Road to Infinity War – ‘Thor: Ragnarok’ (2017)

The third film in the Thor trilogy takes a new spin on the dramatic Shakespearean Norse mythology surrounding the character-and the original “Ragnarok” story- and turns it into an 80s inspired rock and roll space epic that is one of the most unique in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Up next on Road to Infinity War, it is the most metal-meets-Monty Python Marvel movie of all time…THOR: RAGNAROK!

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THE TEAM:

Director Taika Waititi is best known for his offbeat, independent films that present New Zealand humor and charm at its finest. Cult favorites like ‘Eagle vs Shark’, ‘Flight of the Conchords’ and ‘What We Do in the Shadows’ show great imagination and a strange whimsy that is entirely unique to Waititi. Before the film itself, he directed the set of ‘Team Thor’ shorts that teased Thors whereabouts and future in the MCU after we hadn’t seen him on screen in awhile. These hilarious, sitcom-esque shorts gave us a sweet taste of the future of Thor and how he was making himself comfortable in the world.

The writing team for Ragnarok is a formidable gang of Marvel manpower made up of Eric Pearson, Craig Kyle and Christopher Jost. Their collective experience with Marvel entities is strong- having worked on everything from Marvels one shot stories to their many animated series over the past decade and even for the MCU itself (Christopher Yost returns from ‘The Dark World’).

Composer Mark Mothersbaugh has been working in the industry since the late 80s on projects like Pee Wees Playhouse, Sliders, Dawsons Creek, The Royal Tenenbaums, Rugrats, Blue Mountain State, The Lego Movie, House of Lies, Last Man on Earth- the list goes on!

‘Thor: Ragnarok’ became a massive success for Marvel due largely in part to its astoundingly retro, mesmerizing marketing and its beautifully baiting trailers, but also because it was Planet Hulk-meets-Ragnarok-meets-your favorite Marvel space acid trip. It brought in $853,977,126 at the worldwide box office

THE HERO:

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THOR:

Thor has been through an awful lot over the past few years. He lost his brother-twice? Three times? He lost his mother due partly to his brother and apparently he has now lost his girlfriend- but not to death. Just your average God-human relationship issues. He has had to save planet Earth on multiple occasions, as well as saving the nine realms from plunging into darkness in ‘Thor: The Dark World’. Since ‘Age of Ultron’ Thor has been traversing the galaxy in search of answers regarding his vision about the Infinity Stones. In ‘Ragnarok’ we learn that on his journey for answers he came across a path of death and destruction that led him to a face to face confrontation with Surtur- a Balrog demon looking creature made of fire and brimstone. Surtur warns Thor that the prophecy of Ragnarok-the end of Asgard- is coming, and that he cannot stop it. Thor removes his horns to prevent him from being reunited with the eternal flame and heads back to Asgard with his trophy. Movie over!

Back on Asgard, he quickly realizes that his brother has been masquerading as his father Odin-building shrines to his own memory and putting on very Shakespearean plays honoring his demise. They take a trip back to Earth to find the exiled Odin, who has been stripped of his Asgardian powers and now waits for his children to return so that he may finally die. He leaves them with loving last words and warns them of the impending arrival of their evil sister Hela- who can only return to Asgard once Odin has passed on. The loss of Odin would normally mean that Thor is the natural successor to the throne, but this earth shattering news means that someone else is coming to claim it- someone who is not going to make it a smooth transition.

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When Hela knocks him out of bifrost after destroying Mjolnir, he crash lands on the planet Sakaar, where he is quickly scooped up as bounty by the beautiful alcoholic warrior known only as “Scrapper 142” by her employer- The Grandmaster. Thor is unwillingly recruited into the Contest of Champions and pitted against their greatest champion- who happens to be his AWOL Avengers amigo The Hulk. And so one of the greatest MCU gifs was born. With the help of an extremely confused Bruce Banner, Scrapper 142- a former Valkyrie of Asgard- and his flakey brother Loki, they escape the planet and head back to Asgard to take down Hela before she destroys everyone and everything that they know. In the end, he realizes that in order to stop her he must not stop Ragnarok- but he must allow it to happen in order for her reign to end with it. Asgard is lost, but not its people.

While Thor has always had that smug smirking of self satisfaction and that “man out of time” sense of what is and is not appropriate, he has never been funnier than he is in Ragnarok- due largely to the Waikiki effect on the movie itself. Chris Hemsworth shines as always in every emotional challenge- be it anger, grief, or playful fun. He can do it all. Thor has never been stronger as an on screen presence, but he also gets a rad new ability that we haven’t seen before- in which his body becomes engulfed in lightning which he can wield and use as a force of power. For the first time, he truly encapsulated the name “Lord of Thunder”. Sorry, “God of Thunder”. He also encapsulates the role that has been laid out for him as King and ruler of Asgard- saving his entire civilization, finally getting a leg up on his brothers schemes, and making those hard decisions that Odin never could.

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BRUCE BANNER/THE HULK:

It really sucks to know that we may never get another Hulk solo film- and that we never really got a Planet Hulk movie- but this was as close as it comes. Bruce has been gone from Earth for two years and we learn when he transforms back that he has been the Hulk this entire time. Hulk has advanced tremendously in his ability to communicate and understand, although his intelligence is still on par with that of a young child. He is happy as a clam being worshipped as a fighter in a land where nobody knows who Bruce Banner is and he has no desire to leave, even when his old friend Thor shows up. Its hard to say exactly how Valkyrie managed to get him from his crashed Quinjet into this battle arena situation, but he seems very content with his setup. It was probably one of those neck nodes that zap you to sleep, but I find it bizarre that this would take down the Hulk.

Bruce spends most of the film as the Hulk, but when he comes back down to being Bruce his mind seems very groggy from his time “in the trunk” for the past two years. He seems very confident that if he becomes Hulk again that he will not come back-yet he makes that ultimate sacrifice when the entire population of Asgard depends on him. He has a sweet fight scene with Helas gigantic reanimated dead dog- evil Clifford aka Fenris and goes so far as to take on Surtur when he is the size of a mountain. Much like Thor, he gets opportunity after opportunity to show off the comedic capacity of Hulk and the compassionate side of Bruce Banner- and how both can get him into real trouble.

THE VILLAIN

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Hela makes quick and easy work of tearing Asgard down to the ground and even less time commanding her screen presence. Cate Blanchett is one of the most talented actresses on the planet and the choice to cast her as such a wretched and gothic villain was nothing short of perfection. She is dramatic, intense, gorgeous and vile while serving as an important piece of Asgards history and its future. She is like the ghost of Christmas past come to shatter their perfect golden world. We learn that Odins firstborn served as his “executioner” back in a time before he entertained the idea of diplomacy and peace among realms. He hid Asgards past so well that his children had no idea that they had an older sister, or that he had such a dark past as a conquerer. The demise of Asgard is rather poetic over the course of this movie, from the revelations that Hela comes with about their integrity and honor to the physical destruction of it. The past is gone, but a new world can now be created under Thors guidance.

Hela has very simple and unflappable motivations- to claim the throne which she is entitled to and to command Asgard in whatever way the she feels fit. She was cast out when her father could no longer control her and when their morals no longer aligned, so much like his sons- she has daddy issues that drive her. She longs for the old days where Asgard reigned supreme over all nine realms- and she aspires to conquer worlds far beyond the ones that they know. Her capabilities as the Goddess of Death are explored to an extent- she uses the Eternal Flame to resurrect her old army and her pet Fenris, and she conjures and tosses any size of dagger that she chooses. I have nagging suspicions that this character may very well translate into the Mistress of Death- a HUGE character in the Infinity Gauntlet story. The Mistress of Death is the reason for Thanos seeking out the Infinity Stones- to please her and to shape the cosmos to her liking. The timing doesn’t quite work out, but its always possible!

