We Need to Talk – Iron Fist

Look, everyone, we need to talk.

So Iron Fist, the latest in Marvel’s series of Netfllix shows, is not very good. It starts out at a 3 and gradually achieves a semi-solid. And honestly, that’s OK. Marvel is allowed to put out something that’s not terrific, and no one can genuinely complain about Iron Fist’s quality when Guggenheim’s masturbatory fanfiction that is Arrow is still on the air. The quality of Iron Fist, while below Marvel’s usual standards, is not inherently offensive and thus is not the reason we need to talk.

The show’s treatment of mental healthcare, on the other hand, is another subject entirely.

As early as episode 2, Iron Fist throws itself into the fire of mental healthcare by using a psychiatric hospital—well, at least what they’re telling us is a psychiatric hospital—as its major setting. This was a bold move, and I was initially excited to see this move since mental illness has previously only been hinted at in passing in Marvel projects with few exceptions. However, as the episode proceeded, my excitement slowly wore away and yielded to disappointment and bemusement at just how inaccurate their portrayal of mental healthcare turned out. The show has been out for a while now, so I have been growing more and more surprised at the fact that no one else seems to have noticed how poorly this subject matter was handled. This is why I’m writing this article, my friends.

We need to talk about mental healthcare.

For some background, I am a mental healthcare professional–bachelors pursuing a masters pursuing a doctorate in clinical and forensic psychology. I have worked at a psychiatric hospital for a year, and my work and volunteer experience with the mentally ill total well over three years. I like to think I know my stuff respectably well. I also think that the writers for Iron Fist emphatically do not know their stuff. So just what was so inaccurate about Iron Fist’s portrayal of a psychiatric hospital that I found so upsetting? Well, here we go (SPOILERS for early episodes of Iron Fist).

I’m pretty sure that initial scene in the hospital speaks for itself, but let’s recap for fun. We find our protagonist Danny Rand strapped down to a table in an isolation room while a man in a white lab coat speaks to him, presumably a doctor. This man then tries to kill Danny, and we learn that he was actually a fellow patient who stole a doctor’s coat and snuck into a seclusion room holding a restrained patient.

If I had a week to explain everything wrong with this scene, it wouldn’t be enough time. So let’s act like Kanye West and hit the highlights: in a real psych hospital, patients would not have been able to get a doctor’s lab coat. Those things aren’t just lying around. They’re, you know, being worn by doctors. Also, patients would not be able to get into other rooms that easily. Rooms not meant for patient entry are locked. Understandably so, seclusion rooms are definite no-fly zones for patients to walk into, especially with a damn patient currently inside of one. By the way, patients are rarely restrained, and if they are, they are not left unsupervised. At psych hospitals, we intensely care about our patients, and patient safety is the absolute top priority. Basically, think the exact opposite of this scene where orderlies—not licensed nurses or doctors, orderlies—stab Danny in the neck—you know, where arteries lie—with medicine to knock him out without checking to see if he’s harmed after just having a metal fork (hmm, how’d that end up in a psych hospital) shoved in his neck. I personally think that’s a little unsafe, but what would a humble man with actual clinical experience know?

I can’t talk about this scene without mentioning that Danny is in a seclusion room in restraints for safety purposes yet still has a lamp to keep him company. A lamp, for those who don’t know, can be used as a blunt object for bludgeoning and has a cord that can be used for strangling. But it’s understandably just sitting there chilling with a dangerous supposedly psychotic man. Eh, semantics.

While this opening scene is the most blatantly ridiculous portrayal of psychiatric care, it is not the only incidence. I personally couldn’t go more than 5-10 minutes watching it without pausing to rub my temples and question how low their research budget was to so poorly reproduce mental healthcare in America. Openly aggressive patients are left to freely intermix with confused and victimized patients. Danny, despite being considered extremely dangerous, is left alone with a doctor in his office full of electronics and ways to hurt himself or others. Orderlies are charged with giving medications despite the national standard being licensed nursing professionals. Readers, a damn straight jacket is used. Let us dispel this myth here and now: straight jackets are not a modern staple of psychiatric care. In all my clinical experience, I have never even seen a straight jacket, let alone used one on a patient.

Now, I’m sure many of you are wondering why any of this matters. Sure, the portrayal of psychiatric care is flawed and inaccurate, but what’s the big deal?

Because mental illness, unlike Iron Fist, is real.

Some people are legitimately ill. And unfortunately, some people are so severely ill that they have to be institutionalized, some for only a little and some for a very long time. By making their portrayal of mental illness and mental healthcare so scary and flawed, Marvel has perpetuated the stigma that the mentally ill already face every single day and has contributed to one of the most dangerous lies of our society: it’s not safe to seek help.

The patients in Iron Fist had it all figured out. Once you get a diagnosis, you’re there for good. The psych hospital is your new home, and you’ll be incredibly lucky if you ever leave and get to see your family again. If you don’t take anything else from this article, please understand this: nothing is further from the truth. As soon as we get a new patient, there are as many as 30 different people working together to get that person stabilized, keep them safe, and send them home in a better emotional and psychological place than they were when they arrived. Patients receive three meals a day and additional snacks, are allowed outside as long as it is a safe environment, and are offered classes and activities to improve their health and quality of life inside and outside of the hospital. And believe me, there is nothing we hate more than when patients have to stay any longer than the minimum length required for their case.

If I were undergoing severe psychological distress, Iron Fist’s portrayal of mental healthcare would scare me away from ever seeking clinical help. Honestly, the way the show fetishizes homelessness and demonizes mental healthcare makes me question what point the show’s producers were really trying to convey. Is it better to live under a bridge dying of a drug overdose than to stay in a psychiatric hospital where you are fed, provided shelter and clothes, and are cared for by people seeking treatment and placement for you to improve your life? But then again, those qualities found in real facilities were nowhere to find in Iron Fist.

Perhaps the show’s rushed production is to be blamed. Perhaps Marvel didn’t have the time or resources to have people do actual research on psychiatric care or medications (by the way, thorazine is not a lobotomy drug. I actually had to stop the episode to laugh at how ridiculous and uninformed that line was). Perhaps there was a deeper meaning to the antiquated treatment of psych care that I didn’t quite get. Perhaps the show’s writers just had a ridiculously bad experience with a poorly run psych hospital that tainted their perception of healthcare. Whatever is to be blamed for the portrayal, the question remains: when are we going to stop glamorizing mental illness and start admitting that maybe scientists and doctors know more than we do?

This is not a new issue. From such media as Perks of Being a Wallflower and Twilight to such music as Lana del Ray and 21 Pilots to the demonization of mental healthcare by Iron Fist and Hannibal, society’s understanding of mental illness is so delusional that I can basically taste the irony (it tastes like blood and not-yet-ripe zucchini, by the way). Let me say this as a mental healthcare professional and friend to many with mental illnesses: psychological disorders are not beautiful. The people who suffer from them are. But the disorders themselves are a source of incredible pain and distress than need more specialized help than some BS artistic sense of superiority can provide.

If you struggle with mental illness, I hear you. And I want to tell you that it’s safe to seek help. Whether it be a licensed therapist, social worker, psychologist, psychiatrist, or psych hospital, you will be safe. Workers won’t go around blabbing your confidential information to anyone on the phone, and you won’t be left to rot in a padded room. And if you’re one of the many people who know someone with a mental illness, encourage them to find help. Be there for them, offer to go the therapy sessions with them, hold them accountable with their medication. They need friends during such trying times. And finally, if you’re one of the people who glamorize mental illness, who ridicule and demonize psychiatrists and mental healthcare, and who go out of their way to tell people that their suffering and suicidality are what makes them unique, then I have news for you. Your devotion to dramatic irony is hurting people, and you’re no better than the delusional preacher who tries to pray the gay away.

