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Sunday 26 May 2019

Why Would They Do That?

I think that one of the key parts of fiction - and perhaps of life - is understanding motivation.

Part of enjoying a character is understanding them, grasping who they are - and following that, understanding why. Inigo Montoya, as demonstrated above, has who he is writ on his sleeve from the get-go. You learn more about him later, obviously. More depth is revealed. The important thing, though, is you know why he is doing what he is doing.

And a strong driving motivation is good. Right? Like, it helps a character move in life. It's hard for them to be dynamic and proactive if their main goal in life is Like Whatever. Why are you here, pal? Why are you doing what you are doing? Why should we care about you?

Consistency is important here, too. Like, if a character is going to have to change what they want or what they are doing, it should be for a good reason. The story should show you that. There should be little doubt - and if a change is sudden, it doesn't hurt to acknowledge the fact.

You know a movie that has a bunch of characters with easy-to-understand motivations that absolutely rocks?

John Wick.

Great film. If you can get past the, uh, reason why he is motivated to absolutely fucking end Alfie Allen's entire fucking existence. But once that happens, you totally grasp WHY he wants to murder the eternal shit out of Theon Greyjoy. In fact you are practically begging for it to happen, because Alfie Greyjoy is such a scumbag that I'm fairly convinced he'd run as a local UKIP candidate (OH SHIT POLITICS KLAXON).

You kind of understand why everyone does what they're doing, in this movie. Iosef (Alfie FUCKING Allen) is the exact kind of weak-ass pathetic shitweasel that would absolutely steal a mans car and do, uh, what he does, just because that guy stood up to him. His father Viggo is a Russian mob boss, torn between survival and familial duty. There's precious few moments where you are left confused.

That's just good writing. Combine that with the absurdly beautiful cinematography, the fight choreography that redefines an entire genre, the soundtrack oh god the soundtrack and one of the best performances ever put in by Keanu Criminally-Undervalued-As-An-Actual-Actor Reeves amongst others, and it makes John Wick one hell of a film.

...sorry, I got distracted.

Anyhow, it is part of - as best I can tell - why people feel Gang of Throne ended so poorly. The consistency. Or lack therein. A bunch of complicated characters with conflicting agendas all of a sudden forgetting several key parts of their motivation and how they feel about, well, anything. If only there was a character who could use some kind of mind control to manipulate how people acted, a thing that could be used to justify the personality transplants that several Thronefolks seem to undertake...

Okay, okay. Settle down, Kellogg's All Bran.

All this is about writing, of course. It's about making your characters either easy to understand, or making them compelling enough to stick around and find out why they are the way they are. If someone just shows up, and we have no idea why, and we have no reason to care - well, why? In fact, sometimes the only thing you need about a character is their motivation. We didn't know anything about what the Winter Soldier was, or who. All we got was how he locked, the music that played when he showed up, and the fact that he is 100% here to FUCK UP YOUR DAY.

This movie, dude.

All of this said... what is scarier than being totally lost on someone's motivations in real life?

Like, that's the thing, isn't it? Not knowing why someone does what they are doing? Why mass murderers mass murder, why war criminals think it's okay to use white phosphorous, why that guy at the bus stop says racist shit to the nice lady waiting for the next bus? Why anyone would put toilet paper on the roll the wrong way? (You know what I am talking about.)

Why would someone gleefully strike down equality legislation, make people's lives objectively worse, deport people that have every right to live here, make an environment hostile to people who are literally allowed to live here, and simply shrug over literal deaths on her watch...

...and then only cry when she announces her resignation?

Sometimes it isn't even that we don't understand a motivation. Sometimes we understand it just fine - and we hate it.

It's just easier in fiction.

If you'd care to share my blog with your friends, I'd appreciate that! If you'd like to thank me in a fiscal form for entertaining you a little bit, I do have a Patreon right here, but please - no pressure. Thank you for reading, and check my social media to the right to keep in touch.

Sunday 19 May 2019

Our Demands Are As Follows (What You Are Owed Part 2)

So I blogged about this once before - specifically around Neon Genesis Evangelion and how the writer was treated in regard to its ending - but a couple things have happened recently that make it relevant once more.

While the constant drone of "not in MY franchise" happens whenever the overlooked and underused non-white non-male non-hetero folks get a look in, these two events are a little different. They're only loosely connected, but they are two different angles of a similar attitude.

For the first, we revisit Batman.

A LOT of people have played Batman over the years. Off the top of my head, just counting live-action film appearances, I count Adam West, Michael Keaton, Val Kilmer, George Clooney, Christian Bale, Ben Affleck, and now - Robert Pattinson.

A lot of people seem to have issue with this.

For sake of flying my own flag, I have to tell you my favourite Batman movies were the Nolan-directed Christian Bale movies. That said - I don't know if he's the best Batman on that list? Like, Nolan does a good job of the movies not being much about him at all, and more being about the clash between him and the forces at work trying to influence Gotham.

I did blog once before about the people that could play Batman, in which I wandered through my own brain for a while and had a lovely time. I came to the conclusion that most people could play Batman, really.

So why are people mad about Pattinson?

Could it be that his appearance in a certain series of movies has tainted his reputation? Much like Kristen Stewart? Well, yes. Frankly. Despite both of them putting in solid performances in a variety of other roles, they will always carry the sparkle curse with them, because we as a species are horrible people.

(I did my own fair share of hating, don't get me wrong. I'm just capable of seeing that it was pretty childish, I was wrong to do it, and now I know better.)

Herein, several batpeople.

Val Kilmer, George Clooney, Ben Affleck all playing the same character. Except not, really. As mentioned in my last blog, they're all kind of different Batmen. Affleck in particular is playing THIS Batman.

It's hardly his fault the writing, direction, cinematography and general production values of every movie he was in were frankly awful.

So given that how successful an actor is as Batman relies so heavily on the rest of the movie not being garbage, all we can assume each of these individuals bring to the role - aside from how okay they are with their suits having nipples - is a chin.

Robert Pattinson has a chin.

The end. Like, literally, that's it. He'll probably be fine, honestly. He will not be a worse Batman than Val Kilmer or George Clooney, simply by virtue of Tim Burton probably having nothing to do with the movie he is in. He probably won't be worse than Ben Affleck, because I have no idea what kind of drugs were being used when Batman V Superman and Justice League were being made, but I think they probably ran out.

Are we owed a better Batman? Are we owed a better Batman movie? Better DC franchise in general?

Well it would be nice to see, but - they aren't our political representatives, and we haven't commissioned these people to make these things to our specifications. They don't actually owe us anything.

Remember that sentence, as we dive into our next situation.

How we feeling about Season 8 of Game Of Thrones?

Yeah. Lots of mixed opinions.

Again, flag on the mast. I don't watch it. I know a lot about it, because I am surrounded by people who like it, and by people who watch it religiously. It is next to impossible to ignore its existence, especially seeing as every day there's at least one news story about something regarding the show. Be it a Starbucks cup, a bit of foreshadowing that the writers have made happen, or about a petition to reshoot Season 8 entirely.

...wait, what?

Okay so... I don't have an actual proxy for this. I have similar experiences - Babylon 5 for example, which was shuffled about a lot and didn't necessarily get the respect it was due from corporate - but I don't know if I've ever invested in a show for seven and a half seasons only to discover that it is currently being run badly despite being set up very well.

There is, however, an explanation.

So the book series that the TV show is based on is called A Song Of Ice And Fire. The first book, A Game Of Thrones, came out in 1996. A Clash Of Kings - the second novel - was released in 1998, followed by A Storm Of Swords in 2000. It's at this point that the author, one George R. R. Martin, starts taking longer to finish his work - because he is threading together a more and more complex world, more and more embedded story seeds are coming into bloom, and because it's hard to actually follow up on a complex beginning. The next book (A Feast For Crows) came out in 2005, five years later; six years after that, the most recent volume (A Dance With Dragons) hit the shelves in 2011.

Thirteen years, five novels. Two more in the works according to the man himself. The creation of the world that the show-viewer loves so much has taken quite a lot of time.

It's in the gap between that last novel being released and now that the entirety of the TV show has run. One season every year, aside from last year - which caused a lot of consternation amongst the fans, as I recall.

The plot that Martin had written thus far ran out partway through the seventh season, as best I can tell. Which meant that one of two things had to happen.

1) The show goes into hiatus until Martin finishes his work, and then adapts each novel as it has done previously.
2) The show tries to pull together the plot known only to someone else to fit within the constraints set upon it by HBO, and releases it in as timely a fashion as possible.

