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By Mason Kupiainen Tom Clancy’s work has become a staple across multiple mediums. We were first introduced to Clancy’s characters in novels, but they have since expanded to films, television, and video games. Arguably his most popular character, Jack Ryan, has been portrayed by five different actors with John Krasinski currently portraying the character in the Amazon series. Once again, Amazon brings another popular Clancy character, John Clark, to the screen. Without Remorse follows Clark after the murder of his pregnant wife. Seeking out those responsible, Clark discovers a dangerous plot involving America and Russia. Throwback action film Not every action film can be the next The Raid 2, Mad Max: Fury Road, John Wick, or Predator, breaking down the barriers and being inventive within the genre. However, at the very least, action films must provide exciting and thrilling action sequences that leave you at the edge of your seat. Although not a perfect movie, Without Remorse is able to avoid this disease that plagues most action films. It feels like a throwback to classic 80s and 90s action films, with the film taking plenty of inspiration from Slyvester Stallone or Steven Seagal movies. It can feel a little too similar to other films at times and doesn’t provide anything new for the genre, but it can still be an entertaining ride. The fight choreography is thrilling to watch and looks realistic, which is, unfortunately, saying a lot when discussing modern action films. The best part about the action is that everything is filmed with wide, focused shots, allowing you to see everything being put on screen. Shaky-cam doesn’t plague the film as it does with countless others, most recently Mortal Kombat. Although the action never feels fresh or original—since it sticks with the traditional hand-to-hand combat and gun violence—it’s still able to keep all these scenes feeling exhilarating and entertaining. Subpar storytelling Aside from the action, everything else is bland and sometimes poor. The story is predictable and feels like any other political, espionage action film. With a script written by Taylor Sheridan and Will Staples—the first being the same writer behind incredible films like Sicario, Hell or High Water, and Wind River—it was upsetting to see the story be this weak. The film does move quickly and never lets you catch your breath, so by constantly keeping the action moving, you can almost forget about the subpar story. Every great action movie has a great action hero, but sadly Without Remorse lacks that as well. Clark is not well written or developed, but is still a character you can latch on to. Michael B. Jordan gives an acceptable performance, but it feels a bit bland at times. Clark doesn’t develop much throughout the film and stays the same rage-filled character he is from the beginning. His motivation is understandable and allows audiences to care for him, but beyond having his pregnant wife killed, the film doesn’t give you much else to grasp onto. Perhaps if they carry on with the sequels (which an end credit scene suggests that they are setting up a franchise), they can develop his character more. Thrilling filmmaking As mentioned before, the action sequences are handled well. A major issue in action films is the over-saturation of shaky-cam and quick-cut editing. The action is filmed with wonderful wide shots that allow you to see everything. Jordan also appeared to have done much, if not all, of the stunt work himself, which helps make the action more believable. There are no action sequences that stand out as some of the greatest put to film, but there are many memorable well-shot scenes. For example, in one scene, Clark fights off guards in a jail cell, which was well-choreographed and executed. The punches and kicks looked real and messy, as if it wasn’t practiced and was occurring naturally. There are also many long takes with few cuts. In a time when many action films are filled with countless quick cuts and poor editing, it was refreshing to see a film provide well-made action sequences. A downfall for the film was the lack of creativity. The film repeated certain styles of sequences to the point of feeling like the filmmakers didn’t have any other ideas. For example, there are multiple car accident scenes. One, in particular, follows Clark lighting a car on fire and interrogating a person inside while it burns. Another shows Clark interrogating someone in a vehicle while underwater, and yet another scene revolves around a sinking vehicle. The action also never changes and sticks with the traditional physical and gun action. If you go into the film aware that it’s a standard action film with some well-choreographed and directed action, you’ll most likely have a fun time. Sources: Novel Suspects, USA Today, IMDB, IMDB Images: Polygon, The Patriot Ledger, Collider Featured Image: Collider
