Quicksilver

By now, anyone who cares has seen Avengers: Age of Ultron. If, for some reason, you haven’t and don’t want major plot points ruined, you can read this spoiler free review. You’d also be best served by staying off the Internet completely at this point. But now it’s out and people have had the opportunity to see it, I’d like to take some time to analyse some of the bigger plot points that I couldn’t include in the overall review.

Let’s talk about Pietro Maximoff. The character was always going to be difficult to pull off given that Evan Peter’s depiction of the character in Fox’s X-Men: Days of Future Past is widely touted as the best scene in the entire movie. I wasn’t as impressed as some people. The scene itself is neat but the circumstances surrounding it feel contrived to give us the scene. And the character quirk of the character thinking and speaking at superspeed became a little annoying. But Marvel had the challenge of distinguishing their Pietro Maximoff from Fox’s Quicksilver. I just didn’t think they’d meet the challenge by killing him.

Aaron Taylor-Johnson does a very good job in the role of Pietro Maximoff. Johnson is probably best known for his portrayal as costumed super-hero, Kick-Ass, in the film of the same name. Because of Johnson’s strength in the role, Pietro Maximoff never feels like Kick-Ass. It’s easy to believe that they are separate entities despite being played by the same actor so I really have to give kudos to Johnson for his work. That’s part of why I would have liked him to stick around. But I would also have liked to see more of the character. Imagine how his relationship with Wanda might have developed now that they were no longer waging an underground war against Tony Stark.

Aaron Taylor Johnson plays Pietro Maximoff, AKA Quicksilver, in Disney and Marvel's Avengers: Age of Ultron.

Not faster than a speeding bullet.

What bothers me more is that, of all the people who could have saved Hawkeye, Pietro’s death is the least sensible. One of the most poignant moments in the film is when Clint Barton takes the team back home to meet his wife and kids. Barton has a conversation with his wife about whether the team has his back as much as he has theirs. It seems like it is setting up a heroic sacrifice or that someone from the team will save him. But no one does. The guy that saves him is Pietro Maximoff, the new guy who never visited Barton’s wife and children. Sure, Pietro and Barton have something of a rivalry throughout the film but it would have been so much more meaningful if Captain America or Thor had taken the bullet. Instead all we got was a humorous one-line call back.

Of course, no one could have saved Barton and died except for the Maximoff twins or Black Widow. Wanda was otherwise preoccupied though and I can imagine the feminist uproar if Marvel killed Black Widow and replaced her with Wanda Maximoff. Such an action would seem to imply that there only needs to be one token female in the group to maintain diversity. So it had to be Pietro who died. Iron Man has his suit and Captain America, Thor and Hulk can all survive bullets. But even if Thor had taken the gunfire and just been out of commission for a while, the effect would have been the same. Barton would have realised how close he’d come to dying and seen that the team truly cared for him.

Speaking of diversity though, the largely male, all white Avengers team is no more. With the inclusion of Falcon, WarMachine and Wanda, the team has become much well rounded in terms of sex and race. Wanda is Russian too, so there’s some cultural diversity in there too, although some might complain about the actress not being a Russian national, but hey, baby steps. And the team is set to get a lot more diverse with the upcoming inclusions of Black Panther and Captain Marvel. You could also say that as an A.I. in a synthetic body, Vision rounds out the diversification by not even being human at all.

Paul Bettany, Elizabeth Olson, Anthony Mackie and Don Cheadle make up the new Avengers team of Vision, Scarlett Witch, Falcon and War Machine.

Looking a little sparse…for now.

The new squad will create fresh stories and keep the drama interesting without relying on the same characters with the same powers. It seems like Pietro’s death was a necessity to create that new squad. Even with Stark and Barton retiring, Thor off doing research and the Hulk gone AWOL, the team is looking crowded. Captain America and new recruits, Ant-man, Black Panther and Captain Marvel are all getting their own releases. Had Pietro survived he’d likely have gotten lost in the shuffle, like Falcon or WarMachine might.

I like Falcon and WarMachine but they aren’t Tony Stark or the Hulk. Both are just normal men made super through technology. Unlike Stark though, both have a military background. They’re both known for their witty one-liners as well. I’d almost have preferred to have Pietro survive in the place of one of them because they’re so similar and the Avengers team doesn’t really need both of them. It’s entirely possible that they won’t stay that way for long with Captain America: Civil War just around the corner. Could we see Falcon take up the shield in future Avengers films?

Avengers:Age of Ultron was a good, enjoyable film. But I am disheartened that I won’t get to see more of Aaron Taylor Johnson’s Quicksilver and that the new Avengers have lost much of their scientific and otherworldly minds. Again though, and this really can’t be overstated, the new team will allow for fresh interactions and plots. Fans were worried about getting tired of the Avengers but if they keep refreshing and cycling through team members, Marvel have a means of bringing back audiences time and time again. Despite my disappointment, I can’t stay mad at Marvel.

Personable

Ok, I take it back. When I suggested that viewers simply sit back and enjoy the final fourteen episodes of AMC’s Mad Men, I expected it to actually be enjoyable. Instead, season seven part two has been bizarre and included what might have been the worst episode of the entire series (New Business). It doesn’t feel like Mad Men anymore, although maybe that’s the point.

As it turns out, Roger’s gambit to save the company after they failed to go public backfired. McCann Erickson don’t like paying the lease on a separate building and so, have assimilated SC&P. For as long as we’ve known Don Draper and friends, they’ve worked at Sterling Cooper or some variant there of. When Putnam, Powell and Lowe tried to sell the company to McCann previously, they staged a daring coup to keep the company and strike out on their own. When they try to keep some shred of their identity this time around, that dream is quickly dismissed by McCann’s top brass.

Maybe that’s why the show doesn’t feel like Mad Men anymore. Sterling Cooper, the constant throughout the decades, is gone; another name in a list of companies absorbed by McCann. And McCann is a faceless, corporate juggernaut. Whereas every account was a victory for Sterling Cooper, McCann treat accounts as something they’re entitled to. Airlines, pharmaceuticals, Coca Cola; those businesses are bandied about as treats to entice their new employees. One feels that they could go as quickly as they came and McCann would hardly flinch.

From left to right, Kevin Rahm, Vincent Kartheiser, Jon Hamm, Christina Hendricks and John Slattery as Ted Chaough, Pete Campbell,Don Draper,Joan Holloway and Roger Sterling as their advertising company is incorporated into McCann.

The moment SC&P died.

