"the Vincent Price referencing Computer-animated Spider and Fly Short" - more productions I wish we could dimension visit to see.

"we knew that the ‘Goth Craze’ would end soon enough, and thus that the Skeleton Crew’s signature style would soon be Old Hat.” – Henry Selick" - the style is kinda timeless Noir in some ways though.

"Beetlejuice Goes Hawaiian" - honestly WTF? Sounds totally bonkers.

"aggressive businessman Maxwell Shriek, played by Christopher Walken." - I can see Walken chewing that scenery.

"Bureau of Deceased Affairs" - even dead there is still bureaucracy...

"Even so, the film failed to make back its $22 million budget thanks to poor reviews" - still ends up a cult classic I bet.

"as if Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room was possessed by Spielberg’s Poltergeist” - awesome sentence.

"Henry Selick would ultimately direct the creepy, uncanny stop motion film, with Barsi herself voicing Coraline." - interesting but probably not ITTL me's stuff.

"high praise both for its visuals and its deep story and went on to financial success, ultimately topping $110 million" - ITTL me might watch it on vid to see what the fuss was about.

"Michael Moorcock himself would be brought in to help consult" - well that will help lift Elric's quality above some productions then.

"the TV Series Stormbringer launched on Fantasia TV in 1999" - ITTL me would watch this as soon as it came to the UK.

"Stormbringer ran for four seasons" - bet that does not hurt sales of the Tabletop RPG Stormbringer by Chaosium. Does it get a computer game made too?

"Starring Doug Jones as the troubled Elric and Thurl Ravenscroft[6] as the voice of the titular sentient sword Stormbringer," - oh nice casting there.

"and a musical score by Nine Inch Nails front man Trent Reznor," - that's another soundtrack brought.

“He told me to think of my character as constantly pulled between his sinful birth and his quest for salvation," - very true of Elric indeed.

"was reaching the natural conclusion of the beloved Nocturns." - a sad day approaches.

"The Tourist TV series aired post-watershed on Fantasia TV in the fall of 2000" - well that would be required watching.

"Tank Girl: The Animated Catastrophe for FX." - another must watch for ITTL me.

"Tank Girl voiced by Nika Futterman, Booga voiced by a then-unknown Simon Pegg, and President Hogan voiced by Phil Lamar," - sound like fun!

"But the fast and frenetic pace was slowly catching up to them." - hope this not too ominous.

Interesting catch up on the Skeleton Crew there @Geekhis Khan
That really is a pity. I had hoped Somalia could have come out of this crisis without bloodshed but it seemed it was pretty much inevitable. Well at least Yugoslavia hasn't collapsed into an orgy of genocide and violence... yet.
Don't forget that Yugoslavia was united through the power of Sesame Street (that, and some of the war criminals getting arrested early).
That really is a pity. I had hoped Somalia could have come out of this crisis without bloodshed but it seemed it was pretty much inevitable. Well at least Yugoslavia hasn't collapsed into an orgy of genocide and violence... yet.
It was inevitable. The country is far too fragmented between several clans and other terrorist groups to stay afloat. Perhaps the only difference is that the U.S. intervention was better and we avoided Black Hawk Down, but that's honestly a very small "pro" that won't affect the poor Somali peoples that will still suffer due to poverty and famine.
Movies 1999
New York Times Short Movie Reviews, 1999

Assassination on the Orient Express

Fiennes is back as Bond, and this time, he’s the target. Tired of his success in foiling their plots, the Soviet counterintelligence agency SMERSH has Agent 007 in their sights, and are plotting his assassination. To this end they have set a trap in the form of Tatiana Romanova (Charlize Theron), a beautiful and seductive SMERH agent who is supposedly going to defect to the west, and as added bait is bringing a copy of the top secret “Spektor” coding machine with her. But her boss, Colonel Rosa Klebb (Charlotte Rampling), has enlisted a defector of her own, former British officer turned Soviet assassin Donovan “Red” Grant (John Stratham), a psychopath more than happy to kill his fellow British agent.

And the place for this planned assassination? None other than the storied Orient Express, where Bond is to meet with Romanova and arrange her defection with the Spektor device. Paired with allied agent Darko Kerim (Kevork Malikyan) Bond must avoid the Soviet agents there to prevent the defection and assassinate him. And if this fourth outing lacks some of the depth of the prior outings (it’s mostly European cast and setting and lack of nuclear issues limits its ability to explore more complex subjects like its predecessors), it still delivers both brutal action and a candid view of life in 1950s Eastern Europe, with a good helping of the grey morality that muddied the “east vs. west” dualism of the Cold War. The acting remains on target, with Fiennes still giving a layered depth to the classic British agent, Stratham brilliant as a casually cruel “anti-Bond” and dark reflection of Bond himself, Pete Postlethwaite solid as always as M, and Theron putting in a subtle and seductive portrayal as Romanova, whose true intentions remain mysterious right up to the very end. In all, it’s a good continuation of the “New Old Bond” and certainly an exciting couple of hours away from the summer heat.


From Russia with Love, Rated T for violence, adult situations, sexuality, and substance use, ⭐⭐⭐

A Super Midlife Crisis

So, what happens when Superman settles down into a life in suburbia? The Super Family of Bird Brain, Filmation, and Fox answer this question (that you likely never thought to ask) with The Incredibles, an animated feature where super-heroics run in the family. Tim Allen voices Bob “Mr. Incredible” Smith, a former superhero forced into early retirement by the machinations of the nefarious Xerek (Ian Holm), who is also the obsessive Ex of his wife Hellen “ElastiGirl” Smith (Meg Ryan). And their three children, daughter Vale “Obscura” Smith (Yeardley Smith), who can turn invisible and create force fields, son Dashiell “Dash” Smith (Eli Marienthal), who has super speed, and infant son Jake, whose powers have yet to manifest, are caught in the middle.

Following an establishing set-up flashback, where Mr. Incredible and his friend Frozone (Samuel L. Jackson) inadvertently create as much damage as they prevent battling The Underminer (Wallace Shawn), Xerek’s political machinations see superheroism banned, leaving Mr. I. and Xerek’s Ex, ElastiGirl, to retire together as husband and wife. But when Xerek plots to bend the City of Metro Central to his will Lex-Style, the whole family must emerge from hiding, aided by Frozone and the canny Q-like inventor Edna Mode (Bird himself, in another case of a ”scratch dub” becoming permanent), to save the day.

Full of exciting action, incredible animation, and a huge dose of humor and humanity, The Incredibles is a treat for the whole family, and likely to give Disney, Universal, and Columbia a run for their money this summer[1].


The Incredibles, Rated PG for Action and Adult Situations, ⭐⭐⭐½

Memorializing the King of Pop

In the annals of the infamous “27 Club” the great Michael Jackson holds a high place. What songs might he have shared had he lived? How would music have changed had he gone on to become a respected elder statesman of music? Producer Freddie Mercury and director Ray Manzarek remind us why this is a lasting question with Moonwalker, executive produced by Steven Spielberg and released by MGM. Starring newcomer Wentworth Miller as MJ (Kyle Massey performs Young Michael), Moonwalker explores the short but impactful life of the King of Pop


Jackson in 1987 vs. Miller in 1998 (Image sources Pintrest and Rotten Tomatoes)

The film follows Jackson from his challenging childhood under an abusive father, the demands of his life thrown far too young into stardom, and the challenges of trying to strike out on his own. The film is no holds barred as it explores his drug use, health issues, and the cruel double-edged nature of fame, particularly young fame. Full of brilliant performances and great cinematography, the film is none the less a bit formulaic and overproduced. Still, it is well worth your time simply to watch as Massey and Miller evoke Jackson to an almost uncanny degree.


Moonwalker: The Michael Jackson Story, Rated T for profanity, sexuality, substance use, and violence, ⭐⭐½

Handing off the Torch of Sobriety

It was an act of courage and a serious risk just making this film. Originally produced by Warner Brothers and partly written and directed by and starring the late Robert Downey Jr., Sober, the semiautobiographical story of fame and addiction and rehabilitation was well into principal photography when Downy tragically died in a traffic accident. The film was assumed dead as well until MGM and Chris Farley approached Downey’s family and then Warner. With the full support of the Downey family, MGM picked up Sober and partially rewrote the film around Chris Farley. With a combination of stand-in actors, clever editing, and some compositing shots, Sober becomes a story of two men, Downey’s Robert Jericho and Farley’s Franky O’Malley, in an unlikely friendship driven by their mutual love for booze, women, and drugs. The first half primarily follows Downey, and the last half Farley, who is thrown unwittingly into the lead role when he learns that his friend, who’d been sober for months, has tragically died. As such, Jericho’s death becomes the impetus for O’Malley to sober up and return to the Church.

Needless to say, the headlines lit up in outrage when the deal was announced, but for any doubters left out there, I say only see this film and be swayed. Farley shows that he’s more than just a slapstick and fat jokes guy, putting in an incredibly deep and meaningful performance. It plays as a salute to Downey and a tale of the tragedies of fame and the temptations of Hollywood Excess, as well as an exploration of Catholic guilt and redemption. In lesser hands this might have become a disaster, but director Martin Scorsese, who took over from Downey and shares the directorial credit, manages to balance the film carefully and respectfully, giving Downey a fitting farewell and Farley a meaningful reintroduction as a dramatic actor. Scorsese layers the story with Catholic imagery that manages to practically beatify Downey and give Farley a chance to show the depths of his vulnerability without the ironic excess that informs his comedy.

Sober isn’t without flaws, which is unsurprising given the meshing of two different stories and two different directors, but it’s none the less a powerful and timely story.

Sober, Rated T for drug use, nudity, sex, profanity, and adult situations, ⭐⭐⭐½

True Love, Artificial Intelligence

Should we fear artificial life? This is a question that people have been asking for centuries, hearkening back to the legend of the Golem. Karel Čapek coined the term “robot” in 1921, and foresaw a threat to human existence. Many, indeed most, have followed suit, with tale after tale of robot uprisings and murderous AI. But director Steven Spielberg and producer Stanley Kubrick take a more philosophical and emotional take in Fantasia’s Artifice, a story about Ainsley (voiced and motion-capture performed by Ahmed Best), a robot butler who gains sentience and soon gains a deep affection, dare we say love, for his human masters. However, as his masters grow older and die, he lives on to see new masters, some more compassionate than others. And while this programming prevents him from harming any human, humans do not share the same limitations vis-à-vis robots, and he soon finds himself protecting a realistic child robot Toby (Jake Lloyd), who has been programmed to express love even as he can’t feel it. Based largely on the works of Isaac Azimov and Brian Aldiss and invoking aspects of Pinocchio and Uncle Tom’s Cabin, and created using the latest in motion capture technologies to give the machinelike Ainsley an uncannily lifelike appearance, Artifice is a tale of love and prejudice, the dangers of consumerism, and an emotional roller coaster from beginning to bittersweet end[2].


Like a strange cross between these and Uncle Tom’s Cabin

, Rated T for adult language, adult situations, violence, and mature themes; ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Life Between the Panels
Guest review by @Plateosaurus and Mr. Harris Syed with assistance from @MNM041

The superhero genre may be going strong, but one may not ever look at it in the same way after seeing Overseer[3], a new Universal film from M. Night Shyamalan. The film, much like Sixth Sense, is set in Philadelphia and follows stadium security guard David Dasheill (Bruce Willis) who discovers that he has superpowers after surviving a deadly train incident, left trying to find his place in a mundane world by becoming a hero. He is guided by Isaiah Price (Samuel L. Jackson), a man with a keen love of superhero comics confined to a wheelchair due to brittle bone disease, and assists him in stopping David’s rogue co-worker Lucas (Brian Thompson)[4], but it becomes apparent that there’s more to this superhero origin story and the title doesn’t just refer to David, but a chess master overseeing everything.

The film takes the small-scale and slow burning yet layered and twisting supernatural thriller plot and characters Shyamalan has built up in Sixth Sense and applies them to a genre that so far has gone big and bombastic, culminating in a climactic plot twist sure to shock and amaze. Overseer uses the trappings of the superhero genre to explore what it would truly mean to be a superhero in the real world and our relationship with comics and extraordinary individuals over the years tying it into our own quests for meaning and purpose, making for a compelling and fascinating meta-commentary on superheroes that rivals even last year’s Watchmen, buoyed by incredibly top-notch performances from Willis and Jackson and a suspenseful and eerie score from James Newton Howard. While the dialogue can be a bit stilted and stiff at times (much like his previous films)[5], the movie already more than makes up for it with its great acting and well-written narrative, a one-of-a-kind film that stands out in the genre and dares to ask thought-provoking questions to the audience to look deeper into the very works they watch and consume.


Overseer, rated T for some violence and language, ⭐⭐⭐⭐

All For Rock and Roll
Guest review by @MNM041 with assistance from @Plateosaurus and Mr. Harris Syed

Garth Brooks recently made some heads turn with the seeming creation of a new alter ego in Chris Gaines, and now we see the reason for this new persona, with Miramax’s The Lamb, directed by music video director Howard Greenhalgh[6]. As established, Brooks portrays Chris Gaines, and the film centers around a fan of his trying to piece together the life of the enigmatic performer, with various parts of his life shown in flashbacks. Far from the “Who Is Alan Smithee? but with rock music” it was advertised as, The Lamb very clearly is aiming to take pot shots at all corners of the music industry. It's clear that Brooks, as well as Greenhalgh, wanted to make a straight forward parody of music biopics, but the film ends up going into some odd places, especially due to the aforementioned framing device where two fans (played by Brendan Fraser) try to piece together the life of Gaines after an apparent disappearance. These parts tend to way down the movie in comparison to whenever focus shifts back to Gaines and his manager, Tim Packman (played by Bill Fagerbakke). These scenes where they actually do explore the background of Chris Gaines make for a more engaging watch, with some jabs at the nature of music industry as well as the cliches often presented in music biopics, and it's aided by the good comedic chemistry between Brooks and Fagerbakke. In particular, Brooks himself (sporting a surprisingly convincing Australian accent) is actually very enjoyable to watch as Gaines. Much like Dana Carvey in Who Is Alan Smithee?, You sometimes forget you're watching a character when he's on screen.

Naturally, the film also has a good soundtrack. While alternative rock music isn't exactly Garth Brooks’ usual forte, he clearly understands what makes songs from that genre work and they make for enjoyable listens. While the film surrounding these songs isn't exactly what it could have been, it still makes for an enjoyable watch. Ironically though, for a film supposedly about the mystery of the Chris Gaines character, the best parts are when he isn't a mystery. Nonetheless, The Lamb is a solid movie about the mystique of the rock and roll lifestyle, and the consequences of fame.


