Recasting the Fictional Beauties of My Childhood

Written by Michael Cole

I want to start off, by saying, this post has been written, and rewritten more than a half dozen times in my brain.  I talked to Paul about it at the beginning of the summer, and for several weeks, it seemed as though every time I was ready to write it, something new would happen in the news that would make me take pause, and wait to see how things were going to settle in the end.  As of this past week, I think they’re all settled—at least for long enough that I can comfortably write this post and publish it before it’s out-of-date.  That being said, let’s dive in.

I have maintained, for a long time now, that Mary Jane Watson and Ariel from The Little Mermaid, are the reason why myself, and many men of my generation have a special place in our hearts (I’m going with hearts, since I had crushes on both characters pre-puberty) for redheaded women.  As I grew up, most of the time I saw redheaded women, I found them more attractive on average, than a similar looking woman with any other hair color.  As I grew up, the characters that caught my attention on shows, became the women with red hair, i.e. Joan on Mad Men, and Ygritte on Game of Thrones.

Ok, one of two possible scenarios are at play here: 1. Tom Holland’s Spider-Man suit has some kind of built in plastic cup or shield around his crotch to keep his erections from bulging out of the skin tight spandex. 2. He DOES have an erection bulging out, but Zendaya’s leg is obstructing the view in this photo. Either way, you gotta respect the confidence to be filming in THAT position, in that suit, on an open set, and be willing to roll the dice.

When I learned that Zendaya’s character in the MCU/Sony Spider-Man films, was supposed to be MJ (although not Mary Jane) it didn’t bother me, but it did make me think. At first I started thinking about the impact that comic book MJ had on me, and I wondered if this may have the same effect on a younger generation toward black women.  Of course, at some point in the past few months, Disney announced that they were casting Halle Bailey as Ariel in the live-action remake of The Little Mermaid, and the question repeated itself in my mind.

Now, at first I thought, “that would be great if these characters helped another generation to find the beauty in a group of people that they may other-wise have not thought about in that way,” but I don’t think I was right on that.  First off, I think that so far with Zendaya’s MJ as opposed to comic book MJ, there is a significant amount less sexualization, and that’s probably a good thing.  I don’t remember much about MJ as a character, other than her calling Peter ‘Tiger,’ and I remember pictures of her more than anything.  Ariel is the same thing, I remember her character, and while it was problematic I always liked it, but at least half of my fascination was with the seashell bra.  This year’s Aladdin, live-action remake, did a lot of work desexualizing Princess Jasmine, and I think Disney is likely to do the same with Ariel.

Peter would have asked if he could take MJ’s coat for her, but all the blood in his brain had just plunged into his dick.

The second reason, that I think my initial thought that perhaps this idea was a good one, is that while there was something innocent about it, I do think there ultimately ends up being a fetishization of these characters, and their physical characteristics within the original material.  There are demographics, based on race and gender combinations that are more or less statistically attractive, and unfortunately, black women (along with asian men) tend to be statistically disadvantaged in this way.  I had heard and read that enough times that it supported my original idea that maybe lifting black women up in this was a good thing, and I will say this, if Ariel is bad-ass, and inspires black girls to be bad-ass, or if MJ challenges the stereotypes of women, that’s great, and so far I do think Disney is doing a great job with that.  They’re doing better than I would have, based on my own warped logic going into this.  I had to realize that there is a huge difference between fetishizing, and raising up.  Disney is raising up, and I was thinking indirectly, “hey wouldn’t it be cool if a bunch of kids ended up with a black woman fetish.”  It wasn’t my intention, but it was essentially what I was thinking.  Hell, it was initially what I was pitching to Paul.

So, now that I have that out of the way, now that I’ve talked about the two characters who really shaped much of my physical attraction, I want to shift gears slightly, and talk about a bit of news that came out the day that I was first ‘ready’ to write this.  In the next James Bond film, 007 will be played by a black woman.  There has been speculation for years about who would be Daniel Craig’s replacement in the James Bond cufflinks, with a lot of speculation going to Idris Elba (who I think would be awesome if he’s still young enough when the mantel gets passed).  Trying, I think to do two thing, test the waters, but also stir up some hype in the form of controversy, it was announced that there would be a new 007, and that it would be Lashana Lynch.

I think they were testing the waters, because they announced that she would be the new 007, and waited until speculation and feedback came in, before announcing, that in the plot of the new film, Bond has retired, and is replaced in his title of 007, and then he is pulled back in while in retirement.  It was a soft way of testing things out, to see if perhaps we’re more into 007 or James Bond.  It’s similar to what Mission Impossible did with Jeremy Renner a few years ago.  It’s not a bad plan, and we will see how it plays out in that way, but it also kind of plays into my general topic.

James Bond is perhaps one of the most sexualized male characters in cinematic history, and the way in which going about that has been drastically different from how they’ve sexualized women.  Is it possible, that we’re going to get a female version of that?  Will this change how female sexuality plays out on screen?  Also, we have a character who is very much the coolest person in the room, and definitely has shaped young men’s idea of what a man is, will a black female 007 do the same for young women?

I think he’d make an awesome Batman

In the past few years in cinema, there has been a lot of talk about representation, and for the most part I think that it has been a good thing, and honestly I’m not one of these people who get’s bent out of shape when they change a character I like, or even love.  I understand that most of these things are constantly evolving, and I don’t personally want to see the same old thing over and over.  But I really think that these three examples are interesting, because they’re a bit different than other roles.  Nick Fury, changing from a white man to a black man, had little impact as far as I can see, because the character was always one of authority, and I never associated with him, and I never felt an attraction to him, or to be like him.  I also have to consider what it means for other people, and I don’t know.  On the one hand, I think of all the black women I think are cool, or bad-ass, or beautiful, and it’s not a short list, and I wonder if that’s blinding me to a problem that’s real? Perhaps these casting decisions will help to solve that. I don’t know, but I think it’s important to ask some of these questions of ourselves.

Article by Michael Cole

Mike Cole is a published author, freelance writer, & filmmaker. He is a happily married father of one.

