Marvel’s Marketing is Out of Control

Marvel’s Marketing is Out of Control
Posted by on Apr 24, 2015
in Film Thoughts | No Comments

So if you haven’t heard, Avengers: Age of Ultron is coming out May 1st. If this is news to you I would first like to welcome you to the internet. To put this simply, at the time of this writing there are 11 clips, 11 TV spots, 3 full length trailers, and frankly I’m not entirely sure if I got them all. The amount of footage currently out is staggering. I’m not even counting the associated branded materials. Basically, there is a lot of information out there. Now, I have never had to market a film so I understand that my knowledge of the industry comes secondhand. However, I have been working in marketing for 3 years and I hope to one day work within the film industry. So if you’re from a film studio and reading this just, send me an email. All this to say I have some insight based on my feelings as one of the consumers of this marketing barrage.

As a Marvel fanatic, this amount of marketing material is both exciting and terrifying. I am divided between wanting to know as much as I can and keeping some of the mystery. Here is where I’ll begin. There is such a thing as over marketing. I’m sure you’ve had it happen. Sitting there watching TV and you see the same commercial at least twice while your watching one show. It gets pretty irritating. Imagine that but with each commercial it spoils the current show just a little more. How frustrating would that be?

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So frustrating

When the first Avengers came out, it had about 3 trailers and a couple of TV spots. Each one shared similar footage and still kept the mystery with any new footage they added. That movie, which had much less marketing involved, made just over $1.5 billion dollars. So far, Age of Ultron is set to beat that and it’s not because Marvel has been marketing out the wazoo. It’s going to be successful because for 3 years, Marvel has been building up to this movie. That is their biggest marketing ploy. It’s the whole benefit of having a cinematic universe, your movies become your marketing. The best representation is to look at the first trailer for each. At the time of this writing, the first Avengers trailer has just over 23 million views after 3 years. In comparison, the first Age of Ultron trailer has just over 72 million views in just about 7 months. Are you starting to understand the level of hype attached to this movie?

This is the point I’m getting at. Since each movie builds towards one big pay off, you don’t need to assault your potential audience. Just carry on as usual. In fact, in many ways it would be better to leave them clamoring for more. Giving them just the tiniest details that would encourage them to find out more. This barrage of marketing materials, which we have only covered the video for, is unnecessary for such a well-known property. This supported by the fact that the two major follow up trailers for Age of Ultron didn’t even crack half of the views the first one did. Now for a movie like Guardians of the Galaxy it was understandable. That group had to be introduced. The Avengers don’t. What would be better is to rely more heavily on niche marketing.

These are essentially their fans

These are essentially their fans

Since Marvel has such an outspoken fan base, or niche, I’m surprised they don’t leverage that more. You see, Marvel keeps a very tight lid on their goings on. The only thing’s that are ever really given that aren’t leaks are vague mentions of goings on. Instead, Marvel needs to embrace the leaks. For now lets call it espionage marketing. Strategically leaking information that will stoke the fire of their niche market. When ever there is a leak, geeks and geek sites everywhere dissect the information till there is nothing left. Figuratively building mountains out of mole hills to come to wild speculative junctures. What I would do is take some concept art or set photos and leak them along the way fairly early on. Making it look as if there is some kind of ‘mole’ within Marvel. You could even go as far as posting under a fake username on Reddit or other social sites with strong fandoms.

The best part, the materials you leak could be absolutely fake. When Age of Ultron was first announced, the majority of geeks assumed Ant-man, as the original creator of Ultron, would appear in the movie. Debates raged on since Ant-man was set to release after Age of Ultron. So what would it take to add fuel to this fire? Two thoughts come to mind, have some fake concept art drawn up of Ant-man meeting with the other Avengers or having Paul Rudd show up on set. With the concept art, take a photo with someones phone as if they were trying to hide the fact that they were taking the photo. Post it on Reddit or have them anonymously send it to some geek site. Then just sit back and watch. Redditors and readers will undoubtedly pick up on it to begin building their mountains. I would bet that this gives you at least a month of free buzz as people start to argue back and forth. Plus, it gives material to build upon or reference down the road.

Imagine a photo like this but with Paul Rudd

Imagine a photo like this but with Paul Rudd

With the set visit, you would follow a very similar process. The difference is hoping that someone scouting out the shooting location would spot Paul Rudd and spread the information themselves. Otherwise, take the photos yourself and spread them. For the cost of a plane ticket you could get a substantial amount of buzz. Hell, if you want to step out of the cloak and dagger of it all just tell Paul Rudd he’s going to visit the set. Then let him take some photos hanging out with the cast and have him post them. Much like Mark Ruffalo did a year ago. Those tweets Mark sent out were then picked up by geeks and news sites and then talked about. A very cheap way to create buzz.

I know that Marvel has all the money they want to throw at marketing. Just because they do, doesn’t mean they should. In case you didn’t read this and just skipped to the bottom. Let me summarize it for you. Sometimes you need Hulk marketing where you just throw everything you have and hope it sticks. Other times it’s better to take a Black Widow approach, precise, coordinated, and calculated for maximum impact. Especially when your franchise is already an unstoppable Hulk.

