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.) 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.
Based on my obsession with the MCU, I’ve become a fan of several of the actors that had never been on my radar scope before. I discovered All Creatures Here Below starring two of them: Karen Gillan and David Dastmalchian. I had never heard of Gillan before the MCU (I have a weird thing against Dr. Who), and had seen Dastmalchian in only a couple of small parts. This is nothing like an MCU movie, of course. It has that indie-movie feel to it. The two play a couple of non-loveable screw ups that can’t seem to make any good decisions and almost constantly piss me off. Gillan’s Ruby doesn’t seem to understand that her actions are evil or stupid (they’re often both), whereas Dastmalchian’s Gensan doesn’t seem to care about anyone else (other than Ruby), so he ignores the consequences to others. Ruby also doesn’t seem to understand the long-term consequences of her actions.
Jennifer Morrison and David Koechner are also in it, though their parts are small, so they aren’t given a chance to shine. That’s a shame because they’re both quite good.
It’s a depressing tale, but once it got started, I was eager to see how it turned out. Then I got hit with a twist in the diner scene, which really made me rethink the entire movie. The world is screwed up, and things can be more complicated than they appear (for better or worse). It’s frustrating, brutal, and the ending was downright painful (perhaps too painful for some), but it was well worth the 90 minutes and $3.99. I enjoyed both the acting and the writing, and I greatly appreciate the talent it takes to do either.
A- (but I’m a generous grader)
EDIT: I’m upgrading this movie to a solid A+ after thinking about it all day. I really didn’t expect a movie like this to make me think so hard, and I appreciate that.
In an earlier post, I pointed out a few things about the Marvel Cinematic Universe (“MCU”) that I really enjoyed. Since that post, I’ve started to watch the entire MCU in movie-chronological order: Captain America, Captain Marvel, Iron Man, etc., and will continue through the entire MCU that’s on Disney+ or otherwise available to me. This probably excludes the Spider Man movies and the Incredible Hulk.
There’s been so much ink on these topics that it’s rather pointless to try to leave an impression. These will be short observations of the things that either I liked the most about them or suspect many people didn’t really notice. I’m going to avoid most of my major dislikes. There’s no sense in raining on anyone’s parade (including my own). In case you have the time, I found it fun watching these movies knowing where these characters wound up.
Captain America: Civil War
Like all the MCU movies, I liked this one. It wasn’t even close to the bottom of my list, but it doubled down on the ridiculous trope that I mentioned while discussing Ant-Man. I get that the world governments want to have a say in how the Avengers operate, but I find it frustrating and incredulous that people can characterize them as the bad guy because of the damage done.
I get that Cap had a 70-year shift, but it’s still weird to fall in love with someone, never really get over her, then knowingly date her niece. It’s better than Leia kissing Luke, but still. . . .
The scene when the cops came to arrest Bucky seemed to be a mix of the Daredevil fight montages and a Jason Bourne car chase.
More foreshadowing: Vision spending time with Wanda.
It made no sense for Cap to shift his arm when he’s trying to hold down the helicopter. Well, not from a physics perspective.
I love the nodding from the VW Bug. 🙂
Introducing two new MCU characters (Black Panther and Spider Man) for the big fight was a great idea considering their upcoming movies, but Black Panther’s “I don’t care” ran a sore point into the ground for me. The established Avengers should have had a little more trouble throwing punches at each other. Every single shot should have taken something out of each of those characters. For example, Black Widow and Hawkeye joked about still being friends after the fight. That’s fine, but when Wanda threw Black Widow with her red goo to save Hawkeye, they should have cut to Hawkeye’s face giving a look of concern. Such a quick, subtle, but powerful moment of pain would have given us a better appreciation of what was at stake for these friends. Instead, it reminded us that no one was actually going to die. We knew that, but good filmmaking allows you to forget that. The Russo’s seemed more concerned with action than the characters themselves. It wasn’t terrible, but it could have been much better.
Paul Rudd looked as surprised as the rest of us when he grew. “Does anyone have any orange slices?” Rudd was perfect casting for that role. There’s a lot of perfect casting going around the MCU.
I never noticed that Howard Stark recognized “Sgt. Barnes,” which of course made perfect sense. Such a tough moment.
Well, Stark finally put the suit on, and we saw what happened. Of course, Cap had some help, but I’ll bet my money in Vegas on anyone who can punch metal repeatedly without hurting himself.
Shit’s about to get weird. Even weirder than a talking racoon.
I should just copy and paste, “Arrogant jackass,” about 30 times in a row here, shouldn’t I?
The Ancient One’s reluctance to teach Strange seems, well, strange in light of her conversation with Banner in Endgame.
The visuals in the mirror dimension were stupendous.
I still cringe at the horrible attempt at comedy in which the Cloak of Levitation wipes away Strange’s tears.
