Monthly Archives: October 2015

Happy Hallowe’en!!

BOO!

This post is to add a little bit of fun to what will hopefully be an enjoyable All Hallows Eve for everyone!

Sittin’ Up with the Dead

One-Eyed, One-Horned Flyin’ Purple People Eater

It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown

http://vimeo.com/52484438

Have a Happy Hallowe’en, all – and watch out for low flying witches, ghosts, ghouls, and Great Pumpkins!!!  🙂

Have a spooky good night!

The Mithril Guardian

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Yeah, I’m Really Into Parodies Nowadays…

This is a great parody written by masterleiaofasgard. It is based on The Battle of New Orleans by Johnny Horton. If you have never heard the song, here is a link to it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VL7XS_8qgXM – so that you can set Master Leia’s parody to the tune.

Excelsior!

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First of all, sorry I didn’t update in a while…again. School started down here and it took a while to get settled.

Yesterday I was a bit bored, so I did a Marvel parody of the song ‘The Battle Of New Orleans’ which my older sister really likes. Enjoy. 😉

In 2015 we took a little trip
Along with Captain America down the mighty Mississip.
We took a couple mutants and we took a god or two
And we caught the bloody HYDRA in the town of New Orleans.

[Chorus:]
We fired our guns and the HYDRA kept a’comin.
There wasn’t quite as many as there was a while ago.
We fired once more and they began to runnin’
Down the Mississippi to the Gulf of Mexico.

We looked through the Quinjet and we see’d the HYDRA come.
And there must have been a hundred of’em shootin’ laser guns.
They…

View original post 187 more words

Saving Mr. Banks

When I first heard about Saving Mr. Banks, I thought, “Oh, great, another brainless Hollywood idea. Somebody in the break room must have said, ‘I’ve got it. Let’s make a documentary about Walt Disney.’ Wheee.”

I really, truly, one hundred percent respect and love Walt Disney. I grew up on almost all the original Disney films – Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Cinderella, Winnie the Pooh, Sleeping Beauty, Robin Hood, 101 Dalmatians, Peter Pan, Mary Poppins, and so on. So the idea of seeing Hollywood maiming this great man’s character did not appeal to me in the slightest.

Well, sometime back, a couple of my friends saw part of Saving Mr. Banks. At one point, Tom Hanks (who portrays Walt Disney in the film), said something that made both my friends respond with something on the order of, “Mithril has to see this!” They said it at once, interrupting the film.

They almost never do that.

I agreed to see the film, keeping my reservations – and earlier contempt for the movie – to myself. I sat down with my friends to watch it. About midway through the film, I started to sniffle. Then, a few minutes later, I broke down and cried.

I never, ever, thought I would do that during this movie, and I cannot remember the last time I cried while watching a film. I did not even cry during The Battle of the Five Armies, for heaven’s sake! But when this film showed one of the songwriters performing “Tuppence a Bag,” I lost it. The water works kept coming, on and off, after that. By the end of the movie, it was a miracle the room was not flooded. It took me another hour to calm down, and even then I was still sniffling.

Saving Mr. Banks tells the story of how Walt Disney worked very hard to get the movie rights to P. L. Travers book Mary Poppins, so that he could make it into a film. He had promised his daughters that he would make the film, and Saving Mr. Banks tells us how he kept that promise.

As the movie explains, for twenty years Disney kept asking the author of Mary Poppins, P. L. Travers, to give him the rights to turn her first book into a movie. But Mrs. Travers keeps refusing, until she runs into money trouble. Then her agent insists that she go see Mr. Disney, who has agreed to let her have creative input on the screenplay. Anything she does not like will be taken out of the script. She has final say. She can refuse to hand over the rights if she does not like the way Disney and his team are handling the movie.

Mrs. Travers finally caves in to her agent’s pleading and flies to California. The rest of the movie shows us just where the idea for Mary Poppins came from, why the film was almost never made and why Mrs. Travers loved Mary Poppins as much – if not more – than any of her fans.

I will not go into the details of that story here. One, I do not want to spoil the movie for you, readers. Two, I might start crying again – and then I will not be able to type to finish this post!

But what, you may ask, was the thing Walt Disney said that made my friends immediately agree that I should watch the movie? It is very near the end (and I cried while I watched it), so I will try not to spoil too much. But Mr. Disney was so determined to make Mary Poppins a film that, when Mrs. Travers abruptly returned to England in a fury, without signing over the rights and without an explanation, he immediately followed her there.

Before he did, though, he learned that her name was not really P. L. Travers. That was her pen name; her real name was Helen Goff. Travers was her father’s first name, and she loved him so much that she took his name as her pseudonym, insisting people call her “Mrs. Travers” in order to hear her father’s name over and over again.