(Image source E-Bay)

The Lamb, rated R for drug usage, strong language and sexual references, ⭐⭐⭐

The Return of El Mariachi
Guest review by Mr. Harris Syed with assistance from @Plateosaurus and @MNM041

Robert Rodriguez, the director best known for his work in the action and horror genres, has brought us Desperado the sequel to his 1993 breakout Western hit El Mariachi courtesy of Columbia Pictures. The film picks up where El Mariachi where left off with the titular character (Antonio Banderas, reprising his role from Aimless Drifters) plotting his revenge against the crime lord Cesar “Bucho” (Benjamin Bratt) and his underling Mauricio “Moco” (Peter Marquardt) for killing his lover Domino. However, El Mariachi is not alone in his quest for revenge as he encounters a woman named Carolina (Salma Hayek) after shielding from bullets fired by one of Bucho’s henchmen Tavo. Together, El Mariachi and Carolina will plot the downfall of Bucho’s criminal empire for good.

As with Rodriguez’s other work, Desperado is an explosive, intense movie with plenty of action, gunplay and gore with the actors doing a great job through the well-choreographed and thrilling fight scenes. This movie is also incredibly violent especially with the death of a character and the climax filled with lots and lots of blood that it’s on-par with Alex Cox’s RoboCop and Peter Jackson’s Braindead as one of the most violent movies ever made. Performance-wise, Banderas is a solid replacement for Carlos Gallardo from the previous film as he convincingly portrays a grief-stricken man driven to avenge the death of his lover and kill the people responsible for her death while Hayek is not only self-confident but feisty in her role and Bratt is great as a murderous cartel boss. However, in terms of story and characterization, the film falls flat as they’re rather shallow and take a backseat to Rodriguez’s explosive, violent action and choreography. Perhaps the most noteworthy part of the story is the cameos from certain characters of the films of Quentin Tarantino, the Raimis and the Coen Brothers such as Reservoir Dogs’ Vic Vega or The Buddha of Sunset Strip’s Danny with Tarantino himself appearing in a small role[7].

While it doesn’t come quite close to the brilliance of El Mariachi, Desperado is nonetheless a worthy sequel to that film if you’re a fan of Rodriguez, Westerns and bloody violence.


Desperado, rated NC for extreme violence, swearing and sexual content, ⭐⭐½

Look Closer
Guest post by @MNM041 with assistance from Mr. Harris Syed and @Plateosaurus

British playwright Sam Mendes makes his directorial debut in Hyperion’s American Beauty[8], a truly captivating tragicomic tale of searching for meaning and questioning whether there is truly any value in the American Dream. Helen Hunt stars as Linda Harrington, a middle-aged suburban wife from Greenfield, Indiana struggling through her own midlife crisis, made worse by the fact her marriage to her husband Craig (played by Jeff Daniels) seems to only continue out of obligation rather than any actual love. As she prepares to once again plaster on a fake smile for their daughter Jane (Angela Bettis) returning home from college for the summer, she crosses paths with Sidney (Rose McGowan), their daughter's roommate, who's in town visiting her uncle, Colonel Frank Fitts (Chris Cooper). The unsatisfied and closeted Linda soon tries the same activities as Sidney and even starts an affair with her but little does he know that his affair will have disastrous consequences for her and her family while Jane also has begun to break the mold that life has put her in, befriending Sarah’s artistic drug dealer cousin Ricky Fitts (James Marsden).

While certainly not the first film to say that both Middle America and the women within it are secretly miserable with the things that it's told they should be happy at, American Beauty makes the dual distinction of being one of the few films to speak to both older and younger generations and giving both equal time and exploring midlife crises of a woman rather than a man. The film raises the question of whether the white picket fence nuclear American Dream we're all told to chase us is even worth it, showing how it leads to an empty and repressed existence, but at the same time leaving you wondering whether it truly is better to do whatever you want. Sure, Linda might seem happier when she's smoking pot in the car and singing along to Sex Pistols, but it's also very obvious she's having a midlife crisis that will hurt her family, chases a vague idea of happiness while her husband seemingly wants to blow his brains out[9]. The film is also propped up by incredible performances from its principal cast, Hunt and Daniels are a treat to watch, perfectly capturing a married couple who aren't even sure if they can even recognize the person that they share a bed with anymore. While Hunt will likely get more of the attention, Daniels also delivers, offering an unflinching real depiction of disillusionment and borderline suicidal depression. Bettis, Marsden and McGowan all do fantastic jobs in their portrayals of young adults who are still struggling to find their places in an unpredictable world. Cooper is also phenomenal, managing to be extremely scary while also letting the more tragic, human side of his character out occasionally. The film’s great performances are in turn aided by Mendes’ brilliant direction and screenplay.

American Beauty is a depressing film that looks at the inherent desire most people have to live their best lives and ask, "Is that even possible?" But at the same time, it never shames people for trying to find their place in this crazy little world. While some could argue the film is preachy if a bit unpleasant, and it certainly has its moments, all and all, American Beauty is a brilliant debut from Sam Mendes and like the films tagline says, it's certainly one you should look closer.


American Beauty, Rated R for nudity, sexuality, adult language, and adult situations, ⭐⭐⭐½

In Brief:
  • Broke-Azz Blues: Snoop Dog directs this occasionally raunchy, generally funny comedy about urban poverty and perseverance; ⭐⭐⭐
  • Bring in 'Da Noise, Bring in 'Da Funk: Wayne Brady and Savion Glover reunite for this musical salute to Black Culture; ⭐⭐⭐
  • Cubed: Mike Judge brings us this comedy about the small hell of life in a Cubicle. Sure to resonate with the office drones of the world; ⭐⭐⭐
  • Demonized: Another Otherworldy Horror, demonstrating that while the genre continues, the skill and originality do not; ⭐½
  • Elmo in Grouchtown: Elmo and the Sesame Street gang travel to Grouchville in Kevin Clash’s directorial debut; ⭐⭐⭐
  • For King Queen and Country II: A License to Spill: Sexist secret agent Alby returns in somewhat reluctant service to the Queen; ⭐⭐
  • Love Kills: Ben Stiller directs this entertaining and quirky Rom-Com; ⭐⭐⭐
  • Never Have I Ever: Sarah Michelle Gellar and Neve Campbell star in this Teen comedy-drama; ⭐⭐⭐
  • The Next Big Thing: Frank Oz directs this Hyperion comedy written by and starring Steve Martin and Wayne Brady about a once great filmmaker driven to the world of Low Budget features. Nobody in Hollywood is safe; ⭐⭐⭐
  • Out-voted: Kevin Kline stars in this political comedy about a secretly gay Conservative politician trying to appeal to evangelical voters while carrying on an illicit affair with another man; ⭐⭐½
  • Shagwell 2: The Spy who Shagged Me: Mike Meyers’ over-the-top 1960s British Agent returns; ⭐⭐½
  • Spoiled Rotten: A rather puerile teen comedy; ⭐
  • Thirteen O’clock: a fun if derivative thriller and Otherworldy Horror; ⭐⭐⭐
  • Tricks: an adult Neil Patrick Harris plays a desperate stage magician who becomes a gigolo in this Miramax dramedy; ⭐⭐½
  • Vinland: John McTiernan explores deep issues in this historical Epic following Leif Erikson; ⭐⭐⭐
  • Vote Kinky: A fun-loving and quirky biopic of Texas cowboy-turned-musician-turned-politician Tom “Kinky” Friedman, the “Jewish Cowboy”; ⭐⭐⭐
  • Wiener Works: A raunchy teen sex comedy about classmates from differing backgrounds who work at a fast-food restaurant; ⭐⭐
  • Wing Commander: A fun adaption of the popular video game starring Star Wars alum Mark Hamill; ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

[1] Will be animated 2D as Bird originally planned before Lasseter steered him towards CG. Will be a sleeper hit, making a good $184 million against a $55 million budget and be nominated for the Best Animated Feature Oscar.

[2] Will break $300 million and be nominated for several Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Director, but take home only technical awards. Many will lambaste the Academy for “snubbing” Ahmed Best for a Best Actor nomination, alleging hostility to Mo-Cap acting.

[3] The film is explicitly marketed as a superhero film here due to the widespread acceptance of them in the 1990s after Spider-Man versus our timeline, where they were not yet taken seriously, resulting in Unbreakable being marketed as a psychological thriller. Recall that The Sixth Sense came out in 1997 due to Wide Awake not being stuck on The Shelf of Movie Languishment which affected the release date of Overseer causing it to come out near the end of the 1990s instead of 2000.

[4] Lucas has Bi-Polar Personality Disorder and when triggered becomes the film’s villain, since a villain with a similar kind of abilities and mental condition was originally going to be included in the film in our timeline before being cut and reused for Split. That said, Isaiah is still the primary antagonist and the one controlling both David and Lucas as their “overseer” hence the title, and the reveal happens in the third act as the climax rather than in the final scene.

[5] Blame it on Shyamalan working on two projects the same year, both this film and Invincible respectively, which do eat into one another (though that film at least has other writers to keep it good). Unlike in our timeline where the film will become a cult classic ahead of its time when it comes to superhero stories, Overseer will be a much bigger hit thanks to having a better box office performance and spawn a direct sequel that is very different from our timeline’s Split. Overseer combined with last year’s Watchmen will start causing superhero films to decline in popularity for the 2000s and make decide to go in new routes.

[6] Long story short, Brooks conceived of Chris Gaines and The Lamb earlier in our timeline because he knew of Francis Ford Coppola’s The Road to Ruin and decided to dip his toes into a music-related film, albeit a mockumentary, starting in 1996. As a result of this film, Howard Greenhalgh gets more opportunities to direct feature films. Garth Brooks similarly gets more opportunities to act.

[7] Banderas broke out in the 1990s with The Mambo Kings and he snagged a voice role as Buzz Lightspeed in The Secret Life of Toys and Catman in Catwoman so it’s not completely impossible for him to play El Mariachi. In the case of Bratt, he’s already appeared as an outlaw in The Indian. Lastly, Hayek still appeared in Tales from the Crypt: From Dusk Till Dawn which has a mostly similar cast to our timeline aside from Uma Thurman as Katherine “Kate” Fuller. In our timeline, the movie actually got an NC-17 rating for the extremely graphic scenes of Taratino’s character dying and a violent shootout between El Mariachi, Carolina, Bucho and his thugs at his mansion. Since the latter had a large amount of footage, Rodriguez opted to fill it in with a fade-out ending. Here, Kandi made NC a financially viable rating and Rodriguez is not forced to cut those scenes, with other movies following suit such as William Friedkin’s 8mm. However, since El Mariachi was rated R, Rodriguez will create two alternate cuts for home video and television that remove the more violent scenes both with an R rating. And just what will be Friedkin’s vision of 8mm? Stay tuned. As noted in the Thanksgiving Day movie review for Aimless Drifters, most of the films from Tarantino, the Coens and the Raimis exist in two separate universes with characters from one film appearing in another or references to other films. In some cases, two characters played by the same actor are considered cousins. In others, the real world and fictional world universes means that actors playing the same character can be considered not biologically related to each other. To an extent, Cheech Marin appearing as a similar character to Carlos will have fans speculating that From Dusk till Dawn exists in either the real or fictional Tarantinoverses but Rodriguez and Tarantino consider it to be not part of those continuities given that Tales from the Crypt is more fantastical and supernatural than most of their movies. Thanks to Rodriguez’s previous successes, Desperado will make $75 million on a budget of $8 million which is higher than its box office and budget from our timeline. As you can expect, the movie spawns a final film with Banderas that will conclude the trilogy started by El Mariachi as part of the Tarantinoverse.

[8] Sam Mendes originally came up with the for American Beauty in the early ‘90s, inspired by the Amy Fisher case. Since that wasn't butterflied, he likely still comes up with the idea and then sits on, though the Anita Hill scandal results in it being heavily rewritten.

[9] Part of the rewrites resulted in more focus being put on the wife of the main family. Hunt was considered for Carolyn along with Daniels as Lester Burnham in our timeline and both do get to appear in this timeline’s American Beauty, albeit in different roles. This is another result of the rewrites caused by the Anita Hill scandal, the relationship with Angela/Sarah is much less predatory than our timeline’s version, with the character being a legal adult. By proxy, this also results in the other high school aged characters being aged up to college students, resulting in the 26-year-old Angela Bettis playing Jane rather than the Thora Birch, who was still a minor during the production of American Beauty in our timeline. Her presence in this movie naturally results in Bettis being butterflied out of this timeline’s equivalent to Girl Interrupted, though the tradeoff is that she ends up with a much more high-profile career than in our timeline. Rose McGowan and James Marsden ends up similarly better careers as a result of their performance as Sarah and Ricky. Chris Cooper was seemingly the older actor that Mendes had in mind for this character, so he ends up being the only member of the principal cast to remain the same. Only thing different is that there's an Actor Allusion to his role as the MMU’s General Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross since his character here also has a military background. Ricky and Angela/Sidney being cousins here is another result of the rewrites. Unlike Lester, who pursued someone he had partly watched grow up, Linda is simply becoming involved with someone she met through a neighbor. Craig suffering from suicidal depression is a change from how Carolyn was in our timeline and it’s meant to be reflective of how the film is more sympathetic to both of the parents rather than just one. American Beauty ends up being a success comparable to our timeline, meaning that Sam Mendes will continue to make films long after.
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And while this programming prevents him from harming any human, humans do not share the same limitations vis-à-vis robots, and he soon finds himself protecting a realistic child robot Toby (Jake Lloyd), who has been programmed to express love even as he can’t feel it.
I can't but wonder if this is coincidence, but this feels like it could've been a reference to Tetsuwan Atom AKA Astro Boy as Dr. Tenma's son and template for Astro was name Toby in the English dubs.
A Super Midlife Crisis

So, what happens when Superman settles down into a life in suburbia? The Super Family of Bird Brain, Filmation, and Fox answer this question (that you likely never thought to ask) with The Incredibles, an animated feature where super-heroics run in the family. Tim Allen voices Bob “Mr. Incredible” Smith, a former superhero forced into early retirement by the machinations of the nefarious Xerek (Ian Holm), who is also the obsessive Ex of his wife Hellen “ElastiGirl” Smith (Meg Ryan). And their three children, daughter Vale “Obscura” Smith (Yeardley Smith), who can turn invisible and create force fields, son Dashiell “Dash” Smith (Eli Marienthal), who has super speed, and infant son Jake, whose powers have yet to manifest, are caught in the middle.