“Oooooo, that’s funny.”
I really hope Mordo comes back as a villain. The most interesting villains are the ones that think they’re heroes, and Chiwetel Ejiofor is one hell of an actor.
A friend commented that he thought the world-building in Wakanda was great. I agree, though I think a lot of the MCU movies do so, just in different, non-literal ways. Perhaps in Black Panther is more pronounced because the world-building you see is relatable. It shows a world that we’re all waiting to see.
If you’re watching these movies in movie-chronological order, this one should absolutely come before Doctor Strange. I can’t think of a single reason why Marvel suggests Doctor Strange to go first. Black Panther takes place one week after Captain America: Civil War, and one post-credit scene in Doctor Strange is a preview from the very next film, Thor: Ragnarök.
The one thing I didn’t like about this movie was that they determined their king via fistfight. It’s bad enough to have people lead just because they’re born into a royal family — I know that opinion’s not going to sit well with certain real-world cultures — but to have them fight among themselves to determine who’s on top? How stupid.
Ulysses Claue is such fun character. Even though he’s a horrible crook, his lack of respect for the danger he’s in makes me laugh. I wish he hadn’t died.
“I’m kidding. We are vegetarians.”
Those hovercraft are reminiscent of the “whale ships” that Thanos uses.
Someone on my Facebook wall argued that Marvel films are formulaic. I don’t think that’s fair. There are only seven basic plot structures in all of storytelling. To that extent, everything is formulaic, but applying that as a criticism unfairly diminishes the contributions of creators. There’s still something new being added when a good creator creates. There’s one consistent theme in comics that does annoy me, and it’s present here. The enemy too often mirrors the protagonist. Kaecilius is just an evil sorcerer, Abomination is just another Hulk, and Killmonger is just an evil Black Panther. That’s a theme I’d rather they break except where it makes sense for other reasons (i.e., the Winter Soldier). Perhaps it makes sense here because of the strong theme of family in the movie, but in general this is the only way in which I see the MCU films as formulaic in a bad sense. Otherwise, Black Panther is like most of the MCU films: It carves it’s own path. As I said, the world it builds is different from what we’ve seen elsewhere. It focuses on a culture that we don’t normally see as the focus of American films.
Like Winter Soldier, this is another movie that won’t leave my watchlist just because of this mass-viewing of the MCU. I’ll watch this one over and over again.
This is the Thor that I love. Thor is my favorite MCU character because I have always been fascinated with mythology, and most especially Norse mythology. The character of Thor is supposed to be dimwitted, which gets him into trouble, but never prevents him from busting his way out of it. This is that Thor, and Hemsworth continues to play him perfectly. This is one of the more quotable MCU films as a result. But then they had to ruin it for me by making Hela the sister of Thor. 🙂
As a fan of the theater, I’d like to see the entire Tragedy of Loki of Asgard on stage with those specific actors. 🙂
“Father.” “Oh, shit.”
Cate Blanchett was ridiculously good.
Why kill off the Warriors Three, two of which so unceremoniously?
Elephant in the room: Why does Sparkles have any sensitivity to electrical jolts at all? That compliance device shouldn’t have worked at all.
Okay, enough criticizing one of my top three MCU films. Good stuff only from here . . . but Thor should have been a redhead.
Jeff Goldblum is even better than Blanchett.
“That’s exactly what Doug used to say. See you later, new Doug.”
The fight scene with the Hulk was huge. It proved that Thor had continued his evolvution into the strongest Avenger (as it should be). Hulk got in only one legitimate series of shots against Thor. All others came from the Grandmaster’s cheating or Thor’s reluctance to fight, which is a virtue in and of itself.
In contrast to Black Panther, they got royalty right in this one. A bad queen shouldn’t be allowed to be queen. Birthright is bullshit to anyone that believes in democracy or a republic. Maybe gods can live up to otherwise unrealistic ideal of a truly benevolent dictator, but when they don’t (and humans never do), revolt! Shuri got that, but only because T’Challa was family. Thor said it best: “Technically [you] have a claim to the throne . . . but it can’t be you. You’re just [beat] the worst.”
My cousin, John, is right. Thor should have never gotten his eye replaced.
I love that Fenris was able to pierce Hulk’s skin. We’ve gone cosmic. The most powerful creatures you meet on Earth aren’t so extraordinary out there.
This after-credits scene comes close to beating shawarma, but not quite.
Avengers: Infinity War
Despite the advice of the above-linked page, I believe you should watch this before Ant-Man and the Wasp, so I did. That’s how they were released in the theater, and it made the end-credits scene in Ant-Man and the Wasp so good.
So, we had an entire movie in which Hulk wouldn’t go away, and now we have an entire movie where he won’t come out. I wonder how that’s going to resolve itself in Endgame? 🙂
Lord Voldemort (Ebony Maw) is a total suck up.
