Monthly Archives: August 2014

The King and the Ringbearer

One of my favorite scenes in Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings film trilogy comes near the finale of The Fellowship of the Ring (this favorite scene of mine can be viewed via the video at the top of the page). It is the scene that comes just after Frodo has escaped from a maddened Boromir and the Eye of Sauron.

Scared, but knowing that the Ring has corrupted at least one member of the Fellowship, Frodo is preparing to leave his friends in order to protect them from the Ring’s influence. That is when Aragorn arrives, having tracked Frodo to the summit of Amon Hen using his Ranger skills.

Seeing Frodo so frightened, Aragorn’s first instinct is to try and calm his friend down. Having been confronted with the insanity of Boromir, Frodo is afraid to trust any member of the Fellowship. His statement that “the Ring has taken Boromir” causes Aragorn even greater concern. If the Ring has been lost or stolen, then Middle-earth will fall to Sauron’s evil.

Frodo misreads Aragorn’s concern for him and their quest in his fear and pulls away from him. Realizing that something very dire has happened, Aragorn pulls back and reminds Frodo that he is his friend. His concern is only for Frodo as his friend and for the safety of their quest.

But with the loss of Boromir, Frodo is not so sure of that. He asks, “Can you protect me from yourself?” and then holds out the Ring.

“The Ring!” Gandalf said. “What shall we do with the Ring, this least of rings, which Sauron fancies?” The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien.

The Ring is temptation in physical form; temptation for power. It whispers to Aragorn in Black Speech. What it tempts him with, who can say? I for one cannot understand Tolkien’s fictional Black Speech, which suits me perfectly.

Despite the persuasive hisses of the Ring, Aragorn closes Frodo’s hand over it and releases him. But while he has won this battle of wills with the One Ring, what about the next one? And the one following that? In this moment, Aragorn realizes that Frodo is right. One day he will not be able to resist the Ring’s power. One day Gimli will also fall under its influence. Legolas, Merry, Pippin, and even stalwart Sam cannot resist the Ring forever.

Still, he swore to protect the Ringbearer. He swore to protect his friend, for friends he and Frodo have become throughout their journeys together. He does not want to let Frodo go into Mordor on his own, but if he remains, then Frodo is in twice as much danger.

Scenes like this are among my favorites in film and literature. The bond between true friends is something second only to a true love bond between husband and wife. You can take a thousand hammers to it, you can try to destroy it anyway you want, but it will never break. Though Frodo’s best friend is perhaps Samwise Gamgee, the friendship he and Aragorn have is still very strong.

It is the strength of their friendship which allows Aragorn to step back and let Frodo go. He does not want to, he does not want to lose his small friend somewhere between Amon Hen and Mordor, but the risks of staying beside him are too great. Better for them to part now, on their terms, than to be pulled apart by the Ring’s seductions.

The timely arrival of a battalion of Orcs does not hurt, either.

Frodo and Aragorn’s friendship is fictional, but it does have a base in reality. Examples of true friendship can be found all through the ages, down through to today’s harried time. Many people today consider someone they can talk to readily to be a friend.

But are they really our friends? Friends are people who stick beside you through thick and thin, when you are proved right or wrong, when your decision turns out bad or good. Or when you decide you have to part ways for the greater good of the other person. Friends are tested by pain and danger – slight or great – whereby they earn real trust.

One of the jokes about Facebook is that you may have a thousand friends on the website but how many of them are going to show up and help you in a crisis? Is your coworker more likely to help you out of a bad situation, or are the twenty thousand followers you have on Youtube going to do that?

The worst solitude is to have no real friendships. – Sir Francis Bacon

Too true. The only thing worse than that to my mind, however, Sir Bacon, is to have a real friendship and then to somehow ignore it, misuse it, or abuse it completely. What friendships do we imperil because we are searching for what we already have?

   Until next time,

The Mithril Guardian

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Knights in Shining Armor

The Tale of Despereaux

Despereaux sat and stared at him in dismay. What should he do now? He put a nervous paw up to his neck and pulled at the red thread, and suddenly his dream came flooding back to him…the dark and the light and the knight swinging his sword and the terrible moment when he had realized that the suit of armor was empty.

And then, reader, as he stood before the king, a wonderful, amazing thought occurred to the mouse. What if the suit of armor had been empty for a reason? What if it had been empty because it was waiting?

For him.

“You know me,” that was what the knight in his dream had said.

“Yes,” said Despereaux out loud in wonder.   “I do know you.”….

“I’ll have to do it myself,” said the mouse. “I will be the knight in shining armor. There is no other way. It has to be me.” – From the “Fourth Book” of The Tale of Despereaux, by Kate DiCamillo

Book Review: A Natural History of Dragons

A Natural History of Dragons

A Natural History of Dragons, by Marie Brennan, is the first book in a series set in what I would call an alternate world. Based on our earth, undeniably, History of Dragons sees a world of cultures reminiscent of our Victorian era. The proof of this is the lead character of the book, which is written in the form of a memoir. The lead character of History of Dragons is Isabella, Lady of Trent. Now an old woman, History of Dragons begins at – of course – the beginning of her life, when she took an interest in dragons.

