Tag Archives: Friendship

Zoids: Chaotic Century – A Series Review

Technically, I already did a review of the Japanese series Zoids: Chaotic Century. But not too long ago I became curious to see if Zoids had become a topic of conversation on WordPress. After all, that was the raison d’etre for my Spotlight! posts; I started them to put the word out about not only my favorite Japanese “mecha,” but to start a conversation about my much loved anime.

At least, that was what I hoped would happen. Aside from a few likes, nobody seems really interested in discussing Zoids, whether it is Chaotic Century’s zoids or any of the other series. So I sort of let the matter drop, going back to my usual Spotlight! posts and remembering the show fondly, as always….

Then I had the trailer for Zoids: Field of Rebellion recommended to me, and my Zoidian fervor re-engaged itself – with a vengeance!

Not that my love for zoids is ever very far away from me. One of the things I have learned about the stories I enjoy is that, no matter where I go or what makes me set them aside, my favorite characters in fiction will reassert their importance to me when I least expect them to do so. They also seem to like doing this to me when I need them most.

One of the reasons that Chaotic Century has a special appeal to me is not simply because I was young and impressionable when I first saw it. I associate certain things with how the show makes me feel. A beautiful autumn day, an open horizon, a certain tangy, alluring bite in the air – these are triggers which still make me itch, even now, to find a zoid and hop in its cockpit.

I know that zoids do not exist. I have known this for years. But there is still something that I can sense in the air sometimes that makes me feel as eager as I only did when I watched or thought about Zoids. The trailer for Field of Rebellion not only intensified that childish wish, it made me hope for a film based on at least the zoids themselves, if not on Chaotic Century.

If Takara Tomy or another Japanese company is actually thinking of turning Chaotic Century into a film, then all I can say is: “Go for it! Go For It! GO FOR IT!!!!” I have wanted a zoids film – or a series of films about zoids – for as long as I have been a fan of Chaotic Century. But as I grew older and watched other shows I enjoyed made into films, seeing how they were abused and mangled by Hollywood, I began to fear that a film about Chaotic Century would destroy the story and the characters I loved so dearly.

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For this reason, I have decided to inaugurate a series of Spotlight! posts that will focus on the characters from Zoids. I do not want these great characters who still visit me when I need their encouragement to be destroyed as the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the Transformers, and other childhood friends have been. No amount of CGI zoids or fantastic storytelling would save a film that abused these characters, and this is something I wish to make perfectly clear to anyone who may be considering creating a film based on Zoids: Chaotic Century.

But before I get to those posts, I thought it best to review what makes Chaotic Century such a powerful series. It is not the music (which is stellar); it is not the artistry (which is appealing), and it is not the English dubbing (which is not perfect but still works quite well).

It is the characters, the zoids, the plot, and the themes of the series that make Zoids: Chaotic Century such a magnificent story worthy of the best efforts of those who paint pictures on the silver screen. There are four main plot points in Chaotic Century that MUST be present in any film based on the show. These are:

Friendship, Love, and Redemption

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I will touch on this more in the character posts, but one of Chaotic Century’s biggest selling points was its character growth. Though the story starts out somewhat slowly, the friendships between the characters develop so well and so thoroughly that you do not notice just how far they have come until the stakes begin to rise. Then you suddenly get jerked into a position that lets you realize that these characters have grown due to their contact and interaction with each other. You realize that they would never have become the people they are in X episode if not for the fact that they fell in with each other earlier and have been traveling together since.

The love aspect is present in the main romance in the series, which lasts from episode one to episode sixty-seven. We never see the end result, but we are left to believe that the main characters do indeed live happily ever after when the credits finally roll. A few side romances are shown as well, and these are all handled with an adroit touch. The main couple only exchanges one kiss, and that was not a smooch of the physical variety. If the writers for the movie will not honor these relationships in any film about the series, I will not be watching that movie.

Redemption is a big part of the series as well. Many of the villains in the story turn over a new leaf during the course of the show, while several remain evil to the bitter end. These redemptions never feel forced, as the one for Helmut Zemo did in Avengers Assemble’s “House of Zemo.” They never feel tacked on, either, as the redemption of Doctor Octopus in Ultimate Spider-Man’s series finale did.

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Best of all, there are no saving twists for the villains, such as we see in Maleficent. The bad guys either reform or they croak. A couple of villains do kind of reform before they die, but that is probably for the best, as their redemption arcs weren’t likely to last beyond that episode.

