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Marvel Tesseract

REVIEW: Loki – Episode 2

by @holocronGeorge for @mar_tesseract

WARNING: This review contains spoilers for Loki – Episode 2: The Variant

After a stellar premiere episode, Loki propels forward in another intriguing, clever, and compelling installment. The Variant sees Loki and Mobius continue their investigation into the variant Loki wreaking havoc across the timeline as they uncover clues about the threat posed.

Two episodes in and it’s pretty clear: Loki is the best MCU series on Disney+ yet. So much brilliant exposition, narrative, character dynamics, and humor are packed into a tight 54 minute episode that simply flies by. A significant reason for the series’ success so far, as evidenced in The Variant, is the relationship between Tom Hiddleston’s Loki and Owen Wilson’s Agent Mobius. The two play off one another superbly and deliver screenwriter Elissa Karasik’s sharp dialogue to perfection. Hiddleston is such a commanding screen presence and continues to highlight why he’s the MCU’s best villain to date. Loki is tricky, devious, witty, and yet undeniably likable, which is no small feat given that this is the character who led an invasion of New York City just days ago. Owen Wilson’s Mobius serves as a worthy juxtaposition to Hiddleson’s character. Loki evokes a sort of maniacal confidence and egocentrism that is delicately balanced by Mobius’ calm, collected, and equally intelligent demeanor. Loki has clearly met his match in Mobius. Their relationship, especially given the organization of the TVA and sci-fi leanings of the series, feels like the MCU’s version of the relationship between Will Smith’s Agent J and Tommy Lee Jones’ Agent K in the Men in Black series.

Unlike WandaVision and The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, Loki doesn’t wait to dive head first into its central plot. The brilliant set-up in Glorious Purpose is capitalized on here as we see Loki and Mobius reluctantly team up to stop the variant Loki right from the get-go. Loki continues to draw upon Doctor Who, both aesthetically and narratively, while feeling like a natural next step in the sprawling MCU. And despite the speed at which we’re thrown into the core plot of the series, The Variant is largely devoid of action, with the exception of its opening and closing scenes. This felt refreshing as the character dynamics and machinations of the TVA are the most compelling aspects of the show so far, and the series continues to place these elements in the spotlight. Moments of tension and suspense do not rely on big, CGI-heavy action sequences to add stakes. But, rather, the plot and character arcs are driven by more intimate and clever conversations and revelations.

These conversations and revelations kept us interested for the entirety of the episode. We see Loki and Mobius do a bit of detective work to uncover that the variant Loki is hiding out in an apocalypse after disrupting other parts of the timeline. This revelation came about with a terrifically morbid sequence on Pompeii that somehow balanced the humor and horror of the situation. Ravonna Renslayer and Mobius’ conversations also added some depth to the Time Keepers and the inner-workings of the TVA. Everything we know about the TVA so far is so interesting and has surprisingly widespread implications for the MCU. Questions about free will, determinism, and the purpose of life add a unique, philosophical bend to Loki.

And the tension and suspense ramped up significantly in the episode’s closing act. The futuristic grocery store setting was eerie and fitting for the mysteriousness of the cloaked figure. Sophia Di Martino made her first appearance in the show as Lady Loki – confirming many fans’ speculations ahead of this reveal. Lady Loki has a crazy track record in comics to say the least, so it’ll be interesting to see how this character is depicted as the plot unfolds in Loki.

Verdict: 9.5/10

Loki impresses once again with an episode full to the brim with clever dialogue and interesting reveals driven by two superb leading performances. The Variant evokes element of Doctor Who and Men in Black as the time-bending, sci-fi-heavy plot moves forward in surprising and compelling fashion. The episode is worth watching for Hiddleston and Wilson’s relationship alone, but thankfully Loki has a captivating and impactful plot that lives up to the performances of its stars.

