All Hail (Once Again) the Greatest Individual Entrance in Cinematic History, and Other Things I Didn’t Create #MCU #Thor #HDB to me @ChrisHemsworth @samuelljackson

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For my birthday, I’m being lazy and just giving you material others have done. First, here’s a fantastic moment from a fantastic character as played by a fantastic actor.

It’s no wonder that Portals in Avengers: Endgame used a variation of this theme for the entrance of the formerly dusted into the final battle against Thanos.

And now for some more.

Image may contain: 5 people, meme and text

That’s it.

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#Thor Is the Strongest #Avenger @chrishemsworth @brielarson #MCU

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First off, Scarlet Witch is the strongest Avenger because all of these characters are defined solely by what’s in the script, and that’s what Kevin Feige says. However, art is in the eye of the beholder, so my interpretation is as valid as anyone else’s. My interpretation is that Thor has proven himself to be the strongest Avenger, and by “Avenger,” I mean “good guy we’ve seen on screen that remains alive in the MCU.”

Odin, Surtur, and Hela Are Dead … I Think

I don’t read the comics, but I know a few things, and it appears that Thor: Ragnarok recognized that Thor was finally gaining the “Thorforce.” With Odin, Surtur, and Hela dead, that would make sense. Also, with those three dead, you have a few major hurdles cleared for my claim to ring true.

Of course, Hela and Surtur could be alive, but at least one could interpret Surtur’s words as a suggestion that he would die once his destiny was fulfilled. Hela? Who knows? Damn comics! But for now, I’m assuming they’re dead, which would clear the path for the Thorforce, eventually placing Thor on Odin’s level.

Compare to Captain Marvel

This was Feige’s first claim. Powered by the Space Stone, she’s a reasonable choice, and the data we have is strongly in her favor. However, our measuring stick is Thanos, and there, Captain Marvel wasn’t as impressive. At the beginning of Endgame, she managed to control a severely injured Thanos long enough for everyone else to get in position. Sure, Rocket couldn’t do that, but <yawn>. In the final battle, she took on a full-powered Thanos one-on-one, but even though he had all six Stones, he wasn’t actively using them. They were in the gauntlet, and she was keeping his hand open, which according to Dr. Strange’s dialogue in Infinity War means that Thanos couldn’t wield any stone’s power while in the gauntlet. In that fight, we saw a brief stalemate until Thanos used the Power Stone to send Captain Marvel flying across the battlefield. Was she impressive? Yes. Did she seem as much a match for Thanos as Thor? No way.

Sure, in Thor’s first fight with Thanos, Thanos kicked his ass with the Power Stone, but that was immediately after Thor was blasted to hell by the weaponry of Thanos’s ship. In fact, in defeat Thor was impressive because he was taking the continuous force of the Power Stone to his head rather than an intermittent blast. Facing off against him later in Infinity War, Thor had no problem handling Thanos even while Thanos was using the Infinity Stones, and that’s the proper metric. Thor was depleted in Endgame because the plot needed him to be. Otherwise, the battle in Endgame would have taken 15 seconds. Thanos without the Infinity Stones v. Thor with either Stormbreaker or Mjolnir isn’t even close based on what we’ve seen, and he was wielding both. Get Thor mentally healthy, and he’s the go-to guy.

Compare to Scarlet Witch

This is Feige’s current choice, but has she proven to be as powerful as Thor? It’s clear from her fights with Proxima Midnight and Hawkeye that she’s still just a fragile human with slow human reflexes and a fragile human mind (i.e., one that would descend into madness if she tried to wield Stormbreaker). If you can get past her offense, she doesn’t have much defense, at least not against someone that can fly. Thor, on the other hand, took the brunt of a neutron star. ‘Nuff said.

But what about her offense? Arguably, she was on the verge of killing Thanos when he didn’t have the Infinity Stones. When he had 5 Stones, she was at best at a standstill, but eventually lost the tactical battle. Once Thanos had all six Stones, he was the most powerful being in the universe (so far), and Thor almost killed him. Sorry, but I’d rather have Thor watching my back. Even if you could make a compelling argument that Scarlet Witch has more raw power than Thor, sometimes what matters most is willpower. Thor wins.

Conclusion

The only character for whom I have a bias is Thor. This is because of my love of mythology, and Norse mythology in particular. I’m sure that’s obvious here, so even if you have a decent counterargument, I probably won’t buy it. That’s just how I roll. But I doubt you have a decent counterargument.

A mentally and physically healthy Thor is clearly the strongest Avenger. He also had the best individual entrance in cinematic history.

