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 – “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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Road to Infinity War – ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ (2014)

‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ came out in August of 2014 just days after we took our first and only journey to San Diego Comic Con. The cast of ‘Age of Ultron’ was in Hall H and debuted the first ever footage of the upcoming movie. It was the talk of the convention. However, all that we were thinking about was that movie with the hilarious trailer and the awesome music that we got to see when we got home.

Up next on Road to Infinity War…its the one, the only ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’!

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THE TEAM:

Writer and director James Gunn has had a hand in a few different genres of film before ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’- writing for anything from family friendly comedies like ‘Scooby Doo’ and ‘Scooby Doo 2’, to the amazing 2004 ‘Dawn of the Dead’ film, to writing and directing campy horror ‘Slither’ and indie superhero darling ‘Super’. He clearly marches to the beat of his own drum, and that gamble was a good one for Marvel Studios to take. Fellow ‘Guardians’ writer Nicole Perlman was rather a newcomer to the film world, but ever since her work on this film she is in high demand for Marvel Studios and everyone else- writing for Universal Studios, National Geographic Films, Disney Studios, Cirque Du Soleil Films, 20th Century Fox, and Marvel Studios upcoming ‘Captain Marvel’ film.

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The score for this film is done by the insanely talented Tyler Bates. A frequent collaborator of James Gunn as well as Zach Snyder, you probably know his work from movies like ‘Dawn of the Dead’, ‘300’, ‘Watchmen’ and the show ‘Californication’. His blend of spunky, upbeat vibes and soaring orchestral adventure is absolutely spot on for the tone and visuals of ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’- and it makes the purchase of ‘Awesome Mix Vol 1’ all the better.

‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ was released in the summer of 2014 and although it was a huge gamble for Marvel Studios, it was released at the height of Marvel induced pop culture fandom, and it road the wave all the way to success. It was a perfect time to introduce unfamiliar characters from the catalogue of Marvel and integrate them into the existing roster that we have come to know and love. The reputation of this movie spread like wildfire and it seemingly stayed in theatres for months on end. It wound up bringing in an impressive $773, 328, 629 at the worldwide box office and was immediately greenlit for a sequel.

THE HEROES:

This newly introduced team of heroes is made up of -more or less- a bunch of scoundrels. Peter Jason Quill is the Earth born adopted child of one of the galaxies most notorious ravagers, Gamora is a biologically altered daughter of Thanos and lone survivor of her species, Drax the Destroyer lost his wife and daughter to Ronan- and he has landed in prison on 22 counts of murder, while Rocket is a cybernetically altered “lower life form” traversing the galaxy with a sweet but homicidal humanoid plant named Groot, looking for their next score. Together, they become the ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ when they are caught in the same evil web surrounding a mysterious relic.

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Peter Quill-or Starlord, man!- is obnoxious, smooth talking and mischievous-but scarred by the death of his mother and his intergalactic kidnapping. His only father figure comes in the form of a psychotic redneck (blueneck?) who he believes stole Peter from his planet so that he could steal for him. He clings to his past and has very little loyalty to anyone in his present, so working with anyone- let alone a team- takes all the charm and bravery that he can muster. He can get away with empty one night stands, saying things like “turd blossom” and giving the Nova Corp the finger because he also makes Footloose references to green cyborg women who he is in love with and tries to distract his enemy with a dance off. He is just too damn clever for his own good, but he hasn’t had a chance to grow up.

Gamora is a trained assassin and she wants you to know about it. When this group of felons land themselves inside The Kiln we learn just how notorious that she and her network of associates are in the universe- and how much chaos is left in their wake. Gamora lets on very quickly that she is trying to escape her past in an attempt to distance herself from her father and Ronan, and that is how she gains the trust of her fellow Guardians. She has a lot of demons to concur and she hopes that the orb is her ticket to freedom, but she steps up to do the absolute right thing when she learns exactly what it is.

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Drax “the Destroyer” is a brick wall of a creature- very human in many ways, but with regeneration, impenetrable skin and brute strength. He has the confidence to go shirtless at all times, place drunken calls to his mortal enemies, and place himself in front of absolutely any adversary. He is nearly impossible to get along with at the beginning because of his hyper literal nature and resounding anger, but he bonds with these heroes once he realizes that they want to help him get his revenge without anyone else losing their families. Dave Bautista totally nails this role, by the way. This is a guy who makes jokes without realizing it and who quite literally laughs in the face of danger- and he is perfect.

Rocket is obviously a raccoon, but where his intelligence comes from- we are not sure. His biological makeup is a mixture of animal and machine at the very least- but with a very heightened level of intelligence- so there could be some man in there as well. He is very much like Gamora and Nebula in that he is essentially a science experiment with a very specific set of skills- mainly ones that involve maiming, exploding, detaining, inhibiting or otherwise murdering people who get in his way. I can never quite put my finger on the voice that Bradley Cooper was going for with Rocket, but it often reminds me of one of the dogs in Oliver and Company. Street smart, with New York City heart. Why should he worry? Why should he care? Hes got space savoir faire! Oh- hes Dodger. Hes totally Dodger.

Rocket eludes to losing someone in his past- but that someone is actually his cybernetically/genetically engineered otter girlfriend, Lylla. We can assume that she was probably killed during their time being experimented on, or potentially trying to escape. Seeing as he has escaped from prison on at least 14 occasions (that we know of) , it isn’t so far fetched to assume that he escaped from there as well. His motivations from the first frame are mainly financial, but he has a soft spot for his best friend Groot and sticks with him at all costs. He still has a heart.

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We don’t know just yet where Groot and Rocket met, and Groot is not able to tell us much about himself at this point. Although he has lost of that physical harshness that he has when he often illustrated, his eyes tell a Disney tale all on their own. We know that he is just an absolute sweetheart, but that he finds the maiming and slapping and um, penetrating, of his enemies to be very funny. He and Rocket get along so well because they seem to share similar moral codes. Groot is a little lacking in good judgement, but Rocket seems quite accustomed to dealing with him- almost thriving off of it. They have a very brotherly relationship, just a raccoon and his tree.

With just three little words, Groot delivers what is easily one of-nope, probably THE-saddest moment in all of MCU history up to this point. The very beginning is definitely up there as well (poor Stanley Uris cannot catch a break) but Groot is legendary for making me cry. I mean…we totally ARE Groot! Right!?

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Sidenote about this:

My only beef with this movie,up until recently, was the fact that Rocket was so devastated that Groot was willing to sacrifice himself, but he knew well enough to plant a piece of him, and when Groot did “wake up” again- he didn’t seem overly taken back by it. He seemed very happy, but he didn’t bring it to anybodys attention. It didn’t make sense to me. Does he die or doesn’t he die? Has he died before?

However- I have since learned that Groot comes back with a new memory every time. This not only makes that ending scene a million times more tragic, but it makes his resurrection all the better as well. He is going to grow up around his new friends and rediscover them all over again. Thats kind of beautiful!

