Sundays now are lazy days for me. I either post something silly or other people’s work. Usually both. Today, I move away from the for a short commentary because of an anniversary. Two years ago to the day, I published a long post arguing that Nebula’s character arc in the MCU was the greatest redemption arc in cinematic history. In it, I specifically pointed out how brilliant Karen Gillan‘s performance was in the second scene of Avengers: Endgame. While Robert Downey, Jr.‘s performance was typically wonderful, Gillan acted circles around him and yet doesn’t get the credit she deserves for that scene. I also pointed out that Gillan has the chops to win an Oscar one day (for whatever that’s worth).
A couple of weeks ago, I came across an article in which Gillan states that that entire scene was improvised. I point this out only to say that the jobs both of them did are all the more impressive.
Recently, I’ve been posting some angry comments on Facebook about child abuse, which were in turn exacerbated by my viewing of Allen vs. Farrow on HBO. I’m not going to discuss any of that on a goofy blog like this. This shouldn’t be where you come for that sort of heavy conversation. (I won’t even discuss sports on this blog.) However, a Facebook friend made a related comment on a topic that’s very much a subject of this blog:
Stop celebrating MCU Yondu as an model father, he was a child abuser.
First, I don’t know of anyone that has celebrated him as a model father. Everyone whose comments I’ve heard or read is more than willing to acknowledge his faults, so that comment isn’t fair to any of us that discuss Yondu. However, it’s not even fair to the character of Yondu.
I’ve discussed in the context of Nebula why this is (sort of) an unfair criticism. TL;DR, in the real world, Nebula’s crimes shouldn’t and wouldn’t be swept away because she suddenly realized that she loved her sister. But this isn’t the real world; this is cinema. In cinema, sometimes the only way to get a story of redemption across to the average viewer is to do so through a kind of hyperbole. It won’t have the emotional impact intended unless you go from one extreme or the other. Tony Stark committed all sorts of computer crimes while testifying before Congress in Iron Man 2, and we all laughed about it because the corporate villain of the story was made to look like a fool. Darth Vader — the same guy that murdered younglings — was forgiven because he suddenly prioritized his repressed love for his son. Ryan Reynolds plays a pretty bad guy in Deadpool, but it’s okay because he’s funny and loves his wife. Loki tried to violently take over the Earth, then, against all odds, valiantly sacrificed his life to try to stop Thanos. There are countless examples of this, and not just in the fantasy genre, though I’m having trouble coming up with more meaningful, heartwarming stories of redemption than Vader, Yondu, and of course the best perhaps in cinematic history, Nebula. That’s probably because the fantasy genre allows you to go beyond the limits of logic with the horror and wonder it provides as the vehicle for that redemption.
Now, because we live in the real world, it’s certainly fair to use art to address these issues. I encourage it, especially with a topic like this that might otherwise be difficult to discuss (e.g., child abuse). Art is great for that sort of thing whether the filmmaker agrees with your point of view or not. Art is in the eye of the beholder.
My point is simply that context matters. The MCU is a fantasy world presented on film. The swing from villain to hero requires extreme circumstances in order for the audience to appreciate the redemption arc. That’s the context, and within that context, we can see that Yondu actually loved Peter and, in his own twisted way, tried to do right by him. We never saw him cause Peter physical harm, and in the end, he literally saved him from his irredeemable, biological father. So, maybe cut Yondu some slack. The real world needs more people that can shed their cognitive dissonance and admit when they’ve screwed up. In that (narrow) sense, Yondu is a role model.
Ah, Endgame. The movie that keeps on giving. To lawyers. I watched it again earlier this week, and had yet another thought. As I and many others have discussed before elsewhere, the Thanos Snap and Hulk Snap opened up a lot of legal questions. Here’s one suitable for a pedant like me.
When 2019 Nebula killed 2014 Nebula, what crime did she commit? Note: Self defense (really, defense of others) is an affirmative defense that comes into play only if a crime is committed, so it’s a valid question. She certainly killed a sentient being, so there must have been a crime to add to her litany of malfeasance (which is okay!). But what should we call it? The MCU has once again required legal analysis!
Remember. This is goofy pedantry at work. Just roll with it.
Homicide is killing a homo sapiens. Patricide is killing your father. Matricide is killing your mother. Suicide is killing yourself. Nebula didn’t really kill herself in Endgame. That was another Nebula from another reality. Also, I’m not a comics reader, but I don’t think she was ever a homo sapiens, and even if she were, she barely is one now. What kind of -cide did she commit then?