Editors Note: Photos and their subsequent captions were added by Paul Wright… So, you know, don’t blame Mike.

My Problem with The Daenerys Twist in GoT (And a couple other details this season)

If you’re not caught up on Game of Thrones, I’m going to be spoiling some stuff for you, so please leave now if you don’t want that.

This season has had some received some major flack from audiences for all sorts of issues, and obviously I don’t agree with everyone, but I wanted to talk about a couple that I don’t like. I guess, I’ll start with the big one, the title of this article kind of hints at.  Daenerys turning crazy/bad/however else we want to categorize her.  I didn’t dislike this until the moment in this week’s episode when the bells are ringing, and she looks over at the Red Keep, and decides to lay waste on the people of King’s Landing.

You see, while Daenerys has never shied away from being violent to achieve her goals, there was always some sense of morality to it, and she was never casual with innocents.  Up until this point, the fact that she’s burned the Iron Fleet, and the guard towers, and as much as she has destroyed, makes sense, and largely is the right thing to do, to avoid unnecessary death of innocents.

Then she stops, sitting atop the final remaining dragon, and looks down, the bells are ringing, and it is clear that she has won, and she snaps and proceeds to go further.  Now, if she’d done everything and  never stopped, never paused, and was just caught up in it, and therefore didn’t notice the bells, or the peace, or anything else and got carried away, this would be a more satisfying example of her going too far, and perhaps being the threat Varys died to stop (which I thought was played excellently).  Also if she had that moment of pause, and then flew over and destroyed the Red Keep, I could get that too.  But she pauses, looks around, sees she has won and unleashes fury on the innocent, which is out of character.  It’s not getting carried away, or going too far as many of her past behavior has shown, it was her snapping, and it is out of character for her.

I also think that if it had been more along the lines of her getting carried away and going too far, even way too far, this would allow the necessary characters to say “oh we need Jon Snow to sit on the Iron Throne” without the writers betraying the character of Daenerys to justify that final play that it seems is coming.

I mentioned Varys, and I think Varys is a prime example of how the characters should be thinking about Daenerys, his last words are “I hope I’m wrong about her,” (or something similar) but he honestly believes he is not.  That’s because she’s riding the edge of righteous and power-hungry, and he is forced to make a decision unsure if he’s correct, it makes his decisions more bold.  Now if Jon realizes she’s a mad-Queen, and rebels against her, it will not be a bold act, but rather the obvious one for someone who will always risk his life for what’s right.  It takes away the ‘risk of being wrong.’

Now, there were plenty of moments in addition to Varys’s death which I thought were well executed, I liked the final battle with the Hound and the Mountain, and I thought that Arya leaving because Cersai is dead regardless of what happens, worked really well.

But there were also moments in which it seemed like they tried to eat their cake and have it too.  Jaime could have gone with Brienne (I didn’t really want to see that, but once it happened I liked it) or he could go back to Cersai, but I think having him do both really cut through both.  That’s ultimately what I think the problem with this season is (it’s the worst of GoT, but it’s still pretty damn good otherwise): they want to both shit and get off the pot at the same time, and they spent years elaborately creating characters and beats, and now they’re trying to tie them all up far to quickly.

Written by Michael Cole

What I want to see: The Rise of Skywalker and the Possible Redemption of Hayden Christensen

A few weeks ago, when the first trailer for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.  Personally, I’m excited for the film, but what I want to talk about is some speculation into the film, but first let me give you a little background of my own star wars preferences, to help illustrate the point that I’m eventually hoping to make.

I guess the most important thing you need to know, is that I think Hayden Christensen as Anakin Skywalker in Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith is the worst part of any Star Wars film (not counting the Holiday Special).I have been told most people think Jake Lloyd was worse, but at least he has the excuse of being a little kid, and many little kid actors aren’t good.  Others have argued that Christensen’s not that bad, and I don’t even know what films they’re watching.

I will say this, I am not sure that I blame Hayden Christensen for the performances in his two Star Wars films.  We’ve all seen that most of the performances in the prequel trilogy (and a decent amount of A New Hope) is cold, and the dialogue is not well written.  Lucas couldn’t get a good performance out of nearly any of the better actors in the prequels (I know people will argue Ewan McGregor, but that was more a matter of an extremely good actor in a role that is intentionally cold and aloof, it’s the opposite of the Keanu Reeves in the Matrix effect, where he’s good despite his talent because of the role.

Alright, so now that I’ve explained that I think his performance is the worst, let me explain one other thing.  He’s back in the new film.  Now, I don’t know what capacity he’s going to be in the film, but the day after the trailer dropped, he had up on his Instagram page a picture of the new title card.  Upon googling, it turns out he’s participating in the new film although all the specifics seem to be speculation.  I assume he’s going to be appearing as a force ghost, that’s the most logical option, but whether it’s for a moment or scenes and dialogue, is anyone’s guess.

I think, his appearance in this film, could be the thing that redeems him, and the character of Anakin (I love Vader, but I don’t love Anakin) for me.  You see, while I know that George Lucas has been involved in this film as a consultant (again to what extent is unknown) he isn’t writing the dialogue, and he isn’t directing the actors, and so now we have the opportunity to see what a director who is significantly better with both dialogue and actors can do.  I think J.J. Abrams might be a little over hyped, but c’mon he’s better at those two things than George Lucas any day of the week.

Now, there is a chance Christensen’s appearance will be small enough that it doesn’t really affect his legacy in the role whatsoever, but I hope this isn’t the case.  My hope is that we see one of two things, either one of which I think could make the film cool, and enhance Anakin as a character.  We could see him as a force ghost trying to influence either Rey or Kylo, and this is the safer more likely bet, but it could definitely have some really cool scenes, further the story line, and help the dynamics between force using characters.  This would be good.

Something that is much less likely, but would be awesome, and would kind of be crazy, and risky (after the Last Jedi, I think Disney proved they don’t do risk well, or maybe that they don’t commit to risk well).  Paul kind of suggested this, and I think it’s an amazing idea.  What if Anakin rises from the dead?

