Top 5 Scenes in the MCU: Infinity Saga

July 11, 2020 at 1:50 pm (Reviews, TV/movie review, With a list)

5. Captain Marvel beats up everybody.

It’s so cathartic, not just after all the gaslighting Danvers has been through in her own movie, but after all the years we waited to have a female hero with her own film.

4. Hulk vs Thor in Ragnarok

I’ll be honest: a lot of fight scenes are pretty boring. Not this one. There are so many emotional beats to this scene that it tells a full story. Thor is delighted to see Hulk; Thor tries and fails to get Hulk to recognise him; Thor fights; Thor attempts to calm Hulk to get Dr Banner to reappear; more fighting, etc

Meanwhile we also have Loki and the Grandmaster watching the show, and there is another story playing out as Loki sees the Hulk (remembering him very clearly from his rag doll moment in Marvel’s The Avengers), and has to act like he’s having fun in front of the Grandmaster while at the same time watching his brother get beaten up (or not?)

3. Baby Groot dancing while the Guardians attack a big tentacle monster (and keep an eye on him at the same time).

This is joyful, character-filled, and hilarious. It’s a stunning opening to a sequel.

2. Captain America and The Winter Soldier fight on a crashing helicarrier as Steve tries to get through to Bucky.

This is a fight that matters on an emotional level, while also challenging Captain America physically because it’s not easy to have a fight in which you’re trying not to hurt the other guy (much).

1. The Dusting.

Marvel spent so long making sure we knew that the heroes would always win and everything would be okay, and then they broke everything and everyone.

Honorable mentions:

*The airport scene in Civil War.

*Peter Parker’s home video of the airport scene (Spider-Man: Homecoming).

*The battle for New York in Marvel’s Avengers —bonus points for the fact that it has consequences eg Vulture, Loki’s failure, Earth knowing about aliens now. And it makes a fantastic backdrop for time travel scenes in Avengers: Endgame.

*Star-Lord dancing, stealing the orb, and then announcing his hero name… to confusion (Guardians of the Galaxy).

*Stark vs Captain America (and technically Bucky) in Civil War.

*War rhinos, and the confrontation between Okoye and M’Baku that ends the battle in Black Panther.

*Stark and Nebula dying in space. Nebula softening emotionally, and Stark talking to Pepper via his helmet recording (Endgame).

*Endgame final battle.

*Grief for Stark after his death (several scenes, but they work together perfectly) in Endgame.

*Steve Trevor finally dancing with Peggy (Endgame).

 

What’s your favourite scene?

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The MCU: Infinity Saga’s 5 Most Problematic Moments

July 10, 2020 at 11:53 pm (Reviews, TV/movie review, With a list)

You may have picked up on the fact that I’m a fan of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. But although it’s mostly great, some of it is seriously problematic.

5. The Missing

There is an increasingly-glaring lack of women, people of colour, and (most of all) gay people in the MCU so far. Even characters that are in a gay relationship in the comics (such as Ayo and Okoye) are straight in the movies. There have been many, many promises made about future diversity, and we have Captain Marvel and the cast of Black Panther now, which is a good start. Killing off both Gamora and Black Widow is…. not ideal.

4. Haweye killing people of colour

Hawkeye goes full vigilante after his family is snapped into dust by Thanos. He massacres several gangs, and it just so happens that both of the ones that are mentioned/seen in Avengers: Endgame are people of colour… perhaps because if he’d killed white people, or US citizens, there might have to be some kind of consequences. Hmm.

3. Fat Thor jokes

I don’t need to write a second time about how trauma can cause massive weight gain. Nor do I need to point out that mocking weight gain is not okay.

2. Replacing Asian characters with white people

Marvel has done this at least twice, swapping out The Mandarin and The Ancient One for white folks. Ugh. They actually went out of their way to be less diverse than the comics, which is awful.

Dishonorable Mentions:

*”You’re insane!” It’s a phrase often used in fiction, which is going to fall out of favour as it becomes offensive to speak so lightly of mental illness.

*Scarlet Witch and Vision dating. The age gap between the two actors is ew, and is one of the reasons I’m not desperate to see their TV show (having said that, I’ll still give it a shot and see if they change my mind).

*Did Captain America kiss his own niece that one time? Weird.

*Thanos ‘loves’ Gamora, which is why killing her gets him the soul stone. Yeah, that’s definitely not love.

*Black Widow dies instead of Hawkeye. Is it because he’s a man? Because he’s married? Because he has kids? It’s certainly not because he’s killed less people than her.

*Problematic romances. Both Stark and Star-Lord pressure their respective romantic options in icky ways.

But most of all. . .

 

1. That anti-trans joke in Iron Man.

Yeah, I know it was a long time ago and it’s a throwaway line. But that’s the thing. Comedy should punch up, not down, and no one is further down than trans women (especially trans women of colour), who are literally getting murdered because awful people think that their deaths won’t matter.

Their deaths matter, and so do their lives.

Jokes at the expense of trans people are not, have never been, and never will be okay. This is a matter of life and death.

Do better, Marvel.