Sororicide doesn’t quite work either. She isn’t her own sister. In fact, despite what a DNA test would likely show, they aren’t even related, so even parricide (close relative) doesn’t work. Besides, even if you claim that similar DNA means they are related, parricide isn’t as precise as it could be. I demand precision!
No, we need a new term. Here are my suggestions.
Temporacide (“killing time”?)
Attornicide (tempting, eh?)
Okay, parricide it is, unless you’ve got a better idea. Though perhaps it’s best not to think too hard about this.
Sundays are now lazy days for me. Going forward, I’m just going to re-post other people’s work or just do something silly. Today it’s my own work, but it’s work I’ve already done. I went a little nuts today, creating my own, ridiculous spin on a Facebook post. I posted a handful of nerdy limericks, referencing Star Trek, Star Wars, the MCU, the DCEU, and Lord of the Rings. Each one has a Twitter hashtag of #NerdLimericks, so you can just click here to see them all. If I, or anyone else, adds more, they show up using that same link. The complete URL is: https://twitter.com/hashtag/NerdLimerick?src=hashtag_click.
Just for good measure, here are direct links to just a few of them. Retweet them all and share your own!
Sundays are now lazy days for me. Going forward, I’m just going to re-post other people’s work. Today, its a video from last weekend of several actors playing D&D with Chris Perkins behind the screen.
I still haven’t watched the whole video, but I can tell you that, while all four of them got the hang of building character concepts and role-playing (duh; they’re actors), David Harbour clearly understood how to play these kinds of games. At one point, he spontaneously helped along a confused Pom Klementieff as if he were an experienced DM.
There were some funny moments throughout. Here’s one.
Last night was the Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2 quarantine watch party. The best story arc in the MCU was Nebula’s, and it really came together in this movie thanks to both the writing and acting. No one can topple Thor as my favorite character, but she comes in as a close second. Sure, I’ve beaten this point into the ground but done so across several blog and social media posts that even I, the author, can’t track. Now I’m going to put it all together in one place so I can just point people to this post. Note well that the creators themselves may disagree with my analysis here and there, but art is in the eyes of the beholder. Great art speaks to people regardless of their own biases and perspectives, and I’ve learned recently that many people agree with my analysis of both the actor and the character. I truly hope I do everyone justice in expressing that analysis. To that end, while I’ve been trying to improve my writing by shortening my posts, this one can’t be done quickly. There’s a lot to unpack, so grab a drink and some snacks; you’ll be here for a while.
In GotG Volume 1, Nebula is a one-dimensional character. She’s an assassin crafted by a family with a far different dysfunction than any real human has experienced. Maybe you’ve experienced something as bad or worse, but unless your parent turned you into a cyborg because you didn’t murder well enough, you can’t truly relate. Every relationship Nebula has had is either severe familial dysfunction or predator-to-prey. She’s been trained to be nothing more than a killer; that’s all she is. She’s never laughed, never had a friend, and lacks the social context even to address her issues, let alone resolve them. The only emotions we’ve seen from her are anger and frustration (e.g., “Thanks, dad.”).
In GotG Volume 2, things slowly start to change. Gamora’s time as a Guardian has brought her along her own path of redemption, but she has no confidence in Nebula in that regard. Thus, the movie starts with Nebula feeling no love from her sister. However, when Peter, Drax, and Gamora are leaving with Ego and Mantis, there’s a moment where Nebula senses something inside herself. She gives a quick downward glance, accompanied by a brilliant musical choice making it clear that this scene was as much about Nebula as it was about any of the Guardians.
[C]obbled together by Buckingham at a time when certain people in the band weren’t even speaking to each other . . . “[t]he Chain” is a stark reminder that you’re forever tied to the people you love most, even while they’re betraying you. –Jillian Mapes
My interpretation is that Nebula doesn’t understand these feelings because she’s never had them before now, but they’re clearly triggered by Gamora leaving her and the subconscious recognition that if Gamora can have an adoptive family, so can she. Peter and Gamora were further along this path than Nebula, but they were all on the same journey (as was Rocket, but in a different way). Later, Nebula saves Rocket from execution for what she claims to be selfish reasons, but there’s clearly a change going on inside her. The 2014 Nebula wouldn’t have stopped the execution.
