Archives for : Marvel

Magic in Me

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One of my favourite superheroes has finally made his way to the big screen this past weekend, but what if you don’t know anything about Dr. Stephen Strange? Thankfully, dear reader, I have got you covered!

Who is Doctor Strange?

Doctor Stephen Strange was a celebrated and world-famous neurosurgeon – and had the ego to match. His arrogance made him think he was better than everyone, but it was only after a severe car crash mangled his hands that he thought he had lost the only thing that made him special. As a result, he spent his fortune trying every medical (and non-medical) treatment he could trying to fix his hands, but to no avail.

It was then that Strange heard of a healer known as the “Ancient One,” so he travelled to Tibet to meet him, but because of his arrogance, was promptly refused treatment. But, upon seeing the frail man resist an attack using mystical abilities, Strange was forced to admit that magic and evil existed and needed to be resisted. Strange then pledged to no longer pursue healing his hands for selfish reasons, but to protect and learn the mystic arts from the Ancient One, who was Earth’s magical protector known as the “Sorcerer Supreme.”

Strange studied under the Ancient One, and spent years training his body and mind to harness magic within himself, the Earth, and other dimensions. And he was a natural!

Upon the death of the Ancient One, Doctor Strange inherited the mantle of Sorcerer Supreme.

Are you saying there is magic in Marvel movies now?

Basically, yes.

After introducing space and aliens in the Avengers, Thor and Guardians of the Galaxy, the realm of the supernatural was the next logical place to go. The Marvel universe in the comics is filled with supernatural allies and enemies, and is key to introducing different dimensions and the multiverse!

And, don’t forget what Thor said in his very first movie:

Who is the bad guy in the Doctor Strange movie?

The bad guy is called Kaecilius (played by Mads Mikkelsen), a former student of the Ancient One, who desired darker abilities and powers beyond what was taught. So, he left the school with his followers and began finding ways to contact a more powerful master, which is where we meet him at the beginning of the movie.

So there’s a bad guy worse than Kaecilius? *WARNING – Minor spoilers below!*

Yes, called Dormammu. He is an ancient being and ruler of the Dark Dimension, and he seeks to bring all planets and realities into his domain. So, a pretty bad guy.

Who does Strange have to help him in the movie?

In addition to the Ancient One (played by Tilda Swinton), Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) has help from both the mystical and human realms.

A fellow student, Baron Mordo (Chiwetel Ejiofor) takes a shine to Strange when he enters the school, and quickly becomes both a teacher, a mentor, and a friend.

Wong, who was Doctor Strange’s assistant in the comics, mans the library in the movie and is a powerful mystic in his own right. He is played by Benedict Wong.

And lastly, Rachel McAdams plays Christine Palmer, an Emergency Room doctor and one-time romantic partner of Strange who comes to his aid after his accident.

doctor-strange-movie-composer-cumberbatch

What did you think of the movie?

I really enjoyed it!

The images and effects were amazing, and very similar to the classic art from when Strange was first introduced in the comics in the 60s and 70s. While the villain, Kaecilius won’t win any awards, credit must be given to fleshing him out a little bit.

Cumberbatch was an amazing Doctor Strange, and I can’t wait to see him pop up in a future movie and become the Sorcerer Supreme. It was a great ride, and was a great primer of the magical side of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

I whole-heartily recommend you see it – I know I’ll be seeing it again!

Are there mid-credits and after-credits scenes?

Oh yes!

One serves as a tease for an upcoming Marvel movie, while the other hints at what is to come in (hopefully) future Doctor Strange movies.

Final thoughts?

The movie was fantastic! It adds a big piece to the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe and was visually stunning.

**WARNING! BELOW ARE SPOILERS! Only read below to find out my thoughts on those two scenes**

**LAST SPOILER WARNING!***


In the mid-credits scene, you see Doctor Strange talking to Thor about why Thor brought his brother, the magical trickster Loki, to New York. Thor says that it is because they are looking for their father, Odin, who was replaced by Loki in the movie, Thor: The Dark World. Strange replies that he thinks he can help. This scene is a teaser for the upcoming Thor movie entitled Thor: Ragnarok, and it would make sense that Strange would become involved in his comings and goings, as it is rumoured to mainly take place in different dimensions and realms.