If you victimize the mentally ill like that, then you and me—we need to talk.

Always Forward. Forward, Always

I’ve stayed spoiler-free for this review, so enjoy!

Marvel’s Netflix offerings have brought comic book fans some of the best television they could’ve asked for. Daredevil has given us two seasons of gritty underworld crime mixed with ninja mysticism, and Jessica Jones—a character no one expected to see mark Marvel’s live action roster—has blessed us with a season’s worth of emotional weight and psychological thrill that has left us wanting more. Now, Marvel has given us Luke Cage, a character and show that proves to be just as high-quality contest as its Netflix brother and sister, if not a more unique tone and approach.

Luke Cage is an African-American superhero with super strength and unbreakable skin operating in New York. We last saw Luke in Jessica Jones, and this show finds him in his historic setting of Harlem, a historical and modern center of Black American culture. The show definitely uses such culture as a centerpiece for its plot and tone, and the political and social undertones of race found in the show are poignant yet never heavy-handed. Luke Cage is a show that does not shy away from its ethnic background and setting, and I personally applaud Netflix and Marvel for taking such an unabashed approach to one of the most high-profile Black comic book characters in history.

To start this review, let’s begin with the content of the show. Luke Cage offers an intricate plot involving a large circle of characters, and the narrative’s complexity outperforms that of any other Marvel shows we have seen so far. While some episodes favor dialogue and background information over action sequences, the show never feels boring or stagnant. Rather, the action sequences are utilized as a method of additional storytelling rather than a break from the narrative, thus establishing a dynamic story in which every character, scene, and dialogue exchange feeds each other smoothly and intriguingly. Narratively, Luke Cage may have the most well-executed plot out of all the Marvel Netflix shows so far.

We follow Luke through a journey of underground crime and political corruption as we witness a struggle for the city of Harlem. Crime lords Cottonmouth, Diamondback, and Domingo Colon struggle for power while futilely attempting to maintain relative peace. Meanwhile, politician Mariah Dillard works to restore Harlem and give its Black community more opportunity for success while working behind the scenes with dirty money and questionable business connections. As police officers Rafe Scarfe and Misty Knight work to solve a recent string of shootings and unearth criminal activity, Luke Cage finds himself caught in the middle as he just tries to live his life apart from all the violence and chaos. Cage offers an interesting contrast to Matt Murdock in Daredevil: While Murdock makes it his mission to help his city and defeat the corruption within it on both sides of the law, Cage simply wants to help the individual where he can but otherwise avoid the bigger conflicts altogether. The reluctant hero archetype is executed admirably in Luke Cage as we watch him transform from a quiet bystander to a powerful city guardian.

As we have come to expect from Marvel Studios, the casting is absolutely perfect. Mike Colter seems born to play Luke Cage. Alfre Woodard, Erik Harvey, and Mahershala Ali nail the various villains that they play, and Rosario Dawson delivers yet another stellar performance in the Marvel TV universe. Newcomer Simone Missick also shows incredible range in her role as the dynamic and complex Detective Misty Knight. I have no idea what the casting director for Marvel is being paid, but I don’t think it’s enough. Just like Daredevil, Jessica Jones, and the MCU, Luke Cage brings characters to life in a way that will make fans think they’ve walked right into a Luke Cage comic.

I would be remiss to not comment on the soundtrack for the show: Sweet Christmas, is the music perfect. From OG hip hop to soulful R&B to jazz to gospel, the music in Luke Cage captures perfectly the musical history and richness of Harlem and the Black community in America.

While the vast majority of what I have to say about Luke Cage is positive, it is not without its issues. The somewhat shaky camera work can be distracting at times, and while the fighting scenes are impressive, it is somewhat of a downgrade from the choreography we’ve come to expect from Daredevil. Obviously, one would not expect the same type of fighting from both characters considering Daredevil is trained in martial arts while Cage has military and boxing training, so the shift in style fits and makes sense. That being said, viewers expecting Daredevil level fighting choreography will not find it here. Without getting too into spoilers, I would have liked to have seen more from certain villains. By the end of the season, some characters seemed to have so much untapped potential that viewers may wonder why the writing did not go different way. However, to counteract this, the show does set up incredible possibilities for just about every character involved, so audiences may rest assured that they will leave Harlem an even more intriguing and active city than when they arrived.

Luke Cage is an excellent show. Narratively, it is perhaps the strongest Marvel show yet. Casting is as phenomenal as ever, and each episode is an exciting ride through a story that deeply respects the characters’ comic book histories while making them relevant to modern audiences. One thing that may turn off certain viewers is the social commentary present in the narrative, however. I have seen some critics and fans express dissatisfaction with the “heavy-handed” racial and political ideas in the show. While I respect those opinions, I also think that they are a little unfair and rather miss the point. This show takes place in Harlem, a city of such racial, historical, cultural, political, artistic, and social significance that to remove the Black commentary and culture from it would be to rob the setting of everything that it is. Yes, it is brought up repeatedly that Luke Cage is a Black bulletproof man wearing hoodie. Yes, several parallels can be drawn between the unrest in the show and the Black Lives Matter movement. But all of these things do not feel forced, out of place, or preachy; they feel real. Harlem is at the center of Black history and struggle; it is a big deal in the show that they have a Black bulletproof superhero because in reality, the community passionately desires protection from the violence, oppression, and chaos that is often a part of their daily lives. The show never polarizes the issues; rather, it does a service to its audience by showing just how complicated the issues really are. The police brutality and corruption in Luke Cage is shown from the angle of an angry wronged Black community but also from the perspective of an exhausted and uncertain police force. Gun violence is treated from lenses of both protection and potential violence; racial oppression and disadvantage is approached from angles of poverty, education, systematic privilege, and a host of other factors. One of the worst things people can do is simplify complex issues, and Luke Cage does an excellent job of making its audience think rather than forcing opinions onto them. Luke Cage is a character of Black pride and strength, and to ask the show to be anything else is not being true to the character’s history or the Black community at large.

Luke Cage is equal parts superhero action show, social commentary, comic book adaptation, and character study. Each character is examined from multiple angles to show their depth and complexity, and the social issues in the show are treated with equal honesty and skill. Luke Cage may be the strongest narrative entry in the Defenders mini-verse, and any comic book fan can enjoy the show regardless of familiarity with the characters. Luke Cage is more than an entertaining show; it is a source of cultural enrichment and thought-provoking social commentary that goes above and beyond the expectations for a show about superheroes. But then again, what else would we expect from the Savior of Harlem?

Now we got a hero for hire, And he’s a Black one.

Red Lanyard

Keep Your Hollywood Out of My Video Games

The other day, I finally got around to watching Warcraft, the latest film-adapted video game product of 2016. As video game adaptations go, I actually enjoyed it more than most productions in the genre. That, however, says much more about the adaptive medium at large than it says about Warcraft, considering the experience was overall rather mediocre. The visuals were phenomenal, but they were wasted on a slow-moving narrative with undeveloped characters and a lack of anything for the average viewer to really invest in. These criticisms lend themselves to an overall stance I have long felt but have been discouraged to share due to its apparent unpopularity: video games really shouldn’t be adapted to movies.

