Tag Archives: Marvel

Pros and Pratfalls of Regenerating Your Cast

Being Human season 5 cast

[Spoilers ahead for Marvel comics and Being Human]

A series’ heart is its characters—whether it’s comedy, tragedy, fantasy, what have you, generally speaking, if you’re going to really capture the audience what you want is a good cast. You could have the most banal or wacky concept in the world, but if you have good characters people like and are interested in, people will watch it. Similarly, you could have the coolest and most fascinating backdrop ever, but without good characters to form that human connection, nothing’s going to glue. So, once you’ve got this band of characters that forms the bridge of audience attachment, you’d be silly to change them, right? Well, not always. Not every series revolves around the same set of fictional people for its entirety, and sometimes it’s beautiful and sometimes it’s bad.

Some series cling to their characters for decades, some change them every few seasons as a matter of course (like Skins), some bring back beloved concepts with new faces (Star Trek: Next Gen perhaps). Every long-running series has a kind of conceptual mould at its heart (e.g. Madoka Magica’s mould is “young girls fight monsters and discover the evil in the system they’re fighting for”) and a set of main characters (Madoka, Homura, Sayaka and co.). Sometimes, if they run long enough, these can get a little tired, so you have to change things up, unless you’ve got something truly episodic with no excessive continuity like old sitcoms. Generally, you can either change the characters (for example, bring in a new group of Magical Girls to follow) or break the mould (now instead of this being a story about fighting monsters it’s about fighting each other and their various dubious motivations).

Comics often keep their moulds, but get new characters within it. The new Thor comics star a woman (to the ecstatic cries of one half of the internet and the groans of the other, of course) not because Thor as we know him has been warped into a sex change, but because a new character has picked up the hammer and gained the powers therein, thus becoming the person to carry the title. So you can still have all your adventures that play with the universe and themes that suit that story, but to keep things fresh there’s a new lead to follow, get attached to, come to understand. It keeps the flavour and formula the same, but changes up the human connection to make things interesting and fresh. Thor was also a frog at one point, I’m pretty sure, so it’s not as if this is something new. Continue reading

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Filed under Pop Culture Ponderings

Marvels of Marvel: Captain America

Captain America

My reviews of the Marvel Cinematic Universe continue this week, coming back down to earth to look at the two (going on three, soon, hopefully, please?) Captain America movies. Let’s go punch some Nazis.

Of course, as I said in my other long and adoring post about the characters of Steve Rogers and co., Marvel has made great and effective strides to have Captain America grow from his flat beginnings as a fun propaganda tool into a three-dimensional, likeable and interesting heroic figure. Short of shying away from his message-selling past and perhaps brushing over it to give him a more mature and modern incarnation, Marvel has latched onto it, explored and affectionately taken the mickey out of it in full. Remember what I said before about Marvel not giving a crap and setting out to enjoy themselves, inherent silliness be damned?

But, I’m not just going to sit here reiterating everything I examined in that post, but take a look at the movies as a framework for these characters and these stories and what it all means. Captain America, naturally enough, thrives in plots where he represents a figure of hope versus a contemporary fear. We see two instances of this in both The First Avenger and The Winter Soldier—in the World War II era he was created in, the threat was Nazis, in modern day, it’s terrorism and weaponised misuse of information. Interesting to note that the function of Captain America, as used here, is not only to fight these threats off as protector of the people but, in a way, to represent them as well.

Think about it—blonde, blue-eyed Steve, turned into a supersoldier and perfect human being by many standards (including being magically/scientifically cured of all his ailments. Disability erasure? Discussion for another day), is certainly a nice example of the Aryan ideal. And what does he do? Fights against the enemy who would revere him. The same kind of thing goes for The Winter Soldier, where it’s revealed that S.H.I.E.L.D. is inherently a corrupt mess—well, Cap’s tied in with S.H.I.E.L.D., thus now also HYDRA, and on a better day for them could have been their perfect attack dog and/or poster boy. But once again he throws that back in the enemy’s face. Even if it involves dismantling S.H.I.E.L.D. itself and kind of shooting himself and the rest of the Avengers and that whole dealio proverbially in the foot. Hey, he’s “not a perfect soldier, but a good man.” Continue reading


Filed under Alex Watches

Marvels of Marvel: Guardians of the Galaxy

{‘Hooked on a Feeling’ playing in the distance}

I usually review TV series for my ‘Alex Watches’ category, but I thought I’d branch out into something that’s effectively the same thing, but each episode is a multi-million dollar action movie. Welcome to my fond scrutinising of the Marvel Cinematic Universe! I’ll be working my way through the franchise backwards, poster character by poster character, starting at the top, in space.