The after-credits scene has Mordo, after leaving the final battle, approaching Benjamin Bratt’s character (who was healed by magic earlier). Mordo goes into a bit of a speech about magic and the people who use it, before forcibly extracting the magic, leaving Bratt paralyzed on the floor. Mordo explains that there are “too many sorcerers,” and it looks like he will be taking the magic others have harnessed for his own uses. My theory is based on his comments at the end of the movie, where he states that breaking the natural laws of magic and reality should be punished, and these people are therefore unfit to wield magic. And, in so doing, will become the evil villain version of Mordo that he became in the comics.

*Spoilers end*

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice – A Plot Analysis


Last night, I was able to see one of the biggest movies of 2016 – Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and decided to write this review to voice my opinion on the film.

Keep in mind that I will be discussing key moments from the film, plot points, cameos and more, so SPOILER WARNING!

Last chance to stop reading to avoid spoilers … Ok, so let’s get right into it.

The movie begins with a retelling of Batman’s origin, which anyone who has seen any Batman movie, TV show, animated feature, video game, etc. is very familiar with. After a night out seeing a movie or the theatre (it differs), young Bruce Wayne leaves the performance with his parents, Martha and Thomas Wayne. They are robbed a gunpoint, Martha Wayne’s pearls drop (which are CGI for some reason in this movie), and Bruce Wayne is left as an orphan. Then, after the funeral, Bruce falls into a cave nearby his house and encounters bats. Thus, he becomes Batman.

Most people know Batman’s origin, and in a movie that was – and not to mention felt – long, it could have been cut out and started from Bruce Wayne’s perspective during the events on 2013’s Man of Steel. Long-time readers of my blog know how I felt about that movie (you can read my review here), as I had many issues about the world that had been created, especially how Zod got his powers so quickly, and Superman not protecting people during the final battle.

There was a lot of outcry about this after Man of Steel was released, so it gets addressed. A lot. Numerous characters make point-blank statements that wherever a superhero battle is happening, the locations are abandoned, empty, or in one hilariously bizarre case, after-business-hours, so the office towers were “mostly empty.” There is even a whole subplot in the movie about Superman being held accountable for his actions, and he even attends a Senate sub-committee meeting to defend his actions. But, that’s getting ahead of myself.

After Bruce’s origin story, we see Bruce Wayne fly to Metropolis in a helicopter and try to save people from Zod and the ensuing battle. Bruce was rightfully angry when Superman and Zod destroy countless buildings (including the Wayne Financial building), injure others and kill a lot of people. This sets the stage for the primary conflict for Batman.

And then we cut to 18 months later.

We learn quickly that Bruce Wayne sees Superman’s power as too much for one being not of this Earth (read: alien), and that he could destroy everyone without a thought. So, he decided to find enough Kryptonite to kill Superman if necessary.

This started him on a collision course with Lex Luthor (played by a manic Nicholas Cage-level insanity by Jesse Eisenberg, who just got annoying in the role), who happened to be trying to import a massive batch of Kryptonite into the States, but was blocked by the very Senator leading the Senate committee mentioned above – how convenient!

To locate the shipment, Wayne went to a party held by Lex to steal the information, where he met Clark Kent and a mysterious woman who stole the stolen data from Bruce. At another event, he met the woman again, got the drive back and decrypted the information.

Meanwhile, Clark was worried about not being able to help everyone, but goes on being a God among men and saving Lois (who, as always, has a knack for getting into danger and needing saving). While Superman attended the Senate hearing, a bomb went off (thanks to Lex) killing everyone and Superman goes into hiding because he was ashamed. In this film, Lois was relegated to her own subplot about mysterious bullets that were made by LexCorp and worrying about Clark when he disappeared.

Bruce found the Kryptonite thanks to the drive (as well as other information I’ll get to later), and tried to steal it from Lex. He failed due to intervention from Superman and they had a staring contest.

While this is happening, Lex made a deal to get access to the Kryptonian ship from Man of Steel and Zod’s body. I’m still not entirely sure what he did, but he somehow used Zod’s fingerprints to become the new commander of the ship, and used a glowing yellow pool (called a Genesis pool?) to combine his DNA and Zod’s to create an “abomination”.