In History of Dragons, dragons are real creatures. The book does not go into anything as interesting as speaking dragons or dragon riders, however. The dragons in this book are merely animals which Isabella, the daughter of a Scirling gentleman, takes an interest in as a young child. This interest leads her throughout the years of her early life and, eventually, into what will be her first expedition to study dragons across her world.

Scirland, Isabella’s home country, is most definitely based on Victorian England. The rest of the world’s setting is harder to figure out, mainly because the maps at the start of the book are very poorly drawn. Nevertheless, I found the book to be an engaging form of light entertainment. Although I prefer speaking dragons and dragon riders when reading about – well, dragons – I enjoyed this book because of the Victorian flavor with which Miss Brennan imbued it.

My only real quibbles with the book were its sad ending and the continuous mention of people of this world’s “insatiable” desire for machines, which was leading to wars over iron as iron deposits worldwide began to run out.

The sad ending I will not bring up, since that would spoil the story. All I will say about it is that I would have found another way to end it, had I been this book’s author. As for the needling about wars over depleting iron deposits, that was clearly a treatise to the stop-wars-over-oil people.

I am not one of those people, since I believe wars start over greed for control, not of oil or iron, but of people. So this author’s constant bewailing of humanity’s “desire” for machines – a la oil – rubbed me the wrong way.

These annoyances aside, the book is engaging and will fill a lazy summer afternoon (or five) quite nicely. Isabella has her moments, many of them, and the dragons are worth reading about. I do not feel inclined to follow the series, but we will have to see what the future holds in that regard.

Later,

The Mithril Guardian

Legacy

The Scarlet Witch

Sometime ago I did something very, very stupid. I went to check up on a favorite Marvel character and then remembered that I had not looked up the ‘mainstream’ Scarlet Witch of late; I had no idea where her story had been going, whereas I had a pretty good idea of what other Marvel characters were doing.

So what did I do? I gave into my curiosity and looked her up. It was a very, very stupid thing to do, and I knew I would regret it since what I was bound to find would not please me at all.

What did I find? I found out that Rogue killed Wanda not too long ago. (Why are my favorite Marvel characters always the ones who do something nasty or have something horrible happen to them? I have liked Rogue since the 1990’s tv series; I am beginning to think I am a bad luck charm, or something like it, for these characters.) “Great,” I thought, “Not only are they still beating up on the Scarlet Witch, they have used one of my favorite characters to kill her. Peachy.”

Then, when I was verifying my research, I discovered a disgusting fact about Ultimate Scarlet Witch that I had heretofore been blissfully unaware of. At which point, I accused myself of being the stupidest curious cat in the empty room. There are days I really hate being curious. This was one of them.

If you have followed my blog up to today then you know I am not enamored of a lot of what the Marvel Comics writers have to offer these days. In general, I prefer both the recent Avengers films and the original comics over the newer comics. When I am truly desperate for more Marvel entertainment, I turn on the cartoon shows meant for children, like Avengers Assemble. Incredible as it may be to some, I even enjoy these shows over the comics of at least the past twenty years.

Therefore, you also know that I would dearly like to see Marvel return to the lighter, more entertaining stories it used to tell and somehow still manages to give to us fans in the films, television shows, and – very infrequently – in a handful of new, stand alone comics.

Sitting back after learning of the Scarlet Witch’s most recent untoward end, I was thinking about what might have influenced the writer’s/writers’ decision to kill her – and several others – so unceremoniously.

Thinking about it, I realized that these current Marvel writers are behaving somewhat like spoiled rich kids throwing a party at a neighbor’s house in the middle of the night while the neighbor is away. They do not care about the mess they leave behind for future writers (a la the neighbor), all they care about is how much they can get out of the stories (a.k.a. the house) right now. They are not concerned with the legacy they will leave for future writers; they only care about the here and now, and to an excessive degree.

I suppose it could be argued the original Marvel writers only cared about the financial gain they acquired in writing these comics and about their success at the time. However, statements I have read attributed to Stan Lee lead me to the conclusion that the original writers were more interested in telling a good story, and that the money was simply a bonus. Today, that does not appear to be the case.

Yes, I know franchise writing is hard. You have to keep people interested. To do that, you have to come up with a story that they have never seen before. Except that the chaos of recent Marvel stories all seem to be turning into the same idea, rehashed hundreds of times over: we (humanity) are evil, even the ‘good’ guys; violence, destruction, and other such things are the norm.

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I can hear other Marvel fans saying, “What do you mean the writers are making a mess of the Marvel Universe by doing this?! It’s a reflection of our times!”