Images courtesy of Marvel Studios & Disney+

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Marvel Tesseract

REVIEW: Loki – Episode 1

by @holocronJosh for @mar_tesseract

After 10 years, Tom Hiddleston’s Loki has been through a lot in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. From discovering his true origins as a Frost Giant to his strained and complicated relationship with his brother Thor, and ultimate demise at the hands of Thanos in Avengers: Infinity War, Loki has had quite a journey so far. In that fateful first scene of Infinity War, it looked to be the end of the road for the God of Mischief, especially as he finally aligned himself with Thor and turned good (or as good as a character like Loki can get). This, however, proved to be a bit of a premature judgment, as Avengers: Endgame saw the 2012 version of Loki steal the Tesseract and escape…

Cue the latest Disney+ series, aptly titled Loki. Once again starring Tom Hiddleston in the titular role, the series also features an array of new side characters, most notably Mobius, played by Owen Wilson. Originally planned as the first Marvel Studios series on Disney+, production delays and the COVID-19 pandemic meant that the schedule was reworked to have WandaVision and The Falcon and The Winter Soldier premiere first. After delays and much anticipation, Loki is finally here with its first episode, ‘Glorious Purpose’.

The premiere centers on Loki, fresh from the Battle of New York in 2012, as he wanders his new surroundings at the TVA, or Time Variance Authority. From here, both the character and the audience get a long exposition of the TVA and their role in the MCU, with some humor sprinkled in between. All in all, this exposition works, and proves to be far clearer on the mechanics of time and the multiverse than Avengers: Endgame. The little video that accompanied this exposition was an obvious callback to Jurassic Park and provided much needed foundational explanations as the MCU delves deeper into time travel and other similar plot lines,

The explanation continues as Loki meets Mobius, who works for the TVA as an investigator of dangerous variants (even more dangerous than Loki. One of the highlights of the premiere comes from scenes between Loki and Mobius, as Hiddleston and Wilson prove to have great on screen chemistry. Surprisingly, the back and forth, clever dialogue in Loki and Mobius’ scenes together proved to be more engaging to almost everything seen between Sam and Bucky in The Falcon and The Winter Soldier, a show built around the premise of a buddy comedy adventure. Despite the success of this part of Loki’s premiere, the back and forth does end up continuing just a bit too long, one of the only criticisms that can be said of the episode. Loki denies the power of the TVA, along with the events he’s shown about his future, before Mobius refutes these claims. This results in a bit of over-explaining of sorts, which is certainly better than the opposite and not giving enough exposition, but it ultimately doesn’t bring the episode down in any substantial way.

Loki’s escape proved to be the most action heavy section in a premiere largely devoid of action. This was a welcome relief and smart placement as it gives the audience some time to breathe before getting back into the main plot. When Loki finally stops running and returns to the room he spoke with Mobius in, he begins to watch the rest of the footage of his life, which provides the most emotionally gripping moments of the episode. Loki seems horrified at not only his death, but that he’s capable of essentially killing his mother and other acts he committed along the way. Loki also seems to regret his deteriorating relationship with Thor as he watches the two of them bond, before he admits to Mobius that he doesn’t want to hurt or cause pain to anyone. Mobius reminds Loki that he’s not a villain, and this is the start of interesting character work. Rather than showing the angry, god-like Loki, we get to see the vulnerable and more human side of him, one of the highlights of this episode. It also provides the framework for further character development as the show goes on, with Loki seemingly bound to move further into the anti hero, if not downright hero, territory once again.

The episode ends on a cliffhanger of a reveal that another Loki variant is killing TVA agents and causing chaos in the timeline, hence Mobius’ intent to recruit the 2012 Loki to help. As for who this could be, it seems unlikely that it’ll be Hiddleston. If it was, then he probably would have been shown. That this Loki was hooded and in the dark in the final moments perhaps reveals a much different version of the character, maybe even one played by Richard E Grant, who shares a resemblance with Hiddleston and is in the show in an unknown capacity. Nevertheless, this ending provides a lot of intrigue heading into the next episode and the rest of the season.

Visually and aesthetically, Loki’s premiere is stunning. The production design feels uniquely 1970’s and clearly evokes settings from shows like Doctor Who. It’s also notably different from anything in the MCU before, resulting in a welcome change from blander looking projects such as The Falcon and The Winter Soldier. This continues with the directing by Kate Herron, who lends a unique visual style to the whole premiere that makes it stand out from other recent Marvel movies and shows. That being said, the D.B. Cooper sequence, although entertaining, felt entirely out of place.