While I say this is an unpopular opinion, it is not totally unsupported. In fact, an entire podcast is devoted to such an idea, The Spinoff Doctors by Jim Sterling and Conrad Zimmerman which can be found here. While I understand fans of video games wanting to see their passion adapted to a more accessible medium like film, time and time again we have seen that the attempts simply don’t work. One need only watch Need for Speed or Bloodrayne to see what I mean. Even the more enjoyable “adaptations” end up bearing little resemblance to their source material (insert Zack Snyder-DC joke). The Resident Evil movies come to mind: while not necessarily good movies by any means, they can be fun zombie romps to enjoy. That being said, the finished product is a video game title with foreign characters and storylines. Alice, the protagonist of the film series and by far the most interesting and developed character, doesn’t even appear in the games. Now while it may sound like I’m a stickler for adaptations sticking exactly to the source material, my argument for video game adaptations is actually quite the opposite. But I’ll get to that later. At the time I’m writing this, Warcraft sits at a critics’ 30% on Rotten Tomatoes, and it had the largest production budget by far. Since something seems to be wrong with video game adaptations, one has to ask what’s happening?

In my opinion, the whole idea of adapting a video game narrative to film is inherently flawed. In order to show why, allow me to talk about how each medium works to provide escape and immersion for the consumer.

For movies, escapism and immersion are done through viewing the experience. Using the collaborative talents of actors, writers, directors, cinematographers, and a host of other trained and skilled professionals, films give their viewers a story that is convincing and/or thrilling, allowing consumers to get lost in the narrative and become absorbed in a story that they are passively participating in. Consumers are bystanders, and the product focuses on spectacle to immerse them.

Video games work on many of the same levels as do films, using voice actors, writers, and visual set pieces to create a sense of immersion. However, one of the things that video games offer that films do not is the opportunity for an observer to become an agent of the narrative rather than a recipient of it. Whereas the TV show Game of Thrones gives us an epic narrative with fantastic characters to follow , the video game Skyrim allows us to become a character and take an active part in the conflicts and adventures within the narrative. To compare the two mediums and try to say which one is objectively “better” is, in my opinion, a futile effort, for the two mediums provide a similar service of escapism in very different ways; the debate would take on an apples to oranges feel. However, efforts to blend the two mediums create some interesting results that offer much riper material for analysis and comparison.

Sometimes, creators want to blend movies into video games, and the best example I have to work with is the Uncharted series. To simply describe Uncharted as a video game cheapens the product and does do justice to what the games truly are. In all honesty, Uncharted games do not offer a lot in terms of strictly video games (hold your pitchforks, let me finish what I’m about to say). Take away the cinematography and set pieces, and you’re left with sporadic gunplay, extremely straightforward platforming, and puzzles added as an afterthought. However, the gaming experience is enriched immensely by the cinematic tone and visuals added to the game, allowing the player to feel like a real action hero in certain transitions. In this case, film and video games unite to offer a unique and special gaming experience (remember this paragraph for later in the article).

Now, when the two mediums attempt to blend the other way by adapting video game narratives to film, we start to see problems. Why? Because you immediately lose out on what the original experience was intended to be. Modern video games–as well as plenty of older games–are designed to put the player into the narrative as an active agent. When you take the consumer out of that role and water down the narrative into something that is just observed rather than lived, the product suffers. I was one of the people who were pumped for the Ratchet and Clank movie. After seeing it, I was pretty disappointed, and in hindsight I know why. I was bored watching a character do exactly what I had already done. Making an active narrative into a passive one only leaves gaming audiences bored and non-gaming audiences confused as to what all the hype was about.  Why would I want to watch Alice kill a ton of zombies when I could be killing them myself? Why watch an epic fantasy war when I could be a warrior in it? Sure, there are plenty of zombie and fantasy films that work on their own, but they were designed to be a received narrative, not an active narrative. To put it in more video game-oriented terms, why would I want to watch a Mass Effect movie in which Shepherd’s decisions are predetermined when I could be making galaxy-altering decisions myself? It’s like trying to fit a square block into a trapezoidal hole: close, but not quite the right fit.

So if video game narratives don’t work as directly adapted film narratives, should the union of the two mediums be totally abandoned? Absolutely not! Rather, the productions should seek a route more similar to Uncharted; that is, taking certain aspects of one medium to complement the film as a whole. Let me demonstrate this idea with my absolute favorite film-video game product: Wreck-It Ralph.

Wreck-It Ralph was not a video game adaptation; rather, it was a video game-based movie that carried itself on a new narrative. The movie utilized old arcade and video game references to create a unique atmosphere and please fans of such games while still creating a unique story that stood on its own as a good narrative. In other words, it borrowed from video games to complement its own cinematic goal. If we want video game adaptations, don’t adapt the narrative directly. Rather, use the video game’s settings and properties to create a unique storyline.

As a huge fan of the From Software games, I would love a Dark Souls/Bloodborne movie. Why? Because those games have enough lore in them to support an entire franchise of fantasy films without ever directly going into the games’ main storylines. Why do a movie about the Linker of the Flames when you can be that hero? Instead, do a film epic about the fall of New Londo. Give me a trilogy about the rise and fall of Knight Artorias. It would provide service to game fans while still offering a new narrative that non-players could understand and latch onto. As little faith that I have in Ubisoft, I must applaud them for doing a new adventure in their Assassin’s Creed movie rather than rehashing an old protagonist whose story has already been told. Want a Bioshock film? Cool, tell about what happened before the events of the first game. I already know what happened in Bioshock 1; I’m the one who made those things happen! By expanding video game universes rather than recycling old storylines, movies can provide a unique adventure to newcomers while still providing fan service to gamers.

I don’t know about you, but as a fan of video games I don’t want to pay $10 to just be told what I did. The whole reason I’m watching a movie is to be told about what someone else did. Case in point, if you’re trying to sell me on a Bioshock Infinite movie, spare me the game’s narrative. I was already Booker DeWitt. But I was never really Comstock.

Snarkalicious: A Look at E3 2016 – The…Sigh

To finish up my E3 segments, I bring you what I consider to be the failures of E3 2016. Sony and Nintendo had stellar conferences, giving us exciting new IPs and intriguing new entries into existing franchises. Bethesda and EA also had solid showings. While they lacked  the firepower they have had in the past, they brought some interesting announcements to the table without being overbearing. Then, we have  Microsoft and Ubisoft, showing that this year’s “soft” family was just as its name implies. And boring. And greedy. It was the soft-boring-greedy family. You know. Lots of divorces and what not.

Microsoft

If anyone thought that Microsoft was not totally money-hungry, E3 has hopefully shown them that such optimism is misplaced.

I would love to tell you about the new games that Microsoft announced at their conference, but for the life of me I can’t think of any. There was Deadrising 4 promising to be another remake of the first game, but other than that there was not much to speak of. Microsoft used this conference to announce its hardware journey, a journey whose willing travelers are few and far between.

The Xbox One S is the new slim version of Microsoft’s main console, thus showing that Microsoft is happy to take the cell phone trend of naming consoles from now on. I can’t wait to see the Xbox One Plus, the bulkier version of the Xbox One that is also not really designed to play video games.

Microsoft also announced Xbox Play Anywhere, a program allowing Xbox games to be played on Windows 10. Because God knows they were running out of ways to convince people to upgrade to Windows 10 almost as fast as they were running out of ways to convince people to not buy an Xbox One.

