The Best 5 Movies in the MCU: Infinity Saga

July 6, 2020 at 1:00 am (Reviews, TV/movie review)

All these lists are incredibly hard to rank, and this one I had to cheat a little. The twinned films of Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame are extraordinary. The first two times I watched them, I could hardly pay attention because I was so blown away by the brilliant writing: the quiet moments; the emotional hits; the way the films introduced characters and their personalities both speedily and with action rather than exposition. But part of the reason they work is the other twenty-one movies behind them.

So. I would have made them number one, but instead I left them off this list.

This pic is Rocket, Nebula, Rhodes, Natasha, Thor, Stark, Steve, Banner, Clint, Scott, Carol, and Okoye. There are so many characters missing from this: King T’Challa, Dr Strange, Sam Wilson, Peter Quill, Peter Parker. . .

5. Iron Man

If this film wasn’t brilliant, the Marvel Cinematic Universe would not have happened. Brilliant main character, brilliant opening, brilliant script, brilliant twists. The baddie is very clear from the beginning, but that just adds a sense of menace. Obadiah Stone isn’t all that great as a villain, but his creepy “affection” for Stark and Pepper, and his touchiness to everyone does add a lot. And, as I may have mentioned, this film was fun.

4. Guardians of the Galaxy

It was Marvel that got us in the door to see this wacky space movie with a talking racoon, but by the second scene we were all thoroughly hooked. My son loves Spider-Man with the passion of someone with nerd parents who introduced him to superheroes before he could roll over… but after watching bits of many MCU films, his favourites are now the Guardians of the Galaxy. Brilliant opening; brilliant balance and mix of characters; brilliant themes; brilliant ending. The baddies are numerous and Yondu is a good one (the rest are forgettable). My only quibble is that Quill’s mother appearing at the “hold my hand” climax was uneccessary.

This was the tenth film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and this was the point at which we knew Marvel could do anything, and do it well.

They were more than twenty hours into this saga, and they were still just so freaking fun—again.

“We are Groot.”

3. Thor: Ragnarok

Thor is a jock. He’s big and strong and. . . not dumb, but dumb compared to the geniuses around him (not to mention dumb compared to the god of mischief). Ragnarok brought him back to life, for both Chris Hemsworth and for the audience.

From the hilarious opening scene onwards, this movie is a technicolour delight. There is surprising depth to it, from the destruction of Thor’s hammer to the prophesied destruction of his home realm.

After so, so many films, this film changed the game yet again. It also introduced ever so many fan-favourite characters: Hela, goddess of war. Grandmaster. Valkyrie. Korg. And Stan Lee as a hairdresser who advises Thor to stay still since “my hands aren’t as steady as they used to be.”

All the other films on this list are origin stories, which are relatively easy to write. This one deserves all its praise for taking a sequel tale and making it so, so good.

2. Black Panther

The tomatometer scores this at 96%. The only reason it’s not #1 on my list is that the opening scene, although beautifully animated, is pure exposition and I have a personal dislike of any obvious exposition.

Speaking of brilliant characters though? All of them. The tolkien white guys are brilliant; Killmonger is brilliant; Okoye and W’Kabi and Nakia and Ayo and M’Baku are brilliant. T’Challa is exquisite. Even T’Chaka, the king who died before the film began, still manages to be more interesting than many living characters from lesser films. Also the world-building, costumes, and use of language are brilliant. This film is all perfection, except maybe for some of the fight between T’Challa and Killmonger, which is potent on the waterfall and devastating at its end, but a bit blah on the train track. (Still better than many many superhero climax scenes.)

Honorable mentions:

Marvel’s Avengers: I love it, and Loki and the Chitauri are both exquisite villains. But the opening scene is baddies talking exposition, which I find very dull. So, in such a list, that lost it a spot.

Winter Soldier: Again a brilliant villain, and the climax actually matters. I know there’s a lot going on, but to me and everyone else it’s all about Steve putting everything on the line to try to reach his best friend. In a world of dull CGI climaxes, it stands out. The only reason it didn’t make the list is that I don’t buy the idea that Hydra could really infiltrate S.H.I.E.L.D. for so many years. Obviously that’s from the comics, and it’s a huge twist which is fun… but I still just don’t buy it.

Captain Marvel: Another climax that really, really works—and all the more so because the film has a relatively slow start and spends so much time with an amnesiac hero. But I still penalised it for that slow start and amnesiac hero. Yeah, I was looking for reasons to take films off my main list.

Captain America: The film means even more than it did when it first came out, because Captain America is still the noble, selfless hero that he was before he became Captain America. I love this character, and I love that the writers (and Chris Evans) keep him from being so good he’s dull.

Nazis are always good villains, but perhaps there was a missed opportunity to have a Nazi villain who didn’t spend all their time being eeevil and chewing scenery. These days, Nazis are much scarier than they are in this film, because a Nazi who lives next door is a real and present danger.

And finally. . .

 

 

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1. Spider-Man: Homecoming

I did not expect this film to end up as #1. It’s just a silly little bit of fun, isn’t it? It didn’t reinvent the concept of theatre or make anyone think more deeply about real-life issues. But as far as I can tell, this movie is perfect. Perfect hero, perfect villain, perfect beginning, climax, and end. I can’t think of a way to make it better. And it’s hilarious too.

It’s so good I have hardly anything to say. Kudos to Tom Holland, who is extremely funny, great at action scenes, and can then break down in tears and rip out the audience’s heart. Because that’s the heart of Spider-Man, isn’t it? He’s just a kid.

So there you go. What’s your #1 pick?

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5 Most Profound Moments in the MCU: Infinity Saga

July 4, 2020 at 1:46 am (Uncategorized)

After years of watching our heroes go through incredible hardship, risk their lives repeatedly, and sometimes lose their lives, there are some moments that stick in the heart and are never forgotten. Here are my top five.

5. Fat Thor

Yeah, the fat jokes suck (I’m mollified only very slightly by the fact that Chris Hemsworth clearly found it all hilarious). But in a genre defined by physical perfection, having a character emotionally collapse to the point that they lose control over their physical form shows a surprisingly real understanding of the human condition.

Even gods can fall.

4. Iron Man’s Heart

Okay, we’re really talking about Stark’s arc reactor, but the audience easily picks up what the writers are laying down. If it was spelled out any more, or handled with less delicacy, it would make people groan. But it isn’t spelled out, and it is handled with delicacy, and as a result it provides an extra layer of tragedy for this character who is so emotionally cool and witty in order to hide his pain and fear.

We begin the film with Stark abruptly finding himself (and specifically his heart) in an incredibly dangerous, vulnerable position. We see the strength of his character as he rebuilds his heart even as his circumstances are as grim as could be.

Later, we see his utter trust (even as he utterly fails to ask permission before asking a considerable favour—because of course he’s far too damaged to frame the request in a healthy manner) as he has Pepper swap out one arc reactor for another. This, to me, is the most powerful scene in Iron Man.

 

The most powerful image of Iron Man 2 is the horrifyingly toxic, corroded rectangle(s) that are necessary to keep Stark’s heart running but are also poisoning him. It’s no accident that his dad (who Stark remembers as cold and unfeeling, but who laid plans for his son’s life for many years) gives him the information that fixes the issue and saves him. But I don’t think it’s truly Stark Sr that saves Tony; it is Tony’s new understanding that his Dad did the best he knew how to do. (I once did a course that was all about the concept that it’s not the bad stuff that happens to you that leaves you with permanent issues, but your own reaction to it. NOT that the actual bad stuff is your fault at all.)

At the end of Iron Man 3, a Stark who has been experiencing PTSD, mania, and panic attacks finally accepts that he can’t control everything and at the same time gets surgery to get his heart properly fixed. Yes, a lot of this progress is undone in other movies (most notably Age of Ultron) but that’s profound in its own way too: psychological healing doesn’t happen in a single moment, even if considerable progress is made. It’s a bumpy journey that hopefully trends upwards.

