Venom (Tom Hardy) in the Venom film, directed by Ruben Fleischer.

Venom Is a Messy Web

Sony’s Venom can best be described as an exemplification of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” The superhero genre is simultaneously at the peak of its powers with a whopping 10 films set to be released in 2019, yet for many, the genre has become hackneyed and contrite, offering predictable and contrived storylines that do not take risks. Everything about Venom, from its comic-accurate presentation of its titular character, the Lovecraft-ian horror influences, to its mocking tagline (“The world has enough superheroes”) demonstrated to viewers that it wanted to be more Logan than Guardians of the Galaxy: a thought-provoking genre film that set out to do more than merely entertain. And while the world may have enough superheroes, Venom only augments that argument by its existence rather than subverting it with what it could offer. To its credit, this debut film of Spider-Man’s cannibalistic and violent arch nemesis (note: the wall-crawler himself is nowhere to be found in this flick) lives up to its name: it is not the “cure” that it so clearly poised itself as to the banality of current superhero films but instead the very poison that made readers want to settle for the present state of the genre. Sadly, despite the richness of the character’s backstory in the comics, the film tries so hard to convince its viewers and itself that it is not a superhero movie that it ends up not really being much of a movie at all.

Courtesy of A24

The Best, Worst and Most Surprising Movies of the Summer

1) What was the best movie you saw this summer? Lev Akabas: My second viewing of Avengers: Infinity War. Seriously, that movie is still the topic of a good chunk of my film-related conversations nearly three months after its release, and there’s rarely a dull moment in it, even on the rewatch. If I had to pick a favorite from the summer, though, it would be Bo Burnham’s wholesome Eighth Grade, which manages to depict how Generation Z adolescents hide behind their social media personalities without portraying its subjects judgmentally. Ashley Davila: While marketing for many action movies uses the term “epic” to describe every stunt and globe trotting adventure, few movies are deserving of the descriptor.

Courtesy of Walt Disney Studios

Ant-Man and the Wasp Aims Small but Hits Big

In superhero movies, saving the world has become the equivalent of drinking cough syrup: excruciating, repetitive, ultimately necessary and, dare I say, boring? On one hand, there is no better way to raise stakes or unify disparate groups of people; when the fate of the world is at risk, even major ideological differences can be pushed aside for the sake of ensuring survival. But if this trope is repeated too many times, that sense of urgency can quickly give way to leisure. When the stakes are repeatedly raised, the risks feel disingenuine and deceitful, because the on-screen peace and/or carnage we know will ultimately be reversed in the future. Peyton Reed was surely aware this fatigue as he directed the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s third film of 2018, Ant-Man and the Wasp.

Sophie Zheng | Sun Sketch Artist

Avengers: Infinity War Roundtable

What was your favorite moment from the movie? Lev Akabas: Every single time that Thor called Rocket “Rabbit.” Also the ending. I know some may criticize it for taking the easy way out with a cliffhanger or exploiting cheap emotion, but it was also genuinely surprising. I’ve been consistently entertained by Marvel for the past ten years, but truly surprised? It’s been a while.

Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman), Captain America (Chris Evans) and Black Widow (Scarlet Johannson) prepare for battle in Avengers: Infinity War.

Avengers: Infinity War Goes to Infinity… But Not Beyond

Though Marvel announced Avengers: Infinity War in October 2014, in many ways the title for the 19th installment of the Marvel Cinematic Universe has been a long time coming. Yes, the film is loosely based on Jim Starlin’s 1991 comic The Infinity Gauntlet (and its subsequent sequel The Infinity War) but even more so, the title is indicative of Marvel’s ongoing battle to tell cohesive and compelling crossover stories as its roster of heroes exponentially expands with each film. This conflict began back in 2008 when Nick Fury uttered to Tony Stark, “You’ve become a part of a bigger universe. You just don’t know it yet.”

With Infinity War, you can tell that its directors, the Russo Brothers, are trying to live out Thanos’ goal by making this film “balanced as all things should be.” Yet in their egalitarian attempts to give every character and plot thread a chance in the spotlight, Infinity War both does too much and consequently not enough. In its best moments, it is able to pull off the impossible, drawing together different franchises for a smorgasbord of action, spectacle and adventure.

Courtesy of Marvel Studios

Marvel’s Not-So-Marvelous LGBTQ+ Representation

Anyone who knows me knows me to be a huge Marvel fan, and knows that in the past few weeks I have not stopped talking about Avengers: Infinity War. And while I’ve been marveling at how far the Marvel Cinematic Universe has come in terms of character development and universe-building in the past ten years, I also can’t stop thinking about the one thing they’ve made very little progress on: LGBTQ+ representation. To give it some context, in May of 2008, Iron Man brought about the beginning of what we know today as the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). In November of the same year, California passed Proposition 8, which reinstated the state’s ban on same-sex marriage. Here we are, ten years later in 2018.

Courtesy of FX

Legion Season 2 Premiere Promises A Trip Worth Taking

For many shows, from thrillers to dramas, mystery is just one force keeping the audience interested. In Noah Hawley’s Legion, however, uncertainty is the foundation on which the rest of the story’s world is created. Its narrative is as unreliable as the broken mind of its protagonist, David Haller, played by Dan Stevens. Legion’s wildly inventive first season followed David, diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic, as he battled for control of his mind and explored his unknown, seemingly unlimited power. Technically, Legion is a superhero show.

Courtesy of Marvel Studios

Black Panther Roundtable

What was the best moment in Black Panther? Jonvi Rollins: Black Panther taking Killmonger to watch the Wakandan sunset. The moment perfectly exemplifies the “good heart” of the title character while farther humanizing his adversary. The paths of the men finally converge as Panther takes steps to understand, through Killmonger, his duty to others outside of his nation. Andrea Yang: T’Challa’s second visit to the spirits of the past Black Panthers, in which he speaks to his father again and makes a decision about what kind of king he wants to be.

Courtesy of Marvel Studios

Black Panther: Good King, Maad Nation

“You are a good man with a good heart. But it is hard for a good man to be king.”

These are the deceased T’Chaka’s final words to his son T’Challa before the latter is crowned king of Wakanda, an African nation that poses as a third world country, when in reality it is one of the most technologically advanced societies in the world, thanks to the natural resource of vibranium. Throughout the Black Panther, T’Challa has a hard time accepting the contradiction of this statement: there is a disconnect between the man he is and the king he must be. As a whole, the film questions (and answers) its own permutation of T’Chaka’s proclamation: can a good superhero film have heart and explore themes of race, power and privilege, or will its genre conventions — namely CGI spectacle and quippy one-liners — reduce it to simply being blockbuster entertainment? Black Panther shows that the two can be harmonious; Ryan Coogler’s film is at once a celebration of blackness, a sobering analysis of the responsibilities and obligations that people of privilege and power have and a dazzling superhero film in its own right.

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PINERO | The Revisionist History of Black Panther

Black Panther hits theaters everywhere tomorrow.  The buzz around the movie is electric, as evidenced by its formidable social media presence, record-breaking box office projections and ubiquity in the thinkpiece realm. Though the reviews are glowing, what seems to be propelling this global phenomenon is not the movie itself, but its materiality to the world as it is today. In the comic book world, the word “retcon” is a common portmanteau for “retroactive continuity.” It refers to the reframing of past events to serve a current plot need. For example, TV shows often retcon characters’ backstories in order to explain their present actions.