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    Autographs of the Final Frontier is a fascinating deep dive into Star Trek history.

    Feature Kayti Burt
    Mar 27, 2018

    We love our Star Trek: The Original Series (or, as it's also known, Star Trek) here at Den of Geek, which is why we're always on the lookout for pop culture that celebrates the iconic show.

    We've mentioned Gerald Gurian's series of behind-the-scenes Star Trek books—To Boldly Go: Rare Photos from the TOS Soundstage—before. Gurian's latest book is called Autographs of the Final Frontier: Rare Signatures, Warm Sentiments and Handwritten Filming Memories from the Cast, Crew and Guest Stars ofTOS, and it's a fascinating piece of both Star Trek history and fan history.

    Some of the gems included in the 500-page book include: a memo from Leonard Nimoy to Gene Roddenberry offered suggestions on an upcoming script, call sheets from the production of the first Star Trek pilot, and countless handwritten notes from members of the cast and production to fans.

    Scroll through the gallery at the top of the page to see more peeks into Autographs of the Final Frontier, which has over 450 autograph examples and 500 behind-the-scenes photos. It spans all three seasons of The Original Series, and includes notes from various guest actors reflecting on their experience filming Star Trek.

    Autographs of the Final Frontier is a must-have (or at least must-consider) for any Star Trek: The Original Series fan, or anyone who is interested in television history.

    Buy Autographs of the Final Frontier on Amazon

    Here's the full book synopsis:

    With over 450 autographs and 500 rare behind-the-scenes photos, this 498 page full color volume presents one of the most comprehensive collections of Original Series autographs ever assembled, featuring many rarely seen signatures from prominent guest stars as well as members of the studio production team and the artists that were involved with all aspects of the show's development - from set design and costume creation to prop fabrication, screenwriting, directing and even musical composition. The collection is highlighted by dozens of handwritten notes from various guest actors that reminisce about their experiences while filming their TOS episode and, whether it be Meg Wyllie's remarks on her early morning makeup calls to become the Talosian "The Keeper", or France Nuyen's reflections on having Elaan's armor costume plates glued to her skin, or Don Marshall's remembrance of creative differences with the Director on the demeanor of his Lt. Boma character and how Leonard Nimoy intervened on his behalf, or BarBara Luna's anecdote about falling ill with a severe flu while filming her scenes, readers can enjoy discovering many little pieces of Star Trek history directly from the handwritten accounts of the actual actors involved. The hundreds of autographs featured in this book were assembled by the author over the course of almost 42 years of collecting, beginning with some in-person signatures obtained from Nichelle Nichols, James Doohan and others at the Toronto Star Trek '76 convention held at the Royal York Hotel in his hometown of Toronto, Canada in late July, 1976. Together with it's additional biographical data on the artists, and the hundreds of rare behind-the-scenes production photos from all three seasons of TOS, including many new images not shown in the author's To Boldly Go - Rare Photos from the TOS Soundstage book series, this edition is truly a unique and enjoyable treasure trove of Star Trek filming history.


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    The six Infinity Stones have been claimed, but what exactly is Infinity Countdown leading towards? Now we know.

    News Gavin Jasper
    Mar 28, 2018

    Recently, Marvel started up its own little pre-event called Infinity Countdown. Only a couple issues have been released so far, but over the next few months we’ll be getting a dozen more installments, including side-issues starring the likes of Black Widow, Darkhawk, Daredevil, and so on. Being that Marvel has a massive Thanos-based movie coming out very soon, the whole thing is about retreading the whole Infinity Stones concept.

    Simple enough plot: the six Infinity Stones are out there and a mixed bag of Marvel names are warring over them.

    As it is right now, the no-longer-dead-anymore Wolverine has the Space Stone, street level criminal Turk Barrett has the Mind Stone, Captain Marvel has the Reality Stone, there’s a big space battle going on over the Power Stone that includes the Guardians of the Galaxy, Super Skrull has the Time Stone, and the Ultron/Hank Pym hybrid has the Soul Stone. Meanwhile, Adam Strange, Thanos, and Loki are all interested parties in what’s going down.

    The announced issues of Infinity Countdown go all the way up to July. So...what is all of this counting down to, exactly?

    Yeah! See, the movie is singular and this is plural! That makes it bigger and better! Then again, considering Infinity Warwas a crossover story back in the early 90s, it makes as much sense as anything.

    The book will be put together by Gerry Duggan, Mike Deodato Jr., and Frank Martin. There isn’t much to go on other than that cover image with that mysterious Infinity Jawa guy hanging out in the background along with the usual suspects. Marvel will reveal more about what Infinity Wars is all about at next weekend’s Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo.

    The issue will be released in July, though I imagine it will be the final week, since we also have Infinity Countdown #5, Infinity Countdown: Champions #2, and Infinity Countdown: Darkhawk #4 confirmed for that month.

    Gavin Jasper is just happy that Infinity Countdown restored Groot to his non-baby form. Follow Gavin on Twitter!


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    DC is bringing the Justice League back to the Hall of Justice!

    NewsMike Cecchini
    Mar 28, 2018

    Saturday morning cartoon fans, rejoice! If you've been wondering why the Justice League has been spending all their time in something as pedestrian as a satellite, you're in luck. Super Friends devotees will be pleased to hear that the Justice League will once again call the Hall of Justice home when their new series kicks off with Justice League: No Justice this summer.

    The plans (quite literally) for the Hall of Justice were revealed at the conclusion of the DC's Scott Snyder/Greg Capullo event, Dark Knights: Metal, which saw Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman hint at the new direction for the team going forward. Bruce Wayne is seen with none other than the blueprints for the Hall of Justice, looking very much like it's familiar, cartoon series incarnation.

    The Hall of Justice first appeared as Justice League HQ in the first episode of 1973's season of Super Friends. It didn't make its way to the comics until 2007. We've seen the Hall of Justice pop up here and there in other pop culture recently, notably in the 2016 CW Arrowverse crossover, which saw the team gather in an abandoned STAR Labs hangar that looked suspiciously like the old Hall of Justice.

    The use of the Hall of Justice for the new Justice League series is right in line with the approach that Scott Snyder, Jim Cheung, and Jorge Jiménez are bringing to the book. The new JL lineup should be quite familiar to fans of the Justice League Unlimited animated series, with a core team of Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, The Flash, the John Stewart Green Lantern, Hawkgirl, Martian Manhunter, and Cyborg. Having them hang around the Hall of Justice is a nice, familiar touch. Apparently we're going to see them take on a new version of the Legion of Doom, too, so the Saturday morning cartoon vibe will be strong with this one.

    Justice League: No Justice arrives on May 9. It will be followed by the new Justice League ongoing series on June 6.


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    Ernest Cline says the Ready Player One sequel will explore different areas of pop culture.

    News Don Kaye
    Mar 28, 2018

    With the long-awaited film version of Ready Player One arriving this week, the novel’s author Ernest Cline (who also co-authored the screenplay for the Steven Spielberg-directed movie) has been doing press for the film alongside Spielberg himself and the cast.

    While the book was published in 2011, it wasn’t until just recently -- December 2017 -- that Cline acknowledged he was at work on a sequel, although reports of a second book began circulating two years earlier.

    Den of Geek sat down recently with Cline to discuss the movie, but we also pressed him on the status of the sequel and whether it would incorporate the same gaggle of geek and pop culture references as the first book.

    “The fun of the sequel for me would be exploring other facets of pop culture that I love and not just using the same ones over again,” said Cline. “That’s one of the reasons that I'm drawn to write more stories in this world. It was a lot of work creating the Oasis and the rules of the Oasis, but the Oasis was kind of the ultimate video game, and the ultimate entertainment platform, and that's a very fun landscape in which to tell stories.”

    Asked how far along he is on the book, Cline replied, “I've been working on it this past year, while I was in between visiting the set and helping with post production. I was already kind of back in the world of Ready Player One anyhow, by helping on the movie, so it was a very natural process for me to go back to writing the sequel.” He added, “It was really energizing, seeing Steven and ILM and Visual Domain visualize the world I created, and it made it even more fun to return to it.”

    Cline added that the book would “definitely” be out sometime in the next couple of years -- probably just in time for work to start on adapting it to the screen.

    Read more from our interview with Cline later this week. Ready Player One is out in theaters this Thursday (March 29).


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    We finally learn the origin of the new Rorschach in DC's Doomsday Clock.

    NewsMike Cecchini
    Mar 28, 2018

    This article contains massive Doomsday Clock spoilers.

    Doomsday Clock, the Watchmensequel from Geoff Johns and Gary Frank, has been something of a roller coaster ride. The first issue was remarkable, a virtually perfect expansion of where the world of Watchmen had been left at its conclusion in 1986. In tone, in spirit, and certainly in the vision of Gary Frank's artwork, it really appeared that the creative team had done the impossible, and delivered a worthy follow-up to what is generally considered to be an untouchable masterpiece.

    The next two issues were a little more difficult. Bringing the Watchmen characters into the DC Universe is a tricky proposition, and has always been the hardest sell in the Doomsday Clock concept. The jury is still out on whether that element of it will work (although we did get a nifty new Batman costume in the previous chapter), and the series stumbled further with a clumsy "resurrection" of the Comedian. I'll be honest, I was getting nervous.

    But along comes Doomsday Clock #4 and suddenly those other concerns once again seem pretty distant. One of the key points of the series from the very first issue has been the identity of the new Rorschach, and why he's aiding Adrian Veidt. Doomsday Clock #4 sidelines the vast majority of the DC Universe end of this story, in favor of a tale primarily told in flashback (and via the trademark nine-panel grid) to reveal the identity of the new Rorschach.

    It turns out that our new Rorschach is Reggie Long, the son of Dr. Malcolm Long, the unfortunate prison psychiatrist who found himself obsessed with Walter Kovacs. The reason why an otherwise well adjusted young man from a good home would suddenly "decide" to take on the Rorschach identity is handled both with care and a devotion to certain superhero origin story tropes...albeit with an appropriate Watchmen-esque spin. There's one piece of the puzzle that remains unclear, and it's something teased in the supplemental material from the first issue, and I do wonder if there's one key gap in Reggie's story from this issue.

    Doomsday Clock has been at its best when it's expanding on the world of Watchmen, whether it's the Charlton-influenced Mime and Marionette, or the worldbuilding with the reveal of the NYC "tailor" who outfitted various criminals. This chapter spends a good deal of time on the immediate aftermath and the human impact of Veidt's interdimensional mass murder, and not just who the new Rorschach is, but why he is. Reggie is a very different character than Walter Kovacs, with entirely different reasoning for doing what he does. For some, this series may still be a sacrilege, and there's still plenty of uncertainty as to how this will all end up, but Doomsday Clock #4 has me believing again. 

    Mike Cecchini wants pancakes. Have breakfast with him on Twitter.


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    The trailer The Darkest Minds hints this won't be just another teen YA movie.

    Trailers Kayti Burt
    Mar 28, 2018

    On the surface, The Darkest Minds might look like just another franchise-hopeful YA adaptation (or an X-Menmovie), but this is not just another Hunger Games ripoff... though it does star Hunger Games' Amandla Stenberg in the lead role. 

    Stenberg stars as Ruby, a 16-year-old in a world where 98 percent of the kids have been killed by a plague. The remaining children have developed supernatural powers, and have been labeled as threats by the government. Each child is designated a different color to distinguish their threat level—yes, just like our real-world color-coded terrorist threat level.

    The not-so-subtle similarities between the world of The Darkest Minds and our own don't stop there. The movie based on the Alexandra Bracken novel sees the kids band together to create a collective, youth-of-color-led resistance movement similar to the ones we have begun to see from our own youth. From the looks of the first trailer, this movie might tap into something that's happening right now.

    The Darkest Minds Trailer

    Check out the trailer:

    Here's the official synopsis:

    When teens mysteriously develop powerful new abilities, they are declared a threat by the government and detained. Sixteen-year-old Ruby, one of the most powerful young people anyone has encountered, escapes her camp and joins a group of runaway teens seeking safe haven. Soon this newfound family realizes that, in a world in which the adults in power have betrayed them, running is not enough and they must wage a resistance, using their collective power to take back control of their future.

    The Darkest Minds Release Date

    The Darkest Minds is directed by Jennifer Yuh Nelson (Kung Fu Panda 2). It opens in theaters on August 3rd.

    The Darkest Minds Cast

    In addition to Stenberg, The Darkest Minds also stars Mandy Moore, Gwendoline Christie, Harris Dickinson, Skylan Brooks, Miya Cech, Patrick Gibson, Golden Brooks, and Wallace Langham.


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    Dhonielle Clayton and Zoraida Córdova are gathering up some of YA's finest and hitting the road.

    NewsKayti Burt
    Mar 28, 2018

    Fans of young adult literature, there's an upcoming book tour you should know about. The Belles author Dhonielle Clayton and Bruja Born author Zoraida Córdova are going on tour together across the U.S.

    According to Syfy Wire, it's called the Belles & Brujas Tour and it will stop in 13 different cities across the U.S., featuring special guests like Justina Ireland (Dread Nation), Julie C. Dao (The Forest of a Thousand Lanterns), Nicola Yoon (Everything, Everything), Julie Murphy (Dumplin'), Tessa Gratton (The Queens of Innis Lear), and V. E. Schwab (A Darker Shade of Magic). 

