ST. LOUIS — Sometimes, studios can get greedy or just stop caring about their consumers. Other times, they make the right call that both honors a fallen star and gives new life to their film franchise at the same time.
Friday, Marvel made their best decision yet by deciding not to recast Chadwick Boseman in "Black Panther 2," a move that should bring the studio kudos for not discarding a vital legacy that has still left people in shock. Honestly, when I hear about Boseman in the third person, like a candle going out like can't be relit with any torch in the world, it still hits me right in the chest.
2020 has been a year unlike any other, and that's not even counting the ruthless pandemic that continues to rage on, no matter what month it is. It's a year that took away Kobe Bryant way back (seems like years) in January, Boseman in August, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg in September. A year where over 230,000 people didn't make it out of alive should turn the attention off one man like the "Black Panther" star, who packed a lot of life into his 43+ years on Earth.
But the movies have a profound effect on people and their families. They are what nurses escape into during a break from their shift at the hospital. It's what a family of 6 gathers around for every Saturday night. They provide a suture, even if it's only temporary, from all the badness outside the door. There's a promise in that, and Marvel made the right call in honoring their king.
Recasting Boseman would have been a painfully brash financial decision that could gut the franchise. Instead, look around and place your hand on another star, such as Letitia Wright's savvy tech genius who made Boseman's T'Challa extra powerful. Or Winston Duke's M'Baku, who helped a direly wounded T'Challa make his comeback in the 2018 film. Daniel Kaluuya's W'Kabi, who betrayed T'Challa but was redeemed by the end of the film, could step into the lead role. A highly skilled actor and star, Kaluuya's arc could be interesting. Don't sleep on T'Challa's second in command, Danai Gurira's Okoye, who decimated a room full of threats in a single swing.
No matter what, Marvel has set the course very well with this decision, which was expected but still required daylight to properly breathe. They could have tied together old, unused footage and tried to bring Boseman back, and the painful part is that fans would have flocked to the theater to see it. But in the end, it would have looked as bad as Henry Cavill's moving upper lip in "Justice League." I'm glad they made the classy choice.
Now let's hit a few more topics while we are standing at the buffet:
~Speaking of Marvel and Disney Plus, the new trailer for "WandaVision" looks amazing. Along with 47 new "Star Wars" projects, Disney is expanding on their Avengers universe, and focusing on Paul Bettany and Elizabeth Olsen's superpowered couple is a refreshing course. The "Stepford Wives" neighborhood setup, with the idea that they could just fit into a community without government interference, should make for some real fun come Jan. 15.
~"Nobody" is the perfect showcase for Bob Odenkirk. The "Breaking Bad" and "Better Call Saul" star playing a seemingly ordinary family man who gets pushed too far has the right amount of spin for a February release. If it looks a lot like "John Wick," that's because it has the same writer and producer as the trilogy starring Keanu Reeves. But this time, Odenkirk's "Nobody" has a very much alive wife and two kids to boot while he is being hunted after coming out of hiding. There's also a lot of humor, and that's the star's sweet spot. He was trained by veteran stunt man Daniel Bernhardt, one of the henchmen from "Wick," for the role, so it should all look legit.
~Patty Jenkins coming aboard the "Star Wars" train is great news. She is the reason "Wonder Woman" hit so hard. It wasn't just about Diana Prince; it was a woman in Hollywood standing up and saying, "look at what I got!" The daughter of a real-life fighter pilot, Jenkins made the announcement on Twitter yesterday. As Variety's Clayton Davis put it, this is much-needed Patty Jenkins energy.
~IDEA for other studios following Warner Brothers' groundbreaking decision to place their big budget 2021 slate simultaneously on HBO Max and in theaters: Meet in the middle? Release your film for a month in theaters exclusively, and then put it on a streaming service. That way, the theater loyalists can get their fill, but the people who wait-which was a common occurrence before the pandemic-can get it quicker instead of 2-3 months. Mea culpa, possibly? One must face and understand the changing tide in Hollywood, where things are and have been going. This is a way to test the waters before the world clicks back into gear in hopefully a year.
~"Fatman" is available on Redbox, ladies and gentlemen. Put your hatred for Mel Gibson aside for a second and go enjoy one of the funniest Christmas thrillers in years. Walton Goggins is the sadistic hitman gunning for Gibson's big jolly head in Eshom and Ian Nelms' wildly entertaining film that doesn't overstay its welcome one bit. Just think of it as an old and crazier Martin Riggs going up against Boyd Crowder with a more devilish spin. Trust me on this. Less than two dollars at your Redbox. Pick up the prescription, grab a frozen pizza and some cookies, and settle in for a real treat!
~Bill Burr is good in everything. While he is one of the best standup comics working today, Burr has always partaken in supporting roles in a variety of film and television projects. Remember him in the back 9 of "Breaking Bad?" Good stuff. Remember him in Judd Apatow's "The King of Staten Island?" Very good. He had a small role in Jon Favreau's "The Mandalorian" last year, and returned this week for another part. He's the real deal, always authentic and always inserting laughter where it's much-needed. More Burr, please!
That's it, for now at least. I have more to say, but a 1,000 words is enough for this Friday afternoon.
Be well, look out for your fellow human, and please be kind.