Black Widow Dies #MCU @JeremyRenner @MarvelStudios

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Sundays are going to be lazy days for me. Going forward, I’m just going to re-post other people’s work. Today, it’s one of the best sacrifices in the MCU. As I’ve said, I don’t know if the relationship between Black Widow and Hawkeye was the best thing in the MCU, but it’s pretty damn close.

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Guilty Pleasure: Green Lantern @VancityReynolds @TaikaWaititi #movie #GuiltyPleasure #QuarantineLife

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First off:

Yeah, I know. With Rotten Tomatoes scores of 26 from the critics (who mean nothing to me) and 45 from the audience, Green Lantern isn’t exactly well-loved, but if it were, it wouldn’t be a guilty pleasure. You chose to read this post. You’re committed to hearing me praise a movie you can’t stand.

Let’s start with the easy part: Ryan Reynolds is always great. You all love his sarcasm in Deadpool, and he delivers it here in spades. It’s a typical Ryan Reynolds performance, and if you can’t get behind that, you’re truly lost. As for the rest of the cast, I know of at least three Oscar winners (Tim Robbins, Geoffrey Rush, and Taika Watiti) and one nominee (Angela Bassett) in there. They didn’t win Oscars for this movie, but it’s a good cast.

Moving on, one of the dead horses I love to beat is that I’ve never really read comics, but there’s a method to that madness. I have an exceptional, long-term memory, and I read a few comics in childhood, so I have some idea of comics lore. However, I have no loyalty to their story lines. If Parallax is nothing like what he was in the comics, I wouldn’t know and don’t care. This isn’t a defense of Parallax — I thought he was rather goofy — but rather a means to help you understand why I hold the positions I do on this and other Guilty Pleasure posts. Ergo, many of the reasons you may have for hating this movie have no relevance to me.

Next, Sinestro. Whether we’re talking about the actor (Marc Strong) or the character, this movie was the set up for a sequel that would rival the Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan or Aliens. Whereas the first movie is always about the protagonists, the second movie is always about the villains. I know of no comic villains with a more tragic fall than Sinestro. He was made quite sympathetic and demonstrated a dedicated campaign against the fear to which he eventually succumbed. This made his fall from grace all the greater. Again, I don’t know many comic book back stories, but a second movie with Mark Strong playing Sinestro as the villain could have been incredible.

Then there’s Taika Waititi. He really sucked in this 🙂 , but considering who he’s become, this is a great look back at his beginnings. Sure, that’s not a reason to like the movie, but I consider it bonus points. He’s turned into something special and won an Oscar for his efforts elsewhere.

Finally, the music. Music is my favorite art form, and when I really like the music, it can often carry the movie. The music is overall rather weak in this movie, but there are a couple of pieces that are on one of my playlists. Here’s a short example that I thought captured the scene well:

The music starts at 0:54, but you may need the entire clip to appreciate my point.

All of this is enough for me to watch this movie occasionally despite some poor dialogue and overacting. I’m doing so as I write this.

In brightest day, in blackest night,
No evil shall escape my sight.
Let those who worship evil’s might
Beware my power–Green Lantern’s light!

If you’re interested, it’s streaming on HBO Now.  

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

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

Hawkeye

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

Black Widow

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

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

Unrelated Note

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

“Oh, for God’s sake!”

James Spader is awesome.

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

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Good Watch: Binging of #Community Finished! @CommunityTV @Russo_Brothers @theofficenbc @parksandrecnbc

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I recently binged the entire series, Community, via Hulu. I started on Netflix and then was informed that the Netflix version was based on a syndication license, meaning it had a little bit cut out of each episode. If you’ve never seen the show, go with Hulu over Netflix.

Going into it, all I knew was that it took place at a community college, it starred Joel McHale and Chevy Chase, and there was a Dungeons & Dragons episode (the first one with “Fat Neil”). I didn’t realize that the Russo brothers were involved in it, and having finished the series, I now appreciate the relevant cameos in the MCU. The best part about the show was how it often parodied other shows. For example, there was an episode based on Law and Order, another animated as a GI Joe cartoon, and another mimicking a civil war documentary (brilliantly casting Keith David as the narrator).

