Ms Marvel: Destined

3/5         

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

Kamala, played by Iman Vellani, learns the origin of her powers, and is forced to make some difficult decisions.

I would say this was the worst episode of Ms Marvel yet, which shows how good the rest of the show is as this still isn’t a bad episode just far weaker than the previous two episodes. The reason for my thinking is twofold, firstly I don’t like the new Djinn origin for her powers and would have much preferred they stuck with her being an Inhuman. We knew for a while the show was taking the character in this direction but I was hoping that they would stick the landing with his new origin for her powers and they really don’t. Secondly, the villains of this show are, so far, incredibly poor and written as cliches in almost every possible way. The DODC agent, played by Alysia Reiner feels like a karen and has all the hallmarks of that character type, I hope the series does something more with her as right now she feels downright cartoonish. Moreover, the Clandestine group really highlights the poor writing, as they go from friendly to villainous in the space of about 5 minutes because Kamala won’t help them immediately, this seems like incredibly dumb villain writing as it would make more sense for them to let her have her time to try and gain her trust before using her.

However, despite these issues the episode is not bad and has more than a few redeemable moments.  The entirety of the wedding scene is terrific, all of the characters we have come to know over the past two episodes get to have sweet little moments, and the dance sequence towards the end is one of the most pure and joyous things I have seen out of the MCU in a long while. I also like that Nakia, played by Yasmin Fletcher, now knows about Kamala’s powers as I feel like it will lead to some interesting interactions in the coming episodes between the two of them.

Overall, the villains need improvement otherwise a lot of people are going to say that this is yet another example of Marvel’s villain problem whereby they are all paper thin and forgettable.

Pros.

The wedding scene

Nakia finding out about Kamala’s powers

The ending

Cons.

The villains

The new powers origins  

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Ms. Marvel: Crushed

4.5/5      

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

Kamala, played by Iman Vellani, starts to use her powers whilst also crushing on the new boy at school.

This show continues to be excellent.

So many times I criticise films and TV shows for not understanding the youth of today and for not being able to write for it, however, this show proves that it can be done and gives me hope for the future. I really enjoyed all of the teen angst of this episode, and thought that once again Vellani was just excellent in the role.

It was fun to see Kamala learning more about her powers, it is interesting to note that in the episode they make a point to say how her powers are a product of her and not the bangles, which means her being an Inhuman might still be on the table. I also thought the sequence of her saving the kid was really well done and I liked that it did not go perfectly first time, it feels like good character progression.

Moreover, I thought the scenes with Kamala’s friend Nakia, played by Yasmeen Fletcher, about her Muslim identity and fitting in were really powerful and well written. It also serves to highlight the importance of good well written representation as it can take someone’s innermost thought or struggle and showcase it on screen showing others who might have the same issue that they are not alone.

My one criticism of the episode is that the clearly villainous DODC agent, played by Alysia Reiner, feels incredibly on the nose. I am fine with it if she is just going to be a throw away villain of the early part of the series, but it would really be a disserve to the show if she were to stick around until the end or serve as the shows main villain and she feels like a cliché walking.

Overall, this continues to be one of Marvel’s best TV shows.

Pros.

Vellani

The music

The representation

The teen voice

It is a lot of fun

Cons.

The DODC agent feels almost cartoonishly evil

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Ms. Marvel: Generation Why

4.5/5      

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

Teenager Kamala Khan, played by Iman Vellani, dreams of breaking away from her strict parents and being like her hero Captain Marvel, sadly that seems like a faraway dream when we first meet her. However, all of that changes when she receives a magical accessory that allows her to have superhuman abilities.

I will open this review by saying two things that need saying before I get into a wider discussion on the episode. Obviously this series should be heralded from bringing in Marvel’s first grouping of Muslim characters, representation is very important and hopefully this show will allow new groups of people to look towards the MCU and see a hero that is like them; and that is a powerful thing. Additionally, my review for this episode and the coming ones in the series will be from someone who is fairly unfamiliar with Ms. Marvel as a character, I have read a few stories featuring her here and there but for the most part I am going in blind.

Now onto the review proper.

I thought that this may be the best episode of any of the Disney + Marvel shows thus far. I really liked the tone and the Edgar Wright esque cinematography and graphic blendings/ transitions, I thought this helped the show to feel fresh and different to both the other Disney + shows as well as the wider MCU.

Moreover, I also really liked the family focus here and thought it was done much better than in Hawkeye. Though I thought having Kamala’s mum, played by Zenobia Shroff, be a low key baddie, or at least an antagonist figure in her life is a little trite and played out, I thought her wider family dynamic was a lot of fun. Furthermore, the family actually felt like a family, whereas with the Bishops in Hawkeye, the mother and daughter felt more like estranged business associates rather than how I personally would view family, though again everyone’s family is different.