Bruce then successfully stole the Kryptonite rock from Lex and made some weapons, including a spear and gas grenades, for his eventual fight with Superman. As for the armoured suit in the trailer (inspired by the Frank Miller comic The Dark Knight Returns)? I was hoping we’d be able to see Bruce build it to try and compensate for the massive strength differential between the two, but no such luck.

Lex then kidnapped Lois, threw her off a building to lure Superman, and told Superman that he wanted Batman dead. Superman said he wouldn’t kill him, and Lex said that he kidnapped Clark’s mother (Martha Kent), and would kill her in an hour if Superman didn’t bring Lex the head of Batman. So, Superman flew off to gets Batman’s help.

Batman, on the other hand, was all decked out for war against Superman and didn’t let him explain the situation. So, they fought. Batman used Kryptonite gas to weaken Superman so he could get a few licks in, but Superman recovered and pummeled Batman. So, Batman used more gas and got him stunned enough to, after some bizarre CGI grapple gun antics, got him underfoot and about to be gutted with the Kryptonite spear.

Superman said to “find Martha” and “save Martha,” and Batman lost his mind (as that was his mother’s name – and where I think the flashback to the night Bruce’s parents were murdered would have been PERFECT), and then Lois rushed in to tell the truth to Batman about Martha Kent.

Batman threw the spear away and promised to rescue Superman’s mom (which he did), and Superman promised to find Lex Luthor (which he did). But not before the cocoon Lex created in the Kryptonian ship hatched and, in some terrible green screen CGI work, emerged Doomsday.

In the comics and cartoons, Doomsday was a creature bred and evolved to be the perfect killer. And every time he “died,” he would be resurrected and could not be killed that way again.

Anyway, Doomsday was quickly attacked by the US military and survived. So, Clark fought Doomsday and lost quickly. Batman went to help and also had trouble. Then, the mysterious woman Bruce Wayne met earlier appeared as Wonder Woman (and in my opinion, the best part of the movie), and she helped. Superman tackled Doomsday and flew into space, and the US nuked the both. Doomsday fell to Earth and regenerated into something deadlier, and Superman spent some time soaking up the sun’s rays before he rejoined Wonder Woman in the fight.

Lois grabbed the spear from before, but almost drowned in retrieving it. So Superman abandoned the fight, saved her, and flew with the Kryptonite spear and stabbed Doomsday. In his death throes, Doomsday stabbed Superman in the chest and they both died.

Superman was given a very public military funeral and Clark Kent was buried in Smallville (where he grew up) with Bruce Wayne and Diana Prince (Wonder Woman’s alter-ego) in attendance and they quickly teased the formation of the Justice League. And, Lex Luthor was in jail and visited by a very angry Batman. Lex, seemingly out of his mind, ominously said that something worse is coming – also teasing the eventual “big bad” of the upcoming Justice League movies.

A few things:

– Batman had a “vision” of an apocalyptic future, teasing the bad guy in the future Justice League movie (which looks to be the villain, Darkseid), as well as a visit from “Future Flash” warning him of what is coming in that future movie and to “get them together.”

– Inside Lex’s drive stolen by Batman and Wonder Woman, there were files on other metahumans, including videos showcasing the future Justice League members – the Flash stopping a mugging, Wonder Woman all over the world (and a photo from the early 1900s), Aquaman fighting off a submersible, and Cyborg being turned from a man into a machine.

Ok DC and Warner Brothers – we get it. You have a Justice League movie coming out and are trying to build a DC Cinematic Universe, but the film was overstuffed already with Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman. These extraneous cameos for characters we won’t see for a while, and won’t have their own movies for years, were obvious and wastes of time.

The Marvel Cinematic Universe had movies introducing single characters in their own movies before building up to the big team-up in Avengers, followed by more individual movies culminating in Avengers: Age of Ultron. They had years and years to build up the world and the characters before putting them all together. That is why it worked.

Teases and looks at what will be coming are good, but not at the expense of the film you are trying to make.

But what did I think of the movie overall?

Well, the movie was ok. I wasn’t a big fan of Man of Steel, so I wasn’t anticipating this movie to be fantastic. Unlike other superhero movies, I’m not in a rush to see it again, as it wasn’t exciting, it was overly long, and the effects were less than optimal. The dream sequences were awkwardly placed, Batman’s origin was redone … again, and the reasons for fighting (Batman thought Superman was too powerful and Superman thought Batman crossed the line) changed because Lex kidnaps Superman’s mom. Therefore, Batman and Superman fight because of a misunderstanding. It’s not the be-all, end-all brawl that everyone and the trailers and marketing were suggesting.

