Spider-man to leave the MCU? Thoughts *Spoilers for Far From Home*

So apparently the film rights to Spider-Man have diverted back to Sony Pictures, who was previously in a deal with Marvel studios to feature Spider-Man in their “Marvel cinematic universe”. This was, I think, in part, due to the “Amazing Spider-Man” films not being a huge success. While the films featured an OK Andrew Garfield as Spider-Man and Emma Stone as a great Gwen Stacy, the films largely suffered from a weird plot decision, focusing on Peter Parker’s deceased parents (Which has at points been brought up in the comic, but not quite in this fashion) and their role in his origin story. The second film-which featured three villains on top of all this,the romance, *and* an attempt to introduce a Sinister Six spin-off, pretty much flopped.

 

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So Sony made a deal with Marvel to reintroduce the character with Tom Holland. This Spider-Man was somewhat made different from Sony’s, with no real attempt to explain his origin or what happened with Uncle Ben. He was also sort of mentored by Iron Man, who occasionally upgraded Peter’s suit.

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This version made his debut in Captain America: Civil War, starred in both Avengers Infinity saga films, and two solo films (although Iron Man showed up in Homecoming, with his “bodyguard” Happy Hogan also playing a fairly large role in both films).

The films also mainly brought Spider-Man out of New York City, with him showing up in Washington and later across Europe. Spider-Man’s supporting cast was also a bit shaken up. While Aunt May was still around (although notably far less elderly) Peter’s classmates and supporting staff were shuffled around a bit, with Ned Leeds replacing Harry Osborn as the best friend, Betty Brant being a fellow classmate, no Gwen in sight, Mary Jane becoming Michelle Jones and Liz Allen-only a short lived interest in the comics (and later being Harry Osborn’s wife)-being the love interest in the first movie. Although Flash Thompson remained consistent as Peter’s bully, but also paradoxically a huge fan of Spider-Man.

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Until recently, Peter’s Daily Bugle job and foil J. Jonah Jameson were left out of things as well-with of course, “Far From Home” ending on a cliffhanger with Jonah exposing Spider-Man’s identity due to some doctored footage from Mysterio. Now, we might never know what happens next (Perhaps, MCU Spidey just got arrested, maybe some future Marvel project will make some jokeingly vague reference to that without saying Spider-Man or Parker).

So why in part did this happen? Although some of the details are a bit foggy Sony seems to say that because there’s so many other things Marvel’s/Feige’s doing that it’ll delay Spider-Man III and that wasn’t part of the deal, although this is still a developing story.

There’s another factor to consider, Sony’s been somewhat more sucessful on their own with the Spider-Man brand as of late. While it cooperated with Disney/Marvel for the Tom Holland film, they were still able to make their own independent films based on the Spider-man mythos but without any MCU references….and surprisingly, both were big hits.

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“Venom” took Spider-Man’s involvement in his origin out of it’s storyline, instead focusing on the alien origins of Brock’s suit and his sort of vigilante stance rather than his vengeance (Granted, the character’s pretty much been that way since the mid 90’s). Despite mixed reviews it made a great deal of money.

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Another big success for Sony was the “Into the Spider-Verse” movie, which featured Miles Morales, the former second “Ultimate Spider-Man” (Now part of the regular Marvel comics universe) in an adventure that also had several elements from the comic’s “Spider-verse” crossover (minus Morlun and his family of Spider-Vampires). The unique animation style, self-parody and fun story also led to a massive success.

Sony is also now filming “Morbius”, which, like “Venom” features a Spider-Man affiliated character who is a vigilante. In this case, a Vampire one (although quite different from Blade).

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Although not in production, “Silver and Black” is also being developed, featuring frequent Spider-Man guest stars (and romantic interests) Silver Sable and Black Cat (Black Cat was “sort of” shown in Amazing Spider-Man II as Osborn employee Felicia, played by future “Rogue one” star Felcitiy Jones).

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In addition to all this, Sony scored a huge hit with the PS4 exclusive Spider-Man game which I’ve talked about before. Although the gaming division is quite different from the movie division, Sony did buy the studio which made the game just the day before…

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So perhaps Sony is a bit more confident in their handling of the license then they were back in 2014.

