“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

“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

“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

“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

“As always sir, a great pleasure watching you work.”

Iron Man 3

Draws on what happened in The Avengers.  Ben Kinglsey (Nizam in Prince of Persia, he appeared in The Last Legion and Schindler’s List.  There is also a video of him singing “Shall We Dance” with Julie Andrews from The King and I) is added to the cast as Trevor Slattery.  Miguel Ferrer (Assistant Director Granger from NCIS:LA; he sadly passed away in 2017) appears as the Vice President.

Tony voice-overs the opening of the film, stating “we create our own demons.”  And with I’m Blue playing, we flashback to New Year’s Eve of 1999 in Bern, Switzerland.  Tony, accompanied by a mullet-wearing Happy, had made a presentation and is thoroughly enjoying the after party, even bumping into Yensen (a callback to the first Iron Man movie).  Then he comes across a pretty girl who asks questions about research.  They move the party upstairs, though Tony is briefly approached by Aldrich Killian, who has a proposal for a think tank, named AIM.  Tony is briefly intrigued, but moves on to going over the pretty girl’s research, which examines the healing center of the brain, and she calls the project Extremis.  Extremis has explosive results.  Getting so caught up in the research, Tony forgets to meet Killian.

Fast forward to the present, post Battle of New York world, Tony is working on more suits.  The latest is the Mark 42, which is supposed to come to him piece by piece, guided by chips implanted in his arm.  There are a few errors, but then Tony has been awake 72 hours.  But the world doesn’t rest; the Ten Rings have reappeared and taken over the airways, with their leader, the Mandarin calling out Americans and warning “you’ll never see me coming.”  The President immediately announces that Captain Rhodes will be handling the situation as the Iron Patriot.  Tony has to meet his friend afterwards, but Rhodey is worried about Tony; he’s showing signs of PTSD, having panic attacks and flashbacks.  Tony tries to laugh them off in public and flies off before he has to deal with it.

In the meantime, Pepper is still CEO of Stark Industries, with Happy as her chief of security, which he takes seriously.  And he gets bad vibes from her meeting with Aldrich Killian and his bodyguard, and reports such to Tony.  Pepper wisely turns down Killian’s proposal on Extremis, feeling it is too weaponizable.  When she returns home, she finds Tony in his workshop and he’s trying to make this relationship work, admitting he’s a hot mess.  He loves her and just wants to protect her; that’s why there’s multiple suits; he can’t live without her.  Pepper gives him a chance, until he has nightmares in bed and unconsciously calls his suit to him, scaring Pepper.

Happy follows his hunch and follows the bodyguard, who’s doing some sort of deal.  Happy pockets something, then gets in a fight with the guard until the other man heats up and explodes.  Happy is gravely injured and Tony takes a place by his side, informing the nurse to ensure that everyone is wearing their security badge, something Happy is a stickler about.  Oh, and Happy thinks Downton Abbey is romantic, so keep him playing.  Tony is greeted by reporters outside the hospital [one of whom is Kim Holderness, who has a YouTube channel with her husband with funny skits now].  The Mandarin has already claimed the attack (and the videos are a bit terrifying).  Tony has a response; he’s not afraid of the Mandarin and he’s coming for him, good old-fashioned revenge.  He even gives the Mandarin his home address.

Once home, Tony has JARVIS compile a Mandarin database and examine the attacks associated with the terrorist.  There are several bombs that have detonated, like the one at the Chinese Theatre with high heat, but no bomb parts found.  Happy, in his last conscious moments, pointed to a clue for Tony and JARIVS finds a similar case in Tennessee.  Until there is a woman at the door; Maya.  Pepper, of course, wants to leave.  Their discussion is interrupted by helicopters outside that shoot missiles into Tony’s home.  Tony calls the suit, but has it cover Pepper, and in turn, she protects Tony, until he gets her to safety and calls the suit to him.  Tony manages to take out the helicopters as the house crumbles around him and he drops into the water.  He manages to shoot out of the water, but no one seems him.  He passes out and wakes up as he crashes in Tennessee.  The suit is low on power and JARVIS shuts off, so Tony drags the suit behind him until he finds a pay phone to leave Pepper a message.  Then he finds a seemingly deserted shed.  Turns out, not so deserted, it’s got a kid, Harley.  Tony convinces Harley to help him (cause what kid is going to turn down the chance to help Iron Man?)

Meanwhile, Pepper talks to Maya about why she came to the house (she did get Tony’s message and knows he’s alive, but let’s the media say he’s presumed dead).  Maya thinks her boss, Aldrich Killian, works for the Mandarin.  When they find a hotel, Aldrich shows up and captures Pepper.  Maya indeed works for Killian and yes, she went to Tony for help.  She needs him to fix the glitch in Extremis.

Tony investigates the explosion site in Tennessee, though Harley pesters him with questions about the Avengers and New York and causes Tony to have another panic attack.  Tony visits the victim mom, assuring her that her son was innocent, until another woman tries to arrest him.  He battles her; she’s another one that will glow, as well as Killian’s bodyguard.  He tires to take Harley prisoner, but Harley uses Tony’s bully defense sparkler to get away.  Tony’s got the information he wanted and instructs Harley to guard the Iron Man suit.  Tony realizes that AIM, Killian’s company is behind this, with the Extremis program, and calls Rhodey.  Rhodey’s a little busy, being Iron Patriot all over the Middle East, looking for the Mandarin, who put out another video, threatening to execute a man.  Even though the President called, the Mandarin still shot him (we don’t actually see that part).  Iron Patriot is taken down in one of the buildings he’s investigating.

This causes Tony to have another panic attack, and luckily, JARVIS is running enough to help him out, with some assistance from Harley.  JARVIS’s system is showing the Mandarin’s messages originating in Miami.  Harley suggests that Tony builds something, since he’s a mechanic.  So Tony showcases his genius again in making an arsenal out of what he can find at a hardware store (recalling that “box of scraps” comment from the first movie).  He enters the compound in Miami and finds the set of the Mandarin videos.  And that the Mandarin is actually just an actor hired to play a role.  And yes, Killian was behind it; a custom-made terror threat.  The bodyguard enters and captures Tony.  Tony sees Maya again, who reveals that Tony had jotted down an equation all those years ago and hence why she thought Tony could help.  But Tony doesn’t remember the equation and tries to appeal to Maya.  Killian enters and credits Tony with creating him; leaving him on the roof in Switzerland made him desperate and he decided to rule from behind.  He gave evil a face and a target in creating the Mandarin.  He’s planning on opening the Iron Patriot suit and he will own the war on terror, creating supply and demand.  Oh, and he’s given Pepper Extremis.  Maya threatens to kill herself to protect her work; Killian shoots her anyway.

The clock is ticking.  Tony calls the suit to him (which is hilariously delayed), but he still takes out the guards and makes his way back through the compound (one guard easily gives up; he’s had enough weird) to find Rhodey.  They have to find the President, who is now on Air Force One with someone he thinks is Iron Patriot.  Iron Man arrives in time to rescue the people falling from the plane [pretty cool].  Then he’s hit by a truck; it’s not actually Tony in the suit, he’s controlling it from a distance.  They continue to make their way to the shipping yard where Killian is staging the murder of the President.  Rhodey is no slouch in sneaking on and taking out guards, with Tony backing him out.  Then Tony’s other suits arrive, all controlled by JARVIS and the action really begins.  Tony uses this as a chance to find Pepper, who is trapped.  He almost has her, then she falls into a fire.  Rhodey, in the meantime, rescues the President.  Tony goes after Killian, switching suits as he needs to (because Tony cannot go against Killian as Extremis in just his human form; the suits come in handy and he can take on more dangerous enemies).  Killian mocks Tony, that Killian was trying to improve Pepper.  Tony retorts that no, he didn’t deserve her, and she was already perfect.  Tony gets Killian in one of the suits and blows it up.  It does not stop Killian, though he admits to the Mandarin plot.  Just as Killian is about to deal the final blow, Pepper to the rescue!  She knocks Killian out, then takes on the suit and blows up Killian.  Her comment at the end?  “That was really violent.”  Now she’s the hot mess.  Tony quips, it’s still debatable; she’s in a relationship with him.  He promises to fix her; he almost had it while he was drunk years ago, and this is what he does, he fixes things.  He then has JARVIS blow all the suits.

The story wraps up with Rhodey arresting the Vice President, who was in on the kidnapping of the President since his daughter would have benefitted from Extremis.  Tony got Pepper sorted out, then has surgery to finally remove the shrapnel from his chest and remove the arc reactor.  And Happy wakes up and Harley gets an updated lab.  Tony theorizes that his armor and tools can be taken away, but no one can take away the fact that “I am Iron Man.”  And this is all revealed to be Tony talking to Bruce (who fell asleep).

This is not my favorite Marvel movie, or Iron Man movie; there’s just too many things going on at the same time.  However, I do like seeing more of Tony Stary, rather than just an Iron Man suit.  While the suit is helpful, he’s no slouch outside of it.  There are a few things that I don’t get why the character had to do; like why did Tony have to destroy all of his suits?  He just proved how helpful they are and he doesn’t have to be in them all the time.  And while I think it’s great that Tony no longer has the shrapnel in his chest, I was a bit sad to see the arc reactor just thrown in the ocean.  And kind of missed seeing the other Avengers.  I get that these are their individual movies again, but some crossover would have been nice.  For instance, when Pepper is standing in the ruined mansion, alone.  No one came to check on her?  Or attempt to find Tony?

