*screams* *grunts* “Sweet Christmas.” Way to neglect the Jewish viewers, Luke! Sweet Hanukkah much? *”Shaft’ rip-off* *whack* *Film Theory theme* Hello, Internet! Welcome to Film Theory, the Cross-Fit for your brain! Can I be honest? When I first heard about Cross-Fit, I thought it was, like, a cooperative board game or something. All right, all right, let’s talk about Marvel and Netflix. We all love Marvel movies, right? As evidenced by all the requests I get from you, that is a pretty solid “Yes.” And 2017 is going to be an awesome year for them. “Guardians 2” and “Spider-Man”? I cannot wait! But over the holidays, I took some time to catch up on the REST of the Marvel universe, you know, the guys who are still waiting for their crack at the big screen. And without question, the biggest of those guys is Luke Cage. Now, over here on Film Theory, I don’t know if you’ve noticed it, but I seem to have an obsession with trying to kill superheroes. (echoing voice) “. . . can be brought down by a simple bullet.” “Destroy the brain, and Wade Wilson, as we know him, ceases to be.” “Once lured in, Superman won’t know what hit him.” Oh man, looking at that, if I wasn’t me and I saw that, I would be very concerned about my mental state, but luckily, I AM me, and all murderous-sociopathy aside, maybe it’s just my long-held desire to be a super-villain, or, quite simply, maybe it’s my desire to be able to beat brawn with brains, or maybe I just want some compelling but ultimately honest click-bait. I am not really sure, probably some combination of all three of those things. What I AM sure about those is that one superhero is safe, and that one is Aquaman because your powers suck. Way to put innocent marine life into the line of fire for ya! But enough about Aquaman because Sweet, Sweet Christmas, Luke Cage, today, it is you who has drawn the short straw. In other words, it is time for you to meet my Lucille. Well, it’s actually a metaphorical Lucille because literally hitting Luke with a barbed-wire wouldn’t have any effect due to his ONE superpower– That’s right, throughout Marvel’s “Jessica Jones” and “Luke Cage,” Luke is routinely shot, stabbed, blown up, shot again, stabbed again, and blown up again, but all of it has no effect on Luke He’s like a steel, electric-type Pokemon. He just walks away without a scratch. Daredevil was bedridden half of season 2 because of a couple of punches, and Jessica Jones received her fair share of scars, but not Luke! The villains of the series, Cottonmouth and Diamondback, have to literally resort to alien bullets just to have a fighting chance against the guy. So this got me to thinking, “Is there a simpler solution here than just magic ET bullets?” What if everything you needed was right here on Earth at your very fingertips? Well, get ready, Luke, ’cause the rise of Dr. Theory is upon you! *evil laugh, thunderclap* Hey, I said I wanted to be a super-villain, OK; I didn’t say I had a good name picked out yet. EVIL MIND! Nope, no. ANTIPAT! No . . . nothing, never mind. So, like I said, ultimately all of Luke Cage’s powers boil down to one thing–his skin, skin made out of three layers measuring 2 millimeters thick and creating one impenetrable body, and that’s it! Get past that outer-Wall Sina and he’s just as vulnerable as you or me. As we learn about at the end of “Jessica Jones,” after Luke takes a shotgun to the face(!), the whiplash from the shotgun blast causes Luke’s brain to slam against his skull putting him into an immediate coma. So to take Luke Cage out, we just need to get to those squishy innards of his. Now, throughout season one of this Netflix series, every single villain has focused on piercing Luke’s 2 millimeter fortress of protection via knives, guns, rocket launchers, shotguns, alien bullets, but everyone’s been looking at this from the wrong perspective. The focus shouldn’t be on breaking THROUGH Luke’s skin but instead lowering his defenses from the inside out, turning his enhanced skin back into what it once was– regular, old, easy-to-pierce, please-don’t-look-at-my-saggy-love-handles, human skin. And in order to do that, we need to look at his origin story. Now, before Luke Cage was a superhuman with the toughest skin on earth, he was just your average guy with normal skin and HORRIFIC FACIAL HAIR! Man, Marvel, I know your budgets aren’t quite the same for the Netflix series, but geez! It looks like he glued a Chia pet onto his chin! Anyway, while in prison, Luke Cage is beaten nearly to death after an