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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Alex Kurtzman And The Sorry State Of Modern Star Trek

Written by Luke Barnes

In this piece I want to talk about the current state of Star Trek, now I am not claiming to be a major fan or anything of the sort, but I did see the Pine fronted movies as a kid and have tried to get into the series that have come out since, whilst also going back and visiting the older series for a first time. Perhaps comparing the new to the old is not a favourable comparison, perhaps the bar is set too high, however, I really do find that these newer series just can’t hold a candle to the older shows and are noticeably weaker.

Why do I think Discovery and Piccard  are so weak well that is an easy question dear reader, the problems of modern Star Trek can be traced back to one bad writer, Alex Kurtzman, the guy who brought you The Amazing Spider-Man sequel and The Mummy with Tom Cruise. Kurtzman is a hack by all accounts and has milked a relationship with J.J Abrams for all it is worth, hence his current position in the Star Trek universe.

Kurtzman doesn’t seem to understand a lot of the projects he is involved in, hence he thought a Silence Of The Lambs sequel series without Hannibal Lecter was a good idea, but nowhere is that more true than with Star Trek. Kurtzman turned Discovery into a platform to spout his political beliefs to anyone who would listen, and yes though the original series had a strong political centre it was handled far better than what Kurtzman did with Discovery, which seems purposefully divisive.

Piccard was a slightly different beast and at first had some promise, however, as the series continued it became clear that it was only created as a means for Kurtzman and co to milk nostalgia and to remind the fans of better times, only to then promptly screw them up. Piccard was less preachy but the issues of Discovery were there.

Discovery and Piccard have had very well published behind the scenes issues and poor ratings hence why Strange New Worlds is playing it safe and going back to basics, and so far I am only one episode deep into that show but it does seem better.

On the movie side of things, Tarantino was supposed to be involved with a Star Trek film for a while and then that got shot down, and now they are trying to get some more milage out of the Pine cast despite those films coming out a while ago now.

Honestly, if I had to give you a quick snap judgment as to the current state of Star Trek, from my perspective at least it seems as though the franchise is battling to stay relevant in the wider cultural and streaming landscape and possibly failing in that aim.

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The Sonic Shared Universe: The Real Challenge To The MCU

Written by Luke Barnes

In this piece I want to talk about The Sonic franchise and how I think it is the only shared universe that might rival Marvel, in time.

So for those of you that haven’t seen the Sonic sequel yet you might want to look away now, as there will be spoilers in this article.

The Dark Universe, The DCEU, The Power Rangers Universe all failed, in several cases horribly. Now why they failed is up for debate, but most agree that they either didn’t need to exist or were trying too hard to compete with the MCU and so rushed things out of the gate. I don’t think Sonic has either of these issues as firstly there is a strong fan base, as has been reflected by the box office for both films, but also the creatives seem to be in good communication with the fans and listen to what they want. Moreover,  the Sonic films have not rushed to have all their characters appear on screen together as such audiences will have to wait a few years before they get their first taste of Shadow. In other climates at different studios this would have already happened, we would have got twelve spin off films and fifty streaming series to set everything up but for the most part Paramount has been fairly sparing, the most we are getting is a Knuckles tv show.

It is for these reasons that I think the Sonic universe can rival the MCU, as they still have a lot of cool and crucially popular characters left to introduce and there are a number of projects and places where this universe could go next, it is quite exciting. I am obviously a big Sonic fan, I have enjoyed the games, the animated series and now the films so I want them to keep coming and maybe that is making me look at this shared universe future with pre-emptive rose tinted glasses, but hey I think the Knuckles show will be cool and I’d love a Shadow prequel so I won’t be complaining when we get them.

We can all just hope that Paramount keeps up the quality, the heart and the fan commitment that  has made the films so far good.

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Notions On Toxic Celebrity

Written by Luke Barnes

In this piece I want to talk about what I see to be the main failing of celebrity culture, the belief that somehow celebrities are the best of us. I write this piece as it has just come out that allegedly Vin Diesel was difficult and did not behave on the set of Fast X and as such the director has quit the project, as well as when production of Bill Murray’s next movie has stopped as he has allegedly engaged in some troublesome behaviour.  

