Marvel’s Avengers – A-Day Prologue Gameplay Reveal Impressions

Back at E3 this year, Square Enix showed a behind closed doors gameplay video of its upcoming Avengers game. The reception was poor from journalists, and from leaked footage, it did look bad. Maybe it was the cell phone camera that made it look like this is a licensed game from the early 2000s, until I saw the official gameplay reveal – it is that bad.

After a cutscene of the Avengers celebrating A-Day, duty calls as multiple attacks across San Fransisco burst out of nowhere. A little bit of awkward banter between Thor and Iron Man, the first peek at the overall feel is given as the God of Thunder smashes mysterious thugs. His movement looks sluggish, and the hits seem to not have weight to provide a satisfying punch, especially when throwing Mjolnir, his mighty hammer. It looks arcadey rather than a modern action experience.

Continuing the weird writing, his quips and catchphrases during combat are cringy. While the whole cast is excellent with Travis Willingham (Camp Camp and Tell Tale’s Batman) as Thor, Laura Bailey (Gears of War 4 and Insomniac’s Spider-Man) as Black Widow, Troy Baker (Bioshock: Infinite and The Last of Us) as Hulk, Nolan North (Uncharted and Pretty Little Liars) as Iron Man, and Jeff Schine (Mafia III and The Walking Dead: A New Frontier), they all have some flat line delivery along with no chemistry. North and Baker had wonderful chemistry in Uncharted 4, so maybe there was a directing issue, or this comes down to poor writing.

It appears each hero has three main moves to pummel enemies. The animations are enjoyable, but I have little hope the power will be there when playing.

Iron Man eventually comes in to help his friend. Unlike the movies where the heroes fighting side by side creates for exciting fights, this lacks that. He flies above Thor shooting people idly.

If things looked like you would play this in an arcade than pay $60, then it completely ramps up the quarter hungry type of game as Iron Man get his time to shine on screen. Switching to the billionaire superhero, he flies across the wreckage of exploded vehicles to shoot down flying enemies. The destruction of the landscape looks spectacular, which loses its mesmerizing effect as Tony blasts generic thugs out of the sky.

Hulk’s combat section does not repair any damage. He does what he is best at, smashing. The impact is not there, making him, along with everyone else, a lot less powerful than he should. The green Avenger jumps over gaps in the Golden Gate Bridge by wall jumping from one collapsed piece of debris or vehicle to another. It is overly linear and adds no depth to the gameplay.

Captain America continues the generic fighting as he kicks, punches, and uses his iconic shield to defeat incoming enemies. This beat-em-up section looks like every other scenario. While each character does have unique abilities, I don’t have confidence that will make enough of a difference for the quality.

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Black Widow chases Taskmaster, the only supervillain shown off so far. Out of every character design, he is one of the best. A brief platforming section along with a QTE (quick time event) heavy battle with the antagonist screams the early to mid-2000s in the worst possible way. She does get in a real battle with two more stages of this battle, which shows off weak gunplay and slightly faster movement from the agent.

It ends on a cutscene of Captain’s death and a few cutscenes from the trailer shown before this Gamescom reveal. All of the cutscenes are impressively crafted. The epic scope makes this story worthy for the Avengers, but everything else falls flat to make me not even care for its potential.

The second AAA title from Marvel Games looks terribly disappointing. Outside of pretty graphics, it offers no appeal to me at all. After the success of Spider-Man, I thought things looked positive for the other studios developing for the publisher. Turns out I was wrong as this comes off as a dated and generic action game that would have come out a decade ago as a cheap tie-in to one of the movies.

What do you think of the gameplay for Marvel’s Avengers?

Marvel’s Avengers comes out May 15, 2020, for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC, and Google Stadia.

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Images via Marvel Games/Square Enix

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Opinion: Superhero Movie Fatigue Will Not Happen Anytime Soon

Every release from DC or Marvel starts up a conversation about superhero fatigue. People are waiting for the decline in this popular genre, thinking it is a fad, except it is not something that will die after a few years. These characters and stories are beloved by fans all over the world. With Far From Home becoming the highest-grossing movie for Spidey and Endgame becoming the highest-grossing movie of all time, this proves that this will not go away anytime soon.

