Ian Thomas Malone

marvel Archive



August 2021



Black Widow is a bland action film without any sense of purpose

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Comic books don’t necessarily need to be concerned with timelines and continuity. Just this past year, Marvel Comics have released new material set in 2006’s Civil War storyline and a whole line of X-Men comics set during their famous 80s run. The idea of a Black Widow film being released after the death of Scarlett Johansson’s Natasha Romanoff in Avengers: Endgame feels a bit cheap, along the lines of Ant-Man and the Wasp being set in the same pre-Infinity War era, but it’s hardly unprecedented.

The big difference between film and comic books here is that fans have plenty of options for content. Fans who love the X-Men have more than ten monthly books to cater to their every inclination. Nostalgia isn’t the only thing that’s being served. That’s not completely true for the MCU, where Black Widow serves as the first theatrical release in more than two years. Marvel film fans who want new content don’t have a ton of alternatives.

The problem with Black Widow is that the whole ordeal feels like an obligatory afterthought, simply going through the motions with only a perfunctory sense of charm. The film sees Natasha joined by a group of “family” members including Yelena Belova (Florence Pugh), Alexei “Red Guardian” Shostakov (David Harbour), and Melina Vostokoff (Rachel Weisz), as they take on the Red Room, where black widows are trained. Standing in their way is Dreykov (Ray Winstone), the Red Room’s answer to Nick Fury, and the Taskmaster (Olga Kurylenko), an assassin with the ability to mimic elite fighting styles at will.

The core group of Johansson, Pugh, Harbour, and Weisz all have pretty solid chemistry. Harbour in particular works well as comedic relief, essentially the Russian equivalent of Captain America with a dad bod. The found family dynamic is constantly undone by the actors’ complete inability to maintain Russian accents, which far too often completely fall off by midsentence. It’s distracting and more than a bit unprofessional.

The action sequences are perfectly fine. Director Cate Shortland has crafted a competent film that knows which notes to play, but too often the narrative lacks the necessary dramatic stakes to carry it through a bloated 134-minute runtime. As a feature, it’s a bit of a slog to sit through, something that might have been better as a Disney+ series that had more time to flesh out the supporting cast.

Johansson looks quite comfortable, unsurprising given her decade-long tenure in the title role. What’s missing from her performance though is a sense of drive that made her character so much fun in films like Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Some of that makes sense, given the fact that the audience knows what’s going to happen to Natasha, but this dynamic takes a lot of air out of the experience.

The MCU has been designed for years to be an à la carte experience, ensuring that casual fans don’t have to watch dozens of films to keep up with its main installments. While there are some skippable entries into the MCU, Black Widow feels like the very first that was designed to be inessential. With the Avengers being in a state of flux post-Endgame, fans might be a little anxious to see what comes next. While some of these characters will undoubtedly pop up down the road, Black Widow finds itself stuck in the past with an audience that’s understandably hungry for the future.




June 2019



Jessica Jones’ Third Season Is a Boring End to the Netflix Marvel Experiment

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The television landscape has changed quite a bit since Daredevil and Jessica Jones premiered in 2015, promising an ambitious crossover between four separate Netflix series interconnected in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. With seemingly every major company looking for a bigger slice of the streaming pie, the relationship between Disney and Netflix was bound to sour, though the idea of rival networks producing content for each other is far from uncommon. The Netflix MCU experiment is ending not by any narrative mandate, but because two companies didn’t have the will to coexist.

Season three doesn’t feel like a final season. With news of its cancellation announced back in February, there’s a bit of disconnect between expectations and reality. Episodes that weren’t necessarily filmed as the concluding arc are delivered to fans as such, unsurprisingly landing with a bit of a thud. This wasn’t supposed to be the end, but we all knew it was ahead of time.

With that in mind, it’s hard to accept the glacier-slow pacing of Jessica Jones’ character development. She’s still a moody detective who seems to care more about bourbon than being a superhero. Much of this is a product of Jones’ personality as a character, but so much has happened to her over the past two seasons with shockingly little growth to show for it on screen.

Krysten Ritter often looks quite bored delivering her lines this season, even after putting aside the deadpan nature of her character. Gone are the powerful zingers that endeared Jones to the audience in past seasons. She looks tired, disinterested, and ready for the end. Her lines are spoken frequently without a hint of enunciation, like she’s reading them off the page for the first time.

Exacerbating this dilemma is the strong character development from the supporting cast. Trish, Malcolm, and Hogarth are all in drastically different positions than season one. Their characters have clearly drawn out arcs that are easy to follow and even easier to get behind. Meanwhile, Jessica is still the same old Jessica. The contrast rarely works to her advantage.

It rarely helps matters that Jessica is often paired with the anemic Erik Gelden, played by newcomer Benjamin Walker. For all the intriguing characters Jessica has shared screentime with, Gelden is very bland and boring. Like the burger Gelden can’t stop ranting about, he’s never as interesting as the show wants him to be.

Like every single season of Netflix’s Marvel series, the pacing problems are a persistent issue. Jones feels a bit sidelined in the early episodes, an issue again exacerbated by the fast-paced plotlines from her supporting players. While serialized TV has become the norm, Jessica Jones is a series that would have benefited immensely from giving its title character a couple of self-contained detective stories each season.