Following an establishing set-up flashback, where Mr. Incredible and his friend Frozone (Samuel L. Jackson) inadvertently create as much damage as they prevent battling The Underminer (Wallace Shawn), Xerek’s political machinations see superheroism banned, leaving Mr. I. and Xerek’s Ex, ElastiGirl, to retire together as husband and wife. But when Xerek plots to bend the City of Metro Central to his will Lex-Style, the whole family must emerge from hiding, aided by Frozone and the canny Q-like inventor Edna Mode (Bird himself, in another case of a ”scratch dub” becoming permanent), to save the day.

Full of exciting action, incredible animation, and a huge dose of humor and humanity, The Incredibles is a treat for the whole family, and likely to give Disney, Universal, and Columbia a run for their money this summer[1].
Suspected this would come.
Some interesting films here. TTL me would probably quietly wait for The Incredibles on video as OTL, check out Overseer because it's a superhero film (I didn't see Unbreakable because I'm not into psychothrillers, and I suspect my reaction would be "No, this is a psychothriller that has been missold to me", although I'd probably find it superheroey enough to at least hold my interest), and be irritated by Artifice, which I'd see as The Positronic Man with added glurge (I wasn't that keen on either of the films IOTL ... and honestly, I found the Asimov story a bit glurgy itself in places). The others probably wouldn't ping my radar at all, what with the lack of spaceships and lasers.

an adult Neil Patrick Harris
You know you've been pigeonholed as a child actor when film reviews a decade later need to specify this.
Thanks again to Naty, Platy, Mr. H. and OB for the Thor post and to all the guest contributors for the movies. My apologies to those whom I missed in the shuffle.

I'm kind of reminded of OTL's Loki Agent of Asgard where, IIRC, he tried to reinvent himself as God of Stories, which got extremely meta.
You'll have to ask the main authors if that was their inspiration (not on my radar), though God of Stories is one of Loki's many titles, as lies and stories share a lot of characteristics.

Oh, my goodness, this sounds so Neil Gaiman...
My main contribution other than just setting up some casting and picking Gaiman, was doubling down on the "Story" aspect. Ian McShane's character was originally called "Narrator", but I changed the name to "Storyteller" and futzed with the dialog to play up the Story aspect a bit more. Glad I managed to capture Gaiman, as that was the goal.

That really is a pity. I had hoped Somalia could have come out of this crisis without bloodshed but it seemed it was pretty much inevitable. Well at least Yugoslavia hasn't collapsed into an orgy of genocide and violence... yet.
I wondered if anyone would catch that major bit of news nested in a Disney synopsis article. Seemed to fly under the radar at first.

It was inevitable. The country is far too fragmented between several clans and other terrorist groups to stay afloat. Perhaps the only difference is that the U.S. intervention was better and we avoided Black Hawk Down, but that's honestly a very small "pro" that won't affect the poor Somali peoples that will still suffer due to poverty and famine.
Maybe not "inevitable" but "extremely likely". Colonization was really bad to them, with overt efforts by the Italians in particular to empower clans against one another in a "divide and conquer" strategy. Poverty and famine did the rest.

On the plus side, Somaliland in the north is doing quite well for itself, with a stable government, united people, and oil reserves, and has potential if it can avoid the "Dutch Disease".

Don't forget that Yugoslavia was united through the power of Sesame Street (that, and some of the war criminals getting arrested early).
Jokes aside, the Sesame Street post was more to illustrate the steps being taken by the ruling government to try and overcome the country's many challenges. Sesame is the symptom, not the cause, in this case. And like OTL Bosnia Herzegovina, Yugoslavia remains ethnically divided and ethnic tensions remain, though economic opportunity and a zero tolerance policy by the federal government for any ethnic rabble-rousing are mitigating things, at least for now.

I can't but wonder if this is coincidence, but this feels like it could've been a reference to Tetsuwan Atom AKA Astro Boy as Dr. Tenma's son and template for Astro was name Toby in the English dubs.
Coincidence, but I do smell a major TTL fan theory.

..., and be irritated by Artifice, which I'd see as The Positronic Man with added glurge (I wasn't that keen on either of the films IOTL ... and honestly, I found the Asimov story a bit glurgy itself in places). The others probably wouldn't ping my radar at all, what with the lack of spaceships and lasers.
Pretty much my opinion on both films. BM was a big disappointment for me given that I liked PM and love Robin Williams, but trying to shoehorn in a physical love component with the little girl he raised (the love was wholly platonic/parental in the novel) both added a creepy Woody Allen vibe and the attempt to spin it as an allegory for gay marriage fell super-flat.

AI just couldn't decide whether it wanted to be a Kubrick film or a Spielberg film.

Mostly with Artifice I was interested in trying to blend the stories of a noted utopian optimist (Asimov) with a dystopian pessimist (Aldiss) out of sheer ironic juxtaposition. I figure a lot of what you and I disliked about the OTL films would apply here as well, but Oscar and audiences will love the Glurge.

And speaking of irony, I'm surprised nobody commented upon the fact that I have Ahmed Best and Jake Lloyd starring together in a blockbuster Sci-Fi effects film in 1999, the former as a mo-cap all digital character, and actually being celebrated for it.

You know you've been pigeonholed as a child actor when film reviews a decade later need to specify this.
Yep, tends to happen to child actors. In this case per OTL NPH has been doing plenty of Broadway stuff, but this is his first lead role in a film.

PS: Happy Penguin Awareness Day, of all things. Were you aware of Penguins?


PPS: What did I miss?? New Reader Poll on the Speculation & Commentary thread. Let me know what plotlines and arcs you really want to see concluded (there, not here!); linkiedinkie below:

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The True Sentinel of Liberty
Captain America (1999)
From the Superhero Wiki Netsite

Guest post by @Plateosaurus, Mr. Harris Syed and @Nathanoraptor with executive meddling from @Geekhis Khan


Not exactly this but has shades of it


Director: Ron Howard

Writer(s): William Broyles Jr.

Producer(s): Sam Raimi, Brian Grazer and Stan Lee

Composer: James Horner

Cinematographer: Dean Cundey

Running time: 170 minutes

Budget: $90 million

Box office: $430 million

Rating: T

Production Companies: Marvel Productions

Distributed by: Metro Goldwyn-Mayer

Release date: July 2nd, 1999

Captain America is a 1999 superhero film directed by Ron Howard, written by William Broyles Jr. and is based on the Marvel Comics character of the same name. Produced by Marvel Productions and distributed by the Walt Disney Company via Metro Goldwyn-Mayer, it is the ninth installment in the Marvel Movie Universe. The film stars Matthew McConaughey as Steve Rogers/Captain America alongside Denzel Washington, Jamie Foxx, Udo Kier, Rachel Weisz, Milla Jovovich, Samuel L. Jackson, Alan Arkin, Jon Hamm, Sam Elliott, Bruno Ganz, Jaleel White, and Liam Cunningham.


In Greenland, a SHIELD team have excavated a frozen, and decaying aircraft initially discovered by local Inuit. The head of the expedition, Henry Peter Gyrich (Samuel L. Jackson), confides to Natasha Romanoff (Milla Jovovich)[1], a fellow SHIELD agent, he thinks that they have found who they were looking for. On the way back to civilization, Romanoff reads from the memoirs of Margaret “Peggy” Carter, one of SHIELD’S founding members.


(Image source Quora)

Cut to Brooklyn in 1941 to Steve Rogers, a skinny kid who none the less stands up for those who need it. He’s a loved and respected member of the community, but the local “tough guys” don’t like the “goody two-shoes” kid. He soon gets severely beaten up by some Anti-Semitic street-toughs while trying to protect a Jewish girl, but notably refuses to give up despite having no real chance.

Suddenly Pearl Harbor happens, to the shock of all. Steve enlists in the Army, but is deemed too weak and scrawny and is about to be rejected. But one of the nurses turns out to be the girl he protected, so she stamps him approved, noting to her boss that his internal strength more than makes up for his physical size.

Meanwhile, a small village in Norway is raided by HYDRA, led by Johann Schmidt (Udo Kier) and his personal assistant Arnim Zola (Bruno Ganz), who are searching for “a great power” in an ancient Norse temple. Despite obtaining whatever’s in the temple, Schmidt callously orders the village destroyed anyway, “leaving no witnesses”.

Cutting back to the present, Cap is unthawed by SHIELD scientists and physicians, who seem amazed that he’s alive. Gyrich tells them “That’s why we need the Super Soldier serum”. Soon Cap is working with Lt. James Rhodes (Denzel Washington), learning about the changes to the world. When Rhodes notes that his mother’s maiden name was Barnes, Cap comments that he knew a Lieutenant Barnes, and asks if he’s a relative of Rhodey’s. When Rhodey confirms that Lieutenant Barnes was his maternal grandfather, he notes that, if not for Cap, he wouldn’t exist.

Cutting back to the past, Steve struggles through basic, but passes through sheer determination and is assigned to Camp Lehigh in Virginia. There, he meets the intelligent and skilled and outgoing, but overlooked due to his race, Lt. James Buchanan “Bucky” Barnes (Jamie Foxx), whom he bonds with over their both being underestimated “misfits”. Dr. Abraham Erskine (Alan Arkin) takes an interest in Rogers and offers him a chance to be a part of Project: Rebirth. Curious, Rogers accepts.

The night before the treatment, Erskine tells Rogers of Johann Schmidt and how (seen in flashback quick-cuts) Schmidt forced the first sample of the super-soldier serum from him and was twisted into a monster known as the Red Skull. Erskine tells Steve that he chose him because he was a good man, and that he should never stop being one.


(Image source The Direct)

Rogers is taken to the headquarters of the SHIELD division of the OSS and is introduced to its head, Howard Stark (Jon Hamm). Rogers is then injected with the super-soldier serum and subjected to “Vita-Rays”. After Rogers emerges from the experiment taller and more muscular, an undercover HYDRA assassin kills Erskine. However, the assassin is apprehended before he can escape with the serum. Under interrogation, the assassin chooses to commit suicide, rather than face Schmidt’s wrath for his failure.

Shortly after Erskine’s death, Cap is instructed to pick the members of his elite “Sentinels of Liberty” team—and surprises everyone by ignoring the square-jawed athletes, spit-and-polish poster-soldiers, and well-connected elites, and instead selecting a ragtag team of rejects and misfits, first of all (to the shock of many) Lt. Barnes to be his deputy. His Sentinels include vehicle expert James Montgomery Falsworth (Tommy Flanagan), radioman and codebreaker Gabriel “Gabe” Jones (Jaeel White), infiltrations expert Jim Morita (Hiro Kanagawa), demolitions expert Dum Dum Dugan (Liam Cummingham), and a mysterious Canadian named Logan (Liev Schriber). When recruited to speak on a Liberty Bonds tour, he is struck by the irony as he speaks about liberty and equality while Rhodes isn't even allowed in the building. He and the Sentinels later have to intervene to save Barnes from the KKK.

Cutting back to present day, the SHIELD base where Cap is staying is broken into by Juggernaut (Adam Baldwin)[2], sent by Magneto to steal military hardware. Cap intervenes, and whilst Cap puts up a good fight, Juggernaut manages to get the better of him, constantly throwing him across the room or battering him relentlessly…though Jug does seem shocked at Cap’s strength and determination “for such a little pipsqueak”. Getting up, battered and bleeding, Cap moves to pick up his shield… before it is suddenly dragged to the other side of the room and jammed in one of the walls. At this moment, Magneto (Christopher Lee) emerges from the shadows and calls Juggernaut off, revealing that Rogers rescued him from the concentration camp when he was as a child (and even consoled him over the death of his mother)[3]. The two have a brief, bittersweet discussion, before Magneto and Juggernaut leave, with Magneto warning Rogers that “people” are interested in him and to “trust no-one”.


Concept Art (Image source Comic Art Fans)

The next morning, Senator Kelly approaches a still-battered Cap, seeking his help in a public relations campaign, speaking to American pride and greatness. In reality, Kelly wants to use Cap as the face of his anti-mutant crusade, planning to spin Cap's scientific empowerment as a controllable form of the more random mutation. Kelly privately notes how once they rediscover the inner workings of the serum (both how to copy it and how to reverse it), they can “rewrite the destiny of our American race”. At a Sentinels rally, Cap is horrified, having flashbacks to the KKK and the Nazis, and turns his back on Kelly, who questions his patriotism.

Cutting back to the past, Cap and his team are in Nazi Europe, sneaking past a Nazi rally, on a mission to infiltrate and destroy a secret Nazi research lab. Inside, they encounter Schmidt and his forces, who are reverse-engineering the energy source they found in the temple. Scientist Baron Zemo (Birol Ünel) calls it the “Odinforce”, noting that Earth was irradiated with it thousands of years ago[4]. He says that it will grant HYDRA power “to rewrite the destiny of our race”. Schmidt scoffs at the notion that the Aryan or even human race has any destiny, citing the coming of an unspecified enemy.

Cap and the team intervene, with Rogers engaging Schmidt in hand-to-hand combat, and manage to defeat the HYDRA forces. Injured, Schmidt calls a retreat. Whilst the Sentinels manage to capture Zemo, Barnes is killed, taking a blast meant for Rogers, dying in Rogers arms. It transitions to Cap personally delivering the message to Barnes’ widow, who is holding a newborn baby girl.

In the present day, Cap, remembering Magneto’s warning, and distrusting Kelly, does some research and finds that Baron Zemo's son, Helmut Zemo, is a principal fundraiser and advisor to Kelly. Disillusioned, Cap tosses out the suit and goes into hiding, but Rhodey tracks him down, reminding him that they took the same oath… to a belief, not to a person. Cap, reminded of his greater duty, then suits up, takes up the shield again, and pledges to fight for the rights of all. Rhodey says he knows a professor who Rogers might want to talk to.

