“You’re late.” “And you’re missing an eye.”

Thor: Ragnarök

The third solo Thor film; the title is part of actual Norse mythology, though Marvel has it occur a bit different than what tradition has passed down.  There is a new villain in Hela (played by Cate Blanchett; Galadriel in Lord of the Rings and Hobbit, as well as the voice of Valka in the latter two How to Train Your Dragon movies.  She’s the stepmother in Kenneth Branagh’s Cinderella, involved in Ocean’s Eight, played Elizabeth I twice, and Marion in Ridley Scott’s Robin Hood).  Jeff Goldblum is another antagonist in the Grandmaster, and Karl Urban is Skurge (Éomer in Lord of the Rings, Dr. McCoy in the alternate universe Star Trek movies, and apparently a stormtrooper in Rise of Skywalker.)  [We’ll cover more on the fact that Marvel has chosen a lot of Middle Earth actors to be in their universe in the wrap-up post.] 

This film starts a little differently, with Thor voicing over a summary, saying he’s saved Earth a couple times and is now a hero.  And he’s been searching the cosmos for the Infinity Stones.  And that is how he ended up in a cage, from which he drops and dangles and spins in front of Surtur, who is destined to destroy Asgard in Ragnarök.  Thor has been concerned about Ragnarök, with the nature of his dreams lately; so if he takes the crown off Surtur’s head, it can never be put in the Eternal Flame and thus Ragnarök will be averted.  But Surtur warns Thor that Ragnarök has already begun and Odin is not on Asgard.  There is nothing Thor can do to stop it.  He still holds his hand out for Mjölnir and smashes through the demons (cue Immigrant Song).  He calls for Heimdall after he takes the crown off Surtur, but he doesn’t get a response, so he has to dodge a dragon (of some sort [could be a reference to the Midgard serpent of Norse legend]).  Turns out, Heimdall is not at the Bifrost, there’s a new guy, Skurge, who is too busy showing off to ladies to hear Thor.  He does eventually answer, after Thor slays the dragon.  Heimdall is a fugitive, after being declared a traitor to the crown.  Thor flies off to confront “Odin,” and Skurge runs behind him. 

There’s a new statue of Loki and Thor discovers a play being performed about Loki’s sacrifice (with Luke Hemsworth [Chris’s older brother; a cousin of theirs is a college girl in the film] portraying Thor, Matt Damon portraying Loki, and Sam Neill portraying Odin).  When Thor addresses “Odin,” he remarks “Oh shit,” then babbles that the Asgardians wanted to honor Loki.  Thor then holds on to Odin, swinging Mjölnir, then threatens that nothing with stop the hammer from returning to his hand, “not even your face, brother.”  “Odin” shouts he yields and transforms into Loki [we already knew Odin was Loki from the last scene of Dark World].  Skurge finally shows up, but Loki’s already annoyed; his new lackey had one job, and didn’t do it well.

Thor now demands to know where Odin is.  Loki knows.  He’s on Earth.  At the Shady Acre Senior Home…that is currently being demolished when the brothers visit.  Loki doesn’t know where Odin currently is, making a crack that he’s not a witch.  Then Loki disappears and Thor finds a card, directing him to Bleeker St; where Thor meets Dr. Stephen Strange; “Earth has wizards now?”  Strange keeps an eye on threats to Earth, including Loki, but all Thor and Loki want is to find Odin.  Strange can help with that (and also show off his magic to Thor [there’s an interesting post on the different ways Loki and Strange utilize magic, being pro-Loki]), and opens a portal for Thor.  He needs his “umbrella” first, which crashes into several things on its way to Thor, and Loki.  Who has been “falling for thirty minutes!”  Strange sends the brothers to Norway.

Odin is sitting calmly, waiting for his sons.  It admittedly took time for his to shake off Loki’s magic, but now, Odin misses his wife.  He knows his time draws near, and he has to warn Thor and Loki that they have a sister, whom he exiled for her violent appetite.  She is the goddess of death, and Odin’s first born.  She draws her power from Asgard and if she resides there, it will be limitless.  He also counsels his sons to remember this place they all saw each other.  Then he turns to gold dust and floats away.

A storm begins brewing and Thor and Loki are ready to fight again, until Hela emerges.  Their clothes transform when they approach her.  She first tells them to kneel.  To which Loki demands, “I beg your pardon?”  [How dare she steal his line.]  Thor throws Mjölnir, which Hela crushes.  The brothers try to make it to Asgard, but Hela attacks them while in transit and throws them out.  When Hela arrives at the Bifrost, she instantly stabs Volstagg and Fandral for moving against her.  Skurge just wants to survive, so she takes him with her.

Thor lands on Sakaar, in a rubbish heap.  A crew try to take him prisoner, but another woman comes along and claims him instead, with a little shocking device (she’s also a little drunk).  Thor meets the Grandmaster and hears about his contest of champions.  If Thor wants his freedom, he has to defeat the Grandmaster’s contender.  Loki is also in the background and the brothers bicker a little; Loki was thrown out first and landed before Thor, but managed to befriend the Grandmaster instead of be trapped.  Loki later visits his brother in the prison, while Thor holds a quiet, private memorial for Odin, which Loki joins.   Though it’s just an illusion; Thor can easily throw rocks through Loki lied to both of them.  Yet, when Thor argues he wants to return to Asgard, Loki insists that Hela is stronger.  They could wait a while, and make their own way off Sakaar and go anywhere.  Thor finally reviews Loki’s actions; he faked his death, stripped Odin of his powers and stole the throne, left Odin on Earth, to die, which released the goddess of death.  And that is only the past two days.  Loki warns his brother that anyone who faces the Grandmaster’s contender perishes; and he’s bet heavily against Thor. 

[Let’s stop and consider a few things for a moment, since Loki is one of my favorite characters: He joined in the memorial for Odin; he still considers Odin to be his father, as much as he sneeringly denies it at times.  He is genuinely concerned for his brother going against Hela.  He claims Hela as “our sister.”  His voice rises when he tells Thor he doesn’t stand a chance.  So, as much as Loki argues to the contrary; he’s still Thor’s brother, he’s still Odin’s son.  And, as Hela pointed out, Loki picked up some of Odin’s mannerism, offering to come to a deal.  And supposedly, the Asgardians didn’t notice a difference in Loki ruling as Odin.]

Meanwhile, in Asgard, Hela greets the guards and claims her right to rule as Odin’s firstborn.  The guards attack and she has fun slaying them all; Hogun being the last one standing.  While Hela and Skurge are busy outside the palace, Heimdall steals his sword from Bifrost (preventing Hela from rampaging the cosmos).  Inside the palace, Hela reveals that Odin covered up the history he had with Hela; how they won the Nine Realms by spilling buckets of blood.  But when Hela grew too ambitious, Odin locked her away.  Below the palace, the dead guards are buried and she uses the Eternal Flame to revive them, along with the gigantic wolf, Fenris [who does play a part in the traditional Ragnarök myth].

Thor is sent to face the Grandmaster’s contender and Korg, his rock buddy in prison, points out that the woman who caught Thor is an Asgardian.  Thor recognizes her as a Valkyrie, due to a tattoo, and tries to ask for her help.  She dismisses him.  Thor then has to face a haircut from Stan Lee, and enters the ring.  Turns out, the champion is Hulk.  Thor is ecstatic; “he’s a friend from work.”  Loki is decidedly not.  But Thor cannot reason with the Banner portion, he cannot use tricks to calm him down.  So they pummel each other, Hulk even smashing Thor like he did Loki in New York, which Loki gleefully shouts “that’s how it feels!” [and the funniest part of the movie].  This triggers lightning to come out of Thor and the ante is upped.  And just when Thor is ready to finish Hulk, the Grandmaster shocks Thor and he passes out.

But he wakes up in Hulk’s chambers (briefly shirtless, I think that’s a rule) and tries to pick up their friendship.  He realizes that Hulk came to Sakaar in the Quinjet and that is a way off.  But Hulk wants to stay.  Thor manages to contact Heimdall and check on the situation in Asgard.  The people hide from Hela.  Heimdall suggests Thor go through the big doorway to get off the planet.  Hulk is friends with Valkyrie and Thor attempts to recruit her, but Valkyrie wants nothing to do with Hela.  She’s happy to drink and forget.  Thor manages to get out and to the Quinjet, but the Hulk destroys it when he wants Thor to stay.  Triggering a video from Black Widow brings Banner back, who is concerned he stayed as the Hulk for two years.  If that happens again, Banner may not come back.

The Grandmaster sends Loki and Valkyrie to find Thor and Hulk, though after a brief fight, in which Loki also discovers who Valkyrie is, they team up with Thor and Banner to get off Sakaar, through the largest portal.  Loki can help them get a ship.  Thor and Loki fight together, and Loki suggests he goes separate ways from Thor.  And Thor agrees; at one point, he thought the world of Loki, but Loki keeps betraying him, and their paths diverged long ago.  He still suggests they do “get help.”  Loki does not want to do “get help.”  They do “get help” and Thor throws Loki at the guards.  Loki attempts to betray Thor, but Thor is a step ahead this time, and slaps a shocker on Loki.  Korg and his revolution eventually free Loki, who takes a larger transport to follow Thor.  Thor steals one of the Grandmaster’s ships and Valkyrie helps clear their path off planet.

Hela and Skurge are threatening the people, who are trying to make it to the Bifrost with Heimdall, but an army is behind them and Fenris is in front of them.  Thor sits on the throne to draw Hela to him.  He even tries to bond with Hela, that Odin’s solutions to problem was to either cover it up, or cast it out.  But Thor is wise enough to know he cannot trust Hela; he’d love for someone else to take the thrown, but she’s just the worst.  In the ensuing fight, Hela slices out one of Thor’s eyes, so now he looks like Odin.

Meanwhile, Valkyrie starts to clear a path for the Asgardians.  Bruce turns into the Hulk and takes on Fenris (after smooshing into the rainbow bridge as Bruce first).  A transport ship arrives for the people, Loki proudly declaring “your savior is here!”  Heimdall knew Loki would show up, and Loki joins him against the army.

Thor is losing the fight against Hela and she taunts him, “what were you the god of again?”  Thor has a vision of Odin, who counsels him that Mjölnir was only a way for Thor to focus and control his power.  And Asgard is the people, not a place.  Thor fears he is not as strong as Odin; not, Odin tells him, Thor is stronger.  This triggers lightning from Thor again and he blasts his sister (notice the pride on Loki’s face), and a repeat of the Immigrant Song.  And a totally epic image of Thor smashing through the ranks with lightning.  The heroes still struggle and Hela tries to stop the transport ship.  Skurge jumps out from where he was hiding to take on the army, but Hela spears him.

Thor realizes the only way they can defeat Hela is to destroy Asgard; she’ll lose her power.  They have to trigger Ragnarök.  He sends Loki (whom he knew would show up) to the vault to put Surtur’s crown in the Eternal Flame.  The devil-like creature is happy to smash, though Hulk tries to take him on and Thor has to call him back.  Hela rallies for a moment, but Surtur still smashes her.  Sadly, the planet is destroyed, but the people survive.  And Loki is there to stand beside his brother (and we hope they did hug).  Loki is not sure about returning to Earth, but Thor feels everything will work out fine.  There is an ominously huge ship that appears in front of them.

I find this film funnier than several of the other Marvel movies. It’s an appropriate amount of humor; Love and Thunder just tried too hard.   Thor is more off the cuff and even Loki is more relaxed.  We continue to see more of a sibling relationship between Thor and Loki, like throwing things at each other, anticipating each other’s moves.  And playing Led Zepplin’s Immigrant Song makes it badass; and the lyrics match well, as my father pointed out: “We come from the land of ice and snow/From the midnight sun where the hot springs flow/The hammer of the god/Will drive our ships to new lands/To fight the horde, sing and cry/Valhalla, I am coming.”

We also witness two kickass female characters…with absolutely no love interests!  Hela reveals in being the goddess of death [Cate Blanchett is plain awesome].  Valkyrie doesn’t take crap from anyone.

I’ve recently started my research on Norse mythology, with a course from Wondrium, that covered the basics of their legends and clearly stated that Marvel got the legend wrong.  It was fairly interesting, though I intend to follow up with some books I already own (including the tome by Neil Gaiman).

At the time of writing this blog, sadly Ray Stevenson, the actor who portrays Volstagg [among other roles, such as Porthos in the 2011 Three Musketeers] passed away on May 21st.

I am incredibly busy for the next month, so Black Panther will be a while coming (but it will come).  In the meantime, who are your favorite MCU characters?

“Yeah, a kid who can stop a bus with my bare hands.”

Spider-Man: Homecoming

Still a part of Sony Pictures, but they collaborated to bring Spider-Man into the MCU.  Tom Holland [approved by Stan Lee] is the newest actor to take on the lead role.  Jon Favreau as Happy Hogan makes an appearance, as does Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark.  Zendaya (Greatest Showman) is Michelle, or more commonly called, MJ.  Michael Keaton (Batman in the 1989 film [and it looks like he is reprising that role in the upcoming Flash film]) is Adrian Toomes, AKA the Vulture.  Donald Glover (who we saw as a young Lando Calrissian in the Solo movie), makes an appearance as Aaron Davis.  And if the principal looks familiar, that is Kenneth Choi, who played Jim Morita, one of the Howling Commandos in First Avenger; now he’s Principal Morita, a descendant of Jim.  (Fun side note, Jennifer Connelly voices the Karen A.I in the spider-suit; she is married to Paul Bettany, whom we know in the MCU as JARVIS, in the first few Iron Man suits.  It is also noted that “Homecoming” has many connotations as a title; obviously it is the dance that occurs in the film, then there’s coming home from Berlin, and finally, a homecoming for the Spider-Man character to the MCU.)

We throwback a little to the end of the first Avengers film and a crew is cleaning up the aftermath of the invasion.  They are interrupted by a government agency, the Department of Damage Control, in conjunction with Tony Stark, so Toomes looses the contract and is thus out a fair bit of money.  He and his crew decide to keep the last load of exotic materials they forgot to turn over.  They create gadgets out of them and prepare to change their worlds.  This continues for eight years to bring us to the present day; Toomes now flies around picking up scrap from the Damage Control as the Vulture, with a flying suit.