But it is not a true reflection of our times, and this idea is messing up the characters.

To one who has only been exposed to the comics of the past twenty or so years, Marvel certainly seems to be going strong by playing along with the “pop culture” trends. But this was not necessarily the idea behind the original Marvel characters, who did inhabit popular culture at the time they were created, but who also stood outside it as an ideal for which the readers ought to strive.

If you research the history of the characters Marvel created before the 1980’s and read about them up to the present day, you will notice a fundamental shift in their behavior and outlook on life. Thor, Cap, Iron Man, Hawkeye, and other Avengers who were sane and mostly content with their internal compasses very suddenly began to come apart at the seams around the 1990s. They began making decisions that, given their previous history, were out of character for them. Superheroes such as Daredevil, the Fantastic Four, and others also show this sudden change during roughly the same time period. Some of the X-Men’s one-eighty degree turns occurred earlier, but many also start to do an about face in the comics of the ‘nineties.

They stopped being an ideal and became propaganda for “popular culture.”

Lately, the comics have become even more scattered and degenerate as heroes – such as Professor X, Jean Grey, Vision, and now the Scarlet Witch – are killed and, seemingly, left that way. The Scarlet Witch is now ‘deceased’ but as any Marvel fan can tell you, the number of Marvel characters who stay dead can be counted on one hand. The franchise makes too much money for them to remain in the great beyond for any immense length of time, which makes most of these characters’ ‘deaths’ unusual.

So far the Prof. and Jean have been dead for something on the order of five years, Vision for at least three years, and Wanda has been dead at least for one year, give or take a few months. I could have the number of years wrong; I am not sure just how the publishing of comics works and I am also unsure of these characters’ “death dates.” But it still appears to me that these characters have been ‘dead’ for an amount of time unheard of in most of Marvel’s previous stories.

Adding to the confusion of today’s comics is the continuous rewriting of back stories and the never-ending super hero wars. The latter goes back to Marvel story arcs Disassembled and House of M, when the Scarlet Witch first went mad and tried to destroy the world but then rewrote it to her preferences. The rewriting of character histories has been going on much longer and, in some cases, it is beneficial to a character. In other cases – such as Wanda’s – it is enough to make even an experienced Marvelite’s eyes cross in confusion (no wonder she keeps losing her mind).

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At the moment, the Marvel writers seem to have an exact idea of what they have written and where they want to go with it. (Further down the gravy train’s tracks, obviously, but also at the expense of the characters.) But what happens when the popular culture trends they are following dry up – as they will do (and have done, for thousands of years)? What do the new writers who step into the franchise, who want to follow different trends or tell their own stories that – quite possibly – will not allow them to make use of their predecessors’ stories, do?

What do those who want to make the characters ideals instead of propaganda do with years of propaganda story arcs?

Yes, despite all the confusion, some new Marvel writers might find a way to connect their stories to the previous writers’ arcs. However, having tried that in my own head, I think they might run into the same problems I have. Most of the stories I would like to see Marvel tell cannot connect smoothly with the stories they are currently printing in the comics. Multiply that by, say, a hundred people who want to become Marvel writers and you have a problem. Do the new Marvel writers sacrifice their stories for the old, or do they sacrifice their predecessors’ stories of the last twenty years for their own?

Researcher that I am, I can still barely keep track of most of the major Marvel conflicts since the 1980’s. Yes, I know about Disassembled, House of M, Civil War, Avengers vs. X-Men, Age of Ultron, and I have heard about something called World War Hulk, but I have trouble keeping the details of most of these events in chronological order. If I cannot do this, then what are new writers (who might have ideas similar to mine) supposed to do when their predecessors hand over the pen and say, “See ya”?

Now, when I say “sacrifice their predecessors’ stories for their own,” I do not mean wiping out the events of the last twenty years in comics with a great big eraser. That is too much to expect of anyone. What I mean is that the new writers might “erase” these events – or most of them – from the characters’ histories. The best way to do that, so far as I can see, is to make a great many of the events that have occurred during the last twenty years of comic storytelling into some sort of “dream/nightmare sequence” for the heroes: what has happened in the past twenty years was either someone manipulating their memories or creating false ones (think Dallas). Bada-bing, bada–boom, the writers of the past years still have their stories intact but new writers have just shed baggage that would interfere with their stories.

This is what I am inclined to do.  In fact, I am disposed to believe that this is the only way new writers who wanted to steer the characters in a more cheerful direction could do in order to write their stories. If others found a better way, I would be willing to hear it. I do not, however, see a better way.

I may be the only one in the world who does not like most of Marvel’s recent stories of the past twenty years. Other Marvelites might disagree with my assessment of the stories, call me backward and narrow-minded. Well, it would not be the first time I was told that, though perhaps it would be the first time it was said directly to me instead of to me and the masses. So be it; what has to be endured for the truth will be.

