Tag Archives: Chris Pine

Guarding the Guardians

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“Oh, you’ll protect them. But who will protect you?!

Pitch Black says this to the Guardians near the end of Dreamworks’ film Rise of the Guardians. I wrote an article about the movie some time ago, but these words were not the focus of it. That post had a totally different message from the one I wish to discuss today.

Rise of the Guardians focuses on the Guardians of childhood: Santa Claus (North), Tooth Fairy (Tooth), the Easter Bunny (Bunny), Sandman (Sandy), and their new addition – Jack Frost. In the scene portrayed above, Jack has convinced a handful of children that the Guardians do in fact exist. This has helped North, Bunny, and Tooth to regain a certain amount of strength, since they lost much of their power when Pitch Black (the infamous Boogeyman) persuaded children around the world that the Guardians were not real.

The belief of a few children cannot restore the Guardians to their former capacities, though. They are now too weak to fight as they must to save the children. They intend to battle Pitch anyway, but the situation looks grim for the home team.

It is at this point when Jamie, the one boy who never stopped believing in the Guardians, promises that he will protect them from the Boogeyman (Pitch Black). Jamie’s friends, inspired by his courage, shakily join forces with the Guardians as well. As the Guardians and children face the onslaught of evil, they manage to turn Pitch’s certain victory into utter defeat.

Why is this so important? Why do I make such an issue of it? How many times, readers, have you heard the “elite” and the “learned” talk down the importance of stories, of heroes and villains? If I had a dollar for every snobby crack I heard someone make about good stories and great characters, myself included, I would be one of the richest people in the U.S. (Hey, I have not always liked certain stories, readers – I am human, not perfect!)

Fictional heroes are the equivalent of the Guardians in Rise of the Guardians. They not only “guard” the imaginations and (hopefully) the innocence of childhood, they guard the imaginations of adults as well.

Heroes are, by design, examples of virtue which we are meant to follow. They show us how attractive and healthy virtues such as courage, faith, hope, love, and honor are. They inspire us to dream, to choose the right path, and not in a didactic way but in a way that touches our hearts.

Stories are vehicles for truth. This is not simply factual truths, such as how to ride a horse or to hunt for medicinal herbs in a forest. These facts can be and often are woven into fictional stories, of course, and they are certainly helpful. But most of the truths we find within stories are philosophical and, at bottom, spiritual.

Yet many of us habitually skate on top of a story. Instead of looking through the ice to see what is below, we see what we wish to see reflected back at us. And so we tend to ignore what is truly below the surface of the tale we are reading/hearing/viewing.

This brings me to Jamie’s declaration that, since the Guardians are going to protect him and the other children, he will in turn protect the Guardians he loves. While recognizing their desire and natural right to protect him and the others, he also realizes he has a duty and right to protect them when they are attacked. Theirs is a tie that is mutually beneficial; the belief and love of children everywhere not only sustains the Guardians, it protects them by giving them the strength they need to do their jobs. It makes the circuit of power complete.

Sadly, the critics panned Rise of the Guardians as they have dismissed many movies before it. On one level, we could see this as a sign that the movie they have critiqued is undesirable. On another, we could see it as a sign that a great many people have suddenly and inexplicably lost their capacity to recognize a good children’s tale when they see one.

If you are thinking this second assesment lacks believability, I concur. That is why I take the third view; at least some of the critics liked this film and admitted it, while the majority of them panned it in order to serve their agendas. What agenda might this be?

Here we come full circle again. Remember when I said that fictional heroes were meant to be the Guardians of the Imaginations of children and adults? Well, if you want to destroy those perceptions, you have to go through the Guardians. The “critics” who regularly pan good movies like Rise of the Guardians seem bent on destroying those positive images. In order to do that, they have to tear down the heroes not only in this story, but in everyday life as well, so that everyone will be as miserable as they are.

This is why we must guard the Guardians. As Dean Koontz points out in his novel Ashley Bell, fiction “can deal with the numinous,” something that “nonfiction rarely does.” Fiction deals with “[T]he human heart and spirit. The unknown. The unknowable. Storytelling can heal damaged hearts and damaged minds.” Most poignantly, he also points out that writers can be “doctor(s) of the soul.”

Of course, as Marvel and other companies’ public dereliction of duty shows, not all writers want to be doctors of souls. Mr. Koontz’s stories are filled with human monsters who perpetrate evil on their fellows, and none are worse than those who use a pen instead of a scalpel. This is what the critics who wish to destroy imagination, wonder, truth, goodness, and beauty hate about stories.

If these critics who have chosen darkness cannot be happy, then they wish no one else to be happy. Therefore whatever gives everyone else pleasure – whatever reminds them of the truth, goodness, and beauty to be found in this world and beyond – must be destroyed. This includes good stories with great Guardians of the soul.

As long as we have heroes to inspire us, we will be better able to resist the carping critics’ myriad assaults. Take away the Guardians of Storyland – whether they are Captain Kirk, Odysseus, Robin Hood, or Captain America – and we lose one of our best defenses against those who would destroy our understanding of the good, the true, and the beautiful.

Some may think this harsh and cruel. While I certainly do not want to paint all critics of creative media with the same brush, I must point out that it is the fashion now for the “intellectuals” to praise trash and sniff at true art. This is not to criticize all critics. We are weak, fallen creatures, yours truly included. None of us are perfect. The fact remains, however, that there are those who want to destroy our innate love of goodness, truth, and beauty – and they usually like to use a pen or a keyboard when they go to work.

They attempt to tear down the heroes – portraying them as “villains in disguise,” if you will – with words. We have seen far too much of this these days, especially in comic book universes, where former heroic champions are being turned into masters of despair and darkness. (Yes, I am looking at you, Marvel!)

If this is what is going on, then how are we to stop it? We stop it by the simple expedient of saying, “I will protect the Guardians.” We need not use force to do this; permanent determination and a refusal to abide by or accept the proffered precepts of today’s real life Wormtogues is a very effective tactic. When they try to take our heroes from us, we must be like a bulldog holding tight to a beloved toy. We have to clamp down and not let go because these servants of Saruman will lose. As long as we hold tight, we will win.