Skipping ahead to the planet of Ego, Nebula attacks Gamora. She’s genuinely angry, but not having to look Gamora in the eye is key to her ability to kill her sister. When the battle brings them face to face, she can’t do it. She yells out in frustration because all she knows is killing, and she suddenly can’t. She feels like she’s lost control of herself. Even at this point, my interpretation is that she doesn’t understand why.
And then there’s that moment when at last she gets it. She yells, “You were the one that wanted to win, and I just wanted a sister!” At 3:44, you see for a brief instant a relaxing of her eyes. I wish they had held the shot on her face for another second. She’s as surprised as Gamora. It’s at that point Nebula finally has a basic understanding of what she’s been feeling. She’s still Nebula, and there’s still plenty of road to travel, but you can’t address an issue until you first acknowledge it. She’s finally done that, and that’s why it’s one of my favorite lines in all of cinema.
There are a few more moments that help her along. She can’t understand how the Guardians can be friends because they always fight. Drax explains it to her.
Nebula: “…. You’re not friends.” Drax: “You’re right. We’re family.”
This helps her understand that right and wrong, love and hate, etc. aren’t always defined strictly by actions, but also by intent. Sometimes right and wrong look the same but nevertheless are not. Soon after, she becomes a Guardian by joining their fight to save the universe. She’s not just doing so to help herself; she’s also helping her sister. She’s not just working alongside someone in a morbid contest to kill more victims; she’s learning the notion of truly bonding with others for a common goal. Cooperation rather than competition.
Nebula’s part in the movie ends with an awkward hug, and then Gamora pensively watching Nebula ride away in search of Thanos. On the one hand, it’s a sad moment, but on the other, it’s a moment of hope that’s going to be desperately needed in the MCU within the next couple of movies.
Nebula’s journey to date is longer than the other MCU characters, but it takes on a familiar form. Like most of the MCU characters, as Nebula evolves into a better version of herself, her methods don’t change. For example, Tony Stark is a self-absorbed, playboy and arms dealer, and then becomes a family-oriented peace-lover out to save the world. Either way, his methods are the same: Develop weaponry. It’s all he really knows, so we judge him more by his intent than by his methods (though he often makes mistakes worthy of judgment). Thor is similarly self-absorbed and deemed unworthy, but eventually joins the fight to save half the universe. How? By recklessly plunging into battle, preferring brute force over tactics. He’s still Thor. And do I really have to mention Ant-Man? As discussed in the prior section, Nebula’s still figuring out that the same actions can be considered good or evil based in large part on intent. Sure, some acts are inherently good or evil, but in the movie universe, even that idea can be relaxed for the sake of drama. We can also allow ourselves to forgive a movie character despite an unforgivable past (see, e.g., Darth Vader saying, “My bad,” and then becoming a Force ghost), which would never fly in the real world (where I’m sure you agree that she deserves that maximum penalty you feel the law may morally impose no matter how much she loves her sister). This is because filmmakers have to use these extremes in order to properly convey the message to the audience. Still, there are rules of engagement, which Tony will later explain to her.
Nebula’s first scene in Infinity War has Thanos torturing her. After freeing herself, we next see her on Titan joining the fight to stop Thanos. While wanting to do the right thing but still not appreciating the importance of intent, she must be very confused by her current mission, which is to assassinate her adoptive father. She experiencing the same two defining characteristics of the life she’s trying to leave behind: Family dysfunction and predator killing prey. But this battle helps break those bonds of confusion just a little bit more. She’s doing the right thing despite the nature of her actions.
When it becomes apparent that Thanos has executed the Snap, she appears to show a bit of remorse for the loss of life Thanos just caused. With Gamora already dead, one might not expect her to have anything more to lose, yet she still exhibits renewed sadness — not frustration or anger — about what had occurred. Is this genuine?
This is where we see it all come together, with Guardians music playing. Ms. Gillan acts out the entirety of this journey in the following scene with two lines consisting of nine words in total, as well as three grunts. She uses body language and facial expressions buried in makeup. It’s not Klingon-like make up, but it still represents a barrier to conveying the message. However, even more difficult are the constraints placed upon her by the script. If Ms. Gillan — who I’ve read is a talented piano player — had suggested adding a moment to this scene in which she and Tony were singing and laughing while she was playing the piano, she would have been laughed off the set. Nebula doesn’t play the piano. She doesn’t laugh, and she doesn’t sing. She’s a stoic, distant, guarded cyborg who’s just learning emotions that we all take for granted. Ms. Gillan isn’t permitted to express those emotions fully but must somehow still convey them as they slowly rise to the surface.