Up Next: We circle around to Thor: Dark World

“Doth mother know, you weareth her drapes?”

The Avengers

The big crossover movie for Marvel.  The big stars are back, though Edward Norton is notably replaced by Mark Ruffalo (I think the only other film I had seen him in before this was 13 Going on 30) to play Bruce Banner; this casting sticks for the rest of the MCU.  Cobie Smulders joins as Agent Maria Hill, a new character.  The film is also notably directed by Joss Whedon (responsible for Firefly and its movie Serenity, along with Buffy the Vampire Slayer and its spin-off Angel.  He wrote several other MCU stories, as well as Toy Story, Atlantis: The Lost Empire and 2017’s Justice League).

This film quickly became iconic.  There are so many bits and scenes that remain popular and funny.  And the theme is totally awesome for this movie.

It opens with a deep voice announcing “the Tesseract has awakened;” reporting to a leader.  Their ally is handed a staff to lead an army against another world.  The universe will be handed to this leader and the humans will burn.  Next, we’re at S.H.I.E.L.D. facility in the midst of evacuation, with Director Fury arriving on the scene (with the first strains of the theme playing) to find out that the Tesseract is “behaving” as Selvig puts it.  Fury directs Agent Maria Hill to give priority to the mysterious Phase Two, because “until such time as the world ends, we will act as though it intends to spin on.”  It’s Barton, from his nest who points out to Fury that the Tesseract is a door to space, and doors open from both sides; meaning this energy spike is from somewhere in space.  Then the Tesseract creates a portal and Loki emerges, holding a scepter and wearing a manic grin [note the condition that Loki is in at this point; he’s not at peak form].  He soon attacks the agents, but finds that Barton has heart.  So he uses the scepter to turn Barton, while Fury takes the Tesseract.  Loki announces himself, proclaiming he is “burdened with glorious purpose.”  He comes with “glad tidings, of a world made free…of freedom.  Freedom is life’s great lie, once you accept that in your heart, you will know peace.”  He turns Selvig (who perks up at the mention of Asgard and realizes that Loki is Thor’s brother.)  Barton picks up that Fury is stalling, then shoots him in order to take the Tesseract.  Loki and his new followers leave and are almost free until Fury alerts Hill that Barton has turned. 

This starts a car chase, made more dangerous by the facility collapsing.  Fury gets out and takes a helicopter after Loki, who just shoots it out of the sky with his scepter.  Fury jumps out, Hill barely manages to keep from getting smashed and Coulson is with the last truckload of people.  Fury immediately begins coordinating S.H.I.E.L.D.; they are now at war.  Cue the title card and more of the theme.

We check in on Natasha as the Black Widow next, tied to a chair being interrogated.  Until a phone rings; it’s for her and she’s actually interrogating the men.  She has to end it quickly because Coulson informs her that Barton has been compromised.  Coulson holds while Natasha beats up the guys, even still attached to the chair, until she breaks it and uses it as a weapon.  In stocking feet and a dress.  This woman is badass.  She’s sent to India to collect the “big guy,” and no, it’s not Stark.  It’s Bruce Banner; Fury wants his help tracking the Tesseract, which is emitting levels of gamma radiation.

Meanwhile, Fury is meeting with a shadowy council, doing his best to make them understand that a threat has landed on Earth.  He has put together a response team; which one man retorts “you’re going to leave the fate of the world to a handful of freaks.”  Fury firmly believes that this group will be the response team the world needs with the right push.  When they call him out on sentimentality, Fury confirms that wars are won by soldiers.  So we’re back in the gym with Steve, getting his orders to save the world from Fury.  Steve recognizes the Tesseract as Hydra’s secret weapon.  Fury reveals that Howard Stark was the one to retrieve the cube from the ocean and was the first to make the argument that it is the key to unlimited, sustainable energy…hence SHIELD investigating it.  Steve retorts they should have left it in the ocean.

And speaking of energy…Stark is pulling his new building from the power grid, demonstrating self-sustaining clean energy and celebrating with Pepper.  Coulson interrupts their moment (or, 12% of  moment) and gives Tony homework with files on the Avengers Initiative and Tony recognizes the blue Tesseract cube, (which Howard had made notes on as we saw in Iron Man 2).  Coulson next brings Steve to Natasha and Bruce aboard an aircraft carrier.  Except it’s not a true aircraft carrier, it’s a helicarrier and it can fly, and disappear using reflective panels.  Steve gives Fury ten bucks as payoff on a bet about how the world has gotten stranger.

Meanwhile, Selvig is set up in a new lab and Loki is receiving orders [again note, Loki is not the one behind this attack and he still does not look like he’s at peak performance], trying to prove his worth to the alien spokesperson.  They “rescued” Loki from his defeat.  They care not for his desire to rule for they look to worlds that will be revealed by the Tesseract.  He warns Loki that if he fails “there will be no realm, no barren moon, no crevice where he can’t find you.  You think you know pain?  He will make you long for something as sweet as pain.”  Barton helps set up their next mission in Stuttgart, Germany…he’ll need an eyeball.  Loki attends a museum gala, then attacks the curator and uses a device to read his retina. Barton uses the data to enter a vault and steal iridium.  Loki enjoys the chaos, uses magic to transform his garb, and makes the crowd kneel outside.  “Is this not your natural state?  It is the unspoken truth of humanity that you crave subjugation.  The bright lure of freedom diminishes your life’s joy in a mad scramble for power, for identity.  You were made to be ruled.  In the end, you will always kneel.”  [This is the voice that delivers Shakespeare’s speeches with perfection.]  One old man rises and stands up to Loki, saying they will not kneel to men like Loki.  Just as Loki is about to make an example of the man (who is canonically a Holocaust survivor), Captain America shows up, quipping the last time he was in Germany and a man was standing above everyone else, they ended up disagreeing.  The two trade shots back and forth and are interrupted by Shoot to Thrill and the arrival of Iron Man.  He manages to knock down Loki, who surrenders, transforming his clothing once again to something subtler than a cape and a helmet with gold horns.

Natasha pilots the Quinjet to bring Tony, Steve, and Loki back to the helicarrier; they hit a storm.  Loki is a bit nervous, which Steve picks up on.  Loki is “not overly fond of what follows” lightning.  Cue Thor’s entrance into the Quinjet and grabbing Loki.  Tony immediately grabs the helmet to his suit, to which Steve cautions they need a plan of attack.  Tony has a plan, attack.  Natasha suggests that Steve sits that bout out; they’re basically gods, she cautions.  Steve retorts that there’s only one God, and he doesn’t look like that, hiking up a parachute.  Thor attempts to reason with Loki, demanding where the Tesseract is.  Loki quips that Thor should be glad because now he has a reason to be sent to Earth by Odin.  Thor is not in a gaming mood, he plainly states he thought Loki dead and yes, he mourned for him [you can make out the relief image of Loki’s helmet embossed on his vambraces later], as did their father.  Loki cuts Thor off; Odin is not his father, or did he not inform Thor of Loki’s true parentage.  It doesn’t matter to Thor; Loki is his brother; they were raised together, played together, fought together.  Loki once again cuts off his brother; all he remembers is being in the shadow of Thor’s greatness, blaming him for falling off the Bifrost [you can hear ravens briefly; a sign maybe Odin is listening?].  Loki chuckles when Thor claims the Earth is under his protection; “you’re doing a marvelous job of that.  The humans slaughter each other in droves, while you idly fret.  I mean to rule them.”  Yes, he believes himself to be above humans.  Thor gently chides Loki that he misses the point of ruling, “the throne would suit you ill.”  Loki lashes out at Thor again; he’s seen the truth of the Tesseract in his exile; which Thor picks up as someone is behind Loki’s scheme.  He demands who is behind the would-be king and begs Loki to come home.  For a second, Loki is serious, then grins; he’s sent the Tesseract away, he knows not where.  Thor urges Loki to listen, but his next statement is cut off when Iron Man tackles him.  Loki simply stands there, “I’m listening,” then watches the two face off below.

Tony demands Thor return Loki, at least until they get the Tesseract and then he’s all Asgard’s.  When Tony quips “tourist,” Thor throws Mjölnir.  The two start pummeling each other, though when Iron Man gets hit by Thor’s lightning, his suit is now at 400% power, interesting.  Steve drops in to break up the fight, but when he asks Thor to put down his hammer, Tony tries to warn him.  Thor puts down the hammer, on Captain America’s vibranium shield, which causes a blast wave and more damage to the forest.  See, it’s funny here when superheroes fight because they’re all men who are used to leading and others following, and they haven’t sat down and made peace yet (it’s later on, down the road that we dislike them fighting).  And it does answer the question of what would happen if Thor’s hammer met Steve’s shield.

