An All New Rey’s Parents Theory

Heard about that new movie Star Wars: The Force Awakens? I think people thought it was pretty good, it was a bit of a success…

Okay, all joking aside, this post will have spoilers so if you haven’t seen Episode VII now would be a good time to step out. Don’t worry, I’ll wait. -twiddles thumbs- -checks watch-

They gone? Great! So you all that have seen the movie know that one of the biggest unanswered questions coming out of The Force Awakens is… who is Rey? We know she’s a warrior that grew up on Jakku and is strong with the force. But why was she left on Jakku? Who is waiting for? Why does everybody seem to know who she is but her?

The current debate seems to be between Skywalker, Solo, Kenobi and even a few people suggesting that she’s a granddaughter to Padme’s unconfirmed sister making Rey an Amidala.

There are great arguments for and against each of these reigning theories and of them I personally am leaning toward a Kenobi; mostly because I’m interested in having a Kenobi character still in the mix. But like a lot of people each of these theories make me a bit uneasy because there’s just an overwhelming sense of ‘it just doesn’t seem possible’ about it. Luke and Obi-Wan are both Jedi and the order doesn’t allow for marriage, just look at what happened with Anakin. Han and Leia don’t act like they have a missing daughter throughout the movie. It’s never been mentioned in any of the movies that Padme has a sister so it would be a little cheap to bring that relation into play now.

So allow me to cast another stone into the theory pool and see if it clicks any better.

Rey is a Dameron.

That’s right, I think Rey is Poe’s little sister. Now how could I think that when there’s little interaction between the two in the movie at all?

Well, most of my reasons come from a comic series released by Marvel/Disney that takes place shortly after the Battle of Endor in Return of the Jedi. This story follows Lieutenant Shara Bey, Poe’s mother. Now another quick warning that I will now delve into spoilers on this comic, Shattered Empire.

In this four part comic series we see Shara struggle with her duties to the rebellion as a pilot while also wanting to finally settle down with her husband (Sergeant Kes Dameron) and their son, Poe, who was born just before the Battle of Endor. She goes on an adventure with Leia to Naboo and then an adventure with Luke to break into an Imperial lab Emperor Palpatine was keeping. In the end, she and her husband leave the rebels and settle down on Yavin 4.

Here’s the interesting piece of information we get from the comics: In the lab Luke wanted to break into are two saplings from the tree that had grown in the Jedi Temple of Coruscant. Not expecting there to be two, Luke ended up giving one of them to Shara who had it planted next to their home on Yavin 4.

Having a force-sensitive object like that has to have some sort of affect, and while we don’t see much of Poe in the Force Awakens it doesn’t appear as if he is force-sensitive.

So here’s what I think: just after settling down and planting the tree, Shara gets pregnant again. This is baby Rey, who – in a much cooler way than Anakin Skywalker – becomes this paragon of force power thanks to her exposure to the force-sensitive tree. Perhaps Shara even dies giving birth to Rey, who is loosely named after her mother (Rey instead of Bey). Five years later, following Kylo Ren’s betrayal and attack on the new Jedi Temple (which likely had Luke’s force-sensitive sapling planted) everybody worries about what might happen to Rey. Kes barely gets his daughter away from Yavin 4 and takes her to Jakku to keep her safe.

Besides the force-sensitive tree and the name (which is probably a longshot) here are a couple more arguments that could be made for Rey being a Dameron.

Lot’s of people have made note of the ship Rey sees in her vision leaving her behind looking like the same or similar ship to the one Leia/the Resistance uses. Kes Dameron, a former member of the Rebellion, could have easily asked for the ship. The only issue is that he himself was not a pilot so he would have needed somebody to take him. A young Poe perhaps? Maybe Han or even Leia herself (who showed some excellent piloting over Naboo in the Shattered Empire.)

Additionally in Rey’s vision at Maz Kanata’s, she has a flashback to the Knights of Ren destroying the Jedi Temple. In this portion of the vision she is still her older self, unlike the flash of Jakku where she is around the age of 5. If she were actually at the Temple like so many people think she was, wouldn’t she appear as the age she was at that time? Instead I think she is actually living somebody else’s moment. It could be Luke, as she is touching the lightsaber, but perhaps she is feeling the connection through the force-sensitive trees. Did Kylo Ren kill somebody to protect the second sapling? Does he have it now and if so, what happened to the one on Yavin 4?

Is it possible that, unable to save the tree at the Temple, Luke took the sapling from Yavin 4 into exile to the first Jedi Temple? This might explain Kylo Ren’s and Snoke’s obsession with finding Luke first as well as Rey once she is noticed.

During Kylo Ren’s interrogation of Rey, he mentions that when lonely Rey likes to imagine an island. If Luke took one of the force-sensitive saplings with him, Rey may be sensing it’s location and this might be why she is able to imagine an ocean but is amazed by the sight of so much green.

Lor San Tekka, a member of the Church of the Jedi though not force-sensitive himself, is also on Jakku with a piece of the map leading to the first Jedi Temple. This could be a major coincidence, but with the Force such things are rarely a coincidence. Was he sent there to look after Rey? Maybe he couldn’t find her or had to keep his distance since he has a connection to Kylo Ren and would be noticed?

Leia also sent Poe to Jakku to get the map for some reason. Maybe because he’s been there before? Maybe because she remembers doing a favor for his father that led to Jakku? Thanks to a wayward droid owned by Leia, she and Luke ended up meeting up. Perhaps a similar thing is happening to Poe and Rey.

Finally, I want to discuss the fact that everybody keeps making arguments that since Rey is so great at piloting her father must be Luke or Han! Well, that’s great and all, but Poe is the greatest pilot in the resistance (which is mentioned over and over again as well as shown) and he got that piloting skill from his mother. It could be possible that Rey inherited this from her mother as well, indeed the same mother as Poe: Shara Bey. Considering Kylo Ren/Ben Solo inherited his force sensitivity from his mother it would be interesting if this trilogy is a legacy of the mothers instead of the fathers.

Besides, if Poe and Rey are siblings then we can get a cute scene like this:

Finn: You love her, don’t you?

Poe: Yeah, of course.

Finn: That’s fine. When she gets back, I won’t stand in the way.

Poe: What? No, you idiot, she’s my sister!

Finn: ……….Oh

Poe: -laughs and kisses Finn-

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X-Men: Days of Magic Tricks (DOFP review/critique)

What’s wrong with a little magic trick? After all, that’s what a movie is, right? Movie magic?

Months ago I commented on how X-Men: Days of Future Past (DOFP) was a chance for Fox to get a handle on their franchise. To make changes for the better and improve upon their mistakes. I was hoping for an opportunity for good movies for the X-Men, my favorite comic franchise, along the lines of Amazing Spider-Man and Iron Man.

And according to Twitter this is the best X-Men movie. Oh, apparently it could even be better than The Avengers! It was so good and fixed all the problems that X-Men fans are just rejoicing!

I’m calling foul. Because honestly, all this movie was, was a magic trick. It literally tricked audiences into believing this was a fantastic movie, more importantly a fantastic X-Men movie. I believe mostly by the virtue of The Thing they did at the end of the movie.

There are other reasons, too.

Reason Number One being that it was directed by Bryan Singer, the director for X-Men and X-2 which started off the franchise and possibly this entire era of gritty, realistic superhero movies. Most fans of the movies still say that X-2 is by far the best of the movies. Simply by the virtue of his name being on this project, nostalgia kicked in and fans believed they would get to relive the amazement that was X-2.

Visually, Singer definitely came in and put his mark on this movie. Every scene was shot with care and many of the actors were definitely directed into giving emotion… possibly to some writing that didn’t quite warrant that quality of emoting. On top of that, the mutant powers felt natural and seamless much like they did in X-2, something missing from something like The Last Stand.

So, yes, under Singer’s directorial power the movie looked like a well put together, solid story. Much like the other two X-Men films he directed which showed decent cohesion throughout despite its other problems. Most of which seemed to be in the script.

And about that script… It was written by Simon Kinberg who also wrote the script for The Last Stand.

Let that sink in for a bit because I’m getting back to that.

Reason Number Two was the decision to hook the original trilogy cast together with the cast of X-Men: First Class. The latter of which is, to me, the best of the X-Men movies. It had a charm to it that felt straight out of the comics and while they screwed up some favorite character (Emma Frost, for example) there was some effort to give characters personalities and personal arcs outside of their powers. There was some real possibilities to be explored here.

So of course it makes absolute sense to kill off most of the characters from that movie and completely ruin the charm that was First Class here in DOFP. Instead of widening the possibilities, we got further Charles/Raven/Erik dynamic. While I enjoy this dynamic and even liked the ending that Charles and Raven got to their arc, the inclusion of Wolverine and the original trilogy cast really undercut it.

