And not satisfied with the double-feature of last time - in which I found what is probably my favourite Marvel movie, and new hope for the Transformers movie franchise - this time we have a triple header.
Admittedly - this all happened on Wednesday the 24th, about a week and a half ago. I just didn't really want to do the reviews last week, if only for spoilery reasons. I think we're starting to get into the period wherein most people who care have seen it, now.
That said. If you haven't seen Endgame, and don't want a frank discussion of the plot? It's gonna happen in this blog. You have been warned.
Let us begin.
#3 Captain Marvel (2019)
A superhero movie about a badass lady set in the 90s? Someone read my Christmas list.
Captain Marvel isn't a complicated movie. It isn't meant to be. It does what it is trying to do, ties it up in a bow, and leaves the character of Carole Danvers for further adventures (some of which will definitely be handled below). What it is, is thoroughly enjoyable.
A soldier in an alien war machine, Vers (yeah there's a reason they call her that) is tasked with hunting down face-changing "insurgents" responsible for terrorist attacks - and finds herself questioning everything when it turns out that she might not even be who she thinks she is. In fact, she's been gaslit pretty hard.
For a movie so simple - bits of it are pretty subtle.
From the very beginning, you don't necessarily buy all the things she is being asked to buy into. There's an ongoing suspicious air around the activities of the Kree, which perhaps is more informed by our view of how the world works in the current age than anything. You'd have to be naive to not see obvious parallels between certain foreign policy decisions and the mission that Vers - under the stern gaze of her commanding officer, Yon-Rogg - is sent on in the beginning of the movie.
(If you can't see it - a small force of elite soldiers being sent into arid terrain in which the "natives" could be the "enemy" and should be treated as secondary to the "mission" to extract an "asset"?)
It isn't long after the mission goes south that we see Carole Danvers start to shine.
Yon-Rogg and the other Kree spend a lot of their time telling her to chill out and calm down, see. She's always, always being told that she needs to do things their way, that she has to rein herself in, that she's too emotional, so on, so on.
The first time she is out of their line of sight, she pretty much comes alive. She fights like a valkyrie. She smirks, she laughs, she's competent and powerful. You very quickly realise that the Vers that Yon-Rogg wants her to be isn't the person she really is... and that should be your first indication that the script was primarily written by women, who have first-hand experience of this. Having to lessen themselves so they don't make the menfolk mad.
Irony, given that one of the responses to this movie was:
sHe Is ToO pOwErFuL
Well for one thing, this is a superhero movie. I didn't hear any of these complaints when Hulk punched Surtr half to death in Ragnarok, or when Steve Rogers didn't die immediately when the plane crashed with him in the cockpit.
Could it be that she gets treated differently because she is... wait, wait... no. No. It COULDN'T be that she's not allowed to be strong or powerful or cocky or arrogant or sarcastic because she has the audacity to be...
Shock horror - but hey, there's a section of the internet that is never going to be happy until every character is a white cis-het male, so fuck them anyway. The movie's approval rating was review-bombed down to 28% on Rotten Tomatoes BEFORE its release, then rose back up to a 78% review score AFTER release; if that doesn't tell you everything about these people, nothing will. If you don't like a superhero being a superhero, you're in the wrong place. Go home.
I love Carole Danvers. She reminds me of a halfway mix between The Sentry and Daria. She's like the super-person you really wish Superman was capable of being, except he's too flat. She's a hero. She's a hero who whoops when she flies and sings bad karaoke because it's fun.
On the topic of music? The score for this film absolutely slaps. Not just the soundtrack - which features some of the good shit from the nineties, you know me - but the score. It's got a fantastic set of motifs which are unmistakable even when heard casually. Nick Fury's little "I'm Doing Stuff" motif is this wicked electric guitar riff. I've listened to that score like once every couple days since I saw the movie, that's how much I liked it.