    Basically, this tour will feature some of the most exciting, diverse authors writing and making change in the young adult industry right now.

    In addition to writing The Belles, Clayton is also the COO of We Need Diverse Books, an organization that promotes the importance of representation in children's literature. Clayton and Córdova will be donating 10% of the proceeds from the tour to the organization.

    The authors are planning on visiting places that aren't usually stops on book tours, like juvenile facilities for at-risk girls. "We want to be able to share whatever bit of hope we can. There's power in words," said Córdova. "We want this tour to be fun and exciting for everyone. But we also want to contribute to change."

    Check out the Belles & Brujas Tour official site for a full list of the cities and dates of the tour, which kicks off in June. And read on for details about Clayton and Córdova's books...

    Here's the official synopsis for The Belles:

    Camellia Beauregard is a Belle. In the opulent world of Orleans, Belles are revered, for they control Beauty, and Beauty is a commodity coveted above all else. In Orleans, the people are born gray, they are born damned, and only with the help of a Belle and her talents can they transform and be made beautiful.

    But it's not enough for Camellia to be just a Belle. She wants to be the favorite, the Belle chosen by the Queen of Orleans to live in the royal palace, to tend to the royal family and their court, to be recognized as the most talented Belle in the land.

    But once Camellia and her Belle sisters arrive at court, it becomes clear that being the favorite is not everything she always dreamed it would be. Behind the gilded palace walls live dark secrets, and Camellia soon learns that the very essence of her existence is a lie, that her powers are far greater, and could be more dangerous, than she ever imagined. And when the queen asks Camellia to risk her own life and help the ailing princess by using Belle powers in unintended ways, Camellia now faces an impossible decision. 

    With the future of Orleans and its people at stake, Camellia must decide: save herself and her sisters and the way of the Belles, or resuscitate the princess, risk her own life, and change the ways of her world forever. 

    Buy The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton

    And here's the official synopsis for Bruja Born, the next book in the Brooklyn Brujasseries, out June 5th:

    Lula Mortiz feels like an outsider. Her sister's newfound Encantrix powers have wounded her in ways that Lula's bruja healing powers can't fix, and she longs for the comfort her family once brought her. Thank the Deos for Maks, her sweet, steady boyfriend who sees the beauty within her and brings light to her life.

    Then a bus crash turns Lula's world upside down. Her classmates are all dead, including Maks. But Lula was born to heal, to fix. She can bring Maks back, even if it means seeking help from her sisters and defying Death herself. But magic that defies the laws of the deos is dangerous. Unpredictable. And when the dust settles, Maks isn't the only one who's been brought back...

    Pre-Order Bruja Born by Zoraida Córdova


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    Netflix will follow the teen-aged exploits of King Arthur’s Lady of the Lake character in Cursed.

    News Tony Sokol
    Mar 28, 2018

    Netflix is pulling a sword from a stone in its upcoming original series Cursed. Based on King Arthur’s Lady of the Lake figure, the project comes from comic book writer/artist Frank Miller (The Dark Knight Returns, Sin City) and Puss in Boots writer/producer Tom Wheeler. The 10-episode series is based on Miller and Wheeler's upcoming illustrated young adult book Cursed, according to Variety.

    Cursed is told through the eyes of the Lady of the Lake character from the King Arthur legend, Nimue. The character is a teenager with a mysterious gift, and the series shows how she came to be on the road to her destiny.

    After her mother dies, Nimue joins a young mercenary named Arthur, on his quest to find the magician Merlin and deliver an ancient sword. The future Lady of the Lake become a symbol of courage and rebellion against the “terrifying Red Paladins, and their complicit King Uther,” according to Variety.

    “I have always been entranced by the mythological Arthur story—and by Nimue, in particular,” said Miller said in a statement after the book announcement,  per CBR. “It can be interpreted in any number of ways — from a delightful children’s story, as in The Sword in the Stone, to a terrifying interpretation like Excalibur. This tale represents an incredible opportunity and an exciting challenge for me as an illustrator, and I’m excited to collaborate on the story with Thomas Wheeler. I inherited a collection of antique children’s books from my mother, and I’ve always wanted to have a crack at it myself. This project is a dream come true.”

    Miller, who co-directed Sin City with Robert Rodriguez, also wrote the graphic novels Ronin, Daredevil: Born Again, and 300. He created the character Elektra for Marvel Comics’ Daredevil series, and the character Carrie Kelley for DC Comics.  Miller wrote and directed The Spirit, which was based on the Will Eisner comic book series.

    Wheeler co-wrote Lego: Ninjago Movie for Warner Brothers. He also is currently writing the sequel to the Shrek spinoff Puss in Boots. Michael Bay will direct his original screenplay Vostok for Paramount Pictures. He wrote the screenplay for the live-action adaptation of the cartoon Dora the Explorer. It will be directed by James Bobin and come out for 2019 release date.

    Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing will release Cursed in Fall 2019.


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    Marvel is killing off The Inhumans in July.

    NewsJim Dandy
    Mar 29, 2018

    The Inhumans, the on-again-off-again go-to replacements for the X-Men in the Marvel television and comic book universes, have had a rocky couple of years, and it looks like it's not going to get any better for them soon. Storywise, at least. 

    Coming in July from Marvel is Death of the Inhumans, a series written by Donny Cates (Doctor Strangeand one of our best comics of 2017, God Country) with art from Ariel Olivetti (Cable and some more recent but nowhere near as magnificent as that Cable run stuff) and covers by Kaare Andrews (The Immortal Iron Fists).

    All that was released is the cover below, but that potentially tells us a lot. Black Bolt is a skeleton, Medusa is in pain, Triton is there, Maximus is probably the mastermind, and Lockjaw is there and thus threatened. And if this turns into John Wick but with a main character who can't speak (so...John Wick), I'ma be mad as hell.

    The Inhumans were created in the pages of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby's Fantastic Four as a race of weird, hierarchical superbeings who lived in a hidden city in the Himalayas. Since then, they've been revealed as the product of Kree genetic experimentation eons ago. Their home moved to the Blue Area of the Moon (the part with an atmosphere), then they launched into space after their leader, Black Bolt, was replaced by a Skrull (he got better). In space, they took over the damaged and faltering Kree empire, then led them to a pyrrhic victory in a war with the Shi'ar (in War of Kings, the middle story in Abnett and Lanning's Marvel cosmic epic). 

    During Infinity (the crossover that looks like the source material for a big chunk of Avengers: InfinityWar), Black Bolt dropped a Terrigen bomb on Earth, causing an explosion of Inhumans and releasing a cloud that was toxic to any mutants who breathed it in. The cloud was soundly defeated by the X-Men in Inhumans vs. X-Men, and with the substance that creates them destroyed, the Inhumans have been searching for meaning ever since. 

    For more on the Inhumans, including a recap of Royals once all of it is up on Marvel Unlimited (spoilers through issue 7: it's extremely fine so far!) stick with Den of Geek!


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    The Fantastic Four will finally return to the Marvel universe this August! Also Marvel Two-in-One is continuing!

    NewsJim Dandy
    Mar 29, 2018

    This August, Dan Slott (Silver Surfer) and Sara Pichelli (Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man) are relaunching the Fantastic Four for the first time since 2015.

    Reed Richards and Sue Storm were last seen at the close of Secret Wars where they, along with the kids from the Future Foundation (Franklin and Valeria Richards, Alex Power, a teen clone of the Wizard named Bentley 23, Artie, and Leech) left to rebuild the multiverse following its collapse in the pages of Avengers and New Avengers. 

    They have periodically been referenced since their disappearance, most prominently in the universal entity fight comic Ultimates and in Chip Zdarsky and Valerio Schitti's excellent Marvel Two-In-One, where the Thing, the Human Torch, and an Iron Man-inspired good guy Dr. Doom search the multiverse for their family. Also probably in Invincible Iron Man, which was about good guy Dr. Doom.

    The First Family of Marvel Comics was created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in 1963 at the dawn of the new Marvel Comics and had been in more or less continuous publication since that time. They were phased out of the Marvel Universe because Fox held the film rights, a status quo that infuriated CEO Ike Perlmutter when he wasn't picking through the trash cans at Marvel offices demanding that staff reuse old staples.

    Perhaps because of the pending Disney/Fox deal that returns the movie rights for the X-Men and Fantastic Four to Marvel Studios - or perhaps because of a change in leadership at Marvel - we are getting our first new FF comic in over three years. 

    For more on the Fantastic Four, or for more snark about our inevitable Secretary of Veterans Affairs, stick with Den of Geek!


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    The author of the cult classic book reveals his thoughts on the movie version and where virtual reality is headed.

    Interview Don Kaye
    Mar 29, 2018

    In 2011, a screenwriter named Ernest Cline published his first novel, Ready Player One. Set in a dystopian future where people lead virtual second lives inside a giant simulated reality known as the Oasis, the book touched on the coming advances in virtual reality, our growing reliance on and addiction to the Internet, our endless fascination with video games and a generational obsession with the touchstones and icons of ‘80s pop culture, from the movies to the games to the music.

    Seven years later, Cline’s novel has been brought to life on the screen by Steven Spielberg, a director whose own films were such a powerful part of the cultural iconography that permeates Cline’s novel (and now the movie, for which Cline co-wrote the screenplay with Zak Penn). The movie sets out to both celebrate that decade’s entertainment while also cautioning against the dangers of disconnecting oneself from the real world entirely. At the recent press day for the film in Los Angeles, we spoke with Cline about Spielberg’s film, where he thinks the technology of virtual reality is taking us, and his plans for a second novel set in the Ready Player One universe.

    Den of Geek: How much of what you saw in your head when you wrote the book has made it onto the screen almost the way you envisioned it?

    Ernest Cline: Both the real world and the virtual world at the Oasis, I feel, are perfectly realized, in even more detail than I did in my book. I visualized a lot of things, but when I went and visited the set and actually walked through the Stacks, there were businesses built, and it was filled with extras, and it was like a living breathing place, so it was amazing. It was like walking into the paperback cover of my novel.

    What was amazing is that Steven gave all the different departments copies of my book, and he was always referencing my book on the set. When I first showed up there was a copy of it, a dog-eared copy of my paperback right next to his copy of the script. And so there were so many little details in the movie that are right from the book that never made it into any draft of the script, because people from the different departments were reading it on the set, and using details from the book to build out the experience. So I just feel that even though the events occur differently in the movie than they do in the book, the spirit of what happens in the book is, I think, captured perfectly.

    If there's any sort of lesson in the story, it's about the potential problems of living completely immersed in your own escapism, yet it also celebrates that escapism and, if you will, the beauty of pop culture. 

    If there's any message in Ready Player One, both the novel and the film, it's about striking a balance between reality and escapism, and it doesn't make negative judgements about escapism. I think it presents escapism as a good thing, and I do think it's an essential part of the human experience. You know, escaping into movies, or with music, or into art, or into any subculture is a positive thing, because it drives people together, any kind of culture does that, but including pop culture.

    I think the Oasis is an allegory for the way we use the internet now. There are already people who spend all their time on the internet; communicate with their friends solely through the internet, because they prefer the filter of the internet, because it filters out a lot of the uncomfortable nuance of human interaction, but also creates lot of miscommunication, I think, because communicating over the internet is not like communicating in person.

    Where do you think that right balance is, in terms of embracing and living with pop culture, while not being consumed by it?

    I feel like it's hard for everybody to strike a balance, especially if you're someone who really loves escapism, and loves fantasy, and I'm that kind of person and so is Zak, and Steven most definitely is -- he has such a vivid imagination and dreams for a living. I think it's hard for everyone to strike a balance between the need to escape from reality, and also the need to roll up your sleeves and make your reality better, and tend to the needs of the real world, which is why I love the tagline that they came up with on our early posters: "Accept your reality, or fight for a better one."

    Something that was exciting to me about the concept of virtual reality as technology, it's really human civilization taking its first step into conquering reality by creating our own reality, which is powerful, but also unprecedented, and we don't know where that's going to take us. Just like we don't know where the internet's going to take us. The internet in the space of 20 years has completely changed every facet of our lives and our political landscape, and the whole culture of the world, and the entertainment industry, and the music industry, and it's just profound. And it has the potential to keep changing.

    In terms of the growth of virtual reality, do you think its growth will be determined by how much we can actually sort of create a second life in there?

    Yeah, exactly. I think what's amazing about this movie is that it shows that both the potential and the pitfalls of virtual reality. But once you scan someone's face, and you can map their facial emotions onto their avatar, and do that on the fly in real time, then it's not like these wooden avatars communicating anymore. So much of the delicate interplay of people in the same room, talking to each other, is about nuance of facial expression and our body language, and all that gets lost really when you communicate over the internet, or over the phone, or over Skype.

    Once we conquer those details, and virtual reality becomes almost indistinguishable from the real world, that's when it becomes an incredibly powerful tool, but also like a super drug, as Steven calls it, and one that would be hard not to overdose on.

    There used to be computer rooms when I was a kid in the '80s, and now schools have virtual reality rooms, where kids will put on Oculus headsets, and go on a virtual field trip, and can tour the Louvre and things like that, so it's a really powerful tool for education and entertainment. But like any of our tools, it can get out of hand. Since it's a new tool, we don't know what the side effects are going to be.