A formula that works has been established. Movies like Shazam! which made $364 million out of its $100 million budget and Captain Marvel made slightly over a billion in its lifetime run in theaters. Those two hit beats that anyone who has seen any of these films will recognize. Despite being reasonably basic origin story movies, the reviews and money show they can still hit hard with the DC hero having a 91% and Marvel’s most powerful personality having a respectable 78%.

The cookie-cutter spectacles get people in the theater, but to strive for longevity, creativity needs to continue to run freely. Deadpool, Logan, and Guardians of the Galaxy have all changed the game for tone and style in the seemingly oversaturated genre. While others fly with capes and spandex, Ryan Reynolds showed the world adult humor while fighting superpowered criminals works with a mass audience, while James Mangold crafted a dramatic, Western-inspired end to Hugh Jackman’s career as Wolverine, and James Gunn changed the face of the MCU with space outlaws turning good.

Change continues to arrive in the coming years. Joker will set the tone for both a villain’s origin while balancing a grounded crime drama. We always see characters breaking the law and having to deal with the consequences as a masked vigilante comes to save the day, but never the experience to see this done in a realistic way that puts aside any caped heroes.

Meanwhile, the mind behind plenty of iconic Spider-Man comics, Todd McFarlane, is creating a horrifying adaption from his own comic creation, Spawn. He aims for a reboot that will scare the audience with its horror elements along with a hard R rating.

The king of a superhero coming to the silver screen is currently Marvel. Kevin Fiege, head of Marvel Studios, plans on changing things up moving forward because even he recognizes that they are going into the formulaic territory. By having more diversity, cosmic storylines, and the possibility of R rated MCU entries, it is safe to say that Earth’s Mightiest Heroes will not go stale in the next phase.

Narratively these studios have plenty of source material to choose from to prevent running out of ideas. Both Marvel and DC not only have epic stories to tell on the big screen but plenty of characters that have not had a blockbuster adaption. Now that Marvel owns more of its roster after the Fox acquisition expects plenty to come with the X-Men and Fantastic Four, and that does not even consider the plans for phase four.

The big question fans have for Marvel is who will be the next big baddie after Thanos, which leaves many possibilities. Now that X-Men and Fantastic Four will eventually get introduced into this universe, that allows their villains to do what the Mad Titan could not accomplish by defeating this extensive roster of heroic men, women, and creatures.

DC has had its struggles, but besides their known and unknown catalog of superpowered personalities, the studio plans on a secondary universe starting with the upcoming Joker movie. It is ambitious and risky; however, this can save and redeem the company in the eyes of moviegoers.

The superhero train’s speed continues to go faster, making it harder to stop. The lineup of upcoming films makes it even more challenging to imagine this trend having a downfall in the near future. People will hit the theaters, and the heroes will still save the world.

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Opinion: Ari Aster is the Best Modern Horror Director

Spoilers for Midsommar and Hereditary.

Horror is one of the hardest genres to execute appropriately. While the profits look nice, the quality tends to fail. Last year and this year both have had two special films pop up from a new face in Hollywood. Ari Aster debuted a masterpiece that twists the oversaturated supernatural subgenre with Hereditary and as of a week ago has unleashed Midsommar, a dark twist on Sweden’s otherwise beautiful summer solstice festivals. Only two movies under his belt and I can safely say he is the current king of all things spooky in today’s climate of money-hungry ghosts and killers.

The magic of cinema is that it can evoke emotion from an audience by going beyond a piece of entertainment. Aster’s two releases have done this beautifully. Both movies share plenty of familiar, poignant themes like dysfunctional relationships and mental illness.

Mental health often gets portrayed in a cartoonish way that can heighten the stigmas rather than diminish them. The two films capture the complexity of depression and other illnesses.

Dani (Florence Pugh) in Midsommar loses her parents and sister who had been suffering from bipolar disorder. Her grieving and struggles remain throughout the entirety of the movie while playing into her character’s choices. It is why she becomes so vulnerable to the cult’s wishes of her joining them, which is even foreshadowed by Pelle’s (Vilhelm Blomgren) story about the death of his parents.

The protagonist of Hereditary, Annie (Toni Collette) goes through something similar as she loses both her mother and daughter in a short span of time. Annie’s pain, resentment, sorrow, regret, and the many other emotions that Collette display showcases how complicated feelings can become in troubling times. Annie’s vulnerability lets her ignore any signs of unusual events, which becomes her whole family’s downfall by the grandmother’s Pagan cult.