They settle down and bring Loki in; Fury sticks him in an impenetrable glass capsule.  Our leads start discussing the real issue.  Thor informs them of Loki’s plan to lead the Chitauri army in return for the Tesseract, which Bruce surmises he needs to make another portal, but there are some science barriers he has to overcome, which Tony picks up on.  Yes, he became an expert on thermonuclear astrophysics overnight, because he’s that good.  Oh, and he plants something on Fury’s computer.  Bruce makes a crack about the crazy on Loki and Thor defends his brother.  Natasha points out “he killed 80 people in two days.”  Well…he’s adopted.  Tony bonds with Bruce over science, which just confuses everyone else.  Steve points out that Loki’s scepter works an awful lot like Hydra weapons and Fury confirms it is powered by the Tesseract and he’d like to know “how Loki used it to turn two of the sharpest men I know into his personal flying monkeys.”  Thor may not understand that reference, but Steve does.  He’s proud, cause there’s a lot of references he doesn’t get in this modern world.

Tony and Bruce work together well and Tony invites Bruce to Stark Industries in New York for research and development.  Bruce declines, since the last time he was in New York, he kind of broke Harlem.  Steve walks in when Tony pokes Bruce, reprimanding him for putting people at risk because he wants to see if Bruce will Hulk out.  No, this is Tony not being afraid of Bruce and recognizing that there is a man behind the monster.  Also, Bruce wouldn’t have come aboard if he couldn’t handle a few prods.  Tony continues to say that he doesn’t trust Fury; Bruce concurs that there is something fishy going on because why is S.H.I.E.L.D. in the energy field and why didn’t they bring Tony onboard earlier?  (And the blueberry bit is Robert Downey Jr keeping snacks on set and sharing).  It does make Steve suspicious, so he goes snooping.

Natasha goes to speak to Loki, hoping to get information out of him about Barton; she owes him a debt for making a different call when he was sent to kill her years ago.  Loki points out that she is bargaining for one man when the fate of the world hangs in the balance.  “Regimes fall every day, I tend not to weep over that, I’m Russian,” she quips.  Oh, but Loki knows about the Black Widow, thanks to Barton.  Loki won’t touch Barton, until he kills Natasha in every way she fears, and then, when he sees what he’s done, he’ll split his skull (and calls Natasha a word that Frigga would not approve of).  At his monster quip, Natasha infers that he means to release the Hulk.

Everyone ends up in the scepter room, Fury angry about Tony hacking his system.  Steve reveals that Phase 2 is S.H.I.E.L.D. uses the cube to make weapons, like Hydra did.  Fury blames that move on Thor.  S.H.I.E.L.D. learned that not only are we not alone, we are hopelessly and hilariously outgunned.  Thor argues back that S.H.I.E.L.D.’s work with the Tesseract is what drew attention; it is a signal to all the realms that the Earth is ready for a higher form of war.  Tony argues that a nuclear deterrent never works and Steve gets a crack in.  Thor quips that he thought humans were higher evolved than this bickering.  It devolves into everyone speaking over each other, though there is a crack in there about Captain America is really on a threat watchlist?  Steve and Tony really rub each other wrong; Steve quips that they’ll go around when Tony puts on the suit, because under that suit, what is Tony.  He retorts he’s a genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist.  Thor watches this and chuckles; “you people are so petty.  And tiny.”  Then attention turns to Bruce when he calls Fury out on the capsule as a way to kill the Hulk if necessary.  But no one can; Bruce has tried (and watch everyone’s faces react).  He got really low once and wanted to end everything.  The “other guy” spit out the bullet.  As he gets worked up, he grabs the scepter.  When Steve calls him on it, he puts it down.  Just as they get a location on the Tesseract, there is an explosion.

While the heroes were fighting, Barton leads a team against the Helicarrier, locked in on the scepter.  Now Tony complies when Steve tells him to put on the suit.  Barton knocks out of the helicarrier’s engines.  Tony and Steve go to fix that, Steve keeping bad guys off of Tony’s tail while Tony does repairs midflight.  The explosion sent Natasha, Bruce, and Thor through the floor.  Bruce Hulks out near Natasha and chases her around the lower levels.  Thor tackles the Hulk and gets some hits in with Mjölnir.  Fury sends a pilot as a distraction before the Hulk can tear the carrier apart.  It works, for a minute, but the shots make the target angry and Hulk leaps at the plane.  He eventually pulls the pilot out and flings him away (chute opening safely) and the plane crashes, flinging the Hulk another direction.  Thor then goes to confront Loki, who uses his duplicating skill to trick his brother.  “Are you ever not going to fall for that?”  Loki sends Thor hurtling towards the ground in the capsule.  Barton is aboard and one of his arrows takes down S.H.I.E.L.D.’s system and the helicarrier begins to fall to the earth as well.  Fury sends Natasha after Barton, then directs someone to turn the helicarrier around so they’re over water.  They protest that navigation is down.  “Is the sun coming up?  Then put it on the left [proving that sometimes, the old ways are still best.]”  Clint and Natasha know each other’s moves well enough to dodge some.  They’re at an impasse until Natasha bites Barton, flips over him, and runs him into a pipe.  And a second time for good measure.

Coulson goes after Loki, but he uses his duplication again and stabs Coulson from behind.  Coulson predicts Loki will lose.  Fury finds Coulson as his associate argues about his belief in the team.  Loki has escaped with the scepter, though Barton is now onboard.  Steve and Tony managed to work together, Tony getting the last guy shooting who had Steve pinned down (after pinging around the engine for a minute like a pin ball).  Fury throws bloody Captain America trading cards at the ones left.  Fury admits that yes, an arsenal was in the works, but he was betting on the Avengers Initiative, to fight the battles that humans couldn’t.  But, it’s obvious now that the team couldn’t get along; maybe his idea was an old-fashioned notion.

Steve and Tony visit where Coulson died, Tony remarking that the man was an idiot for not waiting for back-up; he was obviously no match for Loki.  Neither of them trust Fury and come to the point that Loki was making this battle personal.  He’s a diva, Tony points out, and wants his name in lights.  Which means, he’s going after Stark’s tower.  He repairs his suit, Steve finds the suit Coulson designed, Natasha speaks to Clint and they agree to accompany Steve as they steal a Quinjet.  A security guard finds Bruce and gives him some words of wisdom. 

Everyone begins to make their way to Stark Tower, where Erik is set up to make another portal with the Tesseract.  Tony arrives first and trades barbs with Loki, pointing out that he managed to piss off the Avengers, “Earth’s mightiest heroes and all that.”  Made up of a demi-god, a super solider, a man with breath-taking anger management issues, and a couple master assassins.  Loki quips, “I have an Army.”  Tony comes back with “we have a Hulk,” and there is no version where Loki will come out on top, because even if they can’t protect the Earth, they will make damn sure they’ll avenge it.  Loki attempts to control Tony, but his reactor protects him, so Loki chucks him out the window.  Tony’s newest suit manages to catch up with him before he goes splat.

Selvig gets the portal open and the Chitauri army begins to fly through.  Thor arrives in his full armor and trades strikes with Loki.  After Loki fires at the Quinjet, Thor tries once more to reason with his brother, pointing out the madness going on around them.  Loki states it’s too late to stop them.   Thor pleads that they can stop it, together.  We think for a minute Loki will join his brother; instead, he stabs him, murmuring sentiment.  Thor ups the ante and throws Loki around, who eventually rolls off the tower and into his army.

When Steve, Natasha, and Clint crash, they immediately set to helping the civilians fleeing the scene.  Steve tries to give orders to the police, who question who he is until he smacks down a few aliens.  Natasha and Clint fall into helping each other, Natasha quipping about Budapest.  She and Clint remember that very differently, he cracks.  Steve soon joins them again, along with Thor and Bruce arrives.  Tony is pleased and tells Bruce to suit up, he’s bringing the party to them, meaning a whale-like creature.  Natasha is not sure how that’s a party, but they gear up.  Steve tells Bruce it may be time to get angry, to Hulk out.  Bruce’s secret is actually that he’s always angry, to which he transforms and punches the whale (and the theme gears up).  Our heroes circle up (iconic image) as the Chitauri yell at them.  Tony tells Cap to give the orders.  Thor is use bottleneck the portal, use lightning,  Tony is on perimeter; turn it back or turn it to ash.  Barton is up high, calling out patterns; Tony gives him a lift.  Steve and Natasha will remain on the ground, keeping fighting on them.  And Hulk…smash.  Which he does with glee.

Natasha eventually figures they need to close the portal, and has Steve give her a boost up so she can commandeer a ride from a Chitauri.  Selvig had been hit with a blast at some point and now realizes that there is a safeguard he built in.  You can close the portal with the scepter.  Hulk leaps into Stark Tower to confront Loki.  “Enough!” Loki shouts, calling Hulk a dull creature.  “I am a god, and I will not be bullied…”  Hulk grabs Loki and smashes him several times into the floor.  Loki wheezes from the crater and Hulk calls him “puny god.”  [Just about the funniest scene in the film.]  Everyone fights together (there’s a great tracking shot where we see everyone and all the action in one continuous shot), Steve and Thor both throwing and retrieving their weapons, Hulk even helping Thor – though he punches him as payback for the carrier fight.  Clint calls out patterns to Tony. 

