Thursday, January 11, 2018

Midnight's Edge on Marvel's New & Upcoming Releases (& More)

The Midnight's Edge crew gather on the After Dark channel for another podcast.

Let me get my thoughts on the two Marvel properties discussed here.

Black Panther is going to get screwed. Every behind-the-scenes report indicates that this will be a perfectly fine superhero drama with enjoyable action sequences, a plausible plot given its premises, and an emphasis on entertaining its audience by giving them an actual story and not propaganda. So why the pessimism?

Because there is no way that this won't be pushed as "We Wuz Kangz: Da Movie!".

Yet it's not. The film's plot is more of a Shakespeare remix than anything else, something Akira Kurosawa did no less than twice over his career to great effect and acclaim. The Narrative that the Social Justice death cult will use this film to push actually has sweet fuck-all to do with it. We're closer to Ancient Aliens territory than Socjus, so when the media narrative campaign turns out to be at odds with the film's actual content the dissonance will be telling- and, I think detrimental to the film's performance. I hope that I'm write about the quality of the film, and wrong about its reception and SocJus hijacking, but we'll find out soon enough.

Black Widow has issues. There are two issues. The first is that, as noted in the podcast, Black Widow is better working as a supporting character than as a lead. That's not insurmountable; a focus on the character's dramatic strengths, as the James Bond films have done, can make that known issue moot. However, that brings us to the other issue: Scarlet Johanson. Scarjo can't carry the load as the lead in the way that Sean Connery has, as her record in leading roles shows; she needs a director and writer to carry her to victory, and that isn't going to be present on this film.

This is unfortunate. The character has the potential to launch a spy-focused sub-franchise for Marvel, like a meaner Modesty Blaze or Kate Archer (No One Lives Forever), but if this stand-alone film fails (and if there is no significant retooling now, it will) then we won't be seeing another attempt for at least a decade, by which time Scarjo will too old for the part. (As for why this is so, Black Widow--as the name implies--is a honeypot at her core, as is typical of hot female assassins, and that means her primary asset has a shelf life; just ask the real former KGB honeypots, those still alive. Scarjo is over 30, so she's on her way out of such roles; it's now or never for her, in live-action terms. She can voice-act them for decades yet in animation.)

In any event, I think the smart thing to do is to use the stand-alone film to do two things: give Scarjo a graceful exit from the role, set up her successor to take it over, and stake out that sub-franchise space for spy movie thrillers. Otherwise you'll repeat the failures of Charlize Theron to mark out such a space, who's failed to do this twice (Aeon Flux, Atomic Blonde), and for the same reasons (and Theron is also on her way out of those roles).

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