In terms of acting in general throughout all his roles, Tom Hiddleston probably did the best job of anyone in the MCU.
The most annoying character in the MCU is Pepper Potts.
Doctor Strange calls someone else a douchebag? Even more amazing, it sticks?
I don’t think the Star-Lord, Drax, and Mantis should be a match for Iron Man, Spider-Man, and Doctor Strange. I’ve heard that Drax is far more powerful in the comics, but that’s not my frame of reference. This brings up something that’s bugged me about the MCU. They never seem to get the power curve right. It makes no sense that a character that’s a match for Thor and Hulk is also a match for Black Widow and Hawkeye. Sometimes they explain it (e.g., Thor’s deterioration in Endgame), but for the most part they handwave it. It makes writing scripts easier but feels wrong to me.
“Why is Gamora?”
Improvised line. Bautista did such a great job.
And I thought my family was screwed up.
I’ve admitted my bias for Thor, but I can’t think of another character entrance into a scene that even comes close to Thor’s arrival in Wakanda. It still raises the hair on my neck.
I know it’d be a cheap line, but I still wish Spider-Man had responded, “Well, actually, arachnid; specifically: Araneae.
Star-Lord is directly responsible for the Snap. In all 14,000,605 realities, he was a dumbass, and that’s why Black Widow, Vision, and so many others are dead even after the Hulk Snap. This isn’t a criticism of Star-Lord, of course, because he’s not real. The screenwriters shouldn’t have thrown the character under the bus like that. That said, it is the kind of thing he’d do.
The power curve problem rears its ugly head again. Why are Black Widow and Okoye able to put up a fight against Proxima Midnight, who’s a cosmic character that otherwise can give Scarlett Witch and Vision so much trouble? It doesn’t add up (and neither does the prior scene where Black Widow, Captain America, and Falcon best her and Corvus Glaive).
I can’t look past the fact that Wanda is in a relationship with a robot. I like my toaster, but don’t like like it.
When Thanos reversed time to bring back Vision, did he create an alternate timeline? If so, the timeline we were watching the entire movie isn’t the one we watched as the movie ended. I’m always a little bugged by infinite timeline stories. Even the infinite happy endings are nullified by the infinite unhappy endings that necessarily occur. The reality we’re shown is arbitrarily chosen by the director, but I can’t ignore all the other ones in which the protagonist loses. I know they’re there.
If Thor wasn’t the most powerful Avenger, he is now. It’s clear Thor is my betting favorite to beat Thanos without Infinity Stones. He almost beat him with the stones. The explanation the Russos gave was that Thanos was taken off guard, but Stormbreaker still made it through. Thor’s a badass who’s PTSD and depression weaken him so that he doesn’t overpower Thanos in Endgame.
In case you didn’t read it elsewhere, Groot’s final “I am Groot” translated to “Dad.”
Great job, Thanos! You killed half the population, leaving the other half to double itself fairly quickly (less than 50 years for humans)! What, you don’t know how exponential growth works? Maybe you should have killed of 99% of sentient life. Dipshit.
The post-credit scene foreshadowed the return of Captain Marvel. The fact that she’s been away from the MCU for so long (in movie-chronological order) now matches the fact that it’s been about 25 years since she was on Earth. It has a better feel to it. That alone makes watching these in movie-chronological order the right way to go. Streaming is awesome.
Ant-Man and the Wasp
Why did Janet van Dyne age as much as Hank Pym? According to everything we’ve been told about the quantum realm, time passes much more slowly; specifically: 1 hour in the quantum realm for each year in the normal world. Janet was stuck down there for 30 years, so she should have aged just a little more than a day. It would have saved a little bit of special effects money to have cast a younger actress in the role.
Marvel should sign Michael Pena to a lifetime contract.
I loved the casting for Ghost. At the risk of getting a little creepy, Hannah John-Kamen’s eyes are haunting. That’s the best word for it, but she also did a good acting job, so yeah, great casting.
Walter Goggins is also really good casting. Very few can do sleezy like Goggins.
21 ft. v. 65 ft.. Easy joke, but it worked.
“You can do it. You can do anything. You’re the world’s greatest grandma.”
If Scott Lang went to the quantum realm to get particles to help Ghost, but was stuck there for 5 years, what happened to Ghost? I’m sure the answer depends on 1) whether Hannah John-Kamen signs another contract; and/or 2) whether a future storyline can use her. There will be a Ant-Man 3, so I guess we’ll see.
When Janet tells Ghost, “Your pain; I can feel it,” I fully expected Ghost to respond with, “What do you know of my pain?”
That mid-credits scene just made you want to see Endgame even more.