    I understand you've been working on a sequel to the book. Would you continue with the same frame of references or have those move forward with the times?

    The fun of the sequel for me would be exploring other facets of pop culture that I love, and not just using the same ones over again. That's one of the reasons that I'm drawn to write more stories in this world. It was a lot of work creating the Oasis and the rules of the Oasis, but the Oasis was kind of the ultimate video game, and the ultimate entertainment platform, and that's a very fun landscape in which to tell stories. It's a plausible future reality, where anything is possible. Anything can happen in virtual reality and still you can suspend your disbelief, because it's all a computer simulation, and it's already clear, I think, to most people, that that's where we're headed.

    If you look at the evolution of video games, just in my lifetime, from Pong until Call of Duty right now, it's profound. It's gone from pixelated blocky graphics to completely photo-realistic characters that are almost indistinguishable from real life, and that's in the space of 30, 40 years. So, where's that going to be in 30 or 40 more years? That's part of the fun of imagining the Oasis. So I have lots of other stories that I'm anxious to tell, in that world.

    How far along are you in that book? Do you expect to have it out in the next couple of years?

    Yes, definitely. I've been working on it this past year, while I was in between visiting the set and helping with post production. I was already kind of back in the world of Ready Player One anyhow, by helping on the movie, so it was a very natural process for me to go back to writing the sequel. It was really energizing, seeing Steven and ILM and Visual Domain visualize the world I created, and it made it even more fun to return to it.

    What did make that particular era that's in the book so special? Obviously for you, you grew up in it, but to what do you attribute its longevity now?

    Well, I mean part of it is it was the dawn of the era that we live in now, I think. The late '70s and the '80s is the dawn of the information age. That's also when we got video games. My generation was the first generation to have video games, to have home computers, to have VCRs and be able to re-watch movies and pause movies, and examine them. First generation to have modems, and be able to dial out of our phone lines and be able to connect to another computer, which is the dawn of the internet. So I feel like the '80s was when we got on the path to the information age that we live in now.

    But it was also a golden age for cinema. Steven and George Lucas kind of created the blockbuster with Jaws and Star Wars in the late '70s, and that led to a golden age of cinema in the '80s. Especially growing up as a kid, it was the best time to be a kid, because of the amazing movies that we had. They were all movies about kids who could do anything. Movies like The Goonies or WarGames or ET or Iron Eagle, movies where after the adults have given up on a problem the kids band together to take down the bad guy. I love stories like that, they meant so much to me when I was a kid, and that was the kind of story that I was trying to capture when I wrote Ready Player One, which is why it was so amazing to have the guy who made so many of those movies help me tell that story.

    Ready Player One is in theaters today (March 29).


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    Pour yourself a drink, get your curse words ready, and help us find every Marvel reference in Jessica Jones Season 2!

    Feature Mike Cecchini
    Mar 29, 2018

    This article contains nothing but Jessica Jones Season 2 spoilers. 

    At this point, do I even need to explain these articles anymore? I do? OK, fine. I love superhero comics, perhaps a little too much, as you can probably tell based on what I do for a living. As a result, it's not enough for me to just watch and enjoy a Marvel Netflix show like Jessica Jones Season 2. Nooooo...I must study every frame in the hopes of unlocking some piece of Marvel wisdom that would otherwise be lost to the ages or some such nonsense.

    So here's how this works. I am trying to catch all the Marvel references on Jessica Jones Season 2. I probably am going to miss a bunch of them. I need your help. I hate asking for help, but we're all friends here, so it's cool, right? If you spot a cool Marvel Easter Egg or something important that I missed, you can drop it in the comments (beware of spoilers, comments-readers!) or you can just holler at me on Twitter. If it checks out, I'll update this guide, and we can all make this far better than it would have been if it was just me doing it.

    Oh, and here's a cool tip...if the title is in blue, that means there's a full review waiting for you there if you click it!

    Jessica Jones Season 2 Episode 1: AKA Start at the Beginning

    "While Jessica deals with a rival PI and a would-be client, Trish digs up a medical file that could unlock the mystery of Jessica's powers."

    This isn't an easter egg, but wow, Jessica almost seems like she has her shit together at the start of this, doesn't she? Anyway...Pryce Cheng isn't a character from the comics, unless that's an alias (obligatory reminder that Alias was the name of Jessica's first comic book), but really, I don't think it is. Jessica's cute new neighbor downstairs doesn't appear to be from the comics, either. Jessica Jones has always worked best kind of one step removed from the rest of the Marvel Universe, and it looks like this season continues that trend.

    - Jessica gets a parade of weirdo clients (in general), and only one of them is really a Marvel Comics reference, although a case could be made that the weirdo conspiracy person talking about lizard people infiltrating the government COULD be talking about the Skrulls. After all, Skrulls are going to factor into the Captain Marvel movie, which takes place in 1992, so it's possible that these shape-shifters have infiltrated our government by now, right?

    - You know who absolutely IS from the pages of Marvel Comics, though? The (ahem) Whizzer, who no joke has been around almost as long as Captain America, first appearing in USA Comics #1 in 1941.

    Of course, the Whizzer of the comics isn't the poor schmuck we see here, but he was definitely a speedster, and he did indeed have a fondness for yellow and blue, just like our fella here. I know you don't believe that I'm not making this up, so here's a pic...

    In the comics, his name is "Robert Frank" whereas here it seems to be Robert Coleman. His fondness for a pet mongoose is a nod to the comic character's origin story, which involved a transfusion of mongoose blood to save him from the poisonous bite of a cobra. The doctor who gave him the blood transfusion was named Emil. TV's Whizzer has a pet mongoose named Emil. Stop looking at me that way, I didn't write the story, I'm just here to report it to you.

    - Trish Walker dressed up in her old costume and singing the "It's Patsy" theme song is:

    a) hilarious

    b) a subtle homage to an early scene in Ghostbusters II 

    c) all of the above.

    There are no wrong answers but there is only one truly correct one.

    - Jeri Hogarth is back! And her firm's connection to Rand Industries here is a nod to the fact that the comic book Jeri got his (yes, his) start in Iron Fist comics. I know, it's only the first episode and I've said those two words that no Marvel Netflix fan wants to hear, but you want this to be complete, right? Of course you do. Don't judge me.

    - Ben Koch has kindly pointed out that the movie that Jessica and Trish are watching on the roof is The Killers from 1946, with Burt Lancaster and Ava Gardner.

    - They totally drop a Maynard Tiboldt reference, and he's the Ringmaster from the Circus of Crime. But we DID get a Ringmaster in (sigh, I know) Iron Fist, as the snazzily dressed referee in the (cool) scenes where Colleen Wing is doing her whole illegal fight club thing. Anyway, that is NOT this guy, because this one is a doctor. Although, as Max in the comments pointed out, he IS a hypnotherapist, and hypnosis was one of the Ringmaster's gimmicks. It's a nice touch.

    - Jessica has a tradition of throwing people through glass doors in the first episode of a new season, it seems.

    - This season is tweaking Jessica's comics origin, which is totally fine. In the comics, it was implied that whatever truck that was involved in her car accident was carrying chemicals that granted her abilities. Here, it would seem that it was whatever happened to her after the fact in the hospital that did it.

    Jessica Jones Season 2 Episode 2: AKA Freak Accident

    "Jessica sets out to find Dr. Kozlov and makes a startling discovery. Trish recruits Malcolm for backup as she visits a figure from her past."

    - We visit Josie's early on this season, and I am completely on board with this just becoming Jessica's official watering hole. Josie's started life as pretty much a Daredevil-comics-only bar, but I like that it's becoming more all purpose for these shows. It's nice that it has a Game of Thrones pinball machine, too. On the other hand, the "are you drinking to remember or forget" line is some hack-ass dialogue, and this show can and should do better.

    - There's a Patsy Walker poster visible at one point, and the Patsy logo is 100% the logo from Marvel's old Patsy Walker comics, back from when she was an Archie-style teen/romance/humor comic.

    - Jessica's "mother goddamn shit" exclamation is just...so perfect. It's so perfectly in tune with how in the comics Jessica routinely decides that ordinary profanity isn't enough, so she just invents new ways to express her frustration.

    It's like how Charlie Brown says "auuugh" but far less family-friendly.

    - The whole "my balls are tingling" and Jessica's crack about his "scrotey sense" is:

    a) hilarious

    b) the closest we're probably ever going to get to having Spider-Man formally acknowledged on these shows, no matter what the movies are doing

    c) all of the above.

    Choose wisely.

    - Speaking of Spider-Man, the only thing worse and more on the nose than the "drinking to remember or forget" line is the "with great power comes great mental illness" line. We get it, everyone is tired of that line being shoehorned into everything Spidey and non-Spidey related. Stop trying too hard.

    - Poor Will Simpson is back with his Nuke inhaler! Well, it beats having him popping pills, I guess.

    Jessica Jones Season 2 Episode 3: AKA Soul Survivor

    "As her visions intensify, Jessica visits an abandoned clinic, where she stumbles on a new lead. Jeri faces an ultimatum after her secret gets out."

    - Rudy's on 9th and 45th is 100% a real Hell's Kitchen dive bar (one of the last ones in the rich people playground that neighborhood has become). Josie's, however, is not (but if you want to visit the bar that "plays" Josie's on TV, you wanna hit The Turkey's Nest, but that's in Williamsburg, not Hell's Kitchen).

    - Saying Jessica doesn't have a great track record with shrinks is actually an understatement. In this case, though, 

    - Foggy is back! I'm all about Foggy getting talked down to by Jeri more often.

    - OK, so this is a stretch, but stick with me. The kid downstairs is all excited because he fashioned a new shield for his Captain America action figure, which kinda foreshadows what's up in Avengers: Infinity War. But more importantly, he uses a magnet to do it. This may or may not be intentional, but in the 1960s, Cap used a magnet device on his glove to help control his shield.

    - None of the names mentioned in this episode, inlcluding Dr. Leslie Hansen, seem to line up with anyone in Marvel Comics. Help me out if I'm wrong, please!

    Jessica Jones Season 2 Episode 4: AKA God Help the Hobo

    "Between anger management classes and tabloid scandals, Jessica and Trish track down a third patient linked to IGH. Oscar extends an olive branch."

    - I'm drawing blanks on both Kelly Scott and Inez Greene (although I have my suspicions about Inez...I am saving them for later). Help me out in the comments or on Twitter if I'm wrong!

    - You can apparently spot a mention of comic book Patsy Walker supporting character/frenemy/nemesis Hedy Wolfe on a magazine here. I'll try and find a screenshot. Think of Hedy Wolfe as the Reggie Mantle to Patsy Walker's Archie. (thanks to Mars on Twitter for spotting this and pointing it out to me!)

    - Like the first season, this one keeps coming back to lines like "we prefer gifted" and drawing a kind of parallel between how powered folks in the MCU are perceived with some suspicion at street level. While it makes a certain amount of sense, I feel like they're leaning into this a little too hard, because, well, that's the X-Men's territory, and that whole discrimination metaphor just plays better over there.

    I promise, this isn't me being a whiny Marvel purist, honest.

    - Oscar's kid pulling a "you'll save me if I fall" because a superhero in the room is reminiscent of the alternate opening scene from Richard Donner's Superman II, in which Lois Lane decides to call Clark Kent out on being Superman by leaping out a window. Not exactly her finest moment, either.

    Jessica Jones Season 2 Episode 5: AKA The Octopus

    "Backed into a corner, Jessica's forced to share her intel on the killer. A groggy Trish tries to pull herself together before an important meeting."

    - It looks like all of Oscar's work is done by famed Jessica Jonesand Aliascover artist David Mack!

    - Again, the names in this episode aren't turning up anything in my Marvel brain, so...what to do?

    - Do we see the first twinge of maternal instincts in Jessica in this episode? She settles into parenting nicely in the comics, without losing her edge. Could she reconnect with Luke on TV?

    Jessica Jones Season 2 Episode 6: AKA Facetime

    "Jessica gate-crashes an exclusive country club on the hunt for the killer, and Trish's new addiction begins to spiral out of control."

    - I didn’t expect to be making so many Spider-Man connections in this article, and while this technically isn’t an actual Spidey reference, I couldn’t help but notice it. Jessica having to buy a box of rice from a bodega to fix her phone is exactly the kind of hapless, low-level nonsense that always seems to happen to Peter Parker, and it’s kind of fun seeing Jessica have to deal with this, too.

    - The purple paint sex scene feels a little too on the nose, doesn’t it?

    - While they’re going hard with the addiction angle and Trish in this episode, I love the Hellcat swagger and heightened senses she’s showing off. This is really interesting stuff.

    - Can anyone tell me if Inez’s tattoo is important? Am I missing something? (hint: I usually am)

    - So we finally meet the mysterious Dr. Karl Malus. His rather evil sounding name aside, he seems like a reasonable dude. How bad can he be, right? They kind of lean into the whole “banality of evil” thing with him taking reasonable, chill phone calls while doing shady medical shit.


    Malus first appeared in the pages of Spider-Woman, believe it or not. Aside from his general history of messing with third-tier Marvel superhumans, that Spider-Woman connection is particularly appropriate for this show, as Jessica Jones co-creator Brian Michael Bendis has also done work on the other Jessica, Spider-Woman, Jessica Drew.