In Spider-Man’s case, we start with his appearance in Civil War; he makes a behind the scenes video for himself and receives a new suit from Tony.  Then Tony is dropping Peter back off at home, counting this as an internship as an alibi, and tells Peter to keep the suit.  No, there are no missions planned for Peter anytime soon, but keep doing the little stuff and keep in contact with Happy, Tony tells him.  And in a very Tony Stark fashion, also tells the teen “Just don’t do anything I would do.  And definitely don’t do anything I wouldn’t do.”  And so, Peter blows up Happy’s phone, checking in for two months, asking about any new missions and reporting on stopping bike thieves and little old ladies.

We also meet Peter Parker’s friends; Ned, who he builds Lego Death Stars with; there’s MJ, who watches them; Peter also has a crush on Liz.  Sadly, Flash is a bully and doesn’t believe that Peter actually has an internship with Tony Stark.  Peter is also part of the academic decathlon at Midtown Science and Technology school (which showcases Howard Stark, Abraham Erskine, and Bruce Banner in the background), but he’s trying to drop out of nationals since he feels he needs availability in case Tony calls.  MJ points out he’s dropped out of band and robotics club already (she’s just observant, she swears).

Then, Peter comes upon bank robbers with high-tech gear.  He’s got the banter down, but one of the ray guns slices through the bank and across the street, to the bodega that Peter visits during the day.  He rushes over to save the owner and his cat, but now Spider-Man is going to be on the lookout for those weapons.  Peter sneaks home, still in his suit because the garbage bin his bookbag was webbed to was taken away.  He crawls up the wall and through the window, and only discovers Ned when he turns around.  He makes his friend swear not to tell anyone; he doesn’t want to worry his Aunt May.  So now Ned wants to help Peter as Spider-Man, be his “guy in the chair.”

When the boys find out that Liz has a crush on Spider-Man (in gym class, where they show Captain America videos mandated by the state), Ned blurts out that Peter knows Spider-Man through the Stark Internship.  This gains them an invitation to Liz’s party (and we find out she’s a senior, compared to their sophomore status), with Flash cracking that Peter should bring Spider-Man.  Peter’s not comfortable using Spider-Man like that and when he suits up, he discovers lights coming from a weapons deal.  He breaks it up, then tries to follow the bad guys…and we discover that Spider-Man is not meant for the suburbs; there aren’t a lot of tall buildings for his webs to latch on to and for him to swing around.  So he gets dragged around by the van, until the Vulture swoops down and grabs him.  Then he drops him in a lake.  Luckily, the suit has a parachute, but Peter still struggles in the water.  Another suit dives in and pulls him out; it’s Iron Man.  Well, his suit; Tony’s somewhere more exotic.  He does lecture Peter (while showing off there’s a heater in Spider’s suit) and breaks out the classic “because I said so!” line.  Peter should leave the weapons and guys in suits alone; there are other people to handle that (but not the Avengers).  Peter should stay closer to the ground, help the little guy, and be the friendly neighborhood Spider-Man.  Peter points out that Tony thought he was ready for the big leagues by taking him up against Captain America.  To which Tony retorts, that if Cap had wanted to really hurt Peter, he would have [so Tony was counting on Steve not wanting to hurt his friends; at that point, Steve wouldn’t go for the kill…Tony still gets called out for his decision in the fandom].  His parting words to Peter are, if Peter comes across these weapons again, call Happy (who is also busy packing up the Avengers tower and moving everything to the new facility upstate).

On his way home, Peter finds part of the weapon that was shot at him and takes it with him.  Then beats on it with a hammer during shop class, trying to get the power source out.  Ned happily helps with that part.  Meanwhile, Toomes intended for his merchandise to be moved under the radar and not draw the attention of the cops or the Avengers, but now they’re being shot out in the open by an idiot.  Who accidently ends up dead.  There’s talk of a big job, but Toomes wants to hold off yet.  He sends some guys out to track down the missing weapon piece, so Peter spots them at the school.  He puts a tracker on them and finds them heading to Maryland.  It just so happens that Nationals for the academic decathlon are held in Washington D.C.  He gets back on the trip and in his hotel room, has Ned help him pull the tracker out of his suit so Happy and Tony don’t know what he’s doing.  He also has Ned turn off the “Training Wheel Protocol,” giving him more access to the suit.  Including its own A.I. voice, whom he names Karen.  Ned doesn’t think this is all a good idea, but Peter convinces him, then sneaks out to follow the crooks (there’s a deleted scene that shows the school bus passing the Triskelion mess that is still being cleaned up, and MJ comments on the situation; the Avengers are creating a lot of messes that Damage Control is cleaning up and so the crooks have a steady supply of parts they can steal).

Peter does interrupt the Vulture grabbing a load, but gets stuck in the truck, which is then parked in a secure warehouse.  It does allow him time to run a refresher course on his new web capabilities, but he gets bored soon and works on breaking out of the warehouse; especially when he finds out the core of the weapon he found, that he passed along to Ned for safekeeping, is explosive.  Peter misses the decathlon, yet Midtown wins thanks to MJ.  The team heads to the Washington Monument to celebrate and the scanners activate the core, which goes off in the elevator.  Spider-Man races to the scene and scales the building, having to crash through a window near the top, then web the elevator.  It still falls, but he manages to stop it.  He has to grab Liz at the last second, but once she’s safe, he drops.

Meanwhile, the Vulture and his crew are not happy with Spider-Man appearing and breaking up their business.  So, Toomes plans to kill Spider-Man (though he has to be grateful that Spider-Man saved his daughter in DC).

In typical teenage fashion, Peter is riding the high from his rescue and plans to skip out on school so he can continue to be Spider-Man and join the Avengers, but he’s caught by the principal and is in trouble for missing Nationals.  They show another cheesy Captain America video during detention, but Peter leaves when Steve poses “what would Captain America do?”  He gathers web fluid from under the lockers and works on hunting down the crooks.  He tries interrogating the guy he saved from the deal, who turns out to be helpful, but also comments that Peter has to get better at that part of the job; he sounds young and not intimidating.  Peter heads to the Staten Island Ferry to break up the next deal and hangs up on Tony when Stark calls to acknowledge a job well down in DC.  Then the FBI shows up to break up the operation, but Peter still goes after the Vulture.  Webbing one of the guns ends up cutting the ferry in two.  (Vulture has a point when he says Spider-Man is messing with things he doesn’t understand.)  Peter tries to web it back together, even holding the two pieces himself.  Luckily, Iron Man shows up and pushes it together and seals it back up.  It is actually Tony in the suit and he is furious.  When Peter protests that the adults need to listen to him, Tony points out he did; that’s why the FBI was there.  Peter just wanted to be like Tony; and Tony wanted him to be better.  Tony doesn’t want anything to happen to Peter and for that to be on his conscience; so he takes the suit.  Peter protests he’s nothing without the suit.  Then he shouldn’t have it, Tony tells him.

When Peter returns home, May is worried sick.  She knows he’s been cutting class and school and the decathlon.  She knows he’s sneaking out and begs him to talk to her.  She then comforts him when he quietly tells her he lost the Stark Internship.  At school, the principal gives him another chance; Peter’s a good kid.  And he’s on his best behavior now.  He hangs out with Ned and they complete the Lego Death Star.  He apologizes to Liz about decathlon and manages to ask her to homecoming.  May eagerly helps him prepare.

When Peter arrives to pick Liz up for the dance, he sees Toomes and recognizes him.  He’s distracted as they drive to the dance, and the chatting leads Toomes to realizing that Peter is Spider-Man.  He has a conversation with the boy (with a gun in his hand) in front of the school.  In return for Spider-Man saving Liz, Toomes is offering Peter the chance to walk away from taking down Vulture and his crew.  But if Peter persists, Toomes will go after Peter’s family.  Peter makes his decision as he walks into the dance.  He apologizes to Liz, then dashes down the hall.  He pulls out his old suit from under the lockers, but is met by one of the crew outside.  Ned comes along and helpfully subdues the guy, saving Spider-Man.  Peter has Ned call Happy, who is busy with the last steps of moving stuff out of the Avengers Tower (including Cap’s new shield and a magic belt for Thor).  Happy hangs up on Ned.  Peter steals Flash’s car to follow Toomes to a warehouse (he stashed his phone in the car for Ned to track; Ned is thrilled to be Peter’s “guy in the chair”…until he gets caught, then claims he was watching porn).  Toomes attempts talking to Peter again, claiming that guys like Tony Stark don’t understand what it’s like for guys like Toomes and Peter.  In reality, it’s a distraction, waiting for his wings to arrive.  They cut through support columns, which brings the warehouse crashing down onto Peter.

Peter freaks out [and all you want to do is wrap him in a hug] and calls out for help.  He sees his reflection mixed with the mask and recalls Tony’s words, that if he’s nothing without the suit, then he doesn’t deserve the suit.  His resolve strengthens and he lifts the rubble off him [one of my favorite parts].  He gets out in time to catch a ride with the Vulture, who has decided to do the big job, involving a high-altitude seal.  He attaches to the plane, which is autopiloted, and opens a doorway.  Toomes is thrilled with the hull, but Spider-Man breaks the seal.  And Vulture goes after Spider-Man.  The plane looses two engines in their fight, and then Peter has to steer the plane from crashing into a tower.  They crash onto a beach and Vulture goes after Spider-Man again.  Until he spots arc reactors and tries to take off with them.  Peter notices that his wings are sparking and tries to warn Toomes.  When a fire erupts, Peter gets up and drags Toomes out [another favorite part].  He webs Toomes to the gear and leaves another note for Happy, who saw the explosion.

Peter apologizes to Liz again, as she’s leaving school; she just hopes he works out what’s going on.  Happy picks Peter up from decathlon and takes him upstate to meet with Tony.  Tony commends Peter again for his actions and offers him an official place with the Avengers.  Peter considers it for a minute, then turns it down; he’d rather stay a friendly neighborhood Spider-Man for now.  Tony’s impressed, but then Pepper comes out, wanting to know what their announcement is going to be.  Happy has been carrying around a diamond ring since 2008 and throws it to Tony.  Pepper’s not too mad.  At home, Tony left the suit for Peter again and he eagerly puts it back on.  Except May is standing in the background now.  In the credits, we see Toomes approached by another criminal, who wants to know Spider-Man’s identity.  Toomes claims that if he knew who was under the mask, they’d be dead already.  [Yet we shouldn’t commend Toomes too much because he did knowingly attempt to kill a fifteen-year-old, who also happens to be a classmate of his daughter’s.]  And at the very end, is another Captain America video on patience, that sometimes we wait so long for something that ends up being disappointing…no, there is not clue as to the next video and Cap just wants to know how many more PSA’s he has to make.

To be fair, several characters can take part of the blame for actions in the film.  Tony recruited Peter to help fight against several superheroes, but didn’t lay ground rules for Peter after.  Peter himself tries to handle big problems on his own in an effort to prove himself to Tony.  Happy is dismissive of Peter’s calls, but then, Peter did send him a lot of messages, but adults didn’t listen to the teenager when he really had something important to say.  At the end of the day, we still root for Peter because he has honest, good intentions; he desperately wants to help.  He’s just fifteen.  He does show maturity throughout the film; he’s willing to apologize when he can, he’s not keen on being Spider-Man at a party, remarking to Ned that Spider-Man is not there for party tricks.

This movie got me interested in the MCU again, because after the last couple, my interest was waning.  But Tom Holland and thus Spider-Man is adorable, in that way that you want to hug someone and protect them [admittedly, I am not very familiar with the other Spider-Man movies, though I’ve watched the Tobey Maguire ones once; but they seem more serious, while Tom’s is that dorky kid that I relate to.]  I also appreciate Tom’s background in dance (he was Billy Elliot on the West End) and the fact that he can do all those flips on his own; he did most of the stuntwork where possible as well.

This is a well-developed story, showing consequences for actions and gives the villain a motive; though again, he did try to kill a fifteen-year-old, well aware of who he was.  Property was damaged, but only one person died and they were a bad guy and Spider-Man was not the one to kill him.  A low-level criminal even respects Spider-Man for blindly offering to get shot instead of him.  Teenagers are played by teenagers and act like teenager, with appropriate embarrassment.

And at the end, we just want to watch Tony mentor Peter and Peter eventually join the Avengers and become part of a family.  There are several fanfiction stories I found after watching this movie, but I am saving my recommendations for a big Marvel round-up post after the last movie.

Up Next: Some more fun with Thor: Ragnarök

“So, we’re saving the galaxy again?” “I guess”

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

The Guardians are back, adding Kurt Russell (he was Colonel Jack O’Neil in the first Stargate movie [before Richard Dean Anderson took over in the series], and opposite Goldie Hawn in Overboard) as Ego, with an appearance by Sylvester Stallone as Stakar.

The film opens in Missouri, 1980, where we meet Peter’s mother, as well as his father, though we should note that there is something alien in the field.  Meredith is so pleased to find a spaceman.  Quick jump to thirty-four years later, and Peter is on a job with the other Guardians, with their usual antics.  Dancing baby Groot distracts us from the fight going on behind him.  They technically complete the job, but Rocket steals something from their client, which sends a fleet of ships after the Guardians, who still bicker and now have Nebula with them as a prisoner.  Rocket and Peter argue over who is the better pilot and they are only saved by the intervention of a new ship.  They crash land onto Berhert, where the other ship lands as well and their savior introduces himself as Ego, Peter’s father.  He invites Peter to his home planet to explain everything.  Gamora and Drax go with Peter, while Rocket and Groot remain with Nebula to fix the ship.

Meanwhile, Yandu and his Ravengers are partying (well, Yandu isn’t partying as much), then he meets another Ravanger, Stakar, who calls Yandu out for some of his prior jobs, including kidnapping young Peter.  He’s exiled, but manages to pick up another job, which is to find the Guardians of the Galaxy for their botched job.  He finds Rocket, who handles the crew pretty well with a myriad of traps, but Nebula manages to get free and sides with the crew that mutinies against Yandu for going soft (he’s just smart enough to not kill the Guardians of the Galaxy).  Nebula makes a deal with the new crew so she can hunt Gamora and kill her, then track down Thanos and kill him.  Yandu, Rocket, and Groot manage to escape, aided by Kraglin and go after Peter.

