Snake Eyes’ Henry Golding Tells Us About Kicking Off a New G.I. Joe Franchise

Henry Golding in a crop of the Snake Eyes poster with his back to camera and face turned, and wearing a sword.

Henry Golding is Snake Eyes.
Photo: Paramount

Snake Eyes has always been one of the most recognizable, popular characters in the G.I. Joe franchise, and now we’ll find out how he got there. The brand new film Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins hits theaters July 23 and io9 was lucky enough to talk to the man behind the mask, Henry Golding, about the character’s mystique, costume, go-to research materials, and so much more.

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Though 2009’s G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra and 2013’s G.I. Joe: Retaliation feel relatively recent, Snake Eyes is a fresh take and reboot of the popular Hasbro franchise. Here, director by Robert Schwentke takes the “Real American Heroes” and brings the franchise to Japan. That’s where a warrior named Tommy (Andrew Koji, Warrior) takes another mysterious young warrior (Golding, Crazy Rich Asians) under his wing to become a member of his Arashikage clan of ninjas—the two will become Storm Shadow and Snake Eyes, respectiveley. In the first trailer, which debuted during the MTV Movie Awards, you saw all that along with other G.I. Joe favorites: the Baroness (Úrsula Corberó), Scarlett (Samara Weaving), and a very, very recognizable mask at the end. But, you probably still have some questions about what the movie is. io9 sat down for a video chat earlier this week with the man who can provide some answers—Snake Eyes himself, Henry Golding.


Germain Lussier, io9: Snake Eyes has always been iconic because of his mystique. He was just this quiet badass and the backstory didn’t come until later. Now, from the trailer, it’s obvious this movie is going to demystify that in a very definitive way. Were there any worries about losing some of that mystique and how does the movie use the mystique?

Henry Golding: Absolutely not. I think he, as a character, is so complex, that peeling back the layers, you can only go so far until you hit the Snake Eyes kind of wall. He’s so mysterious in his ways. We catch up with him at the beginning of this movie where he is motivated by things that are so self-destructive that we need to understand them to see why he is so mysterious, and to see why he’s so closed off in ways that we can’t explain. So to be able to kind of balance that was the real goal. And so to give enough to the audience members, to give enough to the fans to sympathize with the decisions that he has to make within this movie, to realize that the mistakes he makes, the choices he brings to the table, the lessons he learns, really affects the man that is behind the mask. So for us, it was so important to be able to kind of peel back at least a few layers because we can’t just have an unexplainable character. You know, mystique is fantastic, but it only brings you so far because the questions will always be there. But does it reveal more questions? Answers lead to more questions. That’s what I’ve learned for this entire thing, is that there will never be enough answers to demystify this guy. He is so complex.

Yo Joe!

Yo Joe!
Photo: Paramount

io9: So how closely does the movie draw from source material like the ‘80s comics and how much is it kind of its own thing?

Golding: Well, we had Larry [Hama] on board as [executive producer]. The legendary Larry Hama was a big guidance in being able to tell his story. And so creating a backstory for not only preexisting G.I. Joe fans and lifelong G.I. Joe fans to appreciate, but also a brand new generation of fans around the world. You got to understand, G.I. Joe really was popular in America but now we’re looking on a global scale. How do we make it so that it is approachable by little kids on the playground in Indonesia or in Vietnam or somewhere? We needed to make it approachable and understandable and not have them have to go back to read Silent Interlude to understand like, “Snake Eyes was like this because of this”’ No. We needed, of course, to have a starting point. Is that the definitive, all questions answered, starting point? Definitely not. We can’t do that. But of course, we’re introduced to the lore of G.I. Joe and its throughlines, which is “What is G.I. Joe without COBRA?” I mean, of course, COBRA plays a huge part in this—and the players we’re introduced to: Scarlett, Baroness, Tommy, Hard Master, Blind Master, Akiko is one of our new characters. It’s not too much to get everything convoluted, but it’s enough to get you hungry for more. That was the goal.

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io9: Did you have any kind of go-tos for yourself and your character research? Was it just talking to Larry or was it anything else?

Golding: It was it was a bit of both, really. It was talking to Larry, understanding what he wanted to create, not what he created for someone else. It’s what he, as an artist, wanted to create and the reasons why he made the decisions he did. I think it was important that I myself, as an actor, concentrate on what I know as the character at this point, because if I’m thinking about things that never happened in my reality, they don’t help me at all. But I know we’re trying to get to here by the end of the movie. So what is happening between these two points? Where it goes? Anybody’s guess. But what I need to understand is what are his motivations in this moment? Where have his decisions from his past led him and why?

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Andrew Koji is Tommy, aka Storm Shadow.
Photo: Paramount

io9: One thing the trailer shows that it does lead is to the costume. I mean, obviously, we want to see your face as the star, but it’s Snake Eyes. His mask is a star too, so what can you tell me about the costume?