    - Inez is totally lying about the boy with healing hands, right?

    - Once again, I am pretty sure (but not 100% sure) that’s David Mack’s art standing in for Oscar, particularly his painting of sleeping Jessica.

    - Yes, Jessica’s mom is alive in the comics. No, it’s absolutely NOTHING like what we’re getting here. Trust me on this.

    Jessica Jones Season 2 Episode 7: AKA I Want Your Cray Cray

    "Flashbacks shed new light on the aftermath of the family's car accident and reveal a painful turning point in Jessica's adult life."

    - One very important note about this episode. Pretty much every single one of Marvel's Netflix shows does the "one flashback episode" thing. They are almost universally terrible. This one isn't! Not coincidentally, the one from the first season of this very show was pretty good. This one is even better. It is, however, almost completely bereft of Marvel Comics references, which is fine, as I'll take an excellent hour with no comics stuff over the alternative. And as Delia Harrington pointed out in her review of this episode (you all ARE clicking those blue episode titles at the top of each section to read her reviews, right?), this is the real origin of Jessica Jones, not the IGH stuff.

    - Holy moley, Trish's hit single is really...something. 

    - Dr. Karl Malus seems like a reasonable fella in this episode, too. What with the Grateful Dead and Doors t-shirts. He's just a dude who wants to make a difference outside the confines of "straight" medicine, maaaaaaaan. Nah, fuck that, he's like the Don Henley of supervillains.

    - Even I did not know Jessica's middle name until this episode.

    - Jessica's boyfriend can't be doing that badly if he's living in a sick loft like that. Even assuming this is 15 years ago, NYC rent for a space like that wouldn't have been cheap.

    - They could not have cast a more perfectly skeevy nightclub manager. That is some Emmy-worthy accuracy.

    - Speaking of nightclubs, Jess' poor boyfriend wants to start up "Club Alias."

    - It looks like Trish and Jessica are watching Orson Welles'Touch of Evil on the roof here, famous for (among other things) it's seemingly endless tracking shot. I feel like this could be a nod to the fact that most (but not all) of these Marvel Netflix shows like to have one extended action sequence that appears to be one take. JJ hasn't done it (and rightfully so, it would feel out of place) but really, try as they might, none of them have ever matched the perfection and intensity of that first hallway fight in Daredevil season one.

    - "Redefine the word, dickhead." Standing ovation. Just me and my TV. Because I am a crazy person. 

    Jessica Jones Season 2 Episode 8: AKA Ain't We Got Fun

    "While Jessica debates her next move, Malcolm confronts Trish about her erratic behavior, and Jeri makes contact with a healer."

    - I believe this is our first ever Marvel Netflix mention of The Raft, the super high security floating prison where high-powered incorrigibles are sent. We "met" The Raft in Captain America: Civil War. It's nice to see it get a shout here.

    - OK, so these Spidey references just keep coming up, and I swear I didn't plan it. But I have to point out another Spider-Man thing. It's easy. Jessica doesn't have a driver's license. You know who else doesn't have a driver's license? Peter Parker. 

    On the one hand, both characters spent their entire lives in New York City, where nobody needs a car anyway. On the other hand, the practical reasons for them not knowing how to drive are quite different. Peter learned he could climb walls and swing on webs when he was 15. You need to be 16 in New York State to get a learner's permit. Why drive when you can do that, right? Jessica has...ummmm...she has other, exceedingly valid reasons for not particularly wanting to get behind the wheel of a car. Also she is drunk all the time, so that would be extra bad.

    - Trish raking that dudes face like...claws, right? Eh? Right?

    - "Nirvana isn't depressing." I have never identified with Jessica, nay, with ANY Marvel character, more than with that line of dialogue.

    Jessica Jones Season 2 Episode 9: AKA The Shark in the Bathtub, Monster in the Bed

    "The shooting forces Jessica to rethink her plans. Meanwhile, Oscar asks for help with a family crisis, and Trish's frustrations finally boil over."

    - I feel like there's a little bit of a parallel with Alisa asking Jessica to let her help on Oscar's case and the episode last season when she tried to see if Kilgrave could be chaneled into a force for, well...not good...but something not entirely terrible.

    - Trish's on-air meltdown about how nothing on her "lifestyle" show "matters" in the real world is, ummmm...well, hypothetically, let's say you were the editor for a website that writes about movies and TV and games and superhero stuff, right? And then, you know, purely hypothetically, let's say everything in the world is terrible and we have a bona fide maniac as the President and our schools were turning into war zones and people are just totally comfortable being openly racist and sexist in ways you have never seen in your lifetime, but it's your job to, let's say, search for hidden comic book references in a TV show.

    This hypothetical person in this totally made-up situation would probably want to say a lot of the things Trish says on-air in that moment. I, of course, would know nothing about any of that.

    AHEM. Anyway, that's a brilliant scene and one of Rachael Taylor's best moments in the entire series.

    - You can spot the obligatory Stan Lee cameo in this episode, this time as a poster on a bus. I think this is the first time in any of these Netflix shows it isn't the usual image of him as a police officer. Stan is a satisfied customer of "Forbush and Associates" in this, and Irving Forbush is one of the weirder and more obscure names in Marvel history. This one is kinda in-depth, so I wrote about it in much more detail here.

    - Trish's addiction issue, and the inhaler with the time limit, is actually reminding me of a DC superhero: the golden age Hourman. Rex Tyler needed a drug called Miraclo to get his powers, and they would last for (you guessed it!) one hour. It was later revealed that sent him spiraling into addiction, as well.

    Jessica Jones Season 2 Episode 10: AKA Pork Chop

    "Jeri finagles a deal for her new client in exchange for Karl's location. Trish forges ahead with her own investigation. A prison guard crosses a line."

    - I'm trying to figure out if the missing ingredient in the Nuke inhaler being "plant-based" is something super obscure from the comics, but I'm drawing a blank. Hunter on Twitter has suggested that maybe the plant in question could be the "heart-shaped herb" from Black Panther, and y'know what? I am 100% cool with that idea. I really hope that's what the intention was.

    Otherwise, this episode is pretty bereft of comic references. Shane and Dale are nobodies in that regard. At least I'm pretty sure they are.

    Jessica Jones Season 2 Episode 11: AKA Three Lives and Counting

    "Shocked by her own actions and haunted by visions of Kilgrave, Jessica worries she's turning into a monster. Trish's plans for Karl become clear."

    - The whole Kilgrave thing in this episode was far better than it had any right to be. This could have really gone south, and using arguably Marvel's best villain here could have thrown the rest of the season into sharp relief. It didn't. Well done.

    - Other than the fact that Alisa is being kept in Cell Block D, the same wing they keep guys like Wilson Fisk and Frank Castle, this was another one that kept the wider Marvel Universe out of things. I am fine with that.

    Jessica Jones Season 2 Episode 12: AKA Pray for My Patsy

    "As Jessica and Dorothy wait anxiously for updates on Trish, a call from Costa brings alarming news. Jeri hatches a plan to get her revenge."

    - Rob Morgan shows up as Turk Barrett, and I am so very happy to see him again. I've really grown to love ol' Turk, who, for once, seems to be doing OK for himself.

    - I do love that they play up the idea of shady doctors preying on people who want powers. I think that's something that could propel an entire season of this show, and not just through the lens of Jessica's life or Trish's journey. Malus was gross, but imagine someone just straight up doing this for organized crime. There was an Alias comic that dealt with the proliferation of lowlife types selling "Mutant Growth Hormone" on the streets, and this line of dialogue has echoes of that.

    Jessica Jones Season 2 Episode 13: AKA Playland

    "Waking up in unfamiliar surroundings, Jessica once again finds herself torn between two worlds and facing an impossible choice."

    Other than Trish manifesting the beginnings of, shall we say, "catlike reflexes" there's virtually no Marvel stuff in this episode. I will tell you this, though: 52nd Street and 10th Avenue is NOT "a shitty neighborhood" these days. 30 years ago, sure. 

    Alright private eyes, this is where you come in! Hit me up on Twitter if you have any suggestions, and let me know what I missed! Now...I need a drink.


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    We're tracking down every Marvel reference and easter egg we can find in the Black Panther movie. Help us out!

    Feature Mike CecchiniJim Dandy
    Mar 29, 2018

    The Black Panther movie is finally here! Marvel's historic big screen adaptation is true to the spirit of the Stan Lee and Jack Kirby's creation, but draws heavy inspiration from creators like Christopher Priest, Reginald Hudlin, Mark Texiera, Ta-Nehisi Coates, John Romita, Brian Stelfreeze, Trevor Hairsine, and others. Black Panther's Marvel Universe history stretches back over 50 years, and the movie does his legacy justice in ways big and small.

    So here's how this works. We've compiled everything we could find on our first viewing. There's bound to be stuff we missed. So if you spot something, drop it in the comments, or hit us up on Twitter, and if it checks out, we'll add it to the guide with some additional context!

    When Does Black Panther Take Place in the Marvel Timeline?

    One quick note about when Black Panther takes place. For quite some time it felt like the Marvel movies were basically operating on a timeline along when they were actually released. That's no longer the case. The events of Black Panther seem to take place about a week after the events of Captain America: Civil War, which would put it before the events of Spider-Man: Homecoming (which was released last year) and Doctor Strange (which was released in 2016). Don't think about it too hard, as you'll get a headache.

    - Black Panther first appeared in Fantastic Four #52 by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. Panther's debut came right in the sweet spot of what is absolutely the pinnacle of the Lee/Kirby collaboration on that book, and he was by far the most high profile black comic book character ever created at the time. T'Challa has since become an essential piece of greater Marvel mythology, and we wrote more about some of the amazing work Jack Kirby did with the character right here.

    - The "heart-shaped herb" is right out of the comics, too. What's interesting to me is how heavily they lean on the "Black Panther communing with the dead" element in the process of this transformation. During Jonathan Hickman's time as Fantastic Four (and later Avengers) writer, they really went hard on the idea that Black Panther isn't just king of the living in Wakanda, he's also the king of the realm of the dead. So all those trips to the ancestral plane (and how Killmonger seemingly rejected that entire element of the responsibility of that role) seem to fit in with this. They make reference to Bast throughout the movie, generally known as an Egyptian god, but one who has a place in the Panther legacy, and who decreed that Black Panthers also rule the dead of Wakanda.

    - The title of Black Panther is one that is passed down, and we met T'Challa's father, T'Chaka in Captain America: Civil War. Interestingly enough, while T'Challa did indeed don the mantle of Black Panther in that movie, he wasn't officially THE Black Panther until what we see in this movie.

    - T'Challa makes the choice between the gold or white necklace, but throughout his comics career, he has worn both.

    What is Vibranium?

    Black Panther's suit is made of woven vibranium, an incredibly strong, valuable metal found only in a meteor that crashed in Wakanda a long time ago. Wakanda is the only source of vibranium on Earth, and it’s the source of their tremendous technological advancements.

    That whole Wakandan creation myth we get at the beginning of the movie touches on the extraterrestrial element of vibranium's origin, which is a nice touch.

    Interestingly enough, in the comics, Captain America's shield is made of an adamantium/vibranium alloy, which helps make it so durable. The fact that Cap is going to spend some time (and get a new shield from T'Challa) in Avengers: Infinity War feels like a nod to that.

    What About Wakanda?

    OK, so after only one viewing, I need to make sure I have a couple of things straight. Please let us know if we have any of this wrong. The five tribes of Wakanda they talk about in the intro sequence seem to be more in line with how the comics laid out the five religions of the region (there are 18 total tribes out there). Anyway, I say this because one of the nations they mention is the Jabari, who are, of course, M'Baku's White Gorilla army.

    - The visuals seem to draw strong influence from Ta-Nehisi Coates’ time as writer on Black Panther (which have set the status quo for Wakanda in the rest of the Marvel Universe).

    - Coates has spent a lot of time delving into Wakandan geography and society. It’s a hyper-advanced, with diverse cultures and a deep connection to the geography. It’s also generally hidden from the rest of the world, something we saw in the post-credits scene in Civil War.

    - Let's not forget that the Panther and his world have the great Jack Kirby's fingerprints all over them. You can see hints of Kirby's love of insanely hi-tech designs in everything from the engines of the Wakandan aircraft to the tech on display in the hospitals. There's a pretty cool looking "black light poster" in the infirmary that faintly reminds me of work Kirby did in the '70s, as well.

    - According to Vulture (and with a hat tip to Marshall Hopkins for pointing it out), the Wakandan language in the movie is Xhosa, "a Bantu language spoken in South Africa." Expect interest in Xhosa courses to skyrocket.

    They nailed so much of the look of Wakanda and Black Panther’s world here, it’s incredible, particularly with Angela Bassett as Ramonda, T’Challa’s stepmother and Queen Mother of Wakanda. She looks like Brian Stelfreeze drew her. Ramonda married T'Chaka (T'Challa's father) after N'Yami passed away in childbirth. Her relationship with T'Challa as he grew into the Black Panther role is being examined right now in Rise of the Black Panther.

    Who is Shuri?

