Tag Archives: Marvel Cinematic Universe

Season Four Wrap-Up of Avengers Assemble

Okay, first things first. Life and lassitude hit at the same time, and I ended up leaving you in limbo for quite a while, readers. Thankfully, life has stabilized and the lethargy has been overcome, so this blogger now has time and energy to devote to you once again. Hopefully it will stay this way going forward. 🙂

Second, I would like to apologize for taking so long to write about the last five episodes of Avengers Assemble: Secret Wars season. I didn’t write this post earlier primarily because I wanted to see where season five of Assemble – titled Black Panther’s Quest – would go before I said anything about season four. So this writer waited until the fifth season had played out before speaking her peace.

Black Panther’s Quest was pretty much what I expected. The Avengers hardly showed up, and when they did, they had undergone a radical redesign to make them match their film depiction more closely. Plus, Wakanda was changed to appear more the movie version, which should not have happened. That Wakanda is nothing like the one in the comics, and outside of his appearances in the Avengers films, the T’Challa/Black Panther in the film bearing the same name is not the one Stan Lee and company created.

Because of these alterations, this blogger saw no more than one or two episodes of Assemble’s season five. Based on those viewings, there will be no more reviews of Avengers Assemble here at Thoughts. This is the final word the Mithril Guardian has for the most recent American series focusing on the Avengers. (The new travesty with an almost exclusively female team does not bear or deserve the title of Avengers.) I may write about Avengers: DISK Wars and Marvel’s Future Avengers at some point, but that is it. Marvel’s new Western offerings hold no more interest for me.

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The last five episodes of Assemble were problematic and therefore difficult to watch. “Weirdworld,” the installment following “The Vibranium Coast,” was for the most part entertaining. This was due almost entirely to the fact that Black Widow completely ignored Captain Marvel/Carol Danvers. (Honestly, that woman does not know when to stop talking..!) Rather than try to force a friendship between the two based on the trite “we’re-two-women-in-a-man’s-world” trope, the writers made it clear that Natasha barely does more than tolerate the braggart Danvers. It was a refreshing change from the enforced norm in other series and this author appreciated that.

The rest of the show focused on the dichotomy between the Hulk and Bruce Banner. Separated by the Beyonder in “Underworld,” Bruce has been hunting his green, wild half ever since. He’s so desperate to end the Hulk that he has struck a deal with Morgan le Fay to destroy Big Green once and for all. Her patch of Battleworld – dubbed Weirdworld by Bruce – is uniquely adapted to this conflict. Using a variety of strange plant life, he tries again and again to capture the Hulk.

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Morgan le Fay

Due to his single-minded pursuit, he misses Morgan le Fay reveal to the heroines that she plans to use the Hulk’s power for herself. Her slip-up is actually believable, since she realizes that Natasha has feelings for both the Hulk and Bruce. Morgan’s miscalculation isn’t made simply to show how evil she is; she’s genuinely trying to hurt someone when she reveals her evil plan. So that part of the episode was well-executed and, added to Black Widow’s clearly non-existent rapport with Captain Marvel, makes “Weirdworld” fairly enjoyable.

As for the rest, I have to say that it is getting tiresome to watch Bruce always trying to kill the Hulk. I understand the history behind it, and done well, it is a good story line. In “Weirdworld,” however, it is not done well at all. I would have been more interested if they had introduced Bruce and the Hulk trying to reconnect with one another, only to be thwarted at every turn by Weirdworld so Morgan le Fay could capture and drain the Hulk of his power. Given the rapport developed between the two halves of the character in earlier seasons, I was actually expecting that turn of events. But the writers went for a cheap retread of an old story rather than an imaginative, new take on the familiar plot.

Unfortunately, this is a problem that repeats itself in the following episodes. “Westland” had some promising themes and moments, but on the whole it rated a “meh” on the scale of entertainment. In search of Doctor Strange, whose magic can help repair and control the Bifrost, Hawkeye, Vision, Wasp, and Loki arrive in an old West town. Only, in this town, they don’t ride horses. They ride dinosaurs.

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While an inventive take on the idea, I have to say that the dinosaurs threw me for a loop. It was too jarring a change from the norm that seemed to have little to do with both the characters and the setting. Plus, in Marvel’s original comics, the Avengers did travel to the Old West a couple of times. Hawkeye was particularly comfortable there, finding a great friend in the Wild West vigilante called Two-Gun.

Throughout its run, “Westland” carries overtones of being an homage to this past story arc, with the World’s Greatest Marksman showing enormous interest in and relative familiarity with the time period. The problem is that the installment is less of a pastiche and more of a joke. We get a token bar fight at the beginning following Hawkeye’s very poor attempt to “speak the lingo” to the bar tender. The denizens’ of Westland ignore him and attack the team, considering Vision a threat because he looks like a robot (technically, he’s a synthetic man). The disrespect or disinterest on the writers’ part to Hawkeye’s history with this story line only continues in several later scenes, though it is somewhat mitigated by Clint’s being temporarily blinded.

Blinding him was definitely a good choice on the writers’ part, as it is a fairly rare story line that nevertheless carries a punch whenever it is utilized. Depriving him of his capacity to continue fighting with his sight is a surefire way to bring drama and tension to an Avengers or Hawkeye installment. “Westland,” when it gives attention to this aspect of the tale, all but sings in this area.

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The rest of the story, however, is a bit of a mess. Vision ends up in the clutches of Rocket and Groot, who plan to use him as spare parts to fix their ship. Vision breaks out of the sack before they can do this and learns to converse with Groot. We are then treated to meaning several conversations that consist of “I am Vision” and “I am Groot,” which is actually a nice touch. Then Jane Foster arrives and reveals that she is the sheriff of the town, totally undermining the callback to Two-Gun and Hawkeye’s ties with the Old West. Add to this the chip on Wasp’s shoulder and Loki’s grandstanding, and the episode left me feeling unfulfilled and unhappy.

Admittedly, they did try to make Hope a little nicer in this episode. She does her best to support and comfort Hawkeye after his blinding, showing genuine sympathy and concern for him. Her pep talk to get him fighting again was almost good – except for the part where they took Clint’s speech to Wanda in Age of Ultron and had Hope repeat it back to him verbatim. That was unnecessary, out of step with her character, and it showed a complete lack of imagination on the part of the writers.

Jane Foster’s promise to “bring her wrath” down on Loki if he betrayed the Avengers also struck the wrong note with me. She’s a scientist, not a sheriff or a warrior. Instead of coming across as a tough, no nonsense, genuinely feminine character she acted like a woman trying to be a man. It didn’t work. (This will become more relevant the further in we go.)

Next is “The Citadel,” the show which leads up to the season’s two-part finale. The episode begins with a conversation between Cap and Tony about defeating the Beyonder, which is interrupted when Tower is attacked. Both heroes are captured by the Beyonder’s forces and taken to his citadel.

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Steve wakes to find himself in a prison cell. While he breaks out of this confinement, the Beyonder tries to tempt Tony into accepting his technology and leaving the path of the hero. Cap arrives in time to snap him out of it, only to be tempted himself. The two begin fighting one another, ostensibly over the Beyonder’s offer of immortality and power.

Eventually, though, it is revealed to be a ruse. Having distracted the alien mastermind long enough to learn his goals, Tony and Steve leave the villains in Beyonder’s service tussling over the forbidden fruit while they make their escape.