Of course, others are going to ask why I even care what Marvel does. In the grand scheme of the real world, Marvel means comparatively little. Why should I tie myself into knots over it?

This is a question I wrestle with all the time. Why should I care? It does not really matter, does it? No one is dying from what Marvel writes, and nothing they write will help me put food on my table.

Yet I do care, and deeply. Why?

I finally came up with something like an answer just recently. Did you ever have a favorite place to play when you were a child? Did you ever have a favorite toy, painting, or book that you enjoyed but could not say why, because you felt it but could not put it into words?

What would you do if you went back to that place where you played as a child and found it overflowing with trash, covered in graffiti, and smelling of refuse? What would you do if you saw someone break that favorite childhood toy, scratch up that favorite painting, or somehow mishandle that book you enjoyed? You would be awfully upset, would you not?

You would also try to repair the damage, for yourself if nothing else, right?

I think that that is why I care. Marvel characters were some of my favorite ‘toys’ when I was young; the Marvel Universe was one of my favorite places to ‘play’ when I was small. And, just like anyone else who sees something they enjoyed being mistreated, I cannot stand it. I want to stop it, repair the damage, make it into something I remember enjoying, so that I can enjoy it again and show others how to enjoy it.

It is silly, foolish, ridiculous, and unnecessary, I suppose. But a lot of people would say that about faith, hope, love, forgiveness, and a bunch of other proven, absurd traits of humanity, traits most of us know are good.

I hope that Marvel wakes up and stops what it is doing, before it ruins its reputation and its characters. The characters can be salvaged, if those who work at that job are careful. But a ruined reputation can never be fully repaired, something a lot of us forget these days.

Still, I have some hope for them. It is foolish, I know. But I am human. “Foolish” is what we do best.

Until next time,

The Mithril Guardian

Assemble!

Nettles and Lilies

Lily

Love is like dew that falls on both nettles and lilies. – Swedish proverb

Most everyone is familiar with story plots that have an Old West gunman, a mobster, a murderer, or some other bad guy fall in love.  Several of these stories end with the guy riding off into the sunset a changed human being who gets to spend the rest of his life with the love of his life.  Movies from The Angel and the Bad Man on down to Tangled make extensive use of this plot gimmick.

I have to say that this is a plot twist I am rather fond of. It is always fun, to me, to watch a bad guy or a ne’er-do-well fall in love and become a good guy. However, I do think that people might tend to take this plotline directly to heart a bit too much.

An example of this would be – and I really hate to go to comic books for this – the story of Batman and Catwoman. Writers for DC comics have had these two characters doing the Romance Reel for years. There has always been an attraction between the two. In some storylines, Catwoman marries Batman and gives up her thieving ways. In other stories, the attraction remains but Catwoman will not go the extra step to secure their relationship.

And this is the point of my little note right here. Not all bad guys fall in love and leave their lives of crime for the good guy life. That does not mean that they do not actually fall in love with someone (an argument could be made that they are merely in lust and it is not true love, but that can wait for another day). This simply means that they are not willing to change because of their love.

This is where I think some people make a mistake. They assume that because a villain falls in love with a good person, then that villain will become a good guy because they love that person.

Unbelievably, or believably in some cases, there are people in real life who think like this. There are people who actually think that the “love of a good woman” will turn a man from murder and evil into an upstanding citizen.

This is an extremely rare accomplishment in real life. However, stories need a plot, so this character twist shows up fairly often in fiction. As I said, I enjoy this kind of storyline. My only point in bringing it up is that what we read in books or see in theaters and on television is not necessarily true to life.

Love is like dew that falls on both nettles and lilies. – Swedish proverb

Translation, even the bad guys fall in love. But are they willing to change because of that love? That is where we readers and viewers have to stop and think, observing the situation from as many angles as possible to discover whether the answer is yes – or no.

Does Catwoman love Batman? Sure she does. But she is not always willing to give up her life of crime for that love.

Later,

The Mithril Guardian

Prognostications for Marvel’s Avengers: Age of Ultron, Part 2

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Day two of speculating on what will happen in Avengers: Age of Ultron is here, my readers! If you read my post the other day, then you know some of my thoughts about what may happen in the upcoming Avengers sequel.  But you do not know about all of my ideas.

As I stated before, if you do not want to hear anything about the film until it hits theaters, then stop reading right here.

For those of you who, like me, cannot keep a lid on your curiosity, read on!

Hawkeye
My Theory, # 2:  Hawkeye will be the Avenger who recruits the Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver into the team’s ranks.

This is an instinctive idea I have had since I learned that the twins would not only not begin the film as Avengers, they apparently HATE the team’s collective guts.