I got out of that movie with a good feeling. I felt good watching it. It made me laugh, it made me cheer. I think the thing I liked the least was the noise of a cat horking up a hairball at the end. (Anyone who has had a cat will testify to this noise being the worst noise ever.) Outside of that, well - hell, it ended up pretty high on the List. It's top five. It was an enjoyable bit of cinema even without the greater MCU context.
Speaking of the greater MCU context...
#4 Avengers - Infinity War
We watched Infinity War / Endgame back-to-back as a double feature, and frankly - it actually made me like Infinity War more to see it presented as a part 1 to Endgame's part 2.
See I LIKED Infinity War - liked a lot of the things it did - but it felt a little... bitty. A little all-over-the-place in parts. I recognise it is difficult to tie together the threads of the MCU into a cogent ending but still, the problems gotta be recognised.
Seeing it again reminded me how funny I find some of it. The entire scene in Manhattan, Tony and Strange squabbling with each other, actually leaves me in stitches. Whenever Tom Holland's Peter Parker shows up - yes, I'm a fanboy of him, too. The fight scenes are predictably nicely put together, too. I mean, why wouldn't they be. They've been doing this for a while. My boy War Machine gets to put in some work in that final fight. Bruce Banner gets to be Bruce Banner. Thor gets to work through some truly holy rage.
I don't think I need to go into a lot of detail about this one. I'll just move on to the main event here. Which, obviously, entails spoilers. You've been warned, okay?
#5 Avengers - Endgame
I didn't know what I was expecting when I went in to watch this. Not really. I had some theories. Almost every expectation I had was blown away - this isn't the movie you think it is.
It becomes obvious that the two were filmed at the same time. The two are similar to the second and third movies of many modern trilogies - The Matrix and Pirates Of The Caribbean come to mind. The movies individually don't necessarily feel complete, don't fit within a neat arc, don't feel contained or resolved, don't seem to give good balance to aspects of character. Taken as pairs seen as a whole, they are a lot more balanced, a lot more fulfilling to watch.
(I mean I say that. I may personally like the Matrix trilogy, but nothing will convince me to rewatch the Pirates movies. Urgh. Anyway.)
While Infinity War was very compartmentalised, putting each of the Avengers in different places (and straight-up not featuring one of them at all), Endgame is literally an Avengers movie. It's about them. More specifically - it is mostly about Steve Rogers and Tony Stark.
I came into the movie with some theories as to what would happen. Only two came to pass - one was obvious, one was a joke.
The obvious one is that Dr Strange knew that everything had to pan out this way. HAD to. That's why, while everyone else was trying to stop Quill from slapping Thanos about, he did literally nothing. That had to happen. He saw the way it would all pan out. And that is why, when he gives the stone to Thanos, he apologises to Tony.
He's not saying, "I'm sorry I am giving him the stone because we fought hard to keep it from him". He's saying, "I'm sorry - but I am keeping my promise - because you WILL die at the end of the chain of events I have foreseen. I said I would sacrifice you to keep the stone safe. That is exactly what I am doing."
The joke I made was that - heh, wouldn't it be fucked up if they just went and murdered Thanos in the first fifteen minutes? ...which wasn't out by much, because Thor lops his head off with Stormbreaker in the nineteenth minute.
What follows is one of my two quibbles with this film.
Five years pass. During that time, Tony has made good on the vague statement he makes at the end of Age Of Ultron - "Maybe I should take a page out of Barton's book. Build Pepper a farm, hope nobody blows it up" - and the dream he had involving Pepper being pregnant. Steve Rogers has done what he always does, held together small groups with his natural warmth and leadership. Black Widow has slipped into a paranoid overwatch role in the remains of the Avengers head office. Hawkeye has gone full Ronin, and is busy killing his way across what remains of the world's criminal underworld. Bruce deals with Hulk by treating him as a cure rather than a disease, and in doing so becomes greater than the sum of his parts. And Thor...