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5 Best Side Characters in the MCU: Infinity Saga

July 10, 2020 at 11:03 pm (Reviews)

5. Valkyrie

She is the best, and she’s King of the Asgardians now, and she’s bisexual (which will hopefully be made clear in future movies). I love the way she relates to both Hulk and Thor, and I hope we see much, much more of her in future.

4. Luis

Oh, the monologues! They are so beautiful, and seeing the other actors lip-sync (and more) to his descriptions is glorious. But there’s only one Luis.

3. Goose

FLERKEN!

I know my cats would like to have a mass of horrifying tentacles that could burst forth and destroy anything in their path. Presumably, if they were real flerken, I’d have two less children by now. And we would never hear the neighbour’s dogs again.

2. Groot and Baby/Teen Groot (yes they’re different characters, but give me a pass on this one).

The kindness and character somehow expressed through literally wooden facial expressions and so few actual words is absolutely incredible. It’s ironic that the best-written characters sometimes have the least lines. And of course Teen Groot is immediately recognisable as “real” in so many ways.

Honorable mentions:

Coulson, for appearing to be an utterly bland bureaucrat, and being so much more.

Darcy, Jane Foster’s intern in the first two Thor movies. She doesn’t do much, but everything she says is hilarious.

Cassie for being utterly herself (loving that scary rabbit toy her dad Scott Lang gets her), and for being so smart she covers for her dad’s absence (when he’s under house arrest and an ant is wearing his ankle monitor) with alarmingly perfect fluency.

1. Korg

Taika Waititi is a genius, not just as a director but as an actor. It is right and good that Korg was there in the over-stuffed cast of Avengers: Endgame. It is impossible to choose Korg’s best lines, but I do love “Piss, off, ghost!” as he kicks the wall where Loki’s non-corporeal form was just standing. It’s sweet and lovely and just so… Korg.

“Hello, my name’s Korg. I’m made of rocks as you can see, but don’t let that intimidate you.”

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The 5 Best Chrises

July 10, 2020 at 10:17 pm (Reviews, TV/movie review, With a list)

There are so many white, handsome, famous Chrises right now. So let’s rank them!

5. Chris Sullivan

You might not have known his name. Or if you knew his name (from This is Us) you didn’t recognise him under three and a half hours of makeup. But this is Chris Sullivan aka the mighty Taserface (Guardians of the Galaxy 2).

4. Chris Pratt

Chris Pratt rapidly changed from a schlub in The Office to a superhero (even if Drax describes him as a “dude” rather than a “man” like Hemsworth’s Thor). He is, after all, an actor. I don’t have a strong impression of the actor’s personality except that he loves laughing both at himself and at others. He manages to balance that humour with action scenes, and with Star-Lord’s emotional complexity and growth.

3. Chris Hemsworth

Yeah, but Hemsworth is funny and has the biggest muscles and he’s Australian.

2. Chris Evans

Chris Evans, though. He has the best arc of all the Chrises (so far… Thor and Star-Lord are still going), and the best heart, and he’s clean-shaven (usually) which I prefer in my eye candy. The actor has great range, but also uses his fame to speak out about those who are less privileged than he is. He’s a real-life hero. What could beat that?

Honorable mention: Chris Pine. He’s in Star Trek and Wonder Woman which makes it feel like he’s in Marvel even though he’s not. Pine is the most intellectual Chris, with a love of books and of unusual words used well. But he’s not in the MCU, and he once said he’s not that big a fan of superhero movies, so screw him.

Also, his eyebrows are stupid. There, I said it.

1. Mine

Well, obviously.

I’m a sucker for a (mostly) clean-shaven Chris with gorgeous green eyes, a love of all things nerdy, a quick wit, and a hero’s heart.

So that’s the most correct and final list of all the greatest Chrises of our time. No need to sound off in the comments; I know I’m right.

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The 5 Worst Father Figures in the MCU: Infinity Saga

July 7, 2020 at 11:05 pm (Reviews, TV/movie review, With a list)

So many choices, amirite?

So let’s start with the man who got a pass on the villain list despite making Ultron.

5. Tony Stark

Look, Tony. I know your own dad wasn’t super emotionally competent, but it is not okay to enlist a child into your civil war, okay? Particularly without his guardian’s knowledge or consent.

And coming on to said guardian while you’re there? Unhelpful at best.

No matter how cool the scene ends up being.

4. Yondu

In Guardians of the Galaxy 2, Yondu is ret-conned to a certain extent. He didn’t keep Quill because he was handy child labour; he kept him to save him from his killer father.

Having said that, Quill was still abducted from his home planet and was constantly threatened with being eaten. Yondu died to save him, and that’s worth a lot—but parenthood takes a fair bit more than one grand heroic moment. Quill has a lot of reasons to be screwed up, and Yondu is definitely one of them.

3. Odin

The all-father seems like a great dad, wise and compassionate and all kinds of great stuff. He sends Thor on a quest that makes him a better person, and he adopts a baby belonging to his traditional enemies, raising him as his own. His quest for Thor nearly gets the god of thunder killed, and he should have told Loki he was adopted… but it’s not until Thor: Ragnarok that we find out about Hela and about Asgard’s blood-soaked past.

