Tag Archives: Martin Freeman

Captain America: Civil War – Helmut Zemo

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I really struggled when writing this post, readers, not because I doubted my own convictions – I believed from the start that Zemo was evil. Marvel, while turning a great deal in its comic book universe(s) upside-down and inside-out at the moment, was not going to change that fact for Civil War. Zemo has been an antagonist for too long; we all knew he was going to be the villain. My problem is the excuse implicit in the storyline that people would use to defend Zemo’s actions in the film.

Zemo’s grudge against the Avengers in Captain America: Civil War is based on his family’s dying when, in the previous Avengers film, Ultron raised half of his small country into the sky before trying to smash it into the Earth to destroy mankind. Zemo was smart enough to put his family up in a house outside the city before this occurred. Naturally, he did not anticipate the city getting lifted off the ground and bits of rock falling from it to land on top of his home.

There are people who would defend Helmut Zemo’s hatred for the Avengers and his diabolical plan to destroy them. Their arguments, in effect, would say, “But his family was killed! He was mad with grief! What right do you have to call him evil?! All he wanted was retribution for the deaths of his family!”

Retribution is not ours to seek any more than revenge, for which retribution is often a synonym. It is wrong and only causes more pain for more people. It breeds an endless, vicious cycle of violence, death, and darkness for everyone in the world. As for Zemo’s being “mad,” the proper understanding of its meaning is someone who is a danger to himself because he cannot take care of himself. It is not someone who stalks a group of people for a year and then tries to kill them. Zemo does not clinically qualify as “mad” or “insane.” But he does clinically qualify as evil.

How do we know this? He tells us. Zemo condemns himself in his own words, basing his choice on hatred and jealousy. After telling T’Challa about the deaths of his family, he says, “And the Avengers? They went home.” He says this as though it makes everything he has done and all those he has killed worth the cost. While I hate to break his soap bubble, I must ask: just what is it that Zemo expected the Avengers to do after destroying Ultron, saving humanity, and preserving the lives of as many of the civilians still in the city as they could?

What more, in short, could they have done to make him their friend? They could have gone back to the city after the battle and helped with the clean up.  But would that have won them Zemo’s respect? Would he have felt better if Thor, Cap, and Iron Man had helped him dig his family’s bodies out of the rubble? Would Zemo have felt better if they had helped him to bury his family? Would their tears over his loss have made him feel avenged (pun intended)? Since Zemo was ready to commit suicide after accomplishing his “mission,” this seems highly unlikely.

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You are probably wondering why I am making such a fuss about this, readers.   I take issue in this case because the writers did so, in order, I believe, to show how empty Zemo’s philosophy is.  I am also making an issue of this because those who professionally review films – the docents of decency, the perpetually petulant masters of modernity, and other “reformers” of reality (a.k.a. the culture Nazis) – have made this a tenant of their belief system. This belief and their system are both solipsistic and false.

How do I know this? There are several ways. Why, for instance, did the writers have Zemo deliver the above lines in these specific words and in this tone?   What is the big deal about the Avengers going home when their job (save the world) is done? How is it a crime for the Avengers to swoop into a certain place, stop the bad guys, and then go home to recover, the way that policemen and soldiers do? Just what is wrong with that picture, readers? Enlighten me, please; what is wrong with this situation?

The fact is that there is nothing wrong with it – absolutely nothing. The Avengers went home after Age of Ultron because they did not come to Sokovia as conquerors. They came as defenders of both Sokovia and mankind. No one – Avenger, commando, politician, civilian – could have predicted Ultron’s plan to raise the city and make it a destroy-the-human-race meteor. It was a surprise to everybody.

Before the city lifted off it was swarming with drones trying to kill those left in the city. The Avengers were busy protecting these people, leaving them precious little time to discern Ultron’s mad scheme let alone to chase down every bit of flying rubble coming off of the metropolis.

The team’s main concern was to stop Ultron and thereby save mankind. This included protecting the residents of Sokovia from homicidal drones. Intercepting debris from the airborne city was not a consideration due to the necessities of combat against overwhelming foes. It was not due to indifference and it was most certainly not due to selfishness on the part of the Avengers.

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Yet Zemo is unconcerned with these very obvious facts. Why should he? It is clear to him what happened. The Avengers showed up, destroyed the maniacal machine, and went home to a heroes’ welcome.   They did not care about his people or his family. They cared about getting the glory for saving the world. That was their plan all along, as evidenced by the fact that they did not return to Sokovia to clean up the mess, nor did they prevent the disaster from occurring in the first place. In fact, they are responsible for the entire debacle; Tony Stark created Ultron. If he had not done this, then everyone who died in Sokovia would still be alive. The evident conclusion one must reach is that the Avengers do not care about anyone but themselves – right?

No, it is not. We know it is not, readers, because we have walked beside these characters through ten plus films. We have seen them selflessly put their lives on the line to protect the masses. We know that the Avengers truly care about saving as many lives as they can. They are as altruistic as one could wish of mortal man. Even Tony Stark, who is still too self-centered, remains willing to put his life on the line for strangers he will never meet. The Avengers are in the fight because it is the right thing to do, and most of them would be quite happy to skip out on the fame they have gained while doing their jobs. They cannot escape it and so they ignore it as best they can.

This is how we know that Zemo’s profile of the Avengers is mistaken and selfish, not to mention blatantly foolish. It is not because we like the characters or are attached to them that we believe they are heroes. We are certainly attached to them, and we definitely like them. But that is because they have proven time and again that they are willing to do heroic things to protect others. It is hard not to like someone for that.

Considering his background, you might think that Zemo might understand that combat is not a place where one feels “an overwhelming sense of control,” to quote Nick Fury. You might even think that Zemo could recall battles which had not gone according to plan, where people whom he and his team were supposed to protect were killed in spite of their best efforts. You might also think he would recognize that the Avengers were in that same boat in Sokovia and thus they could not be held accountable for the loss of his family.

Here we come to the important distinction between Zemo and the Avengers: Zemo led a “kill squad.” He and his men were not just commandos; they were government-sanctioned assassins. This makes it likely that Zemo and his men had little care for the lives of others. The exceptions would have been the lives of those closest to them, such as Zemo’s wife, son, and father. He may not have a problem murdering a family in another country but he would have a problem with whoever killed his family.

This is not the Way of the Avengers. When the Avengers kill, they do it to save lives. They do not do it lightly or enjoy it when the time comes to pull the trigger. They do not lose sleep over it, but if they can avoid dealing out justice on the battlefield they will spare their enemies – although they may later wish that they had not done so. They could have killed Loki in the Tower at the end of The Avengers, readers. Thor was not exactly feeling chummy with his adopted kid brother at the time and, in The Dark World, he threatened to kill Loki himself if he was betrayed.

The team had all the logic in the world to convince them to finish Loki then and there, but they chose not to do this. They instead sent him to Asgard to stand trial and receive Odin’s judgment. Despite their moniker, the Avengers are not prone to dealing out what most people would think of as revenge. They stop – or ‘Avenge’ – evil by defeating the bad guys, and by saving as many people as they can when the crisis blows up in an unforeseen manner.

One of the reasons why Zemo decides to destroy the Avengers is he is used to killing. As an assassin he became accustomed to the idea of being judge, jury, and executioner. What is more, he came to like playing these roles.

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There are four things he did which prove this. One, Zemo killed a former HYDRA operative and a psychiatrist without blinking an eye.   Two, he detonated a bomb outside the U.N. building in Vienna without any qualms about the innocents who would be caught in the blast. This was in spite of his claim to the HYDRA agent that he would not enjoy using “bloodier methods” to get what he wanted.

Three, after he had control of Bucky Barnes in the German base, Zemo ordered him to kill the soldiers who came to put the Winter Soldier back under restraint. Without orders Bucky might very well have just stood there until Cap and Sam arrived to calm the situation. But to further destroy Bucky’s already blackened record, Zemo ordered him to kill these men in cold blood. He stood by and watched these men die, then feigned a bad injury to lure Cap and Sam into the room so Bucky could attack them. I can just feel the remorse radiating from him in these scenes where he used “bloodier methods” to get what he wanted, can’t you, readers?

Four, Zemo expected Iron Man would kill Bucky and then Cap would kill Iron Man. Or he believed that Cap and Iron Man would kill each other after Bucky was dead. Why did he think this? He said he studied Cap and the rest of the Avengers, did he not? Enough to realize suddenly that there was a bit of green in Cap’s blue eyes, he said. So why did he not expect Cap to save Bucky, while at the same time avoiding killing or truly harming Tony Stark?

For a professional such as Zemo, this kind of miscalculation is astounding. He is a practiced killer; if he wants to take down a target or convince a target to kill himself and another person, he has to study his prey very carefully. He had a year to study the Avengers and plan how he would kill them, or convince them to kill each other. So why, when you come to the most crucial point, did he fail to suspect that Cap would prevent Tony from killing Bucky, while at the same time not murdering Stark himself?