Finally, we have the bane of Xbox gamers’ wallets: the Xbox Project Scorpio, an elevated performance Xbox console supporting 4k gaming at 60fps as well as VR. The new console will allegedly be able to work with previous games on the lower-tier Xbox One, thus allowing gamers to keep their gaming libraries. Ya know, rather than the multi-hundred dollar console they bought the games for in the first place. Their last hardware announcement was that Xbox gamers can expect keyboard and mouse support for their console in the coming months, leaving a lot of us wondering why you wouldn’t just invest in a gaming PC at that point.

I may be in a minority on this one, but I cannot stand this new trend of churning out updated hardware to hit up gamers for more money every couple of years. E3 should have been an opportunity for Microsoft to convince people that their consoles are a smart investment, but this year’s conference did the exact opposite. Not only did it give people every reason to not buy a console (between Play Anywhere and Scorpio, why waste your money?), it also made moot any former purchases by Microsoft fans. Enjoying your Xbox One? Great, here’s a slimmer fancier version. Oh, and in case you got too attached to the idea of the Xbox One S, here’s an updated console to make your current consoles a thing of that past! Yay money!

I don’t want to sound like a PS4 fanboy by any means; I know that the PS4K is right around the corner. However, despite the fact that most AAA gaming companies see their consumers as no more than dollar signs, why was Microsoft the only one who didn’t even try to hide it at the biggest gaming convention in the world? To use a somewhat controversial comic book parallel, I can’t help but think of Microsoft gaming as a DC Rebirth situation: the new hardware is both too intimidating for new buyers because of the future uncertainty and absolutely insulting to the loyal fans who kept the original Xbox One afloat. For the life of me, I can’t figure out who this Scorpio business is for other than the executives at Microsoft.

Ubisoft

Good lord, here we go.

I don’t like Ubisoft. Anyone who has read any of my past video game pieces knows that. So I was actually hoping that Ubisoft’s press conference would be really good so that people don’t write this off as just me being me, sadistically enjoying ripping Ubisoft a new one. But this conference was worse than the offensively open-faced greed that was present at Microsoft’s conference. Ubisoft’s showing at this year’s E3 was absolutely…forgettable.

Their biggest headliners were a new Ghost Recon game, a new South Park game, some BS Trials sequel using bad 80s pop culture tropes as a gimmick, and a Star Trek VR game. Oh, and of course, some more footage of Watch Dogs 2. Because everyone was clamoring for a sequel. There is nothing at all that sticks out about this conference: the new Ghost Recon looks the same as the other entries in the series. The South Park game looks like it will be much like the last one, a fun little licensed game that fans of the show will enjoy but everyone else will forget about after a month or so. The Trials game is already out and costs an absurd $14.99 for a glorified on-the-rails motocross game. The Star Trek VR game is at least something new, but it looks to be one of the more mundane VR experiences to be expected in the coming year. And then there’s Watch Dogs 2, a sequel that looks practically the same as the last one with choppy gameplay footage and a cinematic trailer that couldn’t keep my attention if it cosplayed as Mr. Miracle and called me Big Barda.

This is the problem with Ubisoft as a company: it’s nothing new. They struck gold with Assassin’s Creed, so what did they do for years? Make a new annual entry. Time for a new IP? Let’s just give people an AC clone in Watch Dogs but feature a broken hacking system and a bland protagonist. Oh, time for E3? Screw it, let’s just show them the same damn games we’ve been making for years and hope nobody notices. The biggest travesty of this conference is that it could have stolen the show if it showed anything at all about Beyond Good and Evil 2. You know, the game their fans have been begging for since the PS2 days. The game that has seen scores of online petitions pleading with Ubisoft to just give their loyal fans what they want. But it falls on deaf ears as we get more of the same recycled gaming experience with the same lazy execution with the same insulting Day 1 DLC with the same broken Uplay system. Microsoft may only see its consumers as dollar signs, but one must ask after this year’s E3 if Ubisoft even sees their consumers at all.

Final Thoughts

You can’t help but compare and contrast the best and worst performances at E3. Look at Sony and Microsoft: with the former, we have a ton of new IPs, exciting and innovative projects, and a postponed new console reveal for the sake of trying to ease gamers into the young new VR world of gaming. With the latter, we have an utter absence of games paired with new hardware left and right getting shoved down our throats. If the console war is still happening, Microsoft just waged the last half of the Crusades on Sony: in an attempt to assert console dominance, they ended up humiliating themselves with the clear message that Xbox isn’t in it for the gamers anymore. And if this video game company isn’t in it for the gamers, then why the hell should we give a yearly installment of our hard-earned money for a the latest shiny new console hardware?

Now, let’s compare and contrast Nintendo and Ubisoft. Both did a similar thing: focused most of their presenting power on past franchises. The big thing separating the two conferences, however, is the fact that one of the companies actually gave a crap about what their fanbase wants. Sure, there are legitimate arguments that the new Legend of Zelda game should have come out years ago. However, at least we finally got what we wanted. It took a while, but Nintendo actually had the self-awareness to say, “OK, you all have been patient, and as a result we’ve got a product that we have worked really hard to make exceptional.” Then there’s Ubisoft, who wouldn’t listen to its consumers if their lives depended on it. To win at E3, you either have to do something different from someone else (Sony actually having games to show off compared to Microsoft’s hardware-heavy presentation) or do the same thing way better (Bethesda focusing on established products with more insight and style than EA). Ubisoft did none of these things, and as a result, people are hard pressed to even remember that the company was even there. This credits truth to the Aboriginal proverb, “Look before you leap, especially if you’re leaping onto a world stage where all you have to show off is cinematic trailers that you’ll cut half the properties from by the release date, you lazy taints.”

Snarkalicious: A Look at E3 2016 – The Good

In this second segment of Snarkalicious, we’ll be looking at the two companies whose conferences at E3 this year offered the most quality to gamers and investors alike. Sony hit all of its bases as far as games and hardware goes, and Nintendo left everyone speechless with its long-awaited LoZ trailer. Let’s get into it.

Sony

Sony once again came through with a stellar conference this year and a ton of gaming highlights. First, Sony gave a final release date for The Last Guardian in October–yes, October 2016–shocking and delighting fans. “I didn’t think it would ever actually come out!” said one reporter in between fits of laughing, crying, and vomiting. Sony also showed a trailer for the upcoming God of War game, featuring Kratos as a warrior-turned-Christian seminary student. This game is said to bring the character’s growth throughout the series to fruition, a promise that leaves fans wondering just what brand of pissed off will this new Kratos be?

As far as new announcements, Sony left fans in utter delight with two huge new gaming developments. First, we got a look at the legendary Hideo Kojima’s new project, Death Standing starring Norman Reedus. I have a joke for this, but I won’t blaspheme Kojima with it because I’m scared this game will end up like Silent Hills (#NeverForget) if we don’t respect it enough. Second, Insomniac (developers of InFamous) is making a new open-world Spider-Man game that everyone is collectively losing their minds about after seeing the trailer. I’ve seen it too, and I must confess: it looks like a really good animated movie. Hopefully it’s also a game!

A new IP also received an announcement and an actual gameplay trailer, Days Gone. “Oh, it’s like The Last of Us,” said fans. “No,” replied executives, “it’s a new IP with a totally unique world and–”

“Hush, fam. It’s like the Last of Us. Just let it happen.”

Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare was also shown. It is definitely a Call of Duty game.

One of the more fun surprises from Sony this year was the new Resident Evil featuring a first-person view. A demo was also released on a small scale, showing off the wonderful graphics, gameplay, and atmosphere that all indicate a return to RE’s survival-horror setting. “Weird, it’s almost as if the fanbase enjoyed the older games or something,” said one executive before almost being crucified.

Finally, we saw some great gameplay of Horizon Zero Dawn, a futuristic RPG style exclusive that looks like a lot of fun. I, however, am already looking to its sequel, Bologna Wheelbarrow Jellyfish.

Two big news stories about hardware came out of Sony’s conference as well, though probably not the type of news you may expect. The rumored PS4K or 4.5 was absent, a breath of fresh air to anyone who doesn’t hate their money. Playstation VR was also announced to be debuting at an average price of $400, a severe price cut compared to such VR systems as the HTC Vive or Occulus Rift. It seems like Sony is trying to make VR a much more financially feasible feature of its hardware, a welcome concession to gamers who don’t have money to blow but still want to try out the newest “wave” in gaming. While I remain skeptical of VR gaming myself, it felt good to know that at least Sony isn’t expecting to sell our firstborn for the gimmick despite the glorious locks of hair and cutting jawline that mine shall have.

Nintendo

As someone who isn’t really involved in Nintendo’s games, I absolutely loved how strong their showing was due to it being one of the lowest-effort conferences we have seen in recent years. Quantity-wise, Nintendo had a rather modest showing; however, in terms of quality, its offerings blew everyone away. Three major things punctuated Nintendo’s conference for me:

  1. Lack of news about the Nintendo NX. While several people saw this as a negative, I saw it as an important decision from Nintendo. Rather than bombarding its fanbase with a new console they’ll have to invest in soon, Nintendo focused on what they are able to offer gamers right now. The NX will debut eventually, and it will have all kinds of questions and controversy attached to it when it does; why bother with all of that now?
  2. The new IP Ever Oasis. While this announcement was overshadowed by obvious fanfare over a different franchise, I am legitimately excited for this project. Nintendo does not announce new IP’s often, but the vast majority of them are excellent products that offer entertaining gameplay and quality investments, such as Splatoon.
  3. Breath of the Wild debut. Look, this is what everyone wanted to see. While many people decry that the trailer was long overdue–which by all means, the game itself is long overdue–this was easily the biggest talking point from E3. The game looks fantastic, and the trailer even featured some in-game content, a refreshing change of pace from the pre-rendered cinematic trailers that usually plague E3.

At the end of the day, Nintendo gave its fans what it wanted. Could they have brought more to the table? Probably. But at the end of the day, gamers care about quality over quantity. Microsoft announced loads of things, but their announcements lacked flavor, originality, and any semblance of what console gamers have been asking for. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Nintendo and Sony proved the old Chinese proverb, “Give a man a fish, he eats for a day. Teach a man to fish, he won’t give a flying crap about new gaming hardware.”

Snarkalicious: A Look at E3 2016 – The Fair

Let me start off by being real with all of you: I don’t like E3. The issues I have with the AAA gaming industry are vast, and they are all gathered together and lauded annually at the event, using consumer mentality and manufactured hype to continue abusing their supporters and sucking off their investors. So overall, nah, I’m not a big fan of E3, which is why I didn’t follow any of it in real time. However, as a gamer, I do value the announcements that come out of E3 every year, and as a human being I obviously have opinions about the medium I’m passionate about. Thus, here’s a special edition of Midday Snark where I’ll give a brief overview of each major E3 conference and offer some opinions about what gamers have to look forward to and dread in the coming years. I will try my utmost to not make these summaries a series of me taking the piss out of each publisher for cheap laughs, but you know they’ll come out anyway. This first installment covers EA and Bethesda, two conferences that while not terrific did offer solid showings of games and offers for their fanbases. It may seem like I rail EA in this segment, but their conference was fine in many ways and really doesn’t warrant a spot on my–ahem–lower quality conference segment.

Note: I will not be hitting every little thing; just the more major stuff to give a feel of each company’s showing.

EA Games

EA offered up a surprisingly fair showing, not giving off any insidious or incompetent vibes that most gamers have come to expect from it. However, much of its showing was more of the same from past years. We got looks at FIFA and Madden games which sure enough look exactly the same as the other entries from 7 years ago. We also got some dubious news about Battlefield 1 and the source of my first real swing at E3 news with EA saying that “No player will ever experience the same match twice.” Great! I’m sure Ubisoft will announce Beyond Good and Evil 2 as well!

My biggest problem with this kind of announcement is twofold: for one, it’s a cheap advertising gimmick that will always be technically true. Of course no two matches will be exactly the same, just as no two matches from Halo or Call of Duty or Gears of War were exactly the same. Players run out of ammo at different points, different players are involved in a lobby, your neighbors screaming for volume consideration at different points in the match distracting you. Is that announcement true? Technically, yes. Does it really mean anything that it implies? Absolutely not. You will eventually experience matches similar to each other, for you only have so many different maps, objectives, classes, etc. to go around. This kind of thing bothers me because it’s totally unnecessary; I don’t care about having an entirely novel experience every time I power up the game; I care about having quality experiences. All these announcements do is fuel the hype train with empty promises that EA gets away with due to technicalities.

The next big thing EA announced was the new Titanfall, the sequel to that game everyone played for 2 weeks and then forgot about. This one will be available on PS4, which was a surprising announcement, and will also feature a single player campaign, and boy did they laud that like it was Gabe Newell’s gift to the number 3. Congratulations, EA, you’re selling a game for full price that actually has the content expectations for a full price release. That’s a big step for you, isn’t it? People have to wonder, though, if by single player campaign they mean you’ll be alone in the servers again 20 days after launch.

The last two things from EA were a weird behind-the-scenes trailer of the new Mass Effect: Andromeda (gameplay-free, of course) and the announcement of their new indie game publishing platform, EA Originals. Quite generous of EA to introduce indie gaming the wonderful world of microtransactions and superfluous season passes. Thanks for taking care of the little guy, EA.

Bethesda

After last year’s trump card of a conference, Bethesda was somewhat set up for an underwhelming showing. However, despite not having the firepower of a Fallout 4 reveal, Bethesda did really well. I’ll have to reach for some jokes on this one. Following DOOM in its reboot steps, Quake was revealed to have a new installment that no one really saw coming. It looks like its gameplay will look a lot like Overwatch, featuring a champion class for the player to choose. It will apparently be PC-only at release, so our Master Race overlords will have to let us know how it is in between updating graphic cards and deriding consoles for things consoles never professed to have in the first place. Bethesda is also jumping on the VR bandwagon with news about adapting Fallout and DOOM for the HTC Vive. Ya know, if you’re tired of just spending hundreds of dollars on consoles and want to start actually burning your money on hardware yet to be truly tested in quality or adaptability. Pesky disposable income.

The rebooted Wolfenstein is receiving a new installment, an announcement that literally no one cared about as soon as new Dishonored 2 gameplay was revealed. Yes, actual gameplay at E3. Bethesda, you crazy radicals. Bethesda also announced a current-gen remaster of Skyrim with updated graphics and mod-capability. “We thought about releasing an Oblivion remaster too,” said a nameless Bethesda exec, “but we figured making people repurchase two old RPGs would just be showing off.” This announcement effectively softened the blow of Elder Scrolls VI being years off. You know, in case some kind of delusional fan actually thought that game was anywhere near release.