Polite words fail me when I even think about this episode, for one simple reason: the presentation of Captain America in this installment borders on the putrid. Rather than show him as the American Galahad, the writers make him appear morally weaker than Tony Stark. While Cap can be tempted, he cannot be enticed in the same manner as others are. He also has a much higher threshold of resistance to sinful offers than practically everyone else in the Marvel Universe(s) does. “The Citadel” not only failed to show this character trait, it reversed his character completely. Cap specifically asks Tony at the end of the episode if he was tempted by the Beyonder’s offer, implying that he wants to know if he was not the only one weak enough to succumb to the alien’s offer.

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Additionally, Beyonder’s proposition was geared specifically to appeal to Tony; it should not have even registered on Cap’s psyche as a lure for that reason. The Beyonder appealed to Tony as a fellow scientist and technician. Cap is neither, and for the offer to entice him as in the manner it does Iron Man is absolutely absurd.

Like a number of other items in the final season of “Assemble,” the ruse could have been easily achieved in a way that better respected both characters. Having Cap fight Tony after the latter was momentarily bedazzled by Beyonder’s offer not only makes more sense, it fits Steve’s MO. He will fight for his friends’ lives and souls no matter the cost to himself, and the writers could have turned this into one such instance.

But the writers for Assemble just had to be different. They had to drag Steve down to the “normal” level to prove he is human. They completely ignored all the work that the MCU and Chris Evans put into demonstrating this fact to millions of movie-goers around the world, a move that is not only foolish but downright malicious. On top of everything else they have done to Steve throughout Assemble, this was just too much. It pulled this blogger out of the story and kept her out for the final two episodes. Those would have turned her off of the series, anyway, but the open disregard and malice in “The Citadel” brought the whole house of cards down much, much faster.

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So when “The Wastelands” and “All Things Must End” played, I was pretty upset. Knowing some of what was coming next from the tidbits dropped by the writers, this author waited for the final shoe to drop. It did drop – with a mighty splash. In this episode we were presented with an animated version the female Thor. Jane Foster calls Mjolnir to her and becomes goddess of thunder after Thor tried to use the hammer to rescue her.

I wish I was joking, readers, but that is what happened at the end of this episode. Then the team finally makes their play to put all the pieces back together, saving the worlds that the Beyonder ripped apart for his experiment. In the process, the alien mastermind is sent packing – but not before Dr. Strange is knocked out of commission. Unable to finish what he started, he gives Loki the Eye of Agamotto to fix the Bifrost and bring everyone home. It works like a charm, too.

Except then Loki won’t give the Eye back. What a shocker; the Sorcerer Supreme gives the trickster god the most powerful magical item in the universe, and he then expects it to be returned to him. Yeah, right.

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Why did no one see Loki’s betrayal in “All Things Must End” coming? Giving him the benefit of the doubt for the millionth time is one thing. Hope over experience is also a plausible reaction to his apparent reform. Necessity requiring that the Eye be transferred to the god of mischief is understandable and inevitable. But why – why!? – didn’t Strange put some kind of spell on the Eye that would cause Loki’s attempts to use it backfire on him and make him give it back?

More to the point, why would the team actually trust someone they hoped would reform, but whom they knew was probably using them? None of this should have been a revelation to the heroes. In fact, most of the Avengers looked thoroughly unsurprised by Loki’s treachery. Poor Thor wasn’t allowed to see through his adopted brother’s ruse until this point, which is a shame but par for the course for Assemble. The only time they ever treated the characters with even a modicum of respect was in season three.

Combine this “big reveal” with their forcing Jane Foster to play the role of Thor/Thunderstrike, plus the strong women grandstanding done by Wasp, Captain Marvel, and Kamala Khan, and you have an unappealing mess of an ending. The method of stopping Loki doesn’t even matter (or make much sense) because the above factors reduce the episode to a propaganda piece masquerading as a story. For all its faults, Assemble deserved a better ending than this, as did the characters.

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This is why I will not be watching any more Marvel fare from Western media outlets. Endgame is the finale to the MCU; everything that comes after cannot hope to match the quality of the first ten years, and most of the original actors/directors have jumped ship while the jumping is good. The nonsense that destroyed the comics has finally spread to the small and big screen, as I knew it would.

If you want to see Marvel’s comic book alterations make it to film, then go ahead and have fun. But as of now, I am done with Marvel Comics, Marvel films, and Marvel TV shows. If I want good, entertaining fare from the company, I know where to find it. It will not be in the latest releases but in the older comics, cartoons, and the first ten years of the MCU. So long, Marvel. It was nice while it lasted.

Rest in peace, Stan Lee. You and your friends earned it. Nothing the new owners of your franchise can do will change that – not for me, and not for the other True Believers out there. ‘Til next time, readers:

Excelsior!

The Mithril Guardian

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Avengers: Infinity War – A Review, Part 2

Avengers: Infinity War (2018) News - MovieWeb

Whoo! Last week this blogger did a quick rundown on the (minor) issues she had with Avengers: Infinity War. Having covered those irritating incidents, we can now dive into what was truly enjoyable about this film. And there is a lot to like (warning – there will be spoilers 😉 ).

On a technical level, the film is pretty close to flawless. It never loses track of its story. It doesn’t wander off into the hinterlands or backtrack into the ancient past; neither does it throw flashy special effects in a viewer’s face, hoping to dazzle them with movie magic. No, the movie is a self-contained story that proceeds in a straight line at break neck pace. Ten years of cinematic storytelling have been building up toward this moment, this ultimate battle of good versus evil. It’s been comparable to water building behind a dam until it reaches capacity and bursts.

While this blogger hates the Mad Titan with more passion than Loki or even Thunderbolt Ross, I have to admit that his disproportionate amount of screen time here was necessary. Until now, we have never seen Thanos in action. We have heard the rumors, the horror stories, and have gained some vague idea of what he is capable of accomplishing.

But it all pales in comparison to the truth. Thanos is the single scariest villain in the MCU to date. He is as charismatic as a snake and has a tongue like honey. Trying to reason with him or tell him that he is wrong is like trying to tell a tidal wave to stop. It doesn’t work due to his arrogant certainty that he is right and the rest of the universe is wrong. He wants to be God, and has convinced himself – more or less – that he is, in fact, a deity.

No where is this better demonstrated than with the portrayal of his chief henchman, Ebony Maw. Maw practically worships Thanos and, by extension, death. The only member of the Black Order to receive decent screen time, Maw exhibits a chilling, slavish reverence for the Mad Titan. His speeches about how those whom he is going to murder on his master’s behalf have now had meaning injected into their previously “pointless” lives highlights the evil he and Thanos are perpetrating on innocents throughout the galaxy. It is a scary nod to what some people in real life who followed Hitler or Stalin believed about them and their bloody aims.

Avengers Infinity War deaths: Did [SPOILER] die or is it ...

Of course, this means that watching Maw get blasted into space was one of the most satisfying moments in the entire film. That was a good scene! I wonder if he found the meaning in his formerly pointless life upon being forcibly ejected into hard vacuum…

Probably not – or at least, not the kind that he was expecting. 😉

Speaking of good scenes, the heroes had plenty of those as well. While the majority did not receive as much screen time as I would have liked, the time they got was used well. This is most true, in my opinion, with regard to Vision and Wanda. They had some of the best scenes in the film. While they play second fiddle to Thanos, their tune is just as impressive (if not moreso) than his was or can ever be.