In the meantime, the S.H.I.E.L.D. Council calls Fury and order him to release a nuclear bomb on New York City in order to stop the army.  Fury recognizes that “the Council has made a decision, but given that it’s a stupid-ass decision, I’ve elected to ignore it.”  [One of the best lines from the film].  He won’t release a bomb until he’s sure that the Avengers can’t handle it.  The Council goes behind his back and orders a pilot to takeover.  Fury manages to stop that plane, but not the back up.  He calls Tony to tell him on the incoming nuke.  Tony breaks away and flies as fast as he can to intercept it and shoots straight into the portal.  As he does that, the rest of the team is starting to fray.  Clint has to leap off the roof before he’s blown up, crashing into a window and landing painfully on his quiver.  Steve is shot a few times and even Thor is lagging a bit.  The Hulk is overwhelmed by fire, then Natasha says she can close the portal.  Tony has them wait long enough to take the nuke through.  As he enters space, his suit shuts down and he begins falling.  He’s awake long enough to see the missile hit and the ship explode.  Back in the city, the army falls down.  When the team on the ground can see the explosion, Steve makes the call for Natasha to close the portal.  Iron Man falls through at the last second, free from the explosion that gets trapped in space.  Agents cheer from the carrier, though Fury is downturned, knowing what it cost to rid the city of the nuke. 

The Avengers are happy to see Iron Man, but Thor quickly realizes he’s not slowing down his fall.  He swings his hammer, ready to retrieve his teammate, but Hulk catches him from midair.  He lays him down, but Tony is not breathing, as far as they can tell in the suit, whose reactor is growing dim.  Hulk yells and that startles Tony awake.  He’s exhausted and tells everyone they should try shawarma.  Well, first, they have to deal with something.  Loki has crawled out of the crater and asks Tony for that drink he offered earlier, while the whole team is standing around him, Clint’s arrow aimed directly at him.

The team does have to break apart; Thor takes Loki in a gag back to Asgard with the Tesseract.  Bruce accompanies Tony.  Natasha and Clint leave together.  Steve rides away on his bike.  Fury speaks to the Council, informing them that no, he’s not tracking the team’s whereabouts; they’ve earned a leave of absence.  And while that was not his call to make, he didn’t argue with the god who did.  Fury speaks to Maria Hill afterwards, that he trusts them to return because at some point, they’ll need them.  We see Tony working on new plans for the tower (and there are specialized floors laid out for each team member) and as the camera pans away, the only letter left out of Stark is the “A.”

There are two credit scenes; the first being a report on the invasion.  The reporter tells his ruler that to challenge the unruly humans is to court death.  A purple face turns towards the screen (that now all audiences know is Thanos, but only those who read the comics knew when the film first came out).  The second scene is simply the team eating shawarma silently after the battle; everyone exhausted [and trying not to laugh.  And Chris Evans’ hand is in front of his face to hide a beard he grew for his next role].

I will take a minute to say that the theme is very cool, with the strings keeping a rhythm that pushes the tempo a little, building excitement.  Then there’s a fanfare that’s perfect for a superhero movie.  Then it repeats a little more sedately which works well for the background of scenes.  It’s quickly become iconic; we hear this and know that heroes are banding together.  It’s positive.  It’s a full orchestra score compared to the electric guitar heavy Iron Man theme, or the brass fanfare of Captain America.

And let’s not forget the bloopers!  They play the theme from Smokey and the Bandit due to a crack from Robert Downey Jr.  It’s four minutes of fun I’ll play if I need something “fluffy” or funny.  Actors crack up and can’t set props down, or get a parachute on.  Cobie is a little more dramatic about Coulson’s death and Tom Hiddleston is dead on with an Alan Rickman impersonation (there’s a twinge of sadness knowing that beloved actor has passed now).  He also cracks up when he’s supposed to be moaning on the floor and even director Joss Whedon gets in on the argument, yelling for everyone to stop fighting.  Chris Hemsworth occasionally struggles to catch his hammer; Chris Evans catches his shield and keeps going.  Also, check out Tom Hiddleston’s appearance at Comic Con the following year as Loki, mimicking his speech from the movie.  The crowd goes nuts and Tom basks in it.  They chant “Loki!  Loki!  Loki!” but go silent when he puts his finger to his lips.  At the end, he has the crowd say his name, which they gladly do.  He now has his army.  The fact that he gets the entire Hall H (one of the bigger halls at the convention from what I’ve heard) to cheer for the villain…it’s a testament to the actor.  It is amazing and this is why we love him!

This film has just become iconic.  It’s one of the major crossovers in cinema, pulling superheroes that had their own films into one.  Black Widow eventually got her own movie and Hawkeye got his own show (neither of which I have seen yet).  As opposed to say X-Men that was always written as a team.  There wasn’t much development of some major characters on an individual basis.  It’s well written in the way that we remember a lot of the dialogue from the film.  The action is engaging and everyone seemed to get their moment.  True, the MCU only gets bigger from here, but I do recall it being a big deal when it came out and we shouldn’t forget that.  After this film released, there was so much speculation on what direction the universe would go (and fans went wild!)  It’s definitely a movie I recommend.

Up Next: Iron Man 3

“Do me a favor, and don’t be dead.”


The fourth movie of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and boy does it have a cast!  First, you have Kenneth Branagh, who in addition to acting (he’s appeared in three movies he’s directed, is well known amongst a certain generation as Gilderoy Lockhart in Chamber of Secrets, and has appeared in several performances of Shakespeare, including the titular Hamlet and Henry V), has directed both Murder on the Orient Express and Death on the Nile, as well as the 2015 live action Disney Cinderella, and Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit.  On top of that, Chris Hemsworth (before this, in 2009, he played George Kirk in Star Trek, and was the Huntsman in both Huntsman films with Kristen Stewart) stars as Thor, Natalie Portman (well-known for playing Padmé Amidala in the Star Wars prequel trilogy [so you kind of have the joke that in this movie you have James Kirk’s dad and Luke Skywalker’s mom, who are now a couple], and Anne Boleyn in the movie adaptation of The Other Boleyn Girl) is Jane Foster, and Tom Hiddleston (has gone on to star in several films and even has a scene in Muppets Most Wanted, though I adore him in The Hollow Crown as Prince Hal/Henry V, and he appeared in War Horse alongside Benedict Cumberbatch [and a whole host of other British actors]) is Loki.  [Tom originally auditioned to play Thor, but was cast as Loki instead and these roles became star-making roles for both Hemsworth and Hiddleston…and I still need to watch that Loki show on Disney+.] 

Stellan Skarsgård (he was in both Mamma Mia films and two of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies, along with being Cerdic in King Arthur in 2004 and the Grand Duke in the live-action Cinderella) is Erik Selvig, Anthony Hopkins (known for being Hannibal Lecter in several films, he was Don Diego de la Vega, the original Zorro in The Mask of Zorro; this actor has a list of credits that goes back to the 60s) is Odin, and Idris Elba (stars in the show Luther on television, was Krall in Star Trek Beyond, and dozens of other appearances [and there were brief rumors that he could be the next James Bond, but he has come out and said he will not]) is Heimdall.  Josh Dallas (I know him better as David Nolan/Prince Charming in Once Upon a Time) is Fandral, Ray Stevenson (he was Porthos in the 2011 Three Musketeers) is Volstagg, and Clark Gregg is back as Agent Coulson and has a bit more to do in this film.

The film opens in New Mexico (tying it in to comments made in the previous Iron Man 2), with a group of astrophysicists (well, Darcy is not one, but she was the only applicant for the assistant position) investigating atmospheric disturbances.  They drive towards weird lights in the sky, then something hits the earth.  As Jane insists they get closer, they run into…something.  They rush out of the truck and discover it’s a person.

Odin narrates a tale of yesteryear, how the Asgardians, led by Odin, beat back the Frost Giants when they tried to freeze the mortal realm, revealing that there are several realms and mortals believed at that time that these realms held some of their gods [this film gave me an interest in Norse mythology; I had already been interested in Vikings due to their ties to Britain, but I still have a lot of research left to do, hopefully to tie elements into my own fantasy book series].  They may now be relegated to man’s myths and legends, but it was Asgard that brought peace to the universe.  The scene pans to Asgard, a shining realm and Odin is telling this tale to his two sons.  One day, one of them will have to defend that peace.  Young Thor dreams of battle and Odin cautions him that “a wise king never seeks out war, but he must always be ready for it.”  Both boys are eager and Odin once again curbs their enthusiasm, stating only one may ascend the throne of Asgard, yet both were born to be kings (a bit of foreshadowing). 

It appears that years have passed and there is now a great celebration going on [I love the inclusion of knotwork in the design, especially on Thor’s hammer, Mjölnir…there is a historical link between the Norse and the Celts, considering that the Vikings harried the Scottish northern coast for centuries].  While Thor is egging on the crowd, Odin is serious; this is the coronation of his heir and firstborn, who wields the hammer, Mjölnir, whose power is no equal, “it is a weapon to destroy or as a tool to build.”  It is a fit companion for a king.  He asks Thor to swear to guard the Nine Realms, preserve the peace, and cast aside all selfish ambition and pledge himself to the good of the realm.  Before Odin can proclaim Thor king, he senses a security breach in the sacred vault; Frost Giants have broken in and attempt to steal back their glowing blue casket that is the source of their power.  But a silver guard, the Destroyer, stops them.  When Odin, Thor, and Loki investigate, Thor immediately wants to march into Jotunheim for answers, and to knock a few heads.  Odin snaps that Thor is not king yet, and thus the decision is not his to make.  Thor throws a tantrum in his chambers and Loki attempts to calm his brother, something that he has undoubtedly had to do in the past.  He’s not entirely helpful since he tells Thor he’s right and they should go ask questions, but that would mean defying father.  Thor thinks it is an excellent idea and drags his brother and his friends to visit Heimdall, who guards the Bifrost, the magical transport between realms.