THE VILLAIN:

While Ronan the Accuser is technically the films villain, we must not forget that the Mad Titan Thanos is the mastermind behind a lot of Ronans threat in ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’. Even though he is still glued to his chair giving out orders like a mob boss, we finally have the chance to hear what his voice sounds like (angry Josh Brolin) and see an incredibly advanced rendering of his appearance. He is hunting down the Infinity Stones- as we all suspected at this point in the MCU- and we already know that he has been in possession of one and gave it out to Loki for him to lose. He is hungry to get his hands on as many as possible by whatever means necessary- in this case, destroying an entire planet in exchange for one.

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Ronan is yet another Marvel villain on a universal quest for supremacy-although this one seems a hell of a lot more bent on killing other people rather than saving his own. He is a high ranking member of the Kree race hell bent on cleansing the galaxy of Xandarian people and culture, going against a peace treaty made by his own people. He is essentially a terrorist. He has made a deal with Thanos that if he retrieves “the orb” for him, Thanos will destroy the planet himself, but once Ronan realizes the power within, he goes full villain and steals it for himself. He intends to kill Thanos afterwards, so you know right away that hes not going to be around for very long.

Nebula however, seems to be a soulless killing machine who wants nothing more than satisfaction that karma is coming back around for her father and her sister. There are several moments where Gamora extends an olive branch to her, so she must know something that we don’t. She is a truly badass character and one who will likely see more screen time in the future.

THE GOODS:

What negative thing can I say about ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’? Its got Star Wars charm- dropping you into a galaxy full of species to discover throughout under the guidance of a group of charismatic rebels. You’ve got the tag team- one that doesn’t speak English, the one that understands him, and all the other ones from different planets that mainly just speak English. No robots, though. Sad.

There are moments of tremendous sadness, some of which are dealt with using comedy, while others are left to burn under your eyelids until you give in to their beauty. The comedy kicks into a whole new gear for ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ and so too does the pop culture influence. Whether its the 70s soundtrack that syncs up with the story, the super buff Chris Pratt brand of charm that is so uniquely his, or the pop culture references left in there for the adults- there is something for everyone who wants to have a good time at the movies.

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The casting and character design for this film was spot on in all aspects, from the voice casting of Groot and Rocket to the makeup work for Drax, Nebula and Gamora-all the way to the CGI required to put together that incredible Thanos, Rocket and Groot. Michael Rooker as Yondu is the perfect antihero, Glenn Close, John C Riley and Peter Serafinowicz are all fantastic as members of the Nova Corp and Oreo the raccoon and Sean Gunn did amazing jobs being the bodies of Rocket and Groot.

(Speaking of characters….WHERE IS NOVA!? Marvel can’t just bring in the Nova Corp and show us those sweet helmets with absolutely no introduction to Nova- can they? Will they?)

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‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ had so much to accomplish, but I truly feel that the freedom that came from introducing a whole new slate of characters that made most people say “Who??” was well trusted in the hands of James Gunn. He had room to bring his unique vision to the universe and his influence is so splendidly spread throughout the process. The introduction of a story centric soundtrack blurs the lines between musical and meta and it adds a layer to the film that draws in both younger kids and their parents-and maybe even their parents parents. There is so much color utilized, but it is not bright and gaudy. Rather, it is well spent in a vast universe of blackness and it gives a rather soothing tone and a muted visual impact. It seems to be the perfect metaphor for how the comedy is used as well- it is ever present-sometimes landing as a punchline, sometimes a bit, but sometimes hiding in plain sight. There are quick little jokes that bring this science fiction lore back down to Earth- like a raccoon complaining about mishandled laundry or Drax spacing out in an important meeting. He brought in people that he is very close to like Michael Rooker and Sean Gunn, knowing that they would be well trusted to pull off this project, and it worked for him.

POST CREDITS SCENE:

I know, when this post credits scene began you were hoping to see a glimpse of what happened to that Infinity Stone that the Collector got his hands on at the end of ‘Thor: The Dark World’. I know that you were hoping to catch a quick shot of an Easter Egg that would catapult you to the top of every Marvel message board-but…we got Howard the Duck.

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And it was amazing. This (seemingly) unnecessary throwaway scene was almost a parody on the baiting of post credits scene- giving you a nudge to the side for a laugh instead of trying to drive conspiracy theories. Much like the rest of this movie, it pokes fun at the standard formatting that MCU films, and films like it, tend to revert to.

Up next….‘AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON’

Road to Infinity War – ‘Iron Man 3’ (2013)

Did anyone else question their sobriety the moment that Eiffel 65 started playing before a movie in the year 2013? I know that I did. Despite its many silly moments such as that- ‘Iron Man 3’ is one movie in particular that divided an awful lot of fans and critics, but ultimately garnered positive reviews. To be fair, this did follow ‘Iron Man and ‘The Avengers’-and the majority of the movies soon to come after this are pretty incredible, so it has a lot to live up to. You wouldn’t know that it was such a controversial film by how much money that it made- a whopping $1,214,811,252 at the worldwide box office-making it one of the most successful movies of all time.

And so, for the next installment of ‘Road to Infinity War’ we have the last piece of the trilogy of Tony Stark (for now)….IRON MAN 3

THE TEAM

Director and writer Shane Black may be best known for one thing, and that is Lethal Weapon. It was his first big screenplay back in 1987, and he has been active in the industry ever since. Interestingly enough, he wrote the screenplay for Zak Penns first project ‘Last Action Hero’-who you may remember as the story writer of ‘The Incredible Hulk’ and ‘Avengers’. He also wrote the screenplay for and directed ‘Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang’- starring Robert Downey Jr. Co-writer Drew Pearce went on to write the script for ‘Mission Impossible 5: Ghost Protocol’. Jon Favreau continues his attachment to the Iron Man franchise both on and off screen, serving as Executive Producer once again.

Composer Brian Tyler is a newcomer to the MCU, but he already had a decade and a half of experience upon working on this project. His credits include everything from ‘Darkness Falls’ to a couple ‘Fast and the Furious’ movies, ‘Eagle Eye’ and video games like ‘Far Cry 3’ ‘Need for Speed: The Run’ and ‘Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3’. Needless to say, he has experience scoring for action.

THE HERO

Despite an overall story that feels a bit soulless, ‘Iron Man 3’ is a strong Iron Man story because it focuses on the importance of the separation of Tony Stark from his suit and from his persona-even though they are slowly becoming one and the same. Tony finally cracks under the weight of everything that he has been through as both Iron Man and Tony Stark, and he becomes more reckless than ever before. He stays awake for days working away at his suits while his other half and Stark Industries CEO Pepper Potts is left alone. The resurgence of the 10 Rings-the same terrorist organization that kidnapped him back in ‘Iron Man’- in the form of The Mandarin drives him over the edge to the point of anxiety attacks- something that you don’t often see portrayed correctly on film. They used it to great affect here and created a really touching and emotional climax to Tonys journey. 