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#Avengers: Age of #Ultron: The Flip Side of the #MCU Power Curve @JeremyRenner @lindacardellini

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In yesterday’s post, I voiced my only serious complaint about the MCU: The incoherent power curve. While that certainly annoys me, Avengers of Ultron keeps me from forgetting that the least powerful original Avengers, Black Widow and Hawkeye, were certainly very important to the team. If the choice I was given was having a screwy power curve or eliminating them from the story, I’ll take the screwy power curve with a smile on my face every time.

Hawkeye

Hawkeye was instrumental in stopping Scarlet Witch from tearing the Avengers apart. He was the only one who avoided her powers, and he was the one to convince her, the person that would one day become the strongest Avenger, to join the team in a meaningful way. That was done with a speech rivaling any Captain America ever delivered. This was a believable effort on his part despite not requiring a superpower. Before that, however, he reinforced the message to the other Avengers of what they were fighting for by introducing them to his family. In fact, his non-hero wife, Laura, kept him from losing touch with his own importance. For a team that was falling apart at the seams, this was critical to the believability of the Avengers continuing to work well together.

Black Widow

I’ve written several times about how Black Widow is the glue of the Avengers. Except for Thor, she had significant, on-screen bonding moments with each of the original Avengers (as well as a few others) over the course of several films. This could explain her eventual inability to stick to one side in the Avengers’ “civil war.” With this movie, we saw the development of her most significant relationship, Bruce Banner, and the expansion of her most important one (from a story perspective), Hawkeye. I vaguely relate to Black Widow’s backstory, and how it shaped who she became, in a specific but personal way I won’t discuss; however, I think we can all agree that it’s compelling enough for her own movie. The story became a mission to rescue her, but not really. Far from the archetypical damsel in distress, she instead turned the situation around from the inside, leading the Avengers to Ultron. Without screwing with the power curve, Black Widow contributed in vital ways.

These two characters were as important to the Avengers as any of the others, and neither had a superpower.

Unrelated Note

In a cinematic universe filled with brilliant one-liners, one of my favorites comes from Age of Ultron.

“Oh, for God’s sake!”

James Spader is awesome.

Sometimes you must take the bad with the good. Black Widow and Hawkeye were really good.

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The Power Curve in the #MCU @MarvelStudios

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There’s one thing that the MCU does consistently that I don’t like: They screw up the power curve.

I understand that writing something so grand in scale as the 22 MCU films was tough, but I think they could do a lot better of a job in this regard. First, we can start by saying that the characters don’t have to be precisely matched up. Captain America has super serum coursing through his veins, so there’s no way Black Widow should be a match for the enemies that are a match for Captain America. Sorry, Rex, but karate, kung fu, etc. just don’t work that way. Nevertheless, if the two of them are facing off against the same enemies, I can accept that. Along the power curve, they’re certainly within a reasonable range of each other, and sometimes someone’s specific weaknesses can fall prey to their adversary’s specific strengths.

But no matter how cool it looked, having Captain America, Black Widow, and Falcon save Scarlet Witch and Vision makes no sense at all.

It did look cool though. Really cool.

At one point, Kevin Feige said that Captain Marvel was the most powerful MCU hero. Then he changed his tune, saying Scarlet Witch was. Either of these two choices makes sense (though Thor should be), as their powers come from Infinity Stones. Similarly, Vision’s power comes from an Infinity Stone, so Scarlet Witch and Vision are cosmic level beings like Thor, the dark elves, and Thanos and his adoptive children. That last group took out an entire ship of “gods” (Asgardians) including Thor, Heimdall, Loki, and Hulk. Thanos won a fist fight against the Hulk, who’s probably the only terrestrial hero that we should expect to deal with cosmic threats. Should Hawkeye have been used to save the Asgardians?

I refuse to believe that this is hard to write; I suspect they just don’t want to write it any other way. It’s fan service, but that’s why I don’t care much for it. There’s literally only one hero for which I have a bias: Thor. That’s not based on comics, which I’ve rarely read, but rather my love of mythology. I don’t need Captain America to win a fist fight against Proxima Midnight, because my love for the character doesn’t go back any further than the start of the MCU. I’d much rather see him take on threats that make sense for him, and there were certainly several present during the battle of Wakanda. If Captain is a match for Proxima, then Proxima shouldn’t be in the same ballpark as Thor. If she’s presented as such, then Thor is no tougher than the toughest human (yet can somehow take on the brunt of a neutron star). Again, this makes no sense at all.