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What I Want From Daredevil

What I Want From Daredevil
Posted by on Apr 9, 2015
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If you haven’t heard, the first of five Marvel Netflix series is premiering tomorrow. Daredevil is a blind lawyer by day and a blind vigilante by night. There have been a lot of details that have emerged leading up to the release. Reveals such as what Daredevil’s red costume will look like, some connections with Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., as well as a slew of trailers and promotional materials that will set the tone for the film. However, there are still a few things that I hope to see.

It has already been revealed that the Netflix Daredevil series will be rated TV-MA and much more brutal than past Marvel projects. What I want though, is to see Daredevil’s true brutality come out. Daredevil fights criminals, not maniacs dressed up in colorful costumes but stone cold killers. This is no better represented by the Kingpin. A mob boss who is truly ruthless in everything he does. What this means is that Daredevil will need to match that intensity. The promotional materials seems to point to this. One of the trailers has Matt Murdock (Daredevil’s real name) going to confessional, asking forgiveness for what he’s about to do. It seems a big theme will be the difference between heroes and villains, especially when they seem to use similar actions to achieve different goals.

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For instance, seeing this on film would be amazing.

 

Beyond the actual tone of the character, I hope we see plenty of references to the more street-level characters. These would be the other Netflix series AKA Jessica JonesLuke Cageand Iron Fist. I’m not expecting full on cameos since the casting for these others was confirmed after production. However, passing mentions related to these characters is all that is needed. What would be amazing is some references to Spider-man. Again, to my knowledge the production of Daredevil was largely finished by the time of the Spider-man announcement. With some post-production add-ins, such as some background radio broadcasts or something would be plenty. Why I’m pushing so hard for this is because Daredevil is a street-level hero walking among the people of New York. When you have regular people gaining extraordinary powers so far reserved for gods and billionaires, gossips spreads.

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The other character that I think needs to get referenced or even a guest appearance is The Punisher. Mostly because The Punisher is a dark character is as anti-hero as you can get. Instead of arresting criminals, he prefers to just outright kill them. This isn’t mentioning the fact that his origin story starts off with his family being murdered by the mob. What I would love to see is make the mob the Kingpin’s organization and we see Frank Castle (The Punisher) coming to Matt Murdock for help. When he fails Frank, Frank becomes The Punisher or tries to take matters into his own hands. This might be a long shot since The Punisher has apparently already appeared in The Winter Soldier. Yes it is played off as a joke but depending on exactly when Daredevil takes place, that cameo could be more true than we thought. Probably mostly wishful thinking but hey I can hope.

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The last thing I desperately want to see is the introduction of Elektra and The Hand. All you need to know about The Hand is that they are an evil organization of mystical ninjas. They have historically had strong ties to organized crime and the Kingpin. Elektra in turn became one of their lead assassins at one point and even dated Daredevil for a time. I would completely understand if Marvel wanted to save this stuff for season 2 but again, I would like to see the ground work laid out. Maybe you just have The Hand approach Kingpin or maybe they come up when the Kingpin is looking for an assassin. I’m sure they will show up eventually, I just hope it is sooner rather than later.

All of this to say that there is nothing but positive buzz surrounding Daredevil. Marvel so far hasn’t let us down and the trailers look amazing. The highlight of their promotional campaign has easily been their motion posters. Short little snippets that I believe will truly capture the essence of the show. Now we just have to wait a few more hours until we can watch all 13 episodes.

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What Disney Can Learn from Cinderella

What Disney Can Learn from Cinderella
Posted by on Apr 2, 2015
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I finally got the chance to see Cinderella. First and foremost, it was thoroughly enjoyable. It didn’t blow my socks off, but it was well worth the cost of my ticket. Particularly the visuals and the overall aesthetic of the film. The best way to describe it is that it felt like the animated classic had been brought to life. Especially the bibbidi bobbidi boo dress transformation. Every actor was perfectly cast and all around this was a solid film.

However, everything about this film was totally expected. At no point was I on the edge of my seat nor was I curious about how it might end. Going into the film I knew this. I knew that it was going to be a pretty straight retelling, but that is exactly why it shouldn’t have been. Disney had a story that everybody knew and could probably recite from memory. So why give the audience what they expected?

Not that they needed to change any of the major plot points, they could have simply given the audience a twist. Think about the true love twist in Frozen or the true love’s kiss twist in Maleficent. They were small things that completely changed the meaning of the film. Especially when they turned Maleficent into the hero of the story and the king into the villain. The story largely stays the same and yet the meaning changes on a fundamental level.

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The easiest way that Disney could have done this is answer some of the questions that are left unanswered by the original film. The biggest of which is why Lady Tremaine is so mean to Cinderella. The movie plays it off as if she is hurt by the fact that Cinderella’s father didn’t marry Tremaine for love and that it appears he has a closer relationship with Cinderella than Tremaine or her daughters. Yet, it appears to be the exact opposite. Cinderella’s father marries Tremaine because he feels that he can be truly happy with her like he was with his wife. Not too mention that initially it will take time to build up the relationship with his new step-daughters. If anything she married just that she wouldn’t be out on the street. That gives a basis for why she is so grumpy but not why she essentially turns Cinderella into a slave.