This episode was written by Michael Waldron, who has fast become one of Kevin Feige’s most favored screenwriters. After working on Loki, Waldron was tapped to write Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, which he worked on with director Sam Raimi, before switching gears to a galaxy far, far away with Feige’s secretive Star Wars film. Because of this, there was added interest in Loki and Waldron’s writing of the series and the iconic lead character. Overall, Waldron shows his writing strengths as he clears up any time travel related questions left by Avengers: Endgame, which was not an easy feat. Waldron’s writing also gives the episode a flow that works extremely well, something that The Falcon and The Winter Soldier struggled to achieve for the entirety of its run. The dialogue is punchy and memorable, and the humor provides much needed comedic relief amidst heavy exposition, with the comedic talents of Hiddleston and Wilson taken full advantage of. Even though this does continue a bit too long, Waldron can be forgiven for this as he’s introducing such a large and unique concept into an already massive universe. After this premiere episode, it’s exciting to see what else Waldron does at Marvel and Star Wars.

Verdict: 9/10

Loki’s premiere is a unique, interesting time adventure reminiscent of Doctor Who driven by two leads with great chemistry. While much of the episode centers on exposition, this isn’t a bad thing (for the most part), as the show lays down a good basis for the TVA and the broader rules of time in the MCU. With much promise going forward, we’re looking forward to seeing what happens next in the latest Marvel series. From the look of things, it seems that Marvel Studios have yet another hit on their hands with Loki.

Images courtesy of Marvel Studios & Disney+

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Marvel Tesseract

REVIEW: The Falcon and the Winter Soldier – Episode 6

by @holocronGeorge for @mar_tesseract

WARNING: The following review contains spoilers for The Falcon and the Winter Soldier – Episode 6

The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. Or, should I say, Captain America and the Winter Soldier. 

The conclusion we’ve all been anticipating since the first moments of the series, with Sam finally taking up the mantle of Captain America, came to fruition in this week’s season finale, an action-packed and entertaining, yet somewhat predictable and underwhelming ending.

Going into the season finale, episode 6, titled One World, One People, had a lot to accomplish. Two of the five episodes that aired so far largely gave the central narrative a backseat and, as such, it was difficult to go into the finale without a feeling of: so, this is it? It just seems that The Falcon and the Winter Soldier had so many different avenues to explore and, just when things started to get far more interesting in the last few episodes, the season is coming to a premature close. 

And this season closer doesn’t waste any time as we’re thrown right into the mix of things from the start. This was a little jarring considering the meandering pace of the last episode, emphasizing a more systemic issue with this series’ pacing. That being said, the brisk pace affords a host of exciting opportunities for climatic action and suspense. It’s an action-packed episode with each and every sequence expertly crafted by director Kari Skogland.

Where this finale particularly struggles is how all of the different characters’ plot threads come to a conclusion. With John Walker joining Sam and Bucky, Karli becoming increasingly radical despite her good intentions, and the reveal of Sharon as the seemingly not so villainous Power Broker, it’s difficult to discern what we’re supposed to think of all these characters in the end. This season has played around extensively with themes of heroism and villainy, making us question who should we really be rooting for. But, come the end of the season, we’re left with unsatisfying answers to this question. Walker seemed to have become a villain, consumed by his rage that finally unveiled his true colors. So, it was confusing to see him be turned into a hero allying with our titular characters. Also confusing was where we’re supposed to land on Karli in the end. Her intentions to oppose the displacement of survivors of the Snap have been relatable since the introduction of the Flag Smashers. But, after teasing a redemption and an alliance with Sam, Karli becomes more and more merciless. Yes, we as an audience agree with her fight wholeheartedly, but not at all with the way she conducted this fight. What message were they going for exactly with their final alignment of Walker, Karli, and Sharon? Unfortunately, it’s hard to tell.

The episode triumphs, however, in spotlighting Sam Wilson as Captain America. The suit is incredible, as is Anthony Mackie’s stellar performance once again as the character. Previous conversations regarding what it would be like for a Black man to be Captain America are fully capitalized on and exploring in touching and emotionally resonant ways. This is hammered home in Sam’s conversation with Isaiah, highlighting one of the series’ brightest moments.