By Mason Kupiainen Netflix has been one of the best distributors when it comes to television. Many of the most talked-about series usually are originals from the streaming giant. However, Netflix does not have the same track record of quality when it comes to their original films. They release a few gems now and then, including films like The Trial of the Chicago 7, Hillbilly Elegy, The Old Guard, and The Devil All the Time. Like Project Power or Thunder Force, many of their high-profile films usually turn out to be some of the worst films of the year. However, Stowaway walks the line by being a mixture of excellent and poor filmmaking. Stowaway follows a three-person crew on a two-year mission to Mars. On the ship, they discover an accidental stowaway and cannot turn back around to Earth. After his discovery, the ship’s commander learns that their supplies and resources are only suited for three people, their morals begin to be tested. Lackluster characters Anna Kendrick and Toni Collette, the two leads for the film, are typically excellent other roles. Whether or not it was the writing or their performances, probably a mixture of the two, their characters were uninteresting. Rounding this short cast, Shamier Anderson and Daniel Dae Kim seem like great performers, but their characters lack substance. They are the only two characters given a backstory, but they still were unable to be compelling. The four were unable to elevate the material they were given and make the characters enjoyable through their performances. Their characters were not terrible, but it was difficult to find a reason to latch on to any of them. Since only two of the characters were given the bare minimum for their backstories, it was difficult to truly fear for them during the tense moments. Part of the reason why these characters were flat was the dialogue. Even though the movie is almost two hours, there are not many moments where they’re allowed to talk about themselves. The few moments they were given were dull and developed the characters poorly. Whenever the characters are discussing the situation at hand, the dialogue here is boring as well. It fails to add suspense or reflect the character's development. Beautiful filmmaking The film shines with the work done behind the camera. Since most of the film takes place within close confinements, it was great to see the filmmakers get creative with what they had to work with. The camera work felt very smooth, with many memorable moments filmed in one continuous shot. The framing of the shots also helped to give the feeling of living in close confinements and add to the intensity of the situation. Once the characters have to start handling things outside the ship, the visuals were stunning. They were able to get multiple shots that would make for beautiful still images. There is a scene that revolves around radiation that was visually stunning with its use of color. The final shot of the film is also stunning and ended the film on a friendly note. It was able to convene the sorrow of the scene while adding beauty to the moment. Beyond the technical aspects, the story is a mixed bag. Like mentioned before, the characters could have been crafted better. If they were, it probably would have elevated the film considerably. However, the story can provide intense, powerful moments, but also drag in many areas. The beginning of the film is slow with its set-up and character development. Although the beginning tries to introduce the characters and story, it felt clunky and dull with the route it takes. Once the tension of the situation begins to build, the film switches into an edge of your seat thriller, but only for a short while. Some scenes provide plenty of suspense, while others go back to the dull moments that plagued the beginning. Although the story questions the characters’ morality, it is still confusing to see where they stand. The film also never truly presses them with this issue or allows the audience to see them struggle with it. The conclusion also continues to be a mixed bag. It provides a heartfelt moment, but also feels lackluster. It is almost like the film was building to nothing and simply unravels in the end. It became unclear what the film’s true message is, if there even is supposed to be one. Although it is a touching ending, it seemed as if the filmmakers did not want to compromise any character development but still wanted a bitter-sweet ending, so they took a strange way to achieve this. Perhaps if they had tacked on an extra 20 minutes to the film to expand upon numerous areas, they could have achieved a superior conclusion. As it stands, it works at the moment, but lessens in value as you reflect on it. Sources: IMDB (The Trial of the Chicago 7), IMDB (Hillbilly Elegy), IMDB (The Old Guard), IMDB (The Devil All the Time), IMDB (Project Power), IMDB (Thunder Force) Images: Los Angeles Times, Netflix Featured Image: IMDB
During its seven-season run, Sons of Anarchy became one of, if not the most, successful series on FX, gaining a massive following along the way. With the popularity of the show, it is no surprise that a spin-off series, Mayans M.C., was put into development. Season three recently premiered on FX, however, the original creator of the Sons of Anarchy universe, Kurt Sutter, was fired after Disney took over the brand. Before his departure, Sutter had other projects in the works that now possibly won’t come into fruition.
The opinions and views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the opinion of Byte or Byte’s editorial board.
