Open Channel: What's Your Favorite TV Intro? @ io9

Image: HBO

Earlier this week, HBO Max’s Peacemaker finally hit the streaming service. And while we’d certainly like to hear what you thought about both John Cena’s DC spinoff (or the new Scream, if you’ve seen it!), we have to zero in on a specific part of the show: its ridiculously good opening titles.

Within the last decade or two, the approach to intro sequences have changed. Rather than being 5-15 seconds long or a simple title card, they’ve become more elaborate and grandiose, an event unto themselves. If they do their job right, they get you in the mood and make you interested enough to not hit the “skip intro” button, maybe even find the song to add on your Spotify playlist. At their worst, they’re a well-visualized distraction and something you can have on in the background while you get food or use the bathroom.

There are intro sequences that will forever be iconic thanks to their direction: Game of Thronesintro will be remembered for changing its location with each episode, as will Mad Men with its striking art style. (Of the prestige TV bunch, Westworld may have some of the best intro sequences to date.) Sometimes, an intro’s greatness is primarily because of its music more than its visuals, as is the case with Succession and Law & Order: SVU. Those two shows’ respective intros wouldn’t be what they are without respectively Nicholas Britell’s piano work and Mike Post’s killer clarinet.

Animated shows generally have better intro sequences, if only because they’re allowed to get a little more loose with what they can. They can be colorful and absurd, sweeping mood pieces, cyberpunk-lite jams you’ll remember years later. And that’s just in western animation: if you watch anime, you’re just used to openings getting you hype with incredible visuals and a song that you can’t wait to hear the full version of.

Let us know what some of your favorite intros are, or the ones that stick out in your mind, in the comments below.


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Across the Spider-Verse is Bringing More Animation Styles with Its Spiders @ io9

Image: Sony Animation

Of the many highlights of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, its art styles were the among them. While Miles Morales (Shameik Moore), Peter B. Parker (Jake Johnson), and Gwen Stacy (Hailee Steinfeld) were in traditional 3D, the other Spiders had their own distinct visual styles. Peni Parker (Kimiko Glenn) was done in an anime-like art style, Spider-Man Noir (Nicholas Cage) was in black-and-white, you get the idea. With Miles and Gwen now traveling through the multiverse for the incoming Across the Spider-Verse, it’s no surprise to hear that the sequel will broaden its visual horizons.

Speaking with Collider, producers Phil Lord and Chris Miller discussed how each universe visited in the film will be an artistic treat in their own rights. “The idea that we’d be going to different dimensions really opened up an opportunity artistically to have each world have its own art style,” Miller said. “and to have each dimension feel like it was drawn by a different artist’s hand.” You can see a little of this in the trailer itself as Miles and Miguel O’Hara’s (Oscar Isaac) visual looks change when they’re flung from a colorful 2D world to a vibrant 3D sci-fi setting.

The first Spider-Verse film was incredibly ambitious just by having six Spiders of differing art styles, and the sequel attempting to go bigger than that is what excites Lord and Miller about the industry. Citing both Across and the recent The Mitchells vs. the Machines as examples, Lord talked about how they want to “push animation in directions it hasn’t gone yet,” echoing the duo’s previous statements that they wouldn’t just rest on their laurels. Back in November, the pair teased that each universe would feel “radically different” from all the others, and that it would “make the first movie look quaint.”

Outside of O’Hara, the Spider-Man of 2099, the other Spider to be confirmed is Issa Rae’s Spider-Woman. It’ll be interesting to see what other Spiders show up for the sequel, and what art styles they bring along with them. Hopefully the Japanese Spider-Man gets to make an appearance at some point.

Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse—Part One will release on October 7.


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Bureau’s Breakroom’s Television Table – Week beginning 2022 January 16 @ Bureau 42

Well, if the end of The Expanse didn’t make you swear off our table, we have a few different newcomers, though neither seem to be aiming for quite the same niche.  Naomi (thanks again, visionary_coward!) joins The CW’s DC collection with her second episode sees Naomi grilling her parents.  If family television isn’t your thing, but you still want some DC action, Peacemaker’s second week (fourth episode) airs this week.  It is definitely not family friendly, but the opening credits should give you a good idea of how seriously they take everything.  Superman and Lois continues to try to find a direction for their second season.  The Legends turn their mansion into a 90s reality show, but in hell.  Batwoman is after the original Poison Ivy while the new one is still on the run.  The Blacklist tells us how Dembe joined the FBI.  We also have Midwives, Star Trek: Prodigy, and Boba Fett, but no details about what’s in their episodes.

[All synopses (and titles) from Trakt.tv below the cut, except when there really aren’t any. (If a show’s synopsis is a spoiler to you, do not click Continue reading →)]

Call the Midwife – S11E03 – Episode 3 – [No Description Giving]

Superman & Lois – S02E02 – The Ties That Bind – Clark opens up to Lois about his ongoing struggle with visions and admits that there is only one person who might be able to help. Meanwhile, Lana receives some unexpected news and tensions begin to rise between Lois and Chrissy. Lastly, Sarah breaks plans with Jordan to spend time with Natalie.

Naomi – S01E02 – Unidentified Flying Object – Following a shocking revelation by Dee, Naomi enlists her friends to dig deeper into the mystery surrounding unexplained occurrences in Port Oswego and whether they have anything to do with her past. Meanwhile, Naomi’s parents are caught off guard by Naomi’s interrogations. Another ominous encounter with Zumbado leaves Naomi shaken, and she seeks Dee’s help in taking the next step to embracing her destiny.

The Book of Boba Fett – S01E04 – Chapter 4 – [No Description Giving]

DC’s Legends of Tomorrow – S07E09 – Lowest Common Demoninator – When Gideon jumps the time machine into the Manor Dimension, which lands in Hell, Astra realizes that a damned 90’s reality show crew sneaks into the manor. With the reality show crew causing emotions to spike, Sara and Ava share their true feelings about their roles as Co-Captains. Behrad seeks advice about Astra from Nate and Zari but Behrad finds that his past is put on display instead.

Batwoman – S03E09 – Meet Your Maker – Ryan, Sophie and Luke attempt to track down the OG Poison Ivy when all signs point to Pamela Isley’s (guest star ) reappearance in Gotham. At the same time, Mary feels drawn by a powerful force and Alice suddenly feels very protective of her stepsister. Meanwhile, Jada hasn’t given up on rehabilitating Marquis and seeks the help of an old friend.

Peacemaker – S01E04 – The Choad Less Traveled – [No Description Giving]

Star Trek: Prodigy – S01E08 – Episode 8 – [No Description Giving]

The Blacklist – S09E09 – Boukman Baptiste – A spate of coordinated attacks on Red’s lieutenants puts Dembe in imminent danger, prompting him to relive the events that led him to join the FBI two years earlier.

Leonardo DiCaprio, Huge Star Wars Nerd, Couldn't Get Jonah Hill to Love The Mandalorian @ io9

Image: Disney

If you’re a nerd, then no doubt you’ve tried to get a friend to like something as much as you do. It’s a crap shoot as to whether or not it will work, especially if it’s something as popular (and disjointed) as Star Wars. Recent years have been all over the place for George Lucas’ sci-fi franchise, and even when there’s something agreed upon to be really good like The Mandalorian, it’s not a guarantee that’ll make your friend a converter.

That’s what Leonardo DiCaprio learned while trying to get Jonah Hill in on the franchise. While speaking to W Magazine on his new film Don’t Look Up, Hill talked about how DiCaprio, a Star Wars fan, made him watch the misadventures of Pedro Pascal and baby Grogu. But Hill didn’t take to the show, partially because he’s not really a sci-fi guy in general. “If it didn’t happen or it couldn’t happen, then I just wasn’t interested, because I would lose focus.” And while he admitted that Grogu was cute as a button, he ultimately “just didn’t give a fuck because I didn’t know anything that it was about.”

On Instagram, the star was cheeky about his apathy towards the series and Grogu in particular. “They’re trying to create beef between me and Baby Yoda...Baby Yoda and I are dear friends and text at least once a week,” goes the caption. “We may not be text every day type of friends and yes, Covid put a strain on our friendship, but we are all good.” He also requested everyone respect their privacy at this time, and Grogu has yet to comment.

But what Hill does like is Game of Thrones, which he described as “so sick.” Since he began watching three episodes a night a few months ago, he’s now on the fourth season and being late to the party hasn’t stopped the show from blowing his mind. “I watched the Red Wedding,” he recalls, “I’m calling friends, like, “Oh my god, Robb Stark got killed, blah, blah, blah.” And they’re like, “Yeah, dude. It was like the end-of-Sopranos-level cultural event.” It’s both good and bad, then, that he doesn’t appear to use to Twitter all that much: he’ll be safe from spoilers, but that means we likely won’t know how he feels about the finale until the next time someone asks him about it for an interview.

[via Variety]


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Weekly New Releases – January 18, 2022 @ Bureau 42

Addams Family 2
Amazon
Addams Family Two Movie Collection
Amazon
Adventures of Red Ryder
Amazon
Akira
Amazon
Comments A more bare-bones re-release of the anime, without the chipboard box.
Animal Kingdom
Amazon
Annie Live!
Amazon
Assault Lily Bouquet
Amazon
Comments Anime series about teenage girls who have bonded with special weapons to fight alien monsters known as “Huge”.
Beans
Amazon
Blockhouse
Amazon
Brute
Amazon
Candyman III: Day of the Dead
Amazon
Captain Video
Amazon
Capture
Amazon
Deep Red
Amazon
Comments Giallo film from Dario Argento, widely considered to be one of his best films alongside Susperia.
Dry
Amazon
Dynasty
Amazon
Edge of Darkness
Amazon
Escape From Mogadishu
Amazon
Comments Live action film about the staff of the South Korean Embassy to Somalia having to clear out of the city around the time of the events depicted in “Black Hawk Down”, including having to work together with the staff of the North Korean embassy to get out alive.
Expresso Bongo
Amazon
Girl Stroke Boy
Amazon
Green Archer
Amazon
Comments Blaine: A serial about a green-clad vigilante who was an exceptional archer. This came out in October 1940, and the first appearance of Oliver Queen, the Green Arrow, was published in September 1941.
Hard Day’s Night (Criterion Collection)
Amazon
Hoffman
Amazon
Inherit the Wind
Amazon
Jungle Jim
Amazon
King of the Royal Mounted Yukon Patrol
Amazon
Last Frontier
Amazon
Last Night in Soho
Amazon
Last Son
Amazon
Liar Liar
Amazon
Little Rascals: ClassicFlix Restorations 4
Amazon
Nature: Born in the Rockies
Amazon
Nicholas Nickleby
Amazon
Night at the World Exploded
Amazon
Red Angel (Arrow)
Amazon
Comments Japanese Anti-war film from 1966 with, going by some of the plot synopsis I’ve seen, some deeply problematic depictions of the Japanese invasion of China.
Red Stone
Amazon
Riverdale
Amazon
Salsa: The Motion Picture
Amazon
Secret Agent X-9
Amazon
Shock (Arrow)
Amazon
Sommerdahl Murders
Amazon
Song of the Thin Man
Amazon
Stendhal Sydrome
Amazon
Sword of Desperation
Amazon
Taisho Baseball Girls
Amazon
Comments Re-release of the sports anime about a girl’s baseball team in the 1920s.
This Game’s Called Murder
Amazon
This Is Us
Amazon
Three Women (Kino-Lorber)
Amazon
Time (Criterion Collection)
Amazon
Titane
Amazon
Toolbox Murders
Amazon
Tower of God
Amazon
Comments Anime series based on a Korean Manwha released through the Webtoon platform about a teenage boy who enters a magical tower to find his childhood friend who entered the tower and told him to forget about her.
Triple Feature: For the Love of Spock / Back in Time / Ghostheads
Amazon
Comments Blaine: I’ve only seen For the Love of Spock from this set, and it’s great. I’m very tempted by the other two.
Twelve
Amazon
Walk in the Sun
Amazon
WBCN and the American Revolution
Amazon
White Eagle
Amazon
Wicked Tuna: Outer Banks
Amazon

Finally, the picks of the week. Alex says, “I’ve heard very good things about Escape from Mogadishu, enough for it to end up on my list.” Blaine says, “I’m most interested in the triple feature of nerd-oriented documentaries with For the Love of Spock, Back in Time, and Ghostheads.”

Gracie Fields Turning Tavern Into Hotel (Duffy’s Tavern #14) @ Bureau 42

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The X-Men's Comics Lineup Just Got Even Cooler @ io9

Do you believe in mutants and magic? Image: Marvel Comics

Since House of X hit in 2019, Marvel’s mutants have had a real good run of comics, both long running and short-lived. Jonathan Hickman may now be out after the recent Inferno miniseries, but his Krakoa status quo is still very much in, and a new pair of comics are going to spin out of it in some pretty cool ways.

The first, Knights of X, is one of many interesting and new books that are a part of the “Destiny of X” line. Serving as a sequel to the magical Excalibur series, returning writer Tini Howard and Way of X artist Bob Quinn will take Captain Britain (Betsy Braddock) and a team of mutants on a trip through the magical realm of Otherworld. Cut off from Krakoa, Betsy and her Knights—which includes Gambit, Rictor, Shatterstar, Rachel Summers, Gloriana, Bei the Blood Moon, and two currently unknown characters—will have to save the realm and rescue and mutants also trapped there. Howard described the comic as a “quest for a precious treasure” that will see the ten mutants doing what they do best: “fighting for a(n Other)world that hates and fears them.”

Knights of X #1's cover, drawn by Rod Reis. Image: Marvel Comics

This next book is House of X, but with a twist: what if it happened in the 90s? In Steve Foxe and Salva Espin’s five-part miniseries X-Men ‘92: House of XCII, the pair explore the possibility of the 90s incarnation of mutants building Krakoa as a utopia during their time. According to Marvel, though, this won’t be the exact same hard sci-fi story that House ultimately became when all was said and done.

Both Foxe and Espin expressed excitement at getting to remix the story, with the former teasing some “wild deviations” from the source material in store. With the news of the 90s series coming back next year, it’ll be interesting to see what this miniseries does to also capture the hearts of those nostalgic fans while also blazing its own path.

Cover to X-Men ‘92: House of XCII #1, drawn by David Baldeon. Image: Marvel Comics

Both Knights of X and X-Men ‘92: House of XCII will release respectively on April 13 and April 6.


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The Expanse Review: “Why We Fight” and “Babylon’s Ashes” @ Bureau 42

The Expanse leaves the airways and it also leaves a number of plot threads resolved, at least outside of the novels.*

Titles: “Why We Fight” and “Babylon’s Ashes”

Cast and Crew

Directed by Anya Adams, Breck Eisner

Written by Mark Fergus, Naren Shankar, Ty Franck, Daniel Abraham et al.
Adapted from the novels by Ty Franck and Daniel Abraham (as James S.A. Corey)

Steven Strait as Jim Holden
Dominique Tipper as Naomi Nagata
Cas Anvar as Alex Kamal
Wes Chatham as Amos Burton
Frankie Adams as Roberta “Bobbie” Draper
Nadine Nicole as Clarissa “Peaches” Mao
Keon Alexander as Marco Inaros
Jasai Chase Owens as Filip Inaros
Shohreh Aghdashloo as Chrisjen Avasarala
Cara Gee as Camina Drummer
Kathleen Robertson as Rosenfeld Guoliang
Anna Hopkins as Monica Stuart
Joanne Vannicola as Nico Sanjrani
Samer Salem as Josep
Ted Dykstra as Gareth
Beau Dixon as Martian Prime Minister
Stuart Hughes as Liang Walker
Gabriel Darku as Yoan
Vanessa Smythe as Michio
Conrad Coates as Admiral Sidiqi
Krista Bridges as Admiral Kirino
Craig Arnold as Lt. Hannu
Daniel Jun as Gary
Dianne Aguilar as Dot
Emma Ho as Cara
Ian Ho as Xan
Felipe Aukai as Martian Diplomat
Todd Thomas Dark as UN Diplomat
Hannah Gallant as MCRN Fleet Liaison
Jordan Dawson as UNN Lieutenant
Andre Colquhoun as Ceres Medic

Premise

Several characters converge on Ceres, make plans, and forge alliances. On Laconia, meanwhile, Cara brings her dead brother to the “dogs,” which restore him to life in some form.

The Rocinante takes on difficult mission to assist in the battle with Inaros.

High Point

The finale features the battle that has been coming, and it has been staged effectively, with several characters completing important character arcs.

Holden recognizes the reality of the situation. Demagogues are inevitably self-serving, duplicitous, and evil (in effect if not always intent), but the people who support them often have legitimate grievances which have been ignored.

Low Point

The unfinished nature of the series loomed large as a low point, long before we arrived at the finale. They manage to resolve some matters and set up future plots, but the situations on Laconia and with the proto-molecule continue to hang over future earth.

The Scores:

Originality: 3/6

Effects: 5/6 The series manages an incredible range of effects, and I have always lauded them for that. I suspect they were pressed a bit for the finale; a few of the battle scenes incorporated some problematic CGI.

Acting: 5/6

Emotional Response: 6/6

Story: 5/6 The story holds together, and “Why We Fight” gave us some interesting character moments. The finale, however, was rushed and confusing at times and, out of necessity, left significant plot threads dangling.

Production: 6/6

Overall: 5/6 The Expanse has set the new standard for SF series set in space.

In total, “Why We Fight” and “Babylon’s Ashes” receive 35/42

Notes

*Of which I have read two.

Curious language note: For a show with its own Belter language, it sure manages a lot of “F” words in the final season. Before they reached (and passed) a dozen, my wife and I were joking about the poor person who might be playing some sort of drinking game with that word in the finale. I suspect he or she would have missed the final act entirely.

All of Us Are Dead Makes High School Even Scarier @ io9

Image: JTBC Studios

Netflix has had a pretty good stack of South Korean shows lately. Squid Game took off as a big success, but if Kingdom and Hellbound are any indication, it’s Korean horror that the streaming service likes. Fortunately, they’ve got a new terrifying tale on the way in the form of the upcoming All of Us Are Dead.

The setup is fairly simple: a group of South Korean high schoolers have to band together to survive a zombie outbreak that’s begun at their school. Bad news: there’s a lot of students at the school, and it won’t be long before the infection naturally spreads to the rest of the city. But the good news is that the kids have seen zombie films (Train to Busan gets a shoutout) and know how to defend themselves, either with martial arts or whatever’s lying around in their school like archery equipment. With no food or way to contact their families, the kids are effectively on their own. While they do their best to survive, the high school teacher will be confronted about his connection to the accidental outbreak and what, if anything, can be done to prevent the world from being zombified.

Like Hellbound, the show is based on a Webtoon: 2009's Now at Our School by Joo Dong-geun. As far as zombie shows go, it looks pretty good, and seeing a horde rapidly shamble through the streets or hallways is indeed pretty terrifying. Big as they are, it’s very easy to get overwhelmed in a high school, which makes it a natural fit for such a terrifying premise.

All of Us Are Dead is one of several Korean dramas coming to the platform in 2022, along with a Korean remake of the Spanish crime drama Money Heist and the crime thriller Surname. The eight-episode season will hit Netflix on January 28.


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It's Official: Y: The Last Man is Dead @ io9

Image: FX on Hulu

Back in October, FX on Hulu canceled Y: The Last Man just a few weeks before the end of its first season. Based on Brian K. Vaughn and Pia Guerra’s 2005 Vertigo comic, the post-apocalyptic series starred Ben Schnetzer as Yorick, the last surviving cis male on the planet and his pet monkey as they travel the new world and come across different pockets of survivors. Showrunner Eliza Clark said at the time that she’d do her best to shop the well liked show to other networks or streamers and get a season two (or five). “We know that someone else is going to be very lucky to have this story,” she said back in October.

Sadly, those plans haven’t reached fruition. Friday afternoon, Clark confirmed on Twitter that despite her best efforts, the show won’t be going forward with another season. “It’s always incredibly difficult to move a show,” she wrote, “and in recent years, it’s only gotten harder...But sadly, it doesn’t look like it’s going to happen.” In her thread, Clark said that the pitch for season two was “kickass,” and would’ve included some twists on the post-apocalyptic comic’s best stories. “Astronauts, anyone?”

Y was in development for a looooooong time, from originally being a film to multiple creative clashes, recastings, and the switching of rights. FX only begun developing the show in 2019, but the long time it took to get there is why the network chose to cut the show loose.

Though the show won’t be going forward, and she was admittedly hit “pretty hard” at the hard cancellation, Clark is still grateful for getting to tell Yorick’s story, brief as it was. “I got to adapt my favorite comic,” she wrote. “I got to have a show on TV...I hope you’ll still watch the show. That you’ll still tell your friends to watch it.”

You can watch the short-lived Y: The Last Man on FX on Hulu. Who knows, in this age of properties suddenly coming back, maybe we’ll see more of Yorick and Agent 355 someday.


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Behold, Our Batgirl is Here @ io9

Image: Warner Bros.

Just last summer, Warner Bros. grabbed In the Heights star Leslie Grace to play Barbara Gordon for the Batgirl movie they’ve been trying to make for about five years. So far, the big news has been all about the cast, such as internet fave Brendan Fraser potentially as arsonist baddie Firefly and the second (well, third) coming of Michael Keaton as Bruce Wayne. On Friday night, Grace released the first official image for the film: her in the pretty cool-looking Batsuit, standing on a rooftop in Gotham, as Bats often do.

“I use their expectations against them,” Grace wrote for the caption. ““That will be their weakness. Not mine. Let them all underestimate me…And when their guard is down, and their pride is rising, let me kick their butts.” The quote comes from 2003's Batgirl: Year One miniseries from writers Scott Berry and Chuck Dixon and artist Marcos Martin, which served as an origin of how she became the first modern Batgirl. The comic’s supporting cast included her father Jim, Firefly, Batman, and Killer Moth, at least three of whom are confirmed or believed to be in this film.

The costume, though, is fairly recent, hailing from 2014's fan favorite Batgirl of Burnside series by Brendan Fletcher, Cameron Stewart, and Babs Tarr. In it, Babs created the costume after moving to the hipster, trendy district of the same name. (It’s also her default costume in the upcoming Gotham Knights game.) It remains to be seen what else from those comics gets brought over for the film, such as Barbara’s roommates or the focus on social media. Hopefully we get some more of Jurnee Smollett-Bell’s Black Canary, since Dinah was a fun addition to that book? Either way, here’s hoping the film is good and does one of Batman’s best partners justice.

Correction: 10:43 a.m. ET: This article previously called Black Canary’s actor Jussie Smollett-Bell. The character was played by Jurnee Smollett-Bell, not her brother.

Batgirl is expected to release as an HBO Max original film in sometime in 2022.


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The Toy News of the Week Snaps Into Reality @ io9

Image: Hasbro, EXO-6, McFarlane

Welcome back to Toy Aisle, io9's regular round up of the latest toy news around the internet. This week The Book of Boba Fett meets Nerf, McFarlane dives deep into the Batman rogues’ gallery, and EXO-6's latest Star Trek figure takes a trip to the Q Continuum. Check it out!


Image: Hasbro

Hasbro Nerf LMTD Star Wars Boba Fett’s EE-3 Blaster

It seems that for every Disney+ Star Wars series we’re getting, Nerf is planning to foam dart-arize one of the weapons featured in the show—and we’re totally fine with that. For The Mandalorian we got a $120 dart-hurling replica of Din Djarin’s Amban phase-pulse blaster, and for The Book of Boba Fett we’re getting a $110 replica of the ex-bounty hunter’s EE-3 blaster. It includes “series-accurate blaster” sound effects, an illuminated lens, and 13 Nerf Elite darts, which are loaded using three, four-shot drums. You won’t find the 30-inch long blaster showing up on store shelves until early 2023, but you can pre-order it on Hasbro Pulse until March 31.