Now, you and I both know that option 1 won't happen. As mentioned - the year-and-a-half wait for Season 8 was enough to send half the internet into paroxysms. Can you imagine if they were told they'd just have to wait for as long as it took?

It's not a conversation that happened, but it's a conversation I think the showrunners probably had in their own heads, and decided against having to actually address. So they did the best they could, with what they had, which has proven to be not necessarily to the liking of the fans in general.

The fact is - they were never going to do as good a job as Martin, because he's the one writing the thing. He's the one that knows where all the threads are going. He's the one that knows which of his buried bits of foreshadowing were actually foreshadowing and which weren't. He's the one that has as long as he needs to finish a book that is going to be as long as it needs to be to tell the story he wants to tell.

They have a season, to tie everything up in as satisfactory a way as possible, to cap off the seven seasons previous in terms of character development and arc, to provide a suitably dramatic conclusion. Something that I don't think was honestly possible.

So the fans are angry, because the fans didn't get what they wanted.

And so a bunch of the fans - like, over a million at time of writing - have signed a petition demanding a do-over. No death threats, not like poor Hideaki Anno with Evangelion, as I explored in this previous blog. At least none that have been reported. Just petitions, stating that: which the obvious response is...

...I mean, think about it.

If you are an individual who believes that you DO deserve better, that the showrunners owe it to you to make a better show, that you are entitled to something that is greater than what you were presented with - would you be willing to wait until a year (at least!) after George R. R. Martin finishes The Winds Of Winter? Whenever that might be?

Because that is what would get you better. That is what would result in the show being more satisfactory, more in line with the quality of previous seasons. Having it be based on the writing of the actual author, the actual creator of the world, rather than people viewing it from the outside.

Could you wait that long? Do you think the people that made the petition could wait that long? If you aren't willing to wait that long, do you still think you are entitled to more?

I've said it before. I will say it again. The creators of these works owe us literally nothing. Unless you have gone to them to commission a piece of art, and they agree to the terms, and you pay them the agreed sum - in that case alone, you are entitled to the result that you have paid for. That isn't what happened. You didn't knock on their doors, hand over several million dollars, and then explain in painstaking detail how you want this complicated fantasy story to pan out.

They are not politicians elected by us, they are not accountable to us. We did not vote for Martin to pen the first book in 1996, and we didn't vote for David Benioff (whose prior writing includes X-Men Origins Wolverine) or D. B. Weiss (whose prior work included several unused scripts for various other projects). We didn't put them in that position on the understanding that they would deliver a thing that we wanted, they didn't give us a manifesto, and they didn't make us any promises.

And that is without even going into how much what we are watching (well, what YOU are watching, and what I am seeing second-hand) is being pushed down by HBO, wanting to fit everything neatly into the box of "Television Show" that they have made - which as we all know, doesn't always make a good show.

For what it is worth - I'm sorry that those who have followed this show from the very beginning have had to see it come to an end in a substandard fashion. I'm sorry that the show that you enjoy so much has suffered at the hands of corporate nonsense, because that's what happened. It sucks, it really does. I know.

But, like... a petition? To reshoot an entire season? To make it more to your liking?

We aren't entitled to that.

And so the creators, when subject to this kind of treatment, are justified in having this opinion:

If you'd care to share my blog with your friends, I'd appreciate that! If you'd like to thank me in a fiscal form for entertaining you a little bit, I do have a Patreon right here, but please - no pressure. Thank you for reading, and check my social media to the right to keep in touch.

Sunday 12 May 2019

Through Fresh Eyes (Or, Love For Giant Robots)

So it is an important part of life to be able to reassess what you think of something based on new information.

I mean, that is how it is meant to work, right? It's how science works. If something doesn't work how we thought it did, we look at it again, and we base our attitude going forward on the actual facts rather than what we thought used to happen.

Obviously, the same can be said for media - both that which we consume, and that which we create ourselves.

I mean we already do this, in a way. There's stuff that we loved as kids that, these days, we have to concede doesn't suit us. For whatever reason. Sometimes it isn't even just having grown up with more and more complex stories, and finding that the stories that we used to enjoy don't really satisfy us any more. Sometimes it can come down to understanding nuance better, learning about racism, and then watching Aladdin again.

Yeaaaaah anyway.