Heimdall wants to know how these giants gained access because he sees all, except them.  So he allows Thor and his friends through.  Thor does not negotiate well with Laufey, who sees that this young prince only craves battle.  Thor does not know what his actions will unleash, Laufey warns, as well as declaring that the House of Odin is full of traitors.  Loki takes over negotiations and they are almost home free until Laufey insults Thor, who is ready to smash things with his hammer.  A fight ensues, and Volstagg [who reminds me of a Tolkien-esque dwarf…probably on purpose considering that Tolkien’s inspiration for the Dwarves were from the Norse sagas…more on that when we reach the Hobbit movies] warns his friends not to be touched by the Frost Giants; their touch burns.  Yet, when Loki is grabbed by one, his skin turns blue, then back to normal.  But no time to ponder that because Laufey has released a large beast that chases Thor’s friend while they attempt to retreat after Fandral has been wounded.  Thor continues to take out giants, then runs his hammer through the beast’s mouth, killing him.  But they’re still surrounded, until Odin arrives on an eight-legged horse [Sleipnir, according to legend.  And also according to legend, Loki’s son…not sure how that works out in the MCU].  Thor cheers, figuring his father is there to lead the battle.  Odin silences him and treats with Laufey; these were the actions of a boy (not a man, not a prince, not a would-be king), treat them as such.  And Laufey still fears Odin at this moment, so the Asgardians return home, under the threat of war.  Odin dismisses Thor’s friends and speaks to Thor.  Thor insists that the Jotun must learn to fear him, just as they feared Odin.  Odin retorts, “that is pride and vanity speaking, not leadership.”  Thor tries to argue back, that their status as fallen because of peace, Odin interrupts, “you are a vain, greedy, cruel boy!”  “And you are an old man and a fool!” Thor shouts back.  Odin takes a moment, yes, he was a fool, for thinking Thor was ready.  Loki attempts to intercede on Thor’s behalf, but Odin dismisses him with a growl [which actually startled Tom, since it was not in the script.  This is stunning acting on Anthony Hopkins’ part.]  Odin declares Thor unworthy, of the realms, of his title, and of the loved ones he has betrayed (and note how the camera turns to Loki at that moment).  Odin strips his son of his cloak, and of Mjölnir and his power.  He casts Thor out.  Then commands the hammer “whosoever hold this hammer, if he be worthy, shall possess the power of Thor,” and sends it after his son.

These brings us back to Jane and her friends hitting Thor, who is very confused and yelling strange things at the sky, like hammer and Heimdall.  Darcy is freaked out and tases Thor (which is a bit hilarious).  Jane is distracted by the markings in the dirt, but Erik talks her in to taking the strange young man to the hospital.  (They don’t see the hammer crash down a little way away.)  When Thor initially wakes up, he tries to wreak havoc, until he’s tranquilized and strapped down.  Jane and her friends attempt to analyze the pictures of what they saw last night, mentioning an Einstein-Rosen bridge; essentially a wormhole.  She realizes she’s looking at another dimension and that the strange man is her best piece of evidence, so they have to find him.  He’s escaped the hospital, but not far, because she manages to back into him.  They clothe Thor [and we admire a shirtless Chris Hemsworth] and get him food; though his manners leave a bit to be desired.  At the same time, the hammer has created a crater that some townsmen have found and decided to see who can pull it out of the ground (a la the sword in the stone situation…hmmm…) (and our Stan Lee cameo).

Meanwhile, in Asgard, Thor’s friends and Loki discuss current events.  Loki reveals that he was the one who had ordered a guard to go to Odin, but obviously he was late, because the plan was to never arrive at Jotunheim.  And he never dreamed that Odin would banish Thor, and he loves his brother more dearly that the others.  Nevertheless, Thor is reckless and dangerous.  Loki storms out.  Sif comments that Loki speaks of love, but he’s always been jealous of Thor, and they begin thinking Loki may be responsible; he’s prone to mischief.  Loki finds the Jotun’s blue casket and it begins to turn him blue again.  Odin discovers him and Loki demands answers.  Is he cursed?  No.  What am I?  He is Odin’s son.  What more?  The casket was not the only thing Odin took from Jotunheim that day.  No; when Odin entered the temple, he found an abandoned baby, small for a giant’s offspring; and we see the babe change its appearance to mimic Odin’s.  Laufey’s son, incidentally.  Loki doesn’t believe that Odin brought him home simply because he was an innocent child, not when he’s the same monster that parents warn their children of; or was it to be held prisoner until Odin has use of him?  Yes, Odin had a purpose: he wanted a permanent alliance with Laufey and though Loki could be that bridge, but it doesn’t matter now, not after what Thor has started.  Loki resents that Odin never told him; too hurt to realize that Odin viewed him as a son, he simply remembers not being as good as Thor, feeling that Odin had always favored Thor and this must be the reason why [a superb performance by Tom…this is why we love him].  Odin protests that Loki is twisting Odin’s words, then collapses.  Loki calls for help.  Later, while Odin is sleeping, he questions his mother why he was never told.  She reiterates that they always viewed Loki as their son and simply wanted to love and protect him.  And there has always been a purpose to what Odin has done.  Loki is taking on the mantle of king and denies his friends’ plea to bring Thor back.  His first command cannot be to undo Odin’s last.  (We don’t believe that and neither do his friends.)

Back on Earth, the feds show up at the crater and lock it down.  Jane, Thor, Darcy, and Erik hear about it, after Thor demands more coffee by throwing down his mug.  Thor realizes that the crater holds his hammer and he must retrieve it.  Jane wants to follow, but Erik warns her off.  They shortly discover that S.H.I.E.L.D. is at their lab, confiscating her research.  So Jane finds Thor, who makes the deal that once he has his hammer, he will get Jane’s things back.  Thor enters the compound as a storm brews (he is the god of thunder, after all).  He easily takes on any guards that are sent his way, though he doesn’t kill him.  When the last one steps in front of him, he comments, “you’re big.  Fought bigger.”  Coulson calls from someone to get up high and keep on eye on their intruder.  A man, Barton, we hear, grabs a bow, then drawls to Coulson that he’s starting to root for their intruder as he takes out guards.  But Coulson holds on his call, wanting to see what Thor does when he finds the hammer.  Thor pulls on the handle and the hammer doesn’t budge.  He shouts to the raining sky and sinks to the mud.  He’s docile as he’s taken into custody and Jane quietly calls for Erik to pick her up.  She persuades Erik to go get Thor, arguing that while Thor may speak of magic, magic has been called a precursor to science.  Erik has heard of S.H.I.E.L.D. through a colleague and knows they’re not to be trifled with, but he will help Jane.  And get Thor to leave.

Coulson questions Thor, believing him to be a mercenary, but Thor doesn’t answer.  When Coulson steps away, Loki appears.  Then lies to his brother, saying that Odin is dead and their mother has forbidden Thor’s return.  Thor is broken-hearted and does not fight.  Loki makes his own attempt to lift the hammer and fails, though he maintains his illusion so no mortals spot him.  This is when Erik picks up Thor, then takes him drinking in hopes of getting Thor to leave.  Thor willingly drinks with the man, then has to carry him back to Jane’s place.  “He drank, he fought, he made his ancestors proud,” Thor proclaims, then spends a quiet evening with Jane.  He brought her notebook back and encourages her to continue her research; it’s right.  There are other realms out there.  Nine, according to Thor, who explains the Yggdrasill, the World’s Tree, that connects all of them.

Loki is still plotting in Asgard; he visits Jotunheim and promises Laufey that he will sneak him in and he will be able to slay Odin while he sleeps.  And yes, it was Loki who had snuck the few Frost Giants in to ruin Thor’s big day.  It was his way of protecting the realm from Thor’s rule.  Meanwhile, Thor’s friends decide to come get Thor and Heimdall helps, simply by not being the one to open the Bifrost.  He’s been keeping an eye on Thor.  Loki realizes what is going on and sends the Destroyer to keep Thor from returning.  Thor is thrilled to see his friends (Sif and the Warriors Three…which a SHIELD agent comments that they look like they came from a Renaissance Faire…he’s got a point [considering I have friends who have dressed up as various Avengers and attended faire as a group, “Thor” even threw his mug down and demanded another]), but argues he cannot come home.  Then he discovers Loki’s lies.  S.H.I.E.L.D. briefly wonders if the Destroyer is one of Stark’s until is blasts them.  Thor will stay with Jane to help evacuate the town; he does not have the power to help his friends, so they will be the distraction (which involves tossing the “dwarf”).  Sif runs the Destroyer through with a spear and all is well for a moment, until it turns its entire body and continues blasting.