By Mason Kupiainen Melissa McCarthy’s career feels like it is going down the same path as Adam Sandler’s. She started with a few gems, including Bridesmaids and Spy. Then—for some reason—she started appearing in awful projects like The Happytime Murders, Ghostbusters, and The Kitchen. One aspect that has made many of her films bad has been her performances. Like Sandler, McCarthy has taken on the shtick of being the loud, obnoxious, annoying, and idiotic character. It worked in Spy, but that type of character hasn’t worked for her in any of her other comedies. McCarthy’s latest comedy brings her gimmick to the superhero genre in what might be labeled her worst performance and film yet. Thunder Force takes place in a world with superpowered individuals. When Emily (Octavia Spencer) creates a treatment that gives ordinary people superpowers, Lydia (Melissa McCarthy) accidentally gets injected and develops super strength. Lydia’s friend, Emily, starts the treatment as well, developing the power of invisibility, and the two must team up to stop a dangerous villain. Although the Thunder Force trailer wasn’t promising, having Spencer as one of the leads was promising since she generally picks great projects. However, Thunder Force turned out to be worse than it appeared. A comedy without humor The main priority of any comedy should be to make the audience laugh. Unlikable characters, a horrible story, and cringy dialogue can be forgiven if the movie can make you laugh. McCarthy has proven herself to be a great comedic actress in Bridesmaids and Spy, but the comedy here goes for the low-brow, uncomfortable, and cringy humor. The humor switches from McCarthy’s usual screaming and obnoxious comedy style to drawing out what should have been a quick joke into a full scene of focusing on one joke. For example, there’s a scene where McCarthy makes a joke about Steve Urkel, which then gets drawn out into a scene where no one understands the joke and her imitating Urkel. The same thing is done a little bit later with a joke about Jodie Foster. The humor was more uncomfortable to watch than it was funny. Almost all the characters are unlikeable in the film. With the exception of Emily’s daughter, Tracy, who was the most level-headed of all the characters; everyone else is too annoying to like. McCarthy basically plays herself: the screaming and wailing, over-the-top unpleasant person. She has given some awful performances in films like Tammy and The Boss, but her character is too obnoxious and annoying to care about. The film even has two great actors, Spencer and Jason Bateman, and still isn’t able to have any likable characters. Spencer’s performance is poor, and her character lacks any substance. Although the film takes place in a world with superheroes, Bateman’s character felt odd within the film as his character has crab claws for arms. It didn’t add any humor to the film and didn’t fit within the world they set up. Spotty action The action in the movie is a mixed bag. Some action sequences were terrible, while other scenes were well-handled and entertaining. The final fight of the film is thrilling for the most part and has some great moments. It takes place within an office building, and they’re able to integrate their surroundings into the fight. Some of the other action scenes try to add awful humor into them by making jokes throughout the fights. During these sequences, the humor throws the scene off and makes what could have been thrilling action into a mess of a scene. A great element of many superhero films is the villain. Characters like the Joker, Thanos, Mr. Glass, and Loki have helped improve their films. The villain in Thunder Force, The King, doesn’t have any of the elements that made villains like those great. He was your typical, run-of-the-mill villain who doesn’t have any depth and comes off as simply an evil villain who must be stopped. From a filmmaking aspect, this movie doesn’t provide anything worthwhile. There weren’t any creative shots or scenes that were well handled. It all felt fundamental and cookie-cutter. Nothing ever felt intentional or the director trying to make a creative decision but rather felt like an average person trying to make a movie. Having some creative work behind the camera could have made some scenes more interesting; instead, you’re left with every scene feeling lifeless. Sources: YouTube Images: Den of Geek, Chicago Tribune Featured Image: TV Insider
by Mason KupiainenDuring its seven-season run, Sons of Anarchy became one of, if not the most, successful series on FX, gaining a massive following along the way. With the popularity of the show, it is no surprise that a spin-off series, Mayans M.C., was put into development. Season three recently premiered on FX, however, the original creator of the Sons of Anarchy universe, Kurt Sutter, was fired after Disney took over the brand. Before his departure, Sutter had other projects in the works that now possibly won’t come into fruition. Sutter has mentioned in the past that he envisioned the SOA mythology to revolve around four shows. Two of the shows have happened with Sons of Anarchy and Mayans M.C., but the future of the remaining two is up in the air. Beyond television, there have been books that were in the works as well that would help flesh out the world of SAMCRO.
by Mason Kupiainen and Blake ChapmanThe opinions and views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the opinion of Byte or Byte’s editorial board.[caption id="" align="alignright" width="290"] Image from CNET[/caption]There have been countless “versus” movies where studios pin two popular characters against one another. Aliens vs. Predator, Freddy vs. Jason, and Batman vs. Superman are some of the most notable ones, with Godzilla vs. Kong being added to that ever-growing list. Between these two titans, who is the reigning champion?
The one-year anniversary of theaters closing has come and gone, and yet things have not gone back to normal. Many theaters have reopened their doors, but studios including Disney, Universal, and Sony have been reluctant to release their major blockbusters in the hopes of being able to have a normal theatrical release after the pandemic subsides.
