Tag Archives: Iron Man 2

Captain America: Civil War – James “Rhodey” Rhodes/War Machine

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“Why do you hate War Machine so much?”

“I don’t hate him. He just doesn’t interest me. Why do you like him?”

“His armor’s got more guns than a military base. What’s not to like about that?”

This is a paraphrased version of a running argument a friend and I had going for some years about James “Rhodey” Rhodes. What I am only realizing now is that my friend and I never disagreed that the War Machine armor was cool. We were simply looking at the argument from different angles we neither expressed nor recognized. My friend was arguing from the position of someone who liked the War Machine armor, the gizmo that the character uses. I was not looking at the armor – I was looking at the character. And in the end, we both found Rhodey lacking in the character department. He earns a solid shrug and a “meh,” no matter how we try to measure him.

It is a real shame when a character is only memorable and likable for the tools they use rather than for themselves. And it is interesting that, in a comic book universe which usually eschews sidekicks, Marvel should go to the trouble of making one. Let me explain by contrasting Tony and Rhodey’s friendship with the friendship between Captain America and the Falcon.

No one can say that Sam Wilson is a foil for Steve Rogers and prove it capably. Falcon has his own personality, habits, life experiences, and a sense of humor that is all his own. His skills could not be more divergent from Cap’s if the writers tried to make them so. In the comics, Sam has a personal empathetic tie with his pet falcon Redwing, but he can also empathetically connect with and command any other bird in New York City. He can quite possibly reach beyond the city limits with this power, too. He wears a wing pack in combat, spending most of his time in a battle flying, darting in and around opponents to bring them down.

Even in the films, there remains plenty of daylight between Steve and Sam. The wing pack was never in Cap’s arsenal; the man hardly ever flies, although he can when he has to do so. For the most part, Cap is the quintessential soldier; he stays on the ground and fights the enemy on his terms there.

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Now compare this to Tony and Rhodey’s friendship. I am not quite clear on how long they have known each other in the comics, so I will stick with the films. Iron Man showed Rhodey as a down-to-earth counterbalance for Tony’s flights of juvenility, which is funny considering that James Rhodes is a “zoomie.” Then Iron Man 2 saw Rhodey grabbing one of Tony’s prototype suits on behalf of the government before literally trying to knock some sense into his drunken friend. Iron Man 3 did not portray him in a much better light. Although he liked the name War Machine for the armor he essentially stole from his best friend on behalf of the government, he allowed focus groups and the Air Force to change the name to the milquetoast “Iron Patriot.”

Rhodey is Tony’s babysitter for the first and second films, barely escaping that fate again in Iron Man 3. Then, when he tries to impress Tony and Thor with a story from his own repertoire of exploits in Avengers: Age of Ultron, it falls flat on them and the audience. Let’s admit it – while it is cute to imagine a general’s reaction to a tank being delivered to him by a man in a metal suit, it does not truly impress. It is a story that exposes the fact that Rhodey is a bouncer who can intimidate mid-level bullies, whilst the Avengers are the commandos sent in to dispense with hardcore villains such as HYDRA and Ultron. Sam recognized this when he told Cap, “Avenging is your world… and your world is crazy.” Rhodey could not take the hint from Thor and Tony’s expectant silence.

I think it likely that most people look at Rhodey and Sam and consider them to be nothing more than “sidekicks” or foils to Iron Man and Captain America. However, as I pointed out above, Sam does not qualify as either a sidekick or a foil. He is a man who can take care of himself, he has the strength to make his own decisions, and he can live with their consequences. The sad fact is that Rhodey cannot do this; he is always looking for orders, for guidance from above – which is cute because, as an Air Force pilot, he is usually “above” everyone else most of the time, physically speaking.

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The moment which best defines these differences between the two characters in Captain America: Civil War is the yelling match they have over the Accords after Ross leaves. What are the first words we hear out of Rhodey’s mouth in this battle of words? “Secretary Ross has a Congressional Medal of Honor, which is one more than you [Sam] have,” he says to Falcon.

Excuse me?!?!? Instead of actually arguing about the strength of the Sokovia Accords, Rhodey immediately jumps to the fact that Ross has a Congressional Medal of Honor??? Seriously?!

While we are on this subject just how, exactly, did Ross earn that Congressional Medal of Honor? Did he receive it after Bruce Banner became the Hulk, or after he turned Emil Blonsky into the Abomination in order to fight fire with fire? Maybe he received it for letting the Abomination wreck Harlem after he went rogue on Ross.