Redemption in Zoids takes place gradually; it is natural, the result of progressive character growth and discovery. It is not a spoonfed, hamfisted “let’s all sing Kumbaya and admit that our dads were jerks” moment. (Now that I think about it, not one of the fathers in the series was even a mild jerk, let alone a horrible, horrible person. Score another point for Zoids: Chaotic Century!)

A film about this series has to include these elements; it has to build the friendships and the romances smoothly and quietly. It has to be just as soft on the redemption arcs for the villains as well. Any movie about Chaotic Century that does not do this will not do the series justice, and I will NOT pay to see it.

I know these character arcs would not be easy to condense in a film (franchise), which is the other reason I have been leery of the idea of translating the TV show into a film (series). But if a Chaotic Century movie (series) is in the works somewhere, or on someone’s mental backburner, this character growth is going to prove a challenge for them. It will be a worthwhile challenge, but they may not get the necessary thanks they deserve for this work – even from a Chaotic Century fan like me, unfortunately.

Never Give Up Hope – Or the Fight

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Mostly, it is the main character, Van Flyheight, who has the never give up/never lose hope attitude. This attitude is passed on to his friends by him, thereby infusing the entire story and tying it tightly to reality. We have all faced moments when the going gets so tough, so nigh unbearable, that we cannot stand to think of dealing with the pain for another instant.

Zoids: Chaotic Century shows that even Van is not invulnerable to these moments. What makes him different is that, for him, these moments are rare and they do not last. This allows him to inspire others to hold on to hope when it appears that the battle is already lost.

I cannot tell you how valuable this plot point in Chaotic Century has been for me during my life. I am as weak as the next person; there have been moments when I can see the bottom of the pit of despair, when I have thought life would never, ever get better.

Chaotic Century has been, in some ways, a life-saver for me in these moments. Sure, I have had the “it’s-a-cartoon-and-has-nothing-to-do-with-real-life” thoughts about it. But Zoids taught me that you only really lose the fight when you give up hope. Maybe you cannot always feel hope, as Van seems to, but the show taught me that quitting simply is not an option. Through this show you learn that giving up simply cements your loss while holding out in spite of the pain means you might actually be able to turn the tide of the battle.

A film (or series of them) based on this TV show has to reference tenacious hope as often as its progenitor did. Otherwise, it will not be based on Chaotic Century but on the producer/director/writer’s agenda. The only agenda for a movie (series) based on Chaotic Century should be that hope is more powerful than despair, no matter how grave matters appear to be.

Pursue Your Full Potential – As a Pilot and as a Person

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A sub-theme, if we can call it that, in Chaotic Century is that in order to become the best (or at least a competent and good) pilot in the world, the pilot and his zoid have to reach their full potential as a fighting unit. As one wise character in the series told Van’s friend, “Zoids can sense [their pilots’] feelings and emotions and use them to enhance their own capabilities [in battle]. Once [the pilots] recognize that, the possibilities are endless.”

Anyone who has ever watched zoids remembers the “awe and excitement” we felt when we first saw these enormous, mechanical “spirit animals” running across the screen. We wanted to be that strong, that fierce, and that able to fight. We wanted to be the heroic pilots of our favorite zoids.

The problem Chaotic Century addresses is that zoid pilots can lose sight of this potential in the thick of battle, and thus they lose sight not only of why they became a pilot, but of who they are as people. This leads them to consider their zoids and everyone else’s to be “ordinary” fighting machines which are only useful as tools, pets, or weapons. They stop seeing zoids for what they truly are and see only what they can get out of them.

The challenge Zoids: Chaotic Century presents to its characters – and thereby to its viewers – is it asks us whether or not we have kept our eyes on the prize. The prize is our “full potential” which, while it can never truly be reached in this life, is the only thing worth striving after. Money, power, luxury – these are distractions, in many cases deadly ones. The true potential of a man (or a woman) cannot and should not – must not – be gauged by these foolish categories. What matters is whether or not you are striving after your full potential. Because it is only by chasing after your full potential in this life that you can actually achieve it in the next.

This theme ties directly into the fourth premise any filmakers who wish to bring Zoids: Chaotic Century to the silver screen must keep in mind….

Wonder

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This theme is so obvious that we fans tend to forget it. Wonder radiates palpably from Chaotic Century; but we viewers become so accustomed to the zoids that, like their pilots, we tend to stop marveling at these magnificent mechanical creatures as we should. We become so used to the vast desert vistas, the high mountains, the plateaus, the hills and plains in the series that we forget how beautiful they are. The music – which still sends tingles along my skin and inspires me to smile like a maniac – becomes so much a part of the background that we hardly notice it.