And she does a masterful job of it. Here’s the scene:
The first thing we see is a paper football game. Nebula’s instinct is to cheat by blocking Tony’s attempt. To her, this is a competition, and that’s always meant win at all costs. Win for the sake of winning. Tony explains that, while they’re adversaries, she has to follow the rules of engagement. Again, this must be confusing for her, but she’s trying. In fact, she says, “I would like to try again,” which is 2/3 of the words she’s given in the scene. Consciously, she wants to continue to play, but subconsciously she wants to continue to learn.
When Nebula wins, Tony extends his hand as a showing of sportsmanship. He congratulated Nebula for beating him. Nebula understandably pauses. I imagine her thinking, “What’s going on here? Why is he congratulating me? No one’s ever done that before.” Well, of course not; everyone she’s ever beaten is dead. He still wants to be her friend despite just competing against her. “Wait. What’s a friend?” She’s clearly never had one. Then Tony asks whether she had fun. Again, she has to pause to process the question. “What’s ‘fun’? I’ve never had fun.” But she realizes she has had fun and answers in the affirmative. Remember, all of this is being done with little dialogue, obscuring makeup, and severe constraints on the character’s presentation.
But what happens next leaves little doubt that her transformation is genuine. Putting morality aside, the smart thing to do would be to kill Tony as quickly as possible (or at least as soon as he’s finished with his modifications to the ship). He’s in a weakened state due to his injuries, and as a fully biological person, he probably can’t last as long as Nebula without food, water, and perhaps oxygen. The sooner he dies, the less resources he burns in a futile effort to survive before seeing a rescue currently nowhere in sight. Not only does Nebula never consider killing him, but she actually takes steps to maximize his chances of survival, placing herself at greater risk. She provides medical treatment to his wounds and gives him the last bit of food. Even more profound, after Tony drifts off to sleep, Nebula picks him up off the floor and places him in a chair. If he’s destined to die, she wants him to die with dignity. Even if he’s going to die in his sleep, she wants him to be “comfortable.” And she shows genuine sorrow for what seems to be inevitable. All of this is for a guy she just met. Does this seem like something 2014 Nebula would do?
I’d like to write a lot more, but I’m sure you get the point. So, in the interests of finishing up this post, I’ll summarize the next 2 hours and 45 minutes of Endgame by saying it becomes even more obvious that Nebula’s transformation is genuine. During the rest of the film, she continues to display emotional development, seeming more and more “human” as she goes, and she’s legitimately trying to save everyone, not just herself. Her interactions with her 2014 version enforce that position. “You don’t have to do this . . . . You’ve seen what we become. . . . You can change.” Unfortunately, 2014 Nebula isn’t there yet. “He won’t let me.”
But you do see a tear running down 2014 Nebula’s cheek as she dies (blacked out of this clip). Seeing her future self could have been her start if there were only more time.
Sure, the writers had to do their part in setting this course for the character, and I applaud their work, but someone had to actually act it out despite a number of handicaps placed upon her. Ms. Gillan acted circles around Robert Downey Jr. in their shared scene, and I don’t think anyone noticed. The movies were more Mr. Downey’s than anyone else’s, so everyone was focused on him. Nebula’s importance in Endgame proves that the Russo brothers had faith in Ms. Gillan’s talent.
I agree. I feel that Ms. Gillan has the talent to win an Oscar one day. I have a modest track record for predicting such things (e.g., predicting Reese Witherspoon’s eventual Oscar based on her performances in two forgettable movies from the mid- to late-nineties). This comes not from personal talent, but rather from attending the theater since I was in elementary school. I can’t tell you how many now-famous actors I’ve seen perform at Arena Stage at a time when they were first cutting their teeth in the arts. I learned to look for that talent even when a bad script hides it. Whether Ms. Gillan ultimately wins an Oscar will rely on two factors beyond her acting: Being given the right part and script and being willing to go through the expensive campaign to essentially buy the award from the Academy. I cannot predict either of those, but she’s got one out of three already. That’s more than most of us (and dare I say, much of Hollywood) have.
No MCU character had a more significant, personal story arc than Nebula, and at times she was exceptionally well-acted.