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I assume Disney expects us to chalk this up to the old fairy tale trope that evil is evil and that’s that. Except for the fact that so far, these live action adaptations have been giving the villains reasons. We already talked about Maleficent but even The Great and Powerful Oz, not live-action animation adaptation I know, gave us reasons why the witches were wicked. Why does Lady Tremaine not get a tragic back story? The film itself was nearly two hours and with an extra 8-10 minutes we could have gotten what we needed. Heck you cut it down to even more if you just change her monologue a little bit.

What if instead of Lady Tremaine marrying the one she loves and then losing him, she never got her happy ending. It would explain Tremaine would be so set on ruining Cinderella’s positive outlook and it gives her a little more motivation for ruining her chances with the Prince. After all, if Tremaine couldn’t get her happy ending why should Cinderella? Going forward, I hope Disney has tries to answer those unanswered questions from their animated classics.

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Looking forward at Beauty and the Beast they could add some more depth to their characters all around. While Gaston could still be presented largely as just an atypical jerk, Disney could explain why the townsfolk are still so supportive of him. Maybe he is just a bully and at one point the townsfolk kind of realize. So to regain some of his popularity, he leads the town against the Beast. As for Beast, they could explain what happened to his parents and most importantly, they could fix the inherent timeline problems. Beast has to find true love by his 21st birthday. At one point is he turned into a Beast where he wouldn’t have learned how to read? Was he like 8 or something? Not too mention that it seems like it takes about a day to get to this castle and yet the townsfolk are completely unaware of a giant beast living their? All I am saying, is that Disney has the potential to improve upon their animated classic.

So far their casting is on point. With Emma Watson (Belle), Luke Evans (Gaston), Dan Stevens (Beast), Emma Thompson (Mrs. Potts), Josh Gad (Le Fou), and Kevin Kline (Maurice) as just the beginning, the cast is shaping up really well. Lets just hope they do the same with the story.

Why The Question is Important

Why The Question is Important
Posted by on Mar 26, 2015
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In the past few weeks, DC has been releasing major reveals from the small and big screen ventures. The Flash introduced time travel and it’s potential to wreak havoc. Arrow has established yet another hero in Atom and fleshing out the Suicide Squad. Not too mention continuous details on the Suicide Squad movie as well as character first looks from Dawn of Justice. There are also numerous DC TV shows in development set to roll out next year.

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Vic Sage as The Question

 

While this is all exciting, there is one character that has not been mentioned that I believe is crucial. That is the Question. The original Question was Vic Sage who after being beaten to the edge of his life, was taken to a Richard Dragon for healing and training. He learned philosophy and martial arts from Dragon and more or less returned to his city to fight the corruption as an investigative journalist. While other vigilantes went after the petty criminals, The Question went after the politicians and corrupt heads of the city.

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Renee Montoya as The Question

 

What made The Question so great is that he was simple. He didn’t have a fortune to buy gadgets or superpowers to bust through walls. All he had was his natural innate skills. Eventually, since he is human after all, he develop lung cancer and sought to pass on his legacy. Enter Renee Montoya, who you might recognize as the Internal Affairs detective from Gotham. Question passes on his teachings and also helps Montoya reconcile her past. They travel to Nanda Parbat, you might recognize that from Arrow, where she trains and eventually buries Vic Sage. She then carries on the Question legacy.

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Darkseid also known as Mr. Crazy Eyes

 

Hopefully you can start to see how Question could fit into DC TV universe. Before we get into that, we have to go over one more bit of the story. During Montoya’s training, Question is trying to prevent Intergang from invading Gotham. Intergang is a global crime organization supported by the New Gods of Apokolips. Whose leader is Darkseid, the DC equivalent of Marvel’s Thanos. To put it simply, Intergang is an organization who dabbles in science, magic, and everything in between whose core beliefs are based upon the Crime Bible. Where the Bible says thou shalt not kill, the Crime Bible says thou shalt kill.

I hate when I stab my books

I hate when I stab my books

Intergang is big and powerful enough to affect the entire DC universe, and the Question takes them on. So here you have a criminal organization so big that it can stretch between both DC’s TV and movie universe. You also have yourself a hero that can introduce our heroes to this threat. Whether or not they introduce Vic Sage first or go straight with Renee Montoya, I really don’t care. Starting with Montoya would definitely add a bit of diversity to DC. As long as you keep Question’s background largely the same, regardless who wears the mask, they can easily fit into the universe DC is building.

One last side note, I haven’t included the new retconned comics history of Question. However, it could still be included.

Fun Fact: Rorschach from Watchmen was based on the Question!

My Marvel Super-Cut

My Marvel Super-Cut
Posted by on Mar 20, 2015
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Back around Christmas, Marvel fans were given the greatest gift of all. One fan compiled the necessary information to create a Marvel Super-Cut. This all came about when people realized that the phase one films (Iron Man through The Avengers) were all happening around each other and at the same time. Enter the folks over at The Comic Archive who posted two videos to showcase the actual time stamps in each film and how they fit together.

Of course, being the Marvel fan that I am I set out to make one. Luckily I had started my own phase 1 cut at about the same time this came out so I really just had to double check my own cuts. This last weekend, I finished the phase 2 super-cut (Iron Man 3 through Guardians of the Galaxy). After finishing both I realized something, Marvel has created a cohesive universe beyond just sharing characters.

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When I was splicing these films together, my main worry was that the scene transitions wouldn’t work out. They were all made by different directors after all and could easily have their own distinct visual style. However, the only one that had any odd or difficult scene transitions was Iron Man 3. Even then, it was just a few slide transitions.