The way Chaotic Century keeps us on our toes is by having the characters point out the wonder of these things. Time and time again, characters remark on the beauty and splendor of the zoids, reminding us of how special these creatures are. The appreciation that the ordinary village folk in the series show for the countryside they live in reminds us that these vistas are available to us wherever we live. We simply have to actually look out the window and see them as they are. The sacrifices the characters make for each other, the little gestures of friendship and romance sprinkled throughout each episode, call on us to realize how valuable our own friends and families are to us.

Above all, Chaotic Century prompts us to keep our eyes on the prize. It constantly reminds us to strive after hope in hopeless situations, to fight to maintain our urge to discover our true potential. We may not be zoid pilots (no matter how much some of us wish we were!), but we are people who are gifted with different talents, different purposes in this life.

Are we pursuing these vigorously, working to find the “endless possibilities” open to us as we work on these things that we love? Or have we become “jaded” and forgotten what made us want to be a mother, a father, a football player, a Marine, a piano player, a writer, an artist, etc. in the first place? Are we striving for the good, the beautiful, and the best that we can achieve – or have we completely lost our sense of direction?

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Many of the characters in Zoids: Chaotic Century have lost sight of the real reason they became zoid pilots. They have lost sight of the real reason why they wanted to get in the cockpit. As the series progresses, they relearn this – allowing us to learn to look at our own lives with new eyes because we have seen the characters do it.

A film – or a series of them – based on Chaotic Century must have these four qualities. If it (or they) does not, then it has failed to give homage to its progenitor franchise, just as the new TMNT movies and the first three Transformers films did. But a zoids film (franchise) that acknowledges its source material, that shows an appreciation for it, can only be pursuing the series’ full potential on a grander scale.

I leave you to discover Zoids: Chaotic Century for yourselves, readers, as I did in my last post. In addition, I also leave you the longest trailer for Zoids: Field of Rebellion. If they could make this video (which is ABSOLUTELY SPECTACULAR FROM A VISUAL STANDPOINT), then they can make a film out of Chaotic Century!

I do not know if they will do this. I want them to do it, as long as they do not try to rewrite the series when they make the film(s). If they can tell this story, whole and entire on theater screens, I will be in seventh heaven. You will have to tie me to the seat and gag me in order to get through the movie, but I will be happier than a clam if Zoids makes it into theaters.

But that is not my decision to make. I can only watch the TV series and the trailers for Field of Rebellion – and dream. For now, that is enough.

See you on the battlefield, readers!

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Captain America: Civil War, Trailer 1

 

The first trailer for Captain America: Civil War is out, readers! I have been thinking about this trailer a fair bit, obviously. This is not a prognostications post, like the ones I wrote for Age of Ultron. It is more of a free flowing speculation post.

I have to say that this Civil War trailer is very good, with lots of high-powered action. But it is also a painful thing to watch. I literally had to swallow tears watching it the first few times. Occasionally, it still leaves me depressed and upset.

For those out there who crassly sneer about this, reminding me unnecessarily that this movie is dark and going places the other Marvel films “feared to tread,” I have a reminder for you. It is not good to revel in another’s pain. We are too often tempted with that, sadly. I see no reason to cheer on the war of wills between Steve Rogers and Tony Stark.

As I have said before, I am firmly on Captain America’s side in this war. Tony has a rather lousy moral record; he has been known to socialize with weapons dealers like Ulysses Klaue, as well as being a debaucher and a self-centered jerk with an ego the size of the moon. He is not someone to support on matters of such importance.

In contrast, Cap has never faltered. His moral compass has never wavered, and despite the chatter on the Internet, I do not believe he ever will, even in Civil War. The Russos have actually supported my gut feeling, since they have stated the obvious: Cap’s sense of morality is part of his superpower. If it was just his super soldier serum which made him so interesting, he would hardly be more beloved than any other Marvel hero. And we all know that he is the most beloved of Marvel’s characters. Even Spider-Man falls just shy of the affection most Marvel fans have for Cap. Spidey is just easier to market than Cap is these days.

One of the most important things revealed in this Civil War trailer is that Cap does not want this war. Having never read the comics, I cannot vouch for those, but he does not want a civil war in this film.

What makes me so sure he does not want a Civil War? A little line which made it into the trailer. “I’m sorry, Tony,” Cap says. “You know I wouldn’t do this if there was another way. But he’s my friend.”