The rest of Bethesda’s conference was mostly taken up by Fallout 4 DLC, proving true the old adage “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t sell a game as a finished product without stringing your fanbase along with other installments that you probably could have included with the base game if you had delayed a few months.”

One More Day Revisited: When Stories get Phoned In

Oh boy.

For those who don’t know, Spider-Man: One More Day is a four-part story created by J. Michael Straczynski and Joe Quesada that was released in 2007, following up the events of Marvel’s Civil War event. The story itself has received severe criticism over the years and is often considered the worst Spider-Man story ever written, which is really saying something significant. As a devout Spider-Man fan and critic of the story myself, I wanted to revisit One More Day to see if it has gotten better since its premiere almost 10 years ago. Hindsight is 20-20, right?

Well, my hindsight has revealed that the story is, indeed, a disaster from start to finish.

One More Day kicks off with Aunt May having recently been shot and basically in a coma; this is due to the fallout from Civil War in which Peter Parker reveals his identity to the world as Spider-Man. Sure enough, his enemies target his loved ones and track down his personal life, and an assassin hired by Kingpin attempts to kill Peter and MJ but misses, shooting Aunt May instead. This brings us to Part 1 of the storyline, in which Peter is in anguish over his aunt’s critical condition. His grief leads him to do a variety of extreme and uncharacteristically Spider-Man things in order to just have “one more day” with his aunt (oh, aren’t you self-aware, Quesada). Let’s look over the problems with this storyline piece by piece, shall we?

The Tragedy

OK, yes, losing Aunt May is arguably the worst thing that could happen to Peter Parker. But good Lord, is the tragedy uncreative. Aunt May is shot as a result of Peter’s enemies knowing who he is. This gives Peter incredible guilt over the experience, because Lord knows self-blame over personal tragedy has been a successful trope for comic book writers over the years. However, with the talent that Straczynski has, fans were hoping for something with a little more meat. Why not something a bit more tangible for the rest of us? Spider-Man has always been one of the most relatable characters in all of comics, arguably in all of fiction, and while we have all experienced some self-loathing for tragedy in our lives, very few of us can really connect with having a mob boss order a hit on us resulting in an unintentional death. You know what is relatable? A loved one getting cancer, or being lost in a senseless automobile accident. If Straczynski and Quesada wanted to make a story that readers could connect with, they should have made the tragedy something that was truly out of Peter’s hands: give us three issues of Spider-Man fighting off droves of enemies to protect his family, and end it with Aunt May contracting cancer or being hit by a drunk driver to showcase the real futility of Peter’s efforts. Making her death a case of assassination-gone-wrong ruins the blow of the inciting incident.

Also, why was his spider-sense, a power that has been monumentally effective in the past, so unhelpful in this case? So his power can make him dodge a bullet in his sleep but can’t let him know that his Aunt May is right behind him? But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Parker’s Reign of Terror

I’ve never been a big fan of the whole “symbiote suit makes Peter lose his character” idea; it feels contrived and gimmicky to me. You know what I’m also not a big fan of? Peter establishing a 24-hr reign of terror in his grief. During the course of One More Day, we see Peter Parker do a host of things that are definitely not par for the Peter Parker course. We see him physically and verbally threaten a doctor whose hands are administratively tied; let loose his full powers on Tony Stark (something he has repeatedly sworn to never do); intimidate, threaten, and shift blame onto Stark in order to get money from him; threaten to rob people and banks in order to pay for medical treatment; and verbally attack Dr. Strange and disobey him concerning the arcane arts. While we all can understand that tragedy can make us do things we normally would not, we see Peter transform right before our eyes into something he has never been. It is completely inconsistent of his character to even think of doing any of these things, especially when viewed in light of trying to save the very woman who raised him to always do what was right. It is ironic that while every effort is made to save Aunt May, not once is any thought given to her legacy, a trend in this story that is antithetical to everything Aunt May has ever stood for.

Avengers, BE USELESS!

I have no idea what kind of bullet that assassin shot Aunt May with, but it apparently was laced with special plot-juice that makes every character in the entire Marvel Universe completely incompetent and useless. Arguments have been made that Straczynski at least tried to explain why no one else could help heal Aunt May, but in all honestly, he really doesn’t. While Tony Stark argues that the government would come after him if he gave Peter any help, refusing to help an innocent bystander is not the type of hero Iron Man has ever been (the weird recent Extremis storyline excluded). His argument also falls apart literally one page later when Jarvis shows up with a new hefty bank account to help Aunt May. Apparently, the government stops caring about Tony Stark when he just wires 2 million dollars to an account which then covers hospital bills for May Parker (oh, I’m sorry, May Morgan. As if anyone in America didn’t know who they were after the events of Civil War). Peter does the next logical thing, asking Dr. Strange for mystical help. However, Dr. Strange proves even less helpful than Tony, simply saying the magical-spiritual equivalent of “Nah, sorry fam; ain’t gonna work.” This might be the biggest problem for me: Peter goes to Steven Strange, the Sorcerer Supreme, a character who can travel the globe with the Speed of Thought, who can multiply himself with comparative sentience, who can phase in and out of the astral plane at will, who has defeated clone versions of the Hulk and Namor, and who has altered all of reality too many times to count. And Strange just says, “I’m sorry, I can’t help her.” WHY NOT?! At least try to give an explanation as to why one of the most powerful beings in the universe can defeat demons and exist in several different realities at once but can’t heal a bullet wound! Further, the creators don’t even try to explain why anyone else can’t help; they simply show Peter asking the richest, smartest, and most powerful characters in all of Marvel in unexplained futility. This is one of the worst examples of plot-convenience I have ever seen, and it is unacceptable. All of these things lead to…

Mephisto

  1. OK, Straczynski and Quesada. Peter Parker, one of the most morally upright and spotless characters in all of comics, a character who refuses to kill even his most dangerous foes because he believes some things are just too sacred, whose career has been spent stopping muggings just as much as saving the universe, who’s moral resolve has been tested and proven countless times, accepts help from Mephisto, Marvel’s version of Satan. OK. Sure.

Honestly, I hate everything about this sequence. I hate that Mephisto just randomly shows up, I hate that Peter is one of the most intelligent people in Marvel and he can’t figure out what’s going on as all these weird random things occur, I hate that we just saw Peter walk the astral plane in an attempt to find help for his dying aunt then immediately is having casual conversation with random people in the street, I hate that Quesada insults his readers’ intelligence by assuming that we don’t see the little girl’s identity a mile away, I hate that Straczynski goes out of his way to ridicule an entire group of readers by saying that people who play and program video games are wasting their lives in bitterness and social withdrawal, I hate that Mephisto, one of the most powerful and evil beings in the universe, has nothing better to do than break up a marriage. If there is a single issue of comic books that I hate more than The Sensational Spider-Man #41, I have no idea what it is. It’s a series of nonsense scenes and insults to the readers that make the story feel more like a bad melodramatic David Lynch project than anything else.

Final Thoughts

One More Day is a bad storyline. You can summarize its four parts as such: Part 1, Both Peter and Tony are Turds. Part 2, Dr. Strange is Vague and Useless. Part 3, Mephisto Finishes Binging Days of Our Lives. And Part 4, Really Drawn-Out Dialogue Leads to Retcon. But bad writing is really nothing new to Spider-Man fans; we’ve had to suffer through some really bad stories in the past, but nothing felt as personal as this. The reason why One More Day stands out is not that the writing is bad but rather that the writing is lazy.