Ego shows off his planet to Peter, Gamora, and Drax, and they meet his…companion Mantis, who uses her empathy to help Ego sleep.  Peter already doesn’t trust Ego, but as Gamora puts it, “if he ends up being evil, we’ll just kill him.”  But Ego’s planet is beautiful and full of life.  Ego reveals he’s a Celestial; in essence, a god, small “g.”  He doesn’t quite know where he came from, but he’s been around millions of years.  He can control the molecules around him and in the planet and eventually formed himself into a human.  He didn’t want to be alone in the universe and eventually met Meredith Quinn on Earth.  When he discovered she had a son, he searched the galaxy for him, then heard of a human who could hold an Infinity Stone without dying and knew Peter must be part Celestial.  He swears to Peter that he wanted to be a father; Peter is not a mistake.  And he wants to teach Peter about the light.  But Peter is still mad that Ego left and never came back.  They partially make up when Peter is able to make a ball out of light and they play quintessential catch for a few minutes.

Peter is happy and even persuades Gamora to dance with him for a few minutes, then she ends up insisting that there is nothing between them.  And Mantis is hiding something from the heroes.  Nebula tracks down Gamora and they start fighting each other, then Nebula’s ship crashes and Gamora ends up saving Nebula.  Nebula finally shouts at Gamora that all she wanted was a sister; it was Gamora who was focused on being better and the victor.  During their argument, they find skeletons and have to make it back to the surface.

That’s where Ego is sharing his plan with Peter.  Peter is immortal as long as the light lives in the planet.  And Ego wants to spread throughout the galaxy.  In this Expansion, he planted thousands of extensions of himself (that weird alien planet from the beginning) on thousands of planets, with the intention that they will cover all that exists.  But one Celestial does not have enough power on their own.  So he needs Peter.  Mantis explains to our heroes that the bones the sisters found are Ego’s previous children, none of whom shared the Celestial gene; only Peter.  And Peter’s initially taken by Ego and on board with the plan until Ego admits he was the one who put the tumor in Meredith.  Peter is furious.  He tries shooting Ego, but Ego just reforms and spears Peter in order to use him as a battery.  One Earth, that plant bursts into a giant black wave that begins engulfing the town.

Yandu and the rest of the Guardians crash in.  Yandu admits he couldn’t hand Peter over as a child after he heard about what happened to the others.  Peter grudgingly forgives him and they focus on destroying Ego, meaning they have to strike at the center of the planet in order to kill him.  Mantis helps the Guardians by putting Ego to sleep, which works for a few minutes.  When he wakes up, he tries to crush Peter’s friends, continuing to insist that this is Peter’s purpose in life.  But Peter fights back, remembering the good times he’s had with his friends (even a brief clip of Yandu teaching a young Peter something), and his friends are released.  He continues to hold back Ego, growling that he shouldn’t have killed his mom.  Groot sets a bomb, but it still looks hopeless for the Guardians, with the planet falling apart around them.  Rocket gets everyone on the ship and takes off, without Yandu and Peter, saving his friends.  They all demand to know about Peter.  Peter is fine not being a god and watches Ego disintegrate.  Yandu is there to save him, using the jetpack himself, but putting the protective bubble on Peter when they hit space.  Yandu freezes, but Peter lives.    

They hold a Ravanger funeral for Yandu, whom Peter finally admits was his dad.  The life he was always looking for was right there.  Gamora asks Nebula to stay and they even hug, admitting they will always be sisters.  But Nebula wants to hunt down Thanos and leaves.  The other Ravangers come for Yandu’s funeral and everyone is fairly content.

This movie is about family; yes, Peter finally solves the problem of who his biological father is, but he also accepts other people in his life as family.  And the Guardians feel the same way, considering they demand to know where Peter is before they leave.  And I like that Peter is a little more serious in this film.  There are plenty of jokes cracked to keep the humor we know from this crew, but Peter doesn’t pass everything off as a joke.  He honestly wants to know this man who calls himself Peter’s father, but is also smart enough to not immediately trust him.  And he truly cares for Gamora and Gamora eventually returns his feelings.  Everyone experiences character growth (which is what you want in a sequel).

I’m looking forward to Next Time, we have Spider-Man: Homecoming

They put the warnings after the spells

Doctor Strange

Again, Marvel continues to expand their universe.  Benedict Cumberbatch (Sherlock, Smaug and the Necromancer in the Hobbit trilogy, Khan in Into the Darkness, Richard III in Hollow Crown, as well as appearing in War Horse and Amazing Grace) leads the big name cast as the titular Dr. Stephen Strange.  Rachel McAdams (famous for The Notebook, Mean Girls [how did those two come out in the same year?], and Irene Adler in Guy Ritche’s Sherlock Holmes [which gave birth to a meme that’s only expanded]) is Dr. Christine Palmer, Chiwetel Ejiofor (the Operative from the Firefly movie, Serenity) is Mordo, while Mads Mikkelsen (he’s Grindelwald in Fantastic Beasts, and Galen Erso in Rogue One.  He’s also Rochefort in 2011’s Three Musketeers and Le Chiffre in Casino Royale; needless to say, he’s experienced playing villains) is Kaecilius.  Tilda Swinton (a bit of a different role from portraying the White Witch in the Chronicles of Narnia films) is the Ancient One [and if you’re like me, and wondering why Pangborn is familiar looking, he’s Eric Matthews in Miss Congeniality.]

The film opens with Kaecilius beheading the librarian in order to rip pages from a book in order to do a dangerous ritual.  Change of scenery to a city and Kaecilius is confronted by someone in yellow robes with their hood up.  He shouts hypocrite while the world gets topsy-turvy.  The woman in yellow showcases her skill and Kaecilius and his followers run away. 

Another change in scenery and we meet a doctor as he preps for the operating room.  He’s a bit of a show off, but does help another doctor in a second operation when she asks.  We find out that Christine Palmer used to date Stephen Strange, but they chose different paths; her in the ER and he wants to advance new techniques.  Or show off and get credit; “everything is about you,” Christine remarks.  Stephen invites her to a ceremony, which is an award for him, but she declines.  We see that Stephen has done well for himself with the selection of watches and the fast car he has.  But as he’s checking out a new case (and turning down Rhodey’s spinal case we find out), his car crashes, glass shatters into his hands.  Christine is one of the doctors who rushes alongside him back into the hospital.  She’s the one to inform Stephen of the bad news; due to how long it took to get him into a hospital (most likely because it took time to discover he was missing and find him), there is severe nerve damage in his hands.  She encourages him to allows his body to heal, but he bites back “you’ve ruined me.”  So begins Stephen’s journey to get his hands back.  He asks different doctors for help, suggests experimental treatments.  But nothing brings them back to the way they were.  Christine tries to help him, but he pushes her away, being very rude to her one evening, saying that they hadn’t even made a good couple and tells her to leave.  So she does.

He eventually finds another patient who had had a supposedly hopeless case, but ended up walking again.  When he tracks down this Pangborn, he’s sent to Karma-Taj, which apparently resides in Nepal, because Stephen travels to Kathmandu.  He’s rescued from some thugs by Mordo, then taken before the Ancient One [and I do appreciate that the Ancient One is portrayed as a woman simply from the aspect that a woman is the head of this…religion I believe one could classify].  She is aware of who Stephen Strange is and explains that they are able to convince the body to put itself back together, by reorienting the spirit to heal the body (I don’t quite get the mix of medical and philosophical).  Stephen is disbelieving, so the Ancient One demonstrates by sending Stephen’s soul through different dimensions (and it gets a bit weird here).  He asks to be taught.  Mordo tosses him out.  But Stephen persists; sitting at the door, until the Ancient One lets him in based on his stubbornness, arrogance, and ambition, though she fears leading another gifted student who may ultimately betray her (like Kaecilius).

The Ancient One teaches Stephen that the language of the mystic arts is as old as civilization; they called it spells, but they actually harness energy from the multiverse [setting up the storylines after Endgame that we are not getting into because they are too confusing and I just didn’t have the energy after Endgame to continue with the crazy storylines.]  This energy they use to create shields and weapons.  It requires study and practice, which Stephen should be used to.  Stephen discovers the library and the new librarian, Wong.  He is told that no knowledge is forbidden, only certain practices.  Eventually, Stephen begins to study time, which is not something that is really allowed, but he also gets good at astral projecting and being in two places at one, and even allows his astral form to read while he sleeps.  He has his struggles, often blaming his hands, until the Ancient One leaves him on Mount Everest and he has to make his way back.  He succeeds and continues.  She also shows him the Mirror Dimension when his education progresses and he needs a safe place to practice; what occurs in the Mirror Dimension cannot influence the physical world.  Stephen’s study in time leads him to the book of time and the Eye of Agamotto.  He uses his new knowledge to bring the pages torn out of the book back and starts to read about the Dark Dimension.  He’s caught and stopped and warned not to tamper with natural law.  While the Avengers defend the world against physical dangers, sorcerers defend it against mystical dangers.  Stephen finds out about the three Sanctums; Hong Kong, London, and New York.  The Dark Dimension holds Dormamu, who is the cosmic conqueror and destroyer of worlds.

Then Kaecilius attacks the London Sanctum, which throws Stephen into the New York Sanctum.  Kaecilius soon arrives and kills the guard, and Stephen fights back…with some help from a cape (and the funniest bit of the movie).  Stephen is stabbed and transports himself to the hospital where Christine is and gets her help.  He has to go to the astral plane to fight another bad guy, and he ultimately lives and proves to Christine he’s not crazy, though she’s still a bit scared.  He returns to New York and keeps the cape.  But he has also discovered the Ancient One’s secret; she draws on the Dark Dimension while warning others away…that is how she has lived so long.  Stephen gets in an argument with Mordo, then Kaecilius is back and they try to trap him in in Mirror Dimension, but he fights it.  The Ancient One arrives and fights Kaecilius again.  This time, she’s stabbed and exits the Mirror Dimension.  Stephen takes her to Christine, but she freezes time for a single moment to talk to Stephen, bestowing words of wisdom.  Then she allows herself to die.  Stephen knows he must save the Hong Kong Sanctum, dragging Mordo with him, who is angry with the Ancient One. 

When they initially arrive, they are too late, but Stephen uses the Eye to begin to rewind time.  Eventually, he freezes it and confronts Dormamu.  He’s come to bargain and he has infinite time to repeat the same moment over and over and over again, which makes Dormamu his prisoner.  His price, take the zealots and leave, let Earth live.  Dormamu agrees and Kaecilius is dragged into the Dark Dimension and Hong Kong is saved.  Mordo has to figure out his new path and leaves.  Stephen agrees to put the Eye back and Wong points out that it is an Infinity Stone.  We see that Mordo has chosen a bloody path and hunts down Pangborn because this world now has too many sorcerers.  And a little taste of Thor is given when we see in the credits Stephen meets with the god, mentioning Odin and Loki.

Let me say that this film has a great cast.  However, as much as I’m interested in magic, I just can’t get into this film.  To me, the film is very one note. Yet, it is how we get this meme (and there’s another Sherlock if you include superhero movies in general with Henry Cavill as Superman/Sherlock in Enola Holmes):

Up Next: Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2

“Are we still friends?” “Depends on how hard you hit me.”

Captain America: Civil War

A turning point in the MCU and it acts more like an Avengers movie since most of the other characters appear in this film.  While we don’t have Thor or Bruce Banner, Clint and Scott Lang show up.  And T’Challa (played by the late Chadwick Boseman) and Peter Parker (played in this universe by Tom Holland) are introduced.  Martin Freeman (Watson in BBC’s Sherlock and Bilbo Baggins in the Hobbit trilogy) appears as Everett Ross.

The prologue of the film takes place in 1991 Russia, with the Winter Solider program, revealing a red book with a black star that holds information on the program, including the coded phrase that…activates, I guess you’d say, the solider.  Poor Bucky is screaming at one point, then chillingly responds in Russian to the phrase, “ready to comply,” showing that he’s no longer in control.  He carries out a mission involving a car crash and stealing a case.

Now, we’re in present day Lagos, and Steve’s team is on a mission to hunt down Rumlow.  They’ve brought Wanda with them, working on her training.  Rumlow’s after a biological weapon (and Sam gets to show off his new drone bird “Red Wing,” and some other tech).  [By the way, the guy holding the vial looked a bit familiar; because he’s played by Damion Poitier (who was the Incapacitator villain in the Lab Rats, Mighty Med crossover episode.]  When Rumlow faces off against Steve, he mentions Bucky as a way to distract Steve.  But Wanda is there to help get a bomb away, but it doesn’t work the best and the bomb takes out a corner of a building.  It is revealed that many of the ones killed were Wakandans and the king is unhappy and is now speaking to the UN.  Both Wanda and Steve blame themselves (and Vision decides to walk through a wall instead of an open door).

Tony’s speaking at MIT, demonstrating a project that can help people clear traumatic memories, using it to say goodbye to his parents like he never did.  And this is just a precursor to funding all the students’ projects.  But when it’s time to bring the head of the foundation out, Pepper is not there.  A mother confronts Tony in a hallway; her son was brilliant, but won’t get the funding because he was killed in Sokovia; and she holds Tony responsible.

Tony meets up with the rest of the team, inviting along the new Secretary of State, Ross (that guy who hates the Hulk).  Ross admits that the world owes the Avengers an unpayable debt, but now people are disagreeing with the destruction the Avengers leave in their wake, and taking battles into other countries.  So, 117 countries of the United Nations have put together the Sokovia Accords, to restrict the Avengers’ powers and supervision.   A panel will decide when and where the Avengers deploy.  The team has three days to sign; if not, they will be forced to retire.  The team begins splitting.  Tony and Rhodey are all for signing; agreeing they need to be held accountable, while Steve feels that they are giving up their right to choose.  Vision points out there may be a causality going on; since Tony revealed himself as Iron Man, there has been an uptick in enhanced individuals coming on the scene and major disasters happening.  While Tony argues they need put in check, Steve argues that the safest hands for this situation are their own.

Meanwhile, in Cleveland, the old Winter Soldier handler is attacked, by Zemo, and asked about the December 1991 mission.  Zemo claims the red book.

The Avengers’ argument is interrupted by Steve getting notified that Peggy Carter has passed away.  He’s a casket bearer at the funeral in London, accompanied by Sam.  Even Nat comes to pay her respects and comfort Steve.  They also find out that his apartment neighbor, Kate, is actually Peggy’s niece, Sharon Carter.  Peggy was a huge role model to live up to, so Sharon never revealed her relation.  She also gives a pointed eulogy that Peggy cautioned “compromise where you can.  Where you can’t don’t.  Even if everyone is telling you that something wrong is right.  Even if the whole world is telling you to move, it is your duty to plant yourself like a tree, look them in the eye and say No, you move.”

Natasha informs Steve that Tony, Rhodey, and Vision have all signed the Accords.  Clint is retired, and Nat will sign to keep everyone together.  Steve tells her he can’t.  Natasha attends the meeting at the UN in Vienna, meeting King T’Chaka and Prince T’Challa of Wakanda.  There’s an explosion while T’Chaka is speaking and T’Challa tries to get to his father, but he is killed.  The news reports that James Barnes is a suspect.  T’Challa intends to find Bucky, but Steve wants to find him first.  Sharon Carter helps out and Sam follows Steve.  They find Bucky in Bucharest [Sebastian Stan spoke his native Romanian language in the market scene] and Steve helps out when the special forces invade Bucky’s apartment.  Bucky insists he’s not going to kill anyone; he doesn’t do that anymore.  The Black Panther shows up on the roof of his apartment, and they take the fight to the streets, chasing each other, eventually causing an explosion and getting caught by Rhodey and the police and arrested.

Bucky remains a prisoner, and Sam and Steve have to turn in their weapons and suits, but manage to stay out of a jail cell.  On their drive, T’Challa explained that the Black Panther is the guardian of Wakanda.  They’re introduced to Everett Ross.  Tony tries to convince Steve again to sign the Accords (after confirming that he and Pepper are taking a break; to Steve’s disappointment, he was hoping Tony was going to announce her pregnancy).  Tony insists they need Steve; he doesn’t want to see him gone.  And Tony feels that he is doing what has to be done in order to stave off worse.  Both men cannot stop being who they are.  Steve still won’t sign.

Zemo, masquerading at the psychologist, beings to ask Bucky questions.  When the lights go out (thanks to an EMP he planted elsewhere in the city), he rattles off the code words to activate Bucky.  Then he escapes and Bucky fights the Avengers, without their suits.  Even T’Challa goes after him (and they all show off how well they fight even without their suits.)  Bucky makes it to a helicopter, but Steve pulls it back down.  It falls and takes them both into the water.  This time, Steve pulls Bucky out.  Zemo heads to Moscow.  When Bucky wakes up, he remembers old Steve; then tells them that Zemo wanted to know about Siberia.  And bombshell, Bucky is not the only Winter Soldier.  Sam and Steve realize that with the split in the Avengers, they have less help than normal; they don’t think they can go to Tony, or even if we wanted to help if he could, with the Accords controlling his actions.  But, Sam knows a guy (remember the stinger to Ant-Man?)

Secretary Ross goes to Tony and Tony insists that he brings in Bucky and Steve.  Ross gives him 36 hours.  Nat and Tony both have ideas on who can help.  Nat’s idea is downstairs.  Tony’s in in Queens.  A teenage kid that Tony has figured out is Spider-Man.  He intends to upgrade Peter’s suit and convinces him to come to Germany with Tony, though they can’t tell Aunt May why.  Peter protests because he has homework, but Tony just rolls his eyes [and Robert’s comment in the scene, “I’m going to sit here, move your leg,” was because Tom forgot the blocking, but it worked well in the scene, so they kept it.]

Next, Clint enters the Avengers compound to retrieve Wanda, who has been instructed to remain inside by Tony, watched over by Vision.  Wanda and Vision have created a friendship, so they don’t want to hurt each other, but Clint has to hold him off in order to get Wanda out, making a crack about coming out of retirement for this.  Then Wanda stops Vision so she can leave and they can help Steve.  She’s decided that while she can’t control other people’s fear, she can control hers.  So the teams both head to an airport and lineups are revealed.  Scott Lang joins Clint, Wanda, Sam, and Bucky with Steve.  While Vision, Rhodey, Natasha, T’Challa, and Peter side with Tony.  Steve tries to explain, and Nat quips “do you really want to punch your way out?”  Tony accuses Steve of tearing the Avengers apart.  The fight starts (and yes, it is pretty cool, even though we wish they really weren’t fighting.)  Ultimately, Steve’s goal is to get him and Bucky out of there, and Clint agrees that the rest of them won’t get out.  Scott grows gargantuan at one point, grabbing Rhodey, to which Tony says “give me back my Rhodey.”  It is also hilarious that Peter’s idea is to treat him like an AT-AT from Hoth in Empire Strikes Back (and of course, the teenager calls this all old).  And hey, it works.  Peter also gets to face off against Steve and there’s a little New York rivalry going on.  Nat holds off T’Challa to let Steve and Bucky through, then Sam dodges a shot from Vision, which then hits Rhodey.  Rhodey crashes to the ground, Tony landing shortly after him, followed by Sam, who is concerned for the other man.  Steve and Bucky fly off.

Those who opposed Tony are locked up on a prison in the middle of the ocean, Clint and Scott very angry, and Sam still shows concern about Rhodey.  Tony has found out that Steve’s story of Bucky’s innocence holds some ground (they found the murdered phycologist’s body), and he wants to help.  So Sam gives him an idea where to go.  He finds Steve and Bucky in the bunker, and the dead soldiers.  But Zemo has loaded a video for Tony to watch.  That mission that Bucky took in December of 1991, that caused a car crash?  That was Howard and Maria Stark and the video shows Bucky killing them.  Which understandably gets Tony angry and Steve of course tries to defend his friend, but he also reveals that he had found out before Tony and never told him.  While Tony goes after Steve and Bucky, T’Challa stalks Zemo.  Zemo confirms that he wanted to destroy the Avengers and figured the best way was to pit them against each other.  T’Challa stops the other man from committing suicide; while T’Challa will not allow himself to be ruled by vengeance any longer, he will not let Zemo get away so easily: “the living are not done with you yet.”

There’s a pause in the fight between Steve, Tony, and Bucky, and Steve cautions Tony that this fight won’t change what happened.  Tony doesn’t care, Bucky killed his mom [note that he’s more upset over his mom’s death; but we know that Tony has a complicated relationship with Howard; he even admitted to Steve earlier that because of Howard’s obsession with Captain America, Tony grew up hating him.]  Tony attacks again.  When Bucky sees Steve in trouble, he picks up the shield and attacks Tony.  The two trade off on the shield until Bucky goes for Tony’s arc reactor.  Tony blasts off Bucky’s metal arm.  Steve’s furious now and trades blows with Tony.  He kneels in front of Bucky, telling Tony “he’s my friend.”  He won’t abandon him.  Well, Tony though he was Steve’s friend as well.  Tony tells Steve to stay down.  Of course, Steve’s not the person to stay down.  He gets back up, quipping “I can do this all day.”  Tony lines up a shot, but Bucky distracts him, which then allows Steve to grab Tony, then pummel him, grabbing his shield, smashing the arc reactor (at least instead of Tony’s unprotected head).  Tony yells for Steve to drop the shield.  Steve complies and helps Bucky out, leaving Tony behind.

Tony returns to the compound to help Rhodey with leg braces, and receives a package from Steve [delivered by Stan Lee, calling Tony “Stank”], containing a letter and phone in case Tony ever needs him.  The Avengers are more Tony’s family and Steve’s going to stick with Bucky.  Steve also retrieves his teammates from the Raft prison, then is allowed sanctuary in Wakanda (probably because T’Challa is making up for going after Bucky, who he knows is now innocent.)  Bucky also allows the Wakandans to put him back in cyro until they can get the Winter Soldier training out of his head.  The final stinger in the credits is May bringing Peter some ice due to the bruise from getting hit by Steve, a guy from Brooklyn, Peter admits.  And, he’s got some new tech.

I am not going to dissect the argument over the Accords between the two sides because I feel they should have found a third alternative.  They should have tried to figure out how to keep the team together.  If Steve and Tony were better at communicating with each other, they may have not gotten in a fight.  Of course Steve is going to protect Bucky; Bucky had his back all those years when Steve was a weaker man, he’s going to return the favor.  And yes, Steve should have told Tony about the attack on his parents; because keeping quiet on that stuff in order to “protect” someone never works out.  And all parties involved are lucky that the worst that happened during that big face off was Rhodey getting injured (most likely paralyzed to a degree); someone could have gotten killed.  Tony, Steve, and Bucky were certainly going for the jugular in their last fight.  Yes, they’re humans and have emotions and reactions, but they’re also grown-ups and heroes, and we just end up disappointed in them by the end of the film.

On a more positive note, I enjoyed the new characters who were introduced (who later get spectacular solo films).  Peter is adorable, chatting through his fight, because he’s supposed to be this nerdy teenager who’s just pumped to be around all these heroes.  And the airport fight sequence is admittedly cool.

Up Next: Doctor Strange

This one actually can control ants


Marvel continues to add characters to its line-up.  Paul Rudd (known for his comedy films) leads the cast as Scott Lang, Michael Douglas (in my house, we know him for Romancing the Stone, The Jewel of the Nile, and American President) is Dr. Hanky Pym, while Evangeline Lily (we’ll see her in the Hobbit movies as Tauriel) is his daughter, Hope Van Dyne.  Judy Greer (from 27 Dresses) is Scott’s ex, Maggie, David Dastmachian (Murdoc from the 2016 MacGyver) is Kurt, and Anthony Mackie makes an appearance as the Falcon.  Hayley Atwell and John Slattery reprise their roles as Peggy Carter and an older Howard Stark in the prologue to the film, which is set in 1989, while the Triskelion is being built.  Hank storms in to confront Stark, claiming he’s stealing his research.  Howard and Peggy attempt to calm Hank down, but the other man in attendance, Mitchell Carson makes a crack about Hank’s deceased wife.  Hank punches him and resigns, while Stark pleads that Hank’s research is revolutionary science and they need him.  Hank declares that no one will get the formula to his Pym Particles as long as he lives.  Peggy assures them that Hank is not a security risk and Stark agrees with her, unless they make him one.

In present times, there is a fight going on in jail, which is actually a weird good-bye ritual the inmates do when someone leaves.  Scott’s buddy Luis picks him up and lets him crash at his place until Scott can find a job.  Though Luis first offers another criminal job, but Scott insists he is finished with that.  He wants to be able to see his daughter and doesn’t want to get arrested again.  Scott feels with a Master’s in Electrical Engineering, he’ll find a job easily.  Not so much.  He ends up at Baskin-Robbins (dealing with an idiot customer), but his record is found out and he’s fired.  Luis, joined by Dave and Kurt, offer the criminal job again.  Scott again insists he is out, and emphasizes that he burgles, which involves not threatening.  But when he visits his daughter’s birthday party and speaks to his ex-wife, he realizes he needs to do something to make money so he can have a chance at visiting his daughter.  [It is rather sweet that his daughter absolutely adores him and later, her mother even defends her ex-husband, saying he’s not a bad man, just confused.]

Meanwhile, at Hank’s company, he makes a rare appearance when the new head of the company, Darren Cross, has an announcement.  Hank’s daughter, Hope is working for Darren and is cold to her father.  But afterwards, it’s shown to be a partial act; she’s helping her father take down Darren.  Darren has found Hank’s old “Ant-Man” research, about shrinking people down to the size of an insect and carrying out covert work.  Darren has developed the Yellow-Jacket suit and touts it as an “all purpose weapon of war,” (and sounds a lot more dangerous for the world.)  Hope insists to her father in their plans that she can use the suit.  Hank tells her he’s found a guy.

Scott agrees to the criminal job, which is to break into an old man’s house and break into the safe (explained through a rambling story).  Scott proves to be a bit of a MacGyver [which is ironic with the Murdoc of the newer series sitting there], but when he opens the safe, there’s only a strange suit inside.  He takes it anyways and gets out.  Out of curiosity, he tries on the suit later and pushes the buttons on the gloves.  He shrinks down and a voice echoes in the helmet, telling him it will be his trail by water (since Luis is starting a shower).  Scott then falls through a crack in the floor and begins his adventure.  When he returns to normal size, Scott tries to return the suit, but is caught by the police.

Hank visits Scott at the station and offers him a choice.  He explains that he had set up the case for Scott and watched him the whole time.  If he wants a second chance, await further instructions.  With the suit, Scott is able to escape prison and finds his way back to Hank’s house, where he meets Hope, who is not happy for Scott to be brought into the plan.  Turns out, Hank has been watching Scott since his burglary and how he beat the security system.  Hank fills Scott in and Scott’s first reaction is that they should call the Avengers.  No, Hank won’t let Stark near his technology and the Avengers are too busy dropping cities out of the sky (a callback to Age of Ultron, but at least a character is aware enough that hey, this is a universe with the Avengers, they can help).  Hank needs Scott to be Ant-Man (and Hank won’t risk his daughter).  So they begin training, Hope reluctantly helping, though she seems to enjoy beating Scott up.  Hank warns Scott against messing with the suit too much, primarily the regulator; he risks entering the Quantum Realm where he would continue shrinking for all time.  When Hope storms out, Scott talks to her, admitting that he’s the expendable part of this plan, because he recognizes that Hank does not want to risk Hope.  And Hank finally admits what really happened to his wife; they were a team years ago, she was the Wasp, and while on a mission, she entered the Quantum Realm in order to take out a missile, but she never returned.  Hope understands more now.

Part of their plan requires a bit of Stark tech, so Scott is sent to an old warehouse in upstate New York.  Turns out that old Stark property has been turned into the new Avengers compound (that we saw in Ultron).  And Sam is on patrol and his goggles allow him to spot shrunken Scott.  There is a rather good fight between the two, Scott going between being shrunk and normal-sized, and he manages to get into the building and retrieves the item they need.  Then he shrinks into Falcon’s suit and messes with it, so Sam can’t follow (and Sam requests that Cap never finds out about this).

They hit a bit of a snag when Darren Cross, who has managed to successfully shrink a lamb, is at Hank’s home.  Hope keeps her cover, but they have to move fast now.  Hank has promised to be at Cross’s next announcement, so Scott suggests calling in his buddies to help, though Hank and Hope don’t hold much hope in their skills.  Scott pays a quick visit to his daughter at night before he goes on the mission.  Luis is the security guard inside, who helps Scott enter through the water main.  When the cops show up to arrest Hank for springing Scott from a holding cell, his buddies distract the cops so Hank can get in.  Scott uses his training to plant bombs throughout the building and almost has the Yellow Jacket suit in his grasp, but Cross was onto him.  He’s ready to sell his tech to Hydra, though he holds on to the shrinking solution for more money.  He threatens Hank and Scott manages to escape, though Hank is still shot.  In the chaos, Cross escapes with the suit, they send Scott after him.  Hank had shrunk a tank, so he and Hope use that to escape.  Cross causes more damage, but the good guys exit the building before it explodes.  Then Cross puts on the suit and heads to Scott’s daughter’s home, knowing Scott will follow him.  They shrink down and have a fight amongst the girl’s toys (which is a bit funny to watch from the outside).  Scott has to go subatomic to enter Cross’s suit and he’s almost lost in the Quantum Realm, but hears his daughter calling for him and switches the regulator so he can get out.  Cross is destroyed and Scott patches the relationship up between his ex, her fiancé, and his daughter.  He also begins kissing Hope, though they’re caught.

Luis has another rambling story that the Falcon is looking for Scott.  Which ties in with the scene at the end of the credits that we now know is part of Civil War, where Sam tells Steve he knows a guy who can help.  In the credits, Hank also gives Hope the Wasp suit he was working on; he knows he should have her as part of that world now.

Ant-Man is not one of my favorite Marvel films, mainly because I don’t like bugs and I don’t want to see enlarged ants on screen.  The story is pretty good and the actors are wonderful; it just doesn’t drag me in.  Though, the daughter is adorable.  And I like how this is still exploding the Marvel universe, showing Hank working with Peggy and Howard Stark, and mentioning other Avengers.

So, next up is Captain America: Civil War  [and I have more of an opinion on this one]

“The city is flying and we’re fighting an army of robots. I have a bow and arrow. Nothing makes sense.”

Avengers: Age of Ultron

The big six are back together and working on taking down Hydra.  James Spader (he was Dr. Daniel Jackson in the original Stargate movie) voices Ultron, while Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Elizabeth Olsen (yes, she is the younger sister of Mary-Kate and Ashely Olsen) join as Pietro and Wanda Maximoff [in some versions of the comics, they are Magneto’s children, which explains their abilities.  In the MCU, they are not, and instead volunteered for the program.]  The Avengers find Struker’s facility and attack.  Strucker is holding Loki’s scepter, but he doesn’t want to risk the twins yet.  He tells his men to not surrender, but he is fine with surrendering himself and tells someone to destroy their evidence.

The team jokes around like many teams do in battle situations, Steve inadvertently calling Tony out for his language; and no, Tony is not going to let Steve live that down.  Steve continues to use his motorcycle as a weapon, tossing it when needed to.  Tony has built new suits, as an Iron Legion, to help protect the city as it takes fire during their assault.  He manages to bring down the shield and get inside [and his dialogue is funny at times, which helps the film].  The Maximoff twins have run off into the battle as well and manage to get Clint hit.  Natasha is called upon to calm the Hulk down once they’re finished.  Tony retrieves the scepter, but not until after Wanda has shown him a vision; of everyone dying and blaming him.  (She’s first shocked at his vision, then smiles when he takes the scepter; not making her the most trustworthy at the moment.)  The flight home is subdued, though Tony gets permission from Thor to check out the scepter before he returns it to Asgard.  Tony also makes a crack about Steve being the boss of the team, while Tony just pays for everything, but he is concerned about Clint and calls in a doctor friend.  (We do get a bit of the Avengers’ theme when the tower comes in.)

Steve finds out more about the twins [and Maria Hill’s explanation that “he’s fast and she’s weird” is a bit rude, in my opinion.  Though she did try to give a more technical explanation, but telekinesis is so much for than “weird,”] and makes a crack about “what kind of monster would let a German scientist experiment on them to protect their country?”  Proving that Steve recognizes he’s not so different from the twins, even if they’re not on the same side right now.  Tony and Bruce work on the scepter and discover that the gem at its center is actually protecting something else inside it; something they describe as a mind, similar to Jarvis.  Tony theorizes that it will help them create Ultron, in order to protect the world and bring about peace.  And no, he doesn’t want to debate it with the team because he doesn’t want them to say no, so he works alone with Bruce.  Once Bruce and Tony leave, Jarvis makes a connection with Ultron and tries to explain things, but Ultron makes the wrong conclusion and attacks Jarvis.

Meanwhile, Tony hosts a party and we get to see Sam Wilson and Rhodey for a few minutes.  Sam is happy to not be part of the firefight and carries on the search for Bucky for Sam.  Steve and Thor hang out with some veterans, while Bruce attempts to flirt with Natasha.  Once the party-goers have left, leaving our main team, they decide to test who can actually lift Thor’s hammer [best scene of the movie].  Clint can’t figure out the trick, Tony calls upon Rhodey and parts of their suits and still fails.  Steve gets Mjölnir to scootch just a smidge (Thor’s a little concerned in the background) and Natasha refuses to join in.  Ultron makes an appearance and ruins the party; he deploys Tony’s suits, one of which grabs the scepter and escapes.  Ultron believes that in his quest for world peace, he has to destroy the Avengers.

Once he leaves, this leads to a discussion amongst the team, who are not happy Tony did not share his plan with them.  Tony is more concerned with the big battle he saw as the endgame [they title dropped that one well in advance.]  Steve insists they’ll go at it together, Tony retorts that they’ll lose.  “And we’ll do that together, too.”

Ultron, in a new shiny body, finds the Maximoff twins; he knows that they blame Stark for some of their lot in life; it was his missiles that struck Sokovia and trapped them in their house.  So Wanda showed him a vision, knowing that Tony’s fear would control him and make him self-destruct.  Ultron agrees that everyone creates the thing they dread and repeats that in order to save the world, the Avengers have to be destroyed.  He will use Wanda to get in their heads.  Ultron then kills Struker, which gets back to the Avengers.  They begin to look through his connections (using files and paperwork) and find that he’s connected to a man called Ulysses (played by Andy Serkis [most notably Gollum in Lord of the Rings]) that Tony had knowledge of back in the day.  Thor notes the brand on his neck and Bruce discovers its from Wakanda, which Steve and Tony pick up as the place where vibranium is from, which makes up Captain America’s shield.

And Ultron does go after Ulysses (and cuts off his arm), but it’s also a trap for the team.  Wanda hits Thor, Steve, and Nat with her powers.  Thor sees Heimdall, then destruction.  Steve imagines himself with Peggy, and Natasha remembers the Red Room.  Clint manages to stop Wanda, who is then rescued by Pietro.  She recovers and goes after Bruce [which, if you see one of them coming, why didn’t you attempt to lock the door?  Let’s just hang out in the open and become a target].  Bruce Hulks out and can’t control it, and creates havoc in the nearby city.  Tony goes after Bruce and uses a new suit to control him.

In the aftermath, the Avengers need to lie low.  Natasha, Steve, and Thor are all recovering from their visions and Bruce is upset about the destruction he caused.  Clint has a place they can go; his own farm.  The team meets the family (and Natasha is an honorary aunt to his children).  Thor needs answers about his vision and flies off.  Bruce talks to Natasha about leaving and she offers to go with him.  Steve and Tony take some of their frustration out by chopping wood (admittedly, impressive that Steve can just rip a log in two), but end up in an argument.  Clint’s wife, Laura, pulls Tony aside to have a look at their tractor.  Fury is actually waiting for him and Tony admits that he saw the team dead, because of him.

That is after Nick admits he cares about Tony…which, let’s unpack that a little.  Earlier, both Thor and Tony attempted to make light of the fact that their significant others are not at the party.  And Tony’s getting a lot of flak from everyone on the team, heck, even Fury was joking about it a minute before.  But Tony is shouldering the burden of this knowledge he was shown and he can’t share with his team.  So he throws himself into a project in order to protect the team and the world…which admittedly was maybe not fully thought out.  But it all boils down to, no one is on Tony’s side.  And he’s just had someone he does respect; because if Tony didn’t respect Nick Fury, he wouldn’t help him as much as he does or even pay attention to him if he didn’t want to, admit he cares about Tony.  There’s not a lot of that going on at the moment.  So Tony is honest with him.  And Nick tells Tony it’s not all on him, and he also understands that Tony is dealing with the knowledge that he lived, while all his friends died.

So Nick gives the team a pep talk.  While he does this, Thor goes to Erik Selvig for help.  Erik leads Thor to a pool that is similar to others on other worlds where Thor can go back into his vision and find answers.  And while all of that is going on, Ultron has hunted down the Avengers’ doctor because she has a “cradle” that can create skin and cells and essentially a human body.  He has to use the scepter to convince her a little, but she starts work.  He plans to upload his mind into the new body, along with binding vibranium to the human cells, making him nearly invincible.  Ultron also brings the stone out of the gem in the scepter and sets it in the head of the body.  Wanda can now read this being’s mind and sees the destruction that will come.  She’s horrified, but Ultron shoots the doctor and escapes with the body.

The Avengers have a new mission; get the body back.  Natasha gets her own motorbike this time and races after the truck, Clint calling out locations from above.  Steve takes on Ultron.  Pietro and Wanda come along to help the Avengers; Wanda slows down a runaway train while Pietro gets people out of the way.  It is nice that Steve accepts them when they show up; he cares more about saving people rather than why someone is doing it.  Yeah, they fought each other before, but if you want to help innocent people, that’s okay.  Natasha manages to get the cradle to Clint, but does not escape herself.

Back at the Tower, Jarvis is back.  And Tony wants to put him into the body Ultron was creating.  When Steve and the twins show up, the argument begins all over again, until Thor flies in and superpowers the cradle.  The body emerges and at first, tackles Thor, but stops when it takes in the window and the city outside.  Thor explains the Infinity Stones, one of which is the Mind Stone that now resides in this new body, which has Jarvis’s voice [and now Paul Bettany doesn’t get to just read lines], but he is neither Ultron, nor Jarvis, he is something new.  Thor warns of the destruction the Mind Stone can bring, but with it on their side, they stand a chance of defeating Ultron [and Thanos].  The most important sign that they can trust this new being?  He can lift Mjölnir.

So the team gears up for a new fight.  Tony puts a new interface into his suits, Friday.  They land in Sokovia and Steve states that their primary mission is to save the people and get them out of the city.  Pietro and Wanda help with that.  Bruce rescues Natasha, then wants to run and offers Natasha to come with him.  She kisses him, but pushes him off the rising city, because she needs the Hulk at the moment to take down Ultron.  He plans to lift Sokovia and then crash it to Earth, creating a massive explosion and global extinction.  Tony works on a way to minimize damage.  Steve tells everyone to take out the suits Ultron has sent out.  “If you get hurt, hurt ‘em back.  If you get killed, walk it off.”  Clint gives Wanda a pep talk; she can stay safe where she is and he’ll send Pietro for her, but Clint has to go out and help the people.  If she comes out that door, she’s an Avenger and has the same job.  When she walks out, she’s ready to fight.  When Pietro runs by Clint again, he jokes to himself about getting the guy.  The fight continues.  Ultron takes on Thor, which is just a distraction.  Tony and Steve debate the best way to finish the fight; Steve wants everyone rescued.  And Fury comes in with the helicarrier and SHIELD.  The rest of the Avengers start getting the people away and even Rhodey is there to help.

The team converges.  Thor taunts Ultron “is that the best you can do!”  And more suits show up.  As Steve says, “you had to ask.”  The fight intensifies.  At one point, Clint is about ready to leave, but realizes there is a kid still in the city, so he goes for him.  Pietro notices that a suit is lining up at Clint and runs between them, taking the shots.  Wanda feels her brother’s death and screams.  Clint takes Pietro with him.  Hulk rescues Natasha, then takes a Quinjet.  Wanda goes after Ultron, wanting to cause him pain.  One of the suits manages to drop the city, so Tony has Thor help him stop the crash.  Vision rescues Wanda, then speaks to Ultron after the city is back.  They speak of humans, but Vision is on their side and uses the Mind Stone to destroy Ultron.

There are some happy moments in the ending.  Clint is back home and his wife gives birth to their third child, a boy they name Nathaniel Pietro Barton.  Tony drives to a new facility and we catch a glimpse of Erik Selvig.  There’s a funny bit between Steve, Thor, and Tony discussing the hammer again.  Vision is worthy, but would an elevator be worthy?  Thor flies off to continue tracking the stones.  Tony is thinking of trying the simple life, and Steve admits he’ll miss him.  As for Steve, he’s staying at the facility, more comfortable with who he is.  He’s not the same man who went into the ice.  Instead, he’ll have Natasha help him train some newbies who aren’t a team yet (as we hear the Avengers theme).  Rhodey, Sam, Vision, and Wanda are waiting for them.  Steve calls them to order, “Avengers…” and the scene cuts [in a blooper, Scarlett shouts “assemble!”].  In the credit, Thanos picks up a gauntlet, declaring “I’ll do it myself.”

I’m not as fond of this film as other follow-ups in the MCU.  It’s setting up Civil War; a lot of fans, me included, are not fond of the idea of our favorite superheroes fighting amongst themselves.  Lines are starting to form between them; a lot of blame gets placed on Tony and okay, his idea wasn’t the safest, but he apparently doesn’t trust talking about what he saw in his vision with the rest of the team, so he made a bad decision, though Thor approved of part of it, I guess.  It gets a bit confusing.  But there is definitely a separation between Steve and Tony and at the end of the first Avengers, we hoped they were getting over it.  Which is why fanfiction includes Tony looking in on Steve at the end of Winter Soldier.  Dear Marvel, we want our characters happy.

And I don’t get how the Ultron project was supposed to actually work or how it really went wrong.  But faceless suits of armor attacking are a bit creepy.  Also, in regards to pairing Natasha and Bruce, my comment is why does there have to be a romantic couple at all?  Do we have to pair Natasha off with one of the guys on the team [yes, we were kind of rooting for a Natasha and Clint pairing at one point, but it’s also sweet that he has a family totally outside of Shield].  But why can’t she just be friends with these guys?  Why does there have to be a strained relationship going on?  She could be Bruce’s friends and the story will still stand.

Admittedly, there are a few funny parts, such as everyone joking about Steve’s “language” comment.  (As fans have pointed out, Steve probably swore a lot as part of the Army, despite coming from a generation that looks down on casual swearing.)

Up Next: Ant-Man

“I’m going to die surrounded by the biggest idiots of the galaxy.”

Guardians of the Galaxy

Marvel adds some new characters and a different tone to the scene.  The film stars Chris Pratt (famous for Parks and Recreation [which I’ve only seen commercials for], he’s also Own Grady in the newer Jurassic World movies) as Peter Quill, Zoe Saldana (she’s Neytiri in Avatar, Uhura in the alternate universe Star Trek movies, and was in the first Pirates of the Caribbean movies) as Gamora, Lee Pace (Thranduil in the Hobbit movies [we’ll get to Marvel casting Lord of the Rings and Hobbit actors later]) as Ronan, and Karen Gillan (Amy Pond in Doctor Who) as Nebula.  Vin Diesel (he’s part of the Fast and Furious franchise, though I thought he was funny in The Pacifier) voices Groot and Bradley Cooper (he’s been in a lot of big movies in recent years; he was Face in the 2010 A-Team movie) voices Rocket.  Glenn Close (she voiced Kala in Tarzan and played the Vice President in Air Force One as well as Cruella de Vil in the live action Dalmatians movies) appears as Nova Prime.  I recognize John Reilly as Corpsman Dey, Sean Gunn (he was oddball Kirk in Gilmore Girls and would stand in on set as Rocket, and he’s also director James Gunn’s younger brother) as Kraglin, and Djimon Hounsou (he voices Drago in How to Train Your Dragon 2) as Korath.

We do start on Earth in 1988, unfortunately, in a hospital.  Young Peter is there for his mother; he’s called in one last time, the rest of the family surrounding her.  She has one last gift for her son and also mentions his father, calling him an angel.  When she passes, Peter runs.  And gets taken by an alien ship.  Twenty-six years later, Peter is grown up and dances his way to steal a mysterious orb.  He’s caught, and refers to himself as Star-Lord, a legendary outlaw.  He manages to escape, then his boss calls him.  (And Yandu may not be fully honest with the guy, because he claims that he saved him, but actually he was hired to deliver the child.)  Peter just wants to deliver the orb and get paid.

But trouble is brewing in the galaxy; a race known as the Kree have made peace with Xandar, but Ronan is a more traditional Kree and wants to destroy Xandar.  It was his men who confronted Peter about the orb; they want it as well.  Ronan is to deliver the orb to Thanos (he starts becoming a big and visible player) in return for Thanos destroyed Xandar.  Ronan has two daughters of Thanos in his company, Gamora and Nebula.  Gamora volunteers to go to Xandar to get the orb.

On Xandar, we meet Rocket and Groot, who are bounty hunters and want to capture Peter, since Yandu put a price on his head.  When Peter goes to the Broker to sell the orb, once Peter mentions Ronan, the Broker wants nothing to do with him.  Gamora is waiting for him outside and tries to get the orb.  It soon becomes a three-way fight when Rocket and Groot join in.  They are all arrested by Nova Corps and sent to the Kyln prison (and they helpfully run down the characters so we know a bit about them).  Many inside the prison want Gamora dead for her connection to Ronan and Thanos and Rocket admits to Peter that the guards won’t help; they’re only there to keep people from escaping.  And Rocket is keeping an eye on Peter because he still wants his pay day.  In actuality, Gamora plans to betray Ronan and she has another buyer in mind for the orb, who will pay more.  When Peter interrupts some guys killing Gamora, she offers to lead them to the buyer if he, Rocket, and Groot get her out of prison.  Drax is another prisoner in the Kyln, who has serious beef with Ronan.  Peter has to stop him from killing Gamora, pointing out that Drax really wants to kill Ronan and Gamora will be helpful in the meantime.  They have to improvise, but they make it out, with the addition of Drax.  (First, Peter has to make sure he gets his tape player back [I appreciate that Marvel brought fun music back to their movies]).

Ronan is called before Thanos, who does not care about the politics of the Kree or Xandar.  All Thanos wants, is the orb.  Yandu pays a visit to the Broker and we see the Collector again (still creepy).  Gamora’s buyer is on Knowhere, the severed head of a celestial being which has become a home to outlaws.  She reveals to Peter that Thanos is not her true father; he destroyed her true family and tortured and turned her in a weapon for him.  She wants out.  Peter shares the “legend of Footloose and the hero, Kevin Bacon.”  [He’s lucky he’s good with tech and actually has a good heart or this guy would be too stupid.]  However, it gets him an almost-kiss with Gamora, until Rocket and Drax get in a fight.  They try to settle down, for the deal, when Gamora is called before the Collector.  He explains that inside the orb is one of the six Infinity Stones.  And Gamora realizes what Thanos’ plan is.  One of the Collector’s servants grabs the purple stone, destroying part of the building and herself (which was better than living as the Collector’s slave).  Gamora gets the orb and now they have to try to get off Knowhere.

But Drax is drunk and calls Ronan so he gets his showdown.  Ronan beats him fairly easily and Nebula goes after her sister.  Peter goes after Gamora, claiming they should take the Infinity Stone to Nova Corps for safe keeping.  When Rocket asks him “What did the galaxy ever do for you?  Why would you want to save it?” Peter comes back with “Because I’m one of the idiots who lives in it!”  And someone has finally pointed that out!  Peter’s also trying to get away from Yandu, who has also arrived.  Nebula manages to shoot down Gamora and take the orb, leaving her sister to float in space.  Peter leaves his pod and gives her his mask, so she’ll live.  He had also sent a message for Yandu to come and get him, so they’re rescued quickly, but Yandu’s crew still beats him up, as an example.  Peter does manage to convince Yandu not to kill him (still in exchange for the orb).  Groot rescues Drax, and insists to Rocket that they save Peter and Gamora, since they’re friends.

And Ronan plans to turn on Thanos, now that he has absorbed the Infinity Stone into his war hammer.  Nebula will gladly help kill Thanos (no one likes this guy).

Peter’s got twelve percent of a plan [call back to Avengers, when Tony and Pepper were having twelve percent of a moment] and asks his new friends for help.  It will likely result in them dying, but they’ll do it (Rocket takes some convincing).  They know that Ronan wants to destroy Xandar, so Peter sends a message.  They then plan to punch a hole in Ronan’s ship, get inside, and destroy him with some contraption that Rocket has put together (that racoon likes gun).  Nova Crops helps and Yandu and his crew also help.  We see Yandu whistle-arrow take out a whole bunch of Kree.  Gamora and Nebula face off again, and Gamora manages to get the upper hand.  Rocket and the Ravagers protect the city.  Yet, Ronan is still standing after the blast.  They do manage to get his ship to crash (Groot protects everyone, which makes his burst into a thousand pieces when they land, much to Rocket’s sorrow), and Peter declares a dance-off with Ronan…who is very confused. 

It’s actually a diversion.  They hit his war hammer, which releases the stone.  Peter grabs it.  Gamora then grabs his hand, and Drax grabs his arm.  They destroy Ronan and manage to still be standing afterwards.  Gamora puts the stone into a new orb, which they have to hand over to Yandu, with the warning not to open.  Again, Kraglin makes a comment about how it was good that they didn’t deliver Peter to his father, like they were hired to.  Except, Peter switched the orb; Yandu’s has a troll in it.  Peter delivers the real Infinity Stone to Nova Corps, who also point out that Peter is only half from Earth; his father was something else and that may explain why he was able to hold the Infinity Stone and not blow up.

We catch some glimpses of happy endings.  Groot has been re-potted and is growing again.  Peter gets a new ship and everyone agrees to stay [and Gamora’s dress is reminiscent of Starfleet uniforms].  Drax wants to kill Thanos, since Ronan is gone.  And Peter finally opens his mom’s last present, with a letter that called him Star-Lord.  He has a new tape to play (and Groot enjoys dancing to Jackson 5’s I Want You Back).

I’m not a big fan of the Guardians of the Galaxy, but I can appreciate the change in tone.  It’s funnier and I do appreciate the music.  The characters act more like humans, being honest when things are dumb.  They’re honest that they’re not the most morally upright people, but they do recognize what is the right thing to do; as in saving thousands of innocent lives and that is actually more important than money.  As Dey quotes Peter, they may be a-holes, but they’re not dicks (which, way to go for Marvel and Disney for letting the language slide).

I just, tend to prefer my heroes to be a little more, classically heroic.  And the humor in this movie is not quite my brand of humor.  But I can stand this better than some other films [like re-watching Thor: Love and Thunder recently and they just made Thor so incredibly stupid.  He was not always that stupid; this is far better in comparison (and doesn’t have screaming goats for no good reason)].

This also happens to be my 200th post, which is a little mind-boggling.  When I first had the idea to do this blog, I didn’t have a notion of how much it would encompass.  I’m a little in awe of how much I’ve done, but also aware of how much more I want to do (we haven’t even hit Lord of the Rings yet, which has had a huge impact on me).  This “exercise” also shows me that this is something I enjoy doing; I enjoying watching movies and talking about them and sharing little tidbits that I find out.  And when my brain will focus, analyzing story or character aspects.  So, thanks for coming along for the ride!

Up Next: Avengers: Age of Ultron

“You okay?” “Not dead yet.”

Captain America: The Winter Solider

The second solo Captain America film, featuring Chris Evans as Steve Rogers, of course.  Samuel L. Jackson returns as Nick Fury, as does Scarlett Johansson as Natasha Romanoff.  Sebastian Stan is Bucky Barnes/Winter Solider.  Acting legend Robert Redford is Alexander Pierce, Anthony Mackie joins as Sam Wilson and Emily VanCamp is Kate (or Agent 13).

We open with an early morning run in D.C., with Steve lapping another guy, constantly calling out “on your left.”  [Apparently, Chris Evans had to do all his running because no one else runs like him.]  We meet Sam Wilson, who easily jokes with Steve Rogers.  Good to know that not everyone is awestruck and some people can treat him normally.  He even notes that Steve’s bed is too soft at home, bonding as soldiers returned home.  Steve does admit that some things are better in the present, such as food and no polio, but takes note of Sam’s suggestion in a notebook.  Natasha soon comes to pick Steve up for a mission; they have to deal with a hostage situation on a secret SHIELD ship.  Natasha, of course, attempts to set Steve up with various women around the office.  Steve claims he’s too busy; then jumps out of the plane without a parachute.  He easily takes guys out on the ship and Natasha swoops down and takes out a few guys.  The rest of the team moves in and rescues the hostages while Steve then has to fight the pirate leader.  It’s a rather good hand-to-hand fight, Steven even puts away the shield.  Then he finds out Natasha is running her own mission as well, to save SHIELD data; he’s not too happy about not knowing.

Which he goes to Director Fury to talk about at SHIELD headquarters, known as the Triskelion [we saw the triple spiral design way back in Merlin; it’s a Celtic symbol].  In response, Nick shows Steve Project Insight: three helicarriers (with redesigned repulsor engines, thanks to Tony Stark after he got an inside look at the turbines) that will be synced to a network of targeting satellites, with guns that eliminate 1,000 hostiles a minute with a targeting system that can read one’s DNA.  As Nick puts it “gonna neutralize a lot of threats before they even happen.”  Steve points out, “thought the punishment comes after the crime.”  Nick argues that SHIELD is taking the world as it currently is, and other generations, such as Steve’s, did a lot of bad in the name of good.  Steve argues they did it so the future would be free: “this isn’t freedom, this is fear.”  [And a lot of social commentary could be made.  I will not be doing that, but it does make one’s stomach sink a little.]

To cool off, Steve takes his motorcycle to the Smithsonian (specifically, the Air and Space Museum), where they have an exhibit on Captain America.  Steve disguises himself a bit to take it in, and stops in front of the wall memorializing Bucky.  We catch a clip of a video with Peggy Carter, then Steve visits an aged Peggy, looking for advice; he’s not sure what is right anymore.  Sadly, she has Alzheimer’s, and forget Steve is alive at one point.  Steve eventually wanders into the end of one of Sam’s meetings at the VA; a support group.  Steve admits he may be thinking of getting out, but he’s not sure what makes him happy at this point.  Sam gets it.

Nick has his own problems; the data Natasha retrieved is sealed and won’t open even with his director override.  So he visits his friend, Secretary Pierce, and wants to halt Project Insight until Nick knows it hasn’t been tampered with.  Later, while driving, Nick calls Agent Hill and tells her he needs her in DC.  Then his car is hit and blockaded by false police cars, joined by a SWAT team intent on breaking in (and the SUV continues to tell him all the broken parts, though the AC is functioning.  Nick keeps his head and drives out, but is pursued.  A man in a black mask eventually flips the vehicle, but Nick is able to cut his way out.

Steve returns home and manages to flirt a little with his neighbor, but is disturbed to find music playing in his apartment.  So he sneaks in the window, ready to pounce, only to find Nick sitting in the dark, injured, and warning him the place is bugged.  He feels SHEILD is compromised, and doesn’t get a chance to give details as he’s shot again through the wall.  He passes the thumb drive off to Steve, his final warning is “don’t trust anyone.”  Turns out, Steve’s neighbor is only posing as a nurse and is actually security stationed next door by Nick.  Steve pursues the shooter, who manages to catch Steve’s shield; it’s the masked man from the road.

Natasha arrives at the hospital, joining Hill and Steve, watching Nick’s surgery.  He flatlines and is declared dead.  Steve manages to hide the drive, before he is requested back at SHIELD.  He meets with Pierce, who explains his past with Nick, claiming friendship after Nick carried out an unauthorized military operation on foreign soil that saved political officers.  With that in mind, Pierce asks Steve why Nick was at Steve’s apartment.  Steve doesn’t know.  But Pierce actually suspects Nick was dealing under the table and that raid on the SHIELD ship was all Nick’s idea, after he hired the pirates.  As Pierce warns Steve about getting in the way, he remarks that sometimes to build a better world, the old one has to be torn down.  Steve goes to leave the Triskelion, but his team enters the elevator.  Steve notes behavior and realizes what is going on.  “Before we get started, does anyone want to get off?”  The men attack and try to cuff Steve and almost succeed once, but Steve gets free and takes out all the guys.  But there are more waiting, so he has to crash through the outside of the glass elevator, saved from the fall by his shield.  He dodges a quinjet and gets past their walls.  SHIELD is now starting a manhunt for Captain America; his neighbor asks why.  Pierce claims that Steve is lying about the investigation into Fury’s death and he’s now a fugitive.

Steve returns to the hospital to retrieve the data, but Natasha has already found it.  So Steve confronts her; she knew the bullets they dug out of Nick, she knows who killed him.  He’s a ghost to part of the intelligence world, but Natasha has run into him before, the Winter Solider.  It convinces Steve, because they go on the run together.  They hit an Apple store to attempt to read the data, and when that doesn’t work, they track a location that Steve is familiar with in New Jersey.  When Natasha makes a crack about Steve stealing a car, he points out he learned in Nazi Germany.  They end up at Camp Leigh, where Steve trained and he manages to spot that the munitions building is in the wrong location.  It hides one of SHEILD’s first headquarters (complete with pictures of Colonel Phillips, Peggy, and Howard Stark).  They find another secret bunker, filled with old computer equipment.  Turns out, Hydra’s scientist, Zola, was hired by SHIELD after the war, which he used to keep Hydra going in secret, within SHIELD.  When he grew ill, he downloaded his brain to the computer (not entirely sure how plausible that really is, but it’s a premise that has been used before; Batman Beyond did an episode like that).  He still plans for Hydra to take over the world, when humanity surrenders its freedom willingly, when they sacrifice their freedom for security [again, some scary parallels].  He’s also stalling, so a missile can take out Natasha and Steve.  They manage to dive below and Steve protects Natasha.  Steve’s old team searches for them and calls in an “asset.”  The asset is the Winter Solider, who stops at Pierce’s house for his next mission.

Steve takes Natasha to Sam Wilson, the one man he can trust at the moment; he’s not a part of SHIELD, but is a soldier.  When Natasha comments “everyone we know is trying to kill us,” Sam responds “not everyone.”  Sam eagerly offers to help when they lay the situation out in front of him.  Those missions he told Steve about, he wasn’t in a plane, he was in a flight suit (which Steve and Natasha steal one for him to use).  Sam gets SHIELD agent Sitwell (who does appear to be part of Hydra, along with that Senator we don’t like from Iron Man 2) to Steve and Nat, who kicks him off the building when he doesn’t answer.  Sam pulls him up and Sitwell spills the plan.  Zola’s algorithm will target people who can become a threat to SHIELD, using their past to predict future actions.  But they’re interrupted from returning to SHIELD by the Winter Solider and his cronies.  Cars explode and flip and our heroes have to dive out of their car onto Cap’s shield, then take off over a bridge to escape gunfire.  After Nat shoots the Winter Soldier’s goggles, he goes after her.  It’s cool to see Nat in action a bit, then she’s caught by a bullet.  Steve steps in, the Soldier’s metal fist slamming into the shield.  There are flips and turns and after the Soldier throws Cap’s shield, he brings out a knife and it goes hand-to-hand.  In one flip, Steve tears off the Soldier’s (terrifying) black mask and reveals…Bucky.  That name means nothing to the Solider.  Steve freezes, though Sam flies in to kick the Solider away and Nat manages to use a grenade launcher.  But they’re caught by SHIELD and arrested.  Rumlow manages to get his men to not shoot Steve in the street when he realizes there are cameras around.  Luckily for our heroes, Hill snuck into the team and gets them out.

She leads them to a dam and reveals that Nick is alive.  Not in great shape, but alive.  They formulate a plan to replace the targeting systems on the helicarriers.  And Steve wants to take down SHIELD; all of it, it all goes.  Nat’s with him and Sam give Nick “I do what he does, just slower.”  Okay, Cap’s giving orders. 

In the meantime, Bucky returns to his base.  But he’s remembering his past (which is a bit disturbing); how Zola turned him into a weapon.  Pierce and Rumlow visit (cementing that Pierce is a bad guy, if shooting his maid wasn’t enough).  They want a mission report, but Bucky looks a bit lost.  His target knew him, how was that?  Pierce calls the Soldier’s work a gift to mankind; it shaped the century.  But Bucky is still lost looking.  He’s been out of cyro too long, so they must wipe his mind and start over.  And that is not pleasant.  Bucky’s screams echo.

While Bucky flashes back, Steve remembers the two of them after his mother’s funeral, Bucky offering his support and helping Steve out by remembering where the key is.  He tells Steve that he doesn’t have to be alone.  “I’m with you to the end of the line.”  Sam comes out to talk to Steve; they need to stop the Solider.  But Steve wants to save Bucky.  Sam’s got his suit, so Steve needs one.  He gets the one from the Smithsonian display (Stan Lee is the guard who’s probably going to get in trouble [and fans point out that Steve got the Captain suit that Bucky would recognize, not his more muted newer suit]).

The Council is at the Triskelion and listens to Steve’s announcement; he knows the truth, that SHIELD was taken over by Hydra.  And he calls out Pierce and asks good people to stand up.  He knows that the price of freedom is high and he’s willing to pay it and willing to be the only one.  But he’s willing to be he’s not.  When Rumlow threatens a tech, Steve’s neighbor is there to threaten Rumlow in return.  A firefight breaks out and the carriers are launched early.  Some people do try to stop Hydra agents, and Sam and Steve make for the carriers.  Steve points out that they’ll know the bad guys by who’s shooting at them.  Back with the Council, the woman fights back, and turns out to be Natasha in disguise, who stops Pierce.  She also sets to dumping all of SHIELD and Hydra’s secrets onto the web.  She’s also stalling for Fury to arrive, who is mad that his friend turned on him.  He uses his bad eye retinal scan to help Natasha with her job.

Some pilots try to take off, but they’re stopped by Bucky, without the mask.  Sam manages to get his two carriers changed before Bucky rips his wings off and he parachutes to the ground.  Then Bucky goes after Steve.  SHIELD is evacuating and Rumlow goes on the attack.  Hill directs Sam to take care of him.  Bucky manages to wound Steve several times, and Steve has to put Bucky in a stranglehold, hoping he’s out long enough for Steve to change the computer.  They’re cutting it close to the wire, targets are acquired, including Bruce Banner and Tony Stark, and Bucky keeps shooting at Steve.  The switch is made just in time for Hill to change the targets to the helicarriers.  She warns Steve to get out, but Steve orders her to fire anyway.  Bucky is pinned and Steve goes after him.

Nick shoots Pierce, after Natasha shocks herself to give Nick to opening.  Pierce’s last words are “Hail Hydra.”  Nick and Natasha escape, then fly by to pick up Sam after his fight with Rumlow when a carrier crashes into the building.  Steve continues to try to get through to Bucky, but Bucky fights back.  Steve takes off his helmet and drops the shield; “I’m not going to fight you.  You’re my friend.”  But Bucky still punches Steve.  Steve’s bloodied and tells Bucky to finish it, “cause I’m with you to the end of the line.”  Bucky’s eyes widen [this scene is used in the new National Treasure show].  The structure under Steve collapses and he falls into the water.  Soon after, an arm pulls him out.  Bucky saved Steve, but runs off.

We do see Steve recovering in a hospital, Sam sitting with him.  Steve wakes up enough to quip “on your left.”  We get clips of the aftermath, the neighbor agent at the CIA, Maria Hill interviewing at Stark Industries.  The Senator is caught, and Rumlow happens to be rescued.  Natasha is called to Capitol Hill and questioned (one of the guys questioning her is played by Steven Culp, who played Special Agent Clayton Webb in JAG).  She tells them that they won’t put her or Steve in jail, because they need them.  They are the best qualified to defend this world.  Nick burns his storage shed and meets with Sam and Steve.  If anyone comes looking for him, direct them to his gravesite.  Natasha arrives and hands a file over to Steve, Bucky’s file.  He and Sam leave to go find him.  During the credits, we find out that a splinter group of Hydra has the scepter and has been working with it, including two teenagers in cells.  Also, Bucky goes in disguise to the Smithsonian exhibit, most likely to try to find out why this guy knew him and who he was before the Winter Soldier.

On the one hand with this movie, I like Falcon entering, because it gives Steve another friend to count on.  And I certainly like Bucky returning (and fuels loads of fanfics).  On the other hand, I’m not fond of the political backstabbing part or the SHIELD is secretly Hydra part; that’s just depressing.  These are superhero movies, where the good guys win and the bad guys lose.  Yes, I understand that we want nuisances and a developed story, but to find out that the bad guys were hiding amongst the good guys makes us question everything now…and we already have to deal with that in the real world.

We do see some more action from Natasha, which is always cool.  The fight sequences in this film are stupendous.  And on the note of the fandom; I am totally down with the notion that Bucky and Steve are partners…and a bit more.  I actually prefer that to Steve and Natasha hooking up, because that story is too easy.  Mind you, Natasha keeps throwing out other names for Steve to start dating; she could be hinting that she wouldn’t mind hooking up, or else naming others so he won’t attempt to date her.  They’re good friends and it is perfectly acceptable to have opposite gender friends that don’t cross a line.  There are also several stories floating around about what other Avenger members were doing when the final battle was going on; for instance, what would Tony’s reaction be.  He’d be mad that they misused his technology, and probably worried about Steve.  He has no love lost for SHIELD.  We’ll delve more into some of the character relationships as they develop through further films.

Up Next: Guardians of the Galaxy

“Merriment can sometimes be a heavier burden than battle.” “Then you’re doing one of them incorrectly.”

Thor: The Dark World

The second of the Marvel movies to specifically focus on Thor and continues to deal with the fallout of the events of The Avengers.  Christopher Eccleston (the ninth Doctor in Doctor Who; the first of the revival run) is added to the cast as Malekith.  Zachary Levi (he now stars in the Shazam films, he also voiced Eugene/Flynn Rider in Tangled) takes over as Fandral [Josh Dallas was committed to Once Upon a Time by that point and oddly, Zachary was originally supposed to play Fandral, but had backed out due to his commitment to another show at the time].  Odin gives us a history lesson at the beginning, explaining the Dark Elves, led by Malekith, who wanted to harness the Aether; an ancient force of infinite destruction, to destroy the universe.  Odin’s father, King Bor, led the Asgardians in war against the Dark Elves.  The Dark Elves had warriors, known as Kursed (a bit like Beserkers), who used capsules to be taken over by darkness and attack.  A Convergence of the Nine Realms was the opportunity Malekith wanted to use the Aether, but Asgard used the Bifrost to take it from him.  He sacrificed his own ships and people to destroy more Asgardians, and allow himself to escape.  Asgard felt they had won.  Bor tells his guards to bury the Aether; they do not have the power to destroy, but bury it deep where it cannot be found.  [Bor was played, uncredited, by Tony Curran, who was Vincent van Gogh in two episodes of Doctor Who, as well as many other appearances in television shows.]

Back in the present, Loki appears before Odin in chains, though his mother pleads with him not to make the situation worse.  Loki does not enjoy these chats with Odin.  The Allfather passes judgment on Loki for his invasion of Earth; only because of Frigga will Loki be spared the axe, though he will never see her again as he is sentenced to life imprisonment in the dungeons of Asgard.  Everywhere Loki goes, Odin claims, there is war, ruin, and death.  Loki feels that humans are lesser than Asgardians, though Odin points out they themselves are not gods, for they too live and die.  Give or take five thousand years, Loki quips.  Besides, he was just attempting to claim the birthright that Odin fed him his childhood, that he was born to be a king; and his actions are not that different from what Odin has done [SPOILER; as we see in Ragnarök, there is truth to Loki’s statement].  Odin snaps back that Loki’s birthright was to die, on a frozen rock as a child.  “If I had not taken you in, you would not be here now to hate me.”  [Again, Anthony Hopkins is brilliant as a commanding ruler, first startling us by shouting, then keeping our attention by getting quiet.]  Loki argues against Thor taking the throne of Asgard, calling his brother a witless oaf.  Yes, Odin declares, once Thor is finished mopping up the mess Loki has started and bringing order back to the Nine Realms, Thor will take the throne as king of Asgard.

We find Thor doing precisely that.  There is a battle raging on Vanaheim, with Sif and the Warriors Three all involved.  Thor arrives via the Bifrost, though Sif argues they have everything under control.  “Is that why everything is on fire?” Thor quips as he throws Mjölnir.  The invaders let their largest warrior come forward, a rock-like creature.  A swing from Mjölnir reduces him to pebbles.  “Anyone else?”  Nope, they surrender.  Thor tells Hogun to stay with his people, and Thor and the other warriors return to Asgard (we hear part of the theme from the first movie as they return).  Thor speaks to Odin, who tells him that the Nine Realms are at peace due to Thor’s actions; the realms are reminded of Asgard’s strength and Thor has earned their respect, as well as Odin’s gratitude.  Yet, Odin does not agree with his son on his chosen love, even motioning to Sif as a worthy candidate.  Furthermore, it is time for Thor to take the throne.  He orders his son to revel and join his companions in their fun, or at least pretend to enjoy himself.  (We enjoy a brief scene of Thor bathing…) and Thor tries what his father says.

