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Why the Marvel formula works and makes ‘Hobbs & Shaw’ better than average

Explosions, car chases, firepower (a lot of fire), a blow torch, fight scenes, torcher scenes, fighter jets, and helicopters; I can go on.  These are all things included in this summer’s blockbuster film, Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw.

This film takes you back to the best movies we used to watch and puts it in the timeframe and context of today’s social fabrics. Not that world domination has changed much in recent years, but the ways to go about it have been explored in variety, by the villains we have quickly grown to love.

Fast & Furious: Brixton

With 2018 setting a new tone for what it means to be “the bad guy,” Marvel has provided a formula that other filmmakers are dissecting in-order to catch their wave.

We had Killmonger, then Thanos, and – oh yeah – a younger, scrappier, more vicious, Thanos. I only mention them because of fear. Idris’ character Brixton was all about instilling fear, and getting what he wants by any means.


What Marvel did with character developments and storylines at the box office was epic. We could understand the plight of the villains as much as we did the heroes and associates alike.

Marvel gave us what no other action-hero/superhero movie gave us, and that was compassion for both sides, ironically. Also, ultimately, Marvel did the meanest movie series/sequel narrative known to Asgardians and humans alike.

Carrying over storylines from each film, whether intrinsic to that particular story or setting up an entirely new one.

Marvel Studios: Thanos

We felt the struggles of N’Jadaka / Erik “Killmonger” Stevens. Discovering the death of his father and learning the reasoning behind it fueled his vengeance. And family ties made it all the more relatable for a black audience – “Hey, Auntie!”

Marvel Comics: Erik Stevens and T’challa

The Plot Thickens

When Thanos set out to retrieve the Infinity stones earlier in the Marvel movie series, we didn’t have any connection to him. He was omnipresent in every way. But when we finally got to meet on that ship sailing through space from Asgard, we discovered his purpose.

How could you not relate to anyone who wants to make the universe – great? Not only did he succeed – in eliminating half the universes population, but he also came back from the past to try that shit again. Persistence is key!

Marvel Comics: Thanos

Now, what we have in Hobbs and in Shaw, basically F&F alum, sent to have their own stories told. Deadpool got ousted from the X-Men movie into a stand-alone, so did Venom (sorry you can’t be with us Peter — Thanks SONY!).

It’s a little bit of what we saw between “Cap” and Tony in Captain America: Civil War, but with a jovial twist. We met characters in that movie that were encroaching on their storylines; Spiderman, Black Panther, and Antman to name a few.

Fast & Furious: Shaw, Brixton and Hobbs

Hobb & Shaw saw a lot of elements used in the Marvel movies to bring this story to life. Being familiar with the characters from prior appearances is one thing. Adding back story, like, Shaw’s reunion with his sister and Hobbs reunion with his biological family in Samoa.

Shaw’s reunion was bitter, then sweet, as Hobbs family reunion was a confrontation of decisions made in the past and how they affected his father and the rest of the family. A key component to the Black Panther story.

Anti-Heroes and Villians

For our antagonist, Brixton gives us relentless and ruthless behavior, like Thanos in search of the Infinity stones. He is human none the less. But, Brixton is partially a cyborg and is unfiltered in how he handles his associates and enemies.

He possesses a rage about him and jealousy for Shaw who essentially shot him and left him for dead at some point in their history. Like when Killmonger made claim for the crown of Wakanda and sought world dominance, and Thanos wanted to euthanize, Brixton wanted to be the alpha male in a world designed by way of him.

Brixton’s return from the dead with the help of artificial intelligence led him straight to his arch-enemy, Shaw. With hopes to turn the world into super-beings via a virus –- which would kill humans — with some adjustments will make chosen ones “more human.” Into what he has become — superhuman, the “Black Superman.”

Marvel Studios: Killmonger and Balck Panther

Throw in the clichés of your favorite action movies, superhero flicks, and some over the top Fast & Furious car stunts and you got a movie for a summer blockbuster.