It felt as if there was half a movie missing from their storyline. What seemed like a better place to begin would be when The Xavier School is falling apart. Actually show Charles’ descent into hopelessness, adding more tension and more stakes. Also… dammit, all of those characters killed off screen! That just pissed me off. If it had to happen, make it part of the story. Show Raven dealing with the circumstances. Perhaps survivor’s guilt turns into rage, humanizing her more especially when paralleled with young Magneto who feels this further justifies his vendetta against the human race. Show Raven hesitant with the lengths Magneto goes to so it’s even more reasonable when she strikes out on her own.

Show, don’t tell! For the love of god, this is the first rule of Writing 101!! Even in scriptwriting. I took scriptwriting 101, I know!

Also gotta love how Professor X gets turned into Professor Exposition at the beginning of the movie. Poor use of your Patrick Stewart, guys!

Back to the reasons…

Oh yes, that Quicksilver scene.

This I’m going to compare to that opening scene in X-2 where Nightcrawler is trying to assassinate the President. It’s an awesome scene that really showcases a mutant’s unique capabilities in a way you can never get in the comics. This is a good use of your mutant powers meets cinematography!

But unlike Nightcrawler, Quicksilver is there for that scene only.

Just like Nightcrawler, Quicksilver’s relation to a more central character is hinted at but never explored (because that would be something, like, character development or something! Why do that when we can show nifty powers instead?)

Unlike Nightcrawler, Quicksilver could have been replaced with about half a dozen other characters and the story would have lost nothing. Nothing! And that half a dozen is just characters with similar powers. Far more relevant characters to the plot and the central cast could have been brought in.

Though, honestly, that ending sequence could have been far more dynamic with Quicksilver in the mix!

Certainly a lot less characters standing around telling us what’s going on… Wow, even the final battle was more tell than show. That… that is really sad… I only really realized this now…

Okay, so another reason this is apparently a spectacular movie… It’s based off a popular comic book arc?

Ignoring the They-Sent-Logan-Instead-Of-Kitty bit of that because Wolverine=Cash… This movie has been done before. And better. Movies like the Terminator have done the ‘go back in time to change the horrible future’ gag and other than the ‘Mystique attempts to assassinate important person’ that is the only detail really taken from the comic story line. The thing that made this comic book arc so popular was its obvious Holocaust allegory made stronger by making Kitty Pryde, a prominent Jew in the comics, the main protagonist.

And it felt so… so half assed!

The future that we’re trying to change? We get one glimpse of it during the obligatory Patrick Stewart opening narration. And it’s pretty dismal, thought provoking and heart string plucking.

But they never ground it in the movie. Nobody we know ever interacts with the idea of concentration camps for mutants (and humans that helped them or could potentially have mutants). Instead our future characters all interact in obscure, removed locations with no grounding in our everyday lives. How am I, the ordinary audience member, supposed to identify with that?

Also… they had an effing jet. Why weren’t they on that jet the entire time!? This is a nitpick, it really is… But it only would have required one line about how Kitty couldn’t be moving while she was sending Logan back in time. Because, honestly, it seems smarter to me that if you’re last hope is this plan to change the past you don’t want to be standing still! Mobile seems smarter and safer to me! I… just… ugh!

I seriously did not get through the first ten minutes of this movie without heavy frustration. Between the characters there to just be there and have no lines (Bishop, Colossus, Sunspot, and Storm), Professor Exposition, no explanation on Kitty’s powers, no grounding in this terrible future and, oh yeah, the things Logan is supposed to fix I was tearing my hair out. First ten minutes of the movie. Not a good sign, guys.

And here’s, apparently, where the conflict of this movie is supposed to be: Older Xavier wants Logan to go back in time to give his younger self a pep talk to get out of his funk.

My problem with this is… well, clearly Xavier got out of that funk. We have seen three movies of him out of his funk. He is right there in the future, in this movie, out of his funk. This conflict does not require time traveling back in time to fix! It require the regular type of time travel: forward in a straight line at the same speed as everything else!

Yes, I realize the conflict was “he needs to be out of his funk now and not later.” But the fact of the matter is still this: Logan was unnecessary. Especially in the capacity he ended up serving to get Charles out of his funk, which was to actually have Older Xavier get Charles out of his funk. Somehow…

So why didn’t Older Xavier just tell Logan what to say before he went back in time?

Oh, wait, that would take out the conflict. Damn! I guess that means it was never that great of a conflict to begin with!

I mean, it would have been without the time travel element because then the audience wouldn’t have seen a version of Charles who quite clearly got himself out of his own funk somehow in the supposedly same timeline.

Make this a true First Class sequel and act like it’s actually a reboot to the series and give me this same “Charles has given up on the school” conflict and I’d actually believe it. Because then, while I believe I know how it ends, I don’t actually already know.

I guess that makes the story of whether or not Mystique is going to become a killer the actual conflict. Which… it didn’t need to be that conflict at all. The real conflict was her not being captured and not causing anti-mutant hysteria. Nothing about that Time-Travel-Fix-It scenario requires a fight over Raven’s soul conflict.

My main problem with this conflict is mostly… it’s not set up in this movie! The idea that X-Men don’t kill, they find different ways (oh, and the idea of humans and mutants working together) is never set up in this movie. Except by word of mouth. Characters tell us, but it’s not shown.

It’s shown in First Class! Charles wants to stop Shaw, Eric wants to kill him. These differences causes a debate between two growing friends that eventually comes to a head in the final confrontation. Better yet, while Eric is clearly shown to be stepping into villainous shoes he’s not entirely shown to be wrong for permanently disposing of Shaw. The villain. The one that wanted to start World War III.

So DOFP assumes you remember this conflict of First Class. But doesn’t assume you remember that Charles thought of Raven as a sister. I mean, you remember Patrick Stewart showing such familial affection to Mystique, right guys!? Let me tell you about it!

At the same time this movie likes to assume you’ve seen all previous movies, it likes to rewrite history. By telling us about it.

Another thing I really liked about First Class, was that the X-Men were working with humans. The only humans in this movie are bad guys or hapless bystanders. And yet these Sentinels in the future are destroying humans too. Couldn’t it have added to this conflict if a human was involved? Show the other side? In the future, in the past… anywhere! A Moira-esque character could have added so much depth to this movie…

SPOILER TERRITORY!

I’ve got a couple more notes to hit that require spoiling the end of the movie. I figured it was nicer if I let people know. If you want to skip this, I’ve marked where this section ends.

Lots of people like to poke holes at the Magneto thing. You know, where Ian McKellen tells Logan “It’ll take the two of us” and then they break Eric out of prison for him to pretty promptly screw up the plan and go villainy.

I give this a pass! This I’m okay with. I think Older Magneto, who was now living with regret, truly believed his younger self would help. I don’t think it’s unfair that his hindsight would give himself much more credit for seeing the right path when things were dire. Don’t we all like to pin better motivations on our past selves and like to think that if things had gone slightly different, we might not have done better?

I think this was brilliant. I think this was the best connection between past and future storylines and a look at the complexity of time travel. We cannot predict what consequences changes in the past would make, we couldn’t even predict how we ourselves would react to changes!

It’s just… really, really sad this got so little screen time. Understandably, because Magneto has no arc (he used his up in First Class which is still very disappointing in that regard) and focus should be given to characters with arcs.

Then again… why did we waste so much time on Wolverine then? Because he had none. None of the future day characters had arcs. Hank didn’t even have an arc! Holy crap, this entire movie was lacking in arcs!

But! But the movie did a good job of tricking us into thinking we have a Wolverine arc! Why? How?

Time Travel! –throws confetti-

Because, double spoiler alert here, when Logan wakes back up in the future everything is different! Not just, no more concentration camps and sentinels. But Bobby and Rogue are back together! Kitty is a teacher. Beast is a teacher (and blue and furry full time again). But, best of all, Scott and Jean are alive! This means Last Stand never happened!

-fireworks-

Because that was an awful movie that needed to be erased from the face of existence.

And DOFP is the greatest thing in the world! After all, it not only fixed The Last Stand it is absolutely nothing like it in the slightest!

After all, in The Last Stand the X-Men are fighting against humans wanting to wipe them out as well as Magneto, they move iconic landmarks, kill favorite characters off screen and don’t follow the original comic storyline(s) at all!

Whereas DOFP the X-Men are fighting against humans wanting to wipe them out as well as Magneto, they move iconic landmarks, kill favorite characters off screen and don’t follow the original comic storyline at all!*

Yeah, big improvement!

Though, tell me, what did that ending fix? What did it possibly fix and make better!? It was icing on a poorly made cake, people! Because Last Stand still happened. It did not disappear, proven by the flashes Charles picks up in Logan’s mind. This does nothing for the story, it does nothing for Logan’s character, and it has absolutely no effing bearing on the main character’s stories at all!

A better use of that ending would be if we were shown Logan losing somebody at the beginning of the movie. During that concentration camp scene. Have him lose something in this actual story so he has motivation. Then we have a sense that it worked and his efforts meant something when we see that person alive and well after the timeline is changed.