Plenty of horror influences get injected into Aster’s creations, but the main inspiration comes from real-world drama. Having problematic relationships or dealing with loss occurs in other movies; however, Aster takes it to a new level by the characters being more important than the threat. Usually, the psychotic killer is given more development than his potential victims. The focus on the personal lives of the protagonists in Hereditary and Midsommar make them a lot more believable, empathetic, and relatable.

Putting the spooky elements in the background or pushing it into the latter half of the movie sets up a slow burn that fleshes out characters. While it may be divisive since many who go into a theater for this genre want to get scared, but the audience Aster targets needs the patience to get to the turning point of the narrative.

His supernatural debut is an hour of an almost pure family drama, with ghosts and cult activity sprinkled throughout. The halfway mark slightly diverges for a more traditional spiritual horror story, while still maintaining what is happening between each family member. The drama beat me down with its depressing tone, then once things got dark, I felt defenseless by the grueling experience that leads up to the final act.

The latest project is almost entirely a drama between a couple and a group of friends. The cult activities are upfront, but nothing terrifying ever happens. The final moments are more forward about the sacrificial ritual being performed while keeping with the same tone and pacing like the rest of the film. Hereditary had a distinct shift, while this latest folk horror stayed on the road it had set in the beginning.

Blending imagination and reality makes for the most horrific experience. The director/writer does plenty of research to make sure both of these Pagan inspired narratives. Paimon, the demon that the cult worships in Hereditary, is not something made-up for the film. His origins predate Christianity and have popped up in a variety of religious texts. Meanwhile, Midsommar takes an array of influences from European summer solstice festivals and Pagan rituals, while taking some liberties to make the Hårga cult feel like a real group of people in Sweden.

Taking historical folklore takes research, which Aster does an excessive amount. The symbols, traditions, and runes found in his breakup horror flick come from Swedish history and mythology. Hårga is a location in Northern Sweden with a dark tale that goes behind it involving the devil, impersonating a fiddler, making people dance until they die. That is quite reminiscent of Dani and other women in the dance competition to become May Queen.

Traditions stay true, except for murder, like the use of flowers. The flower crowns seen are a highly regarded accessory along with the use of decoration.

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Dani about to start the dance competition with the other women in the cult.

Aster has an eye for art by the way his films are shot. They hold a variety of different shots to keep everything fresh. Midsommar has some wild shots from upside-down perspectives and wide shots to take in everything happening in an important scene. Both of his films utilize the camera to give meaning to what is happening between characters. In a scene during Hereditary between Annie and Peter (Alex Wolf) having an argument in the middle of the night, the viewpoint given shows the distance of the mother and son, not literally, but the separation of their relationship.

No room for filler because every choice from writing, shooting, and set design is done with a purpose. Little symbols that need a second or third viewing tell a part of the story in each nightmarish creation. Aster seems to enjoy throwing hidden gems to hint at an element of the narrative that only a small portion of an audience will identify.

Too many filmmakers churn out movie after movie that is another generic cash grab with no personality. Aster puts a style with his projects that distinguish them from any other release. His methodical pacing, distinct tone, and twists on real mythology make for traumatizing films to watch and make. Alex Wolf, who played the son in Hereditary and Jack Reynor’s role in Midsommar negatively effected them from Reynor’s discomfort during filming and Wolf’s mental and physical health diminished.

Two films are not enough to be a king of a genre, but two brilliantly crafted projects certainly give Aster the upper hand. If this continues, then I do see him being a master at cult classics. His vision causes diversity amongst viewers, but what he makes does not get forgotten. The name he is making for himself will make for a loyal fanbase looking forward to the next expertly designed experience that will emotionally scar anyone walking into the theater.

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Opinion: Nobody Should Completely Dismiss Google Stadia

Google’s Stadia, their upcoming video game streaming service, has caused mixed feeling amongst gamers and the industry as a whole. I have seen reactions from slight skepticism to people completely dismissing this new platform. I hold some doubt too, but I find thinking this will end up as a flop or gimmick to be too far.