The series followed along the same life-cycle as most good TV comedies. It started a little slow in order to establish the characters, was largely funny throughout, but by season five, the scripts got stale, some key actors moved on to other projects, and the replacement/rearranged characters felt forced and/or substandard to me.

Nellie and Francesca: Same Thing
Nellie and Francesca: Occupying the Same Space

The series finale showed that the writers were self-aware in this regard, but another paintball episode in season 6? That could work if you weren’t binging, but binging is the new normal. I wonder if the shift to binge-watching series will discourage creators from allowing their shows to recycle tropes and, in general, overstay their welcome. Time will tell.

Fonzie Jumps The Shark GIF | Gfycat
Has this reference jumped the shark yet? c/o Gfycat

Verdict: If you’re not a completionist like me, then I wouldn’t bother with season six unless someone with your tastes strongly suggests a specific episode. (Episode 12: Wedding Videography had me laughing out loud, and the series finale was also very good.) Enough of the core group was there to keep it funny, but the magic was clearly gone by then. It was then just a decent show. However, while never as good as the Office or Parks and Recreation, Community seasons one through five were certainly worth my time.

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Disclaimer: Dungeons and Dragons is a registered trademark of Wizards of the Coast, LLC, whose attorneys are overzealous in their enforcement efforts and did not contribute, endorse, or request any of the content in this post or references to their work appearing herein.

🙂

We’re Living in the #Thanos Snap (Sort Of) #MCU @Russo_Brothers @MarvelStudios

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Someone posted a question to Facebook recently: Are we getting baseball soon? This instantly made me think of the scene in Endgame where director Joe Russo played a member of Steve Rogers’ support group. He was recalling a recent date. During the date, one of the topics of conversation was, “How much we miss the Mets.”

Side note: The Mets can rot. Go Nats!

My first thought was to write a lighthearted, very short post – a stub, really – about how many of us feel that way. However, the connections between the aftermath of Thanos’s snap and our quarantine have quite a few more similarities. (Don’t worry. This will still be short.) While the reasoning for our predicament, and some of its effects, are very different, there are some effects where I find strong similarities. With 50% of the population suddenly and unexpectedly wiped out, storefronts were emptied and services like professional sports ground to a halt. Everyone missed their friends and family, but for some that loss would be tragically permanent (e.g., whoever was riding in the helicopter that crashed when its pilot was dusted). Does any of this sound familiar?

When the Hulk’s snap was an attempt to return everything to normal, it took only one movie, Spiderman: Far from Home, before we realized that wasn’t entirely so. Then attorneys like me started pointing out all sorts of legal issues that would arise. (My observations, including sports contracts, are buried in my Facebook stream, so enjoy this example article instead.) My understanding is that a serious legal issue will be addressed in Black Panther 2: Is T’Challa still king?

In the real world, what are the long-term effects of COVID-19 besides, obviously, the permanent loss of life? What will we be facing when the stay-at-home orders are lifted? It won’t be that simple. The practice of hand-shaking is under assault. Some long-standing, extremely popular restaurants just won’t be able to reopen. They’ll be replaced eventually. In fact, for many aspiring entrepreneurs, this will be the opportunity of a lifetime – demand will be high – but it still sucks.

When journalist Joni Balter suggested that, when the state’s stay-at-home order is lifted, many may welcome him and other restaurants back in the Downtown area, Douglas pushed back. “I’m not sure you really get it, Joni,” he said. “You don’t just come back from this. This cost $3 million just to close my businesses down. We are broke … the reality is that it’s going to be tough for 50 percent of our restaurants to come back.”

Staying in the real world, we’re already contemplating (if not seeing) the legal battles that will ensue over missed payments and such. Some of it is being held off by, for example, government moratoriums on foreclosures and evictions, but without forgiveness of debt, we’re just delaying the inevitable.