Like I said, this idea is a little out there, but I don’t think it’s totally out of the realm of possibility.  So here’s a couple thing, one is that we know Anakin is the most powerful force user, essentially he’s the Jesus of Star Wars.  Anakin is the Force’s immaculate conception.  Then we see in Empire Strikes Back, Vader in his black egg thing.  Well, I know it’s no longer canon, but the egg thing in the books was some kind of Force chamber, in the chamber, he’s trying to heal and rebuild his body with the force.

What if in dying and becoming a Force ghost, Anakin becomes “more powerful that you can possibly imagine,” and therefore finally powerful enough to use the force to rebuild his body.He is the chosen one, to bring balance to the force, and the Last Jedi, for all of it’s faults had one thing clear, there is something essentially broken with the black and whiteness of the Jedi/Sith mentalities.  Both Luke and Kylo seem to have realized this, (even if Rey decides by the end she can be a hero or a villain, and not something else).

What if Anakin comes back, to show the way the force should be used, creating an order that isn’t as ’emotionless’ as Jedi, nor as ruled by emotion as Sith.  Anakin, who wanted to be a Jedi, but also wanted to love, and was shunned by the Jedi for the latter, and manipulated by Palpatine for it, is the perfect person to show you can be a husband, a father, a son, and a powerful force user.  Perhaps that is the balance?

Honestly, that’s what I’m hoping happens.

3Below Season 1: Reviewed

 

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Earlier this year, Trollhunters: Tales of Arcadia ended after their third season.  As far as I know, they completed the story and ended according to the schedule that creator Guillermo Del Toro had envisioned.  I loved the series, and I was sad to see it go.  Then about a month ago or so, I saw on one of those “Everything new coming to Netflix in December” articles, something called “3Below: Tales of Arcadia,” and the article had an image, and it was clear that the animation was similar style to Trollhunters, but the article itself didn’t mention whether or not the two were related, so a quick IMDb check confirmed that his was a spinoff series, and a brief conversation with Paul, he informed me that this was the second in a planned 3 part series.

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Anyway, the show has been out for about three weeks, and I just finished watching the first season, and I’ve got to say it’s pretty good.  It’s not as good as Trollhunters, (my 2 year-old would give up about thirty seconds into every episode and say “we watch real Trollhunters now?”) but it’s good.

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Above: Krel, guardian Varvatos Vex, & Aja in their natural form.  Below: In their human disguises.

First off, even though the two main characters Aja and Krel, extra-terrestrial (they don’t like the term aliens!) siblings living in Arcadia were featured briefly in Trollhunters, the show had a little more work to setting it up than Trollhunters did.  Trollhunters starts out on Earth, on a pretty standard version we would all recognize, and then reveals that there is a secret underworld of trolls, and other magical creatures; they start with the default and add.  3Below however starts on a planet known as Acaridian 5 and tells the story of Princess Aja and Prince Krel on the day they are to become the King and Queen in waiting, and are attacked by enemies and have to go on the run.  We don’t see Earth until the end of the episode.  This doesn’t make it a worse show that Trollhunters, but certainly it gives it a different set of challenges to overcome.  They do so pretty well, but it takes just a little longer to really get invested.

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I’m not going to get too into spoilers, but I will say that one of the things I really like about this show, is that they create a lot of new mythology within this universe, and they aren’t just applying the same formula as Trollhunters to this, meaning it’s not an Madlibs style situation where they’re like alright we need this role because Trollhunters had it.  Trollhunters is largely about Jim and his friends going after something, and this is definitely more of Aja and Krell running from something, and not necessarily in a cowardly way, but in order to protect their kingdom.

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Another thing that I really like about this show, is that they manage to pull in characters we’ve gotten to know through Trollhunters, and build upon them.  We get to see Jim, Toby, and Claire, but we also get to see Steve, who’ a bully on Trollhuntersgiven some fleshing out, fully realized on this show, as he quickly has a crush on Aja after she kicks his ass.  We get to see Senor Uhl, less as the authority figure to be thwarted or avoided, but more as the protector when other humans seem to target the twins in their human forms.

 

                                           (Steve & Aja. Steve’s come a long way…)

All in all, I really liked this show, and I hope that we get to see another season or two (whatever Guillermo Del Toro has envisioned) and now that I’ve seen how aliens and magic have played with each other in this setting, I’m really interested in seeing what he has in mind for the 3rd series he’s planning.

DreamWorks Animation's 3Below

Written by Michael Cole

Doctor Who Series 11: Review

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A little over a year ago, I wrote about What I Wanted to See from Doctor Who, going forward, specifically because Jodie Whitaker was about to become the first female Doctor in the show’s history.  The big thing that I didn’t want to see was the over sexualization of the Doctor, just because she would now be female, and they did that.  Arguably of all the Doctors of the modern run, she was the least sexual, or sexualized, and I’m happy with that, because after all this is an near immortal alien being with untold thousands of years of accumulated knowledge, whose consciousness never really dies. The Doctor  is nearly a goddess (formerly a god), hanging out with people who are merely decades old, and extremely mortal.  The sexual/romantic nature of that is always a bit questionable, so steering away from it, at least in her first season as a woman, was probably a good idea.

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Now, by that single metric the show was a success, but as you can imagine, whether or not a show’s main character is or is not over-sexualized isn’t the true determination of its quality.  This season was incredibly divisive, from what I saw on some Facebook pages, and the Doctor Who subreddit, this was a love it or hate it season.

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Many were claiming the show wasn’t Doctor Who anymore, citing that the new format of “Team TARDIS” with the Doctor and three season long companions, changed the dynamic too much from the Doctor and single companion model, which had been the case in most of the previous season, the only change being when a companion would bring on a boyfriend (Mickey, or Rory), or when they’d meet other aliens/time-travelers (Captain Jack, River Song).  Personally, I liked the dynamic, it was definitely different, but I don’t want to watch the same old thing over and over.

