Thursday, May 16, 2019

“Avengers…” Spoilers- Top layer

Click here for spoiler free review.
Click here for layer 1 characters spoilers.

Having seen the Avengers form, expand, split up and then ally with masses, focusing on the core three was the best way to finish the story.

Sadly unlike continuously running comic books, the story has to finish.  The major differences between the source comics and films are two sided.

Comic book characters not only don't age, they also don’t want to stop fighting crime so they can direct, and don’t ask for higher salaries. Real people do, creating the need for endings.

On the positive side, comic book characters will rarely show personality traits, and have chemistry with other individuals, in ways the writers didn't expect.

This is why we have "goofy Thor" on screen though it never really happened in on the page. (In the image above, Sif is talking, he’s the straight man.)

Also, while there is an Asgardians of the Galaxy comic, he’s not in it, and its a whole different set of characters. However mixing him with those actors was dynamite.

Wasting Chris Hemsworth’s comedy chops would have been criminal.  Thor’s on screen journey is the most different from the other two, likely because it isn’t over yet.

I have to suspect the “chunky thunder god” was a way to let him continue in the role far longer than he’s able to recreate the “Shirtless Thor” physique with any ease.  There is some precedence in the comics.  When he gets his crap together for the final battle against Young n Crazy Thanos in this film, the look was very similar to the end of Dan Jurgens’ King Thor arc.

Fans of the visual side of hunky Hemsworth in the role should relax.  Besides that plus size look in the comics, he’s also been a woman, a frog and dead in various tales and always returned to his mighty muscular self.

Infinity War was overall about loss and defeat, but Thor’s arc, building up to his triumphant entrance in the Battle of Wakanda, was staged as if he would be vanquishing Thanos.  Yet, it wasn’t. It was another personal loss for the god of thunder in a long string including both his parents, his brother (repeatedly), a large percentage of his people and his homeland. 

From a narrative structure, he’s the only one of the big three remaining positioned at his lowest possible point.  Sure he had an awesome showing for a while dual wielding Mjolnir and Stormbreaker, but his true turn around moment came during the Time Heist. The journey that led to the appearance of Young n Crazy Thanos in the "now" was the only one that was driven by story requirements of Endgame on its own. The others were about the character journeys of the Big Three.  While Odin’s focus was on preparing Thor to be king and use his power, Frigga gave him permission to be himself, which will be what drives him towards the completion of his arc.  That ending isn’t in this film like Cap and Tony, but in later Thor films.  If Taika Waititi took over, I’d expect it to continue in Guardians films as well.  However, with the return of James Gunn, my bet is we’ll find out Thor was left on a gymnasium planet to get himself back together, so they can focus on the story Gunn has been telling.

The other two central Avengers members are more demonstrative of the down side of human actors compared to the comic book page.  They can only play superheroes for so long, before aging, money demands or desire to do something else gets in the way.

And when one who was as perfectly cast as RDJ leaves a role, sometimes it requires a break to prevent unfair comparisons.

We may see Rhodey or Harley or Morgan or someone else take up the classic looking suit. But it's probably in the studios' best interest to focus on other heroes and costumes for a while, and allow a period of mourning for the loss of this perfect mix of actor and character.

The same thing is going on for Wolverine now.

The sad part is Tony could easily come back.  Since I started collecting comics regularly in the summer of 1985 with Iron Man (and Thor and the Hawkeye led West Coast Avengers, and Black Window on the cover of Daredevil…no wonder I’m so excited about this franchise.) Mr. Stark has been dead at least a half a dozen times. Universe rewrites, uploading himself to AI, and what basically came down to 3D printing himself a new nervous system were all viable options.

He’s also been replaced by a younger version of himself from another timeline, so recasting is possible if the amount of fun he looked to be having doesn't outweigh his astronomically hefty price tag, preventing a cameo.

Tony’s personal time travel closure came via the meeting with his dad.  But in a less obvious form, the key to that journey was the mending of fences with Captain America.  The Avengers couldn’t assemble without Tony and Steve patching things up first.  It was done via actions and them working together, and remembering what they were before. 

They cemented it with a simple two line exchange,
“You trust me?”
“I do.”

That “I do” with all the heroic sincerity Chris Evans brings to the role, followed by Robert Downey Junior’s honestly pleased reaction washed away all the bad blood from Civil War on.

Logically, I should end with Tony, since the success of Iron Man in 2008, and Downey Jr.’s portrayal used a lower tier character whose book was in danger of cancellation several times to launch the most financially successful  movie franchise ever. (By nearly double second place Star Wars BEFORE Endgame released.)

Since the actor is leaving, completing his transition from the most self-centered individual on the planet, to a family man and self-sacrificing hero who saves the universe with the phrase his path started with was a perfect ending.

His death is going to be the greatest impact on the films going forward.  It’s a shame we only got a few minutes of Pepper in the Rescue armor, it's a cool concept for the character.  I’d say it is better odds that movie Morgan Stark shows up as Rescue Mark II, instead of a reallocated Iron Heart, but both are possible.

