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*Mild Marvel spoilers ahead! Proceed with caution*

With Spider-Man: Homecoming now out, it has been proved yet again that Marvel Studios knows what it’s doing with its cinematic universe. Most Marvel Studios movies are great, but they do have a major issue. They rely too much on comedy.

Before I elaborate, I’m not suggesting Marvel movies be humorless, overly-edgy, and angst-ridden films like Batman v. Superman, but there comes a point where enough is enough. The old MCU movies from the first Avengers and before had the perfect balance between comedy and seriousness. Ever since the jokes in the first Avengers (and Guardians especially) did well with audiences, MCU movies have become comedy flicks over superhero movies. It works in certain scenarios, like with team banter in Avengers and Guardians or with Spider-Man in general. However, it comes across as incredibly ham-fisted a lot of the time.

It was hard to take the threat of Ultron seriously when Hawkeye was shooting out dumb jokes left and right about the ridiculous situation, new projects on his farm, etc. I also couldn’t take the conflict in Civil War seriously because of how jarring the tonal shifts in the film were. One second it was a political thriller and the next it was an over-the-top comedy scene in an airport or in Spidey’s apartment. The most horrendous example of poor joke usage, at least in my experience, was in Doctor Strange. The titular Sorcerer Supreme makes a really awful joke about Beyoncé to which absolutely no one in the two showings of the film I saw laughed at all. This led to a painfully long awkward pause for the audience to laugh but since no one did, it was just cringe-worthy silence.

When watching that Doctor Strange scene especially, I couldn’t help but ask “am I watching a comic book movie or some dumb Adam Sandler film?” Situations like that, and the Age of Ultron and Civil War examples, show that Marvel has taken the jokey aspect of these films a little too far. Jokes are fine, in fact, I encourage them. They just shouldn’t come at the expense of the movie itself.

Despite this glaring issue, there is one element of these Marvel movies that stands out and is what makes them so great in the first place. The best feature by far of these films is how accessible they are to most audiences. When you go see an MCU movie, you see people of all different ages, races, sexes, backgrounds, philosophies, theologies, etc. That’s because they appeal to everyone. They are designed so that they never pander to a specific group of people or alienate another. They’re made simple enough so kids can enjoy them, but with complex enough elements that adults can be entertained as well. When the humor works, it’s a clever style that isn’t too childish for adults, too graphic for kids, and so on.

I noticed this especially in Spider-Man: Homecoming. Despite the fact that the plot heavily relied on elements of the MCU, it managed to rise above that and still be entertaining for those who don’t typically watch those movies. Yes, it’s a coming-of-age story about a 15-year-old high school boy, but it’s still something anyone can enjoy. It obviously appeals to high school boys, but adults can be just as entertained by its heart, visuals, levity, actions, and relatability. It’s villain, the Vulture, is someone that many working-class adults can empathize with and respect, despite his actions. Spidey himself is also an imperfect hero who is consistently trying to juggle multiple difficult elements of his life, something most people can relate to. Misfits and social outcasts can also relate to the strife of Peter Parker and his friend Ned being unpopular/generally disliked. If you can’t find a way to relate to those things, the film is entertaining enough by itself. It consistently keeps the audience engaged in what’s happening on screen and even makes unrelatable and goofy elements hard not to watch. This is something that Homecoming does really well and is representative of many other Marvel movies out there that do the same.

The bottom line is that the vast majority of people who go see these movies enjoy themselves, losing themselves in an experience that they can share with anybody out there. They are probably the most inclusive movie experience out there right now.

I spend most of my days working towards my Writing and Rhetoric degree at the University of Central Florida, but I spend a lot of my down time keeping up to date on the best TV, movies, and video games the industry has to offer. Here I put all of that extended time to use discussing each of them in-depth.

Gaming

Amazon’s great Fallout TV show is nominated for 16 Emmys

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Critics and fans alike went crazy for Amazon’s take on the famous role-playing game series Fallout. There were a lot of nominations for 16 Emmy awards, including Best Actor and Outstanding Drama Series. The show was able to reach audiences outside of gamers and got a lot of attention from the industry.

Eurogamer has been keeping track, and now that all the votes are in, Fallout is tied for fifth place with 23 nominations for the 76th Emmy Awards, which are put on by the US Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. With 25, The Bear has the most nominations, followed by True Detective: Night Country with 23, and Shogun with 19.

It shouldn’t be a surprise that Walton Goggins is up for Best Actor for his performance as The Ghoul. Although games will always be our first choice, it’s great that adaptations of games don’t have to be awful, and we can’t wait for the next season of the shows.

Are you surprised by how well Amazon’s version of Fallout has done in the mainstream? Is the curse of movies based on video games finally over? Leave a comment below and let us know.

 

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Geek Culture

The trailer for Gladiator II looks great, but is any of it true? What Did The Experts Say?

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The trailer for Gladiator II by Ridley Scott is now out, and it looks like it will be the best movie ever. If you liked the first movie, you’ll probably love the new one, which has a lot of big names in it and shows epic duels, scary Colosseum battles, and hints of political intrigue. But, as with all Hollywood historical epics, you might wonder how much of what is shown is based on real events and how much is just made up for fun.