I also thought Vellani was terrific and instantly super likeable and warm, she sank into the world and character really well and I am excited to see more from her both in this show and the wider universe.

Overall, I enjoyed this first episode a lot.

Pros.

Vellani

The humour

The visual style

The family dynamics

Giving us a wider look into the MCU

Cons.

The mother daughter stuff felt a little cliché to me

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The Disney Family Market And How Deadpool 3 Is Unlikely

Written by Luke Barnes

In this piece I want to talk about the state of Deadpool 3 and how I think there might be a problem with its production in the House Of Mouse. Please do bear in mind as you read this that technically the film is still being made and that supposedly it will also be R rated.

I think the recent release of both Moon Knight and the sequel to Doctor Strange provide valuable lessons about what a future Deadpool film may look like. With regard to the former, Kevin Feige said that they were going to go dark and not shy away from the violence which gave many fans of the character hope, however, what we got was far more family friendly and toned down then many were expecting. Yes, there was some violence and adult themes but for the most part it was fairly tame. This does not make the prospect of a hard R Deadpool film with violence and swearing likely. With the latter certain parent groups had an issue with the horror elements and went on to complain and kick up a fuss. There is this conception that even though the MCU films are not rated universal or to be watched by all that for some reason they have to appeal to families, maybe it is because Disney banks hard on the family market as such the MCU is hamstrung into what it can get away with without upsetting audiences who want to take their kids to see every Marvel movie.

I really do think that under Disney darker and more brutal characters from wider Marvel comics will suffer. The creator of Deadpool Rob Liefled has repeatedly indicated that there are behind the scenes issues on Deadpool 3 and that there is a disagreement within Disney about what the film should be. In my mind the main issue here is that due to the Disney branding everything is seen as being family friendly when that isn’t always the case, but never the less it has led to a certain expectation from audiences and crucially parents.

I think there is some strange parallel world wherein Deadpool could work toned down and for a more family friendly audience but then this would anger fans of the character and lose the comic diehards that make up Marvel’s most loyal audience. Basically Disney and Marvel are caught between a rock and a hard place, they don’t want to lose the diehards but they also don’t want to lose families either, think about the toys and merchandising.

Ultimately I think Disney will tone down these characters and then try and force them into the MCU and I think it won’t go down well.

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Will Required Viewing And Disney + Homework Hurt The MCU’S Hold Over Hollywood?

Written by Luke Barnes

In this piece I want to talk about something I noticed within Doctor Strange 2 that I think could be a big problem for the MCU going forward and that is the over use of integrated and interconnected storytelling.

I understand that from a corporate standpoint Disney is pushing Disney + as hard as they can and, part of that push is having the various Marvel shows on the platform feeding into the wider MCU, however, this creates a very real problem for the MCU as a whole. Though there are plenty of diehard Marvel fans who watch every piece of content that comes out, there are also others who are far more fair-weather, you might follow a specific character or who might watch some of the films here or there. The Disney + approach only account for those first lot of people, for the second they won’t be familiar with the Disney + shows or at least not all of them and as such will have a hard go of it keeping up with the films.

In many ways the Doctor Strange sequel is an epilogue to Wandavision, the film makes numerous call-backs and references to the show, though Sam Raimi claims he never even finished it. As such you can see the problem, to fully understand Doctor Strange 2 you have to have firstly seen Wandavision and for those you haven’t seen it well they will miss out on a lot of the context and not really understand why these two Avengers are fighting, and therein lies the problem. Through truly integrating the Disney + shows The MCU is creating homework for viewers, and saying that if you want to understand what is going on you have to firstly pay for this streaming service and secondly watch all these shows, which becomes too much for some people. As the Arrowverse went on people were put off my how interconnected those shows got, to understand the latest crossover event you had to watch all these shows even if you didn’t like them, at that point it no longer becomes entertainment but an obligation and I have a feeling the MCU is heading the same way.

I believe that as these smaller shows become more and more vital to understanding the plots of these big movies then more and more mainstream audiences will check out, not wanting to have to commit 6 + hours of their life to watching a series they may not even care about simply to understand the plot of the latest movie. As such, I think attendance at Marvel films will go down, not becomes of superhero fatigue, not because of the ‘liberal agenda’ that some people say they are trying to push, but because of that fact that they no longer want to commit to watching all these shows and films and may even be coming to the conclusion that there are too many.