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Tony is far more vulnerable than ever before in every way imaginable- his loved ones, his country and both his personal and professional life hanging in the balance. He spends a large portion of the movie either without a suit- or in one that looks ready to fall off at any moment. This leaves him to show off his ingenuity and intelligence under pressure, and gives Robert Downey Jr a hell of a lot of face time on screen to deliver emotional, silly and action packed scenes. He drops his usual volume of sassy quips, with a few extra cruel zingers towards a child to show you just how far he has truly sunk. About 75% of the movie seems dedicated to showing off their CGI budget with several radical upgrades to his armor that wind up working their way into his future MCU appearances, but thats about all that does-besides the removal of his chest piece.

THE VILLAIN

Everything about this villain, his storyline and his henchman just falls completely flat for me. How Aldridge went through such a dramatic transformation from Igor-esque, permanently pubescent mega dweeb to a Guy Pearce-esque brainiac and mega-cult leader is a bit of a marvel in itself, but the nonsense doesn’t stop there. With a vibe that feels strikingly familiar to ‘Iron Man 2’, but with a brain and some CGI- Aldridge employs a team of ex military amputees and turns them into mutated children-of-Balrog soldiers to do his dirty work while he tries to sell legitimate-yet-controversial-technology to prospective buyers. He also heads up an organization so powerful that it kidnapped the president, stole the Iron Patriot armor, bribed the Vice President, took over every channel on American television, and created a fleet of shitty Weapon X wannabees that glow. And spit fire…..wtf?

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I have read the ‘Extremis’ storyline from which this film was based/inspired, and unfortunately it comes off on both accounts as a very, very cool idea that just didn’t suit this film well. (Suit-get it?) Killian is a one dimensional soundboard of cliches, and although this whole “man behind the curtain” twist was very, very amusing-thanks entirely to Sir Ben Kingsley- it feels like a real failure. They had the opportunity from the very beginning of the MCU to chase the Mandarin storyline, but nobody ever went for it. To continue Tonys battle with the 10 Rings over the course of his arch would be really cool to see. It could show that Tony Stark still truly cares about the wars that are too small to call the Avengers for-the wars that took place in countries like the one in which he was imprisoned so many years back. This just felt like a cop out and it added to the isolation that this movie already suffers from. Aldridge is certainly a genuine threat, but the way that they had to open and close this entire story arch within the allotted two hours just made everything that COULD have happened completely insignificant. The real nail in the coffin is when he officially proclaims “I AM THE MANDARIN” and a million hearts wept and considered the possibility of a double ruse- a theory which was later fueled by a short film surrounding Trevor Slattery in prison and then never spoken of again. I get why you’re mad, haters. I do. 

THE HIGHS AND LOWS

‘Iron Man 3’ certainly has its charm. Tony and his entire entourage of friends really stand out with great moments-from Happy living his best life with a new promotion, to Pepper donning the Iron suit and shaming everyone alive with her abs, to “warmachinerox”. Unfortunately, this movie feels like a lot of great moments, a lot of great lines and a lot of great performances peppered into a salty sea of mediocrity. Even more so than ‘Iron Man 2’-this installment feels like another excuse to funnel through all of the technological possibilities that Tony could create. Trust me, his drone suits and motion controlled…GPS controlled…self assembling suit are both really, really cool. Too bad that he blows them all up. There is barely anything at all connecting ‘Iron Man 3’ and its events to the past or future of the MCU, aside from Tonys PTSD following the events in New York-but those mostly seem to be brought on by creepy and invasive children.

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Theres no SHIELD to come help him, theres no superhero friends- theres just Tony, and sometimes Rhodes. Tony initiating the “clean slate protocol” for Pepper is a wonderful gesture well suited to the ending of an Iron Man story arch, but this movie technically isn’t the end of his arch at all. If he was truly giving up this life for Pepper, that would be lovely and poetic and romantic- but we know that isn’t how this story ends, so it feels empty. The finality that they convey with the story itself-and especially the closing credits- completely isolates the movie from everything else that has happened and what can happen. It all feels very forced and offers little to no closure or satisfaction that you would hope for at the ending of a trilogy.

Also, how did they just “fix” Pepper? I mean, her immune system is probably incredible and all-but didn’t they rewrite her genetic code and fill an empty hole in her brain? Seems tough to reverse invincibility. Did she also lose her sudden stealth abilities too? I mean, I LOVE Pepper- but this whole thing is a little silly.

POST CREDITS SCENE: We find out after the credits roll that Tony has been telling this long tale of self reflection to a dozing Bruce Banner. These two just met in `The Avengers`and they hit it off right away because of their mutual love for science. However, as we see in this scene, Bruce has a bit of a time tolerating Tonys motor mouth and over the top personality. This scene lets us know that they are spending time together outside of their time avenging-and this will be important to us in the very near future!

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Up next…THOR: THE DARK WORLD!

‘Road to Infinity War’- ‘The Avengers’ (2012)

‘The Avengers’ is still incredibly exciting to watch after all that has come after it. The characters are so young, so fresh, so new and so unfamiliar with one another-and like our buddy Bruce Banner says- they are a “chemical mixture that creates chaos”. Though they are cleaning up an overabundance of chaos in this film, from the beginning we are asked one simple question “Does the world need superheroes?”. Yes, yes we do.

And so, on the Road to Infinity War, I am so excited to talk about ‘THE AVENGERS’!

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THE TEAM:

Writer, director and creator Joss Whedon was a pop culture darling to the nerd community well before he took on ‘The Avengers’ project. His slew of credits include such cult classics as TV shows ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ ‘Angel’ and ‘Firefly’, films like ‘Titan AE’, ‘Alien: Resurrection’ ‘Cabin in the Woods’ ‘Serenity’ and a little indie film called ‘Toy Story’. It seemed only fitting that a man who is so widely known in the community of pop culture loving nerds would be the one given the task of bringing one of its most treasured teams to the big screen. Whedon has some experience with establishing universes utilizing original characters, but a bit less with pre existing ones.

While Whedon wrote the screenplay for ‘The Avengers’, our buddy Zak Penn wrote the story. You may remember my mention of Zak in my entry for ‘The Incredible Hulk’-which he also wrote for Marvel Studios. Penn has a wealth of experience writing specifically for Marvel characters in everything from a Fantastic Four video game, ‘Elektra’ ‘Xmen 2’ and ‘XMen:The Last Stand’. While these credits may be spotty in their quality, there is certainly no contesting that he has the experience to be involved in this project. His experience with Marvel and comic book heroes in general fills in the holes where Joss Whedon may have lacked.

This film was unprecedented in its time- bringing together a canon universe of films that had spanned five years at the point that ‘The Avengers’ was released. This involved lengthy contracts with the actors and a whole lot of planning from the studio. If only we knew at the time what was coming down the pipeline in the future! ‘The Avengers’ proved to be a worthwhile investment in every way imaginable-making a harrowing $1,518,812,988 at the worldwide box office. OVER A BILLION DOLLARS!

THE HEROES:

I’m going to approach this section a bit differently since we have SO MANY characters to outline. So I am just going to get us caught up on what these characters have been up to before the story begins.