Ever since Disney purchased 20th Century Fox, one question swirling around has been how Marvel will implement the Fantastic Four, Deadpool, and the X-Men into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Information about the Fantastic Four was revealed at the Disney executive meeting in December 2020, revealing that they hired Jon Watts, director of Spider-Man: Homecoming, Spider-Man: Far From Home, and Spider-Man: No Way Home, to helm the project. News on the state of Deadpool has also been announced, revealing both the writers and that the third film will still hold an R rating. However, news on the state of the X-Men has remained silent, until now.
by Mason Kupiainen The one-year anniversary of theaters closing has come and gone, and yet things have not gone back to normal. Many theaters have reopened their doors, but studios including Disney, Universal, and Sony have been reluctant to release their major blockbusters in the hopes of being able to have a normal theatrical release after the pandemic subsides. Two major theater markets, Los Angeles and New York, have been closed since the lockdown began, leading most of the dominant studios to hesitate dropping their major films. When theaters began opening in August of 2020, a few big releases were dropped, to quite disappointing numbers. Warner Brothers released their sizable tent-pole film, Tenet, without LA or New York theaters opening, and the film was still only able to gather $363 million at the worldwide box office. The New Mutants and Unhinged were also released both of which only reaped disappointing box office numbers.
by Mason KupiainenEver since Disney purchased 20th Century Fox, one question swirling around has been how Marvel will implement the Fantastic Four, Deadpool, and the X-Men into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Information about the Fantastic Four was revealed at the Disney executive meeting in December 2020, revealing that they hired Jon Watts, director of Spider-Man: Homecoming, Spider-Man: Far From Home, and Spider-Man: No Way Home, to helm the project. News on the state of Deadpool has also been announced, revealing both the writers and that the third film will still hold an R rating. However, news on the state of the X-Men has remained silent, until now.A recent rumor has suggested that Marvel will be naming the first X-Men film The Mutants. Whether they will still be called the X-Men within the film has yet to be revealed. Although many fans may be hesitant about the name change, there are a few things that suggest this may be an ideal change for the franchise.
By Mason Kupiainen After ruling the box office with Avengers: Endgame, the Russo Brothers moved away from the Marvel Cinematic Universe to take on smaller, more niche projects. While they produced 21 Bridges and wrote the screenplay for Extraction, Cherry is their first directorial project since their string of Marvel films. Cherry follows the corruption of Nico Walker (Tom Holland), a war medic turned drug addict, to cope with his PTSD. While his relationship with his wife falls apart, they both turn to drugs to cope with their pain, leading them down a dark path. This path takes Walker into robbing banks to pay off the debt he’s gained while fueling his and his wife’s drug addiction. Rough first half Each of the Marvel entities the Russo’s directed, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Captain America: Civil War, Avengers: Infinity War, and Avengers: Endgame, showed off their unique approach to action and visualization. All four of the films were beautifully shot and well-directed, and that skill translates over into Cherry. However, it felt as if the Russo’s were desperately trying to show off their artistry skills while trying to shed the innocence the Disney brand brought them. Although the book is dripping in dread, the film felt as if they made every attempt to expose the dark and grim nature more to shock the audience. The film is a dark, dread-fueled ride that shows the hopelessness of Walker’s life, but it does so in a way that’s unappealing to watch. Along with this, Holland’s performance is similar to the Russo’s, since he’s become synonymous with playing Spider-Man, it felt as if he, too, was making every move to present himself as a darker and more dramatic actor. His last performance in The Devil All the Time took this similar approach, but he was more subtle with his performance and could disappear into the role. In Cherry, he completely subjects himself to the cruelness of Walker’s character and doesn’t give a believable performance in the first half of the film. When the movie moves past the college and military years of his life around the halfway mark, Holland’s performance