Why the twins hate the Avengers no one but Marvel, the cast, and Joss Whedon know as yet.  Some suggest Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch are both being directed by Baron von Strucker through the power of Loki’s scepter, the same way that Hawkeye was controlled by Loki in the first Avengers movie.  I am skeptical of this idea; I am not sure Strucker would be able to influence the twins via the scepter’s power.  That he used the energy stored in the scepter to “mutate” the twins and give them their new abilities I do not doubt.

But giving them superpowers is a far cry from controlling them in the same way that Loki was able to convince people to do his bidding.  Loki knew what he was doing up to a certain point but Strucker is playing with fire; he has had no one to teach him how to use the scepter.  Presumably, Thanos or the Other gave Loki instructions on how to use his “magic wand” the way he did in the first film.  Strucker does not have any such guidance; he is essentially whistling in the dark.

If Strucker is controlling the siblings, I think it more likely that he is doing so the old fashioned way.  He has somehow convinced Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch that the Avengers are greedy warmongers (or something like that) who do not care about the collateral damage they leave in their wake.  Considering the trailer for Age of Ultron starts in a post-battle party setting, I would say the Avengers probably have become a little complacent with the way life has been going for them recently.  Such a party would certainly not make the twins think very highly of the Avengers, since Pietro and Wanda both grew up on their own, relying on no one but each other and trusting very few of the people they met – Baron Strucker being the possible exception to the rule.

Part of the reason I think Hawkeye may be the Avenger who changes the twins’ perspective of the team is that the rest of the Avengers are going to have their hands full. With the Hulk going on a rampage that Tony (and, it seems, Black Widow) are trying to stop and Thor fighting Cap over who is more worthy to pick up Mjolnir, about the only Avenger who does not appear to have a crisis blowing up in his face during the course of the film is Hawkeye.

More to the point, if Wanda is responsible for the berserk behavior of the Hulk and Thor, she may also be manipulating the other Avengers.  Playing off their fears and making them see things which are not actually happening, she could easily reduce the team to squabbling, convince them to fight the people they are trying to protect, or bring them all to an absolute stand still.

It is this very ability of Wanda’s that might give Hawkeye a fighting edge against her. After all, Loki took control of Barton in the first movie via the power of his “glow stick of destiny.”  And Wanda has received her powers from the same source.  For all we know, exposure to the scepter’s power may have given Hawkeye a resistance to mind manipulation, if not outright immunity to Wanda’s hypnotic ability since that seems to be fueled by the same energy Loki used to control him.  If she cannot influence Clint and make him see what she wants him to see, then she cannot control him.  And that means that he can at the least talk to her, if not get in close and fight her.

This theory also ties in with the original comics.  Initially, Hawkeye and the twins joined the Avengers at roughly the same time.  Hawkeye was only a few years older than the twins and had designs on dating Wanda, but those wishes never panned out for him.  (I am hoping Whedon will not include this history in Age of Ultron, considering Renner is almost twenty years Olsen’s senior.  That would make a romance story between the two characters on this silver screen a bit awkward in my opinion.)

Despite never winning the Scarlet Witch’s heart, Hawkeye and Wanda remained on friendly terms for a very long time over their years as teammates.  He even helped Cap train her in hand-to-hand fighting techniques.  (Hawkeye is one of the best hand-to-hand fighters in the Marvel Universe; even Marvel master martial arts expert Iron Fist thinks he is one of the best martial arts fighters around.)  If anyone can get through to Wanda that she and her brother are being played for fools by Strucker, I would be willing to bet it would be Hawkeye.

As for him talking Quicksilver into the Avengers, if Hawkeye’s silver tongue can persuade Wanda to change sides, then he has no need to speak to Pietro.  The number one influence on Pietro’s life is his sister; wherever she decides to go, he will follow her, and vice versa.  Sway one twin and you sway them both; if Hawkeye wins over Wanda then Pietro will follow her lead.

The only evidence I have to support this gut feeling/theory is a photo from the Age of Ultron set.  It shows Wanda crouching down, both her arms thrown out before her and crossed, her fingers half pulled in toward her palms.  She is obviously using her powers to do something and is concentrating on doing it.

Standing barely two feet in front of her, bow drawn, is Hawkeye.  But he is not aiming at Wanda and is standing out of her line of fire.  His bow is held in such a way as he reaches for his quiver that you can see he is lining up for a shot over Wanda’s shoulder. The two are clearly working together to protect and help each other in the middle of some big battle, probably the final battle of the movie.

If that does not flatly imply a friendship springing up between Hawkeye and the Scarlet Witch in Age of Ultron, then I do not know what does.

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Rumor 3: Death, death, and… death.

Long ago, Joss Whedon stated that “death would play a part” in the Age of Ultron storyline.  I think Thor, Cap, Iron Man, and the Hulk are not likely to be killed off.  Thor and Cap still have a future solo movie each in the pipes and there is talk of an Iron Man 4 and a Hulk movie at some point in the near future.  Black Widow is the only leading lady Marvel has introduced in the Avengers’ franchise so far, and I doubt that she will be going anywhere anytime soon.