Who, therefore, will defend these fictional defenders? Who will preserve the characters who are “there when we need them to be,” as Walt Disney said in Saving Mr. Banks? Who will see to it that the Guardians do not face Pitch Black alone? Who will say, “I will protect the protectors”?

That is up to you, readers. The Guardians’ purpose is to guard us, not to protect themselves. For, as I said previously, they get their power from us. Without our affection for and belief in the heroes of Neverland, they are but mirrors of us, pale reflections of reality. They have substance only when loved by us.

For those who think this is stuff and fluff, remember that a painting is a pale reflection of reality. Yet Dolly Madison risked her life to save the paintings in the White House, along with the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, before the British burned it to the ground during the War of 1812. If fiction means nothing, why then did the Christian monks of the Dark and Middle Ages preserve the fiction of the Ancients and write the Legends of King Arthur?

During World War II the Nazis stole plenty of art from the countries they invaded, and destroyed art created by those they hated – Jews, Catholics, Gypsies, etc. Under the Communists, the arts were degraded and used to promote the state, while real art that had survived for centuries was used to build troughs for farm animals. If art, though nothing more than a reflection of life, is meaningless, why have so many throughout history worked so hard to preserve it – or to destroy every trace of it?

The obvious answer is that art is not meaningless. It is not the be-all, end-all. But when it reflects the true, the good, and the beautiful, it is worth preserving. It is worth creating….

It is worth Guarding.

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Great Christmas Films To Watch This Season

Hey everybody! Christmas is coming up on us fast, which means it is time to deck the halls and set up the Nativity scenes. To spread a little more Christmas cheer, I thought a list of Christmas films was in order.

Here’s a look at the movies I like to watch to get in the Christmas spirit:

Related imageThe Muppet Christmas Carol

This is the Christmas film I have watched since I was a tyke. Christmas is never complete for me without at least one viewing of The Muppet Christmas Carol. It is a fun movie all around – and it is best viewed, in my ‘umble opinion, in the lead up to Christmas Day.

Related imageRise of the Guardians

Okay, technically, the story in Rise of the Guardians is set three days before Easter. It has nothing to do with Christmas except for snow, Santa Claus (North in the film), and a lot of presents.

Still, this is a great movie, and it is well within the spirit of Christmas. It may not be truly seasonal, but I feel I can recommend curling up with the family to watch this movie during the Christmas season – before or after Christmas Day. Either time in December works.

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The Polar Express

Now this film has a much stronger claim to the Christmas season than Rise of the Guardians. It is perfect Christmas fare. The songs for this film are also really good. My personal favorite is When Christmas Comes to Town.

Of course, children will not be the only ones to get a kick out of the The Polar Express. It is a pity they do not make musicals in live action films the way they used to; now, one has to look for great song and dance sequences in animated films. Do not misunderstand – I like the animated routines just fine. But what is wrong with live actors and actresses dancing and singing on screen?

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A Charlie Brown Christmas

My best memory of this show is when the Peanuts gang re-decorates Charlie Brown’s pathetic little fir tree. When Charlie Brown returns, the gang shouts “Merry Christmas!” and sings one of the best renditions of Hark! The Herald Angels Sing ever recorded. This is probably one of the reasons why that particular carol has always been one of my favorites. A Charlie Brown Christmas is one of the best films ever made for this season. But you needn’t take my word for it – just watch it yourself!

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Yes, I know. Disney’s Frozen has an even slighter claim to the Christmas season than Rise of the Guardians. It takes place in the middle of summer, for cryin’ out loud! And everybody has already written practically everything there is to write about it!

All true, readers, but the fact is that I promised a friend I would list this film with my Christmas favorites. And Frozen is a great family film, so it will also be on many a Christmas entertainment menu this year and beyond.

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White Christmas

 I suppose it is no surprise that Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye’s White Christmas is one of my favorite Christmas films of all time. The movie follows Crosby and Kaye, whose characters are World War II veterans turned successful song and dance performers. The two meet a sister act who also have a song and dance routine and are headed to a Vermont hotel to work for the proprietor.

Almost right away, Crosby and Rosemary Clooney’s character fall for each other. But when the four reach Vermont, they find everything warm and sunny when everyone was expecting – naturally – snow!

At the hotel, Crosby and Kaye find their former general from World War II is the owner. What is more, the lack of snow has led to no customers for the former general, who is on the verge of losing his establishment.

I will avoid spoiling the rest of the film for you, readers. All I will say is that this is a fun Christmas movie, with great songs performed by some of the best singers from a golden era. White Christmas is essential viewing for the season, in this writer’s view. If you get a chance to see it, give it a try. I doubt it will disappoint!

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It’s a Wonderful Life

Anyone who has watched NCIS from the beginning knows that a viewing of It’s a Wonderful Life was a Christmas tradition in Very Special Agent Tony DiNozzo’s immediate family. I have only seen this film (all the way through, at least) once in recent memory.

Starring one of my favorite actors from Hollywood’s “old guard,” Jimmy Stewart, It’s a Wonderful Life tells how the owner of a small-town savings and loan company runs into severe financial trouble. At this crisis, the worst Stewart’s character has ever faced, the audience is shown just how much difference one life can make in the world. While Dickens’ A Christmas Carol is a reminder to the well-off and comfortable to use their gifts for the good of others, It’s a Wonderful Life reminds viewers of the importance of living, period.

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Doctor Who: A Christmas Carol and The Doctor, the Widow, and the Wardrobe, with Matt Smith as The Doctor

Doctor Who is not among the top ten of my favorite shows to watch. However, I did develop a fondness for Matt Smith’s Doctor through these two Christmas specials. The first, Doctor Who: A Christmas Carol, retells Dickens’ classic as only the loony writers for The Doctor’s series can, while the next Christmas special, The Doctor, the Widow, and the Wardrobe, takes its name from the famous second book of C.S. Lewis’ Narnian ChroniclesImage result for Doctor Who: A Christmas Carol and The Doctor, the Widow, and the Wardrobe, with Matt Smith as The Doctor

Of the two, The Doctor, the Widow, and the Wardrobe has more laughs in it than A Christmas Carol. I definitely recommend you find and watch these shows, even if you are not a Doctor Who fan. I was not, and am not, a Whovian but I enjoy these particular shows no end!