Yes, I am being very sarcastic here. The fact is that there is no way in the walls of the world Ross should have received that Medal. He did nothing to earn it. I would bet good money he got it for political expediency. He does not deserve the Medal; not now, not in the future, never.

But the fact that Rhodey thinks this is sufficient evidence that Ross has his and the Avengers’ best interests at heart is what is truly distressing. When someone holds a gun in his face and says, “Your wallet or your life,” should he consider it a sign that the mugger respects him? No, he should not, as we would not. Presuming he did not freeze and do what he was told, Rhodey would beat the mugger up, take his gun away from him, and call the cops. Yet Ross can throw down the gauntlet in front of him and the Avengers, but because he has a Congressional Medal of Honor, it is a sign of respect for Ross’ “greatness” that Rhodey and the team should immediately sign on to the Accords – in essence, hand over their wallet?

It only gets better when Rhodey says, “A hundred and seventeen countries have signed this, Sam. A hundred and seventeen! But you’re just like, ‘It’s cool, no big deal.’”

No, it is not a big deal! How many of those countries routinely violate human rights? China and North Korea are in the U.N., right? Is China a model of how a country must respect human rights? No, it is not. North Korea shoots off missiles to threaten the Orient and swagger in front of the U.S., they keep their own people in prison camps on the brink of starvation, and the rest of their population are stuck in grinding poverty – and in time. Their fashions and technology are still in (at least) the 1970s. They are an example of posturing, backward fools, not progress!

A good number of the other hundred seventeen countries which agreed to the Accords have records which are about as bad, if not worse. But does Rhodey mention that here? Does he even stop to consider it? Not in front of us. A hundred seventeen countries sign a document proclaiming him an attack dog which they want to leash, and just like that “it’s cool.”

It is not cool, and Rhodey cannot see that. What is more, he refuses to see it. He brags about Ross’ medals, yet the leader of the Avengers – his leader – has far more experience. Cap has earned and shunned more medals and honors than Ross could ever hope to gain… But instead of listening to him, Rhodey calls him “dangerously arrogant”? Something is very wrong here.

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It becomes worse when War Machine drops in to “stop” Cap, Sam, and T’Challa in their “fight” over the escaping Bucky Barnes at the Bucharest tunnel. “Nice job, Cap,” Rhodey says scathingly. “You’re a criminal.”

No mention of German Special Forces turning Bucharest into Swiss cheese in an attempt to kill Bucky I notice, Rhodey. Or are you more familiar with the range and danger of a mini-gun than most civilians walking down the street are? Of course you are; you are a U.S. Airman. They are civilians who are minding their own business when a Special Forces helicopter suddenly drops leaden rain from above trying to kill a wanted fugitive. I guess the U.N. does not have any statutes saying a man is innocent of a crime until proven guilty. Wow, what a shocker.

Cap’s attempt to reach out to Bucky – even the initial attempt by the German ground troops to capture him – was more sensible than that. But Rhodey’s scorn is not for the idiocy of the bureaucrats who called in a helicopter and ordered the men aboard to fire at Bucky regardless of potential “collateral damage” to the civilians he was running past. It is instead all aimed at Cap, who was fighting smarter, not harder.

We do not see Rhodey again until the battle in the Leipzig airport. Iron Man zaps Clint’s chopper with an EMP device and lands in front of Cap, War Machine right on his tail. The two take a moment to verbally beat up on Cap, and then the fighting starts.

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Cap keeps both T’Challa and Rhodey where he can see them at the beginning of the fight. For a guy with a metal suit, Rhodey does not do very well in personal combat with Cap. Yes, he is going for the knockout punch instead of a kill shot, but his fighting ability is still downright sorry in this confrontation. He has supposedly been working with and training under the greatest soldier of all time, whom he should know well enough to fight competently. But in practice he is getting his metal fanny handed to him on a platter.

Those are some quality learning abilities you have, Rhodes. Why were you put in the new Avengers lineup again? Oh, that’s right – for your suit.

In contrast, Falcon more than holds his own with Tony, bopping him in the head with Redwing at one point and thereby properly disorienting him. He has less physical protection than Rhodey, yet he does better fighting the Invincible Armored Iron Man than the “zoomie” Avenger does in his battle with the unarmored First Avenger!

It does not get any better for Rhodes when Lang has Cap throw a fuel truck at him, Panther, and Black Widow. Now how Scott could mix up even a German fuel tanker with a German water truck is beyond me, but the fact is that he managed to do it. And instead of smartly moving aside, catching the truck, or blowing it up, Rhodes just stands there and lets it hit him. Brilliant, War Machine – NOT!!!