Image: Amazon

McFarlane Toys DC Multiverse Clayface Mega Action Figure

Of all the Batman films Hollywood has delivered over the years, it’s a crime that none have given Clayface the amount of silver screen time he deserves. A murderous lump of shape-shifting clay? That sounds equal parts terrifying and terrific, as McFarlane Toys’ new Clayface MegaFig clearly demonstrates. Standing eight inches tall with 22 points of articulation, the figure is based on the character’s appearance in DC Rebirth, and is available for pre-order from Amazon now for $40, with delivery expected sometime in mid-April.


Image: EXO-6

EXO-6 Star Trek: The Next Generation Judge Q 1/6 Scale Action Figure

Oh mon capitaines, what have we gotten ourselves into here? EXO-6's latest Star Trek action figure heads back to TNG, but not for a Starfleet hero... instead a bit more of a menace, really. John de Lancie’s iconic annoyance Q, rendered here in his haughty “Judge” uniform from his very first appearance in the show’s pilot, the 1/6 scale figure comes with an alternate smirking head—because duh, it’s Q—as well as an array of hands to pose him either gesticulating at Picard or ready to change reality with a twirl of his fingers and a snap. He’s set to release later this year, for $205.


Image: Pottery Barn Kids

Pottery Barn Kids Lego Collection

Struggling with kids turning their bedroom floors into a minefield of random Lego pieces? Pottery Barn Kids now lets you embrace the chaos and simply turn all of that Lego into the room’s decor with a new collection of decor and room accessories. The best piece might be the $209 Lego-themed bed quilt featuring a brick-built dragon on the front, but you’ll want to pair it with the Lego maze organic sheet set that starts at $89 for the smallest size and features a design made up of a complex maze of staircases and platforms. We’ll also point out that is a crime against AFOLs that the $46 Lego-themed organic pajama set isn’t available in adult sizes.


Image: Theory Eleven

Theory Eleven The Beatles Premium Playing Cards

Not that it ever really went away, but interest in the Beatles has ramped back up again thanks to Peter Jackson’s Get Back documentary now streaming on Disney+. If you find yourself now obsessed with everything about the Fab Four, head on over to Theory Eleven, makers of some of the most beautifully themed playing cards you’ll ever lay eyes on, where you can now grab a Beatles-themed deck in one of four different color schemes. Caricatures of Paul, John, Ringo, and George have been incorporated into the deck’s design, as well as colors and iconography from the group’s Sgt. Pepper era. Each deck will set you back $10, but you can also grab all four colors at once in a special edition box set with premium packaging for $100.


Image: Walmart

Adventure Force Water Strike Gatling Blast Pressurized Water Blaster

Is January too early to start planning for warm weather activities? Obviously not. Walmart has revealed several of Adventure Force’s new water blasters including the Water Strike Gatling Water Blaster that, as the name implies, features a spinning barrel. The feature is more fun than functional, but the blaster promises 35-foot streams and a sizeable 62-ounce water tank providing 23 shots between quick refills thanks to an oversized filling tube on the back. Unlike most pressure-powered water guns that require multiple pumps, the Water Strike is a one-pump-per-shot affair. It’s available from Walmart’s online store for about $22, and presumably in brick-and-mortar stores in the very near future.


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Black Panther 2 Is Back on Track, With a Few New Wrinkles @ io9

Letitia Wright as Shuri in Avengers: Infinity War.Image: Marvel Studios

The Black Panther sequel, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, will resume filming next week after a two-plus month shutdown. The shutdown was primarily because actress Letitia Wright, who plays Shuri, was badly injured during a stunt and could no longer perform. She’s now said to be healthy and ready to resume filming which, in fact, was supposed to start last week. However, multiple cast and crew members caught covid-19, among them Oscar-winner Lupita Nyong’o.

Once cameras start rolling, there are about four more weeks to go, according to the Hollywood Reporter, and we imagine they’ll be Shuri-centric. After Wright was injured last year, production continued for a bit as the crew filmed everything she was not a part of. Once they finished that though, and with the holidays looming, the production took a brief hiatus. If the bulk of what’s left are Shuri bits, you’d imagine Wright will be front and center in Atlanta, GA, when writer director Ryan Coogler calls “action” once again.

Of course, while Wright’s injury was said to be the main reason for the delay, many speculated part of it could also be due to anti-vaccination comments she made at the time. However, according to the Hollywood Reporter, “While not commenting on her vaccinated status, several sources say those issues have been resolved.”

Also in the story is a new wrinkle about co-star Winston Duke. The actor who plays leader of the Wakandan Jabari tribe M’Baku, apparently has “negotiated a hefty raise for his return to Black Panther, due to what is being described as an expanded role in the Panther mythos.” That’s certainly interesting because he and Wright are probably the two top candidates to take the mantle of Black Panther after the tragic passing of T’Challa himself, Chadwick Boseman. Is M’Baku the next Black Panther? Is it Shuri? Someone else? We’ll find out later this year.

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever has had its released date moved a few times but this shutdown has reportedly not changed it from debuting November 11 as currently planned. The film is the culmination of a huge year for Marvel Studios, which is currently riding the wave of Spider-Man: No Way Home and will have Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness and Thor: Love and Thunder in theaters beforehand, as well as Ms. Marvel, Moon Knight, and She-Hulk on Disney+.


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All the Sci-Fi, Superhero, and Fantasy TV Coming to Screens in 2022 (So Far) @ io9

Walkers, sea devils, vampires, spiral nightmares... there’s going to be a lot going on on network TV this year.Image: AMC, Starz, BBC America, FX, and Toonami

We’ve had movies to look forward to, streaming faves to plan binges around, but what’s good and on broadcast in 2022? io9's got your look ahead out of what to expect from the first few months of 2022 in sci-fi and fantasy TV—and taste of a few things we know are coming later this year.

Of course, going in, this isn’t a definitive list of everything that’s coming out this year—we’ll update it as and when we can with newly revealed shows—and of course, any and all premiere dates here are subject to change. But without further ado...

What’s Coming to TV in January 2022?

Smiling Friends (Jan. 9, Adult Swim) - The down on their luck employees of a company relentlessly dedicated to bringing smiles to the world attempt to do just that, only to find that nothing is ever as easy as it might seem.

Naomi (Jan. 11, The CW) - Kaci Walfall stars as the superpowered teen title character in this Ava DuVernay-developed adaptation of the DC Comics series by Brian Michael Bendis, David F. Walker, and Jamal Campbell.

Superman & Lois (Jan. 11, The CW) - It’s season two for this Arrowverse show about Clark Kent, Lois Lane, their teen sons Jonathan and Jordan, and all the other superpowered (and not) characters they tangle with in Smallville.

Batwoman (post-hiatus, Jan. 12, The CW) - Ryan is back in action and hunting down a Gotham icon in the form of Poison Ivy, in the back half of season 3.

Legends of Tomorrow (post-hiatus, Jan. 12, The CW) - The more things change in time, the more they stay the same for the Legends, as they return for even more time shenanigans.

Two Sentence Horror Stories (Jan. 16, The CW) - The anthology horror series, which consists of short films made independently of each other, returns for a third season.

Astrid and Lily Save the World (Jan. 16, Syfy) - This new series follows a pair of teenage misfits who accidentally open a portal to a monster dimension—then become unlikely candidates for saving the world… a task almost as daunting as making it through high school.

4400 (post-hiatus, Jan. 17, The CW) - The first part of this reboot series’ debut season was surprisingly good, particularly in the way it focused on the experiences of Black people and other historically marginalized groups. It returns from a holiday break to finish out the season.

Snowpiercer (Jan. 24, TNT) - The dystopia-on-a-train series returns for season three (presumably without Jennifer Connelly, whose character was presumed dead at the end of season two), with a fourth season already on the way.

Resident Alien (Jan. 26, Syfy) - The hit Alan Tudyk series based on the Dark Horse comics returns for a second season that’ll see crash-landed alien Harry leave his small town for an adventure in New York City. As expected he’ll also still be sorting out his complicated feelings for humankind, which he’s come to appreciate even though he was originally sent to Earth to destroy the entire species.

What’s Coming to TV in February 2022?

The Walking Dead (part two of final season, Feb. 20, AMC) - The Walking Dead continues its zombie-shuffling farewell tour by returning for its second eight-episode chunk of season 11 episodes; the third and final batch will arrive this fall.

What’s Coming to TV in March 2022?

Outlander (March 6, Starz) - The historical drama series (with occasional time-travel intrigue) returns for its sixth season, though it will have a shortened run of just eight episodes.

Riverdale (March 6, post-hiatus new night, The CW) - After a brief interlude as… *checks notes* Rivervale, Archie and his kooky friends are back, and presumably things can only be on the up and up after parallel realities, blood sacrifices, and teenage witches, right?

Shining Vale (March 6, Starz) - In this horror comedy, Courteney Cox stars as a once-successful writer who hopes that moving to a ramshackle old house in the country will awaken her creative spirit. Unfortunately, the house is maybe, probably haunted by a maybe, probably demon played by Mira Sorvino.

The Flash (March 8, post-hiatus new night, The CW) - Barry Allen is the fastest man alive, and he’s about to be the only one of the original DC/CW trinity left standing as we return to Central City for the rest of season eight.

Charmed (March 11, The CW) - The Charmed sisters are back, but with their coven down a member after the loss of Macy, the power of three is threatened to be undone entirely. Good job they just so happened to find a new Charmed One then, isn’t it?

What Other TV Is Coming in 2022?

Doctor Who (Spring and fall, BBC America) - After the so-so Flux, Jodie Whittaker’s Thirteenth Doctor returns for two more specials that will culminate by revealing her replacement in the iconic role.

Tales of the Walking Dead (Summer, AMC and AMC+) - AMC’s horror juggernaut is getting its own anthology series, telling new and different stories of life during a zombie apocalypse.

Chucky (Syfy/USA) - After a hit first season, the deadly Child’s Play doll will continue his delightful reign of terror. While the plot of season two is not yet known, creator Don Mancini did tell io9 that, in keeping with the theme of season one, even more fan-favorite characters just might be popping up as the story continues.

Interview With the Vampire (AMC and AMC+) - Australian actor Sam Reid stars as Lestat in this eight-episode series adaptation of Anne Rice’s much-loved vampire novel.

Rick and Morty (Adult Swim) - With the notoriously slow-to-arrive show supposedly quickening its production cycle moving forward, a sixth season of portals, clones, weird science, monsters, angst, incisive cultural commentary, raunch, withering put-downs, and (hopefully) more interdimensional cable likely arriving at some point in 2022.

Roswell, New Mexico (The CW) - This aliens-on-Earth series is now entering season four, which means it’s now outlasted the late-1990s Roswell—adapted from the same source material: the YA book series Roswell High—which only went for three.

Uzumaki (Toonami) - Junji Ito’s iconic tale of a cursed town and its (literally) spiralling inhabitants comes to life in this stark animated adaptation.

What We Do in the Shadows (FX) - After that season three finale, we’re dying to see what’s next for the Staten Island vampire clan (plus Guillermo). Will everyone make it back from their travels? What guest stars and weird creatures will pop up? Will creepy baby Colin Robinson grow into the same adult-sized energy vampire he once was?

Marvel’s Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur (Disney Channel) - Luna Lafayette, one of the smartest Inhumans around, teams up with her pal (and giant sized, actual dinosaur) Devil Dinosaur to save the Marvel Universe. Mostly from the giant sized, actual dinosaur she accidentally brought to New York.


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The Past of Locke & Key Comes To Life In This Gorgeous New Collection @ io9

Face the Music, a new Locke & Key Story, is part of the collection Locke & Key The Golden AgeImage: IDW Publishing

Where Locke & Key goes in the future? Only the upcoming third season of Netflix’s show knows for now. But where it all began is bring brought together in a brand new collection and io9 has your exclusive first look.

Locke & Key: The Golden Age is a hardcover collection coming in April comprised of four previously released, and one new, stories by writer Joe Hill and illustrator Gabriel Rodriguez. Among them are “In Pale Battalions Go” plus the Sandman Universe crossover “Hell & Gone.” And all of which explore the rich past this mythological world where a family called Locke uses magical keys to do all sorts of wondrous things.

The Golden Age was quite literally a decade in the making,” Hill told io9 in a statement. “The first story was released in 2011 and the last chapter appeared in 2021. And now here it is, all together, between two covers. I don’t know if any of my own graphic novels has ever made me quite so happy, spent quite so much time in my thoughts, or lived in my dreams the way this one has... I know Gabe feels the same way. I’m over the moon to see it finally landing in reader’s hands. Few books ever lead you on such a journey but I have to say, I’ve enjoyed every step of it.”

Here’s the cover of the book, exclusive to io9.

The cover of The Golden Age with pencils and inks by Gabriel Rodriguez and colors by Jay Fotos.Image: IDW Publishing

“We had a very unique creative opportunity with The Golden Age,” Rodriguez said. “Free of the traditional calendar and format boundaries of any standard comic book series, these tales really take risks and bold chances as a storytelling medium. We also had the opportunity to explore an entirely different age of the Locke family history and the key mythology, and on top of that, we got the chance to tie the story arcs in one of our most ambitious episodes ever, combining the universe of Locke & Key with The Sandman Universe, an absolute classic of this genre (which was also an undeniably direct inspiration for us to create our book). And yet, the most rewarding part of it was to see the family of Chamberlin Locke growing, getting depth and becoming fully fleshed-out over the course of a storyline that conquered a very special spot in our hearts... and one we hope will unlock new dreams in our readers’ minds.”

In addition to “In Pale Battalions Go” and “Hell & Gone, the book contains the previous released stories “Small World” and “Open the Moon,” as well as the brand new “Face the Music,” which includes a never before seen orchestra key. What the heck is an Orchestra Key? We don’t know, but you can see it in brought to life in these pencils and inks by Rodriguez followed by colors by Jay Fotos.

A page from the new Locke & Key story “Face the Music” illustrated by Gabriel Rodriguez.Image: IDW Publishing
A page from the new Locke & Key story “Face the Music” with pencils and inks by Gabriel Rodriguez.Image: IDW Publishing
A page from the new Locke & Key story “Face the Music” illustrated by Gabriel Rodriguez now with Jay Fotos colors.Image: IDW Publishing

Locke & Key: The Golden Age is out April 12 and retails for $30. Pre-order it here.


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Belle Is a Sumptuous, Unflinchingly Optimistic View of Our Digital Future @ io9

Belle sings her way to a bright, beautiful future.Screenshot: Studio Chizu/GKids

It’s hard not to be pessimistic about the internet these days. From big tech companies’ capitalistic stranglehold on its structure to toxic online harassment, from adjacent ideas like the depressingly corporate metaverse trend to NFTs burning away the planet in the name of some ugly cartoon apes—it all feels like the bright digital future we once dreamed of is trending towards disaster. That is, unless you’re director Mamoru Hosoda, who seemingly just can’t help but see the light amid all that darkness.

The good that online connections can do has been a thread at the heart of Hosoda’s work as a director since his early days working at Toei on the prequel and sequel followups to its original, beloved Digimon Adventure series at the turn of the century—compelling adventures about the bonds young children made not just with the titular digital creatures, but the people and world around them as they fought to protect it from perverted corruptions of technology. When Hosoda eventually left Toei and went to work at Madhouse, he delivered Summer Wars, which took Digimon Adventure and Our War Game’s themes and extrapolated and iterated on them through the lens of a hodgepodge gathering of friends and strangers coming together via a virtual reality sim to battle a malignant artificial intelligence. Now at his own co-founded studio, Studio Chizu—and off the back of awards-season darling time-travel adventure Mirai in 2018—Hosoda once again returns to musing on our relationship with the internet in Belle, a contemporary fairytale infused with a boundless hope for what good our online lives can pursue, rather than the evils such technology can harbor.

Screenshot: Studio Chizu/GKids

Set in a near-enough-future Japan—almost entirely like our own world save for the proliferation of a mobile app/virtual world called “U” that is both as simple to understand as “Second Life with an incredible art budget,” and yet also about as extremely into Clarke’s third law of magic and advanced technology as possible—Belle follows the plight of a highschooler named Suzu (Kaho Nakamura/Kylie McNeill). Still haunted by the death of her mother (Sumi Shimamoto/Julie Nathanson) when she was a child, Suzu finds herself struggling to connect to her inner self—and her passion for singing—and the people around her at school and at home, endlessly in search of an identity that she is still afraid to claim as her own. When one of her friends, the nerdy genius and incredibly online Hiroka (Lilas Ikuta/Jessica DiCicco), introduces Suzu to “U,” however, the young girl enters the digital world with her biometrically-scanned avatar transforming her into a dazzlingly beautiful, pink-haired Disney-esque princess named Belle, and discovers that becoming someone else allows her to reconnect to her love of singing, promptly becoming an overnight digital pop star sensation.

It’s here that Hosoda quickly shows just how plugged in he is to the immediate moment of our online, social media driven lives. “U” is no nightmarish brand-nostalgia-induced dystopia like the digital, gamified world of Ready Player One—or even the metaverses we seem to be building towards in our own reality—but a vast, fantastical cyberspace almost unfathomable to comprehend beyond its incredible visuals, filled with billions of people rendered as larger than life avatars where a normal-looking human is the rarity. Contrasted with the intimate, warm, yet subdued detail Belle affords its scenes set in the real world at Suzu’s home and school, “U” is a technicolor explosion of fairytale creatures, alien oddities, larger-than-life, self-proclaimed “justices” of the space that wouldn’t look out of place ripped out of a Super Sentai show. It’s a wondrously charming world, and yet beneath the glitz also a pointedly telling one. The initial reaction to Belle as she enters “U” and promptly bursts into song is about the closest the film gets to cynical realism: a rapid-fire rollercoaster of immediate curiosity and even more immediate dismissal, giving way to viral adoration, giving way to remixes and re-interpretations of her art that seek to celebrate and cast aside Belle’s actual talent and connection to the work in equal measure. Belle’s leap to digital stardom in some ways feels like a hybridization of a Vtuber and and a viral TikTok trend, just heightened to the point of surreality thanks to the remarkable, giddying scope of “U” itself—and made to hit harder when, despite the fact that the mystery of who’s really behind Belle is on the lips of everyone at her school, very few people still actually care about Suzu herself.

Screenshot: Studio Chizu/GKids

But these are not entirely the primary concerns of the film, as disappointing as that may be to some who wish Hosoda’s latest had a bit more bite. As quickly as Belle charts Suzu’s meteoric rise as a songstress, it just as quickly gives way to its actual heart—a quasi-remix of itself, taking elements from the classic 18th century fairy tale Beauty and the Beast, very much by the way of the ‘90s Disney classic. When one of Belle’s concerts in “U” is disrupted by the arrival of a supposedly villainous avatar known only as the Dragon (Takeru Satoh/Paul Castro Jr.), instead of being as repulsed as the rest of the digital citizens of “U” and their aforementioned justices, Belle finds herself drawn to the bestial creature, inquisitive as to the kind of person who would run away to a virtual world and still sequester themselves off from everyone else. What she quickly discovers as she relentlessly tries to connect with the beast is that the Dragon harbors a secret tying to their life in the real world, and that it’ll be up to Suzu and her friends there, rather than in “U,” to cut through and reach out to someone in need, no matter how much they struggle at seeking help.

It’s here that Belle hammers home its simple underlying thesis, tying together everything from Suzu’s own traumatic past to the mystery of the Dragon’s true identity: that the value we place in self-actualization and claiming our own identities is equally worthy of being placed in the lives of everyone around us, whether it’s family, friends, or complete strangers we’ve met through a screen. It’s a storytelling idea that isn’t exactly original, not even to Hosoda’s own prior work, but Belle’s dogged commitment to it—pushing aside any brute cynicism it might have about “U” as a metaversal concept, pushing aside our own inherent cynicism beyond that—renders it a touching message nonetheless. Its commitment to that simple, relentless optimism doesn’t always quite work out. As its third act races to reveal the identity of the Dragon and their plight to Suzu and the audience alike, it touches upon certain ideas and arguments it simply doesn’t have the time to address with particular nuance, doing more harm than help to its hopeful view of digital lives and human connections in the process.

Screenshot: Studio Chizu/GKids

But these are minor stumbling blocks in what is easily Hosoda’s most stunningly gorgeous and effective mediation on the internet to date. Belle may hold a simple, perhaps even naïve, faith in its heart for a better tomorrow for our online worlds, but the dogged commitment to looking towards that future with hope is an ultimately charming one. Belle a bright pop of warm, beautiful color in a bleak midwinter of theatrical releases that is welcomed, no matter how simple and familiar it might feel.

Belle releases theatrically across the U.S. today.


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Yep, She's a Werewolf @ io9

Photo: Julia Pollak/NBCUniversal

I’m sure you’ve been on pins and needles since January 4, when the streaming service Peacock released the first trailer for its upcoming series Wolf Like Me, starring Josh Gad and Isla Fisher. In it, we saw some subtle clues that led us to believe that Fisher’s character Mary might be a werewolf—and not to pat ourselves too hard on the back, but this newest trailer for the show has proven us right.

After intensive investigation—maybe an entire two seconds—we managed to piece the clues together and deduce that Fisher’s character was, in all likelihood, a werewolf. To be clear, these “subtle” clues included:

• Maya sprinting away from an evening date with Gary (Gad) with zero explanation

• Maya having some kind of secret that she’s “never shared with anyone before” and sprinting away again as the sun sets

• Maya’s husband dying under mysterious circumstances

• An old lady who says, “We’ve all got wolves in us”

• Maya locking herself in a steel room in a panic while Gary looks on in horror

• The show being titled Wolf Like Me

I assume that Peacock decided to stop playing coy, since Maya has outright confirmed her lycanthropy in this newest trailer:

Now, the next question is, does she only transform directly into wolf form, or does she also have the traditional werewolf hybrid form? (And before anyone wants to get semantic on me, a “werewolf” is the proper term for someone who turns into a wolf, the hybrid, or both. Interestingly, the anthropomorphic form is a relatively modern invention, having first been seen in the 1935 movie Werewolf of London, apparently. )

If you’re curious about the details of Maya’s affliction, all six episodes of Wolf Like Me are currently available to view on Peacock.


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Peacemaker's Opening Credits Should Win the Best Picture Oscar @ io9

Perfection.Screenshot: HBO Max

James Gunn’s love of pop music has become a calling card. The song choices in both of his Guardians of the Galaxy films, as well as The Suicide Squad, set Gunn’s superhero films apart from the rest. They’re irreverent, they’re funny, and, of course, it continues with his new show Peacemaker.

Both Guardians of the Galaxy films have elaborate music-driven opening credits sequences but Gunn tops them both with his first DC show. Streaming now on HBO Max, Peacemaker stars John Cena as the anti-hero first seen in The Suicide Squad. After betraying his team, Peacemaker now must enter an uncertain world and get on with his life... but not before this incredible opening title sequence, seen here without the literally offensive “Skip Intro” button that comes up on HBO Max. How dare anyone ever skip this?

The song there is called “Do You Wanna Taste It?” by the bang Wig Wam. And though it has a very distinct 1980s rock vibe, it’s actually from a 2010 album. So thank you James Gunn for the recommendation.