Stark does get more and more psychologically healthy, and even manages to live the dream of being married to Pepper, doing a reasonable job of raising a child, and living on a hobby farm. Even though we see only a glimpse of that life (because psychological health gets dull fast in fiction), it’s astonishing that this damaged, mentally ill character manages to actually calm down enough to live a normal life. His death doesn’t in any way diminish the fact that Stark grew into a reasonably healthy human being over the course of the films.

3. Killmonger’s Death

Killmonger, as a child, found his single father murdered in their crummy apartment. His own relatives had killed him, and knowingly left the child behind. And that’s not all he has to deal with.

His apartment is crummy because he’s black. Sure it’s technically possible for an African immigrant to get a great job and live in a wealthy neighbourhood. And sure, it’s technically possible for an African America to get a great job and live in a wealthy neighbourhood. . . but they’d need an extraordinary run of good luck to overcome their own inborn disadvantages.

As I write this, Black Lives Matter protests continue in the USA, focusing on police violence against black people. There are so many murders of men, women (especially trans women), and children because they have dark skin. According to a recent poll, over 60% of US people surveyed are sympathetic to the protests, including the destruction of statues.

Killmonger has grown up in the US, and he is deeply aware not only of the institutionalised and direct racism towards dark-skinned Americans, but the fact that Wakanda is wealthy and advanced, and yet doing nothing for suffering people around the world. He has overcome so much to be a brilliant soldier and fighter, because he is incredibly driven and self-controlled. And you can’t help understanding perfectly well why he believes that violence is the only path to racial justice.

After weeks of real-world protests, his viewpoint makes more sense than ever.

In the films, Wakanda decides to step up (non-violently) and help African people around the world, starting with Killmonger’s childhood neighbourhood. But here in reality, there is no Wakanda, and there is precious little justice.

Killmonger fights T’Challa and, eventually, loses. I wrote out his dying words on the main review page, but they are well worth repeating.

“Bury me in the ocean with my ancestors that jumped from the ships because they knew death was better than bondage.”

2. Cassie Worships her Failure of a Dad

Cassie Lang’s father has been in jail for quite a while, and then he shows up at her birthday party without consulting with her mother in any way. He can’t hold down a job, and rapidly gets back into crime. For some reason a brilliant scientist gives him an extremely expensive piece of technology so he can steal from the government instead of random people or banks. Soon he’s back on house arrest after very publicly causing millions of dollars’ worth of damage during a pointless fight that also paralyses an innocent man (in Civil War). He gets put on house arrest, and when he breaks house arrest little Cassie lies to the police in order to cover for him so he doesn’t go to jail and miss even more of her life.

Throughout all this, Cassie worships her dad.

Scott Lang screws up over and over and over again, and Cassie just doesn’t see it. That is the glory and the terror of parenthood.

Honorable mention:

When, after five years, Spider-Man returns from magic dust land and runs into Stark, he is unharmed and for him it is as if only a moment has passed.

For Stark, however, it has been five years of having failed utterly. His nightmare came true, and he failed that poor innocent kid that he knows perfectly well should never have been brought into the dangerous world of the Avengers.

So then Spider-Man appears, literally out of thin air, and Stark is desperately relived. You can see all those five awful years in his face as he embraces Parker.

Once again, the kid character is cheerful and fine while the adult is all kinds of broken.

1. Morgan Doesn’t Understand her Dad is Gone

Stark risked his life, not just because he couldn’t resist a fight, but because he felt responsible for Peter Parker.

He hesitated to risk his life because of Morgan.

Leaving that sweet, brilliant child fatherless was the cruellest thing Marvel has done to us.

After a-l-l the terrible fathers of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (and yes, there’s a “Worst 5 Dads” list coming), losing Stark just as he’s become the best version of himself is awful.

And the grief piles up and up: War Machine, Spider-Man, Pepper, Captain America… the funeral. The video of Stark saying goodbye just in case, and “I love you 3000″… it just gets sadder and sadder. But the worst is yet to come.

Morgan is sitting on the porch fidgeting with her black dress next to Happy. He asks how she is, and she’s not old enough to be sad, or angry, or even to imagine what a difference the loss of her father will make to the rest of her childhood, to her teenage years, to her wedding if she has one, to her experience of motherhood if she has kids. She says she’s hungry, and wants a cheeseburger.

Happy immediately remembers that Stark asked for a cheeseburger as soon as he got off the plane from his ordeal in Afghanistan, and says, “Your daddy loved cheeseburgers too.”

He knows what Morgan doesn’t: he knows there will be waves of pain hitting her and her mother at surprising times for the rest of their lives: When they sit down to dinner, and only set two places. When Mum now needs to do all the chores that used to belong to Stark. When they hear a noise in the night and Daddy’s not there to be big and manly about it.

“I’m going to give you all the cheeseburgers you want,” says Happy.

And our hearts break all over again.

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Five Most Iconic Lines in the MCU: Infinity Saga

July 1, 2020 at 11:59 pm (Reviews, TV/movie review)

There are truckloads of brilliant lines in the MCU: Infinity Saga. It was not easy to whittle them down, but I decided not to attempt to decide which line was funniest or ‘best’, and to focus on the lines that are most instantly recognisable. All of the top five are iconic in part because they are used more than once. Is it cheating or great writing? You decide.

 

5. I could do this all day.

When Captain America is just weedy, asthmatic Steve Trevor, he objects to others mocking soldiers in a movie theatre and is beaten up for it. This is where we get a glimpse of his sheer justice-based tenacity.

“I could do this all day.”

When Bucky comes and chases the bully off, he comments that Steve seems to enjoy bleeding. It’s clear this is not the first time he has gotten himself beaten up and refused to back down even after getting knocked over multiple times.

Of course as super-powered Captain America the line comes up again, and someone who didn’t know Steve would imagine that his toughness comes from his physical strength. It doesn’t.

And of course when Cap says it to Future Cap, thinking Future Cap is Loki, Future Cap is annoyed to have his own line thrown back at him. Because Marvel is nothing if not self-referential.

4. Hulk smash!

An excellent two-word summary of a character. We all remember it best from Marvel’s Avengers, when it is spoken by Captain America as he rapidly outlines a strategy against Loki and co. during the battle of New York. It first appears in The Incredible Hulk and of course is referenced many times after that. In Avengers: Endgame, when several Avengers travel back in to the time to the battle of New York, Professor Hulk is embarrassed by the original Hulk being all… Hulk-y, pausing mid-battle to smash a car.

3. Yibambe!

I have mentioned elsewhere that I came home and yelled “Yibambe” at the cat for weeks. There’s no need for me to tell you how brilliant Black Panther is, since you already know. The world is now very aware that an extremely successful movie can have a whole non-white cast, non-white setting, and even use an actual African language and African accents. The movie knew how good it was, and didn’t even bother having subtitles during the war chant of Yibambe (which only appears later, in Infinity War, but it works because of Black Panther). Because this movie is so good that people were happy to go along with it and even to google it later (figuring out how to spell it on the way). The character of King T’Challa is the closest thing to a straight man that the MCU has, which gives him a weight that no other character possesses. And Wakanda and the Dora Milaje are iconic in their own right (not to mention Okoye) so when they stand united ready to fight, there is real power. All of that characterisation, world-building, and sheer good writing crystallises into that war chant.

And Endgame wouldn’t be as good without it either.

In case you don’t faithfully study the minutiae of your pop culture, Yibambe is a Bantu word meaning “Hold” or “Hold strong”. Bantu is related to Zulu and is spoken by over seven million people, so now you speak one work of Bantu. Be sure to yell it at your pets.

2. I am Iron Man.

This line, waaaay back in the final scene of the first Iron Man, made audiences gasp. It was the first of many delicious twists on superhero film expectations made by Marvel over many years.