The reason he failed to completely destroy the Avengers – to kill them all or convince them to kill each other – is that he does not understand them. He did not, does not, and will never comprehend them as long as he maintains his choice to do evil rather than good. This is shown most plainly by his underestimating Captain America, the Galahad of modern literature. He expected Cap to react to pain and loss as he would. But Cap is not like other men; he is different. Where most men can achieve only a “good” status in this world, Cap has achieved a “great” status. This is not perfection but it is very, very close to it.

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Now some of you are going to say, “But what about Steve’s vow to kill every HYDRA operative after Bucky fell off the train in the Alps? That was revenge!”

No, it was not. What Cap specifically said was that he would not stop fighting HYDRA “until every HYDRA agent is dead or captured.” (Emphasis mine.) This means that he would capture and imprison those members he could, and kill those who resisted. He said and did this for the same reason the British wiped out the Thuggees, murderers who worshipped the Hindu death-goddess Kali. HYDRA is no better than the Thuggees; they need to be exterminated so that innocent people intent on living peaceful, happy lives will be safe to live and work as they choose.

Nothing that Cap said or did after Bucky fell from the train in The First Avenger was vengeful. He was not motivated by a desire for payback. He wanted the world to be free of the evil that was HYDRA so that Bucky’s sacrifice – and the sacrifice of thousands of other men on both sides of the war – would not be in vain. So that the world would be free of HYDRA’s evil once and for all.

By his own admission, Zemo was not trying to free anyone in Civil War. He was trying to destroy a team of people who routinely put their lives on the line to protect mankind from the evil without and within it. He wanted revenge, not justice. He wanted payback, not freedom. He was and remains willing to let the entire world fall into death, destruction, and slavery so that he can feel he has revenged the deaths of his family.

Readers, what is so admirable about Zemo’s choice? Why should we, as viewers, sympathize with a character that is willing to condemn the whole human race to an evil fate just so he can feel vindicated on behalf of his dead loved ones? Should we sigh, wipe away a tear, and say, “Yes, we feel your pain,” or “We understand you,” to a character who would throw away every human life on the planet to satiate his lust for blood? No, we should not. But this is what some people want us to do for Zemo.

I will not do this. I will not commiserate or identify with a character that would gladly doom millions to death and millions more to slavery in order to get vengeance for his family, who were unfortunate casualties in a battle. As Rocket Raccoon pointed out in Guardians of the Galaxy, “Everybody’s got dead people. That’s no excuse to get everyone else dead along the way.”

Zemo has no excuses for his choice to destroy not only the Avengers but the people they protect. He wanted to throw the rest of the world under the bus to fulfill his desire for vengeance. No one has the right to do that. But that is what Zemo tried to do with the world population when he targeted the Avengers in Captain America: Civil War.

Later, at the end of the film, we watch Martin Freeman’s character, Everett Ross (no relation to the General turned Secretary of State), visit Zemo. He begins gloating to Zemo about how his master plan has failed.

Like Thunderbolt and the U.N., Everett Ross believes that Zemo’s master plan has gone down in flames whilst the United Nations’ own has succeeded. They have four of the six members of Team Cap incarcerated while Iron Man, War Machine, and Vision are leashed and awaiting orders. Black Widow, Captain America, and the Winter Soldier are wanted fugitives who will soon be found and locked up with their friends. The private police firm known as the Avengers is now legally under the direct control of the bureaucrats and politicians in the United Nations. Zemo, meanwhile, is locked up and out of the way. Yes, their plan has worked flawlessly whilst Zemo’s has not.

Slowly, Zemo smiles and says, “Did it?”

At these words we get to watch the smile gradually slide off of Everett Ross’ face. (It is such a satisfying thing to see!!!!) Zemo is correct to point out that his plan did not entirely fail. But the fact is that Zemo’s plans did not accomplish his true goals.

None of the Avengers are dead, as Zemo desired. Their strength is halved, but they are all alive, and this makes a future reconciliation possible. Zemo does not see this because, as stated above, he sees the Avengers through a glass darkly. He cannot comprehend the gulf between his mind and their souls. Part of his plan has been accomplished; the Avengers are no longer what they were. They are weakened, and severely so….

But they are all alive.

The Avengers’ advantage over Zemo is their heroism; it will defeat him every time. Like the phoenix of old, like the sun on a daily basis, the Avengers will rise again. And they will be whole and stronger than before when this happens.

Evil will never win the war, as Zemo believes he has. He has won a battle. But the war was won a long time ago, and the Avengers are on the winning side. Even the arrogant ones, such as Tony Stark, will be victorious in the end. Their strength is not their own. It comes from Another, and He is watching over them, as He watches over all those who serve Him. He is their strength. As long as Zemo stands against the Avengers, he stands alone against Him, the irresistible and unconquerable. He will win, and Zemo will lose.

‘Nuff said, readers. ‘Nuff said.

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Captain America: Civil War – King T’Challa/Black Panther

Fans everywhere were practically over the moon when they heard that Black Panther/King T’Challa would be in Captain America: Civil War.  They also did a double-take when they learned he would be siding with Tony Stark/Iron Man in the movie.  T’Challa and Cap are very good friends in the comics, and it is rare for them to disagree over anything.  I cannot remember ever hearing about them arguing over something.  Not in the way that Tony and Steve have been fighting lately.

We do not see T’Challa until at least half an hour into Civil War.  In Vienna with his father for the signing of the Accords, T’Challa decides to take a moment to talk to Black Widow.  Natasha does not seem to recognize him, though when his father shows up the pieces fall into place very quickly.

Another odd thing is that, when King T’Chaka is making his speech about the greatness of the Accords, T’Challa is not sitting down in the audience of dignitaries, U.N. personnel, and reporters.  He is instead standing near the window behind and to the left of his father.  His arms are crossed and his posture indicates catlike ease and unconcern.  One could infer that he is bored out of his mind with the diplomatic proceedings.  His father’s implication that T’Challa has a palpable distaste for politics only reinforces this idea.

But this may be too easy an answer.  You see, T’Challa’s position in the room not only gives him a good view of the visiting dignitaries, U.N. workers, and journalists, it allows him to watch the buildings and streets outside.  Thinking about it now, I suppose T’Challa was acting as his father’s bodyguard.  He was watching, surreptitiously and under the cover of boredom, for attackers in the audience, snipers in the other buildings, and trouble on the streets.  So his ability to be surreptitious is pretty darn impressive!

This is how he spots the bomb squad checking out a van near the building.  Seeing the officers pull away quickly from the vehicle, T’Challa is just a little slower in shouting a warning to everyone else.  Natasha reacts in time, helping the person seated next to her to get under the table.

But T’Challa is not fast enough to reach his father, who also does not spring for cover immediately.  It is likely that he was too surprised by his son’s shout to do more than turn to look at him.  The bomb kills him, sends T’Challa flying, and kills a lot of other people on the floors below.

T’Challa was always close to his father, in the comics and in the film.  Unlike Tony, seeing his father die absolutely tears him up.

Any number of groups would want to kill several dozen of the politicos at the U.N. T’Chaka almost certainly had enemies who wanted him dead, too.  T’Challa was probably cataloging all of these people in his mind before he found out who was suspected of the bombing.  Once he learns it is the Winter Soldier, all other possibilities are forgotten.

Most people are going to lean on the idea that T’Challa went after Bucky simply for the sake of vengeance.  That is part of it.  How many of us could see someone we loved dearly die for no reason and not flip our lids over it?  Very few people could avoid that reaction.

The thing is that T’Challa is too reasonable to let pain and anger control him completely.  They are driving factors in his quest for Bucky, of course, but they are leashed emotions.  Most of T’Challa’s motivation here is justice.

Justice is not an amorphous idea.  Nor is it the “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, a life for a life” mantra we inherited from ages past.  Justice is about making recompense to another person for some act committed against them.  It does not have anything to do with killing the man/woman who killed someone you loved.  That is revenge, and we have been warned never to seek that.  Revenge destroys not one life but two, and perhaps many other lives as well.

In this case, the bombing of the U.N. building was a futile event in that it destroyed lives.  A number of people – including King T’Chaka – were killed for no reason except to help Zemo gain his revenge.  They were not killed to protect innocent people but to destroy the Avengers.  Discounting Black Widow, T’Challa, and the security personnel, most of those within the U.N. building at the time were civilians.  They were, therefore, completely unprepared and unready to defend themselves if the need arose.

The attack was in this regard senseless and a waste of life, the most precious thing on earth.  Such a crime cries out for recompense, for punishment of the perpetrator.  That is the motivating force behind T’Challa’s decision to go after Bucky.

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Now there are several other things to consider here.  We are all attached, to some degree, to the film versions of Cap, Bucky, and the Avengers.  We are also attached to the previous portrayal of the Black Panther in the comics and cartoons.  This means we end up with a slightly skewed view of T’Challa’s character arc in the film, because we are looking at it through the lenses of past experience and deep familiarity.