Honestly, it seems like after Man of Steel, DC and Warner Brothers decided to make Superman and Batman fight, and reverse-engineered a reason why.

But, there were some enjoyable parts in the movie. The action sequences were mostly good, as long as they didn’t get too CGI-heavy, and Wonder Woman fighting looked great. But that was about it.

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice will make a lot of money, but I don’t think it will make nearly as much as DC and Warner Brothers would like. And maybe they will learn their lesson. But, with Wonder Woman already¬† filmed and The Justice League Part 1 shooting now, who knows what will happen. I had hoped they would learn their lesson three years ago from Man of Steel

Only skin deep

With Captain America: The Winter Soldier movie now out in theaters for a few weeks (it is quite good and I recommend everyone go see it), I have had the Marvel Universe on the brain. I find myself giddy with anticipation over the upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy film, which opens in August, and ravenous for any news about the Avengers sequel next year, entitled Avengers: Age of Ultron.

And with Marvel thoughts running around rampant in my brain, I began to dwell on the upcoming multiple mini-series that will premiere on Netflix next year, featuring Jessica Jones, Iron Fist, Daredevil and Luke Cage, eventually culminating in a giant team-up event called The Defenders. There is so much news and excitement coming in the next few years that the comic fan in me cannot stand it!

But the scientist in me began to ponder about superpowers, namely of these so-called “street level” heroes and if they could actually exist. Luke Cage, also known as Power Man, is one of the most durable superheroes in the Marvel Universe, thanks to his unique set of powers that allow him to have superhuman strength, and most notably, unbreakable skin due to being exposed to a variant of the Super Soldier serum that created Captain America.

Luke Cage started out in a street gang, but due to some events with a girlfriend of a friend, he was framed for heroin possession and locked up in Seagate Prison. There, he was “volunteered” for experiments, which resulted in his superpowers. He started a group called “Heroes for Hire,” which was a for-profit superhero business, and eventually joined the Avengers and headlined the New Avengers.

According to the official Marvel comics database, Cage’s powers are that his skin is steel-hard and his muscles and bone tissue are super-dense and resistant to damage. “He can withstand conventional handgun fire at a range of four feet and cannot be cut by the sharpest of blades, although in the event of required surgery, his skin can be lacerated by an overpowered medical laser. He can withstand up to one-ton impacts or blasts of 150 pounds of TNT without serious injury, and is impervious to temperature extremes and electrical shocks. His recovery time from injury or trauma is usually one-third that of an ordinary human.”

But what about the skin on everyone else?

Skin is separated into different layers: the epidermis, dermis and subcutis (or hypodermis).

The epidermis is the outermost layer, which has the nerve cells, melanin (which creates the colour of your skin), and immune cells to protect against infection. The epidermis heals itself very quickly and leaves no scars, unlike the lower layers. While the epidermis is what is shown to the world, it really varies in thickness across your body – from 1.5 millimetres (mm) on the palm of your hands to only 0.5 mm on your eyelids.

The dermis is right below the epidermis and is much thicker, up to 1.5 mm thick, which makes up around 90 percent of the total thickness of the skin. It is used mainly to help regulate body temperature and blood supply. The dermis is also where blood vessels are, along with hair follicles, sweat glands and many more. Because it is below the epidermis, it doesn’t heal as quickly, so when it is injured, special cells come and fill up the hole that are not as sensitive or flexible, which create scars.

The last layer, the subcutis or hypodermis, is where fat is stored and serves as a way to protect the organs, regulate body temperature and use fat as an emergency energy reserve for the body.

In total, the average skin thickness is 2.5 millimetres thick … but how thick would it have to be to, like Luke Cage, survive the shot of a conventional handgun fired at a range of four feet?

According the Federal Bureau of Investigation, all handguns must be capable of 12 inches of penetration in order to run the greatest chance of injuring vital organs and incapacitate the subject in order to be used by agents in the field. The 12-inch guideline accommodates for the presence of bones, vital organs, etc., as most people are far less than 12 inches thick. In fact, I’m only about 7.5 – 8 inches thick at my torso; so being shot by a bullet that can penetrate over 1.5 times that is more than enough. So, that seems like a pretty good baseline to start with.