On April Fool’s Day, I enjoyed yet another quarantine watch party. This one was for Shazam, which I love. We were joined by the director, David Sandberg, and the actors that played Billy’s foster parents, Marta Milans and Cooper Andrews. The party was hosted by Brandon Davis of Comicbook.com, and Russ Burlingame joined in as well. We may have been joined by some other people involved in the film, but I wouldn’t know. I was clearly confused. For a moment I though Russ was the producer or something. Awkward.
Anyway, comic book movies are well-loved, but it seems most people love them solely for their action and fantasy elements. I feel that they don’t get the respect they deserve for the acting and screenwriting, which at times is top notch. After all, the Marvel Cinematic Universe (“MCU”) and DC Extended Universe (“DCEU”) have a few former Oscar winners in them. There are several themes that came up in our collective commentary that I wanted to discuss, some of which are shared with the Guardians of the Galaxy. Shazam occupies the same space in the DCEU as GotG. When I initially made that observation, my thoughts were narrow. I was referring to the fact that both were expected to lighten the mood of their respective cinematic universes by focusing a lot more on comedy than the others. All these movies have some comedic one-liners, and both Shazam and GotG were still very much action-oriented, but we all can see that the balance between those two genres were tipped a little further comedy for Shazam and GotG. But there were other reasons to make this connection that I didn’t initially appreciate.
Everyone Was Pretty Selfish
As with most stories, the primary characters in these films were flawed; to-wit: their motivations selfish. In GotG, Peter was a thief, Gamora was an assassin, Rocket and Groot were mercenaries, and Drax was motivated solely by hatred and loss. Each of those attitudes led to risks not only to their own well-beings, but to the well-beings of the entire galaxy. The same selfishness was common among the main characters in Shazam, and not just the villain. These flaws were normal for children their ages, and thus the stakes were initially lower, but when these kids were forced to deal with fantastic circumstances that don’t exist in the real world, they had no choice but to grow up quickly. It didn’t go so well. Billy stole from Freddy, and when they worked together, they willingly took $73 from the mugging “victim” knowing full well that Shazam was scaring her into handing over the money. They stole far more money from an ATM.
Eventually, Billy started to play the role of a hero, but only because his reckless behavior created the danger in the first place. Though he saved the day … well …
"I caught a bus with my bare hands!" It's still about him rather than the goodness of the deed itself. He doesn't get it yet. #QuarantineWatchParty#Shazam
Again, Freddy was wrong here. He really did break his own rule for selfish gain. Of course, both of them stole money earlier. They're kids suddenly in a position of power. Eventually they'll figure it out. #QuarantineWatchParty#Shazam
Comic book movies don't always get the credit they deserve for their acting and writing. This film used the familiar theme of family, but did so in a way we haven't seen with comic book movies: an adoptive family. I thought it was well done. #QuarantineWatchParty#Shazam
That second tweet isn’t strictly correct. The Vasquez family wasn’t an “adoptive” family; they were a foster family. That’s a slightly different dynamic. I’m not familiar with the details of the process, but in an adoptive family, at least the parents get to choose the children they adopt. In a foster family, that choice is made by the foster care system. Foster familes are forced on one another, and in GotG, that’s true as well. The Guardians were forced on one another by circumstance. This isn’t to say that freewill didn’t play any part; the Vasquez family chose to be a foster family to someone, and the Guardians could have split up as soon as they escaped prison (or at any other time). I’m just saying that there were far more severe limits placed on their respective choices, and that makes their coming together as a family more impressive.
And those families worked. By working together, the characters in desperate need of personal growth became better. They focused on more than just themselves. On the extreme end of the spectrum, Nebula’s realized relationship with Gamora, and then the other Guardians, led to her rhetoric shifting from “I’m killing Thanos because I hate him” to “I’m killing Thanos because he’s going to kill half the universe.” In a similar way, despite all the superpowers he had, Billy was still just a dopey kid who’s sense of family was an unattainable ideal, and like Starlord, that caused him initially to miss the family that was right in front of his face. Billy didn’t really evolve until he accepted his new family, and then he learned not only their importance, but everyone’s importance. The sense of family led to a sense of community.