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The dynamic, and the characterization of the four TARDIS inhabitants was for me the strength of the season. The writers and actors had clearly worked to flesh out the characters.  Graham and Ryan had unresolved issues that became very naturally resolved, as step-grandfather and step-grandson, and really played out well.  Yas learned that her family were not all the tradition following people she had thought, and that her wanting something different and adventure weren’t that far off from her grandmother.  Finally, the Doctor, who is always a bit different after regenerations was just that a bit different, but really not too different, enough to reinvigorate, but not so much as to alienate… at least for most.

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One of the major complaints that I saw on Reddit, was that the Doctor is too much of a feminist, and more specifically a dreaded SJW.  Honestly, I don’t really see it.  The Doctor of the 1960’s may have been much less feminist than Jodie Whitaker’s Doctor, but I don’t think the last couple of iterations have been.  The truth is, like much of serialized sci-fi, Doctor Who is a show about striving for the fullest of human potential, and much of that is in a social aspect.  Star Trek boldly went with the first interracial kiss on American broadcast television, and as early as season one of this reboot, we had a character of Captain Jack Harkness, who for lack of a better term seemed omni-sexual, but was certainly as attracted to Christopher Eccleston’s Doctor, as he was to Rose.  This isn’t really new for the show, nor for the character.

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What was new about this dynamic for the character is that suddenly the Doctor is being taken less seriously because of her gender, and this is frustrating when she is for all intents and purposes the most authority on nearly every subject in the universe.  So, there was a little time dedicated to it, but it was a surprisingly little amount of time, usually no more than a line per episode (sometimes nothing at all).  So, personally I assume that this criticism of the ‘overwhelming feminism’ is little more than Trolling.

Doctor Who Series 11

But there are certainly some genuine criticisms, and I think it’s really important to take those seriously, because I personally want the show to be its best, and it cannot do that if the writers and show-runner bury their heads in the sand.  The big piece of genuine criticism, I think, was overuse and clunky exposition.  Lots of people online have mentioned it, but it bears repeating.  This show, like a lot of heavy sci-fi uses exposition more than some other genres, and that’s ok, but I would say this season seemed to do it the most, and that’s not a good thing.  I don’t any of the episodes were ruined by exposition, but in a show like this, they need to show and not tell as much as possible.

Doctor Who Series 11

I would say that this season gets either a C+ or maybe (if I’m being generous) a B- from me.  There was plenty of fun, and the characters were really done, but other than that I think there wasn’t enough there for me.   Some seasons have multiple episodes I would point people to, to get a feel for what the show should be, and this season really only had one (two if you count the New Years special, which is really Season 12 Episode 0).

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“Rosa,” which was episode 3, tells the story of our travels getting thrown into 1955 Montgomery, Alabama, and meeting Rosa Parks just days before her famous arrest for refusing to give up her seat on a segregated bus.  This was a great episode in pretty much every way, and I don’t want to say too much as to ruin it, but I will say this, even though the show does a lot of historical episodes, and places the doctor into a lot of historical scenarios, I’m not sure any have had the possibility of alienating the audience like this before, and it doesn’t (at least not for the real reasons).  You see in these historical episodes, a lot of times we find out that the Doctor was actually responsible for setting in motion some major historical event, and this hasn’t really ever been a problem, because it’s either played as a bit of a gag, or maybe it’s a historical event without an individual historically receiving credit, and so the Doctor isn’t stealing anyone’s credit.  That’s a fine line for the show to thread, and watching it I was a bit worried “oh please don’t make it that the Doctor sets this up, or take anything away from Rosa Parks,” and it doesn’t.  It’s brilliant in letting the plot of the show revolve around the show without setting really touching the moving parts of the actual history.  Think about when Marty McFly tries really hard in Back to the Future 2 to not interact with or change anything Marty McFly from Back to the Future 1 does in 1955, it’s kind of like thbat.  It’s by far the episode of this season that shows what Doctor Who can and should be.

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Written by Micheal Cole

Who is the Best Dumbledore? Paul & Mike Debate!

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We’re about to get the second installment of the Fantastic Beasts series, and with it, we’re getting Jude Law as Albus Dumbledore, and frankly, he looks amazing.  There is a chance he could be the best Dumbledore, but for the time being, let’s discuss the two Dumbledores that we’ve had real experience with; the old Dumbledores.

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First there was Richard Harris, who started off the Harry Potter films as Dumbledore in the first two installments.  At the time, Richard Harris was seen as perfect.  Then, he passed away, and they cast Michael Gambon who played the character until the final film in that series.  Since the final film, I hear people often refer to him as the superior Dumbledore, in fact Paul and I had a discussion about this a few months ago when the first trailers came out for FB2, and we both landed on opposite sides of the Harris/Gambon coin, so my hope is that Paul will write an argument defending his side, and you can decide for yourselves (although I’m right).

14A9E09B-B8CD-4FF2-8C75-FC5BA786D3C3Richard Harris is the better Dumbledore.  The complaints that I hear most often about Harris’ Dumbledore is that he’s too stuffy, and too serious.  I disagree.

You see, Albus Dumbledore, is supposed to be the wisest, most proficient wizard the world has ever seen. He’s the Stephen Hawking of Witchcraft and Wizardry. When you reach that level, there are responsibilities that come with the job, and part of those responsibilities, is playing the part in order to be taken seriously.  Dumbledore has a public face, and a private face.  We get the Dumbledore who sounds like a drone addressing the entirety of Hogwarts, and we get the private moments, with someone like Harry, someone who also is thrust into the ‘fame’ of the wizarding world, in which he’s playful.

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People think of Richard Harris’ Dumbledore as the guy who woodenly says “well done Slytherin, well done Slytherin” in the great hall when announcing the final house points at the end of the first film, but another moment just before that is the reality of Richard Harris’ Dumbledore.  When he’s addressing Harry alone, in the medical ward, and he has the conversation about “it’s a complete secret, so naturally the entire school knows,” and picks a ‘toffee’ Bernie Botts Every Flavor Bean, only to discover “alas earwax” with a playful sigh.