Back in Asgard, Loki freezes Heimdall so he can get the Frost Giants in.  Heimdall realizes that Loki has found secret paths that Heimdall cannot see and that is how he has arranged his plot.  Thor, to stop the carnage, faces the Destroyer alone and speaks to his brother, apologizing for whatever wrong he has done.  He offers his life instead.  The Destroyer smacks Thor, sending him flying.  Jane rushes to him and believe our hero has died.  Until Odin’s words echo: whosoever holds this hammer, if he be worthy, shall possess the power of Thor.  The hammer flies to Thor and he regains his armor and power.  And yes, Jane, Oh. My. God, is correct.  The battle is short after that, Thor plowing the hammer through the Destroyer.  But he and his friends must rush back to Asgard to stop Loki, though he promises to return for Jane.  She pulls him in for a kiss before he goes, not settling for one of his kisses to her knuckles.  Thor also got Coulson to return Jane’s things; they are all on the same side and she’ll need it to continue her research.

Heimdall breaks the freeze so he can get Thor and his friends back and Thor flies to the palace.  Frigga, Odin’s wife, stands ready to defend her sleeping husband against the Frost Giants, though they knock her away after she takes out one.  Laufey is eager to kill Odin, saying “your death comes at the hand of Laufey.”  Loki blasts the king of the Frost Giants, and declares “and yours came by the son of Odin.”  Frigga is thrilled to see Thor when he enters, then he reveals Loki’s treachery.  They take their fight to the Bifrost, which Loki plans to use to destroy Jotunheim.  Thor’s view has changed and he wants to stop Loki.  He initially doesn’t wish to fight his brother, but Loki eggs him on until they begin exchanging blows.  Loki accuses Thor of becoming weak, thanks to human Jane.  He says he never wanted the throne, he just wanted to prove himself a worthy son to Odin, the equal of Thor.  Thor declares this madness.  “Is it?” Loki wonders (again, superb acting).  Thor throws Loki on to the bridge, then places his hammer on him while he figures out what to do.  Loki mocks, what can he do now with all his strength?  Well, there is something Thor can do.  He uses the hammer to smash the rainbow bridge to the Bifrost, destroying it, despite Loki’s protests that Thor will never be able to see Jane again.  But it will save the realms.  The blast knocks them both off the bridge; Thor grabs Loki and Odin grabs Thor.  Loki pleads with their father, “I could have done it, father.  For you.”  Odin sadly says “no,” (not sure why, or what he’s referring to), but Loki lets go of Thor, who cries after his brother.  Loki disappears into the swirling vortex.

Sif comments to Frigga later that Thor mourns his brother, and misses Jane.  Thor speaks to Odin, saying that one day, he may make his father proud, but he still has a lot to learn.  There has been no wiser king, nor better father than Odin, he says.  Odin returns that Thor has already made him proud.  Heimdall consoles his prince that Earth is not wholly lost to them, there is always hope.  We see Jane continuing her research, no doubt trying to bring Thor to her.

The after credits scene is Erik meeting Fury, who shows him a glowing blue cube that combines legend and history.  It is power and Fury wants Erik to study it.  In the background, there is Loki, who is intrigued by this cube as well.

My feelings on this movie?  If it’s not already apparent, I have a definite interest.  I have learned that Marvel played a little fast and loose with typical Norse mythology; not that anyone would be surprised, considering the water downed version of Greek mythology Disney gave us in Hercules.  Truly, the acting is superb, very emotional performances by the main cast.  Anthony Hopkins shows us his range, from angry father, to worried king.  His is a flawed character, to be expected from what little I’ve gleaned of mythology, evident when he tries to talk to Loki.  Thor started as a truly arrogant warrior prince.  Of course he can take on an army of Jotuns with just his four friends and younger brother.  Even if you just take into account this film, Odin clearly saw enough of war and realized that peace was best for the Nine Realms and he is in charge of that.  So for his oldest son to threaten that, to flounce the lessons he tried to instill.  And Thor did grow.  We can see that in how he treated Jane and her friends.  At first, they are simply mortal servants.  Then he helps make breakfast and will let his friends have the glorious battle while he gets innocent people to safety.  He argues Sif away from death in battle; live and tell those stories yourself, he encourages her.  He became worthy of his title and strength; a great message.  And we get some funny scenes of Thor not being so mighty, like getting tased.

And yes, I’ve grown to love Loki, partly because Tom Hiddleston is an adorable human being from what we’ve seen.  He comes across as a cool operator, showing one face while thinking or plotting something else, but in the presence of those he loves, he will breakdown.  He demands the truth from his father and then battles for what he feels is his rightful place that was denied him with his stronger older brother. He doesn’t truly begin to outright lie until later in the movie.  He may manipulate and as Fandral comments, he’s been one for mischief, but not treason.  As most villains go, he’s fine until he reaches a breaking point.  And that was discovering his ancestry.  Yet, he still wants to be a hero.  He wants to save his father and this is all about proving himself to Odin.  He delayed Thor’s coronation because he felt Thor is not right for the kingdom and if he shows their father Thor sneaking to Jotunheim, Thor will be demoted and Loki will ascend.  His final words before he falls is he was doing it all for Odin.  Odin may have said no because he feels that Loki did this all for Loki, but we do witness later that Loki and Thor were honest brothers.  There was no question as they were children.  There was love and happiness at one time.

Again, I applaud the performances.  As I saw commented somewhere, most likely Pintrest, Thor beautifully balanced magic in the real world.  They exist separately, but this one brings them together without jarring.  (Which is something I am striving for as I work on my fantasy series.)  The arcs are great in this movie, but we can tell that they are really starting to build to something else.

I can make the recommendation to read The Witch’s Heart by new author Genevieve Gornichec (a fairly local woman that I heard about through the faire grapevine), which involves Loki. I will hold off on fanfic recommendation until we’re further into the universe since they all start melding together.

Next Time: Captain America: The First Avenger

“Sir! I’m going to have to ask you to exit the donut!”

Iron Man 2

Our core cast returns, though Rhodey is now played by Don Cheadle (and keeps the gig for the rest of the MCU), and Scarlett Johansson joins as Natalie Rushman/Agent Romanoff.  Tony’s father, Howard makes brief appearances, played by John Slattery.  We pick up essentially where we left off in the previous Iron Man film, at Tony Stark’s press conference where he reveals he’s Iron Man.  There is an old man in Russia watching, who calls his son, Ivan to him.  He has knowledge to share, then passes away.  Ivan then finds Stark blueprints to the Arc Reactor which also bear the name, Anton Vanko.  With the wall of clippings about Stark and Iron Man, we can guess where this is going.  And then Ivan is successful.

Time jump to six months later and Iron Man leaps from a plane, dodges explosions, to land at his dazzling Stark Expo to AC/DC’s Shoot to Thrill.  His opening address, he insists, is not about him, but about a legacy; what gets left behind for future generations and that is why for the next year, the expo will host the best and brightest from all nations to pool their resources in hopes of a better future.  Then he shows a video of his father at the last Expo, who claims that technology is the way to better living and the possibility of world peace.  Backstage, Tony is testing his blood toxicity level.  Afterwards, Tony is ordered to appear before the Senate Armed Services Committee.  Rival Justin Hammer is called in, as is Rhodey to attempt to give testimony against Tony, but Rhodey knows what game the committee is playing.  They want Tony to hand over the Iron Man suit to the military, or as Senator Stern puts it “to the American people.”  Tony refuses.  They attempt to show evidence of other copy cats out there, including Hammer, and then Tony shows them all failing.  He is confident that he is the only one with the knowledge to make that kind of suit.  He is America’s nuclear deterrent and has successfully privatized world peace.

Meanwhile, in Russia, Ivan is still working and adding whips to his arc reactor.  And back in California, JARVIS informs us that Tony has palladium poisoning, as it is the core of the arc reactor.  The thing that is keeping Tony alive is killing him.  Together they have tried every known element, but nothing is a suitable replacement for the palladium.  Pepper comes down and tries to get answers out of Tony about the company, which he evades, until he flat out tells her he wants her to run the company, to be CEO.  And he’s given it thought, he can name his own successor.  While Tony is boxing with Happy later, Pepper brings in Natalie Rushman from legal for the transfer.  Tony is obviously taken by the pretty young woman, who can then flip Happy.  He wants her as his new assistant.

Tony’s next stunt is to take over driving his racecar in the Grand Prix in Monaco.  Which is where Ivan Vanko shows up with his laser whips and begins taking out cars on the loop in an effort to get to Tony.  Happy and Pepper dash in with a suitcase that turns into a suit (Happy ramming Ivan a few times) and Tony can take on Ivan.  He then convinces the French police (and no, Robert Downey Jr cannot speak French), to let him interrogate Ivan for five minutes alone.  He muses to Ivan why he didn’t attempt to sell his device on the black market.  Ivan snaps back that the Stark family is full of thieves and butchers and reveals his father was Anton Vanko.  Ivan declares “when you make God bleed, people cease to believe.”  He also knows that the palladium is killing Tony.  Tony leaves.

Hammer then arranges for Ivan to be broken out of prison; he had seen his attack on Tony and instead of being horrified, enjoyed seeing someone try to take Tony down a peg.  He recruits Ivan to build him suits like Tony’s.  Back in California, Pepper knows Tony is hiding something from her, but he won’t outright admit it, so she goes on damage control with Natalie.  Rhodey goes to check on Tony and discovers that Tony is not feeling well, but again, Tony won’t say anything.  Rhodey insists he doesn’t have to do this alone.  Tony retorts that “contrary to popular believe, I know exactly what I’m doing.”  JARVIS also helps Tony research Anton and Ivan Vanko, but they don’t glean a lot of information.  Tony goes through with his birthday party, acting like the masses expect an eccentric billionaire to act.  Rhodey steps in, in another suit to get Tony to stop while Tony has the DJ play Queen’s Another One Bites the Dust.  Rhodey knocks Tony out and flies the new suit to an Air Force base.  The Air Force calls Hammer in to weaponize the suit, where he makes a ridiculous weapons’ demonstration.  Hammer is thrilled to be working with Stark tech, considering that Ivan is now making his suits drones.

This is where S.H.I.E.L.D. steps in; Nick Fury talks sense into Tony and reveals that Natalie Rushman is Agent Romanoff, stationed at Stark Industries to keep on eye on Tony.  They can get him back to working with an injection, but it’s not a cure.  Nick further reveals that he knew Howard Stark, who was actually a founding member of S.H.E.I.L.D.; yes, Anton Vanko used to work with Howard, but saw the arc reactor as a weapon, not energy, and was in it for the money.  Howard is the reason Anton was sent to Siberia and his life declined.  Furthermore, Howard once told Nick that Tony was the hope of the future.  Tony doesn’t quite agree with this; he remembers his father as cold and never said he liked him.  Nevertheless, Fury has other problems to be dealing with and leaves Agent Coulson in charge.  “I got my eye on you,” he warns Tony.  Tony does as he’s instructed and goes through Howard’s notebook and watches the reels that are left, mainly of outtakes of his Expo introduction [which honestly remind me of videos I have seen of Walt Disney introducing Disney World…not wholly ironic, considering that Disney now owns Marvel].  At the end of the reel is a message that Howard leaves for Tony; all of what he was building was for Tony; it is the key to the future, he says.  And above all, his greatest creation was Tony [there exists a version where Howard is holding a young sleeping Tony as he says this; apparently available with the Infinity boxed set…or on YouTube].  So Tony takes a quick trip in to Stark Industries, in attempt to apologize to Pepper and maybe explain.  But it comes out wrong and she sends him home.  Though on the way out, he catches sight of the old Stark Expo models.  And they give him an idea.  At home he makes a digital model he can manipulate and the layout is actually the atom of a new element.  Coulson stops in long enough to say he’s heading to New Mexico, after using a shield to prop up the coils Tony is using.  Of course Tony makes his own system to synthesize the new element after JARVIS tells him it’s impossible.  And it works, with a few mishaps.

Hammer is not happy with Ivan, who doesn’t deliver on what he said he would.  His drones will only be suitable for presentation, not demonstration.  Hammer is mollified since he has a new suit to kick things off with, but he sets guards on Ivan while he heads out to the Expo.  (Really dude, you didn’t think this ex-convict would try to double cross you?  Are you that dumb?)  After Ivan takes care of his guards, he calls Tony and Tony realizes what Hammer has been up to and the danger that is looming.  Tests will have to wait on the new care (which is a new shape as well), he shoves it in and suits up.  Tony arrives in the middle of Hammer’s military presentation and manages to warn Rhodey before the new suit shuts Rhodey out and the drones actually open fire.  Tony flies off to draw fire away from civilians and evades what he can.  [SPOILER: the kid that has an Iron Man mask on, that Tony saves, is a young Peter Parker, confirmed by Tom Holland and Marvel studios, which a lot of fans theorized for years.]   Pepper confronts Hammer behind the scenes and Natalie heads to his headquarters with Happy.  Happy keeps one guard busy while Agent Romanoff kicks butt.  But Ivan has escaped, though she manages to override his code to Rhodey’s suit so the friends can take on the rest of the drones, and dropping the bomb that Tony had been dying, freaking Pepper out momentarily.  Their last opponent is Ivan in a new suit with larger whips.  The blast from their two hands manages to take him out, yet he had rigged the drones to blow, so Tony races off to rescue Pepper.

Their argument on the rooftop results in a kiss, interrupted by Rhodey.  Afterwards, Tony meets with Fury and while he is not recommended for the Avengers Initiative at this time, they would like him to be a consultant.  The film closes out on a presentation for Rhodey and Tony by Senator Sterns to Highway to Hell by AC/DC, and the after credits scene is Coulson’s arrival to New Mexico (the license plate confirming it is the Land of Enchantment as Tony joked).  There is a carter holding a hammer and Coulson remarks “we found it.”

Overall, I still enjoy this film.  Does Tony act like an idiot at times?  Yes.  Do we forgive him a little considering he was dying?  A bit.  On the one hand, it looks like he doesn’t trust those who truly care about him, but in reality, he does.  He trusts Pepper to run him company.  He trusts Rhodey to have a suit, because he certainly could have made it impossible for Rhodey to take one if he really wanted.  He is looking out for the future and what mess he’ll leave behind and he’d rather be remembered as that crazy billionaire who went out in a bang.  He’s just bad at actually having serious conversations with those closest to him.

Next Time: Thor

Mutant. And Proud

X-Men: First Class

The start of the prequel-ish series and brings in James McAvoy (I adore him in Becoming Jane and he’s Tumnus the Faun in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe) to play Charles Xavier and Michael Fassbender (he’s the reason I went to watch the Jane Eyre movie that came out around the same time and led me to actually reading the book [that sometimes works]) to play Erik Lensherr.  Oliver Platt (Porthos in the 90’s Three Musketeers) is simply “Man in Black Suit,” though Kevin Bacon (star of Footloose) brings dimension to Sebastian Shaw.  Jennifer Lawrence (this came out a year before the first Hunger Games film, where her fame skyrocketed.  She has since won a Golden Globe for American Hustle and an Oscar for Silver Linings Playbook [no, I have not watched those, but I love her in this role]) is Raven, while Nicholas Hoult (now you see him all the time for ads for The Great, and he’s remarkable in Tolkien) is Hank McCoy, and Lucas Till (the new MacGyver) is Alex Summers.  A few older adults are familiar; Rade Serbedzija (Prince Kragin in the first Downton Abbey movie and Gregorvitch in Deathly Hallows, and Emile de Becque in the TV movie of South Pacific with Glenn Close) is the Russian general, Glenn Morshower (he shows up in a bunch of TV shows, usually as someone in charge) is General Hendry, and the senior William Stryker is played by Don Creech (yep, that’s Mr. Sweeney from Nickelodeon’s Ned’s Declassified School Survival Guide).

The film begins the same as the first X-Men film, in Poland in 1944.  But this time, we see someone watching young Erik Lensherr pull down the gates.  This man is known as Klaus Schmidt and he’s very interested in discovering Erik’s abilities.  The Nazis are only partially correct in their idea of genes unlocking a new age, but Schmidt is focused on latent abilities.  He offers Erik chocolate to move a metal coin.  When that fails, he brings in Erik’s mother and threatens to shoot her after the count of three, unless Erik can move the coin.  Sadly, the teenager cannot move the coin, and Schmidt shoots Mrs. Lensherr.  Erik goes on a rampage, destroying everything else metal in the room, to Schmidt’s great delight.  As a “reward,” he gives Erik the coin at the end, noting that he can unlock the boy’s gift with rage and pain (that does not bode well).  At the same time, in Westchester, New York, a young Charles Xavier discovers a young Raven in his kitchen.  At first, she morphs into Mrs. Xavier, but Charles quickly realizes she’s a fake since his mother has never stepped foot in the kitchen and has never offered to make him hot chocolate.  But when Charles realizes it’s another mutant, he’s excited, as is Raven.

Eighteen years later, in Geneva, Switzerland, Erik tracks down a former Nazi banker to make him give up the location of Klaus Schmidt.  He’s sent to Argentina, where he notices a photo of Schmidt aboard a ship based out of Miami.  Erik kills the men, after remarking that he is Frankenstein’s monster, and he’s looking for his creator [this sequence highlights Michael Fassbender’s talent with languages].  At the same time, Charles is finishing his degree at Oxford University and hitting on girls in pubs, while his “sister” Raven watches on.  While Charles praises pretty girls for their “mutations,” such as two-colored eyes and brown hair, Raven has to hide her true form in order to fit in.  She mocks a girl for saying “mutant and proud,” but the relationship between Charles and Raven is very sweet: Charles is very much a brother by saying that the overall concept of his sister dating is that “any man would be lucky to have you,” while the actual thought is, “you’re my sister, I don’t think of you that way.”  And he genuinely fears Raven slipping up and what the consequences would be.  [And excellent editing, playing Charles’ thesis over the scene where Erik walks into the bank, stating “the mutated human species meant the extinction of its less-evolved kin.”]