So much for Stark’s secret identity.

Any “I am” statement speaks to identity, which is why Stark says, “I am Iron Man” again after destroying all his suits at the end of his trilogy. Even without his armour, he is who he is.

Then, of course, way at the end of it all, in the final battle against Thanos, that line comes back.

Thanos: “I am inevitable.”

Stark: “I am Iron Man”

And Stark snaps his fingers, and Thanos and his army turn to ash.

The universe is saved, and Stark’s life is lost.

It is an unforgettable moment.

Honorable mentions:

For sheer joy: He’s a friend from work! (Thor about Hulk, Thor: Ragnarok)

For insight, on screen and off: I’m always angry. (Dr Banner, transforming into Hulk on a dime in Marvel’s Avengers)

For the biggest twist: Hail Hydra. (Bonus points for when Captain America says it in Endgame, showing that he has more flexibility than he used to have.)

For shocking the audience: You should have gone for the head. (Thanos to Thor, after all Thor has been through, just before Thanos does the snap that kills half of all living things.)

For love: We are Groot. (As Groot sacrifices himself for his friends, in Guardians of the Galaxy.)

For devastation: Mr Stark, I don’t feel so good. (Whether you love Stark, Peter Parker, or both—this line hurts so very much as Peter Parker turns to dust and Stark is left alone.)

1. I am Groot.

It shouldn’t work to have a character who speaks just one phrase over and over and over. Not only do the films manage to annoy the characters without annoying the audience (an impressive feat, believe me), but both of the Groot characters are extremely well-developed character-wise.

“I am Groot” has a million meanings, and the vast majority are instantly understood by the audience.

 

Goodbye from Baby Groot!

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5 Best MCU: Infinity Saga characters to cosplay

July 1, 2020 at 12:48 am (Reviews, TV/movie review, With a list)

I love Trappers Bakery in Goulburn. (For those who regularly travel between Canberra and Sydney, it’s a perfect stopping place—right near the Gouburn Maccers.) I also love the annual Goulburn Waterworks Steampunk & Victoriana Fair (which is every October, except this year due to COVID-19).

Last time I went to the Steampunk Fair, I stopped off at Trappers Bakery and was talking about the fair. The server said, “Oh, that’s why so many people are dressed up.”

“When adults do it,” I informed him, “it’s called cosplay.”

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Cosplay is an awesome way to express your creativity, and/or to express how much a character means to you.

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I almost always cosplay as something vaguely steampunk, in part because it’s not that different to my regular clothing. (This is an extremely old photo, but you get the idea.)

So, who are the most awesome MCU characters to cosplay (so far)? I’m sticking to a semi-plausible costume budget of around $50-$300, and presuming most but not all of my readers are white/white-ish.

5. Fat Thor

Finally a hero for us fatties.

There are three visual elements to this cosplay: beard, long greasy/dreadlocked hair, and being fat. You can add Lebowski-style sunnies if you like. As a bonus (and handy, since ‘long greasy hair’ isn’t super distinctive) either or both of his classic weapons can be added, since he uses both in Avengers: Endgame. The down side is that carrying a prop gets old fast.

4. Dr Strange

The crucial visual elements are a goatee (FYI mascara makes great facial hair) and a cross-grained red patchwork cloak. If you can sew, you can make this costume. If you have high cheekbones and dark hair, then you’ll be doing great. If you want a bit more to your costume, a piece of round perspex drawn on with orange texta (the kind that’ll draw on perspex) can look like his magic. You may also want to source a ‘sling ring’. The Eye of Agamomnon is a more complex build but you can buy one or build one if you like. But the cloak is what matters, and it puts this costume within the budgets of most people. You can make dark-blue robes for underneath, or just wear clothes that are dark and unobtrusive.

Handy hint: The main thing that makes cloaks tricky to wear is that when they fasten around the neck they hang funny and tend to choke you (especially if they’re heavy, as this cloak should be). I recommend designing one that fastens in two places near the collarbones or shoulders instead.

3. Gamora

FINALLY a girl, and FINALLY a person of colour (although given that she’s green, it’s fairly easy for any race to cosplay as her). Her long dark hair is predominantly a very artificial red, and her skin is green. There are loads of skin paints you can buy online or at cons (although obviously it can rub or sweat off, which can make things tricky). Her outfits range from black/brown to dark red leather (when she joins the ravagers). She can also be part of a great pair or group cosplay with Thanos and/or the other Guardians of the Galaxy, especially her sister Nebula (who of course is blue and bald, with metal bits). She has a distinctive sword (and/or a distinctive double-ended knife), but you don’t need props if you don’t want them.

2. Grandmaster

He has fantastically iconic visual looks (shiny gold cloak, blue under-eye liner, blue chin stripe, and blue fingernails) and a wonderfully distinctive manner as well thanks both to the writing and to Jeff Goldblum. So if you like a bit of acting with your cosplay, this is fantastic.

Handy hint: Putting eyeliner under eyes can be tricky to maintain, especially if you get dry eyes at all. I recommend trying it one evening at home and/or skipping it.

Can be paired with his guard (above; the white face paint and staff are all a New Zealand woman of colour needs although she can go the whole leather outfit if she wants; bonus points if the cosplayer is not thin). Can also be paired with Valkyrie, Thor, Loki, or Korg. Golblum is fairly tanned, so hopefully at least some people of colour can cosplay this one without the cosplay police hassling them (unfortunately people of colour are often told they “can’t” cosplay any white characters, which sucks). Or not, because the cosplay police are really just horrid and no logic can stop them so you might as well cosplay as whatever you want and ignore them.

And the winner is. . .

1. Loki

Any decent purveyor of cosplay knows that Loki cosplay works just as well for female and male cosplayers (high cheekbones are a bonus once again). All you need is long dark hair, green and black leather (a dark green cloak is optional but recommended) and ideally that iconic helmet:

If you have a dark green cloak, an awesome attitude, that helmet, and have/can acquire long dark hair, you should be good to go no matter what you look like because Loki is a friggin shapeshifter.

If I had the physical strength to commit to a costume and strut about all day, I’d cosplay as fat female Loki. That black corset from the picture at the top of this entry would be grand with black pants, and I would not say no to a fabulous forest green cloak.

Another bonus about Loki is that, since he’s getting a TV show, he’ll remain at the centre of pop culture for a good long while to come.

Honorable mentions:

Captain America. All you really need is a shield (you can buy a backpack that looks like that shield, by the way), and you can play as either Chris Evans or as Anthony Mackie if you’d like a choice of Caucasian or African American (or indeed African).

I’ve seen a bunch of glorious steampunk interpretations of Iron Man and others.

The Winter Soldier wears a mask, so that’s a great cosplay for 2020/2021.

 

Some basic cosplay concepts:

*Always ask before taking a photo. This is a legal consent issue, and you can (and should) be thrown out of a conference if you don’t follow this rule. If you plan to show a photo to anyone else, eg social media, you need permission for that too. If you plan to monetise the picture in any way, you need written consent.

*Never touch someone without their enthusiastic consent, even/especially if they are not wearing many clothes. It is a costume, not an invitation, and any decent con will throw you out if you act even a tiny bit creepy. Also be careful with your compliments eg, “That’s a fantastic Gamora!” rather than, “You are so sexy!” Recognising who someone is playing is a great compliment.

*Please shut up about racial stuff. If someone is cosplaying as a race different to their own, that is not an invitation for you to comment on anything to do with race or skin colour or whatever.

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Summary of a Saga

June 30, 2020 at 12:27 am (funny, MegaList of Awesomeness, Reviews, Top Ten, TV/movie review, With a list)

So.

I just watched the entire MCU Infinity Saga in five days. With twenty-three movies in the saga, I averaged ten hours of movie-watching time a day. I’m keeping a neat-o summary here to remind myself who’s who and what’s what next time I dive into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. And linkety links to all my many MANY thoughts on the Saga.