Without a company to care for, the viewers and the characters stop really caring. Joan tries to continue taking pride in her accounts but feels so stifled and mistreated, that she ends up quitting. Pete appears to have done well for himself, fitting in well at McCann but even he finds that what he wants is something that McCann can’t offer. Don should be happiest. He’s getting to work with Coca Cola and has finally won the attention of Conrad Hilton. Instead, he finds himself bored and just drives away. The only person to actually benefit from this merger is Peggy.

That’s why ‘The Milk and Honey Route’ is perhaps the best episode of the last batch. It feels comfortingly classic. McCann features minimally, with most of focus being on Don in a strange place, afraid people will see him for who he really is. It is a pity that Don is still obsessed with his identity after the progress he made coming back from the breakdown at the end of season six. However, it does make sense. Without Sterling Cooper, Dick Whitman doesn’t really need to be Don Draper anymore. There’s a sense of him shedding his skin as he leaves his old life, old friends and even his car behind. It’s nice that he’s staying in touch with the kids though, because he is connected to Sally and the boys regardless of whether he calls himself Don Draper or Dick Whitman.

Theories of Don’s death are still prevalent among fans. However, it looks like Betty will be one to pass away. Betty has always been one of the more compelling characters of the show, outside of the advertising business. It’s interesting that both Betty and Anna Draper, arguably the only two characters who really knew Don, are dying of cancer. But this pretty much squashes any chance of Don dying in the finale. Mad Men can be utterly depressing at times but I can’t see Matthew Weiner orphaning three children in the last ever episode.

Jon Hamm's Don Draper gives away his car and waits for a bus in the penultimate episode of AMC's final season of Mad Men.

Will this road lead to happiness for Don?

So what will happen in the final episode? Are we any wiser now than we were when the season began? Sort of. The theme of the future and happiness has been significant throughout these last seven episodes. A very obvious example is ‘The Forecast’ where Don is forced to write a statement on SC&P’s future. A pointless exercise given that in the next episode, we learn that McCann are moving them inhouse, however, it does provide ample opportunity for Don to ask others what they want from their future. Their future, and their happiness, is based on their accomplishments, to which Don remarks ‘what’s next?’

Don understands their desire but he also understands that it doesn’t bring happiness. It’s a clear sign of foreshadowing. Only a couple episodes later, Don’s dissatisfaction leads him to leave advertising and hit the road. This theme is seen elsewhere too, although less ostentatiously. Diane struggles to see a future where she can be happy and accepting of her past mistakes. Glenn, in an attempt to please his step father, enlists. Pete, content at McCann but not happy, reconciles with Trudy and plans to move to Wichita. The central message being that the future they think they want often isn’t the one that will make them happy.

Is there a future that will make Don happy? Don has sought happiness in work, in alcohol and, most famously, in women. None of those brought him any lasting joy. As the imaginary Bert Cooper recently said of Don, “you like to play the stranger.” For a man like Don, familiarity does not bring happiness. That’s not very telling of how the series will end though. Don could take up a new name and a new identity. Or he might fade into obscurity, becoming no one. In fact, would he feel able to do that, give his responsibility to his children? Just like Don, Mad Men revels in being mysterious and unpredictable. I would say sit back and enjoy but, honestly, I’m dreading the end.

Expectations

Did Gotham live up to expectations? Given that the first series reached its conclusion this week, that question is on the lips of many viewers. Early episodes made it clear that is was not the gritty realism that we’ve come to know Christopher Nolan and Zack Synder for. It was lighthearted, fitting more with The CW adaptations of The Flash and Arrow than the DC films. At times though, it was goofy and cheesy, leaning more towards the days of Adam West than Michael Keaton. But, having been renewed for a second season later in the week, the indication would be ‘yes’.

But renewal does not always equal success. A series can be renewed despite low ratings because the channel hasn’t picked up enough new shows to fill the slot. Or it may appeal to a certain demographic that producers want to watch, yet draw poor overall ratings. If we were to measure success by ratings, Gotham would not come out smelling sweet. Gotham’s premiere drew a respectable eight million viewers. That grows to fourteen million when taking in DVR views. Looks good until you consider that Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. first season premiere was watched by twelve million, a number that reaches seventeen with DVR added in. The Gotham finale was just shy of five million viewers. That’s three million viewers who lost interest.

It is slightly unfair to blame the quality of the show. Audiences can lose interest simply because of work and social obligations. Life, and the unpredictability that comes with it, is the most common interruption of our routine. It may just happen that we no longer have time for that show that we once loved. Conversely, it may be a scheduling conflict with the network. Gotham had a pretty consistent airing pattern and even a early mid-season hiatus didn’t slow down ratings. A month long break from March until April did hurt the series though. That gap lead to a drop from six million viewers to four and a half.

Camren Bicondova

Selena, Cats eat Fish, not cops.

So a drop in ratings doesn’t necessarily indicate that Gotham was no longer entertaining. In fact, those last few episodes were better written than some of the higher rated mid-season episodes. The focus, both of the show and Jim Gordon, on a recurring, despicable villain helped reinvigorate some characters who felt like they were constantly repeating the same moves. Milo Ventimiglia’s ‘The Orge’ serial killer was refreshingly down to earth compared to the wacky ‘Balloon-Man’ and ‘Spirit of the Goat’. This being a Batman universe, some wackiness is to be expected, but some of Batman’s best villains, such as Black Mask and Penguin, are very straight forward characters.

Speaking of Penguin, the season finale wins up with Maroni dead, Falcone retired and Fish Mooney presumed dead which leaves Penguin in charge. At this point in time, that feels rather premature. Penguin was revealed to have been in Falcone’s employ prior to working with Mooney and Maroni in the series but we’ve actually seen him do very little to gain any support. Even Butch, his right hand man, once worked for Mooney and was turned by Victor Zsasz under Falcone’s orders. Penguin is a master manipulator, even here in the early stages, but he has no basis or support to be the mafia crime boss. That may be the point. Claiming to rule and ruling are two different things and his struggle to assert his dominance will likely be a theme for next season.

If anything, I’d prefer for Gotham to dial back on how much screen time The Penguin and Bruce Wayne are given in the second season. I touched on this briefly in the Daredevil review. Between Jim Gordon, Bruce Wayne and The Penguin there’s little time to develop any criminals for Gordon to chase. There usually ends up being four stories running in any one episode: Gordon clashing with his bosses in the police department or having a relationship issue with Leslie Thompson, Bruce investigating his parent’s death or his father’s business, possibly including Selena Kyle, The Penguin almost being killed by Mooney or Maroni or caring for his mother, and the crime of the week. In the later half of the series Mooney also had her own story, a rising through the ranks of an odd frankenstein alcatraz, which often felt like a dull and random aside to the main stories.