Verdict: 6.5/10

The Falcon and the Winter Soldier comes to a somewhat abrupt and underwhelming conclusion after significant improving in recent episodes. Convoluted character values and jarring pacing, however, are offset by well-executed attention to relevant sociopolitical themes and a slew of enthralling action sequences. 

Images courtesy of Marvel Studios and Disney+

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Marvel Tesseract

Captain America 4 in Development

By @HolocronJosh for @Mar_Tesseract

A new Captain America movie is in the works at Marvel Studios and Disney, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

This is hot off the heels of The Falcon and The Winter Soldier, the Disney+ series which shows Sam Wilson’s transition from Falcon to Captain America. He gave up the shield in the first episode, and it was given to John Walker before finally finding its way back to Wilson.

Malcom Spellman, the head writer on that show, is returning to write the script with Dalan Musson, who also worked on The Falcon and The Winter Soldier.

Source: Hollywood Reporter

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Marvel Tesseract

REVIEW: The Falcon and the Winter Soldier – Episode 5

by @holocronGeorge for @mar_tesseract

WARNING: This review contains spoilers for The Falcon and the Winter Soldier – Episode 5

The high octane, action-packed, spy thriller that was last week’s episode takes a step back in this week’s installment of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier with an intimate and engaging episode that largely hits pause on the central plot. Episode 5, titled Truth, follows the aftermath of John Walker’s brutal murder of a Flag Smasher in public as Sam and Bucky reclaim the shield and step away from the conflict.

Truth feels, in many ways, like a brief interruption to our regularly scheduled programming that will conclude in next week’s finale. Whereas the last several episodes took significant leaps in propelling the plot forward – offering insight into Karli’s plans, developing John Walker as a character, and following Sam, Bucky, and Zemo as they try to stop the Flag Smashers – episode 5 slows things down significantly. The downside of this change in pace is that it feels a little jarring to largely halt our primary conflict in favor of a slower, more introspective episode. This isn’t to say the episode’s slower and more introspective moments don’t work – in fact, they’re fantastic and some of the most gripping moments in the series so far. But, this jarring narrative refocus seems indicative of a broader issue The Falcon and the Winter Soldier has had in pinning down a pace and cohesive narrative thread. 

That being said, this latest episode excels scene-after-scene in providing some of the best character development we’ve seen in the series yet. The financial conflict plaguing the Wilson family feels more organic and less forced than it did in the premiere episode, providing some great moments between Sam and Bucky. We really get to see their relationship build in a way we haven’t seen in previous films and episodes as the bitter back-and-forth banter is slowly replaced by a brotherly bond. In this sense, the episode’s change of focus allowed for this sort of character and relationship development in a way that more action-packed, plot-heavy episodes simply could not execute. Finally seeing Sam reclaim the shield and discuss difficult matters, including Bucky’s psychological trauma from his tenure as the Winter Soldier, was touching and intimate.

Speaking of intimate, perhaps the highlight of episode 5 was the conversation between San and Isaiah. Their exchange not only provides important plot context for Isaiah’s place in history as a Super Soldier, but it also offers a profoundly emotional and disturbing insight into the struggles of government manipulation, torture, injustice, the corrupted meaning of beloved symbols, and, perhaps most poignantly, what it means for a black man to be Captain America. So far, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier has only skimmed the surface of certain sociopolitical matters that seem ripe for exploration in a series like this, but episode 5 capitalizes on this potential wholeheartedly. Isaiah’s tale is heartbreaking and, for a character we’ve only seen once before, it’s hard not to feel a deep, guttural sense of empathy for what the man went through. Carl Lumbly’s performance is outstanding, as is Anthony Mackie’s largely understated role in the scene. 

Beyond some of its poignant emotional touches, Truth also offers a few unexpected and interesting teases heading into the finale of the series and the future of the MCU more broadly. Julia Louis-Dreyfuss shows up out of nowhere as Contessa Valentina Allegra de la Fontaine. This poses a lot of interesting questions about her role in the MCU, but it’s clear she’s up to no good following her conversation with Walker. Speaking of the ex-Captain America, Wyatt Russell puts in another incredible performance as the complex, troubled, and increasingly villainous U.S. Soldier, As the MCU has done with some of its best villains, whether it be Killmonger or Thanos, it puts us in a strange place to understand the rationalization of Walker’s actions and somewhat sympathize with the emotions he feels.