In Australia, they’re all on Disney + except The Incredible Hulk (I rented it from YouTube; feel free to skip it), Spider-Man: Homecoming (Netflix), and Spider-Man: Far From Home (Amazon Prime).

Phase 1 (all reviewed in full here)

***Iron Man

Stark swears off weapons then immediately makes the best one ever.

*The Incredible Hulk

Dr Banner is found by the government but eventually manages to go back into hiding.

***Iron Man 2

Stark promises that bad people definitely won’t be able to make any iron man suits; two different baddies make iron man suits.

**Thor

The god of thunder becomes less of a dickhead.

***Captain America: The First Avenger

A good-hearted weakling turns into a good-hearted superhero.

***Marvel’s The Avengers

Loki tries and fails to use a shiny to get more shinies for big bad Thanos.

 

Phase 1 summary: S.H.I.E.L.D. (specifically Nick Fury) puts together a superhero team made up of playboy genius Iron Man; part time rage-monster Hulk; jock god Thor; honourable 1940s man Captain America; and well-trained humans Hawkeye (arrows) and Black Widow (spy/assassin). They defeat various baddies including an alien hoard led by god of mischief Loki (aka Thor’s adopted brother and temporary minion of big bad Thanos).

Our original six heroes, left to right: Thor, Hawkeye, Black Widow, Hulk, Captain America, Iron Man.

And here’s Loki.

Phase 2 (reviews part 1 and part 2)

***Iron Man 3

Stark makes way too many suits then blows them all up.

**Thor: The Dark World

Thor and Jane get back together; Loki is slightly less evil.

***Captain America: The Winter Soldier

S.H.I.E.L.D. turns out to be mostly Hydra (oh no), but Cap’s best friend gets partially un-brainwashed (yay).

***Guardians of the Galaxy

Star-Lord makes friends, and together they keep a shiny orb away from assorted baddies.

*Avengers: Age of Ultron

Stark makes then breaks a bad robot.

**Ant-Man

An ex-con becomes a superhero in exchange for stealing stuff for a cranky good guy instead of amiable bad guys.

Phase 2 summary: Our superheroes (now including semi-reformed Loki and Winter Soldier) add iron-suited War Machine, flying robot Vision, superfast Quicksilver (already dead), his twin sister Scarlet Witch (who has ill-defined but impressive powers and no personality to speak of); and lovable schmuck Ant-Man to their ranks. They also get (but don’t yet meet) the Guardians of the Galaxy: insecure but music-loving Star-Lord (human); righteously driven ex-baddie Gamora (green); trisyllabic Groot (tree thing; it dies but sprouts another Groot); twisted and damaged Rocket (mutated racoon thing); and literal-minded muscleman Drax (humanoid). They mean well (mostly), but commit various crimes including major property damage, theft, and mass manslaughter.

Picture 1: Scarlet Witch, Falcon (who gets those wings in the next movie), Vision, War Machine (in his Iron Patriot phase; usually he’s not so colourful).

Picture 2: Bucky (recovered from being the Winter Soldier) and Ant-Man (Scott).

And the Guardians, left to right: Groot, Rocket, Star-Lord (aka Peter Quill), Gamora, Drax

Phase 3 (reviews part 1, part 2, part 3 aka Infinity War, part 4, part 5 aka Endgame, part 6)

***Captain America: Civil War

Running low on baddies, the Avengers fight each other.

**Doctor Strange

Dr Strange learns to use his annoyingness for good.

***Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2

Star-Lord finds and then kills his dad (who is a murderer and also a planet).

***Spider-Man: Homecoming

A dorky teen with superpowers has to save the day alone when the grown-ups get sick of him.

***Thor: Ragnarok

Thor blows up his home planet so his big sister stops playing with it.

***Black Panther

King T’Challa kills a baddie and then does what the baddie wanted.

***Avengers: Infinity War

Thanos gets all the infinity stones and instantly erases half of all living creatures.

***Ant-Man and the Wasp

Ant-Man and the Wasp rescue Wasp’s mother from the quantum realm.

***Captain Marvel

Captain Marvel realises she’s Captain friggin’ Marvel.

***Avengers: Endgame

The Avengers kill Thanos (twice).

***Spider-Man: Far From Home

Spider-Man gives a potent weapon to a baddie then gets it back again.

 

Phase 3 summary, excluding Infinity War and Endgame: The goodies add the following to their roster: adorkable kid Spider-Man; witty sidekick Falcon; arrogant wizard Dr Strange (and similarly-powered sorcerer Wong); half-mecha ex-villain Nebula (Gamora’s green sister); empath alien Mantis (now also a Guardian); long-frustrated heroine Wasp; superhero squared Captain Marvel; and the Black Panther and a bunch of epic Wakandan people and weapons (gracious noncombatant Queen Ramonda; genius teenager Princess Shuri; and Okoye, the righteous leader of the bald-headed Dora Milaje all-female army).

Summary of Infinity War and Endgame: Thanos erases half of all living creatures. The heroes get everyone back, except:

a) There’s a five year gap when the world is half empty.

b) Gamora, Loki, Vision, and Black Widow are dead; Captain America is old and retired. Past versions of Gamora and Loki are likely to be around in future.

c) Thanos is definitely for sure gone now.

 

Picture 1: Spider-Man and Dr Strange

Picture 2: Nebula and Mantis

Picture 3: Captain Marvel (she cuts her hair later) and Black Panther (Wasp not pictured because she’ll be hanging out with Ant-Man, and her look is very similar to his except she has wings):

Thanos is big and purple, and also dead. Not pictured.

*     *     *

Here are some other MCU reviews etc that I wrote in 2019:

Captain Marvel VS Wonder Woman

Spoiler Free study guide (including the stones, actor names, and a paragraph on each film) for those about to see Infinity War

Spoiler-FILLED prep for Infinity War, for those who want to know what happens in advance

Spoiler-filled post-viewing discussion of Infinity War, with my predictions about Endgame

 

All Fourteen Best/Worst-of Lists I Wrote Just Now:

Top 5 Best-Written Villains

Best 5 Movies in the Infinity Saga

Best 5 Scenes in the Infinity Saga

5 Best Characters to Cosplay

5 Most Iconic Lines

5 Most Profound Moments in the MCU: Infinity Saga

5 Best Side Characters

5 Best Chrises

5 Best-Written Pieces of Exposition

5 Worst Fathers in the MCU

5 Most Problematic Moments in the Infinity Saga

5 Best Romances in the Infinity Saga

Biggest Writing Challenges for Marvel going forward

After Infinity: Marvel Stuff I’m Looking Forward To

*     *     *

For those concerned about my health, I had a very calm day today. TJ was lonely in the living room, but he was fine with me sleeping as long as I was in the room with him. I’d warned him I needed to rest today, so he very carefully made the living room couch “super comfy” for me so I slept there during the day.

Pictured: super comfy.

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Marvel-ous Day 5: Part 4

June 29, 2020 at 2:51 am (Reviews, TV/movie review, With a list)

One film to go!

SPIDER-MAN: FAR FROM HOME (2019) Amazon Prime

One-sentence summary: Spider-Man gives a potent weapon to a baddie then gets it back again.

This takes place in the post-Snap (aka post-Blip) world. The movie reminds us of all the tragedy of Infinity War and Endgame, yet has us laughing virtually immediately.

The romance here is a suitably dorky teen romance full of awkwardness and hesitation. It is exactly as it should be. And so is May’s enthusiastic support of Spider-Man. And the awkwardness of his aunt heading into a romance of her own.

Our sweet innocent child has a few good normal things in his life, thank goodness. Like a school trip, yay!

But he’s grieving for Stark, and feeling like everyone expects him to take over as, effectively, Iron Man. It does NOT help that Stark has bequeathed him a set of Iron Man sunnies that double as a weapon of mass destruction. Classic Stark, though. Stark and Peter both make a lot of dumb life choices. Sure enough, Peter gives his sunnies away to the villain. (Way later in the film.)