Erin Richards' Barbara Keene carries on the work of The Orge in the season finale of Fox's Gotham.

Don’t mind if I do.

Gotham is at its best when the story is narrowed in on one villain, such as the aforementioned ‘The Orge’. Unlike most villains in the series, Ventimiglia’s character was developed and pursued over the course of three episodes. In that way ‘The Orge’ came across as important and rounded as either The Penguin or Bruce Wayne which made the threat that he posed all the more formidable. While Gotham can’t devote three episodes to very villain, reducing the screen time of side characters would allow more time to develop the weekly villains so that they appear significant.

Bruce Wayne actually already pops up in Gotham much more than anticipated. David Mazouz is well cast and the role and I’m glad they’re making use of such a talented, young actor. However, Bruce is only twelve in the series. Even if he were to become Batman in his early 20’s, that’s a decade before we can see him don the cowl and cape. Imagining that the show can stay on air for ten years, Bruce is already displaying the intellect and deductive reasoning needed for his future detective work which means all he really has to do is learn to fight. And if the finale is to be believed, he just found the Batcave. Part of me wonders whether Gotham’s producers are so worried about being cancelled they’re rushing through these character’s overarching stories.

In terms of living up to expectations, I believe Gotham has done so. This first season has been a bit of trial and error and there is still room for improvement, but Gotham is entertaining. The writing is lighthearted and conscious of it’s audience, the acting is lively and engaging. If you can get past the more outlandish moments, you’ll find Gotham and it’s characters strangely endearing.

S3

Metal Gear Solid is one of my favourite video game franchises. It’s probably up there with Final Fantasy and Tekken. However, I have never completed the first Metal Gear Solid game for the PlayStation, or the PSX or PS One as it would later be called. I’ve played it. When the game was first announced, I got a demo via GamesMaster magazine and played it relentlessly. After the game was officially released, I rented the game from Xtravision. Yep, this was back in the day when people still physically rented games from physical stores. But, I failed to finish the game in the allotted time and I was still in school at this stage so I didn’t have the monetary funds to purchase the game itself.

Since then, I’ve bought and completed all of the Solid series of games and the Raiden centric spin-off, Revengence. There are a lot of canonical games that I haven’t played, such as the original Metal Gear games, because I never owned an MSX, Portable Ops and Peacewalker, because I don’t own a PSP, and Ground Zeroes, because I take issue with paying full price for what is essentially a prologue. Still, it ranks as one of my favourite game series’ because the gameplay and story is so different from everything else in the market and Hideo Kojima is constantly reinventing it.

Here’s a second revelation for you: I don’t actually hate Raiden. Some fans of the Metal Gear series will balk at reading that sentence. Maybe I just have a soft spot for Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberity because it was the first game that I bought and completed but I thought that the bait and switch between Raiden and Solid Snake was great. It’s the video game equivalent of killing Ned Stark at the end of A Game of Thrones. Raiden might not have been as tough looking or as gruff and manly as Solid Snake, but he created a fresh perspective on what was basically a retreading of the first Metal Gear Solid.

The Colonel orders Raiden, and the player, to turn off the Playstation 2 in Metal Gear Solid 2.

Let’s get meta.

Of course, that was the point. And I don’t deny that some of the less overt references probably went over my head because I hadn’t played the previous game. But rehashing that first game and putting a new spin on it wouldn’t have worked from Solid Snake’s perspective. That new spin didn’t exactly go down well either but I thought it was ok. I had to play the game several times to understand it but the idea that Raiden was essentially the player being manipulated was really quite revolutionary.

As gamers, we don’t really think about how we play games. In Metal Gear Solid we are given an objective and told how to accomplish that objective. Straying too far out of the confides of how to accomplish that objective leads to a game over. In Candy Crush, we are told to match candy to gain enough points to earn stars. Even in a game where are told that we have a choice, there’s still a game over if you don’t do it right. In the Sims, if you don’t go to work, you lose your job, can’t pay your bills and all of your items get repossessed. If you still refuse to play by the rules of the game, your sim starves to death. The game is an AI and we do what it tells us because we are indoctrinated to think what we have to do what the game tells us is an objective. We never stop to think that we don’t have to do that.

Selection for Society Sanity is basically just that. The objective of the game was to control the player in the most extreme situation and if you made it to the end of the game, then it worked. You killed all the bad guys that you were told to kill. You blew up everything that was meant to be blown up. You trusted those who you were told were your friends and family. How many people were fooled into turning off the console when instructed by Colonel Roy Campbell in the latter stages of the game? Very few. And actually, that was probably the only way to avoid being manipulated; to not play the game at all. The game leads you to believe things that aren’t true which in turn influence your behaviour. In fact, you’re working for the bad guys. The most terrible thing about Selection for Societal Sanity is that it really exists and its name is Facebook.

Facebook encourages voting  and encourages social pressure to vote.

Are you really in control of your own actions?

Not really of course, but by now, we all know the story that Facebook edited their algorithms to see whether more or less positive or negative posts affected the mood of Facebook users. They experimented with the psychological state of its users without telling them, making numerous people feel sad just to see if they could. More recently, the “I Voted” buttons a top of American user’s pages have caused controversy. If you’re going to vote, you click the button. It’s been around since 2008 and since then researchers have noted a significant increase in voter turnout, all because of a sticker on social media. Manipulating world events, indeed.

Just because we can see the ‘I Voted’ button doesn’t mean that we’re privy to the experiment. Any changes were said, by Facebook, to have been done in a neutral manner, though Facebook is unlikely to admit to manipulating people to vote in a certain direction. But either way, it pays to be aware to what we click and what we share. Don’t vote just so you can click a button like your friends. Think about who you’re voting for and why. This is important and it’s your choice. Don’t let Facebook make it for you. Keep that in mind this Thursday, May 7th.

It is interesting to see the ideas and predictions of fiction come to live in the real world. I’ve probably said this before, but my favourite book is George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four. It’s a very clever book that draws the reader in first and foremost, but it’s best remembered for its insights into the future, such as the devolution of language into “newspeak”. Text speak and leet speak hasn’t penetrated  Western culture in quite the way that newspeak did in Oceania (it is still quite unprofessional to use contractions of any sort in your work environment) but Nineteen Eighty-Four speaks to the reader about the human condition. We can see Orwell’s hopes and fears living and breathing in the world around us. Just as we can with Hideo Kojima.