I also doubt that Whedon would introduce the twins just so that he could kill them off.  I have heard some say that Wanda is going to get the axe in the film, but I do not think Whedon would kill her now.  He has barely introduced her – wiping her off the slate at the same time he adds her to it makes no sense at all.  Quicksilver would likely also be allowed to keep his head for the same reason.

This leaves the two characters that have yet to truly get their time in the spotlight in the Marvel Cinematic Universe as potential “deaders”:  Hawkeye and Rhodey.

Honestly, I am not sure there is anything that would prevent Hawkeye from being killed off in this film.  Although Whedon has stated that he had fun writing for Hawkeye this time around, I am sure he would have fun whether the archer lived or died.  Sorry, Hawkeye fans, but we might all have to say good-bye to the World’s Greatest Marksman in Age of Ultron.  Fingers crossed that he will make it through, but we have practically no assurances of whether he will live or die.

Rhodey might be a potential “deader” for Age of Ultron, but I doubt it.  If Marvel wants to continue its Iron Man franchise, Rhodey will have to stick around for a while yet.  That might be wishful thinking on my part – either of these characters could be slated for death, or any Avenger could be killed – what fan knows what Joss Whedon’s got planned?

However, the Avenger I think could be easily killed off and then brought back – I am not sure Marvel would let Whedon kill an Avenger if they could not be resurrected again for future films – would be Vision.  As a synthezoid/android, ol’ Viz could be killed defeating Ultron, then repaired and “brought back to life” by Tony and Bruce (or just Tony, we do not know what the team’s roster will look like after this film).

On top of this, we have been told that all the actors are “locked up” for Avengers 3.  While that is not necessarily assurance that none of them will die (they could show up for five minutes in a cameo, after all), it is the only comfort we fans can really draw on at the moment.

As with everything else I have contemplated here, though, we will have to wait and see.

Iron Man

Rumor 4: Tony’s terrifying vision at the end of the trailer.

Now to that vision Tony has at the end of the trailer Marvel previewed at Comic Con.  In the trailer, Tony apparently wakes up – unarmored, wearing his regular clothes – on a rocky outcrop somewhere out in space.  He gets up, takes a few steps forward, then falls to his knees next to Cap’s shield, which is broken in two.  He starts to get choked up as the camera pans out to reveal Steve and the other Avengers dead in a place some believe to be Thanos’ lair.

I do not for a minute buy that the whole team (with the exception of Tony) dies and gets brought back in the course of Age of Ultron.  It is a possibility, but an unlikely one.  I think/hope.

However, that this vision could be the nightmare which spurs Tony to build Ultron, or a hallucination fabricated by Wanda at some point in the film – that I think very likely indeed.  There is also a third possibility.  In some early interviews, as I understand things, Elizabeth Olsen was said to have stated that Wanda can catch glimpses of the past, parallel universes, and the future.

What Tony sees might be a vision Wanda somehow transmits to him: a possible future in which his team and friends lie dead at his feet.  Or it could be a vision Wanda experiences herself at some point in the film and shows to Tony.

A snag in this theory, though, is that the list of dead Avengers is vague.  I know Thor and Cap are said to be among the dead, but if the twins are not present with them and the others then the vision could be a hallucination Wanda generates for Tony.  Certainly, during Age of Ultron, his greatest fear would be that he will inadvertently cause his friends’ deaths in having built Ultron.  That the very thing he designed to help his team so that they could get some R&R then goes and kills them – this would be a fear Tony could end up dealing with in the film.  And if Wanda can invent hallucinations using her enemies’ greatest fears, then this vision of defeat would be an image with which she could beguile and antagonize Tony.

But we will have to wait and see.

 

I hope you enjoyed this bout of conjecture, my readers.  I know that the hype around Age of Ultron is going to keep on rising, but I just had to get my two cents in on this one. Fingers crossed that Age of Ultron leaves us all saying, “Avengers Assemble! When does number three come out?!?”

I will close with one final question for you, my readers. Does anyone know where I can find footage of the Age of Ultron trailer that was previewed at Comic Con this July?  I would sure like to see it!!!

Later,

The Mithril Guardian

The Scarlet Witch

Prognostications for Marvel’s Avengers: Age of Ultron, Part 1

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If you, like me, had the pleasure of watching Marvel’s The Avengers when it came out in theaters in 2012 then you are probably as eager as I am to see the upcoming sequel to the film.

Scheduled to hit American theaters May 1, 2015, Avengers: Age of Ultron will bring the entire cast of the first film back – with some new arrivals to spice up the story.

These new characters will be Avengers Quicksilver, Scarlet Witch, and Vision. The lead villain of the film is the fella whose name comes after the Avengers’ in the title: Ultron, the adapting, self-teaching android from the comics who is determined to wipe out humanity in order to save us from ourselves. Since Ultron actually stands higher on my “I HATE this guy!” list than Loki does, I am hoping he will get pancaked in the upcoming movie. Whether or not it will be a permanent cooking heaven only knows, but I can cross my fingers that it will be.