The streets are empty, friends and family are missing, and things will never quite be the same despite eventually getting our own version of the Hulk Snap. Some of that may be good in ways that don’t synchronize with the Thanos Snap. For example, some people have learned that they can work from their homes, and their bosses will realize how much money that will save them in overhead. Less traffic and lower fuel costs will make the world more efficient and less costly. I’ll have more time to write blog posts. 🙂 But humans are social creatures, and we’re going to lose some of that permanently.

Art imitates life. Sometimes it predicts it.

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Relationships in #Thor: The Dark World @CUnderkoffler @twhiddleston @chrishemsworth #MCU

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I was recently talking about the MCU on Facebook (surprised?), and Thor: The Dark World (“TTDW”) came up. My general position was painful to admit: TTDW was a bottom tier MCU film. Thor is my favorite MCU character, but this entry was a bit weak. My general sentiment, however, was that you’ll appreciate all of these movies more if you see them as episodes in a longer story arc. This led to two points being made, one by me and one by a Facebook friend, Chad.

The Thor-Loki Dynamic

Chad stated:

I -really- like the Thor/Loki dynamic in Dark World. It’s set-up in the first movie. You can’t have their relationship in Ragnarok (especially post-Avengers) without it.

I agreed to a large extent, first because Tom Hiddleston’s acting was in my opinion the best overall throughout the MCU, but second because of Chris Hemsworth, who did a great job as Thor. The problem is that this relationship was a secondary plotline. The main storyline brought the film down to the bottom tier of the MCU. That said, Chad’s observation was an important one that was in line with my other comments of my Facebook thread. Secondary plotlines become far more important when you see these movies as episodes in a longer story that’s never (to my knowledge) been done in cinema. Iron Man 2 was my least favorite MCU film, and I’ll still gladly watch it. It’s an episode in a decade-long story that I love. A weak episode (to me), but still part of the story.

I told Chad I’d re-watch the movie and focus on that relationship to see if I could grab anything new about it. On my latest viewing, I learned . . . very little. This isn’t to say I disagree with Chad – I absolutely agree – I just remembered everything about it, so there was nothing new. Although Thor: Ragnarök fully developed Thor’s dimwittedness from mythology, he showed some signs of it in the first two Thor movies, but only with respect to Loki, who was always able to fool him. In addition, their love-hate relationship ultimately favored love, made apparent in the opening act of Infinity War. That act wouldn’t have meant a thing without the context of the prior films, and that made Infinity War a better film than it otherwise would have been.

Frigga’s Death

An even better example of this effect was the death of Frigga. When I first saw TTDW, I thought her death was unnecessary and cheap. It appeared as a means to say, “Let’s have someone die to show that the stakes are high, but not someone important enough that the stakes are actually high.” In hindsight, my perspective was dead wrong. Like all the major MCU characters, Thor went on a path of self-improvement, but he hit a major stumbling block off-camera between Infinity War and Endgame: depression and PTSD. While having never slipped unto unworthiness, Frigga was the last push he needed to get back on track, and their interaction in Endgame wouldn’t have conveyed such meaning if she hadn’t died in TTDW. This is hardly novel in the MCU (or elsewhere in cinema). I’ve discussed this before with respect to Black Widow and Hawkeye. The MCU did a surprisingly good job of immersing me in the emotions of those relationships. TTDW is a good example of how they laid the foundation for one of those key moments.

Why Is It So Bad?

Honestly, I have no idea why I place the TTDW in the bottom tier of MCU movies. It should be great. It has well-defined villains, a well-defined primary antagonist, plenty of action, plenty of humor, plenty of human drama, and perhaps even more is at stake than in Infinity War (but at least as much). I can’t explain why it’s not one of the best; it simply isn’t.

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Four More Observations About the #MCU @Renner4Real @RobertDowneyJr @DaveBautista @karengillan

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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).

Character Growth

As I’ve discussed in several prior posts, 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.

Bucky Knew

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.

Cheeseburgers

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.