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Golding: [It was made by] Iron Head Studios. They do pretty much every single huge costume design out there. And they, together with our amazing wardrobe team, created the all-new Snake Eyes costume [Holds the toy up to the camera]. It’s fantastic. The first time I put on the mask was just like, “Holy cow, this fits like a glove.” And so it’s a modern take on the costume. But I think the joy in the movie is seeing the inspiration from the Arashikage—you see Snake’s costume through the movie change very sort of slowly and slightly—but you see those inspirations mirrored in the final suit.

io9: This is kind of Paramount’s reboot of the G.I. Joe franchise and obviously, we don’t know what will happen until after this movie comes out. But how much do you tentatively know already about what could happen?

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Golding: I’m in the dark as much as you are. I know for a fact that they’re already in the works. Speaking to Lorenzo [DiBonaventura], our producer, they’re already thinking, because we can take this anywhere—but depending on how Snake Eyes does in telling specific stories will tell us where we want to take and how to expand the universe. Because if we jump into just a huge G.I. Joe universe and introduce 12 characters, people are going to be like, “Oh well yeah. Okay, that guy’s cool. That guy does this thing.” But they don’t know anything about them. So to be able to build the characters from day one, I think, is the real gift.

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Samara Weaving is Scarlett.
Photo: Paramount

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io9: What was your G.I. Joe IQ coming into this movie? What did you do to dive in?

Golding: It was hitting all the blogs, hitting all the fan sites, all the Wikipedia pages, the G.I. Joe Wiki pages. [The website] Hiss Tank, I’d listen to those guys. I luckily got my hands on two copies of Silent Interlude and that became sort of bedtime reading for a long time just to really sort of understand who he becomes. But my real concentration was, again, I can’t think beyond. At the time we were filming, I was like, “He has such specific motivations at the beginning of this movie before he becomes the man that we know, that we need to concentrate on these.” A lot of people are like you can water down your character’s thought process or you concentrate on exactly what we’re trying to achieve here. So that’s kind of what I did, but I can’t help but sneak in [some history]. It’s so rich.

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io9: Last thing, will we get Timber in this movie or not?

Golding: That’s everybody’s last question! I’ll put it this way. This is G.I. Joe. [holds arms out wide] This is Snake Eyes’ movie [holds up single finger]. This is the journey we’re going to take [gestures to all the remaining space]. Is Timber in that? Let’s hope so. There’s no ruling it out. And I think, you know, Snake Eyes [with] his trusty companion, I think that would be a special, special moment. So we’ll see.

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Here’s another special moment, an awesome new featurette from Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins.


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Anthony Mackie Talks Black Panther’s Legacy and Traveling to Wakanda

Anthony Mackie is Captain America

Anthony Mackie is Captain America
Screenshot: Marvel Studios

When the new title of Black Panther dropped (Black Panther: Wakanda Forever), everyone was lit. Since then, actors in the MCU have discussed the Black Panther experience.

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First actress Lupita Nyong’o spoke about returning to the Black Panther set without Chadwick Boseman. Then Michael B. Jordan expressed his excitement on the new title and whether Killmonger is returning to the sequel. Now, actor Anthony Mackie (Sam Wilson/Falcon/Captain America) is weighing in.

Mackie sat down with ET and expressed his feelings about the new title. “It’s dope,” he says. “I feel like continuing that legacy is very important. There are a bunch of amazing actors and actresses under that Black Panther mantle who are now going to come together, and that legacy will live on. So, I’m really excited that they’re showing that it’s not specifically about Black Panther, but it’s about Wakanda.”

Bucky has one foot in Wakanda as he was a guest of T’challa after the end of Captain America: Civil War, and while there, he receives a new vibrainium arm. Falcon and the Winter Soldier often reflects on Bucky’s connection to Wakanda, but Wilson has also benefited from having close ties to the African country as his new flight suit is created by Wakanda genius Shuri.

When asked if Falcon will return to Wakanda via the new Disney+ show World of Wakanda, this is what he had to say, “I do have a Wakanda visa, so I can go to Wakanda as much as I want,” the actor laughs. “I have a passport and a Wakanda visa, and I’m vaccinated so I can go to Wakanda.”

Whether he will appear in the new film is up for debate, but Mackie just wants the Black Panther sequel to honor Chadwick Boseman, “You just want to do everything the right way. I don’t know what that answer is. I don’t know what that right thing is. I just want to make sure that it’s done right for him.”

As the new Captain America, Sam Wilson is bound to show up in some capacity throughout the MCU. For now, we’ll just have to wait for some definitive news!

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Marvel’s Secret Invasion Series Taps Thomas Bezucha and Ali Selim to Direct

Illustration for article titled Marvel's Secret Invasion Series Taps Thomas Bezucha and Ali Selim to Direct

Image: Marvel Studios

Marvel’s Secret Invasion series is crazy stacked with A-Listers like Oscar winner Olivia Coleman (The Favorite), Emilia Clarke (Game of Thrones), Kingsley Ben-Adir (Bridgerton), with Samuel L. Jackson reprising his role as Nick Fury, and Ben Mendelsohn coming back as Skrull shapeshifter Talos.