altercation with other inmates. He’s only saved when the prison doctor, Dr. Burstein (sp?), performs an experimental treatment on him, resulting in his impenetrable skin. Later on in the series, Dr. Burstein actually reveals the source of Luke’s superhuman abilities– Luke’s chemical composition, his DNA, has been fused with the foreign DNA of an abalone. “We used a process called CRISPR to fuse the subject’s DNA with another DNA to gain its attributes.” Now, believe it or not, but this CRISPR process that Dr. Burstein mentions is actually a real thing. CRISPR stands for– It’s a very real process wherein specific stretches of genetic code target and edit DNA. Using the enzyme CAS9, scientists cut out specific strands of DNA and replace it with whatever the heck they want. It’s basically just like what happens in “Jurassic Park” except real, in real life. The end result is that scientists can modify and enhance genes in cells to make them better. In China, researchers have successfully used CRISPR to create extra-muscular dogs for hunting and military purposes. —- YOU, CHINA, AND YOUR MUTANT DOGS! And what has the U.S. done with this amazing scientific innovation? Well, we gave Luke Cage the power of delicious seafood. “Foreign DNA was abalone shell, wasn’t it?” Yes, an abalone. It is a snail that lives in the sea, a sea-snail. Now, I make jokes ’cause that seems lame, but abalone are actually known for their incredibly-hard shells– The shells are so strong, in fact, that students in UC San Diego are now using them to create body armor, tougher and stronger than Kevlar! But it doesn’t stop there. Abalone is just as strong as steel and can even stop bullets! So maybe Aquaman’s powers aren’t so silly after all! Imagine him having a team of impenetrable shellfish as bodyguards! All right, on second thought, it’s still really dumb! Speaking of dumb, Aquaman’s hair. Go get some conditioner because the sea salt is really starting to build up there, buddy. So one method we see in the show is eroding what makes the abalone so strong. Dr. Burstein implements this tactic when trying to remove the alien shrapnel from Luke’s body in a series of acid baths. Per Dr. Burstein, abalone on its own is nearly impenetrable, a shield of calcium carbonate plates, but by destroying the hydrogen covalent bonds between those plates, he can actually break through. Now, before we go any further, for those unfamiliar, a covalent bond is a super-strong chemical bond that pairs electrons between atoms , strengthening their outer shells and stabilizing them. Basically, think of a covalent bond like a marriage. (sultry voice) Two hot, single, young atoms catch each others’ eyes from across the molecular field, recognize that they need the other one to fill a hole in their life, or at least their valence shell, and a few rounds of Netflix and chill later, they’ve formed a tight bond– a tight, COVALENT bond. (regular voice) Now, in order to perform surgery on Luke Cage, Dr. Burstein needs to break those covalent bonds. Dr. Burstein is basically the hussy from across the street trying to —- in on your man! (feminine voice) Homewrecker! After you gave your atomic energy to that no-good cheatin’ husband of yours! (regular voice) It’s like an episode of nerdy “Jerry Springer.” To break up the bonds, the doctor recreates the exact same circumstances that caused Luke’s powers in the first place, and, scientifically speaking, this is completely the right approach. The only way to break a covalent bond is by recreating what caused the bond in the first place. So way to go “Luke Cage” writers! You have done your homework! (judgmental tone) Unlike others. *crash!* So to break those covalent bonds that bind you, you have to match the same amount of energy needed to form the bond in the first place. For Luke Cage, Dr. Burstein knows the reactants that formed Luke’s super-skin– acid, saline, Luke’s DNA, and abalone DNA– but he doesn’t know the amount of energy needed to break up that product. The doctor says as much in episode nine. Quite simply, Burstein is unsure just how strong the covalent bonds are in Luke’s body and dips him into higher and higher temperature of acid bath to find the level where there is enough energy to break through Luke’s skin but not so much energy that it dissolves him alive. You know, that might be bad. Now, obviously, this is RIDICULOUSLY complicated, but I gotta tell ya, there’s a much easier way to defeat Luke Cage, one that doesn’t require acid or the existence of aliens with