What we forget is that, prior to this movie, T’Challa has never met any of the Avengers before.   Oh, he has heard about them.  He knows them by reputation.  But he does not know them as people.  He has never crossed paths with them up until he decides to speak to Natasha in Vienna.

Also, we forget that Bucky has been AWOL for two years.  During this time he has overcome his “programming.”  He remains unsure of himself, however, and he is riddled with honest guilt.  This makes him dangerous.  Everyone in the film universe knows he was HYDRA’s brainwashed attack dog.  They know his rap sheet is long and blood-soaked, and though they may pity him, they also fear him.  This is normal.  Even Cap is wary of Bucky and does not automatically trust him the way he once did.  Bucky is not the exact same person he was in the 1940s (thank you, HYDRA – NOT!!).

So it is utterly plausible for most people to believe Bucky went out and bombed the U.N.  Only Cap – and consequently Sam and Sharon Carter – stop to ask the pertinent questions about this event:  Why, after two years of hiding, would Bucky suddenly bomb a U.N. building?  What could he possibly hope to gain or to accomplish by bombing the signing of the Sokovian Accords?

The answer to these questions is: nothing.  Bucky had nothing to gain and everything to lose.  Whatever his personal feelings about the justice of the Accords, he was not going to come out of his hidey-hole and say anything about them – with his voice or with a bomb.  Definitely not with a bomb.  He has absolutely no motive to destroy the U.N. building in Vienna.

This is where T’Challa’s pain, grief, and anger have clouded his judgment.  He does not stop to think about these things.  After seeing his father die, we can hardly blame him.  Even Steve does not hold this against him.  When they first meet he is silent on these matters while in T’Challa’s presence.  Touching on such subjects would only drive him to further anger.

And Cap does not want that.  He knows T’Challa is a reasonable man.  It is evident in the control he demonstrates when he speaks and when he is in combat.  You cannot be that precise, that calm, without rational effort.  So T’Challa, Cap figures, is a rational man.  This means that to reach him, you have to be sensible in your response to him.  Emotion will not sway him to act; only clear reason will do that.

And in this moving world of shifting shadows, reason is what we desperately need.  It is what the Avengers need.

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In the police car taking the three of them to the German base, Cap ends up making his first probe of the Black Panther.  He knows T’Chaka was killed in the bombing and he knows T’Challa holds Bucky responsible for his death.  He understands that T’Challa’s grief is clouding his thinking.  But he says nothing until Falcon pipes up with, “So.  You like cats?”

Not helping, Cap thinks as he reprimands, “Sam.”

“What?” the other counters.  “Dude shows up dressed like a cat and you don’t want to know more?”

The subtext of Sam’s question was, likely: Cap, this guy is reasonable.  Sitting quietly is not going to show him you’re reasonable, too.

Thereupon Cap shows interest in the Panther suit, asking for confirmation that it is made out of vibranium.  This has to impress T’Challa, at least a little.  Most people would not think of vibranium right off the bat.  Tony’s suit can deflect bullets, too, after all.  But someone who has worked with vibranium for a long time would be able to recognize the metal when he came into contact with it.  Someone such as Captain America.

T’Challa does not want to show that he is even this impressed, though.  His father is dead, and he almost had his suspected killer right where he wanted him.  Then Cap stepped in and ruined the whole thing, getting him arrested in the process.

Still, it is not like telling Steve Rogers the origin of the suit and his fighting skills is going to hurt anything.  He explains the history of the mantle of the Black Panther, simultaneously hinting at his own upbringing as he does so.  Then he asks, “How long do you think you can keep your friend safe from me?”

Instead of taking the bait and showing emotional attachment, Cap stays quiet.  He looks away.  It is an admission that he cannot protect Bucky all the time, everywhere.  But the nuance of the movement also communicates that he is sure as hell going to try.

T’Challa’s attitude toward the Winter Soldier is not lightened by their next meeting, when he tangles with Bucky in the German base’s cafeteria to protect Natasha.  He has to notice the difference in Bucky’s fighting style in this battle, as it is hard to miss.  When they last fought, Bucky was making a determined effort to get the hell out of Dodge.  Now he is suddenly attacking and fighting with the cold, mechanical precision of a robot.

This is different, but apparently not different enough to shake T’Challa from his determination to capture and, if possible, kill Bucky.  Maybe the guy has a split personality, or maybe he was faking his desperation to escape.  Whatever the reason, it is not good enough to make T’Challa decide to let Bucky go, proved when he accepts Natasha’s offer of help in finding him.

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This leads us to the airport battle.  T’Challa joins Tony, Rhodey, Widow, Spider-Man, and Vision in squaring off against Team Cap.  The rest of the Avengers are there to enforce the Accords.  T’Challa is only there to get his claws into Bucky.

He has to have been apprised of the fact that Team Cap has grown by this time to include Hawkeye and Wanda Maximoff.  That does not initially concern him.  In contrast, the sudden arrival of Ant-Man is a shocker for him, as it is for the others.

But it is when the fighting really starts that T’Challa receives his most jarring surprises.  None of Team Cap’s members are fanatically claiming that Barnes did not kill his father or the other people in Vienna.  None of them are wild-eyed partisans, screaming platitudes at the top of their lungs.  No, they are all calm, rational, capable people.  And they are not there for Barnes.

They are there for Cap.

When he finally gets to attack Bucky, the Winter Soldier takes the time to mutter, “I didn’t kill your father.”  Again, this has to confuse T’Challa on a rational level.  First Bucky ran, then he fought like a robot, now he is talking?  How many emotional or unemotional faces does this guy have?!

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Thanks to his vibranium suit and Bucky’s reminder about his father’s murder, though, Panther gets the upper hand and throws him around.  But before he can strike a deadly blow, he is stopped by the Scarlet Witch.

This is surprise number two for the Black Panther.  Wanda has no stake in the fight between him and Bucky.  And, more than any of the others, she understands where T’Challa is coming from.  Yet she not only halts his attack, she throws him through the air, far away from the battle, to save Barnes.

Why would she do that?  Why would she waste time and energy protecting a murderer?

Then Ant-Man becomes Giant-Man, taking a stand between T’Challa and his prey.  He even splinters the crates the King of Wakanda is standing on in order to keep him away from Cap and Bucky.  Only Rhodey and Spider-Man’s attack saves T’Challa from getting picked up and tossed through the air like a doll – again.

Clint is the next member of the team to face T’Challa down as Bucky and Cap continue their mad dash for the Aveng-jet.  Again, T’Challa has to be at least mildly bewildered on a rational level.  Here is a man who has a family.  He has a calm, deadly focus that can only be maintained through cogent thinking.  And he is bold enough to face an unknown opponent in battle.  He is so audacious he can be flippant about his challenge to the new King of Wakanda: “We haven’t met yet.  I’m Clint.”

“I don’t care!” Panther retorts.  But is that true?  Clint has all the motivation in the world to stay out of this battle.  Yet here he is, fighting T’Challa, a man who eventually knocks him down and defeats him.  By rights, he should not be here.  But he is.

Why?  Why would he leave his safe, happy home to protect Barnes?

The last straw is when Black Widow uses her stingers to halt T’Challa, allowing his quarry and Captain America to escape.  By way of explanation, she tells him, “I said I’d help you find him.  I didn’t say I’d help you catch him.  There’s…. a difference.”

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It is very hard for Team Iron not to see Natasha’s actions as anything less than betrayal.  Panther is especially upset, since he felt he had an ally and a friend in her.  But the question is why she would turn around and help Steve.  The idea that Natasha helped him simply because she could not stop him does not hold water.   She could have fought and at least detained him and Bucky until T’Challa arrived.  He would have taken Bucky while she held off Steve.  And the fact is that Natasha Romanoff is capable of fighting Steve Rogers and keeping him very busy indeed.

Instead, she shot T’Challa with her 30,000 volt stinger, restraining him long enough for the two to get away.  Why?  Why throw away her security and position to help Steve?

These questions have to be rattling around in T’Challa’s mind as he follows Iron Man to Siberia.  Perhaps he also heard the news about the psychiatrist Zemo killed and impersonated before he took off.  Either way, he does not immediately attack the duo when Iron Man joins up with them.

It would have been the perfect opportunity.  The minute they all turned their backs, he could have pounced on Bucky and quite possibly have killed him before they could react.

But T’Challa does not do that.  Instead, he follows the three at a distance, keeping to the shadows, moving quietly.  He gets an up close and personal view of the hellish pit where Bucky was frozen, tortured, and made into a weapon.  He watches them meet Zemo, hears the former Sokovian commando admit to bombing the U.N., and probably hears at least part of the tape that shows Bucky killing the Starks.

As the fight between the three breaks out, Zemo makes a run for it.  And Panther is left with a decision:  Should he stop the fight, or should he prevent Zemo from escaping?

The fight in the base will resolve itself best without him.  If he butts in and tries to stop Iron Man, he will only make matters worse.  More importantly, if Zemo gets away, justice will not be served.