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IRON MAN/TONY STARK: At this point, Tony has been through a hell of a lot of trauma. He was kidnapped by terrorists, there was a hit put on his life by his friend and colleague Obediah Stane, he was cut out of his company, attacked by his own technology FOR his own technology, and became a superhero. THEN, while masquerading around as if he was untouchable, he was attacked by ‘Whiplash’ (ugh) and Hammer Industries tried to take him out. Hes in a relationship now, he gave Pepper the position of CEO at Stark Industries, hes a part of the ‘Avengers Initiative’, he has an Iron sidekick, and he has upgraded his chest piece to prevent a serious case of death.

Tony is an incredibly powerful man and has a shiny new image, albeit one that may still be seen in a negative light-depending who you ask. While he has held onto his cocky confidence and his innovative, entrepreneurial spirit- he has also grown tremendously. His priorities have changed and he is fully focused on utilizing his ‘Iron Man’ persona to make the world a safer place- following in his fathers footsteps and making him proud. His daddy issues still linger heavily in the way that he approaches a challenge to prove that he can do absolutely anything that he tries, but he seems far more open to collaboration and- dare I say- help?

CAPTAIN AMERICA/STEVE ROGERS: Steve is waking up from being involuntarily iced for a few decades, and we saw him waking up in modern day New York City at the very end of ‘The First Avenger’. All that we know for sure is that Steve is an old fashioned guy who is terribly lost in the new world in which he inhabits. Everyone that he knew is either extremely old, or has passed on. He is now living in a world where the war that he fought has ended and another has begun, and one where war is a completely different animal. He has already lived through war, a runin with alien technology and an act of self sacrifice and he now has a second chance to live his life, and to fulfill his destiny as ‘Captain America’.

BLACK WIDOW/NATASHA ROMANOFF: We know a fair amount about Black Widow due to her appearance in ‘Iron Man 2’-namely that she is very skilled at deception, technology and combat. She is the total package, and she works directly under Nick Fury-so needless to say, she will have a big role in the ‘Avengers Initiative’ going forward.

THOR/THOR ODINSON/”DONALD BLAKE”: Thor has seemingly no access to Earth now that the bifrost and the rainbow bridge are destroyed, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that he has no way out. He has grown a lot since ‘Thor’, and he has taken on the role of “protector of the realms” now that he has seen a different side of the cosmos-and fallen in love with a scientist. Odin is still King of Asgard, but Thor is his right hand because his brother Loki is presumed dead. What they don’t know-and what we do know- is that he is very much alive, and he is already scheming.

HULK/BRUCE BANNER: The last time that we saw Bruce Banner, he was Edward Norton. Also, he was on the run after he and the ‘Abomination’ tore apart an entire neighbourhood. We know that he is on better terms with General Ross after working with him to bring down the beast, but he has inadvertently been forced into exile to prevent any future incidents and contact with the general public. We don’t know for sure if he has cut ties with his previous life or if he is still working on a cure or a way to manage his uh, “condition”. We also don’t know if he has been in contact with anybody from the “real world” or if SHIELD has contacted him personally. We do know that Tony approached General Ross about the Hulk, so he may have provided useful information, or he may have thrown him off the scent.

HAWKEYE/CLINT BARTON: I’ll be honest, I actually forgot that Hawkeye was in Thor. I always forget. So…we know that he is working with SHIELD, and that he observes things from a distance. Oh, and he has a bow and arrow. Sounds about right.

NICK FURY: Nick has been very busy looking badass and bringing together a team that will protect our world. We don’t know what he knows in the grand scheme of things, but we know that he is aware of at least two people who either live or vacation on Earth who have superpowers. He knows that there is life on other planets, and he knows that they have visited our planet for leisure and for business. He is one of the first people to make contact with Steve Rogers when he wakes up, and he is in regular contact with both Black Widow, Iron Man and presumably-Hawkeye. He is aware of Bruce Banner and Thor, but as far as we know, he has had no interaction with them personally.

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THE VILLAIN:

Much like we saw in ‘Thor’ there are technically two evils at work in ‘The Avengers’-which we will come to find out almost immediately. But going into the movie, the only inkling that we have about the bad guy is the post credits scene from ‘Captain America: The First Avenger’ where we see that Loki has projected his form on Earth in order to eavesdrop on a conversation between Nick Fury and Dr Selvig regarding the tesseract. In a strong bit of foreshadowing, he delivers one simple line of dialogue that is repeated by Selvig, as if he is a ventriloquist dummy for Loki. Little do we know…

UPS AND DOWNS:

Love it or hate it, `The Avengers` is a movie made up of moments. This becomes both the downfall and the strength of it, because while so many of those moments are great- some are a little nonsensical for the sake of fan service.

This movie pulls off the very difficult feat of introducing and integrating a cast of established and beloved characters and turning them into a team-coming together for one common goal. We have a solid backstory for some of the characters, and others we have barely scratched the surface of. They had to bring Thor back to Earth, bring Bruce out of hiding, knock Cap out of his shellshock, and manage Tony well enough that he can play nice with others. They had to create a scenario where SHIELD and The Avengers work hand in hand and a balance also needed to be struck between the screen time for all of those players. To do that, they created a situation so dire, so sudden and so personal that these heroes HAD to come together. They pulled this off with great success.

Not only did the construct of the film come together very well, but it struck a great balance between action, drama, fantasy and comedy. The coming together of all Marvel entities is poetic and exciting, and they capture the spirit of each individual character while giving them all a fair amount of time to shine. The balance of personalities and the way that the actors bounce off of one another in every scene makes it so easy to escape into the world that they have created. Every character has their moment to show both their lighter side and their emotional side, and that contrast perks up the tone of a movie that could easily be drowned in doom and dread. The subject matter gets very dark and morose in scenes like the one where Loki commands a group of civilians to kneel before him, only to be defied by an older man who compares him to one of Earths most famous non-fictional villains. This comes after he steals a mans eyeball, by the way. Though not the most kid friendly of stories- it does its due diligence to keep things light enough that both adults and kids can enjoy the experience.

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Mind you, I find that the clever quips and cheeky one liners can feel out of place. Joss Whedon is very good at delivering quotable lines and memorable shots, and there is a wealth of both in `The Avengers`. However, when a bit doesn’t quite fall into place it leaves an awkward gaze, a deafening silence where there should be a laugh track, or a scene that just confuses the tone entirely. Its one thing for Sam Jackson to spout off a sassy diss, but to listen to the tension between Cap and Tony right from the beginning doesn’t feel overly genuine, considering how much they know about one another at first meeting and what each other has lived through. However, how else will they set the groundwork for Civil War but to show that these two clashed right from the beginning? The entire scene where Thor steals Loki sticks out like a sore thumb and demonstrates my point rather well. Tony takes down Thor, leaving Loki completely unsupervised and alone to sit and wait for someone to come get him. While he happily watches as his brother fights with Iron Man, we are treated to a token superhero moment called the “BUT WHAT IF” fight. It is a fight scene that is set up specifically for the purpose of answering questions like: “But what if Iron Man was hit with Mjolnir?” and “But what if Mjolnir hit Caps shield?”. You see these types of one-off fight scenes all throughout the movie. Thor vs Hulk, Black Widow vs Hawkeye, and I mentioned-Thor vs Iron Man.

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Now, lets talk about our HEROES as they exit `The Avengers` into the next stages of the MCU.