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We’re No Angels

The original We’re No Angels with Peter Ustinov, Humphrey Bogart, and Aldo Ray is great fun. I will avoid giving you spoilers on this film, readers. Suffice it to say, do not buy or borrow the remake this Christmas. When it comes to this film, it ought to be the original or bust!

Well, there you have it, readers. These are some of my favorite films to view during the Christmas season. I have left out some great tales in this list, but I do not want to overwhelm anyone! It is a short list full of the Spirit of Christmas – small, and seemingly insignificant, but more beautiful than any jewel, and true as the Star that guides us all.

Merry Christmas, readers!

The Mithril Guardian

An Avengers: Infinity War Trailer Breakdown – Sorta

Finally – FINALLY!!! The trailer for Marvel’s third Avengers film has been released! The first major teaser trailer for Avengers: Infinity War appeared on the Internet yesterday, readers. And it is a doozy!

You can find another breakdown of the trailer here, which I enjoyed reading immensely. But while I was watching (and rewatching, and rewatching….) the trailer myself the other day, I noticed a few things which Mr. Finn did not mention. Being the Avengers’ fan that I am, it seemed reasonable for me to do a trailer breakdown myself. I need some way to burn off my excitement and trepidation, after all, and this appears like a good way to do it.

Why the trepidation? Well, for a start, this is Infinity War. This is the battle between Earth’s Mightiest Heroes and the Mad Titan, Thanos, wannabe paramour of death’s female incarnation himself. The way he plans to woo her is by uniting all six Infinity Stones to wipe out most of the universal population. (Hence the title Infinity War, Mr. Pine; it isn’t about ‘infinite war’ but six mega-powerful rocks which can reshape the universe from the ground up at the whim of whoever holds them. They’re so powerful the energy they produce is incalculable, i.e. infinite.)

At least, in the comics, Thanos’ aim is to make Death fall in love with him. In the movies he might just be a galactic overpopulation nutjob worried that the universe is becoming too crowded, which means everything has to be put in ‘balance’ again. (Translation, a lot of people “have” to die – fast.) And since he is the best and brightest guy who noticed the rising population in the first place, it makes total sense for him to be the bringer of that balance to the cosmos. Yeah, sure; please insert scoffing raspberry here, readers.

Of course, this means that all our heroes are on the chopping block. We can be sure that a few will survive to be in more movies, but for others, there is no guarantee. Nada. Zip. Zilch. This brings me to my first observation about this trailer….

WHERE THE SAM HILL IS HAWKEYE?!?!?!?! (And Ant-Man, can’t forget about him….)

Two whole minutes of trailer, and my favorite archer does not even get a cameo?!?!?! Are you kidding me?!?! Where is Clint Barton? Why isn’t he in this trailer, at least as a voice? I thought we established waaay back in Age of Ultron and Civil War just how important Hawkeye is to the team. But he doesn’t show up AT ALL in this trailer. Neither does Ant-Man, who would be a BIG help when our guys run into hordes, multitudes, and fireteams of alien monsters.

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Where are these two?

Okay, now that I got the big problem out of the way, we can delve into the trailer.

The first picture we see is of a storm-tossed desert planet, followed by a shot of Tony sitting down somewhere. He is rocking back and forth on his heels, apparently trying not to cry. From later shots, it looks like this is a world where he and Spider-Man get trapped after they first face Thanos.

I’m guessing Peter gets seriously hurt here. I say hurt and not killed because Tom Holland still has two or three Spider-Man films in his contract. These films are set between the Avengers’ movies, so they cannot afford to knock off Peter Parker here. Not yet, anyway, or at least not permanently. We also have a voice over throwback to The Avengers where Fury explains the Initiative to Steve on the Helicarrier. But it is Fury’s only line in the trailer as Tony, Vision, Thor, and then Natasha finish his speech for him.

The next scene shows Dr. Strange and his buddy Wong looking down at a confused and shirtless Bruce Banner, who has literally dropped into the Sanctum Sanctorum from above. Aside from the fact that this is another nice nod to The Avengers, it apparently has something to do with the end credits for Thor: Ragnarok. I am guessing, since I have not yet seen the film, that Hulk somehow got blown off of Asgard when it went BOOM and has landed, as Banner, in Dr. Strange’s house. I thought he left Asgard with Thor, but apparently he decided to take the quick way home. Probably for the best, considering what we see later on….

Next image we have shows Paul Bettany, sans Vision makeup, throwing curtains open on a rainy day/evening/dawn. Now if you watch this clip and do not stop it, you will miss an important thing. You will miss the fact that Wanda is in this room as well. Look to the left of the frozen image and you will see her in a bed. THIS IS A BEDROOM, PEOPLE!! AND SHE IS SHARING IT WITH A HUMAN VISION!!!!

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Holy cow, I did not see this coming, although I did see the romance part coming. (Spoiler alert, they married in the comics. It was fine for a while, but then the writers abused them, so it got weird.) Looking at this still shot, it appears that Viz woke up and went to look out the window at something, waking Wanda up in the process. But why is he human? And when did they start rooming together (or did they actually get married in the films after all)?

Unfortunately for Wanda and/or Vision, I am pretty sure this is a hallucination. Or someone is poking around in their head(s), looking at their desires/dreams, taunting them by using these fantasties. (Vision cannot ever be physically human, readers; that is why I say this is a fantasy.)

One of the reasons I think this may be a hallucination is because the Black Order, five or six alien warriors who follow Thanos and who want to bring death to everyone everywhere, are said to be a part of this film. Given that the next scene shows the Mind Stone still in Vision’s forehead, I am thinking Ebony Maw or Supergiant, two telepathic/psychic members of the Black Order, are playing around with either his fantasies or Wanda’s. If it is Wanda they are messing with, I hope the Scarlet Witch pastes them. If it is Vision, the Black Order might have captured him, meaning that they may be trying to interrogate him.

Another theory I have for this scene is that this is Wanda’s fantasy, and Vision is working to snap her out of it. Or Vision has found a way to disguise himself so that he looks human, which means that he and Wanda are actually living together here. This might explain a later scene which makes it appear that the Scarlet Witch hasn’t been hanging out much with Team Cap. If she’s been living with Vision, then the guys on Team Red, White, and Blue knew she was safe and happy, so they let her go with Viz to live off of the U.N.’s radar while they kept Avenging.