Plus! Plus, we already knew this was the end of the original cast. Before the movie came out, Singer said this was supposed to be a farewell to Patrick Stewart and the rest. The plan was always to continue on with the First Class cast. So they basically teased us with something we will never see. Why the hell was this necessary!?

NO MORE SPOILERS

Show, don’t tell and keep the story contained. Our emotional attachment to a movie should not require us to have watched half a dozen movies beforehand. The success of a script should not require homework, a good script will have the necessary components in the script!

I also have a problem with… what kind of message was this movie trying to sell? Clearly they didn’t want to do a Holocaust story because the concentration camps were completely swept over.

Is the message drugs are bad? Because… Hank survives at the end of the movie by taking “drugs.” So, no, clearly it’s not that.

Is it that whole Xavier’s “just because a person stumbles…” doesn’t mean they’re… whatever that was… It was a good message! It just didn’t exist in the script strongly enough. Just for Charles (adding onto the Logan wasn’t necessary for defunking angle) and Raven. But… did she ever feel like she stumbled? Yeah, that’s left really ambiguous… We just know that Charles think she has and will come to her senses… and do what he tells her to. You know what would have made this stronger, if Logan stumbled! If he made a mistake that hurt the mission. But, no, he doesn’t really make any mistakes (of his own making.)

So basically, I’ve got to believe that the message of the movie is “Don’t worry kids, if you make a mistake that dooms humanity (or a popular movie franchise) we’ll just send Wolverine back in time to fix it! Yay!”

Awesome magic tricks guys but… I’m going to continue giving Marvel my money… Because Joss Whedon is still greater than Bryan Singer, The Avengers is not the best thing since sliced bread but is better than this mess, and OMG Guardians of the Galaxy looks like it’s actually going to be good! (Oh, and Scarlet Witch who is a female that just might be getting a major role in Avenger 2. Fingers crossed…)

Now… can I get an X-Men movie? X-Men… and a movie. Both at the same time. This… this really doesn’t seem like too much to ask for.

*This observation credited to The Nostalgic Critic’s Bum Review of DOFP

Female Led Summer Blockbusters That Could Have Been (Godzilla, X-Men)

I have seen two movies in the last couple of weeks where I found myself directing a second version simultaneously in my head. Both of my in head versions took one turning point in the original movie’s storytelling and replaced the male character with the female character. These movies were Godzilla and X-Men: Days of Future Past (DOFP).

Straw (wo)man argument: Can’t you feminists just enjoy a movie without subjecting it to gender, race etc. politically correct witch hunts? You’re ruining movies by complaining about everything at a drop of a hat! (Partly taken from real comments found around the internet, though far more polite than most ones you’ll find.)

First off: I really liked Godzilla and I’m not complaining about it. Everybody that watches it can agree the human element is really lacking so almost any change could make it even better.

Second: Misogyny exists. It’s a social problem that we all share, not just Hollywood. Culturally we are still strongly misogynistic and this is reflected by the media we create. In return, the media we consume reinforces the misogyny that led to that media’s creation. That is to say, not all acts of sexism have been intentional or malicious but it is still validated as being the correct way of thinking and this is a dangerous cycle when taken as a whole.

So, yes, sometimes individual people with their individual complaints are making mountains out of molehills. But media does not exist in a vacuum. The fact is that nobody wants all movies to suddenly be female led stories, there simply are just too few of them that it does indeed feel as if all movies are male led movies. The complaint here is not “why was this movie led by a man?” but more of “why wasn’t it led by a woman? 

And why not indeed?

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Starting with Godzilla, according to Director Gareth Edwards at one point this was going to be a heroine led movie. Considering what talented actresses they had (Juliette Binoche, Sally Hawkins, and Elizabeth Olsen) with the right script any of these ladies could have been the female hero easily. However Edwards does not explain either what his vision for a female led Godzilla movie would have looked like nor why it was changed to such a testosterone-charged film. This means we are left to guess and make our own ideas.

Where did my version of Godzilla differ from the one on screen? You kill the father and the mother lives.

Simple enough, right? Now, I know that people love Bryan Cranston and his character was arguably the best after the King of the Monsters (though hell if anybody refers to his character as anything other than ‘Cranston.’) But hear me out on why this change could have made for a fundamentally more interesting human storyline.

First off, keep the opening sequence the same: little boy wakes up to find his father is up early working and can’t set up the Happy Birthday Dad sign the boy made. The mother assures her son that she’ll fix it, sending the boy off to school and telling her husband that she’s going to leave work early to set up the birthday party.

Now imagine how much stronger of an emotional impact this leaves if the father dies before anybody can celebrate his birthday. More importantly, the mother feels she failed because not only did she not heed her husband’s warnings about the tremors but she shut the door that left him to his death. There is now no chance of her going home early to get a birthday cake, no heroic mother moment where she helps her son make good on his plans for his father.

Fast forward to years later, and much like Cranston’s character, his wife has become obsessed with the event that killed her husband. This has strained her relationship with her son who doesn’t understand why she can’t let it go. I find this idea far more compelling than yet another Hollywoodified ‘distant father is not really a bad father just misunderstood’ story. Because how many times do we see this story in reverse?

Not often. BBC’s Orphan Black springs to mind and that’s about it. In our culture it is less acceptable for a woman to be a bad parent. She is either a great mother or she is a horrible mother who never gets a redemption arc. So often men who were seen to cut and run in their children’s life are allowed to come back when the story begins and prove their worth. If women are seen as a bad parent with an extremely strained relationship with her children, it’s usually because she’s career obsessed. The message being that women cannot have a career and be a mother where as its perfectly acceptable for a man to be a father and have a career. In fact, he is usually seen as less than a man if he doesn’t have a career.*

Notice how a change of gender for a lead role does almost nothing to change the story but does lead to interesting questions and nuances often missing from summer blockbusters. This partly has to do with the genre of the movie, wherein human characters are largely second fiddle to the monster(s). Audiences do not expect characters to be complex and compelling all on their own, they signed on to see CG monsters destroy shit. I was expecting little more than that myself and found myself greatly enjoying what I got. Unfortunately Edwards had to point out that at one point there was a female led script and that some vague reason (likely the studio thinking they wouldn’t make money from a female protagonist) caused him to change it to a male led script.

And some director-studio combos don’t leave the reasons vague, they do mental and verbal gymnastics to justify their sudden male centric story. Enter Bryan Singer’s DOFP.

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Marvel fans, specifically X-Men comic fans, know that the storyline the movie is (roughly) based off of has a woman, and fan favorite Kitty Pryde center stage. It is Kitty that goes back in time to stop the assassination of Senator Kelly to prevent massive anti-mutant hysteria that leads to future apocalypse. Ask X-Men comic fans what their favorite storyline is and you usually hear one of two answers: DOFP or The Dark Phoenix Saga.

(Can somebody fire Simon Kinberg, script writer for both DOFP and The Last Stand, already? Please? No, he’s going to be the X-Men movie story architect… Can somebody send him to a writing class then? Show don’t tell should be his first lesson.)

Right out of the gate DOFP was announced as being a way to bring the cast of the original X-Men movie trilogy and the cast of the reboot-but-not-really First Class together. The time travel element would allow them to connect in a clever way. And the person being sent to prevent life as we know it from going to hell? None other than the man that has been stealing the limelight for the past fourteen years: Logan aka Wolverine.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I love Hugh Jackman. He is a talented actor who can play a wide variety of characters and he makes a very interesting, complex Wolverine. But after every X-Men movie except First Class has centered around him, I’m starting to get a little bored. Especially since the writing hasn’t exactly kept up with Jackman’s acting. Not since X-2 has Wolverine been written as the complicated anti-hero that a story can interestingly revolve around.

However, Kinberg and Singer have admitted that it wouldn’t even have been necessary to make Logan the time traveler. If they wanted him in the movie, Wolverine could have still been in the movie. After all, he is alive and well in the 70’s and could have shown up as his pre-amnesia self.

Furthermore, the reasons given both in interviews and in the movie why it has to be Logan that time travels back and not anybody else is bullshit. Why? Because they’re made up rules! If you make up those rules, you can make up any rules. In short all of that nonsense – that Kitty wasn’t born yet in the 70’s and wouldn’t have a body to send her consciousness to, that Logan can heal and thus take the strain of the time travel – are all excuses to justify Jackman playing a leading role. Especially since Kitty’s ability to send people’s consciousness back in time are never explained in the context of the narrative.

So since the movie creators can make up rules, I did as well.

I start with the assumption that Kitty’s ability to time travel a person’s mind is an extension of her phasing abilities. In a way, she is phasing a person out not in a physical sense but in a temporal sense. Now, since this is her mutation, she would be the one person uniquely adapted to use that power. In short: her body and mind ought to be able to withstand any BS backlash you want to make up. Suddenly it’s not a question of whether she can stand the ‘damage’ like with Wolverine, but whether she can make the trip.