Everything that happens in One More Day is convenient for the story. Yes, in order for any story to work, certain things have to fall into place. However, when things fall into place in such a way that nothing makes sense, e.g. everyone in the Marvel Universe suddenly becoming useless to heal a bullet wound, readers start to feel as if the creators are just phoning it in. One More Day was never meant to revolutionize Spider-Man comics; it was meant to do one thing—retcon Civil War because it was inconvenient. The fact that everyone knew Spider-Man’s identity made telling a traditional story really difficult; however, rather than embracing that difficulty and giving readers something new and exciting, we get a weird retconning that makes no sense and only serves to give Quesada a way out of the box that Marvel creators had written themselves into. Yes, Civil War was a great book, but it wreaked utter havoc on virtually every mainstream Marvel title that was not Captain America. So, what did Quesada do? Give Spider-Man fans a cheap, unimaginative and nonsensical four-part story that not only destroyed Peter and MJ’s marriage but also set a dangerous precedent: if things get tough, we can always phone it in and retcon. This is why One More Day stands out as the worst Spider-Man story, for it showed readers just how terrible comics can get when creators decide that they just don’t want to actually earn their paycheck with creativity and quality content anymore.

 

Which is why I say thank God for Dan Slott. Sure, the man killed Peter Parker, but you can never say he phoned an issue in.

 

Midday Snarks June 6th, 2016

Red Lanyard back with another installment of cynicism and wit for the genre news from last week. Remember, it’s all in fun! Except for when I talk about Ubisoft. For real, they’re the worst.

  • Brie Larson is rumored to be the front runner for Marvel’s Carol Danvers, AKA Captain Marvel. Joining her former cast mate Chris Evans from Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World, Ms. Larson leaves fans wondering when the trifecta will be completed and we get some Michael Cera action in the MCU. Hello, painfully-awkward Sam Alexander.
  • In DCCU news, The Flash project (no, not the enjoyable tv series that has fun; the dark and gritty movie with Ezra Miller) has a new director, Rick Famuyiwa, the director of the phenomenal and criminally underrated DOPE from last year. Fan uncertainty increases as WB hires a director whose greatest film credit is a movie glorifying 90s culture to helm a comic book project. Henry Cavill already in talks to work “growing a mullet” into his film contract.
  • X-Men: Apocalypse releases to mediocre reviews and reception by audiences and critics alike; comic book fans remark concern over the actual Apocalypse character being nowhere in the movie, apparently replaced by the tallest member of the Blue Man Group.
  • Actress Rose McGowan berates Fox for their billboard ad for X-Men Apocalypse showing Apocalypse strangling Jennifer Lawrence’s character Mystique. McGowan argued that the ad promotes casual violence against women, simultaneously failing to identify Lawrence’s character as anything other than a gender-bound damsel character and somehow interpreting two blue people fighting in a wasteland as “casual.”
  • In the midst of the above controversy, Rose McGowan’s primary film credits include Planet Terror, a Grindhouse feature by Robert Rodriguez. Irony apparently lost on everybody.
  • DC: Rebirth titles hit shelves this last week, once again displaying the company’s willingness to push the envelope about just how many times an entire universe can be rebooted in a decade.
  • Nintendo announces plans for E3, plans which primarily revolve around live-streaming footage of the new Legend of Zelda game and Pokemon Sun and Moon. Responding to fans utter ecstasy, President of Nintendo of America Reggie Fils-Aime remarks, “It’s like that’s what they wanted the whole time!” Fans almost riot.
  • Assassin’s Creed fans excited about the movie’s premiere. “I can’t wait for the cool visual effects they’ll be using,” said one impossibly enthusiastic fan. “If it’s anything like the games at launch, how are they gonna make it look like Fassbender is glitching through the floor making the entire movie crash?”
  • Moviegoers watching the Assassin’s Creed film will gain user credit for their UPlay accounts. Ubisoft still refuses to say what the hell a UPlay account actually is or what the points thereof actually do.
  • Ubisoft is going for the most accurate representation of an Assassin’s Creed game possible. Thus, in true Ubisoft fashion, moviegoers will have the film stall at random points and will be asked to login to their UPlay accounts at least 7 times before the movie is over.
  • Console gamers excited about E3 this year. “I can’t wait to see all the pre-rendered trailers and experience all the graphics that the console won’t actually be able to handle!” said one Microsoft fan.
  • Telltale’s new Batman game set to premiere at E3. Telltale expected to also announce about 873 other IP’s they have purchased gaming rights to.
  • Black Panther #3 to be delayed a couple of weeks; Ta-Nehisi Coates apologizes for delay as if fans who waited decades for the character to appear on film can’t wait 14 days for another wonderful issue.
  • Captain America revealed to be Hydra; literally everyone who has ever lived ever loses ability to deal.

Midday Snarks

If you like cynical, sarcastic comedy with humble insights into genre stuff, here are some Midday Snarks for a nice afternoon snack. Like Vance’s Speeding Bullets, but less mature and much more exaggerated. Sometimes.

  • According to reports, the new Assassin’s Creed movie is going to be two-thirds set in modern day and only one-third set in the Spanish Inquisition. When all thought it was impossible, Ubisoft has somehow discovered a way to take the only part of Assassin’s Creed games that no one has cared about for years and still make a cash-grab out of it.
  • X-Men: Apocalypse comes out this weekend. Hopefully it will answer everyone’s burning questions, like what happened to Wolverine at the end of DoFP? Why is Magneto going against everything in his character to be a Horseman? Why is Mystique even in this movie, and why the hell does she constantly look like Jennifer Lawrence?
  • In an interview that surfaced a few weeks ago, Henry Cavill was asked about critics’ rather—ahem—averse reviews of Batman vs. Superman. Cavill responded that what really matters is the audience’s reaction. Well, Mr. Kent, the fans have spoken, and it turns out you don’t really have any.
  • Disney released a teaser trailer for Beauty and the Beast, and it was phenomenally done. Disney also proved that once again it is apparently the only movie-making company that knows how to release an actual teaser trailer and not a show-the-whole-damn-plot-in-under-three-minutes trailer. Kudos.
  • Back to Assassin’s Creed, Ubisoft has announced that in true Ubisoft fashion, movie-goers will only get the whole film experience if they pre-order the feature and pay an additional $40 for a replica of the iconic pen that you may or may not notice Michael Fassbender using in the movie.
  • News reports say that the rumored Tetris feature film is real, and it will have a sci-fi thriller tone to it. I don’t even have a joke for this one. Are you ******** kidding me?
  • Marvel has announced that the vast majority of the cast in the future Black Panther movie will be African or African-American (because in today’s society, that actually warrants an announcement rather than a common-sense conclusion). Small population of Marvel fans simultaneously outraged about the politically correct agenda while arguing that they are somehow not racist.
  • Uncharted 4 is released and is greeted by a host of 10/10 scores from critics and reviewers. Naughty Dog still refuses to reboot Crash Bandicoot. Playstation fans still drowning in tears. Naughty Dog still not caring.
  • Nintendo announces that they are officially looking to branch out into feature films with their video game properties! Reports claim that the Legend of Zelda franchise is apparently not on the table. In similar news, man dying of thirst breaks into water bottling facility and drinks out of the toilet.
  • Star Wars Battlefront sequel is rumored to appear at this year’s E3. Jaded Star Wars fan asks, “Is it the second half of the first game that they forgot to make?”
  • Fox comic book adaptation “Lucifer” continues to be protested by conservative Christian moms of America. AMC’s “Preacher” show previewed this past Sunday and has yet to receive any protest from similar groups. This goes to confirm the longstanding truth that, much like Zack Snyder, most moms just do not know their source material.
  • In directly related news, tons of children receive the new DOOM game from their parents despite M-rating and graphic violence, leading “Lucifer” executives completely dumbfounded.
  • The new Call of Duty game, CoD: Infinite Warfare, really leaves Treyarch in a rough place as far as names for successive CoD titles. They do currently have a leg up on EA, however, seeing as how the new Call of Duty will have more space combat than Star Wars Battlefront.