On a final note, Daniel Brühl’s Zemo very much felt short changed in this episode. I hope this isn’t the last we see of him, because there’s clearly so much more that could be done with this character, especially with an actor of Brühl’s caliber in the role. Regardless, we’re sure to see Zemo again at some point, whether it be in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier or another series, and his imprisonment on The Raft by the Wakandans is definitely an interesting turn for this character to take.

Verdict: 8/10

The Flag Smasher narrative takes an unexpected backseat in favor of a more intimate, slow paced installment. Sam and Bucky’s relationship is expanded more than ever and the episode touches on issues of race and patriotism with profoundly emotional effects, making Truth a satisfying penultimate episode ahead of next week’s finale.

Images courtesy of Disney+ and Marvel Studios

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Marvel Tesseract

REVIEW: The Falcon and the Winter Soldier – Episode 4

by @holocronGeorge

WARNING: This review contains spoilers for The Falcon and the Winter Soldier – Episode 4

After a somewhat mixed first half of a series, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier hit new heights with an unpredictable, high energy, and thoughtful fourth episode. The Whole Wide World is Watching sees Sam and Bucky continue their partnership with Zemo to track down and stop Karli and her super soldiered Flag Smashers. The team hits bumps in the road, however, as the Dora Milaje and the new Captain America John Walker have plans of their own.

The Falcon and the Winter Soldier had been thoroughly engaging throughout its first three episodes, but there were a lot of little concerns that were adding up. The pacing felt jarring, with an unusually inconsequential and slow burn of a pilot in stark contrast to a high octane, globe trotting spy thriller of a third episode. There were a few writing decisions that had us scratching our heads, including pretty drastic alterations to Zemo’s character and the confusing fact that Sam struggled financially despite being an Avenger. I’m thankful to say then that The Falcon and the Winter Soldier feels like it has finally found its footing.

The episode has the task of adequately dealing with a few central characters at this point, not just Sam and Bucky. And yet, despite this difficult task, everyone is given memorable moments to shine and development that adds unexpected layers to their already complex characters. For instance, we get some insight into Bucky’s time in Wakanda and the way in which this time allowed for his liberation from his Winter Soldier identity.

Conversations between Sam and Karli blur the line between friend and foe and really get you questioning if the ends justify the means, a central theme poignantly running throughout this episode. The series is constantly playing around with the idea of ‘who really are the bad guys? who really are the good guys?’ But they particularly excel in this department in episode 4. Karli seems brutal and deadly, but justified and sympathetic. Zemo appears devious and villainous, but his views on the super soldier serum and the negative impact of symbols are reasonable.

Even John Walker puts the audience in a somewhat uncomfortable position in regards to this theme. Until episode 4, despite being pretty dislikable, he hadn’t done anything particularly villainous to make us outright hate him. And his plight about whether to take the super soldier serum and the trauma of witnessing his best friend die before his eyes added more depth to his character. After taking a backseat last week, the new Captain America is likely to be the primary topic of conversation from episode 4. His fight with the Dora Milaje was brilliantly choreographed and, overall, it was just really cool and unexpected to see these characters appear in the series. Wyatt Russell commands the screen as Walker, so much so that when he sees the super soldier serum on the ground, we are totally invested in what his next moves will be. The final scene of the series once again plays on the theme of questioning who are the good guys and the bad guys after Walker mercilessly kills a defenseless Flag Smasher in public.

Another highlight is Erin Kellyman as Karli, who continues to impress in her role as the lead Flag Smasher. Kellyman and Mackie share the episode’s best scene as they discuss the mass displacement of people after the Blip and the rationalization of her violent actions. Kellyman also kicks a lot of ass in this episode (maybe a little too much in the end as she kills Battlestar). At this point, it wouldn’t be surprising if the tables turn by the end of the series and we see Kellyman and Walker switching sides.