The Stakes Were Still High
This scene (boardroom) seemed a bit much considering the overall tone of the film, but I don't fault the filmmakers for doing it. It certainly raised the stakes. #QuarantineWatchParty#Shazam
These are still action movies. The Guardians saved a planet from a villain who would eventually become a threat to the entire galaxy. That threat needed to be extreme in order to keep the movie from getting too lighthearted. Shazam was written to be even far more family-friendly, yet the boardroom scene was so dark that it received quite a bit of criticism. I don’t think that’s fair. A movie so lighthearted can cause the viewer to lose sight of the stakes. Doctor Sivana murdered several people, including his brother and father. Sound familiar, Ego? What about you, Thanos?
The Acting Was Solid
I won’t beat the dead horse any more than I must, but here’s a quick summary of my feelings on the actors of GotG. The actors in GotG represented the best acting ensemble in the MCU, and Karen Gillan’s performance was so good in the MCU and elsewhere (for example, no spoilers and spoilers) that I’m convinced that there’s an Oscar in her future if she’s given the right script. Similarly, the cast of Shazam! is probably my favorite ensemble from the DCEU. All the themes above required solid acting to pull off.
Zachary Levi did a fantastic job playing a kid in a man’s body. He had the same insecurities as any kid and tried to hide them by acting as a kid would assume an adult would act. Billy’s lack of a father figure added to the awkwardness, which Levi captured well. A lot of that is scriptwriting, but someone must act it out.
This made sense because he had superpowers, but when he met Dr. Sivana, he had that moment of fear. Once he experienced Sivana’s superpowers and intimidating personality, that childish fear rose to the surface. He assumed (inaccurately) that his powers were no match for Sivana’s.
The script establishes that Shazam is more powerful, but he's losing anyway. It's all about confidence and experience that a kid just won't have. #QuarantineWatchParty#Shazam
Perhaps they showed a little too much patience for Billy’s antics than they should in the real world, but this is a movie, so the script did what it had to do. The point is that foster parents should be patient, and that’s something to which I can relate. When push came to shove, they mixed the right amount of good cop/bad cop in how they dealt with Billy. That gave Billy the push he needed, leading to his catchphrase, “If a superhero can’t save his family, he’s not much of a hero.”
The child actors did a really good job as well. I don’t have much to say about them because they were kids playing kids, so nothing floored me there. However, having a script that takes advantage of a bunch of cute kids is always going to make some people happy.
I’ve never really read comics. I don’t know how faithful this movie was to the comics, and I understand that’s important to some of you, but I just don’t care. I’m taking this movie at face value, and I was impressed with both the acting and script. It was a lot of fun and may be my favorite DCEU film to date (though I really liked Wonder Woman too).
There are some people included on my cc: that weren’t involved in the film and (to my knowledge) aren’t professional journalists. They were people that I “met” for the first time through this quarantine watch party, and they’re as important to it as the celebrities. It was a lot of fun. You may want to join us sometime.
You *all* made this fun. We're all in this together. 🙂
The ending of All Creatures Here Below really screwed me up, and it’s been festering in my brain for about a week now. (Technically, I’m already screwed up, and this just raised the issue. The coincidence that it was released on my birthday in 2019 is rather odd.) As I mentioned in a prior, spoiler-free post, I rented it, saw it, had to watch it a second time. This movie strikes the precise emotional chords for me. YMMV.
Before you read further, please note that this is one of those few movies that I’m glad I saw spoiler-free. If you’re at all spoiler-averse, you should stop reading now and watch the movie. If not, you’re robbing yourself of a process that made the movie even better for me. I watched it once, tolerating the typical humdrum character and story development necessary to start any film, was hit with the twist towards the end (which I won’t spoil here), and then was hit with the ending. At that point, I knew I had to watch it again, which completely changed how I saw the start of the movie. It was no longer humdrum; rather, almost every moment became disturbing and/or important.
The two main characters, Gensan and Ruby, are bad people. They commit crimes, both minor and heinous, throughout the movie. I should be rooting for their downfall, but as I’ve pointed out, this movie demonstrates how complex issues can get. While I don’t waiver one bit on the position that they should both be in prison, the screenwriting (David Dastmalchian) and directing (Collin Schiffli), and acting (Dastmalchian and Karen Gillan) leave me conflicted. I feel bad for the characters, probably because I know that the emotions they feel are ones with which we all sympathize. They deserve to be in prison because of their actions, but how they emotionally respond to their own actions, as well as how tough their circumstances are, are relatable. Some of you may even share those circumstances.