Our next throwback scene shows Thor looking out of what appears to be the Milano’s viewports. How he ended up with Quill and the gang when he was supposed to be taking care of the Asgardians he saved in Ragnarok is anybody’s guess at this point. I think those who have seen the film probably have better theories about the how than I do, so let me finish by saying why this is a throwback scene. Anybody remember Fury standing in a similar position aboard the Helicarrier in The Avengers? I sure do!

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Next we have Bruce, in full attire, standing beside a Hulkbuster fist in what is apparently Wakanda. He is sharing a smile with a blonde Natasha Romanoff. (Really? Blonde? She originally had black hair in the comics, what was wrong with that color…?) I do not know if they will be picking up their relationship where they left off in Age of Ultron. I kind of hope they do; it was so unexpectedly sweet and suited them so well that I would really like to see them get back together. But we may get a Natasha/Bucky romance during Infinity War and its sequel instead. I would be happy with that, too, mind you, but the romantic in me still wants Bruce and Natasha to start dating again.

Up next we have scenes of Tony, Bruce, Strange, and Wong in the Sanctum, with a voice over by Thanos. We follow this up with Peter Parker’s arm hairs rising. This could be a sign of his Spider sense activating, or it could be that the massive alien teleportation ring we see hovering over New York is generating enormous amounts of energy. Static electricity, after all, makes hair stand up straight. The energy the ring is producing may not be powerful enough to make long hair stand up, but it could make arm hairs raise. Just saying.  🙂

Then we have Tony, Bruce, and our two sorcerers standing out in the street staring at the big Ferris wheel in the sky. At least Strange and Wong are powered up and prepared to fight. Even Bruce is standing in ready position. Tony’s the only one doing the “Oh, bleep!” blind staring act here.

Does he have another arc reactor in his chest? It is hard to see, since Tony’s jacket is almost zipped closed, but I think there is actually another arc reactor powering his heart here. How did that happen? I thought it was removed in Iron Man 3. Did he have it taken out, or just replaced? If the latter, why haven’t we seen it in the other films? Or is this a new, fancy Iron Man suit that he can hide under normal clothes, like some of the ones he has in the comics?

Well, we’ll find out one way or the other. After this we see someone stepping over the bodies of a lot of dead people, followed by a shot of Loki holding the Tesseract out to Thanos. (Big surprise there – that rotten little weasel would get away from a dying Asgard with the Infinity Stone he promised to deliver to Thanos way back in The Avengers….grrrr.) From the looks of the backdrop and the apparel on the dead bodies, I would say this scene occurs in Knowhere.

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Loki, you @#%*$!!!

This is very bad, since this could be where Thanos goes to pick up the Aether/Reality Stone from the Collector. Not to mention it seems he killed a whole lot of people here for no good reason…. But then, he wants to kill everyone for no good reason. So this scene isn’t really a surprise at all.

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And Spidey got an Iron Spider suit. Shiny – and it is good at grabbing the rotating innards of that portal gizmo. Nice. Does it come with missiles and extra legs, too? Those would be helpful right about now…

Whoops, looks like Thor is standing in the center ring of an even bigger portal doohicky. And he is trying to tear it apart. Or is he trying to activate it? Those look like the controls for the Milano in his hands, but that big bubble-wand is not Peter Quill’s ship. So what are we looking at here, exactly? And what is Thor trying to do?

All right, quick, stop that next scene!!! Did you see that?!?!?

No? Try again, as many times as you have to. We know who catches the glowing blue trident, but did you see who threw it?!?!

If you missed her despite your best efforts, don’t worry, I did, too. A lot. But then I managed to catch a glimpse of her. That, my dear readers, is Proxima Midnight – one of the leaders of the Black Order and a nasty, nasty lady. Did I say she was nasty? She gives nasty a bad name. That trident is her signature weapon.

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Proxima Midnight

It is hard for me to say just where she is standing. Looks like it could be an airport or a subway tunnel; maybe a factory or a gas station. Either way, it is dark, so someone cut the power here, or this scene happens at night. Proxima Midnight – Near Midnight. Ha-ha, very clever, Marvel.

The person she threw the trident at is none other than Captain America. (Seriously, let the man shave already!!! Beards are not meant for combat – they’re too easy for an opponent to grab and hold. Evans may get away with a beard, but Cap does not!!!) He is still shieldless but just as clearly still on the job.

I say this last because of the next scene where we see Steve. After Proxima tries to shish-kabob Cap, we see him step out of the shadows, looking like Star Wars RebelsAgent Kallus. Nevertheless, Wanda appears to be very happy to see him. To me, she almost seems ready to cry at the sight of him. Judging by the stuff in the background and the fact that her hands are glowing, it looks like Wanda engaged Proxima first, which means Steve came to back her up.

But if she is about to cry on seeing him, that might mean she was not expecting him to show up. This concerns me; Steve may not be using his Captain America moniker for the beginning of Infinity War, but he is not the kind of man who will sit back and let evil have its day. The fact that he shows up fully suited and combat ready, if a little scruffy, suggests he has been maintaining his superhero status since the end of Civil War.

I thought the rest of the anti-Accords Avengers would be with him. But if Wanda is so near tears when she sees him stop Proxima’s trident, plus the fact that she is wearing civvies and looks like she showed up to the fight underdressed, does that mean Cap disbanded his team and went solo? That doesn’t add up. They’re stronger and safer together, at least in pairs. I also don’t see the guys letting Wanda run around on her own, not after Ross locked her up in solitary on the Raft in Civil War. That is not like them.

Of course, maybe she didn’t give them a choice. Maybe she left of her own volition and has been staying off the radar her own way. If I were the guys, I still wouldn’t be willing to let her go off alone. The fact that no one kept an eye on Wanda in the early ‘90s after she had suffered a serious string of bad luck was one of the factors which led to her going crazy in the Avengers: Disassembled and House of M comics. If the writers are planning to go in this unhealthy direction in the films, I will not be happy. But if this is the result of the fact that she has married, or is living with, Vision – that I will accept.