I’ve beaten this dead horse quite a bit on this blog and on social media, but damn, that scene in the ship with Tony and Nebula is the best bit of acting I’ve seen in the MCU. Karen Gillan took over. Expressing confusion by what it means to have a friend, play a game, and have fun, and then giving the last food to Tony and making sure that, when he dies, he dies as comfortably as possible rather than on a cold floor, all with only two lines of dialogue (9 words and 3 grunts) and facial expressions buried in makeup. It’s almost like she’s taken over the entire MCU without anyone in the real world noticing.
“I thought you were a build-a-bear.” “Maybe I am.”
If Scott kept the van (seen in the Avengers facility camera footage), why was he walking through town and at the monument with his stuff in a wagon? Why wouldn’t he leave that stuff in the van?
Namor should be the villain in Black Panther 2.
I’m with Scott Lang. Professor Hulk freaks me out too.
“Somebody peed my pants, but I don’t know if it was old me or baby me. Or just me me.”
An idiot and his tacos.
At the start, Fat Thor was a funny joke, but once it became obvious that his condition was based on depression and PTSD (Hemsworth’s acting was great), they stopped making jokes and handled it quite well, even overtly stating that he was still “worthy.” However, much later in the movie, Thor asks, “Do you know what’s running through my veins?” Roadie answers, “Cheeze Whiz?” That wasn’t a funny joke, especially considering the moment. Suddenly they went back to making jokes, and at that point it was punching down. Funny joke, but not a good move.
The explanation for time travel was crappy to start, and I bet some just gave up and didn’t fully understand it. That would be too bad. The time travel explanation they used was actually the best one to use to justify fixing things. Assuming they chose instead to go with those movies and TV shows, I don’t think killing baby Thanos would be a bad thing.
“. . . the chick with the antenna . . .”
I read something online stating that past-Gamora and past-Nebula were fighting Beta Ray Bill’s species in the fight scene where the two first appear. Considering there was originally plans to include Beta Ray Bill in Endgame, that would make sense. I really hope he’s in Love and Thunder.
The Ancient One says that taking the time stone from her would wreak havoc on her reality. Assuming that’s true, didn’t Thanos’s Second Snap create major issues for the movie’s reality? Did we really have a happy ending? As for the Ancient One’s reality, isn’t it destined for its own Snap, followed by its own Thanos Second Snap wreaking havoc on her reality anyway (assuming a best-case scenario where Thanos loses for her reality as well)? If so, wouldn’t giving up the time stone to another reality do far less damage to her reality, preventing any of the snaps from occurring? Am I saying “reality” and “snap” too much? This whole plot is so riddled with scientific and legal issues that it was impossible to get right. (After the Snap, would Tony still be a billionaire?) I don’t mean to shit on the movie (which I loved); I just think this is a lesson in just rolling with it. After all, as I said above, the time travel explanation they used was the best one to use.
The music playing when Steve saw Peggy through the window is an excerpt from This is My Choice, which was from when Steve went into the ice.
Hulk did his snap, and Clint’s wife, Laura, immediately called him. Did Clint keep her phone line alive for five years? Okay, I know. Just roll with it.
All those portals opening to start the big battle was awesome (“on your left”), and it was amazing that they were able to have such a huge battle but give everyone their individual moments. With an army that large, though, I think there’s be far too much cross-chatter on their coms. The funniest part of that battle was Paul Rudd punching one of Thanos’s whale ships. Not Ant-Man, Giant-Man, or Scott Lang, but Paul Rudd. I just find that funny.
I’ll mention it again: when all was said and done in Endgame, Tony finally completed his evolution. He made the sacrifice play, laid down on a wire, and let the other guy crawl over him. I thought it quite fitting that the music played at his funeral was thematically very similar to the music from when Steve rode the plane into the ground. But, ummmm, couldn’t they have brought him back to life with the Soul Stone? Never mind. Don’t answer that. Just roll with it.
They signed their names on the credits? Star Trek VI, baby.
I dunno. Watching the Star Wars movies, maybe? Nothing I’d blog about though.
I throw in this list as a suggestion for movie-chronological order, which differs from what’s suggested by Marvel itself (again, omitting the Hulk and Spider-Man movies). The difference is that Doctor Strange follows Black Panther, and Ant-Man and the Wasp follows Avengers: Infinity War. YMMV.
Captain America: The First Avenger Captain Marvel Iron Man Iron Man 2 Thor The Avengers Iron Man 3 Thor: The Dark World Captain America: The Winter Soldier Guardians of the Galaxy, Volume 1 Guardians of the Galaxy, Volume 2 Avengers: Age of Ultron Ant-Man Captain America: Civil War Black Panther Doctor Strange Thor Ragnarök Avengers: Infinity War Ant-Man and the Wasp Avengers: Endgame