So T’Challa goes back upstairs and finds Zemo, who is looking out over the mountains.  Their discussion I no longer remember clearly, except for certain sentences, like the part where Zemo apologizes for killing King T’Chaka.  Hah; some apology.  The bombing was not necessary in the first place.  Zemo only did it to destroy something good and wonderful – the Avengers.  He did not care about the innocents he killed.  If he did, he would not have detonated the bomb in the first place.

This is the wages of revenge.  Instead of “only” ruining the Avengers’ lives, Zemo has ruined hundreds.  He killed Panther’s father, an innocent psychiatrist (I cannot believe I just said that, either), and a number of other people.  And for what? – To make himself feel better?  He is ready to murder himself now that his “task” is done.  I’m fairly certain that this is NOT a sign of “feeling better.”

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“Vengeance has consumed you,” T’Challa says, shaking his head a little.  His eyes, though, never leave Zemo.  The man has lived this long simply because he wanted to destroy the Avengers.  T’Challa does not need anyone to tell him that empty shell of a man, plus gun, equals suicide plan.  “It is consuming them,” he adds, meaning the fight in the base.

I would not go so far as to say that, although Tony’s actions are certainly driven more by feelings of guilt than by rational thinking.  T’Challa knows what that is like.  With his father’s real killer now seated in front of him, he has realized what Cap, and by extension his team, did for him.  Likewise, he realizes what Steve is doing his best for Tony in the base below right now.

Cap, Wanda, Ant-Man, Hawkeye, and Natasha saved T’Challa from making a horrible mistake.  By preventing him from killing Bucky, they kept T’Challa from turning into a murderer little better than Zemo.  Sure, T’Challa would have been remorseful once he found out that he had killed the wrong man.  But that would not have undone the deed.  By averting the action in the first place Wanda Maximoff, Scott Lang, Clint Barton, and Natasha Romanoff preserved T’Challa from that fate.  They saved his soul.

Cap saved his soul.  Not once.  Not twice.  Several times Steve stood between T’Challa and Hell, and kept him from jumping in feet first.

And T’Challa, an honorable man, knows that he owes Cap for that.  He owes his entire team for that.

He also knows that Zemo’s soul, perhaps not in the best shape to start with, is now little better than a dark pit.  The man has the unmitigated gall to apologize for killing T’Challa’s father in a pointless search for revenge.   Zemo was not pursuing justice and he knows it.  He is holding a grudge against people who did their best to save lives but who were still unable to save everyone, including his family.  Zemo is not feeling remorse.  His words are an attempt to placate justice with an excuse.

But as Panther says, “Justice will come soon enough.”  Either in this life or the next, justice will be served.  So when Zemo tries to escape the justice of this world through suicide, Black Panther prevents him from killing himself.  It is not out of pity that T’Challa blocks the shot and captures Zemo.  As he says, “The living are not done with you yet.”

Zemo did not want justice for his family.  He wanted revenge.  Panther did not want revenge, though his judgment was clouded with it.  T’Challa wanted justice for his father.  He wanted his father’s murderer to pay for what he had done.

In combat, he was willing, almost eager, to kill Bucky.  But when they captured him the first time, T’Challa was also ready to accept Barnes’ imprisonment.  Bucky would not be able to kill anyone in prison, after all.  At least, he would not be able to kill anyone who did not deserve it.

Now that he knows it was Zemo and not Barnes; sees what Zemo has become since he gave into his grief and rage, T’Challa decides to let go of his own anger and anguish.  He will always miss his father, who was stolen from him in a terrible manner.  But he no longer wants to kill to satisfy his fury and sorrow.

And since Zemo is so eager to die, the best way to punish him is to keep him alive.  Until the natural end of his life, hopefully, he will have to eat, sleep, and use the bathroom like everybody else.  He has determined that he has no purpose in life except the destruction of the Avengers.  With that accomplished, for the moment, Zemo will have to remain living in a world he has concluded is not worth his time.

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The final time we see T’Challa in the movie is when Bucky is put into cryostasis in Wakanda.  It is obvious here that T’Challa is thanking Cap and his friends for saving him from making a monstrous mistake.

But there is more than mere appreciation in his giving asylum to Team Cap and medical aid to Bucky.  Bucky is a victim, as much as T’Chaka was.  While his father is beyond his reach, Bucky is a clear and present case he can help.  He once wanted the Winter Soldier dead for a crime he did not commit.  It is his duty now to see to it that Bucky has a chance to find some measure of peace in this life.

And Team Cap is not a gang of criminals, though the law says they are.  As Charles Dickens wrote, “The law is an ass, and it has never been married.”  It would seem that T’Challa recognizes now the injustice of the Accords.  He understands that the Avengers have done their best to save as many lives in every crisis where they have been present as they can.  However, this does not mean they are able to save everyone, and to blame them for the misfortunes of battle is unreasonable.

Panther is too logical to tolerate the irrational.

This is why, when Cap reminds him that the officials may eventually come for Bucky, T’Challa smiles.  “Let them try,” he replies confidently.  They may come, and if they do, they will find they have bitten off more than they can chew.  Wakanda is as advanced as any First World country, and it is inhabited by very strong warriors.  So if you want to tango with them, go right ahead.  The rest of us will start knitting your burial shroud as you march off to get cut to pieces.

We do not know, as of Civil War, if T’Challa has had to register under the Accords as a superhuman.  I imagine the legal ramifications of forcing the monarch of a sovereign nation to obey international registration laws are more than slightly complicated.  And T’Challa is smart enough to tie the U.N. into legal knots they would be centuries untying.  If they try to put pressure on him, they are going to regret it – big time.

Considering Cap’s statement of “if they find out he’s here,” it does not sound like Team Cap will be living as ex-pats in Wakanda between this film and Infinity War.  Cap said “he,” not “we.”  As I have stated before, they will probably drop in for a visit every now and then, or whenever Bucky is woken up for a new treatment.  T’Challa will most likely be there to meet them when they come, and I suspect that he will be supplying them with money, aid, and tech until Infinity War as well.  He may even call on them to help him out under the radar!

It would be nice if we got a glimpse of Team Cap in Wakanda during the Black Panther movie in 2018.  I have my fingers crossed that at least Cap will get to pop in and have a few lines.  Background appearances for the others would be the minimum appeasement for me.

But we will have to wait and see what happens in 2018.   Until then –

Secret Avengers – Assemble!

The Mithril Guardian

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A Review of Marvel’s Captain America: Civil War

Captain America: Civil War Opens to $200.2 Million Overseas

WHA-HOOOOO!!!!!! Readers, Captain America: Civil War has to be one of the absolute BEST Marvel movies ever!!!!

I will attempt to keep the spoilers out of this review, and start my character analysis posts somewhere in the middle of the summer, when more people have had time to see the film. But I will “spoil” one thing here: in the movie, NO AVENGERS DIE!!!  YAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Okay, with the enthusiastic fan victory lap out of the way, we can get to the meat of the matter. Civil War is a movie so action packed it is almost too heavy on the fighting. Almost. The Russos just manage to keep Cap at the center of the whirlwind, despite the number of players within the story.

That being said, Tony probably takes second place to Cap in this tale. His arc is the most painful to watch, since his actions are the primary reason for the major conflicts in the film. Cap’s journey is much less agonizing; not once did he compromise his moral compass, even at the end of the climactic battle in the HYDRA base.

This was the best part of the film, second only in one other factor, which I will mention momentarily. In an era when the ‘intellectuals’ want Americans to ‘get with the times,’ and submit to the angst-filled, beaten, and beastly façade that they insist is the new America, Steve Rogers remains “bloody, but unbowed.” (This quote is from a poem called Invictus, written by William Ernest Henley. Invictus is Latin, and loosely translated, it means “undefeated,” “unconquerable,” or “indefatigable.” You can find the full poem somewhere on my blog if you wish, readers.) It is nice to have a hero who is so thoroughly American that it is impossible to ruin him – not without losing tons of money, anyway.

The second great thing about Civil War is that it has a hopeful ending. Notice I did not say it has a happy ending; that is up to the individual viewer to find, if they can. But it does have a hopeful ending. And as Napoleon said, “A leader is a dealer in hope.” And I have to say, in the United States of America, we never needed hope as much as we do today. The assaults are coming thick and fast from every conceivable direction – and even from some heretofore inconceivable angles. It is too bad Steve Rogers is a fictional character. We could sure use an American Galahad right about now.

But if we have to settle for one who dwells on the silver screen, I think we can live with that.

As for the other Avengers in this show, Hawkeye and Ant-Man do not really have character arcs within this film. That is understandable. Hawkeye’s arc was pretty impressive in Age of Ultron, and while I have my fingers crossed that we will get to see him in another film at some point, he proved again in Civil War precisely why I like him. 😉 His part was not everything I wanted it to be, but it was still great! (But can’t they refer to him as Hawkeye at least twice within the same movie?!? I do not mind calling him Clint or Barton, but he has a codename, too, ya know!!!)