Yes, I know I skipped T’Challa’s speech. But the part here with Wanda was really important. T’Challa’s words are totally in keeping with his character, and they do him immense credit, so I do no think I have to really dwell on them. Though I will say that I went a little squeaky when T’Challa said, “And get this man a shield.” Eeeek! Way to go, Panther! Make sure it is colored right, please! Yay!!!!! Captain America forever!!!!

Okay, next we see a new and improved (we hope) Hulkbuster in Wakanda, followed by Natasha jabbing someone in the midsection with a staff. Judging by the scenery behind Widow, I would say this is the same fight where Cap shows up to help Wanda battle Proxima Midnight. (Please let Natasha be stabbing Proxima Midnight, please let Natasha be stabbing Proxima Midnight, please, please, please…!)

Then we have Dr. Strange relaxing/freaking out (?) after doing a little magic (I mean, super-duper fast quantum calculations). Then we have a giant black pyramid thing – one of several – landing in what appears to be Wakanda. I am with Mr. Finn; if the Soul Stone is not in Wakanda’s basement treasury, I will be surprised and disappointed. There is no way Thanos and his aliens are after the vibranium – not when they can get better, stronger material in space. They have to be after something else here.

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After this we see Cap (without a shield), Panther, and a lot of Wakandans mixing it up with four-armed, big-toothed aliens. Then we see Spidey get slammed into the dirt by Thanos, followed by a shot of a distressed, unsuited Tony Stark. Next we see someone standing on Vision’s chest while stabbing the Mind Stone in his head, using a staff shaped like the one Loki had in The Avengers. This begs the question of whether or not Loki is the one doing the stabbing; looking at the shape of the stabber’s feet, I am inclined to say it is actually Ebony Maw or Corvus Glave, but I could be wrong.

I was actually much happier to see Bucky than I expected to be. That is a really nice gun, there, Buck. And you have a shiny new arm! (Please tell me it is made of vibranium; please tell me it is made of vibranium…!) Then we see T’Challa turning to look at the screen. If you freeze the shot, you will notice that Natasha is standing next to him. Her hair is in the lower right corner.

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Go get ’em, guys!

This is followed by assorted scenes of combat, as a horde of aliens tries to invade Wakanda. The only Avengers we can confirm are present in this battle so far are Cap, Widow, Bucky, Hulk, Panther, Falcon, and War Machine (I guess they fixed his back). Finally, we get a glimpse of Thor asking who in the Sam Hill the Guardians of the Galaxy are.

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The Guardians of what again?

You can just see the air go out of Quill’s tires when he says that. Four years on the job as Guardians and yet the Prince – now King – of Asgard has not heard of him and his crew? Come on, man!

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The Guardians of the Galaxy

This is going to be a rip-roaring ride. I cannot tell who may or may not die. Personally, I hope Thanos and the Black Order all get obliterated from the universe during this film, or during Avengers 4. And if bad stuff does happen to our heroes – and I do not see how they can escape scars, bruises, etc. here – I hope that six of ‘em each get a hand on an Infinity Stone and use the rocks’ combined power to set things right.

Some will say that is cheating, and maybe it is. But as I have said elsewhere, I do not go to these movies for the villains. I do not go to them to be told, “Lie down and die.” If I wanted that message, I would go to a DC film or to see the latest installment in the X-Men franchise.

I go to the Avengers films because they tell good stories, using heroes I love, and they give me hope. That last is in VERY short supply in most of the fare we receive from Hollywood these days. Only the Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit movies gave me the same sort of satisfaction as the Avengers have, with Star Trek a close runner up. I would not even be going to cinemas now if it were not for the Avengers cinematic saga.

So whether anyone likes it or not, I am not raffling off any of the heroes for death in this movie or its sequel. If the writers kill them, I am stuck; if the actors who play them have quit and necessitated the killing, I am stuck. I will not complain if they are sent off with honors. However, whether they live or die, I will not desire their deaths or the deaths of any other heroes in the films.

I do not worship death, as some of the people who follow these movies seem to do. I worship God, Whose hand I have seen in most of these stories. If the film writers turn away from Him, then they can kiss my cash goodbye. It has been a great ride, and I hope they end it well. If they do not, it will be a tragedy; but I have trusted God to steer them right so far. I trust Him to do it again. After Avengers 4, I will be able to either peacefully enjoy what comes next, or disengage from the franchise with a fond farewell. What shall be is not yet determined. It is out of my hands; I can only wait and see.

Ha, haha. For once, waiting does not seem quite as hard for me now as it has been in the past.

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Avengers – Assemble!

Spotlight: Strong Women – A Return to the Question

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We had met as equals, rarely a good thing in such matters, for the woman who wishes to be the equal of a man usually turns out to be less than a man and less than a woman.  A woman is herself, which is something altogether different than a man. – (Emphasis added.)

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This quote is from The Walking Drum, written by Louis L’Amour.  While Mr. L’Amour is best known for his Western fiction, the truth is that he wrote a great many other stories as well.  He served in World War II and “yondered” much of his early life.  He was many things and he saw many things.  The Walking Drum is a novel he wrote – and it is set in the twelfth century.

Why start a post off with this quote?  Because it is a timely admonition.  A woman ends up being less than herself when she is trying to be something she is not.  And yet we have no end of “experts” proclaiming that women are equal to men.  It makes the observant wonder just what they are selling.

The research I did for the post “Offended, Insulted, and Not Shutting Up” is what got this article rolling.  And before anyone asks, no, I have not shifted my position on Marvel’s decision to make Jane Foster the latest version of “Thor.”  It is a stupid decision which they will soon learn is not helping them.

My research into the opinions of others regarding “Thorette” allowed me to find comments and articles that expressed what I have thought for some years.  They were not all as delicate in their statements as I would have been but, to borrow a line from Mr. Spock and the Vulcans, that is part of the wonder of living in a world of “Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations.”  With this research tumbling around in my head, I began to think not only about “Thorette” but about what the intelligentsia says we are to praise in the female characters being created these days.

This brings us back to the question I asked in the previous “Strong Women” post.  Just what makes a strong woman?  Looking at “Thorette,” it seems safe to say that many writers and artists think a woman is only strong when she has an above-normal muscle structure.  This sort of physique also happens to look good in some form of armor-plated swimsuit or underwear, which conveniently guarantees a male audience of some size.  (These are probably not the guys a girl should accept the offer of a date from, by the way.)