    T’Challa’s sister (and eventual Black Panther herself) was created by Reggie Hudlin and John Romita, Jr. in 2005, became Panther in 2009, and has had quite a ride all in all. In the comics, she died at the hands of Proxima Midnight and the Cabal in the lead up to Secret Wars. (That's relevant, maybe, to Infinity War, since the Black Order should be there) Her spirit then migrated to the Djalia, the collective plane of memory for all of Wakanda, and T'Challa went in after her in the pages of the current Black Panther ongoing.

    - Also...was Shuri making a Back to the Future II self-lacing sneakers joke when she talked about the old American movies their father watched in relation to T'Challa's "sneakers?"

    - Of course, her crack about "another broken white boy for us to fix" was absolutely about Bucky Barnes, who ended up in Wakanda after the events of Captain America: Civil War. We see him again during the post-credits scenes, with the Wakandan children referring to him as "White Wolf" rather than "Winter Soldier."

    We interviewed Letitia Wright about the character, and you can read that right here if you want.

    W'Kabi

    Daniel Kaluuya's W'Kabi, the head of the Wakandan military, is, along with T'Challa and Klaw, one of the oldest characters in the movie, having first appeared back in Avengers #62 in 1969.

    Who is Everrett Ross?

    - Martin Freeman's Everett Ross made his MCU debut in Captain America: Civil War. But he was first created by Christopher Priest and Kenny Martinez in Ka-Zar, and brought back in the pages of Priest’s legendary run as writer on Black Panther in 1999.

    In the comics, Ross is a medium level State Department employee given the responsibility of guiding T’Challa around New York, where he then gets roped into fights with Mephisto, Atlantis, Man Ape, and Iron Man, and sits in on a diplomatic meeting between Black Panther, Dr. Doom, Namor, and Magneto. Needless to say, Priest’s run, which seems to have heavily influenced this movie, was awesome.

    Ross' nonplussed reactions in the movie to increasingly weird situations feels like it came right out of the comics.

    Hey you know how badass Michonne is on The Walking Dead? Multiply that by a million and you have Danai Gurira as Okoye in this movie. 

    Okoye is a member of the Dora Milaje, the King’s all-woman royal guard. 

    Okoye and the rest of the Dora Milaje were created by Priest and Mark Texiera in 1998, and have been focal characters in Coates' current run, where two of them go rogue early in the series. 

    Who is Nakia?

    Lupita N'yongo is brilliant as Nakia in this movie, isn't she? Nakia has been around since 1998, and she was created during Christopher Priest's time as Black Panther comics writer, a creative period which, as we keep saying, heavily informs this movie.

    Here's what she looks like in the comics...

    Things aren't always easy for T'Challa and Nakia, so things might get interesting when we finally get Black Panther 2.

    Forest Whitaker is Zuri, who in the comics was a warrior ally of T’Chaka (T’Challa’s father and predecessor as Black Panther). They took a slightly different take on him here, but it was effective. Here's how he looks in the comics...


    The Villains

    - Andy Serkis is here as all-around skeev, Ulysses Klaue. In the comics, his nom-du-douchebag is the more on-the-nose, "Klaw."

    Why do they call him Klaw? Well...why do you think he got his arm conveniently removed by Ultron? It's so that he can have a vibranium-powered soundwave cannon attached to it to give Black Panther a migraine!

    It's cool that they found a way to incorporate his sound cannon/hand here. What's more, turning Klaue into a villain who primarily menaced the previous Black Panther, T'Chaka, rather than T'Challa, is something that's right in line with how the Marvel Cinematic Universe has occasionally tweaked the timeline in order to give everything a little bit more history. So just as we learned in the first Ant-Man movie how Hank Pym was operating during the 1980s, we now know that T'Chaka and Klaw were fighting at least as far back as 1992...probably earlier.

    Serkis previously played Klaw in Avengers: Age of Ultron. The character was created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in Fantastic Four #53, where he stole vibranium from Wakanda, murdered T’Challa’s father, and got his hand chopped off. 

    Klaw's obsession with Vibranium is right out of his early comic book appearances, though, and yes, you can spot the Jack Kirby influence there, too. Honestly, I felt like the tattoos on the back of his neck are kind of a nod to his comic book design, too.

    We have lots more info about Klaw right here.

    Killmonger

    Erik Killmonger first showed up in Don McGregor and Rich Buckler’s Jungle Action in 1973, where it was revealed that his father was forced to help Klaw in his initial raid on Wakanda, and he and his family were exiled for it. You can see echoes of that in the movie, too. He developed a hatred of the Black Panther, and turned himself into evil Batman - peak physical condition, genius strategist, science-ey guy - to fight him.


    The fact that Killmonger is breaking Klaw out of jail when we first meet him in the movie feels like a nod to that old Jungle Action story.

    Also, Erik is occasionally fond of masks in the comics, so when he swipes that one from the British Museum, that seems pretty on-brand, too. I feel like I'm doing Killmonger a disservice in this guide, but this is one of those very rare occasions where Marvel actually improved on one of their comics villains in the process of bringing him to the screen.

    The fight between Killmonger and T'Challa on top of the waterfall (and Panther's defeat and subsequent toss down that waterfall) comes from one of the very best Black Panther stories, "Panther's Rage" by Don McGregor, Rich Buckler, and Klaus Janson.


    Note that the Killmonger of the comics does have a similar origin, although he grew up in Harlem not Oakland, and he isn't T'Challa's cousin.

    M'Baku

    In the comics, M'Baku was originally an Avengers villain known as Man-Ape, created by Roy Thomas and John Buscema. He’s super fast and super strong, and has tried to lead many a coup against the throne.

    It's pretty cool how they managed to include elements of that comic design, notably with the masks and the white body paint, without going the full "Man-Ape" route.

    We spoke with Winston Duke about bringing M'Baku to life, and you can read all about it right here.

    The Post-Credits Scenes

    Remarkably, these aren't that heavy on Marvel mythology. Instead, we see Wakanda offering a pointed message to the United Nations as they get ready to take a more active and visible role in the world. Of course, the world is going to need Wakandan technology to fight what's coming in Avengers: Infinity War. And speaking of which...

    ...we do get to see the other "broken white boy" that Shuri was referring to, with the return of Bucky Barnes. The "white wolf" nickname the kids give him does have a little comics history, as a minor character associated primarily with King T'Chaka, but that doesn't seem to be really be of particular significance here. If we assume the events of Black Panther started a week or so after Captain America: Civil War, and that the movie itself takes place over the span of a few weeks, there might be another brief time jump before Bucky wakes up. Maybe that Bucky sequence takes place a month or so after Civil War. In any case, he'll be ready to reunite with Cap and aid in the fight against Thanos in Infinity War.


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    Conjuring director James Wan takes the metal plate out of his head to adapt Stephen King’s The Tommyknockers.

    News Tony Sokol
    Mar 29, 2018

    “Late last night and the night before, tommyknockers, tommyknockers knocking on my door. I wanna go out, don't know if I can 'cuz I'm so afraid of the tommyknocker man,” Stephen King intoned in his 1987 novel The Tommyknockers. The book explored horror in science fiction. The Conjuring director James Wan and Roy Lee, who produced It, will collaborate on the film adaptation of King’s novel, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

    The Tommyknockers uncovers an alien space craft in the woods of Haven, Maine, and infected the residents dreams and knocked out their teeth. King wrote in his autobiography On Writing that he was inspired by H. P. Lovecraft’s short story "The Colour Out of Space." The Tommyknockers its initial hardcover release outsold King’s novels It, The Shining and Carrie. He later said it was "an awful book."

    The Tommyknockers will be executive produced by Larry Sanitsky, who made the 1993 television miniseries adaptation that starred Jimmy Smits and Marg Helgenberger.

    “It is an allegorical tale of addiction (Stephen was struggling with his own at the time), the threat of nuclear power, the danger of mass hysteria and the absurdity of technical evolution run amuck. All are as relevant today as the day the novel was written. It is also a tale about the eternal power of love and the grace of redemption,” Sanitsky wrote in the mission statement sent to prospective buyers, reported THR

    NBC announced it would adapt The Tommyknockers into a series in 2013, but that hasn’t happened.


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    We examine the Ready Player One ending to explain how Steven Spielberg made subtle and drastic changes to improve upon Ernest Cline's novel.

    Feature David Crow
    Mar 29, 2018

    This article contains Ready Player One ending spoilers.

    There is something decidedly retro and even euphoric about the end of Steven Spielberg’s Ready Player One. Lead character Wade Watts/Parzival (Tye Sheridan) has discovered the easter egg he has thirsted for his entire formative teenage years; he also has found love in the girl of his dreams, Samantha/Artemis (Olivia Cooke); there is even an authority figure with a Willy Wonkian like twinkle in his eye there to pat him on the back and say good job in the form of one Ogden Morrow (Simon Pegg); the bad guys are punished, the good guys win; and it ends on an unapologetically sappy kiss like the best ‘80s teen adventures, which were likewise unconcerned with the armada of intersectional think pieces they were about to launch.

    In the broadest strokes, it is more or less the conclusion to Ernest Cline’s bestselling Ready Player One novel, which was published in 2011 and has been interchangeably celebrated and reviled ever since. And yet, it is a wildly different conclusion to the story than what’s found in Cline’s book, which much less knowingly also ends on a boy “discovering” a girl as his literal prize at the center of a maze. In fact, like much else about the Spielbergian movie, everything from the ground-up of the Ready Player One conclusion has been radically redesigned. And while we’re sure this will cause some handwringing among the novel’s most invested of fans, we’re here to say that it’s okay. Because much like Spielberg’s amendments to Peter Benchley’s Jaws and Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park (the latter of which resembles Ready Player One in that the author contributed to the screenplay), Spielberg improves upon what appears on the written page, distilling a vaguely esoteric slice of nerdiness into pure cinematic joy. And we’re here to explain it.

    The end of the Ready Player One novel really begins when Wade, who on the page never really makes a mistake, chooses to create a fake amount of debt so he will be seized by IOI repo men and taken into indentured servitude within the belly of the beast. From there, he rather easily spends a week circumventing their intranet from the inside, so as to create a perfect plan that will bring down the force field around Anorak/Halliday’s castle. He also escapes with ease and recruits who is left of the High Five (Daito is murdered by IOI in the book) and convinces them—through similarly strained plot machinations—to ultimately meet him at Ogden’s (or Og’s) home. From there they all safely lead their digital revolution.

    Only not only is the revolution televised, but it is without stakes because Wade is content with whatever happens. Due to his IOI heroics, he’s already implicitly impressed Artemis, who by this point has “broken up” with him (they have never actually met). But after their big battle for Halliday’s egg, Wade has confirmation he will be able to meet Arty/Samantha in the real world and reconcile their differences. Of course everything still goes splendidly inside the final battle, which like the movie includes Nolan Sorrento piloting Mechagodzilla (although the rest of the giant robots featured are different). And once inside the Third Gate, Parzival’s final challenge is a tension free arcade game of Tempest and then a quote-along of Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975), in which Z is required to play all the roles and know all the lines. He doesn’t even describe this moment that will define whether he saves the OASIS or not as challenging. He says “it was fun,” with the rest of the High Five watching him play Monty Python on their feeds and laughing along. Kind of like how one might imagine a movie night goes for Cline and pals. Finally, his last challenge is simply to type “Kira” into an IMASI 8080 (another reference to Cline’s beloved childhood touchstone, WarGames) and enjoy the ride.

    And then, yes, Samantha wordlessly awaits for him to claim his prize on her lips in a life-sized hedge maze recreation of Adventure in Og’s backyard. For readers who have enjoyed the journey thus far, or remember games like Tempest and can (mostly) recall all the quotes from Monty Python, it is harmlessly sweet nostalgia. For many others, it reads as downright cloying and is especially apt for the fair criticism that notes the ending robs Artemis of her agency, turning her into little more than a trophy to be won.

    And that right there is the first of many things Spielberg’s film course corrects with aplomb. For in the film, it is Samantha, not Wade, who goes behind enemy lines at IOI, and unlike Wade, it is not part of some masterful plan, but a nightmare that is bolstered by her backstory—a backstory that is nonexistent in the book. While only dropped in a handful of lines, we discover that Cooke’s Artemis is not just altruistic in her desire to win Halliday’s egg (in the book she wants to fight climate change and overpopulation), but she is also driven by a sense of revenge against IOI, who previously enslaved her father as an indentured servant for the rest of his natural life when she was a child.

    So Samantha’s choice to go after the egg has personal stakes beyond being “a good person wanting to do the right thing,” and the fate of being sent to IOI’s glorified concentration camp is not part of some easy-breezy cool guy-hero plan, but an actual fate filled with dread and terror for the heroine; she could conceivably spend the rest of her life trapped inside one of these standing coffins.

    While it is Wade who figures out a way to hack into IOI from the outside and free Samantha from her prison, she still stays longer than needed in the belly of the beast to figure out a way to bring down IOI’s force field, which is the only reason Parzival can lead his revolution. Without Samantha’s own foresight and independent decision-making, they’d all be doomed.