Wouldn’t it be awesome if he showed up as an AI, or at least one last inspirational recorded message with hints of sentience, in Far From Home?  Basically, in the movie universe, Tony is now the equivalent of Uncle Ben, and it would be completely in Tony’s personality to leave at least a virtual (if not fully uploaded) version of himself behind.  Because if we see him do it for Peter, you know he would have figured out how to be there for Morgan as well.

Sorry, as much as I love watching increased female representation in super hero movies with my daughter, constantly consoling her after the dad figure dies is getting rough.

Tony’s funeral was the big curtain call / coda for the opening portion of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but Cap’s farewell scene was the final note.

Last year I noted “As goes Captain America, so go the Avengers.” Not only did he mend fences with Tony, but came back to his classic look.  The reason was to allow him to blend on his Time Heist adventure, but it led to a look that inspired hope in the story and the audience.

While Cap saw Peggy on the second leg of his temporal jaunt, his meetings during the Battle of New York were also key.  He faced (and took advantage of) the internal betrayal of S.H.I.E.L.D. by Hydra which was the main cause of his slide away from his teammates. (Both the betrayal and the involvement of Bucky.)   Then there was the other big meeting for him in 2012…himself. 

It was cool, surprising, and allowed “America’s ass” to be a running gag. While those are all worthy, it also allowed Cap to assess his original position as a “man out of time” and see how much he’d grown since then.

Speaking of worthy: his moments in the final battle however, were what we’ve waited a long time for.  Cap alone against Thanos is an iconic “as long as one man stands” moment.  

Thor wasn’t the only one who yelled, “I knew it!” (along with a theater full of other cheers) when Steve recreated another famous comics moment by hoisting Mjolnir. Thor’s reasoning behind keeping Stormbreaker was more than sized based.  There were more than Cap's own abilities at hand during that fight. Mjolnir allowed him to stand toe to toe with Young and Crazy Thanos because Mjolnir is more than a hammer.  The worthiness isn’t just a test, it allows a transfer:
““Whosoever holds this hammer, if he be worthy, shall possess the power of Thor.”

Cap wasn’t just wielding Mjolnir; he was infused with Thor level strength, durability and lightning control.

This is why he wasn’t rendered as star spangled confetti when facing a mad god armed with an (adamantium?) blade capable of hacking bits off his mostly unbreakable shield.  Once again, the power of Young and Crazy Thanos without the Infinity Stones proved why he was a worthy, nigh unstoppable foe for everyone combined.

And we finally…FINALLY got, “Avengers, Assemble” not as a shouted battle cry, but delivered with a quiet, “lets end this” fierceness that led to another theater wide cheer. 

A cheer that organically expanded from the one that had already started from those of us who caught, and remembered the significance of, “On your left.”

After that, several enormous piles of awesome, and some devastating losses, the Avengers saved the universe!


Then we had some off screen moments which is the Marvel movie I think I want to see more than any other.

Captain America wielding Mjolnir with Agent Carter by his side travelling through space and time to return the six infinity stones!!!

Forget movie, I'm thinking whole new franchise!  C’mon Chris, do you really want to direct that badly?

Old Man Cap’s return means he created (yet another) splintered timeline with (we assume) him and Peggy in the 1940’s.  Did he leave the other version of himself in the ice in that universe?  What about stopping the Hydra subversion and freeing Bucky?  Where did he get the new shield that he gave to the one of two best friends who also wielded it in the comics but that didn’t assassinate a bunch of people for the bad guys?  Maybe the What If animated series will cover it.

Dang, I'm really going to have to get that Disney Streaming service aren’t I?

Steve still had the multiversal GPS Tony made to get him back to his original timeline, meaning he could have lived in the other universe his changes caused and come back.  Although, with the super soldier formula in him, why did he age at all?  Did he live multiple lives hopping around dimensions?

As we all know from the comics, all it could take is a booster shot of Super Soldier serum, or some renewed vita ray exposure to return his youth, maybe with a new face? Surely one of those alternate timelines has those ingreedients available?

While there are ways for both Steve and Tony to come back with different actors, the folks making these movies are smart enough to know the shadows cast by the perfect choices of Robert Downey Jr. and Chris Evans as those characters would eclipse any others for years to come. 

Luckily, they were also smart enough to build multiple layers behind them.

With a mass of successful franchises still running, and hints and possibilities of new ones both in universe and thanks to mergers, the overall Marvel Cinematic Universe will continue to build for years.

I’d bet it will be a decade or so before the new huge threat to the universe arrives.  No it won’t be Doctor Doom, he’ll side with the heroes to save the Earth, then try to screw everyone over and steal whatever power it was for himself. 
He is an awesome yet predictable foe.  

Instead we’ll see:
Galactus- via the Foxtastic Four acquisition

Kang the Conqueror – via the multiple timeline development

Forbush Man- via a hallucination caused by me not getting enough sleep and watching too many movies.

And the cry of “Avengers Assemble,” rings out once more.

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