In the past, Rogers, grieving the loss of Barnes, is called upon to make another raid. Zemo has revealed the existence of a Nazi/Hydra doomsday weapon in Greenland “in the ruins of ancient Thule” that will call upon the Odinforce use it to “scour HYDRA’s flag upon this world”. Cap and the remaining Sentinels of Liberty conduct a raid, where they are attacked by an Odinforce-empowered Schmidt, who exposits to Cap how the Odinforce will enable him to “remake our world” in his own image. During the discussion, Schmidt implies he is preparing for the coming of a greater power, one who will “reward all his faithful”.[5]


(Image source That Hashtag Show)

A V3 rocket armed with a warhead powered by the Odinforce intended to initiate this apocalyptic reshaping of the world is launched; however, Cap manages to leap onto the rocket before it clears the building and manages to smash it with his shield until it explodes, fragments from it seemingly killing Schmidt. We see Cap falling, in slow motion, towards the ice below. Howard Stark notes that the whole of Earth was radiated with a "weak dose" of the mysterious radiation, and that “some people may be affected in ways that we can't yet predict. Them, or their children.”[6]

Cutting back to the present, Cap walks up on stage in front of a rally of Anti-Mutant Sentinels, and gives a speech about American values of freedom and those who would tear all of that down through fear and greed. He excoriates the Sentinels, Kelly, and the rest for their betrayal of these core American values, and declares that he will stand for mutant rights. The film ends with Cap walking off into the sunset, the Washington Monument silhouetted in front of him, as it fades to credits.



  • Matthew McConaughey as Steve Rogers/Captain America
  • Udo Kier as Johann Schmidt/Red Skull
  • Denzel Washington as James Rhodes
  • Jamie Foxx as James Buchanan “Bucky” Barnes
  • Rachel Weisz as Margaret “Peggy” Carter
  • Milla Jovovich as Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow
  • Samuel L. Jackson as Henry Peter Gyrich
  • Alan Arkin as Dr. Abraham Erskine
  • Jon Hamm as Howard Stark
  • Sam Elliott as Chester Philips
  • Bruno Ganz as Arnim Zola
  • Tommy Flanagan as James Montgomery Falsworth
  • Jaleel White as Gabriel “Gabe” Jones
  • Hiro Kanagawa as Jim Morita
  • Liam Cunningham as Timothy “Dum Dum” Dugan
  • Liev Schreiber as Logan/Wolverine
  • Dieter Laser as Heinz Kruger
  • Stan Lee as an American Army Officer
  • Christopher Lee as Erik Lehnsherr/Magneto
  • Adam Baldwin as Cain Marko/Juggernaut
  • John Slattery as Senator Robert Kelly
  • Birol Ünel as Dr. Zemo

In 1994, screenwriter Joss Whedon commented that the then-upcoming Incredible Hulk film would be in the same continuity as Spider-Man, along with upcoming films for the X-Men, Fantastic Four and Thor. Shortly after the release of X-Men, Captain America was added to the list of Marvel characters MGM was looking at adapting.

In 1996, Sam Raimi, who had recently been kicked out of the DC movie franchise and seen his plans for Justice League abandoned, signed on to Marvel/Disney MGM not only to write and direct The Mighty Thor, but also play a creative role in the overall trajectory of the Marvel films, pitching an arc built around five Avengers movies, with Galactus as overarching main antagonist, appropriating many of the ideas that he had had for DC, before he was pushed out.

For director, Raimi contacted Man of Steel director Ron Howard. Howard, who had become disillusioned with DC after both dropping out of Superman: The Long Arm of Lex Luthor and his friend Rami’s dismissal from the franchise, eagerly signed up, turning down an invitation by his friend Steven Spielberg to direct Rogue Planet in order to do so. William Broyles Jr, a Vietnam veteran and former Marine, was hired as screenwriter, writing the film around a dual narrative split between Cap’s origin in the past and his struggling to adapt to the present, with some minimal uncredited script-doctoring by Raimi and Whedon for dialog and continuity with other films. Raimi remained in contact with Howard, Michael Mann (who was directing the next year’s Iron Man) and the directors of the other Marvel films between ‘98 and ‘01 to ensure continuity between the films.

Due to the then-current rise in domestic terrorism and toxic nationalism, Howard, Raimi and Broyles Jr wrote the film around the theme of “how an idealized image of the past is exploited by those with agendas”. Broyles elaborated, “Sam was very interested in the idea of the man out of time looking at our world through the eyes of someone who grew up in the era of the Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow that idealized out “future” present now seeing people look nostalgically back on the not-so-perfect times he was from, and how while things may superficially change, they really never change at all.’”

To provide continuity, Senator Kelly is the antagonist of the present-day narrative, Wolverine appears as a Sentinel of Liberty, and Magneto and Juggernaut appear in minor roles, with it being revealed that Cap and Magneto had met before, when the latter was a child (foreshadowed in a line from the previous year’s X2). The latter was a suggestion by Raimi, who said “I thought it was such a great idea connecting these two characters. Aside from tying Cap into the mutant rights issue, it also created a bittersweet irony of Cap seeing what the little boy he saved all those years ago chose to make of his life.”


The next step was to cast the titular role. River Phoenix, Howard’s first choice, turned it down to avoid being tied down with a franchise, on the advice of friend Johnny Depp (who had himself turned down multiple Marvel roles), whilst Matt Damon turned the role down due to his commitment to The Day After D-Day. Eventually, Marvel and Howard cast Matthew McConaughey, a fan of the comics, who wanted to play another “noble badass”, like The Lone Ranger. He worked heavily with voice coaches to try and perfect a period Brooklyn accent, which he mostly succeeded in, though to the amusement of future audiences who came to associate him with his native Texas accent.

For Red Skull, Captain America’s archnemesis, both Howard and MGM were keen to cast an actual German actor, with Howard saying “We didn’t want some American or Brit doing a bad Colonel Klink impression, we wanted someone authentically German”. Eventually, Udo Kier (who previously voiced the character in The Avengers cartoon), was cast, as Howard recalls “Udo walked in and just hammed it up like the world was ending. We were looking for a theatrical, scenery-chewing Skull and Udo does scenery-chewing incredibly well. I didn’t find out until later he’d played Skull before, which helped enormously because he already knew the ins and outs [of the character].” Kier said, “Of all the roles I’ve played, Red Skull is my favourite. I would play him a thousand times if given the opportunity.”

For James Buchanan “Bucky” Barnes (aged up to be Steve’s contemporary and friend), “chemistry tests” were done with McConaughey to make sure that the actors would have the right chemistry, with Jamie Foxx ultimately getting the part.

On the decision to make Barnes, who was white in the comics, black, Raimi said, “We needed to convey the idea that Cap will always stand up for those who are oppressed and marginalized, and his closest friend being a black man in 1940s America, particularly in the segregated South, fit the bill. It also helped press the point that hatred and bigotry weren’t just things the Nazis did, and that, often, it’s not as simple as ‘get rid of these guys and everything’s fine’. We all have to confront our prejudices”.

A similar test was done with Kier when casting the role of Arnim Zola, and Bruno Ganz eventually got the part. Ganz commented, “Udo and I quickly developed our own comedic patter. We based a lot of it on Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas, with Skull as Raoul and Zola as Dr. Gonzo. Obviously, the film was not a stoner comedy, but it gave our scenes a theatricality and subtle comedy which prevented the film from being too scary for younger audiences.”

For the supporting cast, Alan Arkin would be brought in to play Dr. Abraham Erskine, complete with a German Yiddish accent, whilst up-and-coming actor Jon Hamm[7] was cast as the younger Howard Stark (previously played by Tom Selleck in 1997’s The Fantastic Four), due to his slight resemblance to a young Selleck and his “arrogant, but charming” performance. Sam Elliott was cast as Project Rebirth head General Chester Phillips, while the Sentinels of Liberty would be played by Tommy Flanagan, Jaleel White, Hiro Kanagawa and Liam Cunningham respectively.

For the film’s framing device, Samuel L. Jackson reprised his role as Henry Peter Gyrich, and Milla Jovovich was cast as Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow, who would become a comparatively minor, but important character. In addition, Liev Schreiber as Wolverine appeared in a minor role with the Sentinels of Liberty and Christopher Lee and Adam Baldwin appearing in minor roles as Magneto and Juggernaut in the present.


The present-day sequences were mostly shot in Washington DC, with the SHIELD base, in which Cap encounters Magneto and Juggernaut, being a soundstage at Disney MGM-Studios East.

For the past sequences, the New York sequences were mostly shot at the New York set of Disney-MGM Studios East, which was previously used for the Spider-Man films, with period-appropriate props added. For scenes set in Castle Muller, Howard had to gain permission from the German government to shoot at Hohenzollern Castle. The Greenland battle was mostly shot in Iceland, with a soundstage used for the HYDRA base. The rest of the film’s scenes would be shot in Los Angeles, London and Liverpool respectively. Overall, filming for Captain America would last from April to September 1998 spread out across three countries with reshoots and post-production done at the MGM film facilities.

Reception and Legacy

With strong marketing and star power from across the Atlantic, Captain America had a good opening, grossing $430 million worldwide on a $90 million budget. Outside of the US, the film performed particularly well in Germany due to the casting of well-known German actors (such as Udo Kier and Bruno Ganz), as well as extensive shooting in the country.

The film received positive reviews from critics and audiences for McConaughey’s performance as the titular character (even his occasionally over-the-top accent was generally considered “charming”, though some found it “too much”), Kier’s “gloriously hammy” performance as Red Skull, the special effects and its depiction of the 1940s setting and the deeper, timely themes explored in the story.

In the wake of the film’s commercial and critical success, a sequel, Captain America 2: Sins of the Past, was released in 2001 and chronicled Hydra’s resurfacing in the present day and Cap confronting his own past (as well as SHIELD’s own morally dubious actions). Hydra and Red Skull would appear as semi-recurring antagonists, aiding Galactus in his grand plans.

The film’s success also impacted the comics, with the “race lifting” of Bucky Barnes (and his connection to James Rhodes, or, sometimes, Sam Wilson) becoming commonplace in Marvel media.

Over time, Captain America has become a fondly-remembered film among Marvel fans since its release and McConaughey’s Captain America has become important in establishing an iconic take on the character, with many comparing him to the late Robert Downey Jr’s take on Superman, giving a new comedic energy a character who was noted for being a bit vanilla.


Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow
: I didn’t believe it when they told me… is he really in there?

Henry Peter Gyrich: Finding him has been on SHIELD’s radar since the beginning. We’ve combed the Arctic for years. This time, we hit paydirt.

SHIELD Agent #1: Sir, we found him.

Henry Peter Gyrch: Lead on, Agent.

Gyrich, Romanoff and the team walk into the site of the now crashed V3 Rocket. They look around for a while before they find Captain America, frozen in the ice

Henry Peter Gyrich: There he is, the Sentinel of Liberty. (snorts) So he is real.

Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow: Captain America – in the flesh.

Henry Peter Gyrich: Albeit with a touch of freezer-burn. The diaries were right; carve him out and get him on the plane. We’ll thaw him out at SHIELD HQ… we have much to discuss.

Scene fades and a new one is shown this time set in World War II.

James Rhodes: Runs in the family, My grandfather was a Lieutenant in World War 2. I’m named in his honor.

Steve Rogers/Captain America: Your grandpa on your mom’s side or your dad’s? ‘Cuz you remind me of a guy I used to know…

James Rhodes: On my mom’s side – he died when my mom was a baby, so I never knew him.

Steve Rogers/Captain America: Your mom’s maiden name wasn’t Barnes, by any chance?

James Rhodes: How did you…

Steve Rogers/Captain America: Lucky guess. By the way, your grandpa was the greatest man I ever knew. And I am sure as anything he’d be proud of ya.

Abraham Erskine: Do you know why you were chosen?

Steve Rogers: I make for a good “before and after” picture? (Laughs)

Abraham Erskine: No. I chose you because you had something that Schmidt, or any of the others Phillips wanted, lacked: soul.

Steve Rogers: What do ya mean?

Abraham Erskine: The serum amplifies what’s within, good or bad. It can turn a man into a hero… or a monster. All that matters is what’s in a man’s soul. You can’t hide that. Promise me, Rogers; promise me you will always be true to what you are…

Steve Rogers: Doc, let me stop ya there… I ain’t pure of heart. I ain’t… what ya believe I am.

Erksine puts his hand on Rogers’ shoulder and stares intently into his eyes.

Abraham Erskine: Yes. Yes, you are.

General Chester Philips: Begin procedure.

Howard Stark activates the Vita-Ray Chamber to inject the Super-Soldier Serum into the scrawny Steve Rogers

Steve Rogers/Captain America: Hooolllly—Gaaahhhh!

Peggy Carter: Abort the procedure! Abort the procedure!

Howard briefly moves to stop the treatment.

Steve Rogers/Captain America: (grunting) Belay that, Howard, if ya please. I can grin an’ bear it.

General Chester Philips: Continue the procedure.

The procedure continues until Steve emerges from the Vita-Ray Chamber as a muscular, well-toned man.

Steve Rogers/Captain America: So, everyone… how’d I do?

Peggy Carter: (mouth agape) You did it, Steve. Holy moly, you really did it.

Howard Stark: Passed with flying colors, kid. Now all we need to do is work out how to replicate it…

The Hydra assassin whips out a gun, shoots Abraham Erskine and runs off with the last vial of the Super-Soldier Serum.

OSS Official #2: What was that?

Steve Rogers/Captain America: He’s got the serum! You guys help Erskine… I’ll get that son of a bitch!

Cap has been fighting Juggernaut, who’s broken into the SHIELD base—and has had the crap beaten out of him.

Steve Rogers/Captain America: (battered and bleeding) That all you got?

Cain Marko/Juggernaut: (chuckles) Depends on whether you’ve had enough.

Steve Rogers/Captain America: Not even close.

Cain Marko/Juggernaut: (rolls his eyes) Alright, let’s get this over with. Least I won’t be the one cleaning you off the floor in the morning.

Cap moves towards his shield… only to suddenly have it sent flying to the other side of the room.

Erik Lehnsherr/Magneto: (eyes widening upon who he’s looking at) Marko… stand down.

Cain Marko/Juggernaut: Boss, you can’t be serious…

Erik Lehnsherr/Magneto: I said, stand down. That is an order.

Juggernaut reluctantly backs off, cursing as he does so.

Erik Lensherr/Magneto: That’s better. (turning to Rogers) It’s good to see you again, Captain.

Steve Rogers/Captain America: (awkwardly) Don’t think I’ve had the pleasure.

Erik Lehnsherr/Magneto: I’m not surprised you don’t remember. You’ve saved so many. However, perhaps you can remember a boy of barely eight, whom Hydra scientists had sought to use as a lab rat due to… certain gifts of his, which were rare at the time. (His voice breaks, slightly) A boy who had seen his mother murdered before his very eyes, a loss for which you consoled him…

Steve Rogers/Captain America: (in shocked recognition) Erik? Is that you?