    This also gets to a larger point about the film’s ending, and why it is so much more satisfying than the novel’s. There is a sense of danger to the proceedings that involves all of the characters, who are now more than a glorified audience left to cheer on Wade’s undisputed greatness. Aech and the Iron Giant are taken out early in the battle against IOI and Mechagodzilla, but Aech is still crucial in saving the day. If not for her “Mario Kart” skills at driving the mobile van, IOI’s F’Nale Zander would have probably put two bullets in Wade’s head while he was lost in the delusion of being a war hero. And even with Aech keeping them on the move, it is the actions of young, 11-year-old Shoto in the film that prevents F’Nale from still getting her hands fully on Wade.

    Which again gets to the film’s most masterful correction of the novel’s rather limp conclusion: the real world and fantasy of the OASIS are merged. On the page, Z and friends lead what Og cheerfully calls, “The Greatest Battle in Video Game History.” Yet it is still nevertheless a game. Wade is sure that Samantha is waiting for him when it’s all over, so in the meantime, let’s have fun. But by changing the location from the safety of Og’s hidden mansion to the back of Aech’s rickety van, suddenly the two realities mingle in menace, and Wade’s life is in critical danger the whole time, even if he is somewhat oblivious to it.

    In this way, Spielberg emulates the ending to Inception, in which different “levels” of the fantasy are reaching their own separate climaxes, including one involving a car chase. As Wade discovers he has an “extra life,” and pretty much an easy path to Halliday’s egg, the van is crashed and IOI is closing in, including Nolan Sorrento himself. Rather than hearing on the news afterward that Nolan is being arrested, Wade and friends get to see it, because Nolan comes within a hair’s breadth of shooting Wade dead.

    Of course he won’t, this is still an ‘80s-esque teen empowerment fantasy directed by the King of ‘80s movies, Steven Spielberg. But by at least creating these stakes, the filmmaker is able to flawlessly cut between magical OASIS and grim reality, and through the alchemy of pacing and structure, ratchet up the audience’s involvement. And when it comes time to actually embrace the OASIS fantasy, the requisite arcade game (here Adventure, as opposed to Tempest) is followed up by not geeky movie knowledge, but a test of morality, and a real connection being formed between Parzival and Halliday’s ghost in the machine, which suspiciously could pass any Voight-Kampff test for artificial intelligence.

    Halliday’s final moments, which are similar to those in the book, are given an extra dimension largely due to Rylance’s quality as an actor, as well as because he tests Z’s resolve with a fakeout contract like he’s some kind of Templar knight from an Indiana Jones movie who must “choose wisely” between a variety of grail cups. As a consequence, Halliday’s advice about avoiding living a life wasted has teeth.

    Only then does Wade get the egg, get the girl who he has previously formed an actual (if brief) connection with in the real world before this climax, and gets to meet Og, who helps him wave goodbye to Nolan Sorrento and say hello to a newly rich man’s best friend: lawyers.

    It is the same ending, but onscreen, it is imbued with stakes, character development, and a degree of giddy fun that is missing on the page. So when a book purist inevitably laments that Spielberg made changes from the book, please respond, “Yes, and thank Halliday for that.”


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    Ready Player One makes a lot of changes from the Ernest Cline book that could divide his biggest fans. We examine how and why.

    Feature David Crow
    Mar 30, 2018

    This article contains major Ready Player One spoilers, for both the film and book.

    Like so many coins disintegrating across our DeLorean’s windshield, Ready Player One is finally out and consuming movie and geek culture all at once. Steven Spielberg, the proverbial Walt Disney of 1980s entertainment, has made the ultimate love letter to 1980s entertainment, filled with more nostalgic references and easter eggs than a Lego movie, and stuffed to the brim with self-awareness.

    Yet this is par for the course for fans of Ernest Cline’s 2011 bestselling novel of the same name, which is far more overwhelming in its member berries than the film can ever hope to be. As perhaps the definitive catalogue of pop culture forget-me-nots for Gen-X, Cline’s literary version is almost a different beast altogether. Unrestrained by copyright limitations, a two-plus hour running time, or a strict adherence for narrative structure as found in the film’s classist director, Cline threw everything into the literary version of Ready Player One. Oh yes, that also includes the kitchen sink, but it’s not just any kitchen sink; it’s the one Michael J. Fox rinsed his hands in during an episode of Family Ties that was shot between Back to the Future movies.

    So of course, it was impossible for Spielberg to adapt the full breadth and vision of Cline’s novel, even with the author as one of the film’s credited screenwriters, and ultimately we think that is for the best, including in how Spielberg changed the ending. Even so, it is worth noting the differences between the book and film, and just why the changes might’ve been made, as well as why they nevertheless could be off-putting to Cline’s biggest fans. However, rather than listing all the individual shifts—which given the sheer volume of homages on Cline’s page would be a fool’s errand—we’ve compiled the biggest changes into the handful of comprehensive categories below.

    The Movie Expands On the Type of Pop Culture Referenced

    For the formative years he grew up in, Ernest Cline wrote the definitive literary time capsule with Ready Player One. Whereas the film version of the story focuses mostly on popular movies and video games, with some miscellaneous love thrown to the occasional cartoon, anime, or kaiju, Cline misses nothing. Yes, major touchstones like Back to the Future and Street Fighter are featured in both. But the book also has half-forgotten TV shows like Max Headroom, PBS cartoons such as Schoolhouse Rock, and really obscure relics of nerd culture, like the Japanese Spider-Man TV series from the 1970s.

    By its nature, the OASIS in the novel is trying to transform the media of the present into the pop culture past of OASIS creator James Halliday’s youth. It also just so happens to be Cline’s youth too. Crucially, one of the most important discoveries of literary Parzival’s journey is found in a recreation of a dimly lit bowling alley/pizza joint with an arcade in the back. It was Halliday’s escape, and it is the tone and tenor of its pop culture interests personified in one place. In contrast, Ready Player One as a movie broadens the expanse of the pop culture landscape being traversed. This is likely done out of a combination of copyright necessity, commercial viability, and simply because Spielberg’s sensibility is larger than the one Cline zeroed in on.

    In terms of copyright, it is noticeable that no property owned by Disney or Nintendo is visually featured in spite of numerous mentions. Star Wars, Spider-Man, and Mario Kart get name-checked, but none of them are visually present like Batman, Superman, or Resident Evil. This is likely due to the limits of even Spielberg’s reach in rounding up licenses. Yet the only one that feels like a real missed opportunity is that Cline included the “customizations” he’s made to his own personally owned DeLorean to the one Parzival drives around in the OASIS. Namely, in the book, he tags it with a Ghostbusters logo on each door. While the cinematic DeLorean ride includes the KITT scanner on its grill (which is also in the book), presumably Sony was not as open to sharing its licenses as, say, Universal, who provided Spielberg with the T. Rex from his own Jurassic Park and Peter Jackson’s specific rendering of King Kong.

    However, many more of these changes were done to match Spielberg’s sensibilities and that of his broader audience. In the book, Cline and Halliday are obsessed with a specific type of ‘80s culture, such as Parzival’s undying love for Ladyhawke and WarGames. In fact, one of the defining tests (which we’ll expand on later) is based wholly around WarGames, whereas in the film, its closest mirror is when the High Five have a reluctant stay in The Shining’s Overlook Hotel.

    Why this is done is worthy of its own article, but suffice it to say that Spielberg has a unique and personal kinship with Stanley Kubrick, which began on the set of The Shining. The movie simply has more resonance for the director than WarGames. However, that also holds true for most audiences too, because The Shining is a major touchstone of pop culture nearly 40 years on, and WarGames is a film that only children of the ‘80s and early ‘90s—or Broderick and Ally Sheedy diehards—will have a faint recollection of.

    Due to trying to appeal to a larger audience, Spielberg also expanded upon what pop culture is included. Hence Millennials also see their nostalgia serviced in the movie with Parzival revealing that James Halliday’s favorite shooter video game was 1997’s GoldenEye on the Nintendo 64, and Halliday’s ghost in the machine alter-ego, Anorak, refers to Z at one point as “padawan,” a distinct nod to the Star Wars prequels that current 20-somethings grew up with. And kids today also get a wink and a smile from shotouts to Minecraft, Overwatch, and Halo.

    All of this reflects a shrewd commercial choice to expand the pop culture, but it also is subject to a Spielbergian sense of curation. Simply put, his interests lie beyond the pizza parlor/bowling alley arcade, so he also includes more high-brow references to Citizen Kane, with Z saying that Kira is Halliday’s “rosebud,” and having I-R0k quote Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life to Nolan Sorrento. Intriguingly, Spielberg has also chosen to excise almost all references to his own films. While the book sits fawningly at the feet of Raiders of the Lost Ark, E.T., and the Spielberg-produced Goonies, only the T. Rex from Jurassic Park is given a dramatic showcase, which is curious as she does not appear in the book. He also includes the DeLorean from the Marty McFly movies he produced because it is inseparable from Parzival’s personality. Indeed, the movie leans into the Back to the Future references, while sadly cutting one of Cline’s subtler nods to Spielberg: in the novel Wade Watts calls his journal “the Grail Diary,” a la Sean Connery’s vital notebook in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.

    The Film Also Wildly Shrinks the Story

    Yet perhaps one of the most contentious changes from the book is found in how the movie radically alters the narrative of the piece. To put it simply, Ready Player One has a vast narrative for its brisk 370 pages. Now whether you find this effect charming or unwieldy will depend upon the reader, but it is impossible to film as a two-hour movie. Even so, some of the many changes made to condense this into a coherent narrative are radical. For instance, the novel takes place over nearly a year versus the film passing in seemingly a matter of weeks. As such, readers spend a lot more time in Wade Watts’ changing day-to-day activities, as well as in learning all the intricate world-building within the OASIS.

    In this vein, the book begins with Wade still attending his future’s version of high school, which is in actuality a virtual simulation of ‘80s high schools found on the “planet” Ludus, which is only mentioned in passing in the film. While this might seem minor, it becomes pivotal in the book because initially Wade doesn’t have enough in-game currency to leave Ludus, but as the first key (which does not involve a race at all) is hidden on that planet, he is able to find the Copper Key before anyone else. It also creates a more direct comparison between James Halliday and Willy Wonka, as his placement of the first test in the wilds of the free educational planet suggests he wants a child who is in awe of ‘80s pop culture (or magical chocolate) to be who inherits his company.

    Other elements of this world-building are far less thought out, such as the rather underwritten revelations about the real world when Wade travels between his hometown of Kansas City and Columbus, Ohio. In the book, Wade lives with his aunt on the top floor of the Stacks in another state, but Spielberg wisely excises this mooted detail, as the only significance it has is that Wade (with Parzival money) is able to afford a bus ride between Kansas City and Columbus, during which we learn that outside the major cities, the United States has devolved into a Wild West/Mad Max dystopia of complete lawlessness. His bus comes with a security shotgun rider, as if it were a stagecoach circa 1880.

    While this is an intriguing development, it has no real importance to the novel, and is in fact somewhat incongruous with the rest of the book, which suggests that corporations now rule a rotten world with an iron fist. The idea that the OASIS is a global, renewable resource when most of its market is a wasteland potentially without power… doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. There are many other such narrative dead ends in the book that are removed from the film, like the character of I-R0k actually being a “friend” of sorts to Parzival and Aech, hanging out in Aech’s basement, which is a popular chatroom for teenage avatars (he doesn’t have a garage in the book). But other than serving a redundant function of revealing on the internet that Parzival and Aech are high schoolers, I-R0k is a character Cline just drops mid-novel without ever revisiting.

    Conversely, in the film I-R0k is hilarious comic relief played by T.J. Miller, and who more convincingly serves the function of a character who ruins things for Wade by directly discovering via eavesdropping that Parzival is named Wade, and passing that on to IOI. (Also, I want to note that Spielberg has Wade somewhat more persuasively mourning the death of his aunt, whereas in the novel he takes a nap and then jumps back into the OASIS to flirt with Artemis within 24 hours).

    And it is with Artemis that the movie makes its most significant changes, many of them arguably for the best.

    Artemis and Parzival

    Again, given that the book spans almost a year versus the film’s compressed timeline, the very nature of Z and Arty’s courtship diverges in wildly different directions, both in the OASIS and otherwise.

    It should be noted that during a Q&A at SXSW, Steven Spielberg said it was the charming dialogue and rapport between Z and Arty via OASIS messenger and at the Distracted Globe nightclub that convinced him and his wife he should direct a Ready Player One movie. And he more or less replicates that effect, especially again in the nightclub scene, which occurs earlier in the film than the book, but is more or less the same sequence. The difference, however, is that Artemis and Parzival have been flirting in the book for months by then, whereas in the film that is their third digital meet-up.

    This creates a different dynamic when Wade confesses his love to someone who is technically a stranger, although it allows Spielberg to bring them together faster. In the book, Artemis drops out of sight for much of the narrative until the end, blocking Parzival on her email and video feeds, and generally trying to ghost him. In turn, much has been written on the internet about how creepy Wade becomes by messaging Arty every day and spying on all her social media feeds. In many ways, the third act is simply his attempt to “win her back,” even though they were not technically dating.

    The film, meanwhile, much more astutely gives Artemis/Samantha a lot more to do than in the book. After Wade loses his aunt, rather than just chilling with Aech and Artemis in the OASIS, we learn Arty is also in Columbus (in the book she lives in Vancouver) and she recruits him to her “resistance.” While it is a bit Hollywood to have a resistance, it gives Artemis a lot more autonomy and agency. The literary Samantha has no backstory other than the birthmark on her face while the cinematic one is going to war with IOI because they essentially enslaved his father and drove him into an early grave.