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And now the show has its directors Thomas Bezucha (Let Him Go) and Ali Selim (The Looming Tower). They will lead this amazing cast of actors, with writer Kyle Bradstreet (Mr. Robot) will write and act as executive producer.

The Hollywood Reporter states there are no details of the show’s plot, but the series kicks off production later this year in Europe, but the specific location is under wraps. There is no word on how many episodes are in the series or if they’re 30 or 60-minutes long.

In the Secret Invasion comic series, Skrulls invade humanity while impersonating superheroes. Marvel.Fandom gives a good summary of what happened before war broke out on Earth.

“Located on interstellar crossroads, Earth was viewed as prime territory by many alien cultures. One of these cultures was the Skrulls. Due to a large number of superhumans on Earth, all invasion attempts were thwarted every time. The Skrulls, despite their previous inability to conquer the planet, still viewed Earth as rightfully theirs. After the Kree-Skrull War, the Illuminati took it upon themselves to travel to the Skrull throneworld to inform them not to involve Earth in their struggles again. Upon arrival, however, the Illuminati were captured and experimented upon before they were able to escape.”

Secret Invasion is suitable for the next phase of Marvel’s cinematic universe. Did you read Secret Invasion? What do you think of this new phase of the MCU? Comment Below!


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Monica Rambeau Scenes Were Cut From WandaVision and Here’s Why!

Teyonah Parris as Monica Rambeau in Wandavision

Teyonah Parris as Monica Rambeau in Wandavision
Image: Marvel Entertainment

WandaVision writer Jac Schaeffer has been holding OUT!

On Entertainment Weekly’s The Awardist podcast with Schaeffer discusses why a specific scene from Monica Rambeau’s (Teyonah Parris) story had to be cut.

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“My pitch was mapped to the stages of grief, it ended up being kind of a reductive thing,” said Schaeffer. “I don’t know if you know this or not, Teyonah, but [Monica] had a therapist in the base, the pop-up base. There were therapy scenes because we, in the [writers’] room, were very pro-therapy.”

WandaVision remained invested in exploring the effects of grieving and trauma. If you’ve watched the show, you know Monica Rambeau went through a lot to become the hero she is today, and Schaeffer was itching to give the audience access into her psyche with scenes of her speaking to a therapist. Unfortunately, it was deleted due to timing. Schaeffer states, “We were like, ‘Well, we’ve got to have a therapist,’ and then realized that there’s not a lot of time in the pop-up [S.W.O.R.D.] base [outside Westview] for Monica to be stepping into her sessions at all.”

Well, that sucks! I hope they release the scene because I would like to know what’s going on inside Monica’s head. It might give us some perspective of what’s to come when Monica, Carol Danvers (Brie Larson), and Kamala Khan (Iman Vellani) come together in the film The Marvels set to release in 2022.

What do you think? Should they release that deleted scene? Let us know!


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All the Animals American Men Think They Can Beat in a Fight and Why They Can’t

Some old timey dude preparing to lose a fight to a kangaroo in London in 1931.

Some old timey dude preparing to lose a fight to a kangaroo in London in 1931.
Photo: Fox Photos/Hulton Archive (Getty Images)

According to a YouGov poll released on Friday, some humans have extremely poor judgment when it comes to determining which animals they could win a one-on-one, unarmed fight against. Namely, they think they can win those fights at all.

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For example, 6% of respondents believed they could beat a grizzly bear, 8% are confident of their ability to take on a gorilla or elephant, 14% are delusional about their ability to overpower a kangaroo, and 30% think they could best an eagle. Men, in particular, appear to dramatically overestimate what animals they could beat up, with a bigger percentage of American men than women saying they could beat every animal with the sole exception of a lion.

All of these people are wrong. The only correct answer is no. The human is a weak fleshy sack of TV dinners and incorrect trivia answers and without the coward’s advantage of a weapon will lose every time. Here’s why.

Grizzly Bear

Grizzly bears don’t want to fight you, because they mostly want to be left alone while they eat plants, berries, fish, insects, and carrion. The biggest ones, depending on the species, also weigh up to 1,700 pounds. You’re fucked.

Lion

A lion would pounce on you. Game over. If there is tall grass around you won’t even know how dead you are before it happened.

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Elephant

Elephants are the size of trucks if trucks had big horns on the front and four legs to stomp on you with when they’re done running you over. They can also hurl you around with their prehensile noses. Most importantly, they are much, much smarter than any unarmed human who would choose to fight an elephant.

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Gorilla

The gorilla is a gentle giant and would probably never choose to fight you. It could also rip off both your arms and beat you to death with them if you chose to fight it because male gorillas have an estimated strength of around six times that of a human and an arm span of 7.5 to 8.5 feet. Also, they have fangs.