We don’t necessarily see her die, so you know the rules. She might not be dead for reals.

 

THE GOODS:

Thor:Ragnarok stands as one of the most unique and identifiable MCU movies to date. It takes huge risks and completely ignores standard formulas , instead opting for originality and widespread influences from realms of science fiction, ancient lore and the best of 80s cheese. While its underlying themes are dark, dramatic and sinister- the consistent comic relief, genuinely complicated relationships, vibrant palettes and brightly lit sets bring a film about death to life. This cast is overflowing with top notch dramatic actors, but additions like Jeff Goldblum as the Grandmaster and Taika Waititi as lovable pile of rocks Korg add a memorable goofy charm that reminds us not to take our beloved comic book movies too seriously. It is really, really silly, but silly is okay.

‘Thor:Ragnarok’ finds a great balance between tones, practical and manufactured visual impact, character development and good old fashioned fun. It rounds out the Thor trilogy with a huge bang and nearly destroys his entire family history while ushering him forth into a whole new existence. It further complicates Thors relationship with Loki but somehow clears the air at the same time, showing the tremendous growth and sincere confidence that Thor has found in his experiences. He is more independent than ever before and now he has the opportunity to dictate the future of himself, his people and the realms of which he protects.

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Bruce Banner has now seen worlds outside of his own and knows the terrifying truth about his alter ego- how consuming it is, how advanced it has become, and how badly it wants him out of the picture. He may still find a way to control his demon-or he may have to come to a compromise with it. Hulk is becoming more and more intelligent the longer that he exists as the Hulk, so we may very well see a Hulk someday that has every capability to exist in that state. We may also see Bruce trying his best to keep the Hulk at bay unless it is absolutely necessary- which I can only assume is coming down the pipeline very, very quickly.

POST CREDITS SCENE

Thor and Loki are having a friendly conversation aboard their getaway ship, floating through space towards their new destination. They are suddenly approached by a ship that makes their own look like a bug floating in the air. I wonder who it is!?

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Shortly after, the Grandmaster spills out of what looks like an elaborate space portapotty, doing his best political routine to get out of trouble with the uprising of Sakaarian citizens that surround him.

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Road to Infinity War – ‘Spiderman: Homecoming’ (2017)

From the very first stirrings that our beloved Spiderman might be making his way into the Marvel Cinematic Universe-where he belongs- there was nothing but butterflies in my heart. Then, we got our first taste of Tom Holland as Peter Parker in ‘Civil War’ and I truly felt that Spiderman had come home in more ways than one.

On this edition of ‘Road to Infinity War’ it is Marvel Studios first go at a Spiderman movie (which is so weird to say…)…SPIDERMAN: HOMECOMING!

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THE TEAM:

Jon Watts is best known for directing a great little movie called “Cop Car” starring Kevin Bacon and a couple of young kids, and over a dozen episodes of “The Onion News Network”- a very popular internet sensation and fake news site. With these credits in mind, Spiderman was well trusted in his hands. He knows what makes a modern audience laugh and he knows the potential to reach all ages through the eyes of young people. The screenplay and story comes from a large group of men whos previous writing credits include projects like “Horrible Bosses”, “Cop Car”, “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs”, “American Dad”, “Community”, and “The Lego Batman Movie”. This wealth of experience spans several demographics, but it keeps within the same age group of viewers and “Spiderman: Homecoming” really shows off the teams understanding of what todays comic book fans and moviegoers want to see and what they think is funny.

Composer Michael Giacchino returns from Dr. Strange with one of the coolest theme collaborations to date- starting us off with that amazingly nostalgic revamp of the Spiderman theme and taking us through a high energy rollercoaster of emotions thereafter.

Released in July of 2017, Spiderman swept the summer box office and shut up a whole lot of naysers-while creating a wealth of new ones- making $880,166,924 at the worldwide box office. Not bad for a hero that is now on his third franchise in the last 15 years!

THE HERO:

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Peter is still riding the high of being recruited by Tony Stark to go up against Captain America in ‘Civil War’-and at the beginning of the film we get an exclusive look into how that all went down behind the scenes. Tom Holland absolutely nails the genuine excitement and pride that Peter feels as he is finally given the chance to be a real superhero, and he is absolutely bursting with energy from the start. He handles both roles with perfection, not going too far into the awkward- but still playing it shy and reserved. His Spiderman is a loudmouth, high wire acrobat type with a heart of gold who wants nothing more than to use his gifts for good. He still has so much to learn but he is quick on his feet in both the literal and metaphorical sense and always manages to make the best out of any tough situation.

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The casting of Peter was so expertly done in Homecoming due largely in part to Tom Hollands natural acrobatic skills, his fresh face, soft spoken nature and genuine acting ability. For the first time in history we get to see a Peter Parker in a live action film that is age appropriate to a high school student, and all of the juvenile problems that come along with it. Lack of self esteem, desire to be accepted, homework, crushes- all of those pesky problems that we dealt with when we were teenagers. These are the problems that we like to believe that we left behind- but chances are, we haven’t. At the same time, while he already has the gift of intellect- he has been granted a huge responsibility with his new abilities, and these make his life all the more confusing as he struggles between embracing this crucial time in his academic and social life or leaving it all behind to be an Avenger. He truly wants to do the most good that he can possibly do, but in Homecoming he lets things like family and friends fall by the wayside in his overzealous pursuits. Thats what makes Spiderman such a compelling and timeless hero- we can all relate to him, we identify with his struggles and his mistakes, and we all hope to be more like him.

I guess that I should mention Tony Stark as well- because while his brash attempt at fatherhood and mentorship is a little overstepping of standard boundaries- he truly seems to have a spot in his heart for Peter Parker. He clearly goes through a whole lot of work at some point to create a Spidey suit for Peter (I still don’t understand the timeline in which this happened) and presumably obsessed over it just the way that he obsesses over his own projects. He and Peters ball busting new uncle Happy Hogan see something special in Spiderman and in Peter Parker and Tony knows that it needs guidance and confidence. He wants to instill his knowledge, his wisdom- he wants to establish a succession. Robert Downey Jr cant do this forever!

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That final scene between the two-when Tony presents Peter with the IRON SPIDER suit (drool) and a place with the Avengers (swoon)- is a beautiful moment for the two of them as individual characters and as a pair. Tony admits his failings in guiding Peter over the last few days, opens up about his daddy issues a bit, and allows him to make the best decision for HIM. In the past, Tony would very likely have given him the third degree for turning down something so obviously perfect for him- but he accepts it almost immediately, not even letting him believe that he was disappointed in the least. He becomes an amazing dad in that moment, and Peter finds the confidence to admit his weaknesses and the humbleness to start small. A friendly neighborhood Spiderman.

THE VILLAIN

In what starts out as an everyday bank robbery turns into a full blown rivalry between a gang of weapons makers/dealers and a local vigilante when Peter vows to get their alien weapons off the streets. He has runins with “The Shocker”, a nice talk with a rad uncle nicknamed The Prowler, and numerous showdowns with the boss man himself- The Vulture. Things go about 300% worse when Peter discovers that his nemesis is also his girlfriends father- and that he has the skill level of a 14 year when it comes to playing it cool.

Adrian Toomes aka The Vulture is a working class guy that has forward thinking intelligence woven into his survival instincts. He and his team of “salvagers” turn a big job gone sour into a basement operation of apparently limitless skill with a batch of alien technology. While I’m on board with Keaton’s Birdman-meets-Batman, I’m not quite as convinced about his backstory and his entourage. They seem very well equipped and advanced in a very short time. The suit that they create and utilize as the ‘Vulture’ getup is a very large piece of machinery to go unnoticed for such a long time, so I don’t fully understand how this operation maintains its anonymity- but okay. Lets say that they’re really, really good at laundering money, property and American skies. Lets also say that Toomes has been able to convince his wife that the head of a wreckage salvage company could afford a house so fancy that it is practically 90% windows.