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Travelling through the #MCU: Phase 3 #CaptainAmerica #CivilWar #DoctorStrange #BlackPanther #Thor #Ragnarök #Avengers #InfinityWar #AntMan #Endgame @hannahjk1 @karengillan

If you enjoy this post, please retweet it. Phase 1 | Phase 2 | Phase 3

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.

Doctor Strange

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.

Black Panther

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.”

“Whassup?”

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.

Thor: Ragnarök

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. 🙂

Great use of the Immigrant Song.

“Tex-ass.”

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.

Again, great use of the Immigrant Song. “Valhalla, I am coming.”

Bullets, laser beams, magic, and spears all in the same movie.

Is Hela really dead? Did you see the body?

That’s a really big ship.

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?

“You know you can’t eat dumbbells, right?”

More examples of how Nebula is the character who grows the most of any MCU character, and thus exemplifies one of the central themes of the MCU. No character has a longer journey of redemption.

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.

14,000,605.

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.

Quantum entanglement?

ThatWord.png

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?”

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That mid-credits scene just made you want to see Endgame even more.

Avengers: Endgame

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.

“Shit!”
“Shit.”

“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.

“Hail, Hydra.”

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.

“I’m totally from the future.”

It was a great moment that Thor really needed.

“So, he’s an idiot.”
“Yeah.”

Roadie has no idea.

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.

“Your choices were him or a tree.”

They should have included both deleted scenes in the theatrical release (i.e., Tony in the Soul World and everyone taking a knee upon Tony’s death).

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.

What’s Next?

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

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Travelling through the #MCU: Phase 2 @GeorgesStPierre @realmichaelpena @kesseljunkie #IronMan #Thor #WinterSoldier #GotG #Avengers #AntMan

If you enjoy this post, please retweet it. Phase 1 | Phase 2 | Phase 3

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.

Iron Man 3

This was a weird superhero movie. I remember reading an article stating that Tony was in the Iron Man suit for only 15 (or whatever) out of 120 minutes of movie time. This never bothered me because I didn’t notice. This movie was about Tony Stark’s emotional issues, not Iron Man, and somehow it worked for me. Besides, one of the best action sequences in the MCU was the Mandarin’s attack on Tony’s home (10880 Malibu Pt., Malibu, CA 90625).

According to various sources, Chattanooga gets 2 inches of snow per year. According to Iron Man 3, it all comes on one night, and that happens to be the night Tony arrived. That’s a hell of a coincidence. 🙂

Holy crap! Iron Man 3 is a Christmas movie!

Thor: The Dark World

I know this is the bottom of the MCU barrel for many people, but as I’ve stated before, Thor is my favorite MCU character. There’s no way I’m going to hate a half-decent Thor movie. Loki’s stubborn insecurity, Frigga’s death (funeral music!), its impact on Loki, and Sif’s feelings for Thor are reflections of what exists in ourselves. Being able to connect with the characters is the heart of drama. This movie had a few such moments.

The stakes were high, with the entire universe at risk, and that was the opening needed to introduce the third infinity stone to the MCU. It also served as a reminder how powerful Thor is, though he clearly hasn’t reached his full potential yet.

Question #1: How would you like it if your car was sent to another world?
No need to answer.

Question #2: Malikith’s ship. How does that thing stay standing?
I know; I know. Drama.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier

This is easily my favorite MCU movie. It may have dragged at times, but it’s the only MCU film whose message is both important and relatable: liberty v. security. In my opinion the movie came down on the right side of that argument. Sure, we all want to be secure, but giving too much control to the government is inherently insecure. We all need to accept the fact that there’s only so much security we can have in the modern world. Life will always include risk, with the difference being who’s generating the risk. At some point more liberty becomes the only option.

George St. Pierre. MMA has taken over popular culture whether you realize it or not.