The trailers didn’t lie; despite the split in the team and the threat of the Accords, Wanda and Vision are dating by Infinity War. Apparently Cap and Tony have been arranging for the two to have some “alone time” in different parts of the world for a few days/weeks for the past two years. Vision turns off his tracking tech and disappears to be with Wanda, giving her a break from being on the run with the rest of the Secret Avengers. At the end of the agreed upon time, he goes back to being an official hero and she returns to being an outlawed heroine.

Their relationship is very, very well presented. Though Paul Bettany has made some joking comments about it (i.e. “I’m an android, [Olsen is] a witch – how does this work…”), that attitude never shows in their performances. They absolutely nailed Vision and Scarlet Witch’s romance in this movie, and they should receive awards for their work. I doubt they will, but they really, really should! 😀

Tony, too, did well in this film. He starts out hemming and hawing over the fact that he was wrong and “broke up the band” in Civil War, but the fact that he deliberately looks the other way when Vision goes to meet Wanda suggests he’s realized that the signing the Accords was a really bad idea. The fact that he also flies off to handle Thanos solo (more or less on purpose) only goes to show that he still hasn’t quite relinquished his irritating tendency to think/say/act like he can “fix” everything with his genius.

3 characters most likely to die in Avengers: Infinity War ...

But as the battle escalates and the true extent of the threat becomes more and more apparent, his arrogance melts away. Faced with the fact that his nightmare is real – and far worse than he thought – Tony rises to true heroism in his personal battle with Thanos. It’s a great moment (and a terrifying one), when the Mad Titan almost kills him. Strange’s bargain almost seems to be a cheat, as it interrupts Tony’s transformation and seeming achievement of the pinnacle of heroism.

It is, however, nothing of the sort. While Tony has reached a great height, his work is not yet done. He’s the resident super genius of the Avengers, which means that they need him to stop Thanos. Strange’s exchanging the Time Stone for his life makes plenty of sense on that level.

On a more personal one, which the good Sorcerer Supreme may have known as well, Tony hasn’t reached the peak of heroism yet. There is still some unfinished business he has to take care of back home before he is ready to face the final test. He has to patch things up with Steve.

As discussed in the posts about Cap and Tony’s character arcs in Civil War, most of the fallout from the final battle in that film lies squarely on Iron Man’s shoulders. He made the decision to sign the Accords; he fell for Thunderbolt Ross’ honeyed promises, and he is the one who forced the confrontation at the airport in Germany. Nothing Cap did was anything more or less than defensive counter maneuvers to block a literal or figurative punch.

Even when Steve avoided telling Tony about Bucky’s involvement in the murder of the senior Starks, while it wasn’t exactly right, it was certainly not comparable to what the younger man tried to do in Siberia. That entire fiasco, the rift between Tony and practically everyone else on the team, is his fault, not Cap’s. And he has to deal with that; he has to face it. Steve is more than ready to do make amends and move on….

…But when Tony had a chance to begin the catharsis and healing during Infinity War, he didn’t take it. His heroism on Titan is admirable (and Downey Jr.’s acting is fantastic), but it is not yet perfect. And although there are other factors leading up to the Avengers’ loss, his choices are a big part of why the team fails to stop the Mad Titan’s ambitions.

For Iron Man to become a true hero, a real modern knight, he has to face that fact. He has to admit he was “wr-r-r-ong,” to quote the Fonz, and he has to do it to Steve’s face. Cap is more than ready to let bygones be bygones, he just needs Tony to man up and say the word, none of which will happen if Tony is dead. And that’s a big part of why Strange gives the Mad Titan the Time Stone in exchange for Iron Man’s life.

Speaking of those left alive at the end of the movie, Chris Hemsworth pulled off a fantastic performance as the grieving, vengeance-hungry King of Asgard. Thor has been through a lot in a short amount of time, and though he bears up pretty well under it all for most of the film, it’s not hard to see him straining. He’s watched his home, his people, his friends, and his remaining family murdered for nothing. And it’s not hard to see how all of this is affecting him.

The really cool thing is how he shows it in small moments. Rubbing at his wrists with impatience when he thinks no one’s looking. Staring out the windows at nothing but the past. Avoiding eye contact or being a bit more terse and regal than he needs to be to make his point. The anger, pain, grief, and desire to avenge his losses at Thanos’ hands – it’s all there in the little gestures and glances he gives. This has to be one of his best performances yet.

Avengers 4 May Wrap Filming in January | Screen Rant

And that goes for the rest of the crew as well. Though they don’t get near enough screen time, the rest of the Avengers and Guardians each get their due. Whether it’s Gamora singing along to one of Quill’s songs at the same time he is or watching Bucky lift Rocket in the air so they can turn in a circle and cover all their bases, the heroes each get a moment to show how far they have come in ten years. It’s a beautiful thing to watch ….

…Which leads us to the biggest and best thing about the otherwise heart-wrenching finale for Infinity War. After all their hard work, the heroes are defeated, and more than half their numbers are erased. It is not at all uncommon to hear modern academics speculate lovingly about how we could save the planet if we murdered eighty or ninety percent of the population. There was a professor some years ago who openly hoped that a mutant Ebola virus would wipe out ninety percent of humanity in order to preserve the environment. (And yes, he received a standing ovation. Why do you ask?)

Infinity War takes these academics’ theories out of the classroom or lecture hall and explores them on the big screen with characters audiences everywhere have come to know and love deeply. Thanos has spent years systematically murdering fifty percent of numerous alien populations throughout the galaxy – up to and including the already halved Asgardian people, who have just lost their homeworld (which was apparently more sparsely inhabited than we thought, given the relatively small number of refugees who got loaded onto the Statesman at the end of Ragnarok).

Right out of the gate, Infinity War offers a very clear presentation of what the world would look like if those who desire the eradication of large numbers of human beings had their way. The Asgardians are practically on the verge of extinction; by Thanos’ own stated objectives, they should be safe from his culling.

But they are not. The Mad Titan walks aboard their ship, ostensibly searching for the Space Stone/Tesseract, and slaughters innocent civilians. Men, women, and children – none are spared, not even the (somewhat improbably) redeemed Loki. According to his mission parameters, there should be no reason for him to do this. Yet he wipes them all out without batting an eye anyway.

His actions put the lie to his rationale that in order to save the environment of the cosmos, he has to bring “balance” to a population that is already teetering on the edge of annihilation. Thanos is no savior, he’s a mass murderer. And those who espouse a similar worldview in real life are no less genocidal than he is.

Most importantly, the final shots for Infinity War and early footage for Endgame show the results of his policy. Panacea is not achieved throughout the universes; instead, chaos reigns. On Earth, planes crash into buildings, raising the death toll even higher as their remaining crews and passengers die in the resultant conflagrations. Uncontrolled vehicles crash into buildings and people, reducing the population again. Governments and infrastructure crumble, leading to anarchy as the rule of civilization dissolves. Food, gas, medicine, and electricity become luxuries as the factories and power plants which supplied them fall out of use, leading to mass starvation and death by disease.

The environment takes a hit with each loss as well. Fires rage from the plane and vehicle crashes; rains erode the carefully maintained terraces on farms and in parks, or lead to floods from dams that overflow with no one to open the channels that will send the water to other areas in a controlled manner. Pets starve when their owners don’t return to feed them, zoo animals die without the care of their handlers, as do animals in farms, labs, and animal shelters worldwide.