Packed with quotable moments, raw fight scenes, and a war cry only surpassed by the sheer numbers in screaming ‘Yibambé’ in Wakanda, when Hobbs rallied his Usos (‘brothers’ in Samoan) with some traditional Samoan War Dance which kicked off the finale of the film.

Plenty of smaller scenes in that conclusive fight had strategies similar to what took place in the final fight in Infinity Wars. While other scenes reflected more of what went down in End Game.

End Credits and Scenes

How Marvel set up their universe is incredible and it has taken movie-making to new levels of efficiency in storytelling; adding end credit scenes, stitching the worlds into one cinematic universe.

Many factors and elements that allow for Marvel to do great things are how other hero films of recent have been conforming too. Let’s not forget DC Comics’ Aquaman and how they translated the Black Panther narrative and just placed it in the ocean.

It’s something to be taught in film school, and what we can hope for is that Marvel is only getting better and other filmmakers will have to step it up to compete for the kind of cult following the MCU has.

Peep the Hobbs & Shaw trailer here

How misrepresentation still plagues our favorite movies and TV shows

As off 2019, the two biggest cultural phenomena of the year were Avengers: Endgame and the final season of Game of Thrones. Both the film and television series pushed the boundaries of how stories could be told in a visual medium.

Unfortunately, for all that GoT and Avengers got right, they got a whole lot wrong too.

Hollywood has had issues with its portrayal of people of color as long as Hollywood has been around (insert reference to Birth of a Nation). While we’ve made tremendous strides in these regards, it still seems like the biggest pop culture pieces have some catching up to do.

Throughout the eleven year run of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, there’s been a clear struggle in how to portray their non-white characters. However, this isn’t for a lack of trying. Black Panther was a groundbreaking film that pushed Hollywood forward with respect to the representation of Black characters.

Although, for all that Marvel got right with Black Panther, they got a whole lot more wrong in pretty much every other movie — especially in their latest installment.

Black Panther Broken White Boy GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

In Endgame, Black characters, even the mighty King T’Challa, are relegated to sidekicks and background characters. Their sole purpose in the film is to prop up the white male superheroes, who ultimately get to save the day, take all the credit, and live happily ever after. Well, I guess Tony Stark doesn’t get that last one, but you get the point.

The sidekick role isn’t just for Black characters. Other non-white characters serve as the trusted right-hand man for superhero buddies across the MCU. Luis in Antman, Wong in Dr. Strange, and Ned in Spider-Man: Homecoming all fill the role of the funny ethnic best friend of white heroes.

While Marvel has done an admirable job in including characters of color, they fall short of fully developing them as interesting characters that fans can identify with. With the exception of Killmonger in Black Panther, they are for the most part one dimensional characters with poor arches and very little agency.

Red Carpet Bafta Film Awards 2019 GIF by BAFTA - Find & Share on GIPHY

It’s easy to understand the difficulty in developing secondary characters in an overcrowded and highly ambitious cinematic universe, but it is still extremely disheartening to continuously see characters of color boxed into lazy tropes and unfulfilling roles.

Then there’s GoT, where non-white characters are essentially nonexistent. Countless arguments have been why the show chose to handle this issue the way that they did — all of them more nonsensical than the last.

In a fantasy world with dragons, snow zombies, a dude who turns into ravens, and motherf*cking face swapping assassin moves, you would think there would be some room for non-white characters. With the exception of the Dothraki, a nomadic group of warriors, and the Unsullied, a race of slaves, everyone on the show is white.

The heinous nature of these being the only representations of people of color are fairly self-evident. The showrunners would have been better off just making the entire show white.

Game Of Thrones Boom GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

Not only are these representations extremely disturbing, but these characters also suffer from similar treatment to that of the characters in the Marvel movies. They are secondary characters who are not afforded the same levels of depth or development that characters like Jon Snow, Arya Stark, Tyrion Lannister, or even Daenerys Targaryen are allowed.