Enter Charles Xavier, the strongest telepath known to man, who can link with Kitty’s mind to guide her to the correct part of the timeline. Since he was there, he knows what to recognize, and can make a temporal road map for her.

But maybe you want a Wolverine element all the same anyway. So you cut in the excuse that Xavier doesn’t have his telepathy during the period of time that Kitty needs to go to. Instead of using his younger self as a point on the temporal map, he uses Logan instead. Kitty suddenly pops out of temporal phase in the 70’s next to Logan’s younger self.

Want to keep that strange idea that any changes made in the past won’t have any effect on the future until the person time traveling cuts the connection? Have Kitty’s body stay in the future and in the past she is completely incorporeal. Suddenly she has a stronger need for young Logan since she can’t affect anything physically and those of us that like to see Wolverine and Kitty teamups are appeased.

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Another way this could have easily turned into a female led movie? Bring in Rogue! She can absorb Logan’s healing power or Kitty’s time travel power. Whichever way works best. Then this movie could have harkened back to the first X-Men movie but with a more grown up and wiser Rogue. A Rogue who has to take what she’s learned and suddenly do the same to the men that have mentored her over the years: Xavier and Logan. A Rogue who has to team up with a young Magneto before he ever kidnapped her and make her decide whether she will hold that against him or not. A Rogue who has conflicting feelings not only about Magneto, but Mystique who in the future tricked her into leaving the mansion by pretending to be Bobby. The Mystique that almost killed Charles Xavier. The Mystique that helped Magneto taunt Rogue. Imagine a Rogue who has to convince Xavier to use his powers despite the sacrifice it requires for the greater good, a conflict she has struggled with her entire mutant life! (And could potentially still be struggling with in this movie since she did take the cure in Last Stand.)

Holy crap! This conflict writes itself!

Too bad it’s more than likely that Singer could never have gotten Anna Paquin long enough to make that movie… But hell, it’s good enough that recasting Rogue could have been easily forgiven.

Why is this not the movie that exists!? Despite my dislike of Rogue, this very concept is easily more compelling than the one we got. Rogue’s very life was changed (for the better) because of Logan and Xavier. Wouldn’t she be overly motivated to make sure the school did well so that she could eventually walk those hallowed halls, have a place where she is accepted and belongs? Despite the script telling me or and over again that I should believe it, I never quite felt as if Logan and Xavier were chummy enough for Logan to be convincing in his role of great motivator. 

In conclusion: There are reasons to have male led movies when they could have just as easily been female led and then there are excuses. DOFP is definitely an example of excuses.

On an unrelated note, is anybody as excited to see Lucy as I am?

*Yes, there are double standards in play in our society because of our insistence on keeping to a defined gender binary, but that does not mean there is a systemic misandry in play. The fact of the matter is that women largely have to fear for their lives if they choose to walk home alone in the dark because a man might attack and/or rape them. A man does not.

Top Ten Best Comic Book Movie Female Characters

Apparently change is inevitable. This summer will mark further steps to include more strong women into center stage in the Marvel universe. Cinematically we have confirmation there will be a whole whopping two female characters in Avengers 2 and one (Scarlet Witch) will even have super powers. On television, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D has been renewed – for better or for worse – for a second season and Agent Carter will be an actual show. Just today for comic books it has been announced that much beloved X-Men character, Storm, will be getting her own independent solo title, something fans have been begging for to have for years.

In light of all of this beautiful feminist success, I decided it was time for a top ten list! Because, why not? Well, the real reason is that I don’t give myself time to watch the movies I want to review but there’s all this stuff I want to talk about… So I’m taking some of that stuff and putting it in one blog review.

This top ten list features what I believe to be the top ten best (written, acted, portrayed, etc) female characters from major comic book based movies of the last fourteen years. This is my list, of course, and you are entitled to your own list. But I will try to make a strong case for my list. Here we go!

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10. Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) from Captain America

Peggy Carter just has it so tough as a woman! Not only is it the 40’s (which requires a fierce wardrobe) but she is one of twelve main characters. Or so my numbers from 2013 say. I think I was counting the Howling Commandos, which considering how simple Peggy’s character is it doesn’t seem like a stretch to include them. She is not the only female in the whole movie, or the only speaking one for that matter. There’s the chick that makes out with Cap…

And that’s really the problem with Peggy, isn’t it? She is a woman and by god she has got to work against that unfortunate attribute! By punching men and shooting guns at men and just looking damn amazing while doing it. All to prove that she is a strong, independent, capable woman who deserves her place in a role usually given to a man… I guess? I don’t know, honestly the only reason I remember her name and not blonde bimbo’s is that they act like she’s crucial to the plot. That’s not the character’s failing, it’s the plot’s… if you can call it plot.

So why does she make this list at all? Because Hayley Atwell did a fucking amazing job with what she had to work with! The over the top stuff like getting crazily jealous and firing a gun at an experimental shield Steve is carrying was written in like a slap to the face. “Pay attention, dumbass, she’s a capable woman!” But it’s the little things that Atwell does that make Peggy seem like an actual character. Atwell brings a lot more poise and sophistication to the character than the writing did. Her small, knowing smile as Steve, still scrawny and weak, talks about dancing or the straight way she delivers her line after shooting at the shield make her seem deep and meaningful.

In short, she’s on the list because she has potential and with an upcoming television series she is one of the few ladies that has an actual shot. Only time will tell if she can prove how tough and capable she is in a man’s world without seriously risking bodily harm to the men around her.

9. Catwoman (Anne Hathaway) in Dark Knight Rises

Maybe it was something about how the Nolan Batman universe desperately craved some estrogen, but I enjoyed Hathaway’s portrayal of Catwoman. I went into the movie already despising the much acclaimed Dark Knight and also disliking Hathaway as an actress. She annoyed me in the Princess Diaries (which might have something to do with the source material) and straight up irked me in Ella Enchanted (which might have something to do with them ruining the source material) though The Devil Wears Prada made her tolerable.

But she nailed Catwoman… Er… the role. The role of Catwoman. She hit it out of the park.

Okay, it wasn’t that spectacular, but for what little Catwoman actually does in the movie, Hathaway had it. The sexy, the trod upon, the dangerous and the strangely condescending. While the script failed to truly test just how well anybody can trust Catwoman, there was always a sense with Hathaway that anything is and should be fair game. She has her own motivation for everything she does, even if what’s revealed for plot’s sake seems a little weak.

But hey, you can’t blame a girl for wanting the perfect stolen pearls to go with her black dress.

8. Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence/Rebecca Romijn)

Surprise, this is the only full-fledged X-Men character to make it onto this list and that has quite a lot to do with her portrayal in First Class. While Romijn’s Mystique was always a bit of a badass, she never seemed like much of a character. She was a very personified prop that had the great potential for badass individuality. Unfortunately she lived in a world that if you weren’t under flag Xavier or flag Magneto, you didn’t really exist. Sorry hundreds of very interesting and accessible X-Men characters, you just don’t fit the narrative tone… here, have a teenage boy’s blue, naked, walking wet dream.

With First Class and the help of Lawrence’s stardom, Mystique made the flip to full on main character-dom. And by that, I mean she was the main character of storyline B. Eric and Charles fought desperately over the A storyline like mommy and daddy are wont to do. With the kids there was a clear front runner and that’s because she wanted… Okay, dropping the analogy now.

While Mystique was given character flaws, wants and an arc she was still very much defined by the men around her. Namely, it seemed like anybody she had some emotional connection to she ultimately wanted to bang. This included her longtime friend Charles, the boy with the big feet she just met Beast, and broody bad boy she turns to when the good boys clearly don’t want her Eric. Add in Moira and this becomes something of a love… pentacle. Messy and convoluted muck that was just… so unnecessary.

However, there are signs that Lawrence’s Mystique will get greater independence in the next First Class movie. Here’s to hoping she finds some agency along with her clothes.

7. Yukio (Rila Fukushima) from The Wolverine

While from a movie included in the X-Men franchise, I do not count Yukio as part of the X-Men. Wolverine gets his own little franchise. And The Wolverine had some of the strongest male to female ratios out of all of the comic book based movies. All of the characters, however, come out a little flat and I don’t even think Logan is hitting full Wolverine stride.

Still, it’s hard to complain about a little Japanese spitfire like Yukio. Yukio is a mutant with the unfortunate ability to see how people are going to die. That is it. That and a fierce sense of loyalty and honor which drives her to protect the people she loves (mainly Mariko and Logan) no matter the cost are just about the only characteristics she gets. But you know what… I kind of get that more than I get Yashida’s motivation, or even Logan’s for that matter. And did Viper ever end up explaining what she got out of the bargain?

I guess it’s a little cheap to make it onto this list by being the best out of a subpar group of characters. But I know there’s a crowd of people that would like to see more Yukio, and so would I! No more Rogue, let Yukio take the place as awkward unrequited infatuation. At least she’s not a child (I think) even if she looks like one.

6. Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) in Thor

I love Jane Foster but I do have to admit that this might be more a love for Natalie Portman. After all, despite best efforts from society, the prequel trilogy is my Star Wars trilogy. Yep, that’s right: Jar Jar and Amadala’s revolving wardrobe worked on my young mind. Also I totally ship Padme and Obi-Wan. Don’t tell me you can’t see Han/Leia esqueness in those two!

Anyways, I do love Jane even if she is just so… dull… and plain… Gods, she is so incredibly boring! And apparently instead of making her more interesting they decided it was better to add in a more interesting intern. Jane’s a scientist for Odin’s sake! She ought to be a strong, clever, intelligent character. Instead she’s daft and a snooze and giggles over dreamy, hunky Thor. But what else was I expecting with Thor falling out of the sky with his hot, condescending babble talk about how magic is science and what we think of as science is simply primitive. Don’t worry puny mortals, you’ll get there somewhere in the next thousand years or so… Oh, you don’t live thousands of years? That sucks for you.

I guess mostly Jane ends up here on the list out of pure potential. And she’s too plain to warrant critiquing her down lower on the list. She’s not a particularly powerful or compelling character either on her own or as Thor’s love interest. But god damnit, I know she went to college and she can wizard up weird useful uses out of sciency gadgets that shouldn’t be able to do that… but hey, magic is science now. Our talking Norse mythology said so.

5. Lois Lane (Amy Adams) in Man of Steel

I always admired the idea of Lois. She’s smart, analytical and isn’t willing to stick to face value. In short, she’s a journalist that actually does her damn job. She does it well and loves doing it. For all of its many faults, Man of Steel did crank up the volume on Lois’ journalist side. First she tracks down an alien ship and next she tracks down Superman. Better yet, the movie attempts to make her relevant to the third act beyond needing saving.

Though, she does need that too. And it defies every law of physics, even the ones we haven’t written yet.

During occasional scenes Amy Adams’ Lois is witty and charming, and the wool doesn’t get pulled over her eyes so easily. Of course, like everything in Man of Steel, the movie doesn’t seem to understand its own tone so many scenes Lois is completely missing any intriguing personality traits. She’s missing a personality altogether, though she is by no means the only one who suffers that throughout the movie.

4. Pepper Potts (Gwynth Paltrow) in Iron Man

The plot demanded for a plucky, sexy, super competent and tremendously patient assistant to the playboy billionaire philanthropist douche with a slow change of heart. It demanded it!

And Gwynth Paltrow is by far the best plucky super assistant without super powers in existence. Better yet, while there’s some underlying sexual tension between Pepper and Tony Stark in the first movie, she is not played as a love interest. I don’t even think there’s a damsel scene in the whole movie. That gets fixed in the following sequels, of course, but for the first one she does damn all right in her mandatory secretary high heels.

Pepper is competent and smart and organized and sarcastic enough to bandy words with Tony. Iron Man was the start of the modern day comic book movies as we know them today, and Pepper was the start of the strong(er) female love interest. Somebody that was actually necessary to the life of the titled character and not just a piece of ass that motivates titled character to make sure the world doesn’t blow up (because sex). Not all follow ups did quite so well as Pepper, hell not even Pepper did quite so well as Pepper.

But as Robert Downey Jr. once said “Always have a Gwynth in the shot.” It could make or break your movie.

3. Gwen Stacey (Emma Stone) in the Amazing Spider-man

This is the character Jane Foster could have been (should have been!) if she wasn’t boring. Gwen Stacey is smart, sassy, funny and not afraid to stick up for herself. She will shout to make herself heard (instead of firing bullets…) and doesn’t waste any time by saying she’s going to be one way and then doing the opposite. She does exactly what she says she’s going to do, which is be her own person dammit! She is a character with so much personality and agency I could go on for days about why she is so amazing (though not without horribly spoiling the movies).

So why isn’t she number one on the list?

Well, for everything the movies do incredibly right with their, frankly, only real female character they have disparaging moments where it doesn’t matter. Take the end of the first movie: Peter and Officer Stacey make a decision together on what Gwen’s role in Spider-Man’s life should be. Neither of them make mention that Gwen should have a say in it. Nope. And when Peter does go back on his promise to keep her out of his life, Officer Stacey’s death tends to haunt Peter. Not Gwen. Just Peter.

She, on the other hand, does argue the merits of such a stupid promise and about how she ought to make her own decisions. A lot. And loudly. To the character’s credit, she does a lot to back up her argument. She takes matters and her life into her own hands. Which is wonderful!

But at the end of the day, I don’t feel like it makes as huge an impact on the narrative as it should. Gwen’s arguments and even her actions don’t affect Peter’s outlook in the slightest. Her father’s actions and the villains’ actions affect Peter’s outlook. Gwen on the other hand… God, I love her chemistry with Peter and I want to prove those guys wrong as much as she did, but she really was better off without Spider-Man in her life. Which sucks. Potential wasted, Sony.

2. Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) in Everything since Iron Man 2

Black Widow is a mixed basket of loaded guns. One that I honestly don’t feel invested enough to get into, but I know there’d be angry fans if she didn’t make this list. And if she made the list she would need to be pretty high…

I don’t think that has anything to do with her actual character but more to do with her presence. There is something to be said for consistent representation vs more representation. One really good, recognizable woman is much better than, say, The Wolverine syndrome with multiple women who are mediocre at best.

And despite her outfit and the poses marketing forces her into, there isn’t much bad to be said about Natasha’s character. She kind of fights against the stereotype that she is easily recognizable as: hot super spy.

Because that being said, I think the closest I’ve ever seen Natasha use sex as a weapon was during her opening chair fight scene in The Avengers. Most of the time she can be seen hacking computers or acting, all in an attempt to get more information for her employers. Black Widow has the best poker face of the Marvel Cinematic Universe which makes her unique in a lineup of Tony Stark, Captain America and Thor. These men keep a clear emotion on their sleeve as a defense, whether that’s sarcasm, pride, arrogance or some other one. With Natasha it could be any of those and you’d never know if she really meant it.

However, she has yet to be given much of any meaningful task. The heavy lifting is still done by the dudes and that’s a little unfortunate.

Honorable Mentions:

Before I get to number one of the best comic book movie females, let me make mention of a few ladies that didn’t quite make it to this list but aren’t bad enough to warrant being on the ‘worst’ list. I mentioned Darcy, the loveable and funny intern up with Jane Foster. Kat Dennings who plays her is obviously have a hell of a time playing this character and it’s hard not to have fun alongside her.

Storm from the first three X-Men films doesn’t have the problem of being bogged down (explicitly) into any of the love triangles. She also, eventually, is the one to take over the school from Xavier. While the writing of movie Storm doesn’t warrant the same belief that she’s strong enough for this job, it is still nice to see a woman take over from a man.

Moira from First Class kind of suffers in the same way Peggy Carter does. But instead of making her overtly confident, she just keeps Charles at a distance for a while before caving into having the hots for him. Because… strong women don’t have sex with men until it’s just too hard to ignore instead of being in control of their sexuality like Jennifer Lawrence is doing.

And finally, Hit Girl. She was considered for the list. For quite a long time too. But mostly she’s just really different from all these women, not actually interesting. She’s a caricature of what everybody expects a strong girl to be like (minus the over sexualization because… ew) which makes her more of a satirical point than an actual character. You’re a badass little preteen Hit Girl, but you’re not for this list.

Now… for number one…

1. Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders) in Winter Soldier

Maria Hill is the female counterpart to Nick Fury. She is tough, competent and completely in charge. Even around Fury, who arguably is the only person above her in leadership, Maria Hill does not become a subservient, simpering lackey. No, she does her job. Sometimes that requires anticipating Fury’s requests before he makes them so she can give out orders as well.

All in all, Agent Hill has not done much in the MCU. But I sense a trend that this will be changing over time. After all in the comics, Maria Hill took over S.H.I.E.L.D. after Fury so I would not be surprised if a similar promotion was in her movie future.

As such, there isn’t actually much to say on her character. But she is clearly a skilled, powerful woman able to work in a “man’s world.” And it doesn’t require punching out everybody that says ignorant, sexist things. No, Maria Hill just does her fucking job like she ought to and proves that she deserves respect! And she is there to be a second in command. Not a maternal figure, not a love interest and not even for eye candy. In fact, wardrobe does a good job of dressing her in stark contrast to Black Widow. How a woman would look in a uniform, which is not like a stripper.

I think the fact that she cannot be described as tits, ass or even hair makes Maria Hill a difficult character to market. She has no eye patch like Fury or a stunning personality like Coulson. But I like that about her. She is not a gimmick and I hope Marvel continues to push her closer to the forefront without abandoning that about her. What makes Maria unique is that she is not trying to be unique in a universe where everybody and their aunt (because nobody has parents) has some sort of campy uniqueness to them. She’s just being herself: really good at her job.