Season three does win plenty of points on the inclusivity front. While the MCU movies have been painfully behind the times on LGBTQ representation, Jessica Jones brings a nuanced approach to queer themes. Hogarth’s sexuality is explored extensively throughout the season. Transgender actresss Aneesh Sheth plays Jessica’s assistant Gillian without any scenes that explore the nature of her gender identity, a radical sense of normalcy that’s often sorely missing from on screen representations of the trans community.

TV shows in the streaming era rarely run more than five or six seasons, with shorter runs increasingly becoming the norm. Three seasons in, the show never has any sense of urgency to make the most of its time. Even if this wasn’t the end, season three meanders far too often to leave any kind of lasting impression. Netflix’s Marvel experiment has had its fair share of misfires, but these characters deserved better than an unceremonious ending.




January 2016



What Marvel Can Learn from Star Trek

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Though the Star Trek franchise will soon celebrate its fiftieth anniversary, much of its on screen canon was released in one decade. The 90s were a great time to be a Trekkie (Trekker) with three different TV series (The Next Generation premiered in 87 and Voyager ended in 01) and four movies out in such a short time span. It would have been hard to fathom in ‘96, with Voyager on network television and First Contact proving that the film franchise could thrive without the original cast, that the franchise would soon be in decline. By 2005, Star Trek was nowhere to be found except for a hundred times a day in re-runs and on DVD and VHS at old yard sales.

Though the franchise would make a comeback just a few years later with the 2009 reboot and will be returning to TV in 2017, it’s hard to imagine a world where Star Trek reaches the same level of prominence it enjoyed in the 90s. Star Trek Beyond is already under fire from fans and members of its own cast for its action heavy trailer and the decision to place the TV series on CBS All Access will severely limit its exposure. The status of entertainment behemoth belongs to a different franchise.

The Marvel Cinematic Universe is the most ambitious shared universe ever attempted. Since 2008, we’ve seen twelve films and four television series released with plenty more on the way. To put things in perspective, the Star Trek franchise has released twelve films and six series in a fifty year span, though Marvel’s TV series have a long way to go before they come close to Trek’s combined total of 30 seasons and 726 episodes.

It’s clear that this is a total that the MCU would like to eventually surpass, along with more films than one can possibly imagine. Backed by Disney, it’s hard to imagine a world where the MCU doesn’t blow that total away. Then again, it was once hard to imagine a world without a weekly Trek series either.

Though the MCU is in little danger of not being a multi-billion entity, there are some reasons to be concerned with its overall longevity. The status of the main Avengers cast post Infinity War is unclear and it seems highly unlikely that all will stay with the franchise. Age of Ultron may have grossed 1.4 billion dollars, but was met with significantly less critical praise than its predecessor. Jessica Jones has been a critical gem, which helps to soften the near irrelevance of its other three series, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Daredevil, and Agent Carter. Recent estimations done by NBC Universal place the viewership of Jessica Jones as competitive with the middle pack of network TV dramas with an impressive performance among the key 18-49 demo, though Netflix disputes these reports.

Not even Chicken Little would say that the MCU is in any danger of imploding anytime soon. Their schedule looks to packed with bankable box office draws all the way to 2019 and a team up of the Netflix superheroes in The Defenders should elevate their smaller screen presence. If the MCU was the seemingly unsinkable Titanic, making its voyage through an ocean of cash, there is one thing to be worried about.


Star Trek: Nemesis and Enterprise didn’t kill the franchise because they were terrible. The chief complaint against Nemesis was that it felt tired and the poor box office can realistically be blamed on stiff competition from Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings. Reviews of Enterprise got better with time and the series’ cancellation has more to do with a shift in UPN’s demographic rather than a ratings implosion given the series’ modest decline in ratings when moved to a Friday timeslot opposition Stargate SG-1. I’m not a big fan of Nemesis or Enterprise and certainly don’t want to come across as an apologist for either, but it’s important that we understand that neither can strictly be blamed because of quality. Fans stopped caring. Do you like movies about Thor? Thor Hammer Time is a new slot from Nolimit City provider that was released in 2019. Here the gambler will have to get acquainted with the Vikings and the gods of Scandinavia. Thor Hammer Time online slot https://50-spins.com/thor-hammer-time-slot/ can be played for free if you include it in the demo version. Launch the machine, spin the reels for virtual credits, learn the rules of bonuses and the price of winning pictures, and develop a betting scheme.

The MCU will inevitably face the same problem down the road. There will come a time when more of the same simply won’t cut it anymore. Granted, a chief problem with Age of Ultron was that it wasn’t particularly memorable, but that isn’t likely to have any long-term impact on the franchise unless Captain America: Civil War is a complete bomb, which seems about as likely as a Star Trek: Deep Space Nine film (a man can dream).

Variety will be the factor that keeps the MCU relevant when the post-Downey Jr. era inevitably arrives. The MCU has already shown a willingness to take risks with Guardians of the Galaxy, Ant-Man, Daredevil, and Jessica Jones which all could’ve been expensive flops. The Benedict Cumberbatch led Doctor Strange will be a further deviation from their standard superhero offerings later this year.

Unlike Star Trek in the early ‘00s, the MCU is well protected against bombs. A person who stops watching Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. isn’t necessarily not going to go see Thor: Ragnarok. Agent Carter fanatics may not be interested in Guardians of the Galaxy 2. Few mainstream franchises have such diverse assets that don’t collide with one another.

Failure is okay for the MCU as long as the fans care. It’s when the indifference settles in that Disney should start to worry. Maybe Paramount would’ve shifted gears if there had been fiery outrage to Star Trek: Enterprise. Instead, it just powered down.