Besides the song being ultra catchy and funny, what makes this scene so incredible is Gunn’s direction of this cast. Cena, Danielle Brooks, Jennifer Holland, Freddie Stroma, Steve Agee, Robert Patrick, Nhut Le, and Lochlyn Munro are doing this absolutely ridiculous dance and just giving zero emotion about it. Just nothing. So you have these blank faces wildly flailing their arms around in unison as a “Norwegian glam metal band” talks about tasting “it,” as more and more cast members join in the fun. It’s just breathtakingly stupid, awesome, and absolutely perfect.

The first three episodes of Peacemaker are now on HBO Max with more coming each week. Gunn says he wants to make more seasons too, but he has that third Guardians of the Galaxy to make for next May before that can happen.


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How The Book of Boba Fett Evolved Star Wars' View of the Tuskens @ io9

The Tusken chieftain that helps Boba better undertand Tatooine's native people.Screenshot: Lucasfilm (Fair Use)

The Book of Boba Fett’s second episode, “The Tribes of Tatooine,” not only shows a new side to the iconic character, but allows for a fresh perspective on the Tusken Raiders. The nomadic people of Tatooine have always been heavily influenced by Indigenous cultures, but the latest Star Wars series is taking them beyond the stereotype and providing genuine representation.

With over four decades of Star Wars stories, which seemed content to let the Tuskens maintain the “savage” stereotypes, I never imagined it would be something I’d see happen. Let alone done so competently. Too often in franchises that have become so ingrained in pop-culture to the point of reaching modern mythical status, most things try to maintain the status quo. This is especially true of what amount to lore for background characters.

I want to make something clear before I go on. Even as I speak from the perspective of a Native American, it’s important to remember we are not monoliths. I don’t claim to speak for all tribes, nor even for the majority of my own tribe. So don’t take this as the “Definitive Native Opinion on Boba Fett.” Beyond that, it’s crucial to acknowledge the influences behind Tuskens are pulled from many Indigenous cultures across the globe. There’s Māori in there aplenty, stemming from actor Temuera Morrison’s own background, but also a host of MENA (Middle East and North Africa) influences which shouldn’t be overlooked.

George Lucas himself said much of the Tusken look/design was based on the Bedouins, an Indigenous Arab tribe from the desert regions in North Africa. One of the driving ideas behind so many of the initial Star Wars designs stemmed from taking something recognizable, but altering it into something new. In A Gallery of Imagination: The Art of Ralph McQuarrie, Lucas explains, “You look at that painting of the Tusken Raiders and the banthas, and you say, ‘Oh yeah, Bedouins…’ Then you look at it some more and say, ‘Wait a minute, that’s not right. Those aren’t Bedouins, and what are those creatures back there?’”

I can’t speak to those aspects—nor would I try to declaratively, in case I seriously misrepresent something. So the majority of the perspective you’re going to see from me is directly connected to my Native heritage. This in no way means I’m forgetting about the others.

Image: Lucasfilm

In the Beginning

From the outset, Star Wars pulled from Native American culture to integrate into its storytelling. It’s something I’ve talked about at length before. Tuskens are a major callback, of course, but throughout the decades many Native influences have found their way to the galaxy far, far away. During the mid-90s Tales of the Jedi run of comics, we could see the general Native influences on the overall character designs. After all, the idea of those comics was to show a more “primitive” side to the galaxy and Jedi order. Even the early origins of the tribal nature/clan structure of the Mandalorians has its roots in these comics, before being expanded upon in Knights of the Old Republic. Genndy Tartakovsky’s Clone Wars microseries in 2003 gave us the Nelvaanians; a race so based within Indigenous culture the women carried younglings in papoose carriers! In the story they’re introduced in, Anakin himself embarks on a vision quest of his own, guided by an elder shaman complete with hair wraps evocative of Native fashion.

The influences have been many over the years, but those interpretations weren’t always for the best. Such is the case with Tuskens. Star Wars is essentially a “Space Western” and the genre has long been a heavy influence on the franchise; taking on most of the familiar tropes in the process. Of the many films that helped influence the original Star Wars, John Ford’s The Searchers is one of the most recognizable. From the direct visual parallels of John Wayne’s Ethan returning to a burned out homestead, and even reaching into the prequel era with Attack of the Clones. Anakin’s mother Shmi is abducted by a band of vicious Tuskens, sending him on a mission to find her, a story echoing the Comanche abduction of Ethan’s niece in The Searchers.

Nothing is more synonymous with older Western stories than Native Americans being the antagonists. They’re the “savages” making trouble for the more civilized heroes looking to tame the wild countryside. In A New Hope (and the Prequels), nothing embodied this more than the Tusken Raiders. They fit the trope to the letter: from raids on the settlers, wantonly kidnapping people, and even animalistic behavior. Over the years, however, many different creatives on the books and comics side of things have worked to alter how people view the Tuskens in general. John Jackson Miller’s novel Kenobi (now deemed non-canonical to current events) provided a more nuanced look into their culture, through the lens of Obi-Wan coming to a better understanding of them.

Sharad Hett, and his son, A’Sharad.Image: Al Rio, Mark Heike, and Steve Dutro, and Tom Lyle, Robert Jones, and Dan Jackson, Dark Horse/Marvel Comics

Well before that, however, the comics gave us Sharad Hett in the latter part of the ‘90s. Hett was a Jedi Knight who exiled himself to Tatooine and became a Tusken warlord. In the comics, his time with the Tuskens utilizes a number of Native American tropes/historical elements to deepen their lore. Namely, it introduced the idea Tuskens would “adopt” orphans into their tribes—an idea we’d eventually see integrated into Mandalorian culture too, with the concept of “Foundlings,” kids who were made orphans thanks to the raids on settler camps and other conflicts. Historically speaking, Native American tribes would do the same with the surviving children from their own attacks. While the media presented this idea as something barbaric, Tribes normally did this as an act of mercy. Unlike those who came onto their land and drove them out, they saw killing kids—true innocents—as a horrendous practice. Nevertheless, Natives stealing children and indoctrinating them into the tribe made for a great plot device in Western stories. It’s a story point even recent films like Tom Hanks’ News of the World, takes advantage of.

But in these Star Wars comics, Hett meets, falls in love with, and marries another Tusken named K’Sheek. K’Sheek was one of these settler orphans adopted by the Tuskens, who eventually gave birth to A’Sharad Hett, another Jedi who went on to fight against the Yuuzhan Vong (later revealed to be the villainous Darth Krayt 100 years later, but that’s a whole other thing). With each story in what is now known as “Star Wars Legends” over the past couple decades, it’s been cool to see how these Native cultural elements have become crucial to the history associated with the Tuskens. Now, however, we’re finally seeing that play out on the screen. The Mandalorian helped pave the way in its first two seasons. Namely, we get to see them interact and engage with people beyond being “raiders.” Din Djarin actually holds conversations with the Tuskens, seeing them communicate on screen for the very first time thanks to a specially crafted form of American Sign Language (ASL). While it may seem minor, the simple act of giving Tuskens the ability, and time, to communicate with others, goes a long way towards humanizing them in the eyes of viewers.

Furthermore, we got to see some of their personal struggles in the show’s second season. They too are struggling with the Krayt dragon, and know they aren’t able to defeat it on their own. Through the viewpoint of Cobb Vanth and other citizens of Mos Pelgo, the audience is similarly able to shift their perspective on Tuskens from brutal savages to regular sentient beings. As awesome as all that was, however, The Book of Boba Fett, blows the gates of representation wide open. Far beyond anything that’s come before.

Screenshot: Lucasfilm

Diversifying the Tuskens

I think the thing I’ve loved most about the Tuskens we’ve dealt with in Book of Boba Fett so far is how distinctly different they are from any other iteration of the people we’ve seen before. From the way they dress, even to the types of tents they utilize (triangular rather than rounded), it’s clear they aren’t the same kind of Tuskens any of our heroes—or villains—have dealt with. At one point, the Chieftain even makes mention of “other tribes” who resort to more aggressive tactics to survive. While they all share many of the same cultural aspects, they are also unique–just like the many Native American tribes, and other Indigenous communities around the world.

When you have a government in place who systematically wipe entire people off the face of the planet, it’s easy to lump all Natives into a singular category. It’s something movies, shows, and books have been doing for well over a century; perpetuating the idea that all of us are the same. The truth, as with any race, is significantly more complicated. While many tribes share familiar cultural aspects (similar food, shared mythologies, etc), each of them are undeniably different. Hell, even based on the history we have now, we know of at least 200 different languages, not including divergent dialects, utilized across the country! In many ways, the early history of the Americas isn’t too dissimilar to the European history we learn about in schools. With those, we’re taught the constant wars over various kingdoms and theologies were to be romanticized, the same kind of wars fought between tribes were considered barbaric. This mindset comes down to treating all Natives as a singular group rather than being from a diverse continent, full of unique peoples.

Even the earlier Expanded Universe attempts to flesh out the Tuskens generally resulted in them being treated as a homogeneous group. Regardless of the fact they were spread out over an entire planet, comics and books depicted all of them in almost the exact same clothing, sharing the same rituals (youths having to hunt Krayt Dragons to prove themselves), all while referring to them as a singular entity. In essence, one could encounter Tuskens on opposite ends of Tatooine and end up with the same experience. With The Book of Boba Fett, we get to see the diversity between the tribes. We see the Chieftain explain a bit about their own history (one I’m sure would diverge from other Tusken tribes out there), while exploring rituals we’ve never seen before. While they share many of the same core elements, there’s a sense they do things differently from other tribes.

It may seem like a small thing in the bigger story, but the result is opening up the Tuskens to a new world of nuance. Yes, some can be barbaric and dangerous (as the ones who captured Shmi Skywalker obviously were), but no longer are they indicative of the entire people. Our perspective has shifted, allowing for the acknowledgement of multiple unique peoples/cultures. This is something rarely seen even in modern movies and shows featuring actual Indigenous people.

Screenshot: Bioware/EA

Land Back

On top of expanding their overall presence, The Book of Boba Fett also provides the Tuskens with a more clearly defined existence beyond simply being brutal, underdeveloped, savages. As we learned in “The Tribes of Tatooine,” the Tuskens have existed on Tatooine all the way back to a time when water flowed freely on the planet. To them, everyone is an “offworlder,” which is a fairly typical colonial story. People come from elsewhere, encounter others they deem primitive, and proceed to claim everything for themselves in the name of civilization. It might not sound bad on paper to these settlers, but the reality is a whole bunch of relocation and genocide. Any attempt at pushing back against this forced civilization is seen as ungrateful and needlessly aggressive, and a justification needed to continue committing more atrocities.

This is what the Tuskens have been dealing with for millennia now. In all that time, they are continually looked upon as the bad guys for it. It’s not a new concept for Star Wars. In fact, the first Knights of the Old Republic game dealt with this fairly deeply during your missions on Tatooine. There, you can explore a Tusken enclave—or slaughter them—and speak with their tribal Storyteller if you complete the right sidequests. Through this, you get a clear picture of their history, subjugation, and how it has all led to their current outlook. At the current point in time we see them in the films and The Book of Boba Fett, their desire isn’t about reclaiming ancestral lands, so much as it is not losing what they have left. The chances of Tuskens reclaiming Tatooine on the whole isn’t likely to happen, and they’re smart enough to know that. They merely want to maintain what they have and live out their lives without fear of being gunned down from crime syndicate hovertrains for no reason other than being close by.

In this regard, Book of Boba Fett isn’t necessarily doing anything new with the Tusken’s displacement story, but it absolutely puts it in the proper context. Through Boba’s eyes we see they aren’t mindless brutes, but a people with their own deep history and culture who want to protect it from outsiders who couldn’t care less. It’s obviously something Fett himself had never thought about. Considering his own background (losing his home as a child, and his connection to Mandalorian heritage through his father), there’s a clear parallel between them and a major reason he’s intent on helping the Tuskens in general. His time in captivity, and observing their culture, has taken him back to his own roots, giving him new purpose overall.

Screenshot: Lucasfilm

Showing Off

“The Tribes of Tatooine” hammers this aspect of Fett’s story home for audiences in a number of ways: being accepted into the tribe, crafting his own weapon, and even embarking on an old-fashioned vision quest! For me, however, the best scene came at the very end. Boba initiates a dance around the campfire, which eventually brings the tribe together in celebration. The biggest influence on this is clearly the Māori Haka. The ceremonial dance serves as a way to show off a warrior’s pride, strength, and overall unity with one another. Temuera Morrison has spoken about including his Māori heritage into his portrayal of Boba Fett even during his initial return in The Mandalorian.

“I come from the Maori nation of New Zealand, the Indigenous people—we’re the Down Under Polynesians—and I wanted to bring that kind of spirit and energy, which we call wairua,” Morrison said to the New York Times. Furthermore, he detailed how his prior training with the taiaha (a traditional Māori weapon) influenced Fett’s fighting style with the Tusken gaffi stick. It’s a point that feels more special now, having seen Boba Fett craft his own personal gaffi in a ritual granting him full acceptance into the tribe. Recently, in an interview with Yahoo Entertainment, Morrison explained how he felt a sense of responsibility to ensure his Māori heritage was treated correctly, “We know all about that word ‘colonized. It’s a great opportunity for me as a Māori from New Zealand to put us on the world stage again. I feel a sense of responsibility.”

During filming for the series, Morrison went so far as to, “Put the name of one of my ancestors on my chair, my changing room and on my parking space. So when I pulled in, there was my ancestor’s name: Tama-te-kapua, one of the captains that traversed the Pacific and arrived in [New Zealand]. It gave me a sense of pride ... and a sense of responsibility for the people back home who will get to watch some of this stuff.” His heritage is a major part of his life and something he seeks to honor in all the work he does. As such it’s thrilling to see those Indigenous influences happen on the screen without feeling watered down, or changed to be more palatable for other audiences.

Screenshot: Lucasfilm

From my own perspective, the final scene in “Tribes of Tatooine” felt like watching a Native American Powwow in action. Indigenous cultures around the world share many similarities, so it’s not surprising to see that connection either. Regardless, I was floored watching it play out. Powwows are essentially big celebrations for the tribe, and have existed for as long as the people have. The modern version of the Powwow, however, came about in the 19th century, as forced relocations and genocide caused many tribes to come together and share in certain custom/rituals. During a majority of this time, the “Reservation Period,” most ceremonies and customs were outlawed. The only thing allowed, and only annually, were the dances because it was considered little more than a social gathering.

Thus, the Powwow turned into what it is today. Every tribe handles it their own way. As for my tribe, the Oklahoma Ponca, it’s essentially three days of partying. Families come together on the campgrounds, camping out and setting up pavilions filled with wonderful food and all manner of authentic crafts to buy. All of it is centered around the main dancing arena, a simple circle. At the center sits the drummers and singers, with the dancers working their way around them in a circle as they play. The circular nature of the Tuskens dance (albeit around a campfire) immediately felt familiar to me.

I’ve danced at many a Powwow myself over the years and every time I have it’s a humbling experience. While there are competitions integrated into the Powwow, for the most part every song is open to the entire tribe to join. You don’t have to understand the song (performed in our language), or know the more complicated steps of the “grass” or “fancy” dances to participate. There are very basic steps that fit pretty much any song/beat. It’s meant to be an inclusive experience for all. Dancing in the Powwow links you to your fellow Tribesmen on a very foundational level. As you dance, there’s a sense of community, of being connected to something greater than yourself even if you don’t actually know the people you’re dancing with. Seeing it presented in the show, and done in a way that accurately captured that feeling, blew my mind. I was brought to tears and it’s something I haven’t stopped thinking about.

Screenshot: Lucasfilm

Flipping the Script

As I’ve mentioned, this is far from the first time Native cultural influences have been used in Star Wars. There’s a world of difference, however, between those elements being appropriative (presenting things in the negative or furthering stereotypes) and being representative. Prior Star Wars stories largely stuck to the stereotypes established by other media depictions of Indigenous people; mostly keeping them in the villainous role. Even the kidnapping of Shmi in Attack of the Clones makes little sense, aside from mindlessly torturing her for the hell of it. It all goes to serve the idea “Tuskens walk like men, but [are] vicious, mindless monsters” as Cliegg Lars puts it.

In the now-defunct Star Wars MMO, Galaxies, a story was integrated that gave birth to the term “Tusken Raiders.” Turns out there was a Fort Tusken on the sands of Tatooine, one of the very first settler compounds by those from other planets. As such, it came under constant attack—raids—by the Native tribes. It’s not hard to make a real-world historical connection there. Even later depictions, like the aforementioned Nelvaanians, did little to branch out from what most audiences expected to see out of Native cultures. While I think these were handled more tactfully, the fact remains, even the better examples continue to present the Indigenous cultures through the viewpoint of outsiders.

With The Book of Boba Fett, we’re finally seeing the Tuskens get a change in perspective on screen and the difference is night and day. Just take a gander at some of the online chatter from fans and you’ll see plenty of mentions about how people suddenly find themselves sympathetic to the Tuskens, where before they’d only looked at them as antagonistic. It’s a dramatic change. One that shows the power of what genuine representation can do. For those of us with Indigenous backgrounds the representation is special because it allows us to see our culture presented in one of our favorite franchises. For others, however, this type of direct representation goes a long way towards shifting the overall conversation.

Screenshot: Lucasfilm

Telling Our Own Stories

It’s not the be all, end all of representation, but The Book of Boba Fett Chapter Two provided the single most genuine look at Indigenous cultures in a galaxy far, far away to date. In one short episode, it managed to change the perspective on a significant group within that universe and I can’t begin to explain how thrilled I was to see it. It’s all the more frustrating to then see what the storytellers decided to do in the show’s third episode, “The Streets of Mos Espa.” With their narrative purpose seemingly served, the decision to kill off Boba’s Tusken friends is a bummer. It fully leans into the stereotypical tropes the previous episodes were intent on eschewing.

Narratively, it makes little sense as Boba already has renewed purpose and already been through the “trauma of losing family/home” story. In terms of representation, it felt like having the rug pulled out from under me, even though I wasn’t entirely surprised at the choice. While it doesn’t take away from the amazing things “The Tribes of Tatooine” gave us, it nevertheless comes across as a step backwards. If anything, it makes it more clear than ever that representation on the screen also needs to be backed up by rep behind the screen as well. I imagine a storyteller coming from an Indigenous background, who’s seen more than enough tribal destruction on screen for a lifetime, could come up with story options beyond killing off the Tusken tribe which would make more sense.

Star Wars has made strides on the book side of things, with Rebecca Roanhorse penning 2019’s Resistance Reborn; a tie-in to The Rise of Skywalker. Her incorporation of the Pueblo into the novel was exciting to see, but we haven’t seen that extend into any of the stories being told on the screen. Aside from Morrison bringing his own expertise to bear on the show, there’s no one else in the writer’s room lending their voice/experience to the story. Don’t get me wrong, I’m incredibly thankful for the things Book of Boba Fett have done in terms of Native, and Indigenous, representation. My frustrations don’t detract from the way my heart swells at seeing the haka performed in Chapter Two. It’s a significant step in the right direction, for sure. That said, there’s still plenty of discussion to be had about cultures in Star Wars going forward.


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Tim Allen Is Returning to The Santa Clause for Disney+ @ io9

The 1990s are back and so is Tim Allen in The Santa Clause.Image: Disney

Three Santa Clause films just weren’t enough. Now, almost two decades since the release of the third one, Disney is bringing back the holiday comedy as a limited series for Disney+. Tim Allen will reprise his role as Santa in a story where he’s looking for a new Santa to pass the sleigh too.

The first Santa Clause was released in 1994 and was about a man named Scott Calvin (Allen) who accidentally kills Santa and is brought to the North Pole—where he discovers he’s contractually obligated to take over the role. Hence, the Santa “Clause.” At first he hates it but eventually he embraces his new role, which only bolsters his relationship with his kids. Two sequels were released in 2002 and 2006 to diminishing results, adding new twists and turns into Santa lore.

The new limited series picks up now. Scott is in his 60s, he’s not as good of a Santa as he used to be, and with his family getting older, he realizes he needs to shift the balance back to them. So he sets out on a quest to be a better father and find a new Santa.

Jack Burditt, who has worked on 30 Rock, Modern Family, Frasier, and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, is the showrunner and executive producer. Filming begins in March. Whether or not other characters from the movies (played by the likes of David Krumholtz, Aisha Tyler, Kevin Pollak, Judge Reinhold, etc.) will return is unclear. But Allen is, obviously, the biggest name and star so if he’s back, odds are Disney is looking to bring back as many characters as possible to keep the series in step with the films. Which, honestly, are better-than-average Christmas movies. While the second two are not nearly as good as the first, Allen’s lovable everyman personality blended with Disney magic has always been a solid combination.

No word on when The Santa Clause will be on the streamer but, if production is starting in March, it seems likely the studio will try and get it out for the holiday season.


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The Expanse's Explosive Series Finale Made Us Even More Bummed the Show Is Over @ io9

One last peaceful moment before a hell of a storm.Image: Amazon Studios

“Babylon’s Ashes” is not just The Expanse season six finale, it’s the series finale, and the episode is as bombastic and action-packed as you’d expect—but it’s also got quite a few quiet moments, and together they serve to remind us how much we’ll miss this remarkable show.

After last week’s “Why We Fight” saw the surprising (but, let’s face it, inevitable) team-up of former foes UN Secretary-General Avasarala and badass Belter captain Camina Drummer, all systems are go for The Expanse to showcase the fight the series has long been building toward: Marco Inaros versus... everyone. Literally everyone.

First it’s worth noting that “Babylon’s Ashes” clocks in at just over an hour, meaning it’s about 20 minutes longer than any other season six episode (though unlike the other episodes, it doesn’t have an “X-Ray” bonus short attached). We begin again on Laconia, where Admiral Duarte stands alone in the dark, gazing at the protomolecule-fueled structure in the planet’s orbit with quiet glee. Cara, meanwhile, has reunited with her worried parents, whose relief at seeing her is replaced by abject horror when they see who she’s brought with her: Xan, back from the dead thanks to some Laconian necromancy.

Though Cara is still somehow convinced that this alarming creature (who has black eyes and bleeds black blood) is, in fact, her little brother, her mom and dad do the proper thing: freak out and lock Zombie Xan in a closet. But before they can summon the soldiers for help, Cara tricks them into thinking she’s run away again. Once she’s alone with Xan, she lets him out and they flee into the forest together. “It’s OK,” Cara tells him. “If I die, the dogs will fix me.” As she turns to face him, we see her from his POV and... yep, he has that trademark protomolecule blue-o-vision. The shot cuts to another look at the floating protomolecule structure, flashing that same color blue. Then we get another shot of Duarte staring skyward, still pleased as punch.

Next up, the war room, where Avasarala, Drummer, Holden, Bobbie, and other military representatives are gathered to discuss Operation Stop Marco Inaros From Entering the Ring and Getting Behind Those Massive Guns at Medina Station. The Free Navy has divided its fleet into three battle groups, so Earth, Mars, and Drummer’s anti-Marco Belters plan to do the same. “These numbers are too evenly matched for my comfort,” Avasarala murmurs, before snapping “It is this kind of bullshit that has left all of us with fewer ships!” when Drummer and the Martian Admiral give into long-standing tensions and begin snarling at each other. If they don’t succeed, Avasarala says, “Marco will hunker down in Medina Station behind his rail guns, in control of our colonies and a thousand systems, dictating the fate of our species for a generation.”

With stakes that high, you have to hope there’s a back-up plan... which is where the Rocinante comes in. As Holden explains, they’re going to rendezvous with an ice hauler (remember the Cant!) that’s been converted into a troop transport carrying an assault team that will target Marco’s rail guns. They’ll take control of the guns and turn them on Medina Station, forcing the Free Navy to surrender—and will then be poised to blast any enemy ships that manage to make it through the Ring. Holden, Bobbie, and even Drummer are confident in this crackerjack plan, but Avasarala isn’t sure. “You’re such a fucking optimist,” she says. “It’s a miracle you’ve lived this long!”