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He has the twinkle in his eye, of a man who understands this is all a bit goofy, but I have to keep up appearances in order to accomplish my goals, but with someone like Harry, I get to let that guard down, because he too is going to be a pivotal piece in the oncoming war.

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The reason I don’t think Gambon is as good, is because Gambon’s Dumbledore is always what the ‘private’ version of Dumbledore should be.  He doesn’t have a wise public face.  Is that something I admire in a person in real life? Yes.  Is it Dumbledore? I don’t think so.  Gambon’s obviously not a bad Dumbledore, in fact, if he were the only Dumbledore, he’d probably score higher with me personally, but to me, Harris is the Dumbledore of the books manifested into reality, and Gambon is a ‘take’ on Dumbledore.

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Now, in the trailers for FB2, we’ve yet to see Dumbledore interacting with anyone but Newt (that I can think of) and so it’s unclear to me if he’ll be what I want, or slightly different, but I’m very enthusiastic to find out.

Which do you think is the better Dumbledore, tell me in the comments below!

Paul’s Response: WHY MICHAEL GAMBON IS THE BETTER DUMBLEDORE…

Hey Everyone,

Paul here…

I was very excited when Mike suggested that I propose a counter argument to his conclusion about which actor is the best on screen Dumbledore: Harris or Gambon? (We’re leaving Jude Law out for the time being). To be clear, I’m going to be talking about both the novels and the films in this article. So let’s get to it!

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Well, Mike is correct, I do think that Gambon is the superior Dumbledore. However, before I make my case for why I think Gambon is the better Dumbledore, I think it’s important to express how I view Dumbledore as a character. After all, I think we need to define who Dumbledore is before we can decide who better played the character.

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If there’s one thing we know about the magical community depicted in Harry Potter, it’s that they LOVE their heroes and villains. Whether it’s Dumbledore, Harry, Snape, Voldemort, Grindelwald, Sirius Black, or countless others, people in this world love to cast individuals as the champion of all that’s good or the ultimate evil. Yet in all the examples, I’ve listed above, it’s never been that simple. Dumbledore embodies the idea that people we love, respect, and look up to, people who we think have all the answers, are all too human. Understanding that our mentor figures aren’t perfect is part of growing up.

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Mike argues that we get a stiff and wooden Dumbledore from Richard Harris because the character is playing the part of the stoic, responsible, all knowing leader of the wizarding community. But that’s just not who Dumbledore is, I think that’s just Harris’ performance. In the novels, from the start, in public and in private he was a playful character. He was always way more Gandalf The Grey than Gandalf The White. It’s ironic that I think my perfect casting for the Dumbledore of the books would be Ian McKellan. Because Gandalf really is the archetypal wizard. However, I do agree that Dumbledore the character uses his persona and reputation, but not out of a sense of responsibility. He uses that persona to get what he wants and manipulate people.

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Mike makes the point that Dumbledore is supposed to be “the wisest and most proficient wizard the world has ever seen”. Well, is Dumbledore one of, if not, THE greatest wizard of all time? Probably. But, wisest? I’m not so sure… and I don’t think Dumbledore is either. Mike’s right, there’s definitely a duality to Dumbledore, but I don’t see it the same way he does.

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Another beloved pop culture character that’s a great parallel to Dumbledore is Charles Xavier, founder of the X-Men. On the surface, they both appear to be saintly, wise, saviors, father figures who always know what to do. However, for both men, the truth is much darker. They’re manipulative, they have dark secrets, and most importantly they exploit their reputation to get people to follow and trust them even when they have no fucking idea what they’re doing. They’re even willing to sacrifice the lives of people who put their faith in them in the name of a greater good. In Dumbledore’s case, you could argue that his entire relationship with Harry is about fattening a pig for slaughter. I’ll admit, I was playing a little bit of devil’s advocate there, but I do think there’s some truth to the idea that Harry was a pawn in Dumbledore’s war with Voldemort.

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Both in the films and the books, Dumbledore isn’t afraid to be playful and mischievous even under serious circumstances. Like his many confrontations wth The Ministry of Magic, for example. He often feels like a comedian playing to an audience of one (himself). Like his iconic escape from being arrested by The Ministry, vanishing in a burst of flame with Fawkes, his Phoenix,. in Order of The Phoenix. It’s spoken by Kingsley  Shaklebolt in the film, but in the book, one of the portraits in Dumbledore’s office delivers the immortal line to The Minister of Magic: “You know, Minister, I disagree with Dumbledore on many counts… but you cannot deny he’s got style…”.

Richard Harris was 72 when he passed away, but as Dumbledore he looked, sounded, and moved like he was 100. There are a lot of older actors who can pull off action, but I just don’t see Richard Harris’ Dumbledore pulling off that insane duel with Voldemort in The Ministry of Magic.

Dumbledore should never feel feeble, despite his age and I think with Gambon he never did.  Dumbledore needed to be a somewhat physical character. Harris looks like he’s in a wheel chair. A lot of this is moot because Harris only had 2 movies to develop this character and the vast majority of important Dumbledore moments are later in the series, when Gambon has taken the reins.

We see very little of the nuances I’ve described here from Richard Harris as Albus Dumbledore. To be fair, I think that had the full series been published, when the cast started crafting these characters on screen, they may have made different performance choices. For example, though I love Snape and the late great Alan Rickman, perhaps he would have chewed a little bit less scenery had he known where the character’s story was going. Maybe Richard Harris would have put some more nuance into his performance as Dumbledore. Gambon got the juiciest Dumbledore material. The series doesn’t really hit it’s stride and become the classic that it is until the 3rd book. Unfortunately,  because of his death we never got to see how he would have handled some of the biggest Dumbledore moments in the series. With all due respect to Mike, Harris is probably the most miscast character in the series. One of the reasons I’m so excited for “Fantastic Beasts Have You Seen Them, Oh Johnny Depp’s Committing Some Crimes Now, He’s In The Case Too, They’re All In There 2” (Thank you, Mr. Sunday Movies) is because we may finally get a Dumbledore as rich and interesting as he is in the novels. Because let’s be honest in the context of all 7 book, Richard Harris simply does not work as the legendary Albus Dumbledore.

