A MARVEL OF A MOVIE: Albeit a few weeks late, both Andrew and D. Bethel have finally seen Marvel Studios’ newest entry into their cinematic universe with Captain Marvel, and they have a lot to say about it. This conversation does discuss SPOILERS for the film, so be wary of listening if you have not yet seen the film.
With Iron Fist set to come out on Friday of this week, it seemed appropriate to do a quick round up of all the news and reviews that have been circulating in the previous week. For those who have been distracted by other news, Netflix has released the first six episodes of Iron Fist to a number of reviewers and critics. The response has been … less than was perhaps expected.
Iron Fist’s problems with its portrayal of Asian cultures and Asian-Americans are embedded throughout every episode. It’s just that its problems with delivering exposition, crafting consistent characters, and even basic dialogue writing run right alongside.
Had Netflix rolled out Iron Fist first, its unsteadiness would be forgivable; this is a process, after all. But it’s actually the final step before a huge showdown, so it can’t afford to buckle under the pressure. And yet, with all that riding on it, the first half of the season is just a checked box. Filler episodes are one thing, but right now Iron Fist looks like a filler season.
Iron Fist feels like a step backward on every level, a major disappointment that already suffers from storytelling issues through the first six episodes made available to critics and would probably be mercifully skippable in its entirety if it weren’t the bridge into the long-awaited Defenders crossover series.
First, it doesn’t live up to the quality of storytelling found in “Daredevil,” “Jessica Jones,” and “Luke Cage.” Plainly stated, “Iron Fist” is boring.
Of course, it is worth remembering that this is based entirely on the first six episodes. Rumors abound that the seventh episode of the series will be extremely violent. The episode has been rated 18 for “Strong Bloody Violence.” Given the stagnant impressions of the first six episodes, it remains to be seen if episode 7 (titled “Felling With Tree Routes”) is as much a dramatic turn as the portended graphically violent turn.
Given that the Defenders mini-series is already slated for a 2017 release, it’s clear that Iron Fist‘s poor initial reception will not stop the Marvel/Netflix hybrid from moving forward. That being said, it’s unfortunate that the same studio partnership that produced Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Daredevil has hit a slump with their most recent offering; whether this should be viewed as a bump in the road or an image of what’s to come is uncertain.
As a writing teacher, the research-based portion of my scaffolding tends to always yield at least a few “Do video games contribute to youth violence?” proposals every semester. Honestly, it’s a tired debate but not because of the questions being asked, but for how little conversation actually happens. Lately, the pattern seems to be that when a new study is published that either states that games do or do not incite violent behavior in children, people then post those studies (or, let’s be honest, articles written about the studies) like flags planted in the ground and say, “The problem has been solved,” and walk away until the next one hits.
The point of view Brian Crecente presents in his article is not only unique, but important. What’s most important is not that he picks a side; instead, he actually problem poses the issue as a way to generate discourse and not simply promote the tribalistic partisan yelling that such topics tend to degrade into. To literally pull from my lecture notes, questions that start with a “do” or “is” can only yield yes or no answers, discouraging discussion and investigation. However, problem-posing questions––the classic Who What When Where Why and How questions––don’t do that. They beg for thoughts and ideas and points of view rather than declarative sound bytes. On big topics like this––especially when topics like gun control and mental health are forced into public interest by yet another shooting by a young person––such nuance and differing points of view should be more thoroughly explored rather than just drawing a line in the sand.
What’s also important in this article is that its author is not a single-adjective author the likes of which we normally hear on these issues. He writes as a father, but he is also clearly a gamer, a person who grew up with games––violent games, too, no doubt––and that informs his approach to the topic, which is a new voice in this conversation and one worth listening to, at least.
Superhero movies live and die on their sense of verisimilitude. As discussed when I talked to Elijah Kaine, the X-Men films succeeded at existing within the apparent paradox of being both faithful to the characters but also being incredibly divergent from the source material. The Marvel films (and Deadpool as well) have become renowned for being, probably, the most faithful comic book characters on screen so far, but even then there is a fair share of divergence. But when Man of Steel orBatman v Superman: Dawn of Justice land in theaters, they are derided for being too divergent from the source material. Then there are the ultra-devout interpretations like 300, Sin City, and Watchmen which are all over the place in terms of criticism and praise. This exposes the question embedded in all of our discussion of superhero cinema: “what makes a good comic book movie?” An entire Comic Con panel, I’m sure, could be dedicated to this question, but it’s one that Matt Singer surreptitiously addresses in his article as it relates to the ill-fated Green Lantern movie from 2011.
His basic argument is really interesting––is it damning to be, in a sense, too faithful to the source material?
Green Lantern is maybe the best proof to date that when it comes to superhero movies, faithful doesn’t equal excellent.
I’m sure this point is arguable, but I am not a Green Lantern scholar in any sense; however, it does help to focus the discussion around superhero movies––what does a faithful adaptation/movie look like and is it a movie we want to see?
I started reading Penny Arcade in 2002 or 2003. Since that time, it has evolved into the strangest of pop culture chimeras that evokes a sense of awe but has an underpinning of fear that, for some reason, it could all come crashing down at any moment. As a business, it felt like it expanded incredibly fast, but it withstood the current it helped create. They added more and more people to the fold, but the basic personality and attitude of the site persisted. The two creators went from being struggling, edgy voices of the generation to being––I assume––reasonably wealthy magnates of a new industry, but they seem rather unchanged by the developments. It could be argued that all of this growth and stability came from the direct management of the Penny Arcade business manager and president, Robert Khoo.
With Khoo announcing his exit from the company, it understandably has a lot of people worried. He was the master of the Penny Arcade Jenga tower, and, as he walks away from the puzzle, the worry is that it will, surely, crumble in on itself.
Matthew Loffhagen looks at what a post-Khoo Penny Arcade could look like, especially through the lens of PAX, as the keys of the kingdom are handed back to the original creators, Mike Krahulik and Jerry Holkins. Loffhagen focuses on a more legitimate worry than the knee-jerk reaction a lot of the internet provided (basically likening Khoo to an internet Jesus), and looks at the co-creators’ behaviors with fans and controversial statements and stances they’ve taken over the years and how that could impact not only the conventions but also the fans (the famous Dickwolves disaster comes to mind, among others). Drawing the line from one poorly-said statement to a massive PR catastrophe seems easy in this new administrative situation.
However, such thinking discounts Khoo himself. If we have learned anything in his decade-long+ tenure as the nerd mastermind, it’s that he knows what he’s doing. Watching everything from PA the Series to Strip Search, it’s clear that Khoo is a chess master, the Deep Blue of business, always three steps ahead of everyone around him. With that in mind, what becomes clear is that Khoo’s decision to leave was not rash; he left because he knew he could and Penny Arcadewould be fine without him. While Loffhagen’s very specific concerns are, indeed, valid, I think overall that Khoo is leaving Penny Arcade exactly where it needs to be, even if it isn’t as clear as we would hope.