Holden, the man with the plan.Image: Amazon Studios

The Free Navy is also, unsurprisingly, in full pre-battle mode, with Filip now reinstated on the bridge—all thanks to Rosenfeld, the only person who can get Marco to do anything—after his brief punishment stint as a trash collector. After Rosenfeld’s done giving Filip a gruff welcome (couched in the form of a “You better not fuck up again” sort of warning), she goes to speak to Marco about the impending fight. She’s not as jazzed as he is about taking on their enemies, but he piques her interest by hinting at the arrival of new weapons. “You’re expecting something more from Duarte?” she asks, but he responds by merely reminding her how much he likes surprises.

On the Roci, small moments before the storm. Bobbie and Holden share a memory of Alex; Naomi asks Clarissa for a favor, a gesture that’s really more of a peace offering; Clarissa calls Amos “boss,” leading Naomi and Amos to reminisce about their own friendship. But Clarissa isn’t feeling 100 percent, so she heads to the med bay to run a test. The news isn’t good: thanks to her failing mods, her endocrine system is collapsing, which the computer confirms has no cure. She doesn’t mention it to anyone; instead, she heads to the kitchen and makes the Roci crew their first home-cooked meal (using spaceship ingredients, but still) in, well, who knows how long? They enjoy a family dinner together, knowing this is the last moment of tranquility before things get extremely hairy out there. Amos tells Clarissa he’ll be part of the assault team on the Ring Station, and when she says he can’t leave the Roci without a mechanic, he tells her “The ship’s got one!” The Clarissa redemption arc has come full circle at last. She doesn’t tell Amos not to go on what could very well be a suicide mission; instead, she says: “You know, for someone who says they don’t want to be a hero, you sure end up being one a lot.”

Meanwhile, Avasarala’s getting ready by meditating, though she’s interrupted by the news that Marco’s ship, the Pella, has been located by the UNN battle group using drive signature intel provided by the Rocinante. (Hearing this, Drummer’s battle group is more than a little disappointed they won’t be the ones to take Marco on.) When the data indicates that the Pella has been hit, Avasarala’s initial elation gives way to confusion. There’s something weird about the situation: none of the other Free Navy ships are falling back to protect it. Could Marco not be aboard his ship? Or... could that maybe not be Marco’s ship at all? Could the drive signature be falsified somehow?

Yes, yes, and yes. This information is soon shared fleet-wide, but it’s too late for Drummer and company, who’ve already realized that a Free Navy freighter in their midst is actually the Pella in disguise, cloaked in outer armor that falls away. It’s a Belter-on-Belter melee! Though her ship is nearly torn apart, Drummer miraculously survives and decides to chase after Marco—until she gets a message from her Belter ally Walker; the grizzled veteran is mortally wounded and has set his ship to collide with the Pella as one last fuck-you to the Free Navy. The result: heavy damage on both sides. Aboard the Pella, Rosenfeld is fatally injured, dying in front of an anguished Filip. Drummer takes it all in and calls it. “We’ve done all we can,” she says, before muttering something in Belter creole that sounds like a prayer for the Rocinante.

Drummer as she looked in season four, since Amazon’s press site was frustratingly light on season six Drummer, and WE REQUIRE MAXIMUM DRUMMER.Image: Amazon Studios

Speaking of, the Roci and the ice hauler stuffed with armed troops are getting into position near the Ring Station. (In his cramped drop pod, Amos wryly observes that he feels like he’s in a portable toilet.) “Good luck,” Clarissa says, but she’s corrected by Bobbie and Amos: Before a fight, you say “Good hunting.” They’re still gonna need plenty of luck because the rail guns are fired up, and as soon as the hundreds and hundreds of pods begin to launch, soldiers start getting picked off, even as the Roci tries to help with evasive maneuvers. (Extra props for the music in these scenes, as tense and thunderous as it’s ever been on The Expanse.) As the battle heats up, the Roci’s reactor needs an urgent fix; Clarissa struggles to make the repair and is knocked out in the process, but when Naomi goes to help her, she finds that not only is Clarissa OK (groggy, but OK), she has managed to MacGyver a fix for the reactor just in time.

Amos and Bobbie’s pods launch to the Ring Station, and against some rather steep odds, they land safely—but most of their fellow soldiers don’t. The stakes are as high as they’ve ever been on The Expanse as Bobbie and Amos plan their do-or-die attack under chaotic amounts of heavy fire from what appears to be every conceivable direction. Aboard the Roci, Holden and Naomi scramble to help as best they can, but with the Ring Station’s rail guns popping off, the ship can’t get too close. Amos takes stock of the situation and tells Bobbie, “Fuck it. I’d rather get shot in the front than the back.” She agrees, but while Amos is letting the rest of their dwindling group in on the plan, Bobbie makes her move, clad in her nigh-indestructible Martian power armer and annihilating the reactor powering the rail guns. As soldiers from Medina descend, she’s hit several times, and Amos runs in to help her—but it’s too much. It’s too much! Until... the Roci appears and swiftly eliminates the rest of their opponents! (“Fuck yeah, Roci,” is Amos’ relieved reaction, a sentiment no doubt echoed by every single Expanse fan watching this nerve-wracking sequence.) Our heroes are saved, but at a steep cost: there’s now no firepower to keep Marco at bay if he makes it through the Ring. “No other choice,” Bobbie wheezes. “Had to take out the guns. I’m sorry... we lost the guns.”

“Fuck yeah, Roci.”Image: Amazon Studios

Truly, we’re all wheezing after what we just witnessed, so The Expanse wisely pivots to a quiet moment that ends up being just so delicious. On a video message, Admiral Duarte has something important to tell a certain smug Free Navy leader: “Marco Inaros: in regard to your request for additional armaments, your request is denied. Any further communications will be refused, and any ships attempting to enter our space will be destroyed. You were a useful distraction, but I have gods to kill. The ring to Laconia is now closed. You’re on your own.” Marco is taken aback, but he puts on gobs of faux bravado when Filip enters, and has a glib reaction to news of Rosenfeld’s death. “Death for some is the price of our freedom and our future,” he tells his son. “The greatest gift any true Belter could wish for is to die for the cause.”

Filip, who’s taken a long time to get to this point, wonders aloud if Marco really means “for Marco” instead of “for the cause.” Marco reminds him this is the life they’ve chosen, but Filip again has something to wonder: when did he choose? “After all we’ve been through, you still can’t see what you’ve been given,” Marco tut-tuts, and something flickers across Filip’s face. Unaware (or not really caring) that his son has just had an epiphany of sorts, Marco stalks to the bridge. It’s speech time! “When we sweep through the Ring one last time, and sweep away the Rocinante and all vestiges of the inners from our space—when that moment comes, our long struggle will finally be over and our victory complete. We will rise from the ashes of the inners’ failures and sow the seeds of our humanity across the stars!” Everyone joins him in a chant of “Beltalowda!”—everyone except Filip.

Medina’s mighty guns might be gone, but you can’t count the Rocinante out of a fight, no matter how lopsided. Battered but still battle-ready, Holden, Amos, Naomi, Bobbie, and Clarissa talk strategy; there are limited options but every plan they come up with is sorta half-cooked. Amos cuts to the chase: “Does anyone here really want to cut and run?” Of course they don’t; the way Holden sees it, this is last-stand time. Suddenly, Naomi, who’s been quiet through all this, speaks up with an unconventional idea: “We might be able to trigger the Ring entities.”

Say what? By her estimate, if they push “every bit of mass and energy we can through the Ring all at once, and we time it all just right,” they should be able to wake up the entities—yes, those same angry beings that annihilated the protomolecule builders, and don’t seem very thrilled to have random ships beep-bopping around the Ring space (see: the season five finale). The Expanse has been laying the groundwork for this plot twist throughout season six, and what was previously a mystery lurking around the fringes of the story has now become the one weird trick that could save humankind. It’s risky, but again—this is last-stand time. Marco must be stopped.

Naomi, pensive.Image: Amazon Studios

TENSE. SO TENSE. Timing is everything, as Naomi said, so the Roci hovers anxiously while the Pella approaches the ring. Naomi has a quick, heartbreaking vision of Filip, who will perish along with Marco if the plan succeeds, but she doesn’t hesitate in setting the plan in motion. (Later, we see her screaming in grief, finally letting her well of emotions out.) As the Pella begins its transit through the Ring—well, you knew it was coming, but Marco, so certain of his victory, sure didn’t. Red, streaky, flamelike blobs overtake the screen, and Marco and his topknot are wiped out of existence forever.

YES! But there’s still a good 10-plus minutes left in “Babylon’s Ashes,” which is very necessary for some series-finale mopping-up that needs to be done. First we sit in on a meeting between Earth (Avasarala), the Belt (Drummer), and the Martian Prime Minister, with a coffee-sipping Holden also in attendance. A forceful Drummer wants to make sure the Belt is treated fairly going forward, knowing the old biases are likely to resurge even after all that’s happened. Avasarala pushes hard for a transport alliance between all sides that will oversee traffic through the ring, and it’s soon decided that the only way this can happen is if someone truly impartial, utterly trustworthy, and inarguably honorable is in charge. Someone like... hero Rocinante captain James Holden.

He’s not thrilled with the idea, but he accepts—then, in the very next scene, after giving a speech at a formal event announcing his appointment, he promptly resigns. The president of the transport union, he says, should be the person he selected as his second-in-command: Drummer, of course. Avasarala is initially furious at being outplayed (she calls him a “duplicitous little shit”), but she sighs, says she hopes he’s right (you know she knows he’s right), and they shake hands.

Back on the Roci, Bobbie’s taken her new spot in the pilot’s chair. Clarissa gives Amos a replica of the silver oni mask pin he lost when he went to visit her on Earth; then she flips up her lapel to show she’s wearing one, too. (This is The Expanse equivalent of one of those best-friend necklace sets, and it is delightful.) Holden and Naomi relax in their room, reflecting on Holden’s decision. “You followed your conscience in the hope that others would follow theirs... the universe never tells us if we did right or wrong. It’s more important to try and help people, and to know that you did.”

While she’s talking, we get a flashback to Marco’s last speech on the Pella. Amid the fist-pumping and chanting, we see Filip rise from his chair and leave the room after one last glance over his shoulder. We see a tiny ship zooming away from the Pella as Naomi continues in voice over: “You never know the effect you might have on someone... maybe one cruel thing you said haunts them forever, maybe one moment of kindness gives them comfort or courage. Maybe you said the one thing they needed to hear. It doesn’t matter if you ever know, you just have to try.” We see Filip type his newly chosen name in: “Filip Nagata,” a tribute to Naomi as well as a way to sever ties forever with you-know-who.

Filip is free! Hope he doesn’t murder anyone else for the rest of his life.Image: Amazon Studios

Holden’s mind has already drifted to the future—piracy will be an issue around the Ring, maybe they can get a consulting gig for one of the colonies, and hey, whatever happened to that protomolecule sample?—but Naomi stops him. “Let’s just stay here for a minute.” We see the Rocinante zooming through space toward an unknown destination... and with that, The Expanse is over.

We’ll have more thoughts on season six and “Babylon’s Ashes” coming soon, but in the meantime: what did you think of the shortened season? Did the finale wrap up in a satisfying way? How loud did you cheer when Marco started to disintegrate? Share your reactions below!


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The New Scream’s Surprising, Sneaky Link to Star Wars @ io9

Ghostface has a link to a galaxy far, far away.

The new Scream movie, like many recent franchise revivals, brings in a mix of familiar faces and new ones to confront a threat from the past. But it goes beyond just embracing that format so many part-reboot, part-continuation series returns from a narrative perspective—and dives into territory you’d never expect a Scream movie to get into.

This article will not spoil the identify just who the latest person behind Ghostface is in the newest Scream. It will, however, dive into one of the more spoiler-heavy subtextual through lines of the film which tangentially relates to Star Wars and I found to be incredibly surprising and interesting. We’ve been bursting to talk about it ever since we saw, and now the movie’s out, you likely are too. But, you’ve been warned: this is a through line that it involves huge parts of the film up to, but not including, the identity/identities of the killer. Proceed with caution!

Let’s recap. Scream 2 began with the revelation that Hollywood took Gail Weathers’ book “The Woodsboro Murders” and turned it into a horror movie called Stab. Stab is basically just Scream, but fictionalized in the universe of Scream itself: the same Ghostface killer, same meta movie references, and so on. Scream 3 revealed that Hollywood was now up to Stab 3 and by the time Scream 4 came out, it was Stab 7. So in the world of Scream, seven Stab movies exist when we sit down to watch Scream 5.

In this fifth Scream, we learn that an eighth Stab movie has been released semi-recently. Directed by “The Knives Out guy,” Stab 8 dropped the number system, simply calling itself Stab, which was one of many things that set it apart from the original seven movies (Much in the same way this Scream movie does, of course). So in this world, even before Stab 8 was released, fans were mad at it. We then learn when it was released, fans felt the movie went too far away from the basics of what makes a Stab movie—many found it to be too heady, too “woke”, and naturally, those fans really came down hard on how un-Stab they felt the new Stab was. At one point, one of the characters in Scream is seen watching a clip of YouTubers shitting all over Stab 8.

You can see where they’re going with this. The eighth movie in a popular franchise, that just so happens to be directed by Rian Johnson, and in the Scream universe, it’s considered not to be in step with the rest of the franchise by a group of hardcore fans who then get really angry and mean online about it? Yes: Stab 8 is basically Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi. Now, why does Scream have this weird Star Wars thread in it? That’s where things get even more interesting (and spoilery too, if you needed a second chance to back out).

The Knives Out Guys (and his fellow producers Ram Bergman and Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy)Image: Lucasfilm

In the final act of Scream, it’s revealed that the latest spate of Ghostface kills have been committed as an elaborate way to set up inspiration for a new Stab installment, one that will send Hollywood the message Stab as a franchise is always best when it sticks to its roots. Ghostface delivers long monologues about how mad the new movie made them, about how they like to complain about it online, and how they don’t understand the term “toxic fandom” and how it could relate to the Stab fanbase, because fandom is all about love. And if fandom is about love, how could loving something be bad? Well, when you do bad things in the name of it, Like, in the case of Scream, killing a bunch of people.

So yes, the new Scream ends up being a big middle finger to fans who take their fandom too far. It’s a mirror onto fandom’s worst impulses. A glimpse into a dark corner—one that, perhaps with a grim sense of humor to it, extrapolates and exaggerates an impulse that has become all too commonplace in fan spaces in the past few years.

Don’t forget that The Last Jedi polarized Star Wars fans to such an extent the Lucasfilm seemingly pivoted as far away from its ideas as it could. None of this has ever been officially verified but the breadcrumbs are there. Rian Johnson, once scheduled to make a whole new Star Wars trilogy, has been left in limbo, with neither the director nor Lucasfilm commenting on whether those plans are actually still in place for several years at this point. Colin Trevorrow, seemingly prepping an Episode IX that directly followed Johnson’s story, was fired and J.J. Abrams, the person responsible for the much more beloved Episode VII, The Force Awakens, was coaxed back. He then delivered a film that could be read as being in contrast to much of Johnson’s work, leaning more into the past of Star Wars instead of its future. Which is what the new Ghostface wants for Stab.

And that’s before you get into the real world ramifications we saw upon the release of The Last Jedi. Members of the film’s cast had to leave social media due to the constant harassment. YouTubers made careers on making videos about “Ruin Johnson” and how he messed up Star Wars by making the choices he did. And Scream wants people who act like that to be embarrassed about it, so it portrays them as psycho killers. By why did Scream want to so closely ape the reactions around The Last Jedi? Why isn’t Stab 8 directed by “The 300 guy” or “The Bridesmaids guy”, or some other director who made a movie where fans came out guns a’blazing. Probably to deliver the second part of Scream’s message: that The Last Jedi is fucking awesome.

I walked out of the new Scream stunned at how gutsy it was for the film to so directly target the kinds of fans you’d assume would be lining up excitedly to see it in the first place, and am extremely curious to know how that would make them feel now that the film is rolling out more publicly. I think the intention is bury a lesson in a place they won’t expect it but—most likely, that’ll just piss a lot of people off. Whether that happens or not though, that this new Scream is very specifically crafted to be a divisive piece of popular Hollywood entertainment that will have fans and haters alike fascinated by the most modern, meta revelation the film has. Scream is, once again, completely timely and relevant. And this time it did so by looking back on a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away.


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HBO's Last of Us Show Might Have Cast Another Important Character From the Games @ io9

A special someone from Ellie’s past may have a part to play in the HBO show.Image: Naughty Dog

Batgirl adds a few more mysteries to its cast. The Marvels might have found its composer. Plus, James Wan adds yet another project to his producer schedule, and a look at what’s coming on Peacemaker. Spoilers go!

Batgirl

THR reports Rebecca Front, Corey Johnson and Ethan Kai have joined the cast of Batgirl in undisclosed roles.


All Fun and Games

Deadline reports Natalia Dyer and Asa Butterfield are attached to star in All Fun and Games, a horror film from first-time feature directors Ari Costa & Eren Celeboglu. The story is said to follow “a group of siblings who find themselves in a game with a demonic twist.”


Thread

Meanwhile, James Wan will produce Thread at Sony, a mysterious project from director Jeremy Slater only described as “Back to the Future meets Aliens.” [Deadline]


The Marvels

/Film has word What If...? and Lovecraft Country composer Laura Karpman has been hired to score The Marvels.


Predator/Prey

According to Reuters, Predator screenwriters Jim and John Thomas have reached an “amicable resolution” with Disney regarding the franchise rights to their original script and characters.


The Last of Us

Euphoria’s Storm Reid is currently “rumored” to be playing Riley—a character featured in the first game’s DLC Left Behind, with ties to Ellie’s backstory before she met Joel—in the upcoming Last of US TV series at HBO.


Alien: The Series

AvP Galaxy reports Weta “will be responsible for designing and bringing the Xenomorphs to life” in Noah Hawley’s upcoming Alien TV series at FX.


Snowpiercer

Wilford stands by his “icy train” in this official synopsis for “The Tortoise and the Hare” — the third season premiere of Snowpiercer.

While Wilford emphasizes his rule aboard his icy train, Layton’s pirate train continues its dangerous quest for warm spots, and comes across something entirely unexpected.

[Spoiler TV]


Legends of Tomorrow

The Legends seek help from Reverse-Flash (the Matt Letscher version) in the synopsis for “Rage Against the Machines” airing February 2.

INFILTRATING – With the help of Eobard Thawne (guest star Matt Letscher,) the Legends break a fixed point, creating an aberration that will attract the Evil Waverider. The Legends are soon shocked at who has been hunting them and Sara (Caity Lotz) tries to negotiate which doesn’t go as planned. Seemingly out of options, Gwyn (Matt Ryan) rises to the occasion by using his military experience and hatches a stealth plan. Meanwhile, Gary (Adam Tsekhman) helps Astra (Olivia Swann) realize what she is side lining Gideon (Amy Pemberton) from the mission. Nick Zano, Jes Mccallan, Tala Ashe, Olivia Swann, Lisseth Chavez and Shayan Sobhian also star. Jes Macallan directed the episode written by Mark Bruner & Mercedes Valle.

[Comic Book]


Peacemaker

Finally, Peacemaker and company save the world from alien “butterflies” in the trailer for next week’s episode, “The Choad Less Traveled”.







Banner art by Jim Cook

Wow, a New Quantum Leap Show Might Actually Happen @ io9

Quantum Leap may be leaping back to TV.Image: NBC

The fate of time-traveling doctor Dr. Sam Beckett may finally be revealed. NBC has ordered a pilot for a new version of Quantum Leap that’ll take place 30 years after the original TV show ended. It’ll follow a new team who has been put together to bring back the Quantum Leap project and hopefully figure out what happened to Sam all those years ago.

Variety reported the news of the show, which is being written by La Brea executive producers Steven Lilien and Bryan Wynbrandt. Original series creator Donald P. Bellisario is also a producer. There’s no word on the return of original star Scott Bakula, but from the description, it sounds like even if he was to appear, it would be in a supporting or maybe even a cameo role.

Originally running for five seasons between 1989 and 1993, Quantum Leap told the story of Sam Beckett (Bakula) who’d leap through time into the bodies of other people in order to right the wrongs of history. Along the way he was guided by his best friend Al, played by the late Dean Stockwell, who appeared to him as a hologram. The series ended with the assertion that Sam would be stuck doing this forever, which still makes fans sad to this day.

In recent years though, a return of Quantum Leap has seemed inevitable. Bellisario revealed he wrote a movie based on the show, a more positive alternate ending surfaced, and Bakula himself said he’d heard the show might make a comeback. Well, it is, and now it’s just a matter if the NBC executives like the pilot enough to give it a few more episodes and bring it to air.

When it was released, Quantum Leap was ahead of its time in terms of mystery and world building, while also being light and accessible to an audience who maybe wasn’t as into the sci-fi stuff. You have to assume in the 30 years since it went off the air though, the rise of sci-fi to the tip-top of pop culture could make the show just as successful as it once was. Or an impossible nut to crack.


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All the New and Returning Sci-Fi and Fantasy Streaming Shows We Can't Wait for in 2022 @ io9

So many streaming services, so many shows, so little time. Image: Paramount+, Netflix, Disney+, HBO Max, and Amazon Prime Studios

A new year is upon us, and what better way to look ahead than by thinking about all the times we’re going to be glued to our desks or sofas watching TV? There’s once again so much content coming along the way in 2022 that we’re splitting our TV preview into streaming and broadcast lists—here’s what’s coming to Apple TV+, HBO Max, Disney+, Peacock, Paramount+, Prime Video, and more this year.

Of course, going in, this isn’t a definitive list of everything that’s coming out this year—we’ll update it as and when we can with newly revealed shows—and of course, any and all premiere dates here are subject to change. But without further ado...

What’s Coming to Apple TV+ in 2022?

El Deafo (Jan. 7) - Cece Bell’s graphic novel memoir about a young deaf girl who transforms into a high-flying superhero gets turned into a three-part animated miniseries

Fraggle Rock: Back to the Rock (Jan. 21) - The Fraggles (and their friends and foes) are back in this nostalgic-looking reboot of the Jim Henson classic.

Severance (Feb. 18) - Adam Scott, Patricia Arquette, John Turturro, and Christopher Walken are among the cast for this office thriller about a company where employees’ memories are surgically divided between their work and personal lives.

What’s Coming to HBO Max in 2022?

Peacemaker (Jan. 13) - The DC Extended Universe branches out into TV with Peacemaker. John Cena spins off his character from The Suicide Squad in this James Gunn-created show set after the events of the 2021 film.

Raised By Wolves (Feb. 3) - Executive producer Ridley Scott’s sci-fi series about two androids raising human children amid religious turmoil on a far-flung planet after the destruction of Earth returns for a second season.

DMV (TBD) - Brian Wood and Riccardo Buchiellie’s dystopian Vertigo comic series gets the streaming treatment; Ava DuVernay is among its executive producers and directed the first episode (it’ll run four episodes total). Rosario Dawson stars as a medic searching for her son during America’s second Civil War, while Benjamin Bratt plays a gang leader angling to control the titular zone.

Gremlins: Secrets of the Mogwai (TBD) - An animated prequel to the classic horror-comedy duology, as a young boy living in China encounters a young Gizmo.

Harley Quinn (TBD) - The long awaited third season of the DC animated series is finally due to arrive, giving us a taste of what life’s going to be like for Harley and Poison Ivy now they’ve confessed their feelings for each other.