More Maria Hill please.

Super Movie Project: The Incredibly Meh Hulk

Wow. The Hulk.

 

So, I should mention that I’m sick. Feverish, stuffy sinuses, the works. So probably not the best time to be critically watching a movie. But hey, I figured it was the perfect time to curl up and watch a movie!

 

Worst. Idea. Ever!

 

Only because Hulk was the movies next on my list. And I really understand why people did not like this movie, why it failed.

 

There is no heart to this acting! I could care less about these characters because everybody seems to speak in monotones. (Note: I made it through fifty minutes before I gave up on the movie… half way through. I deserve a prize!) The best bit of acting I saw was thirty minutes in when Bruce jumps in front of the gamma ray machine thingy to save a guy and then Betty goes off on him being all chipper about not dying later. I really had to agree with Betty: no, you don’t get to giggle this off you little shit! She thought she was going to have to watch you die!

 

This movie goes on the ‘Fail’ list. No super hero movie since 2000 has been this bad…. –waits through the chorus of ‘what about Catwoman or Elektra’ protests- I’ll get to that when I get to it, sheesh!

 

I understand the director was going for a vision. That’s great… I suppose. And for the first five minutes I was totally invested in the movie… but mostly in horror as some faceless person is cutting up seastars and lizards and poisoning little helpless animals… and oh my god who would do that!? Then the continuous dramatic music while little Bruce grew up grated on my nerves. Beside the fact that it took twelve minutes for the actual story to start.

 

And another eighteen of continuous dialogue for the Hulk to become a thing in his own god damn movie.

 

Slow starts are something that always bug me. Especially with super hero movies. We signed on to see [insert super hero here] not all this background stuff that could just as easily be added into the heart of the movie when we actually care! Some movies need to start slow. It builds character and it builds tension. And some of my nit picks about slow starts definitely has to do with person preference… Iron Man will always get the benefit of the doubt while Batman can suck it and start being interesting already!

 

But honestly, when people go into a theater expecting a certain type of movie be sure to give them that movie or break their expectation in a good, clever way.

 

 

I am not looking forward to watching Man of Steel.

 

Anywho, we won’t be getting an in depth look at the females of Hulk because… I don’t care enough. And Betty is the only real female character. She has daddy issues and apparently admits in the movie that this is part of why she’s attracted to Bruce. Because he reminds her of her father. And not in a good way.

 

Bring me a She-Hulk movie already, guys. I’m pretty sure I remember watching her in the early 90’s animated The Incredible Hulk show. I know I had a lot of knowledge on the Hulk for some reason before ever getting into comic book [movies] but that might be partly to do with growing up with my dad…

 

I’m going to go eat.

Super Hero Project: Daredevil

So I lied. Not doing X-2 yet, I decided to take a peek at Daredevil again.

And I’m going to say right now that I think the travesty of Elektra was really coloring my hindsight judgment of this movie. Which is weird, because I also remember really liking it when it came out. I also don’t think I have rewatched it since I was a teenager.

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Remember me complaining about the voice over in Spider-Man? How I gave it a bit of a pass because it seemed to be drawing from the comics but mostly it seemed the mark of lazy story writing? Well, I don’t have that same complaint here for Daredevil. Through some research I can draw the conclusion that the fifteen minute origin introduction to the movie is taken almost panel for panel from a comic book… but I’m okay with that. Because even with the voice over, the movies isn’t afraid of letting its visuals speak too.

The scene where young Matt wakes up to a cacophony of sounds, rightfully freaking him out, it could have been so easy for the script to explain to the audience what it’s seeing. Instead older Matt stays quiet and we’re allowed to experience the panic and the strangeness along with younger Matt. It’s not until later when Matt starts using his new powers to train that we get an explanation.

There are also lines that I absolutely love. After the father wins his fight the voiceover says “I waited outside Queen’s Theater for my father. In some ways, I’m still waiting.” I think anybody that’s ever lost anybody important in their life can understand that feeling, that at any second the lost loved one will appear around the corner and then the crushing disappoint time and time again when that simply doesn’t happen. It can’t happen. Yet our mind still plays that trick on us. Better yet, after that one line of explanation the story of the father dying and Matt finding out is left to the visuals and young Matt’s acting to portray it.

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That doesn’t mean the movie doesn’t have its troubles. Most everybody’s delivery of lines are sub par; it’s like they’re walking this line between not being over the top but not being dull and they end up falling into this in between ‘meh’ spot. It’s not revolutionary acting and nobody is a runaway hit like Ian McKellen or Hugh Jackman in X-Men. Nobody is bad, however. Even Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner work well with the material they were given. Could better actors have made a meh script more riveting? Most likely, but give them credit.

The story itself is nothing spectacular and, in my opinion, runs too long on the religious overtones instead of actual character emotions. I suppose it’s simply to be expected of a movie where the main character has ‘devil’ in his superhero name… but it felt like every wall was plastered with some religious symbol (i.e. Jesus on the cross, oil painting of Virgin Mary, In God We Trust on the wall of the court room, and a whole fight in a church.)

“Aren’t you doing all of this because of female representation? You’re spending an awful lot of time talking about men…”

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Yes, and I’m getting to that… But you know, a good movie does deserve to stand on its own merits too. And I’m going to say it right now before getting into detail, but I like Elektra’s representation in this movie! Yeah, this is a movie I’m pleased with on pretty much every front. When that happens I’m bound to spend a greater deal looking at it as a whole.

There is also the fact that I’m not influenced by the comic version of this character at all. I’ve read Daredevil all of twice and each time he was a guest star in an X-Men based comic. I guess because of that I’m bound to be more critical of an X-Men movie where as Daredevil gets to stand on its movie merits alone.

That being said, I think besides a semi-weak script and unimaginative acting choices the main weakness of the movie come in when you begin talking about Elektra.

To a certain extent, the movie struggles once she comes in on whose origin story this is. We spent half an hour revealing Matt’s journey to Daredevil and he is the title character, but the moment Elektra walks into the script details on her life get sprinkled in. It’s the death of her father, mirroring the death of Matt’s father, that becomes the fulcrum for the final showdown. Everything from there to her death is Elektra’s emotional journey and it fights for the spotlight with Daredevil’s ‘I’m not the bad guy’ emotional arc.

And thing is, Elektra’s is far more poignant and interesting in this part of the movie. Yeah, you feel bad for Matt because he couldn’t save somebody and his girlfriend won’t talk to him, but if Daredevil hadn’t been there Elektra’s story would have been exactly the same. Minus the stabbing her boyfriend thinking he was the bad guy only to find out it was her boyfriend. I mean, I make that mistake all the time, guys!

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There is also very little time given to their romance. They barely know each other by the time they’re sleeping together and it feels a little forced. Again, more a problem of the script and not of the actors. I believe their chemistry (probably helped by the fact that Affleck and Garner end up married). The sex scene I even have no problem with, though I wish their romance had developed a bit more before hand. However, it’s a very beautiful and touching scene. It’s been established that Matt’s enhanced senses most often give him the damaged, broken view of the city around him. Elektra gives him something beautiful to focus on and that sensation of touch is probably one of the most important things for him. The fact that she runs her fingers over his scars and willingly looks at his damaged eyes shows her accepting him, all of him, even if she doesn’t yet know what any of it means yet.

Ignore the cheesy fade out to the fireplace and this is still one of my favorite sex scenes in movies of all time. There’s a purpose and a meaning to it besides sex appeal. It’s deep, it’s spiritual, and it’s erotic all without having to get explicit. Apparently the version we got was a reshoot as the original scene was a lot more explicit, made for when they thought they were aiming for a rated R version of the movie.

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I’m even okay with the way Elektra dresses throughout this movie. Yeah, maybe a few of her shirts are just a little low cut. I’m a little skeptical about how she stayed in that first tank top during the playground fight scene… but okay. Jennifer Garner has boobs, might as well show it off a little. Otherwise she wears pants when appropriate, dresses when it makes sense and even her final leather outfit doesn’t make me cringe with sympathetic discomfort. It looks functional and powerful.

They don’t even make Elektra pose much in this entire movie. The male gaze is mostly missing from this film, though not entirely absent. Maybe this is because Daredevil is blind so it makes sense that the camera wouldn’t linger extra long on bits of Elektra he would never see. There’s also the fact that a bit of the final fight is lifted directly from the comics. Bullseye’s final words are exactly how they were stated in the comics, apparently.

As a young teenage girl I really liked Elektra. Several times I tried recreating her practice scene with the bags of sands, especially after I got my Evanescence CD. I wanted very much for her and Daredevil to get back together and was frustrated, in a good way, at the teasing ending. The one where it hints Elektra might be alive but never shows her.

I liked Elektra more than I liked any of the girls in the X-Men movie.

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So what went wrong?

The Elektra movie. That’s my guess anyways.