Verdict: 8.5/10

Despite continued struggles with some dialogue and humor, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier firmly finds its footing with a thrilling episode that brilliantly balances multiple, complicated characters and deftly plays with themes of heroism and villainy.

Images courtesy of Marvel Studios and Disney+

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Marvel Tesseract

Renée Elise Goldsberry to Star in ‘She-Hulk’ Alongside Tatiana Maslany

By @HolocronJosh for @Mar_Tesseract

Renée Elise Goldsberry, perhaps best known for her role in Hamilton, will appear in the upcoming Marvel Studios series ‘She-Hulk’ for Disney+.

Goldsberry earned a Grammy Award and Tony Award for her role in Hamilton, the hit musical from Lin Manuel Miranda. She has also appeared in Altered Carbon, Waves, and The House With a Clock in its Walls.

She-Hulk is described as a legal comedy/drama with 30 minute episodes, similar in length to the recently concluded WandaVision. Maslany plays the title character, Jennifer Walters, who has powers similar to her cousin, Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo). She-Hulk will be directed by Kat Coiro and Anu Valia. Jessica Gao is head writer on the series.

No release date has been set for the series. There are several other Marvel projects in active development for Disney+, including Hawkeye, Ms. Marvel, What If?, Moon Knight, and more. After The Falcon and The Winter Soldier, which is currently airing, the next Marvel series on the streamer is set to be Loki, which premieres this June.

Source: Deadline

Image Courtesy of Backstage

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Marvel Tesseract

REVIEW: The Falcon and the Winter Soldier – Episode 3

by @holocronGeorge for @mar_tesseract

WARNING: This review contains spoilers for The Falcon and the Winter Soldier – Episode 3

The second MCU series on Disney+ hit its halfway mark this week with an engaging, somewhat choppy installment. The third episode, titled Power Broker, sees Sam and Bucky team up with their former nemesis, turned ally Zemo as they continue their investigation into the super-powered Flag Smashers.

Power Broker is the longest episode of The Falcon and the Winter to date, yet it still feels like the pacing of the series is off. A hell of a lot transpires in this third episode, with a prison interview and breakout occuring only within the five minutes before the title card even appears. The pace is breakneck, which, while it is refreshing relative to the slow pilot, doesn’t leave you with much time to really sit with the unfolding plot and characters’ journeys. The characters often hop from one location to the next and so much plot is contained within the 52 minute episode that it made me wish they slowed things down a bit. At times, this just felt jarring. Questions like “Wait, who are they referring to here?”, “Where are they going now?” and “Why did they do that exactly?” often arose, but there simply isn’t enough time to mentally wrap your head around these questions before you’re thrown into the next scene and, in turn, the next bout of questions. This doesn’t mean The Falcon and the Winter Soldier is confusing or convoluted – the plot is actually very straightforward so far. It just seems that the show still struggles with pacing issues.

Easily the standout of this episode is the return of the excellent Daniel Brühl as Zemo, reprising his role from Captain America: Civil War. Brühl deftly plays the fine line between friend and foe to our titular characters, an unexpected twist given that Zemo was billed as the series’ big bad. Despite a stellar performance, I couldn’t help but think this was a different character than the Zemo we saw in Captain America: Civil War. The Zemo in that film was an extremely logical and reasonable Sovokian soldier, hardened by the loss of his family at the hands of the Avengers’ battle with Ultron. But the Zemo we see in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier is different – he’s lavish, arrogant, a wealthy Baron with connections to the criminal underworld. Something didn’t feel quite right with the continuity of Brühl’s character.

Nonetheless, Power Broker played out like a James Bond spy thriller in the best possible way. Identities are concealed as they travel to the underworld of Madripoor to uncover more information about this new batch of Super Soldiers. The production design of the city, streets, and club was beautiful and, when compared to other settings like Louisiana and Baltimore so far, really add to the global, political thriller aesthetic of the series. Seeing Bucky (a little too easily) get back into the mindset of the Winter Soldier was awesome to see, as was the tension while Sam took the phone call from his sister. 