Obviously, I’m insanely fond of the MCU, and this doesn’t bother me too much, but I’m no apologist. If the MCU is screwing up, I’ll call it out. This is, in my opinion, their one consistent screw up. They have the chance to readjust their thinking with the introduction of new characters for future phases, but I’m not optimistic they will. However, as I’ll discuss tomorrow, I’ll gladly tolerate an incoherent power curve if it gives us the two critical characters that most often screwed with it.

I suspect the majority of you just want to see your favorite guy punch the bad guy. Fair enough.

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Throwing Rhodey Under the Bus in Avengers: #Endgame @DonCheadle @MarvelStudios #MCU

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It’s rare that I find things that I don’t like about the MCU, but there are a few. As I discussed yesterday, I approved of “Fat Thor” because it was handled fairly well. However, it wasn’t handled perfectly; to-wit: War Machine. I felt that the writers unnecessarily threw Rhodey under the bus. They gave him all the mean-spirited lines, and a couple were particularly bad. This reminds me of my tweet during the Infinity War watch party.

The scene is here. Start at 1:04.

If it weren’t for Peter’s completely irrational reaction, none of the 14,000,605 alternate timelines would have occurred (including the successful one). People do stupid things for one of four reasons that I can identify: 1) They’re stupid; 2) they’re kidding; 3.) they’re trolling you; or 4.) they’re acting emotional, thus abandoning all logic. Regardless of which category you think Peter is in, he behaved stupidly, and I don’t see why the writers had to do that. They could easily have made Thanos too strong for Mantis. Unfortunately, this seems to be how they write. They want a clear scapegoat among the heroes, being someone that consistently goes in a bad direction.

Rhodey

Rhodey didn’t cause Thanos’s arrival in Endgame. His issues were different; he was simply an asshole. First, let’s look at the discussion of the Infinity Stones.

Everyone’s comments and facial expressions seem to show concern for Thor, except Scott Lang, who as always is lost and therefore not sure if Thor is kidding. He may have just been giving Thor encouragement. In any case, all of these people are goodhearted in their approach. The exception is Rhodey, who makes a joke of it with, “No, I’m pretty sure he’s dead,” and arguably Clint’s facial expression when Rhodey and he share a knowing look with each other. Then we go to the discussion of time travel.

As if designed to make sure Rhodey looked as bad as possible, they left it to him to say that time travel should have been used to kill Thanos as a baby. Everyone would have forgiven that (after all, “It’s Thanos!”), but it still had a mean feel to it, and it became yet another straw on the camel’s back (so to speak).

Then consider his scene with Nebula.

Rhodey’s question, “So he’s an idiot?” came across as rhetorical. He was clearly calling Peter an idiot with an air of frustration. Nebula’s simple response of, “Yeah,” came only after a pause and a downward glance. Of all people to be reluctant to insult someone, Nebula seemed exactly that. Here were two characters saying the same exact thing about the same exact person, yet they were coming from opposite directions. Nebula’s remarkable story arc of redemption certainly colored how I viewed all of her statements, and that’s probably true for Rhodey based on the above, who seemed to be going in the opposite direction. But that’s what I’m talking about. That’s a direct result of the writing.
Moving on, remember from yesterday’s post, once it was explicitly established that Thor’s physical condition was tied to the depression and/or PTSD, the fat jokes stopped coming, except for Rhodey. He continued to insult Thor’s condition, and it didn’t come across as playful.

Objectively, “Cheez Whiz” is a funny line, but it was done not only after we learned why Thor was in a depleted physical state, but also at the exact moment Thor was having an emotional crisis. Thor was going to sacrifice himself to atone for his perceived sin of failure, which itself resulted in depression, PTSD, and his physical condition.

I’m the kind of guy that thinks no topic is forbidden from comedy. Anything can be funny if done well. The only sin in comedy is not being funny, and I’m never offended, even if my own insecurities are the butt of the joke. I far prefer laughing at myself than wallowing in self-pity, so I believe making fun of people can be funny. But it also can be not funny. With Rhodey, it came across as mean-spirited and was completely unnecessary.

The totality of just these few scenes left me with a bad impression.

Who’s to Blame?

The blame can lie with any combination of the actor, director, and screenwriter. I don’t know who to blame, but you can see from the deleted scenes in that last clip that this was exactly what they were going for. They wanted to say something mean-spirited, and the fact that Peter Quill was thrown under the bus in Infinity War suggests that the writing is to blame. In total, I felt it debased the character. Unfortunately, I don’t see much room for him to redeem himself. I haven’t heard any mention of his return to the MCU on the big screen or on Disney+.

Have you learned to dislike Rhodey? Is there a value to these lines that I don’t appreciate?

