I first jumped into the Arrowverse right as it really began taking off back in 2014. Though Arrow had been running since 2012, 2014 marked the moment that that little show kicked open the door to a larger universe thanks to the arrival of The Flash, whose first season ran concurrent with Arrow’s third. Since that time, the Arrowverse has only continued to get bigger via shows like Vixen and Legends of Tomorrow, and it’s even managed to retroactively fold NBC’s cancelled Constantine series from 2014 into itself thanks to the character appearing on Arrow in its fourth season. Even further, Supergirl is now making the logical leap over from CBS to The CW to carve out her own corner of the Arrowverse after crossing over with The Flash earlier this year.
The Arrowverse isn’t perfect, far from it, but I dig it. For the most part, it’s a lot of fun to watch and get lost in - frustrations I’ll get to soon aside - and I appreciate how all out some of the shows continue to go in embracing their comic book roots, particularly The Flash and Legends of Tomorrow. Unlike the Marvel Cinematic Universe, though, I don’t follow the off-screen developments of the franchise too heavily, meaning lots of things go unspoiled for me right up until new episodes air. As a result, I can’t really get too deep into talking about “news” or what we can expect to see coming up in these shows, which I’m perfectly fine with as it makes each new surprise even better, but I can still offer up my thoughts on the upcoming new seasons based on the footage we were given at this year’s Comic-Con simply as a fan looking forward to what’s to come.
With five different shows set to return over the course of the next few months, come with me on a short trip through what we learned this past weekend as I sort out my own thoughts, concerns, and hopes about the various shows and hopefully get you up to speed on anything you may have missed.
I'm just going to say it: I love the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I'm obsessed with it, each new announcement about it gets me excited, and I truly believe the more the merrier when it comes to expanding the whole thing. Since the one-two punch of Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk back in 2008, the whole MCU has gotten bigger than any of us could've ever imagined, branching out into a number of different films and television shows, turning characters like the Guardians of the Galaxy and Ant-Man into household names, crossing genres, and telling all kinds of great stories. I could talk about it for days on end, but today I'm going to focus on this weekend's MCU news from the San Diego Comic-Con to help sort out my thoughts on it all and get YOU up to speed in case you missed anything.
From the introduction of Ghost Rider to footage from Luke Cage and Iron Fist to all sorts of news about Doctor Strange, Black Panther, Captain Marvel, Spider-Man: Homecoming, and the sequels to Thor and Guardians of the Galaxy, I've got you covered. So let's get started!
"In Defense Of" is a look back at films that have been relegated to the dustbin of time - victims of critical thrashing, commercial failure, etc. - that attempts to sort through their perceived failures and bring their merits to light in an effort to conclude whether or not they deserve a better reputation.
Earlier this week, I took a look back at 1999’s The Mummy, coming to the conclusion that the propulsive adventure film still holds up today thanks in no small part to the charm it exudes from beginning to end. It’s not a master class in film-making, but it’s a perfect example of a big budget summer blockbuster done right, one whose shortcomings are more than made up for by its cast’s chemistry, its winking tone, fun production design, and some real, practical action sequences.
As I explored in my In Defense Of breakdown of Jaws 2, sequels are a tricky thing to get right. Stray too far off the path and away from what worked the first time, you risk alienating your audience if it doesn’t work, but stay too long on the road of imitating what they’re accustomed to and you’ll find they’ll reject it for being too familiar. Often, the key is to strike just the right balance between what’s comfortable and what’s not, easing audiences out of their comfort zone rather than forcibly dragging them out of it, but that’s far easier said than done, and it’s a trap that can make or break any sequel with one wrong step.
People who hated The Mummy back in 1999 were undoubtedly not looking forward to the arrival of its sequel, The Mummy Returns, just two years later, and many of those who did love The Mummy found that its sequel made more than just a few minor missteps. Over the last 15 years, The Mummy Returns has stood as a shining example to many of a sequel gone wrong; the type prone to embracing the “bigger is better” mentality that has kept so many sequels from being able to truly capture what worked the first time around. In the end, there’s no avoiding the simple truth that The Mummy Returns is dumber, louder, and needlessly bigger in comparison to its predecessor.
So now you may be asking why this movie that I’ve acknowledged is ridiculous is something that I’m willing to defend, and the answer is simple: Despite its faults, it managed to retain enough of the charm of the first film to work as an enjoyable companion piece, one that has many faults - which I’ll soon get into - but still works for me to this day. The Mummy is a better film by far, but like it, I can come across Returns on television and get sucked into it no matter where it is in its runtime.
What exactly makes a cult classic? To nail down any singular definition is impossible, especially when those two simple words can encompass so many types of films. Some films are simply released at the wrong time, destined for short-term failure just by circumstance only to finally find respect years down the line, such as John Carpenter’s The Thing, which stood no chance against Steven Spielberg’s E.T. in the summer of 1982 but eventually came to be revered as the masterful work of horror and suspense that it is today. Other films are simply such spectacular disasters that people love them for it, taken in by the bizarre charm radiating from their exuberant ineptitude, the perfect example, of course, being Tommy Wiseau’s The Room.