Most of us can appreciate the finality of death. Once a person dies, that’s it. Even if you’re religious, it feels like they’re gone forever. This inspires a very common sentiment: “What I wouldn’t give for just five more minutes with [person].” Depending on the relationship, you may want to spend that five minutes kissing, hugging, or just talking to that person, telling them how you feel about them or sitting back and enjoying their wisdom one more time. Regardless of what you need from that five minutes, you need that five minutes.
In the end scene, Gensan is living in what should have been those five minutes. In his twisted mind, he had to kill her but notat that precise moment. Even for a guy who was so emotionally stunted, I think he, like all of us, would appreciate just a few more minutes with her, but he’s the reason he doesn’t have those five minutes.
Moreover, despite Ruby’s mangled corpse being out of view, we all know what Gensan sees before him. However, the director (I think that’s where the credit lies) makes sure we connect emotionally with that scene. Ruby falls to the ground after the initial (brutal) strike. She gets hit again, and we see only her right hand clutching the grass. Then she’s hit a third time, and her hand is limp. On the fourth and final strike, it simply bounces a bit from the impact. We see her death occur without the blood and guts, but we can’t ignore the brutality of it. Gensan is looking directly at the product of his own handiwork knowing that he didn’t have to do it before spending five minutes saying a much-needed goodbye.
Ruby gets to have those five minutes in a sense, because through her letter to Gensan she tells him how she feels about him. She saw him as her “knight in shining armor,” but he failed her in that regard in the worst way imaginable. Gensan must now be overwhelmed by his own betrayal.
And all of this could have been delayed five minutes.
It May Be Even Worse
As if all of that isn’t bad enough, Gensan may have to relive this pain over again. Let’s say he gets exceptionally lucky and serves only twenty years in prison. Assuming he’s thirty years old, he’s out at fifty, with on average (statistically speaking) twenty-six years left to live. On the day he’s granted parole and knows he’s getting out, something’s going to hit him: If he could have gotten lucky, perhaps Ruby could have as well. She could have also been getting out of prison at some time, so they could have decades of those “five minutes” together if not for his short-sighted actions.
He’s going to have to relive that same pain again, knowing that he robbed himself and her of that time together, as well as everything else that goes along with life. How could you live with that?
Everyone has their pain, and I’m no exception, but my greatest pain dwarves the rest of it, perhaps defining me. Several movies have occasionally tugged on that particular heart-string, but none struck that particular chord as hard as this movie did. Perhaps that makes me like this movie more than you will, but I still encourage people to watch it. Even if you’ve just spoiled it for yourself, there’s a twist I haven’t spoiled, and the ending should still be a powerful watch for you.
I give this movie an A+.
America’s Sugar Addiction
There was one other thing that was disturbing about the movie, but in a funny way. To avoid spoilers, I’ll just say this: Ruby, c’mon! You’re still watching TV and eating a Baby Ruth? 😊
Depending on how it’s presented, I sometimes don’t handle death in movies particularly well.
I just finished watching Infinity War and Endgame again and have four more observations. Yeah, I talk about the MCU a lot, but I think it gets far too little credit for its writing and acting (especially Karen Gillan and Dave Bautista, who were both surprises to me).
As I’ve discussed in severalpriorposts, the MCU as a whole, like most individual movies, involved a lot of character growth. In the MCU, the common theme was developing a better sense of morality, but using familiar methods to achieve the evolved goals. For example, Tony was a self-absorbed arms dealer. As he evolved to a selfless peace-seeker, he still used the same methods. He used weapons to provide security, because that’s all he really knew. And near the end of Endgame, [spoiler alert] even the “self-absorbed” part came into play: “I am Iron Man.” Of course, as a friend pointed out on Facebook, at the time he was using the most powerful weapon in the universe.
Natasha and Clint
I don’t know if Natasha and Clint’s friendship is the best thing about the MCU, but it’s certainly near the top, and it’s an example of what makes the MCU fantastic. You couldn’t possibly build that relationship over the course of a single film, which means that their scene on Vormir couldn’t possibly have the emotional impact that it did if Infinity War/Endgame were a single film. The MCU is several independent films that collectively is greater than the sum of its parts.
After my 100th re-watch of Endgame, I’m certain that Bucky knew that Steve was going to live out his life in the past. I never really noticed that before now.
I hate cheese but still find it adorable that Tony’s daughter wanted cheeseburgers at the end of Endgame. The first thing Tony wanted after returning from captivity in Iron Man was a cheeseburger. I may have already mentioned this in a prior post, but there it is.