Erik Lehnsherr/Magneto: Yes. All these years, I never forgot… the second chance of life you gave me that day…

Steve Rogers/Captain America: Yeah. And look what ya made of it.

Erik Lehnsherr/Magneto: I know you would never approve, but we must all fight for that in which we believe. I hope that you shall begrudge me that. (He pauses) A word of warning: your return did not go unnoticed. People are interested in you… for their own reasons. Be careful in whom you trust.

Steve Rogers/Captain America: Why are ya tellin’ me this? And, by that logic, how do I know I can trust you?

Erik Lehnsherr/Magneto: Because this is the season for the repaying of debts, Captain. Consider us even.

He leaves, leaving Rogers with Marko.

Juggernaut/Cain Marko: (awkwardly) Er… nice meetin’ ya.

He follows Magneto.

Juggernaut/Cain Marko: Er, boss… who was that star-spangled pansy? You said you knew him.

Erik Lehnsherr/Magneto: (quietly) The true Sentinel of Liberty.

Juggernaut/Cain Marko: Er… right. (mutters) Looked more like some loser in a flag costume to me…

Senator Kelly: Mutation is random. You can’t pick who does or doesn’t end up with the “gift”. For every Charles Xavier, there’s an Erik Lehnsherr or Victor Creed. But the serum… they found a man who embodied truth, justice and the American way and gave him the powers he deserved. We can spin that. And if we find out how to reproduce it – and reverse it – we can rewrite the destiny of our American race.

Dr. Heinrich Zemo: (subtitled from the original German) Our best guess is that Earth was irradiated with this on the order of thousands of years ago; it’s faded to ambient levels since… Once we replenish it, take control of it, and scour the planet of the undesirables, we can rewrite the destiny of the Aryan race.

Johann Schmidt/Red Skull: (subtitled from the original German) Oh, Herr Dr. Zemo, how naive you are… what makes you think Hydra serves the Aryan race, or even the human one? There is a greater power out there, to which even the oldest gods are subservient… that power moves through Hydra—to prepare the Earth for His coming.

Johann Schmidt/Red Skull: Oh, Captain… Do you think that the squabbling of primates holds any relevance to me? A greater power is coming, from beyond the stars… and he will reward all those who were faithful to him….

Steve Rogers/Captain America: Yeah, yeah, stop with the Lovecraft crap. I never liked that bigot anyway.

Johann Schmidt/Red Skull: Oh, such flippancy, Captain… I will spread the power of the Odinforce to Earth, and I will remake this world in my own image… for when my master arrives.

Steve Rogers/Captain America: Yeah… not gonna happen. What’s gonna happen is: I’m gonna find a way to stop that missile from launching and then I’m gonna wipe the floor with ya strawberry colored ass. ‘Cause ya killed my best friend…

Johann Schmidt/Red Skull: Did I? Oh, there have been so many… you’ll have to be more specific.

Timothy “Dum Dum” Dugan: So… they irradiated Earth with this stuff?

Howard Stark: To be accurate, they replenished it, though clearly not to the degree that Skully had hoped. It already existed in ambient levels, but the explosion increased concentrations massively. That increase in such a short time is gonna affect people, and in ways we can’t yet understand. Them or their children…

Steve Rogers/Captain America: People ask me all the time, “what surprised ya about the future?” Well, the Internet was a bit of a shock. But that’s what I’ve found: over the years a lot of things change. (He looks at Kelly, a look of disgust on his face) But certain things don’t. There’s always people who think that there’s an “us” and a “them”, that certain people don’t fit in and that it’s “our” responsibility to keep “them” down. Or to get rid of ‘em, if needed. And trust me, the face and the name changes, but the stench never does. All my life, I’ve stood for the people who don’t fit in, and you bet your ass I’ll stand for ‘em today. That’s what I stand for: if you do, help me. If not, oppose me. Thank you.

Trivia and Notes

Captain America’s strong Brooklyn accent and most of his quips were McConaughey’s idea, with him improvising much of his own dialogue and going to a dialect coach to perfect his accent. The accent itself became a sort of “love it or hate it” aspect. Fans in general have come to refer to this incarnation as “Captain Brooklyn”.

Shortly before shooting, Udo Kier and Bruno Ganz requested to Howard that they perform the scenes between Red Skull and Arnim Zola at Castle Mueller in their native German. Howard acquiesced and rewrote many of the scenes to be in German, latter commenting that it added “a strange touch of cultural authenticity”.

The use of Nazi imagery in the film, though in no way glorifying (quite the contrary), caused some difficulties when screened in Germany due to existing legal bans under the Strafgesetzbuch section 86a. However, since the film’s clear anti-hate, anti-Fascist themes met the criteria of serving “to further civil enlightenment, to avert unconstitutional aims, to promote art or science, research or teaching, reporting about current historical events or similar purposes,” under the law, it was fully legal. Indeed, the film remains popular with German Anti-Fascist organizations for its anti-hate themes and gets frequent showings at Disneytown Berlin, though the popularity of the hammy Red Skull with children did cause some “excited discourse” on the subject.

As per Marvel tradition, Marvel Entertainment Chairman and Producer Stan Lee made a cameo appearance as an American army officer wearing the patch of the Signal Corps. Lee had served in World War II under the Signal Corps.

In 2013, a series of netwits emerged in which McConaughey’s Captain America exaggerated his Brooklyn roots, saying his lines in a phonetic manner, including the line “Alright, alright, alrighty!”, a quote first used in the 1994 film The Ref. He was shown in many such viral images and flash animation sequences wielding a baseball bat and feuding with the Hydra-controlled state of New Jersey, led by Red Skull parody Skull-Fuq. Others saw him feuding with the city of Los Angeles, which is a nod to the inter-state rivalry between the two cities over the Dodgers’ move to Los Angeles.

Ron Howard and Marvel had to build scale replicas of American and German WW2 era military tanks and recreate period-accurate weapons as well as scrapped Wunderwaffe utilized by HYDRA in the film.

In one scene, Gabe Jones says that he was a Cadet at West Point, a reference to his roles in Cadets and Red Tails.

An Easter Egg to The Lone Ranger is made by some American soldiers, who derisively call Captain America “The Masked Man”.

McConaughey famously went on a starvation diet to get the ‘before’ look for Steve Rogers, and dress in clothes slightly too big for his thin frame. He also bulked up to get the ‘after’ look, dyed his brown hair blonde to match the character’s physical appearance from the comics and read specific issues of Captain America for research. He also watched old newsreels with the rest of the cast to get an impression of what Captain America would have been like during World War II.

A copy of Captain America Comics #1 can be found in the film being read by a kid.

For most of the new characters, Howard sought to find actors that matched or came close to the ethnic backgrounds of their characters such as German actors Udo Kier and Bruno Ganz as the German Red Skull and the Swiss Arnim Zola respectively, or the Japanese-American Jim Morita being portrayed by the ethnically Japanese (albeit Canadian) Hiro Kanagawa. Additionally, the Jewish Alan Arkin would portray the German-Jewish doctor Abraham Erskine and Margaret “Peggy” Carter was changed from American to British-American at the request of her actress Rachel Weisz and spoke with Weisz's natural English accent.

As a tie-in to Captain America, Smithsonian TV, co-owned by Disney, aired several documentaries related to the film, such as The King of the Lower East Side: The Story of Jack Kirby, chronicling the life of Jack Kirby, the co-creator of Captain America and From Panels to Propaganda, about superhero comics and theatre as propaganda during wartime which included a segment about the creation of the character by Kirby and Simon in response to Nazi Germany invading much of Europe.

The world premiere of Captain America was held in the character’s birthplace of Brooklyn with red, white, and blue decorations and posters across the borough courtesy of the city government and Marvel’s parent company Disney.

Jurgen Prochnow and Klaus Maria Brandauer auditioned for the role of Red Skull before Udo Kier was cast. Recalling it, Brandauer commented, “My performance was too cold-blooded. Ron was looking for a scenery-chewer. I’m not bitter about it. Udo does it far better than I ever could!”

Former child actor and Brooklyn native Ricky Schroder mentioned in an interview that he auditioned for Captain America but admitted that his audition “wasn’t really that good”.

Theodore Bikel had discussions with Marvel for the role of Dr. Abraham Erskine before Alan Arkin was eventually cast.

There are some points in the film that feature wartime cartoons about a fictionalized version of Steve Rogers created by the government which are designed in the style of the adult animated instructional shorts featuring Private Snafu, Disney’s Der Fuehrer's Face and other wartime comics. They were animated in-house by Disney, and the full versions of the cartoons were included on the VCD release of the film with the voices of Lawrence Bayne as Steve Rogers, Mary Kay Bergman as Peggy Carter (modeled after her comics counterpart) and Frank Welker as Adolf Hitler.

[1] There he is again! Agent Gyrich. But, seriously though, since he’s pretty high up in the chain of command, he’d probably be overseeing this pretty important matter. This is going to be Jovovich's big break, and whilst Widow isn’t as prominent as she was in the MCU, it’s still a pretty pivotal role.

[2] Per the comics (as opposed to our timeline’s X-Men films, where he became a Brit), Jug is American. The film implies that, in a dark reflection of Cap, he is from Brooklyn. It is hinted that he is related to one of the street-toughs beating up Steve in the beginning.

[3] In-universe tidbit here: the scene that would have shown this encounter was cut for space reasons. And now you know why Magneto was so pissed off when he heard the Sentinels’ name: the man who saved him from vivisection (and consoled him over the death of his mother) would be horrified at what the Sentinels were being made for.

[4] Yeah, the Zemos have the same actor, the idea behind that is to show the unchanging face of hatred (and draw parallels between the persecution of mutants in the present-day narrative and the KKK and Nazis in the past). The “Odinforce” and the “Vita-Rays” are different names for the same central Force (to be revealed later); basically, the Allies and HYDRA discovered the same thing and gave it two different names. And Howard Stark talking about how to replicate the effects it had on Rogers...all we’re gonna say is that doesn't end well.

[5] And who could this “greater power” be? Hmmm...

[6] Remember the mention of mutant births rising above the “pre-1945 baseline” in the X2 post?

[7] Playing Howard Stark (previously played by Tom Selleck), gives Hamm his breakout far earlier than in our timeline.
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I actually intended that Cap initially tries to escape the facility after he wakes up and realises what has happened.

First comes the staff monitoring him (after being distracted by something) realise Cap is missing, and we see someone in body-obscuring scrubs walking by - who has the exact frqme as Steve. People notice and chase after him, but Gynch and Fury manage to convince him to stand down.

This was before rewrites of the first draft, if it weren't clear.
So Cap sounds like Bugs Bunny? Instead of facepalming and shaking my head, l would be screaming with laughter and slapping my knee. This sounds like the most comedic mistcasting concept since Jean-Claude van Damme, John Candy, or John Belushi as Wolverine, Eddie Murphy as Black Lightning, or Chris Rock as Icon!
This sounds great. I love the idea of having a forties story and a present day one, as well as tying the backstory into the X-Men mythos. And I'm amused that Peggy still ends up English.

Just one thing though...

the intelligent and skilled and outgoing, but overlooked due to his race, Lt. James Buchanan “Bucky” Barnes (Jamie Foxx)

IOTL, during the period where John Walker was Captain America, Lemar Hoskins took up the Bucky identity for about six issues before Dwayne McDuffie and tons of letters told Mark Gruenwald that calling a black man "Bucky" was Not Great, so he got renamed Battlestar.

I think the easy fix here is to say that Jamie Foxx's character is only ever called Bucky by his racist superiors; Cap always makes a point of calling him James.
IOTL, during the period where John Walker was Captain America, Lemar Hoskins took up the Bucky identity for about six issues before Dwayne McDuffie and tons of letters told Mark Gruenwald that calling a black man "Bucky" was Not Great, so he got renamed Battlestar.

I think the easy fix here is to say that Jamie Foxx's character is only ever called Bucky by his racist superiors; Cap always makes a point of calling him James.

Or have it be explicitly stated that people call him "Bucky" because of his middle name is "Buchanan" (have him make a point of that) - that basically gives the audience an in-story reasoning for the nickname. It's not an easy fix, but it's certainly an interesting one.

(Having said that, the idea you mentioned is pretty good).
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Ironically this ties Tony Stark to Steve Rogers more, Howard Stark was involved in creating Captain America and now Tony's best (and only if we're being honest) friend is the grandson of Bucky.
More Four
Fantastic Four: Rise and Fall (1999), a Retrospective
From Swords and Spaceships Magazine, May 2015

Marvel’s growing 1990s/2000s “Movie Universe”, or Earth #307135, made a major transition from a series of linked but stand-alone films into an overlapping “MMU” in 1999 with The Mighty Thor, Captain America, and today’s Retrospective, Fantastic Four: Rise and Fall. Written and directed by Joss Whedon, produced by Rob Tapert and Margie Loesch, and executive produced by Sam Raimi and Stan Lee, the film not only brought back the popular Four and Ralph Fiennes as the complex and villainous Dr. Victor von Doom, but answered the question on every fan’s mind since the premier of Black Panther the year before: why did Reed look like he had hardly aged a day in 1998, over three decades from his last appearance? And how did he know T’Chaka?


(Image source A.R.C.H.I.V.E. at Pinterest)

Fantastic Four: Rise and Fall, or FF:RF as the fans call it, was the second of four Fan4 films in the MMU. Whedon, building off of his earlier work in basing the Four around the Four Temperaments, decided to take things a step further, building the film into a four-act structure, each roughly 30 minutes with each act tied loosely to a single temperament and by extension a single member of the Four. The story would begin in the 1960s and then be thrown into the present day, and make commentary on the interplay between the concerns of both eras.

“I wanted to play the Four against what was happening in the US in the mid ‘60s,” Whedon told Comics Craze Magazine upon the film’s release. “You had the Cold War and post-colonialism and the US having to make pragmatic geopolitical decisions that we all today are still having to deal with the consequences of. And I wanted to see how the Four would deal with this and use them as stand-ins for America, kind of like how Ron [Howard] was doing with Cap[tain America].”

And indeed, Fantastic Four: Rise and Fall [1], released for Labor Day weekend in 1999 following Captain America, released on July 4th Weekend, also divided the narrative between the past and present, and used the interplay to comment upon both. However, while Captain America layered the story in overlapping flashbacks that made immediate comment upon the events of the present-day narrative, FF:RF split the narrative down the middle with a literal time skip in the middle. It also employed, per Whedon, a chiastic or ring structure.