    This reason that’s important is two-fold. First, it allows Wade and Samantha to get to know each other in the real world before the obligatory happily ever after kiss at the end. Wade learns about who she is, and she gets to know Wade as a real person when she recruits him to her team, as opposed to being a prize at the end of the novel for Wade to win—like literally, she hides in the center of a hedge maze that replicates the arcade game Adventure, so Wade finds her as his real-life easter egg in the book’s final pages. And that is the first time they meet face-to-face!

    While they spend less time together in the OASIS, this change makes their romance feel less like an example of “manic pixie dreamgirl,” and also gives Artemis a major role in the film’s final act. In the book, Wade’s big gesture of love to Arty is to allow himself to be captured by IOI and intentionally go behind-enemy-lines to hack their system and bring down the force field around Anorak’s castle. In the movie, however, it is Artemis who is unwillingly taken by IOI. As opposed to this being the perfect plan of a flawless male protagonist, it is the worst nightmare of a young heroine, who ultimately does much on her own to get out. Z and Daito might hack her out of her slavery-coffin, but it is Samantha who figures out how to bring the force field down and does so on her own accord. Which leads Wade to… the final challenge.

    All of the Key Challenges Are Entirely Different

    In what is sure to be the least loved change for many literary purists, Steven Spielberg changed every single one of the challenges. Much of this relates to the first point about expanding the nostalgic appeal to a wider audience. Hence while one of the challenges required literary Parzival to prove his uber-geek credentials by knowing each line of dialogue in WarGames, the cinematic counterpoint is an Overlook Hotel sequence that gleefully echoes the spirit of Spielberg’s mentor Stanley Kubrick while not trying to actually recreate any scene verbatim, save for perhaps the beginning of Aech’s Room 237 tryst.

    Further though, each of the challenges came in two parts in the book, a key and a gate. As such, Cline is able to double the nerdy credentials of his protagonist. Parzival must first play Halliday’s ghost (dressed as an honest to God Dungeons & Dragons monster) at the arcade game Joust to get the Copper Key, and then must replicate WarGames to get through the Copper Gate. At no point is there a racetrack with King Kong, a creature from 1930s pop culture that likely loomed larger for Spielberg than Cline. Yet ironically, ol’ Kong is more important to most general moviegoers today than Joust or D&D ever will be.

    This truth can still be off-putting for fans of the book, as the novel is more low-key about its geeky fun. For example, the ending is not nearly so dramatic as the film. We detailed here all the changes to the ending, but in the broad strokes, the book has no real-world stakes for Wade and friends. They’re all safely hidden away in the mansion of Halliday’s old partner, “Og.” When they fight the epic battle and then finally see Z get Halliday’s egg, there is no threat of IOI attacking. It’s “all a game.” As such, even the game’s stakes are reduced. Once the cataclyst goes off on the page, Wade has a fairly clean path to winning the egg, which includes another arcade game (Tempest) and reenacting all the scenes of another movie (Monty Python and the Holy Grail).

    In the film, there is still an arcade game Wade must beat, but he only gets one try (he has near infinite attempts at Tempest), and afterward he is given an Indiana Jones styled test of character by Halliday. If he signs a contract, it is implied he will have forfeited his claim to the egg, kind of like choosing the wrong “grail” in The Last Crusade. That decidedly Spielbergian shift gives a whole lot more resonance to Halliday and Z’s final conversation in his childhood home.

    The Movie Downplays the Dark Ugliness of Fan Culture

    Finally, while no one will suggest that Cline’s novel thoughtfully deconstructs the toxicity that exists in much of online fan culture, he at least examines the cruelty and loneliness many geeks might feel, and how it can manifest itself in dark ways.

    In the book, after Wade’s aunt dies, he ultimately winds up renting an apartment in Columbus. While there is some wish fulfillment here, as he is overweight in the book as opposed to a dashing Tye Sheridan, he can now use his money to have the OASIS force him to exercise in what is a glorified gym membership, losing the pounds fast. But otherwise, it is pretty dark. Wade shuts himself off from the world, blocking out the sunlight of his window with black paint and not going outside for a full six months. He lives only for the internet’s fictional stand-in.

    This is never fully explored, as there are no negative repercussions to this unhealthy lifestyle. In fact, he is pretty much rewarded for it by the end. Nonetheless, Cline looks at how people lose themselves in games and virtual distraction, and how gross that can look (in the book, Wade rents a sex doll to sync with the OASIS’ brothels, and pretty much spends a whole week or so paying it undivided attention).

    Similarly, Daito and Shoto are quite different in the book. While the reader initially is led to believe they’re brothers—and I personally did think one of them was a child, which apparently Spielberg also concluded—it’s revealed they’re not related at all. They’re two lonely adult souls in Japan who have cut themselves off from society, and rely on their families to feed them while they live in a world of pure fantasy and distraction in the OASIS. This is not a dystopic touch either, as Japan’s Labor Department has an actual word for this right now: “Hikikomori.” It refers to people who elect to cut themselves off from society to live like hermits in their anime, manga, and video games. The OASIS would just be the next pop culture opioid.

    Hence, the book does give a darker, and some would say more honest, meditation on nerd culture than the almost exclusively celebratory Steven Spielberg movie. And that too is a fair criticism. Yet movies are not books, and books are not movies. By and large, we’d argue the changes made from page to screen benefitted Ready Player One.

    Do you agree, players?


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    The first Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie is a wonder of practical effects and surprising martial arts action.

    Feature Mike Cecchini
    Mar 30, 2018

    In 1990 the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were at the absolute peak of their popularity. With an animated series bringing in millions of viewers entering its third season, the most popular boys’ toy line on the market, breakfast cereals, frozen pizzas, video games... the world belonged to the TMNT. Their final frontier was live action, something which seemed more than a little ambitious considering the limitations of special effects technology of the day.

    Watching the first Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles live-action movie today, over 25 years after its release, and in the wake of two blockbuster movies that are considerably more expensive than the modest $13 million that the original cost, there are a few amazing details worth pointing out.

    It's extraordinarily faithful to the original comics.

    So much so that I wrote an entire article about exactly that. Here's the short version, though.

    Despite the fact that the TMNT were winning fans on a daily basis at this point with an animated series and toy line that were both impossible to escape, the movie chose to go back to the original source material for its story inspiration. This may not seem like much of a big deal, but keep in mind that the early black and white TMNT comics were fairly bleak, violent affairs. 

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    While the movie Turtles display considerably more regard for human life than their comic book counterparts, they also were able to deploy their martial arts skills and weapons a little more effectively than their animated brethren. 

    Which brings us to...

    It's surprisingly dark.

    The animated Turtles weren't permitted to use their martial arts skills or their weapons to actually hit anyone. That's anyone, not anything. The show's sensible solution was to turn the Foot Clan into robots. The movie stuck to flesh-and-blood (and decidedly non-mutated) adversaries. In fact, the Foot were mostly comprised of teenagers who had fallen under the sway of the Shredder, who runs their hideout like its Pleasure Island in Pinocchio.

    Basically, the Turtles are mostly whupping the asses of misguided juvenile delinquents in the movie, although I figure that the ones who were actually bad enough to wear the full Foot Clan uniform were probably fairly hardened criminals by that point.

    Watch Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles on Amazon

    Director Steve Barron (probably best known for A-Ha's memorable "Take on Me" live-action/animation hybrid video) and cinematographer John Fenner opted for a grainy, low-budget look for much of the film, while also not shying away from natural daylight and outdoor shots. It couldn't possibly look less like the hyper-stylized worlds of comic book movie contemporaries Batmanor Dick Tracy, or the CGI-assisted blockbuster sheen of the 2014 reboot or this summer's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows.

    Despite the film’s gritty New York City setting, it was (with a few exceptions) shot on soundstages in North Carolina. It’s a very different New York than what you’ll see if you visit nowadays, particularly April O’Neil’s run down “Bleecker St” residence. I presume the Turtles' sewer home is a little further east of that, but these days, neither neighborhood remotely resembles the idealized urban wasteland on display in the film.

    The Jim Henson Creature Shop Did Spectacular Work

    As for the Turtles and Splinter, they are remarkable, brought to life in impressive fashion by Jim Henson’s Creature Shop. There were two versions of the suits, “Stunt Turtles” and “Hero Turtles.” The “Hero Turtles” are the ones on display for most of the film, while the “Stunt Turtles” were designed with the film’s Hong Kong stuntmen in mind, who, as Brian Henson recalled “were quite wild - in a good way...they were very good martial artists, even though they were wearing a huge amount of foam rubber on them. But the foam actually acted as padding, so in some ways that worked really well.” ***

    It’s true. The fights and stunts in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are genuinely exciting, made all the more remarkable by the fact that they’re mostly being done by guys in 50 pounds of foam rubber. Perhaps the most impressive sequence in the entire film begins with Raphael blowing off some steam on a rooftop before finding himself outnumbered by dozens of Foot Clan members. Until recently (thanks, Netflix!), this little sequence felt as close as we ever came to seeing some of Frank Miller’s Daredevil comic work properly realized on screen, and this calls back to the Turtles' roots as part Miller/Daredevil pastiche. The brawl then spills over into April’s apartment and the Second Time Around gift shop, and once the other Turtles join the fight, the work of the Henson Creature Shop becomes all the more impressive.

    While the Stunt Turtles allow for some authentic Hong Kong action to move the action scenes along, the Hero Turtles, the versions of the suits with the more detailed and expressive animatronic heads are equally important. On my most recent viewing, I was struck by the scene where Raphael wakes up from his coma (a direct result of the beating he received from the Foot Clan) and reconciles with Leonardo, with whom he has had a rocky relationship. The two share a moment of brotherly tenderness and an embrace.

    There’s absolutely no reason this scene should work on any level, but it does. You have two actors in 50 pound Turtle suits, two other actors providing their dialogue, and puppeteers in charge of their faces. Compare this scene with the uncomfortably ridiculous scenes in the far more well-regarded Spider-Man(2002), where a fully masked Spider-Man has a rooftop dialogue with a fully-masked Green Goblin. You’ll find that Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtlescomes off better.

    The Action is Terrific

    With production company Golden Harvest (famous for bringing all manner of martial arts films, notably many of Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan's films to the US) on board, there is no shortage of martial arts action. Remember how I said that the Turtles were originally inspired by Frank Miller's 1980s Daredevil work? Well, the scene with Raphael taking on an army of Foot ninjas on a "West Village" rooftop, if you took the Turtle element out of it, would have fit right into a late '80s Daredevil movie. That sequence, where Raph gets his shell handed to him is followed by a terrific martial arts/comedy brawl that rolls from the roof, through April's apartment, and into the antique shop downstairs. You really get to see everything the Turtle suits (and the Hong Kong stuntment inside them) are capable of.

    In fact, if there's anything disappointing about the action sequences, it's that by the time we get to the climactic battle with the Shredder, there's not much left to showcase. Shredder kicks each of their asses in turn, before getting taken out in rather chill fashion by Splinter. But throughout the rest of the movie, whenever you're watching Turtles somersaulting, cartwheeling, and delivering flying kicks, try not to forget that these are actual stuntmen in suits that weigh 50 pounds (or more once they're full of sweat) doing the ass-kicking.

    You can see some of this on display in the original theatrical trailer:

    Considering all of the merchandising issues at play, as well as the fact that the Turtles’ greatest success had come via an all-ages animated series, the dark, grainy look of the film and a surprising amount of violence (the majority of which is still non-lethal) made some executives nervous. Brian Henson recalled how “in post-production, it was pulled together largely without (director) Steve Barron, while editor Sally Menke (who two years later would edit Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs, not to mention Pulp FictionJackie BrownKill BillDeath Proof, and Inglorious Basterds), was “asked to leave the project because Golden Harvest didn’t love her editing.” ***

    I can’t help but wonder if somewhere, there’s another cut of this movie sitting in a vault.

    The rest...

    Jim Henson's son Brian Henson oversaw the construction of the Turtle costumes and the impressive Splinter puppet. Splinter was voiced by master puppeteer (and the man who came to define the impossibly popular Elmo), Kevin Clash. Yes, that's former GoonieCorey Feldman as the voice of Donatello. Blink and you might miss a 21-year-old Sam Rockwell as the "Head Thug" of the Foot Clan.

    Oh, and if you can forgive the fact that no New York City resident would even consider ordering a pizza from either of these establishments, you may find this amusing. Pizza Hut didn't think Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles a worthy enough franchise for a product placement, so the boys had to order Domino's to their sewer lair. While the expected product placement from a major pizza chain is, of course, inevitable and inescapable, the idea that four teenagers living in downtown NYC would ever call Domino’s for their pizza needs is, in fact, harder to swallow than the idea that there are mutant turtles living in the sewers in the first place.

    Needless to say, Pizza Hut saw the error of their ways by the time Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze rolled around. However, much like chain restaurant pizza, the less said about the sequels to this movie, the better off everyone probably is.

    *** I owe a thank you to Andrew Farago's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Ultimate Visual Guide for being an invaluable resource in composing this article, which is where I pulled the Brian Henson quote from. The book is gorgeous and absolutely essential for any TMNT fan. It's available on Amazon. ***

    Michelangelo Cecchini is a party dude, but only on Twitter. 