Toomes has his eye on the prize- no matter the cost- but his paternal instinct that should have kicked in when he realized that he was fighting a teenager waits to takes over when the final showdown between the two results in Peter saving his life. He takes his lumps and goes to prison, but ultimately he keeps their secret from interested parties. So he is either coming around as a good guy, or he is saving this one for himself. Only time will tell (or maybe it won’t-villains tend to fade away in the MCU)

THE GOODS:

In this impressive modernization of Spidermans universe, Peter is attending a science and technology focused school full of a diverse and eclectic group of students and teachers- just as your average American school should look. Peters friends and peers are all who you would consider “the smart kid”- but they’re not overly painted with that “nerd” paintbrush that demoralizes them for being intelligent. There are still cliques in this community, there are still bullies, there are still spoiled rich kids, there are still brown nosers, there are still prom queens- but they all happen to be academics as well. Spiderman: Homecoming sends one clear message: its cool to be smart, its cool to be a nerd, its cool to be you. Unless you’re Flash. Flash sucks.

The movie is filled with pop culture love, bumbling adults, hilarious interactions with technology and lighthearted jokes all around, but its not all fun and games when kids lives are endangered. Even in highly dramatic situations the movie finds time to show off the humor in tragedy and it pokes fun at some of the MCU’s existing characters and patterns. The only word that keeps popping into my head is unfortunately- woke. It feels very self aware and transparently honest about its intentions- and it sets a gold standard for the way that representation and authenticity can shine through in any level of film.

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I cannot sing the praises of Tom Holland enough, but I also have to give it up to Michael Keaton (duh) for his dadass working man vibe and to Peters friends like Jacob Batalon (Ned) and Zendaya (Michelle) for their sincere and mature portrayals of kids that are quirky, sharp and off the beaten path. This take on “MJ” is a breath of fresh air after years of “Golly gee whiz, Peter!” and bland Mary Jane Watsons. Having someone who is a spunky, smart social activist like Michelle as the love interest for Peter has the potential to be as interesting and as vibrant as Margot Kidder’s Lois Lane was to Superman-but for high school students. The chemistry between Peter and Happy Hogan is a great addition as well- because while Happy acts more as his annoyed babysitter than anything else, they seem to really connect.

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Overall, ‘Spiderman: Homecoming’ is a story about a young man coming into his own, focusing one minute and rebelling the next, losing and finding himself, believing in himself and then feeling hopeless, and having to decide just how quickly that he wants to grow up. He longs to be recognized but he has to remain anonymous, therefore he is lonely in his journey. Unlike the majority of the other heroes in the MCU, Peter Parker doesn’t have the opportunity or the burden of being a celebrity or revelling in his victories- so he has to be extremely mindful of himself and he has to live a secret life. Unless Ned spills the beans, of course. Or Tony. Or Happy. Or Vulture. Or Aunt May. Damn, our boy is in trouble.

POST CREDITS SCENE:

Toomes is in prison minding his own business when he is approached by a shady looking character with a scorpion tattoo on his neck, looking for the identity of Spiderman. He blows him off with a sinister admission of ignorance and we are left wondering about the future- especially considering the fact that Sony (sadly) still technically owns Spiderman and his tremendous selection of villains.

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Those who wait to the very end are rewarded with another PSA from Captain America about patience- another wink to the meta humor that this movie works with throughout.

 

Road to Infinity War – Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 (2017)

If there was one group of ragtag friends that I was excited to see again, it was the Guardians of the Galaxy. With new characters, a new decade of music and the introduction of Kurt Russell, what could go wrong?

Up next on the Road to Infinity War its brighter, louder and funnier….Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2!

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THE TEAM:

James Gunn returns to the scene of the crime to continue the Guardians of the Galaxys story. He brings his unique vision back to the franchise- integrating music, humour, awkwardness, heart and out of this world personality to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Composer Tyler Bates returns for more heart pumping, jaw dropping ethereal jams to accent this beautiful and spunky story. After the smash success of the first Guardians movie there was absolutely no doubt that the sequel would have a huge following- and it brought in a staggering $863, 756,051 at the worldwide box office

THE HEROES

New Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 Group Shot by Artlover67

PETER QUILL/STARLORD:

Peter just learned something very significant about his parentage, but the meaning behind it remains very vague. The Nova Corp spilled the beans at the end of the first Guardians film that Peter was able to hold an Infinity Stone due to some “ancient” genealogy within him. Then they sent him packing. In Vol 2, it seems that everyone has some kind of insight into where he comes from for whatever reason. Ayesha broods over him with ominous warnings of “reckless” origins brewing inside of him shortly before a mysterious spaceman appears to destroy an envoy of Sovereign ships that are hell bent on killing the Guardians. Upon meeting this gloriously bearded man on Berhert post- crash, Peter is informed that this man is his father.

While Peter initially questions Ego in his showy and impressive assertion that he is his father, once he unlocks the true potential of his biology, he is all in. He is faced with a difficult decision, whether to live the remainder of his life as a celestial hybrid creating worlds, or to be with his new family. Through some subtle and literal mind control, Ego attempts to sway Peter to his motives by showing him the possibilities of his existence- but makes one big, big mistake. Why did he tell him about his Mom!? How did he think that was going to go!?

Peters romantic and platonic love for his friends and his family trumps all other things and it breaks him free of Egos hypnotic influence-and ultimately from his energy altogether. He gives up the possibility of immortality and god-like powers to put an end to the universal genocide that Ego plans to inflict in the name of his omnipotent sense of superiority. Presented with a life that is more than he could ever have imagined, he destroys it to do what is right and to avenge his beloved Mom. All conflict that arises throughout Vol 2 with his new family is squashed once they experience this traumatic series of events together, and they ultimately learn to forgive and grow together.

Peter also gains a father figure and a whole new sense of family when Yondu sacrifices himself in more ways than one to ensure Peters safety. He gains a sense of closure knowing that he has not spent his life without a father, but with one who is rather unconventional and unlikely to share his feelings. Peters ends Vol 2 with answers and closure to many aspects of his life, which will hopefully result in a newfound sense of power and confidence that comes with leaving the past behind.

GAMORA

Gamora has distanced herself entirely from her old life as a killer for hire and has embraced a new life with the Guardians. She has friends, family, respect and purpose. The Guardians take on the glitter spitting beast in the opening sequence so that the Sovereign will hand over her sister Nebula, who she in turn plans to hand over to the Nova Corp. While the relationship between the two continues to be vindictive and tumultuous, Gamora would rather her sister be in prison than wrecking havoc across the galaxy in hopes of killing their father- Thanos. She knows that she would not survive this and could potentially create more trouble for herself and the rest of the galaxy.

The theme of family carries through in Gamoras story in Vol 2, which focuses heavily on the relationship between these two jilted sisters as they struggle through their options of sticking together or to letting each other go. Along the way, Nebula and Gamora come to blows but they reach a peaceful resolution of sorts when neither of them will take that final step to killing the other. Instead, they finally bond over their shared experiences and agree to part ways. In the realm of family, Gamora is also faced with a unique internal battle against her feelings for Peter- which seem to gain some clarity at the end of the film.

I have to think that Gamoras history and knowledge of Thanos is going to play a big part in Infinity War and that she is going to be a major factor in how the Avengers and Guardians approach the situation. She knows where he comes from, where he lives and who he knows- and what he is capable of. When Nebula tells her that she still plans to kill him- she responds by saying that she doesnt think its possible. I guess we’ll find out.