Cap does not say with these lines that he is throwing away his new friendships for his old one with Bucky. He is choosing both. He sacrificed his life to save the world at the end of WW II, and he will live with that sacrifice for the rest of his life. But Bucky’s life was stolen from him. And, in Civil War, people are trying to take his life away from him again. As his friend, Cap will not stand for that. He will not let Bucky’s life be stolen from him a second time, especially for a crime he did not commit.

Tony’s response to Cap’s statement, however, is absolutely horrifying. “So was I.”

Was. Was! Cap did not say, “You were my friend, Tony.” He said, “I wouldn’t be doing this if there was another way.” He is not rejecting Tony’s friendship; he is not discarding him or the Avengers for Bucky. He is trying to protect them all, as well as give his childhood friend a chance at making a new life for himself in relative safety.

But Tony does not see it that way. He is discarding Cap, along with his desire and attempts to keep them all together and free, rejecting his friendship. His three word line immediately made my throat constrict and my heart sink. Of all the mistakes Tony has ever made in the films, this has to be the utter worst. Cap understands that friendship and freedom trumps everything. Tony does not, and it is going to cost him.

From what we can see in this trailer, it appears that Bucky is framed for a murder, and thus he is being hunted down. This, along with some international incident following a battle involving the Avengers, will be what kicks off Civil War.

Well, I think it is possible that the international incident and Bucky’s supposed crime happen at nearly the same time. It appears that Civil War could open in medio res, or in the middle of things. Avengers: Age of Ultron did the same thing. If Civil War opens in the African market we have seen clips and set photos of, then the international incident may take place in Wakanda.

If that is the case, then “Bucky’s” target could well be Wakandan King T’Chaka, father of soon-to-be Black Panther T’Challa. T’Challa is said to “be in the beginning phases of taking on the Black Panther mantle” in Civil War. The title of Black Panther is passed down through the Wakandan royal line. Every ruler of Wakanda, as I understand things, has worn the title of Black Panther. The role of the Black Panther is similar to the role Cap played in WW II: protect the nation from outside aggressors.

Why?

Wakanda, from what I know of it, is a postage-stamp sized fictional African country in the Marvel Universe. It is highly advanced, more so than any first world country, because it is built smack-dab on top of the biggest – and possibly the only – deposit of vibranium on Earth. The Wakandans’ understanding of vibranium is what makes them such a technologically advanced nation.

It is also why they are xenophobic in their contact with the outside world. As we know, vibranium is the strongest metal on Earth (equaled in the comics only by adamantium, which is heavier and more easily acquired). In fact, for most of Marvel history, the world had no idea Wakanda existed until around WW II. Knowing how dangerous vibranium is, the last thing the Wakandans wanted was the metal falling into the wrong hands. They take it very personally when someone steals even a sliver of the metal. How Klaue made it out of Wakanda with as much vibranium as he had in Ultron borders on the magical; he should not have been able to get that much vibranium out of the country. No wonder they branded him “Thief” in such an unpleasant manner.

There is also a mystical element to the Black Panther mantle. Becoming the Black Panther, after having received the title properly, means that the person using the title gains all the strength, agility, speed, and senses of a real panther. T’Challa’s ability to keep up with – and apparently outpace – Cap and Bucky is probably related to this.

Also, T’Challa’s suit in the film should be made almost entirely out of vibranium. I do not know if it is an entirely vibranium suit in the comics, but it would make sense if it was. It is the strongest metal on Earth in the films; it is only reasonable that the Wakandans would use it to make a suit for the person charged with protecting their country and its deposit of vibranium.

In the comics and cartoons, T’Challa’s suit has claws built into the gloves. These claws are made of vibranium and are able to scratch through anything, just like Wolverine’s adamantium-coated claws. Vibranium and adamantium are two of the Earth metals that can harm the Hulk in the form of blades. T’Challa also has a series of vibranium daggers hidden in his suit in some cartoons. He may not have these in the film, but it is possible that he might have a set of vibranium daggers in Civil War.

If Bucky is blamed for T’Chaka’s assassination (or attempted assassination), then it would make sense for T’Challa to join up with Tony in Civil War. He wants justice, or revenge, for his father’s death. This means we will very likely see T’Challa facing off against Cap, and since vibranium is the only thing that can harm itself, it is possible that Cap’s shield will have some scratches put in it during the movie. However, since T’Challa is prince of the nation which owns all the vibranium on Earth, he can repair it once everything is sorted out at the end of Civil War.

I do not know exactly why Natasha has sided with Tony Stark in Civil War. I know she was on the pro-Registration side in the comics, but her motivations there are also a total mystery to me. Especially since she was apparently a non-combatant in the comic book war (how did that happen?).