Back to what Walt Disney told her near the end of the film. I do not know if it is really what he said to her in that interview, but from what I know of Walt Disney (admittedly, I do not know him by anything except reputation), it sounds like something he might have said. He told her (as best I can recall through the waterworks), when he was convincing her that he would never do anything to Mary Poppins to ruin it that, “See, that’s what we storytellers do. We bring order to the world. We give people hope, over and over again.”

Excuse me – but I need to stop for a tissue.

*Ahem.* He was right. Storytellers do just that.

The world is a hard, nasty, chaotic mess. No one needs to look any further than the newspaper or the TV news channels to know that. The reports on which Hollywood stars are dating whom drown out the story of a nine year old girl shot and killed while doing her homework in her Chicago home. The videos of Planned Parenthood selling aborted children’s body parts are ignored in favor of the news that a famous lion was killed by a foolish dentist. Two hundred other lions were killed as well by different people in the same country, but even they do not get the spotlight.

What kind of a world is this? It is a world filled with horror and darkness, and that affects us all. It affects some more than others. Babies who could grow up to change the world are killed so that those who kill them can make a profit off their bodies the same way arms or drug dealers make money off of weapons and drugs. A nine year old girl working on her school assignment is killed before she can grow up and decide how she wants to change the world.

The rest of us watch it all happen, either unwilling or unable to do much of anything to turn back the darkness. For those of us who do anything, or at least try to do something, we relate well to what Cap is reported to say in the Civil War trailer, “Saving everyone we can doesn’t mean that we can save everyone.”

We are not God. But many of us pretend to be, and it only furthers the darkness. In a world like this, where is the hope? Where is the order? Where is the sense, the sanity?

You all know how big a fan I am of Marvel Comics. I am a big fan of a lot of stories. I listed some of them, in movie form, at the beginning of this post. I pay attention to the news about upcoming Marvel films. I blog about stories. I daydream about stories.

There are a lot of people like me. Some attend the Comic Conventions and other such events around the globe. They learn to speak Klingon; they dress up as their favorite characters; they pay huge amounts of money for an action figure or a film prop, and they are as ecstatic over a new story in their favorite genre as they are when they learn someone in the family is going to have a baby or is getting married.

Others do not show their love of stories by dressing up, learning Klingon, or spending gobs of money on a new action figure. But they still love the stories. They still love the characters. They still catch the latest movie, book, television episode, etcetera. Why? None of this is real. As Mrs. Travers says in Saving Mr. Banks, “Mary Poppins is not real.”

“She’s real to me,” says Disney. “She’s real to my daughters. She’s real to all your readers. She’s there when we need her.”

People who go to Comic Conventions are mocked a lot. I have never been to a Comic Convention, but I have heard the snide things people say when they speak about those who go to these events. “Yeah, Jake went to Comic Con this year. He dressed up like Superman. Can you believe it? He’s forty and he’s still dressing up. Not to mention getting excited over a stupid comic book character. Ha ha ha!”

And that is Walt Disney’s point in this scene. Mary Poppins is not a stupid character. Superman is not a stupid character. Captain America, Hawkeye, Iron Man, the Avengers, the Fellowship of the Ring, Luke Skywalker – none of them is a “stupid character.”

Yes, these characters are not real people. I will never walk down the street and accidentally meet the Steve Rogers I find in Marvel’s comic books. I will never meet Luke Skywalker, Optimus Prime, Col. Jack O’Neill, Aragorn, or any of my other favorite characters in the flesh.

But that does not make the characters any less real. That does not mean they are not there, within me, ready to be there for me when I need them most.

As an example, remember the end of The Two Towers? Frodo has just tried to kill Sam, but he has recalled himself in time and pulled back. He has done what Gollum decided not to do when his friend Deagol discovered the Ring. “What are we doing here, Sam?” Frodo asks, horrified and sick with the knowledge of what he nearly did.

Sam says, “I don’t know. By rights, we shouldn’t even be here. It’s all mixed up!”

Then, more quietly, Sam adds, almost to himself, “It’s like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger they were, and sometimes you didn’t want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy? Folks in those stories, they had a lot of chances to turn back only they didn’t. They kept fighting, because they were holding onto something. And that’s what we’ve got to do, too.”

“What are we holding on to, Sam?” Frodo asks, still scared. Still lost. Still hurt.

Sam turns to him, helps him to his feet. “That there’s some good in this world, Mr. Frodo,” he answers, “And it’s worth fighting for!

