Dysfunctional to Functional Family: Tony Stark, Obadiah Stane, Spiderman, and Morgan Stark @ComicBook @BrandonDavisBD @Rowaenthe @TheJeffBridges @RobertDowneyJr #IronMan #QuarantineWatchParty #MCU #Spiderman

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June 30 was the first ComicBook.com quarantine watch party in quite some time. As always, I made a few more Twitter connections through the conversations that came from it. These conversations inspired three posts for my blog, this being the first one.

My posts aren’t about getting clicks. If no one read any of my posts, I wouldn’t really care. Writing them is more about catharsis than fame. Moreover, I’m no film student, psychologist, or sociologist, so I can’t break down the science of movie-making or human behavior. Instead, these posts are about analyzing the themes used within the movies due to my personal connection to their messages (accordingly, YMMV). As a result, my favorite posts have been about Nebula’s Redemption, my comparison of Shazam! and Guardians of the Galaxy, and others dealing with a particular theme. That theme is realizing and accepting that your idealized vision of family is complete nonsense, breaking away from those abusive relationships, and appreciating the family you didn’t realize was in front of you the whole time (though for me personally, the third has been elusive). Not everyone has these experiences, but it’s a recurring theme in superhero movies. I never considered that the first Iron Man movie implicitly raised issues related to this theme.

Father Figure

Tony Stark’s (Robert Downey, Jr.) father died, and then Tony disappeared for a while. This isn’t surprising considering how self-absorbed he is, but when he returned to Stark Industries, Obadiah Stane (Jeff Bridges) must have served as a father-figure for him. Before I go forward, I want to mention . . .

Tony didn’t show as much respect for Obadiah as you would want to see from your own child, but Tony didn’t ever show much respect for any authority figure, so it’s still fair to assume Obadiah acted as an adoptive father to him. That is, Obadiah wasn’t merely a coworker, boss, or even family friend. Assuming that, it must have been absolutely devastating for Tony when he realized Obadiah had called for his removal from the company, and even worse, his death. That betrayal would hold back Tony’s growth, which became a slow burn throughout the Infinity War saga. It helps make Tony’s grief over Black Widow’s death as believable as that of any other character despite his never overtly expressing that grief or deep feelings for her. It wasn’t until the first Avengers that Tony showed a willingness to “lay down on a wire” for his allies, but his ego made sure that no one would forget that. Somehow, it was still about him . . . until he started to understand fatherhood in Captain America: Civil War.

Peter Parker and Morgan Stark

In Civil War, Tony latched onto Peter Parker/Spiderman. At first, he was looking for a little more firepower to take down Team Cap ®©TM℗SM, but by Infinity War it was clear he had a genuine emotional attachment to Peter.

By Avengers: Endgame, he was devastated because he “lost the kid,” but he got a second chance in that film. Tony’s life became about Pepper and their daughter, Morgan. He was reluctant to restore the Vanished because doing so threatened what he had finally found after a lifetime of searching, even if it meant giving up on his filial figure, Peter.

Tony’s progression from self-absorbed brat to the guy who’d “make the sacrifice play” was 22 movies long probably because of Obadiah more than anything else we saw, but Tony made it there, and that wound up saving half the universe.

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#Venom: Yet Another Reason Why Movie Reviewers Suck @VenomMovie @STARZ @SonyPictures @arenastage #movie #MCU

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I’ve been itching to watch the movie, Venom, for quite some time and finally watched it. It didn’t disappoint. Make no mistake about it: This isn’t something like the MCU that hides superb acting and writing within a fantasy-action film. It is what it is, but what it is is a lot of fun. Why else do you go to the movies except to have fun? Sometimes action is all you need.

Professional movie reviewers (the pre-internet world’s “influencers”) disagree. According to Rotten Tomatoes, Venom’s approval ratings are 80% for real people and only 29% for movie reviewers. Even politicians aren’t that out-of-touch with the people they serve. Seriously, how do these people have jobs? Who’s paying them?

From a purely artistic (not financial) standpoint, you can’t say a movie shouldn’t have been made unless absolutely no one likes it. Otherwise, it has artistic value. Movie reviewers shouldn’t be writing their reviews from the perspective of their own subjective point of view. They should put their egos and snark aside and focus on to whom the movie might appeal based on its themes and genre. Then the reader can predict whether or not it will appeal to them. That would be useful. That’s what I try to do with my writing, but I’m not a talented creative writer, so the professionals should do that.

I saw a play at Arena Stage decades ago, and one of the lines that always stuck with me was, “I don’t want to see one of those foreign films you like. If I wanted to read, I’d have stayed home with a book.” The speaker was talking to someone who should have become a movie reviewer. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying a book, and there’s nothing wrong with seeing a film with subtitles, but sometimes you don’t want either.

If a critic wants to assign a rating to a movie (i.e., one star, two star, etc.), that’s fine; we can all ignore it. But to do their job correctly, their review must disclose the genre and themes of the movie so that each of us can make an informed decision as to whether the movie will likely interest us (or our children, if applicable). Those are the only opinions that matter to each of us.

Sometimes you just want to see someone get his head bitten off. Venom delivered. It was fun.

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Spoiler Alert!

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There’s only one thing about the movie that stood out that I didn’t like: The typical comic book trope of a villain having the same powers as the hero. But hell; it’s an origin story. I’m looking forward to the next one.

No Small Parts: William Ginter Riva in Spiderman Far from Home @OfficialPeterB @BrandonDavisBD @ComicBook #QuarantineWatchParty #Spiderman

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Last night was another quarantine watch party hosted by Brandon Davis of ComicBook.com. This time it was Spiderman: Far from Home, and the small part I want to highlight is William Ginter Riva. There were several characters that helped Beck in his master plan. William was one of those characters. He had a small part . . . twice. He first appeared in Iron Man.

 

Jump to 0:12. Or just wait for it. It’s only 12 seconds.

Then he appeared again in Far from Home.

 

Jump to 2:00.

Unlike the other No Small Parts entries, he probably got a bit over 2 minutes of screen time, but the added value of this part is the connection it draws between the first modern MCU film, Iron Man, and the first one after which Tony Stark had died (representing a coda to the Tony Stark legacy). The thing that amazes me the most about the MCU is that I can’t think of any cinematic universe that tied together so many independent stories that collectively told a bigger one. Star Trek came close, and Star Wars came closer, but the MCU is the new standard for such a thing. Every movie stands 100% on its own yet tells a common story across 23 films. The fact that William appeared only at the very beginning and then at the very end makes the MCU feel a little bit more real, and thus relatable.

William was a small but significant way to remind us of that larger story, so I can’t help but appreciate this role.

Side note: What some may not know is that William was played by Peter Billingsley, who played Ralphie in 1983’s A Christmas Story. The best part, of course, is that they made a (not so?) subtle reference to “You’ll shoot your eye out.”

Jump to 2:33 for the reference.

Other posts in this series can be accessed by clicking here.

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