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DRAX

While Drax spends a concerning amount of time in Vol 2 laughing VERY LOUDLY in the face of danger and making really awkward sexual comments, he also opens himself up more than ever before. It seems like he has become more comfortable with himself the longer that he has been with the Guardians, and they have come to understand how to deal with him a bit better as well. He still has no sense of what is appropriate in social situations and his IQ is not exactly top notch, but his resilience and fearlessness brings a level of humor and danger to the Guardians that would not be there otherwise. He certainly isn’t the brains of the operation, but he is the brawn that they need to survive. Drax has one incredibly touching moment with his new friend Mantis as they overlook a beautiful body of water on Egos planet and he reminisces about his long lost family. Despite his tough yet bubbly exterior, we know that his family is always on his mind, motivating him and helping him to appreciate the family that he has now.

Yondu and Rocket in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

ROCKET

Maybe its his new role as a father of sorts, but Rocket is a hell of a lot more bitter in Vol 2 than he has ever been. He steals from the Sovereign for no other reason but fun and instead of taking responsibility for the fallout, he goes after his friends. His old life with Groot was spent scavenging the galaxy for their next big score and living it up, but now he is part of a group of very different people, and his best friend has been reborn as an adorable but characteristically juvenile toddler. Lost in the shuffle, he seems starved for attention and out to prove that he is more than his gadgets. Rockets heart and his love for the Guardians gets them in and out of trouble on several occasions, but he shows his true colors in his final act of goodwill-allowing Yondu the privilege of saving his “sons” life by sacrificing his own.

GROOT

Groot is an adorable little humanoid with a brand new set of memories and the same old sense of fun. He needs a lot of supervision, but he is slowly growing into the Groot that we knew and loved dearly from the first movie- albeit with influence from far more people than he had the first time around. At the end of the movie we get to see him as a cranky, angsty teenager that has nothing better to do but be sassy and play video games. If this is the Groot that we’ll see in Infinity War remains to be seen.

YONDU

I can’t in good conscience place Yondu under the villain heading, because he spends the majority of Vol 2 as anything but a villain. Though he is still mixed up with his band of unhinged Ravager buddies, his story throughout Vol 2 gives us a great amount of insight into his life and his history, showing us that he is more than meets the eye. He is confronted by his old group of Ravager friends- the OG Guardians of the Galaxy- where we learn that he was exiled decades ago for breaking the Ravager code-dealing in kids. He is commissioned by Ayesha to go after the Guardians of the Galaxy once more, and his decision to defy the request of the Sovereign to recover their batteries and to kill the group is met with a mutiny. They point out that Yondu seems to place Peters life above everyone elses-and that single line becomes the resonating theme of the rest of Yondus story arch in Vol 2. Why does Yondu continue to torment and threaten Peter and his friends while helping him stay out of danger along the way?

The answer, of course, turns out to be a major revelation. Yondu has a special place in his heart for Peter because he considers him to be like a son to him, and he believes that he is the only person that he has done right by. Michael Rookers incredible performance as Yondu goes from being a one dimensional vigilante and scrapper to a badass, witty, resourceful and compassionate father figure. He bonds with Rocket during their brief stint behind bars, where the two find that they have more in common than they realize. This interaction gives Rocket an understanding and a common ground that all comes back around to family.

Its like a Fast and Furious movie, this thing. Maybe Groot had more say than we realized.

THE VILLAIN:

There are actually several different villains all intertwined in this madness, starting with:

AYESHA/THE SOVEREIGN

This colony of people is created-literally birthed in pods-and groomed to believe that they are flawless beings, so naturally they are huge deuchebags. They are narcistic and elitist, and they do not believe in sacrificing themselves in battle-instead sending drone ships in their place while playing what I assume to be the galaxies best ‘Enders Game’ style VR simulation. Their High Priestess, Ayesha, blows the theft of their precious batteries slightly out of proportion, pursuing the Guardians all the way to Egos planet after Yondu fails to retrieve them himself. After the loss of two huge fleets over what one would assume to be a minor slight to Ayeshas ego- she creates a new being. He is more powerful, more beautiful- and his name….well, you know.

Sidenote: If these people are birthed, and everything is yellow/golden, and an interdimensional abyllisk knew to come eat their battery, and Nebula also knew to come steal their batteries- is this place connected to the soul stone? If they can create souls and they are on a self sustaining power source…the shoe kind of fits.

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TASERFACE/THE RAVAGERS

Ridiculous name and obtuse references to it aside- Taserface and the Ravagers bring about endless roadblocks for our heroes throughout Vol 2. This rebellious subset of Yondus following has a grudge against Yondu for putting their group and their financial gain second to Peter. Under the leadership of Taserface they take things to a great extreme by murdering nearly every member of his group-aside from flip flopper Kraglin-who comes through to save their skin at the right moment. These assholes torture sweet baby Groot, using him like a circus animal, and lock up Rocket and Yondu after Nebula asserts her dominance and takes over as new leader of the operation. They would have killed the two of them as well, instead they are convinced to turn them in for a reward. Yondu exacts his epic revenge on those who wronged him, but not swiftly enough to stop Taserface from alerting the Sovereign of their whereabouts on Egos planet. After Yondus great sacrifice he is ushered out of his life by his old friends who once exiled him- causing him to go down in history as a legend.

NEBULA

Nebula is moreso the anti-hero of Vol 2- as she is out for herself and not working under anyone else at this point. Her motivations to kill Thanos remain unwaivering and her anger towards her sister is still strong, but she seems very open to working with her more than against her. They just needed some time to come together and understand one another outside of conflict and violence. Once they clear the air Nebula becomes of great help to the Guardians in their complicated mission to destroy Ego and get the hell off of him before they all die. When their quest is completed, Nebula and her sister Gamora part ways with more love than they have ever experienced in the past- and she asserts her intentions to kill Thanos are stronger than ever. Methinks that she is going to be a big player in the coming events.

EGO

From Egos introduction, he seems like a smooth talking silver fox that is going to make Peters life complete and answer all of his questions. If you look at Mantis’ face though- you start to see the cracks. There is an air of ambiguity in nearly every interaction that Ego has with Peter and his friends- as he seems very genuine in all of his stories and his expressions of feelings-and he seems to be very open and honest about who and what he is. Mantis is not terribly good at keeping secrets and luckily she spills the beans when Gamora discovers a cavern absolutely full of bones beneath the surface of the planet.

What started out as a situation that was sketchy and rather outlandish, but heartwarming, at best starts to unravel into something that is an all out horror show when Ego plants his influential seeds into Peters brain to sway him over to his side, then lets it slip that he put a tumor in his mothers head. He killed her and he never returned to her because he couldn’t deal with a world where she wasn’t alive- but he killed her, long and slow. Not only that, but Egos maniacal plan for galactic domination unfolds in a tale of multi-planetary, multi-species insemination that rivals any porn star or early centuries royalty that you could ever imagine. For centuries, Ego has been searching for his children so that he could test their biology for the celestial gene- a test which presumably kills them on site or eventually causes him to kill them. He planned to use the child that carried this gene to help him completely consume every planet that he visited-allowing him to become several planets.

As Kurt Russell expertly croons in a romantic way about his quest for purpose, his love for Meredith, his adventures across worlds in search of companionship- it all adds to the terrifying nature of Ego. He is not a man, he is barely a being- he is something so powerful and so grand that life itself has absolutely no meaning to him. He calls his discovery of life “disappointing”. He cannot be bargained with, he cannot be swayed, he cannot reposition his lifes work in another direction- he has worked towards one goal for his entire existence and there is no alternative. He is of nearly endless abilities and power, so he has very little to fear- but with nothing but time, he needs to quench his thirst for purpose. His death unfortunately means the death of Peters immortality and his celestial “light” but his death also means that hundreds of millions of others can live.