I do not know Klingon, and getting me to dress up is harder than putting socks on a crow.   I used to think I was crazy for all the attention I paid to stories, those snide comments about Comic Convention attendees ringing in my ears. What makes me any different than them, I would wonder. I do not dress up or speak Klingon, but I am still practically a walking encyclopedia when it comes to certain stories. I still care more about a good story and the characters in it and get angry at writers who mistreat those characters than I care about having lunch, going for a walk, going shopping, or other such things. What if I’m nuts?

Doubtless, readers, some of you probably think I am nuts. But I do not think that. Not anymore.

Because, in Saving Mr. Banks, in that one scene where he tells Mrs. Travers that “Storytellers bring order to the world and give people hope, time and time again,” I learned what I really am. I may not be a great storyteller, and I do not know about giving people hope time after time. But I know I want to be and do both of those things, and that I am willing to fight to be a storyteller and to give hope to people, over and over again, during this “Long Defeat.” And that I am willing to fight any and all aggressors who deny the value of stories and their characters.

I am a blogger, a storyteller. I am naïve. I have limits. I cannot be everywhere at once, read minds, change shape, or protect everyone. I cannot love everyone in the world, though I have a special place in my heart for all of you, readers.

But I can write. I can appreciate a good story. Because as Samwise the Brave said, “There is some good in this world. And it’s worth fighting for!”

So that is what I am going to do, as best I can, and I am heartily thankful to those friends who sat me down to watch Saving Mr. Banks. I am grateful to those who made it, to those who made Mary Poppins, the book and the movie. And most of all, to the One who made me and all the good things and people in this world, I am very, very grateful, beyond words.

Catch you later, readers.

The Mithril Guardian

Marie Madeleine Jarret de Verchères – The Canadian Girl Who Saved a Fort

220px-Vercheres

Marie Madeleine Jarret de Verchères is a heroine of Canada whose mighty deeds have been largely forgotten over time. The daughter of French aristocrats who had settled in Verchères (now part of Quebec, Canada), Madeleine grew up in a fort along the St. Lawrence River.

In October of 1692, Madeleine and her younger brothers, Louis and Alexander, were at the Verchères fort. Their father was away from the fort and their mother had just gone to Quebec on business, taking her younger children with her. Most of the men in the fort were out working in the fields, and many of the fort’s soldiers were standing guard over them. The fierce Iroquois, a tribe of Native Americans who hated the French, had been attacking French settlements during this time and it was unwise for settlers to go outside their colonies alone or without arms.

October 22, 1692, began calmly and quietly, as had the day before. But it was not to remain quiet. Midmorning had barely arrived when a large band of Iroquois braves suddenly attacked the fort. Most of the male settlers were killed where they worked in the fields, and the guards died similarly. As the oldest member of the Verchères family present in the fort, Madeleine assumed command of the people there. She closed the fort’s gates and told her younger brothers and an old soldier, who had remained inside the fort due to his age, to take up arms and prepare to defend the settlement.

Rushing to the blockhouse powder room to get a gun, Madeleine found that there were two other soldiers, whose duties had kept them in the fort, in the powder room already. To her horror and disgust, she learned that at least one of the soldiers was preparing to blow up the powder room in order to destroy the fort. This was to prevent the Iroquois from getting inside the colony, where they would kill them and the remaining settlers – almost all of whom were women with infants and young children.

Madeleine gave the two soldiers a furious scolding, reprimanding them harshly for their cowardice in despairing of their situation. She ordered the two out of the blockhouse, then got the gun and powder she had come for and left. She directed the defense of the fort, her only forces being her two brothers, the old soldier, and a few other able settlers. The little group stood off the Iroquois until help arrived from Montreal a week after the siege began.

Some reports and retellings of Madeleine de Verchères’ story say that she did not sleep for the first two days of the siege. They also say that she went about her warrior’s duties with a pleasant smile and attitude to keep up the courage of the other women in the fort, who were not only afraid for their lives and the lives of their children but were also grieving for their husbands and sons who had been slain in the fields by the Iroquois.

At the time of the attack Madeleine de Verchères was fourteen years old.

Madeleine de Verchères fades from history after this event. Little is known about the rest of her life other than the facts that she was awarded a pension by the French crown for her heroism and that she married a man named Pierre Thomas Tarieu de la Pérade in 1706. It is said that Madeleine again showed her strength of character by saving her husband’s life in 1722 when he was assaulted by an Indian. It appears that her marriage remained childless.

She died August 8, 1747, and a statue of her stands in Verchères, the only reminder of the fourteen year old colonial girl who led the defense of her family’s settlement – and won.

May she never be forgotten!

Until next time!

The Mithril Guardian

References:

Encyclopedia Americana: Vol. 28, 2002, page 16.

Madeleine Takes Command by Ethel C. Brill.

Invictus

Out of the night that covers me,

Black as the pit from pole to pole,

I thank whatever gods may be

For my unconquerable soul.

