Like most folk, I’m not too keen on reminders of my ever-increasing age. But this one, well, it’s not too bad of a milestone reminder.
Miles Morales, Marvel’s best Spider-Man, debuted nearly 10 years ago! You read that right, it’s been almost a decade since Miles inherited the Spidey title from Peter Parker and immediately one upped the kid from Queens.
Gemini Man, the action-packed latest film by master director, Ang Lee, hits theaters today. One of the biggest highlights of the film is a great welcome comedic performance by one of our favorite sorcerers/assassins/Stark Wedding guests, Benedict Wong (Doctor Strange, Deadly Class, Avengers: Endgame). In the film, Wong plays Baron, Will Smith’s trusty eyes in the sky, and fellow soldier/best friend. Recently, The Nerds of Color were granted the incredible opportunity to sit down for a brief, intimate chat with Mr. Wong, to discuss the making of the film, as well as technological advancements in filmmaking, and the state of Asian actors in Hollywood today. Here’s what he had to say:
Note: I made this with the intent to commemorate the third anniversary of Prince’s passing on April 21, 2016. Just so happens, Avengers: Endgame premieres this week on April 25 (if you’re reading this blog you probably have heard about that). The premise was to re-contextualize last year’s rather lengthy Avengers: Infinity War, set to all the songs on 1984’s Purple Rain, in the order they appear on that definitive work of pop music. The thinking was, in terms of emotional/dramatic arcs, Purple Rain the album is more coherent and composed than Infinity War (I wouldn’t make the same claim if we were talking about Purple Rain the film, but in this case we aren’t).
Doctor Strange, directed by Scott Derrickson (Sinister), tells the story of Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), a gifted neurosurgeon who is wrapped up in his own vanity. After karma executes Stephen’s fate he suffers irreversible damage to his hands, destroying his valued medical career. His desperate search for physical healing takes him to the Far East to a place called Kamar-Taj. There he meets the “Ancient One,” (Tilda Swinton) a mystical witch with undisputed power, and Baron Mordor (Chewitel Ejiofor) one of the chief masters of the Kamar-Taj temple. Strange believes the Ancient One is the key to healing his hands and returning back to the medical field. Little does he know he is smack in the middle of a war between good and evil. His visit to Kamar-Taj will be a turning point for Stephen Strange. He chooses to learn the ways of the arts but isn’t sure if this magical war is a good fit for him.
Six months and change after the release of its first trailer — and therefore about the same amount of time since co-writer C. Robert Cargill’s infamous “[t]he social justice warriors were going to get mad at us for something this week” rebuttal to Asian American critics of the film’s whitewashing — the initial reviews are in for Doctor Strange, and they’re not encouraging.
So no, this isn’t a review of Doctor Strange the film, but a review of the reviews of the film, using a simple standard: how accurately and humanely did each review portray Asian American dissent over the whitewashing of The Ancient One?
I would not fault anybody for not watching or liking Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. due to its hot mess of a first season. However, it has improved. Does it still have issues? Indeed it does. But with those issues comes the fact that it still remains one of the most diverse casts on TV. Though aside from showrunner Maurissa Tancharoen, I wonder what that diversity looks like behind the cameras. Anyway, now there is Gabriel Luna. With his head on fire. There was a lot of hype about the Robbie Reyes incarnation of Ghost Rider leading up to the season 4 premiere. By and large, it held up. Here are just a few points I remember and talked about with friends in person and via the internets.
With the culmination of the San Diego Comic-Con, we’ve been getting a lot of DC Comics movie franchise news. Some of which includes the new footage of the Justice League movie, featuring Batman (Ben Affleck), Aquaman (Jason Momoa), the Flash (Ezra Miller), Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), Cyborg (Ray Fisher) and Superman (Henry Cavill).
With the introduction of DC’s superhero team, I started wondering — which movie franchise represents its diverse audience more?
“Give Me A Chance and I’ll Change The World” — Beau Sia
One of my favorite spoken word poems of all time belongs to Beau Sia. In his piece “Give Me A Chance” he talks about the extreme difficulties of being an Asian performer in a country where far too often he is seen as an exotic commodity or is just plain invisible. Although the poem came out over 10 years ago, it is just as relevant today as it was back then, as his poem has been on my mind the past few days, what with the recent reveals of Tilda Swinton playing a Tibetan bald monk in Doctor Strangeand now Scarlett Johansson as Motoko Kusanagi in Ghost in the Shell. And in case people forgot, The U.S. adaptation of Death Note is now coming to Netflix with Nat Wolff playing Light Yagami. Yes, just like the other anime adaptation, they didn’t bother to change his last name (I can already hear the arguments that white people can have Japanese surnames too, how dare you be so narrow-minded Edward).
This week’s reveals from Doctor Strange and Ghost in the Shell are further proof that it’s hard out there for an Asian actor who wants to be in a genre film. Fortunately, there are a few AAPI actors who have claim to the coveted “Nerd Grand Slam;” that is, they’ve starred in a superhero franchise, a Star (Trek or Wars) vehicle, and an epic fantasy. But who is the nerdiest? Dominic Mah, from YOMYOMF.com, joins Keith to decide which actor is the One Nerd to rule them all.
Marvel just dropped the first teaser trailer for Doctor Strange, starring Benedict Cumberbatch as Dr. Stephen Strange, who journeys to mystical Asia to learn Mystical Asian Stuff. The trailer also gives us our first glimpse of Tilda Swinton as the Sorcerer Supreme’s mystical mentor, The Ancient One.
Racebent! In typical Hollywood fashion. Many of us were wondering how the movie would handle whitest actress Tilda Swinton as The Ancient One, who has been traditionally depicted in the comic books as an old-ass mystical Asian man. Now we have our answer: she is bald.
Depending on where you stake your claim on the internet, there has been a lot of chatter about a movie that tanked at the box office1 and another one that isn’t due in theaters for at least another year. The thing that links these seemingly disparate films is that both thought casting white women as characters who are written as Asian American and Pacific Islander was a good idea.
Last night, the director of one of those films — Cameron Crowe — finally broke his silence and offered this explanation for why he cast Emma Stone (Amazing Spider-Man) as a character called Allison Ng:
This week, rumours began circulating that Tilda Swinton was in casting negotiations for Marvel’s upcoming Doctor Strange film starring Benedict Cumberbatch in the titular role. Swinton is being considered for the role of the Ancient One, a nearly-immortal Tibetan sorcerer who becomes the young Doctor Strange’s mystic tutor and personal mentor.
About a week and a half ago, Marvel Studios (owned by Disney) and DC Entertainment (owned by Warner Brothers) got into a bit of a pissing contest. Marvel struck first by announcing Robert Downey Jr. would be bringing Iron Man to the Captain America sequel, setting up a “Civil War” story line in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and making it the highest profile superhero vs. superhero showdown of 2016 (sorry, Batman v Superman).
The next day, Warner Brothers unveiled its long-gestating slate of DC Comics-based films that was supposed to satiate fanboys’ appetites through 2020. While a lot of folks found some of the choices in Warner’s ambitious schedule confounding — including yours truly — the one area where DC had a leg up on Marvel was in the diversity of its lineup. In addition to the inclusion of solo movies for Wonder Woman (finally!) and Cyborg (huh?), you also had people of color top-lining two more films — Jason Momoa in Aquaman and Dwayne Johnson in Shazam. As groundbreaking as the Marvel Cinematic Universe is, it’s also overwhelmingly white and male. At least until today.