 

 

So what happens with Spider-man now? *technically* they can still do something, perhaps even with Holland, but it can’t have anything to do with the MCU, which might be difficult since the solo films were pretty much heavily tied in with the Iron Man mythos (….and “Far From Home” likewise dealt a lot with plot threads from “Endgame”). Again, this is all still new and perhaps they can make a new deal which will allow Spidey to remain in the MCU. However, I won’t be surprised if we get a fourth take/third reboot in the near future.

However, until then, looks like this is the current state of things….

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Video games in Review: God of War (PS4)

Note: I haven’t played much of the previous GOW games, so bear with me a bit if I get some stuff wrong.

 

PS4’s God of War is the latest in the action/mythology series. Series hero (anti-hero?) Kratos decides to settle down in Norway, eventually marrying and having a son, Atreus (Who Kratos mostly refers to as “boy”-their relationship is a bit of a rocky one). At some point, Kratos’s wife passes away, and now they set out on a quest to scatter her ashes on the world’s highest peak. However, things aren’t as easy as they seem, and once again Kratos-this time with his son tagging along with bow & arrow, although not quite yet the warrior Kratos seems to wants him to be-find themselves dealing with gods and monsters, however this time it’s Norse mythology instead of the Greco-Roman variety. It’s a bit of a bonding road trip, not unlike THE LAST OF US, except without mushroom zombies (although there are zombies, just the more SKYRIM style type of undead). Kratos also has to face some literal ghosts of his own past.

 

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Their quest in particular brings them to at least some of the nine realms, including a world where elves are in civil war. There’s also the Norse version of hell, although it’s considerably colder than other versions.

 

There’s plenty of allies in their quest. Among them are the rival dwarf brother blacksmiths Sindri and Brock, who help maintain and upgrade Kratos’s and Atreus’s weapons and armor.

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Unlike other games which feature a fairly linear leveling-up system, XP points in GOW are largely used to “purchase” skills, while other items are used to craft armor and weapons. These weapons and armor actually determine Kratos’s levels/health/strength instead of gaining XP.

Kratos has other allies as well;  the most consequential being the mysterious witch Freya (Who, BTW, is not a love interest at all but is important to the story).

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There’s also the World serpent, one of the game’s most interesting visuals (pretty much one of the main marketing elements of the game too).

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The main comic relief is Mimir, a re-animated head who also pretty much serves as Kratos’s main guide in addition to that.

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Although the main story is built a bit like LAST OF US, the gameplay outside the RPG elements also brings me to mind of UNCHARTED and TOMB RAIDER (There’s a fair amount of ancient ruins and tombs so that’s doubly apt). There’s a ton of climbing to do, and several puzzles that must be done in order to proceed-some which require Kratos’s axe (and later chains), others which require Atreus to figure out what to do, or Atreus’s arrows, the main non-melee weapons in the game which you have some degree of control over.

 

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The Axe is a pretty interesting weapon, and like Thor, it can be thrown and recalled like a boomerang. It can also be used to freeze up traps and pulleys, and can be given extra moves, upgrades, skills and enchantments. Kratos can also uses his fists, including a berserker mode called “spartan rage”, and his shield has some moves too. Later on, his Blades from the other games make an appearance, and are especially handy with multiple enemies.

 

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There’s of course several enemies in the game, although to do seem to be a bit repetitive. Especially the trolls which pretty much take up a good chunk of most of the game’s boss battles.

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Also some of the bigger boss battles are heavily QTE based (not unlike the other GOTs, or one of my few gripes with the recent Spider-Man game).

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The game’s graphics are well done, giving  Kratos (even though he’s quite grumpy throughout the whole game) a lot of character, as well as Atreus and their allies; and there’s a world full of different environments which look pretty cool. One of my favorites was Freya’s turtle house.

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Most of the game also doesn’t have a great deal of loading times, pretty much only when you restart the game after an absence. It’s pretty much an ‘unbroken shot’ although there’s probably some visual tricks they used to cover that up, like one or two scenes of overwhelming light or darkness.

The game is sort of semi-open world, centered around a “hub”  called the lake of nine, which leads to several portals to the realms opened by the “Bifrost”. The lake is also filled with it’s share of side quests and hidden treasures as well. It’s a bit similar to UNCHARTED: LOST LEGACY’s middle section which centered around a tower hub area.Image result for god of war lake of nine

Overall, GOW was a pretty fun exclusive, although I didn’t quite see as much groundbreaking gameplay and story elements as much as say, THE WITCHER 3, but it’s still well worth it as a good adventure game.