 

In the fell clutch of circumstance

I have not winced nor cried aloud.

Under the bludgeonings of chance

My head is bloody, but unbowed.

 

Beyond this place of wrath and tears

Looms but the Horror of the shade,

And yet the menace of the years

Finds and shall find me unafraid.

 

It matters not how strait the gate,

How charged with punishments the scroll,

I am the master of my fate,

I am the captain of my soul.

BY WILLIAM ERNEST HENLEY

Avengers: Age of Ultron – Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch

So I saw Age of Ultron not too long ago, and I did a post about it. But I did not make mention of two of the most intriguing characters in the film: twins Pietro and Wanda Maximoff, better known in some circles as Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch.

When was I going to get to the Maximoff twins? Well, now seems to be as good a time as any!

With everything else going on in the film, Whedon did not have a lot of time to squeeze Pietro and Wanda Maximoff into the story in such a way that everyone in the audience would get to know and like them on the spot. For those of us who did enjoy the characters, or who knew something about them from days past (X-Men reference! ;)), we saw, we knew, and we liked plenty!

First up: Pietro. Quicksilver is probably the character to get the shortest shrift in the film, after the Hulk, almost but not quite on par with how much screen time Hawkeye had in The Avengers. Most of the time he is running around so fast, you have to do what the Avengers are doing: “Where’d he go..? Oh, there he is.”

But what we do see of Quicksilver is very in-character. As shown in the movie, Pietro moves so fast that to him, bullets appear to be moving in slow motion. The nine millimeter bullet most commonly used and mentioned in TV shows and films travels at 1200 feet per second. That means this type of nine millimeter bullet will literally beat your hand to the door knob when you are standing next to the door and the person holding the gun is across the room.

But even this lightweight bullet is not faster than Quicksilver. Because he is so much faster than everyone and everything around him, Pietro has an impatient outlook on life. As an example, Pietro can race across town in a few seconds flat. Then he will have to wait fifteen or more minutes for the bus/train/tram/whatever Wanda is riding to catch up with him.

Now think about how hard it is for his opponents, who cannot see him to shoot him, to do battle of any kind with him. He is literally as fast, if not faster, than the wind. Put this all together and you have a kid with a cocky battle attitude wreathed with the impatience of a lightning bolt. He can be up, out, and gone in seconds.   Why can no one else just keep up? His impatience is spot on.

Wanda’s powers are also well rendered in the film. In the comics, her original power is probability manipulation. The probability of a new, well-built wall collapsing is something she can make happen with a little concentration and a gesture. Another post on this blog (which is frequently being read!), The Art of Probability Manipulation, goes into detail about the comic book Scarlet Witch.

In Age of Ultron, Wanda’s powers are described as telekinesis, hypnosis, and energy manipulation. In the film, she can telekinetically move or break things, and her hypnotic powers mean that she can make those she entrances see their worst fears or memories. She is telepathic/ empathetic, rendering her able to read the minds and emotions of those around her on some level. She can then use that reading to send those people into a trance, where they are temporarily trapped in a nightmare of their own fears/pasts, which she is privy to as well.

The twins’ strong sibling relationship is also well-demonstrated in the movie. Throughout the film, Pietro can be seen snatching Wanda up and running off with her in his arms. In the final battle, he does this to get her to the center of the city where she can use her powers most effectively. This is a tactic the two have been seen to utilize in the cartoons and probably in the comics as well.

The fact that they do not separate from each other until Wanda orders her older brother to help Cap and the others round up the last of the civilians and get them to safety is also true to form. The twins hardly ever separated from each other for any great length of time when they first arrived in the comics. Outside of recent TV shows like X-Men: Evolution and Wolverine and the X-Men, it is shown that the “brother-sister act” have always been close, as most twins are. It was nice to see them acting like they did toward each other in the original comics in this film.

As has been explained elsewhere, the Maximoff twins blame Tony Stark for the death of their parents. Because they hate Tony, the twins hate the Avengers, something made blatantly clear throughout the first half of the film. But once Wanda sees what Ultron really intends to do, the twins abandon him. Interestingly, before that happens, Wanda frees Dr. Helen Cho from Ultron’s control via the “glow stick of destiny” while in her lab where he is downloading himself into a new body. This proves that she does not simply want to run away from Ultron, she wants to stop him.

But it is only when it becomes clear that the Avengers need help to stop Ultron that Wanda truly chooses to get into the fight. Pietro naturally follows her into the battle, the way she followed him into their first skirmish with the Avengers at Strucker’s HYDRA base. (Again, this is in-character with their depiction in the comics; when one twin makes a choice the other follows him/her.) Once Cap assumes their help in stopping an out-of-control train in South Korea, making no mention or fuss of any kind about their previous allegiance to the mad robot, the twins come to see that they may have been wrong about the Avengers after all.