Being a curious observer, I have a question to ask the writers and artists at Marvel and elsewhere.  Do they know how many female fans Carol Danvers has?  Do they know how many women are in Thundra and “Thorette’s” fan clubs?  Has anyone taken a poll of female Marvel fans to ask them what they think of these characters – not to mention what they think of all the other heroines on Marvel’s roster?

If Marvel were to poll its female fans, I believe that they may get answers like mine.  For instance:  I have never liked or admired Carol Danvers.  And I cannot seriously contemplate Thundra, a character from an alternate dimension where women are the dominant sex, without stifling the reflexive urge to throw up.  She has to be one of the few characters Marvel has created which I find utterly repulsive.  I know and prefer her only as a convenient villainess.

My opinion of Jane Foster/“Thorette” is well documented.  Jane Foster has been warped and nearly destroyed as Marvel’s writers, editors, managers, et al attempt to gain fashion and political points from her “new look.”  But what they fail to comprehend – or perhaps to admit – is that she looks horrible!

Now, does everyone feel this way about these characters?  Hardly.  But in my humble view, these female characters do not appeal enough to be worth any kind of money.  Judging by “Thorette’s” anemic reception and the letters Marvel received about Carol Danvers years ago, I do not think I am that alone in disliking them.

What kind of female characters, then, impress me?  Allow me to pull out another quote from Mr. L’Amour to illustrate my answer:

 

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A man you can figure on; a woman you can’t.  They’re likely either to faint, or grab for a gun, regardless of consequences. – from Chancy

 The Cherokee Trail

These are the kind of women who fascinate me, and whom I wish to emulate.  Remember, fainting can easily be faked.  How is a man to know a real faint from a false one without putting himself in danger?  Louis L’Amour’s female characters are like this.  They are iron-willed women who have bones of steel.  They can handle a pistol, a rifle, or they can use some other object as a weapon.

You will not find any of L’Amour’s female characters holding up stages, taming broncos, or riding the range as cowgirls, it is true.  But you will find women in his stories that are leading cattle drives, managing ranches, and defending their homes from Indians or bandits.  And plenty of his women are quite happy to back up their men in a fight by holding a shotgun on the group of ruffians looking to make trouble.  The women in L’Amour’s novels of seafaring and in his football stories are no different.  Admittedly they do not carry guns in the vicinity of a football game, but they are just as determined and forceful as the frontier women who were their ancestors, in spirit if not in fact.

What does all of this have to do with Marvel?  The comic book company already has a Rolodex of formidable heroines.  To name a few, there is the Wasp, the Black Widow, Mockingbird, Wanda Maximoff, Silverclaw, Jean Grey, Rogue, Storm, the Invisible Woman….  The post “Offended, Insulted, and Not Shutting Up” has a more comprehensive list, if you would like to learn of more heroines in Marvel’s Universe(s).

The fact is these women can all hold their own in a fight.  Yes, these characters have an extra asset of some kind during combat.  Mockingbird and Black Widow have extensive hand-to-hand combat training, while Storm, Rogue, and Jean Grey have mutant powers.  Many other female characters within the Marvel brand also have superpowers.  But a pistol or a rifle is an asset, too, and no frontier woman who wanted to survive would shun either weapon because it was not natural to her.  It was often the only thing standing between her and harm – or death.  You respect that kind of tool; you do not toss it aside.

So do any of these Marvelous assets cheapen who these women are as characters?  No, they do not.  Nor do they enhance their characters; they are simply stand-ins for the rifles, pistols, or the various weapons women have used throughout the centuries.  Sometimes they are even extensions of the abilities women have always had:  intelligence, mental agility, and outright strength of will.

As a result one never knows just what any of these heroines are going to do in a given crisis.  One can never know just how they are going to play the game, how they are going to react to the villain’s bait.  They may play on his arrogance or they may pretend to be simpering, frightened damsels.  Whatever they do it is bound to be interesting and exciting, for the simple reason that it has the potential to be totally unexpected.

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Carol Danvers or Thundra, in comparison, can always be counted on to hammer at a problem until it goes away.  Why is this so?  It is so because they are women who are less than women.  The writers have decided to make them something they are not.  As a result, they have personalities that are as stilted as a puppet’s limbs, making them very uninteresting.

The other heroines do not have this built-in handicap.  They are women who are not afraid of being women.  This means that they do not think like the men around them.  This gives them their edge in a battle.  It is not their superpowers, skills, or weapons.  It is who they are as people, as women.

When these heroines are safely captured, they are often deemed by the villains as no longer a threat because they cannot use their powers, kung fu, or technology.  With Danvers or Thundra this is usually a true assessment.  They are not used to thinking outside the box – or thinking much at all, from what I have seen.  In a pitched battle they simply react.  This makes them relatively easy for their opponents to overcome or dispatch.

Many of Marvel’s other heroines, however, never stop thinking.  They are always watching, listening, assessing, and working out a plan of some sort.  If the only possible plan they can make is to wait for back up, then that is what they have to do.  Their male counterparts have experienced similar crises, though you will not hear these mentioned by very many critics.  If they could survive the wait and not be diminished by it, then why can’t their female counterparts?

From Marvel to DC, from Star Trek to Andre Norton’s Witch World series, from Star Wars to Howl’s Moving Castle and its sequels, there is no end of proof that women can be as bold and brave as the men in their lives – and they can be as bold without compromising their womanhood.

This is what modern writers, filmmakers, and artists no longer consider.  In fact they are actively running away from this truth because it has become passé to portray a woman as she actually is.  Instead a fictional heroine must be displayed as something other than a woman.  You go to the theaters to see the latest films and most of the women in these movies have no problem cutting off men’s heads or disemboweling them.  Not only do they have no physical problem doing it, which many of them should, but they also have no moral qualms about doing it.

Image result for wonder woman filmThe Wonder Woman movie out next year promises to be a case in point.  I was once a big fan of Wonder Woman.  This was not because of her strength or because of her Lasso of Truth.  No, I liked her because of these things and the fact that she was still a woman.  Throughout her adventures with the JLA, Diana learned to respect and like her male teammates, to appreciate their abilities and welcome them as friends.  Later series even had her dating Batman!