Anyway, I was at first determined to wait and let the sequel Avengers film surprise me. But one thing led to another and here I am: sitting down studying bits of leaked information on the sequel and choking with laughter (or disgust) over some of the rumors surrounding it. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.

Several theories spring to my mind over the news and rumors I have heard about the film since I began keeping my finger on the pulse of news (or lack thereof) coming from Marvel about Avengers 2. I thought I would posit some of those ideas here in this post.
Now, if you are a stronger-willed fan than I am and are determined not to read anything about the movie until a few weeks from its release, you should probably stop reading right about here.

If you are one of those curious people who just has to have something to mull over until the movie hits theaters, or if you are one of those people who was fortunate enough to see the trailer Marvel previewed at the San Diego Comic Con this July, then read on, fellow True Believer! Let’s theorize and speculate, shall we?

Black Widow

Rumor 1: Black Widow and Bruce Banner will be an item in Avengers: Age of Ultron.

Apparently someone, somewhere, started saying that Natasha Romanoff and Bruce Banner would be an item in the upcoming sequel.  I did not hear about this rumor until I began trying to hunt down footage of the trailer for Age of Ultron after it was released at the San Diego Comic Con on July 26.  (I did not attend the event but I heard about the trailer’s preview at Comic Con.)

As soon as I read of this rumor, I had to fight my gag reflex.  Who in the world would make Black Widow and Bruce Banner a couple?!?  Are you out of your mind, rumor monger?!?

Quite frankly, I do not see how such a match up could possibly work.  That Joss Whedon might – MIGHT – decide to put Natasha and Bruce together is certainly an option, but I do not know of any precedent for it.  The two characters have never been anything more than friends in the comics, as far as this reader/writer is aware.

Some say, however, that there is ‘proof’ for this rumor.  This ‘proof’ is a scene in the Age of Ultron trailer where Widow, scared and sad, is once again at the Hulk’s mercy.  Barely managing to stop his rampage, the Hulk apparently has one huge fist very close to a shaken Black Widow.  In an attempt to cut through his rage to help Bruce calm down so he can gain control the Hulk, Widow reaches out and gently runs her hand over the Hulk’s giant, trembling fist.

This sounds more like a sad moment between friends than the whiff of romance to me. There is a fifty-fifty chance that Natasha and Bruce will actually be an item in Age of Ultron, but I am inclined to doubt that.  First, the two characters are polar opposites. Second, Bruce already has a love of his life: Betty Ross.  Ruffalo has recently stirred up hype by saying Marvel is considering a new Hulk film; if such a film were ever to be made, one of the characters in it should be Betty Ross.  I do not see Marvel sweeping Betty aside to replace her with Natasha because she has been his love interest since his debut in the comics.

It is possible that they would do this, but it seems unlikely from where I sit.  The only way to know for sure, of course, is to watch the movie when it hits theaters next year.

Assemble!

Rumor 2: Thor chokes Captain America.

This scene requires a little more conjecture than the first one, obviously.  It also demands some background information.

The first scene introduced in the Age of Ultron trailer apparently shows the Avengers relaxing after a battle.  Hawkeye pipes up during the R&R and starts needling Thor about the worthiness enchantment on his hammer, saying something to the effect of, “Come on, you can’t be the only guy in the universe who can lift that thing! We’re all fighting the good fight – at least one of us has to be worthy to pick up that hammer!”

Thor gamely puts the hammer on a table and lets his teammates have a go at lifting Mjolnir.  I do not know if Hawkeye took a turn at hefting it – it sounds as though that was what he was aiming to try and do when he began nagging Thor about the weapon’s enchantment – but I have heard that Tony, Rhodey (yes, he will be in Age of Ultron), and Bruce each took a turn at lifting the hammer.

None of the three men manage to so much as budge the hammer.  Even with the help of an Iron Gauntlet each, Tony and Rhodey are forced to admit defeat.  Widow declines to try and lift Mjolnir, adding self-deprecatingly that she knows she is not worthy to pick it up and is likely the least worthy person in the room. That is when Steve takes a turn – and manages to move the hammer a little.

Thor blanches at the sight, but Cap leaves the hammer on the table and makes no mention of moving it to anyone.  It seems that Thor is the only Avenger who has noticed that Cap has done the supposedly impossible feat of moving Mjolnir.  To get over his shock, Thor jovially picks up the hammer, tosses it into the air, and then catches it as he states, “You see? None of you are worthy.”

But I think we can all imagine that the Mighty Thor has been given a mighty fright.  It seems the Thunderer has already forgotten the most important part of the enchantment Odin put on the hammer: dear old Dad never said that Thor was the only one who could lift Mjolnir. What he said was, “Whosoever holds this hammer, if he be worthy, shall wield the power of Thor.”