We do not know how the twins feel about everyone on the team, but it appears that Wanda warms up to Cap very quickly after helping him out in South Korea. This would be a nod back to the original comics as well; Wanda was fond of Cap from the moment she met him. In those comics, Hawkeye occasionally asked her if she had a crush on Cap, but Wanda never gave anyone a direct answer on that front.

If she did have a crush on Steve Rogers, she hid it well. But I think it more likely that she just admired him and felt safer having him as team leader more than anything else. Cap was often a father figure to her and the other, younger Avengers, as well as their team leader. Considering how long it was before she learned her real father’s identity, I think it may be safe to say that Wanda liked thinking of Cap as her “battle father.”

Another Avenger Wanda takes to fairly quickly in the movie is Hawkeye. In the “mainstream” comics, Hawkeye is roughly the same age as the twins, and they all joined the team at almost the same time. Hawkeye thought Wanda was gorgeous the minute he saw her and immediately tried to court her. But this did not pan out and he eventually settled for being one of her good friends instead.

That failed romance, though, is certainly not part of Age of Ultron. (Yay!) However their quick, strong friendship in this film is itself fairly surprising. Especially since Clint stuck an electrical stun arrow to her forehead to keep her from putting him in a trance earlier in the movie.

Though Clint clearly does not like her when he meets her again in Avengers Tower, in Nova Grad this changes dramatically. In the final battle, Wanda and Clint end up in the same street, fighting several dozen Ultroids as a team. When one of the droids prepares to explode, Hawkeye grabs Wanda and dives into the nearest building, getting them out of the way of the machine as it blows up and keeping them safe.

Wanda starts to become hysterical as the magnitude of what Ultron is doing – what she and her brother helped him to do, and the fact that she is in part responsible for his creation – comes crashing down on her like a ton of bricks. This is not what Hawkeye needs to deal with at the moment, and he does not spare Wanda, giving her one of the best pep talks I have ever heard.

Sometime after this, Wanda helps him out of a tight spot and the two destroy a group of Ultroids very quickly. Throughout the rest of the battle they not only continue their new teamwork dynamic; they begin working in better harmony with each other.

Later, when Wanda declares that she will guard the machine bringing half of Sokovia’s capital city skyward, Clint looks at her in surprise. “It’s my job,” she says, looking back at him. This is a reference to their earlier “chat,” where he told her that it was his “job” to help save the world – no matter how insane the situation became. By the end of the film, the two clearly have a good appreciation for each other. I will be interested in seeing where they go from here – though I am hoping the direction is a non-romantic one!

On the subject of Hawkeye’s relationship to the twins, while he and Wanda gain a mutual respect and understanding, it is a little different between him and Pietro. This is reasonable, since Quicksilver introduces himself to the archer by punching him at high speed and sending him flying. When Hawkeye prepares to fire an arrow after him, he is nicked by a shot from a HYDRA bunker and ends up having a lousy day.

This is not a good way to start a friendship. And it only gets worse when Hawkeye sticks his stun arrow to Wanda’s forehead to avoid getting mind controlled. While the Hawk is not in the habit of picking on women or girls, as he explains he is “not a fan” of mind manipulation, and he will do whatever he can to avoid having it happen to him again.

Pietro takes high offense whenever Wanda is hurt and is prone to angrily attack whoever harms his sister. He and the archer become rivals, and their enmity is based in part on their confidence in themselves. Hawkeye is confident in his shooting skills and his accuracy, while Pietro is secure in his speed. This would naturally lead to contention between the two, even if they started out as friends; they have often butted heads in the “mainstream” comics for this reason.

But there is another layer to the antagonism they direct at each other in the film. Hawkeye is not Pietro’s age, so his end of the challenge is not layered with that mindless, “I’m going to beat you because you beat me” juvenility. Pietro has power but little experience and skill. As Hawkeye says, he is a “punk.” His speed is a “big stick,” but he overuses and relies on it to get what he wants.

Their rivalry is instead edged with the antagonism some youths feel toward those with more experience; Quicksilver thinks his power makes him unstoppable. Hawkeye is confident in his skills, but he is not foolish enough to believe they make him utterly impervious to harm. He has experience getting hurt in a battle.

Pietro does not.

So when Cap returns to the Avengers’ Tower with the twins to pull the plug on Tony’s latest science project, Hawkeye seizes his chance to make this point to Pietro – not to mention get some well-earned payback for the speedster’s earlier attacks on him in the bargain. He shoots the glass floor under Pietro’s feet, dropping the boy through the hole and having him land on the floor in front of him. To make absolutely sure the kid cannot get away, he puts one foot on Pietro’s legs and asks, “What, you didn’t see that coming?”