What to Expect from Spider-Man: Homecoming

So now that we’ve seen Tom Holland as our new MCU Spider-Man (spoiler alert, he’s spectacular), the rumors have been flying about his upcoming solo movie, Spider-Man: Homecoming, a title that just exudes Marvel’s fun sense of self-awareness. Set to come out next year in July—the seventh, to be exact, if you want to be like me and mark your calendars and set up countdowns on your electronic devices—the movie hasn’t really released a ton of information about its plot or the comic book sources it may or may not be drawing from. Thus, rumors have gone everywhere from a weird pseudo-adaptation of The Clone Saga to an entirely new story straight from the MCU. As an avid Spider-Man fan, I can’t help but dive into these rumors and unsubstantiated claims and voice my opinions. Seeing as I am an admin on a genre-based blog, you all get to read these ramblings! So let’s look at some of the rumors and wishes circulating around our new web-slinger.

Kraven’s Last Hunt

This is a storyline that fans of Spider-Man have been clamoring for since Toby Maguire was under the mask, even though reports leaked in years past have shown that Morbius was a more likely villain for Raimi’s fourth entry than Kraven. And as a huge fan of DeMatteis’s story, I am personally holding out for a Kraven appearance in the years to come under the MCU. But let’s be honest here, folks: Kraven’s Last Hunt makes absolutely no sense for a year one Spider-Man.

Kraven's Last Hunt

Join with me in hypothesizing this proposed idea for a movie: for the first Spider-Man entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Kevin Feige is going to introduce a villain never before seen in a movie, let him apparently kill the titular hero and steal his identity, and then have (in cinematic terms) a rather anticlimactic ending with Spider-Man fighting an entirely different tier-3 villain as the aforementioned bad guy commits suicide. You are gonna have a lot of confused people in that theater. Even if MCU writers mix things up with the storyline, the whole idea of Kraven’s Last Hunt is that it is a climax from the other encounters that Spider-Man has had with him in the past. It’s the conclusion to big life phases for both Kraven and Peter alike. Making it into Kraven’s First and Last Hunt loses the real meaning of the story and just doesn’t make sense. Maybe for Spider-Man three or four. But not for year one.

Remake Raimi’s Spider-Man (How Green was My Goblin!)

A lot of the ideas for Marvel’s new Spider-Man franchise surprisingly circles around remaking older movies. While this idea makes a bit of sense—there’s perhaps no villain more essential to Peter’s history than the Green Goblin—we have already gotten three different Goblins since Raimi’s first entry. The villain, while undoubtedly will be seen soon enough in the MCU, needs some time off, and I doubt Marvel wants to associate itself so closely with any memories of the Sony franchises. We do know that Michael Keaton has been approached to possibly play a villain in Homecoming, and he would make for an excellent Norman Osborn, but I for one have serious doubts that he will be the main baddie in the movie or that he will even have his villainous origin this early in the game. There’s just too much baggage from Sony that Marvel is trying to avoid.

Birth of Venom

Story-wise, this rumor makes the most sense for inspiration. While not taking place in year one Spider-Man lore, the Birth of Venom could pretty easily be modified to fit as a first big bad for a young Spider-Man. The presence of Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2 just a couple of months before Homecoming even gives Marvel a chance to briefly introduce the existence of symbiotes in the universe, leading into one ending up on Earth due to the abundance of alien presence on our planet over the years in the MCU. Introducing Eddie Brock (quick plug for my fan-casting of Tom Hardy) as a reporter for the Daily Bugle, Peter’s new part-time job, offers a good opportunity to give fans a villain they’ve been asking for while not forcing an ill-fitting storyline. Add Michael Keaton as Norman Osborn in the background, and you have the groundwork for a Spider-Man mini-verse. If Marvel does use an existing story as inspiration, this one is probably the most likely.

The Death of Jean DeWolff Death of Jean Dewolff

I’ll be honest, this is my own personal rumor that I am officially starting. For anyone who has read a lot of Spider-Man—and I mean a LOT of the comics—this story sticks out to you as the moment you start to wonder if Spidey is going to actually kill someone. Go read the story for yourself; it is absolutely fantastic and stands as one of my personal favorite comic books arcs of all time. I like the idea of Homecoming being inspired by this story because it gives the MCU the chance to do a lot of new things: the tone of Spidey hunting down a serial killer could offer a crime thriller tone new to Marvel movies, it could introduce the Netflix TV universe by bringing in Kingpin and Daredevil like the comic book story, and it could give Marvel the chance to set Spider-Man apart in the cinematic universe as being the hero who doesn’t kill despite being pushed to his limit by the Sin Eater. While this is probably a long shot for Homecoming, I am going to remain hopeful we see this storyline down the road either as a future Spidey movie or as a subplot in a future season of Daredevil.

Spider-Man: Blue

This is my favorite Spider-Man story, and it would definitely make for an interesting movie. The idea is that Gwen Stacy is already dead by the time Civil War takes place; thus, Homecoming would be a set of flashbacks for Peter as he details what he has done up to now. This would show some scenes of him fighting the Green Goblin, meeting Mary Jane, encountering Eddie Brock (again, cast Tom Hardy!), hanging out with Harry Osborn, and getting into tussles with several members of his rogues gallery. Peter narrates all of this as he stands talking to Gwen’s grave, ending in a flashback to Death of the Stacy’s and a final farewell message to the girl he loved but could not save. Again, this would be a different type of movie style that Marvel could try to add variety to their roster, and it would be a fitting metaphor for Spider-Man saying goodbye to a former presence in his life—Sony—and hello to his new companion, the MCU. Again, a bit of a long shot, but intriguing nonetheless.

The Clone Saga

Stop. Just Stop.

A Totally New Story

This will probably be what we get, and I am totally fine with that. While Marvel has always drawn some inspiration from the comics in their movies, they have also definitely not been afraid to play with canon a little bit to make a unique adventure (see Civil War, Iron Man 3, and Winter Soldier as primary examples). Michael Keaton is tagged to play someone, and the popular theory is the Vulture. For the life of me, I cannot name one big Spider-Man story that features Vulture in anything more than a side role. But hey, I’m down to see what they do! Marvel is in an interesting position: Sony has already done a lot of groundwork over the years to set up Spider-Man’s world. People have a pretty good idea of who Norman and Harry Osborn are, and at least some idea of Peter’s love interests (Gwen and MJ). We have also seen the death of Uncle Ben far too many times, so no need to rehash that. Marvel gets a rare opportunity to introduce a character who has already been introduced, letting them do whatever they want with a year one story. Let’s see what they do!

Whatever it is, please Marvel, for the love of God, no more sidewalk dancing.

-Admin Red Lanyard