The Russos have said that Natasha is trying to keep the Avengers from being disbanded. This makes sense, considering the fact that, if the Avengers were disbanded, she would have nowhere to go. Being an Avenger grants her a certain amount of immunity. At the end of Winter Soldier, she faced down the D.C. bureaucrats and told them how many buns make a dozen. They did not like that, and they have the power and ammo to bury her well below six feet under. So not only does being an Avenger give her purpose, it protects her from powerful people who see only her dark past and would gladly lock her up to die in the “Pit of Despair,” if you will. So siding with Tony would seem to her, perhaps, to be the best way to save the Avengers and herself. Self-preservation could very well be her motive for joining Team Iron.

That does not mean she is not conflicted during Civil War. She and Cap are good friends, and where Tony appears to believe that Cap is abandoning them all for his old war buddy, Natasha does not seem to share that sentiment. After all, she has been in Steve’s shoes. Her best friend was mind-controlled into helping Loki invade Earth. She would have gone through Hell to get Hawkeye back. Can she expect any less from Cap, who has proven that not only will he go through Hell to get Bucky back, but he will let Bucky beat him nearly to death as well?

As an added dilemma, Hawkeye sides with Cap in the upcoming war. The why is easy to guess: he worked for SHIELD only as long as his family was kept out of their files, and he has stayed with the Avengers in order to keep his wife and children safe. Someday he will have to let someone else have his job – one of his sons, or a stranger. But until that day he will fight to protect his family and the world they live in. Registering with the U.N. means that they will want to know everything about him. And it is hard to believe that the U.N. would not put his family in a database somewhere once they learned about them.

Clint does not want that. He will stand up to those in authority when they begin abusing their power, and these fictional Sokovian Accords are a blatant abuse of power. If the government can tell the Avengers who to target and who not to target, then they will end up with the same situation they faced in Midtown Manhattan in The Avengers. The World Security Council, likely a committee from the U.N., was quite willing to wipe out NYC with a nuclear warhead in The Avengers. Now that the latest weapons are people with super powers or “specific skill sets,” they are trying to make them the new “nuclear deterrents” completely at their command.

Except the Avengers are people, not weapons or tools. And people do not like being enslaved, under any circumstances.

Remember when I said that Clint had issues with authority in the comics? Well, it looks like he is about to take a very great issue with the government in Civil War. He has already proven he will break with his orders when he believes those orders are wrong. That is why Natasha is even alive, let alone an Avenger. And if he accepted SHIELD’s offer of a job only on condition that Fury erase his family from digital and analog existence, then Fury either wanted him in SHIELD very badly, or Clint is one hell of a negotiator. And by that, I mean he told Fury, “If you want me in SHIELD, then you had better make sure no one finds my family. Because if they do and something bad happens to them as a result, I will not only hunt down and kill those who hurt my family, but you, too.”

We do not get to see much of Hawkeye in this Civil War trailer, but I did notice two things about him in the brief scenes where he appears. One, when Cap and his team are apparently staring down Team Iron, Clint does not look happy. Neither does Cap, interestingly. Normally they each wear the expressions of men ready to wade into the fight fists swinging. This time, Cap and Clint both seem thoroughly sick at the idea that they will be going up against their friends and fellow Avengers. They do not want to, but their friends are not going to give them a choice.

Second, in one of the scenes following Team Cap charging into battle, two people can be seen running across what might be an airport tarmac. Since one of those people is holding a bow, it is safe to assume that person is Hawkeye. The second person is, on closer inspection, shown to be the Scarlet Witch.

This raises some interesting points. We know that Clint and Wanda established an understanding in Age of Ultron, but we also know her older brother died saving Clint’s life in the same movie. It is possible that Clint now feels responsible for Wanda, that he believes he should stay close to her and take care of her, since her older brother died to save him and is no longer present to see to her welfare. He might feel like he owes Pietro this and will therefore try to keep an eye on Wanda in Civil War.

Where this will lead, I can hardly guess. It has been suggested that Wanda may go a bit berserk in this movie. Elizabeth Olsen, the actress who portrays her, has dubbed Wanda a “wild card” and says the Scarlet Witch is “conflicted.” She says Wanda feels like she is connected to the Avengers, but at the same time, they are not her family. She certainly has a rapport of some sort with the World’s Greatest Marksman, and a bond with Captain America. And she has been an Avenger long enough now to get to know Falcon, War Machine, Vision, and Black Widow fairly well.