Bond 25-A look at the first looks

James Bond will return…although he’s had a few stumbling blocks along the way.

 

Originally planned for a 2019 release, the latest James Bond film has faced some stumbling blocks. Problems with the director, Danny Boyle leaving, and getting replaced with Cory Fukijama, and even after filming has begun, reports of Daniel Craig suffering injury, other accidents on the set, arguments etc.

 

Still, it could be worst. Between Quantum of Solace and Skyfall, there were worries about Bond’s future too (Such as this 2010 cover of EW) due to MGM’s seemingly eternal money woes. The production of Casino Royale also had reports of Craig suffering injuries and the 007 stage burnt down during production. On top of that, people were unsure about Craig himself, in part because he was somewhat physically distinct from

 

 

 

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Recently-in perhaps a way to counter some of the bad press, some filming videos have been released. The first shows Prince Charles visiting the set. With Craig himself, showing off two of the film’s Aston Martins-the DB5 and-surprisingly-The Volante V8.

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(Not his first visit, either)

This “Winterized” Aston Martin made a big impact in the first half of the Living Daylights (The film Charles previously visited), with a huge number of gadgets, such as winter specific skis and tire spikes, missiles, lasers, bulletproof glass and a rocket booster. However, in order to keep it from falling into KGB hands, once the car became damaged and stuck Bond had to destroy it.

 

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It’s unclear if this new one has the same features, or the same fate. It’s also assumed a third Aston Martin will be in the film, the Valhalla. Although it looks cool of course, it seems a bit almost *too* advanced for Bond to drive.

 

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While the rest of Charles’s visit was touring the MI6 sets we’re mostly already familiar with, Moneypenny’s reception desk has a nice surprise, a painting of Judi Dench’s M….

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Lashanna Lynch is also seen in Moneypenny’s office, although it’s a bit unclear whether she’ll be working for MI6 in the film. There’s a fan theory that she is in fact, a 00, and not just any 00, but the new 007 as Bond is retired. (Female 00s have been glimpsed briefly in other films so it’s not a men’s only club).

The next video shows the Jamaica filming. While a lot of it is mainly shots of the club in the film, and probably not involved with the rest of the story, there’s some cool shots.

First is Bond outside some building, holding a harpoon gun.

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The weapon is seen in two other Bond films set in the Caribbean. The first is Thunderball, used to shoot Vargas, with Bond saying “I think he got the point!”

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Second is in License to Kill, where Bond grabs one after learning that another one of his friends, Sharkey, has been killed by Sanchez/Krest’s men, the ticked off Bond bolts a frogman, saying “Compliments of sharkey!”

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Also the windows make me wonder if they’re using the Goldeneye estate, where Bond was “born” from the typewriter of Ian Fleming-and of course is the namesake of the movie.

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And of course we have the return of Felix, after he skipped Skyfall and Spectre (Although he did get a namedrop in Spectre)! This also seems to be a cool callback of sorts, as in the original films, Bond and Felix first formally met in a Jamaican nightclub.

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While the original film of course had plenty of product placement for Red Stripe,Felix is also drinking pretty much the official product placement beer of the series,  Heineken.

 

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The nightclub itself seems to be a pretty cool setting, as we’re accustomed to in James Bond films. The Craig films have always had pretty cool cinematography.

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Here’s Bond taking a jeep around town. Possibly his personal vehicle.

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Lashanna’s character, in probably the same house Bond was seen outside earlier.

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Finally, before an explosion, a cool slow-motion walk of a grinning Craig/Bond?

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Mad Men -Don Draper Part one

Mad Men-another well-regarded  series from AMC-is in a few ways, similar to Breaking Bad-a series which focused on the world of an “anti-hero” (A hero, or main character, with often villanous attributes, or at least heavily flawed). Like Heisenberg (Walter White) in Breaking Bad, or Saul Goodman (Jimmy Mcgill) in Better Call Saul, it deals with man with a double life of sorts, or an alter ego-however, while these shows dealt with their ‘transformation’ in a sense into these characters, Don’s happened a long time ago.