Ultimately, Game of Thrones and the Avengers franchise fell short in giving fans the satisfaction of getting to know interesting and well-rounded characters of color. Works like these should be held to a higher standard with these regards.

The most disappointing thing about the poor representation of people of color in these works is the support that different minority communities have demonstrated to them. Countless people in the community are huge fans of both Games of Thrones and the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

The creators and producers of shows and films like these owe it to ALL of their fans to represent characters of all backgrounds equally and fairly. Until that happens consistently, it’s on us to continue to call them out on these shortcomings.

How Marvel went from bankruptcy to box-office supremacy


These core four words jumpstarted a superhero pandemonium that has captivated fans for decades. Lined and decorated within the pages of beaming comic books, these four words described the ass-kicking that beloved superheroes were either dishing out or being dealt.

No other comic book did that better than Marvel.

From Spiderman to Captain America and Black Panther, Marvel has created turbulent storylines that have taken fans on a wild ride. Now Marvel is no stranger to wild rides. They have been on quite the adventure.

It took years of failure and experimentation to reach the heights of success that they currently have. It all started with a duck.

Howard the Duck (1986)

Quite possibly one of the worst films of all-time,

Howard the Duck was a catastrophic and financial failure. It was Marvel’s first attempt at producing content for the big screen. This movie tells the tale of a 27-year-old Howard the Duck who is from DuckWorld and has somehow ended up on Earth.

Without revealing any more of the plot, this movie only earned $15 million domestically after spending a $37 million budget. It was so bad that it gained a cult following.

At the time, this was considered a huge loss, but it did not hinder their main business, which was comic books. Or so they thought.

Comic Book Bubble

Marvel was one of the two largest publishing houses when it came to comic books. They were growing exponentially for the past few decades due to their stunning artwork and captivating storylines within their comics.

The fandom reached a peak during the 80s and early 90s. Demand was strong for comic books and even stronger in the re-sell market. Still, Marvel bit off more than they could chew when it came to the pricing and production of its comic books.

The first comic book ever sold was most likely around $0.10. However, with such high demand, Marvel began to produce more comics at a higher price. They were essentially inflating the comic book market.

In 1985, Marvel published 40 titles a month and each cost around 60 cents. Their stock rose and in 1988 they published 50 titles at a $1 apiece. By 1993, they were selling 140 books a month for $1.25 and up. That was back then and now the average cost of a comic book is around $3.00.

The overseer of this business plan was Ron Perelman, who had bought the company in 1989. He quickly took advantage of the booming comic book industry. and within two years of his acquisition, Marvel was actively traded on the stock market.

Because of Marvel’s financial success, Perelman went shopping with the surplus revenue and snapped up a company called ToyBiz, a couple of trading card companies, Panini stickers, and a distribution outfit called Heroes World. The final bill for those acquisitions cost Marvel a reported ~$700 million.

By expanding its product offerings, Marvel was able to further entrench itself into the collector’s market. In addition to comic book offerings, limited edition trading card sets were included in comic books which convinced fans to buy multiple copies of the same book. With revenue at an all-time high, Marvel was sitting pretty. That was until the comic book bubble burst.

The darkest days of Marvel occurred between 1993 and 1996. It was during this time period that the Marvel stock had plunged, creating a scenario in which everything that can go wrong did go wrong. There was a saving grace moment, however.

Ron Perelman had one last major trump card to play. In 1995, he set up Marvel Studios in an attempt to get Marvel’s most celebrated heroes and villains on to the big screen. In order to do this, he planned on buying the remaining shares of ToyBiz and merge it into one entity.

This move brought upon a power struggle that ultimately ended with Marvel filing for bankruptcy. a changing of the guard was taking place with Ron Perlman being ousted and replaced with Avi Arad. The dawn of a new era in Marvel had begun.

Marvel Studios

After the 1996 bankruptcy, there was a leadership vacancy that needed to be filled. Enter Avi Arad, the CEO of ToyBiz at the time of the Marvel merger. His experience and success led him to replace Stan Lee as the head of Marvel Films.