Elemental visuals are cool.

*

I love that MJ figures out Peter’s secret identity—and also plays a part in discovering the truth about Mysterio.

Zendaya is trending on twitter right now, as she’s getting attacked by some fools and worshipped by many others. That’s life as a woman of colour, unfortunately. Here’s some real quick google images of her wonderfulness to brighten your day:

*

Mysterio does what all the best Spider-Man villains do, and messes with Peter’s head.

He is just a kid, after all.

So Mysterio beats him up both literally and figuratively, tells him that he’s dumb and that all his friends are going to die, and then runs him over with a train.

Sounds like adolescence to me.

*

Haha I’m so tired. Forty-five minutes to go. I really hope TJ lets me sleep in tomorrow.

*

Peter breaks down under the stress of not being Iron Man, and of having given a major weapon to a villain.

STOP HURTING THIS SWEET CHILD, YOU GUYS.

Happy points out that Iron Man was a mess too.

And then Peter steadies himself and uses Stark’s magic computer system to design his own new Spidey suit. (And Happy is smart enough to not mention how like Stark Peter is.)

*

And so we come to the final showdown in London. It’s a delight to see Zendaya and the other schoolgirl take down a drone using medieval weaponry.

*

Peter has fully regained both his mojo and his “Peter tingle” (Aunt May’s term for his Spidey sense). As a result, Mysterio’s tricks, illusions, and gaslighting stops working on him.

Mysterio dies from his own drone strike.

*

MJ and Peter finally and beautifully get together. She keeps the mace.

Peter takes her flying…

Post-credits scene: …and she hates it.

And Mysterio (with assistance from J. Jonah Jamison) had set up a death-switch video that exposes Spider-Man’s secret identity. While framing him for the ‘murder’ of Mysterio.

I SPECIFICALLY TOLD YOU TO STOP HURTING PETER YOU GUYS!

Post-credits scene 2: It turns out that two Skrull have been acting as Fury and Maria Hill for this entire movie, while Fury has a holiday in space. (Which explains why Fury was so determined to push the very young Peter into risking his life so much.)

*     *     *

It is astonishing that any series can be of such consistently high quality for so long. (See Appendix A: Game of Thrones.) The whole saga shares themes and characters in a balancing act of character, style, theme, and even multiple genres (fantasy, comedy, space opera, scifi, action). My cats are super impressed and so am I.

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I have a LOT of best-of-the-MCU-so-far lists that I’m compiling for your edification and mine. I’ll probably release one or two a day for a week or so. (The first, top villains, is here.) Everything from ‘best characters for cosplaying’ to ‘best one-liners’.

We all need something to keep us going until we can see the next Marvel movie. And/or all those upcoming TV shows.

Edit: I went to bed an hour ago but did I mention I’m having a manic episode? It takes a while to come down from those. So I’m up again at 4am because I was just getting more and more ideas for blog post lists. Also I got really excited that I reckon I’ve figured out the title of the third Spider-Man movie. So now I have to fill my head with something other than my own creativity, so I’m… watching TV. Specifically, movie reviews.

I like movie reviews. Could you guess that?

I will eventually get to sleep, don’t worry.

The title of the third Spider-Man movie should be Spider-Man: Homeless.

Because the other two both have the word ‘home’ in the title, and because Peter’s just been framed for murder AND outed as Spider-Man, so it’s likely he’ll be on the run for a bit.

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MCU Infinity Saga: Top 5 Best-Written Villains

June 29, 2020 at 1:51 am (Reviews, Top Ten, TV/movie review, With a list)

The MCU has a bad reputation for forgettable villains, and it’s often justified. While attempting to explain every plot twist to my six year-old, I realised that every movie has several villains. Of course a lot of them aren’t well-developed.

But a bunch of them are brilliant. Here are my top picks, based purely on the quality of the writing (and acting), and the depth of emotion they inspire.

5. Thanos.

Not because his plan makes sense, or because he’s so powerful (powerful schmowerful, as so often happens). He gets on the list because his treatment of his daughters is so twisted and so painful that I truly hate his guts.

And he actually thinks he loves them, too. Sure, he grieves Gamora. People often grieve useful or beautiful or expensive objects, especially when they’re spent a lot of time getting them just the way they want them. That’s not love.

4. Ghost

I’d be angry too, if other people’s incompetence led to constant pain for me—particularly if I also had only days to live. As a disabled person with chronic pain in an ableist world, Ghost is just too relatable. Which, for a murderer, is a mighty achievement. It doesn’t hurt that Hanna John-Kamen is one of the most beautiful people on the planet. I hope we see more of her in future movies.

3. Grandmaster

He is so adorable and hilarious and charming you forget he’s a slaver (sorry, I meant to say, “employer of prisoners with jobs”) and a villain. Every second he’s on screen is a delight. It doesn’t hurt that everyone in the room with him is clearly having a blast—Jeff Goldblum most of all.

2. Loki

But you knew he’d be on the list, didn’t you? Joy, mischief, pain, humour, and redemption in one very pretty package.

Honorable Mentions:

Klaue (played by Andy Serkis) because of his manic glee.

Hela (Cate Blanchett), for dark joy, shocking power, and for exposing Odin’s awful treatment of her—and his war-mongering/colonialising ways. She has good reason to be angry.

Nebula (Karen Gillan) and Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan), except that they’re much more interesting as they’re becoming good. As villains, they’re dull (the Winter Soldier is basically a blank slate, which is the point).

1. Erik Killmonger

Killmonger is fundamentally right, both in his personal anger towards the hero (because of the actions of T’Challa’s father and uncle), and in his wider anger about Wakanda’s isolationism when African people around the world are crying out for justice. It is all too close to home for anyone living in the real world right now. He also plays beautifully with stereotypes, deliberately dressing in a way that makes white Americans see him as a thug. And his death breaks our hearts. Put all those elements together, and you have an unforgettable villain.

Do you agree with the list?

Did I forget someone I shouldn’t have?

Sound off in the comics! Let the nerd wars commence.

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Marvel-ous Day 5: Part 3

June 29, 2020 at 12:58 am (Reviews, TV/movie review, With a list)

AVENGERS: ENDGAME (2019) Disney +

One-sentence summary: The Avengers kill Thanos (twice).

That opening scene with Hawkeye’s family vanishing puts us right back in that moment when half the population simply disappeared. It’s powerful.

And then we see Iron Man and Nebula slowly dying, in space. And Stark is teaching her dumb childish games, and she wins, and it’s freaking her out because any form of competition was always a precursor to punishment for her. But she’s learning to be (for want of a better word) human, for the first time.

And then Stark leaves a farewell message for Pepper.

Devastating.

Captain Marvel shows up, takes the spaceship back to Earth, and joins the remaining good guys. *much cheering*

They figure out where Thanos is, and go to kill him and get the stones so they can bring back all the people who turned to dust. (I really like the closeup on Captain America’s eyes as this man from the 40s goes into space.) But Thanos has already destroyed the stones. Thor kills him with that super cool new Stormbreaker axe, but it feels hollow.

The screen fades to black, and then says, “Five Years Later.”

There is time for the pain of the Avengers’ greatest failure to sink in. In the theatre, people gasped. Marvel firmly established the rules for their own universe, and then broke them. That’s good writing.

*

I wish the fact that there’s a gay character could pass without comment. It’s such a tiny moment. But we had waited for so many years to finally have the existence of gay people acknowledged on screen.

*

Thanks to the world’s most heroic rat, Ant-Man is brought out of the Quantum Realm (leading folks to try time travel to ‘borrow’ the stones from the past) and soon finds out what has happened. Sweet little Cassie is a teenager.

There are so many different types of grief in this film.

*

When Captain America talks about whales returning to the less-polluted Hudson River… that moment hits so much harder during the COVID-19 crisis. Because we now know what it’s like to see the world doing a little better because humans are doing so much worse.