Monsters

Avengers: Age of Ultron is a great movie. It is not a great movie because there are a bunch of cool action scenes, or because of the funny quips and one-liners, nor is it because of how faithful it is the comics. No, The Avengers second cinematic outing is great because it draws upon the individual installments. I don’t mean that in the sense that HYDRA were exposed in Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Age of Ultron opens with the team fighting HYDRA. Age of Ultron is great because the characters are affected by what has come before.

This is most notably true with Tony Stark. In Iron Man 3, Stark was suffering from post-traumatic stress due to the battle of New York shown in the first Avengers film. Stark had become so concerned about another attack that he’d built forty two Iron Man suits. When past demons came back to haunt him, Stark deployed all of the suits, a remote controlled army. Though he initiated the clean slate protocol at the end of that film, it’s clear from Avengers:Age of Ultron that he’s far from cured of his PTSD. Iron Man has rebuilt his army, made up of Iron Man drones, naming it Iron Legion and he’s working on an AI to protect the Earth from outside threat.

Captain America and Thor get similar treatment. Cap is still the old fish out of water, reminiscing about Agent Carter and the life he left behind in Captain America: The First Avenger when mind jacked by Elizabeth Olsen’s Wanda Maximoff. When also tricked, Thor receives a vision of a tainted Asgard, possibly explained by Loki’s rule and to be further explored in Thor: Ragnarok. Even in terms of Wanda and Pietro Maximoff, their backstory involves being orphaned by bombs distributed by Stark Industries. And arms dealing was a lucrative business for Stark not so long ago.

Jeremy Renner returns as Clint Barton AKA Hawkeye in the Avengers sequel Age of Ultron.

Age of Ultron does avenge Hawkeye’s lack of screen time from the first film.

It’s not a retreading of past stories though. Some of the characters get completely new developments, namely Clint Barton. Hawkeye spent most of the first film unappreciated due to his brainwashing and generally just having less to do in the battle of New York. That’s been more than rectified here in Age of Ultron where we get to see a lot more of what Barton does when he’s not an Avenger. It’s a quieter moment in the film but it’s great character growth and brings a rather ‘meh’ character to life.

The main thrust of the story is that Tony Stark and Bruce Banner attempt to create an A.I. to protect Earth using information and coding extracted from Loki’s sceptre. This A.I. is called Ultron and, in true science fiction fashion, immediately assesses that the best way to save humanity is to wipe it out. He enlists the Maximoff twins to his cause but doesn’t divulge his end game. Turns out he’s quite obsessed with comets, desiring to lift a land mass out of the Earth and drop it to create an extinction level seismic blast.

Ultron does not pose much of a threat to The Avengers. They square off several times before the final battle and each time the Avengers succeed in destroying him. The problem is that he escapes using the internet, allowing him to move into a new body and continue his plans. Part of those plans are to create a better body, a more synthetic model, utilising new skin constructing technology and the mind gem. But even those plans are headed off by Tony Stark and Thor. It’s nice to see the heros being as proactive as the villain for once. The only real exception is Steve Rogers who warns that ‘everytime someone tries to win a war before it starts innocent people die’. Is that perhaps a dispute that could lead to a civil war?

Chris Hemworth, Robert Downey Jr. and Chris Evans return to their roles as Thor, Iron Man and Captain America for the Avengers sequel Age of Ultron.

Avengers: Age of Ultron goes dark but with more colour.

It’s those little character moments that make the film, whether it’s building on what has come before or feeding into the next installments. But it’s also these moments that create a darker atmosphere in the Marvel universe than fans might be use to. Iron Man 3 and Thor: Dark World (ironically) were lighter and more jokey than Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Avengers: Age of Ultron. The main theme this time around is that our heros are monsters, capable of hurting the world as much as they are of saving it. Isn’t that the same theme DC were going for in their Batman V. Superman trailer? Age of Ultron does it without the gritty, dark palette and gruff garbled voices. It does so with the deep, alluring tones of one James Spader.

Is it better than the first film? That’s tough to say. The Avengers was the first of its kind. No film before it had created a shared universe and built towards an ensemble film. It was fun without being overly complex, which it needed to be in order to appeal to casual fans and not just the fanatics who watched every film and obsessed over every scene. But it did have it’s flaws, as does Age of Ultron. One thing that bothered me a lot was the CGI which was very noticeable at times. I don’t think Age of Ultron is much more CGI heavy than the first outing but it didn’t seem to blend quite right. But that’s only a slight grievance.

Even with it’s failings and comparisons to the first, Avengers: Age of Ultron is still a great film in its own right. Far too often, sequels will attempt to draw fans in with bigger and bolder stories at the expense of the characters who become stereotypes and cliches drawn with broad strokes. Not so with Age of Ultron, which moves from alien invasion to robotic uprising but remains underpinned by character development and growth throughout. Now, on to Ant-Man and phase three.

Originality

The main selling point of Game of Thrones season 5 is the departure from the A Song of Ice and Fire source material. The HBO show is rapidly approaching the threshold where all five of George R.R. Martin’s book are adapted. Rather than distilling the secrets of the plot from Martin, David Benioff and D.B. Weiss have elected to fill in the blanks themselves, creating a sort of alternate universe, similar to when Biff took the Almanac back to 1955. This, coupled with Martin’s confession that he has no power over who lives and dies in the show, and we have a season that promises to be fresh and exciting for readers and non-readers alike.

That promise is a long way away in the season 5 opener, “The Wars to Come”. Very little of the episode is original. Dialogue sees the most change but much of what is depicted is the same. The fallout of Tyrion Lannister’s murder of his father, Tywin, dictates the episode, whether it be Cersei cursing Jaime for freeing him or Varys’ attempts to coerce the Imp into helping Daenarys Targaryen ascend to the throne. Readers of the books will recognise much of what happens and what it’s leading to.

To say that season 5 is the season where the show will split from the books is misleading. The show has often changed details for dramatic or visual purposes. An early change was that Robb Stark did not wed Jeyne Westerling, but instead falls for a woman named Talisa Maegyr. This is important because the Westerling family are Lords of The Crag in the Westerlands, making them sworn to the Warden of the West, Tywin Lannister. Thus Robb’s marriage to Jeyne is not just disrespectful to Walder Frey but is also a betrayal of the Westerlings against Tywin Lannister. By naming the girl Maegar, this aspect of the marriage was removed. Furthermore, Robb didn’t bring Jeyne to the Red Wedding so she actually survives whereas Talisa Maegar was killed.