surprisingly improves. He was able to pull off the PTSD suffering war vet while executing the drug addict as well. Overall, he still felt heavily miscast in the role as he doesn’t present himself as an edgy and hardened criminal. He lacks shedding his youthful charm he’s known to have, leaving him being another distracting element. Artistry gone wrong In terms of consistency, the film is a complete mess. As mentioned before, it felt as if the Russo’s were trying to demonstrate their skills in this film. Without the restraints of Disney and Marvel Studio’s president Kevin Fiege, it felt as if they were given complete creative control, which turned out to be an issue. One of the major issues is the use of fourth-wall breaking. A few times throughout the film, Holland will turn to the camera to give a monologue or give a quick comment to the audience, but it’s used so sparingly that whenever it happens, it feels strange. The film will also change aspect ratio and color grading, adding to the film’s odd creative choices. There are also these oddball moments that felt like bizarre choices for this type of film. For example, there’s a moment in the film during the training sequences where the doctor is examining him, and we get a shot from inside Holland's butt as the doctor does his examination. Decisions like these made for uncomfortable and weird moments that didn’t fit in line with the film’s tone. Most of these creative decisions are well presented, but they’re executed so oddly that it becomes distracting throughout the entire film. Along with the odd creative choices, there are many elements in the film that made it feel like the filmmakers were trying to adapt elements of the book that don’t work for the film. For example, the book will pause to explain the background of a character to set up certain elements. With many characters in the film, they will be introduced but don’t hold much value in the context of the film. They are given quick cuts to give some useless information on those characters and end up being throwable moments. With the film being about two and a half hours, it would have helped trim down the bloated run-time and make the film more tightly packed. Similarly to how a book will explain information to the audience, the movie relies on voice-over way too much. This method of presenting information could have been the Russo’s trying to be more creative and artsy with their work, but it simply came off as a lazy approach to present information without showing it. Most of these elements could be forgiven if the story and script were exceptional, yet the film lacks in this region as well. The film often cuts away and moves quickly past interesting moments of his life, and lingers too much in the duller aspects. Since the movie moves past certain elements too quickly, it will gloss over characters that become important later on, yet when the film asks you to care about these moments, they did a lazy job setting it up so that it falls apart. The film is juggling too many elements and jumping around so that you cannot grab hold of anything, leading to the film feeling distant and lifeless. Sources: Box Office Mojo, IMDB (21 Bridges), IMDB (Extraction), IMDB (Cherry) Images: Variety, IGN Featured Image: YouTube
The opinions and views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the opinion of Byte or Byte’s editorial board.
by Mason KupiainenThe opinions and views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the opinion of Byte or Byte’s editorial board. Over the past decade, we’ve seen an increase in female directors given the opportunity to direct more high-profile projects including Wonder Woman, Charlie's Angels, Captain Marvel, and Mulan. Other films like Booksmart, Little Women, and The Babadook get high praise for their quality, as well as being directed by women. However, there have been many other great films from previous decades that were helmed by women that were exceptional, and maybe even better than ones directed today. However, they have not received the same praise or been even mentioned when discussing films directed by women.
In recent years, Stephen King has been shifting away from the strange and horror genres. Books like The Outsider and If It Bleeds still implement horror and bizarre elements, but it’s beginning to feel as if these elements have been placed on the backburner. He's been fixated on the crime, mystery, and detective genres with novels such as the Mr. Mercedes trilogy and The Outsider. King has released novels under the Hard Case Crime imprint, books intended to catch the feel of classic pulp fiction and noir novels, beginning with The Colorado Kid and Joyland. King once again returns to Hard Case Crimes with Later.