Basically, if you watch any Marvel movie it will have the same distinct style. Scene transitions, camera angles, shots, the whole shebang. Consciously, it doesn’t really mean much. However, on a subconscious level it makes a much bigger difference.

Let me put it this way. If you showed someone all of Quentin Tarantino’s films, who didn’t know who he was, what do think they would say? They would probably pick out all of the classic tropes in a Tarantino film. Long tracking shots, almost theater-like monologues, explosive violence, and Samuel L. Jackson. When you watch a Tarantino film, you recognize that it is a Tarantino film.

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Tarantino would fall under the category of Auteur directors. Directors who have such a distinct style that they are seen as the chief author of a film. That the film itself is a direct representation of their creative vision. Other directors that would be included in this category are Akira Kurasawa, Wes Anderson, The Coen Brothers, and many more.

What Marvel has done has made themselves the Auteur director. By making sure each film is in line with their vision, they can differentiate themselves more distinctly from other super hero films. Plus, since they have a recognizable style I postulate that the audience can more easily be sucked into the film. The audience isn’t having to adjust to a new style.

This really just goes to show just how far Marvel is willing to go to keep and control their brand. It also may shed some light onto why Edgar Wright left Ant-man, a film he had been working on for at least a decade. As the article states, many directors have expressed criticisms on the way that Marvel deals with scripts. However, if they are keeping such a tight hold on the look of their films, it makes sense they would also hold onto the scripts just as fiercely.

As a fan of both of these groups, I was extremely bummed out to find out that Edgar Wright had dropped out. Particularly because his particular style would I believe be aptly suited for an Ant-man movie. Now that I have done these super-cuts however, I think I would side with Marvel. Edgar Wright’s style is very distinct. Utilizing lots of jump shots and other techniques to make full comedic use of the camera. Not just in a script but how he shoots the film.

Edgar Wright – How to Do Visual Comedy from Tony Zhou on Vimeo

That video above does a great job explaining it. Basically, Wright’s style allows him to inject visual comedy in any genre of film regardless of the script. Using these techniques, he could have brought the perfect platform for a comedian like Paul Rudd in a more serious setting like Marvel. However, his style would clash with the rest of Marvel. Now if from the beginning Marvel just gave directors a script and allowed them to express their style, I would side with Wright. Since Marvel hasn’t done this, it makes more sense to go with a director who can help shape the story while adopting Marvel’s style.

There is no right or wrong in this. There is just a difference of opinions. While a part of me still wants to see Edgar Wright’s Ant-man, after these super-cuts I would rather have a film that fits in the large universe. Only time will tell and July 17th is fast approaching.

Tomorrowland and Disney’s Other IP

Tomorrowland and Disney’s Other IP
Posted by on Mar 12, 2015
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Disney is doing something very interesting with their intellectual properties (IP). I don’t know if there is a strict plan in place nor do I know if this is an actual thing. However, it’s a pretty smart move if Disney is basing movies off their past films and attractions..

What it comes down to is mining their already pre-established IP’s. This idea comes in two parts. First, is their return to their classics, mostly their animated classics, to make live-action adaptations. Second is their exploration of their Disneyland attractions.

To start off with their live-action adaptations, the least interesting of the two, is actually a very smart business move. Hollywood seems to run on remakes and reboots these days. I mean, wouldn’t you want a piece of a potential $12 billion dollar pie? When you go looking into this subject you begin to find numerous articles explaining why it seems there is nothing new in Hollywood. That’s because a) it is a safe investment and b) we as an audience want more of the same.

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This is why actors who do well get payed more, because studio execs know that we want to see them. Nothing wrong with that but it is the reason why we suddenly have 3-4 Chris Pratt movies to look forward to in the coming years. Movies and IP’s work the same way. When there is a character or story that is largely liked by the majority, why would someone make a movie starting from scratch. To be honest, I am okay with this. You want to do a new interesting take on Winnie the Pooh, then go for it! As long as it is it brings something new, like make Christopher Robin an evil genius who goes up against Calvin and Hobbes. Never gonna happen but this has actually made the rounds on the internet.

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While we don’t get that movie, which is a crime, we instead get the Transformers. It makes all the money, but for the wrong reasons. It’s colorfulness and explodieness (totally a word, you don’t even have to look it up) combined with its goldmine level nostalgia is a deadly combination. However, they are all literally the same movie. You could randomly mix and match scenes from all three (oh right there was a fourth) and still come out with a movie that made just as much sense. A lot of this also has to do with international markets but that’s no what where here to discuss.

The point is, Paramount has an IP whose last two movies each made over a billion dollars. Why would they say “well I guess we made all the money and should move on to that Winnie the Pooh bounty hunter movie”. That’s just a bad business move. They will keep making those movies until they stop making money and they will simply keep repeating the formula. That right there is where the problem is.

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Instead of each movie expanding on the universe, we instead keep getting the same plot over and over again. The bad robots go after a robot artifact, the good robots partner with the humans to stop them, explosions happen, the good robots win. Instead of maybe making the bad robots win, killing off characters in a meaningful way, or anything inventive they just add more explosions and fight scenes.