IRON MAN/TONY STARK: Tony has pushed himself to a whole new level of recklessness. He faced a god without reliable armor to make a statement-and almost didn’t make it. He jumped into a massive piece of moving machinery powering a Quinjet-and almost didn’t make it. He carried a missile through a portal into space, and he almost didnt make it. He continues to place himself directly in the line of fire-so although he may argue with Steve that they are “not soldiers”, he certainly behaves like one. He is on a path of self destruction and truly believes that he can fix any problem that comes his way-no matter the consequences. His mental state is more and more questionable as time goes on.

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CAPTAIN AMERICA/STEVE ROGERS: Steve had very little time to come to grips with his new world before he was pulled right back into a fight, but he wasted no time at all establishing himself as a leader. While everyone around him is either idolizing or patronizing him, he keeps a very serious perspective and does not seem interested in letting anyone in. Only he knows exactly what he has survived through and there are few people for him to identify with. Considering the shocking changes that he has already had to absorb, now he has to come to grips with the existence of aliens. He remains very noble, honest and hands on, and much like Tony- he is willing to throw himself right into the mess to do the right thing.

BLACK WIDOW/NATASHA ROMANOFF: Natasha now knows what its like to fight alongside superhumans, Gods and monsters- and she never once showed that she was intimidated. She came face to face with The Hulk and lived to tell the tale, despite how truly afraid she was of him. She met in a battle of wits against Loki, and nearly beat him at his own game. She helped save her best friend, fought alien soldiers in hand to hand combat and eventually had the courage to personally deal with two infinity stones (not that she was aware of that). She proves her worth over and over again with her tenacity and first class combat skills. Though her relationship with people like Tony, Thor and Bruce are still up in the air, she has formed a bit of a kinship with Steve that we will see come into play in future MCU stories, and her friendship with Barton is clearly very important to her as well, so they will likely continue to be a loyal support system for each other. 

THOR/THOR ODINSON/”DONALD BLAKE”: Thor has found his way back to Earth by some method that we have yet to be informed, and he made his way back to Asgard with his brother Loki in tow. So we know that he has access to our realm again-and in turn, he likely has access to others. He has a new sense of disdain for his brother, but he certainly seems to have a soft spot for him nonetheless. Loki is volatile and selfish to no end, but Thor does not want to give up on him. He realizes that he is angry and feeling cast out by everyone that he knows, and I believe that he sympathizes with him and hopes that one day he will grow and learn to listen.

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HULK/BRUCE BANNER: Bruce was happy as a clam, all alone and dedicating his life to helping people who cannot help themselves. However, SHIELD pulled him out of his remote and quiet life to serve a greater purpose. This decision is a very risky one on their part, but they know by now that Bruce has been keeping his demon at bay for nearly a year. What they don’t know for sure is if the Hulk is manageable when he transforms. Even the way that they illustrate his control and intelligence is a little spotty in this film, because one minute he is set off by an explosion and goes after Black Widow, and the next he is able to turn into the Hulk on a moments notice with full control and full ability to “communicate” and understand his comrades. What we can tell for sure is that Bruce has successfully found ways to manage the Hulk-to an extent. He also confides in his new friends that he has attempted to kill himself in a low moment-bringing a whole new layer of tragedy to his story. He has now come to terms with the permanence of his relationship with the Hulk, but he still has not accepted it as a gift, rather than a curse.

HAWKEYE/CLINT BARTON: Hawkeye is desperately outgunned in comparison to his colleagues, but that doesn’t stop him from working his ass off to do his best. Much like Natasha, he is crucial to the team because of his…hawk-like vision and awareness, his agility and his combat skills. If theres one thing that we know about SHIELD agents, its that they can keep secrets and they are trained to be the best. Barton has been the unfortunate recipient of Lokis mind control, which will very likely have a lasting affect on him. He seems really willing and ready to take on Loki and anybody else who stands in his way.

NICK FURY: Nick Fury and SHIELD have been through a hell of a lot through the course of this movie. They were caught utilizing the tesseract to create weapons to defend the Earth from people like Loki-only to be attacked using the tesseract as a method of transport. The SHIELD facility now lays in a hole in the ground while Fury, Coulson, Hill and several other agents are basically stuck on their Quinjet for the duration of the movie. Fury flexes a whole lot of power in ‘The Avengers’ beyond what we have seen from him in the past. He makes most of the major decisions regarding global security-and although the special counsel doesn’t agree with his sentiment that the ‘Avengers Initiative’ is a feasible form of security- they let him get away with it nonetheless. Fury basically has complete command over how the events of ‘The Avengers’ unfold and his involvement is incredibly important, affecting the MCU from here on out.

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COULSON: Coulson gets his 15 minutes of MCU fame in ‘The Avengers’ where we get to see how sharp his wit is and how sentimental he is at heart. For a man that is in charge of some of the worlds biggest and baddest secrets, he has a very soft side-mostly for Captain America. He ends up being the ultimate fanboy on behalf of all of us. Coulson died defending a group of superheroes. RIP you smug son of a bitch. OR MAYBE NOT……? (Spoiler alert…not.)

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THE VILLAIN:

Ooooh Loki. You thought that you could make a deal with the devil and all the chips would fall in your favor? Classic villain mistake. Loki deserves a hell of a lot of credit for the amount of destruction and devastation that he able to create without putting himself in harms way, but he is still far too inexperienced and immature to understand how the universe works. He believes that every scheme that he hatches will ultimately bring him out on top-not quite realizing that there are much bigger fish in the sea-namely guys like Thanos and teams like the Avengers. He still believes that he is entitled to be treated as a King, and therefore he is above everyone else. He will not accept the reality that despite how highly he thinks of himself, he is not above anyone unless he proves himself worthy.

Thor has taken Loki back to Asgard as a prisoner, and we don’t know how long this will last.

POST CREDITS SCENE: How could anyone forget the grand reveal at the end of `The Avengers’?  It opens on a member of the Chitauri brooding on a small, dark planet on which we saw Loki speaking to the them last. In that previous scene, the camera panned He is reporting to someone about their failure to take over Earth- claiming that “to challenge them, is to court death”. Then, we see the smirking side profile of none other than the Mad Titan-Thanos.

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This “court death” line makes me think that they are eluding to the infamous Mistress of Death- who is a huge part of the ‘Infinity Gauntlet’ storyline in the comics. So, we have our first official clue that there may be an Infinity Stones story in our future.

What a time to be alive and nerdy!

Oh, and shawarma.

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NEXT…IRON MAN 3!

 

‘Road to Infinity War’- ‘CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER’ (2011)

Today, on the ‘Road to Infinity War’, I am talking about the movie that officially completed the Avengers. Its about the super serum survivor who went on to be ‘The Incredible Bulk’. Its about the worlds original bromance. Its every guy and gals fictional dream boyfriend. It is none other than…’CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER’

THE TEAM:

Director Joe Johnston is responsible for many nostalgic pieces of any 90s kids childhood-films like ‘Honey, I Shrunk the Kids’, ‘The Pagemaster’ ‘The Rocketeer’ and ‘Jumanji’. I was also quite elated to learn that he has uncredited roles in the first two Star Wars films. Not only that-but he is credited as final conceptual designer for Yoda, Boba Fett, the Millenium Falcon, X Wing, Y Wing, Star Destroyer, AT-ATs AND the Death Star.