But they are not her family. In that respect, she is adrift in the world. Pietro was her anchor to reality, as she was his anchor to calm and reason. Despite the nobility of his sacrifice, she will feel Pietro’s loss keenly, and therefore may be inclined to leave the team. Also, Olsen hinted that the Scarlet Witch’s powers have grown since Age of Ultron. In the comics, this was one of the factors which led to her loss of sanity. Even with her brother alive, she ripped reality apart and rebuilt it. She also killed Hawkeye in this event. Twice.

All this could spell danger for Hawkeye in the upcoming film. Hopefully, Wanda will not roll off the deep end in Civil War and hurt him. Olsen’s statements, however, hint at some mental unsteadiness for the Scarlet Witch, and this opens some rather worrisome doors in my mind.

We also see in this trailer that Falcon is still “doing what [Cap] does, just slower.” In the trailer he says to Cap, “I just want to be sure we consider all our options. ‘Cause people who shoot at you usually wind up shooting at me, too.”

I think what Sam is really saying here is this: “Look, I am with you all the way. But are you sure there isn’t another way out of this mess? Because when things go bad, you won’t be the only one getting shot at. You’ve got me (and the others) watching your back. We’re going to get shot at, too, and we’re going up against the other Avengers at the same time. The Law of Averages says someone will get hurt or killed. You can’t make this decision based on sentiment and emotion. Have you really thought this through?”

Of course, Cap has. And barring a miraculous light bulb exploding into brilliance over Tony’s genius head, he has no other option but to go up against Iron Man. Sam and the others know that. If they choose to follow him, then they will all be in the same boat.

And, short of some unexpected betrayal in Cap’s ranks, this proves that Team Cap is made up of people just like Steve Rogers. Sam and the others on Team Cap all value friendship and freedom uber alles, or over all. They will follow Cap through Hell if that is where the battle takes them, because they are his friends. It will not be just because the U.N. wants to run their missions. It will be because they value Cap’s friendship, and friendship is based on loyalty, which means that you stay faithful to your friend no matter what. “And say my glory was I had such friends.” – William Butler Yeats

Then there is Bucky. Bucky is certainly an appealing, sympathetic character. And he is in an interesting – and precarious – position in Civil War. As a former HYDRA operative, Bucky naturally has an enormous amount of intel on the organization. In the hands of the U. S. government and the Avengers, this information could bring the plague-like organization down.

HYDRA has to know this. They also have to realize that the government, or the sensible people in it, would want Bucky captured and alive in order to gain all the information he has on HYDRA. There is no way, under normal circumstances, that U.S. military leaders would want Bucky dead. He is too valuable as an informant on HYDRA, even in his current beleaguered state.

Hence, it appears that HYDRA has assassinated someone in Civil War and pinned the murder on Bucky. They thereby instigate an international manhunt for him so that he will be brought in dead and useless to their enemies. It would be great if they could get him back and make him their tool again, but they might have already tried that and found him less than docile. Crossbones is said to taunt Cap with the fact that Bucky remembers him in a different trailer. To me, this suggests HYDRA has tried to get Bucky back and failed.

So that leaves them with only one option: eliminate him.

Sebastian Stan has been asked what Bucky will be like in Civil War, and he has said his relationship to HYDRA is a complicated one. That Bucky sort of owes them for saving his life. Not really, I think, since they simply saved him in order to turn him into a weapon. They stole from him, and while that certainly does not make them like his second family, it does mean they have a relationship.

This, of course, raises the question of what type of relationship. I do not believe it is a happy or a familial relationship. Bucky has turned his back on HYDRA and on being a weapon. However, even with his mind control and brainwashing broken, old habits die hard. He is not going to forget the skills HYDRA taught him. He simply cannot. They are built into his muscle memory; if he is fiercely attacked, even by run-of-the-mill thugs, his muscles will react automatically because of his training and years of experience as an expert assassin.

This also means that, like Wolverine, his instinctive reaction in a pitched battle will be to go for the jugular. As long as he keeps his emotions in check and maintains some rational control of himself in combat, Bucky should be able to keep his attacks from ending in the death(s) of his opponent(s). He can rationally choose not to follow through on a blow, making it a knock out or an injuring hit rather than a killing strike.

But he is not yet emotionally and mentally stable enough, it appears, to keep complete control of his instincts in such a conflict. If he is incensed to the point that his emotions and instincts override his rational thinking, anyone attacking him is courting death, the same way they would be if they sent Wolverine over a mental cliff.