I don’t think that I’m exaggerating when I say that is some of the darkest shit in the MCU to date.

THE GOODS

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Volume 2 is aptly named- as it turns up the volume on the humor, the action, the music and the visual effects. The soundtrack is far less subtle this time around and it is referenced directly by people in the movie on several occasions, as if Quills music is a part of them now. Many of the songs are also related to the film in a far more literal sense than before- with songs about family, love and friendship perfectly aligned with each scene in which it plays. Electric Light Orchestras “Livin Thing” cues up as they approach Ego: The Living Planet in perfect context and harmony to the setting. My favorite song of all time-The Chain by Fleetwood Mac- makes a couple of appearances in heavy emotional moments and represents the necessity to break free of your biological tree.

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The colors used in Volume 2 are absolutely spectacular and transition well from the first film where the majority of the colors were in reference to stars and space in general- but this time we see Egos luscious and breathtaking planet, the vibrant golds of the Sovereign and the earthy tones of Berhert bring every scene to life. You can imagine these shots splashed across the pages of a comic book. The visual effects are incredible, from the first dance/fight sequence, to Yondu and Rockets epic dramatic exit from their prison cells, to the many states of Ego himself. The comedy gets a LITTLE bit too much for me at moments-with an insane amount of sex jokes littered throughout- but every joke is incredibly funny and they are mostly spoken by Drax-who could deliver any line and make it funny. Apparently Drax is just a huge pervert, I guess. Rocket gets his fair share of quips and the entire cast gets the chance to bounce off of one another in lighthearted ways to show us just how close that they have become. They bicker, but they bicker like a family now.

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There is an incredible amount of growth established in this film and we really get to see the payoff of the Guardians coming together as a unit- because unlike the Avengers, these guys likely spend most of their time together. They don’t have homes to go back to or lives to get back to when the fight is over- they only have each other. Thats why the theme of family in Volume 2 is so beautiful and so significant- there is “romantic, sexual love”, paternal love, platonic love, self love and the loss and gain of all of these at play. We see the effects of love for the deceased, love for friends, family and conquests, love that goes unspoken, love that is complicated, love that is simple, and love that is just beginning to blossom. Its a complicated, messy and magnificent theme- but love is all over the freaking galaxy.

POST CREDITS SCENES:

Okay so lets get through these- Kraglin has a fin now and he is learning to use Yondus old arrow- and he sucks at it.

The old Guardians of the Galaxy are back in business!

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Holy freaking crap Ayesha has created Adam Warlock. AHHHH! Will he be in Infinity War or will we have to wait until the next Guardians movie? Will be be a huge factor in the defeat of Thanos like in ‘Infinity Gauntlet’? Will he be Jamie Lannister!?

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Groot is a teenager now and he just sucks. Why are there vines everywhere by the way? Why is he shooting vines? Ew.

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Probably one of the best Stan Lee cameos of all time results in him being left on a rock by the Watchers. They had better be picking him up in Infinity War!

Sidenote: John Malkovich should be the Watcher.

Road to Infinity War – Dr Strange (2016)

The Sorcerer Supreme, the Master of the Mystic Arts- Dr Strange was well overdue for an introduction into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and he finally came into the world in 2016!

Up next on the ‘Road to Infinity War’ it is the enchanting and mind bending… ‘Dr Strange’!

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Dr Strange was actually mentioned once before in ‘Captain America: The Winter Soldier’ as someone that SHIELD and Hydra were familiar with- so the timeline of this movie is a little confusing in reference to that mention. There is reference in this film that Strange is well known in the medical community for his surgical accomplishments, but otherwise I see no reason why he would be notorious in any way. Aside from that, it was incredibly exciting to learn that Dr Strange would be making his Marvel Cinematic Universe debut and bringing an entirely new angle to the future of this universe. The film went through months of casting rumours as to who would take on the role of the titular character, but it ultimately fell to Benedict Cumberbatch- who took on the role and the facial hair with ease.

Dr Strange did fairly well for Marvel Studios- bringing in $677, 718, 395 at the worldwide box office.

THE TEAM:

First time MCU director and writer Scott Derrickson comes from a background of predominantly horror- and that experience made him an excellent choice to take on such an other wordly and supernatural character for Marvel Studios. Along with cowriter Paul Harris Boardman, the two had such projects under their belts as ‘The Exorcism of Emily Rose’ ‘The Day The Earth Stood Still’ ‘Deliver Us From Evil’ and ‘Sinister’,  giving them both plenty of background in the dark and disturbing that lent itself to the universe of Dr Strange.

THE HERO:

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Dr Stephen Strange has all the makings of a hero and of a villain. He has the cocky, entitled, competitive, arrogant, ultra intelligence and dedication of Tony Stark, but with slightly less showmanship. Honestly, hes a huge dick. Ultimately, his obsession with his profession is of great benefit to the world, but his medical conquests do not come from a place of kindness, but from a selfish need to excel. He has a photographic memory, a sharp wit and steady hands- all until a very, very preventable and very, VERY idiotic car accident steals that away from him. He spends all of his time and money furiously looking for any and all alternative treatments that could restore his hands to their original state as he desperately longs for his life back. A random tip from his physical therapist sends him to Kathmandu, where he comes to meet an ancient woman appropriately called “The Ancient One” who somehow turns out to be a white woman- and her plethora of proteges.

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The Ancient One schools Strange on the detriments of his personality and his profession- basically shitting on everything that he has worked his whole life for. What starts out to be a very sensible argument about the entire universal understanding of medical sciences turns into an acid trip unlike anything that we’ve ever seen on screen when Strange is introduced to the real limitations of the universe- none. He is welcomed into an existence where there are multiple dimensions, multiple realities, multiple states of existence, time and space, and never ending potential. As is so characteristic to him, he immediately chocks his out of body experience to being drugged- but once he is swayed to believe he resorts to his natural alpha male tendencies and strives to learn everything as quickly as possible while pissing off his coworkers.

He is a fast learner and takes to the Mystic Arts incredibly quickly, but initially struggles to really commit to this completely new way of thinking- allowing the mind to create and manipulate things outside of itself. He spent his life educating himself and using his mind to tell his body to perform tactile functions based on very specific information, and now he must conjure portals and material objects with fancy hand movements.  When he hits his stride, he still refuses to conform to rules and shows a general lack of respect for what he is doing, but when things start to get intense he steps up to take on tremendous tasks with a little help from the Eye of Agamotto and his new friend Carpet- um, his cape.

Strange shows a tremendous amount of growth in a very short time and maintains his sanity fairly well for someone who just had his entire reality turned upside down and inside out. He learns, with a great many reminders, that although he is now an incredibly important person in many facets of existence, that there is far, far more to all of this than himself. He sacrifices his entire life to take part in a greater purpose and shows a surprising level of understanding when The Ancient One reveals her greatest secrets. However, Strange has not been in this world for long enough to feel the hurt and betrayal that her other disciples feel upon learning that she has been long involved in something that she forbid them to be involved in. Strange knows enough about the Dark Dimension to have a unique and unbiased openness to her point of view, and this controversial viewpoint will likely come back to bite him- likely in the form of Baron Mordo.

THE VILLAIN:

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Kaecilius is unfortunately not a well explored or interesting villain for Strange to go up against, but his pursuit to make a deal with Dormammu makes him worth going after. I can’t say that I understand why he stole two pages out of an ancient text without stealing the Eye of Agamotto, or the entire book for that matter. He would have gotten much further with more material, to be sure. Kaecilius is driven in ways that are very reminiscent of Darren Cross and Loki- namely the jaded pursuit of revenge towards a former mentor or authority figure. He feels jilted by The Ancient One when he learns that she has been drawing energy from the Dark Dimension to achieve her immortality, despite her forbidding her students to stay away from it entirely. He seeks eternal life for himself in exchange for allowing Dormammu to take over Earth- which he hungers for the most…for some reason.