Ant-Man’s character arc in his own film last year was so well done that we did not need much of an introduction to him this time around. Still, he does grow a little here (there is a pun in this statement). For a previously solo act in the super-powered sphere, he shows he can adjust to working with a team fairly well…. But he and Hawkeye still have some teammate issues to figure out.

Vision and Wanda’s character arcs constantly shift between active and passive. Some of their character growth is on the battlefield; other moments are in the serenity of the Avengers’ compound. As a side note, there is a visual reference to X-Men: Evolution near the end of the film for Wanda. If you do not spot it, then do not worry. I will do my best to make a mention of it in my next post about her. Remind me if I forget, please. 😉

Though we missed Pietro’s presence in this film, there were others we did not miss. Spider-Man’s character arc, while limited, adhered to his roots – for once. He shows he is greener than either Wanda or Scott Lang, but he has as much “heart” as either of them. I am not sure I buy the method Tony used to recruit him. Though it is quite Stark-esque, it almost grated on my nerves, since I wanted to see more of Cap and felt dragged away from him by the detour to pick up the webslinger!

Black Panther fans need not fear for his character. This longtime ally and friend of Steve Rogers came through the movie fantastically. In fact, one of the friends who watched this film with me came to admire him during the course of the story, when said friend had previously stated that T’Challa was “boring.” Bonus points for an already great part in an excellent film!!!

On the subject of characters who came out well in the movie, Natasha pulled through with flying colors. She may still be fighting the Soviet mold, but she proved that she can conquer it. 😉 GO BLACK WIDOW!!!

Let’s see – who did I miss? Ah, Rhodey! Other than his influence on Tony, Rhodey came across as rather dense in this film. His reasons for signing the Accords were beyond dumb. The U.N. is nothing like SHIELD, which is quite a compliment to the spy agency. But the World Security Council had plenty in common with the U.N. And the fact that Rhodey cannot see this is very sad and does his character no favors whatsoever.

Sam Wilson, however, has the sight of his codename. No way is the Falcon going to get hoodwinked that easily. Speaking of Falcon, his little drone, Redwing, is a very neat addition to the team. Too bad it’s not a bird, as it is in the comics. Sam’s character arc is fun to watch and harkens back to his days of Avenging as Cap’s particular partner in the older comics. He proves he is an able field commander and combatant in Civil War, and I think it will be hard for the writers to top his part in this film.

I think the only hero I have not covered yet is the Winter Soldier. Yes, I called him a hero. He is an abused hero, but a hero all the same. It is odd; I actually related better to him in this film than I did in The Winter Soldier. He was someone to be pitied in that film. In Civil War, compassion comes into play more, as he gets to actually show some personality this time. He is not the same man he was in World War II, and he can never be that person again. But neither is he the coldly terrifying hunter of men we saw in Cap 2. On the whole, this portrayal of him is probably the best one yet.

Now, about those villains…. contrary to popular statements, I do not think Tony qualifies as a villain in this film. I would not even put him down as an antagonist. He sets off Civil War as he set off Age of Ultron: through childish hubris, an overly guilty conscience, and blind fear. A little anger is mixed in at the end of the film, rather understandably, making him emotionally revert to being a young boy again.

Cap’s treatment of him reflects that. The ending of the film is substantially different than the end of the comic book war, for which I am grateful. From what I know of the comic book conflict, I think I can say the film’s ending is by far the better one. I know I will not be reading the Civil War comics – the first collection or the second set Marvel Comics is preparing to release sometime soon – when I can watch this film! As painful as the fight between the two heroes is, for me, there is a slight sweetness amid the sorrow. Cap came through the fight bloody, but in one piece – physically, mentally, and morally. If only the comic book writers were willing to treat him so!!!

(How come the film writers keep doing better than the comic book writers? Seriously, how? Are they more in tune with reason and logic than the comic book writers? Someone somewhere within the Marvel comic book writing system is not firing on all cylinders. There is a malfunction in the writing department, because they are not telling stories anymore. They are partying like Ferris Bueller.)

General Thunderbolt Ross does not appear to be a villain in Civil War, as he did in The Incredible Hulk. He does not scream and roar, nor skate on the edge of an apoplectic fit, the way he did in that movie. But his goal is no different now than it was before: he’s a trigger-happy jerk who wants control of the best weapons he can find. And the “best weapons” he can “find” are the Avengers. The irate General turned Secretary of State just made my I-want-to-punch-this-guy-list; he has outstripped even Loki. Now that is a feat!

Helmut Zemo – no baron in this movie – is a complete villain. They try to win the audience’s sympathy for him throughout the story. But for my part, I saw nothing I was able to even remotely empathize with in his character, and their attempts were little short of window dressing.

If you want my opinion, Zemo was born with a soul as black as the pits of Hell. The guy is Evil, with a capital E, no two ways about it. He is not dangerous for his powers – he has no enhancements as of this film. He is treacherous simply because he is intelligent and pure evil. Zemo is a totally terrifying villain. I do not know how Thanos can possibly upstage him – but I suppose that he will, somehow, manage to do that.

If you can, readers, you have got to see this movie while it is still in cinemas!!! And do not forget to stay for the mid and end credit scenes! As a side note, I will be leaving my “Whose Side Are You On?” poll open until December 2016. So if you have not yet chosen a side, now is the time!

GO CAPTAIN AMERICA!!!!!!!!!

The Mithril Guardian

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

The Songs from The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

Hey there, everyone! Here we are in Middle-earth yet again. I do not know just why, but I have to tell you that I cannot get enough of The Hobbit films at the moment. I just keep circling back to them.

I suppose part of it is that the films are over now. I got to see The Lord of the Rings about six or more years back, and I naturally enjoyed them a great deal. But it was a real treat to see The Hobbit brought to the silver screen. True, the movies do not align precisely with the book, but the overall film version has differences with which I can happily live. So, with the new trilogy at an end, there are no more journeys to Middle-earth to look forward to every year. All good things must come to an end, as they say. *Sigh.*

On a lighter note, I thought that I would highlight the magnificent songs we saw in the first Hobbit film, An Unexpected Journey. If you have been looking at my blog since I first set up shop, then you know I did a post about these songs waaay back in 2013, after An Unexpected Journey was old news (or nearly so). With the films over, I thought I would do another post on those songs which completely captured my imagination in theaters. First up is, naturally, “Blunt the Knives”:

 

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey – “Blunt the Knives”

 

This song provides almost endless joy for me. First, I like it because the song really impressed me when I read The Hobbit some years ago. Reading about Bilbo’s hobbit hole being invaded by Dwarves who subsequently clean up his house, a la Disney style, was great fun. When I heard that The Hobbit was being filmed, I hoped this scene would make it into the movie. Oh, rapture, it did!

When the Dwarves start singing as Fili, Kili, and Bifur begin tidying up the dinnerware, I wanted to bounce in my seat like an excited child. But as the scene unfolded and the Dwarves’ acrobatics became more and more complicated and sophisticated, I became enthralled. I think my mouth literally hung open until the end of the song, when I started giggling and laughing (quietly, so that I would not annoy the other movie goers). To this day I watch the Dwarves “Carefully! Carefully!” put away the plates every chance I get.

The next song in the line-up is “Misty Mountains”:

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey – “Misty Mountains”

 

“Misty Mountains” is perfect. In The Hobbit, Bilbo literally falls asleep while listening to the Dwarves sing about their stolen hoards of gold and their lost kingdom. Listening to the song in the theater, I thought: “Ooooh, if only I didn’t have to watch the movie, or worry about falling asleep in the theater! I’d go to sleep this instant listening to this, if I could!”

Needless to say, I did not fall asleep. My only complaint is that so little of the song made it to the screen! It is not nearly long enough to lull me to sleep, as it sent Bilbo off to dreamland in Tolkien’s The Hobbit.

By the way, “Blunt the Knives” and “Misty Mountains” were written by Tolkien and are part of The Hobbit. The lyrics have been re-arranged for the film, but otherwise the songs are as found in the book.

The next song in the film is also the last in the theatrical release. Sung by Neil Finn, it is called “Over the Lonely Mountain”:

 

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey – “Over the Lonely Mountain” – by Neil Finn

 

This song was a great way to end An Unexpected Journey in this writer’s opinion.   Based on “Misty Mountains,” the song is slow but forceful. Some of the sounds (I am not sure they qualify as notes) in the song are reminiscent of hammers at work in a smith’s forge, recalling a scene early in An Unexpected Journey which showed Thorin Oakenshield at a forge sometime after he and his people had been chased out of the Lonely Mountain and forced to wander Middle-earth, taking whatever work they could find to survive.

The lyrics “some folk we never forget/some kind we never forgive/haven’t seen the back of us yet,” etcetera, drive this parallel home to me. The song seems to be mostly about Thorin, but has hints that other Dwarves of Durin’s line and folk feel the same way about Erebor’s fall. I really do not know what else I can say about this song at the moment. I feel my opinions about it too strongly for words, so I am afraid this paltry praise is all I can give you today, readers.

