Every MondaySome Mondays Once in a while on Monday, TMINE will review the select few movies it’s had time to watch when it’s not been watching TV
Not quite the monthly feature I suggested, but probably alternating with Boxset Monday whenever there’s not a boxset worth watching, the alliterative Movie Monday is a new TMINE feature reviewing the latest movies that I’ve watched. Usually that’ll be whatever Apple’s just bunged up on iTunes, but occasionally, just occasionally, it might even be one that’s in the cinemas.
This week, to christen everything, three movies: Kingsman: The Golden Circle (2017), The Hitman’s Bodyguard (2017) and Black Panther (2018).
Most science-fiction is an attempt to talk about the present. Stories that genuinely try to predict what the future will be like are far harder and inevitably of their time – we mock 50s sci-fi for imagining we’ll all have flying cars and rocket packs, but was 80s sci-fi any less fuelled by the nuclear concerns of its period?
So spare a thought for Altered Carbon, which does its level best to imagine a future in which bodies are completely replaceable, making death an optional rather than mandatory part of human existence. There’s some heavy thinking gone into it and it’s a show that really does make you philosophise.
Death becomes him
It’s the year 2384 and thanks to some fortuitous discoveries on an alien planet, human beings now have ‘stack technology’. Bodies are now ‘sleeves’ that you wear, while consciousness resides in a crystal disc or ‘stack’ that slots into the back of your neck. Take the disc out, put it in another sleeve and hey presto, you’re reincarnated. With cloning, cybernetics and other technologies, you can become fat or thin, black or white, man or woman, child, snake, robot or even someone completely different – it’s your choice, provided you have the cash for it, of course, otherwise you get nothing or maybe someone’s old hand-me-downs.
But if you do, you can become as old as Methuselah himself. When someone tries to kill one of these rich, all-powerful ‘Meths’ (James Purefoy), seemingly unaware he backs up his consciousness regularly, the reincarnated Purefoy decides he needs someone who can investigate his murder who is both exceptional and immune to all the norm societal pressures of the time.
So he ‘spins up’ Takeshi Kovacs (former Robocop Joel Kinnaman) in a new body, 250 years after he last died. Kovacs was an Envoy, a former space soldier capable of doing all manner of superhuman things, and now it’s up to him to solve Purefoy’s murder – assuming he wants to, given that he was once part of a rebellion that tried to stop the Meths getting the power that they now have.
Will Kovacs care enough to help in this new time and place? And if he does, what will he discover and who will try to stop him?
Sounds good, doesn’t it? And for a long time it is. Trouble is, there’s a moment where the whole show slams into a brick wall at 70mph, from which no one walks away alive. So much for stacks, hey?
Still, let’s talk about it after this shiny trailer and the jump. Spoilers ahoy, but hopefully nothing too serious.
The Punisher in all his incarnations has always been something of an accidental success. A former marine, Frank Castle turns lethal vigilante following the murder of his family by criminals, becoming judge, jury and executioner to those who would break the law. He had no powers, just his military training, a heap of weapons and a skull on his chest, and he was originally a bad guy – one of Spider-Man’s many badly becostumed adversaries in the early 70s.
But it was that almost unique willingness to kill in comics that made him such a success that he eventually got his own comic and no fewer than three (pretty bad) film appearances, where he was played first by Dolph Lundgren, then Thomas Jane and finally Ray Stevenson.
However, his success ended for a while when a 2011 attempt by Fox to produce a TV series starring the character fell through.
But let’s now flash-forward to the era of Netflix and its Marvel superhero shows. The plan from the outset was very clear: there would be four one-season superhero shows – Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and Iron Fist – which would then lead into a team-up show The Defenders.
The first sign everything was going off-plan was when Daredevil got a second season. It’s hard to tell whether that had been planned from the outset; however, it seems likely given
Netflix awarded Daredevil another season only a week after its first season aired
The whole plot of that second season is vital to the plot of The Defenders
Nevertheless, what definitely wasn’t part of the plan was the success of guest anti-hero/baddie The Punisher in that second season. That can be put down to the ‘lightning in a bottle’ casting of Jon Bernthal. Bernthal’s always been part of the supporting cast, never the lead.
He’s the guy Andrea Anders rejects in The Class to go back to her husband (although he ends up with Lizzy Caplan so it’s not all bad).
But as Castle, Bernthal was the undoubted star of the second season of Daredevil, a brutal match for Charlie Cox’s gymnastic lead – a blue-collar grunt to Matt Murdock’s white-collar, morally-torn lawyer.
Bernthal so occupied the role that it’s hard to think of anyone else being able to play the character and it wasn’t long before Netflix and Marvel realised what they’d got and decided to break with the plan and commission Marvel’s The Punisher, with Bernthal as its lead.
The question was what form the show would take. Would it follow on, for example, from the comics’, the movies’ and season 2’s general theme of a man giving ‘the punishment they deserve’ to mobsters, rapists, paedophiles et al who seem to be above the law and escaping justice? Yet, how would a white man with a lethal arsenal shooting up cities go down in an age of the alt-right, MRAs and mass-shootings by white men who feel aggrieved by society? And how would it go down against the liberal backdrop of Netflix’s other shows: Daredevil stuck up for the poor and oppressed; Jessica Jones deconstructed superheroes, male power and sexual violence; Luke Cage asked what a black man can do for his community and others against both oppression and police shootings; and Iron Fist looked at the responsibilities of the rich towards the poor and the rest of the world.
The various trailers Netflix produced in the lead up to the show’s released seemed to suggest business as usual for Frank Castle – lots of gunfire against a rock soundtrack. And yet, oddly, that’s not what Marvel’s The Punisher is. For the most part, the show is instead the white, working class male’s equivalent of Jessica Jones and Luke Cage. It’s a look at family, responsibility, friendship, parenting, class, class loyalty, what it is to be in the military and to have brothers-in-arms, the consequences of violence, and the role of government in helping the working class. And oddly, there’s very little punishment meted out.
Here are those moderately misleading and spoilerish trailers. Slightly less spoilerish review of all 13 episodes after the jump.