Emilia Clarke's Daenarys Targaryen struggles to be the Mother of Dragons as hers mature and grow more and move vicious in HBO's Game of Thrones.

Let Sleeping Dragons Lie.

Another change, though somewhat less major, was the encounter between the Hound and Brienne of Tarth. That fight, as awesome as it was, never happens in the novels. Brienne never came that close to finding Arya, with the Hound dying from a wound he received much earlier. Purists might reject the change but the scene was very enjoyable. The only problem is that a change like that has consequences. Arya refuses to go with Brienne, causing the latter to lament her efforts in the season 5 opener. Brienne is essentially directionless now. Perhaps she can go looking for Sansa but that will involve rewriting a lof material that does exist. Brienne’s story continues in the novels but much of it concerns her search of Arya and the Hound. That’s not really something she can do now that Arya she knows Arya doesn’t want her help.

So viewers haven’t had to wait five season to see original stories. Changes have been made here and there. Perhaps they mean wholly original and not scene or character changes. But even if that is true, there’s still plenty of material to work through. The only character whose story will really start to diverge this season is Bran’s. The crippled Stark boy was last seen, in both book and screen, beyond the wall, conversing with a greenseer. What’s next for him is entirely up to Benioff and Weiss.

That doesn’t mean, however, that this season will be similar to seasons past. From here onwards, there is a geographical shift out of Westeros. With Arya, Tyrion and Daenerys now all in Essos, there will be more stories to tell on the exotic, eastern continent. The culture is different there and the tone of the scenes set there reflects that. It’s much less dark ags, medieval fantasy and more intrigue and politics. Dany remarks that she’s a Queen, not a politician, but she might be on the wrong continent if that’s how she plans to rule.

Maisie Williams as Arya Stark attempts to enter the House of Black and White in the season episode of HBO's fifth season of Game of Thrones.

This is what happens when couples can’t compromise.

Even back on Westeros, the story is becoming much less centralised to King’s Landing. This season will see focus turned on Dorne and the Iron Islands, both of which we’ve seen little of thus far. Neither appeared in the opener, but that’s a case of catching up with the old guard before introducing fresh blood. Basically, if you enjoyed the antics of Oberyn Martell last season, there is plenty more where that came from. Viewers with good long term memory (or those who recently rewatched season one) will also remember that Cersei’s daughter Myrcella was shipped off to Dorne to ensure the Martell’s support. In season five, Dorne is the place to be.

In many ways, “The Wars to Come” was the perfect name for the opening episode. It might not have been the most exciting or eventful premiere in the history of television but what it did was set up new storylines. Tywin Lannister’s death has caused a great shift in dynamic. Characters who were once loyal to each other, such as Jaime and Cersei are now at odds. It’s been building for a while but Tywin’s death was the final straw. Even as far out as The Wall, Stannis can be heard proclaiming that the Iron Throne will be his now that Tywin isn’t alive to hold the kingdom together.

“The Wars to Come” was a strong episode but it was a quiet strength. Some viewers might have found it dull but looking ahead to the second episode tonight, or the end of the season even, I suspect that this might be looked back upon as a necessary evil. The leak of the first four episodes didn’t hurt the premiere, which accumulated a record rating. But with an appetite whetting first episode, will audiences have been able to wait the whole week to watch Arya in “The House of Black and White” or have they succumb to online temptation? My guess? Game of Thrones is headed towards being the most illegally downloaded television programme for a fourth year running.

Judgement

This was a big week for television enthusiasts. Last Sunday saw the return of Mad Men, Monday brought us the finale of Better Call Saul and tonight sees the premiere of season five of Game of Thrones. Sandwiched between those blockbuster, monster shows, Netflix also released the first fruits of their partnership with Marvel Entertainment; Daredevil. By making all thirteen episodes public in the same week as the Better Call Saul finale, Netflix has managed a smooth transition from one popular show to another, keeping its subscribers hooked for another few weeks. Or at least a couple of days.

The story of Marvel’s Daredevil, in case you’ve blocked the Ben Affleck adaptation from memory, focuses on Matt Murdoch, a small time lawyer operating out of Hell’s Kitchen who was blinded by radioactive materials as a child. Borrowing from the popular myth, instead of blinding the kid, the loss of his sight elevates his other senses to the point where he can hear a person’s heartbeat just by standing nearby. His enhanced balance also allows him to execute martial arts techniques flawlessly. Murdoch, following the death of his boxer dad who refused to throw a fight, uses these newly developed abilities to fight crime and clean up Hell’s Kitchen.

So, Daredevil plays into a lot of the superhero tropes that we’re all familiar with by now; powers caused by exposure to an outside source, dead parent. But the Netflix series is very aware of that. While the show opens with a scene depicting Murdoch as a child having his sight destroyed, when we catch up to Charlie Cox as the adult superhero, he’s already fighting criminals and stopping human trafficking deals. It’s clear he has only just started but this isn’t his first outing in the costume. Which is nice. By now, viewers are getting bored with origin stories. It’s in the best interest of superhero media to show the origin in as succinct and concise as fashion as possible, which Daredevil does.

Charlie Cox, best known for his role in Boardwalk Empire, plays blind lawyer turn superhero, Matt Murdoch/Daredevil in the Netflix original production of Marvel's Daredevil.

“It’s ok, I just bit my lip.”

Later episodes do develop Murdoch’s relationship with his father but in some senses this show was made for fans of the character. It doesn’t dwell much on the origin and comic book readers will recognise some of Daredevil most anti-heroic actions from Frank Miller’s run. But then it baffles me why Wilson Fisk, aka Kingpin is treated as a secret for three episodes. Fans of the comics, especially those reading post-Miller, will recognise Kingpin as Daredevil’s biggest and most notorious foe. And Marvel already announced that he would be in the show. Therefore the only reason to hide his face is to make Vincent D’Onofrio’s appearance a surprise. But it’s just not. We’ve already seen D’Onofrio bald as Private Leonard Lawrence in Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket. And Wilson Fisk just looks like Gomer Pyle stole a few too many donuts.

Along with the lack of focus on audience, there is also a lack of focus on character. While the show is predominantly about Matt Murdoch and his adventures as Daredevil, he also has to share screen time with Elden Henson as Foggy Nelson, Debrorah Ann Woll as Karen Page and Fisk’s romantic storyline with Ayelet Zurer as Vanessa Marianna. It’s good to develop supporting characters, and I actually like Foggy because he manages to be Murdoch’s partner without playing a wholly comic relief role, but at 50+ minutes, the episodes could benefit from being trimmed back slightly.

