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 Batman: Trying Desperately To Replicate Nolan

3/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

A new emotional  Batman, played by Robert Pattinson, is born. Is this Nolan? Not quite.

I will admit I liked this film more than I thought I was going to based on the trailers, there are a number of things that work here and a few major things that don’t, but to the positive first.

Jeffery Wright, Zoe Kravitz and Paul Dano are all terrific. Wright and Kravitz totally make the characters of Gordon and Kyle their own to such an extent that you can’t think about anyone else in the role. Yes, I do think these may become the definitive versions of these characters. Moreover, Dano is magnetic as Riddler and really makes the character come alive in a threatening, unstable way that has never been done on the big screen before, Dano’s Riddler is easily the star of the show.

Another positive is the world. This Gotham City feels very comics accurate; the deprivation and the despair are clear to see and inform the wider narrative of the film.  Reeves very accurately captures the world of Gotham as it appears in the comics.

Now onto my issues with the film.

This film really suffers pacing wise, I did say when it was announced that the film was going to be on for close to 3 hours that it was going to be an issue and I was proven quite right. After a while the film starts to drag and even becomes boring, this obviously hurts it tremendously.

Additionally, the film is clearly trying very hard to mimic Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy and as such goes hard with the uber realism and grit. However, unlike Nolan’s films this really doesn’t land and comes across as silly, baffling or simply not as intended. Examples of what I am talking about can be seen as Batman rarely talks to people instead he just stairs, this might have seemed like a cool idea but doesn’t work, moreover, whenever Batman walks anywhere he does it so slowly that anyone could easily just run away, a lot of the time it is not even slow motion he is just barely strolling along. Though Reeves thinks this makes for an intense on-screen presence it actually instead becomes a recurring joke.

Lastly, the emo hot topic Batman played by Robert Pattinson certainly won’t be to everyone’s taste, he wears copious amounts of eye makeup and acts like an angsty teen which at times does become grating, some of the lines are incredibly on the nose in this regard. Furthermore, I don’t think anyone will be coming away from this film saying what a great actor Pattinson is as he is really quite monotone throughout.

Overall, on the better side of fine, but not approaching truly good.

Pros.

Wright

Kravitz

Dano

Cons.

Emo Batman

The pacing

It tries to hard to copy what Nolan did

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Peacemaker: It’s Cow Or Never

4.5/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

The season finale sees Peacemaker, played by John Cena, and the gang go on one final do or die mission to defeat the butterflies.

This may have been one of the strongest seasons of TV I have seen in a long time, for the most part the series was pretty great, there were a couple of mistakes and slips here or there but widely it was near perfect, this is quite rare.

I thought the finale was able to deliver on everything it was setting up, it gave us crazy action and sweet character moments in just the right amount, whilst also teasing out some unresolved issues for season 2, I am glad the show is giving itself a reason to keep Robert Patrick around.

My one downside would be that the episode feels a little rushed and could have done with being about half an hour longer, I just feel like if it had some extra time could have really nailed every single emotional moment and given us more time during the big fight scene.

Overall, a damn near perfect season finale, season 2 has big shoes to fill.  

Pros.

Cena

The emotions

The battle

The use of the theme song

The set up

Cons.

It could have done with more time

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Peacemaker: Stop Dragon My Heart Around

5/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

With enemies closing in, the team must decide who they are fighting for and unite in order to defeat the butterflies.

I think this episode was perfect, it was clearly everything the series has been building towards, even the stuff I didn’t like and criticised at the time. All of the emotional through lines converge here and we finally get to see Peacemaker, played by John Cena, and his dad, played by Robert Patrick, come to blows with it being an emotionally charged scene nailed perfectly by Cena.

Moreover, we also get to see Harcourt, played by Jennifer Holland, become team leader in a magnificent slow motion sequence. I think this is well deserved and is the culmination of Harcourt’s arc as she finally feels part of the team, in terms of emotional pay offs this one certainly feels satisfying.