On the flip side we have the Spider-Man franchise. Now before all 2 of you read this, hi mom, and begin to shun me just hold on. Each franchise has brought a new look at the character. While each entry has not been the best, each franchise has taken a different approach. We saw with Tobey Maguire a Spider-Man who was painfully socially awkward who transitions into adulthood. We saw him struggle with being a hero while still trying to be normal. That idea of trying to embrace our gifts to become something extraordinary.

HAHahah, snort

HAHahah, snort

Andrew Garfield gave us a Spider-Man who was always a hero, but who never had the tools to do something more. With his powers gave him the motivation to do more and be more. Not only that but he had to deal with the very real consequences of fighting deranged villains. The people he loves get put into danger and often die. Each iteration had its clear differences in style, metaphor, and plot points. I think where it all went wrong is they tried to go bigger than deeper. It happened at different points but they just tried to copy to a formula.

This is where Disney can succeed with its live-action adaptations. It is their own personal nostalgia gold-mine that they can now introduce twists on the very tropes they created. The best example is Maleficent. Instead of the prince bestowing love’s true kiss on Aurora, it is Maleficent herself bestowing a mothers true love to wake her up. It’s these kinds of things that Disney can do that other studios can’t, simply because they have been establishing their own tropes since Snow White. Now we just need a live-action Dumbo. (I am aware that this is now a thing but at the time this was a novel idea I swear)

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Now the other side to this is the fact that they have more than just their animated films to draw from. They have Disneyland and Disney World attractions to also use. This is where the true brilliance comes in. Essentially, they have pre-made worlds to create stories for. Pirates of the Caribbean is the obvious one to point out. A simple ride that has spawned a series worth over $4 billion dollars. That’s a pretty penny for a ride that lasts about 15 minutes.

They have all of these rides and attractions that are nostalgic across a larger demographic that they are pretty much a blank slate. This is why Tomorrowland is particularly exciting. Sci-fi has been on the rise these past few years and has been turning very dark and gritty. Tomorrowland can bring us back to when sci-fi was about looking towards a bright future. A refreshing return to a more light hearted sci-fi. This would also compliment the original intention behind Tomorrowland‘s creation.

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While it may have taken a moment for Disney to get their feet on the ground, we’re looking at you Haunted Mansion, they may have found their stride. The key I believe with these attraction based movies, is to keep exploring the world. In my mind, that was the big problem with At World’s End. It was merely a continuation of the last film using similar elements rather than bringing anything new in. Sure we got Calypso, but her presence felt largely shoe horned in at the last minute. With Stranger Tides, we got Black Beard, Mermaids, and ships in a bottle. Way more interesting stuff that left us wanting to know more.

This is what Disney needs to do with their attraction movies. Have some overarching plot but instead of just escalating each movie with established concepts, introduce new one to explore the world. The one that could have huge potential is the upcoming Big Thunder Mountain Railroad TV show. With a comic coming out this month based on the idea, they could go in a lot of different directions. The old west is usually presented as a place that has a lot of mysteries. Inherent mysticism that seems to infest the open plains. Only time will tell how it will turn out though.

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What I am trying to get across is that Disney finds itself in fairly unique position. When remakes and reboots are the bread and butter of Hollywood, Disney has it’s own IP’s to pull from. As long as they update them with modern themes and keep things fresh with each installment, Disney can’t really fail.

Final Age Of Ultron Trailer

Final Age Of Ultron Trailer
Posted by on Mar 5, 2015
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Alright, in case you missed it yesterday Marvel dropped their final trailer for Age Of Ultron. It was kind of big deal. Now to be honest, the majority of the new footage was, while different, a lot more of the same. We saw Hulk and Iron Man going at it. Everybody looking very disconcerted about things. Generally, more of the same. However, there were a few things that were new and kind of a big deal.

The highlight of this trailer was definitely Ultron’s speech throughout. The more we see and hear James Spader as Ultron the more awesome it gets. It seems pretty obvious that his performance is going to be the highlight of Age Of Ultron. What was also confirmed is that it is indeed Tony Stark who creates Ultron. Until now, it had been only rumored that this would be the case. There was a leak a few months back that revealed this little tidbit. Now it has been confirmed.

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The second highlight is at the very end. We finally get our first look at Vision. In the comics, he was created by Ultron to show that by creating life, he now surpassed humanity. That same leak from earlier also shed some light on Vision. It seems, he will be a creation of Tony Stark and Bruce Banner. Frankly this doesn’t change a whole lot. However, I do hope there is still a connection between Ultron and his original comic creator Hank Pym.

Literally, just a passing mention would be enough. Something along the lines of him being a consultant. Like how Dr. Strange was mentioned in Captain America: Winter Soldier. This also wouldn’t be just to make the fans happy. It would help to give Ant-Man, coming out in July, a little more relevancy.

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What I also found interesting in the new trailer is a scene where Tony Stark picks up Loki’s staff which contains the Mind Infinity Stone. Now, it has been said numerous times that Age of Ultron will lay the ground work for Civil War. A quick refresh, the basic conflict of Civil War in the comics is a push to get the superhuman community in check by registering everyone. The movie version will most likely be a little different. Now, this is pure speculation based off just a few seconds of film. What if when playing around with Loki’s Staff, Tony sees Thanos. He sees it and recognizes the threat which ultimately pushes him towards trying to unify the worlds heroes.