    This article originally ran on August 20th, 2014. It has been lightly updated.


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    The Walking Dead EP Greg Nicotero would like to tackle the franchise’s zombie apocalypse in a frozen location.

    News Joseph Baxter
    Mar 30, 2018

    The Walking Dead has spent eight seasons on AMC showing Rick Grimes and the gang conquering random roaming biters, mega-herds, paramilitary suburbanites, claimers, cults, hipster cannibals and coming soon… Saviors. Yet, we haven’t seen the D.C. area-set group brave the region-appropriate snow-draped freeze of winter. While shooting logistics prevent Walking Dead winters, the characters’ comic book counterparts have often faced a frozen zombie apocalypse. Consequently, executive producer and effects guru, Greg Nicotero wants to remedy this wrong.

    Series bigwig Nicotero was asked about potential ideas for another spinoff series for The Walking Dead in an interview with FANDOM. Sure enough, the topic shifted to winter, a concept that’s perpetually portentous for Game of Thrones, but quite elusive to The Walking Dead. As Nicotero – ever the delightfully demented horror visionary – muses:

    “The one thing that the comic book does great [is] when they introduce the cold weather and the winter. I had even written some webisodes that took place with a frozen zombie herd. And I think that our hopes are — my hopes — would be that we would get into an entirely different location, like a cold weather scenario. Because frozen zombies are f–ing awesome. Until they thaw out and then you’re screwed. Because they would freeze and thaw out, and they would be fine.”

    While scenes set in winter have been a staple in Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead comic series, the show remains constrained by its shooting schedule in Georgia, typically during sweaty summer months. As Kirkman – also an EP on the series – recently explained to ComicBook.com of the lack of winters, “[W]e haven't been able to do that in the show because it's impractical to cover Georgia with snow in the summertime, don't quite have the budget for that.” However, more optimistically, series showrunner Scott M. Gimple, stated in a 2016 interview with the same outlet regarding a wintry setting before the show's end, "I would be shocked if we didn't."

    Interestingly, Nicotero was asked if his (hypothetical) spinoff plans would shift focus to another region of the U.S., at which point he provocatively responds:

    “I don’t think so. We’ve done a good job of allowing our audience to populate the US and I think there’s a lot more opportunities outside of the US for a zombie show.”

    Is Nicotero hinting a show set in Canada? Or, does he just mean something outside the contiguous U.S., specifically Alaska? Regardless, a frozen setting has potential for stunning new visuals and a completely new set of challenges for survival. Indeed, the comic storylines has focused on a recurring winter scenario in which food supplies were low, requiring scavenging trips that, thankfully, were less dangerous, since the dead were mostly rendered immobile from the freeze.

    Regardless, winter will not be coming for The Walking Dead anytime soon, especially as it wraps Rick and company’s “All Out War” with Negan and the Saviors in the currently-running Season 8, airing Sundays at 9 p.m. EST on AMC.


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    The Australian actor discusses his approach to playing the villain in Ready Player One, his upcoming roles and more…

    Interview Don Kaye
    Mar 30, 2018

    When we last spoke with the great Australian actor Ben Mendelsohn, it was for his role as the King of England in last year’s World War II historical drama Darkest Hour. His acclaimed performance in that picture opposite Gary Oldman came in the middle of a streak of films that included 2016’s Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, the newly released Ready Player One, the upcoming Robin Hood (where he plays the Sheriff of Nottingham) and 2019’s Captain Marvel, in which he’s rumored to play the leader of the shapeshifting alien race, the Skrulls.

    For now, however, we’re talking about Ready Player One, in which Mendelsohn plays Nolan Sorrento, the CEO of Innovative Online Industries, who wants to take over the virtual reality invented by Jim Halliday (Mark Rylance), the Oasis, and monetize the shit out of it. Like all great villains, Sorrento doesn’t see anything wrong with what he’s doing; he doesn’t even care that much what the Oasis is, or what it means to its millions of users. He just sees it as an opportunity to make money. That’s the real game for Sorrento, and Mendelsohn plays it with a kind of greedy glee.

    We spoke with the actor recently in Los Angeles about where he drew inspiration for Sorrento, working with director Steven Spielberg and how far the visual effects have come in Ready Player One. We also discussed making his performance in Robin Hood different from the classic Alan Rickman one in 1991’s Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. But try as we might, we couldn’t get him to say much about Captain Marvel, since this interview took place just before he was officially confirmed as a member of the cast.

    Den of Geek: We last spoke with you about Darkest Hour.

    Ben Mendelsohn: Very different film.

    Really different films. You're in the middle of an interesting run of projects.

    It's a purple patch, it's a definite purple patch.

    How does that feel? Do people come up to you on the street more, that kind of thing?

    No, not usually. I mean people in the established places in LA do a little, you know, but they've been okay to me for a couple of years. Look, it's pretty nice, it's pretty nice. I sort of smile to myself when I'm arriving at various places. It's a really good feeling.

    What did you base Nolan on, aside from the script? Did you look through the book? Did you look at any kind of real-life corporate guys?

    Yeah, I had a couple of people picked out. You know for a notion, for an idea, as a jumping off point. But it's wrong to ascribe Nolan to any particular barons of the current time, tech or not, cause he's sort of a different beast, you know. He's sort of the same beast but different. So no, it's not about who is he in terms of a real life person. But you know the ideas of Nolanesque CEOs and corporations, they're pretty kind of clear in the story telling.

    He's kind of got a twinkle in his eye throughout the film.

    I think yeah. I mean, you know, this film has got this amazing technology but this really solid old front -- it's like movies from another time in a way. It's both the most incredibly newly built high tech kind of engine, but it really does harken to a solid blockbuster awesomeness about it. And I like to think that the idea of that is to fit that villain into that space.

    He's best summed up by his line when he's in the Oasis and says he doesn't even care if he ever goes back in there again.

    The game is out here in the real world, and in order to win that game you've got to then capture this other territory. So there's an element of corporate colonization going on there, by necessity from his point of view, I think. But yeah, he couldn't care less about it. He does not understand why the Oasis matters in anything. It's like that old analogy about if you show a conservationist a tree, they'll see one thing, if you show a guy who makes money out of forestry a tree, he'll see chopping it up into this and this. So he sees if from a very different vantage.

    How did the experience of being able to look through Oculus viewers on the set and actually see what the sets will look like change your approach or performance?

    Well, I mean it doesn't, I mean it just lets you know what's where really. To use this room we're in as a jumping off point, you know you're in this room but then if you put on those glasses, it says okay, there's a big kind of scary thing standing there. Then you do the scene, you know where it is. So it's just a map. You're just using it like a map.

    It's different from the old tennis ball on the stick that they used to use to stand in for something.

    Well we've come a long way, yeah, we have. And that type of CGI, I think, what we think of as the classical period of CGI, the green screen, the tennis ball on the stick, etc. etc. that's evolved a lot. There were people that handled that sort of period of CGI pretty bloody well in comparison. And there were some that seemed to be struggling to kind of engage with a lot. Not an easy ask.

    For actors I always thought of it being like experimental theater in a way. You're working on an empty stage.

    Yeah, exactly. This has been my analogy about it actually, that it really is like a roots rock kind of thing, or a roots reggae thing. This is kind of like a roots acting thing. This is the basic blocks of how you do what you do. And any people that have done it out there in high school or less sort of know it. You're talking about a blank stage, you're talking about that period in rehearsal where you've got a block here and a ramp there, and over there is France. It's that. And in that regard it's kind of pretty cool. It's actually pretty cool. You've just got to go with it you know.

    When you watched the finished film, is there anything that jumped out that and made you say, "Holy shit I didn't know that was going to look that cool?"

    The whole thing. I've seen it twice. I saw it once in 3D, and then I've seen it in 2D. It's awesome in 3D. There's a lot that jumped out. But that South by Southwest audience (the film premiered at the Austin festival to an ecstatic reception), I've got to figure that's one of those moments in life that just, I've never had that experience in an audience to that intensity ever in my life. I've never been in an audience that I enjoyed myself more than that. That jumped out at me hugely. That was an amazing screening.

    Do you know when you're starting on Captain Marvel?

    I think it would be wonderful if I was starting on Captain Marvel, that would be a joy.

    You are not officially able to say that you are in Captain Marvel.

    I'm thrilled that there's the level of speculation as to whether or not that I'm in Captain Marvel that there is.

    You did finish Robin Hood.

    Yes, that I can confirm for you.

    Just curious about your take on it, since that's a character that's been done so many times.

    Sure, well let me tell you this. I'm not going to do it as good as Alan Rickman. No one's going to do as good as him. But I think Otto (Bathurst, director) is going to, from what I hear and what I was there seeing, Otto is going to deliver something that is pretty fun. They're releasing it on Thanksgiving, that kind of tells you everything. So I'm pretty excited for it.

    Having now worked with Steven Spielberg, what do you take away from that experience?

    A lot. I mean I think he teaches you things. But it's hard to put it into words. The relationship I have with what I do is ... it matters a lot to me. What do you take away? You take away a lot of gratitude, and you do take lessons. But they're harder to talk about, without being pithy.

    Ready Player One is in theaters now.


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    The first installment in this YA fantasy trilogy is the Afrofuturist tale America needs.

    Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi is our current Den of Geek Book Club pick. Head over to Goodreads to join in the discussion.

    Imagine a fantasy world inspired by West African-culture, written as a reaction to the systemic violence against black Americans and you have Children of Blood and Bone, the first installment in a planned fantasy trilogy written by 24-year-old Nigerian-American Tomi Adeyemi.

    You may have encountered Adeyemi already if you spend anytime kicking around the parts of the internet that highlight things that bring joy rather than misery. The video of Adeyemi seeing her book in print for the first time went viral, and was even shared by Stephen King. This book means a lot to Adeyemi and, if its current number one spot on the NYT's Young Adult Best Sellers list is anything to go by, it means a lot to readers, too.

    Children of Blood and Bone is a sprawling, 525-page epic set in the world of Orïsha, a land that once shone with magic until the cruel King Saran cut the ties between the magic of the gods and the magic of the maji. Now, there are only divîners, people with latent magical abilities, physically represented by white hair that sets them noticeably apart from the rest of Orïsha's population.

    Seventeen-year-old Zélie is a divîner, though she has only ever gotten trouble for the ways in which that makes her different. She had to watch her mother die in the maji genocide committed by Saran when she was only a child. Now, she lives with her father and brother, Tzain, in the seaside village of Ilorin. The family lives with love, but their lives are consistently made financially and emotionally difficult by the taxes levied against divîners like Zélie in a not-so-subtle, but entirely effective parallel to the systemic oppressions that people of color and other visible minorities routinely endure in our real world.

    But this isn't just Zélie's story. It also belongs to Princess Amari and Prince Inan, who, along with Zélie, share the alternating points-of-view. Both Amari and Inan have complicated relationships with their father, Saran, their kingdom, and their own power. Amari has never fully fit in within her family or her role as a princess. When she witnesses her father committing yet another act of horror, she steals the magic scroll that holds the power to transforming divîners into maji and flees the castle. Amari and Zélie's fate almost immediately intersect, launching the most rewarding and nuanced relationship of the entire book.

    The third point-of-view character, Prince Inan, is the most conflicted when it comes to his path forward. Raised to prioritize duty over self, Inan is a product of his upbringing, but he has a good heart and a love for his sister that pushes back against the person his father tells him he must be. When Inan is sent in pursuit of Zélie, Amari, and the scroll, Inan has some tough choices to make, ones that will impact the future of Orïsha and his very soul. The decisions he ends up making are not entirely predictable, drive the plot, and serve for the most morally-complex thematic explorations of the novel.

    While the romance in The Children of Blood and Bone is a bit too underdeveloped to truly engage, the sibling relationships in the novel are particularly strong. This is the story of two sets of siblings living in this world. How does gender affect the otherwise relatively comparable ways Amari and Inan and Zélie and Tzain experience, engage with, and are treated by the world? How do ties of family intersect with and sometimes complicate the duties we have to our community and selves? There are many fascinating questions posed and explored through the theme of siblinghood.

    Another cathartic, topical theme explored in Children of Blood and Bone is how trauma affects us all—both on the personal and collective levels. Orïsha is a land that has been forever changed by Saran's systemic genocide of the maji. It continues to affect the society, creating hierachies of privilege, power, and oppression that doesn't seem to make anyone particularly happy. It's not hard to make the comparions to our own country's history of racially-based violence and oppression that continues today.

    As previously touched upon, this is a world filled with almost entirely black characters that builds much of its narrative texture from West African traditions and culture. For those who enjoy the Afrofuturist world of Black Panther or the speculative fiction ground in Nigerian culture of recent Den of Geek Book Club novella Binti, then this is a series worth checking out. If you have never delved into the rich Afrofuturist tradition within speculative fiction, Children of Blood and Bone is a great place to start.

    With two more planned installments on the way and Fox 2000 poised to adapt Children of Blood and Bone into a movie, this isn't the last you've heard of Orïsha and Adeyemi—and, for that, we should all be thankful. The real-world just got a little more magical.

    3.5/5
    ReviewKayti Burt
    Mar 30, 2018

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