In my mind celebrities seem to think that because of their fame and wealth that they don’t have to abide by the same norms and laws that apply to everyone else. Matthew Broderick literally killed someone and still gets to appear in movies, after only paying a small fine, how is that right or fair? I believe that it is because they are put on a pedestal that this sort of behaviour is allowed to flourish. By worshipping celebrities we are creating monsters.

An actor or celebrity with a huge ego is nothing new, they are a dime a dozen, however, this is a result of fan worship. If Vin Diesel didn’t have an army of dude bro fans who will like and share his posts and who will mindlessly flock to see whatever subpar action film he is starring in next in might make him question how he treats those around him, as both the Rock and now his director have pointed out that he is difficult.

Social media has certainly become a tool for celebrity worship and to an extent it has also been used as a means to keep celebrities in check, yet as society we need to see that this hasn’t been enough. Despite #MeToo and the grave threat of cancel culture, a little sarcasm there, celebrities are still behaving badly and escaping consequences. This is a problem I can only imagine solved by people putting their money where their mouth is and not watching these actors projects, letting them fade into obscurity, calling them out, not letting them escape problematic behaviour and encouraging others to do the same.

By giving these people fame and money we are telling them their behaviour is okay when it clearly isn’t. Something needs to change.

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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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The Decline Of Netflix: Is Netflix The New Blockbuster?

Written by Luke Barnes

In this piece I want to talk about the apparent fall of Netflix that many outlets are talking about: stemming from the fact that Netflix seems on course to lose 2 million subscribers this quarter and has a plunging stock price.

Do I think Netflix is dying? No not a chance, all of this would have been predicted. Do I think Netflix will remain the king of streaming? Well that I think is where things get interesting.

My short version of what I think are the ills currently facing Netflix boils down to 3 things, firstly they are extortionately expensive, secondly either due to complacency or maybe covid they have a serious lack of good new original content and are filling the service with cheap reality shows, and finally a lot of people cared about the Defenders show and now they have moved to Disney + the audience has gone with them.

Some people are angry that Netflix cancels a lot of their shows after just one or two seasons, however, I don’t think that is as big an issue for them as others think it is. A lot of other streaming services and networks do the same thing and people still watch them, this is not a new issue to Netflix.

I think the most egregious issue with Netflix is that they are no longer consumer friendly, they have lost the trust of the average viewer. They did this by jacking up the price to obscene levels apparently in order to make new programming, though a lot of those shows have yet to materialise, moreover they are trying to crack down on people password sharing and watching through VPNs. This crackdown is not in Netflix’s best interest at all, they need to do what they can to help people out during this period of financial insecurity, not trying to track down who is using whose Netflix account so they can make a few extra bucks, that leaves a bad taste. Moreover, the crackdown on VPNs doesn’t even effect their profit margin so it makes no sense to go after them unless its for legal reasons around copyright.

Furthermore, and perhaps most troubling of all a lot of the solutions it is rumoured that Netflix is considering will make the experience worse for everyone and certainly won’t help gain them any new fans. Firstly, there is the cheaper ad supported tier, which many look at with derision as it would be better for them to roll back the price of their memberships at least in the short term but no instead they are bringing in ads. The move to ads doesn’t look consumer friendly again it looks like Netflix is trying to fleece people. Secondly there are rumours that Netflix are considering doing away with bingeable releases and are instead considering going weekly, I think this will cost them as then they will just be like everybody else, they will lose any kind of originality. Additionally then a question has to be asked is it even Netflix anymore, because ads and weekly releases sounds an awful lot like standard cable TV.

What should Netflix do then? I hear you ask, well if I were them I would eat the loss and roll back prices for the next year or two to get people back in the door, then I would bring back popular but niche series for specials or shorter closing seasons to get the fans back and to give them closure, which will then generate interest and good word of mouth. I would make less content overall to save on cost as Netflix’s issue all along has been quantity over quality, and finally I would leave password sharing well enough alone.

Oh and I would ditch the gaming division that was always a terrible decision, stop spreading yourself thin and focus on making good shows and movies.

Ultimately, Netflix isn’t dying, or dead, or going away likely for a long time, but it is hurting. I think this is a result of hubris, of Netflix thinking they can take the consumer for a ride and that the consumer would go along with it because Netflix is the king of streaming, and years ago this might have made sense but now people have options and Netflix needs to get with the program and listen to viewers.  

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The Digital Future: What Is Really Killing Cinema?