*

Also? There are SO many characters in this movie, but the writers take their time letting us feel who they are through their grief before jumping into the time heist.

*

ARG MORGAN STARK SO CUTE.

This is where the audience figures Stark might not die after all. Because hurting that precious child is too awful to contemplate.

And, this is where we get some legitimate tension because Stark has a lot of great reasons to NOT do anything heroic any more. But of course the others need his help.

In the end, he can’t resist helping. His compulsion to invent and explore and save the world is too strong.

*

Incidentally? Not that it’s a competition or anything, but my son TJ once said to me, “I love you times a googol.” (A googol is a 1 with 100 zeroes.)

Just saying.

*

The Honest Trailer pointed out that this time heist is the ultimate fantasy for the current generation(s): the chance to go back and fix our mistakes.

*

Love Professor Hulk.

*

Love Fat Thor, hate fat jokes.

*

Still, Hawkeye manages to surpass him in the ‘least functional member of original team’ awards.

*

And now for the main plot: borrowing the six infinity stones from the past in order to bring back the people who were snapped away.

Six stones, three teams.

This is our hero shot: bleak looks, bleak colours, bleak situation. (Captain Marvel is off helping the rest of the universe. This must have been a trailer shot because Thor and Professor Hulk are both missing, but they’re there in the actual shot.)

*One team goes to New York in that moment when three stones were there (during the battle of New York from the first Avengers movie, which is extremely fun). Captain America, Professor Hulk, Ant-Man, and Iron Man.

-Loki escapes with the tesseract.

-Cap fights himself, and says the line, “That is America’s ass.”

Ant-Man and Hulk take the stones they acquire back to the present, and Iron Man and Captain America go further into the past, where Iron Man chats to his own father and Captain America gets a glimpse of Agent Carter.

Iron Man: Do you trust me?

Captain America: I do.

Theirs is the most intense relationship in the Infinity Saga.

*One team goes to the planets Vormir and Morag, to get the soul stone and the orb-encased power stone that Star-Lord stole in the very early (dancing) scene of the first Guardians film. Nebula and War Machine go there, and unfortunately Nebula’s built-in wifi alerts past Thanos to what’s happening (so old evil Nebula catches her and takes her place back in the present). On Voromir, Hawkeye and Black Widow fight each other for the right to hurl themself off the cliff so the other one gets the stone. This is how Black Widow dies. It’s not an easy scene to re-watch. I still hope that Gamora and Black Widow ‘get better’ although the fact that we end up with a past Gamora in the present makes me less hopeful for Black Widow.

*And the other team: Thor (who gets to talk to his mother before she dies) and Rocket go to Asgard to get the red stone from when it was making Jane Foster sick (in Thor: The Dark World). Thor also gets his hammer, which when combined with his mother’s wisdom makes him realise he is still himself and helps him get out of his depressive/alcoholic funk. “I’m still worthy.”

He’s still a wreck both physically and mentally, but that is the turning point. (It is beautiful that he doesn’t magically become ripped again before the final battle—he is imperfectly perfect.)

If it wasn’t for his own mum mocking him for his weight gain, this scene would be incredibly meaningful to so many who suffer from depression and/or the kind of weight gain that comes from having your life ripped apart.

FYI: Salad will never fix that.

FYI #2: When someone is seriously overweight, there’s always a reason. Their body is built that way, or they’re physically and/or mentally ill, or suffering from PTSD, or any number of other reasons that could cause someone to lose their control over their own body, knowing full well the disgust and hatred society will throw at them as a result. A huge proportion of disabled people are also overweight or obese. That’s what happens when it’s difficult or impossible to exercise; when the world tells you that you’re useless and/or a freak; or you’re using food to deal with constant pain.

*

It’s 11:14pm and I have  one and a bit movies still to go. I’m getting a little tired, I confess.

*

Black Widow’s death brings the movie to a halt for a little while (not as long as Stark’s death will do; not by a long shot).

Professor Hulk snaps his fingers, permanently withering his arm—and everyone comes back.

It’s a beautiful moment. It’s all right! They did it!

It is appropriate that it’s Ant-Man—the ordinary schmuck of the Avengers—who walks to the windows, seeing birds return. And Hawkeye’s wife calls him.

Then, boom.

Past Thanos has arrived, thanks to past Nebula.

It’s time for the final showdown—again.

I’m not going to attempt to rehash all the beats—Nebula enlisting past Gamora and then killing her past self; Giant Ant-Man punching out a chitauri spaceship; Captain America wielding Mjolnir, lightning and all (delighting Thor); Star-Lord seeing what he thinks is the Gamora he knows (who kicks him in the crotch); Captain Marvel’s rather dramatic arrival; the famous girl fight moment including Pepper Potts suited up as Rescue (Chris says, “It’s cheap and manipulative but you kinda love it”)

*

I’m finally eating my own bowl of mousse now, sloppy as it is. You can’t go too far wrong with sugar, chocolate, and cream.

Speaking of cream, I used up the last of that pot of cream today by making creamy fettucini chicken for dinner.

I like finishing things.

*

There are some things that must be mentioned, however.

“On your left.” (And Valkyrie has a UNICORN you guys!)

“Avengers, Assemble!”

And then the real hero shot of the movie, as the battle lines rush towards one another:

And, more importantly, this:

And the two lines we all know from this movie:

Thanos: I am inevitable.

Iron Man: I am Iron Man.

Bye bye Thanos.

And… bye bye Stark.

Time to sob for a solid half hour as we deal with Tony’s death, and the grief just piles on and on. Rhodey. Peter Parker. Pepper. Steve Rogers.

Peter: “We won. We did it, Sir. We did it.”

Happy, and little Morgan Stark.

“I’m gonna buy you as many cheeseburgers as you want.”

Like I said, a solid half hour of sobbing.

*

There are so many shots of families and friends reuniting—a bittersweet joy, after five years lost and Stark’s death. And the deaths of Black Widow and Vision.

*

Thor appoints Valkyrie Queen of Asgard, and heads off with the Guardians of the Galaxy. May the bickering between superheroes continue!

*

Captain America returns all the stones to their right places (off-screen, because that would be QUITE a story) then returns as an old, old man. He gives the shield and the title of Captain America to Falcon (which Bucky clearly knew was coming), having spent his whole life with Peggy back in the past. It’s a neat contrast to Stark’s arc (going from selfish to selfless), and I’m very glad that Steve gets to live happily ever after.

There is no post-credits scene, but there is the ding-ding-ding of Iron Man building his first suit way back in 2008.

 

Status of original six heroes:

Iron Man – dead

Black Widow – dead

Captain America – super old and retired

Hulk/Banner – now Professor Hulk, but with a withered arm

Thor – gone walkabout in space with the Guardians

Hawkeye – should definitely be in prison after his actions as Nomad (not that the name is mentioned in the film), but is otherwise fine

 

Other active heroes (including probably-reformed villains):

Loki, Odin and Frigga – dead, although Loki (probably past Loki) will be on TV

War Machine – fine, with semi-artificial legs

Vision – dead, but gonna be on TV (presumably in the gap between Civil War and Infinity War)

Scarlet Witch – alive, and gonna be on TV with Vision

Winter Soldier (aka Bucky) – alive and gonna be on TV

Falcon – alive and gonna be on TV with Bucky

Guardians of the Galaxy: Star-Lord, Rocket, Teen Groot, Drax, Mantis, Gamora, Nebula – all fine except Gamora, who is dead (although her past self is around in the present). 3rd movie is coming.

