Return of the mysterious, shadowy organization

Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation's teaser poster

Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation’s teaser poster

It’s like the mid-1960s all over again.

–Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation unveiled its teaser trailer this week, in which a mysterious, shadowy organization called the Syndicate is trying crush the Impossible Missions Force.

–SPECTRE, the 24th James Bond film, is in the midst of production, featuring a 21st century take on the organization that opposed 007 in the early Bond films.

–Avengers: Age of Ultron, the latest Marvel Studios film is coming out May 1 and may include the latest appearance by Hyrdra, a vast group that infiltrated SHIELD in last year’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

–The Man From U.N.C.L.E. movie is due out Aug. 14. It, too, features a mysterious organization. The question is whether it will be Thrush, the “supra nation” that opposed U.N.C.L.E. in the original 1964-68 series.

At this point, all we need Galaxy (two Derek Flint movies) and BIGO (three of four Matt Helm movies) to come back. KAOS, may be lurking as well (having been included in a 1980 theatrical movie and a 1989 made-for-TV film).

The notion of the huge group that, in some cases, was like a shadow government fell out of favor after the 1960s. Bond was the last man standing by 1971 and 007 encountered mostly one-off independent menaces (though some were affiliated with unfriendly governments). At the same time, the cinema Blofeld was the subject of jokes in Austin Powers movies.

What’s more, there were legal disputes about SPECTRE, with producer Kevin McClory saying the rights to the criminal organization belonged to him. A specific reference to SPECTRE boss Ernst Stavro Blofeld was taken out of the script of 1981’s For Your Eyes Only. The script had a line where a mysterious guy who resembled Blofeld said this was the 10th anniversary of his last encounter with 007. Even though it didn’t make the movie, it was too late to take it out of the Marvel Comics adaptation.

SPECTRE teaser poster

SPECTRE teaser poster

By 2012, Eon Productions said it wasn’t even interested in SPECTRE.

“I mean, we’ve talked about Blofeld over the years,” Eon Productions co-boss Barbara Broccoli said in an interview with CRAVE ONLINE. “The thing is Blofeld was fantastic for the time but I think it’s about creating characters that are, villains that are more appropriate for the contemporary world. It’s more exciting for us to create somebody new.”

Eon whistled a different tune after a 2013 settlement with the McClory estate secured the rights to Blofeld and SPECTRE. Recently, Broccoli acknowledged to Empire magazine that SPECTRE is a new take on the old villainous organization. The cast of SPECTRE includes Jesper Christensen, who played Mr. White, an official of a group called Quantum in Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace (the name wasn’t revealed until Quantum of Solace).

Marvel Studios also was bringing back the vast villainous organization. In 2011’s Captain America: The First Avenger, set during World War II, viewers were introduced to Hydra, formed by Hitler but a group that has its own ambitions to take over for itself. In the 2014 Captain America movie, we see Hydra is alive and well and moving forward on its ambitions.

Hydra in the comics made its debut in Strange Tales 135 in a story by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby that introduced Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. Later, writer-artist Jim Steranko connected Hyrdra to Fury’s World War II past, establishing that Hydra’s leader was Baron Wolfgang Von Strucker, a World War II foe of Fury’s.

The Man From U.N.C.L.E. teaser poster

The Man From U.N.C.L.E. teaser poster

With M:I, the existence of the Syndicate was teased at the end of 2011’s Mission: Impossible Ghost Protocol. In the original television series, the Syndicate merely was an alternate name for the Mafia. The trailer unveiled this week makes clear the Syndicate is a much larger animal.

Which brings us to Thrush, which U.N.C.L.E. was waging war against in that television series. (At one point, WASP and MAGGOTT were considered as alternate names.) Thrush had vast resources, with thousands of employees on the U.S. West Coast alone. In the show’s final season, Thrush spent billions of dollars in various failed schemes. The Thrush name, however, wasn’t mentioned in the teaser trailer that came out in February.

Why the surge in popularity for such organizations?

Well, Hydra has been part of successful Marvel movies. Also, naming specific countries as being responsible for mayhem can be tricky. In 2002, Die Another Day had the North Koreans as villains. In 2014, North Korea was the leading suspect for being responsible for hacking at Sony Pictures, including leaks of SPECTRE’s script. What’s more, no studio wants to offend China and its vast market for movie goers.

Thus, what is old is new again. Don’t bet against the return of Galaxy and BIGO.

Wo Fat 2.0 now No. 1 criminal mastermind of all time

On the May 16 season finale of CBS’s Hawaii Five-0, it was revealed that Wo Fat controlled the Governor of Hawaii. That means he controlled the state. Now, criminal masterminds like to try to take over the world, or least signficant parts of it. But they fail. The revamped Wo Fat, it appears, has taken more territory than his mastermind colleagues. Therefore, he must be the No. 1 criminal mastermind of all time.

You scoff? Well, consider the following:

— Original Wo Fat. He tried to take over China (in the Nine Dragons episode of the original Hawaii Five-O). FAIL. He tried to develop a Star Wars-style weapon system two years before the Reagan administration announced such a project in the original Five-O’s final episode. He couldn’t even recognize that Steve McGarrett 1.0 was right in front of him wearing a fake wig and goatee. BIG FAIL.

— Ernst Stavro Blofeld and SPECTRE. He tried to “inaugurate a little war” between the U.S. and Soviet Union so China could take over (You Only Live Twice). He tried to conduct an auction where nuclear supremecy would go to the highest bidder (Diamonds Are Forever). FAIL.

— Karl Stromberg (The Spy Who Loved Me) and Hugo Drax (Moonraker), each tried to kill off the world’s population and they would take over. FAIL.

— Franz Sanchez (Licence to Kill) had off the president of Isthmus to leave him alone. You could argue he had de facto control of the country except he got killed off by the end of the movie. FAIL.

— GALAXY tried to take over the world with a weather-controlling maching (Our Man Flint). FAIL.

— BIGO tried to take over the world in Matt Helm movies. FAIL.

— Thrush tried to take over the world in The Man From U.N.C.L.E. on multiple occasions. FAIL.

— KAOS tried to take over the world multiple times on Get Smart. FAIL.

Clearly, Wo Fat 2.0 is on to something. Instead of a grand goal (taking over the world, taking over a country), he has broken it down to smaller, accomplishable parts. Of course, he did kill the Governor in the May 16 episode, so it’s not entirely clear his control over the state of Hawaii will continue. Still, being an accomplished criminal mastermind, he may have a Plan B. The beauty of Wo Fat’s situation is *nobody knows he has control of Hawaii* except Steve McGarrett 2.0. And McGarrett (Alex O’Loughlin) is in jail for the Governor’s murder.

Also, Wo Fat didn’t take over just any state. He took over “our extended finger into the Pacific (Ocean),” as the Governor (that is the original Governor from the original Five-O pilot, played by Lew Ayres) put it. That’s not to be confused with the Governor (Jean Smart) who was under Wo Fat’s control in the new Five-0

This is even more impressive because Wo Fat 2.0 (Mark Dacascos) have probably has *less than 20 minutes of screen time* all season long.

It should be noted that Robert Short and Danny Biederman, who tried to develop a Man From U.N.C.L.E. movie in the early 1980s, had a storyline where Thrush had taken over the world (economically) but nobody knew it. That project, though, never saw the light of day, so it doesn’t count.

Congrats, Wo Fat 2.0.

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