There are numerous other ways films can rise up to cult status, but I would argue that the common thread connecting them all is simply the idea that - to use that old chestnut of an idiom - one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. I, for one, can’t sit through The Room from beginning to end. It’s funny in doses and undeniably quotable, but it’s not “for me,” despite the fact I know people who can watch it a hundred times and never get sick of it. And I would never fault them for that, as who am I - or anyone else, for that matter - to tell them they shouldn’t enjoy it. Film as an art form is rightfully subjective, and nothing proves that more than the fundamental concept of cult films.
This week, I found myself motivated to finally check out The Warriors, the 1979 cult classic that, for one reason or another, always seemed to me like the type of film that was invitation-only; that is, one of those rare films that can only truly be introduced to you by someone who loves it rather than something you dip your toes into alone. With the recent announcement that Joe and Anthony Russo - who have been involved with projects I adore ranging from the last two Captain America movies to shows like Community and Arrested Development - are putting together a TV adaptation of it, I figured it was time to skip past the invite and see for myself what the big deal is.
Now, I wasn’t wholly unfamiliar with the film going into it. At this point, it’s hard not to be able to quote some of its most popular lines offhand, like “Can you dig it?” and “Warriors, come out to play.” I could recognize a bit of its imagery, such as the overall look of the gang themselves, and I knew several of the actors from their later projects, including James Remar and David Patrick Kelly. On the surface, I had been exposed to it over the years just to the point where it could retain the mystery behind whatever thematic exploration and narrative twists and turns were awaiting me, and I can’t deny that I was surprised at what I found.
Retro Reviews are frequent looks back at films I've already seen to conclude whether or not they still hold up, taking into consideration both the time period and circumstances during which they were made and how they work in the modern day to offer a more in-depth exploration of the film itself than those found in my standard first-time reviews.
First off, let me take this opportunity to thank you for simply taking the time to read this, which means you've found the site and made me one happy camper.
If you know me, then I probably need no introduction; if you don't, well, let me kick this off by offering a lit bit about me. My name is Geoff Cox, and I've started this site with the intention of it serving as the ground floor for a lot to come in the future. For now, it's a relatively modest work in progress, and will chiefly be a place for me to talk about film and television topics that strike my interest, as well as offering reviews of films past, present, and future and a host of other features.
You can read more about me, the site, and some of the features I've currently got planned for it by going here, but the point is that the fundamental core driving the site is my love of film, as well as the desire to put my thoughts out there on my own terms, hopefully engaging people - like you! - along the way.
"In Defense Of" is a biweekly look back at films that have been relegated to the dustbin of time - victims of critical thrashing, commercial failure, etc. - that attempts to sort through their perceived failures and bring their merits to light in an effort to conclude whether or not they deserve a better reputation.
The prospect of making a sequel is inherently a tricky thing, especially when it comes to attempting to follow up a film that became an instant classic overnight; something that resonated so deeply with people the world over to the point that their expectations for anything following in its footsteps would - understandably and rightfully - be high.
The best sequels build on the foundation laid down by their predecessors, expanding upon the story in a natural way and offering something new in the process without completely breaking away from what worked so well in the first place. Take iconic sequels like The Godfather: Part II, The Empire Strikes Back, or Terminator 2: Judgment Day, for instance, all films frequently considered to be even better than the ones they followed for digging deeper, taking more risks, and so on, but never forgetting the fundamental appeal that allowed them to exist in the first place; great films on their own, sure, but - even better - perfect companions to their predecessors, with a natural flow that just works.
But for every rare, quality sequel like those, of course, there are countless sequels that are churned out simply to capitalize on a brand, often made by people who, for one reason or another, seem to be out of touch with what worked so well the first time around, failing to understand that, in many cases, leaving audiences wanting more is better than actually giving them more. Pumping out "bigger" sequels simply for the sake of doing so and not for the sake of genuine story can rob characters and ideas and themes of their initial strength. It's how a character like Freddy Krueger can go from being a terrifying figure to a wisecracking jokester, or how the antics of Captain Jack Sparrow can go from refreshing to exhausting.
As new writers or directors or executives get involved in turning a single film into a franchise, everyone wants to put their stamp on it, often with misguided ideas about what would be cool rather than what would be smart. And thinking like that means an iconic piece of cinema like Steven Spielberg's Jaws gets linked forever to sequels like Jaws 3D and Jaws: The Revenge, two films that attempted to up the ante in a way no audience in the world truly wanted, in the process spitting in the face of what made Jaws work - from its great characters to its lived-in world to its ability to tap into the genuine, primal fear of what lurks in the unknown - all for the sake of cashing in on a fad and the goodwill of the original film.
Pick a Month: