Showing posts with label Comic Book Shows. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Comic Book Shows. Show all posts

The CW promos need a lesson in spoiler etiquette

We all know the internet can be a pretty ugly and negative place. With so many people having no issue spewing their hate, I often try to focus on talking about the things I love. I'd much rather support what I enjoy than tear down something I'm not a fan of. However, the CW's handling of promos for The Flash and Arrow has been bothering me for several months now and I just have to talk about it. Yes, this article includes SPOILERS for the latest episodes of the two comic book shows.
The point of a promo is to tease an upcoming episode, not spoil big moments and drop reveals. It doesn't matter how obvious the twists may be; it's just not the job of the promo to show us what should be important scenes in an upcoming episode. The job is to promote the fact those big scenes are on the way, make us think about how they'll play out, and get us excited to eventually see them in context. I've been doing my best to avoid ranting about this for quite some time now, but I simply can't resist after last night's Arrow promo. Again, spoilers ahead.

In Arrow, Oliver Queen has joined the League of Assassins and is on the path to become the next Ra's al Ghul. He underwent harsh conditions and brainwashing to erase "Oliver Queen" and accept his new identity, Al Sah-Him. This week's episode revealed a pretty obvious twist: Oliver's been faking it just to earn Ra's trust. After all he endured on the island and what not, it's pretty easy to swallow him holding up to this kind of treatment. Many of us were assuming that would be the outcome or some plot device will be used to break him free of Ra's influence. Then, Oliver locks his allies in a room and releases the Alpha and Omega virus -- something that apparently has no cure. We're meant to believe he was faking faking it and this was all an elaborate trap to kill the strongest ties to his past in one fell swoop. Many viewers won't believe this for a second, but the cliffhanger ends on a note that attempts to make us believe his supporting cast just died. Odds are that wasn't really the uncurable virus or there's some deus ex machina that'll save them. Still, the objective of this episode is to leave us asking two questions: is Oliver still on Ra's side and did his supporting cast really just die? To many of us, the answer is obviously no and no way. I mean, we know one of those characters will star in the spinoff series and to kill the entire supporting cast like that would be absurd. But less than a minute after that scene aired, we received a preview of next week's episode -- one that immediately reveals the supporting cast is not only alive and well, but also back in Starling City. Then it also shows us the scene of Arrow standing up to Ra's and exclaiming, "My name is Oliver Queen!" Did I know both of these things will happen? Absolutely. Is it the job of a promo to show me these key things before the episode airs next Wednesday? Hell no.

I find it very difficult to believe next week's episode doesn't have 20 seconds worth of footage that doesn't blatantly show the supporting cast is just fine and it doesn't show Oliver's big moment as he stands up to Ra's. They should tease these moments. Show us a moment of tension between Ra's and Oliver, or a quick shot that'll make passionate viewers go, "Hey, I totally just saw Diggle! See, told you there's no way they're dead!" A promo should reward passionate fans with great teasers and get them speculating about how everything will play out; not show how things play out. When even a casual viewer can get the basic idea of the next episode's story and key parts, you know you've spoiled too much. It doesn't matter that the twists are obvious to many of us; they aren't obvious to all of us and showing us right away immediately takes away any small feeling of there being actual stakes in what just happened.

The Flash is usually a little better with this. For example, the way it recently teased Barry trying to outrace bullets didn't spoil that twist and the one for the latest episode didn't ruin the story progression with Iris or show us cool parts from Grodd's role. However, the "Who is Harrison Wells?" promo blatant reveals they do indeed find Wells' body and that Barry, Cisco, and Caitlin do find Reverse-Flash's hidden room and gaze at the costume. In a promo, you need to give us fan service that doesn't take away from these major plot points. Show Joe and Quentin, Cisco and Laurel, and the team searching. Show a bit of action. Show a reaction shot of the group looking shocked.  Passionate fans will be able to recognize the setting and put together the pieces on their own. Casual fans won't be blatantly spoiled. It's more exciting for both groups that way. Oh, and seeing as The Flash already showed us Oliver will stand by Flash in a fight against Reverse-Flash, how can anyone question, even for a second, whether Oliver Queen is still a good guy or at least going to be good in the near future? Knowing he'll be fine takes away a vast majority of the drama, tension and emotion that's displayed as people like Felicity struggle with losing Oliver yet again. There needs to be more communication between the minds behind the shows and the promo department. If I was writing for the show, I'd be upset to see the work I'm doing is being spoiled a week before it airs. Now, I'm sure some of you are thinking, "So don't watch the promos. It's that easy." To me, that's missing the point of this article. I shouldn't have to worry about witnessing game-changing moments and having the whole story spelled out for me in brief promos that air right after the episode ends. We should see footage that gets us excited and leaves us speculating. Imagine if the promo for the final episode of Breaking Bad blatantly revealed the fate of the two lead characters? Or revealed the plot device that plays an important role? That sure would have been ridiculous, right?

Do I know Oliver Queen will stand up to Ra's al Ghul and say his true name? Of course. Do I know his entire supporting cast is still alive? Obviously. But just because I'm certain these things will happen, it doesn't mean I want to see them unfold just seconds after the latest episode has aired. Look, I know I'm being repetitive here, but it's not the job of the promo to spell out and reveal big plot points; it's the job of the promo to tease them. A promo needs to build our anticipation for an episode and allow us to eventually enjoy those critical scenes in proper context; not already witness them and then enjoy them a second time as they play out during the episode. Will fans still love seeing Oliver angrily say, "My name is Oliver Queen!" Most definitely. Should we have already seen this big moment? Well, I'll let Dr. Evil answer that one for me.
I still love you, Arrow and The Flash. But seriously, CW, you can promote your episodes without giving away really important and critical stuff. The episodes have more than enough footage to get us hyped, okay? And don't even get me started on how much those sizzle reels spoiled. I mean, finding out Quentin and Ray discover Arrow's identity that far in advance?!

The Flash "Grodd Lives" review

*Yes, there's spoilers in here. Watch the episode first!*
"I can't believe I'm down here looking for a supernatural gorilla. I'm terrified of regular gorillas!"

CW's The Flash may only be in its first season, but that's not stopping the show from totally embracing the source material and giving us fans a whole lot of love. While the show's been doing an excellent job building up the Reverse-Flash story, this week's episode, "Grodd Lives," brings in a telepathic gorilla named "Grodd." I'm guessing if a casual viewer heard what this episode is all about, they'd probably think it's pretty silly. Comic fans, though? It's kind of surreal this is already happening. Thankfully, the handling of Grodd is far from silly. The foe is frightening and full of promise. Not even a banana joke takes away from this villain's formidability.
Look, obviously the special effects for Grodd aren't going to be on par with the motion capture used over in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes; this show just doesn't have the same kind of budget. So, it is blatantly obvious Grodd is purely CGI. But considering just how much we see of the character, I have to say they did a pretty solid job bringing the big fellow to life and they made him look pretty damn intimidating. To top it off, David Sobolov gave the perfect voice to this scary and imposing threat. With chilling expressions and a fitting voice, you can definitely understand why detective Joe West is so terrified when he comes face to face with Grodd. Thankfully, the "metagorilla" also has a pretty spectacular action sequence. It's not the longest one around, but it most certainly delivers. For once, Barry attempts to end a fight before it even begins by dishing out a swift and powerful attack. It's no surprise the fight isn't over with a single hit, but what is a surprise is how Grodd reacts to it. Witnessing the giant enemy catch the hero's hand and then effortlessly toss him away was totally thrilling.

After going through such a rough patch, I really love how it's Iris who technically saves the day. She may not have the technical knowledge Caitlin and Cisco have, but she can motivate Barry like no other and it was a satisfying way to follow-up all of this episode's tension and drama. The shot of Grodd's defeat is really cool, but part of me was left thinking, "What about the people in the train?" I mean, if the subway train hit something like that, I'm guessing the conductor  would stop the vehicle. Maybe Grodd then ran away instead of lashing out? Also, that train came very soon after the other one. Maybe Central City just has a more efficient commuter system than they do over here in New York? Whatever, it's not a big deal and the awesomeness of that slow motion shot vastly outweighs those questions.

Before I talk about the drama, there is one more thing I'd like to mention about Grodd. Technically, he's just a diversion in this episode. I guess some could label him as a villain-of-the-week, but what helps Grodd stand apart is the amount of depth and previous hype he received. When the episode is over, you can tell this isn't the last we've seen of the character and there's definitely more story to tell with him. And let's be honest, Gorilla City would be a little tough to swallow in this world. Even if you can make it work, then introducing it to Central City would be quite a task, especially since it isn't the main story this season. So yeah, I think his origin story was a fine way to introduce him.
An explosion between Barry and Iris has been building for quite some time and, after Iris finally realized who the Flash is in the last episode, the time has come for that overdue and very passionate talk to take place. While the show does get into some heavy and heated dialogues -- I'll get into those soon enough -- what I love about this show is it always manages to sprinkle in some personality. Before and after a big and dramatic talk between Barry and Iris, we get some much appreciated humor from Caitlin and Cisco. They do everything they can to justify why they should listen to the talk and then they do everything they can to act like they totally weren't paying any attention when the talk concludes. Even later on, after a solid heart-to-heart moment, there's a bit of humor as Iris accidentally presses on her father's injured ribs. This show has plenty of character-driven drama, but it always remembers to make sure we're enjoying the experience, too. It never goes overly dramatic for too long and I love it for that.

As for Iris and Barry, I think it was mostly handled well. Like Barry said, Iris has every right to be upset. Everyone close to her has been blatantly lying to her and now she's finding this all out in such a short period of time. Gustin's physical responses felt fitting -- they were often a mix of empathy and a bit of frustration. It's a lot to take in for Iris, but I can't help but feel somewhat annoyed by two of her reactions. Firstly, when Barry opens up and says he finally knows who killed his mother, you can see a compassionate reaction build in Iris, but then she quickly makes it about her situation and never returns to the subject. I understand why that made her question Eddie's safety, but come on, she understands just how important that is to Barry. It's surprising she didn't bring that up again, even when she's in that mindset. Secondly, her blaming her father for Eddie's situation made me say, "That's harsh, Iris." Technically, the logic holds up, but man, that's some cold logic. But hey, I guess we've all said things we regret, right?

As usual, actor Jessie L. Martin offers a powerful performance. You can't help but feel sorry for the guy as he's beyond petrified of Grodd and the final scene with his daughter was legitimately heartfelt. Iris has every right to be upset and hold a grudge, but seeing her father suffer is the wake-up call she truly needed. It allows her to realize they did this because they love her. It's something she of course knows early in the episode, but disappointment and frustration took over and understandably so. Was lying to her the right thing for them to do? Probably not, but it's time to move forward and have the honest talk they need to have. It's an appropriately moving and humanizing conversation, one which puts the drama behind them and allows them to focus on what's now important: finding Eddie and stopping Wells. It makes me so happy they resolved this conflict in the span of one episode. I could see them dragging out Iris telling them she knows until the cliffhanger. Then there's an episode full of drama. Then there's an episode that allows them to resolve it. Instead, this tension gets the attention it deserves, everyone has mostly natural reactions, and then they're able to put it behind them. Thank you so much for not making this conflict last any longer than it needs to!
Wells isn't in the spotlight for much of this episode but he definitely isn't forgotten. As a comic fan, Eddie Thawne's last name immediately made me (and countless others) question the character's future. "How long before he potentially turns evil?" Well, this episode adds a little more weight to that question and leaves me wondering if they're purposely building him towards a more villainous future or if he'll remain strong and end his time on the show as a good guy. Noble, but heartbroken. I hope it's the latter, but we'll just have to wait and see. Oh, and it's also worth noting that Wells had some very amusing dialogue in that sequence. The one about his intelligence immediately comes to mind.

One of my biggest criticisms of the episode is really pretty minor. Joe hesitates for way too long during the heist sequence. I get what they're trying to say there: good guys don't want to kill and Joe is most certainly a very good guy. But to have an experienced detective hold off firing for that long against a heavily-armed gunman -- one who just shot two of his partners and is now taking aim at him? It's just a little too silly and took me out of the moment. Maybe -- just maybe -- you can say that, deep down, Joe was waiting for the Flash. However, as an experienced officer, waiting for that long in that dangerous of a situation is just foolish. Anyway, that's a lot of words for such a minor critique, but I think it was worth noting.
Random thoughts: So, now that Wells' cameras are taken down, I guess they have like, zero security in S.T.A.R. Labs? It's pretty funny how Iris just comes and goes as she pleases. You'd think they'd put something in place now that Wells is out there and knows where they operate. They probably know it won't do them much good, but something is certainly better than nothing at all. I love how Wells is hiding right under their noses. Also, I was left wondering why Wells didn't have Grodd kill Joe, but I'm guessing it's because that would make the team act emotionally and that would make their actions less predictable and potentially far more dangerous. He didn't need them broken; just distracted. Lastly, I'm glad they didn't cheese it up and have Barry and Iris kiss when it was blatantly implied the feelings are mutual. I didn't mind it in the previous episode (they were going to potentially die in a minute or so), but now that Eddie's in trouble? That would have been messed up, so I'm glad they brought it up. Oh, and I can't help but love how Cisco's dropping so many movie references and then Grodd's final scene is a blatant nod to King Kong.

"Everything Grodd did, it was just to distract us." That line probably makes some people think this episode was filler, but I disagree. In just one episode, The Flash handles a major dramatic plotline (something other shows may have dragged across several episodes), properly introduces the world to a major villain, and it makes a few small developments with Wells while also dropping a teaser or two. "Grodd Lives" may have a little too much emotion and drama for some viewers and I do think a reaction or two from Iris was frustrating, but overall, I believe it was all handled in a fairly realistic way. Best of all, it addressed the drama head-on and didn't save the resolutions for another day. Even if you aren't happy with that arc, aren't you at least glad they got it out of the way and didn't make it last for a few episodes? Plus, Grodd was awesome. Man, when he caught Barry's punch? How can someone not love that? This may not be one of my favorite episodes, but it sure is an important one and it takes some critical steps to set the stage for what's to come. Thanks to The Flash's personality, excitement, and heart, you really don't need to be a comic book fan to love this show. 

4/5

Daredevil is the comic book show I've been waiting for

*Don't worry, there's no big spoilers in here.*

Marvel and Netflix's first limited series, Daredevil, is finally here and man, it was so worth the wait. Before I get into why I think it's all kinds of terrific, I want to make one thing crystal clear: this article isn't a jab at the other comic book shows. I'm absolutely loving The Flash; Arrow's quality jumps around yet it still has my attention; The Walking Dead's latest season showed a lot of promise; Constantine was solid; Nick's TMNT is a total joy. I hear Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has made significant improvements, but I'm way too behind and don't see myself catching up with it in the near future. Sorry, S.H.I.E.L.D. fans. "But Gregg, what about Gotham, Powers, and iZombie?" Hey, random reader, I'm trying to get to why I really enjoyed Daredevil, but sure, I'll quickly answer that. Gotham: wasn't a fan, sorry. Powers: has potential, but rarely leaves me hooked. So, I'm left feeling down the middle. iZombie: sorry, haven't checked it out yet. Now, let's get to why Daredevil made such a strong impression, okay?
Daredevil wasn't kidding when he said Hell's Kitchen is his city.
There were a lot of concerns about Daredevil's tone and I'd say understandably so. The Marvel Cinematic Universe can sometimes be a pretty lighthearted place -- Marvel Studios obviously aims to make sure its projects can be enjoyed by a wide variety of viewers. Even when stories take serious or more compelling turns, the minds behind these films try to make sure you have a good amount of fun throughout the adventure. Sometimes the emphasis on comedy can be a little too much, but for the most part, the trips into the Marvel Cinematic Universe have been a pretty good time. However, seeing as this is on Netflix and going for a more "street level" approach, there were understandable concerns this limited series would be overly dark and gritty just because it now has the freedom to bring more mature content. Thankfully, that wasn't the case and I think the minds behind this series did an excellent job delivering a tone that's serious and gripping while also having just the right amount of darkness and levity.

The show is not too dramatic and the occasional bits of comedy most definitely don't get in the way of the more serious story and it doesn't ever feel out of place, either. (Unless you dislike Foggy, but that doesn't apply to me.) What's really great is this show doesn't let loose simply because it can. It shows a lot of restraint with its graphic content, making those especially savage moments even more effective when they do drop. Just because they can curse or show gruesome violence doesn't mean they're constantly throwing it in our faces and I think that's to be commended. We get a proper look at just how ugly the situation in Hell's Kitchen has become (the very first episode includes human trafficking, after all) and we feel the weight behind these situations, yet surprisingly gory displays of violence aren't common and when characters do curse, it feels natural instead of just some attempt to be edgier. They aren't saying "shit" every other sentence just because they can and when they do have disturbing elements, they're handled appropriately instead of aiming just for shock value. When there's a very unsettling story about a twisted father, it's used to enhance Matt Murdock's story; it's not there just to stun. The show has plenty of darker elements, a ton of drama, and a whole lot of violence, yet it's not a depressing experience that feels like it's taking itself way too seriously. It brings the kind of content you'd never see in one of Marvel Studios' movies, yet it doesn't feel like it's a different world, either. We're just exploring a whole new part of the one we already know pretty well. Avengers Tower may be right around the corner, but this show is exploring conflicts that are simply under the powerful team's radar.