House of the Dragon (TBD) - Set centuries before the events of Game of Thrones, this prequel series—the first spin-off to make it out of development hell—aims to recapture the magic of HBO’s smash hit George R.R. Martin adaptation (season eight excepted) by introducing a new cast of scheming characters in Westeros.

Our Flag Means Death (TBD) - Can Taika Waititi do for pirates what he did for vampires? (Obviously, yes.) The Oscar winner directs the first episode and plays Blackbeard in this comedy which he’s also executive-producing; the story will mostly focus on “gentleman pirate” Stede Bonnet, played by Flight of the Conchords’ Rhys Darby.

Pennyworth (TBD) - Not only is this origin story about Batman’s intrigue-prone butler Alfred (played by Jack Bannon) still going, it’s moving from Epix to HBO Max for its third season.

The Time Traveler’s Wife (TBD) - The novel that already spawned a movie will soon be a Steven Moffat-adapted series starring Game of Thrones’ Rose Leslie and Divergent’s Theo James. It’s about, well… see title, with apparently more emphasis on the romance elements than the sci-fi.

Westworld (TBD) - While we were none too pleased with the season three finale, or really season three as a whole, we’re nostalgic enough for Westworld’s excellent first season and its mostly good second season to see where this AI-gone-wild tale will head next. Aaron Paul and Ed Harris are among the returning cast of maybe-robots.

What’s Coming to Disney+ in 2022?

Image: Lucasfilm

Assembled: The Making of Hawkeye (Jan. 19) - As is now tradition, Disney+ continues its behind-the-scenes Assembled series with a look at the most recent Marvel show to hit the streamer.

The Proud Family: Louder and Prouder (Feb TBD) - The classic cartoon returns, updated for the 2020s as Penny and her (very much louder) family grapple with contemporary life.

Ms. Marvel (Summer, TBD) - Speaking of Marvel Cinematic Universe debuts, Iman Vellani’s Kamala Khan will also be getting her due in this series that’ll serve as a lead-in to 2023 feature film The Marvels.

Andor (TBD) - Diego Luna returns to the Rebel Alliance in this Rogue One: A Star Wars Story prequel, following the titular spy as he digs into the seedy world underneath the Empire’s grip.

Iwájú (TBD) - An afrofutuist animated saga set in a futuristic Lagos sees Disney team up with a team of Pan-African creators who set out to initially, kick Disney’s ass, in their own words.

The Mandalorian (TBD) - The Book of Boba Fett is currently hogging the Star Wars TV spotlight, but Pedro Pascal’s Din Djarin and the real star of the show, Baby Yoda, are slated to return in 2022 as well.

Moon Knight (TBD) - Star Wars and Dune star Oscar Isaac enters the Marvel Cinematic Universe as the titular caped avenger. (We’ve all agreed to forget about his participation in X-Men: Apocalypse, right?)

Obi-Wan Kenobi (TBD) - Sick of Tatooine already, thanks to The Book of Boba Fett? Too bad, because there’s more sand on the way thanks to Ewan McGregor’s long-awaited Obi-Wan Kenobi—which should really be called “Ben Kenobi,” since it’s about the Jedi’s time on you-know-which planet watching over a certain young Skywalker.

She-Hulk (TBD) - Tatiana Maslany (Orphan Black) makes her Marvel debut, which also happens to be the MCU debut of Jennifer Walters, normal lawyer person who happens to hulk out on occasion. The co-stars on this one include Jameela Jamil (The Good Place) as the villainous Titania, as well as Tim Roth and Mark Ruffalo as some familiar Hulk-y faces.

Star Wars: The Bad Batch (TBD) - Clone Force 99 returns for round two, as the Empire tightens its grip on the galaxy and has plans to evolve its armies beyond the cloned legions of the old Republic.

Willow (TBD) - Warwick Davis reprises his role from the delightful fantasy film in this much-anticipated series adaptation, which will also star Solo and The Falcon and the Winter Soldier standout Erin Kellyman.

Zootopia+ (TBD) - The twee-ly named continuation of the Disney animated movie takes us back to the titular city, with a series exploring the daily lives of its animal citizens.

What’s Coming to Paramount+ in 2022?

Star Trek: Discovery (February 10) - The fourth season continues, as Michael Burnham and her crew find themselves chasing after one of their own to avoid hostile conflict with a mysterious, incredibly powerful alien civilization.

Star Trek: Picard (Feb TBD) - We had mixed feelings about Picard season one, especially after that season finale, but we’ll still be tuning in to see what Patrick Stewart’s Star Trek captain and the rest of the crew of La Sirena get up to next.

Star Trek: Strange New Worlds (TBD) - The new Discovery spinoff heads back to the 23rd century to follow the adventures of Captain Pike, Mr. Spock, Number One, and a whole host of familiar and new faces aboard the iconic U.S.S. Enterprise.

What’s Coming to Peacock in 2022?

Wolf Like Me (Jan. 13) - Is Isla Fisher playing a werewolf in this maybe-supernatural romantic comedy co-starring Josh Gad? We’re not sure… yet.

The Supernatural Academy (Jan. 20) - Jaymin Eve’s YA series jumps to animation, as two estranged sisters–one who grew up in normal human society, and the other in the realm of the supernatural–reunite at a magical school, much to the pair’s chagrin.

What’s Coming to Prime Video in 2022?

The Legend of Vox Machina (Jan. 28) - Critical Role’s smash hit band of tabletop ne’er-do-wells turned adventuring heroes leaps from actual play RPGs into the world of animation with this long-awaited animated adaptation.

The Boys (June 3) - The hit vigilantes vs. crooked corporate superheroes series based on the Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson comic series returns for a third season. New characters will include Jensen Ackles’ Soldier Boy and Laurie Holden’s Crimson Countess.

Lord of the Rings (Sept. 2) - Journey back to the Second Age of Middle-earth’s history—thousands of years before the events of The Hobbit, The Fellowship of the Ring, and so on—in this big, big, big-budget Tolkien adaptation.

Paper Girls (TBD) - The future of Y: The Last Man may be in limbo, but another Brian K. Vaughn adaptation is on the way, in the form of this series based on Vaughan and Cliff Chiang’s acclaimed 1980s-set comic about a group of newspaper delivery girls who get caught up in a war between time-travelers.

Upload (TBD) - Created by Greg Daniels (The Office, Space Force), Amazon’s comedy starring Robbie Amell as a man who dies and goes to a digital afterlife will return for a second season.

What’s Coming to Netflix in 2022?

Archive 81 (Jan. 14) - Based on the hit podcast, this horror series (which counts James Wan among its executive producers) follows a man who stumbles across a sinister mystery contained in a series of old VHS tapes.

The Orbital Children (Jan. 28) - Mitsuo Iso’s sci-fi film duology comes to Netflix as a six-part miniseries, following a group of children left to fend for themselves on an orbital space station in the year 2045, after a sudden accident leaves them as some of the only people still left aboard.

Space Force (Feb. 18) - The satirical series starring Steve Carell, John Malkovich, and Ben Schwartz—about the somehow still very real United States Space Force—returns for a second season.

Stranger Things (Summer TBD) - Season three feels like forever ago, but we’re more than ready to dive back into the world of demogorgons, teen angst, sinister government conspiracies, psychic powers, and retro 1980s fashion when Stranger Things makes its return.

Army of the Dead: Lost Vegas (TBD) - Zack Snyder’s 2021 Netflix hit gets an animated spin-off series, said to be a prequel story that’ll dig into how, exactly, all those Sin City zombies came to be.

Locke & Key (TBD) - The adaptation of Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez’s IDW series was renewed for a third season before season two even streamed in 2021, meaning we’ll likely see more adventures with the Locke family, their collection of magical keys, and the foes who’re desperate to get ahold of those keys sometime this year.

Magic: The Gathering (TBD) - This Russo Brothers-produced animated series delves into the multiverse of the iconic card game, following the powerful magical planeswalkers that traverse it to do battle.

The Midnight Club (TBD) - Mike Flanagan’s latest Netflix horror series is adapted from Christopher Pike’s YA novel, which follows a group of terminally ill kids who swap scary stories every night… a friendship that continues beyond the grave. While the mostly young cast is light on Flanagan regulars, the show does feature Nightmare on Elm Street icon Heather Langenkamp as a mysterious doctor.​​

Resident Evil (TBD) - Netflix dips back into the Resident Evil well for this eight-episode live-action series showrun by Supernatural’s Andrew Dabb, featuring two timelines tied to the popular video game and (presumably) many, many zombies.

The Sandman (TBD) - Neil Gaiman’s much-loved comic comes to Netflix with a fantastic cast that includes Tom Sturridge as Morpheus/Dream, Gwendoline Christie as Lucifer, Kirby Howell-Baptiste as Death, Charles Dance as Roderick Burgess, and many more.

The Umbrella Academy (TBD) - Like many returning shows on this list, the pandemic delayed the return of this adaptation of Gerard Way and Gabriel Bá’s beloved comic—but the Hargreeves siblings and their new foes, including a telekinetic cube, should be bringing season three to Netflix at some point this year.

The Witcher: Blood Origin (TBD) - You love The Witcher. You love Michelle Yeoh. This prequel series set 1,200 years before the main series has both, with the added enhancement that Yeoh’s character happens to be an ass-kicking elf. SOLD!

What’s Coming to Hulu in 2022?

The Orville: New Horizons (March 10) - Seth MacFarlane’s sci-fi series finally returns after nearly three years away, with a new home on Hulu and more deep-space adventures for Captain Ed Mercer and his nerdy yet heroic crew.

What’s Coming to Showtime in 2022?

Poster art from the 2008 Swedish adaptation.Image: Sandrew Metronome

Let the Right One In (TBD) - Will this be the year the long-in-the-works adaptation of the acclaimed Swedish horror novel and subsequent film finally arrives? Showtime gave it a 10-episode order in September, with Demián Bichir and Madison Taylor Baez starring as the father-daughter duo hiding a vampirish secret.


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Real Steel, the Hugh Jackman Film About Robot Boxing, May Get a Disney+ Series @ io9

Real Steel is making a comeback.Image: Disney

Real Steel is one of the greatest sci-fi sports movies of all time. Granted, the subgenre of sci-fi sports movies is pretty slim—especially ones where the entire movie focuses on that theme—but Real Steel is near the top of the list. And now, after years of the film’s fan base clamoring for more, it might actually be happening.

Deadline reports that the 2011 robot boxing movie that starred Hugh Jackman, Evangeline Lilly, and Anthony Mackie may get a second life as a Disney+ series. It’s unclear if the series would feature Jackman’s character and continue the events of the movie or just tell another story in the world of robot boxing, but according to reports, Disney is currently working with writers now to figure all that out. The film’s original director, Shawn Levy, is on board as a producer with his 21 Laps company (which made Free Guy and Stranger Things), as well as Robert Zemeckis, Jack Rapke, Jacqueline Levine, Susan Montford, and Don Murphy.

The original film is about Charlie (Jackman) and his son Max (Dakota Goyo), who find an old robot named Atom in a junkyard and train it to become a champion in the lucrative sport of robot boxing. Which he almost does, ultimately showing down with the best robot around, Zeus. It blends that underdog sports narrative with one of a father and son struggling with their relationship. The whole thing is a bit cheesy, but still very entertaining.

Over the years, Levy, Jackman, and others have constantly been asked about a sequel (to the point where, when I told Levy I wasn’t asking about it during a Free Guy interview last year, he thanked me), so that it’s finally manifested itself in this new form makes sense. The trick now will be everyone settling on a concept that works for the streamer, something Levy himself has said proves difficult.

“The simple truth, the most concise truth I can express, is that it proved, and it has proven, really hard to come up with a sequel that doesn’t feel like a re-hash of the first movie,” Levy said in 2016. “Yeah, people wanted to see Atom beat Zeus, I would love to see Atom beat Zeus, but you don’t want to retell the story of kind of an alienation between Charlie and Max because that is really the plot of the first movie.” Hopefully, they’ve got an idea or two that fix the problem.

Real Steel is currently streaming on HBO Max.


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Peacemaker Is a Fun, Sinister Palette Swap of Guardians of the Galaxy @ io9

That helmet though.Image: HBO Max

It’s hard to talk about HBO Max’s Peacemaker without bringing up creator James Gunn’s previous work. Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy films helped catapult him into cinematic stardom after creating a solid resume of B-movies, and he was brought into the fold at Warner Bros. to write and direct The Suicide Squad after he was (temporarily) removed from the long-gestating Guardians Vol. 3.

The shadow of Gunn’s career so far, specifically his Marvel movies, looms mightily over Peacemaker, made incredibly clear by its opening titles. As “Do You Wanna Taste It?” by Wig Wam plays, the cast straight-facedly performs an elaborate musical number under neon lighting that truly wouldn’t feel out of place in any of the Guardians films, if Gunn had been given the chance to direct such a sequence. Isolated on its own, it’s a fun display of work from all involved that shows off Gunn’s love of music, direction, and comedic timing. But it also highlights, for better and worse, how much this spinoff focused on John Cena’s ideologically confused Christopher Smith owes to the misadventures of Chris Pratt’s Star-Lord and his galactic entourage. He’s as big a man-child (bigger, in some respects) as Peter Quill, with the same amount of love for ‘80s rock bands and penchant for saying absolute nonsense. Quite frankly, Cena has more range, enough so that the outlandish asides and quips land much stronger, and that allows him to have a lot of fun with the role he’s been given. Not many actors today could make shouting “freedom!” while climaxing during sex, or earnest glee at being supposedly hugged by an eagle sidekick (named Eagly, of course), as hilarious as he does.

Cena being a complete doofus while everyone else gets exasperated by his nonsense would be funny on its own, but Peacemaker perhaps wisely has decided to let its supporting cast be as weird and quirky as its lead character; it’s as if his strangeness is enhancing the frequency of everyone else’s oddities. In the moments where the cast gets to play off each other and react to one another, the show has shades of a workplace comedy in the vein of Archer or It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. It’s also when it’s at its strongest, thanks largely to Danielle Brooks’ hilarious Leota Adebayo, the most normal person of the bunch. Brooks brings a lot of charm to a character that should be as far away from everyone else as possible, and she has great chemistry with Cena and Jennifer Holland’s Emilia Harcourt. With everyone amped up to 11 all the time, it’s a riot whenever Adebayo brings things to a halt thanks to her inexperience or the absurdity of being a married lesbian taking a job as part of a black ops team.

Watching Peacemaker’s first three episodes that dropped on HBO Max, it’s clear that Gunn wants to make the most of his time with DC’s antihero and is having some fun in a way that the MCU movies don’t really allow. So yes, Peacemaker the character is leering towards women and gleefully has (or offers to) sleep with any woman who catches his eye. The action, particularly at the end of the pilot and later in episode three, is crunchy and nasty in a way The Suicide Squad’s action wasn’t... until it got to the fight between Peacemaker and Joel Kinnamon’s Rick Flag. (Flag’s death is mentioned a handful of times in the first two episodes and the scene is shown during the recap at the beginning of the pilot.) It’s also a lot weirder than its ads have made it seem, as Gunn indulges in the sort of freaky, body-snatcher horror that made his 2006 flick Slither a cult delight. With DC’s more grounded but nonetheless sillier characters like Freddie Stroma’s lovably stupid Vigilante and Nhut Le’s awesome but underused Judomaster on hand, Gunn continues to excel at casually delivering pain to human bodies as both a punchline and a display of horror in its own right.

Peacemaker is Gunn’s first show, and the transition from film to TV exacerbates Gunn’s weaker points that began cropping up when he started doing superhero movies. His writing has yet to be needlessly cruel to anyone as was the case with Mantis in Guardians 2 or Suicide Squad’s Polka-Dot Man, but he still has a habit of making banter be a little longer than it probably should be. Similarly, the second episode sees Peacemaker try to escape from an apartment complex, a sequence that takes up about half of the 40-minute episode when it could’ve been shorter. And like the aforementioned films, it feels like the show is in danger of over-escalating with its potentially world-ending threat, as a way to give Peacemaker a way to become the superhero he claims he is.

Image: HBO Max

But despite all that, Peacemaker manages to work and sell its absurd slice of the DC Universe. Two sequences best encapsulate the vibe the show is going for: the first is a riot of a montage when Peacemaker and Vigilante use weapons and explosives to blow shit up in the woods like two oversized children with nothing to do on a Saturday afternoon. The second closes out that same episode as Peacemaker’s father Auggie (Robert Patrick) smirks while being greeted by fellow white supremacists, all of them on their knees and saluting their returning leader. Fittingly for a show featuring body snatchers and where almost everyone is putting up emotional walls, Gunn puts a lot of foolishness and heart on display. But there’s also certainly something darker just waiting to make itself known.

Also starring Steve Agee and Chukwudi Iwuji, Peacemaker premieres new episodes weekly on HBO Max.


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Download Dune and Other Great 2021 Sci-Fi Screenplays for Free @ io9

Paul looks like he’s ready for a read, doesn’t he?Photo: Warner Bros.

Watching a movie is one thing. Reading one is something else entirely—which, admittedly, sounds like the most obvious statement ever written: “reading is different from watching.” You’re welcome for that genius insight. But seriously, when it comes to a movie, the dynamic between the mediums is a bit more complex and if you’d like, you can see exactly how when it comes to several big 2021 awards contenders.

We all know that a great screenplay is the backbone of a great movie. You almost never have a great film without a great script, some documentaries and improvisational films aside (though those usually have some kind of script or outline, but I digress). And seeing how a writer conveys the ideas for a story on the page can sometimes be quite different from how you see them brought to life on screen. Unless the writer is also the director, once the script leaves the writer, dozens upon dozens of people are going to mold that vision. Ultimately the director oversees them all and brings them into a cohesive form, but actors, cinematographers, production designers, editors, concept artists, and many more people take the written word and bring it to life in new and sometimes different ways.

So that’s our long pitch on how, even if you’ve seen great movie, you probably don’t know everything about it unless you’ve read its script. And our friends at the Film Stage went around the internet and found the scripts for several 2021 awards contenders that have been made available for free to the public. The main reason for this is for awards voters to read them for potential consideration, but that doesn’t stop you from downloading them and enjoying them on your own.

Head over to the Film Stage for a comprehensive list including several dramas and comedies, but at the following links you can get the scripts to these sci-fi and fantasy movies:

Yep, even The Tomorrow War—awfully optimistic of the Amazon awards department, but sure!


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Belle's Mamoru Hosoda Tells Us Why He Keeps Making Stories for the Internet Age @ io9

Belle uncovers a mysterious ally at the heart of Mamoru Hosoda’s new digital world.Image: Studio Chizu/GKids

Mamoru Hosoda has been fascinated with the digital world since his career in animation started. From his directorial debut with the first Digimon Adventure film and its follow up Our War Game!, all the way to his brand new awards season contender Belle, the director has repeatedly returned to the theme of connections we find online—and told io9 about his optimistic view of the digital future.

Belle, Hosoda’s latest picture at his co-founded animation house Studio Chizu, follows Suzu Naito (Kaho Nakamura/Kylie McNeill), a shy, reserved highschooler living in the rural Kōchi prefecture of Japan. Still grappling with the childhood trauma of losing her mother, Suzu finds herself frustrated with a grief that robbed her of a childhood passion for singing, a hobby she shared with her deceased parent. When one of her few school friends introduces her to a viral online app called “U”, a Second Life-esque metaverse where billions of users across the world hang out as fantastical, biometrically generated digital avatars, she finds herself regaining the confidence to sing again as she transforms into the digital pop star Belle. As she becomes an overnight sensation in the world of U as a mysterious new starlet, Belle crosses paths with a mysterious beast-like avatar hiding a dark secret in the digital world—and the real one, pushing Belle and Suzu alike to open themselves up.

Even as examining the human connection to our online identities has been something Hosoda has engaged with repeatedly over his directorial career, Belle—releasing theatrically in the U.S. tomorrow after highly anticipated premiere at Cannes and in Japan last summer—finds itself arriving with an added sense of timeliness. As the concept of the “metaverse,” and all the potential (and skepticism) such a concept entails becomes the hot buzzword of the moment, its fantastical depiction of a thriving world shared by billions across the world offers a fascinating insight into Hosoda’s own optimistic view of our online future. To find out more, io9 recently spoke with Hosoda via translator over video chat about his career, the process of making Belle throughout the covid-19 pandemic, and how he sees the evolution of the internet itself. Check out the full transcript below.


James Whitbrook, io9: Mirai had elements of the fantastical in its time-travel narrative, but Belle marks a return to your exploration of digital worlds and technology. What made you feel like now was the time to revisit?

Mamoru Hosoda: I started directing and creating movies that deal with the theme of technology and the internet about 20 years ago with Digimon Adventure: Our War Game! and—between 20 years ago and now, I think the internet has evolved in many ways. If you look at my history, my filmography, about 10 years ago I made Summer Wars, so, this 10-year span is a good time to explore how the internet and this technology is shifting in relation to us as humanity and as a species, and to revisit that relationship and how we interface with the internet and with each other through it. So, perhaps every 10 years, I feel there’s a massive enough shift hitting.

io9: I’m glad you mentioned Summer Wars—that movie explored our relationship to strangers online, whereas coming into Belle, when Suzu enters U as Belle, we get to see the very visceral public reaction to her presence and she becomes a viral hit. How do you think the world’s relationship to the internet has changed since Summer Wars, and how we treat each other online?

Hosoda: Definitely, there’s a massive shift in our relationship to the internet and internet actions. If you rewind the clock back to Summer Wars, I felt that there was a clear line, or distinction, that where we exist right now is reality and what the internet is, is a tool of convenience in many ways. And that line was very clear. Fast-forward to today and Belle, and I think there’s definitely this idea of two realities. The internet is no longer a tool to achieve certain tasks, it’s become a projection of our society in many ways. And for that reason, I think a lot of content creators or filmmakers depict this internet world as this dystopian society and this thing that strips us of our humanity because its presence has grown so much in our daily lives. But, take this idea of there being multiple realities, I think there are also multiple societies or faces humans decide to show within reality. So the current reality we occupy and exist physically, we have one face or facet of ourselves, but on the internet, we project a much different image. I think we can relate to this. But I’d argue all of these are what completes that person, and both of those are real in many ways. So, Suzu and Belle may feel like polar opposites of the spectrum—and they’re very different—but the same. I think this is something we can all relate to if we look at how people perceive us and what we try to project, etc. etc.

io9: The character design for Belle was quite interesting, as you and Studio Chizu collaborated with outside artists, like Disney’s Jin Kim. What made you seek a collaborative process out here?

Hosoda: I would say the pandemic has played quite a large role in this—and the lockdowns began escalating right at the time we were going into production. We really had to transform our pipeline to adapt to these new working environments. On the one hand, while it put a strain on our production pipelines, I think it opened up some possibilities and doors with international collaborations—and while everyone has to stay at home to work on some things, we can use the internet, which is, of course, a big theme in Belle—to actually help the production of the movie itself. Even for me, personally, I think it was really an eye-opening experience in many ways, so... just being able to find talent from across the globe and really integrate that into whatever it is we’re working on.

io9: Belle arrives in America with a renewed timeliness, as the tech world looks towards concepts like the metaverse, as well as NFTs and cryptocurrencies. As a creative, how do you feel about the current directions these technologies are trending toward?