This means that, as long as someone is worthy, they can pick up Mjolnir any time they want to and swing it with all Thor’s power.  And the Avenger most worthy of wielding Mjolnir after Thor is, unsurprisingly, Steve Rogers.

Now this is my theory on the scene where Thor is seemingly trying to strangle Cap: Remembering this incident in the Tower, if Thor thought that Cap was trying to take Mjolnir from him, he would be desperate to stop him.  Mjolnir is the source of Thor’s power and his best weapon; if he loses his ability to lift his hammer now, then he is in a worse spot than when Odin dropped him in New Mexico.

Cap, of course, would never steal so much as a paperclip from someone he considered a friend.  And there is no way that Steve did not know he had managed to shift Mjolnir.  But since he considers Thor an ally and a friend, he would not take Mjolnir from him because the hammer is not his.  He simply answered Thor’s challenge and proved that, yes, he can wield Mjolnir.

That, however, is all he did and all he intended to do, beyond perhaps satisfying his own curiosity about how worthy a man he actually is.  Much like Sir Galahad of old, Cap is the best knight that was or will be; he can sit in the Siege Perilous as easily as he could lift Thor’s hammer.

Thor may not see things this way, having become so accustomed to the idea that he alone is worthy to wield Mjolnir’s power.  The sight of Captain America, a man he considers a great friend and whom he deeply respects, moving his hammer is enough to terrify him. Letting this fear weigh on his mind makes Thor vulnerable in the worst kind of way: he is no longer focusing on his enemies but on his friends, and he is starting to become jealous of the latter.

This would be something the Scarlet Witch – who is said to be able to hypnotize people in the film (Joss Whedon has stated that she can “get inside your head”) – could play on to great effect.  If she could somehow trick Thor into believing that Cap was trying to steal Mjolnir from him, then Thor would attack Cap in order to protect his power.

That is my theory about this choking scene which someone said was in the trailer.  Since I have not yet seen the trailer, I do not know if the scene was actually in the footage shown. But if it was, then this is the only logical hypothesis I have to explain why Thor would try to kill Cap – although an argument could be made that Wanda somehow convinced Thor that Cap was Loki in disguise, since Loki pulled that trick back in The Dark World in an attempt to get under Thor’s skin.  We will have to wait and see what happens.

Hulk SMASH

My Theory, #1: Scarlet Witch will convince the Hulk to attack Tony Stark in the Hulkbuster armor.

In the first Avengers film, Banner proved he has some control over the Hulk. It takes something pretty drastic to make him release Marvel’s not-so-jolly-Green Giant in an unplanned manner. Yet footage of this film is said to show him Hulking out fairly frequently; it even shows him going head to head with Tony while the billionaire is shrugging on his Hulkbuster armor.

Unfortunately, as the most easily upset member of the Avengers, Banner is the one who could be quickly pressured into causing the most harm.  Some are suggesting the Scarlet Witch would be the person most likely to provoke the Hulk by using her hypnotic abilities.  If she could make him think there was a dire enough threat occurring before him, then Banner would certainly allow the Hulk to step onto the scene to stop the catastrophe.

Of course, once he is out of the bottle, Ol’ Green is not very eager to go back inside. Wanda could throw impossible scenario after impossible scenario at the Hulk and, infuriated by the changing threats that disappeared when he tried to attack them, Hulk would start smashing everything in sight.  Banner would not be able to stop him because he could no more tell up from down or left from right than the Hulk could; they share the same eyes, after all.

If Bruce has been hanging out with Tony since the first Avengers film, as the end of Iron Man 3 suggested, odds are he was not sitting idle while he was crashing at Tony’s place. And, ever the pragmatist when it comes to “The Other Guy,” Bruce might have helped Tony design and build his Hulkbuster suit, just in case he ever lost control and the Hulk had to be stopped by force.

This would explain, to me, the fight between Tony and the Hulk which fans have been anticipating since Marvel let slip that the Hulkbuster armor would be in Age of Ultron. Sent into a rage, perhaps through Wanda’s manipulations, the Hulk barrels around a city and Tony suits up to at least slow him down and possibly make him revert back to Bruce. I for one am not willing to believe that Tony’s first instinct would be to kill the Hulk, since he and Bruce struck up a very strong friendship in the first Avengers film – a friendship that seems to have grown over the course of time since that movie.

Again, we are going to have to see Age of Ultron before we know which theory is right and which theory is wrong.

 

Wow, that was a lot of theorizing, wasn’t it?  I think for brevity’s sake it might be better if I stopped here and picked up again tomorrow.  If you want to hear more of my ideas about what might happen in Avengers: Age of Ultron, then come on back tomorrow for part two of Prognostications for Marvel’s Avengers: Age of Ultron.

Later,

The Mithril Guardian

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