Penetration power of a handgun is usually achieved by firing it at a block of ballistics gel, which estimates tissue density and viscosity (or how solid and liquid a substance is) to estimate the force of the shot. While the gel simulates muscle tissue, which has a density of 1.06 kg/litre, fat has a density of 0.92 kg/litre. Therefore, since skin is a mix of both, as well as some extras thrown in, the density is probably around 1-1.1 kg/litre. Therefore, while ballistics gel is not optimal to gauge skin penetration, it serves as a good ballpark figure. Therefore, if the FBI requires that its handguns be able to penetrate a minimum of 12 inches of ballistics gel, it is time for some math.

12 inches = 30.48 centimetres = 304.8 millimetres

And average skin thickness = 2.5 mm

If we divide the thickness of the handgun penetration into ballistics gel by the average skin thickness, we can calculate how much thicker your skin would need to be in order to be at the maximum end of the minimum FBI ballistics requirements.

304.8/2.5 = 121.92, or roughly 122 times the thickness of skin.

What that means is that hypothetically, if your skin were to be 123 times thicker than normal (around 307.5 mm thick), you might be able to survive being shot by a bullet from the end of an FBI standard issue handgun, but it would still hurt. Probably a lot. You would probably be better off wearing a bulletproof vest, which slows down bullets extremely quickly to a survivable level, or simply not getting shot at all.

Sources

http://marvel.com/universe/Cage,_Luke

http://training.seer.cancer.gov/melanoma/anatomy/

http://www.histology.leeds.ac.uk/skin/skin_layers.php

http://greent.com/40Page/general/fbitest.htm

http://www.scrollseek.com/training/densitiesofdifferentbodymatter.html

The next step

Superheroes have always presented a very interesting dilemma to me; in that they are often impossible flights of fancy yet simultaneously a form of wish fulfillment. Who hasn’t, at some point or other, wished that they could fly, teleport, read people’s minds or heal from any injury? I am not embarrassed to say that I have often found myself wishing I could fly to work, be super-strong so I could protect those I love or just be a badass like Wolverine or Batman.

I’m also not ashamed to say that I love superheroes and comics, and I have since I was a kid. I adored the thrill of opening up a comic for the first time and getting lost in the conflicts that filled their days – some relatable to my everyday experience, others not. But it never mattered, because I would always take something away from those books I would read as a child. Even though they were stories about individuals with extraordinary powers, they had personality traits that I admired and wanted to emulate, but most importantly, they had flaws.

Back then, I read as much as I could by the big companies, as well as some smaller ones. But my favourites were always Marvel heroes (and Batman), and they still are to this day.

The characters that probably had the largest impact on me as a child were the X-Men. Sure I loved Spider-Man, Daredevil, Captain America and the rest, but the X-Men were my go-to series. They dealt with ostracization, racism, bullying, being true to yourself, etc. And all of those themes spoke to me, as I encountered that during my young life. But comics, and reading in general, were an escape from the trials of being a kid, like bullies and feeling like an outcast sometimes.

I loved going to the comic book store and seeing what issues were new, talking to the owner about my favourite characters, and being so excited to read an issue that I couldn’t wait until I got home to crack it open. In fact, I still have a few comics from those days that are hidden away somewhere that I could not bear to part with. Some of them are collectibles and first issues, while others have great memories, like the great DC vs. Marvel comics crossover event from the mid-1990s.

But why am I talking about comic books and superheroes in what has (mostly) been a blog about science, animals and journalism?

I have decided to expand my blog to talk more about video games, movies, comics, etc., while still striving to maintain the science-bent, tone and style that was here previously. I am a big fan of pop culture and an avid consumer of it, so I will be putting that absurd amount of knowledge to good use here, and I hope you enjoy it. I will be writing more along the lines of previous posts, such as “The Science of Smaug the Terrible,” where I discussed the feasibility (using biomechanics) about if dragons could exist, and “Man of Steel shows its rust” highlighting issues I had with the changes made to the Superman mythology in the latest reboot.

Stay tuned true believers!

To be continued …