At one point, Nick Fury says, “Last time I trusted someone, I lost an eye.” The implication in context was that the loss of the eye sprang directly from that trust. So, is Captain Marvel responsible for his lost eye? I don’t think so. Captain Marvel didn’t know that the cat was really a Flerken, so it’s not as if she could’ve warned him. So, is the Flerken to blame? As far as I can tell, it’s not an intelligent creature, and trust wasn’t a part of the scene in which the Flerken scratched Fury, so that doesn’t work. The MCU is a complicated weave of plotlines and references, so I hardly blame them for messing up. I just wish they had worked trust into that scene, which would have been easy to do. They clearly just forgot.

I always wondered how, in Civil War, Steve knew that the Winter Soldier killed Stark’s parents. I never noticed that he learned that in Winter Soldier. It was a quick shot while the digital Arnim Zola was showing Steve Hydra’s manipulation of world affairs.

“Who’s this guy?”

Ezekiel 25:17.

The one thing I didn’t like: Steve’s list of things to do included an entry for Star Wars and Star Trek. Star Wars was crossed out, but Star Trek wasn’t, which means he watched Star Wars first. Bullshit. Star Trek should be at the top of your list. For anything. He received some bad intel on that one.

Guardians of the Galaxy, Volume 1

Funny thing about the scene immediately following the title card. It shows a picture of space, and then you get text that indicates the current year of 26 years later. I did some quick math in my head from when the opening scene took place (1988) and realized we were seeing 2014, but there was a spaceship.  On my first viewing, because I had just seen a realistic opening scene from 1988, for just a moment, my brain farted and thought, “There aren’t spaceships in 2014.” In fairness to me, at the time I was suffering from a severe B12 deficiency.

This movie was the best one to watch looking backwards from Endgame. For example, on Morag, I kept looking for Nebula and War Machine in the background. 🙂

Great soundtrack, which matched the fact that this was a different sort of MCU movie than we’d seen to date.

“They got my dick message!”

A dance off to save the universe. 🙂

Dancing Baby Groot!

I guess I should admit this as well. I was very critical of Marvel for choosing the Guardians of the Galaxy for a movie. I had never heard of them, and movies need to appeal to more than just the base (i.e., comic book readers). I thought there was no way they were going to do well with an obscure and ridiculous group. A talking racoon? A tree that can say only “I am Groot”? But it wasn’t just good. It wasn’t just commercially successful. It was a great idea in the grand scheme of things. As I said, it was a different sort of MCU movie, and it represented a welcome break from all the heavy-handedness of the other movies. Despite being so comedic, it still introduced an infinity stone in the context of a severe threat to the galaxy. Mea culpa, and bravo, Marvel.

Guardians of the Galaxy, Volume 2

“You expect me to fight this interdimensional creature with a sword?”

[Proceeds to strike the killing blow against the interdimensional creature with a sword.]

I already discussed Nebula’s transformation and how it led to my favorite bit of acting in the entire MCU. That began near the end of this movie, but the movie sure didn’t start that way. (Actually, it begins rather subtly when Quill, Gamora, and Drax are boarding Ego’s ship.) This is why I infer what I do from Nebula’s admission at the end of GotG2.

As I’m watching this, I’m beginning to think that these are the best acted movies of the bunch. Really. Maybe it’s just because I like that it’s more comedic than the others.

I really relate to Drax. I need to learn to lie effectively, but in many cases, the thought of lying doesn’t even occur to me. Worst. Lawyer. Ever. I also really relate to the importance given to the family you choose.

Sovereign.png

“It’s not ripe.”

Rocket gets mad that Quill calls him a raccoon, but that’s so much more accurate than “fox,” “rat,” “rabbit,” or “triangle-faced monkey.” He shouldn’t be so offended.

Thor remains my favorite MCU character, so I’m good with the fact that we’ll see Love and Thunder before Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 3, but I really want to see them both ASAP. Personally, I prefer movies where there’s a small set of primary characters. This is why I prefer Star Trek’s Original Series to all the others. That said, I think the Guardians series pulled off ensemble movies better than I’ve ever seen, in no small part because the characters believably showed more emotional and moral growth than any other characters in the MCU. That required sold writing and acting, and all parties delivered.

Good lord, the music!