But recent rewrites by DC Comics have turned Wonder Woman into a bloodthirsty man-hater.  It is true that in the coming film she is going to fall in love with Steve Trevor (portrayed by Chris Pine).  While she is doing that, though, she will also be happily carving men to pieces and telling women that being secretaries is the equivalent of slavery.  You would think she came from an alternate universe and not an island inhabited by Greek warrior women.

All of this detracts from the real power of women.  By portraying a woman as what she is not, these writers and artists are not elevating women.  They are demeaning and demoting them.

The fictional heroine who easily encapsulates what a real warrior woman can and should be is Éowyn of Rohan from The Lord of the Rings.  Secretly joining the Rohirrim’s army as it marches to battle in Gondor, she is the one who defeats the Witch-king, the leader of the Nine Ringwraiths or Názgul.  Merry, taken into Gondor by her when she wore the guise of a male Rider, helps her with a well-placed sword-thrust.  But it is Éowyn who ultimately strikes the fatal blow and wins a great victory in the glorious Battle of the Pelennor Fields.

Still, many Feminists go into apoplectic fits over Éowyn’s role in The Lord of the Rings novels despite her amazing display of courage and fighting skill.  Why?  They do this because Éowyn leaves war behind forever when she decides to accept Faramir’s proposal of marriage after recovering from her battle with the Witch-king.  That particular passage reads thus:

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Then the heart of Éowyn changed, or else at last she understood it. And suddenly her winter passed, and the sun shone on her.

‘I stand in Minas Anor, the Tower of the Sun,’ she said; ‘and behold! the Shadow has departed! I will be a shieldmaiden no longer, nor vie with the great Riders, nor take joy only in the songs of slaying. I will be a healer, and love all things that grow and are not barren.’

Image result for eowyn and faramirThe thing Feminists do not understand – or the thing which they absolutely refuse to accept – is that Éowyn’s triumph in battle does not define her.  She did an amazing, wonderful thing, which most other people could never accomplish.  Her decision to marry Faramir does not render her defeat of the Witch-king any less; rather, her decision to marry is the reward she earned in that fight.

Éowyn’s part in the Battle of the Pelennor Fields does not define her identity, and most Feminists want that stereotype to define and limit her.  This is most of Éowyn’s own problem in the trilogy until she falls in love with Faramir.  Up to that point, she believes that battle will give her satisfaction.  Poisoned along with Théoden by Wormtongue’s whisperings, in her confusion and slow descent into despair Éowyn decides that only death in battle will give her a chance at glory and renown.

Now, readers, the fact is that death is not a fulfillment of life.  It is the end of life, and if you ally yourself with death, you are allying yourself with the Enemy.

In Minas Tirith – originally named Minas Anor or ‘Tower of the Sun’ – Éowyn finally comes to see that battle is not where she can be most useful when she is at last confronted by Faramir’s genuine love for her.  Being a warrior is not her calling, although she can certainly wield a sword as well as any man.  Her vocation in life is being a woman, a wife, and eventually a mother.

Through Éowyn the author of the trilogy, J.R.R. Tolkien, demonstrates that a woman is not made by her fighting ability.  She is distinguished by her will, her womanhood and – if she is lucky – by her motherhood.  “For the hand that rocks the cradle is that hand that rules the world.”  Mothers shape their children, daughters and sons both.  These daughters and sons will grow up to change the world through the things they do, the things they create, and the children they bring into the universe.

Modern media has largely forsaken this understanding of womanhood at the behest of the Hegelian/Nietzschean complex, the modern incarnation of Sauron.  There has been a war going on for the past century or three which most have not paid heed to.  This has led to nothing but a lot of pain for women, who have been persuaded as a group to throw away the knowledge that they once possessed. Their honor is their womanhood and it is our societal honor to know them as such.

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This is why I have taken issue with Jane Foster’s identity change, not to mention the identity change of several other formerly male characters.  This is why I have written two posts on strong women.  It is an attempt to remind women of what we truly are and what we can actually achieve.  For when women stop valuing themselves as women, society stops valuing them as well, and then that society sooner rather than later treats them like chattel.

ISIS does this on a daily basis.  Slave traders and sex traffickers rely on such attitudes to do “business.”  The shout of “I am Woman, hear me roar!” has led to nothing but pain and sorrow for millions of women.  They have chosen to debase themselves.  This means they are no longer worthy of special respect and value to men.  For if women do not value themselves as women, as potential wives and mothers, then why should men?

Does all this mean that a woman cannot fight?  Pshaw.  Éowyn fought, did she not?  It is not possible that she forgot how to swing a sword after marrying Faramir.  She simply did not make a living fighting – and for the record, neither did he!  The heroines of Marvel Comics fight; the women in Star Trek and Star Wars fight.  The will to fight is the influential factor.  Just ask the mothers and wives who grabbed a gun to help defend against Indian raids or bandits back in the Old West!  Or those that defend themselves and their families similarly today.

But if a woman wants to make a career as a warrior, she cannot try and be the equal of the men.  This can never be, for the simple fact that no amount of human interference – psychological or scientific – can overwrite what she is.  And if a woman decides she wishes to be a “shieldmaiden,” then she had better be prepared for what could happen to her on the field of battle.  Torture, the loss of life and limb, rape – these are just some of the risks which I can see ahead of a female soldier.  An enemy who does not value life – and there are many of those today – can be abominably creative in the management of prisoners.  Just ask Dean Koontz.

Han and Leia

Does all this mean that I believe a woman should not be prepared to fight?  Civilization is a very, very fragile construction.  One small thing goes out of whack and entire nations fall to their knees.  Women definitely need to know how to defend themselves.  They have always needed to know this.

But what women need to relearn is that it is not battle which will define them.  Battle does not define a man, so how can it define a woman?  A man or a woman is defined by who and what they are.  A man is defined by his manhood, a woman by her womanhood.  That is all there is to it.

This is not weakness.  It is not slavery.  Knowing who and what you are is not a defect; it is a strength.  Being proud of being a man or a woman is what gives one the will to fight, to protect oneself from those who do not appreciate you for who and what you are.  Muscles, weapons, skills – these are the tools.  They are not the determining factors.  We, men and women, are the weapons.