The last song in this post is also from An Unexpected Journey. If you have the extended edition of that film, then you already know about this song. As for me, I discovered it when I was looking up other videos from The Hobbit films. So, without further ado, here’s “The Man in the Moon Stayed Up Too Late”!!!

 

The Man in the Moon Stayed Up Too Late

 

James Nesbitt apparently wrote the music for this song himself. “The Man in the Moon Stayed Up Too Late,” is actually a song from The Fellowship of the Ring. Trying to distract the crowd when Pippin begins retelling the story of Bilbo’s eleventy-first birthday, Frodo jumps up on a table in the Prancing Pony and begins singing the song, which was written by Bilbo, as it turns out. But his impromptu performance ends in disaster when he tumbles off the table and the Ring “accidently” slips onto his finger and makes him vanish.

In this extended scene from An Unexpected Journey, however, the Dwarves are trying desperately not to lose their minds as they listen to the dulcet music the Elves play for their enjoyment. Nori says he “feels like [he’s] at a funeral!” So Bofur decides there is only one remedy for the situation: he jumps up on a platform between the Dwarves’ dinner tables and starts singing a shortened version of “The Man in the Moon Stayed Up Too Late.”

Now why the Dwarves would all start pelting each other with food, I cannot say, other than to make the Elves and Gandalf – who was trying to make the Elves feel more at ease with their prejudiced guests – uncomfortable. If that was their aim, then they succeeded admirably, though they may have done it simply because they could not stand Elven food, which was not very meat-rich.

Regardless, I enjoy the video because of “The Man in the Moon Stayed Up Too Late.” I enjoyed the song as written in The Fellowship of the Ring, and to hear it being sung is wonderful. Everyone did their best with bringing The Hobbit to life on the silver screen and, while the movies may not be everything we wish they were, they are great fun nonetheless. So, readers, until we meet again –

The Mithril Guardian

(bowing)

At your service!

The Hobbit Film Trilogy: Bard the Bowman

 

Greetings, readers! Today I once again find myself wandering through The Hobbit films. This time, though, the focus is on the most important Man in the films, Bard the Bowman.

Ever since I encountered him in the pages of The Hobbit, I have liked Bard. His sense of justice, his courage, and his compassion all combined to make him a very appealing character. When I heard they were making a film of The Hobbit, one of my first thoughts was: “Yes! That means we get to see Bard on the silver screen! Yahoo!”

Well, we did not get to see him in An Unexpected Journey, but by the middle of The Desolation of Smaug, there he was. He came up on the Dwarves nice and quiet after they had escaped the Wood Elves – and he managed to not only intimidate Dwalin with a well shot arrow but also to startle Kíli, the Company’s only archer!

It takes some work, but Balin eventually convinces him to smuggle the Company into Lake-town. The good old Dwarf’s only mistake is to mention Bard’s wife, who has been dead for some years. But, despite that mistake, Balin gets them passage to Lake-town on Bard’s barge. And Bard, just like in the book, stays true to his word. He gets them safely into Lake-town – though they probably smelled strongly of fish for a few hours after!

And once they are in town, Bard hides the Company in his house, introducing his son Bain and two daughters to them (interestingly, Bard had no daughters in the book, and we only learn about Bain in The Fellowship of the Ring). As the Company prepares to head for the Mountain, Bard hears Thorin’s name mentioned. Recognizing the name, but unable to recall why, he leaves Bain in charge of the household to search for answers…

… and finds he is sheltering the dispossessed King under the Mountain in his home. He also recalls the prophecy which states that, although the King under the Mountain “shall come into his own,” the lake “will shine and burn.” Which means his family and the people of Lake-town are in serious trouble. But, just as in the book, no one heeds Bard’s warnings. He is always predicting all manner of disasters, they say, which never come to pass. Why should this be any different?

Disappointed by his people’s blindness and the determination of Thorin to enter the Mountain no matter what, Bard leaves the Company to be celebrated by the townspeople. He and his children do not see the Company off but remain at home, where Bofur, Fíli, and Óin find them some time later.

At first, Bard will not let them in. “No!” he snaps before Bofur can speak. “I’ve had enough of Dwarves!”

But when he sees Kíli’s condition and learns that no one else will help the four Dwarves, Bard’s compassion overrules his frustration. He lets them into the house once again, and does his best to help them with Kíli’s injury. When the Mountain starts to rumble, however, Bard realizes that Smaug is awake. Though the dragon has not left the Mountain in years, with a Company of Dwarves disturbing his rest, it is all too probable that he will leave his hoard to attack Lake-town.

And with that in mind, Bard unveils the great Black Arrow that has been passed down through his family since the time of his great forefather, the last King of Dale, Girion.

My only issue with the Black Arrow as portrayed in the film was that it was too big. In the book, the black arrow was an ordinary arrow. It was, apparently, made of iron, but otherwise it was an ordinary arrow. Still, before Bard can prepare the Arrow for firing, he is captured by the Master of Lake-town and his servant Alfrid, who are hoping to ruin Bard’s reputation with the Lake Men. Unknown to the Master, however, Bain has hidden the Black Arrow and returned to the house – in time to run into a bunch of Orcs and two Elves.

It is going to be a long night.

Thinking they have removed the last obstacle to their power, the Master and Alfrid congratulate each other on locking Bard up. But in doing so they only succeed in leaving Lake-town largely defenseless when Smaug attacks. Bard, however, manages to escape his cell – proof that you cannot keep a concerned, loving father locked up when his family is in danger. Grabbing a bow and a quiver full of arrows, Bard is the only one to challenge Smaug as the dragon sprays the wooden houses with fire.

As Tauriel and the Dwarves work to get Bard’s children out of the flaming town, Bain spots his father firing on the dragon. He points him out to the others in the boat, and Kíli sees one of his arrows strike the dragon. But Tauriel tells them that though the shot was well aimed, it cannot pierce the dragon’s scales. From where she sits, it appears that Bard is a deader.

That is when Bain sees the boat where he hid the Black Arrow, still afloat and undamaged. Without a word, he jumps out of the boat carrying his sisters, the Dwarves, and their Elven guard. Going to the boat, he grabs the Arrow and climbs up the bell tower to his father.

Bard first chastises his son for coming back to him, then smiles when Bain holds up the Black Arrow. He then has to keep his son safe when Smaug whacks the bell’s tower, taking off the top of the tower and the bell. Bard picks up the Arrow, then finds his bow has snapped.

Smaug lands and begins taunting the “Bowman,” telling him he cannot save his son or anyone else. But Bard has other ideas. Using the remains of his bow, some rope, and his son’s shoulder, Bard nocks the Black Arrow and prepares to take aim. Bain, of course, is very scared about being the rest for the Arrow – especially since his back is to the dragon that wants to eat him! Bard tells his son to “look at me,” in order to keep him calm and still. (Very William Tell – nice job, Peter Jackson!) Bain calms down as Smaug takes another step forward…

And reveals the missing scale in the left side of his chest. Bard takes aim at the space and, as Smaug jumps into the air, fires. The shot is true and Smaug dies – conveniently landing on the Master as he tries to escape Lake-town with a boatload of gold, removing him from the film as well (fare thee well, Stephen Fry).

By dawn, the survivors of Lake-town have reached the lake shore. Bard’s daughters go into the crowd, searching for their father, as Alfrid tries to become the new Master of the Lake Men. Remembering his conduct of the night previous, when he tried to escape the town on the Master’s barge (since they needed to lighten the load to get through a particular channel, the Master tossed him overboard), the Lake Men are not going to just roll over and accept Alfrid as their new Master.

When one woman tells that to Alfrid’s face, he prepares to strike her – only for Bard to stop him. Reunited with his daughters, Bard is acclaimed the hero of Lake-town. The people begin to chant “King Bard! King Bard!” Alfrid, trying to keep himself in a good position, joins in the chanting.

The crowd goes absolutely silent, and Bard shoots him a disgusted look. That is when the people come up with the happy idea of hanging Alfrid from the nearest tree. They grab him, hoist him over their heads, and start off, Alfrid screaming for mercy as they do so.

I was looking forward to what Bard would do in this scene. I knew what he had done in the book, and I was really hoping he would behave in a similar manner in the film.

Peter Jackson did not disappoint me. Bard stops the Lake Men, reminding them that there has been enough death and counseling them to have at least a little mercy for Alfrid. However, a little mercy does not include liking him, as Bard proves when Alfrid tries to lean on him as a friend and Bard dumps him on the ground.

With that matter settled, Bard leads the people to the ruins of Dale, hoping to get them to something resembling shelter, since winter is setting in. But the ruins are little help against the cold, and the Lake Men have few supplies. Bard decides that he will go to Thorin and ask for the recompense he promised the Lake Men, so that they can get about surviving the winter and rebuilding Dale and the Lake-town. Then, just to make sure Alfrid will pull his weight, Bard puts him on guard duty.