“Yeah, Star Wars Episode One had been in production while I was writing this, and I got a peek at how they were trying – and failing, frankly – to do a proper chiastic structure,” Whedon told Comics Craze. “They ran Episode One as a repeat of Episode Six, but they should have run it as Six in reverse. I decided to do things the right way.”

This translated into a structure where Act III would mirror the story beats of Act II in reverse while Act IV would likewise mirror Act I in reverse, seeing the Four essentially revisit their past actions in the present day (at the time), and their different decisions would reflect their growth arcs.

Things began, obviously, with Act I, where the Four are pulled into the ugly world of African Cold War power-jockeying. Act I would be built around Sanguinity as represented by the adventurous and likeable Johnny Storm. Themes of adventure, glory, recklessness, and arrogance would play out, as would the concept of the regrets of pursuing short-term gain at the expense of long-held values. Things began in media res with the Four intervening to stop a bank heist in downtown New York, an exciting and quippy beginning that reintroduced audiences to the Four and their strengths and powers and issues, as well as reintroducing audiences to the 1960s setting. As the Four capture the criminals and save the day, they are beset by the press where “Human Torch” Johnny Storm (Keanu Reeves) in particular is eating it up.

The NYPD commissioner then approaches them to help break up an “impending riot” in Harlem, and the Four join the NYPD and travel to where the riot is looming, only it’s not a riot, but a peaceful civil rights protest. Johnny, immediately taking the NYPD’s side of the story and anxious for some more adventure, is keen to engage, and lands, flaming, in front of the protestors, but Ben “Thing” Grimm (Tommy Lister) adamantly refuses to intervene, and instead joins the protestors and moves to block his friend and symbolic brother! Sue “The Invisible Woman” Storm (Michelle Pfeiffer) stands between them and erects a force field. With the argument heating up, Reed “Mr. Fantastic” Richards (Pierce Brosnan) tells the commissioner that the Four are “not in the business of settling civil disagreements” and calls on the Four to leave the street and return to the Baxter Building.

This was, of course, where Stan Lee had his obligatory cameo (alongside Black Panther director Ernest Dickerson), as one of the protestors standing up to Johnny. “Equal rights for all, you glorified Ronson lighter!” and later to Ben, “Yeah, you tell him Bruder!”

Grumbling and fighting among themselves, the Four return to the Baxter Building where Howard Stark (Tom Selleck) is waiting for them, with a new job in Africa.

The FOUR are walking through the lobby of the Baxter Building, arguing about the event at the protest.

Ben: What is wrong with you, Johnny? You’d side with the cops against a peaceful protest?!? Did we fight the Fascists in Europe for nothing?!?

Johnny: Those hoodlums were on the verge of burning the city to the ground. I could see it in their eyes!

Ben: Oh, so in addition to being a flying fireball you’re a psychic now too!

Sue: Guys! Settle down!

Johnny: (points at Ben) They were yelling in anger! They had sticks!

Ben: (yelling) They had signs, doofus! They was protesting!! It’s what you do! Carry signs and yell! They have every right to be angry with how they’re treated in this city, hell, in this whole country!!

Reed: Gentlemen, dial things back a few clicks. We have company

HOWARD STARK approaches, carrying a folder.

Howard: Mr. Richards, Miss Storm, always good to see you.

Reed: I assume that SHIELD has a job for us, or why else would you be here, Mr. Stark?

Howard: Straight to the point as always, Mr. Richards! I like that about you. Have you ever heard of an African colony called Kazaland?

The film then takes us to Latveria, past adoring crowds and idealized Authoritarian Realist style posters of Victor von Doom (Fiennes) and up the side of a castle wall to a dais where Doom, unmasked, is giving the adoring crowd a “state of the Kingdom” address, with positive tales of Latveria’s strength and worldwide influence. Zooming closer on his ruggedly handsome features, we see that he is heavily made-up. With the speech ending, he leaves the dais and a makeup artist approaches with a brush only to shrink back in abject terror when Doom glares at her. He ignores the fawning of various ministers and servants and retreats to a room, where, in front of a mirror, he wipes away the makeup with a towel to reveal a face covered with small scars that most would say add distinction. Instead, he says “hideous” and covers his face with the iron mask.

Back in the hallways of his palace, a minister alerts him to a troubling development: a band of “murderous terrorists” known as the White Gorilla Army, supported by the neighboring nation of Naganda[2] (a US ally), have begun assaulting the Latverian colony of Kazaland in East Africa. They are backed by US intelligence, and the minister suspects that the plan is to slaughter the Latverian settlers and create a new nation or simply annex it into Naganda. Doom swears that “this shall not be” and pledges to “protect my people at all costs”, personally intervening in the conflict.

Back at the Baxter Building, Stark lets them know that SHIELD wants the Four to intervene in Africa, where the Latverian colony of Kazaland is about to be “liberated” by a group of “Freedom Fighters” called the White Gorilla Army. Sue expresses concerns about this mission and “getting involved in local conflicts” while Ben expresses a desire to help “liberate” his distant African cousins, but Johnny in particular, excited for another exotic adventure in a distant land, pushes Reed to accept this mission.

Reed, however, is given some paperwork by Stark, who tells him that SHIELD has additional information on the power that transformed the Four, and will share it with Reed if he agrees to the mission (“much more where this came from, Dr. Richards”). He accepts, willing to set aside his misgivings for the chance at knowledge, and setting up the events of Act II.


Forrest Whitaker as M’Baru (Image source IMDB)

The Four travel by their sleek silver jet to Naganda and meet WGA leader General M’Bara, played by Forest Whitaker, who gives the role a similar psychotic amicability as Michael Clarke Duncan’s M’Baku in Black Panther, suggesting that the fruit didn’t fall far from the tree. M’Bara presents himself as an amicable person with a good sense of humor, but seems almost violently offended when Johnny asks for a steak, noting (like M’Bara in the earlier film) that the WGA are vegetarian. Reed is impressed when shown the WGA’s “secret weapon”, two massive albino gorillas three times the size of normal [3] named Upendo (love) and Chuki (hate). “They are special presents from your government. The results of Dr. Zemo’s research. I hear rumors that he is trying to duplicate the Supersoldier Serum, which your government denies, of course!” M’Bara’s young son M’Baku plays with the two giant apes, adoringly.

The Four at first join the WGA in their assault on Kazaland, helping to counteract the well-equipped Latverian Army (in particular a corps of robot soldiers), but soon find themselves engaged with Doom, who has arrived to defend his colony. Enraged to see the hated Reed, he effectively abandons his own soldiers in order to battle the Four. The melee is brutal with lots of collateral damage, but eventually the Four manage to subdue Doom, and seem to emerge victorious. But Sue then notices that the WGA, aided by Upendo and Chuki, has gained the upper hand, and have routed the Latverians and, rather than simply declare victory, they proceed to attack the civilians, Latverian colonists and colonized African alike! Doom, awash in emotion, cries out for “my people!!!” Sue convinces the Four to leave Doom to protect the civilians, to the surprise of Doom. But it is largely too late, the civilians are scattered and many killed.


(Image source Marvel Wiki)

Sue manages to shield two young Latverian children while Doom specifically intervenes to kill as many WGA members as he can. M’Bara notices and sends a legion to kill Doom, who is forced to rocket off into the distance. The victorious WGA, awash in the thrill of victory, turn their attentions to the small, neighboring kingdom of Wakanda, a “small, poor nation”, though Reed notices that the “central mountain contains a strange and familiar radiation signature.”

The Four intervene to protect Wakanda against their own allies, despite the local warriors swearing that they “don’t need your help.” The Four engage a rampaging Upendo and Chuki as M’Baku cheers on the two monster apes. The Four manage to overpower them both, and are content to subdue them, but a young King T’Chaka of Wakanda (Laurence Fishburne as a young James Earl Jones) appears and stabs them both with a long spear in front of Young M’Baku, who cries and runs to them as the two big gorillas slip into death, vowing that he will avenge their death and running off. T’Chaka tells the Four that “your people are not wanted here,” and goes to turn his back on them. But Sue pleads with him to protect the two young Latverian children that she rescued, which he, despite his brother M’Baza’s (Mario Van Peebles as a young Harry Belafonte) warnings, chooses to adopt.

Ashamed and angry at being thrown into such a senseless fight, the Four return to the US and Act I ends, with the Four having been pulled into the ugly side of Cold War politics and the complexities of postcolonial Africa. In general, the Sanguine desire for adventure and glory run into to Sanguine limitations of disregard for the feelings of others and simplistic moralism, as represented by Johnny nearly pulling the Four into a repression of a civil rights protest in New York and later getting them involved in the brutal postcolonial battle in Africa, with the two events deliberately linked visually.

M’Baku: (eyes flooded with tears) You murderous Wakandan! I shall avenge them both! You will see!

As M’Baku runs off, a Wakandan Soldier steps up and starts to raise a spear, but T’Chaka holds up his hand.

T’Chaka: We do not kill children. (turns to REED) Unlike your allies in the White Gorilla Army.

Reed: Your Highness, we apologize for the acti…

T’Chaka: Your help is not needed, mtu kunyoosha, your apologies ring hollow, and your people are not wanted! Your kind have done enough damage in these lands! Be gone!

T’Chaka turns his back on REED and starts to walk away. Sue trots up with the two LATVERIAN CHILDREN.

Sue: Your Highness, wait! These are Jaeger and Ashley. The WGA killed their parents. The US Government will not let me take them with us. I ask you to shelter them until they can be returned to Latveria.

T’Chaka looks at the two children. JAEGER (5) has a look of defiance on his face. ASHLEY (3) is teary-eyed and clutching a doll.

T’Chaka: They should go to Latveria where they belong.

Jaeger: Our home is here in Africa!

M’Baza: My brother, they are the children of colonizers! We can never be sure of their true loyalty! I would recommend against this course of action…

T’Chaka: (raises hand) We will not repay cruelty with cruelty. Take these two children to my palace and have them bathed and fed. I will decide what to do with them later.

Act II would explore the Melancholic, and be driven primarily by Reed, where his intellectual curiosity and cold pragmatism would drive the events of the act. The Four are back at the Baxter Building and exhausted and disgruntled at how their self-identity as heroes and protectors of the innocent is being challenged by the brutal pragmatism of the Cold War. Reed is burying himself in his work while Johnny and Ben are arguing over every small little thing, neither willing to address the real stress between them over the last few days. Reed’s quest, as revealed to Sue, is to determine and possibly duplicate the strange radiation from the comet that transformed them into the Four, which he notes is “similar to the vita-rays from Dr. Erksine’s super-soldier experiments. He also notes that he has detected “low levels of this background radiation in the Earth’s atmosphere” and “detected a similar radiation in Wakanda”.


(Image source Pintrest)

Going against Sue’s advice (she is infuriated at SHIELD for putting them into the “Kazaland mess”), Reed contacts Howard Stark, who puts him in touch with Baron Heinrich Zemo (Birol Ünel). Zemo, since the war, has become a naturalized citizen (in a reference to Operation Paperclip and the adoption of Nazi scientists by the US) and has gotten a job with SHIELD as a scientist studying the “Odinforce” as he calls it. Zemo is very complimentary of Reed and seems to utterly adore Johnny, but is very dismissive of Ben and treats Sue like a secretary, ignoring her intelligent insights. Zemo suggests that the Odinforce is “behind everything unexplained or feared, in one way or another.” He suggests that high levels of Odinforce may have been what transformed normal aluminum into vibranium and iron into adamantium over “centuries of exposure” and there’s even a suggestion that it was found to be present in small levels during “gamma ray experiments”, suggesting a link to the Hulk.

This exposition, along with some subtle hints dropped in the Black Panther film, has confused fans for years, as it never really gets brought up again in future films. In truth, it relates to a dropped plan for what Sam Raimi called a “grand unifying theory” on Marvel supernatural, that would tie what at the time was called the “Odinforce” (before its more familiar name was revealed) to all other methods of human empowerment. We saw it in tying the Vita Rays from Captain America to the Odinforce, the overt listing of the Odinforce as what powered Asgardian magic in The Mighty Thor (this one would stay), and even (as a leaked copy of the Hulk sequel script attests) to the gamma bomb and the Hulk. It was even intended that vibranium and adamantium would be normal metals transformed over centuries by the Odinforce! This all was dropped along with the grand unifying theory idea for being, in Whedon’s words, “too much”.

Stark, along with a young SHIELD Army attaché named Sergeant Fury (Matt Damon, who does not yet have an eye patch), then alert Reed that they have detected “a small object with a strong gravitational field passing through the solar system” and note that it bears “a trace radiation signature similar to the Odinforce”. Sgt. Fury also notes that intelligence shows that Latveria is preparing a rocket, presumably to approach this same object. Reed notes that he “wondered what old Victor was up to” since the events in Kazaland.

The film then takes us back to Latveria, where Doom is in a foul and violent mood, with servants and generals all trying to avoid his wrath. Irate that they “lost the colony” and irater that Reed Richards was “behind this atrocity” Doom’s erratic behavior leads one Latverian General to breach the unspeakable to some of his peers. He suggests that they should overthrow Doom. Another General considers this blasphemous, and also doomed to failure. “The people would never accept any leader but Herr Doktor von Doom!” The first general suggests they could replace him with a Doombot and rule “from the shadows!” But the second General slips away and alerts Doom, who personally strangles the mutinous General to death.

Doom then tells the loyal General to prepare “the Explorer”. His scientists have located an object surrounded by “the radiation that made the accursed Four.” He plans to capture a sample so that he can recreate it.

This sets in motion a montage as Doom and his crew race the Four in prepping their rockets for the journey. In a reflection on the “race to the meteor” in the earlier film, the Four and Doom try every trick to beat each other to the strange object or run the other off course. This time, the Four work more effectively together, though Reed still trades quips with Doom as Ben pilots the ship and asks him to “stop taunting the psychopath!”.


(Image source The Direct)

The battle comes to a head as the two ships, neck-and-neck, approach the object. Suddenly alarms go off and Sue reports that she has identified the high-gravity object—a black hole! Doom’s ship side-swipes the Four’s and the two ships lock, Reed reporting to the enraged Doom that he has doomed them all, given that the two ships are now on a collision course with the black hole. Doom, suddenly realizing that his rage has blinded him to the bigger threat, quickly agrees to work with the Four to escape the gravity well “before we breach the event horizon”.