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Crocodile

The crocodile would simply bite you with its giant mouth.

Wolf

Wolves have mouths full of very sharp teeth designed to keep their prey from pulling away from their bite. They are also capable of running 35 to 40 miles per hour in short bursts and have wicked-fast reflexes. The wolf wins, no exceptions.

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Kangaroo

Kangaroos should be far higher on this list. They have giant claws on their high legs that can easily disembowel a human and their kicks could potentially shatter bones. Pretty sure it could cold clock you in the face with its front legs too. The only way a kangaroo will not kick your ass is if it chooses not to for some reason.

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Chimpanzee

Chimpanzees can be extremely aggressive. Lead biologist Frans de Waal of the Yerkes National Primate Research Center told Scientific American their strength is “utterly incomprehensible” to a human, with males having arm strength up to five times that of a human as well as large canine teeth. They can also climb trees and stuff and then jump on you. They know how to use simple tools and are not going to respect the no-weapons terms of the fight. Chimpanzees invented war a long, long time before humans did and have been perfecting it ever since.

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King Cobra

Whether or not you manage to fight it off, you will still lose within about 15 minutes or so, because its bite is extremely venomous in large quantities.

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Large dog

See Cujo.

Eagle

The eagle can fly, meaning it can swoop down at your eyes and blind you with its razor-sharp claws. It will continue to have an impeccable sense of vision while doing so. Also, I assume its beak is very sharp.

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Medium-sized dog

This is the same level of danger as a large dog, except the dog would win a less impressive welterweight belt when it was finished with you.

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Goose

Do not underestimate a hostile goose. Just trust me on this.

House Cat

Uh, they’re tiny little jaguars that could kill you at any time, but simply choose not to because it’s easier to have you open the tin cans of food for them. Cats also know every one of your weaknesses and will ruthlessly exploit them. They kill two billion animals a year in Australia alone and you will be one of them.

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Rat

While rats may have been unfairly blamed for the Black Plague, I still wouldn’t take your chances.

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Big Smiles, Big Abs, and Big Swords in the Giant-Sized Toys of the Week

Thor: Ragnarok's Odin, He-Man, and Final Fantasy VII Remake's Cloud Strife appear in action figure form.

Image: Hasbro, Mattel, and Square-Enix

Toys and CollectiblesAction figures, statues, exclusives, and other merchandise. Beware: if you look here, you’re probably going to spend some money afterwards.

Welcome back to Toy Aisle, io9’s regular round up of the latest and greatest in giant hunks of plastic to go on your shelf. This week: He-Man returns in a revelatory manner, Lego heads back to New York and the ‘90s for a retro Friends treat, and Odin smiles upon you… distressingly. Check it out!

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Illustration for article titled Big Smiles, Big Abs, and Big Swords in the Giant-Sized Toys of the Week

Image: Lego

Lego The Friends Apartments

Do we really need two giant Lego sets based on NBC’s Friends when sitcoms like Seinfeld, The Office, and Arrested Development have none? The answer is apparently yes because almost two years after the Lego Ideas Friends Central Perk set was announced, we’re getting a follow-up that uses almost twice the number of pieces—2,048—to recreate the two impossibly large NYC loft apartments featured in the series. The set includes various accessories inspired by the sitcom’s most memorable episodes, as well as new minifigure versions of Ross, Rachel, Chandler, Monica, Joey, and Phoebe, plus Chandler’s ex-girlfriend Janice. The $150 set doesn’t actually appear to be available for pre-order yet, so you’ll need to set a reminder for June 1 if you want to snag one.


Illustration for article titled Big Smiles, Big Abs, and Big Swords in the Giant-Sized Toys of the Week

Image: Mattel

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Mattel Masters of the Universe: Masterverse Action Figures

Yesterday, Mattel and Netflix revealed that their new animated He-Man revival, Masters of the Universe: Revelation, will premiere its first five episodes starting July 23. Along with the announcement came another reveal: our first look at the accompanying line of Masters of the Universe: Masterverse seven-inch action figures featuring the reimagined characters. The initial lineup includes He-Man, Skeletor, Evil-Lyn, Moss Man, and Battle Cat, and when available starting in June for $20 (or $40 for a deluxe version of Battle Cat) each figure will include up to 30 points of articulation, and at least one accessory like a weapon or an alternate swappable head.

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Illustration for article titled Big Smiles, Big Abs, and Big Swords in the Giant-Sized Toys of the Week

Image: Hasbro

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Hasbro Marvel Legends Series Infinity Saga Figures

Hasbro’s latest wave of “Infinity Saga” releases brings us faces new and old (and very old) to the MCU toy line. First up is a bumper Endgame two-pack of Iron Man and Thanos engaging in the clickiest snap-battle this side of West Side Story. Coming in at $63, the deluxe set includes not just Thanos and Tony, but a bunch of cool accessories, whether it’s Thanos’ sword, suit weaponry and repulsor blasts for Tony, and yes, the suitably-gaunteted snapping hands for both. But maybe the coolest addition is the alternate heads: Tony gets helmeted, unhelmeted, and bloodied near-death ones, while Thanos has a stoic head, a grunting battle head, and an “oh no I’m being snapped!!!” mid-dissolve head.