killer ballistics. Given the controversy surrounding human genome splicing, geneticists have created ways to reverse the CRISPR process. You know, in case all this genetic meddling leads to some sort of less-than-desired effect, like a three-eyed fish or someone who looks like Red Skull or something. So the true secret to beating Luke Cage is to reverse the CRISPR process, but that’s gotta be really hard, right? Well, you’d be surprised. So scientists typically reverse these effects using what’s known as which are kind of like super-selective scissors for DNA, except instead of cutting paper and forming origami flowers, you’re cutting into human DNA and forming, uh, superhuman flowers. Each restriction enzyme recognizes a particular DNA sequence and cuts out this sequence within the DNA. Thus, to reverse Luke Cage’s powers, all you have to do is cut out the foreign DNA, that abalone nacre sequence, from the source DNA, Luke Cage, turning him back into a mere, thin-skinned mortal. So at this point you might be saying to yourself, “Well, Matt, that doesn’t sound a whole lot easier than dipping him into an acid bath. Where do I get my hands on restriction enzymes for abalone nacre?” To which I say to you, “Google.” *typing* And it’s only $58! It’s like Black Friday all over again! “But then, how do you get all of this into him?” I hear you asking. “We can’t even cut into his skin, so what chance does a needle have?” To which I say to you, “None! No chance in heck! A needle is not the way to go!” Besides, if you simple injected the restriction enzyme into Luke Cage, his immune system would immediately destroy those foreign proteins (burps) and Luke Cage would probably destroy YOU for trying to stab him with a mysterious needle. However, I thought of that, and scientists have already discovered ways to break through the human body’s natural barrier system, and the answer is–viruses. Through a process known as– scientists package foreign DNA into a virus and then expose it to a cell. Once the virus binds to the living cell, it injects the foreign DNA into the host and the replicates this DNA throughout the body. This of the process like a Trojan horse where a bunch of heavily-armed soldiers sneak their way past your cell’s defensive gates. But I know already what you’re thinking, “How do you get your hands on a virus? I mean, it’s not like you can just go online and purchase the common cold off the Internet!” *typing* Yep, you too can have your very own common cold virus Get your entire a sick day by releasing viruses throughout your classroom, just a couple bucks off of Amazon Prime. So with your ingredients in hand, do a pen-pineapple-apple-pen. I have an enzyme! I have a virus! *grunts* Virus enzyme! All you have to do is splice the two together, and *grunt* Voila! You have the perfect cocktail to defeat Luke Cage. And the best thing about this virus is that it’s airborne. You don’t even have to attempt to pierce Luke Cage’s skin, just invite him out to the local Java Hut, get two cups of coffee, laugh over what a terrible lawyer Matt Murdoch is, and then finally wait for the sign that the airborne cold virus you exposed him to in the cafe has taken effect, turning his impenetrable skin back to normal. Just wait for that first sniffle and BAM! Another superhero’s head to mount on your wall. It’s a heck of a lot better prize than Aquaman. And with that– *evil laugh* But hey, that’s just a theory–a Film Theory! Aaaaaaand cut! Also, a very special thank-you to the team over at the Wisecrack channel for helping me with the research for this episode. If you enjoyed it, then please do me a favor, and also yourself a favor, and go check them out. They’re some of my best friends on YouTube, and where we do mostly science and math-based theories, they do theories and analyses based on the humanities–philosophy, ethics, [literature], things like that. So if you enjoyed this episode, then you are going to love their analysis on my favorite current animated series “Rick and Morty,” legitimately one of the funniest, smartest shows on right now, and their analysis of it is one of the funniest, smartest videos of that show online. So pull a Luke Cage and punch that button you see on screen to show them some love and find yourself a new favorite channel. And make sure you stay tuned. We have a lot more Marvel on the way next month, so headbutt that subscribe button to join the notification squad. (sing-songy voice) Notification Squad! (regular voice) Gotta go! See you next week!