Rhodey is dead weight for most of the following incidents in the battle. He is a convenient ragdoll for Ant-Man and an equally easy target for the Scarlet Witch. Where his teammates and everyone else on Team Cap show innovation and creativity during the battle, Rhodes makes himself nothing but a handy punching bag or darn-it doll.

Things only become worse when he tells Vision to get Sam off his back. Distracted by his concern for Wanda – whom Rhodey hit with a high-powered sonic – Vision does as he is asked and fires at Sam. But the nascent synthetic man is growing into a very human character, and this means that his shot is off from the get-go because of his concern for his friend. He misses Sam and hits the War Machine arc reactor, shutting down the armor and leaving Rhodey to fly the suit “dead stick.”

If anything, Rhodey ought to sue Tony for poor workmanship. The Iron Man armor(s) can go into the upper atmosphere, through a portal into space, help blast apart a floating city, all at low power capacity, and the War Machine armor cannot keep him from shattering several vertebrae after a two hundred foot free fall? Yeah, right!

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All this is not to make light of Rhodey’s significant injuries. To his credit, Rhodes takes the devastating news like a man. When Tony makes him a set of special leg braces and he inevitably falls down, he manfully refuses help and gets set to start practicing on his own again.

This scene was very good, but not necessarily for Rhodey. It was good for Tony because now, in this moment where his best friend is incapable of doing what he used to do – of being who he used to be, even – Tony gets a glimmering of what Steve has been doing since he learned that Bucky was alive. For three movies, Steve has fought to get his old battle brother back. And in this film, he stands beside and supports Bucky as the other man tries to find himself after years of being lost in a mental/emotional waste land.

Rhodey’s journey is more physical and less likely to get other people killed. But Tony is willing to do whatever it takes to help him get back on his feet. If he is ready to do that for Rhodey, why should he begrudge Steve for his desire to help Bucky relearn how to be a normal person?

Tony will probably take forever to forgive Steve in the next Avengers film(s). In this moment during the movie, he only has a slight understanding of what Steve is going through. And we all know that Tony is quite prepared and willing to rationalize away anything and everything he does not want to face or admit. He avoided accepting his grief over his parents’ deaths; he is still avoiding it now. And he has decided to avoid accepting responsibility for his actions by signing the Accords. Stark has no problem lying to himself about important matters until the eleventh hour.

But after a point, he cannot run from the truth. Sooner or later, it will occur to him that what he is doing for Rhodey is the same thing Steve is doing for Bucky, just on a less impressive scale. As for Rhodey, well, for the moment he seems to be a lost cause as far as recognizing the truth. If anything, he is better at rationalizing than Tony is. It remains to be seen how well that will work in Avengers: Infinity War.

Of course, with his back almost completely shattered, Rhodey might not have any part in the upcoming Marvel films. That would be a shame; it would be nice for War Machine to step out of Iron Man’s shadow and show some real character of his own for a change.

Given past experience, though, that does not look to be a very viable possibility at this time. Bummer.

Secret Avengers – Assemble!

The Mithril Guardian

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Avengers: Age of Ultron – A Review (Sort Of)

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WHOOO!!! Finally, after four months – four months! – I have seen the sequel to The Avengers, readers! And it was worth the wait, I have to say!

For a while there, I thought those months of waiting were going to make me hate the movie. Not to mention that there were people on the Internet who had made some very derogatory comments about the film. Those bounced around in my head a fair bit. The day prior to seeing the movie, all I could think was: I have been waiting for four months to see this. What if I don’t like it?

Well, I liked it so much, that I seriously considered seeing it in theaters again! 😀 However, since the DVD came out October 2, I think I can wait to see the movie on the small screen now.

Others have done descriptions of the story’s plot. You can find one grand review of the film by masterleiaofasgard here: https://superherofactsandtrivia.wordpress.com/2015/05/26/avengers-age-of-ultron-review/, which I previously reblogged on Thoughts on the Edge of Forever…and which conveniently gave me the above photograph. 🙂 But I am not going to review the film’s plot here. This is not how I operate with regard to Marvel’s films. Most of my posts about Marvel – its films or other story merchandise – revolve around its characters. I am not sure I could write about a story’s plot as well as others have.

This post does not concern a particular character in the film. Those will come later. This article is made up entirely of observations I made while I watched the movie. I will get to the character-centered posts another day.

