Michael James Shaw on Avengers: Infinity War, his character Corvus Glaive, and more

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Part of the trick of playing a villain is finding the love in the character’s journey, and not playing ‘evil’, you know? With Corvus, there’s a strong connection to Proxima, but also he betrayed his people to work with Thanos. I created my own little history about why he’s looking for redemption with Thanos, and searching for retribution through his work with him. I find it kinda helpful to create that backstory.

As I’m talking to you, I’m also watching Ancient Aliens on the History Channel – there’s a history that may not be in the history books, but of what it means to be an alien. [It’s] outside our normal viewpoint, just to have a different level of consciousness. That opened up my imagination about what their world could possibly be like, and how they communicate on multiple levels – whether it be through actual English, or through clicking, or whatever. It just let me go wild – there were no limitations in terms of how he moved and how he expressed himself, you know?

My interview with Michael James Shaw! We spoke about Avengers, Constantine, and his upcoming show Blood and Treasure.

There are no spoilers for Infinity War in the interview, or very very light spoilers if you want to go in completely blind. I’d not seen the film myself when we conducted the interview – it actually hadn’t even been released yet. There was a still a week or two to go if I remember correctly.

What was interesting about this interview, actually, was that when I conducted it Michael’s identity as the actor playing Corvus was still being kept secret – to the point that, when it was being arranged, I wasn’t actually initially told it was going to be him. At first, he was just referred to as the Corvus Glaive actor (admittedly I had a hunch it was going to be Michael, because one of the things they did tell me was that the actor had previously been in Constantine, and Michael struck me as most likely of the cast to be Corvus).

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In season 2, Jessica Jones became more of a superhero show – but that’s not exactly a good thing

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No, Kilgrave – and, indeed, the first season of Jessica Jones as a whole – worked because there was a certain truth to him. The character served as part of Jessica Jones’ exploration of rape culture, of pervasive and insidious attitudes that can be observed in real life. A lot of the drama and tension comes from the fact that audiences are familiar with him, and those like him, both on a diegetic and extra-diegetic level; there’s something recognisable about Kilgrave, something that maps onto real life experiences.

Across season 2, we follow our eponymous hero as she’s drawn deeper and deeper into a convoluted conspiracy, uncovering information about the shady organisation that are responsible for her powers. It’s something that Jessica Jones isn’t particularly well suited to: the conspiracy angle is weak, and the return of a key character from Jessica’s past marks a genre shift that the show can’t sustain. In essence, it’s because little of this is analogous to real experiences. A huge amount of the strength of Jessica Jones previously came from its ability to use the trappings of the superhero genre to tell a story about trauma and surviving abuse; here, it’s weighed down by old tropes and familiar archetypes. Where the fantasy angle of Kilgrave’s powers was used to great effect to tell a story about genuine human experiences, that’s not the case in season 2.

Very heavy spoilers for Jessica Jones series 2 here, particularly after episode six – wouldn’t recommend reading it until you’ve seen the whole season, personally.

Not sure I quite got this article right – often the way when you’re writing quickly to meet a deadline, moreso after having binge-watched something. (One day, I should write about my growing disdain for binge-watching television programmes. It’s often a necessary evil of my job – gotta get the clicks within the optimal search hours – but I do think that television criticism, and actually in a broader sense television viewing, suffers from binge-watching.)

Anyway, though, this article. It perhaps might have been better titled “Jessica Jones loses sight of human experiences”, or words to that effect. In short, my feelings are that the best parts of Jessica Jones season 1 were the moments when it was least like a superhero show – when it reflected real life, even if only in an allegorical sense. The fact that it’s increasingly like a fairly over-the-top and convoluted superhero show in S2 was a bit disappointing – it felt like a genre shift in a show that didn’t need one. (Again, I have fairly complex thoughts on “superhero” as a genre definition, but that’s for another time.)

Still! I hope you like this article – or, if not the article itself, at least the basic gist of the ideas that are going on within it. Let me know in the comments below what you think!

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Marvel’s The Punisher was surprisingly good, if not exactly great

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As an exploration of the Punisher’s morality, the series is admittedly somewhat lacking. The villains of the piece reflect the same ideology as Frank; both the larger military-industrial machine willing to commit war crimes and an individual lone gunman who believes the end justifies the means, the antagonists of this series are Frank’s equal and opposite. And yet while the series deliberates, it’s unwilling to truly grapple with the question of what separates them – ultimately, the only thing that makes one a hero and the other a villain is who the series is named after.

Despite this, though, The Punisher is able to find a degree of depth elsewhere. Encouragingly, it avoids fetishizing violence particularly, wallowing not in a hail of bullets and gunfire but taking the time to indulge in slower, character-focused scenes. Jon Bernthal’s performance is key to this, anchoring the material as he elevates it; often the more compelling aspects of the series are the moments when Bernthal is allowed to move beyond the militaristic posturing and show a certain vulnerability to his character.