Hosoda: The world is going to continue to change, regardless, and technology is going to play a large factor in that. Instead of looking at it through this very dystopian lens, I try to look at it more objective—and even optimistic. I know there’s a lot of conversations surrounding NFTs, both good and bad. Trying to look at everything holistically, I think there’s certainly some kind of value in assigning value to digital assets—and with the rate at how people create these, there is a value assigned. I think normalizing that is going to be a big part of this next generation. Even the metaverse that you mention, people talk about it being another repeat of Second Life, but the fact that it is being developed means there’s a certain degree of demand for these services. So, if there’s a way that could be balanced with the more commercial aspects and run this as a service—if we could solve that—perhaps everything can coexist in some kind of way.


Belle hits U.S. theaters from this Friday, January 14, in both subtitled and dubbed formats.


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This Raised by Wolves Season 2 Trailer Is Heavy on Wolves @ io9

Image: HBO Max

Full disclosure: the only two minutes of Ridley Scott’s gooey sci-fi HBO Max series Raised by Wolves that I’ve seen were in the original trailer for season one, which didn’t really capture my attention. Now I’ve seen two more minutes, courtesy of this brand-new season two trailer, you can consider my attention thoroughly ensnared. It’s very confused, but it’s definitely been caught.

So I (think I) know season one of Raised by Wolves ended with Mother (Amanda Collin) and Father (Abubakar Salim) in the planet Kepler-22b’s tropical zone, which is apparently less deadly than their colony’s previous location. This is corroborated by this new trailer, but then watch what happens:

A lot! A lot happens, and it seems like everyone and everything other than the children—maybe—wants to kill somebody else. There’s the androids Mother and Father, who will happily murder anyone to protect the children they’re supposed to raise. There’s the new zealot Caleb (Jack Hawkins), who seems like his plan is to take out anyone who doesn’t convert to his sun-god religion. There are all the alien monsters on the planet, none of which look like herbivores. There’s an enormous number of the “devolved” humans, who clearly have many, many weapons, as well as an impromptu gladiatorial arena. And last but certainly not least, there’s the bonkers flying snake monster that Mother gave birth to in the season one finale, which the official season two synopsis has a rather euphemistic term for:

“In season two of Raised by Wolves, Android partners Mother and Father, along with their brood of six human children, join a newly formed atheistic colony in Kepler 22 b’s mysterious tropical zone. But navigating this strange new society is only the start of their troubles as Mother’s ‘natural child’ threatens to drive what little remains of the human race to extinction.”

The second season of Raised by Wolves will premiere February 3 on HBO Max.


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Ghostbusters: Afterlife: The Spoiler FAQ @ io9

Photo: Kimberley French/Sony Pictures

There’s something strange in the neighborhood… and it’s the plot of Ghostbusters: Afterlife! In celebration of Ivan and Jason Reitman’s critically divisive, audience-adored sequel to the original Ghostbusters movie coming to digital on demand last week, we’ve decided to give it the (admittedly belated) Spoiler FAQ treatment! If there’s anything you were confused about, this FAQ may offer meager help! Maybe! Admittedly, it’s unlikely! God, this movie’s a mess.

Hey, why are you doing this? A lot of people loved Afterlife! They called it “nostalgia done right.”

They sure did, didn’t they? I can’t speak to their opinion, because I can’t think of a film that did nostalgia worse other than The Rise of Skywalker.

But the movie is all about a new set of kids learning about the Ghostbusters legacy and taking on the mantle for themselves!

No, it’s not. Not really. It’s about a new set of kids learning about the Ghostbusters legacy and then the old Ghostbusters—the very, very old Ghostbusters—showing up to redo the end of the original film, but worse.

Sigh. So what’s the premise of Afterlife?

Egon Spengler, originally played by the late Harold Ramis, has abandoned his unnamed wife and daughter Callie at some point in the ‘90s. That child, played as an adult by the wonderful Carrie Coon, is now the single, debt-ridden mother of two children. After she and her family get evicted from their apartment, they’re forced to relocate to the incredibly dilapidated mansion her estranged and recently deceased father left her in his will (along with even more debt).

Whoa. What happened to the Ghostbusters?

Well, after the business sort of died off—and that pun was not intended, believe it or not—Egon tried to convince them that another apocalypse was coming. I want you to read this sentence very carefully, because it is bananas: Ray Stantz, Winston Zeddemore, and Peter Venkman did not believe him.

What? Are you kidding me?

No. After the events of Ghostbusters one and two, and after Egon repeatedly revealed himself to be the only one who had any clue what was going on with all things supernatural, even though they’d basically stopped the apocalypse twice already, suddenly these guys don’t believe Egon. Egon, naturally, steals the Ecto-1 and all their ghost-busting equipment and inexplicably everyone’s jumpsuits and heads to the middle of nowhere, Oklahoma. And abandons his family in the process, don’t forget.

Take a minute to process. It’s a lot.

OK. So why does Egon need to leave his family to deal with whatever’s happening in Oklahoma?

No reason whatsoever, other than the plot requires his granddaughter Phoebe (Mckenna Grace) to be completely ignorant of all things Egon and Ghostbusters so she can slowly learn about them through the movie with help from Egon’s ghost.

We’ll get back to that in a minute. Why don’t the Ghostbusters believe Egon?

No reason whatsoever, other than the plot requires the remaining three members to be sidelined until the very end of the film as a fan service-y deus ex machina.

Wait, why would Egon take every else’s jumpsuits?

No reason whatsoever, other than the movie wants to have Phoebe, her older brother Trevor (Stranger Things’ Finn Wolfhard), his love interest Lucky (Celeste O’Connor), and Phoebe’s friend Podcast (Lo—

Podcast?

I do not want to talk about Podcast. Ahem: and Phoebe’s friend Podcast (Logan Kim) dressed as Ghostbusters for the film’s final act.

Photo: Kimberley French/Sony Pictures

Also, is Afterlife a comedy? This premise sounds kind of bleak.

It’s not a comedy. Oh, there are quips, and Phoebe tells some bad jokes to diffuse awkward situations because of her social anxiety, but this is mostly a deadly serious love letter to the first Ghostbusters movie.

But the first Ghostbusters movie was a comedy. It had some action and a few scares and some stakes, sure, but it was definitely a comedy.

I’m well aware! Because comedians starred in it!

Why does Afterlife take Ghostbusters so seriously?

Because the 40-year-old fans who got disgruntled about the 2016 Ghostbusters movie take it so seriously. But I talk about studios kowtowing to the most entitled-feeling sections of fandoms all the time, so I’d rather talk about how it ends up wrecking Afterlife as a movie.

Okay, do tell.

The first 80 percent of this movie is mainly about the kids, especially Phoebe, and it’s pretty good! The actors are good, the dialogue is fun, and they’re doing exciting things like discovering the Ghostbusters equipment and then trying to catch a ghost while driving down Main Street in the Ecto-1 in broad daylight and inadvertently tearing up the town. The last 20 percent is all about the original Ghostbusters, and they’re the problem.

How can they be the problem? People love those guys.

In multiple ways, actually. First, it turns out they’ve secretly hijacked the movie from the very beginning. What Ghostbusters: Afterlife really, really wants to be is the first Ghostbusters again—not a sequel, the exact same movie—and pit Venkman, Stanz, and Zeddemore against Gozer the Gozerian again. And in order to get them there for the rematch, but only for the final act, the plot becomes nonsense.

How so?

Well, there’s the aforementioned “Egon becomes a terrible person and the other Ghostbusters suddenly stop trusting their friend” nonsense. But then there’s the rest of the premise, which also makes no sense. You see, for some reason, there’s a secret temple to Gozer hiding in a mountain in Oklahoma, which is what Egon abandoned everybody to deal with. His plan was to capture a Terror Dog—yes, they’re back too, as are the Gatekeeper and Keymaster—and lure what seems to be the spirit of the second Terror Dog back to his dirt farm, where he’d capture it in a giant trap he’d made—a trap far, far more powerful than he’d need for just the Dog. He manages the first part, but there’s an electrical short, the trap doesn’t work, and the spirit of the second Dog kills Egon.

Yeesh.

To be clear, a Terror Dog spirit powerful enough to murder people is loose, but then inexplicably does absolutely nothing else until Phoebe makes the horrendous decision to open Egon’s ghost trap containing the first Terror Dog, which very clearly has a ghost in it. Now, you could say that even though Phoebe has been depicted as brilliant, she knows so little about the Ghostbusters she couldn’t have known the possible ramifications of freeing the ghost. But Egon’s spirit guides her to the secret hiding place where he stuck the trap. Why?! What good could that possibly do anyone? What possible outcome is there better than the trap remaining safely hidden and unopened?

Photo: Kimberley French/Sony Pictures

Perhaps it could—

Please let me continue. Somehow, releasing the Terror Dog spirit allows both Dogs to fully manifest in the real world. They possess the only two adults in the film, Callie and Gary Grooberson (Paul Rudd), who free Gozer from a different trap made of proton streams that Egon had built. At some point, Phoebe realizes Egon’s plan was to lure Gozer back to his farm with the captured Dog as bait, and then trap the god in his giant trap. Do you see the problem here?

It is kind of confusi—

That was not Egon’s plan. We saw the plan, which was to lure the second Terror Dog spirit into this giant trap that was so huge it was clearly made for Gozer. But the film shows us that Gozer is safely trapped until the Keymaster and Gatekeeper arrive to let it out. Egon knew that, because he built all of these traps. If he’d wanted to trap Gozer, he would have had to let Gozer out of the first trap beforehand. But Gozer couldn’t enter the real world without both Terror Dogs being free first! None of it makes any goddamned sense and it’s all so the original Ghostbusters can steal the movie.

What do you mean, “steal” the movie?

Phoebe and Podcast manage to capture a Terror Dog after Gozer is freed, and everyone hightails it to Egon’s farm to enact his plan he did not plan. Of course it doesn’t work, but the original trio miraculously shows up in time to save everyone else from Gozer. Phoebe helps out with her proton pack, but it’s revealed that she’s being assisted by the blue VFX Force ghost of Egon, so it’s really just the original four. Trevor decides to zap the failed power cells by shooting them with a proton stream, a thing that inexplicably works, and Carrie Coon pulls a lever, but it’s really just the original four doing the same thing you saw them do in the first movie, but worse.

I still don’t see the problem with this.

Okay. Imagine you’re watching Ghostbusters for the very first time, back in 1984. Gozer is summoned and the Ghostbusters try to stop it… but this time they fail. And then three other Ghostbusters—played by 70-year-old movie stars of yesteryear like Kirk Douglas, Gregory Peck, and Burt Lancaster—suddenly show up out of nowhere and save the day instead, at which point the rest of the movie becomes entirely about them.

Okay, that doesn’t sound good.

If you didn’t grow up with the first movie, then you’re watching three very old men—at least one of whom clearly doesn’t want to be there—hijack the film. Seriously, once the old Ghostbusters show up, the other characters basically disappear. There’s a big, tearful farewell to Egon’s ghost, then you see the Ecto-1 drive into New York City while the original theme song plays. Next, Peter and Dana (Sigourney Weaver, in her only appearance in the film) are playing with the cards and shocking machine Peter used to hit on college girls in the first movie in a staggeringly pandering post-credits scene. In the second, Winston buys the old firehouse, which somehow still houses the old ghost containment unit. All of it is meaningless to anyone who isn’t already a major fan.

Photo: Kimberley French/Sony Pictures

But I’m a fan and I liked it. Is that OK?

It is in the sense that Ivan Reitman and his son Jason made it for you, so why not? Just recognize that what was made for you to enjoy comes at the cost of everyone else’s enjoyment, because it makes the movie tremendously unsatisfying. Afterlife is about the kids, but we have no idea what happens to them after the battle. Do they stay in Oklahoma? Are they still dirt poor? Does their experience affect them in any way? It’s basic storytelling! Plus, they’re the ones who should have fended off Gozer. I’d honestly have forgiven a lot of these plotholes if I could have watched these kids succeed where Egon failed.

But...

OK. Imagine watching Star Wars: A New Hope for the first time, but instead of Luke needing to blow up the Death Star, Obi-Wan kills Darth Vader and then everybody goes home. Actually, it’s worse than that. Imagine Luke and Han go to the Death Star to rescue Leia, and Obi-Wan shows up out of nowhere, kills Vader, and leaves. There’s no character development, no character arcs.

None whatsoever?

The closest anyone in the movie comes to having a character arc is Carrie Coon’s Callie, who starts the movie (justifiably!) hating her father only to discover he secretly loved her. It’s also so she can have a loving hug with Egon’s ghost at the end, but the stupid movie even gets this wrong.

You are really ruining all the movie’s sweet moments for me.

Look, blame Egon. Because the reason Callie decides her deadbeat dad is now wonderful and loving is because Egon’s ghost eventually leads her to his underground lab, where he has a collage of photos he’s secretly taken of Callie throughout her entire life. Isn’t that wonderful?

I feel like you’re going to say this isn’t wonderful.

Egon abandons his wife and daughter to go to Oklahoma instead of taking them with her. Callie grows up without a father, but it turns out her father was taking creep shots of her constantly when he could at any point have introduced himself. Why? Why wouldn’t he do that? Was he afraid he was being tailed by ghosts that were going to kidnap his daughter and use her against him? Ghosts don’t work like that.

Say, how do ghosts work in the Ghostbusters universe? Since Egon looks just like himself, does that mean all the freaky ghosts are demons or something? Or are they evil humans who—

I’m sorry to cut you off again, but there are an infinite number of questions to be asked about how the actual afterlife works in Ghostbusters and this is already running long and I’m emotionally spent. I’m just pretending there are rules and we just don’t know them yet.

Aren’t you taking this movie too seriously?

No more or less seriously than Afterlife is treating Ghostbusters.

Touché.

Image: Sony Pictures

For Further Discussion: 

  • Why is the Ecto-1 covered in dust below the tattered sheet that was placed on top of the car to protect it from dust?
  • Why did Egon take the Ecto-1 if he wasn’t going to use it?
  • Why, when arrested, would a supposedly smart girl like Phoebe call the old Ghostbusters helpline instead of her mom? Only one of the two could pick her up from jail, while the other could be called at literally any other time.
  • Was Phoebe really going to murder the sheriff? Sure seemed like it!
  • When Callie and Gary Grooberson (Rudd) are possessed, why didn’t Gary get a sexy outfit like Callie did?
  • Why are the Mini-Pufts so eager for the sweet release of death?
  • Why did Egon install a very obvious firepole in his “secret” underground lab? Firefighters use one because they need to get out of the firehouse quickly to respond to emergencies—so why would Egon need one to get into his lab so quickly? Also, the floor is one small story down. How much time could a firepole save versus a set of stairs that have to be there, because otherwise, people would need to climb up the pole to get out? Did Egon install it purely for sentimental value? Ugh.

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Javier Bardem Wants to Ride a Dune Sandworm and He Should Get His Wish @ io9

You ride a sandworm! And you ride a sandworm!Image: Warner Bros.

Filmgoers who hadn’t read Frank Herbert’s Dune probably found it very curious that two huge stars like Oscar winner Javier Bardem and pop icon Zendaya only appeared in the new movie for a short amount of time. By the time the film ended, however, the reasoning surely became clearer: Bardem and Zendaya play Freman, the desert people of Arrakis, who aren’t only the main characters in the second half of the book, but going into the sequels too.

Denis Villeneuve’s movie packs so much into its last few minutes, however, there’s a chance that point might not be clear. Paul Atreides (Timothée Chalamet) and his mother Lady Jessica (Rebecca Ferguson) are found in the desert by a group of Freman, and after one challenges his mother, Paul fights him and defeats him in single combat. The victory is the moment that changes Paul’s life and as the film wraps up, there are shots of Freman riding sandworms as the group walks into the desert.

We’ve already written a bit about everything that should happen in Dune: Part Two, now that it’s been greenlit and set for release in October 2023. But a huge, huge part of that is Paul and his mother adapting to and embracing Freman culture. A culture that lives in the desert, prizes water above all else—even going so far as drinking water from dead bodies so it doesn’t go to waste—and worships the beings that rule the planet, the sandworms. They’re also able to ride sandworms, and in one of the book’s best scenes Stigar (Bardem’s character) teaches Paul how to do just that, while Paul’s love Chani (Zendaya) nervously watches.

All of which is to say, Javier Bardem is going to get his wish. In a new interview with Deadline celebrating his SAG nomination for his role in Being the Ricardos, the actor expressed his biggest desire for the upcoming sci-fi sequel. “The only thing I’m asking is that I get to ride a sandworm,” Bardem told the trade. “Denis told me he’s going to try to make that happen. That does happen in the book, by the way. Stilgar teaches Paul how to take the desert power, which is to domesticate those huge animals in order to use their force, their strength, and their huge size against the Harkonnen. Hopefully, that will happen.”

Um, Javier. It better happen or we’re all going to riot. Villeneuve made Dune into two movies specifically to not skip the best bits and riding sandworms is literally the best bit. Plus, from there, Stilgar goes on to become one of Paul’s most trusted allies in both Dune as well as Dune Messiah, while Chani marries Paul and has his children, all while remaining a fearless warrior.

Of course none of that is technically set in stone. Bardem says he hasn’t read the Part Two script yet, but Villeneuve has previously said he expects to start filming by the end of this year. We can’t wait.


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In Bigbug, the Robot Uprising Will Be Exceedingly... Polite? @ io9

Screenshot: Netflix

French director Jean-Pierre Jeunet has made some incredibly well-regarded films like Delicatessan, The City of Lost Children, and Amélie (and he also directed Alien: Resurrection, about which the less said the better), but it’s been nearly a decade since he last wrote and directed a movie. That will change this February, when Jeunet’s colorful, offbeat sci-fi comedy Bigbug about a robot uprising comes to Netflix.

Now, there are strangely—or perhaps appropriately—two different synopses for the film, and I’m going to give both to you:

1) “A group of bickering suburbanites find themselves stuck together when an android uprising causes their well-intentioned household robots to lock them in for their own safety.”

2) “Humans have ceded most tasks to AI in 2045, even in nostalgic Alice’s home. So when robots stage a coup, her androids protectively lock her doors.”

If you watch this trailer, it seems like some of the androids are staging a revolution, while the robots are trying to protect the bougie people inside Alice’s gaudy house. But maybe some of the robots have gone rogue as well? Look, here’s the trailer, make your own call:

I’m not sure it really matters which inorganic beings are doing the revolting, given that everything shown in this trailer is totally bizarre. Besides the really interesting and unique robot/android designs, there’s some bare bottom spanking, a Catwoman outfit, and I think I even saw a couple of aliens in there extremely briefly? And the color palette of the movie is just lovely; even if the plot ends up being incomprehensible, it might be worth watching for the visual artistry alone.

Bigbug stars Elsa Zylberstein, Isabelle Nanty, Stéphane De Groodt, Dominque Pinon, Youssef Hadji, André Dussolier, Alban Lenoir, Claud Perron, and Claire Chust. It premieres on Netflix on February 11.


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Netflix's Shadow & Bone Adds a Slew of New Castmembers @ io9

Image: Netflix

Good news, fans of Shadow and Bone (or fans of the Darkling specifically, I guess). Netflix’s adaptation of Leigh Bardugo’s Grishaverse fantasy novels is about start production on season two, which will cover the second book in the series, Siege and Storm. Unsurprisingly, the book has new characters that need actors to play them, but now we know who some of them are.

Netflix has just announced the four newest cast members of the series:

• Patrick Gibson (The OA) will play Nikolai Lantsov, a.k.a. Sturmhond. He’s the captain of his own fleet of pirate ships, which he uses to aid the Rivkan war effort as a privateer. However, he’s hiding an enormous secret.

• Anna Leong Brophy (Traces) will play Tamar Kir-Bataar, a Heartrender and a member of Sturmhond’s crew. She befriends Alina while they sail together.

• Lewis Tan (Mortal Kombat) has been cast as Tolya Yul-Bataar, Tamar’s twin brother. Like his sister, he’s a Heartrender and a member of Sturnhond’s crew. He’s also a big fan of epic poetry.

• Jack Wolfe (The Witcher) will play Wylan Hendricks, a new member of the group of thieves known as the Crows. He’s the team’s demolitions expert, and like so many of the others, has a tragic past.

Additionally, Danielle Galligan, Daisy Head, and Calahan Skogman have been promoted to series regulars as Nina Zenik, Genya Safin, and Matthias Helvar, respectively.

When season one ended, Alina (Jessie Mei Li) and Mal (Archie Renaux) had headed off in hopes of helping Alina master her Sun Summoner powers, while Kirigin (a.k.a. the Darkling, played by Ben Barnes) had emerged from the Fold, a strip of land covered in deadly darkness that has divided the nation of Rivka in half. Suffice it to say, Kirigin has no plans on letting Alina escape his grasp a second time.

Since Shadow and Bone’s second season hasn’t started production yet, there’s of course no word when it might be out--we’ll bring you more on the season as and when we learn it.


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Before Twin Peaks' Laura Palmer, There Was the Mystery of Hazel Drew @ io9

Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee) in David Lynch’s Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me.Screenshot: New Line Cinema

Twin Peaks fans all know the tragic tale of Laura Palmer, the small-town beauty queen who died hiding some rather dark secrets. But did you know that Mark Frost, who co-created the series with David Lynch, actually took inspiration from a real-life historic unsolved murder?

A new book, Murder at Teal’s Pond: Hazel Drew and the Mystery That Inspired Twin Peaks, features an introduction by Frost and offers a deep-dive investigation into the 1908 murder of Hazel Drew, a beautiful young woman found floating in a pond in Sand Lake, New York. Though the press seized upon the bizarre case, and local investigators appeared to be doing their best to solve it, her killer was never apprehended. It’s a fascinating story only made more fascinating by its Twin Peaks connection, so io9 hopped on a video chat with authors David Bushman (who also co-wrote Twin Peaks FAQ: All That’s Left to Know About a Place Both Wonderful and Strange) and Mark T. Givens (who hosts the Twin Peaks podcast Deer Meadow Radio), to learn more.


Cheryl Eddy, io9: The book is billed as being about “the mystery that inspired Twin Peaks,” which will surely be an entry point for fans of the show. Can you explain briefly the connections between Hazel Drew’s murder and the murder of Laura Palmer on the TV series, and how one came to inspire the other?

David Bushman: When Mark Frost, who co-created Twin Peaks, was contributing his portion of eruptive arc that [was] the death of Laura Palmer, he had in mind two experiences that he had been through personally that played a big part in the development of that story. One was the story of Hazel Drew. His grandmother used to live in a house by [Teal’s Pond]—she was quite a character and quite a storyteller, and in fact, we dedicated the book to her—and she would tell Mark and his brother, Scott, about this ghost in the woods right outside her house, of a young lady who had been murdered and the murderer had never been identified. The way Mark and Scott tell the story now is that it was intended as this sort of cautionary tale to get them to not stay out too late because they had to come home through the woods.

So Mark Frost knew only very general information about it; he even had the name wrong when he talked about it, he called her “Hazel Gray.” But he knew that it was in the woods and that it was by this pond and that she was a young woman. So that’s really the connection to Twin Peaks. He did tell David Lynch about it, but he said he doubts Lynch remembered him talking about it–and, you know, obviously, if you go back and look at Lynch’s oeuvre, you’ll see that he has his own obsessions with young blond women who are in trouble. But it turns out, as Mark [T. Givens] and I dug much deeper into it, that there were all sorts of other connections between [the case of Hazel Drew and Twin Peaks] that Mark Frost was not consciously aware of, but [from visiting his grandmother every summer] he got a good sense of what Sand Lake and Taborton hamlet were like and soaked up a lot of that. So a lot of the sense that you get of Twin Peaks as a small town with these sort of idiosyncratic characters, and what small town life is like in an old lumber town, were things that Frost contributed to the story from his time there.