Parenthood: It’s not one of those things where you can change your mind about your parenting style and lock the first kid in an underground dungeon so you can start over.

It is an elegant tragedy that Odin’s most lovely, fatherly speech towards Thor is actually Loki pretending to be Odin.

2. Ego

Impregnating various races in order to gain a child who can help you take over the universe is not a good reason to become a dad. Killing countless offspring who disappoint you—and the occasional mother that you’re tempted to stick with—is also not good parenthood.

Just… just no.

Honorable mentions, for those who are mostly good but also kind of awful:

Rocket cares deeply for Baby Groot, and it’s adorable, but in an ideal world children don’t get raised by psychopaths. Just saying.

King T’Chaka raises two wonderful children, and is fundamentally a good man—but he has something in common with all the worst billionaires of our time. He chooses not to care about the rest of the world. I understand the urge to protect one’s own people at the expense of others, but if you truly want to be a decent father, that means being a decent human being as well.

Hank Pym, for being cranky as and for taking way too long to let Hope have a suit. She’s so, so much more competent than Scott.

Scott Lang, for going to prison and then continuing to steal stuff and risk his freedom. He loves Cassie, but he makes a lot of dumb, awful decisions that put her in harm’s way and that stop him being able to actually act like the good dad he wants to be.

 

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And finally, Thanos

Not because he wants to kill half the universe (although that’s certainly a solid entry in the ‘nope’ column) but because of the way he gaslights, abuses, and manipulates his adopted daughters.

Those girls are deeply messed up, and that was entirely intentional on his part. He wanted them desperate for his approval, and constantly fighting one another in an attempt to please him that would never be satisfied.

It is delightful to see them both break free of him.

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Five Best Exposition Moments in the MCU: Infinity Saga

July 7, 2020 at 1:21 am (Reviews, TV/movie review, With a list)

If you’ve read any of my recent articles on the Marvel Cinematic Universe Infinity Saga, you know that I don’t like obvious exposition. There’s a lot of very good writing throughout the Marvel movies (in particular, bickering to introduce characters and character goals works beautifully), and here are my top five moments of exposition:

5. Black Panther‘s opening animation

I know I lowered Black Panther‘s ranking in the five best films because of the opening exposition, but it’s still very good exposition. The animation isn’t just good; it’s fitted to the story and its technology—Princess Shuri later mentions her sand table.

It tells us a lot: why Wakanda is rich, where the vibranium came from, how the Black Panther super power is given via the heart-shaped herb and most of the ritual and tradition that comes with that. Personally, I can’t think of a better way to communicate all that info quickly and memorably. And I have a feeling that the panther-god Bast may be more than just a minor cultural detail in future films. (Or not. Who knows.)

4. The Wonka tunnel experience in Thor: Ragnarok

This is a very funny, entirely bonkers mini-scene that tells us a little about the Grandmaster and the planet Sakaar. It knows that it’s echoing the tunnel sequence from the 1971 film Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (that traumatised a generation of children), and used a twisted instrumental version of Pure Imagination to let us know that they know that we know. From this we learn that no one leaves Sakaar, the Grandmaster is the boss, Thor is his slave, and that gladiatorial combat is a-coming.

3. Stark’s name on weapons

Way, way back in the very first scene of the whole Infinity Saga, Stark is blown up. In the middle of an intense firefight that ends with his capture, he spots an unexploded (at that point) missile with his own name on it, and he is so shocked to see it that he freezes, staring at his own name.

This is when the audience and Stark both find out that his company—the company of which he is supposedly the boss—has been selling weapons to baddies. It is devastating not only because Stark is captured and nearly killed, but because everything he believes he knows just got turned on its head. It is abundantly clear from his face that he didn’t know his weapons were being sold to both sides.

 

2. The opening of Thor: Ragnarok, with Thor talking to the Ragnarok-bringing monster about the Ragnarok prophecy.

Yep, Ragnarok again. Thor chats to a skeleton and is then threatened by a big horned monster (Su-something) that is prophesied to destroy Asgard (which he then kills*). He takes a page out of Black Widow’s book and uses his own imprisonment and interrogation to find out what he needs to know. And we’re laughing so hard we don’t notice that they’ve just outlined an important plot beat so they don’t have to waste time explaining it in the climax.

*It gets better.

Honorable mention:

“And get this man a shield.”

Captain America gave up his shield to Stark at the end of Civil War and he doesn’t get it back until Avengers: Endgame, when he and Stark are fully reconciled. King T’Challa fought against Captain America and Bucky in Civil War, but that fight is well and truly over, and has been replaced by respect. This line is badass, while also establishing that King T’Challa and Captain America are friends now, and how Captain America gets the Wakandan shield he uses in the battles to come.

And people love this line. There’s something deeply satisfying about it.

Speaking of lines that are just beautiful, while also conveying vital plot information:

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

Now that is what I call an excellent summary of all the salient facts needed to jump into an action scene. And an epic movie, for that matter.

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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.”

*

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

*

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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