I have to say, I was a bit dissapointed to learn that the great Mads Mikkelson was treated as a throwaway character when rumours were circulating that he could take on the moniker of such classic villains as Dormammu or Nightmare. Perhaps we will see him again, but I doubt it.

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Dormammu only shows his form towards the films ending and he comes in a very unfamiliar form- basically a disembodied voice made of energy and matter. He has a consciousness and motives, living in the Dark dimension amongst other floating things that we don’t quite know how to identify. Strange tricks him into leaving his conquest for Earth behind by trapping him a very clever time loop in a place where time does not exist. It remains to be seen if this will truly keep him away, and now that Kaecilius has the eternal, disembodied existence that he ignorantly pursued, Stranges only remaining enemy is Baron Mordo- and he is pissed.

THE GOODS:

Aside from the obvious triumph that is the visual presentation of Dr Strange, there is a great amount of elegance, humour and sinister bravado that strikes a great balance in the films tone. Dr Strange is the very first Marvel film that explores existential topics and takes a journey into things like dimensions, realities and magic- and it does so very effectively. The MC Escher/ inception-esque shots of cities folding into themselves, material objects morphing and transforming in ways that one would never imagine possible is mystifying and hypnotizing from the very first scene to the very last. The cast is a whos who of top notch dramatic acting in Hollywood today- from the brilliant Tilda Swinton, to Chiwetel Ejiofor, to Mads Mikkelson, to the Benedicts- Wong and Cumberbatch.

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Stephen Strange is a hard sell as a hero, seeing as he is basically just the worst kind of person in the beginning. However, his sly sense of humor and relentless pursuit of knowledge leads him to be very open and receptive to the mystic arts and the new responsibilities that come with this ancient knowledge. It takes some time for Strange to drop his ego, and we never really know what rules he is going to play by in his future now that he has no one to answer to. Knowing that he possesses an Infinity Stone means that he is indefinitely going to play a massive role in the coming Marvel Cinematic Universe, and his abilities are likely going to be a huge factor in how these events unravel. Even without the Eye of Agamotto he still possesses an incredibly vast wealth of power that trumps nearly everyone elses abilities on his planet and many others.

POST CREDITS SCENE:

In a brief and to-the-point conversation between Dr Strange and a very relaxed Thor, they discuss the fact that his brother Loki is someone on Stranges radar as a threat to the planet and that he will help him find his father in order to keep him away. This scene solidifies Stranges involvement in ‘Thor: Ragnarok” to some extent and gives us a brief insight to what will bring Thor back to Earth- as we have not seen him since ‘Age of Ultron’ when he left to educate himself on the Infinity Stones.

Road to Infinity War – “Captain America: Civil War” (2016)

Back in 2015-16 I was foaming at the mouth in anticipation for an adaptation of the legendary Marvel Comics event “Civil War”. I knew that this was going to be very, very different due to the absence of Fantastic Four, XMen, Punisher, etc- but a huge event all the same. And after that first trailer dropped, I was a lost cause.

Next up on the Road to Infinity War, it is none other than the third installment in the Captain America trilogy….CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR!

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‘Civil War’ titilated fans for months on end, and the anticipation translated into its success- not to mention the homecoming of our beloved Spiderman to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Spidey and company brought in $1,153,304,495 at the global box office- making it one of Marvels most successful movies to date.

TEAM CIVIL WAR:

The Captain America trilogy team assembles once more to bring fluidity and feeling to the franchise. Directing duo Joe and Anthony Russo continue to flex their Marvel muscles with heroes that they have already had a hand in molding, while giving their unique influence to the plethora of characters that they were allowed in ‘Civil War’. Thanks to screenplay writers Stephen McFeely and Christopher Markus- who have written for all three films-the tone to the film is quite similar to ‘Captain America: The Winter Soldier’- which is as sombre as it is entertaining- boiling over with killer action sequences, intimate moments and fan service scenes that strikes a great balance. Although this complete change in formula may have taken some viewers aback, it broke the mold for future ensemble films and gave way for their next project- INFINITY WAR. The Captain America movies have very little impact or reference to this future, but Thors absence since ‘Age of Ultron’ accounts for the lack of reference to these coming events.

The soundtrack for ‘Civil War’ is also brought to you by a man that has stuck around to see the trilogy through- scoring for ‘Winter Soldier’- along with several non-Marvel projects like the ‘Kick Ass’ films, both ‘Kingsman’ movies, and a couple of ‘Uncharted’ games. Composer Henry Jackman knows his stuff when it comes to action adventure.

THE HEROES:

Strap in folks, this is going to be a REALLY long one.

AWOL HEROES: HULK/BRUCE BANNER, THOR ODINSON/DR DONALD BLAKE

TEAM CAP:

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CAPTAIN AMERICA/STEVE ROGERS:

Captain America and Sam Wilson have been working to locate the Winter Soldier aka Bucky Barnes after he went AWOL following the events of ‘Captain America: The Winter Soldier’. Working with the new breed of Avengers like Wanda aka the Scarlet Witch they have also been on the tails of the remaining heads of HYDRA. At the beginning of Civil War they go up against ‘Crossbones’ aka Brock Rumlow, who was the resident loudmouth asshole in ‘Winter Soldier’ who ended the film on a stretcher looking close to death. Wanda contains a suicide bomb set off by Crossbones that is meant to take out Steve, but unable to control its destination, she takes out an entire floor of a building-resulting in a very public outcry that she be taken off the streets, along with all the rest of the Avengers.

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When General Ross proposes a government mandated bill that essentially puts superheroes like the Avengers under the full supervision of the United Nations, Cap has absolutely no desire to conform. He finds himself divided against those who he has called his friends and colleagues for many years, but he is not willing to budge. During their meeting, Steve gets a call that his beloved old friend Peggy Carter has passed away. Although Natasha is not on Steves side of the Accords, she comes to her funeral to keep him company and to show that their friendship trumps all else.

At the official signing of the Accords, an explosion takes down the building, killing several people-including the King of Wakanda. Footage shows that it was in fact Bucky Barnes who is responsible for this, but Steve and his team know well enough that the likelihood of Bucky being under the influence of Hydra once again is unlikely and he refuses to believe it. Steve seeks out Bucky and finds him just in time to warn him about the opposing parties that are coming to take him down. With the help of his “will they, won’t they” lady friend Agent 13, himself, Sam and Bucky are able to assemble a team of their own to take down Baron Zemo and to prevent the release of the rest of the Winter Soldiers.

Steve ultimately remains at odds with Tony about the Accords and Bucky up until the end, where Baron Zemo drops a bombshell that nearly ends the Avengers in its wake. Fortunately for everyone, Tony can see past his rage just enough to allow Cap to walk away free, a fugitive without a shield. In his closing monologue, he sends Tony a cell phone to contact him and we see him coming to release his friends from confinement.

WANDA MAXIMOFF/SCARLET WITCH:

After a devastating incident that resulted in death and destruction, Wanda has been removed from the outside world and she becomes the case in point for the Accords to be implemented. Her powers have expanded to include flight and a much more refined control of her “witchcraft”, but when she is put on the spot to relocate a detonated bomb, she is left with few options. Wanda is now well cared for under the supervision of uh, Super Vision, but she is angry that she is being sequestered like a child with a disease. Her relationship with the mandroid that she affectionately refers to as “Vis” is blossoming into something that is a deep friendship, a mutual respect and a potential romance, but Vision still follows the logical aspect of any situation and believes that keeping her away is the best thing for her and everyone around her. A “retired” Hawkeye comes to her aid, stealing her away under Team Iron Mans nose and forcing her to detain Vision using her powers. This is the first time that we see just how powerful she is- but the two are made from the same Infinity Stone- so it makes sense that she could stand up to him, and that he would not fight back even if he could.