So, without further ado, here are those observations I made while I watched the movie:

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Something I enjoyed throughout the movie was the camaraderie among the Avengers. With all the action sequences, it was a little subdued, but it was still there. The tight friendship between Natasha and Clint is to be expected; and since Thor and Cap have a similar sense of honor and justice, it makes sense that they would get along well and develop joint battle tactics where they use their trademark weapons together in battle. Bruce and Tony’s friendship was well established in The Avengers, and if anything, it is shown to have strengthened since that film.

But who could see the rest of the team gleefully helping to razz Cap about chiding Tony for his bad language? Who could anticipate that Tony would join Natasha in ribbing Clint? Truthfully, the respect that Hawkeye and Tony show each other in the movie surprised me greatly. And it is possible that this close friendship is the reason Tony takes such high offense at being kept in the dark about Clint’s family. Does he not trust Tony?

(Seriously, dude, who told the world, “I am Iron Man,” and consequently had his Malibu mansion blown to smithereens? Of course Clint kept his family out of the limelight – and of course he did not tell YOU about them, you motor-mouth! He is renovating his house, not looking to have it blown up!)

I did not see the Natasha/Bruce romance coming. In fact, I openly stated that I did not think it would happen. I certainly did not see Cap giving their mutual attraction his seal of approval. And watching Thor offer to leave a battle midway through to get Hawkeye back to the Aveng-jet and set him up for medical treatment was noteworthy as well. Although it was for a good cause, that Thor should be so willing to leave a battle for the sake of the “weakest” Avenger spoke volumes.

But the most unexpected piece of characterization I saw in the film was Tony’s reaction to his Scarlet Witch-induced vision.

Oh, I knew that it provoked him to build Ultron without thinking through the consequences. I knew he liked his team. But I did not realize how much he had gelled with them, how much Tony hated the idea of failing his friends – for they have all become great friends through their battles together – and, worse, that he was afraid of not dying with them if and when he failed them.

That was an eye-opener right there. And it really should not have been. In the original comics, Tony was very attached to his teammates. He appreciated them all, and he did not enjoy leaving the Avengers when he needed to go on R&R. Tony, like any other warrior, was always aware of when he was too tired to fight and needed rest. But being aware of it did not mean he had to like it.

It is a commander’s worst fear that he will be left alive, and all those under him killed. Tony may not be the official leader of the team, but he does finance them and acts as Cap’s second-in-command (sort of). He is also a scientist, and a lot of scientists seem to be convinced that they are destined to save the world. So Tony has not only pulled the responsibility for protecting everyone on the planet onto his shoulders, but the responsibility for shielding his friends as well. (Atlas, eat your heart out; Tony Stark has you beat by a mile and a half!)

Nick Fury basically admitted that his worst fear is the same as Tony’s. But he also said that he has been through it in the past. So he knows how the fear Tony has was played on by Wanda Maximoff.   And Tony fell head-first into that fear. He did not realize that was what he was doing. I think he may still have yet to realize it.

Tony was so scared that he did not stop to think through what he was creating. He just wanted to keep his friends safe – or he thought he did. He did not realize he was trying to fix a problem which may never come to pass.

So when the A.I. he built to keep his friends alive turned on him and tried to kill them all, they met in the lab afterward and he started to laugh. But it is not a “this is funny” laugh. It is a hysterical laugh, a laugh filled with pain and horror as he realizes that, in trying to save his friends, he has perhaps sealed their doom instead.

Naturally, before seeing this movie, I heard a lot of things about it. One of the things I heard was that, at the end of the film, everyone on the team was parting ways. There was bad feeling among them; some of them were just too tired to go on being Avengers. I heard that this Avengers film was not as much fun as The Avengers.

I agree that Age of Ultron is not like The Avengers. It has more depth, more to tell. The Avengers was the introduction to the story; Age of Ultron shows where that introduction is heading.

Plus, this movie was a wee bit heavy on the action. Since about an hour of the film was cut, these action sequences did not have as many quiet scenes to balance them as they could have. If Marvel had not had Age of Ultron cut down from a three and a half hour film to a two and a half hour movie, the missing scenes may have given it more grace. As it stands, however, I enjoyed the movie I saw in theaters.

And I must say that I found nothing unhappy about the end of Age of Ultron, aside from Quicksilver’s death. The changing of the roster of the Avengers did not strike me as painful and fractious. The ending was not sad or scary. It was quiet and hopeful as it saw great friends saying, “See you next time,” and heading off on vacation.