Guardians of The Galaxy

First of all, let me say I had no idea what to expect from this movie except for everyone who’d already seen it whooping into the internet about how much fun it was, and the knowledge that this is the one where Marvel genuinely stopped giving a crap. Obscure comic series set in colourful outer space, starring a green lady, a gun-wielding racoon and a talking tree? Hell yeah. We’re making enough money we can do whatever we want, inherent silliness and marketing issues be damned.

Looking at The Winter Soldier, the movie that came out before it, I really can’t think of two parts of the same series that manage to be more different. The Winter Soldier is overtly grounded, cinematography, colouring and setting all building up a recognisable and sober atmosphere, as well as a (comparatively) character-central plot. It feels localised and steady, in grey tones and with subdued character designs and a believable world. Guardians of the Galaxy is set over a huge stretch of rainbow-hued space, where wacky hairdos and painted skin are enough to classify you as alien and the bad guys are dramatically intent on world destruction. It’s saturated and bright and full of 1970s and 80s dance music, and generally has an air that’s nothing short of playful. And did I mention the smart-talking, angry raccoon? Continue reading


Filed under Alex Watches

Hope, Symbolism & Why Steve Rogers is Still Our Hero

Chris Evans as Captain America

This is his patriotic judging face

If you knew absolutely nothing about comics or superhero movies and just heard the words “Captain America”, what would be your first thought? Possibly “Sounds like nationalist military propaganda” or “I bet he’s a real dick”. Well, in the case of the former, you wouldn’t entirely be wrong, and the latter isn’t an unfair assumption considering how self-congratulatory the embodiments of a country’s values can turn out to be. Yet here we have Marvel’s Steve “Captain America” Rogers, and company, one of the most three-dimensional and heart-tugging batches of supersoldier beefcake I’ve seen on a big screen recently.

I wasn’t particularly interested in Captain America (he seemed fairly ridiculous, and that’s even next to Thor), but you know, made sure to see The First Avenger so The Avengers would make sense, and went to see The Winter Soldier with WB because she half-dragged me there to the tune of the internet’s wailing about it. I don’t live under a rock. I’m not some old academic fuddy-duddy that thinks superhero movies (especially ones that dare to be fun. Yech!) can’t give you a poignant emotional reaction or possibly contain any value beyond passing a few popcorn-flavoured hours. The Marvel Cinematic Universe has generally swept me off my feet with how consistently good it is. Nonetheless, I’m still really impressed with the latest Captain America offerings, and everything they’ve done with the character and movies in general.

True to the aforementioned internet wailings, among other things The Winter Soldier successfully makes the viewer form an emotional attachment to a ruthless assassin who has about six spoken lines. The Marvel writers are wily—they make you love a human weapon, the same way they made you love a propaganda tool. Yes, Captain America has his roots in World War II morale-boosting. He is a Nazi-punching, golden-haired, wholesome as farm-baked apple pie sales tool to give people something to enjoy in frightening times. He seems pretty dated now, laughable even, yet Marvel made the decision to bring him back. And it really, really worked. Continue reading


Filed under And I Think That's Neat

Lights, Camera, Romantic Plot Tumour

Thor 2

Look out Thor there’s an attempt at widening the demographic stuck to your chest!

I gripe and grumble a lot about romance on here, and I just want you all to know that I do not actually hate it. I am not a pointy-nosed cynic with a shrivelled soul and a vendetta against any film that isn’t black-and-white and so artistic it’s incomprehensible, and any book that isn’t a first edition, weighty philosophical tome of mournfulness and dry social commentary from at least a hundred years ago. I am not only a modern movie buff and reader of things with shiny covers but a giant bloody sap, and I adore the love story in all its incarnations. I just hate it when it’s done badly.

Within the fictional realm you can barely budge an inch without bumping into some semblance of a romantic plotline. Love is a universal human theme, one of those few, bizarre and magical natural occurrences that manages to be common as mud but still unique every time it appears. Love stories are everywhere because they resonate—by and large, love is something that everyone can relate to (in some way or form), so we form an immediate empathetic connection. They’re pretty great, really.

But. But, but, but. We are so in love with love that we feel the need to put it everywhere, even where it doesn’t belong. Are we in our own obnoxious stage of our relationship with romance where everything must relate back to the object of our desire, whether it’s really relevant or not? We can’t shut up about it and, though the infatuation is endearing, it’s starting to annoy our friends. And ‘our friends’, for the purposes of this post, means this blogger. Continue reading


Filed under Things We Need to Stop Doing