Oh, hello.

The screenplay was written by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, who had written the screenplay for the ‘Chronicles of Narnia’ trilogy before this one. Marvel must have been very happy with their work, because they brought the duo back to write the screenplay for the next two Captain America films as well as the Thor sequel. They will go on to create the ‘Agent Carter’ television show as well.

The music of Captain America is brought to us by one of the greatest composers of all time-Alan Silvestri. Silvestri is responsible for the kind of movie music that will give you butterflies and put a smile on your face. Think ‘Back to the Future’, ‘Forrest Gump’ ‘Grumpy Old Men’ and dozens upon dozens of other amazing films. He will go on to become a staple for epic superhero themes in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

THE HERO:

Chris Evans. I didn’t know the name when ‘The First Avenger’ came out-but I definitely knew the face. You know what I knew his face from? Not Another Teen Movie. Full disclosure: I think this movie is hilarious.

After playing an arrogant young Johnny Storm in the lackluster Fantastic Four films, you can imagine my surprise and slight concern when I found out that he was playing one of the biggest and most beloved characters in the Marvel universe. Boy oh boy…was I wrong. Evans not only embodies the optimism and the apple pie and baseball loving New York boy persona, but he dedicates himself physically to this role, and he makes it all his own. He is assertive but gentle, strong but sweet. Like Chris Hemsworth and Robert Downey Jr before him-Chris Evans IS Captain America. I can see nobody else in this role.

Steve Rogers is a simple guy. He just wants to do the right thing. From the very beginning of his story, we see a guy who wants to be bigger and better than everyone thinks he is based on his stature. He wants to be a hero in the best way that he knows how at that time in our history- fighting for his country. Steve has a contagious optimism and a humility that is a welcome change of pace from all the heroes that we have seen up to this point. He isn’t a rich genius, he isn’t a brilliant scientist, and he isn’t a God. Hes just a kid from Brooklyn. A kid who doesn’t seem to have a family to go back to, who volunteers without hesitation to be a science experiment. Lucky for him, that happens to go incredibly well. Like, really well.

We get it, Peggy. We really do.

Steve is given the opportunity to be a spokesperson for his military, and despite the fact that he is now more than capable of fighting with the rest of them he continues to be underestimated because he is a bashful kind of lad. Instead of becoming a super soldier, he becomes a superstar. While his stint as a propaganda mascot for the United States military helps greatly with his public persona, it clearly does not satisfy his inherent need to do good in the world. Much as he did before he took the worlds greatest steroid, Steve Rogers believes that his potential is much greater than anyone else believes it to be-that he is meant for something more.

He dares to step on the toes of higher ups like resident grump and sass machine Tommy Lee Jones with such confidence that you can’t help but cheer for him. He sticks so faithfully to his morals and his beliefs, never wavering for a second and never allowing himself to be influenced by his gifts. He is such a remarkable hero because unlike his polar opposite and future colleague/rival Tony Stark, his strength comes from a life of opposition. He has never been given anything. He has to sacrifice everything to eventually become Captain America and that underdog mindset never seems to leave his mind. He is entirely selfless and willing to put himself on the line if it means that others will live, and he does this on several occasions. His character is played beautifully, written well and it truly sets up a Cap that we will undoubtedly know and love.

THE VILLAIN

Red Skull was one of the first official villains in the MCU that I got really excited about. Not only was the casting of Hugo Weaving a seemingly perfect one, but they managed to make him look really authentic without too much digital assistance. My understanding is that the makeup was terribly uncomfortable, but does it ever pay off in the final product! He looks and sounds fantastic, and Weaving has the acting chops to really pull off the menacing, authoritative mastermind that is required to be the Red Skull. He is intelligent and articulate enough to inspire a following and to achieve results, but he is so delusional and misguided that he has to be stopped at all costs.

A villain that is so closely related to real life events is a huge gamble. Johann Schmidt is a faithful and extremist follower of Hitler in a time when Hitler has more power than anyone on that side of the world. Although we never see Hitler himself and they never really reference his goals directly, Schmidt takes this energy and opportunity and twists it in a way that he believes to be correct- washing the world clean of enemies and letting it flourish with whoever he deems to be “right”. Factor in the cosmic power weapon that he manages to acquire and you have something far more terrifying than Hitler. The impact that he will leave behind, even after his defeat, will leave a long and lasting impression of the MCU.

THE GOODS

Captain America has so much going for it. It has a solid cast that is absolutely bursting with great heroes, a really effective villain, a wonderful message and a story that is not so far out that we cannot connect to it. It is just as uplifting as it is tragic. It is not only a good superhero film, but a great war and science fiction style film as well. We are introduced to one of the best SHIELD agents of all time (and one my personal lady crushes)- Miss Peggy Carter-and one of the coolest frenemies in the MCU-Bucky Barnes, all together for one time only. We see the origins of both SHIELD and Hydra in this cast of characters. We are introduced to the very first glimpse of ‘Infinity War’ with the inclusion of a “cosmic cube”, which we will see again before we can blink. It introduces a really horrifying villain and then it shoots him through a portal into space….never to be seen again!? But maybe to be seen again!? We didn’t see him die! We saw him disappear into a portal into space. I have faith that we may see him again.

If it falters in any way, it is in its action. We get some great scenes of Cap kicking Hydra ass, but once we reach the point there should be a climax…we get a montage that is fashioned after an old timey war film-which is very cool in one sense, but a montage of action between the main hero and the main villain feels like a real missed opportunity. This portion of the film could have been so much more exciting and it could have given us a lot more insight into how widespread Red Skulls rhetoric has become. There was not a whole lot of interaction between them.

I also cannot get through this review without mentioning the absolutely atrocious imposing of Chris Evans head onto McLovins body. I thought that I could ignore it this time, but it is about as hilarious as it comes. At some points it is well integrated, but at most it is blatantly obvious. I would absolutely love to see a reissue of this film with a more modern take on the CGI. It is really hard for me to fall into the story when all I can see is a weird, warped head floating around.

POST CREDITS SCENE: The scene that they used in the post-credits is a great one, but it is slightly watered down when you realize that they use almost the exact scene in ‘The Avengers’. Nick Fury approaches Steve while he is beating the skin off of a sparring bag to talk about joining a new team…you know the one.

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Up next….holy crap….’THE AVENGERS’!

‘Road to Infinity War’ – ‘Thor’ (2011)

For Chapter 4 of ‘Road to Infinity War’ I am excited to talk about the first “out of this world” Marvel film in the MCU- the almighty THOR!

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The introduction of Thor into the Marvel Cinematic Universe is exciting-not only because it brings another future Avenger into the mix, but because it opens up the world as we know it-a literal universe of possibilities. These are some of the only characters in the MCU who are based directly on pre-existing characters that are widely known-therefore opening it up to an audience far greater than the movie nerds and blockbuster chasers. The movie had a great run, making a whopping $449,326,618 at the worldwide box office in its 16 week run.