Until writers at Marvel, DC, Star Trek, and elsewhere figure that out, though, we will have to endure continuous watered-down portrayals of heroines in many stories.  Until these “artists” ask themselves, “What really makes a strong woman?”, they will continue coming up with the wrong answers.

Readers, I will give Mr. L’Amour the last word on this subject:

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She’ll stand to it.  There’s a likely craft, lad, and one to sail any sea.  You can see it in the clear eyes of her and the way she carries her head.  Give me always a woman with pride, and pride of being a woman.  She’s such a one. – from The Warrior’s Path

Amen, readers.  Amen!

The Mithril Guardian

Rise of the Guardians

I have wanted to write a post about Rise of the Guardians since a few hours after I saw it. But nothing would come to me in a distinct way, and so I have let it lie for a while. However, with Easter approaching, I thought it best to get down to “tacks of brass,” as one character in this film put it. The post you are now reading is the result.

First and foremost, I love Rise of the Guardians. It is a GREAT film and, sadly, it was panned by the “critics.” (Why do the critics always seem to get it wrong?!? *Aggravated sigh.*)

Rise of the Guardians centers on Jack Frost, a boy who the Man in the Moon made a powerful winter specter. This is after he ended up at the bottom of an icy lake. As a winter spirit, Jack has the ability to cause snowstorms, blizzards, frosts and – best of all – SNOW DAYS!!!

Jack loves to have fun. A spirit with a mischievous, sometimes nasty sense of humor, Jack spends lots of his time with children. But unlike Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the Sandman, and the Tooth Fairy, no one believes that Jack actually exists. Jack can have all the fun he wants, but because no children believe in him, they cannot see him. People walk right through him every day.

Jack does not understand his life as a spirit. The Man in the Moon put him here, but Jack has no idea why. It makes him angry, sad, and frustrated. (This may explain the nasty bent to his sense of humor.)

In the modern day, Jack is recruited to join the Guardians of childhood. These Guardians are: North (Santa Claus), Sandman (or Sandy), the Easter Bunny (or ‘Bunny’ for short), and the Tooth Fairy (also called ‘Tooth’). They explain that the Man in the Moon has decided Jack should become a Guardian as well, which startles him. Jack has tried talking to the Man in the Moon on his own for years and come up empty. Now he learns that the Guardians apparently have had a direct line of communication with the “big guy” since year dot.

But the Guardians do not let Jack leave. They have a problem. (Well, two, actually…) One problem is Pitch Black, a.k.a. the Boogey Man. A powerful spirit of fear, Pitch has had no one believe in him since the Dark Ages, when the Man in the Moon first appointed the Guardians to watch over the children of the Earth and protect them from Pitch’s influence.

Two: Jack does not want to be a Guardian. He likes children just fine. It is the “bribing” children with gifts and goodies he does not want to get in on. He would also really like to avoid the deadlines and hard work North, Bunny, and Tooth put into their jobs. For some reason, he never realizes that Sandman has no such duties attached to his job. Then again, maybe Jack knew that but did not want to land himself in an argument he could not win by mentioning it.

Jack is drawn into the fight with Pitch despite his initial reluctance, and in the process he learns why the Man in the Moon made him a winter sprite – and why he has been chosen to be one of the Guardians of childhood.

I will try to keep the spoilers to a minimum for those of you who have not seen the film. This is going to be hard because the inspiration for this post is a piece of dialogue within the movie. After Jack is told that the Man in the Moon thinks he should be a Guardian, North takes him to his personal workshop and demands to know what Jack’s “center” is. What is it that makes Jack Frost – well, Jack Frost?

In the process, North explains that his “center” is wonder. He sees only the “wonder” in life, like “lights in the trees and in the air.” “This wonder is what I put into the world,” he adds, “and what I protect in children.”

The important part of this piece of dialogue is how North points out that he “puts” wonder into the world. We are all born for a purpose, which Chris Pine points out in the behind-the-scenes for the story. One of the main questions every human asks is “why am I here?” That is the question Jack has to wrestle with in the movie, and which we all have to figure out ourselves.

But the thing I noticed was that North said he “puts” wonder into the world. It is not just that he reveals it and protects it; he “puts” it into the world. And that got me thinking: aren’t we all supposed to “put” something into the world? Not necessarily a new invention or a new discovery so much as what we ourselves can do and think. Aren’t we all called to put something good into the world, something(s) like wonder, hope, and happiness?

The fact is that we are called to put those things into the world, and more. But, of course, “many are called, few are chosen.” This is best exemplified by the film’s villain. Pitch Black may have been made a sprite by the Man in the Moon, too. We do not know this for sure, and the movie gives us no hints. However, if that is the case, then maybe Pitch was supposed to put something good into the world as well.

This is not how he uses his power, though. Pitch puts fear into the world not in order to help people but so that he can control them. He specifically mentions that he wielded a lot of power in the Dark Ages, prior to the arrival of the Guardians. Where he could use his ability to help people overcome or face their fears, if he wanted to, he instead uses his power to control them.

North, Tooth, Bunny, Sandman, and even Jack do not do this. They put things into the world to help other people, specifically children. North puts wonder into the world, while Bunny keeps hope alive for others. Tooth protects memories, the precious memories of childhood. Sandman protects dreams, the most powerful things in the world. Without dreams of aspiring to be better than we are, we will never get anywhere.

And Jack – well, explaining what he puts into the world would be telling. I am not going to do that. However, I am going to spoil a little something extra and explain why Jack is not seen by children until the end of the film. For all the time he has been a sprite, Jack Frost has used his powers to try and convince people that he exists. This does not work because Jack is using his power for his own gain.

At the end of the film, though, he uses his power to help the Guardians when they are at their weakest. That is when he becomes visible to children, for the first time since he was made a spirit. When Jack uses his power to help the other Guardians he becomes a Guardian as well. By using his powers for someone other than himself, Jack earns his heart’s desire: to be seen and loved by children. To no longer be alone.

Another great thing about the film is that it emphasizes the importance of children. This may be why the critics panned it. The Guardians are supposed to protect children because “they are all that we are, and all that we will ever be.” Too true.

If you have an opportunity to see Rise of the Guardians over Easter, I highly recommend it to you, readers! The film is actually set in the three days prior to and including Easter. It is definitely a good film for the season – even with all the snow in it! So, readers…

See ya around!

The Mithril Guardian