“But that’s not what killing eighty or ninety percent of the human race would do!” some cry. They are correct; wiping out more than fifty percent of the global population would make things worse. Entire cities would be fit only for ghosts, and the remaining people would not get to live in mansions with free Wi-Fi, running water, and endless supplies of food. They would have to go out and live in the heat and the cold, hunting and gathering and dying like their ancient ancestors did.

From what we see in both Endgame trailers, this has already happened. Clint is out killing Yakuza who have moved into the power vacuum in a city somewhere, while a refugee camp has been established around the Statue of Liberty, probably by the Avengers. They almost certainly set it up there because it was clean and provided easy access to a food source: fish, crabs, lobsters, and other sea creatures.

Thanos said he would go and watch the sun rise over a grateful universe after he had achieved his goals. But what kind of universe is thankful when half of the people that made it worth living in are turned to ash by a crazy man’s snap? The Titan is truly mad if, in the depths of his soul, he believes the cosmos is actually happy following his deeds. No platitudes of his will make up for the lost children, the vanished spouses, the beloved grandparents, or the acclaimed rulers. If Thanos were to go to New York expecting a warm welcome, he would have to powder more people as they rushed at him in a rage born of grief.

Unlike Loki, however, the Mad Titan has enough of an ego to believe that he can hear the crowds cheering from the fields of his new farm. He does not actually believe the people or the cosmos is appreciative of his actions. If he did, then he would go looking for praise. No, as Gamora said, his only love is for himself and his desires. Being alone on his farm like a“twisted Cincinnatus,” as someone said, is reward enough for his labors.

I, for one, can’t wait to see how the Avengers are going to bring him down. There is the chance that this will be the last hurrah for some of them, and if that is the case, I will be sorry to see them go – especially if they are given a poor send-off.  Or if they are replaced with lackluster characters (*cough* Carol Danvers *cough*). For the future of the Marvel Universes and audiences everywhere, I hope Endgame ends better than Infinity War did, with the team back together, the world safe, and Thanos gone for good.

Well, readers, it’s been a fantastic ten years of cinema. And it has to be said that, without them, I would not be here at Thoughts writing to all of you. It’s been a fun ride. I have no idea where things are going to go from here, but I know that everything leading up to this point has been great.

Until next time, readers:

Avengers, Assemble!

Avengers Endgame : la bande-annonce est enfin là, préparez ...

Avengers: Infinity War – A Review, Part 1

How Avengers 4 Is and Isn't Infinity War Part 2

Wow. I knew going in that this film would be intense, but… Whoa…

Yes, I know that I am very late in reviewing this movie. However, this blogger needed to process a lot of what she had seen in order to write a cogent analysis of the film. It’s not much of an excuse for leaving you hanging, readers, but it’s the truth. I had to do a lot of thinking about this film. It’s dense and not for the faint of heart.

This was a great movie. But there were some small items which bothered me while watching the film. These will be discussed today, while the more enjoyable aspects of the movie will be addressed later on.

Because Thanos got most of the screen time here (arrrgh!), I cannot do the characterization posts I enjoyed writing for Age of Ultron and Civil War. He took up too much screen time for more than a couple of the heroes to really stand out. So these reviews are probably going to just be lists of things I enjoyed/noticed in the film which point to the true, the good, and the beautiful.

All right, with that said, now it is time to get down to “tacks of brass” and tell you what I disliked about this movie. Most of these are minor quibbles, really; they do not detract from the film in any major way. But they were kind of annoying.

The first thing I had real trouble buying was Loki’s decision to save Thor after he told Thanos he could kill the King of Thunder. Someone who watched the film with me reminded this blogger that Loki wants to kill his brother himself, and it has to be said that there is some part of the Trickster which may be redeemable. There is good in him – somewhere. Still, although we saw that goodness on display more in Ragnarok than we have in prior installments, I’m not sure this film gave the transition proper justice. They didn’t do badly, but they might have been able to do better.

My next problem came with Pepper. As we see at the beginning of this movie, she is still trying to get Tony to abandon being Iron Man. My response to this is no, No, and NO!!! Good grief, what happened to the Pepper from The Avengers? The one who, like Penelope of old, understood that Tony had a responsibility to protect the Earth, not just himself and her? This selfish twit is a pale shadow of the Pepper Potts we saw in The Avengers and I AM NOT PLEASED WITH HER!!!

What Tony comes to realize here, and what Pepper has forgotten as of this movie, is Spider-Man’s motto: “With great power comes great responsibility.” Tony was not the first superhero, true, but the fact is that after he became Iron Man, he became accountable for more than himself. It is his job to defend America specifically and Earth as a whole from threats foreign and domestic.

Epicstream

If she truly loves Tony, then Pepper will have to learn to love all of him – including his alter ego. Despite what she and he (to a lesser degree) seem to think, the two are not separable; he is both Iron Man and Tony Stark. For him to abandon that responsibility destroys a good part of his identity.

This leads us, neatly enough, to my problem with Hawkeye’s mention in the movie. Believe it or not, I can actually handle the fact that he does not appear in Infinity War. It is disappointing but understandable; with all the other people running around in this film, the odds of him getting decent – if brief – screen time were pretty darn slim. So while I missed him, his lack of presence here was not the problem.

No, my problem was that the writers had him take a deal from the government. What the Sam Hill….? That makes no sense. None. I can see why they would need to do this for Scott Lang, given the plot for Ant-Man and the Wasp, but not for Hawkeye. Knowledge of Scott’s family is a matter of public record. There was no way for him to take Cassie, his ex-wife, and her new husband into hiding. In order to see his daughter in a safe, meaningful way, he would have had to capitulate and take a deal. This is why it makes perfect sense for Scott to be under house arrest in Ant-Man and the Wasp.

It does not make ANY sense for Hawkeye to be under house arrest during Infinity War, which is where Widow says he is. The whole point of Clint’s rebelling against the Accords was to protect his family, to keep them secret. That’s why he smacked the bars on his cell after Tony opened his big fat mouth in the Raft. The absolute last thing he would do would be to sign a deal with the government which kept him under house arrest, since this requires the government to look in him and his family regularly, just as they did with Scott.

Clint made it abundantly clear in Age of Ultron that he wanted knowledge of his family to stay off the record. Even after Tony blabbed about his family, it would have been more sensible (and easier) for Hawkeye and the Secret Avengers to keep his wife and children hidden. All they would have to do was move his family to a new location, either in the U.S. or by seeking asylum in Wakanda. Without a way to track Clint or the Secret Avengers, the government could not use the Barton family as bargaining chips. This would have at least enabled Clint to “retire” with them in relative safety and comfort, if not continue his Avenging career with the rest of the anti-Accords gang every now and then.

For the writers to subvert Clint’s choice like this really bugs me. It also contradicts his previous portrayal and plays directly into the stereotypical trap that Pepper has fallen into. Clint Barton is a father and a husband first and foremost, yes, but if he wants to keep his family’s lives secure, he has avoid letting the government know about them at the least. There are no two ways about this and the writers should have handled it better than they did.

New Avengers: Infinity War trailer knows that Black ...

One of my other issues with the film came at the end of the story, when the “Snapture” begins to take a universal effect. Most of the unnamed people who are erased in Wakanda are guys. It appears from the camera shots that almost all of the Dora Milaje – T’Challa’s bodyguard and ceremonial wives’ corps – are left standing. I guess the writers and directors figured they wouldn’t be able to get past the Hollywoond censors if they wiped out half the women warriors in Wakanda.