Well Thor justifiably has a breakdown. He's lost his mother, his father, his hammer, the three buddies he used to pal around with, his best friend, and his brother - who he was just starting to get on with. Half of his people are dead. He throws himself into the task of murdering Thanos, because he has "nothing else to lose". He almost dies making a weapon that can kill a being that powerful. Then he shows up and he puts it to use - and through little fault of his own, doesn't get the job done before Thanos snaps half the universe into oblivion. (Presumably also including half of the remaining Asgardians.) He gets another chance and beheads the big purple bastard, and...
...and there's still a hole where his entire life was, and all the people that were gone are still gone. He failed. That is the only way he can see it. He failed his people, he failed the universe, and even finally going through with the killing didn't fix that. So he has a breakdown, and slips into a depression the likes of which are hard to imagine. Which is obviously represented by him... getting fat... and it being a joke? I don't like "he put on weight" being shorthand for "he had a serious fucking blow to his mental health and hasn't really recovered". Even if the scene in which you see him for the first time has one of the most incredible bits of face acting I've seen in any of these movies - when Bruce says Thanos' name. I didn't know Chris Hemsworth was capable of that level of pathos. The anguish that just... radiates from him in that one moment... is palpable. It hurts.
There's a few of those moments. They happen later though.
The midsection of the film - I say midsection, more like the middle hour and a half - is a time heist. Yeah. Time heist. I said it. And it is... actually fun. It's kind of a bit weird. Like in the face of this tragedy, we're engaged in hijinx to not go back in time to stop Thanos, but to just bring back everyone that was lost. In doing so it is almost like we are almost being shown the Avengers greatest hits - revisiting scenes from previous movies, seeing characters that aren't around any more, even dipping into the TV universe with Steve Rogers almost running into Peggy Carter and Tony Stark getting to have a talk with his own father.
It bears mention that the "rules of time travel" in the Marvel Cinematic Universe aren't actually very well defined at all, despite the amount of arguments I see about it online - there is only one rule, and that one rule is given by the Ancient One, to Bruce Banner.
The stones have to be where the stones are. If they aren't, everything goes wrong. Otherwise, everything is fine.
So as the past starts to seep into the in-movie present, we don't have to worry about paradox. And that's good, because the plans start to come good, and we get the stones back. The Soul Stone, of course, requiring a sacrifice.
My second quibble. I think Black Widow was sold short. Like, not just in this movie. In general. She gets to be support. Constantly. She helps everyone else achieve their objectives, and while that is a valuable contribution, I want her to shine. I want her to do things. I want her to have her Captain Marvel moments - and they just never seem to quite emerge. I know she is chalked in to get her own spin-off movie or series, but... well... it felt a little like fridging, like she'd died mostly because it would make other people suffer. I think she deserved more. I think she should have been there when A-Force happened.
Oh, you don't know about that yet? Well here comes.
So Bruce Banner gets the Stark-forged right-handed Infinity Gauntlet on, and Snaps, and really savagely fucks himself up doing so. But before we see any serious effect of this happening - short of Clint's phone buzzing, his previously-dusted wife calling him, and Scott seeing a sudden increase in the amount of birds outside - the bad shit happens. Thanos decides to take the fight across time, shows up over Avengers Compound circa 2023, and bombards it into a smoking crater. Which sets us up for the endgame of the title.
While several folks struggle with the smashed-apart structure of the building - and Clint tries to get the gauntlet out of the sewers - we get to see how much Thor, Tony and Steve have changed since that fight in the park in Avengers Assemble. It's one hell of a fight against Thanos, who - even without the stones - is an absolute monster. During that fight, one of the coolest moments in the Marvel universe happens, and I was not the only one in the cinema who cheered when they saw this:
Steve Rogers summons Mjolnir, proving himself worthy. And Thor isn't angry, or jealous - Thor is overjoyed. "I KNEW it!" he yells, grinning. That moment, that moment right there, is worth price of admission alone.
It's not enough, of course. Thanos brought his flagship, the Sanctuary-II. Thanos brought an army. The three amigos are left in the dust. And Steve Rogers, shield actually broken by Thanos' attack, stands up. He stands up, and squares his shoulders, because that's what he does. He can do this all day.