In a fast-paced moment of situational comradery, Doom, his scientists, and the Four work together in a massive maelstrom of technobabble and switch flipping to come up with a plan to combine their powers and ships’ abilities, narrowly avoiding the event horizon and escaping the gravity well of the black hole.

All relieved to have escaped certain death, they agree to part in peace, separating their ships and flying back to the Earth separately. They are briefly confused as to how they ended up so much farther away from Earth than they should be, but Sue manages to find and plot a course back to Earth.

In the midst of all of this, we see a streak of silver reflected on the windscreen and Johnny swears that he saw “a shiny guy on a surfboard”, but Ben dismisses him as seeing things (“You been eating the funny fungus with the hippies, Johnny?”).

The Four return to Earth and are almost immediately intercepted by Quinjets that demand that they identify themselves. When Reed reports who they are, the pilot reacts with a dismissive laugh. “Hey El-Tee, we got ourselves a missing Mutant here!” he says to his wingman. However, they are soon ordered by their commanding officer to escort the ship to the Helicarrier. They guide the Four to the Helicarrier, where they land and emerge on the deck as the crew stares in disbelief. Waiting for them is Agent Gyrich (Samuel L. Jackson), who greets them, telling them that they have arrived back on Earth in the year 1998, three decades after they left.

Thus ends Act II, with Reed’s blind, melancholic pragmatism and willingness to accept Stark’s “bargain” on the information ultimately leading them to a whole different time: the present day. It explored themes of science, knowledge, compromising our values for short term gain, and failure to consider consequences of our actions, and led us straight into the reckoning that is the Third Act.

The FOUR emerge from their battered rocket, looking in wonder at the strange, impossible vehicle that they have landed upon. Up walks Agent GYRICH and a pair of AGENTS.

Gyrich: Well, well, Dr. Reed Richards, Susan Storm, Johnathan Storm, and Benjamin Grimm. The “Fantastic Four” in the flesh, fire, and stone. Welcome back to Planet Earth! You’re right on time!

Johnny: Wait, what is going on? Who are you?

Reed: Based on the suit and the smug grin, I’d assume SHIELD. And I’d assume that Howard Stark is lurking nearby.

Gyrich: Alas, Dr. Stark passed on years ago, and his prodigal son has yet to accomplish much more than spend a weekend on a yacht surrounded by supermodels.

Sue: (looking around) When did SHIELD have the budget for flying aircraft carriers?

Gyrich: Since the Omnibus Budget of 1982, though we were officially listed as “Agricultural Subsidies”. Ol’ Ronnie was quite generous.

Johnny: Nineteen eighty-two?!? This man is delusional! It’s…

Gyrich: (interrupting) 1966? Hasn’t been for over three decades, Mr. Storm.

Ben: And how…

Reed: (interrupts) Time dilation. A sufficiently high gravitational field will result in matter travelling through time at a faster rate than outside the field. The extreme gravity from the black hole we passed must have flung us 32 years into the future.

Gyrich: Spot on, Doctor Richards. I personally squeaked by with Bs in Physics, but SHIELD’s Top Physics Nerds correctly predicted, based on your measured trajectory going in – you were all kind of hanging there in one place for a while – precisely when you would emerge from the black hole’s gravity. I’ll have to advise Director Fury to increase their pay.

Ben: Wait, did you say Director Fury? The young Sergeant?

Act III takes us into the Phlegmatic, and Sue Storm’s turn to take lead in the narrative. The Four have returned to Earth, but much has changed in three decades, and they need to deal with the consequences of the past.


(Image source Pintrest)

The Four are taken to meet SHIELD Director Nick Fury, now played by Kurt Russell rather than Matt Damon as in the second act. Per Fury’s exposition, it is now the year 1998 and the Four are no longer seen as heroes, but have been villainized by many rich and powerful men in their absence, with Senator Kelly and the Reverend Stryker dismissing them as “dangerous Mutants”. “It seems that the powers that put you on cereal boxes in the sixties will now put you on the Public Enemies list should you make yourselves publicly known.”

Fury offers to put them into protective custody, but Sue adamantly steers Reed against it, still hurt and distrustful of SHIELD given how they were used and unconvinced that the organization has changed in any meaningful way. They instead decline Fury’s offer and ask to be returned to New York City. Fury warns them that “things won’t be the same” and has Agent Gyrich give Ben a trench coat and hat.

As the Four are led away, Gyrich says to Fury, “Are you sure we should trust these Mutants, Director?”

To which a smirking Fury replies, “They’re not exactly Mutants, Agent Gyrich, and frankly, you know as well as I do what’s coming…do we have any choice?”

Doom likewise returns to Latveria to find that three decades have gone by. Worse yet, Latveria is in a state of ruin, the economy crumbling, its empire gone, the mighty Army a shadow of its former glory. He finds a Doombot sitting on his throne, which he casually walks up and beheads in a shower of sparks and coolant. The Loyal General, now older, walks up bowing to him, explaining that he only did what he could to “keep Latveria from falling apart without your leadership.”

Doom thanks him, but strangles him to death anyway. “Your intent was good, General, but your execution poor.” He then sets out to purge his nation of corruption and incompetence in the most brutal way possible.

The Four, meanwhile, return to the Baxter Building, but find that it has long since been turned into a series of office spaces. Trask Industries now occupies most of the structure. “What did they do with my laboratory?” asks a shocked Reed.

“What are these obnoxious little padded cells?” asks a disguised Ben, noticing the rows of cubicles.


(Image source Pinterest)

The Four are forced instead to find work while concealing their nature, requiring Ben in particular to hide in an apartment they share. At one point a little kid on the street sees him and screams “Mutant!” causing a stir and attention from a cell of paramilitary Sentinels, leaving Ben running and muttering bitterly to himself “we fought in Europe and Korea for nothin’”. Reed takes up a job as a professor at Empire University, where the dean recognizes him, but assures him that he’s “a supporter of Mutant Rights.” Sue gets a job in a cubicle working for Trask Industries, ironically in the Baxter Building, under a misogynistic boss who harasses her. Johnny ends up working at an electronics store on the first floor of the Baxter Building (“Welcome to Hotronics, where our prices burn down the competition!”). At one point we get a recreation of the scene in Black Panther between Reed and T’Challa (Wesley Snipes) from Reed’s perspective, now loaded with the full intertextual knowledge of Reed’s part in the events of the past.

The four are miserable, with Sue trying her best to keep their spirits up, despite the fact that she is struggling to deal with this computerized world (“electronic mail?”), but the boss finds her difficulties amusing in a sexist way (“it’s a good thing you’re cute!”). She tries to make friends and demonstrate her worth (she picks up the computer systems quickly), but still gets spoken down to (“Honey,” says Christina Hendrick as the catty office manager, noticing her out of date fashions and hairstyle, “I don’t know what Podunk town you hail from, but maybe it’s time to stop dressing like your mother if you want to be taken seriously in the Big City.”). Sue also slowly starts to suspect that her boss is up to something nefarious. Using her invisibility powers, she sneaks around late at night and discovers that he’s indeed hiding something: he’s using company funds to buy expensive gifts for his mistress. Sighing, she simply forwards the evidence of the crime to the NYPD and is about to leave when she overhears something in another part of the building. She soon finds that Baron Zemo’s grandson Helmut Zemo (also played by Birol Ünel, representing “the unchanging face of evil”, to quote Whedon [4]), a scientist working on Robotics for Stark Industries, is meeting with Bolivar Trask (Andy Garcia). Zemo is passing along secret Stark robotics plans to Trask for “Project Sentinel” in exchange for more information on the Odinforce, which Zemo exposits could be “an incredible power source, if properly harnessed”.

SUE, invisible, watches ZEMO and her boss’ boss, BOLIVAR TRASK.

Zemo: (hands a folder to TRASK) Everything you need is in there, twenty years of research into robotics.

Trask: (flipping through papers) Perfect, perfect. Exactly what we need for the next generation of Project Sentinel. The Mark I’s are performing well against your average Mutie, but they have…limitations against some of the more…enhanced specimens. And Stark is unaware?

Zemo: (laughs) Stane has him on a yacht in the bay. There are two dozen women and a fully stocked bar to keep him…distracted. Do you have what I need?

TRASK hands ZEMO some paperwork. The folder has the SHIELD logo and is recognizably the one Howard Stark gave to Reed 30 years prior.

Trask: Right here. More information on the Odinforce, as your grandfather called it. We found it in some hidden safes when we took over the Four’s old facilities here. You may find this…useful.

Zemo: (flips through file) Excellent, Mr. Trask, excellent! My grandfather’s research combined with Richards’. This is exactly what we need, a near limitless source of power for our ongoing reactor experiments. I…

SUE leans in to see, accidentally knocking over a lamp. She gasps and starts to slip away.

Zemo: Rat?

Trask: Of a sort, yes…

TRASK hits a button on the wall as SUE, still invisible, starts to slip through the corridors of the Baxter Building as alarms start to sound.

Like with the other abandoned “grand unifying theory” hints, this idea that the Odinforce was somehow behind the Arc Reactor too was quietly dropped.

Sue nearly gets caught by Zemo and Trask when she knocks something over, but makes it out in time, going back to the Four and telling them that they “have a problem.” She alerts them to the situation, sure that Zemo is up to something nefarious, and is certain that they need to tell Tony Stark, noting that she overheard them mentioning that Stark was on his yacht off the coast. Reed notes that they don’t have any way to get to him, but Johnny notes that he can fly there. Sue warns him that they’re not supposed to expose their powers, but Johnny notes that it’s “the only way” and jumps out the window, flames-on, and flies out into the night.

Johnny flies across the waters and lands on the deck of Stark’s massive super-yacht which, despite the late hour, is still jumping with lights, music, and flowing drinks. Beautiful, scantily-dressed women dance and laugh. Hard-eyed guards stand by. Tony Stark (Nick Cage) sits in a huge jacuzzi in the back with a glass of whisky, surrounded by women.


(Image source Marvel Wiki)

Johnny, talking almost ludicrously fast, attempts to explain to Tony that his scientist Helmut Zemo is betraying him and giving his secrets to a competing company, but Tony just looks at him like a madman. Obadiah Stane appears (Stanley Tucci) and casually guides Johnny away, apologizing for the “interruption”, and dismisses Johnny’s worries with some platitudes.

Johnny then notices that the guards seem alert, looking to their watches and the sky, and then sees two lights in the sky from rockets. Realizing something is up, he runs, leaps off the boat, flames-on, and flies away as the lights turn out to be Sentinel robots, which engage him in a dogfight. He manages to destroy one, nearly getting hit by missiles, and eludes the other. He is shaken when he gets back to the apartment with the Four.

Thus ends Act III, where emotional connection, empathy, caring, and trust are explored along with the dangers of these things being manipulated by the unethical for their own reasons. In keeping with the chiastic structure, Act III essentially followed Act II in reverse, beginning in space at the black hole, coming to Earth, dealing with Nick Fury and SHIELD, encountering hijinks at the Baxter Building involving a Zemo, and being exposed to dark plans. This led into the fourth and final act.

JOHNNY flies towards the lights in the harbor below, which reveal themselves to be a large yacht. As he approaches, booming music and feminine laughter can be heard. JOHNNY flies in low, his flames reflecting in the waters as he approaches. The yacht’s name, “Stark Raving Mad”, is visible.

Landing on the yacht and cutting the flame, all eyes are on JOHNNY as he casually walks past scores of scantily-dressed, beautiful women. Alcohol flows freely. A DJ spins records for dancing women. Large men in black suits with the composure of bodyguards watch JOHNNY suspiciously. One speaks into his collar-pin. JOHNNY walks up to a large jacuzzi on the aft deck. Inside, surrounded by bikini-clad women, is TONY STARK, who holds a glass of whisky.

Tony: (to a WOMAN) You hope to be a film actress, you say? That’s quite the noble goal. You know, I do have some pull in Hollywood…

Johnny: (interrupting) Mr. Stark?

Woman: (glowering at JOHNNY) You’re not expecting me to do something with the Mutant, are you, Tony?

GUARDS approach JOHNNY, drawing guns, but TONY waves them off.

Tony: (pulling down sunglasses, annoyed) Can I help you?

Johnny: Mr. Stark my name is Johnny Storm and my sister Sue wanted me to tell you that…um…

Tony: If your sister has issues, she can bring it up with HR, now if you don’t mind…

Johnny: No!! No, she, um doesn’t work for you, she works for this jerk named Jeffries who’s cheating on his wife, but that’s not the issue. Jeffries works for Bolivar Trask, but……sorry. See, it’s about your employee Zemo….

OBADIAH STANE approaches with two BODYGUARDS.

Stane: My apologies for the interruption, Mr. Stark. (turns to JOHNNY) Johnny, was it?

STANE puts his hand on JOHNNY’S back and leads him away. He nods to a GUARD, who picks up a comm.

Stane: (Cont’d) Mr. Stark is a busy man, but if you have specific concerns, you can speak with me.

STANE nods politely with a painted-on smile as JOHNNY rambles.

Johnny: Look, one of your employees is a Nazi, or, like, the grandson of a Nazi who I used to work with back in the sixties, but then I, like, flew past a black hole so it’s the nineties now and anyway you really need to watch this guy because I think he’s up to…um…

JOHNNY sees a GUARD look to the sky, follows his eyes, and sees two spots of light in the distance, approaching fast.

Stane: So, you were saying there’s an issue with Mr. Zemo?

Johnny: Um…look at the ti…I gotta…um…BYE!

JOHNNY flames-on and flies off into the sky. The approaching lights, revealed to be MARK I SENTINELS, change course to intercept.

And for the final act, we encounter the Four at their nadir. Their fame and wealth are gone. They’ve gone from beloved heroes to hunted outcasts in hiding. And it’s time for Ben to step up, along with the Choleric temperament, to carve a new path forward.


(Image source Funny Junk)

But first, we return to Latveria, where Doom is personally choking the life from an errant regional governor (obligatory Bruce Campbell cameo). Doom tells two uniformed people beside him, a man and a woman, his plans for the region and then asks for their thoughts on it. The man sycophantically agrees with everything that Doom says, while the woman cringes almost imperceptibly. Doom notices and, glaring into her eyes, challenges her to state her opinion. In terror, she haltingly tells him that she disagrees with his proposed course of action and, as if signing her own death warrant, tells him her advice, which runs counter to Doom’s. “So be it,” says Doom, then casually snaps the sycophantic man’s neck with one hand and says, “You may pursue your leadership strategy, Madam Governor. Do not fail me.”