I appreciate that this show is able to balance both really silly and crass moments with emotional intensity and never have the two negatively impact each other, it is a sure sign of good writing. I thought in this regard the Peacemaker flashback was particularly effecting.

All of this sets up one hell of a finale in the next episode,  I really hope Gunn can nail the landing.

Overall, easily the best episode of the show yet.

Pros.

Harcourt finally getting what she deserves

Peacemakers’ childhood flashback

The emotion

Cena

What it sets up for next time

Cons.

None

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Peacemaker: Murn After Reading

3/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

The police circle in on Peacemaker, played by John Cena.

I found this episode to be frustrating, not so much in what was happening as in how they got there. I found the planting of the diary in the last episode suspect, as in I don’t think the character would have done it, but I also found the fact that a secret government agency was unable to stop a determined detective equally baffling and poorly thought through. Clearly these things happen for story reasons rather than anything resembling logic or consistency.

However, that said the show is still very good and even this episode manages to have a number of standout moments. Chief among these is the slow breakdown of Peacemaker himself, as he is starting to come undone at the seams, this has been brewing over the course of the season but it is really starting to come into it’s own in this episode. Cena does a good job nailing the emotional beats.

Moreover, I think the possessed Song’s, played by Annie Chang, police takeover scene might be one of the best moments of the entire series, it perfectly establishes the threat and is also incredibly cool visually.

Also things are moving forward with the White Dragon, played by Robert Patrick, plotline which promises interesting developments in the next episode.

Overall, a weaker and more frustrating episode on the whole, but it still has some fun moments.

Pros.

Cena nailing the emotion

The Song takeover scene

Teases for things to come

Cons.

It feels a little contrived narratively

Some of the character decisions don’t make sense for them    

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Catwoman: Remember When Halle Berry Used To Be In Films

1/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

Halle Berry is paraded around to be ogled and objectified.

Most agree that this is one of the worst superhero films ever made, as it takes everything fans know and like about Selina Kyle, here played by Halle Berry, and just throws most of it down the drain in favour of lusting after Berry for the runtime of the film. It is hard to watch this film now and not find it wildly sexist and problematic.

Berry for her part proves that maybe she isn’t such a good actor after all and that she should give back her Oscar and ask for forgiveness. She seems fully uninterested in the subject matter or in trying to give a performance that is anything other than wooden. Clearly her interest when signing on for this film was on whether it could become a franchise vehicle for her.

The writing and the plot are both laughably bad and the film feels like it is trying to divorce itself from the comic book source material, which is never a good move.

Overall, a terrible film best forgotten.

Pros.

It is laughably bad

Cons.

Berry

It is sexist

It has no respect for the character

It makes no sense

It has massive plot issues

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Catwoman Hunted: A New Voice For Catwoman?

3/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

Catwoman, voiced by Elizabeth Gilles, becomes the subject of a manhunt after her attempt to steal a precious jewel lands her on the wrong side of a powerful crime organisation.

I would say as far as DC animated fare goes this was slightly above average. I thought Gillies did a very strong job as Catwoman and nearly perfectly fit the role, bringing just the right amount of charm and capability. Moreover, I liked the way the film handled her character and that it gave her some nice quips as well as strong character motivation.

In terms of the art style, I think of all the recent DC animated films this is the one that is the most obviously anime inspired, barring something like Batman Ninja for obvious reasons. I do like the animation here and think that it has its own distinctive feel which is important in making the film memorable.

My issues with the film would be two fold, firstly that the film has a rather generic story that far out stays its welcome and that gives us nothing that we haven’t seen before. Secondly Stephanie Beatriz is deeply miscast as Batwoman. I don’t quite know why but every time I heard Beatriz’s voice coming out of the character I couldn’t help but be pulled out of the film and think to myself ‘oh my she was miscast’. This is a shame as Encanto proved Beatriz is a talented voice actor.

Overall, in terms of what they did with the character and the wider style of the film it is good, however with regard to the lacklustre story and some of the weaker casting choices the film is let down.

Pros.

Gilles      

The character of Catwoman

The style

Cons.