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If Asgard’s more your jam, releasing standalone for $25 alongside them is Anthony Hopkins’ Marvel Legends debut. Depicting Odin in full battle regalia, the figure comes with his trusty spear to ride into conflict with—but there’s also an unhelmeted head that depicts lil’ plastic Hopkins doing his best Hide Your Pain Harold impression. Both releases are set to hit shelves in September. [AFI]


Illustration for article titled Big Smiles, Big Abs, and Big Swords in the Giant-Sized Toys of the Week

Image: Square-Enix

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Final Fantasy VII Remake Play Arts Kai Limited Color Cloud Strife

Square-Enix’s Play Arts Kai line for Final Fantasy VII Remake has already given us multiple versions of Cloud, whether it’s the initial one based before he was slightly redesigned for the final game, or the game’s fancy SOLDIER 1st Class Release that put the Shinra-warrior-turned-mercenary-for-hire on his new bike from the game. This latest take is inspired by the tweaked “2.0” figure, but gives Cloud a stronger color palette inspired by his appearance in the original Playstation 1 icon, with his purple-hued trousers and jumper, and a stronger blonde tint to his hair. Otherwise, all you get to mosey on with is a stand, some alternate hands, and, of course, his legendary Buster Sword. He’ll set you back $150, and is set to ship in May.

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[HobbyLink Japan]


Illustration for article titled Big Smiles, Big Abs, and Big Swords in the Giant-Sized Toys of the Week

Image: Hot Toys

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Hot Toys Iron Man 2 Tony Stark Mark V Suit Up Deluxe Version Sixth-Scale Figure

The world needs another Tony Stark Iron Man action figure like the ozone layer needs another hole, but despite the movie version of the character actually being dead, Hot Toys is going to continue to churn these out until the end of time. That being said, it’s hard to be cynical when this time around the toymaker has recreated the “suitcase” suit version of Iron Man’s armor from the first sequel, arguably one of the coolest suits in Stark’s arsenal. As with all things Hot Toys you’re going to have to wait a while—until late 2022—for this one to ship, but it definitely seems worth all the patience with a new Robert Downey Jr. face sculpt, a semi-assembled suit of armor, and exclusive to the deluxe version of the figure: a meticulously detailed metallic red Mark V suitcase with articulated features and an incredible amount of intricate detail.

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Illustration for article titled Big Smiles, Big Abs, and Big Swords in the Giant-Sized Toys of the Week

Image: Diamond Select Toys

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Diamond Select Toys The Muppets Bunsen & Beaker San Diego Comic-Con 2021 Exclusive Deluxe Action Figure Set

If you needed further proof that the Muppets should never, ever have their full bodies revealed, Diamond Select Toys has already started announcing its SDCC 2021 exclusive collectibles, which will include an action figure set of Bunsen & Beaker, the mad scientist and his questionably willing test subject/assistant. The three to five-inch tall figures include several points of articulation and were briefly available for pre-order on the Big Bad Toy Store website for $30 for the pair, with shipping expected later this year, but have already sold out.

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Illustration for article titled Big Smiles, Big Abs, and Big Swords in the Giant-Sized Toys of the Week

Image: Mattel

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Mattel UNO Play with Pride Game

Mattel is in hot pursuit of the hundreds of versions of Monopoly available, releasing update after update to its classic card game UNO featuring pop culture brands, or just graphical facelifts. The newest version, announced this week, is UNO Play With Pride, released in partnership with the It Gets Better Project: a “nonprofit dedicated to uplifting, empowering and connecting to the LGBTQ+ community” around the world. Featuring a rainbow design on the back of each card, the deck will exclusively be available at Target’s brick and mortar stores and website for $6.

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Open Channel: Let’s Celebrate This Guy’s 77th Birthday

Today is George Lucas’ birthday, seen here with Empire Strikes Back director Irvin Kershner and some guy in a black suit.

Today is George Lucas’ birthday, seen here with Empire Strikes Back director Irvin Kershner and some guy in a black suit.
Photo: Lucasfilm/StarWars.com

Seventy-seven years ago a man was born who would release a movie in 1977 that would change the face of the world. He’d do a few other things too. That man’s name is George Lucas. Today, May 14, is his birthday, and we’ve love you all to celebrate.

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It’s almost too difficult to list all of the ways Lucas has changed the world. Star Wars, of course, is the easiest one. Nothing you think of that has happened as a result of that franchise would have happened if he didn’t create it. So Boba Fett, Baby Yoda, Han Solo, lightsabers, Mandalorians, Hera Syndulla—while he didn’t create all of those things himself, all of them are still a result of his work.