Thor, Hawkeye, and Iron Man have not resigned from the team, as many have assumed they have. Resigning means they quit. Thor has not quit the team. He has gone home to Asgard to do some research – and see if he and the others really have been used as pawns in someone else’s game. That is taking a leave of absence, not retiring or resigning from active service, and the son of Odin will be back on Midgard as soon as he possibly can be.

Hawkeye is going home for awhile, long enough to be a dad and husband for more than three days. But the minute Cap needs help, he will be back in his suit and have his bow and quiver ready. The fragments from the Civil War trailer prove it. Again, this is not resigning or retiring, and no matter what he told Laura, he has a job to do. As he told Wanda, being an Avenger is his “job.” He has not quit the team, as many have presupposed. He has simply “taken leave” of his duties for the time being to get some well-earned R&R. Soldiers here in the U.S. do that all the time.

Tony is going back to his civilian work. In his case, it is also a leave of absence. We know he will be back in his suit in Captain America: Civil War. He will be on the wrong side of the argument, yes, but he has not hung up the Iron Man armor for good. Tony needs a rest (it seems) and ostensibly he is going back to his civilian work to get it.

Hulk/Bruce Banner has gone off to make some sense of his life again. He still loves Natasha, but he cannot have a real life with her. He will never be able to lead a normal or close-to-normal life. It is impossible. He is mentally/physically sharing space with the Hulk, and that does not leave a lot of room for anyone else to squeeze into his life, no matter how much he loves them or they love him. This is why he left Betty Ross. And this is why he left Natasha Romanoff.

Not to mention the fact that Natasha kind of used him to help save the world. It was for a good cause, but it was still using.

Meanwhile, Cap has found where he belongs in the world. He went into the ice a hero, and he came out a legend. What the world needs now is him as that legend. The world needs to be kept together, for the sake of everyone on it. And that is what he is going to focus on doing, at least until the politicians and HYDRA mess everything up in Civil War.

Natasha is chained to her current life by her dark past. But she will not stop searching for Bruce – and that might be what saves her, in the end. Until then, she is going to keep busy and help Cap train their new Avengers.

So I think the ending for the film was a good ending. I did not see anything painful or dispiriting about it except for Pietro Maximoff’s death, and even that was honored. By and large, the movie left me feeling hopeful, just like its predecessor. That was, really and truly, all that I wanted out of this film. That is all I want out of the other films in the Avengers’ saga.

Another noteworthy observation includes the fact that Natasha got to call Tony “Shell Head” in the final battle in Nova Grad. “Shell Head” is Iron Man’s nickname in the Avengers Assemble cartoon; it might also be a nickname for him in the comics, but I do not know that for sure. And watching her ride the Hulk up to a flying city was fun! Maria Hill and Fury both got less screen time in this film, which is always a plus, and Fury only had to give Tony a pep talk this time around.

It is too bad he did not physically slap Tony upside the head, but the rest of the team only needed Fury to give them all the dirt he had on Ultron’s plans. That is a nice change all the way around; Fury started out as the team coach, now he gets to play information broker. That is a more “mainstream” idea, and if the movies adhere to the “mainstream” comics in that respect, then I will not complain overmuch!

We also get to see more of Hawkeye’s arsenal in the film. His arrows have more than simple bombs or acid/incendiary chemicals in them. He carries arrows that deliver electric shocks as well, not to mention arrows that emit high-frequency ultrasonic blasts. This is probably the type of arrow he used to bring down the last of Klaue’s mercenaries in the cargo ship hold, before stunning Wanda to avoid being a “zombie” again.

It is interesting to note that Tony hacked the NSA once on a dare, too. I would have thought he would do something like that on a regular basis just for the heck of it, but apparently he needs someone or something to prompt him to break into government systems. The fact that Bruce was worried about building Vision when Tony proposed the idea was a nice touch, as well. It redeems him at least a little for his part in glibly helping Tony to build Ultron.

Watching War Machine and Iron Man work together in the sky was very cool. We have not seen them working together like that at all. Even in Iron Man 2 and 3, all their teamwork was on the ground. Seeing them fly side by side was fan-tastic! It would have been even more amazing if SHIELD had called in Falcon as well, but at least we get to see him joining the team at the end of the movie.

Well, readers, that is all I have for now. It is more than enough, as things stand. I hope you enjoyed – or will enjoy – Age of Ultron as much as I did. It is a good movie. I will let you go now, with the same word Stan Lee slurred in Age of Ultron:

Excelsior!

The Mithril Guardian