This theory is given some credibility in the scene where Bucky goes to rip out Tony’s arc reactor. It does not matter that the arc reactor no longer supports Tony’s heart, it still supports his suit. And if it gets fried while being yanked out, it could short out the suit in such a way that Tony is badly injured or even killed. This could be what happens to Rhodey, though it is hard to tell from the trailer whether he is alive, dead, or injured and unconscious. (Someone suggested War Machine’s arc reactor was ripped out mid-air, because he is seen lying in a crater in the ground. It may be that the Scarlet Witch, Falcon, or even Vision is responsible for Rhodey’s apparent crash in that scene.)

There are probably several ways to take out Tony’s suit with Bucky’s particular skills and assets, while at the same time not hurting Tony. But Bucky’s immediate act is to go for the most vital place in Tony’s armor. His first instinct is for the jugular.

And thanks to HYDRA, he will be battling this instinct for the rest of his life. Just like Wolverine, his instincts can be tempered and controlled. However, due to his conditioning, he will remain highly unsociable and appear cold to others. He has experienced too much pain for mild annoyances like broken toasters and stubbed toes to set him off, but at the same time, he has also had much good ripped out of his hands.

And so his attitude in pleasant surroundings or events will remain gruff, distant, and always guarded. Past experience with HYDRA has driven home to him the fact that happiness is fleeting and fragile. It only takes one evil person to kill many, and he will always be on the lookout for evil, even if it does not show up. He knows it exists. He has seen it many times and he will therefore remain vigilant and ready for it to strike, something most civilians do not consider.

Thanks to HYDRA, Bucky knows safety is an illusion at worst, a veneer at best. It can be ripped away in seconds by a bullet or a knife. He is a target for both. He can be happy, but he will always guard that emotion carefully, so that if the world goes to hell in a hand basket, he will be ready for it.

This is the legacy of HYDRA’s manipulating him: in some respect, they will always own part of him. And there is absolutely nothing he or his friends/allies will ever be able to do about it.

All this leads to one point: Bucky will have to die in Civil War. Now since Sebastian Stan has a nine picture deal with Marvel, I do not think his death in Civil War would be real. It would probably be faked, so that he could go underground and try to make a life for himself. Doing this would get HYDRA and the government off his back – for a space, at least – and give him time to try and do something good with his life.

It would be interesting if he was “assassinated” in place of Cap, who in the comics was “killed” at the end of the Civil War story arc. (His “death” in the comics even made the actual six o’clock news.) He could wear Steve’s uniform and be “killed” in his place in Captain America: Civil War.

Who would “kill” him is open to debate; Hawkeye and Black Widow both have the skills to make sure the shot appeared real. Bucky could certainly pull off a convincing death scene after that. But Crossbones or Baron Zemo could be the ones who plan to assassinate Cap – though what they would gain by making a martyr out of him, I have no idea. This would mean the Avengers would have to somehow ensure the HYDRA bullet did not actually hit its mark, but make it appear that it did. I am sure they could all work something like this out, if the writers decided to go with this plot. It is how they saved Fury, after all.

Speaking of our villains, we have not seen Baron Zemo in any of the trailers so far. Since he is playing the HYDRA heavy, we all know where Crossbones will be in the movie: he is the muscle-bound goon and the public face for HYDRA’s foot soldiers.

People keep asking where Zemo is. I think the answer is rather obvious; he is the man behind the curtain. We know from The Winter Soldier that HYDRA did not simply infiltrate SHIELD. They wormed their way into the U.S. government. Senator Stern was a HYDRA man. And just because the World Security Council threw wine in Pierce’s face does not mean that the U.N. has the same spine. In fact, that scene was the first hint that anyone on the WSC even had a spine.

Zemo and HYDRA could very well be the force behind the U.N.’s Sokovian Accords. Cui bono – who benefits from a civil war between the heroes? Cap and Tony are not going to get much out of this war, which like all such conflicts, is anything but civil. The answer is as plain as day: in an Avengers’ Civil War, only their enemies benefit. And HYDRA is the main enemy for the Avengers in these films. They have the most to gain by registering the heroes and binding them in red tape.

It has also been revealed that Thunderbolt Ross will be the U.S. Secretary of State in Civil War. The Russos have said he has gone from hating the Hulk to hating all super-powered people in general. That is not a great leap of logic, really; Bruce and the Hulk were untouchable as long as they stayed with the Avengers. Bruce and “the other guy” helped save the world. Who could hunt down a hero like that without suffering a huge amount of political and popular backlash?