Again, pure speculation but maybe because of this intense fear of what’s coming he pushes to hard. Captain America will not like this and he will, well, push back. It would make the whole situation much more complex. Not only that but it also supports another theory that popped in the wake of this trailer. The yellow spot on Vision’s forehead is another Infinity stone, the soul stone. This isn’t how it is in the comics and is again a theory based on just a few seconds of footage. However, if Tony gets some insight from the Mind stone, he could get a glimpse at the Soul stone. He then uses the stone to create Vision as an AI with more of a conscience. The yellow spot could also just be his solar charging spot like in the comics. It being a Infinity stone is unlikely but makes for a pretty interesting theory nonetheless.

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Now let’s take a second and gossip about Bruce and Natasha. Their budding romance has been rumored/hinted at throughout the build up of the film. The actual nature of it was largely up in the air. It does seem pretty clear at this point. Something is going on and it makes me feel the feels. It also feels very natural when you think about it. Going back to The Avengers, these two do share more than a few very intense moments. I could see how this could work. What we are seeing could also be just a mind trick by Scarlet Witch. Which brings me to my next point.

We finally see the twins actually doing things. Quicksilver punches Captain America right in the face and I’m sure we can expect many, many more punches to the face. We also saw Scarlet Witch using her mind tricks on Natasha. The budding romance we see between Bruce and Natasha could be a result of this. After all, Ultron says that they can tear them apart from the inside out. Messing not only with their minds but feelings as well is a pretty powerful combination.

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Now the last thing that I want to talk about is death. Since the first few details have emerged, Joss Whedon has teased death. Age of Ultron is continually paraded as a dark film. The Avengers brought us to an unprecedented high, Age of Ultron will take us to an unprecedented low. My guess for who is going to die, is Captain America. Now I know what you’re thinking, what about Civil War? Well, you see in the comics Tony Stark and Reed Richards cloned Thor at one point. This was a huge turning point which showcased their hubris. What if the film sees the death of Captain America and in Civil War we see Tony Stark clone Cap for his own cause.

This seems like a pretty far flung theory but if you take into account Tony getting a glimpse from the Mind stone, it could make sense. Cap dies and seeing an opportunity, Tony tries cloning him. It results in some messed up version of Cap. We would see Natasha, Coulson, Winter Soldier, and Falcon leading the charge against this injustice. Tony could also openly admit that it is a clone but sells it as his new idea for a unified earth force. After all, a lot of problems can be solved with an army of super soldiers.

Beyond Cap dying, I would have to place my money on Bruce Banner/Hulk. Yes very hard to kill, but he is a fan favorite. Killing him off would have a powerful affect on the audience. It could also be used as a sign of just how powerful Ultron is. I still like Cap for the death but its still really anyone’s guess if anybody is going to die.

Well there you have it. With a little under two months, all our questions will be replaced by new ones and we will see just where Kevin Feige is taking us on this wild ride.

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How to Build a World

How to Build a World
Posted by on Feb 26, 2015
in Film Thoughts | No Comments

In the past I have talked about world building and it’s benefits for creating a compelling story. Recently, this idea has come back into my mind for a number of reasons. Marvel’s announcement about adding Spider-Man to the MCU is chief among them. However, my new year’s resolution this year was to re-watch all of Walt Disney’s theatrically released animated films. I’ll detail the experience more when I have actually finished watching all of the 50+ films. As I watch these films, I get to thinking about world building and it’s use in film. Particularly with how Disney has handled it so far. Before that, let me tell you what I think is needed to build a truly wonderful world.

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Most recently, one of the best worlds built from scratch has got to be John Wick. Originally seen as your basic B-level action flick, its masterful world building helped elevate the narrative to another level. What worked so well is that the directors didn’t bother spelling everything out. I’ll do my best not to spoil anything but they essentially introduced elements that obviously had a history but they didn’t tell the audience. They just introduced it as it should be and left it at that. How this helped them is it let the audience to fill-in the gaps.

They introduce a concept such as a currency only mean’t for hitmen and assassins. Instead of giving us some sort of explanation as to how this currency works and its worth, they simply just use it. This currency then becomes this cool gimmick throughout the film that continually piques the audiences interest. It also allows the audience to speculate how these characters gained their varying levels of wealth with this currency. That’s just the tip of the iceberg. We are left to wonder how widely this currency can be used. Is it global? Can it be used as bribery for politicians? We are literally left with endless possibilities. To create a successful world, leaving a little mystery to allow your audience to explore is key.

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What’s also important is having a distinct visual style. Take Big Hero 6. It’s a world where San Francisco and Tokyo have been merged. Here you get distinct combinations of iconic examples of American and Japanese culture. The visual style, as with just about any animated film, is also very distinct. Characters are more caricatures than realistic with features that support or clash with their personalities.

Go Go Tomago looks like a bicyclist or a sprinter. She has the legs of someone who was always pushing to go faster. I mean seriously, just take a look at what Olympic sprinters look like. Her mentality of a tough, fearless, speed demon is only supported by the way she looks. Wasabi on the other hand has an opposite relationship. He looks like your typical strongman, hulk, bruiser type. Broad shoulders, barrel chested, and just big all around. He looks like someone who is called in when someone needs a buddy to help them out in a fight. However, his personality clashes with this perception. Out of the entire group, he is by far the most neurotic and least likely to want to jump into a fight.