 

 

Dick Whitman grew up during the Great Depression, living a hard life with his father and unapproving stepmother (His real mother died in childbirth), as well as his half-brother. However, his father died when he was young from a horse accident, He then fought in the Korean War, but found himself at a crossroads when his dogtags were accidentally mixed with those of Don Draper, another man who died in an accidental explosion. As far as his family knew, “Dick” was the man who died in that explosion, and it was Don Draper who survived. “Don” used the opportunity to escape from that life.

 

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It isn’t long before Don’s secret is found out by the real Don’s wife. However, instead of calling the police about the identify theft and desertion, she takes her “husband” in and helps him start a new life, serving as sort of a mother figure he never had.

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Don eventually falls in love with model Betty Draper….and they raise a daughter and a son.

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However, although outside the Drapers seem a picture perfect family, Betty is deeply insecure and Don-in part because of his own past demons, in part because of the times, and also due to him being handsome and relatively rich-starts to embark on many, many affairs (The first-that we know of-being free-spirted artist Midge)

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Don’s business of course eventually comes in advertising, where he impresses Ad exec Roger Sterling, a man with similar appetites to his (although more or a “live and let live” attitude as he doesn’t quite have Don’s dark past). Don-who despite his simple upbringing is a brilliant, inventive mind-works his way up through Sterling cooper (and later it’s successor agencies created after many mergers, splits etc). In many ways, like the advertising ideas he helps to create, he’s able to “sell”  the image of Don Draper, a fiction.

Don also comes off as a bit of a deep philospher at times, sometimes narrating parts of  the episodes.

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Sometimes though, his lifestyle threathens to hurt both his marriage and his business-something that first reaches it’s first major test when the husband of one of his affairs-and a man working on ads for Sterling Cooper-Jimmy Barrett-suspects what’s up.

 

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Not only that but his former life often returns to haunt him. First it’s somebody recognizing him on the train briefly….but then his half brother finally tracks him down:

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…..which leads to a series of events in which his co-worker-and initial rival-The ambitious, somewhat spoiled and temperamental Pete Campbell, discovers his secret.

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However,  despite this (and Bert Cooper finding out as well, but prefering to brush the thing off since Don is good for business), the two eventually form a sort of grudging respect for each other (With Pete even help covering for Don when his secret is nearly blown wide open a few seasons later). However, eventually a box of photographs-the proof of Don’s former life-will prove to be the undoing of the first stage of Don’s lifestyle, more damaging to his family than any affair. I’ll continue that in my next article.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Movies similar to Red Dead Redemption: Fistful of Dollars *spoilers*

“Fistful of Dollars” is the first in Sergio Leone’s “Man with No Name” trilogy featuring Clint Eastwood. These “Spaghetti (Italian) Westerns” follow Clint’s Man With No Name (Although it’s a bit unclear if he’s the same character or three separate characters) as he becomes involved in local disputes and often plays both sides for profit (Despite this, he has an altruistic streak for the underdog).

 

He’s an anti-hero (Based, in part of the Japanese Yojimbo film, and the concept of a “Ronin”), and has largely inspired others, such as Marvel comic’s Wolverine and Star Wars’s Boba Fett. Of course probably Solid Snake and Big Boss as well…(Heck, the “Old Snake” in Metal Gear Solid 4 is practically pretty much every Eastwood starring film post-80s).

 

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As “Red Dead” has inspiration from many Western movies, naturally these-among the most famous, even with Clint’s *many* ones-have their DNA in there. But not exactly where you’d think at first.

 

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The original Red Dead Redemption does feature Mexico as the game’s middle act….and John plays both sides (Local Mexican government and a rebel faction), at least at first, until one side-the Mexican army-discovers his duplicity and traps him. This happens in Fistful as well, although not with the army but the Rojos family, who are not affiliated with any army (and in fact steal from them early in the film).  You can also get John a poncho.

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However that’s really as far as “Red Dead 1” goes with the similarities. Red Dead 2, on the other hand, has Fistful’s concept of two warring families, although that’s a tale that’s fairly old, both in real life and in popular fiction (Romeo and Juliet, for example).

In the state of Leymonde (pretty much a stand-in for Louisiana) where Dutch’s gang eventually set up shop, they take advantage of the bad blood between the two families for profit, much like The Man With No Name does in the film.