I would guess that Ross has it in for the Avengers in part because they shielded the Hulk and Bruce for so long. Though Bruce is once again on the lam, if he were to go back to the Avengers, he would still be “safe” at first base in popular opinion. So Ross’ interest in taking the Avengers down and putting them under the government’s thumb may be a tactical strike: take out the Avengers, and there is no safe haven for Bruce. Popular opinion, fickle as it is, cannot protect him if he has no base and friends to put a roof over his head and food in his mouth.

There is also the slim possibility that, in his hatred for the Hulk and now the Avengers, Ross has made the proverbial deal with the devil. He could now be a HYDRA man, too. In the “mainstream” comics and Earth’s Mightiest Heroes cartoon series, Red Skull briefly hid in the U.S. government as the Secretary of State Dell Rusk (Red Skull mixed up). If Ross is Secretary of State in Civil War, then it is quite a nod to these stories and could be a great hint at his role in the film. Ross may be doing the political heavy lifting for Zemo in the U.S. government, nipping at Tony’s heels and hemming the team in on all sides politically so Zemo and HYDRA can strike the finishing blow.

There is one last thing to say about this trailer. As with Age of Ultron, fans are trying to raffle off certain Avengers for death in Civil War. Whedon sideswiped everyone with Quicksilver’s noble sacrifice in Ultron, but it is getting increasingly hard to suggest which Avenger could die in Civil War. The four “main” Avengers in the film – Iron Man, Cap, Black Widow, and Hawkeye – all have contracts which bind them to several future Marvel movies. None of them could convincingly be killed off, unless Marvel wanted to play the “mostly dead” or resurrection cards on their film audiences. They would have to play those cards very believably; Coulson is so far the only character Marvel has seen fit to resurrect, and fans reacted by saying, “Well we knew he wasn’t dead!”

That leaves the other characters in a bit of a pickle, right? Maybe not. Tom Holland, our new Spider-Man, is contracted for three films beside Civil War. Anthony Mackie fought hard to get into the franchise; he will not be giving up his role as Falcon anytime soon. Elizabeth Olsen has no idea whether she will be in future films or not, though she has hinted that Wanda survives Civil War. People are suggesting that Vision will be in the next Guardians of the Galaxy movie, and I find it hard to believe that the writers would kill him off so soon.

I have no idea how expendable Rhodey is. That clip of him with his arc reactor ripped out does not inspire confidence in his survival. But it could be a trick of editing; he might survive after all. Paul Rudd’s Ant-Man has a sequel in the pipes, so he is not going to die. And T’Challa has a solo movie coming out in 2017.

Hawkeye’s family could certainly be killed in the movie, however. There is a precedent for this in Marvel’s Ultimate comics, in which Natasha Romanoff murdered his family in cold blood. It does not seem likely that she will be responsible in the movies if this were to occur, though as with all things, we cannot rule anything out until we see the film. Even if she is not the perpetrator, that does not protect Clint’s family. Of course, maybe Sharon Carter will be the one to die.

Although, someone did slow down the trailer at the part where Bucky goes to rip out Tony’s arc reactor and they read his lips to try and find out what he was shouting. Now, the fan who did this would not say what he thought Bucky was shouting, but he felt it confirmed Steve Rogers’ death. We all know Steve’s coming back in the Infinity War films, so it is possible that Cap’s death in Civil War is a set up. A set up Bucky and Tony might be in on. But we will not know what exactly is up until we see the film May 1, 2016.

So raffling off particular characters for death is rather foolish, in my opinion. It does not prevent me from wondering about who may die. I just cannot see any way to safely guess who the unlucky superhero might be.

Well, readers, time to go. These are my thoughts and speculations about Captain America: Civil War. More may be revealed in the forthcoming trailers, and Marvel may yet tip its hand. That is unlikely, but it is possible. So until the next trailer comes out…

Excelsior!

The Mithril Guardian

Out Where the West Begins

Out where the handclasp’s a little stronger,

Out where the smile dwell’s a little longer,

That’s where the West begins;

Out where the sun is a little brighter,

Where the snows that fall are a trifle whiter,

Where the bonds of home are a wee bit tighter,

That’s where the West begins.

Out where the skies are a trifle bluer,

Out where friendship’s a little truer,

That’s where the West begins;

Out where a fresher breeze is blowing,

Where there’s laughter in every streamlet flowing,

Where there’s more of reaping and less of sowing,

That’s where the West begins.

Out where the world is in the making,

Where fewer hearts with despair are aching,

That’s where the West begins;

Where there’s more of singing and less of sighing,

Where there’s more of giving and less of buying,

And a man makes friends without half trying,

That’s where the West begins.

– Arthur Chapman

The King and the Ringbearer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

   Until next time,

The Mithril Guardian