Anyway, thanks for reading! We hope you enjoyed the debate!

-Paul & Mike

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TRAILER: The Crimes of Grindelwald (Fantastic Beasts 2)!

Hi everyone,

The final trailer for the second installment of Fantastic Beasts dropped about an hour ago, give it a watch and then scroll down to see what I thought about it:

The first thing that I want to talk about is Newt Scamander, played by Eddie Redmayne.  Newt was amazing in the first one, and I absolutely loved what he brought to the table, but there had been some rumors that he was going to be downplayed in this film due to audience response.  I’m glad to see that this trailer looks like that isn’t true.

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Newt is a great protagonist because he’s so different from the archetypal male protagonists we’re used to in action films, unlike the universe’s namesake Harry Potter.  I mean, I love the original movies, but did you ever notice that Harry’s magical method is shouting his incantations and spells as loud as possible to make them as powerful as possible?  He’s a bit of a yeller.  Newt on the other hand is soft spoken, and it took people off guard, because they weren’t used to it, but it lent the series some real rounding out.  There’s a great video all about Newt and his ‘Fantastic Masculinity’ that I think is really eye opening, and interesting.

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So that’s my first big take away, based on rumors and my own expectations.  The second is Grindelwald himself.  Now, I loved Colin Farrell in the first film, and I have to be completely honest, I was not happy to find out we were getting a Johnny Depp filled film in the sequel (and possible the three films after this).  I’m one of the many “Johnny Depp hasn’t been reined in enough” viewers, and was worried we’d get another ‘cartoon-y’ performance.  The trailer has a lot of Depp, and it appears as if he’s riding that same sweet spot of eccentric, but not too weird, that launched him into performances like Jack Sparrow.  So I remain cautiously optimistic.  The bleached white hair, and the accent aren’t a great sign, but he never fully crosses the goofy line.

The third part is Jude Law.  I think most Potter fans were excited to see him as Dumbledore when the first pictures were released. However, seeing him in action in this confirms for me that he’s going to be awesome.  I think Jude Law is great casting, but also they seem to have Dumbledore in a more youthful, but still Dumbledorian role, relegated to being the chess master in the background again.  I think too much Dumbledore could ruin the mystique, and so this is a great decision.

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With Dumbledore, many of the fans were nervous that he wasn’t going to be directly expressing his homosexuality in this film, and I don’t know how overt it will be in the film (I’m personally game for any level), but he does tell Newt, that he cannot be the main one to oppose Grindelwald, and there is a shot that seems to show Dumbledore sadly pining for his lost love.  I imagine this is included in the trailer to appease the nervous fans, and basically say “you may not see them making out, but Dumbledore loves Grindelwald.”  Which I personally think makes sense, because it seemed as if their love happened as children and it’s over at this point.

The last thing I want to touch upon, is that they’re bringing back the main cast from the first movie and I’m thrilled about it.  I loved the three supporting characters, and I really think they helped to flesh out the differences between the muggle and wizard worlds. While also differentiating Newt from Harry.

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I’ve been very excited about this film since I saw the first one, but today after watching this trailer I’m more excited than ever. This looks awesome to me.  Comment below and let us know what you think about the trailer, whether or not you’re psyched for the movie, and whatever else this trailer stirs up in you!

What I Want to See: DCEU

It was announced today, that Henry Cavill is no longer going to be the live action Superman in the DCEU.  It was recently confirmed (and long rumored) that Ben Affleck was not going to be Batman in the DCEU.  So, the DCEU is down 2 of their three most iconic characters, and many people are speculating a ‘soft reboot’ of the DCEU in general.  Of their 5 films so far, the only success across the board (critics/fans/box office) has been Wonder Woman, and so this might make sense to do.  Especially since Wonder Woman and the upcoming sequel take place before the events of the other 4 films released so far.

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Now, I personally think this reboot idea will likely take some of its cues from what happens with December’s Aquaman film.  We already saw Jason Mamoa as the character in Justice League, and I’ve heard virtually no complaints about him, but an Aquaman stand-alone will be a completely different thing, and so we really won’t know until it comes out.

There is also the forthcoming Shazam, scheduled for next April.  Now, Shazam hasn’t appeared in the DCEU previously, so if Aquaman tanks and they go full steam ahead on the reboot, Shazam could be part of the ‘new’ universe, or if Aquaman is a success, it could be tailored into the ‘newish/soft reboot/whatever they’re going to call it.’

maxresdefaultI knew nothing about this character, and the trailer sold me.

So let’s make the assumption that some kind of reboot is going to happen, and I will tell you what I want to see with that.  Ok?

I want to see this reboot build characters individually.  I’m not saying not to put Easter eggs, or slight references to each other, but let’s not get to the second movie before we have a full blown cross over.  If in Wonder Woman ’84 we see some story about a ‘meteorological event’ which implies Kal El’s (Superman) arrival, that’s fine, but I don’t want Jason Mamoa or Shazam or anyone else to show up.  Get several stand alone films under your belts, like you should have done the first time around.

ntgk14lkrtl11Thanos’ snap was more powerful than we all realized.

The second thing that I want to see happen, is I don’t want Superman and Batman to show up for a while.  It might sound dumb, and I’m sure people hate hearing about the MCU as a model, but Marvel didn’t have access to their A listers when they started, and it forced them to build characters and not assume we knew who they were, it forced them to get creative and be better story tellers.  I think Batman and Superman are too iconic to start.  Let’s deal with Shazam, and Cyborg, and other characters that the general film going audience that aren’t comic book readers aren’t familiar with, and start world building through them.  There is some brand recognition with characters like Flash and Green Lantern, but use those characters to bridge the gap between the audience who know nothing, and the audience who totally get it.  Then once you’re several successes deep, you can start introducing Superman and Batman.  This exercise, will also help you to understand how to create those characters more memorably, to not be coming at them as the icons they are to the general public, but to fill in and establish all of the layers that have comic book fans hooked.