I think dear reader that this is what will halt the ever expanding dominance of the MCU, and though it won’t ever kill the franchise all together it will cause it to contract in on itself.

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Doctor Strange Into The Multiverse Of Madness: You Better Have Watched All The Disney + Shows

4.5/5      

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

Following on from the events of Wandavision Wanda, played by Elizabeth Olsen, goes on a multiverse wide rampage to try and get her kids back, forcing Doctor Strange, played by Benedict Cumberbatch, and other mystical characters to try and stop her.

I think this may be my favourite Marvel film to date, or certainly up there in the top 3, I really enjoyed the Raimi elements to this film and I thought the horror sequences were terrific. I liked that this film felt a little darker and more supernatural than the rest of the MCU it gives me hope for characters like Blade and Ghost Rider. I thought the Raimi esque shot choices and transitions were just superb, it really gave this film a sense of identity all its own.

Moreover, despite some of the more unrefined criticism of this film saying how they turned Wanda into a bad guy, I thought this film did great things for her character and felt like a natural carry over from where the end of Wandavision left her. In the comics the character is deeply mentally unstable and crazy powerful this felt a true reflection of that, this idea that Wanda is a superhero and that she is a force for good only, is both not true and also just a creation of the MCU- one they now seem to be breaking.

I thought the new character of America Chavez, played by Xochitl Gomez was great she easily held her own both with Strange and Cumberbatch and I eagerly await to see what else they do with her character, most likely a Young Avengers show or film. In that same vein, I thought this film added a lot to most of the characters from the previous Doctor Strange film that helped to make them feel more rounded. I liked Strange and Wong’s, played by Benedict Wong, relationship and how Strange eventually comes to respect Wong as the new Sorcerer Supreme and also thought the film did justice to Rachel McAdams’ Christine from the first film, tying that up nicely.     

The things I didn’t like about this film were all quite minor, firstly I didn’t like the Illuminati I thought it felt far too much like blatant fan service and thought there was no point to them existing other than to give Wanda people to tear apart. I did like the Black Bolt, played by Anson Mount, death however, I thought that was gutsy and some nice unexpected gore. Secondly, I have issues with the post credits scenes, with the first I think it is too unclear what is going on, moreover unless you are an avid comics reader you will not know who Clea, played by Charlize Theron, is and will be left baffled. The second post credits scene is just annoying and makes you feel like you have wasted your time. Thirdly, I didn’t like Strange’s relationship with Baron Mordo, played by Chiwetel Ejiofor, it felt very much like some scenes were missing there as there relationship made no sense being where it was based off the ending of the previous film.

Overall, I think this film is brave, brutal and great for the MCU. I hope very much they can talk Raimi into coming back to do more movies.

Pros.

The horror elements and the Raimi feel of the film

Wanda’s progression

Strange and Christine and Strange and Wong

America Chavez

The ending

Cons.

Too many cameos

Uneven storytelling with Mordo  

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Doctor Strange: A New Advance In Faith Healing

3.5/5      

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

World famous surgeon Stephen Strange, played by Benedict Cumberbatch, becomes a master of the mystic arts after suffering injuries in a car accident.

I think this is one of the slower MCU films but there is still a lot to enjoy here.

The world and characters are all interesting, Tilda Swinton is great as the Ancient One and Benedict Wong gives us a first fun look at Wong. However, I would say the opening of the film and Strange’s training takes far too much of the film, it feels as though you have been watching for quite a while before anything large scale happens.

Once we start getting the big magical set pieces and everything starts to look at bit more like Inception things pick up. I would say this film does enough visually to allow it to stand apart from a lot of the other Marvel films. I thought the big final battle against Dormammu in the time-loop was a lot of fun and quite inventive, sadly the other battle against Mads Mikkelsen’s Kaecillius was far less interesting and Kaecillius on the whole was quite wasted.

I go back and forth about how I feel about Christine Palmer, played by Rachel McAdams, on the one hand I think her and Cumberbatch have great chemistry together and there scenes do have a nice amount of energy, but on the other hand I do wish that they would have given her more to do or at least allowed her to tag along for more of the craziness rather than just staying at the hospital.

Overall, a serviceable to good Marvel film but one that does let down a few of its key characters.

Pros.

Cumberbatch

The time-loop sequence

Swinton and Wong

McAdams has good chemistry with Cumberbatch

Cons.

McAdams isn’t given enough to do

Kaecillius is wasted

The training takes far too long       

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Moon Knight: Gods And Monsters

4/5         

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

Moon Knight must stop an undead Egyptian God from coming back to life.