Beyond the things in the Star Wars universe, think of everything that branches off from it in the real world. Because of Star Wars, Lucas changed filmmaking with the creation of Industrial Light and Magic, a company that has gone on to create some of the most memorable effects in film and television: Jurassic Park, Terminator 2, Harry Potter, Back to the Future, hundreds more, all thanks to Lucas.

Take it a step from there. ILM was where a team of graphic designers branched out, were acquired by Steve Jobs, and created a company called Pixar. Pixar exists because of Lucas. Beyond even Pixar, think about all the kids who saw Star Wars and it inspired them to become filmmakers, actors, writers, whatever. I myself have frequently used my experience and passions about Star Wars to help further my career and life. So you’d probably not be reading this right now if it wasn’t for Lucas.

It goes on and on and on. So many of the toys that have been sold in the past 50 years are because of the success Lucas had merchandising Star Wars. Not just Star Wars toys—basically all licensed toys. Oh, and on top of all that, he helped create Indiana Jones and THX, and he gives millions and millions of dollars to charity.

That’s just the tip of the Star Destroyer. It’s been a good 77 years for Lucas and, below, we’d love for you to share your favorite memory of the filmmaker. Or maybe what you think first when you think of him.


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Katy Perry’s Pokémon Music Video Is a Subtle Nod to a Badass Gym Leader

A Pikachu and her Katy Perry.

A Pikachu and her Katy Perry.
Screenshot: Capitol

To celebrate the Pokémon franchise’s 25th anniversary, the Pokémon Company’s been releasing special, limited-edition merchandise and partnering with artists like Mac Miller and Katy Perry to put out Pokémon-themed music meant to tug at your heartstrings. Perry’s new song, “Electric,” is the first track from the upcoming Pokémon 25, and while it’s a perfectly pleasant power pop ballad, it’s also a nod to one of the franchise’s first Steel-type specialists.

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The “Electric” video follows as Perry and her Pikachu wander through a Hawaiian forest that leads them to a coast, where they find a massive lighthouse that inspires the pair to reminisce about their history together. After Perry and her Pikachu climb the lighthouse, they’re transported to a moment in the past before Perry became a well-known celebrity and before Pichu (Pikachu’s first stage) evolved into its current form.

Though Perry and her Pikachu know what’s in store for them both, their younger counterparts don’t, and while the young Perry’s already comfortable singing her heart out in front of strangers, the “Electric” video’s all about the older Perry giving herself the push she needs. As the young Perry and Pichu wander around the town unaware that they’re being followed, their future selves work in the shadows to convince their younger selves to participate in an impending talent show. The spark Perry nurtures in her past self is represented in the present by the lighthouse repeatedly lighting up, and it all fits together with the video’s general electrical theme.

While the only Pokémon in the “Electric” video are Pikachu and Pichu, the presence of a lighthouse and one of Perry’s outfits feel like rather unsubtle nods to a key plot point from the second generation of Pokémon games. When you first travel to the Johto region’s Olivine City in Pokémon Gold, Pokémon Silver, and Pokémon Crystal, there’s no way for you to battle Jasmine, the gym leader, at first—due to her temporarily leaving her post in order to deal with an issue that has the local lighthouse malfunctioning. Olivine, being by the ocean, relies on the massive Glitter Lighthouse to help ships navigate waters by the coast. But because this is the world of Pokémon, Olivine’s lighthouse is powered by an Ampharos, an electric type Pokémon whose bulbous tail emits blinding flashes of light.

In both the games and the anime, Jasmine only agrees to battle after her Ampharos is healed from its sickness, and while that specific monster doesn’t make an appearance in the music video, it definitely feels as if director Carlos López Estrada kept Jasmine and Ampharos’ story in mind here. Though a straight-up Ampharos lightshow would have been quite the sight, way more people recognize Pikachu and know what they can do. But the next time you happen to hear “Electric,” there’s a good chance you can safely assume that while it’s Pikachu and Katy Perry’s faces in the video, it’s Jasmine and Ampharos’ legacy that really makes it special.


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What the Hell Is Batwoman Doing to Kate Kane?

Batwoman's Rachel Skarsten is held captive by new arrival Wallis Day in a creepy wood mask.

Rachel Skarsten and Wallis Day on Batwoman.
Photo: The CW

When Ruby Rose announced she was leaving Batwoman last May, the show had a problem—several problems, in fact. Rose was of course the star and lead of the series, but every single part of the series was built solely around Kate Kane, so the CW’s writers needed to figure out what to do with the character. So far, the show’s solution is the most convoluted decision possible.