Personally, I think erasing Okoye rather than T’Challa might have made more sense to the narrative and had more of an impact on audiences. But, heck, what do I know? I’m just a fan.

Another point of contention I have with the film is Thanos’ sacrifice of Gamora to gain the Soul Stone. The idea, as expressed in the film, that this works because he “loves” her is…sticky in one sense but, in another, it works pretty well. As Gamora herself says, what Thanos feels for her is not true love. He loves her as a reflection of his own brilliance and glory, not for herself. Technically, because he does not truly love Gamora, throwing her off a cliff to her death should not “earn” him the Soul Stone.

On the other hand the Stone may not be able to determine the difference between real love and selfish love. It may recognize and respond to either type, or just to the fact that a soul has been offered to it. Any one of these three things could make it acquiesce to being taken by the sacrificer. There is no clarification given in the movie for how this works, though, so viewers don’t know which it is for certain.

My final complaints about the film were the three-on-one fight with Proxima Midnight and the scene where Gamora cries after she thinks she has killed Thanos. In a way, both of these things make sense. But the method in which they were accomplished left something to be desired for this viewer.

We will deal with the cat fight first. It has been shown throughout this film franchise that the male Avengers are naturally chivalrous. They tend to go easy on their female opponents. This is demonstrated best in Civil War when Scott Lang/Ant-Man sheepishly admits that he doesn’t want to hurt Natasha, who promptly does a number on him. Therefore, if you want a no-holds-barred fight with Proxima Midnight, sending the Black Widow, Wanda Maximoff, and Okoye after the leader of the Black Order means there will be no need to tear off the kid gloves.

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The quandary comes in the portrayal of Okoye and Natasha’s trading nods like equals. As far as we have seen, here and in previous films, the two have never met or spent much time together. These slight nods that hint at a friendship between the two therefore have no weight, since we never saw them together before this film came out.

More importantly, Natasha and Okoye are not equals. Okoye is a general, a soldier. War is her business and her element, as shown in Black Panther. The woman practically lives for the thrill of battle.

In contrast, Natasha is a super spy. She was raised to be a solo operative who got in and out of areas and scenarios no one else could. Subterfuge is her expertise and her greatest weapon, even now. Fighting alongside the Avengers does not make her a soldier, since as Tony said in The Avengers, they ARE NOT soldiers. They are, rather, para-military commandos. A situation arises, the Avengers ride in, dispatch the bad guys, pull the plug on their evil scheme(s), and go home. That is it.

Even when they end up in situation like that seen at the start of Age of Ultron, the team is operating in the manner that Special Forces units do. The field of combat there may be wider than the one Natasha was accustomed to when working for the KGB and SHIELD, but in form it is not that different. When she is in the field with the Avengers she is doing what she has always done the way that she has always done it.

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As we saw in Black Panther, Okoye has very little patience for the arts of subtlety and guile. She can’t keep up a cover identity for more than fifteen or twenty minutes, tops. Unlike the patient Widow spinning a web to ensnare a foe, Okoye is a tigress who hunts in the open because she revels in the fear she inspires in her opponents. The two are nothing alike, and to suggest that they are in any way similar through these minute gestures was a stupid move on the part of the writers. It completely upset the tempo of the otherwise magnificent fight with Proxima.

Finally, we come to Gamora crying over Thanos. While it is true that she hates Thanos for everything he did to her and everything he made her become, the fact is that she does share a relationship with him. In a twisted, dark way she owes him her life. There is no way for Gamora to really escape that fact, even though she wishes she could. This scene also makes it clear that she sincerely pities the Mad Titan for his blindness to real love and beauty. It makes total sense that she would start crying after “killing” him.

What does not make sense is that she didn’t see through his Reality Stone ruse. Nor does it make sense for her to break down so completely in this moment. And as an assassin, she ought to know that it is better to mourn in private, after she has made sure her target is really dead. The fact that she falls apart here shows she is letting her feelings rule her.

This is a weakness she cannot afford in this war, but which she gives into anyway. While it is understandable and excusable from our point of view, it is neither within the context of the story. Her breakdown here was more than a little annoying for that reason. The universe is at stake and yet she stops to fall on her knees and cry over Thanos? Doesn’t it make more sense to do that in her room AFTER she is sure that the universe is safe and daddy’s not coming back to kill half the cosmic population? *Sigh….*

These are, as I noted above, very small nitpicks with this film. On the whole, this movie is fantastic!!! And with Avengers: Endgame set to be released in April/May of this year, we won’t have that much longer to wait until we know how it all ends. Here’s hoping it is one of those finales where, as Samwise Gamgee’s gaffer would say, “…all’s well as ends better!”

‘Til next week – Avengers, Assemble!

Avengers: Infinity War – A New Trailer!

I don’t know if this is a new trailer, exactly; it seems to be a conglomeration of several TV spots and trailers. But it does give us more of a look at the film and how the danger has been dialed up to twenty this go around.

Here’s the new trailer:

Meep!

Remember, it’s out on April 26/27!

An Avengers: Infinity War Trailer Breakdown – Sorta

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Where are these two?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Loki, you @#%*$!!!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Proxima Midnight

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Go get ’em, guys!

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

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The Guardians of what again?

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

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The Guardians of the Galaxy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Avengers – Assemble!

Spotlight: Avengers – The Incredible Hulk

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“Hulk SMASH!!!”

I am not Big Green’s biggest fan. I like him, but he has never been my favorite superhero. Most everyone who likes the Hulk recognizes the words I have used to open this post. Hulk is best known for his smashing, after all.

For some time now a friend and I have been catching reruns of Bill Bixby and Lou Ferrigno’s The Incredible Hulk television series. While I have read about the series before, I have never seen it. My friend had even less exposure to the series than I did – until recently, of course.

After watching a few of these episodes, my friend commented that the stories within each show were good, and I agreed. Though the special effects are hardly that special today, that was not what my friend and I meant when we concurred that the series was good.

What we meant was that the stories themselves were good. Usually, The Incredible Hulk could be counted on to turn out a good story. There have been a few episodes that I would say fell flat, but that has more to do with the story itself than with the actors or the special effects. On the whole, however, The Incredible Hulk was reliable entertainment for its time and, I daresay, for ours.

This conversation with my friend led me to mention what I had always found likable about the Hulk while I was growing up. It was never his size, strength, or unparalleled ability to “smash” that made me an appreciator of the Hulk. I liked the Hulk because, despite his rage and general tendency to break stuff, he was still a gentle giant to the innocent and/or the helpless.

This is something that later stories in the comics have largely abandoned. In the original comics, The Incredible Hulk television series, and the 1990’s Hulk cartoon, Big Green would never hurt an innocent person. Not on purpose, at least. Someone may have been standing in the wrong place at the wrong time when the Hulk got into a fight and was therefore hurt, but Big Green never deliberately injured someone who was not a threat to him or who was a good person.

For instance, the Hulk always had a soft spot for kids in the shows I saw and in The Incredible Hulk. I can remember a cartoon episode or two where Bruce Banner befriended a young child, only for the Hulk to later manifest himself in order to protect said child. Hulk would also avoid hurting someone who had befriended Banner or who had demonstrated that they were a nice, good, and kind person.

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And in the Bixby/Ferrigno series the Hulk had a knack, as he did in the comics and cartoons, for ending up in the right place at the right time to help people in bad situations. Cursed with a power and alternate personality he did not want, forced to wander the world as an outcast, Banner would lament that he could not have a “normal” life. I sympathized – and still do – with that, but I also think his focus on the negative meant that he did not often see what a great gift he had also been given.