In hindsight, I wonder if I was actually too positive here – in my surprise that it wasn’t worse, I was maybe too forgiving of all the ways it was still pretty bad. Definitely, that line about fetishizing gun violence should have been way more heavily caveated.

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Amber Rose Revah on Marvel’s The Punisher, her character Dinah Madini, and more

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The key theme of what it is to be a human being is always relevant. Our passions, whether love or hate, forgiveness or revenge, are all part of the puzzle of our lives. We live in a confusing world, filled with uncertainty and tension, and need to shed some light on the issues we all face. 

Here’s my interview with Amber Rose Revah, one of the stars of The Punisher. This was an email interview, so the answers are a little shorter than they’d normally be; I think had it been over the phone, or in person, I’d have pushed a little harder for a proper answer to the question about gun violence.

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What is the place of a Punisher TV show in 2017?

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This discussion has started because of the Las Vegas shooting – the deadliest shooting in modern American history, coming just 476 days after the previous deadliest shooting in modern American history – but it’d be one worth having regardless. On average, there’s a mass shooting every nine out of ten days in America; Punisher exists in a cultural context that makes the character, if nothing else, an uncomfortable reflection of a very real and very present problem.

All of that said: What’s the place of a Punisher TV show in 2017? From the optics to the thematic content – how is a lone-wolf vigilante, taking the law into his own hands to murder those he deems guilty, a straightforward protagonist?

An article I wrote a while back about The Punisher, and just what the place of such a programme is in an era of mass shootings. When it came to actually reviewing the show, I think I was a little too kind to it – surprised, mainly, that it wasn’t worse, I mostly let it off easy. But I still think, though, that The Punisher show was misconceived on pretty much every level, and the lack of nuance inherent to its treatment of an increasingly murky premise is little more than an ethical lapse, frankly.

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Marvel Visual Development Supervisor Andy Park on Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, the Marvel house style, and more

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I think that so much of that was the collaboration between us, the director, Kevin Feige… of course, with each director, they’re all going to have their own flavour, their own style, but that’s why having a group of artists, who have worked on our films, and understand the language of the MCU, as well as of course Kevin Feige and the rest of the Marvel team who are always asking how far can we go? What is that look that goes too far, to the point that it wouldn’t feel like part of the Marvel universe?

My recent interview with Andy Park!

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The Defenders is less a story, and more a drawn out contractual obligation

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It’s not so much that The Defenders is bad, exactly. Bits of it are quite good. The leads are, if nothing else, good at their job and keep the show afloat even as the script drags it down. Equally, though, it has to be said – it takes a special kind of programme to waste Sigourney Weaver. At the end of the day, there’s never really a sense that someone went into this with a story they wanted to tell, or any particular vision they wanted to realise.

Me on The Defenders, which I found quite disappointing on the whole.

Actually, “disappointing on the whole” is being far too kind – wasn’t it just staggeringly bad? Quite apart from the fact it managed to waste Sigourney Weaver (!!!) it moved at an absolutely glacial pace while still doing very little. One of the big things that stood out to me, actually, was that it couldn’t find the time for a scene between Matt and Claire, despite how important they’d been to one another in Daredevil. Just such a lack of focus on or interest in the characters (to say of nothing of moments of outright sloppiness, like poorly staged fight scenes and tonally mismatched musical cues), it was ultimately pretty substanceless.

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Costume designer Stephanie Maslansky on The Defenders, how to break into the industry, and more

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[Conveying character and theme] is the main job of a costume designer. We carefully read the script and have many meetings where we discuss ideas. Essentially you want to convey a character’s present, as well as the past and even some of the future. Color and texture is important as well as silhouette. Economic status, state of mind, state of health, country of origin, political leanings—these are some of the many notions to be conveyed through costume.

An interview I did recently with Stephanie Maslansky – she told me a few interesting things about Sigourney Weaver’s character in The Defenders, as well as some great tips on how to become a costume designer!

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The Defenders catch-up: what happened in Iron Fist?

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We’re not far from the debut of Netflix’s superhero team up extravaganza, The Defenders. It’s set to unite Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and Iron Fist, bringing each one together from their own shows to fight a new evil that threatens New York.

There’s just one problem though – what if you can’t remember what happened in the other shows? It’s been a while, after all, and you probably don’t have the time to binge watch them all ahead of The Defenders. No need to worry – here’s your explanation of everything that happened in Iron Fist

Your summary of what happened in Iron Fist, how it ended, and any unresolved plot threads that might show up in The Defenders…

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The Defenders catch-up: What happened in Luke Cage?

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We’re not far from the debut of Netflix’s superhero team up extravaganza, The Defenders. It’s set to unite Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and Iron Fist, bringing each one together from their own shows to fight a new evil that threatens New York.

There’s just one problem though – what if you can’t remember what happened in the other shows? It’s been a while, after all, and you probably don’t have the time to binge watch them all ahead of The Defenders. No need to worry – here’s your explanation of everything that happened in Luke Cage

Here’s a summary of what happened in Luke Cage, how it ended, and any unresolved plot threads that might show up in The Defenders

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