Ant-Man and the Wasp – both alive, and presumably with one more movie

Dr Strange (and Wong) – alive, and with more movies to do

Spider-Man – alive, and second and third movies are coming (the second is the epilogue film to the Infinity Saga, which I’ll watch and review next)

Black Panther (and his mother Queen Ramona, and his sister Shuri, and his girlfriend Nakia, and his war general Okoye, and his ally M’Baku) – all alive ready for more movies

Captain Marvel – alive but usually busy in space; more movies coming

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Marvel-ous Day 5: Part 2

June 28, 2020 at 6:57 pm (Reviews, TV/movie review, With a list)

Now, I know what you’re all thinking. DID THE CHOCOLATE MOUSSE SET OVERNIGHT?

No it did not.

Somehow, TJ didn’t seem to mind.

ANT-MAN AND THE WASP (2018) Disney +

One-sentence summary: Ant-Man and the Wasp rescue Wasp’s mother from the quantum realm.

The first opening scene is good (Hank Pym and Janet as the first-gen ant-man suit wearers; Janet has to go subatomic and is lost in the subatomic realm), and the second is magnificent.

The second scene is a deliciously, ridiculously elaborate game between Scott Lang and his daughter Cassie. Cassie is a brilliant child, and her love for her dad shines like the sun.

After Infinity War, this is a wonderfully light, fun movie with a nice simple goal: to save one person. And we finally get to see the Wasp in action.

We also meet Ghost (Ava), who is certainly a villain but she’s in so much physical and emotional pain and all she wants is to live.

*

My daughter wandered through the living room so I gave her a bowl of chocolate mousse too, explaining that it was meant to set but it still tasted good. She said, “Next time try looking at the recipe.”

Thanks for that, kid.

She redeemed herself (or not) a few minutes later by telling me I make the best mousse-flavoured soup ever.

*

The Ant-Man films are genuinely improved by product placement.

And there’s another iconic moment during the chase:

I love the fact that Ghost gets healed and becomes Ant-Man’s “new friend”.

Post-credits scene 1: Ant-Man goes into the Quantum Realm again to fetch some more healing energy for Ghost while Hank, Janet, and Hope stand by with the equipment outside. Then all three Pyms dissolve into dust, just like so many others did at the end of Infinity War. And Ant-Man is stuck in the Quantum Realm.

Post-credits scene 2:

 

CAPTAIN MARVEL (2019) Disney +

One-sentence summary: Captain Marvel realises she’s Captain friggin’ Marvel.

We open with a dream/flashback of a plane crash, then Kree soldier Vers (soon to become Captain Marvel, and used to be Carol Danvers) wakes from her dream and talks her mentor Yon-Rogg into a training session. He lectures her on controlling her emotions (and her shiny and very potent super-fist) but she eventually punches him with her shiny super-fist. And gets in trouble for it.

On her first mission against the shape-changing Skrull, Vers is captured.

They shuffle through her memories, and we see a girl who is constantly told to give up and never does. We also see Dr Wendy Lawson for the first time. Vers promptly escapes from the Skrull, taking an emergency pod, and crashing through the roof of a Blockbuster Video store in the movie’s first seriously iconic moment, neatly establishing time, place, and tone.

She quickly butts heads with Fury (who will shortly be her staunchest ally; the chemistry between them is glorious—as is the chemistry between Carol and her best friend the fighter pilot Monica Rambeau, and between Carol and Rambeau’s daughter).

Carol runs away from Fury to chase some Skrull. Specifically, this one:

The Skrull are brilliant villains because of the extreme paranoia of knowing they could be anywhere, and anyone. But Carol knows her business, and she punches that old lady in the face without hesitation.

*

Later, the script flips and we find out the Kree have been gaslighting Vers (who is human) into thinking she’s Kree—and into thinking her super-punching skills were given to her by them, rather than something she gained accidentally back in that plane crash. Carol adapts fast, and helps the Skrull as Dr Wendy Lawson (actually a Kree scientist based on Earth and helping Skrull refugees) wanted.

But the Kree follow her into a Skrull refugee base, and capture her.

*

The Kree double down on their gaslighting, calling her cute and pathetic, and saying that her only strength comes from them. But they’re wrong, and Carol now knows it. Not only does she break free of the fight and of their mind control, she takes the power-limiter (that they have told her is necessary to keep her safe) off her neck.

It is glorious.

Then Goose eats the tesseract (yes, the power stone one). He’s not a sweet ginger tabby, at all, but a terrifying Flerken monster. And he eats a bunch of baddies too.

It is gloriouser.

And then “Just a Girl” by Gwen Stefani plays as Carol beats up all those who have told her they’re her team, her only friends, her saviours. Their threats and intimidation just… don’t work. At all. Then she blows up a bunch of spaceships so easily it makes her laugh.

It is the gloriousest.

*

But is it too on the nose?

*

I felt ambivalent coming into this film for the second time. The first time it meant so much to have a female superhero film at last, and the themes of gaslighting and lies were so powerful. But was it just that—a girlie film, catering purely to the frustrations of the females of the population?

And yeah. It definitely resonates more with women. Because women get more gaslighting, more lies, and more people telling us we can’t do what we want, and that we’re “too emotional” (and at the same time, that we should smile more). And it’s high time we got a truly awesome superhero film that went ahead and leaned into those themes.

This is that movie. And until such time as all reviewers remember that

(a) Women make up half the population, and

(b) Themes that are more relevant to women than men are still universal, and certainly not embarrassing or trite (something I’m clearly not over myself), and

(c) Superheroes aren’t just for boys

…this film will have a special power that makes it even greater than the norm.

*

And yes, I spent several months after this yelling, “FLERKEN!” at my cat during odd moments. But so did everyone.

Which reminds me. My kitten wasn’t born yet. Time to give her the flerken treatment.

*

Post-credits scene 1: Captain America, Black Widow, Dr Banner, and Rhodes are looking at screens showing how many people vanished in that awful moment at the end of Infinity War (same moment as the post-credits Ant-Man and the Wasp scene), with Fury’s special Captain Marvel pager in the other room. Then Captain Marvel appears among them and says, “Where’s Fury?”

Post-credtis scene 2: Goose the flerken throws up the tesseract on Fury’s desk.

*

Since my entire mind is so very saturated with this Infinity Saga at present, I’m compiling a bunch of lists! What are the best five movies? Best five scenes? Best five villains? Best five one-liners?

Is there a particular list you’d like to see?

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Marvel-ous Day 5 (Part 1)

June 28, 2020 at 3:44 am (Reviews, TV/movie review, With a list)

Spoilers.

But surely you know everything that happens by now, whether you’ve seen the film or not.

*

Wow. I’m about to start Infinity War so I’m sort of close to the end of the saga… but there’s actually still five films to go, and two of them are super long.

*

Just now I made some chocolate mousse, for the first time in my life.

Why have I never made mousse before? Simple. Meringue is basically an ingredient of mousse, and meringue is delicious and annoying to make. So if you’re gonna make meringue, you’re not going to keep going and make mousse, are you?

So why did I make mousse today?

Well, I run a food pantry and I also receive a government food box each week. I take from the box what is useful to my family (usually not much because of food allergies etc), and put the rest in the pantry so it’s not wasted. But often government food, especially the fresh stuff, is a little dodgy. Rotten vegetables, dairy that’s past its use by date when I pick it up, etc. So on Friday I received a carton of buttermilk that was two days out of date, as well as a 600mL pot of cream that was use by on the day (Friday). I figured two days wasn’t all THAT much out of date so I should challenge myself to prevent food wastage by making as much buttermilk or cream-based food as possible. Thus, on Friday I made buttermilk bread. Today I made cheesy buttermilk scones (this recipe, which was awesome. I added chives, which was even more so). And then I made mashed potatoes with buttermilk for part of tonight’s dinner. And now, having successfully used all the buttermilk, I’m making chocolate mousse in order to make a start on all that cream. See? It all makes sense now.

So why am I mentioning this?

Because it’s fun to mock myself. Here’s some stuff I did today: I licked a spoon with the meringue on, having forgotten that the sugar is in a different part of the recipe. So that wasn’t as delicious as I had hoped. Mmm… raw egg white.