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These visual cues, whether directed at characters or scenery, are key to develop a world that the audience can get lost in. It allows the audience to fill in the gaps of what else could be going on in the world.

While having a sense of mystery and a clear visual style is important, nothing can be more important than your question. Every successful world can be boiled down to one question that the world gets shaped around. How would an underground assassin network operate? What would it look if the most advance technologies we have, were accessible and affordable to the entire public? What would the world look like if dragons were real? I bet you can figure out which movies I’m talking about here. This question may not be your starting point, but I believe it is a sign of a well crafted world.

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After Earth, while terrible, had a single nugget that piqued my interest. What would the world look like if humans were suddenly at the bottom of the food chain? Starting there I can see a story forming. What if one day we found that the various species on Earth suddenly seemed to turn on humanity. Where not only animals are no longer afraid to actively defend against humans and their machines, but hunt them down. Amazon forest crews would find themselves fighting off hordes of monkeys who have developed poisonous saliva. Cities would find themselves overrun by the natural wildlife as they refused to be scared away. Throw in plants growing more aggressively and you have yourself a situation that would cause humans to want to flee earth. That right there seems to be a start of a more compelling story than what we got in After Earth.

My observations are not an official, peer reviewed basis for a theory that required months of research. I have simply watched a lot of movies and started to to piece these things together. Most films can be observed this, especially that of the animated genre, and I find two ways to break them down. They either have a strong narrative or a well-built world. Not to say they can’t be both, it’s just that they tend to favor one or the other. For instance, most of the Pixar films would land in the narrative category. This makes sense since they have essentially built their company around how to tell a story. On the other hand, the better Dreamworks films tend to have stronger worlds.

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Why I bring this up is because Disney tends to ride the line. Sometimes it works out well, other times it doesn’t. It seems they have tried both and mostly have had average success on either side. However, those that do the best are usually those that have a stronger narrative base (Frozen, Lion King). What I find interesting though, is that they have created many worlds that are truly unique. Big Hero 6 is the most recent while Treasure Planet is a place I eagerly want them to revisit.

So in conclusion, before this piece gets out of my hands, Disney has tried many different story-telling styles. From world building to strong narratives they, more than most, have tried both. Recently, they are getting their groove back with John Lasseter at the helm. I can only wait in anticipation to see which side of the line Moana and Zootopia fall on.

The Kingsman Review

The Kingsman Review
Posted by on Feb 19, 2015
in Movie Reviews | No Comments

This last weekend, I had the supreme pleasure of seeing The Kingsman: Secret Service. I won’t try to hide it. This is a good movie. It’s fun, entertaining, and doesn’t pull its punches. Before I get to carried away, there are three main reason The Kingsman is a hit.

First, the action choreography is sublime. I mean this very literally. The church sequence itself was jaw dropping. Again, literally I had to consciously close my mandibles because of my sheer awe. When I watched this scene, it reminded me of John Wick. The difference is that the directing style of Kingsman puts you into the action. The choreography in John Wick was usually presented pretty plainly. A medium shot of the action that allowed for us to see Keanu Reeves systematically take down his enemies very plainly. It worked for the film. The atmosphere of the film was very subdued, dark, and the opposite of flashy. That’s why the action worked the way it did.

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The Kingsman on the other hand, are in a much more vibrant and fantastical world. While similarly slick, the fights were largely just shot differently. One of the first fight scenes involves the hand off of a glass of whiskey (scotch?, can’t exactly remember) without spilling a drop. The difference from John Wick is the camera choices. It follows the action and rotates around the fight. It put’s you into the action instead of being an observer. When you see it, which I assume you will, you’ll see what I mean.

The church scene is the best representation of the films camera style. I really can’t emphasize enough just how mind blowing this scene was. Not only in its action but in it length. To put it simply, the scene was put to the song Free Bird. So yeah, it’s long. What’s amazing is that it doesn’t drag. It just keeps going and with every second it just gets better. This scene is worth the price of the ticket by itself.

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While the action is probably the highlight of The Kingsman, the second pillar of this film is its humor. The humor has a strongbase in the British style and with a little crudeness mixed. After all, The Kingsman can best be described as a love letter to James Bond. Every line has nearly perfect comedic timing and they are delivered with just the right amount of sass and dry wit. Even if you’re not a fan of British humor, I’m sure you’ll still get more than a few laughs.

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The humor is also well served by it’s actors. Colin Firth, while a good actor is not too well known for his action comedy roles. I was pleasantly surprised however by his performance. He nailed absolutely everything, down to his epic fight scene in the church. It honestly made me wish he could play James Bond. He was suave, sophisticated, and brutal with a touch of wit. Just brilliant to be honest.  Samuel L. Jackson absolutely nails his part as well. This is mostly because he plays a rather timid character than what we are used to seeing from him. Nonetheless, he was a likable villain which is a great asset to any movie. Samuel Jackson’s villain plays perfectly opposite Colin Firth’s hero. Both on either side of a fine line.

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Lastly, as I said earlier this film above all else is a love letter to James Bond. The current trend for espionage films, and action films in general, is to go dark. Sometimes it works and again, I cite John Wick as an excellent example. However, this doesn’t always work. By paying homage to the classic silly gadgets and tropes abundant in James Bond, The Kingsman circumvents this problem. Along the way, we still have some very dark moments that leave the audience shocked.