I also feel like this movie needed to be braver with its subject material. It could have been interesting if it set up Elektra’s backstory parallel to Matt’s so she’s not a completely new entity when she walks into the coffee shop half an hour into the movie. Show us the pain and horror of seeing her mother die in front of her instead of having the character talk about it. Show, don’t tell. I don’t see why this movie couldn’t have been titled Daredevil and Elektra, interweaving the two characters into one cohesive story of revenge and the cost it has on a person’s soul, culminating in Elektra dying and Daredevil finally deciding murder, even of the bad guys, is not justice.

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Up coming: X-2 and Hulk. Which will be first, I’m not sure. I’ve never seen this Hulk movie before where as I’ve seen X-2 to death. So it’s all a matter of which I have the time to review.

The Super Hero Project: The Spider-Man Trilogy

This face…

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Okay, that out of the way, it’s time to review 2002 Spider-Man.

Also 2004 Spider-Man 2 and 2007 Spider-Man 3. Why? Because I don’t feel they are different enough beasts to bother reviewing separately. Especially not in the topic of female representation. The only new girl we get from the first movie to the last of the trilogy is Gwen Stacey.

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As for the merits of the individual movies…

I don’t like them. I should probably get that out of the way from the beginning. It’s not just Tobey Maguire’s face (and voice and acting) or the very scripted action of the first movie. No, the entire series seems to be this marrying act between everything I dislike about the super hero genre and everything I dislike about the ‘chick flick’ genre. Everything from damsels in distress to avoiding the people you love so the villain doesn’t hurt them (and inadvertently hurting them anyways) to everything in life revolving around this idea that true love will solve all of life’s problems.

I don’t like it and Spider-Man (the movies) thrives on these thematic elements.

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Spider-Man 2 is the trilogy’s only saving grace. The performance of Alfred Molina as Dr. Otto Octavius becoming Doc Ock, consumed by this need to get his science experiment right after its failure killed his loving wife and bonded him to these psychotic arms that murdered the doctors and nurses trying to save him, is phenomenal. In full honesty, he steals the show for me. I also enjoy the fact that he never saw Spider-Man as his enemy. Peter just happened to be around for a couple of his attacks and later Harry Osborn demands Otto bring him Spider-Man in exchange for the very rare element needed to run the terrible idea of a science experiment.

However Spider-Man 2 is the first of this wave of super hero movies to introduce the idea of having the same number of villains as the sequel number in the title. A trend that X-Men: Last Stand, Spider-Man 3, Fantastic Four 2, The Dark Knight and several other movies would follow. And yes, you could argue that Harry isn’t actually a villain in this movie but he is still very antagonistic to Spider-Man which leads to his transformation as New Goblin in the final installment of the trilogy. I count that.

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Of course everybody likes ragging on the third Spider-Man movie and I can’t really blame them. We get three bad guys (New Goblin, Sandman, and Venom) and a really meandering plot. It really tries to steal from the good of the first two movies (and some of the bad in my opinion) but really misses the heart and soul apparent in the first two. Add on a sloppy ending to wrap this trilogy up and it really leaves me going… what was the point?

When doing my initial number polling for the Spider-Man movies, I did not give Spider-Man 2 enough credit in the number of females. I excluded Aunt May and I feel really bad about that. In fact originally all three movies averaged 30% (slightly above the average with Spider-Man 2 hitting the average) because I focused purely on Spider-Man, the villains and Mary-Jane as the only characters of note. With some changes of heart from rewatching, the trilogy takes a hearty 39% female characters which is above even what any X-Men film did except for The Wolverine.

There is nothing even, though, about the treatment of these characters. Absolutely none of the women are super powered, heroes, villains or really useful in any real major way. With the slight exception of Aunt May and even then…

Well, let’s hit on specifics now shall we?

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When the first movie opens up, it opens up with a voiceover. It’s a bit campy but I guess it’s a call back to the traditional comic books in which most action was offered by way of a box of narration. Often time in Spider-Man comics that narration was given by Peter Parker. So while I believe voiceover is a cheap storytelling tool unless you have very good reason for it, I can forgive it for this opening (the fact that it gets abused for the rest of the movie not so forgivable).

Except it barely takes ten seconds before Peter points out that this story is all about a girl he wants to have. No, not even kidding. He says so. “This story, like any story worth telling, is all about a girl. This girl. Mary-Jane Watson, the girl next door.”

Ignore the fact that she literally lives next door to him, the message seems to me is that she’s is this desirable plane-jane type of girl. This is the girl that all the guys are supposed to want and this is the type of girl all the girls are supposed to want to be: pretty while allowing the guy to be stronger, smarter and braver. She’s pretty, she’s popular and she’s not necessarily dumb but in no point in this entire series does her intelligence play a part in whether she’s likeable or important. Her ambition does and while I think she’s entirely admirable in her dreams, it edges close to the realm of shallowness

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Entirely in keeping with her comic persona. But in this movie MJ takes the place of all of Peter’s early comic book love interests: Lily Allen (who dated Flash Thompson, not MJ), Betty Brant (his first love interest was the secretary at the Daily Bugle) and Gwen Stacey (SNAP! That was the sound of her neck breaking as she fell from the bridge the Green Goblin threw her from… no wait… wrong continuity I guess.) Because of the place Spider-Man was in the comics of the 2000’s, MJ was his most popular sweetheart so I bet that’s why she got translated to film first… But it makes her an amalgam of all these other ladies that she loses any of her ability to be her own person along the way.

Plus she has an abusive father so I guess that’s just setup for her long standing tradition of having terrible taste in men.

Let’s just take a look at MJ’s journey through her romantic life. She starts off dating the bully Flash Thompson and even after seeing him pick a fight with Peter, she continues to date him. Not that she ever shows much interest in the guy. During the tour of the science center she’s seen pushing him off as he tries to make an advance on her, yet she silently stands there next to him all the same. She lets him stake a claim in her even though she’s not going to put out for him. But I guess since he can buy nice things like cars she’s willing to stick around?

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She looks so happy… /sarcasm

At graduation she’s seen breaking up with Flash… for no apparent reason. I guess he doesn’t understand why she wants to go become an actress and not sit around his apartment supporting him in… whatever dreams he has. But this is pure speculation for me and it’s just too convenient it happens on this exact day. Of course, it doesn’t seem to take very long for her to start dating Harry Osborn. You know, the guy with a rich father who gets Peter and Harry their own apartment. Sensible MJ, however, continues to work at a diner since she’s getting no acting jobs and refuses to let Harry know she’s hurting for money.

Actually, no, I’m kind of okay with that bit. Carry on, MJ.

There’s an exchange, however, when MJ thinks she’s about to meet Harry’s dad for the first time. Harry is worried about the dress she’s wearing, saying his dad would like her better if she were wearing the black dress. She asks what’s wrong with what she’s wearing, Harry thinks she’s beautiful right? When he assures her she’s beautiful then MJ says that’s all that really matters. Later on, when she does actually get to meet Norman Osborn during the Thanksgiving sequence she’s wearing the black dress. Way to stick to your guns, girl.

Around this time she’s falling for Spider-Man; you know, weird guy in a spandex suit that seems to know her name. Then by the end of the first film she’s telling Peter that during her life or death situation where Spider-Man saved her, again, she was thinking of Peter the entire time. All while she was off screen and Spidey and Goblin were having a final showdown. Of course Peter turns her down because his enemies will keep going after the people he loves, and he doesn’t want to be responsible for that, consequentially crushing MJ’s heart.

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The upside down kiss thing is actually hot, I say from experience

The fact that he’s so continuously busy being Spider-Man in the second film that he struggles to make an appearance in any of his loved one’s lives contributes to MJ dating somebody else. There is absolutely no characterization of astronaut John Jameson in this movie. I feel bad for him, actually. He must have a certain amount of heroic behavior if MJ could have a hope he was Spider-Man (as shown by her attempt to recreate her upside down kiss with Spidey), but since he is J.J.’s son there’s a possibility he picked up some of his father’s bigoted behavior. The last we see of him is getting the news at the altar that MJ isn’t going to marry him, but we get no reaction.

Also, at a point during this movie MJ asks Peter to meet her for coffee so that she can tell him she loves him and ask if he loves her or not. But apparently despite the fact that her ‘head was playing tricks’ on her, she didn’t call off the engagement.

What? Because it’s totally okay when you realize you love somebody else to lead on the guy you’re engaged to, potentially marrying your second choice if the first one doesn’t work out. That’s totally what I’d do! (This is not, for the record, what I would do. I would be with the person I want to be with or nobody at all because I don’t believe in leading other people on. Nor do I believe the only way my life would be complete is if I married a man. The fact that I am happily married is completely irrelevant to this as I am not speaking in hypotheticals; I speak from experience)

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Okay, so MJ and Peter finally become a couple at the end of Spider-Man 2 and she becomes supporting girlfriend to her vigilante boyfriend. That’s actually okay, especially since Peter has always been a strong supporter of her theater career. However in the final movie I finally feel some sympathy for MJ. After a bad review of her in a play gets published, Peter glosses over her feelings by saying ‘oh don’t worry I understand and it gets better.’