What I Want to See: The Women Of The MCU

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I finally saw Ant-Man and The Wasp yesterday, and I realized something, Hope Van Dyne is my favorite female character in the MCU. Realizing that made me reflect on the role of women in the MCU.

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It’s been pretty well discussed among critics and fans that for a while the MCU had a female problem.  Despite Black Widow having been introduced in the third (of 20 so far) MCU films, she took a long time to gain prominence in screen time, or plot relevance (I’m not sure we’ve even seen her have more screen time or relevance to the story, than anyone but Hawkeye).  Fans were asking for a Black Widow film, and Marvel Studios’ response was something along the lines of “when it’s right we’ll do it”. which at the time probably felt like a cop-out, but they were having the same complaints made about having a non-white main character and they were giving the same response. At the time, it really felt like the MCU had a diversity problem, but in fairness they tried to address the problem. They quickly began to introduce characters like Sam Wilson as the Falcon, Rhodey to be War Machine/Iron Patriot started to have a larger role and more screen time, they added Scarlett Witch to the team, for example. Many argued this was a half measure, they were all secondary characters and not a solution to the problem. They were definitely steps in the right direction and they filled in some gaps. It was very clear that women and non-white males needed to be the titles characters of their own movies.

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Black Widow’s 1st Appearance In The MCU: Iron Man 2

The MCU started using crossovers and the team films to be able to add new characters, layer their universe, and make it more three dimensional.  In Civil War, we were introduced to the MCU version of Spider-Man and finally Black Panther. Pretty quickly, it was clear that both would be getting their own films, but the MCU as a single cohesive piece was more important, so they tend not to rush into things and it payed off.

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Shuri stole the show in Black Panther.

Spider-Man: Homecoming was a big success, but Black Panther was a cultural phenomenon. Black Panther showed us that the MCU could handle a film with a non-white main character, a majority non-white cast, and come out with a critical and box office smash.  Black Panther not only stood on its own two feet, but it absolutely crushed the competition. The two most prominent white characters are played by Andy Serkis and Martin Freeman. Both are well established actors, but they’re certainly not mega-stars like Tom Cruise or Matt Damon.

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The second crucial thing Black Panther did, was almost double the MCU’s roster current of important, strong female characters.  Prior to this what did we have?  Scarlett Witch, is a decent character, but I personally don’t think she’s nearly as fleshed out as she could be.  Black Widow, tends to be used more in her relationship with which ever male hero needs her (i.e. in Winter Soldier with Cap, or in Age of Ultron with Bruce/Hulk).  Pepper?  I think we’re all honestly surprised when Pepper pops up for a cameo anymore, but really she isn’t much more fleshed out than Friday.  Jane Foster, might have been a good addition, except it seems that Natalie Portmant doesnt have much interest in playing Jane Foster anymore. So that’s not entirely the fault of the MCU.  The only two pre-Black Panther characters that seemed to be totally realized and fleshed out female characters were Gamora and Hope Van Dyne. In Ant-Man, Hope is the most capable character, the main character arc belongs to Scott Lang.

7841C1EC-837C-4572-95B8-B2F6AB8B6C5F         In Black Panther, we got three really great female characters in; Shuri (who is strong willed, intelligent, competitive, funny); Nakia who almost forces T’Challa to play the ‘fawning love-interest’ character due to her commitment to bettering Africa and the world; and Okoye who is one of the fiercest normal humans in the MCU.  Would you want to fight Okoye?  Do you think you could outsmart Shuri on literally anything?  Do you have more compassion for any group of people than Nakia does?  They’re all incredible, and while they have their ‘defining’ attributes, they’re not only those things.  Shuri is funny, and brave.  Nakia is in love with T’Challa, but refuses to let that be her guiding principal. Okoye, despite being a total bad-ass is also a loving girlfriend/wife (they don’t really say) who also stands up to her love when he is on the wrong side.

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Black Panther pushed us further toward the MCU ‘sweet spot. Now we have Ant-Man and The Wasp and it’s the first time in the MCU that a woman is one of the title characters.  The Wasp does not disappoint.  She’s the most bad-ass fighter in the film, she totally shows up Ant-Man and even the pseudo-villain Ghost. She’s a dedicated, intelligent woman trying to be reunited her mother.

16E15BD3-B591-433C-B06D-F73F450B36E324F37A45-717D-4396-97BA-B180D2B8C407Something Hope/Wasp and the women of Black Panther manage to do, is balance the characters between being what we want in super-heroes while not removing their femininity.  They also don’t play on any female stereotypes or tropes. We don’t see any of the female characters being played as ’emotionally erratic,’ while also not playing them off as unfeeling.  It’s a hard balance that Hollywood in general has difficulty was and the MCU has done pretty well avoiding those pitfalls. Which is really impressive considering that so far, all the directors in the MCU has been mad.

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So what do I want to see when it comes to females in the MCU? That leads us to Captain Marvel.  For Captain Marvel, we’re going to get our first female (solo) title character.  We’re also going to get our first female director (co-director, but to be fair, Anna Boden has directed all of her films with her husband Ryan Fleck).  I really want Captain Marvel to be great.  I want it to be as great as Black Panther and a game changer in the same way Black Panther was. I want Captain Marvel to be an amazing character with depth, but also a total bad-ass.  The DCEU had their only smash success to date with Wonder Woman because it’s a genuinely good film. I hope Captain Marvel is at least as good (perhaps with a better villain). Because Captain Marvel will not have the momentum of being the first like Wonder Woman was, but it does need to be successful.  One of the major takeaways from Black Panther and Wonder Woman was that people respond to diversity in their entertainment. However, if a movie like Captain Marvel fails, Hollywood probably won’t learn the right lesson from it.  They won’t say “oh Captain Marvel sucked, let’s try a Black Widow film instead!”, they’re more likely to say “oh maybe Wonder Woman was an anomaly and the audiences don’t really want female lead superhero movies.”  It’s bullshit logic, but as I’ve written before Hollywood almost always learns the wrong lessons.