When we had questions, we asked the Bad Ancient team what they thought about the fun, the fantasy, and the facts.

What’s the movie about?
The new Gladiator movie picks up 25 years after the first one. Paul Mescal plays Lucius Verus II, the boy from the original story and Lucilla’s son. The trailer starts with him talking about the deadly duel between Emperor Commodus (Joaquin Phoenix) and Maximus Decimus Meridius, a gladiator and fallen general.

It looks like Lucius is living in exile in Numidia, which is in northwest Africa. A few years after this incident, the Roman army captures him and forces him to compete as a gladiator. Lucius wants to overthrow the Roman government and end all forms of slavery, of course.

Later, Lucius fights the made-up General Marcus Acacius (Pedro Pascal), who also seems to have doubts about the Roman Empire’s needless killing. In the trailer, we learn more about characters like Macrinus (Denzel Washington), a power broker who likes gladiators, and Geta and Caracalla, two brother emperors who look cruel and spoiled and are played by Joseph Quinn and Fred Hechinger, respectively.

There are hints of exciting scenes in the trailer, like a gladiator riding a rhino and a fake naval battle in a flooded Colosseum with boats and sharks that eat people. There are also hints of politics and mystery.

A lot of it. It’s fun, but is it really true?

First, what did you think of the trailer?
Dr. Jo Ball (JB), an archaeologist who studies Roman war and conflict: I was really looking forward to seeing the trailer for the new Gladiator II movie, and it did not let me down. It looked like it would be a great visual feast, with hopefully some good history thrown in. I’m especially interested in seeing how Pedro Pascal’s character, Marcus Acacius, fits into the story. From the trailer, he seems to be coming to protest the endless conquests of Rome and the lives it took, and he seems to be getting in trouble for his views. I think this could be an interesting way to connect this to the main gladiator theme.

 

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Alex Sills (AS), a graduate student at the University of Leicester: The sheer spectacle of it looks like it will be even better than the first movie. I can’t wait to see what 24 years of CGI progress can do for a Roman arena. Also, I’m interested to see how the movie handles the fact that the Republic hasn’t been brought back. Maximus gave up his life for that reason in the first movie. Will Lucius finish the job? We know that emperors ruled for hundreds of years, so it’s not likely. However, it will be interesting to see if the political aspect is kept up or dropped in favor of a story about revenge between two people.

This is Dr. Owen Rees (OR), founder and chief editor of Bad Ancient: I love the first Gladiator movie so much that my first thought was, “Why?!?” Why is there a second part? But when I saw the cityscape of Rome on the screen, that reaction went away, and I became interested in what I was seeing. The glory of Rome, the desire for a quiet life away from the center of power, and the idea of “the Republic” are all themes that were introduced in the first movie. I can’t wait to see how they connect these to the second one.

Did anything stand out right away as being right or wrong or not making sense?
JB: Paul Mescal’s Lucius seems to have become a gladiator after being captured during a violent conquest of Numidia in northwest Africa. However, this area had been a part of the Roman world for hundreds of years by the time the movie takes place, and it’s hard to imagine scenes like the ones in the trailer happening during the time of the movie’s setting, when Severus reorganized the region’s government.

Some parts of the dress don’t seem right, like the wristbands that everyone with a sword seems to have to wear! The accents are an interesting mix, but I actually quite like this, as it is a useful reminder that the “Romans” were not a homogenous population but came from an empire that stretched from Britain across Europe, the Near East, and northern Africa—why people would be expected to have the same accents is beyond me (and even if they did, a modern American accent is no less accurate a representation than a classic British one!).

AS: No one is without a top! They didn’t wear anything to protect their torsos because that would have been too easy of a fight. Also, Pedro and Paul should have shields with them, since that’s what gladiators did instead of chest armor. It’s cool that the shield could be used offensively, almost like a second weapon. Having both arms in the fight makes it more interesting. Of course, movie stars shouldn’t have to wear helmets that cover their faces, but these guys should be able to show a lot of chest. I’m sure a lot of people in the theater would also not mind…

Is there something wrong with how the two emperors are portrayed?
Basically, Caracalla and Geta are portrayed in a rather odd way. They seem to fit the stereotypes of Nero and Caligula more than they do the real Severans. Also, they stand out because they are so pale. Both brothers were born in Syria and Libya.

In Roman times, there were a lot of people of color. It’s not fair to make emperors with darker skin look lighter. I’m happy to see Denzel Washington in the cast, though, because his character sounds really interesting.

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OR: They look like a cliché of many “bad emperors” rolled into one. It’s interesting that they chose to cast actors who are so pale these days. But we’ll see how their characters are developed when the movie comes out. You can’t judge it based on a few seconds in an ad!