Image: Thomas & Mercer

io9: As you write in the book, the question of “Who was Hazel Drew” is almost as perplexing as “Who killed her?” What were your main sources and methods when it came to researching this case?

Mark T. Givens: We started with the newspapers from the time. Contemporaneous newspaper coverage was very extensive; for about two and a half weeks it made headlines across the country. I think we ended up with 12 or 13 sort of different gospels covering this, and each one had different perspectives and biases and different facts and reporting. So that was great. That was trying to get a baseline—putting together this jigsaw puzzle from a hundred-plus years ago, and getting down what happened: How did the investigation go? The pitfalls, the twists and turns, and ultimately the failure as it went unsolved? And then there was kind of a phase two: I used Ancestry.com extensively, and outside of the newspaper coverage of the case [specifically], a lot of these people were sort of semi-famous locally at the time, politicians and things of that ilk. So we were able to find all kinds of little tidbits that informed the background characters.

And then we went to Troy and Sand Lake to do research and talk to people, probably almost a dozen trips between us. There were some great resources up there; we connected with local historians who told us what 1908 was like and filled in a lot of details that way. In particular, the Sand Lake historian Bob Moore would host these roundtables where he was kind of looking into this himself [along with] other people up there. Some people who actually were distant cousins of Hazel that we tracked down were also interested in the case and looking into it, so [we were also able to get] their perspective and sort of collaborate with them. It was five or six years we were at this, so we used everything we could. You know, there’s a lot of facts in the papers, but it didn’t give us all the color, so talking to people who actually knew some of these people—like Minnie [Taylor, Hazel’s aunt] in particular, who lived a long life and had some good stories [about her and] anecdotes about her quirky personality.

io9: In the book, you present a theory as to who did it and why. What was the most compelling evidence that led you to that conclusion?

Givens: I think my mindset from the outset was, yeah, at the end of this, we’re going to come up with something they didn’t. They didn’t solve it. We’re going to make our best guess. Maybe the investigators at the time had their best guess, but we don’t know what that was. That being said, certainly the solution we came up with by the end was not something we started with and it wasn’t, you know, a “let’s pick a theory and then find the facts” kind of thing. When we were first investigating, we were just trying to understand what had happened. That laid the groundwork, and then you’re just kind of looking at it from all different angles. You feel like you know this case and then you can kind of go to the next level in terms of the solution.

We kind of actually came up with the factors that led us there early—I was very skeptical about it. It seemed a little outrageous to me, but [without giving anything away to readers], eventually you start to see this kind of evidence piling up and then it just kind of leads that way. I think we always wanted a solution, and I think [what we came up with is] beyond plausible. I’m always interested in feedback about our solution and if people can kind of pick holes in it, but I haven’t seen anyone do that yet, so I’m really happy with how we uncovered this.

Bushman: When people read a book like this, they’re kind of expecting a solution. I mean, I’ve even heard people [ask], why couldn’t they solve it definitively, without any doubt? And you know, it’s a 114-year-old murder with no surviving physical evidence, no DNA or anything of that nature. The evidence is gone. The people who were around are all dead. So. But I agree with Mark that we definitely went in thinking we were going to offer our best possible solution. You know, you think about books [about] Jack the Ripper or the Black Dahlia, all those books are proposing some solution. I think that’s what people are pretty much expecting in a book like this.

io9: What do you hope readers take away from Murder at Teal’s Pond?

Givens: If you are a Twin Peaks fan, this is sort of significant historically for you. But you don’t have to be a David Lynch fan. There’s no dancing little man or killers from other dimensions in our story, but it is a really good mystery with twists and turns, true crime, and history. I think it’s just a fascinating story, and I hope we did justice to it.

Bushman: I feel like the [1908] investigation itself was not first-rate, and I also feel like if Hazel had been a person of privilege and possibly a man—if she’d been a man of privilege, I think there’s no way that they would have stopped before solving this murder. And, you know, I think she was just kind of forgotten. And that’s kind of one of the reasons that we wrote the book, I think, was that we don’t feel that she should be forgotten.

Murder at Teal’s Pond: Hazel Drew and the Mystery That Inspired Twin Peaks is available now.


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Disney's Live-Action Snow White Remake Has Cast an Intriguing Star @ io9

“Okay, now which of you is my new co-star?”Image: Disney

The Batman gets its rating, and it’s perhaps not what some people would’ve expected. Get a look at the Looney Tunes’ return to HBO Max. Plus, what’s coming on Legends of Tomorrow and Batwoman. To me, my spoilers!

Snow White

According to Deadline, Andrew Burnap has joined the cast of Disney’s live-action Snow White as the undisclosed “male lead”. Curiously, the outlet notes Burnap’s character “is neither the Huntsman nor the prince,” but a new character who will, of course, sing at some point.


Aquaman: The Lost Kingdom

Filming has wrapped on Aquaman: The Lost Kingdom according to James Wan on Instagram.

And finally, finally, finally picture wrap on the actual last day of #Aquaman2 in Malibu with these two gents @prideofgypsies @thereelpatrickwilson

Yes, we do get very wet, a lot, on this show.

A THOUSAND THANK YOUs to all the incredible crew who worked so hard and tirelessly on this picture. Especially the UK portion where we shot 95% of the film. Truly some of the finest artisans and craftspeople I’ve had the good fortune to work with. And big shout-outs to the amazing Hawaiian and Los Angeles units.

I have a very long way to go before it will be ready, but I can’t wait to share this little film with you all.


The Batman

The Batman was been rated “PG-13" for “strong violent and disturbing content, drug content, strong language, and some suggestive material.” [Bloody-Disgusting]


Firestarter

Meanwhile, Blumhouse’s Firestarter remake has been rated “R” for unspecified, but presumably fire-related “violent content.” [Bloody-Disgusting]


X

Boogie Nights meets The Texas Chainsaw Massacre in the trailer for Ti West’s latest horror feature, X.


Shapeless

A jazz singer’s eating disorder causes her to grow extraneous body parts in the trailer for Shapeless, coming to VOD February 10.


Hatching

A 12-year old gymnast raises her own personal bird monster in the trailer for Hatching, coming to VOD April 29.




Legends of Tomorrow

The Legends are trapped in a reality show from Hell in the trailer for next week’s episode.


Batwoman

Meanwhile, Mary locates Poison Ivy in the trailer for next week’s episode of Batwoman.




Looney Tunes Cartoons

Finally, HBO Max has a trailer for the next season of Looney Tunes Cartoons.







Banner art by Jim Cook

There's a new Substack for speculative fiction and it looks great @ Boing Boing

Email newsletters are obviously the cool new thing, and there are a lot of great (and not-so-great) journalists and opinion writers making serious money through Substack. But I've wondering for a while now how a successful fiction outlet might work1. — Read the rest

2022 Philip K. Dick Award Nominees @ Worlds Without End

Defekt Plague Birds Bug Far From the Light of Heaven The Escapement Dead Space

The 2022 Philip K. Dick Award nominees have been announced:

The award is presented annually to a distinguished work of science fiction originally published in paperback form in the United States from the previous calendar year. The winner and any special citations will be announced April 15, 2022 at Norwescon 44, to be held April 14-17, 2022 in SeaTac WA.

Have you read any of these? What looks good to you on the list?

Scream Meets Twin Peaks in This Clip From Courteney Cox's New Starz Series @ io9

Home sweet home?Screenshot: Starz/YouTube

Starz has just dropped a sneak peak at Shining Vale, a new half-hour horror comedy series starring Courteney Cox, a marketing move that is no doubt timed to a certain huge horror movie starring Cox that’s out later this week. But hey, the themes go together, and this clip—which also features Greg Kinnear (as Cox’s husband) and Twin Peaks vet Sherilyn Fenn (as their real estate agent)—definitely piques our interest for the show.

Take a look and soak up the Scream meets Twin Peaks (by way of American Horror Story meets Beetlejuice) kinda vibes.

Creepy how Fenn’s realtor keeps calling the house “she,” don’t you think? Here’s a full description of the show that gives you a bit more context about what to expect about the characters and the spooky situation they—or at least Cox’s character—soon find themselves in:

“Shining Vale is a horror comedy about a dysfunctional family that moves from the city to a small town into a house in which terrible atrocities have taken place. But no one seems to notice except for Pat, who’s convinced she’s either depressed or possessed—turns out, the symptoms are exactly the same. Patricia ‘Pat’ Phelps (Courteney Cox) is a former ‘wild child’ who rose to fame by writing a raunchy, drug-and-alcohol-soaked women’s empowerment novel (aka lady porn).

Fast forward 17 years later, Pat is clean and sober but totally unfulfilled. She still hasn’t written her second novel, she can’t remember the last time she had sex with her husband (Greg Kinnear), and her teenage kids are at that stage where they want you dead. She was a faithful wife until her one slip-up: she had a torrid affair with the hot, young handyman who came over to fix the sink while Terry was at work. In a last-ditch effort to save their marriage, she and Terry cash in all their savings and move the family move from the ‘crazy’ of the city to a large, old house in the suburbs that has a storied past of its own. Everyone has their demons, but for Pat Phelps, they may be real.”

That is a lot of detail, but here’s one more nugget from the press release: “Mira Sorvino plays Rosemary, who is either Pat’s alter ego, a split personality, her id, her muse, or a demon trying to possess her.”

We haven’t ventured onto Starz for awhile (we’re still smarting over American Gods season three), but this just might be the show that lures us back. It premieres March 6.


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The Sci-Fi, Fantasy, and Horror Films to Look Forward to in 2022 @ io9

With all these movies, like Michelle Yeoh we also wish we could be everything, everywhere, all at once.Image: Lionsgate, Warner Bros., A24, Marvel Studios, and 20th Century Pictures

The year 2022 is here, and hopefully it won’t feel like 2020 part two. Back then, as the world shut down in an attempt to stop the spread of covid-19, most major movies were delayed—and no one wants a sequel to that. Last year began to buck the trend, culminating in the record-breaking release of Spider-Man: No Way Home. But at the start of the year, things seem to be swinging back the other way.

All of which is to say everything that you’re about to read is subject to change. Some of the movies scheduled to come out this year were supposed to come out in 2020 so you know studios have no qualms just pushing them back again. New movies will be added, some movies will be removed, and releases have already started to shift in the first two weeks of the year. For now though, what follows is a huge chunk of the biggest, best, most exciting sci-fi, fantasy, horror, and genre films currently scheduled for release in 2022, with more sure to come.

What Movies Are Opening In January 2022?

BelleIn this gorgeous anime movie from Summer Wars director Mamoru Hosoda, a young woman who has social anxiety in the real world becomes the most popular singer in the massive virtual world called U. Just go watch the trailer and be entranced. (January 14)

Scream - A sequel 11 years in the making, Ghostface is back to terrorize not just the new kids in Woodsboro, but the now grown adults who have survived the first four sequels. We loved it, read our review here. (January 14)

The King’s Daughter – Louis XIV (Pierce Brosnan), the King of France, is so determined to gain immortality that he’ll do anything for it—including capturing and stealing the life force of a mermaid (Fan Bingbing). However, when his rebellious daughter Marie-Josèphe (Kaya Scodelario) discovers what he’s done, she’s none too pleased in this adventure-fantasy film. (January 21)

What movies are opening in February 2022?

Ghosts of the Ozarks - In this horror Western—a genre mash-up we don’t see nearly enough of—a doctor in post-Civil War Arkansas begins to realize the idyllic small town he’s just moved to is hiding some extremely dark, worrisomely ghostly secrets. Tim Blake Nelson and David Arquette co-star. (February 3)

The Long Night - Scout Taylor-Compton (Rob Zombie’s Halloween) stars as a woman who starts digging into her mysterious family history, only to uncover an apocalyptic cult that soon begins targeting her to help fulfill a horrific prophecy. (February 4)

Moonfall - Roland Emmerich really likes to blow up Earth and in his latest disaster film, he’ll do it again. This time though, it’s not climate change, Godzilla, or giant spaceships: it’s the moon. (February 4)

Fear - This horror movie, which counts social media superstar turned actor King Bach (The Babysitter, Greenland), Ruby Modine (Happy Death Day), and rapper T.I. among its cast, is about a “contagious airbone threat” that threatens a celebratory weekend. We can all relate to that plot, no? (February 11)

A Banquet - In this horror-tinged family drama, a teenager starts insisting that she’s become transformed by a mysterious higher power—a flight of fancy that feels less fanciful once she stops eating but somehow doesn’t lose any weight, to the increasing distress of her widowed mother. (February 18)

Texas Chainsaw Massacre - We were entirely “meh” about yet another entry in the Texas Chainsaw franchise, until we saw that it’s going to pit Leatherface against hipsters. The participation of producer and co-writer Fede Álvarez (the Evil Dead remake) is also intriguing. (February 18 on Netflix)

Uncharted - The popular PlayStation franchise finally makes its way to the big screen with Tom Holland as a young adventurer on the hunt for ancient treasure. We hope it’s the next Indiana Jones. We’re scared it might be the next Super Mario Bros. (February 18)

The Devil’s Light - A young nun believes she’s destined to conduct exorcisms, despite the fact that the church doesn’t allow women to perform the ceremony. Can she prove herself when a demon with a particularly nasty personal vendetta appears on the scene? Daniel Stamm (The Last Exorcism) directs, and Virginia Madsen (star of the original Candyman) co-stars. (February 25)

Studio 666 - The Foo Fighters play themselves in this horror story which follows the band as they set up shop in a haunted house to record their latest album. (February 25)

What movies are opening in March 2022?

The Adam Project - Free Guy director and star Shawn Levy and Ryan Reynolds team up on a heartfelt sci-fi film about a man (Reynolds) who travels back in time to deal with his younger self. (March 11 on Netflix)

The Batman - Not just any Batman. THE Batman. Robert Pattinson stars in the Matt Reeves film that audiences hope will live up to such a lofty distinction. But in a world that’s already got Michael Keaton and Christian Bale, can it really? Fingers crossed. (March 4)

Turning Red - While it’s a bummer that yet another Pixar movie is going direct to streaming, that hasn’t stopped the studio’s films from being great. Soul was great. Luca was great. And this film about a young woman who turns into a giant red monster on occasion looks equally great. (March 11 on Disney+)

Unwelcome – Jamie (Douglas Booth) and his pregnant wife Maya (Hannah John-Kamen) decide to leave the hustle and bustle of London to raise their child in England. Unfortunately, the woods nearby their house is full of murderous goblins… and maybe worse. (March 17)

AliceKeke Palmer plays a woman enslaved during the antebellum South, only to escape the plantation and discover it’s actually 1973 in this mind-boggling thriller from director Krystin Ver Linden. Alicia Witt, Johnny Lee Miller, Common, and Gaius Charles also star. (March 18)

Moonshot – A young woman stows away on a spaceship heading to the terraformed planet Mars in hopes of connecting with her boyfriend in this romantic sci-fi comedy. Starring Riverdale’s Cole Sprouse, Lana Condor, and Zach Braff. (March 24 on HBO Max)

Everything Everywhere All At Once - The latest film from Daniels, the directors of Swiss Army Man, stars Michelle Yeoh as a woman who exists in infinite universes and goes on an adventure to save them all. It looks absolutely incredible. (March 25)

What movies are opening in April 2022?

Morbius - At this point, Morbius has been delayed so many times, it almost feels like an April Fools’ Day release is just a joke. Nevertheless, Sony is all in on the Spider-Man universe and this is the next film after No Way Home changed the game. Jared Leto stars. (April 1)

You Won’t Be Alone - Noomi Rapace (star of Lamb, Prometheus, and several other weird yet intriguing films) headlines this tale set in 19th century Macedonia, about a witch (who’ll be played by different actos) who decides she wants to try out being human via some magical body-swapping. (April 1)

Sonic the Hedgehog 2 - Doctor Robotnik (Jim Carrey) is back and this time, he’s got Knuckles with him. Thankfully Sonic has some help of his own in the form of Tails. It’s every Sega fan’s dream movie come true. (April 8)

Chariot – John Malkovich plays a doctor at a corporation that can somehow control reincarnation. That is until a man (Thomas Mann) inadvertently meets the woman he loved in a past life (Rosa Salazar), which threatens to disrupt the system. (April 15)

Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore - Yes, somehow this is still a franchise that’s out there, in spite of it all. After the dismal previous installment though, this Harry Potter spin-off starring Eddie Redmayne, Jude Law, and Mads Mikkelsen had better be serviceable enough that we can focus on criticizing J.K. Rowling’s repeated transphobic remarks instead. (April 15)

The Bad Guys - A new animated film about a group of criminals who team up. Think The Suicide Squad but as animated animals. (April 22)

The Northman - Robert Eggers, director of The Witch and The Lighthouse, continues his “The” trilogy with the star-studded story of a Viking on a quest to avenge the murder of his parents. (April 22)

The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent - Nicolas Cage plays Nicolas Cage who is hired by an uber-rich guy to hang out and gets into some kind of weird, meta adventure. It sounds very Nicolas Cage. (April 22)

Hatching - In this Finnish film, a 12-year-old gymnast named Tinja tries desperately and unsuccessfully to please her domineering mother. But when she finds a mysterious egg, it hatches a creature that slowly evolves into a being that looks just like her—but it’s willing to do what Tinja won’t. (April 29)

65 - Little is known about this sci-fi film except that it’s directed by the screenwriters who created A Quiet Place and stars Adam Driver as an astronaut who lands on an alien planet. What more do you need to know though? (April 29)

What movies are opening in May 2022?

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness - This is a big year for the Marvel Cinematic Universe and it kicks off with the return of Benedict Cumberbatch’s sorcerer, who... can still currently be seen in theaters in Spider-Man: No Way Home. This film is set to explode the multiverse though and there’s no clue what, or who, could appear. (May 6)

The Innocents - This Norwegian supernatural thriller is about a group of children who’re hiding some unsettling powers from their woefully unaware parents. (May 13)

DC League of Super-PetsDC’s foremost super-animals—namely Krypto (voiced by Dwayne Johnson), Ace the Bat-Hound (Kevin Hart), and the Flash’s turtle Mertle (Natasha Lyonne), along with a pig named PB (Vanessa Bayer) and Chip the squirrel (Diego Luna)—must band together to free the Justice League after they’re captured by Lex Luthor (Marc Maron). (May 20)

The Bob’s Burgers Movie When a giant sinkhole forms in front of their diner, Bob and Linda have to keep the restaurant afloat over the summer with a burger stand near the amusement park. Meanwhile, Tina, Gene, and Louise investigate the mystery of why the sinkhole formed in this animated movie musical. Also, there’s a robot. (May 27)

What movies are opening in June 2022?

Jurassic World: Dominion - The third film of the Jurassic World franchise will be a culmination of the six-film Jurassic Park franchise as the stars of both trilogies come together to try and save the world from the dinosaurs who now roam it freely. We think one or two people might see this one. (June 10)

Lightyear - Pixar’s latest twist on the Toy Story franchise is this multi-layered action movie which explains why Andy was so excited to get a Buzz Lightyear figure in the first movie. It’s because Buzz Lightyear starred in an awesome summer action blockbuster—and now we get to see it. (June 17)

The Black Phone - The team behind Sinister, who took a quick Doctor Strange detour, are back in their mid-budget horror wheelhouse with this terrifying-looking film about abduction and the supernatural starring Ethan Hawke. (June 24)

What movies are opening in July 2022?

Image: Universal

Minions: The Rise of Gru - Fans of Minions are probably very excited to see this new film about how the little yellow buggers helped the Gru rise to supervillain status. The rest of the world? Not so much. (July 1)

Thor: Love and Thunder - Thor is back and so is writer-director Taika Waititi in what promises to be the wildest Marvel movie yet. Natalie Portman is going to become Thor, the Guardians of the Galaxy are in it, Christian Bale and Russell Crowe are in it, and we are so beyond excited for this one. (July 8)

Nope - With Get Out, Jordan Peele instantly became one of those filmmakers whose works you’ll always be excited for. Us continued the trend and now there’s Nope, which we know almost nothing about save for a poster of some weird cloud over a city. And you know what? We wouldn’t have it any other way. (July 22)

Black Adam - Finally, the Rock has become a superhero. It’s been literal years since Dwayne Johnson talked about playing DC villain Black Adam and in 2022 we finally get to see it. He’s a big man and the expectations are equally big. (July 29)

What movies are opening in August 2022?

Sylvester Stallone wonders why there are no official images from his new movie, Samaritan, while at a retrospective of his artwork in Germany.Photo: Andreas Rentz (Getty Images)

Secret Headquarters – A kid discovers a—you guessed it—secret headquarters underneath his home and starts to wonder if his estranged father might secretly be a superhero. Owen Wilson, Michael Peña, and Jesse Williams star. (August 12)

Beast - This one’s not entirely genre, but we’re willing to make an exception for an adventure flick that pits Idris Elba (who plays the father of two teen girls) against a gigantic rogue lion (which happens to be hunting said teens in South Africa). (August 19)

The Bride - Game of Thrones’ Nathalie Emmanuel stars as a woman who realizes, maybe too late, that her new love isn’t what he seems. Big hint: the movie is said to be “Dracula-inspired.” (August 26)

Samaritan - Sylvester Stallone plays a retired superhero who has gone into hiding, then forced to come out to save a struggling family. It’s almost like if Rocky was Superman, retired, went into hiding, and came back into the ring. (August 26)

What movies are opening in September 2022?

The Mission Impossible team is back. Image: Paramount

Salem’s Lot - Speaking of vampires, the Stephen King novel is getting another adaptation, this time from writer-director and horror-genre veteran Gary Dauberman (Annabelle Comes Home). (September 9)

Distant - Anthony Ramos (In the Heights), Naomi Scott (Aladdin), Krisfofer “Hodor” Hivju, and Zachary Quinn (who’ll be voicing an AI character) star in this tale of an asteroid farmer who gets marooned on an alien planet, where he makes contact with a similarly desperate crewmate who’s trapped in an escape pod. (September 16)

Don’t Worry Darling - Fresh off the incredible Booksmart, Olivia Wilde’s sophomore directorial effort stars Florence Pugh as a 1950s housewife who begins to discover not-so-great things about her husband. (September 23)

Mission Impossible 7 - Tom Cruise will ride a motorcycle off a cliff and land safely at the bottom. That’s about all we know about the next installment in the mega spy franchise, once again directed by Christopher McQuarrie. (September 30)

What movies are opening in October 2022?

Spider-Man Across the Spider-Verse Part One - The first sequel to one of the greatest superhero movies ever made. Period. What’s next for Miles, Gwen, and god-knows how many other Spider-people could show up this time? Who is the villain? Why is it Part One? All valid questions we don’t have answers to but are beyond pumped to find out about. (October 7)

Halloween Ends - In 2021, Halloween Kill-ed. And now, it Ends. We’re hoping like hell this trilogy-capper starring Jamie Lee Curtis is the Michael vs. Laurie showdown that we’ve been waiting for since the end of the 2018 film. (October 14)

What movies are opening in November 2022?

Ezra Miller, seen here in Justice League, is back for The Flash.Image: Warner Bros.

The Flash - This is the year of the multiverse and, we think, it’ll culminate in this long-awaited solo film starring Ezra Miller as Barry Allen. A Barry Allen who has already been on The Flash TV show and now will interact with Ben Affleck’s Batman, Michael Keaton’s Batman, and Warner Bros. only knows how many other heroes. (November 4)

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever - After the tragic passing of Chadwick Boseman, a Black Panther sequel almost doesn’t feel right. But Marvel knows this. Writer-director Ryan Coogler knows this. And they all know the best way to honor Boseman is to continue in his honor and make Wakanda bigger and better than ever. Mark our words, this might be the superhero movie of the year in a year full of them. (November 11)

Strange World - In this Disney animated adventure from Don Hall (whose credits include Raya and the Last Dragon, Moana, and Big Hero Six), a family of explorers will need to learn to get along if they want to succeed in their latest mission. (November 23)

What movies are opening in December 2022?