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If Captain Marvel has some great action set pieces and the character is as well developed and well acted as Hope Van Dyne, Okoye, Nakia, Shuri, and Gamora, I think they’ll have a hit on their hands. If that happens Hollywood will do more to replicate it.  The MCU has done a great job creating this universe and I’m confident that Captain Marvel will not be an exception to that rule. I know I’m really excited.

D9297F0E-0085-4D54-9786-6A3A8D4C8636Because, honestly?  I love watching great women characters, especially when they kick ass.  That’s so much more interesting to me than the damsel in distress. I don’t know maybe I’m not ‘alpha’ enough, but something I find attractive (not just on a romantic/sexual level, but attractive in a friend, or in my wife, or when I’m proud of my sister ) is characters/people who have passion. It’s what we admire about male characters right?  You love that Tony Stark is pursuing (albeit awfully) the betterment of human kind through science, or that Captain America is passionate about the ideals of freedom and what America is supposed to be.  Why wouldn’t we look for the same in our female characters? I never understood that.

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So, what I want to see, is an excellent Captain Marvel movie, and if there is a love interest, I hope it’s not shoe-horned in.  After that, I hope that Captain Marvel opens us up to more female lead films in the MCU.  I’m patient, I know it won’t be overnight, but with a few more hits in Phase Four, and then they’ll be on a roll.

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Written by Michael Cole

Solo: Learning the Wrong Lessons!

 

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There’s a quote from Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, “Once again you’ve put your keen and penetrating mind to the task and as usual come to the wrong conclusion!” said by Sirius Black to Severus Snape.  The quote is one of my favorites, and I cannot think of a place where it seems to apply more than Hollywood.

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If you somehow break through and make a movie about a woman who makes falls in love with a water balloon, the lesson that Hollywood would take from that is “water balloons are sexy” and you’d see some crazy slate of movies in which water balloons have sex with hot women, and drive fast cars, and airplanes, and stuff.  (Sorry about all the water balloons but I’m sitting next to a bag full of balloons, so it was the weirdest thing in eye shot.)CC061DFE-2E9C-46D1-9B5F-B81599E0CFA5We’ve seen Hollywood learn the wrong lesson from successes too many times to count, (i.e. all of the Jaws sequels, and Piranha movies and so many others).  But we also see them learn the lesson from failures.  This can be really upsetting to me personally, because it often means something is abandoned early due to the wrong reasons, and who likes their movie franchises ended early?

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The latest victim of this problem, seems to be Star Wars.  I wrote about Solo a few weeks ago, but let me catch you up.  The film seemed like a bad idea, but it was a good movie.  So now, almost a month after it’s release Disney and Lucasfilm have announced that they’re reconsidering Star Wars spin-offs due to its failure.

So let’s talk about its failure, and yes it seems it is undeniably a financial failure (although the budget hasn’t been released so it’s difficult to tell exactly).  First of all, you released 3 Star Wars 3 Decembers in a row, and they were all very successful.  Is that because the films were excellent?  I’ve liked them all, but there is a fair amount of debate on the quality of each.  A huge reason for their success was the fact that December doesn’t have much for general audiences, it’s prestige film season, which leaves the “blockbuster” crowd open.  That cannot be underestimated as a factor in their success.  Solo however, came out just 6 months after TLJ in May.  May was the traditional time for Star Wars in the previous 2 trilogies, but May’s were not as packed with action films in those years, and movies had multiple weeks (in some cases months) to rule the box office.  This year we had Avengers: Infinity War (also a Disney film, which should be a double no-no for packing them in the same 30-day period) which was the biggest film of the year (and has the potential to be the top of the decade) was released a month before, then Deadpool was released a week before, and just three weeks after Solo, came the Incredibles (again Disney, wtf were you thinking?  Spread it out more).

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So that’s the first problem, Disney put Solo out with the biggest films of the year, and even by Star Wars standards it shouldn’t have.  It’s far from the largest story, or the biggest impact in that universe.  The second problem is confidence.

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Solo suffered from a few pieces of confidence undercutting.  After the fact that many of us didn’t think the idea was a good idea, there were the production ‘issues,’ with Lord and Miller getting fired mid-production, Ron Howard having to take over and needing to reshoot (which involved recasting at least one role), and then lastly there was the rumors of Alden Ehrenreich needing and acting coach.  None of these would add up to confidence boosting, then we didn’t see a trailer until February which seemed very late in the game for a film of this size.  And lastly, TLJ, it’s a pretty split popularity, but when 50% of the audience thinks the film was a crap-fest, and think Disney has ‘ruined Star Wars,’ six months may not be enough time to cleanse their palettes.

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Let me offer an example of a time when the correct lesson was learned, and how it may benefit you to follow in those footsteps.  On November 23rd 1963, the BBC aired the pilot of Doctor Who, and it did really poorly in the ratings that night.  The executive in charge was on the side of canceling the show after the first episode, because obviously the whole thing was going to be a flop, but the creator was opposed to that.  She argued that the show had suffered from the whole world being consumed by JFK’s assassination the day before, and that if they reaired the pilot a week later, that would be a more realistic example of how the show would do.  She was right, and the show continued for 26 years before being canceled (and then rebooted, and now having 50 years, 3 movies, and 36 seasons altogether).  They realized that timing had been off.  Releasing Solo in the midst of the superhero frenzy was bad timing, don’t blame Solo for that.

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So I ask you this question, given all of those things could Solo have succeeded? Even modestly?  I don’t think it really could have.  But Disney is looking the box office and acting as if that means the movie is a piece of shit, which it wasn’t.  Please Disney, learn the right lesson. I get that you don’t want this to happen again, but if you learn the wrong lesson it likely will.  Please, I love Star Wars too much for it to become the DCEU (with all the second guessing and undercutting and ultimately not learning the right thing)…  I’m begging you.

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Written by Michael Cole