It’s not that I want the characters to be two dimensional or every scene to include Charlie Cox. However, I am sitting down to watch a show titled Daredevil so I do expect the character to be at the centre of the show. Instead I’m watching Fisk court his future wife. Yes it gives him a human side so that he’s not just evil for the sake of evil but it still detracts from the main character. Daredevil suffers from this in the same way that Fox’s Gotham devotes a lot of screen time to The Penguin and Fish Mooney as well as Jim Gordon. Gotham at least has the advantage of being about an entire city rather than just one man, but the problem is the same. I don’t want to see what the bad guys are doing. I want to see the good guy figure it out.

Charlie Cox, Deborah Ann Woll, Rosario Dawnson, Elden Henson and Vincent D'Onofrio appear as Matt Murdoch/Daredevil, Karen Page, Claire Temple, Foggy Nelson and Wilson Fisk/Kingpin in Netflix's original production of Marvel's Daredevil.

Not shown: a lot of recurring side characters.

Daredevil also suffers from a second structural issue but it’s one that seems to plague other Netflix original programming too. Daredevil, like House of Cards, and other shows that have all of their episodes released at once, episodes tend to lack a hook to entice the viewer to watch the next one. It doesn’t seem like a big deal if the viewer doesn’t watch another episode right away when all of the episodes will be available for months. But they’re looking at it wrong. Not watching the next episodes reflects a lack of interest. I can tell you now, if HBO released all of Game of Thrones at once tonight, I’d have the entire season watched by sunrise.

With Daredevil, I’m just not that eager and I don’t feel that the show is demanding to be watched in the same way other shows do. Even if the episode itself isn’t exciting a hook can still entice the viewer. Person of Interest does it all the time. A particular case might be dull but often the episode will end with a revelation or twist that will make me desperate to tune in next week. On demand shows are relegating this device, treating it as a remnant of weekly televised shows but its not. It’s a tool to draw the viewer into the next episode. Remember, there’s only a few seconds between episodes. The hook only has to stall them for that long and then the next episode can do the rest.

Most of the problems are structural. The acting is good, with Charlie Cox as the clear standout, and the choreography is great. It’s a joy to see a fight scene where the camera doesn’t move with every punch. I can actually see what’s happening. I like the neo-noir theme too; it fits the moral quandaries of the character. I’m hoping that the problems are due to producers or writers, as the series is created by Drew Goddard, the man who will direct the next solo Spider-Man. Otherwise I’m expecting good fight scenes but I’m a little worried that Aunt May might end up with as much screen time as our friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man.

Maddening

Mad Men has been on quite the journey since 2007. Sure, it isn’t the suspense driven wish fulfillment that Breaking Bad was and it doesn’t have the stimulating tits and gore action that Game of Thrones provides, but it engages with viewers in a way that few other shows do. Whether it’s about fashion, historical events or how Don Draper is sabotaging himself this time, people talk about Mad Men. Which is strange because Mad Men has rarely peaked above three million viewers according to ratings. But impressive ratings do not make a show great. A lot of people could watch a terrible show just to watch it fail. What makes a show great is its ability to draw an audience time and time again, and time and time again Don Draper and partners have attracted consistent viewers.

When we last left Don Draper he was on the verge of being fired until Roger Sterling made a deal with advertising juggernaut, McCann Errickson to become an independent subsidiary. Part of that deal was a 5 year contract for Don, securing his position at the company for the foreseeable future. If the name McCann Erickson sounds familiar it’s because the company already tried to purchase Sterling Cooper, along with Putnam, Powell and Lowe, back in season three. At the time, Don, along with Bert Cooper, Roger Sterling and Lane Pryce conspired to sever their contracts and start their own agency.

So is Mad Men just retreading old ground? It might sound like Matthew Weiner has run out of ideas but the climate and the characters are very different three and a half seasons later. It was 1963 when Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce opened its doors. Six years have pasted in the story since then and a lot has happened since. Don has married and divorced again, had a break down, numerous affairs and almost been fired. The company merged with Cutler, Gleason and Chaough in season 6, bringing in Jim Cutler and Ted Chaough, the latter of the two then proceeding to have an affair with Peggy Olson. Guilty, he joins Pete in setting up an office in California to handle the Sunkist account. Pete Campbell had a kid and got separated, Roger took LSD and got divorced, Lane Pryce committed suicide and Bert Cooper died while watching the moon landing.

Jon Hamm, Elizabeth Moss, Vincent Kartheiser, January Jones, Christina Hendricks, John Slattery, Rich Sommer and Jay R. Ferguson reprise their roles of Don Draper, Peggy Olson, Pete Campbell, Betty Francis, Joan Harris, Roger Sterling, Harry Crane and Stan Rizzo in the final season of AMC's Mad Men.

Ending with style.

In the words of Roger Sterling, “a lot’s happened in between. Most of it good, but some of it very bad.” But it’s the attitude of Don that has changed the most. Back in season three, when faced with the buy out, Don challenged the partners, stating a desire to build something of his own. In the interim years, Don has built Sterling Cooper & Partners. It’s not all down to his work, Peggy, Pete and Joan have been influential in the company’s growth but Don has been a catalyst for that growth more times than not. Now in season seven, Don’s desires have changed. He’s very much focused on getting back to work and the McCann deal allows him to do just that.

It’s a sentiment that he shares with Ted Chaough, who seemed suicidal at the thought of working in advertising any longer. And yet, Don convinces him to sign a five year contract. After seven seasons, its easy to forget just how persuasive Don can be when he’s on his game. Part of that, I believe, is the challenge. Season four displays some of the hardest work that Don has ever done on the show, aside for perhaps the first part of season seven when he writes tags and copy and feeds Freddy Rumsen lines. Don needs to feel that he is working for or towards something. When he becomes content or complacent, his work and home life suffers.

The big question hanging over season seven part two is how will it end for Don Draper. Over the years, the most prevalent theory has been that Don will commit suicide, overwhelmed by the effect of his actions of his co-workers and lovers, and unable to live with his self-loathing and unable to accept that he really is Dick Whitman. While I might have believed that to be a possibility a few years ago, the character has made many strides in repairing relationships, especially with Sally, and accepting his past. His breakdown at the end of season six may have hurt his career but revealing his true origins did ease his distress.

