develop these characters. We could have learned more about Boba and is time before The Empire Strikes Back. They should have shown more of how he was before his spiritual transformation so that his metamorphosis would have more impact. Maybe they wanted to perserve some of his mystery. Who knows?

Fennec’s back story could have been explored, or Boba’s old rival, Cad Bane (voiced by Corey Burton) could have appeared sooner and being more directly tied to the tragedy that Boba underwent during his recovery. Or even the minor characters of Tatooine could have been fleshed out more. Even the dumb cyborg biker gang, who were poorly conceived and executed.

There are many plot holes that are undeniably irritating and make the characters look stupid. Here’s an example, in the final episode during the big showdown with the Pyke gang, why didn’t Boba or Din get into their spaceships and just lay waste to the criminals as they attacked the town of Mos Espa? Boba Fett kept bragging about how much money he had and could afford to hire extra muscle, yet his army only consisted of the silly biker gang, two Gamorrean pig guards, Din and Fennec, and later some townspeople from nearby Freetown. Did Boba Fett actually expect to defeat an entire army of Pykes and their allies with what he had? Also, it would have made more sense and been more satisfying if the townspeople that helped him where actually residents of Mos Espa. You know, seeing that Boba is fighting for their town, the people could have decided to help him. Why did he hire the biker gang when he first met them? Nothing they did gave the impression they were qualified to be formidable fighters. Then in one flashback scene, Boba takes his spaceship and has it hover directly over the mouth of the sarlaac to look for his armor. Guess what happens? The tentacled monster attacked his ship and nearly killed him. Wouldn’t that ship have sensors to scan the animal from afar? Maybe his time fermenting in the sarlaac’s stomach damaged his brain more than we know.

This does not mean The Book of Boba Fett is a bad TV show. There are so many great things about it. Take Temuera Morrison, who delivers a fine performance as the grizzled former bounty hunter trying to find a purpose in his life. Boba’s spiritual journey when he is first a captive then a valued member of the Tusken Raiders was inspiring as he built relationships with the clan and we learned more about their culture. That is why it was so devastating when later in the flashbacks Boba finds his adopted clan massacred.

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Top Ten Most Anticipated Films & TV Shows Of 2022

After a couple of years of relatively few genre offerings, 2022 looks like it will reverse that trend with plentry of film releases and television shows airing or streaming. These are the most anticipated films and TV shows of 2022 but note their releases are not certain and will change as we just saw with Morbius, which was delayed from January 28 to April 1. Also some of the films and TV shows listed may turn out to be inferior dreck while other unlisted films and TV shows may wind up surprising everyone and become the newest classics. Without further delay here are the top ten most anticapated films and TV shows of 2022, plus some notable mentions.

Films

10. Sonic the Hedgehog 2

The first Sonic the Hedgehog was a real surprise and proved an entertaining and solid live-action film based on a video game franchise was possible. The sequel will more closely follow the Sonic videos and include more characters from the games, such as Quills and Tails.

9. The Flash

The DC Extended Unverse (DCEU) faces a reboot that replaces Ben Affleck and Henry Cavill as Batman and Superman in this live-action solo film for the Flash. This film which is loosely based on the comic book mini-series Flashpoint is bound to be controversial with many DCEU fans

8. Everything Everywhere All At Once

Michelle Yeoh stars in this trippy looking film about an ordinary woman recruited to stop an multiversal evil by channeling the skills and memories of alternate versions of herself from different realities. If anything, it should be an acting tour de force for Yeoh.

7. Lightyear

Everyone’s attention was captured the moment it was announced that this Pixar film about Buzz Lightyear would not be based on the Toy Story character but a pulp sci-fi adventure that the toy was based on. An additional bonus is that the title hero is voiced by everyone’s favorite hero, Chris Evans.

6 Thor: Love and Thunder

Director Taiki Waititi reinvigorated the Thor films with his Thor: Ragnarok. That film was so successful and beloved that Marvel Studios greenlit a fourth Thor film helmed by Waititi. This cosmic-based entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) once again stars Chris Hemsworth in his legendary role as Thor and features the Jane Foster Thor and the Guardians of the Galaxy.

5. Jurassic World: Dominion

The conclusion of the Jurassic World trilogy finally unleashes the dinosaurs into our modern world with disastrous results! The concept is a throwback to those old dinosaur films with the prehistoric animals running amok in our streets; plus Jurassic World: Dominion is bringing back our favorite characters from the original Jursassic Park.

4. Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse, Part One

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse took everyone by surprise over its innovative animation and fantastic storytelling about growing up, legacies and all the wild variations of Spider-Man. It was little wonder it won the Oscar for Best Animated Film. The trailer for the sequel promises more of the same as Miles Morales meets a future version of Spider-Man and more.

3. Avatar 2

The first Avatar is usually looked down upon but it is actually a great sci-fi film by James Cameron. The master director always gave us entertaining and exciting epics and this follow up to Avatar will most likely be as thrilling and present cutting-edge special effects. Just wait until the first trailer drops. By then, the excitement and anticipation for Avatar 2 will be explosive.

2. Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness

Our first glimpse of the sequel to Doctor Strange wowed audiences after the end credits of Spider-Man: No Way Home. The teaser featured the wild visuals and appearances by many characters to whet our appetites, including the Scarlet Witch, fresh from WandaVision. Even more enticing was the teaser’s final stinger that revealed an alternate, darker version of the Sorcerer Supreme, which possibly ties to the What If…? animated show. Then there are the rumors that the film will introduce non-MCU characters like the Fox X-Men and the Fantastic Four. let’s hope those rumors pan out.

1. The Batman

Director Matt Reeves takes his turn with DC’s most popular superhero and the trailers have blown us away which promise an emphasis on a gritty and mature version of the Caped Crusader that seems more like a crime thriller comic book brought to life that evoke the gritty, early Golden Age Batman from the comics books. The moody and dark trailers focused on a raged-fueled Batman and an actual mystery from a fiendish villain have stoked our cravings for the newest live-action Batman. Thankfully we only have to wait a few more weeks to see The Batman.

Other Noteworthy Films:

65; Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom; Black Adam; Black Panther: Wakanda Forever; Distant; Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore; Moonfall; Morbius; Nope; Secret Headquarters; Samaritan; Super Mario Brothers; Turning Red

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Lucasfilm In Disarray?

Something is not right with Lucasfilm. It can be seen by the behind-the-scenes drama going on with the film studio once owned by George Lucas before he sold it to The Walt Disney Company nearly a decade ago. Another sign is the lack of solid information about their upcoming films and TV shows.

Lucasfilm has been mired in controversy for several years despite its early Disney-era success of Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. What is often overlooked with the latter film is that it had significant re-shoots which ultimately made the film a success. After that dilemma followed the film studio.

There was the heated reaction to Star Wars: The Last Jedi which sharply split Star Wars fans. Then the saga of revolving directors plagued Solo: A Star Wars Story and Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. With those two films the original directors were removed from the projects. Solo suffered greatly as the directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller were fired when filming was nearly complete and forced the film to be essentially redone from scratch.

Now that the final Sequel Saga Star Wars films have concluded nearly two years ago, there is little sign of new Star Wars films coming up. Of course, there are many Star Wars TV shows slated to stream on Disney+ and they are eagerly awaited. In fact, many rightly argue that the TV shows are what is keeping the franchise alive thanks to The Mandalorian, Star Wars: The Bad Batch and hopefully The Book of Boba Fett, which debuts next month.

The upcoming TV projects such as Obi-Wan Kenobi, the new season of The Mandalorian, Andor, and Ahsoka are eagerly anticipated, but we have little news about those shows. The recent Disney+ Day event which revealed many exciting Disney, Pixar and Marvel projects failed to deliver anything significant that was Star Wars related. Only a documentary about Boba Fett, cast interviews of the upcoming Willow TV show, and a sizzle reel for Obi-Wan Kenobi streamed on Disney+ while other studios rewareded subscribers with first looks at upcoming projects. What is confounding are rumors that there were Star Wars trailers and footage planned to be unveiled, but for some reason this did not happen. In the end, while the sneak peaks at other Disney properties were impressive, Star Wars looked threadbare on the streaming platform.

As for the films, there are more signs of trouble. The next Indiana Jones film was filmed and expected to come out next year, but has been bumped to 2023 with rumors of extensive re-shoots and revisions of the plot pending. This is alarming given the age of the film’s star Harrison Ford and declining interest in the film.

But the most disconcerting news came recently that director Patti Jenkins’ pet film project Rogue Squadron has been put on indefinite hold. Originally, the film was supposed to come out in 2023, but supposedly creative differences between the director and Lucasfilm derailed the project. Now, it is doubtful Rogue Squadron will ever be made. This is embarrassing for the film studio after all the hoopla they created last year when they released a video promoting Rogue Squadron that featured Patti Jenkins passionately talking about the film as she was shown next to a full-scale mock up of an X-Wing fighter. Talk about putting the cart before the horse!

That is not all, ballyhooed announcements of Star Wars films from director Rian Johnson and executive producers David Benioff and D.B. Weiss have led nowhere. What is next? Will the announced Kevin Feige-produced Star Wars film be shelved as well?

Many have pointed fingers and blame on Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy. She has proven to be a somewhat controversial film executive who has enraged some fans and members of the alt-right. Despite the overreaction from some, she should accept the blame for the issues with the directors and the delays these events are causing because it is damaging the brand of Lucasfilm and its properties.

Given the image of Lucasfilm being in disarray, several fans have called for Kathleen Kennedy to be replaced by someone else, such as Jon Favreau, the showrunner of The Mandalorian. However, news has come out that Disney extended Kennedy’s contract for another three years. Surely, this demonstrates that the Disney executives have faith in Kathleen Kennedy, but can she turn things around? What convinced Disney that she deserved to continue running Lucasfilm? We have to hope that Disney’s continued faith in Kennedy is warranted because Star Wars as a film property sorely needs a win and there isn’t anything on the horizon. More importantly, Lucasfilm and Kennedy have to prove to fans that they can still deliver quality films and TV shows and time is running short.