Google has had plenty of gimmicks that end up going nowhere like their endeavors with Google Glass and other projects. The company has plenty of innovative ideas, but cannot always market it to commercial success. Stadia has potential with its strong lineup of upcoming compatible games and the behemoth that is the gaming industry. This seems to be the first time in a while since it has been able to get a refreshing idea like this to a level of curiosity that has people talking.

“I understand the concern,” Phil Harrison overseer of Stadia, told Kotaku. “But I think that all you have to do is look at the level of investment that we have made and continue to make in Stadia. This is not a trivial project by any means. This is a very, very significant cross-company effort that isn’t just my team, but it’s also across YouTube, it’s across our technical infrastructure and networking team. It represents thousands of people who are working on this business.”

That could be corporate fluff to show confidence in the system in hopes for people to buy into the product, but this interview was back in March. Soon afterward, as of yesterday, Google held Stadia Connect to give a rundown of information on how the service will work. Instead of talking up a grand plan, Stadia is coming this November with a free edition coming next year. That soon, of date, along with the recent event, proves the confidence that Google is serious.

Netflix, Microsoft, and even Google all started off on the wrong foot in the eyes of the world by thinking the innovative ideas that were tossed around would be impossible or even silly to exist. Yet, the skeptics were proven wrong even with some shortcomings from the early childhood of these companies.

The main issue many people seem to point out, something I worry about too, is the availability of stable, high-quality internet. The average world speed as of last year is 9.1Mbps, slightly below the minimum recommended for Stadia. Generally, internet service is getting better worldwide, but that is mostly because of widely developed nations that can bring out the latest technology as soon as possible.

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Image via Google

I can go into Stadia without any internet worries, but that is not for everyone. The average in California, where I live, is about 24.6Mbps. To get the right service, that can become costly, and not everyone can afford to pay for Stadia, especially in the United States which pays more for moderate service, and high-end internet, at least until the free tier comes in 2020.

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My internet at home

Technologies coming will make services like Stadia cheaper while tackling latency and bandwidth issues. Orion, a piece of software that Bethesda announced at E3, is the first significant step towards handling the concerns that so many people have towards streaming games. The goal will be to lower the price for consumers and publishers while taking on those technical hurdles.

Seeing where the future will take us can become difficult, but being open-minded enough can help develop some awareness. Gaming will reach a level to stream everything, it lays on when it is possible. Xbox’s streaming service and Stadia are two examples that will push everything forward. It might not be perfect at launch, but in a few years, these services will strike a massive market.

Image via Google

Opinion: BlacKkKlansman Benefits the Jewish Community During the Discussion of Prejudices in America

As a Jewish person who watches plenty of movies, I rarely see any representation of the Jewish people unless it is Holocaust-related. Other than that, Hollywood tends to steer away from anti-Semitic issues while they forgive people like Mel Gibson. 2018 had a surprising, Oscar-winning film to come out that sent its message to a broader audience, BlacKkKlansman.

Spike Lee’s latest film has a precise focus, the prejudices that the black community has faced throughout American history and how it relates to today, but there is more to it. The inclusion of Adam Driver’s character Flip Zimmerman broadens the conversation. Members of the KKK hate more than people of color, like Jews. At some point in the story, Flip reveals his Jewish background and deal with some scenes of anti-Semitism.

One of the several ways Lee pays respect to other demographics is by letting Driver take hold of scenes to develop his character. The most gripping has pain, yet remains calm throughout. Flip says this to his partner Ron Stallworth (John David Washington),

“Ron, I wasn’t raised Jewish. It wasn’t a part of my life. So I never thought much about being Jewish, was just another white kid, didn’t even have my Bar Mitzvah. No Chanukah for me. Christmas. In this job, you try to keep things at a distance. You put up a shield, so you don’t feel anything… This shit is deep. When that Fuck Felix had me in that room, and I kept having to deny my heritage… I have been passing.”

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While not much more is done throughout the length of the movie, this scene along with a few other vital moments moves the spotlight to another demographic that has been beaten down for years throughout history. Myself included with Flip, I never grew up religiously Jewish or acknowledged it, but plenty of people will hate me for it despite that information.

Uniting people when looking at racism tends the be the point of these films, but usually, the message is generalized, which is not entirely bad.  When Ron tries to get Flip to go undercover with him, he brings up that their issues are the same. Ron’s argument is on point since hatred towards a demographic vs. another should bring those groups together. While that is not always the case, this conversation does not separate prejudices into different categories but lumps them together to further the point about people who loathe others for basic reasons from skin color, religion, and more.