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I do feel for the writers because Rose’s departure left them in a bad spot. Since Kate was the only part of the show worth investing in during its lackluster first season, she couldn’t completely disappear, never to appear again; plus, Kate would be needed to bridge the second season from the first so the show wouldn’t feel like it had been rebooted in its infancy, potentially losing whatever fans it had made. Plus, I can see how the Arrowverse’s commitment to continuity would make the creators feel they needed to explain why Kate wouldn’t look or sound like Rose anymore. In the end, they decided to make Rose’s Kate Kane seem to die in a plane crash in between seasons one and two, leading to Javicia Leslie’s Ryan Wilder donning the cowl in her place.

When Kate returned, she’d been disfigured by the crash, which provided a convenient reason why she no longer looked like the previous star and would be played by actor Wallis Day instead. That’s a pretty messy answer, but messy in a traditional soap opera-y way, and it probably would have been fine if Batwoman didn’t complicate it beyond measure. See, it turns out the Black Mask (Peter Outerbridge), a.k.a. Roman Sionis, a.k.a. the new Bat-villain of season two, had sent his goons to capture Kate immediately (like, the plane wreckage was still on fire) and imprisoned her for six weeks, and having Enigma (Laura Mennell) brainwash her into believing she was his daughter Circe. Meanwhile, Safiyah (Shivaani Ghai), the main antagonist of season two, was telling Kate’s sister and season one villain Alice/Beth (Rachel Skarsten) that she was holding Kate prisoner on an island. She was not, but was using it to screw with Alice because… she was in love with her and very mad Alice was in love with Ocean (Nathan Owens). Told you, soap opera.

What a perfect fit that face is...

What a perfect fit that face is…
Photo: The CW

In reality, Kate was being tortured by Black Mask to the point that her voice box was damaged (to explain why she didn’t sound like Rose, either) and brainwashed to remove “Kate” and replace her memories with that of Circe who is actually dead. Black Mask did all this because he somehow blamed Batwoman for his daughter being killed. She actually died during a stampede/fire at Arkham after Alice let all of the inmates go to cover her own escape back in season one. However, Roman blames Kate-as-Batwoman simply because she was there at the time, so once all the brainwashing is done, he sends Kate-as-Circe to capture Alice. He plans on killing her but at the last moment changes his mind, and has Alice use her very special face-making abilities to give “Circe” the real Circe’s face… except Alice finally recognizes her sister through her eyes once she places the skin on her.

Mind you, this is the simplified version of what’s happened to Kate, and yet all of it seems wildly unnecessary. Again, I get why the show wanted to keep the character around, at least until audiences got invested in Batwoman 2.0, and I understand why it felt it needed to explain why Ruby Rose wasn’t playing her anymore. But are Kate fans really happy with her new role as a victim and pawn of Black Mask? Has the story been improved by putting Kate through this narrative wringer? And was spending 14 episodes overjustifying why Kate no longer looked or sounded like Ruby Rose better than just recasting her and not worrying about it?

I believe the answer to all these questions is “no.” It would have been so easy to keep Kate’s disappearance an overarching mystery throughout the season, which if done well would have kept Batwoman fans invested without any of this gobbledygook. It would have been even easier to just recast Kate and have her take a few scenes to explain she was going off to search the world for Bruce Wayne—which was something she wanted to do in season one anyway. Sure, it would be weird that the show’s cast of characters is primarily made up of Kate’s twin sister, Kate’s dad, Kate’s stepsister, and Kate’s former lover but not have Kate around, but guess what? Kate’s around and it’s still super-weird because Kate isn’t really Kate anymore and there seemingly wasn’t a plan for Black Mask to use her in any way as Kate—he only wanted his daughter back.

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This is the televised equivalent of slowly and painfully pulling off the Band-Aid instead of tearing it off quickly. What’s the endgame here? Leaving Kate as a minor antagonist in the show she once headlined is not a viable option; her story needs closure, and the sooner the better. And then maybe Batwoman can tell a story that doesn’t require a flowchart.


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Star Wars: The Bad Batch Dives Headfirst Into the Cost of Loyalty

Animated Clone Trooper Crosshair (Dee Bradley Baker) wearing new Imperial armor as he sits on a bunk.

Crosshair finds himself in a dark new position.
Image: Lucasfilm

For a show about clones, sooner rather than later Lucasfilm’s Star Wars: The Bad Batch was going to have to get into the idea of just how and why the newly-risen Empire would begin to replace the Republic’s legions with a different kind of soldier. But the Disney+ series’ third episode, for all the gains it makes towards starting that transition logistically, considers another question entirely: is loyalty earned or grown?

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“Replacements, for our heroes at least, is a simple yet earnest adjunct. After the shuttle took damage in last week’s escape from Saluecami, the Batch (Dee Bradley Baker), with Omega (Michelle Ang) firmly in tow, find themselves limping through hyperspace until their shuttle just can’t take it anymore. Dumped out of lightspeed to promptly crash land on an uncolonized moon, the team faces two problems. The first is logistical: a power capacitor needs replacing to get the ship back online. The second is emotional: Clone Force 99 has a new member, is mourning the loss of one of its own to the new Empire, and quickly realizing that a cramped shuttle of grown men is a less-than-ideal living space for a young girl taking her first steps into a larger world. The first problem would be easy enough to solve, but then the episode would be much shorter than its 30-minute runtime. As Echo and Tech promptly replace the damaged capacitor with their final reserve, a dragon native to the moon that feeds on energy promptly nabs the fresh battery to munch on.