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“Fat” #Thor’s #Depression/#PTSD in Avengers #Endgame @chrishemsworth @MarvelStudios #MCU

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I’m not a psychologist, but I don’t have to be for the sake of this post, and neither do you. The only expertise we need for this post is to diagnose Thor as having depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (“PTSD”), or both. Because he’s a make-believe character, what that really means is that we have to infer whether that’s what the writers intended when writing for the character. If you’re one of the few that don’t infer that, then this post isn’t for you. I’m operating from the assumption that Thor’s physical condition is the result of one or both of those mental/emotional conditions (perhaps another that’s more appropriate), and so I will certainly not be arguing that assumption here.

Thor’s physical condition clearly sprang from his mental illness. Was that a good thing? I believe it was, both for script purposes and for real world purposes.

Script

What started in Thor: Ragnarok came to fruition in Avengers: Infinity War: Thor is the strongest Avenger. With only one exception, Thor never took a legitimate blow from the Hulk, getting hit only when he was trying to stop the fight or when the Grandmaster cheated. He developed what was probably the Thorforce from the comics, and with both Odin and Hela dead, that makes sense. He took on the brunt of a neutron star. He almost took out Thanos while Thanos was wielding all six Infinity Stones. The Russos came up with a lame excuse (Thanos was taken by surprise), but if Thor had just gone for the head . . . .

So, if Thor is that powerful, what happens in Endgame? Most likely, the battle lasts about 15 seconds with Thor saving the world. That’s not particularly dramatic. His weakness was necessary to give Thanos a fighting chance and to give us the grand finale we all wanted.

Real World

All that said, the only reason this plot device worked is because Thor was deemed worthy. Depression and PTSD are illnesses. Having them doesn’t necessarily make you a weak person, though they do give you certain vulnerabilities. Mjolnir gives us an objective standard to tell us whether or not someone is “worthy.” Thor’s ability to summon and wield Mjolnir tells us that his condition and value as a hero aren’t connected. It tells us that our own conditions and values as human beings aren’t connected. For this reason, I not only think Fat Thor was nothing worth being offended about, but was actually very important.

Moreover, once it was explicitly established that Thor’s physical condition was tied to the depression and/or PTSD, the jokes stopped coming, or at least shifted focus. “Lebowski” wasn’t a comment about weight. Endgame wasn’t perfect, though. For some inexplicable reason, Rhodey continued to insult Thor, and it didn’t come across as playful. I’ll discuss this in depth in tomorrow’s post.

Did you think “Fat Thor” was handled well?

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Why Captain America: The Winter Soldier Is My Favorite #MCU Movie @MarvelStudios #CaptainAmerica

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As you know, I love the MCU. Marvel Studios could have relied on the action and fantasy elements inherent to the source material to make a ton of money on crappy movies, but they didn’t. They spent a ton of money on special effects, but also on hiring highly talented writers, directors, and actors (some with Oscars under their belts) so that the movies had substance as well. No movie exemplifies that more than Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

Like many MCU movies, it had the theme of establishing deep friendships that represented more than just coworkers or bar buddies. No, these friends were so close as to represent an adoptive family, replacing the biological families that Steve Rogers, Natasha Romanov, and Nick Fury lost, never knew, or never had. As wonderfully as it was executed, all of that is actually par for the course in the MCU. The Winter Soldier goes a step further.

Winter Soldier dealt with a political issue that is both timely and important: How do we strike the balance between security and liberty? Both are important. If we lax our security, we won’t have liberty for long, because nefarious forces from within and/or without will steal it. However, if security replaces liberty, then what kind of an existence are we actually fighting for? That’s why, when push comes to shove, liberty must win. In Winter Soldier, all of the good guys either fought for liberty or joined the fight after eventually realizing that they should have been all along. This decision shouldn’t be made naively, but those characters didn’t do that.

Okay, they sometimes did. The commitment to liberty was excessively idealistic, but this is a movie. Filmmakers must deal with extremes or risk losing the crowd. Many moviegoers aren’t observant enough to pick up key points being made unless they’re hit with it over the head, and a major theme is certainly a “key point.” This is why horrible characters that deserve the most serious punishment under the law can be forgiven and exalted by an audience simply because they’ve learned how to love a sibling. The movie world is different from the real world, and I’m sure you understand that. If not, movies must seem utterly ridiculous to you.

With that in mind, Winter Soldier dealt with an important and timely issue, came down on the right side of it (liberty) without being (too) naïve, and somehow managed to do that without pissing off members of any political party.

As a lawyer, how can I not get into that?

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