Using comedy on serious subjects could undermine the importance of the film’s intent, but Lee, Charlie Wachtel, David Rabinowitz, and Kevin Willmott utilized humor to enhance their stance on prejudices in America. When Lee spoke to Hollywood Reporter he discussed rather than writing jokes, the focus became about the “absurdity” of the premise and various situations that are seen in the film. Making the audience laughs lightens them up to the darker moments of the narrative without overwhelming them with crazed Klan members ready to burn crosses.

Anyone sensible can laugh at scenes where Klansmen talk about how Jews killed Jesus or how the Holocaust never happened. We know the truth, so knowing people think this way is laughable while concerning. Without the right tone, the impact would be altered, for better or for worse. In this case, Lee managed to strike a necessary balance to execute his latest project.

Presenting an argument has its dos and don’ts to win over an audience. While BlacKkKlansman has its flaws in its presentation, one thing it gets right is avoiding the Hitler fallacy. If an argument makes a comparison to Hitler or the Nazi Party, then that hit the head on the nail for this mistake often made. Plenty of factors go into why this is a terrible idea, but some of it stems from overuse and timeliness. The Holocaust happened so long ago, if one wants to make an example of a tyrannical leader or a case of atrocities against a demographic, then it is more impactful to use an example that is more recent. The 70s may appear so long ago, but much closer and relevant compared to the 40s. The use of footage from Charlottesville ties together the Stallworth’s journey all those years ago with how racism acts in today’s America.

BlacKkKlansman has its issues like any other piece of entertainment, but it holds plenty of significance to the problems minorities and other demographics face. It may get preachy here and there with its agenda, but the overall message is well executed. Some may not like Lee’s latest flick, but he has done a better job for the Jewish community than most filmmakers. Hopefully, others look to what has been done well here and can improve upon it when representing people who have been pushed down by Neo-Nazis and White Supremacists.

Images and videos via Focus Features, Movieclips Soon/Fandango, and Senseitional Videos

5 Biggest Snubs From the 2019 Oscar Nominations

The Academy Awards can never satisfy anyone due to the abundance of films that come out every year; however, sometimes their issues cannot be ignored like some major snubs that happen each year. Now that the nominees have been announced, the gaping holes shine the light on plenty of issues, but five of which infuriate me the most.

#5: Annihilation gets nothing?

Many have forgotten this beautiful film, but the sci-fi adaption delivered a brilliant artsy narrative along with the best visuals from the year. The film could easily grab at most eight nominations. The Academy should have put Alex Garland’s trippy flick under the following categories: adapted screenplay, makeup and hairstyling, visual effects, sound mixing, sound editing, costume design, production design, and cinematography. While many missed out on one of 2018’s best films, the ones who saw and fell in love with Annihilation will agree its right to take home an Oscar.

#4: Avengers: Infinity War deserves more nominations

Many may disagree, but Infinity War deserves more nods than Black Panther. The cultural significance of Black Panther makes it an essential film for all of Hollywood and the superhero genre. Comparing quality, Infinity War holds up far better and achieved the impossible by standing as one of the biggest blockbusters in history, not in budget and earnings, but in its stature in storytelling and directing.

Black Panther could move the comic book adaptions into the Academy more often, but I worry for the future recognition excellent movies in the genre will receive. Hopefully, King T’Challa can break through to the prestigious award ceremony to let in his fellow Avengers for the coming years.

At the very least, the epic battle against Thanos should have earned more nominations from the other visual oriented categories.

#3: Eighth Grade got nothing?

Offensive is the only word to describe Bo Burnham’s directorial debut snub. The resonating story made this small teenage journey one of the most important films of the year. Despite praise upon its release, the Oscars are for the cool kids, and not the awkward teenager.

Both Elsie Fisher and Josh Hamilton could squeeze into best actor and actress categories or replace someone for their position these significant slots.

Bo Burnham himself could get a place for his directing and original screenplay, however, he sits out just like his cast and crew.

Shame on the Academy Awards.