The subtext of the message was, “Kid, I have been where you are and you are setting yourself up to get hurt. Get this and get it good: you’ve got power but that does not trump experience and common sense. You are behaving like a punk. Get over yourself, and yesterday.”

Pietro gets the message, loud and clear; Hawkeye is not useless because he uses a bow and arrow. And he (Pietro) had better realize that power does not make someone immune to all the unavoidable risks and fortunes of battle ‘normal’ mortals are subject to.

But, in the character of his confidence and impatience, Pietro does not admit as much. He still acts and talks tough. When Cap says they need help in the center of the floating portion of Nova Grad, Pietro zips in to the street where his sister and Hawkeye were previously fighting Ultroids. He picks Wanda up and runs off, adding over his shoulder, “Keep up, old man!”

Hawkeye seriously considers shooting the boy for this jibe. But in the end, he knows it will not work and puts his arrow away, muttering angrily. In my opinion, that was the closest he was going to come at the time to admitting that he thought Pietro was okay. The kid was annoying, but he had good in him.

Pietro proves how much good he has in him at the end of the battle. When Hawkeye goes back to pick up a Sokovian boy who got left behind, Ultron, flying the Aveng-jet, strafes the ground in a straight line toward him. Clint knows there is no time for him to move out of the way. He is tired, he has a child in his arms, and the air is getting thinner by the minute. The jet is coming toward him far too fast for him to get out of the way in time. Though it will do nothing, he does his best to shield the unconscious boy and waits for the bullets to hit them both.

Pietro sees the jet. He sees that his rival is doing his best to protect a little boy, and that there will be no protection from the incoming bullets. It takes him a split second to make his decision. He will die. Wanda will be left alone in the world. But his power was not meant to serve himself. It was meant to serve his people.

And Hawkeye, his rival, is doing his best to protect a Sokovian boy.

Blindingly fast, he covers the necessary distance and shoves Hawkeye and the boy he is protecting out of the line of fire of the jet’s mini-gun. To make the shove safe, Pietro had to have slowed down so that he did not hit Hawkeye at his highest velocity.

When Quicksilver runs at his higher or highest speed, he builds up force and momentum which he can use against his opponents. This is why he is able to send Hawkeye and Cap flying, and why he can smash the Ultroids to pieces. The force he collects as he runs is sent outward toward his target when he hits it. So Quicksilver shoving Hawkeye out of the mini-gun’s path at a dead run would have injured or killed Clint, and possibly the boy he was protecting.

Plus, as fast as he is, if Quicksilver runs into the path of a bullet, he is going to get hit. And his suit in this film is not designed to protect him from being shot or injured but to let him run as fast as he wants. Those conditions – combined with his need to stop in order to safely push Hawkeye out of the way – mean that he is the one shot and killed by Ultron. Hawkeye is nicked (again) but this time, Pietro was saving his life and a young boy’s. He was doing his utmost to help them both, not to hurt them.

I thought it was a really nice scene, since in it, Pietro proves he is more than a “punk.” He is a hero. Hawkeye realizes this at once. Kind of hard not to when Pietro’s last breath was used to say, “You didn’t see that coming?” He buried his hatchet right there. So did Hawkeye.

Having Cap carry Pietro to the waiting SHIELD shuttle was good, too. If Captain America shows such respect to a young, brash hero like Quicksilver, it is a sign that he thinks the kid is well worth the admiration. And having Hawkeye name his newborn son Nathaniel Pietro Barton was a real stroke of genius on Whedon’s part.

Despite the sadness of the scene, I still think it was a good one, in the same way that Kíli’s death in The Battle of the Five Armies was a good death. Pietro did well in Age of Ultron, and I have always thought he was an intriguing character. Perpetually impulsive, abrasive, and impatient, but intriguing nonetheless. I wish Quicksilver had lived through the film to be in later Avengers installments, but Whedon did not give him an ignominious send-off. He treated Pietro like a hero, and I tip my hat to him for that.

There is one other thing about Pietro’s death in the movie that deserves to be mentioned. Whedon is well-known for his penchant for killing off characters. He himself has said he does it “willy-nilly.”

However, the alternate ending for the film shows both twins, alive and well, as they join the new Avengers under Cap and Widow’s tutelage.  From what I have heard, Whedon made this ending as insurance; this way, if Disney did not want Quicksilver to die, he had a ready-made finale to Ultron which they would hopefully support. Disney approved Pietro’s death, obviously, and I can think of two reasons why Whedon chose to “get rid of” Pietro Maximoff at the end of the movie we saw in theaters.