When it was full of water, did the Colosseum ever host battles on the water?
JB: Yes, naumachiae were popular and spectacular shows put on to entertain the people of Rome on special occasions. They were very expensive and hard to set up. Early Roman emperors put on Naumachiae, but until Nero’s time, they didn’t happen in amphitheaters. Instead, they happened on lakes or in specially built basins. The Colosseum was a special place for naumachiae, and one was even held at its opening in 80 AD, during the reign of Titus the Great. But we don’t know how they filled the arena with water for the battle; it was probably done to the lowest level possible so the ships could float!

But Paul Mescal’s character wouldn’t have fought in Naumachiae. The Romans didn’t use trained (read: expensive) gladiators. Instead, they used prisoners of war and criminals who had been sentenced to death. This suggests that very few, if any, were expected to survive. It’s also important to note that the naumachia of Claudius on the Fucine Lake was the only time that people were heard saying, “We who are about to die salute you.” The gladiators didn’t need to say this.

What if gladiators had fought rhinos or sharks instead?
JB: Roman audiences liked new things in their beast shows, and there weren’t many animals that they wouldn’t put in the arena. In fact, it was a big business to get animals for these kinds of shows, and the more exotic the animals, the better. The animals didn’t even have to be very dangerous; as long as they were different, they were included. Giraffes were shown with “classic” wild animals like lions and bears.

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: Gladiators always fought other gladiators. On the other hand, there were people in the arena who fought animals or hunted them. These people were called devas and bestiarii.

Rhinos were shown off in Rome—that much we know. I think Pompey Magnus was the first person to bring one in. One was brought in so that the emperor Commodus (Joaquin Phoenix in the first movie) could kill it himself in the Colosseum. He did this by shooting it with arrows from a platform, so he was never in any danger.

When it comes to sharks, we’re getting into fantasy land. The Romans got very good at catching and moving all kinds of wild animals, especially from Africa. But they couldn’t catch sharks, bring them to Rome, or put them somewhere safe before the Games. But if they had been able to, they would have thought it would have been awesome, so maybe this is dead guys’ movie wish fulfillment.

OR: There were animals in the arena, but the gladiators who fought were not the same ones. We use the word “gladiator” to describe too few of the people the Romans had in the arena.

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Geek Culture

In the TV show Fallout, would the “rule of thumb” really work?

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Walton Goggins’ character, who plays someone in the first episode of the new TV series Fallout on Amazon, mentions a “rule of thumb” when it comes to nuclear explosions.

According to the character known as “The Ghoul,” he learned in military school that if you raise your thumb and extend your arm toward the blast, you can tell if you are going to live or die. According to the rule, some Americans will be safe from the radioactive fallout if the mushroom cloud is smaller than their thumb. If the mushroom cloud is bigger than their thumb, they won’t be as lucky.

Many other survivors will probably ask you why you’re giving a mushroom cloud the big thumbs up. Is it worth it?

The idea has been looked into a bit thanks to the Fallout video game series, which caught the attention of physicists in their first year at the University of Leicester. They had heard a false rumor that the show’s mascot, Vault Boy, was giving a happy thumbs up to show support for the thumb rule. They wanted to find out if the rule was true.

The team looked at smaller blasts that would fit with the setting of the show and chose a 15-kiloton blast, which is the same size as the blast that happened when the US dropped “Little Boy” on Hiroshima. The first thing the team did was figure out how far away you would have to be from the mushroom cloud for your thumb to cover the blast. They came up with a number that was about 12.6 kilometers (7.8 miles).

“Assuming the detonation occurred on the ground, the radius for avoiding all burns is 4.67 km [2.9 miles] away from the blast center, and the radius for radiation sickness symptoms is 1.56 km [0.97 miles],” the team said in their paper. “This would mean that you would be safe from the initial blast effects of radiation and burns.”

Even though you just saw a nuclear explosion nearby, that doesn’t mean you are safe. And that’s before you worry about nuclear winter. The radiation coming at you from the wind should be your main concern.

“Assuming an average wind speed of 24 km/h, the fallout would reach you within approximately half an hour if you were to be standing directly upwind.”

Getting caught in this wind will give you enough rads to make you sick. One more rule, though: run like hell. This might help you lower your dose.

“This investigation showed that if a 15-kiloton nuclear bomb was to detonate and your thumb extended at an arm’s length just covered the blast, you could survive most negative radiation effects by running laterally in the direction of the wind for a minimum of 1.65 km [1 mile] in half an hour, given that you are standing directly upwind from the blast,” the team said.

But this only works for a blast much smaller than the weapons the world has now. And even for smaller blasts, the rule probably won’t help because of the radiation that is released into the air and the fact that the wind can change quickly. Ruth McBurney, who is the executive director of the Conference of Radiation Control Program Directors in Frankfort, Kentucky, told Inverse that “shelter is the best thing to do if you think you might be in a place where fallout might be present or coming.”

More plans call for temporarily taking refuge in whatever is available, and then moving to better nearby shelters about 30 minutes after the blast. There are, of course, official rules about what to do during a blast. In short, you should stay inside and away from windows, wash your hands, and wait for more instructions. Please don’t condition your hair while you’re doing that.

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