#2: Toni Collette ignored for her performance in Hereditary

I don’t know which of these last three slots on my list make me angrier, but Toni Collette not getting a nomination for her performance in 2018’s best horror film drives me insane. She delves into such emotion ranging from rage, feeling resented, depressed, desperate, and so much more to bring her character to life.

While most of my list is wanting a film or person to get a simple nod by the Academy, this is the one I demand to win due to her incredibly moving performance that took my breath away.

#1: Bradley Cooper does not get best director for A Star Is Born

How does one of Hollywood’s best actors get in so many categories, but not the best director? The Academy loves directorial debuts, but somehow Cooper could win all of the biggest awards despite one for one of his most momentous achievements in his career. Criminal might go too far, but describes how robbed he has been from such a respectable selection.

What are the biggest snubs from this year’s Oscar nominations to you? Comment what you think below.

Image via A24 and Warner Bros. Pictures

 

Spider-Man: Far From Home Theory: How Mysterio Will Turn into a Villain

Trailers for any entry into the MCU gets jam packed with content to dissect and with Spider-Man: Far From Home, one specific detail caught me, Quentin Beck/Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal) fights on the same side as our friendly neighborhood Spider-Man. Traditionally the special effects worker turned criminal has given Spidey plenty of trouble, but seeing him as a hero feels wrong. Due to Marvel’s current trend with their baddies, I have a few ideas about where Mysterio will end up.

The story we know so far is that Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) highjacks Peter’s (Tom Holland) vacation to Europe into a new adventure to face against Hydroman and the other Elementals. He gets introduced to Mysterio who has been hired by the uniter of the Avengers to help the web-slinger defeat these new foes.

Marvel has addressed their antagonist problem in a significant way with Thanos (Josh Brolin), Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan), and Vulture (Michael Keaton), who have all been able to prove themselves as worthy foes and have a sympathetic backstory that makes their motivations impact the audience point of view. My thoughts here are that Mysterio will start off as a hero, but end as a criminal. Something traumatic will occur to lead him down a darker path, which leads to a loveable new character to turn down the wrong path, not only affecting Peter but the audience too.

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Image via Marvel Studios

Having a change of heart for Mysterio will become important, especially as Vulture gets reintroduced. Keaton’s excellent birdlike crook will make a return in a way that has not been shown or mentioned. The most obvious reason is to move into a Sinister Six direction. Mysterio and Vulture both tend to have significant roles in the clubhouse of supervillains, along with Shocker (Bokeem Woodbine) and Mac Gargan (Michael Mando) who eventually turns into Scorpion. Since the standalone films have consisted in threes, Spider-Man’s third journey could have the ultimate climax by facing against six of his greatest enemies, all we need is two more introductions.

Often times the leader of the Sinister Six flips between Green Goblin or Doc Ock, neither of whom have made an entrance into the MCU, yet. The Osborn storyline has been beaten to death with the Garfield and Maguire films, so going to Otto Octavius who has not made any live-action appearances since Spider-Man 2 in 2004. Tony Stark will no longer be around as Peter’s superhero guardian, introducing Otto as a new father figure could push the iconic hero into a new direction that has not been seen on film, along with the leading into his toughest challenge to take on alone.

The motivations to Mysterio could go in a different direction if the Sinister Six option becomes a reality, even without five villainous buddies, he has room to digress into a supervillain. His drive in the comics relates to frustration with the film industry and a desire to become famous, so he tries to take down Spider-Man to achieve a high level of stardom. Not a strong motive for a big screen adaption, but his ego driving him for glory could work against him by moving towards heroism then having those plans blow up in his face to corrupt his moral compass.

Another direction for his desires can stem from a falling out with either Nick or Peter. Seeing heroic men not turn out who he expected could lead Quentin Beck to a darker life. The classic story of betrayal or having different outlooks could turn Quentin into a sinister force rather than an avenging one.

Marvel has come to love their misdirection like in the trailers for Thor: Ragnarok and Infinity War. Due to how many edits were made in the third Avengers, I can no longer trust what gets shown in any preview for new entries in the MCU. No matter what trick lies waiting for audiences, I can guarantee a plan for Mysterio to go rogue will occur at some point in Far From Home.

What do you think about my ideas about Sinister Six or the lone Mysterio fighting against Nick Fury and Spider-Man? Comment any of your thoughts on my theory or your own theories below.

Header image via Marvel Studios