As the plot continues to unfold, we’re introduced to Sharon Carter, played once again by Emily VanCamp. VanCamp always felt a little shortchanged in the films, with appearances in Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Captain America: Civil War before pretty much vanishing from the MCU for five years. It was an interesting twist to see Sharon gone rogue, on the run from the U.S. government and resentful over the consequences of her alliance with Steve. VanCamp also delivers the series’ best action sequence so far as she expertly takes out a myriad of the Power Broker’s goons in true John Wick style.

With the episode winding down, we know a bit more about what’s going on with the Flag Smashers, but not much. Sam and Bucky continue to play detective, picking up crumbs along their way, but not putting the puzzle fully together yet. It seems inevitable that Zemo will turn full bad guy again, while the Flag Smashers will be revealed as well-intentioned. Perhaps the most intriguing moment of the episode was the final moments, featuring the unexpected appearance of Ayo, the second in-command of Dora Milaj played by Florence Kasumba reprising her role from Civil War, Black Panther, and Infinity War. This adds a different spin on things as we’re going to see the aftermath of Zemo’s murder of King T’Chaka. Ayo’s appearance also lays the foundation for a greater exploration of Bucky’s role as the White Wolf. His time in Wakanda has been referenced briefly, but it’ll be interesting to see what effects this sabbatical had on the former HYDRA agent.

Verdict: 8/10

Choppy pacing and odd in-universe continuity aside, Power Broker is a thoroughly entertaining, tension-filled, and globe-trotting installment of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. Reintroductions to Zemo, Sharon Carter, and Ayo add interesting new angles to explore as the show really embraces its political thriller and spy film roots. 

Images courtesy of Marvel Studios and Disney+

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Marvel Tesseract

Russell Crowe To Appear in Thor: Love and Thunder

By @HolocronJosh for @Mar_Tesseract

Russell Crowe will appear in the upcoming Thor: Love and Thunder in an unknown role, according to Deadline. His role is currently described as a cameo, and speculation was rampant that he would appear in Taika Waititi’s latest Marvel project after he was spotted around the cast and crew of the film.

Crowe is perhaps best known for his role in Gladiator, the 2000 Ridley Scott directed film that won Best Picture at the Academy Awards. Crowe won Best Actor for his performance in that film. He has also appeared in Man of Steel as Superman’s father, Jor-El, as well as Les Misérables and 3:10 to Yuma.

Crowe joins a cast led by Chris Hemsworth, returning for his fourth solo Thor film and his first since the events of Avengers: Endgame. Natalie Portman also returns for the first time since Thor: The Dark World, although she did appear in Endgame via archive footage. Christian Bale will play the villain, and is no stranger to comic book films after his role as Bruce Wayne/Batman in Christopher Nolan’s critically acclaimed Dark Knight trilogy.

Thor: Love and Thunder is filming now in Australia, and is slated for a May 6, 2022 release.

Source: Deadline

Images courtesy of Getty Images and Disney

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Marvel Tesseract

REVIEW: The Falcon and the Winter Soldier – Episode 2

by @holocronGeorge for @mar_tesseract

WARNING: This review contains spoilers for The Falcon and the Winter Soldier – Episode 2

Following last week’s somewhat slow start, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier kicked it up a notch with a second episode full of action, suspense, emotion, and buddy-cop antics. Episode 2, titled The Star-Spangled Man, sees John Walker be named the new Captain America, much to the dismay of Bucky Barnes. The ex-Winter Soldier teams up with Sam Wilson, the man Steve Rogers passed the shield along to, on a mission to investigate the Flag Smashers.

The Star-Spangled Man feels like what we all wanted, but didn’t quite get, from the premiere episode of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. New World Order felt more like a re-introduction into the lives of Sam and Bucky than it did a full-fledged pilot to a big budget, MCU television series. And, while it was a nice change of pace to see Avengers like Falcon and the Winter Soldier tackle mundane, daily tasks, the episode fell a little flat. The series’ second episode, however, suffers from no such problems. 

