A week in film – 2016, week 16

I’ll say it now, potentially shooting myself in the foot before I even begin – if superheroes aren’t your cup of tea, this might not be the post for you. In fact, I actually didn’t realise how many different comic book shows I was watching until this week. It’s alarming, but it’s not embarrassing – I might be failing in my mission to become a more rounded viewer, but I can’t bring myself to be sorry about it. I love this stuff, and business is booming right now. I’ll try and cool it down a little next week, but for now, prepare yourself for all the hero chat I can handle.

Two weekends have brought with them two different binge sessions, both of equal in quality. There’s not often a film or TV binge in my house which doesn’t feature at least one Marvel property – the final three episodes of the second series of Agent Carter and Thor making up one half of each session. I will always adore Agent Carter, especially Hayley Atwell and James D’Arcy (their scene in the desert in the penultimate episode is so emotional and so wonderful). But, for a show which has always had so few episodes, it’s like the showrunners forgot how to pace it. Dragging in the middle and speeding up way, way too much in the final few episodes, in the end it didn’t stick the landing. With so many set-ups for a third series that probably isn’t going to happen (uuugh), it just felt like a wasted opportunity for a really powerful finale.

Thor, on the other hand, feels much more successful watching it again after a (relatively) long time. Always my least favourite section of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it’s quite nice to go back and realise that, really, it’s actually a lot of fun. While Thor is a dick for essentially 80% of the film – admittedly part of the point, rendering him ‘unworthy’ of lifting Mjølnir – he’s got at least five great moments, and Loki is, well, Loki, which immediately makes this a solid film. It’s also relevant in a big way for the arc of at least Phase 1 – that the Thor/Loki relationship went on to play a significant role in Avengers Assemble is obvious, but its post-credits sting introduces the Tesseract and its extension of the Marvel Cinematic Universe into the actual universe isn’t a step that should be taken lightly. A lot more enjoyable than I remembered and not just the next step to watching Captain America: The First Avenger (where I was at initially).

The other halves of those binges diverged a little from my usual theme, but not enough to be a huge surprise. Marathoning most of the second series of Yonderland was a good call, refusing to let me forget that a) it’s funnier than the first series and b) it’s really funny in general. And then there’s Magic Mike XXL, which I am still incapable of watching without a massive grin on my face. It’s charming and glorious and really, really funny – and every laugh is with, rather than at, the film. It’ll never stop being a perfect movie for a Saturday night, nor will it ever really stop being a film which is reliable in general.

The mid-week binge (this week has been RIFE with excessive viewing) was The Flash. Inspired by a section of the (great) comic book movie podcast Cinematic Universe, I jumped straight into midway through the second series, which also happen to be the episodes set on Earth-2 (‘Welcome to Earth-2’ and ‘Escape From Earth-2’). Starting here was a great idea – not least because it was all that was available on catch-up – and it wasn’t nearly as confusing as I would have expected: with doppelgängers abound, everyone’s supposed to be a bit confused going in. A whole bunch of enjoyable, mad, sparky alternate universe stuff where everyone’s clearly having a ball, these episodes kick-started a return to the show which seemed so much more FUN than I ever remembered it being. The episodes surrounding those weren’t on quite the same level – God, whoever thought Killer Shark was a good idea needs to think some more – but, actually, on the whole I’m really glad to be watching it again. It’s also crazy-refreshing to be watching a DC property which isn’t grim-dark to the point of exhaustion. People sometimes even LAUGH in The Flash. WHAT A NOTION.

Supergirl, while another DC property capable of a smile, isn’t currently going down quite so well. For starters, every time I see Winn’s face I get really, really angry (have I mentioned before how much I hate the concept, let alone the device, of friend-zoning?). Then again, when that whole saga isn’t being mentioned, it’s not so bad. I still think Melissa Benoist is really good in it, even if the script and the effects are a bit shonky sometimes and the plot’s a little wobbly. Plus, Calista Flockhart’s Kat Grant is always great, and actually got to show a different, softer side this week with the introduction of son Adam.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has also aired its first episode without Bobbie and Hunter, which wasn’t the disappointment as I had worried it was going to be. By focusing on Mac and doing a pretty good job of it, and giving Fitz and Simmons each something to do (albeit entirely separate from one another), it’s probably one of the better episodes since the midseason finale. It’s also gesturing towards interesting things – Daisy’s foray into something which technically has to be torture in the name of protecting Inhuman identity hints at a potentially darker path for that character  – and it almost, ALMOST, made it through a whole episode without running towards Malick. Which I appreciated A LOT.

It might not look like it right now – I’ve definitely frontloaded all the comic book stuff in this blog post – but I have, and do, watch shows without superheroes in them. The Aliens came to an end this week in a pretty bleak and bloody finale which, while I can’t exactly say I enjoyed, I’m glad to have watched. I’m actually really glad to have watched the show as a whole – a little bit different from my usual fare and, on the whole, a lot of fun, I would recommend it to anyone with even a passing interest in modern sci-fi. Brooklyn Nine-Nine is also an ongoing feature in my weekly routine, but I know by now that I really only get into it when I’m able to marathon so I might bid it farewell until the third series comes out on DVD. Plus, The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmitt is back, and while I’m only an episode down so far – expect more next week – I’ve laughed out loud at least four times. It’s another show that takes me a while to settle into, but considering how happy I was to hear its incredible theme tune again, I’m sure that when I get back to that point, I’ll be very glad I did.

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