All in all, The Kingsman is a great movie. The humor might be a little to crude at times but otherwise it’s a fun, entertaining ride.

Why You Should be Watching The Flash

Why You Should be Watching The Flash
Posted by on Feb 12, 2015
in Film Thoughts, Movie Reviews | No Comments

I need to have a little disclaimer before I get started. The Flash is hands down my favorite superhero ever. This means two things. One, no matter how good or bad the show is, I would watch it anyway. Second, it makes me hyper critical of the show. So even though I would watch the show no matter the quality, I am not afraid to point out what they do wrong. Fair warning, there are a few mild spoilers below.

With that out of the way lets get into. The Flash premiered this last fall after a pilot style intro in Arrow. This was possibly the perfect way to start the show. Simply because he wasn’t introduced to us a as a superhero. He was the nerdy CSI who had a sweet spot for Felicity. This way, by the time he puts on the suit we already liked the character. Unlike Oliver Queen in Arrow who was pretty much introduced to us as a vigilante. That became his whole identity. It created this one-dimensional character that took about a whole season to gain some depth. With Barry Allen, we already knew him. He was a character before he was a hero, which just became another dimension to the character.

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We’ll get back to the fastest man alive in a second. Because the other factor that helped this show hit the ground running is its supporting cast. The three additional members of Team Flash, Cisco, Caitlyn Snow, and Harrison Wells help to expand the perspectives we get. Something that again was done later in Arrow that helped the show increase in quality. Cisco resonates with the geeky/nerdy side of  Barry Allen and acts as the audiences surrogate. Every time he “creates” the names of the villains is just another little nod to the fans. Caitlyn on the other hand helps to show Barry’s age. Being a young professional and what that looks like in today’s world. Basically, these two characters help show the two major aspects of Barry in a none super hero role. Not too mention when all three of these characters actually get together, we get a pretty unique look at what actually being a superhero could be like. Not too mention Iris West and her father. They both are iconic from the comics and are Barry’s family. They serve as a reminder not only of the tragic death of his mother but that family goes beyond blood.

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Now Harrison Wells does something else for our Scarlet Speedster. He provides a look at what Barry could be. It is still unclear whether Wells falls on the side of the angels or not. However, it is pretty clear that Wells is in it for himself and using his powers for his benefit only. Barry on the other hand views his powers a gift for others. Sure he’ll use it to unpack or change a little faster than normal, but relatively these things are pretty harmless.

Hold on, we’re going to switch gears and do some good ol’fashioned speculation. We know that Wells is a Reverse Flash. Historically, there have been two. The first was Eobard Thawne, a man from the future who gained access to the Speed Force. The other is Hunter Zolomon who gained time manipulation powers that simulated super speed. Without getting too much into, there is enough evidence to support Wells as either evil speedster.

My bet is that he is Eobard Thawne. Whether the other RF is Zolomon or Wells pulling off some kind of time travel trickery is anybodies guess. Honestly it doesn’t matter because Wells has information about the future. Not only that but information that seems to point to pretty significant point in Flash’s history. There is a lot more to speculate on but that’s not the point of this piece.

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That brings us to our next point. Flash has a very colorful rogues gallery one that I would argue is stranger than most. Instead of trying to update these characters or make them more grim, they fully embrace them. Particularly Captain Cold and Heatwave. The show fully embraces the corniness of these characters while still making them believably sinister. This however is nothing compared to when they will introduce Grodd. Grodd is one of Flash’s arch-nemesis and one of his more….weird characters. Simply put, Grodd is also known as Gorilla Grodd. He is a hyper-intelligent, talking, psychic gorilla bent on world domination. The fact that the show runners went with him in the first season is incredible. I mean, once Grodd comes into the picture there isn’t a villain that you couldn’t pull off.

Before we get to our final point, lets get back to Barry Allen. Grant Gustin is possibly just about as perfect for the role as you can get. He easily brings this authenticity that you would expect from someone who loves the Flash. Now, I don’t know if he was a fan before hand but it seems that he was. The Flash, the character, at his heart just want’s to help people. Whether its a villain or not, he wants to use his powers to help others. He’s not on some mission to better the world or exact vengeance, he simply wants to use his powers to the benefit of others. Grant Gustin is able to represent this in spades. Again, as I said earlier I believe this is partly due to how we were introduced to Barry Allen. We saw him as a character first. Someone that we liked. Those feelings get transferred to his time as a The Flash. All I am trying to say is that Grant Gustin does an excellent job of representing at least what I believe to be truest version of the Flash.

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Which brings us to our final point. The Flash show-runners have flung themselves into the Flash history in order to bring us the show that we need. They could of tried to go dark and gritty like Arrow but they didn’t. The Flash, for me, has always been a versatile hero. A hero that one minute will tie robbers shoelaces together to stop them to sacrificing himself to save the multiverse (that’s a whole other can of worms).  He is equal parts fun and serious. His show encapsulates that to a tee. One moment he will be riding high and the next minute he will be brought crashing down. Those extremes can’t really be brought into other superhero shows. Mostly because they are too focused on being serious and dark. The Flash embraces the absurdity of the heroes world so that we can experience new moments of humanity.