Robert Morse's character Bert Cooper bid farewell by singing 'The Best Things In Life Are Free' in the final episode of AMC's Mad Men season 7, part 1, 'Waterloo'.

Advertising is really just one big song and dance.

Others have suggested that Bert’s musical number at the end of ‘Waterloo’ was signs of a brain tumor that will eventually kill Don. While the notion is interesting, I think that is reading too much into what was just a farewell for the character. Robert Morse was best known for his Broadway acting and singing before his role in Mad Men, and as such a musical number was a fitting tribute to both the actor and the character. This isn’t Better Call Saul where every little thing can be scrutinised as a sign of Breaking Bad things to come. In Mad Men, a musical number is just a musical number.

So how will it end? Honestly, I have no idea, Maybe Don will die or maybe he’ll walk off into the sunset. He could get back with Betty or Megan or meet someone new or rekindle an old romance with one of many paramours. Perhaps Roger will die. Peggy and Pete could finally get together. Harry Crane might finally make partner. There’s no telling how things will go because Weiner has consistently and constantly surprised audiences with the twists and turns that the show has made. Who could have predicted the merging of SCDP and CGC or the McCann Erickson would return to acquire the company? It’s a testament to the skill and talent of Weiner that even after seven season he can still surprise his audience.

The only thing left to do, if we can’t predict the end, is to sit back and enjoy the end of an era. Before Mad Men there was nothing like it. Now we have a number of period dramas about brilliant people or professions, such as Masters of Sex or The Hour. Some are better than others but none are the gem that Mad Men has become. The show could continue for years, twisting and turning, but its better not to run it into the ground and run the risk of becoming predictable. I’ll be sad to see the end but I’ll be happy to see it end on its own terms and end well.

Reigns

It’s Wrestlemania time once again, kids. The biggest event in the wrestling calendar has come for 2015. If you’ve been following along on tumblr then you know that I’ve been predicting all the pay per views since last year’s event where Daniel Bryan over came Triple H, Batista and Randy Orton to become the WWE World Heavyweight Champion. At the time everyone was expecting big things. It was the culmination of a (roughly) year long  journey for Daniel Bryan, overcoming the Authority and acquiring his boon. Unfortunately, it wasn’t to be.

This year we’re in a similar position. Roman Reigns has taken up Batista’s mantle of being the Royal Rumble winner that the fans have rejected. Rejected in part because he’s not Daniel Bryan, and in part because there are a number of other young wrestlers who are more talented and more popular. The feeling that Reigns is being pushed because he fits a certain mold is frustrating a lot of viewers, which is kind of sad. Yes, Reigns is only half as talented as his Shield brothers at the moment but is being pushed twice as hard, but he is young.

As much as I would criticise the WWE for not capitalising on the popularity of Seth Rollins, Bray Wyatt or Dean Ambrose, I can’t rag on them for doing something new. I’ve had my fill of John Cena, Randy Orton and Sheamus in the main event but does that mean I want to replace them with Dolph Zigger and Daniel Bryan? Well, no. Integrating new, young talent into its main event scene is exactly what the WWE needs. The feuds between John Cena, Randy Orton, Sheamus, Dolph Ziggler and Daniel Bryan have nearly all been exhausted. Adding Rollins, Reigns, Ambrose, Wyatt and Rusev and it creates a number of fresh, interesting pairings. Consider also Cesaro on the undercard and guys like Finn Balor and Kevin Owens in NXT and there’s excellent potential for new talent if given the opportunities.

WWE World Heavyweight Champion Brock Lesnar and the number one contender, Roman Reigns, close out the go-home episode of RAW for Wrestlemania 31.

How can we elevate the intensity of this match? I know, add a tug of war.

Does that mean that I want Roman Reigns to walk out of Wrestlemania as the WWE World Heavyweight Champion? No. I do think it’s too soon for Reigns to have such a major title run. But a solid, evenly booked match with Brock Lesnar could be the thing to nudge Reigns into legit superstardom. If he comes through in entertaining the fans that will be the things that will win them over. Whether that’s the road the WWE wants to go down is another matter. I always remember a story CM Punk recounted about going over the Shield in a handicap match but being told to make them look good. The same situation could occur here where Brock will dominate most of the match, only for Reigns to rally and pull a victory out of nowhere, Cena-style. If that happens it’ll destroy his reputation with the fans.

One extenuating circumstance is that Brock Lesnar has recently resigned with the WWE. After weeks of teasing a return to UFC and storming out of an episode of RAW, Lesnar announced his new contract on ESPN. It’s possible that retaining the title is part of that new contract. Of course, WWE may want to keep the title on Lesnar if they realise just how bad fan reaction is towards Reigns. There are also rumours about a double turn, where Lesnar would become a face and Reigns would turn heel, possibly by aligning with Paul Heyman. For the record, I’m against that. Reigns may benefit from a heel run and tutelage under Paul Heyman, but Lesnar is a better heel than a face.

There is another option, and one I’d prefer. Have Reigns and Lesnar slug it out, a good, even battle with Brock Lesnar coming out victorious. I’m sure you all know where I’m going with this. Have Seth Rollins cash in on a weakened Lesnar and leave Wrestlemania as the WWE World Heavyweight Champion. Reigns benefits by having caused enough damage to Lesnar to allow Rollins to successfully cash in, which he could taunt Rollins with in coming weeks. Rollins would obviously benefit by becoming champion, and rightfully so. Not only would a young, talented superstar be squarely placed at the top of the WWE, but it would reward all of his great, engaging work, both in and out of the ring, in the past year. Of the three, Rollins deserves the title run most.

WWE United States Champion, Rusev, assisted by Lana, crushed John Cena at the previous Pay Per View, WWE Fastlane.

A repeat of WWE Fastlane may be best for business.

That being said, the outcome of the main event will largely depend on how the undercard pans out. If a heel is going to walk out of Wrestlemania with the title, Vince McMahon will want the faces to rule the roost in the other matches. Daniel Bryan will most likely take home the Intercontinental championship in the ladder match, and John Cena will probably ruin another superstar’s momentous rise. Rusev has done nothing but improve since his debut and his reward will be to become another notch on Cena’s ‘overcoming the odds’ belt.  Wyatt has arguably never recovered from his loss to Cena at last year’s Wrestlemania (though the cage match at Extreme Rules was the nail in the coffin) and I’d hate to see the same happen to Rusev.