BUCKY BARNES:

Bucky has been dealt one of the worst hands in the MCU- a former Hydra weapon who was repeatedly brainwashed to rid him of any memories of his past. In Civil War, he is framed with the bombing of the Vienna International Centre where the Accords were scheduled to be signed. Though Steve find him before he is confronted by every possible government agency that wants him dealt with- he must remain off the radar for the entirety of the film. He is ultimately taken in under the supervision of Everett K Ross for questioning. The session is highjacked by Baron Zemo, who has uncovered the key to activating his mind control once again, and he is turned back into a weapon within minutes. Though he is knocked out of it again after a great deal of destruction is left in his wake, his role in the near-fall of the Avengers becomes tremendously important. In the end, he is put back on the ice to prevent anyone else from attempting to reactivate him-hidden away from the rest of the world in Wakanda.

ANT MAN/SCOTT LANG:

We don’t get much of an update about what Scott has been up to since taking down Darren Cross and destroying his lifes work- but he is brought into the fight by his one time sparring partner Sam Wilson to assist their poorly staffed team. He is immediately taken by his introduction to Captain America and the rest of the Avengers, and he suits up to go against Team Iron Man. In the epic airport confrontation, Lang is the curveball that throws off nearly every member of Tonys team and he makes some of the biggest impact. Not only do we get to see himself and Hawkeye reinact the amazing arrow launch scene, BUT we get to see his newest trick- GIANT MAN!

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I’d love to say that I was drunk with surprise over the reveal of Giant Man, but unfortunately Funko released a Giant Man Pop figure well ahead of the release of the movie with the films titled splashed across it. I’m still mad about it. Funk you, Funko. Seriously.

Lang winds up in confinement along with Sam Wilson and Clint Barton where he throws some shade at Tony, but we know that Cap has come to release him, so we don’t know what his future holds from here. Will he be able to live his life freely or is he now a fugitive as well?

HAWKEYE/CLINT BARTON:

Clint comes out of his short lived retirement to rescue his new Avengers daughter, Wanda, from the heavy thumb of Tony Stark. He risks everything to come to the aid of Captain America- even going up against his best friend in the world to fight for what he believes. Clint doesn’t say a whole lot about why he is supporting Caps side, but it is quite obvious that a man with a wife and children hidden away from the world would not want to be a pawn on the books for the United Nations. He has a lot to lose, and if it weren’t for Cap coming to his rescue in the end, he may have wound up behind bars for a long time.

TEAM IRON MAN

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IRON MAN/TONY STARK/TONY STANK:

Tony and his relationship with his parents become a resounding theme to Civil War, just as Steves relationship with Bucky does. In the beginning, he is brooding over the loss of his parents and handing out money like its pennies to an auditorium full of students. We learn that he and Pepper are on shaky ground after he broke his dramatic promise to abandon the Iron Man moniker in Iron Man 3. Incidentally, this is one of the only things about that film that resonated into the MCU. Alone and vulnerable, Tony seems to be softening up more and more as time goes on. He is confronted by a mother who lost her child in Sokovia, and she blames him for her sons death. This incident forces Tony to face a perspective where he can no longer run as a free agent, doing whatever he likes whenever he likes. He is willing to work with others for once, and he believes that accountability is the right thing to pursue for the greater good.

This uncharacteristic change of personality makes perfect sense after the shitstorms that Tony has helped to deter and cause, and he likely still feels tremendous guilt for what Ultron became on his watch. He has started to realize that just because he believes that he can fix the world, doesn’t mean that he can control it. He cannot control outside forces, and he cannot control all of the other heroes and villains that continue to be unearthed as his story goes on. He believes that a system of cooperation and structure is the best way to keep the Avengers together, and as they always have, Steve and Tony disagree. The airport fight between the divided Avengers comes to a tragic end when a distracted Vision accidentally injures Rhodes to the point where he loses the function of his legs. Tony is devastated that this situation has caused such harm to a close friend, and he expresses his concern that Vision could be capable of such error.

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In the end, Tony comes to make a truce with Steve and Bucky when he learns that their mission is a great threat, going up against even General Ross to extend an olive branch one last time. However, Baron Zemo throws a huge wrench into their relationship and Tonys whole existence when he shows them that Bucky- under the influence of Hydra-personally killed both Tonys parents. He has very little time to process this information and goes after Bucky at full force in a fit of rage, causing an intense confrontation between the three of them. He ultimately loses the fight and a friend, but Steve reaches out to him in the end.

WAR MACHINE/JAMES RHODES:

It should be no surprise to anyone that Rhodes would be on board with the Accords- seeing as his position over the last few years has been “government Iron Man”. His friendship with Tony certainly influences his support as well, but as a military man at heart he knows the importance of being accountable. While in flight, Vision takes a shot at him and mistakenly shoots out his suits power source, causing him to crash to the ground and seriously injure both of his legs. In his last scene of the film, Tony is helping him with his physical therapy and he gives a rare look into his mental state in all this- revealing that he always knew that there was a potential for a worst case scenario when he pursued a career with the military, but he is nonetheless devastated. Fortunately, he doesn’t lose his sense of humor-and there is no doubt that his genius billionare friend will have a sweet setup for him in no time.

BLACK WIDOW/NATASHA ROMANOFF:

Natasha is honestly one of the biggest surprises on Team Iron Man for me- but maybe she is tired of running. She spent most of her career working for an organization with resources, a hierarchy and a purpose- but now that SHIELD has fallen, she is lost in the world. Frankly, she seems tired. She thought that she may have found a sort of stable future with Bruce Banner, but he is nowhere to be found after the events of ‘Age of Ultron’. Her role in the MCU has always been-and always will be- the heart, and right now she is aching. She rarely makes a selfish decision and she is always open to new and collaborative ideas-even if that collaboration is with Tony Stark.

Natasha is one of the only Avengers who has no powers to speak of aside from her skills as an Agent and her insight into the workings of the darkest corners of the world, and this may also be a contributing factor in her decision to support the Accords. This is the lesser of two evils and the closest thing to SHIELD that she may have again. SHIELD wanted to protect the world, to uncover the mysteries of the world, and to understand it- all things that embody who she truly is. She betrays nearly everyone in some way, but she gains no resentment for it because she is so obviously doing what she thinks is right without hurting anyone along the way. She cares for everyone.

Natasha and Steve have become very close, but he feels let down by her support of the Accords and it seems that their friendship may be lost. However, when Steve and Bucky finally have a chance to escape the massive airport confrontation, Natasha subdues a pursuing Black Panther to allow him to escape. As always, she comes through to do the right thing for the right reasons.

VISION:

Vision is living the life, being one of the most powerful beings on Earth, the house to an infinity stone, and a budding romantic relationship with a beautiful young mutant. He still seems to be stuck in an obedient state that Ultron once questioned him for- doing whatever Tony Stark requires of him. He is remarkably humble for a being that could quite literally destroy everyone and everything without so much as a thought. When we see him again he is dressing in very human looking attire-perhaps to make himself and his fellow Avengers more comfortable with his presence. He seems to be quietly learning and adapting to life as both a superior being and a resident of Earth- cooking dinner for Wanda even though he doesn’t eat, phasing through walls and invading peoples privacy, and offering words of Vulcan wisdom in times of crisis.