In the morning, he discovers that this was a lousy idea. In the night, Alfrid slept, and an army of Wood Elves has taken up residence inside Dale. Not long after making this discovery, Bard meets Thranduil who, perhaps recalling Thorin’s stinging rebuke about how little he helped the Dwarves after Smaug took the Lonely Mountain, has brought supplies for the Lake Men. Bard, in gratitude for Thranduil’s aid to the Lake Men, agrees to help him get his own compensation from Thorin.

However, Bard wants to at least try to get what was promised to his people without a war. He rides up to the front entrance of the Lonely Mountain, which Thorin has had sealed off. There he begs him to remember that he gave his word, that the people of Lake-town have paid dearly for helping him and his Company, and now they need Thorin’s help.

But Thorin’s natural weakness for gold – in the film it is repeatedly called “dragon sickness” – prevents him from feeling any pity or compassion for the people of Lake-town. Nor, for that matter, does he feel any need to repay Bard for his help: first in bringing the Dwarves to Lake-town, then in sheltering Fíli, Kíli, Óin, and Bofur when no one else would.

Aggravated, Bard returns to Thranduil and reluctantly agrees to join the Elven King’s attack on the Lonely Mountain at dawn. Though Bard does not want to go to war with the Dwarves, Thranduil has helped him and his people. They owe the Elven King for that, and Thorin still owes Bard’s people the gold he promised them. He knows he has gotten mixed up in the grudge match between Thranduil and Thorin; he also knows there is no way he can get out of it without him and his people being left to die off slowly throughout the winter.

Gandalf’s arrival only makes matters worse for him. Bard learns from the wizard that an army of Orcs is headed for the Mountain; their leader wants to kill Thorin and he is willing to go through everyone in and around Erebor to do it. The situation is looking grimmer by the second when Bilbo suddenly arrives. He presents Bard, Thranduil, and Gandalf with the Arkenstone, the one treasure in the hoards of Erebor which Thorin desires above all else. Bilbo seems certain that Thorin will hand over the treasure he owes Bard and Thranduil in exchange for the Heart of the Mountain. With a bargaining chip such as this, Bard hopes they have a way of avoiding war with the Dwarves.

But Bilbo’s plan, while not worthless, has the undesired effect of making Thorin even more determined to go to war. This is made apparent when Thorin’s cousin, Dain Ironfoot, arrives with an army of five hundred Dwarves from the Iron Hills. War among the three races is about to commence when the Orcs arrive. Instead of turning against each other, however, the would-be enemies turn to face the Orcs whom they all recognize as a threat greater than their grudges and broken promises.

When Azog sends an Orc battalion into Dale to attack the Lake-town survivors, Bard’s first thoughts are for his people and, most especially, for his son and daughters. He leads his men into battle against the Orcs and still manages to come to the direct defense of his three children. Throughout the rest of the Battle of the Five Armies, Bard holds the Orcs who enter Dale within the ruined city, eventually destroying them all while preserving the lives of his children and most of his people.

Nothing more is mentioned about Bard in the film, unfortunately, but I do know a few details from the book(s) which may interest you, readers. After the Battle of the Five Armies, Bard and his people did receive the recompense from the Dwarves that they were promised.   Dain, who became the new King under the Mountain after Thorin’s death, honored his cousin’s promise to the fullest extent. Bard gave some of the jewels Dain returned to him – emeralds which were heirlooms of his family – to Thranduil in gratitude for his help during the Lake Men’s time of need.

With all this new wealth, Lake-town was rebuilt, and its new Master “was of wiser kind” than the former. Trade between the Woodland realm, Dale, Lake-town, Erebor, and the people to the South resumed – pretty soon, gold was running as thick as the river was deep! The people were all rich beyond imagining. Bard became king of the rebuilt Dale, and Bain succeeded him when his time came. Bain was then succeeded by his own son, Brand, who ruled Dale up to and during the War of the Ring.

A few months prior to the War of the Ring, messengers from Sauron came to Dain and Brand, asking them to find the One Ring, since they were acquainted with Bilbo at one time. Neither the King under the Mountain nor the King of Dale gave Sauron’s messengers a satisfactory answer to this “request.” When the messengers left, they promised retribution if the two kings did nothing to aid Sauron.

The reprisal came during the Fellowship of the Ring’s travails. Dale and the Lonely Mountain were both attacked several times. In one of the final engagements, Dain and Brand were killed where they fought side by side against the Orcs. Thorin III (Thorin Oakenshield was Thorin II) and Bard II, Dain’s and Brand’s sons respectively, then became the King under the Mountain and the King of Dale, after leading the final assault against the Orcs. At the same time Dale and Erebor were under attack, Thranduil’s realm was also assailed a number of times, but each attack was successfully repulsed. With the fall of Sauron, Mirkwood was renamed Eryn Lasgalen (which means ‘wood of green leaves’), and life in the North went back to normal.

But this normal would not have existed if thirteen Dwarves and one Hobbit had not driven the great dragon Smaug out of the Lonely Mountain; and if one Man had not taken aim at the dragon and found his one weak spot. Without Bard, even driving Smaug out of the Mountain would not have been enough. If Smaug had been allowed to remain in Erebor, all the North would have become his domain while he was under Sauron’s control. As Gandalf said at the beginning of The Desolation of Smaug, the dragon had to go, or Middle-earth would pay dearly for his staying under the Mountain.

Well, readers, as you can see I was very pleased with Bard’s portrayal in The Hobbit films. The only thing I would have done differently, had I been filming the movies, is that I would have shown him paying Thranduil for his help, with the mention that he would be the new ruler of Dale henceforward. But maybe the Extended Editions of The Hobbit films will have a scene or two showing us some of what happens to Bard after the Battle of the Five Armies. We shall have to wait and see.  😉

Until next time!

The Mithril Guardian

http://borg.com/2012/08/02/jackson-confirms-division-of-the-hobbit-into-three-films/

http://borg.com/2014/12/18/a-battle-of-two-reviews-examining-peter-jacksons-the-hobbit-the-battle-of-the-five-armies/

http://borg.com/2014/08/02/cloaks-daggers-new-book-offers-unprecedented-access-to-movie-costume-props-and-sets-of-the-hobbit-series

http://borg.com/2013/12/25/movie-review-an-amazing-adventure-awaits-in-the-hobbit-the-desolation-of-smaug/

http://borg.com/2012/12/25/the-hobbit-argo-and-arrow-lead-off-our-list-of-the-best-of-2012/

http://borg.com/2012/12/15/opening-weekend-review-the-hobbit-a-masterpiece-of-fantasy-perfection/

The Hobbit Film Trilogy: Kíli and Tauriel

A Elbereth, Gilthoniel!

I am more remiss in my posts about The Hobbit films than I am in anything else – with the exception of Pacific Rim and Star Trek Into Darkness. I had meant to write some posts about The Desolation of Smaug, but with my excitement over the upcoming Avengers: Age of Ultron, I got distracted and did not write them. But better late than never, as they say!

Also, it might have been a good thing to have waited this long to post anything about The Hobbit film franchise. There were a lot of things hinted at in The Desolation of Smaug and, even though I have read Tolkien’s The Hobbit, I was not sure where Peter Jackson and his crew were going to go with The Battle of the Five Armies. Now I know, since I saw The Five Armies not too long ago, and I am ready to write about the films again.

Okay, if you saw my post “Twins Fíli and Kíli,” then I have an apology to make. Fíli and Kíli are not twins; Fíli is older than Kíli by five years, and I did not take the time to check out their respective ages when I wrote that post. I was under some weird impression that no one knew when they were born or something, and I made a guess that they were twins. I guessed poorly, and I made a note of my mistake on that post not too long ago. I also changed its title; it is now called “Fíli and Kíli.”

Now, to the subject of this post – Kíli and Tauriel.

Tauriel is not in any of Tolkien’s original works; she is a character made specifically for the film franchise. Like some Hobbit and Lord of the Rings fans, when I heard about her and some sort of a love story or love triangle being part of the movies, I got nervous. I will not say I am a “purist” – someone who believes the movies should align exactly to the books – but I did not want the spirit of Tolkien’s epics marred in any way. Under the wrong kind of direction, I was sure that Tauriel’s part in The Hobbit films would be an unmitigated disaster.

Thankfully, Tauriel worked out just fine for the films. At six hundred years old, Tauriel is a fairly young Elf. In fact the actress who portrays her, Evangeline Lilly, is reported to have once referred to Tauriel as a “baby.” Tauriel has great fighting skills but she has never really left the Woodland Realm of her king, Thranduil. Oh, yeah, and Legolas has a crush on her.

So he is not at all happy when Tauriel and Kíli start a Romance Reel. This begins when the Woodland Elves rescue Thorin and Company from the spiders in Mirkwood. They round up every Dwarf except one: Kíli. Poor Kíli still has a spider chewing on his boot as it tries to drag him off. Before any of the Dwarves or Legolas’ company can react, Tauriel enters the scene. She kills the spider which is so determined to have Kíli for breakfast, then finishes off several more that attack the lone Dwarf.