In the States, CIA agent Moira McTaggert is investigating the Hellfire Club in Las Vegas, discovering several officials and important people are all meeting, including General Hendry, so she sneaks in.  And overhears Shaw pressuring the general to put nuclear missiles in Turkey, extremely close to Russia and almost certainly a declaration of war.  But some of his mutant companions help sway the general.  When her report is not believed, she sets out to find an expert in genetic mutation.  Which leads her to Charles, who initially tries to flirt with her, until he discovers that there is something more interesting going on.  So, Charles and Raven accompany Moira back to the CIA headquarters, where Charles gives his presentation, but isn’t taken seriously, until he uses his abilities.  Of course, they think he’s a spy, until Raven transforms into Styrker.  They’re still not trusted, so the man in the back ground [Oliver Platt] offers to house them in his facility, since it’s secure and off-premises.  Then a lead comes in about Shaw’s whereabouts, and Charles persuades Moira to take him.

Erik has caught up to Shaw (who is in fact Klaus Schmidt) after Shaw has killed Hendry by demonstrating his mutant power: he absorbs energy and can redistribute it, which also keeps him young.  Erik is knocked off the boat by Shaw’s associates, then uses the anchor to begin tearing the ship apart.  Emma Frost and Shaw escape into their submarine, which Erik attempts to stop using his powers.  But the U.S. Coast Guard is also on the scene, with Charles on board.  Charles senses Erik in the water, after mentally running into Emma, who is also a telepath.  Charles urges Erik to stop and let the sub go; he’ll drown.  When the man doesn’t listen to him, Charles jumps into the water himself and calms the man down.  “You’re not alone.”

Charles brings Erik back to the “Covert CIA Research Base,” where they investigate the application of paranormal powers in a military setting.  Or as Charles jokingly calls them, the “mutant division.”  They meet young Hank McCoy, who on top of being extremely intelligent, has abnormal feet.  Charles accidentally outed Hank, but Raven is pleased to meet the young man.  It’s someone else who has a physical mutation.  Hank has developed a supersonic plane [looks an awful lot like the SR-71 Blackbird], (which appears in the other X-Men films).  When the two teens talk afterwards, Hank wants some of Raven’s blood in order to develop a serum that will mask their physical mutations, but not their actual powers.  Erik walks by in time to stop a kiss, but also points out they shouldn’t have to hide.  Erik is still bent on revenge, but Charles stops him before he leaves.  Charles wants to help Erik, and stresses that Erik has a chance to be a part of something bigger.  Erik in fact, stays, but they find out that the missiles have been placed in Turkey and Shaw is on his way to Russia.  He also has a helmet that blocks a telepath’s ability to read his mind.

It’s time for Charles and Erik to gather mutants of their own.  Hank developed a transmitter, he calls Cerebro, that can amplify Charles’ brainwaves and abilities, so Charles can locate other mutants.  Hank suggests shaving Charles so the helmet would fit closer, to which Charles definitively says “don’t touch my hair.”  They first find a club dancer whose tattoos are actually wings; then there’s a cab driver, then Alex Summers who is in solitary confinement.  Next, there’s a teenaged boy on a date, but he can drive fish away.  They find Wolverine in a bar, but all he says is “go fuck yourself,” and they leave.  The teens get to know one another and show off their powers and decide on nicknames.  The club dancer is Angel, the cab driver is Darwin, because he adapts to survive.  Raven becomes Mystique and the red-headed boy is Sean and he goes by Banshee because of his sonic blast.  Alex becomes Havok due to his laser blasts.  Erik and Charles are trying to plan their next step and are disappointed to find the kids having a party and goofing off (and destroying part of the building).  Raven does manage to tell them their nicknames; Charles is Professor X and Erik is Magneto.  The adults head off for Russia to hopefully head Shaw off, but he doesn’t show, Emma is leading the meeting with the Russian general.  Erik is determined to take her instead, so Charles chases after him.  Erik wraps Emma in metal hard enough to crack her diamond form, which allows Charles to read her mind for Shaw’s plan: place U.S. missiles in Turkey, place Russian missiles in Cuba and then make a nuclear war happen.  “Radiation gave birth to mutants; what will kill the humans will only make us stronger,” and Shaw can take over the world.

Shaw, in the meantime, has discovered that Erik and Charles are recruiting, so he heads for Virginia to find them.  His minions accompany him and start ripping the agents apart.  The agents attempt to protect the kids, even though some of them were teasing them not too long ago.  Until the last guy is very eager to hand the mutant teenagers over to the psychopath.  Shaw only wants to make an offer to the kids, saying that the humans will eventually rise against the mutants and they need to pick their sides now: either wait to be enslaved, or rise up to rule.  Angel willingly goes with Shaw.  Darwin starts to go with Shaw, then signals for Alex to let loose a laser, hoping to take out the bad guy.  Unfortunately, they did not realize that Shaw would absorb the power, then feed it to Darwin.  Shaw, Angel, and his minions leave.  When Erik and Charles return, Charles initially wants to send the kids home, but they point out it’s too late for that.  Erik convinces Charles to train the teenagers.  And Charles knows where.

At the mansion, Charles teaches each teenager that they need to control their powers, not let their powers control them (we see this lesson repeated in the previous trilogy).  Seeing Sean learn to fly is humorous, just the way he falls into the bush, and then Erik simply pushing him when Charles tries to let him out of trying.  It’s Erik who points out to Raven that she is splitting half of her attention in order to look normal.  She wants society to accept her, but she won’t accept herself.  And Charles and Erik work together, Charles showing Erik that he doesn’t need to use anger to fuel his power; that true focus lies between rage and serenity.  Charles feels the good in Erik.  Hank finishes the serum and shows Raven, but she’s realized the truth in Erik’s words and it doesn’t help that Hank calls the serum a cure.  She’s finally mutant and proud.  When Hank tries the serum, it initially works, but then goes the wrong way.  Meanwhile, Erik and Charles are playing chess and discussing the mutant issue, fundamentally on opposing sides, but for the moment acting like gentlemen.  Raven sneaks into Erik’s room to wait for him and even tries her older form, but he doesn’t say “perfection,” until she’s in her natural blue form.  She confronts Charles afterwards and he struggles to see her point.

The team heads out to try to put an end to the Cuban Missile Crisis, using the plane that Hank developed.  He’s now blue and furry, thanks to his serum, but he’s now become Beast.  When they reach the embargo line, Charles makes the Russians fire on their own ship, so the Americans won’t have to fire and then start the war.  They figure Shaw is nearby, perhaps underwater, so they use Sean as sonar (and he stays away from Erik, so he won’t get pushed out).  Shaw is indeed on site and plans to become the weapon, draining the nuclear reactor of his sub.  But Erik manages to lift the sub out of the water and crash it on the beach.  The plan crashes shortly after.  Erik heads for the sub, and Beast, Havok, and Banshee take on Angel, Riptide, and Azazel.  Erik realizes that smashing the mirrored walls of the reactor will allow Charles telepathy to work, so he can freeze Shaw.  Shaw attempts to win Erik over to his side, and Erik admits that Shaw made him into a weapon.  Then Erik puts on the helmet so Charles can’t stop him from using the coin to pierce Shaw’s head in final retaliation for killing his mother.  [Excellent editing, following the path of the coin and overlaying Charles’ face occasionally, indicating that he feels what Erik is doing.]

Stryker is causing problems and orders both sides to hit the mutants on the beach.  This just adds fuel to Erik’s argument that the humans are against the mutants and they all need to band together.  Charles still holds hope that there are some good humans out there.  Erik manages to stop the missiles and turns them back to the ships, but Charles tackles him, breaking his concentration so the missiles start exploding in midair.  The two men wrestle, then Moira starts shooting at Erik.  He deflects the bullets, but one lands in Charles’ back.  Erik retaliates by cradling his friend and strangling Moira.  Charles points out this was Erik’s doing.  He releases Moira, but pleads with Charles that he needs the man by his side; they’re brothers, they want the same thing.  No, my friend, we do not (and we’re hit by James/Charles’ piercing blue eyes).  Erik leaves Charles, makes one last plead to gain allies.  Raven steps towards him, though she detours to her brother, who gives her permission.  “Mutant and proud,” are her parting words.  The rest of the team swarm their leader and Charles can only say he can’t feel his legs.

They’re back at the mansion, formalizing plans to make it a school.  And Charles has to protect the anonymity of his students, so with a kiss, he wipes Moira’s memory.  Erik breaks Emma Frost out of prison, now wearing the repainted helmet and a cape and going by Magneto.

This has become my favorite X-Men film, because it’s a story that can really stand on its own.  They make it fit well into the Cuban Missile Crisis, so we wonder, could this really have happened?  There’s also more energy to the movie.  It’s nice to see older Charles and Erik get along on occasion, but it’s even better to see how they started.  Yes, some continuity snarls show up, but since none of the movies were exactly planned out years in advance to fit together, it still works.  And I probably allow much more leeway since I have never read the comics.  It’s also not as dark as many of the previous movies were.  Several mistakes were made by characters in complete innocence.  The soundtrack also heightens the energy of the film, with the electric guitar and steady pace.

And yes, I totally subscribe to the theory that Charles and Erik are a couple. And utterly adore the new fact that Charles and Raven are siblings. These people need more hugs!

Fanfiction Recommendations:

I love blueink3’s Rumor Has It, which picks up where this film left off and adds an unknown child of Charles’ to the mix.

Up Next: Days of Future Past