By Mason Kupiainen In recent years, Stephen King has been shifting away from the strange and horror genres. Books like The Outsider and If It Bleeds still implement horror and bizarre elements, but it’s beginning to feel as if these elements have been placed on the backburner. He's been fixated on the crime, mystery, and detective genres with novels such as the Mr. Mercedes trilogy and The Outsider. King has released novels under the Hard Case Crime imprint, books intended to catch the feel of classic pulp fiction and noir novels, beginning with The Colorado Kid and Joyland. King once again returns to Hard Case Crimes with Later. Later follows Jamie Conklin, who has the ability to talk to the dead, but with minor exceptions. When asked a question, the dead have to give him the truth, and these ghosts can only stay around a few days until passing on. Jamie lives with his single mother, who’s a struggling editor. Once her bestselling author dies without finishing his final novel, she uses Jamie to talk with the deceased author to finish the book. His mother’s detective girlfriend, Liz, struggles to believe he has this ability while drawing him into a case with the hopes of stopping a deceased serial killer who left behind one final surprise. King at his finest One of the best aspects of King is his approach to bizarre and outlandish ideas. Novels like Pet Sematary, The Shining, and It perfectly showcase his ability to take strange concepts and turn them into some of literature’s finest works. Later follows this same idea with having a concept that might sound similar to The Sixth Sense but approaches it differently. The concept is structured in a way so that it feels fresh and unique. Since it is a Hard Case Crime novel, the book has a quick and speedy pace; these novels tend to be shorter than King’s usually lengthy tomes. Unlike some of King’s other works, like Pet Sematary and The Stand that linger around in some areas, Later gets to the point right from the start and never slows down. The story also bleeds in and out of different smaller stories that connect to the overall tale. It begins with Jamie’s mother trying to finish the dead author’s novel before leading into the small crime portion of the book. Both of these then lead into the actual meat of the story. The book also makes use of its title by incorporating multiple layers. The word “later” holds many meanings and is used continuously throughout, without ever feeling repetitive. For example, the story is told from a first-person perspective, with Jamie reflecting on his life. On almost every page, Jamie will point out something that might seem minor now which comes into play “later” or mention a subtle detail he didn’t catch until “later.” For being published under the Hard Case Crime series, it was surprising to find that Later wasn’t a crime novel. There are crime elements sprinkled throughout, and for the exception of a minor section of the book, there isn’t much detective work. The focus on horror instead of the detective work is a detour from The Colorado Kid and Joyland — both released under Hard Case Crimes. However, Later turned out to be the best of the three by improving upon many aspects. Later feels less like King trying to force his style into a genre that can’t support it and instead feels like a stereotypical King novel. And, of course, you can’t have a King novel without references to the larger King universe. Fans of his work will enjoy the connections to the rest of his universe. From small references to a novel like The Shawshank Redemption to major plot elements taken from It, this tale was almost like a Where’s Waldo? for King fans. Maybe later Later does struggle from some elements that feel like a result of King’s age. The dialogue and actions at times when Jamie was younger did not feel natural to how kids are today. Although King is notorious for capturing the essence of children within his books — most notably It and The Body (adapted into the film Stand By Me) — Later feels almost as if King is too far removed from his youth to portray children perfectly. The way the story follows Jamie growing up was done well for being a shorter book, but it still has its minor missteps here and there. Something annoying that King has usually been good at leaving to the wayside is talk of politics. King’s never been afraid to add monologues about topics and ideas within his books, but he usually tries to avoid putting his political beliefs within his work. Even though Later doesn’t contain many examples of this, it was annoying at certain points when the story felt as if it paused to present his views on the political climate. Perhaps if these elements were better woven into the story, so they didn’t stick out like a sore thumb, it would have appeared less intrusive. However, in the beginning, there are certain points where it felt as if King was sacrificing the characters to force political drama that did not feel natural to how the characters were introduced. Since the book revolves around the young boy being able to talk to the dead, this ties in with the theme of secrets. Countless times throughout the story, disturbing secrets are revealed about characters, tying into a theme that some secrets are better left unknown. This concept works well for most of the secrets, except for one. A mystery that haunts Jamie is who his father is because his mother refuses to tell him. Once his identity is revealed in the end, it works with the theme of leaving secrets alone. It does feel like King went a little too far because most will wish they hadn’t learned the answer to this particular question. Sources: Hard Case Crime, IMDB Featured Image: GameSpot
After a year without many blockbusters, it seems like studios are being forced to start releasing their more high-profile works. Warner Brothers has been doing this recently with films like Wonder Woman 1984, The Little Things, and Tom & Jerry. Now, Disney follows Warner Bros.’s similar concept of releasing films on their streaming services on the same day they drop in theaters. However, Disney is taking a different approach by including a premium charge on top of requiring a subscription to their service.
By Mason Kupiainen After a year without many blockbusters, it seems like studios are being forced to start releasing their more high-profile works. Warner Brothers has been doing this recently with films like Wonder Woman 1984, The Little Things, and Tom & Jerry. Now, Disney follows Warner Bros.’s similar concept of releasing films on their streaming services on the same day they drop in theaters. However, Disney is taking a different approach by including a premium charge on top of requiring a subscription to their service. Raya and the Last Dragon takes place in a fantasy land where humans and dragons once cohabited together. Once monsters began turning humans and dragons into stone, the dragons sacrificed themselves to save humanity. An orb that protected humanity from the monsters after the dragons left is broken, and it’s up to Raya to go on a journey to find the last dragon.