Originally weak and unable to help others, the emergence of the Hulk gave Banner the ability to play the knight errant. No, he could never have a so-called “normal” life, and that could be annoying and sad. But how many people would have been harmed or might even have died if Bruce Banner did not have the Hulk residing within him?

This is a plot and character device which the comic book writers have gravitated away from since the House of M storyline. Those earlier stories hinted at a provident Will behind the Hulk’s appearance and his subsequent, well-placed position in the lives of others where he invariably helped make those he encountered safer, happier people.

As a young viewer I sensed this about the Hulk. Misunderstood by Thunderbolt Ross, the general public, and even Banner, the Hulk was nevertheless a force for good in the world and not a monster of destruction, as he has often been described. Yes, he broke a lot of stuff more often than not. But he never did it just for the heck of it; he did it to protect others or stop the bad guys. I can accept destruction when its main aim is to protect good people and stop bad people. Buildings can be replaced and the land is always shifting. Individual humans are utterly irreplaceable.

Though the comic book writers have fallen away from this understanding of the Hulk, the cartoon and film writers seem to have begun to re-explore this side of the character. Oddly enough it was Joss Whedon, the proclaimed atheist, who led the charge for this change. This is made plainest in The Avengers, where the famous director/writer has Tony Stark point out that the Hulk may have saved Banner’s life in the Gamma explosion for a purpose.

Marvel’s writers have subsequently shifted their portrayal of the Hulk in the cartoons to show him as a thinking and usually coherent character, instead of a rage monster with the vocabulary and intellect of a four year old child having a righteous temper tantrum. This is a nice change but it takes away, for me, a little of the gentle prodding we had in earlier stories about the Hulk. The idea that Providence intervened to save Banner’s life and granted him the power to back up his will to help others is what made me fond of the Hulk. I think this is one of the reasons why I drifted away from the character as I grew up – my own inclination toward precision in place of wholesale attack notwithstanding.

This providential element in stories about Big Green is the reason why I enjoy watching the reruns of The Incredible Hulk on El Rey when I can. These stories, as Bill Bixby said, were made for adults but “children can watch them, too.” He was reportedly very upset when the show was described as mere children’s entertainment.

I have to agree with him on that. The Incredible Hulk and other, older Marvel fare was made for adults and children alike. Both could read it and learn lessons about life from the stories the company told. This is one of many things that Marvel lost after House of M, sadly, and one of the things I wish they would work to rediscover. They will tell better stories if they are only ready to relearn what will make a great story.

If you can, readers, try to catch a few episodes of The Incredible Hulk on El Rey. They are “retro” and dated, and this is not a television series which modern special effects fans will take very seriously. But if you like a good story, The Incredible Hulk can be counted on to deliver nine times out of ten. That is all any of us can and should ask of a storyteller; a good story, well-told, and appreciable to a wide audience.

Have fun smashing with the Incredible Hulk, readers!

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Captain America: Civil War – The Final Questions, Part 2

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Yesterday we had a discussion about several Captain America: Civil War details which have not been covered in the character-centered posts here at Thoughts on the Edge of Forever. I went into specific detail about how Marvel’s United Nations’ assinine attempt to take control of the Avengers is a failure. I also showed that Team Cap’s quest to stop Zemo was not useless, nor was it the main cause of the battle in the Leipzig airport.

Today we will discuss the final item of importance in Captain America: Civil War, and that is the line-up of characters on both sides of the conflict. This line-up shows that the members of each team are counterparts to the other. One team is all about brains and synthetics; the other is all heart.

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Cap and Tony are the epitomes of this equivalency between their two sides. Tony is the super genius, the billionaire, the playboy philanthropist who can build futuristic technology in a cave using nothing but “stone knives and bear skins.” He is accustomed to treating everything like an intellectual puzzle or a math problem. And yes, it is a useful, life-saving skill, as well as a viable superpower. But Tony has spent so much time developing this particular skill that he has nearly divorced his brain from his heart. Like a broken clock, his instincts will occasionally kick in and tell him to do the right thing. For the most part, though, he lets his brain run the show – even when he knows it is wrong.

Steve is on the opposite side of the scale. He can think critically and, although not a tech whiz, he knows how to use machines. It also does not take him long to figure out how to break them, something Tony regularly struggles to accomplish. Cap’s heart is, as we like to say today, in the right place. He instinctively knows what the right thing is. This is not what makes him special; even a murderer with a heart blacker than tar instinctively knows the difference between right and wrong.

What makes Steve extraordinary is that, no matter how difficult the decision or how much pain it causes him, he always makes the right choice. This is made plainest by his refusal to sign the Accords. How many of us, on seeing everyone else in the room agreeing to something we know to be wrong, challenge the status quo and speak the truth? How many of us, when we are told to do something we know is wrong, acquiesce just so we do not stir the pot and lose our friends? The answer is: too many.

Cap does not do this. He is not pushy, argumentative, or aggressive, but he is firm. When something he knows is right and good and true is challenged, he will confidently defend it. And he is so good at it, with words or with weapons, that no one can truly gainsay him when he speaks definitively on an issue. This is what makes him America’s Galahad.

And this is what angers Tony about Cap’s defiance of the Accords. He wants to be right, to be better, smarter than the old man for once. This is proved time and again in the film, such as when Tony tells Natasha she cannot take her words back in the Compound. As we see Cap answer his phone, we hear Tony say behind him, “Okay, case closed. I win.”

I win. How immature is that?! “I win” just because Natasha has finally agreed with him for the first time in living memory? Just because three out of the five Avengers present (I am taking Steve and Tony out of the equation) agree with him? Not every vote has been cast at this point, and yet Tony is still declaring himself the winner of the argument.

Readers, this is the reasoning of a petulant teenager. Tony already knows more about science and technology than Steve ever will, but for him it is not enough. This modern, teched out world is his world. He grew up in it; Steve did not. He ought to be right about important issues more often than Steve for this reason. But that is never what happens or will happen, in part because Tony is acting like a spoiled child.

Tony may be envious of Steve as well, which he implies by constantly referencing his father’s vociferous admiration for Rogers. But I wonder if the real reason he is jealous of Steve presently is because Steve is so much better than he is. Steve finished school and was acting like an adult even before that. Tony frittered away his life from the time he was sixteen until Stane had him ambushed in Afghanistan. Then he woke up and started acting like a semi-adult, reverting to his more childish tendencies when reality became too hard to bear. Maybe the reason he gets mad at Steve in the airport is because he is jealous.

It might also be due, in part, to the fact that he thinks he is turning into his father. Whatever filial affection Tony had for his father, it dwindled as he grew, so that now only embers remain. The idea that he is finally seeing what his father saw in Steve, and is coming to regard him in the same manner, may annoy him on some level. We all know that Tony wants to distance himself from his father, to be his own man. In doing this he is still playing the role of the spoiled child, which we see on display most in the airport and in the Siberian HYDRA base.

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But what, you may ask, does this say about Teams Cap and Iron? It says that these teams are made up of heroes who resemble their leaders and that they therefore correspond to one another. Falcon and War Machine are the ones everyone will point to at once. But while the two are alike, they are not actually counterparts. Sam has known Steve only a short time and, though they are great friends, they still have not fully connected with each other. Steve and Bucky have known each other since childhood. In this way they are counterparts to Tony and Rhodey since they have known one another for years as well.