This doesn't always work negatively, it bears mention. Sometimes we go into a movie or listen to an album, and we've got preconceptions about it, and that can sour the experience. The initial consumption of a thing can be put off by any number of things. Big up to my fellow mental-health individuals, for whom the difference between being able to take joy in something and being unable to is basically the toss of a coin - on a bad "head day", nothing is good and everything sucks.

When it comes down to your own creations, fresh eyes can be very important. It's why beta readers are heroes, as viewing your work from a single perspective can harm it. A certain amount of self-evaluation can help, too. Distance one's self from the work, do something else for a while, then look back at it - what didn't you notice before? What mood were you in that carried over in the work? What had you recently watched or listened to that influenced you?

A piece of writing I am currently working on is centred around something I really dig.

Giant robots.

Mechs, specifically. See - if it is something you wear, it is powered armour. If it is something you drive or pilot, it is a mech. If it is something that controls itself, it is a robot, giant or otherwise.

Well over a decade ago I was working on a mecha-themed series of novels. I was kind of wanting to go for a Starship Troopers / Ender's Game feel from it, the first book of the series being set entirely in training. It followed the trials and tribulations of a young man whose father was a legendary but controversial general. His struggles included trying to step out of his father's shadow, trying to work out why he was such a gifted mech pilot, and college level romance.

Yeah, see I read that back and I cringe, real hard. I put that series on the shelf after nearly finishing the first book. Just didn't have the heart to finish it.

Still, I keep returning to the genre. Mechs have fascinated me since I was a kid. It's my jam. The use of the training academy / boot camp as a setting appeals to me a lot, too - look at Full Metal Jacket and Forever War.

So when I came back around to wanting to write something similar - years later, at the beginning of this year - it was definitely with a new outlook.

For one thing... I have stopped making sad white boys the main characters of my book.

I mean, this isn't an indictment of depression as it affects people, nor how a specific group of people deal with it. I just wrote from that position by default. Having queried that in myself, I couldn't find a good reason to keep doing it.

Also I noticed that my main characters from that period were all... somewhat lacking in any driving force or agency. They just kind of let things happen to them, and even when they did things, it was with a kind of diffident blase attitude. They were surrounded by people who were driven and smart and strong, and they were just... unwilling to do much other than toe the line, until their super special talents kicked in.

The robots aren't the problem. My attitude to character was.

All that has changed, if only because in the past ten years I have opened up to a far wider scope of characters and stories I want to tell. Some of them might not be my stories but - hey, I'm never going to pilot a mech, am I? And the least I can do is, at various stages in creation, involve the people who are closer to the things I'm writing - and get their thoughts on it. Because fresh eyes, see? Keeping to the thematic of the blog.

The prologue of the new work is here on my DeviantArt page - but it doesn't really convey who Tori Claymore really is. It's enough to make one curious, I hope. What I am hoping I can do with The Heart Of The Star (working title) is to properly convey the characters I want to see in the world - and thank you Marvel for giving me a fantastic spread of artwork to delineate who those characters are.

Badass women.

That's hardly a complete list, obviously. I don't have a week to compile a top 50 list of most badass women and hunt down the best pictures for each of them that I can. Suffice to say, you all know what I am talking about, and yes Ripley and Vasquez make it onto that list too.

Better ideas as to what I want to do with the story, more nuanced outlook on life in general, a greater political awareness of why warfare happens and the steps leading up to it. These things all change what I want to do with this, effectively a reboot of something I did once before, but altered in the parts that really count.

Sometimes that's what is required, to make an idea work. To keep the kernel, the seed of the thing - but to change the soil it is planted in.

That's the key to growth, right?

Fresh eyes, for the love of giant robots. See I even worked the title into the body of the text, that's Oscar material right there. Damn!

Drafts of the work as I, uh, work on it will appear exclusive to my Patreon, but also may appear on request if anyone is interested. It's a thing I can waffle on about for ages, you know me.

Wish me luck.

If you'd care to share my blog with your friends, I'd appreciate that! If you'd like to thank me in a fiscal form for entertaining you a little bit, I do have a Patreon right here, but please - no pressure. Thank you for reading, and check my social media to the right to keep in touch.

Sunday 5 May 2019

2019 Movie Time - #3 Captain Marvel / #4 Infinity War / #5 Endgame

Hard to believe that the last time I made it to a cinema was back in the beginning of January - but here we are. At least the days I go, I make it worth it, right?

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.

Yes yes.

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...

...a WOMAN!?

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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