Doom then meets with his advisors and states his intent to recapture Kazaland as the first step to restore the Latverian Empire. “I shall reclaim what is mine by right,” he states. The advisors note that the UN would intervene if Latveria made a direct reconquest attempt, and that Latveria’s defenses are “not yet restored to full levels”. One advisor then notes that there may be another way to reclaim Latverian influence in the region without direct military intervention. “There is a poor nation in the region called Wakanda that none the less has outsized influence in the region, and may conceal a hidden wealth in vibranium. I have a contact named Ulysses Klaw who has plans to seize the throne and install a puppet. Klaw is linked to Hydra, and thus no friend of Latveria, but perhaps there is a way to turn this to our advantage, Your Majesty.”

The Four, meanwhile, are considering their options, including fighting alongside the Mutants (Ben’s plan, backed by Johnny) or leaving the country for one more open to Mutants (Sue’s plan, backed by Reed), even though they are not technically Mutants. But they are soon approached by Agent Gyrich, who lets them know that the White Gorilla Army, aided by Latverian intelligence, has invaded the small, poor nation of Wakanda, and that this war has upset regional stability. Ben flat out refuses to support it, recalling what happened “last time”, but Gyrich assures them that SHIELD plans to intervene against the Latverians and that they just want the Four to protect the civilians of Wakanda. The four, still feeling partly responsible for the events that led to the fall of Kazaland, hope to protect the civilians and “if possible, make up for our failings last time.” Gyrich also promises that SHIELD will fully restore the Four’s resources, give them a new headquarters and lab, and “shield you from any…inquisitive paramilitary types.” Increasingly desperate and with no future in the status quo, the Four reluctantly agree.

Ben: Do you all want to live in this tiny little apartment forever? Do you want to keep hiding in the shadows?

Johnny: Hey, I get it, but the last time we went to Kazaland everything went to hell in a rocket-sled!

Ben: Brother, you don’t ‘get’ shit. When you’re not flamin’ you can walk around town. Sue doesn’t even have to be seen if she doesn’t want to. But I’m stuck here! At least the Baxter Building gave me space to walk around!

Sue: Ben, I really sympathize, but Johnny’s right, Kazaland was a mistake…

Ben: And this is our chance to fix it. Look, I don’t trust SHIELD or Gyrich one bit. But we can’t hide forever, and if we don’t have the independence and resources that we need to take care of ourselves – and it ain’t like Reed’s job teaching classes and Sue’s job with Mr. Handsy is going to get us there – we’ll be living in hiding for the rest of our lives.

The Four are soon presented with a new version of their old aircraft with promises that, if they continue to work with SHIELD, that they will be protected from the anti-Mutant madness and given a new headquarters to replace the Baxter Building. Tempted by a combination of self-interest and guilt, they travel to the outskirts of Wakanda. Reed again notes the radiation signature of the Wakanda central mountain. Presenting himself to the older T’Chaka (James Earl Jones) and a masked M’Windaji (Clive Owen), who does a double-take upon seeing the Four, Reed offers his assistance in protecting Wakanda from the WGA. T’Chaka refuses the help, noting that “We need no help from you.” Ben attempts to persuade him (“You don’t understand how dangerous these foes are…”) but is himself dismissed.

Ben in particular, however, refuses to stand down. He’s here to “get the job done” and stands in the middle between the WGA and the Wakandans. M’Windaji then personally leads a group of Hatut Zeraze to drive away the Four. The Four then watch helplessly as the WGA attacks, backed by Ulysses Klaw (Mickey Roarke) and Latverian weapons. And yet, armed only with spears and swords and clubs, the Wakandans prove victorious, forcing back the WGA forces despite an apparent inferiority in weapons.


(Image source The Digital Fix)

But then, the Four are confronted by none other than Doom himself! They engage in a massive, and showy clash. In the process of the fight, a flaming Johnny is thrown by Doom into some dry grass, and inadvertently starts a wildfire! The fire, mirroring the scene in Black Panther, distracts the Hatut Zeraze, and allows Klaw and M’Baku to regroup and make a surgical strike at a lightly-defended T’Chaka.

The Four manage to defeat Doom, with Ben finally tackling him and punching him until sparks literally fly, revealing it to be a Doombot. M’Windaji approaches, watching, and is addressing the issue when he gets a hurried call: the King is in danger!!

He and the Hatut regroup, but Klaw and M’Baku have defeated the King, ultimately mortally wounding him in a replay of the scene from Black Panther. T’Chaka dies in M’Windaji’s arms. As M’Windaji walks away, unmasked. The Four approach, but an irate M’Windaji screams at them for distracting him and rejects them, ordering them to leave Wakanda forever. But Doom is watching…

M’WINDAJI walks up to the FOUR, unmasked, his face a mix of sadness, confusion, and simmering fury.

M’Windaji: My father, King T’Chaka, is dead. While the people of Wakanda fought the fire that you outsiders caused, the WGA assaulted and killed him.

Ben: Look, Em-Win, we’re truly sorry that…

M’Windaji: Your apologies are like the buzzing of flies in my ears, mtu jiwe.

Sue: (studying M’Windaji) Wait, Jaeger?

M’Windaji: (turns to SUE) I do not use that name any longer, mwanamke asiyeonekana. And any debt of life that I owed to you for what happened long ago has died with my father, who is dead from your actions.

Reed: Your Highness, we deeply apologize for the acti…

M’Windaji: (hold up a hand, cutting off REED) Leave Wakanda now, or be named its enemies.

M’WINDAJI and his WAR DOGS turn their backs on the FOUR. They walk away as in the background two Wakandan SOLDIERS pick up the lifeless body of the King and all walk back towards the Sacred Mountain.

PAN BACK to where a Latverian Drone hovers, hidden in the grass, watching all.

ZOOM IN on its cameras and CUT TO the palace in Latveria, where DOOM watches the events unfold on a monitor, focusing on M’Windaji.

Doom: Interesting…

The Four return in silence to New York, and are presented the keys to a new underground headquarters hidden below Empire University, which proves everything that they wanted. But it’s a hollow victory, as they feel that they only made things worse. Ben finally gives a speech about how “working for glory didn’t work out for us…working for knowledge didn’t work out, working for others didn’t work out, and working for our self-interest didn’t work out…maybe it’s about time we worked for something greater?”


Maybe in the next film (Image source Pintrest)

Following Ben’s lead, they instead travel to downtown New York, where (in a reflection of the earlier civil rights protest in the ‘60s) a Mutant Rights protest is about to be broken up by a squad of Sentinel Mark I robots. The Four engage their powers, land in front of the protestors in a protective stance, with Spider-Man swinging in to join them at the last second, quipping “Mind if I join you guys?”

The Four and Spidey then move towards the camera as Sentinel Mark I robots move to engage, cutting to credits in media res.

Ben: Look, working for glory didn’t work out for us, right? Working for knowledge didn’t work out much better. Working for others didn’t work out, and working for our self-interest didn’t work out either…maybe it’s about time we worked for something greater?

BEN looks to the TV, where a Mutant Rights march is being confronted by a marching phalanx of Mark I Sentinels.

Johnny: Like fighting for the Mutants.

SUE puts out her hand. JOHNNY puts his on hers. REED follows suit. BEN puts his hand on top.

Reed: (smiles) I guess it’s unanimous then.

Sue: Let’s stop those ‘Bots and save the protestors!

Ben: (punches fist into hand) It’s clobberin’ time!

This brought Act IV to a close, and with it the film, coming full-circle from an in media res action scene in New York City to an in media res “Bolivian Army Ending” in the city ala Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and a tease for a similar coming action scene just after the credits roll, with spliced-in short cuts of the Four and Spidey battling the Sentinels. Just as Act III, in keeping with the chiastic structure, mirrored the story beats of Act II in reverse, so did Act IV mirror Act I in reverse, starting with the Four getting pulled into a situation in Africa beyond their understanding, this time in large part due to the self-interest of having SHIELD restore their lost resources. They finish by intervening in a civil rights protest, this time as a united front in support of the protestors. In keeping with the Choleric Temperament, Ben is the main point of view character and themes of ambition, determination, frustration, goals, revenge, and the violent imposition of power play into the events.

Ben himself also reflects the overall Temperament-based themes of the film in his almost-leaning-on-the-fourth-wall line about how they “tried” working for glory (sanguinity), knowledge (melancholy), others (phlegmatic), and self-interest (choleric) and none of it “worked out”, leading to the synthesis-approach of working together for “something greater”, i.e. Mutant Rights, something that feeds all four of these goals simultaneously, but more importantly serves what’s right.

“I wanted the Four to essentially explore themselves as individuals before coming completely together as a team in this story,” said Whedon. “They each essentially ‘get a turn’ at driving the events, and each accomplishes things, but also causes greater problems. They learned to be a family in the first film. Here they learn to be a team and learn what their true values are and how they complement each other. By comparison, Dr. Doom has learned and evolved in his own way, willing to adapt with the times, like killing the yes-man in favor of the woman willing to speak truth, and yet he’s still the same flawed individual, casually murderous, autocratic, swinging wildly between moods, dedicated to self-serving goals that he mistakes for being in the service of his people.”

Fears that the complex, four-part narrative and resulting long (for the time) runtime of 2 hours 12 minutes would alienate or confuse fans proved unfounded, as fast-cut editing by Bob Murawski and quippy dialog by Whedon kept things flying by at a fast pace. In fact, the biggest critical complaints were that it flew by so fast that it missed some perceived opportunities to more deeply explore its themes, resulting in what some considered a slightly superficial film. Ebert, for example, called it “fun but overstuffed”, though still giving it a tepid “thumbs Up”.

Still, audiences grabbed the popcorn and enjoyed the action and effects and the great screen charisma between the four leads. Fiennes’ Dr. Doom, of course, stole every scene, even as a Doombot. Interestingly, however, due to conflicts with his Bond schedule, Fiennes himself only did about two weeks of actual filming (the maskless scenes and a few masked close-ups where his eyes were important) while Raimi regular Bruce Campbell and some stunt performers “Shemped” a lot of the action scenes and masked interactions that Fiennes later looped dialog for. Fantastic Four: Rise and Fall failed to achieve the heights of the first film, though still performed very well, making $312 million against its $94 million budget. It also achieved many of the “meta goals” for the time of expanding the MMU, not only pulling the Four and Doom to the present day so that they could meaningfully participate in the events of the unfolding metaplot, but also tying in the narrative elements from the X-Men films and Black Panther, having nods, references, and/or cameos involving Silver Surfer, Spider-Man, Hulk, Thor, and Captain America, and helping to further set the stage for the upcoming Iron Man and, ultimately, The Avengers.

In this way, FF:RF serves as an interesting milestone in the MMU, bridging the previous habit of treating each MMU film as a stand-alone film (with Easter Egg references) with the then-emergent trend of having all of the films not just inhabit the same universe but, as with the comics, affect one another and cross over into “metaplot” moments, something that executive producer Sam Raimi had been attempting (but denied) with the DCMU. Earlier films such as X2, Black Panther, The Mighty Thor, and Captain America had, of course, begun this trend, but FF:RF codified it in a major way, making very clear that not only were the different films connected and sharing a universe, but that all of the films were set on a collision course over the coming years. It also slipped in a few “genius bonuses”, with the Wakandans referring to Reed as “mtu kunyoosha”, Sue as “mwanamke asiyeonekana”, Johnny as “mtu kuungua”, and Ben as “mtu jiwa”, or “stretchy man”, “invisible woman”, “burning man”, and “stone man”, respectively, in Swahili.

Whedon in particular expressed his exhaustion in “squeezing it all in”, noting that he’d have hoped to keep the Four, the Avengers, and the X-Men in their own continuities. However, executive producer Sam Raimi and continuity editor Kevin Feige both insisted that “all roads lead to Galactus”. This also led to the now-orphaned set-ups for the “grand unifying theory” of Marvel supernatural, part of Raimi and Feige’s failed attempts to consolidate all unexplained things under a single root cause.

The hours were long and taxing on everyone, and Whedon admitted in a later interview to taking his frustrations out on a young female writer at one point. “I acted like a total dick,” he said. “I basically shamed and humiliated her in front of everyone. I knew at the time it was wrong, and I quickly apologized to her, but, well…old habits die hard, and Jim [Henson] and I had a heart to heart. Self-improvement isn’t for the faint of heart.”

But even despite the behind-the-scenes drama, the production was largely seen as a “fun and productive” time for all, with all of the participants expressing a willingness and even eagerness to work on the third film, which would ultimately come out in 2001.

“Fan-four was a delight to work on,” said Michelle Pfeiffer. “It was a great mix of action, human interactions, and fun on the set. Pierce, Sonny, Keanu, and I managed to forge a close friendship. When I first signed on for the original film, I had no idea what I was getting into, and after the second film I laughed when they asked me to sign a ten-year contract to reprise my role as Sue Storm. I though they were joking! Well, ten years later and I’m still trying to squeeze into blue spandex.”

Fantastic Four: Rise and Fall remains a popular film in hindsight, even as the consensus is that it grasps for too much and suffers for it. It reminded audiences why they loved the Four and Doom, set up some critical metaplot-points going forward, and, honestly, was just a fun film over all with fast-paced, explosive action on the land, in the air, and IN SPAAAACCCEEE! We at S&S enjoy it (though not as much as the first and third films), and found it a good if imperfect film on its own and within the MMU, and an excellent bridge between the previous “standalone” phase of the MMU and the emerging “crossover” phase. And this last, landmark reason alone makes it worth the time of any Marvel fan.

[1] Hat-tip to @Plateosaurus for this title, which was significantly better than my generic Return of the Fantastic Four.

[2] Changed from Niganda just to avoid the resemblance to other…less kosher words. I’m sure Marvel just intended this name to be a cross between Nigeria and Uganda, but still, a single letter change goes a long way sometimes.

[3] Beret tip to @Nathanoraptor for this literal take on a White Gorilla Army.

[4] Zemo mask tip to @Nathanoraptor for this brilliant observation.
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Now you know what got M'Baku pissed off at the Wakandans in Black Panther - T'Chaka killed his beloved childhood pets in front of him. I'll be honest, I think a lot of people can relate. (And it'd be a bit of a tearjerker for ITTL audiences, given that we'd seen their gentler side well before the battle).
I thought that Harlem was in New York so unless the LAPD has teleportation and jurisdiction in New York I think you'd better change LAPD to NYPD.