Picking up where New World Order left off, we’re introduced to John Walker – the new Captain America. I appreciated that the episode didn’t portray Walker in such a light as to make viewers immediately dislike him and root against him. Walker’s first scene is humanizing; he’s isolated and contemplative as the weight of the country rests on his shoulders, a stark contrast to the perhaps villainous depiction we might’ve expected. As the episode goes on, our perceptions of Walker remain muddled. Wyatt Russell portrays the character with a vulnerability and approachability, which is ingratiating, but one can’t help but feel like he’s arrogant and undeserving of the title of Captain America. 

Episode 2 really excels when it expertly blends buddy-cop action with political thriller suspense. Excluding some occasionally awkward dialogue, the rapport between Sam and Bucky evokes the ‘love ‘em, but hate ‘em’ relationships we’ve seen and love from buddy-cop films like 48 Hours or Bad Boys. Meanwhile, the episode’s plot evokes the political thriller elements of Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Captain America: Civil War in the best possible way. There’s a grand, James Bond-like feel to the episode, with our titular characters globetrotting to uncover the motivations and schemes of the seemingly villainous, super soldier Flag Smashers. 

The Star-Spangled Man offered a closer examination of the shows ‘villains’ (villains in quotations as we suspect there may be some twists and turns to come with this group). Erin Kellyman is unmasked after her appearance in the premiere and seems to be playing a role eerily similar to Enfys Nest in Solo: A Star Wars Story. Not that we’re complaining, however, as Kellyman was a standout in Solo and always steals the scenes that she’s in, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier being no exception. Speaking of villains, we also get our first look at Daniel Brühl’s Zemo this season. Zemo is a terrific character from the comics and it was obvious that his journey in the MCU had not concluded with Captain America: Civil War. It’ll be interesting to see the paths of Zemo and Bucky converge again in what seems to be, at least initially, a collaboration.

The episode also offers a number of poignant moments that stand out amidst the thrills and action. The imagery of red and blue lights flashing as police officers approach Sam and Bucky in the street was bone-chilling in its resemblance to real world racial horrors. It was also touching to see Sam’s brief, yet intimate and playful conversation with a young boy who calls him ‘Black Falcon.’ In a show about the aftermath of Captain America featuring a black character as the lead, I really hope that The Falcon and the Winter Soldier continues to explore the state of the nation and racial tensions of the real world in similarly poignant ways. 

The ‘couples therapy’ session with Sam and Bucky struck a great balance between despair and humor. Yes, seeing Sam and Bucky in a couples therapy session like this, getting uncomfortably close and exchanging sly insults, was hilarious, but seeing Bucky’s disappointment at Sam’s decision to relinquish the shield and seeing Sam’s attempts to defend his decision really stuck with me. After two episodes, the show’s exploration into concepts of legacy and expectations is really intriguing. 

The Star-Spangled Man wasn’t without its faults, however. The pacing of the episode feels somewhat off at times, largely attributable to several scenes that seem like they last a bit too long. This issue is exacerbated by dialogue that  doesn’t always flow as well as one would hope and expect, especially given the MCU’s impressive track record in this department. But, perhaps what was most unusual about The Falcon and the Winter Soldier’s second episode, was how disconnected, in many ways, it felt from the previous episode. Central plot lines from the previous episode, like Sam trying to save the family boat and Bucky trying to make amends, are left entirely unaddressed in this episode. It’s obvious and inevitable that the series will circle back to these plot points, but it felt a little off-putting that these threads were entirely neglected, albeit in favor of a much more enthralling, plot-focused episode. Finally, the writers made a bold decision in not showing our titular characters together in the first of only six episodes, which built anticipation for their inevitable meeting in the following installment. However, when Bucky approaches Sam at the hangar, their first meeting in the series just fell kind of flat. These are characters who we’ve seen together in the likes of The Winter Soldier, Civil War, Infinity War, and Endgame, but it didn’t feel right that Sam and Bucky meet up once again in such an underwhelming fashion.

Verdict: 8.5/10

A significant improvement over the series’ pilot, The Star-Spangled Man sees our leads team up in an episode that brilliantly blends buddy-cop action and political thriller suspense. As the plot thickens and new elements, like John Walker and the Flag Smashers, are added to the chess board, the show continues to unfold in a fun, tense, and emotional way, despite some hiccups with pacing and dialogue.

Images courtesy of Marvel Studios & Disney+