First: apparently, in the Ultimate Marvel Comics (which I will never recommend to anyone), Wanda was killed when Ultron first appeared in the Ultimates’ universe. This left Pietro with a lot of anger issues. Instead of remaining a member of the Ultimates, he started running for the guys on the wrong side of the tracks. (Like I said, he gets angry when his sister is hurt, and he is much more aggressive than she is. Imagine how angry he would be if she died. His reaction would probably make Wanda killing Ultron look like a little girl’s temper tantrum!)

Whedon likes to reverse stereotypes and clichés, or completely turn them on their heads. He has to have read the Ultimate comics, because a lot of small things in the Avengers films relate to those comics: Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury; Iron Man’s attitude and the revelation of his identity to the world; Hawkeye’s suit and family, not to mention the twins’ initial allegiance to evil in Age of Ultron (Magneto had them working for him in the Ultimate comics before he was killed and they joined the Ultimates).

So Whedon had to know about Wanda’s death in those comics. And as I said, he likes to do the unexpected in these cases. Instead of killing off Wanda, as all those Marvel fans who have read the Ultimates’ stories expected he would, he knocked off Quicksilver.

Second: Aaron Taylor-Johnson, the actor who plays Pietro Maximoff in the film, was very worried about signing on to play the character. He cited the fact that Marvel often has actors sign a contract to play a character in a series of movies instead of doing a one-and-done deal as the reason for his trepidation. Marvel’s modus operandi in this area is well established fact, as Chris Evans’ original contract still includes Avengers: Infinity War, Part 1 and 2.

Sebastian Stan and Samuel L. Jackson are/were each contracted for nine films; Jackson recently had Marvel extend his contract so he can be in more Marvel movies. Hugo Weaving still has two more movies in his contract with Marvel, and Jeremy Renner was contracted for seven films, including a solo Hawkeye movie (which is still in writing limbo). Chris Hemsworth has three more movies in his contract and has stated that he would be quite happy to continue making Marvel movies for as long as he is physically able and as long as fans want more. (Bad thing to say, because when are we going to stop wanting more? We will always want more Marvel movies – as long as they are THIS good!) And Chris Evans recently extended his contract with Marvel so that he can be in five more films!

The only reason Aaron Taylor-Johnson signed on to play Pietro Maximoff in Age of Ultron was because Elizabeth Olsen signed up to play the Scarlet Witch. When she heard Johnson was worried about taking the part, she convinced him to be in the film. On her coaxing he did sign up. This is because, after they worked together on the latest Godzilla remake, he trusted her decision.

I do not know how many Marvel movies Johnson agreed to be in. As far as I know, he only agreed to Age of Ultron and would not sign up to be in more than one Marvel movie (at a time, anyway). So Whedon may have killed Quicksilver off in order that Johnson would have an easier way of getting out of his Marvel gig. Essentially, if Johnson did not want to be in Marvel’s Avengers films, Whedon knew he could fix the actor’s dilemma simply by killing off his character.

These are theories I have about why Pietro Maximoff does not survive Age of Ultron. I could be blowing smoke, of course, but they are the only theories I have which make any sense.

As a final note, I really enjoyed having the twins in the film. Johnson and Olsen did well as the Maximoff siblings and it is too bad Johnson did not sign on to be in more films. This does not mean that Marvel may not bring Pietro back into the Avengers movies somehow. It just means that we will have to wait and see what happens.

*Sigh…*

Anyone want to play tiddly winks while we wait?

Excelsior!

The Mithril Guardian

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Nausicaa: Of the Valley of the Wind

Nausicaa: Of the Valley of the Wind, is a movie written, directed, and animated by Hayao Miyazaki, a Japanese filmmaker and artist. This movie focuses on Nausicaa and her kingdom, the Valley of the Wind. A thousand years after a war that devastated the Earth, humanity lives in small, secluded kingdoms. Outside the kingdoms, the Earth is being consumed by a Toxic Jungle guarded by huge insects.

The Toxic Jungle got its name from the fact that the plants in it shoot out poisonous spores and gasses. Anything other than the giant insects that live in the jungle – whether it is animal or human – which should be unfortunate enough to enter the jungle without a mask will be dead in five minutes.

Nausicaa is the princess of the Valley of the Wind and the heroine of the film. The Valley of the Wind is a peaceful kingdom by the sea. The winds from the ocean protect the valley from the Toxic Jungle’s poisons and spores. However, people in the valley are not immune to the same sickness that plagues all the remnants of humanity. Living in proximity to the Toxic Jungle means that, inevitably, some of the jungle’s poisons slowly kill the people who live near it. The disease brought on by the jungle’s poisons leads to paralysis, turning the body “hard as rock,” and it eventually kills the person who receives the sickness. Nausicaa’s father, King Jil, is suffering from this illness.