THE TEAM:

You may know the name Kenneth Branagh by now due to his many acting credits-with such great moustaches as ‘Murder on the Orient Express’, ‘Dunkirk’ ‘Valkyrie’ and ‘Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets’. You may also know his directorial projects such as ‘Cinderella’, ‘Jack Ryan:Shadow Recruit’ and ‘Murder on the Orient Express’.

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What you may not know is that Mr Branagh predominantly made his living for decades directing and starring in several Shakespearean productions- from ‘Henry V’ to ‘Othello’ and ‘Hamlet’. He continues his career in theatrical productions to this day with films like 2013’s ‘Macbeth’. So it makes perfect sense that an Irishman with a strong background in theatre would be the man put in charge to direct the first film about a family that is ripped right out of Norse mythology. ‘Thor’ is about as Shakespearean as it gets in the world of superheroes, and its influence shines through in this film.

The writing staff for ‘Thor’ is a large group of experiences writers who have had their hands in a heck of a lot of science fiction. The screenplay was written by Ashley Miller, Zack Stentz and Don Payne, who are responsible for writing on various projects like ‘Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles’, ‘Andromeda’, and ‘Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer’. The story itself was brought to you by a couple of guys with an impressive background: namely J. Michael Stracynski, who had been writing geek fiction since the 80s on shows like ‘He-Man and the Masters of the Universe’, ‘She-Ra: Princess of Power’, ‘Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future’ ‘The Twilight Zone’ ‘Babylon 5’-which he also created- and out of left field- Clint Eastwoods ultra disturbing drama ‘The Changeling’. His partner on the story, Mark Protosevich wrote such unsettled sci fi as ‘The Cell’ and ‘I Am Legend’.

The films score was written by veteran composer Patrick Doyle-whos first film score happened to be Kenneth Branaghs ‘Henry V’ back in 1989. He has worked with Branagh several times since then on his films, as well as films like ‘Shipwrecked’, ‘Carlito’s Way’, ‘Bridget Jones Diary’ and ‘Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire’. These are only a few of his 60+ credits as a composer to be found. He has since worked on ‘Brave’ ‘Rise of the Planet of the Apes’ and basically everything that Branagh has been involved in.

THE HERO:

Australian born and raised Chris Hemsworth was not long into his career-and certainly not far into his American film career-when he landed the role of the God of Thunder. His roles up to that point in the American market included playing Captain Kirks father in the heart wrenching opening scene of 2009’s  ‘Star Trek’ film, and a character named ‘Kale’ (umm..what?) in ‘The Perfect Getaway’. Despite a lack of experience, there is seemingly no question as to why he was cast in the lead role of Thor. I mean, look at this guy!

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Hemsworth not only fits the bill to play Thor based on physical appearances, but he also perfectly captures the immature, entitled, arrogant, overzealous, competitive nature of a young God-in-the-making. We see a glimpse of the cocky humor that Thor will become known for later on in the MCU, but the difference here is that he has not quite earned his stripes as a hero. We also see the sibling rivalry between Thor and Loki right from the beginning-as Loki is left standing on the sidelines while Thor is groomed to be the new leader of Asgard.

Thor quickly goes from Asgards darling warrior prince to its disgrace when he attacks the frost giants of Jotunheim against his fathers wishes, resulting in his banishment to Midgard (Earth) and a loss of his powers.` The range of emotions involved in much of Thors story arch really shows off Hemsworths range as an actor- from a moment of heartbreak, to blinding rage, to the spark of new love. He proves with every scene that he is much more than a pretty face.

THE VILLAIN

Sure, the frost giants of Jotunheim are pretty menacing-but we all know who the real villain of `Thor`is.

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This sneaky, malevolent, beautiful son of a bitch.

Loki`s story is so expertly told in this tale from the moment that we are dropped into Thors crowning ceremony. He barely says a word until about 15 minutes in, which you eventually realize is his way of listening, observing, and planning while keeping a safe distance from potential blame in any given situation. From his first piece of dialogue we see him planting seeds. Initially, we don`t know what those seeds are meant to grow into- and Tom Hiddleston is such a gifted dramatic actor that he does not let it slip for a second that something menacing is behind his actions. He maintains the illusion that he is genuinely concerned for the consequences and outcomes of all perilous cards that are dealt in his direction with such ease that I still find it hard to know when he is genuine and when he is playing.

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The events of ‘Thor’ work in Loki’s favor at all times because he ceases opportunities and intuitively assumes the behaviours and reactions from his family and friends that will lead to the next action or reaction. In one sentence- he offers sympathy, support and confidence to his brother Thor after his falling out with Odin, but in the very next he plants the idea of treason. He knows that Thor cannot resist a challenge and that he will not give up when he feels strongly enough. With that, he immediately reactions with surprised opposition in front of their peers to ensure that he is not blamed for what Thor does. Next thing you know, he is double crossing his family. AND THEN he is double crossing the people who he double crossed his family with. He seems able to roll with the punches incredibly well, and to plan well ahead at the same time. He is truly one of the most intelligent-and therefore dangerous- villains to enter the MCU up until this very day.

He has become far more reckless, sentimental and predictable over the next few films, and we get a glimpse into it right from what I believe to be one of the greatest post credit scenes of all time. It is full of foreshadowing, it establishes a connection, and it builds a bridge between the two films immediately. Loki has taken himself off the map, but he is already working on another scheme to fulfill his new set of priorities, and this time-nobody is watching.

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I absolutely love this bit of foreshadowing, but I’m also confused as to how he knew at this stage of his hair growth that this was going to happen in ‘The Avengers’. Maybe he drops right into Thanos lap when he falls off the Rainbow Bridge? He winds up having a working relationship with Thanos to some extent- so I’m excited to see if this comes into play in ‘Infinity Wars’- or if he will further his practice his checklist of mischief:

  1. Work with an enemy.
  2. Appear faithful to both sides while slowly driving them against one another-creating a war
  3. Stop said war by double crossing the enemy-therefore looking like a hero to the people you want to worship you.
  4. Wipe out the enemy, avoiding future conflict without doing much actual work for it
  5. Expect nothing but gratitude and hero worship
  6. Continue being cruel at all times to the majority ofbut still a little sentimental to Thor because hes your brother
  7. Repeat

THE GOODS:

While the time spent in Asgard is something out of an intergalactic stage play, the events on Earth seem to play out more like a 90s sci fi movie. I don’t mean that in a bad way- but the juxtaposition between these two civilizations is an interesting one. When Thor reaches Earth, he learns that there are people there who may look alot like his, but that they are experiencing a condensed version of the universe that he thinks he knows. He knows about every realm in the universe, while we are simply trying to get a look into our immediate surroundings. He sleeps in a palace while people on Earth are struggling to have things like a purpose, a home, longevity. All things that he has been granted at birth. He sees people like Jane Foster who spend their lives dedicated to learning the universe-and people like SHIELD who spend their lives defending it. I think that he feels a connection to our seemingly primitive world because he wants the same things.

