Inspired by Avengers: Endgame, the 182-minute grand finale of the Marvel cinematic saga, I crunched some numbers and examined how blockbusters—especially ones not encumbered by Endgame’s hefty narrative obligations, with so many characters and storylines to pay off—are expanding at a much faster rate than is the human lifespan. I am solely responsible for the math in the piece, and the jokes.
We didn’t think I’d actually get to interview everyone I had on my to-interview wish list. That never happens. Only this time it did, which is how I came to have five different voices in my four-and-a-half-minute All Things Considered piece on the animation in Spider-Man: Into the Spider Verse, a movie I cannot wait to see again.
All of them—producer Chris Miller, producer/co-screenwriter Phil Lord, co-screenwriter/co-director Rodney Rothman, co-director Peter Ramsey, and finally, Eisner Award-winning comic book writer Brian Michael Bendis, who (with artist Sara Pichelli), created Miles Morales, the primary hero of Spider-Verse—had smart, illuminating things to say. I spoke to Bendis solo and Lord & Miller and Rothman & Ramsey in pairs, and pretty soon I had something like 75 minutes of good tape for a story that could accommodate mmmmaybe two-and-a-half minutes of that.
It was an epic job of cutting, followed by more frantic cutting, and then more surgical cutting. My editor, Nina Gregory, and news assistant Milton Guevara, showed me how radio pros get things done on deadline. Bob Mondello, who’d suggested the piece in the first place, gave me some vocal coaching in the booth.
I wish we could’ve used more of what all those smart, imaginative people had to say. I wish we could’ve made the segment 15 minutes long. But I’m very happy with what we managed to pack into about 240 seconds.
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is the first good Spider-Man movie in, uh, 18 months! But it’s more than that: A fun, warm, visually astonishing omnibus of Spider-lore that elegantly rebukes reactionary fans whose minds are stuck in 1963. I rarely get worked up over animated films—a blind spot I can neither defend nor explain—but I loved this. Here’s my NPR review.
I saw a review headline earlier today proclaiming Ant-Man and The Wasp “the perfect summer movie.” I could easily name 20 perfect movies released during the summergoing back to Jaws, released the summer before I was, but the phrase “a perfect summer” movie almost invariably refers to movies that aren’t very good.
Ant-Man and The Wasp isn’t Not Good. It is, as my pal and editor and occasional (today!) Pop Culture Happy Hour panel-mate Glen Weldon observed in his review, fine.
Most of Black Panther is set in the imaginary African nation of Wakanda, a technological utopia whose monarchs have for centuries observed a strict policy of isolationism, keeping would-be colonizers at bay by hiding their nation’s wealth and scientific advancement from the outside world. We’re told in the movie’s very first minute that Wakanda’s prosperity derives from its abundance of Vibranium, and that this bounty was delivered via meteorite long before humans walked the Earth.
And for a resource they’re trying to keep secret, the Wakandans sure talk about it a lot.
Even more than the characters in Avatar (Remember Avatar? Nominated for nine Oscars including Best Picture and Best Director for my boy James Cameron? Still the highest-grossing movie in the history of movies?) speak the much-derided name of that movie’s extraterrestrial miracle metal, Unobtanium.
Thor: Ragnarok is the best Thor movie by an Asgardian mile, but don’t let that backhanded compliment stop you. With dual villains played by Cate Blanchett and Jeff Goldblum plus a Mark Mothersbaugh score, it’s a stealth The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou reunion. Lo, here’s my NPR review.