I also dropped four food items today:

*A perfectly-cooked lamb chop, right on the kitchen floor.

*A serving bowl into a mixing bowl.

*A mixing bowl into a serving bowl.

*uh… I forget what the fourth thing was.

The good news is that by the time this film is over, the mousse will be set.

 

Onwards!

 

***Avengers: Infinity War (2018) Disney +

One-sentence summary: Thanos gets all the stones and instantly erases half of all living creatures.

The opening scene is devastating, especially after all that the Asgardians went through in Thor: Ragnarok. And all Loki has been through (not that we’re certain he’s really dead after this scene, but it sure seems that way, especially since Marvel can bring the character back via time travel rather than resurrection). The gut-punch of losing Heimdall and Loki and half the Asgardian refugees in the very first moments of the film lets us know that all bets are off and there’s real pain ahead.

Before he dies, Heimdall sends the Hulk to Earth.

By the end of the scene, Thanos has the blue (space) and purple (power) infinity stones. There are two stones on Earth: the mind stone, in Vision’s forehead (yellow or orange); and the green time stone, in the Eye of Agamemnon (which Dr Strange wears around his neck on the pretty pretty necklace).

Dr Strange meets Dr Banner, then Iron Man, and the three of them face various high-level minions trying to get Dr Strange’s stone. But Hulk, having just been beaten up by Thanos (not to mention his more-than-usually tumultuous relationship with Banner) refuses to make an appearance. This continues for the entire movie (Banner wears giant armour in the Wakanda battle).

Iron Man: “Dude, you’re embarrassing me in front of the wizards.”

*

Across town, Peter’s Spidey sense tingles.

It’s rapidly clear that the giant alien spacecraft on the other side of town might be a bad thing, so he heads over there at once, and receives this handy plot update from Stark:

“He’s from space. He came to steal a necklace from a wizard.”

*

Meanwhile, in space, the Guardians respond to the Asgardian’s distress call and pick up an unconscious Thor.

Star-Lord: “Who is this dude?”

Drax: “He is not a dude. You are a dude. He is a man.”

*

With Sorcerer Wong’s help, several baddies are killed but Dr Strange is taken away to be tortured until he gives up the green time stone. Which he doesn’t do.

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The reality stone is with the Collector on the planet Knowhere. Only Gamora knows where the soul stone is, so she makes Quill (Star-Lord) promise to kill her rather than let Thanos get ahold of what she knows.

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Thor spends the movie making a weapon strong enough to kill Thanos. Rocket and Groot (who grows the wood of the handle) help him, while the other Guardians go to Knowhere.

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The baddies come to Scotland to try to get the mind stone out of Vision’s head, drawing Scarlet Witch into the fight because she’s dating Vision. Luckily for them, Falcon, Captain America, Captain America’s beard, and Black Widow show up to help. (Ant-Man and Hawk-Eye are both on house arrest and not in this movie at all.)

*

Mini Gamora is adorable and is the closest we get to caring about Thanos.

Grown-up Gamora manages to kill Thanos on Knowhere before he gets the reality stone. Even after all his abuse, she weeps to see him dead… except he isn’t dead. It was a fake reality that he was able to make as a trap for her because he also has the reality stone (red).

Peter is unable to kill Gamora. They confess their love to one another, and Peter is finally able to pull the trigger… but Thanos changes the bullets to bubbles. He takes Gamora, and ultimately gets the location of the soul stone off her (by torturing Nebula).

*

Vision and friends (now including War Machine) head to Wakanda to see if Princess Shuri can remove the stone from his head without killing him. King T’Challa gives a tired-looking Bucky a new prosthetic weapon arm, and Bucky reluctantly accepts that he’ll have to fight real soon.

*

Iron Man and Spider-Man rescue Dr Strange, and the three end up on a random planet (Titan).

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Oh! I just remembered the fourth thing I dropped. Some of the cream for the mousse. More ‘spattered’ than dropped. So now I have a lot of ineffectually-wiped cream on my pajamas. My kitten was thrilled at this new feature of my attire.

*

Gamora and Thanos go to the location of the soul stone: Voromir. The red skull tells them that to get the soul stone one must give up the soul of someone you love. Gamora, very reasonably, laughs at the irony that Thanos can’t get the stone because he’s so full of hate.

Then there’s the awful realisation that he believes he loves her, and that belief is enough to get the stone by killing her. Which he does (badly reducing the number of female heroes in the films).

*

Beautiful character moment between Rocket and Thor as Thor tries to say how fine he is, since he’s already lost everything that matters to him.

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Arg, my shoulder is really sore again. It’s not watching the movies; it’s all this typing. I’ll try to type less. At least this is my last movie for today (despite what the subject line says).

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Those Guardians not with Thor head to Titan and they fight Iron Man & co. until they all figure out they’re actually all good guys, and they team up (and Nebula too, since she’s escaped from Thanos).

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Arg! I just burned my popcorn again. *shakes fist at brilliant scriptwriters*

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The Wakanda battle has too many iconic moments to list, but there is one that stands out:

YIBAMBE! YIBAMBE! YIBAMBE!

I was yelling that at the cat for weeks afterwards. She was not impressed.

(Yes, I have two cats.)

*

Thor helps forge his new Axe, Stormbreaker, and uses it to take himself, Rocket, and Groot to join the battle in Wakanda.

“I am Groot.”

“I am Steve Rogers.”

*

Thanos has a big fight with everyone on Titan, which is cool but ultimately unsuccessful, and Dr Strange gives up the time stone so easily that it’s clear he is working towards the one successful future out of 14,000,605. The revelation that Gamora is dead causes Quill to screw up their plan. But to be honest it probably wouldn’t have worked anyway, since Thanos was already far too strong to be killed by any normal weapon.

*

Back on Wakanda, the girl baddie fights Scarlet Witch, Black Widow, and Okoye. It is an enjoyable scene, but the entire audience knows perfectly well that this is Marvel saying, “Look! We have loads of female characters now! They can have a whole mini-scene, see?”

*

Overall, things are not going well for our heroes.

Thanos has every stone except the one in Vision’s head and the Avengers have run out of time to remove it. Scarlet Witch does it at last, killing him—only to have Thanos rewind time just to kill him a second time in front of her.

*

This film is a tragedy. A well-written tragedy has both a sense of inevitability about it and a sense that there are so many ways when the story could have changed, and everything would have been okay. What if Star-Lord had shot Gamora quickly? What if Scarlet Witch had taken the stone from Vision as soon as they realised they should? What if Thor had gone for the head?

But in each case, it is their character that causes them to make the decisions that they do.

And then, of course, there’s the snap.

Thanos leaves. There is an eerie silence.

Then Bucky falls to bits in front of Steve. The field of war is halved as far too many people dissolve. King T’Challa vanishes. Groot. Scarlet Witch. Falcon.

On Vordor, Mantis says, “Something is happening.”

Drax vanishes. Star-Lord. Dr Strange, saying, “Tony. There was no other way.”

And Peter, resisting with all his spidey senses and strength, apologises to Stark as he turns to dust in his arms. “I don’t want to go! I don’t want to go!”

And that’s where it ends. Failure. Thanos wins.

It doesn’t matter that we know all our heroes will be back (except for the non-snap deaths). It doesn’t matter that we know they’re not actually real people. After all these hours (and years) spent with these characters, there is real grief at such an ending.

A generation of kids will grow up traumatised by that moment (TJ’s asleep, by the way!) Adults and teens will never forget the quiet sobbing in that theatre as the credits began to roll, and the shock of such an end.

Post-credits scene: Samuel L. Jackson realises what is happening and manages to page Captain Marvel just as he, too, dissolves into dust. “Mother-fu—!”

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Given that this is heading towards the 2000-word mark, I’m gonna stop there and post this one by itself.

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The mousse isn’t set. Hmm.

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