 

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However, while the Baxters in “Fistful” seem to be the lesser of the two evils, and one feels a bit sad when they’re gunned down by the Rojos (Didn’t seem like they did that much bad to Clint or to the other citizens, and they weren’t the ones keeping Marisol captive at first). The Braithwaites however are pretty nasty, especially when they kidnap Jack Marston and leave him with a gangster in the nearby city of San Denis. (The Gray’s aren’t much better). So Catherine Braitwaite is hardly Counsolo Baxter.

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In a way Counselo Baxter is actually a bit like the Gray family, who aren’t much better and run the local police department, but with the fancier mansion of the Braitwaites.

At the end the mansion burns down in flames, although while in Fistful it’s the Rojo’s doing the job while a wounded Man With No Name escapes in a coffin with his undertaker buddy (Who the Red Dead character Seth, a grave digger, is kind of the polar opposite of)…while in Red Dead 2 it’s Dutch and co. who do the deed, in retaliation for Jack’s kidnapping.

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However, there’s some innocents in both scenarios who just got in the way and who the characters help out.

 

In Fistful it’s Marisol, who is seperated from her family and kept by the Rojos as a captive due to them framing her husband for cheating at gambling. The Man With No Name eventually frees her for good (although he first “rescues” her and gives her to the Baxters before he’s aware of her actual situation during a trade-off) gives them money-The money he’s largely earned by playing the two sides (The titular “Fistful” of course) and tells them to run.

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In Red Dead the Greys and Braithwaites have a star-crossed couple, Penelope Braitwaite and Beau Gray. Arthur, fond of the pair, helps them out in the “Course of True Love” quest line, finally managing to get them away from what’s left of their warring families, and on a stagecoach ride up to Boston.

 

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Well, at least they get a happy ending out of it all, we presume.

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Incredible Hulk-Transformations Part III

The Hulk didn’t stay dead for too long, as he was resurrected during the “No Surrender” arc of Avengers, and it was revealed that he was pretty much immortal anyway, due in part to a mix of supernatural stuff and also his powerful regeneration abilities. However, before that he was briefly resurrected twice.

 

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First time was in Uncanny Avengers, where he was used by the Hand (Although Banner was previously depowered, it appeared that he now was pretty much back to his Hulk form anyway). However, this incarnation was defeated by Brother Voodoo who released Banner’s spirit. Or not.

 

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Hulk-along with Banner-is revived once again by Arnim Zola, who is worked for the Hydra-corrupted version of Captain America. He briefly fights the main characters. This incarnation was pretty much a “rogue” persona that was later “put down” mentally by the latest Hulk….

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The Immortal, or “Devil” Hulk. This latest version once again reverts to the “nighttime” transformations, and even if Banner is “killed” during the day, the Hulk will rise anyway at night, and revert back to Banner by day with all his fatal wounds healed….he can’t really die at all (Also other gamma beings have been shown to have similar powers). This Hulk is intelligent, but not really in the scientific sense…he seems somewhat to be a bit more crafty at times. He also has a sadistic side, often maiming and even killing.

It has been more or less confirmed that this Hulk might be the Devil Hulk, a Hulk buried in Banner’s subconscious that tried to gain control at times during the Paul Jenkins run. However, apparently Bruce’s perceptions of the “Devil Hulk” in his mind were apparently warped by his own fears….so while still somewhat malevolent, the Devil Hulk isn’t exactly the all-out villain  he’s been previously potrayed as, but sees itself as Bruce’s “protector”.

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Fixit Banner-In a similar fashion to “Savage Banner”, there appears to be a new variation on a Hulk persona taking over Banner’s human form-after sun-simulation light is used to depower the Immortal Hulk, Bruce starts to manifest the personality of Joe Fixit-the Gray Hulk as he huddles in a corner. It’s going to be interesting to see what they do with this. The cover for the next issue seems to show Banner also adopting a bit of a grey hue, although this might just be a kind of fun lighting trick. It remains to be seen whether we’ll see the full Joe Hulk form.

 

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Star Wars Episode 9:The Rise of Skywalker trailer thoughts

So the final episode in the Skywalker saga-or so they say-will be here in eight months. It’s a bit unclear what Disney’s plans are beyond this and various TV series they have in development, although future movies are planned, there’s not a lot of details around them.

Like “The Force Awakens” and “The Last Jedi” before this, we’re shown somebody breathing heavily once again as our establishing shot. We’re on a desert planet again, which is presumably either Jakku or Tatooine.

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Looks like Rey managed to fix the Skywalker lightsaber.