By no means was this a perfect finale, however, I thought on the whole it was a lot better than most of the series and was a step in the right direction.

I liked that we finally got Jake Lockley, played by Oscar Issac, though I thought if they always intended to keep him until the post credits they should have teased him less in the wider series as it gave the impression that we might get him sooner than we actually did. Also I am not quite sure how I feel to the changes made to the character in terms of him speaking Spanish and not being much like the cabbie we remember from the comics, but hey maybe season 2 will address that.

I thought it was cool to see Layla, played by May Calamawy, get her own superpowered suit by becoming a different Gods avatar. I thought she paired nicely with Moon Knight and I liked their final battle action sequence together, even if Mr Knight suddenly just becomes great at fighting for no real reason after being terrible before that point.

One thing I will point to and say I didn’t like is that the defeat of Ethan Hawke’s character happened pretty much off screen, presumably during a Lockley episode, and that the episode as a whole was far shorter than what we got in the rest of the series. If it had such been 10 minutes longer it could have given them more time to properly do justice to everything they set up.

Overall, I think they did bring the series back with the last two episode but even in this final episode there were some noticeable issues that stopped it being perfect.

Pros.

Layla becoming her own superhero

The finale battle worked well and gave us some much needed action

Lockley

The return of Khonsu  

Cons.

It was too short

A few little issues with the plot

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Moon Knight: The Asylum

4/5         

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

Steven, played by Oscar Isaac, uncovers his origins, and Marc’s past is revealed as the two battle their way out of the asylum.

I think that this was a strong episode of Moon Knight, not in the regard that we got any more action or at they finally revealed the Jake Lockley persona, but on the emotional character development side of things. I thought in terms of establishing Steven and Marc as characters this episode did a hell of a lot of good work, by highlighting their deeply depressing backstory the show gives us its best look yet at their fractured psyche.

Moreover, I enjoyed the boat set piece and though visually it was very distinct and interesting. When Marc and Steven started fighting off the forces of the undead things got very intriguing especially in a sense of where the supernatural side of the MCU is heading.

My main criticisms of this episode would be that yet again we get very little suited up Moon Knight action, and that despite perhaps the most blatant tease yet we still have not had the Jake Lockley reveal, a move which I now believe Marvel is deliberately doing to troll the fans.

Overall, a lot of great character work and worldbuilding, slightly undercut by a distinct lack of in costume Moon Knight action.

Pros.

The emotional backstory

The boat set piece

The ending

The promise of what is to come

Cons.

The lack of suited Moon Knight once again

Stop teasing Jake Lockley  

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The Marvel Problem: Making Movies For Little Kids

Written by Luke Barnes

In this piece I want to talk about a recurring issue/concern I am having with the MCU, though it can apply to other franchises also owned by Disney, and that is being a slave to the family friendly audience, being too afraid to have morally complex heroes or God forbid anti-heroes.

A lot of these feelings were stirred up within me by two things firstly the experience of watching Moon Knight the TV show versus reading Moon Knight in the comics, and also the recent Star Wars debacle that is The Book Of Boba Fett. In both examples the titular leads are toned down and in some areas entirely different from previous portrayals, rather than being the cold, tactical bounty hunter that we have seen in other Star Wars projects including The Mandalorian Boba is all soft and fluffy in his own show, hugging animals and having other people doing his killing. This is also seen in Moon Knight where the character is much less violent and far more incompetent, this is done to fit the tone and the comedy of the MCU.

However, the way Moon Knight has been presented on screen leaves me with a problem, if Moon Knight is not allowed to be gory or more mature then how the hell are characters like Deadpool, Punisher and Ghost Rider going to be done justice; the Ghost Rider of Agents Of Shield was an awful take on the character. Kevin Feige said that Moon Knight as a show wouldn’t pull back it would show us the finishing blow, however in practice this simply isn’t true. We have seen a bit of blood on  the characters hands and have seen some people die, but most of the time this has been cut away from or outrightly ignored, which becomes a turn off after a while.

Though in almost every other way the DCEU is worse than the MCU, the one thing I will give them credit for is that they are not afraid to be more mature and adult with their content, instead of pumping out CGI trash for little kids. Think about Peacemaker earlier this year a series that did well and became beloved whilst also dealing with adult themes and violence, can you ever imagine something like that existing within the MCU? No, no it would not and that is the problem. Disney and Marvel want to have their films appeal to as many different markets and demographics as possible so why not try appealing to adults. I understand that Disney is a family company but that doesn’t mean all their content has to be made for little children. Things like the Mandalorian give me hope that maybe Disney can get away from this bloodless family friendly approach but I am not too optimistic.  

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