Thursday, March 2, 2017

Comic Book TV Recap (2/27/2017 - 3/1/2017)

Powerless is taking the week off. A recap of Riverdale will be posted separately.

Supergirl: "Homecoming" - Kara rescues her father from Cadmus, but Mon-El is suspicious, and as the Danvers family and DEO adjust to having Jeremiah back, strange behavior is noted. Mon-El's suspicions put a strain on his relationship with Kara.

The Flash: "Attack on Central City" - Barry and his friends discover that Grodd and an army of gorillas are planning on invading Central City with help from Gypsy. Jessie tells her father that she's staying with Wally on Earth-1. HR and Harry clash. Iris makes Barry promise that he won't kill anyone in his attempts to save her life. 

Arrow: "Fighting Fire With Fire" - As the revelation of Oliver's tampering with records becomes public, impeachment proceedings begin and Oliver is forced to make one of the most difficult decisions of his career. In addition, a new villain is out for Oliver. Felicity and Thea have to  re-evaluate their methods.

Legion: "Chapter Four" - David won't wake up, but using Ptonomy's powers, they venture into his memories again to find them damaged, finding more questions and a few answers about David's powers as David explores his mind himself.

Guardians of the Galaxy - Film number 10 in the MCU was being predicted to be Marvel's first flop. The characters were virtually unknown, any recognizable talents were only secondary characters or were voicing CG characters or being covered in makeup. In addition, the story would be very separate from the world we'd seen in The Avengers and the films that had just served as direct sequels.

The film follows the exploits of junker Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), aka Star Lord, who had been abducted from Earth years before by an alien named Yondu (Michael Rooker). After finding a mysterious but much sought after orb, Quill is thrown into jail along with assassin Gamora (Zoe Saldana), the raccoon-like Rocket (Bradley Cooper), and a talking, walking tree-like creature called Groot (Vin Diesel). They break out with the help of Drax (Dave Bautista) to meet the Collector (Benecio Del Toro) before running into Ronan the Accuser (Lee Pace), who plans to use the gem inside the orb to lay waste to innocent planets.

The movie quickly introduces the characters, mainly following Quill as the lead, and keeps up a fast pace with action, humor and a good bit of pathos and character building as the five members of the team come together. Not to mention, the movie brilliantly uses a retro soundtrack having hits from the 70s and 80s play as we explore alien planets and outer space with Quill and the gang. Even watched independently of the rest of the MCU, it's a great time for all.

Avengers: Age of Ultron - The sequel to The Avengers was heavily anticipated, mainly because of the first movie's success with audiences, critics and the box office, and with the cast and crew returning, expectations were high.

The movie finds the Avengers retrieving Loki's scepter from a HYDRA base, running into a pair of "enhanced" twins—Pietro (Aaron Taylor Johnson) and Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen)—along the way. Analyzing the scepter, Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) believes it holds the key to completing his Ultron project: an army of robots that will ensure world peace. This goes awry as the required AI suddenly develops itself. Taking a singular sentience over a growing army of robots, Ultron (James Spader) begins to enact his plans for world peace: there will be no problems if there are no humans left. Putting each of their strengths to work, the Avengers join with new allies as they set out to save the earth again.

The reception of the movie was tempered at best. Some enjoyed it, others were far more critical. Ultron—a formidable foe in the comics—didn't feel as if he met his full potential. A romance between Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) and Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) featured in the film with little to no set up in previous films and didn't really serve the characters' stories well. Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner) is given a family, again with no set up in previous films, and contradicting a common fan theory that he and Natasha were a couple.

Another problem with the movie is that it was near the end of Phase 2. A lot of the films in Phase 2 were spoiled with the knowledge that there would be future films. By the time Age of Ultron was in theaters, fans knew about future films, so the threat of Ultron causing an extinction-level event was ruined by the knowledge that of course the plan wouldn't pan out. The question "Are they all going to die?" is pointless when you know the answer is "No." This is the same problem with Thor: The Dark World. Phase 2 had the problem that it wasn't a beginning or an end, but simply a continuation. The highlights of Phase 2 to most fans are Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Guardians of the Galaxy because the former severely changed the world of the MCU, and the latter was disconnected enough from it to do nearly whatever it wanted.

Is Age of Ultron horrible? No, on its own, it's still a very good superhero movie, and it introduces three new heroes to the MCU, gives us our first mention of Wakanda and the first glimpse of a future villain, and moves the plotline of the Infinity Stones forward. It has its flaws which are very apparent, but it's not "skip it" bad.

Ant-Man - There had been quite some history with this film. Popular action/comedy director Edgar Wright had been developing an Ant-Man film since about 2003 and had been hired in 2006 to direct and began a long development process before the film was announced for a 2015 release. After casting Paul Rudd as the lead and preparing to shoot, Wright left the film, he and Marvel Studios citing creative differences. Director Peyton Reed took over and Paul Rudd helped rewrite the script. People weren't sure about the obscure hero, some were made aware of controversies in the character's past and made up their minds to skip the movie.

Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) gets out of jail, and is desperate to get back on his feet, which isn't easy for an ex-con. His friend and roommate Luis (Michael Peña) gives him a tip on a heist he can pull, but all Scott gets away with is a strange suit and helmet. Trying them on, Scott discovers they can make him shrink to the size of an insect. He soon meets the owner/inventor of the suit, Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) and his daughter Hope Van Dyne (Evangeline Lily), who recruit him to infiltrate Pymtech to steal the prototype of the Yellowjacket, a suit and formula that builds on Hank's work and weaponizes it.

Ant-Man wisely keeps its focus small. In addition to learning to master the suit and communicate with ants, there's a big focus on being a father. Hank and Scott have messed up with their daughters. Cassie still devotedly loves her father, while Hope and Hank have some problems they need to iron out. In addition, the movie is also very humorous but wisely balances the proceedings with enough pathos to tell the story of how Scott not only becomes Ant-Man but how he and Hank become better men. A very good closer to Phase 2.

Captain America: Civil War - This movie proved to be quite the controversial choice to open Phase 3. The Civil War comic story had been a massive story that built on the Marvel Universe and many fans were displeased about how characters acted as the government required superheroes to register with them. Promotion of the movie made it clear that the story would deal with the consequences of collateral damage, which appeared to be a factor in the movie Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, which had originally been scheduled to open in 2015 and then was pushed back to a couple months before this movie.

The directors would reveal that the decision to base the third Captain America film on Civil War seemed to actually be spurred by the announcement of Batman v Superman. While some fans of DC Comics' properties saw this as Marvel trying to copy, it would be more fair to see that Marvel saw the other film as something that could set new standards for superhero movies and needed to do a story big enough to keep up. Fans will likely debate for ages as to which film did it better, but I won't do that here.

The character Spider-Man had been a major part of the comics story, but being one of Marvel's most famous characters, the rights to him had long been licensed to Sony Pictures, who had recently begun a second film series based on the character, making him unavailable for Marvel Studios to use. However, Marvel was in close contact with Sony, and their current plans for Spider-Man were in flux. Their current Spider-Man actor had been fired after not appearing at a Sony event and the latest Spider-Man film had been successful, but had not reached the expected profit margin. So, Marvel offered to take over production of a new Spider-Man film series that they would produce for Sony in exchange for letting Spider-Man appear in some of their films. Sony ultimately agreed to the deal. Captain America: Civil War would introduce Spider-Man to the MCU along with Black Panther.

After a mission in Lagos, Nigeria goes wrong, the deaths of several people from Wakanda are blamed on the Avengers. In response, governments across the world agree to ratify the Sokovia Accords, which would put the Avengers under government oversight. Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) remembering that he caused many deaths by creating Ultron, decides to go along with it. Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) decides against it as he states, "We may not be perfect, but the safest hands are still our own" and citing the loss of freedom of choice and possible government corruption as another reason. However, Steve's attempt at retirement is cut short when there's an explosion at the United Nations building in Vienna that kills T'Chaka, the king of Wakanda (John Kani). The bombing is pinned on none other than the Winter Soldier, the revived and HYDRA-influenced and enhanced Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan). Wanting to question Bucky himself, Steve goes after him, and soon has to shield him from the government, his former fellow Avengers, the new king of Wakanda, T'Challa (Chadwick Boseman), and Tony's new recruit Peter Parker (Tom Holland).

Captain America: Civil War has a large scope and an even bigger cast (all of the Avengers except Thor and Bruce Banner/Hulk appear in the film), but it doesn't lose focus on its main narrative of Steve seeking the true culprit of the UN bombing. Thematically, it wraps up the story of Captain America in the MCU, reminding us that it's never been about the colorful costume or the shield, but the man. Like Winter Soldier, it changes the status quo of the MCU and instead of giving us a neat, pat ending, it leaves the door wide open for questions and further developments that fans still want to see. A very good start to Phase 3.

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