Written by Luke Barnes

In this piece I want to talk about the decline of Hollywood and how I believe the way we perceive and think about celebrities and the films industry in general is on course to rapidly change over the next few decades.

To break this down into two distinct sections, it will be changes to cinema as a whole first and then celebrities and stardom.

There is nothing I can say about the changing nature of the industry that hasn’t already been said. People, thanks to streaming and the pandemic, have become more and more accustomed to watching films at home, not just that but also having access to big screen releases immediately after they have come out in cinemas on VOD services. This won’t change, if anything the current 30- 45 days release window will likely shrink further, and though studios will still bring out big films in cinemas they can see the writing on the wall hence why they have all, except Sony, gone in on streaming services. There will always be big filmmakers who will work out different agreements with studios to get their films in cinemas but even then it won’t be for as long as it was in the past. You can give me all the piracy figures or say how this is killing cinema, but frankly piracy will always happen and is accounted for and these changes in release are not killing cinema just changing it in a more consumer friendly direction.

If you want to know what is actually killing cinema it is the bloated chains that think they can get away with charging close to 20 pounds for a single ticket, and that don’t care a lick about the cinema going experience.

As of the day of writing this the news is that Netflix is losing subscribers, and cinema purists are lording this as a win, it is not. Netflix’s loss of subscribers will have been accounted for, they knew people were angry at the price hikes and the cracking down on sharing passwords, they also knew that big series like Daredevil were leaving. This is not the loss for them that some people think it is, more shows will be cut and the infamous policy of greenlighting everything will most likely end.

Now onto celebrities, the old guard of movie stars are on their way out and those who are replacing them in the public eye aren’t really the same as classic movie stars, more often than not they are either influencers or activists. The latter of those two types is another reason I think that cinema has not bounced back to pre-covid levels, people are tired of millionaire actors telling them how to live their lives, or how to think. People want to be entertained by the films they watch not be lectured to. The reason why Marvel films and more broadly superhero films are able to keep cinema afloat, and make no mistake that is the case, is because for the most part they are apolitical. I know this won’t be a new take but many films now are more focused on delivering a social message and virtue signalling then they are on telling a story or actually being good- this is being picked up by audiences. Moreover, films that preach on American specific politics always lose interest with the rest of the world because though Americans think they are the centre of the world they really aren’t, and a lot of people turn off for a film that spends its time bashing either side of the American political spectrum.

I think due to this disillusionment towards the attitudes and statements of some celebrities more and more people are looking elsewhere for entertainment, this can be to classic shows on streaming services or to YouTube, Twitch or more widely social media, as such I don’t think Hollywood will ever bounce back to the pre-covid days.

This is a new era and like it or not there is no going back.    

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Hollywood’s China Problem

Written by Luke Barnes

In this piece I want to talk about what I see as one of the biggest issues facing cinema today, the growing malicious influence of China in Hollywood, wherein the tyrannical state is using the latest blockbusters to either push its propaganda or to try and soften its image. Most studios are guilty of this and don’t show signs of changing any time soon, it is from this lens that Disney can release a film which thanks a Chinese concentration camp and it is just par for the course.

It is not just Mulan which shows how Hollywood’s biggest studios are bending over backwards for the CCP, it can also be seen in films like Abominable and Uncharted wherein the film’s feature maps of the South China Sea which willplease the oppressive state: maps which are internationally and legally false, but Hollywood doesn’t care.

Moreover, a lot of people will criticise big studio fare for not talking about or featuring openly LGBTQ+ characters, or for censoring same sex kisses and romances, but this issue too can see its roots placed firmly in China. Chinas incredibly strict censorship means that any films featuring these sort of progressive messages will be heavily edited for fear of not being allowed a release, this then leads to less representation worldwide as studios find it easier to release one cut of the movie everywhere rather than specific cuts for different regions. In the spirit of fairness I will state that it is not only China that demands LGBTQ+ scenes are edited out of films they grant a release to but also a swath of other countries as well, I simply point to China as they have the most importance towards Hollywood in terms of box office.

What can be done about this? To truly combat this problem people like you dear reader need to begin voting with your wallets, if you see a film that has strong ties to the Chinese regime then give it a miss and make sure you call out the studio on social media and let them know why you won’t be seeing their film, if enough people do that then Hollywood will realise that there is consequences for doing business with despots.

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