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….and is facing off against a TIE fighter of some sort.  While it sort of has the regular spherical cockpit, the wings are very similar to Kylo Ren’s TIE Silencer from the last film.

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Despite the resemblance of the wings, the ship’s hull is pretty much your classic TIE, so this isn’t the Silencer.

 

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It might be an updated version of the TIE interceptor, a ship first introduced in Return of the Jedi and with it’s laser-tipped wings is pretty much the Empire’s answer to the Rebellion’s X-wings. They’re also much faster.

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Perhaps the most ?? shot of the trailer is a ship descending onto what looks like a city. Some have noticed the ship seems to resemble the one from Rey’s flashback.

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Here’s somebody holding a medal. Pretty sure that’s intended to be the medals from the victory celebration at the end of A New Hope.

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There’s some action with Poe, Finn and the Threepio on some sort of transport, which seems to be pursued by Stormtroopers on speeder bikes, quite possibly on the same desert planet.

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Here’s another shot of the two, same desert again. It’s worth noting that Finn’s look here has dropped Poe’s jacket.

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In fact, it looks a lot like an old Han jacket concept!

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Speaking of Han, Poe’s look bears some resemblance to Han’s look in a deleted ROTJ scene where the crew return to the Falcon after rescuing Han from Jabba.

 

Speaking of ROTJ, here’s Lando once again in charge of the Falcon.

 

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Lando wears a similar yellow shirt to the one he wore in Solo.

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Here we have BB8 and new droid D-O (Or “Dio”). Who I personally think kind of looks like a desk lamp on wheels.

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I just had to use this meme.

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Kylo decides to put his helmet back together, although it’s unclear why.

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We also get a brief shot of him in a forest attacking something with First Order Stormtroopers.

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Kind of reminds when we first “met” him in 2014’s trailer.

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The trailer’s most bittersweet moment is of course Leia and Rey having a hug. It looks like they weren’t kidding about using TFA footage of Carrie, as the scene seems to be sourced from the end of TFA with some changes to the background and Leia’s outfit. By the way, the music heard during the trailer is Leia’s theme as well.

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The trailer’s only real space/aerial battle shot, with a damaged A-wing passing by what looks like a Star Destroyer.

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And of course, the big one…the group (Minus, strangely, R2-D2…R2-D2 where are you?) looking on….

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…..what looks like a big chunk of the Death Star’s superlaser in the sea(!)

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But most importantly, Palpatine’s laughter is heard(!). Also, could this be Endor? Doesn’t look quite Forest moonish. Pollution from the Death Star somehow? Then again, the old Ewok movies also portrayed Endor as not being entirely forest. Pretty sure there were Oceans from the orbital view of the planet too.

 

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The Underwater Death Star ruins are actually a concept seen in The Force Awaken’s concept art, although it’s unclear what role they’re playing in the story. The concept of an Underwater base in Episode 9 has been rumored for months, although it turned out to be *a* Death Star.

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Could the Sith Lord somehow be alive in some form, perhaps in the ruins of the station, as well? There’s actually a storyline in the old, now non-canon Dark Horse comics-“Dark Empire”-where it’s revealed that the Emperor’s spirit, after getting thrown into the chasm by Darth Vader, managed to possess a waiting clone body in the Imperial world of Byss, slowly rebuilding the Empire in secret for half a decade until finally striking at the Rebels/New Republic with a new weapon, “World Devastators”, and even manages to turn Luke to the dark side, although Luke does so with the intent of being a double agent (Which didn’t really work out well for Anakin, either). Although he initially appears as his aging ROTJ self, Palpatine later gets a new younger clone which is more than a match for Luke. Although this clone eventually is killed too, another Clone shows up and causes more problems for our heroes in the Second Dark Empire series, as well as it’s conclusion, Empire’s End.

 

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With Ian Mcdiarmid apparently confirmed to be onboard, it looks like this is more than just some cameo. But how does it fit into the larger sequel story? Was all this Palpatine’s plan all along somehow?

 

And what does The Rise of Skywalker exactly mean? The Rise of Luke’s legend, something implied by The Last Jedi’s ending, with the stable kids building mock ups of illusion-Luke’s stand-off with the Walkers? The Rise of Rey, who somehow is a Skywalker after all? Luke’s return from the dead? Or maybe even….Ben’s rise back to the light?

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