"On your left."
The hairs on the back of my neck go up when I think about that scene, when I hear the piece of music on the score. Of the lost people coming back through portals, brought back by Dr Strange. Of Tony Stark seeing Peter Parker again and grabbing him like a long-lost son. Okoye and T'Challa and Shuri, and half of Wakanda. Every wizard that Strange knows. Valkyrie, resplendent in her war plate and her fucking unicorn. The works. Everyone is here for this. This is how this fight is going to happen.
It does happen, too. It's a hell of a spectacle. Carole Danvers showing up and being a one-woman cavalry resulted in more cheers from the rest of the folks I was watching the movie with. She smashes Sanctuary-II like a matchstick model, takes the gauntlet from Peter, and then...
So A-Force is a period of the Avengers in which the team is all women. That's what you get. The badasses line up, and carve a path for Danvers to deliver the payload. I wish Black Widow had still been around for that moment, in which the majority of the MCU's women get to slap around Thanos' legion of dickheads, but I will settle for what we got - which probably prompted more squawking like
tHaT wAs So CoNtRiVeD
It's a superhero movie, go home.
Push comes to shove, and in the end, it is Tony Stark who does the deed: snapping his fingers to do away with Thanos and his legion. And here we come into character endings, because after 22 movies, these are important.
Tony Stark doesn't stop living - doesn't stop desperately clutching onto life, even after the side effects of snapping the gauntlet almost totally destroy him - until Pepper whispers to him that he did good, that everyone is okay. That they're safe. And then, and only then, does Tony Stark allow his own heart to stop beating. He is sent off with a touching funeral. Because even if he was an asshole at times, he was - when it came down to it - a hero.
Steve Rogers is tasked with the unenviable burden of getting all the stones back to where they were taken from. He does so, presumably - also presumably returning Mjolnir to Asgard halfway through Thor: The Dark World - and then... he goes to live the life that he didn't get the chance to have the first time round. He gets to dance with Peggy. He, this most worthy of heroes, gets his rest.
BuT tHe TiMeLiNe
Stones are back where they were because the world doesn't end. Go home. Sure, I'd like to see HOW he got the stones where they were going, but that's ultimately unimportant. Even if I know how I'd do it, were I him.
Thor isn't a leader. He's tried that. The one time he tried it, it didn't work out spectacularly well. He's just not cut out for it, which is frankly fine - he's seen that someone else being worthy doesn't make him unworthy - so he goes off with the friends he has left. The Asgardians of the Galaxy. Guardians 3 promises to be one hell of a ride with him aboard.
Bruce Banner presumably remains tech support for the Avengers. He's at peace with who he is, now. He's still a genius. He's still massively strong. He's just more comfortable doing what he does. If anything he's resolved the major thing he had wrong with his life. He just has to mourn the loss of Natasha Romanoff.
Clint Barton goes back to his family. Ronin is gone. He, too, is going to mourn Black Widow's loss. They all are, in their own ways. Clint, probably, the most. But he has his family, which is the most important thing to him, now.
We're left with a new Captain America in the form of Sam Wilson, a resurgent Wakanda, Peter Parker back in school, Strange back in his Sanctum. James Rhodes and Wanda Maximoff are still around. The Avengers still exist. A new phase can happen, with the old Avengers fading into the background.
That's how it is done.
Truth be told, if we never saw another Marvel movie, I'd be satisfied with what we got - what more can I ask for?
So you know what? 24th April 2019 was probably the best day of cinema I've ever had. It left me exhausted, emotionally, mentally and physically, and it was absolutely worth it.
I'm thinking the next cinematic experience that will crop up in this blog will probably be either... Spider-Man Far From Home, or Godzilla II, or - shudder - the new X-Men movie. We'll see.
Either way. Thank you for reading my ramblings. Especially all my Endgame nonsense.
See you soon.
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