Avengers: Age of Ultron

Why would an ordinary human try to fist-fight Thor? Just give up.

Is Sokovia an English-speaking nation? Google says no, so why is the Iron Legion telling everyone to leave in English.

“It was a good talk.”
“No, it wasn’t.”

I love that this was Hawkeye’s movie. The family was a great touch. Also, he had some great lines. For example,

“The city is flying and we’re fighting an army of robots. And I have a bow and arrow. Nothing makes sense.”

“Nobody would know. Nobody. ‘The last I saw him, Ultron was sitting on him. Uh… yeah, he’ll be missed. That quick little bastard. I miss him already…’”

I loved Vision’s “birth.” He was as confused as Ultron was at his own birth but got over it much faster. And of course, there’s also this.

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Some foreshadowing. Vision saves Wanda, and by Endgame, they’re romantically coupled. Despite how pissed Hawkeye was with the Scarlet Witch, those two characters formed a minor bond by the end of this movie. One of the final scenes in Endgame was Scarlet Witch and Hawkeye consoling each other. In the penultimate scene, Tony mentions building a farm for Pepper, which is what he does by Endgame. I love the connections. You can’t build such strong connections within the context of a single movie without it seeming rushed (see, e.g., Anakin and Padme’s relationship in Attack of the Clones).

There always must be a death in order to raise the stakes, but I wish Quicksilver had lived to be in other movies. Rumor has it that WandaVision will have Wanda bringing back the Vision. Maybe she’ll bring back Quicksilver as well.

Another favorite moment of mine from the MCU occurs in this movie. “Oh, for God’s sake!” James Spader stole this show.

“But if you put the hammer in an elevator….”
“Elevator’s not worthy.”

Ant-Man

This certainly cleansed the palate. Like both Guardians of the Galaxy volumes, this was the occasional higher-comedy movie that keeps things from getting too heavy-handed. Who better than Paul Rudd to play Scott Lang?

I’ve always loved Garrett Morris. I’m always happy to see him in a movie or TV show, even if it’s just a cameo.

Michael Pena should face a long jail sentence. He stole this movie.

At one point, Hank Pym criticizes the Avengers for “dropping a city out of the sky,” referencing the events of Avengers: Age of Ultron. This is a familiar trope that I absolutely hate: Criticizing the good guys for not saving the world in the most convenient way possible. Anyone with an IQ over 40 knows that Ultron tried to drop a city out of the sky, not the Avengers. Ultron was a fairly competent enemy, so it was able to do a lot of damage before the Avengers could save the world. It makes no sense to blame the Avengers for that. (Maybe just Stark and Banner.)

Side Note

It’s easy to blow off the MCU as just a bunch of action movies or, even worse, superhero movies, but that’s enormously unfair. Marvel has done something remarkable, the likes of which I’ve never seen. It’s probably best to express my current thought by example, so consider Iron Man 2. Taken in isolation, it’s my least favorite Marvel movie. Also, Pepper Potts is my least favorite protagonist. Your mileage may vary; not the point. I nevertheless enjoyed Iron Man 2. It was important in the grand scheme of things, and it’s impossible for me to watch Tony and Pepper’s relationship start without gaining an appreciation for how much was lost near the end of Endgame. It’s all connected in a way that, as I said, I’ve never seen before. Moreover, any one of these films could stand on its own. You absolutely can’t say that with Lord of the Rings, the Hobbit Series, or Star Wars. Only the first Star Wars (A New Hope) could truly stand on its own, but even so, you’re still left wondering what happened to Vader? The bad guy shouldn’t survive unless there’s a sequel, right? Marvel did something incredible with the MCU, and I look forward to what’s next.

And then there’s those moments of acting and story that are remarkable, which makes it even better. I don’t understand Scorsese’s, Coppola’s, or @KesselJunkie’s 🙂 hate. It’s been a lot of fun re-watching these.

What’s Next?

Phase 3 is up (less Guardians of the Galaxy, Volume 2 and Captain Marvel, which have already been discussed).

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