No, Peter, you don’t. Similar circumstances allows you to sympathize but let your girlfriend speak so she can get her feelings off her chest for once. It’s not about understanding, it’s about listening. And yet during this entire movie not once is it really suggested that Peter needs to apologize for that. Maybe the kiss he lets Gwen Stacey plant on him but it’s mostly the stuff after he caves into the symbiote suit where he’s branded as a jackass. Gwen wises up to what Peter’s doing and does the right thing by apologizing to MJ before walking out for the rest of the movie.

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At no point does Peter apologize to Gwen, at no point does Peter apologize to MJ for his behavior pre-suit. You know, the behavior that led her to feeling underappreciated and thus spending more time with charming, understanding Harry. Who then promptly turns around and uses her to get back at Peter.

On top of all of this MJ plays screaming damsel near the climax of all three films. Not once is she seen even attempting to escape on her own. The third film at least she ought to have been trying to crawl along the Venom web stuff to reach firmer ground. I don’t see why she couldn’t have; she’s obviously been spending time on Peter’s webs so she has the experience. At the very least she does drop a cinder block on Venom’s head but none of that negates the fact that she is a damsel and she is a prize object for Peter to win.

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Aunt May doesn’t really get much better treatment than Mary-Jane but she is a woman older than twenty in a film and for that I am thankful. She is a wise old widow but I hardly think this is a bad trope. It’s simply an overused one very often a fall back stereotype for lazy writers. Not so for Aunt May though that’s likely because they have the comic version to draw from.

The first movie she mostly just plays grieving widow. Green Goblin goes after her first once he learns Spider-Man’s identity and seems to scare her into a hospitalizing panic attack. She, of course, gets to deliver the great line of ‘You’re not Superman’ to Peter. (Because, get it, he is a super hero but he’s from Marvel not DC… yeah… I got far too much amusement from that scene.)

To me it’s Spider-Man 2 where she gets to shine. Most of these characters do. She plays nurturing caregiver to Peter despite the fact that she is having money issues; the bank is going to foreclose on the house. When Doc Ock tries to use her as a hostage, she cries out for help several times before figuring out that there’s a ledge and she’s not going to fall. No thanks to Spidey, Aunt May doesn’t die from a great height. To compound on this, Doc Ock attempts to lure Spider-Man into a confrontation where Doc will sneakily stab Spider-Man. Seeing this, Aunt May clobbers Doc over the head with her umbrella.

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Later on in the movie it’s her words more than anything that has Peter putting the suit back on to become a hero. It’s a bit of a ‘with great power comes great responsibility’ speech, but it’s sweet, supportive and understanding. We all make mistakes but anybody can be a hero. This perhaps is also fueled by the realization that Peter’s selfishness helped cause her husband’s death. She forgives her nephew of this by suggesting that it’s because he learned from it.

There is a lot to suggest that she knows full well Peter is Spider-Man. Honestly, Spider-Man 2 made me love Aunt May. I want her to be more important!

The third installment relegates May more to the background. She gets to give Peter her blessing for asking MJ to marrying him and even gives him the same ring Ben used to propose to her. Once again it’s her words of wisdom that pull Peter back from being revenge driven as well as finally deciding to marry MJ.

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Far more minor female characters are Betty Brant, Rosalie Octavius and Gwen Stacey. Betty is the only one to appear in all three movies as J.J.’s secretary. She’s a capable working girl who takes all of her boss’s calls, runs his schedules and is constantly bursting in to nag him about his wife. Peter flirts awkwardly with her a few times and she never seems to reciprocate, though actress Elizabeth Banks said she tried to play it as close to the comics as possible. Betty was Peter’s first love interest in the Spider-Man comics.

Rosalie Octavius… Oh boy. She’s the scientist’s hippy wife in all stereotypical respects. Otto was studying science, she was a literature major and they never once understood each other’s studies but they still fell in love and married. Her screaming death during Otto’s failed science experiment is half the reason he becomes determined to finish what he started. Basically, she got refrigerated: killed without a struggle for the sole purpose of forwarding a male’s plot. The idea seems to be that the woman is no longer around to tame Otto Octavius so he caves in to his darker impulses, becoming the villainous Doc Ock.

Finally, Gwen Stacey appears in the third movie as a fellow student of Peter’s. She’s not very good at science (shocker there) so Peter tutors her. Her obvious attraction of not only Peter but of Spider-Man leads MJ to get jealous and, more rightfully, start to question Peter’s commitment to her. He never once mentioned Gwen was in his class or his friend. Gwen also wants to be a model and goes on a date with Eddie Brock who later becomes Venom.

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As mentioned earlier, the last we really see of Gwen is her dancing with Peter only to realize he was showing off for MJ. “This was all for her?” she asks, appalled that she is being used to hurt somebody else. She walks away from Peter and apologizes to MJ, proving that girls interested in the same guy do not have to be vicious and catty to one another. Bravo, Gwen.

There’s also the daughter of the landlord that has an obvious crush on Peter but he never really acknowledges except when he’s being dark Spidey. I’m pretty sure she gets named but since she’s more like furniture than any of these other girls I’m ignoring her. She doesn’t count. In fact, who was I talking about?

Honestly, the Spider-Man universe is swimming in female secondary characters. Just very few of them seem to be the, oh I don’t know, the scientists or the important reporters or even the villains. They’re love interests or somebody that needs saving, protecting… owning.

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And the fact is, the way Peter’s motivation is set up in this series, everything happens because he wants a girl. Uncle Ben dies because Peter wanted to impress a girl by getting a cool car. Because our society says that our lives are not fulfilled unless we settle down and marry somebody. Also, women appreciate superficial things like cars.

The goal of nobody’s life should be to find true love and live happily ever after. I’m not saying you can’t find true love and live happily ever after but that is not a life plan. The goal of everybody’s life should be to be the best person you possibly can be (as Peter does by fully embracing his super hero persona to save countless lives) and filling your life with good, loving people that care about you. If you happen to fall in love, marry and spend the rest of your life with one of those people good for you! Just be sure you both support one another in each other’s lives. Don’t ever sacrifice who you are to be with somebody, anybody. Not even friends or family. Compromise, sure. But have your own life, celebrate that and celebrate your partner’s life too.

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So this is why I dislike movie Spider-Man. The one thing Spider-Man does that I hadn’t seen in most other super hero stories was care a great deal about the surrounding civilians. He goes through a great deal to keep a train from crashing and he rarely has super destructive fights right out in the open. He and his villains are usually ending up in remote locations and Spidey is constantly letting bad guys go while he saves civilians. His priority is the protection of the people of New York. I respect him for that.

I give the movies a 6/10. I understand a lot of people really loved them and I can’t say they’re bad… Okay, I think the first one is bad and I want to never watch it again but Spider-Man 2 had a lot of potential. Plus I like the idea of the ordinary guy becoming a hero. Especially a nerd. In fact, there’s nothing about Spider-Man that really turns me off of his story. For one of the few times, it’s the cast of supporting characters that make me twinge. Set Spider-Man up in a super hero group and I have a lot of fun with him. It’s his solo act portrayed the way it had been in this movie trilogy that I don’t appreciate it. It exhausts me.

As for its representation of women I give it a 3/10. And I almost gave it a lower rating. But Aunt May won me over. Maybe if we had had a better actress for MJ we’d have a slightly different story here.

Still, there’s the problem that none of the women fill the important niches of this super hero universe. There’s no Black Cat, no Spider-Woman or Spidergirl. Aunt May gets damseled twice, MJ three times, and Gwen once. Doc Ock’s wife gets refrigerated and every single female extra screams. Every time! During Doc Ock’s operating scene the female nurse screams and makes dramatic nail marks in the floor. Meanwhile one of the male nurse (or doctor) grabs up a saw and tries to cut off one of the mechanical arms. He still dies for his efforts but he’s seen fighting back while the female just struggles.

This is a pattern repeated over and over throughout all three movies.

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So here’s an example of where the numbers just don’t cut it. Having above average representation of females does not mean equal treatment. There is literally nothing equal between males and females here. The closest male in all of their lives always seems to be above them in station, importance and camera time.

I can barely conceive of a way to make this better.

Cut MJ from it.

There, that’s my only idea. Oh, and add in Black Cat or somebody like her. (Fun fact, Sam Raimi was going to add in Black Cat into the second movie… but not as her costumed persona. She was just going to be an ordinary chick trying to convince Spidey he should give up his Peter persona and simply be Spider-Man. That idea got cut because there wasn’t time. I’m sad this idea didn’t get moved to the third movie)

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Next: X-2. Why? Because it’ll be more fun. After that will be Daredevil or Hulk. They all came out in the same year.