Nausicaa is a kind and loving girl with a special sensitivity to nature. She can communicate with the insects in the jungle and calm their wild rages whenever someone outside or – rarely – inside her kingdom is idiotic enough to do damage to the jungle or kill an insect. Any such action brings swift retribution from the biggest, most impressive – and most dangerous – insects in the jungle: the enormous Ohmu, or Ohm for short.

Everyone in the Valley is Nausicaa’s friend. Though they all readily defer to her, and typically call her “Princess,” it is clear that Nausicaa is well-beloved by her people because she loves them. She speaks easily to them and their welfare is her top priority. She does enjoy her trips into the Toxic Jungle on her glider (which is a very cool method of transportation that I want very badly!), and learning the ways of the jungle and the insects. But in the end, it is her people whom she cares for the most.

I saw Nausicaa when I was fifteen, and I was immediately impressed by three things. The first thing I enjoyed about the show was the animation; Miyazaki is well known for his animated features, and Nausicaa shows the world why. The vistas, the clouds, the jungle, Nausicaa and her people – all are rendered in stunningly beautiful detail in the hand-drawn frames. CGI has nothing – absolutely nothing – on hand-drawn animation of this caliber. It is too bad animated shows are no longer rendered so well.

The second thing that impressed me came in the first ten minutes of the film. An old friend of Nausicaa and her father, Lord Yupa, returns to the Valley and is greeted happily by the inhabitants. Nausicaa is busy repairing a windmill as the Valley people excitedly ask Lord Yupa for news and express their joy at his return. Then Nausicaa goes down from the windmill and leads a new mother to Lord Yupa. Nausicaa herself is carrying the woman’s baby daughter, the only child born in the Valley in one year!

The fact that only one baby was born in the Valley is astounding; and the small, seemingly inconsequential detail that it is the biggest news in the kingdom in a year shows how hard it is in the world of this story for people to have children anymore. Compared to today, where the lives of children are thrown away, this idea of children being precious is very timely.

This brings me to the one thing that weighs down Nausicaa: the film is very insistent that humanity has lost touch with nature. Two other kingdoms in the movie, the Tolmekian Kingdom and the land of Pejite, stand in for humanity’s “wanton” brutalization of nature. The Ohmu and the jungle represent nature which, when attacked, fights back violently.

The Kingdom of the Valley is set up so that it shows humans living in relative harmony with the Toxic Jungle and the insects. The Valley residents do not have to fear the jungle’s poisons, and so they have never tried to burn or chop it down. This means that the Ohmu have left them alone and, in some odd way, respect them. In return, the Valley residents avoid bothering the jungle at all costs. They instead try to understand the jungle, how it came about, and how to live with it.

Nausicaa’s sensitivity to the Earth and nature is part of this theme. The whole reason she can communicate with the Ohmu and calm the other insects in the jungle is not only a result of her study of the jungle and the insects. It is a result of the fact that she is in tune with nature.

This theme is heavy in the story and makes it hard to watch sometimes. But the film does have its saving graces. As I mentioned above, there is a third thing which impressed me. Later in the movie, a leader from Pejite informs Nausicaa that he has men luring Ohmu into the Valley of the Wind. He is doing this to destroy the Tolmekians who have invaded the Valley after invading Pejite. He is also doing this to secure a weapon which may destroy the Toxic Jungle and its insect guardians.

Nausicaa is horrified by his barbarity. She goes so far as to break down into tears at the thought of the outrage: that this man would lure the insects into an innocent kingdom and destroy its people, as well as the unsuspecting Ohm which are being used, essentially, to get revenge on Tolmekia.

The Pejite leader tries to comfort her when she starts crying, saying that someday she will realize that they are doing this “for the good of the planet.”

Nausicaa responds perfectly. Angrily striking away his comforting hand, she shouts, “The good of the planet?!? You’re killing my people!!”

Nausicaa’s statement sums up what is really going on in the world today, that one thing or another – nature, healthcare, or some other faux ‘good’ – is being used to give moral credence to outright murder and savagery. This tendency to put nature over humanity weakens the movie’s potential but it does not utterly destroy the story. I think it would have served Miyazaki better if he had placed the story on another planet humanity was trying to colonize, but as the film stands, it is enough to pass the time enjoyably. And yes, I still think the animation is unbelievably beautiful!

And I STILL want Nausicaa’s glider! Hey, science geniuses! Get busy and design this thing! For heaven’s sake, somebody had better start producing these things! I tell ya, there IS a market for them out there!

Catch you later, readers!

The Mithril Guardian