The second problem takes a bit more work, as Hunter tries to establish a bond with Omega as not just distant clone relations, but part of the same team and family unit now. Taking her on the mission to retrieve the capacitor shows Hunter’s willing acceptance of her in the team after last week’s existential crisis with the Lawquanes. That faith rewards both him and Omega when, after an encounter with the dragon knocks Hunter’s rebreather off, temporarily incapacitating him through exposure to the moon’s toxic environment, Omega has to go it alone to recover the capacitor from the dragon’s den. It’s a wonderful moment of character building for her, her eagerness to be recognized as one of the squad tempered by her fear and hesitance to be in a bad situation on a strange, alien world. Despite her previous history with “lucky shots” from when the Batch escaped Kamino, thankfully Omega isn’t forced to save the day through violence. Instead, her quick thinking lets her briefly empathize with the Moon Dragon, trading the threadbare battery of her flashlight in order to recover the capacitator. Her diligence is likewise rewarded, not just with Hunter’s pride but, in an incredibly adorable move by Wrecker when they return to the ship, a makeshift room on the shuttle of her own, acceptance that she truly is part of the family.

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Image: Lucasfilm

But “Replacements” contrasts this heartwarming display of commonality with a fascinatingly grim plotline for the now fully converted-to-the-cause Crosshair. Back on Kamino, Admiral Tarkin (Stephen Stanton) and newcomer Vice Admiral Rampart (Noshir Dalal) begin hatching their plan for the Empire’s transition from a purely cloned force, much to the dismay of the Kaminoans. With Crosshair’s loyalty secured by force, he is tasked with training a new elite squad of troopers. They’re not clones, but humans, with Rampart arguing that loyalty earned by willing recruits to the cause will forger stronger links that loyalty bred into disposable beings as the Republic had before it. Tarkin cynically chides the costs of cloning as well, but this is the real test of what the Empire wants to maintain its ruthless sense of new order: not just troops, but essentially cultists, fervent believers in the Imperial cause above all.

It’s fitting then, that these humans—a diverse array across gender and racial background, continuing Lucasfilm and Disney’s current, perhaps ill-fitting, attempts to advance representational diversity through a fascist institute like the Empire—are painted in broad brushes. We’re never given names, with only two of them listed in the credits by their callsigns, ES-01 (Emilio Garcia-Sanchez) and ES-02 (Daheli Hall), their reasons for signing up left vague beyond the sentiment that they felt left behind by the increasingly recalcitrant bureaucracies of the Republic. Like the chain codes introduced last episode (which we learn here were another Rampart initiative), there is a human element, but it’s filed down to a blunt, almost blank bit of data, a tool to be wielded by those in power and little else—and a stark contrast to the humanization of the clones we’d seen the Jedi foster throughout The Clone Wars.

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Image: Lucasfilm

This blunt tool, with Crosshair at the helm, is quickly put to the test by Rampart and Tarkin: succeed where Clone Force 99 failed, return to Onderon to eliminate Saw Gerrera’s dissident cell. The mission mostly, distressingly, goes off without a hitch, as Crosshair and his new subordinates ruthlessly pick off rebels trying to protect some local civilians with safe passage off-world. But it’s complicated, and made all the more distressing, by what comes after—and what comes with trying to incorporate a shred of humanity into the Imperial War Machine. When only the civilians remain and with Gerrera already long gone, Crosshair coldly declares the survivors as devoid of purpose, drawing his pistol to execute them. But one of his team, 01, steps forward to protest—01 advocates that the mission was to find Gerrera, not execute civilians. The tone left unstated is grim: he may have signed up to kill people, but only people that deserved it. To Crosshair, there’s no difference, and 01’s failure to comply is promptly rewarded with a blaster bolt to the chest, chilling the rest of the squad into obeying Crosshair’s command to butcher the remaining survivors. They return to Kamino a squadmate down, but forged into exactly what Rampart wants: faithful tools to a new galactic order.

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Pairing this early mediation on a Star Wars fact we already know—that one day the Republic clones left in the Empire’s forces will be replaced with human recruits—as a mirror to Omega’s touching growth into a member of the Bad Batch makes “Replacements” much more than the sum of its parts. In contrasting her finding a place within this new family structure through love and trust to Crosshair’s loyalty-or-death zealotry, we begin to see the strains the Empire’s rise is having across the galaxy. Whether the cost of Crosshair’s loyalty will be too much to bear remains to be seen, but for now the specter his absence casts across the rest of Clone Force 99 becomes representative of a gulf between our heroes and our “new” villain that will take much more than switching off an inhibitor chip to cover.


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