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We see when Rhodey tumbles out of the sky and lands in the dirt that Tony takes it personally when his friend is hurt. Steve and Bucky react similarly when the other is attacked, although Bucky’s long years of slavery and torture have made him react with less control than he once displayed when this occurs. On the HYDRA train through the Alps and when he would pick off HYDRA goons trying to bushwhack Cap, Bucky was calm, cool, and collected.

But because of HYDRA’s mistreatment of him, though he still has control of himself, there is now a harder edge to his fighting style. He is more brutal, with less finesse in his movements. This is nothing against him; he is not the man he once was. Like Wolverine the pain he has endured for so long has hardened him and given him an almost animal fierceness in combat. This is the reason for all those animal yells and screams he gives; for a long time, HYDRA reduced him to little more than an obedient, two-legged beast.

With Tony and Rhodey the roles are reversed. Rhodey has been fighting longer than Tony and so, even when he is angry, his maneuvers are controlled. As Tony demonstrated in Siberia, when he loses his temper his tactics take on a wild intensity that is more dangerous than Bucky’s. Bucky is perilous, certainly, but he only has one metal arm, and he has the will to keep himself under control. Tony is covered from head to foot in armor. If he decides not to be careful, he can bash a man’s skull in without half-trying. Though Robert Downey Jr.’s fight trainer said his style was modified so it would not look like he was “going wild and trying to kill somebody,” in the Siberian base Tony was trying to kill Bucky.

By comparison, Steve was most definitely pulling his punches. And despite his ferocious attacks, Bucky was clearly holding back as well. The two of them were obviously intending to stop Stark, not to kill him. He was just as plainly planning to at least kill Bucky and possibly to seriously injure Cap.

In this respect, Bucky and Rhodey are counterparts to each other. It is not something most of us recognize or think about because they never come into conflict in the airport battle. But they are comparable all the same.

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Natasha’s counterpart is obvious but, at the same time, easily overlooked. Wanda is the equivalent opponent to the Black Widow during the airport battle, though they only come into direct conflict once. They are not equals simply because they are the only women on their respective teams. That is too trite an answer and it looks at nothing but the surface. Just as Natasha was manipulated and “enhanced” by outside, evil forces, so was Wanda. Burning with a desire to protect her country and to pay back the man she believed responsible for her parents’ deaths, Wanda agreed to an enhancement procedure.

This is the one thing in her story that is different from Natasha’s; the Black Widow was never asked if she wanted to serve the U. S. S. R. in any way. She was picked up off the street somewhere when she could barely walk and subjected to a rigorous program that would have destroyed an adult who had agreed to the regimen. The two women are both growing out of the stilted worldview forced on them by totalitarian outsiders. They are growing away from this dark vision to the light of freedom.

Another connection between the two is that they both feel great guilt. In Civil War we watch Wanda make her first costly mistake in battle. It leaves her riddled with honest guilt and regret. She becomes mopey and dispirited until Hawkeye teaches her how to take control of her feelings and focus on the job at hand. By the time the two women confront each other in the battle at the airport, it is obvious that Wanda now has control of her guilt and can function properly in combat. Natasha does not accomplish this until she holds T’Challa in place to protect Steve and Bucky.

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Most people would say that Wanda’s equal is Vision. But Vision’s actual counterpart in the battle is Falcon. Like Sam, Vision’s powers are technologically based. Vision’s entire body is synthetic, something which cannot be changed.   Only his mind and heart can become human. Falcon already has this because he is fully human. In order to run with the Avengers, however, Sam has to rely on his suit to maintain his place on the team. He pointed this out in The Winter Soldier when he said that he does what Steve does “just slower.” In the Falcon suit, Sam can match Steve’s pace. It is what gives him his edge in combat. Without it he could not keep up with the rest of the team in a fight.

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So where Falcon cannot physically match the rest of the team without technology, Vision is not yet able to match their emotions and reason because he is not only a physical and technological entity, but a child as well. He has to rely on logic and reason for the time being, though in the case of the Accords, he over-relied on logic. Logic, despite what the Vulcans would have you believe, is not the same thing as reason. Logic can be used to support good or evil; if you study the bad guys’ speeches, you will find there is logic in them. There was logic in Ultron’s arguments and in Loki’s. It was flawed, selfish logic, but it was logic all the same. There is logic to the Accords. We see it on display when Tony, Natasha, Rhodey, and Vision all say why they welcome the Accords.

The logic that Vision and Team Iron use in this film is very flawed. Rhodey’s logic for signing the Accords is that the document is the first major piece of legislation that the entire world has agreed upon. Also, a decorated former general is proposing it to him. Tony wants to stop feeling guilty and he wants to get Pepper back, so signing the Accords should make regular people and Pepper happy with him again. Natasha wants to atone for her sins, so she signs the Accords.

Vision’s logic is that the world is “filling up with people who can’t be matched. Who can’t be controlled.” What he is “too young” to understand – too unwise in the way of the world and humanity – is that no one can completely control another person without resorting to force. This makes Vision’s support of the Accords the most forgivable. He does not understand that his logic is flawed and unreasonable, nor does he know that the control of beings with free will always requires force. So his mistake is not to be held against him.

But the fact is that this is where Falcon has the better of Vision. Falcon is physically slower than most of his teammates without his suit, but mentally and emotionally he is as “fast” as the rest of them. Through his inexperience, Vision is usually behind the eight ball when it comes to reason and emotions when compared to the other Avengers.

Scott Lang and Peter Parker are very plainly equals. Spider-Man arrives on the scene because, overawed by Mr. Stark, Peter goes to Germany. Sam’s tapping of Ant-Man appears to bring Scott to Leipzig for similar reasons.

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The two characters are both science whizzes who have gained powers neither of them wanted. Spider-Man got his abilities from a radioactive spider bite while Scott was mentored in the use the Ant-Man suit by Hank Pym. This was because Pym sought to protect his daughter; Scott was, as he himself said, expendable. Both are new to the superhero gig, solo or with a team, and the two are instantly star struck by the men who call on them for help.

The differences between them are two-fold; Scott is not a kid. He has nothing to prove and more to lose than Parker does. One wrong move will get him sent back to prison, where he will miss more years of his daughter’s life. Despite this sword of Damocles hanging over his head, Scott answers Cap’s call and maintains his allegiance to the team once he realizes going against the law means doing battle with the other Avengers.

Scott does this because (a) Steve is honest with him upfront. He tells him in no uncertain terms that this mission will land him in trouble if he joins them and that if he does not want a part in it for any reason, the door is open and no one is going to prevent him from walking away. They will be disappointed, but they will understand if he does not want to land on the wrong side of the law. (b) Scott realizes that Team Cap has not requested his help simply for his skills, suit, and scientific knowledge. Those are big reasons, but they are not the only ones. Team Cap has requested his help because they trust Falcon’s judgement. And trust is something he values.

Allow me to clarify: Team Cap trusts that Scott believes in the same things they do and will fight for the same values they treasure because of Sam’s assessment of him. To have strangers put such faith in him – the new kid on the block who has less experience than the Scarlet Witch – is a humbling compliment and a huge honor. Scott does not want to let people who believe in him down, which we know from Ant-Man. He became the Ant-Man because of Cassie’s belief in him, her belief that he was a good man who would do the right thing no matter what.