By Mason Kupiainen It’s been well over a year since we’ve received the last bit of Marvel content. Ever since Spider-Man: Far From Home was released in July of 2019, there’s been a year and five-month drought of Marvel films and television. With Black Widow, Eternals, and The Falcon and the Winter Soldier all getting bumped, WandaVision became our first look into where Phase Four of Marvel will go. WandaVision follows Wanda and Vision after the events of Avengers: Endgame, where they find themselves within a sitcom reality. As the show progresses, more and more strange things begin to occur as the truth is slowly peeled back. A great first step Although WandaVision was originally going to be released after Black Widow, The Eternals, and The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, it oddly felt like a natural introduction to Phase Four. Since the show takes place within weeks after the events of Avengers: Endgame, audiences can witness various aspects of how Thanos’ actions have impacted lives. Spider-Man: Far From Home gave a glimpse of this, but it mostly was played off for comedy. WandaVison, however, takes the effects of The Snap and shows how both the people who survived those five years and those who disappeared are struggling to cope with billions of people suddenly returning from the dead. Marvel also set up the show to introduce characters who’ll have bigger roles in the future. One of the characters involved in this series, Monica Rambeau, daughter of Maria Rambeau, makes her introduction as an adult in this series after being introduced as a child in Captain Marvel. The character will continue on in future projects, most notably Captain Marvel 2, so getting to follow and understand the character in this series was a great set up for her future character. Giving Wanda the spotlight in the series allowed viewers to understand the deeper struggle of the character. Ever since her introduction in Avengers: Age of Ultron, we’ve understood that her character is deeply broken ever since her parents and brother were killed. Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War solidified that she was heading down an unstable path; however, the character has officially been broken to her core now, leading her to desperately do whatever she can to reverse the tragic events of her past. Her character arc led to many mysteries surrounding the show, including how Vision is back after being killed off in Avengers: Infinity War. These mysteries became a driving force behind the show since the slow pace kept audiences trailing behind. Marvel’s first mystery As mentioned, there are many mysteries within this show. Some of them include why they are living in a sitcom, how is Vision alive, and how does Wanda have children? With the show being nine episodes, it was able to creatively and steadily build its mystery. This could throw some off since the first three episodes are traditional sitcom episodes, with a few clues sprinkled throughout hinting at what’s to come. Audiences expecting to see the traditional style of action and humor of Marvel films could be frustrated with this, but those who can stick with it and allow the story to unfold will be rewarded with an excellent and bizarre show that has never been done before. Despite the incredible storytelling, there are a few drawbacks to the series. One of the issues that affected The Mandalorian was carried over into this series, and that’s the length of the episodes. There are countless episodes where it felt as if they could have tacked on an extra 10 or 15 minutes to allow the story to breathe a little, instead of trying to cram a truckload of information into a short 30-minute episode. So far, with Disney’s shows, it feels as if they’re simply being cheap and won’t allow for longer episodes. With the blend of sitcom and normal Marvel storytelling, there are too many episodes where the writers rush both of these elements. Leaning closer to having hour-long episodes would allow the sitcom aspects to play out while allowing the other storylines to carry on and develop further. Another gripe against the show was having odd and frustrating misdirects that might leave viewers furious. For example, Quicksilver’s character is reintroduced in this film after being killed off in Avengers: Age of Ultron. However, the actor playing him wasn’t Aaron Taylor-Johnson, but instead Evan Peters, the actor who played the character in the X-Men films. With Doctor Strange 2 having the title In the Multiverse of Madness, it was exciting to see Peters play the role, since his interpretation was superior to Johnson’s, but the revelation of the character felt like a punch to the gut for fans of the Marvel Universe, as well as the X-Men films. Slow starter Around episode four, the series kicks into high gear and ends satisfyingly. However, the first two episodes were a rough start. Since those episodes reflected classic sitcoms so well, it felt odd to start the series off like that. Little to no context is given as to what’s happening, leaving you confused about what you’re watching. Except for a quick moment here or there where you see that there’s something strange happening, you’re left watching a standard episode from the 50s and 60s. Episode three, “Now In Color”, reflects the 70s and progressed the story further, but was still left feeling very slow. Audiences who don’t have the patience to watch three episodes until the roof is blown off in episode four will probably drop out. However, those who can push through this slow start will be rewarded with an explosive ending. Sources: IMDB (Spider-Man: Far From Home), Vox, IMDB (Captain Marvel II), IMDB (WandaVision) Images: Den of Geek, SuperHeroHype, Entertainment Weekly Featured Image: Review Geek