Thor learns from both his Midgardian and Asgardian companions what it means to be truly heroic- it is to sacrifice and to relinquish all selfish aspirations. The lessons that he learns in this story are all ones that serve his character along the journey to becoming an Avenger.

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SHIELD gets another healthy dose of screen time- but this time around we get to see their “men in black suits” persona from a negative angle. We love to watch them work when it comes to tracking down villains, but now that they are standing in the way of Thor and his ragtag group of physicists- they look pretty damn menacing. It also shows us that SHIELD has some sort of infrastructure in place for events like, say, a man and a hammer falling from space. Its comforting to know that there is someone out there who is prepared on some level to deal with extraterrestrial life-and one who won’t be swayed by the beautiful baby blues of a Norse god.

I mean, it would be…if this was real.

In summary, Thor is an excellent first look into what will soon become an expanse into the cosmos for the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

We have another hero with daddy issues. We have another villain AND hero with a God Complex. (Get it?) and we have yet another successful woman who doesn’t take your shit as the leading lady. Actually-we have two. Lady Sif is dynamite in this as well! Darcy too. And Frigga. She is Friggan awesome.

PS- ‘Thor’ introduces characters who have been alive for centuries before any of us would be- which warps the entire reality of this universe as we know it. There are beings out there who know the history of EVERYTHING- and they won’t just come on down and tell us about it!?

Rude, Gods! Rude.

How does the entire world not go completely berzerk upon finding out that there is life on other planets!? AND that its highly intelligent!? AND it wouldn’t mind killing us? AND that they might just hang out on Earth sometime and have a coffee with a friend because some of them look just like us but live a hell of a lot longer?

POST CREDITS SCENE:  I already touched on this one in this post, but to reiterate- the scene in question is one of my all time favorites. It is one where we learn a great deal of information in a short time and it adds a whole lot of momentum to the coming films. Dr Selvig is in what appears to be an underground bunker or warehouse of some kind, wearing an ID badge. Out of the shadows emerges a cranky looking Nick Fury, who compliments him on his work in New Mexico. Selvig gushes about how revolutionary the existence of their new discoveries are, but Fury presents him with clear evidence that this may be nothing but old news. In a briefcase in front of them, he presents a glowing blue cube- a source of unlimited power, he says. Suddenly we see a rough looking Loki come into frame as a reflection behind Selvig-as he almost whispers the phrase “Well thats worth a look”, which Selvig then repeats. This foreshadows a few major parts of ‘The Avengers’ and it is really amazing to see this scene after seeing the movie that is to come.

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Next up…’CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER’!

Let’s Keep Talking

Heres the deal: I want to talk about mental illness everyday. I want to talk about it not only because of how destructive it is, but because of how unifying it can be. It affects so many people. It can be lighthearted despite its tragedy- and it can even be funny. My hope is that my need to overshare on the topic will reach somebody else out there who needs to connect. I have no real answers, but I want to help find a path to peace for myself and others who are suffering-or those who wish to understand how this affects others around them. Despite what internet memes might lead you to believe-going for a walk in the woods isn’t going to cure your depression. Although, it is very nice.

In recent years I have found real therapeutic value in my passion to be creative. That is why I have this blog, and it is why I am so obsessed with movies, comics, shows, art, etc. Its why a new MCU movie on the horizon brings me so much joy. It is why I write. It is why I cook. These things light me on fire when I feel extinguished. They may often serve as a temporary solution, but the dream will always be that someday I can live my life on fire, instead of living it in the dark.

So, I’m going to talk. If you want to talk back, I am more than ready to listen.

You may be reading this now with full knowledge that you have a recognizable mental illness-one with a name and a treatment plan. You may have your suspicions that something is wrong inside, but you don’t know how to identify it, what to call it, or how to figure it out. Or, like me, you may be a trail mix of symptoms that you crunch on day in and day out, hoping that one day your bowl won’t have M&Ms in it anymore. God I hate M&Ms.

For some, it feels like sadness. It can feel like anger. It can feel like tension. It can be distracting. It can be motivating. It can be confusing. It can feel selfish. It can be isolating. It can be scary. It can manifest itself as anything from panic attacks to social withdrawal to addiction. You might even be convinced that you’re crazy.

For me, it is many things. It is a feeling that I am allowing myself to drown, even though I know how to swim. It is a constant, ever present pocket of my consciousness that I cannot shut off, even when I fall asleep. It is my Freddy Krueger. It is a confusing, aching, throbbing cap that lays over my skull and clouds my judgement. It is a vulture, flying overhead and waiting for a moment of weakness. It projects darkness when I should see light. It tells me to be dower when life is going well. It tells me that I can’t-when there is no reason why I cannot. It brings about bad choices, even though I know what the right ones are.

It means wanting nothing more than a moment alone to cry, and it means pulling over to the side of the road to cry over the song playing over your speakers, even though you’ve heard it 100 times. It means feeling selfish when your family needs you, but you need to have a few minutes of silence. It means withdrawing from social situations and then wondering why you are so alone. It means feeling overwhelmed by things that you can’t control, and things that others may not see a need to fret over. It means wondering “who the hell is going to put up with my crazy?”. It means being uncomfortable over things that used to be normal. It means feeling like a shadow of your former self.

I know how to “get better”- but there are days when I would prefer to wallow rather than heal. At any time I could pick one piece of the vicious cycle that is self doubt, self loathing and depression and I could begin to change the system. I often find myself painfully mulling over where to begin. It can be hard to pinpoint where the catalyst lies, and I often wonder if every piece of the puzzle is a catalyst in itself. I have had times where I began taking steps to positive change, only to be knocked back down again by a bad day. Sometimes these days come from seemingly nowhere. There are days where you can never sleep enough, days where you don’t feel like you’ve slept in weeks. There are days where you care about everything to the point of exhaustion, and days where you care about nothing at all. On most days, you feel just as weak physically as you do mentally.

There are so many reasons why someone may find themselves in trouble. Even if your life is going seemingly well, the past has a funny and tragic way of looming over you like a dark cloud. Memories, regrets, unresolved situations and questions left unanswered are incredibly hard to shake. It can linger around you because of the constants in your life that have always been there- like your family, your friends, your home, your job, your culture. These are not easy things to abandon in hopes of growth and change. You may have gone through a trauma. You may live in regret that you are not who or where you want to be. You may feel helpless in your own body. Change may seem like the obvious answer, but it is not always an easy thing to pursue alone.

There are several glaring reasons for mental illness that often go by the wayside because they are incredibly difficult to discuss. Things like parenthood, gender, race, sexuality, religion, social and economic factors, health, and physical or mental abuse in any given relationship can either surface or mutate a condition. There is really no place to measure who has it worse or to judge how others survive. We all have baggage. In a world of individuals with unique experiences and chemistry, it is a difficult question to answer, but it is an answer worth finding. My hope is that we can find it together. If you’re not ready to reach out to others, reach out to yourself first, and don’t be ashamed. It is too important.

Write it down. Cry it out. Find something to make you laugh. Consider fostering or adopting a pet. Paint a terrible picture. Volunteer. Read. Survive.