Photo by Barry Wetcher.
Daredevil's overall story has plenty of familiar elements. The hero trying to save his city; he questions whether he should kill his enemies and whether he should reveal his secret to the ones closest to him; the media and authorities think he's a problem; there's the power hungry villain; so on and so on. Despite this, the show doesn't feel uninspired or repetitive because it focuses on humanizing and building its characters. Foggy isn't just there for laughs. Murdock's moral dilemmas aren't handled in a way that make me go, "Yeah, Arrow already covered this, man." Karen Page isn't just a potential love interest. Ben Urich isn't just in the story to give us exposition. This may be Daredevil's story, but the show did a mighty fine job making me feel emotionally connected to each of these characters and that's what truly matters. Sure, this is a show about a superhero and it ends in a very standard way, but what helps it standout is just how character-driven each and every episode is. Best of all? The relationship elements aren't cringeworthy! They could have had a seriously annoying and predictable love triangle or dragged out some of the relationships, yet they were able to dance around this and handled these stories in a reasonable way. You kind of go into these shows expecting some frustrating romance drama and thankfully, Daredevil didn't give us that. These storylines are still present, but they aren't front and center and they sure aren't cheesy, either. This show got me invested in these characters and the fact it's so well-acted certainly doesn't hurt.

The Marvel Cinematic Universe is full of interesting heroes, but overall, the villains haven't exactly been one of the universe's biggest strengths. Luckily for us, that isn't the case in Daredevil. They could have gone with cliche crime lords and one-dimensional baddies, but instead of being lazy with its antagonists and focusing mostly on the good guys, the show gave its foes a great amount of insight. Some may not enjoy the show's take on Wilson Fisk, a.k.a. Kingpin, but I view it as the big guy's origin story. Instead of him just acting like a tough guy and enjoying a cigar, we're given a far more complex and fleshed out foe. The actor, Vincent D'Onofrio, does an awesome job handling the surprisingly awkward character's mannerisms. This isn't the Kingpin you'd expect, but he's still able to command respect and absolutely reminds us he's a brutal, brutal man. The other villains don't receive as much insight -- which is to be expected -- but they still get more than enough of the spotlight at one point or another. After watching the first episode, I was concerned the handling of the villains would be really generic. Well, this is me happily eating my words.

Photo by Barry Wetcher
The show obviously has a few reminders that this takes place within the Marvel Cinematic Universe (the big battle in The Avengers is discussed a handful of times and there's a joke about the iconic heroes' abilities), but the show also did a pretty satisfying job building up the hype for future Netflix shows. I didn't spot any Luke Cage or Jessica Jones easter eggs, but there's a few really neat ones for Iron Fist's world. There's a whole lot of love given to Daredevil's mythos, too. From a potential nod to Elektra to even something little like Gladiator's symbol, there's a whole lot of fan service in here. I mean, they even have a freaking Stilt-Man easter egg. How awesome is that?

I can be a pretty big snob when it comes to action. For example, I was told by many that Captain America: The Winter Soldier had brilliant and stunning action sequences. I saw it the day after I watched The Raid 2 and I couldn't help but feel like the action was just pretty good. Certainly the best choreography we've seen from a Marvel Studios movie, but it wasn't as intense as it was built up to be. So, you can bet I was feeling a little skeptical about how Daredevil's agility and hand-to-hand encounters would be handled. Thankfully, a majority of it is solid and there's more than a few moments that were legitimate jaw-droppers. There's an extended and astonishing shot that'll remind you of Oldboy and they frequently manage to use slow motion at just the right moments. Okay, sometimes you can tell when there's a stunt double or you may question why someone is such a terrible shot, but overall, the action sequences are massively entertaining and oh-so-visceral. Daredevil isn't as agile as you may expect him to be, but they remind us every now and again that the dude is a brawler and nimble. He endures some crazy stuff and there's dozens upon dozens of harsh punches. And when the show does unleash some stronger displays of violence, they're definitely memorable.
From left to right: Dr. Evil, the latest voice of Wonder Woman, Cyclops, Gwen Stacy, Fulton Reed. 
Daredevil offered basically everything I wanted from it. It had an excellent focus on character, cool and sometimes even creative action sequences, and it did a great job balancing comedy and a grittier tone. The cast certainly delivered with their performances and the story even manages to avoid all of the cliche relationship drama that seems to be a mandatory ingredient in some shows! Now, it's obviously not flawless. You'd want to give up attempting to count the amount of times anyone says "city," some story elements drag a bit, and I was left wanting more from the ending. But if you put my complaints on one scale and my praise on another one, it's pretty clear I think this is a damn good show. Daredevil's emotional, gripping, and brings just the right amount of fun. We're talking about a comic book show that embraces the source material, offers thrilling action, and has a smart script and solid performances. What more could you want? My expectations are raised for the next four Netflix shows.

Oh, and now that we know they're cool with making the action more brutal and occasionally even over-the-top, Gareth Evans needs to direct the Iron Fist show. Make that happen, Netflix and Marvel!