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Vision brings up one of the most logical arguments in support of the Accords- stating that the very existence of the Avengers is a matter of causality. Power brings challenge, challenge brings conflict. The Avengers existence is literally a challenge to all other powerful beings who may oppose their ideals-therefore it could be argued that everything that has happened since Tony went public with his superhero persona is directly-or indirectly-their fault. However, this statement and the Accords existence does very little to misdirect any future threats towards the team and the planet- it only puts it on a leash. I found it a bit strange that he didn’t see that. However, as he is trying to integrate himself into human culture, this may be another way of trying to appease any questions regarding his own motives. It is a wonder why General Ross, or anyone else for that matter, hasn’t threatened to do anything about Visions existence after seeing what Ultron turned out to be.

While in battle, Vision stops to tend to a wounded Wanda and misses a cue from Tony because of it. His aim is off and he ends up sending Rhodes crashing down to Earth with shattered legs. Tony questions how this could possibly happen, and he is clearly taken back by the question. Vision is quickly discovering how very human that he is on the inside, experiencing the complex emotion of love towards Wanda- a theme that has long been tied to his character in his Marvel Comics history. I am elated to see that they are following this weird but wonderful aspect of his story. He has a heart to heart with her regarding his mysterious infinity stone- pondering the thought that he might one day understand it, and even control it. And I screamed internally.

T’CHALLA/BLACK PANTHER:

We are first introduced to T’Challa in Vienna over a conversation between himself and Natasha. He and his father are in agreement that the Accords are a positive step towards civility, coming from a very secretive nation that thrives under organization and community. While we get very little in the way of an “origin” story- this proves to be a very natural and effective way to introduce us to the character. An intensely emotional conversation between himself and his father brings us right up to speed on the type of relationship that they have and the temperment that they share. Tragedy strikes quickly when T’Chaka is killed during the bombing, which swiftly persuades T’Challa to seek vengeance towards the Winter Soldier. This alone puts him on Starks side of the fight- as he has no familiarity with the situation between Steve and Bucky- and frankly, I don’t think that he cares.

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The Black Panther is not known to the outside world when we see him in all his glory for the first time. He pounces with cat-like reflexes and silent strikes in one of the coolest chase scenes in the MCU so far between himself, Steve and Bucky. He unmasks himself without regard- sending a powerful message that he is the Black Panther and that is not to be kept secret-especially from his enemies. He shows uncharacteristic rage in the wake of his beloved fathers death and spends most of the movie stalking Steve and Bucky across the globe to avenge his father. Swayed by his final interaction with Baron Zemo, he allows himself to be free of his vengeful feelings and instead seeks justice. He stops Zemo from killing himself stating “the living are not done with you yet”. Badass.

PETER PARKER/SPIDERMAN:

It makes me tingle just typing his name into this review, to be honest. I don’t know a single Marvel fan that wasn’t boiling over with joy upon seeing our new Spiderman in the Civil War trailer, Caps shield in hand, meeting the Avengers. The best part of it all is that we were given a perfect Spiderman that is age appropriate, demeanor appropriate, and lack of origin story appropriate!

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Peter is introduced when Tony seeks him out at his home, somehow uncovering his identity via YouTube videos and recruiting him for his cause under the guise of a Stark Industries grant to throw off his unusually attractive Aunt May. The awkward, stuttering Parker has a makeshift Spider suit hiding in the ceiling of his room and webbing cartridges attached to his wrist, and when Tony grills him about his abilities he simply brushes it off as complicated. Tonys line of questioning brings him to ask Peters intentions as a crime fighting vigilante, and he obviously approves of his answers. The next time that we see him is in a full, real Spidey suit (did he already have that made or did his Stark robots make it for him?) complete with manipulating eyes and spandexy glory before he is thrust into a high paced battle with a group of heroes that he has never met before.

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Peters motor mouth and excitable nature is perfectly placed into this climactic scene before he disappears back into the shadows, and his immaturity shows in his willingness to impress “Mr.Stark” and to subdue several Avengers with gusto. His “Empire Strikes Back” moment with Giant Man shows off his ingenuity and confuses the hell out of his comrades, who are left wondering how old this kid actually is. Needless to say, he leaves an impression on everyone-including his new friend from Brooklyn.

THE VILLAIN:

Baron Zemo is a very unique villain-and a good choice to stir the pot in ‘Civil War’. Much like the mother who confronted Tony towards the beginning, Zemo has lost people very close to him because of the Avengers. Unfortunately for them, this is no ordinary person who has to go on with their normal life, but he is a highly trained, highly educated man who knows where to look for bombshells. Daniel Bruhl plays a character quite fitting to him- well spoken, soft spoken, charismatic, natural and sinister.

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His plan is quite elaborate and a bit questionable- but if he is looking for a way to break up the figureheads of the Avengers, he picked a perfect way to do so. He leaves a quiet trail behind himself and looks for no infamy or notoriety for his accomplishment. He has no accomplices, no one working for him, no one above him. He has no regard for his own life, and he has absolutely no one left to care about. He is obsessed with taking down the Avengers, and that is all. He is resourceful, he is angry, he is alone. This makes him incredibly dangerous.

THE GOODS:

The Russo Brothers delivered another fantastic Captain America movie to round out his trilogy, but they also delivered a well balanced Avengers film at the same time. ‘Civil War’ is quite unique- as the threat in this film is purely to the Avengers themselves, in the end. The threat that Bucky and Steve break away to pursue is eliminated, leaving only the conflict between the team to fester away- just as Zemo intended. This tension and conflict is endearing throughout as we see a large group of heroes who must now go up against one another as friends and colleagues. They have no intention of causing harm towards one another at any point in time, but with such an important and future-affecting decision hanging over their heads, they have no choice but to divide. Some of them have been greatly affected by the ugliest sides of authority, power and organization while the others have seen the bright side of it and how it can benefit them to start cooperating with the structures still in place in the world. To be fair, General Ross is not doing anything particularly villainous in asking a group of potentially dangerous vigilantes to conform to the rest of the civilized world. Everyone has incredibly difficult decisions when choosing a side in this civil war.

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Every character in ‘Civil War’-from the established to the introduced-gets ample time to shine, to grow and to make an impact. We learn something new about everyone and they learn where they stand  morally and ethically outside of their shared experiences. Cap has never had to justify his constant and visceral pursuit of Hydra and the necessity to wipe them off the planet to anyone outside of his immediate circle, and Tony has never had to make a case for subordination. Things have changed a hell of a lot since the days where Tony was brimming over with arrogance and bravado and Cap was being patronized and idolized. There is a paternal instinct to both of these men that has molded them into mentors- both very instinctive, intelligent and weathered by the tumultuous paths that their lives have taken. Now that they have witnessed the devastation that can come about when they don’t work as team, chances are good that they will come together once more when it is necessary. Neither of them has given up on the other, and they all truly believe in the things that they have in common and the unique bond that they share more than anything else.

POST CREDITS SCENE:

We get two fantastic post credits scenes that usher us into the immediate future of the MCU-the first being a introductory visit inside of the hidden paradise of Wakanda. T’Challa graciously gives sanctuary to the man that he was erroneously preying upon and allows Captain America and Bucky total secrecy so that they may safely exist after the events of ‘Civil War’. Not only that, but he vows that he will not allow any interested parties to reach him, if they dare try. We already know so much about T`Challa based solely on the way that he adapts, learns and forgives throughout this film.

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The second scene takes us back into Peters Parkers bedroom where is recounting a fight with a guy named Steve from Brooklyn with his Aunt May in the distance. On his wrist is a new gadget that immediately lights up, displaying a range of Spiderman themed functions that we may soon discover for ourselves. The tease, of course, being that his new fan and mentor Tony Stark has gifted Peter with something that may soon give Spiderman the chance to become…superior.

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