Lang sides with Cap because of the team’s belief in him and his daughter’s belief in him. If the other five Winter Soldiers were to get loose and destroy the world, what would happen to Cassie? Would they kill her, or would the conditions of their new world order do that? Or would they condemn her to a fate worse than death – a life of slavery, with death as the only escape route? Scott will not let that fate befall his daughter and he knows that Team Cap does not intend to let that happen to her or anyone else. He sides with Steve and the rest because they are like him, and he is like them.

This is not the reason that Peter joins Team Iron. Tony does not see very much of himself in Peter. Peter does not see much of himself in Tony, either; he sees what he wishes to be. He sees the splash and dash; Tony is the tech master who has everything the tech geeks like Peter wish they had. He has the money, the looks, the tech, the money, the fame, the power, and the money that Peter and his aunt so conspicuously lack. How can he say no to the richest, most famous tech guru on the planet?

Well, there is one reason that he would say no. He cannot tell Aunt May about his powers because he knows she would not want him to get hurt, though she would be proud of him for his desire to use his gifts to protect other people. But the fact is that he is a minor without so much as a learner’s permit, let alone the training that the Avengers have had over the years which allows them to dish out and take massive amounts of physical pain. Being thrown in your locker by a football jock is not good preparation for combat injuries, readers.

Aunt May does not want her young nephew going out to get hurt when he is so unprepared for the world. If he were older, say around Wanda’s age, she might let him go, but the kid is fifteen! Wanda is in her early twenties; she legally and physically qualifies as an adult who can choose her own path. Peter does not. But when Peter points this out, Tony shuts the door on him. He wants Spider-Man on his team and he is going to take him whether the kid likes it or not.

And sooner or later, Peter is going to figure this out. Sooner or later he is going to learn about Zemo running off to Siberia, where he could have awakened the other Winter Soldiers. Peter is not stupid, and he is truly trying to do the right thing. Once he learns that Tony dragged him to Germany to stop Captain America from saving the world, he is going to be furious because it means that Tony lied to him. That Peter did the wrong thing thinking that he was on the right side of the argument. It will mean that he let Stark coerce him into what was not his fight, and it will reveal that Tony did not do this because he believed in Spider-Man. He did it because he needed an unknown variable in the equation.

I do not want to be Tony when that happens.

Now we come to T’Challa and Clint. You were, of course, expecting me to discuss them earlier in this post, given my affection for Hawkeye. That is one of the reasons they are being discussed down here instead of up there. Why does T’Challa go to Germany, readers? He goes because he wants revenge/justice for his father’s death. He has lost his father, a man he loved very dearly and with whom he was quite close. None of us would do any better than T’Challa if we were in his situation during Civil War. In the film, T’Challa joins the fight because of his family.

So does Clint Barton. I have pointed this out before, but the drum must be beaten until I have everyone’s attention: What did Clint have Fury do with the files on his family? He had Fury erase them. According to all the files on the planet, Laura Barton and their three children do not exist. Clint kept them a secret from all but one of his friends and his boss, mostly because he simply could not keep Fury out of the loop and make it work. His family lives out in the sticks without television, iPods, computers, and most other modern digital items. Why? Because Clint does not want them found by his enemies. He wants his children to grow up safe and happy, and the only way to do that is to act as though they do not exist after he leaves the house. How much of a wrench would the Accords have thrown into their happy, safe existence?

A big one. We know how Loki threatened to have Clint kill Natasha on the Helicarrier in The Avengers. It is no stretch of the imagination to think he would threaten Clint in the same way regarding his family. So would HYDRA and half of the mercenaries, assassins, drug lords, mobsters, hired killers, terrorists, etc., on the planet. They would happily and sadistically murder Laura, Cooper, Lila, and little Nathaniel Barton on film and videotape so that Clint would never be able to forget what his family suffered before they died.

If Clint signed the Accords the U.N. would want to keep track of his movements at all times. And when he left the team for some R&R – if the bureaucrats in the U.N. could be persuaded that he actually needed it – they would want a way to contact him in a split second if they “needed” to do so. That would mean they would want to know where he went for months at a time, why they could not find the place on a map, and why he wanted it kept so hush-hush. And once they learned about his family, if for some reason Clint refused to obey their orders, they could and would use the safety and happiness of his wife and children as leverage to get him to do their will.

The entire reason Clint joins Team Cap is to protect his family. If anything happened to them, he would go down the same road as T’Challa. It would not be quite as obvious; while they are both professional fighters, Clint does not react to grief and pain with hot anger. It might make his hands and arms unsteady and then he would not be able to shoot.

This bears greater explanation. As we saw in The Avengers, even when he is absolutely furious, Clint’s rage does not usually show itself in an explosive manner. It cannot for the simple reason that his primary fighting technique is to shoot from a distance. His is a ranged weapon; one false move can make him miss his target. So Hawkeye’s anger in combat more often manifests itself as icy ferocity, which is more dangerous than the blatant anger T’Challa demonstrates in Civil War. It means that Clint has not stopped thinking.

Both of these combatants are in the fight for their families. The two also have well-controlled fighting styles. Not withstanding his archery skills, Clint is also a good hand-to-hand fighter. T’Challa’s acrobatics, gymnastics, and hand-eye coordination show not only professional mastery of these arts but a great deal of control.

If you do not believe that Clint needs control and coherent thought as well, readers, think again. In order to fire his arrows, Clint has to maintain control of himself and keep track of such factors as the angle from which he is firing, the wind speed, the distance between him and his target, as well as the size, weight, and speed of his arrow. Archery is not only physically but mentally demanding; it does not take a genius to fire a bow but it definitely takes the ability to reason and think comprehensibly. If you do not believe me, readers, then check out www.archery360.com to learn more about the ancient art of archery.

This puts the two men on an even platform during the airport battle, and it is the reason Hawkeye introduces himself to the Black Panther when it becomes clear their fight is moving into close-quarters. Clint realizes that he is up against another expert and that this man is stronger than he is. His introducing himself is actually a sign of respect for an adversary whose advantages are superior strength, a metal suit, and a good deal of righteous anger. Clint cannot directly compete with any but the latter and he is not angry enough at T’Challa to lose his temper with him. He holds T’Challa for as long as he does through sheer determination.

Despite unceremoniously defeating Clint in order to follow Cap and Bucky, T’Challa does seem to respect the master archer for the same reason. After all, though he hits him hard enough to prevent the archer from giving chase, he could have simply knocked him cold. Instead, he knocked him over and gave him a monster headache. He knows a professional when he sees one and, despite his claim that he does not care for Clint’s introduction, he also does not seem to care to badly injure or permanently damage a worthy opponent. While it is a heck of an introduction, something tells me this is the start of an interesting friendship between the two.

Well, readers, this is all I have left to say on the subject of Captain America: Civil War. It has been a fun ride and I am going to miss writing about these old friends of mine until next year, when Avengers: Infinity War hits theaters. You may get more out of me about Thor: Ragnarok, but I doubt it. The film is sure to be a hoot – and I am glad to hear that Mjolnir will somehow be reconstituted after Hela destroys it. What is the Prince of Thunder without his hammer?

I will probably have some things to say about Avengers Assemble’s new season and the comics. But until the next Marvel movie to catch my attention comes out, or until I have some more information to form theories regarding the upcoming films, Marvel Studios is not going to be too hot a topic on Thoughts on the Edge of Forever. Wow. I did not realize how much I was going to miss them all.

Anyway, readers, go ahead and check out what comes next or what has gone before. I am not sure just what will come next, but we’ll figure it out as we go along. ‘Til then….

EXCELSIOR!!!!!!

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