Kíli’s response to this is an awed look at the Elf woman. Hard to say whether he was more impressed by her fighting skills or her amazing looks, but I think it was probably a combination of the two. Tauriel does not respond to him, but the expression on her face suggests she is pleased that he is so impressed with her.

The flirting does not stop there. Once taken to the Elves’ dungeon, Tauriel is the one to lock Kíli in his cell. When Legolas asks her why “that Dwarf” is staring at her, Tauriel responds that she has no idea, then mentions that he seems taller than most Dwarves. Legolas replies that while Kíli may be taller than the average Dwarf, he is no less ugly.

Sorry, Legolas, but that is hardly cause for dissuasion! Tauriel proves the truth of this when she goes to visit Kíli in the dungeons after Thranduil tells her not to answer Legolas’ romantic advances – or else. For her part, Tauriel certainly seems to like Legolas; she just does not appear to be romantically inclined toward him, as he is to her. During her conversation with Kíli in the dungeons, her romantic feelings are definitely directed toward “that Dwarf.” And, listening from the shadows above Kíli’s cell, Legolas is not very pleased with that.

Once Bilbo frees the Dwarves and gets them into the river, Tauriel and Legolas, along with the Elven guard, pursue the Company. The Dwarves are stopped at a river gate guarded by Elves, where a party of Orcs, led by Azog’s son Bolg, attacks. The Orcs kill the Elves guarding the river gate and, trapped where they are, the Dwarves cannot defend themselves very well or escape either group of pursuers.

Kíli decides to fix this problem. He gets out of his barrel and climbs up to the lever that will open the gate which has the Company trapped, intending to open it and drop back into his barrel. Along the way Fíli protects his younger brother by killing an Orc with a knife. Earlier in the film, when the Wood Elves disarm the Dwarves, Fíli is revealed to have knives of various sizes stashed all over his person. And the Elf who pushed him into his cell had to stop to remove yet another knife from his coat. It was a very cute touch to the film!

Kíli reaches the lever at the same time Bolg shoots him in the leg with a poisoned arrow. Tauriel then keeps the Orcs away from Kíli long enough for the young Dwarf to open the grate and drop back into his barrel. Then she watches as he and his Company are carried downstream past the border of Thranduil’s realm, clearly wanting to follow them and just as clearly torn by the fact that she cannot do so.

But she does follow them once she learns that the arrow Kíli was hit with was poisoned (gleaned during an interesting interrogation scene with Thranduil, Legolas and a captured Orc).  Legolas in turn follows her, and together the two enter Lake-town. They find the Dwarves at Bard’s house, just in time to fight off Bolg and his Orcs. While Legolas pursues Bolg, Tauriel remains behind as Kíli’s condition worsens. Tauriel then uses the athelas found by Bofur to heal the young Dwarf’s injury and learns that Kíli has fallen in love with her.  It is a love she signifies is returned with a simple hand grip.

The whole moment is ruined by Smaug as he attacks Lake-town in retaliation for the Lake Men’s aid to Thorin and his Company, which allowed them to reach the Lonely Mountain. Tauriel helps Óin, Fíli, and Bofur get Kíli and Bard’s two daughters safely to the lake shore. Once there Kíli, much improved in health despite the night’s events, asks her to come with him to Erebor. When Tauriel tries to turn away he adds something in another language which brings her up short.

I am not sure whether he spoke Dwarvish or Elvish (it sounded Elvish to me). Whether or not he was using Sindarin or Khuzdul, Tauriel’s whole “I don’t understand you,” argument was more than somewhat useless because Kíli’s meaning was completely clear: one way or another he told her “I love you.” And she knew it.  Why else would she come to a halt like that?

But the moment is dimmed when Legolas joins the two and tells Tauriel it is time to leave. Before he lets her go, however, Kíli gives her the token stone his mother gave him, as a promise of his love for her. Later, when he and the others arrive at Erebor, Kíli seems much less enthralled by the treasure hoard than his uncle or even his older brother. All the gold under the mountain cannot replace his love for Tauriel with the gold-lust which is a natural weakness the Dwarves of Middle-earth have.

Now, as I said, I have read The Hobbit. Not in quite some time, but I have read it. I knew Fíli, Kíli, and Thorin were all going to die. I just did not know how. I also knew that, because the three had received so much time onscreen, getting their characters expanded – plus Kíli and Tauriel’s love story – meant that watching them die was going to hurt. Really, really hurt.

I was more right than I guessed. I had to make myself watch Fíli’s murder. He did not receive as much screen time in theaters as Kíli did, but I imagine the extended versions of the films will have more scenes for him. And he was a fun character, mostly because he was so playful. Once he separated from Kíli after Thorin sent the two of them to scout for Orcs, I knew he would be the first of the three to die.

I also knew that Kíli was going to be furious when he found out his older brother had been killed. I did not realize he would get to see Fíli’s body land at his feet, but I knew he would fly at the Orcs in a rage over the murder of his brother.

When Tauriel challenged Thranduil and told him he was not going anywhere while the Dwarves and Men still needed help against the Orcs, I figured she would be there when Kíli died. I was impressed when Legolas told his father he was going with Tauriel to help the Dwarves. He obviously still loved Tauriel, but he also knew she loved Kíli. In which case, if she wanted to be with the Dwarf, Legolas was not going to stop her. He would always love her, but he would not separate her from Kíli just to have her for himself.

Or, if not that, he intended to have it out with Kíli when the Orcs were all dead to see which one of them Tauriel really did love.

But if that was his intention, he did not have that chance. Having been saved by Tauriel so many times, Kíli ended up repaying the favor when Bolg attacked her and had her on the ropes. With Tauriel too injured to help him fight Bolg, the big Orc was able to catch and hold Kíli long enough to stab him through the heart with the spike on the end of his mace.

I actually thought Kíli had the best death of the three Dwarves in the film. Fíli was murdered, plain and simple; he never got a chance to fight back and Azog did not let him die with even the small honor of defending himself. Thorin had a good death – he got to avenge his grandfather and his nephew, then got to see his old home restored to his people. That scene actually made me think of how Moses got a look at the Promised Land before he died, which was a nice touch on the filmmakers’ part, even if they did not write the scene with that in mind.

But of the three, Kíli alone died for love. He died protecting Tauriel not only from death, but from whatever wicked machinations Bolg had going through his mind with regard to her. I do not know exactly what would have happened to Tauriel if Bolg had decided to have “fun” with her prior to killing her, but considering that the Orcs are descended from warped, corrupted Elves, the outline of that picture is not pretty. Kíli died making sure she had a chance to fight back, which ended up buying Legolas the time he needed to get into a fight with Bolg when Tauriel became incapacitated after trying to kill the big Orc herself.

I really think Kíli had a good death; something Hollywood has forgotten to show us these days. Most death scenes in the movies of today are violent and focus on the pain the characters feel when parting from this world and those in it they love. Few movies these days show the audience that there is no better reason to die than for the love of another, and Kíli died with his eyes on the Elf woman he loved. I do not know how reasonable it was for the filmmakers to have him tell her he loved her as the spike was going into his chest, but all the same, it was a nice touch to a very poignant scene.

It was also nice to have Thranduil swallow his pride long enough to tell Tauriel that she really was in love with Kíli, since his death grieved her as deeply as it did.

We are not told in the movie what happens to Tauriel after the Battle of the Five Armies; whether she went back to Mirkwood or instead to the Grey Havens, or whether she died sometime after the Battle. For myself, because I really enjoyed the romance between her and Kíli, I like to think she went to the Grey Havens and from there to the Undying Lands, to wait until the time when she and Kíli could be together again. This could also be achieved by her dying of grief (Elves actually can die of grief, which I found surprising). I do not think, however, that she would take that particular road. At least, not from what we last saw of her in the final installment of The Hobbit trilogy.

Well, readers, I have done my best to explain what I think of Kíli and Tauriel’s romance and I am glad to have written it. So, in the same spirit as the Dwarves who first knocked on Bilbo’s round, green door, I am …

The Mithril Guardian

(bowing)

At your service!

http://borg.com/2012/08/02/jackson-confirms-division-of-the-hobbit-into-three-films/

http://borg.com/2014/12/18/a-battle-of-two-reviews-examining-peter-jacksons-the-hobbit-the-battle-of-the-five-armies/

http://borg.com/2014/08/02/cloaks-daggers-new-book-offers-unprecedented-access-to-movie-costume-props-and-sets-of-the-hobbit-series

http://borg.com/2013/12/25/movie-review-an-amazing-adventure-awaits-in-the-hobbit-the-desolation-of-smaug/

http://borg.com/2012/12/25/the-hobbit-argo-and-arrow-lead-off-our-list-of-the-best-of-2012/

http://borg.com/2012/12/15/opening-weekend-review-the-hobbit-a-masterpiece-of-fantasy-perfection/