With his new authority, Avi made it his mission to put Marvel’s collection of characters on the big screen. He led the charge for what is considered the rebirth of Marvel.

From the ashes of bankruptcy to the rise of Marvel Studios, Avi Arad was at the helm of one of the greatest business resurgences.

Blade (1998)

In 1998, the first project under Marvel Studios was released and was based on the vampire hunter, Blade. At the time, Blade was considered a dark film for its portrayal of violence and gore. But it was precisely this violence and gore that saved the Marvel franchise from collapsing upon itself.

Blade was made using a $45 million budget; a hefty investment considering that Marvel was clawing its way back from bankruptcy. The investment was worthwhile as the film brought in a respectable $70 million return. The financial return was significant, but the momentum being generated was priceless.

X-Men (2000)

Because of Blade‘s box office success, Marvel had generated some momentum. The next project on the movie docket was about a group of mutant humans with supernatural abilities. Marvel put the X-Men movie into production in the late 90s and released it at the turn of the millennium.

This film offered a chance for Marvel to prove to fans and investors that superhero films were not only a cash cow, but had cinematic value. The company poured a $75 million budget into X-Men and released it in 2000. Marvel invested heavily in this project as it could be THE tipping point for the resurgence of the comic book and superhero genre.

Their bet paid off. X-Men raked in a whopping $296.3 million worldwide, becoming the 9th highest grossing film of the year.

Spider-Man (2002)

The snowball effect is a process that starts from a state of insignificance and gradually grows into something of great notoriety. The first two movies that Marvel put out got the ball rolling; the brand was growing powerful. To quote the late, great Stan Lee, “With Great Power, comes great responsibility “.

With this new found power (and success) Marvel launched “your friendly neighborhood Spiderman” on cinema screens. With its 2002 release, Spider-Man was a success. It became the first film to garner over $100 million during a single weekend. In total, the film did over $821.7 million worldwide.

Despite this success, Marvel only saw a small percentage of the revenue; $62 million to be exact. This was due to licensing out a variety of core characters; they were missing out on a larger paycheck.

Merrill Lynch Deal

The success of Spider-Man added to Marvel’s momentum. They were full steam ahead. In 2003, a talent agent named David Maisel proposed that Marvel should be raking in all the revenue from its movie production, not just a licensing percentage.

Now, this sounded great, but on paper, it wasn’t financially feasible. Marvel did not have the capital to buy back the characters it had leased out. Enter, Merrill Lynch.

In 2005, Marvel worked out an 8 year, $525 million deal with Merrill Lynch to create 10 films with varying budgets. It was this business decision that enabled Marvel to reacquire the rights to characters it had sold throughout the years, including Iron Man, Black Widow, Thor, and Hulk.

Now, Marvel could create a cinematic universe with multiple crossovers all while reaping all the generated revenue. The Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) was coming together.

MCU Kickoff

Iron Man kicked off the MCU in a wildly successful run that turned into a trilogy. it netted Marvel Studios over a $1 billion, with each film grossing way over $100 million.

With success, comes more opportunities — and an opportunity came knocking.

Following the successful Iron Man release, Disney bought Marvel off the sales rack for a cool $4.3 billion dollars in 2009. A total steal (considering the numbers and hype Marvel has in 2019). The brand was incredibly strong and it now had seemingly limitless power, thanks to the Mouse.

Marvel Studios took full advantage of that limitless power and starting churning out hit after hit after hit. From The Avengers to Guardians of the Galaxy to Black Panther, Marvel only produced films that generated 9 figures. They even made several $1 billion films as well.

Today, in 2019, the once palm-sized snowball of a company is now, an avalanche in the film industry. Avengers: Endgame has been, by far, Marvel’s most successful project. In less than a month of its release, it has surpassed the $2 billion gross revenue mark and is well on it’s way to becoming the highest grossing film of all time.

From bankruptcy to box-office supremacy, Marvel has stunned all doubters. And there’s more to come. They have already planned Phase 4. Buckle up! The adventures are only getting started.