Meanwhile, Jane Foster is in London, on a date, that is interrupted by Darcy showing her readings on her equipment.  Her date encourages her to check the readings out.  They eagerly set off and we discover that Erik Selvig is rambling a bit and found naked, at Stonehenge.  (He later explains the Convergence to an audience in a psychiatric ward.)  Jane’s readings bring them to an abandoned warehouse area and a spot of odd gravity.  Jane continues to investigate and disappears, to another world, where a red glow (the Aether) jumps onto her.  She collapses and Malekith’s ship awakens.

Turns out, Thor has been looking in on Jane with Heimdall.  Heimdall informs his prince that Jane is tracking the Convergence, though she’s not aware of what it is.  Troublingly, Heimdall cannot see her at the moment.  Back on Earth, when Jane awakens, she finds out she’s been gone five hours and it’s now raining, except not on her.  Thor arrives and Jane rushes to see him.  She slaps him; first to make sure he’s real since it’s been a strange day, then, because he left.  She saw he was in New York.  His excuse of dealing with the chaos is not terrible.  The two get closer and almost kiss, getting a bit confused, before getting interrupted by Darcy.  The police try to arrest Jane, but when they go to touch her, something shoots them back.  Thor takes Jane on the Bifrost to Asgard in order to protect her.

He takes her to his healers and Jane marvels at their magic that mimics science (look at Thor smile at her).  Odin stops in, telling his son that mortal Jane does not belong on Asgard.  Again, when the guards go to touch Jane, they’re blasted back.  Odin is now concerned by the energy within Jane.  Odin explains to Thor and Jane that what is within Jane is a relic that predates the universe.  Before the dawn of the Nine Realms, the Dark Elves reigned absolute.  Most of the relics appear as stones, but the Aether is fluid, and ever-changing.  It changes matter to dark matter and Malekith wants to use it to turn the world back to darkness.  But Odin’s father, Bor, defeated the Dark Elves.  Thor points out that the Aether is returned, so maybe that story is not wholly true.  Odin insists that the Dark Elves are dead (we already know that is not true).

In the lower levels of Asgard, Loki is in a cell in the dungeon.  Frigga visits him and attempts to counsel him, but he eventually erupts that Odin is not his father.  She points out, am I not your mother?  He hesitates, then says no, and reveals that Frigga’s visit is only an illusion.  [There is a lovely deleted scene where Thor witnesses his mother coming back from her visit and speaks to her of her hope for Loki.  While Loki is not the boy she once knew, neither is Thor, and she loves them no less.  Thor asks his mother if she regrets sharing her magic with him and she replies no.  Thor and Odin cast large shadows and Frigga hoped that by sharing her gifts with Loki, he’d find some sun for himself.  Thor wishes he could share his mother’s optimism and compassion.]  Frigga later comes upon Thor and Jane speaking, and kissing.  Jane likes the way Thor explains things, and he vows that he will save her; his father does not know everything.

Malekith’s strongest warrior is brought into the dungeons in Asgard alongside other mercenaries.  He then goes berserk and breaks out.  He releases other inmates, but eyes Loki and does not release him.  So Loki suggests that he takes the stairs on the left.  An invisible ship approaches, that Heimdall does not spot until it is at the Bifrost.  He attempts to stop it, but it begins firing upon the city.  Heimdall enacts a shield around the palace, but it is brought down by Kurse.  One ship crashes into the palace and the Elves attack the guards; Malekith emerges.  He apparently can sense the Aether and finds Frigga and Jane.  He demands the return of the Aether, and Frigga fights him off with a dagger (another tool she passed along to Loki).  Kurse arrives and grabs Frigga while Malekith confronts Jane, but she’s only an illusion.  Kurse runs Frigga through, then Thor erupts into the room, scarring Malekith with lightning, but he and his loyal companion are able to escape.

Asgard mourns the loss of its queen.  A guard is sent to Loki; we do not hear what is said [somewhere I read that Odin was first going to say that the queen is dead, but changed his mind to tell Loki that his mother is dead]; we witness Loki use magic to slam his furniture.  Thor and Odin argue plans.  Thor wants to take Jane to the Dark World, Svartalfheim, lure Malekith there to get the Aether out of Jane, and then destroy them both.  Odin would rather wait for Malekith to return to Asgard “where he will fall upon ten thousand blades…. we will fight to the last Asgardian breath, the last drop of blood.”  Thor doesn’t want to risk their people and asks his father how does that make him different than Malekith [SPOLIER: again, in Ragnarök, we see that this is what Odin was like ages ago, more ruthless and bloodthirsty.]

Thor gathers his friends and continues with his plan.  He also goes to Loki, for he will need his help to get out of Asgard.  He sees through his brother’s calm illusion.  Loki reveals that he is a mess after Frigga’s death; his feet bloody and his room destroyed.  Thor offers Loki vengeance in return for helping Thor escape.  “You must be truly desperate to come to me for help,” Loki retorts.  Thor is clear that he doesn’t trust Loki, but their mother did.  And warns his brother that when they fought in the past, he held a glimmer of hope to retrieve the brother he knew, but now he knows he will not.  “You betray me and I will kill you.”  Loki grins, “when do we start?”  Loki disguises himself as he walks alongside Thor; first as a guard, then turns Thor into Sif, who cracks that it will hurt no less when he kills Loki in that form.  So Loki turns himself into one of Thor’s new friends, since he likes them so much; he chooses Captain America [and it is hilarious and keep in mind that Tom Hiddleston first recorded the scene and Chris Evans had to mimic his over-the-top performance] and wants to have a rousing discussion about truth and honor.  Thor shushes his brother and instead of giving him a dagger, puts cuffs on him.

Sif retrieves Jane, who slaps Loki upon seeing him for his actions in New York.  Loki simply smirks and says “I like her.”  Heimdall distracts Odin with a report of treason, his own.  Sif stays behind to give Loki, Thor, and Jane time to escape, though Sif stops Loki to inform him “betray [Thor] and I’ll kill you.”  Loki chuckles.  Volstagg is waiting to also defend Thor and also warns Loki that he’ll kill him if he betrays Thor.  “Evidently, there will be a line.”  Thor uses the Dark Elves’ ship to escape, but he doesn’t handle it well.  Loki is a backseat driver…and this is honestly my favorite part of the movie; their bickering is so typical of siblings: “now they’re following us, now they’re firing at us.”  “Thank you for the commentary Loki, it’s not at all distracting.”  And when Thor crashes into a statue of Bor, Loki snarks “you just decapitated your grandfather.”  The strain of the Aether is draining Jane and she passes out on the ship.  When Loki berates Thor for his plan, Thor pushes him out of the ship, then calmly jumps out after with Jane.  Fandral catches them in a skiff, then has to exit so the others can escape.  Loki steers them to his secret passage, seemingly straight into a cliff.  Thor’s a little worried.  “If it were easy, everyone would do it,” Loki says.  Thor asks his brother “are you mad?”  “Possibly.”  But the passage works and they land on Svartalfheim with a “ta da.”

The brothers fall into an argument, Loki first pointing out that even if the Aether doesn’t kill Jane today, even if it’s a hundred years, Thor will never be ready to lose her (let’s point out that Odin simply dismisses Thor’s feelings for Jane and directs to someone Odin deems worthy, while Loki is validating Thor’s feelings yet cautioning him about heartbreak).  Their argument turns to their love of their mother, Thor pointing out that while Loki had Frigga’s tricks, Thor had her trust.  Loki responds that Frigga’s last actions were a magical trick; something Loki would have done.  Thor argues back that Loki was in a cell when Frigga was killed, to which Loki demands “who put me there!”  “You know damn well who,” Thor pushes his brother, fist poised to punch.  But he holds back; “she wouldn’t want us to fight.”  “Well,” Loki drawls, “she wouldn’t exactly be shocked.”  Thor laments that he can’t trust Loki.  Loki assures him, “trust my rage.”

Before they appear before Malekith, Thor returns Loki’s daggers and uncuffs him.  Then Loki stabs Thor and claims he wants him dead, cutting off Thor’s hand before Mjölnir can return to him.  Loki then throws Jane before Malekith, asking to watch Asgard burn.  Kurse supports Loki’s claim, since he saw him in the dungeons.  Malekith draws the Aether out of Jane, after which Thor calls to Loki.  It was an illusion and Thor regains his hand and hammer, then lights up the Aether (Loki covering Jane), and for a minute, we think Thor’s plan worked.

It did not.  Malekith possesses the Aether and begins to leave.  Kurse throws a device that essentially creates a black hole.  Loki pushes Jane out of the way and starts to get sucked in, looking very much like he did before he fell into the void at the end of the first Thor movie.  Thor rescues his brother and they fight off the Dark Elves; Thor focusing on Kurse.  When Loki spots his brother in trouble, he stabs Kurse.  Kurse turns around and stabs Loki, but Loki vows to see him in Hel; he placed one of the black hole bombs on Kurse and he gets sucked away.  Thor holds Loki as his skin grows ashen.  Loki apologizes to Thor; Thor shushes him and says he will tell Odin what Loki did.  Loki didn’t do it for him.  His eyes close and Thor yells in grief.

Thor and Jane take cover in a cave and attempt to regroup.  Surprisingly, Jane’s cell phone rings.  It happens to be the guy she went on a date with, but with cell reception, she must be close to something from Midgard.  They find the gravity well and return to Earth.  Darcy, and her “intern” Ian retrieve Erik from the psychiatric ward.  They all meet up and Erik reveals that the ancient civilization had left clues to where the Convergence would appear…Greenwich.  [Except all his markers are based in Britain and there was more than one ancient civilization, so I’m not sure how Greenwich became the spot.]  Malekith’s ship arrives, becoming visible as it runs aground and the Convergence begins.  Thor takes on Malekith and the rest place Erik’s stabilizing spikes, which Jane uses to play with gravity.  Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, so the battle takes place throughout different realms, such as a missile from a jet lands in Vanaheim.  Mjölnir goes flying at times while Thor is elsewhere.  Malekith beings to prepare the Aether and Thor takes Jane’s last spikes and uses them to send Malekith’s body parts to different realms, breaking him up.  He may not be able to destroy the Aether, but he can destroy Malekith.  The last spike is rammed into Malekith, hammered by Mjölnir.  The resulting blast knocks Thor out and Jane runs to him, but Malekith’s ship starts to fall.  Erik uses the gravity well one last time to send it away, actually to Svartalfheim, where it falls on Malekith.

Thor reports back to Odin on Asgard.  Odin asks, “what can Asgard offer its new king?”  Thor wants his life.  He cannot be king, he feels, though he will protect the Nine Realms with all he has to offer.  Truthfully, Loki was better suited for the throne.  Thor declares “I would rather be a good man, than a great king.”  Odin despairs, he had one son who wanted the throne too much and now one who will not take it.  Thor vows to live with honor, like Loki died with honor; that is Odin’s legacy.  Thor offers Odin Mjölnir, but Odin tells him it belongs to him, so long as he is worthy.  Thor will strive to be.  Odin dismisses Thor; he cannot give his son his blessing, nor wish him good fortune; “If I were proud of the man my son has become, even that I could not say, it would speak only from my heart.”  After Thor leaves, Odin shimmers and becomes Loki (he had transformed into a guard earlier to report to Odin his own death…we’re not quite sure how Loki survived; if his death was real for a minute or two, or simply another illusion).  He grins and thanks the departing Thor.

We see Sif and Volstagg visit an odd place and meet someone called the “Collector.”  They hand over the Aether, since Asgard’s vault already holds the Tesseract and it would not be wise to keep two Infinity Stones so close together.  After they depart, the Collector says “one down, five to go.”  Yes, this is setting up Infinity War and shows that it has been a game plan since Iron Man and Captain America at the very least.  Jane does get a happy ending, with Thor returning via Bifrost and kissing her.  The end of the credits declare that Thor will return.

This film gets a lot of flak, some of which I get behind, but I like it better than some others in the MCU.  Malekith is not a well-defined villain, aside from general bad guy who wants to destroy the world.  There was a different storyline that fleshed him out, but it was abandoned due to other scenes.  It has been pointed out that Jane and Thor’s relationship is a bit flimsy; they spent only a few days together, but that is often how these stories go.  I’m glad we saw more of Frigga and gave her things to do and she battled.  Of course, I adore the expansion on Loki and show him a multi-faceted and the bickering between him and Thor is hilarious.  And I want to believe he was sincere in his farewell to his brother as he faded away.  And you have to admit, he plays a convincing Odin.  Yes, he sent Thor away, but it is what Thor wanted.  Does it also aid Loki’s schemes?  Yes.  But he wasn’t so out of character that Thor was suspicious [like Dean knew the demon was possessing John Winchester in season one of Supernatural because the demon said he was proud of Dean…which is a bit sad, but not the point of this blog.]

So what are your feelings?  Do you like Loki?  There is a featurette on the Blu-ray disc about the Brother’s Journey.  Thor’s is one of humility, while Loki’s is an attempt to get his life back after his fall from grace.  Loki has always desired to be Thor’s equal, and they point out that if Odin had trusted his children and not kept it a secret so long, he wouldn’t have this trouble now.  One brother rose to be a hero, while the other descended to become a villain.  And that is a fascinating aspect [which is why I want to write an essay of sorts examining brotherly dynamics in our favorite stories].  The producers also wanted to show Asgard as a mix of medieval and science fiction (and I love that, also for story purposes).  The brothers’ fight on the Dark World shows that they have the same goal (avenging their mother), but different ways to go about it.  And that fight exposes who they both are.  Thor made use of Loki’s illusions and let Loki play the villain, but also trusted Loki to keep his end of the bargain.  Loki saved Jane twice and Thor saved Loki as well.  Showing that despite their difference and the gulf between them, they are still brothers.  It’s hard to throw away centuries of teamwork.

We’ve still got plenty of MCU to go.  Up Next: Captain America: Winter Solider