The story

Beatriz

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Peacemaker: Monkey Dory

3/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

Peacemaker, played by John Cena, and co hit a bufferfly processing plant and Murn, played by Chukwudi Iwuji, has his secret further exposed.

I thought this was a decent episode yet probably the weakest yet. Mainly this comes down to the betrayal at the end of the episode that just doesn’t land. Adebayo, played by Danielle Brooks, was tasked with betraying the team from the start of the series and finally does here, however it doesn’t stick the emotional impact and instead just feels done for plot reasons. This episode goes out of its way to suggest that Adebayo is getting sick of Peacemaker and so is ready to betray him, yet this just doesn’t track at all based on the other episodes.

I also don’t really find the investigation into Peacemaker all that interesting. I thought there were so many better things they could have done with the Robert Patrick White Dragon character other than have him be a rat against his own son. Also we all know that the investigation into our leads will go nowhere as they are working for the government so the detectives will just be shut down and it makes no ends who they ask for help.

The ending leaves the series in an interesting place and I am keen to see where the next episode goes, hopefully it will pay off more of the set up here.

Overall, a weaker episode that doesn’t quite nail the humour or the emotion.

Pros.

Cena

The gore

A few sweet moments

Cons.

The betrayal feels hollow

The police investigation side plot

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Peacemaker: The Choad Less Traveled

4.5/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

Peacemaker’s dad, played by Robert Patrick, turns rat so Vigilante, played by Freddie Stroma must get himself sent to prison in order to take care of the problem.

I thought this was probably the best episode of Peacemaker yet, it was certainly the most emotionally raw and I appreciated the show for going there. Though the show might seem crass and silly on the surface underneath there is a lot of depth. I think Vigilante’s breakdown when he realises he’s made the situation worse for his friend, and Peacemaker’s, played by John Cena, dance at the end of the episode where he relives his childhood trauma were both moving and depressing in equal measures.

I thought the prison fight scene wherein Vigilante tries to get the racist gang members to each say something that they are thankful for that a black person has contributed to America before proceeding to beat them up when they don’t was so in keeping with the show. This scene really proves to be a great encapsulation of the show, if you like the sound of it and think it would be funny then you will like it, if it sounds annoying then you won’t. Personally I thought it was great.

My two little issues with this episode, and the things that stop it from getting top marks, are the final twist reveal which shows that Murn, played by Chukwudi Iwuji, has been a butterfly along and the continued waste of Judomaster, played by Nhut Le. In the case of the Murn reveal I found it to just come out of nowhere, there was little to no set up for it and it just feels like a twist for the sake of it, and with Judomaster the character continues to be underused to a point of annoyance.

Overall, an incredibly strong episode only let down by a few strange choices

Pros.

The emotion

The prison fight scene

Vigilante

Cena

The jokes

Cons.

Judomaster

The twist ending

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Peacemaker: Better Goff Dead

3.5/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

Peacemaker, played by John Cena, and company must assassinate their first butterfly.

I enjoyed what this episode did with Vigilante, played by Freddie Stroma, it took the friendship set up between him and Peacemaker in the previous episode and really developed it and added in quite a lot of dimensions. I thought the torture scene between the two was not only funny, but also quite illuminating.

I like the continued romance between Peacemaker and Harcourt, played by Jennifer Holland, I think the two make a good pairing and have strong chemistry. However, I would like to see Harcourt get more focus and have her character expanded out beyond just being a badass and a love interest for Peacemaker. As I have said in previous reviews we know very little about the supporting cast and need more.

Judomaster, played by Nhut Le, is fairly bland as far as minor baddies go. Clearly he won’t be the big bad of the show and is just being used as an obstacle our heroes can chase for a few episodes, that’s fine. However, what isn’t fine is that I didn’t buy Le’s performance at all, I understand the show is supposed to be a comedy but I didn’t find his character in any way threatening, even when he was torturing Peacemaker.

Overall, another good episode

Pros.

Peacemaker and Vigilante

The sweet scene between Peacemaker and Harcourt

The torture scene, for the most part

The comedy

Cons.

Judomaster

The side characters need more development

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