Due to overwhelming demand, Ryan McDonald and I have finally returned to complete our journey through Middle Earth. After our smash hit episode all bout The Lord of The Rings Movies, our listeners wanted, nay DEMANDED, a follow up episode exploring the other, less beloved big screen adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s work. That’s right, this episode is all about The Hobbit Trilogy!
Unlike the nearly universally praised Lord of The Rings films, many fans criticized The Hobbit, feeling that 3 films to cover one of Tolkien’s shortest works was one film too many and an unnecessary cash grab by the studio. The individual films in The Hobbit Trilogy were viewed by some as being overly long and even boring.
Some of the criticisms surrounding the films were fair, other weren’t. As a Tolkien junkie, I loved spending as much time as possible in Peter Jackson’s vision of Middle Earth. The characters, the heart, the spectacular action set pieces, the groundbreaking special effects, I loved it all! I couldn’t get enough. I remember when the films were being made, I followed the production closely and when the movies were released it was an event for my friends and I. I was the guy who thought things like “They’re going to make 3 movies back to back instead of 2? Fuckin’ A! I love it! Bring it on!”, “They’re releasing extended editions on blu ray, just like LoTR? SICK! Add to shopping cart!”. My point is that I definitely have a positive personal bias with these films. While I’m the first to admit that I’m not 100% objective, I sincerely believe these are excellent films.
There are phenomenal performances from Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen, and Richard Armitage, just to name a few. There are some beautiful, profound moments in these films. Not to mention the action and battles scenes which kick all kinds of ass! Oh, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Benedict Cumberbatch as the dragon, Smaug. He’s terrifying and fascinating all at the same time. The motion capture performance and voice performance by Cumberbatch, along with some VFX wizardry from the guys at Weta, combine to create one of the best motion capture CG characters of the past decade. I almost forgot to mention Howard Shore’s predictably excellent score.
But enough beating around the bush! Listen to the show below, where Ryan and I offer up our arguments for why these films are underrated, we give some background about the films problematic pre-production, and discuss our favorite characters and moments from the Trilogy. Of course, like every great episode of The World’s Best Podcast, we inevitably take some fun detours along the way
At the beginning of the episode, we announced that we’d calling attention to a great charity dedicated to fighting colon cancer. The organization is Colon Cancer Coalition of Boston, you can check out their website right here:
Thanks for listening! Follow me on Twitter @PJWrightWBM or type Worlds Best Media into the search bar, you can also like and follow us on our Facebook page; World’s Best Media. Those likes and follows, as well as iTunes reviews, which go a long way to supporting World’s Best Media. We really appreciate the loyalty and support shown to us by our fans, so thanks again!
Holy Fuck! Avengers: Endgame is finally here! I wanna say right up front that there will be absolutely NO SPOILERS in this article. However, we go into FULL SPOILERS in our deep dive review of Avengers: Endgame on this episode of The World’s Best Podcast! My Marvel Movie companion, Paul Sr. and I had a chance to see the movie a few days early, but we wanted to wait until at least some of our listeners had a chance to see the film, before we posted this SPOILER-RIFFIC review.
It so rare for movies to live up to the hype, but Endgame manages to surpass expectations. One of the many things fans love about comics, especially from DC and MARVEL, is the interconnected universes. You could be reading a Spider-Man comic and the X-Men or Iron Man or Daredevil would pop up. That was the ingredient that had been missing from superhero movies when the “Superhero Boom” began with movies like Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man and Singer’s X-Men.
It seems so obvious, but it was still brilliant. I remember seeing Iron Man for the first time and being blown away that SHIELD was in the movie. It seems so small now, in retrospect, but that little addition made it feel like the Marvel Universe (It was also the first appearance of fan favorite character, Agent Phil Coulson). Then of course there’s the immortal post credits scene from the first Iron Man film, when Tony meets Nick Fury which I’ve posted here below:
Building off the incredible success of IronMan and then creating 22 films that make this beautiful tapestry of a story, is mind blowing. The fact that out of the 22 films released so far, there have been so few missteps is astonishing. Even their weakest movies, and there’s only 3 or 4 like Thor: The Dark World, are pretty good or not bad at their worst. Everything else is more less gold.
The Russo Brothers, who’ve directed Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Captain America: Civil War, Avengers: Infinity War, and now Avengers: Endgame, absolutely stuck the landing with this movie, it’s a must see. The films directed by The Russo Brothers, Joe and Anthony, aired the 4 best films in The MCU. Who would’ve thought that guys who worked on TV shows like Community would go on to tell some of the most epic stories of our generation? For the record, I loved Community.
I think the real hero in all of this is Kevin Feige, the head of Marvel Studios. He was not only a massive fan of the source material, but he’d seen what mistakes other Marvel superhero films had made in the past and learned from them. So when it was time for Marvel Studios to start producing their own films, he knew what he was doing and he got the right people involved to work with them. Another huge kudos goes out to Casting Director Sarah Finn, who’s worked on almost all of the films, if not all of them. With maybe one or two exceptions out of literally hundreds, each character was a flawlessly cast. We owe a lot to her work as the reason these films came out so well.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Something 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.
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.
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.
Because, 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.
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.
On this episode of The World’s Best Podcast I’m diving into The Quantum Realm to review the latest movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Ant-Man & The Wasp! I keep it SPOILER FREE in the beginning and then transition into FULL SPOILERS, but I make sure to point out when the SPOILERS begin. Thanks for listening and enjoy! Listen here or subscribe Stitcher and ITunes:
Here’s the new poster for the upcoming Ant-Man and The Wasp. Apparently it’s going to take place either right before or around the beginning of Avengers: Infinity War and the new trailer will drop on Tuesday. As soon as that’s available, I’ll make sure we have it up on the site.
Ant-Man is one of the most underrated MCU films. I think it’s easily the best stand alone “Origin” film (like Iron Man or Doctor Strange). Director Peyton Reed is returning and he said if the first movie is a “Heist Film”, the next movie would be a new genre. I’ve heard rumors that this movie will introduce the Mutilverse, like alternate Earths. With new additions to the cast like Lawrence Fishburne, Walton Goggins and Michelle Pfeiffer this is definitely a movie to keep an eye on. Check out the trailer here, I can’t wait!