Concept art from Avatar 2.Image: Disney

Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom - Jason Momoa and James Wan’s surprise 2018 DC hit is coming back and it’ll surely be bigger than ever. We’re wondering, though, in a year with Flash, Batman, and Black Adam, what will the DC Universe look like when we finally sit down to see the film in December? (December 16)

Avatar 2 - Will 2022 actually be the year we see James Cameron’s second Avatar movie? It seems not just possible, but probable, depending on what the world looks like in 12 months. What Cameron’s world will look like is a bit clearer. More blue people, more color animals, and apparently a lot of underwater action. (December 16)

Super Mario Bros. - Not the official title, but this is the Illumination animated film based on the iconic Nintendo video game with a voice cast that feels totally out of character. Nintendo has been careful with its Italian plumber in the decades since his debut, though, so we think this will end up working. (December 21)

What 2022 movies are coming without release dates?

These movies don’t currently have release dates but are all expected to be released sometime this year.

Predator is going back to the past with Prey. (This isn’t Prey)Image: Fox

Batgirl - Leslie Grace stars as Barbara Gordon, daughter of Commissioner Gordon (J.K. Simmons), who’ll put on the cape and cowl of the Caped Crusader... with some help from Michael Keaton apparently? This is a huge movie for streaming only. (HBO Max)

Enola Holmes 2 - We enjoyed the first Enola Holmes movie, starring Mille Bobby Brown and Henry Cavill, so we’ll definitely be checking out the sequel to see what’s next. (Netflix)

Escape from Spiderhead - The director of Tron Legacy, the writers of Deadpool, and Chris Hemsworth. That right there is a very solid pitch. This film is about a future prison where you can reduce your sentence by participating in dangerous experiments. (Netflix)

Evil Dead Rise - Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell return as producers for what is being billed as an official Evil Dead 4. This time though, it’s not set in the woods or in another dimension. It’s in a city highrise. (HBO Max)

Pinocchio - Years in the making, this is finally the year we’re likely to see Guillermo del Toro’s stop-motion animated version of Pinocchio. And really, we’d see anything del Toro has any part of. (Netflix)

Prey - 10 Cloverfield Lane director Dan Trachtenburg returns to the world of Predator in this film about one of the first times the evil aliens came to Earth, where they were hunted by Native Americans. (Hulu)

The Slayers - Thomas Jane as a vampire hunter? Yes: Thomas Jane as a vampire hunter. (Spring in theaters)

Spaceman - The phrase “Adam Sandler Netflix movie” generally doesn’t inspire confidence, but this film is not a comedy. It stars the Sandman as an astronaut whose life on Earth erodes as he goes deeper into space and befriends an alien. (Netflix)


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Children of Blood and Bone Trilogy Now in Development at Paramount @ io9

A crop of the cover of Children of Virtue and Vengeance, the second book in the Children of Blood and Bone trilogy.Image: Macmillian

A series that was going to be Lucasfilm’s first non-Star Wars or Indiana Jones project since it was purchased by Disney has now been picked up by another company. Paramount Pictures has acquired the rights to the Children of Blood and Bone trilogy, a action fantasy series based on YA novels by Hugo and Nebula Award-winning Nigerian-American writer Tomi Adeyemi.

Children of Blood and Bone follows a young orphan named Zélie, who fights back against an evil king that commits atrocities against her people, the Maji, who practice magic. The first book was released in 2018 with its sequel, Children of Virtue and Vengeance, was out in 2019. The third book is rumored to be out in 2023.

Adeyemi will adapt the screenplay and executive produce along with Wyck Godfrey and Marty Bowen of Temple Hill Entertainment (which made the Twilight and Maze Runner movies) and Karen Rosenfelt of Sunswept Entertainment (which made the Percy Jackson movies).

Deadline broke the news of the deal which, reportedly, beat out bids by rival studios such as Universal, Amazon, and Netflix. There’s no word on what specifically happened with Disney and Lucasfilm’s involvement (which was still a thing a little over a year ago when Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy was touting the project on the Disney Investor’s Call), just that the companies are no longer involved.

“Paramount’s passion and enthusiasm to bring this story to life has been incredible,” Adeyemi said to the trade. “We are all so excited for this new chapter and are already hard at work.” According to the trade, that “passion and enthusiasm” included a guaranteed theatrical release as well as seven-figure screenwriting guarantees for the author, which is ultimately what put the company over the top.

“Tomi Adeyemi’s Children of Blood and Bone has not only become a phenomenon in the YA world, it has transformed every expectation of what world-building fantasy can be,” co-president of the Paramount Pictures Motion Group, Daria Cercek, said. “It’s with enormous pride that our studio—along with Tomi and our partners Wyck, Marty and Karen—set out to bring this franchise to life on the big screen. With its thought-provoking and timely themes, we know that this story will resonate with a global audience.”

This sounds like a big deal for Paramount, who has been biding its time to release some of its biggest potential blockbusters going on years now, and certainly the book series sounds awesome. But we are really curious how Lucasfilm fell out of what seems like a sure thing. Maybe we’ll never know.

Update 1/12/2022, 7 p.m. ET: This post has been updated clarifying Disney and Lucasfilm’s lack of involvement.


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The Visual Evolution of Mandalorian Armor Design @ io9

The more things change for Mandalore, the more some things stay the same.Image: Dario Carrasco, Jr., Jordi Ensign, Mark G. Heike, Bill Black, and David Jacob Beckett (Dark Horse Comics/Marvel Comics), and Lucasfilm

There have been long debates about just how Mandalorian Boba and his father were at times in their long history in Star Wars, but their personal influence in the evolution of the Mandalorian people and their culture is indelible. But it’s also had a huge influence on how we literally see them too.

As The Book of Boba Fett sees the infamous hunter-turned-crime-lord embrace his legacy in a new way, complete with his latest adaptation of his iconic armor, let’s take a look back at how Star Wars’ old expanded universe, and its current canon, have retroactively fleshed out the visual history of the Mandalorians, and their inextricable relationship to their armor.

The Crusaders

Image: Chris Trevas/Del Rey

The earliest Mandalorian armors, first seen thousands and thousands of years before the events of the Skywalker saga in stories like the Knights of the Old Republic comics (themselves a prequel to the classic Bioware/Obsidian RPG series), were worn by the Crusaders. These roaming armies first conquered their own world before being lead by the Mandalores—the title inherited by the unifying leader of the Mandalorian clans—before the Mandalorian crusades first encountered the ancient Sith.

Airtight suits forged with the famous Mandalorian iron beskar, and capable of being worn in environments with no atmosphere, Crusader armor was highly individualistic, with different aesthetics and technological changes made by each Mandalorian warrior. A common connection across Crusader aesthetics, however, was the layering of organic components—fabrics, ceremonial bindings, animal bones, and spiked hides—over the base suit.

The Neo-Crusaders (Expanded Universe)

Image: Bioware/EA

After Mandalore the Indomitable lost a duel of honor to the Sith Lord Ulic Qel- Droma, the Crusaders were drafted into the Great Sith War. But not all of them were exactly satisfied with being led by a non-Mandalorian, and when the war came to an end roughly 4,000 years before Star Wars: A New Hope, with the Mandalorians routed at the planet Onderon, a new faction of Crusaders, calling themselves the Neo-Crusaders, arose, crowning a new Mandalore to strike back against the Republic and Jedi.

Unlike the Crusaders before them, Neo-Crusader armor was highly standardized, to give a cohesive look to the various species that would be adopted into Mandalorian culture beyond the original tribal factions. Gone were the organic accoutrements, leaving a sleek shaped to the plated armor. The Neo-Crusader armor was also color-coded, allowing Mandalorians to denote rank: gold for Field Marshals, silver for front line veterans, scarlet for Rally Masters (a mid-commander rank), and blue for all other Neo-Crusader ranks.

The Neo-Crusaders (Current Canon)

Image: Lucasfilm

At least some of the Neo-Crusader iconography made it into the background of the current iteration of Star Wars canon, thanks to the Clone Wars animated series. Depicted in ancient artwork in the version of Mandalore first visited in the series’ sophomore season, while these Neo-Crusaders wore rounded, plain helmets like the Neo-Crusaders first seen in the Knights of the Old Republic games, they were also depicted as covering their armor with large robes covering from the neck down, and wielding bladed weapons against the Jedi.

Neo-Crusader Shock Troopers

Image: Harvey Tolibao and Michael Atiyeh/Dark Horse and Marvel Comics

Although Neo-Crusader armor was largely standardized, there were some variants of it that leaned more towards the traditional aesthetic of what we knew as Mandalorian Armor. As seen in the Knights of the Old Republic comic series, Shock Troopers were denoted by heavily plated armor, supported by exterior tubing and other elements, that would not only allow a Mandalorian greater protection from heavy weapons fire, but also fully operate in the vacuum of space for extended periods of time.

New Mandalorian Armors

Screenshot: Lucasfilm

Mandalorian visual design takes a relatively huge leap in time now, all the way to being contemporary with the mainline Star Wars movies, and the prequels in particular. At this point in their history it’s revealed that, after a period of extended civil war, Mandalorian society has been transformed by the New Mandalorians, a faction who eschewed their warrior past to establish a pacifistic, isolationist ideology helmed by a parliamentary monarchy. Lead by one of the noble Mandalorian houses, Kryze, the New Mandalorian movement still carried some traditions of Mandalorian armor, but in a radically different aesthetic style. With no standing army, New Mandalorian armor split into two usages: the grey, lightly armored tunics worn by the peacekeeper force known as the Mandalorian Guard, and the more elaborately armored Royal Guard that protected the Duchess, Satine Kryze.

Beyond most typical Mandalorian visual language that the New Mandalorians broke off from with the designs is perhaps the most key break of all: both the Mandalorian Guard and the Royal Guard ditched the classic “T-Visor” helmet plate that had been a key signifier of Mandalorian armor design for generations... and would continue to be after them.

Death Watch Armor

Image: Lucasfilm

Concurrently with the armors seen being worn by the New Mandalorians were the armors worn by the terrorist faction known as the Death Watch, a splinter faction who still believed in the traditional warrior culture of Mandalore’s past. These designs are much more closely aligned with the Mandalorian armor we saw worn by Boba Fett in The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, and then by his father in the prequel’s middle chapter, Attack of the Clones.

Death Watch iterations on this aesthetic are visually identical to the designs worn by Jango and then eventually inherited by Boba, but in place of the clean look of Jango’s armor—which Boba would then paint over in his own color scheme—the Death Watch unified their look with darker metallics and blue accents.

Mandalorian and Imperial Super Commandos

Screenshot: Lucasfilm

As the Clone War came to an end, Mandalore was brought into turmoil by a coup spearheaded by elements of the Death Watch faction working with former Sith apprentice Maul and his criminal syndicate, the Shadow Collective. Mandalorians who proved their loyalty to Maul were formed into groups of “Super Commandos,” and while their armor stayed largely similar to that template worn by Death Watch in years prior, its color palette was replaced with designs emulating Maul’s own black-and-red skin striping and accompanying tattoos. Some would go even further and modify their helmet with organic spikes—not as a nod to the Crusaders of long ago, but the bone protrusions on a Zabrak’s head, to emulate their new master.

The New Mandalorians petitioned the Republic for aid in liberating their world from Maul’s coup—and the death of Duchess Satine—in the Clone War’s final hours. Although the Republic was successful, the execution of Order 66 and the perceived betrayal of the Jedi Order lead to its rapid transformation into the Galactic Empire, and Mandalore quickly became occupied Imperial territory. The Imperial regime and Mandalorian collaborators that helped maintain its control would take a page from the Death Watch and the Shadow Collective and maintain the Super Commandos as a fighting force—this time with new, specialized armor. Inspired by real-life alternate concept art for Boba Fett from Empire Strikes Back, Imperial Super Commando design more closely emulated the armor of the Clone Army, with sharp angular chest pieces and a predominantly white color scheme and smaller jetpacks. Their helmets largely remained the same, except for the addition of two small sets of antennae on either side of the helmet.

Post-Purge Armors

Screenshot: Lucasfilm

Little is known what happened to Mandalore after it was re-liberated by a combination of forces from the nascent Rebel Alliance: former Death Watch members led by Duchess Satine’s sister, Bo-Katan Kryze; rebellious Mandalorian houses that had remained on the world; and the Mandalorian Protectorate based on the moon of Concord Dawn. What is known is that at some point, the Galactic Empire struck back at Mandalore, initiating a period of occupation and apparent genocide known among surving Mandalorians as the Great Purge.

Knowledge of just how devastating the Great Purge was is of varying degrees among surviving Mandalorians, who scattered into individual nomadic tribes and enclaves across the galaxy, intending to keep the true scale of survivors unknown on a galactic level. At least some of these enclaves returned to the more traditional armor designs that preceded the New Mandalorians’ cultural prominence. Individual Mandalorians would customize the overall look and coloration of their armor, as well as eventually imprinting it with the mark of their own clan. But one consistent trait seen so far in Star Wars’ exploration of this period was the practice of an individual “earning” a full suit of beskar-crafted armor, exchanging plasteel armor pieces for newly forged plates, once they had found a way to retrieve the now-rarer Mandalorian iron to give to an enclave’s armorer.


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Star Trek: Picard Is Bringing Queer Fun Times and Romulan Warlords to Audio Dramas @ io9

Raffi and Seven are ready to boldly go... on gaycation.Image: CBS/Simon & Schuster

Star Trek: Picard’s largely confounding season one finale included a tiny step forward in the wider franchise’s approach to queer characters when it allowed Michelle Hurd and Jeri Ryan’s Raffi and Seven to... well, hold hands. Look, baby steps! Anyway, while we’re not sure what season two will have in store for them, we now know at least things are about to get a whole lot queerer in a new audio drama.

As revealed on StarTrek.com today, Simon & Schuster is publishing a new audio drama starring Hurd and Ryan called Star Trek: Picard - No Man’s Land. A full-cast audio drama written by Picard co-creator Kirsten Beyer and longtime Trek comics scribe Mike Johnson, No Man’s Land is set immediately after the conclusion of the first season of Picard. Taking some time away from Jean-Luc’s newfound crew aboard La Sirena, No Man’s Land sees Raffi and Seven settle down for a staycation at Raffi’s hideaway on Earth, only to find peace interrupted when a Fenris Ranger request thrusts the two into a relief mission on a far-flung planet. With news of a Romulan warlord’s attempts to hunt down a mysterious scientist who owns an equally mysterious infinity loop talisman, it’s up to the two of them to help get everyone out alive.

Image: CBS/Simon & Schuster

Plus, also, be queer! StarTrek.com says No Man’s Land will see Raffi and Seven “take tentative steps to explore the attraction depicted in the final moments of Picard season one.” Which is a good thing, because leaning on a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it hand-hold in the background as your sole queer representation on a contemporary Star Trek show in 2022 is, well, not exactly boldly going these days. Star Trek has gotten so much better about bringing queer stories, characters, and talent across the LGBTQ+ community to the fore lately, and Picard should be no exception. Hopefully beyond what happens in No Man’s Land, we’ll also get to see Seven and Raffi explore their connection with each other on-screen when the series returns this year, as well!

Star Trek: Picard - No Man’s Land, which also stars Fred Tatasciore, John Kassir, John Cutmore-Scott, and more, is set to release on February 22.


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Superman & Lois Review: “What Lies Beneath” @ Bureau 42

Three months have passed since the end of season one, and Clark still can’t get a shave. Meanwhile, John Henry Irons tries to bond with his daughter, Lois is distant and irritable, Superman isn’t getting along with the DOD, and the drama amongst the world’s oldest fifteen-year-olds has been turned up to Riverdale2 (while their antics remain CW-PG).

Titles: “What Lies Beneath”

Directed by Gregory Smith
Written by Brent Fletcher, Todd Helbing

Cast

Tyler Hoechlin as Clark Kent / Superman
Elizabeth Tulloch as Lois Lane
Jordan Elsass as Jonathan Kent
Alex Garfin as Jordan Kent
Wolé Parks as John Henry Irons
Tayler Buck as Natalie Irons
Emmanuelle Chriqui as Lana Lang Cushing
Erik Valdez as Kyle Cushing
Sofia Hasmik as Chrissy Beppo
Joselyn Picard as Sophie Cushing
Inde Navarrette as Sarah Cushing
Ian Bohen as Lieutenant Mitch Anderson
Daisy Tormé as Voice of A.I. Device
Nathan Witte as Daniel Hart
Monique Phillips as Aldy Manning
Leeah Wong as Emily Phan
Danny Wattley as Coach Gaines
Samantha Di Francesco as Candice Pergande
Aaron Paul Stewart as Reporter/Blog Guy
So-Choon Lee as Korean Submarine Captain
Emma Yi, Harry Han as Submarine crewmembers
Evelyn Gonda, Dominique Termansen as Supermen of America

Premise:

Smallville’s fortunes have turned for the better, but the Kents are on the outs and the children are taking part in a bad after-school special. Meanwhile, the DoD has created its own Super-doers, and their wearing a familiar red-and-yellow symbol.

Don’t they know that DC sues over copyright at the drop of a cowl?

High Points

Lois Lane has been the balancing center of this family; making her less stable, while her husband still has a world to save, makes for an interesting dynamic.

I have always enjoyed the manner in which the DC and Marvel universes integrate their most fantastic elements with the broader culture. Your town was the center of an alien invasion, but superheroes saved you? Hey, let’s cash in on the tourists!

Low Point

The series has always tried to balanced DC superheroics with CW angsty drama. I don’t blame them for keeping with a formula that has worked, but they need to dial down some of the CW histrionics. Natalie’s plot would demand some– but Natalie’s plot should be handled thoughtfully. This girl has gone through things that we cannot really imagine.

Now why, exactly, they decide to enroll her in that particular school…

The Scores:

Originality: 2/6 They eliminated the evil Kryptonians, so now we have a different Reign of the Supermen/women plot? That seems like lazy writing– even if they’ve spoilered already that the Big Bad this year will be Doomsday, as some viewers guessed from the ending of this episode.

Effects: 5/6 We have a couple of well-produced effects sequences interrupting our overwrought drama.

Acting: 5/6

Production: 6/6

Story: 4/6

Emotional Response: 4/6

Overall: 4/6

In total “What Lies Beneath” receives 30/42

For Pixar Fans, Turning Red's Shift to Disney+ is Turning Ugly @ io9

Image: Pixar Studios

Since the debut of Toy Story in 1995, Pixar’s animated films have helped catapult Disney’s rise to become one of the biggest corporations in the world. Seeing their films in the theater every other year was often an event in and of itself, and that’s led to a powerful, passionate fanbase that’s grown with each sequel or original film. But as the COVID-19 pandemic continues and film companies have to change their release strategies, Disney’s treatment of Pixar’s recent output is turning heads.

On January 7, Disney announced Pixar’s upcoming film Turning Red would be released exclusively on Disney+ at no extra price. Directed by Domee Shi Bao, the computer-animated film is about a teenage girl who discovers she turns into a giant red panda whenever she’s stressed or upset. Turning Red is now the third Pixar film in a row to released exclusively on Disney+, following last year’s boyhood adventure Luca and the jazzy 2020 film Soul. The studio’s last movie released in theaters was 2020's Onward, which fizzled in its short theatrical release in the early days of the pandemic..

The news of Red’s transition to streaming has left moviegoers divided. Though we are now in year two of a once again surging pandemic, Pixar fans point out Disney’s double standard regarding in-theater releases: Aside from Black Widow, all of the company’s recent Marvel movies have been heavily touted as “only in theaters.” Movies like Disney Animation’s Raya & the Last Dragon had simultaneous release in theaters and on streaming (for the latter, you’d pay $30), and the recent Encanto was in theaters for a month before being added to D+. (Raya and Widow’s dual release method lasted at least three months.) Add to that the news that Pixar employees were already demoralized to see their 2021 films going directly to streaming, and you can see why this is a divisive issue.

On Twitter, media analyst Julia Alexander acknowledged that while putting Red on streaming is the morally correct decision, it could backfire in terms of how viewers regard Pixar. “I imagine it’s so disheartening for the Pixar team to see their movies lose theatricality and go straight to Disney+ without any fee,” she said, since a higher price point for a theatrical experience can give the feeling of higher quality. And because consumer perceptions “change with technology advancements/studio direction,” it can be hard to return those expectations to their original status. “Soul made sense during Christmas 2020,” she noted, “and Luca came during a content lull. Turning Red as an original IP during omicron spikes is a tough sell.”

Conversely, others think the move to streaming is what makes Turning Red more important than ever. In a Twitter thread of her own, culture critic Klaudia Amenábar talked about how Red’s jump to D+ is a net positive, especially because it keeps kids and disabled people safe. “Streaming doesn’t mean Disney doesn’t value Pixar,” she said. “Frankly, it means they value Pixar more... Pixar is a cornerstone of Disney and has been for a while. That’s why they can make non-musical movies for kids and still get the spotlight.” Citing the recent surge of popularity for Encanto on social media, Amenábar pointed out how Red’s free price point (and also piracy) can further benefit Disney. “More people will see these movies because they’re on streaming... the kids will rewatch them, and people will talk about them online.”

Still, a recent report by Insider indicates that several employees feel “extremely disappointed,” and excitement was at an all-time high for a return to theaters. “We all thought Turning Red would be our return to the big screen… it was quite a blow.” None of them fault Disney for the pivot, given the omicron variant, or as another employee plainly puts it: “Sucks, but I get it.”

In the long run, Pixar will doubtless survive and remain a key part of Disney’s cinematic output. At time of writing, their Toy Story spinoff Lightyear is still scheduled as a theatrical exclusive for June, and they have three films scheduled for theatrical release in 2023 and 2024. But with no end in sight for the pandemic, it’s worth asking what kind of future Pixar will have.

Turning Red will release on March 11 in theaters and on Disney+ for free.


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Legend of Vox Machina's New Trailer Is a Gory, Sweary Trip Through Tal'Dorei @ io9

Absolutely the appropriate way to introduce your adventuring party.Screenshot: Amazon Prime Video

So far, our looks at The Legend of Vox Machina, Critical Role’s leap from the world of tabletop gaming into full-on animation, have focused on propping up its lovable cast of misfits as the heroes most Criticial Role fans know them to be at this point. The latest trailer goes to great lengths to show that they are also as much of a hot mess as the majority of tabletop adventure parties.

Prime Video has released a new red-band trailer for The Legend of Vox Machina, although it’s light on gore aside from the occasional blood spurt, and much more heavier on its titular adventurers cursing their way to fame and fortune as some of Tal’Dorei’s most famous heroes. But the emphasis is on how, at the point we meet them in the show, these people very much aren’t those legends just yet.

It strikes a much different tone to a lot of what we’ve seen out of the show so far, capturing the sort of manic energy that glues together most tabletop parties pretty well. Some folks want to do some good, many want riches and treasure, most of them just want the latest fun distraction—and even more just wanna beat some monsters or bad guys up. And then sometimes, the best of friends and closest of allies just might want to wave middle fingers at each other like small children.

Suffice to say, it goes a bit of the way to showing people who aren’t familiar with Critical Role’s work either on the tabletop or now beyond it across the myriad comics, novels, and sourcebooks that make up the actual-play series’ transmedia empire these days what the vibe is really about—and how you’re not going just get some straight laced fantasy story along the way. Legend of Vox Machina is set to hit Amazon Prime from January 28.


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