The every idea that, 13 years into his WWE career and 15 world title reigns later, John Cena still needs to overcome the odds is ridiculous. At this point in his career, he’s done it all. So, having that level of expertise and ability, he should be helping to build younger stars up, not beating them on the grandest stage of all. Look, I’m not a Cena hater and I’m not trying to say that he’s past his prime or should lose every match. Cena is one of the hardest workers the WWE has, he’s reliable and when he’s on form there’s few wrestler who can rival just how entertaining he is. But it’s time to start rewarding other hard workers, relying on different wrestlers and cultivating new entertainers.

It’s a double edged sword though. If the Russian sympathetic, heel Rusev beats Cena I have a feeling that WWE (read:Vince McMahon) will want a face to triumph in the main event. Which is fine. I’ll be content with a Roman Reigns title run, I just feel there are more deserving contenders. But, whether you’re pulling for Brock Lesnar, Roman Reigns or Seth Rollins, there’s one way to know first hand who leaves as WWE World Heavyweight Champion and that’s to watch the Pay Per View tonight, March 29th, at 7pm. Lastly, here’s a run down of predictions for the card:

Pre-show 4 way tag match for WWE Tag team titles: Cesaro and Kidd

Pre-show Andre Memorial Battle Royale: Damien Sandow

Seth Rollins Vs. Randy Orton: Seth Rollins

Bray Wyatt Vs. The Undertaker: The Undertaker

WWE IC ladder match: Daniel Bryan

Sting Vs. Triple H: Sting

WWE US title match: Rusev

Bella Twins Vs. AJ Lee & Paige: AJ Lee & Paige

WWE World Heavyweight title match: Brock Lesnar

Deal

By now it’s common knowledge that Sony has made a deal with Marvel Entertainment to allow the Spider-Man character to be apart of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This came hot off the heels the Sony hack and the leak that Sony had no idea what to do with Spider-Man. There was no overall vision or greater direction. There were even suggestions of an Aunt May film. This was fine when no one knew about it but once it was leaked public outcry ensured and Sony were forced to do something to salvage their reputation. Namely, co-chairman Amy Pascal stepping down and the leasing of Spider-Man back to Marvel.

Good news, but there is one major downside; Sony’s Spider-Man franchise will be recast and rebooted for the second time in only four years. It’s disappointing to lose Andrew Garfield, who is a fine actor regardless of your opinions of the Amazing Spider-Man series, and audiences are less than enthused about witnessing an origin story for the third time. But these are small prices to pay to see Spider-Man in the Marvel universe and play his part in Captain America: Civil War.

It’s no secret that I actually enjoyed the Amazing Spider-Man films. The films are not as bad as the detractors make them out to be. Emma Stone’s chemistry with Garfield makes the relationship between Gwen Stacy and Peter Parker leaps and bounds more believable than Tobey Maguire’s awkward courting of Kristen Dunst’s M.J. Sam Raimi actually seems to struggle with the romance elements, relying on love triangles to create most of the conflict. Furthermore, Amazing Spider-Man 2’s use of multiple villains is basic layering. How likely is it that only one villain is going to have a problem with Spidey at any given time? It’s time management of villains is at least better than that of Spider-Man 3.

Fellow Avengers Captain America and Iron Man, played by Chris Evans and Robert Downey Jr. become enemies in the third phase of Marvel's cinematic universe, Captain America: Civil War.

Spider-Man in the middle.

The biggest problem with the Amazing Spider-Man series is that the films came so soon after the previous trilogy was cut short. It was facing an uphill battle from the very beginning. It really would have benefited from an over-arching story, and no, I don’t mean the Parker parent investigation. Exploring the relationship with Gwen Stacy created a nice contrast to the original trilogy and portraying the iconic Death of Gwen Stacy on film was a great idea. Had Sony been smart though, they would have built towards the the Clone Saga, which would have allowed them to bring back Emma Stone as Gwen Stacy for a third film and possibly even replace Peter Parker with Ben Reilly if they felt Garfield was becoming stale. The plots of both films were about biogenetic research so a third film about cloning wouldn’t even have been that much of a leap.

Sony were not that smart, however, and when faced with their lack of plans for future Spider-Man films, they made the deal with Marvel. Personally, I feel that this deal benefits Marvel much more than Sony. Marvel get to do Civil War the way it was meant to be done and the combined fans of The Avengers and Spider-Man will both come to see the crossover. A crossover, it should be noted, that takes place squarely amongst Marvel’s third phase, on Marvel’s ground where Marvel has final say. Meanwhile, Sony get the expertise of Kevin Feige but all casting, directing and creative choices are still in the hands of Amy Pascal and Sony. If you didn’t like the Amazing Spider-Man series then there’s really no reason to be excited by this deal. All of the same people behind that series are behind this new reboot.

But, as I stated, I liked the Amazing films so I am, at least, interested to see how Sony tries engage audiences for a third time. Rumour is that they’re looking at a younger Parker, so we’ll be back in high school. Does that mean more Gwen Stacy or another attempt at Mary Jane? If I had to guess, I’d say Sony will go back to Mary Jane, given that she never made an appearance in the Amazing series. In terms of plot, Green Goblin has technically been done in both the original trilogy and the Amazing series, so they’ll likely give him a break. Doctor Octopus or Venom could certainly make reappearances. There are a number of smaller villains who could appear but for the initial film in the reboot, Sony will likely want to go big.

Drew Goddard is the official director for the new Spider-man reboot.

From old gods and ancient monsters to a man that does everything a spider can.

There is some news though. Sinister Six director, Drew Goddard, also known for his work on Cabin in the Woods and Cloverfield has been signed on to direct the 2017 Spider-Man reboot, rumoured to be called Spectacular Spider-Man after the comic book series of the same name. Goddard is a good choice. He can direct big set pieces and he can write both funny and intense dialogue. How well he can write romance remains to be seen though but this is definitely a positive choice.

Beyond that, there still isn’t much information to go on. Word is that Sony might be looking at Dylan O’Brien or Logan Lerman for the role of Peter Parker. Contradictory rumours also state that Sony want to go younger, and sign the actor on to a long deal. If Sony do go younger the actor will probably be an unknown, which would fall within the Marvel pattern of casting the least expected choice and turning them into massive stars. For what it’s worth, Logan Lerman would be my pick. He has the range needed for the role. No word on what Sony are looking for in the co-stars, but I still think Leslie Rose would make a fantastic M.J.

The creative potential for this deal is enormous. At the very least, it is an interesting injection into the superhero genre, just when the Marvel Cinematic Universe might have been getting tired. At most, it could be the boost that the Spider-Man franchise needed. Either way, the audience wins.